RATING: PG-13 for language.
SEASON: First season tag for Sanctuary, sort of
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Teyla POV with plenty of Sheppard and McKay interaction and a bit of Ford and Weir.
SUMMARY: Tag for Sanctuary. Teyla's POV. Take one disabled jumper, two bickering men, and a squadron of pursuing Wraith darts. Add a dollop of humor and mix well. No' ship but friendship and the jumper! One-shot (complete)
SPOILERS: Sanctuary, Rising, The Defiant One, and I think that's it.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I thrive on it and so do the bunnies.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own them which is a good thing or I would never get any sleep. I also don't own Giligan's Island, Dukes of Hazzard, Pimp My Ride, NASCAR, Dodge, or the KKK, which is also a good thing for entirely different reasons.
NOTES: This is a follow-up to my stories "Tokens" and "Sentry Duty". Again, this is technically a one-shot but I think it will make much more sense if you read the other two first. Also, I'm nervous about this one, mainly because it involves a lot of tech and theoretical science. Everyone repeat after me: this is fanfiction based on a science fiction show. Please note the key word being fiction. If it was science fact I'd be flying around in a jumper right now instead of trying to figure out why my new wireless mouse won't work.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: This story has not been Beta-ed, mainly because I don't have one. So, all mistakes are mine. Also, I never thought that one little goofy story would lead to what is turning into a series. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed my last two stories- this is all your fault. Other than that, I blame the damnable bunnies!
"One ace," Lt. Ford states as he lays one playing card down on the console.
"Two twos," Major Sheppard says, laying down two cards beside Lt. Ford's.
I study the multitude of cards in my hand, remove the three of hearts and set it beside the others as I state. "One three."
"Two fours," Lt. Ford tells us as the play returns to him. I see the one four in my hand but decide not the challenge him. It is possible that he has the two cards he claims.
"Three fives," Major Sheppard says as he places his cards down as well.
"Bullshit," both Lt. Ford and Dr. McKay exclaim simultaneously.
In the months since first befriending the people on the Atlantis expedition, I have learned much about their customs. I have also confirmed suspicions that I had developed long ago: men across the entire universe share many similarities.
First, all men have a fascination with bodily excretions. There seems to be no end to how much they will talk about them, tease each other about them, worry about if they have too little or too much, and incorporate them into their vernacular. I have learned that this particular Earth term, bullshit, refers to the waste produced by the male of a particular species of domesticated Earth animal. As is typical in the universe, the female of the species is known for giving life sustaining nourishment in the form of milk, whereas the male is best known for giving excrement.
Second, all men love games. From the time they are small children until they are days from the grave, they will play any game that presents itself. It matters little if that game is physical, strategic, intellectual, or emotional. If it is a form of competition, they will partake.
That is why I am not surprised that Lt. Ford suggested the game we are currently playing and Major Sheppard readily agreed that it would be a good way to pass the time while Dr. McKay worked. How can two men resist an activity that combines two of their favorite obsessions?
Major Sheppard grimaces and bestows an angry look behind him at Dr. McKay who is working to repair the maneuvering systems of our puddle jumper. The Major picks up the cards that have been sat down, adding them to the ever growing collection in his hand.
"First off, McKay," the Major grumbles as he begins sorting the cards in his hand, "you aren't playing this game; you're supposed to be fixing the jumper. Secondly, counting cards isn't allowed. They'll throw you out of any casino in Vegas if you get caught."
Dr. McKay continues checking bundles of tubing. "First off, Major, I am fixing the jumper. I am perfectly capable of accomplishing two tasks at once, unlike some of the lower life forms. Secondly, I have no immediate plans to go the Vegas, so it really doesn't matter if I count cards or not."
The Major's frown grows deeper, and I exchange a worried glance with Lt. Ford as I shiver slightly in the chill of the jumper; the lack of environmental controls having very little to do with the frosty feel in our spacecraft. The Lieutenant must feel it as well, for he only shakes his head slightly before dropping his eyes to his cards. I have noticed that the only time Dr. McKay has interjected into the game is when it is to call bullshit on the Major. I believe that the Earth card competition is not the only game being played out as we orbit the small planet of this solar system.
Ever since our visit to Proculus, there has been a growing rift between Major Sheppard and Dr. McKay. I do not know what exactly transpired between the two friends, but neither is happy with the other at this time. And while I do not believe either is deserving of the treatment they are currently receiving from the other, neither is anyone entirely without guilt. Dr. McKay was rude, beyond his normal gruffness to the woman, Chaya, even though it was obvious Major Sheppard had feelings for her. Major Sheppard, however, completely ignored Dr. McKay's concerns, even though his suspicions about her untruthfulness were well founded. My people have a saying, 'Do not curse the warmth of the fire just because you were fool enough to burn your hand in the flame.' It saddens me to see these two men freezing in the cold while tending their wounds when they could be warmed by the flames of friendship instead.
This just proves another commonality among men; they are stubborn to the point of self harm. Neither will make the first move to reconciliation. I can only sit and trust that they will be able to work beyond their conflicts. As much as I desire them to resolve this issue, I can only hope they will, which has little impact on reality. Or as Major Sheppard has told me, "Shit in one hand and wish in the other, then see which one fills up first." Do you now begin to see this obsession with excrement of which I speak?
"Well, you could probably finish the job a little faster if you just concentrated on the ship instead of playing cards at the same time." Major Sheppard tells the Doctor.
"I could probably concentrate on the ship a little better if I didn't hear your incessant chatter while I'm trying to work." Dr. McKay doesn't look at us, just continues to place probes on wires and check his computer.
"We had to do something to take our mind off the cold since you broke the heating system." He snaps back as he crosses his arms over his chest.
"I wouldn't have even been fooling around with the environmental controls if you hadn't broken the maneuvering system in the first place." He has finally stopped working and turned to face the Major, an angry glare on his face.
Major Sheppard stands with his arms still crossed. "I didn't break the system, the jumper just wasn't handling right, it was weaving all over the place."
Dr. McKay grits his teeth then turns back to the open compartment and tubing, "Maybe you're the one that can't fly in a straight line."
Major Sheppard lets out a small growl and takes a step forward and I fear that he is planning bodily harm to the Doctor. Lt. Ford must fear the same, for he stands as well. Suddenly there is a roaring sound like a storm driven wind with an underlying high pitched whistle, and Dr. McKay goes flying across the width of the jumper. He slams forcefully into the opposite wall and slides to the floor.
The Major's eyes widen in alarm. "What the hell?" Dr. McKay just sits there limply like a sack of grain leaning against a wagon wheel. "Rodney?" he asks with concern, yelling to be heard over the roar. He crosses the few steps between him and the Doctor then is pushed to the floor himself by the same unseen force, landing heavily on Dr. McKay. "Damnit!" he screams, then "Off!"
With his final exclamation, the entire ship shuts down. It is suddenly black inside the jumper and I feel myself floating from my seat.
From somewhere beside and slightly above me I hear Lt. Ford, "Uh, Major?"
"I know, I know," responds a frustrated disembodied voice from in front of me, "but it was the only thing I could think of."
"Do you think you could turn it back on, now?" Lt. Ford asks.
"Whatever that was that knocked us down, it's stopped now. If I turn the ship back on, I'm afraid it will start again."
"Perhaps you could just resume certain systems," I suggest, feeling entirely uncomfortable floating around. I bump into Lt. Ford in midair. "Maybe just the inertial dampeners and life support?"
There is a few seconds of silence, then gravity returns, dropping us with an audible thud to the floor. Dim emergency lighting quickly follows, indicating the life support is also operational. Major Sheppard rolls to his knees and crawls over to where Dr. McKay has landed. He turns him to his back and checks his pulse. I crawl up beside the Major. The Doctor is breathing but appears to be unconscious. "McKay!" he calls, patting his cheeks.
Dr. McKay mumbles incoherently and the Major calls again. "McKay, time to wake up, now."
"Yes, it's an interesting corollary, Professor Woodstrom, that even when two wormholes each span a positive interval, a path threading both of them can have a zero interval leading to the Cauchy instability." The Doctor speaks in a thick voice, yet he has not awakened, has not even opened his eyes. The Major and I look at each other in confusion but Dr. McKay continues. "Now, it is possible under certain circumstances that the instability might be evaded, but only for very small aperture wormholes separated by a distance approaching the diameter of the universe. So, really, what would the point even be?" Dr. McKay concludes with a chuckle.
Lt. Ford has reached the Major's opposite side. "What is he talking about?"
The Major shakes his head, "I have no idea. I think he may be defending his dissertation."
"Is he okay?" I ask in concern.
"I hope so; he's the only one who can fix the ship." The Major calls again, giving him a firm shake, "Rodney!"
Dr. McKay opens his eyes and blinks a few times. "Professor?"
Major Sheppard cocks his head with a smirk. "Mary Ann?"
"Major Sheppard?" he asks in confusion.
The Major smiles, "That's right, little buddy."
I look to Lt. Ford for explanation, as I often do when Major Sheppard makes an obviously Earth-specific reference. The Lieutenant just rolls his eyes, as if to say 'I'll explain later if you really want to know.' As fascinated as I am with Earth culture, it can be very overwhelming, especially a technology known as television. From what I can gather, there must be a million different 'channels' each displaying some form of theater or competition or information. Evidently, it is a requirement on Earth that each person owns this device and devotes a large portion of each day watching it. I am unsure if this is for the benefit of the person or a form of maintenance for the equipment. It seems very time intensive, and I am quite relieved that this technology was not brought with the expedition or we should have no time for the exploration that we conduct.
"What happened?" Dr. McKay asks as the Major and Lieutenant help him into a sitting position so that he can lean against the bulkhead.
"I was hoping you might be able to answer that," the Major informs him and I nod my head in agreement.
"I was running a diagnostic when all of sudden this stream of something slammed into me," he brings his hand up to his head, touching it gingerly. "Why is it so dark in here?"
"I kind of had to shut everything off except the inertial dampeners and the life support after you got blown against the wall."
"You were able to individually shut down all the systems on the jumper except those two?" He seems surprised.
"No, shut down was pretty much an all or nothing sort of deal," the Major admits. "But I was able to turn them back on individually."
"Well, that would explain the mess." I look around and notice for the first time that the jumper is in disarray. Our packs are scattered across the hold with Dr. McKay's tools and individual playing cards interspersed among them. "Still, impressive," the Doctor concedes.
"Yeah, well, super gene and all." Major Sheppard seems shyly pleased with the Doctors assessment and slightly embarrassed. "So any ideas about what that stream was? I ran into the same thing, it felt like pressurized air, like a very compact wind tunnel. Did we rupture a tank or something?"
Dr. McKay shook his head. "That's just it, there are no tanks on the jumpers. At least none that we can discern and nothing like what you would see on say the space shuttle." He puts his hand to his head again. "Am I bleeding?"
I look behind his head and see nothing but a large lump forming, then shake my head with a hopefully reassuring smile.
"So, if there aren't tanks, where does the fuel come from, and the air for life support?" Lt. Ford asks.
"The jumpers don't use fuel per say; they use naquedah, like the generators around Atlantis, but the breathable atmosphere, now that is an entirely different issue." He raises a finger to make a point. "One that we don't really know the answer to."
"Don't know?" the Major demands.
"We don't know how half the Ancient devices work, but that doesn't stop us from using them," he states impatiently. "Still there are some rather interesting theories. Kavanaugh has a ridiculous one involving matter-antimatter annihilation, but Zelenka has come up with one that involves vaporizing interstellar material at high temperatures, scrubbing out the unusables and blending the appropriate gases in the correct proportions to create a breathable atmosphere, kind of a variation on the volcanic off-gassing theory for the formation of Earth's early atmosphere. The problem comes from where would you get enough interstellar material to create an adequate supply of breathing air, I mean the amount of space dust and stellar gas you would have to vaporize is incredible, which brings us back to the storage space, or lack there of, on the jumpers."
"We're flying around in space and we don't know how we're breathing?" the Major reiterates.
I must confess a guilty pleasure in listening to Dr. McKay ramble. The words he uses are so exotic sounding, and they just tumble out of his mouth like a river over a rocky step. The cadence is so relaxing that I often find myself unable to keep my eyes open. However, listening to him now I have to agree with the Major, the thought is a little disturbing.
"You really are obsessing about nothing." After dismissing our concerns, he resumes his dialogue. "The point is, you can convert matter, but you cannot simply create it out of nothing. This means that there must be something somewhere on this ship, or being brought onto this ship, that is being converted into breathing air. Now, since there are no obvious storage capabilities for large materials, it would suggest that whatever it is, is being compressed to a smaller size. And when you compress matter, you pressurize it, and pressurized material that is suddenly released tends to come out with a force that is relative to the amount of pressurization being exerted on the material and the size of the escape route."
Major Sheppard regards him blankly. "Like a ruptured tank?"
"Well, yes, only there are no tanks on the jumpers. Didn't you listen to anything I just said?"
"Listen? Yes. Understand? Not so much." Dr. McKay scowls and opens his mouth to begin his lecture again. The Major shakes his head in exasperation and cuts him off. "Look, for the moment, lets forget about the how and the why and concentrate on the what. As in, what was it?"
"I have no idea." Major Sheppard scrubs his face with his hands and Dr. McKay continues. "It could be air or whatever matter is being converted or some preblended gas, who knows."
I ask the Doctor. "Do you think it is dangerous?"
"You mean other than slamming people against walls?" he responds. "God, I hope not, seeing as I took a direct hit."
Major Sheppard pushes his hands through his hair. "Yeah, me too. So, do you think you can stand up? We're still a good thirty minute flight back to the stargate and it's really starting to get cold in here. I would really like to get back to Atlantis and you kind of need to fix things before that can happen."
Major Sheppard is correct; the temperature has continued to fall.
Dr. McKay holds out his left hand to the Major. "Help me up."
The Major takes his hand and begins to pull as the Doctor pushes off the floor with his other. "Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!" He pulls his hand back from Major Sheppard and uses it to cradle the right.
"Dr. McKay?" I ask in concern.
"My wrist," he grimaces, leaning his head back against the wall.
"May I?" With his nodded consent I begin an examination, trying to be as gentle as possible with my probing. After a few moments and twice as many complaints from the Doctor, I tell him. "I do not believe it is broken, merely strained. Still, we should immobilize it to prevent further injury."
Lt. Ford stands and goes to retrieve the first aid kit. Dr. McKay lets out a frustrated sigh. "Get me up," he demands. The Major and I pull him to a standing position and he sways on his feet. Major Sheppard places a steadying hand under his elbow but the Doctor pulls away and walks determinedly, if a little wobbly, to the console he had been working in. "I need light," he snaps. I can see Major Sheppard's jaw muscle visibly flinch, but he simply retrieves a flashlight and shines it into the panel.
"Oh, this is a total mess!" Dr. McKay exclaims.
Lt. Ford hands me the first aid kit and peers over the Doctor's shoulder. "Can you fix it?"
"Of course I can fix it, its just not going to be as easy as I once thought it would be." He shakes his head with a frown, "Lieutenant, gather up my tools. Major, hand me that screw driver right there."
"Please?" Major Sheppard says and I hear the bite he is trying to restrain from his voice.
Dr. McKay wheels around, "Look, I have a lot of work to do, and its going to take even longer than it normally would since I'm going to be doing it all left handed. Now, you were the one complaining about wanting to get home. So, if you are in such a damned hurry you might want to stop stalling and hand me the screw driver."
"Hand me the screw driver, please." The Major returns in an all too calm voice.
"Why are you being such a prick about this?"
"Why are you being such an arrogant son of a bitch? You know you could show a little common courtesy."
"What is this about? That I'm being rude to you? Or that I was rude to her?"
"Would it have killed you to be the littlest bit nice, for once?"
"No, but it could have killed everyone on Atlantis!" Dr. McKay yells that last statement and I take a step back. Even Lt. Ford, busy gathering the scattered tools, pauses to watch the Major.
"What are you trying to say, McKay?" His voice is colder than the air in the jumper.
"I'm saying that a pretty face comes along and smiles at you and you loose all sense of responsibility. She could have been a real threat to us, but you were too googly eyed to even question why she was being so evasive. You are the ranking military officer on Atlantis and you were behaving like a spoiled lap dog,"
"You're calling me spoiled? Who went sulking to Weir trying to turn her against Chaya? No wonder she didn't like you."
"Oh, you think I care that she didn't like me? In case you haven't noticed, there are only a handful of people across two whole galaxies that can stand to be in the same room with me. That doesn't stop me from putting the well being of all those others before my emotional needs."
"Oh, and you've never acted on emotions?" the Major pokes his finger into the leaf patch that the Doctor wears, the one his own blood has stained a muddy brown.
Dr. McKay stands straighter and speaks through clenched teeth. "When I stayed behind, I endangered no one except myself and certainly not the entire expedition team. That was my choice, my life, no one else's!"
"Don't you get it, when you jeopardize your life, then you do jeopardize the well-being of the whole expedition!" The two men stare at each other, both breathing heavily. Finally, Major Sheppard drops his gaze to the floor. "Besides, you're wrong. There was someone else's life involved."
Dr. McKay closes his eyes and shakes his head. "Look, I don't want to fight anymore. All this yelling is giving me a headache. I'm sure I have a concussion, wouldn't surprise me if it's a skull fracture and that hit couldn't have been good from my lumbar alignment. It's probably only a matter of time before my back goes into spasms. I've got work to do, responsibilities to fulfill."
"Fine," the Major says to his boots and hands Dr. McKay the screw driver.
"Thank you," he mumbles and takes the offered tool. He starts to pry open the adjacent panel, then turns back to the Major. "It's just…" he seems hesitant, then blurts out his words. "I'm always right. Well, not always always, but enough that the times I'm wrong are statistically insignificant. And you have always believed me, or at least listened to what I had to say, and this time….you didn't." He turns back to the panel, tries to pry it open with his left hand, and drops the screw driver. "Damnit!"
Major Sheppard bends quickly and picks it up. "You're right." Dr. McKay regards him warily and the Major finishes his thoughts. "You were right that I didn't behave very professionally, you were right about Chaya misleading us, you were right about everything. There, are you happy now?"
"No." The Major throws his hands in the air and shakes his head in disbelief. Dr. McKay quickly interjects, "I mean, yes, I'm happy that you admitted you made mistakes, but I'm not happy that Chaya mislead us…you. I just wish things had turned out differently for you."
"Well, wish in one hand, shit in the other…"
You see, it is never ending. Although I think my wish hand is starting to fill.
Major Sheppard taps his palm with the screw driver. "You're not going to be able to do his left handed."
"I sure as hell can't do it with my right." He lifts his injured arm with a wince.
"Let me do it," the Major offers.
Dr. McKay laughs, "Oh, that's funny, Major. You're going to fix the jumper? Are you sure you didn't get a head injury as well?"
"I mean turn the screws, tighten the bolts, attach the doohickeys. How hard can that be? It's not like we're talking rocket science here."
"Actually, seeing as we are working on a spacecraft, we are."
"Look, you're going to be doing all the thinking, I'm just the hands of the operation. I helped a buddy of mine rebuild an old Charger once, I can handle the tools."
"I'm sure the Ancients would be just as thrilled as I am that you are comparing their technological wonders to Detroit's finest, but seeing as I have little choice…"
Major Sheppard smiles, "Great, let Teyla bandage up your hand and we'll get to work."
I happily oblige, and although the heating system is still not operational, I can't help but feel the warmth increasing in the ship. As I finish administering my first aid, Major Sheppard opens the compartment directly below the one Dr.McKay already has open. I grab my flashlight and shine it into the opening, illuminating the shards of several broken crystals.
Dr. McKay frowns at the sight that greets him. "Oh, this is not good."
Lt. Ford cranes his neck trying to see. "What's not good?" he asks.
"They're broken," he says stating the obvious. "Whatever blew me across the room evidently blew through this control panel as well.
"And that's bad?" the Lieutenant asks.
"Yes, Lieutenant, that is a commonly accepted way of expressing the same sentiment as 'not good.'"
"I think what he means, Doctor," I volunteer, "is can you replace them?"
"Yes, once we are back on Atlantis I will be more than happy to replace them."
"We don't have a replacement on board?" Major Sheppard demands.
"Oh, we have a replacement; we just don't have three replacements. This, if my math is correct, means we will be two short. Now unless you can miraculously prove the Sheppard Stand-Up-And-Pull-It-Out-Of-Your-Ass theory of matter generation, we have a bit of a problem here."
Major Sheppard runs his hands through his hair, causing it to stand up even more than usual. "So, what do we do?"
"I, uh…." Dr. McKay starts, then sighs and shakes his head. "Stand up and pull it out of my ass. Not the crystals, the solution." He looks from one open compartment to the next contemplating his next move. "We reroute power from any nonvital system to the vital ones."
"That should be pretty simple, right?" The Major asks hopefully.
"Not necessarily. The power demands on the systems such as defensive weapons are significantly higher than those on say, lighting or environmental settings. And I can only tell that three of them are broken, other may be damaged and affect the output." He sighs again. "We're going to have to establish an entire baseline on the power output of each system."
'Then, perhaps you should get started," I suggest, disliking the idea of sitting in the cold dimly lit jumper any longer than we have to.
"No time like the present," the Major mumble as he takes the tool kit from Lt. Ford.
It has taken the better part of an hour for Dr. McKay and Major Sheppard to establish their baseline. And in the process, it appears to my untrained eyes, that they have caused more damage than repairs. Wires and tubes hang from many compartments, bundled together into what Dr. McKay believes are distinct operating systems. Clips with short wires dangle from many of the individual filaments in the bundles, the sister clip on the opposite end waiting as patiently as I to be put to some greater use.
For most of this time, I have been helping as best I can. Mainly, that has involved holding a flashlight behind the two men as they work. However, I have turned that undertaking over to Lt. Ford. Not that I had tired of it, but because I believe he felt as useless as I during this whole time and needed some sense of purpose.
That is another commonality among men, at least good men, which I have had the pleasure to know: they need to do, to act, to serve some purpose. And these three men are good men, some of the best I have ever met. Oh, they have their faults, of course; after all, they are men. But I am willing to overlook them in favor of their positive qualities. They are three of the most impatient men I have ever seen, with themselves as much as with each other. They will bicker and quarrel amongst the lot of them, yet I have no doubt that any of them would lay down his life for the other, and for me. I would not hesitate to do the same.
I sit in the copilot seat of the jumper, pull my jacket closer and rub my hands together for warmth. The temperature has continued to drop, so that I can see the cloud of my breath when I exhale. There are times when I find the warm humidity of Atlantis uncomfortable and miss the cool briskness of the autumns of my beloved Athos but now I would welcome the balmy sea breeze and long for our return. As grateful as I am for the refuge that has been granted to my people, it is difficult to live in exile, to want desperately to return home and know that you cannot. The Earth expedition members are refugees in their own sense, as much a victim of their desire for knowledge as my people are victims of the Wraith. Perhaps it is this commonality as strangers to Atlantis that has allowed our people to coexist so well.
I fold my arms across my chest for warmth and turn my attention to the view outside of the window. We are in orbit around a small planet. Actually, according to Dr. McKay, it is a potentially inhabitable moon to a totally uninhabitable much larger planet. Our orbit around the planet has brought us to a point where we are positioned between the two stellar bodies. To my left, I can see the moon, with its blue oceans dotted with small rusty brown and green pieces of terrain. To my right is the planet, the edges of its huge orb spanning across the blackness of space. Its surface is blue as well, although Dr. McKay has told me that it is not water but gases that make up the unbreathable atmosphere. There are other colors, ellipses of dark purple, turquoise, light green, all looped and twisted amongst the blue. The Doctor says these are possibly giant storms, swirling the poisonous mixture of gasses. I find them beautiful and even though I hate feeling that I can be of little use during these repairs, the mesmerizing view occupies my mind.
Behind me I can hear Dr. McKay and Major Sheppard talking quietly, discussing which wire to connect where. There conversation is cordial, relaxed, with no remnant of their earlier outburst. It was as if that explosive release was as inevitable as the one that burst from the console and disabled our ship and that the repairs these two men are undertaking together are meant to mend both sets of damage. They have not mentioned the fight since it took place, although once while I was providing light, Dr. McKay did breach the subject of Chaya and the Major's return to her world.
"Are you going to be going back to Proculus anytime soon?" He had asked the question casually, while pushing buttons on his laptop keyboard, head turned to the display. Only I could see the way his eyes darted to the Major's face.
"Probably not," his response was just as casual as he clipped a wire and connected a probe.
"So, you and Chaya….?" He left the question unspoken.
The Major continued his diagnostic work. "She dumped me, more or less. I mean she showed me this really mind blowing sharing experience, let me tell you that girl can really use her tendrils of energy…" The Major cleared his throat as he noticed me holding up the light and holding in my laughter. "Can we talk about this later?" he asked and made what he thought was a discreet nod of his head in my direction.
This seems to be another commonality among men; they treat all women within earshot as vestal virgins and all women within eye sight as whores. Perhaps that is a bit harsh, but I do not believe it is too far from the truth. I am a warrior, a leader among my people, and a member of this team. I have been a daughter, a lover, a diplomat, a trader, and an explorer. Some people have called me teacher, many have blessedly called me friend. All of these things go into who and what I am. I am no stranger to the ways of intimate love between a man and a woman, and yet men will shy away from conversations that detail those exploits when I am around. I have heard many curse words throughout my travels and used many myself, but men will apologize when they realize I have heard them use one in my presence. Yet, I have met many men that upon being introduced to me have maintained eye contact with my breasts, addressing them as if my ears were located below my shoulders instead on the side of my head. Even Major Sheppard, who I know respects me for more than my physical attributes, has let his eyes wander occasionally. I am not sure if this dichotomy is a result of something uncontrollable in the male physiology or if it is simply wishful thinking on their part. Sometimes I find it insulting, this time, it was only amusing.
Dr. McKay realizing the reason for the Major's reluctance nodded his head conspiratorially before speaking. "Well, I'm sorry it didn't work out."
The Major returned to his wires. "You know, it was your classic boy meets girl, girl turns out to be a 10,000 year old alien exiled by her own kind, boy pursues girl, girl turns into a ball of pure energy kind of story. We've all seen it a thousand times and it never has a happy ending."
The two sat in silence, working their diagnostics then the Doctor spoke again. "You know, its not like there's a good bar on Atlantis or anything, but I could probably get my hands on some of that Athosian homebrew. What say, I bring the latex gloves and the rubber bands, you bring the glow sticks and jock strap and we meet out on the balcony."
"McKay, that just sounds wrong in so many ways I don't know where to begin."
I could not have agreed with the Major more. I coughed to keep from laughing out loud and turned with wide-eyed alarm to Lt. Ford for what I hoped would be a reassuring explanation. From his seat by the ship's controls he was also trying not to laugh. But he managed to nod his head to ease my concerns and indicate that he would again explain later. I can only hope that this is one the many games that men like to play, perhaps one that is specific to Earth.
Even in the dim light I could see Dr. McKay redden as he realized how his comment must have sounded, but it was Major Sheppard who spoke. "Same time?" he asked. When the Doctor nodded he concluded, "I'll be there." Dr. McKay only smiled and returned to his work.
Beyond that one conversation, the talk has been predominantly related to the repairs, providing a soft murmur to accompany the spectacular view outside the ship. I watch as the sun of this particular solar system seems to set on the small moon and the shadows of night reach across the larger landmass, darkening the browns to black. My attention turns to the stars spread out through the surrounding space that was once such a mystery and that I now travel regularly. I notice one bright dot in particular and am studying it, when I hear the Major speak behind me.
"Well, McKay, it's not exactly the same as working on the Charger, but I think I got the hang of it. That should get us the bare minimum systems to at least get us the rest of the way to the gate and home."
Dr. McKay bounces on his feet, in an attempt to keep warm. "This Charger, it didn't happen to be a '69 did it?"
The Major smiles broadly, "An R/T, even."
"No way! You rebuilt the General Lee?" The Doctor has stopped bouncing in his excitement.
"Yep." He says proudly. "Good to see at least someone around here can appreciate the significance of such a classic automobile."
Lt. Ford rolls his eyes. "You and your fixation with the 'Dukes of Hazzard'. Why anyone would be so fascinated by a show about two white boys driving around like NASCAR rejects in an ugly-ass orange car with a-hello- confederate flag painted across the hood, is beyond me. It's like somebody let the KKK guest-host 'Pimp My Ride' or something."
Major Sheppard and Dr. McKay both frown at Lt. Ford's outburst. "Well, sure, when you put it that way it doesn't sound so great." the Major says.
The Lieutenant shakes his head. "The one and only decent part of that entire show was watching Daisy Duke, now she was fine." The other two men eagerly add their agreement.
"Daisy Duke?" I ask curiously from my seat. I make my tone as innocent as possible.
All three men turn and look at me as though they are absolutely shocked that I am still on the jumper. Major Sheppard opens his mouth then closes it, looking first to Lt. Ford, then to Dr. McKay. Both men immediately look elsewhere. When his gaze returns to me, I raise one eyebrow in question.
"Warrior, she was a fine warrior," Major Sheppard blurts out, "of the Kentucky tribe."
Lt. Ford immediately turns his back to me and I can see his shoulders begin to shake. Dr. McKay first gives the Major a wide-eyed look, then bites his lower lip, putting his good hand over his face. The Major swallows but maintains eye contact, with my eyes this time, but he fidgets noticeably.
"Major, if I have learned nothing else from the card game we played earlier today," I tell him, "it is that the proper term for your explanation is 'bullshit.'" I turn back to my study of the stars with a hidden, satisfied smile. I hear both Lt. Ford and Dr. McKay dissolve into laughter and soon even Major Sheppard has joined in. However, my own humor quickly fades as I watch the large star I had noticed earlier seem to grow larger still.
"Major?" I call over my shoulder.
"Oh, God," he dreads. "McKay, this all your fault."
"Major, please, I think you should see this." At my tone, the others fall silent and all come to stand behind me. I point out the light I have been observing. "There. At first I thought is was just a star, but I think it is approaching us."
Major Sheppard takes his typical seat and calls out "McKay?"
"Give me a second," he replies, already disconnecting probes with his one good hand. "Alright, start her up."
The jumper hums to partial life. There is still no heat and no lighting beyond the emergency glow, but the engines come on line and the displays pop up on the window before us. There we see Wraith darts speeding toward us. We all know that where there are darts, a Hive ship is not far behind.
"Can we out run them?" I ask. "Make it to the gate before they engage us?"
"I'm going to give it a try, but it will be tight. We're not running on full power in propulsions. Now, where's the gate?"
At his question, the view changes and a navigation map appears showing a dot representing us and a dot representing the stargate across a depressingly large distance of space, considering we are being pursued by the Wraith. Without a word, the Major turns the jumper and begins our race home. A few minutes later, a new display pops on the screen, this one with a dot for us and two dots for the darts. "They are gaining," I note.
"I know," he replies.
Dr. McKay speaks from his seat behind us. "How much further to the gate?"
"At the rate we're going, fifteen minutes at least." I can hear the frustration that he tries to hide.
"They'll catch us by then," the Doctor tells us and I have reached the same conclusion.
"Yeah, Rodney, I know."
"But we don't have weapons, we had to reroute them to power the engines."
"Once again, no new information." The Major thinks for a few seconds then asks, "What if we rerouted the power for the DHD to the weapons, would that work?"
"The power supply should be sufficient, but what good does it do us to reach the gate if we can't dial home?"
"Once we have the gate in sight, we won't need navigation or the displays."
"Well, theoretically the numbers should add up, but there is no way I can make that many reroutes left handed."
"Yeah, that's why you're going to be flying the jumper and I'm going to be rerouting the systems."
"Major, you can't be serious about this." I can hear the panic in his voice.
"You said it yourself, you can't make the reroutes, but thanks to that little test-tube ATA gene of yours you can fly the jumper. Now get your ass in the driver's seat."
"But we're being chased by Wraith….," he argues weakly as he takes the controls from the Major.
"I'll talk you through it. Just bob and weave, basic evasive maneuvers. Or in your case try to fly in a straight line, it will amount to the same thing." He moves towards the consoles of bundled wires. "Teyla, you're with me. Ford, take copilot. Let me know the second you can see the gate."
I stand and hold a flashlight for the Major as he disconnects wires and reconnects others. He mumbles quietly to himself, thinking through which system goes where. Dr. McKay mumbles as well, only his are of a much more pessimistic nature and much less constructive. At one point, the Major calls to him. "Which wire was the DHD controls?"
Dr. McKay responds. "Top compartment, second bundle, third wire."
Major Sheppard and I both look at the bundle. "Which is the third wire?" I ask quietly.
"No idea." He admits, then asks the Doctor, "Third wire relative to what?"
"What?" Dr. McKay asks in return.
"They are bundled in a circle," the Major reminds him, "where do I start counting?"
Before the Doctor can answer, Lt. Ford announces "Another bogie inbound on our starboard. I think he'll intercept us before the other two."
Both the Major and Dr. McKay swear, then simultaneously exclaim, "Switch places!"
In a matter of seconds, Dr. McKay is standing beside me, black pen in hand, marking a single wire in each bundle. "One, one, one, one, one…" he states as he labels each of them. He then looks me directly in the eyes. "This black mark is number one, then count this way, clockwise. Understand?" I nod. "Good, make sure he does."
"McKay, get back over here." The Doctor rolls his eyes, but doesn't argue. When he has resumed the controls, the Major tells him. "You are probably going to have to engage them before this is all over with. Do exactly what I say, when I say. Understood?" The Doctor nods as I did and the Major rejoins me where I show him how Dr. McKay marked the wires.
The Major continues to work, frantically disconnecting and reconnecting wires, the steam of his breath coming faster as time passes. A few minutes later, Lt. Ford's voice breaks in. "Here it comes."
The Major and I both look up to see a dart closing in. Dr. McKay only lets out a strangled, "Oh, God."
"Rodney," the Major says calmly, although I can see his hands shaking as he connects the next wire. "On my mark, you are going to take a very sharp right."
"How sharp?" he asks in a weak voice.
"So sharp that you are facing 180 degrees from where you are now. Then you are going to blow that life-sucking son of a bitch out of the sky, at which point you will proceed directly to the gate. Okay?"
"Okay," he says although we can barely hear him.
The Major continues his rerouting while giving as much attention as possible to the display. The Wraith fires and the impact rocks the jumper as he bears down on us. "Get ready…" He makes the last connection enabling the weapons systems. "...Mark!"
Dr. McKay turns the ship as the dart races past us. As soon as it appears again in the window he fires two volleys. The first flies wide and misses, but the second is a hit, blowing off one of the dart's sleek wings and sending it spinning away from us.
Lt. Ford lets out a cheer. Major Sheppard grins, "Nice shootin', Tex!" Without a word, the Doctor turns the ship in the direction of the gate and takes off.
The Major and I are both concerned with Dr. McKay's lack of response. "McKay, you alright?" he asks.
"No, I'm not. I want to go home, now. I mean really go home, back to Earth, where there are no Wraith to shoot out of the sky and where I can take a nice relaxing road trip to Vegas. But since that obviously isn't going to happen anytime soon, I would settle for getting back to Atlantis and getting off of the Starship Titanic, here, which, I might add, is doing a damn fine impersonation of a cryochamber right now. I want to be off this ship and in the medbay where Carson can pump me so full of painkillers that I won't be able to remember my name for a week, much less which bundle of wires powers the DHD!"
I let out a relieved sigh. The entire team has learned that as long as Dr. McKay is talking, he is fine. It's when he stops talking that we become concerned, which may explain the simplicity of the Major's response to the Doctor's rant.
"Feel better?" the Major asks.
"A little bit, actually," he admits.
"Good, now stay alert, the gate should be coming up soon."
I assist Major Sheppard as he prepares the wires for the DHD system to receive their new power source. After what seems an eternity of minutes, Lt. Ford yells out. "There! I see the gate."
Dr. McKay lets out a relieved sigh and the Major tells his young subordinate "Alright, Ford, keep your eye on it. You are now our navigation and displays systems. McKay, help me out here."
From his pilot seat, Dr. McKay tells the Major. "Connect the fourth wire in the third bundle to the eighth wire on the fifth bundle."
"Then you will need to connect up the fifth wire in the third bundle to the second wire of the first bundle in the lower console."
Major Sheppard connects the wires as directed. "Okay, dial it, Ford."
Lt. Ford starts the dialing sequence but the DHD does not respond. "Nothings happening," he says, repeatedly pushing the tiles as if that will make it miraculously work.
"Try the third wire."
"Fifth wire, third bundle to the third wire, first bundle, lower console. Oh, hell!"
The Major and I both look up to see what has so upset Dr. McKay. On the opposite side of the dormant stargate two more darts are approaching. A jar to the ship indicates that the two in pursuit have caught up to us. The Major turns back to his work, quickly clipping the connection into place.
"Try it now!" he orders.
Lt. Ford pushes in the console and the DHD glows to life as the inner wheel of the stargate begins spinning.
Major Sheppard looks as if he about to collapse with relief. The first chevron is locked by the time the lieutenant completes the address.
His relief is short lived as Dr. McKay speaks while tightly gripping the control. "You know, Major, I've never landed one of the jumpers. And seeing as we are moving pretty fast and matter exits the wormhole at the same velocity that it enters it..."
"Don't worry, I'll talk you through it," the Major reassures him. "Just be ready to fire on the two by the gate."
"Chevron two is locked," Lt. Ford tells us, and another blast shakes the jumper.
Major Sheppard instinctively reaches out to steady himself, grabbing a bundle of wires instead of solid wall. He shifts his weight to right himself and a fistful of connections come free in his hand. "Oh, shit! Shit, shit, shit!" I can think of no better to way to express myself given the circumstances than how the Major has so eloquently done. If excrement were ever to be used to describe a situation, this is it.
"Chevron three is locked."
"What?" Dr. McKay asks but the Major doesn't answer. "What?"
"Chevron four is locked."
The Major is frantically trying to reconnect wires. "You just lost weapons," he says, "and possibly a few other things." I can see sweat on his brow even in the cold. My hands are shaking, as well, causing the beam from the flashlight to flutter as the Major works but he doesn't even seem to notice.
"Chevron five is locked."
"We're not going to make it," the Doctor states.
"Yes, we are!" The Major barks back.
"No, the gate! Its not going to be open by the time we get there and I can't fire on the other darts!"
I look up to see that he is right. We are seconds from passing through the ring but the sixth chevron has not yet engaged.
"Pull in the pods, Rodney. You're going to thread the needle, then circle around for another pass."
"Chevron six is locked."
"Circle around?" he demands obviously unhappy with what is being suggested but I hear the pod bays retracting into the ship.
"Allie-oop, McKay, as soon as you're on the other side."
"B..but the ship…the inertial dampeners- I don't know if they'll hold."
We pass through the ring of the stargate just as Lt. Ford announces, "Chevron seven is locked!"
"Only one way to find out."
The darts on this side of the gate are almost upon us and start to fire.
"Oh, God," Dr. McKay whimpers as he pulls the jumper straight up. Major Sheppard grabs my arm and I drop the flashlight to grasp the open consoles for purchase.
The inertial dampeners manage to hold us firmly to the ground, although my stomach turns in the same sickening backward circle that the jumper is maneuvering. The darts preparing to fire on us disappear from view but I see an even more nauseating site as we begin to flip upside down- a hive ship looming in the distance with more darts advancing on us. At the top of the loop I look down to see the stargate below us, surrounded by the remnants of one of the pursuing darts that was unfortunate enough to get caught in the backflow of the forming wormhole. I can see the tail end of the second dart disappear into the rippling event horizon destined to slam into the shield protecting the gate at Atlantis. We complete our circuit, ending in almost the same spot that we began dialing the gate.
Major Sheppard tells Dr. McKay, "Okay, slow it down, you need to get ready for the landing." He then calls on the radio. "Atlantis, this is Jumper One, do you read?"
Dr. Weir responds, "Major, we were a little concerned, something large just collided with the shield."
"Yeah, that would have been the dart that was chasing us." He turns back to the Doctor. "McKay, I said slow it down."
"It's not responding," he yells. "Did you disconnect the brakes?"
"I don't know how the brakes even work on this thing!" the Major yells back. He is still holding my arm and I can feel his grip tighten in fear.
"It's a completely separate propulsion system. It controls reverse movement and hover capabilities," Dr. McKay explains.
Major Sheppard looks back in dismay at the multitude of wires hanging limply from the consoles. "Oh, hell, McKay, I don't even know where to begin back here."
"Major, if we don't hover…"
"I know, I know, we don't land."
"What do you mean we won't land?" Lt. Ford asks and I have the same question.
Dr. McKay explains, "We will either just keep flying straight through the walls of the control room, or if we cut power we will drop like a stone and, at our current velocity, skid through the walls of the control room."
"Major Sheppard?" Dr. Weir's voice cuts into the conversation.
"Look, we're coming in hot and a little crazy," he tells her, "so if you have anything that you would like to still have after we arrive, I suggest you move it away from the front of the stargate."
"Understood," is Dr. Weir's hesitant reply, "you're clear to return."
"Perhaps if we cut the power to our forward propulsion," I suggest.
"Already have," Dr. McKay admits, "unfortunately, the vacuum of space is not known for its drag on forward momentum. We've slowed but not significantly."
"Then go in backwards," Lt. Ford suggests. "Just do something, we're almost at the gate!"
A look of amazement spreads across Dr. McKay's face followed by a smile. "Of course, a quick propulsion bust facing the opposite direction would slow us down. Only problem is the jumpers don't come equipped with rear view mirrors, I'd be approaching the stargate blind."
"Not if you have displays," Major Sheppard tells him as he turns back to the open panels. I grab the flashlight off the floor as the Major says, "Third wire, first bundle, lower console…."
"Connect it to the eighth wire, fifth bundle, upper console" Dr. McKay tells him and he has already turned the jumper around. We are now facing the swarm of oncoming darts as they exit from the Hive ship in the distance. The ones in the lead are already within firing range. Given our current view, it goes against every one of my instincts to be pleased that we have slowed our approach to the gate.
The Major completes his connections and the displays blink to life on the window. Dr. McKay works to align us properly with the gate as a Wraith blast hits us.
"Over, McKay, you're too close," Major Sheppard coaches. "No, no the other way. Remember, you're going in reverse, the controls are opposite."
Lt. Ford closes his eyes as the display indicates that the rear of the jumper is about to enter the stargate. "This is going to be close," he squeaks.
"God, this is worse than parallel parking," the Doctor says as the side of the jumper scrapes against the inside of the ring with a groaning screech and the shimmering blue of the event horizon appears in the cabin behind us.
Major Sheppard winces at the sound. "Oooh, that's definitely not good for the paint job."
Another blast hits us, and with a small jolt of speed, we are pushed into the wormhole completely.
We emerge on the other side with the same scraping of jumper on gate, and, just as Dr. McKay said we would, we drop like a skipping stone to the platform. I can hear the echoes of the crash even inside the jumper. Through the window, we can see Dr. Weir, Dr. Grodin and several others looking down from the railing of the control room, watching us as we skid sideways and backwards and slam into the control room wall. The force throws Major Sheppard and I sprawling to the floor. Two more dart blasts come through the wormhole before the shield blinks into place. I hear another loud thud and what I can only assume is another dart battering into the energy barrier. The control room staff flinches with each new crash, then the room is silent.
For a few seconds, no one moves, as if we are unsure how to react now that the ship is at rest. Then from my place on the floor, I can hear excited voices outside the ship and Dr. Weir's worried voice through our com links.
"Major Sheppard, is everyone okay?" she asks.
He looks to me first and I nod as I push myself from the floor. Lt. Ford and Dr. McKay both look back to us as well. "As well as can be expected," he says as he moves up to his knees.
"Is that…Dr. McKay in the pilot seat?" The surprise is evident in her voice.
Dr. McKay smiles weakly, and waves up to the expedition commander.
"Major, stay put, I'm sending a medical team to you," she says and no one argues. Not because anyone is seriously injured, but because we are all too stunned by the fact that no one is seriously injured. Major Sheppard stands, helps me to my feet, then moves to stand behind Dr. McKay.
He places a hand on the Doctor's shoulder. "When we go to Vegas, I'm doing to driving."
Dr. McKay pats his friend's forearm with a tired smile, "Deal."
It is a beautiful, warm night on Atlantis and I am happy. I am happy to be in Atlantis, happy to be warm, and happy that Major Sheppard and Dr. McKay decided to invite me and Lt. Ford to join them for what the Major calls 'team bonding.' I lean against the balcony railing, staring out at the stars in the night sky. Beside me, Dr. McKay is working to connect a long chain of rubber bands to the railing. His injured wrist is protected by a stiff brace, courtesy of Dr. Beckett. Satisfied with his handiwork, he stands with approval.
"There, as soon as the others get back, we will be ready to go."
"Dr. McKay," I ask, "could you show me the star we were at today?" This is another one of my guilty pleasures.
The Doctor thinks for a moment, studying the sky, then extends his arm, "Ah, yes, right there. See that line of three stars, it's the small one just below it."
My eyes wander to another star, far across the horizon from the one he just showed me. The sun of Athos blinks back at me in greeting. It is the first star that Dr. McKay ever pointed out to me. "It is incredible," I say. "Even after traveling now to so many of them, after all we have learned about the stars, the stargate, and the Ancient's technology, we still know so very little."
"Well, some of us know more than others," he says, then at my disapproving look, he amends, "but there is still much more to learn." He gives me a weary glance. "Much, much more."
"Why do you do it?" By the look on his face I can tell he doesn't understand my question, so I elaborate. "Why do you risk your life in the pursuit of knowledge?"
"Oh, hmmm, well, when I was a kid, I always loved puzzles. I guess the pursuit of knowledge is just a giant puzzle for me, a kind of game. A never-ending, dangerous, death-defying game." He hangs his head. "I really need to get a hobby."
The doors swish open and Major Sheppard comes in followed by Lt. Ford who is carrying a bucket of green glowing hands. "Okay, kiddies," the Major says, "fun time."
I notice Lt. Ford's clothes are wet and he sets the bucket down with a scowl. "I don't know why I had to fill up all the gloves, I'm soaked!"
"Because you're the newbie," the Major explains.
"Teyla's never done this before and she didn't have to get wet," he sulks.
"Teyla was helping McKay with the rubber bands, besides, she brought the booze." He picks up a glass of the Athosian beverage of which many of the expedition are so fond and takes a long sip. He turns to Dr. McKay. "Are you sure you can't have any of this?"
"Doctor's orders." He lifts his braced arm in way of explanation. "Besides, Carson fixed me up pretty good."
"Better living through pharmaceuticals." The Major tips his glass.
"Damn straight," Dr. McKay replies with a smile. "So, Lieutenant, I've been meaning to ask you, what made you think about going through the gate backwards?"
Lt. Ford shakes water off his hand. "Oh, that. Well, actually, it was all that talk about the 'Dukes of Hazzard'. You know the way they would do those fast stops and the car would spin around?"
"Bootlegger turn," both the Major and Doctor say in unison.
Dr. McKay regards Major Sheppard seriously. "And to think, the idea that led to our salvation was inspired by the driving prowess of two NASCAR rejects."
The Major nods in earnest, "Remarkable really."
Lt. Ford merely shakes his head and walks to pick up his glass. "I need a drink."
I stand over the bucket and lift out one of the hands, a glow stick bobs happily inside the friendly wave. "Does Dr. Beckett know you have taken these gloves?" I ask.
"No," the Major grimaces, "and that's part of the fun." He hands what appears to be a small piece of fabric to Dr. McKay. "Here," then takes the glove balloon away from me as though I am going to try and return the stolen gloves to the medbay.
Dr. McKay dangles the contraption the Major just gave him between his thumb and forefinger, "I'm going to need a hand with this."
The Major thrusts the glowing hand at the Doctor with a goofy smile. The Doctor rolls his eyes then turns to me, "Teyla, could you assist me please."
I take what I believe is called a 'jock strap' from the Doctor, as that was what Major Sheppard had supposedly gone to retrieve. I study it carefully, stretching it in several directions, assessing its capabilities. "This is quite impressive. Is it some sort of Earth weapon, a sling of some sort, perhaps?"
Major Sheppard turns crimson and snatches the device from my hands. "Did I do something wrong?" I ask.
"You're just making me very uncomfortable holding this," he says as he stuffs it deep into his pocket. He does not seem capable of looking directly at me. The other two men burst out laughing at his discomfort.
"Was I handling it incorrectly? Perhaps you could show me the proper technique…"
Lt. Ford collapses against the door in giggles and tears are streaming down the Doctor's face. The Major, if it is possible, has turned even redder. I cannot understand why he would be so embarrassed that I was holding it, after all he gave it to Dr. McKay, unless…. I am a woman, and I was holding what is now quite obviously something made specifically for a man and there are very few 'appendages', shall we say, that require specific contraptions.
I can feel the heat rise to my face as well. "Perhaps, you should finish the assembly now," I suggest.
The Major joins Dr. McKay and they work to attach the rubber bands. Dr. McKay keeps giggling and Major Sheppard glares at him. "Shut up, Rodney," he says between gritted teeth.
"But, John, she was practically playing Cat's Cradle with your jock strap," he whispers but I can clearly hear it.
"Shut up, Rodney."
"If this isn't grounds for a good Sheyla rumor, I don't know what is."
Before the Major can speak again, I do. "Good, I'm quite fond of those myself." With a smile at their gaping faces, I take a sip from my glass and turn my attention to the stars and the churning sea below.
What? You think games are only for men?