Disclaimer: Don't own anything and not making any profit. Stargate Atlantis belongs to MGM, Gecko, the show's producers, writers, directors and actors. I own nothing except an overactive imagination.
Category: Action/Adventure. H/C.
Season: First I guess, pre-Siege
Parts: 9 or 10 (WIP)
A/N 1: I built a trench. I had to use it.
A/N 2: Someone asked once for Ford bashing. I started there, and then it blossomed, because I just can't bash one of them, and I ended up bashing the whole team! No one escapes! The poor, poor members of Sheppard's team. Alas!
A/N 3: I know the rain is ecologically and medically absurd. I apologize in advance.
Description: The team explores a planet that the Ancients have mysteriously placed in a different file of gate addresses—and you just know they must have had a very good reason for it. Oh, and there's this big trench, see….
Acknowledgement: NT, of course, for putting up with the completely disordered parts I sent her to beta, and for reminding me that men can't literally be sitting ducks.
PART ONE: PLANET 51
The Stargate was in a small clearing, surrounded on all sides by high desert canyon walls. Dark green creepers and ivies grew up and out from the porous looking tan stone, and hardy pink and yellow desert flowers dripped down from the hanging branches. A hazy, hot sun beat down on the upper part of the canyon, but most of the lower part, including the Stargate, was in shadow.
It was an odd location, as most gates they'd found in the Pegasus galaxy were in open areas, but it wasn't unknown. It did prevent access by jumper—or dart, for that matter—meaning Sheppard's team was on foot.
McKay keyed commands into the scanner, lifting it and doing a slow circle while Sheppard, Teyla and Ford skirted the edges of the canyon walls for another exit other than the one carved between the rocks directly facing the gate. Behind them, the stargate shut down, leaving them on their own.
After a moment, McKay looked over at the Major. Sheppard shook his head and McKay shrugged, then pointed towards the only obvious exit. With a wry look, Sheppard sighed and walked towards the entrance, signaling to Teyla and Ford to join him. He trusted that McKay saw no life signs on the scanner in the immediate area, but he still had the four of them take up their usual standard positions, with Teyla taking point, then himself, McKay and finally Ford bringing up the rear.
They emerged from out of the box canyon into a wooded area, the bulk of the trees looking a bit like Douglas firs. The reddish stone path they were following curved away off to their left.
"McKay?" Sheppard indicated the direction that path went, a silent question on the air.
"Yup." The scientist double-checked the scanner, shifting left and right, then nodded, looking up the path, "That way."
Ahead of them on the path, Teyla squatted down, her hand brushing the dusty surface. For a moment, she considered what appeared to be a boot heel mark, then stood, squinting through the trees around her.
"What?" Sheppard asked her softly when she turned around to look at him again.
"This path still sees use," she responded, answering over the radio so that she, too, could speak softly. "I do not know how long ago it was last followed, but at least once since the last rain."
"Doesn't look like it rains much here," McKay muttered, noting the cacti and other succulents on the ground, as well as dusty air. "It's very dry here. Reminds me a little of Area 51."
"So," Sheppard smiled a little, "when it rains, it pours."
"Hmm," the major looked around at the thickly barked trees and the Yucca like plants, "and how often did it rain in Area 51?"
"Uh…" McKay frowned, scratching his head and scrunching up his face. "From what I remember, it can go weeks."
Neither Sheppard nor Ford remarked on that, though the lieutenant did look up at the clear blue sky overhead. There were no clouds visible. He wondered how fast they would move in when they did appear.
They moved steadily up the path, each one, except McKay, never lowering their guarded scrutiny of the woods. In front, Teyla continued to scout around for more signs of passage as well as for any danger. She moved a little like a small, curious animal, moving quickly but still thoroughly checking everything that caught her eye.
McKay lifted the scanner still in his hand, keying in more commands.
"Anything new?" Sheppard asked.
"A good number of life signs. I'm seeing more with every step, but still none in the immediate area." He hit a few more buttons, changing the screen. "Also, power readings, the same ones as the MALP transmitted. Steady still—three distinct signatures—but nothing particularly special. Meaning nothing," he waved a hand, "as powerful as a ZPM, or even a naqudah generator. At best," he shrugged, "it appears to be some kind of fossil fuel energy."
"In other words," the major sighed, trying not to sound disappointed, "Still nothing to indicate why the Ancients put this gate address in a separate file."
"No," Mckay admitted unhappily, grimacing a little at the scanner. "Not yet."
They had found a file of gate addresses, about twenty or so, separated from the long list in the database on Atlantis. It wasn't clear why. Hoping it had something to do with possible sources of power, Weir had okayed the mission. This was the first address on the list. When they sent the MALP through, they hadn't been that impressed with the readings, but who knew why might still be hidden and just not powered up.
Sheppard simply nodded, turning forward to watch as Teyla slowed, as if she sensed something. Then she was moving quickly again.
"Those life signs," the major said, trying to see whatever it was that the huntress saw as she stopped and stared in a particular direction, "How far away are they? And can you tell if they're people?"
"Um," McKay said, switching back to the life signs detector screen and tilting his head, "People…I think, seeing how clustered they are, though it could just as easily be pack animals of some kind, I suppose. They're not close, but there are a good number. They're just on the edge of screen…." He fiddled with the buttons a little more. "Yep. Pretty sure they're people."
Rodney peered down the path again, "Three guesses."
Sheppard nodded, eyes still watching Teyla about twenty feet ahead now.
"Teyla," he said, tapping the radio.
Teyla slowed, and, watching the woods, waited for a few moments, to allow them to close in on her. When they were within about ten feet, she started moving again.
Rodney glanced at the major, a little surprised at the level of caution he was taking. He licked his already dry lips, before sidling up next to the other man.
"I said there were no life signs nearby. Why are you still so nervous?"
Sheppard glanced back at him, then shrugged.
"Because one thing I've learned since being here, Dr. McKay, is never judge a book by its cover."
"You, for example, are, at first glance, pompous, irritating and obnoxious. However, at second glance, you're," he gave a tiny smile, "incredibly pompous, irritating and obnoxious."
Rodney just rolled his eyes at that, not rising to the bait. "Meaning?" he snapped.
"The scanner's been wrong before. And this place reminds you of Area 51—not the most comfortable of comparisons for me. Plus, the Ancients thought this planet potentially dangerous enough to put its address in its own file. Sure, it looks like we're taking a stroll through the Canyon de Chelly, but until we're back on Atlantis and in one piece, I'm going to treat it like it's Lebanon."
"Planet 51," Ford suggested over the radio from his position about ten feet behind the other two men, chuckling slightly.
"Ford?" Sheppard replied.
TBC (Poor Ford. He really doesn't get any respect!)