Title: Invulnerable 1/10
Category: H/C, Drama, Angst
Season/Episode: Set between "Before I Sleep" and "The Brotherhood"
Feedback: Please! And thank you.
Disclaimer: Stargate:Atlantis and it's characters do not belong to me and I make no material profit from this story. How much more clearly can I put it?
Spoilers: Anything before "Before I Sleep", specifically "Sanctuary" and "Poisoning the Well"
Warnings: violence, lots of dead Wraith
Summary: Rodney McKay learns that having an artificial ATA gene isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Beta: MachingMonkey, aka Leah, was kind enough to beta the first half of the story. I couldn't have finished this without her excellent suggestions.
A/N: Credit goes to drschatten for the original plotbunny. Hope you like it!
Pataskala (emphasis on the second syllable) is a real place in Ohio!
It was truly amazing what stupid things ran through Rodney McKay's mind when he was staring death in face literally and right now all he could think was that this sucked. It really, really sucked. It sucked like a great big sucking thing. He felt he had plenty of experience with things that sucked like, say, his entire childhood -and was pretty confident that this was unquestionably the absolute suckiest thing that had ever happened to him.
It wasn't actually the prospect of death that bothered him, although that was bad enough. It wasn't even the whole aging incredibly quickly thing, either. He was old enough to have begun to realize that even though 'youthful vigor' wasn't exactly something he could really remember ever enjoying, his body was moving inexorably past its prime. No, what really bothered him was pain. Brendan Gall had made it very clear to him that being drained by a Wraith was an incredibly painful experience, and Rodney hated pain. Really, really hated it.
So the fact that a grinning Wraith was standing in front of him sent Rodney into full panic mode.
He began to back away, raising his Beretta, but hadn't taken more than a single step before the Wraith's hand shot out and hit him in the middle of his chest. The impact made him stagger and drop the gun, and he felt a horrible suction from the palm of its hand. The taloned fingers dug into his flesh and pulled him closer with a horrifying ease.
A frigid burn spread quickly from the Wraith's hand, sliding through his veins like ice water. He tried to push it away, dreading the sensation Brendan had described to him, of having his very soul sucked out of him.
So he was completely unprepared to feel like every brain cell had frozen solid.
The pain stole his breath, his thoughts, all his senses. He was blinded and deafened. His mouth was full of ashes, his skin drilled with a million needles of ice until the nerve endings overloaded and all awareness of his physical body was swept away.
The sun shone warmly through the colored geometric patterns of Atlantis' windows at 0900 hours as Major Sheppard's team gathered in front of the Stargate. As was her usual custom, Elizabeth Weir stood on the balcony of the Command Center to see them off.
Today they were headed out on what she hoped would be a nice boring mission to meet the Pataskalans, with whom the Athosians sometimes traded. Hunting on the mainland had proven extremely successful, and they had meat as well as fur and feathers with which to trade for replacements to the crops that had been lost to the hurricane.
The weather had been a little chilly since the huge storm, and although the city itself maintained a constant temperature, Elizabeth was amused to see that with the exception of Sheppard, who never seemed to feel any discomfort no matter what the weather, the rest of the team had gravitated to a large patch of sunshine streaming down on the Gate Room. Rodney and Teyla had turned their faces into the light and wore similar expressions of bliss. Teyla's bronze skin and copper hair shone like polished metals in the sunshine, and Elizabeth allowed herself a moment's jealousy of the Athosian woman's exotic beauty.
Bliss sat oddly on Rodney's face; only the closed eyes, the slightly lifted corners of his crooked mouth, and the fact that he held his head at the exact same angle as Teyla told Elizabeth that he was enjoying the warmth.
Lieutenant Ford also stood in the large rectangle of light, but he was busy double-checking his equipment. Seeming to sense her gaze, he looked up, grinned, and flipped her a jaunty salute. She lifted her hand to return the gesture, but at that moment the Stargate finished dialing, and the event horizon spilled into the Gate Room. All heads turned instinctively towards it, including Aiden's, and he missed her wave.
"Good luck," she called as the team disappeared through the liquid shimmer of the 'Gate. 'And please, let them come back safely', she prayed as she turned away.
The village sat in a valley a few miles from the Stargate. It looked like a small, sleepy Pennsylvania Dutch town lifted straight out of pre-Civil War America, complete with colorful hex signs painted on the buildings. In this case, the hex signs bore symbols from the Ancient alphabet. Sloping green fields were dotted with pale gray creatures like sheep if sheep had three-toed feet with massive claws like a velociraptor and a single, slightly curved horn in the middle of their foreheads.
The entire village appeared completely deserted. They found a basket of fruit lying spilled across the path, a half-finished patchwork quilt trailing out of an open doorway, an infant's hand-carved rattle lying on the front step of an empty house.
It wasn't until they stood in the kitchen of one of the houses, looking at the remains of an abandoned meal that anyone spoke.
"The Wraith were here," Teyla said flatly, expressing what they were all thinking. "We are too late by no more than a day." She looked near tears.
"We'll take a look around for survivors before we head back to the Stargate." Sheppard's tone was grim.
Rodney hadn't meant to get separated from the others. He forgot sometimes that he was part of a team, that he needed to let them know what he was doing. He'd been on his own, answerable to no one, for most of his adult life; he wasn't used to people caring about him caring for him and was still surprised by how easily he'd begun to care in return.
So when he spotted what appeared to be a solar energy collector on the roof of one of the farmhouses, he just stopped to look at it. His teammates kept moving, used to him lagging slightly sometimes more than slightly behind. Without thinking about it, Rodney just followed his impulses. The Wraith had left, the little village appeared to be completely deserted; his normally exceptional sense of caution was subsumed by his scientific curiosity.
Inside the farmhouse he found that the solar collector seemed to have a hookup to a large cast-iron stove in the kitchen, the more advanced technology awkwardly interfaced with the primitive wood-burning contraption. He wasn't sure what it was supposed to do ignite the wood, perhaps? but he was more interested in the collector itself, and for that he needed to get up on the roof. The hookup led to a trapdoor in the ceiling of the second floor. Slats nailed to the wall formed a ladder up to the attic, but the opening was so narrow Rodney had to remove his bulky modular vest to fit through.
He was gleefully making plans to return to Pataskala with a team of scientists to remove the solar collector and take it back to Atlantis when his radio crackled to life.
"McKay! McKay, where are you? There's a Wraith here! McKay, respond!" Sheppard's voice was hoarse and frantic.
Rodney stood transfixed, all thought of the solar panels banished from his mind. Tapping his earpiece, he replied, "I'm in one of the houses, Major. Where are you?"
"Gate side of the village. If you come in from the east, you'll be directly behind it."
He scrambled down the ladder, barely taking note of the amazing fact that he was heading toward the danger rather than away from it, as would have been the intelligent thing to do. But either Sheppard or Ford was certain to do something stupidly heroic and would need Rodney to figure out how to get them out of trouble.
In his haste, he left the vest where he'd dropped it under the trapdoor.
"It's on the move. Which house are you in, Rodney?" Sheppard's voice was loud in his ear.
"The one with the solar panels on the roof," he answered, pulling out his Beretta. He took the steps two at a time and shoved the front door open.
The Wraith was standing right outside the door and he almost ran straight into it.