Eh, I'm not all that happy with the fic and plan to rewrite it at some point in the future, so constructive feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Not mine. Don't own'em. Didn't create 'em. Stargate Atlantis and all related characters are the property of MGM as far as I can tell.
Thanks to my beta reader, NebbyJen.
A Ghost of a Chance
"No! No no no no no NO!" Carson demanded, as he wrestled with the controls. But did it do him any good? Of course not. The puddlejumper crashed to earth in an almost gleeful defiance of his wishes, the momentum carrying it into the nearby river before burying its nose in the soft mud of the river bottom. The inertial dampeners had predictably failed, along with the majority of the controls, when the power had suddenly fluctuated. Sheppard and McKay may have been able to avoid crashing, but he had had neither the technical expertise nor the flying skills necessary to do so. He wasn't sure who would be more pissed at him for wrecking the jumper - Rodney or the Major. "Ancient technology hates me," he gasped dizzily.
After lying still for several minutes, he concluded that he had indeed survived. A few more minutes and he decided that it was time to peel himself off the control console and radio Atlantis for help. He eased himself up slowly and carefully…
Apparently not slowly or carefully enough was his thought as he regained consciousness sometime later, still lying crumpled on the panel. Okay, well, while he was there, he might as well make the best of things. He gingerly raised his left arm and flipped the communication switch near his nose. Nothing. No answering reply from Atlantis, no static, no nothing. He closed his eyes and calmed the panic that was beginning form. When he didn't appear as scheduled to deliver the agreed-upon medical supplies, the Tarns would call Atlantis…eventually.
The puddle jumper shifted suddenly in the mud, tipping slightly towards the rear. He grabbed at the console frantically, gasping as the movement sent waves of pain through his body. He could hear the blood rushing in his ears in time to his heartbeat. It seemed to be whispering urgently, "Get out…Get out…Get out."
"Okay," agreed Beckett. Even damaged, the ship was probably still airtight - 'air' being the operative word. If the jumper submerged completely, chances are he'd run out of that precious commodity before anyone found him, assuming they could even find the submerged jumper.
He eased himself off the controls and back into the pilot's chair and waited for the blackness around the edge of his vision to recede. That step accomplished fairly successfully, he tried to stand. He had to duck his head at first to keep from blacking out, but eventually he was able to make it into a fairly upright stance. It didn't help that the jumper was leaning at a forty-five degree angle.
If luck were with him, the rear of the tilted vessel would still be above water. He stumbled to the back and opened the hatch. Even as he did so, he could feel the ship tip due to the shift in weight causing it to slip further toward the river bottom and several gallons of icy water to splash into the jumper and over his feet. Primal fear made it possible for him to ignore most of the pain as he grabbed his medical pack. He hugged it tightly to his chest and jumped for the bank after palming the door control.
He was shocked by the intensity of the freezing water and gasped painfully for air. Struggling to remain conscious and keep his head above water, he grabbed desperately at the muddy, slippery bank. A soft sucking sound from behind caused him to look back over his shoulder and watch as the jumper slid slowly beneath the surface. Rodney will at least be happy I remembered to close the door.
The frigid water was helping to keep his head clear. Carson struggled to raise his waterlogged pack and toss it up the three feet of embankment. That's when he decided that he had probably cracked or broken several ribs and found himself taking several short shallow breaths as the cold, once his friend, quickly began to turn his arms and legs to lead weights.
Exhausted, he leaned his aching head against the muddy bank and said a brief prayer as he tried to summon enough strength to haul himself up. The frigid waters pulled tirelessly at him and he felt himself slipping further down.
"Give me your hand."
He looked up to see a hand reaching out to him and grasped at it eagerly with his right, groaning in pain as he stretched and strained to find some purchase on the muddy bank with his boots. He finally managed to get some momentum and grabbed at the long weeds that lined the edge with his free hand, pulling himself out.
He stayed on his hands and knees for several minutes until he felt steady enough to look up at his benefactor…benefactress, he corrected. "Thank you, lass."
She smiled, "You may call me Edmé."
It seemed a strangely familiar name for someone on planet in the Pegasus Galaxy. In fact, the woman looked as though she was wearing something from early in earth's eighteenth century. A pale green underdress peaked through a darker green overdress and bodice. Her feet were bare even in the current chill of early winter. Her eyes were an intense green and her auburn hair formed long ringlets down her back. He blinked several times, trying to make sense of it and finally decided it made his head hurt too much. They had found many cultures here that mirrored those on earth, why should this place be any different? "My name is Carson," he managed to get out through chattering teeth.
"Come Carson, it will be a cold night and you need shelter." She touched his arm in encouragement, sending a flood of warmth through him.
"Do you live nearby?" he asked, making it to his feet with her support.
"Yes and no," she replied with a shy smile.
He would have pressed her for further details but he found he had to focus all his attention on putting one foot in front of the other and not falling flat on his face.
Twenty minutes later he wasn't sure he had the strength to continue. "Where are we going?" Not that it mattered; he was far too exhausted by this time to take in their surroundings in the fast approaching darkness.
"It is not far now. There is a cave nearby where you can spend the night in safety," she told him, catching his arm as he stumbled. He felt another flush of warmth at her touch.
A little while later, they finally stopped. He stood unsteadily and managed with some effort to focus his eyes warily on the dark hole in front of them. "Are you sure it's safe?"
"You are safe with me," she assured him, leading him into the cave.
With deliberate slowness, he collapsed gratefully onto the cold cave floor and sat there for a few moments just happy not to have to move. The persistent ache in his side had gone from dull to piercing and now demanded his undivided attention. He dragged the pack closer to him and pulled out a large rolled ace bandage. "Can you give me a hand with this?"
She knelt down beside him and helped him off with his jacket, before wrapping the bandage tightly around his ribs. When they were done, the physician took a careful shallow breath and was heartened to find the bandage, while uncomfortable, did seem to be supporting his injured ribs. A quick exam revealed a large knot on his forehead but he was relieved to find no evidence of a skull fracture. He probably had one heck of a concussion though. Downing several Tylenol, he scooted back a little so that he could lean against the cave wall to further eased the strain on his sore ribs.
A sudden low, long howl made the hair on the back of his neck stand up. Several more mournful wails answered. "What's that!"
She smiled at him. "Bearwolves. They hunt bear in packs." At his fearful look, she continued, "You are safe here, I promise."
"Are you sure about that?"
"They will not enter this cave," she assured him.
"If you say so," he said, somewhat skeptically.
"Rest," she said, touching his forehead gently. "I will keep watch."
A warm languid feeling washed over him as he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. "That's the best offer I've had all day, lass."
He awoke feeling a little better and watched quietly as Edmé laid out a pile of kindling next to him. She smiled when she saw he had awakened. "Here," she said, handing him the canteen. He drank thirstily, then reached into the outer pocket of the backpack and pulled out two power bars, offering her one.
She shook her head. "I am not hungry, but do not let that stop you."
Carson put one of the bars away in case she changed her mind. He broke open the other one and bit down with a grimace, forcing himself to swallow. "I don't see how Rodney stands these things."
"'Rodney' is a friend of yours?"
"Yes. No. Well…yes, I guess he is," he said, surprised, wondering when the relationship had changed from that of strictly doctor-patient…or astrophysicist-guinea pig.
She smiled and stacked the last of the wood to form a cone before sitting back on her heels. "You will have to light it."
A dig through his pack was rewarded with a packet of waterproof matches. It took him a couple of tries to get the tinder to light. He leaned down and blew on the tiny flames to encourage them…
"That was a mistake," he thought groggily when he came to, vowing to remember to fan the flames with his hand next time. The fire had grown to cheery blaze and his pants were dry which made him wonder how long he had been out. Edmé was nowhere to be seen. He hoped she was okay. His jacket was laid out nearby to dry by the fire and the canteen had been refilled and placed within easy reach. Making himself as comfortable as he could on the hard floor, he shoved the now dry pack under his aching head and tried to rest.