Disclaimer: Not mine in any way
THE WALKING WOUNDED by Merlin7
M8X-454 was a beautiful planet. It looked like paradise, reminding John of the week he had spent in Thailand on leave a few years back. Everything was lush and green and vibrant and warm. Warm, but not too warm. In fact the temperature was just about perfect. Not too humid or too dry. Just...perfect. Which, for some reason, bothered John.
"Nice place," McKay commented, as he wandered about with a scanner in one hand.
"Yeah...nice," John replied, as he wandered about as well, keeping one eye on his team at all times.
Ford looked excited. "Maybe we could ask Doctor Weir about coming here for shore leave," he piped up. "This is better than Hawaii!" He was smiling so big it looked like his face might split.
John glanced over at him, didn't quite smile back and nodded. "Yeah...maybe." He felt eyes upon him and turned to see Teyla watching him. John figured he should be used to that by now. Teyla had a way of seeing into people that was a bit disconcerting. Especially since she often shared her thoughts about him, with him. They weren't always flattering. Not that John minded her honesty. In fact, he preferred it to the lies, deceptions, and illusions that most people offered. Himself included at times. "Stay alert," he ordered his team, as he moved closer to Rodney. "Got anything?" John asked, gesturing to the scanner McKay was holding.
"Nothing...wait!" Rodney's eyes went wide as he turned in a half circle, then pointed. "There...over there. I just got a huge energy spike in that direction." He started to walk off but stumbled when a hand yanked his jacket, pulling him back. "What are you doing?" Rodney snapped, glaring at Sheppard.
"Stay behind me," John countered, not taking offense at Rodney's tone. "Teyla, flank out to the left, Ford...you've got our sixes."
Ford fell into place. "Yes, sir!"
Teyla assumed her position as well.
Rodney was still glaring. "What's the matter, Major? Getting spooked in your old age?" he taunted.
"Just being cautious," John shot back, then he nudged Rodney into motion before stepping ahead of him and scanning the horizon. He felt hyped up and he couldn't explain why, but his gut instincts were telling him something was hinky, and John always listened to his gut.
"There's nothing there, Major," Rodney countered, waving one hand around them expansively. "Just very lush vegetation that I am, no doubt, highly allergic too. In fact..." he paused to sniffle and tapped the bridge of his nose, "I'm feeling very congested all of the sudden."
John rolled his eyes but felt himself relaxing a bit. Rodney was usually the one warning them of impending peril and doom, so maybe he was overreacting. But a glance over at Teyla made John feel more secure about his instincts. She was scouting the area intensely and she was being very quiet and almost feral in that way she had that told John she was on alert. She must have felt his gaze because she looked over at him then nodded. John knew she was feeling it too. The sensation that something was not quite right. He was hoping they were both wrong.
Rodney was still rambling on. "That's the thing about Paradise, you know. It can't live up to it's own hype."
"Snake in the grass syndrome," John interjected, and he glanced over his shoulder in surprise when Rodney didn't respond. He realized the scientist was focused on his scanner. "You got something?" John queried. He wasn't sure what he wanted Rodney's answer to be. A part of John wanted to head back to the gate and return to Atlantis.
"Head twenty degrees south," Rodney ordered, pointing in that direction as he spoke.
John adjusted his position and they continued on. "Another energy spike?" he guessed.
Rodney was silent for a moment, eyes still plastered to the scanner, before mumbling, "Maybe."
"Oookaay," John drawled, then he fell silent as they continued on their way. They walked on for almost an hour, guided by McKay's intermittent directions, when Sheppard sensed something and froze. For the past ten minutes he'd had the feeling of being watched and now he knew why. Something caught his eye and he turned to his left and almost gasped. Standing before him were three beings. They were human, mostly, but they seemed almost ethereal. Their skin was so pale as to seem almost translucent. Which was the last thought Sheppard had before pain exploded in his head and he felt himself falling into a blinding white abyss.
His head was throbbing. A dull, steady, ache at the base of his skull that meandered upward into his temples and then cut inwards to pound behind his eyes.
John knew he did not want to open his eyes. He didn't want to be conscious at this moment. But he suddenly remembered what had happened and he needed to know that his team members were all right, so he peeled his eyelids open and was relieved to discover he was in a dimly lit room. No, not a room...exactly. Not a cell either. No bars. It hurt to move his eyes, but John let them roam about and he figured he was in a giant box. At least that's what it looked like from his prone position. So he shifted, slowly and carefully, wincing at every tiny movement, until he was sitting up. More or less. Then he had to close his eyes again for a moment until a wave of nausea passed.
Opening his eyes again, John decided he really was in a box. A big box, but that's what the place looked like. There were no windows to be seen and only the vague outline of what must be the door. There were no furnishings at all. Nothing. No table or chair or bed. Not even a mattress. His captors were sucky hosts.
Now that he had verified his surroundings, John focused on the fact that he was alone. Very much alone. A spike of fear cut through him at the thought of his teammates. He hoped Rodney wasn't alone. McKay could talk a good game but sometimes his mouth got him into trouble. Bad trouble. John didn't want anything to happen to him. To any of them.
Pushing against the wall, John managed to rise to his feet. He had to sag against the wall for a few minutes when dizziness just about wiped him out. It was followed by a heavy wave of nausea. But once both passed he discovered he was mobile enough and made his way over to the door. No handle. He knocked until he made himself sick. Pounding on the door made the pounding in his head ten times worse. As did calling out to his captors. He got no reply.
After a time, John wandered over the nearest corner and stuffed himself into it. He could see the door from his position so he wouldn't be taken by surprise. Again. Not that it would matter. He was alone and weaponless. Whoever had the inhabitants of M8X-454 were, they had taken his weapons, his jacket and his vest. They had also taken his watch, so John had no clue how long he had been out. It also just hit him that his boots were gone and, for once, he was glad he had decided to wear socks. The room was cold and his thin tee shirt didn't offer much warmth, nor did his uniform pants. The cold of the floor seeped through the material and John realized he was shaking.
He was also tired. Very tired and his head ached and felt heavy. Drawing up his knees, John hugged them then let his forehead rest on his arms. He felt his eyes drifting closed and he gave in to the darkness.
The darkness was unsettling and filled with fragments of dreams. Scattered images of the various ghosts and demons that he tried so hard to keep locked deep inside him. John willed himself to wake up and he got his wish when rough hands gripped him and jerked him to his feet.
Eyes wide open now; John tried to dig in his heels as he was dragged towards the door. The men holding him were bigger than the people he remembered seeing before. Bigger and very strong and they shoved him out the door. He stumbled, regained his balance and glared at them. "Where are my people!" John demanded. And for his effort he was backhanded so hard he saw stars. By the time the world came back into focus, he realized his hands were bound behind him and he was now in another room. Bigger than his box and it had a window. The guards, or whoever they were, dragged him over to it.
John froze as the view before him. He was staring into a chamber that contained what looked like an operating table and strapped to the table was Lt. Ford. Strapped down with double bindings over his arms and legs and one strap over his waist, another around his throat. "What the hell are you doing to him?" John snarled at the guard closest to him. The man said nothing and it gave John the creeps. He was big and silent and pale, dressed in a dark robe with absolutely no expression on his translucent face. "What the hell do you want from us?" John needed answers. He needed to understand what was happening.
Just then a door opened and a woman entered. She was tall and pale with hair that was so black it was almost purple and it fell to her hips in a straight line. The robe she wore was dark but with ornate trim. She moved to the mirror.
"Who are you?" John asked, and he was desperate for answers. But all the woman did was reach out and touch his face. When John flinched away she gripped his chin and turned his head so that he was looking out the window. Looking at Ford. John pulled free of her touch and stared as a man in a red robe entered the chamber with Ford. The man - being - moved to the table where Ford lay strapped down and lifted one arm. From the folds of his sleeve he revealed a sharp blade that reminded John of a butcher's knife. And in that moment the unthinkable happened. The being gripped Ford's forearm and slammed the blade down, cutting Ford's hand off at the wrist.
John stopped breathing as Ford's scream rent the air. It cut through him like the knife blade and John couldn't look away from the blood that spurted from the stump of his arm. He choked on a lungful of air then gagged as bile rose up into his throat. Before he could speak or react, the being moved to the other side of the table and hacked off Ford's other hand.
"NO! NO!" John was screaming now, the bile acrid on his tongue. He felt his knees slump and a hand gripped him, pulling him back up. He turned to face the woman who was watching him with dark eyes that held no emotion. "YOU SONOFABITCH!" John screamed as he lunged at her, only to stumble as he was yanked back by the guards. "What do you want? Goddammit! What the fuck do you want?"
For a moment John wondered if she could hear him. He could barely hear himself over Ford's screams. John had never heard anything so raw and horrifying in his life. He felt as if each scream was being ripped out from inside him. "Tell me what you want?" John begged. And he would beg and plead and offer anything he could to make this stop.
The woman moved closer to him and her pale lips parted. "Where is...Earth?" she asked.
John stopped breathing again. How could she know about Earth? She couldn't know...not unless...the Wraith. She had to be connected to the Wraith. Perhaps kissing cousins. Not that it mattered. He shook his head at her. That was the one thing he couldn't give her.
"Tell me how to get to Earth and your friend will go free," she said.
"FUCK YOU!" John barely got the curse out and he was being yanked back over to the window. He wanted to pound on the glass but couldn't with his hands bound behind him. He stared at Ford who was still screaming. He stared at the blood that was staining the floor. Then he watched, horrified, as the being in the red robe moved to the end of the table and lopped off one of Ford's feet. Bare feet, John realized. And he closed his eyes and a fresh wail of agony rent through him. Fingers gripped the back of his neck and his eyes flew open and he was shoved closer to the window. They wanted him to watch Ford's agony as the other foot was cut off and it set off something in John. A spark of cold fury that quickly ignited into pure, burning, rage. He didn't care that his hands were bound. He found himself lunging at the woman, wanting to rip her to pieces even though he couldn't reach her.
John felt the blow to the back of his head. He welcomed the bloom of pain. He almost sighed in relief as the sound of Ford's screams became muffled until they faded into silence. Then he faded into black.