Author's Note: I had to finish 'A Case of the Flu' before I could start beating any of my other plot bunnies into submission. Now that it's done…..
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis is not mine, and no profit is made from this story. It's for fan reading pleasure only. Enjoy!THE CRASH
1. The Crash
"So, why do you think the Ancients stored a ZPM on this rock?" grunted John Sheppard, wrestling Jumper One's hand controls. This had been another orbital Gate, around a planet whose atmosphere made Venus look like a vacation resort. The entire planet was covered in thick, angry clouds, roiling and writhing with a life all their own. Beyond the visible turbulence, flashes of lightning could be seen that made the 30-year-storm on Atlantis appear tame by comparison. Still, they could always use another Zero Point Module…After a quick check with Weir, they took a chance and headed in.
"Hey, I just read the databank; I didn't write it," snarled McKay. Inertial dampeners or not, he wondered once again why the Ancients never saw fit to equip these ships with seat belts as they were hurled upward and then sideways so violently that he had to literally hold onto his seat with both hands. A particularly bright flash of lightning exploded across the viewscreen, which blackened belatedly to compensate. Sparks shot up in a fountain from the forward control panels as the ride suddenly became much rougher.
"Hang on!" barked LTC Sheppard as the sticks tried to jerk free of his hands. Ronon Dex leaned forward in the co-pilot's seat, staring out through the cloudcover for any hint at the underlying terrain. Swirling miasma whipped past, until he began to make out dark shapes in the distance.
Pointing towards the ten o'clock position, he yelled to be heard above the whining of overstressed bulkheads, "Looks like mountains over there!"
Gritting his teeth, Sheppard managed a nod. "Got 'em. Thanks." Tilting his chin towards the right, he grunted, "More over there."
Dex looked in the indicated direction and managed to make out the outline of craggy peaks there as well. He had to hand it to the colonel; he sure could fly. This was like threading a needle in a fogbank. Keeping his tone low and calm, he added, "How can I help?"
His eyes fixed on the viewscreen before him, Sheppard managed to quirk up the corner of his mouth. "Know any good prayers?" He never found out the answer, as the ground chose that minute to come rushing up at them.
Pulling back hard on the stick, he got the nose of the Jumper up so the impact was mostly on the belly of the craft. The screaming of the metal crescendoed as a spray of gravel shot up on either side. All hope of control lost, they skidded starboard until the side of the craft was actually the leading edge, tilting them precariously to port. The roller coaster ride came to an abrupt halt as they slammed heavily against an outcropping of rock, hurling the passengers within like tenpins into the bulkheads of the now-silent craft.
Groaning, Ronon Dex took stock of his surroundings; arms, legs, sidearm - all present and accounted for. Next, he rolled over to assess his teammates, vaguely aware of the others doing the same.
"Everybody alright?" Sheppard's voice had never been so welcome, although the runner could detect a thread of stress behind the forcibly-cheerful tones.
"I'm fine." 'Matter of fact' attitudes worked best in this situation.
"Good to hear it." The stress was more clearly discernable in the colonel's tone - pain perhaps? Ronon began to feel his way towards the pilot's chair. "Teyla? Rodney?"
"I am…uninjured," replied a calm female voice to Ronon's left.
"Well, I'm not," exclaimed Rodney irritably. "I've got bruises on bruises here, and there's something trapping my leg!"
"Can you move it?" Sheppard grunted, clearly trying to shift something in his own region of the cockpit.
"Let me assist you." Teyla had clearly reached the scientist. Ronon consigned the noise of their combined efforts to the background as he reached his objective.
The murky light of a storm-filled sunset filtered in through the front viewscreen, swirling iridescently like the mist outside. As his eyes became adjusted to the dimness, he identified their pilot sitting propped up against the far bulkhead, his face an unhealthy shade of gray and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. Sheppard's left leg was stretched out before him, while the right was bent backwards at an unnatural angle and firmly pinned beneath a square hunk of console that appeared to have dislodged during the crash. Trying to sit up and lever it off was causing the LTC to turn even paler before collapsing back against the wall.
"Here. Let me." Ronon fished about the cockpit for a minute until he found what he was looking for - a long, straight rod of metal that could be used as a crowbar, and a small, sturdy metallic block for a fulcrum. Brandishing the tools, he returned to examine the trapped limb just as Teyla and McKay limped up.
"Careful, we might need that," hissed Rodney as Ronon decided on a spot and wedged the bar.
"What, the console or my leg?" panted Sheppard irritably.
The scientist squinted at him. "Oh, har-de-har, very funny."
Dex felt obliged to interrupt. "Ready?"
Sheppard nodded. "Go for it."
The runner made certain that both Rodney and Teyla were clear, then heaved on the lever. Teyla watched helplessly as Sheppard flung his head back against the wall and clenched his face into an expression of agony. To her surprise, not one sound was uttered until, with a tremendous groan, the console shifted up a few inches. "Doctor McKay, help me!" The Athosian was adamant.
Startled, Rodney shot her a quick 'deer-in-headlights' glance. Seeing the athletic young woman grab Sheppard under one shoulder, he rapidly did likewise with the other and helped her haul their now-unconscious friend from under the wreckage. Not a moment too soon; Ronon felt the metal shift off his lever and crash back to the floor where Sheppard's leg had just been. He wiped the sweat from his brow and joined his shipmates in examining the colonel's leg.
Bent halfway between the ankle and the knee, the skin above the obvious fracture was macerated, but no bone exposed. He tore the blood-soaked trousers away from the wound and examined it critically. Looking up, he caught Teyla's eye. "Good thing he's unconscious," he commented, and an unspoken request followed.
"I will find what we need," came the reply as the Athosian wandered off to do just that.
"What?" demanded Rodney. "What do we need?"
"I need you to hold his shoulders while I straighten this leg." The big man kept his tone even.
"Why? Shouldn't we wait for Carson?"
This…scientist…was trying his patience. "If we don't straighten his leg, the blood flow could be cut off and he could lose it. We don't know when, or if, help is coming, so we need to rely on ourselves for the time being." Looking back down at their unconscious comrade, he added, "And it would be kinder to do this while he's still out cold."
Gulping nervously, McKay nodded and moved to John's shoulders. "On the count of three…one…two…three!" On three, Ronon snapped the leg back into alignment, quickly securing it with two rods and some bandages Teyla had acquired. Once finished, he sat back and critically examined his handiwork, checking the pulses in the foot and ankle as he did so. He looked up and nodded.
"Good blood flow, and the bone is straight. This splint ought to keep it that way." He fixed them both with his unwavering stare. "Thank you."
Any ensuing comment was cut off by a moan from Sheppard. Everyone focussed their attention on the prostrate man as he blinked open his eyes. "Am I…loose?" he croaked.
Teyla smiled reassuringly. "You are free."
"My leg?" he whispered.
"Broken." Ronon saw no reason to beat around the bush.
"Well, at least that's something." Sheppard struggled to sit upright, finally managing it with Teyla's arm behind his back. After looking at the splint, he muttered, "Nice job. I was afraid it was gone." He looked into Dex's face. "That was a pretty heavy piece of equipment and I couldn't feel my leg below it."
"What about now? Can you feel this?" Dex gently palpated the tibia just below the fracture and was rewarded with a hissed intake of breath.
"Oh, yeah," Sheppard commented when the pain subsided. "I've definitely got the feeling back! Let's not do that again anytime soon, OK?"
The newest team member shrugged. "Just checking."
"Speaking of checking on things, any chance of getting some emergency lights or something on in here?" The sun had long since set, and the Jumper was nearly dark. John stared pointedly at Rodney, who had already disappeared into the rear compartment and was dismantling the side crystal grid box.
"On it!" he called back rather distractedly. Rodney was much more at home dealing with injured machinery rather than people. Within a few moments his efforts were rewarded by a low luminescence appearing throughout the ship. The hum of air recirculators clicked in a second later. McKay stood back and observed his work with satisfaction. Rubbing his hands together, he turned towards the group expectantly. "What's next?"
Sheppard, resting on his elbow as he took a swig from the canteen proffered by Teyla, raised an eyebrow. "Well, I could think of a few things. For instance; do we have a distress signal going?"
McKay looked confused. "Why? Do you want me to turn it on? Or turn it off?" He thought for a moment. "On the one hand, if it were on, any Wraith in the area could lock onto it. But if it weren't on, then our own people will have trouble finding us in this soup."
Sheppard held up a hand to interrupt the flow-of-consciousness babbling; his head ached. "Just…find out which it is, all right?"
Rodney nodded and crawled under the front panel. Dex took the opportunity to stand as well. "I think I'll go have a quick look around, see where we're at."
McKay's head poked out from under the panel he was working on. "Do you think that's wise? I haven't got the sensors up and running yet."
Ronon turned from where he was checking his sidearm. "I thought we did a scan on the way in. You said the atmosphere was 'breathable, if wet'."
"That was from outside the stratosphere!"
"How often have you been wrong from that distance?" Ronon tilted his head as he awaited an answer.
Rodney was flustered. "Well…never…but that's not the point!"
Ronon shrugged and turned away. "Good enough for me. I'll be right back." Palming open the back hatch, he stepped into the swirling fog.
The scientist turned towards his injured leader. "Why didn't you stop him?" he demanded imperiously.
It was Sheppard's turn to shrug. "Because he's right." Looking pointedly at the panel, he asked, "So, is it on yet?"
McKay gave a crow of victory. "Aha! So you want it on!"
Sheppard shot him a glance which, more than anything else, said 'Duh'. "Of course I do. How else is anyone going to find us?"
Rodney decided to forego the conversation as a lost cause and scooted back under the console. Teyla placed a folded blanket behind Sheppard's head. "You need to get comfortable, colonel. I have to clean that wound." She gestured expressively to the laceration on his fractured leg, and the LTC steeled himself and closed his eyes.
"All right; I'm ready." Catching his lower lip between his teeth, John managed not to cry out as the Athosian gently washed and bandaged the laceration. Nevertheless, she was grateful when he slid once more into unconsciousness. By the time he awakened, she had him nestled securely on the floor with a second blanket tucked in around his shoulders. McKay was nearby dissecting a MRE and rapidly shoving the edible bits into his mouth.
"How…how long?" John managed after a gulp. His mouth seemed inordinately dry.
Recognizing this, Teyla held a canteen up to his parched lips as she replied. "Only about thirty minutes."
Rodney, speaking around a mouthful of 'Country Captain Chicken', gestured towards the panel behind him. "Beacon's on," he announced.
Pulling up again on his elbow, John peered around the compartment. "Where's Dex?" he asked.
"Still outside," Teyla answered. "I wanted to be certain that you were awake before I went to search for him." She peered carefully into his eyes. "Will you be safe if I go?"
McKay was offended. "What am I, chopped liver? I can take care of things here!" When both Teyla and Sheppard fixed him with identical 'raised eyebrow' stares, he succumbed, mumbling, "Well, I can…"
Teyla threw John a lopsided grin as she shouldered her holster. "I'll just take a quick look around." As she went to open the hatch, she jumped back, startled, as it opened seemingly of its own accord. A very wet runner entered, then shook himself off like a sopping dog. Teyla brushed the droplets from her coat in mild disgust as he ran a hand through his hair, shaking the dampness out of it as well.
"So? What's out there?" Sheppard asked impatiently when a report was not forthcoming.
Ronon squatted next to the colonel and clasped his hands. "A lot of wet, and a lot of rock. Not much else in the immediate vicinity." He shot a sly look at Rodney as he continued, "Except the ruins, of course."
McKay almost banged his head on the console above it. Swallowing rapidly, he choked out "Ruins?"
Quickly the scientist scrambled for his hand-held scanner and pointed it out the viewscreen. His eyes widened with excitement, "There's a strong energy source in that…" he pointed towards his right and slightly forward, "direction." Looking up at Sheppard, he stated the obvious, "Colonel, it could be that ZPM we're looking for."
Sheppard nodded tiredly. "Yeah, but it'll still be there in the morning. We'll wait until it's light out."
McKay was frustrated. "The rescue team may be here by then!"
"So? You'll go searching with one of them, then. We wait until it's safe."
"One broken leg per mission is enough," added Ronon.
Sheppard shot him a nasty look, then carefully turned his back to them and pulled up the blanket. "Let's get some sleep. Dex, you have the first watch." It was good to be the king.