RATING: T for language and minor violence.
SEASON: Second season before Lost Boys.
MAJOR CHARACTERS: The boys, of course, (if you don't know who I'm talking about, you're in the wrong fic),along with Lorne, Zelenka, and Beckett, with snippets of Teyla, Ronon, and Weir.
CATEGORY: a little of this, a little of that.
SUMMARY: A Marine's work is never done, especially when he is put in charge of watching Rodney McKay. Lorne's point of view as he serves as the few, the proud… the babysitter. Sheppard-McKay friendship.
SPOILERS: Anything up to Lost Boys is fair game.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I thrive on it and so do the bunnies.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, if I did, then I wouldn't feel the need to fix them so often.
NOTES: This story is part of the Point of View series. It's not necessary that you read the others but things might make a little more sense if you did. The list is on my profile page if you're interested.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Special thanks, as always to Koschka for her betaing, berating, and beguiling nature. Also thanks to all my list sibs at SGHC for the help with the Latin, with special kudos to Skiffy for the term I finally decided to use!
Infans Cursus Semper Fidelias
Always the Faithful Babysitter
I was supposed to be an only child. That had been my parent's plans all along; one child, preferably a boy to carry on the Lorne name for my father, preferably a girl to do all the frilly things my mother regretted never getting to do as the only daughter growing up in a family of five. Of course, things don't always work out as planned. To hear Mom tell it, Shelly was a secret blessing from heaven, her little angel that had just been waiting for the right moment to show herself, and no amount of contraceptives could stop a miracle like that. To hear Dad tell it, never trust a woman on the pill who is looking back at forty in the rear view mirror of life while staring down forty-five in the high beams, especially when she is hauling around a suitcase of Barbie dolls in the trunk.
So, at the ripe old age of ten, I went from only child to older brother. And a few years after that I went from older brother to full-time, live in babysitter. And man oh man, did my life change after that. Not that Shelly was a terror or anything, but she was your typical girl, all pinks and ponies and princesses until she reached age five, went to kindergarten and started beating up the boys on such a regular interval that my parents pretty much had a standing parent-teacher conference on Thursday afternoons. Of course the fact that I was using her to practice my World Wrestling Federation moves every day when I watched her after school may have been a small influence- the fact that she was a damn quick study was probably a much bigger one. And with those bony knees and elbows, I often ended up being the one to call a time out after being on the receiving end of a particularly nasty elbow drop to the stomach.
Eight years after Shelly was born, I packed my things and headed for college on the G.I. Bill, convinced that my babysitting days were behind me. And of course, I was wrong. Little did I know that the Few and the Proud was the equivalent of government sponsored daycare for the rest of the world. Only instead of being armed with Barney videos and juice boxes, I was armed with an M-4 and MREs and my charge was rarely a pigtailed preschooler but more likely a blindfolded Blackhawk pilot that had been shot down behind enemy lines.
Then I was assigned to the SGC and you would think traveling to other planets through the Stargate would bring a change. Well, you would think wrong. To paraphrase a very wise man… same shit, different planet. Extracting trapped teams on occasion, guarding the gate while the first contact team went in, but usually watching over scientists doing who the hell knew what. Just… babysitting. Only I answered more to an inquisitive "Major?" than a whined "Marcus!", but the results were the same… someone wanting something I couldn't give them. Whether it was two more hours to study an ancient stone tablet too big to carry through the gate or two more cookies before it was time to go to bed, it didn't matter to me, it was all the same. I had even perfected the eye roll that used to accompany Shelly's request so that the scientists rarely asked twice.
That is until I came to Atlantis and met one Dr. Rodney McKay. McKay didn't ask, he demanded. He didn't listen, he informed. He didn't do what he was told, he told you what to do. And he did it loudly and flagrantly and without a shade of doubt that he was absolutely right. Most of the time he was right. He was definitely the smartest man I had ever met… and the most obnoxious.
But this time he had been wrong. And as I sat the Jumper down into the Jumper bay he was also eerily silent, which had nothing to do with his opinion of himself and everything to do with the fact that he was unconscious.
The hatch opened on the back of the Jumper and the waiting medical team descended on the scientist. Teyla stood from where she sat beside him to allow them access and thankfully intercept Colonel Sheppard before I could exit the craft.
"He is alive," she told the agitated man before he could enter the ship or even ask a question. "His heartbeat and breathing are fine, although he will not awaken."
Sheppard looked past his Athosian teammate into the back of the Jumper, a concerned frown creasing his brow at the flurry of activity taking place there. "What the hell happened?"
"We do not know. Dr. McKay had evidently gone to check the naquadah generator. I was still in the council meeting. I believe Major Lorne was helping to unload some of the produce we were bringing back with us." She glanced over her shoulder in my direction and the look on her face was one I was very familiar with. My mother had perfected it in all its 'Marcus, you really should have known better' glory. "When Dr. McKay did not respond on the radio, we went to look for him and found him as he is now." She lowered her head as if in shame. "I am sorry… I had no idea he had left the village. If I had known…"
Sheppard reached out a hand and squeezed her arm. "Hey, it's not your fault. You know how McKay gets; impatient is too low an attitude to even register on his meter." But the reassuring tone he had for Teyla didn't reach the glare that fixed me as I walked down the ramp of the Jumper.
With a sigh, I approached my commanding officer with a self-deprecating shrug. "He was gone before I even knew he had left, sir."
"We'll discuss this later, Major." His voice was casual but I didn't let that fool me. Lt. Colonel John Sheppard loved Atlantis, would give his life to protect it, and had damn well given it his best shot during the Wraith invasion. But that was nothing compared to the loyalty he felt for his teammates. They were family in his book, and I got the distinct impression that family was something the Colonel didn't take for granted.
I nodded in resignation, but he didn't notice, didn't even seem to register the, "Yes, sir," I tacked onto the end. The gurney was being wheeled out of the jumper and he was already moving, Teyla walking quickly beside him to match his long strides as they fell into step alongside the unmoving physicist.
I waited a beat before following in their wake to the infirmary. Once there I went through the standard post mission physical, although the mission had only been a trip to the Mainland. It was just supposed to be a simple day trip to allow Teyla to attend a meeting, McKay to relocate a naquadah generator that the local wildlife had taken a fancy to, and to haul a load of the latest crops back to the mess hall. I was going as part taxi driver, part beast of burden, and yes, part babysitter. Colonel Sheppard was busy with the weekly armory inventory, and since my team was down for a few days with a man on the disabled list, I was asked to do the honors. I figured what the hell? Nice day, easy flight, fresh veggies for dinner… what's the worst that could happen? Well, my answer was out cold just down the hall from where I sat with a blood pressure cuff tightening on my arm.
Technically, the physical wasn't really necessary, but when I sat and no one complained I figured it was a good enough excuse for me to stay in the infirmary without having to ask permission. A few vitals and blood samples later, I moved into the next bay to where Dr. McKay still lay unresponsive in his bed. Dr. Weir was conversing softly with Dr. Beckett and Sheppard's team was spread out across the room. Teyla sat on the foot of an empty bed, whereas the Colonel himself sat with elbows on knees in a chair beside McKay's own hospital bed.
I took a spot next to Ronon who slumped casually against the back wall with crossed arms. Assuming a similar stance, I asked quietly, "No change?"
"No." Dark eyes slid in my direction and pinned me to the wall. "And you had better hope that there is one for the better… soon."
I stood straighter, taking a step back, then another, so that I was out of arm's reach of the large warrior. "Oh, I am. Very much so with the hoping."
And miracle upon miracle, it happened. McKay moved or twitched or flinched or something, enough that Colonel Sheppard stood and leaned anxiously over his friend. "Rodney?"
The motion, or whatever it was, was followed by a moan and Beckett lifted an eyelid, lit it with a tiny penlight and was rewarded by an even louder moan on Dr. McKay's part.
"Stop," he slurred and swatted weakly at the offending light.
Smiles erupted around the room at that very McKay-like response. Encouraged, Dr. Beckett moved to the other eye. "Sorry, Rodney, but it is part of my sworn oath to do everything possible to annoy you into consciousness."
"Christ… hurts," and he grimaced in pain that was obviously more than a small light in his eyes should have caused.
"Where, lad? Where is the pain?"
"Everywhere… ow, fuck."
The scientist tried to curl into a ball only to curse again at the agony the action caused. Sheppard's face twisted along with his teammate's body and he quickly removed the hand he had on McKay's arm, obviously afraid that he would be adding too, instead of easing, the discomfort. "Doc, can't you do something?"
"In a moment," the physician informed him shortly. "Rodney, I need you tell me what happened. I don't want to do more damage with a treatment."
"Bastards… shot me."
Confused glances were exchanged around the room. Finally, Beckett informed him, "Rodney, you weren't shot. There is nary a wound that we could find on your person."
"Not bullets… some sort of stunner… electrical." He sucked in a breath, opening his eyes for the first time and taking in the Colonel staring down at him in concern. His hand whipped out and locked onto Sheppard's shirt sleeve. "Goddamn, John… either shoot me… or threaten to shoot Carson… until he gives me something."
"Carson," the Colonel gritted out between clenched teeth, his eyes widening to match the panic in McKay's.
"Working on it, Colonel." And the Scotsman was already preparing a hypodermic needle to insert into the I.V. port.
We all watched in relief as the contorted face relaxed as the drug took effect. Colonel Sheppard leaned in a little closer as the fisted hand holding his sleeve relaxed as well. "Rodney, did you see who did this?"
"Genii…on Mainland," he garbled sleepily, even as the hand went limp once again as a drug induced sleep overtook him.
Any relief we felt vanished as quickly as the Doctor's pain with that final drowsy revelation. Sheppard stood straighter, what had looked like concern a few minutes prior now was all business. With a clenched jaw he addressed me. "I want a review of all security records. I want to know the names of everyone who has come in through the gate since the Wraith attack and can't be accounted for in the exit logs. Teyla, I need you to help the Major review the security footage. Anyone who doesn't look familiar, tag them and their local contact for questioning. As of this minute we are at Security Level Alpha. Double the guard on the gate and no one comes in or leaves Atlantis without my express permission."
"Colonel, do you really think the Genii could somehow make it through our security and set up a base of operation on the Mainland?"
Thank God Dr. Weir asked that question so that I didn't have to. After the barely contained anger that had been radiating off the team, there was no way in hell I was going to question McKay's statement, no matter how far fetched it had seemed.
"Elizabeth, you heard what he said," Sheppard reasoned. "And Rodney has spent more time in the company of those sons of bitches than anyone else here. If he said Genii, then it was the Genii."
She studied him for a few seconds then nodded her head. "All right. I'll recall the off world teams and enforce the security restrictions."
Ronon moved for the first time since I had entered the room, pushing himself away from the wall and up to his full and extremely imposing height. "What do you need me to do?"
"Get your gun and get ready to saddle up, we have some tracking to do as soon as McKay can answer a few questions."
With our assignments in hand we turned to leave the infirmary. Teyla hesitated at the door. "Colonel, when Dr. McKay…"
"I'll call you as soon as he wakes up. Promise."
She nodded but he didn't seem to notice. He was already requesting a laptop from Dr. Beckett to link into the mainframe from his spot in the infirmary, already settling back into the uncomfortable plastic chair by the bed, and already waiting for the fourth member of his team to rejoin them.
And almost two hours later, he was still waiting.
"And no one is unaccounted for?" From the twist of his mouth it was obvious that the Colonel was hoping for a different answer than the ones Teyla and I were providing.
Unfortunately for him and his still sleeping teammate's story, that wasn't the case. Teyla tilted her head sympathetically. "Perhaps you should look on the positive side; this just proves that your security system has worked properly."
"Yeah, but it doesn't explain how armed Genii made it to the Mainland." Sheppard glanced back over his shoulder to where McKay lay in his bed.
"Colonel, maybe Dr. McKay was wrong about the Genii."
At my suggestion, Sheppard's stance shifted from contemplation to irritation. "Maybe if someone else had been with him at the time we would have someone to either confirm or deny his story. But seeing as no one was with him, we'll have to take McKay's word for it, now won't we?"
I sighed, biting back my retort that if McKay had just followed proper protocol and not gone out on his own, none of this would have happened in the first place. "All I'm saying is that maybe Dr. McKay is just a little…confused. Whatever hit him sure did a number on him physically. Who's to say it didn't mess with his memory a little too? For all we know, he could have received a jolt from a faulty piece of equipment."
"Speaking of which, where's his pack?"
"His pack?" Why the hell was he so interested in a backpack?
"Yes, his pack. Where he carries his laptop, his tools, his two dozen powerbars… his goddamn backpack. Where is it?"
Teyla shook her head. "I do not recall seeing his backpack when we found him."
"Does McKay go anywhere without that pack, especially when he is going to work on equipment?"
"His pack wasn't there, sir," I assured him. "I did a quick sweep of the area myself looking for any clues as to what happened."
"Well, that's just great. The computer of the Atlantis Chief of Science is now in the hands of an obviously hostile force."
"Will they be able to glean any information from it?" Teyla asked in concern.
"McKay tends to be pretty savvy when it comes to his cybersecurity. And unless they know his cat's birthday and have a pretty firm grasp of Zeno's paradoxes of mathematics, there is no way they are getting past his password, much less anything else in the system. Not unless they find a back way in."
"Zeno?" I raised an eyebrow in question. "What the hell is a Zeno?"
"Philosopher," a struggling voice called from the bed, "mathematician, lived about a hundred years before Aristotle." The three of us moved quickly to where Dr. McKay was pushing himself up with a groan. "I wouldn't feel too bad, though, Major, I'm sure your exposure to Greek history is limited to frat house toga parties and Xena reruns."
Colonel Sheppard helped to raise the head of his bed while Teyla offered to go find Dr. Beckett. The Colonel then worked to situate the pillows properly behind the physicist. His kindness was rewarded with a scowl and a testy slap at his hands from his very grumpy charge.
Sheppard frowned as he pulled back his evidently offending appendage. "So I see you're back to your sunshiny disposition that we all missed so much while you were out."
McKay leaned back heavily against the pillow and grimaced. "Yeah, I'm just loving life right now. And just so you know, I changed my password."
"Oh, like I'm telling you now that I've seen what sort of security risk you are. It's the password for my computer, Sheppard, not a club house. And it was told to you in strictest confidence so you would leave me alone and play Tetris while I got some real work done."
"It was a dull mission; I was bored out of my mind."
"Well, I'm so glad I could contribute to the success of the operation in my own small way."
"So… how ya' feeling?"
"Like I had a very intimate encounter with a tazer gun." The scientist rolled hopeful blue eyes toward his teammate. "Did you catch them? Did you catch them and beat their utilitarian uniform wearing asses to within an inch of their miserable paramilitary lives?"
Sheppard smirked. "Not yet. We didn't want you to miss out on all the fun."
"Well, thanks, but photos would have sufficed, preferably high resolution ones so that I could see the glitter of pain in their eyes when you exacted your horrific revenge on them." He shifted and hissed through clenched teeth. "Damn it, that hurts."
"I'm not the least bit surprised," Dr. Beckett supplied from the door. "Whatever this stunner was that they used on you, it seems to have sent your muscles into an extreme state of spasm. It's as if you overexerted every muscle in your body. You're going to be sore for a while I'm afraid, lad."
"And I thought it had sucked when Lt. Cadman took my body jogging." He looked back to Sheppard even as Dr. Beckett started checking him out. "Seriously, when you catch them give them to Ronon for sparing practice. You can consider it part of my Christmas present. Besides, I'm sure your ribs could use the break."
The Colonel crossed his arms and regarded his feet. "Yeah, about the whole catching them part… are you sure it was the Genii?"
"Of course it was the Genii. I said it was the Genii, didn't I?"
"Yes, you did, but..."
"Then it was the Genii. Why? Don't you believe me? Don't you think I would know the Genii when I see them?"
"It's not that, Rodney. It's just…" Sheppard seemed at a loss for what to say next.
"What? It's just what, Colonel?"
"Maybe you were a little… confused." I rolled my eyes as Sheppard used my own words to try to convince McKay.
"Just a little." McKay stared at him, eyes growing angrier by the silent second. The Colonel ran a hand through his hair self-consciously. "You think… maybe… you could have been, you know… confused?"
Dr. McKay leaned toward him, arms crossed stubbornly across him chest and told him in a low voice. "I think… maybe… you have problems trusting what I saw. But I sure as hell don't."
"Damn it, Rodney, this has nothing to do with trusting you and you know it," Sheppard hissed back just as low.
McKay sat back and raised his chin and his voice. "And I know what I saw; a Genii with a stunner and three others in the woods behind him."
"We have scoured the gate logs and all the security files. There is no indication that one Genii agent came through the gate, much less four. So unless they sprouted wings and the ability to breathe in deep space and flew here, there is no way that I can explain how there are Genii on the Mainland."
"They were Genii, John." The two men stared at each other for a long moment before McKay threw up exasperated hands. "Fine, if you don't believe me then ask Eli or Eligin or whatever his name is."
"Who?" Sheppard asked.
"The guy who was with me when I went to move the generator." At the confused looks everyone was giving him, he elaborated. "Athosian, about my height, beard, red hair, builds carts and wheelbarrows and… stuff."
"Ellis?" Teyla offered.
"Ellis! He went with me, took one of his carts to help move the generator to its new location."
With a shake of her head Teyla informed him, "Ellis was not with you when we found you, Doctor. You were completely alone."
"Well that's impossible; we had just loaded the generator on the cart when they attacked. He was standing right next to me." His eyes widened suddenly. "Wait a minute. The generator… was it okay?"
"Dr. McKay, there wasn't a generator either," I told him.
The scientist shook his head in disbelief. "They stole it. The sons of bitches zapped me and stole the generator."
"So, they took a generator? Is that such a big deal?" I asked. I mean, I was sure naquadah generators weren't cheap, but compared to the budget for the SGC program as a whole, I was also pretty sure it was just a drop in the bucket. And it wasn't like we couldn't get more on the next Daedalus run from Earth.
"It is if they figure out how to overload it," Sheppard said in dawning understanding.
"Overload?" That didn't sound good.
"Yes, Major, overload," McKay snapped at me. "As in explode in a glorious nuclear fireball and eradicate everything in its ever expanding radius of ultimate destruction."
"Okay," I admitted, "so maybe it is a big deal."
But the next morning as I sat in the Jumper bay with Rodney McKay about to go critical in the copilot seat beside me, I started thinking an overloaded naquadah generator might not be so bad right about then, might even make my day take a massive turn for the better. Because, it sure as hell had veered off course before I even got to finish my first cup of coffee.
I had been walking down the hall, travel mug in hand, when Dr. McKay commandeered me with an order… not a request, mind you… to gear up and meet him in the Jumper bay in fifteen minutes. He didn't even wait for a response, simply kept walking toward his quarters with a stubborn gait that had 'I feel like living shit' written all over it, still dressed in hospital scrubs, white knuckling a brown prescription bottle in one hand and his own field clothes from the previous day in the other.
I had taken another sip of my coffee and made my way to my own quarters, kitted up and went to the bay, fully expecting to wait a few minutes past the required fifteen, then leave and go about my business when the physicist decided a trip to the Mainland in pursuit of the rest of his team wasn't worth the agony of getting dressed when your body felt like it had just bench pressed five hundred pounds with each individual muscle group. And I was right; he didn't make it in fifteen minutes. But he did in sixteen. His mouth twisted in an expression of livid pain, it was almost fascinating to see how he was still able to pull off outrage while stalking gingerly toward me.
With a quick snap snap he motioned toward Jumper Two. "Okay, daylights burning, the Genii are plotting, let's go."
"Doctor, we're in Security Level Alpha," I explained calmly. "We can't go anywhere without Colonel Sheppard's permission. And seeing as he's been on the Mainland for over an hour now…"
He cut me off even as he activated the hatch and hobbled into the ship. "It's being taken care of." When I didn't follow immediately, he gave an aggrieved sigh. "Now, Major. We don't have all day."
"Sir, wouldn't it be better if we just let Colonel Sheppard and the security detail take care of things on the Mainland? You look like you still need some rest."
"Although I have no idea about your proclivity for sheep, I am pretty damn sure that you, Major, do not have a medical degree. So you will forgive me if I completely ignore that suggestion as I will continue to take my medical advice from those that have managed to convince Stargate Command that they do have said degree. Now, right, wrong, or indifferent, that particular individual and I have reached a compromise. I can travel to the Mainland while simultaneously being under the influence of some of the better Earth based painkillers if someone else flies the Jumper. And that is where you come in. So let's go, the team needs a science advisor if they do happen to find the generator and I'm it."
"Actually, they already have one," I informed him, hoping to put an end to this once and for all. "Colonel Sheppard took Dr. Zelenka along for exactly that reason."
"What? Radek is out there?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Well, then we definitely need to get over there. The man has probably jumped out of his skin so much he's shed it like a snake." He moved the rest of the way into the Jumper and eased his way into the copilot's seat.
"That may very well be the case, sir, but we still don't have Colonel Sheppard's permission to leave Atlantis."
He simply pointed at the pilot's seat as he keyed his radio. "Elizabeth, we're ready to depart."
Across the Jumper's long range radio frequency I heard Dr. Weir call, "Colonel Sheppard, this is Atlantis base. Do you copy?"
There was small crackle and then a familiar drawl. "Sheppard here."
"Colonel, Dr. McKay requests permission to bring Jumper Two to the Mainland to assist in your search there."
"Permission denied," and you could hear the eye roll in his response. "Sheppard out."
"Damn it, Sheppard, you cannot just trap me here on Atlantis while you go off hunting Genii."
"Yes, Rodney, I can and I will and I am. Sheppard out."
"Sheppard, I am not just going to sit here while the rest of the team is on the Mainland." Whether he was still listening or not, I didn't know, but regardless, the Colonel didn't answer. And that's when McKay went ballistic. "Sheppard! Goddamn it, Sheppard, you answer me! John! You cannot do this! You can't… You…you lousy piece of…" In a sputtering rage he ripped off his radio earpiece, looked as if he was ready to bang it on the consol in front of him, then stopped and squeezed it as if he were reaching through and squeezing the life out of his team leader instead. He held the transmitter up and yelled into it, "Fine, you want to be a stubborn son of bitch, then I can be just as stubborn." He turned to me and jabbed a finger toward the controls. "Fly this thing."
"Dr. McKay, you heard the Colonel, he…"
I literally leaned back from the glare he fixed me with. "Either you fly it or I do."
I stood from my seat with raised hands. "She's all yours, Doctor." I was already knee deep in the shit with Sheppard, there was no way in hell I was going against a direct order.
He pushed himself up angrily, if stiffly, and shouldered me out of the way as he took the seat and the craft hummed to life. "Control, this is Jumper Two, we're departing for the Mainland."
"Rodney, Colonel Sheppard denied your request," Dr. Weir tried to reason. "You can't leave."
McKay triggered the roof opening even as he lifted the ship from its resting place in the bay. "On the contrary, Elizabeth, I can and I will and I am."
I sat quickly as I looked out the window and noted the way the walls tilted in my view. My senses could deny the motion thanks to the inertial dampeners but my eyes told me the truth. McKay was barely keeping the Jumper airborne, much less doing it with any finesse. "Uh, Dr. McKay, maybe you should reconsider…"
"Quiet," he snapped, "I'm trying to concentrate right now."
The opening to the bay loomed above us and I leaned my body to the left as if that would steer the ship away from the wall that was creeping closer and closer on our right. "Over, over, over!"
"Major, you are not helping," he gritted out as he overcompensated and we veered quickly toward the opposite wall.
"McKay, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Colonel Sheppard's voice broke through the radio.
"Oh, so you are still out there," stated the man piloting the Jumper, and I used that term very, very loosely.
"Rodney, I told you, you are not…"
"Colonel, request permission to fly the Jumper to the Mainland," I blurted out quickly as we passed through the opening, clearing the edge by mere inches.
"Lorne, what the hell is going on?" my CO demanded.
"Whoa!" The Jumper dropped like a stone so that we were skimming a few feet above the water.
McKay pulled it back up, but by the way that the horizon bobbed ahead of us, he was flying this thing like a roller coaster car.
"Sir, I really think you should let me fly Dr. McKay to the Mainland."
"Dr. McKay doesn't need to come to the Mainland, Major," he told me matter-of-factly.
"Not arguing with you, Colonel. But he's coming, and bringing me with him, whether you give him permission or not… Up! Pull her up!" Spray splattered the cockpit window as the Jumper actually clipped the top of a wave. McKay winced and directed the ship up with visible concentration. "I just think it might be a good idea if I was actually flying the Jumper instead of someone who could give Cheech and Chong a run for their money."
"What?" The Colonel's shocked voice rang in my ear. "Rodney, are you flying under the influence?"
"I may have taken a couple of painkillers before I left," he admitted grudgingly.
"Oh, for the love of…" I could just picture Sheppard standing there, running his hand through his hair before throwing them up with a God-help-me shake of his head. "What the fuck do you think you are doing?"
"Well, I never had any intention of flying the thing until you had to be so difficult. That's why I brought Lorne along in the first place." I let out a sound that I admit was part whimper, part groan, and complete conviction that the Jumper was going down this time and there was nothing I could do to stop it. McKay recovered his sense enough to recover the ship and I opened my eyes to see that we were still above water.
"Then let him fly the damn thing now," the Colonel reasoned.
"Not until you promise to let him fly me to the Mainland and meet up with you and the rest of the team."
"Damn it, McKay…"
"Colonel!" I called desperately as the horizon line was becoming more vertical by the second.
"All right, all right! Just give the ship over to Lorne and you can come."
"Thank you, Colonel," he responded smugly even as I leaped to take the controls he was releasing. "We'll see you in a few minutes. McKay out."
He rose from the seat and I settled in with a sigh of utter relief. From his new position in the co-pilot seat, he shook his head with a small frown. "I swear that man can be so difficult to reason with sometimes."
"Yeah," I agreed even as I fought to even out my breathing. "I don't know how you can stand it."
The scientist completely missed my patronizing tone. "You don't know the half of it."
Maybe not, but I was learning fast. You know, my mother had been right; Shelly really was an angel compared to the demonic genius that I was currently babysitting.
The rest of the flight was smooth and level and drug free on my part. Dr. McKay sat restlessly beside me, rarely talking, but constantly shifting as if trying to get into a comfortable position the entire time. Whatever that thing was that had hit him had hurt him, and it still did. And yet he was insistent on being in the field with his team when he could have just as easily sat at home and nobody would have given it a second thought.
Well, maybe they would have.
It hadn't been that long since he had managed to blow up an entire solar system and the looks and whispers still lingered in the halls around him. With that kind of pressure, I couldn't really blame him for wanting to leave Atlantis any chance he got. And he had gone on every away mission he could, sticking closer to his team than gum to the bottom of a high school desk.
I sat the Jumper down in a clearing following Colonel Sheppard's orders and opened the hatch. Dr. McKay made his wobbly way out the back and met up with his fuming team lead. "Just why the hell was it so important for you to come out here, Rodney, when you can barely walk?"
"Just why the hell was it so important for you to come out here without telling me first?"
"Early Christmas shopping," Sheppard defended as he crossed his arms on top of his P90. At the bland look McKay gave him he continued. "You're injured, you don't need to be out here, I've got Zelenka to cover the science if we find the generator, there was no reason to get you worked up about coming along."
"Well, obviously that plan, like so many others of yours has failed miserably. Besides I'm here now…"
"After taking one of my men hostage."
"Hostage? It's not like I pulled my sidearm on him and forced him to fly me here."
"I know how you fly, McKay. Its bad enough when you're sober, much less looped out of your head on Carson's happy pills. At that point it qualifies as a deadly weapon."
"I have every right to be here. I was the one attacked and I am the one who saw the Genii. They could be in disguise in the village right now and no one would be able to recognize them except me."
"We've already swept the village with Teyla's help. There is no one there that is not either a local or blood relative to a local."
The Colonel looked at the ground as if hesitant to tell that bit of information. "He wasn't there at all."
The Colonel rolled his eyes at the in-your-face smile the scientist was giving him. "Rodney, that just goes to prove that you were attacked and Ellis was with you. Nobody doubted that."
"Just that it was the Genii."
"Tell me how they got here without going through the gate." Dr. McKay crossed his arms with a small shrug so Colonel Sheppard continued. "I don't doubt that you think you saw what you saw, I just don't know how to explain it. Give me a way that the Genii could get to the Mainland without coming through the gate and I will be the first to go to the Genii homeworld and start taking names and kicking ass."
"I don't know, but I plan to find out." And with that he stormed off as best he could toward Teyla and Ronon who were on the far side of the clearing.
Colonel Sheppard watched him go with a scowl and I approached him. "He sure seems to have a lot to prove."
"What do you mean by that?" he demanded defensively.
"I'm just saying that ever since that weapon's overload that destroyed several planets, he's sure gone out of his way to… I don't know, justify himself. You know, prove he's still a valuable member of the team or something."
Sheppard seemed to consider what I said for a moment then shook his head. "Well, that's the last damn thing he needs to do." And he started off across the clearing to the rest of his team.
I followed along and came to a stop beside a crouching Ronon. Off to the side I could hear Dr. McKay talking with Dr. Zelenka.
"Well, obviously there isn't a power signature, not unless they managed to turn the generator back on. I had already secured it for the move."
Teyla indicated a few rough tracks in the muddy ground. "We were able to follow the tracks from the cart to this clearing then they just vanish."
"Things just don't vanish into thin air, Teyla," Sheppard reasoned. "There has to be something indicating where it went from here."
"Sheppard, do you see how the grass is bent here?" Ronon indicated the area he had been studying as he stood.
"It's been trampled down?" the Colonel asked.
"Not trampled. This wasn't feet; it was something much bigger than that."
"How much bigger?" And I noticed how my CO's hands tightened on his P90 just as my own did.
"A lot bigger."
"As big as say the Jumper?" Dr. McKay asked in sudden interest. At the warrior's nod in the affirmative, he threw his head back. "Of course, it's so obvious." Evidently no one else found it that obvious so he continued. "A ship. The Genii have managed to get their hands on a ship capable of interstellar travel."
"But Genii did not possess technology anywhere near that advanced," Dr. Zelenka rationalized.
"Yes, Radek, but that doesn't mean they didn't pick it up from someone else."
"Who else, Rodney?" the Czech scientist demanded. "The Jumpers are not even capable of sublight travel. Who else in this galaxy has the capability except for the Wraith?"
"Well now if I knew that then we could just go knock on their door and ask for our generator back."
"What if it's the Wraith and not the Genii after all?" I asked.
"Sensors on Atlantis would have picked up a Wraith ship long before it reached the Mainland," Sheppard supplied. "Right, McKay?"
"Unless they've figured out a way to jam our sensors. And honestly, do you really think I would still be here and not tucked away as a midnight snack if it really were the Wraith?"
"Why are you still here, Rodney?"
At the Colonel's question McKay frowned. "Gee, John, try not to sound so disappointed."
"I'm serious. Why didn't the Genii or whoever take you when they took Ellis? I'm just saying that if it were me, given a choice between a carpenter and the smartest man in the galaxy, I'd have you bound and gagged in about thirty seconds."
McKay brightened. "Really, you think I'm the smartest man in the galaxy?"
"In case you didn't catch it, let me reemphasize how I would have gagged you… immediately." And the scientist's frown was back. "My point is why did they take Ellis?"
"Because they didn't take him, he went with them," Ronon reasoned.
Sheppard grinned. "Rodney, tell the large man in leather what he has won."
"How about a case of Right Guard and an industrial size vat of hair conditioner?"
Ronon's expression wavered between confusion and anger, which gave him the appearance of a man that could also use some Fibercon thrown in there as well. I managed to clear my throat to cover my snicker when the constipated glower drifted my way. Sheppard simply gave McKay a warning look that did little to hide his own amusement.
"But I have known Ellis for most of my life." Teyla ignored the comment and defended her countryman. "I cannot imagine him joining forces with someone planning harm against Atlantis."
"Maybe he was forced," Ronon suggested.
"Maybe he was convinced that no harm would come to Atlantis. But we won't know until we find him." The Colonel turned back to me. "Was Ellis in the departure logs recently?"
"I remember seeing the name a few times," I recalled. "Can't remember the details, though."
"The market on Vallin," Teyla supplied. "Ellis often barters his services there. He is very skilled and sought after in his trade."
Vallin. The Pegasus galaxy's version of a flea market, stock yards, and farmer's market all rolled into one. I had been there a couple of times, most of the away teams had. It was a good place to meet potential trading partners or reestablish contact with those that we had used in the past. It was also a good place to lose your wallet, your extra ammo clip, and anything else that wasn't permanently affixed to your body. And if you pissed off the wrong people, even those items were at risk.
So it was with a wary eye and secured gear that I stepped through the gate with Sheppard's team later that day and into the Vallin marketplace. I crinkled my nose as the smell of livestock mixed with the aroma of a crowd of people that evidently found bathing to be somewhere near the bottom of their to do list. Hundreds of brightly colored tents lined the muddy streets with vendors hawking everything from homegrown vegetables to homemade baskets to homely women offering more than down home hospitality.
Teyla indicated a row of dark blue tents. "The craftsmen are down this aisle. If Ellis is in the marketplace, that is were we shall find him."
The five of us started to pick our way through the crowd, Teyla taking the lead and Ronon close on her heels. McKay followed behind them with Sheppard hanging back with me. A cart being pulled by an animal that looked like an oversized hedgehog crossed our path and Sheppard snagged my vest and held me back to allow it to waddle between us and the rest of the team.
"Major, I want you to keep an eye on McKay. If we manage to find Ellis and things get messy I want you to make sure he stays clear of the action. He's still injured and I don't want him to do more harm than good, if you know what I mean."
I snorted. "Yeah, I know exactly what you mean."
The Colonel fixed me with an icy glare. "No, I don't think you really do. But let me make one thing very clear; you lose him again like you did on the Mainland, you just won yourself a one way ticket back to Earth on the Daedalus. And I assure you, you will be pulling latrine duty for the entire trip. Got it?"
Well, he had promised me a talk about the whole Mainland incident, I guess later had finally arrived. "Yes, sir, trip back to Earth in utter disgrace. Anything else?"
"Of course Teyla and Ronon might have a few other things in mind and seeing as they aren't bound by any code of military conduct like I am, the chances are good that you'll be scrubbing toilets with a cast on at least one part of your body. Any questions?"
"Just one, sir. Can I go now? Dr. McKay is a little further away than I would like him to be." And I had babysat enough times to know you don't let them out of your sight.
Sheppard slapped me on the back with a smirk. "I'm glad you've come to see things my way, Major."
He walked ahead, stepping over one of the larger puddles and caught up to McKay. "Hey, Rodney, check out that guy with the rickshaws. Doesn't he look like the valet at the Golden Nugget that you thought was going to steal the Mustang?"
"Oh my God, he could be his twin. If we weren't several million miles away from Vegas I would swear it was him."
"Well, let's not test the theory. I have a feeling this guy would do more than flip you off and call you an asshole if you accused him of running a chop shop out of the basement of the parking garage."
"It was a legitimate concern, and no ten dollar tip was going to stop him from stripping that baby down to the gear shift while we were off playing blackjack."
"It would have worked better than the two dollar tip you would have left."
McKay rolled his eyes at the jab at his cheapness. "That kid probably worked three nights a week, played X-box the rest of the time and still made more money than you do as an Air Force Officer. He was not hurting for tips, Colonel."
"Rodney, I'm an employee of the U.S. Military, and not some fancy civilian consultant like you. The manager at the local McDonald's makes more money than I do."
The scientist sputtered. "The teenager in the drive-thru probably makes… huh." Dr. McKay came to a stop in the middle of the street causing the crowd to disperse around him. He craned his neck to see around the throng of people, wincing from the action.
Colonel Sheppard paused beside him looking in the same direction as the Doctor. "What?"
"There was a man, over at that stall, he looked familiar. But when I looked again, he was gone."
"Another valet twin?" I asked as I scanned the crowd for someone that I had no clue what they looked like.
"Maybe," he admitted. "Damn it! He looked so familiar." He closed his eyes in thought. "I can picture him… standing in the back of the Jumper…" His eyes snapped open. "Holy crap, he was one of the criminals from the prison colony on Olesia."
"Are you sure?"
"John, I know I'm terrible with names and faces and people in general, but I tend to remember the ones that threaten my life. It was him."
"Well, you said there were a lot of petty criminals on the island, maybe he's just a pickpocket or something. The market here would be a good place to make a living."
At my suggestion, both men shrugged. Any further contemplation of just why the former prisoner was here was cut off by Teyla calling for us from the entrance to a tent. "Colonel Sheppard, Ellis' shop is here."
But before she and the large warrior at her side could enter, three men came bursting through the doorway, knocking an off balanced Teyla into a staggering Ronon. The two quickly recovered and sprinted after the fleeing men.
"Hey, those guys were…"
Sheppard cut his teammate off even as he started to jog after them. "Yeah, yeah, three more Olesians. McKay, stay with Lorne. Major, remember our talk." And with that last warning he was gone in pursuit of the former prisoners.
McKay had pulled his sidearm but let it drop to his side as he watched his team vanish into the crowd. "What the hell just happened?"
I patted his shoulder. "You got dumped on me, Doctor. So just stick close, keep an eye open for trouble and…"
"There!" he yelled, completely ignoring me as he started across the roadway at a slow, stiff trot. "It's the prisoner I saw earlier."
"Dr. McKay, come back." I pushed past a couple carrying a large bolt of cloth, trying to keep my eye on the scientist as he bobbed around a man maneuvering a cart of roasted meats through the crowd. "Dr. McKay!" Damn it! I ducked around the same food cart in time to see the man who was going to be the downfall of my otherwise fairly successful military career pass between two tents. Two-stepping around an old lady with a basket of vegetables, I followed into the same small alleyway and was promptly knocked to the ground as stars exploded behind my eyes. Following that little welcome I was kicked hard in the ribs.
Beside me, Dr. McKay curled on his side in the muck and screwed his face tight against the pain of what I could only assume was similar treatment. "Ow," he gritted out, "that really fucking hurt."
As my sight adjusted to the change from bright sun to the shadows cast by the two tents that formed the alley, I saw a set of booted feet on either side of us. I also saw something dark against the mud. Dr. McKay still held his M9 loosely in his hand. Instinctively, I reached out and grabbed it, firing into the knee of the assailant closest to McKay. He dropped with a squeal, grabbing blindly at this injured leg. I barely noticed as I immediately rolled and pointed the gun up into the stunned face of our second attacker. He held a small club in his hand that by the throbbing going through my head I had a pretty good idea he had used to clout me in the first place. "Drop it," I warned and grabbed it with my free hand as soon as it hit the ground.
"Dr. McKay, you okay?" I pushed myself up, blinking back against the head rush as I stood.
He rolled to his back looking as if he was on the verge of making a mud angel where he lay. "Oh, yeah, just peachy, Major. Thanks for asking."
"Lorne? I heard a gunshot." Colonel Sheppard broke across the radio causing my already aching head to want to explode.
"We ran into a little trouble, sir, but everything is under control now," I assured him even as I staggered to stay standing.
"Here, alive, reeeeeally wanting more painkillers," he answered without moving from his place in the mire.
"Where are you two?"
"In an alley across from where you left us, sir," I informed him.
"Hang tight, we're on our way."
"Not going anywhere, Colonel," I confirmed then turned my attention to the man I was holding at gunpoint. His partner in crime was still clutching his knee and whimpering on the ground. "Down, hands behind your head."
He dropped to his knees and complied, exposing his arms when he did. McKay's eyes widened when he saw what looked like a giant wrist watch on the man. "Major, the device on his wrist, give it here." I took it off and tossed it to him. "This is a Genii communicator. You're involved in stealing the generator aren't you? Oh my God, it's all starting to make sense now."
The prisoner sneered. "I told Torrell he should have let me kill you on the island, but he wouldn't listen. My new employer won't be so soft hearted."
I whacked him upside the head with my fist that was wrapped around the butt end of the handgun. "I don't remember anyone asking your opinion of the situation."
The man toppled forward from the blow then looked back up at me with a menacing glare. "You really shouldn't have done that."
"No?" I leaned down so that I could look him in the eye, the action causing new pain to blossom in my skull. "Well, you shouldn't have zapped Dr. McKay with a stunner, you shouldn't have stolen the property of the U.S. Government, and you definitely shouldn't have fucked with the babysitter."
"Lorne?" I could hear Sheppard's voice in stereo through my radio and from the street outside the stalls.
"Here, sir," I called gratefully, lowering the gun I held and slumping back against one of the support posts of the tent as the Colonel and the rest of his team jogged into the alley and Ronon took over guard duty of the man kneeling before me.
Sheppard gave me a quick questioning look and I nodded my okay as he moved over to the physicist lying on the ground. I closed my eyes against the small wave of dizziness that passed over me, then opened them at the touch of Teyla's hand on my arm. "Major, are you injured?"
"Nothing that a few Tylenol won't help." With a small grin, I ran a dirty hand through already mud-caked hair to find a goose egg already forming. "My mom always said I was hard-headed. Guess I just proved her right."
"Teyla, secure the other one and see if you can do something to stop him from bleeding all over the place."
At Colonel Sheppard's orders she gave my arm a final squeeze and moved to work on the other prisoner. The Colonel himself was kneeling in the mud next to Dr. McKay, placing a restraining hand on his shoulder when he tried to sit up. "Just lie still a second, Rodney. Catch your breath."
"I don't see you playing nurse maid to Major Lorne and he received the same treatment I did." The pouting tone he was using fell as flat as he remained on the ground.
"Lorne wasn't already injured when he stepped through the gate. This is exactly why I didn't want you to come on this mission in the first place. You were in no condition to be in a combat situation."
McKay's eyes flicked from the man that Ronon was holding at gunpoint over to the one that Teyla was bandaging up, then back to the Colonel. "Oh, look, Major Lorne and I managed to capture two suspects for interrogation. Where are yours?"
Sheppard snorted. "You managed to get yourself beat up in the mud, probably so that they could try to swipe your secret stash of MREs. We're turning them over to the local authorities then heading back to Atlantis where I'm turning you over to Beckett."
With a grin, McKay dangled the communicator that I had taken from the one man's wrist in front of Colonel Sheppard's nose. "They're working with the Genii."
The Colonel yanked it out of his hand. "Where did you get this?"
"Thug One over here was wearing it. We never got around to checking Thug Two, but…"
The Athosian tossed a second communicator to Sheppard. "He was wearing one as well."
McKay tapped his chin in mock thought. "Oh, hey, weren't the Olesians the most technologically advanced thriving civilization we have come across to date? I believe they even had transport ships."
"I'm not so sure how thriving they are since the Wraith showed up and we let their normal buffet escape through the Stargate. And I didn't think they were advanced enough to have ships with sublight capabilities."
"No, they weren't that advanced, but the Wraith do have that capability, and we managed to shoot down one of their cruisers on their planet." McKay accentuated the point by poking Sheppard in the chest before gripping the straps on the Colonel's vest to pull himself up.
"We damaged the cruiser, Rodney, we didn't bring it down." The Colonel placed a hand on the other man's back to steady his swaying then started sloughing away the mud that was caked there.
"We don't know what we did seeing as we went running through the gate moments after it pulled away."
Sheppard flung a handful of mud onto the ground with a disgusted look. "Christ, McKay, Beckett's going to have kittens when he sees you. Just lie down in the middle of his Goddamn infirmary floor and birth a litter of long hair tabbies."
"Why? Am I bleeding?" The scientist anxiously felt at the back of his head only to have his hand gently slapped away so that the Colonel could examine it.
"Who the hell can tell with all this mud? And are you suggesting that the Genii were able to modify one of those Olesian ships with Wraith technology?"
"I'm suggesting that we go back to the planet and find out. Besides, I want my Jumper back."
"You aren't going anywhere except back to Atlantis and it's my Jumper and I thought you couldn't fix it."
"I couldn't fix it without the proper parts, which I can take with me when we go back to the planet."
Sheppard sighed. "Why are you doing this, Rodney? We can run the mission back to Olesia without you just fine."
"I really have no desire to prove you wrong on that suggestion, Colonel."
"You have proven yourself right into the ground, literally. Fortunately, this time it was only in a few inches of mud. Next time you might push it the entire six feet under."
"John, I need to do this. Just let me do this, okay?"
The two men regarded each other for a few seconds before the Colonel finally nodded his head. "Okay. But only under one condition; you stay with the Jumper and finish the repairs. I'll take Zelenka with me to the city to see what we can find as far as Wraith cruisers and Olesian ships." He slung his friend's arm around his shoulder and stood, dragging a wincing McKay up with him.
"And when I get my Jumper up and running again then I'll come and join you."
"How about we say it's our Jumper and play the joining us part by ear?"
McKay pulled away from the Colonel and stood on his own even though Sheppard kept a hand at his elbow just in case. "Fine, I'll have my lawyers draw up the joint custody paperwork."
"I'm sure we can work out a visitation schedule after all this mess is over with," Sheppard snorted. "Teyla, can your guy walk?"
"Not without assistance," she informed us as she secured the zip tie on his wrists.
Without being asked, Ronon made his way over and yanked the man to his feet. "Here, let me help you up." The injured prisoner yelped at the rough treatment, which only caused the large man to take him by the scruff of the neck and shake.
Teyla took control of the other man, using her P90 to urge him up. The two prisoners were moved out first, followed by a wobbly McKay with a hovering Sheppard close on his heels. The Colonel paused long enough to pat me on the shoulder. "Good work, Major."
"Thank you, sir," I said to his back as he had moved quickly to steady Dr. McKay who had almost lost his footing on the slippery ground.
I looked down at my muddy clothes, knowing I looked as bad as McKay if I didn't feel quite as bad, but I was definitely running a close second. All I wanted to do was get back to Atlantis, get a shower, a fresh change of close, and maybe some of those good painkillers the Doctor had been raving about.
And I got all those things and then I got to go down to the holding cell and watch Colonel Sheppard as he interrogated the Olesians. He started with the one I had shot, figuring the injury and the pain medication that Dr. Beckett had given him would loosen his lips. My job, according to the Colonel, was to stand and look menacing; after all I was the one who had shot him. It was his own Atlantean version of good cop-bad cop. So I did, hoping that the light fuzz from my own drugs was coming across as bored casualness and not just encroaching drowsiness.
The prisoner's eyes kept flicking to my sidearm where my hand rested lightly. And I wasn't the only one who noticed it. A sly grin crossed Sheppard's face when he saw the reaction. He leaned in close to the chair where the man was secured. "Awwww, does he make you nervous?"
The man straightened, doing his best to appear indifferent to my presence and failing miserably. The Colonel sat on the edge of the table. "I don't really blame you; he can be a pretty impulsive guy. But I'll do my best to keep him in line. That is if you answer our questions."
He simply clamped his mouth shut. The Colonel sighed dramatically. "Major Lorne?"
"Yes, Colonel Sheppard?"
"Could you keep an eye on our guest? I think I need to go check in…"
But he never got to finish his statement. The man's eyes had gone wide at the mention of his name. "You're Sheppard?" he demanded, his voice going an octave higher than normal. "The one that killed all the Genii?"
I saw the Colonel's jaw flinch minutely, his body going rigid. Then he exhaled once and forced himself to relax. But not completely. "They threatened my home and hurt my friend," he informed the Olesian in a quietly controlled voice. "Sound familiar?"
So much for good cop-bad cop. It was more like bad cop-really bad cop. But that seemed to work even better. The man babbled more than five eight-year old girls at a sleep-over. According to our chatty friend, once the Olesians reached the back-up Alpha site, they split up and went through the gate to various worlds. A few ended up in the markets of Vallin where they talked… a lot. Seemed the regulars liked to buy drinks for people with good stories and stories involving surviving Wraith cullings and the strangers that had taken up residence in the city of the Ancestors were good for a few days drunk. It was also enough to catch the attention of a couple of Genii that operated out of the marketplace. And they told two friends… and so on, and so on.
And pretty soon a plan was hatched involving the Olesian ships, a power source from a conveniently downed Wraith Cruiser and a way to obtain a bomb that would then be used to hold Atlantis hostage. That little tid bit had come to them by way of a Genii agent, Sora, who had been released back to her home world during the Wraith siege on Atlantis. She had been present on Atlantis when the nanovirus was destroyed by an electromagnetic pulse created by an overloaded naquadah generator. And like me, she had learned very quickly how destructive a force one of those could be. The only missing piece was how to obtain a generator.
Again, the answer came in the market, this time with Ellis, who had some very strong religious beliefs that the city of the Ancestors didn't belong under the control of aliens from a different galaxy. So he had evidently made up a few stories about how the animals in the forest were messing with the generator, Dr. McKay had shown up to override the security codes, and the Genii had made off with a generator and his laptop which they hoped would reveal enough information on how to overload the generator.
The only thing left to do was figure out how to deliver the bomb and according to our little stool pigeon, the plan was to obtain a culling beam from the Cruiser and adapt it to their ship. Problem was, he didn't know if they had been successful in that endeavor or not, which was why the team was returning to Olesia to investigate the wreckage near the city.
And I had thought that my part in this whole endeavor was over. Now that I was back on Colonel Sheppard's good side, I had hoped that maybe he would reward me for my good work with a little down time of my own.
Then again maybe the Happy Fairy would come along and take a nice big dump on me. And that's exactly what she did. Because, it was true, I had managed to get back into the good graces of my CO. And my reward? I was the only one he would trust to babysit… I mean watch the back of Dr. McKay while he repaired the damaged Jumper on Olesia.
"Colonel, hand me that kit with the crystals, would you?"
I rolled my eyes at the lower body sticking out from under the pilot's consol on the ship. "Major, sir," I reminded him as I placed the small box in his outstretched hand.
"What?" was the distracted response I received as the box disappeared along with the hand to resume the repairs.
I bent over to look up under the consol and at the scientist working there. "You called me Colonel, but I'm a Major."
"Oh, huh, I guess I did, didn't I?" Blue eyes squinted out at me from the flashlit area. "Figures. I finally get used to calling him Colonel and now I've been relegated back to a Major." His mouth quirked in an annoyed smile. "It's as if I've been demoted."
"Well, last week I was leading my own team and now I'm here with you," I responded dryly. "What does that say about my career prospects?"
"Sounds like you're moving up in the world, Major." He crawled out from under the consol with a groan. "And hopefully, so are we. Start her up; she should be able to at least limp us home for some more complete repairs."
At my thoughts and touch the Jumper came to life. And I have to admit, it was just totally cool every time it happened. I was never meant to be a pilot… babysitters don't fly, they sit. In the back of a transport vehicle, the back of a copter, it didn't matter, the point being I was not used to being the one at the controls. Don't get me wrong, the whole experience was, well, pretty fucking amazing. But I honestly had no idea that I would be doing this when I walked through the gate with the first wave of Marines that followed Colonel Everett though the event horizon to Atlantis.
We had been briefed at the SGC. The Atlantis expedition was in trouble, a new enemy had been identified and the scientists and the handful of Marines that remained were no match for the superior tactical force that the Wraith presented. So we had loaded up the rail guns and the ammo and the bravado and walked through the wormhole expecting to find a few cowering scientist huddled in a corner behind a small contingent of my brothers in the Corp. And all we had to do was hold the line for a few days until the Daedalus could arrive and kick some alien ass. Because, lets face it, I had been fighting Gou'ald and Jaffa for years now. And once you've faced down a scantly clad woman with a snake in her neck and a big guy with the same in his belly, you figure that there isn't much else out there that could really be a bigger threat.
But when I saw the expedition… saw the look of utter defeat masked behind absolute determination, saw the way the scientists were fighting just as hard as the grunts, saw the exhaustion and the hunger and the hope that was just as mental as it was physical… I realized this wasn't just a simple babysitting job. We were in for the fight of our lives. And when the first Wraith appeared and sucked the guy in front of me drier than the deserts of Iraq, with his goddamn hand no less, I came to the conclusion that in the grand scheme of things, the Gou'ald were little more than a bad drag review armed with really advanced weapons.
And four days seemed like an eternity.
Somewhere in there I received the gene therapy and I was one of the lucky ones. It took. And soon I was piloting a Jumper and planting space mines. Fat lot of good that did in the long run, but I did it- flew into space like one of the comic book heroes I read about as a kid. All I could think at the time was how Shelly had loved to ride that stupid rocket ship outside the grocery store every time we went with Mom. How she had begged for quarters the entire trip so she could sit and jiggle back in forth for ninety seconds while Mom unloaded the bags into the back of the minivan. And here I was flying a real frickin' rocket in outer space and my sister would pee her pants in envy if she knew.
And even after all these months, I still got the biggest kick out of flying one of these babies, even if it was just to haul a grumpy scientist across to the Olesian mainland. The Jumper rose with little resistance, although the displays were limited. At my questioning glance Dr. McKay started in on a very detailed explanation of crystal geometries, power modulation, the limitations of the repair kit he had put together and the subsequent limitations of the repairs he had completed.
"Okay, wild ass guess, bare ass repairs. Got it. Now can we go home?"
"Not until we check out the Cruiser on the mainland."
McKay had been right. A fact that was confirmed by the Olesian with the now bum knee and gloated over by the scientist so gleefully that the Colonel actually didn't threaten to demote me if I lost him when he and Dr. Zelenka and the rest of the team headed to the crash site.
Dr. McKay activated the ship's radio as I guided the craft off the island and across the small strait that separated the smaller landmass from the mainland. "Sheppard, this is McKay. We've completed the repairs and are heading over to your location now."
"Copy that. We're just about finished up here, as well. They've definitely been scouring this Cruiser but Dr. Zelenka was able to locate the culling beam and remove it. Probably helped that he knew what he was looking for."
"Chalk one up for the home team. Guess that whole shooting down the Wraith Dart worked out for us in the end. Of course if I hadn't been on the Dart at the time, it would have worked out a whole hell of a lot better for me, but whatever… ends, means and all that justifying bullshit."
From the other end of the radio, Sheppard sighed. "Rodney…"
"Sorry, forget I said anything. Water under the bridge, Colonel, or the Puddle Jumper as the case may be as we are passing over the bay and will be on the mainland in a few minutes."
"There's really nothing to see, Mckay. As soon as Teyla and Ronon return from their patrol we'll be ready to leave."
"Nothing to see? You have a downed Wraith Cruiser and there is nothing to see?"
"Well," Sheppard conceded, "it is pretty cool."
"Rodney, it is amazing!" Dr. Zelenka's excited voice broke in. "You should see control room. Interfaces are completely different than those on Dart. And propulsion systems…multiphased, Rodney, multiphased!"
"Yeah, sure sounds like nothing to me, Sheppard." I grinned at the tone that suggested McKay meant anything but what he had just said.
Sheppard let out a chuckle. "Fine, come on over. You and Zelenka can squeal in unison as you reach Newtonian nirvana."
"I don't squeal, Colonel," McKay huffed from the copilot's seat.
"You will when see how shield generator fluctuates in synch with power core," Zelenka promised giddily.
"Are you serious, Radek?" The Doctor's face almost glowed in anticipation.
"Yeah, evidently that was a biggy," the Colonel drawled. "Almost had to break out the adult diapers on that one."
But diapers weren't necessary, and I never got to see the two scientist squeeing like fangirls at an NSYNC concert. Don't ask, it's a memory I'd much rather repress for a few more decades. No, Dr. McKay barely made it out of the Jumper before we were right back in it again in a situation that I may also want to repress for a while.
I landed the Jumper next to the crashed Wraith vessel. Dr. McKay was bouncing on the balls of his feet at the hatch before I even had the ship on the ground. We were met by Sheppard and Zelenka, who was carrying what I assumed was the culling beam device.
McKay immediately commandeered it and handed it back to me with an order to, "put this someplace safe." With a sigh I took it and stowed it in one of the storage compartments. Evidently my duties now included acting as personal manservant to the head of science. "There was just the one?" the scientist demanded.
"Was only one we could find," Dr. Zelenka admitted with a shrug and push at his glasses. "Perhaps was more but Genii took them already."
"At least they didn't get this one." McKay rubbed his hands together eagerly. "Now, let's see some Wraith tech."
But before he could even take another step toward the ship, we heard gunfire in the distance and Teyla's voice on the radio. "Colonel Sheppard, the Genii are here."
"Give me your location and we'll bring the Jumper," Sheppard responded, already heading to the craft.
"No," she called back, yelling over the sound of the P90, "They are retreating into the Olesian ship. It appears to be preparing to take flight."
"The ship is here?" But there was no need for the Athosian to respond as we soon saw it rise above the treeline in the distance. "Damn it! Let's move, people."
Sheppard and Zelenka sprinted to their Jumper and Dr. McKay and I returned to our seats in our own. "Teyla, Ronon, you two going to be okay?"
"Go. We're fine," Ronon confirmed.
"Okay," Sheppard told him even as his Jumper rose into the air, "you kids behave. We'll be back to get you in a bit."
I followed Colonel Sheppard as he pursued the Olesian craft out of the atmosphere of the planet and into the blackness of outer space. We passed the first of the moons that orbited the planet and all that lay before us was open cosmos. "Colonel, if that ship gets a chance to activate its sublight engines…"
"I'm on it, Rodney," Sheppard assured distractedly even as a drone fired and he chanted softly, "glancing blow, glancing blow, glancing blow."
The drone followed the Colonel's command and clipped the engine pod of the Olesian ship. The vessel veered wildly before coming to a sort of drifting idle in space. Sheppard opened a radio frequency and called to crippled craft. "Olesian transporter, return to the planet's surface and surrender your weapons. If you don't I will have no choice but to blow you into tiny pieces."
There was no response and the ship sat silent for about two minutes. Finally, Sheppard hailed them again. "Olesian transporter, do you copy my transmission?"
He was answered by a sudden spike in the energy readings on the ship. "Uh, Colonel, they're about to do something."
"Could you maybe be a little more specific, McKay?" But before the physicist could answer we heard him exclaim, "Holy fuck!" followed by several rounds of gunfire.
"Sheppard, what's going on?" McKay called anxiously. "John?"
"John, are you two all right?"
"Well, we've definitely been better. Son of a bitch!" Neither of us missed the note of pain in his voice. "Lorne, blow that piece of shit out of the sky."
"With pleasure, sir." And I launched a second drone at the ship, only this one was a direct hit and we squinted our eyes against the fireball the explosion caused.
"Sheppard, what the hell happened?" Dr. McKay demanded.
"We got your generator back, Rodney. Of course it came with a friend who started shooting the place up when he beamed over."
"Guess that answers our question about more than one culling beam. Are you and Radek okay?"
"Zelenka's good. May need those adult diapers now, but he's uninjured."
"What about you?"
When he didn't answer, Zelenka did. "Colonel has been shot in leg and abdomen." He mumbled something in Czech before continuing in English. "He is bleeding… a lot."
McKay paled visibly. "John, are you able to fly the Jumper back to the surface?"
Col. Sheppard sucked in painful breath. "Physically, probably; but the Jumper isn't responding."
"Gunman shoot into consol before Colonel shoot him," the Czech supplied. "Evidently damaged systems. But, Rodney, is worse. Generator has been overloaded. I cannot stop it. It will explode within twenty minutes."
"Dump it," McKay ordered as he moved purposefully toward the back of the Jumper and pulled open an access panel. "Radek, what systems were damaged? I can talk you through a reroute if we have to."
Zelenka let out an annoyed tsk. "Who mapped entire Jumper systems? Who is in charge of maintenance on all Jumpers? Oh, it is I!" he stated in mock surprise. "Am already working this, but main control system is destroyed. I will have to reroute just to open back hatch. I do not know if I will have enough time to repair propulsion systems as well."
"Just get the damn hatch open and lose the generator. I'm working on a way to get you guys out of the blast zone from this side."
"Negative," Sheppard gritted out. "You two are leaving the area immediately. Return to the surface, pick up Ronon and Teyla, and head for the gate."
"Not happening, Colonel, so just forget it," the scientist informed him even as his hands worked furiously in the panel.
"Goddamn it, that was a direct order…"
"Sheppard, I'm trying to work here and your bravado is really distracting." He was clipping wires and attaching connectors at a frantic pace.
"Rodney, what are you planning over there?" the Colonel demanded.
"John, do you trust me?"
There was a pause, then an exhaled breath. "One hundred percent, McKay."
"Good. Then shut the hell up and let me work. Lorne, where did you stick that culling beam?"
I jumped from my seat and retrieved it. He barely acknowledged my presence, just took the device and returned to his rewiring in the panel. I simply returned to my seat and waited… and waited… and waited some more. Every minute that passed was one less minute we had to clear the blast zone. But McKay never paused, just kept clipping and connecting and rewiring, even as he occasionally called to the Colonel.
"John, how're you doing over there?"
"Little light headed," he answered woozily. "Blood loss sucks."
"Can't argue with you there." Clip, clip, clamp.
Colonel Sheppard snorted. "You don't have enough faith in yourself, Rodney. You could argue about anything, could probably prove that black was white if you set your mind to it."
Snip, connect, clip. "Don't make me give you a lecture on optics and refractive indices."
Another snort then, "Rodney, you two really should leave."
"What part of 'not going to happen' don't you understand?" Twist, twist, snap.
"Just trying to watch your back, McKay," he admitted quietly.
Dr. McKay hands seemed to flounder for a second before they resumed their frenzied pace. "Wouldn't want anyone else to do it," the scientist acknowledged just as quietly. Then he shot a glance in my direction and spoke with his usual briskness. "Which is why we're not leaving. Major Lorne's a good guy and all, but I'm much too busy a man to take the time to train up someone else."
I rolled my eyes and shook my head, but didn't take it to heart, because Dr. McKay had already started training me, whether he realized it or not. In the past few days I had learned that he considered himself a babysitter just as much as I did, just as much as Colonel Sheppard did, and both of them considered it more of a privilege than a burden.
"Besides, you still haven't decided if we're going to Graceland or someplace with a beach."
"You on a beach, McKay? Got enough spf 500 for that?"
"I'll make more," the scientist assured.
Dr. Zelenka cut in. "Rodney, I have hatch operational."
"Great. By the time you unload the generator, I should be ready over here."
"Copy that, closing the bulkhead door now," Sheppard reported and then a few seconds later. "Opening the rear hatch."
From my vantage point I could see the hatch lift and the generator float out into the openness of space. As soon as it cleared the ship, Dr. McKay directed me, "Shields to full power and concentrate them on the nose of the ship." I did as requested, noting an odd shimmer that I had never seen in them before. Satisfied with what he saw, McKay told me. "Now, ram the other Jumper."
"What?" both Colonel Sheppard and I demanded simultaneously.
"John, trust me on this."
There was another pause before my CO told me, "You heard him, Lorne. Do it."
"Okay," I conceded reluctantly as I powered up the Jumper, "here goes nothing."
I floored the Jumper I was flying, or at least mentally, bringing it to top speed as Colonel Sheppard's Jumper grew larger in the observation port. I cringed and braced myself for the impending impact only to pass right through were the other craft had been. I blinked in surprise and turned my attention to a very satisfied looking Dr. McKay.
"Where the hell did they go?"
"In here," he tapped the culling device smugly. "I ran the beam through the shields. Now unfortunately I don't have time to give you a lesson in integration of Wraith and Ancient technologies seeing as a naquadah generator is about to go critical. I suggest we get out of here and fast, preferably on the opposite side of the moon so that it can block most of the blast."
I laughed and shook my head in amazement even as I piloted the Jumper as directed. I was still laughing when the generator detonated and we sailed unscathed to the surface to retrieve the other two members of Dr. McKay's team and headed through the gate and home to Atlantis. And by the time Dr. McKay ran the culling beam through the stargate's regeneration system and the Jumper with the two men onboard appeared in the embarkation area to be boarded by a waiting medical crew, I decided that there was probably nothing left in the universe that could amaze me again.
A few days later I was out of the babysitting business and back to leading my team through the gate. Another address checked off the never ending list of worlds in the database, another planet with nothing left to show besides trees and rocks and little else. You would think that the medical staff would cut you some slack when you came across nothing more exciting than an alien woodpecker chowing down on some funky chartreuse lichen, but you would be wrong. Same blood samples and body scans that they conducted when you came back after going two rounds with an animal that made rhinos look cuddly. But that was just part of the job here in Atlantis.
As I was making my way out of the infirmary with a clean bill of health and clean bandaid on my ever increasing track of needle marks, I heard two very familiar voices.
"Holy crap, Rodney, do you think you could try and not rip out my sutures?"
"For God's sake, Sheppard, if you keep carrying on like this I'm never going to bust you out of here."
"And if you don't keep your voice down, Beckett is going to put a stop to it himself," the Colonel hissed back.
I peeked my head into the hospital bay and watched as Dr. McKay was attempting to manhandle Colonel Sheppard out of his bed and into a wheelchair. On the beside table sat a bedpan filled with inflated surgical gloves taped to tongue depressors, the glow sticks inside long burned out. I had been with Dr. McKay when he made them, distracting himself during Colonel Sheppard's surgery. Because for all the smug confidence that he had displayed during the whole Jumper ordeal, once the Colonel had been wheeled down the hallway with an anxious Dr. Beckett shouting orders along the way, the haughty façade shattered. And it didn't return until the long night of waiting was over and the Colonel opened his eyes to find a green glowing bouquet illuminating a sleeping physicist slumped in the chair beside his bed.
I cleared my throat as I stepped into the room, "Uhm, sirs?"
McKay dropped his charge into the chair and turned to look at me with an expression to match Shelly's when she was caught playing in Mom's makeup. But, no matter how innocent she held her face, the bright red lips and glommed on mascara kind of ruined the act. The same could be said for a red faced physicist doing his best to pretend the Air Force Colonel cursing beside him was no concern of his.
"Fuckin' A, McKay," the Colonel groaned as he shifted in the wheelchair, "you're doing more damage than the goddamn bullet."
Dr. McKay drooped in relief when he saw it was me. "Jesus, Major, you scared me to death. For a second there I thought you were Baby Doc Beckett, evil dictator of the Highlands and supreme commander of an army of brainwashed sheep."
I grinned and shook my head. "Actually, I was just seeing if you needed some help."
"Yes, shoot Dr. McKay if he tries to help me again." The Colonel tried to lower the foot rests into place on his own, causing Dr. McKay to squat to assist him. "Ah, ah, ah," Sheppard warned, "or you'll be eating your own infirmary jello and not just stealing mine."
The Doctor frowned but I stepped in to save him. "Here, let me get that for you, sir."
I knelt at his feet, just in time to hear a Scottish brogue challenge gruffly, "And just where do you suppose you might be heading off to, Colonel?"
I winced at the fact that I had gotten myself pulled into this escape plan in the first place, rising slowly and keeping my eyes fixed on my boots. Colonel Sheppard sighed. "We've been ratted out, boys."
"Or we're on the lamb, as the case may be," McKay mumbled before turning to face the wrath of Beckett. "Carson, I am just taking him out for a little fresh air. He's been cooped up in this bed for a week now."
"Aye, he has, and for good reason. He was shot and the bullet nicked his lower intestines. He's lucky he's not gone septic on us and died."
"Doc," Sheppard pleaded, "I'm already in the chair, I just want a quick trip to the balcony. We'll be back in thirty minutes, I swear."
The doctor crossed his arms and tightened his lips as if in thought. Finally he relented… sort of. "You have ten," he stated firmly. "And if you cannot make it back by then I will have no alternative than to limit your visitors to those persons who are not such a bad influence." He glared pointedly at Dr. McKay who raised his chin defiantly. Dr. Beckett simply raised his hand to deflect any argument. "I know you consider yourself Colonel Sheppard's self-proclaimed babysitter, Rodney, but I'm his physician. And in this matter you will yield to a higher authority."
I snorted to myself. Babysitters. The city was full of them. All of us watching out for each other in our own way. Each of us watching the back of the person closest to us. So maybe being a babysitter wasn't such a bad thing, because that just meant someone was being a babysitter for me, too. And when I stopped to think about it that was kind of comforting to know.
"Higher authority? As in Lord of the Sheep? Skewering a ball of yarn on a spike to scare the flock into submission?"
Beckett simply looked at his watch. "You're down to nine minutes, gentlemen. I suggest you make the most of them."
"Carson, you may think you can just order people around…"
Colonel Sheppard rammed an elbow hard into the man ranting next to him. "Shut up, Rodney, and push the damn chair."
"I'll challenge you to a game of speed Minesweeper when we get back, just let me see the ocean for a few minutes first."
McKay grumbled then pushed the wheelchair past Dr. Beckett with narrowed eyes but closed mouth. I followed them out, avoiding eye contact with the physician and considering myself lucky to have escaped intact. Out in the hall I could hear Dr. McKay telling Colonel Sheppard that there was no way in hell he could beat his record time. The Colonel snorted and informed him that he planned to knock him off his little pedestal and he didn't want to hear any whining when it happened.
I couldn't help but grin at the memories the bickering recalled of a crooked pigtails framing a face screwed into snarl as a small finger jabbed into my chest, demanding her turn on the Atari. And as much as Shelly made my teen years a living hell, I couldn't imagine my life without her or the lessons she taught me. In a way, my time watching her was a boot camp all its own. I decided that maybe I would skip the trip to the chow hall I had been planning and head back to my quarters. For some reason I felt like writing a letter to my sister.