And the Sky was Dark
Summary: A trip to examine a puzzling world, lands Sheppard's team in an underworld city, and the inhabitants do not want them to leave. With serious injuries, they try to stay alive and find a way back home.
AN: This story is complete, and as the chapters are done with final edits and polishing, they'll be posted. Thank you Linzi, Gaffer and Shelly for beta help and input!
the Sky was Dark
heavens did weep,
The stars did cry,
For the world was lost,
And the sky was dark
The wraith were a parasite, a pest – the scourge of the Pegasus galaxy, and when you find your home infested with pests, there are two courses of action. You attempt to eradicate the pests, or you leave. Sheppard knew that the Ancients had left. Packed up, and without even a wave goodbye to their progeny, left the galaxy in the hands of a killing machine with the singular purpose of maintaining a human herd at the minimum level of sustenance.
In the past year and a half, Sheppard's team had come close to dying at the hands of the wraith. The entire city of Atlantis was almost wiped out, although the wraith hadn't meant to just destroy – they wanted Earth. Food to last for a very long time. And John wasn't willing to let them have it. The Wraith were awake, and there were too many mouths to feed for what the dinner plate had to offer. It was a problem, and many worlds were paying the price, something that Sheppard had a lot of guilt issues over.
He wanted to eradicate the Wraith more than he'd ever wanted anything else in his life. But, he also wanted to stay alive, and he wanted his friends to live. Atlantis had the capabilities, but it lacked the power. They needed ZPM's, and even the arrival of the Daedalus with one hadn't been enough. It helped, but it was never enough. They needed at least one more, and a fully charged one would be nice.
In search of their version of El Dorado's gold, this ZPM, they continued to gate to worlds in hope of finding that elusive treasure. And they continued to come up empty. Every time. If they were lucky, they got home in one piece; sometimes, they weren't so lucky. This was looking like it'd be one of those not-so-lucky times.
The initial MALP had reported a world with anomalous readings. McKay had tried to make sense of it, but in the end had thrown the print-outs across his lab, crumpling each individual sheet in disgust before tossing it, and saying he was done. Apparently physics had bypassed P4X-567.
John wasn't an astrophysicist, but he'd looked at the crumpled sheets, and he'd had to admit, something was hinky with the planet. The atmosphere came back with ninety percent methane, yet the video footage showed flourishing plant life. The sample they'd collected and then tested in the lab indicated typical photosynthesis taking place, with appropriate levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Then there were the mineral readings. According to the MALP, P4X-567, was solid gold. Unfortunately for all the Yukon Cornelius's, the samples taken indicated it was everything else but gold. A mixture of common elements; iron, copper, tin, other trace minerals, but then there was something else. It was the something else that Rodney had figured out was the problem. Every time instruments got near it, they went ballistic. John thought they either wanted to have a love affair with the element, or the machines were begging for their lives.
Needing more information, Elizabeth had assigned John's team the task. Rodney looked equal parts intrigued and annoyed. Ronon and Teyla merely seemed interested. It wasn't a world either was familiar with. Because of the problems with the mineral, it wasn't safe to take the Jumper. Because of the conflicting atmospheric reports, they opted to wear haz-mat suits. And if John had wanted to say 'because of all the above, he really had a bad feeling about this', who could blame him?
Rodney had built what he hoped was a portable sensor that would give them concrete information. When they got there, the little machine that could, did. The atmosphere wasn't ninety percent methane, but with a slightly higher content of nitrogen, it still clocked in as safe for the little humans, and with sufficient oxygen to keep them alive. They discarded the suits by the gate to be picked up later. If they tried to maintain strenuous activity, they'd have problems, but otherwise it was enough. John debated on running some wind sprints, thinking of the high-altitude training possibilities on this planet, but one look at McKay's already heaving chest, and he'd decided he did want to stay alive another day.
They'd set out to explore, sticking together and using Rodney's rigged machine, following a power trail that they all knew might not even exist. After a few hours, and a stop to rest, one in which Rodney insisted be at least thirty minutes (little did McKay know, John would've given him up to an hour), they found a clearing in the forest. The grass here was skimpier, and looked sick, compared to the lushness of the other growth. With an excited exclamation, Rodney pointed, "And X marks the spot," he said with relished glee.
"All right," Sheppard said, sliding his pack to the ground. "Take it easy, Blackbeard." John stared skeptically at the grass, not looking forward to the physical labor ahead. "So, now we dig."
Everyone had pulled their portable shovel, and started digging like automatons. They had been at it for a couple of hours, and were making decent progress. The power reading was getting stronger as they reduced the amount of mineral between Rodney's sensor gizmo and the power source, but it was when Ronon and McKay were taking a break that the trouble started.
"Did you hear that?" Sheppard asked, his shovel freezing in place. He'd thrust downward, and when he'd done so, a muffled crack had echoed upward.
Teyla shook her head, puzzled. "Hear what?"
"I thought I heard a -" John's words were cut off as the ground underneath his feet gave way. He didn't even have time to shout a warning as he felt the soft cave-in sensation under his feet, and the ground fell away. The last thing he was aware of was hitting the ground, then it all went black.
When Sheppard regained consciousness, he was amazed to find his body was still in one piece. He stayed still trying to assess his injuries. No compound fractures or broken bones. But, he had a massive headache, and everything around him was dark.
"Teyla?" he called, coughing from the dust in his lungs. John tried to remember what'd happened. They'd been shoveling dirt – shit! They'd fallen through something. But if they'd fallen, where was Teyla? There wasn't an answer, which freaked him out even more. Teyla had been close. John couldn't see how she would've been able to avoid falling along with him, which meant she was probably unconscious.
Sheppard heard sounds from above, and felt debris fall against his shoulders and head. When the familiar voice shouted from somewhere above, he felt a surge of hope.
"Give me some more rope!" bellowed McKay.
"Rodney!" John shouted. "Down here!"
He heard some muffled curses which suddenly ratcheted into high-pitched yelps and a lower baritone rumble hollering, before the ground around him shook from what had to be impacts of at least one body, but from the staggered feel, Sheppard was surer that it'd been two. Pieces of larger debris had fallen on him, again, and he started brushing it off, feeling the splintered wood from what had obviously been some kind of roof. They must be in an underground facility, but what? And now it sounded like Rodney and most likely Ronon, as well, had fallen.
"Rodney?" he tried again. Why couldn't he see? If they'd broken through an old wooden roof, wouldn't the light from above be filtering down?
No response to his call. If Rodney and Ronon had fallen, then they were now in the same condition as Teyla. John fought against what was beginning to seem as insurmountable odds. "Get a hold of yourself, John," he whispered to himself. He could handle this.
Carefully getting on his hands and knees and trying not to throw up from the lurch in his stomach when he moved, Sheppard began inching towards the area where he was sure one of his team had fallen. His hands scraped over piles of debris, and his knees hurt each time he came down on something bulky, or sharp. When his hands did clear the debris, the floor underneath felt smooth, like concrete.
Finally, he touched a leg. Carefully, John ran his hands upward, trying to figure out who it was he'd found. Right away, he knew it wasn't Teyla, and as he moved farther and touched the torso, he knew it wasn't Ronon. That left Rodney. Ronon was longer and bigger, while McKay was shorter and wider. "Rodney," he called again, desperately wanting to get a reply. "Come on, don't do this to me!"
But the physicist was out, and when John's hand moved around to the back of McKay's head, he felt warm wetness spreading, fast. Shit shit shit. This was bad. Struggling because he couldn't see, Sheppard pulled out a bandage from his vest, and clumsily lifted Rodney's head, praying there weren't any spinal injuries. It was either get the bleeding stopped, or risk McKay being paralyzed. Not much of a choice, and John wasn't a medic.
Going with what his gut told him was the greater risk, he managed to get the bandage wrapped around Rodney's head and tied it off. John knew it wouldn't win any awards for neatness. But, then again, it didn't have to look good, as long as it did the job. He rested a hand against McKay's chest, and fumbled for his wrist to check for a pulse. Everything was there, if a little off. Pulse was faster than he would've liked, breathing, the same, but better than nothing. Taking a deep breath, John figured all things considered, it would do for now.
That left Ronon and Teyla, and if Teyla had fallen with John, then Ronon had been the second impact after Rodney. He was pretty certain of it, even more so because he hadn't heard a thing from above, and if Ronon or Teyla had been up there, they would've let him know. If he was right, and they'd fallen through an old roof, then how far did they fall? Ronon and Rodney had apparently tried to mount a rescue, and they must have unintentionally managed to stand on a spot where the same roof extended, and their weight had collapsed it further, taking them down with it.
Which meant they were all four very screwed right now.
He started moving away from Rodney, and towards where he'd felt the floor shake from the second impact. He didn't think Ronon would be far from where Rodney had fallen, at least he hoped not. But John hadn't gone far before he lost the battle with his queasy stomach, and heaved breakfast on to the debris covered ground. He tried not to curse as he felt the dampening on his knees as fluid ran downhill. God. This was turning into a completely sucky day.
"Colonel?" Teyla's voice was shaky, but near.
It was quite literally the sweetest sound he could ever imagine hearing, penetrating his isolation and fear. John tried not to show his tangible relief. "Teyla?" he croaked in the direction her voice had come from. "I can't see," he added. "It's dark." Please say it's dark…he needed to know that it wasn't what he feared the most.
"Colonel…John," her husky tones were closer, and John could pick out the sounds of her moving closer. "There is some weak light."
She sounded worried, and he understood. She had a right to be. It was what he'd tried to deny while he was crawling around. The darkness was too complete, and deep down, he'd known that. If the roof had caved, it would've left an opening to allow light through. "I'm blind," he faced the truth. "Probably a head injury. Rodney's over there, hurt bad, do you see Ronon?" He stated the facts and tried to shove the emotional turmoil as far away as possible. They had problems a lot worse to deal with other than his blindness right now.
Her touch caused him to jump. Of course, he hadn't seen her coming. "Come with me," she instructed softly. "Ronon's this way. Sit with him, and I will bring Rodney over so that we are all together."
Sheppard didn't want to admit how relieved he was to turn over the responsibility of tending to the others. But that fall – "Are you hurt?" he pressed. She had to be.
The hesitation answered for her. "How bad?" he asked, lowering his voice. John knew their chances of getting out of this alive were spiraling downward.
"I cannot feel my left arm." Her grip on his own arm tightened. "I believe it is either broken or dislocated."
They say the darkness always comes before the dawn, but Sheppard knew sunset hadn't arrived yet, and things were looking pretty dark. Maybe if Ronon could recover enough, he could go for help? He had to hold on to something to give them hope. John tripped, and started to fall forward, causing his world to spin painfully. Teyla's grip was bone-deep, and she used her body to keep him upright. "It is not far now," she assured him, while he stopped and panted from the effort that left him sick and tired.
True to her words, she was guiding him to the ground moments later. John tried to ignore the stink that wafted up from his soiled knees. His hands reached for Ronon, and fumbling in the runner's duster, he felt the reassuring rise of Ronon's chest. At least he was still alive. That meant all four of them had survived the fall. "Is he hurt bad?" he asked Teyla, needing her to be his eyes.
"I do not know." John heard rustling and then Ronon groaned. "I believe he's waking," she added before calling to him, "Ronon, you must wake…Ronon!"
"G'way," the deep voice rumbled to John's side, raspy and quieter than usual.
"You can do better than that," Sheppard taunted. He needed the big guy up, and cognizant.
"What happened?" Ronon's voice was stronger, and John heard him pause and swallow a drink of water, which must have come from Teyla…
John sighed. Three of them were awake now, and things were looking better. Not much, but every little bit was something. "We fell," he explained. "Hard, apparently."
A canteen was pushed into his chest, and Teyla guided his hands to it. "Drink, you must keep up your strength."
John wanted to, but right then he wasn't feeling so hot. Afraid that anything he drank would come back up, he settled on taking a small sip, and rinsed his mouth, before spitting to the side. John took another little bit, just to make Teyla feel he was trying. It was all he trusted to stay down.
"Ronon, help me with Rodney," Teyla ordered.
She was taking charge, and Sheppard didn't even care. In fact, just the opposite. He was thankful for it. "Is Ronon okay enough for it?" he did ask. "Any broken bones?" or anything that would keep him from climbing out of here and going for help, is what he really needed to know.
"My leg's broke, Sheppard."
An indrawn hiss of breath to his side, and John knew Teyla hadn't realized, anymore than he had, but seeing how she could see, it probably left her a little more frustrated over it. "Why did you not say anything?" she asked, quietly seething.
"It didn't come up," Ronon replied flatly.
"Colonel Sheppard is blind," she said tightly. "Watch him. I will go retrieve Rodney."
Sheppard winced at her declaration, and heard her move away. He also heard Ronon shift, and knew the runner was now watching him. "Why didn't you say anything?"
John's lips curled into a smirk. "It never came up." Two could play that game.
What happened next took John by surprise. He heard Teyla shout, then the whine of what sounded like a weapon. He felt Ronon lurch beside him, and then another whine, and the runner's heavy torso folded across John's legs. Ronon was out.
Sheppard felt his heart begin to pound. "Who's there!" he snapped. "What do you want?" The feeling of helplessness was horrible and hard, and he tried to shove Ronon off him, but knew it wouldn't be fast enough.
The air moved next to him. John held still. He knew something was there, and he could imagine it studying him. He had visions of a predator focusing on its prey, and had to steel himself not to flinch.
"Gadmere! Something is wrong with this one, also!"
The voice, when it came, was so near, that John pulled back, causing his head to spin again. "We didn't mean to hurt anything, and we don't mean any harm, we fell -" he started to say.
"We won't hurt you," the voice assured. "Just relax."
Easier said then done, because the panic over Ronon being stunned, and probably Teyla, combined with his blindness, and knowing Rodney was seriously hurt, everything was rolling into one big massive panic attack. "No! Just…keep away from me…" If he could just see –
"Hurry, Gadmere, he's becoming fretful!"
Fretful, John thought with amazement. Try two beats away from becoming a crazed lunatic. Suddenly, strong hands seized him on both sides, and John began to struggle. He'd always considered himself a level-headed soldier, but the disorientation of being blinded and injured, and having no one else to depend on, proved too much, and he fought to get loose like a wild animal.
"Stun him! Before he injures himself more," the same voice he'd heard earlier spoke again, and John was pleased to hear the edge of exertion in it. They weren't taking him easily.
"Not with a head injury, you fool – it'll make it worse." The hands tightened and wrestled him to the ground, and John felt his sleeve being pushed up.
"No! You son of a bitch, let go!" he fought, and bucked his hips uselessly. The needle slid into his shoulder with a sharp sting, and still John continued to fight for freedom, but his movements grew slower and clumsier, until they stopped altogether, and John Sheppard didn't fight anymore.