Throughout history, the various wonders of nature have been witnessed and documented, photographed and painted, discussed and dismissed as fancy, no matter where the phenomenon occurs. This applies to planets in other galaxies as well.
The geyser had been dismissed as a myth, then lured into the mainstream as a possibility, then raised hopes as a scientific probability.
None of which prepared anyone for a damn thing.
The water exploded thousands of feet into the air in a straight fluid rush, following the fissure in a jagged line and tearing into the night sky. It really does look like a reverse Niagara falls, Sheppard thought as he clung to the rock face, or maybe Moses parting the Red Sea. Maybe Moses hadn't traveled across the Egyptian desert, maybe the story originated from this very planet, where he worked with the waters to free his people. Maybe the story was passed along by those that built the pyramids. Maybe in some odd way Brouk was Moses.
The roar was deafening. The tremors were felt in the chest and bones of the men near it, the upward thrust creating a thrill-seeker adrenaline rush. It was impossible to breathe. Everything was soaked, and slick. Colors from the lichen below cast a glow on the outer sides of the geyser, surrounding it with iridescent rainbows while the interior darkened to a deep black-blue, and vanished.
There was no rain. Everything that fell, fell back into the geyser, and was pushed out again.
Rodney clung onto the rock with everything he had, with Sheppard directly behind him, pressing him hard against the stone. Both were drenched. The temperature was rising steadily, heating the rock, heating their faces, creating a sauna. Mists floated by like ghouls. Steam cracked and hissed. The roar dulled into a casual rush, and they turned, and gawked at the waterfall that was floating up, rather than falling down.
They watched it for nearly a full hour, until it subsided, quickly pulling back into the ground with a slight suck. The remaining water fell as rain all about them, poured from a heavenly bucket, then all was still.
Sheppard and McKay were trembling. A nudge pressed Rodney on, and he forced himself up until he was able to reach another ledge and rolled onto it, muffling his cry of pain and fighting the stiffness of his limbs. Sheppard followed, massaging his own pain from his increasingly useless ankle. They watched the water drip from above them, felt the fading tremors below, and breathed. Neither spoke for a very long time.
The climb eventually resumed, slowly, with Lorne and his men reaching the very top and shouting down encouragement. It took another two hours for Sheppard and McKay to join them. Lorne and his men pulled the exhausted men onto a stable patch of rock.
Sheppard coughed and gasped for air. Rodney just lay back, looking to ignore his surroundings and everything else on that forsaken planet. Lorne was tired and shaken, as were both Jake and Connor.
The colonel reached out groggily and gave Lorne a pat on the back. "Good work. Thanks."
"Yeah, you too. You okay?"
"Will be." He looked at Rodney, and was surprised to see the man slowly sitting up, his eyes fixed to the distant landscape.
The most spectacular sunrise they had ever seen colored the sky with purple and red clouds lining a yellow backdrop. Mists hung lazily in the air, swirling in circular patterns below them. The sun crested, and the whole view went electric with color.
Rodney smiled appreciatively, and passed out.
The hike back to the village was timeless. It was very quiet. Rodney propped on Lorne's arm, with Connor to his other side while Sheppard limped alongside Jake. The people of Satureen met them on the border of the colony, eager for news, scooping them up in a celebratory mass, and carrying them to a fresh tent filled with piss-drink and broth. Sheppard forced a few spoonfuls down Rodney's throat before he fell asleep.
Brouk and his men never showed.
After a day of recovery, they headed back to Lorne's jumper. No one stopped them, in fact after being tossed into their tents, no one seemed to care what happened to them. If there were inquiries regarding the whereabouts of Brouk, no one mentioned it to them. Instead the people resumed their work, digging the trenches.
It seemed so pointless, for some reason.
The team transferred supplies from the crashed jumper to the working one, and launched into the heat-laden sky. But before going to the gate, they detoured and retraced their steps to find the geyser.
It was gone, collapsed inwards, with no way to release the waters.
Returning to Atlantis was a shock to the system for Rodney, and Carson compounded it. Rodney bitched and shrank back into his bed as his wounds were poked and prodded, and was told that surgery was needed to repair the tear in his shoulder. As if that wasn't enough to his dignity, Kavanaugh explained, in excruciating detail, how he cleverly saved Atlantis in McKay's absence, how he repaired the faulty gate system that had set an overload that could have destroyed the city but for his quick intervention, and how it was becoming increasingly apparent that McKay wasn't the only scientist around comprised of "unknown heroic material". That sentence made Rodney smirk, because there was a compliment hidden within, and that was a mark against Kavanaugh. It allowed him to suffer the rest of the boastful speech.
Kavanaugh brushed shoulders with Sheppard as the colonel entered on a single crutch, merely giving him a visual up and down before leaving. Sheppard pursed his lips comically and gave Rodney a knowing glance as he sat. "What's the verdict?"
"Mild concussion, stitches in my arm, and surgery," he replied gloomily. "Slight infection due to god know's what in that water. Pumping me with enough sugar steroids to fill the Carribean. How's the ankle?"
"Twisted. Nothing big. Hurts."
Rodney merely nodded.
Sheppard watched him. He looked a little better, not as worn down. His skin had darkened considerably, providing a tan he didn't think the man was capable of having. He hadn't even noticed how much they had changed physically until their return through the gate, where everyone suddenly looked too pale. He glanced at his own arm, much darker than Rodney's. "We should get the girls, now."
"Please. Mine'll fade in a week. Thought I admit, I kinda like it. Maybe I can devise a way to totally block the harmful UV's and bask for a while."
"Or you can return to Satureen."
"Not on your life." The depression fluttered back over his face.
Sheppard leaned forward, pressing his elbows into the mattress, and giving Rodney his full attention. "I know what you're thinking."
"I got their hopes up."
"They already knew about this thing. It isn't like they haven't been searching for it, you know."
"Brouk is dead."
"We don't know that."
"Oh come on, how could he have survived that?"
"Rodney," Sheppard shifted, "as I recall, the water stayed pretty up. And he left before the geyser erupted. I'm thinking he had a backup plan."
"He's a clever guy. No way he'd go down there without a plan."
"He followed us, you know."
"And if you were in his position, wouldn't you have done the same?"
Sheppard leaned back. "They'll figure it out."
Rodney nodded, his eyes fixed on the wall. "It's funny. I'm still not sure I trust him."
Sheppard smirked. "That's what makes him a good leader, in a sense. His own people trust him. He knows how to manipulate to get what he wants. But you notice something?"
"He didn't actually hurt us."
"What about that man that put me on the ground with his knee in my back? That hurt!"
"That got your attention."
"They left you to die!"
"No, they released you and told you where I was."
"Said he was treated well."
Rodney gave up.
Sheppard leaned forward and picked at the blanket. "You were right though, about the geyser. You really think we could have tapped into something that powerful?"
"Please. What we saw was just the tip of the iceberg, there's no way to accurately calculate the pressure underneath. There's no way to tell how much is liquid, or how much is magma."
"Would tapping into this water gradually release the pressure?"
"How would we do that?"
"I don't know." Rodney sighed. "Hell, they're good at tunneling. Tap into that water system we were caught in and redirect it."
Sheppard nodded. "It collapsed, you know."
"This isn't good."
"No, it isn't."
Carson entered, holding a chart and xray. "Colonel, I'll have to ask you to leave now. The sooner I can prep Rodney, the sooner he can get his complaining done and get back to work." He leaned in to Sheppard. "Between you and me, I've had enough of Kavanaugh thinking he can run the show. I've been giving poor Radek sedatives so he can sleep at night."
Sheppard smiled and patted Rodney's leg. "Sweet dreams."
"John! Come in." Elizabeth smiled and gestured to the seat across from her. "How are you feeling?"
It had been several days since their return. His ankle proved to be harder to heal than he had thought, amounting to a day of bed rest per Beckett just so he would stay off of it. Aggravating as hell. "Well, not ready to race Ronon yet, but I'm getting there." He sat carefully, propping his crutch against the desk.
"That's good. I also hear Carson is releasing Rodney to return to work."
John smiled. "Rodney's driving him nuts. Carson just booted him from the infirmary because he's running out of happy pills."
She smiled, looking down at her desk, knowing full well how much Rodney irritated the medical doctor. But then she also saw them together at the east pier with bottle in hand, candidly discussing aspects of Antarctica she had been oblivious too. Her smile faded slowly, replaced by concern. "I've been talking to Lorne, getting his side of the tale. He mentioned something that disturbs me."
"He says you thought we abandoned you."
Sheppard's guard went up. "I don't remember saying that."
"You were half delirious with fatigue by the time you came through the gate. There's no telling what you may have said to him."
"Sounds like Mr. Lorne and I need to have a conversation."
"Not until we do." Her eyes widened authoritatively.
He wasn't prepared for a private chat, though his few years with the conscientious leader should have taught him otherwise. "I thought something had gone wrong. Not like that's never happened."
"But you've thought this before."
Weir pressed her palms to the desk and stood, rapping her knuckles on the desktop once before walking to the office balcony. Her arms crossed casually in front of her. Outside, the sun sipped at the sea. "Very beautiful out there."
The sunset was beautiful, but in washed out colors compared to what he had seen. "Nice."
"You know we would never abandon you."
"Do you really know, or are you just saying that?" Her grey eyes were keen, and desperate.
He swallowed and gave himself some time before speaking. "Okay. It's like this. I'm not as bad as Rodney, but I – might – have my own trust issues to overcome. I know you guys will come back, but . . . sometimes I do think, 'what is this it, this is the time they can't do it'." He reached forward and took hold of Elizabeth's pen, tapping it against glass. "We have just so many tricks up our sleeve. Every good magician either gets caught at least once, or ends up giving out his tricks. And one day those tricks give out on him."
"We'll just have to make sure that doesn't happen."
"We're not magicians, John. We never claimed to be."
"Don't we?" He dropped the pen, and regarded her steadily.
She cleared her throat. "John, I called you here because I have some news for you, about Satureen."
She stared at the water, watching the waves roll in. "We sent a team back for the crashed jumper. It wasn't there."
He rose slowly. "Not there? That's not possible. Rodney was trying to fix it, it wouldn't budge. There's no way they could've moved it."
"John . . ."
"Unless Rodney fixed it right as we were captured. But even then, the gene is needed to activate it."
"We found signs of wreckage where the geyser was reported."
"No." He almost laughed. "The gene, they can't fly it, unless they have . . ." he stopped, and paled.
She took a deep breath, then faced him, pinning his eyes with her words. He listened, and his heart jumped into his throat.
"John, there is nothing but mud. There's no colony, no jumper, no survivors. Nothing. It looks like there was a tremendous storm, unlike anything we, or they, have ever seen. Scans show the water on the surface area to have increased by seventy-six percent, and climbing. The extreme cloud cover is blocking the sun, creating more rain, and cooling the air to temperatures not seen in ages." She swallowed hard. "There is a huge crater where the geyser was. Other than that, the area is flattened." She swallowed. "I'm sorry."
Sheppard's eyes had narrowed in disbelief. He turned away, scrubbing his hand over his face and releasing a heavy sigh, walked to the side windows. He could see the waves passing the station, drifting onwards. A shadow moved nearby, and he looked up to see Rodney, his arm secured to his chest, his face torn between grief and anger.
There were no words. Either Brouk had killed everyone by trying to save them, or the planet itself had simply taken the fight for itself. They could never be sure.
His head fell forward in defeat.