CATEGORY: Hurt/comfort, angst, gen with a little humor
SPOILERS: Second season, no spoilers
NOTES: Big thanks to Derry for her betaing and assistance.
Copyright Disclaimer: The Stargate Atlantis characters, as presented on the series, belong to MGM, Sci Fi, and other registered copyright holders. No copyright infringement is meant or intended by the writing and posting of this material. I'm just borrowing the characters and the universe for a piece of non-profit 'fan fiction' and will return in one piece (well, usually). However, all original characters and story material are copyright to author. Please do not repost this fiction, in whole or in part, anywhere, without expression written permission of the author.
SUMMARY: While on a mission, Sheppard turns his back for just a moment and McKay vanishes. The team fights against time when the only clues to the missing scientist's whereabouts are drops of blood. McKay whump. Sheppard angst..
Cold water or club soda can remove fresh blood - if it's a spot. Forget that method when a bullet tears through someone's gut and punches a fist-sized hole out the back.
The exoskeletons of several long-dead insects crunched noisily under his boot as Colonel John Sheppard proceeded further down the dark corridor. For over an hour, those dead insects had been the only sign of life within the massive structure... before his team had begun investigating in earnest, positive that they were the only occupants of a building long since abandoned by either human or Wraith...
Or Ancient technology. "Oh yes, it's ancient as in the beginning of the pre-industrial revolution," Rodney McKay had declared in a decidedly disappointed and acerbic assessment. However, the gate address had been in the Ancient database, so there was potential, even if there wasn't life.
No skeletons, no dried up husks that might once have been human: just the few scattered bones of long-dead rodents who'd fallen prey to probably the local version of alley cats.
The decision was made to split up to expedite the search for technology. Ronon and Teyla had journeyed down one corridor, while Sheppard dragged McKay with him into the huge complex
Supposedly Coca Cola is good for removing bloodstains on roads, but he didn't know about Pepsi or the Un-Cola...
Another drop of blood reflected eerily off the P-90's bright beam. It was the third drop he'd spotted since he'd begun tracking McKay fifteen minutes ago. Sheppard had turned his back, if only for a moment. In a moment, a person can daydream and run a red light and get plowed into by a tractor-trailer rig five times the size of their car; in a moment, a mother can turn away and a toddler can pull a scalding pot of water off the stove and change a life forever. In a moment, he had turned his back and Dr. Rodney McKay, brilliant and annoying astrophysicist and a man whom Atlantis could not afford to lose, had simply vanished.
The room had been massive, full of machinery that might have been wonderful for manufacturing something one upon a time, but not 'ZedPMs.' "Maybe bicycle parts," McKay had said dryly as he'd wandered off to investigate another aisle.
A blood drop...just three feet away on the dull gray floor. It was small, thank God, and it was relatively fresh. Not the life-giving liquid squeezed out of an alien rodent, for there were no signs of fur or struggle of any kind, just the semi-round blob of glistening liquid.
Ronon's deep voice cut through the silence of the abandoned building, but hadn't surprised the colonel. Their contact was terse, and only if information was necessary.
"Anything?" Sheppard cast his gaze down the long corridor… very long. Long-distance sprinter long. The light dropped off in the distance to bleed into utter blackness.
"Nothing here." In other words, no sign of any alien life. "We're doubling back," said the Satedan.
"Be careful. Rodney's got the life signs detector."
"Understood," said Teyla.
They clicked off. Rodney had the only device capable of detecting life signs. He'd had the device out the entire time they'd been searching the building. Had whoever or whatever attacked him not registered? Were they up against something totally alien?
Blood tastes metallic. Spill enough, it smells like it, too.
"Rodney?" His voice sounded unusually loud in the deep corridor, even though he'd uttered the name as nearly a whisper into the radio. Silence was his response.
And a spatter of more blood - its presence taunted him as it lured him down to another pitch-black level.
The dust that had accumulated within the building was sporadic at best, disturbed only by vermin and beetles, and perhaps by wind that must sweep in through the massive rectangular windows of the main assembly room. Virtually all the windows had been shattered, or dulled by age and sun. Cobwebs of busy spiders had spread between the inert machines, their silky threads glittering like tiny jewels when the sun's rays struck them at just the right angle.
Sheppard held his weapon's light low to the ground, studying any disturbance within the thinly veiled layer of dust within the corridor. He wasn't a tracker - wasn't like Ronon - but he had a sharp eye and years of military experience. It was a drag mark. Rodney was being dragged.
There are four main blood groups: A, B, AB and O. As far as he knew, most people have O positive blood. Leave it to McKay to be difficult and have B positive blood.
Sheppard tapped on his radio at Ronon's deep voice. He was disturbed that the reception was breaking up within the building. There was no fear of radioactivity. Once Rodney had seen the old equipment, he had done a scan for dangerous substances. The memories of being unwittingly exposed to radioactivity on the Genii home world had been something Rodney hadn't forgotten, even if it had been over a year ago.
"I'm down two levels," Sheppard responded into his radio. A crackling hiss like an upset snake sounded in his ear. Definite interference. Despite being cut off, he wasn't turning back. Not until he found McKay.
A doctor in Afghanistan had once told him of how the Japanese actually had personalities assigned to blood types. Made sense that Sheppard was an 'O' as that was the warrior type, a leader. Sheppard had snorted derisively at that assessment while he'd finished his warm beer. A 'B' was the type who, if Sheppard remembered the late night conversation accurately, did things at their own pace, exhibited a strong personality and disdained the norm. And was excitable. Oh yeah, he knew someone like that.
The air was dank with disuse, tainted subtly with the whiff of oil. More equipment. Maybe whatever disaster it was which had depleted the world of life hadn't been that long ago. Oil couldn't last for centuries, could it? But then again, poison ivy oil was pretty much indestructible, so he'd been told.
Metal doors on the side led to dark rooms that were either empty or cluttered with abandoned equipment or furniture. No blood. The spatters, sometimes extending to smears, continued down the corridor in sporadic bursts.
He was the stranger in this environment. Great caution should be exercised but he found his pace quickening, knowing that as every moment passed, it could mean one less minute of life for McKay.
A part of him said that McKay could already be dead; that rushing into an unknown situation would get him killed as well. He ignored that voice of common sense, just as he'd disregarded it in Afghanistan. Pretty much cost him his job, but some things were far more important than a career path: lives and friendships. Both were on the line now.
Blood is composed of white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and plasma. It's slick when freshly spilled, like warm oil. Then it starts to clot and gets sticky, clinging to your skin with a revolting tenacity.
Several trails of blood smeared down the floor. Just for a foot or so in length, spread almost evenly apart. It reminded him a child's first effort at finger painting, only this was someone's hand - trailing blood. And not just a dribble, but a long, thick smear.
Sheppard resisted the urge to yell into his radio or down the corridor. He could really use the element of surprise, which unfortunately wasn't going to work, as he needed the P-90's light to see. He doubted if anybody or anything on this God-forsaken world even had a match to their name.
The average human adult has a blood volume of about 4.7 liters, or 8.2 pints, of which 2-3 liters are plasma, that gross yellow fluid that had a bad habit of leaking everywhere with burns.
He wasn't going to write a eulogy. Damned if he'd be forced to write another one, or write a letter to a relative he'd never met, having to express sorrow at the loss of a life, but be totally unable to tell that person why their loved one had died so young or why a body could never be returned. Or how much that loss burned away at his soul.
McKay's gun had stood out in stark relief when Sheppard turned the corner. Just lying there at the junction, viscous blood coating its handle. Not a single bullet had been discharged. The safety was still on, as though McKay had pulled the gun from the holster but his strength had then failed him, and his only means of defense - gone.
"Ronon. Teyla," he hissed into his radio. Frustration and anger coiled inside him like an anxious snake, ready to strike out. Damn stupid alien buildings. The place could be reeking with radioactivity and maybe it was a giant mutant ant that had taken McKay away to its nest.
Not a Wraith. Wraith either did take-out or ate right then and there. Desiccated Egyptian-mummy remains that crumbled at the softest touch, but not blood smears. Giant ants? Corridor wasn't that big and they were incredibly noisy and didn't actually exist and he'd much rather face a giant ant than a Wraith any day.
He didn't like the silence. No mice, no bugs. Nothing. No voices in his headset but... he sucked in a steadying breath as his foot slid ever so slightly on the floor beneath him. He looked down, redirecting the P-90's light. He was standing in a pool of blood. That was too much blood.
A pint is equal to 16 fluid ounces, or the size of a large bottle of Pepsi. The average human body contains something like five quarts of blood. You can lose up to two quarts and still live provided you don't lose it rapidly and have luck on your side. Two quarts equals four pints, so McKay could lose over half a six-pack of Pepsi before…
The corridor branched off to two distinct smaller corridors. Blood pointed the way down one of them. The theory that McKay might have been abducted, by an alien bent on forcing gate addresses out of the scientist was gone, replaced by the cold hard fact that when Sheppard found McKay, he might not find all of McKay. He'd radioed to Ronon and Teyla - expecting no response and receiving none- that they should be on the lookout for a large carnivorous animal. Several faint but massive paw prints had stepped through the blood, leaving their disheartening artwork against the gray concrete flooring.
Whatever had attacked McKay was huge and silent. The attack had taken place only fifty feet from where he'd stood in that assembly room and he'd neither seen nor heard it.
The corridor ended at a large open entryway. There were doors, big steel ones, pushed aside against the solid walls. Beyond the entry lay a massive warehouse-sized area. A rapid sweep with the P-90's light showed at least a thirty-foot high ceiling. Foreign machinery dotted the floor like petrified wood, sentinels of a long-ago thriving civilization.
And somewhere in this massive room lay McKay - he hoped.
Sheppard entered the room, weapon out and ready.
One milliliter of blood weighs one gram, Beckett had mentioned that tidbit out of the blue one day. Like Sheppard really need to know that.
If you spilled a cup of coffee on a flat surface, it would spread far and wide. However, if you spilled that same cup on a computer keyboard, it would concentrate its destructive effects on that piece of equipment in a very focused area.
The blood spatter had now become sporadic tiny pools and rivulets, resembling a bad piece of modern art. A crimson hand print smeared in vain against the lower portion of a cabinet. Sheppard had clenched his teeth, forcing the emotion from his mind, concentrating strictly on the rescue mission. Get in. Extract his man. Get out. Enemy casualties? Totally acceptable and right now, highly desirable.
Rapid blood loss produces hypovolemic shock.
Cry me a river. That was the name of some old song, wasn't it? Sheppard couldn't remember the words, or who had sung it or what era it was from, but the river was now there on the floor: large, gleaming red streams of blood dragging around a large cabinet with another unknown piece of machinery atop it. He wouldn't cry, not now. Maybe never. Perhaps after the funeral and the 'sorry, but people die in war and we're at war' pats on the back, he'd grab a jumper, fly to the mainland, get some of the volatile stuff he'd heard rumors about and get totally, unequivocally drunk. Break things, kick trees, and vow never to let anybody get under his skin the way Rodney McKay had somehow managed to, ever since the obnoxious scientist had stared at him jealously when he'd activated the Ancient's control chair. Effortlessly and unwittingly, doing something Rodney hadn't been able to do despite months of trying.
Rodney was dead.
Sheppard had seen more than enough death in his lifetime. Seen enough blood spilled in combat to know that McKay had gone past the half a six-pack limit, all the way to one of those 24-can beer packs. No, make that coffee. McKay wouldn't want to be compared to soda or beer. He'd want people to raise cups of expresso to his memory.
Exhibiting a caution refined from avoiding Wraith, Sheppard crept around the corner of the cabinet in a low crouch, P-90 ready to blast anything that moved. More blood spread out its dark tendrils in an irregular oval pool. And just beyond that, highlighted in the stark beam of the light, was a claw.
Long, yellow and blunted, the big claw peaked out just from behind another indistinct cabinet. It didn't move from its position on the floor.
Sheppard swallowed, then advanced as he readied himself for the creature to launch at him. As he turned the corner and the light struck the creature, he held in his breath. The animal was bigger than a mountain lion, covered in deep brown fur that reminded him of a grizzly bear. The fur was liberally matted with blood. Something dark and straight struck out of one shoulder.
Standing up, Sheppard approached the prone animal as though it were booby-trapped. All the while he glanced around, realizing there could be more than one of them. He kicked at the rear haunches of the animal, pulling back quickly, but the animal didn't stir. He moved around to the front of the creature, comprehension dawning that the strange object sticking out of it was a tool of some sort.
The animal was dead. Someone had violently bashed in its skull. Repeatedly. He was pretty sure that was brain matter oozing out from the gory mess that was spattered everywhere like a Jackson Pollack painting.
Yes, Part One ends here. One more part to go!