Aw, heck, here's the end. I couldn't leave it like that. Now I can say it really is finished.

A few days later...

"So, how are your friends, Carson?" Sheppard asked as the doctor entered the infirmary office. John had taken to hiding in here and doing paperwork so that Rodney wouldn't see and chaff too loudly at 'bed-rest means bed-rest, McKay.' So far it had worked, which meant the scientist wasn't fit enough to even consider getting on his feet.

Beckett looked more rested than he had for days. There was a spring in his step, and he seemed very pleased with himself. He poured himself a mug of steaming black coffee from the carafe in the corner before settling into the room's second chair.

Sheppard helped himself to a mug as well and doused it liberally in milk and sugar. Carson wrinkled his nose, but did not comment. Instead he answered the question. "The villagers are well, considering how bad things were. The cure rate with the new anti-viral is close to one hundred percent, and I've got a couple of medical teams flying out to treat the other villages. Actually, Colonel, there's a young lad, Levin, who would like to learn to fly the Jumper the next time you're taking classes."

"I'll remember that. And no sign of the Traders?"

Carson shrugged. "Nothing."

"I was thinking about that," John reflected. "They said they only had one ship left, so if that was the one I shot down…"

Carson nodded thoughtfully. "There's a sense of divine justice in that."

"I quite liked it too." Sheppard settled back in his chair, and swung his feet onto the desk. He gazed at the wall. "I still can't remember much about that tunnel, Carson."

The doctor didn't reply, or comment on the feet on his desk.

Softly, John continued. "I remember thinking that I couldn't let them get away with what they had done, and I was going to teach them that they shouldn't mess with my team. I was going to blow them up with a nuclear strike, and it was that same anger that kept the Jumper in the air on the way home."

"And now?"

"Now I haven't got the energy to care," he shrugged. "They're stuck on that island, with holds full of merchandise they can't sell, and Jumpers they can't fix. They're going to have to learn how to grow things again, if they're going to survive. And from what 'Frank' said, that might be the cruelest punishment they could be given."

"'Frank?'" Carson asked.

John was about to explain the involuntary naming of Traders, when the sound of raised voices drifted in from the infirmary proper. Both men carried their coffees to investigate.


"I just can't believe you did it," Rodney said crossly from his bed as he waved a spoonful of blue Jell-o around.

"You cannot believe I managed to program simple algorithm into search protocols on my own?" Radek Zelenka snapped back, but there was very little sting in his words. He was perched on one of the unoccupied beds in the infirmary.

John grinned at Carson. They had not been noticed by either scientist.

"That's not what I meant," McKay continued. "Well, admittedly, it was a pretty surprising piece of programming in such a short space of time."

"There was time constraint."

"But you did it without me!" Rodney replied. By some miracle of Jell-o's adhesive properties, it had remained on the spoon as it was waved around in expansive gestures. He swallowed it.

"You were indisposed at time."

"Yes, yes, dying and all," Rodney said dismissively.

Carson looked across at John, who shrugged. Only McKay would be so flippant. In effect, he'd missed all the excitement, but his cheeks were sunken and his face was still too pale. The hand that held the spoon still had an IV in the back.

Added to this was the fact that he was eating blue Jell-o like it was a real meal, and afterwards Rodney McKay, chronic insomniac, would fall into an exhausted sleep. Again. These were clear reminders for the other men of how close they had been to having to fill the position of head scientist.

Rodney continued quizzing Zelenka regardless of the way the atmosphere in the room had cooled. "What else did you find?"

The Czech removed his glasses and wiped them on the tail of his lab coat. "I am now expert in genetic manipulation of human genome into viruses."

"We've just opened up the entire Ancient database to a sensible search and the only thing you looked up was medical research!" Rodney said incredulously.

"I was researching particular problem."

Yeah, like saving your ass, Rodney, Sheppard added mentally.

"But that was the only thing you looked at!" Rodney said again.

"I have been busy keeping city running and fixing dozen problems with systems, and you want me to do research for McKay pet projects?" Zelenka replied, with frustration evident in his tone. He mumbled something that sounded like Czech curses.

Rodney banged his spoon down in disgust. "You came to gloat that the search algorithms I suggested…"

"…and I wrote…"

"…worked like a charm and you only used them to…"

John couldn't help interrupting. "To save your life, Rodney."

Rodney noticed Sheppard and Beckett for the first time. He frowned. "I know. It's just that I'm stuck in here, and the prison guard," he glared at Carson, "has forbidden anything of any interest, even all those trinkets you had in your pockets, Colonel. And I'm going stir crazy in here, and I just wondered if you," now Zelenka was the focus of the glare, "had come to say you'd found something interesting."

"If you call saving your life and Sheppard's and whole continent interesting…" Radek said idly, still concentrating on cleaning his spectacles.

Rodney sighed, and pushed the little tray away. "I'm going to get some sleep." He turned away and closed his eyes.

"Of course," Zelenka said as he replaced his glasses, "if you don't want to know about wave power turbines on North Pier…"

Rodney's eyes flew back open again.

Radek grinned and started to explain.

Sheppard and Carson each settled themselves to listen. Rodney absently lifted a spoonful of blue Jell-o and ate.

The End