Author's Note: This is a sequel to "Memories or Nightmares" and begins shortly after the end of that story.
Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of its characters. Nick Strauhan has been borrowed from Rogue1503 (with permission – cause she's my buddy).
The Wrong Place at the Wrong Time - Chapter One
Elizabeth let her gaze roam around the table as she sipped her coffee, making sure everyone was there. Sheppard, Beckett, McKay, Teyla, and Ronon, all present and accounted for. She set her cup down on the table. "Okay, Rodney, what do you have for us?"
McKay paused from pecking on his laptop and shifted his attention to the leader of the Atlantis expedition. "I found a reference to M4P-557 in the Ancient data base. Apparently there is an ore on the planet that the Ancients were experimenting with. It looks like it had potential to be used in a form of shield, almost like some kind of armor."
Sheppard leaned back in his chair and turned it slightly so he could face McKay. "Does it say anything about the planet, like if it was inhabited or had dinosaurs, or maybe giant venomous spiders? It'd also be handy if it told us where to look for this stuff."
McKay sighed. "Oh, yes, Colonel, we also found the reference manual, "The Complete Guide to M4P-557", as well as a map with X marks the spot. This is not the movie of the week. It makes a vague reference to working out a trade with some people on the planet, but it doesn't give any details." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "It does, however, give some pretty good instructions as to the location of the ore deposit."
"Okay, we'll negotiate a trade of some kind if there are still people there. It has been almost 10,000 years. Everyone may have moved by now." Sheppard shifted his chair back to its original position.
"Or been culled," added Ronon.
Elizabeth winced at the comment. "Okay, you have a go to check it out, but no arms trading. We are not supplying weapons, so don't even mention it."
Sheppard cringed. "One time, Elizabeth, and you'll never let me forget it."
Elizabeth raised one eyebrow and smiled. "It was more than once, and no, I don't ever want you to forget it. We can trade medicines or maybe building materials or knowledge, but no weapons. Are we clear on that, Colonel Sheppard?"
Sheppard grinned sheepishly. "No weapons. Got it. What kind of medicines should we offer?"
"I don't know, antibiotics I guess." She looked over to Beckett. "Carson, what do you think?"
"Antibiotics is a good bet, but it's hard to tell exactly what they have need of without talking to the people."
Sheppard pointed at Beckett and shook his finger. "Hey, Doc, you should come with us. You'll know what questions to ask to figure out what they need. You could probably make a better case to them about why they need it than any of us could."
Beckett shook his head vigorously. "Oh, no, Colonel, no," he sputtered. "You can handle it. Yes, I'm sure you'll do fine. The last time I went through the gate, my equilibrium was off balance for a week. I have no idea how you pass through that bloody thing so often without ending up flat on your back."
"If only you knew," murmured McKay.
Sheppard shot McKay a warning glance, which he made a point of ignoring. "You can do it, Carson. It's not that hard, really. It just takes a little getting used to, that's all."
Beckett's voice notched up a bit in pitch. "What if I don't want to get used to it? Maybe I don't want my molecules scrambled on a regular basis."
McKay rolled his eyes. "This is what happens when Scotty crashes into McCoy - you get fear with a Scottish accent."
Teyla and Ronon shared a confused look as everyone else snickered, except for Beckett of course. He just frowned and sighed loudly.
"Let Strauhan do it." All eyes turned to Ronon as his deep voice rumbled.
"Nick?" asked McKay.
"He's been out with us before and he doesn't mind going. Let's take Strauhan," Ronon repeated.
Sheppard smiled as he looked at Beckett. Nick had already talked to him about going out with the team on a regular basis, but he didn't know if Nick had talked to Beckett yet. Not wanting to cause trouble, he had been waiting on an opportunity to suggest Nick go with them and then Ronon had popped up with it. He couldn't have asked for better. "That will work. He's done well in the field the times we've taken him and I think he kind of likes going off world occasionally. What do you say, Doc?"
Beckett considered it. "I suppose that would work. I can talk to him."
Sheppard grinned. "Okay, it's settled. Nick can go with us."
Beckett looked at Sheppard sternly. "If I let him go, you have to promise to bring him back in one piece, and preferably in better condition than the last time he went off world."
Sheppard held up a hand defensively. "I'll bring him back in one piece, and for the record, that wasn't my fault. I was a little unconscious the last time."
"Well, it'd be nice if you all came back conscious and walking under your own power for once."
"We'll do our best, Doc, promise." Sheppard grinned as he turned back to McKay. "Do we know how their time relates to ours?"
McKay punched a few buttons on his laptop. "Looks like they are about 5 hours behind us, so we might want to leave about noon, our time."
Teyla eyed McKay questioningly. "Did you say 'we'?"
McKay sighed as he looked down at the cast on his leg, propped up in a chair as he sat sideways at the table. "Okay, you might want to wait until noon. Happy?"
Teyla smiled. "Just making sure. Perhaps you can keep Dr. Beckett company when we take Dr. Strauhan away."
Beckett's mouth dropped open slightly. "Oh, lass, now why would you say something like that?"
McKay just waved his hand. "I don't have time to mess with entertaining a doctor of voodoo. I have important things to do. He'll have to keep himself occupied."
"Thank goodness," Beckett mumbled.
Sheppard wandered into the infirmary, thinking about how rarely he came here on purpose and not to seek medical attention. It was a nice change, he decided. He should really try to keep his long-term visits to a minimum. He poked his head into Beckett's office.
"Doc?" He found both Carson and Nick in the office, sitting with their feet propped up and nursing a cup of coffee. "Gee, I hope I'm not interrupting some important medical conference."
"Well, actually you are, but we might forgive you if you're nice," quipped Nick.
Sheppard leaned against the door frame and grinned. "So what is this important medical conference about?"
Beckett sighed the sigh of the pleasure from a good cup of coffee. "The benefits of good coffee to the medical community in general, as well as to doctor-patient relationships."
Sheppard tilted his head and frowned. "Doctor-patient relationships?"
Nick nodded. "Oh, yeah. The doctor is much more patient and understanding when he's had a really good cup of coffee to get him going."
Sheppard grinned and nodded. "Okay, now that makes a lot of sense. Well, at the risk of further interrupting your thought processes, I just stopped by to see if Nick's game to go with us tomorrow?"
"Yeah, I'm game. You think it might be possible to avoid being chased by the wraith this time?"
"God, I hope so. I don't plan on being bait for the local wildlife this time, either." He shuddered and instinctively rubbed his shoulder, feeling the slight indentation where the spider bite had left a bit of a crater.
Beckett frowned at him. "Is that shoulder still giving you trouble?"
Sheppard quit rubbing and shrugged. "Just gets achy every now and then, mostly after Teyla whips me in stick fighting. Something about eating humble pie makes it hurt worse."
Beckett just shook his head. "Would it kill you just to give me a straight answer occasionally?"
Sheppard smiled, his eyes twinkling. "Now where's the fun in that?" He looked down at Nick. "We're leaving at noon, so meet us in the gate room. Let me know if you have any questions."
Nick nodded. "Okay, I think Carson explained everything. I'll be there."
Sheppard gave a mock salute before turning and leaving the infirmary.
Beckett looked at Nick. "I don't suppose I can count on you to keep the two of you out of trouble, can I? The last time I let you go somewhere with him, you both ended up in here."
Nick pointed defensively at Beckett. "Now that wasn't my fault and he was injured before I even got there. We'll be nice and safe and sound this time. Piece of cake."
Beckett snorted. "Not bloody likely."
Sheppard stepped through the gate into a grassy field strewn with gray-white rocks and boulders of various sizes. He heard the distinctive whoosh of the stargate shutting down behind him. Teyla and Ronon had already taken up the point, scanning the horizon for signs of trouble. Nick was standing a few feet in front of him, struggling with the heavy pack on his back. Sheppard grinned as he walked up behind Nick.
Nick tried to look back over his shoulder, throwing what little balance he had off and almost sending him into the dirt. "What?"
Teyla looked at Ronon and smiled. He turned up one corner of his mouth and nodded back at her.
Sheppard took hold of the two back straps of Nick's pack and adjusted them over to the left. He jumbled the things in the pack around a little so as to redistribute their weight.
"John, you realize that's medical supplies in there and not rocks, right? Some of that stuff will break."
Sheppard just smiled as he continued to align the pack. "No problem, Nick. I'm not planning on breaking anything, just rearranging a bit. There, how's that?" He stood back and observed his handiwork.
Nick stood straighter and pulled the front straps. "Hey, that's actually a lot better. Thanks. I had a lot of trouble getting the pack on over the vest."
Sheppard walked up to stand beside Nick. "You'll get used to it. I guess we're ready now. According to McKay's information, the village with the people the Ancients dealt with should be almost straight ahead about a mile to a mile and a half."
They began walking toward the village, with Ronon and Teyla in front, followed by Nick and Sheppard.
Sheppard glanced at Nick. "So, did you ever get a chance to talk to Carson?"
Nick shook his head. "Not really, other than about this mission. I figure when we all get back safe and sound, that would be a good time to spring it on him that I want to go out with you guys a little more regularly."
"Maybe one of us should step in a hole or something on the way back to convince him you're needed."
Nick chuckled. "I don't think that will be necessary. Don't worry, your record speaks for itself."
Sheppard feigned shock by dramatically placing his hand over his heart. "Just what is that supposed to mean?"
"He means you spend too much time in the infirmary," said Ronon.
Sheppard scowled as he replied. "And who asked your opinion?"
"You didn't have to ask. I just told you."
Sheppard was mentally sending daggers into Ronon's back when the big man turned and narrowed his eyes at him. Startled, he wondered if Ronon could read minds and hadn't bothered to tell anyone. If that was true, he was so totally screwed.
"And quit smiling, Teyla," Sheppard warned. He couldn't actually see her face, but somehow he could tell by the way she held her shoulders that she was grinning. Well, that and the fact that Sheppard had seen her smile at similar exchanges.
"I am merely enjoying the company," came her ever so diplomatic reply.
They walked in silence for a few moments before Nick restarted the conversation. "How's the arm coming? I haven't talked to you in a while."
Sheppard frowned. "We're at six percent."
Nick's eyes widened. "You're at six percent already? John, that's great. You've almost cut the disability level in half in just a few weeks. I'm impressed."
"I'm not. I've been at six for a while and I need it to go down."
"You've only got one more percent. You'll do it. Even if you don't, for you to have come that far, Carson will help you out."
Sheppard shrugged his shoulders. "One percent for now, maybe, but six percent til I'm done."
Nick frowned. "John . . . you know one hundred percent recovery is probably not going to happen, right? And let's face it, even where you're at right now, it's not likely you'll even notice. We're only talking about a six percent loss of muscle function in your left arm. Believe me when I say this could have been a lot worse."
"Look, I know what you are saying, but I'll keep working for one hundred percent if you don't mind."
There was a silent pause for several moments, where all that could be heard was the crunch of their feet on the dirt and gravel of the road they were traveling. "What if you never get to that one hundred percent."
"Then I guess I'll never quit working," replied Sheppard easily.
Nick sighed. "You're hopeless, you know that don't you?"
Sheppard grinned. "I do remember being told that once or twice."
Neither Sheppard, nor Nick missed the glance exchanged between Teyla and Ronon.
They arrived in the village a few minutes later, except it wasn't so much a village as it was a city. It reminded Sheppard of photographs he'd seen of small communities in the late 1800s or early 1900's. Houses were arranged in neat rows with semi-maintained dirt/gravel roads running between them. He didn't see any sign of transportation outside of animals that looked somewhat like long-necked donkeys. People didn't seem to ride them so much as use them to pull wagons and carts that they rode and hauled in. Dress reminded him of the same time period or possibly earlier. Women were in long dresses and men in dark clothing that reminded him of old-time suits. As they walked down the central street, they began to gather attention.
"Greetings! My name is Counselor Mistdol. May I help you strangers?" A tall, thin man about Sheppard's age approached them, a relaxed smile on his face. "We don't get many new visitors. Have you come through the great ring?"
Sheppard stepped forward. "Yes, I'm Colonel John Sheppard and this is Teyla Emmagan, Specialist Ronon Dex, and Dr. Nick Strauhan. We're looking for possible trade partners and wondered if your people would be interested."
The man looked down sadly. "I'm afraid you'll need to talk to Chancellor Gaylen, as he is the leader of our people, and that is not possible right now."
Sheppard's smile faltered and then quickly recovered. "And may I ask why we can't talk to him?"
The man nodded slowly. "Yes, I'm afraid he is very ill at the moment. He is delirious with fever and cannot carry on a plain conversation."
Nick stepped forward, brow furrowed in worry over someone he'd never met. Sheppard thought how very much like Carson he was sometimes.
"I'm a doctor, or, uh, a healer, for my people. Maybe I can help your Chancellor."
The man's face brightened, his eyebrows rising in surprise. "Do you think you could? Chancellor Gaylen has led our people for many years and he is much loved by all. We would be forever in your debt if you could help him."
"Well, I'd have to examine him to see, but I'd sure be willing to do what I can."
The counselor waved at them to follow and then led them to a two-story white frame house. Sheppard leaned over close to Nick. "Look, I don't want to put pressure on you or anything, but this could really open some doors for us if you could help this guy."
Nick grinned at Sheppard. "No pressure - just remember that everything depends on this?"
Sheppard returned the grin. "Yeah, something like that."
They followed Mistdol through the door and into what appeared to be the equivalent of a living room. There were several people milling around who stopped to stare at them when they entered the house. Mistdol ignored them and led the team to a staircase at one side of the large room, encouraging them to follow him quickly.
Sheppard paused long enough to turn to Teyla and Ronon. "I want you two to stay down here and keep an eye on things. I'll go upstairs with Nick."
Teyla and Ronon nodded and turned to move back into the room as Sheppard and Strauhan disappeared from view. Teyla looked at Ronon.
"Do you think they will be all right?"
Ronon nodded. "Yeah, they should be. These people seem relatively harmless."
Teyla's eyes flashed. "Looks can be deceiving, as you well know."
"Yes I do. That is why we will do as Sheppard ordered and keep an out on things down here."
Nodding, Teyla moved through the room checking things out as Ronon walked over to look out the window.
John and Nick were led into a bedroom at the top of the stairs. An older man lay on the bed in the center of the room, moving restlessly as the people around him nervously tended him. A graying woman near his age sat beside him, wiping his fevered brow with a damp cloth and murmuring to him. Another woman, obviously much younger, stood nervously beside her. A short, plump man who seemed to be in his late twenties paced on the other side of the bed.
Mistdol cleared his throat loudly as they entered the room. "Madam, I may have found help for the Chancellor. These men have come through the great ring and say they may be able to help heal him."
The older woman stood and frowned suspiciously at John and Nick. "Why would you help? What payment would you expect?"
Nick stepped forward, figuring this was his gig. "I'm Dr. Nick Strauhan and we have come here in search of people to be allies and trade partners. I'm not sure if I can help, uh . . . "
"Chancellor Gaylen," she filled in.
"Yes, right, sorry. Sometimes I'm not very good with names. Anyway, I won't know if I can help the Chancellor until I have a look at him, but I'll be happy to do what I can. I'm not looking for payment, just trying to help. Friends help each other out and that's what we hope to become."
The older woman stepped forward another step and looked closely at his face. Nick was beginning to shift his feet nervously when she finally softened her expression. "My name is Marissa and I am his wife." She turned to the other two people in the room and indicated each with a swift hand movement. "These are our children, Fenton and Carleena."
Carleena nodded at them, while Fenton just continued to pace.
Marissa turned back to face the two men. "What do you need?"
Nick looked past her to the sick man on the bed. "Well, you can begin by telling me what's wrong with him. What are his symptoms and how long has he been ill?"
"He was repairing a fence and he cut himself badly on the wire. That was several days ago. We cleaned the wound, but it has pained him greatly. Then he became ill a few days ago. He is fevered, not in his right mind, and he cannot eat or drink."
Nick nodded. "Sounds like an infection. Let's have a look."
Nick walked over and sat on the edge of the bed, removing his pack. He retrieved his stethoscope and immediately began his examination. Marissa stepped up to Sheppard and eyed him.
"And who are you?"
"I'm Lt. Colonel John Sheppard. If anyone can help your husband, Nick can. He's an excellent doctor – saved my hide on several occasions." He tried to smile reassuringly, but Marissa just looked at him sternly before turning to stand behind Nick. He watched her peer over Nick's shoulder as he examined the wound on her husband's leg. Sheppard busied himself looking around the room, having no desire to look at the infected injury. He'd lived through a few of those himself and knew firsthand how bad they could be.
Several minute later, Nick got up and walked over to Sheppard, Marissa barely a step behind him. "John, his leg is very badly infected and I'm going to need some things from the infirmary. Do you think we could send Teyla and Ronon?"
John nodded. "Just write down what you need and I'll send them. Shouldn't take too long."
"Good." Nick returned to his pack and wrote down a few things on a notepad from the medical supplies. Tearing the paper off, he handed it to Sheppard. "Tell them to give this to Carson and tell them to hurry. He's in bad shape and I'm not sure we're in time to help him."
John nodded. "I'll be back in a minute."
Mistdol motioned to John and led him down the steps to the large room they had first entered through. Ronon was standing beside the window and Teyla stood talking to some women on the other side of the room. Upon seeing him, they both came immediately to their CO.
"Guys, I need you to take this note to Carson. Nick says the old guy is pretty bad and he needs some additional supplies. He also says you better hurry."
Teyla took the note and nodded. "We will move quickly, Colonel."
Ronon frowned. "Maybe I should stay here with you."
Sheppard shook his head. "No, I don't want Teyla going it alone. So far everyone is nice, but I want someone watching her back. I'll take care of Nick."
Ronon's frown deepened. "And who'll take care of you?"
Sheppard snorted. "I don't need anyone to take care of me."
Ronon glared at him a moment. "We'll hurry." He and Teyla turned and moved quickly out the door, leaving John to shake his head.
Mistdol broke his train of thought. "If you can help the High Chancellor, we will be forever grateful. He is an excellent leader."
Sheppard mentally crossed his fingers that Nick was able to save the old man. He and Mistdol went back up the stairs.
Forty-five minutes later, Sheppard was standing just outside the bedroom door, watching the stairs when Nick leaned out the door.
Sheppard turned and looked at the doctor. "Yeah?" Seeing the worried look on Nick's face, he immediately tensed up. "What's wrong?"
"He's dead. The Chancellor didn't make it."
Sheppard closed his eyes and tipped his head forward. "Crap! Just once I'd like to get a break. Just once."
Mistdol rushed out of the room and almost knocked Sheppard over as he raced down the stairs. The pilot could hear the crying and wailing beginning from the room as he regained his balance. He suddenly had a bad feeling about the whole situation. He walked over to stand by Nick in the doorway of the room. Marissa was weeping loudly as she embraced her husband's body. Carleena knelt on the floor beside her mother, her face in her hands and her body wracked with sobs. Fenton had stopped his pacing and stood clenching and unclenching his fists angrily. He looked up at the men in the doorway.
"You did this! Why have you killed my father?"
Sheppard stepped in front of Nick. "No one killed your father," he said calmly. "He was too sick to save. Nick did everything that he could."
"How do we know you didn't poison him or something? We don't even know who you are. We should never have trusted you. You'll be punished for this. The people loved my father and they will never stand for this."
"Look, you know how sick he was before we even got here. Surely you can see that he was already dying. We were just trying to help. You can't seriously want to punish us for trying to help him."
Fenton smiled harshly. "Oh, I can do a lot more than want to punish you."
Sheppard knew trouble when he saw it and they were definitely looking at trouble. "We're out of here," he said quietly to Nick. "Just leave your pack and head down the stairs while we still have a shot at getting out of here."
He backed out the bedroom door right behind Nick and they carefully, but quickly moved down the stairs and through the living room. They rushed out the door and into the street to find a large mob of people already upon them. Mistdol must have sounded the alarm. The crowd overtook them two steps out of the doorway.
Sheppard tried in vain to stay close to Nick. The first thing the mob did was to separate and disarm them. Hands grabbed at him, tearing away his weapons and pulling at his clothes. He was shouting, trying to explain to them that they had done nothing to harm the Chancellor while attempting to keep an eye on Nick. He could see Nick was also pleading his case, but no one was listening.
Sheppard was suddenly hit in the stomach by one man just before someone else smashed a large stick across his shoulders, throwing him to the ground. He looked up long enough to see that Nick was also now on the ground as well. He tried to crawl away from the mob toward Nick, but someone kicked him in the side, sending him sprawling. As the hits and kicks began to really pummel his body, the pain began to overwhelm him and his vision began to fade. His last conscious thought was why did they always have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.