Summary: John has a bad feeling and pays the price when he ignores it. Friendship fic. Shep whumping.

The story is a sequel to 'For The Love of a Friend', but you don't have to read it to understand what's going on.

Spoiler:- None. Takes place in season 2 sometime after Epiphany.

Pairing:- A hint of Sparky. Team friendship. No slash

Rating: -T Language and physical abuse

Disclaimer: - I don't own Stargate Atlantis or its super characters.

Sorry, no Beta so the mistakes are all mine.

Fanatics and Thieves

Part 1 – A Bad Feeling About This

Wearily heading towards his quarters, John Sheppard moved around the last corner and sighed gratefully as his sanctuary finally came in sight.

Picking up speed, John nearly made it, but at the last second a slightly out of breath Dr. Rodney McKay blocked his way. Sheppard couldn't keep the frustration and annoyance from his countenance as he groaned. "What is it now, Rodney?"

McKay chose to ignore John's tone as he responded in his usual bubbly voice at finding something exciting to report. "We've finally located the planet where Dr. Tyrell and her team originated from."

"Dr. Who?" Sheppard questioned.

Rodney wanted to make some bad joke about the British sci-fi program but could see that the Colonel really wasn't in the mood. In fact, the man looked ready to drop. "No not Dr. Who, I said Dr. Lena Tyrell the scientist who discovered the ancient lab and ZPM on Dalenia 500 years ago. You know, the one who turned it into a religion to protect the people. Surely you haven't forgotten already?"

"Of course not, how could I forget something that almost got me killed?" John answered. "Not that that's anything unusual these days."

Rodney recoiled at John despondency, as it was so uncharacteristic for him. Although, he probably had every right to be as the last year or so had been hell for Sheppard. In fact, for all of them, but John had taken the brunt. Shot at numerous times, a zillion stun blasts, a bug sucking on him and then nearly turning into one, thousands of Wraith ready to make him dinner, captured, drugged - no that was me - Rodney thought. Gassed, body stealing, nukes, viruses, super bugs, ancient devises, too much sun, Caldwell wanting his job, the list just went on and on. However, all Rodney found to say was. "Hey, that doesn't sound like the Sheppard I know. What have you done to him?"

"He's right here, Rodney, and he's ready to go ballistic if you don't let him get some sleep. We'll deal with this matter tomorrow," said John, as he blearily looked at his watch. "No correction, make that today. Do you know what time it is?"

"Err…nope," admitted Rodney.

"It's 2.00 in the morning and if I'm lucky, I may get five hours in before the next crisis," Holding up his finger to silence his friend, John continued, "So if you don't mind, Rodney, we'll talk about this later." With that, John did a quick sidestep and dashed into his room, leaving Rodney staring at an empty space.

-SGA-

As it so happened, later turned out to be four days as another crisis did occur requiring everyone's attention, but finally McKay had Sheppard and Weir's attention long enough to send through a MALP to PX5-776.

"We're getting telemetry now." The technician announced as all eyes turned towards the monitors.

The grainy image that burst into life showed a rough terrain covered in low bush like plants and the odd spindly tree. It reminded Elizabeth a little of Greece or Southern Italy, but there the resemblance ended when the MALP panned the horizon to show the skyline of a large modern city, which could have been anywhere in North America.

McKay nearly jumped for joy. "At long last something that looks like a civilization."

"Don't get over excited yet, McKay." Sheppard cautioned as he stared closer at the image. The imagery looked all right but he wished the gate had been a little closer to the city. "Are the readings coming back OK?"

"Err…yes, sir. Atmosphere normal, slight pollutants, radiation levels acceptable, low energy readings, temperature a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius and the sun is shining."

"Sounds perfect," McKay enthused, "So when do we go?"

Elizabeth looked to Sheppard as he turned away from the screen. She noted that he still looked fatigued, as he had done for a while now. "John?"

"Couldn't we give this to another team, maybe Lorne's?" he suggested. Then John saw the look on of despondency on Rodney's face and relented. "Okay…okay, we'll go but for the record…I have a very bad feeling about this."

McKay looked at him sourly. "What? Have you suddenly got the Force and become Jedi Sheppard or something?"

"Of course not, I can't really explain it, call it a gut feeling or whatever but something seems off."

Elizabeth looked at him, worried because he hadn't even joked with Rodney concerning the Jedi comment. "John if you're not feeling up to it, you can do this some other time," she said ignoring Rodney's look of utter disappointment.

John saw the look. "No…I'm good," he answered a little too quickly for Weir's liking.

Weir looked uncertain. "If you're sure?"

"Yep…come on, McKay, let's get the team together, and explore your planet."

"It's not my planet!" McKay shouted at John's retreating form. "What's with him?" he muttered to Elizabeth.

"I don't know. Overworked and underpaid, just like the rest of us." Elizabeth answered, although deep down, she knew John's problems ran far deeper than that. He'd been stressed out of late with one too many missions gone sour and was in desperate need of a vacation or even a break. She pledged that after this mission, she would force him to take some R & R even if it was only to the mainland.

-SGA-

They'd shut the gate down while the team prepared for the mission and it wasn't reactivated until an hour later when the four members of SGA-1 were finally ready to go through.

Rodney moaned and groaned about the length of time Sheppard had taken. Normally, it was the other way round but the Colonel's reluctance had made him extra cautious as he stopped yet again to check their equipment and supplies.

"Are we going already or not, Sheppard?"

"Keep your pants on, McKay, we're ready."

Turning to Elizabeth, John gave her his usual wave but his smile was absent. She crossed her arms and nodded as she watched them enter the event horizon. A sudden shiver ran up her spine, John's bad feeling was starting to rub off on her as she gave her usual message. "Be safe."

-SGA-

They emerged in their usual order with Sheppard in the lead. "Okay folks, look sharp, and let's go find ourselves some friendly…" He didn't finish his sentence. "Oh, shit…someone's stolen the MALP."

Rodney and others joined him as John stood looking at the arid ground with its deep tracks clearly indicating where the MALP had been dragged away. "Well, it shouldn't be too hard to find if they dragged it all the way to their hidey hole." McKay observed just as John's radio came alive with Elizabeth's worried voice.

Sheppard hit the receive button. "John we're not getting any telemetry. Is everything okay?"

Hitting send, John replied. "Nope. Someone's hijacked our MALP, but they've left us a trail that even McKay can follow. So I guess we'll be meeting the criminal element of this planet quicker than I'd like."

"Don't do anything rash." Weir warned. "It's just a machine, John. It can be replaced but you and others can't."

"Hey, do you know how much those things cost?" Rodney yelled into John's radio. "If I'm not mistaken its 85,000 dollars! "

"I'm fully aware of that, Dr. McKay. Leave me to deal with the auditors." Weir advised.

Sheppard sighed and held his radio high as McKay tried to grab it from him. Turning quickly from his friend, he answered. "Don't worry, Elizabeth, we'll get it back. Sheppard out."

McKay stood scowling as Sheppard tucked his radio back into his vest and headed off to join Teyla and Ronon as they continued to search the surrounding area for any other clues. "Anything?" he asked as he reached them.

"No, the trail leads down that slope over there, as do many footprints." Teyla pointed out.

Sheppard sighed again as Rodney joined them. "Figures. Those things are darn heavy, it would take quite a few folks to pull it along." Resigned, he continued. "Okay, let's go get our property back."

"Err…wouldn't it be better to head for the city first?" Rodney suggested. "Maybe they have a police force willing to help us."

"Yeah, that's assuming they're friendly but if they aren't…" John stopped to reconsider for a moment. "Okay, we'll do a little recon first and see what we're up against."

Everyone nodded and clutching weapons close, they headed off down the slope and continued to follow the trail for some kilometers until suddenly, it ended.

"Oh crap! I don't believe it!" Sheppard cried echoing everyone's disbelief as he surveyed the rather ill repaired highway before him. A kind of concrete covered the surface but it was full of potholes, weeds, and cracks from years of neglect. "Well, it looks like they've loaded our MALP onto some kind of vehicle and that's certainly going to make it more difficult to track."

McKay looked slightly puffed out already. "Err…can we go to the city now? Not much point in following a road to god-only-knows where, and which direction would we take? Left or right?"

Ronon using his tracking and directional sense quickly answered. "By my reckoning, if we turn right it should take us towards to city anyway and that's probably where they took our MALP."

"Yes, yes, good thinking, Mr. Holmes. So are you coming or not?" McKay asked Sheppard as he started out along the road. Leaving Ronon totally baffled as to why McKay had called him by that name.

"Wait up a minute, Rodney!" John shouted after him. "Walking along the road doesn't exactly give us much cover."

McKay pointed to the sparsely covered sandy ground. "Hello, do you see much cover off the road?"

Resigned, John pulled along side the eager scientist. "Okay…I'll give you that but why are you in such a hurry anyway?"

"Because Colonel - down in the dumps - I've got a good feeling that I'll find equals at long last instead of the usual peasant farmers we encounter."

"I am not down in the dumps!" declared John, loudly. "But I've still got a bad feeling about this so stay sharp. And, I sure hope you're right, Rodney, 'cause we could do with better luck than we've had so far." John muttered as he took up the lead.

Eleven kilometers or so later, McKay nearly plowed into John's back when the Colonel suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and gasped. Looking around the taller but much slimmer man, Rodney let out a gasp of his own. Before them lay the panorama of the city but it wasn't what he'd expected. Although no one had voiced it up until now, it looked increasingly like the civilization Rodney had hoped to find no longer existed. The whole time they'd been walking not one vehicle had passed them by and the roadway had gone from bad too worse as potholes turned into massive gapping holes.

Now the conclusive evidence stood before him and Rodney felt like crying as he surveyed the ruins of what must have been a lovely city at one time.

About a kilometer away, the perimeter of the ruined suburbs began with the rubble and remains of low-lying houses. "Do you think it is wise to walk through those areas?" Teyla cautioned.

"Probably not," John answered her, "But it's either that or head back and get a jumper. That's if it's still worth even continuing?"

McKay came out of his shocked dismay and looked at his scanner. "It's worth it. I'm picking up some energy readings and life signs," he reported. "I told you to bring a jumper in the first place but oh no, Colonel - I know better - said, no way."

"I gave you my reasons, McKay, how was I to know that the city wasn't what it appeared to be? How many live signs have you got anyway?" Sheppard asked.

Rodney looked intently at the scanner. "In this immediate area about twenty or so but…I have a feeling that there are more hidden somewhere."

"All right, let's hope they're friendly and unarmed," Sheppard murmured, but every instinct told him that this was somehow a big mistake, so he had to ask, "Or would you prefer going back and coming another day with a jumper?"

Ronon gave his answer. "We can easily take on twenty even armed."

Teyla looked resigned and gave her opinion. "We have come this far, it seems a waste to go back now."

"Yes, yes, that's my opinion too." McKay answered. "Besides they may welcome us with open arms."

"Yeah and I'm the King of Atlantis." John muttered as he moved off clutching his P90.

TBC

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