AMONG THE STARS - by NotTasha
Here we go! The last chapter!
PART 21: WEASEL
"Hey," Sheppard called as he caught up to McKay in the hallway.
"Hey, yourself," McKay returned with a smile that soon dropped to a frown. "Aren't you coming along to check out the Ironspot?" He gestured to Sheppard's off duty attire.
"Didn't Beckett want you to stay in your quarters for the next few days?"
"Well yes… but…"
"You had your laptop to play with and everything."
McKay harrumphed and stated, "They have a team working at the Ironspot. I thought I could provide some valuable insight into how the systems operated together. After all, I've already been through the ship. I'm sure my knowledge will prove to be a valuable asset. I'll just offer advice. No need to exert myself." He smiled smugly.
"Yeah, I can see that happening," Sheppard responded, watching his friend.
"I mean, it's not that much different from just sitting in my room, right?"
"Right. Because you wouldn't be resting there either."
McKay looked perplexed. "There's so much to do."
"But you shouldn't be on your feet and you shouldn't be crawling under consoles or poking around at those crystals."
"I'll find a place to sit and… supervise."
"I'm sure they'll love that."
McKay was looking much better. He'd done well in his recovery from the near-exsanguination. The wound was easily stitched and a slight infection was quickly quenched, but he was still a little pale and wobbly.
He should have been in bed, being careful of his wound, keeping still. But, the infirmary would only hold him for so long, and the marvels of the supernova data could wait. Other scientists were running their hands over the Ironspot and were getting ahead of him in the knowledge learned from the hybridization. The physicist could hardly let that happen.
"Since I am the only person who's worked on the system previously, it's only logical that I add my knowledge. Obviously there are things I know that they haven't yet discovered." McKay paused, regarding Sheppard's expression.
The colonel knew something he didn't.
Rodney contemplated, and then damned himself for not thinking of it sooner. "Rix…" he finally stated. "They're sending Rix out there to offer some help, aren't they?"
Sheppard sighed, rubbing the back of his head. "Well, he is the pilot for that ship and knows what all the controls do. They considered sending Teyla, too, since she'd flown the ship, but she figured Rix could handle it."
"Oh." Looking a little crestfallen, Rodney leaned one shoulder against the wall and sighed. "So… he managed to weasel his way out there already."
"His eyesight cleared up. Seems he recovered okay."
"Great," McKay sighed, looking disheartened. The paleness that plagued him seemed to be back, along with the horrible weariness. "Great," he said again, then with a sigh added, "Did he show them any surprises?"
"Yeah, a surprise or two." Sheppard chuckled, and let McKay know, "Your boys found a secret compartment at the back of the Ironspot, loaded with …plunder."
To that, McKay snorted, and winced at the movement. "What? The little sneak was smart enough to put away some of the booty for himself?"
Sheppard shrugged. "Looks like it. There was gold, sparkly things, and some Ancient Tech."
"Really?" McKay's eyes gleamed at that thought. "So some of it was saved? It all didn't go MAATAUW with the space station?"
Sheppard gave him a strange look at the use of onomatopoeia, but went on, "Looked like Rix had been stashing away bits and pieces for a while. Did you know that those three people were on that station for almost a year, guarding that treasure?"
"A year?" McKay echoed as he leaned.
"Yeah, kind of a crappy assignment."
"No wonder they wanted to find a way off that place." McKay looked unsettled as he stated, "They had nothing to eat but tava meal?"
"They had other stuff at first, but it ran out over time. Whoever left them there as guards didn't plan ahead."
"Or just didn't care about who they left behind."
"Apparently," Sheppard went on, "those three came up with a plan for us to fix their ship. Rix and Zeno kept their eyes on us while Wortley guarded the treasure. Then, after we'd left, they'd empty the treasure trove and take off before the rest of the Bogachiel found out."
McKay nodded. "And Rix, looking out for himself, managed to secret away a cache of his own. Hmmm. Not as dumb as he seems."
"Yeah…about that." Sheppard looked uncertain, sucking at his teeth a moment.
"Go on…" McKay said impatiently, fiddling a hand at him. "What?"
Sheppard continued, somewhat abashedly, "Zelenka and your boys wanted to cart the spoils away for study, but Lorne thought it would be advantageous to leave it where it was, and mess with Rix when he got out there. You know, see how much Rix knew about the cache by gauging his reaction when it was revealed. Lorne wanted Zelenka's guys to pretend to find the compartment and open it, acting all innocent and surprised."
McKay frowned, seeming to press more of his weight against the hallway. "Why do I feel I'm not going to like the rest of this story?"
Sheppard sighed, jamming his hands into his pockets. "Lorne and his guys brought Rix out there. They got him on the ship and… the next thing he knew, Lorne was waking up in the grass with Zelenka's head on his chest."
"They were all out of it. There was about six people altogether, not many. Guess they wanted to keep Rix's 'visit' on the QT."
"Wait a minute… wait a minute. Everyone was knocked out?" McKay's expression fell. "The Ironspot…"
"Gone," Sheppard said sadly. "They don't know how he did it, but a couple minutes after Rix got on that ship, he must have set off something."
"And took the ship."
"Yeah. Dialed the Gate and was gone."
McKay looked sorrowful, "So… we lost a valuable piece of technology."
"Yeah, but it was butt ugly."
"Still, think of everything we could have learned!"
"Butt… Ugly. Besides, McKay, you got all that knowledge about it locked up in that massive brain of yours, and Zelenka and the rest learned a thing or two."
McKay grimaced, then asked, "And … who's idea was it to allow Rix full access to the ship? I'd rather doubt that Lorne did this on his own."
It was Sheppard's turn to make a face. "Okay, he came to Weir and me. We figured it wouldn't hurt anything. He seemed harmless, didn't he?"
"Right. Why weren't you included in the pirate soirée?"
"Hey! I was catching up on sleep after watching your sorry ass recover in the infirmary. I figured Lorne could handle it."
"Yeah," McKay responded, giving Sheppard an annoyed look.
"It was just dumb luck," Sheppard concluded. "Who would have figured that the little weasel would have a trick like that up his sleeve?"
With a glare, McKay told him, "Would have been nice to know about the device that… hello? …knocked everyone unconscious without affecting the pilot?"
"Yeah, that would have been good," Sheppard agreed. "Too bad you didn't figure it out when you were looking things over."
"I was busy!" McKay complained. "I was just trying to figure out how everything worked together. How many days have Zelenka and the rest had it?"
"Still," Sheppard said. "You should've figured it out."
McKay gave him a calculated look. "I don't know whether I should take that as a compliment or as a criticism."
"Criticism," Sheppard clarified.
"Great." McKay tried to look annoyed, but after a moment, he shook his head and chuckled. "Pirates…"
"Space pirates," Sheppard reiterated. "Go figure."
"What else did he make off with? The ZPM wasn't still on the ship?! I mean, nearly depleted or not, it's worth something!" McKay's voice rose and a Marine who was striding through the hallway paused to see who had shouted. Seeing it was McKay with Sheppard, he just nodded and kept going.
"We got it," Sheppard quickly quelled. "He got his loot, the equipment your guys were using on the ship and some of the Marines' gear.."
"Figures." McKay made a face and asked, "So the equipment that he took, does it include the data that Zelenka and the others were able to collect from the ship."
"Yeah… most of it. They're trying to recreate the info from memory."
"Wonderful." McKay shook his head, evaporating dreams of shielding and other marvels from the Ironspot.
"Oh, and he also got most of their MREs, plus someone's lunch cooler. Didn't take the Country Captain Chicken."
"Not as dumb as he seemed."
"Nope. Oh, he pocketed a few things from the infirmary, too. And maybe picked up a scanner or two. We'll need to do an inventory."
"Yeah," McKay responded with an annoyed look.
"At least you still have your laptop. That's probably due to my quick thinking 'cause I stashed it in your room."
"Thanks, for that," McKay snipped.
"Don't mention it." Sheppard chuckled.
Rodney seemed to understand what had just been said, and restated genuinely, "I appreciate it."
Sheppard went on, "When Ronon found out about Rix, he thought it was pretty amusing Teyla, I don't know… one moment she seemed 'relieved' and the next she seemed a bit sad."
"Why do think that was? Maybe Rix and Teyla had a little something going on?"
"Don't…" Sheppard's voice took on a harsh edge. "Don't even think it!"
That got a chuckle out of Rodney, which fell into a frown as he pulled at his offworld uniform. "Well, I guess it makes no sense to go check out the site then."
"Not unless you want to continue Lorne's humiliation."
McKay sparked a moment at the thought, but the loss of the Ironspot seemed to take something out of him, and he continued to lean against the wall.
"I had an idea," Sheppard said.
"Oh," McKay responded. "Should I alert someone?"
Sheppard just tipped his head, giving McKay a glare. "Ronon was talking about heading to the mainland tonight. I was thinking about giving him a lift."
Rodney frowned. "It's daylight on P7M-557, but it's just about dusk on the mainland. Maybe you should tell the big guy to wait until tomorrow."
With a shrug, Sheppard said, "He just wanted to get outside for a while, you know, feel dirt beneath his feet and all that. Teyla was coming, too."
"I was headed to the mess to round up some food. I figured we'd just head to the mainland, have some snacks and sit back for a while -- watch the stars come out. You coming?"
Rodney pondered a moment, his eyes taking on a distant look, and then he declared, "You're bringing food? I could eat."
Sheppard chuckled at that, and waited as Rodney shoved himself off the wall and put himself in motion.
The colonel walked alongside the astrophysicist. John pulled his hands from his pockets and let them rest at his side, as Rodney took his measured pace down the hallway.
"I hear the cook is experimenting with tava meal," Sheppard said offhand as they walked.
"Don't even kid about that," McKay grumbled, and Sheppard smiled at the reaction. Seeing the smirk, McKay added, "By the way, did anyone fix the DHD on Jumper 5, because…"
"Let it go, McKay," Sheppard growled, "let's pack up some chow and meet up with the others. This time of day there's probably some sort of snacks set up in the mess."
"Yeah, you're just hoping they have Little Smokies," McKay commented.
Sheppard just looked at McKay in surprise. They kept walking along the corridors of Atlantis, heading toward the mess hall with high hopes, and then onward to the jumper, the mainland and the stars.
Meanwhile, far from Atlantis, the Ironspot wended its way among the stars, heading toward a new hideaway.
Its pilot chucked as he slurped up a jello. Blue, he decided, was definitely his favorite flavor. Much better than tava meal, in any case, and he would miss gelatin treats now that he'd finished the last one.
Still, he glanced toward the pile of MREs, thinking that he had many good meals ahead. He was never going to get stuck with only tava to eat – never again. He'd also been able to secure a significant supply of water. No more recycled stuff!
He grinned has his eyes lit upon the item that was wedged between a couple of gauges. He'd found it on the floor after he'd carefully dragged out the occupants. It had been startled for a moment – he'd thought it was a deadly bloodsucking furred leach, but it ended up being only one of Ronon's lost dreadlocks. He didn't really know why he kept it, but he did so nonetheless.
He was rather sad that he hadn't managed to get a lock of hair from a certain someone, but he still had the eye patch, wearing it wrapped around his wrist now. It looked pretty good, he had to admit, and it was a lovely token to remember her by.
Teyla sure was pretty.
He'd miss Zeno and Wortley – it was hard not to create attachments to people, he decided. He'd miss Teyla too, even John, Rodney and Carson. Ronon – well – the man was terrifying, but there was something decent about him…
He piloted the Ironspot onward, adjusting the bandana, liking the look of it, and wondered where he'd find a talking bird.
On the other side of the galaxy, a brownish ball, with a strange shape and white stitching down one side, continued its straight and unhindered flight among the stars.
THE END Thank you so much for all your lovely reviews!