NEVER STOP MOVING
Disclaimer: Stargate: Atlantis and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/US, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story was created for entertainment purposes only. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s), not me. Thank you to the amazing writers, producers, actors, crew and directors who bring it to life.
Category/Rating: Gen/T - action/adventure, h/c, some angst
Status: WIP – but mostly written already. Estimating about 20 chapters but, seriously, don't quote me.
A/N: Taking a risk, I'm using an OC I created in a story called "Failure to Communicate." However, you don't need to read that to follow this. All you need to know will be explained in this story. Honestly, totally don't need to know him at all. I also promise he does not take away from the Team. It's not about him. Cross my heart.
Description: Chases, explosions, head wounds, twisted ankles, damaged ships and canyon riddled deserts serve as the backdrop to a rescue mission that doesn't quite go as planned.
CHAPTER ONE: ON THE WATER
Sheppard's shout was almost inaudible, nearly drowned out by the heavy whine of the hovercraft's engines and the storm raging outside. The colonel's entire body was tense, working the controls of the unwieldy craft with all the grace of an angry three-year-old. The whole thing tipped upwards on a swell, making him feel almost weightless, then slammed down on the far side hard enough to make his teeth rattle. Breathing out harshly, he tried again, louder this time.
"What?" came the shouted, terrified reply over Sheppard's left shoulder. The boat tipped up and slammed into the waves again, the fat, black rubber skirt doing little to cushion the choppy water they were skidding over, each hit sending his team into chairs and tables and consoles scattered about the small pilot room. Rodney was holding on somewhere behind him. Sheppard grimaced, jaw gritted tightly.
"Look out!" Rodney shouted.
Sheppard saw it at the same time, and wrenched the wheel under his hands to the left, the slick, damp leather sliding under his palms. His right hand shot out to grab the throttle, kicking it down a notch. The ship barely responded, turning only just enough to avoid the other hovercraft trying to cut off their escape. Ronon, the only one of them with a weapon, leaned out a window and shot his blaster towards the other boat, two rapid flashes of red light blinding against the dark, blue-black sky. Teyla was gripping some webbing along the wall near Ronon, just trying to hold on. She looked a little green.
"Damn it," Sheppard hissed, trying to straighten the ship up again, but the hovercraft was stuck now on the heading. "McKay!" he shouted again as he threw the throttle up to a faster speed, giving into the heading for now.
"Again, what?!" Rodney yelled again as he leaned closer, gripping the back of the pilot's chair in which Sheppard was sitting, his presence heavy against Sheppard's back.
"What?" McKay's response was more of a squeak this time, as Sheppard finally managed to get the wheel to turn back to center, his arms feeling like they were going to pop out of his sockets as he pulled on it with all the strength he had. The boat jerked suddenly, sending his team flying to the right as it tipped up. The hovercraft then hit a high swell on the new heading, and came down so hard, it was amazing they didn't flip over.
"I can't control it!" Sheppard shouted.
"What?!" This time, three people shouted that word, and Sheppard felt his teammates eyes on him, drilling into his back. He gritted his teeth, gripping the massive black wheel even more tightly. He'd already wrenched the throttle back up to full speed.
"I thought you said you could work it!" McKay yelled, staggering forward into Sheppard's chair again as the hovercraft hit another large swell. Ronon fell into the front, nearly hitting the Plexiglas windows, and Teyla fell into Ronon.
"I thought..." McKay yelled again, only to be interrupted by weapons' fire nearby, and the crack of bullets hitting the Plexiglas windows on their left, causing Rodney to jump. Ronon shoved past McKay, sending the scientist staggering towards the windows in front of Sheppard, and fired his blaster through an open porthole in the direction of the other craft.
"Damn it, Sheppard!" Rodney panicked, his default anger coming to fore to compensate for the crack in his voice. "You said it was just like flying! You said you knew how to—"
"It's not me!" Sheppard growled, using all his muscles to wrench the stiff wheel in another direction, opposite from their pursuers, all in similar hovercrafts...except the others had probably not been stolen from a maintenance bay. "The controls are messed! She's barely responding! You have to fix it!"
"What?" Rodney was gripping a console to stay in place as they tilted hard. "Are you crazy? I can't fix this boat!"
"That's worse! How am I supposed to—?"
"It's got an engine! You can fix anything!"
"Yes!" McKay's eyes were wide. "With tools! With parts! With a scanner! I've got nothing!"
"Rodney!" Sheppard spared a glance away from the swelling, black ocean to stare hard at the scientist.
Rodney shook his head, "I don't think you understand what I'm—"
"I understand! But if you don't fix this, we're screwed!"
"But..." McKay had staggered forward again, this time up to the windows in the front of the small control room, and Sheppard could see him trying to see through the dark, almost lightless storm—obviously trying to spot the small island housing the Stargate. This whole planet seemed to be made up only of islands, though there had to be a larger land mass somewhere, and the Stargate was housed on one of the smaller ones. The people controlling the islands were the ones they were trying to escape from—though, so far, not very successfully. Rodney stiffened, then pointed out the front, turning to look at Sheppard.
"Look, there's the Stargate! We're not that far! Can't we just—"
"We need to lose them first, McKay! They're too close. They'll be on our heels the second we hit the island. There won't be time to dial!"
"Just do it, McKay! That's an order!" Sheppard glared fully at Rodney, his tone brooking no further argument. The scientist swore, then turned and half ran, half staggered to the door at the rear of the control room leading outside, in order to get down to the engine room under their feet. Everyone jumped as he slammed the door open, upping the noise level as the wind screamed inside, before shutting it behind him. A second later, Sheppard's hazel eyes shifted to Teyla, still next to Ronon. "Teyla, go help him!"
The woman gave a nod, running after McKay, her movements no more steady on the rolling deck. Ronon fired a couple more red energy blasts out into the dark blue mire. Sheppard gritted his teeth...and turned the reluctant wheel away from the Stargate.
Teyla gasped as she pushed the door open, the freezing wind and rain stinging her eyes and stealing her breath. Her hand came up, blocking the worst of it, allowing her eyes to blink open and seek out the shadowed figure of Rodney. She spotted him already in the middle of the main deck below, grabbing the top of the curved ladder in the center leading down to the engine room. The wind was puffing out his jacket, as if trying to rip it off his shoulders. He leaned over to hit the button to open up the hatch...and slipped on the slick wooden deck, landing hard on his knees, his hold on the ladder head the only thing stopping him from falling more.
"Rodney!" she shouted, worried. He didn't look up, probably not even aware that she was following him. You couldn't hear yourself think in this much noise. Instead, she just saw him pull himself up to his feet as the hatch opened fully, then turn to get onto the ladder...and lower himself down through the square hatch to the rooms below.
Realizing he would probably close it after himself unless she moved quickly, she climbed down the steep, slippery staircase from the control room to the main deck, and shouted Rodney's name again. He just continued his downward climb through the hatch, disappearing from view.
Hand over hand, she used the webbed tarpaulin holding down the rescue boats and other items on the deck to pull herself to the opening. Hail pelted her arms and face, and icy water started running down the back of her neck, plastering her hair to her skin. She was shaking with cold when she finally managed to lock a hand on the top of the ladder.
"Rodney!" she shouted, looking down, grateful to see the hatch still open.
Amazingly, Rodney looked up, his blue eyes widening in surprise at her appearance. His hand was hovering over the button to close the hatch.
"John sent me to help!" she shouted.
He frowned, then, with an impatient gesture, waved at her to climb down. "Hurry up!"
She did, swinging around onto the ladder and sliding down, rather than climbing. As she hit the deck below, Rodney, still standing there, hit the button to close the hatch. It was instantly quieter as it shut out the wailing rains.
"Come on," he ordered, turning and climbing through a narrow, oval shaped doorway towards what had to be the main engine room, dripping water the entire way.
She followed, staggering still because of the uneven footing, and immediately started sweating, even despite the storm's chill. The engine room was blazingly hot, the fans holding up the hovercraft obviously not venting the engine heat properly. The room was large, as long and as wide as the boat itself, about the size of a good sized lecture hall. The whole place was lit with a red glow, making it difficult to see clearly. Who lit a room with red light?
Teyla wavered a moment in the door, overcome briefly by the abrupt change from freezing to heat, and a headache started beat against her skull. Breathing out slowly, she looked up, eyes seeking Rodney's hunched form as he obviously struggled against the same problem.
"Fix it," Rodney mimicked as he came to a stop in the middle of the hot room, next to what looked like a marble topped workbench table. "Just do it. You can fix anything, Rodney." He turned in a tight circle, and pulled off his jacket as he did so, dropping the sodden garment to the ground. "I'm not a hovercraft expert! I know nothing about boats! What is he thinking I can..." He trailed off, noting Teyla watching him intently. He frowned. "What?"
She had moved close, standing only a couple feet away on the other side of the workbench, her eyes locked on his. "You can do this," she assured him.
He swallowed, shook his head, and looked up. "Fine. Sure. Whatever. First," he said, "I need real light." He turned in a circle again, and pointed around the room, as if using his finger to focus his eyes as he searched out the light controls.
"Why are they red?" she asked, then gasped as the boat rocked hard to the right. She landed hard against the workbench, and Rodney fell into a metal banister separating this small central area from parts of the engine on that side of the craft. He squawked and backed off, shaking his hands as if they'd been burnt.
"Because," Rodney drew in a breath, as if he'd had the wind knocked out of him, still shaking his hands as he looked up, "it's serving as a warning. The lights probably go red to warn whomever is in the engine room to get the hell out." He didn't see the look of shock on her face that his words engendered, looking instead off to his left. "Ha! There." He moved to whatever it was he saw, a control panel that, to Teyla, looked like all the others in this place. He touched the metal cover...and hissed, drawing back his hand and shaking it. "Damn it! This is hell!" He looked back at her, opening his mouth to call for something, but she was already ahead of him. Grabbing up his dropped, still wet jacket, she threw it to him. He nodded thanks, wrapped the damp garment around his hand, and, using the jacket like an impromptu oven mitt, he opened the control panel...and hit three switches.
Instantly, the red lights changed to very bright yellow lights, and Teyla sighed in relief. Pulling off her own jacket and feeling her wet hair curl in the oppressive humidity, she continued to watch Rodney as he stepped back to her side, his still jacket encased hand gripping the metal banister again. She placed her jacket on the stone workbench and rested her hands on her hips as she listened to him mutter.
He was staring around the room again, his bright blue eyes flickering over everything with an intensity Teyla could only wonder at. She knew what he was doing, and it impressed her more than she could ever express in words.
"Okay...two engines," he said softly, "One for...must be for the lift. Probably the smaller. Which means the larger..." his eyes shifted from the left to the right, raising a hand to encompass machinery behind Teyla, "must be for thrust. But speed we have. It's control we lack...meaning...the hydraulics, are...Gotcha. Ah...that could be a problem...So what are those...?"
Teyla tried to follow, looking at whatever it was McKay looked at, trying to understand his half formed sentences, but...it all looked the same to her. All the machines were painted a faded red color, although numbers had been painted on some of them, and different gauges were visible on each one, all jiggling at various points, many of them clearly over their limits. How he could discern the differences in any of the machinery in here just by looking at them was beyond her.
"Sheppard," Rodney suddenly yelled, "Can you hear me?"
Teyla looked to her left, surprised that she hadn't noticed Rodney move over to what looked like a small grate on one side of the room. He was pushing down on a large white button under the grate.
"Sheppard!" he called, his lips close to the grate. "Look on the controls in front of you! If you can hear me, hit whatever new button has just lit up!" McKay closed his eyes, then looked up at the ceiling, as if he could see through it to where Sheppard and Ronon were.
"Rodney?" Sheppard's muffled voice suddenly came through the grate. It sounded even more surprised than Teyla. "I can hear you! Where are you coming from?"
"There's an intercom, obviously!" Rodney yelled back, "And you have to speak up! We can barely hear you!"
"Right! How's it look?" Sheppard shouted.
"I need you to tell me exactly what's wrong with the steering! And anything else you're having trouble with!"
"Turning! I can't turn right easily at all! And every time I cut back to the left, I lose a ton of speed until I'm going straight again! And they're definitely going faster than us! I think the weather and Ronon are the only reason we haven't been completely surrounded yet!"
McKay listened to this all, then turned around. "Okay! I'll...Okay! Just hang on!" His eyes were skimming across the machinery in the room, narrowing and opening. Finally he nodded. Blue eyes locked on Teyla at the workbench, then he was moving back to her side, waving a hand at her to get out of the way.
"Move," he ordered, eyes already studying the workbench. Teyla moved once, then again as he glared at her. He seemed to be looking for something in the long, coffin-like fixture, bending over and running his hands along the wooden sides. Teyla went to stand on the far side from him, then leaned over the top.
"Rodney," she said, trying not to sound desperate in her need to be useful, "What can I do?"
He glanced up at her, frowning, clearly annoyed at the interruption. Then grimaced further as she gave him her most open look—she had been sent to help. There had to be something she could do...
Rodney pressed his lips in a thin line, then pointed towards the communications grate. "Go over there."
She did without question, and he pointed again. "And stay there. To talk to Sheppard you have to press down that button. You can relay for us while I work. You understand?"
She just nodded, not caring in the slightest how rude he was being. She knew her true value, right now, and it wasn't much.
Rodney was muttering again.
"Tools. There must be...a ha!" He grinned as he bent down, disappearing fully behind the workbench. Teyla watched as he reemerged with a box—how in the world had he found that? A moment later, he had it open and was rifling through it. "Yes!"
He grinned even more as he showed her what he had found—a roll of thick, darkly colored tape.
"Tape?" she asked.
"Well done!" he replied, still grinning. Then he turned and looked around...and jumped over to what, to her, looked like a series of fat metal tubes that ran from floor to ceiling. Steam was pouring out of them from what appeared to be broken seams over his head. His eyes skimmed up, studied them a minute, then looked down at the ground. He couldn't reach high enough to reach the broken seams. Then he looked back at the workbench, and snapped his fingers. A second later, he'd snapped close the toolbox, dropped it to the floor and pushed it up against the metal tubes. Then he climbed up it, unspooled the tape...and taped up the pipes where the steam was coming out.
She could see the sweat pouring down his face and arms, staining his black T-shirt as he worked.
"What are they?" she yelled when he stopped to wipe his bare arm across his wet forehead.
"Hydraulics!" he called back, shouting more as the hissing rose in pitch where he started to tape up the broken pipes. "They're connected to steering. At least part of the problem is here. But something caused them to overload in the first place, to cause them to burst. For now, though, I just need them to work better, then I can...there!" He ripped the tape with his teeth and looked over at her as he pressed the tape to seal the last broken seam in the metal tube. "Ask him if that's better!"
She reached for the comm., but Sheppard beat her to it.
"McKay! You genius! The wheel's turning more easily! Now the rest!"
"Yes, yes, the rest..." McKay muttered, stepping off the box...and falling hard into the workbench as the craft tipped scarily up on its side again. A faint hiss could be heard from the pipes...the tape wouldn't hold for long...
Teyla had fallen into the hot wall, and hissed as she pulled away, her arm stinging from the contact, already turning red. Looking up, she saw the McKay was now climbing up on top of what looked like part of an engine...
"Be..." she started to call, then stopped before she said the word 'careful.' There was no careful here. He didn't respond—probably didn't even hear her, already intent on fixing the next problem.
She bit her lip. Why was she here, really? What she could do to help?
Because all she could do...was watch.
"What we really need," McKay yelled back at her from where he appeared to be straddling to large pieces of machinery, "is more speed!"
She just nodded, not answering out loud. She had no doubt in her mind that he would give them exactly that.
The fugitive hovercraft, moving more swiftly than before, skidded between two of the windward islands near the Ancestral Ring and suddenly banked hard to the right, almost going up entirely on its side...before landing hard on the inflatable base.
A couple of men were guarding the Ancestral Ring, and they'd been watching the chase with amusement. The hovercraft that the police had been trying to run down was clearly damaged, moving sluggishly, and only the bright red bolts of energy from its pilot house had kept the police at bay. Then, almost abruptly, it started to work better. The police had obviously not been prepared for the sudden burst of speed the tiny hovercraft managed, sending it flying away between the two leeward islands on the far side of the Ancestral Ring's island. The police moved to follow, but now they were the ones who were sluggish. The fugitive hovercraft had disappeared into the foggy night, leaving the police behind.
The two guards had tried to see through the mire, to keep an eye on the chase, but even following it by sound was denied them in the heavy rains. For about ten, maybe twenty minutes, they kept watching, eying the direction in which all the hovercrafts had disappeared.
And then, suddenly, somehow, the formerly damaged hovercraft came from the opposite side of the Ring's island, and was aiming straight for them. It was on its own, having obviously lost its pursuers. Whoever was piloting it was good.
It wasn't until it had almost reached them that the two guards realized it wasn't slowing down.
"Brakes? What do you mean, brakes?!" McKay yelled, standing up next to Teyla on the platform next to the communications grate. His face was bright red, angry. Teyla was leaning away from him, trying not to touch any of the metal walls around them with her bare skin anymore than she already had.
"We're not slowing down! Are there brakes of some kind?"
"Are you kidding? It's a BOAT, Colonel! It doesn't have brakes!"
"But there has to be something! What—"
"Reverse thrusters! Just like a plane! There should be reverse thrusters! Isn't there a reverse button on the throttle?"
"Of course there are reverse thrusters! What do you think I tried first! But I can't get the throttle down that far! It's jammed! I'm not an idiot, McKay! I'm asking if there is another way to slow—"
"No! There isn't! There may be an anchor somewhere on the deck, but—"
"Damn it...okay, okay...hang on...You know, I think we can use this to our advantage. But we'll have to jump."
"JUMP?!" McKay screamed.
The two guards started backing up, watching the craft get closer and closer to shore, aiming straight for them.
"I don't think it's slowing down," one of them said dumbly.
"No," the other said, his eyes fixed on the ship, "it's not."
"In fact...is it going faster?"
The second one swallowed, jumping a little as the roar of the hovercraft's engines became even louder over sound of the storm, showing just how close it was now. He took another step back and nodded quickly. "Oh...oh, it's definitely going faster."
"Um..." the first guard turned to his companion, and the second guard met the gaze, and, in that split second glance, a decision was made.
They turned and ran.
Consequently, neither of them saw the four bodies leap off the side of the hovercraft into the ocean just before the hovercraft hit dry land...and didn't stop.
The hovercraft careened up the grass slope, aiming for the small, recently vacated guard house to the left of the Stargate. The massive craft slammed into the side of the wooden structure, splintering it into pieces like it was made of popsicle sticks, and kept going. It aimed straight for the row of trader's shacks on the far side, its seemingly wrathful drive never slowing.
Four figures staggered out of the water, up the grass beach. The tallest ran forward, straight up to the DHD, and began to dial. The other three moved more slowly, and two ended up supporting the third as complaints about a twisted ankle grew louder and more furious with each step.
The wormhole exploded into life, and the tallest turned around, aiming a red lit blaster at the water behind the three people still coming up the slope behind him.
Police hovercrafts, with horns blaring and lights flashing, were now converging on the small island.
But they wouldn't be fast enough.
Ronon shot one more bolt of energy (just for fun) as he watched his team disappear through the wormhole, then followed.
The wormhole shut down just as the stolen hovercraft, still running at top speed through the empty marketplace, tearing through the lean-tos and spindly fencing with ease, suddenly hit a large boulder, tipped up on its side, crashed...
And exploded in a massive fireball.