Ch 1 Water
It was like walking through a t.v. news report.
Beirut... Baghdad, maybe. But, no... this was an alien city, on an alien planet, in the Pegasus galaxy. He picked his way through rubble and ragged people; a scent not unlike cordite hung in the air. Along with the unmistakable smells of blood and charred flesh. There were people; some sitting, some moving around dazed, some never going to move again. A woman whose face was peppered with tiny cuts, looked up at him when he passed. Sheppard could see the sparkling shards of glass still clinging to some of the wounds. She made no sound, but he could see that she was crying. Outrage welled up, at the carnage around him. He saw with relief that emergency teams were arriving, and he watched for a moment as a uniformed man, carefully draped a blanket over the shoulders of the weeping woman.
He was glad, not only that she was getting the care she needed but that now, he could continue his search. He felt a pang of selfishness, but his focus had to be on finding one person today.
He clicked his radio... "McKay, come in... This is Sheppard, are you recieving...?"
Of course the chances the scientist still had his radio were minute, but it was worth a try. He really needed to contact Atlantis, but the wormhole wasn't due to open for another hour. He would have to find Rodney and somehow get him to the gate by himself.
Sheppard was trying not to consider what might have become of McKay... he recognised the need to stay positive.
Looking around, he saw that most of the central tower and main administrative building was gone. In it's place was broken masonry and twisted metal. Fractured water pipes sprayed and John wondered with sudden, cold dread about gas pipes... did they have gas? He quickened his pace.
This was all that was left of the city's centre of learning. John well-remembered the impressive collection of buildings. It had been only an hour ago, that he had said goodbye to Rodney with a cheerful wave. They had called in on the city as a courtesy, to enquire if all was well. Then, at the invitation of the science minister, he and Rodney had toured a college and seen research labs. Rodney had been delighted to find himself back in academia, and had begged Elizabeth to let him stay on and do some digging in their vast archives.
"Just a couple of days...", he had pleaded, and she had laughed and called him 'the perpetual student'.
John had been happy, too. McKay had been working as if there was no tomorrow recently, and at least this was a change of pace for the scientist. The people of Almo were good friends to the Lanteans, they had helped each other through several crises since they first met, almost eight months ago.
But like many modern states, they had their problems. There were some who went against the peaceful majority and resorted to violence and terrorist acts to influence and attempt to overthrow the elected government.
Maybe this was what had happened here, on this sunny, spring afternoon.
He rounded a corner, if you could call it a corner... a flight of stone steps that used to lead somewhere, now standing alone surrounded by shattered glass and brick.
A flash of white caught his eye. An injured man, clearly unconscious... burned face and blackened clothing. But around his arm... a white bandage, with the gray of a standard issue field dressing peeping out.
Looking up, Sheppard scanned the area, three sixty degrees. Nothing.
Then he looked down and saw the empty water bottle with it's familiar blue and white label, now empty.
He smiled to himself...
The sounds came first.
Shouts of panic; screams that were so intense that it hurt to hear them; something that sounded like an alarm, ringing away to his left.
He heard a creaking and shifting noise above him, as if someone was moving furniture across a wooden floor.
Smells next; rubber - burning rubber... and fireworks.
Then he moved his right arm, and light instantly and painfully flashed into both his eyes. He must have been shielding his eyes with his arm, laying curled up on his left side. His belly was pressed uncomfortably against something, he pulled himself away backwards with a grunt, feeling the pressure relieved.
Now laying on his back he found himself looking up into a tangle of metal and splintered wood, to the sky beyond. His pack was still on his back - he could feel it lumpy and hard beneath him.
Events were drifting back to him; he had been waiting for Volio, in a small office, housed in an old, stone building. The cheery, little soul who was head of the physical science wing, had sent Rodney ahead to secure himself a pass. Hearing the first blasts go off, he had moved to the doorway but did not make it outside, before the world around him lit up in a flash, muting his hearing and slamming him to the floor.
How long ago that happened, he was unsure, but he felt it had been maybe less than ten minutes.
Looking around more carefully he found that he was in a kind of alcove, in between the doorway and the stairs. The remains of the ornate metal staircase now hung dangerously above him - that had been the sound he had heard. He had enough wits about him to scramble to his hands and knees and, shuffling back, he edged out of the alcove.
The sun outside was bright, for indeed he was now outside. Most of one wall of the stone-built building had been blown completely away.
He lurched to his feet. His body felt like it was bruised a fair bit, but he didn't think he was too badly off. He could see no rescuers, as yet...
It was Volio. He was sitting on the ground a few feet from where the door once stood. What clothing he still had, hung like rags upon him. He was blackened and obviously suffering from burns.
"Hey... Take it easy..."
"I am so sorry... My people are shamed... ", tears smudged their way down his sooty cheeks.
Rodney's eyes were drawn to the man's left upper arm; it looked like raw meat from shoulder to elbow.
Kneeling, he quickly shrugged off his pack. From an outer pocket he pulled out antiseptic spray and bandages, and dropped them on the ground. He thrust his hand into the main body of the pack, retrieving a bottle of water. Volio now had his eyes closed, his face twisted into a grimace of pain.
Rodney set to cleaning and bandaging the burned limb, mumbling to himself as he worked, "Okay... wash... antiseptic... cover with a dressing..."
When he had finished, he gave Volio the small amount of water that was left, and then discarded the empty plastic bottle.
After re-packing his stuff, he raised his head and climbed stiffly to his feet. Still no sign of any emergency services, although he could detect the distant whine of sirens. He was beginning to feel somewhat wooly headed and found that his thoughts were drifting.
Where am I going?
"Many more need help... You must go... ", rasped out Volio, sounding like the old man that he was.
Rodney looked blankly down at him and thought, yes, I must go... so he shouldered his pack and moved on.
TBC and thanks for reading... what do you think? All comments gratefully recieved!