Disclaimer: Unfortunately we do not own or have any rights to Stargate Atlantis or its characters.
Author's Note: This takes place immediately after "The Game" and has some spoilers about that episode. Warning for excessive whumpage - if you don't like that then don't read.
THE WHITE ROOM - Part 1
John moved his queen across the chess board. "Check mate . . . again."
Rodney's eyebrows shot up as he leaned forward, studying the game before him for some sign of error. "No, no, no, that's so not possible. There is no way you beat me again."
John looked up, a small smile flickering at the corners of his mouth. "That's two out of three and I'm done."
"Oh, no you're not. Best three out of five. I don't know how, but you have to be cheating and I'm going to figure it out this game." Rodney immediately began setting the chess board back up.
John sighed and shook his head. "No, not today. I've got a headache the size of Mt. Rushmore. I think I'll see if I can weasel some Tylenol out of Carson." He pushed his chair back and stood up.
Rodney paused, his hand in the air gripping a knight. "I'm sorry, I thought you said you were voluntarily going to see Carson."
"I did, just for Tylenol."
Rodney frowned and began putting the chess game back in the box. "Well, wait and I'll walk with you, because I've really got to see this."
John grimaced and turned around, walking out of the room as Rodney put the lid on the box and jumped up so fast he almost knocked his chair over. "I said wait," he called as he rushed to join the colonel. "How long have you had this headache?"
John ran his hand through his hair as they walked. "Since yesterday. I think all that beaming back and forth from the Daedalus gave it to me, cause that's about the time it started and it got worse every time."
Rodney frowned and shook his head. "Don't be ridiculous, beaming can't give you a headache. If it could, I'd probably have one and I don't. It must be something else, tension maybe."
"Rodney, I wasn't any more tense about that situation than a thousand others we've been through. Why would that . . . " John suddenly grabbed the side of his head with his right hand and stumbled left into the wall, hitting it with his shoulder and arm with a grunt.
"Colonel!" Rodney hurried to the pilot's side and put one hand on John's arm, the other on his back as he tried to steady him. "What's wrong? Colonel?" Getting no response from John other than his quickened breathing, he reached up for his radio. "We need a medical team to Section 3D."
John tried desperately to breathe through the pain in his head. All he could see was white while random sounds and voices buzzed in his head. Scenes from his past and scenes from a time he didn't know began playing through his mind, jumbled and moving so fast he could barely identify anything. Things in writing, a language he did and didn't understand, the meaning coming and going too quickly to be coherent. Something pulled at him and he fought it, pulling back away. He yelled as he threw himself back, connecting with something solid that helped him remain upright. Forcing his eyes open, he was unaware of his heart beating wildly in his chest or his quick, labored breathing.
"Colonel, are you all right?"
The man in front of him looked scared and that made him scared. Looking around, he thought he recognized the walls, but he couldn't remember where he'd seen them before. The man came forward, his hands outstretched and John backed up another step, automatically drawing his weapon and aiming it at the threat.
"No, wait, Sheppard, you better not shoot me. What is wrong with you? Have you lost your mind?" He reached up to touch the side of his face. "Sheppard's flipping out and I need some back up here, preferably before he shoots me."
John felt a bit of satisfaction at seeing the blood drain from the man's face as he backed away, obviously terrified. He was a bit dismayed to see his own hand shaking, and he was having a hard time focusing, the lights still flashing in his head and noises still buzzing around him. It sounded almost like hundreds of people whispering at the same time and he just wanted it to stop.
"Colonel . . . put the gun down. We just want to help you."
"Colonel!" Another voice from behind him. He wheeled around to see three people with a stretcher and they were looking straight at him. That meant they had probably come for him.
"No, leave me alone!" He ran toward the man nearest him and pushed him down, running past him and down the hall. He had just turned the corner when he felt like he'd run into an electrified brick wall and then he felt nothing.
Carson and Elizabeth stood beside John's bed with his team on the other side. Rodney had filled Carson in about what had happened and everything John has said the minute they got him to the infirmary. Since then, Carson had run a whole battery of tests before they finally admitted the team members back to stay with John.
"How can you still not know anything?" asked Rodney.
Carson sighed and looked at Rodney, annoyance in his face. "It's not that I don't know anything, it's just that I can't explain what is happening to the Colonel and why. For one thing, Ronon's stunner disrupted all his neural pathways for a bit."
Ronon shrugged his shoulders. "He was freaked out and running. We needed to stop him."
"Well, that you did, lad," said Carson. "But that delayed us getting any viable information about his nervous system. What we do have, though, suggests an elevated level of brain activity."
Rodney made a sound halfway between choking and laughing. "This is elevated brain activity? I guess it's a good thing it's elevated or he'd be dead."
"Rodney," Elizabeth warned. "Carson, please continue."
"Thank you, Elizabeth. Even though some functions are elevated, they are activating in a very random, rapid pattern. I'm afraid the erratic nature is probably confusing and disorienting, not to mention the sensory overload."
A low moan drew their attention and they all watched closely as John opened his eyes and blinked several times. He drew in a sharp breath and his hand went immediately to the side of his head as he tightly closed his eyes.
"Colonel," said Carson softly as he reached down to touch John's arm. "I need you to open your eyes for me lad."
"He obviously has a headache and we all know you're going to shine that light in his eyes. I'd keep my eyes shut too," said Rodney sympathetically.
John now had both hands on the sides of his head and seemed to be struggling to say something. Teyla gripped his shoulder firmly.
"We are here, John."
"Make . . . them . . . stop." His voice was whispered and strained, as if forced out through an intense wave of pain.
"Make who stop?" asked Elizabeth.
It was several moments before John answered, but they waited, almost afraid to breathe.
"Voices . . . people . . . "
John suddenly let out a yelp and rolled to his left, knocking a totally unprepared Teyla and Rodney to the ground. He landed on them with a plop, stunning them both. He began scrambling to get away, fighting their uncoordinated attempts to grab him. Rolling to one side, he got to his feet and ran across the infirmary in his bare feet, panic in his eyes.
"Aufruge!" he yelled wildly as he ran out the door, Ronon already taking off behind him.
"Ronon, don't stun him this time!" called Carson firmly.
"No promises," the former runner replied as he disappeared from view.
Elizabeth and Carson helped Rodney and Teyla get to their feet. "What was that he said?" asked Teyla.
Rodney glanced at Elizabeth before looking back to Teyla. "He said run . . . but he said it in Ancient."
"Ancient?" said Carson, his brow creasing in confusion. "How is he speaking Ancient?"
Rodney shrugged his shoulders. "I have no idea. The last time I checked, he didn't know any Ancient, to speak or read."
Elizabeth reached up to activate her radio. "Major Lorne, where are you?"
"I need to you put together a team to locate Colonel Sheppard. He's still disoriented and he just ran out of the infirmary. Ronon's already tracking him, but he may need help getting the colonel back. Use minimal force necessary and return him to the infirmary when you find him."
"Understood. We'll find him."
Elizabeth looked at Carson. "And we have no idea what's going on, what caused this?"
Carson shook his head. "I've never seen anything like it. And the Colonel hasn't interacted with any strange alien or Ancient devices in quite a while, at least not that I'm aware of."
Three sets of eyes looked at Rodney. "What? Oh, right, I'm automatically to blame. Well, before you ask, no I haven't had him activating anything. Maybe something on that planet or something on the Daedalus set him off. He did say that's when his headache started."
"Wait a minute," said Elizabeth. "Did you say brain activity had increased?"
"Aye," replied Carson.
"And now he's suddenly speaking Ancient?"
"Elizabeth, what are you thinking?" asked Rodney.
Elizabeth looked thoughtful, chewing on her lower lip for a second. "I need to go back and check, but I think when Jack O'Neill had that Ancient repository of knowledge downloaded into his brain, there was a dramatic increase in brain activity. And he suddenly started speaking Ancient. But I'm pretty sure the physical effects and the onset of his sudden language abilities were much different than this."
Now it was Carson's turn to look thoughtful. "Find the information anyway, even if you have to send back to Earth for it. There could be some sort of connection."
Elizabeth nodded. "I'm going back to my office to see what I can find. Let me know if they bring John in."
"I'll go see what I can find in the data base," said Rodney, following Elizabeth out the door.
Teyla looked at Carson. "I guess I will see if I can help find John." She nodded to the doctor as she left the infirmary.
Carson looked around the room. "And I guess I'll just wait here." He stood there for a few seconds before snapping his fingers. "The medical data base! I'll be looking in the medical data base." He looked around the room again. "And who am I telling this to?"
John ran. He didn't know why, he just knew he had to run, to try to escape the random pictures and language that was fast forwarding through his head. He could barely see where he was going through the haze, like a holographic viewscreen that wouldn't go away. Voices and noises ran through his head as well and he couldn't understand any of it. Nothing made any sense. Pain and confusion and blind panic were all that he knew. So he just ran and ran and ran.
Ronon caught sight of something white just dodging around the corner. Sheppard had headed for the uninhabited part of the city, making his capture a little more difficult. Ronon wasn't sure if he was more lucid than he appeared or if he went that way by instinct or if he was just operating on luck. Whatever the case, something was definitely wrong with the man.
He came to a fork in the corridor. The hall on his left was rather short, while the one on his right was three times as long. Ronon went for the short corridor, reasoning that if Sheppard had taken the other path, he would have seen at least a glimpse of white. The fact that he was wearing white scrubs had made him easier to spot in the darkened hallways. Sheppard seemed to be running in pure panic, making it unlikely that he would have the forethought to try to hide, which meant Ronon could ignore doors along the corridor.
He turned another corner to see that flash of white again. He wasn't far behind Sheppard. It was only a matter of time before he caught up to the soldier. At the next intersection, he met up with Lorne and a team of marines.
"He's this way," Ronon directed.
Lorne nodded as he fell in beside him. "Figured. We got him on the LSD. Looks like he's heading for the east pier. Does the Doc know what the problem is yet?"
"Nope. Just that Sheppard's crazy right now. Don't know why."
They both saw the door to the pier closing just ahead. "There he goes," said Lorne. He motioned for half of his men to head down the hall to cover the other door. He looked up at Ronon as they paused by the door to the outside. "Ready?"
Ronon nodded. "Doc doesn't want us to stun him if we don't have to."
Lorne nodded grimly. "Okay, but we may not have much choice. The Colonel can be kind of dangerous when he's not on your side. And I don't think he's on anyone's side right now."
Ronon nodded in agreement. "We'll do what we have to do." He pushed the door open and they walked outside onto the pier. The wind was blowing, but not too hard and the temperature was only slightly cool. They immediately spotted Sheppard at the edge of the pier, looking down at the water several feet below.
They slowly moved in closer, expecting the colonel to turn around and see them, but he seemed mesmerized by the waves below.
"Colonel," called Lorne into the wind. Not sure if the pilot had heard him, he called again, only louder. "Colonel, it's Lorne. Sir, we need you to come back with us."
Sheppard turned around and looked at Lorne and Ronon and then up at the sky. They couldn't tell if he was actually seeing them or not. Lorne was debating whether they should try to move closer or not, when Sheppard turned and walked off the edge of the pier, quickly disappearing from sight.
"Colonel!" he yelled, his gut automatically tightening into a knot. "Call for a med team," he yelled as he began stripping off his vest and weapons. He could see Ronon in his peripheral vision, making his way to the edge of the pier as he also removed anything that could weight him down. Ronon dived off the edge just as Lorne reached it. He turned to the marine at his side. "Rig us a harness to pull him up with," he ordered right before he dove off into the water.
Lorne surfaced and scanned the water, immediately seeing Ronon swimming toward a dark, bobbing head. He began swimming in that direction. The water was cold, a lot colder than he had expected and hitting it had taken his breath away. He swam as hard as he could, but didn't feel like he was making any progress toward saving his current CO. He had come to trust and respect Sheppard more than anyone else he'd served under. He appreciated the way Sheppard was not only loyal to his men, but he listened to them and respected their opinions. He made the soldiers feel like each of them mattered and were important to him and to Atlantis.
Lorne was almost relieved to see that Ronon was within a few yards of Sheppard when the pilot's head suddenly dipped under the surface. Lorne had been tiring, but fear sent a new rush of adrenalin through his system and fueled his tiring arms and legs to swim faster. By the time he reached where the Colonel had gone under, Ronon had found him and was trying to get his face out of the water. Lorne swam up beside him and helped take some of Sheppard's dead weight. He was unconscious and Lorne could only hope he was breathing. They began swimming toward the pier, each pulling Sheppard's limp form through the cold water.
By the time they reached the pier, the marines had a harness lowered and waiting. The two men worked with almost numb fingers to get Sheppard into the harness. They tread water as they watched his body lifted out of the water and pulled up to the pier. A few seconds later, the harness came back down. Ronon nodded for Lorne to go first, and he didn't argue, pulling the straps around his torso and securing it. They lifted him up and over the edge, his feet on solid ground just a minute or so later.
As soon as the harness was off, someone threw a blanket on him and he watched as they rolled Sheppard to his side, where he coughed and sputtered, water spilling out of his mouth. Returning him to his back, the medical personnel moved Sheppard to a stretcher and covered him with a blanket, one of them putting an oxygen mask on his face. His eyes were closed and his wet skin pale.
Carson turned to him as the two nurses raised the gurney and rolled it off. "Major, how are you?"
Lorne continued to watch the stretcher with his CO as he answered. "Cold and wet, but fine other than that. How's the Colonel?"
"He swallowed some water, but he was still breathing. He's chilled, as I'm sure the two of you are, but he wasn't in the water long enough to get hypothermic. His little swim isn't what's worrying me. That I can deal with."
Lorne nodded. "Yeah, I know what you mean."
Ronon walked up to stand beside Lorne, one of the marines throwing a blanket around him as well. "Sheppard?"
Carson sighed. "He's mostly cold and wet, like the two of you. Our main problem is figuring out what caused him to run like that in the first place. Still, I need to go check him out and get him warmed up. I expect to see the two of you in the infirmary in a few minutes." The physician turned and headed across the pier.
Carson walked out to meet Sheppard's team, waiting for him in the outer part of the infirmary. They stood as they saw him coming and he noticed Lorne there waiting as well. He eyed the major and Ronon, noticing they had on dry clothes.
"Did someone check you two out?" he asked, forever worrying about all his charges.
Lorne nodded. "Yeah, we were both examined. They told us just to get warm and dry and try to stay that way for a while. I've got the dry part, but getting warm again might take a little longer. Mostly we're worried about the Colonel."
"Carson?" asked Elizabeth, not bothering to finish the question.
"Physically, he's fine. We've got him dried off and he's under a warming blanket. He did get chilled as expected, but not enough to lower his core temperature significantly. He swallowed a bit of water, but most of that he's coughed up or thrown up. We had him on oxygen for a bit as a precaution, but we've taken him off now that we've established he's okay."
"Is he awake?" asked Ronon.
Carson sighed and looked down at the floor for a moment. "He's . . . his eyes are open but he's unresponsive. He's catatonic at the moment. And since I have no idea what's causing this, I have no idea how long it will last."