A/N: With thanks to KodiakBearCountry, Sholio, and angw for the beta:) Especially Kodiak who put(s) up with all my whinning and kept (keeps) me motivated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Stargate: Atlantis.
A/N: I have finished writing this story so you can count on six chapters. Mostly a team/whump fic.
Spoilers: Phantoms, Conversion, and The Long Goodbye
Rodney stuck his head between his legs and concentrated on breathing slowly. He hated this world, hated working on it, hated breathing it in. The planet was a giant tomb. In a galaxy where large colonies were rare, they had already found hundreds of thousands of skeletons is a short radius. Some had been stabbed, others had had their skulls bashed in, all of them had been carrying weapons. If anyone had survived the great battle, they were long since gone. The world was now covered in moss that was more blue than green with a texture akin to sheep's skin.
The smell of death had long since been carried away by the winds, but Rodney imagined he could smell it. He had visited too many places, seen too much death not to know the smell. His senses remembered, expecting it to be there, nauseating him down to the core. He shivered in disgust, wishing the smell would go away. Wishing that when he misstepped he didn't hear the crunch of more remains.
"Welcome to Enma. Please enjoy your stay. Welcome to Enma. Please enjoy your stay."
Rodney peeked above his arms at the 'woman' who had spoken. Her hair was long, reaching down to her thighs in braided patterns. She made no sign of recognizing the death around her. Her hazel eyes looked from left to right but never found any of them. Since their arrival, she had said nothing else. Occasionally her figure would fade in and then out, or her words would break up in static. Other than that, the hologram was so real he could almost reach out and expect to touch her, but her words, though human sounding, were too distant from all the death.
"Will someone shut that off already?" he shouted back to his team of scientists that had been running surveys of the technology for the last twenty hours. Rodney had been the one to accidentally activate the hologram some twenty minutes previous, but had had no luck in deactivating it.
Zelenka, who despised being off world in good circumstances and was positively livid at having to work on this world, was racing back and forth between platforms, trying to remove moss and vines as he mixed and matched wires.
"What do you think we have been trying to do? Hmmm…? And does it help that you are sitting on your lazy rear? No. I should think a genius such as yourself would realize that that is perhaps the least helpful thing to be doing." In his tirade, he accidentally kicked one of the skeletons, shivered, and then drew back. "That's it! I'm taking a break." He moved away from the platform, careful to walk over any further remains. "You can do this without me!" Then he was muttering in Czech, and though Rodney did understand what was being said, he chose to ignore it.
Relinquishing a handkerchief from his vest pocket he placed it over his mouth. A moment later he pulled it away, holding it out to Rodney as if expecting him to take it. "There is no smell here, yet all your complaining has convinced me there is. Has anyone told you how impossible you are to work with? You will drive me mad!"
"Yes, well not before you do the same to me. Now, if you're not going to work, can you at least be quiet?" Rodney inadvertently glanced down at the bones and then shivered. The sooner they were out of this place…
"Welcome to Enma. Please enjoy your stay."
Rodney glared at the hologram, groaning. Then he watched his men, who all looked equally as tired and mortified. He sighed deeply. He hadn't been resting that long, but they had been working for a while and everyone was tired. He knew Zelenka normally enjoyed arguing with him, but even Rodney could sense the frustration rising in the chief engineer, and if Zelenka wasn't handling things well, neither was anyone else. Rodney hated to admit it, but he fell into that category as well.
With a great deal of effort, he stood up, brushing the dirt from his trousers. "Alright, everyone find a stopping place. We're not going to crack all of this today. Well I might, but you won't, and there's no point working yourself to exhaustion. Head back to Atlantis and get some rest. We'll reconvene at 0530."
Closing his laptop, Rodney gathered his belongings and stepped out into the main village. It was amazing how the world could seem so peaceful and yet so chilling. For all the technology they had found here, he'd be glad when it was time to finally leave.
"Rodney!" Teyla's scream came over the radio causing him to jump.
"What's wrong? What is it?"
"We are approximately two kilometers from you mountain side."
Rodney looked down. Most of the teams had stuck close to the village, but three dots were where Teyla had indicated. "What's happening?" He was already running toward them, motioning Lorne to follow. By the time they reached the end of the clearing, Carson had joined them as well.
"The Colonel and Ronon are trapped in some sort of forcefield. John is unconscious and injured."
It was amazing how quickly adrenaline could take away exhaustion. Rodney forgot all about the skeletons and weariness, pushing himself to move as fast as possible through the lilac trees. Why did John always have to get injured at the worst times?
"The computer is demanding some sort of access code," Teyla explained on the other end. "The colonel made the mistake of touching the field and was thrown back. Ronon caught him before he hit his head, but he was shaking before he passed out."
In the middle of the blue and green field, Rodney saw a square object lifted off the ground, covered in moss, grass and dirt. Although he saw no signs of his teammates, he did see them on the sensor. They had arrived.
Rodney looked down the open hatch and immediately noticed the thin steps that wended their way through the surface. Even with Lorne's P-90 light he couldn't see the end. It was amazing Teyla's call had come through at all.
"We're on our way down now. Don't touch anything!" He was out of breath from the jog over here. His shirt was wet against his back, drenched with sweat. The thought of Sheppard needing him, however, was enough to pull him forward. He took hold of a rusty rail and started his way down.
He nearly fell twice, cursing at whatever engineer had thought to make the steps so narrow. It felt like he had been walking forever before he finally saw a pink light below.
He reached the ground where Teyla was anxiously pacing, a fuchsia glow shining on her from an open door. Beyond that door, Rodney saw Sheppard and Ronon trapped behind a forcefield. Sheppard lay on the floor while Ronon paced, clearly frustrated at being able to do nothing. Beside them was a third figure—an exact match to the hologram back at the village.
"Your name and clearance code have not been verified. Please wait for security to arrive. Any attempt to escape will be met with lethal force. Your name and clearance code…"
"It has been repeating since we arrived," Teyla explained.
"Don't you worry, we'll get them out of there," Carson assured everyone, watching his patient carefully.
"We?" Rodney asked incredulously, pulling out his laptop. "I believe you mean I will get them out of there. You just do your medical voodoo thing."
Rodney began searching for the nearest console to plug into. Most of the controls seemed to fall just beyond the forcefield and well out of Rodney's current reach. But there was a single console attached to a stone wall that he was able to access. Saying a prayer that he didn't accidentally get his teammate killed, he connected the wire with one arm. Nothing catastrophic happened, but on his screen appeared new information.
Meanwhile, he kept an attentive ear to Carson, who was asking questions about Sheppard's condition.
"Any attempt to escape will be met with lethal force. Your name and clearance code…"
It was hard to think with that stupid hologram constantly repeating itself, and it was lucky that he had spent the last few hours getting to know the strange technology or he would have had to decipher all of this from scratch. As it was, the technology ran on the same fundamentals as back at the village, and if he crossed the right wires and sent the right message then… "This should do it!" he announced. "I suggest everyone stand back, just in case."
Closing his eyes he pressed red wire to blue. The hologram blinked, tilted her head, then phased out before phasing back in. This time she had a fake smile, the worry behind it showing. Her hair was frazzled, with many of the braids only half tied. Whoever had recorded this message had been terrified.
"Thank the Ancestors that you have arrived! Welcome to Refuge: Enma's last hope during dark times. We will do all we can to keep you safe during the next hundred cycles. Remember, you are our last hope for survival. Do not forget home. Do not forget Enma."
The fuchsia field disintegrated. Rodney and Teyla didn't hesitate; they raced to their teammate's side, each grabbing one of his hands before Carson motioned Rodney out of the way.
"You can watch over him all you want later, for now I need to have a look."
Not wanting to watch his friend lying so still, Rodney turned his attention to the bunker. Now that the forcefield had dropped, he could see they were in the entrance to a grand room, easily the size of a gymnasium. A giant computer with four consoles took up the immediate left corner, right by where Rodney now stood. Toward the far left side of the room were a number of blue, reclining chairs facing one another in a half-circle around a large fireplace. The middle of the room was mostly empty, but attached to the high ceiling was a chandelier lit by lilac flames. Judging by the occasional glitch, Rodney realized they too must be holograms. Toward the middle right side of the room was a large dance floor, surrounded by three tables, each with four chairs around them. On the far side of the floor was a square instrument lying on its side. It looked like a cross between a piano and a harp.
"Some bunker." Lorne whistled loudly, gazing in awe at the furnishings.
Then they both turned their attention to Sheppard, who was still lying unconscious. Rodney was relieved to note that Beckett didn't look too worried.
"He'll be alright; I think. Should come to any moment now."
Reassured, Rodney felt the weariness catch back up to him. Falling back against the stone wall, he breathed in deeply. Surrounded though he was by advanced computers, he wanted little more than to sleep.
He felt Teyla's arm on his shoulder. He peeked through his closed eyelids long enough to see her worried expression. "Are you okay, Rodney?"
He nodded. "Yeah, just a bit tired. I must be getting old; twenty hour days never used to bother me."
"Aye, you've been working yourself too hard. Been telling you that for a while, haven't I?"
Rodney groaned. He hadn't meant for Beckett to hear that. "Hey, I'm not the patient lying on the ground right now. Concentrate on berating him for touching alien forcefields."
"I can berate the both of you, thank you very much. Now, I don't think we should try carrying him up the steps. Probably best to just wait for him to wake up on his own."
Not wanting to give Carson any more lecturing fodder, Rodney pulled away from the wall and started examining the technology. After ten minutes of getting nowhere, and Sheppard still remaining unconscious, he was ready to kick the wall and call it a day. Teyla, sensing his weariness, pulled him away.
"This place will be here tomorrow. You need a break."
Rodney didn't argue. They moved toward the sitting area, where he noticed a small circular knob on each chair. There were three options spelled out in the alien language, which Rodney translated on his laptop as bed, chair, and couch. Shrugging, he turned the knob toward bed and stepped back as the chair phased out, replaced by a bed complete with pillow and a scratchy wool-like blanket.
Ronon, noticing the change, picked up the Colonel and carried him toward the others. Immediately upon resting him on the bed, the fireplace flared to life, glowing with the same purple flame Rodney had seen in the chandelier. Strangely enough, Rodney could feel its warmth. Moving to one of the recliners, Rodney slumped down into its cushions and closed his eyes. He could sleep peacefully here, he thought, though his mind was too busy trying to understand how holograms could give off heat and whether or not they would run into any other unanticipated traps.
There was a moan from beside him, causing him to bolt upright. Sheppard's head turned slowly left and then right. Carson was standing over his patient, holding tight to his hand. "It's alright, Colonel. You're okay."
"What happened?" John asked, blinking his eyes until they focused.
"Got yourself into trouble like you always do. Down in a deep bunker nonetheless, where we hadn't much of a hope of getting you up. You'll be okay though, no lasting damage."
Sheppard moved to sit up, holding his head as though suffering from a grand migraine. He nodded slightly to Lorne and Rodney, recognizing their presence for the first time.
"I'm beginning to really hate this world," Sheppard mumbled. Rodney had to agree.
Then Sheppard must have noticed the chandelier because his expression changed to that of wonder. Immediately he perked up, taking in his surroundings. "Whoa."
"It's apparently where people sought refuge from the war outside," Rodney explained. "At least that's what we've managed to figure out so far. We haven't explored beyond this room yet." He motioned toward the two doors, both against the far wall.
"Nothing on the life signs detector, though," Lorne quickly interjected. "Ronon's been keeping watch for us."
He motioned toward Ronon, who sat on the ground watching both doors at the same time as if expecting something to come crawling out of them.
"How long?" Sheppard asked.
"Just a few minutes. You did give us a good scare though, Sir."
John stepped out from the bed, which immediately turned back into a recliner. Jumping away in surprise, John watched it for a moment as though expecting it to change once more. At first, Rodney was worried that John was about to suggest exploring some more, but then Rodney saw that his friend looked just as tired, if not more so, than all of Rodney's scientists combined. "Alright, let's head back and check in with Atlantis. We can explore all we want tomorrow."
"Aye, they can explore all they want. You on the other hand will be coming with me to the infirmary. Lord knows what that field could have done to you that I'm not picking up on."
"I'm fine, Carson. Really," but there was little spirit to his words.
The team made their way toward the main entrance with Rodney falling behind, trying to juggle all of his equipment. It was amazing he had made it down those stairs with everything intact, and going up wasn't going to be much easier.
The moment they reached the alcove there was a loud pop. The pink field reappeared, only guarding the exit and no longer the bunker itself. Rodney moaned, throwing his hands up into the air. "Oh, of course! Because it never can be that easy, can it?" Immediately he reached for his laptop just as the hologram woman reappeared, still looking frazzled.
"I'm sorry, but I cannot allow you to leave. One hundred cycles remain before the world is safe again. For the sake of Enma, you must stay here. I'm sorry, but I cannot allow you to leave. One hundred cycles remain…"
The team exchanged worried glances as Rodney reached for the wires he had pressed together previously. There was another large pop as he was suddenly thrust back, hitting something soft but hard. Shaking, Rodney tried to catch his breath. "What the…"
"System controls are protected. You will not tamper with the controls. System controls are protected. You must not tamper with the controls." More static rippled through the hologram. "Alert. An escape attempt has been detected. Know that system controls are protected. One hundred cycles have not yet elapsed. Please, return to your rooms. Alert. An escape attempt has been…"
Rodney gazed at his hands, trying to shake away the burning sensation. He was amazed that he was still conscious, having felt the bolt of electricity shoot through him. He felt Carson at his side, checking him over while Ronon slowly leaned him down on the ground; it must have been the Satedan that had broken his fall.
"What the bloody hell was that?" Carson asked, pouring ointment on Rodney's hands.
Rodney felt the gel hit him, helping ease the terrible burning.
"Is he okay?" John asked, and Rodney realized for the first time how worried everyone was, staring at him with honest concern.
"Aye, I think so. His vitals are a bit too fast for my liking, but that's to be expected. A bit dehydrated as well so he'll be needing lots of water. I don't see anything life threatening though. Just the same, I'd like to get you both to the infirmary soon as possible."
"Alert," the hologram continued to repeat, nearly drowning out the conversation.
"Without reaching the controls, I have no idea how we'll get out of here. It might take some time before I can bypass the fields," Rodney whined, pushing to his feet with Ronon's help. Teyla handed him her canteen and he drank greedily, not realizing how thirsty he had been. The jog here coupled with the long work day had definitely taken its toll.
He was standing on his own power now, but he feared that if he tried to take a step he'd fall over. His body rocked slightly, and Ronon's hand returned to steady him.
"He doesn't seem okay," Ronon said, staring at Beckett as he did so.
A wave of static rippled through the hologram before she returned, a stern expression on her face. "All refugees will remove themselves from the entrance immediately. All refugees will remove themselves from the entrance immediately. 9, 8, 7…"
"Alright, let's move it people!" Sheppard motioned for everyone to clear the way back into the sitting room. Rodney found himself half-carried, but everything was such a blur that he didn't mind too much.
"3, 2 … Entry way is now clear. Refugees will remain in the bunker until time has elapsed. Thank you for your cooperation."
As he listened to Sheppard call for assistance, Rodney was lowered onto one of the beds. His body was shaking. What was it he had thought of this world? A tomb? The surface was nothing compared to this bunker, so far below the ground it was hard to breathe just thinking about it. And now they were trapped and it was hard to think and everything was going black.
"Rodney! Rodney, can you hear me?" Carson was patting his face, but it was no use. He was so tired and closing his eyes felt like the best plan.
"'Night," he whispered before letting the black take over.