Not sure how this is going to turn out… it is actually based on a very weird 'falling asleep' dream that I had a few nights ago and has been bugging me ever since, so I know it's worth writing down on some kind of level! Warning: I envision this getting a little silly - age rating may also rise as time goes by!
"So… what does it do, exactly?"
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard craned his neck forwards a little over his team-mate's shoulder to get a better look at the bewildering array of transparent crystal discs and blinking lights upon the control panel before them, at once both curious and bored.
Closing his eyes in blatant irritation for a second, Dr. Rodney McKay shot Sheppard a withering look before refocusing his attention back to the control panel in front of him.
"As far as I know, it could be an Ancient Coke machine, something for controlling the population of flies in the area or a new and entirely novel way of raining down fiery death from above," he snapped. "I won't be able to find out until I'm actually left alone to do what I am supposed to be doing – upon your orders, I hasten to add."
"Oh. Sorry…" Sheppard tried his best to sound contrite, the smirk that played along his lips betraying him. "I'll just leave you to it, huh?"
"Oh, no, please feel free to continue aggravating me on every single level known to man, I insist!" Rodney shot back, picking up his tablet from his makeshift workbench – once a lowly tree stump - before sublimating his annoyance and directing his attention once more to the job in hand. "3rd line configured… output…what?! Nothing?! Oh, come on!"
Stifling a grin, Sheppard left Rodney to his own devices, knowing that for all his outward aggression, he was never happier than when working through near insurmountable problems. Resting a hand on the stock of his P90, he sauntered over to the exotic looking woman who was watching them both with a good naturedly defeated air of one who had seen that particular scenario play out more times than she would care to admit to.
"You should not tease him so," Teyla chided quietly with a small smile of her own. "It is rare for him to let us down."
"I know… but sometimes, it's damn near the only hobby I have," John grinned before looking over his shoulder. "Where's Ronon?"
"Ronon has gone to 'secure the perimeter' again," Teyla answered, a slight note of a sigh edging her voice.
John nodded in rueful realisation. "He's bored too, huh?"
At that, Teyla just smiled and readjusted the grip on her own gun, knowing she did not have to answer; if there was one thing her usually unpredictable Satedan team-mate could be relied upon, it was that he found just sitting and waiting an almost intolerable chore.
Nodding wearily, Sheppard tapped the earpiece attached to his left ear. "Ronon, buddy – you there?"
There was moment's silence before a familiar growling voice answered.
"Yeah, I'm here."
"Where are you?"
"Nearby. Just checking things out."
"You shouldn't wander off on your own, you know." Sheppard allowed a slightly reproving hint to enter his voice, just to remind the Satedan that he couldn't always wander off whenever he wanted, especially without informing him first. "Make your way back."
Ronon said nothing, but John thought he caught the edge of a rather world-weary sigh.
"Do I need to make it an order?"
"No…" Ronon answered after another pause, his tone so much like a chastised schoolboy that John couldn't help but smile.
"Good. See you shortly. Sheppard out."
The colonel turned his attention back to Teyla, who was in turn watching McKay. The physicist was now frowning, muttering what was undoubtedly a choice selection of expletives under his breath whilst he stabbed viciously at the tablet he was carrying with one finger. Surveying the scene, John couldn't help but be impressed once again by what they had discovered; undoubtedly Ancient in design, the roof of the construct had long been lost to the elements, but the bizarrely constructed machine that had been housed within it was remarkably well preserved, probably because it was set into an alcove in the back wall and therefore on the whole quite well protected. There was a circular structure upon the floor, not unlike a depiction of the Stargate, with six little hexagonal columns that seemingly had the ability to move spaced at regular intervals around it – exactly why, however, the team was largely unsure. At the moment, they were treating it with caution; new technology, whilst exciting and definitely welcome, always seemed to come with a price of some kind, and after some of their experiments in recent months had resulted in the loss of three quarters of a solar system (although Rodney would have argued that it was actually five sixths), they were feeling understandably careful.
The only problem with 'careful' John mused to himself as he continued to watch McKay is that sometimes it is just so damn boring…
"He's still working on that same section?" came a disgruntled question from John's left, making him jump just a little bit.
"Damn it, Ronon –don't sneak up like that," Sheppard scolded, looking up at the tall Satedan; for such a big man, he could move like a cat when he wanted to, and John for one sometimes found it a little unnerving. "Yeah… same bit. I wonder if this thing's been exposed to the weather for too long… I know the Ancients built things to last, but this has been out here for a long time."
With a nod, Ronon slouched against the nearest pillar. "Nothing to cause any concern near here… why don't we just get a science team to deal with this?"
"Because you know as well as I do that Rodney won't hand this over to anyone else if there's a chance he can figure out what it does first. Imagine if we brought Zelenka in and he figured out what McKay can't…"
To that, Ronon said nothing, just rolled his eyes and nodded knowingly.
"Oh, you've got to be kidding!" Rodney exploded, yelling at his tablet. "I configured it exactly the way you wanted me to… what's wrong with you?!"
At this new outburst, Teyla shot a look back to her other two team-mates and then stepped forward. "Maybe we should leave this for now, Rodney; you have been it this for a very long time. Maybe if you took a break, got some rest and came back to it with a fresh mind…"
McKay responded with a look of cynical disbelief upon his face. "Teyla, at least try to remember who you're talking to… no, the problem is somewhere else… the usual algorithms aren't working, and there must be a reason for that – maybe I'm looking at this from the wrong perspective…" the scientist frowned again and almost immediately excluded the Athosian from his little personal world once again. "Maybe I should be calculating that in hex rather than binary and cross referencing it from the beta section…"
Shaking her head in bemused defeat, Teyla shrugged her shoulders and stepped back so that she was standing with John and Ronon once more. Seeing her defeated look, Sheppard offered her a wry smile.
"I dunno about you guys… Time to pitch some kind of camp, maybe? I've got a feeling we're going to be here a while…"
It felt as if she had been running for hours, but the truth was it hadn't been nearly half that time. She slapped the headpiece that was attached to her right ear once again, hoping against all hope to raise at least one of her team mates; for any hint that they might still be alive…
"Telyn!" she hissed. "Do you copy? Are you there?!"
"I am. Where are you? Are you..."
At the reply, she almost stumbled in relief.
"Sweet merciful... I'm fine. Work your way back to the gate; don't wait for me. I'm leading it away – just take Rayna and Robert and get the hell out of here! I'm counting on you to warn Elliot!"
"That's an order, Telyn! Head for the gate – now! Sheppard out."
She then unceremoniously cut the transmission before her team-mate had any chance to argue with her.
She knew the Sidhe was chasing her; lowering her goggles, she scanned the area using infra red, trying to detect any heat signatures. Ever since the Sidhe had developed cloaking technology of their own, all of their missions had been like playing a game of Russian roulette – you simply didn't know where one would pop up next…
There was a rustling to the right of her; snapping her head round, she just caught the glimpse of a heat signature flanking her before ducking down behind a boulder. Cursing silently under her breath, she hefted her NJ34 in front of her and, keeping low, ran forwards again, back towards the site they had been working on. Robert had only recently figured out how to get the damn thing working – superficially, it resembled the Galaxygate, if the gate had been inlaid into the floor, surrounded by six curiously shaped hexagonal columns. They had spent literally days trying to figure out exactly how to manipulate the crystals to power the thing up, and even now, they only had a rudimentary idea of what the whole contraption was capable of; still, if that was the way the Precursors had escaped, then maybe there was a chance they might still be around… and maybe, just maybe, they could seek help from them.
This was the main reason why she now headed back – they had their orders. The site had to be protected at all costs…had to be shut down before the Sidhe could get hold of it. The others had been cut off from her, so she had ordered them back to Elliot so that they could warn him and keep Lemuria safe, at least for the meantime.
Suddenly, something cut in front of her; snapping up her NJ34, she quickly squeezed off two three round bursts in rapid succession, hoping to at least clip whatever it had been before heading back to the Precursor's machine, her heart in her mouth.
Slowing to a cautious walk, she scrutinised the area before moving out in the open; Robert's portable computer was still there, taking readings, the rings inlaid into the ground still shimmering in a rather unearthly, disconcerting way. Knowing that it was now or never, she dashed forwards, hand outstretched, ready to grab the computer and run.
She never saw the Sidhe; it lunged out of the tree line to her left, still cloaked, barrelling her over bodily, obviously thinking it was about to make an easy kill. What it obviously hadn't considered was the Precursor machine.
Knowing that she had to shut down the whole edifice one way or another, Joss aimed her NJ34 at the computer and squeezed off a shot; upon hearing the satisfactory pop and fizz of the computer's terminals blowing out as the bullet hit, she closed her eyes with a sigh of relief; even if this was her time to die, she had at least stopped the Sidhe from getting their hands on anything important.
Death didn't come from the Sidhe, though; the momentum of the attack had meant that they were now rolling upon the ground, dangerously close to the still-shimmering ring of the Precursors – so much like the Galaxygate, and yet so different, it began to waver and distort, the ground within in seeming to ripple and roil. Joss, however, simply didn't notice; she was too busy wrestling with the Sidhe's near-invisible feeding hand, trying to stop it from slapping it upon her chest and taking its fill. Before either she or the Sidhe could stop, they had rolled into the shimmering circumference of the Precursor ring, and with an ear-splitting pop, both Sidhe and woman disappeared.
It was as much of a surprise to Rodney as to any of them when the Ancient machine seemingly decided to turn itself on.
The physicist had chosen at last to take a break; he had needed coffee and a snack to boost his flagging energy levels, and since all the others were doing was standing idly around watching him slog away, he had demanded (and quite rightfully so, in his opinion) that they heat some water for him. After Ronon had glowered at him, Rodney then asked a little more nicely (well, in McKay's book, it always paid to be nice to a man who could rip both your arms off without raising a sweat), they had settled for a quick break, the scientist giving them a run down of his progress.
"So.., what you're basically saying is that you don't have a clue what it does, how to turn it on or even if it is any use to us whatsoever?" Sheppard deadpanned after his report. "Gee, Rodney – now I know why they pay you the big bucks."
"Not helping, Sheppard," Rodney snapped back, more to cover up his own acute awareness that, as much as it pained him to admit it even in his own mind, in some ways the colonel was actually right. "I'm sure I'm on the right track – I just need…"
He trailed off as the columns that surrounded the inlaid rings sank into the ground as one.
"Holy sh…" breathed Rodney, any trace of former arrogance now having fled.
"Did you do that?" asked Ronon, unholstering his particle magnum and quickly standing up, eying the rings as they began to shimmer unnervingly.
"Because I have so perfected the art of telekinesis in my short time sitting here, haven't I, Ronon? What do you think?" Rodney snapped back, his usual acerbic edge firmly back in place as he also got to his feet and made his way over to his tablet.
"Rodney… I do not think that is possibly very wise," cut in Teyla, her P90 in front of her, ready to take down anything that she deemed even slightly hostile. "Maybe we should wait a moment…"
"Teyla's right…" Sheppard joined it, knowing that when it came to the pursuit of knowledge, McKay could be the most reckless supposed hypochondriac and self-preservationist he knew.
"Yes, yes, not listening…" Rodney dismissed them all by flapping his hands in their general direction and resolutely made his way towards his tablet.
Shaking his head in slight exasperation, Sheppard glanced at his other two team-mates. "Cover us. I'll follow Rodney."
Both Teyla and Ronon just nodded in silent agreement.
As he drew closer to his tablet, Rodney's eyes widened in frank surprise; where it had once stubbornly refused to allow him to access any part of the structure's database, it was now simply alight with strange coordinates and data strings. This surprise was quickly followed by a feeling of absolute dismay as he then noticed the sharp, acrid stench of frying computer components; swearing, he tried to run forwards to save his terminal, only to be stopped by a heavy hand upon his shoulder.
"What the… Sheppard, what are you doing?! I need to get to it… it's going to blow!"
"It's already blown," Sheppard answered, his expression grave. "There's nothing you can do about the tablet; no point risking it all for a broken computer."
"What?! I need to get it – see what I can glean from it!" He lunged forward again, but Sheppard's hand was still on his shoulder.
"McKay, don't be an idiot! Just leave it! Look!"
Tearing his attention from his fried computer terminal, Rodney didn't know whether to punch Sheppard or cry; his attention, however, was totally diverted as soon as he saw what Sheppard had been trying to warn him of.
The once-static ring that was inlaid into the ground in front of the terminal now shimmered in a strange, not-quite-obeying-the–known-laws-of-physics kind of way. It turned out that the ring wasn't solid at all – it was actually comprised of three rings, each one fitting neatly inside the other. The shimmering effect was caused as they rippled against – and in some cases, actually through – each other, like rapidly spinning coins just before they came to a standstill. The effect was vaguely hypnotic, and McKay found himself taking an involuntary step forward to take a closer look before he remembered himself and stopped. Slowly, the shimmering, rippling effect crawled across the ground that the rings encompassed, making the entire area undulate and bubble. For a moment, the more emotionally detached, scientific part of Rodney's mind was reminded of the event horizon of the Stargate once it had been activated, just without the kawoosh… these thoughts were abruptly brought to a swift conclusion, however, when the surface of the ground apparently bounced and a figure all of a sudden materialised in the centre of the ring.
It was laying upon the ground, apparently struggling with something it couldn't see. Before he could register entirely what was going on, though, there was a huge bang from the direction of the Ancient terminal – his tablet, having overheated to a ridiculous degree, had decided to completely give up the ghost and simply explode. Ducking instinctively with a small yelp, Rodney heard another, rather more familiar and decidedly more mechanical bang; that of Ronon's particle magnum.
"Hey! HEY!!" the scientist shouted, almost glad to have something else to focus on rather than the figure now laying on the ground in the centre of the ring. "What the hell did you do that for, Luddite?!"
He was not answered, though, simply because all of his team-mates' attention was now firmly fixed upon the person on the ground in front of them.
It was a weird sensation, and completely unlike any kind of gate travel she had experienced before; rather than the now-familiar wormhole, there had been utter blackness – complete sensory deprivation. She hadn't even felt herself hit the ground – if she had indeed hit the ground – until she was lying upon it; it was simply a case of one moment it wasn't there, then it was. Still she struggled with the Sidhe before that weight inexplicably was relieved, until she wasn't sure whether the Sidhe had jumped up off her or had been a figment of her imagination entirely.
She lay there for a moment, catching her breath with her eyes closed, trying to still the roiling feeling in her stomach before attempting to sit up; when she opened them, she found herself literally staring down the barrel of a gun. Her breath caught in her throat as she leaned back, trying to focus upon the person holding the pistol, but failing miserably since the sunlight behind them obscured their features; her curiosity was then heralded by another two barrels, this time of much more familiar looking weapons. She blew a slight sigh of relief; the Sidhe didn't have access to Earth weaponry – at least as far as she knew – and so it figured that she had obviously surprised one of her own teams. With a slightly crooked smile, she pushed a lock of her own black hair out of her eyes and raised her hands. "It's okay… you can stand down. It's only me."
"It's only who?" shot back a suspicious, growling voice that she did not recognise.
"Uh… okay… wrong number, obviously." She peered back up at the three people holding guns. "Who are you?"
"The ones holding a weapon," shot back the largest of the three, his tone oozing menace. "Who are you?"
Okay… not good…
"Oh, crap…" sighed Lieutenant Colonel Jocelyn Sheppard with feeling and she raised her hands in surrender. "This is just not my day…"