Title: The Settling of Scores
Setting: Early in the second season.
Disclaimer: All publicly identifiable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
Warning: The Prologue contains a death scene.
A/N 1: As always, wonderfully beta'd by Kiky - Thanks Kiky.
A/N 2: This is set at the beginning of season 2 because that is when I started writing it. Subsequent episodes have forced a few re-writes.
A/N 3: Originally it was just going to be the Prologue, but I was told in no uncertain terms that if I broke a toy I had to mend it before putting it back in the toy-box. So... appearances can be deceptive.
Colonel John Sheppard groaned as he slowly emerged from unconsciousness. As his aching head started to clear, he retched in disgust. The sack that had been tied over his head stank of rotting vegetables; the stench overwhelming in the heat of the planet's twin suns. He worked his tongue inside his mouth, forcing the saliva to flow, and then swallowed hard until the nausea faded.
Now that he was no longer in immediate danger of losing his breakfast, he tried to make some sense of his surroundings. He was lying on his left side, his hands tightly bound behind him. Cautiously he tested the bonds. Correction, make that his hands tightly bound to his ankles.
Heat and muzziness in his head made it difficult to think. He remembered the ambush as a collection of isolated events; movement in the trees, shots being fired and then the explosion that had apparently knocked him out cold.
He lay still for a moment and tried to concentrate. Something was wrong; he was missing something important.
Squeezing his eyes closed in an effort to remember, all that filled his mind was the memory of walking with his team through thick forest, attempting to ignore Rodney's complaints about the heat.
His eyes snapped open inside the evil-smelling sack.
"Rodney?" The name came out as a cracked whisper, "Teyla? Ronon?" Sheppard strained to hear any response, or even the sound of someone breathing near by.
"Guys?" He called louder, setting off a pounding in his own head. The echoes of his shout told him that he was inside a small room, but no answering voice eased his growing concern.
He turned his attention to the thin cord that bound him wrist to ankle. A short struggle told him that whoever had tied it had known what they were doing. It would be a waste of time and effort to try and loosen the binding, his only chance was to find something with a sharp edge.
He felt around, but his captors had unaccountably left him nothing he could use, not even a rough stone on the hard-packed earth that made up the floor.
One thing that he could do was get upright.
Wincing as the thin cord cut into his wrist, he managed to force himself to his knees. Even that effort threatened to plunge him back into unconsciousness, and he swayed slightly until the dizziness passed.
The sound of approaching footsteps cut short any plans he might have had for removing the stinking canvas sack, and he turned his head like a blind man towards the noise. Moments later, somewhere to his right, a bolt was drawn back and a door opened. Sheppard tensed, readying himself to react to whatever opportunities presented themselves.
"Commander, he's awake!" A young man's voice called out from a few yards away, and, almost immediately, a second set of footsteps walked unhurriedly towards the Colonel.
Sheppard shook his head to clear the pain. The last kick to the side of his face had almost driven him back into unconsciousness. Already, he could feel his right eye starting to swell closed, and the blood blocking his broken nose was making it difficult to breathe.
Still hooded with the sack, it was impossible to anticipate where the next blow was coming from and he listened intently through the ringing in his ears for the faint sound of movement.
A fist drove hard into his stomach and Sheppard doubled over around the sudden agony.
He took a ragged breath through split lips and struggled back upright onto his knees. At least whoever was handing out the beating hadn't resorted to anything more than fists and feet; it hurt like hell, but it wasn't life-threatening, yet.
"Colonel Sheppard, my patience is limited." The older male voice was obviously used to command. It spoke from several feet away to Sheppard's right, somewhere near the door.
"You will tell me where you had arranged to meet with the rebels and exactly what weaponry you had agreed to supply them with." The voice was calm, almost pleasant to listen to; it was the voice of a man in complete control of the situation.
Sheppard lifted his chin, tasting the metallic tang of blood in his mouth. He spoke carefully, his words sounding tired from repetition. "I can only tell you again, I have never met any 'rebels', I have no intention of trading with any 'rebels', and I won't answer any more of your damn questions until I have seen that the rest of my team are safe."
He braced himself against the expected blow, but, instead, the older voice let out a heavy, theatrical sigh.
"Your concern for your people is touching, Colonel Sheppard." The voice sounded almost impressed. "Very well, if it will speed this process along, I will have them brought here and you can see for yourself that they are unharmed."
The door to John's right opened and footsteps left the room. Seconds later, the vile-smelling sack was roughly pulled away and Sheppard blinked in the sudden light.
He was in a wooden hut roughly fifteen feet by twenty. Sunlight streamed in through the single window, an unglazed opening with a torn scrap of bug-netting tacked across it. More light filtered in through gaps in the walls, one bright shaft falling onto a dark-uniformed man with greying hair who sat on a folding canvas chair and inspected Sheppard's own 9mm handgun, an amused smile on his lips.
Sheppard's eyes darted around the room, taking in the details of his prison, including the young, fair-haired soldier who stood at his side, the guard's reddened knuckles telling John exactly who had carried out his beating.
A sudden sound to his right instantly fixed Sheppard's attention on the door.
The towering figure of Ronon was the first to enter the hut, his hands bound behind him and a sack tied over his head. The big Runner was being held at gunpoint by a uniformed soldier, the gun looking clumsy, but fully functional, in the soldier's hand. Behind Ronon, the slight form of Teyla seemed tiny in comparison. Again, hands tied and a sack over her head, she was held by an armed guard, as was Rodney who brought up the rear, his clothes crumpled and covered in dirt.
At a nod from the grey-haired man, the armed soldiers forced all three hooded prisoners onto their knees in front of Sheppard.
"Rodney? Teyla, Ronon? Are you guys okay?" Ronon and Teyla turned their heads towards him at the sound of their names, but McKay remained slouched on his knees, his head down.
"Sheppard?", Ronon's bass voice rumbled in reply, "I'm fine, just give me the word."
"Take it easy, Ronon." The Colonel almost smiled at the big man's resilience, but now was not the time for heroics.
"I, too, am unhurt, Colonel. I am sure that this misunderstanding can be resolved without the need for violence."
Sheppard turned a swollen eye towards the seated Commander. He was thankful that the others hadn't suffered the same treatment, and he would do whatever was necessary to keep it that way.
He looked back at his team. McKay was still slumped dejectedly on his knees next to Teyla, and Sheppard called out to him. "Rodney?"
The physicist didn't respond to his name.
"Rodney?" Sheppard called louder, and the armed guard at McKay's back roughly shook the hooded man by his shoulder.
"Mmmh?" McKay's voice was muffled by more than just the sack and Sheppard realised with a flash of anger that the scientist had been gagged. In other circumstances it might have been amusing to learn that Rodney's mouth had apparently once again got him into trouble, but this situation was far from amusing.
"As you can see, your people are currently unharmed, Colonel Sheppard." The grey-haired Commander stood and made his way slowly along the line of kneeling prisoners. "And now you will tell me what I want to know. Where had you arranged to meet with the rebels, and exactly what weaponry had you agreed to supply them with?"
"I've already told you," Sheppard bit back an angry response, "I have never met any 'rebels', and I have no intention of trading with any 'rebels'."
The dark-uniformed man came to a halt behind McKay. "And I have already told you, Colonel Sheppard, my patience is limited."
Without further warning, the man lifted Sheppard's 9mm and calmly fired it into the back of Rodney's head. Cherry-red blood, stark white bone and grey brains blossomed out across the heated air. McKay's body toppled slowly forward and lay, motionless, on the hard-packed dirt.
Sheppard stared in shock at the fallen body, his mind suddenly numb.
"A powerful weapon, Colonel Sheppard." The Commander's words made no impression on Sheppard's stunned brain. "Now, if you were to trade these with my forces instead of the rebels, I might be inclined to let the rest of you live."