"Atlantis, do you read?" Frowning, I looked out at the massive void in front of me, even as the console beeped in warning. "Yeah, yeah, I know." I muttered as I tapped my radio again. "Atlantis, please come in!" I could see the planet in front of me, and felt my eyes narrow as I got up and finished zipping up the suit I was in. Still nothing?? Turning on the communications array in the jumper, I sighed loudly. "Atlantis, do you read me? Please come in. This is Lt. Col. John Sheppard and I have an emergency!"
"John? It's Elizabeth, what's going on?"
I must've been further away than I thought. The radio didn't have enough power to reach the planet's surface from here. "Finally! Listen, something's wrong with the jumper. My scans are showing a massive power spike, and I have no idea what's causing it. If the power levels keep rising, I risk the jumper exploding!" I checked my air supply, and when I was satisfied, sat back down, albeit, awkwardly.
"Hang on, Rodney's here and he's running some scans." Elizabeth was quiet for a few moments.
The console beeped even louder than before and began beeping continuously as warning lights began to flash. "Guys, any time now."
"Got it!" There was Rodney. "It looks like some kind of residual radiation that seems to be occupying the same section of space as the jumper. It's causing the power levels to spike uncontrollably. Look, the only thing you can do is get outta there!"
"Wish I could! I lost navigation when I was hit with a piece of that rogue meteor." Typing on my console, I frowned. "I lost a lot of things. Navigation, life support is low. Hell, the power is spiking, but it's not going to where it's needed!" I slammed my hand into the console, ignoring the pain that shot up it. "Nothing's working!"
"I've run a scan of the jumper, and it looks like the meteor fragment lodged itself into the circuitry of the jumper, causing a blockage in the sub-routines."
"Simply put, there's nothing I can do, is there?" I got up again and grabbed my helmet. Placing it over my head, I snapped it into place and made sure everything was set. "I might not be able to steer, but I can aim the jumper away from Atlantis."
"John? What're you planning?" Elizabeth was back, and sounding suspicious.
"I'm gonna do the only thing I can. Jump ship. Better send someone out to get me." Frowning a moment, I set the controls and let my hand hover over the communications array. "If I don't make it out of this..." I shook my head. "Just get your asses out here! Sheppard out." Hitting the button, I set the controls to take the jumper away from Atlantis, at least, though it would still probably crash land on the planet. Turning, I walked to the rear hatch and took a deep breath.
All this because I chose to test some new engine modifications Rodney had done. With a wry grin, I hit the button and let the momentum carry me out, deep into space. Should've known better. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and forced my pounding heart to slow down. No telling how long they're gonna be. Better conserve oxygen.
(Conference Room, Normal POV)
"The jumper has started on a slow course towards the planet. I'm not certain, but the course seems to bring it fairly close to Atlantis." Rodney was frowning. "I think it should still be far enough away, that if it explodes the damage would be minimal. Also, the single life sign aboard has...well, jumped ship."
"There's usually about two hours of oxygen in those tanks, isn't there?" Elizabeth asked with a frown as she gazed from Rodney to Ronon and then to Teyla. Lastly, her eyes strayed to Major Lorne. "Was it really the meteor that caused all this??"
"The meteor is a big part." Rodney frowned and almost winced. "But the back up sub-routines should have kicked in to keep the power flowing normally. It's a rerouting program that automatically sends power where it needs to go, to get to it's designated points. If one way is blocked it should go another way, basically."
"So what happened?"
"It seems that there was a design flaw in the plans of the enhanced shield and drone control system." Now Rodney did wince, though everyone figured it was more from being wrong than anything else. "Somehow it's blocked the secondary sub-routines from kicking in, and it's caused this."
"Ok, we can worry about the jumper later." Elizabeth stood up. "Jumpers are replaceable. Right now, we need to get John back."
"But we can't lower the shield!" Rodney also stood up. "Listen, we don't know for sure when the jumper will explode, or how near to Atlantis it will be when it does so. With the shields we're relatively safe, but without them the explosion could cause massive damage, and the resulting shockwave could seriously disrupt our systems."
"And how long before it gets here?"
"I...." Rodney slowly sank back down into his seat. "I'm not sure. I'm having trouble locking on to it, now that it's entered our atmosphere. I think it's that radiation. It was clear in space, but here…" He shrugged helplessly. "I can't tell exactly how far it is, or how long it'll take to get here. Elizabeth, ok, maybe we can lower the shields long enough to send a jumper through..." He began typing on his computer with one hand, vaguely looking up every now and then and making gestures with his other hand to go along with what he was saying. "But we risk the second jumper being caught near the exploding one, or getting caught in the shockwave."
"We cannot simply leave him out there." Teyla was frowning deeply.
"I'm not suggesting we do, but we need to find another way." Suddenly, Rodney's eyes widened and he absently tapped something on his screen with one finger, while he snapped the fingers of his other hand in rapid succession. "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. Isn't the Daedalus due to arrive within the next two and a half hours?"
"That's too late, doc." Lorne spoke up gravely. "There's only about two hours of oxygen in those tanks, as Dr. Weir asked earlier, and he's already been out there for a while now. I'd say he's got less than two hours left."
"I know." Rodney rolled his eyes. "But if we call them and tell them our situation... Ok, look, they'll be coming in at a safe speed, but not their top speed. If we can call them and tell them what's going on, they can move to their top speed and shave off maybe half an hour from their trip." Rodney typed quickly into his computer. "Theoretically, they should be there with a few minutes to spare."
"Of course, everything works out perfectly in your world, doc." Lorne stood up slowly. "They'll get here with seconds to spare, the Colonel will be perfectly fine, the other jumper won't explode but will miraculously land itself and wait to be repaired... What if the Daedalus comes under attack? Remember there are still Wraith hives out there. Or what if they have problems with their engines? What if the Colonel has less air than we thought? Or of he's attacked??"
Rodney looked ready to snap, but thinking about it all, he realized they were all valid threats and concerns. A little paranoid, maybe, but valid none the less. "So you wanna risk taking a jumper out, and risk lives, just to make sure you get to him on time? What if the other jumper explodes on your way out? You'll all die. What if you get the Colonel, but the jumper explodes on your way back? You'll all die, along with him."
"Gentlemen!" Elizabeth held up her hands. "Look, I don't like this, but it seems our best hope is the Daedalus. We'll try contacting John and see how much air he's got left, and we'll worry about all this as we go. This is not the time to be fighting." Sending them a stern look, she sighed and turned towards the door. "Rodney, I want you to look into tracking the other jumper, just in case. Major, I want you and your team standing by in the jumper bay, in case we need to send out the rescue jumper."
Both men nodded quietly, their faces grim.
"Ok, dismissed." Waving her hand over the console to open the door, Elizabeth took a deep breath and walked out of the room.
(In Space, John's POV)
It had taken me a while to relax enough to enter a meditative trance. I kept thinking they'd get out here quickly, or wondering if they were coming at all, which I know was paranoid and stupid. Of course they were coming for me! Anyways, I have no idea how long it took, but I closed my eyes and took several deep breaths, clearing my mind as I did so.
"What're you doing?"
I almost jumped out of my skin at the voice. It was soft and feminine, and vaguely familiar. Opening my eyes, I blinked blankly at the two figures staring at me. One had long black hair and bright green eyes. The other had shoulder length blonde hair up in a high ponytail. They were two marines who had come in with the new contingent. The brunette was Lieutenant Kendra Morgan, and the blonde was Sergeant Rika Behld.
"Uh, hi?" I looked around in confusion. Instead of being in a massive bulky space suit, floating aimlessly in space, I was sitting in a two-seater compartment in a massive Ferris wheel, and we were moving slowly, the sky clear and blue and the air warm and fresh around us. "Uh, how'd…" Frowning, I noticed I was in my usual base attire, and Kendra was dressed in blue jeans and a pink tank top, where Rika was wearing a small yellow dress.
"Isn't it obvious? You're day dreaming." Rika giggled.
Blinking again, I looked at the girls, struck by how cute they both looked. "I guess that makes sense."
"Well, yeah. I mean, you don't wanna be reminded of the fact that you're floating helplessly in space with limited oxygen and that you might have a while to wait for your friends to come and find you." Kendra seemed perfectly calm, as if she was talking about her day, and now my currently grim situation.
"Yeah, thanks." I groaned, all too aware I must have been hallucinating, or in a meditative trance of some kind. I stared at them a moment longer before looking around past the Ferris wheel as our bucket lowered to the ground and began it's next incline. The area was barren around us, with little plant growth, and people were milling around as though it was a perfectly normal day. I saw Elizabeth walk through the crowd with General Jack O'Neill at her side, talking pleasantly, and Rodney was yakking animatedly at Ronon who was holding a whack-a-mole club.
"Everyone's having fun." Rika giggled and grinned, waving at some random people.
Kendra nodded with a smile in my direction. "You look good."
I felt my face heat up but nodded a little and managed a slight smile. I knew this was all my imagination, but it was relaxing and it was nice. "Thanks. You two." I looked at Rika who grinned. "Both of you."
"So, tell me, Colonel, who do you like on Atlantis?"
I blinked in surprise, not having seen that question. I knew it was my sub conscience trying to keep my distracted, but come on, it could do better than that! "Uh, why…?" Pretty much everyone was my subordinate, so despite the casual dates I had, I didn't like to give too much thought to whom I actually liked.
Kendra raised an eyebrow and almost seemed to think about it. "You're right. We probably could do better." She grinned and exchanged a look with Rika. "How about it?"
Frowning for a moment, I heard Elizabeth's voice call my name and turned, seeing her wave at me, I hesitated before waving back.
"How much air do you have?" She asked. Pointing to her wrist, I looked down and saw a monitor on it that was very similar to the one I'd have on my space suit.
Air…? Oh… Following her gaze to my own wrist, I saw the indicator on it and stared a moment, struggling to make sense of the blurry figures on it. "A little under two hours…" Wow, I wasn't even thinking of my situation. I was too confused and distracted by what was going on here.
"Plenty of time."
I was startled by Rika's voice. I was still confused about being in a dream-like world with them. I've meditated before, but never had anything like this happen before. It was…interesting. For a moment, I wondered if this was what Rodney went through when he was stuck in the submerged jumper
Kendra sighed dramatically and shot me a look, like I should have known better. "You know it is. He won't admit it, but you know he had his own little epiphany of sorts."
Glancing at the girls across from me, I did a double take and felt my eyes widen even as I was sure my jaw hit the ground.
"Is this better?" Kendra gave her best innocent blink as she folded her hands politely in her lap. She was now wearing a purple bikini that showed off her slender waist and full figure. Hm, imagine that, she had a nice tan and no visible tan lines. "This is more like what you were thinking, right?
Rika folded her arms over her chest, wearing a light green lace trimmed bikini, and an identical hair band. "Is this a little more distracting?" She got up and walked over, sitting beside me and leaning against my arm.
I knew this was just a dream, but it felt so real. I could feel the heat coming from her body, and her weight as she rested her head on my shoulder. We just kind of sat there, chatting. As Rika plastered herself to my one side, Kendra continuously adjusted her position on the other bench, though I had a feeling she was posing for me. I kind of just forgot everything and began to enjoy myself. This was nice and relaxing, and one of my more pleasant dates in a while.
"This is probably better than Rodney's hallucination, any time." Kendra added, as she reclined in the seat she now basically had to herself, crossing her ankles to make her legs seem even longer than they were. "I mean, you heard him say 'Sam' so you know he was dreaming about Colonel Samantha Carter. You've got us." She gestured to Rika and winked. "The two of us."
"Oh, yes, yes, yes. Make fun of the scientist when he's not here to defend himself." Came Rodney's voice from John's unoccupied side.
Turning slowly, John wasn't sure whether to be relieved to see Rodney there, or disappointed, since he was sure that about marked the end of the pleasant part of his day dream. "Hello, Rodney. Fancy joining our little….uh, adventure?" He paused, realizing that sounded very bad, considering both girls were scantily dressed. "Uh, what's up?" He asked, hoping Rodney would answer the immediate question and ignore the previous one.
"Well, I just stopped by to remind you to focus, and here you are, insulting my day dream. At least mine was productive, and helped save my life, in the end." He paused and seemed to look thoughtful.
I did recall Rodney mentioning that Sam had tried to help his plan, before he realized what he'd said and tried to correct himself, saying that it was his sub conscience trying to help him. "Right." Rika pressed up against my arm again and nestled her head into my shoulder a little more, letting out a contented sigh. "Uh, Rodney, in case you haven't noticed, I am focusing." I let my eyes roam over Kendra's body and grinned a little. "I'm really focusing."
"Ok, so you're completely alright with the fact that your warning alarm is going off?"
Frowning a moment, I looked around and noticed that the sky was no longer blue. Instead it was a dark, intense gray. "My what?" I heard a beep, and looked down at the source, the watch on my wrist. "Rodney?"
"Finally, John! Listen to me. Your oxygen is low." Rodney's voice seemed to be coming from farther away, and I felt at my ear, only to feel something round, and hard before my hand even connected. Oh, right…helmet. "You need to pay attention and you need to stay awake at all costs. The Daedalus will be there in twenty minutes, until then, I need you to stay-" The link suddenly cut out.
The girls opposite of me looked concerned and seemed to exchange glances. "What do you think he was gonna say?" Rika seemed thoughtful. "Stay put? Stay awake? Stay still or calm?"
"Maybe stay focused?" Kendra shrugged and tugged at her tank top. Turning to me, she frowned. "The ride's slowing down. How much oxygen do you have left?"
Noticing that the Ferris wheel was indeed slowing down, I looked around, noting my friends standing outside the wheel, looking up at me in worry. I looked back, watching as Elizabeth slowly raised her hand and pointed to her wrist again.
Looking down, I noticed the monitor on my wrist beeping again, and frowned at the timer. "Ten minutes." I took a deep breath and held it as my heart started to speed up.
"You need to stay calm." Rodney was the only one besides the girls, who was in the Ferris wheel with me. "And maybe stop thinking about my day dream. Ok, so my situation was better than yours, but you can work through this. You just need to find a way to make your remaining oxygen last longer. Oh, and don't forget, you should have five minutes extra in the safety backups."
"Two." Rika corrected him.
"Five." He shot back. "I'm a scientist, you'd think I'd know."
"Obviously you don't. It's two minutes."
Trying to keep my breathing slow, I was all too aware when it only served to make my heart pound faster. It felt like I was suffocating, because I was trying to breathe normally, even when my body was demanding more oxygen.
"Stay calm, John, we're on our way. Well, ok, not us, but the Daedalus will be here shortly. Just hang on."
"Stay calm!" Rika snapped her fingers. "That's probably what he was trying to say before."
"Well, duh." Rodney rolled his eyes at her. "It's kinda obvious. You panic, you use up more oxygen. To save oxygen, you have to stay calm and focused."
"Gee, you don't need to be mean."
"Maybe I wouldn't have to, if I wasn't dealing with an airhead."
I frowned as I listened to them argue, and slowly shook my head. I also saw Kendra shaking her head and caught her raising her eyebrow at me. 'Wake up' she mouthed before smiling and waving. Suddenly, I heard a beep and jumped, accidentally jolting and hitting my head. Spinning around, I blinked and instead of being on a Ferris wheel with two gorgeous, scantily clad women and an annoying Rodney McKay, I was once again floating out in space. I felt at my head and realized I must have hit my head on the back of my helmet, seeing as how there was nothing else around.
Checking my wrist monitor, I frowned. "Five minutes." Had five minutes even passed? My heart pounded, and I took a deep breath, feeling it catch in my throat as the monitor dropped down to four minutes. Crap! My radio fuzzed, and I frowned, turning myself with some effort to face the planet Atlantis was on. Even in space, I could see the residual effects of an explosion, and I swallowed heavily, hoping everyone was alright.
Another beep, and I looked down, hitting a button on the monitor that would stop the warnings until I got to one minute. Closing my eyes, I took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds, trying to get back into a meditative state. Come on, guys. You're cutting it kinda close.
I don't know how long I floated there, struggling my hardest to keep my breathing even and slow. After a bit, I noticed it becoming harder to breathe, and frowned as my body slowly began to grow more sluggish. My eyelids felt heavy as I opened my eyes. There was a beep, and I knew I was down to my last minute of oxygen. I took a small breath, and it came out a gasp when there wasn't quite enough oxygen. My throat began to burn as I struggled to keep breathing. I knew I had a backup supply of air, but I had no way of knowing if it was two minutes or five, and if it would make much of a difference. I needed to hang on, but it was so difficult when all I wanted to do was sleep.
I could hear my breathing echo in the helmet, as it was the only real sound, and it was creepy hearing the gasping, choking breaths. My eyes got heavier, and I wondered if I hit the backup oxygen if I could get back into that meditative world. I checked the monitor and it read minus one minute. Ten minutes of oxygen at the time, and twenty until the Daedalus reached me, if I remembered right. I still had way over five minutes to wait.
My fingers itched to hit the backup button, so I could breathe, but the sooner I hit it, the sooner I used it up. It felt like I had too many options and not enough at the same time. My mind spun as I struggled to keep my eyes open.
"Stay calm." I heard Rodney's voice echo in my mind.
My heart was pounding and my chest felt tight when the oxygen ran out. The monitor now read minus one minute. How was I ever going to last?
I hit the backup button. I didn't want to, I didn't mean to, but I couldn't help myself. As the oxygen flowed into the helmet, I took deep gulping breaths, until I realized what I was doing. I immediately stopped and took another breath, holding it and struggling not to use up the last of my air immediately.
Why hasn't Atlantis contacted me? I thought vaguely. They did before, but the connection cut off. What happened? "At…" I took a small breath, blinking and trying not to gasp. "Atlantis, do you… Do you read?" The only sound was my breathing, which had about evened out.
The monitor read four minutes.
There was static in my ear, and I wondered if it was Atlantis trying to contact me. Hearing a male voice, it took a moment for the signal to clean up.
"Colonel Sheppard, do you read?"
"Caldwell?" Frowning for a moment, I recalled Rodney mentioning about twenty minutes. For once, I was very glad he was wrong. "Is that you?"
"We'll be there in two minutes. How much air do you have left?"
I checked the monitor and felt a little giddy. "Three minutes."
"Well, I'd say that's cutting it a little close. Rodney informed us we might not make it in time."
"Well, I thought the same way, Colonel. This is my backup oxygen supply." I grinned to myself, feeling a chuckle resonate through my chest. Talk about relief. "I'd say we're cutting it a little too close."
"I thought backup tanks only had two minutes of oxygen in them…?"
"Yeah, me too. Go figure, huh? I'm not complaining."
"No, I bet you're not." Caldwell chuckled a little. "Hang on, we're about within reach."
"What happened with Atlantis? They had radio contact, but it just cut off shortly before an explosion."
"I'll explain when you're on board."
(Bridge of the Daedalus)
"So Atlantis is fine?"
Colonel Steven Caldwell nodded from his seat and looked out the screen. "The jumper was leaking a strange radiation due to the area of space the jumper was in before. The radiation stemmed from the meteor you dusted, and the piece that got jammed in the jumper. It didn't do much out in space, but when it entered the atmosphere of the planet, something in it caused a reaction that interfered with communications and a few other minor problems."
"What about the shields?"
"The held up fine. When the jumper exploded, it shook the city and weakened the shields in a few sections of the city, as it was predicted it would do so, but there were no major disturbances, and no lives lost."
Nodding a little, I looked around and took a deep breath. "Well, it's definitely nice to be on board a ship again. When do you think you'll have communications reestablished with Atlantis?"
Caldwell seemed to pause a moment and looked to a man seated at his right. They exchanged quiet words and Caldwell looked back. "A few more minutes. I'm guessing they're gonna be pretty relieved to hear you're fine."
"Yeah." I grinned dryly and thought about my little vision. "Well, I'm definitely in the mood for a vacation after this. You think Elizabeth'll approve?"
"I don't see why not."
Nodding again, I turned towards the main screen showing the planet we were orbiting, and I sighed. Maybe I need to take those girls out on a real Ferris wheel.
Hope you like it.
Not so whumpy, but not a good day for John.
Written October 24, 2008