Welcome to the world of jumping puddles (with associated disaster and heart stopping feats of ingenuity and bravery).
Each chapter represents a different story for our intrepid explorers and Jumper pilots.
If you believe the chapter you are reading is a bit wonky (my sincerest apologies) try the next one. I'm hoping they get better the more I write. Chapters one and two are the first stories (outside of English lessons at school) that I have ever written for anything.
Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy!
Disclaimer: - "Stargate" and all related characters are the property of MGM Television Entertainment.
Set just after "Suspicion" Season 1.
Weir sat at the head of the table in the briefing room. To her right sat Ford and McKay and on her left there was Sheppard, Teyla and Beckett.
"How are the Athosians settling in?" Weir asked.
Sheppard answered, "I just finished flying the last of them over to the mainland. It sure took a lot of trips to get them all over there with their gear."
It didn't show in his voice, but Sheppard looked slightly annoyed at having to spend a whole day flying in straight lines over huge expanses of ocean, backwards and forwards. Not exactly his idea of exciting flying. McKay and Ford looked at each other, a silent agreement between them. They both sat in on several of the trips, not only to keep Sheppard company, but McKay had to set up the radio gear and Ford to secure the landing area and help the Athosians unload.
"It gave me chance to really get 'in tune' with the feel of flying the Jumper." Sheppard continued.
"I will check on them in several days," Teyla said. "I believe that they will be much happier on the mainland than on Atlantis. It may not be Athos, but at least they will be able to begin again."
Weir looked at Teyla and smiled, "Of course, well if they need any help, we left them with several radios and a transmitter, so they can always call us."
"My people and I are most grateful for all that you have done to us."
"It was the least we could do after the wraith attack." Weir paused for a few seconds and turned a page in the notepad in front of her.
"Carson, I wondered how you were progressing with giving the ATA gene to base personnel?"
"Well, so far, I have managed to find 25 volunteers." Beckett answered, "but out of all those subjects, only 10 have been successful."
Ford looked slightly downcast, "Yes, it didn't work on me. I would have loved to have got my hands on one of those jumpers." He laughed a little nervously.
"Not on my watch." Sheppard answered, with a slight smirk at Ford.
Beckett continued, "Including Rodney, Sheppard and myself, that brings the total number of ATA gene carriers to 12."
"That's perfect," said Weir looking at Sheppard. "Major, I would like you to begin a training programme for everyone who has the gene. I would like all the gene carriers to be able to fly the jumpers."
At this bombshell, Rodney started slightly, "Is that safe? I know Major 'I can fly anything' over there is fine with flying us around," he stated looking pointedly at Sheppard, who scowled back at McKay, "But why do we all need to fly them? I don't think Major Sheppard will be pleased with anyone getting their hands on 'his machines.'" McKay sounded a little nervous.
"Hey, I'm sure there's a good reason, right Doctor Weir?" Sheppard countered glaring at McKay.
"Yes, yes there is." Weir answered looking between Sheppard and McKay, who both slowly turning back to her. "Major, you know how long it took to ferry the Athosians to the mainland. If we had a wraith attack, there would never be enough time for them all to get back to Atlantis and dial off the planet."
"That's certainly true." Teyla said, "It would be most beneficial for my people to be on their way back to Atlantis in one group, rather than choosing who to leave behind."
McKay looked at Weir, "But surely the ability is natural, in an emergency, I'm sure it would be no problem."
"I'd rather not have to wait for that time Rodney." Weir stated and then looked at Sheppard, "And what if you were incapacitated while off-world on a planet with an orbital gate? I'm sure you feel the same way – I would be much happier to know that everyone was trained properly."
"What about my gene Doctor Weir," asked Beckett, looking very worried, "I can barely keep a scanner operational. I'm not sure if I trust myself in a jumper, let alone inflicting that doubt onto my unfortunate passengers."
"That's why I would like Sheppard to train all of you." Weir answered.
Sheppard gave a reassuring nod to Beckett, "You'll do fine. I'll take everyone out individually. If you get into trouble, I'll be there."
McKay looked smug, "Come on Carson, you have the gene naturally. It'll be really easy."
"So, that's settled then." Weir stated looking round at them all, "As soon as you're ready Major you may start the training."
Sheppard called McKay to the Jumper bay two days later. Sheppard asked some technicians to prep the jumper with full supplies.
"This isn't what I had in mind," McKay complained, now settling down into the pilot seat of Jumper One. The controls immediately came online as he sat down.
Sheppard was strapping himself into the co-pilot's seat, shot him a grim look – this was going to be a long couple of hours.
"Wouldn't it have been better just to have a theory lesson, or perhaps run a quick loop around the city and then back?" McKay continued, trying to hide the rising panic in his voice.
"No, Rodney," Sheppard replied, "An asteroid belt is the best way to train in complex manoeuvres. Obviously we'll start with the basics, but I have confidence that you'll not find it too difficult."
McKay was slightly taken aback by Sheppard's comment and couldn't find a sarcastic comment to throw back. It was nice that he felt that way, but McKay hoped he wouldn't have to eat his words in the near future.
Sheppard began the lesson, "The first thing to do is power up the systems, although it looks like that already happened. Remember, you just have to think about what you want to do, and it should just happen. The control panels are mainly just for show and just in case the interface malfunctions."
McKay shot Sheppard an annoyed glance, "Major, you obviously spent a lot of time working on your little speech, but I already know all of this. I can think of a hundred other things I would rather be doing than dodging certain death in an asteroid field when it's not necessary."
"Then you check energy levels," he continued, looking straight ahead and ignoring McKay's sarcasm. "Make sure there's enough 'juice in the tank' to get us where we're going, back again and a little extra just in case."
"Obviously," McKay muttered, as the power level readings flashed across the HUD.
The display showed an energy distribution map of the whole jumper, most energy was concentrated in the two pods, still tucked into the side of the craft.
"Ok, it all checks out fine. We only need enough power for two hours maximum, and all the charts are in the green. Let's go."
McKay closed his eyes and willed the jumper to take off and hover a few feet above the deck. In his mind, he could feel the sensation as the jumper responded to his thoughts. He didn't believe it would work, so he was pleasantly surprised.
"It may be helpful if you kept your eyes open," Sheppard said through clenched teeth. He was looking at McKay with an exasperated look, like he was trying to teach a small child how to walk.
"Alright, alright!" McKay opened his eyes slightly, "It's strange, I could sense that it was airborne even though I couldn't see or feel it."
The jumper began to shake and drift alarmingly towards the rear wall of the jumper bay.
"Woah, woah! Careful, Rodney," Sheppard shouted. He looked at McKay, whose hands were trembling slightly as he gripped the control sticks. "Try to relax, the jumper can pick up on nervousness."
"I'm not nervous!" He replied, "I just don't see why I have to do this." He let go of the controls for a second and wrung his hands together. He then took a few deep and shuddering breaths and wrapped his hands tightly around the control sticks again. "Ok, ok here we go."
The jumper levelled off, and slowly drifted in the better direction of the lower hanger door towards the gateroom.
"McKay to control room. We're ready to go. If we're not back in a couple of hours, send out the search parties." The lower hanger door opened as he hammered the gate address into the jumper's DHD.
"Acknowledged, Doctor McKay. Have a safe trip." Came the tech's reply from the control room.
McKay sighed and grimaced as he finished dialling and the jumper sunk down into the control room on autopilot. The jumper then slid lazily through the gate.
The jumper emerged on the other side of the gate into space. There was a sun in the system, which reflected light off thousands of rocks floating and tumbling over each other close to the gate. From this distance McKay and Sheppard could make out several much larger asteroids, which looked like many small moons as the sunlight reflected off them.
"Okay," Sheppard continued his instruction, "Try scanning the system."
"Way ahead of you there," McKay replied as the HUD flashed up a map showing many dots representing the asteroids.
"Did you see that?" McKay asked in alarm.
"No, what is it?"
"I'm not sure but it felt… looked," he corrected, "Like a faint energy reading on the sun side of the belt at the edge of the scanner's range."
"Well, I didn't see anything, but I suppose while we're here, we may as well check it out as part of the training."
Sheppard looked over at McKay. The scientist's face seemed to have lit up since they came through the gate, all his nervousness and panic had faded away. Sheppard knew what it was like. The feeling of being in control. The jumper had a similar effect on Sheppard, although probably not as much, because Sheppard had been a pilot for years and he was always in control. There was just something about the jumpers that was different. Probably the interface, it felt so natural, almost like the craft was an extension of himself and flying them was so easy. Sheppard didn't share his thoughts with McKay, he did not want to boost his arrogance too much or make him feel downcast that flying the jumper was easy.
"That's it Rodney," Sheppard said in an encouraging voice, as McKay moved the jumper forward towards the asteroids.
The jumper slowly slid from left to right and up and down to avoid asteroids and smaller rocks as it made it's way through the belt. A sheen of sweat had appeared on McKay's face as he concentrated on flying the jumper. The map was still displayed on the HUD, but McKay seemed to be looking out the window to make course corrections.
"Thank goodness the inertial dampeners are working properly," Sheppard thought as McKay made a quick roll so that they did not end up crashing as an oblong asteroid just impacted and forced several rocks into their path.
McKay let out a breath that he had been holding. He hadn't even noticed that he had been holding it until his lungs began to burn. Flying the jumper was easier than he had anticipated. He had been so against the whole flying lesson idea. He had a lot of work to do and thought flying was something he would never need to do. He thought it may get to him after a while and blast away his intelligence, like a bad drug. No wonder all flyboys acted like they were so superior.
After about half an hour, the jumper cleared the asteroid belt. McKay slowed it to a stop, facing slightly away from the sun, so that they could both still see the HUD through the glare.
"That was really good Rodney, but don't let it get to your head. We still have to get back. Is there any sign of that energy reading you thought you saw?" Sheppard asked.
"Hey, I did see something. You probably weren't paying any attention." He answered, but expanded the scanning range on the HUD again anyway (it had been reduced while traversing the belt to enable better dodging).
A red dot suddenly appeared, rapidly approaching them from the asteroid belt behind. Just then a blast rocked the jumper as it impacted on one of the engine pods. Both McKay and Sheppard swayed slightly in their seats, but the inertial dampeners held.
"Oh, crap," Sheppard said.
"Talk about stating the obvious… again," McKay said in a frantic whisper as he wheeled the jumper round to face their unknown foe.
McKay rolled and pitched the jumper from side to side as they approached the now oncoming ship to avoid the volley of fire it continued to spray in their direction. Several of the shots impacted on the windscreen and sides of the craft.
"It's a wraith dart," Sheppard said after a few seconds, "But what's it doing out here, and why didn't we detect it earlier?"
"I said I saw something straight away, but you didn't believe me did you? I expect it was hidden by the magnetic fields around some of the larger asteroids." McKay was now profusely sweating and his hands visibly shaking. "Maybe you should take over I don't think I can keep this up for much longer."
"I can't Rodney, it would take several seconds to change over, and by then the dart will probably have destroyed us."
"And why can't I fire?!" McKay shot a very quick and nervous glance towards Sheppard.
Sheppard looked away, slightly embarrassed, "I asked Zelenka to disable the drones just in case you accidentally fired them."
"What! I'm not that useless. When we get back I'm going to have a chat with Zelenka about the chain of command."
"I know, I'm sorry, but we have a limited supply of drones and I didn't want to waste any that we could use against the wraith."
"Like now you mean!"
The jumper took a few more hits and then passed by the dart and headed at full speed into the asteroid belt. McKay manoeuvred the ship through several miles of large rocks and then slowed to a stop behind a larger asteroid. He then unbuckled his belt and turned towards the rear section of the jumper.
"What are you doing?" Asked Sheppard. He too got up from his seat and turned to face McKay who was now grabbing his laptop from one of the crates on the floor.
"I'm going to see if I can get the drones back online so that we don't end up as a jumper sandwich between two asteroids when the dart comes back again and blasts our engines out." McKay quickly booted up his laptop and pulled down the ceiling control panel. He then proceeded and plugged his laptop into the panel and started to type away on the screen.
Sheppard watched for a few seconds and then moved across and sat down in the pilot's seat. He strapped himself in and brought the HUD back up. It had disappeared when McKay got up.
The wraith dart suddenly appeared on the sensor screen. It was directly underneath them and fired several shots into the base of the jumper. The ship jolted violently upwards and McKay lost his balance and fell onto the floor, his chest slammed into the corner of a crate on the way down and his laptop flew out of his grasp and across the floor. He closed his eyes, coughed and gagged as he lay curled up on the floor and hugged his arms around his ribcage. When the pain subsided slightly he decided he had recovered sufficiently to open his eyes. He glared at the back of Sheppard's head. Another sharp pain erupted across the right side of his chest as he tried to breathe. He struggled to sit up and retrieve his laptop.
"Sorry about that, the inertial dampeners must have weakened from the hits we took earlier. How are those drones coming along back there?" Sheppard couldn't look round as he was still trying to dodge the asteroids as well as the incoming fire from the dart.
"Oh… yes… fine," McKay replied sarcastically and gasped slightly as he took another shuddering breath.
Sheppard heard the pain in his friend's voice and risked turning around. McKay's was sitting hunched up on the floor, his face was pale and he was holding his right side with his left hand as he continued to tap away frantically on the laptop with his free hand. His face was set with a look of grim determination.
Sheppard looked around to the front of the jumper again. McKay had looked a bit ill and he thought he had heard him fall onto something when the dart had hit them. Sheppard unfortunately didn't have time to help his friend right now or they would both be dead. As long as McKay was still conscious and trying to fix the drones there was nothing more he could do.
McKay continued to study the laptop, trying to avoid taking deep breaths as these only made the pain worse. He needed to be fully focussed on the task, or he would have more than broken ribs to worry about. He steeled himself and tried to ignore the shooting pains across his chest as he worked. It took him several minutes to isolate the problem. The jumper rolled a few more times during McKay's work as it was hit by more wraith dart fire. As McKay was already on the floor, he just swayed and gasped for air through the agony as the movement contorted his damaged rib cage.
"I think I have it," he said finally, "It seems Zelenka just cut the power to the drones by rearranging a few of the control crystals. I just need to get up and put them all back in place correctly."
"Ok, but be quick, I'm not sure how many more hits we can take." Sheppard rolled the jumper again as McKay got up onto his shaky legs, still holding his side.
McKay reached up with his left hand and looked down to consult his laptop on the bench seat in the rear of the jumper. He clenched his teeth as his ribs protested at the stretching motion. He then began muttering softly to himself, "What idiot would disable the drones and then go off-world where all manner of enemies intent on our destruction or capture lurk?" The muttering helped McKay concentrate as he swapped the crystals around. He double checked the laptop and, still standing, he turned to Sheppard.
"That should do it. Try firing the drones." McKay began to make his way painfully back to the cockpit.
The jumper was circling around asteroids with the wraith dart in pursuit. Sheppard was doing an excellent job of avoiding hits from the dart and from hitting the rocks drifting around them on their unpredictable courses. He heard McKay say that the drones were back online and quickly flipped the jumper round to face the dart, which had been tailing them for the last few minutes. He fired off two of the drones. One of the drones hit the side of the dart and it veered into their path. At such close proximity, Sheppard had to swerve rapidly to avoid being hit by the oncoming and out of control dart. He heard a soft thud and an "Ow!" but he had no time to check on McKay just yet. The dart sailed harmlessly by and exploded in a shower of rock fragments and fire on a nearby asteroid.
Sheppard relaxed and turned to see how McKay was. He saw him sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall at the back of the cockpit section. His eyes were closed and he was holding his head with one hand and his side with the other. Sheppard could see a trickle of blood working it's way down the side of McKay's face from under his hand. Sheppard didn't think McKay was unconscious as his face was screwed up in pain.
Just then, McKay's face suddenly went slack and he pitched over to the side and lay sprawled across the deck.
"Oh, crap," Sheppard muttered, "Hold on Rodney."
Sheppard brought the jumper to a stop in a less densely packed area of the belt and got up to help McKay. He felt a strong pulse on his friend's neck, but his breathing came in ragged gasps. Sheppard carefully stepped over him into the back of the jumper to grab the medkit. He placed a bandage over the cut on McKay's forehead, which slowly stopped bleeding. He thought McKay probably had some internal injuries too from falling onto the deck earlier. Sheppard carefully moved McKay into the recovery position and checked his pulse again. It was still strong, so Sheppard decided it was better to make his way back to Atlantis as fast as possible than try to treat his friend's injuries.
Sheppard climbed into the pilot's seat and sped back through the asteroids. He tried to avoid any sudden movement, which may jar McKay and cause further injuries. It only took ten minutes to make it all the way back to the gate, as the dart had chased them most of the way through the belt. McKay groaned a few times, but did not fully wake up throughout the rest of the trip.
Sheppard dialled the gate as soon as he was in range and transmitted his IDC, "Sheppard to control room," he said as soon as the wormhole finished forming, "Please have a med-team standing by in the jumper bay as soon as we're though."
"Is anything wrong?" Weir's concerned voice replied.
"Rodney had a bit of a fall as we were dodging between asteroids and the wraith."
"Wraith!?" Weir sounded a little shocked.
"I'll explain it all as soon as we're back."
The jumper then retracted it's pods and dived through the gate.
A few days later, Sheppard came into the infirmary and sat down in the chair beside McKay's bed as the scientist typed on his laptop. Dr Beckett had stitched the cut across McKay's forehead fairly easily and advised him that he had a concussion. Fortunately he had not fractured his skull. Beckett had in fact been most concerned about the two broken ribs McKay had suffered. These had made breathing difficult and combined with the head injury it was no surprise that McKay had fallen unconscious. Dr Beckett wanted to keep McKay under observation and immobilised for a few days to make sure his broken ribs didn't move and puncture a lung. McKay was annoyed that there was nothing they could do but stop him from moving and give him painkillers.
"How you holding up?" Sheppard asked after a few seconds.
"Well, you know, it hurts and I can't breathe sometimes, but other than that it's great." McKay carried on typing and took a few shallow breaths and squinted his eyes slightly. Talking still made it worse.
"I've finished training the other ancient gene carriers." Sheppard continued, "We decided to keep them on Lantea, just in case there were anymore darts hidden in that belt."
McKay stopped typing and looked up at Sheppard, "Great, nice to know it only took a concussion and a couple of broken ribs to change your mind. I said at the start it was a bad idea to start with something so… advanced."
Sheppard looked away with a guilty expression and thought how to reply for a moment. "You were the best pilot out of everyone else." Sheppard didn't really think the man's ego needed too much of a boost, he just wanted to avoid the accusing glare and blame in McKay's eyes.
McKay softened slightly, "Really? I thought it was pretty easy."
"Of course, we know you can weave around asteroids, but can you fly in a straight line?!"
At this, Beckett approached and ushered Sheppard out of the infirmary and grabbed McKay's laptop so that he could rest.
A/N - I would be very grateful for some reviews. Good? Bad? Thanks!