Title: The Most Dangerous Game
Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis and all related characters are property of MGM, Sci-Fi, and others who aren't me. The Most Dangerous Game was written by Richard Connell. The character of General Zaroff and the basic idea of this fic belongs to him.
"I wanted the ideal animal to hunt," explained the general. "So I said, What are the attributes of an ideal quarry?' And the answer was, of course, It must have courage, cunning, and, above all, it must be able to reason."
"But no animal can reason," objected Rainsford.
"My dear fellow," said the general, "there is one that can."
"But you can't mean--" gasped Rainsford.
"And why not?"
-Quote from The Most Dangerous Game
"Welcome to Acadia!" They had said. "Where friendship and allies are made."
John admitted that the brochure sounded nice... a bit too nice if you asked him, though. These people wanted to fuel you up with the most delicious meal only to set you off into the woods with nothing but the clothes on your back (and minus any weapons you).
He was currently with Rodney and Elizabeth while Ronon and Teyla were somewhere in this huge maze of trees with Carson.
Right now he was nursing a sprained wrist, Elizabeth had a nasty cut over her right eyebrow, and surprisingly Rodney was the only one currently unscathed. He was utterly pissed and whining up a storm, but that was better then him lying unconscious. Mostly because there would be no way John could carry him if he were.
This mission had notoriously been named 'The Most Dangerous Game'. It reminded John of Richard Connell and his adventure story that he absolutely loved when he read it in high school. Some guy enjoyed setting people off into the woods near his home and hunting them for sport. If the person survived, they were free to leave.
John Sheppard currently hated that book.
"Rodney, any idea how far we are from the 'Gate?" Elizabeth asked.
Rodney sighed and shook his head. "When we arrived the 'Gate was in the east, but I think the sun sets in the east here. I mean, I think that's what Zodoff or whatever said."
"That's Zaroff, Rodney."
"Whatever," he replied. "As far as I'm concerned, the man lost any rights to having his name said correctly."
John nodded. "I'm definitely with Rodney on that one."
"I won't argue about it," Elizabeth said as she looked up at the sky. "It's getting dark. I say we find a place to hide for the night. John?"
John wasn't feeling so hot and wasn't sure why. Elizabeth may have said something to him. John took a deep breath and closed his eyes, willing the nausea that assailed him to go away. When it did, John felt a hand on his shoulder and opened his eyes. Elizabeth was looking at John in concern and he could see Rodney's nervous expression.
"Sorry," he told them. "Not sure what that was about."
"I think I know," Rodney squeaked.
"Rodney?" Elizabeth asked.
"Zaroff. He said he would make a bit more difficult for our military leader to get us through this."
"What better way then to poison me."
Elizabeth was not happy. "The minute we get out of this, I am going to have a rather lengthy discussion with the leaders of this world. Are you sure you're all right, John?"
"Yeah, I'm good. We should try to find cover for the night. The others will probably do the same. Lets go."
But John didn't tell Elizabeth and Rodney that tell them that his heart rate was going crazy and he didn't tell them that if they didn't get back to the 'Gate soon, he was going to die.
"Carson, are you all right?"
The doctor nodded and smiled at Teyla nervously as she finished bandaging the wound on his arm. "Aye, Lass, I'm fine. I wasn't expecting that... creature to be in this... game so to speak."
"I knew this was a bad idea," Ronon said from his look out point behind a thick wall of trees. "We should have seen this coming."
"We cannot always be paranoid, Ronon."
Carson stood with Teyla's help. "As much as I agree with you, Teyla, I understand Ronon's point as well and I think we need to be more cautious about who we're attempting to befriend."
Ronon stood. "Lets go. We need to head to the 'Gate as fast as possible."
"Wait! We're going east?" Carson asked, glancing at his compass.
"But I thought the sun set in the west."
Teyla nodded. "As it does on Atlantea and Athos, but on this world, it sets in the east. We do not know how long the journey is, Carson. We must begin now and find a place to rest once night falls."
Carson followed Ronon as Teyla walked behind him. He was not cut out for this sort of thing. The only reason he had agreed to come was that the Acadians said they were in need of medicines to help with their many ailments. Ronon said the only ailment they suffered from was stupidity.
Carson was inclined to agree.
"Run faster, Rodney!" John exclaimed as another arrow whizzed past his head.
"THIS IS CURRENTLY MY TOP SPEED!" Rodney exclaimed.
John looked ahead of the scientist for any sign of Elizabeth. He saw her about 10 feet away. Before they were being chased, John was about to keel over from exhaustion but once arrows starting flying their way, adrenaline kicked in. And right now, even though he couldn't see where the arrows were coming from, he knew he had to get to Elizabeth.
Like a shot, he tore past Rodney, knocking him to his feet. John ignored the cry that sounded and arrived to Elizabeth just in time. Elizabeth's eyes widened as John fell to his knees. "John!"
"You... okay?" he asked.
"Me?" Elizabeth replied. "I'm not the one with a damn arrow stuck in my shoulder blade."
"No... guess... guess not."
Rodney was breathing hard as he came up to them. "Sorry to disturb you, but we have got to get out of here now!"
"What?" Rodney asked. "Are you insane? Just get to your feet and lets go!"
John sighed as he allowed his friends to help him. He was not a happy camper. And what, did he have a freaking dart board on his back? True, he jumped in front of Elizabeth, but he didn't ask to be poisoned. He didn't ask to be shot with an arrow, yet here he was.
He was so relieved when they spotted a cave, but what happened to him after being helped and seated, he didn't know. All he knew was that he was exhausted. Despite him sitting up John realized he was lying against something soft and soon fell asleep.
Rodney knelt next to them, searching through the packs for anything to help his friend. He looked helplessly at Elizabeth. "Um, it seems we don't have very much in the way of first aid here. Apparently the only supplies included in the one bag we were given was field dressing and ibuprofen. I highly doubt that's gonna put a dent in the pain he's feeling right now."
"Probably not, Rodney, but seeing as he's unconscious it doesn't make a difference. And we should attempt to break the arrow in half. I don't want him to end up jamming it in further."
Rodney nodded, swallowing nervously. "Okay. Hold him down and I'll break it on the count of three."
"One... two... three!"
The minute Rodney snapped the arrow in half; John came to, crying out so loudly they were sure they'd been discovered. For the moment everything seemed fine and Elizabeth began talking to John in soothing tones, calming him down. He looked at her with feverish eyes.
"Hey John. Sorry about that. We didn't want this to stick out and accidentally go into your shoulder even more.'
John chuckled, despite the pain he was in. "No, wouldn't want that."
Rodney handed him the ibuprofen and a canteen. "Sorry, but this is all we've got. Apparently our gracious hosts decided it would be funny to switch up all our supplies. We pretty much have nothing but a few MREs and two blankets. Remind me that we should listen to my instincts more often."
"Got it, Rodney."
John was quiet for a while, contemplating their situation. As Rodney said, they had next to no supplies, there was still another days walk to the Stargate, and oh yeah, a homicidal maniac intent on hunting them through the woods for sport was after them.
This was definitely a planet being added to their "don't ever go there" pile.
He knew Rodney and Elizabeth needed to get to safety, but he wasn't exactly up to par to get them to the 'Gate. He also knew they couldn't get there on their own so he was going to get up. No way he was going to die on this damn planet. John took a shaky breath and began to sit.
"John!" Elizabeth exclaimed.
"I'm good," he lied.
In truth he felt as if he were hung over times five. His head was pounding unmercifully and his stomach couldn't decided if it wanted to keep its contents inside or not. All he really wanted to do was fall over and sleep for a month, but that wasn't going to happen anytime soon.
"You can't be good," Rodney replied. "You have a fever and your face is as white as a sheet. You should at least rest until morning. Then you can be all sacrificing. You're gonna be no good to us half-conscious!"
Elizabeth brushed a lock of hair from his forehead. "He's right, John. Just rest now and let us take care of you. We'll wake you up when it's time to go."
John nodded because he really didn't have the strength to argue at the moment. Elizabeth and Rodney exchanged glances. "I'll take watch," Rodney said. "Why don't you get some rest too?"
"I don't think I can rest to be honest."
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
"No food?" Carson asked.
This day was just getting worse and worse. First the Acadians force them on this little adventure and then the only thing they have in abundance are medical supplies. Not that that was a bad thing, but he had a feeling Sheppard and others would need those more.
Carson watched in stunned silence as Ronon slashed at some poor creature with his sword. The Satedan then grinned and picked it up, showing it off to Carson and Teyla. "We're good, Doc," he replied. "This should keep us until we get back to the Stargate."
"I'm sure it's fine, Carson," Teyla said, noticing the physician's expression.
About 45 minutes later the three had just finished their dinner when gunfire was heard and it was coming closer to them. "Hate to eat and run..." Ronon said.
Carson nodded and reached for his pack. Teyla beat him to it. "You just concentrate on following Ronon and I will follow you. We will get to the 'Gate as fast as possible."
"Aye. Let's get out of here!"
The three weaved through the forest, dodging bullets. At one point Carson heard Ronon grunt as a lucky shot grazed the man's arm. And suddenly he heard the familiar sound of a P-90. The others had found them. Once the Acadians stopped firing their own weapons, they were finally reunited with their friends.
"Oh thank God!" Carson exclaimed. "Are you three all right?"
John was about to reply with his usual response when he dropped to the ground. Rodney and Elizabeth made it to him before he hit his head on the way down. "What the hell happened to him?" Ronon asked as Carson rushed to his side.
"The Acadians poisoned him," Elizabeth replied. "Apparently they believed incapacitating the military leader would help them catch us sooner."
Rodney nodded. "They don't know John Sheppard."
"Bloody hell. He even has an arrow in his shoulder," Carson said. "We need to get him back to Atlantis quickly!"
"Of course we do, Carson," Rodney replied. In fact we were just about to head over the last hill when heard gunfire coming from over here. Sheppard insisted we check it out in case you needed help. Sure enough, you did."
Teyla was glancing around the area believing they were quite exposed where they were. "If the 'Gate isn't too much further, we should hurry there. As Carson said, John needs medical attention."
They all agreed and were soon heading in the direction of the Stargate. Upon arrival, the team saw the Acadian General Zaroff standing there, a huge smile on his face. Ronon wanted nothing more to do than to wipe that smirk off his face. He had a feeling that Elizabeth would want to talk to him first, though.
He glanced over at her. He had seen that look on her face before. It's the look she gave when she was beyond pissed but was still determined to talk say her piece no matter what.
"Dr. Weir," he said as they stepped up before him. "Please, go ahead and dial your home. You are free to go."
Elizabeth nodded to Rodney and mouthed 'Alpha Site' to him. These people did not have the right to know Atlantis' real 'Gate address. "General you have made an enemy of us today. We want nothing further to do with your people. What you do is as evil as what the Wraith do when they make people Runners."
Zaroff chuckled. "Oh yes, we have been told that on many occasions, however, we don't usually let those people go. We will be letting you leave though despite that comment."
She crossed her arms as the 'gate connected. Carson and Rodney went ahead through with John while Ronon and Teyla stood on either side of her. "I don't understand your reasoning behind this and right now I am too worried about Colonel Sheppard to care. The only thing I am asking you for is the antidote to the poison he was given."
"I am sorry, Dr. Weir," Zaroff replied. "But there is no antidote. The recovery of your Colonel rests solely with him and the abilities of your healer. Most men who are given the poison do not live."
Ronon moved to take another step, but Elizabeth held her arm in front of him to stop. "You had better hope he lives, General, or we will send a team here to destroy you."
Without another word, Elizabeth headed to the 'Gate, Ronon and Teyla hot on her heels.
Once they stepped onto the Alpha Site, Elizabeth's knees gave out. Ronon caught her just in time. "You okay?" he asked, holding her steady.
"I've been better," she replied. "I'm not one to go threatening people, but the way they treated us and the fact that whatever they did to John may not be..."
Ronon nodded. "You did the right thing, but we need to stop focusing on that situation and get Sheppard back to Atlantis so Beckett can help him."
"You're right. Rodney, dial Atlantis."
After waiting to hear from Carson for an hour, Rodney was about to run into the physician's office to find out what was going on with his friend when he appeared. "Well, I can say for absolute certainty that the poison Colonel Sheppard was given is not killing him."
"Oh thank God!" Elizabeth said, breathing a sigh of relief. "How is he then?"
"Not well. The poison is wreaking havoc on his systems. He has a high fever and it's causing dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. That and the fact that he's in a lot of pain from the arrow.
I'm a little leery about giving him something for that, though. I don't know what kind of affect it will have on the poison in his system. He's going to be trying sleep this off but with the nausea I don't know how long he'll be able to."
"Can we see him?" Rodney asked. His anger had slowly dissipated upon hearing John's condition.
Carson was thoughtful for a moment but realized there wouldn't be any harm in that. His friends wanted to see for themselves that John was alive and breathing and he couldn't blame them. He was grateful himself.
"Aye, go ahead. But only for a few minutes."
As his friends crowded around him, John slowly opened his eyes. He wanted to sleep but he wanted to reassure everyone that he would be all right. Granted he didn't feel like that right now, but he knew he would be. Especially with their support.
Teyla placed a hand on his shoulder. "Just rest, John. We just wanted to make certain you were comfortable."
"Am for now. Thanks."
"See ya in the morning, Sheppard," Ronon said.
Elizabeth smiled, happy to see him in good spirits considering. "Good night, John."
Rodney was last to speak up. "If you want, I could stay here a bit. Maybe grab my laptop. You know, in case you need anything."
"Carson has nurses, ya know," John replied with a smirk. "But sure. That'd be... be nice."
John nodded slowly as he took a deep breath. "Shoulder's killing me but Carson doesn't think it'd be wise to give me anything."
"Not even something to take the edge off?" Rodney asked.
"Maybe. Didn't ask."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Of course you didn't. I'll be right back."
John relaxed as best he could while Rodney went off to talk to Carson. At least the nausea had gone away but right now he felt as though he had a really bad case of the flu. Aches and pains everywhere, the fever...
John blinked when he heard a voice. No, that couldn't be right. He had to be hallucinating. How high was his temperature? Carson never did say.
He sat up straighter now, trying to steady himself. Zaroff and his men. They were in Atlantis!
Elizabeth was heading to her quarters to try and get some sleep when an announcement about security to the infirmary caught her attention. Just as she was about to ask what was going on, Rodney's voice filtered through her radio.
"Elizabeth, we've got a problem."
Turning in the opposite direction, she ran to the infirmary. "I'm on my way, Rodney."
She arrived to find Major Lorne nursing a bloody nose and Carson and his team surrounding John, who was fighting them. Rodney and Ronon were trying to help calm him down.
"What happened?" Elizabeth asked Teyla, who was staring at the scene in stunned silence.
"I do not know. I only just arrived a moment before you. Rodney called me and asked that I get up here immediately. When I arrived, they had just gotten Colonel Sheppard back into his bed."
Elizabeth nodded, moving over to where a nurse was tending to Lorne's injury. "Major?"
"Dr. Beckett called for a security team. According to him, Colonel Sheppard thought Zaroff was in Atlantis. When I got here, the Colonel was convinced I was Zaroff... hence the nose."
A few minutes later, Rodney and Ronon were heading towards the others as Carson finished up with John. "That is something I never want to see again," Rodney said, face ashen.
He took a deep breath and replied to Elizabeth. "I had gone to see if Carson could give Sheppard anything to at least take the edge off of the pain in his shoulder. I swear I wasn't even gone five minutes and he started yelling about something.
"By the time we got in here, he had overpowered one of the Marines. He grabbed his 9mil but didn't use it. That's when Carson called Major Lorne and once he got here, Sheppard kept saying the man was Zaroff. He wanted... he wanted to protect me and Carson."
The group looked over at John and saw he had calmed down. Carson gave some instructions to his nurses before nodding and heading over to the others.
"That was fun," he muttered sarcastically. "Colonel Sheppard's fever spiked to 103. We've stabilized him and given him as much pain medication as I'm comfortable with. I just hope there's no reaction to it and the poison he was given."
John woke up some time later. How much later, he wasn't sure. He just knew that despite the pain, he felt more human than he had for awhile. What day was it? The last he remembered it was Wednesday and they were on Acadia.
John tried to get comfortable and ended up jarring his bandaged shoulder. Wait a minute, what did he do? He glanced down at his hands and saw another bandage on his left wrist.
"Carson!" John called.
The physician came running out. "Colonel?" he asked.
John looked up at Carson, a bit embarrassed by his outburst. "Sorry, Doc. Didn't mean to scare you. I was just... I'm confused."
"What the hell happened to me? The last thing I remember was gating to Acadia," John said.
Carson wasn't completely shocked John couldn't remember, but that far back? "Colonel that was two weeks ago."
John listened as Carson explained what happened. "We pretty much locked out those coordinates," he finished.
"It's coming back to me Carson. Complete with my anger at that damn General!"
"Relax," Carson said, smiling with sympathy. "I know you're angry but right now the only thing I want you to concentrate on is getting better. The poison may be gone, but your immune system was compromised. It's going to take some time to build it up again."
John nodded. "I'll try, Doc." He looked around the room. "So where is everybody?"
"They should be here shortly."
As if on cue Rodney, Ronon, Teyla, and Elizabeth entered the infirmary. Elizabeth was carrying a cake and Rodney had a brightly wrapped package, which he set down on John's table with a flourish.
"What's this all about?" John asked.
Elizabeth showed him the cake. 'To Our Favorite Dartboard'.