Fight or Flight
Disclaimer: The following story is a work of fan fiction, and as such is for fan enjoyment only. All recognizable characters/settings are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is made. I want to make it clear that the boys aren't mine in any way, shape or form. (Damn…) I've only borrowed them and I am NOT promising to put them back when I've finished playing with them…
Summary: Rodney and John are trapped in space when a malfunction causes the controls of their puddle jumper to overload. With no way to contact Atlantis, and John badly injured, will they be able to make it home?
Central Character(s): Rodney, John plus a smattering of Weir and Carson.
Category (ies): Angst, Action, Drama, H/C, some humour.
Placement: Season Two, sometime before 'Grace Under Pressure'.
Rating: +12 for moderately bad language from the boys and semi-graphic descriptions of injuries.
Spoilers: None! Yaay!
A/N: This was adapted from a challenge I saw on the Atlantica site – it gave chunks of text to be used within the story. I never entered it as a response on said site because I changed some of the wording, but I liked the premise. Hopefully, if this was YOUR challenge, you won't be too offended! As always, I make no apologies for incorrect jargon – whether it's medical or scientific. It all makes sense in my head… Oh, and I'm working on the assumption that the jumper's autopilot kicks in when the ship's in range of a Gate. At least, that was the impression I got from '38 Minutes' (you know, people, the bit where Ford tells Markham and Stackhouse that 'It's all automatic from here.') So there you go – that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. *pokes out tongue and blows a massive raspberry in a childish manner*
Lt Col John Sheppard should have been bored out of his skull.
He and Dr Rodney McKay were sat in Puddle Jumper 1, about an hour from Atlantis. Elizabeth, in all her wisdom, had decided to send the pair of them to MM1-B54 to help the natives with their shield emitter. The planet in question was a small, primitive world about three hour's flight from Lantea. Normally, they would have used the Gate and gone on foot, but Radek was trying to run a diagnostic and had temporarily disconnected the DHD in the control room. In addition, he had made it clear that the boys couldn't use the jumper's DHD to dial out because it would interfere with the diagnostic.
So, in the absence of any space Gates near the planet, they were stuck with a long flight.
On reflection, Sheppard realised that maybe he shouldn't have 'borrowed' the last of Elizabeth's hot chocolate – the mission certainly felt like it was in the 'you've-been-a-very-naughty-boy-now-go-to-your-room' category in terms of punishment. And he'd seen the look on her face when she told him that he would have to fly both ways – definitely an orchestrated conspiracy. He made a mental note to never ever come between that woman and her chocolate ever again, certainly not if he valued his life.
He was also going to have a serious talk with a certain Czech engineer on the subject of loyalty. Damn turncoat.
Rodney's job, of course, had been to fix the aforementioned shield. The journey there had been almost unbearable. McKay had moaned and whined almost none-stop for the better part of two hours, blaming John for being dragged from his cosy lab and Ancient doohickeys, claiming that he had been framed.
The sad thing was that the physicist was right – not that John was ever going to admit it to his friend's face. Feeling both mischievous and daring (invoking the now infamous wrath of Rodney McKay was not a hobby for the faint of heart), Sheppard had not only nicked Weir's hot chocolate, but left a note from Rodney owning up to the theft. Although the look on McKay's face when he was confronted by an enraged Elizabeth had been priceless, he should have realised that signing the note 'Rodders' had been a tactical error.
The only upside to the whole sorry mess was that Weir had somehow come to the conclusion that McKay was covering for Sheppard in some way, and had decided to send him along with the pilot.
Next time he pulled a stunt like that, John thought idly to himself, he was going to leave incriminating evidence in the Canadian's lab. Failing that, he could always plead temporary insanity and pout a lot. It usually worked. In the right conditions, his infamous 'puppy dog' look could be lethal.
On the planet, Rodney had completed the repairs in record time (literally two minutes to replace a broken crystal), and then wandered over to smirk as John had tried to teach some of the locals a few basics in hand to hand combat and defence.
As the physicist had stood making unhelpful, sarcastic comments, and generally annoying the hell out of the Air Force man, Sheppard had had a brainwave. At first, he had been tempted to strangle the Canadian and flush his body into deep space – no witnesses after all, and therefore no one to question his story of a deeply tragic yet unpreventable accident – but then it struck him. A single, ingenious idea that would teach McKay a well deserved lesson.
Thus his boredom was replaced by the semi-maniacal glee that could only be induced by revenge.
John was enjoying himself immensely as he dangled Rodney from the hook that he had baited as they left the planet. He still couldn't quite believe that the physicist had fallen for it – but he had. Not only the hook, but the line and sinker too. Being able to pull one over on McKay was something of an achievement as far as Sheppard was concerned. After all, the scientist was in possession of a razor sharp wit that the Colonel had experienced on many an occasion.
And so it was that John was in true form as he gave Rodney his best tease of the week. The debate was in regard to Superman or Green Hornet. John loved Superman. As far as comic book heroes went, Clark Kent was up there with the elite. Rodney loved Superman too, but John had called dibs on the choices.
He sat back in his chair, arms behind his head – the autopilot was on so that he could concentrate all of his efforts on this session of McKay baiting. "No, Rodney. You can only choose Green Hornet or the Flash," he explained for the tenth time in as many minutes. "Those are your only choices. I have Superman." He grinned wickedly as McKay scowled at him.
"Why do you always get first choice? Who died and made you King of the Super Heroes?" Rodney was not happy. Not only was he stuck for another hour before he could get back to the relative peace and quiet of his lab and a decent cup of coffee, but now he had to indulge John 'I'm-ten-years-old' Sheppard in this stupid game. And he couldn't even be Superman. He would've settled for Batman, but the pilot hadn't given him the option.
"Jeez, Rodney, if you want first choice then you've got to think faster. Now just choose – Green Hornet or the Flash."
"I could out-think you in my sleep!" McKay snorted, rolling his eyes.
Sheppard gave him a lop-sided grin. "You're stalling, Rodney. Come on." He tapped his watch theatrically.
Frustrated, McKay threw his hands into the air in submission. "Oh, alright, Green Hornet!"
"Okay, that's good." John's smile quickly morphed an evil grin as he pulled out his trump card and waited for the sparks to fly. "In the speed category, I'm faster than you – no comparison."
"You never said anything about comparing powers!" McKay squawked indignantly. "Sheppard, you know that Superman had better powers than Green Hornet." He jutted out his lower jaw and looked down at his laptop sulkily. "I hate it when you give me crappy choices."
"Then you should have chosen Flash… W-what the…" He looked down at the console, his arms returning to his sides. It was doing something that was definitely not normal.
It had begun to fizz and splutter.
Rodney looked up from his laptop as the console of PJ1 lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, and he saw John's hands reach out. "No! Don't touch it!"
There was a crackle of electricity as his warning came a nanosecond too late.
All Rodney remembered from then on was John's agonising screams and someone else echoing his pain with screams of their own. With a start, the physicist realised that he was the one adding to the cacophony. Clamping his mouth shut, he looked at the gruesome scene in front of him – PJ1 and its pilot seemed locked in a force field of electrifying light and sound.
Rodney moved towards John's writhing body, or at least he thought he was moving but… it felt like time had stopped. Although he was travelling forwards, things were in slow motion, almost as if his arms and legs had weights on them and he was slogging through molasses. John's screams continued to echo around Rodney, bouncing off the walls and coming back at him from all directions.
The jumper had never seemed so cavernous before.
He wasn't aware of his own strength. Later, in reflection, Rodney would think the adrenaline in his system was definitely Superman, not Green Hornet. Okay, maybe the Hulk, at his most fed up moment; or the Thing on a very, very bad day. Maybe John would call him the Hink, or perhaps the Thunk. He didn't really care as long as the Air Force man was still around.
Rodney literally lifted John from the pilot's seat and practically threw him to the floor of the jumper where he desperately, unconsciously, tried to focus on assessing his best friend's injuries. He would realise later how stupid it had been to grab John from his seat while he was being electrocuted. Yeah, that was definitely the work of the Greatest American Hero; he didn't stop to think that he could have been caught up in the current with John. That brilliant deduction would come later. Any medical professional would tell you that you should never touch someone who is being electrocuted with your bare hands. John had often told him that for a super genius, Rodney's computer-like brain could access his stupid, not thinking things through, save the day, hero file faster than any other.
It was part of the reason why he was on the team after all.
He let out a sob of relief as he saw that Sheppard was still breathing. That was good although he couldn't remember the exact reason why. He seemed to recall Carson mentioning something about certain voltages not being high enough to interfere with the heart's nervous control. All Rodney really cared about at that moment in time, however, was that it meant that he wouldn't have to fight with the defibrillator. Shoving that particular thought aside, he stared at the floor while he tried to think.
A loud crackle of electricity caught his attention – he needed to either kill or diminish the current before things got worse.
Looking back at the console, Rodney then did his second stupid thing in as many minutes. Grabbing a data pad, he crawled underneath the console and, careful to avoid getting shocked himself, hooked it up. The screen blinked at him and he let out a low groan. This was not good. According to the readings, the console was pumping out far more power than it could comfortably handle, resulting in an overflow.
And instant electrocution for anyone unlucky enough to be in close proximity.
McKay flinched as he narrowly avoided a zap – if he got fried too, then they'd both be up the proverbial creek without so much as a canoe, let alone a paddle. He typed as fast as he could, cursing the small keyboard, desperately trying to shut the console down. "Aw, COME ON!" he yelled in frustration as the little machine beeped negatively at him. "I just wanna shut this off! Co-operate here, would ya?" He didn't have the time to start a full scale war with the small computer so, reconsidering his options, he decided to try and spread the power instead. He typed again, then re-entered his command code.
"Come on, come on, come on…" he muttered distractedly under his breath. Without realising it, he crossed his fingers.
For an uncomfortably long moment, the data pad was silent, almost as if it was considering its options, before beeping happily and displaying 'ACTION ACCEPTED'. Rodney sighed in relief as he scrambled back to his feet. Looking at the console, he saw that it was still alight, but no longer about to kill him. Thanking no deity in particular, he made his way back over to where he had left Sheppard.
All was quiet; John lay deathlike where Rodney had tossed him like a Halloween scarecrow. The scientist, still dazed, thought Sheppard looked like someone had taken a snap of him sleeping – well, that was if you didn't include his blistering, angry red hands and wrists in the family photo. The nauseating, choking scent of burning conduits, wires, melting crystals and seared flesh made Rodney's nose twitch.
As his vision began to tunnel onto the pilot, he was dimly aware of the crackling and sizzling sounds of the console behind him slowly dying away to a gentle hissing. His hands were shaking so hard, he was finding it difficult to locate John's fluttering pulse, and he was all too aware of the unpleasant taste of bile that tried to bypass his failsafe vomit system.
He swallowed hard, closing his eyes momentarily, forcing himself to take deep breaths. When the nausea passed, he opened them again, his mental fog lifted enough for him to re-check John's airway. He gingerly laid a hand on the pilot's chest, unable to suppress the small cry of joy as he found it rise and fall. Trying hard to recall Carson's basic training, he gently rolled Sheppard into the recovery position, taking care not to further injure the man's hands. He'd deal with them in a moment.
He sat back on his heels, trying to will his thumping headache to shut the hell up and bugger off somewhere else. So much for reason and logic, he mused. Sometimes basic instincts were the best solution. Those primitive feelings left over from when man had swung about in trees. Fight or flight.
And then a thought crept into his mind and set off the alarm bells.
Fight or flight. They were in flight… Oh no. Oh no. No, no, no, no, they were in flight! Rodney forgot all as he turned to the sparking, smoking panel and tapped the communication device at his ear.
"Atlantis, this is McKay. Do you copy?"
There was nothing, not even a burst of static.
"Atlantis, I repeat. This is McKay. Do you copy?!"
His desperate pleas were met with silence.
"Please! Can anyone hear me? Someone respond!" Rodney was frantic. "Atlantis, come in Atlantis! Atlantis, please come in! This is not good! No freakin' good…"
Then he brought his palm up and smacked himself firmly in the head. "You idiot! Of course they won't respond!" The radio transmitter had been fried, along with most of the console, meaning that his radio had lost its subspace communication ability. He paced around in a circle, desperately trying to think.
As the reality of their situation began to sink in, Rodney felt his panic started to grow. He growled and shook his head. No time for that now - he had to sort out his priorities.
He had to check Sheppard and try and do something for his burns. He knelt back down, relieved to find that the Colonel was still breathing. McKay tentatively checked his friend's pulse again. He allowed himself a small smile when he found that it was slightly stronger than before and, more importantly, steady. That was good. He grabbed the first aid kit and started tearing through its contents.
Crap. Crap, crap, crap!
Nothing suitable for severe electrical burns. He let out a strangled scream of frustration as he realised that Carson hadn't been able to re-stock PJ-1 after its last trip. Okay then, genius, do what you do best and improvise. Grabbing some field dressings and a water bottle, he unscrewed the lid and gently poured it over the charred flesh. If John got an infection, there would be little he could.
Sheppard let out a hiss of pain and his eyelids fluttered.
John managed to crack open an eye. "R-Rodney?" he croaked.
"You need to be still. You've burnt your hands badly and gave yourself a hell of a zap."
"You were electrocuted, Sheppard! No, don't try and move! What part of 'be still' did you not understand?!" McKay grabbed hold of John's shoulders as the pilot tried to sit up. He tried hard not to flinch as he felt the tremors under his fingertips.
Sheppard looked around blearily. "What happened?"
Rodney swallowed. "There was a malfunction with the jumper's control console. From what I can tell, the power regulator's all out of whack and decided to vent on you."
"Is that how I did… this?" John asked, raising his charred hands slightly. God, they looked awful. What if they can't be fixed? What if I can't fly? He pushed away the panic, telling himself not to go there. The Colonel fought back the wave of nausea and focused his attention on McKay rather than the raw, singed flesh.
The physicist gently but firmly took hold of Sheppard's arms and lowered them. "No, you were playing with a bug zapper. Yes, that's how you ended up looking like leftovers from someone's barbeque! Now stop moving!"
The pilot gave him an affronted look. "No need to be… rude, you know," he panted. His stomach cramped suddenly and he tried to curl up.
"Sheppard!" It took all of Rodney's strength to hold his friend still – God only knew what other injuries he'd suffered from his brief electrocution. Not for the first time, he wished he had the letters MD after his name. Need a piece of Ancient tech fixed? No problem. Got a mathematical equation that you can't get your head around? McKay's your man. Suddenly finding yourself in need of immediate medical assistance? Screwed, completely and utterly. "C'mon, it'll pass. Just breathe," he urged.
After several long minutes the pain subsided, leaving John feeling washed out and as weak as a kitten. He barely registered McKay's movements as the scientist finished applying the dressings to his hands. "Did… did you… contact Atlantis?" he asked.
McKay looked away, which was usually an indicator of trouble. "I tried, but the overload took out the radio transmitter. There's no way to get through to them."
"Can you… fix it?"
"Are you kidding?! No, not unless I have spare parts, which I don't, and I highly doubt that you've got the necessary crystals squirreled away somewhere. We're stuck." He ran a hand through his hair. "And no, hoping that Atlantis will realise we're overdue isn't an option. We can't wait for them to send a rescue party."
John knew that Rodney was right. They weren't expected back for at least another six or seven hours – and he knew there was a good chance that he wouldn't last that long. He felt shocky already and knew that burns were highly prone to infection even in the relatively sterile environment of the jumper. But even though he was in agony, Sheppard was not about to be beaten. "Will the… jumper still… fly?"
McKay hesitated. With everything else that had happened, as well as his panic at not being able to contact Elizabeth and the others, he hadn't even thought to check the navigation and propulsion. There was a slim chance that they were still functional. "I… I don't know," he admitted quietly. "I haven't tried."
"Why?" asked John, a confused and slightly annoyed expression on his face. Damn, his head was fuzzy! Why was it so hard to concentrate? Oh yeah, he'd been deep fried by his ship. He tried hard not to laugh out loud as an especially inane thought struck him – maybe this was payback for crashing the jumper a couple of months ago. Maybe the ship was pissed with him!
Rodney's ranting snapped him from his increasingly trippy thoughts.
"Well, let's see. Hmmm… Oh, that's right," Rodney said sarcastically. "There was the small matter of trying to avoid getting zapped myself while I tried to re-route the power and the fact that my best friend was lying on the floor having been electrocuted and suffering from pretty severe electrical burns!" he fumed, not noticing as his voice rose hysterically. "I guess it must have slipped my mind!"
The pilot's expression became rueful as he realised just how tightly strung and freaked out his team-mate was. "Sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean…"
"No, it's okay," the physicist replied, cutting Sheppard off with a wave of his hand. "I just… thought that I should try and get you fixed first, you know?" He observed his team-mate closely. John was shaking with the after shocks of his close encounter with the high voltage, and his skin had taken on a sickly pale pallor. "Do you want some water?" he asked. "I'd give you some painkillers, but Carson would probably kill me and I think you need something stronger than Tylenol right now. You know, for a scientist I don't really know that much about electrocution. Am I meant to elevate your legs or something? No, wait, that's for shock and girly fainting, but you're looking like you might be heading that way…"
Sheppard shook his head as the Canadian's babbling washed over him. It was oddly soothing and reassuring, but with him out of commission for the time being, he needed McKay to focus. "Go and… see if my baby… still flies," he muttered, his eyes closing. Damn, he felt tired. Maybe if he just rested his eyes for a minute or two…
Rodney's heart leapt into his throat as John slipped into unconsciousness, but a gentle snore indicated that he had fallen asleep. As he covered the Air Force man with a blanket, he snorted a laugh despite himself. Regardless of which jumper they took, John always referred to it as 'one of his babies'. It was both touching and disturbing in equal parts.
He got to his feet and wandered back over to the pilot's seat – although the console had stopped spitting out electricity, there was still a risk of residual power build up. Silently praying that he wasn't about to end up as the world's first deep fried scientist, Rodney gingerly reached out and tried to call up the HUD.
The console gave an angry hiss and showered him in sparks, but the display came up, flickering like a badly tuned television. Rodney called up the schematics for the propulsion and navigational systems and breathed a small sigh of relief – they seemed to be functioning, albeit sporadically. That was promising. Even if the navigation gave up the ghost, there was still a chance that he could get them back to Atlantis in one piece. He might need to do a couple of power bypasses along the way, but it beat being stuck in deep space.
Just as he was beginning to think that the odds of them surviving this whole sorry mess were improving, the HUD gave a sad sounding beep and died.
As the lights went out and the interior of the ship was plunged into darkness, Rodney sighed.
When John awoke, he found himself lying under a blanket on one of the benches in the rear compartment, with fresh dressings on his hands and wrists. That was odd. He didn't remember getting there.
Looking over, he saw that Rodney was sat on the floor in front of him, a flashlight balanced precariously on his lap and a life signs detector in pieces next to it. Scattered around him were what appeared to be crystals from the rear manual controls, arranged haphazardly in two piles – broken and okay, from what John figured. The Canadian picked up one of the small crystals that powered the Ancient doohickey and held it up in the beam of the torch, checking for breaks.
His 'busted/working' theory proved to be correct when McKay let out a heavy sigh and lobbed it onto the larger of the two piles.
Sheppard's eyebrows shot up as he came to a realisation: Rodney must have lifted him onto the bench. For all his whining and bitching about physical exertion, McKay was surprisingly strong.
"Whatcha… doing, Rodney?"
Having not noticed the pilot wake up, McKay yelped in surprise, almost dropping the delicate crystal. "Jesus H tap-dancing Christ, Sheppard!" he exclaimed. "Don't do that!"
"Sorry," John said, groaning as his hands decided to remind him of their condition.
All trace of annoyance was quickly forgotten as Rodney looked more closely at Sheppard. Any idiot could see that he needed a doctor – and fast. "Don't worry about it," he stated, getting up from the floor. He stretched and retrieved another water bottle. "You need to drink something."
Sheppard grimaced. "Don't… don't want…"
"That's tough. You've been out cold for nearly two hours. The one thing I do know about burns is that you need to replace the fluids lost. Either you take a drink voluntarily or I'll make you."
"Like to see… you try," the American replied, grinning softly.
"Don't underestimate my abilities, Colonel," Rodney replied, realising that a bit of normalcy was badly needed, even if it was achieved by having a friendly argument. "It's either that or I'll hook you up to an IV, and I know how much you hate needles. Beneath this handsome and roguish exterior beats the heart of a pure bastard. Now drink." Supporting his team-mate's head with one hand, he held the canteen up to John's face and allowed a small trickle to wet the pilot's lips. After a few moments, John nodded, and McKay tipped the bottle up further.
Nodding again to indicate he'd had enough, Sheppard sighed as McKay took a swig himself before safely stowing the water away and sitting down again.
"Better?" the scientist asked.
"Yeah," John replied, his throat less sore. "So, what're you doing?" He jerked his head in the directions of the mangled LSD.
"I need to perform surgery on your baby," McKay deadpanned, a grave look on his face. "There's a fifty-fifty chance that she's not gonna make it."
Sheppard chuckled. "You're so not funny," he said, despite himself.
"Yeah, well, you're stuck with me for entertainment for the time being. I know you'd prefer juvenile slapstick, but The Three Stooges I ain't."
"What happened to my ship?" John asked.
Rodney rolled his eyes and muttered something about Kirk under his breath. "The power overload screwed the circuits pretty badly," he replied. "Luckily, the Ancients decided to isolate life support and make it an emergency failsafe in the event of a major power overload – hence why we're still breathing – but unless I can jumpstart the jumper, we're going nowhere."
"How… how are you gonna do that?" Sheppard was not happy about the condition his ship was in. Really, he should have been more worried about the condition he was in, but he was fiercely protective of his puddle jumpers – especially since he'd lost one on Olesia thanks to a bunch of convicts with an extensive knowledge of explosives.
He scolded himself mentally. He'd nearly lost his team on that mission. Ships were replaceable. People weren't.
McKay held up the tiny crystal. "Technically, there's still power in the control console."
"Because we have… life support?"
"Exactly. The only reason that it's not getting to the drive pods, is because the control crystals are now a charred mess. Theoretically, if I can trick the system into accepting these crystals, we should be able to kick start the engines."
John whistled under his breathe. McKay really was a genius. "How… how long?"
"I'm almost done, actually. Once I've finished modifying this," he indicated to the mass next to his left foot, "it's just a matter of plugging it in and hoping to hell it's going to work."
Sheppard took a closer look at the object on the floor. The tiny crystals from the LSD had been stuck together with what seemed to be superglue, to form a much larger crystal. That in turn had been connected to one of the crystals from the overhead controls. McKay added the final piece to his jigsaw and picked it up.
"Stay put, Hotshot," he said, pointing a stern finger at John.
"Like I can… go anywhere," the pilot replied.
Rodney moved over to the controls again, and tugged out the burnt, useless crystal. Taking a breath, he bent down and gently slotted in his home-made replacement. Nothing happened for a moment, and then the jumper's lights sprang back into life, momentarily blinding him.
"Way to go, buddy!" John called from the rear compartment.
Hoping against hope, he put his hands on the joystick and gave an experimental push. He was almost in tears as the ship moved forward, not caring that it wasn't as smooth as normal. "It worked!" he cried, looking back towards John. "There's no autopilot, I'm afraid, so you're stuck with my driving."
Sheppard couldn't have cared less. All he knew was that soon, he'd be in the infirmary where the good drugs were. "Remember, Rodney, straight line," he teased weakly, remembering the last couple of occasions that the physicist had flown a jumper. "And no crash landings. Treat my baby… with some respect."
"Whatever," McKay replied, but there was no heat in his words.
They were going home.
The sight of Atlantis floating in the ocean had never looked so good. Knowing that he couldn't activate the jumper bay doors, Rodney decided to set the jumper down on the east pier. He reached up to his radio and let out a small cry of utter joy when Elizabeth had responded. Demanding that Carson get a medical team to the pier, he set about trying to land.
That had proved to be easier said than done. For the last thirty minutes, the scientist had been plagued by hand tremors and a feeling of dizziness – his adrenaline had finally decided to cash in its chips, meaning that he had started to have a hypoglycaemic reaction. That, coupled with the fact that the jumper was starting to become increasingly difficult to control as his DIY fix-it job began to give out, meant that he was running on fumes. The only positive thing about the situation was that he was back home and not still stuck in the middle of deep space.
The jumper touched down gently and McKay slumped in his seat with a mixture of relief and exhaustion. He heard a bang on the exterior of the ship and reluctantly dragged himself to his feet. He paused briefly to check on John, who was more or less conscious and smiling at him loopily. The Air Force man managed a weak approximation of a thumbs up and Rodney grinned as the man's eyes closed in relief.
As soon as he opened the rear hatch, he was met by Elizabeth, Carson and a med team. Everyone looked scared and worried.
Carson started to fuss over him, but McKay shook him off, demanding that he see to John. The doctor walked up the ramp into the rear compartment and immediately called for an IV line and a gurney.
A sick feeling crept into McKay's stomach. John had been alright when he'd landed. Too afraid to speak, he looked at the Scotsman in panic.
"He'll be fine, lad," Beckett said, seeing the question in the physicist's eyes. "He's just sleeping. I want to get him to the infirmary as quickly as I can to sort these burns out."
"Will… will his hands be okay?" Rodney croaked. The fine tremors in his own hands were becoming more and more pronounced, and he was beginning to find it increasingly difficult to focus.
"Aye, I think so. Second degree burns can be complicated and are fairly high risk, but there's no sign of infection. You did well to keep them clean."
"I didn't know what to do. He was electrocuted," the physicist stated. He felt like he was floating, and blinked rapidly to try and force away the grey tint that had started to appear in the corner of his vision. "Got a big zap. Really, really big. It didn't stop his heart at all, but I didn't know what to do…"
Carson looked across to Rodney and smiled softly. "He'll be okay," he repeated. "You did good, lad."
McKay gave the assembled group a goofy grin before his eyes rolled up into the back of his head and he collapsed to the floor in a boneless heap.
"Are they going to be alright?" Weir asked as she observed the two sleeping men.
Carson chuckled. "Aye, love. John's burns should heal in a couple of weeks, and there's no sign of arrhythmia from the voltage." He shook his head softly. "As mad as it was for Rodney to pull him away, he actually saved Colonel Sheppard's life. A couple of seconds longer and we wouldn't be having this conversation. As it is, he'll be stiff and sore for a couple of days, but I'll release him to his quarters at the end of the week."
She let out a relieved sigh. "What about Rodney?"
They looked at McKay, who was curled up in his cot, an IV line feeding him a glucose solution. "Hypoglycaemic reaction," the Scotsman told her. "Daft bugger was so busy looking after John and trying to fix the jumper that he forgot to eat. That combined with the stress he must have been under to get them back in one piece has taken a toll on his system, but he just needs to rest. Piloting the jumper back really took it out of him, but Rodney's a tough lad and I don't doubt that he'll be back to his normal self in no time. I'll be keeping him overnight and tomorrow, but he'll be fine."
Elizabeth shook her head in bemusement. "Those two are unbelievable," she said. "I swear they're jinxed."
"Could be," agreed Carson, a mischievous glint in his eyes. "They're also incredibly lucky."
She nodded. "I'd better let Teyla and Ronon know how they're doing."
As she left, Carson wandered over towards his two friends – and stopped when he found them awake and whispering in heated tones.
"No way, Sheppard," Rodney hissed. "You got first choice last time! I'm Batman!"
"Can I be Superman?"
"No," McKay replied, a wicked grin on his face. "You can be either Jubilee or Green Arrow."
"But Jubilee's a girl!" John whined. "And she has rubbish powers! How are fireworks meant to be cool and heroic?!"
"Oh, I don't know, Colonel. She has the same hair style as you."
"Don't mess with the hair, McKay." Sheppard tried to lift a bandaged hand to his head in defence of his unruly locks, but was stopped by the IV line.
"Well then you get Green Arrow."
"This sucks, Rodney," John replied, scowling.
McKay grinned smugly. "Think of it as a taste of your own medicine."
"You wait 'til my hands are healed and it's time for your next training session. You'll be sorry."
"That's very mature, Colonel. Okay, so first category is gadgets. I win that one, cos Batman has more gizmos than you can shake a stick at…"
Carson grinned to himself and wandered over to his office. If the boys were back to their usual one-upping tricks, then all was right with the world.
Two weeks later, Sheppard wandered into the jumper bay to find Rodney, who was still trying to work out what had gone wrong during their flight. The physicist had forgotten to show up to lunch, and John was under strict instructions from Beckett to make sure he ate.
John was looking forward to being able to use his own knife and fork for the first time since they'd got back. The burns had all but healed and the tenderness and sensitivity had faded, partly thanks to an Ancient device that one of McKay's teams had found in one of the many labs in Atlantis. It had stung like a bitch to start with – Carson had said something about it being painful because human fingers had millions of nerve endings in them, but the pilot wasn't really paying much attention. All that mattered was that his hands were pretty much back to full working order.
He breathed a sigh of relief. Having Ronon cut up his food was disturbing.
"Sheppard," Rodney mumbled as he looked over a data pad.
"You forgot lunch, McKay," John said.
The scientist didn't seem to have heard. "In a minute. Just let me… Son of a bitch!"
Sheppard flinched at the curse – and the look on McKay's face. Someone was in a lot of trouble…
"What's up?" he asked, carefully sticking his hands in his pockets.
Rodney looked up, his face changing from angry to ashen in a millisecond. "It wasn't an accident," he said.
"The jumper's console overloading. It wasn't an accidental malfunction." McKay's voice was low and hoarse.
"You mean someone sabotaged it?" demanded John, furiously.
The physicist nodded. "I've been over this five times, and even Radek checked the figures twice. We've scoured every inch of the jumper and that's the only viable explanation we could find. Whoever did this made sure that the overload originated in the autopilot."
"Which is why I didn't end up as crispy bacon?" asked John.
"Exactly. If the power surge had happened while you were actually piloting the jumper…" Rodney's face paled as he trailed off. He took a breath to steady himself then continued, "At first I thought it was just a glitch, or a dodgy crystal, but now I'm sure. Someone deliberately damaged the control crystal for the auto-pilot, meaning that once it went 'pop', it took out most of the other controls too." He put the data pad down on the bench, his hands shaking from fear. "We're just lucky that it didn't malfunction while someone was using the Gate."
A cold shudder passed across Sheppard's back. The jumpers went to auto-pilot as soon as they were in range of the Gate – a fact that pretty much everyone on base knew.
Both he and McKay could have been killed, and knowing that it was deliberate was a scary thought. Even worse, it was someone on Atlantis.
"Does anyone else know?" he asked.
"No. Only Radek, but I've told him to keep this under the radar. We're going to need to check all the other Jumpers for signs of tampering and I think we should tell Elizabeth."
Sheppard nodded in agreement. "C'mon, let's get out of here."
Rodney tilted his head and frowned. "What about the saboteur?"
"I think we should just keep our eyes and ears open for now," John replied. "If the rumour mill gets hold of this, we'll have blown any chance we have of catching them."
"So we're just gonna wait and see if they strike again?" asked Rodney incredulously. "You can't be serious!"
Sheppard placed an arm around his friend's shoulders, leading him out of the hangar and towards the mess. "Not a lot we can do without tipping him or her off, buddy," he said. "But now we know, we can make sure they don't hurt anyone else. We'll just have to be a bit more cautious is all."
McKay nodded and allowed himself to be led away.
Someone they knew and trusted had almost killed them. Someone they had been working with for the last year and a half. Someone that had been hand-picked from hundreds to be on the expedition.
Rodney just hoped that the next time they tried, they wouldn't succeed.
-FIN- (for now!)
OMG – I just wrote Shep-whump! (*falls off chair in shock*)
(*recovers dignity and gets up again…*)
Ooh-er! Looks like there's trouble ahead for our heroes! I will resolve this at some point, so don't panic. Oh, and I have no idea if the crystals can do what I said they could, but hey! It's only a bit of fun.