Away From Atlantis
Disclaimer I don't own Stargate, I don't own Stargate Atlantis, I don't own John. I don't even own Todd.
Chapter Sixteen song When I'm Gone by Three Doors Down
(Week Twenty Seven)
John held back a groan, he was stuck slogging back to the gate in half a foot of mud with Lt. Slomski and Capt. Holester, they were doing a humanitarian aid. Capt. Holester's team had been working with the locals when a the mud slide happened, expected on a tropical planet and middle of the monsoon season, but half the village was gone more then four hundred people trapped, missing, or dead. Carter ordered in help. He, Slomski, and Holester were going back to the gate to bring back more supplies, that had arrived from other allies, or earth. But trekking through the mud was really slowing them down, the constant drip of the rain was just as annoying. It wasn't even a proper down pore just a steady drip.
Not to mention with as much work as he'd been doing he wan't eating as much as he had been. So the dull ache he had gotten good at ignoring was back and stronger then ever. Teyla was visiting her people again, Rodney would be no help and was working with the Wraith in the lab and Ronon was back at the village helping dig people out.
He was thinking about how they would get the shoring materials back when he thought he heard a rumble. He paused, he hadn't seen any lighting. He looked around, then he saw a tiny movement, like a shudder under the feet of Holester and Slomski.
It was another mudslide happening just under them, "Run for it!"
They looked back at him and he just ran slapping a hand on each of their back and he propelled them forward, feeling the mud catch his feet. It quickly started sucking him back he tried to move faster, push harder. Slomski and Holester understood and were doing their best to run too, but mud is mud, and they were sliding backwards. He went down, and right away felt something catch his left foot with a snap. Glad he had a mouth full of mud to keep him from screaming he slid backward, Slomski had a hold of a tree above him and to his left.
Holester was on his back to his right, a hold of a branch as things tried to pull him down too.
Mud splashed over his face and he couldn't see. Something heavy rolled over his left hand and he felt bones break, something hit his back and ribs splintered, then he hit bottom or something. He stopped dead. Things, rocks, mud, branches, all rolled over him and kept going. He just held his mouth shut and prayed nothing heavier hit him. He could feel it slowing to a trickle, he started to move and realized he was one lucky guy, nothing more then a few inches of cement like mud covered his face and chest. No suffocating for him. Moving his good hand he cleared his face best as he could, then using it he pushed up, mud slid around him and then held him in a reclining position. He took slow, shallow breaths, his regeneration powers seemed to be focusing on his chest because he though he could already feel the sharp stabbing pain easing.
Using his good hand he wiped his eyes clean one last time and opened them, he found Slomski looking down at him, Holester was limp two hundred feet above him, it looked like he had knocked himself out hitting the tree that stopped him from going over the edge like him. Leaning back in his mud chair he realized his broken foot was twisted and pinned in the mud closer to three feet down, his broken hand was on the surface, he just hadn't realized it, distracted by the pain as he was. Given how oddly splayed his hand was he had broken more then one thing in it.
Looking up at Slomski he waved and then pointed to Holester.
Slomski nodded, looking back to where he was he saw his luck had struck once again, he had landed in something of a rocky ledge, the first big wash putting him up here, and then the rest not having the force to push him over the edge down and over the eighty foot cliff.
As it was he had been carried about three hundred feet from what had been the trail.
He watched a small little wave wash down the slope he looked up and saw Slomski was half way down the hundred feet to Holester, Holester seemed to be stirring. Watching he saw Slomski stumble, tripping on something under the ground, tumbling down he stopped even more covered in mud, ten feet from Holester.
He knew he had crazy good luck, but it was clear he wasn't the only person who was a freak. Maybe that was why he liked Slomski so much, he had been altered, Slomski just did stuff. Aware he was breathing easier, he knew this was what would push him over the edge, looking at his mud covered hands he looked for the feeding slit he was sure would be there. Scrapping the mud off his right one he found nothing. His heart began beating faster and he allowed the flame of hope to grow. Maybe he had more time.
Holester was looking around, clearly answering Slomski's questions, he couldn't hear anything other then a soft murmur over the rain. Sitting there he found himself thinking over his letter he had finished last night for Carter.
It's been an honor to serve with you, I suppose saying that's a little cliché but it's true.
You helped me be able to look in the mirror after I killed Elizabeth, I really don't know if anyone other then you saying that would have helped. But coming from you it was what I needed to hear.
I know however I managed to leave, my team will be worried and try to run themselves in to the ground hunting for me. Don't let them. There is a reason for this, one I don't want to share. Which is why you're getting this letter. I plan to disappear, vanish, hopefully never be seen by SGA teams again.
I after all have most of a galaxy to hide in. I know you will have to hunt for me, people aren't just allowed to disappear, but I have to. So hunt for me, send Lorne, his men, let my team do their part,
but don't let them go on forever hunting, have Lorne find them a new member, they'll be hard on whoever it is, but be patient with them. Don't let Ronon take off to hunt me down alone. He probably try, but I don't want him too. He's happy at Atlantis, don't let him waste his time hunting me.
He wondered what she'd think getting that letter, he knew she and her team had been known to AWOL themselves, but he wasn't just going AWOL, he wanted to vanish. MIA. Permanently.
Looking up the slope he could tell Slomski and Holester were looking for a safe way down to him. "GO GET HELP!"
"SIR ARE YOU HURT?!" Slomski asked.
"NO BUT YOU'LL NEED AT LEAST SHOVEL TO GET ME OUT!"
Slomski gave him a OK sign and started back up the slope, Holester's arm over his shoulder. The two made it to the far side of the new valley and disappeared towards the gate. Knowing he had a few minutes to himself for sure, he allowed himself the chance to swear, "That fucking hurt."
Slumping back he tried to breath normally, but his ribs were still only half healed at best. He groaned, even if this didn't force a feeding slit to appear, he could already feel his body telling him he needed more. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, letting the rain wash the mud away. He was sopping wet, half buried in mud, and all he could think was he was hungry. He snorted, not too long and he'd sound like Rodney. If only he hadn't eaten all his power bars already.
He wondered how long he'd been here, it felt like only a few minutes but he bet it had been longer. Pain both made it seem like forever and nothing. He shifted, his butt was going numb and he was becoming aware of his sidearm digging into his better leg, at least it wasn't broken sending sharp stabs up his leg, it just was pinned under what he was betting was part of tree, and five hundred pounds of mud.
He thought about what he still needed before he could leave, mostly gate addresses, abandoned planets, unlivable, unsafe, that would be where he'd go, if he was leaving Atlantis because he feared feeding on his friends and people he'd better damn well make sure he didn't have a chance to go after anyone else.
He sighed, he wondered how long he'd last if he didn't feed, would he starve to death like real wraith? Would he just die like a normal human of old age, or would he linger till he cracked? "Choices. Choices."
Was someone calling?
He listened harder, yes someone was.
"HOLESTER! SLOMSKI! SHEPPARD!"
Without thinking he answered back, "HERE!" then he started coughing as the pain from his half healed ribs made the muscles seize up, holding his breath for a minute, he then let it out slowly, stopping the coughing fit.
Maybe he had inhaled mud after all.
Breathing lightly he listened for the voices again, nothing came, then closer he heard; "SHEPPARD?!"
Not daring to shout again, he tried as loud as he dared, "HERe." he slumped back, even that hurt, this was healing much slower then the other times. Then he noticed he was holding his chest with his previously broken hand. It had healed perfectly straight, not a bruise as far as he could see. Maybe his body had just responded to the fact he needed to hide what he was, and allowing someone to see what was clearly broken would be counter productive. His leg didn't feel like it had started to heal at all.
He decided to ignore it for the moment, why he healed what he did as he did didn't matter much at the moment. "HERE!" he coughed, "Shit."
Then a muddy face appeared at the top of the edge of the new valley, then a second it looked like Ronon and Tompkins, one of the villagers. He wasn't sure they could see him so he waved, they both startled.
He waved again, not willing to try shouting.
"Where is Holester and Slomski!?"
He pointed to the other side of the new valley-crater, and half shouted, "They went to the gate!"
Ronon looked across and then back to him, "Without you?"
"I'm pretty suck, need shovels at least!"
Ronon barked out a laugh. "Not hurt are you?"
"Good, just buried and cold."
"And you can't seem to shout for shit!"
He shrugged but wasn't sure Ronon could make it out, he blended in pretty well. At least his face was mostly clean, even if he likely would need to shower for a week before he got all the grit off. Ronon disappeared before clambering down the side, he watched the mini slides start and hoped Ronon wouldn't get caught himself, and that he wouldn't start another land slide. He saw the ground start to give more then it should ten feet below Ronon, "Stop!"
Ronon stopped but didn't see what he was seeing, "What?"
"That part's about ready to give, work your way sideways, toward the side closest to me, then start down again."
Ronon gave him a I'm humoring you look but did as he was told, over to the side he started down and John kept watch but didn't see more bulges or moving soft spots. So rather quickly Ronon was next to him. Knelling Ronon looked him over. And then smirked. "Stuck like a farven in a trap."
He glared he already knew those were some rabbitish creature that used to be native to Sateda, but putting it like that was just insulting. "You don't have to be so rude about it. It's not my fault I have the worst luck."
Ronon looked him over again, seriously this time, "No broken bones? No open wounds below in the mud?"
Feeling bad about lying about his thus far unhealed ankle he said, "Nope, just a numb butt and the shakes from being so close to the edge."
Ronon nodded and looked at the edge only five feet away, "You know Sheppard you say you have the worst luck, but I think it could be a lot worse."
He shrugged, "You might be right, but I kinda wish this shit happened to another guy for once. You know me and Slomski are the ones other then Rodney who visit the infirmary the most."
Ronon snorted, "You and Slomski have a lot in common, sure you aren't cousins or something?"
John thought over the huge family reunions, when his father showed off his huge house, "Not too likely but if I am it's on my mother's side."
Ronon nodded, then after a pause asked, "What happened?"
He shrugged, "The ground gave way I felt it and tried to run, didn't get far, Slomski grabbed a tree right at the top, Holester had a branch last I saw, then I was rolled and covered in mud, came to a stop here, felt mud still rushing over me, waited, when it stopped I sat up. Holester came loose from his branch or whatever because he was caught on that tree."
He pointed before going on, "Looked like when he hit it he had stunned himself or knocked himself out. Slomski went for him after I waved that I was okay, Holester was stirring so Slomski grabbed him and was looking for a way down to me when I told him to go having realized I was pretty stuck. I bet Holester has a concussion judging by the way he was leaning on Slomski."
Ronon nodded, "Tompkins has gone back to the village for more help, so we have some time to kill."
He nodded, then asked, "Do you have something to eat?"
Ronon just gave him a stunned stare.
"What? I'm cold, half buried and hungry."
"No. Gave my last power bar to some kid."
Sitting there he realized between having to think of other things and Ronon being there to distract him from any lingering ache he felt much better as long at he didn't think about his ankle; and that felt like it was getting better. Slowly, wasn't a sharp as before.
What the hell was he gonna put in his letter to Ronon?
His eyes shot to his brother in spirit sitting next to him, now was not the time be thinking about it. "So thinking dating anyone now?"
Ronon looked at him, "You buried in about three feet of mud, and you want to talk about this now?"
He thought it over, "Why not now? As you said I'm stuck, not much to do, don't have paperwork in front me."
Ronon sighed, "I've been thinking about Keller, she pretty and... I like her."
That was a little surprising, "Good for you, ask her out let me know how it goes."
Ronon snorted, "Right, how about you?"
"No not really, lots of eye candy, but no one I would take seriously."
They were quiet, not much to say after that, Tompkins and three others appeared over on the edge. They started down, cautiously, spread out, but the ground started to give more, so the group realized they would have to build their way down with boards and levels. They started by shoring up the sides of the mini valley, one man started stairs, using branches and rocks from the mud he pulled loose. Looking at Ronon, he said, "Go help them, it won't do either of us any good sitting here."
Ronon nodded and started up the slope the way he came, John sat back and tried to focus on his previous injuries, his ribs might still be bruised but that was it, his hand was fine better, not even a bruise, his ankle... he wasn't sure. He had noticed his butt and legs felt cold and were numbing from it, hell that had seemed like a good thing, but now not so much, it felt like the bone was healed but it ached still, that lingering ache he had noticed in his ribs, hell noticed before when healing. He just was wondering it was a sign of tissue damage or.. side effect of his healing, something from increased blood flow or whatever.
Oh well it's not like he'd find out, maybe had Carson not died but... things happen and the clone Carson still wasn't expect to out for a month or two. At the earliest. Not the amount of time he had given himself even before today. He planned to disappear the moment he was ready and together.
The group reached hm and carefully went around him to make sure in their efforts to get him out they wouldn't push him over the cliff, then they started digging. Two feet down they found the start of the log, a foot round, pinning his legs in the mud. Digging at the log they found it was at least ten feet long but passed that it went back too far and deep into the mud, so the Puddle Jumper showing up was a great deal of help. With help from the jumper they lifted one end of the log up and got him out from under it.
The effort had taken two and half hours by the time they got him to the gate it had been three hours he was staving and almost everyone had commented on how lucky he was nothing was broken in his legs. It was getting on his nerves, mostly because a few, Ronon, Teyla who was in the jumper, Dr. Keller were all looking at him strangely and he was starting to wonder if they had a feeling maybe it wasn't luck.
Or maybe they could tell how uncomfortable he was feeling, getting back to Atlantis Keller did some more checking and then set him off for a shower. Washing quickly he then went on the hunt for food. Rodney joined him where he was sitting.
"So I heard you got buried today."
"Yes Rodney it was the highlight of my day."
Rodney looked at him, then smirked, "You need another shower."
Rodney touched the side of his head, mirroring the motion he touched his head, he sighed he could feel dirt in his hair. "It's gonna take a week to get all the dirt out of my hair."
Rodney snorted, "Just be glad you're not Holester he hit his head hard enough Keller's not letting him up to take a shower."
Swallowing his mouth full he asked, "How bad is he?"
Rodney shrugged, "Dr. Diane, his girlfriend said he's dizzy and still seeing double but not really in any danger."
"I can't believe it's you telling me this rather then finding it out from Teyla."
Rodney scowled at him, "Diane works for me and she was so worried when she was told that he was in the infirmary she ran off and then came back and told everyone twice. Your Wraith could even tell you this."
"He's not my Wraith." He really hated how everyone in one way or another said that, even Ronon did. "If we have to call him something can't we name him?"
Rodney stopped eating to stare at him disbelievingly. "You want to name the Wraith?"
"If gets everyone to call him something other then my Wraith. Yes."
"What on earth would you call him? Bob? I can't see him liking that."
"I was thinking more like Todd."
"TODD?" Rodney stared at him like he was crazy.
"It's the name of this guy I knew, he was really pale."
"You know what, I want to see you call him that to his face."
John took another bite and after swallowing said, "Why?"
"Because. Fifty dollars says he doesn't react or he over reacts."
He got the feeling Rodney liked the idea of the Wraith having a name, something he could call him other the wraith, something to push the fact his fellow scientist could kill him at any moment away. "Sure tomorrow at the lab."
Rodney blinked at him, surprised. John didn't know why. Rodney should know better then to challenge him to do something that easy. Digging back in his dinner John found he had relaxed, making a silly bet with Rodney, finding out Keller could be just as bad as a mama bear or Carson. All of it reminded him no matter what happened in the next weeks, no matter what he had to do to get away he had a few days left to just enjoy being here.
Getting back to his room he sat down to work on his farewell letters, he found himself working on Rodney's.
We've been friends for four or more years now, it's hard to remember when we weren't friends, and insulting each other, pushing the other on... But now that I'm gone I want you to know it wasn't your fault. None of it, I just couldn't stay any longer. Teyla and Ronon and you I'm sure will be angry and will want answers, I don't have any for you. I just want you to know, I hope you never find me.
I know I can't stop you three from looking, but I have a plan and with any luck it'll work and no SGA team will ever see me again. So keep the other two out of trouble, and save the universe without me. Oh and when you take the letters for my father and brother don't worry about what they say, I know they'll be insulting, I don't care what they say, so don't say anything stupid.
Rereading it he couldn't think of anything to add, but he hoped Rodney would understand what he meant. Laying down on his bed, he half dozed, an hour later he woke up, he was still hungry, dinner had filled him up but now only three hours later he was hungry again. With a sigh he went to get a snack, walking through the halls he found his calm from earlier disappearing. Rodney being his slightly awkward self had made him relax, someone clearly wasn't worried, even if the rest of his team was curious, but he wanted to be gone in two weeks max.
He could get a snack and then start on that abandoned planet list.
Getting a second dinner he chatted with Calvin the only cook on duty at this time, then he sat down and ate quickly, finished he headed to his office a small portion of his mind protesting the idea of using his commanding officer privileges to plan his escape. But all he had to do was think of the vision of him with a feeding slit and think of how hungry he had been the last couple of weeks and he could squash it.
He would never stay long enough to endanger his friends.
A small note book he used for lots of things the leather cover made it tough and it was small enough he could tuck it in a pocket, and he had a whole list of useful addresses. So many he was sure even if he moved place to place in a random pattern he probably would never see them all. Then in case he wrote down a number of populated planets that had never seen his face. He would probably need to trade things to get it started, he could only sneak so much gear in his bag, and he would need clothes so people who didn't know him wouldn't place him as from Atlantis. Long term he planned to avoid people to keep random strangers safe from him as well but he knew perfectly well you couldn't hide from everyone just maybe people who knew him.
Realizing how early it was he slipped back into his rooms for a few hours of sleep before he had to get up and shower before going to a briefing.
(Week Twenty-Seven and One Day)
His alarm was beeping, with a sigh he rolled over and hit the button to turn it off. Sitting up he put his feet on the floor, he had time for another shower and a quick breakfast, next the briefing, then off the tell Todd he had been named.
Walking to the shower he tried to wash the cob webs away, today was the briefing, some fun and paper work, no weird things to think on, no worrying about if someone would stop him, today was going to be simple.
Climbing out of the shower he was drying himself off when his eye caught on a pink scratch in the center of his left hand. Then his heart stopped, that was no scratch, and in the vision he had been so caught in the fact he was on a wraith ship and even flying it to realize it was his left hand that had the slit.
His heart started pounding in his chest, he had the start of a feeding slit, swearing to himself he tried to calm himself, this had always been coming, it had been something he knew was coming. He was the enemy.
So much for his simple and normal and boring day.
His stomach growled, it seemed he unlike a true wraith wouldn't stop eating solids, he just would need extra, made him wonder in some dark place he didn't want to go if he ever ate his fill of life energy would it disappear until he needed to feed again? Not that he would ever eat a human he would starve first, but if he... he snorted, even thinking about feeding on something was a betrayal because odds were such if he ate once he would do it again, and if he thought about it would weaken his resolve not to.
Looking at his hand he knew what it was but anyone who did notice would think it a scratch, nothing more, it wasn't clear what it was yet, he wondered how long would it take to become clear...
Time to get dressed and face Atlantis, you still need to see Rodney's face when you talk to the wraith, and name it Todd. It helped he had a feeling this wraith wouldn't care what he called him, he probably would be amused to be given a name. Dressed, starving, but calm he let his rooms for the mess. Grabbing what he could quickly he ate then dashed off to the briefing with Sam about the missions for the teams for the next two weeks. He had slipped in one for him and his team, he would have his gear ready and would double back and make his run for it. That as a plan should give him half an hour head start plenty of time to go to three or four different planets to make them lose his scent.
An hour and a half later Carter sent him, Lorne, Dr. Keller, McKay, and Zelenka on their merry ways. Rodney and him headed for the cell where the wraith was waiting. Walking there John found his mind wandering, what would he do on his own? Who might he run into? He had read a run down on interesting things everyone had found while exploring Pegasus but he knew he wouldn't recognize everything, and while odds were something poisonous wouldn't get him what about animals they didn't know about? or a dozen or two other things... Not to mention Wraith and Kolya.
Walking in the Wraith, Todd stood. John was surprised to sense tiredness, and looking longer noted his pallor, he looked more waxy then usual too. Opening his mind a little more he realized he wasn't the only one with an unfulfilled ache, Todd was getting hungry too.
He slammed his mind shut, he didn't want to compare the feelings he just saw to his own, he knew they were the same but he didn't want to look any closer.
"So Todd ready to get back to work?"
The Wraith turned his head sideways, "More of your humor John Sheppard?"
"Yep, tired of everyone saying you're my Wraith so you are now Todd."
Rodney gapped at him but Todd went along with the daily routine of the cuffs going on and the slow march to the lab. When they reached the lab and he turned to go Todd spoke, "Why Todd?"
That surprised him a bit he didn't expect him to ask that, what it meant maybe, why name him at all, but why that name... Didn't see that coming. "Because there was a man I knew named that, he was pale and since I needed something to call you, it fit."
Walking out he wondered a little if he hadn't asked because Todd for whatever reason wanted him to trust him, or maybe it was because before he turned wraith he had been on the path that reminded Todd of that boy in the vision, they had both had black hair after all. And that comment of worshippers and brothers... Shaking the thoughts away he knew it didn't matter, he might be curious but answers were something he had long lived without.
John meant to be reading more about some of the abandoned worlds but he needed to finish more letters, the one he found himself working on surprised him, he hadn't planned to write one for Lorne.
I find writing this more then a bit awkward, I know as CO there was always some distance required, but I find that I think of you as friend. As a friend I have to ask when I'm gone and your reading this believe me when I say I had to go, I couldn't have stayed. I can't stay. I won't stay.
I know there will be some debate but I hope that you'll end up with my job, you'll do a great job.
If you get my job you'll probably be in charge of the hunt for me, I know it's required. We can't just disappear but I hope I can, for everyone's sakes. Mostly mine.
But when Teyla and Ronon and probably Rodney try to run themselves in to the ground looking for me, stop them. When you can't find me and it's decided my team needs a new leader I don't envy you the work it's sure to take to find someone everyone can put up with. But make sure you do. Don't let them split, don't let Ronon come after me, don't let the other two let him.
Now for some advice, take orders from Carter and who ever comes after her, but the trick is to know when to say yes sir and when to say no sir. Here in Pegasus the rules are different, don't mindlessly swallow orders, here you have to balance rules with when they actually apply.
Remember listen to your head, your orders and your guts. When your head and gut agree but it disagrees with orders, you're probably better off disobeying orders.
When you mess up be ready to listen to people who weren't there slam you, you've dealt with some of that before but it's different when you some times have to do the slamming.
So be ready with both sides of the argument.
That's about all I can think of to say so it was an honor to serve with you.