Title: Lightning Strikes
Characters: John, Teyla, Rodney, Ronon, Keller, Lorne, Woolsey
Warning(s): sentient Atlantis
Summary: A lightning bolt brings change to John Sheppard. His bond with the city deepens, bringing its own hazards. Friendship is tested as Rodney and John clash over his new strength.
John looked up as a rumble sounded overhead. "What a great ending to a lousy day." The Ancient ruins had been a bust, plus he had about a dozen bug bites that were itching like crazy. Fortunately, they were only an hour from the Gate, so he could get a hot shower and have the bites looked at soon.
The wind whipped up suddenly and Teyla cast a glance over her shoulder. "We should hurry. The storm is moving in faster."
Shifting into a jog, P90 tucked under his arm, John felt Ronon and Teyla do the same.
McKay, being his usual self, started grumbling immediately. "Dammit Sheppard, I am not a race horse!"
"Just imagine that Wraith are chasing you."
Rodney shot a glare at Ronon. "Thanks a lot." Nevertheless, he put his tablet away and picked up his pace.
Trying to beat the storm to the Gate turned into a race that they lost. The rain started halfway there, coming down in wind-blown sheets.
"Great – tired, bitten, wet and empty-handed. I'm not letting you pick vacation spots McKay." John quipped as Rodney approached the DHD.
"Oh yeah, blame me! I did this just so I could ruin your day!" Even snarking back, Rodney's hands were entering the address.
John felt a tingling in the air just as a bolt of lightning struck nearby. "Hurry up! I don't want to add fried to the list!"
"Got it!" With those words, the wormhole engaged and Rodney scrambled for the gate.
John knew he didn't have to tell Teyla or Ronon, as they were just ahead of him. Just before they hit the event horizon, John felt the tingle again, but much stronger. Oh hell, not again! John leaped for the event horizon just before the bolt flashed down. He knew the landing was gonna hurt, but it was either that or get hit by lightning. Unfortunately, the bolt had other ideas. It hit the event horizon and traveled through the Gate, catching John in midair as he cleared the Gate. The bolt struck hard, coursing through his every cell before grounding in the Gateroom floor. The sound wave and flash from his exploding ammo blended with the roar of the lightning as shrapnel sprayed outwards in an expanding globe from his sundered 9mm.
As the flash from the lightning cleared and the Gate disengaged, silence reigned in the Gateroom. No one moved as they all stared at the scorched spot in front of the Gate. It wasn't until Ronon and Teyla moved to the scorch spot that everyone else realized what had happened.
Rodney reacted first, slapping his headset "Medical emergency in the Gateroom!"
Keller's voice came back immediately. "What's the emergency?"
Rodney took a deep breath before answering "Sheppard got struck by lightning in the Gateroom."
Silence as Keller absorbed this. "Is he breathing?"
Teyla answered her from her position by John's head. "Doctor, he is breathing, but not well. His pulse is extremely fast and he is unconscious. He is also bleeding from shrapnel wounds on his side and leg."
"On my way. Don't move him unless he quits breathing. Keller out."
Teyla kept her hand on John's throat so she could monitor his pulse and his respiration. Ronon stood nearby, keeping the curious at bay. Rodney knelt across from Teyla, wrapping pressure bandages on the seeping wounds on Sheppard's leg and side where his 9mm exploded, as a squad of Marines took up positions around their fallen commander. More troops shooed the nonessential personnel out. It always amazed Rodney how many people would make time to be in the Gateroom anytime there was a scheduled activation, especially if it was their team or Lorne's coming in.
The room was quiet, the only noise coming from the consoles or the occasional tapping of keys. Keller's arrival with a medical team shattered the silence. The Marines parted for the doctor and her team as they headed for Sheppard.
Keller knelt at Sheppard's side and pulled out her stethoscope. The pilot's chest was visible through the remains of his tac vest and shirt. She put the ear pieces in and reached down with the bell to listen to his heart. Just as the bell closed to within a few seconds of John's skin, a spark of electricity jumped from his chest and Jennifer fell back with a muffled exclamation. "What the Hell?"
Her exclamation captured Rodney's attention "What happened?"
"It…he…it…shocked me." Jennifer looked a little stunned. She looked at the stethoscope, then at Teyla. "When you were monitoring him, you had your hand on his neck, right?"
Teyla nodded "Yes."
"Where was your other hand?"
Teyla thought about it. "On the floor, so I would not fall on him."
Realizing where the discussion was going, Rodney pulled a voltmeter from his pack and knelt at Sheppard's side. He brought the probe near to his unconscious friend. When the probe was just a few inches from John's skin, a tongue of electricity leapt to the probe. "Oh, great, now he really has an electric personality!"
"Can we draw the excess charge out somehow?" Teyla's concern crept into her voice.
Jennifer considered Teyla's question. "Right now, it's probably what's keeping him alive. The charge is going to need to dissipate."
Rodney shook his head. "Something else is going on. The rest of the bolt grounded in the conduits. Contact with Atlantis seems to be keeping the charge contained. Anything metal, though and it sends a charge. It's… almost like the electricity is trying to keep us from moving him."
Chuck called from the galley above. "Sorry to interrupt, but we have a scheduled activation in 20 minutes."
"So?" Rodney snapped, and then he looked up at the Gate looming overhead. "Oh. We need to move before we get vaporized."
"We can't move him .The gurney is metal."
"'Scuse me, Doc" Ronon's low rumble intruded. He gently moved Keller aside and removed his gunbelt and sword, handing those to Rodney. "Here, hold these. Teyla, help me find any more metal."
Teyla helped Ronon find any other metal objects that he had on him. One of the Marines stepped forward to help and was soon holding quite a collection of knives and other implements. Ronon then knelt down, removed his boots and handed those to another Marine. He then turned and very gently picked his friend up from the floor, settling Sheppard's head against his shoulder and taking extra care with his leg.
As Ronon rose from the floor, Keller started to stop him, but Rodney grabbed her arm. "Look, he's not getting shocked. Ronon's bare feet are maintaining the link with the city."
Settling his friend in his arms, Ronon turned to Keller. "Where to, Doc?"
Keller considered this. "We can't take him into the main infirmary. There's too much metal and too much Earth equipment."
Rodney snapped his fingers. "How about that room next to the infirmary? Or we could move the Earth equipment out because the Ancient equipment would probably not be affected."
"What about the isolation room? It could be easily cleared." Teyla's clear voice broke the discussion. "It also has sensors to monitor his condition."
Jennifer and Rodney both stared at Teyla then at each other and nodded.
"Sounds like a plan." Ronon rumbled as headed out of the Gateroom, Sheppard cradled in his arms.
Jennifer nodded and tapped her radio. "Marie, I need you to take some help and clear the isolation room of all Earth technology. Remove anything metal or that you think is metal. Leave the Ancient equipment only and have someone see if they can find a bed with a wooden or plastic frame."
"Doctor?" Marie's voice held a wealth of questions.
"Colonel Sheppard was struck by lightning. His body still has too much residual charge." Keller explained as they moved through the halls. "The charge is jumping to anything metal."
"I understand Doctor. We'll have it ready when you get there." Marie's tone was all business again.
One of the Marine squads from the Gateroom was moving ahead of Ronon, clearing the path for the man carrying their CO. Lorne and Woolsey joined the procession as they neared the Observation Room.
"Doctor, how is he?" Woolsey's crisp tones intruded on Jennifer's thoughts.
"Right now, all I can tell you is that he's alive. I'm going to have enough trouble running an IV as it is. I'll know more once I can use the isolation room's scanners and we get him cleaned up." She looked at Woolsey and Lorne. "If either of you gentlemen plans to visit, I suggest you divest yourself of anything metal."
Lorne looked at the Marine carrying Ronon's gear and let out a low whistle. "You're pretty naked there, Ronon."
"Yeah" Ronon grunted and shifted Sheppard a bit in his arms. "Haven't been this naked since I was 6."
When they reached the Isolation Room, they found that Marie had found a suitable bed. One of the Athosian beds that had been left behind now sat in the center of the room. It was wide enough for a possibly delirious patient to thrash without falling off, plus it was long enough for Sheppard's lanky, six foot frame. As Ronon walked in and gently laid John on the bed, one of the maintenance crew came in with a hastily assembled wooden IV stand. Just as Ronon stood up and backed away, John started trembling with the beginnings of a seizure. Teyla, who was on the other side of the bed, quickly knelt and placed her left hand on the floor while placing her right hand on John's forearm and as she touched his flesh, the trembling stopped.
Rodney, having witnessed this, quickly pulled out a length of wire from his pack. After stripping about eight inches of insulation from one end, he slipped it around Sheppard's wrist and secured it before stripping a few inches of insulation from the other end and letting it drop to the floor. "Let go, slowly, in case this doesn't work."
Teyla raised her hands slowly. The tremors did not return, for which she was grateful.
While Sheppard was calm, Keller got an IV started. Marie was in the control room using the sensors to monitor his condition and relaying information to the doctor in the room below her.
The lightning shocked her even as she felt the pain of her favorite son. As he lay unconscious on her floor, she controlled the current running through his body, keeping it from harming him further. In doing so, Atlantis realized that the lightning had done her a favor. The longer he spent with her, the brighter he had become to her eyes. Now, because of the lightning, he was even brighter still. The thin wire that the talkative one placed between them allowed Atlantis to help him, but it was not enough. She decided that her creators would not mind if a few decorative cornices were sacrificed in order to help her son. She subtly reached out and directed the materials forming those cornices to soften and flow. Softened and malleable, the material ran down the walls like candle wax. When it reached the floor, it flowed where it had been ordered to go.
Ronon was standing back watching, but also close enough to help when a faint movement caught his attention. Frowning, he turned towards the motion, but didn't see anything amiss. Chalking it up to concern, Ronon turned his attention back to John. He owed John Sheppard more than he would ever admit out loud. The man had saved his life and sanity by taking him in. By keeping his word, John had also earned his trust and loyalty. Another movement caught his eye, but this time Ronon didn't turn his head. Instead he watched it out of the corner of his eye. He casually sidled over to get a closer look. What he saw only mildly surprised him. Since coming to Atlantis, he had seen much stranger things than bluish-green metal moving on its own. "McKay. "
"What? Kinda busy here monitoring Sparky the human light bulb!" Rodney snarked back without looking up from his tablet.
"Atlantis is redecorating," came Ronon's soft rumble. An echo of 'huh's' sounded from the group. In answer, Ronon pointed down at the legs of the bed where the metal was flowing up the wood, forming a beautiful overlay. When the metal reached the top of the frame, it spread out, forming a more solid overlay. When it reached John's wrist where Rodney had secured the wire it paused, then started flowing up the wire. When it reached flesh, a finger width of metal flowed around John's wrist and formed a bracelet. The wire was absorbed by the rest of the metal which went on to complete the mesh overlay on the bed.
Not a word was spoken until the process was complete. Teyla was the first to touch the bracelet that now adorned John's right wrist. It was warm to the touch and close fitting, but she twisted it slightly and discovered that it had not attached to the skin. The band was the same blue-green of the walls with shots of copper mixed in. It was also patterned to resemble the walls.
Rodney and Jennifer came over, scanners in hands. After punching buttons for several minutes, they looked up at each other and stepped to the side to compare notes.
Ronon stepped closer and sat down on the floor opposite Teyla. "What do you think?"
Teyla was silent. "I think that the city has decided to have more direct contact with John. He has stated numerous times that the city likes him. He told me of their arrival in Atlantis; how only the basic lights were on when he came through the Gate, but once he stepped a few feet in, the lights and other systems started coming on. It was especially obvious when he reached the gallery because only Rodney had accompanied him and Rodney did not have the gene at that time."
Ronon absorbed this for a minute. "This means he's gonna go nuts." At Teyla's shocked look, Ronon decided to explain further. "Think about how many requests he gets to be a 'human light switch' in a day. That is gonna go up if this means he can hear the city better."
At Ronon's clarification, Teyla nodded. "It may also help save lives. If the city can tell him what rooms were used for, he can warn the exploration teams in case of dangerous experiments. We will have to act as a buffer between him and the scientists, one in particular.
Ronon considered her words then grinned. "We'll guard him from everyone, just as we would on a mission."
Tablet in hand, Rodney kept glancing over at Sheppard. Having just seen the city take an overt hand in matters really did not surprise him, not after the comments Sheppard had made over the years. Glancing back down at his tablet, Rodney focused his scan, finally picking up on the energy transmission between the bracelet and the city. "Fascinating. The bracelet is drawing the excess charge out slowly and feeding it into the bedframe. From there it is dissipating into the floor. I wonder if this means that he'll be able to talk more directly with the city. Think of all the things we could learn." He looked up at Jennifer, his eyes wide with excitement. "No more fumbling around, no more dangerous trials trying to figure out a device, no more damage because of ignored failsafes!"
Jennifer looked up from her scanner and stared at Rodney. "Rodney, stop and listen to yourself! You are standing there drooling over Colonel Sheppard getting struck by lightning! You're talking about turning your friend, the military commander of this base, into your personal database!" With a glare, she walked away from Rodney and headed for the supply room.
When Jennifer returned a few minutes later, she had a tote bag of supplies with her. She put the bag down on the floor by the bed and looked up at Teyla and Ronon. "Can I get the two of you to help me?"
Teyla answered as Ronon went to grab some stools. "We were going to offer. You did not need to ask."
Jennifer smiled. "Thanks. Nice to know someone cares." The last was directed at Rodney with a glare.
"I do care!" Rodney was getting a bit agitated. "I've known him longer than you! If he was awake right now, he'd probably be thinking some of the same things!
Removing the remains of the pilot's clothes was easy. His tac vest had withstood the energy better than the rest of his clothes, but the laces and zipper hadn't. It slid off easily, causing his shirt to flake away. As Jennifer removed the bandages and John's BDU's, Ronon cleaned the ash from the pilot's torso. His gunbelt and holster were ruined by the blast that had destroyed his 9mm. It was fortunate that Sheppard had been carrying a 9mil instead of his normal .45 as the .45 would have taken a chunk out of his leg when it exploded.
As they cleaned the ash from his skin, Teyla noticed an anomaly. She leaned over to confirm her observation. The surge from the lightning had scorched all of the hair from John's chest. It was interesting to see his torso without the hair.
Noticing her inspection, Jennifer looked up from examining Sheppard's leg. "Teyla, something wrong?"
Teyla shook her head, slightly embarrassed. "No, nothing wrong. I just noticed that the lightning removed John's chest hair. I was admiring the view."
Keller had to look, as she hadn't noticed either. "It will grow back, but he's not going to be happy when it does cause it's going to itch as it grows in."
As they got him clean, they found that there were some red streaks all over his chest and thighs from the lightning. When Ronon rolled him over, they all gasped. Where the lightning had struck, on the left side of his back, there was a bright red burn the size of Ronon's spread hand. The edge of it had missed John's spine by a finger's width.
After staring a moment, Keller handed Teyla a pair of gloves and a jar of burn ointment out of her bag. "Put these on. Apply this to any area that looks red or blistered." Pursing her lips for a moment, she rethought her plan of treatment. "On second thought, apply it to every inch of his skin. It won't hurt him and it will definitely help. Fortunately, the burns are only first and second degree, so there will be little to no scarring, although this one is gonna hurt awhile."
As Teyla spread the ointment on Sheppard, Keller called out to Marie as she started on his leg. "How do his scans look?" She grabbed a syringe and injected a local anesthetic into his leg as she didn't want to sedate him right now. As she waited for the anesthetic to take effect, Jennifer took some antiseptic wipes and cleaned the blood from his leg. Some of the debris came out, pieces that had not completely penetrated the skin.
As she spread the ointment on his abused flesh, Teyla marveled at the difference in texture. She loved to run her fingers through the hair on his chest, tracing the swirls as they lay together at night. Seeing his muscular chest without hair was very different. It was like a curtain had been pulled aside, allowing a glimpse at what lay beneath. If they were alone, she would be exploring that new smoothness while it lasted. Unfortunately, she knew that this was not the time or place and she doubted that John would enjoy the experience, considering the burns on his chest.
After checking the various monitors, Marie called down. "His vitals are good. His heart has a minor arrhythmia and his temp is slightly elevated at 101. EEG, BP and respirations are good."
Keller sighed in relief. "Good. I didn't want to put him on oxygen with all the current in his body." She reached into her bag and pulled out a loose gauze pad and some rolls of the same. Getting Ronon to lift John, Jennifer placed the gauze pad over the burn on his back and held it while Teyla wrapped the loose gauze around his chest to secure it. Once the bandage was secure, Keller had Ronon shift Sheppard onto his right side so he would not be lying on the burned area. Straightening up, Jennifer looked at the threesome. "For the next few days, be very careful where you touch him. His skin is going to be very sensitive."
Ronon frowned. "Like when he had the flu a couple of months ago?"
"Worse, actually." Jennifer looked at the Colonel's team. "Have any of you ever had a bad burn?" At nods from all three, she continued. "Take that small burn and enlarge it to cover most of your body. That's how he gonna feel."
Having given the local time to take effect, Jennifer put on a magnifying headlamp, fresh gloves and grabbed a pair of forceps. Kelly came in and turned the scanner on, pulling on gloves as well. Jennifer watched the screen as the scanner made its slow way along Sheppard's body. She paid particular attention to his head, ribs and leg.
With Kelly assisting, Jennifer fished the pieces of metal out of John's side and thigh. After she felt him twitch, she injected a mild painkiller into his IV in order to supplement the local she had already given him. Waiting a moment, she went back to work, the only sounds Sheppard's steady breathing, Kelly's low comments, Keller's directions and the plink of metal hitting metal as Jennifer dropped the shards into a basin, Kelly flushing the wounds out as she went. Every few pieces, she put the forceps down and picked up a suture needle, placing stitches in the deeper wounds to close them so they would heal properly.
As she waited for the scan to refresh, she watched John's team. She hadn't known them long, but she knew they were very devoted to him and each other. The Colonel wasn't the smartest or the strongest, but he was the leader. He was the force that kept such disparate personalities together. If she ever told some of the stories about the things that Sheppard and his team did for each other, most people in Atlantis would not believe her, as they only saw what the Prime team wanted them to see. The only believers would be those persons that the team worked with on a regular basis because they had been let inside the walled city that was Atlantis' Prime gate team.
With the scan refreshed, she picked out more material, Kelly irrigating the wounds and Keller placing stitches where needed. After a final scan, they wrapped his leg securely after liberally smearing antibiotic ointment over the wounds. Keller made the bandage a bit thicker than normal because she knew Sheppard would be stubborn and try to walk on it.
Jennifer flexed her back as she reported her prognosis, Kelly cleaning up. "Well, the good news is that there are no damaged ribs, although he's going to be very sore from both the lightning and the impact. I don't think he has a concussion, but he does have a sizable knot on his head from impacting the Gateroom floor. The shrapnel was the worst, but no serious bleeders. There is a minute stress fracture on his femur, but it will heal with no problems. He will have to wear a support on it for a time in order to protect it."
As she finished, there was a moan from the bed. Looking down, they were treated to the sight of John's eyes fluttering open slightly before he let out a cry of pain and tightly closed them again. "Colonel, can you hear me?"
"Can you open your eyes again for me?"
Looking at his face, Jennifer had an idea what was bothering him. "Can you tell me what hurts the most?"
John was so quiet that they thought he had slipped into unconsciousness again. "Back and head."
Comparing words with body language, Keller considered possibilities as she reached for her penlight. "Are your eyes bothering you?"
"Yeah." The light in the room dimmed considerably following the lanky pilot's answer.
Taking this into account, Keller looked at Sheppard. "Migraine?"
Keller decided to not pull out her penlight. "Well, then I won't make it worse by shining a light in your eyes if you can open them for a minute."
It was a bit of a struggle, but he managed, his eyes fluttering open. Keller grabbed his chin so she could look at his pupils. Using her free hand, she shaded his eyes for a minute, and then moved it. His pupils reacted evenly and smoothly to the shift in light. Jennifer released his chin and straightened. "No concussion, which is good although you do have a lump on your head. You had some shrapnel in your side and thigh, but I got all of that, but you are going to be very sore for a while." Jennifer looked at her patient, noticing that he had lowered his eyes to slits as soon as she had released his chin. Definitely light sensitive. "I'm going to give you something for the migraine so you can sleep. I think you dodged a bullet this time. Once the burns and the shrapnel wounds heal and your body stabilizes, you'll be back to normal."
John managed to open his eyes once more. "Thanks, Doc." His voice trailed off as he lost the battle with exhaustion, his eyes sliding closed once more.
Keller pulled out a case of loaded syringes and dumped one into the IV. When she finished, she looked up to see that John's team was watching her expectantly. "I meant what I said. Once the burns and other wounds heal and the migraine goes away he'll be fine. I am going to run a deeper scan while he's out though." Looking up at the observation room, Keller issued orders. "Kelly, get the big scanner warmed up. Ronon, would you bring a gurney in? Marie, send Janet in. I'm going to get a blood sample as well. I want his electrolytes checked. Also look for changes in his protein levels."
As she drew blood, Ronon's soft rumble intruded. "Doc, do you think it's safe to use a gurney?"
She thought about it for a minute. "Hmmm. Actually, I'm not sure."
Rodney huffed, reached into his pocket and pulled out a metal probe. Holding it carefully, he extended it towards Sheppard. When his hand was just a few inches from his friend's chest, he twitched as if expecting to get shocked. When the probe gently touched skin without even a spark, he was even more shocked. Withdrawing his hand, Rodney looked at his audience. "There, does that answer the question?"
Jennifer stared at Rodney for a moment. "Yes, it does. Thank you."
Without another word, Ronon picked their leader up and gently transferred him to the gurney. Teyla handled the IV as they headed from the room.