All in to Win
By GE Waldo/GeeLady
Pairings: None. Friendships only, featuring Rodney, Teyla, Ronan and Sheppard, Weir, Beckett.
Ratings: Mature, some violence, language, and serious Rodney whump!
Summary: Some displaced minions of Michael's horde find a new focus for their so-called lives, a game where the stakes are the victim's life and the first "horse" of the day? – Rodney McKay! (An idea that came to me after watching The Hunger Games).
*Just had to get the first chapter of this one out, even though Completeness is not yet finished. Watch for the next chapters of both stories in the next week!
"Do I have to go on this one?" Rodney knew he sounded like a petulant child. "I have three different experiments running and we just got back from Gorph" – who names these planets anyway? – "and their festival of ZedPM-powered Kick our Lantean Asses." A mission that had landed them exactly el' zippo' in the food products or ally department. "This whole mission was a waste of time and they didn't want to give up their spare ZedPM – imagine that?"
Plus he hadn't eaten a thing since breakfast and it was well past five in the afternoon. At least on Atlantis it was. He and everyone knew the way worm-holes worked was you might leave Atlantis at noon and step into pitch-black Two AM can't-see-worth-shit on the other side. Every planet had its own hours of days, days of the week and months of the year. Sometimes his mind fooled him and he came home with the universe's worse jet-lag. Sheppard breezed through these bizarre time shifts like a good soldier with great hair while he dragged his ass to Carson for several pills designed to help get his body back to something vaguely resembling his normal pattern of sleeping, eating and making pee-pee.
"Sorry Rodney, but John is meeting with Caldwell to discuss our next engagement with the Wraith which looks like it might be right around the corner, so I'm afraid you got the short end of the stick this time." She gestured to his companions "But Ronan and Teyla are going with you. Just try and secure us some food - okay? Coffee would be good – and be nice. They sent through a friendly automated message and the MALP confirmed that they are who they appear to be," she addressed Ronan and Teyla specifically "but keep your weapons handy just in case."
Ronan's lethal weapon was slung below his waist. "Always."
Teyla nodded "We will be careful Elizabeth."
She nodded. "Thanks Teyla, and bring back our resident though whiny genius in one piece."
Rodney just threw her a pained look. "Ha-ha, very funny. I hope they have dinner-time on this planet."
Weir smiled and stayed to watch them disappear through the Gate, a habit she had started years ago and never gave up. She always liked to be there when they returned as well. It was a comforting thing for her, not merely a sign of leadership. She always felt a low riding tension when her people were away and that tension didn't leave until they returned.
Weir was about to turn away when the Gate flashed and crackled – which it had never done before and to her and everyone's shock, several objects were hurled back through the illusory "puddle" to land clattering to the floor.
Elizabeth looked down to the one that had slid across the hard surface, coming to rest at her feet. It was Teyla's P-90. Elizabeth felt the first cold dread when she saw not only Rodney's weapon as well but Ronan's Satedan blaster. The Gate's flowing surface that resembled water then winked out.
All of her people's weapons were present and accounted for.
But her people were not. Ronan, Teyla and Rodney had disappeared and were now weaponless on a strange planet. Because he was close enough to hear her Elizabeth barked to her assistant in the control room above her. "Chuck – dial it again!" and then tapped her ear-piece. "Daedulus? Colonel Caldwell?"
"Yes?" Clipped. Irritated.
"I need Colonel Sheppard back here at once, we have a serious problem."
A dozen attempts to dial the Gate to reach the address where Sheppard's team had disappeared had proved fruitless. "There's just no getting through, Doctor Weir." Zelenka reported after tinkering with the Gate for over an hour. "After they went through someone on the other aside must have disabled the dialer – probably by removing a crucial crystal controller. Unless they dial us, we'll never get a connection."
Weir nodded. "Keep trying anyway Radek, please."
Radek nodded and crawled back beneath Atlantis's dialer control consol. Crystal chips were spread around his feet. Elizabeth carefully stepped around them to stand next to John Sheppard.
"How long have they been gone?" Sheppard asked. His entire team, minus himself, was missing with no weapons of any kind. As situations went, it sucked pretty big time.
"Almost an hour."
Sheppard nodded. "Do we have the address of the planet? It's location?"
Weir nodded. "It's three hyper-space weeks away."
Sheppard said "Then I think we should pack and be on our way."
Elizabeth agreed but said to Zelenka "Radek, keep working on it anyway. We'll leave a team behind prepared to-"
At that moment they all hard it, a soft intermittent whine that increased in volume, and then became a steady noise, as though suddenly they were standing beneath massive power-lines buzzing with electricity. Chuck offered an explanation. "Doctor Weir, I'm getting an audio/video feed from the address."
Elizabeth frowned. "Radek can we dial the Gate now?"
Radek checked. "No, it's just what he said, an audio/video feed from their side. So they didn't entirely disable their Gate, just removed the crystals that control passage through. That's a neat trick."
"Any viruses in the message or a piggy-backed code?"
Sheppard nodded his approval of her precautions. They'd gone down that path before and Elizabeth wasn't about to take any chances.
Chuck answered "Nothing that I can detect, it's just what it seems to be."
Elizabeth licked her lips nervously. "Okay...let's see it."
Chuck did his magic and on the large screen to their right a picture came into focus. It was a scene of an open field with a tree line in the background. People were milling around, other people appeared to be eating and drinking. A large cage-like enclosure sat to one side not quite in full view.
Suddenly a loud voice-over barked at them. "Welcome to The Game good viewers! This is where it all happens. This is where you bet their lives and if you go all in, you win-win-win!"
Suddenly the picture offered them a close-up of the cage-like structure. Inside people moved about, dragging their feet morosely or were slumped on the ground, their backs up against the metal bars. Elizabeth saw three figures that appeared familiar. "Oh my god..."
They were seated together at the rear of the enclosure, looking to all intents and purposes like animals in a cage, just like the rest of the humans. The video zoomed in even more, the camera on the other side going from face to despairing face, until it reached Teyla. The voice-over spoke again "Who will it be today? Does this lovely woman have the skills to beat the hunters at their own game? The camera passed to Ronan's scowl. "Or will it be this strapping fellow who makes you rich"? And then to Rodney. "How about this one? He's kind of small, but maybe there's a beast inside that can stand up to the gruelling contest ahead?"
Elizabeth watched her people with worried eyes. Ronan had a cut on his forehead, he had obviously fought back. Teyla was surveying her surroundings, perhaps calculating what their next move might be and Rodney...Rodney was sweating. "What the hell is this?" Sheppard asked although he could already guess.
Elizabeth, and now Carson and a few others besides Sheppard, had gathered around the screen to watch in morbid fascination as the live horror showed began to play out. The voice-over announced: "Our audience wants to have a look at today's new faces, so let's bring them out shall we?"
The camera finally gave them their first view of the perpetrators of the so-called game show and Elizabeth sucked in a breath. "My god, those are..."
"Hybrids." Sheppard finished for her. "Some of Michael's pets."
The two human/Wraith hybrids holding what appeared to be Wraith-like blasters, their faces pale and criss-crossed with blue veins, marched Teyla, Ronan and Rodney out from the cage to stand side by side in a line under the hot sun while the camera closed in on their faces. Ronan glared lethal daggers at the hybrids and the camera while Teyla's face was hard with defiance. Rodney looked...scared.
"Who will it be?" Voice-over asked loudly, "the tall fierce warrior, the strong but alluring temptress, or the pale weakling? First bets are now open starting at one hundred points – and remember, the longer the odds, the bigger your winnings."
There were a few minutes of unintelligible shouting as hundreds of voices clamored while placing their bets somewhere off-screen. After it had died down somewhat, the Voice came back. While the camera swung from Ronan to Teyla to Rodney and back again, the Voice shouted, pumping the crowd to cheers and thrills. "The audience has chosen! One man against one man and against the elements. A hunter and his prey, may one survive to run another day! One man to place or one man to win - remember it's a sport and not a sin to go all in to win! You our faithful viewer may begin placing your wagers now."
Sheppard didn't mean to but he began to chant softly under his breath "Ronan or Teyla, Ronan or Teyla..." saying to Weir when he saw her turn to him questioningly. "If this is some kind of race to the death," He explained, "either of those two has the greatest chance of making it out alive. Rodney on the other hand..."
Elizabeth suddenly understood him. "Radek, we need that Gate up now. We need to be able to dial that planet." Weir also understood that a three week trip through space would be far, far too late to help any of them.
Radek looked nervously at them both. "Um, we can't Elizabeth. It's simply impossible. Their Gate is disabled from their side and for us to get through they have to fix it first. I'm sorry, but I'm afraid it's just...physics - no crystals, no Gate, no Gate, no dialing said Gate and no getting through – it's impossible."
On the screen a cheer rose up from the crowd as the camera closed in on Rodney's sun-burned face..."And it's the weakling you have chosen!" An even closer up shot of Rodney's face showed his fear as he heard the announcement, correctly guessing that it was him the annoying Voice was talking about.
Sheppard could see Rodney's face twist as he realised he had been chosen for...whatever was about to happen. Rodney mouthed "Oh great." to Ronan standing next to him, and Sheppard didn't want to hear about what was not possible. "Zelenka, if we can't find a way to dial that planet, Rodney is as good as dead."
The Voice, which Teyla could see, was a hybrid speaking into a mic' and waving to the crowds at what appeared to be the commencement of this, their game of gambling on life, pointed to Rodney and said: "One man, this little man, will have to avoid a succession of hunters while navigating four days worth of harsh forest and ground, lakes and rivers, to reach the half-way point – to Place – or, if he can make it that far, to the Finish and to Win. If he makes it all the way through these next gruelling days and nights to the Finish, he will win his life and you who were so bold to wager that he would, you who went all in - will win!"
The crowd erupted in cheers that went on for several minutes until the hybrid held up one thick finger "But...but if he only makes it to the half-way mark, if he only Places then those who bet wisely on such will makes themselves wealthier and our little, white Gamer..." The hybrid pointed to Rodney, whose pockets had been emptied and he then stripped down to his pants and military t-shirt. They had even taken his shoes and socks, "goes back to the cages to run another day! However if our pale Gamer does not last until even the half-way mark, then he will face the ultimate penalty!" He swung his arm around to the spectacle appearing to his left.
The crowd roared its approval as a Wraith queen was rolled out before them, her arms and legs strapped to a wooden construct on wheels, thick straps keeping all four of her limbs immobile. She hissed her hatred of the crowd, but gazed with longing at Rodney the human, her favorite food.
"If our little Gamer cannot succeed, then our Gaming Queen will feed and feed!" The announcer shouted, making the crowd go wild.
The crowd kept up its cries of "Start the game, start the game..." as Ronan fought the hybrids rough paws all the way back into the cage. Teyla was thrown in beside him, landing hard on the dirt. "Take me - I'm the one you want!" Ronan continued to shout to the guards as they hauled Rodney away to stand him teasingly before the Wraith Queen who vainly fought her bonds to get at his heaving chest.
At Ronan's shouts to be picked instead of Rodney, one of the hybrids grew tired of his protests and turned his weapon on Ronan although he did not fire, and Teyla grabbed desperately at his arm "Ronan, stop. I promise you we will figure something out but we cannot help Rodney if we are dead."
Ronan finally allowed her to pull him to a seated position beside her in the dirt. "Rodney isn't like us, Teyla, he's not a soldier. He's not a fighter."
Teyla also watched Rodney anxiously. The hybrids were roughly shoving their team-mate back and forth in a closed circle - a sort of battle-at-play although Teyla could see it was not serious but designed to incite the crowd to further excitement and wagers. "Rodney may not be a trained soldier but you are wrong if you think he is not a fighter. Rodney is very intelligent and if he cannot out-fight them or out-run them, then he will out-think them."
"And what if he doesn't?"
Teyla set her jaw so hard it hurt. "They will come for us soon enough. Sheppard will not hesitate to kill everyone here to save us." To Teyla, at that moment the idea did not bother her conscience all that much. "Do you still have your knife?"
Ronan nodded, feeling the blade sitting next to skin beneath his pant leg. He had swiftly slipped it into its secret sheath when it became obvious they were out-numbered and out-gunned – if they had even had their guns anymore.
"Keep it well hidden Ronan, and let us think how we might escape from this cage."
On the screen Rodney was hauled up to stand next to a thickly muscled gorilla of a man who was wearing nothing but pants made of animals skins tied at the waist with a thin leather lace. His torso was painted with colored symbols that Elizabeth did not recognise. His legs and feet were bare as well. He did not even glance at Rodney. It was all part of the Game.
The voice-over, which Elizabeth now saw was coming from one of the hybrids standing at a small podium and speaking into a mic' said "Two men, side by side, equal in clothing, equal in the will to win! As always there are hidden cashes of food and water for them to find – if they are clever enough - and each will be allowed five hours rest per night. So what head-start shall we grant this day to our smaller-than-usual Gamer? One, two, three hours? As always, you our audience shall decide."
As the announcer spoke of hours and the crowd cheered for their choices, Zelenka approached. "Doctor Weir, I think I've discovered why their weapons were sent back. From their end the Gate was modified with some sort of filtering system designed to detect and reject all objects in conjunction with either explosive chemicals or energy signatures, like the bullets in the P-90's or the energy from Ronan's hand weapon. But Ronan's knife wasn't sent back so we can assume he still has it."
Elizabeth was glad for the small bit of good news but it wasn't enough to wipe the fear from her heart. "One knife against all of them?" She whispered so softly only John could hear, "No contest."
Sheppard remarked "You haven't seen Ronan in a fight." Still, Ronan and Teyla were vastly out-number, and locked in a cage and he did not see that changing any time soon. He tried to recall the last time Rodney had been in any kind of hand-to-hand fight, or on the run for his life. He couldn't remember even one. Rodney was the guy who on orders fired his gun, and then followed Sheppard's lead to run here or there, or do his best whenever Sheppard barked at him to recalibrate the thing-a-ma-jig, jiggle-tap the whoozitz or repair the sticky doohicky. At no time could he ever remember ordering "Rodney –beat that guy up" or "Rodney – run for miles without rest."
Not that Rodney wasn't capable of hard work, he was. While they weren't on a mission, Rodney did nothing but work either in his lab or by visiting every remote Atlantis control junction to check up on them like they were his personal pets. He also spent numerous weekly hours effecting repairs to everything one could imagine that might need repairing, all to keep the city running safely for everyone. Rodney, for all his complaining of lack of sleep or decent meal-times, worked harder than anyone he knew and more than that – he loved every minute of it.
But this was not Atlantis and Rodney was a scientist not a marathon runner or a backwoodsman who understood the nuances of fighting for his life against great odds. But, more than that, Sheppard didn't think Rodney had ever even spent time camping out, not even as a child, and that was downright bizarre for a Canadian when most of them lived with the wilderness practically lapping at their back door. "Rodney's smart." Sheppard said. "If he can just get far enough ahead, he'll have the time to out-think them." He assured Elizabeth, "He'll get through this."
Sheppard hugged himself with one arm while the other he used to pick at his five o'clock shadow. He should have been there with his team, not on the damn Daedulus engaged in an essentially useless con-fab with Caldwell. "Zelenka, any luck?" He knew he shouldn't ask again after only five minutes. The man was good but he wasn't a miracle worker.
He wasn't Rodney.
"I'm sorry Colonel. I'm waiting to have a consultation with Colonel Carter."
Meaning he was out of ideas and he hoped Carter might have a few tucked up her sleeve. Well, that was good, Sheppard thought, Carter was smart. So smart that even Rodney respected her brains. But it was hard to be doing nothing, to be prevented from joining his colleagues who were under attack. Standing still and being forced to only watch was sending Sheppard's blood pressure through the roof.
His friends in Atlantis watched events begin to unfold as Rodney was taken to the edge of the tree line and pushed hard until he fell to his knees. There, the announcer continued playing to the crowd. "According to your wishes the Gamer has been granted two hours head-start!"
Ugly hybrid hands dragged him to his feet and he was shoved ahead. Rodney decided it was best not to glance back to the monster of a man with the pretty tattoos. He figured he would need every extra second head start that he had to make it through this first day.
"BEGIN THE HUNT!" the announcer shouted and the crowd went wild as Rodney sprinted into the trees, trying to put as much distance as possible between himself and the gorilla disguised as a human being.
Elizabeth could not tear her eyes away from the screen where Rodney ran through the woods, stumbling every now and again over roots or depressions in the uneven ground. There were hidden cameras everywhere, each with the ability to zoom in and follow Rodney's zig-zag-ing path and the straighter path of the hunter now less than an hour behind him and gaining. Sheppard knew what Weir was thinking because he was thinking the same thing. If Rodney slowed down he might avoid twisting his ankle, but if he did slow down, he would be caught that much sooner.
And Rodney, for all his effort thus far, was going to be caught if he could not think his way out of this. Or if Ronan and Teyla could not. Already Sheppard could see that Rodney's strength was waning, his chest heaving, the sweat pouring off him. He had run miles already, beyond his normal endurance, and he was on the edge of needing to stop to get his wind back. All the while, the hunter jogged through the forest with his longer, more powerful legs and the ease of the practised athlete, gaining ground.
Sheppard turned from the screen and paced behind the curious Atlantis crowd who had gathered to watch the awful spectacle of one of their own being tracked and pursued like an animal. Sheppard needed to do something, not just watch. "Son-of-a-bitch..." He said under his breath and then ground out between aching teeth to Zelenka "Radek, you have to get that other Gate working."
"I'm doing my best Colonel."
Sheppard was tired of hearing him repeat the same useless words. "Come on, Radek, Rodney's life depends on it."
Elizabeth laid one hand on John's forearm and led him a few meters away from where Zelenka was working. "John, please..." was all she needed to say and Sheppard relented, nodding to Radek a silent apology. "Right, right..." But nothing of course was right about this.
"Rodney will figure something out." Elizabeth insisted.
Sheppard nodded but more for her benefit than his own. Rodney was a genius but even a genius worked by the clock and the clock was already ticking down to zero.
As if on cue, on the screen they watched as Rodney stopped and collapsed to his hands and knees, pausing to blow air and catch his breath. A nearby camera zoomed in on his face and the announcer's voice made them all jump. "Is our Gamer giving up already? Bets are hot folks – play 'm while you can."
"Come on, Rodney, get up." Sheppard said softly. "Get up, Rodney...goddamnit get off your ass..."
Elizabeth could see the exhaustion on her lead scientist's blotchy face. This was no place for such a man. Rodney was a thinker, not a fighter. She had sent out her best scientist into an unknown and no one was going to have to pay the price but him. "Rodney..." Elizabeth said softly "Please get up."
Rodney sat back on his haunches and began looking at his surroundings and it sent a faint thrill of hope racing through Sheppard's chest. "That's it." He said as Rodney's face underwent a sudden change, his brow furrowed, and his concentration more focused. Now to Elizabeth "He's starting to think," Sheppard told her, "he's starting to use that crazy-smart brain of his and he's going to think his way out of this."
Rodney's lungs burned hot but at least he had almost gotten his wind back. He knew however that he could not out-run the giant of a man who was hunting him. He had no weapons but perhaps if he could make one? Rodney scrambled around the forest floor, trying to find a stick that would pass for a suitable club, picking up and trying one after another. This one was too thin, this one brittle, that one too heavy to properly handle; this one too short...none fit the bill. "Dammit!" He shouted and flung it away from him.
Something caught his eye however, and he bent down. Beneath the fallen leaves, pushed to the side of the trail, were hard little tree-cones, each sporting sharp thorn-like seeds an inch long or more. All he had to do was slow his predator down. He didn't have to face him head-on or hand-to-hand if he could just wound or cripple him enough. It was a risk though as he had lost two-thirds of his lead, and lying out even a simple trap would eat up half of what he had left.
Rodney swiftly looked up and down the path. Not here, there were no depressions in the soil and he needed at least two, at least two...Rodney stripped off his t-shirt and began gathering the tree-cones into it, tossing dozens and dozens of them into his make-shift cotton bag, as many as he thought he could carry, all the while shivering in the coolness of the tall trees. The path was wide enough that it was clearly where most of the hunts had occurred.
Rodney scooped up his bag of cones and ran as fast as he could down the path, looking for just the right pair of spots. After a few minutes he stumbled as his bare right foot, already blistered and bleeding from running over hard roots and sharp-edged leaves, fell into a depression in the soil. Rodney scrambled to his feet and searched the area and, there, just a few meters down the rough path, was a second depression in the ground filled with dead leaves. Both were wide enough for what he needed.
Rodney spent some minutes pushing aside about half the leaves in both depressions, and then up-ended his t-shirt and spilled out the thorn-cones onto the ground. He swiftly arranged about half of them in a single layer in each wide hollow, and very carefully pushed the crinkling leaves back over the hidden cones, just enough of a layer to hide them but not enough to cushion the fine, needle-sharp thorns.
Rodney stood back and surveyed his work. Did it appear natural enough? Would it fool him? Rodney suddenly had a thought that probably others had tried this and failed. But for now it was all he had. All he needed was to slow the guy down enough so he could stay ahead. At least that would give him more time to think of his next move. Rodney pulled his t-shirt back down over his head and ran away from the traps as fast as his painful feet would allow. He was down to less than fifteen minutes of leeway now.
"Good." Sheppard said, "Good, if this works it should give him at least a chance." Sheppard was proud of Rodney for working out the simple trap designed to wound or slow down his human predator. It was simple but if it worked - effective. No one could run very fast on bloody feet punched full of holes. "Good boy, Rodney..."
Another two miles up the hazardous forest path, a camera caught him as Rodney stopped and fell to his knees, winded once more. But then all of them, Rodney, the blood thirsty gamblers and his friends on Atlantis, heard a painful yowl in the distance.
Rodney smiled gleefully. His trap had sprung. But there was no time to stop and celebrate. He looked at his watch, the only tool he had been allowed to keep. It was still five hours from dusk and the allotted rest period where neither would the hunter hunt nor the prey need to flee. All he needed now were some blankets, food and water and he might make it through the first night.
Sheppard bit his lip. Rodney's first trap had been a success but now the hunter knew his prey was no ordinary one, and he would be on the alert for others. "What temperature does it drop to overnight there?" Sheppard asked.
Elizabeth answered "Just above freezing."
Sheppard nodded, wishing that Rodney had been granted at least one blanket. "He's going to need food and water," Sheppard said, "and a way to stay warm or he's not going to last the night."
"Yes." Elizabeth said, wishing for whatever gods might be watching to grant Rodney that much at least. "Yes, I know."
Rodney could feel the air rapidly cooling as the sun dipped toward the horizon. He could not see exactly how long he had until the night came down on him but he knew it wasn't long. He also knew if he didn't get some water he would be too weak from dehydration to run tomorrow. Already his throat was dry and his tongue sticky from lack of moisture. Whatever reserves his cells might have had he had sweated out.
Rodney then heard it, that wonderful, musical sound of running water. He picked his way through a dense grove of massive old growths and came upon a small rocky cliff, where the mountain side soil had crumbled and exposed the rock beneath. A small trickle of water was happily running down its face and Rodney scooped it up in his hands and drinking it down over and over for many minutes, needing to replenish his sapped strength and dry body. It tasted of rotting leaves but it was cool and refreshing and he drank deeply.
He had come across no food cashes, having had not even one spare minute to waste looking. The announcer had mentioned food and water...Rodney started looking around, just for a few minutes. He could spare a few minutes, he decided, as the light was almost gone and that meant five hours of precious rest to prepare for the next day. Plus it made sense that whatever food they might have hidden, chances are it would have been stashed next to any natural or stored sources of water.
Rodney almost gave up when he looked up at the fading light, only to see a small satchel hanging from a tree limb about ten feet above his head. To get at it, though, he would have to climb the tree in the near dark without shoes or gloves. At least there were some branches low enough that he thought he could do it, and perched one sore foot on the lowest limb, pulling himself up to the next limb and the next. Once he could reach the satchel, it was a simple matter of loosening the slip-knot and letting the bag fall to the ground. Rodney climbed back down and had almost reached the ground when, in the now total dark, his foot missed the final branch and he fell the rest of the way. Not too far a fall but he was enough off-balance that he landed on his left wrist and felt something over-extend, bend and then give with a snap! Pain shot up through his arm and he gasped, cradling his injured left hand in his right. "Shit!" Rodney gritted his teeth, trying to ignore the pain without saying anymore, lest he give away his location.
Rodney sat and rocked on his backside for a moment, trying to work through the agony as Teyla had taught him in medication. Of course at that time she had made it sound so easy and he had not been in pain then. Leaving the broken wrist to throb on its own for a moment, Rodney untied the satchel and found inside one small meal worth of food: a few ounces of dried meat and three hard biscuits. But it was better than nothing and he was starving. Shoving one whole piece of dried meat into his mouth, Rodney slowly chewed the tough animal protein as he laid out the satchel on the ground and, using his teeth and his right hand, tore it into several wide strips. It was large enough that he could not only use it to wrap his wrist and make a sling, but he could use some of the strips as wraps for his tender feet which would make running tomorrow a little easier.
Rodney wrapped up his wrist as best he could, tying off the rags with a final narrow strip of the cloth using the fingers of his right hand and his teeth. But he had nothing for the pain and would have to try and sleep through it. He had no more time anyway to spend trying the meditation exercise, but at least rest time had arrived and Rodney gathered up his food, shoving the biscuits into his pockets and spent a another few precious moments trying to spot a good place to curl up in order to spend a very cold night in the woods.
He was relieved when he spied a small area off the main path where a carpet of dead leaves had piled up. Here he crawled in, covering himself with as thick a layer as he could make. It helped, somewhat, keep out the cold. His own body's warmth ought to do the rest. Rodney looked at his watch's glowing face. It was after ten o'clock here. He set an alarm for four hours of sleep, not five, so he would have head start, though probably his pursuer had thought of the same thing. They were both injured now, so his earlier advantage was now gone. Rodney closed his eyes, trying to will the pain away and barking at his mind to rest. He would need all his thinking powers tomorrow.
He wondered what time it was back on Atlantis.
Sheppard rubbed at his eyes and, other than bathroom breaks and the black cups of coffee Chuck kept placing into his hand, he had refused to walk away even for a moment from what was happening on the screen. Elizabeth had taken some of Rodney's rest time to use the facilities and contact the Daedulus for an update on Zelenka's urgent message to Colonel Carter. She had also ordered all non-essential personnel out of the control room and had called up some food from the mess hall.
Sheppard had brushed off the meal with a shake of his head and Elizabeth had not pushed it. He knew it was irrational but somehow Rodney being deprived of almost every comfort made it seem somehow obscene that he should sit comfortably in a warm room with food in his gut. Somehow it seemed proper that if Rodney was suffering, so should his commander.
"I'm sorry, Doctor Weir, but Colonel Carter is aboard the Apollo and they are currently engaging Wraith ship, so for now they are in communication silence. I have no idea when that will change."
"Thank you Colonel Caldwell." She ended the connection. "Thanks for nothing." Keeping her voice low although she knew Rodney could not hear her, she asked Sheppard "Is he sleeping finally?"
He nodded once. "Looks that way."
Elizabeth had always maintained the belief that she was a strong woman, stronger than most, and more often than not had an answer or an action for any given crisis. But they were both helpless here, both stuck in non-action and mute inability. They could not reach out to Rodney, even with a kind touch of encouragement. They could not even speak to him of hope for rescue. He was totally alone in this one and she felt it weighing on her shoulders. She was the one who had asked him to do one last mission for the day and felt a fresh pang of guilt that she had sent him away hungry.
To anyone else she would not have displayed such fear. But this was John Sheppard and she had come to rely on his strength as much as her own. Realising that pacing was accomplishing nothing useful she pulled up a chair to sit at his side. "What are we going to do, John?" It was difficult to keep her voice steady and her eyes clear. "How are we going to help him?"
Sheppard felt the fear slowly building inside him too as the clock ticked away the hours on Rodney's too short rest period and the hour-glass of his life slowly drained away its grains of sand. Rodney was as smart as they came, and at heart a fighter, but he had never faced anything like this before. "I don't know, Elizabeth, I don't know."
Part 2 asap.