The chill isn’t doing anything to hearten the situation in him. Much more of this and he’s going to… well, he’s going to do what he’s normally been doing in this circumstance which is snapping at everyone that he thinks is holding him up. John never thought he’d come to a time in this galaxy when he wished for their usual run-of-the-mill missions. Life and death, but without having to wait so much on other people. He’s used to saving the day. John Sheppard admits it even if it’s only to himself that he likes being Captain Kirk. Always saving the day. A particularly freezing breeze gently glides through, he shivers and the little hairs on the back of his neck rise like hackles.
“Are you sure Carson and Rodney should come down here? In Rodney’s condition, it might be too dangerous for him and how can Carson bring his body down her—“
The words freeze in John Sheppard’s open mouth. A handful of yards away, Rodney suddenly appears with something similar to that weird and stupid-looking mechanical device on his head that John remembers being on that image of Spock’s head when they were in the transporter room DVD menu, only definitely Ancient looking and far more sinisterly elegant. Rodney’s expression is just as blank as Spock’s had been; at first John had chalked that up to the notorious lack of emotion that even people who have no clue about Star Trek know to attribute to the alien character, but seeing McKay’s face so devoid of anything that John would even remotely refer to as being distinctly Rodney McKay. No. That isn’t anything alien. It’s having your brain stolen from you. It’s called being striped of everything and anything that is you.
Carson appears out of nowhere behind Rodney with a remote control of some kind in his hands. He presses the glass surface of the computer interface on a detector? and Rodney turns to face the group waiting at the cave entrance.
Cold far more bitter than the planet they’re on courses through John. He swallows hard. Radek leans into him, averting his eyes from the image he’d helped create back in Atlantis.
“Colonel, tell them to come along.”
“John, you must.” Radek’s whisper begs.
A shiver tries to shudder through his body again, but John holds still. Damn it, he has to hold still.
“Alright,” Sheppard hisses then speaks louder, marginally so, “Come along you two.”
“Keep to the right,” Radek adds.
Beckett pushes another ‘button’ and quickly fingers a sort of round ‘knob’-looking part of the interface display. Rodney’s stagnant form starts walking towards John and Radek. The Doctor following along beside and a step behind. There’s freakish clicking sounds as Rodney moves that reminds John of someone clacking two bones together. The shiver shudders through his body.
“Carson…,” Lorne trails off, horrified, as the duo pass him.
“Don’t, Major. I don’t want to have to think about this anymore than I bloody well have to.”
Evan nods and falls silent. Sheppard and Zelenka part to let Carson guide Rodney’s body into the cave. Carson continues to have his friend’s back with his focus intently on the remote and either Rodney’s shoulder blades or below; his eyes can’t go any farther up the man’s body than that otherwise he’ll start tearing up and then the water works’ll come the same way they do every time he talks or thinks about his elderly ailing mother. Bless her. Bless you, Rodney, you bloody sod.
“Now we may go in, Colonel,” Radek says quietly in their wake, “The only ones of us from here on will be Rodney, Carson, you, and I. The rest have to stay up here.”
“No,” Ronon says flatly. Bitterly avoiding looking at the state McKay’s in like everyone else is.
“You must, Ronon.”
“No. They can stay, but I’m going down there with you. With Rodney.” The Satedan snaps.
“You cannot. That is not how it works in the episode.”
“I don’t care—“
Everyone stares at Radek Zelenka. No one’s ever yelled at Ronon Dex before least of all a scientist other than his teammate and friend McKay.
“I do care, Ronon, because if we do not do this as accurately as possible, as accurately as Atlantis’ computers believe it needs to be done, then it may very well do something next that we cannot predict,” there’s a desperate ferocity to him that no one has ever seen before, “It may start altering the episode. And if it alters the episode too much, then we have absolutely no way of getting Rodney back. None, because we will not be able to predict what is coming next or what is expected of us next the way we can now. Our advantage will have been destroyed. I do not know about you, but I for one really want Rodney back and I will not let him die like this. I will not lose him like this. I will not let him down. And I will not allow you to do so either. You must stay up here and let the rest of us do what must be done to save Rodney.”
Silence. Again silence. Ronon doesn’t know what to think. His jaw begins moving, trying to figure out what to say, but— He does care too. He won’t jeopardize Rodney’s life. But… his eyes look over at the Canadian scientist. The unlikeliest of all his friends. The man he’d never really thought to expect much from physically but a lot mentally. A man who came up with the idea of saving his life when he’d been returned to Sateda and set loose there as a Runner again. A man… a man. To add emphasis, Radek steps in between Rodney and Ronon. The Satedan’s dark eyes find the Czech’s pale blue ones… he sees in them the kindred spirit of a Satedan fighter. A fellow being refusing to step anywhere other than remaining in between his ‘brother’ and whatever danger that’s threatening him.
“Okay,” Ronon Dex relents softly.
Zelenka exhales some ease. Clearly he thought that’d he’d actually might have to physically fight Ronon over this. “I know, Ronon. Trust me, I do,” Ronon Dex locks eyes with Radek Zelenka again. Searches the Czech scientist’s eyes, “It is not what you would like, but this is how it goes,” he finds more there, “I know this episode like the back of my hand. It is one of my favorites as well. We will be alright and so will Rodney. I promise you.”
“Yeah, I do trust you, Radek. All of you. And I have for a long time now.” He tells them. They’ve been through too much together not to. The Satedan’s whole demeanor changes. There’s a calm there that’s been missing ever since they returned to the Pegasus. Something like the ghosts of the recent past giving a slight reprieve to a creature seemingly doomed to remain in the shadows of their shades. A creature used to the darkness there, but somehow still managing to attain a toe in the light and not surrendering entirely to the dark. Shoulders sagging ever so slightly, Weapons Specialist Ronon Dex steps back. Radek nods to his alien friend then turns to Sheppard and nods to him as well. The two of them go into the cave.
Sheppard looks around the cave, not much here. It’s a small ‘room’. Crates of rudimentary weapons more evolved then blunt clubs and rocks picked up off the ground and some holding stores of food are stacked here and there. Not too many, but just enough to be an enticing lure. An obvious one at that, if the cavemen had weapons like this, had made them themselves, then they wouldn’t have had to throw the rocks and clubs stuff at them. Nope, Radek’s right, it’s a trap. Baited and waiting. Beside him, Zelenka points at part of the cave’s rock wall on the other side of a crate of weapons. A flashing device that doesn’t look too far off of from the standard design of a General Issue crook neck flashlights stands there. It’s black, not olive drab, but still, it’s pretty much a crook neck flashlight as far as John can tell just blinking away at them. How could anyone not see that? Perhaps to these guys, the food and weaponry prove the greater attraction. John would like to think he’d notice the strange flashing gizmo first, but then again he’s not Cro-Magnon and that might sway that particular judgment call towards the crates. As Zelenka’d instructed, John keeps to the right, but the soldier in him keeps his attention on the pale honey gold glow of the device’s steadily strobing light. Radek points almost right next to himself, John’s eyes follow, and sees the second part of the trip wire trap a little more than three feet away from Radek’s other side. The strobing crook neck’s twin aligned right across from it. Hello futuristic tripwire.
“You have to trip it, Colonel, and this elevator will take us down to the appropriate level.”
John gauges the tripwire and the soldier in him isn’t sure about any of this. Until his eyes light on the tips of Rodney’s shoes… his mind wanders to the memory of an agonized face, a beautiful face… a leader’s face— Sheppard steps forward. Suddenly a smooth gunship blue-grey metal door slams shut in front of the cave entrance. The whole room gives a staggering lurch as it starts its plummet. John handles the transition well, going along with it like he does in less than perfect elevators. It’s a controlled descent, but his stomach shifts a tad with it anyways. This thing could use a little bit more maintenance just to smooth the ride out a bit. Apparently his isn’t the only one feels that, Carson burps. Zelenka and Sheppard look over at the Scotsman.
“Gas. Sorry,” he says sheepishly, “I think it’s… lunch related.”
John and Radek look away, but the Czech can’t help but laugh a little to himself, “Rodney would probably make some sort of comment about that.”
Carson smiles faintly, remembering when he’d said something like that in an uncomfortable situation with Rodney before. He can even hear the irate Canadian’s condemning voice. Authoritative in the highly abrasive and self-absorbed way that only Rodney McKay can do. Ordering Carson to sit down. Strangely, the words echo in his mind. Play along as though Carson had somehow already answered back. Shut up and concentrate… “Aye,” he says at last with half of the dim smile pulling at the left corner of his mouth at the now fond memory, “that he would have.”
Sheppard can’t keep his eyes off Rodney, “How is he doing, Carson?”
The good Doctor looks at Rodney standing in front of him so un-Rodney-ly, “He’s bearing the ride well, Colonel. Radek and I’s discovery is keeping him as well as if he were still lying on that bed in the Infirmary.”
John looks over at Zelenka who absolutely refuses to look at Rodney in this confined space. “’Discovery?’” John repeats.
“How did you know?”
“It stood to reason that since we do not have the means to create such a thing on Earth, that Atlantis knew of some Ancient technology that it was willing to give us in order to proceed with this play the way it needs to go on. All it was was a matter of finding it. With Carson’s Ancient propensity, it would only be a matter of time. It is a medical device, it had to be in the Infirmary. Simple as that.”
“Oh, it wasn’t as simple as that, Radek.” Beckett begs to differ, “You had to tinker with it in order to get it to help Rodney along with that other thing.”
“Is that what you were working on,” Sheppard asks him.
“I’d rather not talk about it,” Radek says to the dirt covered floor.
John’s eyes find Carson’s and yet doesn’t find Carson’s eyes. Beckett is also staring down at the ground. With no one else left to turn to except Rodney, John nods to himself. He gets the picture. They wait out the rest of the ride in mutual silence.
* * *
Ronon pounds his fists on the sealed metal door.
“Ronon, stop it!” Evan Lorne yells beside him. Giving up on trying to pry the Satedan back from the small gap that had once been a cave entrance carved into rock.
Ronon seethes. It’s taken his friends. Something’s gone wrong, he knows it has, and it’s taken his friends. His hands aren’t working. He steps back and goes for that stupid toy thing that’s supposed to pass for a weapon in all this.
“Oh, no, no, no, no. I can’t let you do that, Ronon.” Lorne steps in front of the metal door. His average soldier physique almost totally covering up the unnatural barrier.
“Something’s wrong,” the Satedan tells him. Gesturing at the door.
“To you it is.”
Ronon stalls, “What do you mean?”
“You’re not in there with them, that’s what you think’s gone wrong. Now put your phaser away and just wait like the rest of us and, yes,” he can already see Ronon thinking of an objection, “I know you’re not good at that, but it’s what we’re being expected to do.”
Zelenka’s words still fresh in his mind, Dex puts the gun back on his belt. This ‘entertainment’ sucks.
The other marine looks around, “Well, what do you think we’re supposed to do next in the episode, Sirs?”
Lorne looks around too, “I don’t know about you, but I’m freezing.” Evan rubs his hands together, breathes a couple of huffs of hot air on them.
The marine nods while Ronon remains focused on the closed door in his face as though glaring at it is going to get it to open for them. Evan switches to rubbing his forearms when his baby blue eyes lock onto the phaser on his fellow marine’s belt. He nods at it.
“Do you think those things can be set to warm something up?”
The marine looks down at his belt’s weapon and shrugs.