For a seemingly primitive society, the locals sure had some high-tech weaponry. Half of them carried stone-age tools capable of lodging an arrow in Sheppard’s shoulder and the other half carried phaser weapons capable of overloading every system in the Jumper. And it was a toss up for which half Rodney McKay hated more.
The team had split when things went south; Teyla and Ronon were circling around, hoping to draw the majority of the natives away from the injured colonel and Rodney who was helping him along. The plan had seemingly worked, and after depositing John in the copilot’s seat, McKay had started the Jumper with plans to find his other two teammates and fly back to the stargate, a good fifteen minute flight away.
“Stupid aliens,” the scientist grumbled as he prepared to take off. “Stupid arrow shooting, technology stealing aliens. Nothing good ever comes of a society that takes over the ruins of a more technologically advanced one.”
“You mean like we did with Atlantis?” John gritted his teeth against the pain and kicked at the console in front of his seat.
“Not all of us are less technologically competent than the Ancients,” the scientist countered as Sheppard reached a hand to the quill in his arm. “Don’t touch that,” Rodney warned in disgust as the Jumper lifted from the ground. “Wait until we get back and Carson can…”
But Rodney didn’t get a chance to finish his statement because Teyla called across the radio, “John, Rodney, we are pinned down! We cannot reach the Jumper!”
“Hold tight, Teyla,” Sheppard ordered. “We’ll come to you.”
“Where are you?” Rodney asked even as he lifted the Jumper from the ground.
“West of the Jumper,” Ronon answered, and Sheppard and McKay could hear Teyla firing her P90 in the background. “Maybe three clicks.”
Bringing up the HUD, the two men in the Jumper surveyed the area. “There,” Sheppard pointed, then winced because he had used his injured arm. “That cluster of life signs.”
Nodding in agreement, Rodney directed the ship in that direction. “We’re on our way.”
The trip was a short one and Sheppard’s assessment was proven correct when they saw a mass of the leather-clad natives holding a line around their two teammates who were keeping them back with sheer determination and firepower.
“Launch a drone.” Sheppard swallowed against the pain and clarified, “Just to scare them. Maybe they’ll scatter and we can set down without anyone getting hurt.”
“Too late for that,” Rodney mumbled with a sideways glance at the quill sticking out of the colonel and sent a drone flying.
It seemed to work. The natives fled in all directions and Ronon risked a glance up from behind the large boulder they were using for cover. Rodney already had the back hatch open when he sat the ship down and Ronon and Teyla darted in. And the Jumper was already lifting again before he had the hatch closed.
“John, we should attend to your shoulder,” Teyla observed with a frown as she took her seat.
“In a minute. Right now we need to get the hell out of here,” he grunted, shifting back to look out the front window.
Rodney was way ahead of him, turning the Jumper toward the gate when it happened. Evidently one of the natives with an energy weapon had dared to take a final shot, and they hit. The ship was enveloped in an energy field that danced across the consoles, blew out the access panels, and had Rodney pulling away from the controls with a yelp.
And then the Jumper dropped from the sky.
“McKay, I’m going to need your help here.”
Rodney looked up from the panel he was working in at Ronon’s words. The Satedan had his eyes narrowed, studying the arrow sticking out of Sheppard’s shoulder, and the Air Force officer, with said barb embedded in him, glanced over at the scientist with lips thinned in something between dread and desperation.
All thoughts of telling his teammates he was busy vanished with that look, and he turned off his penlight and put down his tools. “Yeah, okay, I’ll be right there.”
When Rodney took up a position directly behind Sheppard, Ronon shook his head. “You don’t want to be there.”
“Why not?” McKay had assumed he was just needed to support the man, hold him steady while Ronon yanked the damn thing out. Teyla was already positioned on Sheppard’s opposite side from Ronon with bandages at the ready.
“Because I don’t want to impale you with the arrow when I push it through.”
A shudder ran through Sheppard at the confirmation of Ronon’s plan, one Rodney doubted he would have noticed if the man hadn’t been leaning back against him. Rodney, himself, felt the nauseating twist of his insides at the thought. “Oh, Christ.”
“I’ll make it as quick as possible, Sheppard,” Ronon promised.
“Just do it and get it over with. I just want this piece of shit out of me.”
“What do I… I mean, where should I… Do I…?” Rodney’s faltering stutter had Teyla placing a reassuring hand on his arm.
“I can do it if you prefer, Rodney.”
McKay considered her offer but shook his head briskly before addressing Ronon. “Just tell me what you want me to do.”
“Move over behind his left shoulder and keep him sitting up. I’ll take care of the rest.”
Doing as he was directed with little more than a single nod, McKay braced himself as best he could. Ronon didn’t bother to ask if Sheppard was ready, simply made eye contact and went to work. Sheppard’s back arched and he strangled on the scream threatening to escape at the first push on the arrow. Ronon evidently met some resistance and redirected his angle, lifting slightly on the shaft before pushing again. This time the scream made it out, Sheppard’s hand gripping unconsciously into Rodney’s leg before he clamped his mouth shut once again. Teyla all but sat on his flailing legs to keep him from kicking Ronon who continued to work with an intensity that seemed to preclude any distractions his team leader’s outcry may have caused.
This time the slant of the arrow evidently worked and a gasp that seemed to lock every muscle in Sheppard’s body had Rodney glancing to the man’s right shoulder to see the barb protruding sickeningly out his back. Ronon wasted no time reaching around, snapping it off and then pulling the shaft out in an almost fluid motion that left Rodney wide-eyed at how fast it had occurred.
Ronon sat back on his heels with the two parts of the arrow, one in each hand, so that Teyla could move in with the first aid materials. And Rodney felt Sheppard’s weight increase against his chest as the hand on his leg loosened and the colonel panted raggedly with his head lying back on McKay’s shoulder.
Rodney fought to control his own breathing, realizing he was shaking almost as much as Sheppard. “You’re… you’re going to be okay, Colonel,” he told the man gulping air with an awkward pat to his arm. Although if he said it for his own comfort or Sheppard’s he couldn’t be sure. Maybe a little of both, he decided.
Sheppard didn’t respond, simply went limp, as if the reassurance was all he was waiting for before slipping into unconsciousness. Teyla paused in her bandaging to call worriedly, “John?”
Her fingers went to the colonel’s neck the same time McKay lifted an anxious hand to splay across Sheppard’s chest. It rose and fell and the heart fluttered rapidly, but it was a strong beat and Rodney let out a relieved sigh at almost the same time as his Athosian teammate. “He just passed out.”
Ronon shrugged at Rodney’s diagnosis. “It’s probably for the best.”
No shit, Rodney thought, wishing that he could do the same. But he knew that was a luxury he couldn’t afford. He had to get the Jumper operational so they could get out of there and back to Atlantis.
Rodney set aside the laptop, pulled the blanket he had draped around his shoulders a little tighter and moved across the way from where he sat on the opposite bench to where Sheppard lay. He risked a glance toward the front of the Jumper, barely able to make out the shapes of his other teammates by the glow of the laptop. Teyla was sleeping curled in one of the seats and Ronon had his legs propped up on the DHD as he slept in the copilot’s chair. Normally Rodney would have complained about damaging the unit, but seeing as it wasn’t working anyway, what was the point?
“Hey,” McKay whispered, trying not to wake the others. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, sure.” He retrieved the canteen, holding it for Sheppard as he drank. When he finished and leaned back again, Rodney recapped the bottle and asked, “So, how do you feel?” It was a stupid question, he knew, but making small talk with an injured friend wasn’t as easy as it might appear.
Sheppard didn’t answer, just shivered and asked, “Where are we?”
“Off-world. You were shot. Remember?”
He shook his head, and Rodney wasn’t sure if he was trying to block the memory or tell him he didn’t remember. “It’s cold.” He shivered again.
Rodney looked back at the hatch behind him. The back of the Jumper was definitely the most comfortable place on the ship for stretching out, but the small opening let in a chilly draft. “Just a minute.”
Retrieving his backpack, McKay dug out anything that might be too uncomfortable before pulling out the spare t-shirt he always carried and stuffing the pack inside. It wasn’t a feather pillow by any means, but maybe it would do to free up the blanket under Sheppard’s head. “Here, let’s try this.”
He swapped out the blanket for the modified backpack, surreptitiously resting his hand on the man’s neck to check for fever. There was none, which was good. Really, really good. Because the small amount of antibiotics they carried in the emergency medical kit would be gone in a day. He then draped the second coverlet over the colonel.
Sheppard rolled to his side and used his good arm to pull the extra warmth up to the point he could burrow his head under the covers. Rodney asked a little helplessly, “Is that better?”
He was answered with a wordless nod and, deciding that was all he was going to get, the scientist settled back down into his seat and picked up his laptop again before pulling his own blanket tighter when a cold breeze came through the opening.
Looking up once again, he asked, “Yeah?”
“Were you hurt, too?”
“No, the rest of us are fine, Sheppard.”
“Are we being held prisoner?”
Rodney paused for a second before responding to that one. Finally deciding Sheppard wouldn’t remember any explanation he might give and going for something simple and straightforward. “You’re safe; we all are.”
Sheppard shivered again, this time less violently than before, but he seemed satisfied with the answer he received. “Wake me when it’s my watch,” he mumbled, already falling back asleep.
Rodney gave him a somewhat mocking thumbs up that the man never saw. “You got it, Colonel.”
He watched his friend, the lines of pain etched into his face still present but lessening as he drifted into a deeper sleep, then turned back to the computer before deciding that he should really save the batteries. He finally closed it, pulled his knees up to his chest and sat listening to his teammates sleep. Maybe tomorrow he’d think of something. Maybe tomorrow Atlantis would find them. And maybe tomorrow he’d stand up and pull a control crystal out of his ass.Day 2