Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, random Emigres
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay; Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Adi Ahavah/Irfam Abaza (background)
Summary: Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from god.
Series: part 5 of #39 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This was supposed to be longer. It was also supposed to be finished
9 August, 2007 – Aurora, The Palamede, Pegasus
They drop out of hyperspace in the orbit of a blue supergiant, in the middle of a debris field that stretches for miles beyond measure in every direction.
Iohannes curses, slamming the engines into reverse faster than the inertial dampeners can fully compensate. He’s thrown forward, head slamming into the flight controls while his ribs, still not completely healed after his recent adventures in Ascension, become intimately acquainted with the hard edge of his console. Bile tinged with blood rises in his throat and every inch of him feels bruised, if not broken, but Iohannes pushes himself back into his chair and starts manoeuvring Aurora as best as he can through the minefield of asteroid-sized wreckage.
“Rory,” he shouts over the chaos of warning signals and master alarms behind him, “set shields to maximum. Divert power from whatever you have to. There’s no way we’re gonna make it out here without scratching the paint a little. Any chance you can plot us a course out of here?”
//In this radiation? // she asks, trying to keep the panic from her voice and failing horribly, //We can give you one hundred kilometres, that’s all.//
“That’s better than nothing. Do what you can. Choke the engines. Open all the flaps. Vent atmosphere if you have to. I’ll use docking thrusters alone if that’s what it takes to get us out of this in one piece.”
//We may be able to open a hyperspace window.//
Iohannes actually laughs, he’s thinks it’s that much of a joke. “In The Palamede? Y’know, I’d prefer it if you’d told me about these suicidal tendencies before we left Atlantis.”
//We’re sorry, but do you have a better idea?//
“Now is not the time to be getting tetchy, carissima,” bringing the linter into a sharp climb up and over a chunk of wreckage almost half Rory’s size.
It’s hard to tell if the metallic groan that follows is Rory getting pissy with him or parts of the debris scrapping her undercarriage. //Opening hyperspace window in five-//
“Don’t be an idiot-“
//One. Board is green. Prepare for hyperspace jump.//
There is no escaping a hyperspace window, not when it opens only metres off the port bow. It’s all he can do to manoeuvre Aurora into an angle that won’t tear her apart on entry and ride out the storm.
Ten seconds of turbulence turns into twenty seconds of havoc becomes thirty seconds of buckling haul plating and tempestuous sheers. The power drains from the shields faster than Rory can steal it from weapons, from communications, from sensors. Emergency systems – those few that hadn’t already been on – trigger in cascades, until the bridge is filled with fire suppressant fog and the minimum amount of oxygen required to sustain three people for half-an-hour.
And then it’s over. Through the flickering lights and curtains of smoke Iohannes can make out a clear field beyond the viewscreen, the blue supergiant still visible in the distance but reduced to the size of his clenched fist.
“Is this what you do with ‘Helianus?” Iohannes snaps once he has forced air into his lungs. “No, wait, it doesn’t matter: you’re both grounded. Forever.”
“No. Just- Do you have any idea how dangerous that was? I can get you out of a debris cloud but I can’t piece you back together if you get yourself shaken apart in a hyperspace envelope. You understand that right?”
//You cannot save us if you are dead.//
//Your ribs are broken and you’re bleeding internally. The bones will pierce your lungs if you try to stand or breathe too deeply. The only one aboard with any sort of medical training is Doctor Porter. You would have died before we made it out of the debris field.//
Iohannes’ breath is coming in sharp, shuddering bursts. There’s a vice in his chest and all he can taste is copper.
//Can you lift your arms?//
If he can lift his hands, he can try to heal himself. If he can reach his ribs, he might be able to stabilize the break or stopper the bleeding long enough to get him back to Atlantis.
His wheeze is answer enough.
Rory’s voice is surprisingly even over the trembling of her song, //Doctor Kununsagi is unconscious. Major Teldy cannot hear us. We need you to get her attention. Can you do that, Pater?//
If he can get Anne’s attention, she can help him. She might not be able to get him medical attention in time, but she could lift his arm for him. That might be enough, if he can heal himself. If he still has that ability after Descending so far and burning the Higher Planes behind him.
But he can’t speak.
He can’t speak.
“Was that really necessary?” Rodney snaps, rubbing the back of his head furiously, not bothering to turn around. “We’re supposed to be scientists. Can we at least pretend we’ve evolved past the need to resort to physical violence?”
Radek slaps him again, harder. “You are smartest person in two galaxies. I say this to remind myself you are not, in fact, the biggest idiot the universe has ever seen.”
“As much as it pains me to say so, you’re right for once, because I have no earthly idea what is you’re going on about.”
Radek grabs his shoulders and twists his chair until it’s pointed directly at Doctor Adi Ahavah, almost directly behind his monitoring station. “Look.”
“Okay, first of all,” Rodney says, peeling off Radek’s hands, “I’ve had it up to here with your manhandling. I don’t care what you and Evan get up to in your free time, but you try it on me again and you’ll be on water treatment detail for the rest of your natural life. And, second, what on earth am I supposed to be looking at?”
“I take it back. You are not idiot: you are deaf, dumb, and blind idiot. Doctor Ahavah is sick. Doctor Cole spent the better part of last week threatening to put her on bed rest. She’s had to leave the room twice to be sick since we got aboard.”
“Oh.” Now that Radek mentions it, Adi does look awfully pale, even by her standards.
The sound he hears is Radek rolling his eyes. “Yes, oh. Now, tell Doctor Ahavah to go lie down. I have been trying to tell her for an hour to use Evan’s cabin, but she’s afraid of upsetting you. Suicide bombers killed half her family, but is you she’s afraid of!”
“As well she should be,” Rodney snorts, turning back to his diagnostics. Even so, he shouts over his shoulder, “Adi, it’s not my job to know if you’re too sick to work or not. Go lie down or something. We’ll radio you if we need you.”
At least, that’s what he intends to say. He gets as far as sick before he’s thrown backwards, slamming into his chair with greater force than the Apollo astronauts used to experience with the old Saturn V rockets. The seat edge catches the lip of the Device Carson placed between his second and third cervical vertebrae and forces it deeper into his spinal column.
For an instant, Rodney can’t move. Arms, legs, lungs – nothing will cooperate. The world greys out around him as he slowly suffocates on the air that cannot escape his lungs and he cannot call out. But after a terrible stretch of eternity, the moment passes, and he has the chance to gasp for breath.
When the colour returns to the world, he finally notices Radek standing above him. “Rodney?” The right side of his face a Jackson Pollock of sallow puces and tender pinks. “Rodney, are you alright?” One of the lenses of his glasses is missing, with only a few ragged shards still clinging to the frame to suggest they ever were. “Rodney, I need you to tell me if you are hurt.”
“I think he’s in shock,” Doctor Ahavah suggests, her words thick and slurred. Already naturally pale, Adi’s face is chalky white as she hovers overhead with fingers of green creeping in from the edges. “We should lay him on floor. Unless you think is bad idea to move him.”
“You should lie down, Adi,” Rodney manages to cough, “You look about to keel over.”
She pats him tenderly on the shoulder on her way to the master engineering display panel. “You say the sweetest things,”
Radek just looks at him sternly. “Are you hurt?”
He can’t answer – breath is still to precious and, besides, even if he could put together words, he has no idea what they’d come out as with the Device malfunctioning as is. It’s all he can do to scrabble at the back of his neck, trying to find the catch that will ease the Device from between his C2 and C3 vertebrae.
Radek doesn’t ask if he’s sure. Radek doesn’t ask if it’s safe. Radek, bless his demonic Czech soul, he just rips out the Device. Then, without pausing, he yanks out its helpmate and tosses both to the deck without any care for the delicate machinery. Rory’s voice immediately goes quiet in his mind.
“Thank you,” he coughs.
“I told you that thing would kill you,” Radek says before pulling him into a rough hug.
“I’ll build in an airbag next time.”
“Good. I didn’t want to be saying I told you so at your funeral.”
“Laurel? Hardy?” Adi interrupts uncharacteristically, voice growing sharp at the edges. “Something’s overriding the safeties. The hyperdrive engines are spooling up and three heat sinks are down.”
“We need to get up to the bridge.”
“Ne, the heat sinks-“
“You fix the heat sinks,” Rodney says frantically, trying to shove his hands into the sleeves of his robes at the same time he’s attempting to find pickets to put his Devices in. He fails, largely because Aurora begins to quake, floundering as the hyperdrive rips open a tear in reality she cannot sustain. She haemorrhages power, trying desperately to maintain her shields, but it’s too little too late and two more heat sinks rupture under the onslaught.
If he could make it to his feet, he could help. He could reroute power – any of them could – but the deck shakes so violently they’ve all be thrown once more to the floor, he and Radek an uncomfortable tangle of limbs and elbows in the gut. It would be impossible to stand, let alone manoeuvre the access ladders they’d need to take into the bowels of the ship. It’s all they can do to lie in heaps and wait for the end.
And then, somehow, it does.
Rodney scrambles to his feet with barely a pause. “We need to get to the bridge,” he repeats.
“Rodney,” Radek groans, standing much more slowly.
“Don’t Rodney me right now. Something’s going wrong up there and I can’t hear her to fix it. I have to get to the bridge. We,” he gestures to Adi,” who’s busy throwing up in the corner, “have to get to the bridge. Now.”
“Adi should be on bed rest.”
“Adi,” the woman herself says, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand, “is ten weeks pregnant, not made of glass. If I couldn’t do the job I wouldn’t be here.”
Rodney opens his mouth, but for once decides digression is the better part of valour and doesn’t say anything until he’s facing Radek again. “See, she’s fine. Nothing to worry about.”
Radek, perhaps stunned for the first time in his life, says nothing, just waves them on their way.
He wakes up in a tangle of his own limbs, tasting blood and bile as he coughs. Every inch of him hurts, but somehow he finds the strength to roll onto his back, which at least helps with the coughing. Even so, it takes him a long moment to find the breath to say, “Rory? Can you do something about the alarms?”
The alarms cut out, the linter remaining uncharacteristically silent in response. He settles for patting her deck lightly, which somewhat calms her song.
“You’re grounded,” he reminds her, his thoughts moving like sludge through his mind. Did he hit his head? Iohannes doesn’t remember. Everything’s murky. Everything hurts. “We’ll start with five hundred years.”
The voice that answers is not the one he expects. There’s a hint of the Carolinas in this one and more drawl than can be explained by accent alone. “Sir? Are you alright?”
“You sound like I should be asking you that, Major.”
“I only ask because you’re on fire.”
“Am I?” He blearily opens a single eye. A wild blue flame dances along his skin, charring a few stray threads on his tattered USAFA sweatshirt. “I guess so.” Iohannes considers this for a moment, “There’s not enough oxygen. There’s too much of the other thing.”
“Yeah, that one.” He watches the flame spark and sputter against his skin. It doesn’t hurt – quite the opposite in fact – and seems entirely unaffected by what may or may not be in the air. It makes him very tired. “How’s Miko?”
There’s some delay before Major Teldy answers. “Unconscious. There’s a lot of blood. I think she needs a doctor.”
But they don’t have any doctors aboard, Iohannes remembers, and feels something in his gut snap. The pale blue fire that surrounds him pulses outwards, leaping from his skin and lapping at the deck as it rushes like wildfire in every direction. He has just enough time to think cold before it reaches Major Teldy and Doctor Kununsagi.
//Cold,// he thinks again, projecting his thoughts outwards. //Cold,// and, //They hurt.//