Secondary Author (2ndary_author) wrote,
Secondary Author
2ndary_author

"wait-and-see lethargy"

Title: Signs of Rapture, called Apocalypse (part the third)
Author: 2ndary_author
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Characters: Rodney, Sheppard, Weir, etc.
Rating: R
Summary: as bratfarrar    said, this cannot end well...
A/N: Don't know where to post this, but it's Clear Your Hard Drive Day, so here goes. Part of the 'signs verse; follows Part the First and Part the Second, without which this will make no sense.

This explains, to some extent, the concept of the pageant: the subjects’ need to see that their prince, and by extension, their state, was well and healthy. In also explains the near apocalyptic fear surrounding a monarch’s untimely death. As one courtier, John, Duke of Chester, wrote to Elizabeth I in the third decade of her reign, “If you should Die, O Queen, what Wickedness shall not befall us? What Security [safety] should still Endure?

Weir, E. “Symbol and Majesty in Early Modern England: Implications for Developing Nations,” in The Historical Bases of Western Statecraft, ed. Frances X. Chichele. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984.

 

Farouqi's clumsy quick-fix of an injection goes overboard and takes John Sheppard out of existence, as far as Atlantis's Ancient technology is concerned. He doesn't even show up reliably on life-signs detectors any more: now you see him, now you don't. Rodney's nearly had three separate heart attacks walking into rooms that look empty only to find Sheppard sitting there in the dark because the lights don't work for him anymore. Just last week the man had gotten stranded on one of the balconies, the city refusing to open the door. Who knows how long he would have been out there if Rodney hadn't heard him tapping on the window while in search of coffee? Sheppard had started right through Rodney when the scientist opened the door. "This," he said flatly, "is all your fault." Rodney had stood there with the door open and his coffee cooling, long after Sheppard had stalked past him. He tried to remember another time when Sheppard had actively blamed someone for his own oversight. Rodney wasn't entirely sure he liked this new, genetically-normal commander.

Without a leader, Gate Team 1 is restricted indefinitely. After a week of disapproving looks directed at Rodney, Teyla had gone to the mainland. Ronon goes about his day like nothing has changed. Sheppard spends his days taking epic walks around a city that no longer recognizes him. Rodney, of course, is stuck Sheppard-proofing the city. In fact, he’s on the Gateroom floor, trying to fix one of the sensors that keeps transmitting search-and-rescue signals to the Marines, when the Gate activates. He’s about ten feet away and the sudden whoosha makes him jump.

 

 

 Gate Team 5 is out on an overnight trade reconnaissance, Rodney remembers, and teams 4 and 6 are investigating a bleak quadrant of the galaxy known as the Dark Quarter. There had been reports of people disappearing from villages in that scarcely-populated quadrant of the galaxy. One or two villagers at a time, not enough for a culling, but the rumors had been persistent. Rodney’s not sure when they started running missing persons missions for the whole galaxy, but, hey, don’t listen to me, I’m just a genius.

“Major Michaelson’s IDC,” the officer-of-the-day intones. Rodney turns to watch the wormhole actualize, because even though he’s probably seen it a thousand times now, it still electrifies every hair on the back of his neck. He’s still staring when Cadman trips through, takes a half-dozen dizzy steps, and crashes to her knees in a spreading pool of blood.

Rodney reaches her just as she crumbles; the combination of pack, vest, and body weight—dead weight, Rodney doesn’t let himself think—nearly knocks the air out of him when she collapses heavily into his arms. He fumbles, fingers catching on the loops and pockets of her pack, to cradle her head where it thumps to his shoulder. His hands come away slick with blood, he can feel is soaking into the knees of his trousers, still slightly warm.

“Cadman?! Cadman!...L-look at me! What ha—” He tries to brush her hair off her forehead with sticky fingers, smearing her face with blood. Her eyelids flicker, just the whites of her eyes visible, and she struggles weakly, her hands pulling ineffectively at his clothing. She’s broken bones—ribs, clavicle, the short bone in her right forearm: he can actually feel them shifting when she moves, and oh, God—Jesus, he’s going to be sick. Rodney can hear the deep, gurgled breathing that signifies a torn lung. It’s louder than the Gate staff behind him, calling for a medical team. It’s the loudest sound ever, and then it stops.

When Rodney looks up, the rest of Cadman’s team is through the gate, along with Michaelson’s Gate Team 3. He automatically counts: two teams of four people, plus the two scientists, but there are only eight. Eight, counting Cadman.

“Dr. Yamada?” he hears Elizabeth ask, quietly. Michaelson, grime shadowing his face, field bandage wrapped around his wrist, shakes his head. Elizabeth nods to the Gate tech and the wormhole disappears. They will not see the anthropologist again.

A little later, probably only a few seconds, but it feels like longer, Rodney hears Elizabeth say his name. She’s right next to him, and the medical team behind her, and how did that happen? She was on the balcony last time he saw her, on the balcony between Chuck and Stevens, who is the officer-of-the—

“Rodney?” Elizabeth says again, very quietly, and her hand hovers just over his shoulder, not touching but there. She’s kneeling down now and she really shouldn’t because there’s blood everywhere, he can feel it drying, itchy and—

“Rodney, Dr. Farouqi is here now. We’re going to take Laura, all right? We’re going to take her to the infirmary.”

Rodney nods; he can feel himself nodding.

“So you can let go now,” Elizabeth instructs, “You can let her go.”

He does, but slowly, because she is heavier than he would have thought possible and the circulation is gone from his left arm, his fingers clumsy and tingling. He has a sudden sense-memory of carrying a limp and sleeping Madison in from Jeannie’s minivan, where she’d nodded off midway through telling him which Disney princess she would be if she could be any Disney princess.

The medical team moves Cadman’s body to their gurney, but Rodney stays on the floor, next to her discarded pack. He is not entirely sure that he is going to be able to stand up ever again.

Michaelson is still in front of the gate, alone. The rest of the team has spread out, passing Rodney without his even noticing. Shah and Hughes are on the upper level, Roth is standing next to Chuck at the console. The remaining anthropologist is next to the security team. Several of Cadman’s Marines, Rodney doesn’t know their names, are over by the stairs and, behind them, that crazy search-and-rescue sensor is still blinking. It’s just Atlantis looking for John, but later Rodney will wonder if the city knew something he didn’t.

Michaelson sighs wearily, scrubs his face with the hand not holding his P-90. “That was not supposed to happen,” he says mournfully. “That was not part of the plan at all.”

“Ya think?” is the first response that pops into Rodney’s head, but then something else occurs to him, crowding it out. “You,” he says. He points to Michaelson, only momentarily distracted by the blood all over his hand. “You, you…don’t have an accent anymore.”

The Major, who normally speaks with a West-Texas drawl so thick that Zelenka has requested an interpreter for their meetings, looks confused for a second. And then he smiles—Michaelson’s broad, easy smile—and says, “No. I suppose not. You must forgive my oversight: Earthspeak was unfamiliar to me until I inhabited this body.”

Somehow, Rodney always imagined a coup d’etat would be a noisy event, but there’s silence after Michaelson’s announcement. Silence and then a sudden shriek from the doorway. Rodney turns to see one of the security team Marines collapse into a shuddering, twitching heap. The anthropologist—who Rodney realizes is probably not Dr. Bendu anymore—winces apologetically.

“Sorry,” she waves the P-90 she must have taken from Cadman. “My finger slipped.” The words are barely out of her mouth before the second Marine, stepping over his partner, pins her against the wall with his own weapon. A bolt of blue zaps across the Gateroom and the second Marine is on the floor.

Up on the balcony, Roth shrugs. “My finger didn’t slip,” he says, and takes out one of the trauma nurses for good measure. The rest of the medical team stand stock-still. It’s already too late for their help. P-90s are calibrated to stop Wraith: humans don’t stand a chance. It will be ten minutes before the radiation even stops cooking the latest victims.

“We mean no harm to the people of the Pegasus Galaxy,” Elizabeth’s voice is clear and steady, despite having Michaelson’s P-90 jabbed between her shoulderblades, and Rodney cannot look away, “but we are not authorized to negotiate with terrorists.”

“Well, that is…oh-khay,” Michaelson says, his mouth strange on the unfamiliar slang. “Because we are not wanting to negotiate. We are going to live in your city of light. And you will be our servants, or perhaps our victims. It is all the same to us. ”

“You can’t control the city without us,” Rodney says boldly and, Christ, he must be stupid. He can still feel the scars on his arm from the last time he tried to talk big with an invading force; they burn like a brand under sleeves stiff with Cadman’s blood.

“We will use this city until there is nothing left,” says Michaelson-who-is-not-Michaelson flatly. “And then we will find another city. Because you have a lovely big gate,” he turns, nudging Elizabeth along with him, to look at the round portal, “and we are many. We grow tired of living disembodied in the darkness.” He cocks his head, listening to something far away. “There will be many cities for us to use, cities both in this galaxy and on your homeworld—which, I am told, is sometimes…quite charming.”

Things move quickly after that. Dr. Bendu forces Rodney to his feet and into the middle of the Gateroom floor along with Elizabeth, Chuck, Dr. Farouqi, and the rest of the prisoners. He leaves sticky blood footprints on the floor. The…beings, the infiltrates from the Dark Quarter, Rodney can’t think of them by anything other than their human names, gather on the upper level where they can control the consoles and keep an eye on their prisoners. They must somehow retain some of their hosts’ knowledge, he decides, once he can think again, because they seem to know everything about Atlantis. Shah is waiting to intercept the new security team when they come to relieve their late predecessors; Hughes patches into the radio coms almost immediately.

“People of Atlantis. You have been invaded,” Michaelson announces briskly. “Our teams are now securing the city. You are advised to stay in your present locations. Anyone found in the halls will be summarily executed.” Having baldly stated his message, he seems unsure of how to end the communication, finally signing off with a completely inappropriate, “Good afternoon.”

*****

When Colonel John Sheppard learns that he’s been taken prisoner in absentia, he’s sitting on a packing crate in a storage bay at the far east end of the city, watching the stars come out on the horizon. Three weeks ago, he would have been halfway to the Gateroom to defend the city or die trying. Now, he considers his options. The message came over the rarely-used general intercom system rather than his radio earpiece, which means whoever these invaders are, they know the city. They know the city, or they got someone very familiar with it to talk. Neither option is very encouraging. It took him two hours to walk this far; the transporters respond unreliably to him nowadays. He wanders over to the door, thinks open, and gets no response. He wishes that surprised him.

Automatically, his mind begins to take stock: what he has; what he needs; what he needs but doesn’t have so he might as well stop wanting it right now. He’s always been like this, but it’s gotten more intense since Afghanistan. He figures it has something to do with living in the desert, where you have to recognize and seize every opportunity, because there might not be another. After all, Daniel Jackson’s the same way. In fact, whenever he’s Earthside for personnel review, he and Jackson while away boring meetings by emailing each other crazy escape plans. Colorado Springs to Fiji, with $800 and no passport: who can figure it out in the fewest moves—go!

Jackson’s plans are usually better, mostly because he’s good at remembering other people’s unexpected skills. (He knows that Sam Carter can hotwire a car faster than most people can find their keys and that she’s part of a worldwide network of army brats who will let you crash on the couch, no questions asked. Cameron Mitchell can both hack a level-eight computer security protocol and classify by function every piece of flatware available at a State Dinner. Jack O’Neill, who seems neither a scholar nor a particularly religious man, speaks Arabic like an heir to the House of Saud; welcome in half the madrassahs in Egypt—absolutely forbidden from the other half—the general can recite from memory the ninety-nine names of God). Sheppard’s better at casing the environment. “Two windows open in the wall behind me,” he’ll type to Jackson, “and only an eight foot drop to that overhang by the service entrance.” Three free electrical outlets on the south wall, behind the conference table. A fire extinguisher ten yards down the hall on the right, the break-glass-in-case-of-emergency kind, and you never know when you might need a fistful of broken glass. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate other people’s abilities; he’s just always figured that when he needed to make a break for it, he’d be on his own. And hadn’t that proven to be true?

Since he’d gotten locked out on the balcony, Sheppard’s started to bring his tac vest with him everywhere. Years of missions and he knows just what to carry and where to put it. Flashlight, water purification tablets, bandages, salt, safety pins, paper, batteries…and that’s just one pocket. Plus, he’s in a storeroom, sitting on a box that may well hold MREs from the latest Dedalus run. Except for the fact that his city is in the hands of hostile and unknown persons, he figures, things could be worse. He sits on the edge of the loading bay, his feet dangling above the water, right where he’ll get the last of the sun. The life signs detectors are pretty hard to fool, but sometimes, if it’s warm enough, you can at least trick the thermal sensors. He’s halfway-solved that problem before he realizes that Ancient sensors are not a problem anymore. Not for him. Somehow, that doesn’t seem like much of an advantage. John sits with his back to the door, leaves his radio on, waits.

This wait-and-see lethargy is new; he’s been telling himself it’s a side effect of the injections—one he’ll never mention lest they ship him Earthside for observation. But, really, he shouldn’t be this worn down. Things aren’t so much harder now; after all, he got by for years opening doors and flipping light-switches just like everybody else. Only…God, now—for the first time—it seems like work. John finds himself remembering Jason Steinbeck, a guy in the armored cav division out in Afghanistan who’d hung out with some of the pilots until his squad had run over a mine. Jason had lost his right arm below the elbow, and that was the last anyone heard until John ran into him in a state-side hospital hallway. Jason had been dropping off OT paperwork while John, as per the court-marshal board, had been filling out yet another interminable medical history (family history of mental illness? suicidal thoughts?...).

Jase had eyed the forms. “You don’t ask me how rehab’s going and I won’t ask you what the fuck you were thinking with that stunt over Kabul,” he offered.

“Deal,” John replied instantly. They’d somehow found enough to talk about, trading division scuttlebutt: who’d been promoted, who’d been passed over, who was up for another tour. The longer they talked, though, the more John realized that Jason was still staring at the med. form clipboard…no, not the clipboard: at the pen in John’s right hand.

“Hey, I, uh, never said how sor—” John had stuttered, not sure whether to apologize, to sympathize?

“No, no, it’s fine!”  Jase insisted, sheepishly.  “It’s just…weirdest thing, John, but—I can still feel it.“ His voice drops to a whisper.  "My hand.  Can’t feel something that’s missing, right? Like, I know it’s not there, phantom limb, whatever, but still, I swear…weird as fuck, man.  Strangest fucking feeling ever. Like it's still part of me."

John leans against the door that won’t open—not for him, not ever again—and he wonders whatever happened to Jason Steinbeck

 

Tags: "signs 'verse" (sga), "sora" (sga), fic, sga
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