As always, if they had listened to Rodney, they wouldn't be in this situation. But as always, they decided to ignore everything he said, and here they were. McKay didn't know what kind of persuasion techniques he needed to develop for them to listen to him, and really, they accused him of complaining too much, but could they blame him. No. Rodney always had a good reason to complain- either be when on a mission in some hostile territories or heading straight into threatening groups of people. Rodney had a sixth sense for these kind of things, he could tell when everything was about to go south- but did anyone listen to him ? Of course not. They rather do as they wanted.
And when he said 'they' McKay meant Sheppard, of course. He hoped there was no confusion on this part. It was always Sheppard's fault. What with his big ego and suicidal tendencies. Everything wrong that happened on missions were most of the time because of Sheppard. Sure, McKay wasn't so much of a jerk to point it out every times- he did so enough by the past and could write a book of 'Sheppard's mistakes' by now.
Maybe Rodney was being a little mean here, but how could he not. They were locked up in a small cell with no way out and a nasty smell coming from one corner. Rodney wished he hadn't checked. Couldn't their captor put them in a cell with working toilets. Scratch that, couldn't they put them in a cell without a clogged toilet full of crap.
Rodney gagged at the only thought of it. This was disgusting, worse, it was inhuman and the team wasn't close to hear the end of his complains.
“Shut it McKay, you're killing my head.”
Rodney span around, glare fixed on Colonel Sheppard sitting on the bottom bed in the left wall. McKay would complain later about having to share a bunk bed with Sheppard. He would have picked Teyla any given time, if the giant Satedan hadn't beat him to it. Sure, Rodney didn't take real pride in his cowardice, but who could blame him. No one who ever faced Ronon Dex.
“Oh, excuse me. Am I being an inconvenience to you ? Well, if you had listened to me we wouldn't be here. Didn't I tell you I had a bad feeling about these people.”
“You always say that.”
“Oh hey, thanks big guy for picking this exact moment to decide to speak again.” Ronon sent Rodney such a glare that the scientist had to pretend he never said anything and refocused all his annoyance on the one and only Colonel Sheppard.
“Ronon's right,” Sheppard stood up, restraining a pained grimace and failing at completely hiding a limp.
McKay had to stop himself from giving the dirty eye to the Satedan. If it wasn't so life threatening, he certainly would have.
“You never feel good about any mission we go on.”
“Well, maybe because every single time there's trouble waiting for us.”
“Not every single time.” At least Sheppard didn't deny trouble tended to find them more than not.
“Fairly enough for me to have comparison points for our actual captivity's settlements. And let me tell you, this is one of the worst places we were ever detained in. I mean, we had to deal with pretty archaic prison cells and holding places, but at least they didn't have clogged toilets full of shit !”
Ronon growled at that, certainly not appreciating the reminder.
“Will you calm down.” Sheppard stopped sharp and went back on his steps, the smell from the corner too bad even for him to handle. “We'll figure something out.” He sat back on the bed, the stiffness of his body saying it all.
No one commented on it.
“Yeah, like what ? They took our weapons, even Ronon's knifes. All of them.” Rodney tried to hide how impressed he was by that. The look on the Satedan's face darkened at the fact. “And you've seen how fast these guys got us- they're pro, they know what they're doing.”
“Like a lot of the previous enemies we had to deal with.”
“See ! That's what I meant. Every. Single. Time.” At the murderous look Sheppard gave him McKay decided he had voiced enough of his frustration and sat with Teyla on the opposite bed.
“All we need is a plan.” Sheppard said, and Rodney restrained another sarcastic remark.
“And what would that be ?” He asked, because, really, he couldn't just stay quiet.
“I don't know yet. But I'll think of something.”
“Well, I hope it'll be before they decide to kill us.” Sheppard glared at Rodney again.
“Maybe if you helped me we could manage that.” He pushed himself up again, swallowing a groan of pain. “What about you, big guy, no brilliant idea to get us out of here ?” John smiled, though it held no humor.
“No.” This was very concise even coming from Ronon. The man usually was first in line when escape plans and weapons were involved, and Rodney didn't want to admit it freaked him a little.
Ronon had been unusually quieted since wakening in this cell, even from his standards, and McKay wasn't sure what it meant. Nor how bad it was for them.
“Come on Ronon. If even you don't work with me-”
“There's no way off this ship. I already tried.”
“Huh, excuse me. But when did you start time traveling without telling us ?” Rodney won a glare but for once managed to hold it more than a second.
“What is it, Ronon.” Teyla stood up, a hand on Ronon's knee. The Satedan tensed up, even Rodney noticed, and shifted on the top bed, looking down. “You have been very quiet and distant since we woke up here. What is the matter ?”
“Nothing.” Ronon jerked his knee, and Teyla let go. “I-”
Rodney was itching to make the Satedan talk. He hated these kinds of mysteries, hated being kept in the dark like this- mostly when his life was on the line. Besides, though he wouldn't admit it, he was curious to know what made the usual lay-back warrior so uncomfortable. McKay was a little scared to find what it was, to discover what could have affected Ronon to this point- but his curiosity was stronger. It could be nothing good, and it became more than vital for Rodney to get answers.
“This ship… It's a slaver ship. They captured me once.” Ronon made sure to avoid any eye contact.
Rodney's panic made a weird surge inside him, rendering his mind blank for a moment too long.
Slaver. Did Ronon say slaver ? He had to be kidding. After all this time, all these missions and troubles- they had to deal with being captured by slavers now.
If McKay wasn't so scared and annoyed, he would have laughed like a hysterical villain.
“Excuse me, slaver ship ?” Sheppard stepped closer to Ronon's bunk bed and pushed a hand against the top bar, supporting some of his weight off his aching leg. “You mean you were here before ?” Ronon nodded, avoiding eye-contact. “Why didn't you tell us sooner ?”
Ronon shifted, a proof of his discomfort and guilt.
“I didn't want to panic you.”
“Oh, great job big guy. I'm totally not panicking hearing it now. Maybe if you told us soo-”
“What would have it changed ?” He snapped, catching Rodney's gaze with a piercing, dark one. “We still would be locked up in this cell.”
“Well, maybe we would have been a little more proactive.” Even to McKay, Sheppard's respond sounded weak.
Ronon didn't bother answering, he just stared at the Colonel, meaning more than with thousand words. A shiver coursed down Rodney's spine, his legs turning weak. He sat on Teyla's bed, trying to not panic too much.
They were on a slaver ship, with no way out. Their most determinate warrior had already given up on the idea, and if Ronon himself didn't believe they would escape this ship, then there was no escaping this ship.
Okay, not panicking too much wasn't an option anymore. Rodney was going into full panic mode and there was nothing or no one that would stop him.
“Ronon,” Teyla's gentle voice carried through the cell, attracting the Satedan's attention. “Is there a possibility you missed a weak point ? Maybe with the four of us,”
“No. I was here for a month and a half, Teyla, and I couldn't escape even if I wanted to.”
“A month and a half.” Sheppard echoed.
“What do you mean by you couldn't have escaped even if you wanted to ?” Rodney looked up, but couldn't see more than the Satedan's boots' soles.
Ronon sighed, sounding tired and frustrated all at the same time.
“See these ?” He said, raising both arms he shook, and furrowing his brows, McKay stood up and widened his eyes.
“What ? What are those- when did you get them ?” Ronon's stare couldn't be more patronizing.
“Don't tell me you didn't notice.”
“Well, flash news Conan- I didn't.” Rodney refused to admit how stupid he felt because of that. How could he have missed them ?
“Maybe with our long-sleeves we did not see them.” Said Teyla, sliding a sleeve up to observe her wrist.
“Right !” Rodney snapped his fingers, thanking the woman with all his might. “They're really light, you barely feel them. It's only now I'm aware of them that I can feel them.”
“What are they ?” Asked Sheppard, observing the two wristbands on his wrists.
“It looks like-” Rodney ran a finger over the straps, feeling the smooth light design making one with his wrists. “Some kind of metal, but which one I wouldn't know. I never encountered such light material before. What are those for ?” He said, looking up at Ronon.
“They're trackers and stunners.”
“Stunners ?” McKay didn't really like the sound of it.
“Yeah. If you step out of an allowed area it stuns you. And before you ask, you can't take them off. I tried too, and it hurts.”
“Sheppard ! What did he just say ?”
“What ? I was just checking.”
Rodney and Ronon rolled their eyes as Sheppard shook his hand, trying to work the needles out of his fingers.
“What's the deal with these things ?” He growled, glaring at one of the straps.
“I don't know. But it zaps you as soon as its not in full contact with your skin.”
“How many times did you try to come to such conclusion.” If Rodney sounded annoyed, he wasn't sure why himself. Maybe the fact anyone would be masochist enough to get zapped out of sheer stubbornness made him tick.
“A few. What, I had to try to get them off.”
“Of course.” McKay would never understand people like Ronon and Sheppard. These two had such blatant disregard for their own well-being when it came to getting out of a dear situation. Rodney's self-preservation instinct was too developed for him to ever relate with them.
Something must be wrong with these two.
“You said you were captured before,” Teyla said, looking up at the big Satedan sitting on the top bed. “Can you tell us more about these people ?”
“Like I said, they're slavers.” He said, shrugging a shoulder in what Rodney realized to be discomfort. “Commander Rarph is in charge, at least, last time I was here he was. He had a second in command, Captain Zhamsey.”
“Anything about them that could be of any help ?” Asked McKay, trying to keep the irritation at bay face to Ronon's lack of communication.
This man should really work on that. He always said the minimal, and sometimes it only served to frustrate people. Like Rodney. Ronon often frustrated him.
Shrugging, Ronon thought about it, and Rodney knew better this time than expect much. Certainly nothing more than a no or yes.
“Rarph's a cruel man. He doesn't really care about money. His thing is power, and if he's to kill a few slaves to maintain it he will.”
“Sounds like you speak from experience.” Sheppard said, but none of them expected Ronon's sudden change in demeanor. Rodney couldn't believe the first word that came to his mind, but he couldn't qualify Ronon's reaction differently.
Shame. Ronon looked ashamed besides uncomfortably awkward, and Rodney wasn't sure to appreciate the novelty. If this Rarph had managed to make such impact on their resident Conan, then he didn't want to find out how bad he was.
“I do.” Ronon shifted, his head low and gaze fixed on a spot on his crossed legs. “I told you, I tried to escape. A lot.” Sounded like Ronon. “After so many attempts, you kinda get the thing, and with some other prisoners I managed to get down to deck 5 before they caught us.”
“How did you do that ?”
“We had some help.”
Of course Ronon wouldn't say more about the matter. Really, Rodney was at that to pull his own hair out, if he had any hair to spare.
“Internal help ?” Asked Teyla, and Rodney could have thrown himself at her feet in gratitude.
“What happened ?” Asked Sheppard, the always curious and not so tactful Colonel. If Rodney wasn't as curious as him he would have make a remark.
On the bed, Ronon shifted, several times, his hands clenching together again and again.
“What was your plan ? If you went that far, you had to have a plan.” Teyla said, saving Ronon from his own distress.
“Yeah. There's sprinters on deck 7. One of the prisoners knew how to fly.”
Nodding, Teyla put a hand on Ronon's shin and squeezed, comforting him without speaking. It helped Ronon to relax, and nodding, he rubbed his palms against his leather pants.
“Maybe we should-”
A trap at the bottom of the door opening cut McKay off, and stiffening, he looked over his shoulder just as four small pates were slid inside the cell. The time for Rodney to blink and the trap was snapping shut again, the sound of receding footsteps following soon after.
“Don't !” Ronon jumped off the bed, rushing to Rodney to grab his shoulder and pull him away from the plates.
“What ?” He yelped, almost losing his balance. “The hell is wrong with you, Conan ? You almost broke my neck.” The pair of dubious looks made him swallow and fidget. “What ? I could have fall.” Sheppard's look intensified.
“But you didn't.” He said, clapping him on the back, and if Rodney wasn't so stunned by the impact he would have start a rant. “What's the matter, Ronon ?” Sheppard and Ronon crouched before the plates, ignoring Rodney's mere existence.
“The food's poisoned.”
“What ?” He choked on the word, all the horror such information implied washing over him like liters of icy cold water.
“Are you sure ?” Teyla asked, stepping closer.
“Yes.” Ronon picked up a plate and handed it to Sheppard. “They use drugs to keep prisoners under control.” Rodney let a long sigh out in relief and Sheppard sent him a half puzzled, half irate look.
“I thought for a second I would die either from starvation or poisoning, but it's just drugs.”
Ronon's head whipped around to pin McKay with a glare.
“Doesn't make it any better.” He said.
“I beg to disagree.” He swallowed, trying to ignore the dangerous vibes coming his way. “Poison means death where drug means, well, it can depends, but I'll presume some kind of relaxant or sedative is used, so at worse we'll be sleepy. So, death, sleep.” He said, balancing one hand and the other. “I think I'll pick sleep.” He made a step forward, and Ronon stood on his full height, growling.
Really ? Conan was growling at him now, like some kind of beast.
“You've no idea what you're talking about.”
“Actually,” He said with another step forward. “I do.” He slapped Ronon's chest with the back of his hand, smiling. “Chemicals aren't my specialty, but I know more than you do on the matter.” He went to pick a plate, but Ronon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck (really ?) and pulled him away. “The hell !” He snapped, arms flying and eyes closing.
“Seriously McKay ?” Sheppard said, standing up before him, scowling. “You're ready to eat drugged food ? When I offered you to try my cookies you reacted like I was trying to kill you.”
Sheppard's point wasn't obvious, as Rodney tended to believe his friend was more offended by the fact his cookies received a straight rebuttal than annoyed by the one he was up to put drugged food into his stomach.
“For one, how dare you call these things cookies ? They looked like burnt rocks- don't try to deny it. Two, I am a fully grown man, I can do what I want.” Ronon's grip tightened on his neck at that. “Three, I am hypoglycemic ! I need to eat.”
“The food's drugged !”
“I am ready to take the risk.” He cried back, trying a step towards Sheppard, but Ronon's grip held him back. With a glare, he managed to get free, not without a roll of eyes and shake of head from the big Satedan.
Rodney could live with that.
“Look,” For a brief second, he couldn't believe he was arguing his case over drugged food. It had been any other kind of situation, he wouldn't even have envisaged it. “I get it, okay. It's drugged, but Ronon said it himself, it's only to keep the prisoners in check. I don't think it's gonna kill me.” Sheppard gave him a dubious look, though he didn't jump at his throat for only saying that.
“You won't be yourself.” Said Ronon from somewhere behind him, and Rodney had to restrain a frustrated groan.
“As if I wanted to. Don't you see where we are, in what kind of conditions ?” He said, turning to Ronon before grabbing the plate from Sheppard's unprepared hands. “So if this can make me forget about this smell I am even more ready to risk it.” He took a spoon of he wasn't even sure what, grimaced at the poor visual and moved it to his mouth.
Ronon slapped the plate out of his hand along with the spoon. Shocked, Rodney could only stand there as the ex-runner kicked the other plates and went back to his bed. Apparently sulking. Rodney couldn't be sure. Didn't care.
What the hell just happened ?
“What was that for ?” He cried, looking at Ronon, but the man ignored him, his arms crossed over his chest.
“I think it's better for everyone.” Said Sheppard, patting his back.
“What ? How can it be better for everyone ? I am hungry !”
“You will be fine.” Said Teyla with a small smile, before going back to the bed she had woken up on, some very long hours ago.
“What is wrong with you all ? I need to eat. I will pass out if I don't.”
“We'll get out of here before you do.” Said Sheppard, hopping on the top bed.
Rodney's face reddened, anger at that to explode.
“And how do you plan to do that ? Big guy here said it himself, there's no way out of here. What do you expect from me, to starve to death ?” He couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it, and he swore, if Ronon wasn't so tall and strong and frightening- he would have punched him for doing that to the food.
As it happened, he never had any suicidal tendencies (unlike Sheppard) and lacked the fighting skills (unlike Teyla) to face the Satedan in any kind of fight and so decided to lay back in bed. When he woke up there earlier, he found it awfully uncomfortable, and now he was so riled up and angry, it didn't feel any better.
Was there even any cushioning on this thing, or was it just made of stiff metal ? The rough fabric under his fingers said there had to be some kind of mattress, or the closest thing to it in some under developed part of the galaxy giving no mind to one's comfort and back issues.
Rodney was going to kill someone before they were out of here if things kept worsening.