“Oh, come on!”
“I said, no .”
“Sheppard, I can’t have one of your random goons protecting half the science team, what if something happens?”
John stopped abruptly in the middle of the hallway they were traversing, spinning to face his current tormentor.
“Rodney, this is a field trip,” he grit through his teeth, stressing each word. “The planet’s been checked and rechecked. Your merry gang’s been there two times already. And if I don’t deliver these reports by tomorrow, Elizabeth’s gonna flip!”
“You could type them planet-side, basking in the sun…” McKay said, his smile fake and saccharine. “I really need you there. Who’s gonna stop me when I get violent? That concentration of moronic per square meter can end poorly and I need someone to hold me back,” his voice dropped to mutter then “without harming me in the process…”
“No. Just no. You’ll have Zelenka, you’ll manage. I, on the other hand, don’t intend to torture myself with reports and two days of technobabble at the same time. I did it once and I’m not going to this time. End of discussion”
Rodney pouted, watching John’s back as he resumed his stroll down the hallway. To be fair, the Colonel had a point. Ten scientists in one place, for hours, was grating even for him. And although he strongly believed that the periodic science field trips were one of his brighter ideas, Rodney dreaded them himself.
It started about two months ago, when he noticed the tension in the labs growing. And if even he noticed it, the problem was bad. In times of peace and quiet, the science team proved to be a troublesome bunch. They clashed in many ways, especially sharing the too small spaces of the science division. Cabin fever. City exploration could help only so much and the new science areas were still a work in progress.
That’s why, ‘inspired’ by one of Elizabeth’s comments (he refused to admit that it was her idea in the first place), he decided that some variety was in order. Since he was painfully aware that it was in the nature of the smart kind to loathe the outdoors (not long ago, he was the prime example of that. What the hell happened since then?), he devised a plan to engage them scientifically… outside.
There was a small, uninhabited planet - P2X-817 - that turned out to house Ancient ruins. It was low priority on their list in times of crisis because the more important parts of the science outpost was decimated even before the Ancients left the galaxy and the other half required ridiculous amounts of research and restoration. The equipment there, huge machines stationed amongst crumbled rocks that were once buildings, were in a sore state from exposure and war damage, but were clearly some sort of experimental power generators. Even though the Ancients didn’t deem them good enough to salvage, the new Atlantis inhabitants could use additional power.
And so, McKay, with help from Zelenka, created groups of ten that each week would go there and do some restoration work. Rodney didn’t give it a snowball chance in hell to work but the pretense was good enough, so he didn’t share this opinion with anyone. The scientists complained loudly about being pulled away from more important projects but he could clearly see that every group came back a bit happier and more relaxed each time. He secretly enjoyed seeing how they bantered and laughed between themselves after coming back to Atlantis with sun kissed skin, smell of summer grass in their clothes and new wind under their wings.
Rodney really hoped that they won’t figure out this was all a ruse for them to get some of that D vitamin - he wouldn’t want them to think he was being nice to them or something.
He realized that most of the town’s population resented him, the scientists most of all. For now, Elizabeth’s authority kept them in check - they knew that Rodney’s standing was her doing. But, after only a few months, most of them were still not used to his abrasive ways and felt abused by his loud disposition. The ones that worked with him before, had it easier. They were at least a bit desensitized. But sometimes, he wondered how far his scientific superiority will take him in the leadership game in the long run.
He was not an inspiring person. He was not even a dignified person. He didn’t have the social skills to deal with humans. What he did have, on the other hand, was a very keen sense of hearing. And he heard a lot of their comments on how whiny, arrogant and self-centered he was.
That’s okay, Rodney told himself. He didn’t need them to like him, he didn’t even need them to respect him in any capacity other than his genius mind. At least for now. He consoled himself with the thought that, at the moment, many of them were as fractious as he.
And damn them, he’s gonna give them some relaxation time if it were to kill him.
“Just look at the asshole, with his SPF-100 sunscreen. I swear, he drives me crazy.”
Radek glanced at McKay, standing a ways back, commandeering equipment placement, while rubbing the sunblock on his neck. Then his eyes returned to the two gossiping scientists nearby. This was not the first of those talks he overheard today.
“Yeah, the princess can’t even carry more than one case at a time. His wrist hurts, boo hoo. I’m so done with his hypochondriac lies. He can carry his scanners back himself. I’m not doing anything to help his whiny ass today.”
“I have no idea how Sheppard’s team puts up with him, that sort of liability in the field must be staggering.”
Zelenka left then to take care of setting up a small station on the other side of the machine. The growing hostilities were grating his nerves. He worried that if this goes on, Elizabeth will be forced to pull Rodney’s title… and Radek had a pretty good idea to whom it would transition. He definitely wanted to avoid that. For now, life was quiet. But overall, he strongly felt that making life and death decisions was not his thing. Rodney was the one that thrived in these situations, solving problems of astronomical proportions on a daily basis. Not to mention that the Chief Science Officer was a post inextricably connected to being a part of the main offworld team. And as much as he liked this idea of scientific downtime on a lovely planet, running around with Sheppard’s merry gang wasn’t something he saw himself doing gladly. Things were good as they were - being McKay’s sidekick wasn’t as bad as it sounded.
Hours later, in the late afternoon, Radek’s worries were long forgotten. The work was relaxing, their ‘schedule’ deliberately set at a snail’s pace. A light breeze was blowing, the sun was shining pleasantly through the clouds and life was good, overall. The planet was nice. And Radek felt grateful that for once, the Ancients decided to have their tech labs abandoned on such a lovely planet.
His content musings lastet all of three seconds, as gunshots rang in the distance, where the Stargate was.
His head spun around, first to glimpse the other nine scientists raising from what they were doing, and then to the one Marine that, until now, longued nearby. He could be heard calling out to his radio and then moving back towards where McKay was already making his way to meet him halfway. Not waiting to stand close, the Marine said loudly:
“Doctor, please gather your people. I’m going to check…”
They would never know what he wanted to check, as rapid shots could be heard and the young man dropped where he stood. Chaos ensued, people ducking for cover, when a leather-clad, hairy monstrosity of a man emerged from the forest not far from their puddle jumper at the far end of the clearing. He seemed in no hurry, as he took his aim at Kusanagi, clearly meaning to shoot her next before… falling down himself.
Radek stared with wide eyes at McKay, standing where he stopped, sporting a 9mm (where did he get a gun from so fast? Was he carrying one on a goddamn field trip ?), aimed at the dead man. His eyes were round and lips parted as he swept his surroundings with a quick glance. His gaze zeroed in on Radek and he lowered the gun, his jaw clenching and body springing into motion.
“Zelenka!” he shouted “get the people to the treeline! Here!” with that, he clicked the safety on and threw the Beretta to Radek. Not looking if Zelenka caught it, he was already running towards the fallen Marine.
The scientists swarmed, making their way to Radek, who stood there, uncertainly, watching Rodney check the soldier’s pulse. The physicist’s eyes closed briefly. He then started turning the body over and unclipping the black vest. He glanced in their direction and something dark flashed through his face.
“Did I stutter?” he shouted, his voice pitched high. “Tree line, NOW!. I’ll cover for you, don’t know how many there…”
More shots rang, and more men started emerging from the forest again. The scientists were already making their way to the trees, fear making them move faster but with no coordination whatsoever. Radek reached the low bushes and spun around just in time to see McKay succeed in his struggle with the belt that held a P90 to the corpse’s body and raise it to his eye level. He shot a few short bursts before grabbing the vest he stole from a dead soldier and ducking to the side. His gunfire was returned but the enemies, seemingly more cautious than the first one, were still making their way to the campsite.
From their hiding place, they could see Rodney look around the camp, spot something and give another burst of gunfire to the advancing group. One of the hostiles fell back with a yell. Rodney, not wasting time to watch the small commotion of people trying to find cover, fished in the vest. He obviously knew where to look, as his hand emerged with a hand grenade, which he struggled with clumsily, trying to release the pin without dropping his gun.
They all watched with morbid fascination, as their Chief Science Officer peeked from his hiding place behind a pile of crates, before standing up and throwing the grenade. It sailed in an arch straight between two groups of enemies. It didn’t quite reach any of them but when it connected with the ground, it was enough to graze both of them with fire and debris.
McKay was already running by then. He sprinted through the open field to the other side of the camp, the bloodied vest hanging open from his frame. There was nothing graceful to his run but the man was surprisingly fast. He didn’t even hesitate before grabbing a computer and what seemed to be a life sign detector, before making a sharp turn in their direction. This might have just saved his life, as rapid gunfire resumed at this moment.
Seeing them still semi-visible in the bushes, Rodney snapped his jaw in sudden anger, before waving the gun at them.
“ Run !” he shouted, before stopping by one of the ancient machines and returning fire.
They did as they were told, clambering deeper into the woods. They ran for long enough to slow down from exhaustion Radek, keeping to the back of the noisy group since he had their only gun, could see people ahead of him suddenly disappearing down a hidden ledge of what turned out to be a small ravine. Cries of pain and fear could be heard and when Zelenka reached the drop, he could see scientists helping each other to their feet. He slid down the five-foot high rocky drop and surveyed the situation. Simpson was sitting on the ground, clutching her ankle, while Malozzi was frantically trying to stop the bleeding from a gash on Donaldson’s forehead.
“What is going on?!” Coleman asked Radek as soon as he joined them.
“I do not know,” he answered truthfully, lost. The gunfire behind them ceased a while ago and he was more interested in listening for any signs of danger.
There was a nearing sound of someone running, sudden rustle above them and earth pelted them as Doctor Rodney McKay tumbled gracelessly, practically falling on top of Radek.
There was another commotion as they all swarmed the scientist. Radek tentatively wriggled away from McKay, noticing that the other man was still clutching the laptop to his chest, curled around it protectively. No one dared to help the man up, they were made very aware of just how much McKay didn’t like to be touched a long time ago. Instead, they started throwing questions at the back of his head, as he uncurled from where he lay.
“Shut the hell up, what are you, stupid? Sound carries like crazy in the woods!” he barked to them, trying to raise himself from the ground.
“Rodney, what’s going on?” Radek asked very quietly in the silence that followed. McKay, now sitting at their feet, hastily opened the laptop, wincing at the cracked display. He threw Zelenka an angry glare, as he started typing furiously. He looked a bit ridiculous with his feet in front of him, twigs in his hair and mud on his face. And a bit scary with the fierce scowl and the bloodied military vest on his shoulders.
“We were attacked, obviously,” he answered sourly, not stopping.
“Yes, but who were they? We thought the planet was uninhabited,” said someone from above them.
“Step away from me before I catch your stupid,” Rodney barked. “They must’ve come through the Stargate, that’s where the rest of the Marines were stationed. And before you ask any more brilliant questions, no - I don’t know what their intentions are. No - I don’t know how many there are. No - I don’t know why they decided to shoot first and ask questions never. There were about twenty when I ran. What I know is that they were clearly here after the machinery in the ruins, they didn’t seem to want to chase us. And as much as it pains me…” he raised his head to look at them with a dark glint in his eyes, “... I can’t let them have it.” His index finger then dropped on the Enter key.
There was a moment of complete quiet. And then, from a few hundred meters back, a series of explosions rocked the ruins. The scientists, not prepared for the tremendous noise, ducked reflexively. Small cries of fear rose from them but then the natural silence of the forest, not disturbed even by the wildlife, took hold soon after.