Alwara by GATESTRIDER
The puddle-jumper appeared and a moment later it vanished. Space stargate was inactive again. The planet with a bluish hue looked so familiar that Sheppard suddenly felt a pang of homesickness. A moon in the orbit completed an illusion of the Earth.
"Oh. My. God. Did you see that?!"- gasped McKay.
"Yeah... It's kind of weird..."- answered Sheppard through the clenched teeth. He wasn't about to show to the others how much he was touched by the mere similarity between this world and his home planet. Teyla and Ronon looked at them expectantly.
"It looks like Earth. Kind of..."- he explained quietly.
"Are you kidding me? Kind of? It looks exactly like the Earth..."- protested McKay. Suddenly he stopped himself.
"Ok, so not exactly like the Earth... The continents are different. And the oceans are much smaller..."
The puddle jumper descended from the upper atmosphere and now they had a full view of the planet's surface.
... The Stargate opened, and darts came through...
... one of them accidently hit the cloaked puddle-jumper...
... they both crashed, the dart exploded...
Sheppard managed to more or less successfully crash-land the thing in the forest. He missed a couple of big boulders covered with the moss and hit a few trees, trashed through the undergrowth and made a deep long groove in the ground before the jumper came into a wobbly stop. Almost unbearable screeching of the metal under strain finally stopped. The sudden silence was punctuated with the sounds of darts in the distance. Luckily, the crashed dart bounced off the jumper and ended up many miles eastward. Not so luckily, the jumper was now visible and a thin line of smoke began to rise from a damaged engines.
Ronon grunted, pushed aside some debris that covered him and unsteadily moved towards Teyla. She was still strapped in her seat and unconscious. Suddenly she came to with a jolt.
"You OK?"- Ronon put his hand on her shoulder, looking pretty banged up himself. Teyla focused, looked at him and then around.
"Yes, I think so... John and Rodney?"
"Don't know... Let me..." Ronon cut off the seat straps with his knife, because she was struggling with the buckle. The Athosian thanked him with a tense smile.
Worried, they removed the largest pieces of the debris covering their friends. McKay was curled up between his and Sheppard's seat, his left arm at odd angle, obviously broken. Coming to consciousness he made a soft wailing sound.
"I'll look after him, you take care of John."
Ronon carefully removed the pieces of a broken metal from Sheppard. The jumper had taken a blow to that side and during the crash it had buckled in, trapping his legs. Painful sigh came from a bruised lips. His fingers were still gripping the jumper's controls, knuckles bleeding. Ronon swore under his breath.
"You just have to keep doing this, don't you?"- He growled trying to look under the dashboard. Crushed metal, exposed wiring and some blood were only things he could see.
"I thought that was a pretty good crash-landing..." – The harsh whisper brought a relieved smile to Ronon's face.
"More crash than landing... Can you move?"
Sheppard leaned back in his chair, his face scowling in pain. Sweat broke on his forehead.
"My legs are trapped... I think... the left one is broken..."
Ronon grunted and looked at Teyla. She had managed to immobilize McKay's arm in the splints. He was sitting, barely conscious.
"We'll get you out, buddy..."- Ronon's voice was almost gentle, and that worried Sheppard. The pain was bad, but there was something else... The buzz in his head made it hard to concentrate.
"Teyla and Rodney?"
"We are fine, John."- She answered softly, coming closer. Sheppard smiled at her with his eyes closed. The pain got worse.
"We are certainly not... FINE! My arm is broken... And it hurts like hell!"- protested McKay from his seat.
"I fixed it. And put it in the splints."- explained Teyla with a strained smile. Ronon furiously rounded on McKay.
"You're fine. He is stuck in here... With a broken leg... and who knows what else... So, shut up."- The growl was quiet, right next to Rodney's ear. McKay didn't dare to move.
"Sorry... We're all stuck in here..." Finally, it sank in. "Oh, you mean he is..." His eyes were transfixed with the rage on Ronon's face.
"How could I know? Really, I'm sorry..." - The whisper sounded desperate and Ronon dimmed intensity of his stare a little. McKay started to breathe again, protectively clutching his bandaged and immobilized arm. Then he remembered something.
"Wraith... We're not cloaked, are we?...'thought so..." His muttering trailed off. Ronon exchanged a glance with Teyla, but McKay didn't notice. He was lost in his own thoughts for couple of seconds and then asked bluntly:
"Could you un-stuck Sheppard?"
Ronon just bared his teeth and grunted. Again.
With supplies from the med-kit Teyla did her best with the most severe cuts on Sheppard's hands and a few other injuries. He refused to take the painkillers.
"I want my head to stay clear... We don't have time for this, you know that..." The strain in Sheppard's voice was disquieting.
"Yes... Wraith will soon be here..." She glanced upward anxiously, then lowered eyes to her friend and smiled reassuringly. "But not just yet."
"Good. So, let's get you out of here."- boomed Ronon, tearing apart what was left of a dashboard. He worked with his bare hands and a long pole he tore from a side of the puddle-jumper.
McKay winced every time he tossed aside the part of some sensitive equipment. To his defense, he also winced when Sheppard gasped.
"Stop! It's too tight...” Sheppard’s face was distorted, beaded with sweat, eyes firmly shut, deep lines furrowing his forehead.
Ronon stopped his desperate action and growled in frustration. Teyla sighed, gently wiping Sheppard’s face. He grabbed her hand, and opened his eyes. The pain and determination in them made Teyla flinch inwardly.
"You must go! Now!"- His voice was harsh and pleading at the same time.
"No!"- Ronon almost barked, then crouched and leaned to stare in his friend's eyes. "No, I won't leave you..."- he repeated softly, a strange twitch passing across his bloodstained face.
"But then... They will... No!" McKay looked quite distraught with the idea of abandoning Sheppard. Teyla put her hand on his shoulder and shook her head.
"We won't leave you."- She whispered.
Sheppard smiled at his friends, or at least tried to.
"Look... You have no choice... And... It's AN ORDER!"
"I'm sorry Colonel, but you are not in a position to give that kind of order." Teyla's calm demeanor confirmed her determination. Her mind was made up.
Ronon grinned. "And you're welcome to court-martial us when we get back on Atlantis."
"I don't have to take orders... I'm a civilian. And I'm NOT going to leave you." McKay actually stood up, proudly declaring that. Ronon and Teyla exchanged a puzzled looks followed by an approving grin.
Sheppard leaned back in his seat and looked at them through the half-closed eyelids. "Great..."- he muttered quietly,"...A mutiny..." The bitter smile reached his eyes. His right hand fell on a holster and reached for his side arm, but was far too slow. Ronon's fingers lashed forward and he grabbed Sheppard's wrist.
"Don't even think about it..." The giant growled, disarming his friend, a strange look on his face.
"What would you do? Shoot us?"- sputtered McKay indignantly.
"No, Rodney." Teyla looked crestfallen.
Sheppard closed his eyes, breathing heavily. "Crap." And then, in a flat voice: "You should go."
McKay finally figured out what had just happened. Or almost happened.
"He wanted to... My God!" The scientist looked genuinely upset.
"Are you completely out of your mind?!" - He shouted at Sheppard. Atlantis's military commander looked at his friend. Rodney backed away from the sheer desperation in those eyes.
"Look, Rodney, I'm stuck and likely to bleed to death anyway." He raised a finger to stop an oncoming protest. "We are scheduled to report to the Atlantis in an hour, and they wouldn't presume that we are in trouble for at least another three. So we may expect some help in about four hours or more. Our communication is down and the Wraith will be on us any minute now. You should go and try to avoid the buggers until help comes." That said, Sheppard caught Ronon's eye.
"Take them to safety..."
Ronon stubbornly shook his dreadlocks.
"No! We can hold'em off until help comes! Don't you DARE give up! You hear me?" Not paying attention to Sheppard's sinister glare he went into the back of the jumper and rummaged for a few minutes through the debris. He came back with some weapons, grinning triumphantly. "These are good. We will ambush them. They won't know what hit 'em."
The sound of a dart in low flight pierced the air above the jumper. And then two more became visible on the horizon. Teyla and Ronon exchanged determined glances. Ronon grinned. It was one of his dark smiles and she couldn't resist smiling back. They moved their weapons in a position, getting ready to shoot the first enemy on sight.
"Aw, crap!"- swore McKay, feeling more frustrated than ever, helplessly listening to the approaching darts. The firearm in his hands was not nearly enough to make him feel less helpless. This definitely wasn't his line of expertise, but the thought of his even more helpless friend, trapped and injured, gave him an uncharacteristic burst of selfless bravery. Clutching the weapon with his right hand he nestled behind a pile of boulders just outside the jumper, covering the damaged door.
The first dart was smoking. They heard it crash somewhere beyond the horizon. Another one flew over and started spinning uncontrollably when Ronon and Teyla took a shot at it, hitting the target with precision. But the third dart came in too fast, from another direction, sweeping through the damaged jumper with a transport beam. It was gone in a split second, leaving the desperate members of Sheppard's team in dismay. When they reached the cockpit, it was empty.
"The Old One took him. I know where." A young voice startled even Ronon. McKay jumped and almost fell, cursing. Teyla turned just in time to stop Ronon shooting his gun at a skinny girl standing where the jumper back hatch used to be. Her golden-red hair shone in the sunlight, tied in an impressive ponytail almost on the top of her head, its waves reaching down to the waist. Clothed in a combination of the animal fur, doeskin and a rough, homespun fabric, the girl looked like she belonged to the wild nature behind her. With the emphasis on the WILD. Armed with a wide blade she carried in the scabbard tied to her thigh and a long staff loosely held in the right hand she appeared to be anything but helpless, despite her obvious youth. Gray-blue eyes seemed to look right through them. She smiled sweetly.
"Sorry. Didn't mean to frighten you. But we should be moving if we want to save your friend. Oh, and you can call me Alwara." - That said, she turned on her heel and walked away.
Ronon went after her in a second, with Teyla following closely behind. McKay took a few careful steps, clutching his injured arm but then hurried along, trying to catch up.
"Hey, kid! Where do you think you're going?" - Ronon's hand looked enormously big, grabbing the girl's fur-clad shoulder. He only wanted to make her to turn around, but was flat on his back in a split second instead. Moment later, a great wolf-like creature landed heavily on his chest, knocking the air out of his lungs, growling, pinning him to the ground and showing its impressive teeth.
"Reena, STOP IT! He wouldn't hurt me!"
The girl's shout stopped Teyla from shooting at the beast and the beast from taking a bite into the Ronon's face.
"She thought you're gonna hurt me... Don't try to hit her! She will kill you if you do!" The warning came just in time.
"STOP STRUGGLING! Reena, GET OFF HIM, before you hurt each other!"- The sharply delivered order was clearly expected to be obeyed without a delay.
Ronon tried to move and got a low growl in his face for his trouble. Suddenly, the beast jumped off him, looked straight into his eyes and then to the knife he held in his hand. To his amazement, creature nodded at him in the familiar way of a warrior who had met his match. He was about to plunge the knife into the beast's side when the girl shouted the first time and he changed his mind in the last second. Reena had just let him know that she was aware of that. Slowly, he nodded back.
"Sorry 'bout that... You shouldn't grab people like that, anyway." The girl looked embarrassed and annoyed at the same time.
"Guess I shouldn't."- Ronon sourly smiled back at her.
"What was that all about?"- The loud, sputtering protest came from McKay who had seen only the end of the little skirmish. His gaze fell on a creature that looked much like a wolf, but was as big as a bear. Even Ronon looked normal-sized, almost short, standing next to it. Rodney stood with his mouth wide open, and then clamped it shut.
"What is... this?... Ronon... Teyla..." - he muttered finally.
"This is Reena. She is... with our guide?"- Carefully explained Teyla, diplomatically putting it like a question aimed at the girl.
"Yes. She is my friend... and a self-appointed protector." Alwara smiled wryly. The beast-like creature nudged her gently and she ran her fingers through the thick black-gray hair in return.
"They are all right... Let's go to find Sheppard." Ronon flashed a smile at the girl and her companion and started walking towards the line of trees.
"Hey, you! Not that way!"
Ronon looked at Alwara intently for a moment, and then shrugged.
"Lead the way."
Three small craft landed in a glade surrounded by the primal forest. The engines were turned off and a group of heavily armed people came out, moving with a purpose, carrying out some metal boxes. A few antigrav-bikes appeared, with their lightly armored riders. Short, sharp words were said and a whole group went under the trees. One of the craft took off and sped away above the forest. The sounds of nature ceased for a few moments and then continued, but more quietly.