Chapter 3: Booby Traps
"So, what now?" Cam asked, once the last of the aliens had beamed out.
"I think it's time to leave," Sam replied. "There's nothing here we haven't seen before, and with the Leslanum gone, there's not much point in staying."
"What about spare parts?" Sheppard asked.
"While it's true that some of this could be useful back on Atlantis, it would take a while to dismantle everything," McKay said, adding with a shrug, "besides, we don't have a generator, and we'd need one for the lights once the system was down. We can send someone back later."
No sooner had McKay finished speaking than an alarm sounded, startling them. Sam and McKay rushed out to the main console, with everyone following them closely.
"This can't be good," Jackson stated and Cam had to agree as he watched Sam and McKay working at a furious pace. Alarms were never a good thing in alien outposts.
"Oh no," McKay said, fear in his voice. "It's booby-trapped. We need to get out of here, now."
"Let's go," Cam ordered, not wasting time on questions as he headed into the tunnel, certain that everyone was following behind him. Sure enough, McKay was, but the door slammed shut before any one else was able to.
"Oh no, no, no, no," McKay whispered in dread, frantically attacking the door controls. "They're not responding; the control panel's gone dead." And that was when a rumbling sound started, causing McKay to hit his comm unit. "Everyone, get back from the doors," he shouted, pushing at Mitchell to move down the tunnel. Cam didn't need to be told twice and moved as quickly as he could through the confined space.
They were a few feet away from the tunnel's exit when a loud explosion rocked the area, pushing him to the ground. McKay fell on top of him with a painful 'oof' as a cloud of dust and rocks pelted them.
"Sorry," McKay said in between coughs, pushing himself off Cam and keying his comm again. "Sheppard, Sam, Jackson, respond." There was an ominous silence. "They can't be dead. They can't be!"
"Sam, Jackson, report!" Cam said, hoping for a response. Precious moments passed, each man sharing a look of worry at the silence. He was just drawing breath to call again when he heard a reply.
"Jackson, are you okay?"
"Yeah... yeah... we're okay... mostly." Jackson's voice was shaky and interspersed with coughing.
"What do you mean by mostly?" McKay interjected. "How are Sam and Sheppard?"
"Here," Sam replied. "Daniel and I are fine, just a few cuts and bruises. Sheppard's..."
"Fine, too," Sheppard's voice interrupted, though there was a tightness to it that suggested he was in pain.
"Oh, right," McKay said with a snort. "You certainly sound fine! Sam, how's he doing, really?"
"He got caught by the end of the collapse. We're digging him out now," she replied.
"So, not fine then?" McKay challenged.
"I will be," Sheppard stated stubbornly.
"How's it look in there?" Cam asked. "Can you dig yourselves out if we help from this end?"
"Maybe, but it'd take some time," Jackson answered him.
"And with the power out we don't know how much air we have," Sam added. "The air smelt fresh, which means it was being brought in..."
"And without any power the system won't be working," McKay finished.
"Yes. Hopefully we'll still get some air coming in, but we can't be certain of that, or of how much."
"In other words, we need to get back to the gate and get some help." Cam sighed, not wanting to leave them behind. "Okay, radio contact every ten minutes."
They made their way out of the tunnel and headed towards the gate at a jog. Cam hoped that McKay could keep up with him, not wanting to leave him behind, but at the same time, acutely aware of the need to get help for the others quickly.
However, they had gotten no more than five metres when gunfire suddenly sounded around them. His leg buckled when a bullet slammed into it. He hit the ground, unable to hold back a grunt of pain.
"Damn it." Somehow, he managed not to scream at the sudden and very unwelcome pain as he pushed himself into an awkward kneeling position, checking for whoever had shot at them.
Fortunately, he had fallen behind a log that offered some, if limited, protection and McKay had had the good sense to hunker down next to him, having fired his own shots over the log towards where the gunfire had come from.
Then silence fell.
McKay took the opportunity to pull out his scanner.
"Oh crap, this place must be surrounded by automated weapons. They're giving off a low power reading," he muttered, panic edging his voice. "There's one over there, and another over there," he said, pointing to the left and right of them. "They must have activated as part of the booby-trap. They're probably calibrated to shoot at any movement - or maybe they target heat signatures over a certain size or height."
"The bullets are mainly aimed about thirty inches or higher," Cam noted, studying the bullet holes in the trees behind them as he sat with a hand clasped over the wound in his thigh.
"So, if we keep below that, we should be okay." McKay nodded and put the scanner down, pulling the medical kit from his pack. "Looks...painful."
"You think?" Cam snapped testily. It hurt like a son of a bitch. He was just thankful the bullet had missed the bone and main artery as it had passed through, or else he'd either have bled to death by now or be in a whole other world of pain - and this was bad enough.
"I know. Well, never been shot in that particular spot, but..." McKay replied with a grimace as he pulled out a field dose of morphine and prepared the injection.
"So, done this before?" Cam asked, watching McKay warily.
"On a living person? No. I usually leave Teyla to play medic. Just be glad that Carson threatened to pull my gate clearance if I didn't learn some of his voodoo." McKay pushed Cam's sleeve up. "Trust me, this is going to hurt you more than it'll hurt me," he said with a grim smile, pushing the needle in.
"Isn't it supposed to be the other way round?" Cam said, hissing at McKay's less than gentle injection methods and wishing fervently that Sam or Jackson were here instead. Not that he knew for certain that they'd be any gentler, but at least he could be certain that they would know what they were doing. He wasn't so sure about McKay.
"What? Oh, probably. Never saw the point in lying about that sort of thing though," McKay stated, pulling out a field dressing and setting to work on Cam's leg. "Well, at least the bullet's not in you, so less worry about infection, but a nasty exit wound to deal with, so lots of blood loss - and let's not rule out infection completely," McKay babbled with a forced cheerfulness that did nothing to make Cam feel better. Then he was lost in pain as McKay cleaned and bound the wounds, pulling the bandages tight to stop the bleeding.
"Your bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired," Cam complained, breathing harshly as the pain abated enough for him to speak.
"Well, first, there are no beds here, and second, this is a lot better than it used to be, according to Sheppard."
"This is better?" Cam said incredulously. "Damn, I'm glad I didn't know you back then."
McKay ignored him, checking the scanner again instead.
"We still safe?" Cam asked.
"For now. It's when we start moving that things will get interesting."
"True." Cam nodded. "The gate is at least another thirty minutes away and the defences are most likely to be situated mainly between here and the gate..."
"Which means we can't take the direct route," McKay butted in. "And of course, you're going to slow us down even more, now."
Damn, he thought, McKay looked thoroughly pissed at him for getting injured, as if it was somehow his fault.
"Not like I got shot on purpose, McKay," he growled angrily. "What's the range on one of those things?"
"Limited, normally," McKay muttered, pulling out some tools and prying the back of the scanner open then fiddling with the insides. "But in a pinch I can increase its range, though it'll drain the power quickly. Still, desperate times, desperate measures."
"How quickly will it be drained and how much range will it give us?"
"Um, probably an hour and half at most, but we should be able to pick up any power signatures a good four kilometres out," McKay answered distractedly as he worked. "Ah, that's it." His face took on the familiar smug look, but then fell immediately. "Oh. That's not good, not good at all." He sighed. "Okay, gotta get you on your feet, and head for the gate. There's a power build up."
"As in, we may have everything shooting at us at once."
"Okay. Not good then." Cam grimaced.
"There are eight weapon placements," McKay added, forestalling Cam's next question and pointing in their general directions.
"Okay then, you need to head to the gate," he ordered. "And leave me. I'll only slow you down."
"Uh-uh, not going to happen," McKay said determinedly.
"We're going to have to crawl to keep low enough, and I can't do that on one leg..."
"We don't have to crawl. Look, the placements fire when they detect movement – or else they'd still be firing now. So, we move slower than expected..."
"And it'll fool them?"
"But you're not certain. Besides, you'll be able to react faster without me hanging onto you for support."
"Damn it, that's an order, McKay. We won't both make it..."
"Last I looked I was a civilian, not military, and so I don't have to follow your orders. Now, quit whining. The sooner we get started, the sooner we get the hell out of here. Besides, I come back without you and Carter will kick my ass. Probably Teal'c as well." McKay shuddered at the thought. "As Sheppard likes to say, we don't leave people behind."
Cam looked at the determined and downright stubborn expression on the physicist's face.
"Damn it, how the hell does Sheppard put up with you?" he asked in frustration.
McKay merely smiled, helping him to stand and offering his shoulder as a support.
"Practice, Colonel. That, and lots and lots of training... by me."
They started heading for the gate. Fortunately McKay was right about the weapons placements and by walking slowly they were able to avoid triggering them. Cam had to admit to himself that he had underestimated McKay. He'd fully expected the guy to light out of there as ordered, but instead, here he was, refusing to leave him behind. Sure, he'd read some of the reports about Sheppard and his team; he just hadn't realised that McKay's loyalty extended to pissy colonels who weren't above giving him grief, and a lot of it at that.
Of course, the stubborn idiot was going to get himself killed, but Cam had seen the same determined look in Jackson's eyes too many times in the past to bother trying to argue with McKay. In Carter's eyes too, come to think of it. And Teal'c's.
Even Vala had her moments.
They made slow progress for a few minutes. Realising that more than ten minutes had passed since they had spoken to the others, Cam tried to make contact, with no luck.
"The rock could be causing interference," McKay said, looking worried.
"Yeah, that must be it," he agreed, hoping McKay was right, before wincing in pain. He was about to order McKay to go ahead without him as he was slowing them down too much when the gunfire started again, causing them to dive to the ground. Fortunately, with no further harm.
"Damn it! What the..." McKay looked at his detector. "Okay, the power build-up is causing them to fire regardless of programming or sensors." Sighing, he looked at Cam. "This isn't going to work."
"No. You need to crawl out of here, without me," Cam replied tersely.
"Yeah, yeah," McKay muttered. "Okay, there's a hollow under that tree. Let's get you in there."
Cam didn't argue, glad to be stopping if he was honest, as his leg was complaining bitterly about the exercise.
"You're military, so where's the C4 stashed?" McKay asked.
Cam rolled his eyes at the assumption, but got out a square of C4 and a detonator. "What's the plan?" he panted.
McKay grinned. "There'll be an override or control box somewhere. I'm hoping it's near the gate. That way, a rescue team will be able to come through without being shot at."
"And if it isn't?"
"I'll have to go back and borrow the SGC's jumper so I can scan for it."
"Okay. But even if you find it, it won't have a big sign with the words on and off on it."
McKay held up the scanner as if pointing something out to an idiot. Cam wondered if he should blame the blood loss.
"I'll override it if I can. If not, I'll use the C4." He looked glumly into the forest. "Crawling isn't fun."
"Huh. Fine, but if I get bitten by killer ants, I'm coming back to haunt you."
Cam merely rolled his eyes at that, before offering a, "Good luck," to McKay's retreating backside.
Rodney swore to himself frequently as he collected myriad scratches and bruises, muttering darkly about booby-traps and injured colonels and bugs and dirt and, oh crap, slime from some sort of mega-slug or snail. Oh yuck, that was totally gross. He hoped it wouldn't give him a rash or that it was acidic in nature. And, oh look, the gate. Thank goodness.
He checked the detector and veered off to the left of the gate where there was a large boulder that was showing power spikes. Once there, he let his hands trace over it and was just able to make out a faint line, indicating a hidden door. Searching his pockets, he found the metal nail file he'd started carrying with him a little while ago. After all, you never knew when you were going to bend your fingernail back, did you? Or, in this case, use it to slide along the line and lever open a control box hidden inside an obviously fake boulder. At any other time he would have been curious about its construction, but he was in a hurry and just glad that he could open it.
There were several flashing lights inside the box, along with a power indicator. Judging by the fact he hadn't picked up the energy signals for the weapons or this control box, he assumed they came online when the booby-trap at the cave was triggered. The power levels were reasonably large, but spread out over the network of weapon placements.
Rodney contemplated trying to turn it off, but the thought of Mitchell bleeding to death, not to mention Sheppard, Sam and Jackson dying of asphyxiation, made him reconsider. Turning it off would take time. Time they might not have.
Though what if it had a failsafe? He wouldn't put it past Anubis to do that - have everything explode if the control box was destroyed.
What should he do? Take the risk and blow the control box, or take the time to try and disarm it?
He hated making these decisions; that's what Sheppard was meant to be there for.
He tried to contact Mitchell, but got no reply, which was far from reassuring. Mitchell could be dead, bled out on the forest floor. The others could be dying as he sat here doing nothing.
Decision made, he just hoped there wasn't a failsafe that killed everyone. He didn't think he'd be able to live with himself if there was.
After taking out the C4, he fixed it and a remote detonator inside the box. He moved away, looking for a safe place to hide. He saw a small indentation far enough away to protect him from the blast and hunkered down into it. Squeezing his eyes shut, he triggered the remote.
The explosion thundered around the area, throwing up pebbles and dirt, which rained down on his back and his hands, which were covering his head.
Looking once more at the detector, Rodney was relieved to see that there were no more power signals or fluctuations. Gingerly, he stood up, wincing when bruises and scratches made themselves known. Taking a deep breath, he walked towards the boulder, eyes checking for any movement to indicate that not all the gun emplacements had been dealt with, but no weapons-fire occurred.
He bent down to examine his handiwork. It had been totally destroyed and he made a mental note not to use so much C4 next time. Not that there would be a next time. Still, it was obvious that he'd been hanging around with Sheppard and Ronon far too much and it was a good thing he was leaving the team.
He moved over to the DHD, dialling Earth and reporting the situation. Landry tried to persuade him to return to the SGC, but he refused. He needed to be here to lead them to Mitchell and the cave since he was the only one able to use a life signs detector. Besides, although he wouldn't have admitted it to anyone out loud, he wanted to be around to see everyone rescued. No man left behind and all that.
Once Landry had promised to send help, Rodney severed the connection. Taking a couple of steps away from the gate, a wave of dizziness forced him to sit down as the adrenaline left him. Feeling in one of his pockets, he took out a PowerBar to boost his falling blood sugar and thought about how much better things would be when he didn't have to do this sort of thing anymore. Though getting first look at cool alien technology... No, it wasn't worth this, he told himself firmly. Nothing was. He was better off staying on Atlantis and waiting for the cool alien tech to come to him. Really, he was.
He was still sitting there when the rescue team arrived.
Even though he felt a little wobbly on his feet, he insisted on taking them to where Mitchell lay, pale and still.
"Oh crap, he's dead," he said, shocked.
"No, sir," the medic reassured him, taking Mitchell's vitals. "He's just fainted, presumably from blood loss."
"No, sir. But we do need to get him back home ASAP."
Once Mitchell had been loaded onto a stretcher and part of the rescue team left with him, Rodney led them onto the cave entrance, where everything started to take on an unreal quality as exhaustion took over. He wanted to wait while Sheppard and the others were dug out, but the medic insisted that he return to the SGC. Before he could protest, he felt a needle in his arm. Slowly everything dimmed and he was vaguely aware of being guided down onto a stretcher.
Damned sneaky dictatorial doctors, was his last thought as his consciousness fled him.
Rodney woke to the sound of beeping and the smell of antiseptic. Blearily, he opened his eyes and noticed a figure next to his bed.
"Welcome back, Doctor McKay," came the too cheery voice of Doctor Lam.
"Hey, Rodney," Sheppard's voice came from the next bed over, and relief swept through Rodney at the sound.
"How are the others?" he asked, sitting up groggily. Damn, what had that medic given him?
"Sam and Daniel are fine, other than a few scratches and bruises," Doctor Lam informed him. "Mitchell should be fine, eventually. Fortunately we got him back in time."
"Oh, good. What about you?" he asked Sheppard.
"Broke my leg," Sheppard replied.
"He has a transverse fracture of his left tibia," Lam added. "It'll heal, without the need of surgery, so long as he follows doctor's orders to the letter." She threw Sheppard a stern look.
"Hey, I always follow my doctor's orders," Sheppard protested.
"Hmm, I'm sure Doctor Beckett would beg to differ," Lam returned. "Now, I need to check on Mitchell. Can you at least try to behave yourselves?"
"Hey, am I confined to the infirmary? Oh crap, is there something wrong with me?" Rodney was suddenly worried. He felt fine, well mainly, though now that he thought about it, there were some aches and pains...
"You're fine, other than a few cuts and bruises. You were suffering low blood sugar when you arrived here, but we got you fixed up."
"Oh. Well, in that case, there's no need for me to be here," he said, pushing down the covers and swinging his legs out of bed hopefully.
"I'd rather you stayed for the night. For observation."
"I could give you a sedative..." Lam turned her stern look onto him.
"Fine, I'll stay," he muttered, swinging his legs back into bed.
"Good. You can leave in the morning, if everything checks out."
He watched as Lam, yet another doctor with a tyrant complex, left before settling back down with a disgruntled sigh. Carson wouldn't have made him stay if he'd been here. Well, probably wouldn't have.
"So..." Sheppard started and then trailed off.
"How are you... you know. Feeling." Sheppard looked pained and Rodney might have been amused if the circumstances were different.
"I'm... good," he said, not entirely convincingly.
Sheppard grimaced. "No, I think you're not."
"Can we not do this? It's not like either of us are good at it anyway. You know, feelings and all that." He heard a sigh.
"Yeah, okay. For now."
Rodney closed his eyes. He wished people would stop asking him how he felt, how he was doing, was everything okay, would he like to talk about 'It'. Sighing, he turned onto his side, away from Sheppard. He knew he would have to one day, but not now. He wasn't ready, wasn't sure if he'd ever be ready. He certainly wasn't ready now.
"What?" he snapped, rolling his eyes at the slight whine in Sheppard's voice.
Against his wishes, he huffed out a laugh, before turning over to look at Sheppard with a mock scowl. "And what am I supposed to do about that?"
"Entertain me?" Sheppard suggested, puppy dog eyes and all.
"Oh crap, I'm trapped in the infirmary with a bored colonel," he exclaimed dryly. "Just shoot me now."
Sheppard grinned at him, unrepentant, and he couldn't help but grin back, though he also rolled his eyes for good measure.
"We could play I Spy," Sheppard said.
"Too boring," he answered quickly, remembering playing I Spy with Sheppard years ago and being accused of cheating. Just because he'd chosen the molecule 'carbon' as one of his words, and 'gravity' as his other one! They'd been perfectly good choices too, but no, Sheppard had insisted that he was cheating. Couldn't stand to lose, that was Sheppard's problem, he thought sourly.
"Prime, Not Prime?" he suggested instead.
"Nah, too easy."
"Right, of course," he replied sarcastically.
"Did I mention that I'm really bored?" Sheppard whined, and yes, that was a definite whine, even if Sheppard would deny it later.
"Yes, yes, you did!" Damn the man, he could be downright infuriating at times. "How about chess? Unless you think you can't keep track of the game without a board."
"I could, normally, but I think the meds are messing with my concentration."
"Yeah, right, good excuse," Rodney said snidely, causing Sheppard to glare at him. Like that intimidated him. "Bizz Buzz, then."
"Never heard of it."
"You haven't?" Rodney replied in surprise. "Oh well, in that case, let me explain. We take it in turns to count from the number one upwards, but when we reach the number three or a number divisible by three, we say Bizz. Also, when we come to the number five or a number divisible by five, we say Buzz. For numbers divisible by both three and five, we say Bizz Buzz. Normally, that would entail reversing the direction of play, but that's pointless with just two of us. Anyway, you think you can handle that?"
Sheppard's brow had been furrowed as he followed the instructions, but at Rodney's question, he nodded. "Sure, why not? Let's give it a try."
"Right. Well then, one."