Title: For Want of a GDO
fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Summary: Rodney needs to get home; everyone's waiting for him.
John Sheppard, Ronon, Teyla, Elizabeth Weir, Chuck Campbell, Rodney
Category: A little angst. A little whump. A little humor.
Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis belong to Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Film Corporation. All other publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis or any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
This story was written by linda.ljc with the love of the show in mind.
Note: GDO stands for “garage door opener”. Is that an O'Neill-ism? It's the device that signals who wants to come through the Gate.
AR-3 came through the Gate in a classic defensive formation. They backed through the Gate while still firing at the enemy until they'd completely cleared the event horizon. They were followed through the Gate by fire from Wraith stunners. The open gallery in Ops was vulnerable to an incursion so the staff dove for cover behind consoles. The Security teams were on the Gateroom floor while other personnel responded to the situation and guarded the hallways that led into and out of the area.
The Gate didn't shut down at once. There was a missing man, but the Lieutenant in charge of AR-3 shouted, “Close the Iris!”
As the Iris closed, shock brought everyone to a standstill except Sheppard.
More fire erupted at the Gate, and were disintegrated against the closed Iris.
The Lieutenant answered grimly, “He... he was lost. The last we saw him a Wraith had his hand on his chest. I'm sorry, Colonel.”
“You didn't recover his body?” Sheppard's words were choked out.
“I'm sorry. He was your team mate, but we barely got to the Gate. There were maybe a dozen darts, and McKay warned us there was a hive ship in orbit. We would have if we could, Colonel.” The man was grimly stiff at attention and the military on his team joined him even when another volley of fire hit the Iris. Their own civilian scientist flinched at the fire but nodded, as if to add his witness to the report.
Sheppard saw Ronon run into the Gateroom. Teyla was already there and she grabbed his arm to keep him from doing something that he might regret. There really was nothing else for him to do. Not yet. Perhaps later they could retrieve Rodney's body.
Sheppard just stared at the Gate. The Wraith had learned the hard way that although Atlantis' Gate was active it was also shielded. They could still hear stunner blasts ricocheting off the Iris. “Chuck. Shut it down.”
Sheppard sent AR-3 to the infirmary for medical clearance. The team left despondently. Dr. Rodney McKay may have been abrasive to some people, but no one underestimated his expertise with Atlantis' systems. No one had saved the day more often, except perhaps Colonel Sheppard himself.
Dr. Elizabeth Weir was sure that the next few days would be very stressful. Rodney's loss was personal and professional. There wasn't another person alive that could step into Rodney's shoes. But that left Radek Zelenka, his second, as the logical choice and she would have to speak with him soon. At least the military would plan the next step. They had to make sure Rodney wasn't just injured, or aged by the Wraith feeding. No one wanted to make that kind of mistake. But the planet was obviously not safe to visit yet.
It had finally quieted down in Operations when the Gate began to “dial”.
Chuck, the main Gate tech, announced, “Unscheduled off world activation.” He didn't look any happier than anyone else that was still there.
Sheppard had been headed to Dr. Weir's office to make arrangements as quickly as possible for the next mission, but he turned abruptly and headed to the stairs. “Chuck, let's get Security back in place and put out an all call. We might need help.”
The Gate finished its connection and the Gate blossomed into an event horizon.
“Close the Iris.” Just seconds after closure, hits on it were obvious to everyone.
“zzt” “zzt” “zzt” / “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” / “zzt” “zzt” “zzt”
The groups of City Security stationed around the Gateroom at all times were grim. All of them had weapons at the ready and primed to shoot whatever came through the Gate... if it/who could get through the shield, they were ready to defend it.
Above the Gateroom floor in Operations more guards were lining the Op platform. They were quickly joined by others that responded to the situation that had so quickly developed once again and came to defend Atlantis with those already there.
Colonel Sheppard stopped halfway down the stairs when the first hits on the shield were heard. He was poised with his 9mil in his hand. On the stairs behind Sheppard were the other two members of his team, Ronon and Teyla. Everyone was tense. Everyone seemed to be holding their breath. Because one of theirs was missing, presumed dead. Maybe those Wraith that were responsible were trying to come here. Or, just maybe, it had something to do with their missing man.
“zzt” “zzt” “zzt” / “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” / “zzt” “zzt” “zzt”
The shield on the Gate blazed with light with each sound, an indication of the destructive power of matter being disintegrated against that shield. The Iris glowed, and everyone present knew what it could mean.
AR-3 had made it back to the city without their extra man. The blazing Iris could be disintegrating Wraith as they attempted to enter Atlantis, or... Rodney McKay was trying to come home.
Sheppard got an odd look on his face. “Chuck. The sounds and the energy coming from that matter seems, I don't know, less than on the occasion when the Genii soldiers tried to come through.”
He turned to glance at Elizabeth Weir. Those were sounds she was familiar with also, and her pale face, and crossed arms, gave away that she was also remembering, but she answered firmly, “Colonel Sheppard. I believe you're right. But what is it...”
Sheppard descended another step and snapped, “Chuck can we determine how much matter is being sent through the Gate?”
“It's... it's not enough for a person. It's much less in fact although I can't tell you exactly.”
Teyla had been shaken at the possibility that it was Rodney, their team mate. She grabbed Ronon's arm once again, to steady herself.
Ronon looked at her face. He said to Sheppard. “Then... it's not McKay. Right? It's not McKay?”
“zzt” “zzt” “zzt” / “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” “zzbzzit” / “zzt” “zzt” “zzt”
“Damn it, McKay.” But Sheppard was grinning and he had lowered his weapon to his side. “It's him alright. It's a signal. His signal. Chuck, open the Iris. Everyone keep your weapons at the ready in case he's not alone but that's McKay's signal.”
Elizabeth was shocked. She placed her hands on the balcony railing and stared at the open Gate. “You really think it's him, Colonel?”
“Oh, yeah. That big brain of his thought this up a while ago when he misplaced his GDO. All the time we looked for it he went on and on about what would happen to him if his GDO was smashed, and he was the only one left. He didn't want to be stranded on some horrible planet with lots of pollen, or snow, or lightning. You know McKay. We never tested it though because we could Gate to the Alpha or Beta sites or to any of our allies planets.”
Teyla asked worriedly, “Then why hasn't he done that? He knows we would have the Iris closed.”
“I don't know, Teyla. But when he talked about this he said he'd signal three times with S_O_S, wait one minute and come through.”
“And what is this S_O_S?”
“It's an emergency signal. It was developed years ago on Earth. Basically it's a pattern: three short, three long, and three short.”
He looked at Chuck. “How long has it been?”
“Seventy seconds since the third signal.”
Sheppard took another step down to the Gateroom floor. He could be heard to mutter, “Come on McKay. Come on home.”
In moments the event horizon rippled and Dr. Rodney McKay staggered through the Gate. “Close the Iris!” he yelled, and then scrunched up his eyes as if in pain.
The tension that had built in the last few minutes was suddenly released and cheers were shouted among the guards and staff.
Suddenly the closed Iris tensed and shuddered with the explosive power of a massive amount of disintegrating matter.
Rodney relaxed his muscles in relief. “There. Take that!” He turned toward the Gateroom and the lethal looking gathering that faced him. “Umm. That was a Wraith Dart if you couldn't guess. I take AR-3 got back alright. Didn't it?”
“Yeah, McKay. They're fine.”
Rodney looked relieved and about ready to drop as he glanced over his shoulder as if to make sure it was really, truly closed. “Well, Sheppard. You remembered.”
“What? That crazy plan to throw sand and pebbles at the Gate to get us to open it? You didn't doubt I'd remember that, did you?” asked Sheppard, as he and the rest of the team reached their team mate.
Rodney had only managed a few steps towards Ops. When he stumbled Sheppard caught one arm and Ronon the other. But it didn't hinder him from still trying to brush off leaves and twigs that stuck to the mud caked into his BDUs. His eyes were squinting as if the light was too bright. He certainly looked like he'd taken a nasty fall.
Rodney wobbled as he then leaned in closer to Sheppard and stared in his eyes. “Maybe I have a concussion. Do you think so? Are my eyes equal? I think I just want to sleep for a week I'm so tired.”
Sheppard reached out to touch the scorched fabric on his chest. “McKay?”
Rodney wobbled again as he glanced down and pulled the blackened bits away from his chest. “Huh. I guess the feedback got me, too.” When he looked up he saw their concern and quickly added, “But I'm fine.”
Sheppard and Ronon both grabbed one of his arms as he started to slowly sink to the floor. “Hey, McKay. Maybe you're not fine.”
“What? Yeah. Maybe I could sit?”
They brought him to the Ops steps and he sank down gratefully. Rodney leaned over and pulled another twig out of his boot.
“Yeah. You said that, but you're not.”
Elizabeth called for a med team. Rodney never said he was fine!
Dr. Carson Beckett had them move Rodney from a gurney to a hospital bed where he could be cleaned up and examined. “Well, ye've made a mess of yourself today, Rodney.” Holding his penlight up he went to test the reaction of his eyes and Rodney promptly snapped them shut. “I know. The light is going ta' hurt but it won't take long. If ye' have a concussion we need to know.” Rodney sighed and everyone watching knew he had to fight to open them. The normal illumination had hurt them, so this had to be worse. Carson wondered aloud, “I don't think I've ever had you in my infirmary before when ye've said hardly a word.” He put the penlight back on the tray. “Can ye tell me how you're feelin' Rodney?”
Carson looked more than skeptical. “No headache?”
Rodney tried to nod his head but winced, still his answer left them worried. “No more light, and I'll be fine. Carson, you're a good doctor. Is AR-3 okay?”
“Yes, Rodney, they're... fine.”
When they were done with the basics the nurses worked at getting him cleaned up. First the tac vest, then the shirt. Both had burned edges in a perfect circle over his heart.
Nurse Carlton was surprised by what she found. “Dr. Beckett. I've never seen this before.”
“Aye, Rodney. What is this gadget ye have here?”
Rodney pulled it away from his chest and flipped it over and over. He seemed like he didn't know what it was either for a moment. “Oh. Right.” He looked up and settled on Sheppard. “Can you get Radek up here? He and I have been working on this for a while.” He held it up for them to see and grinned. “It's perfectly all right. Not a singe on it. I told him it would work.”
Dr. Beckett said, “That's fine for now. As long as it's not going to explode or something. Radek can come later, right Colonel, after we finish up here?”
“Oh, yeah. Later. After you're cleared, McKay.” ”But Doc, after the excitement of today I think Dr. Weir will want a debriefing sooner rather than later.”
“Oh, aye. I should be able to wrap up the basics in half an hour. But I'm going to want him to stay overnight because he does have a concussion and by the way he moves, maybe some cracked ribs from the fall. And if you've noticed, he's not altogether acting normally.”
“He did seem a little spacey, and he was pretty wobbly. Ronon and I were on either side of him keeping him upright until we got him to sit on the stairs.”
“Hmm. Probably a result of the concussion but I need to check for a dozen other things that could throw his balance off.”
Sheppard spoke more softly as he asked, “Do you think it could be serious, Doc? I mean, this is not normal for McKay.”
“I don't expect it ta' be serious, but ya' can bet that I will be thorough.”
Sheppard sighed deeply. “Good. Well, I'll go meet with Dr. Weir.”
He walked over to Ronon and Teyla. “He still seems a little confused. I guess we know why he didn't gate to another site. I need to see Elizabeth.”
“We will be here, Colonel.”
When Sheppard and Weir returned the lights had been dimmed for Rodney's light sensitivity. They spoke to Beckett a moment to get his approval for the meeting, and he joined them to make sure it wasn't too much for McKay.
Rodney was laying there propped up with pillows and with his eyes closed. Ronon and Teyla rose from their chairs when they approached.
“Hey, guys. How's he doing?”
“HE... is doing just fine. Right Carson?” Rodney fought to open his eyes, and Sheppard lowered the light level a little more.
“Thanks, Sheppard, that was very helpful. Hello, Dr. Weir.”
Elizabeth glanced at Carson and whispered. “Do you already have him on medication, Doctor? He's never this... polite.”
“Oh, aye. Just a wee bit. He does have three cracked ribs. Honestly, I don't know why he hasn't mentioned them, but he has only complained about his head. He really did need meds. His vitals are more stable now that the pain has been reduced. I haven't given him anything to let him sleep although he could nod off at any time. I suggest ye' ask your questions while y' can.”
Dr. Weir walked up to the side of Rodney's bed. She looked at Sheppard. “I don't feel right recording this if he's medicated.”
Sheppard leaned against the wall. “Well, if it gets embarrassing we can edit it out or do it over. I think we'll have to do it again anyway to make sure we've got the whole story. We really should know what happened on the other side of the Gate as soon as possible.”
“You're right, of course. Rodney are you awake?”
“Of course I'm awake, can't you tell? Oh, wait.” He blinked his eyes open once again. “Did I fall asleep?”
Weir grinned. “Maybe, for a moment. Do you feel up to telling us what happened to you on the last mission?”
“Well, sure. Let's see, Lt. Power...”
Sheppard interrupted, “Powell.”
“Huh? Power, Powell. Whatever. But he's a good guy. He really did a good job, Sheppard.”
“He did?” Sheppard grinned at the rare compliment and fought back a smirk at Elizabeth's look of incredulity.
“Yeah. Anyway we geared up and waited for the Gate to open, and then...”
Sheppard found it really hard not to grin. “Hey, Rodney. Lt. Powell will have all that recorded. We just need you to tell us what happened with the Wraith that attacked you, and what happened after AR-3 gated back to Atlantis.”
“Oh. That would save a lot of time because we were there a whole day.”
“Yeah, I think it will help us all if you just skip to the important part.”
“Yeah. It's very important. Well, I heard the Gate... when AR-3 left. The Wraith must have thought we'd all made it through the Gate back to Atlantis. That's the only thing that makes sense because the Darts just flew away after that, and I didn't get any more readings on them.”
Sheppard managed to break into Rodney's response again. “Lt. Powell said he saw the Wraith put his hand on your chest and then you collapsed.”
Rodney looked a little wistful. “Isn't that just my luck? The Wraith drops dead so of course the first thing I did after I got out from under him was to fall down a cliff and smash my GDO. I don't have to tell you I didn't want to wait for Darts to come in to check things out a little closer. I mean, there was still a hive ship up there, and it wasn't moving. I figured I needed to get away from there fast before they took a head count of their own.
“It's a wonder I didn't break a bone. Oh, wait. Carson said I did. And bruises, and I do have a concussion. But I'm still alive. But, about that Wraith...it's important. Where's Radek?”
Sheppard was curious about the Wraith's attack on Rodney, and why it dropped dead. “I called Radek. He'll be here after Carson says it's okay. I'd really like to hear more about the Wraith that dropped dead. Lt. Powell and his team feel pretty guilty about leaving you behind. They thought it got you and that you were dead.”
“McKay,” and Ronon sounded exasperated, “they came back a man short. They left you. Even though they thought you were dead, it's not something they're going to be proud of.”
“Well, huh, it's not their fault. When the Wraith touched me I was sure that was it. I thought I was done for. But I didn't fall backward; the Wraith fell on me! You see, it dropped dead.”
Sheppard was feeling a little frustrated. “But Rodney, why did it drop dead?”
Rodney looked a little sheepish. “I was wearing a Spot-Shield that Radek and I were working on. You're sure Radek is coming? It's important.”
“Yes, he's coming.” But Rodney had gotten Sheppard's attention with his revelation and he steered the conversation away from Radek. “A personal shield?”
“Noooo. You know we couldn't find any more, and they took too much power anyway. The Spot-Shield was nothing like that. It worked more like a kevlar vest but it only covered the small area that Wraith aim for during a feeding. Well we weren't sure if we had a big enough power pack for this prototype either, so we didn't know if it would work, not for sure. I didn't even have it powered up, not until the Wraith showed up, then I figured what the heck.
“Hey, you have to believe me, I didn't want to be the one to test it for real! And if I had been sure it worked Radek and I would have been making dozens of copies already.”
“How does it work? What kind of power pack does it need? Dr. Beckett do you have that prototype handy? Does it still work?”
Carson looked shocked. “A shield, a bloody shield. Ya' really did it?”
“I said so. Just ask, Radek. He's good, too. He made me wear it. And it worked. You saw it, Carson. Not a singe on it.”
“Yes, Rodney. It looked fine.” “Colonel. I have the prototype. I'll get it for you when we're done here.”
Rodney closed his eyes but kept trying to explain. He sounded like he was half asleep. “I haven't told you how it works yet. You know that the enzyme they inject into their victims keeps them alive long enough to feed on. Well, the shield kept the enzyme from reaching me, and that first shock that would kill you without the enzyme, the shield fed it back to the Wraith, and since the Wraith didn't get the boost from the enzyme he was dead. Very, very dead. He fell over like a dead tree. A very, very, heavy, dead tree.” Rodney yawned wide but didn't open his eyes. “I could have used some help to get out from under him, but I managed. And then I fell off the cliff and smashed my GDO. Did I already tell you that part?”
Teyla was standing at the side of his bed. She placed a hand on his arm. “It's alright. It was important for your report.”
“And to think I wasn't even going to bother to wear it but Radek said to try it and see if the design was a problem in the field or too heavy, or whatever. And I think I have an idea how to make it lighter, by the way, because it did chafe a little.”
Sheppard tried to hide his smirk but Teyla saw it and elbowed him in the ribs. She might be tiny, but she was powerful. He purposely didn't rub at his ribs because that would be showing weakness, and you never did that with Teyla or she'd thwack you harder next time.
“Anyway, you know, Sheppard, how it is. The strangest things can throw something out of whack during field tests. But now I think we can make these shields for the Gate teams to try out. I mean, we still need to assess how well it worked.”
Rodney suddenly opened his eyes and struggled to sit up, but he finally had to pay attention to his ribs. “What did I fall on? Oh, it fell on me, and I fell down the cliff. Wait. I was going to say something. It was important. That's it. We need to go back and retrieve the dead Wraith. That would help a lot if Carson could, you know, necropsy it. I really need to talk to Radek. You know he saved my life by making me wear the Spot-Shield? He's a good guy. Where is Radek?”
Sheppard looked bemused as he answered. “Don't worry about Radek. He'll be here soon, after the debrief. Radek'll want to see the prototype, too, Carson.”
“Aye. I'll just go retrieve it before he gets here. But before I leave, how are you feeling, Rodney? Do you feel up to talking to Radek, too?”
Rodney seemed not to hear him. “I really have to tell him about the shield.”
Sheppard glanced at Carson. “Is he alright? Did the prototype cause some of this … loopy … distraction?”
“I don't believe so. The concussion was the main cause and the meds are a contributor also. By tomorrow he should be feeling more himself. Now, I'll just get the shield and have it ready for Radek when he gets here.”
“Doc, I think we'll stay here for a while. Once he starts to sleep we can change off so someone can be here for him tonight.”
Rodney blinked slowly, and suddenly he was back. “Where's Radek?”
“He's on his way.”
“I can't believe I made it back. But I knew the Spot-Shield would work. I have to tell Radek.”
Sheppard slowly grinned. “Hey, Rodney. I don't know what to say. That shield has got to be the second best news I've had today.”
“Second best? What do you mean second... it's great news... Oh...“ Rodney was a little overwhelmed as he looked back and forth to his friends, who had all pulled in close to his bed. “Well, and you know, thanks. For remembering our talk. I kind of had my fingers crossed when I stepped through the Gate. The hardest part was waiting a whole minute to make sure you had time to remember because I thought I heard a Dart again, and I did because it was the one that crashed into the Gate. It must have come to check out why the Gate opened again. But, I know you pay attention when it's important. You're a good guy, Sheppard. You too, Ronon. You too, Teyla.”
Sheppard reached up to Rodney's shoulder and gripped it firmly. “Hey, you're the smartest guy in two galaxies. I'd be foolish not to listen.”
Sheppard was serious, Rodney could tell because Sheppard leaned in for a hug.
Rodney gasped as his ribs resisted and Sheppard started to let go, but Rodney held on. He whispered in the Colonel's ear. “Did I really throw pebbles at the Gate to come home?” He could feel Sheppard shake with suppressed laughter that died quickly.
Sheppard whispered back, “Yeah, ya' did. Don't do that again.”