Pairing: Gen; McKay/Sheppard, if you squint
Rating: PG just to be safe
Series: The Others -- complete stories found here and on Wraithbait http://www.wraithbait.com/viewstory.php?sid=11602
Summary: Rescuing the other Runners was something they just needed to do. This Runner had a surprise of his own.
WARNING: Character death; not McKay or Sheppard.
The Runner debated. He was pretty sure that there was only one more Wraith on the planet tracking him. Did he work his traps to try and kill the Wraith or did he take advantage of the fact that there was only one and escape to another planet? If he killed the Wraith, it was one more dead Wraith. If he moved to another planet he'd have to start all over again, if the address he had took him someplace he could work with.
He made his way to the gate and evaluated the approach. Since the gate was in the middle of a plain, there was no cover for about a mile around the gate and he'd have to time his approach carefully. On the other hand, if he took out the Wraith, he could probably stay here for a while before anyone came looking for him again.
While he was debating, the gate came to life. Shit. More Wraith coming. That made his decision for him, he had to find a deep hole for a while and needed to rest and he wasn't going to get it on this planet. He dug in deeper next to the rocks that he knew caused interference with the tracking device and waited to see how many Darts came through the ring.
He watched and if he had blinked he would have missed it. For a second, he saw... Atlantis! They were from Atlantis! The ship immediately cloaked itself and he couldn't follow it any longer. What were they doing here? He had to find out.
Watching for a hint of where the Lanteans had gone, the runner stayed where he was. He knew that the ship could defend itself pretty well from a lone Wraith, that wasn't a problem. He debated about making contact.. he'd have to decide what to do if he found their camp.
The runner waited and watched the open plain. Only because he was now looking for it, he saw figures walking along the edge of the plain. The ship must still be cloaked. He couldn't help wondering again what they were doing there. He knew they could detect him if they really wanted to and had to debate whether he wanted to move closer or not. He didn't know if they could tell there was a Wraith on the planet. The desire for human contact won out over the wariness. He decided to move closer to see if he knew any of these Lanteans.
"Interesting," Rodney McKay commented, looked at the tracking device in his hand.
"What's interesting, Rodney?" Sheppard asked patiently.
"Oh. Sorry," Rodney replied. "The tracker shows that the runner is about a mile in that direction," he pointed further along the edge of the plain they had landed in. "The signal was initially garbled but has become clearer in the few minutes we've been here. Like he's come out of hiding."
Ronon looked at the outcrop of rocks at the edge of the camp. "Caves were always good hiding places since almost any rock interfered with the signal. Some places, it didn't seem to take much rock to make it harder for the Wraith to find you. Figured there were different types of rocks and some of them caused better interference than others," Ronon explained.
"Is he moving in our direction?" Teyla asked. They all used the 'he' pronoun even though their first rescue had been female. Ronon had never heard of a female runner before and the odds of two female runners in a row were astronomical. Rodney had started to calculate it for them but -- not soon enough -- realized that John had already calculated it in his head and the others didn't care.
"Interestingly enough, yes," Rodney told them.
"Other life signs?" Sheppard asked. The Ancient database had no information on this planet beyond the gate address so they had no idea if the planet was even inhabited.
Rodney did a sweep and reported, "There's one other life sign in the immediate area but that's it. It's on the other side of the runner from us." He looked up. "Might be a Wraith," he speculated.
Sheppard debated. On one hand, it was hopefully only a single Wraith. On the other hand, they had promised to abort the rescue if there were any sign of Wraith. They didn't want to signal their plan to rescue runners to the Wraith or draw any more attention to Atlantis than they had to. There was the off chance it wasn't a Wraith, but he wouldn't bet on it. "Only one?" he pressed.
Rodney sighed. "Only one I can detect. They don't have cloaking devices but they use their culling beams to transport others like we've used them in the darts, so there may be dozens on the planet. I only see one on the detector."
"What do you think?" he asked Teyla and Ronon.
"If it's only one tracking the runner, I'd say we chance it," Ronon responded. Sheppard knew he'd come down on the side of rescuing the runner, but had to ask.
Teyla shrugged. "I do not sense a strong Wraith presence. If the runner is headed toward our position, he may be in a position to help us rescue him," she pointed out. "If we don't make contact soon, we may want to consider leaving if the Wraith is actively stalking the runner."
"Okay. Rodney, keep a sharp eye on the life signs detector and the minute you see any more life signs, we get out of here," Sheppard decided. "Whether we have the runner or not. Understood?"
They all nodded. The Marines set up a perimeter very close to the jumper with the majority of them inside the cloaking field. If a Wraith was stalking this runner, they'd more than likely be coming in hot and need to make a quick retreat.
"If we're spotted at all, we're not going to be able to get away with the runner-got-themselves-killed-by-accident scenario like we did the first time," Rodney pointed out. Going up against even a single Wraith wasn't high on Rodney's to-do list.
Sheppard shrugged. "We'll deal with that when we have the runner. Since the rock here seems to interfere with the tracking device signal, maybe there's a cave or something we can work with close by. And if we take out the Wraith, maybe anyone who comes looking for him will think the runner did it."
Ronon nodded, "That works. If we can prevent the Wraith from seeing us and getting a message off or if we can kill him ourselves, that will do it."
"Okay, then. Let's meet this runner half way," Sheppard directed. Ronon took point, Rodney and Teyla were in the middle and Sheppard brought up the rear. They moved cautiously in the direction of the tracking device signal.
"The second life sign is moving fast in this direction," Rodney warned.
"Who's going to get to the runner first?" Sheppard demanded.
"We should, especially if he keeps moving toward us, but that other signal will be close behind," Rodney decided.
"Okay, keep going," Sheppard directed. "Keep your eyes open."
After another ten minutes of walking, Rodney said softly, "Both signs are close."
"Down," Sheppard directed. "Let the runner come to us."
Rodney took refuge behind a stack of boulders and immediately realized his mistake. Whatever these rocks were, they interfered with the detector in his hand. He was about to move to another location when a gun blast came over his head. He ducked back down.
"Rodney!" Sheppard bellowed with a blend of frustration and worry in his voice.
"Detector went offline," Rodney reported back.
"Stay there," Ronon directed. He took off in the direction the blast came from.
Rodney started as Teyla joined him. "Are you hurt?" she asked.
"Not as hurt as I'll be when Sheppard gets a hold of me," he replied glumly.
"The Colonel cannot fault you for problems with your device," she replied calmly as she scanned for signs of their attacker.
"I should have known better..." Rodney started to explain to her.
"Shh..." Teyla whispered. "I hear someone.... And I sense the presence of a Wraith very close."
Just then another gun blast came above their heads -- from their unprotected side. They turned to look and saw a Wraith standing there, taking aim at them.
From nowhere, another person came running at the Wraith, distracting it from Rodney and Teyla. The Wraith whirled and blasted the other figure, which gave Teyla the opening she needed to shoot at the Wraith herself. The roar of Ronon's gun came over Rodney's shoulder and the Wraith fell.
"You all right?" Sheppard came up.
"The runner distracted him. Saved our lives. Teyla and Ronon did the rest," Rodney panted, as much unnerved as anything.
Teyla had moved to the runner and in a soft voice called, "John."
Sheppard looked up at that and went over to where Teyla was kneeling next to the runner. "Oh, fuck," he muttered.
Rodney came up and said startled, "Ford! What?"
Aiden Ford looked up at them through the pain in his eyes and tried to grin, "Hey, guys. Like old times." He coughed weakly. Blood bubbled on his lips.
"What happened?" Sheppard asked gently. He knelt down and took Ford's hand.
"Got too cocky hunting Wraith and they caught me. Someone decided it was only fair they hunt me instead," Ford panted. "Don't know how long....." The pain made him stop. "Sorry....." He was gone.
Sheppard stayed there with his head bowed for a long moment. Rodney put a hand on John's shoulder to comfort them both.
Sheppard stirred. "Rodney, you and Ronon get the Jumper and bring it closer. I'd... I'd like to take him home."
Rodney looked at the detector, "I don't see any sign besides ours. Teyla, keep an eye out?" She nodded agreement.
"John," Rodney's voice came from the doorway, "thought I'd find you here."
He looked up at that. Rodney never called him John. He had come out to this balcony for some quiet time for himself but wasn't surprised that Rodney had found him. Something told him he really didn't want to be alone at this moment and was glad it was Rodney who had found him.
"This is a really fucked up place," John observed.
"Can't argue with you there," Rodney answered, moving to sit next to John.
They sat in comfortable quiet for a while. John broke the silence first, "Glad we could send him home."
"That was a brave thing he did, saving our lives," Rodney floated back.
With that comment made aloud, John had to fight to control his emotions. He had long ago resigned himself to losing Ford. Ford had been like a kid brother that had looked up to him and John often felt like he had failed the younger man. Time had shown him that there really wasn't anything he could have done, but it didn't stop him from feeling a certain level of responsibility. The thought of losing Rodney raised feelings he wasn't sure how deal with.
Rodney moved the fraction of an inch it took to bump shoulders and said gently, "It's okay." I know...
Thank you. John took a deep breath. "Yes, it is."