Rating: T to be safe, implied character death
Summary: Trapped on an alternate Daedalus Team Sheppard struggles to find a way back to their own reality. Missing scenes fiction for 'The Daedalus Variations' ... a bit grim actually. Beware season 5 SPOILERS inside.
Classifications: Friendship/Team Fic
Pairings: John/Teyla established
Spoilers for: Season 5 The Daedalus Variations. Minor spoilers for Season 4 The Kindred.
Disclaimer: I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters, plot, settings, and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright (c) 2008 ShaViva
Reality Zero, Day One
Team Sheppard approached the Daedalus, well a version of her anyway, in a Puddle Jumper, compelled to solve the mystery of its appearance concurrent with it being two days out from Earth.
"Look at that," Sheppard drew everyone’s attention to two long scorched grooves carved into the hull on the underside of the ship. "She's seen combat."
"Doesn't look like enough damage to explain them abandoning ship though," Rodney replied. "That's assuming they did abandon ship instead of ... you know," he waved a hand vaguely in the air to signify the more morbid interpretation.
"Let's not jump to conclusions," Sheppard advised. "Keep scanning Rodney."
They continued to cruise the underside of the ship until Rodney's console beeped.
"I'm picking up some kind of energy reading coming from somewhere inside the ship," he announced.
"Dangerous?" Teyla asked.
"Ah ... probably not," Rodney said uncertainly, "although I can't tell you what's causing it because it's not coming from the engine room. Could be worth checking out."
"Get the Bay doors open," Sheppard ordered. "We can find out more once we’re inside."
This Daedalus was the same as theirs so in short order Rodney had cleared the way for them to fly into the ship. Sheppard parked the Jumper inside the empty F302 bay and turned to glance at his team.
"I'm assuming we've got life support?" he looked to Rodney for confirmation.
"We have a breathable environment," Rodney confirmed. "The ship's on emergency power though so it's gonna be cold in there."
"Okay," Sheppard stepped from the jumper first, shivering as the icy cold air hit his face. "You weren't wrong McKay - this place is like a freezer. Ronon, go with Rodney down to engineering, let’s see if we can make things a bit more comfortable. Teyla, you're with me. We'll head to the Bridge - see if we can work out what this ships doing here."
The team split up, each half moving off to take care of their assigned duties.
"I can not help but have a bad feeling about this John," Teyla walked a little closer to her husband, looking around nervously.
"This is your first mission back," Sheppard replied casually. "You just need to get your rhythm back."
"I hope you are right," Teyla shivered, not sure it was just from the cold.
"You're not worried about Torren are you?" Sheppard glanced down at her in concern. "We agreed that Katie was the best person to take care of him when we're on missions ... are you regretting that now?"
"Of course not," Teyla denied. "It is just that we have not been parents for very long ... do we really know what is best for our son?"
"What we're doing for him being out here, searching for a way to fight the Wraith and the Replicators, is as much for his well being as the time we spend actively looking after him," Sheppard said seriously.
“Yes,” Teyla nodded, purposefully shaking off her grey mood. “Torren will be fine until we return.”
“Good,” Sheppard smiled down at her fondly. “Now hurry it up ... all this chatter is making me even colder.”
The Bridge was just as icy as the rest of the ship. In short order they’d confirmed that it really was the Daedalus and located the last log entry of its commanding officer. It wasn’t exactly brimming with detail to explain their desertion and Teyla settled in to dig some more. Sheppard busied himself checking on the status of things like shields and weapons, grateful to discover that they still had capability in both areas. Unfortunately the hyperdrive was another story – lucky they didn’t need it.
Rodney had also been busy, restoring power sufficient to light their way and heat things up a bit, before turning his attention back to the energy spike that had first drawn his attention into the ship.
“How’s it coming McKay,” Sheppard checked in with his team mate via the radio.
“The ship’s in relatively good condition all things considered,” Rodney reported. “Shields aren’t at full capacity but they’d get us through most things, weapons are good. Hyperdrive is toast though – and by that I mean beyond repair.”
“And that energy spike?” Sheppard queried.
“I’m still looking into it,” Rodney said irritably. “I’ll get back to you when I have something.”
“John,” Teyla’s serious tone drew his attention back to her position. “There is something you should see.” John stood behind her as she reactivated one of the log messages.
“This is Colonel Sobel, Commander of the Daedalus. We have discovered that the navigation systems are flawed and our attempts to use alternate reality co-ordinates to find our way back home have failed. To make matters worse we are unable to take the reality drive off line. Power build up in the capacitors takes roughly two hours, giving us sufficient time to abandon ship together using the beam and all the F302’s, but we must decide soon. Supplies won’t last beyond a few weeks but there is an arable planet below us that appears to be deserted. It would make a good home. Sobel out.”
“Ronon, McKay,” Sheppard tapped his earpiece urgently, “fall back to the Jumper immediately.”
“But we haven’t worked anything out yet,” Rodney protested.
“Move McKay,” Ronon grabbed the scientist’s arm and forcibly got him heading in the right direction.
“Daedalus this is Atlantis,” Major Lorne’s voice came through loud and clear. “We’re picking up an increase in that energy reading. Is everything okay up there?”
“This is Sheppard,” John replied hurriedly, running beside Teyla as they sprinted back to the F302 Bay. “The ship’s from an alternate reality and if that isn’t bad enough it’s broken. We don’t know how much time we have to get out of here before it shifts again.”
“Understood,” Lorne replied. “Keep us informed.”
“Major,” Teyla spoke up quickly. “If we do not make it to the Jumper before the next shift it may be some time before we can return. Please look after Torren ... let him know that we are thinking of him and doing everything we can to get back to him.”
“Yes Ma’am,” Lorne accepted without question the commitment Teyla was asking for, even though Torren was a baby and wouldn’t understand anything Evan could tell him for many more months.
They’d almost made it to the Bay when the ship began to shake ominously. A white flash of light blinded them for a moment. When it cleared they skidded to a halt.
“What was that?” Rodney’s voice was broken as he drew in rapid breaths from running.
“The alternate reality drive,” Teyla sank down to sit on the floor of the corridor outside the F302 Bay.
“The what?” Rodney demanded.
“We are no longer in our own reality,” Teyla explained, looking up at John with tears in her eyes.
“McKay,” Sheppard kept his eyes on his wife, trying to control his own panic as he watched the fear rise in her eyes. “Get back to Engineering – find that energy source. We need to work out how to undo this. Ronon – go with him.”
Reality One: Day One
“John,” Teyla’s voice shook with barely suppressed emotion.
“I know,” Sheppard agreed, putting his arms around her and holding her close. He allowed her, allowed himself, a few moments to feel the dread and fear of being in another reality separated from everything else they held dear. And then he drew on that core of determination that said never give up, that believed with conviction that any problem had a solution.
“Can you help Rodney search for information on the alternate reality drive?” he asked softly, giving Teyla a few more moments to pull herself together.
“Of course,” Teyla rested her forehead against his chest for another moment before resolutely gathering herself and stepping back. “You will be on the Bridge?”
“We need to know where we are,” Sheppard replied. “There could be threats out there that don’t exist in our own reality. Let me know if you need me.”
Sheppard paced the Bridge in agitation, cursing the curiosity that had gotten them into this mess. Assuming the ship was still behaving as described in that message from Colonel Sobel they now had a little less than one hour to do something ... or find themselves another reality from home.
"Sheppard, I've found the source of our problem - you might want to come down to Deck 9," Rodney radioed ... his tone strangely bland.
"On my way," Sheppard turned and ran down the corridors. When Rodney got that expressionless it meant things were even worse than he'd thought ... and that he had no idea how to fix them.
"What is this thing?" Sheppard drew to a sudden halt in the doorway, frowning at the large turbine like engine enclosed in its own room across from him. Moving closer he noticed the panels and displays he didn't recall seeing on their version of the Daedalus - obviously they were connected to the engine in some way.
"That would be the alternate reality drive," Rodney announced grimly. "Created by none other than yours truly ... well an alternate version of me anyway. One who was obviously not as much of a genius as I am because he thought messing with other realities was a good idea!"
"Can you work out how to control it?" Sheppard asked, glancing at his watch before adding "in the next 45 minutes?"
"Not a chance on the 45 minutes," Rodney retorted. "Look, to be honest the science on this is beyond anything I've seen. We're gonna need to ride out a few realities before I can work out how to control it."
"Ronon, you and Teyla search the ship, look for any supplies you can find. Then go back to the Jumper and bring back anything we've got in there," Sheppard requested, sparing Teyla just a small glance of understanding before turning back to Rodney. "Can you give us a better prediction on when the next jump will occur?"
"It all depends on the energy build up in those capacitors," Rodney explained. "They're drawing power direct from subspace - continuous but not at an exact measureable rate."
"So that's a no," Sheppard summarised.
"The energy spikes just beforehand," Rodney pointed out. "The jump last time was a few seconds after that."
"Keep track of each jump, let me know if there's any kind of pattern," Sheppard ordered. "I'll continue to monitor things from the Bridge - just in case one of these realities turns out to be as dangerous as some of the previous ones obviously were."
Reality Four: Day One
More than eight hours into their 'journey' they hit the first hostile reality.
"I'm picking up a ship heading straight for us," Sheppard reported from the Bridge on the open channel. "Raising shields ... just in case they’re not here to say hello."
"Can you identify who it is - are they friendly?" Rodney asked.
"We're not picking up I.F.F. if that's what you mean," Sheppard announced. "Beyond that -" he broke off when the other ship fired directly at them. "I think we have our answer. Ronon, I need you up here asap. Teyla, see if you can raise anyone down on the planet."
Sheppard concentrated on returning fire ... the other ship had superior fire power and the Daedalus shields were already weakening.
"Rodney, how long have we been in this reality?" Sheppard demanded, flinching as a nearby console sparked.
"An hour forty five," Rodney announced. "Based on the last three jumps we've got anywhere from right now to 35 minutes before the next jump."
"Not that I want to get further away from home but let’s hope for the former," Sheppard replied, turning to acknowledge Ronon's arrival. "Take the other weapons position big guy - concentrate on aft rail guns."
Luckily Ronon had proven to be interested in all weapons, even the ones on the Daedalus. Quickly calling up the targeting system he joined Sheppard in shooting at the other ship. It wasn't enough though, the Daedalus shields continued dropping lower and lower.
"We've got plenty of power right?" Sheppard queried Rodney.
"For now," Rodney said cautiously. “Why?”
"I'm gonna have to deploy the Asgard beam," Sheppard announced, not waiting for an affirmative. The white beam of light shot out from the Daedalus, striking the other ship and piercing its shields. A few seconds later the other ship floated lifelessly, its individual parts gradually separating in the weightless freedom of space.
"Teyla, anything from the planet?" Sheppard asked.
"Yes and no," Teyla replied grimly. "It is Atlantis but it is no longer held by our people. Whoever was in that ship is now in control of the city."
"And they're gonna be pissed we destroyed their ship," Sheppard concluded. "Ronon, keep your eyes on that radar ... they'll retaliate - if they've got anything left to attack with."
The radar screen remained blank for a few moments and then a single orange blip appeared.
"We have one alien ship inbound," Sheppard announced, still watching the screen - where more orange blips were appearing. "Make that two ... three ... crap! This is bad. How long till that jump Rodney?!"
"It could still be as long as 10 minutes," Rodney reported weakly, “maybe more.”
"We can't hold off four of those ships McKay," Sheppard said irritably. "Can you do anything to speed this up?"
"Not within the next minute!" Rodney retorted indignantly. "I'll put it on my list for the next reality!"
"Yeah well at this rate we might not get there," Sheppard said angrily. "Why the hell didn't your other self put up some kind of sign on this ship? How hard would it have been to broadcast something like "Do Not Enter on pain of being removed from your own reality"?!"
"Like I said, not as much of a genius as I am," Rodney didn't take offence. "I'll add that to the list too."
"Ships will be in firing range in 60 seconds," Ronon announced, fingers poised to begin firing.
"Wait - energy's spiking," Rodney yelled out. "Here we go!"
Reality Six, Day One
"We need to break this into shifts," Sheppard suggested when the team met up on the Bridge for a very late and very meagre dinner. "I didn't want to think we'd be here more than a day but ... we're twelve hours in with no sign of a solution."
"Perhaps each of us could take a six hour break," Teyla suggested, "leaving the other three in charge here and down in the reality engine room."
"Makes for a long day but it'll work," Sheppard agreed. "You can go first ... then Rodney and Ronon. I'll take the last shift."
"That means you're gonna have been up for like 30 hours before you get to sleep," Rodney protested.
"I'll be fine McKay," Sheppard drawled. "Military remember - years of practice. Ronon, what's the word on supplies?"
"We've got water to last us four days - maybe we can stretch that into five," Ronon reported with his usual lack of panic. "Similar situation for MRE's, except it's more like three days stretching maybe to five if we’re really strict."
"Can we risk looking for supplies on the planet below?" Teyla asked.
"The jump times are just too variable," Rodney replied with a dismal expression. "I mean, maybe when ... if we get really desperate we could get there and back within an hour thirty. Flying time would take up a third of that so it wouldn't leave much time to forage."
"What about asking for help when we are next over a friendly Atlantis?" Teyla persisted.
"Now that we're broadcasting that warning I don't think they're gonna be that receptive," Rodney admitted. "Certainly not to send us something up here in Puddle Jumper."
"We wouldn't let them do that anyway," Sheppard dismissed. "Is there any chance we could just beam stuff up here?"
"We'd have to use sublight engines to get closer to the planet which could pose a problem later because we carry our relative position into each reality," Rodney thought aloud. "Assuming we did that, if we come across a friendly Atlantis willing to help and if they've got a transponder for us to lock onto then we have the capability," Rodney agreed. "We can't just fly closer and beam fruit off the trees though ... with no way to lock on we'd just be randomly pulling stuff up here. I don't even want to think about how messy that could get."
"Okay, we'll consider all of that again in a day or so," Sheppard concluded. "It's 12:00AM - Teyla, you're up first for some sleep."
"Perhaps you could walk me to crew quarters," Teyla suggested, getting up without protest.
"I could do that," John smiled. "This reality seems harmless enough - you guys hold down the fort until I get back."
John took Teyla's hand as soon as they were clear of the Bridge. "How are you holding up?"
"It has been less than a day but already this strange life of shifting realities is beginning to feel too familiar," Teyla said worriedly.
"I know what you mean," John agreed. "We've been lucky so far that only one of them came with trouble attached.” John put an arm around his wife, pulling her in close. “You know Rodney will fix this if it's humanly possible, right? His alternate self created that engine - surely that's an advantage too."
"I am well John," Teyla reassured him serenely.
They'd chosen crew quarters closest to the Bridge just in case everyone was needed quickly. Once there Teyla drew John inside the small room and snuggled herself against him.
"Get some sleep," John pressed a kiss into her hair, hugging her close.
"I will try," Teyla promised. "You will wake me if anything changes?"
"If there's a need," John promised. "We'll probably be three realities away from this one before it's McKay's turn to sleep."
"Of course," Teyla pulled John down to her, kissing him with serious intent. Breaking away with a sigh she turned and settled herself on the narrow cot. "Goodnight John."
"Night," John murmured, watching her for a few moments before turning and walking back to the Bridge.
Reality Fifteen, Day Two
"How's it coming McKay?" Sheppard had walked down to Deck 9 to get an in person report, needing the physical stimulation to keep him awake. He'd been up for 31 hours straight, not including the hours he'd been awake before they'd decided it'd be a good idea to come up here.
"I know what the problem is now," Rodney reported in a tone that clearly said that wasn't as much progress as it sounded.
"And?" Sheppard asked, rubbing a hand over his face and squeezing his eyes tightly shut before opening them again.
"You look like crap," Rodney frowned when he looked at his friend closely.
"Only got half an hour to go," Sheppard dismissed the concern. "You were telling me what the problem was, remember?"
"Oh, right," Rodney turned back to the console he'd been working on. "They developed a co-ordinate system to identify the various realities, presumably so they could target a specific one and go straight there. Not something easy to test and naturally after they'd set out they discovered the system didn't work."
"Can you fix it?" Sheppard demanded.
"The original McKay created that engine – he had weeks and couldn't do it," Rodney protested. "I'm working on it okay!"
"Anything else?" Sheppard asked, not sure he really wanted to know the answer.
"Ah - yeah," Rodney swivelled his chair and looked at Sheppard sadly. "The power required to do these shifts is enormous - like I said before they're using a capacitor to draw and then store that power until it's sufficient for the next jump. Only problem is ... I can't turn it off."
"So we can't just find a nice reality and stop the engine until you can work out how to target our reality," Sheppard summarised. "That seems like a pretty stupid design to me!"
"I don't think it was the original intent," Rodney offered. "They obviously thought that generating more power could help fix the problem - maybe they were right but they gave up and decided to abandon the ship instead."
"Leaving us to get trapped here in their place," Sheppard grumbled.
"Sorry," Rodney muttered.
"For the last time McKay, this isn't your fault," Sheppard said emphatically. "You didn't create the reality drive and you didn't set it off. Don't let guilt get in the way of fixing this okay."
"Fine," Rodney turned away ... Sheppard knew he'd probably have to repeat that reassurance more than a couple of times before Rodney finally accepted its truth.
"Sheppard," Ronon's voice drew his attention to the doorway. "Your turn."
"Thanks buddy," Sheppard slapped a hand to Rodney's shoulder in encouragement before walking out the door. "Wake me if anything unusual happens!" he called out as he disappeared down the corridor.
"More unusual than switching realities every two hours?" Rodney looked at Ronon with a raised eyebrow.
Ronon just shrugged. "You need any help?"
"Maybe," Rodney said thoughtfully. "Switch spots with Teyla - she might be able to help me access the log of activity on the navigation system."
"Okay," Ronon agreed, heading out to the Bridge.
Rodney sat staring into space for a few moments. He hadn't wanted to do his usual doom and gloom predictions to John ... because this time they'd be too close to the truth. It was all well and good to panic when you were used to last ditch options appearing. In this case Rodney already feared no such options would be available. Hence the panic and nerves that were his constant companions.
Reality Twenty Four, Day Three
"Rodney, get up here right now!" Sheppard yelled, waking Rodney at the tail end of his sleep break.
"I'm coming," Rodney stumbled out of bed, throwing his jacket on as he hurried down the hall. The ship shook - clearly they were under fire - again!
"Is it the same guys?" Rodney queried as he hurried onto the Bridge.
"No - it's Atlantis!" Sheppard said grimly.
"What?" Rodney looked horrified at the idea.
"Yeah," Sheppard confirmed. "When we arrived they queried us being here. After they picked up on that automatic broadcast they demanded that we leave their space. When I said we couldn't they gave us five minutes before they open fire."
"I take it those five minutes are up?" Rodney muttered, throwing himself down at the engineering console so he could check on shields. "What the hell are they hitting us with?" he demanded when he registered the shields were dangerously low.
"Some kind of planetary version of the Asgard beam," Ronon reported.
"Are we firing back?" Rodney asked, looking puzzled when the other three all looked back incredulously. "What? They're gonna kill us if we don't do something. Not every version of Atlantis will be filled with the good guy versions of us! Who threatened us anyway?"
"It was John," Teyla said softly, "but one very different from our own."
"Makes sense," Ronon offered. "We took a lot of abuse from practically every race in the galaxy before ending up here. Maybe they just decided enough was enough."
The ship shook again, sending sparks flying from many of the Bridge consoles.
"Their motives aren't really important right now," Sheppard drew everyone back to the issue at hand. "How long till the next jump?"
"We just arrived ten minutes ago!" Rodney pointed out.
"Can you do something to force the jump ahead of time?" Sheppard demanded.
"Ah - maybe, but not from here," Rodney jumped up and ran from the room, heading back down to Deck 9.
"Shields are down to 10 percent," Teyla took over Rodney's chair to report.
"Should we shoot back?" Ronon looked at Sheppard expectantly.
"I don't think it's gonna make a difference and I'd prefer not to sink that low," Sheppard decided. "Rodney, how's it coming?"
"I can increase the capacitors pull on subspace power," Rodney reported. "But if I do it, I can't take it back later."
"What will that mean for us?" Sheppard demanded.
"I don't really know," Rodney admitted. "For certain though we're gonna cut the length of time we spend in each reality."
"We're already so far away from our own reality it hardly matters," Sheppard looked over at Teyla apologetically as he said that. "Do it."
"Capacitors charging," Rodney announced.
"John, the shields will fail with the next shot from that beam," Teyla reported worriedly.
"We'll get there," Sheppard reassured her. As if to belay his words the ship shook again, this time a very different sensation as the enemy beam made it through the shields and cut a wide swath across the hull."
"Hull integrity is weakened but holding," Teyla said.
"Here we go," Rodney announced from Deck 9.
The ship flashed a vivid display of white light and they were into the next reality.
Reality Thirty Two, Day Three
Realities twenty five through thirty two were all very similar - uninhabited planet with nothing nearby to cause them concern. Rodney used the time to repair the shields as best he could although he admitted up front that they wouldn't be as good as they had been. The effects of his tampering with the capacitors became clear very quickly. Instead of two hourly jumps they were now down to roughly one hour a reality.
John was taking his second sleep break and Teyla decided recording some kind of message in the log would satisfy the need of contact, even imagined, that filled her head and heart.
"This is Teyla Emmagen Sheppard of Atlantis. We have been trapped aboard the Daedalus for three days and are no closer to solving the navigation system problems. To make matters worse Doctor McKay was forced to increase the power being drawn into the capacitors in our efforts to avoid a hostile attack from the planet below. We now find ourselves traversing each reality more rapidly than before. We cannot power down the drive and each jump only serves to take us further and further away from our own reality. Supplies will last only a few more days but there is no longer sufficient time between jumps to make it down to the planet and back to search for resources. Doctor McKay continues to work on a solution but our situation is grim. Teyla out."
Sighing unhappily Teyla sat back in her chair, gazing out the front view screen. Thoughts of Torren were ever present in her mind, her panic that they would never be reunited only growing with every shift away from him. She knew that John was upset and worried too - just doing a better job of hiding it that she was. Feeling the tears welling up Teyla did nothing to stop them, letting them fall drop by drop onto her clenched hands.
"You okay?" Ronon walked up silently behind her, putting a hand on her shoulder and squeezing a firm comforting contact.
"No," Teyla sobbed. "Torren may lose both his parents because I was too eager to return to the team. I should have stayed with him, given up on being a part of off world missions."
"You say that now because you have hindsight," Ronon replied. "But would Torren want a mother sticking close his whole life, too scared to leave him for fear of what might happen? And what of the Wraith? You have skills that give us an edge against them - we need that - Torren needs that if we're ever to be free of them."
"You are right," Teyla drew in deep breaths, trying to calm herself. "That does not make the pain of this separation any easier to bear."
"Doing the right thing isn't easy," Ronon agreed. "But no one expects you or John to just go on like you're not hurt."
"John will expect that of himself no matter what any of us say," Teyla smiled weakly.
"We know him better than that," Ronon stood firm as Teyla got up and hugged him. “Don’t give up,” Ronon added in a low voice.
"Never,” Teyla said firmly. “Thank you Ronon."
It was good to have a friend to vent with - John and she had carefully not talked about how badly things were going because neither wanted to admit to the other just how worried they were - and because they didn't want to feed off each other’s feelings and magnify everything.
"Any time," Ronon replied.
Reality Fifty Four, Day Four
During a brief half an hour when everyone was awake Team Sheppard met to talk about their supplies situation.
“I’m surprised we haven’t come across more versions of Atlantis down on that planet,” Sheppard complained. “There’ve only been three, and that’s including the evil version! Understandably the others weren’t able to help us given their own situations but surely we’re due a version more in line with our own.”
“It’s actually not that surprising,” Rodney countered. “I mean think about it. It took a set of complex circumstances to lead us to parking Atlantis down there in our reality. Any one of those things didn’t happen, or happened slightly different and we’d have ended up on a different planet.”
“How does that help us find a way to get more supplies?” Sheppard asked impatiently.
“It doesn’t ... I just thought it was interesting because ...,” Rodney trailed off weakly.
“Are we up for going down to the planet?” Ronon asked.
“The jumps are still too unpredictable,” Rodney vetoed that idea. “I’ve rigged up a display to tell me how charged the capacitors are but that’ll only give us a few minutes warning. The charging process isn’t linear – that thing could sit on eighty percent for half an hour or shoot up to a hundred in ten seconds.”
“If we get to that stage we all go,” Sheppard announced firmly. “Rodney, how’s it coming on working out how to fix the navigation system?”
“Ah, slowly,” Rodney admitted. “I’m convinced I can eventually fix it ... with enough time.”
“You can target our specific reality?” Teyla asked quickly, her heart reflected in her eyes for everyone to see.
“I think so,” Rodney agreed. “Just ... I don’t know how much more time I need.”
“Keep at it Rodney,” Sheppard requested, reaching for Teyla’s hand to offer comfort the only way he could.
“This is madness,” Teyla said angrily, jumping up and running from the Bridge. John followed her without a word to the others.
“Teyla!” he shouted for her to stop. Catching up with her moments later he pulled her around to face him.
“We are more than fifty jumps away from our son,” Teyla cried out before he could say anything. “Fifty John! And Rodney is no closer to finding a way for us to return. Do you really think he will succeed in time?”
“I hope so,” John evaded answering the question. “I know this is hard all right. I hate that we’re days into this and still on first base. I hate that every day that goes by makes it more and more likely something bad will happen. But I can’t see any other way other than to give Rodney the space and time he needs.”
“And when we run out of water tomorrow?” Teyla said angrily. “Will you still be so confident we can fix this?”
“We may have to make a difficult decision,” John replied. Teyla knew immediately what he was talking about and tried to pull away.
“No!” she spat out angrily. “I will not abandon this ship and remain stranded from home for ever. I would rather die than give up even the smallest chance to return.”
“I won’t let you die on this ship if I have a way to save you,” John retorted with anger in his own voice. “If I have to carry you off I will.”
“You will respect my wishes in this regard,” Teyla said quietly, looking into John’s eyes with determination. “Now I believe it is your turn to sleep.”
“I can stay up for a bit,” John suggested.
“No,” Teyla shook her head sadly. “I need to walk ... to think. I am sorry but this is something you cannot help me with.”
“Okay,” John said in a low voice. He was upset – with himself for not being what Teyla needed right then and with the situation that placed everything so far outside his control. “I’ll see you later,” he promised, pulling Teyla into a quick heartfelt hug before turning and walking away.
Reality Seventy Three, Day Five
The now sickeningly familiar flash of white light announced their next shift. This reality was different from all the others they’d encountered. The planet was still there but there was no sun ... something cataclysmic must have happened.
“This is bad,” Rodney ran into the Control Room five minutes after they’d arrived.
“What is?” Sheppard demanded.
“The sun went supernova,” Rodney shot back, “and if you’d read any mission reports from SG1 you’d know the result of that is –“
“A black hole,” Sheppard finished, glancing out the forward view screen in an effort to see some evidence of it.
“It’s not visible,” Rodney said impatiently. “This region of space is surprisingly devoid of space debris so the usual trail of matter being drawn in by the gravitational field isn’t visible with the naked eye.”
“Are we in danger?” Teyla asked.
“Not yet,” Rodney admitted, “but it’s gonna be close. At the rate we’re being dragged in we might run out of space before the next shift.”
“Can you speed up the shifts again, get us out of here faster?” Sheppard suggested.
“Look, we lost half our stationary gap the last time I meddled with the capacitors,” Rodney said irritably. “I could do something but I don’t think it’s wise at this stage – we might need to use that for something more desperate than this.”
“And if we get dragged into that hole?” Sheppard demanded.
“The ship will get torn apart by the extreme gravitational field long before we get that close,” Rodney informed them almost academically.
“Well perhaps you should go back to the reality drive and get ready,” Sheppard suggested snidely, “just in case this turns out to be a longer gap and that becomes an issue.”
“Fine,” Rodney muttered under his breath. “Lucky Conon gets to sleep through this one. He’s got no patience for something that doesn’t respond to weapons fire.”
An hour later the situation was becoming as grim as they’d feared ... the ship was shaking and groaning so much Ronon had been woken without anyone going down there to get him.
“This would have to be one of the longest jumps for a while!” Rodney complained, holding on to his console grimly.
“Isn’t there anything you can do?” Ronon growled.
“I’m already running the sublight engines to their maximum,” Rodney retorted. “It’s having some effect against the pull of the black hole but at this rate I’ll burn them out within the next five minutes.”
“We are losing hull integrity Rodney,” Teyla reported from the Bridge.
“And I’m seeing bits of the ship being torn off and flying towards that hole,” Sheppard added grimly. “I think it’s time for you to tweak the capacitors again.”
“We’re at 95 percent,” Rodney replied. “We can afford to give it a couple more minutes.”
“Rodney,” Sheppard growled. “Tweak the damn engines – that’s an order!”
“Okay,” Rodney cried. “Although technically as a civilian I don’t actually have to follow your orders.”
“McKay!” Sheppard shouted. The sound of metal screaming intensified to the point of audible pain.
And then the flash of reality jumping surrounded them.
“Nice work McKay,” Sheppard said in relief.
“I didn’t do anything,” Rodney replied. “I was just about to hit the button when the capacitor reached full charge.”
“So we’ve still got that solution in reserve if we need it?” Sheppard summarised.
“And we might,” Rodney was ever the voice of doom and gloom. “Trying to keep the ship out of that gravity well burned out the sublight engines. Even if we wanted to fly the ship closer to the planet we can’t anymore.”
“Can you fix it?” Ronon reminded Rodney he was still in the room.
“That depends,” Rodney said sarcastically. “Would you like to be able to reach sublight speeds or would you like me to fix the navigation systems? Because I can’t do both.”
“Concentrate on navigation,” Sheppard decided. “We need a plan Rodney – we haven’t even tried any methods for getting out of this yet – it’s time to take some risks.”
“I’m on it,” Rodney retorted, signing off without waiting of a comeback.
Reality Ninety Four, Day Six
Rodney still had an hour of sleep left in his break and Sheppard decided it was a good time to talk to Ronon and Teyla alone.
“He’s not gonna fix this is he?” Ronon asked.
“It’s not looking good,” Sheppard admitted, holding firm to Teyla’s hand. They’d reached some level of acceptance in the past day, taking comfort in the fact that they were together and that they’d made arrangements as best they could for Torren’s future.
“It is ironic,” Teyla said softly. “That the first situation Rodney has struggled with was created by another version of himself.”
“We’ll only have two more days with no water,” Ronon said what they all already knew.
“I know,” Sheppard replied. “If you want to head down to the planet, set up with the hope of rescue in the future we won’t hold it against you. There are still a couple of escape pods available.”
“I’m good,” Ronon said dismissively.
“Ronon,” Teyla waited until he was looking at her. “John and I have Torren to fuel our determination to remain on the Daedalus. You have left no one back on Atlantis. You could lead a full life in this reality.”
“I’ve spent enough years surviving alone,” Ronon explained casually. “Not interested in adding who knows how many more to that.”
“I thought you’d say that but I still had to suggest it,” Sheppard slapped Ronon on the back to support his decision.
“What about McKay?” Ronon queried.
“He’d be a disaster down there by himself,” Sheppard laughed at the idea. “Plus he’s still holding himself entirely accountable for us all being stuck like this. He won’t leave.”
“This sucks!” Rodney slammed a hand down on the console angrily. “What the hell was I thinking setting up such a half arsed system?”
“Rodney,” Teyla admonished. “Anger will not help you fix this.”
“Maybe not,” Rodney muttered, “but it’s satisfying none the less.”
“You are still without a plan we can try?” Teyla tried to keep her voice even but Rodney still picked up on her internal distress.
“I am so sorry,” Rodney said weakly. “I shouldn’t have been so curious about the Daedalus appearing like that ... shouldn’t have pushed for us to check out the energy reading.”
“You were not to know,” Teyla excused. Putting a hand on his arm she said firmly “you are not to blame for this Rodney.”
“It sure feels like I am,” Rodney retorted. “The style of the design, the way it’s been set up it’s like it was me personally who created all this. I could have come up with this in the future.”
“But you did not,” Teyla said with conviction. “Now stop this nonsense of blaming yourself and think about a solution.”
“That’s just it,” Rodney complained. “I’ve exhausted everything I can think of. I can't believe I'm not smarter than myself!”
“Then perhaps it is time to think not like yourself,” Teyla suggested.
“Like that’s easy to do,” Rodney said irritably. “Who else am I -,” he broke off suddenly with an expression that drew a flashing light bulb above his head. “That’s it!”
“What?” Teyla demanded.
“Can’t talk now,” Rodney dismissed, “gotta run some simulations and there’s not a lot of time.”
Reality One Hundred and Twelve, Day Seven
“Okay I’ve got a plan,” Rodney announced. It was very early in the morning and Sheppard had woken Teyla early so they could all hear Rodney’s proposal together. On the surface they didn’t look that much the worse for wear – maybe a little thinner, and little paler. That would change quickly over the next 24 hours if they didn’t do something so Rodney’s plan hadn’t come a moment too soon.
“Well then what is it?” Sheppard demanded, impatient with Rodney’s dramatic pauses.
“I was thinking about your usual blow it up solution to life’s problems when it hit me. We slam the navigation system with a huge burst of power,” Rodney proposed. “I’ve calculated the individual power outlays for every jump we’ve made so far. If I can hold the reality engine in pause until the capacitors have charged to the same levels when we release the engines they should shoot us rapidly through the 112 realities we’ve travelled through and return us home.”
“And how likely is it this will work?” Sheppard asked.
“Thirty percent, maybe thirty five,” Rodney admitted. “And if it fails it’ll be catastrophic for us.”
“You gonna blow up the ship?” Ronon asked curiously.
“Probably not,” Rodney offered weakly. “More likely the residual radiation from the reality engine will get to the levels of deadly for humans.”
“So there’s a thirty percent chance we get home and a seventy percent chance we get irradiated to death?” Sheppard asked incredulously. “That is probably the worst plan I’ve ever heard!”
“I know,” Rodney agreed dismally. “But we all know humans can’t survive without water for more than three days and we’re well into day two. I don’t have any other ideas – I’m really sorry for that but there it is.”
“So it’s this or nothing,” Sheppard confirmed. “What do the rest of you think?”
“It’s my plan so of course I say we try it,” Rodney spoke quickly. “But don’t let that stop you from pointing out what a horrible plan it is. There’s still time to retreat to the planet, assuming the next reality actually has one.”
“Noted,” Sheppard turned to Ronon. “What about you big guy?”
“It’s worth a shot,” Ronon said simply.
“I too am willing to try this plan of Rodney’s,” Teyla announced.
“Okay then that’s what we do,” Sheppard decided. “Go get yourself ready to proceed Rodney.”
Reality One Hundred and Nineteen, Day Seven
After sitting up on the Bridge alone, contemplating the likely future, John decided to record a message for the ships log, just in case things ended badly.
“This is Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, military commander of Atlantis – at least in our reality. Our supplies ran out two days ago and we have no hopes for acquiring more. Doctor McKay has come up with a plan to hit the alternate reality engine with a huge burst of energy in the hopes that we can cause a jump back to our own reality. If it fails there’s no going back.
If the worst happens ... should this ship ever find its way back to our home, please pass on the following message to my son, Torren John Sheppard. ‘Your mother and I regret that we can’t be with you as you grow. We know you’ll be a credit to us, and to Atlantis. Know that we love you and that we’re proud of you, no matter what you choose to do in life. I’m sorry it ended up like this’ ... Sheppard out.” John swallowed hard, bringing a shaking hand to his eyes as he fought to control his emotions.
“That was lovely,” Teyla spoke softly from the doorway.
“I know he probably won’t get the message,” John admitted, welcoming Teyla into his arms and taking comfort from her.
“Hopefully he will not need to,” Teyla replied.
“Rodney ready to go?” John asked, keeping his arms around her.
“Yes, he is waiting for us in the reality engine room,” Teyla agreed.
“Let’s get down there then,” John replied, guiding her out the door.
“Everything set?” Sheppard greeted Rodney with that question a few minutes later.
“I think so,” Rodney glanced down at his consoles, clearly still worried about the plan.
“Rodney, Ronon,” John spoke quickly. “This is gonna work but if it doesn’t ... it’s been a pleasure serving with you both. You’re good men ... good friends.”
“Likewise,” Rodney replied in a small voice, deliberately keeping his face bent low over his laptop.
“I don’t regret following you to Atlantis,” Ronon said. “Even knowing this was how it would turn out, I still would have done it.”
“Thanks buddy,” Sheppard smiled. “Okay Rodney, fire up that capacitor.”
“Running holding program ... now,” Rodney announced. “It’ll be much more rapid than the standard jumps but this still might take a while.”
“Okay,” Sheppard sat at one of the other stations, pulling Teyla down to sit on his lap.
Silence reigned in the room while the capacitor rapidly charged. They could all hear the reality engine straining and pulsing as it contained rather than released the load.
“It should be any second now,” Rodney announced.
“I love you John,” Teyla brought Sheppard’s gaze to her own, pulling him down and kissing him with the edge of desperation.
“I love you back,” John returned the sentiment and the kiss.
There was a huge flash of white light ... the reality engine screamed as it attempted to contain and direct the load. Invisible and deadly radiation scorched out from the engine rapidly traversing the room, despite the heavy doors designed to contain it.
When the engine stopped screaming the room returned to its previous state ... with grim exceptions.
Four lifeless bodies lay stretched out on the floor, close enough to cry out ‘team’ to anyone who would chance upon them. The surge of energy did its own damage too, affecting shields, sublight engines ... and the automatic beacon Rodney had set up to warn other teams away. Main power was offline, life support - now unnecessary, running off emergency power.
All was quiet and dark for days and months until the ship appeared above another Atlantis ... and another team was lured inside.
I actually created a spreadsheet to simulate the time in each reality so I could work out how many realities they’d go through in a week. That included programming in when each person was sleeping. Too much effort I know but I thought at least someone would wonder how accurate I tried to make this aspect of the story! Just so you know? VERY accurate! I decided on two hourly jumps then halved to one hourly jumps because you can work out from the episode that they did two jumps in two hours.
I know Rodney ‘suggested’ without actually saying it that the alternative team Sheppard died of starvation but their positions together just lying on the floor make that implausible – unless the writers would have us believe the team was hit with a mass attack of fatal hunger at exactly the same moment, or even more ridiculous that they just let their dead team mates lie on the floor as each of them continued to starve. I like my way better – not that I like killing off a version of Sheppard but we all knew that was locked in from the start (despite my brief thoughts of doing something like storing their consciousness inside the system and somehow restoring them to their perfectly preserved bodies when the ship hit their reality again).
Oh and for those who noticed this, in the alternate reality this team comes from Rodney doesn't have hypoglycaemia ... because I said so! It would have been no fun to kill him in the first day! And the Katie referenced at the beginning is Katie Brown who still lives on Atlantis in that reality. And of course John and Teyla were married and Torren was their biological son. I’ve never tried a Sheyla fic before and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do something small.