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Link To Me

by KJC

 

11.26.05

 

 

 

He staggered alone through the dunes towards the Stargate, delirious and in pain.  His gun hung loosely from the crook of his arm, but he was not even aware that he still held it.  His only focus was on the solid circle in front of him.

 

It was too far away.  He tripped, sprawling over his own feet and coming down hard.  He did not get up.

 

* * *

 

Feros and his caravan found the man half dead in front of the circle of light.  His clothing was strange.  They almost did not see him because his clothing was the color of the sand, and appeared to be made to blend in with the desert.  His black hair and the black object that lay at his side stood out in the starkness of the desert sands.

 

At their approach, the man did not move, and upon further inspection, Feros saw that he was gravely injured.  Blood covered the right side of his face, and it looked as though he had been severely beaten.

 

“We must bring him back with us,” Feros told his men.  They left their offering at the circle of light, and took the man back to their village.

 

The man came to once during the journey back, his eyes unfocused and confused.

 

“What’s going on?” he asked.

 

“You have been injured,” Feros told him gently.  “We are taking you to our village to get help.  What is your name?”

 

The man didn’t seem to understand what was going on.  “What?”

 

“What is your name?” Feros repeated.  “I am Feros of Talnom.”

 

“Sheppard,” the man murmured, before letting his head drop back and his eyes close.  “Major . . . John Sheppard . . . U.S. Air Force.”

 

* * *

 

They had been ambushed.  Almost as soon as they had set foot in the small village five kilometers from the Stargate, someone had jumped them using ancient wraith weapons to take them out without a fight.

 

Sheppard, McKay, Ford, and Teyla had all been placed in a hot, dark cell and stripped of their equipment.  Their captors appeared to be humans who wanted something from them, but what exactly they wanted wasn’t apparent to either Sheppard or his teammates.

 

“Who are you?” Sheppard demanded when their leader finally came down to their cell.

 

“I am Deren,” the man replied, “and that is all you shall know of me.  I want to know more of you.”

 

He took them, one by one, starting with Teyla and ending with Sheppard, using varying degrees of pressure to get answers from them.  He seemed to enjoy Sheppard’s resistance the most.

 

“None of you have told me what I want to know yet,” Deren had said, walking around the Major who was standing between two poles, arms outstretched and lashed firmly to the poles.  “I did not persist as much with your friends because I knew as their leader, you would be stronger.”

 

“What do you want from us?” Sheppard demanded.

 

Deren took a stick of wood from a table at the end of the room and struck the Major in the side of the head, snapping his head around so hard that Sheppard blacked out for a few seconds.  Reeling from the pain, he staggered, only his bonds holding him up.

 

“Why are you here?”

 

Sheppard tried to collect his thoughts.  “We . . . we’re explorers.”

 

“Did the wraith send you?”

 

“No!”

 

Deren struck him again, and this time, Sheppard felt blood begin to cascade down the side of his face.  “Lies!  They know our offerings have been inadequate.  I told everyone we should give more, but they didn’t listen to me.  They think we will starve if we give more, but what is starving if it means we can revel in the life they give us?  Where is your world?  Do they know where it is?  Did they take you from it to work for them?  Never before has someone other than the wraith come through the circle of light.  You must work for them if you can travel through the circle.”

 

“Why are you doing this if you think I work for the wraith?” Sheppard indicated towards his bonds.

 

Deren looked at him curiously.  “It is their way.  We follow their example.  It is the right thing to do.”

 

“Wow.  You are one big whack job,” Sheppard muttered.  He didn’t bother to add the translation that this guy was totally nuts.

 

Although Sheppard knew Deren would not understand his choice of words, he also knew the man would understand what Sheppard was implying.  Deren used the stick once more, but this time, the blackness came in long enough for Sheppard to evade his questions.

 

* * *

 

“He has been badly injured.  It is surprising he lasted as long as he did in the desert.”

 

“Will he live?”

 

“Yes.  He will not be going anywhere, though.”

 

Sheppard blinked, trying to figure out where he was.  There were two voices speaking above him, and he appeared to be lying on a low cot.  He made out the features of what appeared to be a sandy colored tent above him, and he turned his head toward the voices.  A man and a woman sat next to him.  The woman held a rag and a shallow bowl of water in her lap.  She turned towards him at his movement and smiled.

 

“You are finally awake!”  She dipped the rag in the bowl and smoothed it over his forehead.  It felt cool against his hot skin.  “I was beginning to worry.  It has been two days, and your fever has not yet broken.”

 

Confused, Sheppard tried to remember what had happened, then tried to sit up.  “My team!  I have to get back to them!”

 

“No.”  The man pushed him back with ease.  “You will not get very far.  Do not worry about your friends.  I am sure they are in good hands.”

 

“No,” Sheppard moaned, feeling a sharp pain in his side that took his breath away.  “No.  They’re not.”

 

* * *

 

Sheppard had come to back inside the cell with his teammates gathered around him, concerned looks on their features.

 

“Did I miss anything?” Sheppard asked, attempting a grin.

 

“Major, I think you have a very bad concussion,” McKay said.

 

“Yeah, I kind of guessed that.”  Sheppard tried to sit up, but a stabbing headache shot through him, penetrating down to the depths of his body.  He held back a cry, but a stifled groan sounded from his throat.

 

“No, I mean really bad,” McKay said.  “I think you might have a skull fracture.”

 

“My brains aren’t coming out, are they?” Sheppard asked in mock horror.

 

“This isn’t funny, sir,” Ford said.  “We need to get you back to Atlantis.”

 

“Are you guys okay?” Sheppard asked.

 

“We are fine,” Teyla answered.  “It appears you are the only one that has been injured.”

 

“Yeah, what’d you say that got him so mad?” McKay piped up.  “He’s been storming around down here shouting all sorts of obscenities at us, but he won’t tell us what he’s so mad about.”

 

“I honestly have no idea.  All I know is this guy is totally off his rocker.  I don’t think he has a logical thought in his body.”  Sheppard winced, trying to stand.  “I think I have a few broken ribs, too,” he gasped, as he managed to pull himself to his feet.

 

“What are we going to do?” McKay began to pace, a frantic look in his features.

 

“Well, this guy isn’t keeping any guards around,” Ford pointed out.

 

Sheppard leaned against the bars of the cell they occupied, assessing their situation.  The cell appeared to be a primitive form of an old western movie’s version of prisons, with the corners of the room surrounded in a mesh of heavy metal bars.  The metal appeared to be rusty in some places, and a few of the bars were heavily coated with rust.

 

“Ford,” Sheppard motioned towards the Lieutenant and made his way over to one of the rusted bars.  “Let’s see if we can get this thing off of here.”

 

Sheppard and Ford worked at the metal bar with the help of Teyla and McKay, and soon had a long, three foot portion worked free of the other bars.  There was just enough room for them all to squeeze out.

 

“Now what?” McKay asked.

 

“Somebody else think about what to do,” Sheppard groaned.  “I can’t think anymore.  We need to find our weapons.”

 

“Right.”  McKay snapped his fingers then looked around.  “This might sound really stupid, but I think he put them in that room over there.”  He pointed to an open doorway.  “Actually, it doesn’t sound stupid that I know where our stuff is, but it sure makes this guy sound stupid.”

 

Their gear was thrown in a corner of the adjacent room, and it appeared nothing had been taken.  They proceeded to pocket their equipment.

 

“You know, McKay,” Sheppard said as he strapped his gun belt around his waist, “you’re right.  Either this guy is really stupid, or we’re playing right into his hands.”

 

“Indeed.  This is too easy,” Teyla agreed.  She looked around the room, then spotted a small window.  Carefully peering out, she motioned for silence from her comrades, then whispered, “There is a guard stationed a short distance from this window.  If we are quiet, we may be able to slip past him.”

 

“Are you going to be all right, Major?” Ford asked.

 

“Fine,” Sheppard lied, straightening up to hide the pain.  “Don’t worry about me until we get back.  I’ll be fine.  Let’s move.”

 

* * *

 

Feros and Tiana knew the man who called himself Sheppard had injuries deep inside of him.  Blood came from his ears and the fever would not leave him.  He never seemed to be fully awake, and would thrash and moan in delirium.  Tiana knew with head injuries the man must be kept awake so he would not slip into the deep eternal sleep, but it was difficult to keep him conscious.

 

At one point, Sheppard pressed a small black device into Feros’ hand, and told him in a shaky voice that he needed to send a message through something called the Stargate.  He wanted the message to go to coordinates that Feros knew the wraith would not approve of, but he built up his courage and went to the circle of light that the man had named “Stargate.”

 

A woman’s voice spoke to him after he opened the Stargate and performed the ritual Sheppard had instructed him to do on the black device.

 

Major Sheppard?”

 

Feros held back his fear at this unknown experience.  “Um, hello?  I am Feros of Talnom.  Major Sheppard could not come and asked me to send a . . . a message through the circle of light.”

 

“Where is Major Sheppard?”

 

“He . . . he has been badly injured.  He could not come.  He told me to tell you that he needs re-reinforcements.  His team has been captured.”  Feros felt as though he should inform the voice of just how dire the man called Sheppard’s situation was.  He had no desire to see the man die.  “Please.  Sheppard is very ill.  If you can help him, I would be grateful.”

 

“Feros, my name is Dr. Elizabeth Weir.  I’m from a place called Atlantis.  I’m going to send some people through the Stargate to help Major Sheppard.  Can you wait there for us?”

 

Feros nodded vehemently.

 

“Feros?  Hello?  Did you hear me?”

 

Feros realized the voice could not see him, so he touched the com button and replied, “Yes, I can wait for you.”

 

Half an hour later, the circle of light reopened, and a box came through, rolling onto the sand.  It appeared to be alive, and a small head on a long neck rotated to look at Feros, and then survey its surroundings.  A few minutes later, a group of men came through behind it, holding weapons not unlike Sheppard’s.  At the head of the group, a woman dressed in grey and red clothing approached Feros and extended her hand in greeting.  The look on her face was grim.

 

“You are Feros?” she asked.

 

He nodded wordlessly.

 

“I’m Dr. Weir.  Where is Major Sheppard?”

 

“He is in my village.  It is a few distances east of here,” Feros pointed towards the horizon.

 

The woman nodded to her people.  “Let’s move.”

 

* * *

 

They made it safely out of Deren’s complex of buildings outside of the village, but their flight did not go long discovered.  The open desert was not kind to the Atlantis team, even under the cover of night.  They were easily followed.

 

Ford was the one who took charge then.

 

“Major, we’re going to cover your back.  You and Doctor McKay get out of here as fast as you can and get back to the gate.  Can you do that?”

 

Sheppard shook his head, pressing an arm against his side in an effort to stifle the pain in his chest.  “I can’t leave you and I’m not going to.”

 

“I’m not going to take any orders from you, sir, so don’t even try,” Ford argued.  “You are in no condition to fight with us.  We would have a better chance of rescue if we gave you the cover you need to get back to Atlantis and come back with reinforcements.  You’re injured.  There’s no way you’re going to last if we have to fight and we are recaptured.  With you and McKay going for the gate, there’s a better chance of our rescue.”  He looked up nervously at the sound of angry shouts behind the darkened dunes surrounding them.  “Go.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be fine.”  McKay wordlessly shoved Sheppard’s gun into his hands and gave him a slight push for emphasis.

 

“We’ll distract them long enough for you to get out of here.”  Ford turned away, his gun raised.

 

“We will be fine,” Teyla agreed.  Her eyes pleaded with the Major to listen to the young lieutenant’s words.

 

Sheppard began to back off with McKay, but a beam of energy came from over the dunes, hitting the doctor full in the chest.  The man dropped without a sound, and Sheppard cursed.

 

“They’re using wraith weapons!” he exclaimed.

 

“You’re going to have to go alone, Major!” Ford shouted, aiming his gun in the direction of the blast.  “Go now!  Before it’s too late!”

 

Slowly, Sheppard backed off, then turned, and with a halting limp, disappeared into the night.

 

At times throughout the night, he thought he heard sounds of pursuit.  He dove to the sand and lay still until he was sure it was just his imagination, then he would wearily press on, the pain in his head and side seeming to increase with every moment he was conscious.  Several times, he realized he must have momentarily lost consciousness, finding himself in areas of the desert he did not remember coming to, and then confused, having to retrace his steps to find his way back to the Stargate.

 

It was a long night, but the next day was even longer.  He felt as though he was a dead man barely walking on his own two feet.  Fighting to stay conscious was even worse than feeling the scorching heat of the sun above and the dryness of his dehydrated body.  He had no water, for they had not thought to find any before their hasty flight.

 

It was a long day indeed, and he never remembered if he made it to the gate.

 

* * *

 

Dr. Elizabeth Weir rarely left Atlantis.  This, however, she made an exception for.  Her chief security officer was apparently gravely injured, his team missing, and she wanted to know what had happened.  Well, it was something a bit more than that, actually.  She knew it, but she pushed the thought of dread and fear for Sheppard’s life out of her mind.  She had to look professional in front of her people.

 

The one called Feros drew back a flap in the tent in front of them and motioned her inside.  She bent to enter and saw a small cot on the floor.  A woman sat next to the man lying on the makeshift bed.

 

Major Sheppard!” Weir started forward and knelt next to the woman, catching the man’s hand in hers.  His hand was limp and hot in hers, and he stirred at the sound of her voice, eyes fluttering open to gaze feverishly around him.

 

John,” Weir said, gripping his hand a little harder.  John, can you hear me?”

 

He looked at her then, his brow furrowing in an attempt to remember.  Dr. Weir?”

 

Yes, John.  It’s me.”  She looked at him, traces of worry beginning to cross her face.  The right side of his head was covered with blood, and his hair was matted and caked with drying blood.  It appeared that these people had not cleaned his wounds.  She felt his forehead in an untouched area.  “You’re burning up, John.  We need to get you out of here.”

 

“No,” he thrashed a bit in protest.  “No.  I can’t . . . my team.  My team’s out there.  I have to . . .”

 

John, please,” Weir pulled his hand closer to her, trying to give him a sense of reassurance.  “I have two other teams with me.  We’re going to rescue them.  It’s out of your hands now, okay?  Just let us do our work.  We’ll find them.  Don’t worry.”

 

She left his side and exited the tent.  “Captain,” she addressed the young man who had accompanied her, “get some of your men and take Major Sheppard back to Atlantis.  He looks pretty bad.”  She turned to Feros who had silently stood outside of the tent.  “How have you been treating him for his wounds?”

 

Feros shook his head.  “With wounds such as his we do nothing.  It would be a waste.  We gave him water and tried to bring out the heat within his body, but it has resisted us.”

 

Weir shook her head.  “Did you try to cool him down?”

 

Feros looked at her in puzzlement.

 

“I guess not.”  Weir tried to remember that this was a primitive civilization.  “You bring a fever down by cooling a person down and giving them plenty of water.”

 

“He would not drink,” Feros replied.  “We tried to give him water, but he would not drink.  Water is precious in the desert, so we had to preserve his rations.”

 

“It’s okay,” Weir waved her hand.  “We’ll take care of him now.  I need you to tell me where the rest of my people are.”

 

Major Sheppard told us that Deren had taken them.”

 

Weir cocked her head.  “Who is Deren?”

 

Feros sighed and shrugged.  “He is a follower of the shadows.”  At Weir’s confused look, he elaborated.  “The shadows have not come in a long time.  We expect them soon, however, perhaps in the next generation.”

 

“The wraith?” Weir questioned.

 

“We know them only as the shadows,” Feros replied.  “They come through the circle of light with nearly every cycle of the moon.  Since Deren is one of the shadow’s fervent followers, he requires us to leave an offering at the circle of light so that the shadows are satisfied and do not come to our village.”

 

“Why do you listen to this man?” Weir asked.

 

Feros shook his head.  “He has weapons that we cannot fight.  They spit blue fire and kill anyone who they touch.  We have also seen the shadows at work.  They come in giant screaming birds through the circle of light and have taken our people.  Those who are taken have never returned.  At times, Deren takes our people to make an example to us and listen to him.  He must have taken your people to make an example of them.”

 

Weir’s eyes hardened.  She had enough information to go on.  “Where is this Deren?”

 

* * *

 

They found Ford, McKay, and Teyla in the basement of an old building nearly covered by the sands of the desert.  In a few more years, the building would likely collapse or succumb to the sands that tormented it year after year.

 

Deren and his men did not put up much of a fight, and fled the area at the sight of the heavily armed men and women coming towards them.

 

The Atlantians were in sorry shape, but a little better off than Major Sheppard.  All were severely dehydrated and complaining of hunger.  Ford filled Dr. Weir in on their way back to the Stargate, helped by a fellow soldier as he limped painfully on a twisted ankle.

 

“We tried to hold them off as long as we could so Major Sheppard could get back to the Stargate and get backup,” he said.  “They outgunned us three to one, however, and we surrendered.  We told them that Major Sheppard had gone to another village to the west to get help, trying to send them in a direction away from the Stargate.  I guess it kind of brought him time.  They were pretty mad at us, but they didn’t really do anything except throw us back in that hole and ignore us.  We haven’t had any food or water for over two days.  I think they just were waiting for us to die down there.”

 

“Yes, what took you so long, if I may ask?” McKay demanded.  Major Sheppard had plenty of time to get to the Stargate.  Did it take you that long to find us?”

 

Major Sheppard never made it to the Stargate,” Weir replied.

 

All three of the Major’s team members started at her words, looks of horror flickering on their faces.

 

“Where is he?” Teyla demanded.

 

“Some of the villagers nearby here found him lying unconscious out in the desert,” Weir answered.  “He has a major concussion and was a bit out of it for a few days.  One of the villagers contacted us, and that’s how we found out about your situation.  We knew something was wrong when you didn’t radio back to Atlantis on schedule, but when we sent the MALP through, a severe sandstorm was going through the area and we couldn’t send anyone after you.  We tried several times, but the storm lasted nearly the entire time you were being held captive.”

 

They had neared the Stargate by now, and the rest of the group from Atlantis was waiting for them, the wormhole active.

 

“We sent Major Sheppard through,” the Captain called to Weir.

 

“Good,” Weir nodded.  “Let’s go home people.”

 

“And get some food!” McKay exclaimed.

 

* * *

 

Nearly a week passed before Major Sheppard was awake enough to talk coherently to his team.  Dr. Beckett stated that the Major did indeed suffer from a skull fracture, and he needed to stay as still as possible in order for it to heal properly.  The rest of the team suffered from severe dehydration and minor cuts and bruises from their recapture, and all were ordered to their quarters for a week to rest and recuperate from their ordeal.

 

Sheppard was still slightly groggy from the drugs in his system, but insisted on talking to his team.

 

“You’re kidding,” Weir heard him say as she walked in on the Major and his team.  “I never would have thought . . .”  He trailed off as he saw Weir.  “Hey, thanks for coming after us,” he said.  “It doesn’t sound like we would have lasted much longer if it hadn’t been for you.”

 

“Actually, Major, I think your survival was due to your persistence,” she replied, smiling.  “We would have never found you if you hadn’t sent one of the villagers to the gate to let us know what was going on.”

 

“What?” Sheppard looked confused.  “I don’t really remember that.”  He paused, thinking.  “In fact, I really don’t remember much after we split up,” he motioned to his team.

 

“One of the villagers sent us a message telling us what had happened,” Weir explained.  “I’m guessing you told him what to do.”

 

Sheppard shook his head.  “I honestly can’t remember that.”

 

Dr. Beckett pushed through to Sheppard’s bedside and waved his arms, shooing McKay, Teyla, Ford, and Weir out of the room.  “All right!  All right!” he exclaimed.  “Everybody out of here!  Major Sheppard needs to rest.  He’ll be back on his feet a lot faster if you stop talking and start working at getting him to stay in this bed.”

 

“Let’s go, people,” Weir gently pushed Sheppard’s team out ahead of her.  “We all need to get some rest.”