It was supposed to have been a milk run. Go over, investigate the energy source, come back later and try to harvest it.
It was supposed to be such a milk run that they had dropped Ronon and Teyla off at the Gate on their way.
In retrospect, that had been at the top of the list of Very Bad Ideas.
John was up front, hovering the Jumper while Rodney stood in the open hatch, scanning. They'd debated even doing this now that the Daedalus made regular runs, but Rodney had pointed out that they shouldn't let themselves become too dependent upon Earth.
John had stared at him before grinning. "Rodney McKay, strategist."
"Oh, shut it." But Rodney had grinned a well and gone back as John had lowered the hatch.
Now, as Rodney scanned, John studied the HUD. He frowned. "Rodney?"
"I see it." Rodney took a step backwards. "Geez, it's big!"
"Hang on!" And that was all the warning they had before the oversized bird/pterodactyl hybrid slammed into the Jumper.
There was a gasp as Rodney was knocked from his feet. The creature came around for a second blow, and Rodney didn't make a sound as he was thrown out of the open hatch.
"NO!" John screeched. He tried to spin the Jumper around to get to Rodney. He tried to evade the creature.
He failed spectacularly. The creature slammed into the Jumper a third time.
With the scream of tortured metal and overstressed electronics, the Jumper slammed into the ground.
As the darkness parted to sensation, he became aware of the pain. His head rang like a gong. His left arm and back felt like they'd been crushed, and his legs throbbed.
Sitting up slowly, he tested his extremities. Despite how they felt, his arms and legs were unbroken. His back hurt, but it seemed it was wrenched instead of badly injured.
He frowned around him, seeing lush vegetation flattened into an impression of his body. It was plain to see that his fall had been cushioned. But his head hurt like a son of a bitch and his thoughts were strangely sluggish.
He gained his feet and frowned deeply as the world tilted and rolled around him. He felt his lips move in reaction to it.
His hand flew to his throat. He felt his voicebox vibrate under his fingers.
But he heard only silence.
A flash of something caught his attention and he spun, drawing his sidearm.
And he stood there dumbstruck as he witnessed the pterodactyl creature dive after the wreckage of a silver box.
Oh, shit, he thought. The Jumper John!
He took a step and his toes impacted something hard. His jaw set as he bent down nearly falling over from dizziness and picked up his fallen P-90.
Then he wove unsteadily toward the wreck.
He figured it was a minor miracle that he hadn't been injured in the crash. He watched the creature trying to get in for a long few moments.
At last, he grabbed his P-90 and raced to the open rear hatch. The creature hadn't realised it had a way in through the rear, and he took advantage of that.
He opened up, spraying the creature with a hail of bullets. Moments later, a second spray of bullets came from behind. The creature's head disintegrated and its body fell beside the Jumper.
"Rodney!" he yelled, racing toward his friend.
Rodney looked like hell warmed over. He was dirty and his clothing was torn. He was limping and clearly reluctant to use his left arm. Blood poured down one side of his face. He was swaying and his eyes looked strange hyperalert.
"Rodney?" he asked, moving closer. "Rodney, what--"
Rodney held up his right hand, letting the P-90 dangle. "Don't," he said, his voice unusually eerily soft. "Don't... just don't say anything. You're wasting your breath." He lowered his hand and took a ragged breath. "I can't.... I c-can't...." His eyes squeezed shut, then opened again.
"I'm deaf, John."
Then John grabbed him as his shaking knees finally gave out.
John made Rodney comfortable on the Jumper's bench. Rodney was semi-conscious and trembling. Shock? John thought. Hypoglycemia? Fright?
He lay a blanket over Rodney, then grabbed a medkit from its bay and pricked Rodney's finger with the lancet inside.
"Ow! ...the hell??"
Lacking the ability to use words to soothe, John ran the backs of three fingers down Rodney's cheek. Startled, Rodney looked up and John held up the glucose monitor in explanation of the sudden stick.
Rodney nodded slowly. "What's it.... say?"
John frowned at it, then held up eight fingers. Then he lowered three. He reached over Rodney's head and brought down a field pack. Digging into it, he managed to produce a peanut butter powerbar.
Rodney made a sound halfway between a groan and a chuckle, but he ate it all, washing it down with water from John's canteen. He noticed the looks John was throwing the controls. "Give me a few... and I'll look at it. Okay?"
John nodded and sat by him. He pointed at him, then made the "okay" sign, eyebrows arched in a question.
Slowly, Rodney shook his head. "Head...left arm... took the worst of it. Back and legs...sore, but my head...."
Using that expressive face and eyes to ask permission and getting a nod John reached and manually examined Rodney's head. He felt no fractures, but Rodney's pupils were definitely uneven and there was a pronounced lump behind his left ear.
"Ow," was all Rodney said when John touched it, but the flinch spoke volumes. "Concussed?" he asked as John lowered his hand.
John shrugged, see-sawing his hand from side to side.
"Probably why...can't hear." Rodney put his right hand on John's knee and used it to lever himself to his feet with a pained groan.
Instantly, John was on his feet beside him.
"Let me see....Jumper."
John nodded, but stayed close enough to support him physically if need be.
It wasn't good news. The crash had damaged the drive pods and "a few other systems," Rodney had slurred.
John wrote on a tablet, Fixable?
"Yeah on Atlantis. Here..." He sighed and slumped against the wall. "I can rig...maybe... communications to broadcast a-a signal...." He shook his head, eyes closing. He felt himself begin to tilt, and hands were suddenly on his shoulders, turning his tilt into a controlled lay-down on the bench. "But I can't.... I can't th-think clearly enough to... to calculate... the fr-frequencies...."
Just before Rodney slid to sleep, he felt John pet his knee and draw an emergency blanket over him.
Rodney woke dizzy and nauseous. He moved slightly and felt his fingers impact a powerbar. Sitting up carefully -- and mentally commanding his stomach to behave itself, dammit he ate it and drank from the canteen beside him.
Light caught his eye, and Rodney carefully turned his head. He frowned at the lit tablet and reached over to turn it off. Too bright....
But Rodney's movement was arrested as he realised just what he was looking at. He ran a thumb across the screen as his eyes went huge. "....John....." he breathed in wonder.
He was looking at the required frequency calculations. At logarithms for increasing the strength of the signal. At algorithms for expanding it into three or four more bandwidths. At base-two code for masking the signal from everyone but the Lanteans.
Rodney felt tears spring unexpectedly to his eyes from the sheer, clean, beautiful poetry that sang from the math.
"....wasted in the military," he breathed as he knelt by the panel and reached out with trembling hands only to find the panel already off and the connections made. A light on the panel was doggedly blinking.
Three quick blinks. Three slower ones. Three quick ones. A pause. Then the sequence repeating.
S-O-S. S-O-S. S-O-S.
"Definitely wasted in the military," Rodney breathed, eyes huge as he studied the cobbled together crystal bridges. "He did it all right, too...."
He raised his eyes and glanced out the window. And there was John standing outside the Jumper, a hand raised to the radio in his ear.
Rodney's heart leapt into his throat. If John was talking to someone then rescue was on the way! He tapped his own radio twice. He couldn't hear the chirp of it, but he knew John could, and this would alert John he was awake.
Sure enough, John turned to face the Jumper. He broke into a huge grin and shot a thumbs-up at the window.
Rodney felt a slightly drunken grin split his own face as he returned the simple sign.
John came back into the Jumper and frowned, pointing at his own ear. Rodney shook his head. John touched his radio and spoke. Rodney could make out "No...Carson....be okay? Good."
"Talking to Carson?" At John's startled look, he shrugged. "Can make out a few words...." He gestured to his own mouth. "Learning to read lips a little."
John picked up the tablet and brought up a clean file. Yeah, Carson and Lorne are en route with Teyla and Ronon. ETA 5 min.
Nodding, Rodney asked, "You did save those equations, didn't you?" John shot him a startled look, and Rodney explained, "I think I can adapt a couple to Atlantis's main communications arrays." He breathed a sigh of relief as John minimised his message and saved the precious, beautiful things. Then he noticed the look on John's face. "What?"
A slow shrug was John's reply. His lips were thinned and he wouldn't meet Rodney's eyes.
Rodney rolled his eyes and lost his temper. "Oh, for heaven's sakes! John, I know you're nearly a genius hell, when it comes to math, you practically are one! So today the job required you to come out of this intellectual closet you've built around yourself! So what? It's just us and you know all you have to do is ask and I'll take all the credit!"
John's eyes widened and locked onto Rodney's. Forgetting Rodney couldn't hear him, he asked, "Really?"
"Really. That's what friends do they keep each other's secrets." At John's wavering, painfully grateful smile, Rodney added, "And I still say you're wasted in the military!"
Sure enough, Rodney complained all the way home about how hard it had been to do delicate repositioning of crystals and rerouting wires not to mention figuring out the calculations required while suffering a severe concussion and a terribly sprained left arm.
And when nobody could see, John shot Rodney a single look of pure gratitude.
After treatment for his wounds and a lot of rest, Rodney's hearing returned. Then and only then did he present one of the equations to Radek, claiming it was his own and thus keeping John's secret. Together they began work on the communications improvements.
As for the rest of the equations? Rodney ran off hard copies and put them into a small, locked safe under his bed. The safe also held pictures of Jeannie's family, a small feline collar, a child's drawing of him with "Unkal Rodne" written on it, a small Satedan-made knife, an Athosian-made necklace, a bottle of completely illegal home-brewed moonshine, and a box of fishing lures.
Mementos of his closest friends that had become family. He had searched long and hard for that elusive something to represent John. He drew his fingertips once more over the precise, beautiful poetry of the math.
These were perfect.
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