by Domenika Marzione

"The simple fact of it, Colonel, is that you can only get one of us out of here at speed," Rodney said, talking quickly even by his own standards because if he slowed, if he paused, then he'd realize just what he was doing. "The Genii want me alive and there's at least one of them that wants Teyla dead."

"I'm not sacrificing you to--" Sheppard began, but Rodney cut him off.

"If we wait for an opening, they'll get everything they want," he said, forcing himself to look at Sheppard. The look he got back was one of the sort of determined fury that he imagined Sheppard had worn the entire time the Genii had been in Atlantis. "It's not exactly Sophie's Choice here. More like Hobson's."

He looked over at Teyla, lying small and pathetic in Ronon's arms. Barely conscious, brow furrowed in either concentration or pain or both, she trembled and Ronon's arms around her tightened even as he tilted awkwardly to keep his own blood from running into hers. Rodney ignored his own pain, Sheppard's field dressing making the wound nothing more than a sharp throb when he stood still. Walking -- running -- was another matter. The throb became a dagger, slicing up and down his leg, making his knee unresponsive and he cried out involuntarily with each footfall. Even leaning on Sheppard, who was more than half-carrying him, he was too slow. And they all knew it.

"I know you don't leave people behind," Rodney went on after taking a deep breath and closing his eyes. "I know what I'm asking you to do. But if you don't get Teyla back to Atlantis now, she'll die and then we'll still get caught because I'm too slow and then they'll kill you and probably Ronon and I don't want anyone else's death on my hands because I couldn't make the decision on my own."

Sheppard's anger faded for a moment, melting into something close to recognition and maybe even understanding, before returning with a vengeance. "This isn't about Gaul, Rodney."

"It's not," he insisted. "Okay, maybe it is a little, but for god's sake, Colonel, you know I'm right." He licked his dry lips. "Look, you know they want our weapons and our technology and I'm sure if I talk atomic physics at them for a bit, they'll hold off on shooting me until you show up with the rescue. You'll rescue me, right?"

"I'm not ready to let you need rescuing!"

Teyla made noise then, a quiet gasp made all the more terrifying by the accompanying wet gurgle.

"Sheppard," Ronon warned.

"Fine," Sheppard replied, defeated and defiant both. He started opening up pockets of his tactical vest, pulling out various items and replacing them before finally coming up with a tiny device the size of a nickel. He dropped to one knee, reaching out and undoing the knot on the field dressing.

"Stand still," he ordered harshly when Rodney flinched involuntarily at the pain. The device was a tracker, a beacon. And Sheppard was going to bury it next to his thigh bone. Rodney fought back vomit as Sheppard's fingers pressed and pushed at flesh and muscle and he swayed at the feeling of metal and plastic grinding against bone.

"Don't let them look here," Sheppard warned, redressing the wound tightly with the remainder of his already-depleted medical kit. His words dripped fury, but his hands were as gentle as they could be under the circumstances. "Get everything else treated if you can, but not this."

The first thing Rodney did was not show panic when he saw the laughably inadequate shielding on the generator. He was panicking -- in the hyperventilating, oh-my-god-didn't-you-see-the-end-of-Star Trek-2? way -- but, for the first time in what felt like forever, or at least the last time the Genii had him prisoner, he kept it to himself. One day of this wouldn't kill him. Five days of this wouldn't kill him. It would have him getting cancer screenings six times a year once he got back home, but it wouldn't kill him. However, it would, eventually, kill everyone around him. And maybe he'd been in the Pegasus galaxy for too long or maybe he had just finally spent too much time with people like Sheppard and Ronon, but that prospect was increasingly not bothering him. At all.

Rodney hadn't spent almost two decades in academia without learning how to play the game. He chose not to play it, seeing it as a waste of time better spent elsewhere. But he knew the rules and, like everything else that followed a pattern, he was very, very good at it when he bothered to pay attention.

Browbeating colleagues and breaking down challengers and twisting the words of those who would question was not a challenge in the closed, vicious, back-stabbing world of Earth's academic universe. Here it was not even enjoyable because it was too easy. It was like lying to children -- it was lying to children, at least intellectually -- and it was only a couple of hours before he had the brightest minds the Genii had to offer completely turned around on everything from basic atomic structure and electromagnetism to the nature of Ancient technology.

What made it easy was that the Genii were, in fact, more foragers than creators. They were like the Goa'uld -- appropriating from others more than coming up with ideas themselves. As a consequence, they didn't always know the how and the why of what they had. And Rodney, an expert at finding just that chink in an opponent's armor, exploited it ruthlessly.

Couched in terms no less ridiculous than Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, Rodney lectured on the history of science, conveniently changing topics before getting to the point of the story where error gave way to truth. He built them a world where Kepler's harmonies of the world were real, Hobbes and Wallis squared the circle, and vision worked by extromission. He veered their calculus into a death spiral that would have them fighting tooth and nail for at least a decade before they got back to Isaac Barrow, forget about Isaac Newton. He left them all of the challenges of Euclid's fifth postulate without giving them any hint that Lobachevsky and Bolyai would throw it over for hyperbolic geometry. He sabotaged their cosmology, their astronomy, their faith in their ability to count past "one, two, many".

He was ruthless and brilliant and, in rare moments, he wished that there was someone there who understood just how brilliant. And then his thigh barked and the tracker shifted against bone and he shivered and remembered that he really, really didn't want anyone else there just now. Not until it was Sheppard and a whole lot of Marines carrying rifles.

When Sheppard did show up, it was with a whole lot of Marines and and great show of force and Rodney heard their approach long before the heavy metal door swung open. It sounded like the audio track of Terminator, the part with the siege of the police station, complete with explosions and screams and the rat-tat-tat of old school pistols (because that's what the Genii had) up against far superior weaponry. The noise drew closer, the screams got louder, and the barked orders of a commander under siege could be heard if you listened closely enough.

Rodney listened.

He also worked. Five armed guards kept watch over him and the four assistants he'd kept -- he'd banished the fifth, a beautiful young blonde with pale skin and sad eyes and not nearly enough insight to be any advantage to the Genii nuclear program; he'd sent her weeping from his sight, publicly belittling her intelligence and privately wishing her a long, healthy life. He barked orders, rewired components, and used sheer force of will and personality to assure that these four prodigies did what he said and not what they had previously thought to be correct and in fact still was.

It took balls of brass to insult a trained engineer -- even by the Genii standards -- into believing that no, he didn't just cross his wires. Especially under the gaze of five twitchy soldiers who weren't sure if they were supposed to kill him before he could escape or be rescued. That he'd done this sort of thing before in this galaxy -- more than once -- didn't make it easier or harder, but it did make the repertoire stronger.

The doors of this level were all closed as a matter of course and Rodney could hear the Marines clearing each room, their voices in the hallways getting closer, the clatter and crash of destruction growing louder. There were fewer screams and more gunfire and the sounds of explosive chemicals being set afire near other human beings.

The door to the lab he was in banged and rattled, but ultimately held when the Marines got to it. Four of the guards took their position and one of them kept his back to them and his rifle on Rodney.

The door was cast iron, bolts as big as his fists, at least three locks that he could see and if it stood up to the battering ram, it didn't hold against explosives. The guards didn't stand against a P-90 set on automatic and then the lab was full of Marines in battle armor, Lieutenant Gillick coming through after the all-clear is given, followed shortly after by Yoni Safir and Sheppard himself.

The four assistants were herded into the hallway. One of them must have made a move. There's one cry and three screams and then nothing. Rodney didn't even wonder which ones it was.

"You okay, McKay?" Sheppard asked, standing back so that Safir could work unencumbered. "Take your time, Doc. We got a minute if you need it."

In the cold, fluorescent light of the medical suites in Atlantis, Safir was usually brusque and unsympathetic and impatient and mean. In a dim, foul-smelling lab, he was brusque and unsympathetic and impatient and possessed of the nimblest fingers this side of Vladimir Horowitz. At his orders, two Marines cleared off a table and unfolded a stretcher and Rodney was on his back with an IV taped in place and his thigh examined before he could even register that Sheppard was still waiting for an answer.

"I'm fine," he said, because it took too much energy to explain all the ways that he wasn't. He'd put everything he had into keeping himself together long enough to be rescued and now he didn't have to do it anymore and all he wanted to do was sleep.

"Torch this place," Sheppard ordered. "Nothing intact."

"No!" Rodney cried out, it coming out more like a petulant whine than he'd have liked with Safir still standing over him. "I spent the last nineteen hours sabotaging everything they have. Let them rebuild from this. They'll destroy themselves and won't know why."

Sheppard gave him a look, one Rodney tried to remember to save for later because it was complicated and rare, but nodded. "Gillick, start the exfil. Patterson and Velendez, you keep an eye on the stretcher and the Doc. We got what we came for, so let's get out of here."

feed me on LJ?

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