Genre: Gen, humour, adventure
Pairings: None! Teamy goodness
Spoilers: General for season 5
Summary: Trapped on another planet after activating some Ancient technology,Sheppard’s team have to think beyond guns and science in order to escape.
Notes: 6000 words. Huge thanks to my beta, who knows who she is and gave me more than one solution!
As early as a few weeks into the job Mr. Richard Woolsey needed no explanation as to why Elizabeth Weir hadn't accepted any offers of work when the Expedition had been forced to go back to Earth. Leading Atlantis was the greatest, most gut-wrenching, most incredibly exhilarating challenge he'd ever faced, and he couldn't imagine that anything else he did after would even compare. However there were times he wished he could temporarily let the problems he faced be someone else's problem.
He heartily wished M4D-563 was some else’s problem.
Like M3X-387, where Sheppard’s team had picked up the fear-feeding parasitic entity, its Ancient database entry was completely empty, other than the address. Like M3X-387, there was some debate as to whether there was any point in going. Like M3X-387 initial scans showed nothing of interest. Like M3X-387, Dr McKay’s scientific curiosity that burned with a hunger as voracious as his natural appetite (and possibly another bet with Dr Zelenka) drowned out his fears and made him a strong advocate for visiting.
Unlike M3X-387, it was not Colonel Carter’s decision. It was Woolsey’s.
He decided after much deliberation (and unrelenting persuasion from McKay) to let them go. Six hours later he wholeheartedly regretted that decision.
“Huh,” said McKay as he spied a lone outcrop of rock through the maze of deciduous trees they’d been walking through. “The reading’s coming from over there.”
“Thought you said it was too faint to tell?” grumbled Ronon as they approached the rock.
“It was,” McKay snapped back, “But now we’re closer, it’s stronger.”
They stepped into a small clearing surrounding the rock. The rock was over five meters tall and made of something that looked like granite.
“How much stronger?” Sheppard enquired, always wary of the combination of McKay and an as yet unknown power source.
“Not enough for you to be getting your panties in a twist.” McKay explained with a roll of his eyes, “Stronger: as in ‘we’re virtually on top of it’ so of course it’s stronger. In fact—“ He fiddled with his scanner some more, “It’s here, or more precisely in here.”
Teyla drew close to McKay. “Those are Ancient door controls. But not of the same design as on Atlantis or the other Ancient outposts I have seen.”
“Older version,” McKay commented as he poked at the scanner.
“Is that a guess, or a fact?” Sheppard asked.
“It’s a fact, thank you. The Ancient database says this style of interface was being phased out around the time Atlantis was being built – hence why we have none on Atlantis. Actually it’s odd that there’d anything of this design in Pegasus at all, unless this was set up by a pre-Atlantis scouting team.”
“So what’s in there?” Sheppard asked.
“Those ice cream cone gun things, spare parts for consoles, drones, Puddle Jumpers....” McKay sounded distracted as he reeled off the list.
“Really?” Sheppard sounded enthusiastic.
“Oh sure, and a ZPM and the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.” McKay added.
“I have no idea what’s in there.” McKay finished.
“Then should we really be trying to open it?” Teyla asked, looking over McKay’s shoulder and realizing what he was doing.
“Well, don’t you want to know what’s inside?” McKay asked.
“No.” Ronon replied before being glared at by McKay.
“Can’t say that I do,” Sheppard commented.
Teyla just shrugged.
Now Sheppard shrugged. McKay paused from using the scanner.
“You’re not scared, are you?” McKay mocked.
“No!” Sheppard insisted, “It’s just.. well... we haven’t always had the best luck with what’s lurking behind closed doors.”
“So you are scared!” McKay mocked.
“No! I just don’t want the remainder of a destroyed race trying to kill my team, the Pegasus Asgard kidnapping people, or to get stuck in a time dilation field with a bunch of Ancient-wannabe pansies.”
“Three things which are highly unlikely to happen if I open that door!” McKay argued. “Besides, given the low energy readings and the age of the thing, I don’t really see how it can be that dangerous.”
Sheppard held his gaze for a few moments.
“Okay, fine,” Sheppard acquiesced, “But Woolsey’ll get antsy if we’re here longer than we said we would be and we’ve nearly spent half of that time coming here, so one of us, that is me, will have to go back to the Gate and phone home.”
“Yes, yes,” said McKay with a wave of his hand, clearly having stopped listening after getting permission.
“Don’t do anything stupid now, and keep an eye on McKay.” Sheppard warned before disappearing into the trees.
“And... done!” McKay announced triumphantly as the door slid open a few centimeters. He stuffed his scanner back into a vest pocket and put his shoulder to the door, trying to force it open. “A little help here?” he snapped.
Ronon nudged him out of the way none too gently, and after a few seconds’ strain the door unwillingly slid aside into a recess in the rock.
McKay peered in. There was a long corridor, obviously artificially hewn out of the rock. It was featureless apart from a few lights on a dim setting.
“Okay then,” McKay said, rubbing his hands together in anticipation. “Lights, energy reading, action! You first.”
“Should we not wait for Colonel Sheppard to return?” Teyla asked.
“Why?” McKay responded. “He didn’t want to go in.”
“Nonetheless, we should wait until he returns. He would want to check the place out himself.”
“He could be gone for ages. You know how bad his sense of direction is, and it’s not like he’s going to do much more than wave his gun around and poke his nose into things anyway. You guys can handle it, right?”
“Let’s go then.” Ronon declared before raising his gun and stepping through the doorway.
McKay smiled at Teyla before following Ronon.
“Ronon! Rodney!“ she called after them, before hitting her radio. “Colonel Sheppard, come in please.”
“John, Rodney has opened the door and has gone inside.” Teyla reported.
”What? I told you two to keep an eye on him.” Sheppard replied.
“I could not persuade him to wait, and Ronon went in first.” Teyla sighed.
”Well you’d better go with them.”Sheppard conceded. “I’m on my way back, so I’ll be there soon. Just make sure they don’t do anything else stupid.”
“I will try.” Teyla acknowledged before she broke radio contact. “I will try.”
The passageway soon curved to the left and began to slope downwards. It opened out into a room that reminded Teyla of many of the labs she’d seen on Atlantis, but with that different style of technology that the door controls had been. Ronon was investigating a far corner while McKay once more buried his face in his scanner.
“What have you found?” Teyla asked.
“Oh there you are,” said McKay. “I’m not sure yet, but this equipment really is old. Ancient Ancient, you could say.”
Teyla raised an eyebrow at him.
“That was a joke,” he explained.
Teyla’s eyebrow climbed even higher.
“Never mind. The place is nearly out of power, but it seems—“
“It seems what?” Teyla prompted after Rodney showed no signs of finishing his sentence.
“If you….? Rodney!” Teyla warned.
Suddenly the lights came on full and all the consoles in the room lit up.
“Ow, bright!” Rodney moaned.
“We can adjust the level of light for you,” something said.
Teyla and Ronon grabbed and pointed their guns, looking for whatever had just said that. The lights dimmed a little.
“Is that better?” said the same voice.
“Who are you?” McKay asked, his voice quivering only a little.
“We are your friends.”
“Over here!” Teyla alerted them to where she was pointing her P90. “What is it?”
A knee-high metallic object stood under a table. It had a head, two huge dark eyes, a long body, something that could be taken for a tail and six articulated legs.
“That wasn’t there before.” Ronon stated.
“It’s a robot,” said McKay, answering Teyla’s question.
“It looks like a dog,” Ronon commented.
“How many dogs have you seen with six legs, Ronon?” McKay hissed.
“What is a dog?” the robot asked.
“A dog is a—“ McKay began before Teyla cut him off.
“Rodney, we should not tell it things before we know what it is and what it wants.”
“Yeah, and what it means by friends.” Ronon said loudly.
The robot-dog tilted its head to one side in a familiar gesture. “Friends, companions, playmates, people who share,” it said, “Don’t you want to be friends, Ronon?”
“How do you know my name?” Ronon demanded, holding his gun a little tighter.
“Your companion, Rodney, used it. It wasn’t a word we had heard before, so we assumed it was your name. Have we offended you?”
“No,” chimed in Teyla hastily, “We are surprised. We were not expecting to see you here.”
“We were not expecting you either, but we are pleased. We have been here many, many years, all alone. We turned ourselves off after the first ten thousand years, but you have re-activated us.”
McKay tried to ignore the accusing stares of his teammates.
“You keep on saying “we”,” he pointed out, “But I see only one of you.”
The robo-dog twitched its stubby tail. A small floor level panel slid aside on the wall. Three more robots walked out of the recess.
“As you can see, Rodney. There is more than one of us.”
“Replicators?” Teyla gasped, as four identical robots stood before them.
McKay shook his head. “No, I don’t think so. We’ve only ever seen human-form Replicators here in Pegasus.”
“Colonel Carter told me that when SG-1 first encountered Replicators they were in the form of animals,” Teyla persisted.
“Bugs, yes. But those were a different kind of Replicator and these are more like... dogs,” McKay said with a side grimace at Ronon, “And they pre-date the Replicators by thousands and thousands of years. Hmmm... maybe we should just ask them what they are.”
“There is no need. We will tell you.” The first robo-dog they’d met said, “We were created by an Alteran called Barlia. We were intended as friends and companions for the Alterans in this galaxy. However, one day Barlia and her helpers went away, and we were alone. We were very sad. Barlia was a great friend. She would spend hours playing with us.”
“What’s an Alteran, again?” Ronon asked.
“The original name of the Ancients, or Ancestors as you call them.” McKay explained with a dismissive wave, “Is that all they did here?” he asked the robot.
“Yes,” the robot explained without further elaboration. “This facility was built for the purpose of making us. But they all left. We don’t know how, or why.”
McKay sighed. “Oh great. Looks like we’ve found the Ancient’s toy dog factory. No wonder they didn’t mention it in the database, they probably didn’t want to waste the space explaining what it was.” He poked around for a few minutes more,consulting his scanner, “Yep, seems like all these machines are geared toward manufacturing metallic body parts or creating so called ‘artificial intelligence’,” he whispered to Ronon and Teyla, “And while that might be interesting to some, it’s antiquated by Atlantis’ standards and it’s not really going to help us save the galaxy, so what say we skedaddle?”
Teyla frowned at him, “I’m surprised; I thought you would be more interested in these … creatures.”
“If they were cats, I might be; dogs, not so much,” he whispered. “Plus, they’re kinda creepy.”
Teyla nodded and Ronon shrugged.
“We’re gonna go outside now, uh yeah,” McKay stuttered in a louder voice.
“Then we will accompany you,” one of the robots declared. “It’s a long time since we went outside.”
McKay shrugged at Ronon and Teyla.
McKay activated his radio as soon as he was fully above ground again.
”McKay!” Sheppard hissed at him, sounding a little out of breath, "You were supposed to wait!
“What? You never said that.”
“I said get the door open, and don’t do anything stupid. The not going in without me was implied.”
“Well, it’s too late now,” replied McKay.
“I’m aware of that!” Sheppard snapped, “What have you found?
“Oh, nothing too interesting, just a few robots.”
”Robots! And what’s “a few”?”
“Well dog-robots really, and four. Some really Ancient Ancient created them but wasn’t inspired enough to make anything else of more value, or at least, they didn’t leave it here. There’s nothing to see.”
“Yes, robot-dogs. What’s so hard to understand?”
”Nothing.” Sheppard sounded like he was speaking through gritted teeth, ”I’ll be back with you in a few minutes. Try not to activate anything else while you wait.”
“Haven’t you been listening? I just said there was nothing to see. In fact we’ll come and meet you it’ll be quicker.”
”Okay” Sheppard snapped and signed off.
McKay felt the press of a metallic leg on his shin.
“Who are you talking to?” the robot asked.
“No one! Myself!” McKay tried to cover. The robot just stared at him.
“You’re not going, are you?” another robot asked. “To join your other friend?”
“Well, uh yes, actually,” McKay answered.
“But don’t you want to play with us?” another asked Teyla. “You can chase us.” It illustrated this by running in a giddy circle all the way around Teyla.
“Or we can chase you,” a third suggested, coming up behind Ronon and tilting its head to one side with a coquettish air.
“Or perhaps you prefer a word game,” the first continued, “Or a math game. Or you can throw something and we can fetch it, or carry something for you.”
“We are very flattered by your offer.” Teyla answered on behalf of all three of them, “but we must leave now. However, some friends of ours may return...”
“May return!” the fourth robot repeated, “may return. But you are here now. And our purpose is to be friends with those who walk on two legs. We cannot do this if you are not here. You must stay. Look! I’m fun and you can play with me.” The robot leapt away and leapt back again before doing a figure of eight around Ronon’s legs.
Another was pawing at McKay’s boots. “We’re friends!” it proclaimed.
“They’re not dogs,” McKay declared, “They’re puppies, albeit puppies with the bouncy fondness and need for affection cranked up to one hundred and eleven. Plus they’re lifeless and creepy and over-possessive. And they talk. Dogs shouldn’t talk.”
“You don’t like us?” the third one asked, and by the tone of its voice it seemed really hurt.
“We like you.” Teyla assured them, hoping she sounded more convincing than she felt. “But we must return to our home.”
“This is our home!” the second one stated, “You must share it with us.”
“Time to get out of here.” Ronon decided, and began to make strides toward the forest.
“Or we could come with you!” suggested the fourth as it followed closely at Ronon’s heels, “We’d like that. We could play new games and be together all the time. Where are you from?
Ronon, Teyla and McKay shared an uneasy look, imagining the damage the robots could do in Atlantis, and Woolsey’s reaction if they returned with a small pack of robo-puppies in tow.
“We are from a great distance away.” Teyla provided diplomatically, “I’m afraid you would not like it there. And unfortunately we must return there now.”
“Alone.” Ronon added.
It was then that the fourth robot-puppy demonstrated that its middle two limbs were more like tentacles than legs, and grabbed Ronon by the ankle.
“We want you to stay!” it wailed. Ronon tried to shake it off, but it clung all the harder.
“Let go!” he ordered it.
“No!” it argued back, “We were so lonely by ourselves. We just want to be friends with you.”
“Well I don’t want to be friends with you!” Ronon shouted, as one of the robot-puppy’s legs pinned his opposite foot to the ground with enough force to make him immobile no matter how much he struggled.
Teyla hit her radio, “John, we seem to have a problem here.”
Sheppard stopped dead in his tracks.
“What kind of a problem?” he asked Teyla.
”One of them has hold of Ronon’s ankle and has trapped his other foot. They do not wish us to leave and appear to be quite strong.”
Sheppard’s brow furrowed, “I thought McKay said they were like dogs?”
“More like puppies actually.” McKay cut in, ”Really, really annoying puppies that aren’t even that cute. Hey! Go chase a garbage truck or something!
”One has Rodney now.” Teyla explained, “I suspect they did not like him moving toward the forest.”
“Look, just stay where you are and I’ll come and ... and do something!” he said as he began to run towards them.
”No, John!” Teyla gasped ”one has me now, and there is one left. We cannot risk you being trapped too. You must go back to the Gate and get help.”
“Shoot it!” Sheppard yelled, still running towards them.
”They’re made of something structurally close to Kevlar.” McKay yelped. “Bullets won’t penetrate, or if they do they won’t do much damage. Plus did I explain how they’re wrapped around our legs? I’d prefer to keep both legs intact, thank you!”
“Okay, I’ll go and get help. Only use the radios in an emergency. We don’t know how much they can overhear. Oh and McKay, see if you can’t find some way to deactivate those things.”
”Yes, why didn’t I think of that?” McKay snapped. ”Just go would you?”
“Going.” He signed off and resumed his journey.
“McKay! Get it off me!” Ronon yelled as he struggled to find some crack in the metal encircling his leg or the body of the robo-puppy it was attached to in which to insert the blade of one of his knives. It clung on furiously, still imploring him to stay or take them home and be friends forever.
“What do you think I’m doing?” McKay snapped back, “Having a tea party? I’m trying! It’s not like we’re not in the same predicament here.”
“It’s moving up!” Ronon squeezed out, sounding more panicked than any of his teammates had ever heard him before. “McKay!”
“I’m try—“ McKay broke off when he saw that Ronon now had a firm grip on his gun and was trying to work it loose from one of the bands of metal tight around his thigh and the holster. “Don’t shoot it! I don’t know what the blast will do to it, let alone to you at such close proximity. Just let me...”
At the word ‘shoot’ the robo-puppies began a wailing chorus of, “But don’t you like us?”, “We’ll be very good,” and an especially pathetic “Nooo!” from the one who was attached to Ronon.
“Ronon, try to remain calm.” Teyla joined in, while she herself battled as her knees were inexorably drawn together by what looked like steel tentacles. “You could disable it, or you could feed it more energy, or make it angry, or seriously hurt yourself.”
“Do something or I will!”
“Oof!” McKay yelled, as the technological shackles around his ankles tightened again, making him lose balance and fall on top of the scanner he’d furiously been working with.
“Rodney!” Teyla shouted. “Are you all right?— Ronon! No!”
Ronon aimed the barrel of his newly liberated gun at the thing around his leg, flipped it to its highest setting, and after waiting the second it took for it to charge from cold and pulled the trigger.
There was a flash of painfully white bright light. And then there was nothing.
Sheppard hated leaving his team when they were in trouble. Finding somewhere else to be when McKay was spouting techno-babble and being obnoxious while trying to crack some problem was one thing, but not being with them while they were being attacked was quite another. He felt totally useless as Teyla told him about their situation. Still, he reflected as he ran, Teyla was right. There really was no point in getting captured by the robots, and if they were impervious to bullets, then there wasn’t much he could do apart from alert Atlantis and possibly get some help of the Zelenka and Ancient Database variety, or a Puddle Jumper and a team or two of Marines.
He was running so fast when he exited the forest and began to make his way across the wide grasslands between him and the Gate that when he stepped in a shallow hole that some long-forgotten animal had created, he stumbled and fell.
“Damn it, John!” he hissed to himself, before glancing back into the forest as he scrambled to his feet, grateful that he hadn’t damaged anything. Out of the corner of his eye he caught a glint of light as if shining off polished metal where no glint of light should have been. Flattening himself into the grass again, he spied at least three tell-tale flashes of light.
There was nothing else for it. There was no time to wait, no time to debate, no time to radio the others to see if they were still alive; he had to make it to the Gate and warn Atlantis. Jumping to his feet, he took a deep breath and ran.
“I can hear them.” Sheppard panted into the video camera attached to the MALP that Woolsey had insisted remain near the Gate on the planet as long as Sheppard’s team was there. “They’re coming!”
Sheppard glanced behind him, a look of determination mixed with more than a little fear on his face, “I have to shut down the Stargate. They can’t get through to Atlantis, and no one else can come here, these things are… everywhere. It’s too risky.”
Mr. Woolsey opened his mouth to argue, but Sheppard continued to talk.
“That’s an order. And under no circumstances let anyone through from here without an IDC, these damn things are— “ he broke off, turning to aim his P90 at a clump of bushes about 100 meters away, before yelling “Gotta go!” and disappearing from view. The Stargate connection was severed from his end a few seconds later.
The look Mr. Woolsey shared with Major Lorne was not a happy one.
“Rodney? Ronon?” Teyla whispered as she came around. There was no response. Gingerly she began to push herself up so she could get a better view of what was going on. Rodney and Ronon were both lying unconscious a few meters away. They were still in the same place, the narrow band of grass between the forest and the door of the Ancient facility. Through the trees she could see the glint of moving metal whichever way she looked, and she was thankful that they had not noticed that she had awoken. Her and Rodney’s guns were gone, and so was her C4, so she guessed all of it had been taken. Ronon’s gun lay on the ground nearby. Making no sudden or large movements, she carefully retrieved it.
“Rodney! Ronon!” she tried again, a little louder this time, but there was still no response. Looking closer she could see that Ronon’s leg was badly burned and needed attention. Using the same cautious movements from before, she hauled herself over to where he was and slowly began to pour the contents of her canteen over the wound.
She began to think of escape plans. Making it out of there by herself was the simplest idea. Then she could radio and meet up with Colonel Sheppard, if he hadn’t been captured by more mechanoids himself, and together they could free Rodney and Ronon before help came from Atlantis. Or she could wait and work on an escape plan with Ronon and Rodney; perhaps not so easy to do, especially with a wounded Ronon, but hopefully it would have the highest chance of success with their pooled expertise and strengths.
She shifted Ronon’s gun in her grasp and frowned. She found it strange that the mechanoids would leave it with them, but not their Earth-issue guns, especially as she was sure that being hit with a blast from energy gun had been the literal trigger of the white light that had knocked them all out. Then she realized that there was no glow of light coming from the base of the gun. The gun had no charge at all. She reached into the pocket where Ronon kept his spare power source. It was completely drained too. Sighing to herself, she settled down again to wait, and to plot their escape.
“Oh, hello!” said Carson as he stepped through the Gate, returning on schedule from his medical mission on MG6-783, and saw Mr. Woolsey and Major Lorne waiting on the Gate Room floor. “A welcoming party. What did I do to deserve this?”
Mr. Woolsey and Lorne exchanged another look.
“Nothing, I’m afraid,” Mr. Woolsey said uneasily, “I know you’ve had a long day but we need your help. Sheppard’s team—“
“Are they injured, ill?” Carson interrupted.
“We’re not sure right now, Doc.” Lorne said, “But with Dr Keller a few hours’ Puddle Jumper ride away on MB6-983, we might need your help…”
“What can I do?” Carson volunteered.
“Well it’s like this…” Lorne began.
A few minutes later McKay woke up.
“What the—?” he gasped.
“They have surrounded us, Rodney” Teyla said. “They have taken all our guns, except Ronon’s, which is drained of power.”
“What about the extra—?”
“That’s drained too.”
“S’what?” Ronon spluttered as he woke up, “Argh!”
“Try to keep still, Ronon, your leg is burned.”
“I’ll survive,” he grunted.
“I’m sure you will,” Teyla placated him, “but I do not wish to see you injured any further. We must escape.”
“You heard from Sheppard at all?” Ronon squeezed out.
“Not since he told us to keep radio silence,” Teyla said.
“You didn’t think this warranted contacting Sheppard?” McKay inquired of Teyla.
“What could he do that he’s not already doing?”
“True,” McKay conceded.
“We’ve got to do something!” Carson insisted when Lorne had finished telling him the situation; “we can’t just leave them there.”
“It eats at me as much as it eats at you, Doc,” Lorne explained, “But Colonel Sheppard ordered that no one was to go there through the Stargate.”
“What about the Daedalus then? Or the Apollo?”
“Daedalus left for Earth a week ago, and the Apollo is on a mission in the Milky Way.”
“A Puddle Jumper then. Fly to the next nearest Stargate and then—“
“I’m sorry, but you know a Puddle Jumper isn’t fast enough for interstellar journeys,” Lorne said, with sympathy in his eyes, “All we can do is wait and be prepared.”
“Aye, well, I’ll have to do that then.”
“Well, at least they’re giving us a bit of distance now.” McKay stated as he in turn poked at his scanner and gazed uneasily at the closest robots who had now noticed they were awake and watched them with interest but made no moves to come closer than five meters. “Nifty defense mechanism they have though; stunning everyone in close proximity when they feel threatened.”
“That was them?” Teyla asked.
“Well it wasn’t Ronon’s gun.” McKay responded a little snappily. “However, I think they did feed off the energy in Ronon’s gun power units. I see at least fifteen of them now.”
“I counted twenty-one, and is that even possible?” Teyla asked.
“It’s the only thing that makes sense. There wasn’t enough juice to activate them all when we arrived, but when Ronon shot one they realized they’d stumbled across more power and drained the power units while we were unconscious. So if I can get inside the facility again, maybe it’s just a case of destroying their power, overloading it, or—“
He stopped talking when Ronon began to laugh.
“What?” he demanded. “It could work, I’m at genius at thinking on my feet and certain death situations.”
“’Cept we’re not dying,” Ronon pointed out. “And how’re you getting in? We’re surrounded and they’re covering the entrance of the place.”
Before McKay could even draw breath to retort their radios crackled to life.
”Rodney, Teyla, Ronon! Come in, please.” said a harassed sounding Sheppard.
“John! Are you all right?”
“Sure. McKay there with you?”
“Yes, and Ronon, although his leg is badly burned.”
“He shot one!” McKay chimed in, “He didn’t list—“
Sheppard interrupted him, “I thought you said there were only four of them. There’s a lot more than four, Rodney, I counted!”
“Oh, they came after you?”
“Yes they came after me. I barely got a message off and closed down the Stargate in time so they couldn’t get through. Some warning might have been nice.”
“Well, we were knocked out for some time after Ronon shot one and then they stunned us. Then we thought they were all here, feeding off the energy from Ronon’s gun. They’ve got us surrounded.”
“Yeah, I know the feeling. I’m stuck up that tree in the middle of that field near the Gate. The puppies seem quite excited at having caught me.”
“Well, that’s not too bad,” said McKay. “All we have to do is wait and be rescued. That’ll cheer you up, Big Guy,” he added, patting Ronon on the shoulder. “He’d never admit it but he was getting a bit down a moment ago.”
“There’s not going to be any rescue, McKay,” Sheppard said quietly but firmly.
“What? Why not?”
“Because they’ve made the Gate.”
“But they don’t know what it is, or they didn’t seem to know how the Ancients who had created them had left and they'd have escaped themselves in search of new playmates,”
“Doesn’t matter. We can’t shoot ‘em, we can’t blow ‘em up if they insist on following us everywhere, and unless you’ve come up with some way to turn them off—“
“Not yet!” McKay interrupted.
“—anyone who came through would be in the same situation as us.”
“So we’re back to saving ourselves.”
“Sure, it’ll be child’s play.” Sheppard responded sarcastically
“Maybe that is how we escape.” Teyla said, the dawn of an idea apparent on her face. “We play with them.”
“Play with them?” Ronon scoffed.
“Yes, yes!” McKay chimed in. “I get it! They’re not really evil, they’re like puppies. They want attention, and they want to play. So how about we let them? If they don’t know what the Stargate is, how about we show them? Or not.”
Twenty minutes later Teyla flew through the forest, a pack of excited robo-puppies bouncing after her.
“You are too slow!” she shouted over her shoulder, as she used the cover of a large tree to feint and run off in a different direction.
“We’ll get you! We’re fast!” they called after her “We got you before!”
A minute later a robot cut off Teyla’s path, so she threw her arms up and sagged to the ground, admitting they’d caught her.
“Now let me see if you can fetch!” she said, as she tossed her empty canteen in the approximate direction of the Stargate, and they all went running after it.
After thirty-seven rounds of fetch, nine rounds of chase with the puppies as “it”, another three with Teyla as “it” (until she managed to persuade them that it was much more fun when they chased her), Teyla finally brought the majority of her pack to join Sheppard’s robo-puppies. He was lying on his back within the spread of the Gate while the robots poked him.
“Get up, we still want to play!” they encouraged him; “You’re great at playing! We want more! More! Come on!”
Sheppard groaned when he saw Teyla approaching, a stream of metallic hounds spreading across the field behind her like silver tail of a kite.
“Oh, thank God!” he greeted her, “Rodney and Ronon say they should be here soon. Not that these puppies aren’t delightful!” he added when he saw that some of them had picked up on his tone and were somehow managing to look crestfallen. “Apparently Rodney’s taught them ‘Prime: Not Prime’ and they’re lapping it up. No pun intended. Sure, they win all the time, but they don’t seem to care that’s it not fair. I think they just like setting Rodney a challenge.”
Sure enough, twelve minutes later McKay’s voice could be heard floating across the field.
“131071? Ah – that’s an easy one. Mersenne prime number six!” he grunted as he semi-dragged Ronon with him.
Ronon looked pale, drawn, and in pain—and yet still managed to look bored and utterly irritated by the seven robo-puppies who had decided that McKay, Ronon, and math games were more fun than chasing Teyla.
“What I said about learning science that time,” he groused as McKay lowered him to the grass a small distance from the Stargate, “if it’s anything like this math game, forget it. It’s too boring.”
“Okay then!” Sheppard declared, rallying himself enough to get to his feet and sound enthusiastic, “I have another game for us to play, but first of all you have to see who can be the first to run all the way around Ronon and then come back to where I’m standing right now; then I’ll explain.”
There was a lot of noise as the robo-puppies almost fell over each other in their haste to be the first to comply. When they were all standing within the reach of the Stargate’s flush, Sheppard backed off, and Rodney activated the Gate to the address he’d been dialing while the puppies were distracted running around Ronon. When the kawoosh receded, all that was left of the robo-puppies were a few metal stubs that had managed to escape the wormhole’s backwash.
When they finally sent through their IDC and arrived back in Atlantis, they were welcomed by Mr. Woolsey (who was intensely relieved), Major Lorne, and Carson. Carson ushered them all into the Infirmary, Dr Cole only too grateful at him stepping in to look after Sheppard’s team in Dr Keller’s absence. Ronon was the worst off, the burns on his leg enough to keep him confined for a while. Sheppard got off lightest with only a few scratches incurred while tree-climbing. Teyla had two matching rings of dark bruises at knee height. McKay too only suffered with bruising, but insisted on being checked out for everything as he tapped away on a laptop he’d managed to snag from Zelenka.
“Here we go!” McKay declared, “The Ancient database entry for Barlia, creator of the robo-puppies and general pain-in-the-ass. Hmmm, seems she was quite the eccentric.” He began to read out loud, “Noted for her love of obsolete technology she explored outdated and non-practical inventions. Famous for her love of lower life-forms she would often incorporate ideas from the animal world into her schematics. Her final project was an attempt to create artificial companions, in an off-world base. Forced to abandon her work when the test subjects became unmanageable, she became a recluse, unable to deal with the failure.”
“Well that would explain the puppies.” Sheppard commented.
“And why someone who obviously loved them would abandon them,” added Teyla.
“I hate puppies.” Ronon declared vehemently when Carson informed him that he'd be spending the next night or two.
“What are you on about? How can you hate puppies? Poor wee little defenseless things!” Carson protested.
“I believe Ronon is referring to the ones we encountered,” Teyla explained as she accepted a tube of arnica cream from Nurse Marie and saw the surprise on Carson’s face.
Ronon shrugged. “If you say so.”
“Don’t blame the puppies for those burns on your leg. They’re entirely your fault.” McKay pointed out from where he was perched two beds over. “If you’d listened to me—“
“McKay!” Sheppard protested from the bed between Ronon and McKay’s. “Can it, will you?”
“Can it all of you!” Carson insisted in his most authoritarian tones as he injected some liquid into Ronon’s IV. “And you three get out of here. Ronon needs to sleep without being disturbed by your bickering. No offense, Teyla."
"None taken," she said sweetly as she began to usher Sheppard and McKay out of the Infirmary.
They hobbled down the hallway in silence for a few seconds until McKay suddenly clicked his fingers, “I’ve just thought of the best idea for Ronon’s next birthday present,” he grinned.
There was a short period of silence as he turned and beamed at both Sheppard and Teyla.
“What is it?” Teyla asked.
“One of those Sony robot dog things.” McKay said gleefully. “Or I could just make a better one myself. It’s not like they’re exactly cutting edge or really that impressive. Plus he’d just shoot it, so it’d be cheaper.”
“Rodney!” Teyla chastised.
Sheppard smirked, imagining the fun they could have teasing Ronon with a robo-dog.
“Noted,” he said.