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beth writing 30 days without

FIC for team_sga AU Fest: Fly Me to Freedom (2/2)

Title: Fly Me to Freedom
Author: maddie_amber
Rating: PG
Pairing: Gen
Prompt: Mysterious Island AU: Escapee's (in a hot air balloon) from the American Civil war crash land on an uninhabited island, or so they think.
Warnings: none
Disclaimer: Neither the SGA characters nor the movie/book Mysterious Island belong to me. I am just borrowing them and mixing them up a bit. No infringement intended.
Summary: As the prompt states, three soldiers escape from the American Civil War and crash land on an uninhabited island, or so they think. For anyone familiar with the movie, I used the 1961 version. The first part of the story follows the movie somewhat, but I parted ways with the cinema version when I got the men to the island.


Part Two


Ronon slipped silently through the dense undergrowth of the forest. It had not taken him long to become comfortable with this new place. Part of him felt guilty because he had abandoned his cause, but he knew the circumstances were not his to control and that, given the opportunity to return to his old life he would without hesitation. There was much work to be done back home. In the meantime, he had gladly embraced his new role as hunter. Procuring game was the same, regardless of where the hunt took place. Quarry was tracked and quarry was killed.

The island had proven to be rich in food and had abundant clean water. There were few large game animals on the island, but there were several varieties of birds that resembled quail, rabbits and a small deer like antelope. He left the rabbits to Sheppard and his snares, and chose to pursue the antelope. That animal required speed and stealth and presented a greater challenge to his skills. McKay showed no heart for the hunt, though he was adept at finding oysters, clams and anything else that sat still long enough for him to scoop it rom the sand. That was fine, but Ronon preferred more challenging game.

After a week of sleeping on beaches they had discovered a cave high in a cliff face that Sheppard had deemed suitable for habitation, overlooking a small enclosed bay whose calm waters teemed with fish, seaweed and the shellfish McKay preferred. When McKay complained about having to climb up a vine to get to the cave entrance, Sheppard had simply said, “You’re an engineer. Figure out another way.”

Ronon had suppressed a grin and told McKay he had better learn to climb. The smaller man stomped away fuming and muttering under his breath. Three days later he had devised a series of knotted vines, weights and counterweighs that would raise a small platform to the level of the cave mouth. He had smiled smugly at his accomplishment. Ronon would not give him the satisfaction of being able to crow about his own brilliance, but he had to admit it was much easier to use McKay’s lift than to climb the rock face with a dead carcass strapped to his back.

Over the past month the three had developed an easy camaraderie. Ronon doubted such an odd group would have banded together under normal circumstances. While he preferred his solitude, he had to admit that after two years of living alone in the bayou the companionship was not unwelcome.

Sheppard and McKay bickered constantly. At first Ronon thought they truly hated one another, until he realized that the continual sniping had become a symbol of their growing friendship. He did not join in though he occasionally found a reason to tease McKay who seemed happiest when he was devising some mechanical contraption or other. His current project was to bring fresh water directly to the cave from a nearby stream. Ronon had no doubts that, given enough time, he would be able to accomplish his goal.

As for Sheppard, he was not sure what the man might have been before he was incarcerated at Libby Prison. Ronon sensed he was a man of honor, but there seemed to be a darkness at the center of him. It was not evil but rather a profound sadness, borne perhaps, of having seen and experienced too much war. It was a darkness Ronon understood. Sheppard had assumed leadership of their little group, but had done so in a subtle, understated way. He did not bully or badger, but led them by doing with them. Ronon had not at first realized the subtle shift in their roles, but could now acknowledge that both he and McKay deferred to and accepted Sheppard’s leadership. Part of Ronon felt he owed Sheppard a debt for having included him in the escape from Libby. But he also respected the man and his innate ability to lead, and so was willing to stand with him.

Ronon paused and stooped to examine the ground. Fresh tracks and fresh droppings meant game was close at hand. He listened for the slightest sound of movement, the swish of parting grass or the crack of a broken twig. There it was, off to his left. He hefted his spear and soundlessly parted the concealing foliage passing through the fronds of heavy undergrowth to the edge of a small glade.

Several feet in front of him stood a delicate specimen of native antelope. Its head had come up and its ears twitched. Sensitive nostrils fluttered as it sampled the air unsure if this new scent was friend or foe. Ronon was poised, spear held ready to thrust into the animal’s side when he caught the slightest motion in the tall grass at its side. Two tiny heads nuzzled her underbelly. Fawns. Ronon lowered the spear and smiled to himself. Perhaps, tonight would be a good night for rabbit stew and oysters.

Resting the spear on his shoulder, he quietly backed away, careful not to startle the mother and her twins. When he had retreated a respectful distance, he turned and began to walk back toward the beach. He moved silently through the underbrush still listening for any sound that might indicate other game nearby. Out of habit he studied the ground as he walked always vigilant for animal signs.

Had he not been doing so, he would never have seen the print. In the soft dirt just to the side of the hard packed game trail was a footprint. He was instantly alert. Bending he examined the print carefully, but even though it was incomplete, there was no doubt. It was a fresh human foot print and not from one of the three of them. This print was smaller, the heel to toe length that of an older child or woman, the impression in the soft earth one that would have been made by a person considerably smaller than himself.

Ronon wondered why he had never seen signs of other inhabitants in all his travels. Perhaps, he thought, because whoever made the track did not want to be detected. So why had that changed now? Mindful for any additional tracks he began to trot back towards camp. Sheppard and McKay would need to know that they were not alone.

* * * * *

The woman was stunningly beautiful, her feet and shapely ankles showed beneath a skirt that stopped mid-calf, her arms were bare and the neck of her bodice cut low. Her dress, made of once bright calico, had faded from the sun. Dark auburn hair hung unbound against honey gold skin, enhancing her exotic beauty. Sheppard swallowed hard as the point of her spear rested against the base of his throat. She raised one eyebrow and a hint of humor twinkled in her eyes. She had him and she knew it. The fact that he was suspended upside down by the vine that circled his ankles convinced him that she most definitely had him. How could he have been stupid enough to step into so blatant a trap?

“Okay,” Sheppard said, “You have the advantage.” He didn’t even know if she understood English.

This time the woman did smile, but her spear point never wavered.

“So, could you let me down?” Sheppard said, “I really mean you no harm.”

“Nor I you,” she said calmly.

The woman walked a few paces away, drew a knife from a sheath at her hip and cut the vine that held him suspended in the air. He crashed to the ground, barely managing to catch himself in time to prevent breaking his neck. He started to rise to his feet.

“Slowly,” she commanded, the spear point centered unwaveringly on the middle of his torso.

“I didn’t know the island was inhabited. If I’ve trespassed in any way, I apologize,” he said. “My name is John. John Sheppard. I was stranded here almost a month ago.”

“Teyla,” she responded, “Teyla Emmagan.”

“I really am glad to see another human being. I was getting tired of talking to myself.”

“Lying is not a good way to begin a relationship,” She said, her eyes narrowing and the humor receding from her face.

“Lying?” Sheppard feigned innocence.

“I have been watching you and your companions for almost four weeks.”

“Companions?”

She nodded. “Yes, the tall one with the wild hair who moves through the forest like a panther. And the one who babbles constantly and builds things.”

Sheppard shrugged and grinned. “That would be Ronon and McKay. Apparently, none of us have seen you.”

“I did not wish to be seen. Until now.”

“And why now?” Sheppard thought she would relax if he could get her to talk, but her spear had not yet wavered.

“Before I made you aware of my presence, I had to know if I could trust that you were not one of his men,” Teyla said.

“His?”

“The other one—“

Before she could finish she spun on her heel away from Sheppard to face Ronon who had emerged silently from the bushes behind her. With the butt end of her spear she knocked his spear point away, then holding her own weapon like a quarter staff she dropped into a defensive crouch, positioning herself to keep both men in visual range.

A small smile touched Ronon’s lips as he mimicked her maneuver.
Teyla’s moves were lightening quick, striking first at the right side of Ronon’s head with the upper end of the staff, then the left side of his head with the lower end, then again at his torso with the upper end. Ronon drew his staff perpendicular to hers, catching the first blow on the upper part of his spear staff, then countered the second and third blow. Ronon bested her in weight and power, but she was as quick as he and very adept with her weapon. She feinted towards his left knee, then as quickly struck at his right. Sheppard heard the sharp smack as the staff connected with flesh, and there was a low hiss of pain from Ronon. He back stepped out of her range, but she was not going to let him retreat. Following, she struck again at his head, first feinting left then right. This time he caught her attack and returned it with two quick blows toward her torso. She countered both and back stepped. The entire exchange took mere seconds.
“That’s enough.” Sheppard commanded in his best officer’s voice.
Both combatants hesitated long enough for him to place himself between them his back to Teyla, his hand on Ronon’s chest. The big man was seething and Sheppard wasn’t sure if it was because a woman had challenged him or because Sheppard had been here to witness it.
“Back down, both of you. I’m calling a truce. If we’re the only ones on this island, we don’t need to be fighting. We need to be working together.”
Ronon continued to breathe heavily, but made no further move to attack. Sheppard felt Teyla relax behind him. From the corner of his eye, he saw her lower her weapon.
“I do no wish to fight with you.”
“Okay, good,” Sheppard said. “Ronon?”
Ronon nodded. “I thought you were in danger.”
Sheppard appreciated his loyalty. “No danger. I think we might have gained an ally.” He turned slightly. “Teyla Emmagan, this is Ronon Dex. Ronon meet Teyla.”
* * * *

“The signal fire that led us to Sheppard after the balloon crashed? Was that you?”

Teyla nodded. “I hoped it would lead you to him.”

The soft light from the fire danced across the men sitting with her. There was a look of expectant curiosity on their faces. More open in McKay’s eyes and veiled in Sheppard’s. She had promised them an explanation. She picked the last of the meat from the bone in her fingers. Took a deep breath, measuring how much information she could trust them with.

“Like you, I am not from this island.”

“Obviously,” McKay snorted, sarcasm coloring his voice and expression. “You speak English very well for someone living in the middle of….where ever we are in the middle of.”

Teyla suppressed a smile despite the gravity of the conversation. McKay had glanced away when she looked at him, his face blushing so deeply it was evident even in the firelight. It amused her that he was so thoroughly embarrassed by what he considered her ‘state of undress.’ Unlike Ronon and Sheppard who had torn off sleeves and shortened trousers to be more comfortable in the daytime heat, McKay still sat with shirt intact and uniform jacket on. She could not resist gently goading him. He would soon understand that he was no longer in his world and that his customs did not prevail here.

Teyla paused patiently. “I was raised on an island that is true. In the native tongue of my ancestors, our home is called Athos, which means ‘the good place.’ We were somewhat isolated but not totally removed from your world, more by choice than by necessity. But my mother believed in learning as much as possible of the outside world so she arranged for me to travel to Europe, and to study there.”

“Your mother is wise.” Sheppard’s comment was more statement than question.

“The women of my family have led our people for many generations. Knowing of the outside world is important when we need to trade. When my mother passed, I became leader.”

“A woman in charge.” McKay remained cynical.

“Many societies are matriarchal.” Teyla smiled, dismissing his cynicism. “I travelled, learned about your language and customs, and then chose to return Athos, bringing what good information I could back with me. Not to change my people, but to help us understand the ways of outsiders so we would not be taken advantage of.”

She paused tossing the bone she still held into the fire and took a deep calming breath.

“The trouble started well over eighteen lunar cycles ago.” She said quietly. “The first to disappear were the fishermen who ventured deeper out into the ocean. They set out in the morning as was their custom, only to fail to return in the evening. In the morning we would find their catamarans along the shore intact, but with no sign of what happened to the men. We mourned their loss, and the superstitious ones believed that they were taken by demons from the sea. The old ones warned us not to venture so far out into the water.”

“Then people began to vanish from the island. First the hunters were taken then those who worked in the fields, and anyone foolish enough to venture into the forest alone. Then women and children as well began to disappear. My people began to fear every shadow, every noise. We were not at peace with our world, but the enemy had no face. We set guards around the villages, but the guards were gone by morning. This unseen foe grew so bold as to come into the villages at night to take people from their beds. They were silent, like wraiths. Night ghosts my people began to call them. There seemed to be no way to protect ourselves. “

“Slavers?” Ronon’s question was a single word, little more than a growl that encompassed all his disgust and hatred for slavery.

“I do not know,” she answered. “Or at least I did not know at that time.”

“And how did you end up here?” Sheppard asked. He had picked up a stick and was idly poking the fire, even though it did not need attention.

“Against the wishes of my council, I took up a position guarding one of the more remote coastal villages that had been hit particularly hard because of its isolated location.”

“You set yourself up as bait?”

Teyla nodded at Sheppard. “Yes. As the leader of my people I did not feel I could ask any of them to assume such danger if I were not willing to do so myself. It was the only way to find out who was behind these kidnappings, where they were taking my people, and how many of them were still alive.”

“And what did you discover?” Ronon asked.

Teyla sighed deeply, she knew the only way to win the trust of these men was to be completely honest. “After I was captured, I was blindfolded, gagged and tied. I was taken aboard a ship. But it was not as other ships I have seen. I could tell from the sounds that it was not wooden, but metal.”

“An ironclad?” McKay asked, his voice rising with excitement.

“I do not know what you mean by an ironclad, but yes the ship was made of metal. And it did not sail under the force of the wind. I could feel a vibration, the thrum of an engine deep within the bowels of the ship. It reminded me of the sound of a steam locomotive. And when we began to move, we sank.”

“Sank?” McKay asked.

“We went downward. I could feel the sensation in the pit of my stomach. We went down into the water.”

“A submersible?” McKay’s voice was awestruck, and the expression on his face was that of a child receiving a gift. “Did you actually see this ship,” McKay asked eagerly.

Teyla shook her head. “No. As I said, I was blindfolded. When my captors learned that I was the leader of my people they treated me with deference, but I was confined to the same small windowless room the entire time I was on the ship. I do not know how long we travelled. Nor do I know in what direction. I could not judge speed, or any other marker that would let me know where we are now. I do not know where this island might be. I only know that it is no island my people have ever encountered nor heard of from others. And no native peoples live here.” She looked around to see their reaction to her tale.

“After what seemed several days, something must have been slipped into my food or water. I went to sleep and awoke here on this island. I have had no further contact with them. If they are still here, then they are well hidden. I have spent my time trying to find any sign of them, or of my people. This may not have been their final destination. They may have just stopped here to rid themselves of me. Though I suspect we are not alone here and this is not a deserted island.”

“Obviously,” McKay countered. “You’re here and we are here.”

“And ‘they’ may be here,” she said.

“I’ve been all over this island,” Ronon leaned forward staring at her intently. “One person would be easy to overlook, but not many.”

“I feel they are here, and they know about you.”

Sheppard looked directly at Teyla, “If so, who are they and where are they hiding.”

“I do not know. I only sense that they are here on this island somewhere. “

“They let you go free,” Ronon said bluntly.

Teyla nodded. “Apparently, but I do not know to what purpose. I can not escape from the island, so they must not feel I am a threat.”

“How do we know you aren’t here to spy on us for them?” McKay asked.

“You will have to accept my word that I am not.” Teyla said, sitting more erect, her head held high. “I do not lie.”

Sheppard said, reaching out a hand to quiet any further protest, “We believe you. I just wish I knew more about these people and what their intentions are.”

“I have told you all that I know. My concern is that I find my people, or at least learn what has become of them.”

“If there is any way we can help you we will. In the meantime,” Sheppard continued, “we may be wise to take precautions to defend ourselves.”

“Against what?” McKay asked, his voice rising sharply with agitation. “An enemy we don’t even know is there? And with what?”

“You’re an engineer, McKay, I’m sure you’ll figure out the ‘with what’ part.” Sheppard grinned as though that were a private joke.

McKay just sputtered. “Yeah, I understand. McKay will figure it all out. Military minds are all alike until they have a problem, then it’s the engineers who have to find the solutions.”

“Consider it a challenge, McKay. Like the lift.”

Teyla smiled. She wasn’t sure why they argued, she wasn’t even sure it was an argument, but she felt a calmness she had not felt in a long time. These were men she felt she could trust.

* * * * *

Several evenings later Teyla sat at the edge of the cave entrance, feet dangling idly over the edge. A warm sweet breeze laden with the fragrant tang of salt sea air ruffled the loose hair around her face. For the first time in many weeks the tension had eased from her and she felt truly relaxed. Behind her she could hear the three men talking, McKay’s tenor a subtle counterpoint to Ronon’s bass rumble. Their conversation was interspersed with contagious outbursts of laughter that made her smile, even though she could not distinguish all the words they were speaking. It had been a long time since she had wanted to laugh so spontaneously. She felt at ease with the congenial camaraderie the three men shared and had graciously extended to include her. Despite their initial uncertainty they were quickly coming to trust her as she was coming to trust them.

Hearing a soft footfall behind her, Teyla turned to see Sheppard standing beside her and quickly covered her mouth with her hand to hide her smile.

“That bad?” he asked somewhat sheepishly.

He had shaved off his beard, which would not have been such a surprise, but his dark hair was shorter and stood in spiky disarray. He ran his hand absently through what was left. .

“You cut your hair,’ she said.

He shrugged and half grinned. “Actually Rodney did it.”

“And what did he use, a machete?”

“Almost. One of Ronon’s knives.”

“And Ronon’s hair?”

“He saw mine and decided he was better off letting his grow.”

Teyla could no longer contain her mirth and burst into laughter. Two heads popped out of the cave entrance to see what was so funny. The three men exchanged glances before joining her laughter.

* * * * *

“It’s called a trebuchet.” McKay said excitedly.

“A what?” Ronon and Teyla responded in unison.

“A catapult…only more powerful. Something you would appreciate, Ronon.” McKay responded, smugly pointing a finger at the taller man. “Higher, faster, heavier load. You’ll like it. Trust me.”

“Wouldn’t we be farther ahead with defenses we didn’t have to man?” Teyla asked. “There are only four of us. We have no idea how many of them there might be. We need to defend the high ground around the cave.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I’ve devised the necessary booby traps and such. But one offensive weapon might be wise.”

Sheppard shrugged. “If you have the time, go ahead.”

McKay rubbed his hands in glee.

It had been over a month since Teyla had revealed her presence to them. And in that time there had been no sign of any other inhabitants on the island. While he did not doubt Teyla’s story, Ronon began to wonder if her captors would ever make an appearance. Perhaps they truly had marooned her here and moved on. This place was so peaceful that they all found it difficult to maintain a continual state of alert diligence. Ronon found he was reluctant to think of the war they had left behind, the duty he’d sworn to do and felt almost guilty.

Teyla proved to be a superb huntress, but she was also adept at finding edible plants that had been growing literally under their feet. None of the men had recognized them as edible. Sheppard worked with McKay to secure the area around the cave, and in the evenings, Teyla began to teach them the complicated rhythms of the quarterstaff. In the hands of one who understood its grace and simplicity, the weapon was a formidable one. In execution its use was as much dance as self defense. Teyla was more than a master, and her agile strength left Ronon with no doubt she could easily defend herself and carry her weight should they be attacked. She had proven to be a challenging sparring partner.

As the days dragged on without threat, they began to relax into a pleasant rhythm of food gathering, communal duties and relaxation. McKay continued to tinker, constantly trying to find ways to make their lives easier with his gadgets. It was a good thing he was good at gadgetry Ronon thought, because he wasn’t good at quarterstaff, or hunting or many other things required for survival in the wild.

In the evening they often sat on the beach, talking laughing, even singing on occasion, or just sitting in silence each lost in thought. It was on one such evening that the talk turned to the war and the life the three men had left behind. A life none of them was could admit they missed.

“I don’t miss hard tack,” Sheppard said as he lay on his back looking up at the stars, “Or salt pork, or beans.”

“I don’t miss marching,” McKay said.

“I didn’t think engineers marched,” Ronon commented.

“Well, I did, once or twice. I still don’t miss it. Don’t particularly miss carrying an Enfield either.”

“I had a Henry I sort of miss.” Sheppard said.

Ronon chuckled, “So would I. Load it on Sunday and fire it all week.”

McKay groaned as though he could see where the conversation was going.

“I miss my people.” Teyla admitted sadly. “Not the people I left behind me when I started this venture, but the people before fear became a constant part of their lives.”

There was a long moment of uncomfortable silence before anyone spoke again. “We’ll find them, Teyla. Someday. I promise,” Sheppard said solemnly.

* * * *

Someday came sooner than any of them might have expected. McKay was the first to spot the longboats from the advantage of the cliff side cave they had come to call home. He was working on the water system that had kept him occupied for several weeks. His heart was pounding by the time he reached the bottom of the cliff face. He had no idea where his companions might be. But he knew he needed to rig the assorted traps he had arranged around the approach to the cliff. As he scrambled to complete the task, he desperately wished he had some way to contact the other three. They had left early in the morning to hunt and gather food, and he had no idea where they might be.

He also wondered where the longboats had come from. They were not sea going vessels and would have to launch from some larger mother ship near the shore. But nothing was visible. Maybe, he thought with an edge of panic, they came from the submersible ironclad Teyla claimed to have arrived on. It could be waiting on the horizon, barely visible, or submerged. If so, they could be in danger from the ‘other’ she was so alarmed about.

His mind raced from one possibility to another, as he frantically ran from trap to trap setting each as quickly as he could. If this was not Teyla’s ‘other’ then this might be their opportunity to escape from the island. Provided any of them actually wanted to escape. Or this could be pirates. He wished Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla were here. . None of his traps would hold off a determined enemy, they were meant to distract and delay. To give them all time to regroup and devise a course of action.

Scurrying back to the cliff, he pulled himself up into the cave then pulled the lift up behind him. He pushed it into the mouth of the cave then flattened himself on the edge to peer out towards the beach.

By the time he had finished, three longboats had come to shore. They now sat empty on the beach, with two dark figures standing guard. McKay had no idea how many people had been on board and where they had gone. Were they a raiding party returning to find Teyla or perhaps abandoning other prisoners here? Or maybe, McKay reasoned, they were just here to gather food. Fruits and vegetables were abundant on the island and sailing vessels always needed a source of fresh foods. Maybe, and he almost giggled at the thought, they were pirates come to bury their treasure. The distance was too great and he could make out no details without a spyglass.

Then he saw two figures emerging from the forest, each burdened by what appeared to be a large basket. They must be gathering food, he thought. But who were they? McKay’s heart almost stopped in the next moment. From slightly behind his left ear he heard the distinctive sound of a trigger mechanism being cocked. He turned to look directly into the barrel of a rifle.

* * * *

“We need to remain hidden,” Teyla hissed to Ronon. “It will not do for us to be seen.”

Ronon nodded in agreement as they moved deeper into the undergrowth. They had been on a small rise a short distance from the beach when they heard the voices. Moving quickly they positioned themselves to observe what was happening. Whoever had landed on the shore was making no effort to conceal their presence.

“They don’t expect to find anyone here,” Ronon whispered. “Maybe they aren’t these others you fear. Or maybe they aren’t aware that we are on the island.”

“Or maybe they are so confident in their strength they do not feel we are a danger.” Teyla countered.

Sheppard had gone a different direction earlier in the day, and Teyla suddenly felt a strong premonition of danger. They had become lax, thinking they could come to no harm because nothing menacing had happened in the past few weeks. Now she wished they had been more cautious. Both Sheppard and McKay were alone and an easy mark if they did not take precautions to remain concealed.

Ronon tapped her on the shoulder and indicated that they should both climb into the trees. Teyla nodded. With caution they could remain concealed, while having a better view of what was happening if their vantage point were higher. She had barely settled into the crook of a large branch when she heard the approach of people in the underbrush. She recognized the two men in the lead and her breath caught in her throat. They were both men from her village, two of the earliest to disappear. They were dressed in uniforms more like McKay’s than their native garb, and each carried a rifle. Teyla was startled by the profound blankness of their expressions. There was no life in their faces, no animation in their movements. These two men had been very close to her family and now they looked like strangers. Following them, large empty baskets balanced on their heads were two young women from one of the coastal villages. They too moved mechanically, their faces expressionless. Teyla wanted to drop to the ground and shake awareness back into them, but she used all her will to remain where she was and keep silent. What had happened to them?

As she watched from her vantage point, she heard a commotion off to her left. She knew Ronon had also heard the sound. The two men beneath them stopped and cocked their heads, as though listening to a silent command, then spoke briefly to the two women before herding them back toward the beach, their baskets still empty. As soon as they were out of sight, Ronon dropped to the ground. Teyla followed and they trailed behind the retreating quartet. The noise grew louder as they approached the beach.

Edging forward, they were approaching the open sand when Ronon suddenly nudged Teyla’s shoulder to get her attention. He pointed off to the left. She could see a dark shadow huddled among the dense underbrush. Ronon signaled her to approach from the figure’s right while he circled to the left. Before either one of them could respond, the figure moved, revealing his identity. It was Sheppard. Teyla felt a rush of relief and moved quickly to get his attention.

“Longboats” Sheppard mouthed without actually saying the word. He held up three fingers.

Teyla nodded that she understood.

Stealthily they moved forward until they had a fairly unobstructed view of the beach without revealing themselves. Teyla’s heart thundered as she recognized still others among those on the beach, Lizbet struggling under the weight of advanced pregnancy, which in itself was a shocking revelation, Halling, her dearest confident, and one of the other guards, Kanaan, her childhood companion. It took all her training and composure not to rush onto the beach and embrace them all. She might have, but for the blankness in each face. From all appearances, they were less than automatons.

But one was definitely not walking in a coma. From the direction of their home, two guards half marched half dragged a loudly protesting McKay. She felt Sheppard tense as their friend came into view. Her heart went out to him. She understood the wrenching feeling of seeing a loved one held captive. Sheppard glanced at her and then at Ronon. He did not have to speak for each of them to know exactly what needed to be done. They could not let these strangers leave the island with McKay. They needed to be stopped before they could load him onto one of their boats.

“Teyla, are these your missing friends?” Sheppard asked in an almost inaudible whisper.

She nodded. “Some of them.”

“I plan on rescuing McKay.” Sheppard whispered urgently. “Things could get brutal and your people are in harm’s way. I won’t ask you to fight against your friends, but I won’t hold back anything to rescue McKay. Do you understand?”

She nodded again. “I am with you. My people need to be rescued as well.”

The briefest smile of understanding touched Sheppard’s lips before a grim emotionless mask slipped into place. He began to quickly sketch a plan in the soft sand.

* * * * *

“Let go of me, you idiot.” McKay protested, trying to sound less terrified than he actually was. He had literally been dragged from the cave and down the beach. He had no idea who these people were, and they seemed to have no interest in anything he said. Their sole duty seemed to be making sure he went with them. He did not have to ask where, that was painfully obvious. McKay was still smarting from the fact that they had eluded or tripped all of his booby traps while he was still in the process of setting them. It was the only way they could have gained access to the cave, hidden and then waited for him to appear. Which he had done and quite foolishly walked right into their trap. Sheppard would never let him live this one down. Provided Sheppard was still alive to find out. Or for that matter that he would live to know that Sheppard had found out.

McKay had struggled, but struggling against these two brutes was a hopeless cause. They were as strong as they were apparently mindless. Now he resorted to dragging his feet and vocally protesting, though that was about as useless as struggling.

At last they came to a stop in front of the long boats, just as McKay knew they would.
Standing on shore, near the prow of the largest of the three boats was a tall thin figure. His back was to McKay as they approached, and he seemed to be deep in conversation with one of his minions. McKay’s guards slammed him to his knees in the sand and then waited.

“Was that necessary?” McKay said his initial fear being replaced by outright panic. “A simple ‘stand here’ would suffice. Does anyone here actually talk? Communicate? Respond? Now isn’t this just hunky dorey.”

The tall thin figure continued to face away from McKay and appeared unmoved by the engineer’s protests. The man was dressed in what McKay assumed was a variation of a naval officers uniform, dark trousers, high black boots, a white shirt with a navy vest. His shoulder length, white blonde hair was straight and pulled back into a ponytail at the nape of his neck. “So,” McKay stammered, “whoever you are. You actually remind me of a comrade of mine from my first days in the service. A fellow from Philadelphia who had been a genuine albino, complete with pink eyes. What was his name? Fred, no Ted. No, no,” McKay corrected himself, “Todd. Yes it was Todd. I don’t suppose….”

The man turned around. He was the only one of the group who looked like he wasn’t cut out of wood. “Quiet.”

“Just a little friendly conversation.”

“When I want conversation, I will tell you to speak.”

“Well, the conversation around here isn’t exactly stimulating,” McKay had a bad feeling he was talking himself deeper into trouble, but he could not help himself.

“Silence.”

“Look, I don’t know who you are, but I’ve done nothing to harm or threaten you,” McKay’s voice rose.

“You booby trapped half the island,” the man he had dubbed Todd had stepped closer and now stood over McKay.

“Well, you can never be too sure. Pirates and all. Which, by the way, I’m curious about how your lackeys managed to locate and dismantle those booby traps. I can see them finding one or two, but to get to the cave, they would have had to locate and disarm at least half a dozen.”

The blonde man continued to glare at McKay as though the question were beneath him. “We’ve been observing you. And we’ve had help.”

Teyla, McKay thought, have we been wrong about her all along. He did not want to jump to conclusions, but what else could the man’s implication mean. Still, Teyla had asked for their trust and had not given them cause to doubt her sincerity. If she could remain hidden from them for a month, so could someone else, hidden and spying on their every move.

“Look,” McKay continued to babble, trying to learn more and take his mind off his own doubts. “I’m stranded here. You might be my only chance for rescue. I could die here and no one would ever know.”

“If my master wanted you dead…you would be dead. You are alive for a reason.”

Gathering his courage, McKay continued his verbal assault. “Who is your master and why should I care…?”

The thin man lashed out snake quick, catching McKay across the face with the back of his long bony hand. “Be silent.”

The voice that thundered the command send chills down McKay’s spine. McKay wiped his hand across his mouth. He tasted blood where his teeth had cut the inside of his lip. Before, he had been frightened, make that terrified, now the terror was partially diluted by anger.

“Perhaps,” said a calm voice to their left. “You should consider doing the same.”

McKay’s heart skipped a beat. Standing in the sand, regal, poised, quarterstaff balanced lightly in both hands, stood Teyla.

* * * *

“Why, Teyla, so good to see you again.” The tall white haired man said, his voice dripping sarcasm.

Teyla’s chin came up and she looked the man in the eye. “I do not know you.”

“You think that. But I know you well. More so than you would like to know. You don’t need to know my name, but you can call me ‘Todd’, as your friend McKay named me.”

Teyla remained silent.

“We met on the vessel that brought you here. But I don’t think you remember. You were unconscious at the time.”

“I was never unconscious.”

“You think that,” he said again. “In fact, I visited each time you slept.”

Teyla stiffened and a look of comprehension crossed her face. “The dreams?”

He laughed. “Yes, Teyla, my sweet, the dreams. That was my attempt to get to know you. For the master. To see if you could be bent to his ways.” He nodded to those around them. “As your people bend to his way.”

“I do not know who these people are now.” Her voice was calm but an overwhelming sadness filled her as she spoke the words, acknowledging the strangeness of those she had once called friends.

“That is because they are mine, or more precisely the master’s.”

“What have you done to them? And why?”

“A logical question. It’s a simple matter, my sweet.”

Teyla flinched at the repeated and unwanted endearment.

“The why is the same reason powerful men have always used to subjugate the weak. We need workers who will not rebel or complain.” As he spoke Todd moved slightly closer to McKay.

Teyla held her ground, watching the men around her

“As to how,” Todd continued, “a simple drug, an herbal mixture actually. A few suggestions are made while under its influence. Then a continued low dose administered in food and water keeps the subjects pliant. It works particularly well if administered in fresh fruits and vegetable.”

“And why not me? Why didn’t it work on me?” Teyla was poised on the balls of her feet, muscles taut and ready to spring into action. She needed to engage this man, to keep him talking, to learn what he had done to her and to give Ronon and Sheppard time.

“Occasionally we encounter a mind that cannot be controlled. For whatever reason, the drug has no effect other than to make the subject sleep deeply.”

Todd showed no sign that her presence made him uneasy, but continued to address her as though she were the only one there with him. “I think,” he continued, “it might have something to do with the individual chemistry of the brain. But in order to properly investigate that matter I would have to dissect the brain of one who is resistant. You were far too lovely for such a fate. It was a pity to have to let you go.”

“And why did you? Let me go?”

He laughed again. “So simple, dear Teyla. We released you because, had you been allowed to remain among us, you would never have stop trying to free these poor wretches. It was decided that the best course was to release you here, where there was plenty of food and water for one as resourceful as you. We kept an eye on you of course. You and your new friends.”

“What do you plan on doing with McKay?” Teyla had held her ground as Todd moved slightly closer. Very faintly she heard a soft whistle.

“I would like to pick McKay’s brain.”

McKay, who had remained uncharacteristically silent, started to voice a response. The heavy hand of one of his guards, clamped down on his shoulder. Teyla wished she could signal him to be still and quiet. Although she said nothing he seemed to read the warning in her eyes.

“McKay understands how things work and could be of use to us,” Todd said, ignoring McKay’s aborted response. “As for the rest of you, I think I will just sail away and leave you to your own devices. You can’t follow us, because you don’t know where we are going. And I rather like the idea of leaving you here to wallow in your own frustration. Knowing that I know where you are and can drop in whenever it amuses me.”

“I can’t let you do that.”

“Yes, Teyla, my dear, you can.”

“No.” On that single word Teyla exploded into action. The end of her staff arced catching the guard on McKay’s left on the forearm with a resounding crack, sending his rifle flying, and causing the man to double over in pain, clutching his arm to his stomach. The return arc disarmed the second man. A knife was now protruding from the shoulder of a third, and from the edge of the trees Ronon and Sheppard charged, each armed with a quarterstaff. Before any of the remaining two men could react, they had been disarmed and Ronon and Sheppard stood, backs together with Teyla facing their remaining opponents. Sheppard had dropped his quarterstaff and recovered one of the rifles abandoned by McKay’s guards.

McKay had instinctively ducked when Teyla made her move against the second guard. He had landed face down in the sand and came up spitting sand from his mouth. Todd had moved as quickly as Teyla, anticipating her second blow. Before she was able to strike a third time, he had pounced on McKay, wrapping an arm around the engineer’s throat and dragging him to his feet, using him as a human shield. It was a stand off.

Todd began calling orders to the men and women who remained on the beach, staring blankly and waiting for instruction. His voice was a snakelike hiss as he directed them back to the longboats. Moving like mindless automatons, they filed toward the water and into the boats as they had been told.

Todd continued to drag McKay back towards the waters edge, his arm tightening around his throat, cutting off his air and his ability to talk. McKay tugged at the man’s arm, but Todd’s rail thinness belied his actual strength.

“Let McKay go,” Sheppard commanded each word flat and emotionless.

Todd laughed. “I think not. I have the advantage.”

Sheppard brought up the rifle he had in his hands. It was a Springfield. One shot at best was all Sheppard would have, if he could find a target.

Todd laughed. “You don’t want to shoot McKay.”

“I’m not aiming at McKay,” Sheppard answered. His face was completely calm, his weapon unwavering.

“Hitting me would be an impossible shot.” Todd taunted.

“Impossible shots are what I do.” Sheppard stood rock still. Todd had just begun to laugh again when Teyla saw a puff of white smoke and heard the sharp report of the rifle.

Todd yelped and flew backward into one of the waiting longboats, crimson blossoming on the shoulder of his pristine white shirt a look of complete shock and disbelief on his face. He released McKay as he fell and Ronon sprang forward to snatch the engineer by the front of his shirt and haul him back into their protective circle.

“Go, go, go,” Todd gasped out against the pain, and the boats were launched even as he spoke.

He struggled to sit in the stern of the longboat into which he had fallen. His voice crackled with malevolence. “I will come back.”

“I’m sure you will,” Sheppard answered.

“What was that?” McKay recovered from the shock enough to talk. His voice rasped as he gulped for air. “You could’ve shot me.”

“Wasn’t aiming at you.”

“Thank god.”

Sheppard moved past McKay to where Teyla stood staring after the longboats. She felt a light, comforting touch on her shoulder, “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “We didn’t recover any of your people.”

“But none were killed either,” she said gratefully. “And McKay was not injured. That, at least, is worth giving thanks for. And now I know what has happened to them, even if I don’t know who is behind all this.”

* * * *

The savory scent of simmering meat mingled with the wild onions. Clams wrapped in wet seaweed steamed on the hot coals. The three men talked and occasionally burst into laughter. Sheppard glanced to the open mouth of the cave where Teyla stood, a dark figure against the moonlit sky.

“Sharpshooter,” McKay was saying, amazement in his voice, “You never told us you were a sharpshooter.”

“You never asked.” Sheppard said in reply.

“I would have felt better about you aiming a rifle in my direction if I’d known.”

“Next time you’ll know,” Ronon stated matter-of-factly.

McKay was complaining about ‘the next time’ as Sheppard rose and walked toward the entrance of the cave. He stopped and stood at Teyla’s side, close, but not touching her. She wrapped her arms around herself, deep in thought as she had been since they had returned from the beach.

“You need to come up with some better traps,” Ronon was teasing McKay behind them.

Sheppard stood for a moment, letting the soft sea breeze wash over him. “McKay finished his water system,” he said lightly, breaking the unbearable silence. “We now have water brought right here without having to haul it from the stream.”

They stood for a few more moments in silence.

“Teyla, I wish things had turned out better,” he suddenly felt like he had disappointed his best friend. “I would have helped your people if I could, but I had to take care of us first. We couldn’t let them take McKay.”

Teyla looked at him and in the moonlight he saw a small sad smile touch her lips. “You did what you needed to do. You did the right thing. Knowing my people are alive has removed part of the burden.”

“I meant what I said when I promised we would find them. I don’t know how long it will take but we will.”

“For that I will be grateful. But in the meantime, I fear we have made a powerful enemy.”

“I have a feeling he would have been our enemy no matter what we did. Now we at least we know he is one,” Sheppard said.

Ronon’s deep laughter came from behind them, followed by a sharp protest from McKay.

“Come one, Teyla, whatever McKay’s cooked up really smells good. And I think I’m as hungry as he usually is.”

This time Teyla smiled a warm and genuine smile. Turning she took his proffered arm and together they walked back into the cave. “Then I think Ronon and I had better be quick to eat if we wish to have any at all.”




* * * *



Author’s notes: Little things that might help understanding what is implied in the conversations.

Camp Sumter was the official but seldom used designation for the confederate prisoner of war camp more commonly known as Andersonville.

Libby Prison – Of all the Confederate prisons, Libby’s reputation was second only to that of Andersonville. Only Federal officers and high-ranking civilians were confined in this facility.

The two most commonly used rifles (used by both the Union and the Confederacy) were the Enfield and the Springfield, muzzle loading single shot rifles that fired a miniball (pointed on one end not round). Both types of rifle had to be reloaded before each shot was fired.

The Sharps rifle was a .52 caliber breech loading single shot rifle that could be fired eight to ten times per minute and was highly accurate up to 600 yards.

The Henry repeating rifle was a .44 caliber rifle capable of firing 15 rounds before reloading. They were used by a limited number of companies.

Sharpshooters were highly skilled and extremely accurate marksmen even at great distances. They were originally organized under Hiram G. Birdan (Union) who requested his men be issued Sharps rifles. They were primarily used as skirmishers and proved invaluable in picking off and demoralizing the soldiers of either side as well as silencing artillery batteries from a distance. A similar Confederate group was also organized.

Standard pistol used by most soldiers was a six shot Colt or Remington. The LeMat I let Ronon have was capable of delivering nine successive shots followed b a single burst of buckshot. It packed greater firepower than any other Civil War handgun. Its nine shot cylinder revolved around a .63 caliber shotgun barrel mounted beneath a conventional rifled pistol barrel. Ronon had to have a bigger, badder gun right?? Approximately 2500 LeMats were manufactured for and imported by the Confederate army. Most were used by officers, including J.E.B. Stuart.

Teyla’s dress: It would have been considered very improper for a lady to expose her ankles, even if they were covered in socks and shoes. During the day a proper lady wore sleeves to her wrists and a bodice all the way up to her neck. No skin exposed, partially to protect against the sun. It was considered ‘of low station’ to have tanned hands and face. Now in the evening, for formal occasions such as a ball or fancy dinner, a lady was allowed to wear no or very short sleeves and the neckline on her bodice dipped considerably lower, not that a true gentleman was supposed to “look”.

Men were considered improperly dressed if they did not have at least two layers of clothing on. Undershirt and shirt, or shirt and vest, etc. Our prudish McKay thinks Ronon and Sheppard are not correctly dressed because they’ve torn off their sleeves and shortened their trousers to accommodate the heat. We see what he thinks of Teyla when they first meet.

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