One little blip, like the Space Invaders’ ship, moving further and further up towards the bigger blips of the hive-ships in jerky little movements, skipping across the screen like a stone over water, missing steps along the way. Nothing like the smooth, hell-for-leather, dampner-challenging manoeuvres that Major Sheppard was really attempting. Despite himself, Rodney’s eyes were drawn to the display, struggling to focus on the colours, not to see double.
Elizabeth’s voice. He nodded. Quietly told people what to press and where, not bothering with the why. They didn’t need to know that, so there was no point wasting the breath to tell them. The clock was ticking ever down, down to those final few seconds when they’d wrestle to stop it ticking at just the right moment, avert the latest tragedy just in time.
Or not. Not this time.
The John-dot moved ever onwards, the relentless underdog on his own against the evil galactic empire. Duck this blaster. Dodge that death ray. Hit that weak spot. Save this day.
Except John’s not really a pixelated person. There’s no powerbar to replenish, no lives to use up, no level restart. One wrong shot and he’s gone, just like Grodin. Just like Gaul. Rodney tapped in the commands to cut off the east pier, over-run with Wraith, not knowing how many of thosedots were people he’d just shut the door on, desperately trying to buy just a few more moments. Trying to survive til that final scene.
He wasn’t even looking when it happened.
“One of hiveships has been hit.” A pause, fingers flying, information processed. “Sensors say destroyed.”
Rodney couldn’t look up, hitting command after command, locking system after system, instigating last-ditch attempt after last-ditch attempt. The colours on the consoles were lit up like machines in an arcade, the cheesiest, oldest graphics card imaginable, kids spending their pocket money trying to get the little pac-men away from the ghosts who just keep coming even when you kill them and…
Elizabeth again, and he wondered why she even asked. Silence was the great communicator at times like this. Even Rodney knew that.
Zelenka clearly did too, because he heard no response from the Czech, could hear nothing above the tapping of his own fingers and the blood rushing in his ears.
And that was it, really. No sudden burst of vengeful ire made Rodney charge out of the room to kill Wraith with his bare hands, rip them limb from limb. No sudden sense of his own life flashing before his eyes in a last, egoistic montage, proving once and for all he only thought of himself when the chips were down. No great and last realisation about life, the universe and everything. No sense of his own mortality and place in the grand scheme of things, no sense of breaking, no… snap of pain as his soul broke in half.
His fingers just carried on moving, his over-tired brain thinking. Maybe all those drugs and the shock were really to blame, but he couldn’t tell for sure. He just couldn’t… feel. Anything. He couldn’t remember feeling, either. It was although everything had been flattened into one long, grey, indeterminate, uniform plane of non-being, just… being., in the barest possible sense imaginable. No pain. No fear. Not now, not ever.
Carson was leaving. He knew without looking, that Carson was leaving. Down the corridor, running for the second jumper. Certain death, and Rodney didn’t care.
“Wh- Doctor Weir!”
“What is it?”
“The Daedalus! The Daedalus is here!”
The Daedalus, with her compliment of battle-fresh troops, whatever weapons and supplies the SGC had seen fit to send, her ZPM.
It didn’t matter. Rodney shook his head, hands on the console panel, head sunk low.
“All fine. Engaging with remaining hiveship… firing… firing…”
No one was breathing, and it made him want to laugh. Outside, the people on the piers and the balconies were still dying, being taken – in what numbers, who knew? But the Daedalus was here. So everything was… fine. No breathing here, when they needed every breath they could get. Every breath they could get one more than those who had already stopped. Like John’s last breath.
They lost three whole subsections, one tower, numerous people. The numbers no longer had any meaning for Rodney, unreal digits with no form underneath. He worked on and on until the ship was landing. Docking. Coming… home.
Dull eyes and he tried not to laugh in her face.
“Rodney. I thought you should know. Major Sheppard—”
Died. Hero. Tragic. Bloom of life. Above and beyond. Your friend. Understand.
“—was intercepted at the last minute by the Daedalus. He’s in the infirmary now.”
Rodney nodded, through the haze. It was the thing to do. A nervous habit. A nonsensical glitch. “Thanks,” he said, but didn’t mean it, because no matter what anyone told him, John Sheppard had died, and Rodney thought he might have died too, the moment he knew. If not died, ceased to live.
Her eyes searched him, her mouth in that little pout that he knew meant confused, unimpressed. But the thought and the emotion didn’t seem to fit now, just a blank kind of recognition for a thing he no longer knew. He wondered what she saw, when she looked at him.
“Get some rest, Rodney.” More gently this time. He wondered if it was that obvious. Whatever it was.
A nod. Brisk and brief. “Yes. Good idea. Send the major my regards.”
A million-to-one chance, and it happened nine times out of ten. What were the odds of that?
Rodney didn’t know. Even mathematics lied to him now, so quite how he was supposed to know anything at all was beyond him.
‘Intercepted by the Daedalus’ she said, but the major had cheated death and the odds so many times now it ceased to count at all.
“Take care,” came the quiet, gentle, careful voice from behind. And Rodney nodded, because what else could you do?
“Of course. I always do.” And when he lay down in his bed at last, no dreams met his sleep.
Summary: SEIGE II TAG. There's only so much pain a person can take.