artisticabandon: futuristic cityscape (cityscape)
[personal profile] artisticabandon
Title: Fracture Points
Recipient: [livejournal.com profile] stella_pegasi
Word Count: 3,105/?
Rating: G for this part, probably PG15 overall
Warnings: Somewhat graphic torturewhump, and allusions to such.
Summary: A debriefing is a debriefing until its an interrogation. Or, the story about how to break and still stay whole.
Author Notes: I was asked for slice of life, team, Cam, and lots of whump. I hope this suffices. Full prompt(s) at end of fic, because, well, spoilers. Also a bit more rushed than I usually like, because well, deadlines. And a totally chaotic RL.



FRACTURE POINTS
Part One



ELSEWHERE
They watched from behind the safety of monitors linked to a hidden camera (because one-way glass was so old-fashioned, not to mention obvious) as the two men settled in the SGC interrogation room for what was ostensibly a debriefing.

“You do realize we'll crucify him if this turns out like we expect,” one of them said.

“I know,” the other simply replied, and turned to the monitor to watch.

###

AFTER
The file hit the table with a thump that may or may not have been intended. Dramatic, yeah. But then, it was a big file. Accidents happened.

Colonel Cam Mitchell settled himself at the table and casually pushed the file across. He'd already read it. Cover to cover. Twice. And his...colleague (because victim was so...bleak a word) had lived it and had the visible proof for it. So, yeah. He really didn't see the point of going through the bother of opening the file.

"So," Mitchell said, for want of a better opener. "Got anything to add to that?"

Colonel Sheppard sighed and nudged the file back across the table. "I guess 'no comment' isn't going to fly this time, is it?"

Cam grinned, because he remembered the time Sheppard had said just that. (And survived that inquiry with career intact.) "Nope."

"Right." Sheppard pinched his nose. "MKR-389."

"MKR-389."

"Out of curiosity, who came up with that crazy naming scheme, anyway?"

"No idea, kind of before my time, and you're dodging the subject. MKR-389."

"Right." Sheppard let out a breath. "Well, to put it in context, and I'll go on record from here on, is that we make mistakes."

Cam stiffened in his chair. "You sure about that?" Was he really going to open with that, in this political climate? He did know that the Powers That Be wanted Cam to make this more of an interrogation than a debriefing, didn't he? (Not that Cam had the stomach for that anymore, now that he'd read the file.) (Twice.) (And thrown up. Multiple times. Because those pictures left nothing to the imagination.)

"Yeah. You see, despite what people think, we're not infallible..."

###

BEFORE
It's a sad but true fact that, contrary to popular belief, we're not infallible. No one is. And especially not in the SGC.

We miss things.

We're, well, human. Or near enough to it.

Usually, the things we miss are things that'll come back to bite us. That's why we travel in a team of four. The hope is that what one of us misses, one of the others will pick up. It works, for the most part. That's why I like working with Teyla, Rodney, and Ronon. They'll pick up what I miss. (And if nothing else, they make me look good.)

But then there are the missions...where we miss things. Where we all miss things. Its even worse when we all miss the same damn thing.

Because it only ever takes one thing for a mission to go to hell.

MKR-389 was a case in point.

We first heard about it from an ally at one of the huge trading markets, that a culling meant they needed help with the harvest. It was the usual thing. Heard the rumor first, not the name, took a while to actually get the address so we could do the follow-up. It takes longer than I'd like, but for obvious reasons; planetary addresses are guarded more jealously than gold in Pegasus.

Not that I'm complaining. We don't exactly give out ours, either.

Turned out the system had two gates. Orbital and planetary. It happened sometimes. I decided we'd take the orbital. I wanted a jumper handy, just in case. (Yeah. Okay. I admit it. I had a bad feeling about this one, but it was on the books already, so off we went.)

So. Travel to MKR-389 by jumper was rather uneventful, which by itself is a misnomer. Nothing good ever comes from orbital gates. (Rodney even wrote a report to that effect: Why the Ancients Hid Their Mistakes on Planets with Orbiting Gates, by Rodney McKay. As a personal note, I think the title says it all.) (And having read the report, I think he understated things.) Truthfully, I didn't expect this one to be much different.

Well, uneventful except for a minor disagreement about upcoming leave. (Make a note. Never get between an engineer and his plans for the upcoming Geeks Vs Goons Prank War. Or if you do, confiscate his water pistol first.) Which lead to a subsequent discussion about contraband. (A water pistol. On my jumper. So I confiscated it.) Said discussion being more like an argument than a discussion, but that's Rodney. (Only Rodney would complain for the rest of the trip to the planet about the confiscation, not the fact that he had it in the first place.)

So. Eventually, we found a place to land.

It took me a while. Unfamiliar terrain, unfamiliar civilian population with unfamiliar territory boundaries, at an uncertain stage of development, well, you get the idea. I chose my spot carefully, well away from civilization. You know, SOP kind of thing.

The fact that we always park so far away didn't deter Rodney from complaining. I kind of looked forward to it though. It's part of the routine. If he doesn't do it, if there's no complaint about where we park, well, I look for a problem with how I've done it. It's how we work. Like I said, he keeps me on my toes.

And, really, the most mundane part of the whole mission was the walk to the settlement I'd spotted on the jumper's HUD. Tree. Meadow. Tree. Meadow. Meadow. Some traces of livestock. Lots of open space. Rodney alternated between muttered complaints and updates on the scanner's readings, Teyla told me what she knew about the people of MKR-389 (which wasn't that much), and Ronon and I stayed on point. The usual.

And we saw nothing to tell us this was going to be anything other than a run-of-the-mill mission. It seemed the usual approach to the usual nomadic village. A few some-what permanent structures, but it had all the hallmarks of the people being able to flee quickly. A few scorch marks, but nothing unusual.

I keep saying that, don't I? It was true. It was...an average village, as far as Pegasus villages go. I admit that as much as I expect the worst from everyone, I didn't expect much from this one.

Perhaps, in hindsight, that was my mistake. I got lulled by the village's averageness. I know it caught me off guard when it all went to hell later.

Anyway, we were quickly met by a delegation of four.

I'll admit that I relaxed a little when we did the introduction ritual thing. You know, the old "I am so-and-so, son of this and that", and so forth. In Pegasus, it means a few important things. Who goes first is the one responsible for those they introduce, and it's a way of keeping track of people. Because of the Wraith. The anthropologists say it's like a galaxy-wide social network, except it's all verbal and visual memory. (So they keep asking for first contact missions so they can study it in action.) (And I keep saying no because 'seeing it in action' is a half-step short of a Wraith cocoon, and no scientist needs to see that.)

Really, it's just another Pegasus thing.

Turned out we were talking to the government of MKR-389. Or the Lao'tians, as I found out they called themselves. (It's pronounced Lay-oh-tea-hans, by the way. I only know how it's spelled because I saw it on some of their buildings in the standard Pegasus script.)

The title of their boss was Big Costar, which I thought had some irony, because he didn't seem one for sharing his glory, on reflection. His actual name translates as La'Tia (Lah'tee-ah). He had his three deputies (hangers-on) with him, introduced them, and then never let them talk again.

They took us into one of their few somewhat permanent structures to do the negotiating. Kinda like a hall, but a bit more tentlike. Like a, I don't know, 'tent of meeting', I guess.

Still, unlike most people in Pegasus, the Lao'tians weren't exactly backward in coming forward. They made their desires clear pretty quickly. It seemed like it was going to be a standard harvest thing. Bodies on the ground in exchange for produce. Which I was more than happy to provide, since I've got bored Marines to entertain.

Which pretty much meant that this was going to be a trade negotiation. So I stepped back and beckoned Teyla forward.

###

AFTER
Cam cleared his throat, interrupting Sheppard's flow.

"Huh, I'm sorry, what?" He looked up from where he'd settled on staring at the tabletop.

"Uh, Sheppard, can I clarify something?"

Sheppard shifted in his seat, trying to pull his brain away from the epic information dump. And what better way than noticing exactly how stiff he was getting sitting in the generic government chair. It was a good way to ground his brain back in the here and now, instead of...before. "Sure. I guess. What do you need?" Need, not want. Because he had no illusions which side of the table held the power here, and it definitely wasn't on his side.

"Why'd you pick Teyla to negotiate?"

Really, this is what they pick? Out of everything that went wrong...they pick on this? "Because she speaks the Pegasus Trade Language best out of all of us," he replied matter-of-factly.

"How so?"

"She's spoken it since, like, forever, but most importantly, before she went through a gate. The rest of us learned it after gate travel, including Ronon. It's really hard to learn a language when the gate translates for you."

Cam's forehead crunched as he processed this. (Or tried to.) They don't need linguists? "The gate...translates..."

Sheppard sighed. If he had a dollar for every time he'd held this exact conversation with someone from the Milky Way, he'd be rich right now. "Just...it's a Pegasus thing. Trust me. I'll explain as I go along. Now, where was I..."

###

BEFORE
Teyla stepped forward, as confident as I've ever seen her.

Which was when it all started to go to hell. Not that we knew that at the time, of course. That came later, when it was already too late to stop it. Because we missed it. We all did.

To be fair, at the time, when I let Teyla step forward, I did notice someone leave the hall we were in. But I didn't pay much attention. The way we do these things is I pay attention to the negotiations, kind of as Teyla's backup and witness, Rodney handles energy readings, and Ronon takes lookout and intimidation. So while I saw someone leave, I trusted Ronon to tell me if it was important.

Turned out we were all focused on what was in front of us: the harvest negotiation. Which for once seemed to be going smoothly. No hoops to jump through, no rituals to go through, nothing. (Which in hindsight should have been enough of a clue in itself.) I guess it was unusual enough that we all took notice.

Believe it or not, the trades we negotiate are a win-win for all sides. The planet we negotiate with gets their crop taken in quickly (because in Pegasus, speed is of the essence), and I get to occupy which ever Marine company has that day off in the rotation. And there's a standing challenge on Atlantis (that I'm not supposed to know about) to see who can bring in the most in a harvest in the one day. So, win win.

So, long story short, that's what we missed. We missed their reaction to Teyla being the primary negotiator. Turned out they had some sort of taboo about women taking the lead. Or at least, one side did.

But even though we missed that, it was hard to miss what happened next.

We were all caught off guard. Lao'tians. Us. Guards. Spectators. Everyone.

It was only a small team that took the 'tent of meeting'. But then, that was all they needed, because there was only two exits, we had only one man on lookout, and I'm pretty sure they had sympathizers amongst the guard. No one gives up the fight that easily.

I've thought about it a bit, over the last few days (enforced bed rest will do that), and that's the only explanation I can come up with, for why only half the guards resisted and the other half just, well, capitulated. Just laid down their weapons and gave up. Just like that.

The sympathizers thing probably explains how the rebel faction (we didn't know that at the time, but that was what we were dealing with) got so close to La'tia. Typical of the way the day was going, the intruders got close enough to take him hostage.

So of course it's a stand-off, half the guards surrendered, the other half weapons drawn, just like me and Ronon. Me, I'm betting on my P90 and Ronon's blaster against their ceremonial spears, but I wasn't exactly about to broadcast it.

Then, of course, there was a knife against La'tia's throat, and things just went a bit more...interesting.

"Okay, okay," I said, "how about we all just calm down." I laid my gun down to emphasize it, knowing Ronon would keep his at the ready.

You know, it's funny, how some things stick out in your memory, but other things are kind of vague?

The next thing I remember hearing was this weird kind of choking-gurgling sound behind me. You know, the noise someone makes when they're startled by a sudden pain and the blood bubbles in their throat because all of a sudden they're internally bleeding. That kind of noise. And it was coming from someone in my team.

Rodney. It was coming from Rodney.

Rodney. Chief geek and a member of my team. Someone under my direct protection.

To say I was unhappy was an understatement.

I turned just enough to see that one of the new guys had come up behind us and stuck a knife in Rodney's side while we were all distracted. Part of my brain started listing all the complications from that angle and location depending on the blade used (muscle, lung, stomach, liver, spleen, kidney, it just goes on...) while the rest of me calculated how to get out of this.

I smiled grimly. I could see only one way out of this, and it wasn't going to be pleasant. "Let them go. Take me instead."

###

AFTER
Cam stared at Sheppard. "You asked them to take you hostage. Knowing what would probably happen."

Sheppard shrugged (actually, it was the vague approximation of one). "SOP in Pegasus. Geeks rule. All lives matter. And my personal one: don't come home if you can't get the geek -- or civilian -- home as well."

###

BEFORE
As soon as I said the words, I could feel everyone's eyes on me, and not just those of my team.

One of the intruders spoke up, who I decided to call Leader until I learned different. "Why?" he asked suspiciously.

Oh God. Are they all this terminally stupid or is it just him? Did I really have to spell it out? Question of the hour: how to do so without losing our newly formed trade alliance and insulting the Lao'tians. For this, I didn't dare look at Teyla or Ronon. (Mostly because I knew they'd both be giving me The Stinkeye and I didn't need the distraction.) "How shall I put it... We're the ones who approached the Lao'tians, not the other way around, so logically we hold the position of power here."

Leader stared at me. "Which means you're more powerful."

And have more powerful tech to track me down when this goes south. "Which means you'll have more bargaining power if you take the most powerful person in this situation." I could see him wavering so I added the clincher. "Besides, if you want anything out of my people, you're going to have to talk to me at some stage."

Leader narrowed his eyes. "You the Big Costar for your people?"

"Something like that, yeah."

Leader nodded, short and sharp. "Take him."

###

AFTER
Cam dropped his pen in surprise. "Just like that?"

"Just like that."

###

BEFORE
I had enough time to send a quick message to Teyla and Ronon, to tell them to get Rodney back to Atlantis ASAP. I'd either follow when I could or they should follow me. We'd been through this kind of thing enough times, a team member left behind and another injured, that all knew what to do.

I saw them get Rodney out the door, and that was it. Same with La'tia. I saw the intruders let him go...and that was it, too. The hood they slung over the head was pretty effective for cutting off anything else I might have seen.

I'm pretty sure I got to the outside of the tent-of-meeting thing, judging by the sounds, before they hit me hard enough to put my lights out, but that could just be mixed-up memory from before. In any case, I was unconscious when they took me to their 'secret hideout', so I never really knew where it was except from reading the reports after the fact.

###

AFTER
Cam nodded, as if that confirmed something for him. Which it did, in a way. He knew Sheppard well enough to know his sense of direction was better than he usually let on. "I'm going to ask something before we continue."

"Shoot."

"Your injuries," he asked, gesturing at the bandages and casts, "did they come from the escape or otherwise?" He really hoped for the former, because otherwise there was another planet that was going on his mental list of Planets I'd Like To Nuke To Bare Metal.

"There was no escape," Sheppard said flatly. "I was rescued. These...came while I was a hostage."

###

END PART 1

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