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Title: The Coral Tower
Author: stella_pegasi
Rating: PG
Character/Pairing: John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan, Ronon Dex
Spoilers: None, set after Season 5
Warnings: Brief Language
Het/Slash/Gen: Gen
Genre(s): Adventure, Humor, H/C, Whump
Word count: 3,180
Summary:It's just another one of those routine missions…

Week Four Prompt: Orange


by stella_pegasi

'What the…," McKay sputtered as he caught a lung full of whatever was swirling through the air, and began coughing.

The area around the gate was thick with fine reddish-orange particles, larger than dust but smaller than grains of sand. Through the haze, Sheppard spotted a bright orb in what appeared to be a bright orange sky. He quickly pulled his sunglasses from his TAC vest and put them on; the polarized lenses barely cutting through the glare.

"There doesn't appear to be any wind, McKay; so I suspect the event horizon stirred up some dust. Let's give it a second, it'll settle."

Teyla was coughing as well, and Sheppard tapped her canteen, which she promptly pulled from her belt and took a long drink. Sheppard continued, "It's better not to hold your breath going through the gate, that way you won't suck in a lung full of something nasty on the other side."

McKay croaked, "Thank you "Colonel Boy Scout," I would have never thought of that."

"Well, you obviously held your breath, and you call yourself a scientist."

Rodney was sucking down water from his own canteen, not noticing Sheppard and Ronon fist bump over Sheppard's remark.

Ronon pointed toward the glow in the sky, "That the sun?"

"Yeah, I think so, or a really huge spotlight. McKay; want to enlighten us once more, on why we 'had' to come to this planet? I thought the new section of the database that Radek located said there were lots of minerals here. We chose to come here primarily because the Coalition is looking for resources to help some of the decimated planets get back on their feet. This doesn't look promising." As he was speaking, Sheppard was scanning the area around them as the dust began to settle. As he turned, Sheppard saw nothing but miles and miles of dunes in his line of sight. Nothing that is until he turned west from the gate, looming in the distance was an enormous structure.

He pulled a pair of binoculars from his vest, "Well; they definitely have building materials from somewhere. It took a lot to construct that." He handed the binoculars to McKay, who snatched them from Sheppard's hand.

"That's a big building, how far away is it?"

"As far as it is, come on, let's go. Ronon, you're on our six." Sheppard stepped down from the worn stone steps, causing a cloud of orange dust to loft around his boots. "Okay, walk lightly, this stuff is very loose and dry."

"Dr. McKay, I have never seen orange soil, what is this soil?" Teyla asked.

McKay didn't answer, and Sheppard turned to see why, finding Rodney peering at his pad. "McKay, answer the lady."

"Wha…what…there's radiation here; we need to go back."

Sheppard took a step toward McKay, "You just finding that out now, how bad is it?"

McKay murmured, "Not really bad; it's a fairly low level,"

Sheppard's voice held a tad bit of exasperation, "How low is low?"

"Low, we can stay for 48 hours or so before we should be concerned."

Sheppard's face twisted in a very annoyed look, "Come on, let's go." Once they were walking again, he answered Teyla, "The soil looks like kaolin, clay with lots of iron oxide, or maybe some similar mineral, in it causing the color. It's really nasty stuff, stains clothes and skin and gets all over everything."

McKay mumbled, "How do you know about kaolin."

"When I was at Hurlburt, I spent time at Robbins Air Force Base in Georgia, lots of red clay in the area. Some of the kids on base use to dig pieces of white kaolin from the ground and use it as chalk to make hop scotch boards on the pavement. Only redeeming value the nasty stuff has."

"Just full of useless information aren't you, Sheppard?' McKay said.

Sheppard looked over his shoulder, "Could have been Mensa, McK…what are you doing?"

"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm putting on a sort of sunscreen; it will help with the radiation, want some?"

Sheppard walked back to where Rodney, with a large jar in one hand and a glob of white goop on the other, was standing. Sheppard sniffed the air, "Well, at least that stuff doesn't smell like coconut. Did you make that?"

"No, Dr. Deidermeyer made it in the chem lab; we wanted something to protect us from UV radiation and other radiations. So he came up with a formula and made a batch."

"You tested that stuff yet?"

McKay looked sheepish, "Actually, uh, no…but I guess I am now."

"Just don’t go having some sort of weird reaction; we have new people to meet. Come on, let's go knock on the door."

The building stood about two miles from the stargate. As they got closer, they realized how truly large the structure was. Rodney had been complaining about the heat, whining about why they never found a nice temperate climate to visit, but stopped once the scope of the building became apparent.

Ronon summed it up for all of them, "That thing is big."

McKay snarked, "Yes, big is a good word for it." A glare from Sheppard and the scientist fell quiet.

They walked for another thirty minutes as a slight breeze began to build. Clouds were rapidly beginning to fill the sky. By the time they arrived at the massive front door of the coral-colored building, the breeze had become a light wind. The metal encased door was easily thirty feel tall. Sheppard looked expectantly at Ronon, who frowned, then pounded on the door. They waited, then took a step back as they heard what sounded like hydraulics, after several minutes, the door opened to reveal startled faces, startled orange faces.

At the front of the group was a thin woman with graying hair, wearing a dress made of numerous layers of diaphanous fabric in shades of tan and orange. A large metal necklace, studded with bright stones hung around her neck. She stepped forward to speak to them.

"Strangers, what brings you here at the start of the montensa. It is dangerous for you to be here; the winds have started. Come, come inside."

They followed her into a large chamber, three stories tall, that encompassed almost the entire, considerable, square footage of the building. Along the exterior walls were translucent panels that covered the surface, curving onto the floor, and ceiling. There were mechanisms at the door and the windows, which opened the panels.

Sheppard introduced himself and his team and then asked, "This montensa, you say it is dangerous, what is it?"

"I am Elder Leavi, normally we would welcome you to our home but this is a dangerous time. The montensa is a violent storm, which last for four months. Winds strong enough to cause this building to shudder will soon blow, and the rains will turn the dry clay into mud, which will consume anyone who dares to cross it. If you are to return to your world through the Circle, you must leave soon; the storm has begun."

Teyla commented, "I have heard of such storms. A trader came through my village when I was very young and told stories of a planet with such violent weather that he could not return to the Ring of the Ancestors for a long time. He said kind and gentle people took care of him."

Leavi smiled, "It may have that the trader stayed with us during the montensa, as you are welcome to stay as well."

Rodney said, "No, we should go, " and tugged at Sheppard's sleeve. However, his curiosity, despite the apprehension on his face, overcame him; he asked, "Have you always had these storms?"

"No, our history tells that our planet was once verdant, and there were rivers and oceans and fertile soil. Now we rely growing our food here in the tower, where all of our people live. We harvest water and soil that wash down from the mountain during the storm. The soil suitable for growing here has long been washed away, leaving only the ferrum clay."

"What caused the change?" Sheppard asked.

"A cataclysmic event, an enormous asteroid struck the sun, apparently so large that the force of it colliding with our sun changed the sun somehow, we do not know. Our cities were lost; those that survived made it to the tower, which was once the center of learning. We have lived here in the tower ever since, our ancestors created the panels that we seal ourselves in with during the montensa. We have endured these storms for hundreds of years."

Sheppard looked out the door, the cloud cover was complete; the wind was picking up, and the rain, pale orange in color, was beginning. He turned to Leavi, "How much time do we have?"

"Not much time, the storm gathers very rapidly. You need to depart for the Circle now."

"We'll return in four months, and bring supplies and scientists; perhaps we can find a way to help you." Sheppard smiled, "I promise."

"I believe you, colonel; what help you could provide would be appreciated. It has been a long time since anyone came to our aid. Now go, and may the Ancestors watch over you."

As they started to leave, Rodney had one more question, "Were you always orange?"

"Rodney," Teyla admonished, as Sheppard grabbed the scientist's arm and started to drag him away.

Sheppard told Leavi, "We won't bring him back with us; I promise."

With a slight twinkle in her eye, she replied, "No, please bring him when you return; truth of thought is important to us." Leavi continued, " Dr. McKay; we were not always this color. Our scholars believe that the constant exposure to the ferrum dust has colored our skin. We find that it fades a bit during the montensa; you may not realize it but your skin has an orange tinge from your walk to the tower." Seeing Rodney look at his hands, she laughed, "Do not worry, it will fade on those who have not been here long. Now, go; so that we may meet again."

By the time the massive door closed behind them, the rain was increasing and the wind was much stronger. Sheppard grabbed Teyla's arm, instructing Ronon to stay with Rodney, and they took off running.

Running, however, soon became impossible; the gate was nearly two miles away, and the rain was increasing with each step they took. The fine clay was soaking up the rain and turning the surface into a sheet of glass. They were no longer running; they were sliding. Not once but several times, they all fell. At one point, Teyla fell causing Rodney to trip as he tried to avoid her. They were covered with slimy orange mud, and Ronon lost his grip on Rodney, who slid into Teyla, his foot slamming into her side. Sheppard had tried to pull her out of the way, but she slipped from his grasp as Rodney struck her. Teyla was propelled almost ten feet before she could dig her heels into the mud and stop herself.

Sheppard had fallen and after three attempts to get up, he yelled, "Okay, everyone move together. We are going to get separated and lose someone." He managed to get to his feet and when he made it through the mud to Teyla, told her, "Hold onto my belt, don't let go, even if I fall." She moaned, a grimace of pain on her face, but she nodded and grabbed onto Sheppard.

The wind was roaring in their ears as they struggled to get to the stargate. They could no longer stand upright, and soon had to surround Teyla to keep her from being blown away from them. They continued to slip and fall toward the gate as the weather deteriorated. The increasing rain was turning the ground into a pit of orange mud, and by the time they reached the gate, they were sinking to their knees in the slime.

Over the howling wind, Sheppard yelled for Ronon to get Teyla close to the gate, while he and Rodney made their way toward the DHD. Ronon dragged Teyla as close as he could get and remain out of the event horizon swoosh. Sheppard grabbed Rodney by his holster belt and the loop on his TAC vest, pushing him toward the dialing device.

They were just about at the DHD when an explosive gust of wind hit Sheppard in the back, breaking his hold on Rodney and blowing him into the DHD. His right side and arm slammed into the edge of the pedestal. As he slid to the ground, his head hit the flared edge. He fell, unconscious, into the thick mud and started sinking.

Rodney screamed for Ronon, but Ronon was facing away from him, crouched over Teyla. He realized he was going to have to deal with Sheppard by himself. He grabbed the colonel's shoulders and dragged him to the pedestal, propping him against the device to keep his head out of the mud. The grabbing on to the DHD, he dialed Atlantis.

When the event horizon settled, Ronon stood up, carrying Teyla; as he approached the puddle, he looked back to see Rodney trying to deal with an apparently unconscious Sheppard. He put Teyla on her feet, and gently pushed her through the gate. He then turned, forcing himself down the steps, against the wind.

Rodney pulled Sheppard away from the DHD, but dropped him again, mumbling, "Damn it; you're skinny, how come you weigh a fucking ton?" He put his back to the gate and started dragging the colonel. He made it about two steps before he lost his footing and fell backward, his head sinking into the soupy mud. Exasperated, he tried to get up but couldn't get any leverage, and sank even further into the mud. He moaned as he tried again, but yelped from surprise, as strong arms pulled him to his feet.

"Hey, little man, help me get Sheppard up."

Rodney held Sheppard's head out of the mud, while Ronon straddled him, circling Sheppard's torso with his arms. He pulled the colonel up and flung him across his shoulder. Turning to Rodney, he said, "Hold onto my belt, and don't let go."

Slowly, they slugged through the mud, the wind beginning to gust even harder. Ronon started up the steps, but Rodney stumbled behind him, and fell.

"McKay, grab my arm." Ronon yelled. Rodney blindly reached up and grabbed Ronon wrist, and Ronon wrapped his hand around Rodney's wrist. Ronon then pushed his way through the gate, carrying Sheppard and dragging Rodney.


The soft beeping surrounded him like a comfortable blanket; slowly, he opened his eyes to find the light above his bed muted. Carson was taking care of him; he was the only doctor who remembered how much he despised bright lights. He struggled to rise up but was too weak.

"Hey, Sheppard; lay still."

"R – Ronon."

"Yeah, it's me, Sheppard; just lay still, you have a couple of cracked ribs, and a concussion. Beckett says you need to rest."

Sheppard sighed, "How…uh…how's Teyla and Rodney."

"Teyla has two broken ribs from where Rodney kicked her, she's asleep across the way."

"Rodney must be crazy with guilt if he hurt her, but not his fault."

"Yeah, well, he would be but…" Dr. Beckett walked in and interrupted.

"You're awake, good; how you feeling, colonel."

"Like I just walked through a hurricane. How's Rodney?"

Beckett grinned, casting a sideways glance at Ronon. "He'll be fine; now you need more sleep, laddie. You've only been back for about five hours," Beckett uncapped a syringe and injected something into Sheppard's IV. "I'm giving you more pain meds; nighty night."

When Sheppard awoke again, he felt stronger and managed to push himself up. Ronon was sitting next to Teyla's bed, and Major Lorne was sitting next to his.

"Major, what are you doing here?"

"Colonel, good to see you awake, sir. Let me get Dr. Beckett; he said to let him know when you woke up." Lorne left and came back quickly with the doctor.

"John, you look better; let me check you out." He pulled up a penlight, but Sheppard grabbed his hand, "No one has told me about Rodney."

"Rodney's fine, he's bruised and battered like all of you; from Ronon's description, that was a horrid storm."

Sheppard noticed that Lorne was holding something, Rodney's orange fleece. He knew it was Rodney's because no one else on Atlantis would been caught dead in the garish color; the jacket was uniquely Rodney.

"Lorne, why do you have Rodney's jacket?"

Lorne turned red, and looked at Beckett, who also seemed a bit embarrassed. Beckett answered, "I asked him to bring it here."

"Why would you want it?"

Beckett, Lorne, and Ronon, who had joined them, all laughed; Beckett smiled, "Well, Rodney's fine, other than suffering from bruises and overstressed muscles, just like all of you. However, there is one small issue."

Sheppard was about to demand Beckett tell him, when a despondent voice spoke from the other side of the curtain pulled around the bed next to Sheppard's. "You might as well show him."

Lorne and Beckett started giggling, while Ronon was grinning broadly, even Teyla had an amused look on her face. As Beckett pulled the curtain back, exposing Rodney, Sheppard didn't know how to react. He thought better of laughing when he saw the pained looked on Rodney's face, Rodney's bright orange face.

"Beckett, I don't look like that, do I?" Sheppard asked with a note of panic in his voice.

"No, no, laddie; the orange coloration on you, Teyla, and Ronon disappeared within a couple of hours, after we scrubbed all the mud off."

"Then what happened…"

McKay interjected, "It was that stupid cream that Deidermeyer made. It reacted with the ferrum particles in the air and mud and dyed my skin." He held up his hands, which was the same bright orange as the rest of Rodney's exposed shin.

Sheppard was really trying not to laugh, as he asked, "Is it permanent?" However, he wasn't able to prevent a slight chuckle from escaping, which caused Rodney to glare at him.

Beckett, who was snickering, said, "No, it's already begun to fade a bit. He's ready to be released, but he doesn't want to see anyone. We're going to sneak him out to his quarters tonight " Beckett turned to Lorne, motioning for the jacket. Tossing it to Rodney, Beckett said, "We're looking for orange pants to go along with the jacket…then you'll be all one color."

Rodney erupted in a rant; Beckett, Lorne and Ronon started laughing. As Sheppard heard the trio coming up with names like, Dr. Pumpkinhead, and Dr. Orange Popsicle, he snuggled into his pillow. In a few months, they would return and check on the people of the orange planet, but in the meantime, teasing 'Rodney the Orange' was going to be fun.

The end…


( 28 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 20th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
I'm grinning like a silly girl!

This is so like an episode of the SGA! Really enjoyed it very much.

Thank you for reminding me what the team is like from the show, I really miss it very much :(

Jun. 21st, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed it. I know we get so caught in AU's and other stories that we forget what made us love them to begin with. Thanks so much for your comment. I miss the show very much, as well.
Jun. 20th, 2011 11:54 pm (UTC)
Nice team adventure! :-D
Jun. 21st, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
Thanks, so glad you liked!
Jun. 21st, 2011 01:41 am (UTC)
I agree... great fun and great team story!

Nice work!
Jun. 21st, 2011 02:38 am (UTC)
Thanks so much, glad you enjoyed!
Jun. 21st, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
Great team story hon. You got the humour spot on reminding me of the REAL Stargate Atlantis. Adventure, whump, humour.......just the perfect mix for a fantatsic team story. Completely and utterly loved it!!
(love your icon btw)
Jun. 21st, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much...I really appreciate your comment. Glad you enjoyed and glad you like the icon...but then, have you ever seen a bad icon of John Sheppard? I love them all.

Thanks again!

Jun. 21st, 2011 04:46 am (UTC)
PS Loved the fleece making a return!
Jun. 21st, 2011 02:34 pm (UTC)
LOL....the fleece lives! (You know, I love orange, I have a few touches of orange in my living room amound the taupe and sage green. I am probably one of the few people who loved Rodney's orange fleece jacket.)
Jun. 21st, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
Great team fic! I loved your character interaction and the interplay between action and humour. Thanks for sharing.
Jun. 21st, 2011 02:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad that you enjoyed the story, it was fun to write. Really appreciate your comment, thanks again!
Jun. 22nd, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
LOL! Poor Rodney!!! Still, at least he matches that fleece now!!! :)
Jun. 23rd, 2011 01:58 pm (UTC)
Poor Rodney is right....not only for being orange but for having to put up with the snark! Glad this made you laugh!
Jun. 23rd, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)
Great team episode. Loved the orange sediment and all the problems that it caused. Also loved the orange people that they met - and of course orange Rodney. That was great!!
Jun. 23rd, 2011 02:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks, glad you enjoyed. The prompt said orange and I ran with it...

Thanks so much for your comment!
Jun. 24th, 2011 07:40 am (UTC)
Ooh, fascinating world-building. and I so thought the whole team would be dyed orange. :)))

Jun. 24th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thanks. Well, all of them did get a slight orange tinge...but unfortunately, only Rodney has to suffer. Poor Rodney.

I appreciate your comment about the world building, I love to create new worlds and new people. One of my most favorite things to write about, besides SGA.

Thanks, again!
Jun. 25th, 2011 04:21 am (UTC)
Ayee! So perfect! Rodney's hypochondria backfires once again!
Jun. 25th, 2011 04:24 am (UTC)
I know, poor baby, Rodney is always his own worst enemy! Glad you enjoyed
Jun. 25th, 2011 10:21 am (UTC)
Interesting world, and vivid descriptions. It must have been surreal, with the mud all bright orange. I bet people were startled in the gateroom when they returned!
Jun. 25th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
LOL...I imagine the Marines on gate duty and the medical and control room staff just shook their heads and considered it was just another day for Sheppard and his team. Bet they made a mess...

Thanks, really glad you enjoyed the story.
Jun. 25th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
You're a mean girl to Rodney.... I likes it :-)
Jun. 26th, 2011 02:56 pm (UTC)
I know...but it's so much fun to tease Rodney! Glad you liked it!
Jun. 25th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
This was so fun! I love the strange new world on the other side of the gate and the epic struggle to make it through the storm. Like several others said, it felt like it could have been an episode, with the man vs. nature theme and an orange Rodney at the end.
Jun. 26th, 2011 02:58 pm (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed, I did go slightly over the top with the prompt. I love playing with new worlds, so this was fun to write. Thanks!!!
Jun. 26th, 2011 08:31 am (UTC)
I love the idea behind the coral tower, and LOL, oh, Dr Deidermeyer, fear the wrath of Dr Orange!! *g*
Jun. 26th, 2011 03:00 pm (UTC)
Ah...Dr. Deidermeyer, he shows up in a lot of my stories, as Kavanagh's replacement. I would think that Rodney would take revenge. Glad you enjoyed. Thanks!
( 28 comments — Leave a comment )

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