Fandom: Stargate Atlantis and SG1 crossover
Pairing(s): Radek Zelenka/Chuck Campbell/Carolyn Lam
Warnings: Major characters either dead or missing
Prompt: Apocalypse Kree prompt #42: "SGA Supporting/Minor Characters. Survival without the heroes."
Summary: Extraordinary to find this here, in the ruins of all else.
Notes: Apocafic for Apocalypse Kree 2011. Many thanks to busaikko for the beta, which led to me getting carried away with various improvements, so any mistakes or purple prose in the end result are all my own work.
Radek refilled the feeding containers with wheat. Well, a fairly close relative, some type of grass seed. His birds jostled eagerly, bubbling coos filling the loft as they pecked at the grain. "Yes, yes, vrkoo, vrkoo," murmured Radek, stroking Eliska's feathers with the back of a finger as she roosted on his arm, preening. "You are very attractive. For pigeon." Why was he speaking broken English to a bird, when he might never hear Czech spoken by another human being again? Perhaps that was why he sometimes let his accent thicken around the others, almost caricaturing himself. "Ano. Ty jsou velmi atraktivní." Eliska cocked her head, something bright and knowing in the dark eye turned upon him, then she fluttered down to feed.
He topped up their water, swept the floor with the twig broom and opened a shutter to the outer roosting perch. Dusk was thickening and the birds would stay indoors overnight to be safe from the batlike creatures that emerged from the mountains at twilight, hunting until first light drove them back into their caves. Netvor, Radek had named them. It meant monster, and it had stuck, although they were no threat to humans; the netvor preyed on smaller creatures.
There were cracks aplenty in the wooden walls of the pigeon loft, a rickety structure perched on the building's sloping roof. The birds did not need the shutter open for ventilation. Foolish to hope, Radek thought, but he left the shutter ajar and made his way carefully through the hatch and down the ladder, wrapping his coat around him against the wind as he hurried back inside.
Succulent smells met him and his nostrils flared appreciatively as he washed his hands at the bowl on a side table. He and Chuck seemed immune to bird-fancier's lung, but Carolyn was mildly allergic and they could not risk anyone developing the sensitivity. Carolyn was their only doctor, and ten months had passed since the evacuation, so the medical supplies she had saved from her infirmary at the SGC were almost depleted.
Chuck turned from stirring, his face pink in the firelight. "Nearly ready," he said.
His beard needs a trim, Radek thought—he must take care of that before too long. He fingered the much-handled folded scrap of paper in his pocket. Chuck had taken to writing poetry in recent weeks, and had given one to Radek for his birthday. The last verse was engraved in his memory now, from all the times he had smoothed it out and read it.
Whenever I find the world too small and no place for me in it,Extraordinary to find this here, in the ruins of all else. "It is smelling delicious," Radek said, pushing his spectacles up his nose. "I will set the table?"
you open my heart
and fill it with fresh water,
whisk the droppings from the floor of my cage,
and pour fresh birdseed lovingly into the pockets of my mind.
Chuck quirked a smile, acknowledging the jest. They only possessed three bowls and as many spoons, plus a couple of military-issue knives. "Don't bother with the best china tonight, Radek, it's just a humble stew for the three of us."
Radek inclined his head mock-solemnly. "As you say, my friend. But stew is not humble when made by you. It has attitude."
Chuck grinned and turned back to the pot hanging over the fire. "That's the mock-garlic, Radek, and the sour-berries. All I do is chop up the rabbit things and stir it all together."
"It's all in the wrist action," said Carolyn, banging the door shut against the wind and pulling off her jacket before slumping into a chair. She rested her head on folded arms. "I never knew you had such culinary skills, Chuck, when you were helping out Walter, back at the SGC." She was clearly exhausted, to have mentioned the SGC; they tried not to, these days.
No one wanted to think about what had happened to the others trapped under the mountain once the wormhole shut down. No one else had dialled through after the first evacuation. Radek thought the complex had probably been bombed into rubble, so even though the stargate was most probably intact, it was inaccessible. Of course, they were not at the alpha site. It had been deemed too dangerous, the address too well known. It was possible that there had been confusion as to which of the beta sites they had used, or maybe Walter had mis-dialled. He'd refused to be evacuated, insisting on manning the consoles as the sound of gunfire grew louder and the last pallets were pushed through the event horizon.
Such chaos on the other side, people bleeding, children crying. And once they'd recovered enough to dial through to the alternate beta site, the final disaster: the DHD was broken, its crystals corroded by some species of alien termite that had nested inside the casing since the last time the facilities here were checked. Radek was certain that it was still possible for Earth or the alpha site to dial in, but ten months had passed, with no word. . . He shook off the familiar, pointless ruminations, setting out the bowls and what passed for cutlery, and filling their motley collection of mugs from the water jug.
"Sorry," muttered Carolyn, "I didn't mean. . .". He rested a hand on her shoulder, and she sighed. "There's another bout of diarrhea going around. Half the kids are sick and I've been mixing drinks from salt-weed and coaxing it into them all day. They've probably been trying to eat those fake-plums again. They look so appetizing and the kids are hungry, so even though we tell them not to. . ."
Radek nodded, and Chuck brought the pot to the table and started dishing stew into bowls. Not very much in each portion. It had been a lean winter and they were always slightly hungry these days. Some of the security staff had been in their group of evacuees and had taken over hunting and fishing duty, but this planet had few edible plants, and even fewer animals that were palatable. The rabbit things were sparse now at the end of the cold season, and the one species of eel that didn't bring everyone out in hives seemed to be hibernating until spring. Radek had worried that some fool would break in and take his birds, but they were too important now that the radios had stopped working, and a symbol of the last remaining hope.
The stew was good, and Radek eked it out, making it last. Carolyn's slip had turned his thoughts to darker paths, and he found himself brooding yet again about how rapidly it had all fallen apart after the reality of the Stargate Program, wormholes and homicidal aliens, had been leaked to the public. The leaks had been extensive, coordinated and backed up by videos and documents. Radek thought those responsible were probably a disaffected group of either scientists or military, conspiring with The Trust.
There were even rumours at the SGC, in those last frantic days, that the President had been snaked. It seemed at least possible, given how quickly extremists of all stripes—suspiciously well-armed extremists—had emerged. One day there were protests, the next riots, then suddenly the newscasts showed full-scale running battles in the streets with police and armed forces. The military themselves had been compromised, whole platoons defecting to the insurgents. It was suspiciously orchestrated, flashpoints of xenophobia flaring up across the globe, the media foaming with anti-alien hysteria.
The scattered staff of the SGC and Area 51 and as many of their families as could be located had been gathered up and hidden under the mountain. The marines called it "protective detention" but it was still incarceration. Radek had been on leave visiting with his cousins, but at least he'd been able to save two cages of his precious birds from Prague before his homeland descended into chaos, armed militias skirmishing on every street corner.
No one knew what had happened to Rodney. He'd been in Wisconsin with Jennifer, visiting her father. The mid-west had become a stronghold of the religious right, and the last they'd heard, Wisconsin had declared itself an independent territory and closed its borders. At least Teyla and Ronon had been en route to Pegasus on the Daedalus when the rioting began, and Sheppard had been offshore on Atlantis.
Sheppard. They'd thought Atlantis safely concealed until a well-orchestrated military coup seized Vandenberg Airforce Base and fired ballistic missiles at the city. She'd been cloaked, not shielded, and had taken at least one hit before Sheppard managed to get to the chair. The drive had been damaged, and the strain of take-off must have weakened her further. Sheppard had at least managed to clear atmosphere and reach low orbit, but that was all.
Radek had seen television at the time, and Chuck had a video of one newscast saved on his smartphone. Radek had watched it obsessively until the battery began to fade and Chuck had quietly put the phone away. The multipointed snowflake of the city, vanishing up into the sky with fire blooming from her core, from the drive. He'd watched the city disappear into the blue and then—long minutes later—a blinding flash searing the sky as the stargate exploded. God knew what Rodney had felt, trapped up there in Wisconsin, seeing that.
Radek closed his eyes, grief sweeping over him. Chuck put a hand on his arm, and he took a deep breath, bringing himself back to the present, to this warm, fire-lit room and his friends. His lovers, these past three months. Carolyn was watching him anxiously, biting her lip, and he smiled, trying to reassure her. People had come together in odd pairs and clusters among the refugees, for comfort and companionship. Unlooked for, but very welcome after his solitary years. He had mourned for a long time after they lost Elizabeth, but that all seemed so very far away now.
"Come to bed." Chuck tugged on his arm and took Carolyn's hand. "Come on, the dishes can wait." He pushed them gently toward the curtained-off sleeping alcove then banked the fire, ever practical, and put the covered stew pot outside to keep cold. Radek shucked off his clothes and let Carolyn draw him down under the covers. She burrowed into his warmth and he took her hands and warmed them on his belly. She always had cold hands and feet.
"Toasty," mumbled Carolyn appreciatively, snuggling into Radek as Chuck finished folding and stacking his clothes then slid into bed, curling himself neatly around her back. "Morning," she muttered, already half sleep.
"Yes, sleep now," Radek whispered, stroking her hip. "Sex in the morning." Chuck yawned and kissed the nape of her neck.
Radek tried to relax and drift off, tried not to think about SG1 who had left the settlement eight months ago. They had planned to trek across the mountains to a ruined outpost mentioned in the planet's initial surveys. So many unknowns out there, so many reasons why they might not have returned. Even if they were safe, there was no guarantee the outpost would have the crystals needed to repair the DHD.
He wondered yet again if they'd survived, if they'd found enough game after winter descended, in the mountains or beyond. If they'd given up and eaten the pigeon, Nadezda, that he had sent with them. She was his favorite, the smartest of all his birds, and the best flier.
Closing his eyes, Radek drowsed. Upstairs, his pigeons would be cooing dreamily on their perches, safe from the cold wind and netvor. Maybe tomorrow Nadezda would be there when he climbed the ladder and opened the hatch, a message tied to her leg with good news about the mission. Maybe he would find her pecking at the grain, hungry after a heroic flight. Maybe.
Radek fell asleep with the sound of his birds in his ears, the sound of a pigeon alighting.