Prompt: Rodney, lost opportunity; 1400 wds; genfic; warning: AU, character death, dark
The battle is hard-fought; the city's defenders give no quarter, even as silver towers shiver into dust around them.
Rodney stays out of the worst of the fighting. He would have preferred to stay behind on the Daedalus rather than risking his genius brain in battle -- seriously, he had no idea he'd signed on for anything like this -- but he's the only one who has a hope of lowering the city's shield from the inside. Well, all right, he and, maybe, he has to admit, Carter. But Carter is needed on the Odyssey. Rodney doesn't know the details -- no one in the SGC hierarchy ever tells him a damn thing; they've hated him ever since that whole Teal'c thing -- but he picks up enough scuttlebutt to know that they're working on some kind of superweapon.
All he has to do is drop the shield so that they can use it. Right now, the insurgents have set up some kind of weird oscillating thing with the shield's frequencies; Rodney would be impressed if it weren't such a pain in the butt, because it means they have to solve an endless series of equations in order to beam anyone through -- they can figure out one permutation, beam a small group of people very quickly into the city, and then the Atlantis program figures it out and switches the shield's frequency again.
Rodney's tried suggesting that this might be a good time to try the ship-buster technology that Earth's been developing from basic Asgard technology with a little help from yours truly, but O'Neill won't listen, just claims that they want to take the city intact if possible. Right. He'd listen if Carter suggested it. But, no, she's on the Odyssey and O'Neill, with eyes so shadowed that they look like holes in his face, orders Rodney down into a city full of heavily armed and dangerous people.
Actually, Rodney finds, it's a city full of very dead people by this point; the heavily armed ones are few and far between, though no less dangerous. Rodney almost laughs the first time he catches himself thinking This place looks like a war zone, because that's exactly what it is. There are bodies everywhere, and tangled masses of rubble, and big holes in a lot of the towers. Rodney doesn't feel too sorry for the rebels -- they were given every opportunity to surrender, and they got what was coming to them -- but he winces every time he sees what they've done to the city. Well, okay, technically a lot of the damage was probably the SGC goon squad, but it would never have happened if what's her name, Weir, had just surrendered like she was supposed to.
Rodney loses half his armed SGC escort in one of the rebels' booby traps. They're just ... there one minute, and the next, they're all over the floor and -- and he really doesn't want to think about it. Soldiers are expendable. That's their job. They were probably grateful to die in battle; isn't that what they all want? And this is a very important task, protecting him; he's risking his very valuable life down here, doing the most important, the most dangerous job in the whole battle. As the silent and grim-faced soldiers -- the surviving ones -- hustle him along, Rodney tries to focus on this: the knowledge that he's doing something even Carter can't do. He tries not to think about the fact that maybe they sent him down here, instead of Carter, because he's expendable too, and she's not.
There are more bodies as they get closer to the central tower. Rodney steps over a coppery-haired woman who must have been very lovely when she was alive. She's not wearing an SGC uniform, even the mismatched and patched ones that he's seen around on some of the corpses; he guesses that she must be one of the rebels' local allies. It appears that someone had tried to cover her face with a jacket, but either they were interrupted in the middle, or the jacket was scuffed away in subsequent fighting; it lies, crumpled, next to her head. It's black with gray stripes.
They blow the doors to the tower. A hard hand pushes Rodney down like a sack of grain, and when the shooting stops, he uncurls and looks up. It seems like there are bodies everywhere, bodies and blood and worse things. Only two of the soldiers who beamed down with him are still standing, still alive. "Do it, Doc," one of them orders him roughly, and Rodney automatically starts to complain at being ordered around like some nameless private, but then he realizes: this is it, they're in, this is the moment when he earns his medals and acclaim and Carter's devotion. This is when he, personally, brings the Atlantis Rebellion to an end.
He crunches through broken glass to the nearest console. He memorized all of Weir's known command codes back on the Daedalus, and cracking their system is easy as hacking Windows Vista. Their security is a joke. As always when he's caught up in a mental puzzle, the world falls away, and it's not until he starts to resurface, victorious, his finger poised over the OK button (or Alteran equivalent) to bring the shields down, that he belatedly registers the gunfire that's been going on for the last couple of minutes.
"I said, step away from the console," a rough voice says behind him.
Ice water flows through his veins, dribbles down to his toes, as he looks over his shoulder at the filthy and blood-splattered insurgent standing in the doorway over the bodies of the useless excuses for soldiers that were supposed to be protecting Rodney. It's not Sumner, just some no-name rebel in filthy black and gray fatigues. For some reason, the guy reminds him vaguely of a younger and dirtier O'Neill, but while O'Neill generally looks at Rodney with ill-concealed contempt and dislike, it's nothing compared to the raw hatred in the enemy soldier's piercing green eyes.
"Last chance, buddy," the soldier says. "Your friends have killed a lot of my friends today, and the only reason why you're still breathing is that I don't want to shoot an unarmed man in the back if I don't have to. But I don't think you're playing Minesweeper over there. Hands in the air. Step away."
Rodney doesn't know what comes over him then. He really doesn't. He's never felt anything like it before; he knows that if he pushes that button, the soldier will kill him, and yet -- he's not stepping away like he was ordered to. It's stupid. A hero's death sounds great, except for the death part. Carter might weep on his coffin, but it won't do him any good. Rodney has always been a rational, logical man, and rationality and logic insist that he ought to step away from the console just like the crazy man with the gun is telling him.
But he was sent down here to do a job. He was sent down to do it because they'd rather risk him than Carter, and he knows, in a sudden moment of clarity, that there's no hero's welcome waiting for him back on the Daedalus; at the most, he might get a medal pinned on his chest, and then he'll go back to being disliked and ignored by most of the staff at the SGC. No kisses from Carter, no handshake from O'Neill, no lessening of the coldness in Teal'c or Daniel's eyes when they look at him.
He'd probably be better off if he steps away from the console and throws his lot in with the rebels. He doesn't owe the SGC anything. They all think he's a screw-up, a coward and a self-absorbed jerk, and he thinks that maybe, just a little bit, they're probably right.
But they sent him down here to do a job. This is his one chance to prove that they're wrong -- and no one will ever know.
He pushes the button.
The glow of the shield, outside the shattered holes in the tower's walls, winks out suddenly to reveal serene blue sky.
"You son of a bitch," the rebel snarls, and the gun in his hands barks twice. Rodney doesn't even really feel pain, just a feeling like someone kicking him in the chest, and a great breathlessness. As he falls, the room washes out in white light, and the rebel soldier screams, a hoarse cry of pain or shock. Whatever Carter was planning, she's done; the war is over, they've won, and Rodney falls into darkness knowing that at least he managed to take the other bastard with him.