"Dead or Alive"

by Grey Lupous

Part Four
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sheppard's cautious jog into the jungle, led by his trusty life signs detector, had turned into a full-blown run after he'd heard the shot. His calls on the radio were unanswered, and he couldn't tell if it had been Rodney or Vargas who had fired the shot. The lack of response wasn't a good indicator, hence the run.

The two blips he'd determined to be McKay and Vargas hadn't moved since then, leading him to believe that something had happened.

"Damn it Rodney," he muttered to himself as he brushed a large leafy plant out of his way. "This isn't funny!"

He'd been closing in on the two dots, so focused on his goal that he almost didn't hear the voices drifting faintly over his earpiece. Apparently whoever had the radio, had forgotten to turn it off. Relief flooded through John as he heard McKay finally speak up.

"I thought I shot you."

Well, that explained it. Sheppard slowed his reckless pace to a walk as he heard Vargas babble something about gifts. He could only guess that Vargas had gotten the upper hand again. He gave McKay the points for trying anyway.

He continued to close in on their position, glad that the life signs detector didn't include plants in its scans. He hoped it didn't pick up on bigger life signs like jungle cats or something, because that would not help him any. The thought of a huge predator stalking the trees caused him to glance up at the branches uncertainly. That would definitely complicate things more.

He didn't see any sign of animal life though, just him and the trees. He'd have to use them to his advantage somehow, maybe mask his presence from Vargas until he could get a nice clean shot.

To the head, he amended, as McKay mentioned something about Kevlar. Exactly how Vargas had managed that really didn't seem to matter at that point. What did matter was that he was getting harder to kill with his current arsenal.

"He's Genii."

John stopped in his tracks as he heard the name. Oh no. Oh no, no, no. He'd had enough of the Genii to last him a lifetime. He did not need to go another round with them. Couldn't they take their licks and go home like good paranoid commies?

Glancing at the life signs detector, Sheppard noted that he was almost to Vargas's position. He quirked a smile as he looked up at the trees. It looked like that childhood tree house was going to come in handy.

*          *          *          *          *

"The Genii?" Rodney asked incredulously. "How can he be Genii?" His eyes widened. "Are you—?"

Vargas smiled as he rose to his feet, leaving McKay in his awkward position on the ground. He rolled the shoulder that the scientist had shot, pausing as he addressed his captive audience again. "No, I'm not. Not really."

Seeing McKay was intrigued, Vargas continued to speak as he began to round up the scientist's personal items. "My mother was Genii, while my father was Frescan. You see, our two planets have a long history of trade and cooperation. Before the Wraith, Frescans were part of the same great federation as the Genii. Unlike the Genii, we lost all of our technology and knowledge."

McKay shifted on the ground to a less uncomfortable position. "If you lost all of your knowledge, how do you know that?"

Vargas fixed him with a sour look, but decided to let it slide apparently. "Our people  still traded with the Genii after the Wraith destroyed our people. My father met my mother on one of those occasions, and despite the disapproval of her people, they fell in love, and were married."

"Heartwarming," McKay grumbled, and when Vargas fixed him with an angry stare, he quickly added. "Please continue!"

 

"Their marriage opened relations between our people, and the Genii shared with my people their secret, that you and the major so eloquently stumbled upon," Vargas couldn't smother his amusement at McKay's surprised look. "Yes, I know about that. I also know of that unfortunate incident with the storm."

A feeling of foreboding danced on the edge of McKay's mind as he started assimilating what he'd just learned. "So you and the Genii chat regularly I take it? You just pass stories back and forth. You know a, 'Oh I killed a boar today' and, 'Really? We raided an ancient city full of pesky Earthlings' kind of thing?"

"Something like that." Vargas ripped open McKay's pack and began rifling through it, tossing several power bars over his shoulder.

"I know I'm all tied up here, but don't you think that's just a little invasive?"

Vargas paused, shrugged, and turned the pack upside down, emptying its contents onto the jungle floor.

"Hey! Hey! Careful! There's some delicate equipment in there!"

Vargas quickly sorted through the pile before deciding there was nothing of use or threat in there. He rummaged through the various items until he found the radio he had taken from McKay, loosely securing it to his now exposed Genii Kevlar-ish vest. He picked up the nearly forgotten P-90 and the nine millimeter he'd also confiscated from the scientist, before turning back to McKay. "I'm sorry, what?"

Lifting his lip into a sneer, Rodney cut to the chase. "Fine. You, Cowen, and Kolya play checkers on the weekend. What does this have to do with me?"

"Ah! I was wondering when you'd get around to that!" Vargas plopped down across from McKay, his face lit up like a child. "So you want to know why I won't let you just run along home to annoy my mother's people some more?"

"Yes!" An exasperated McKay replied.

"Well, if you must know, Chief Cowen has expressed a desire for you to share your knowledge of… how did he put it, 'everything about everything' with him."

A shiver ran down McKay's spine, as he recalled Kolya trying to drag him and Elizabeth back to the Genii home world not even a month ago.

Vargas continued, "He was even more intrigued after hearing of your manipulation of the technology of the Ancient's city. Apparently he thinks you could be of some use to the Genii."

McKay gulped nervously. "Ah, he couldn't feel that strongly about it. I mean—"

"Oh no, I'll be paid very handsomely to bring you in."

"Paid?"

"That's what I do for the Genii. I take care of their little loose ends, and in turn, they provide my people with their technology and protection."

"You're a bounty hunter?" McKay asked incredulously.

Vargas shrugged. "It's a living."

The butterflies in McKay's stomach turned into gut-wrenching anxiety. He was so very, very screwed.

"Of course, you're not the only Atlantean on their list," Vargas added, almost thoughtfully.

McKay's attention snapped back to his captor, as Vargas brought the mouthpiece of the radio that apparently hadn't been left on by accident. "Something you'll be interested in, Major Sheppard."

*          *          *          *          *

From his high perch overlooking the path, Sheppard froze. He'd been listening to the entire conversation, unease mounting with each revelation. He watched as Vargas looked around, apparently not expecting him to remain at the gate.

"The price on your head is almost that of the Mersir's, which I can assure you, is very tempting. Apparently they're not too happy with you. I think you killed one too many soldiers in 'self-defense'."

John frowned and pulled out his binoculars, so he could see his opponent's face, which was currently lit up in a maniacal sneer, directed at the forest around him.

"In fact, I don't even have to bring you in complete like I do this one here," Vargas indicated the bound McKay. "Although I'll get paid more so they can exact their satisfaction, but I believe their words were something along the lines of 'dead or alive'."

This was like a bad western, set in a jungle. Sheppard drew his P-90, trying taking aim through the trees. Vargas finished another sweep of the area, before returning to hover over McKay. John mentally swore and let his aim drop.

"Even if it weren't for the bounty, I think I'd be tempted to finish you off."

Well, he was a real talker, wasn't he? Sheppard let his P-90 drop back to his side, deciding to bide his time.

"Do you remember that shield you brought up? The one that killed fifty-five Genii?"

Remember? Hell, he saw every featureless face each night, along with Sumner, and everyone else he'd been forced to kill in his military career. Bringing the binoculars back up, Sheppard was surprised to see that the sneer had been replaced with a snarl.

"My cousin, Idos, was one of those 'few'. I was willing to be obliging if you didn't get in my way. So remember, Major, if you try to stop me from reaching the Stargate, I won't hesitate to collect both bounties."

Well crap, Sheppard thought to himself. Talk about complications.

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