Collateral Damage

by Eildon Rhymer

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How many people do you need for a Shep whump story? Two, perhaps: an author and a Shep? Perhaps three: an author, a Shep, and an instrument of the author's will, whether that be a nemesis, sharp-toothed flora and fauna, a dirty splinter, a sharp piece of paper, a mysterious Ancient device, a virus or a thug? Some would argue that you can't have "h" without "c", and thus would add in a doctor with furrowed brow, and at least one anxious friend, who will pace up and down saying, "Oh no! What would we do without him?" and then fall asleep on a hard chair beside the Shep's bed, drooling comically as they twitch in their angst-ridden dreams.

 

All are wrong. Dozens of forgotten innocents are involved in even the simplest Shep whump story. Here are some of their tales, smuggled out at great cost, for this is a story that must be told.

 

******

 

He was quaking with cold, his wet clothes sticking to his body. A twig was jabbing into his knee, and he felt dizzy from lack of food and water.

 

"I cannot last much longer," he hissed out of the corner of his mouth.

 

But of course he had to. She had been most particular about that. They had to stay here until the job was done. If they failed, her wrath would be terrible. Traders brought terrible tales of what had happened on Marlin, where a foolish elder had refused her demands. They were picking up pieces of flesh for weeks. There was no limit to her powers or her inventiveness. The pen is mightier… That was what she had said as she had stood over the burning embers that had once been a thriving village. I can do anything I please.

 

"Please," he had begged her, when she had snapped her fingers at him and told him that he was chosen. "I can't. I don't know how to."

 

"Of course you do."

 

And of course he did. The cruelly barbed arrows were nocked and ready, and the practice shots he had taken on the way had all found their targets. "But I can't kill somebody!" he had protested. "I'm the sort of person who picks up slugs to save them from being squished. I even rescue stranded mosquitoes."

 

His pleas had meant nothing to her, of course. "I need somebody in place with a weapon, and today it's you."

 

He had been waiting in the trees for twelve hours. Twelve hours in which he should have been working down the mines. Twelve hours of docked wages. His littlest one would have to go without the medicine she needed to stay alive. His wife would probably have to sell her body to the foreman. His aged mother would have to do without the coloured yarns that were the only joy she had left in life. The pet hamster would have to end up in the stew, or they would all starve.

 

Perhaps it would all be bearable if only he had a little motivation. She hadn't helped with that, either. "But why do I want to kill him?" he had asked, but she had just flapped her hand as if motivation didn't matter at all.

 

His victim should have been here hours ago, of course. A broken shell of a man lived out the wilderness, exile from a devastated world. He, too, had once been chosen. "She gets distracted by flashbacks and tangential snark," this man had once told him. "It all takes forever. Sometimes that seems the worst thing of all."

 

But now, at last, there was movement. Four people appeared on the far side of the clearing. He knew which one he had to shoot. She had plastered this man's face all over the known worlds, urging people to hurt him.

 

He raised the bow. "Not the face," she had told him, "although a head wound is acceptable as long as it leaves no permanent disfiguring scars. The arm's boring. The left shoulder would be my choice. Do not disappoint me."

 

"What about the bullet-proof vest?" he had dared to ask.

 

She had flapped her hand dismissively. "The vest," she had stated, "is only bullet-proof when I need it to be. At all other times, it is useless."

 

As his target approached, he took aim, and released the arrow. His target fell heavily to the ground, bleeding.

 

He let out a breath. The job was done. It was over. Now he could return to the wreckage that was his broken life.

 

It was then that he saw the large man with the wild hair, charging furiously in his direction.

 

That was the last thing he ever saw.

 

******

 

Cyril the field mouse was returning home from a long day out in the fields. He couldn't wait to greet his adored young wife and all his newborn babies.

 

The boot that trampled him was very large. He didn't stand a chance.

 

******

 

"No," the priestess said. "You have trespassed on holy ground. We cannot help you."

 

Her voice wavered. Out of sight of the strangers, she was standing, her long finger sharp and jabbing, her eyes promising death. Say what I expect you to say, those eyes said.

 

"Even though your companion is on the brink of death, we cannot let you in," the priestess said, digging her nails into her palms behind her back. "We cannot offer you food and water, a fire, and the best medical care that this planet possesses. We cannot offer you horses, either. He will have to walk back to the Stargate with his own failing strength, through wind and rain, through snow and ice."

 

"Don't forget the bridge," she hissed.

 

The priestess swallowed. Help me! she tried to signal with her eyes, but the strangers were too preoccupied with their injured companion to notice. "The unbreakable bridge is mysteriously down, too," she said. "You will have to swim the raging torrent, swollen by yesterday's freak storm, and infested with… er… fish. Prickly fish. Fierce prickly fish. He must not eat or drink, because all food and water between here and the Gate is deadly poisonous, although, strangely, only to wounded men with dark hair. And beware the sabre-toothed… squirrel. And… and if you carry him, the gods will strike you down and there will be many… bloody… fragments."

 

The strangers left. The priestess slumped against the wall.

 

Many years ago, as a young woman, full of hope and promise, she had sworn an oath never to refuse aid to anybody in need. For forty years, she had kept that vow. She had nursed countless souls back to life, and even the wild and desperate were never turned away, no matter what blood lay on their hands.

 

Today she had broken that oath.

 

Only one course of action was left to her. She would take her own life, using the sacred bak'ra blade, and be one with her gods.

 

******

 

There was blood on the holy avelline blossoms. Blood!

 

The old man bent his head and wept. He had had a good life for seventy years, but now the message was clear. The meaning of the blood was unmistakeable.

 

The End Days were here. The gods were displeased, and they would fall upon the earth with fire and sword.

 

The old man patted his pouch, where the vial of poison lay. He had enough to poison all the wells in the city. Death by poison would be painless, like sleep.

 

He would save them from this retribution.

 

******

 

"I feel dreadful," the young soldier moaned. "Get me to the doctor!"

 

"Can't." His comrade shook his head.

 

The soldier groaned as his stomach churned. He swallowed hard, and tried not to throw up.

 

"The colonel's in there," his comrade explained. "It's the big infirmary scene. You know how she loves infirmary scenes. How would she react if we suddenly turned up in the background. Oh no! Is he going to live or die…? then interrupted by you puking all over the place. She'd be furious."

 

"But…"

 

His comrade thrust his a basin. "Use this. It's all you're going to get." He clapped the young soldier briefly on the shoulder. "Hope you don't die."

 

******

 

There was blood everywhere. There was always blood.

 

"It's Colonel Sheppard's team again, isn't it?" the young woman said.

 

Her friend nodded. "Of course. Who else?"

 

The blood was all over the Gate Room, all over the steps, all over the corridors. It all needed to be scoured away. The young woman's skin was cracked and inflamed from three long years of constant scrubbing. She longed to escape this life, but where could she go? She had ordered so much super-strength industrial cleaning fluid that questions had been asked in high places. Of course she had denied being the lynchpin for some Pegasus Galaxy black market trade in cleaning agents, but the black mark had gone on her record all the same. She would never get a job elsewhere.

 

Although she showered three times a day, half-drowning herself in scented water, she could never get rid of the smell of cleaning fluid. She knew now that she would never get a boyfriend, never marry, never had kids, never give her parents a moment of joy or pride.

 

There was just this - one endless cycle of cleaning and blood.

 

"It wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't so prolific," her friend said. "Quick! Get this place cleaned up and ready for my next story. Why doesn't she write one of those long WIPs that take forever to be updated? Then at least we'd get a day off."

 

After they had cleaned the floors and the walls there would be the infirmary sheets. Colonel Sheppard's uniform would need washing and repairing yet again. She was losing her eyesight from all the close needlework.

 

She seldom had time off. She worked hours that would have been illegal in all civilised countries back home, and even in the uncivilised ones.

 

Whenever she did sleep, though, she dreamt of blood. It filled her vision, flooded her mind… Then she woke screaming, and knew that the nightmare was real.

 

There was blood everywhere. There was always blood.

 

******

 

Shocking, aren't they? Heart-wrenching…

 

And all of them true.

 

There are many women at large today like the evil woman in this story. They call themselves "Shep whumpers", and they peddle their immoral wares on the internet. "Oh, we're not harming anyone," they cry. "Well, only our Shep, and he's got a high pain threshold - really, it's canon! - and he always bounces back. It's not as if it matters."

 

Well, readers, here is the truth that they never wanted the world to hear. People do get hurt in a "Shep whump" story. "Shep whump" is written from the blood and tears of real, living human beings. For every drop of blood that these sick women extract from Sheppard's body, they extract the blood tenfold from their innocent victims. "No children or animals were harmed in the making of this story," they claim. It is a lie!

 

Ban this sick filth! Please write to the press, write to the politicians, write to the churchmen, and get them to join my campaign. Save innocent children from the cruel hands of these depraved women!

 

******

 

END

******

 

Note: Believe it or not, this story idea started off serious. I'm fascinated by telling a story through the eyes of several bystanders who each see only a fraction of the tale, and, preoccupied with their own concerns, don't really understand what they're seeing. I have explored variations of this theme in most fandoms I've written in. Musing on this a couple of months ago, I had the idea to write a fairly simple Shep whump scenario, but to tell it through the eyes of four or five bystanders. However, mere minutes after I'd started working on the idea, I got struck with the idea of making it into a humour story instead, and I just couldn't get rid of this urge.

 

Normal angst-ridden service will be resumed as soon as possible.

 

Feedback is always wonderful! You can email me here, or leave a comment on LJ

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