Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis is in no way, shape, or form mine, nor do I make any profit from the following story. It is a work of fan fiction necessitated by the three-plus month hiatus between the first 10 episodes and the remainder of the first season!

Ghosts of Prague

By Kerr Avon

1. Temporary Partners

"Ow, ow, OW!! That HURTS!" Rodney McKay tried to pull his hand away, but the nurse held his wrist firmly.

"If you'll just hold still, sir..." She tried to be patient, but the incessant complaints were beginning to wear thin. The astrophysicist had burnt his right hand working on an interface between an earth-based power source and a piece of indignant Ancient technology. The burns were mostly second degree, but required daily cleaning and dressing changes to keep them from getting worse. As she finished removing the gauze, McKay hissed in pain.

"Oh, come on, it's not that bad." Dr. Beckett came up to check the wounds. He nodded to the nurse, "I'll take over now." She flashed him a grateful smile and hurried off.

"Oooh, be careful. That's my dominant hand." McKay cringed as Beckett began cleaning the silvadene off with some sterile saline.

Patiently he replied, "Don't worry, I will be. I just need to get this caked-on stuff off so I can get a good look..." The last of the ointment came off and he critically inspected the hand, turning it from one side to the other while McKay anxiously watched his expression.

"So, how's it look?"

"Not too bad..." he commented. "See here? That's where new epithelial buds are beginning to grow. Your hand will have a new layer of skin in no time."

McKay, being the 'glass half empty' sort, asked, "I won't have complete use of it, will I?"

Beckett regarded him seriously. "Actually, you were lucky. Despite the severity of the burns, there is little to no third degree component, and nothing actually crosses a joint line or is circumferential." He added sternly, "You'll be fine as long as you let the nurse clean it properly every day."

McKay was unimpressed. "She's rough. You could tell her to be a little more gentle, you know."

Carson patted the tape down on the Kerlix a little too firmly himself. "She's a good nurse, and you'll be better served to cooperate with her in the future. There, done!"

Rodney grimaced, but didn't comment. As he stood to go, Beckett added, "Keep that clean, now, and don't use it unnecessarily."

"Yes, yes, I know." The scientist was frustrated; it was almost impossible to do anything with his right hand in the bulky bandage.


Sheppard sighed as he picked up the next Officer Evaluation Report. One of the less pleasant tasks associated with being the ranking military officer was the mounds of paperwork you were required to do; this included being senior rater on every OER on base. The problem was that he didn't know half these men; it was hard to assess their performance. He ran his hand through his hair. 'Who the heck is Lt. Jorgensen, anyway?' he thought in frustration.

His ruminations were interrupted by a gentle knock on the doorframe. He routinely left his office door open so that anyone in his command would feel welcome to approach at any time with their problems. He looked up expectantly; maybe here was an excuse to postpone these OERs for a while. Dr. Zelenka stood there, looking hesitant.

"Come in, come in." Sheppard stood and came around his desk to greet the visitor. He had always liked the unpretentious scientist, and appreciated the fact that he was easily as brilliant as McKay but without the matching ego. The man appeared slightly nervous, but smiled politely. "What can I do for you today, Dr. Zelenka?" the Major inquired.

"I am sorry to bother you, Major," he began.

Sheppard gestured towards a chair. "Not at all. Have a seat."

Zelenka wrung his hands, then nodded. "Thank you, sir."

Sheppard perched on the edge of the desk opposite him. "Now, what is it?"

"You know that Dr. McKay has injured his hand?"

Sheppard chuckled. "I think he's told the whole base."

Zelenka nodded solemnly. "Most probably." He leaned forward, "He and I were scheduled to explore part of the southeast section of the complex today as part of Weir's mapping duty assignments; when I suggested that we postpone until he recovers, he suggested that I simply find another partner and complete it today without him." He dropped his voice to mutter, "He does not really enjoy exploring the base; he'd much rather go through the Stargate."

Sheppard knew all too well Rodney's opinion of 'wasting his time' checking out all the nooks and crannies of the base now that it had been superficially mapped and declared safe. Weir, however, was nothing if not thorough, and insisted that every square meter of space be accounted for. As the duty often resulted in the fairly tedious measuring and diagramming of empty rooms and closets, it was a safe if not popular assignment. Weir and Sheppard tried to match up people who worked well together, and the Czech engineer was the best possible choice to pair with McKay. "So you'd like me to assign an alternate partner? I thought you and McKay got along so well."

Zelenka was quick to hold up his hands. "We do, we do. I just need a temporary partner, just for this one assignment." The engineer didn't like to be a bother. He continued, "It's just that, given a choice to listening to him complain about his hand for four hours..."

Sheppard winced. He knew how that went, too. Glancing back at his incomplete paperwork, he rapidly came to a decision. "You're in luck, Doctor. It just so happens that I have nothing pressing at the moment, and would be happy to accompany you this afternoon."

Zelenka glanced at the mound of paper as well, but wisely didn't comment. He rose to shake the Major's hand. "See you outside the mess hall at one?"

Sheppard flashed his patented smirk of a grin. "I'll be there."


AN: OK, Bastet, the opening was just for you!