Authors notes: I started this fic several months ago, before there was news of "evil ancients" on the show Sg1, and before I found out there might be another city that resembles Atlantis in SGA season two. What follows may end up contradicting future episodes, this sprung from my head and has no bearing on what may come up. It may not even be a problem, but just in case. . .
Stargate Atlantis and all character associated with it are not mine. I claim only the plot. No money, just doing this because I like to torment my brain. This fic is complete, and a subsequent story is to follow. Thanks for reading!
"I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid." -T.S. Eliot
Consistency was one thing, but even too much of that led to a tedium that Dr. Rodney McKay abhorred. Take the view from Atlantis, for example. Water. All the time, in every direction. Even though he knew the waves that crashed below were technically new waves with a disturbingly limited lifespan, they looked the same. It was as predictable as the mandatory break he took from his duties, every morning like clockwork, to retch out his guts. He knew the city rocked on the waves like a buoy, his insides served as a perfectly reliable motion detector. This time of morning the waves were higher, his internal sensors were alerted, and he came out onto the balcony to vomit. Such was his accuracy that his staff knew not to call him four hours after breakfast, and to leave him alone for twenty minutes after. It was the most humiliating incommunicado a person could experience. "Where's McKay?" Looks at watch. "Oh yeah. Never mind." Idiots. He actually started finding barf bags on his desk half an hour before his scheduled disappearing act. A certain asshole, not to be (Kavanaugh) named, timed his morning break around him.
God, that water. He'd never seen such a great expanse of liquid; moving, churning, bouncing, waving. . .
He swallowed heavily.
His fingers closed around the tiny plastic canister in his pocket. He pulled it out, and popped a small white pill into his mouth, then eyed the few remaining. He wondered what the current medical stock was in Atlantis. He was scared to ask. Instead he replaced the canister, hiding it in the folds of his jacket. Now, give it ten, twenty minutes and he'd feel fine. All seasickness gone. Of course any chance of him staying out on the balcony for that long was remote, even if the sunset was enticing, even if the odd metallic smell of the city mingled with the salt air, reminding him of his childhood home near the bay in Vancouver; of the quiet days his dad spent tinkering in the garage, grease and tail pipes sprawled across the concrete floor. His dad was a mastermind. He could fix anything. Rodney often watched when he was little, handing him the various tools needed while they discussed his future.
Aw, who the hell was he kidding? Those days with his father were spent with his telling Rodney he needed to be more of a man, and to get his nose out of his, and he quoted, 'goddamn' books on occasion. His mom had been proud. His dad thought he was a freak of nature. They only thing they could agree on was a love of cars, but even that lead to debates and arguments, and eventually fights. Rodney was never good with a fight. So he took out his aggression in other ways, like convincing his teacher that building bombs in his basement was actually a productive activity. Ah, the memories. . .the industrious smell of burnt wires and chemical fusion mixed with the soft aromas of the distant sea. When he was older and went off to school, that particular moment in time remained with him, and he thanked his dad for driving him into the basement. When his dad passed, he tried his hardest to forget about it. But now, in this damned place as far from that house as one could get, the memory flooded him like the lower levels of the city during a storm.
He swallowed his nausea and fought the urge to go inside. What good were those damn pills if they took so long to work? He could go in and settle in his room with lunch by the time. . . 'no', he chided himself, 'no lunch, bad, bad thought there, Rodney'. He gripped the rail with his left hand, leaned and propped his right elbow on it, and challenged the sea with his gaze. How long had he been standing there with the sea taunting him? The sea wasn't going to win. His pride wouldn't allow it.
"Considering taking a dive, McKay?" Wonderful. Just wonderful. That voice belonged to the very person he did not want to see right now.
"Wouldn't you just love that," he muttered, but didn't even afford Major John Sheppard the level of spite he felt the remark deserved. He just stared out over the horizon, trying to convince himself that the water really wasn't as massive as it looked. It wasn't working very well.
"Not really, because I'd probably be the one to have to dive in after you." Sheppard leaned over, considering the waves below. "And that water's freezing."
Rodney eyed him. "You mean you'd come in after me?"
"Sure. Weir would have my ass if I didn't."
"Oh, well, I see how it is, then. Thanks."
"Yeah." John stood at Rodney's shoulder. His posture was loose and relaxed, suggesting he was at one with the water that lapped at the city below. Rodney envied him that, and he slumped over the rail, his cheeks puffing as he fought down another attack of nausea. John noticed. "You okay?"
"Not really, no." Rodney's voice was low, forced.
John took a step closer and peered at Rodney. "I think you're actually green."
"Just leave it, okay?"
"No, really, I've heard of people turning green, but I've never actually seen it before." He pushed his face towards Rodney's. "Fascinating."
"Look, Mr. Spock, go conduct your little scientific experiment on someone else, okay? I'm not a medical lab rat to be stared at."
"I'll throw up on your shoes if you don't move. No, you know what, stand right there. I'd relish the chance to. . . ohgod. . ." He heaved, and John leaned him over the railing, closing his eyes and holding his breath, not wishing to witness the vomit hurling down hundreds of feet to the waters below. Or actually, there was city down there; one day he'd walk along and notice brown splotches where it had smacked the pavement, 'oh look! Rodney's vomit.' The poor man was doubled over the rail and hurling everything he'd eaten for the day. John stood slightly behind him, bracing his arm with one hand and patting his back with the other, and hoping to god no one could see them.
Rodney gasped for breath and straightened, his grip on the rail shaky. His face had regained a touch of color, but he was still pale. "Sorry."
"It's just that the sea makes me sick. All that pitching and churning. I've always been prone to sea-sickness, I hoped if I came out here and," he paused and swallowed heavily, "you know, got used to the rolling and such, maybe I'd cure myself."
"That's quite an undertaking, isn't it?"
"No choice. My pills are almost gone, along with the rest of the supply on Atlantis."
"Ouch. That's gotta suck." John really did sound sympathetic, and gave Rodney another pat on the back.
"Yeah. Anyway, sorry you had to see that. That is, unless it totally disgusted you, then I'd be pretty proud of what I did."
"Lord, McKay, I see that kind of thing all the time. Nothing you can do would shock me."
"No?" He sighed quietly. "Damn."
John just smiled. "Why don't you clean yourself up and meet me in Weir's office. Seems we've found a submarine of some kind."
Rodney looked up. "Excuse me, did you say 'found' a submarine? Just now?"
"Yep. Found a docking room and everything. Pretty impressive."
"And we're just now finding this? How could they possibly miss something as freakishly large as a submarine?"
"How the hell should I know? Maybe they were exploring this sector when we ran out of coffee. You know, that was rough."
"Yes, well, I suppose I could understand that. NOT. This isn't some penny in the street to be overlooked, Major, it's a submarine!"
"You don't pick up pennies?" He acknowledge the smirk. "Don't get your knickers in a knot, McKay. Or maybe with you I should say unknot them for a bit?" Rodney folded his arms, itching to comment. "Look, think of this as unexpected treat and take a break from your work."
"I suppose. Hate to waste the Dramamine I just took."
"Before or after you vomited?"
"What? Oh. . .damn." Rodney sighed and pulled out the pill bottle again. "Oh! Hey, look, don't tell Dr. Weir about this, okay?"
"Rodney, I think the whole station knows. . ."
"Then don't exacerbate it! Just say I was working on a very important problem that had me detained or something. Think you can manage that?"
"Sure. I'll tell her. . ."
". . .Tell her that I already heard about the submarine and was doing extensive research into the possible maritime nature of the Atlanteans."
". . .okay. I'll tell her that." John smiled slightly and walked off. Rodney cursed under his breath and pulled his shirt to his nose, taking a quick sniff. He winced and headed to the showers.
Dr. Elizabeth Weir was normally a very reasonable, patient woman, but even that was tried by McKay's tardiness. "What did you say was keeping him?"
"Extensive research on the possible maritime nature of the Atlanteans."
"Possible maritime nature? They built a city in the middle of the ocean!" She looked positively dumbfounded. "Why is he doing research now?" Her eyes widened slightly, and she unconsciously clenched the edge of the paper she held. "Please tell me he's not preparing a lecture."
"You know, I'm not sure if he is or not, but you should ask him about everything he was able find. . .you know, inflate his ego a little."
"Inflate? You're kidding, right?"
Sheppard shrugged. "He's been a little down, you know, feeling a bit homesick. I think he misses his dog."
"Yeah, uh, Napoleon. German Shepard."
"I didn't know he had a dog. Thought he was a cat person."
". . .right. Napoleon the cat. Very big cat, looks a lot like a German Shepard."
A smile threatened her face. "You know, Major, you should probably take the time to get to know your colleagues a little better."
"Yes, Rodney! Why not Rodney?"
"He's not exactly good reading."
"This from the man struggling through 'War and Peace'." Weir looked up as their topic of conversation entered. "Well, Rodney! Nice of you to join us!"
"Sorry, I was just, you know, I think maybe Major Sheppard here has told you all about it." The scientist sat down as nonchalantly as possible.
"And how is that research going, Rodney?" John asked pointedly.
"Hm? Oh, fine! Fine. Really interesting actually, but you don't want to hear about all that." He waved it away and looked at Elizabeth attentively.
"Actually, Rodney," Dr. Weir clasped her hands and leaned forward on the table, "I think we do."
"Yes, I think any information you may have would be very beneficial."
"You-you do? You do." A panicked expression flitted across his face, and he glanced at Sheppard, who was no help. Instead he waited expectantly. "Okay. Okay, well, as we know," he cleared his throat, "uh, the Atlanteans built this city to withstand the force of the water, whether it be under the sea or above it. And I think maybe these submarines have incredible durability based on the uh," he glanced at Sheppard, who blinked annoyingly, "the uh, preliminary designs of the city. They can probably dive much, much deeper than anything we have on earth, and therefore withstand amazing amounts of pressure. It would be worth examining the construction to see if there is any information we can send to Earth." Sheppard was sending him a look that defiantly said, 'that's the best you can do?'. And at the moment, with his pounding head and stomach that still leaned towards tight rebellion, and especially without having seen the sub, it was.
"That's an astute observation, Dr. McKay," Weir said. "Do you have anything else for us?"
"Else? You mean you want more?"
"Well, Major Sheppard did say you were involved in some pretty heavy research. Surely you have more for us than the obvious construction of these submarines."
"Well, of course I do! It's just not focused yet, I mean, one needs time to gather the information and put it into an intelligible format that even the peons down in the food center can understand, because you never know if something may happen and. . ." he looked at Weir, "I just," he looked at John, "I mean I uh," looked back at Weir, "I was on the balcony throwing up, okay?"
Weir gave an understanding smile. "I know, Rodney. Unfortunately, I saw you."
"You saw me?"
"There are balconies all over Atlantis, even underneath the one you were standing on."
"Oh! Right." McKay brightened, then paled. "Oh god. Oh god, I am so sorry!"
"Never mind." Elizabeth smiled faintly. "I know enough to get out of the way."
"Oh god, this is embarrassing. . ."
"Why don't you see Dr. Beckett and ask for more pills?"
"I have the last five." Sheppard cleared his throat and raised his eyebrows. McKay raised his chin as his gaze fell. "Four."
"Then we need another solution." She leaned over the table again, looking like a parent about to present a gift to a child. "Do you feel up to taking an underwater trip?"
"As long as the sub is as stable as this city and I don't have to stand on it."
"Then you're on the crew. Be ready to leave in two hours time. And Rodney. . ."
"Yes?" Rodney already had one foot out of the door.
"It's okay. I get seasick too."
Rodney ventured a rather non-convincing smile. "Great. That's. . .great. I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm trying to expel a lung." And with a half-hearted smirk he walked out.