Title: Gate Travel
Summary: Why Beckett doesn't like Gate Travel
Warnings: No Beta, the science is general and terms are loose
Season/Episode: Set season 1
The late lunch crowd at the cafeteria was subdued. Quiet conversation floated across tables as scientists and military spoke of their jobs, their responsibilities and local gossip around the city.
Sheppard leaned back in his chair, sipping water while listening half-heartedly to Ford.
"I just don't get what the Doc is afraid of about gate travel."
Sheppard had to admit he too held the same confusion when it came to Beckett's great hesitancy in leaving Atlantis through the gate, though with each subsequent trip, the doctor's excuses and verbal hesitancy became less and less pronounced.
Sheppard had to concede he did not think it was because Beckett was becomingmore comfortable with gate travel. It was more likely that Beckett was becoming more and more resigned to the fact that he would be going through the gate whether he truly wanted to or not.
"I mean, what's he worried about?" Ford asked the question to the small group which consisted of McKay, Teyla and Sheppard.
"Perhaps the Doctor fears what is on the other side," Teyla pointed out quietly. Her people had been traveling through the gate for generations. It was as much an acceptable form of traveling as walking. She too did not understand Dr. Beckett's great reluctance.
Sheppard leaned forward and lifted his mashed potatoes, trying to get a glimpse of what might have been hidden under them.
"I doubt it,"he mumbled as he rolled a hidden pea out from under the potatoes and thanked his lucky stars at finding it. Stealth peas were something to avoid.
"You don't think he's afraid he'd rematerialize ass backward or something do you?" Ford chuckled to himself.
"Oh, please," McKay finally spoke. "If you're talking about be rematerialized with your left arm where your leg should go, or your nose on your stomach, Carson's more intelligent than that." The astrophysicist reached across Sheppard and swiped his roll.
"Hey," Sheppard startled and snatched his roll back.
"Not like you're going to eat it," McKay challenged.
"Maybe I will later," Sheppard put his roll in his pocket.
"I have not heard of anyone rematerializing with their body parts not where they belong," Teyla pointed out, turning the conversation back to the topic at hand.
"Of course not," McKay dismissed with a wave of his hand.
"So why doesn't he want to go through the gate then?" Ford asked.
McKay sighed and placed his fork down and pushed slightly away from the table.
Sheppard hit Ford with a steely gaze. McKay was taking on his superior 'I'm smarter than you---you're idiocy is underestimated' lecture mode.
"What does Carson do?" McKay asked directing his question to both Teyla and Ford.
"He is a medical doctor; he tends the sick," Teyla answered helpfully, unsure of where this line of questioning was going.
"What else does he do?" McKay asked, nailing Ford with a look, knowing full well the Athosian would not be familiar with the science.
"I don't know," Aiden muttered with a hint of short temper, followed quickly with an irritated, "He's a gene jockey." The Lieutenant narrowed his gaze at the astrophysicist before snapping a concerned gaze toward Sheppard as if asking for help.
Sheppard merely shrugged. He had no idea what McKay was getting at but was confident it would be painful.
Sheppard couldn't be sure if Rodney ignored the exasperated sighs that shot around the table or didn't recognize them for what they were: sighs of impatience and impending doom.
"Exactly," McKay answered with a pleased smile on his face.
The small group fell silent. Teyla, Ford and Sheppard shared confused looks.
"Sooo," Sheppard drew out motioning with his hand for McKay to continue.
"Oh. What? Don't you get it?" McKay asked slightly peeved.
No one answered.
"He's a molecular geneticist as well as medical doctor and surgeon," McKay explained. "He looks at molecules."
The others still stared at him. "Sooo," Sheppard continued.
"The Gate," McKay continued with a bit of disgust, "de-molecularizes things and then re-molecularizes things…like the human body," McKay answered, drawing out the last part of his statement as if it should explain everything.
"Yeah. So?" Ford added, clearlyirritated.
McKay sighed in annoyance. "Ford, if you were to take apart a transformer repeatedly could you guarantee with a 100 percentaccuracy that you could put it together without any mistakes, without having to fix anything, with no extra pieces left over, without having lost any pieces?"
"Sure?" McKay stated with disbelief, "Maybe once yes, maybe even 2 or 3 or 4 times, but what about the 10th or the 50th time? Are you so sure you'd get it all back together in working order just like it was before?"
The table was silent.
"You wouldn't be able to. The numbers alone are against you, let alone other extenuating factors and changes."
"What's your point, McKay?" Sheppard asked, slightly more interested than earlier.
"Carson sees things on a molecular level. Have you ever seen what he looks at when he's in his lab? He looks at tiny minuscule things; he looks at things smaller than a protein, smaller than an amino acid. He deals with the 'what ifs'. What if this amino acid is put in the wrong spot, or confused with another? What if this protoocogene is put here instead of someplace else? What if the wrong peptide is not quite put back in the right spot in the right order?" McKay explained. "A peptide or even a DNA base pair gets put in the wrong spot and genes might not be read, signals not sent." McKay leaned forward staring at Ford and then Sheppard, "next thing you know, you've got cells that are growing out of control or dying for no reason, or maybe a cell receptor isn't put together just right, immune system goes awry." McKay leaned back in his chair, "you're screwed."
No one spoke, all staring at McKay.
"You're kidding me right?"
"Ford, he isn't worried about his leg rematerializing next to his ear, or his elbow attached to his ankle; he's more afraid of what happens when a single, tiny, molecule gets put in the wrong spot." McKay leaned across his tray keeping Ford's eye.
"Hey, speak of the devil," Sheppard waved toward Beckett, who seemed to walking in a bit of a daze. "Doc! Over here."
They watched as Beckett changed his direction, bumped into a table, knocked a knee into a chair and apologized his way toward their table with his laden tray.
"That's just plain unnerving to watch," Ford muttered.
"Must be something big going on in his lab," McKay answered.
"Hey Doc," Sheppard greeted as Beckett slid behind him, catching his drink one-handed when he hooked a foot on the Major's chair. The liquid sloshed over the rim and Beckett's hand as he caught it.
Sheppard and the others refrained from talking, giving the doctor a moment as he settled his tray on the table and took a seat. Apparently pre-occupied scientists couldn't walk and talk at the same time without scattering their lunches everywhere.
"So, ah, McKay here, was just telling us what you do when you aren't in the infirmary," Ford stated.
Beckett looked from Ford to McKay with a skeptical furrow of the brow, "Oh really."
"Yes, they were just asking what you do," McKay clarified, trying to soothe any misconceptions the Scotsman might perceive. The man was, after all, his doctor.
"No, you were," Sheppard corrected with a knowing smirk on his face. He'd see how much fun he could have with Beckett.
"Whatever, point is, Carson here is a gene jockey, the only part of his job title that may actually deal with science."
Beckett gave McKay a tired smile and a resigned shake of his head. He ignored the others and swished his bread through a puddle of ketchup.
Sheppard cringed. Beckett's dietary choices were as bizarre as McKay's.
"So, Doc," Ford started again, ignoring the buttered bread which was now smeared with ketchup, "what happens if you put a DNA base pair in the wrong spot?" Aiden leaned forward, watching the dripping bread pause mid-air as Ford's question registered.
"Just one," the lieutenant clarified when he noticed the scientist's puzzled expression.
Beckett stared at Ford as if he had lost his mind. He slowly tried to answer, wondering if the others were poking fun at him. "A single base out of position? Like a point mutation, or a single pair, like a frame shift mutation?"
"Yeah, sure," Ford nodded eagerly.
The Scotsman stared at the young man waiting for clarification. With none forthcoming Carson launched into a basic explanation.
"Well it depends," Beckett added slowly, "if you're talking about a point mutation in something like a RAS protooncogene, it could lead to constant mitogenic transduction signaling through a number of pathways, but most commonly the RAS-RAS MAP Kinase pathway. The cell would always be signaled to replicate and continue to divide potentially leading to malignancy."
"No shit?" Ford asked. "That happen often?"
"Depends on what you mean by often."
Sheppard kicked Ford under the table.
Ford ignored it.
"How fast does it happen?"
"Huh?" Beckett asked, putting his bread down and staring at Aiden and then the others, trying to fathom what they were getting at.
Sheppard kicked Ford again. "Ow! Who's kicking me?"
"McKay," Sheppard answered.
"I am not!" McKay denied vehemently.
"You see that kind of thing before?" Aiden persisted.
"Aye," Beckett answered still unsure and slightly uncomfortable with the conversation. No one ever really showed much interest in his work outside the infirmary. He had to admit, it would seem a touch boring for those without an interest in it. He eyed the others warily. Something was brewing and from the looks of McKay, he was at the bottom of it.
"What about if something got turned off by mistake?"
"Turned off?" Beckett parroted, once again searching the others looking for the joke that was sure to be sprung on him at any moment probably at his expense.
"Yeah, if something got turned off by mistake--what happens then?"
Beckett sighed, "Well, pick something easy, for instance like P53. If it could not be phosphorylated by ATMs or DNA kinases it wouldn't be able to unfold. If that were to happen it would be unable to bind to certain areas of DNA and transcribe for factors such as P21, which controls cell cycle at late G1; or transcribe GADD 45, which fixes broken or damaged DNA, MDM2 or even BAX, for cellular apoptosis through intrinsic apoptotic pathways, but P53 is capable of inducing apoptosis through extrinsic signaling as well using effector caspases. Remarkable the amount of redundant pathways which exists." Beckett waved his hand in dismissal, "Then there is angiogenic switch that tumors can undergo once P53 is decreased or dysfunctional. Tumor growths can upregulate HIF which is upstream of VEGF and stimulate angiogenesis, but that's not important for this discussion." Beckett paused furrowing his brow, "got off track a bit, where was I?"
"P53," Rodney offered helpfully.
Sheppard kicked him on the side of the leg.
"Ahh, right, P53." Carson's face lit up again and turned his attention back to Ford and Sheppard, " If P53 were missing, or left unphosphorylated, it would eventually have quite deleterious affects, and could and often does lead to death. Eventually."
"How big is this P53?" Teyla asked.
Sheppard groaned and slouched despondently in his chair.
"Big?" Beckett asked again not sure as to what they wanted from him. Why the questions? When was the joke going to be sprung upon him. What were they waiting for?
He paused, eying the others, not sure whether to just walk away while he still could. However, Teyla never partook in the others' shenanigans.Though there were times she stood quietly on the side and watched, she never participated.
Carson answered her question. "Aye, lass, you can't see it with your eyes or under a microscope if that is what you mean. It is just another molecule in a string of them. They're all interconnected. All affecting each other and triggering stop and go signals simultaneously. You can't see it. Not with your eyes."
It then dawned on him, like an epiphany as to what started the conversation. His hesitancy of gate travel was source of amusement for the young marines, especially Ford. Beckett couldn't understand their bravado and they couldn't fathom his fear.
Apparently, McKay might have been trying to explain it to the others. He smiled to himself and caught Rodney's eye. The astrophysicist merely quirked a slight smile before tucking his chin in and concentrating on his meal.
"So these little things, they have specific places they have to be in order to work properly?" Ford asked in clarification, worry starting to crease his expression.
He ignored his commanding officer's look of warning.
Beckett again let his eyes rest on McKay, who just grinned as if impressed with himself, to Sheppard, who stared back at him with an alltoo innocent look.
"Aye, of course they do. They must be controlled, turned on, turned off, transcribed and the such. If they are in the wrong spot, or if they get mutated even a little, they are no longer under normal control and all sorts of havoc is wreaked." Beckett waved his hands in exaggeration, enjoying the increasing concern on the young marine's face.
"And that's not good?" Ford asked, trying to be sure he understood. Concern clouded his features.
Beckett pushed his tray away from himself, warming up to his subject and settling in to his chair, "Oh heavens, no lad, a single little mistake can lead to catastrophic chain of events….It's all quite fascinating really." Carson leaned forward, pushing his forgotten tray further out of the way. " Imagine having signaling transduction pathways always turned on; for instance in the WNT pathway, if the WNT molecule doesn't bind to its receptor, APC destroys the B-catenin molecule, which normally stabilizes the E-Cadherin calcium dependent adhesion molecule and prevents B-Catenin from skipping it's way down to the nucleaus. Now when WNT binds its receptor, the APC gets destroyed, B-catenin is free to trundle its way down to the nucleus. Once it's there, it forms a complex with TFR, a transcription factor and transcribes two very important molecules, one being Myc, a transcription factor in its own right and Cyclin D2 which is very important for cell cycle progression." Carson sat back in his chair waving his hands as he weaved a horror story of transcription factors and genes run amok as nuclear divisions took a wild turn for the worse. He continued to rattle on and on about the function of Myc in early regeneration involving liver and the CDK/cyclin complexes necessary for the progression of cell cycles and all the things that could wrong if things were formed or replaced not exactly where they were supposed to go.
Carson wove tale after tale of 'molecules gone bad' horrid stories of 'lost genes, and misplaced stop codons', the nightmarish disease conditions which occurred with immune dysregulation, much to the unease of his listeners.
McKay chuckled quietly to himself as the Scotsman continued on with a litany about gene rearrangement, dysfunctions and mutations which occurred in the human genome. The Scotsman ignored any and all attempts to stop him, and his trapped audience was too polite to walk away. Except for McKay himself, who thoroughly enjoyed the displeasure and growing unease on the faces of his teammates, the others sat with paling features as Beckett went on and on about the possible disastrous changes which could occur if a simple gene or molecule was not placed or structured just right.
"No, Lad, that's not good at all," Beckett paused, having noticed that the lunch room had slowly emptied as time had passed. He truly loved molecular genetics. "Of course, you don't notice things going to Hell in a hand bag right away, it takes years, several 'hits' mind you, before you start growing tumors out your ears, or things fall off and the such." The geneticist sighed and pushed himself from the table, "I'm terribly sorry, lads, lass, but I must cut this short. Things are coming together at the lab. Must be going. See you later perhaps." He nodded to the group andrested a hand on McKay's shoulder, giving it a conspiratorial pat.
McKay smiled smugly, "See you, Carson."
"Aye," Carson backed from the table and headed for the exit taking surreptitious glances over his shoulders at the others.
Ford watched him go.
Sheppard kicked Ford again, getting the young Lieutenant's attention.
"Don't you ever ask him another question about what he does, or so help me, I'll shoot you first and then him," Sheppard ground out.
"Yes, sir," Ford muttered staring at the empty doorway. He then pulled his attention to his commanding officer, "He knows way too much."
Before Sheppard could respond his comlink sounded, "Major Sheppard, you and your team are a go for gate travel in 10 minutes."
"That's our cue," the Major stated, pushing himself away from the table.
"What this, like our 50th time going through the Gate?" Ford asked a little nervously.
"More like 53rd," McKay clarified.
"You think our molecules are getting put back where they belong?" Ford asked.
"Probably not," McKay answered, swiping the uneaten roll off of Beckett's plate and pocketing it. "Not to worry, though, you or Beckett will be the first to know."
"Maybe we shouldn't go through so often," Ford muttered.
"Teyla, Ford," Sheppard said getting the two's attention, "get your gear and meet us at the gate room," the major let a conniving smile cross his face, "Rodney and I will go get the good doctor."