Chapter Six – There's no place like home…
The voice informed them it was Spring 1987. They were standing at the front of a lecture hall, the lecture having apparently just ended. Rodney was waiting near the front of the hall, waiting for the lecturer to finish discussing something with another student.
As the conversation finished, Rodney approached the lecturer, who looked less than pleased with him.
"McKay, and to what do I owe the dubious pleasure of your company?" the guy said snidely.
"Just curious why you gave me a D minus for my work, sir," Rodney said. The 'sir' was disrespectful and clearly designed to annoy the lecturer.
"Because that's all it deserved. Your theories were more science fiction than fact, and I was actually generous to give you a grade at all."
"My theories were backed up with the proper scientific research," Rodney spit out. "Just because you're too dense to follow my work…"
"Enough!" the lecturer shouted.
"No, sir. I want someone else to look at my paper. Someone who might actually be able to understand it," McKay stood his chin out in a very familiar pose of arrogance and defiance.
"If you have a problem with my marking, then I suggest you see Professor Hargrove. I'm sure she will decide in my favour in any dispute. She trusts my grading implicitly. You got the grade you deserved, if you don't like it, that's not my problem."
The lecturer gathered his notes together.
"If you'll excuse me, I have better things to do with my time than argue with you."
The guy stormed out, leaving a fuming McKay behind him.
"Fine," he said to thin air. "And I'm sure that Professor Hargrove will have someone check my paper, if she doesn't do it herself."
The scene started to change, but then stilled.
"Aborting program," came the disembodied voice. And then they were back in the chairs, with the visors retracting.
"At last," Sheppard said, sitting up and checking on the other two. "You okay?"
"A little tired, but alright," Sam replied.
"Tired, hungry and thirsty, the usual," was the muttered reply, "but extremely glad it's over."
Carson and his team moved in on them, explaining that the force field had stopped them from approaching them earlier. After some checks and general fussing, they were deemed to be slightly dehydrated, and in need of a good meal and some rest.
McKay and Carter tried to escape the clutches of the medical team long enough to look over what Radek had found out about the machine, but were stopped before they made it more than a few steps.
"Ach, no you don't," Carson said. "You can talk with Radek later, right now you're going back to Atlantis to eat and sleep."
"Carson, I'm…we're fine," Rodney argued.
"You can come back and play with your new toy later," Carson said, crossing his arms over his chest and putting on his most insistent 'doctor' face. Rodney sighed, and threw up his hands.
"Fine. Fine," and stomped off towards the exit of the building. Carter looked at Beckett with renewed respect.
"Well," she said, "if that look is enough to make McKay back down, I think I'd better cut my losses and head back to Atlantis too."
"You do that, lass," Carson smiled broadly. "Of course, I'm sure a veteran explorer such as yourself wouldn't be scared by the threat of a few wee needles, now would you?"
"She should be," Sheppard came up beside them. "And don't be fooled by the use of the word 'wee'. Have you seen the size of some of those things?" he shuddered in mock horror.
"Ach, away with you," Carson said. "I save the big ones for life or death situations. Or people who escape from the infirmary before they've been released."
Carter shuddered herself at the not so innocent smile on the physician's face, and allowed herself to be guided to the waiting jumper, and the sulking Canadian onboard it, along with Sheppard.
She had this sudden urge to hug Dr Lam when she returned home.
A few hours later found Rodney working on his laptop in his lab, as Sheppard and Carter entered.
"Here he is," Sheppard said, looking to Sam. "If in doubt, check his lab."
Rodney looked up, annoyed at the interruption.
"Is that the information Dr Zelenka retrieved from the machine?" Sam asked before Rodney could snap at them.
"So, going to share?" she asked, with no intention of taking no for an answer. McKay gave a heavy sigh.
"Fine," he pushed the laptop towards her, as she pulled up a chair.
"Figured out why it did what it did?" Sheppard pushed himself up onto the table, swinging his legs slightly.
"From what Radek was able to find out, it was designed for psychological purposes, but having been abandoned for a few thousand years, it malfunctioned. It was supposed to be programmed to search for one or two particular memories that the 'subject' would relive and the 'watcher' or 'watchers' would, well, watch. And then there would be a discussion, followed by the program ending. Unfortunately, the machine malfunctioned and choose a 'subject' and 'watchers' despite not having been programmed to look for a specific memory.
"So, without the parameter of one or two memories, it choose the memories itself, and then went into a loop of sorts. Which caused us to experience several phases instead of just one."
"Did it have a failsafe?" Carter was glancing through the information, but asked anyway.
"Yes, though it would have been a few hours before the machine determined that our physical bodies were in danger and brought us out of it. Personally, I'm grateful Radek was able to get us out before that. Pity he couldn't have gotten us out earlier."
"I'm sure he worked as fast as he could," Sheppard said. "He did get us out in the end. Could the malfunction be fixed?"
"Probably, but it's not high on the lists of things to do," Rodney said. "Dr Heightmeyer believes that, whilst it could be useful in some limited cases, on the whole it has the potential to do more harm than good. Elizabeth has agreed that we should concentrate our efforts on more useful projects. Radek pulled the control crystals, as well as the ones for the power source, and brought them back here. The machine is now harmless should anyone else wander in by accident."
"That's good," Sam said. "Wouldn't want anyone else to be pulled into the program like us."
"No, definitely not," Rodney agreed.
"How are you coping?"
"Sure," Sheppard scoffed. "You've just relived some bad memories, shared them involuntarily with us, but of course, you're fine."
"Okay, I'm not fine. But I will be," Rodney glared at John.
"If you need to talk…" Sam started.
"I don't," McKay snapped, before looking away. "I did enough talking about things whilst trapped in that thing. I really don't feel the need to discuss any of it again. I'll be fine."
"Okay, if you insist. But you know where I am if you change your mind," Sheppard said. "There is one thing I'd like to know, though…"
"Oh, and what would that be? Because I really don't think…"
"That D minus grade…did it get changed?"
"Oh, that," Rodney smiled. "Yeah, eventually. I kept complaining and insisting that someone else look at my work. Made enough of a nuisance of myself that they finally gave in, got someone else to look at it, in the hopes of shutting me up."
"So?" Sheppard said, nudging him with an elbow when Rodney paused.
"What was it changed to?" John asked in frustration.
"A plus, of course," he smirked.
"Of course," Sheppard said with an exaggerated eye roll.
"Hey, it was an amazing piece of work. Brilliant, and far beyond the understanding of the guy who took the course."
"And you didn't think to play it safe and stay within what the guy could understand?" Sheppard asked.
"Of course he didn't. That wouldn't have shown off his intelligence, now would it? And we all know what the McKay ego is like," Sam pointed out, with a grin.
"Never seen the point in hiding my genius," Rodney muttered.
A polite cough came from the doorway, and they turned to see Beckett there.
"Now, I thought I told you three to get some rest?"
"Oh, well, just on my way now, Doc," John said, slipping down from the table. "Just trying to persuade McKay here that it was a good idea."
"Oh, and why do I doubt that?"
"I've no idea," John said innocently, slipping past the physician. "Night everyone," he headed for his quarters.
"Coward," Rodney muttered under his breath. Carter grinned, and then got up to leave.
"Night, Rodney, Dr Beckett," she said, leaving as well.
"Oh, alright, Carson," Rodney slapped the lid down on his laptop with more force than was really necessary.
"Don't forget I want to check you over tomorrow, make sure there are no unexpected side effects. Make sure to remind the two Colonels as well."
"What am I? Your messenger boy? Remind them yourself. I've got better things to do with my time," he picked up the laptop and headed out of the lab. Carson stopped him before he went very far.
"I'll take the laptop."
"What? Oh, please, I'm just going to…"
"To continue working on it and not get any rest. I know you too well, Rodney. Now, please?"
"You're a tyrant, you know that? Fine, take it," Rodney thrust the laptop into Carson's hands and stalked off to his quarters in a huff.
"Aye, I know," Carson muttered, turning to go to his own quarters, "but it's the likes of you that have turned me into one."