A/N - It's been a long time since I wrote anything at all and over two years since I wrote for SGA! As I signed up for the SGA Reversebang, I thought I might get some practice in. And I just rewatched the whole of SGA in the space of 6 weeks *grin*
"McKay to Sheppard," John's radio buzzed. "Report to the main science lab."
Sheppard looked up from the duty roster he was playing around with and tapped his radio to respond. "Any particular reason or do you just enjoy my company?"
"I've found something which might be of interest."
"Okaaay," John drawled, tossing the tablet on his bed and heading out. He only hoped it wasn't
another Ancient tin opener like last week. The Ancients had a way of making mundane things look cool and interesting.
Rodney immediately escorted John to the nearest transporter after they met up.
"What, no 'hello' or 'how are you' or 'nice to see you, Sheppard?'"
"Hmm," Rodney responded, distracted by screen of the tablet clutched in his hands. "I found a room over on one of the piers." He tapped the screen and a moment later they were on the other side of the city.
"There are lots of rooms on all the piers," John pointed out.
Rodney ignored him, still engrossed in the rapidly scrolling code on his tablet, occasionally glancing up as he walked along the corridor with John trotting behind in his wake.
A few minutes and several twists and turns later, Rodney took them through a door and into a large room. There were no windows but the lights activated in the presence of the gene carriers. There was a large cube in the middle which was a couple of feet taller than John and as they approached a door slid open and light spilled out. John looked inside and remarked, "Is that..."
"Yes it is."
There were chairs, consoles and a dark viewscreen inside the cube, laid out in exactly the same way as a puddle jumper cockpit.
John stepped inside behind Rodney and the viewscreen lit up and a chunk of Ancient text appeared.
"Does it work?"
"I don't know yet. After I found it, I downloaded the data and then called you. As the resident flyboy I thought you'd like first dibs."
"Can you make it speak English like our Jumpers?"
Rodney sat down in the co pilot's chair with a thump and plugged in his tablet. "Uploading translation matrix... there."
The text wavered and was then replaced with English. It was asking them to select a difficulty level.
"I suggest going for easy," Rodney said. "Just while I figure out how it works and what it does."
"It's a flight simulator!"
"That has been dormant for at least 10,000 years! It could have all sorts of bugs in it by now."
John selected hard difficulty and Rodney scowled as he rose from his chair. "Well I'll leave you two to get better acquainted." He started to make his way to the exit but the door slid shut and trapped him inside. Just then the room lurched and he had to hold out his hand on the wall to avoid falling. "Great, realistic movement too."
"This is so cool!" John shouted back to him.
"Glad someone's having fun," Rodney grumbled as he sat down in his seat again. The viewscreen was now filled with a very realistic image of a planet where they appeared to be flying low over the treetops of a large forest. Mountains were visible in the distance. The HUD popped up and showed red blips behind them.
"Wraith darts incoming," John called out in glee.
"Pop them off so I can have a go," Rodney said.
John frowned at the HUD as it flickered. "There's something wrong with the power supply."
Rodney tapped away on his tablet. "The simulator is running at 100%."
The Jumper turned in a tight circle before John corrected its course. "It says the right engine pod just cut out." The cockpit shuddered as dart weapon bursts impacted them.
"I suppose that's what you get for selecting the highest difficulty."
"Got any cheat codes on that thing?" John asked as he spun them about and fired a couple of drones at the approaching darts, destroying two of them.
"This isn't a game, Colonel. It's a serious simulation device."
The HUD flickered again and the remaining two darts multiplied into ten. "Huh," John said. "That's not fair."
"Life isn't fair," Rodney said sourly without looking up from his tablet.
John fired another two drones before the second drive pod cut out and they plummeted towards the forest below. "But nothing even hit the engine!" John cried in frustration.
There was a jolt through the room, making John and Rodney sway in their seats, then the screen went black and the words 'Simulation Terminated' appeared in orange text. John huffed in annoyance and Rodney gave him a smug look. "I did say to try easy first."
"Maybe if you'd rerouted some power to the engines we'd still be airborne."
"Oh, don't blame me!" Rodney said. "I don't think it works like that."
"Again?" John asked.
Rodney tapped on his tablet some more, paused, then frowned. "There seem to be a large number of scenarios and difficulty settings here. We only got given that one as it was the last program run."
"Can we make our own?"
"Probably, but it would have to be coded and it'll take some time."
"Give me a list of what's preloaded and I'll see which ones would be best for training and if we need any more."
The next day, John and Rodney stood in a small room opposite the flight simulator room. They'd discovered it that morning and found it was some kind of mission control and monitoring room for the simulator. Ronon and Teyla had also come down with them after Teyla expressed an interest in where John and Rodney had been disappeared off to.
"I've let Sheppard be the test monkey so far," Rodney said to the rest of his team with a big grin on his face. John had an equally large smile.
"What does it do?" Ronon asked as he eyed the screens and consoles in the monitoring room.
"It simulates a Puddle Jumper flight so the pilot can get better at flying in a safe environment," John said.
"Without wrecking real ships," Rodney added with a knowing glance at Sheppard.
"Hey you've crashed your fair share too!"
"So, it's a game," Ronon said.
John and Rodney both looked put out at that comment. Rodney responded, "No it's not! There are similar machines on Earth to train pilots."
Teyla was looking confused, "You pretend to fly a puddle jumper by staring at a screen and when you lose there is no consequence."
"Well when you put it like that..." Rodney said.
John nudged him with a knowing grin. "'It's a serious simulation device.'" John went over to the console and it activated under his hands. "I'm loading a scenario now. Nothing too taxing. McKay, I think it's time you took it out for a spin on your own."
Rodney bounced on his feet. "I hope you're setting it to easy?"
"I'll let it be a surprise."
Ronon cut off Rodney's protest by giving him a small shove in the middle of his back to get him out the room and into the simulator room.
John, Teyla and Ronon watched the screens. One showed Rodney sitting in the cockpit, one was of the view he would be seeing through the viewscreen and various other screens had data on them regarding Rodney's flying and the simulated sensor readings as Rodney would also be seeing them in the cockpit.
The simulator showed that the ship had just come out of a space gate and was confronted by two Wraith Hives. Rodney cloaked the ship with a frightened squeak. "Easy setting, my ass," he grumbled.
"I don't get why he's scared when it's not real," Ronon said.
Teyla said, "Perhaps it is because we are watching?"
"It feels pretty real when you're using it," John said. "The simulator's on legs that move, so when you turn, you really feel it."
Alarms suddenly started blaring in the cockpit and Rodney flinched. John frowned. Blue crackles of electricity sparked from the console in front of Rodney and zapped his hands, making him yelp in surprise and pain as he was forced to let go of the control sticks.
"This isn't part of the scenario," John said as he tried to shut it down. "I can't stop it!"
The viewscreen Rodney was seeing turned blank and orange text flashed up that a non Ancient alien intruder had been detected in the simulator. Rodney started to wheeze and grabbed his throat as his chest hitched and he fell from the chair to the floor. "What the..."
Teyla asked in alarm, "What is happening?"
"I don't know!" John cried. "This isn't part of the program!"
"Gas..." Rodney gasped, then the video stream cut out.
Ronon had his blaster out and aimed at the consoles John was frantically typing on. "Don't shoot it! You could make it worse."
Teyla left the room and tried the door to the simulator room but it was sealed shut.
John sighed in frustration and then crouched down and pulled away the panels under the console, exposing the wire and crystal guts of the machine. He started pulling out the crystals. "Help me," he said and Ronon joined him. Together they soon had piles of crystals on the floor until they must have found the main control crystal as the machine shut down and Teyla was finally able to open the door.
"Medical emergency in the simulator room," Teyla said into her radio.
John followed Teyla into the room while Ronon waited outside to make sure they didn't get trapped. Rodney was on the floor in the cockpit and his face was an unhealthy blue colour. "He's not breathing," Teyla said as she knelt down beside him.
John grimaced but immediately gave Rodney a couple of rescue breaths until his friend coughed harshly and drew in a rattling breath. Rodney's skin turned a slightly better shade of red and he rolled over onto his side and wrapped his arms around his chest.
"What kind of gas was it?" Teyla asked.
"I don't know, but it seems to have gone now."
The medical team arrived and Carson laid an oxygen mask over Rodney's face and straightened out his limbs so they could lie him down flat on the gurney they'd brought with them. He glanced around the cockpit warily while his team secured Rodney. "I hope you're not planning on putting me in this tin can."
"In time," John said. "Once we've ironed out all the glitches."
"Aye, see that you do." The med team swiftly wheeled Rodney away.
John caught up with Rodney a few hours later in the infirmary. Rodney's face was back to its usual pale colour and his nose was twitching in irritation where the cannula was shoved up his nostrils.
"Feeling better?" John asked.
"Not really. My chest hurts when I breathe and my throat is so sore I can hardly talk or swallow."
"Seem to be talking okay now," John said.
Rodney scowled at him but the scratchiness in his voice was unmistakable. "Carson doesn't know what kind of gas it was but he wants to keep me in for observation. Did I tell you I have burnt fingers too?" Rodney said, holding up his hand to show John the red digits.
"Radek's been analysing the data. He says the simulator thought you were a wraith!"
"The fact that I managed to get all the way through the city to the simulator without Atlantis locking me out obviously got past its small computer brain."
"Radek says it's either your dodgy fake gene or a glitch."
"Well I hope it's a glitch because my gene is both fine and functional, thank you very much!"
John sighed. "Radek also says that it's going to take a long time to figure out where all the crystals go to get it working again."
Rodney narrowed his eyes and his nose twitched again, making him look like a grumpy rabbit who had scented a delicious carrot nearby. "What do you mean: 'where all the crystals go?'" His face fell in realisation. "What did you do?"
"I got you out of there before you suffocated and died."
Rodney's mouth opened ready for an angry retort.
John cut him off, "And you're welcome by the way."
Rodney sighed and sunk down into the pillow