Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, the characters and universe are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Sci-Fi Channel

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis, the characters and universe are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions and the Sci-Fi Channel. The content of this story is solely for entertainment purposes and no copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: I am NOT in the medical, military or science professions so what you read is just 'winging it'. Hope it all sounds plausible. Also in my stories there will always be Dr. Weir and Dr. Beckett.

This is the fourth story I've written dealing with Colonel Sheppard's disability. Preceding order: Three for the Price of Two, Conquering Adversities, Unexpected Surprises.

The story was beta read and any remaining errors are my own. Enjoy.

Life Altering

By Kwillads

Chapter 1

Colonel John Sheppard sat in Lt. Colonel Lorne's office with his head down in his hands shaking back and forth in bewilderment. Staring at him were balls of colored nylon, actually several colored balls of nylon, some were solid in color while others were variegated with two or more colors all haphazardly displayed on the conference room sized table his Second in Command had appropriated for his office from somewhere in Atlantis.

Just before this meeting John had enjoyed a leisurely lunch today more than any other day this week. He had sat with Lorne's team in the mess hall; it was the first time in days that they were all on Atlantis at the same time. Teyla and Ronon had been to the mainland helping with harvest and new planting, while Lorne and Rodney had taken a couple other scientists to M2V-337 to research an Ancient lab found by Captain Wallace's team. While he sat listening to them it reminded him of being home and having Sunday dinner with his family. His mother, before she passed, had always made Sunday dinner special; she called it their 'family time'. It was a time to catch up over the past weeks events. Just like right now listening to Lorne talk about his missions and duties here on Atlantis while McKay rambled on about his latest scientific breakthrough. Ronon never says much, usually just grunts, but he did have tales to tell about the Athosian planting party. Teyla in all her grace recounted Ronon's first attempt at harvesting the Tava fields. She had the whole table in stitches; including Ronon.

Before Lorne excused himself from the lunch table he had asked his CO to come to his office to discuss an urgent matter regarding the latest Daedalus shipment of supplies. Rodney headed back to his lab while Teyla and Ronon had training sessions lined up, now that they were back from the mainland, with several of the recent arrivals.

Now, he found his head down in his hands shaking back and forth in bewilderment. When Colonel Sheppard rolled into Lorne's office he was ready to discuss the urgent matter. He noticed the table littered with the colorful balls right away and dismissed them just as quickly. He then took notice of the two white boards. (And yes, these were actual white boards.) One board listed mission teams on and off world; on-going fitness training schedules and jumper assignments, while on the other board Lorne was working on evacuation training schedules for the Marines and civilians. Evan sat down opposite him with a quirky grin on his face as he fumbled with a bright pink nylon ball in his hands, squishing and rolling the soft ball sized item.

John had figured his second-in-command needed help with the readiness schedule and was already formulating possible solutions. It was a shock to learn that Lorne had actually called him to his office to discuss what they were going to do with the mix up on the supply list.

"This is the 'urgent matter' you wanted to discuss? How many of these things did you say we received?"

"The manifest shows 125 cases. Each case contains 10 dozen."

John did the simple calculation in his head. "Fifteen thousand!" He exclaimed. Eyes opening wider at the realization of what his exclamation had sounded like in his head.

"Yes Sir."

On the last Daedalus re-supply shipment several cases of the colorful balls had arrived. Lorne had discovered that the Quartermaster on Earth had misread the requisition; transposing a single digit in the item number. 'Fouled up' was more like it Lorne thought but kept that to himself for the time being.

"You're telling me we have fifteen thousand of these…these…what are these?!"

"Scrubbies." Evan said straight faced and sober. He sat straight backed in his chair and continued to play with the lightweight pink ball. An indiscriminant smile punching through his military façade.

"Scrub…what?"

"Scrubbies. They're nylon scrubbies, Sir."

"Tell me Lorne just how in the hell do you know that? And what are they for anyway?" Curiosity had finally peaked in Colonel Sheppard.

"My sister, Sir. Her whole family uses them. Each member of the family has their own color. I found out about them on my last downtime on Earth. I was giving my nephew a bath before bed and he told me his was the green one. Then he goes on to tell me whose belong to whom; my niece had a pink one, my sister used a purple one and my brother-in-law had a blue one. He's only two, Sir, and he gave his uncle quite the education on how it was used. I had no idea at the time. I thought they were for scrubbing the soap scum out of the tub. At least that's what I used it for before I knew…but don't tell my sister that. You use them instead of a washcloth. They lather up real good and exfoliate your skin to remove dead skin cells while you shower. Better if you use a liquid soap than a bar soap and the string…"

"Enough. I get the picture." Colonel Sheppard sat in silence with his head down in his hands shaking back and forth in even more bewilderment than before if that were possible.

Lorne looked embarrassed as he realized he had rattled on about the 'scrubbies' a bit too much. He still had the pink scrubbie in his hands squishing it. "Yes Sir."

Colonel Sheppard raised his head, sat there for a few minutes longer contemplating what Atlantis would do with fifteen thousand scrubbies. The city's compliment was somewhere around 980 which averaged out to about fifteen scrubbies per person. Sheppard was mostly sure that the Marines would not want anything to do with them which left just the civilians. And that per person number could be even higher if just the female populace of Atlantis used them.

"Send them back." Sheppard boldly stated.

"No can do Sir. I already checked."

'Great', Colonel Sheppard frowned at the thought. "How did this happen?"

"I tracked it back to the Quartermaster of Supply back on Earth. I double and triple checked our requisitions and we did not order 125 cases of 'scrubbies'. What we did, however order was 125 cases of ammunition for the P-90's. It appears that the item number for ammo is similar to that of scrubbies. In fact, it took me ten minutes to finally find the error." The Lt. Colonel pulled up the files on his PC tablet that had been sitting to his left and produced for review the two shipping manifest requisitions. Lorne had highlighted the item number for the P-90 ammunition on the Atlantis requisition and then on the shipment manifest had highlighted the item number for the scrubbies. Turning the PC tablet towards his superior officer he continued. "Notice the item number for the ammo Sir, and here the item number for the scrubbies." Lorne pointed to each before handing the electronic tablet completely over to Colonel Sheppard. 514-G43919-O800 514-C43919-O800 Sheppard recited both numbers briefly. He knew the P-90 ammo number by heart as many times as he had put it down on requisitions over the years. "They're the same…did we get any ammo for the P-90's?"

"No Sir and that's what I thought at first, but look at the second set of digits more closely."

John took a closer look and noticed the difference now that it was pointed out. He mused over the clerical error of misreading the letter 'G' for the letter 'C'. But only for a split second. Having 125 cases of colorful nylon balls called 'scrubbies' certainly was not going to keep the Wraith at bay or any other enemy. John let his mind wander for another second and grimaced at the thought of his Marines tossing the brightly colorful, light-weight objects at approaching Wraith who were determined to suck the life from you. A slight shudder ran down his spine. Whoever the SGC had working in Quartermasters left a lot to be desired. Who in their right mind would ship fifteen thousand 'scrubbies' to a base in another galaxy? Didn't they know we were fighting a war here and that this was not some damn 'resort'.

"Okay, looks like we have more Christmas decorations. Inform all Atlantis personnel we have 'scrubbies' for the taking. Let them take as many as they want. Put the remainder in storage along with the other numerous items we've accumulated over the years and can't use. I'll contact the SGC on my way back to my office and have them expedite the ammunition through the gate on their next dial in. There's no way I'm waiting over six weeks for that ammo."

Lorne nodded to acknowledge the order.

John picked up a two-tone scrubbie of black and gray and began looking the item over, fisting it and rolling it around like he had seen Evan do. Pretty soon he was lost in another thought. They would have to find a larger storage room for all the foul-ups in supplies they had received. A gross of size 13 snow boots which only seven Marines could wear came during the height of summer when temperatures reached in the lower hundreds. Fifteen hundred red and green-ink ink pens arrived last Christmas. But it did no one any good since they didn't have or use paper all that much. His mind recalled they did make halfway descent icicles on the Pegasus Galaxies version of a Christmas tree. Two dozen child sized medium rain slickers accompanied the size 13 boots all in bright yellow. It just screamed 'Wraith bait. Here I am for the taking' for the wearer. There was no way he would allow any of the Athosian children to wear such an item. There were cases of binder clips and floppy A drive discs too. Oh and fourteen cases of paperclips which the Botany personnel made into a wonderful garland on said Christmas tree last year. It seemed Quartermaster Supply thought shipping it to Atlantis was the only way to get some surplus stock out of inventory back on Earth. Too many items, too numerous to count had showed up unexpectedly all accompanied with a 'no return' policy.

"Have Edwards locate us a larger storage facility and have him get a crew gathered up to relocate everything."

Colonel Sheppard pointed over to the white board and asked Lorne if he needed help with anything. While Lorne had his concentration turned toward the boards John pocketed the black and gray ball he had been fingering. Lorne being an aviator himself had perfect peripheral vision and saw the clandestine move.

oOo

'Simulation Successful',

Flashed onto the laptop screen in big bold letters.

Rodney had been working in his lab for most of the day. It was a rare occasion indeed to have the place to himself. Most days Radek worked simultaneously on projects. However today, he was glad for the respite and quiet solitude the lab offered. Zelenka had taken Dr. Weir up on her suggestion to have a 'day off'. Most everyone on Atlantis seemed to work twenty-four seven to keep the place running smoothly and safe and secure.

Dr. Heightmeyer had talked Elizabeth into having at least two scheduled 'days off' during the month to allow the expedition members some personal downtime. Kate's office of late had seen an increase in patients mostly due to the long hours and the stress of living in and coping with difficult issues in another galaxy. Today just happened to be one of those days and Rodney took full advantage of the opportunity.

He had been working on a secret project for many months now and he was close, real close to succeeding. When he came in after breakfast he set up some simulations to run on one of his many laptops, while on one of his others he wrote out equation after equation to help with the power distribution within the city. Complex algorithms scrolled across his computer as fast as Rodney could type them. Ratio and frequency distribution tables flowed from his finger tips. As fast as his fingers could type, Rodney was calculating volume, rate, range, speed coefficients and more while still pondering what he was going to have for lunch. Even with three ZPM's now powering the huge Manhattan sized city he still felt it wise to use the power conservatively. 'Waste not, want not' his mother had told him when he was younger. A lesson he still remembered today.

Coming back from lunch Rodney checked his multitude of laptops to make sure each one was still on track. He had two simulations running consecutively; another laptop was deciphering more of the Ancient data base using an encryption algorithm he had set up his first month here, while yet another laptop searched said data base for information about desiccated planets while Rodney himself settled down in front of a laptop to continue his power distribution equations. He heard the mechanical soft 'beep' which brought his attention around from categorical data and distributive law equations he was inputting in one laptop to the other. As he swiveled on his lab stool he read the two flashing words.

'Simulation Successful'

"Yes!" Rodney hollered as he sprang up from his seat. His fingers typed with speed and accuracy a few more commands for verification and he waited impatiently for a response.

'Simulation Successful'

He ran the simulation ten more times to be sure. He had spent the past twenty-two months working on this one project in his spare time, staying up late, or later than usual. If Rodney was seen going to his quarters before 2am it was a miracle to behold. He had assigned projects to Zelenka, Simpson and Kusanagi he would have liked to do himself. His other staff members also received projects, minor as they were just so he could continue with his secret project.

oOo

McKay remembered back to when this whole thing started as he watched the flashing words on his monitor.

"We get to stay." Elizabeth breathed aloud to the control room staff. "Looks like we have a bit of house cleaning to do first before things can get back to normal."

Rodney looked up from the console, "normal? Elizabeth what has been 'normal' about anything we've done or seen in the two and a half years we've been here? This is not 'normal'; in fact it is so beyond 'normal' I don't know what to call it."

Elizabeth pondered Rodney's words but didn't respond. She was just happy to be able to stay and continue. Normal or not there was still so much 'out there' that needed to be learned and embraced in the Pegasus Galaxy.

Rodney looked at the floor around his console where he sat. Thousands of replicator blocks and pieces littered the command deck. "Yeah we do. I'll have my department sweep up this stuff once they return and get rid of it. Hey!" Snapping his fingers at his latest idea. "Maybe if I turn up the Ancient incinerators to maximum…"

"Rodney, I don't think we need to get carried away. They are 'dead' aren't they?"

"Yes Elizabeth…right now they are blank inert cell pieces."

Three days later a wormhole from Earth was established and the expedition members started returning through the gate. Before anyone had a chance to even breathe in the salt air of the city or put their bags down Rodney was barking out instructions to his returning minions to find brooms and sweep up the replicator parts. Did Atlantis even have brooms? He wondered silently to himself. He, himself, managed to at least clear the command deck, but that was only because he got tired of slipping on the tiny pieces.

The replicator cells had been cleaned up from all levels and things were starting to get back to what Dr. Weir classified as 'normal' for the Pegasus Galaxy. Leaving the conference room in a hurry, Rodney was heading back towards his lab looking for Radek so they could start their next project. As he entered his lab Zelenka was looking through a microscope ooing and ahhing as only a Czech could do.

"What are you looking at Radek?"

"Oh…Rodney…was curious about replicator nanite pieces. Quite interesting in fact. Construction is…"

"Move! Let me have a look." Rodney pushed Radek aside and peered into the DMBA300 Digital Microscope with its 3.0 megapixel camera and phase contrast option to look at the cell for himself. Rodney had been so intent on how to stop the Replicators that he hadn't even thought about taking a look at their base structure. Adjusting the focus, it was a great piece of engineering technology he thought to himself. He had to hand it to the Ancients, they did know engineering, but were lousy at leaving manuals. "I see what you mean Radek. Maybe we should keep some to study." As he peered longer into the scope he noticed the delicate circuitry that intertwined the small piece.

"Ano. Good idea." Replied Radek. "I'll have some brought to the lab. We store them with other artefacts until we can study more."

"Yes…yes do that. But more importantly we need to get back to shutting down all the systems the Replicator's activated. It's draining power that we can't afford to lose now that we have a ZedPM. Well…come on! Let's go…chop…chop. Things to do, systems to shut down and all that."

Radek grabbed his tools and pc tablet and followed Rodney from the lab. He tapped his comm link to instruct the clean up crew to bring some of the replicator parts to the lab for later study. Radek and Rodney worked through the night shutting down system after system. There were still systems activated and draining power that didn't need to be, but could only be turned off at their location. Rodney had been unsuccessful at turning everything off remotely from the control tower or even from the chair room with Sheppard's help.

It was after the Colonel had his accident on P4X-497 two years later that Rodney discovered the set aside nanite pieces in the storage room. He had been hunting for a specific device that Lieutenant Ruiz had brought back from one of their missions. Rodney thought it might be a medical device of some kind and hoped to research it further to see if it would be of any help for the Colonel's paralysis. While stumbling in the storage closet Rodney came face to face with the stored Replicator cells. They never did get the chance to study them as one disaster led to another. Losing Dr. Dumais was at the forefront. Forgetting about the device he was looking for, McKay grabbed the container of cells and headed back into the lab.

It was two days later when he found what he was looking for, although at the time he didn't know that it was what he was looking for. Rodney just had this weird idea in the back of his mind that he just couldn't let go. And after almost two years of working on it, it was paying off.

The results from this latest batch of simulations left no doubt in his mind. His idea would work.

It was now the middle of the afternoon and he had been working non-stop since he had come back from lunch. The remnants of a chocolate chip power bar lay next to his half full cold cup of coffee. Letting go of a soft sigh, he finally had the results he had so hoped for all these many months. 'Simulation Successful' kept flashing on his screen. He disconnected a few wires from a small device and carefully put the small component into a shallow rectangular box with a clear lid. Powering down his laptop he gathered the small box and shuffled the tiny box and his laptop into his left hand. Snatching up the remainder of the power bar, Rodney headed out of his lab at a quick pace heading to the nearest transporter. Although he had been working for several hours, the prospect of his idea finally coming to life added a little extra spring in his step.

oOo

Rodney headed for the infirmary to share with Carson the results of the extracurricular activity that he had been working on for months. His hopes raising that the Scottish doctor could take his hypotheses to the next level. It was one thing to have a computer tell you it was successful, it was another in real life applications. If the Ancients could make Replicators and Zero Point Modules, so could the Great Doctor McKay. There wasn't a soul in two galaxies who could out-think the self-proclaimed genius of the Pegasus Galaxy.

After ten minutes of searching Rodney found the Highland doctor toiling in his own lab. It was the last place he expected him to be. He had checked his office and the main infirmary first before winding his way towards the lab. The lights were low and the place was quiet. Rodney almost didn't go in. Carson had let a good percentage of his staff have the day off while he and a skeleton crew of nurses, techs and other doctors stayed to cover any emergencies.

"Carson, I need to bother you - Twenty minutes Carson that's all I need. Surely you can stop your voodoo research for twenty minutes."

"Aye…I could stop for twenty minutes, but the real question is do I want to stop to listen to you? It's not every day that I get a chance like this. The infirmary is quiet; my staff has the day off so I'm not constantly being bothered by one thing or another. Really Rodney can't it wait until tomorrow?"

"No Carson it can't wait until tomorrow. Twenty minutes that's all I'm asking…" Rodney was definitely above asking 'please' but if it got the Highland Sheepherder to say yes, well than he guessed he could allow himself this one indignation and say it.

Just as McKay opened his mouth to utter the single pleading word of 'please' Carson relented.

Rodney couldn't believe he managed to talk Carson into leaving his research long enough to hear him out. The two adjourned to the doctor's small office just off the main infirmary.

Carson leaned back in his office chair running his hand through his hair. He had entertained Rodney for the past several hours locked up in his cramped office. 'Twenty minutes my arse.' When the two entered, Rodney made sure the door was closed and locked, blinds drawn shut as he didn't want them to be disturbed. "Rodney I don't see how this can be possible."

"Please Carson, don't say no yet. Take another look at the data, run your own tests and trials. Do whatever voodoo it is you do, but please don't say no yet. I know this will work. It just has to." Said Rodney pleading his case one last time. He wasn't about to give up, not when he was this close.

Dr. Beckett rubbed his hand on the back of his neck trying to get the kink worked out that had settled there hours ago while listening to Rodney's proposal. He leaned forward over his desk considering Rodney's latest plea. "Alright. Give me a few weeks to run some of my own tests. Who else knows about this?"

"No one, just you and me. If your tests prove what I know they will, we can inform Elizabeth." Blurted Rodney, as a Cheshire Cat grin came to his face as a silent thank-you for the Doctor giving in to his pathetic plea.

"I'll let ya know Rodney. Now I have my own work to get back too." Carson pushed up from his chair and walked to the door and opened it, ushering Rodney out with his other hand.

Rodney slipped the data flash drive into Carson's hands on his way out. Offering his assistance with any experiments or tests one last time before leaving the infirmary.

Carson stood in his doorway holding the flash drive. He had told Rodney he needed to get back to his own research but right now all he could think about was 'could it be possible?'. Fingering the data in his hand he turned back and sat down. Powering up his laptop he researched everything he could on Rodney's topic. When he was done with that he retreated to his quarters where he kept most of the medical journals. The infirmary just didn't have the space available for setting up a medical library. A few 'most referenced' books he kept in his office but the majority of the medical books, manuals, journals and articles he kept in his spacious quarters. Carson had been fortunate enough that first year to snag a fairly large room just down the hall from the infirmary as his quarters. There had been times when he wished he wasn't so close and others that he wished he had been closer.

oOo

Three weeks later Dr. Beckett and Dr. McKay found themselves in agreement. Rodney didn't believe medicine was a true science but in this case he knew enough to know that his idea wouldn't work without Carson. Now it was up to the two of them to convince Dr. Weir. Rodney reached up to tap his comm. "Elizabeth."

"Yes Rodney, what can I do for you?" Dr. Weir responded with interest.

"I need to speak with you…its kinda urgent." McKay's tone reflected the urgency of the matter as he looked over at Carson. Rodney's eminence nervousness was showing up because he was rocking back and forth from heals to toes.

"Alright, come to my office."

Rodney grabbed his laptop from Carson's desk and started for the door. Carson did the same and was two paces behind Rodney as they exited the infirmary. "Be there in two minutes. McKay out."

Twenty-two…no…make that twenty-three months now of work, countless simulations; many sleepless nights and hundreds, if not thousands of pots of coffee later he had a viable solution. A solution he hoped would be received with warm, welcoming arms. But was he doing the right thing though? Was the prototype really ready? Would it work in human trials? Carson thought so. In a fleeting moment panic doubt crossed his mind and Rodney didn't like doubt at all. He was a man of certainties; there was no room for doubt.

Carson had called Rodney to his lab on several occasions during the last few weeks. Carson had read everything he could get his eyes and hands on. The pair set up experiments in Carson's lab and Carson ran similar simulations. Using a small pig-like animal Carson secured from the mainland in his initial research and trails because they were quite similar to human physiology. McKay was absent for those trials, squeamish in fact, but otherwise the two scientists put their heads together to achieve their common goal.

The pair took the steps up the grand staircase two at a time to the control deck, barely noticing staff or military in their path. Crossing the catwalk from the command deck to Weir's office door, Rodney stopped briefly to rap his knuckles on the glass wall to announce their arrival.

Dr. Weir looked up from her laptop and the report she was reading from Capt. Cadman's mission to M7C-927 a moon in the Lydren constellation. She was surprised to see Carson had come along as well. She motioned for Rodney and Carson to enter waving her hand in a friendly 'come in' gesture followed by a concerned smile since Rodney had mentioned the somewhat urgency of the matter.

McKay and Beckett took the last few strides into her office sitting down in the two guest chairs opposite her desk. Setting down his laptop, Rodney took the rectangular box he carried and carefully placed it on the desk as well. Carson kept his laptop on his lap lightly tapping the casing in his nervousness. Rodney used his synthetic ATA gene to mentally close and lock the office door. At least it was good for some things, he smiled inwardly. There were times when he envied Sheppard and his natural super gene but he would never in a million years admit it to the errant flyboy. He breathed out another sigh of anticipation. What he wanted to discuss was too important for interruptions.

Dr. Weir closed her laptop and moved it to the side to show Rodney and Carson that they had her full attention. Resting her hands on her desk, clasping her fingers together, she inquired, "okay Doctors', to what do I owe the pleasure of your company today?"

When neither man spoke Dr. Weir broke the silence between them. "Rodney, are you alright? You both look nervous…for a lack of a better word." Rodney was wringing his hands and his eyes were darting back and forth wildly. Carson wasn't much better; he now had a death grip on his laptop.

"Yes, yes I'm fine. And you could say I am a little nervous." McKay huffed and shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable. "What I…we…I mean 'we' need to speak to you about could be life altering." Rodney took a glance at Carson as he spoke.

Dr. Weir folding her arms across her chest leaned back into her office chair her eyes darted back and forth between the two men waiting for one of them to begin speaking. She hoped that Rodney's 'life altering' talk had to do with a plan to stop the Wraith in this galaxy. Assuming that Dr. Beckett was in on the discovery she found herself impatiently waiting.

McKay finally opened his laptop and accessed the file. Turning his laptop at an angle so that Dr. Weir could view the screen he began presenting his findings. Explaining how this all had come about and how he had been working on this for the past two years. Every detail laid out. Rodney kept nothing back. About half way through, Carson opened his laptop that showed the results and findings from his weeks of research and trials including the simulations he had done on the pig-like animal.

Rodney had talked nearly non-stop for the past four and a half hours allowing Carson to get a word in once in a while and after all their combined explanations, research, data and simulations Elizabeth found herself unsettled.

"Rodney, are you sure?" Dr. Weir asked searching those blue eyes that sat before her for an answer. What she needed now was reassurance. And only Rodney and Carson could offer her that. Elizabeth had a lot of faith and confidence in their unique abilities. They had proved that over and over again since coming to Atlantis.

"As sure as I can be. I've worked on this for the past twenty-three months; the proof is all here Elizabeth." McKay tapped his computer to get his point across.

Carson glanced at Rodney and received a slight nod to proceed. "It's possible Elizabeth. I was skeptical myself at first. As I showed you I did several experiments and tests myself. I reviewed Rodney's information more than a few times and with Rodney's help Joe recovered nicely."

Dr. Weir took notice of the name 'Joe' and sat abruptly forward in her chair, arms resting on the top of her desk. She had been sitting back in her chair with one arm over her head resting on the back of the chair while listening to her two associates. This was the first she heard of a live experiment and she knew full well she had not given permission for any live trials. "Carson, who's Joe?"

"Joe? Oh, he's one of my lab mice. He was in an accident a couple of months back, got out of his cage and got caught between an office chair and the wall. Poor little fella got squished. With Rodney's help here, we managed to adapt the block, temporarily. After we hooked up Joe it only took an hour and the wee one was back to being himself again. I felt sorry for the poor bugger when I had to disconnect the block." Carson finished his statement shaking his head back and forth and looking down towards the floor.

"Suck it up Carson, it's for the greater good here…remember?" Rodney pointed out to the tenderhearted physician. If they hadn't adapted the block to use on Joe for the test Carson would still be saying this was all academic.

"Aye Rodney I know. But it still breaks my heart."

Drawing the two doctors' back on topic Weir asked, "what are the odds for success?" She said calmly.

"Sixty – forty." "Eighty – twenty." Exclaimed Carson and Rodney simultaneously.

"That's quite a difference." She said raising one eyebrow and looking warily from her CMO to her CSO.

Rodney retorted quickly before Carson could get a word in. "That's because he erred on the side of caution. Trust me Elizabeth the odds are good that this will work. I know it will. I've spent the better part of two years working on all the minor details, every nuance, every angle. This will work, I'm sure of it."

"Okay then, I guess our next move is to talk to John about this." She gave a short pause then added, "however, I think it best we talk to him in his quarters."

Rodney and Carson agreed that would be for the best. No need to open this can of worms in a public place. None of them knew how he would react to the news.

"John has exercises with Carl tonight, why don't I clear it with Carl and we can meet in John's quarters at 19:00 hours." After receiving confirmation from her CMO and CSO, Elizabeth contacted Dr. Epson to make the final arrangements.

oOo

John had spent the better part of his day it seemed ferrying groups of scientists to the mainland. First there was Dr. Alyce Deerman who showed up at his office door right at 09:00. She had a team of three that wanted to study a mineral formation that one of the Athosians had come across on the southern plain a few days ago. Normal procedure was to fill out a mission request; outline objectives, state required equipment and personnel, then forward it to the Colonel for consideration and planning. They spoke for fifteen minutes before the Colonel authorized the mission. They were only going to the mainland after all…not some planet far away so the Colonel tolerated the lapse in procedure. John added a team of Marines as escort and flew them to the mainland in Jumper One. And last, but not least he strongly advised Dr. Deerman of the proper mission request procedure if she ever wanted any future outings. Feeling he had chastised her enough he let her go with a strong warning.

By the time he got back which was just before lunch an eager Dr. Marvin Gebhardt and two of his associates wanted transportation to the mainland to take samples of a plant that has healing properties. John advised the eager doctor he would take him and his team to the mainland right after lunch. Gebhardt's mission request had been pre-approved, stamped and certified as a go and was scheduled for 13:00 hours and the Colonel wasn't going to be persuaded to go any earlier. Besides, he needed to stay on his rigid schedule and each lunch first. By the time he rolled into the jumper bay the escort team and Dr. Gebhardt's team were waiting. At 13:07 hours the jumper took flight and the eight headed for the western peninsula of the mainland where this plant had been discovered.

Once he dropped off Dr. Gebhardt, he flew the jumper over to the mineral deposit site to check on Dr. Deerman. He hoped she was ready to return to Atlantis as this would save him a trip later on. Instead she requested to stay overnight and the team of Marines didn't have a problem with that. They unloaded a few of the stocked supplies from Jumper One so they could make camp for the night. As John lifted off into the air heading back towards Atlantis he could already see his Marines setting up the tents while Dr. Deerman and her staff went back to doing what they do. Whatever that was. How could a mineral be worthy for an overnight stay?

He managed two and a half hours of work in his office before he headed back to the mainland to pick up Dr. Gebhardt.

Usually Colonel Sheppard didn't pay that close attention to requisitions that were forwarded from his executive office. He knew Lorne would scrutinize each requisition before sending it to him for his final authorization. But today he paid close attention to the personal items being requested. It had been a month now that the shipment of 'scrubbies' had arrived and unbeknownst to him he saw an increase in liquid soap requests. What really startled him was the fact that 48 percent of the increase came from the military. Closing his laptop after signing off on all his paperwork, he took Jumper One out to pick up Dr. Gebhardt and his team arriving safely back in Atlantis just in time for dinner.

oOo

John headed for his quarters right after dinner in the mess hall. He wheeled himself into his room and over to his dresser to get out a pair of shorts. When Carl did his exercises, John's work out clothes consisted of a t-shirt and shorts; it made it easier for Carl to work his leg muscles if he could actually see them and not just feel them through his BDU pants or sweats. Carl would start out with stretches; each leg got a thorough workout and sometimes his arms and shoulders before Carl had John do the pull-ups, push-ups and sit-ups that kept his body well toned and healthy. This had been his routine for two years now. Ever since Carl came to Atlantis to help him after his accident; three nights a week stretches and calisthenics and three nights a week Katas with Teyla and Ronon. Interspersed with the occasional off world rescue.

John reached for the control mechanism to activate the lift which would deposit him on his bed so he could change out of his BDU pants and put on his shorts. He had already put his gun and thigh holster away in the nightstand drawer upon coming into his room. Carl had taught him a long time ago how to get dressed if no one was around. Since Carl informed him he would be late, John took the initiative to change into his shorts himself instead of waiting for Carl's assistance. It would take longer to do it himself, but he had the extra time. He was about to activate the lift, when his door chimed. Setting down his shorts and the lift remote on the bed, he turned his wheelchair around and headed back into the living space. Getting close to the door he thought 'open' and was surprised to see Elizabeth and Rodney.

It had barely been fifteen minutes since he'd left Rodney in the mess hall where they had dinner. He hadn't mentioned anything about dropping by his quarters. They all knew he had PT with Carl tonight. However, now that he thought back to dinner, Rodney was a little more…less talkative than usual. When he had exercises, everyone knew Lt. Colonel Lorne was in charge barring any disaster. It had been this way ever since Carl had arrived. "Is there a problem?" John inquired right away seeing the look of apprehension on their faces as well as their body language. Rodney fidgeting at the suites threshold.

"No John, no problem. Atlantis is fine, everyone is fine. We just need to talk to you in private. I hope you don't mind that we came here. Carson and Dr. Epson will be joining us shortly. Can we come in?" Elizabeth explained as she found herself shifting from side to side with nervous anticipation.

Remembering his manners, John bowed slightly and swept his hand in a 'please enter' motion then backed away from the door so the pair could enter the suite. "I don't mind Elizabeth, but you do have me at a disadvantage. Why the private conversation? Is something coming down from the SGC or IOA?" John asked a bit eagerly realizing that all the department heads would soon be in his living space.

"Nothing like that. We'll explain everything when Carson gets here. Do you mind if we sit down?" Elizabeth tried to sound nonchalant but she didn't think she was succeeding. It was the same now as it was with her bedside manner; she knew she sucked at it. She wondered how she could be so good at negotiating with Heads of State, Aliens and yet suck at small talk and comfort with her friends.

"Yes of course, I'm sorry…please sit down. You just took me by surprise. Usually meetings with department heads take place in your office or the briefing room, not in my private quarters." John pointed out to his guests.

Rodney had yet to say a word. He had let Elizabeth do all the talking so far. Very un-Rodney like. Rodney just kept a tight hold on his laptop that dangled in front of him clutched in both his hands. It was not like Rodney to be this quiet. As Rodney and Elizabeth moved to sit down, John wheeled himself to his normal spot at the end of the couch. With his back towards his room he could face whoever sat on the couch or the two lounge chairs that were in his quarters. Whenever he had guests in for movie night, John took up this particular spot at the end of the couch. It was easy access to get in and out of as well as close to his bedroom if he needed to excuse himself for whatever reason. Elizabeth took a seat on the couch and Rodney sat down in the lounge chair closest to the Colonel.

The three made idle chit-chat as the minutes ticked off slowly one by one. John picked up on several glances that were exchanged between Elizabeth and Rodney while they waited for Carson and Carl to arrive. The air was thick with anticipation and worry. So thick it could have been cut with a knife. John entertained the thought of opening the balcony door but decided against it in the long run. John could not stop his mind from overloading him with scenarios that something serious was wrong. Could Elizabeth be sick? She didn't look sick, although a bit pale. Was she going to be replaced? Why is Rodney clutching his computer so hard that his knuckles are turning white? And why is he not speaking normally? He gave curt yes and no answers instead of his usual lengthy drawn-out responses that left you half asleep. What do Carson and Carl have to do with any of this? Had the expedition been recalled? Am I being replaced? Had the Air Force changed their mind about my command status? His mind was filled with questions when he heard the familiar whoosh of his door opening up and Carson and Carl came walking in. Carl carried with him a tray of coffee and a couple bottles of water. He gently placed them on the coffee table between the couch and chairs.

Carson took a seat on the couch next to where John was sitting; Elizabeth sat on his left, while Carl sat down in the second lounge chair to Dr. McKay's right. Carson settled his laptop on the seat cushion between himself and Elizabeth.

John who had enough of idle, vague responses and with his mind running wild with thoughts did not waste any more time. "Now would someone please tell me what's going on?" His tone snapped out each word that would have a new recruit wetting his pants. He hadn't meant for his words to come out so harsh but what was done was done.

Being the diplomat and negotiator that she was, Elizabeth straightened a bit on the couch as she spoke. She knew that John was getting upset with all the vagueness that was being projected. While they waited, John had tried to gain answers from them. "I'm sorry John, we don't mean to alarm you, but we have some news that might come as a shock to you. I'll let Rodney explain since he has done the most work."

"So you're not leaving, sick or dying. I'm not being replaced. You're not being replaced and McKay here isn't being put in charge. Do I have that right?" John asked letting a grin form on his face as he took in each of their expressions. "My mind has been going a hundred miles a minute since you got here wondering why the head of each department is secretly meeting in my quarters. You can't imagine all the thoughts that ran through my head. Are Teyla and Ronon coming here too?"

The group let out a collective sigh. Elizabeth explained that the two natives would not be joining them at this time since this was a 'personal' kind of meeting. As everyone's nerves quieted down some, Carson and Elizabeth reached for a cup of coffee, while Carl passed John a bottle of water. Rodney didn't bother with either as he really wanted to get this out in the open. He was exhausted at keeping this a secret for so long, especially these last few weeks. And especially from his best friend.

"Colonel." Rodney began, his voice cracked a little. Coughing a little to clear it he began again, "Colonel, I've been working on a project for the past twenty-three months and I wish I could have come up with this sooner, but I guess now is better than not at all." Rodney took a deep breath in to settle his nerves while opening up his laptop and requesting the files. Once that was done he reached into his pocket and pulled out the small rectangular box with the clear lid and handed it to the Colonel.

John took the small box and looked at it with curiosity while he waited for Rodney to continue. Inside the small box he could see what looked like a small circuit board resting on a piece of foam in the center of the box. At the top and bottom were fine wire looking filaments no more than an inch in length. The circuit board was maybe a little bigger than a postage stamp, but not much.

"What you are holding is a modified single cell Replicator Block." Rodney started out saying.

At hearing the word 'replicator' John fumbled with the tiny box and almost dropped it like it was burning his hands or something. Rodney saw the reaction and quickly grabbed the box out of the Colonel's hands before it could hit the floor. The circuitry and fine filaments were just too fragile and wouldn't be able to sustain a drop to the floor. Had the Colonel had his gun he probably would have shot it or called Ronon in to vaporize it using his blaster. Thank God he was in the middle of changing clothes and had already taken off his side arm. The thought of what Oberoth had put him through back on Asuras after their first meeting quickly came to the forefront of his mind making him wince with pain.

"It's alright, it won't hurt you. Quite the opposite I hope. It's completely safe." Rodney said as he took the box back and sat it down on the coffee table. "Remember when we took the city back from the Asuran's and rescued General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey?" John nodded his understanding recalling the situation quite well in fact and allowed Rodney to continue. "After we used the Anti-Replicator Weapon in the shield emitters there were millions of these scattered around Atlantis. Radek and I thought we should save some to study so the science department scooped up several random samples in hopes we could figure a way to disrupt them permanently. I totally forgot about them until I was searching for an Ancient device after your accident. That's when I came across them. We never did get around to studying them as one disaster after another seemed to pop up. But then an idea came to me. What if I could program a single cell?"

John kept his eye cast on the small clear box. Carl reached forward to get his first look at a Replicator cell. The Colonel's eyes following the small box as Carl brought it to him for inspection. During their PT nights the Colonel would talk about past missions and had told Carl about the Asurans. Carl was in awe that those beings were made up of millions and millions of these small blocks. Setting the small box back down on the table he turned his attention back to Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard.

"…in my spare time over the last two years I have been working on this theory using this Replicator Block to repair your spinal cord. And I've done it. Carson agrees it will work." Rodney looked at his friend trying to determine if he understood what he was telling him. What he was offering him.

Carson and Carl also were watching the Colonel closely for any negative reaction. Carson had come prepared and hiding in his lab coat pocket was a sedative just in case this whole evening went pear shaped.

John hadn't moved at all. He was still staring at the small box sitting on the coffee table. His mind was trying to grasp what Rodney had just said, 'repair your spinal cord'. After all these months he didn't think that was possible. Yet Rodney and Carson were now saying that it was. He remembered vividly…like it was yesterday, Carson saying plain as day as he lay there in the infirmary after his accident, "…you have a complete spinal cord injury; which is total loss of motor function and sensation below the waist." "The paralysis is permanent." Now they're telling me it's 'not permanent'.

"Colonel are you okay?" Carson asked quietly as he leaned forward to get a better look at the Colonel. Reaching his hand out to take a pulse was the instinct of any good Doctor worth his salt. Carl was sitting on the edge of his chair also ready to spring into action if the need arose.

Seeing movement and realizing someone was speaking or had spoken, John climbed out of his stupor of the past. He looked up at the four concerned faces staring back at him. "What?" A sheen of perspiration donned his forehead and his palms were sweaty. He found himself wiping his hands off on his pants in a fidgety sort of way.

"I asked if you are all right. Do you want us to stop now or would you like us to continue?" Carson explained simply. As always he was looking out for his patient.

"I'm fine…I think...for now anyway. You can continue." John's quiet drawl was barely audible.

Taking that as a good sign, Rodney turned his laptop towards the Colonel and began going over each segment of his proposal in detail. The Colonel followed along as Rodney pointed out one aspect after another. He had started to ask pertinent questions along the way to make sure he had an understanding of what was being offered but there was so much to take in that he gave up. Rodney had gone off on one of his tangents into some techno-babble jargon about base coding that John didn't understand, but didn't want to stop Rodney at this point to explain. John figured there would be time later to have Rodney put it in layman's terms so to speak. When Rodney was done, Carson brought his laptop out and started talking about the medical side of the science. Cutting a small section of his damaged spine out to be replaced with the replicator block and infuse the two ends into the severed nerves. Re-establishing blood flow using resectable veins and arteries obtained from the small pig-like animal. There was more to the procedure, a lot more, but John was so overwhelmed with information and details he found it hard to concentrate.

Sure he had it easy. Rodney's whole premise was to get a signal from the brain to the legs and back again. Carson had the real tough job of restoring blood flow around the damaged part of the spine.

After nearly four hours of listening to Rodney's and Carson's explanations, and the banter that broke out back and forth between them on one point or another John finally asked, "what are my chances?"

Rodney and Carson looked at each other and at the same time blurted out, "seventy – thirty."

TBC

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