Mckay foraged through the cupboard at the back of his lab. Various items fell on his head, scruffing up his delicate layer of hair in a constant but incongruent hail. Wincing from an impact, Dr. Mckay finally found the object of his search.
"Got you now..." he muttered under his breath, digging his arms in further to clasp the object tightly. With great effort, he pulled the dusty sleeping bag free. The puffed scientist landed on his butt, his newly acquired possession in his lap.
"So that's a 'yes' then?" asked Major Lorne, appearing at the doorway of Mckay's lab. He was dressed in his jogging gear and looked as if he was on his way back from a workout with Ronon. "I have you down as a 'maybe, possibly, if the universe doesn't crash down around me'."
Taking a much needed breath, Rodney laid down on the floor. An eager upside down Lorne entered his field of view.
"What's it look like?" he replied, clutching the sleeping bag tighter.
Lorne smiled, determined not to be put off by the scientist's token snappiness. "'Probably, likely, as long as the world doesn't end'."
Mckay gave a big thumbs up, and Lorne continued down the corridor at a jog.
It was a stupid idea, thought Mckay for the eighth time since he had agreed to go. A camping trip on the new planet... Surely, he reasoned, there were better ways to spend his rare bursts of free time. Indeed, he had promised himself that he would not give into John's relentless pressuring the day Lorne was given permission to host it. He had SWORN that no amount of taunting, jeering, or threats of blackmail would induce him into undertaking three days of alien wilderness. He promised himself, despite his genetic inferior excitedly declaring that he would be going.
"Come on Rodney," he could almost hear Zelenka's voice, "it'll be fun."
"Define fun," he had replied.
"All those stars – being out there, on another world without having to worry about the nearest life sucking alien. This is what I always dreamed of, exploring other worlds – not being stuck in this lab all the time. On the bright side, I guess it's an alien lab..."
Not wishing to be upstaged by his junior, Rodney had almost agreed to tag along on the trip then and there, but a well timed system check of Atlantian systems had given him the perfect excuse. In fact, it wasn't until yesterday that he had given in to Lorne's request. The procedure went something like this:
"Stupid, ignorant, pencil pushing, no good, pack of suited, ill tempered, seriously deformed, emotionally squat –"
"Rodney?" A head peaked into Mckay's lab and looked around. "I thought I heard ranting..."
Rodney stopped mid breath, his mouth left agape.
Samantha Carter crossed the floor and scanned the room for any sign of the missing scientist. "Oh," she exclaimed, finding Rodney cross-legged on the floor beside an unhappy Naquada reactor. "There you are."
"There I am," repeated Rodney, undoing another screw on the device's casing.
Sam sat down beside him and watched him take off the outer casing. He didn't protest, thankful for a second pair of eyes. The truth was that he had no idea what was wrong with the stupid thing. Rumour has it that Sheppard knocked it off the table during a fire fight with a loose Wraith, rumours that had been unconvincingly denied.
"It looks pretty sick..." said Sam, seeing a black streak of residue near one of the circuit boards and a suspiciously dented rear.
Rodney sighed. "I know. Hold this." He lifted up the reactor and gave it to her to hold while he undid the screws beneath it. "Two person job," he muttered as the casing came away.
The scientist nodded, not looking up from the machine. This bit was particularly delicate. One slip and 'boom', pulverisation.
"Are you going on this thing?" she said, handing him a delicate silver tool.
'This thing' universally translated as 'Lorne's bush romp' because that's what it was turning into. It started with good intentions – a couple of mates forming a small camping party, and had evolved into fifty plus people lugging wood and matches for a giant bonfire night. Even though they weren't supposed to, alcohol had been smuggled from Earth and was now packed in the sleeping bags of most of the 'expedition'. Those who couldn't smuggle it were busy brewing. "No, I'm busy," he replied.
"Not any more you're not."
Rodney paused. "I – am ... not?"
"You aren't," she continued. "I need you to go along with them and oversee a couple of experiments I've asked the new recruits to run. There's a lot we can learn from this place. It may be our home, but it's still an alien planet. Who knows what's out there."
Rodney digested this. "You want me to babysit?"
Sam smiled. "I believe the term is 'chaperone'. Don't fight me Rodney," she said, gripping his arm. "You're going and that's that."
"And who's going to 'chaperone' me?"
The conversation ended with a shrug and a sigh.
The next morning Rodney entered his lab to find that the Naquada generator had miraculously fixed itself alongside a giant bag of marshmallows sitting on his desk. Rodney deflated – orders were orders.
Oddly, as the days had rolled on, Rodney started to quite like the thought of camping. It was one of those childhood things that he never got to participate in. If he did this, he'd be able to add at least one story to the long mission treks that didn't involve physics – well, didn't centre around physics.
Rodney gripped his sleeping back tightly and made his way down the corridor, hindered by a backpack at least half his height.
"Looking good," said a passerby.
"You try looking good with a bed strapped to your back," he muttered, irritably.
John Sheppard stopped abruptly in the middle of the hallway and tilted his head to the side. "But I do..."
Rodney rolled his eyes and shifted the pack. "Oh, it's you."
"How's my power-thingy?"
"The Naquada generator is recovering well. You'll be able to knock it off another desk in no time at all."
"When do we leave?" Rodney caught the conversation before it mutated into a row.
John strutted forward as a very attractive group of female scientists shuffled past. "Now. Colonel Carter sent me here to collect you but I can see that I didn't need to bother. Whatever she did, worked."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "I was ordered, that usually works."
John laughed, "Hardly. I'm going to go get my stuff, meet you at the jumper bay in ten."
"We're going to crash..."
"Lighten up Mckay," Ronon leant over and punched the scientist sharply in the arm hard enough to hurt.
Mckay rubbed the spot dramatically, squished between the luggage. "I'm telling you," he continued, "there's a weight limit on these things." The puddlejumper lurched as they took off, heading toward the open ceiling and stunning blue sky. "Flying fire bomb, gin is a wonderful accelerant."
"Nobody here drinks gin, Mckay. Just, sit quietly in the back and think happy thoughts about your experiments."
Rodney smiled for a fraction of a second before his tummy flipped. "Oh no..."
Take two was just as shaky, but at least they were in the air. Mckay cradled the bag of delicate equipments, settling on a determined frown.
Three other jumpers cruised beside them. Make that four, as Lorne darted across Sheppard's screen, honing in on the green speck peeking out from the ocean. Ronon laughed, pointing to the dots ducking and swooping playfully like birds playing on the wind.
The grassy landing site ended at the fringe of a subtropical jungle. Sheppard chose a free patch as close to the dangling succulent leaves as was safe and opened the back. Rodney all but tumbled out with the rest of the luggage.
"Head for the hill?" shouted Lorne, wandering past Sheppard's open jumper.
Rodney, draped over several large hiking bags, attempted to get up to no avail. "A little help – please..." he pleaded, as his teammates successfully navigated their way over the pile and out onto the fresh grass. Teyla, after taking a moment to admire the fresh air, took pity on the scientist and pulled him free. He dusted himself off at once, attempting to regain a little bit of dignity. "Yes, well, thank you."
"Don't mention it Rodney."
Lorne, still waiting for an answer, set about re-tying his mountain boots. The whole place looked like a car-park, or be it more correctly a 'spaceport'. Though decked out in casuals, the rest of the campers arranged themselves in their exploration teams. Ahead of them was a sizable incline, concealed by the junglish foliage. According to the Atlantian files, this place was riddled with spectacular limestone caves and friendly, edible wildlife. Their excuse for this escapade, (namely, what they would put on their official reports to Stargate Command) was a faint electromagnetic reading coming from their designated campfire spot.
"Let's head out," Sheppard winked at Lorne, indicating that his team could go ahead and have first chop. Lorne grinned madly and waved his team on.
Rodney strapped himself into his hiking pack and then bent down to retrieve the equipment bag. This action was a mistake. The weight on his back set him off balance into a dangerous rocking motion until gravity won out and he landed in a heap on the grass.
"Come on Rodney, let's gooo...." said Ronon, flinging the majority of the luggage effortlessly onto his back. "The sun's not going to stay up forever."
"What – is – that!" Rodney, reclined against a rock, watched an ant with uncommonly long legs crawl past. Instead of eyes it had a set of featherlike feelers wandering independently of each other and an impressive set of spikes over its abdomen.
"Would you stop fretting!" John threw a bread roll at him which Rodney caught. "This is going to kill me, that tree's going to hunt me! Not everything in the universe is out to kill you Rodney! Can't you just enjoy a relaxing walk in the wild? Seriously, you're the reason Ronon's ploughed ahead to join Lorne's party."
Rodney was too busy munching to care.
"Should have fed him earlier," John sighed, collapsing back amongst the leaf litter.
Teyla smiled in her reserved way. "Rodney does have a point. Not all of the wildlife here is friendly. Like any existence, there is a delicate balance of danger present."
"Thank you," Rodney managed between bites. "I have a point."
"Sheppard, come in..."
John clicked his radio on. "Go ahead, Major."
"My team's found a potential camping site, do you want us to start setting up or wait for you to get here?"
"Go ahead, Lorne. We're about an hour behind you and the others even further behind us. By the time we all arrive I reckon that sun'll be pretty low. Just save some marshmallows."
"Will do, Colonel."
Rodney could not help but present a frown. "I thought I had the marshmallows..."
"I gave them to Lorne," replied John, extracting himself from the ground. "In case you needed some motivation to reach the campsite."
"Uh!" John raised a hand disapprovingly. "You know what the Colonel said, no fighting."
Rodney mumbled to himself, "She meant with weapons."