"So, what makes you think I won't just wait for you to leave and then try again," John asked.
"Oh, I'm sure you would try again but then . . . I know something that you don't know . . ."
"What" John asked but McKay continued as if he had never spoken.
"What I mean, of course, is that I know a lot of things you don't know. Really the plethora of things I know is astounding and that you . . ."
"McKay! Focus!" John barked in his best military voice.
It worked as Rodney came to a complete halt both in movement and speech. With a smug smile, he said, "I know where your clothes and your car are."
"My car?" John asked incredulous.
"Strangely enough, the thing was riddled with bullets but the engine runs fine." Rodney took off again towards the end of the hallway
"Uh-huh." John replied, clearly not believing him.
"I may have done a little work on it. I didn't have much to do while waiting for you to wake up." Rodney replied, cutting his eyes at John to see if he believed him.
He didn't. He knew someone of McKay's intelligence and importance had plenty to do in an operation like this but John let it go. At least he had a way out of here now.
"Great! Where are they?" John asked as he moved slowly behind the scientist.
"Nope," Rodney said over his shoulder. "Not until you do something for me . . ."
"I thought you said I saved the world. That wasn't enough?"
Rodney stopped at a nondescript metal door and began punching in a code. "I thought YOU said that it was something that anyone would have done in the same place . . ."
John looked around focusing for the first time on the corridor they were in. As the door slid open, he realized this was the wing that housed the wraith. Visions of his nightmares swam in front of his eyes abruptly halting his movement.
Rodney noticed that the detective had fallen behind and stopped, looking back. "I just need a favor. It will be quick and easy and once you're done, if you still want to head back to that dream life of yours, I'll give you your clothes and you can be on your way."
John schooled his features and straightened his shoulders. "Fine. Let's get it over with." John tried to stride purposely down the hall but his injuries made it seem more like a hobbled gate.
McKay thought about commenting but withheld it. He knew John Sheppard was in pain and not just the physical kind. If he wanted this to work then he had to handle Sheppard very carefully.
Rodney keyed in a second access code and stepped into a dark room with John following closely behind. The door immediately shut behind him, leaving the two men in blackness. "Listen McKay, if this is what I think it is, I'm flattered but that comment back in the infirmary was just a joke," John said trying to hide his discomfort at not being able to see.
Rodney's snort echoed in the room but he only said "Lights."
The lights immediately flickered to life, illuminating the chair John had seen before. John looked at it fascinated, unaware that he was slowly moving towards it. He halted his approach when he realized that he and Rodney were not alone.
"Radek? What are you doing in here in the dark?"
The small man pulled himself out from under the console, hair flying around his face. "I was checking crystal realignment. Easier to see when it is dark . . ."
"Yes, well, I assume everything is in order?"
"Yes . . ." The scientist darted a glance at Sheppard and then back at Rodney. "What are you doing?" he asked suspiciously.
Rodney quickly strode over to Radek and placing a hand on his back, began to gently guide him towards the door. "Just giving the ten cent tour. I'm sure you have other, more important things to do."
Radek tried to impede his forward momentum. "Rodney, if you are doing what I think you are doing then I have to say it is quite possibly a very bad idea . . ."
Rodney never stopped, opening the door and pushing Radek outside. "No, no. we're fine here. Just showing him around."
Radek looked over Rodney's shoulder at Sheppard, who had a smirk on his face. "but . . ." The door slid back into place cutting off anything else he might have said.
Turning back towards John, Rodney continued, "Now, if my hypothesis is correct and it usually is, you are biologically identical to every other John Sheppard in the multiverse. And if the ATA gene is simply a biological marker, which is likely, that means you should have a unique ability."
"What ability?" John asked as he turned back towards the chair and he slowly reached out to touch its arm.
"To activate the chair with little to no effort." Rodney declared, taking in Sheppard as he slowly ran his hand up the arm and back of the devise like he both loved it and hated it.
Rodney wasn't far off. John had no idea why the chair enthralled him but it did – and he wasn't sure he liked it. The chair seemed to talk, reach out for . . . . . resonate with him. John nodded subconsciously as he found the word he was looking for. John slowly circled the chair studying the intricate design and carvings. "What does it do?"
"It actually does a variety of things including opening the stargate here and activating the defense system for Earth . . . we think. We haven't had a lot of luck getting it to work. The gene is . . . rare."
John raised an eyebrow but never looked away from the chair. "What do you want me to do?" John asked.
"Sit in it," Rodney replied with a challenging smile.
John tore his eyes away to look at McKay. "You know, the little guy may be right. This may not be the best idea you've ever had."
Rodney sighed, reigning in his impatience. "All my ideas are excellent."
"What if I say no? You can't keep me here."
"No, I can't. If you don't want to give it a try, then I am happy to show you the door. I hope you enjoy the walk." At John's angry glare, Rodney stopped, took a deep breath and tried again without the edge in his voice. "Look. I promise. It won't hurt you."
"I'm not worried about it hurting me," John muttered looking back at the chair. He wasn't sure what he was worried about. Knowing my luck, it's more likely I'll break the damn thing, he thought as he looked back to see Rodney impatiently tapping his pen on the console. John took a deep breath. Okay how bad can this go? he wondered as he silently turned, shut his eyes and sat down.
His eyes immediately flew open again when the chair instantly reclined and came to life. He heard McKay crow "I knew it! Now just don't move!" John glanced nervously over at Rodney to see him bent over the console taking readings. He didn't look panicked so John figured this must be right and forced himself to relax . . .slightly.
"Think about where you are in the universe," Rodney instructed.
John formed a picture in his mind and was startled when it appeared above his head. "Did I do that?" he asked with wonder.
"You most certainly did," Rodney replied distractedly as he noted the information coming across the screens.
John couldn't describe the feelings course through him as he watched the scene change above his head. For the first time, in a very long time, he felt connected to something outside of himself – something bigger. The chair was warm behind his back and John began to wonder what else it would do. He started with simple questions in his head - the location of the nearest whale pod, the square route of 582,169, the molecular structure for ammonia, Bilinear functional equations, anything else that came into his mind. The ceiling flashed with information like lightening and John grinned like a kid. This was the best he had felt since Afghanistan. It was almost as if he were flying again . . . almost.
"This is soo cool," John muttered to himself.
"Okay, now I want you to think 'defend Earth'" Rodney asked glancing up at John.
John's thoughts jumped to the wraith and immediately the chamber began to rumble, shaking as if a small earthquake had hit. John jerked as if he were going to leap from the chair.
"Not yet!" Rodney yelled over the rumbling. "You've got to back it down!"
"Back what down!? I don't even know what I'm doing?" John yelled back with a hint of panic in his voice.
"Just try and relax." McKay coached. "Think disengage."
John tried to steady his breathing. In his mind, he repeated the word, "Disengage . . . Disengage . . .Disengage . . . aw hell . . . . STOP!" The rumbling immediately ceased. John leaned forward and the chair came up right with him.
"What the hell was that?!" John demanded weakly as he stumbled from the chair, took a step forward and listed to the side. While sitting, he had completely forgotten he had been hurt and was surprised as the pain in his chest intensified.
"That was you, activating Earth's defense grid," McKay answered with a brilliant smile.
John grunted, placing a hand against the wall to steady his balance. Now that he was disconnected from the chair, he felt cold, distant – almost as if he had lost a limb. He looked back at the chair and could swear it was beckoning to him. He shook his head to dispel the thought. He needed to leave – now. He hadn't been prepared for the experience and it left him confused, weak and more than a little out of control.
"You could have warned me . . ." John hissed feeling his anger rising again. In an effort to control it, he palm the door switch and lurched out into the hall, away from McKay and the event that left unrecognizable emotions swirling through him.
McKay was following him. "I wasn't sure if you would do it if you knew."
"Thanks for that vote of confidence," John replied blackly. "So, I held up my end of the deal. Where's my clothes and car?"
McKay sighed, disappointed. "So, that's it? You're just going to leave?"
"There was any doubt?"
"I thought you might change your mind when you understood what you could do – what you could be."
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
"I'm talking about joining my team. I'm talking about Atlantis."
It was just as John feared. McKay actually thought he would just throw away his life and jump when 'duty called'. Yes, well it wasn't much of a life but it was his and it had been a long time since John had answered that call. These days he just let the answering machine pick up. I'm not home right now but if you will just leave a message . . .
"Not interested." John answered shortly. "My car?"
Rodney glared for a minute and strode away angrily. John felt a twinge of something – it was similar to regret for disappointing the man - but then it couldn't be since John didn't give a good god damn what McKay thought anyway.
John silently followed McKay up the stairs, his jaw clenched to keep him from saying anything he might regret later. After several turns, they stepped into a warehouse area. John could see his beloved, battered Camaro at the end and ignored the pain radiating through his body as walked quickly to the vehicle.
Glancing down in the front seat, he noticed with some disappointment but no real surprise that the money from wraith was gone.
"It's in the trunk . . . with your clothes." Rodney's voice sounded tired as John turned and watched him rub the black eye John had accidentally given him three days ago.
Something about that even made John mad. Who the hell was this guy and why did he care anyway. John knew exactly who he was – he was a screw up. His only family wouldn't have anything to do with him and his ex-wife, Sheila, had a restraining order against him. He had a shitty apartment and was currently unemployed. Sheila was right – he was a loser. He didn't need to be given the chance to prove it once again. He was actually doing McKay a favor by walking away – and if McKay was too stupid to see that, then it wasn't John's problem and he sure as hell wouldn't feel guilty over it. He had earned that money and he didn't owe McKay anything.
All these thoughts flashed through John's mind in mere seconds as he stared Rodney in the eyes. All he said was, "Appreciate it."
Climbing into the car, John started the purring motor, Johnny Cash's Solitary Man playing on the tape deck again. The car sounded better than it had in years. Pushing the gear shift into drive, he didn't move as McKay stepped up to the window.
For a minute Rodney looked like he was going to launch into persuasive argument and John almost hoped he would. However, he was both disappointed and relieved when all McKay said was, "Take care of yourself, John."
"You too," John replied gruffly, not looking the man in the eye. And then John Sheppard stepped on the gas, pulled out of the warehouse and drove off into the night.
End Part One of Four.