SEASON: Season 5
MAJOR CHARACTERS: McKay and Zelenka
DISCLAIMERS: The characters, Atlantis, etc, all belong to Sony, MGM, Gecko, Showtime, the Sci-Fi Channel.
SUMMARY: Radek sees something flying toward the city and enlists McKay's help
NOTE: This story was in response to the SGA Ficathon: prompts Humor and "Without a Paddle"
DATE: June 1, 2009
WITHOUT A PADDLE - by NotTasha
PART 1: LANDING
Zelenka always watched the skies, looking for birds. Bird watching was a passion for him, a chance to just be himself, to be calm and quiet. It reminded him of his old life.
He started each morning with his gaze on the horizon, hoping.
He'd seen few birds on this new home planet mostly long-winged 'gulls' that rode the ocean wind currents long distance fliers. The gulls would circle high above the towers, hardly moving their wing. Then, they'd glide onward without bothering to land. They had places to go, migrations to follow, a timetables to keep.
They kept moving.
A storm had blown through the day before. Nothing as bad as the massive hurricane of their first year on the old planet, but wind had ripped past the towers and toppled the ornaments left out on balconies. A few unlucky wind chimes put up such a cacophony that Woolsey banned them for life from the city.
The storm blew all day and all night, and then, with morning, came stillness and a bird.
Radek spotted it as he stood by the railing of the mess hall. It flew toward the city. Not the slow lofting glide of the big gulls, but rather the frantic fluttering of a much smaller animal that wasn't supposed to be here.
A lone bird over a big ocean.
He turned, wanting to tell someone anyone. But, it was early morning. Most people were still asleep and the mess hall was empty. Then, he saw Rodney, coming toward him, carrying a full tray and a mug of coffee.
"Look," he said and pointed. "Out there, do you see it?"
"What?" McKay cried anxiously. "A whale? They have them here, too?"
"No, a bird. See?"
"A bird?" Rodney snorted as he set his tray on a nearby table. "You had me all worked up for nothing."
"It's unusual," Radek tried.
"It's just a bird."
The bird kept making its way toward the city, desperate for a landing place. It flapped and dove and rose and kept coming.
"Where do you think it will land?" Radek asked.
"I don't care," Rodney replied, forking into his pile of scrambled eggs.
"It appears to be heading toward the North Pier," Radek decided.
"Great," McKay mumbled, his mouth full.
"It must have flown very far on its own. The storm blew it off its course. Do you believe it will make a safe landing?" Zelenka asked, his eyes on faltering form.
"Not my problem," McKay replied.
Zelenka watched it as Rodney ate breakfast. The bird was nearing, but getting lower with every passing moment. Radek rested his arms on the railing, willing the little bird to continue flying. "It will make it to the city," he said resolutely.
Rodney replied, "If it craps on anything, you clean it up. I really don't have the time or resources to devote to 'bird patrol'. If that thing is anything like a pigeon, we're going to have a serious problem on our hands."
"What do you have against pigeons?" Radek asked defensively. "They are beautiful creatures that make excellent pets and companions. They are quiet, calming and unobtrusive, which is much more than I can say for certain people."
"They're rats, Radek," McKay responded. "Seriously, they're disgusting and dirty creatures that live off of garbage. They should be eradicated."
Radek continued watching this strange visitor to their home. "I used to keep them," he said quietly. "They're so lovely when they fly. Their wings make a most remarkable sound." His voice took on a light tone as he said, "There's something soothing about holding one, feeling its heartbeat in your hands."
Rodney made a disgusted sound. "You hold those things? Haven't you ever heard of bird flu? Those things are full of lice!"
Zelenka kept his gaze on the struggling creature. "I would drive to the countryside, and set them loose. They'd fly off in a cluster, and swirl above my head. They'd join together and fly. They looked almost like a single living creature when they flew in a dense flock. They would always come home."
"That's creepy! Have you ever seen the movie 'The Birds'?" Rodney asked. "They'll peck the eyes right out of your head if you let them."
"Rodney," Radek said tiredly, "You think everything wants to peck your eyes out."
"Not everything," Rodney admitted, his voice lowering. "Just the things with beaks."
"Watching them fly always made me feel better. There's something about birds that heals the soul."
The little bird was near enough that Radek could see it was black, with yellow accents on its head. It was trying so hard to reach the city. "Fly," Radek said under his breath. "Keep flying. Keep flying."
And then it fell, plummeting toward the ocean.
"Oh!" Radek exclaimed.
"Oh no!" McKay echoed. Zelenka hadn't realized that McKay had joined him, leaning heavily against the railing. They looked at each other and then, without a word, both scientists darted from the mess hall, heading toward the nearest transporter.
In a matter of minutes, they'd commandeered one of the expedition's canoes and had transported to the North Pier as McKay tracked the bird with a Life Signs Detectors.
"It's still moving," McKay said triumphantly as they exited the transporter, clattering the canoe along with them. "It made it! Radek, look." And he turned the display so that Zelenka could see. "It's by the lagoon."
The lagoon was an enclosed 'lake' along the North Pier of Atlantis, a favorite place for swimming parties because water within was relatively calm no 'chop' to disrupt the fun. The Ancient design had no floor. The lagoon's 'bottom' opened to the deep blue sea. The penned-in area was large, big enough that McKay had once said it was the perfect place to stage a naumachia, a term that nobody nearby seemed to understand. McKay had looked pleased by that fact. Sheppard smacked him for that.
"The bird is safe." McKay beamed at the Life Sign Detector. "It's all good. We can stand down. Emergency averted."
"I want to see it," Radek insisted.
"Shouldn't we leave this to the ornithologists?" McKay commented. "You know, with the whole pecking of the eyes thing." And he pointed vaguely at his eyes. "Let them deal with it."
But Radek tugged the canoe away from McKay to tote it to the lagoon on his own.
Rodney let him, but followed. "I have new boots and don't want to ruin them. It would be my luck to get dunked."
"We will not get wet!" Radek insisted. "It is a good boat. It is used all the time. It will be fine."
"Yeah, as long as nothing goes horribly wrong."
Radek snorted a little. "What are the chances of that?" he asked.
Rodney came to a halt. "Seriously, Radek? Do you realize who you're talking to?"
He had to pause a moment and admit that few people drew trouble like Dr. Rodney McKay. Finally, Zelenka responded, "Yes, but you usually bring it upon yourself." Then, with a chiding tone, he added, "With a better attitude, such things could be averted."
"What?" Rodney snapped.
"You always take things the wrong way," Zelenka tried to explain.
"Like right now?" Rodney's voice rose in irritation.
"Either you come or you don't come, but I am going." Zelenka kept moving. Rodney did not.
"Fine," Rodney said from behind him. "See you later."
Zelenka sighed. It would be so much easier to have someone help with the boat, and protocol dictated that no one should go out on the water alone. "Rodney," Radek said, wondering if he was making a grave mistake. "I wish you to come with me. I could use the help."
"You?" Rodney said, his voice suddenly bright. "You could use my what?"
"your help, Rodney. I would like your help."
Rodney grinned. "So, you're saying that you can't do this without me?"
"This is what I am saying," Radek said tiredly. "Of course, any other person in Atlantis could provide the same help, but as you are the only one here, I am asking you."
If he had been warming to the cause, Rodney suddenly cooled. "Fine then. Go find someone who'd actually help you. Good luck."
Gritting his teeth, Radek said, "Please, Rodney. I need you to help me. Please."
With that, Rodney rubbed his hands together and stepped forward. "Fine! Let it be known that you begged me to join you." He walked alongside Radek and actually helped with the canoe again.
Finally, they reached the area known as 'the beach' and they maneuvered the boat onto the landing, and then into the water. Rodney fussed and muttered as he climbed into the seat at the stern. Radek took the bow and they pushed off.
And they were boating. It was rather nice. The early morning light shone off the still water and lit the spires of the city. The air was crisp and clear. The paddles made pleasant sounds as the boat glided across the water. Everything was quiet and calm and lovely.
"To the left," Rodney sharply announced from behind him. "To the left. Further left. Over there. That way! Do you know which way left is?"
"Rodney, you are at the stern. You're the one who is supposed to be steering."
"Fine! I'll steer then."
"We're not going left."
"What do you mean? Of course we're going Hang on. Okay. Now, paddle a little harder, would you? The bird is going to fly off before you even see it."
"I certainly hope not," Radek said with a sigh.
"There shouldn't be any whales around here, should there?" Rodney asked after a while
"There are no great fish that we know of on this planet," Radek reminded as he paddled.
"The 'that we know of' always gets me," Rodney muttered. "You know I have this 'thing' about whales, right?"
"You have a lot of 'things', Rodney," Radek replied. "Are you even paddling back there?" and he turned in his seat.
Rodney faced him, looking annoyed. "Of course, I am paddling, and steering and handling the Life Sign Detector, while watching for the bird and possible incoming marine threats. Whales can easily get in under the wall, you know. I can only do so much!"
"This is true," Radek said ruefully. "Only so much."
With a huff, Rodney said, "I don't see you multitasking."
"I didn't come here to multitask," Radek replied. "I just wanted to see the bird."
"Well, he should be on that wall just ahead of us."
Radek frowned as they approached the barrier wall that separated them from the open ocean. "Maybe it's on the other side of the wall?" he asked, feeling a little disappointed.
"No, no. I can read this thing, you know," McKay snapped. "There's a life form on this side of the wall. He should be right in front of us."
There was no bird.
Radek paddled slowly, bringing them closer to the wall, and then, with a touch of panic, started back-paddling for fear they'd ram the wall, but Rodney managed to turn the canoe at the last moment and brought them alongside with a little clatter and surprisingly little trouble.
"So, you see him yet?" McKay asked.
"No," Radek told him. There was nothing just the Ancient architecture that they all knew so well. There were many nooks and crannies. The bird could be anywhere, hiding in some safe hole. Radek scanned the area carefully and they nudged the canoe along.
"Hmm," McKay murmured. "It should be right about there." And he pointed, and then, he cried out, "What the hell is that?"
Radek frowned as he gazed at the indicated area. Grayish and strange, something oozed on the grayish seawall. It took Radek a moment to decide that the thing was alive, and not just some weird part of the city. Not a bird. Definitely not a bird. "Some sort of starfish?" Radek tried.
"That's a starfish?" Rodney exclaimed. "It's hideous!"
Over a meter across, it was camouflaged, nearly the same color as the wall. A multi-limbed creature, it looked like a cross between a sunflower starfish and an octopus. Obscene-looking limbs coiled and clung on the wall as the thing climbed.
It was pulling at the structure.
"Look!" Rodney shouted. "It's going to rip that piece off."
"It's fine, Rodney," Radek told him. "The city can stand up to this. It is designed to float on the ocean, yes? Certainly the Ancients considered such creatures."
"But Atlantis wasn't designed for THIS ocean! What if that thing has corrosive starfish spit? What if it has razor sharp suckers like a Humboldt squid or maybe it has one of those octopus beak things." And he narrowed his eyes at the thought as if he was afraid of a nefarious pecking.
"It will be fine, Rodney," Radek tried to assure.
The boat rocked as Rodney started flailing about in the back.
"Rodney," Zelenka stated, alarmed at the movement. "Remember where we are"
"How can I possibly forget?" Rodney shot back as he clumsily stood, clinging to the wall with one hand and stubbornly balancing in the boat. "We're in a tippy canoe on a sea infested with horrible city-eating starfish! Look! You can see where its juices have burned away at the surface of the structure. It's gone right through. That's it! This thing has to come off"
"Rodney! Stop immediately!" Radek warned him, but Rodney was determined.
"It's tearing through the outer layers of material. If we let it continue, the wall will be breached, and then what?" Rodney reached, clinging one handedly as he extended his paddle toward the gross thing. He shoved at it with the paddle's blade, trying to pry it away from the wall.
"Stop this, Rodney!" Zelenka shouted.
"It's destroying my city!" Rodney snapped. "It's disgusting, and who knows how this damage will affect whoops!"
The canoe bobbed alarmingly. Rodney lurched, struggling for balance. Radek shouted and scrabbled for a grip on the gunwale as water sloshed over the edges. The ocean splashed and sprayed and churned as Rodney swore and, with a thud, fell on his butt in the little seat.
Water puddled at their feet, but the little boat remained afloat. After a moment, Rodney chuckled.
"See, we're fine!" he declared, as he rearranged his feet, trying to keep his boots from getting soaked. "It's all good."
"That was ridiculous!" Radek fumed, turning sharply in his seat, but regretting the movement as the boat now a little less maneuverable due to the water in its hull -- dipped and nearly tipped them in. "What were you thinking? Why did you do that?"
"I didn't like that thing."
"You could have killed us."
"It's not as if it would have fallen in the boat. I had it all figured out."
"We might have capsized!" Radek went on, but stopped before he mentioned the possibility of attacking whales. After all, he needed to get home and it would be a lot easier if McKay wasn't catatonic with fear.
"That creature is destroying the city," McKay went on.
"We need to call a crew out to investigate it later," Radek insisted. "It will be fine for now."
"I just don't like starfish, okay?" McKay responded. "They are freakish. Did you know that you can cut a starfish into pieces, cut off each arm, and throw it back into the ocean, and each arm would grow back as a new creature? That's unnatural! And I'm talking about an Earth starfish. There's no telling what this weird Pegasus variety would do with its corrosive juices. Did you see how those arms were moving?"
"You're insane," Radek responded.
"Admit it though, it is disgusting."
"Yes, Rodney," Radek had to agree, because it really was pretty gross. The thing looked as if it should have been wearing a few loincloths. With a grimace, Zelenka turned away and reached for his
"Where's my paddle?" he asked innocently.
Rodney grumbled and pointed.
Caught up in a current, the paddle was floating toward the city. It had slipped from his hands at some point. Radek let out a low sigh and turned toward Rodney, hoping for the best knowing he'd only find the worst.
Rodney was paddle-less.
"You dropped yours, too?" Zelenka complained.
Looking superior, Rodney crossed his arms over his chest. "Not exactly," he responded, and then looked up.
The massive sea star was still on the wall, still undulating its arms promiscuously, eating through the wall, but now it had a U.S. Government issued paddle jammed under it. The thing writhed around its prize, hugging it tightly. It didn't look as if it wanted to give it up any time soon.
And McKay said, "This is totally your fault."
"My fault? MY fault?!" Zelenka sputtered. "How could you possibly see this as my fault?" Beneath them, the little canoe tottered as he turned to see the Canadian.
Rodney growled, fixing a stink eye on the engineer. "You wanted to follow the damn bird? Now, how are we going to get out of here?"
And with that, Radek let out a sigh and sat back in his place, lowering his head in his hands. He knew that he never should have let Rodney help him.
TBC - The rest will be posted tomorrow