Yet another 3rd party perspective of McKay. Please read and review, constructive criticism welcome :o)
I hear the whispers as I walk past.
"They say he used to work with McKay."
Their voices are filled with awe and envy but none of them know anything about Rodney McKay except his name. I am not a physicist, I'm a geologist but somehow, in the last few years, McKay's name has become a mark of scientific excellence in every field. A letter from him is, in many ways, now worth more than a PhD and easily outweighs a gap in your CV when you haven't published for a few years.
The thing is though, that they aren't wrong. He may not be a geologist but he read and understood every report that we handed in to him and he would always demand more than we had ever given before. He'd see even the slightest hint of sloppy work or incomplete information, often things we would never have thought of, and give it back with a scathing diatribe demanding that we do it properly and not waste his time on something that his cat could have improved on. And we did. We did because he was always right and because he always worked twice as hard as anyone else and because there was no reward greater than earning his rare praise.
He has us trained well. And when we return and our work no longer has to meet his standards, we bring him with us. Every report I write, every test I conduct, has a ghostly McKay watching over my shoulder, shouting at me when I let him down.
Publish or perish has always been the scientific mantra, but now scientists around the world long to be offered a chance to do unpublished work. The Nobel prize is still the ultimate official accolade but now it has an unofficial rival. If McKay writes you a letter of recommendation, you can write your own ticket.
It's taken time. At first, people would struggle to find jobs but then the companies and colleges that took a chance suddenly started to rise in prominence, the names of people who had been good but not outstanding BM (Before McKay) suddenly rose to the top of their fields and, over time, people started to notice.
Noticing became talking and man became legend.
Students studying for their doctorates are told stories by their lecturers and 'working with McKay' has become the goal of a whole generation of new scientists. They have no idea what he does or where, only that it is classified and that he only selects the best, the most adaptable and innovative, and then makes them better, makes them great.
His personality has also become legend. We all talk about him, tell stories of his impatience and snark and perfectionism but there is affection in our words and we will defend him against attacks from outsiders. From people who don't know him like we did. People who didn't see him sweat and bleed and do the impossible for us. Who didn't see him risk his life time after time to protect us. Who didn't observe the little acts of kindness, often so at odds with his words, or see the grief in his eyes when one of his people were killed or injured.
No one was allowed to abuse the science team but him. He seemed so oblivious but things had a way of being resolved. A small number of soldiers with attitude problems mysteriously got reassigned, people on the edge of breaking got time off and counselling or reassigned to Earth. Our offworld assignments were carefully vetted and he would always put his own team forward for the ones that involved first contact or looked the most dangerous, only sending us to planets that had already proved relatively safe, although he could do nothing to predict when the Wraith would show up. He never talked about it, feigning ignorance and never allowing any gratitude, sending us away with orders to stop wasting his precious time with nonsense and do some work.
The few who couldn't see how much he did for us didn't last long. They got sent away because they couldn't adapt, couldn't recognise that the theory was now real and often dangerous or, too often, they died because they failed to heed his warnings.
Over the years, many of us have left and most of us would not choose to return but we are forever a part of Atlantis. There is a joy in meeting others who were there, who actually knew him and his city. It is an instant bond between strangers and has led me to friendships I would never otherwise have experienced.
Now we prefer safety and public acknowledgement from our peers and the chance to live our lives and have families but we are still his. If someone were to come to me today or tomorrow or ten years from now and tell me that McKay needed my help, I would go. And so would most of the others.