Disclaimer: We don't own SGA.
It started with Rodney McKay. But then again, much of what happens on Atlantis tends to start with Rodney McKay: and like most things that start there, it soon gains momentum and becomes an unstoppable force of nature that overwhelms the whole of the city and becomes Elizabeth Weir's problem to clean up.
It had been one of those days where the whole the city had been running around in an attempt to keep everything from flying apart. Blame the Genii: everyone else does. So that night, just as Rodney was about to lie down to sleep, he was not happy when his door beeped. He sloffed over to the door and opened it.
"Whatever it is, Radek can take care of it," he said even before the door had slid open completely. He lifted his head wearily to see the worried face of Major Lorne peering back at him.
"Sorry, Doctor McKay," the young man responded. He looked weary. "I've already spoken to Doctor Zelenka and he told me to...um... Well, it was in Czech, but I suppose it was along the lines of me going away and asking you," he quickly explained. "The Stargate is broken."
Rodney sighed. "What's wrong with it?" he asked tiredly. Then something struck him as peculiar. "It's the middle of the night: where do you want to go?" he sarcastically asked. Lorne frowned.
"Nowhere," he replied. "But the Stargate isn't working."
Rodney looked up at the ceiling, probably in search of answers. Then he looked down and nodded slightly. "I'll be right there," he told the young Major. Lorne nodded and marched back the way he had come.
Ten minutes later Rodney sloffed into the gate room, wearing blue slippers, yellow smiley-face pajama pants and his 'I'm with genius' t-shirt. Without acknowledging anyone he went up to the Stargate and stuck a piece of cardboard with a sign on it onto the gate with duck tape. In silence the scientist turned and headed back to bed. Lorne frowned and went down to the gate to read the sign.
The sign read:
Stargate closed. Use rainbow.
The next morning, of course, it was Elizabeth's job to head down to the main lab to try and sort out the mess of last night. When she had entered the control room this morning, a huffed Lorne had awaited her with a story and a cardboard sign. Actually she had found it rather amusing, but one look at Lorne had warned her that the young man was on the edge of breaking. So she had sent him to bed before herself heading down the stairs to the lab. But as she approached the lab, she saw another hand-written sign; this one attached to the door of the lab. It read:
We, the willing, lead by the unknowing are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much for so long with so little, we are now qualified to do everything with nothing.
She frowned. The handwriting looked unfamiliar. Carefully she pulled the sign from the door and entered the lab. Everyone seemed hard at work and she homed in on her target.
"Rodney," she said as she stopped beside him and handed him the sign of last night. "Would you care to explain this?" she demanded. He looked at the cardboard.
"No, not really," he replied. She glared at him and handed him the second sign.
"And this?" she asked. He was unperturbed by her stare: one of the few on Atlantis.
"That one I had nothing to do with," he exclaimed.
"Rodney..." she began, but he looked at her.
"Look, last night I was tired and irritable," he finally explained and she nearly grinned. Rodney's usual mode was 'irritable.' "But I really had nothing to do with the other sign."
Elizabeth sighed. "No more signs, okay," she told Rodney and went back to her office: satisfied the matter had been settled.
That afternoon, unaware of Elizabeth and Rodney's little conversation, Lorne woke with the feeling that he had behaved like a spoil-sport. He knew he was usually too serious about things, but then again: the marines usually gave him grief about the fact that he was air-force. The two arms of the military did not really like one another all that much. So Lorne decided it was the ideal time to make some amends.
That was why, as SGA-1 gathered in the gate-room for their mission, Lorne idly walked past and put up his own sign. No-one noticed it at first, and by the time anyone did, it was too late, for stuck onto Ronon's disappearing back was a sign that read:
Sometimes I aim to please, but mostly I just shoot to kill.
The fourth sign to appear actually had nothing to do with the previous three and at the time Rodney had not meant for it to be interpreted as thus. The things was that one of the new and bright-eyed scientists that had come in on the Deadalus a few months back had not listened when Rodney had explained to him the intricacies of Ancient technology and the young man had gotten hurt. So when Rodney walked into the room where the drone chair stood and found the young man meddling with it, he had walked over and stuck a hastily-written sign onto the chair:
Warning: this machine has no brain. Use your own.
The next sign appeared later that day on Heightmeyer's door:
I used to have super-powers, but my therapist took them away.
Kate was not amused, but the slow snowball of last night was gaining that inevitable momentum.
The next morning Lorne and his team entered the marine prep-room to find a sign on his locked door. He had no idea how Ronon had figured it out that he had been the one to stick the sign on his back, but Lorne knew without a doubt that the one on his locker door was from the big Satedan: it was stuck to the locker door with a knife jammed into the thin metal. The sign read:
Warning: if the Wraith chase us, I'm tripping you.
Lorne wasn't sure how serious the big man was about the threat, though. He made a mental note not to volunteer for any missions that Ronon went on for the foreseeable future.
That same day a number of other signs sprouted on Atlantis. When next Elizabeth passed the main lab, she found it sporting a new sign in the place of the one she had removed earlier that week:
Warning: if the help-desk thinks your question is stupid, we will set you on fire.
Chuck reported that someone had been out to the east pier, and when John returned after checking it out, he held up a damp sign to Elizabeth. "Someone had posted it right at the end of the pier," he explained the sign that read:
Mind the step.
It seemed that especially the scientists had gotten into the swing of things, for the next morning their lab sported a new sign:
Time-travel seminar to be held in the mess last Wednesday. Book places next Thursday.
Even the midway station between Atlantis and earth had its share of signs. On the station, next to the gate going to earth, someone had posted a neatly printed sign:
Follow the yellow-brick road.
Not to be outdone by the Atlanteans, someone on the team of IOA personnel had posted a sign on the opposite gate; the one leading to Atlantis:
Warning to tourists: do not laugh at the natives.
That afternoon Chuck merely frowned as SGA-12, the team of geologists, went through the gate for a five-day exploration of some unusual rock-strata on M8L-345. Stuck on the back of their MALP was a bumper sticker:
The first signs that things were getting out of hand was when Sheppard announced that he was going to require the science department to participate in a fitness program and the scientists' only response was a fourth sign taped to the main lab's door:
Notice: This department requires no physical fitness program. Everyone gets enough exercise jumping to conclusions, flying off the handle, running down the boss, knifing friends in the back, dodging responsibility and pushing their luck.
John noticed the writing was in Rodney's hand. John felt this could not continue and reported it to Elizabeth: the scientists were not his department after all. So with a sigh she went and explained to the scientists that:
Signs posted on the lab door were not a proper way of communication.
Given the nature of their posting here on Atlantis, they needed to be fit.
If John told them to get into shape, they will.
She did not want to see another sign anywhere in Atlantis.
As she left the ruffled scientists in the lab, Radek slid over to Rodney. "What about the one we left on the pier?" he asked. Rodney sighed and patted Radek on the shoulder.
"I have an idea," he promised.
Later that day Elizabeth and SGA-1 gathered in the conference room to plan their next step in the continued talks with the Genii. Rodney was late and when he finally entered he was holding a stack of manila folders. Without a word he handed one to each of those gathered in the room.
"Sorry I'm late," he apologised. "But I've been giving the situation with the Genii some thought," he explained. "Brilliant scientist that I am, I have finally managed to come up with a viable solution. If you will open your folders, you will find my recommendation."
Carefully Elisabeth opened her file. Inside was a single blank sheet of paper. Stuck onto it, though, was a yellow sticky-note. It read:
If you can't convince them; confuse them.
She glared witheringly at Rodney. "I thought I told you to stop this nonsense," she told him.
Rodney shrugged. "I was crossing my fingers behind my back," he smugly informed her.
Just before she could explode, Caldwell, the last person they had been waiting for, walked into the conference room. He seemed pissed.
"What's the meaning of this?" he demanded and held out a tablet at Elisabeth. With iron control she nodded at Caldwell and took the tablet from him without any expression.
"Welcome, Colonel," she greeted him before looking at the tablet.
"I do not appreciate being made a fool of," he responded and she finally knew she had no reason not to look at the tablet anymore. She feared the worst.
On the tablet was a digital picture: obviously one taken by the Daedalus as it was landing on Atlantis. It was slightly fuzzy, but none the less she could make out the elaborate sign painted on the pier where the Daedalus usually landed:
Do not park here. The wrath of the Ancients will fall upon your head. Your shoelaces will not stay tied, rabid squirrels will invade your home, food in your refrigerator will mysteriously spoil, your starship will start making that expensive knocking sound again and no-one will talk to you at parties.
Elizabeth nearly cried. But instead she coolly looked at Caldwell and smiled slightly. "I'm sorry, Colonel, but some members of my team have been amusing themselves with random signs all over the station," she mildly explained.
"So I've heard," the balding man barked. "Do I need to remind you that if you can't keep a leash on these people, the IOA will have to replace you?" he demanded.
Elizabeth narrowed her eyes at him. "You have no say in what happens in this city. I will find the culprits and I will deal with them as I see fit, do you understand?" she told him. He seemed unimpressed.
"Just make sure none of them try anything with my ship," he finally said.
Elizabeth merely glared at the Colonel before turning to Rodney. "Will you pass out the files I have prepared," she firmly told him. With a sigh he complied and the meeting went relatively smoothly after that.
Elizabeth was still strung out when the meeting adjourned an hour later and she dismissed her team. She left the conference room without any delay to go cool off in her office, only to find a sign taped to her door:
Meddle not in the affairs of dragons; for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.
Already at the end of her tether, she snapped. Without turning she simply called to Chuck: "Chuck, put on city-wide." A moment later she heard the faint sound she knew meant the channel was open. She reached up and took the sign from her door as she started speaking.
"Atlantis, this is Doctor Weir. As of this moment anyone found putting up a sign, sticker or note not approved by me will face severe consequences." She scrunched up the sign and entered her office. "I have been tolerant to your amusements, but it stops right now. Your jokes are causing me and you more harm than good." With that she tapped the earpiece and the line went dead. With an angry flick of her wrist she chucked the piece of paper into the waste basket and sat down behind her desk; pulling her laptop over. Angrily she started working on the reports that had come in that morning.
It was about an hour later that there came a knock on her office door. Wearily she lifted her head and called: "Come in."
The door opened and John and Rodney came in; manhandling a huge roll between them. She pushed her laptop away and looked at them.
"Um, well..." John began. Then he held up a finger and winked. "Let's just show you."
Between the two of them they made the big roll stand and unrolled it. It turned out to be a huge sticker on which was written:
How's my flying? Contact Colonel Caldwell on channel 56.
Elizabeth refused to say a word; merely glared at the two men.
John tried again: "This is us, saying we're sorry," he explained. Elizabeth looked over at Rodney. He shrugged.
"You're right: we did go too far. But he had no right to talk to you that way," the scientist said.
Elizabeth finally smiled.
Later that week Elizabeth, John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon stood on Elizabeth's balcony. Together they were watching the Daedalus depart. Idly Ronon handed the binoculars to Teyla and wondered out loud:
"So, how long do you think before Caldwell discovers that bumper-sticker?" Elizabeth smiled as she watched the ship speed away with the huge sticker reflecting red in the late afternoon sun.