McKay sprinted around the last turn of Atlantis's gym track, his legs burning, arms pumping, breath heaving and practically fell over the finish line, half tripping over his own feet as he did so. He stumbled for a few steps then let himself roll to the ground in exhaustion for a moment, then forced himself to sit up and look at his time…

21:04

"Oh for the love of…I am never going to get this," he said, thinking about standing up, then deciding to just crawl off the track before an approaching Cadman ran him over.

"Good job, Rodney. Personal best, isn't it?" she asked snobbishly as she zoomed on by.

"Yes, wonderful isn't it," McKay moaned as he laid out on his back just outside the track. "Ow."

He stayed there, unmoving for a full ten minutes before finding the strength to pull himself up and into the gym's 'shower room.' The Ancient version was more of a bath that reminded Rodney of a toilet bowl every time he used one…mainly due to the fact that they both used the same green cleansing fluid.

McKay was tempted to slip into the green pool in the floor fully clothed and let the fluid eat the clothes off him, but he didn't want to waste a perfectly good pair of workout clothes. He slowly stripped off his sweat-soaked garments and slid them into a rectangular niche in the wall. He closed the compartment and hit the activation switch. A purging energy field cleaned the clothing within seconds, then the garments were shifted automatically into an adjacent chamber where they were folded, stacked, and secured within a small, flexible carrying case which popped out on a stubby table for McKay to retrieve before he left…or to put back on again if he wanted.

The 'shower' that existed within the rejuvenation station, which the Alterrans simply referred to as the 'juvie,' sat on the floor next to a short bench at the foot of this individual compartment's wall. The entry door to the compartment looked like frosted glass, but opaque enough to provide an adequate level of privacy.

McKay, now fully naked, walked over to the bench and pulled up the center section of it, revealing a wide, shallow depression with a deep center section. Rodney hefted his tired body up onto the bench and sat his bare butt down into the bowl containing the same green liquid as the 'shower' hole in the floor two meters in front of him.

His butt snuggled against the shallow portion of the bowl, with the green liquid rising up above his hip bones. He released a full bladder's worth of urine and a bit of exercise-induced diarrhea into the Ancient version of a toilet and felt the liquid begin to flow around his body as the waste material was 'tagged' by the green particles then pulled down into the deep section of the depression where they were collected. McKay sat there for a quarter of an hour as his mind wondered over many things, most notably his time trial failure.

21:04 was a long way from 19:59.

Eventually Rodney pried himself out of the depression, his butt sparkling clean, and walked over to the double-pool on the floor. He walked down the shallow staircase that let him ease into the 2-meter wide pool, whose floor height adjusted down an additional 6 inches to accommodate his height. More green liquid flowed in and out to accommodate for the changes in volume as McKay walked down neck deep into the pool.

Wisps of red appeared around his body as the grime and sweat he'd accumulated throughout the day, and most recently his run, was tagged by the green liquid. When it attached to a particle that wasn't part of his body, it shifted color to red as it broke down the excess material and was whisked away through the floor as more green liquid moved in to replace it. Had McKay stepped in with his clothes on, the liquid would have dissolved them into tiny particles over the next half hour, insuring that no large pieces of waste material would be left in the chamber. If McKay had been in a hurry he could have even 'relieved' himself in the shower, but he hadn't done that in a long time…

Rodney dipped his head beneath the surface and felt the slightly cloying liquid pull across his scalp, scrapping grime from it. He rose back to the surface then dipped in a few more times to get most of the material off his head before he submerged one more time and walked under the small, submerged arch separating this circular pool from the identical one on the other side. As he passed underneath a sticky energy field caught any residual 'red' particles and squeegeed them off his body. He had to hold his breath and push fairly hard, but he arrived on the other side completely clean.

McKay walked up another submerged staircase as small red nodules dissolved in the other pool then gradually disappeared to the collection tray beneath the 'shower.' As Rodney came up out of the second pool another energy field wicked the remaining green material off his body, keeping it in the proper place and essentially 'drying' him as a similar field in the bench depression had done to his butt.

He retrieved a set of generic Ancient 'pajamas,' as he thought of them, from another wall niche and dressed in fresh clothes, slipping on a pair of generic shoes in the process. Both the shoes and the clothes were completely white, with small light grey patches and clasps.

McKay retrieved his bundled workout clothes and picked up his specially designed running shoes from the floor, then headed back to his quarters.


"How'd it go?" Jennifer asked when McKay got back to their quarters an hour after his run.

"Why are you here?" McKay said, frowning.

"I live her," Jennifer said, taken slightly aback but used to such things coming out of Rodney's mouth. "Unless you're wanting to change that arrangement?"

"Of course not," he said, retracting slightly. "I meant I thought you were still offworld."

Keller shrugged. "There really wasn't much need for me."

"Well I sincerely doubt that," McKay differed. "The Debreyans have been living under the ground for who knows how many centuries…that's bound to come with a plethora of health problems."

"A few," Keller admitted, "but their medical science is ahead of Earth's. I was only able to offer them a few treatments from the Lantean database."

"Yes, well," McKay said, content that she'd finally started using the correct term. Most of Atlantis's database…which he'd previously had access to…had since been restricted to only the Alterra, who had deemed it too advanced for their lesser cousins…at least until they got a better handle on the fundamentals. "I'm sure you were of more use than you're letting on."

"Less actually," Jennifer said, sitting down on the end of their bed. "Despite hiding from the Wraith all these years, they're done pretty well for themselves. If it hadn't been for Dr. Weir's encounter with them when she was an ascended replicator, they could have kept going like they are indefinitely."

"Wait a second," McKay said, raised a hand for her to pause. "I thought you were sent there to plug some holes in their medical databases."

"Yes and no," Keller wavered. "The biggest problems come from them living on a planet with 1.6 gravity. I was able to give them a few things to help offset the difference, but their physiology has already adapted to the conditions for the most part. The gravity dampeners Teyla brought them for their infirmary were more useful than anything I did…and don't think I didn't notice you changing the subject, sweetheart."

"Yes, thank you for noticing," McKay said, sitting down next to her. He leaned over and put his head on her shoulder. "I can't do this."

"Rodney…" she pleaded.

"No, I'm serious this time," he said, pulling his head up and looking at her with sullen eyes. "It's been two years. I've tried…I really have. More so than I ever thought I could."

"I know you have," she said, stroking the side of his head. "But you can't give up."

McKay dipped his head. "I promised myself I'd do this, if for no other reason to be with you…and I really bared down this past month. I've run faster, and harder, and farther than I've ever done before. In a way I'm proud of myself. I never thought I'd be where I am now, I mean look at me," he said, standing up and pulling up his shirt. "I'm skinny. Would you believe that."

"I noticed," Jennifer said with a little smile.

"But I've gone as far as I can physically go," McKay said mournfully. "Maybe if I was twenty years younger I'd have a chance, but Jennifer… I'm in my forties. This isn't a fair test."

"I have faith in you," she nudged.

"Don't," he said, defeated. "Just don't. I'm toast and I know it. If Weir doesn't change the test I'll just have to live out the rest of my life as a Human," he said, sitting back down next to his Lantean wife. "My very short life."

"You're serious about this, aren't you," she said, sensing that this was more than just his normal complaining.

"I wish I wasn't," he said, leaning on her shoulder again. "I'm finally getting used to the Ancient science, now that I've got all that PHD mumbo jumbo out of my head. Janus actually asked for my help on the black hole tap project he's starting up next month…can you believe that?"

"I thought you said he couldn't stand you?"

"Well, things have changed," McKay said, also taking her hand in his. "I guess I'm just going to have to contribute as I am."

"Are you going to quit running altogether?"

Rodney glanced up at her nose from his vantage point on her shoulder. "Worried about me getting flabby again? Don't…I've been a lot more clear headed since I got in shape. Helped increase my calculating speed by at least 30%. I'll keep doing some small workouts, but racer McKay is going into retirement."

"Well, you can always try again later, if you change your mind…as long as you stay in shape."

"I suppose so," he said groggily. "I don't know about you, but I need a nap."

"Sounds good," she said, leaning him back on the bed and kissing his forehead. "Rest."

"Hmmn," McKay miffed as he quickly drifted off to sleep.

Keller laid next to him, looking at the ceiling, but she didn't sleep. She was concerned that he may be right. Maybe he couldn't do it. Maybe Weir had given him something above his head.

Maybe she should have a talk with Elizabeth. Jennifer knew she didn't want McKay to fail, so maybe there was a way to work around this. There had to be.


In another skyscraper on the other side of the city, Ryan Stevenson sat alone in his quarters, levitating a number of objects in fast moving halos about his head. He'd begun to include specially designed weights to increase the difficulty and had five of the 50lb cubes in orbit along with most of his quarters' possessions.

Inside he felt the constant instability that resulted from his forced development, but unlike usual it didn't dissipate as it should have from the telekinesis. Instead it gradually swelled in spite of his exertions. He knew he'd been working a bit longer than he should have ever since his forces had begun hunting down the Wraith and beginning to put Pegasus back together, but even that indulgence shouldn't have had him feeling like this. He should have had to work a little harder and longer for the exertion to pull back the instability, hence he'd added another weight into the mix.

This was different though. The instability wasn't quite the same. It was cascading along with an abundance of energy…energy that he wasn't able to bleed off. Before long he was going to lose control of his cellular structure if he didn't do something, and he knew damn well that could be fatal.

Ryan stopped resisting the instability, knowing that his only hope was to move with the flow rather than try and stop it. He released all the objects in the room, some of them flying into the walls and breaking on impact, others skidded to a stop against the floor or hit his small bed platform on which he sat cross-legged.

Suddenly Ryan leaned back, arms going wide and legs uncrossing. His back arched as his body crackled with what looked like rainbow-colored electricity as he let out a silent scream…


"Dr. Weir," an Asgard voice said through her headset as she sat on the balcony outside her quarters atop one of the medium-sized spires, sunbathing.

"Yes?" she replied into the air.

"I am detecting anomalous energy readings within the city."

"Where?" Elizabeth said, sitting up.

"I believe they are emanating from the tertiary residential tower. I am attempting to pinpoint the source."

"There aren't any power generators in that tower, are there?" she asked, getting to her bare feet and walking back into her quarters.

"There are not," the Asgard in the control room replied pithily.

"Then what could be generating the energy?" she asked as she started to get dressed. She had a gut feeling that whatever this was, it was going to be a problem.

"I do not know," the Asgard admitted, "but the energy readings are increasing, and beginning to interfere with the power distribution systems on levels 56 through 72.

"Fifty six," Elizabeth said, trying to remember what was in that vicinity. There were so many towers within the city, but only a few purely residential sections. She knew it wasn't the Alterran section of the city, nor was it the Asgard wing. It should have been Human/Lantean personnel quarters.

"By any chance is it coming from level 61?" Elizabeth asked, realizing who else had quarters in that tower.

"The anomalous energy spikes make it impossible to pinpoint the source," the Asgard reported. "What is on level 61?"

"Ryan's quarters," she said, pulling on a pink, short-sleeved shirt.

"I cannot be for certain," the Asgard reported, "however the power disruption is beginning to spread both above and below that level."

"Evacuate the tower," she said, hastily pulling on some shoes. "I'm on my way."