I recommend you read "Sometime, Somehow" as it is the background to this story.


Sheppard liked the morning stroll through the halls of Atlantis between his quarters and the Mess - feeling out the atmosphere of the city, how she felt, the lovely lady who had become his home. The faces of familiar people and places, things which he had come to rely on not to vary too much with the changing of the years, these were his security blanket. The walk itself had become a ritual, a kind of mind yoga that left him at peace and ready to face anything. At least it had been at one time and with these morning strolls he was doing his damndest to re-awaken that sense of homey goodness.

Something bounced off his skull and buzzed passed him, circling above his head and then dive-bombing again. Sheppard cursed a blue streak and ducked as another familiar voice chuckled from around a corner. "McKay, what the hell-?"

Rodney McKay, former lead scientist of Atlantis and fondly annoying best pal, appeared from his hiding spot with a compact remote-control in his left hand, the fingers of his right working the toggle switches. "You should have seen your face." Rodney teased, keeping his eyes on his flying...whatever.

"What the hell is that thing?" Sheppard asked. It moved fast, too fast for his eyes to nail down what it actually was.

Rodney pressed a button and the thing slowed, coming to a controlled rest on his out-stretched palm like a trained Budgie.

Once he saw what it was, Sheppard stepped back. "Jesus, Rodney, an Iratus replicator bug - are you nuts? We just got rid of them - don't you have any idea how dangerous that is? If Weir finds out you kept one, she'll blow a gasket."

"You're wrong." McKay said simply, his impish grin reeked of self assurance.

"What are you talking about?"

"I said you're wrong." Rodney turned it over and popped open a tiny hatch so Sheppard could see that the guts of this Iratus bug were wholly mechanical and electronic. There were no visible nanites inside to speak of. "This is not an Iratus bug," Rodney explained with pride, "this is my own invention. I have created the world's – the galaxy's - first totally controllable, programmable artificially intelligent Iratus bug spy."

Sheppard had to admit, it was kind of cool. "Okay, I'm impressed. Why?"

Rodney worked a switch and once again the imitation Iratus began to swoop and whirl in flight above their heads. "Well, ask yourself this, how do the Replicators replicate?"

Sheppard knew it was a trick question and from years of experience with Rodney he knew he should not to try to answer it, but Rodney's enthusiasm for a new idea was catching, plus it was fun to see Rodney playing again. He had filled out since they had returned to Atlantis and was looking very much his old self - if a trifle slimmer. But in the last few weeks, his skin had returned to a healthy glow and his enthusiasm for getting back to work was catching. Besides while they all waited on Beckett's green light for Rodney to go off-world again, the man had to keep occupied with something.

Sheppard ventured the answer they, including Rodney, had come to hypothesize "Um, because we know they work like cells, they build new nanites?"

Rodney was bouncing on his heels, a happy man. "Wrong, wrong, wrong, all of it wrong."

It also tickled Sheppard to see how delighted Rodney was that he didn't know the answer. Sheppard didn't mind being wrong if it made his friend feel good. After all he had been through the scientist could use all the emotional lifts he could get. "Then you were wrong, too, Rodney."

"Yes-yes-yes-yes but my point being now I am no longer wrong, I am right."

"Okay, I give. Why is everyone but you wrong about the Replicators?"

"Cells use energy like food-sugars and proteins to build new cells or rebuild old ones, but the Replicators do not use food energy or any substance that we have been able to identify. They use energy to run, but as far as we are able to tell, not to replicate – now why is that?"

Sheppard didn't really feel like speculating. It was fine morning. "They're sleepy?"

Rodney shut down the bug and it fell out of the air into his waiting hand. He walked with Sheppard. "No, because...well, we don't exactly know why, but it's worth looking into – right? I mean, one day we'll run into them again and it'd be nice to be ready. For-armed is fore-er-ready or whatever that saying is. Anyway, I've been reading more of the ancient data-base which information, as you know, we have barely scratched the surface of, and I've learned a few things."

Sheppard waited a few seconds and then encouraged his over-stimulated friend "L-i-i-i-ke...?"

"Like when the Ancient's first created the nanites, they were originally designed to mimic the Ancients way of doing things, building, learning, adapting, etc, etc but the point is the Ancients realised the nanites had begun to evolve beyond their original programming and suspected they were becoming a threat, and that's why they shut them down. But the other point is, how did the Ancients make the nanites to be self-sustaining and by sustaining I mean self-maintaining and replicating?"

"You know I never really was into Dr Seuss as a kid..."

McKay pressed his lips together in a show of barely contained patience from the super genius to the invariably less so. "I think the nanites, and therefore the Replicators have a source energy that they use to build more of themselves."

"You do?" Sheppard held out his hand and Rodney placed the fake Iratus into his palm. It was almost as light as a feather. Rodney had done a bang-up job with the materials.

"Yes. I mean, think about it, we know the Replicators made their own ships on their home world but they didn't make them out of nanites and why not? It would be faster, more adaptable, a way smarter and easier way to do so but they didn't. And that's because the source energy and so the energy-source material was missing from their planet."

"So where do you think this source energy-slash-matter is?"

"I think they have a ship with a quantum singularity and that is how they obtain their raw energy and therefore their material. It makes sense."

In the world of Rodney's mind it did. "That's a bit of a leap. What about getting this energy and material to where the Replicators happen to be, I doubt they've been calling up FedEx."

"It's probably a ship. In fact it has to be a ship. Opening a quantum singularity planet-side, never mind harvesting the resulting energy would reduce any world to a handful of quantum particles if the power ever got away from them – it's much too dangerous. They'd need a locale' they could abandon quickly if need be and therefore – ship."

"And this ship is...where?"

"Well, of course I don't know where the ship is yet, but I'm still researching that."

"Oh." Sheppard stopped to stand aside and let people walk passed who were in more of a hurry than them, pulling Rodney aside as well.

"Yes." Rodney fished out a small portable flash-drive from his pocket. "Zelenka and I went spelunking-"

"You mean like in caves?"

"Yeah but not in caves, just around Atlantis - Radek wanted to call it some Czech word...pvodetja...or something which, well, sucked obviously so we settled on spelunking."

"Very diplomatic of you."

"Yes, anyway in the unexplored sections of Atlantis we found a bunch of old data, stories mostly, like kid's tales and I copied them to this drive which I have been reading in my spare time."

"And these Dr. Seuss books are somehow going to help you locate the ship of the replicators?"

Rodney still looked happy. "Oh, I have no idea."

Sheppard stopped him in the middle of a busy corridor. "Rodney, did you just take me through one of those meandering trips through your mind just to arrive here? Where it's now clear that I, and apparently you, don't actually know anything more specific than you did when you started talking?"

"Well, I thought you'd appreciate the thought process behind it." McKay fingered his tiny metal and plastic store of precious ones and zeros. "This could be important."

Secretly Sheppard had delighted in every syllable, only now he was out of time. "Granted. Okay one last question before I go..." and he was dying to ask it actually "What does your toy Iratus bug have to do with any of this?"

"It's a brilliantly designed robot, not a toy."

With much patience from the sane to the not-so-much "Same question, Rodney."

"Well, if we find the ship which I suspect does in fact exist - we'll need a spy won't we?"

"Won't the Replicators just squish it? I know I would."

"Of course not. They'll think it's one of theirs, like a child. They'll hug it a squeeze it and call it George."

"Have you been watching your Bugs Bunny DVD's again?"

"A mind as active as mine must have play."

It was true enough. McKay the brilliant doctor was back and Rodney the insatiably curious child still tagged along. He even looked young. Beckett had explained it as a result of the Gobi-Prime Giant Goliath bug egg-goo that had encased Rodney during his nine thousand year give-or-take sleep, organically providing the same protoplasmic and electro-chemical preservative properties that Atlantis's stasis fields brought about by artificial means. Sheppard had only half listened to the doctor's long-winded medical lingo but the end being Rodney appeared not to have aged while they had all acquired new wrinkles and sags, although Rodney had gone through a lot to gain that impish, wrinkle free expression. Sheppard's not sure he would trade places.

"What have you really learned from your readings – about possible Replicator ships that possibly might exist out there somewhere which possibly have energy sources for their replicating needs?"

"They're not all children's stories, some of the data is encrypted and mixed in with all the rest of the stuff...schematics of some of the towers that are still too damaged to use because of the flood waters, procedures of swapping out plumbing pipes, etc but there is one file I've been trying to open and so far it's defeated me and before you get that look – yes I will figure it out."

"I have no doubt. In the meantime we have a mission tomorrow." Sheppard threw an arm around Rodney's shoulders and began steering him in the direction of the infirmary. "Why don't we go talk to Carson and see if he'll clear you for it?" Other duties could wait.

"Really?" McKay's whole expression altered from frustration at himself and his slowness in deciphering the ancient data over to cautious excitement. "This soon? You think he will?"

"Doesn't hurt to ask."


Ronan and Teyla were surprised but pleased to see their scientist colleague arrive in the Gate room fully decked out and equipped for an off-world mission. "I hope these people have accommodations other than mud huts." McKay commented.

Teyla smiled, his complaints now more a balm of familiarity rather than an irritant. "I have never met these particular souls but our leader assures me they are peaceable and have had a good crop yield this year. SGC are anxious for Atlantis to become self-sustaining in regards to food and I believe these people may become long-term partners towards that goal."

"I hope they grow coffee beans." Rodney muttered.

Sheppard, who would usually be the first to step through the Gate, this time allowed Ronan to take point. Although the MALP had sent back images and data indicating no danger on the other side, still it was good to be cautious. Teyla was next and Sheppard turned to Rodney. "Ready?"

Rodney was standing only feet from the shimmering water-like portal of the Stargate, staring at it - almost transfixed by it.


But McKay didn't move. His P-90 was steady in his hands, the Safety on, his eyes staring unmoving, unblinking, at the beautiful, shifting "watery" image; the sub-space, out-of-time "hole" that would ferry them almost instantaneously to another planet. Once they stepped through, there was no going back until they reached the other side. It was a matter of multi-billionths of a second, an almost immeasurable instant in time, the worm-hole "effect" being, as McKay had once explained, simply an invention of the mind due to its inability to cope with the idea that such a distance of travel could occur without any time actually transpiring.

Rodney did not move toward the Gate.

Sheppard frowned at his team member's frozen expression. Where a moment before expectation of discovery had rested, fear now lived in those blue eyes. McKay's mouth opened, just a thin line and Sheppard heard him mumble two words...

"...worm hole."

Sheppard stepped over to him, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Rodney? You okay?"

The touch jerked the scientist from whatever place his mind had slipped and he turned his wide eyes on his colonel. "That's a worm hole." He whispered, as though never having seen one before in his life.

Oh shit. Sheppard suddenly understood what the problem was. The last time McKay had stepped, or rather dove, into a worm-hole it had catapulted him back in time leaving him to nearly die on a miserable planet at the ass end of the Pegasus galaxy.

Rodney was afraid. Sheppard could read it in those staring, terrified eyes and he could imagine the thoughts rushing in on his friend; suppose something goes wrong? Suppose it happens again, right now, right there in the Gate room?

"Rodney. We'll be right there with you."

But McKay didn't move. He swallowed hard. "This is just negotiating for rice and wheat and stuff – right? I mean you don't need the biggest brain in two galaxies to do that. This isn't, I mean I don't think...r-right?"

Sheppard was quick to reassure. "Hey, it's fine. We can handle this one." If Mckay couldn't make it out of the gate, Sheppard wasn't about to push him. They had no idea how scarred his mind might be after all those years stuck alone on a god-forsaken world. Pushing right now could be the worst of options. "We're good. You can take the next one, okay? - its fine."

Rodney nodded and repeated Sheppard's words almost as though he were trying to convince himself he was perfectly okay. "I'll take the next one. Don't think I'll be much use..." He backed up, letting his weapon drop to his side. "I think I should...I think I oughta' sit this one out. Stuff to do...a-at the lab"

McKay wasn't actually back in the labs yet, not for any real work, as Sheppard and everyone else knew; the main reason being that Zelenka was now head of the Sciences department and Weir hadn't yet decided what to do about Rodney's on-going status within Atlantis.

But Sheppard needed to get going and join his team. This was no time for a pep talk but he also didn't want to stress his friend any more than necessary. This could be a bad idea, or bad timing, whatever, but maybe he shouldn't have pushed Carson into releasing Rodney back onto the team this soon? Maybe McKay needed more time to convalesce, get his mind back in form and not just his body?

Sheppard decided it was best to make it easy on him, and gave him an out. "You're right. Look, take it easy and I'll catch up with you after we get back. We'll grab a beer and you can fill me in."

Rodney just nodded and turned away, walking quickly in the direction of weapons/equipment storage.

Sheppard slipped through the Gate to join his team.


"He froze." Sheppard said to Weir. "He couldn't do it. He couldn't walk through the Gate."

Weir bit her lip, and took a settling breath. "Poor Rodney. He went through a lot I...I guess I hoped he'd bounce back from it, be our normal Rodney again."

"We all did, and maybe he will be all right. I don't want to jump the gun on this and assume he's unfit for the team. He probably just needs a little time. The last time he went through a worm-hole things didn't turn out so well."

"Well I can certainly understand his hesitation." Weir agreed, leaning forward on her elbows and clasping her hands together speculatively. "Carson says he's done all he can for him physically. Says he's okay in that respect, but the question is what do we do other than keep sending Rodney to our psychologist? Any ideas?"

Sheppard scratched his head. "No, not yet - I don't know just...give him some time I guess. Anyway, he's doing some research of his own on that data he found. I'm sure he'll bring it to you once he's figured out if it's worth spending any more time on."

"What does he speculate it might be?"

Only McKay would come up with a theory of a mobile space Replicator factory - an idea that they all, even Sam Carter, somehow missed. "He's got an interesting idea of how the Replicators get their material for making more Replicators, but I'd rather he explained it to you."

"Can't you give me the shortened version?"

Sheppard smiled. Yes, McKay would take thirty minutes to explain in painful detail basically "Hey – I think the Replicators are making more of themselves on a ship somewhere using a really cool natural singularity!"

"He thinks if we can locate the ship he thinks exists, then he thinks we can destroy their factory and basically bring a permanent end to the Replicators."

"Well, I'm all for that. That'll bring three of our mortal enemies down to two and for the Pegasus galaxy that would be a pretty good score." They shared a brief, if subdued laugh over that one and she asked "But that's a tall order, even if he's right. Are you sure he can handle it – I mean he's just doing research, and I don't want to hurt Rodney but Zelenka's lead scientist now, do you think Rodney will be able to-"

"- to cope with no longer being the most important man in the Pegasus galaxy?"

"Something like that."

"For now, he seems okay and anyway Beckett doesn't want him over-exerting himself. But eventually..."

Weir nodded. Eventually she would need to find something more important for Rodney to do. His was a mind not made to be idle and research was a thing the man could do in his sleep with half a brain tied behind him. It did not contain enough challenge and since he was currently too nervous to step through the Gate, he would soon be growing restless. "I'll see what I can do."

Sheppard worked his way slowly through Atlantis's organically designed corridors. There were almost no sharp edges here, everything had been made to curve and dip and rise with gentle lines and soft corners. It was one of things that made Earth's cities seem box-like and ugly whenever he returned to Earth, which was as few times as he could get away with, even for the remnant family ties that still existed for him.

The people in Atlantis seemed far more real to him now than those at home ever did. Here he could fly the coolest ships ever built, explore new planets, meet new people, most of whom did not turn around and try to slaughter them in a new and interesting fashion, and spend his leisure hours with some of the smartest Earth-bred people that ever lived, not to mention the most intriguing.

Like Rodney McKay. Sheppard was pretty damn sure that the off-the-scale intelligence of the man Mother Nature herself had put together with loving hands and then, laughing her ass off, tossed in an insane assortment of quirks just to fuck with them good and proper. Even so, starting with Weir the people of Atlantis had taken McKay into their embrace and despite his scratchy surface and social squirming, they'd come to appreciate the man on a deeper level than Sheppard thought most others ever had done, or even bothered trying. Once you got passed the ingrained ego and sarcasm, the parts of McKay that the man kept mostly hidden were a whole set of unexpected treats and Sheppard felt some satisfaction in that he had given himself sufficient time to get to know them. Rodney had become so integral to his psyche he could hardly imagine his life without McKay somewhere in it.

In the beginning spending time with Rodney had been unavoidable really - the situations that faced them in Atlantis had forced them together out of dire necessity. And then over the weeks and months that followed, he had come to know much more about the scientist aide from his ability to think them out of one bad-assed problem after another - plus the brainiac and his team had kept the city functioning on a respectable level, despite the re-occurring power shortages. McKay had become the indispensible man. And through it all somehow or other Rodney had become his best friend.

But they had all come to heavily rely on McKay for so much. Sheppard often saw the stress it put the scientist under, especially that it forced Rodney to deal with a host of other specialists pretty well during every hour of his day, and even more so in a crisis. Losing Rodney for those three years had been a huge blow in resources.

But to Sheppard it had merely hurt for a very long time. "Hey Rodney, I spoke to Weir and she seems to like your idea of a Replicator ship-a-ma-jig."

The lab had three people in it: Radek Zelenka, now Atlantis's Chief Scientific Advisor, one other lab tech doing something or other with a chunk of what looked like ancient tech', and Rodney off in his own little corner, reading from his lap-top. Every-so-often Zelenka would throw McKay a nervous look and Sheppard sympathised with the little Czech's nerves at having Rodney around to constantly remind him that it had been his experiment that had sent Rodney on the wildest and most dangerous ride of his life. After all people tended to resent that sort of thing. But thus far Rodney seemed not to care about any of that. In fact he seemed to not be paying any attention to the Radek at all.

Sheppard sidled up to his miraculously alive-again friend, glad that he could do so again. Glad that he could see Rodney pretty much whenever he wanted to.

When McKay saw him approach he slammed the laptop shut but not before Sheppard caught a glimpse of a portrait of a woman with a head of wavy blonde hair and blue eyes smiling stiffly into the camera. It had to be none other than Rodney's dead sister. Not a conversation he ought to open with. "Uh, still reading the Dr. Seuss books?"

McKay threw him a look that said the joke was already old. "They're a little more than Doctor Seuss stories, but to answer your question – yes."

McKay was in full McKay mode, dark, focused, irritated by the simplest of interruptions. But damn if Sheppard was going to leave and miss out on the nostalgia. "Anything good?"

Rodney pushed the laptop away, but there was something in the gesture besides exasperation. There were other things on his mind. "What if I can't do it anymore?" He asked softly, for Sheppard's ears only.

Sheppard straightened from his slouch at the unexpected change in subject. "You mean the Gate?"

"Of course I mean the Gate." Rodney looked up at him and gone was any attempt to hide the weakness. Instead his eyes were wide open, mutely seeking out Sheppard's help. "What in the hell am I going to do if I can't go through our Gate – or any worm-hole...ever?"

Sheppard did not know how to answer. He knew for all his bitching while on an off-world mission McKay loved the challenge and sheer fun of brandishing a P-90 – and he had become a hell of a good shot before he's disappeared. Plus the added bonus of exploring ruins and tinkering with any tech' they found there. Rodney may have graduated the best astrophysicist Earths' universities had ever turned out, but at heart he was just a kid playing Doctor Livingston. Naturally, the scientist less enjoyed the meet-and-greets Weir often sent them on to negotiate for food or other supplies, but still McKay usually passed the time entertaining himself with snide comments to the team about the "primitives' technological equivalence to Gilligan's Island." though happily tasting the offered tidbits of their unique cuisine.

McKay loved his lab work, but the off-world missions, or field work of any sort, for him had become a much welcomed break from routine. Sometimes a highly dangerous break from routine but fortunately those types of off-world encounters didn't occur that often.

Sheppard wished he could come up with some slightly less lame advice. "Look, Rodney, you're just going through a bad patch. Hell - you just got back. Give yourself some time."

Rodney, being Rodney, did not appear the least bit reassured. "How much time before I know I'm useless to the team?" He gathered up his laptop and slid off the stool. Sheppard often wondered why scientific labs had to have such high tables that the only chairs available to the researchers were high stools with hard seats. How did these people escape the inevitable hemorrhoids?

Sheppard walked with him. "Where are you going? Maybe we should go see Beckett? This could be a virus."

McKay stopped and looked at him like he was doing exactly what he was doing – grasping at straws. "A virus? Give me a break. And how is Beckett's medical voo-doo going to cure my terror of ending up on some killer planet fifty-thousand lights years away because of some freak worm-hole malfunction, which I may remind you, is not out of the realm of possibility for any one of us, Zelenka's insane experiments aside. Do you know how many risks we already take every time we step through the Gate - the dozens of things that could go wrong at any given second?

"A small power fluctuation or a power outage while we're in the stream would reduce us to subatomic particles at best. Or how about this - someone shutting down the Gate, or raising a shield on the other side because they didn't know we were coming when we thought they did. We don't yet know half of everything we should know about how the damn thing works but we still walk through it as though it were just any doorway. Hell - if we did know everything we should know, I wouldn't have been left to rot on that horrible planet and be in the situation I'm in now – too goddamn scared to make the attempt."

Rodney suddenly stopped speaking, realising what he'd just said. Then in a whisper as though he was just coming to grips with it himself "I'm too fucking scared, John, I just...I just don't think I can do it anymore." Sheppard didn't try to stop McKay as he walked quickly away, probably embarrassed by his outburst and what he no doubt perceived as cowardice.

There was one thing Sheppard knew; the terrible time he had endured on that planet had changed Rodney in one fundamental way: risks never used to deter him.


He was not left long to contemplate what to do about it because McKay sought him out several hours later in Weir's office (a place he had found himself spending a lot of time in, first during Rodney's disappearance and now, after his return), his laptop in his hands. As he entered the office he was already in the middle of a conversation with himself "...holy crap, McKay, you found it. You found it when no one else could. I knew I was right."

He stopped and, oblivious to that fact he had just walked all over Elizabeth and Sheppard's conversation, proudly announced "I found the data I was looking for."

Weir stifled an indulgent smile one might lend a gifted but hyper-active child, less she distract Rodney from his train of thought. "Oh yes?"

"Yes." Mckay said with a grin on his face, clearly pleased as punch with his mental prowess. Turning the display to her so she could see the data in Ancient script flowing down its screen like water, he waited with barely contained patience, as though she could read and absorb it as fast as he could.

She could read Ancient very well of course, and she was fast, but not that fast.

Rodney explained "I was right - it is a ship. The Replicators used a ship to house a natural singularity – this was of course after the Ancients had decided to deactivate them because they thought they were becoming unstable and therefore dangerous. And they were right, they were becoming unstable but that's because they were becoming sentient, and like a lot of sentient races – intent on self-preservation and therefore dangerous – but that's beside the point I'm making because by then it was too late, for the Ancients I mean, to deactivate them - the Replicators specifically.

"They had achieved consciousness and self-awareness, the Replicators not the Ancients, and they had already harnessed their own source of power to propagate their...well, species for lack of a better term, but it's there and it probably still exists."

O-o-o-kay - "What probably still exists" Weir asked, trying to get her head around everything Rodney was saying.

"The ship...the Replicator ship." Rodney pointed to his laptop. "It's there in the data, written like a story, well, more of a parable actually but like a warning to anyone else who would try and create a species as servants, but slavery never lasts – rebellion is almost inevitable - you'd think if anyone would have figured that out the Ancients would have – don't you? Anyway, we should start scanning for a ship with a quantum energy signature to the tune of about – oh say – ten million Atlantis suns." Rodney took a much needed breath and waited, looking at her expectantly.

Weir bit her lip. "Written like a parable?"

"I know what you're thinking and yes it is written like a parable but so was the story of Atlantis and once upon a time nobody believed that either. This ship is real and that's why the Replicator's power source has never been located on their home world or on any planet or even on the ships they use in battle. Because no one knew it existed, not even the Ancients although they must have suspected it existed since they couldn't destroy the Replicators no matter how hard they tried - and the Replicators would certainly never have given it up – the ship I mean."

Weir tried to gather her thoughts. Rodney certainly sounded convinced. "How do you know for sure that this isn't a parable?"

"For absolutely sure, I don't, but if it's just a story why did the Ancients hide it? Maybe they were embarrassed at their own royal screw-up but the point is it's worth checking out isn't it? What if I'm right and we get a chance to destroy the power - the very life-source of the Replicators? That's worth the scanning hours at least - the over-time"

"Chuck." She corrected him for the 'nth time.

"Whatever." McKay shook his head at the triviality of the wasted mental effort in recalling someone's name at a time as important as this moment and his discovery. "After what they did to Atlantis, I'd like to see some pay-back." He said plainly, "Don't you?"

Weir looked a John, one eyebrow on the rise, looking for his input.

"I can't speak for everyone but I'd love the opportunity to bust some Replicator chops." He said.

McKay looked ecstatic and Weir held up a hand. "I'd love to see that, too, but let's tread cautiously here. Scanning for Replicator's means it would be letting them know we are. If this ship is, as you believe, out there won't they detect the scans and set their sights on Atlantis?"

"Probably but all I need to do in the meantime is figure out a way to shut down their singularity and destroy the ship - the Replicators will be history." McKay said, his eyes shining at the thought of doing some real work. Some really cool work.

Much bemused "Is that all?" Weir asked, nervous of McKay's blue, overly-bright eyes and hyper-tense body. He was almost vibrating.

Sheppard watched Rodney, too, seeing shades of the old McKay and liking it. "I think it's at least worth the risk." He said to Elizabeth.

But when it came to Sheppard's softer side for McKay, Weir had his number. "Okay, John, very well, but this will be your baby along-side Rodney." She held up a hand before Rodney could protest. "I know you don't need a babysitter, Rodney, so please forgive my over-protectiveness. We did, after all, just get you back." Sheppard had enough experience with McKay on a tear than anyone, and after Doranda - that felt so long ago now - he wouldn't dare let Rodney get away from him, metaphorically or physically, ever again. Sheppard would be her safety valve, Weir decided, and it brought some ease to her misgivings of allowing McKay to run with such an idea so soon, while he was still getting his feet wet.


Weir explained to Rodney; outrage in his eyes at the idea of being watched every minute like an invalid "I just want to make sure that you get reasonable rest. I know how you are when you get an idea in your head." She let the affection show in her face. It wasn't that hard. "I just don't want to see you killing yourself over this." Which he would, foregoing proper sleep or food until he was walking the ragged edge of collapse, forcing them to confine him to a week in the infirmary until he no longer resembled a starving, hyperactive, baggy-eyed ghost.

She tried to settle the twist in her gut and finally waved a hand at them both. "So go, both of you. Get out of here and go do what you do best."


Part 2 soon.