Okay so that crazy doctor was right. Atlantis was…pretty. God it was begrudging to admit that. Atlantis was not her home, was not the new home she had been expecting for her and her son. Lieutenant Kenmore walks through the halls. They were busier than back at the SGC, but it was not exactly hectic. Finally she rounded a corner just like any other corner in Atlantis, they all looked the same to her, except this one was empty. Hey, first time for everything, she must have strayed off the beaten path. She stopped in the middle of the empty hallway and looked up and down it and all around her. There was nothing truly descript here. Nothing to tell her ‘Hey your grumpy butt went the wrong way.’ She turned, Ooh, a wall sconce, she turned again, ooh, another one, she turned again, and another. Wow this place was a barrel of laughs. At least it was empty, otherwise she would have termed it as monkeys. With a frustrated sigh and an irritated flail of her arms, Kenmore continues to head down the corridor, looking around. Where am I?
Suddenly a panel came out of the floor as her attention was averted to what she thought might have been a hidden door but was just another panel of wall, she had never heard of doors having sconces before and hadn’t seen it yet in Atlantis though she wasn’t putting it past the city highly ornate as it is, and her hip slams right into the obstruction. Kenmore froze at the pain and temporarily doubled-over and clinging to the object. It was waist-high. Perfect height to hurt like hell and make her mouth form an O. Jesus Christ, what the—Kenmore took a moment to catch her breath. Did everything always pop out of the floor like that? Maybe she hadn’t strayed off the beaten path so much as a construction zone that had been hitherto unmarked off. Maybe workers were in a different hallway taping off an end leading this way. Kenmore gets her elbow underneath her and lifts herself off of the panel.
She stares down at the object. It was…white…or grey…or was grey Atlantis’ answer to white? Kenmore backed up a little so her shadow wasn’t cast over it and nodded at the sight. No, no, it was cream. Still unusual for Atlantis. The Ancients wore cream, they didn’t use the color for their decorating. Or at least she hadn’t seen that yet. But the blue lights coming from the art deco, angular cut-outs trying so desperately to evoke stained glass, was an oceanic shade of blue that degraded, with varying tones of blue, to the almost icy shade of light blue that a curling ocean breaker’s foam was. Now that was definitely Lantean motif. And the blue was showing through, again excessively decorative but not in the least practical, in a series of slats cut into the podium—Yeah I guess it’s safe to call it that, podium—just underneath the lit paneling. Kenmore looks at the top of it and sees a few buttons. It all looks pretty much, you know, press and ye shall receive. Except that in the middle of the top panel there’s a large round circle, taking up the whole center of the panel. Perhaps it’s a spot for your hand? It’s just glowing blue, did these old dead people—sorry ascended people—not like any other color for their lighting or something? What was so friggin’ hideous about all the other colors of the rainbow? Kenmore looks up ahead of her.
“Hello? Uh, something came out of the floor. Can, can somebody help me?”
No one comes. What the hell? She just left a hallway half-full of people. She looks behind her and calls out…
“Hello,” still no one comes, Kenmore’s exasperated, “Where is everybody?”
Suddenly a beam shoots up a few feet out of the panel—podium, well, maybe panel—then expands into a rectangular holoprojection of a map? Kenmore stares at it. There are hundreds of flashing, little pink dots milling about the pale blue-outlined map of the city. Each dot has a line of script next it. She couldn’t read the foreign language. She never learned to read Ancient, never cared to, never had to. Maybe they were little nametags? Kenmore looks back down the hallway again. Where am I?
It gets dimmer behind her. Her head snaps back to the map. It’s changed. All the little dots have disappeared except for one. Kenmore bends down and peers at it. It seems to be standing in the middle of a hallway. Oh God, Kenmore realizes…
“This is a ‘You Are Here’ map,” the realization is dumb-founding and frankly stupid bordering on the irritating-as-hell side, “So, this place is the Ancient version of the mall? Oh yeah, science guys, big discovery. Gee which way should I go? The shoe store or the gateroom?”
The map changes. The dot disappears and leaves only the empty outline of the city except for a bright shine of light. It’s not a dot necessarily but it’s a shining fuzzy oval set off to one side of a room. The Stargate. Kenmore gapes. Okay, so it wasn’t the shoe store but…
“You’re not just a…you’re a directory. Oh this is so much more handy,” Kenmore looks up at the nearest sconce and says to it, as though it’s the representative of the whole city, “Oh I like you,” she returns her attention to the map. She wasn’t sure how to say this, “May, may I see where my son is?”
A single dot glows into life in a room on the perimeter of the city’s central spire. Kenmore smiles. She didn’t know what the inscription next to the dot said exactly but she knew it was Michael, her little boy.
“And me,” she asked.
Another dot appears glowing in a spot she remembered from before, the middle of a hallway closer to the gateroom than her son. Okay, so how to get from here to there?
“Can you show me how to get to him?”
Suddenly the map shows a flashing, yellow path of rectangular dots—no, no, more like dashes—leading from just ahead of her dot all the way to the door of the room her son’s dot was in. Kenmore couldn’t help but feel a little crestfallen at it. How was that going to help her? It wasn’t like she could take this map with her. Wait…Can I? She looks over the podium again, nope no niche or anything where some paper or a little palm-sized map device could come out. And considering she just asked it and all her other questions had been answered by some sort of action, nothing had come out at her as another answer. There was only going to be one way to do this. Kenmore stares at the map intently, trying to memorize every turn she would have to take. She straightened back up, well, it was worth a try, and that’s when she noticed it. The sconce that she had talked to was flashing yellow. Kenmore looks back at the map. That explains why the path seemed to so closely follow the walls. The sconces, now strobing yellow rather than holding their solid emmitance of bright, oceanic teal, would show her the way. Kenmore smiles again and nods back at the podium and its map.
“Thank you,” she said and the map folded back up into a beam of light, receded back into the podium’s panel, and the whole thing slid back down into the floor and the floor tile slid over it seamlessly. Kenmore couldn’t even tell it was there but she knew it.
Doctor Radek Zelenka looked up and paused in the hallway he was in and he wasn’t the only one. It wasn’t like this hallway was one of Atlantis’ more deserted corridors and it wasn’t exactly like this was an odd hour of the day. It was shift-change, rush hour, and this hallway was practically packed with people and many of them were stopped at staggered inconvenient places and staring at the same thing he was. A section of the wall sconces were flashing with yellow light. They never did that. He had never seen them do that through the course of five, almost six years now. Not in any case of any emergency Atlantis had ever had and he had been through a lot of them. He put his hand up to his earpiece and activated it.
After a moment, the voice came through with its usual irritated snap.
“Yes, what is it?”
“Is there something wrong going on that I should know about?”
Zelenka can hear Rodney’s anxiety through the sound of his voice, “No, why?”
“Because there is something going on. The lights in the hallway I am in, the sconces, they are flashing…yellow.”
“I thought you knew.”
“No I didn’t know,” Zelenka could here Rodney’s frightened exasperation and he felt it too. He wanted to know what was going on before the next, usually near fatal, shoe dropped…like the sound of Atlantis’ self-destruct counting down. He felt like some unknown danger had been triggered without his or Rodney’s notice. He also didn’t notice the young, newly arrived, Hispanic woman wearing a black t-shirt and green BDU pants coming around the corner and walking alongside the wall with the trail of flashing sconces. She continues steadily on down the hallway and disappears around another corner, Zelenka is too mesmerized by the lights to notice, and suddenly the lights stop. No more flashing, no more yellow. They are back to the solid teal they normally were. Silently, the scientist waits for any further lights, any alarms to suddenly start sounding. Nothing. Radek puckers his lips in his astoundment.
“They’ve stopped,” he remarks loud enough for his earpiece to relay then continues walking when Rodney’s disturbing response comes through…
“I didn’t do anything.”
Radek freezes in mid-step.
The flashing lights lead Kenmore up to a closed door. Kenmore stops and turns to the flashing sconce right next to the door and notices that all the other lights that she passed to get here have gone back to normal. She looks at the one still flashing and nods at it.
It returns to normal.
Wow, this is a helpful place. Okay maybe the doctor isn’t as whacked out as I thought, of course the whacked out doctor had been talking about the beauty of the scenery.
Okay, now she was stuck standing in front of a door and had no idea how to open it. Kenmore felt that familiar creep of tension start to tingle in her shoulders again. She bowed her head and rubbed the bridge of her nose. Why hadn’t she asked the panel how to get into the room when she got here? Kenmore flails her arm out and it swings in front of the narrow, outcropped panel holding beneath its cover a trio of blue-glowing, vertical slated crystals. And the door opens. Kenmore stared at the panel—door opener—okay, that works.
She walks in to find her son sitting on the larger of two beds. It is residing comfortably in front of a window with a breath-taking view of a small stretch of the inner ring of the city and the extension of one of its arms—piers, one of those damn files called them piers, oh and the doctor too—and that beautiful ocean the crazy doctor had been talking about as well. Okay so the city was beautiful. Michael’s little feet were bouncing against the side of the bed.
“This is your bed Mom,” he announced spreading his arms wide to mimic the width of the bed. “Uncle Lorne got called away. He thought I’d be safe here alone.”
Kenmore frowned at him and looked off to her left at the rest of the room, Clearly Uncle Lorne didn’t fully understand how you managed to wander away from the gateroom to the command center. The second bed, much smaller, was snuck off into a set-out part of the room. There was a night stand next to it with a lamp. A nice, little comfy cozy personal area. What she would have given him if they had had to share a room together back on Earth. That didn’t exactly make her feel better. Right next to her son’s ‘bedroom’ nook and positioned at an angle facing into the room is another door. Though it doesn’t have a door opener unit set into the wall next to it. She walks over to it and it opened at her presence like she was used to in Atlantis. She peers in. It was the bathroom. It was nice. The same coloring as all the other décor in Atlantis but it had a nice shower/bath combo, which she hadn’t expected, a toilet, which was just as ornate as everything else here was and that was going a little overboard to her way of thinking, and a sink, which she had expected to be likewise as ornately decorated as everything else. She looked up at the mirror hanging on the wall just above the sink. It was rectangular, non-descript, and totally brought and placed here by a human. There were lights, bright, white, and definitely of human design and construction, right above it. Apparently the Ancients didn’t think primping before someone heads out or overhead lighting was in keeping with their décor, although Kenmore did note that there was a mechanism on the wall next to her that she figured might actually be for the sconces decorating the corners of the room and the pillars on either side of the sink. Maybe it was more like the humans here didn’t think the Ancients’ lighting skills were enough. She ducks back into the main room and the bathroom door closed behind her.
Next to the big bed was another nightstand, larger, in keeping with the size of the bed, and on the far wall was what she could only describe as the Ancients’ interpretation of a built-in closet with a few crates of their personal items from their home on Earth and their suitcases stacked in front of it and on the wall next to her was a desk with rows and rows of shelves above it stacked up a few feet shy of the ceiling. A labtop was already sitting there, silver, folded up, off, and it had a big, fat Atlantis winged-horse-flying-through-a-chevron emblem decal on it. There was also a picture frame laying flat on the desk top. She looked over at her son and finally saw what his whole body had been hiding from her. He had been unpacking one of their suitcases. In fact, one of her suitcases. She fixes him with a very unhappy Mommy Look.
“Don’t ‘But Mom’ me. You had no right to do this,” Kenmore rushes over to the desk and snatches the picture frame off of it. She doesn’t flip it over, she knows exactly who’s picture it is: her dead husband’s, “We aren’t staying here,” Kenmore marches the frame back to her opened suitcase and tosses it on top of her clothes then slams the suitcase’s lid shut, “You don’t unpack. Do you hear me? You don’t!”
Michael nods, for all his playfulness at trying to get his mom to stay with Uncle Lorne’s help, sitting at a tray a food was one thing and setting up shop in the room assigned to them was entirely another. He had crossed a huge line with her. Now was the time to be humble, to be quiet, and do as you’re told. He nodded at her and his legs stopped bouncing. He knew what had really set her off was him setting up his father’s image. That one had really stung. He knew his mother still felt lonely in her bed and she got out of bed alot when she couldn’t take it anymore and walked around in the dark. It usually made her feel better, or at least it got her to stop moving, staring out the window in her bedroom…his parent’s bedroom. He looked at her. Now she had a much bigger window to comfort her with a much different view than their backyard and the always dark woods behind their house.
“I’m sorry Mommy.”
Kenmore sighed, bowed her head, and rubbed the bridge of her nose again. She had lost count of how many times she’d done that today and it had only been a few hours. Michael could see the tension in his mother’s shoulders, knew she wanted to cry. Yeah, he really went way too far. But he couldn’t help but feel that this was good for her. If anything, Atlantis wasn’t home. Home hurt her…really bad.
“I thought Mister Woolsey told you we were staying,” that was a good way to approach it, blame it on Mister Woolsey.
“I haven’t talked to Mister Woolsey yet,” she sounded tired.
Michael nods. Stress.
“When are you suppose to?”
Kenmore checks her watch. Ten minutes. She had just enough time to get to his office if she left now and asked for help getting there again. Great, Kenmore slapped her hand against her thigh, just great. There isn’t any time to solve this problem. She looks around, this is not where she wanted to be, not where she wanted her son to be.
“I’m going to go talk to him now.”
Michael nods again.
“Do you have those files I gave you before the doctor called me to the infirmary?”
He nods again and points at the desk, “I put them in one of the drawers.”
Kenmore walks back over to it, opens up the first drawer on the left side, and finds the files. She picks them up. Might as well return them to Woolsey, thank him for the reading material but they’re no longer required, never were…she looks back at her son, much calmer now.
“Just don’t unpack anymore things, okay?”
Michael nods at his mother.
“Now, are you sure you’re okay here?”
“Are you sure you’re sure?”
He nods again.
She gives him a look that asks ‘Are you sure you’re sure you’re sure?’ without her having to utter another word.
Michael nods at his mother again and she reluctantly leaves. As soon as the door closes behind her, Michael’s feet start bouncing again. He looks around. He didn’t see what was so bad about this place anyway. He thought it was pretty.