Episode Ten- The Games People Play- Prologue

Prologue

The sea is mildly choppy, not unusual for any ocean on any planet. Regardless of being an ‘alien’ world, tidal shifts are tidal shifts. It’s sunny though, beautiful. The steel grey hues of the formerly Lost City of Atlantis pick up on the light blue tone of the sky, giving the flat lines of her snowflake-like shaped piers a purple-blue quality. Providing any onlookers with a gorgeous array of blue colors ranging from the deep dark hue of her surrounding salt water to the cornflower of her piers to the almost black shadows of the city’s towering spires along with the silver grey of the city’s natural naquadah coloring glimmering in the sunlight and the light sky accented with white fluffy clouds.

Atlantis’ Gateroom is alive with activity, a group of personnel going out with a new group coming in… Well, not everyone is new. Doctor Carson Beckett isn’t even a step away from the Stargate before a grin breaks across his face and his eyes open with his gleaming smile and the first inhale of the fresh air of Atlantis. Earth being his beloved homeworld aside, it is good to back in Atlantis. He’s not entirely sure—wait, that’s wrong. He knows exactly when he’d started thinking of Atlantis as ‘home’. It was after returning here from being in Wraith Hybrid Michael Kenmore’s captivity, forced to work as his slave. At the prompting of being bumped into by another small wave of new arrivals from Stargate Command, his ruminations get cut short and he steps even further away from the gate to the middle of the embarkation floor as more SGC personnel file out. He watches as they’re greeted by their Officers In Charge in the city coming up to them from the expansive room’s sidelines.

He looks around and a part of him dims at the sight of so many new faces coming in, having already encountered so many familiar ones on the other side of the wormhole’s connection to Cheyenne Mountain in that Gateroom just prior to this wormhole being activated. Aye, indeed, the return to the Pegasus Galaxy continues to take its toll on all of them… but Carson finds the silver lining in that those that have left are now getting the proper treatment for their individual traumas that they deserve and need, they’re getting the help that they simply cannot get here in this city. They’re getting their loved ones along with some good old fashioned comfort and peace. Just like he had. Even though he hadn’t actually visited his mother during his temporary return to Earth, he can never do that and he knows why, he did check in on her. Keeping a distant eye on his personal treasure. She’s doing well, bless her. His smile returns.

His beguiling blue eyes survey the impressive room again. And it dawns on him that there’s no welcoming party for him. No one. Not a single one of his friends is here to see him and welcome him back from his short stay back on Earth. He figured that at least Rodney would be here ready and waiting to comment on how Carson had apparently taken his sweet time getting through the Stargate. Rodney’s way of showing someone he cares: harping on them the moment he sees them. Well, if that’s true, then he cares about quite a lot of people in the Expedition. Again though, at the very least Carson expected Radek Zelenka to greet him. But no. None—

“There you are, I was starting to get worried,” Doctor Beckett calls at the sight of Doctors McKay and Zelenka walking up to him from one of the embarkation floor’s many entrances/exits that lead to the rest of their wonderful city.

“Yeah, well, it’s been a busy day,” Rodney comments with no shortage of frustration in his voice while he comes to stand in front of Carson. The fingers of his free hand flying over the smooth glass surface of the computer tablet his other hand is keeping carefully and securely balanced on his forearm. Eyes so diligently focused down that he doesn’t even bother to look up at Carson.

“It’s nice to see you too, Rodney,” the Scotsman takes what he normally gets from the Canadian.

Radek steps forward with hand extended towards Carson, “Welcome back, Carson.”

Carson takes his hand with the same sincere smile he’s getting, “Thank you, Radek.” Beckett looks around him once again in order to draw the other men’s attentions there as well, “Quite a lot this time, I see. No wonder you lot have been busy.”

“Oh, it’s not them, it’s Lieutenant Kenmore,” Rodney answers distractedly.

Carson Beckett’s stomach hits his throat. He stares in sheer startled terror at Rodney.

“What,” he gapes breathlessly.

“Yes, our darling little psychopath has,” Rodney stops as his eyes catch what’s changed on his tablet’s screen, “Oh for the love of—will she just leave things alone for two seconds. Two?! Is that really too much to ask for?! I’m just—I’ve got to go deal with whatever crap she’s doing now.” Rodney stalks off, heading back into the city, grumbling, “I am going to kill this woman.”

Carson watches him go, stunned by Rodney McKay’s cavalier attitude about—he turns to Radek with even more questions on his face than that first horrific one, “Did he just say ‘she’? Is Michael a woman now?”

“There is another Lieutenant Kenmore,” Radek tells him, Carson starts, but Radek quickly continues in order to silence his friend, “I will explain further over lunch,” Radek gestures him off the floor.

Carson shuts his mouth. Nods. But he’s still on edge as they leave the Gateroom.

*                      *                      *

Thank God she’s inside this thing. This room’s always felt like a room of nothing but doors to her. Even though it’s the fan style of door, it still feels like a cage to her. Lieutenant First Class Ursula Kenmore works inside Atlantis’ main holoroom’s control podium as Doctor Rodney McKay walks in on her. Right off the bat—

“What the Hell do you think you’re doing,” he barks.

She keeps working, Just a bit of replugging here, “Relax, I’m not breaking anything.”

“That’s not my point. My point is that you are messing with a system that consumes a huge amount of the city’s power.”

“For which I have brought along a naquadah generator,” Kenmore pauses in her work long enough to gesture at the item sitting on the cool marble floor beside her then goes back to working inside the podium. As if she didn’t already know the power hog reputation of this room before Morgan LeFay sucked them into the Void through it.

That point hadn’t escaped Rodney’s notice upon his entering either, “Yes, a naquadah generator you stole from supplies.”

Oh God, we’re really doing this now… “There are four others down there and the city only needs three to run on and one extra to power the chair. Four uses, four generators. Easy peasy.”

“To run on without the shield,” Rodney points out, Kenmore’s blitheness at her only the start of her list of crimes in this circumstance merely adding to his thought coming here. “How can anyone possibly be this stupid?!

“For which there is a backup supply of energy held in reserves by the city’s grounding stations,” Kenmore keeps working inside the extremely confined space on her back with her head and hands working on the inside like she’s under a car, “Boo-yah.” All the plugs look good. Now time to double-check her rewiring job. In some ways it’s like she’s never left her beloved Apache attack helicopter, although she hasn’t touched one of those gunships in years. Sometimes her fingers, her hands still ache to get into a fight inside her Apache once more. Just one more time. Maybe that’s why she’s discovered she likes flying the puddle jumpers so much. Pilot and machine are one… just like in an Apache Longbow. I miss my baby, and she’s not talking about Michael in this instance.

“What?!” McKay practically shrieks. “Do you even hear yourself? Look, I know what this room means to you, what Morgan LeFay put you through with it, but you are relying on our ability to hold on to the lingering power of lightning strikes to defend ourselves with in the event of the Wraith showing up.” He has a strong urge to rechristen her Doc—Lieutenant Fumbles McStupid.

Said Lieutenant finally peeks out from within the podium, “You act like you guys have never done that before.”

Rodney rolls his eyes at her. Okay, that’s true. He’ll give her that one, they have done that before. During the first year siege in fact, before the Daedalus’ timely arrival with a fully functioning ZPM, they had been relying pretty much solely on the reserve power source of that super storm’s lightning strikes to back up the city when the naquadah generators failed, not if they failed, when. But that’s not the point he’s trying to make here and now.

“Yes, we have done that before and believe me when I say that we all do not want to have to do it again.” The intensity of emotion that surrounded that enter event comes second to the time when the Asurans attacked, took out Elizabeth, and forced Atlantis off their original planet and into space. And that plays second to their recent return to the Pegasus, he doubts anyone will ever truly heal from that one. He sighs exasperation, bringing himself to some sort of attempt at the very least of calming himself down, “Look, at least tell me what you’re doing here with all this stuff so I might have at least some idea of how bad you’ve made things before I have to go in there and fix everything again,” he gestures at the torn open innards of the podium as well as the torn open innards of some sort of computer system that he can’t rightly identify anymore it’s so mangled lying beside the podium’s free side.

Kenmore obliges him by coming out from messing around with the insides of the podium. She doesn’t tell him that that’s because she’s done messing with the innards anyway and allows him to go on thinking that she’s actually obeyed something he’s told her to do. Not likely, the last civilian she followed orders from was Doctor Daniel Jackson and Doc McKay is no Daniel Jackson. At least not to her. Ursula stands up and brushes herself off as best she can; despite the polish and elegance of Atlantis’ general appearance, the city is actually pretty dusty or at least all her floors seem to be dusty. Must be all the foot traffic, anyways…

She gestures at the stuff, “I’ve jerry-rigged my PlayStation 2 into the hologram podium.”

Rodney’s eyes bug, his mouth pops open but no sound comes out as he lower lips starts to quake. Flabbergasted. Absolutely flabbergasted. His brain… his brain… It takes a moment for his brain to process what he’s just hear. To process what his reaction should be. What it should be. What it should be. Then it happens: Rodney McKay explodes.

“You what?! Do you have any idea how sensitive Ancient technology is!”

“Yeah, Doc McKay, all I have to do most of the time is think at the stuff and it’ll do something for me.”

Rodney throws his arms up in the air. For the love of… Isn’t it bad enough he has to deal with Sheppard like this?! Now there’s two of them! He pushes on, ignoring the glibness like usual, “It is incredibly delicate and complicated machinery on a level hundreds if not thousands of years beyond even the most advanced stuff we have now and that’s with us reverse engineering practically everything we’ve gotten from the Goa’uld which they scavenged from the Ancients in the first place and the Asgard leaving us everything they have ever learned in throughout the existence of their entire race!” He builds to a second eruption.

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not okay. You’re psychotic.”

He shoves his tablet at her and immediately gets on his hands and knees, rolls over onto his back, and slips into the disemboweled control podium to try and figure out why Lieutenant Nutbag was being a nutbag and to see if he can fix whatever dangerous stuff she’s done now in her nutbaggery.

Seriously, dealing with every other scientist around here is bad enough, now he’s got to deal with some military elements suddenly going rogue on a whim and treating anything Ancient that seems to catch their eyes like—

“You cannot just hook up your iPods to puddle jumpers like car stereos. It doesn’t work that way,” he condemns the thought that occurred to him out loud.

Ursula hadn’t thought of that, but now that McKay mentions it, she might try that. Who knows could be fun? It would certainly beat the Hell out of their boring rides in the jumpers as it stands currently with Doc McKay prattling on in his science mumbo-jumbo in between bouts of griping with Sheppard like an old married couple. No wonder half the city thinks it’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with two of them. And then there’s Emmagan and Dex sitting in silence right behind the two guys and exchanging silent yet knowing looks between each other occasionally accompanied with quiet sighs that, while riding alone in the jumper’s rear compartment, Ursula can easily pick up on via her acute hearing. Again, no wonder some in the city think those two are together too despite Emmagan having an intimate partner living with her and their child in the city. But it’s nothing more than the blatantly visible bond of two aliens observing the idiosyncrasies of Earthlings that they kind of can’t believe they’re actually friends with. If either one only knew a whisper of people’s lives during high school, they’d… well, they’d still think the same things. What was the line on one of her favorite T.V. shows, oh yeah, ‘Twelve years after high school and I’m still sitting at the nerd table.’

“Would you look at this? You’ve changed practically all of the wiring. And all of the plugs are in the wrong place.” McKay snaps at her again from inside the hologram control podium. “What the Hell were you thinking?”

“That I wanted to play in a Holodeck.”

He freezes… then peeks out from inside the podium up at her. “What did you say?”

“I’ve gained ten pounds since my son started going to school and it has been a merciless battle to even lose one pound. I stress about his safety and I bake. Now Emmagan may be happy with that, but my scale isn’t and neither am I. I know I’m the Big Girl between the two of us chicks on the team, but I don’t have to be the Bigger Girl.”

“What does that have to with a Holodeck?”

“I need to start exercising or do something else to distract me from worrying so much about my son other than baking pies all the time. And, well, I was reading the mission file that you guys had had with that Dorane guy, you know the mission Weir called ‘Reliquary’,” Rodney uncomfortably does remember that one, Kenmore goes on, “Well, both yours and Sheppard’s and Lieutenant Ford’s reports said that that whole thing began in one of the holorooms around the city. It also said that when you guys figured out how to get the room up and running and turned it on that basically the whole room, well not the whole room but a pretty good amount of it, came on in a hologram format.

“And I thought that if most of the room could project holograms then why couldn’t it, well, be basically like a prototype holodeck. I mean think of it, you’re a fellow Trekkie, wouldn’t that be awesome? And talk about covering shore leave. You can check my work, but I think this is a real possibility here.”

A strange look comes over Rodney’s face. How many times had he pretended to be one the bridge of the Enterprise right next to Spock and Kirk? How many times has he pretended to be Spock on ‘away missions’ in his own backyard or basement when he was little? Actually, he doesn’t have to be little for that. One of the last vacations he went on before joining the Stargate Program’s preliminary excavation of the Antarctica outpost was to the Las Vegas Star Trek convention. Four days of talking with equally costumed and geeky friends, it was a blast! But one thing remained true. They were all pretending to be those characters they’ve loved and dreamed about and watched on television religiously since they were old enough to start watching T.V. None of them actually had the chance to be those characters. He looks back into the manipulated innards of the podium. His blue eyes tracing every wire from start to chaotic, erratic finish. Every misplaced plug fitting snugly in a hole that it doesn’t normally belong to. He analyzes every nook and cranny. Finds every alteration.

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