Episode Ten- The Games People Play- Chapter Two

Chapter Two

This holoroom is one of the farthest from the city center. With an aesthetic pretty much an exact copy of that of the conference room that they hold their mission briefings and debriefings in without a large table taking up the center of the room both rectangularly and semi-circularly speaking, the room still seems just as small as the conference room does even though there’s far less in it. Despite the platform dais with accompanying control podium, the room doesn’t seem quite as nice and secretive, almost cozy as the conference room or some of the other holorooms. The awkwardness makes it feel more confining. Like a cage. The four of them walk into the room. Rodney and Kenmore walking right over to the torn up podium with some other torn up thing hooked into and a—

“You took a generator for your play time!” Sheppard explodes. Pissed is his primary emotion. He’s absolutely shocked that Rodney McKay would do something or allow something as incredibly stupid as this. Wasteful too. So God damn wasteful!

“Borrowed,” Kenmore tells him in that same ‘This isn’t a big deal, why are you making it a big deal?’ tone of voice.

“You can’t ‘borrow’ these things,” the Colonel turns on her sharply, “It’s not like after you use them, you’re going to get the power back in them for others to use later. I shouldn’t have to explain this to you. How could you—”

“I signed off on it,” McKay interrupts, his own tone a sing-song.

John’s eyes bulge at him. Thrown, his mind blanks for a couple of heartbeats. But he’ll be damned if he lets them see any more of that than they already have. Cheeks trembling with the tics running through them, John Sheppard’s body turns to Rodney McKay, “That doesn’t help that you’re going along with her.”

His grey-green eyes look over the mess of technology. There’s wires, both Earth-made and Ancient, stretching from the Ancient device to the Earthly one. And circuit boards. And Ancient crystal slats. And… and it’s just a mess. Like a child took apart the vacuum to figure out how the household item works but got bored with the idea and simply left a giant mess strewn across half the room for their Mom to clean up. Perfect. More for Zelenka.

“… her… What the hell is all of this anyway,” Sheppard gestures at the podium.

“Part of the playing,” Kenmore tells him.

John feels his temper rising again, he’d be surprised if his cheeks weren’t burning red by now. John takes a moment, standing there with a hand on his hip and the other forming a fist out in front of him. His eyes closed to the sight, a few deep breaths to make sure he doesn’t send both of these kids to their rooms for the rest of the day without dinner or dessert or expel them for the rest of the school year. He unclenches his fist and opens his eyes, “You cannot go around the city tearing things up and, and—“

“I rigged my PlayStation 2 into it,” she informs him since he seems to be searching for the correct details.

“And rigging—wait, what? Your PlayStation?” He looks at her.

“Two,” Kenmore nods, happily holding up the count with her fingers for him to see as well as hear.

Sheppard stares at her for a moment, Really? Are you insane?, then goes on, appealing to who might be the more reasonable of the two, “What I’m saying is that you cannot go around the city tearing up things period. You don’t know what you’re doing—“

“Actually, yes, she does,” McKay interrupts again with a telltale reluctance that tells John he’s serious.

“Really?” Sheppard finds that hard to believe. Both of McKay and Kenmore have been trying to cover each other’s asses from the beginning in this. ‘No, no reason.’ ‘Nothing.’ Bull.

But Rodney nods.

Sheppard looks at Kenmore, seeing her in a whole new light—and Ronon blows a fuse.

“Stop messing with crap!”

All eyes turn to the Satedan.

“No,” Kenmore says.

Their eyes turn to her.

“Did you not hear me?” The Satedan steps up to her.

“I heard you. It’s just going to take a lot more than tall, dark, and surly to get me to do anything I don’t wanna do.” She abruptly turns to Rodney, physically cutting off Ronon from any quick reply with happy bouncing on the balls of her feet, barely subdued giddiness filling every part of her body, “So, what’d ya’ pick?”

Rodney holds up the DVD with a smirk, “Madame, prepare to be surprised,” the Canadian genius tells her triumphantly. Once again, Doctor Rodney McKay holding court the way only he does even if it’s only over a few people.

As far as John can tell, there’s nothing to be smirking about. The disc is all unadorned silvery coloring like usual. There’s an extremely small band of white with even tinier black script on it and another tiny white band with more thin black script lining the two inner circles of the DVD, but Kenmore squeals. Stamping with delight. Hands clasped tightly in front of her chest like a cheerleader excited to get the home crowd going. Her giddiness unleashed.

Sheppard and Ronon watch her like she’s a freak, they’ve never seen her act like this before. They know she’s childish, they’ve seen that Kenmore, but they’ve never seen her act like one seeing what Santa brought on Christmas morning; that reminds John, Christmas is coming up soon. Equally excited to be playing Santa, Rodney goes over to the torn up PlayStation 2 console like a king—scratch that, an Emperor approaching his prized awaiting throne. He reaches down and presses the somewhat disguised slender button on the far right side of the PlayStation 2 Slim. He can feel the slightly raised pale green inking of its labeling symbols that show that this is the power button and the Earth device turns on. The light on the gaming console switching color from red to green. The blue memory card glowing brilliant blue on the left side. Instantly McKay snaps straight up. He and Kenmore look around… and around… and around… and…

“Why isn’t anything happening,” she asks, “I don’t understand, something should be happening. It did when you and Zelenka were messing with that other podium that led you all to that Dorane guy.”

John gulps at the memory, he should have never went to Elizabeth with Rodney about going to that place. He should have waited until they had gone through the Ancient database for everything they could scour about that place and then left it the hell alone. He should have, he should have done a lot of things different on that mission. A lot of things.

“I don’t know,” Rodney’s voice answers over John’s silent ruminations, “None of the holoprojectors on the walls are activating. They should be, they’re fine. I checked them out while you were changing. Everything’s fine, they should be working, but… they’re not.”

Ursula looks over at him, “Did you knock something loose when you were messing around in the control podium?” She asks with a somewhat Mommy-ish current to her tone at him.

Rodney glares at her, “When I was messing in there? Excuse me, but—“

The Lieutenant automatically rolls her eyes and starts getting down on her hands and knees. Always, always a woman has to do it because a guy is just so convinced he did it perfectly and then the moment it goes wrong, it’s the chick’s fault even though he wouldn’t let her touch the damn thing for the past God knows how many minutes because he’s decided that all of a sudden it’s a ‘man thing’ even though it was the woman who came up with the bloody idea and put the damn thing together in the first place. Ursula sticks her head into the podium. Her dark eyes searching every facet in front of her face for anything even slightly amiss. Even a whisper of something being slightly askew could be exactly what the problem is. Of course McKay would miss a whisper, he doesn’t whisper at all anytime anywhere. Sometimes she’d like to stun him on missions just for the sake of not blowing their cover, but she always stops herself no matter how great and alluring the temptation to switch aims, target his back, and pull the trigger. Let alone would the sound of the stunner, either her zat or the Wraith stun pistol she’d picked up on her first mission in this galaxy, make enough sound to blow their cover in the right circumstance, but she doubts dragging around Rodney’s unconscious ‘dead’ weight would be much of a difference to lugging around his conscious and yammering ‘dead’ weight.

Rodney was about to open his mouth to say something else when she got down, but now he’s been stumped speechless as have Sheppard and Ronon as they witness her skirt’s back slit splitting open to frame her butt nicely. Simultaneously thoroughly exposing her black brief panties for all to see. All three men stare at the… John never realized before that it’s a heart, her butt when she bends over is the shape of a largely endowed heart—

“Quit staring at my ass,” her voice snaps at them from inside the podium.

Sheppard snaps his jaw shut straight away and immediately looks at the opposite side of the room. Analyzing it’s ordinary features that are quintessentially Lantean. How really Frank Lloyd Wright with a healthy dose of Art Nouveau in an all autumnal colors motif. Seriously, the resounding splash of bright teal just makes the rust-colored copper and the rust-colored marble pop. God, he sounds like an idiot even to himself and he knows he sounds like an idiot because he sounds as frankly mind-numbing as the first woman he’d tried to date after his divorce was finalized. He’d met her in an art gallery that reminded him of Nancy because his newly ex-wife loved galleries and couldn’t help herself throughout their marriage dragging him into each and every one she could find. John hadn’t minded it all that much with Nancy, a left over from his childhood. His Mom felt very strongly about John and Dave getting a well rounded education including her favorite worldly subject: Art. To this day, galleries still remind him of both Nancy and his Mother. Anyways, the woman had been really, really good looking and… well, John was hard up for something other than loneliness by that point; there are times when that still rings true. Normally on leave, personnel go back to their families, but he didn’t have that anymore… he didn’t have any family anymore since his wife’d left him. So he made a play for the bucksome grad student seeking her Master’s in Modern Art and he spent hour after grueling hour pretending to listen to her go on and on about how wonderful the pieces in the gallery were, he thought they were absolutely boring and utterly ridiculous… at the end of it, he didn’t invite her back to his hotel room and he hadn’t gone back to her apartment either. John senses his eyes stray a little too close to getting a peripheral view of the young Lieutenant’s rear again. Sheppard snaps them to a different direction again, trying desperately to recover from the moment of unadulterated ogling at his junior officer’s butt as best as he can and make it look like he hadn’t been gawking at his fifth team member’s behind in the first place. Although it’s actually the second time he’s been ogling her derrière in that outfit today. He catches Ronon looking up at the ceiling out of the corner of his eye, trying to play like he’d been ignoring Kenmore’s butt the entire time as well. As if the visual and physical overcompensating wasn’t enough, they suddenly start spouting claims that they hadn’t been gaping at all.

“I, I, I wasn’t,” Sheppard tries to tell her, suddenly riveted by the wall meeting the ceiling above the fan-design door. Thankfully he quiets his own mind by not distracting himself with mental anecdotes on the artiness of the architecture again.

“Me, me neither,” Ronon stammeringly seconds, suddenly dipping his head to scratch an imaginary itch at the back of the left side of his head and averting his eyes towards the door.

“What ass,” McKay says while looking at the podium’s console, not exactly far from ogling Kenmore’s butt.

Sheppard and Ronon look at their friend. You did not just say that? Like she’s really going to believe that. She knew her butt was out in the air, if anything she undoubtedly felt the draft abruptly goosing her. That and she knows human men. Despite her youth, she’s not inexperienced in the world. She’s been married before and she’s a female soldier in ‘This Man’s Army’. Her ample behind right in front of some guys on long deployment is like dangling a pacifier in front of an orally fixated infant. There’s definitely rapt ogling and drooling and a mind completely devoid of any thoughts other than musings on what’s gotten their attention. And she knows that when she snaps at those men to keep their eyes someplace else, the oglers don’t admit that they were ogling her goodies. They play it off. Act cool about it. Not say ‘What ass’. John rolls his eyes before he closes them as he bows his head and pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He lets out a deep sigh, “Rodney.”

Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore goes through every connection and either jiggles it to see if it’s secure or shoving what’s already plugged in in just a bit harder to make sure everything is tip-top. She comes to her last plug. Okay, this is the last one before she’ll have to flip over onto her back and start examining the ones on the podium’s topside. That’ll give the boys a thrill. Instead of her exposed bent over butt, they’ll catch sight of something ‘shocking’ and she’s not thinking about her stockings. Please, God, let this work. She gives the connection a push and all at once the half of the room on the other side of the podium goes black all the way up to the ceiling. A royal blue cloud forms and starts swirling at its center. Four tiny orbs of blue, green, pink, and red light lazily rotate on the cloud’s outskirts like the casually strolling electrons of an atom. A piercing buzzing, hissing sound as though something high-pitched is being sucked away from them fills the room to a thunderous boom that sounds like someone’s slammed their hands down on the keyboard of a piano. Discordant and disconcerting. Everyone jumps at the booming sound of the opening menu of the PlayStation 2 gaming system. Ursula hits her head on the bottom interior of the podium. Ow, shit. Forgot about that part.

Demure white letters spelling out ‘Sony Computer Entertainment’ hold quiet court across the middle of the cloud as Kenmore crawls back out of the podium. The freezing, sucking sound takes over the room again accompanied by an underscore that’s reminiscent of the imagery of stars falling while the blue cloud suddenly spreads like it’s flying to the outer stretches of the black frame taking up half of the room. Its colorful orbs spiral away beyond the reaches of the black as the blue cloud expands itself out of existence, half of the room going entirely black. Ursula gets back up on her feet again and dusts herself off to be presentable again as she steps back beside Rodney. Sheppard and Ronon come forward to complete the lineup of gaping in awe at the colorful orbs abruptly returning with companion orbs the colors of yellow and orange.

The four humans watch the now six ‘electrons’ of light come together and orbit each other. All changing color to a shade of blue so pale it’s more like tinted white. The lights orbit themselves into a perfectly round circle then continue to loop and orbit each other, occasionally breaking into trios of three somehow or just three simple balls with wispy streaks of light trailing behind them to show the path they’ve traced before starting their fascinating little ‘dance’ all over again. Words appear beside them, two actually. The top word says ‘Browser’ in light blue and the bottom phrase says ‘System Configuration’ in steel gray. Crowning the very bottom of the frame of black are more words paired with symbols. On the left side is an encircled lavender ‘X’ with the partner of ‘Enter’ written in white and on the right is an encircled light green triangle with ‘Version’ written in white beside it.

“So how does this work exactly,” John’s suddenly thinking that this might not be quite such a bad idea, “I’m not seeing a controller anywhere.” If this works, then their ‘Sundays’ off around here just got a lot more fun. A hell of a lot more fun. Hopefully John doesn’t have to keep entertaining himself when his own room is driving him crazy anymore by playing golf games on one of Rodney’s computers or driving golf balls into the alien drink all for hours on end.

“I made it voice activated like how using the teacher program in the main holoroom is by having that part of the programming deferring to the podium for those sorts of commands rather than it’s own routine programming,” Rodney tells him while still being utterly riveted by the display. He’d never before realized how pretty and kind of inspiring the menu on this thing was. Or is it just that this might be the first indication that there’s an incredible possibility here for what he’s been dreaming of since he was a kid?

Kenmore looks over at the theoretical astrophysicist, “‘You made it’,” she repeats.

McKay waves her off, “Yeah, yeah, you helped too.”

She cops an attitude at him, scoffing, as McKay steps up to the torn apart Earth device, conveniently ignoring her. He presses the open/close button. The PlayStation obeys, flipping up the lid of its disc hub. Quickly he puts his DVD onto the circular indent in the hub then pushes the lid back down onto the PlayStation 2 Slim’s console.

The sound of ocean waves lapping engulfs the room and is momentarily disrupted by a whoop then a sort of ‘access granted’ higher pitched happy and breathy ha sound as the holoimage dims. It becomes silvery gray with a single larger bright white orb floating upwards from the bottom to the top and the center of frame bearing lighter gray script telling them that the gaming system/hologram control podium is ‘Reading disc…’ with an encircled pink circle teamed with the word ‘Back’ at the bottom. Their wait isn’t too long before a beautiful navy blue CD-shape highlighted with that larger white orb appears in the middle of that half of the room. The four pairs of eyes light on the dark gray ‘PS2’ in the upper left corner and across from it in the upper right corner is the phrase ‘PlayStation’ followed by its trademark symbol and ‘DISC’ in bright yellow. Further commands take up the usual spots at the bottom of the frame, this time a trio. First is an encircled lavender ‘X’ with ‘Enter’, secondly a circled pink circle with ‘Back’ next to ‘Enter’s right, and even further to the right is an encircled light green triangle with ‘CD Playback’.

“Enter,” Rodney commands loudly and clearly. He shifts weight from foot to foot. While this had been initially pretty, he’d also apparently forgotten how excruciatingly long the startup process could be when the disc didn’t get read right away and the system had to process it by doing the system startup first then read the disc from there and then, and only then, finally start the disc’s start up. Eons, doing it this way takes eons.

Half of the room fades into darkness again as the orb flees the blue CD-shape and heads to the right of the frame, not making it in time before that half of the room goes completely black. Kenmore looks over at the others and somehow Sheppard seems to sense her movement and look over at her too, their confused and amazed eyes meet and neither knows what to say to each other. McKay and Dex keep staring at the holoprojected half of the room.

Then an airy sound fills the room as the hologram side of the room turns dark silvery gray with a grid highlighted by light gray dots. A swath of bright red light swings from the right side to the left where it’s joined by another swish of bright blue that begins where the red’s journey ends. The blue glides upward from the bottom left corner up to the upper right corner, turning purple along its way as the red dims out of existence. A golden swath glides over the top of the purple swish as its course takes it from the middle of the right side of the frame to the upper left corner. It’s a beautiful light display against the dismal, industrial hued background. Light blue ethereal smoke flows up from the bottom right side corner and that immediately curves and overwhelms the right side of the frame with its suddenly illuminating brightness. The swathes of bright color diminish as the brilliant light blue erupts across the frame in waves like a tempestuous ocean. Then individual bands of varying sizes and colors ranging from purple to gold to pink to pale gray striate the blooming globe. It develops more, the grid disappears into darkness and the striations become background accoutrements. The pale blue undulates in the torrent sea that it is and shining silver shapes loom into view from the frame’s left side, gleaming white in the shine of unseen light. At first it’s unclear what the steely monstrosity is, but more of it comes into view and three of them suddenly realize that it’s the landmasses of Earth. Like a planetary ring, a ghostly ribbon of bright green light cuts across the axis of Earth at an angle. The globe becomes smaller, fading into the background as the landmasses start to take up their usual global positions and navy blue brightens the space behind the planet. The red and blue-to-purple swathes return to portray planetary rings that encircle Mother Earth. Even they change color to the same silver steel of the continents.

“Oh for the love of—please just start the damn thing,” Rodney begs the ceiling.

In answer to his out loud beseeching, the planet becomes smaller and the silver swathes rotate into the parallel twin shapes of the round form of an eye’s lids. The airy, breezy sounds becoming the twinkling tickle of a piano. Suddenly there’s a boom of orchestral music as the Earth is abruptly covered by a lens of steel grey to be the iris of the eye shape. The eye gets it’s own frame of thin strips of silver as black fills the surroundings and a light gray bracket appears at the bottom with the words ‘CBS DVD’ in gray on it. The navy background setting off the monochromatic logo nicely with a bright white ‘TM’ trademark stamp beside the bottom of the logo to boot. As the orchestra boom dissipates into more breezy sounds again, the grey wording darkens to black. Everything goes quiet. Everything fades to black.

“Wow,” Kenmore breathes, “Who would ever guess that this part of a DVD could actually be kind of cool?”

Sheppard fights the urge to point out that anything would seem cool if it was a hell of a lot bigger than you in an especially confining space and had booming acoustics to go with it.

A disclaimer appears. Rather anticlimactic compared to what came before it. It’s just black background with white block lettering detailing all the ways they can break the law and be punished for pirating, etc. Rodney sighs again, “Blah, blah, blah. Can we move on?”

Thankfully the monotony gets replaced by gold static covering the black wordless background and there’s the distinct sound of… well, it’s hard to describe, but it sounds the way glitter looks like when it’s falling along with this sort of harsh whir at the core of it. Suddenly the gold glittering surrounds them. Engulfs them as it fills up the entire room. The sound becomes an intense, high pitch prickling overwhelming their ears. Just as they’re about to cover their ears, the glittering ebbs away from around them. Some familiar ’60s-ish music tells two of the group all too well exactly what they’re heading for, what they’ve been hoping for.

And the group of four find themselves in the transporter room of the old Original Series Enterprise.

Everywhere they look is definitely not Lantean architecture or Ancient design aesthetic whatsoever. Ahead of them, up on the transporter deck stand four people, not them, frozen in a single pose. Almost like a snapshot of each and every one of them.

At the far back is a beautiful woman wearing a mini-dress just as short as Kenmore’s. Perhaps shorter. The woman’s dress is colored predominantly grey, but on narrower observation it’s actually a textured gold with an undercurrent of black and it’s teamed with a section of pink also with an undercurrent of black on her left side. The pink part ends in long black tasseled fringe. There’s also a thick black belt cinching the woman’s slim, svelte waist nicely. Again sheer, black nylons but with much taller, thigh-high, black leather boots in a more buccaneer style than either Kenmore’s or Rodney’s. And her hair is dark and down. Unlike Kenmore’s, it’s simply styled and flowing in large waves down behind her shoulders. In every way a seductive ‘60s Bridgette Bardot bombshell style. Boy, Star Trek really liked its women enticing in all the popular physical ways for its time. The alien in the woman distinctly shows in her eyebrows angling sharply upward with Cleopatra-style eye makeup framing her dark intriguing eyes nicely. Hints of pink blush dapple the apples of her cheeks and the bubble gum pink lipstick on her lips that would normally look childish on any female over twelve years of age, but lends her overall appearance, pointy ears and all, an air of femininity and sex appeal that’s as palpable as her evident militaristic carriage. John kinda hopes that they’ll get to meet her.

Next closer to the front is a little boy, maybe twelve years old or close to that age. Still clearly a background player, he looks like he’s fallen on the ground on his butt in a state of shock and perhaps anger. Outrage? His short cut ginger hair providing stark contrast to his lanky form clad in a shirt and pants horizontally striped in olive green and light royal blue with a navy blue band of fabric for a belt and shiny black, leather boots on his feet. Normally in fashionable terms, horizontal stripes make a person look wider than they actually are, but that couldn’t be further from the truth for this boy. If anything, it looks like he’s trying to look beefier than he is by wearing them and that only makes him seem even thinner and lankier than he probably really is. His pale skin and extremely slim frame give off the sentiment that he’s like an even smaller child putting on one of those puffy super hero costumes that already come with the musculature quilted in. Yep, outrage. He tried to play himself off as big and bad and got tossed on his butt like the obnoxious and underweight in more ways than one little kid he is.

Then there’s the foreground players sharing the frontline spotlight. On the left is Captain Kirk dressed in some sort of ridiculously cheap Indian Halloween costume with bright yellow ‘war paint’ on his cheeks. Even worse is the ridiculous looking headband with a round beaded medallion thing positioned directly over his forehead. What’s the cherry topper on the terrible sundae? How board straight and stoic he’s standing. Peter Pan says ‘How’; clearly ‘political correctness’ had no place in the late ‘60s. Please God don’t let that be whatever story Rodney picked. Please God. Please.

On the right is the infamous Mister Spock in an olive drab jumpsuit over his black mock turtleneck, standing robotically stock still with some sort of ‘headset’ on his head. It looks like the world’s most ill-fitting, scraped-together-from-random-stuff lying-around headphones ever. John’s not sure what to make of that one, there’s not much to go on. His eyes turn to his Trekked out teammates.

It’s been an overwhelming amount of stuff coming at them since they turned the PlayStation 2 Slim/hologram control console podium hybridization of machinery on. Kenmore and Rodney immediately look around themselves, marveling at everything they’re seeing like the only kids allowed to have free reign in Willy Wonka’s candy store. Veruca eat your heart out! Their amazed eyes try to absorb everything at once from the light purple paint on the walls that stops a couple of feet from the ceiling where light grey paint takes over the rest of the walls and the ceiling to the medium shade of grey covering the floors to the dark grey pair of steps leading up to the transporter pad itself. It’s so large, so dominant, the round of it is so prominent in the space that it spills out from the boundaries of its part of the room. And the pad itself is a sort of cranberry red, probably just red but the shadows of the enclosed round area might be deepening it to the darker cran color their eyes are registering in decisive contrast to the other neutral and pastel colors around it. Grey walls take up the left and right arcing sides, framing out the panels of greenish, metallic, warped material that adorn the rear part of the semi-circular enclosure. The liquid-looking textured paneling and the opening to the pad are marked out by horizontal strips of round and dotted white lights like ribbon trim designed to look like the borders of old time film reels decorating a very neat present. The pad’s ceiling is divided by black bands into eight equally sized slices of pie with each pie wedge not dotted with dollops of whipped cream, but foot or more thick black cylinders with bright red lights set into the wider portions of the slices and positioned directly over the single, person-sized, and currently dimmed clear discs embedded in the red floor of the transporter pad. Each floor disc ringed like those of a cut tree.

All of it so, so, so enticing to every Trek fan. Who hasn’t wanted to beam anywhere? Especially to or from the original Enterprise? Which Trekkie would say ‘No’ to that? What Trekkie would say ‘No’ to any of that?

Sheppard and Ronon look around. They are, too, analyzing the area. But with considerably less enthusiasm. It’s frowns for the two of them. Well, not exactly frowns, just, just… this is it? This is what makes McKay and Kenmore go gaga and wear those ridiculous outfits. Right now, both men are preferring Atlantis’ Ancient design aesthetic to this, this… They look away from the stately figures on the dais to the rest of the room. Despite the round’s promise and eye-getting appeal, the room is small and cramped due to its sharply geometric shape. Odd blocky angles cutting into the room at weird junctures and making you realize how small the room is exactly and the over-sized furniture isn’t helping dissuade that first impression assumption either. On the right wall is a large screen or mural or whatever depicting a section of star speckled space featuring a cluster of stars at the center of dusty clouds. Nebulae most likely. There’s a silvery grey line cutting across the bottom of the screen at a small ascent and another line coming down at an equal angle on the right side, both indicating a zoom-in of some sort of grid view.

Sheppard twists at his waist, turning even more. Directly behind them on a slightly angled stretch of wall is another screen that looks distinctly like a twenty-something inch television, off, and right next to a light grey, built-in computer panel jutting from the wall next to it, parallel to the space screen wall, residing at waist height. John sees some sort of viewer sticking out of its surface at an angle on the left side of the panel while it’s right is taken up by a trio of rows of fingertip diametered buttons in an array of red, yellow, and white with a single fat red button the diameter of a half-dollar in the top column with a pair of companion green and red fingertip buttons some three inches away. His soldier’s mind automatically noting every single specific detail; just in case. One never knows. The fat red button lingering in John’s mind, usually be fat red buttons are a bad sign. Kind of like a shiny red telephone on the fancy desk in the Oval Office.

His attention moves on to the part of the built-in on the wall is starkly different. On the right half is a screened circle framed in red and on the left is a pair of short half-circles set close together and imbedded, reminding John of a built-in toaster for a single slice of bread, with two more half-dollar round lights, one glowing bright green like a Christmas light, and a fingertip white button framed in black underneath each large light. His eyes narrow slightly. Above that in the wall is a red panel with a mesh rectangle in the upper left corner and a red indented button framed in light grey in the upper right. In the bottom left is a light grey rectangular panel with a smaller wavy mesh rectangle inside of it and a bright pill capsule-shaped white light right next to it in its own band of light grey rectangle. In the bottom right is another white fingertip button framed in black. Small red, round headed screws bolting the panel to the wall and bands of bright yellow paint indicating the walls’ corner. Intercom system of some sort? Maybe. One thing is certain though, John can’t help but notice the round oval-shaped security camera-like thing sticking out of the adjoining wall at eye height. His eyes fixate on it just like Ronon. If anyone’s watching them, both men want to know. God knows what McKay and Kenmore have done. It’s all up in the air right now.

Suddenly Kenmore bolts for the room’s light blue twin doors, the only entrance/exit into the place that can be readily seen—and smacks right into them with an unceremonious thwack from a combination of her boot tips and her nose hitting the closed entrance/exit at a run.

In a single solid instant all her glee is gone. She eases away from the closed entryway, she touches her nose, works and wiggles it for a moment beneath her hand. As she takes a step back, her hand reaches out and touches the barrier. The somewhat pastel metal is cold to her touch… and filled with so much promise being kept at bay from her. Ursula turns her sad and pouting eyes, meeting the onlooking gazes of the rest of them.

“They won’t open, will they,” she says sullenly like a child who’s discovered that their Christmas got stolen away from them just as they were racing down the stairs to see it in all its festive glory, “I can’t get to the rest of the ship, can I? We’re stuck in the DVD menu, aren’t we?” Each question asked pitifully.

Sheppard feels himself sympathizing with the poor kid. He’s come close to getting what he’s dreamed about and then he got betrayed by the illusion of it. Home, one of those first missions. They’d all thought that they’d found a planet that had enough juice running to its Stargate that they could re-establish contact with Earth. They’d dialed the gate, made the trip… But it’d been a lie. An illusion for their sakes. A last recourse of the planet’s fog atmosphere protecting itself from the mass murder of the Stargate activation.

“Have no fear, Milady,” Rodney grins, coming to the Starfleet version of Cindy Lou Who’s rescue, “Our adventure is close at hand.” McKay makes his way over to the transporter control panel and his hand caresses the sharp angles of the machine’s smooth red surface as he assumes his station behind it.

He looks it over. His skin prickling as the bombastic music from before and the tingling sounds of the transporter effect accompanied by a few glittering notes and a brief bit of STAR TREK theme music still stuck in his head and ears are replaced by the familiar since childhood whirs and clicks of the transporter room’s regular operation. Even in it’s down time and nearly overridden by the constant thrum of the NCC-1701 U.S.S. Enterprise itself, Rodney McKay’s heart is literally twittering in his chest. Like a bird chirping excitedly, fluttering. It’s all bliss to his ears and mind. To add more to his bliss is the unerringly geeky fact that his blue eyes already know every capability of every button currently at his fingertips. Whether the button is round like a jewel or a bar, a switch that can be pushed on like a seesaw or a bar that he can draw downward or upward like a disc jockey, whether it’s a black hooded, pale yellow hued, sonar-like display complete with pie-wedge gridding not unlike a spider’s web with a thin band of red cutting it in half or a rectangle display that’s yellow-orange and blue and pie-wedge gridded as well. From the small trio of communication devices resting on top of it like the radio Charlie used to contact his Angels. Light grey, red, and black, an array of bright rainbow colors illuminating those colors, it is all a part of his past committed to vivid memory. Absolute memory, he breathes with a smile as he looks down upon it. Instantly spotting the pattern buffer operations, the signal resolution controls, the specifics for monitoring and possibly even removing any contaminants found in the matter stream. He sees where he can verify and lock onto coordinates, he smiles at the targeting scanners. The molecular imaging scanner, he smiles to himself as he can just imagine the Heisenberg compensators taking into account everything about the subatomic particles of his chosen transporting target, mapping the physical structure of it before disassembling it to the tune of billions of kiloquads of data. The pattern buffer. The annular confinement beam, ACB for short he reminds himself, meant to maintain the integrity of the information contained in the energy beam. He sighs contentedly to himself. In a weird way, this is home.

Kenmore rushes over, “Which one are you picking,” the question rushes out of her mouth as a breath.

Rodney quickly shoos her away with the reprimand, “It’s a surprise.” Meanwhile his own eyes remain gleaming hungrily down at the selection of episode titles embedded artfully in the console’s large black panel on its left side.

The Lieutenant stamps her foot in mock tantrum. Her pouting face complete with slightly jutting lower lip, but her old infectious grin quickly returns to bely any animosity in her childish action. Grinning in smug confidence, Doctor of Theoretical Astrophysics Rodney McKay begins deftly and rather skillfully if he does say so himself, and he does, pressing buttons with the same strong yet caring movements amid the throbbing hum, whirs, and sounds of snaps, clicks, and beeps that he’d watched Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott do for years. So at home in this environment, Rodney might even go so far as to call it his environment. So in his element, every Trekkie’s element. So… at relaxed in a way he hasn’t been since he was a child in the safety of his family’s den, sitting cross-legged in front of a television set with bunny ear antennae, and absolutely enamored in all the dreams and adventures that a future in space travel can encapsulate. Even now, there are times in the city when he’s alone at night in his lab that he pops one of these DVDs into his laptop and relives that sense of companionship in Captain James Tiberius Kirk and his crew, especially Mister Spock. The space adventuring he’s been doing for the past six and half years has made such escapism a necessity. He has to hope that the feelings and the dreams Star Trek brings to him can still be attained even now, even here in Atlantis, in the Pegasus Galaxy…

Ursula Kenmore looks around again since Doc McKay, of course, has made it so he’s the only person who’s getting a chance to play anything so far. Typical, but at least she gets to ogle the scenery some more as well as milk the benefit of anticipation. Her brown eyes marvel at everything around her with a near contagious grin and under Sheppard’s continuing to be confused by her gaze, she notes. This was a dream to her, this room. Every episode, she’d wait for there to be a scene in the transporter room or Engineering. This room got featured quite often, but Engineering, where her heart lives and breathes with anything Trek, was too infrequent for her taste. But still. To be in this place, to be standing in this room, and it’s not a set, not put up for filming or a strolling tour of visitors walking through to get their kicks. No. No studio tourist thing. It’s real. It’s all around her and it’s real. Well, as real as a ‘holodeck’ can make it. When her face hit the door, it certainly felt real enough though. Her eyes and her mind continue wandering as McKay takes his time; she can’t blame him, she’d take her time with those controls too. Yep, when they’re done with this and McKay goes off in search of some overflowing tray of food in the Mess Hall, she’ll have to come back here and play some herself. Maybe then she’ll actually get a chance to do something other than look around…

Ronon looks around too. And he’s not liking what he’s seeing. “There’s something wrong with this place,” he comments, “It’s too bright. And ugly. Who painted it?”

“The sixties,” Kenmore absentmindedly answers as her eyes trace the common lines of the red rectangular vent over the closed doors. For a moment her minds strays to one of her favorite freeze frames from an episode that became ingrained in her memory without her even realizing it until just now. Gary Seven, she smiles at the innocuous fixture.

Dex looks over at her and catches Sheppard nodding reluctantly at him too with an apologetic look on his face.

“Don’t ask,” Sheppard tells him.

Ronon looks around again with disdain on his face for the décor. Although he has to admit that it fits in perfectly with Kenmore and McKay’s clothes. Well, okay, not entirely. The lack of any actual furniture or fixtures would be a benefit to whoever’s outside the room, i.e. in control of the room. And the more he examines everything around him, the more he’s realizing that it’s the perfect cell really. There’s an intercom for back and forth communication, a camera to watch their every move, computer controls that he judges with his experiences in Atlantis as reference could easily be shut down or taken over by some other computer someplace else. He’s not sure what the raised enclosed area with those frozen people on it does or means, but it looks like the only thing here that if the need arises, they could use to help themselves. And that might be the point. That this possible trap that they’re in has a very enticing piece of bait for its focal point. Okay, so this place might not be as ridiculous as first glance as Kenmore and McKay’s clothes. Those, he’s pretty sure, are just as ridiculous as they seem.

“Okay, here we go,” Rodney announces, finally getting every facet of his selection exactly the way he wants to experience it from setting the audio to English 5.1 to making doubly sure that there are no subtitles running at any time during this whatsoever. He’s always found subtitles both distracting and only really meant for people too stupid to actually be capable of following the show they’re watching. He’s not stupid and the only distractions he wants throughout this is the pure pleasure of being a Trekkie in Trek. Now he’s finally ready. He moves over to the secondary right side of the console. Good, he sees that his selection has been logged in on the yellow-orange and blue sonar display. He does a quick double-check to make sure everything is as it should be. Episode title, check. Episode number, check. Stardate, right on from his memory and quick calculation. Everything looks good. He looks up at the transporter pad, ignoring the other sonar display option of ‘PREVIEW TRAILER’. He won’t need it, but its upper parallel option, now that one he does need. “Engage episode,” he announces commandingly.

Everyone else immediately shifts their attentions to the transporter pad as Rodney switches over to Scotty’s regular spot directly behind the left side of the transporter console. He swiftly pinches the three red transporter bar controls right in front of him between his fingers and slides the trio down their tracks in unison. It’s a superficial movement he knows, the DVD menu would do this all by itself, but he wanted to do this part himself. Rodney Mackay wouldn’t have it any other way than to feel what it’s like in Chief Engineer Scott’s boots.

There’s a loud whir then the transporter sound effect rings throughout the room again. All four frozen images suddenly disappear on the pad. Replaced by a single unidentifiable, golden glittering silhouette. It’s in the same space that Spock had been, but that’s no guarantee of episode selection, both Kenmore and Rodney know this DVD menu exactly and it does that no matter what episode’s selected and no matter what character’s frozen image represented it. The gold glitter engulfs the entire room again. Then the entire room goes dark…

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