Episode Ten- The Games People Play- Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

The unlikely remaining three of Atlantis’ flagship team walk the hallway rather casually in spite of the fact that one of their number is running dangerously out of time. They’d rather be thorough and make sure they don’t overlook something amiss that might prove valuable than hurrying and accidentally overlooking key details. They check the rooms that lead off of the hallway, but they keep coming up empty. Not to mention discovering that changing Atlantis to be more accommodating of the television episode hasn’t actually changed the décor of the rooms even if it has changed the setup of Operations. Everything else seems to be like usual. Nothing switched or moved or removed from anywhere else. Nothing added either. They come up to yet another hallway junction and cross paths with Major Evan Lorne’s team.

“Anything, Major?” Sheppard asks.

“No, Sir. You?”

Sheppard shakes his head and the two teams do what they’ve down before when crossing path with the other search teams, they continue on with their individual search directions. But before they entirely pass each other, one of Lorne’s team, Coughlin, stops Kenmore by latching onto her forearm. He quickly leans into her. But her shocked and fearful face pulls away from him. Coughlin doesn’t take the hint, leans in further, and hurriedly whispers something in her ear—Her eyes widen. She blinks a few times then Coughlin rushes a few steps to catch up with the rest of his team, they continue on. Ursula finally finds her feet again and starts moving, slowly stepping along to catch back up to Sheppard and Dex who had stopped during the bizarre and uncomfortable exchange.

“What was that about,” Sheppard asks as they go back to searching.

“I really don’t want to say.”

“Why not?” Ronon asks sharply.

“Because I’m not really sure that I’m allowed to.”

“What does that mean?”

“I think it has to do with whatever character the city’s assigned me to be.”

“And what do you think that is,” Sheppard asks with a casual look down the rest of the new hallway. They’re coming up on some doors in about twenty feet.

“Some sort of ship’s counselor I think.”

“Why is that,” he glances back at her.

“When people stop me, they keep telling me really personal private things about themselves. Definitely stuff they’d only ever tell the local psych doc.”

“Like what?”

“I believe that’s privileged.”

John looks back at her and she’s smiling. He faces forward again with his own lopsided grin. Should’ve known.

“Are we supposed to believe that,” Ronon snarks, “Who’d tell you anything?”

“Hey, it’s not like people here don’t tell me things. Like the rumors about Sheppard and McKay or Sheppard and Emmagan.”

John grimaces, “You know I could do without this line of talking.”

“If it makes you feel any better, there’s a few people here who think Dex and Woolsey are shacked up together.”

The men freeze and look at her. Raised eyebrows. Wide eyes. Jaws that don’t know whether to drop open or tighten up so end up in a confused somewhere in between.

“See, see. That’s what I mean. Now Woolsey, I can kind of see why they think he might be gay, but you,” she gestures at Ronon, “I don’t get why people think you’re gay. Not to mention what is up with this city’s obsession with bedroom antics. I mean my god, we’re dying out here and the biggest form of entertainment people can come up with is who’s playing Atlantis’ own in-house version of sexual Survivor.” Ursula Kenmore walks over to another room off to the left, “Out wit. Out last. Out date,” she swipes her hand in front of its sensor. It opens and she leans in for her look around.

Each time, it’s the same. There’s a part of her that’s honestly bummed that none of the rooms have gotten anything even remotely like Original Series quarters detailing, although her favorite quarters aesthetic were from Star Trek The Next Generation. Now those rooms, good God, those babies were beautiful. And huge! The size of small yet incredibly spacious apartments! Fantastic apartments with these beautiful vistas of star dotted space. Brick-ish red lush carpeting, long comfy looking pastel sofas and armchairs, elegant coffee tables, and knick knacks and house plants galore. Chaise lounges. The most sophisticated and elegant laptops ever. Replicator systems embedded in the walls. Small bathrooms that were still pretty damn spacious. Could use some that luxurious accommodations stuff here in Atlantis, but it’s not like the Original Series crew quarters didn’t have something to offer the eye either. Not that the glittery reflective panels that seemed to do nothing other than be ‘futuristic’ interior design accent was what was on her mind, she’d been looking forward to the bright red chicken fencing blocking off areas of the room from each other like a ‘futuristic’ half-wall screen. She’d always liked that detail of the rooms. It stood out to her the most. Come to think of it, that was probably the point of the things’ coloring. But not in Atlantis, no. Nothing like that anywhere so far. No jutting slab of a bed with truly hideous bed linens of a grid pattern of gold and brick red with a pillow to match. Or rather severely Spartan wall aesthetics. Nor are there—well, she has to mentally strike that one off the list; there are some absolutely tacky knickknacks in the crew quarters here already. Really, there’s a wide range of butt ugly and who-on-God’s-green-Earth-collects-that stuff that makes her rethink that those awkward chochkis from a ‘60s television show aren’t nearly as awkward as she’d originally thought. There are even bits of macramé still hanging around that someone brought with them for their orchid or potted fern. Some things apparently never change. She does admit to herself that she misses those Original Series desk chairs. The bowl-like rounded seats padded with somewhat shiny black vinyl that covers the narrow necked backs of the chairs to form a blunt-topped teardrop shape balancing on a shaft of black metal ending in a cross-shape for feet. She’s always loved those chairs and intentionally remembered every itty-bitty detail about them too because she hunted through thrift store after thrift store after thrift store since she was a child shopping with her mother for one of those chairs. One of those really, really great chairs. Never found one… damn it!

Another ‘Damn it!’ is that she also isn’t seeing anything amiss in the Lantean interior design. Same ole, same ole. Green patina walls, textured copper accents, and rust-colored marble flooring with white furniture and naquadah and clear crystal slat chiclet scones to go with the pyramid groupings all over the ceiling, not to mention Frank Lloyd Wright-ish stained glass windows in autumn colors if the room has a window. Yep, great big yawn. Kenmore walks on to rejoin Sheppard and Ronon Dex as they keep moving along and the empty room’s door closes behind her.

“You know, this could actually be worse,” she comments, easily resuming her spot alongside the Colonel’s free side.

“Rodney’s brain was taken by someone we can’t find. How is there anything worse? Were you hoping he was dead when we came to?” Ronon snarks at her, making up for the lack of Rodney being there in his own way and venting some of his frustration while he’s verbally filling in all at the same time.

“Despite your smartassing,” Kenmore answers, “I was talking about the episode choice.”

Ronon grunts dismissal and goes over and checks another room. It’s empty. He comes back to their trio.

“Okay, I’ll give,” Sheppard preempts what might brew up to be yet another Ronon versus Kenmore sniping contest that escalates into violence. It might not, Ronon’s been quite subdued towards the Lieutenant since she’d successfully and easily took out the man as well as Sheppard and Teyla during their recent training exercise, and Rodney too eventually, but still, John can’t be too cautious. Ronon had grabbed the Lieutenant so hard he actually made her wince. There was probably bruising, but her healing abilities might have made quick work of that. Anyways, John doesn’t need escalation right now… well, maybe. It would be a taste of the usual that they’ve come to accept on missions. Like how Rodney prattles on about his supposedly ‘high’ metabolism or ‘delicate’ fair skin or anything of the everything else the scientist gripes about on missions that require more footwork than he thinks they should, which just so happens to be every mission they go on. “What episodes would be worse than this one,” John asks.

“Well, there’s my favorite episode that so happens to be McKay’s second favorite.”

“What happens in that one that’s worse than what’s happening in this one?”

“That depends on how much worse you think it would be for there all of a sudden to be a Wraith hiveship in orbit and suddenly there’s twelve Wraith wandering around the city lookin’ for shore leave?”

The men look at her.

“Oh, and that isn’t even the worst part,” she tells them.

“Wraith using Atlantis as shore leave isn’t the worse part of that scenario,” Ronon asks.

She shakes her head, “Nope.”

“What is,” Sheppard asks.

“Tribbles,” she answers, “Lots and lots of tribbles.”

“What are tribbles,” the Satedan’s never heard of such things.

“Cute little furry creatures that are so adorable,” she beams, clearly familiar with them, “They purr and cuddle.”

Ronon stops and turns to her with a blank, unimpressed face, “Cute furry cuddly things are worse?”

She nods emphatically, “You see the dangerous part about them—“

“They’re dangerous,” he repeats, still blankly.

“Yes, because they’re born pregnant. You can’t feed them anything otherwise it kick starts they’re gestation cycle and in a few hours you’ve got yourself a mommy tribble with an average litter of ten baby tribbles.”

“They reproduce when they eat, so what?” He shrugs.

“Assuming every tribble has that average litter of ten, which they do, and they also give birth twelve hours after that first little nibble of food, you have a population of one million seven hundred,” Ronon’s eyebrows jump up and Sheppard’s do too, “seventy one thousand five hundred sixty one at the end of just three days time. So let alone are they really prolific, they can get into tight spaces too. Air vents, food processors, ever space you can possibly think of that would be really, really bad for those cute little furry buggers to get into.”

Holy crap, Sheppard’s stunned intense eyes turn away from her and he starts them moving again. Slowly. Okay, so she’s right. That would be worse. Tiny little baby-farms breeding Atlantis out of usable service with Wraith in the city let alone orbit. His mind starts trailing to all the many ways that bad. Air vents, Radek can barely fit into the smaller versions of those and Kenmore managed to squeeze in with full gear on and if every single one of those became a nesting area… John blinks at the flooring passing away beneath his feet. Food processors, while Atlantis doesn’t have any of those, they do have a kitchen and food storage areas and if those little things can get into the vents, why would the fridges suddenly be off limits? Every space he can possible think of that would be really, really bad… He almost freezes: The drone rooms! “Okay,” he swallows hard, “so what was your guys’ second choices?”

“Worser still. For me, it’s ‘Mirror, Mirror’. We’d be battling the evil versions of ourselves. Well, actually in that episode it’d be you, Woolsey, Zelenka acting as Scotty, Emmagan acting as Uhura, and Doctor Beckett as McCoy battling evil versions of the rest of us in an evil parallel universe of this one. Oh, and whoever the city thinks is Chekov will end up trying to knife you and Woolsey in the back at some point in time and hiring a couple of marines to help him do it.” Conveniently skipping over the fact that her second favorite Trek episode of all time is the Deep Space Nine episode called “Crossover” featuring that series’ Mirror universe. Ursula can just envision Teyla Emmagan as both the Lantean DS9’s Bajoran Major Kira Nerys as well as the Lantean Terok Nor’s Intendant Kira Nerys. Her mind fleshes out the rest of the roles and how the action would go… she shivers and covers it up as an awkward stretch. Spooky and scary as hell is what that would have been.

John’s imagination takes that stabbed in the back thing and runs wild with it, “Well, isn’t that nice,” he says sourly, “And what was Rodney’s second choice?”

“You mean after ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’?”

He nods.

“Another really bad choice for Atlantis, his third favorite is ‘Balance of Terror’.”

“What happens in that,” Ronon asks and John wished he hadn’t, what good can come of a show named ‘Balance of Terror’?

“Atlantis would be going head to head against a hiveship just as powerful as the city is and we’re both in space on the brink of Wraith territory. We’d be duking it out until basically both ships are pretty much dead in the water, the Wraith slightly more worse off than us, and then the Wraith commit suicide and we try and try and try to limp our butts back home. Oh, and while we’re fighting, you, and consequently Woolsey, get chummy and chatty with the Wraith Queen aboard the hiveship until she blows herself and her ship up to kingdom come. You two’ll even like her so much that you both regret that she kills herself and she might even like you two right back and regret having to off herself too. She’ll tell you that you three are of like kind and had this been a different universe you three could be friends, but that won’t stop her from doing what she feels she must and blowing herself and her ship up. Great huh?”

Ronon looks at her, not caring about that sarcastic last sentence, “You call that fun? Something like that is entertainment to you?” That’s brutal everyday life in the Pegasus Galaxy. How is what he and his people have endured for hundreds, thousands of years fun?

Kenmore nods at him, “Hm-mmm. Actually it’s how a lot of us got interested in science and space exploration in the first place.”

“Science?” The Satedan can see the space exploration part, but the other, no.

“Yep.”

“How does anything you’ve just said involve science?” Still not seeing it.

“Don’t ask,” Sheppard says. At least, he knows the answer to that one.

“All of the devices in it from the ship itself to Teyla’s earpiece to the marines’ phasers to the communicators was imagined by that series and geeks like Rodney and Zelenka made them a reality. You probably wouldn’t find this hard to believe, but we didn’t even have computers until that show came out and inspired someone to make one.”

“Really,” he looks over at Sheppard and the Colonel reluctantly nods agreement.

“Everything we take as a modern convenience on our planet owes its origins to this television series.”

The Satedan looks ahead of him, “That’s pretty sad of your people as a whole.” Perhaps it was because of thousands of years of interactions with the Ancestors and their technology, but none of what he sees here in Atlantis and has seen over the years is anything he hasn’t seen before. None of it he would consider a ‘modern convenience’.

Sheppard’d been fearing that comment was coming. Kenmore nods, but it’s mostly because, taking into account the philosophy of that series and it’s spinoffs, her people as a whole still have a lot longer way to go.

They keep walking down the hallway… checking doors as they come to them… plenty of doors… still coming up empty for Rodney’s brain or the intruder woman… whole lot of nothing…

“I should have expected this from McKay the moment I saw the images from the episode selections on the transporter pad,” Kenmore scolds herself after their long silence continues into another hallway, down its long doorless length, and into a more hopeful hallway with doors lining both of its sides. It’s only a handful of doors on the left side and on the right, but at least there’s doors.

“Why?” The Satedan looks over at her.

“An, even by Star Trek standards, scantily clad hot chick who only wants him for his mind? I know I haven’t known McKay for that long, but how is any of that not in his wheelhouse?”

Okay, on that, Ronon has to agree with her; he nods.

“Okay,” Sheppard gives in too, “that does sound like it’s right up Rodney’s alley.” But now that it gets brought up, “To be honest, I thought he’d go for that hot chick on the platform.”

Kenmore shruggingly nods, “I can see that one too, but that one would kind of be boring for everyone else. He’d be schmoozing the enemy chick the entire time on her ship with her all hot and bothered for him while we basically sit on our hands in Atlantis. Not really fun except for a machismo ego stroking.”

“Wait, you’re telling me that Rodney would be hit on by and hitting on a Wraith Queen?” Ronon finds that hard to believe.

“Not exactly, Wraith are our enemies like the Romulans, yes, but her race is supposed to be a sister if not cousin race to Rodney’s, so Wraith Queen, no. But,” her mind searches for a connection, “maybe some Ancients, he at least has the gene therapy, that aren’t exactly friendly to our cause. Maybe some that think an awful lot like the Ori but aren’t the Ori. It is possible. I mean it’s not like you guys haven’t encountered Ancients here that have totally abandoned the people of this galaxy to the Wraith in lieu of saving their own asses.”

John remembers all too well the sanctuary of Ancients he’d gotten stuck with for months due to time dilation. Although he wouldn’t call them going into that sanctuary in the first place ‘abandoning the human population of the Pegasus to the Wraith’, he does admit that it was pretty cowardly of them and not at all in keeping with the stories about them that Teyla’s people and a lot of other peoples in the Pegasus tell about the great and good Ancestors. And it’s also not like they haven’t run into incredibly hot Ancient chicks on ships of their own before. Rodney did get pretty drooling about that Ancient commander on the Aurora, so did John, until they found out it was a Wraith using her body in disguise to get access to privileged information from the Aurora’s Captain. Hell, even after finding out it was a Wraith guy’s mind in that body, Rodney was still pretty panty after her and John had to remind the man that it was a Wraith. Rodney, you’re drooling over a Wraith, John can still remember Rodney’s honest and funny retort to him, I know, I disgust myself sometimes. John smiles, McKay, he shakes his head, McKay

The three of them come around a corner and see the holodeck room’s door is still open—They stop.

“Why is it glowing,” Kenmore points.

“Is that a forcefield,” Sheppard seconds. Squinting.

The trio slowly walks up to it. There’s some sort of shield over the opened doorway not unlike the Stargate’s iris. It’s remarkable. They’ve never seen the iris cover anything other than the Stargate’s center gap. Ursula peers through its peacock iridescent haze. There’s been changes to the room. In fact there’s no room at all. She sees beautiful blue sky the likes of which would be featured in the most enticing photo of a summer’s day at a park, quintessential for a calendar piece. But no park, alpine mountain range instead. Craggy snowcapped mountains etch the background like a painting with picturesque and flowing snow drifts winding down from the grey rocky peaks like frozen water rivulets slipping away from their sandy river bed. The rocky terrain itself starts out grey at the top and as it gets closer to flatter ground changes color to a reddish brown like the soft powdery dirt of the valley between the mountain chains. Bare reddish brown ‘trees’ are sparsely arranged around here and there around the environment like a giant child stuck random leafless twigs in the ground upright in an innocent bid to get the dead limbs to come back to life and grow leaves once more. It takes her a moment, but Ursula recognizes the new environment thanks to the reference they’re all already going through courtesy of McKay.

“It’s the planet that the woman Kara took Spock’s brain to,” Kenmore reaches out towards it and her hand hits the shield.

A shock of pain rips through her knuckles. She yelps as she recoils. Holding her hand. The pain tingling through her bones. Her arm from the elbow down to spasms uncontrollably. Sheppard pulls her farther away from the shielded doorway before he takes a look at her injured hand. Two of Kenmore’s fingernail tips are scorched like she’d put each one into a light socket. His nostrils flare at the distinct smell of burnt bone. He has to remind himself that that is exactly what nails are, extremely thin and exterior grown bones. John fears for her for a moment, before he starts watching the blackened bits turning grey then healing even further and returning to their normal coloring. He can feel her arm’s tense spasms easing and the big puffy blisters steadily and noticeably deflating. Thank God she’s half Ancient and can heal herself of third degree burns like that. But he remembers his rudimentary First Aid training, third degree burns often do more damage underneath the skin than on the surface; her muscle spasm tell him that much. His eyes lock with hers to ask the unspoken question, Ursula nods at him even though her expression is agonized. Yes, she’ll be fine.

“I should have known not to touch it,” her voice is breathy while she pants.

“Why?”

“In the episode, when they find the planet where they think the woman went with Spock’s brain, only Kirk, Scotty, Chekov, and a couple of security officers, you know Red Shirts, went to the planet. Not whoever I’m supposed to be.”

Sheppard and Ronon look over at the doorway. The city is definitely going out of its way to adhere to the episode’s storyline including doling out punishments to whoever fails to adhere to the storyline too. They’ll have to pass that little tidbit along to the others.

“Try it,” Sheppard gives his friend the go-ahead, “Maybe you’re one of the Red Shirts that’s supposed to go along.” That would explain Ronon’s outfit color, there’s probably no one else more dedicated to the security of Atlantis than the Satedan who’s learned to call this place ‘home’, and it makes even more sense for him to come along since a situation like this would call for Atlantis’ flagship team to be all hands on deck. If John had to go into a fight, Ronon is the guy he’d take in right beside him. Always.

Ronon reaches over cautiously till his fingertips hit the shield. He feels the shock of pain and jumps back. Yelling. Cringing. Clamping his fingertips in his free hand, trying pace this off. Kenmore rushes out of Sheppard’s hold on her biceps over to the injured Satedan. Quickly she takes his severely burned tanned fingers gently in her hands, careful of the swelling blisters doubling his fingers size in large round spots at random. She can feel in the heat of his skin that there’s worse beneath the surface, but thankfully his nails aren’t burnt. She closes her eyes. His dark eyes focus on her as she concentrates on his wound. Suddenly he’s distracted by the golden glow of her healing abilities. Ronon looks down, the light on his hand feels warm; comfortably so, not hot and searing like the electricity of the iris-like shield. A calming sensation infuses his whole arm and he can genuinely feel her curing him of his burn.

While Kenmore repairs Ronon’s hand, John Sheppard walks up to the forcefield. Okay, so maybe Ronon’s not the Red Shirt that comes with him through alpine country here. He can’t imagine why, he’d definitely chose Ronon to come with him… Wait, ‘here’. John is Captain Kirk here along with Woolsey. Doesn’t that mean that the forcefield should let him through if it lets any of the three of them in at all, shouldn’t it? He starts to reach for the iris-like shield.

Just as she’s finished with Ronon, Kenmore opens her eyes, turns, and sees Sheppard.

“No! You can’t,” she dives for his hand. Stopping him in time.

“But you said Kirk is supposed to and the city thinks I’m—“

“They transported to the planet’s surface. You know, beamed down.”

John looks back at the shielded room full of Earth-like environment, “How do we beam down?”

The Lieutenant shrugs. He taps his earpiece, gets the irritating piercing beep series, yanks out his earpiece, and watches it transform in his hand the way it had with Woolsey. He hadn’t done that before, the city must be catching up to the rest of its fine tuning. For some reason, it feels to him that they’ve lost more time off their clock as if the city’s slow process to acclimate itself to the full parameters of the episode somehow affected Rodney. Without him saying a word, Kenmore shows him how to use the communicator just like she had for Woolsey and, “Radek, this is Sheppard, we found something. The holodeck room’s changed into a planet’s surface, but there’s a forcefield over the doorway. We can’t get in and there’s no touching it, it gives you a nasty burn if you do.”

“Has anyone been injured, Colonel?”

“Nothing Kenmore’s healing abilities couldn’t handle.”

He can here Radek nod over the handheld communication device’s connection, “Then that would figure, Colonel. On the show the landing party never just walked onto a planet’s surface, they beamed down using the transporter or flew there in one of the Enterprise’s shuttles.”

Sheppard, Ronon, and Kenmore look back at the entryway from the hallway they came from. There is a transporter back there, but it was Woolsey’s express decision over the city-wide that no one was to use the transporters until further notice in case the city had done something that changed their usual operating parameters to be in accordance with the television show it’s playing out.

“Maybe it’s time to put the transporters into use,” John asks.

He can hear some buttons clicking and switches snapping then, “According to what I am understanding from the city’s computers, those are operating like the turboelevators on the Enterprise, which means that they are operating as they normally do for us. They are not the right sort of transporters you require.”

“Well, what else do we have in the city that can transport stuff?” Ursula asks loudly enough for the radio link to pick up. “It’s not like we can fly one of the puddle jumpers around the hallways and through the doorway.”

From his position in the Operations Command Center/Ship’s Bridge, Doctor Radek Zelenka looks out their bank of glass windows at what he can see of the Gateroom… his eyes travel directly down to the Expedition’s usual mode of planetary transit.

“Actually, I may have an idea about that,” he tells his own opened communicator.

Sheppard, Ronon, and Kenmore exchange looks between each other. What the hell does that mean? She leans closer to Sheppard’s communicator, “You know I was being flippant about that flying the jumpers through the hallways stuff, right?”

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