Spoilers: 4.20 The Last Man
Posted to: sga_episodefic, mckay_sheppard
Summary: How did Rodney keep it together during the events of the Last Man? He didn't, of course.
The whoosh of the event horizon forming made Rodney glow inside, just a little. He shook his head at himself. Every damned time.
"Atlantis here. Check in time. Colonel Sheppard, please respond." Rodney broadcast merrily as soon as the horizon settled into the usual puddle. "You're late! You owe me five bucks." He frowned when there was only silence. "Sheppard? Respond."
"Uh, Atlantis? This is Major Lorne." Lorne sounded puzzled and a bit amused. "I sent Colonel Sheppard back there myself over an hour ago. I suggest you hunt him up in the city." There was a mutter and a muffled laugh, and Lorne finished with, "sounds like that five bucks is toast, Doctor McKay."
Rodney felt a wash of cold as all blood left his face in horror. He felt Chuck freeze beside him. "What.." He choked on the words, had to clear his throat before he could continue. "Major Lorne." He didn't even recognize his own voice. "You sent the Colonel through the gate to Atlantis an hour ago? Please confirm."
"Yeah, uh, that's affirmative. I watched him dial Atlantis myself." Rodney could practically hear Lorne rolling his eyes, and under normal circumstances would have been busily ripping his disinterest to pieces. These were not normal circumstances.
"Zelenka! Get your ass down here right now! Bring every piece of diagnostic equipment you and anyone else there can carry." He pushed Chuck out of his way as he dove for the bag of spare gate crystals and other tools he kept for repairing the ancient control room equipment nearby.
"Rodney, I am in the middle ..."
"What is the nature of the emergency, and where are you?" Radek immediately dropped into his all business mode. Rodney was grateful someone was paying attention.
"Gate malfunction, control room." He zipped up the bag, looked around wildly to see if there was anything else useful he could take with him.
"Doctor McKay?" Lorne sounded totally awake now, and more than a little freaked out. Rodney realised he'd left the mike open. Radek burst into the gate room, loaded down with laptop cases and other bags of tools. Miko was a half-step behind him. Rodney jogged down the steps to the floor of the gate room to meet them, pointing through the wormhole.
"Rodney? If the gate is malfunctioning..." Radek slowed down, looking nervous. Miko blinked behind her huge glasses.
Rodney just gave a dismissive wave and walked through the gate.
He almost bowled Lorne over on the other side. Lorne jumped back in surprise but Rodney simply stepped around him, heading for the DHD. He was unpacking and clipping cables into place even before Lorne had a chance to turn all the way to face him. A moment later the gate rippled and disgorged Radek and Miko, who joined him at the DHD. Rodney glanced at the readouts on his tablet and frowned. He tapped his earpiece. "Atlantis, where's Daedalus?"
Chuck's voice came through perfectly. "A day out from here. Three days from your current position, Doctor McKay."
"Ok. Tell them to start heading our way." Rodney ordered briskly. "Stand ready to shut down the gate on my signal."
"Rodney?" Sam's voice cut through. "What are you doing?"
"Sheppard went in the gate and didn't come out the other side," Rodney replied curtly, fingers busy. There was a long silence as Sam digested what that meant... what Rodney was refusing to process.
"The gate has been activated, Rodney." She sounded... sympathetic.
"Yes, thank you, Sam. I had noticed that part." He'd been aiming for sarcastic, but the words came out savagely, full of the rage he'd been so much more successful at controlling these last couple of years. It was the only thing keeping the gibbering terror at bay. He tugged, and the gate's power conversion crystal came loose in his hand.
The gate winked out.
"Doctor McKay." Lorne came to his side. He looked resolute and a little nervous. The other members of his team were scanning their surroundings, looking like they knew something was wrong but they weren't sure where to point their guns. "I think you need to tell me what's going on." Radek and Miko were both staring at him wide-eyed, clutching their bags to their chests.
"Atlantis was dialled from this DHD," Rodney pointed, and Lorne nodded slowly. "Colonel Sheppard entered the gate?" Lorne nodded again, and his hand twitched towards his sidearm in that nervous habit all the Atlantis field personnel developed when they felt that everything was about to go sideways. Rodney's own fingers jerked a little in response. "Major," Rodney said as clearly and firmly as he could. "I was in the gate room myself for the last three hours running sensor diagnostics, and the gate never dialled. Colonel Sheppard never made it to Atlantis."
Lorne went dead pale. "I..." He closed his eyes, thinking hard. "No, he dialled the right address. I'm sure it was Atlantis." A little colour came back to his cheeks. "But.. this happened to SG-1 once, right? Teal'c got stuck in the gate?"
"We better hope not." Rodney replied tersely. "That was a different situation." He fought back the desire to start laughing at the crestfallen expression on Lorne's face. He had the feeling that if he started he'd never really stop. "Cause if John was stuck in the gate? Then when I dialled up for the check in, I wiped him out of existence. I killed him." He felt the terrible grin start to spread over his face despite his best effort. "So we need to determine it was something else." He swung his gaze to Radek and Miko, who took a step back in unison at his expression. "You understand me?"
Rodney turned back to the gate and methodically started taking it apart. If he spent the entire time talking to it as if John was inside listening, no one said a word.
As he came around the corner of Michael's facility behind Lorne, Rodney felt his heart stop in his chest. He could see something through the doorway ahead of them, a flash of brown and blue that his eyes flatly refused to resolve into anything coherent. Ronon raced ahead to the doorway, Lorne lagging back to cover their rear. Automatically Rodney followed, covering Ronon's entry, already knowing what they would find.
Ronon crouched beside her, hand moving to check for a pulse. Rodney felt his heart start again, ratcheting up into dread. Ronon turned to look at him, his face a mask of devastation, his eyes already welling with rage and grief.
Rodney stared back helplessly, Lorne's soft curse echoing beside him, and the despair came up and swallowed him whole.
Ronon stood, shaking. Rodney found his hand on Ronon's arm, gripping more tightly than he'd known he could. His nails dug in, drawing blood. Ronon didn't flinch, simply met his gaze with eyes as lost as his own must be.
"We're going to kill him," Rodney told him, voice absurdly gentle, as if talking to a child. Ronon was nodding, nodding, lips spreading into a rictus that no one sane would ever call a smile. Lorne stepped back from them both nervously patting his gun. "We're going to bathe in his fucking blood."
They both ignored the blood that dripped from Ronon's arm to the ground. This kind of pledge required a sacrifice, after all.
Rodney didn't even bother to look up from where he was packing the latest shipment of 'special supplies' for Ronon. The C4 lined the sides of the crate, cradling his latest mini-generator snugly. Twice the power of a Mark II, enough to power Ronon's entire camp for... well. Ever. The detonators went in the next crate, along with the box of balanced throwing knives he'd managed to smuggle in from Earth. Half-way through the crate of blankets he'd managed to stash a zat, just for Ronon. He rocked the crate a little, checking his work.
It didn't move. Excellent.
He realised that the voice had repeated his name several times and was getting progressively more worried. "Yes, what?" he demanded irritably, snapping the lid down on the first crate and tightening the cargo straps with single-minded intensity. Radek slipped up beside him, pushing him gently out of the way and tightening the lid himself.
"I have this, Rodney," he said quietly.
Rodney gave an indignant snort.
"Rodney." Radek repeated, frustration and something else muffling his words. "Go now."
Rodney rolled his eyes but stepped away. "Don't forget to check the..."
"Yes, Rodney!" Radek half-shouted. "I have this!"
"All right, all right. Going." He turned on his heel, coming to an abrupt halt when he saw Lorne waiting at the bottom of the stairs to the gate room, the puddle of the open wormhole bathing him in blue. Lorne's face looked as though he'd aged ten years since Rodney'd seen him that morning in the mess. He met Rodney's eyes squarely, almost able to hide his wince. After a long moment, as the wormhole blinked out, he looked away.
"Ronon." Rodney was obscurely proud that his voice was calm. Actually, it seemed everything was calm, as if he'd suddenly been wrapped in an invisible cocoon of cotton batting or something. Somehow he'd always thought that when that final straw came, it would be some kind of a 'snap', something audible, even if only in his head. Instead, this was... this was weird. It was quiet. This was like falling upright, like everything was here and gone and up and down all at the same time. His team was gone. All of them, all gone, leaving him, Doctor Rodney McKay, the sole survivor. It didn't even hurt. How could that be? He was pretty sure it should at least hurt. He choked a little, fighting back a desire to giggle.
Lorne nodded warily.
"What?" He licked dry lips. "What happened?"
"He was killed in one of Michael's labs." Lorne still couldn't meet his eyes, but his innate honour reflected itself in the direct way he told the story. "His men all got out. They said he was helped by a rogue Wraith." Rodney nodded his understanding, the room receding even further, the cotton getting thicker.
"What about the planet?" He asked suddenly, turning his back on Lorne and pushing Radek out of the way to flip open the latches on the crates with fingers suddenly surer than they'd been in what felt like years. What may have been years. Radek moved away willingly, heading for the stairs and burying his face in his hands.
"The planet?" Lorne had moved past wary, straight into worried.
"Were they successful in freeing the planet from Michael's influence?" He stepped to his second crate, grabbed a double handful of detonators, moved back to the first. A few quick motions and he was almost ready. He took a life signs detector out of his pocket and picked up a mini-screwdriver.
"They destroyed the facility," Lorne said slowly. "But he had already stripped the population. There's no one there but hybrids."
"Are we sure?" A twist here, a tap there... and... Ready. He found himself humming a little under his breath. Detonator connects to the... C4! The C4 connects to the ... naquadah! Naquadah connects to the .. LSD! And a bomb is made....
Lorne waited until Rodney had turned to look over his shoulder, waited until Rodney met his eyes. This time there was no wavering, no looking away. "Ronon was," he said firmly.
Rodney felt the first little tendril of pain at the edge of his mind, tap tap tapping to get in. He ignored it in favour of holding Lorne's gaze. The other man shrugged. Rodney turned to where the gate technician of the day stood watching them nervously from the control room. "Dial the gate," he called up.
"Uh. To... to where?" The tech asked diffidently.
"M56-RX2," Lorne answered firmly.
"But ... wasn't this supposed to go to the supply depot?"
Lorne simply lifted an eyebrow and stabbed a finger at the tech's console. The tech gulped and started pressing buttons. They heard the distinctive clinks of the DHD panels before the gate started lighting up. Rodney grabbed the handles of the crate, started to lift before Lorne stopped him to take the far side. "Let me help you with that."
"Did you know that Satedans cremate their dead?" Rodney asked Lorne conversationally as they waited for the whoosh of the gate to clear. *Tap, tap, taptaptap* He needed to be quick. Lorne read the change in his body and started immediately for the rippling event horizon. When he spoke he was clearly striving for normalcy, and Rodney clung to it.
"No, but I'm not really surprised." They set the crate on the rolling pallet that they all used for transporting goods and gave it a shove through the gate. Radek watched them with eyes almost as empty as Rodney felt. Rodney slipped the tablet from his back and hit a couple of keys, then motioned for the tech to shut down the gate.
"But aren't you going through?" The tech asked, bewildered. Rodney ignored him, striding as fast as he could out of the gate room towards his quarters. *TAP TAP TAP* He could feel the howl rising in his throat.
"No point in going through," Lorne answered calmly behind him. "There's nothing there, anymore."
He'd expected Jennifer to be the easiest.
After all, it wasn't a surprise, not like Ronon had been. Nothing like John had been. Those had been sudden, utterly unexpected. This was... this was torture by millimetres. Seeing the freight train of loss coming towards him at the pace of an anaemic snail and being completely unable to avoid it anyway.
He held her hand tightly, doing his best to ensure that she knew he was there with her no matter what, that she wasn't going alone. Offering her all the things that he wasn't able to provide for his team. When her eyes started to glaze and she looked past him at something he knew he wouldn't be able to see even if he tried, he held on all the tighter.
He thought he was ready.
He'd been at it for twenty-five years when he realised there was no way to make it work. Not the way he'd been going about it.
If the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same thing and expect different results, he'd been crazy a long, long time.
Rodney stared blankly at his screen, his latest round of calculations scattered precisely across its surface, and started to smile.
Lorne had been easier to convince than Rodney had hoped, and he'd given him all the access he could need along with the resources to make it all work. How he'd managed to shake loose a Mark XII generator was something Rodney had immediately decided not to look at too closely. The biggest challenge had been getting authorization to get himself to Atlantis, but Lorne had accomplished that too.
Remembering the haunted look in his eyes when he'd waved Rodney through the gate, he figured that Lorne had some old ghosts too. It made him wonder how much of the plan Lorne had divined beyond the surface explanation. When he unpacked his crates and found a shielded lead box, he knew. Lorne might not know the details, but he'd gotten the gist.
Three months now on Atlantis, and he was finally ready.
He did the final checks of the computer cores, the crystal-based fibre cables connecting everything, and the integrity of the stasis chamber that would be his home for the rest of his life. It had taken significant tinkering to ensure its viability for the entire time he'd need to wait for John, and to his resigned grief he wouldn't be able to come out and meet John in body. But the work he'd put into the holographic subsystems and emitter network would mean that he could still meet him in person, could still talk to him when he arrived. In forty-eight thousand years, his body would be a withered husk unable to exist outside of his stasis pod, but his mind would be strong as ever.
Assuming he could keep himself from going insane in the meantime, of course. It was a thought that made him laugh out loud, drawing curious looks from the remaining technicians Lorne had loaned him to set up.
Atlantis was barely classifiable as an outpost these days, with Earth withdrawing all but the minimum resources necessary to provide an evacuation route. Rodney had been able to work with a single-minded focus he'd never experienced within the city before. It was... eerie. He hated it. But he'd made it through all of the tests and dry runs he'd needed to make the interfaces seamless.
He'd managed the calculations for John's return at the very beginning, and then he had spent all that time attempting to work out how to get the systems to be able to determine the right moment, how to calculate the convergence of unbelievably complex variables into a single shining instant. The dialling sequence would have to be precise to the nanosecond, and only the Ancient technology was capable of that. But the recognition of the event being about to occur, and the final calibration of the gate, that just could not be programmed. Not even in the AI. Not even in Atlantis. He needed to send John back, and he needed to be certain.
He needed to be there, himself. And figuring out how to do that had only taken him six months.
Rodney sighed, an amused half-smile on his face. It was time to put the next step into motion. He waved the technicians out of the room, shut and sealed the door behind them. A quick movement severed the connections to the control crystals, locking them out. Locking him in.
Four steps to the stasis pod, and then he was inside, staring at the open lid above him. "Wide blue skies," he muttered softly, and pressed the button to close the pod.
A hiss and crackle woke him what felt like mere minutes later. It took him a moment to orient himself. Everything was black, and he was on the verge of panic when the crisp burst of com static came again, startling him badly. He concentrated hard, spun the channels in his head.
[... Sheppard, anyone on this frequency?]
Holy Jesus, Mary and Joseph. It actually worked! He wanted to laugh, wanted to scream, wanted to cry. Instead, he settled for simply letting the relief and joy rush through him, and triggered the communications system.
"Sheppard! Is that really you?"