The Chair: 1. Chapter 1


Rodney McKay shifted restlessly in his bed, listening to the faint hum of the city reverberating around him. He had no idea why he couldn’t sleep – god knows he was exhausted enough after the past week or so, having been forced to rise to one challenge after another in their recent confrontation with the Wraith. But now that the danger had passed, and he was finally able to collapse into bed, he suddenly found himself wide awake. Rodney thumped his fists into the mattress, willing himself to get some rest. He’d always slept perfectly soundly before the Atlantis mission, but ever since arriving in the city he’d found himself plagued by occasional bouts of insomnia. He told himself sternly that it was to be expected, considering the life he was leading now, with the constant threat from the Wraith and all the exciting intellectual challenges posed by simply living in the Pegasus galaxy, to say nothing of the ingenuity he had to display every single day just to keep this city of the Ancients running. However, none of that seemed to explain his insomnia – in many ways he felt more exhilarated and alive now than he’d ever been in his life, so why was he having so much trouble sleeping? What the hell was keeping him awake? To say that Rodney was not someone who thought a great deal about his emotions would be an understatement – he was barely aware he had any, save for feeling irritable with everyone who couldn’t keep up with him intellectually, which was most people. Now Rodney found himself feeling irritable with himself.


“Oh for god’s sake. Either get some sleep or do something useful,” he muttered to himself, getting up and glancing out of the window at the beautiful sea view. As he watched the waves rippling in the inky night, he felt that familiar gnawing sensation in his stomach, a sense that something was displaced. Something wasn’t right, but he had no idea what. Could it be the Wraith? Had they returned? Rodney glanced skywards, not seriously expecting to find his answer there, and he wasn’t surprised by the absence of a flotilla of Wraith ships hanging threateningly overhead.


“Yes, the Wraith are a constant threat, but you’re not Teyla,” he growled under his breath. “You wouldn’t be able to sense their proximity, even if they were 10 feet away.” That freaked him out so much that he glanced around just to check there weren’t any Wraith lurking in his quarters, but the room was still and quiet. “Idiot,” Rodney berated himself, but still he couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right – something was out of place, wasn’t where it *should* be, and it was annoying him. Rodney wasn’t a man who had ever acted on instinct – intellectual impulse, yes, but not instinct – so he had no way of making sense of what he was feeling. Instead, the sensation kept him awake at night, making him even more irritable than usual during the day. There was only one thing to do in the circumstances. Rodney took a deep breath and dealt with this unsettling emotion the way he dealt with most emotions – he pulled on his jacket over his pyjamas, put his shoes on, and went to work.


The lab was empty and eerie when he got there. Most of the occupants of Atlantis were sleeping exhaustedly in their beds, except for the nightwatch, and Rodney felt his spirits lift. One good thing about working while everyone else was sleeping was that he wouldn’t be interrupted by a constant stream of people placing idiotic demands on his time and attention. He was so pleased with this observation that he started whistling quietly to himself as he pottered around the lab, grabbing all the bits and pieces of equipment that he wanted. There was one thing in particular that had been bothering him for months, and maybe now he’d finally have the peace and quiet he needed to work on the problem. Having gathered up all he needed, Rodney took himself off to the room that housed the weapons Chair. He dumped his equipment on the floor, went over to the Chair, and examined it closely.


“This bit works the drone warheads, so why do we need this bit?” he asked nobody in particular, resting his hands on the large, energy-processing cell that filled the bottom section of the Chair’s central column. “It’s almost as if you’re trying to engage some kind of energy beam – but that’s not how the Chair works. Or is it?” Another good thing about working alone, a small part of Rodney’s brain observed cheerfully as he tinkered with the Chair, was that he could talk out loud to his heart’s content and nobody thought him strange, or asked him any irritating questions based on what he’d just said.


Rodney puzzled over the problem, engrossed in thought, for a couple of hours, until it suddenly occurred to him that it was the middle of the night, his research on the Chair was going nowhere, and he was finally feeling tired. He pondered going back to bed, but the problem with the Chair was still bugging him, so instead he decided to take a nap, and then begin again when he felt more refreshed.


“Might as well make use of the damn thing,” he muttered to himself, sitting in the Chair. The Chair lit up as he sat down, but he quashed any thoughts of weaponry or battle and the Chair’s lights quickly dimmed down again, to the level of a child’s nightlight. “Thank you,” Rodney told it, wondering whether he needed the Doctor’s help to solve this particular problem. The Ancients’ technology was so inextricably linked with physiology that sometimes it was hard to tell where physics left off and biology took over.


Rodney curled onto his side and closed his eyes, wondering whether he should call Beckett in straight away, or wait until morning. He wasn’t remotely concerned about disturbing the doctor at this hour of the night, but his eyes stung, and he was aware that he needed some rest if he was to be at his best. Just a catnap would do – but now that he’d closed his eyes, that other sensation had come back again – the gnawing sensation in his stomach that had kept him awake in the first place.


“You need to think about something nice,” he grumbled to himself, wrapping his arms around his body and curling up some more. He had a sudden mental image of Major Sheppard laughing at something he’d said the previous day and rolled his eyes. “I said something *nice*,” he warned himself, and consciously shoved Sheppard out of his mind’s eye and tried focusing on an old fantasy instead; Samantha Carter, wearing an unfeasibly tight uniform, talking to him about ancient technology. “Mmm, that’s more like it,” Rodney sighed. Somehow, during the course of their conversation, Samantha would feel an unaccountable need to strip off her top, while still talking, very fast, about ZPMs. Rodney relaxed. This was familiar, comfortable territory and he felt a warm glow rise in his groin. A few seconds later, the lights on the Chair pulsed bright blue, and it emitted such a high pitched hum that Rodney half-jumped, half-fell out of it, and ended up in an ungainly heap on his backside beside it.


“Now what the hell was…?” he began, but was interrupted by a call on his headset.


“Rodney…” Major Sheppard’s voice. Typical. The man had no sense of timing.


“I’m busy,” Rodney interrupted, getting to his feet and venturing back to the Chair, which, now that it no longer had an occupant, had stopped glowing that bright shade of blue.


“I’ve found something,” Sheppard told him.


“So have I!” Rodney replied.


“I said it first,” Sheppard countered smoothly. Rodney stopped, arm half outstretched towards the Chair, and rolled his eyes heavenward.


“It’s not a contest, Major. I’m sure whatever you’ve found is very interesting but I happen to think that…”


“I’m in the west wing of the city, on level 5, directly opposite the South West pier. Just get here. Now,” Sheppard said, and then the link was cut.


“Yes sir, Major Bossyboots sir,” Rodney griped, doing a mock salute as he tore himself reluctantly away from the Chair.


The lower west wing was one of those areas of the city that nobody had widely explored. In fact, Rodney wasn’t entirely sure that any of the Atlantis team had ever been in this particular wing of the city – they were slowly exploring Atlantis, and finding new things all the time, but Rodney doubted that what Sheppard had found was important enough to interrupt his own crucial research into weaponry that could protect them from the next Wraith attack, whenever that came.


“What is it?” Rodney growled as he stomped into the only room on Level 5 that had its door open. “I’m very busy…” He stopped short. Ahead of him was a peculiar little tableau of people; Sheppard was standing in the middle of the room, with Beckett on one side and Teyla on the other – and standing in front of them was the hazy, glowing, hologrammatic figure of a woman in a long white robe.


“Oh great. You’ve brought me all the way down here to see another one of those welcome holograms,” Rodney complained.


“It’s not a welcome hologram,” Sheppard said, remaining unmoving. “This one is interactive. She answers questions.”


“What?” Rodney pushed his way forward and the hologram turned at the movement, looked at him, smiled…and then fizzled out. “What happened to it?” Rodney demanded.


“It keeps doing that – there is some kind of fault on it. We got it working again last time but she does not seem to stay running for long,” Teyla explained.


“How did you get it working last time?” Rodney asked, going over to the generating mechanism and examining it carefully.


“Uh, Major Sheppard kicked it,” Beckett said, in an apologetic tone.


“He did what?! This is sensitive Ancient technology, Major – you don’t take your size 10 boots to it just because it’s not…”


“It was flickering!” Sheppard protested. “I thought if I gave it a bit of a nudge then it would, you know, clear itself.”


“It’s not a *television*, Major,” Rodney reprimanded irritably.


“I know that, Rodney. But it does have a similar signal-based operating system,” Sheppard replied patiently, which, Rodney had to admit, was true enough. “And besides, kicking it worked. Now, can you fix it?”


“Well, if you haven’t completely broken the damn thing…” Rodney muttered, fiddling with the controls. Nothing happened. There was no visible sign of damage. Rodney nudged it slightly with his foot. Nothing. Swallowing his pride, and totally ignoring Sheppard’s “I told you so” look, Rodney swung his foot against it more forcefully, and the hologram fizzed into life again. Her gaze alighted on Sheppard first, and she bowed towards him, a deep, low bow.


“You are very welcome here, My Lord Protector,” she said, gazing at Sheppard with what looked, to Rodney, suspiciously like an expression of adoration on her hazy features.


“My Lord what?” Rodney exploded. “And I thought you said she wasn’t a welcome hologram?”


“She is not,” Teyla said, moving forwards. “She seems to…recognize us.” The hologram turned at her movement and gazed towards her, her smile brightening again.


“Welcome, My Lady Warrior,” she said, giving Teyla a little bow.


Beckett gave a little cough and she turned gracefully towards him. “And you too, My Lord Healer. I am pleased to see you, My Lord. How may I be of assistance?”


“My Lord Protector? My Lord Healer?” Rodney rolled his eyes. “The pair of you will be insufferable after this.”


The hologram turned at the sound of his voice. “Ah – I was wondering where you were, My Lord Devoter,” she said, giving him the same little bow she had given to the others.


“What?” Rodney spun around, gazing at the others. “What the hell is a Lord Devoter? What does that mean? How come the rest of you get to have all the fancy and yet weirdly appropriate titles – well except for you, Major – but Healer…Warrior…I can see where she’s coming from there with Beckett and Teyla. Surely she’s got my title wrong? Surely she means…I don’t know…”


“My Lord Smarty Pants?” Sheppard suggested.


“I was thinking more of My Lord…”


“Egghead?” Beckett butted in helpfully.


“No! My Lord Scientist…or My Lord…”


“Smartass?” Sheppard supplied with a raised eyebrow.


Rodney gave up. “Anyway, you said she was interactive?”


“Yep – ask her a question,” Sheppard said.


“Okay. Why did you just call him My Lord Protector?” Rodney asked, because the grand title Sheppard had been given was annoying him.


The hologram gave him another of those bright smiles. “One Lord Protector is born in every generation,” she said. “Sometimes our people have no need of them, and sometimes they are vital for our defence.”


“Hmm.” Rodney had to admit that Sheppard had defended them all magnificently and bravely on many occasions – and despite the man’s prowess in battle, he also seemed to have more than two brain cells to rub together as well, which never ceased to amaze Rodney who had generally always found the military mind to be impossibly stupid.


“You say this Lord Protector is born?” Beckett asked, edging forward, his eyes glowing with a fascinated intellectual zeal that Rodney recognized all too well. “Are you saying it’s a genetic thing? That there’s something in his genetic makeup that makes him the Lord Protector?”


“That is right, My Lord Healer.” The hologram nodded at Beckett encouragingly. At that moment, Elizabeth hurried into the room.


“Sorry – I got delayed. What is it that you’ve found?” she asked, and then stopped short when she saw the hologram. “A message from the Ancients?” she asked, her eyes lighting up.


“An *interactive* message,” Rodney said, puffing up proudly, as if he’d found the hologram and not Sheppard.


“She speaks to us?” Elizabeth stepped forward, a note of wonder in her voice. “I’m pleased to meet you. My name is Dr Elizabeth Weir and I am in charge of the Atlantis mission.”


The hologram ignored her. It didn’t even turn in Elizabeth’s direction, but remained looking expectantly at Beckett. The team all glanced at each other, unsure what was happening.


“Is she on the blink again?” Sheppard asked.


“No…she appears to be working…but she doesn’t appear to be aware that Elizabeth is speaking to her,” Rodney said, confused.


“Could you tell us how many people are in the room?” Sheppard asked her.


The hologram turned back to him and smiled again. “Certainly. There are 4 of you. My Lord Protector, My Lady Warrior, My Lord Healer and of course my Lord Devoter.” Her face creased into a fond smile as she gazed at Rodney. “He would never be far away.”


“Why ‘of course’?” Rodney pondered out loud. “Why wouldn’t I be far away?”


“Because, of course, wherever My Lord…”


At that moment, irritatingly, the hologram fizzled again and disappeared.


“Damn,” Rodney growled.


“She couldn’t see me at all. She didn’t even know I was in the room,” Elizabeth pondered in a puzzled tone. “And what were all those strange names she gave to you?” She glanced around at them, a worried knot creasing her forehead.


“I think I might have an explanation,” Beckett said, while Rodney went back to fiddling with the hologram’s controls to see if he could bring her back. “She mentioned that Major Sheppard had something in his genetic makeup – something she recognized instantly – and I’m guessing by the way she was talking that she recognized something similar in all of us too – except you, Doctor Weir,” Beckett added apologetically. “I think she was designed by the Ancients to only recognize certain gene patterns, so they could be sure they were only giving information to the right people. Now, Major Sheppard, as we all know, has the strongest form of the Ancient gene that we’ve yet encountered. I have it in a more minor form, and so does Teyla. Dr McKay responded successfully to genetic manipulation, but it didn’t work for you, Dr Weir. I can only presume that she is programmed not to respond to or recognize you if your genes don’t fit.”


“Genes don’t fit. Very droll,” Rodney acknowledged as he continued to work on the hologram. After a few minutes he tried kicking the generator again, and when that didn’t work, he had to admit defeat.


“Maybe she needs to recharge her batteries or something,” Sheppard said.


“A very technical explanation, Major,” Rodney snorted.


“You’re the scientist, not me, My Lord Devoter,” Sheppard grinned. “Maybe you have a better explanation?”


“You only want her fixed so she can continue to flatter your ego with all this ‘Lord Protector’ nonsense,” Rodney jibed, stung because he hated to admit that he had no idea how to get the hologram working again.


“You just don’t like the name she gave you,” Sheppard replied, his hazel eyes twinkling with amusement.


“Rodney, is there a reason why you’re in your pyjamas?” Elizabeth asked, breaking up the sniping between the two of them. For the first time, Rodney became aware that everyone else was in uniform, while he was still in his night garb.


“I was working,” he said stiffly.


“That would explain why you’re not in uniform then,” Elizabeth said sweetly.


“I mean…it’s the middle of the night for god’s sake!” Rodney exclaimed.


“Actually, it’s 9.15 in the morning,” Beckett chipped in.


“Is it?” Rodney glanced at his watch, wondering where the night had gone – and that reminded him of his project with the Chair. “So it is!” he exclaimed. “Well, this has been fun, but I don’t have time to stand around here chatting. I have work to do.” And so saying, he turned on his heel and headed towards the door.


“What about the hologram?” Sheppard called after him.


“I have important scientific projects to work on, Major. I’m sure you can get the hologram working all by yourself with all that specialist, protectoring-type knowledge you have. Perhaps you could try kicking it again – you’re good at that,” Rodney suggested with a superior smile, and with that he sauntered back to his quarters, feeling extremely refreshed. He always liked having the last word. Especially when it was with Major Sheppard.




The break seemed to do Rodney good, because once he’d had a shower, changed into his uniform, and returned to the weapon room, he felt positively inspired and raring to return to the project he’d left behind. He put all thoughts of being a ‘Lord Devoter’, whatever the hell that meant, out of his mind, and turned the full force of his concentration on his work – with the result that less than 2 hours later he had the breakthrough he had been looking for.


“Ingenious!” he declared, crouching beside the Chair with a look of wonderment on his face. All he needed to do now was to test his theory, and there was only one person who could help him do that. True, that person would be reluctant, but then he always was where the Chair was concerned. Rodney didn’t doubt for a moment that he could railroad him into aiding him though. -He hit the intercom and said, in a tone of immense self-satisfaction, “Doctor Beckett, your presence is required.”


Beckett was predictably wary, but Rodney used his usual tactic of not taking no for an answer, and once he explained the genetic and physiological implications of his experiments, he could see Beckett’s curiosity become engaged despite his misgivings. Before long, they were deeply immersed in the project, and would have continued that way if they hadn’t been interrupted a few hours later by Dr Weir’s voice on the intercom.


“McKay, Beckett – I need you up here right away,” she said.


“What is it NOW?” Rodney sighed. “Honestly, can’t a man immerse himself in a perfectly respectable scientific project without being subjected to constant interruptions from…”


“I’m not sure it IS all that respectable,” Beckett said, flushing slightly.


“I don’t care what the hell you’re working on,” Elizabeth said. “The Wraith are back.”


“What?” Rodney exchanged a worried glance with Beckett. “But they left!” he protested. “The cloaking device worked – they thought we’d destroyed the city!”


“Well obviously now they’ve changed their minds and they’re on their way back,” Elizabeth replied. “I need you both in the control room now.”


Rodney didn’t even bother to reply. He and Beckett both left the room at a run.


A council of war was already in session by the time Rodney and Beckett arrived and took their seats.


“We have a big problem,” Sheppard told the assembled personnel. “We’re basically back to where we were a couple of days ago. We’re facing several hive ships, and even more cruisers. The shield will hold for a few days but…”


“Uh…” Rodney interrupted. Sheppard raised an eyebrow. “The shield would have held for a few days under the Wraith bombardment but we’ve been draining the ZPM by using its energy to maintain the cloak around the city,” Rodney said wearily. “If they attack us the same way they did before, then we only have a couple of hours, at most, before the ZPM is depleted.”


“Are we sure that they’ve seen through our ruse about destroying the city?” Beckett asked desperately. “Maybe they’re just coming back for a bit of a second look?”


“I can’t take that risk,” Elizabeth replied. “If we continue to cloak the city then we can’t raise the shield and we’ll be defenceless. I have to assume they’ve found out that we cloaked Atlantis and that’s why they’ve turned around. We have to raise the shield again.”


“How much time do we have before they get here?” Rodney asked.


“About 10 hours,” Caldwell replied. Rodney bit his lip – that gave them no time at all to mount a credible defence, let along any kind of attack. “And our situation hasn’t changed much since the last time they were here,” Caldwell added. “Except the Daedalus isn’t fully repaired yet so I guess we’re at even more of a disadvantage this time around.”


“Are we sure there aren’t any other ways to attack them?” Elizabeth asked, gazing around at her room full of experts. Nobody met her eye.


“That’s the problem – we’re all out of options.” Sheppard folded his arms across his chest and glanced at Rodney for confirmation. Rodney ignored him. He had an idea – he just wasn’t sure whether to mention it.


“The truth is they want Atlantis, and they are not going to stop until they get it,” Teyla said earnestly. “I know the Wraith mind – we have woken them from their hibernation and antagonized them beyond endurance – we even fooled them into thinking we had destroyed ourselves. They are angry, and they will not stop until they have annihilated us, claimed Atlantis for their own…and found their way to Earth.”


“So we either destroy the city ourselves and gate back to Earth, or we go down with the city,” Elizabeth mused.


“If we’re going to gate out of here we’ll have to do it before they arrive. It’ll take one hell of a lot of power to get us to Earth, and the ZPM won’t be able to hold the shield and gate us home at the same time. So once they arrive…it’ll be too late for us to escape,” Rodney informed the room.


“Those who want to should be given the choice to leave – while they can still gate to safety,” Elizabeth said.


“Okay. But I’m not going anywhere,” Sheppard said stubbornly. “Anyone else want to gate out of here before they arrive?” He glanced around the room, but was met only by silence, and the shaking of heads.


“Fine. Then we stay. And we fight,” Sheppard said.


“The Chair…” Elizabeth began.


“We haven’t got nearly enough drone warheads to destroy that Wraith fleet. The Chair’s useless,” Sheppard told her tersely.


“Well…not quite useless,” Rodney said softly, glancing at Beckett.


“McKay, we’re not ready, we’ve barely tested the thing and those ships are less than 10 hours away!” Beckett exclaimed.


“Do you have any other suggestions?” Rodney snapped. Beckett sighed and rubbed a hand over his eyes.


“They won’t like it,” he said.


“Won’t like what?” Elizabeth asked, gazing from one to the other. “McKay, if we have any kind of weaponry that we can use against the Wraith, then I have to know about it.”


“Well…there is something,” Rodney said. “The Chair uses drone warheads, we know that, but it also has some kind of aggressive energy targeting beam as well.”


“Any energy beam powerful enough to destroy those ships will take too much power away from the shield – I can’t risk it,” Elizabeth told him.


“The beam doesn’t use ZPM energy,” McKay replied, watching as that little bombshell struck home. “The Ancients were clever – they knew you couldn’t rely too much on any one energy source so they investigated others.”


“Such as?” Sheppard frowned. “There’s no other energy force on this base strong enough to power a weapon of the kind you just described.”


“Well, actually there is.” Rodney gave a superior little smile. He loved imparting bombshells. He puffed up his chest and went into full lecture mode. “As you know, Ancient technology is inextricably bound to the genetic make up of the people using it. Major Sheppard has demonstrated that by his ability to use Ancient weapons and ships – they respond to him. Even the damn doors open for him if he wants to walk through. This entire city is in tune with him, it can read him – and that works both ways. Those of us with the right genetic makeup can use the Ancient technology – and it can use us. The Chair’s energy beam feeds solely off human energy.”


“Human energy?” Elizabeth repeated blankly.


“That’s right.” Rodney gave another satisfied little smile. Despite the imminent danger, there was some part of him that couldn’t help loving this. Showing off was one of his main pleasures in life.


Sheppard though, that lazy half-smile of his hiding a sharper mind than most people gave him credit for, was already one step ahead of the rest of them.


“What kind of energy, McKay?” he asked softly, dangerously, leaning back in his chair and fixing the scientist with a piercing stare. Rodney swallowed, and glanced at Beckett who had gone a curious shade of salmon pink.


“Human sexual energy,” Rodney said, and then he ploughed on quickly before anyone could react. “The ancients designed the weapon to be able to make use of whatever natural resources exist in the absence of any external power source so…”


“Hang on, back up a bit, Rodney,” Elizabeth interrupted him, at just about the same time as uproar broke out in the room. “Are you saying that in order to activate that beam, someone has to sit in that Chair and, uh…have sex?”


“Well that’s a very crude definition of how it works. We’re talking about complicated Ancient technology here, whereby…”


“Rodney!” she snapped.


“Uh…yes,” Rodney blinked. “Someone has to sit in the Chair, and, uh…look, I don’t know what all the fuss is about! This is good news! It’s an instantly available energy source – it costs us nothing, and if it works then it’ll create enough juice to zap all those Wraith ships right out of the sky. Okay, what did I just say?” Rodney whispered to Beckett, noticing the shocked expressions on their faces.


“I think the word ‘juice’ was possibly a little bit inappropriate in the circumstances,” Beckett whispered back to him.


“How on earth did you discover all this, Rodney?” Elizabeth asked quietly. Rodney felt himself flushing.


“Just a hunch,” he said briskly, not wanting to dwell on that. A memory of Samantha Carter removing her top while talking about ZPMs came to mind, and that wasn’t something he wanted to share with anyone.


“Doctor – do you agree with McKay’s assessment?” Elizabeth asked Beckett who was now flushing a fetching shade of bright beetroot as he remembered the toe-curling testing process Rodney had just put him through.


“Yes, Elizabeth,” Beckett said, in a strangled tone.


“Tell me, Rodney,” Sheppard asked, in a deceptively mild tone. “Who would you recommend to sit in the Chair and perform this vital function?”


“Well…” Rodney paused. The look Sheppard was giving him wasn’t mild at all – it was deadly dangerous, and Rodney was suddenly aware that he was treading on some very thin ice.


“It doesn’t matter,” Elizabeth said. “I wouldn’t order anyone to do this. It’s a gross intrusion into someone’s privacy.”


“Rodney?” Sheppard said softly, still waiting for an answer, his tone now decidedly icy.


“Well, you *are* the Lord Protector!” Rodney exploded. “You seemed to like the title well enough earlier, and this would be…well, protecting. And let’s face it, you’re the one with the fancy Ancient gene that sets all the technology in this place whirring. You’ve also got the technical and military knowledge to know how to use the Chair to best advantage.”


“And would this be a solo mission?” Sheppard asked, those hazel eyes of his giving nothing away. “Because, I seem to remember from biology class that this kind of thing usually requires two people.”


“We don’t think…that is,” Beckett said weakly, “uh, a, uh, solo mission wouldn’t provide the power we need to activate the beam. You can get a rise out of it that way, but you can’t get enough to do any real damage.”


“Who’s using the inappropriate language now?” Rodney hissed at him.


“Sorry,” Beckett stammered.


“Did you guys actually *test* this?” Elizabeth asked, the expression on her face one of barely disguised horror.


“Well…kind of…” Rodney replied. “Some of it we extrapolated from the available evidence, obviously.”


“So, we’ve established that it has to be me, with a partner. Do I get to choose, or do you guys get to decide that too?” Sheppard asked.


“Major, nobody is asking you to…” Elizabeth began but Sheppard held up his hand, still gazing intently at Rodney, waiting for his answer. Rodney swallowed hard, and was unaccountably relieved when Beckett stepped in.


“Major, there’s something interesting about your genetic makeup – not just in the obvious way that you can operate Ancient technology, but there’s also something else, something that’s been puzzling me for a long time. I can figure out most of what that special gene you’ve got does, but there’s one part of it that makes no sense. I think it might be that which needs to activate the weapon – and if that’s the case, then you need to have a partner who has the corresponding gene – kind of like a key fitting into a lock.”


“Supposing there isn’t anyone on Atlantis with that gene?” Sheppard asked quietly.


“We just have to hope there is. Otherwise…” Beckett shrugged.


“We’re all doomed?” Sheppard suggested.


“It kind of looks that way, yes,” Beckett said apologetically. “I’ve already got everyone’s blood samples and genetic profiles – I could run a test on them and find out who the best candidates are,” he said, glancing at Elizabeth.


“No. I’ve already said, I wouldn’t ask anyone to do this.” She shook her head firmly.


“Elizabeth – we may have no other option,” Sheppard told her.


“You can’t seriously tell me you’re happy about this!”


“No, I can’t. But I have a duty here, and I’m prepared to do it. Why don’t we tell everyone what’s going on – if they agree to have their blood samples analysed then fine…if not, then that’s cool too. It’ll be entirely voluntary. And I’m not just saying all this because I’m looking for an easy lay,” Sheppard added, leaning back in his chair with a look that dared anyone to argue with him. Nobody did.


“Damn. So, we have a supersonic beam operated by sexual energy. The Ancients – they were kind of kinky weren’t they?” Sheppard said, musingly.


“Not at all!” Rodney bristled. “Look, I don’t know what all the fuss is about. It’s a simple matter of two people doing what comes naturally, and in so doing just happening to save all our lives and defeat the evil, life-sucking aliens who want to destroy not only us and this city but the planet we came from where several billion people are, at this very moment in time, carrying on with their lives, blithely unaware that those lives hang by a thread, just because a few people here on Atlantis are a little bit squeamish about sex!”


There was a long silence. Everyone stared at Rodney.


“I’ll be in my laboratory if anyone needs me,” Rodney said with as much dignity as he could muster, getting up stiffly and stalking out of the room. Somehow having the last word hadn’t been quite as much fun that time around.




A few hours passed, and nobody ventured down to the lab to see him. Rodney was both pleased and anxious about that. Perhaps he’d gone too far out on a limb this time. All the same, the threat remained real, and the Wraith ships got closer with each passing second so Rodney didn’t think he’d done anything wrong in drawing his discovery to their attention. He busied himself boosting the ZPM and strengthening the shield – there was little else he could do. Finally, a soft-voiced Beckett contacted him.


“Dr McKay – I’ve finished the blood analyses. D’you want to come up here?” he asked.


“On my way,” Rodney replied, pleased to find that at least they’d proceeded with the testing process. He was sure that despite everything that had been said in that meeting, Major Sheppard wouldn’t be averse to a little extra-curricular activity with one of the Atlantis ladies. Rodney wondered, idly, which one of them it would be. His money was on Teyla – she had a slightly alien physiology and she came from the Pegasus galaxy, so was therefore more likely to have some kind of genetic weirdness going on. Besides, she and Major Sheppard got along very well. Everyone knew that. Rodney ignored the angry rush of blood that seemed to rise to his head whenever he thought of Major Sheppard in a clinch with a beautiful woman. He presumed it was just jealousy on his part – when had a woman last looked at him after all? And Sheppard was every inch the action hero, with the good looks to match the heroic demeanour. There were probably women all over the base with their fingers crossed right now, hoping they’d be the ones who got to share some quality time with the erstwhile Lord Protector. It was a bit like Cinderella, Rodney decided, only with a blood test instead of a glass slipper.


Sheppard, Teyla, and Weir were all standing around the perimeter of the Doctor’s office when he got there, each of them looking decidedly uncomfortable as they waited for the Doctor to impart the news.


“So, is it an exact match, or a partial match?” Rodney asked.


“Oh it’s very exact,” Beckett replied. “Surprisingly so. There were some partial matches but this one was stunning. Look.”


He pointed to the swirling picture on his screen. “This here is the Ancient gene that Major Sheppard has. You see this bit.” His finger alighted on a strangely shaped, jutting-out part of the gene. “We found others that sort of work with it.” Beckett pulled up various other strange shapes, some of which fitted the original better than others. “But then we found this.” Beckett clicked on another picture, somersaulted the gene so it was upside down, and slotted it over the tip of Sheppard’s gene. The two clicked into place so that there was no evidence of the join whatsoever – it could have all been one complete gene, not two separate genes from two completely different people.


“That’s extraordinary,” Elizabeth gasped.


“I agree. In fact it’s so extraordinary that it leads me to believe it isn’t accidental – it’s almost as if these two genes were designed to fit together this way,” Beckett said.


“So, who’s the lucky lady?” Rodney asked, glancing up at Sheppard, and feeling yet another wave of red-hot annoyance surge deep in his gut.


“Well, that’s where it gets awkward,” Beckett murmured. “I’d have to ask that this information doesn’t go any further than this room.”


“Of course.” Rodney stood up, and clasped his hands behind his back. “Well?”


Beckett glanced at Sheppard, and bit his lip. “I’m not sure you’re going to like this,” he said.


“Oh, Major Sheppard is a big boy. I’m sure he’ll cope,” Rodney said, confidently.


“It’s you, Doctor McKay,” Beckett said softly.


“Hmmm?” Rodney gazed at Beckett with a glazed expression. “I’m sorry?”


Sheppard gave a little snort.


“It’s you, Rodney,” Beckett said, in an apologetic tone. Teyla gasped, and Elizabeth made a strange sound in the back of her throat that sounded oddly like a dolphin caught in a net.


“What’s me?” Rodney asked, glancing around, feeling that something important had just happened and it had passed him by completely, leaving him one step behind, which wasn’t where he liked to be at all.


“It’s your gene. Your gene fits Major Sheppard’s – you’re the match, Rodney,” Beckett told him.


The room went very quiet. Rodney gazed in horror at the genes spiralling happily together on Beckett’s computer screen, and then, in shock, he glanced up and met Major Sheppard’s amused hazel eyes.


“There must be some mistake,” Rodney croaked, his throat suddenly going dry. “It’s not possible! I mean…I don’t even have the Ancient gene naturally – you had to give me the genetic manipulation therapy…so it can’t be me!”


“I’m afraid it is, Rodney,” Beckett told him sympathetically. “It appears that the therapy we gave you activated a dormant gene you already have – although it’s possible that the dormant gene had already been activated even without the therapy, simply by being in contact with Major Sheppard because he has a dominant version of the gene. There’s a strange kind of switching mechanism on it that I haven’t quite figured out yet.”


“But…but…” Rodney floundered, looking for arguments to refute what he was being told and not coming up with any.


“I don’t know what you’re worried about, Rodney,” Sheppard told him, slapping him casually on the shoulder. “It’s a simple matter of two people doing what comes naturally, after all,” he said sweetly, quoting Rodney’s own words back at him.


“But when I said that…” Rodney blustered.


“When you said that you thought this would be about me – not you. It was simpler then wasn’t it?” Sheppard raised an eyebrow.


“No! I didn’t realize…I mean…when I said that, I just assumed, naturally, as you would, that your genetic partner would be female! Not male!”


“Well, I told you the Ancients were kinky, but you wouldn’t have it,” Sheppard replied, although his tone was kind, and lacked the ‘I told you so’ bite that Rodney had been expecting.


“And I told both of you that nobody has to go through with this,” Elizabeth said. “I’m not issuing any orders. We’ll do our best to fight them – this would be a worst case scenario, and it’ll be up to you two whether you feel able to go ahead with it.”


“Thank you, Elizabeth. However, I’d be a hypocrite after what I said in that meeting if I turned around at this stage and refused,” Rodney said stiffly.


“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to it. Now, I think you two might need some time to discuss this recent turn of events,” Elizabeth said, nodding to both Beckett and Teyla and indicating that they should leave Sheppard and McKay alone.




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