Title: Grace in a Vacuum
Fandoms: Stargate: Atlantis, Star Trek: The Next Generation
Thanks to: jarodrussell, notpoetry and -last but definitely not least- not_sally, for betaing above and beyond the call of duty.
Summary: When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.
(Exclusive, wonderful cover by not_sally)
(Four days ago)
Wormholes are mathematical impossibilities, controlled, repeatable singularities only understandable in terms of recursively infinite equations.
"McKay Equations," they are called by the dozen or so scientists in Earth who understand them. Partly to honor him, but mostly in a vain attempt to get him to shut the hell up about how much smarter than them he is. And how inherently elegant Ancient physics are, and how irresponsible it is, really, to send somebody of his caliber on a exploration trip, even if he is of course the only possible choice, and while biologists tell everybody that the exotic particles in wormhole openings aren't dangerous, what do biologists know about exotic particles anyway? Bunch of pseudocientific quacks most of them, and...
Dr. McKay's assignment to the Atlantis expedition had been, all in all, celebrated by those of his colleges who knew about it.
Another galaxy seemed about far enough, and the military was, after all, trained to endure pain. Not to mention the possibility that somehow, somewhere, McKay would finally meet a wonder capable of teaching him humility, or at least silence.
So far ancient underwater cities, sun-destroying bombs and multiple close encounters with death had failed to do so. Sadly, the first moment of momentary triumph would have no witnesses.
McKay entered the gate just behind Col. Sheppard, and stepped into an empty Gate Room.
For a few seconds he stood silent, twisting around in quick motions as if expecting to see everybody hidden behind his back.
His silence, of course, didn't last.
"Sheppard! Teyla! Where... C'mon, this isn't fun! Where are you? And what is wrong with this gate?! Control, reopen the gate to the previous coordinates.... Control. Control, if you haven't noticed, we are missing a few members, not to mention my precious time, so can you please hurry up and... Control? Where the hell is everybody?!"
He panics in a very spirited way, doesn't he?
Have patience. These things take time.
You are calling for patience? You? And here I had thought I had seen everything worth seeing in the multiverse.
"Alright. Calm down. Evacuation procedures. Yes! Everybody evacuated, probably something normal like a flesh eating virus or OH GOD. Hazmat suits! I need to get into a hazmat suit. Where do they store them why don't they leave it NEXT TO THE GATE?! where to they"
How did his species even survive this far? They probably scattered the second they discovered fire.
I've found they are remarkably flexible. Well, at least some of them.
You are still smarting that he didn't come with you, right?
His loss, mon cheri. We all move on.
"Wait. If it were a flesh eating virus I'd be already dead. Good. Perhaps it's an slow acting flesh-eating virus. Not so good.
I can't think with all this silence!
The sirens! There are no sirens. So the biological alarms aren't active. Whew.
Maybe they are all somewhere near, like a party or something. Typical. Organize a party in the rec room and not tell me! Probably think I don't like parties, or that I'd be boring.
I'm not boring. I can play piano, not like that drum-banging idiot of Feynman."
I have to say, you are behaving with remarkable maturity and fairness with this monkey.
Unless you are planning something else.
"Oh, good. No party in the rec room. Good.
Prioritize. I have oxygen, I am dry, and I don't have anybody at all. Alright, I'll have to find somebody.
No. First I need coffee. If there is coffee. Why wouldn't there be?
I don't know. Why wouldn't there be people?"
(Three and a half days ago)
Rodney found Sheppard sitting against a wall in the 143th secondary corridor he checked, eating a power bar and looking bored. He collapsed against the opposite wall in (very) tired relief, and argued silently with himself about whether to begin by hugging or insulting the Colonel.
He decided to ask him for a power bar first, on the grounds that his brains require energy to function properly.
"No," said Sheppard.
"What? Come on, you cannot have just weapons and munitions and... and... soldier things in all those pouches. Heck, I don't know what I have in mine. I'll trade you these metal things for a power bar."
"Then just tell me where the hell is everybody. Where were you? What is going on? And, now that we are touching the topic, why didn't anybody, I don't know, maybe tell me something. I've been looking for you people for hours, I'm probably dehydrated, and I'm sure I've injured an ankle, and"
"They left." There was a petulant, surreal calm to Sheppard's voice.
"What? Why? Where? Without me? Why?"
"They left. Because it sucks. Somewhere else. Yes, without you. Because nobody likes you very much, Rodney." The drawling at the end wasn't Sheppard's usual, infuriating midwest accent. It was almost evil. Rodney felt his skin crawl and stood up in a hurry, backing himself against the wall.
"What did you say? What did you... Aha!" Rodney pointed at the man with mad glee. "I saw all the jumpers in the bay. You, I mean Sheppard, would never leave them... Oh god." He closed his eyes in despair and let himself fall to the ground again.
"What's the matter, McKay? Aren't you going to ask me who I am?"
He waved the man's question away. "You are an hallucination. And let me tell you, I have no idea why I'm hallucinating you. My last one was... hotter and smart and if she had had a power bar, she would have given it to me."
"'Given it to you?'," leered the man who looked like Colonel Sheppard.
"For the record," said Rodney, "I behaved rationally and properly. Mostly. As I intend to do in this case... Rationally, I mean. And properly! Why am I talking to you again? Don't you have some 'wisdom' from my subconscious to pass along?"
The man rolled his eyes in disgust and vanished in a white light.
"Oh, great. Even my hallucinations are leaving now."
(Three days ago)
"Recalibrated deep space scanners... nothing."
"And more nothing. Come on you idiotic console! There must be some ship some where. I'd even take the Wraith."
"I take that back, you know. No Wraiths. Just somebody. Please."
"I AM TOLD YOU MEET EVERYBODY WHO LOVED YOU AFTER YOU DIE. OR PERHAPS IT WAS FIVE RANDOM PEOPLE. I WOULDN'T KNOW."
Taptaptaptap... "Excuse me?" The voice at his back had sounded like...
"I SUSPECT IT WOULD BE HARD TO FIND FIVE PEOPLE WHO HAVE LOVED YOU, THOUGH."
Yep. It had sounded like winter wind over a gravestone at night. Not that Rodney had ever spent a winter night, or any other night, in a cemetery.
"IN ANY CASE, YOU WILL FIND OUT SOON."
He didn't turn around. One didn't turn around to speak to an hallucination of a fictional character who was in itself an anthropomorphic construct.
"I won't die. I have food, I have oxygen, I have energy, I will locate my teammates and find out what's going on, Sheppard will do some heroically idiotic stunt, I will come up with the plan that will save the day and everything will be back to normal."
"UNLESS THE WRAITH KILL YOU."
Taptaptaptap... "What, what, are the Wraith coming? Why do you say that?!" Rodney whirled around, just in time to see a shrouded figure vanish in a white light.
(49 hours ago)
Physical laws allow for one hundred seventy five possibly working quantum superposition patterns in a gate targeting array; what passes for targeting software in the array's systems has to be calibrated to the pattern, otherwise the gate will not work.
They aren't, Rodney has found. So all he has to do is set up an insanely complex testing device and start trying them all, one by one.
"I can do it," he says, rubbing his hands together and trying to ignore how nervous he sounds to himself.
(40 hours ago)
The moment Rodney catches himself making elementary mistakes in his relativistic calculations, he orders himself to sleep. He doesn't have Beckett to remind him now of those pesky details in that annoying way of his.
He doesn't dare to enter his quarters; the idiotic normalcy of sleeping in how own bed in an empty Atlantis fills him with a quiet dread that he chalks up to nervous exhaustion.
The laboratory, where Rodney sleeps almost as often, feels odd, a lot of his equipment cannibalized to run the device he built in the gate room.
The gate room itself, so big and dominated by the now menacing gate that sent his friends who knows where (or took who knows what into Atlantis), is not even a question. He doesn't feel sure anymore about the workings of the gate.
Rodney ends up sleeping in Col. Sheppard's quarters. After all, that will be the first place he will check when he returns, as he has left there his guitar.
He sleeps in a corner of the bed, anyway, half-dreading, half-hoping that the door might open at any moment.
Any moment now.
(35 hours ago)
Rodney runs the first configuration test, while an hallucination in the form of a Roman Emperor says vaguely disturbing things to his back.
He doesn't care any more. He just wants to damn gate to work.
The test fails.
One hundred seventy four to go.
(33 hours ago)
One hundred sixty to go. Probabilistic analysis indicates that he should find the correct one (with probability above point five) in less than seventeen hours. It'd be boring but manageable work, except...
Except that his gut doesn't believe in probabilistic analysis anymore.
He used to ignore his gut, the part of him that felt hunger, fear, loneliness, desire - all the things that lead to pain. It's harder to do that when he is so alone.
He almost wishes the hallucination would come back.
(25 hours ago)
The path to the kitchen feels longer than it used to be. Instead of walking hurriedly, his mind and eyes in any of the myriad problems that the expedition landed in his lap every day, he is peering behind almost every door in the way. Hoping to find something, fearing what it could be.
He brings back to the gate room as many snacks as he can. He hopes he won't have to go to the kitchen alone again.
(22 hours ago)
He leaves the bathroom's door open. Then he feels silly and guilty, so he closes it down, until a vague dread makes him open it again.
Closed. Open. Closed. Open.
Unable to concentrate on the book he took, it takes him forever to finish.
(20 hours ago)
Another test failed. Eighty-five tests to go.
He has stopped talking to himself. The feeling is strange, and he deliberately starts again.
He needs the familiar to focus on, now. As much as of it as he can get.
(17 hours ago)
The hallucination returns. This time it looks like Samantha Carter, and Rodney touches briefly his head, looking for blood.
(10 hours ago)
His fingers ache incredibly, his back hurts, and there are only twenty-five remaining configurations to test.
He's closer now to going back home, or rather to get home back to him. He has a gun next to his keyboard, just in case.
He's not sure about just in case of what.
Twenty-four possible configurations to test.
(Five hours ago)
Twelve configurations to test. Rodney's throat feels hoarse, and he has started cursing the gate some time in the past hour.
Eleven configurations to test.
(Half an hour ago)
The last configuration test fails.
Rodney staggers up and weakly kicks the gate. Once. Twice.
A strangely nonfunctioning gate. An entire array of Ancient and modern diagnostic devices. The rerouted power of half Atlantis. A labful of networked computers. One of the brightest scientists in history. Three desperate days.
The gate still isn't working.
The scientist is sobbing quietly below a table. He hasn't done that since he was three years old. But then, he hasn't felt so impotent since he was three and couldn't prove an elementary differential calculus theorem.
The grating voice coming from the man sitting on the table isn't helping, either.
"It's an impressive... what did you call that again?"
"An impressive goaway. But shouldn't the ring thing in the middle be glowing? You know, opening a subspace wormhole, bringing back your dead teammates,"
"They aren't dead!"
"Riiiight. They are just otherwise occupied." Rodney can picture the hateful smirk in the man's face, especially because he is leaning so he can watch him... and also because he has his own face.
"You are mean!" It sounds childish, but unlike the slippery power curves in the gate -which don't seem to follow any pattern Rodney can determine- it's unquestionably true. "I'm not mean." That's...not entirely accurate. But it will do in a pinch. "Who are you?"
The thing who looks like Rodney smiles with a serenity Rodney has only partially learned to fake. "Good question. I'm God."
Rodney stops his sporadic sobbing to roll his eyes. "That's not true. You don't exist. I mean, God doesn't exist, you do. And if God existed he wouldn't..."
"I wouldn't look like you? Come on. How else should I look? Who else knows all the... Well, used to know all the dirty little secrets of metadimensional cosmology and hyperspace fields. I guess I could look like that blonde chick, she could probably get out of this fix..." Rodney sees himself make a very explicit gesture with his eyebrows "... one way or another."
"That's quite enough, thank you very much. If I have to die alone in this stupid city, the least I will ask for is not to be taunted by my gross, idiotic counterpart from an stupid parallel universe where..."
"Of course!" The words melt as Rodney's sight transfixes itself inside his mind. "I know why I can't figure out the problem with the gate." He grabs his 'twin' by his t-shirt. "I'm in a different universe! There is nothing wrong with me, the universe is working wrong! I can... I can make it work!"
As he gets out from below the table, the man who looks like him vanishes in the customary white light, but instead of disappearing, he turns into what can only be described as a very, very smug man in an Atlantis expedition uniform he obviously has no business wearing.
"Well done!," he says, shaking the hand of a somewhat bewildered Rodney. "A bit too emotional for my taste, but you are one of the smartest and most entertaining monkeys it has been my pleasure to test. Your species might even have a chance of survival." The man snapps his fingers, and Rodney finds himself on an observation platform outside the city. It's a starry and cloudless night; Rodney isn't always the most observant of men, but hadn't it been about midmorning just a second ago?
The man whispers in Rodney's ear. "Although you will probably all die." Rodney doesn't jump - he is too busy watching the army of cubes streaking across the night sky in a definitely menacing way. "Either way, we shall have some fun."
"By the way, my name is Q. And I wasn't kidding about the 'god' thing."