Doctor Nicholas Rush blinked away the unknown stars crowding one of the many view ports of Destiny, opening his eyes to the muted grey lighting of Stargate Command. He tapped his fingers over his knees, stretched to adjust, and looked into the screen set up on the desk. Another man's face stared back at him – receding hair line, coupled with a pinched expression like a baby missing their candy. Not unknown to him.
“Ah, I now understand the urgency of this particular communication. Doctor McKay. The bombastic and acerbic scientist who thinks he knows everything about Ancient technology because he can turn on a few lights in the fabled city of Atlantis.”
Bill Lee straightened so that he was no longer leaning against a workstation. He gestured loosely at the screen. “I see you've met.”
“I've had the unfortunate displeasure once or twice,” Dr Rush owned. “Now where is the General holding today's pony show?”
“Uh, in the conference room like last time.”
“No unpleasant surprises there, I hope.”
“Huh,” said Rodney McKay.
Anyone familiar with his habits would ascertain that this particular word in this particular tone indicated that he was agreeably surprised with what he saw before him. The FDL drive's seeming capability to open and sustain a hyperspace window indefinitely was probably wishful thinking – all things broke down at one point. But Rodney could almost hear John Sheppard say quietly into his ear, “Cool.”
Even though it looked exactly the same as any other hyperspace tunnel, with some minute differences. Rodney turned around and took in the ship's interior. A bit dank – probably some cultures of mould and other little nasties running rife about the place. And the air, what was that? Recycled to the nth degree, pumped through air vents that were probably the great-grandparents of those on Atlantis.
“It's something, isn't it?” asked a voice from the doorway.
Rodney focused his new pair of eyes on the military man waiting for some awed or frightened response, no doubt. He had the name “YOUNG” printed across his jacket and was favouring his weight against the wall.
Rodney crossed his arms. “If by something you mean dead and limping through space, then yes. Where's the nearest ship console?”
“Right this way.”
In the dark corners of the spaceship Destiny, cocooned in the web of air ducts and corridors, smallish round balls began to light up, amassing in groups lurking around the edges of human occupation. After some clustered argument conducted through circuits and irate flashing, one was chosen to venture out, to quietly seek one of the invaders.
Kino #633 was chosen for this happy mission.
Colonel Young didn't have the patience for any smart-mouthing from some Earth scientist. And as he was trying to stave off using up their limited supply of painkillers, he was close enough to his pain threshold to snap in any three or four possible ways. He deposited Rodney at the next people he found, ordering, “Lieutenant Scott, kindly direct our guest to a console. Or you could take him straight to the scrubbers – that's where our concerns lie at the moment.”
Lt. Matthew Scott didn't bat an eyelid. From the intense stare he was giving the wall, it was evident he was trying hard not to flinch as the resident field medic turned his head lightly in her hands, assessing the sunburn glazing over his cheeks.
“Who do we have this time?” Tamara asked without turning her eyes to see.
Dr Rush's body extended a hand. “McKay. Doctor. Rodney McKay.”
“Unless that's a medical doctorate,” Tamara responded, “I don't want to know you.”
Matthew looked Rush up and down for a moment, then really did flinch. “Dr McKay, huh? Guy who talks too much, eats too much, breathes too much? Don't let him waste our air.”
“Actually I'm not really breathing this air, so if you want to point fingers at someone, point it at the person I'm inhabiting. And just checking, but we haven't actually met have we?”
“Not face to face, and I'd rather keep it that way.”
A shadow appeared up the other end of the corridor and Eli Wallace came barrelling past, apparently chased by a Kino. Scott reached out and grabbed him. The Kino bounced off the side of Eli's head and wheeled around before shooting off in a different direction.
“Wallace,” Lt. Scott commanded.
“Help Dr McKay...do something. Away from here.”
“Hair,” Rodney reflected as he walked down the corridor next to Eli. “He has so much hair. Not that I'm, you know, in any need of hair.”
“Um, guess not,” Eli said. “Is this like a really weird experience for you? Walking around in someone else's body? The whole Invasion of the Body Snatchers thing.”
“Believe me, I have had my fair share of this kind of experience. It's nothing to write home about, if you could. But oh, you can't. And that's why I'm here on...what did you call it – Destiny?”
“I'm still really new at this, Dr McKay. I've only been on two – well, three because of Earth, right – so that's three planets. I haven't reached the body snatcher level yet.”
“Great. A New Guy. And where did they happen to stumble across you?”
“They hid Ancient code in a video game. I cracked it.”
“Hmm. Only Dr Rush would think of something so asinine.”
A ball floated up to Eli's shoulder and he held up his hand to touch the side of it. “Uhhhh, you're not supposed to be here. This is really strange – they don't usually act up like – ”
The Kino jerked from side to side, then whacked him in the forehead. Eli ducked for the second pass, and it swung around Rodney like a gravitational slingshot, heading straight back for Eli. He backed up against the wall.
“Haha very funny whoever reprogrammed the Kino, joke's old now!”
It paused, wavered, and drifted down the corridor.
“Those – those are Kino,” Eli explained to his companion.
“What, you don't have time to fix the ship but you have plenty of time to play bingo?”
"No, I mean like the Russian word for...okay, they look a little bit like Keno."
"Oh so when you organise the next seniors bus trip, make sure you choose something a little more stimulating – like crocheting."
Shooting a nervous look back at the hovering Kino, Eli then tried to find some suitable distraction. With relief, he realised they'd reached their destination. “Here are the CO2 scrubbers. Enough lime-sand to keep us going for...actually, no one's told me how long.”
Rodney spent barely two seconds inspecting the set up. “No, this – this isn't going to work. You can't just slap a band-aid over a hole in a fish tank.”
“Okay, McKay, whatever you're doing here,” Eli defended. “We're stuck here with practically nothing but each other and we make things work they way we can.”
A suspicious clattering and ka-choonking noise came from one of the nearby grates for the air vents. Eli instinctively held his breath. Rodney McKay stopped dead. “What was that?”
“The ship's settling?” Eli supplied.
“No, it sounded more ominous. And I have this thing against any sort of space where creatures can crawl through, because I had this really bad experience one time involving things that looked like they were out of that movie, not the alien one, the other alien one – ”
Peering into the grate, Eli swallowed and envisioned scuttling limbs, mutated spiders and other unsettling things. He noticed that Dr McKay was keeping well away, shaking his head and muttering while he loosened and tightened parts around the scrubbers. Then he paced over to a console, primly darting his fingers over the grime.
“I'm going to stand guard,” Eli said and did so.
“Fine, I'm going to do some work.”
“Well there's the problem,” Rodney proclaimed over half an hour later.
Eli tried to straighten his shoulders, but found they had decided to vacation – somewhere undoubtedly more pleasant. With palm trees. He shuffled over to the scientist. “What?”
“There's a faulty power conduit inside the air vents, which is overheating the system and thus exerting too much stress on the band-aid solution here.” Here Rodney paused, gauged the reaction of his audience and began again. “It's making it pump harder. It's using up all your precious energy and any chance of making it through the next week.”
Eli stuck his hands in his pockets, unsure whether to be offended or amused by the condescension in the scientist's voice. He said after a moment, “Yeah, I got that. We can send a Kino to look.”
“And what good would that do? They can't even press the button in an elevator, let alone reassemble a conduit.”
Eli decided he really didn't like Dr McKay. Not one bit.
“I'm game if you are,” he goaded.
Staring down a vent to the Stargate positioned below, Eli found his mouth dryer than it had been on the sand planet, if that was possible. He checked to make sure McKay hadn't moved from his spot, in a slightly more open part of the vent, big enough for the scientist to sit.
“Don't come any closer,” Rodney warned. “I'm not comfortable with tight spaces especially ones in spaceships, and I have a slight tendency to lose my concentration in these circumstances!”
Eli shook his head and resumed ogling the top side of the 'gate. “Too bad we're not trying to eavesdrop on Hans Gruber. Because this would be the perfect spot to foil a terrorist's plan.”
“Even if I had any idea what you were saying, I wouldn't listen, because oh I'm busy.”
“Come on! 'Now I know what a TV dinner feels like'?”
An uncomfortable silence followed this.
“Sorry,” Eli said.
“Yes! Wait – no, no, no. I got it. You can all breathe easy.”
“I re-routed the – ”
A blast of white light flushed through the air vents. Eli threw an arm over his face and squinted sharply until he could lift one eye up and have a look. The vents, which had been a bit dark, now actually kind of resembled the tunnels in the Rebel base on Hoth.
“Lights, cool,” Eli put forward.
“Not so cool. Do you realise how impossible it is to make this ship just simply limp through space with these power deficiencies?”
Eli wasn't listening. Looking down the duct, he saw a shimmering grey cloud approaching. Blinking against the glare of the lights, he realised he was watching a horde of Kino advancing. One of them zipped far ahead of the rest and pinged off Eli's shoulder.
The Kino head butted him. A whirring sound not unlike a flock of birds started to increase in volume. And then the lights died, leaving Eli to imagine a terrible swarm headed their way.
“What – what's that noise?” Rodney asked from ahead.
“Dr McKay – you might want to hurry up!”
Nearby, there was the dull thwack of metal meeting flesh. McKay let out a high-pitched exclamation.
“This was your idea, you hear me? Your idea!” Rodney fumed.
“Shut up, McKay! Alright? Just shut up and let's get out of here!”
The sound of one's imminent demise.
Eli and Rodney tumbled out of the duct, right back where they started. Grabbing the grate, Eli stuffed it back into its socket and waited. Waited. No sound permeated the room, except for the hum of the carbon dioxide scrubbers.
Rodney stood up and began patting himself down, wincing when the heel of his palm connected with a bruise. He declared, “Stargate Command can't expect me to solve a hundreds of thousands year old problem in just two hours. There are limits, and that's a limit.”
His arms fell to his side and his expression went slack. Next moment, Dr Rush stretched his neck side to side.
“Doctor Rush! I am so glad to see you! Well, not that I haven't seen you for the past couple of hours, but you know what I mean.”
“And now I am returned to your presence,” Dr Rush said. “What has the clumsiest physicist in three galaxies been doing to my body?”
There was no real answer for that. Casting an indifferent look at the console, Nicholas headed out to the corridor.
A Kino floated into the room. Docile and poised, it took up a position over Eli's shoulder, apparently awaiting instructions.
“Kino, right,” Eli muttered. “Maybe we should call them Toclafane.”
General Jack O'Neill interlocked his fingers on the table of the conference room. He set an even stare against the lone figure of Rodney McKay at the other end of the table.
“So what you're saying,” O'Neill said slowly, “is that we let you run around an alien ship for two hours and...you turned on some lights.”