Chapter 1 - Spontaneous Combustion
The night of the Halloween party for Atlantis personnel was one that would be remembered in rumour mills far and wide across the universe. It was theorised that if a Wraith had attempted to enter the city that fateful night, they would have run screaming towards the nearest therapist. For what transpired was so terrifying it would cling to memories like a hypochondriac scientist clings to his power bars.
Simply put, the truth came out – and everyone knows that the truth is far more terrifying than a horror film.
This story begins with a pumpkin, as all good stories do.
On the morning of the great shindig, Teyla placed the all hallowed vegetable onto the expedition leader’s desk, the movement watched reverently by two of her team mates. There was an expectant hush that Colonel Sheppard broke, saying enthusiastically, “The planet has loads of them. And they taste like pumpkin too.”
“It is procedure to have foreign substances tested,” Elizabeth reminded him, but even she could hardly contain a smile.
A recent memo relayed from Stargate Command – which was supposed to be a carefully guarded secret – revealed that the Daedalus was unable to bring pumpkins. At this news, all the lab rats on the base had spontaneously combusted, or so the rumour went. It had been suspected that it was some molecular experiment gone wrong, but no one would own up to it.
“Where’s Ronon?” Weir asked after a few moments of inspecting the pumpkin.
John shifted uneasily. It was his Athosian companion that supplied, “He wished to learn more of pumpkin carving. A scientist offered to demonstrate with a few of those which we brought back from the planet.”
Elizabeth was relieved. She kept expecting some sort of disaster. It was Halloween, after all. Bad things always happen when people dress up as ghosts and vampires.
“However…” Teyla continued, “the pumpkin Ronon was carving did not stay intact.”
John nodded quickly. “Yeah it spontaneously combusted. Splat! All over him. I gave him some time to get cleaned off but I think he just needs the space. He took it kind of hard.”
All the way over in the Milky Way Galaxy, an unfortunate prior met an untimely doom as an unseen force exploded his innards all over a much confused gaggle of Earthlings. And so the Spontaneous Combustion Curse continued its path of destruction as well as its tendency to plaster surrounding environments in body parts.
The carved pumpkins would have muttered uneasily amongst themselves if they were sentient. As it is, they were not, but any botanically classified fruit commonly mistaken for a vegetable can be allowed to be nervous when its brethren have been exploding all afternoon.
Rodney McKay burst into the party venue (the mess hall decked out in orange streamers and the orange insides of unfortunate pumpkins) and dramatically whipped his purple cape around himself. He tipped his ridiculously large hat, declaring, “I am the terror that flaps in the night! I am the lemon Skittle on your birthday cake! I am – Darkwing Duck!”
Except there was no one to see this glorious entrance. Rodney glanced around and grumbled that all his great efforts had to gone to waste. He hid amongst the pumpkins and couldn’t help but feel that they were laughing at him. He scowled. The universe was definitely cruel to him for that moment Radek walked in.
“Hiding already, McKay?” the Czech sniggered. “I have cure for that.”
He was rolling two large kegs of…something that bore the unmistakeable stench of spirits capable of knocking out an elephant. That wasn’t the surprising thing. Zelenka was decked out in a bunny suit and his nose was twitching quite freely. Rodney spat, “Look, Dr Fumbles McBunny, I’ll have you know that my costume is far more interesting than yours.”
“Elizabeth ought to lock you up for wearing ridiculous outfit,” Radek responded calmly.
Zelenka then carefully arranged his brew so that the taps hung over punch bowls riddled with cracks and chips. He hummed one of those Mr Cottontail songs as he did so, rubbing his hands together gleefully. This was to be the final thing that sent Atlantis over the edge. An old Czech recipe for Radek’s special spooky punch!
The mess started filling up with an array of colourful characters – but none so colourful as Rodney’s. The scientist was beginning to get twitchy by the amount of giggles directed at him. One particular party goer, hiding behind a white sheet with holes for the eyes, pointed and laughed themselves silly.
“And what are you?” demanded Rodney, affronted.
“I am the ghost of James Bond,” the sheet replied wisely in a flawless English accent.
Shrill laughter bounced over from the buffet table – the source was Katie Brown, dressed in a golden gown that could only be representing Belle from that – that – puerile animation called Beauty and the Beast! Rodney’s lip twisted. Of course, he had no idea that if this writer had been there she would have slapped him for such thoughts.
The punch had already warmed many faces, loosened many tongues and caused Lorne to see what would happen if he tried to punch through the wall. Rodney had almost made it to the door to escape when John Sheppard appeared – or rather crashed into him at top speed on a skateboard.
“Are you wearing a life vest?” Rodney exclaimed.
The Colonel drew himself up and snapped, “No! It’s a jacket without sleeves! And it’s part of my costume. I’m Marty McFly!”
This was all too much for Rodney who whimpered at the very thought of the events in a highly incorrect movie in the matters of science. Seeing the horrified expression flitting across his team mate’s face, John whispered, “I am the guy who travels through time! I am the Delorean in your past and future! I am from Back to the Future!”
“Could you two tone down the testosterone slugging match please?” Elizabeth asked as she entered the room.
She wore a white dress and her hair was pinned up in what Rodney though looked like cinnamon Chelsea Buns. Mmm cinnamon Chelsea Buns. He cleared his throat, “You’re um…Princess Vespa?”
“Princess Leia, actually.”
Rodney flushed and slunk off towards the punch. Maybe it would solve allllll his problems. He’d just sculled a whole pint when he slammed into something very solid and dressed up like a vampire, complete with fangs. Except this couldn’t be an authentic vampire get up because the party goer was wearing a kilt.
“Carson, vampires don’t wear kilts,” the scientist grumbled.
Dr Beckett ignored that comment and asked, “Have you seen my wee baby turtles? I lost them again.”
That’s not all you’ve lost, Rodney thought, mentally sniggering. He shrugged and was saved from any more griping on his part when his headset, hidden inside his wide brimmed hat, beeped.
He tapped it. “What?”
“There’s an energy spike somewhere in the city,” Chuck the technician informed him. “I don’t know where from but a portable radiation scanner should pick it up.”
Somewhere in Rodney’s brain, a reasonable voice argued ‘what the hell? If a portable scanner picks it up, can’t Sparky?’
‘Don’t call me Sparky,’ another voice growled in his head. ‘My name is Chuck.’
“AHHHH I’m on it,” Rodney cried out loud and ran off to Elizabeth.
He explained the situation in a mishmash of syllables, syntax errors and for some reason kept mentioning power bars. Luckily, Elizabeth was aided in translation by the fact that she’d also had some of that wildly entertaining spooky punch. She nodded and agreed, “Let’s blow this joint.”
At that point, a gaggle of unimpressed marines from the Daedalus arrived, finally being released from trying to find Caldwell’s missing fluffy slippers. None were wearing costume but they all bore grimaces. One such one was Laura Cadman who would have rather been blowing up her neighbour’s cat. But that’s another story.
She strode purposefully towards Carson (that whole goodbye thing had been slightly unpleasant) with the intention to get whatever it was over with. She paused. She stared. And at last, she managed, “Interesting…ah…ensemble.”
“Like it, lass?”
“Look, Carson, the only reason I hopped on the Daedalus to come hereagain was because you said there was an emergency.”
“Emergency?” Teyla inquired from off to the side. “Are you referring to the Spontaneous Combustion Curse?”
Both Carson and Laura stared at her blankly. It was barely less than two seconds later when Beckett steered his ex-girlfriend away from the Athosian (there was a slightly manic twist to her innocent smile) and suggested, “Why don’t we find a quiet place to talk?”
Those two had barely left the room when the assorted plates on the buffet table started clattering loudly. Oma Desala materialised out of the wall and floated down next to Zelenka who was swigging some of his own concoction. She roved her eyes over his costume and purred, “I love bunnies.”
“Y-You’re an Ancient!” Radek spluttered.
“Correct. I am Oma Desala.”
Something clicked in Zelenka’s memory. He frowned. “But you disappeared.”
“I came here!” the glowing lady said brightly. “And I want a bunny for my collection.”
She squeezed his glued-on tail. The Czech squeaked and ran.
A pumpkin exploded unhappily.