An Inconvenient Revelation
By Taylor Dancinghands
Disclaimer: According Intellectual Proprty Laws, someone owns these ideas, characters, scenarios, etc. and whoever that is it's not me. I'm playing with 'em anyway. So sue me. (Actually, no, please don't.)
The view from the fifth floor balcony on the South Tower is worthy of contemplation without a doubt. The sunset has painted the adjacent towers a breathtaking variety of ambers and golds and left an astonishing azure sky as a backdrop for the crystal profiled powers of the city, but Rodney McKay has taken in little of it.
He has come here a few times before, mostly in an attempt to get his head around the astonishing truth that this is what he has to call home now. He has watched a sunset or two from here before as well, but that is not why tonight's does not hold his attention.
Instead, his a focus is inward and casting backwards, reviewing the events of a particularly harrowing day. Mostly it is how the crisis was concluded that occupies his thoughts and, when you come right down to it, is playing havoc with his emotions as well. In point of fact, he finds his actions this afternoon downright disturbing to contemplate, but he can't really avoid thinking about them either, which is why he has come here.
He would like to comfort himself by promising that it will Never Happen Again, but the trouble with being Rodney McKay, smartest man in two galaxies, is that you just can't lie to yourself about things like that. He has no idea *why*he did what he did and, that being the case, there's no way to guarantee that he won't do something just as insane tomorrow, next week, or next month. *Nobody* had asked him to walk into that energy cloud. They'd even a made a halfhearted attempt at stopping him. Why, oh why hadn't he let them?
Naturally, when he he'd been too young to know any better, Rodney had thought it a fine thing to be a Real Hero, but he'd learned better by the time he was a teenager. Heroes, Rodney had worked out, came in two sorts, and they were both some kind of nuts. Right up front there were the obvious nuts the types who actually *sign up* to put on some kind of uniform with the intention of being shot at or willfully running into burning buildings. No way would Rodney McKay ever be that kind of nuts (although he'd had his fun pretending to take an interest in the ROTC from time to time, just to see what they'd offer him), but then there were the other kinds of heroes the ones Rodney categorizes as 'stealth heroes'.
These are the folks you occasionally hear about who seem like ordinary slobs until the day comes when they suddenly feel obliged to jump into the ocean after a drowning kid, or go running after the guy who just swiped an old lady's purse. Rodney has never figured on turning out to be one of those types, simply because he is, by now, fairly confirmed in his cowardice. He's made his peace with it and settled for looking on the bright side, which for Rodney means that he is likely to have a nice, long, uneventful life (except for that Nobel Prize, maybe) and die in bed. He is perfectly okay with that.
Obviously, he's thrown away the possibility of an uneventful life by coming to Atlantis, but it's a cost he's willing to pay. He knows that stepping through that gate *was* a big risk, but scientists who never take risks don't win Nobel prizes. It had been a *calculated* risk anyhow, a decision made after a long and careful consideration. The risk he'd taken today, however, had been rashly unconsidered and flatly insane.
He'd known incredibly little about the personal shield device he'd been fooling with, and almost *nothing* about the energy 'being' he'd walked right into. One thing they *did* know was that it electrocuted unprotected humans, and so he'd put on an ancient device of unknown properties and reliability to protect himself from it. What kind of logic was that?
Sure, he reflects, Elizabeth had suggested it earlier, but mostly she'd been kidding and trying to show him up by making the device fall off. Yes, he had looked a fool, but hadn't that little demonstration proved that he *was* a coward? It didn't make sense.
The thing that terrifies Rodney the most about this whole incident is how deliberate his actions had been. He hadn't grabbed up the personal shield thing and run into the gate room in a panic; he'd quietly snuck off, carefully avoiding those most likely to talk some sense into him. Why? What had he been thinking?
Casting his mind back, the only thoughts that Rodney can recall having in that moment were that no one else was taking the current situation nearly as seriously as they should be, and that no one else really appreciated what was at risk, or what needed to be done. Was it some kind of misguided sense of professionalism that had seized him, then?
And seized was the operative word, wasn't it? It had almost felt, Rodney realizes, like some thing or some one *else* had been compelling him. For a brief moment the hypochondriac in Rodney gives himself a fright, and then he gets smart and realizes the plurality of reasons that can't be the case. But this just leaves him back where he started -clueless, and apparently liable to take insane risks at the least provocation.
Well, all right, may be not the *least* provocation, he corrects himself. Things had been pretty dire back there, even if he'd been the only one with the capacity to know exactly how dire. Had it just been a matter of necessity then? Had he only been saving his own hide, even if that meant coincidentally saving everybody else's?
But that doesn't follow either. If he's so smart he ought to have been able to figure out a way to get someone else, someone more expendable, to take the insane risks, right? Not that there'd been a lot of time to do that, and they'd already established that the little personal shield device wouldn't work on anyone else, but still Š smartest man in the two galaxies, right? Maybe it *had* been just a fluke, though a set of circumstances so unique that he'll never have to worry about a repeat.
Rodney shakes his head, feeling the air on the balcony finally turning chill now that the sun has set. His behavior has always seemed to make some kind of sense before now, to him at least if not to anyone else, but he's still completely confounded by what he did today. He can't shake the memory of the moment he'd stepped into the cloud; he'd been terrified, half certain that he'd be electrocuted the minute he'd crossed the threshold, and yet he'd gone ahead anyway.
As vivid and unshakable as these memories are, he still can't put his finger on what propelled him forward at that moment, and this fact gnaws at him. Once he'd stepped inside the 'creature' his path had been clear, and although he'd been terrified, he clearly hadn't been killed, so he'd figured he might as well go ahead and toss the generator through the gate. He doesn't remember much after than, and can only assume that the creature had been more interested in chasing the generator through the stargate than zapping him. He is thankful for that, but discontent at there being one more thing he doesn't know about why he is alive.
He hasn't failed to notice how differently people, some people anyway, are treating him since this fiasco, either. It's fine to be treated with more respect, he muses, but now, he fears, people are going to expect this kind of thing out of him. Apparently it isn't enough that everyone expects him to produce technological miracles on a regular basis, now they will be expecting him to take insane risks with his life as well. What is worse, he realizes glumly, is that he will probably oblige them.
Rodney does not understand himself quite as well as he thinks, but he does know himself, and he feels the truth of this unhappy prediction in his bones. He's already given up on an uneventful life, but now it looks like he's about to loose his shot at a long life and dying in bed as well. He's not inclined to give these things up without a fight, however, and when the smartest man in two galaxies decides he wants something, there's a good chance he'll get it, in spite of the odds. Rodney knows his self-confidence seems overblown to some, but there's a good reason for it, and sometimes it's all that gets him through moments like these.
A breeze has come up now and Rodney is getting a little too chilled, plus he is hungry again and his recent brush with starvation is making him even more attentive than usual to his body's needs. He leaves the balcony, discontent but resolved, his mind now focussed on the basic needs of food, and sleep.
In the weeks and months to come, Rodney McKay's direst predictions will, alas, come to be fulfilled. He will, of his own volition, stand in front of a loaded gun, subject his brain to a ten thousand year old virtual reality device, inject himself with an outrageous dose of a dangerous addictive alien narcotic and commit numerous other acts which fly directly in the face of his sense of self preservation. He will also manage, with the aid of his not inconsiderable intelligence, to hold death itself at bay, for himself at least.
Rodney will never really understand what motivates him to these senseless, selfless acts, and he will never guess at the hero's heart that dwells within him. He does not really wish to know, and if he did, it would only scare the crap out of him.
(c) 2006 T. Dancinghands