by Taylor Dancinghands
The event horizon really did look like water -much too much like water
for his comfort. It was true, though, that Dr. Radek Zelenka was one of
the few people on earth who knew and understood exactly why
event horizon of an interplanetary wormhole looked a lot like water, so
he worked to hold that thought in his mind as he approached. The fact
that it was not just an interplanetary wormhole, but an intergalactic
one, troubled him not at all.
He knew he'd been told not to
loiter once he'd reached the other side, but the sheer physics of what
he'd just accomplished all but overwhelmed him once Radek realized that
he'd arrived. It took him a moment or two to realize the significance
of where it was that he'd arrived at, too.
"Once again, do not stand there and gawk when you
get here. Get out
from in front of the gate and out of the way!" The voice belonged,
unmistakably, to Dr. Rodney McKay, his new boss, and already it was
beginning to grate. Still, it was good advice, and Radek moved away,
just in time to avoid having Drs. Parrish and Simpson collide with him.
Once he was out of danger of being run over, Radek went back to
gawking. He figured he had just cause. Glancing around at the
architecture slowly being revealed where lights were flickering on here
and there, Radek saw countless potential discoveries waiting for an
engineer and physicist who was just a little too curious for his own
He also noticed a pile of backpacks and assorted gear
forming in the center of the gate room, and Radek realized that he too
could get rid of his own, fairly heavy, pack. Relieved, at last, of his
burden, Radek took a deep breath of the air which, he realized, no
living creature had breathed for over ten thousand years, and
considered his next move.
Dr. McKay's highly generalized
instructions to his science staffs, given just before they'd left
earth, had been to, "look for important stuff and try to stay out of
trouble." He'd elaborated on the latter by suggesting that they not
venture out alone, and that they stick close to anyone wearing a
uniform and carrying a gun. Considering the first directive, Radek
looked about for anything that seemed like it might be 'important
stuff', in the immediate area.
Right away his eye fell on
what was almost certainly a control room, just ahead, one level above
the gate room. All the 'important stuff' here, however, was already
being seen to by Drs. McKay, Grodin and Weir, Radek noted, and so he
would have to venture beyond the gate room to find anything important
of his own. It was with McKay's second directive in mind that Radek
spotted two military types off-loading their own bulging packs, and
"Promiňte -excuse me," he said a little hesitantly, "may I accompany
"Sure," said the red haired soldier Radek had spotted first. "Just be
sure to stay out of the way in case something goes down."
"Goes down?" Radek wondered how much trouble he was likely to get into
from not understanding American military slang.
"In case there's trouble," the other one, a dark skinned young man who
seemed barely old enough to be out of grammar school, said. "Like if
you see us start to shoot our guns or anything."
"Ah," replied Radek, trying not to feel patronized.
He followed the two of them as they made their way out of the gate room
and into one of the adjacent corridors, stepping carefully in their
wake. They spoke little and hardly acknowledged Radek at all, but he
was just as happy to remain silent. There was no point in alerting
something untoward to their presence, and Radek had no words, in any
language, for what he was seeing. Everything they encountered was new
and unfamiliar and he had no idea what any of it was for.
The windows changed all that.
They'd none of them had any idea of where this city they'd landed in
was located until the bank of massive windows came into view, and what
they revealed was nothing that Radek had expected. They were under
water -very, very deep under water from what Radek could see, possibly
at the bottom of the ocean. They were all trapped beneath measureless
tons of water and the realization awakened an old but powerful terror
in Radek Zelenka's heart.
It had been long, long ago, but still
Radek found himself abruptly returned to that moment, with the water
pouring through the broken windshield and his little brother screaming
helplessly from the back seat. He'd tried to reach him but the current
had torn him away and out of the wrecked car, alone. He had no
recollection of being cast up on the shore miles down stream; his last
memory of that awful day had been his little brother's face pressed up
against the window, trapped in the sinking car, just as Radek was
trapped now, in a ten thousand year old alien city.
the spot, Radek did not notice that his military escort had gone on
ahead, and they failed to notice that they'd left the scientist behind.
His memories held him, trapped, terrified and helpless, as much as the
sea outside, and so thoroughly that he failed to notice that someone
else had entered that stretch of corridor.
"Ah... you there!"
Neither the words not the voice registered on Radek's consciousness.
The only voice he heard was his brother's, terrified and long dead,
reminding him that he'd left a part of himself behind in that car at
the bottom of the Labe River that day, and that it was there still.
"Hey! You! Dr.... oh, god dammit..."
Something about the grating quality of the voice called itself to
Radek's attention, but he wasn't sure why, or how it could possibly be
important when he was trapped at the bottom the sea like this.
"Helloooo! Hey there... Yes you!... Four eyes! Snap
out of it!"
"What?!" Jarred at last by the sheer impertinence of the words, Radek
turned abruptly away from the windows to face the owner of the
familiar, abrasive voice. Though he'd heard the term before, Radek had
never had this particular epithet applied to him personally. Naturally,
it stood to reason that it was Dr. Rodney McKay who'd done the honors.
"Sorry," said his boss, a little sheepishly, which surprised Radek. "I
was trying to get your attention but, well... ah, genius here, but not
so good with names."
"What was the reason you wished to get my
attention?" Radek asked, still aware of the terrifying vision at his
back, but kept from it by McKay's demanding presence.
"I, ah, just... I recognized the look."
"What look?" Radek was having a hard time making out the mix of
emotions on McKay's face as he struggled for an answer. The look of
self effacement he seemed to see there now was an altogether unfamiliar
one, and witnessing Dr. Rodney McKay actually at a loss for words was
"The, ah... rabbit in the headlights look?" McKay
fluttered his hands uncertainly. "I, um... I happen to be familiar with
the look myself... having it, I mean."
"How... how do you mean?" Radek had an idea what the man might be
getting at, but he could scarcely believe it.
"Yes, well," said McKay, clearing his throat awkwardly. "Really not
fond of small spaces, myself," he said at last. "Convinced I can feel
the air getting stale, if you know what I mean. Not too crazy about
this, either," he waved towards the windows at Radek's back, "but, ah,
I've been keeping myself pretty busy."
Radek realized that his
mouth had been hanging open for a good thirty seconds before he thought
to close it. Never had he heard Rodney McKay make such a confession,
and never had he heard anyone else speak of any such thing either. He
could not, in all decency, fail to offer something of his own in
return, no matter that he had not spoken of it since he'd left home,
"I am," he began at last, "not particularly fond of the water."
"Damn," said Rodney after a moment, without a trace of his usual biting
wit. "This must suck for you."
"You could say," replied Radek with a weak and unconvincing laugh. It
trailed off into silence and he felt strangely compelled to fill it.
"Was... trapped in a car... that had crashed into a river," he said
hesitantly. "My uncle was drunk, should never have been driving, but my
dědeček... my grandfather, told us to go with him, my little brother
and I... and I was only one to escape."
The silence that followed was oddly comfortable -reverential rather
"Damn," said McKay again, softly, nothing but honest sympathy in his
voice. There was another long moment of thoughtful silence, and then
McKay spoke again.
"You know, some of the knuckleheads from
your division -you are head of engineering, right?" Radek nodded,
amused that although the man could not remember his name, he knew his
"Good," he continued, "anyway, they claim to have
discovered a room full of 'spaceships'," McKay made the quotes around
the word very distinct, "and I was gong to go see for myself, but
you're the one who really ought to be checking them out."
"I suppose so," said Radek, thinking, 'spaceships?' There are
"From what I understand they're in a nice big room, with no windows
too," McKay went on, "so that's definitely where you belong. I've got
more than enough work waiting for me in the control room anyhow."
"That sounds... quite reasonable," Radek said, and then Dr. McKay told
him how to find this room.
Walking into the cavernous space that would later come to be known as
the 'jumper bay' was the moment that Radek Zelenka's life changed. It
was the moment that everything else in his life had been a prelude to,
though he could never have guessed it till that moment. Certainly
several other momentous things occurred that day, none of which Radek
would ever forget, and several of which could easily be considered life
changing, but they came and went. The puddle jumpers would become part
of who he was for the rest of his life.
Still, before the day
was over Radek had to endure the terrifying moment when McKay called to
let him know that his worst fears were coming true -that the city was
flooding- and that he had mere minutes to figure out how to make those
spaceships fly because they might be their only means of escape. Then
there was the moment when -as all hope seemed lost- Radek had felt the
city tremble and then free herself from the shackles that held her at
the bottom of the sea. He'd stumbled, with the rest of the engineers
and technicians working in the jumper bay, towards the windows then, in
time to see the city shake off her watery shroud and leap, gleaming and
triumphant, up into the sunlight.
That was a moment Radek would
never forget for as long as he lived, and later he would try to tell
his sister about it, even as he knew that the military censors would
never let her hear the whole of it, and that his words could never do
it justice anyhow. Instead, when he saw her in person later still, he
would tell her the thing that he only realized some days later. When
Radek Zelenka had risen from the bottom of the sea with the ancient
city of Atlantis, that part of him trapped in a moment of horror at the
bottom of the Labe river, decades ago, had broken free as well.
Radek would never be entirely comfortable around water, and he would
never learn how to swim, but he would never be drawn back to that
moment again either -not even when McKay had found himself in
unpleasantly similar circumstances and it had fallen to him to get his
boss out. Radek had shaken off those chains of the past, just as
Atlantis had freed herself of hers, and while she had become a human
inhabited city that day, dwelling under the sun and sky, Radek had
become a spaceship engineer.
Just as the Ancient city had come
to life and shone under the sun's bright rays, Radek felt himself come
alive, in ways he had not since he was a young man, as he immersed
himself in the magnificent and elegant systems that it was now his job
to decipher. Atlantis had become his home, his life, and his salvation
that day, and he'd known all of that by the time that first day ended.
It was a while before Radek realized the nature of the other gift he'd
received on that day, though in the end it was nearly as important as
all the others. Standing before that terrifying wall of water, and
confessing their fears to one another, Dr. Rodney McKay and Dr. Radek
Zelenka had begun a friendship that would mean more to both of them,
perhaps even than the Ancient city who's secrets they would chase
Thankfully, they were never made to choose.
(c) T. Dancinghands 2007