Rodney hunches over his laptop and pretends not to hear the conversation on the next table. Not that it matters because it's all in Russian, but he's pretty sure they're talking about him. After two days he's learned the Russian for American and every conversation he's heard has included the word. No matter how many times he tells them, they don't seem to be able to understand that America and Canada are two different countries. That's the military for you - they don't recruit people for their brains. With the exception of Sam Carter.
Thinking about her makes him sigh and means he doesn't notice one of the marines approaching until he sits down opposite. Rodney hasn't bothered learning anyone's name; he doesn't plan on being here long enough to care. "Yes?" he says, shortly.
"I am scientist," the man says. "You tell me what I do and I help you."
Rodney opens his mouth to point out he doesn't need any help, but the idea of being able to order someone about is just too tempting to ignore. It's also possible, if unlikely, the marine isn't completely inept; if so, this might go quicker. The sooner he can get a few naquadah generators up and running, the sooner he can get out of here. So instead he says, "Get me some food."
The marine/scientist complies; a minute later he puts a plate of something on the table next to Rodney's laptop. Rodney looks at it suspiciously. "Is that food?"
"Is good." The marine starts digging into his own plate.
Rodney picks up something from the plate that he can't identify and bites into it. He quickly discovers that, although the mystery food looks soft, it's rock hard. "Ow!" He prods at his jaw gently. "I think I've broken a tooth."
"I take you to see doctor." The marine stands up, looking worried.
Rodney shakes his head vigorously. He's met the doctor on the base: he didn't speak a word of English and prodded Rodney until he hurt all over. He isn't going back there until they got a doctor who's sympathetic. "I'll go for a walk outside. It'll take my mind off it."
Rodney sighs again. He doesn't like the cold. He decides to go find the vodka instead. It's currently the only thing keeping him sane in this alien country.
Rodney's supposed to be working with the best scientific minds on Earth. He's seen their qualifications and knows they must all be brilliant. The only trouble is that none of them are showing it and all of them are acting like children. They constantly bicker and no one listens to a word he says. If only he had the Ancient gene: it would be so much simpler.
"I can't do it," Carson announces and stomps off.
Rodney knows how he feels. He's tried the chair twice and neither time could he make it do anything at all. At least Carson can get it to light up, which should count for something.
Around him, the other scientists speak to each other in a dozen different languages, but it's the ones speaking English who make the least sense. Talking to his cat gets better results, so Rodney's learned to ignore them all. It's not as it any of them know how to get Carson to get to the chair to do anything Carson can't, or won't, make it do.
Rodney's getting a headache, so he heads outside for some quiet. It takes ten minutes just to put on all the clothes that'll make sure he doesn't freeze to death, although he wonders if anyone would notice if he didn't bother. Outside, there's nothing but snow for as far as the eye can see. It reminds him of Russia in the winter. It's not comforting.
"Oh, look," Sheppard says, putting on those stupid sunglasses. He thinks they make him look cool. Rodney has given up telling him they don't. "It's an English village."
Rodney rolls his eyes and lets Sheppard explain to Teyla why the houses with the thatched roofs remind him of England. He doesn't think Sheppard has ever been to the place; he's probably only seen it in the movies.
"Why do all these planets look like Earth anyway?" Ford complains. "Everywhere we go the grass is green, the trees are green, the sky is blue. We could be on Earth for all we know."
Why is it that everywhere Rodney goes he's stuck with idiots? "The chlorophyll in the plants makes the leaves look green. The atmosphere scatters the blue end of the light spectrum, so that's what you see. If the atmosphere didn't have the same concentrations of elements we wouldn't be able to breathe. If the plants didn't have the chlorophyll they wouldn't be able to photosynthesize and there wouldn't be enough oxygen in the air to breathe."
"Thanks," Ford says. He sounds happy, even though Rodney made his explanation as short as he could and didn't slow down to take a breath. Maybe Ford likes the planet after all; maybe he's just bored with them all looking the same. Rodney doesn't really care.
The village green has park benches around it. Rodney sits on one of them and closes his eyes while Sheppard and Teyla make contact with the locals. He can almost imagine the sounds of distant traffic and yappy dogs being pulled along by their annoying owners. But those are things he's only seen in the movies and this is nothing like the Earth he remembers.
Rodney has his head bent over the life-signs detector as he ambles away from the Stargate. It's only when he hears Sheppard breathe "Wow" that he looks up. He blinks, wondering if his eyes have gone funny, but the look on Sheppard's face suggests he's seeing the same thing as Rodney
The grass is purple; the trees have multiple trunks and pink leaves; and the cloudless sky is white. It's the most alien landscape Rodney's ever seen. He half expects to be ambushed by little green men and carried off to be experimented on - except the life-signs detector tells him there's no one in the vicinity.
Ford once asked him why all planets looked the same. The answer had been so obvious that Rodney had been annoyed at having to spell it out. If Ford had been here now, Rodney's sure he would have asked why this planet was so different. Rodney doesn't know the answer yet and he hates to admit there's something beyond his understanding, but he still wishes Ford was here to ask the question.
"Makes a nice change," Sheppard says, breaking the moment.
Ronon and Teyla look at them, amused; they've seen it all before. As if by unspoken agreement, Sheppard and Rodney both try to act as nonchalant. But, as they start walking towards the nearest settlement, it's hard not to look at the unusual foliage.
They've been on Earth a week now and Rodney still isn't used to the view. Atlantis is floating in the Pacific Ocean and just outside the lab window is San Francisco. No one expects to be here very long but, while they are, they're taking the opportunity to get through all those little jobs they never seem to get around to when they're in imminent danger of attack from one race or another. Some people have gone home to visit their families and friends, but Rodney's been back on Earth recently enough and he's got more important things to do.
Except there's very little work going on. Too many of the people who've stayed in the city are spending too much of their time staring at the Golden Gate Bridge. In the end Rodney gives up trying to work and finds a balcony. Sheppard's already there, goodness knows why, but Rodney can't be bothered to go someplace else, so he leans on the railing beside him.
"It's not right," Sheppard says. "We shouldn't be here."
Rodney's been thinking the same thing all week. "I want to go home."
Sheppard nods. "We will. They can't keep us on Earth forever."
Rodney doesn't share Sheppard's optimism, but he hopes he's right. This isn't the planet he wants to live on any more.
When Rodney looks up into the sky, he can't pick out any of the constellations he's been used to seeing all his life. Even the Milky Way is no more than a bright smudge from here. The Ancients' database has names for all the stars visible from Atlantis, but he hasn't had enough time to learn many of them yet. The only one he can find without a computer is Sovegi, their pole star, at the end of the dragon's tail.
Zelenka's Czech swearing is still audible, even out on the balcony. But before Rodney goes back inside to fix whatever Zelenka has broken, he stays for a minute and listens to the lapping of the waves against one of the piers not far below him. The sound's supposed to be relaxing, according to an article he once read, long ago, before he learned not to read inaccurate pop science journals. Rodney's since decided the noise just makes him need to pee.
"Rodney." Zelenka's voice is loud enough that Rodney can tell, without turning round, that Zelenka's snuck out onto the balcony with him. "Are you coming back to work?"
"In a minute. Atlantis has been around for centuries. It'll wait a few minutes more." The whole city smells of history, the same way European castles do.
Zelenka comes up beside him and looks up at the sky. "It is a beautiful sight."
Rodney doesn't want to agree with him, because that will just encourage him. So all he says is, "It's home," before turning around and going back inside.