~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ sga~spn ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
During his months on Atlantis Dean had to learn several different things. Putting aside the flying lessons, his study of the Ancient database and ten years of mission reports from both galaxies, he had also to train with the marines, go on switch duty and take part of the main social activities Atlantis had to offer.
Most of the time he only played poker matches, or fought in friendly tournaments against people from the Daedalus or his usual gym’s buddies. The bets earned him much more supplies than he needed and that helped him in having good articles to exchange around the City during the weeks the Daedalus was out of range. After the incident in the lab he was even able to acquire some objects that before would be considered off-limits for him, especially knives and other exotic piercing objects.
Lucky for him, Ronon wasn’t the only one around with a fixation for blades.
One day Colonel Sheppard showed up with Major Lorne on his side. He had a beaming face while his CO had a bullpen in hand and was just working as usual on several documents.
Just that cheerful attitude set Dean on edge.
“Good morning kiddo.”
“Do you have plans today?”
Dean gazed intently at the Major, he knew that right there in those papers was printed his schedule. He was almost ready to say something awful obvious, but he straightened himself. He needed to be on their good side if he ever wanted to go on that first mission off-world Sheppard had promised.
“No, Colonel what do you need?”
“Excellent! Doctor Weir gave me the authorization, and Lorne thinks it’s a good idea too.”
“What?” Suspicion colored his voice.
Lorne didn’t bother to respond his question, “You didn’t call McKay, sir. I don’t think he will be pleased when he finds out.”
“He had to work on one of his brilliant ideas, he said he didn’t want to be disturbed. Too bad for him.”
“Where are we going Sheppard?” The fact that McKay wouldn’t like to miss whatever they were to do almost made Dean move slower.
Sheppard was grinning. Last time he was so happy Dean was flying in space. That thought kept him grounded and wary.
“Come on kid, you’ll see.”
They walked for a few corridors and took an elevator to another pier. After several doors Dean found himself in a section a little unused, Ronon was there waiting for them. They entered a big room much similar to one of the laboratories of the Scientific Department he visited: several screens in the middle of the room, a huge virtual screen upon the consoles and four large things in a corner. They looked like dentist’s chairs designed by an eccentric designer with a dark passion for moths.
“What the hell are they?”
“Those are the neural interface for a virtual simulation program” said Major Lorne without hesitation.
“But I prefer to call it HALO - Pegasus Galaxy Edition” added Sheppard with a playful tone.
“You’re kidding?” Dean watched the Colonel with a surprised face.
They had an entire room to play videogames… in another galaxy?
He knew the people here needed something to blow off their steam but an entire room for videogames… that was just weird.
Well, it was definitely something only a bunch of geeks would do and Atlantis was full of them.
The room was newly renovated, it was possible those thing came with one of the last shipments from the Daedalus, so they probably hadn’t the time for one before.
“Only the Colonel call this room like that. It’s the virtual environment training room.” Lorne said while he was setting some numbers on the control panel.
“It’s the same, and I’m not the only one calling it like that! Do you prefer ANI as McKay suggested?”
Dean laughed wickedly. “ANI?” He had a joke in Latin on the tip of his tongue.
As he was reading his mind, Lorne shushed him with a glare. “It stands for Alien Neural Interface.”
“Anyway it’s a technology the people of P7J-989 in the Milky Way shared with us. Here on Atlantis we found the perfect room to install four of them and a huge screen to watch the game.” John explained like a guide on a tour.
“Colonel… for the tenth time… it’s not a game, it’s a virtual environment for training.” Zelenka appeared out of a panel with a screwdriver in one hand, it was like a parent scolding a recalcitrant child.
“That doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with it.” Sheppard pouted.
Zelenka rolled his eyes on the roof and mumbled something in Czech while Ronon laughed. “The anthropological department uses it to study how to interact with a civilization in the Pegasus Galaxy.”
“So? Halo for us, the Sims for them.”
Lorne turned toward Dean, and pointed at him the chair on the left.
“Winchester if you can sit on this chair, after a few second you’ll found yourself in a virtual reality, everything is set to seems as real as possible, is it clear?”
“Yes…I think. What then?”
“Then we kill some Wraith.” Ronon’s short answer as he placed himself in one of the chairs was not that explicative, and yet it was all that needed to be said.
Dean followed his example and saw two black tubes coming from the chair and placing themselves directly on both sides of his head. That chair looked like it was trying to eat Ronon’s brain.
He didn’t have time to panic or move because his chair did the same, and a second later he was in a plain field, a green forest ahead of him and nothing else.
He turned around: there was a Stargate, and nearby a strange construction like a big mushroom coming from the ground. On that device were the symbols that were also on the Stargate.
“This isn’t another world.”
Dean took a swift look to his left and, where a second earlier there was an empty field, he found Ronon.
“Ronon, what the hell is going on?”
“Dean can you hear me?”
He jumped on his spot.
From his ear came a voice, Sheppard’s voice. Dean then noticed he was wearing an ear-bud and also he had his usual outfit from when he was on Earth: his worn out jacket, his boots, his old dirty jeans… hell he even felt the weight of his desert eagle hidden on his back. Ronon had on him his usual clothes, a sword on his back, and his gun in his holster. He tapped on the ear-bud.
“Colonel, where the hell am I?”
“I explained earlier, you’re in a simulation. A virtual reality. The things around you aren’t real. You didn’t move at all, you’re still in Atlantis on a chair connected to your brain.”
“Relax! It’s totally safe.”
“It’s true. We didn’t move.”
Dean shot a long glare to Ronon. “Your explanation sucks, Sheppard.”
“No need to be so angry, kiddo. You wanted to take the advanced training course for off-world missions, isn’t that right?”
“So that’s the big secret you were holding on to for a week?”
“The marines had already tested it, this is a good way to improve the off-world efficiency….”
“Sir, you still have to redact the report for the SGC.” Lorne voice sounded distant in his ear.
Dean sighed, despite what he was saying he was amazed by this virtual reality. The feel of the wind on his skin, the smell of fallen leaves, the sound of birds in the distance, the soft soil under his boots. It was hard to think that all of this wasn’t real.
“What do we do now, Sheppard?”
“Now you learn how a mission off world can go south, what a Wraith’s attack looks like on an open field and how you should react.”
“There are several case scenarios, from time to time the setting will change according to your behavior and each time you’re able to end a mission. By dialing the ‘Gate you log out of the simulation.”
Zelenka’s addition at the conversation made him think. He had to act as if he was in an off-world mission and kill the bad guys and there were even different levels. No wonder Sheppard saw this as a game.
A small smirk bloomed on his face. “Weapons?”
Ronon took out his gun, and smirked too. As soon as Dean said it, out of nowhere appeared the door for the armory. Dean tentatively entered and saw a room filled with weapons, like the one back in Atlantis.
“You should take the P-90 and a berretta, those are the standard weapons off-world.” Sheppard sounded just like a voice of a tutorial in a videogame.
Yep, Dean could easily understand why the Colonel named it “HALO Pegasus Galaxy Edition.”
He took the P-90, the berretta, two knives that he placed on each boot, a tact vest filled with ammunitions, grenades and C4. Ronon was near the door; aside some shells for his energy gun he didn’t took anything else.
Once they stepped again in the plain the door disappeared into thin air.
“How do we dial the ‘Gate?”
Ronon moved to the mushroom thing he saw earlier. “This is the DHD. You dial the Stargate with this by pushing 7 symbols.” The Satedan placed his hand on seven symbols. “And that is the address for Atlantis, memorize it.”
Dean gazed intently at the sequence. “Gotcha.”
They start to wander off toward the forest.
“Ah! One more thing Dean. This is a training simulation–”
A shot from the forest draw their attention. Ronon hid near a tree before he started shooting at the incoming Wraith. Dean threw himself on the ground before he found a cover near a rock. Right near his cover he found a Wraith, and shoot several times with the P-90.
The Wraith was able to threw him away before falling dead on the ground.
The impact with the ground caused him a lot of pain. “Son of a bitch.”
For a second he thought he heard the familiar noise of a dislocated shoulder, however when he stood there wasn’t any evidence of injury aside a low ache. He was surprised, he didn’t think pain was accounted in the game.
“…As I was saying it’s a training simulation, your pain levels are lower than normal but they are always there. You shouldn’t try to act like superman.” John stated chirpily.
“Sheppard I swear next time…”
Dean didn’t finish his sentence. He took one of his knife from the boot and threw it in the heart of another foot soldier coming from his left side. By the time he finished with a group of three Wraith, Ronon had already killed six of them.
“Nice job, kiddo.” Dean grunted in return to the voice in his ear.
Ronnon turned to him and smiled, killing Wraith always improved his mood, even virtual ones.
“Do you want in on the bet?”
“Sheppard bet on how many Wraith we can kill before finishing the missions.”
“and Lorne?” Dean wasn’t sure their bet would be approved by the Major.
“He and Zelenka are the arbiters. The score is thirty dead Wraith.”
“What’s our odds?”
“No one in a week was able to reach twenty-five. They’re pretty sure we’ll fail too.”
Dean smiled. “Count me in.”
After that they started to act more like a team, working together in eliminating the enemies. Sheppard at that point took radio silence since they had set no external help as one of the rules for the bet.
Their first mission was scouting a wide forest where there were at least fifteen Wraith. By making some traps and using their own stunner against them Ronon and Dean were able to divide them in small groups and save their own ammunitions for later use.
When all the Wraith were killed the forest ended and a village appeared.
The sound of an alien plane made them scattered along with fictional civilians in the ruins of the village.
“What the hell is that?”
“A Dart! Move!”
They took cover and the Dart, from a blue light-ray, sent a dozen soldiers into the village.
“Son of a bitch.”
He ran up to the second floor of a building and when the Dart flew in the village for a second time he took it out with two grenades. However, by the time the Dart crashed on the ground, the twelve soldiers were terrorizing the villagers. Dean knew they were fictional, but their screams were as real as any other screams he had ever heard.
His instincts kicked in.
On several occasions Dean helped the fictional villagers to escape and he ran from building to building using everything he found to wound and kill the Wraith in his path.
Ronon was half a block away and he had his hands full with four of them. Time seemed to stretch, Ronon drew his sword and lay about him several times, while Dean lured a group of Wraith into a building before blowing it up with one of the so few C4 blocks he had taken with him.
If only he had known about the bet before he went out of the armory he would have packed more C4.
At the end of the two battle scenarios they killed twenty-eight Wraith, the pilot in the dart included.
They were exhausted but for a brief moment it seemed peace was once again restored in the fictional village and among his inhabitants.
They drank some fresh water and rested for a few minutes.
Despite the fact that the pain levels were less than normal, fatigue was still the same and they still had two Wraith to kill to win the bet.
Ronon with a little blood on his lips grinned like a madman. “This is fun.”
“Fun, right… do they really happen to be that easy to kill?”
The three from the lab on the other dimension didn’t go down that easily.
“Only when they don’t feed for a very long time.”
After that brief moment of respite a scream from the other side of the village pierced the silence.
Ronon and Dean ran after the sound and soon found two Wraith Queens feeding on the villagers.
“You just had to say it, didn’t you?”
Ronon drew his sword once again while Dean took out his beloved Desert Eagle and they attacked the creatures. At the end of the day they had killed twenty-eight Wraith and two Queens.
According to his own calculation Ronon had kicked his ass in the body count by nine or so Wraith.
The two Queens were in the same place trying to interrogate both of them in order to find the location of Atlantis when Dean had set off the last of his C4. By dumb luck they didn’t get blown up along with the two nasty ladies.
When they finally returned to the Stargate, Dean was too exhausted to hear what Sheppard was saying in his ear. They dialed, stepped through the ‘Gate and he found himself once again in the lab with the freaking chairs.
Back in Atlantis.
“Wow! Nine hours straight of gaming, nice record!”
He was tired and mentally exhausted but his body didn’t feel so drained. He felt a little dizzy and his body ached for the awkward position he had stayed during the experience but overall he was fine.
“Yep, those machines can keep your body functions safe while you’re diving and without much lingering effects. Congratulation you passed your speed course, kiddo!”
Dean arched an eyebrow then a cheshire-cat smile appeared on his face. “We also won the bet Sheppard.”
“I know, I know.” Sheppard drew out a pack of six Mars bars and gave them to Ronon, the tall man took three of them and gave them to Dean.
Dean’s smile fell, he couldn’t believe it.
They faced thirty virtual-Wraith just for… Six bars of chocolate?!
“Come on kiddo, what did you expect?”
Dean gave his part back to Ronon who looked at him with a curious expression. Then, like it was the most natural thing to do, Ronon took a single blade from his hair and gave it to Dean. The blade was thin and made with a hard material similar to iron, but stronger.
Way better than three bars of chocolate. Dean took it, and thanked his teammate.
Sheppard was not amused by the exchange, but in all fairness they had tricked Dean to do his best so they could evaluate his adaptability in the field. Both Lorne and Zelenka were amazed by some of his exploits during the simulation. Winchester, without doubt, wasn’t the average civilian.
A knife was a small price to acquire another piece of information on him.
Sheppard turned around. “So, wanna bet again, kiddo?”
Dean spun the blade between his fingers, and smirked.