Every year Atlantean students would create a device that would somehow change mankind. That was the official brief; the unofficial brief was to see who could make the weirdest device imaginable. Fifteen years before the first fall of Atlantis, a device was created; its only purpose was to change the user's appearance and send them back in time by two weeks. Its possibilities were ground-breaking.
Unfortunately, during one particularly drunken engineering session involving a long winded argument about dogs and cats, the device was set to change the user into an animal as opposed to another human form.
Then, because Atlantean students in their final year often had little better to do than drink a lot to relieve stress, another drunken night resulted in the device being carefully stored away on another world. The student was given a pass grade and some painkillers for his hangover.
That, however, is another story. One that involves copious amounts of alcohol, some playing cards and a spoon. This is the story of what happened when the device was found, some ten thousand years later...
Day One: P3X 469
P3X 469 was a decaying wasteland of crumbling old buildings. The ground was slowly being reclaimed by the nearby plants and trees, making it difficult to see where the path through the, now disused, settlement had been. Signs of activity, though, were clearly embedded in the ground. Boot prints, military issue of varying sizes, led the way to the largest of the buildings.
It seemed simple enough. Lieutenant Kanan's team had discovered the site two weeks previously and had noted the presence of an Ancient device. None of his team had been able to work out what it did so, on their return to Atlantis, they had logged it in the system for further analysis at a later date by a member of the science department. Simple. The perfect mission to ease John's team back into the swing of things following two disastrous missions in a row; a milk run, nice and easy, not harmful in any way beyond the usual potential threat of Wraith attack.
So really, when the Ancient device in the corner made a happy beeping noise and started to flash, John was not surprised. What did surprise him were four hamsters suddenly crawling out of Rodney's pack, but then an orange light filled the room and suddenly he wasn't thinking at all.
It didn't even take a second for John to know something was wrong. He woke and the world was wrong. He was wrong. For a good few seconds he laid on his back, with his eyes shut, mentally reviewing the implications of the various sensations he was currently experiencing.
At some point, at some time between being flashed into unconsciousness and awaking on the cold, stone floor, John had become furry. Not just a 'man, you need a shave' kind of furry, more a 'there isn't enough body wax in the world to get you hairless' kind of furry.
His limbs, all of them, felt off. Positioned wrongly. And seriously, in the name of everything he'd suffered through in Atlantis, limb displacement was new. And freaky.
"What, the... WHAT?! No, no, no, no, no, nononononono! Oh. My. GOD!"
It was Rodney, high pitched and squeaky, the kind of really god damned squeaky that spoke of several fresh new kinds of hell.
John opened his eyes. The ceiling, broken in places, seemed suddenly mountainously high and far away.
"What did you do? Sheppard! I know this was your fault you rat bastard, OhmyGod! Fur! Paws! Where's my pack? Where is it?"
"I have to fix this, I have to fix this right now or else we'll probably turn into something like a unicorn or something equally as stupid. OhmyGod! What predators are on this planet? OhmyGod we're going to die, some eagle thing is going to swoop in and eat us -"
"Rodney, calm down, you are not helping!"
"Calm down?! You calm down! I don't know if you've noticed but we've all been turned into HAMSTERS!! Where the hell is my pack?"
It took longer than John wanted to admit to coordinating himself to roll over. It turned out it was surprisingly difficult when your arms were, in effect, attached to your chest. He consoled himself with the fact that he was still probably more graceful than Rodney, though, even before he looked at the rest of his team, he knew, he just knew, that Teyla and Ronon would be as sleek, deadly and graceful as hamsters as they were normally. Because the universe was just that unfair.
He was right. Two hamsters, sleek, beautiful, clearly in the peak of health were to his right, watching a third, slightly chunkier, hamster wave its paws around. It unnerved John how quickly he managed to pick out which one was which - alright, Rodney made it easy, but still.
"Glare all you want, Hamster boy, but I don't know if you've noticed - you don't exactly have the reach to hit me right now! Now where is my goddamned pack so I can fix this?"
"Colonel Sheppard. John, are you alright?"
John didn't reply, instead he watched as Ronon shuffled over to Rodney. Because surely, surely, Ronon couldn't punch out the other man - hamster - man hamster? - with paws.
"Of course he's not alright! None of us are alright! I -"
Ronon sat back on his haunches, reached across and batted Rodney across the face. Rodney tumbled sideways with an outraged squeak. Okay, so maybe Ronon couldn't punch him out, but the hamster equivalent of a bitch slap worked just as well.
Something bubbled up from John's chest, it was the worst possible thing to do; it would cause arguments, tantrums and potentially even tears. It was surprising in the somewhat stunned silence that followed the hamster bitch slap that Teyla was the first to break.
It came out like a squeaky honk. She brought up her paws in an effort to cover her mouth but it didn't stop them all turning to stare at her. More squeaky honks followed and that something that had bubbled up in John burst out and he sat back, laughing helplessly. Ronon followed soon after, even Rodney broke after a few minutes of giving them all death glares. They laughed and laughed and laughed.
Their laughter finally subsided and quiet descended on them.
“God, this is our lives,” Rodney choked out eventually. “We’re hamsters. Of course we are, that’s totally normal, what advanced civilisation doesn’t try turning themselves into animals for fun?”
John took a deep breath. “Okay, this can be fixed – right? Eventually, when we don’t dial in Atlantis is going to come looking for us.”
“And they won’t find us,” said Rodney irritably. “They’ll probably –”
“Stuff’s gone,” Ronon interrupted him. He ran round the device once and edged towards the doorway.
“Though it does not appear as if anyone has been here,” said Teyla examining the dusty ground around the device. “There are no boot prints here at all.”
John moved over to her with only a little awkwardness. If he didn’t think about it too much it only felt like he was crawling on his hands and knees; only faster. “What the hell?”
Rodney pushed past him, staring at the ground as if it offered the answers to life, the universe and everything. He sat back and stared.
“What is it?” John asked.
Sudden, rumbling vibrations through the floor curtailed any further questions. John shot over to the door. It was difficult, surprisingly so, to see very far, but the vibrations seemed to thrum deeper with each passing second.
“Hide!” John ordered. “Behind the device.”
“Behind the device?!” Rodney squawked as Teyla pushed him into the darkness.
They huddled together, hearts pounding. Nothing happened.
“Are you sure some –” Rodney began, but stopped as the floor almost seemed to shake beneath them.
John risked a look round the side of the device, his whiskers twitching. Had there not been impending peril he would have had a small private freakout, because seriously whiskers. Big, black, military issue boots moved into his field of vision. He looked up, and just kept looking up till he made out a blurry face.
“Anything interesting, Doctor Carey?”
John drew back into the darkness. “It’s Lieutenant Kanan’s team,” he whispered.
“Well it’s definitely Ancient in design,” Carey’s voice carried down to them. “Looks to be inert at the minute. Probably gene activated.”
“Oh, God.” At the sound of Rodney’s voice John turned and peered across at him.
Something heavy crashed to the floor beside the device. Carey’s pack. John ignored the conversation above as he stared at Rodney. “What is it?”
“We have to get in that pack,” said Rodney urgently. “We’ve got to get back to Atlantis.”
“I’ll explain in a minute! Move it!”
Within seconds Ronon had clambered up one of the fabric straps and had disappeared into a small side pocket. Rodney went next, then Teyla, and John followed them in. It was stuffy and cramped inside and it took an uncomfortable amount of time for them each to find some sort of space for themselves without sitting on someone else.
It was accompanied by the oddest scent of mouldy cheese.
“Rodney, what is going on?” Teyla whispered.
“Um.” Rodney stared round the small space, his eyes wide and his whiskers quivering.
John nudged him. “C’mon McKay, focus, what’s going on?”
Rodney blinked and then stared at John. “Isn’t it obvious?”
John, Teyla and Ronon looked at Rodney and waited.
“The conversation they were having – Kanan’s team,” said Rodney, “weren’t you listening? They weren’t looking for us, they were examining the device, which they did two weeks ago. Why would they need to do it again?”
Realisation dawned on John. “We’ve gone back in time.”
“Possibly,” Rodney acknowledged. “Either way, we’ve got to get back to Atlantis without being noticed.”
“Then perhaps we had better remain silent,” said Teyla.
Day One: Monday: Atlantis:
They all slammed into each other as Doctor Carey dropped his pack to the floor. John waited a few seconds then poked his nose out of the pocket. Kanan’s team were laughing about something and stripping off their dirty uniforms. John motioned to the others and slipped out of the pocket onto the floor.
The plan was simple; get out the pocket, head for the door and find the nearest hiding space.
The plan didn’t involve getting buried under someone’s sweaty t-shirt as it was flung to the floor. “Don’t move,” John breathed.
Seconds later they were airborne, scooped up with the t-shirt and shoved into one of the laundry bags. The smell alone made them gag. Another heap of clothes were piled in on top and there was the distinct metallic tang of blood.
“Shit, whose is that?”
“Hard to tell. Think they’ll be okay – got covered in some gooey spray though.”
“Quit gassin’ and get that lot down to Sergeant Ward.”
“What’s happening?” Rodney squeaked, his voice sounding somewhat muffled.
“I believe we are being taken to the laundry room,” said Teyla faintly.
It was difficult to breathe under the weight of the dirty clothes and it felt like the journey took half of forever. They heard: "Hey Sarge, got another load for ya. Rescue mission - everyone got sprayed with some purple shit," before the bag was tossed into the air, landing with a soft thump against the floor.
"This better not burn me!" someone with a British accent yelled. Sergeant Ward.
Something hard and heavy pressed against the bag. John flattened himself down as much as he was able and he heard hissed intakes of breath from the other members of his team.
Then the ground disappeared beneath him as Sergeant Ward upended the bag on the floor. John glanced across in time to see Ronon and Teyla disappear into a jacket sleeve. Rodney shot up a nearby trouser leg, John followed him in.
“This is ridiculous,” Rodney breathed heavily. John could feel the other...hamster’s... heart pounding.
“Just hold on and get ready to move when I say,” John murmured in his ear.
The trousers they were sheltering in moved abruptly. Rodney slid past John, down into the other trouser leg.
A few minutes after that John had only the briefest glimpse of a large plastic bowl before the world became wet. “Rodney!” He yelled. “Move it! Climb out!”
Somewhere nearby John vaguely registered the sound of something soggy slapping against the floor. He surged up the trouser leg, using his momentum to get him up and out of the bowl. The trouser leg came down with him, a thread in the fabric caught in his back paw.
Above, someone cleared their throat loudly. John froze.
A hand clamped down on the trousers. John tugged his back paw free and then shot forward. “Rodney! Run! Ronon! Teyla! We’ve been made!”
Up ahead he saw Ronon and Teyla streak out from underneath a fallen jacket. Rodney materialised beside him, already breathing heavily.
“Do you have any idea how hard this is?” Rodney panted, running unsteadily alongside John.
“Less talking, more running!”
They shot out the door, Sergeant Ward’s cry of “Bugger!” echoing painfully behind them.
John wove through the legs of unsuspecting personnel as they raced through the corridors. He didn’t dare look back, he could feel the weight of Sergeant Ward’s footsteps slamming against the floor behind.
Teyla looked back and her eyes widened. “Rodney! Hurry!” She dropped back, running alongside Rodney, nudging him along faster.
“Can’t - keep - this - up!” Rodney managed to force out.
Moments later he began to drop back again. This time John dropped back to push him on. Up ahead Ronon darted towards a closed door.
“Open it!” Rodney screeched.
John thought ‘On’ as hard as he could and by some miracle the door opened.
“Where now?” Teyla asked urgently as they skidded into what looked like the infirmary.
“Up there,” said Ronon.
Teyla instantly shot up the bed leg. Ronon and John both shoved Rodney up after her before following on themselves. They huddled together, breathing heavily, hidden beneath a sheet next to something big and warm.
“What’s that?!” Rodney wheezed.
"Is everything alright, Sergeant Ward?"
That was Teyla’s voice, louder somehow. Something in John’s memory gnawed at him. An odd sense of déjà vu that he couldn’t place. "Got you." The bed vibrated heavily.
"I was after the creatures. Four of them escaped from laundry."
The sheet was ripped back and a large hand grabbed hold of all of them. John cried out in alarm and heard the others do the same as they attempted to struggle free.
“Stop! Stop!” Rodney screamed. “If we’re dropped now the fall’ll kill us!”
John stopped struggling a moment and gasped. "I am very sorry, Sergeant." In front of him he could see Sergeant Ward, rolling to his feet; Teyla – normal, human Teyla – stood looking unrepentant beside him. On the bed Rodney, in his human form, was out cold.
"Who's down in Zoology?"
That was John’s voice.
“Do I really sound like that?” he wondered aloud. He remembered this. Only then he hadn’t been a hamster, he’d been normal. Ward had run in, Teyla had tackled him and then Ronon had pulled out four hamsters.
"Doctor Coutinho's Head of Zoology. You'd be surprised how many little bas – er – creatures slip in with the Laundry."
“Ronon! Stop squirming!”
Rodney’s squeaking voice snapped John back to the present.
“I know what happens,” said John trying to ignore his overwhelming urge to flee. “We’re going to be taken down to zoology.”
“Zoology?!” Rodney shrieked.
"Sheppard to Doctor Coutinho, we've got some creatures down in the Infirmary you may be interested in. I'd really appreciate it if you could bring something down here ASAP to hold them in."
“Sheppard, you IMBECILE!”
The squirming and wriggling of his teammates started anew but human Ronon didn’t relinquish his grip until a large, clear container appeared beneath them. Then he dropped them inside and a lid with tiny airholes slammed shut.
After that things got a little hazy.
Day Two: Tuesday
John awoke to the sound of the Spice Girls belting out one of their hits. Everything hurt, ached in a strange and entirely unpleasant way.
“I think they’re cute. We should name them!”
John slowly tilted his head to the side. He was in a cage; Rodney and Ronon were stretched out near him.
And they were all still hamsters.
Wait. Where was Teyla?
“One of them’s awake.”
Nearby, Rodney twitched violently and snorted himself awake. “Ow, ow, my back... what is that? Is that the Spice Girls? I knew this department was a waste of money – wait, what?! Oh no!”
“Where’s Teyla?” John hissed.
“We’re still hamsters!” Rodney moaned covering his eyes with his paws.
“What are they doing?”
John darted forward and nudged Ronon. “Ronon, wake up.” He turned and ran to the edge of the cage. “Teyla! Teyla!”
Ronon was suddenly at his side. “Teyla’s gone.”
“Wait,” said Rodney joining them. “Teyla can’t be gone, she was right with us. Teyla! TEYLA!”
“Over there,” Ronon shot off to the other side of the cage. Teyla was in a cage next to theirs, a smaller one, but she was still unconscious.
“Teyla!” John called.
“They seem distressed.”
“I think they miss the female – oh that’s so adorable!”
In the other cage Teyla stirred and they watched in relief as her eyes opened. “Where are we?” she mumbled.
“We’re caged in Zoology,” said Rodney.
“Got to get out of here,” Ronon grunted.
“And how do you expect us to do that?” Rodney snapped. “We’re all in cages; we have no tools and a surprising lack of opposable thumbs!”
“What shall we name them?”
“Coutinho doesn’t like it when we name them.”
“So? What can he do about it?”
John leant against the cage bars and stared round at their surroundings. “Wait,” he said slowly. “We’ve gone back in time, right? We must have had reports about hamsters.” He strained his memory. “I remember seeing them...us in the infirmary. Come on, Rodney, you get reports from this department.”
“I’ve got far more important things to do with my time than read reports on the animals that have either tried to eat us or have no useful purpose in life,” said Rodney hotly.
John counted to ten in his head. “Fine. Then I suggest you start thinking of a way out.” He glanced up at the small opening on the ceiling of the cage, there was another set into the side wall. “Teyla, you got anything useful on your side?”
“Give me a moment.”
Ronon started to move towards the side door but John darted forward and stopped him. “Not yet,” he nodded towards the two watchers stood near their cages. “Not with them watching.”
“What about Princess, Fudge, Rex and Syd?”
Rodney stared up at the two watchers in disgust. “When I get out of this cage I’m firing the entire department.”
Day Three: Wednesday Night:
John pressed his nose through the bars of the cage and peered round the darkened lab. Their two watchers had disappeared earlier in the day, replaced by the cheery Doctor Coutinho, who had spent a happy few hours watching them till he crashed out at his desk.
“This isn’t going to work,” Rodney muttered behind him.
“It will,” said John confidently, “I think Coutinho’s asleep.” He turned back to the other two and nodded. Together they made their way across the cage to the side door. “Okay, everyone grab on.”
Ronon reached through the gap and twisted his paws round the edge of the cage lock. John and Rodney put their paws below his.
“Three, two, one, push!”
John threw his entire body weight against the door. For a long moment he met resistance but then their combined efforts forced the door open with a loud, dull thunk. He tumbled out onto the counter below. Ronon leapt out after him, Rodney followed at a more sedate pace.
John rolled over and scurried across to Teyla’s cage. Teyla was already in position, watching them anxiously as they approached. John stood on his hind legs and reached up to the side door, it was higher than the previous one.
Ronon stretched up alongside him and gripped hold of the door.
“Teyla, you push, we’ll pull,” said John quietly.
“This isn’t going to work,” Rodney repeated, getting a hold on the door.
John ignored him. “On three. One, two, three!”
The cage door moved a fraction of a millimetre. John’s feet skidded on the counter as he pulled at the door. “C’mon!”
Without warning the door finally burst open, hitting the cage wall and clanging loudly. Across the room there was a scuffling sound as Doctor Coutinho snapped awake.
“Run!” John ordered.
A shadow fell across the counter, out the corner of his eye John saw Doctor Coutinho’s large hand bearing down on Rodney.
“Rodney!” He darted across, shoving Rodney out the way and felt strong fingers close round him. “Keep going!” He yelled even as he struggled against the firm hold.
“Easy, I’m not going to hurt you. Bregazzi, Matthews, I need you in here, the creatures have escaped.”
John watched the rest of his team slip away into the shadows. He scrabbled frantically, but Coutinho didn’t loosen his hold. John was unceremoniously dropped back into the cage. He immediately went to the cage door but it refused to budge. He hurried to the corner of his cage and squinted as the room suddenly brightened.
“Where are you?”
John sat back in the corner of the cage. He couldn’t see his team. He slouched back against the wall of the cage and waited.
“Be careful opening that door!”
“I got here as soon as I could, have you caught them yet?”
“No, check everywhere but keep that door shut! I don’t want them escaping out of the lab.”
Doctor Coutinho and one of the watchers from earlier got down on the floor and started lifting up boxes and moving empty cages aside. John watched them but didn’t move from his position.
John looked over and saw his team all attaching themselves to the cage door.
“Hurry up! We haven’t got all day,” Rodney hissed.
John leapt up and threw himself at the cage door, pushing against it with all his might. It was just starting to give when his team were suddenly swept up into Doctor Coutinho’s hands.
Coutinho hurriedly shoved them all into the cage. Ronon was immediately up on his feet but Coutinho slammed the cage door shut before he could escape again.
Rodney groaned, lying on his back with his paws in the air. “I told you it wouldn’t work.”
“I told you to keep going,” John pointed out. “You guys were free.”
Teyla gave him an exasperated look. “We were not going to leave you behind.”
“They came back for Syd, that’s so adorable!”
“Syd?! What have I told you about naming – never mind. Fascinating behaviour though; not only did they manage to break out, but they broke out the female and came back for the one left behind.”
“We should probably separate out Princess from the boys.”
Rodney closed his eyes. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m firing them all once this is sorted.”
It shouldn’t have cheered John up to hear that, but somehow it did.
Day Four: Thursday
John gathered his team in the middle of the cage. He felt instant relief at seeing Teyla still inside with them.
“I told you it wouldn’t work,” said Rodney chewing on one of the pellet things that had been left in a food bowl for them all.
“Can you stop saying that?” John asked irritably.
Ronon leant over and smacked Rodney round the back of the head.
“Thanks,” John nodded to Ronon and then took a deep breath. “We need options.”
“Could just go out the door again,” Ronon suggested.
“Perhaps we should try to message Doctor Coutinho somehow,” said Teyla.
Rodney stared at her. “I’ll just grab a pen and write a cheery note, shall I?”
“Actually,” said John slowly, “we could take the food they’ve been giving us and arrange it in a kind of SOS.”
“What are they doing?”
“They’re a strange lot.”
Rodney squinted across at Bregazzi and Matthews, sat with their laptops and watching the cage intently. “There’s one major flaw in this plan, well, there’s several but there’s a big one.”
“What is it?” John sighed.
Rodney jerked his paw in the direction of their watchers. “Dumb and Dumber over there.”
“Rodney,” said Teyla chidingly. “They are not complete fools.”
“It can’t hurt to try,” John nodded towards the food bowl.
John, Teyla and Ronon started moving the food from the bowl as Rodney cleared a space in the centre of the cage.
About ten minutes later, they all stepped back to admire their handiwork.
“You know, it could just be me, but I’m pretty sure SOS has three letters, not one and a bit.”
“Shut up, Rodney.”
“Oh my God, do you see that?”
“Radio Doctor Coutinho, he’s going to want to see this.”
“See,” John shot Rodney a smug grin, “They’ve noticed.”
Ronon leant over and peered down at the message they’d created. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
John scowled. “You are not helping.”
Teyla sat back and sighed. “Perhaps we should try again once we have more food to create the message.”
“Fine. McKay, you can clean it up.”
Day Five: Friday
“I’ve got a lovely present for you beauties today, yes I have, yes I have!”
John woke up as Doctor Coutinho affixed a hamster wheel to the side of the cage and put in a small plastic house.
“Sheppard, you awake? I think I’ve worked this thing out.”
John squinted across at Rodney hopefully. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, I think that in nine days we need to be back at the device and then that’ll turn us back to how we were. I don’t think the device will let two human copies of us exist at the same time unless it didn’t do anything because the power drained but I’m aiming for positive here. So we’ve just got to wait it out here for a couple more days and then I don’t know, hitch a ride on ourselves to get back to the planet.”
John stared at him.
Rodney shrugged defensively. “Have you got a better theory?”
John stared round their cage, with its new and cheerfully bright little house and blue hamster wheel. He closed his eyes. Some mornings it just wasn’t worth getting up.
Day Seven: Sunday
“So,” John looked round at his team. “Cats or dogs.”
Teyla stared at him. “I am going to meditate,” she said eventually. She turned and went into the little plastic house.
“I think Teyla’s annoyed,” said John after a pause.
“Maybe she just doesn’t want to sit through another round of ‘this or that’,” said Rodney snippily.
“It’s a stupid game,” Ronon stormed off towards the hamster wheel.
John sat back and stared at Rodney. “So,” he said hopefully. “Cats or dogs?”
Day Eight: Monday
“What are we going to do today, Sheppard?” Ronon asked.
“The same thing we do every day, Pinky, try to take over the world.” John snorted and laughed, but quickly subsided at the blank look on Ronon’s face. “You know,” he said attempting not to pout, “if you had ever seen Pinky and the Brain you would be laughing right now.”
Ronon stared at him some more, then went to join Rodney at the food bowl.
Day Ten: Wednesday
John stared round the cage. Teyla was absolutely not avoiding them all by meditating in the little plastic house again. Ronon was running on the wheel (It squeaked every third rotation. John wasn't counting). Rodney was eating nuts.
Outside the cage Doctor Coutinho was tapping away at his laptop and humming along to the ABBA songs streaming out the speakers.
John hated them all.
Day Eleven: Thursday
Doctor Coutinho hovered over the cage, watching them indulgently and singing. The sound of it sent shivers down the spine and the entire team sat and watched him in stunned horror. After a few moments, Ronon moved across the cage and tossed a nut around in his paws.
"What're you doing?" John asked suspiciously.
"Throw it just right, he'll choke to death."
John stared from the nut to Doctor Coutinho, whose singing had increased in volume.
"Do it. Do it now," said Rodney darkly.
"I don't think it’s a good idea to kill him," said John, hating himself for being the voice of reason.
"Perhaps, you can throw it so he merely chokes and does not die?" Teyla suggested.
All three of them turned to look at Ronon. Above them Doctor Coutinho switched song. The strained, screechy notes of 'My Heart Will Go On' echoed painfully around the lab. John turned to Ronon. "Fuck it. Kill him."
Ronon let loose the nut, and to their utter crushed disappointment it rebounded off the cage bars.
Teyla retreated into the little plastic house. Ronon made for the hamster wheel and Rodney stormed across the cage and forced himself up against the bars. “When I get out of here, Coutinho,” he screamed, “I’m going to kill you, you tone-deaf musically inept tool! But before that I’m going to take your music collection and put it on discs so I can make you watch me melt down the entire goddamned collection. Then I will dance over its glowing goddamned embers and do whatever ritual I have to, to cleanse this entire lab, your laptop and my hearing of it!”
John sidled up to him. “I bet Ronon will let you use his gun to do it.”
“Should’ve stayed on the planet,” Ronon pointed out.
“And get eaten by all the many varied predators?” Rodney asked scathingly.
”You’re here, there’s nooooooooooothing I fear....” Doctor Coutinho launched into the key change with gusto.
They all cringed.
“I’m with Ronon on this one,” said John.
Rodney visibly deflated and glared at Doctor Coutinho, still happily singing away to himself. “Me too,” he admitted finally.
Day Thirteen: Saturday Night
John nibbled unenthusiastically on one of the small food pellets and watched as Rodney rearranged some more on the floor of the cage. “What are you doing?”
Rodney moved back. “Messing with Coutinho’s mind.” He proudly indicated the sad face he’d made out of pellets.
It actually looked a little demonic. John tilted his head and squinted down at it. “Seems fair,” he said eventually.
“John, Rodney, Ronon, come here!” Teyla called.
John and Rodney turned to look at her.
“What’s the matter?” Rodney asked.
“We must get out of this cage,” she replied, eyeing them all in turn. “Tomorrow morning we will be assembling for the mission to P3X 469, we must return to the planet.”
“Has it been thirteen days already?” John felt faintly surprised.
“Thirteen long, long days,” Teyla affirmed looking pained. “I have been keeping careful track of time.”
They all ambled over and sat down in front of her.
“So what’s the plan?” Ronon stretched out on the floor.
“We could just stick with the same plan from before,” John shrugged. “It’s not like they’ve done anything to prevent it.”
Rodney sighed heavily. “I know it works in our favour,” he said. “But these people are just incompetent we're truly lucky we’ve not given them any really intelligent creatures yet. The way these morons behave we’d have lost Atlantis in less than a day –”
“Hey,” John interrupted. “They might let the creatures out but me and my men wouldn’t let them take over the city.”
“True,” said Rodney nodding.
John nudged his shoulder. “I’m sure you would’ve noticed their idiocy before they let Atlantis get overrun. You know, if you actually took ten seconds to read their reports.”
“Enough,” Teyla snapped. “This is not accomplishing anything. We will wait till Doctor Coutinho leaves and then we will open the cage door and escape. The best course of action would be to find our way to the locker room and wait till morning. Once Doctor McKay arrives we can hide ourselves in his pack.” She eyed them all in turn. “Is that clear?”
Day Fourteen: Ridiculously Early Sunday Morning
The lab was quiet and dark. Doctor Coutinho was once again asleep at his desk, snoring gently. John gathered up his team and they all assembled at the cage door.
“On three,” John whispered, getting a good grip on the door, “we push. One...two...three!”
The door opened with far greater ease than it had the last time and John successfully managed not to fall out as it swung open. He climbed out instead and waited impatiently for the others to follow.
“How are we going to get down?” Rodney hissed. “And don’t you dare say ‘jump’!”
John peered over the edge of the counter top, the ground seemed an awfully long way down. He looked across at Rodney. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Over here,” Ronon called.
Across at his desk Coutinho shifted in his sleep. They all froze and waited. He didn’t wake.
John headed over to Ronon and peered over the side. Boxes had been stacked near the counter top, enough for a potential route to the ground.
“That can’t be safe,” Rodney squeaked.
Ronon shrugged. “Won’t know till we try.” He swung himself over the side of the counter and dropped onto the first box.
“I cannot see another way down,” Teyla admitted, staring at the boxes.
“Then we’ve gotta do it,” said John. He nudged Rodney. “C’mon, you next.”
“Oh, I’m a dead man.” Rodney reluctantly went over to the edge.
“Hamster actually,” said John helpfully.
“C’mon, McKay, you can do it,” Ronon encouraged him, from his position on the box.
“You will be fine, Rodney,” said Teyla.
Rodney gingerly lowered himself down and fell onto the first box. “Ow.”
“See,” said John brightly, “that wasn’t too bad.
Teyla went next and John followed her. It took an obscene amount of time to climb down to ground level. Every so often Coutinho would sigh or move in his sleep, and every time the whole team would freeze until it was clear the man was still asleep.
John dropped to the floor with a soft thud. “Let’s get out of here.
He crossed the floor and paused. The doors seemed to stretch up forever, enormous and impenetrable. He glanced back at Coutinho, still blissfully asleep at his desk.
“Once the door opens he will wake,” Teyla murmured. “We must be quick.”
“Everyone ready?” John asked. He didn’t wait to see their nods of assent. Instead he focused all his energy at the door. “Open!”
The door slid open smoothly. At his desk Coutinho jerked awake with a muffled cry of alarm. “RUN!” John yelled.
He sped off down the corridor, Teyla running beside him, Ronon and Rodney bringing up the rear. “Keep to the edges, in the shadows,” he said needlessly, breathing hard as they ran.
The corridors were blissfully empty of personnel and it seemed that Coutinho hadn’t seen them escape the lab.
“This’s...gonna...take f’rever,” Rodney wheezed as he struggled to keep up with the others.
“It is not that far, Rodney,” said Teyla encouragingly. “We shall be there soon.”
“N’t far...when we’re...big,” Rodney grumbled.
Ronon gave him an encouraging nudge and they kept running.
Deep, rhythmical vibrations in the floor warned them of someone approaching. But there was nowhere to hide. John flattened himself up against the wall, confident that he and his team would be fine if the person wasn’t paying much attention.
After a tense few seconds, one of the scientists passed them by, deeply focused on her PDA. John sighed quietly in relief and nodded to the others. They kept moving. And for all that Teyla had assured Rodney it wasn’t far, it really was.
By the time they managed to crawl into the locker room, no one had any breath left to speak and John knew Ronon had been half supporting Rodney the past few minutes. They flopped down, utterly, utterly, exhausted beneath one of the benches.
Day Fourteen: Sunday Morning
”Why are we doing this again?”
“It’s a nice, easy milk run, McKay, ease everyone back in.”
“It will be good to get out of Atlantis for a time.”
“See, Teyla agrees with me. I thought you wanted to check out the device?”
“Yeah, but with our luck? Our last mission, they would’ve killed us if you hadn’t pimped out Sergeant Ward to clean their rabid dog-goat thing!”
“I did not ‘pimp out’ Sergeant Ward! Would you have rather I left you to die?”
“I believe Rodney is making a point about our recent track record.”
“We’re having bad luck.”
John shuddered as he watched their human selves move around the locker room.
“You totally pimped out Ward,” Rodney whispered in his ear.
“Did not!” John hissed.
Ronon smacked them both. Teyla fixed them with a slightly crazy look. “Be silent!” she said, her voice quiet yet still threatening dire consequences if her word wasn’t obeyed.
A pack slammed to the ground, dangerously close to them. Rodney squinted at it. An odd smell of old powerbars drifted across the space.
John smiled. “That’s Rodney’s pack.” He stealthily moved across to it. One of the side pockets was hanging open. He climbed inside, then motioned for the others to follow. Aside from not smelling like mouldy cheese John felt a strange sense of déjà vu as they all huddled together. “All we gotta do is wait,” he whispered.
“We have waited two weeks,” said Teyla. “We can wait a short while longer.”
“Speak for yourself,” Rodney grunted. He wriggled around a bit and then settled.
”McKay, are you ready yet?”
John winced. “Do I really sound like that?” His teammates stared at him wordlessly.
”I’m ready, I’m ready!”
There was a brief moment of weightlessness as human Rodney, presumably, hefted the pack into the air. John looked at the others. “So,” he said after a pause. “Cats or dogs?”
John watched as his teammates stared at each other. Finally Rodney sighed and glanced over at him. “Cats, of course.”
“I’m more of a dog person myself,” John said. “Constant companion, you can take them for walks, play fetch, teach them stuff.”
“But they’re so needy,” Rodney shuffled again, clearly trying to get comfortable. “You leave the door open one time and they’re gone and they don’t come back. Cats are way more independent and still there if you need them.”
“Dogs are better,” John decided.
Teyla released a long suffering sigh. “Does it matter?”
“Fine,” said John trying not to scowl.
There was a long silence.
“So,” said John eventually. “What’s the first thing everyone’s going to do once we’re back to normal?”
“If we get back to normal,” Rodney muttered.
John poked him. “We will, it’s your theory remember?”
“Then I think the first thing I’m going to do is have very long talk with Coutinho,” said Rodney darkly.
“I’ll help,” Ronon volunteered.
“I don’t think we’re allowed to kill him,” said John trying to keep the regret from his voice.
There was a pause.
“We could maim him a bit,” said Ronon nonchalantly.
“I don’t think we’ll be allowed to do that either,” John sighed.
There was a longer pause.
“Then I will offer to spar with him,” said Teyla.
John mentally flicked through the rules and regulations in his head. “I think we can work that one out.”
“I think I’m going to pipe the most offensively bad music I can find on our systems directly into his quarters at all hours of the day,” said Rodney with a dreamy smile. He looked over at John. “You could use your supergene to lock him in there.”
“I could just hit him,” Ronon shrugged.
They all paused to consider this.
“Simple, yet effective,” Rodney decided.
“It does not seem quite...enough,” said Teyla thoughtfully.
Day Fourteen: P3X 469
The trip through the Stargate had been disconcerting only because the cold wash of the event horizon was so unexpected. The long trip to where the device was held on planet somehow didn’t feel so long when everyone was working out varying ways to punish Doctor Coutinho. Also, that they didn’t have to make the journey under their own speed helped.
But there was a definite shift in atmosphere as they got closer.
“Once the device beeps,” said John, “that’ll be the human us disappearing and hopefully we’ll go back to normal.”
“This is a terrible plan,” Rodney groaned. “Its based off absolutely no concrete evidence whatsoever.”
“It’s your plan,” Ronon pointed out.
“I know,” said Rodney miserably. “That doesn’t make it any better.”
”What’s it doing?! Turn it off!”
“This is it,” said John. “Get ready.”
Outside the pack they could hear the device make a happy beeping sound. Together they clambered out of the pocket. John saw himself, the human him, staring at them all in shock.
But then an orange light flared out and John really wasn’t thinking anything, any more.
He awoke, feeling cold and oddly stiff. He brought his hand up to rub his eyes and – wait. Hand? John risked opening his eyes. There was a hand in front of his face. He thought about wiggling his fingers. The fingers on the hand in front of him waggled in a friendly manner. It was his hand! “Oh, thank God,” he breathed.
He rolled over and squinted round the room. The rest of his team were beginning to stir – thankfully, all of them were human again. “We did it,” he said, his voice sounding oddly deep to his own ears. “We’re back to normal.”
Nearby Rodney slowly got to his feet. Leaning heavily against the wall he turned to look at them all. “We tell no one about this.”
“Agreed,” Teyla nodded stiffly.
“What happens on P3X 469, stays on P3X 469,” said John.
Ronon stood and stretched. “I still get to hit Coutinho though, right?”
Rodney patted him on the shoulder. “Of course.” He glanced at the device. “What are we going to tell people?”
John shrugged. “It’s dead? The Wraith came, we were attacked by rabid animals, monsoon season has just started... I don’t know, we’ll think of something.”
“I believe we should say we discovered the device had no power,” said Teyla after some thought. “And that it is of no use to us. We do not want others coming back here and finding it.”
“Certainly not people with the gene,” Rodney agreed.
“Okay,” John nodded. “We came here, found the device was dead, and came home.”
They all murmured their assent.
“So,” said John. “We go home, hit Coutinho, then grab dinner and never speak of this again. Agreed?”