Doctor Michael Harris, Software Engineer
If you asked me to speak a language other than my native tongue I would flounder. I never had that aptitude and was always envious of those who were multi-lingual. I discovered I was good with numbers though, and found that the one thing I could understand and translate with ease was computer language. I seemed to instinctively recognize the logical sequences and pathways taken through a computer program, creating interfaces between different platforms and operating systems with ease. For me, each new system language was an exciting new world to explore.
After gaining my PhD in Computer Science, I was considering my options when a strange opportunity knocked on my door in the form of a former student of my thesis advisor: Dr. Peter Grodin. I knew from the cagey conversation that the work he was offering was classified, though he hinted at enough to fire up my curiosity.
Signing the US military equivalent of the Official Secrets Act was the best thing I ever did!
I can still recall the awe I felt the first time I saw the Stargate activate. Watching the wormhole kawoosh outwards and stabilize was simply amazing, and I have never tired of seeing it. Sometimes I'd rush down to the control room when I heard the Stargate activation alarm and watch the SG teams head out or return.
Even though I was nothing more than a computer geek to most of the military and gate teams, I got a chance to talk with some of the scientists who gained a slot on a gate team for occasional missions. Usually it was for second/third contact after the first contact teams like SG-1 had checked out the planet and its people. Have to admit that I had a crush on Daniel Jackson in those days. Okay... I still have a crush on him. Thing is, he was one of those people who had always made me so envious - fluent in a dozen languages and with an uncanny ability to translate some of the more obscure languages found off-world with ease. He never made me feel like an idiot though, and we started to work together when I helped code a translation database for him that had a simpler interface. It was obvious that he hated computers, but I think I got him to at least appreciate the necessity for them. Fortunately I never had to type in the wonky writing from his journals.
Over the three years since joining the SGC, I worked side-by-side with Peter, becoming good friends, especially after SG-1 found the outpost in Antarctica and McKay gave me the task of adapting my translation software to access the Ancient database. When Daniel found the gate address for Atlantis, it was a no-brainer that I would put my name in for consideration for the expedition even though I felt a little guilty about leaving my parents behind. But my mum had always told me to follow my heart.
It was still both exciting and frightening to take that step through the Stargate. For many of us it was our first time, and even though most of the military shrugged it off as no big deal, I was scared right up to when we all began to shuffle up the ramp, trying to move as quickly as possible because of the 38 minute window. I'd already overseen the installation of all required programs onto most of the computers - mainly the general purpose laptops - and I hoped no one damaged them in transit. Of course there were those like McKay who didn't need anyone sorting out their laptops, and a few like Kavanagh who really should have let me handle it. Not that it would have made a whole lot of difference as he managed to trash his laptop regularly by messing about with the software.
Atlantis was amazing. Beautiful, even with the ten thousand year old dead plants. It must have been hermetically sealed to have stayed in such pristine condition... except for where the shield had started to collapse, causing flooding in the city.
Peter and I worked closely together in that first year as we interfaced the Ancient database with the laptops using the translation software for those who could not read Ancient - which was most of us. Of course, the early translations were only as good as the language experts could provide, and I really wished O'Neill had let Daniel come with us. Doctor Weir proved an exceptionally talented linguist though, especially as I thought she was just an administrator.
It was pretty obvious by the end of the first few days that the focus of the expedition would have to change from pure research to finding military applications. Peter and I had worked on the drones and it was a shock to realize Atlantis had depleted her stores during a hundred year siege by soul-sucking vampires called the Wraith. We had to work on other weapons, including the schematics for the Lagrange point weapons platform. Peter drew the short straw on that mission, mostly because he was the expert in that area.
I still miss Peter, and I can still recall the devastation on McKay's face when he returned to Atlantis without him. They were not the best of friends or anything like that, but I know McKay liked Peter and respected his abilities despite the occasional rant to the contrary. A few of us returned home through the Stargate after the siege, and it was good to see my parents again after a year of wondering if I'd ever see Earth or them again. I missed the city though, and the challenges, so I was pleased when the SGC allowed me to return to Atlantis.
Of course, the one good thing about renewed contact was the change in uniform for us scientists. As a peaceful expedition, the beige was ugly but functional for distinguishing the scientists from the military but it made us stick out as obvious targets on off-world missions. Giving us all the same basic dark colour uniform with panel colours to denote discipline - medical, military or scientist - was a big step in the right direction.
Five years have passed and I've seen more in those years than most people on Earth would see in ten lifetimes. I've witnessed the death of people I cared about - some sucked dry by the Wraith, others falling victim to unfortunate accidents with Ancient technology. I've also seen twin suns set on a distant world in another galaxy from my bedroom balcony. I've worked within ten feet of a Wraith, cursing myself for not spotting the Wraith insertion code that stole the coordinates for Earth from right under our noses. It made me determined to learn both Wraith and Asuran code so they could never slip something like that past me again.
Lately, I've rewritten corrupted subroutines to stop the transporters sending people to the west pier whenever they selected Botany after a little prank by one of the hard scientists against the soft sciences. Luckily, I managed to fix it before McKay found out or heads would have rolled. It's not that he doesn't have a sense of humor but even the simplest mistake could see someone seriously hurt - or dead. Atlantis can be a dangerous place.
Now I am still on Atlantis but back on Earth after the most harrowing ride using a theoretical wormhole drive that I had barely started code checking for McKay. There was so much that could have gone wrong but we made it, saved the planet, and now we are floating a few miles off the coast from San Francisco.
After five years, home is the city - Atlantis - rather than the planet beneath us. When we first stepped through we had all of these dreams of new technology and research but the Wraith made us open our eyes to the plight of Pegasus. We have defeated the Wraith here for now but, given the choice, most of us would rather be floating on an alien ocean in the Pegasus galaxy where we could continue that fight.
If the IOA and Homeworld Security finally agree to let us go back then I plan to be on board for the ride.