“Strange reports?” Rodney scoffed in disbelief. He looked at the memo that had been left on his desk as Sheppard walked in. “She might as well have said we're supposed to be heading for a haunted hallways or something.”
John shrugged as he casually leaned against the door frame and watched the beleaguered scientist shuffle papers around his desk.
“It's insane! That's what this is! She wants us hunting down … ghosts! I thought we had already been over this? There's no such things as ghosts,” Rodney ranted as he ran a hand through his hair. “The concept of ghosts is … ridiculous!”
“But we have space vampires that suck the life out of you with their hands,” John replied. “You really think ghosts are that far fetched?”
Rodney stopped mid-sentence, hand raised in protest when he paused and looked thoughtful for several moments. He let his hand fall back onto the overwhelmed desk and shook his head. “Alright, you may have a point. This might not be entirely out of line, or unbelievable. But I still think it's ridiculous. It's probably some Ascended person having fun, or an energy creature. Something along those lines. But not actual, chain rattling, wall walking, see through ghosts.” He crossed his arms a little defensively and dared John to come up with something else.
“You might have a point,” John conceded easily. “But it also doesn't mean that you're right and there is no such thing as a ghost. Now, are we going ghost hunting or not, Egon?”
“I'm not Egon!” Rodney pouted as he grabbed his tablet, a flashlight and the LSD.
“Right...” John drawled. “Just remember, if someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes.”
Rodney rolled his eyes as he followed John out the door. “Yes, Venkman, because that has such a great track record for StarGate teams in the past.
John laughed as they headed out the door.
Chapter 1: And So It Begins
Rodney winced in pain as his head throbbed. He paused in his work, fingers stopping as he pulled his hands away from the keyboard. He couldn't manage to raise his head a he heard the sound of familiar footfalls.
“I'll get on whatever project it is you want me to work on in a minute,” Rodney said, voice softer than usual, but even his own quieter tones seemed to threaten to shatter his head.
“Rodney, are you okay?” John's quiet voice cut through the quiet hum of the lab. His footsteps came closer and Rodney winced a little at the sound.
“No,” Rodney whimpered softly. “I have a sudden migraine from hell...”
“Want help getting down to the Infirmary, or would you like to ride a gurney?” John teased. More like half teased, half wanted to know if he seriously couldn't walk down there under his own power.
“Help would be welcomed, I tried some pain killers earlier but they didn't seem to help at all,” Rodney replied as he slowly lifted his head to see his best friend's hazel eyes staring at him intently. He tried to give a smile, but it came across as more of a pained grimace. “No movies tonight.”
“I kinda doubted that when I saw you slumped over. That's okay, I still have to try and get through War and Peace...” John said with a quiet laugh.
“You'll never get through it. It's horrible and boring. Don't know why you bothered to bring it with you in the first place,” Rodney said as he started to stand. He wobbled a bit but felt a steadying hand on his upper arm.
“Yeah, not sure why I did either. I guess it was the thought of … if I'm stuck somewhere might as well take something that takes forever to read. Hasn't worked out so well,” John said as he started to lead Rodney out of the lab.
“I've never finished it. I fell asleep on page one,” Rodney admitted. “Then I hacked the school's computer system just because I could and it was less boring.”
John smiled a little at the impossible creature that was Rodney McKay. Harsh, rude, irritable, and his best friend. “So, to the Infirmary then?” he asked cordially.
“Yes, you weirdo,” Rodney replied with a quiet, huffing laugh. He winced a little as John helped him stand upright and moved towards the door. “This sucks. I haven't had a migraine this bad since ... college ...”
“Which time in college?” John asked.
“The first time when I decided to finish all my course work in a month so I could get onto the things I really wanted to do. Like my next degree, and research,” Rodney replied, he unconsciously sighed in relief as he noticed the hall lights had been dimmed slightly for the night shift.
John shook his head in disbelief. “You know, with anyone else I would think they were trying to pull my leg. But after everything we've been through ... I don't doubt you. Not after the shield during the storm, or the Wraith siege.”
Rodney shook his head, a smile on his face as John helped guide him to the nearest transport. He leaned heavily on the other man as they made their way, mainly because his legs kept threatening to buckle out from under him. “Never tried that again. I'm a genius after all, I learned my lesson.”
John chuckled low in his throat. “Here we go. Transporter,” John said as he waved his hand at it and the doors opened with a quiet swish. He helped Rodney inside and tapped the location closest to the Infirmary. He noted a few other military personnel helping people in.
“Dear Lord,” Carson's brogue rolled the words as he saw Rodney and John walk in with a fresh wave a of patients. “My office for him.”
John nodded and carefully led Rodney away from the other patients. He sat the Canadian down at Carson's desk and thought the lights down. “I'll go see if there's something I can do to help. Unless you want me to hang here with you.”
Rodney shook his head slowly and waved John away. “I'll manage.”
John nodded and walked out, meeting up with Carson and helping haul people onto beds and ordering the military personnel to do a sweep of Atlantis for anyone that might be unable to make it to the Infirmary under their own power.
“It's a bloody epidemic...” Carson groaned as he walked into his office with John close on his heels. He winced as he saw Rodney slumped over on the desk, head cradled by his arms as his labored breathing reached their ears. “I forgot … Rodney I'm so sorry.”
“Did you take care of everyone else that's here?” Rodney asked the desk top.
“Aye,” Carson replied.
“Fine. Now drug me,” Rodney said, a faint whimper at the end of his sentence.
Carson placed a gentle hand on Rodney's shoulder before moving to grab the necessary medication. “You'll be needing to take off your jacket so I can be giving you this. Do you want to spend the night in here or in your room?”
“I honestly don't care,” Rodney replied looking worn out an exhausted. He laid his head back on the desk for a moment before stripping out of his uniform jacket.
“Just a quick poke...” Carson said softly as though trying to reassure Rodney as he gave him the injection. He watched as Rodney sat stoically as he was injected. He laid his head down on the desk as soon as Carson finished. “This will likely knock you on your butt.”
“That's fine. I'll be here if you need me,” Rodney murmured to the wood of the desk as he readjusted his folded arms to a more comfortable position.
“I don't think you should sleep on Carson's desk,” John said. “One of the beds in the Infirmary should e be fine for one night. Right, Rodney?”
Rodney nodded at the desk and lifted his head a little. His eyes were dilated already. “Sure... whatever you say, John.” He smiled tiredly as he offered his hand to John. “Lead on, fearless leader,” he slurred a little.
“Shouldn't take long for him to fall asleep. I have him a slightly larger than normal dose,” Carson said quietly.
John nodded silently as he led Rodney to a nearby bed and all but poured his friend into it. “Here you go. I'll come back for you in the morning if you miss the meeting with Elizabeth...”
John rubbed his hands on the legs of his pants nervously. He wasn't really sure what he could to, but felt as though he should be doing more than helping Rodney get to the Infirmary and dosed up. He walked back to Carson's office. “So...”
Carson looked up from his coffee and shook his head. “Go to bed, Colonel. I have no information on this. We're going over the blood work we've gotten from most of the patients but we have nothing for you. Yet. Come back tomorrow when I've had sleep and my staff has had time to work in this problem. Alright?”
“Yeah... sorry, doc,” John said with a halfhearted laugh as he ruffled his own hair. He turned and left, letting his mind wander as he headed for his rooms. The only thought on his mind was 'what could have caused this?'
Chapter 2: Seeing Things
“It was a shadow!”
“It was your tired mind playing tricks on you!”
“I'm telling you, it wasn't my mind. I'm perfectly lucid. I saw something moving in the hallway!”
“You're overworked, and over tired. Take the rest of the day off and come back tomorrow ready to work.”
“You're not in charge of the Science Division!”
“No,” Rodney's voice cut through the noise and fighting. “But I am. Both of you stop this, right now!”
The room fell silent. And the two scientist that had been fighting turned to see the CSO of Atlantis glaring at them from the doorway with his arms crossed and a highly irritated expression on his face. He tapped his foot a few times before continuing into the room.
“Now,” he started, voice startlingly calm. “Which one of you wants to tell me why two of my people are yelling at each other like two-year-olds, loud enough to be a disturbance that called for MY attention? And make sure your excuse is a good one, because if it's not, you have to work with Kavanugh.”
The two in question started trying to speak at the same time, hands gesturing wildly as they tried to explain.
“Stop!” Rodney said after a few moments. “One at a time. You,” he said as he pointed to the one on his left. A man of middle years with a truly forgettable face. He must have been from the newest batch the Deadluas brought to Atlantis.
The man stuttered for a few moments before managing to regain his composure. He swallowed hard. “We... were having an argument about something he,” the man pointed at his college,”said he saw a ghost in the hallways. He insists there must be a Wraith in the city. But we checked and double checked the scanners in the city. I checked and he checked. There was nothing unusual in the city close enough to be what he saw. I told him he was seeing things and he insulted me. I told him to leave. He refused. And then we started arguing...”
Rodney dropped his hands to his sides and shook his head. “I can not believe you,” he growled. “You are supposed to be professionals here. How in the Hell did you manage to get here with that kind of attitude I have no idea... But you are BOTH suspended for the next three days. Now you will tell me what you saw,” he demanded as he turned to the other man.
“I saw what seemed to resemble a person more than a Wraith shadow. It was walking in the hallway. But it wasn't just one. There were three of them. And it seemed as though they were … talking to each other. When I said we should record it, he,” the second man pointed at his college, “started telling me I was crazy. I said he wasn't a real scientist for saying I was crazy for seeing what he didn't. Then we started shouting at each other and you came in.”
Rodney rolled his eyes at the two. “You are still suspended. You,” he pointed at the one that had seen the shadows, “report to the Infirmary and have Carson check you out. If he says you're all clear then we'll double check the readings from yesterday.”
The two men scrambled to get away from Rodney's wrath, fleeing in opposite directions as soon as they entered the hallway.
Rodney took a moment to rub his head as he felt a migraine starting to come on. He winced a little as the pounding in his head increased for a moment before retreating to a bearable level.
“Rodney we've got a mission in a few hours,” John said as he came around the corner. “You alright?”
Rodney shook his head as it cleared. “Yeah, just a headache. Dealing with morons has a tendency to do that to me. What kind of mission is it today?”
“The usual, first contact possibility of finding Ancient Tech. One of Teyla's old trading partners said it had some old structures that are covered in vines and moss but fully intact, should be promising and interesting,” John replied trying to sound offhanded. He crossed his feet and the ankle and leaned against the closest wall. “I've already got everything ready. So... if you're not too busy... we could race cars while we wait. The west pier is free...”
Rodney felt a smile split his face. “I think I can manage to find someone to do these menial tasks,” he said with a laugh as he typed on his tablet for a few moments. “Ready when you are. As long as you're ready to lose.”
“I doubt that,” John replied as he led the way.
“I've been working on my car. Have you?' Rodney countered with a bit of a bounce in his step.
“When do you have time for that?” John asked as they stepped into the transporter.
Rodney merely smirked and shook his head. “That is need to know for evil scientist only. And you're not an evil scientist.”
“I'm sure...” John laughed as they made their way to the pier where they kept their cars charged and ready.
Rodney opened his mouth to say something when a shadow passed before him and he stopped dead in his tracks. He immediately pulled his tablet up and typed furiously at the screen for a few moments.
John pulled up short as soon as he noticed Rodney's steps had faltered and stopped. “Rodney? Buddy, what's going on? You okay?”
“Didn't you see that?” Rodney demanded.
“See what?” John asked, genuinely perplexed by his friend's behavior.
“There was a shadow, at the junction, and it … walked right in front of us,” Rodney replied as he looked up from the tablet with a dismayed look on his face. “But... this makes no sense!”
“Rodney, I didn't see anything. You sure you didn't just … imagine it. After all, that's what the two you reprimanded earlier were talking about. Maybe you just psyched yourself up to see one. You have been working really long hours in the labs lately,” John asked.
Rodney nodded. “Yeah, that's probably it. There's no unusual readings in this area, anyway. Probably just an over stressed mind.”
“See? Nothing to worry about,” John smiled and led the way.
Rodney couldn't help but look over his shoulder as they crossed through the junction of the hallways. Certain he was going to have something jump out at him just to prove John wrong.
Chapter 3: Spreading Visions
“I'm telling you, it's getting worse!” Rodney said as he practically slammed his tablet down on the convergence table and stared Elizabeth down across it. He pointed at the graph he had up on the larger display. “And it's now starting to affect natural gene carriers.”
“Wait a minute, are you telling me, this could be caused by the ATA gene?” Elizabeth asked as she looked through the reports before her. Hundreds on Atlantis had been complaining of headaches, insomnia, and seeing shadow people walking through the hallways. The City had been swept multiple times to check for the Wraith and nothing had come up yet. Teyla had sensed nothing. Ronon had gone on every sweep through the City. They were at a loss for the reasoning behind the 'shadow people' so many of the Atlantis staff had been seeing. It wasn't limited to science, medical or military. People from every department had been seeing them.
“That's what I sent you an email about a week ago. I finally managed to compile all the data. And it points to one thing. People who have the ATA gene artificially have been seeing the shadows for a while now and the natural carriers have just started to show signs. It's making it difficult to get anything done because few people are able to get sleep and the shadows are increasing in numbers. I was hardly able to get anything done in my lab today because half my staff kept stopping to look at them!” Rodney replied with a huff.
“Relax, Rodney,” John soothed. “She knows now. So, all we have to do is figure out where these things are coming from, what they want, and how to get rid of them, right?”
“You make it sound so easy,” Rodney sighed. “We've been searching Atlantis top to bottom to figure out what's going on and we haven't found anything!”
“Maybe we're looking for the wrong thing,” Ronon said, pipping up for the first time the whole meeting. “Could be something hidden in the depths of the City that we all have looked past every time we've passed it.”
“Ronon's right!” Rodney said. “We've been looking for Wraith or something putting out a high energy signature. It could be something giving off a low level pulse that's making us see this. We need to search through the database and figure out if we can find what's causing the shadows. You're a genius, Ronon!”
The Satedan looked startled for a moment at the praise. “Thanks.”
“Yes, yes, now... I need to assemble my teams to sweep for anything that could be giving off the right kind of pulses. And we need some of the database team to do a search for anything that might have had results like this. Or could have created this problem in the first place...” Rodney muttered as he looked down at his tablet, fingers flying over the screen as he set up appointments, and meetings.
Ronon nodded solemnly. “Let me know if there's anything I can do to help.”
“I might have you go with some of the science teams to make sure they don't dismiss something because it seems obvious,” Rodney replied with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“I'll try to find some of my men to go with you to help with that,” John added almost as an after-thought. “Be good for team work.”
“Sure whatever you say, Colonel,” Rodney said as he looked up long enough to roll his eyes at the other man. “Oh, and Elizabeth, I know we have a scheduled Daedalus run soon, but we need to wave Caldwell off in case this is some kind of alien virus. We can't risk it getting to Earth or anywhere else in Pegasus. I mean, I know I've been check out... several times in fact. And nothing has come up yet. But it's better to err on the side of caution. Right?”
Elizabeth nodded. “We'll call them on the long range communication. They have supplies we need but they can beam them down without risk to their crew.”
“Good, good. Working now. Lots to do. Email me,” Rodney replied as he got up and walked off, still working non-stop on his tablet.
“Well, that's my cue to leave. I have Jumper maintenance and if I let him he'll pull every scientist off that. We need them working and someone to teach those of us without knowledge of Ancient Tech how to do the basics,” John said as he stood up and moved to stroll out the door in his usual casual manner.
“Be careful, Colonel,” Elizabeth admonished.
“Careful is my middle name,” John replied.
“No, reckless is,” she replied with a laugh as she watched him walk away. “And dangerous. And doesn't listen to orders...”
“I get it!” John shook his head and quickly made his way to the Jumper Bay where several of the military contingent were waiting. He nodded to them. “Who do we have on duty for 'Jumpers for Dummies' today?”
“Zelenka,” one of the marines replied.
John smiled broadly. “Good! He's a little absentminded but patient. He's McKay's right hand man after all.” There was a chorus of agreements. “And I just want to let you all know that … as usual, something weird is going on. If you see anything unusual let one of the science team or your commanding officer know. We need to document where it happened, what you saw, and when it happened. The geeks think something got turned on that wasn't supposed to, or that something is malfunctioning so they want us to stay on high alert for anything out of the ordinary.”
Lorne was standing among the men and raised his hand.
“Does your hair count, Sir?” Lorne asked asked. The others broke into laughter.
John shook his head and ran a hand through his hair. “No, but I do appreciate the humor, Major.”
Just then Radek Zelenka came tumbling around the corner muttering in Czech.
“Hi, Doc,” John greeted as he turned to greet the mousy haired main. “What's up?”
“Good. Good. All here on time!” Radek replied as he pulled out a data pad. “Work now? Yes! Much to do, Rodney is already on my case for finding out about odd goings on.”
“But this is important!” John started to protest.
Radek held up a hand to stop the protests. “I know! I know! Rodney sent me to teach because I am most patient and able to 'dumb it down without being rude' according to him. Now! Much learning to take place, yes?”
John started to nod but froze still. He noticed that a few of the other military men froze as well, Lorne's hand went for his sidearm. John realized his own hand was firmly gripping the handle of his own gun and let it loosen.
“Don't do anything sudden or rash,” John ordered quietly. He watched a two shadowed people walked from the back of the Jumper, heads together and strode past them before disappearing down a hallway.
“What is going on?” Radek demanded as he looked around, trying to determine what the others had been staring at.
John shook his head to clear it and turned back to his men. “How many of you saw that? By a raise of hands.”
Several hands shot into the air.
“Ten of us, Colonel,” Evan said as he leaned in after taking a quick count.
“Ten people at once,” John sighed and shook his head as he looked at his second in command. He tapped his headset. “Doctor Weir we have a confirmed sighting in the Jumper Bay, Ten of us saw the shadow people... myself included,” John said into his headset.
“Okay, Colonel,” Rodney's voice cut over the comm. “How many natural gene carriers and how many artificial?”
John looked up and couldn't remember off the top of his head. Almost everyone that came to Atlantis got the gene therapy if they didn't have the gene naturally. “How many natural gene carriers?”
Three hands went up.
“And how many that saw the shadows?”
Two hands stayed raised.
“Okay, Out of five natural gene carriers all but one saw the shadows,” John said in to his headset.
“Good, and how many artificial?” Rodney asked as the sound of typing came over the earpiece.
“How many artificial gene carriers?” John asked.
“Another five,” Lorne said helpfully. John relayed the information
“And how many saw it?” Rodney asked.
“How many saw the shadows?”
Five hands stayed in the air.
“All of them,” John relayed.
Rodney hummed over the comm. “Okay, I've got the data. You can get back to whatever it was you were doing. Flexing in mirrors … sharing hair tips... I don't care...” Rodney snarked with a laugh just before he shut his comm down.
John couldn't help but laugh at Rodney's commentary. “Alright you all.. back to work!”
Seven days later …
“The Chair Room, the ZedPM Room, everywhere! The shadows are everywhere, Elizabeth! We've got to do something about this! We can hardly get any work done around here,” Rodney said as he lightly slammed his fist onto the conference table.
John placed a soothing hand on Rodney's arm. “Calm down, buddy. The science division isn’t the only one having issues. The Marines are getting a little worked up and can't train properly. They stop in the hallways when they see one of the 'shadow people' as they've been dubbed. Or sometimes even run into walls. It was funny in the beginning but now It's becoming a problem.”
Rodney sighed as he tried to calm himself. “We haven't found anything to tell us what this is, how bad it's going to get, or how long it's going to last. It could stop tomorrow or it could start getting worse.”
“What do you mean by worse?” Elizabeth asked, a look of concern on her face.
“Anything you can think of!” Rodney replied, exasperated. “I have no idea. It could be fuller shadows, things that can interact with people... anything!”
“I'll let people know. Has anyone without the ATA gene been able to see these, shadow people, yet?” she asked.
“None that we know of. But the numbers have been climbing and I think, it's only logical, that it's only a matter of time before those without the ATA gene will be seeing them as well. Nearly every artificial gene carrier can see them,” Rodney shook his head in dismay. “I'm worried about where this is leading.”
“We all are, which is why it's so important for us to figure out exactly what's going on,” Elizabeth replied emphatically. “The sooner we figure out what's going on, the sooner we can take care of the problem.”
“You make it sound so easy,” Rodney sighed, the bags under his eyes were more noticeable as he looked up from his computer.
“I know, but I have faith in everyone,” Elizabeth replied with a smile.
“Flattery will only get you so far,” Rodney warned. “I'm off to my quarters to try and get a few hours of sleep. The shadows seem to stay out of the personal quarters during the daytime. But it's no guarantee. We have no way of keeping them out of any area at the moment.” He stood tiredly and swayed a little on his feet before shaking his head. “If you need me, you know where to find me.”
“We know,” John replied for Elizabeth. “You go and get some sleep, buddy.”
“Get some rest, Rodney,” Elizabeth said as she and the rest of the senior staff watched the man walk out. “How long has he been up?”
“Since the sighting in the Jumper Bay as far as anyone can tell. He called me into his room last night to see if he was hallucinating them being in his room. He thought it was just the lack of sleep catching up to him, but they were in his room as well. That's when he realized they seem to have a day time schedule in the halls and labs, and a night schedule for personnel quarters,” John replied as he looked off in the direction Rodney had left.
“But that was a week ago! How is he still on his feet?”
“Will power,” John sighed as he looked back. “Pure will power.”
Two days later...
“It's official, everyone can now see the Shadow People,” Rodney sighed. He looked a lkittle better than he had at the staff meeting before, but was still a little ragged around the edges.
“I know. There was one in my office this morning. Hard to do reports when there's someone walking through your door as though it wasn't there,” Elizabeth said with a small shudder.
“It get's better,” Carson pipped in. “Seems some people are hearing voices now. I've run test on them all, but not a one of them has anything negative on them. Aside from increased levels of stress and sleep-deprivation.”
“Fantastic, so now they can talk,” Rodney grouched. “Next they'll be moving things and possessing people...”
“Don't say that,” John groaned from where he had his head laying on his folded arms on the table. “I've been hearing endless reports of Marines and Airmen who can't sleep because of people asking them to check for Shadows before bed. They're more worried about things they can't even touch than they were of the Wraith!”
“Yet,” Rodney corrected.
John lifted his head to stare at the scientist. “What?”
“Things they can't touch... yet,” Rodney said. “We have no idea how much this is going to progress.”
“Thank you, Captain Sunshine,” John grumbled as he let his head fall back down onto his arms.
“Just being realistic.”
Chapter 4: Almost Kiss
One week later...
Rodney leaned against the door to John's quarters, shirt partially unzipped as he looked the Colonel up and down suggestively. “Hey...” he said softly.
“Rodney?” John asked, voice sleep roughened. “What are you doing here?”
“I just wanted to stop by, say hi. That kind of thing. You don't mind too much, do you?” Rodney asked, voice a little higher than normal as he practically sashayed into the room.
“Are you feeling alright?” John asked as he sat up. His mind was screaming at him that something was wrong with this scenario, but he couldn't quite figure out what it was that was bothering him. “You should be in bed.”
“That was my thought too, Colonel,” Rodney breathed as he leaned down towards John. He pushed the lanky man backwards and moved to straddle his waist. “Yours seems rather inviting, don't you think?”
John's eyes snapped completely open and he pushed Rodney back just as the scientist's lips brushed his own. “Woah! No! Rodney? Is that even you?” he asked as he pushed the heavier man backwards. He shimmied backwards to make space between them.
“Aw... did you have to ruin my fun? You two are so adorable together, besides, I really wanted to know what it was like to kiss you. Rodney here seemed like the perfect way to do that,” Rodney said as he let himself be pushed backwards. He didn't look nearly as put off by John's rejection as the pilot would have thought initially. “I guess the game is up then? You won't let me? I'm sure he wouldn't mind. He's very open minded.”
“He's my best friend! I'm sure he would mind! For more than one reason!” John protested as he scooted further back. He finally reached the edge of the bed and stood, thankful for the fact he had worn pants to bed.
“You're really ruining all my fun,” Rodney pouted as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“He wouldn't want to be possessed, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want to kiss me. Besides, there are rules against this kind of thing!” John said as he continued backing up and grabbing a shirt along the way. He slipped it on without looking at it, trying to remember this wasn't Rodney actually talking, but someone that had managed to possess him.
“You know, that's an adorable shirt,” Rodney said as he walked around the bed to corner John against the wall. His pointer finger ran over the design on the front and John's eyes were drawn to the panda pattern on it.
“Thanks? But honestly, I don't think of Rodney that way and I think he'd like it if you'd give him his body back. You know, because it's his body,” John replied with a shrug as he carefully pulled Rodney's finger off his chest.
“Fine, but don't think I'm the only one that would love to see the two of you together. Boys are so hot when they're together,” Rodney said with a giggle. His eyes suddenly rolled up into the back of his head as he slumped forward onto John, and his whole body when limp.
“Rodney!?” John asked as he caught the falling man, he helped steer his fall onto the bed. He watched the steady rise and fall of his chest, and wondered what he should do. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair as he tried to think.
“Hm...” Rodney groaned as he squinted in the gloom of the darkened room. “Was... What's going on?” he asked, voice gravely.
“You were possessed,” John replied simply. “Do you remember any of it?”
Rodney sat bolt upright on the bed and stared at John. “What?”
“You were possessed. By a girl,” John replied as he sat on the edge of the bed, confident Rodney wasn't about to 'attack' him again. He gave a wholehearted sigh. “She tried make moves on me. In your body.”
Rodney groaned and hid his face in his hands. “Really?”
“Yup, said we would look cute together,” John replied.
“Why do people always say that?”
“Don't know. You feeling okay? Despite the fact that some strange female presence took control of your body and tried to make out with your male best friend...” John asked, almost offhandedly.
Rodney laughed. “Despite that? Not too bad. Guess it had a relaxing effect on me. But I'd really rather not make out with you. No offense, but as open minded as I might be... I don't think of you that way.”
John chuckled. “Ditto, but don't say anything. As far as the American Military is concerned, I'm completely straight. And the hair is a side effect of movement in the womb or something,” John replied with a wink.
“Bi?” Rodney asked as he stood and stretched.
“Very. Why limit your options?”
“Too true. Just between the two of us, right?” Rodney asked.
“And only the two of us.”
The next morning …
“And what's the latest news on the Shadow People?” Elizabeth asked the room in general. They'd been having a Senior Staff meeting every two days since the incident in the Jumper Bay just to keep everyone up to date.
Rodney cleared his throat. “They seem to be able to possess people now,” he said to the room at large. “And it's … the person being possessed has no memory of the event. It's like going to sleep and waking up in a different location.”
“Great, so I have to deal with sleep walking and the possibility of being possessed in my sleep? How am I going to be able to tell the difference?” Evan complained as he let his head thump onto the conference table.
“I don't think you'll be able to tell the difference until someone tells you that something weird happened,” Rodney replied with a sigh. “I was lucky that the one that got me went to John's room and took no for an answer.”
“No to what?” Evan asked.
“None of your business, Major,” John practically growled. “But we have to be on alert for the potential for more of this happening in the near future.”
Evan recoiled from the tone. “I take some woman decided to try and get you and McKay to do something then...” he said after a moment with a laugh.
“What is it with everyone thinking we're together?” John asked with an exasperated sigh. “I don't understand!”
Evan shrugged with a laugh. “Don't know, Sir. But you do spend a lot of time around each other without … too much argument. I guess.”
“Well, now that we've explored the Colonel and Doctor's relationship can we focus on the problem of the Shadows?” Elizabeth asked as she tried to suppress a laugh.
“But it's much more fun than trying to deal with something we don't know the cause of. Or a way to handle. And that just keeps getting worse,” Evan countered with a slight whine that earned a bit of a laugh.
“Not no idea!” Zelenka cried as he came rushing in, hair more wild than usual. He had several print offs and three computers in his arms. He had a nearly crazy look in his eyes as he rushed into the room. “Have it! Have idea of what is causing all fuss!”
“Really?” Rodney asked as his head popped back up, face hopeful.
“We have identified what machine it is that is causing problem,” Radek corrected. “But not it's location. Of that we are not certain. Could be in a few parts of the city, but we have a better idea. It is a model that runs in low power mode once activated. And seems like other machinery. Hence why we did not notice it before this. Lucky I found information on it. Will make finding it simpler.”
Rodney's face lit up as he stood and hugged the other man. “I could almost kiss you for that!”
“Glad that you are restraining yourself,” Radek replied as he pulled back from the embrace. He held up one of the computers before plugging it into the overhead projector. “Here! See? We have print outs to show to the teams and for them to carry. We can send out emails on this as well. Then those on duty will also be able to look when not on a search team.”
“Genius!” Rodney praised as a wide smile broke out over his face. “So, all we have to do is find it. And turn it off? And the shadows will be history!”
“Not as easy as all that,” Radek replied a little hesitantly. “Will have to make sure device is turned off properly. If turned off wrong, could cause horrible explosion. Could take out a whole a pier of the City.”
“Well, at least finding it should start to help. If we can find it, we can investigate it, and maybe find a way to turn it off and get rid of it for good!” John said as he looked at Rodney's exhausted face. “Should take a load of our minds to know what it is and where it is.”
“What is it?” Elizabeth asked softly as she look at the projection that was clearing up on the screen.
“It was made to look into the past. Allow the future to learn from the mistakes of the past. And to perhaps help bring the spirits of the dead back,” Radek said softly. “But the device was never meant to be turned on. And never for a prolonged period of time. Was meant only to glimpse the past, not bring it into the present.”
“Right, so we've got a machine that never should have been turned on in the first place, that we have no idea where it might be, and a potential that when we shut it down it could blow up a large portion of the City, right?” Rodney asked.
“That would be the sum of it,” Radek replied with a shrug. “Is not so bad, We have been in dire situations before and we got through them. We will get through this one as well.”
“You make it sound easy... why does everyone have to make it sound easy? We all know this is going to be a long, grueling task that will be a total pain in the ass for all involved,” Rodney sighed. “But I suppose whining about it isn't going to solve the problem...”
“Right, so... Let's get to work,” John said as he rubbed his hands together.
“You... I envy your energy,” Rodney glared at John as though the pilot was sucking the energy right out of him. He glared for a few more moments before shook his head and leaned back in his seat. “So, we know what it looks like. The problem is figuring out where it could be hiding. There's a million places something that size could be hiding and only so many teams we can send looking for it at any one point in time.”
“Well, being the size of a regular console should make it easier. And the interface is unique, at least compared to what we've seen before. Also, we do not need to check sectors that have had no power since the first of the shadows showed up. Should help to narrow the search, yes?” Radek asked, looking at Rodney with a raised eyebrow.
Rodney practically beamed at Radek. “You... are a wonderful person and don't ever let someone tell you differently,” he said. “Alright, I'm going to assume you have the power regulations from the last several months for us to start with, right?”
Radek nodded and pulled up a different image to the screen. Most of Atlantis was lit. Two piers and a few other areas were blacked out.
“You know, that's still a lot of area to cover,” John said thoughtfully.
“Okay, we we'll start with the least populated areas first. Less people to have to try and get through. Then we'll move on to the more populated,” Rodney replied. “We should send Gate teams since they usually have science and military. And they're used to working together.”
“And do I get a say in any of your plans?” Elizabeth asked with her arms crossed over her chest and an amused smile on her face.
Everyone paused and turned to look at her.
“I'm sorry! You're right, we should be making sure you're okay with the division of labor … Sorry, Elizabeth,” Rodney said looking a little flustered.
“That's okay, I just wanted to make sure you remember who's in charge,” she replied.
“So, is it cleared? Are we okay to continue?” Rodney asked impatiently as his fingers tapped on the table. His mind was clearly racing beyond her response as he calculated approximately how long it would take to search the whole City.
“You're cleared, just … keep me in the loop,” Elizabeth replied as he moved to stand. “I'll let you gentlemen get back to work.”
“We'll keep you informed!” Rodney promised as he turned back to Radek. “Okay, we have the the least likely suspects... areas that have been on for a while but haven't shown any kind of power fluctuations, but that really doesn't mean much. Did the data you found mention anything about fluctuations in the power usage?”
Radek shook his head. “Information states the device should be drawing a consistent amount of power.”
“So... we can avoid anywhere that's had spikes?” Rodney asked.
“That would be a safe assumption,” Radek replied. “We can assign teams to start with eliminating areas that have had no spikes. Then go back through to areas that did, if we find nothing.”
“Good idea,” Rodney replied.
“Hey, I have guys that do a morning run in that area,” John interjected as he pointed to a section of the map. “If you want... we could send them with a picture and have them scout through some of the rooms. If it's all scorched they can tell you and we can save those for last.”
“Me too,” Evan added as he pointed to a different location. “My group runs on the opposite side of the City. Should at least help reduce the amount of time we spend hunting.”
“Yes, yes... very good!” Rodney crowed.
Chapter 5: Who you gonna call?
A week later …
“Ray?” John called over his radio.
“You are not,” Rodney snapped. “If anyone … I'm Egon.”
“Fine, then who's Ray?” John practically pouted.
“The last time someone from a StarGate team called themselves a God...” Rodney warned as he crawled over debris. He tried to fight back the urge to laugh at John's bad joke. He paused for a few moments. “But I understand your … sentiments.”
“As long as we don't have a Slimer,” John added.
“Or a giant Stay Puff Marshmallow man...” Rodney joined in.
“Or Zull in a refrigerator,” Evan's voice joined in over the comm. “I really don't want to see another dimension in there. Who knows that it'll do to the leftovers.”
“Congratulations, Major,” Rodney said after a few moments of silence.
“What?” Evan asked warily.
“You're now Ray,” Rodney laughed as he scanned another piece of equipment.
“Son of a...” Evan sighed in defeat. “Hey, doc... there's... Woah!” A crashing noise blocked out anything else the Major had been trying to say.
Then the line suddenly went dead.
“Lorne?” Rodney called.
“Major?” John demanded. “Major! Report!”
Silence greeted them.
Rodney stopped what he was doing and checked his scans. “He should be just down the corridor from you, Sheppard!” he called. “Three door on the left!”
“Copy that,” John replied, voice tense as he turned to rush off to find his second in command.
“I'm on my way as well,” Rodney replied, he scrambled over the cracked beams and charred sections of fallen wall as he made his way back out of the room he found himself in. He hurried out of the room and saw John was just barely ahead of him down the hallway. He hurried onward, pulling the small first aid kit from his pocket just as he rounded the corner and practically ran into John.
Evan Lorne was standing in the middle of the room eying himself curiously. He had discarded his TAC vest and gun in favor of running his hands over his body. “Hm...” he hummed thoughtfully. “Male. Not my first choice, but not bad. He's … oh! John!” Evan said looking up, his face brightened and broke out into a huge smile. “So good to see you again!”
“Oh, no... not you again!” John groaned as he hung his head. “What do you want this time?”
“Damn, wrong body,” Evan cursed as he looked over at Rodney. “The others will be disappointed, but I guess it can't really be helped. Hard to tell what body you're getting into when you're on a different plane of existence.”
“Really? Are you obsessed with him or something?” Rodney asked as he watched Evan sashay his way over to John.
“Well, not just him. We're actually hoping you and he would... you know? Make our day?” Evan replied as he bit his lip and pouted.
“No,” Rodney replied firmly. “I don't think of him like that, he doesn't think of me like that. The answer is a firm no. You'll just have to use your imagination.”
“Yeah, and if you don't mind, I'd like my second in command back,” John added from over Rodney's shoulder.
“Fine, but I was just going to fix the console in this room. It's actually a very simple fix, cut if you really want me gone...” Evan trailed off, knowing how much Rodney and the others wanted to fix up Atlantis.
“What do you want in exchange?” Rodney asked.
“A body, for a few hours beyond what it takes to fix the console. In fact... I'm sure we could come to an arrangement where more of this great City could be restored. If you're interested... We all would like the ability to walk among the living again. We've been stuck in the void between life and death for too long. Some have forgotten what it's like to breathe, eat, and love. We... those of us that have no mate from before we died. We don't have anyone to share our hearts with.”
“I'm sure we could come up with something, but all of you have to stop with the random possessions. We can't work like this. And you can't be forcing whoever you're in to make out with someone just because you think it would be cute, or hot... or whatever,” John said as he crossed his arms over his chest. “We could come up with a schedule or something. But we need to talk to Elizabeth before anything is approved or not. Okay? And what do we call you anyway?”
“You may call me Aranna. I was a technician when I was alive. A long, long time ago. But that's not that important. We have work to do! And things to sort out!” Evan replied, practically bouncing in place.
“Okay, Aranna, let's just go and see Carson and Elizabeth, okay?” John said as he eyed the possessed man before him.
“You're the boss!” Evan said as he draped an arm over John's shoulders. “Lead on!”
“Please don't lay on me,” John asked as he tried to worm his way out from under Evan's hold.
Evan pouted but allowed John to escape his hold. “How about you? You have gorgeous eyes,” Evan asked as he sauntered over to Rodney.
“I'm not much for having someone hang on me, but you can walk with me if you like,” Rodney replied hesitantly. “Will that work for you?”
“Sure!” Evan looped his arm through Rodney's and laid his head on the scientist's shoulder.
“He's gonna be so embarrassed when he finds out what you did with his body,” Rodney laughed.
“No one takes pictures!” John warned in a loud voice. “I mean it!”
“Yes, sir,” the two marines outside the door replied with a salute.
“And if I find even one, everyone is getting double PT. So it would be in your best interests to keep anyone else from doing the same. Got it?”
There was a murmur of agreement from the hallway and a hurried discussion.
“Well, that should keep that to a minimum...” John muttered to himself. He tapped his ear piece. “Doctor Weir, we … have a bit of a situation and need to see you right away.”
“I'm in my office,” Elizabeth replied, tone thoughtful.
“We'll meet you in the conference room,” John replied as he looked over at Evan who was still hanging on Rodney arm.
“Good plan,” Rodney replied as he started guiding Evan towards the nearest transporter. They entered and waited for John. “So, you used to work on Consoles?”
“Well, not just consoles, but that was one of my specialties,” Evan replied with a happy grin. “I was one of the best at set up, tear down, and repair!”
“That's good to know,” Rodney replied as John walked in.
“What's good to know?” John asked as he tapped their destination on the screen.
“Well, Aranna here knows a lot about consoles. Bit of an expert. Which means we can get some of the ones that are broken or malfunctioning fixed and stop having the power drain to those. Might even find some useful systems,” Rodney replied as the doors swished open and they all piled out.
“That's good,” John replied as he followed.
“Yup! And I can even teach others how to do it! Be a good legacy to leave,” Evan replied with a wide grin as they walked into the conference room.
“Legacy?” Elizabeth asked as she looked up from her computer to see Major Lorne hanging on Rodney's arm. She raised an eyebrow but said nothing, hoping the explanation would be forthcoming.
“Yes, legacy,” Evan replied as he untangled himself from Rodney and walked right up to Elizabeth. “I don't think this whole thing with us being able to possess sleeping or unconscious people will last long. That device wasn't even supposed to be turned on in the first place. It was supposed to be a theoretical model... but you know how scientists can be.”
“I do. And who might you be? I'm guessing you're not Major Lorne,” Elizabeth asked.
“No. I'm just borrowing his body for a bit. He'll be fine. I'm Aranna, Head Technician of Pier Four,” Evan replied proudly as he held out his hand.
Elizabeth took it with only a slight hesitation. “Nice to meet you. But why are you in Major Lorne?”
“He fell and smacked his head. I knew he'd be unconscious for hours so I borrowed him. Besides, having one of us inside can heal you and unlock potential in some people,” Evan replied as he pointed to a small bruise on the side of his head. “See? This is where he hit his head, but it's mostly healed up now.”
“That's actually a good thing to note,” Rodney replied as he typed a few things on his tablet.
“Sorry! Had an emergency!” Carson apologized as he rushed into the room looking a little frayed around the edges.
“Hi!” Evan waved cheerfully from his place next to Elizabeth.
“Hello, Major,” Carson replied slowly, looking at the other man a little nervously. His doctor's instincts kicked into high gear as he realized there was something off with Evan. “Are you feeling alright?”
“I'm fine, but I understand what you mean. Evan is fine too. He's just unconscious at the moment. And I'll be retuning him in tip top shape when we're done here. He'd be waking up any minute now anyway,” Evan replied.
Carson looked to the others for an explanation.
“He's been possessed by one of the shadows that have been wandering around Atlantis,” Rodney explained simply. He shrugged as the doctor stared at him blankly for a few moments. “You get used to wiered around here after a while. And the one possessing him right now is the one that possessed me the other day so... I'm not terribly surprised or worried. Not yet.”
“Okay, and we've been called to this meeting … because?” Carson led as he sat down, trying to figure out where he was in the bigger scheme of things.
“Because,” Evan answered. “Some of us that are trapped between the world of the living and the world of the dead... in the space between. We'd like a chance to leave behind a better legacy. To teach... and experience life one last time. The machine that's doing this,” he made a vague gesture to Atlantis as a whole. “This was never meant to happen. The machine was supposed to be a theoretically one and never turned on. Looks like someone turned it on back before we sank the City. And then it was turned on again recently. It needs to be turned off and destroyed. But before we do that... those of us that have been waiting around for thousands of years would like one last chance to do something meaningful.”
“And we're here to discuss the ramifications of the possessions. Who would be willing to participate, and how long we'll keep up with this,” Elizabeth finished.
“Alright, I'm assuming you'll be wanting me to examine the Major?” Carson asked.
“And checking for any long term side effects,” Elizabeth finished.
“Alright...” Carson replied slowly.
“I'm Aranna!” Evan said brightly. “And I was a technician. I specialized in Console setup, repair, and dismantling.”
“Good to meet you,” Carson replied as he settled into his place.
“Right, so.. I was sent with a message. On behalf of those that are trapped we are asking for a location where volunteers would come to allow us the use of their bodies for a period of time not to exceed eight hours in a single day. And in exchange we get one hour of use of our choosing. Nothing the person we're borrowing would have an issue with. And then we will teach everything we can from our area of expertise. Until such time as the device causing this is found and destroyed. And no,” Evan held up a hand to stop Rodney. “We have no idea where the device is. It's energy is too... broad. We're pulled to Atlantis, not a specific area. The device was meant to use the whole City as an antenna to widen the signal.”
“Right, so, what do you think? I think the science department would be alright with this. We do need to learn more about the city as quickly as possible,” Rodney said after a few moments of contemplation.
Elizabeth looked over at Evan thoughtfully. “I think we could come to an arrangement. But you know that each person that volunteers will be under strict guard until they are no longer possessed. Right?”
Evan nodded, eyes starting to droop a bit.
“Are you alright?” Elizabeth asked, concerned.
Evan shook his head. “Fine. It's just that Evan is waking up and since he didn't actually invite me... he wants control back. Let us know what you decide by leaving a message... in here...”
“Major?” John asked as he saw the other man sway a little in his seat before he slumped in his seat as he passed out again.
Evan groaned as he straightened up in his chair and rubbed his head. “Colonel?” he asked, voice back to normal as he looked over. “What happened?”
“You apparently knocked yourself out and got possessed by a ghost that was drawn into the city by the machine that brought them here,” John replied as he tried to suppress a chuckle.
“Stupid unlucky streak...” Evan groaned.
“Yes, but on to business...” Elizabeth announced, trying to bring the meeting's focus back on topic.
Two months later …
“We found it!” Zelenka cried as he came skidding into the conference room. His hair was flying everywhere and he had a tablet in one hand.
“Found what?” Rodney asked, as he raised an eyebrow at the exclamation of his friend.
“The Ghost Machine. It is found!” Radek insisted as he flailed a little.
“You did!?” Rodney demanded, he stood up and knocked his chair over in his haste to get over to the tablet the other scientist was brandishing like the holy grail.
“You mean... we can finally turn it off and things can get back to normal?' Evan asked, tone hopeful.
“Yes! Is what I'm saying!” Radek replied with a huge smile on his face.
“Finally,” Rodney replied as he typed a few things into the tablet. “He's got everything we need. And with all the help we've been getting lately, we know how to shut it down.” He gave the room a grin as well as Radek. “We can all sleep again at night.”
“Great,” John replied emphatically. He watched; amused, as Rodney and Radek muttered in half-sentences for several minutes before looking back up.
“We can have it start shutting down by tonight,” Rodney said. “It’ll take about a week to fully shut down and another for the after effects to stop being felt. We should probably tell our guests about it.”
“They should know already. Was one of them that found the device in first place,” Radek replied with a shrug. He looked up at the others at the table. “Should be a relief for all involved.”
“Why do you say that?” Elizabeth asked.
“Have been trapped for ten thousand years. Not much to do in a city with no people, yes? Now they are all very tired, one would think,” Radek said. “Novelty of being able to borrow a body has worn off I would think.”
“Well, get to work on it right away. We don't want to drag this out any further,” Elizabeth replied. “Use whatever resources you need to get it taken care of.”
“Will do,” Rodney replied as he walked off with his fellow scientist to get things in motion.
Several hours later …
John watched from his spot just inside the door way of the damp and run down lab where Rodney and his several minions were currently moving quickly from station to station. They were doing everything from hooking up laptops and tearing out wiring, to soldering and reattaching panels.
“How long?” John asked as he stood in the doorway, trying to stay out of the way.
“An hour, maybe a little more. I can only work so many miracles in a day.”
“That works for me,” John replied with a sigh. “Anything I can do? Or my men?”
“Coffee. A PowerBar, and we're going to need some serious muscle to lift the top of the console,” Rodney replied with a wave of his hand before he reached out and grabbed a different tool. “However, I want your amazing gene in here to start shutting systems down. So, call for someone to bring the muscle and coffee. And I want the PowerBar from your secondary right leg pocket. Should be the lemon flavored one without the real juice or fruit in it. I like the artificial flavor.”
“Really?” John asked as he dug in the directed pocket and found the exact bar. “Why do you know that?”
“You're my best friend. I know how you pack your pockets and mission pack. I've known you for what … 6 years now? And we've saved each other's lives how many times? I think it's safe to say we know each other pretty well, wouldn't you?” Rodney asked as he scooted out from under the console to take a few parts from one of his many minions roaming around the room. He looked right at John for a moment. “Now, do your call and get your magic genes over here. We have work to do. I need a full night's sleep. So this is getting done tonight. How about you?”
John nodded as he turned away to make the calls had had been requested of him. He came back to the console a few minutes later with people and drink on the way. “So, where do you want me? Oh masterful genius without whom Atlantis would crumble and sink back into the ocean.”
Rodney kicked him lightly in the thigh as he laughed a little. “Okay, put your hand on the panel above me and think shut down procedures at it. But tell it to shut down the power in stages. Gradually.”
John nodded and complied as he laid is hand on the console and concentrated. He felt the hum of the Ancient Tech in his mind, and then the hum started to die down. “Can I take my hand off it?”
Rodney pulled himself out from under the console. “You should be able to. The rest of the procedure is automatic. Drinks on the Pier?”
“Sounds good to me,” John replied as he pulled his hand off and offered Rodney a hand and he hauled the other man to his feet.
Two weeks later …
“So, no more ghost sightings?” Elizabeth asked.
“Nope. None,” Rodney replied with a grin. “Everything is back to space vampires and science.”
“Thank goodness for that,” she replied with a soft sigh.
No one noticed the shadow in the corner as it slunk away.