A new year, another planet since the city had returned to Pegasus from Earth, but some things never changed. Radek was in his lab, alone, trying to find power. Oh, to be certain, not the mind-fraying useless bureaucracy of running the new city-state (he preferred to leave that to Governor Woolsey and the Council who actually enjoyed the endless discussions), but the actual vital resource that Atlantis needed more of to sustain her growing population in peacetime. If only he could figure out how the Ancients had been able to support a well-populated city - and he didn't want to hear "ZedPM" uttered again in his hearing. Just as well that Rodney and "his" Colonel were off scavenging for Ancient tech. again.
Radek had been feeling a little vulnerable lately, especially after the entire month of December had been devoted to festivals, parties, and cultural or religious celebrations. He'd been surrounded by people rejoicing, yet felt no urge to join in. The new year held no promise of anything better other than just being alive. And busy working.
Radek did not expect Ronon to enter the lab one evening, the younger man having reached a level of maturity and stability after living on Atlantis for about twenty years.
"Come on, Doc. Enough work for one day. Need to eat and rest."
Radek shook his head, his already wild greying hair whirling about, mimicking his darting thoughts. "No, no, just two more hours. I am sure I can find the last puzzle piece to energy problem before Rodney returns. And then I will gloat in front of him. And naturally before Colonel, too."
Ronon shook his head as he pulled the scientist up off the stool. "Just received word they're taking another few days to explore. So you have time to eat. And rest."
Radek sighed, surrendering to the inevitable tower of strength that was Ronon. When they arrived at the Mess, though, Radek was surprised to be led to a table already occupied by Dr. Miko Kusanagi, who appeared to have finished her meal, but was drinking tea and nibbling on a sugar cookie. A book was lying face down next to her cup.
Ronon's demeanour was formal. "Excuse me, Dr. Kusanagi, may Dr. Zelenka join you?"
Miko glanced up, shy but curious. She nodded her head slightly. "Hai. You are welcome."
Ronon pushed Radek down onto the chair opposite. "Sit. I'll get food."
Radek settled back, getting comfortable. "I did not mean to interrupt you, but I do not say 'No' to Ronon. What were you reading?"
Miko blushed. Radek liked seeing how it made her face light up. With her dark hair, she still looked far younger than most of the remaining members of the original expedition, especially when compared to his unruly grey mop.
"My parents were proud of my scientific curiosity. They encouraged me to fulfill my dreams. I know it is a great privilege to represent my country here but, still--" she sighed wistfully, "I never took the time to cultivate traditional Japanese pursuits." She lifted the book to show him the photos of colourful stiff papers folded into representations of animals and more elaborate designs. "These are so pretty."
Radek stared at her and nodded in agreement, even though to be honest he wasn't thinking about Japanese crafts.
After Ronon returned with a full tray, Radek ate with gusto as he watched and listened to Miko explain what she was doing, her hands darting about as she spoke.
Everyone agreed it was a nonsense holiday, but Valentine's Day was observed mid-month on Atlantis, though not primarily as a celebration of romance. Residents were expected to expand their circle of acquaintances - with so many newcomers arriving all the time - and encouraged to form deeper connections. Though romance was not a focus, it was not discouraged.
Some people such as Teyla and Kanaan were a well-established couple with children (TJ, daughter Tagan, and now their youngest Charin). Others such as Rodney and "his" Colonel thought they were so clever and fooling everybody; but there were no petty restrictions preventing them from being together. Radek was relieved to see the stupid regulations lifted.
And then there was Evan (along with mates David and newcomer Mella, formerly of the Travellers) in the artists' commune, animated with bright young people whose genetic profiles had been examined by Dr. Lianna Beckett, Carson's niece, before they were free to add to the population. Dr. Beckett had no desire to engage in engineering perfect babies so even she did not know who sired each newborn though she knew she'd have to weed out half-sibling partners in the next generation. As was the custom on many worlds in Pegasus (including Athos), surnames denoted matrilineal ties.
There had been many births within the commune. Radek had spotted two girls and one boy he was fairly sure had been fathered by Ronon. He was happy for his friend, that he had several lovers and a growing family. Ronon also led regular hunting parties, making use of his stealth and skill for something other than evading or ambushing Wraith.
Radek even enjoyed being in the presence of children who expressed their artistic abilities by drawing on paper, not painting his face and tying his hair with bright ribbons. They called him Uncle. He liked how it made him feel less apart.
But nothing could compare to how liked he felt when Miko laid a small cloth-wrapped package on the table - their table - as they'd begun sharing dinner most evenings since Ronon had … interfered. At her urging, he opened the box to reveal three origami pigeons, one red, one white, the final one a more traditional grey/black.
"Miko-san, I don't know what to say."
"Radek, you do not need to say anything. But I give you permission to court me."
All Radek could do was hold the fragile miniatures close to his heart, nod in assent, and reply, "Hai."
While Rodney and the Colonel were off trying to scavenge more Ancient tech, Teyla Emmagen remained on Atlantis with her mate Kanaan and their three children. She, along with Torren John, their eldest, was often to be found in Radek's lab when she wasn't conferring with Governor Woolsey in her role as cultural attaché, negotiating on behalf of the newest residents before the Council. Though Teyla had shown an aptitude for scientific principles and her keen observations were handy for diagnostics in their early years, it was TJ who'd grown up around engineers and been mentored by Radek.
Radek had become the de facto Professor of an expanded Engineering department with the influx of Travellers, so many young people with a strong survival instinct honed by keeping theit virtually obsolete ships which Rodney had called "rust buckets" derisively out of the grasp of the Wraith and other enemies. At least they had a usable skill because "space pirate" wasn't at the top of any galactic HR list. Radek wasn't surprised to learn that neither Larrin nor any of the other Captains were inclined to join them on Atlantis. He remembered the look of relief on both Rodney's and the Colonel's faces.
One day, during yet another spring storm, when Radek had been describing how everyone had scrambled to collect electricity to power the shield during a destructive storm so many years ago while trying to repel a simultaneous Genii invasion, TJ had asked - with the innocence of youth - why Atlantis did not collect electricity during every storm, especially when they were so common on this planet.
Radek had stared at TJ and then began muttering in Czech before switching back to English, "Is impossible. Couplings at remote grounding stations must be disconnected. Is only possible by hand. Everyone must be removed from corridors. We do not have advance warning of storms so would not be efficient."
TJ was not deterred. "But, Uncle, why can you not automate those functions? Initiate them from the safety of the Control Tower or auxiliary stations? Make a failsafe to override if someone strays into a charging corridor?"
Radek struck his forehead with the heel of his hand. "Because Ancients did not design it, and we had not foresight to make improvements," he admitted reluctantly, his cheeks turning red.
To Teyla's astonishment, TJ had no reluctance to be critical of the Ancestors. "Then they were stupid and you are being lazy!"
TJ's rash observation earned him a scolding. "You will not speak ill of the Ancestors nor of our friends!"
"I am sorry, Mama. I am sorry, Uncle. But, now the Wraith are gone, you have more time for inventing. You have many people who are ready to help you. In my mind, I can see how the design could work."
Radek seized the young man's arm eagerly and led him to a whiteboard. "Show me. Please."
TJ did not hesitate but quickly filled the board with schematics before moving to a second one. When he was done, he retraced the lines with one finger while describing the necessary modifications he thought would work.
When TJ was finished, Radek stood in stunned silence next to a beaming Teyla before stepping forward and embracing the young man. "I think we will both gloat when Rodney sees this."
Radek and TJ didn't get that chance to gloat. Not yet. Rodney was relentless in examining all the details of the plan, pacing in front of the whiteboards and lobbing question after question at TJ who at least was accustomed by now to the brusque mannerisms of the man who had been present at his birth.
Rodney snapped his fingers impatiently. "Get all the monkeys here. Chop chop."
TJ knew he meant the Traveller youngsters and hailed them on their particular frequency, summoning them to Radek's lab.
When the lab was filled with curious minions, Rodney and Radek explained what the goal was and how they would accomplish it. Nimble fingers were needed to disassemble the most remote grounding station, to learn what could remain and what elements should be replaced through the automation process.
Rodney and Radek ignored everything else in their goal of being able to harvest electricity from storms. Radek observed Rodney's increasingly irritable mood and hoped his friend could soon return to his explorations (and whatever else) with the Colonel.
Radek knew he himself was a poor suitor for Miko, skipping too many dinners and recreational activities. He hoped he could try to make it up to her soon.
But, until then, they had work to do. TJ seemed to be there around the clock, usually in the company of two of the "monkeys", Jaina and Jarrin who were girlfriends. Radek wondered idly whether TJ might be involved with the young women. If so, at least they had engineering in common as well as Pegasan resilience.
The weather had changed for the better, with the spring storms easing on the planet. Evan's commune was busy preparing for the city's annual time of frolic and renewal with decorations and food. Radek shook his head, seeing how all that was old - hippies, free love, flower power - was new again in another galaxy. Radek - as well as the entire city - was eager to see the youngest group of children formally presented to the city. This was a new tradition that made children feel they belonged and were contributing. He watched as Teyla and Kanaan stood proudly with Charin, their youngest daughter.
Radek was astounded by the work Evan and his followers had done over the last decade especially, designing and creating not only lush garden solariums on the city that offered quiet spaces for reflection, to the piers transformed from stark ship landing sites into boulevards and parks with pools and fountains, and ultimately to the efficient fruit and vegetable farms on the nearest continent that they shared willingly with any Athosians and other off-worlders who joined them. And that was even beyond the works of art adorning both communal areas and homes.
Radek was joined by Miko, wearing a springtime kimono, her upswept hair enhanced with an orchid stem from one of the solariums. She settled back into his embrace with a gentle kiss on his cheek.
Despite the good-will generated by the festival of renewal, not all was well on Atlantis. There were the usual minor scuffles and disagreements as an expected outcome of human nature amid the mixing of many populations which the military (turned into police) handled. But there was one isolationist faction with strict religious views who'd been appalled when seeing members of Evan's commune welcomed openly and their "perversions" (their children) not only accepted but celebrated despite not being able - or allowed - to claim any paternal lineage.
Evan as well as the Colonel bore the brunt of their criticism. Even Woolsey, the oldest and generally most revered of them all, had received unpleasant messages.
The former inhabitants of the equally-former culled world of Rura believed that all women had to be protected and hidden from public gaze. From an outsider's perspective, their women appeared to like being pampered and lavished with luxuries. But, when several men kidnapped Teyla so they could both protest her independence and protect her, she taught them a lesson just how little she needed their protection.
Even worse, after Teyla had liberated herself, when they approached Kanaan and TJ to complain about her lack of respect for their pride in tradition, they'd been laughed out of the Emmagan home.
The kidnappers were brought before a disciplinary tribunal overseen by Governor Woolsey, with Teyla present not only as the city's cultural negotiator but also as the "victim". The tribunal agreed to drop all charges under certain conditions. The Rurans already inhabited a small building on the isolated Eastern pier that also housed a forge for manufacture of their trade goods - tools as well as ornamental jewelled objects from materials scavenged on furtive trips back to their culled world.
It was ruled that they would have to abide by the city's charter promoting co-operation rather than isolationism among all residents who'd immigrated to Atlantis from a wide variety of societies and cultures.
Teyla offered to teach the women self-defence personally, so that any perceived need or threat which might have traditionally elicited male protection should begin to diminish. She also helped with the integration of Ruran women, introducing them not only to her household but to several, including Miko's and Radek's home with its eclectic mix of art and artefacts. Two sisters, Merga and Loris, became frequent visitors, always fascinated to hear of the diversity to be found on just one planet in the Milky Way. Even the concept of different skin and hair colours was a mystery to them, as Rurans invariably all had pale skin and red or reddish-golden hair.
As Ruran women became more comfortable moving through the city, usually in pairs as this freedom was something still so new to them, attired in their stunning garments and jewels, their long red hair arranged in intricate braids, Ruran men found that their trade activity increased substantially just on the city because of the unexpectedly effective advertising. The Rurans and Atlantis all benefited from the increased contact. And peace was restored.
The new energy system was nearly ready to be implemented. Both Radek and Rodney wanted Col. Sheppard to be involved, as if he had some magic influence on the science ... which was nonsense. But everything on Atlantis just happened to work more smoothly when he was there.
The two men were staring intently at a screen when Radek felt an unfamiliar itch at the back of his neck. He ignored it, believing it was just his close proximity to the Colonel's enhanced genetics. When the itch persisted, he whirled around and felt like a fool. Of course they were alone in his lab. Maybe he'd had too much coffee. Miko had been urging him to switch to green tea.
It was finished. The storm collection system had taken too many months and sleepless nights during which time Rodney was a common and irritating presence hovering over him, not to mention having the monkeys running between grounding stations as if engaged in a sporting competition, but the city would now be prepared for the coming storm season. As Radek officiated at the ribbon-cutting ceremony - these days everything merited some kind of recognition and reason to celebrate - Chuck mingled through the Gateroom collecting or paying out on bets. The most popular currency appeared to be Ruran gems. Radek caught Miko's eye and her radiant smile. Her pride in him lifted much of his accumulated weariness.
As the planet's distance from its sun and axis were relatively comparable to Earth's, September was still the traditional Harvest month. Some residents were flown over to help with the crops and stayed for the entire month, enjoying the hospitality at Evan's commune. Others whose responsibilities were more critical to the running of the city were able to squeeze in a week. Then, there was Radek who continued to maintain his stubborn resistance to Miko's pleas, but eventually did go away with her for three days. They enjoyed the fresh air, hot springs, and limited exposure to technology.
Radek noted that even Rodney had booked an entire week, ostensibly to supervise the erection of a new barn that would house the animals (for farm work, resources, and food), but he seemed to spend more time staring up at a shirtless Colonel on the scaffolding swinging a hammer instead of down at the blueprints on his tablet. When the three days were over, Miko kissed Radek on the mouth - in public - before handing him one of her trademark packages.
Radek was sad to be parted from Miko but needed to be alone without Rodney interfering back on Atlantis. Even a few days were better than nothing. He didn't understand why the prickling sensation had been getting stronger over the months. Now, it wasn't just the presence of the Colonel that irritated him; Rodney with his weaker expression of the gene made him itch, too.
When the Jumper landed, he hurried to his lab, his only regret showing as he unwrapped the package to reveal an origami heart, white on one side, gold on the other. He set it down reverently next to his monitor where the reflective side might catch the sunlight.
Despite the short vacation and an empty peaceful lab, Radek was stumped. He kept wondering what it was he wasn't seeing. Collecting electricity from the storms had been ingenious, but it was only a temporary measure. There had to be more. The solution should be simple. But it wasn't. How did millions of people thrive without depleting their power sources while maintaining a shield and a cloak?
Dispelling his gloomy thoughts, he felt the warmth of sunshine landing on the back of his neck. It wasn't like the irritating prickling he'd felt before. This time, it felt … intimate … personal.
He felt silly, but still whirled around, just in time to see the wispy tendrils of an ascended being receding, the figure bathed in abundant sunlight streaming in through the iconic windows with their geometric designs. Radek was not frightened. The ascended being seemed to be very short. So he stood still and waited until a boy with light brown hair, perhaps ten years old, solidified before him.
"Hello, Uncle." The boy's words should not have surprised him as "Uncle" was what all the children called him, but the fact he'd spoken them in Czech did.
"Who are you? Why are you here?" he managed to ask.
The boy switched to English. "My name is Anton. Atlantis made me to help you."
"Why me and why now?"
"You are first-born of Atlantis. You do your best to fix problems and deserve our help. Atlantis tried to reach you before, but it wasn't working."
Radek scoffed. "I am nobody, not first-born. If you mean purest gene, go pester Colonel Sheppard."
Anton frowned in concentration. "He is strong but he is just human. You are first-born since you died here and Dr. McKay used his growing powers to bring you back to life. You have a connection to Atlantis even if you cannot feel it yet."
Radek scowled. He didn't object to praise or flattery but this was a ridiculous claim. He was not a fool either, so he casually tapped his comm to the security frequency and reported he needed an immediate armed escort to accompany him and an "unexpected visitor" to the Infirmary.
Anton watched everything placidly and went with the guards willingly to visit Dr. Beckett. After she and her team had put him under the scanner and tested his blood, she met with Radek in her office.
"I don't know what to say, Dr. Zelenka. The lad is in perfect health, showing no sign of any injuries or illnesses. It's uncanny." She paused before continuing, "The only time I've encountered a similar situation is from my late uncle's notes of a visit from a woman who was actually a deascended Ancient."
Radek's face showed pain at the remembered betrayal, when Chaya had misrepresented herself because of her loneliness and made them hope they'd found actual sanctuary from the Wraith. "What about his DNA?"
Lianna's face had a pinched look. "His DNA does not match the records of anyone else who has ever lived on the city. However, if I were to provide an educated guess, I'd say his DNA most resembles yours … or that of someone born to your family."
Radek shook his head abruptly. "No, this cannot be. I have never had children. Never."
Lianna looked sympathetic. "Not even an unexpected pregnancy or someone who may not have informed you?"
Radek's face flushed. "No. Was problem with motility."
Lianna nodded slowly. "Ah, I'm sorry then. There can only be one explanation: he is who he claims to be with the DNA coded to yours to denote your so-called 'first-born' status."
Radek nodded grimly before tapping his comm and requesting the presence of both Woolsey and Sheppard. His life was about to get more complicated. Perhaps he should contact Miko not to hold dinner for him. He was annoyed, as she'd planned to make sukiyaki. They took turns teaching the other about their own cuisines and cooking was one way to relax from the stresses of the day.
Radek barely had time to catch his breath during the entire month. After the extreme suspicion (especially from the Colonel) had been countered by the boy's proposal to "join" which Sheppard had agreed to - only because he was receiving positive reinforcement from the city - Radek agreed to the joining too, when Anton explained it would be the easiest way to communicate. Later, Radek would be able to talk to Atlantis on his own.
Radek was astounded to learn that the power problem was so easy to solve. The solution was in the stunning windows with their designs, although the designs were not merely an aesthetic addition but actually powerful solar panels collecting energy and storing it deep within the lowest levels of Atlantis.
When Radek questioned why they hadn't been connected and collecting, he felt the sadness as Atlantis answered … they had been disconnected when the city had been sunk. There was no point in keeping the connections when there was no sunlight penetrating through the ocean's depth.
Radek was elated, wanting to reconnect the panels immediately. But the city sent him a discordant sound. He stopped immediately, "I can -- I can hear her -- I hear you now. Not happy. She says I am being rash." He explained that all of the previously damaged windows would need to be replaced, properly this time, and not just with clear glass. Only when all windows were according to their original specifications would Atlantis allow the connection.
And so the work began on correcting old mistakes throughout the entire city. Building after building rang out with the cheerful shouts of engaged residents volunteering to do the exacting physical replacements. Either Radek or Rodney or even Anton supervised the work, as Radek no longer needed him as an intermediary to say what Atlantis needed. Only after Atlantis had approved every window was Radek given the knowledge of where the connectors were to be found. The first day of operation, on the last day of November, fulfilled the residents' hopes and dreams of a safe, permanent home for them all. Radek? He just wanted to sleep for a month.
What a difference the last twelve months had made for all of Atlantis and for Radek personally.
With his most pressing energy problem solved, he could finally turn to inventing, using the frequent incentives Atlantis gave him to create brilliant designs. Anton was often his collaborator at work, with TJ now Anton's apprentice. And, once Miko had found out about Anton's genetic proximity to Radek's DNA, she insisted they adopt the boy as their son and invite him to live with them.
The funniest part was that Rodney went around claiming that he was the one responsible for Radek's intimate connection to the city. Because Rodney had in fact saved his life, Radek would never begrudge his friend that one minor boast. Because of Rodney, he had a new life and purpose. With the exception of Anton (and occasionally the Colonel), he was the one with whom Atlantis spoke the most of all.
Best of all, though, he had Miko tucked away next to his body as they slept. So he finally gloated. Not in public. Not in front of Rodney or his Colonel, but inside, where it really counted.