Rodney leaned back in his comfortable seat and watched his teammates. The Atlantis team was waiting in an old and beautifully painted assembly room in Darwan, the second biggest city on the Earth like planet of Chedory. Fortunately, there was only one landmass in the vast ocean, which made trade agreements and negotiations easier, because there was only one government to deal with. And so they were waiting with four members of said government that the last person, the person carrying the treaty, finally arrived.
John had opened two of the big windows and was now standing on a small balcony overlooking the marked place beneath. There wasn’t much noise coming from below because it was raining and people were rushing from one seller to the other, not lingering to have a chat.
Ronon was helping himself to some of the fruits in the bowl that their hosts had left for them, talking to one of the government members about the best way to sharpen knives.
And Teyla was wandering around the room, looking at the impressive wall paintings, depicting war scenes but also scenes from every-day-life. From time to time she was pointing out interesting things to them like boats with four red sails, or strange birds with vibrant colors.
Rodney yawned because he wasn’t really interested in the paintings or the fruit, and it was rather warm in the room. After the abundant dinner they had had only half an hour ago, he battled against post-prandial somnolence. He closed his eyes for a second.
Fortunately, Chedory wasn’t a total disaster like some of the worlds they had visited recently, were they had only found the sad remains of societies ravaged by the Wraith. Or worlds were the inhabitants were still on the level of early iron-age and had nothing interesting to offer.
No, Chedory had at least a working Stargate and a very basic technology based on electricity. They used it for lights in their houses, and to help them with some very heavy tasks. But all in all they could do much more, according to Rodney. He saw a vast opportunity for technical improvement.
Rodney opened his eyes and took a sip from his glass. Half sleeping, he glazed at the painting on the wall in front of him. There was depicted a Wraith dart which was disappearing into the sky. Clearly disappearing, not arriving, and that was why they were here in the first place. The inhabitants of Chedory had a very amazing quality: they tasted bad to Wraith. The Wraith wouldn’t feed on them because they got ill, and if they took too much life-force of a Chedorian they could even die. So there had been no cullings for generations which explained their rather high level of technology.
The Atlantis team would go home with some blood samples, and hopefully Carson could find out what made them so appalling to Wraith. The doctor thought it was due to their particular genetic makeup. And with even more luck, he could perhaps reproduce it, give everyone a vaccination, and then the Wraith would be in for a bad surprise when they tried to taste someone from Atlantis.
Rodney spun this idea even further, and imagined that perhaps there lay a cure for all the inhabitants of the galaxy – except the Wraith of course. But Rodney’s pity for them was non-existent after they had killed so many of the expedition already. No more Wraith snacks but lots of desperate Wraith. Oh, yeah!
Rodney was interrupted in his revenge fantasies when Sheppard announced, “There’s a dengil stopping outside, and yes, that’s Prime Minister Olead entering the building.”
Dengils were the Chedory equivalent to horses only that in some far far away past, some of the “horses” had had a giant hound for a mate, so that now they looked like a crossbreeding between an Iceland pony and a Great Dane – only bigger and with much more temperament.
“Why is he arriving by dengil? He could have taken one of the few electric transportation devices that exist here”, Rodney said.
One of the government members explained, “People prefer to travel this way, because the animals are a part of the family and love to go out. And so you take every possibility to take them with you.”
Rodney shrugged. He was quite sure he would never sit on such a fear-inducing beast but he saw how Sheppard’s eyes gleamed. Oh, yes, he easily imagined that the colonel would love to race on such an animal. Rodney only hoped that they would never receive such a horse-hound as a present, or a sign of good will. Then it would never again be safe to stroll on the west pier.
But now, business. Rodney sat straighter in his seat when one copy of the treaty was laid in front of him. He very carefully read and discussed the conditions of the blood delivery – but everything was exactly as they had agreed upon. They signed the treaty, took a last toast for good cooperation, and half an hour later they were on their way back to Atlantis.
“What’s that?” Rodney asked. “Advertisement for a spa? Or a sightseeing tour?”
“You should know me by now, Rodney. I would never give such a trivial paper to you. Read it”, Teyla said and insisted that he took the leaflet.
Rodney read aloud: “Invitation to the 47th annual Creator’s Day on the 7th of Midyear. Everyone is invited to present their newest invention, which will be then judged by the National Inventor’s Guild. Last day for submissions ... blah, blah, blah… lots of regulations … Oh, no! Oh my god!”
Sheppard who was piloting the puddlejumper asked, “What? Are you especially excluded or invited?”
“No, no, no! It’s unbelievable, but this year’s prize is – a ZPM!” Rodney felt like bursting with energy. A ZPM, just before their eyes! And if someone was able to win this prize it was him!
“Wow!” Sheppard flew a looping.
“Is it loaded?” Ronon asked.
“I don’t know, but think about what we could do with even a half-full loaded ZPM!” Rodney beamed.
“Nah, they wouldn’t give away a fully loaded ZPM,” Sheppard answered, obviously trying not to raise hopes too high.
After a moment of silence Rodney said, “Perhaps you’re right. But we must win it, no matter what, because when the day arrives that we’ll be able to recharge ZPMs, each ZPM counts.”
“Rodney is right”, Teyla said, “and perhaps there is still a bit of energy in it, even if it isn’t fully loaded.”
“So we should discuss what McKay can build so that we’ll win the ZPM.” Ronon looked at his three team members, obviously waiting for immediate proposals.
“They have electricity, so Rodney should be able to build something that already exists but is new on Chedory.” Sheppard turned to Rodney.
“But isn’t that cheating?” Teyla shook her head.
“No. Rodney could take an Earth thing and make it better, then it’s a real innovation and not cheating.” Sheppard smiled at her.
“I could give them something they really need. For example, I could design them a new railroad system. So far it’s only goes along the coastline – and that’s it. There’s no connection to the small towns in the mountains or the great plains in the hinterland.”
“Perhaps that’s because only five percent of the population is living there?” Sheppard pointed out.
“Yes? And? Perhaps they would love to have a railway nevertheless?” Rodney crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Before the two of them could start an argument, Teyla intervened. “I think, Rodney, you should design something smaller, because the 7th of Midyear is in three weeks. And I think it’s better to present something people can touch, can take into their hands, instead of a plan for something that is very theoretical.”
“Teyla’s right, something smaller would be better,” John conceded.
“What about that thingy that always cooks your eggs just like you want them? I think that’s a really great invention,” Ronon said.
“An egg cooker?” Rodney’s surprise was audible in his voice.
“Yeah.” Ronon nodded.
“No.” Rodney shook his head and continued firmly, “I will not be remembered as Dr. Dr. Rodney McKay, the man who brought the egg cooker to this galaxy!”
“Is it not heroic enough?” Ronon asked with a little knowing smile.
“That’s … that’s … beside the point. No, no egg cooker.”
After they had landed they were still discussing possible inventions on their way from the puddlejumper garage to the main tower, when Rodney suddenly had an idea.
“What do you think if we give them small, electric vehicles to drive around with in town. You know Prime Minister Olead was soaked to the bones when he arrived in the Assembly room, because he was riding his dengil. Perhaps he would like to arrive dry and comfortable next time?”
Teyla stopped and looked at Rodney. “He didn’t really seem to be bothered by the rain. And, Rodney, think about what cars did to your planet. I can’t imagine that the Chedory want to live in a world where cars take up the space that now is reserved for their dengils. No, I don’t think you will win a prize by introducing private cars.”
Rodney furrowed his brow then he burst out, “That’s it, Teyla! We aren’t going to take away the streets from the dengils. Let their beasts run around where they want. We are going into the air!”
“Airplanes?” John didn’t sound convinced at all.
“No, that’s for another Creator’s Day”, Rodney answered. “We are starting smaller. I’ll build a drone that is able to carry loads up to 20 kg. It’s for transporting goods only, not people – and if you remember, they already use machinery for tasks that are too heavy for people. So a drone will help to carry things that are too heavy for a person.”
“Mhm…” John looked at Teyla and Ronon.
“Could work,” Ronon shrugged. “If you don’t want to go with the egg cooker.”
Teyla nudged Ronon with her elbow. “This sounds like a promising idea.”
“Okay, a drone it is.” Sheppard nodded.
Rodney immediately disappeared into his laboratory.
“Your’s by far the most technical invention,” John said. “The others seem to be mainly improvements on things that already exist, but nothing radically new.”
Rodney rubbed his hands together. “I’m very optimistic that we stand a chance to win the ZPM.”
“So am I.”
The whole day went by with one person after the other explaining what they had invented, and trying to tell the jury why they were worth to win the first prize. Rodney underlined his facts with a PowerPoint presentation and thought that the appreciating “ahs” and “ohs” from the audience were a good sign.
After the presentation-round was over, the jury adjourned to another room for two hours and the nerve-wrecking waiting began. Rodney didn’t even feel like eating something from the well-stocked buffet because he felt like the ZPM was within his grasp. And just thinking about what he could with it filled him with nervous energy.
Finally, the jury re-entered the exhibition hall, climbed on the podium, and the speaker thanked all the people who had participated in this year’s Creator’s Day. It was like one of those ultra-long acceptance speeches during the Oscar ceremony, and Rodney nibbled on his lower lip. This was pure torture!
After what seemed like an eternity, the jury spoke the words everyone was waiting for. “Now we come to the winners.”
“Yes!” Rodney and John bumped their fists together.
“The third price, with 25.7 points, goes to invention number fourteen.”
When two young women and a man started hollering it was clear who had won. They had built an electronic device to expand the range of Chedory’s very basic communications system, allowing more speed and more data to be transmitted.
“That’s okay,” Rodney said. “I could have done more, but it isn’t bad.”
After the three had received an envelope with their prize money and everyone had applauded them, the jury continued.
“The second prize, with 30.1 points, goes to team number three.”
At first there was no reaction, but then a couple came forward, obviously very astonished that they had won the second prize for presenting a new type of tomato-like-plant that was now more resistant against one type of canker worm.
“Now it’s us,” Rodney whispered and John pressed firmly his hand.
“The third prize, with 48.2 points, goes to team number twenty-six.”
Rodney needed a few seconds to realize that that wasn’t their number. There surely must be a mistake! Or he had heard wrong? But no, there was a whole group, with at least seven members ranging from child to old man, storming up to the podium.
It wasn’t them, it wasn’t him. No ZPM. No new power source for Atlantis. Rodney felt nothing for a moment, he was totally gobsmacked. The jury hadn’t chosen the drone.
He forced himself to listen to the jury member who now was thanking, “Family BiNotir for their wonderful, amazing and path-breaking contribution”.
Rodney racked his brains but he couldn’t remember that he had seen anything in the exhibition hall that was more wonderful, amazing and path-breaking than his drone.
“All the family members together,” the jury member continued, “have invented new weaving patterns that allow weaving a “history” into blankets, napkins or even wall hangings. Each person or family now has the possibility to weave their very own “history” or “heritage” into things they love.”
Frenetic applause followed these words.
“That’s not possible.” Rodney looked at his team members. “They didn’t even win by a hair’s breath but with a comfortable number of votes to the runner-up. That’s unbelievable.”
“But it’s lovely,” Ronon said, when the family held up a colorful tapestry with intricate patterns, rich ornaments and lot’s of people and animals arranged in groups which seemed to tell a story.
Trying to be louder than the following applause, Rodney complained, “If the three young people had won, I would at least have understood. That’s science. That’s an invention worthy of a prize, but not some interior design doohickey to make your own Bayeux Tapestry.”
“What’s a Bayeux Tapestry?” Ronon asked.
“A very old, very famous embroidery. I’ll show you next time we’re on Earth,” John promised.
Rodney was still grumbling. “Cross-breeding tomatoes. I could have modified them genetically within two weeks.”
“It seems the people on this planet have other priorities than we have, Rodney,” Teyla tried to explain. “I mean theoretically they would be able to build cars, but they prefer these big horse-hounds to ride across town. Perhaps we absolutely underestimated their love for traditions.”
“It’s unfair!” Rodney sighed deeply and pointed with his thumb over his shoulder behind him. “I’m going to get our presentation so we can leave within a half an hour.”
And when Ronon opened his mouth, Rodney hissed, “No!” He added, “No, we are neither staying for the celebration ceremony nor for the nocturnal banquet.”
No one protested and so Rodney disappeared.
When he came back, John asked, “Where’s the drone?”
“I sold it.”
“Hey, that’s great! So there is a use for a new, sophisticated delivery system here. Only the jury wasn’t advanced enough to see it.” John smiled at Rodney.
Rodney pulled a face. “My buyer is a dwarf-goat breeder and he plans to use the drone to survey his goats and rescue them when they fall into a precipice, for example. 20 kilos that’s just enough for his mini-goats.”
“It’s still better than the egg-cooker,” Ronon said and slapped Rodney heavily on the shoulder.
John’s arm draped around his waist. “Stop wiggling and go to sleep”, John mumbled with a sleep- heavy voice.
“But the ZPM.”
“Teyla said that she will try to find out if they use it only for decorative purpose. If that’s the case perhaps they will trade it against some of our empty ZPMs.”
“Hey, that’s a good idea. But if not?”
“We’re going to talk about it tomorrow. And if you sleep now, I’ll wake you up with a blow-job,” John promised and yawned.
“Excellent.” Rodney loved to begin a new day in this way, but …. “But, are we going to swap it nevertheless?”
“Mhmmm,” John answered.
Was this is a ‘yes’? Rodney decided to interpret it this way. They would get the ZPM. He would build a ‘Mission Impossible’- like mechanism for abseiling into the storage place of the ZPM and swap it.
When John pulled him even closer and breathed steadily and hypnotizingly slow against his neck, Rodney gradually let himself fall asleep and dream about bold rescue missions and blow-jobs in the morning…