Everyone told Calvin that putting away childish things was part of growing up. Except, Hobbes never really went away. Through Ritalin, middle school, dating, and high school, Hobbes was always there when Calvin needed him most, though the day to day pounces faded as Calvin got taller (but never due to the Ritalin, much to his mother’s eternal dismay. That stuff just made him fuzzy around the edges, not less creative).
When Calvin strode off to Caltech (Hobbes had demanded sun over snow, though MIT was tempting), Hobbes was sticking out of the zipper of the NASA backpack on Calvin’s shoulder. Where that would have made Calvin a Moe-worthy target in high school, at Caltech it just made him one more special snowflake in a blizzard (even after permanently disposing of the Ritalin prescription and introducing the engineering department to Calvinball).
Smart tiger that he was, Hobbes took full advantage of all the lectures available and often stole Calvin’s textbooks (often enough that Calvin took to buying Hobbes his own copies. Fortunately, what the scholarship wouldn’t cover, the proceeds from the Spaceman Spiff webcomic did.)
It was too bad no one would believe Calvin that half his ideas came from Hobbes (or his deep subconscious as his childhood shrink would have insisted), because those were some damned good ideas. Hobbes should have gotten his own PhD (Calvin missed snowball fights and they were trying MIT this time), but he had to settle for knowing a good bit that went into both of Calvin’s were Hobbes’ ideas. They could share them.
In fact, when the documents finally came in the mail, Calvin scanned them into his computer and printed up versions that listed both their names.
Hobbes said thank you with a noogie.
Those degrees netted Calvin a lot more attention than he expected. Sure, he was interested in the waveforms of spacetime and building blocks of matter, but he’d built time machines and transmogrifiers as a kid. He wanted to get those back (though why he still had Hobbes but couldn’t get his cardboard box transmogrifier to work was a mystery he didn’t dare explore), but who else was really going to be interested in finding a way to turn themselves into a velociraptor?
Dr. Rodney McKay apparently. He showed up at the graduation with a couple scary looking military types that made Calvin wish he’d packed the old raygun under his graduation robes. Still, the notoriously cranky doctor (Calvin had tried, but couldn’t come close to scaring his teachers as badly as the legend of Rodney McKay) didn’t even look askance at Hobbes in his own robes and mortarboard on Calvin’s shoulder.
“You deserve the recognition for your work.” Dr. McKay spoke with his hands, carving fascinating waveforms in the air. “Your insights into the Einstein-Rosen bridge are unique. And I should know.”
“Dr. Calvin then.” Calvin waved at Hobbes, just to see how they’d react. “And this is Dr. Hobbes.”
Dr. McKay barely blinked. “I’m Dr. Rodney McKay—”
“Dr. Calvin, I want to offer you a job.”
“We’ve been warned about you.” Calvin crossed his arms and eyed the goons.
“Rumor has it you want to study extradimensional energy sources….”
“Oh, he’s good,” Hobbes said.
“Not for the Army,” Calvin said pointedly.
“Air Force,” Dr. McKay corrected.
Calvin tapped his chin. “Tempting, but they lost control of the space program decades ago.”
Dr. McKay waved that off. “NASA is a bunch of hacks, and one branch of military goons is much like another.”
“Not selling yourself very well.”
The one goon with the very unmilitary haircut stepped forward and clapped Dr. McKay on the shoulder. “He’s very good at that. Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. And while Rodney here likes complex machines and theories regarding life, the universe, and everything that will make mere mortals quake, I like football, Ferris wheels, and anything that goes faster than two hundred miles an hour. Oddly enough”—he leaned closer and spoke conspiratorially—“we work in the same place.”
“He’s really good,” Hobbes said.
“Still don’t want to work for the military,” Calvin countered. “I want to research reality, not make weapons. Unless it’s for fighting space aliens. Then I might be tempted.”
Hobbes crowed, “Dr. McKay just flinched.”
Calvin had noticed. He’d have told Hobbes he hadn’t thought the legend was afraid of anything, but he didn’t quite want to scare these people off just yet.
Much to Calvin’s surprise, Dr. McKay leaned in closer. “What’s your dream research?”
“Time travel,” Calvin said firmly, “wormholes, transformation waveforms, extraterrestrial life.”
Dr. McKay nodded. “And if I said that working for me would net you two out of four—”
“Shut up, John. We’re talking hypotheticals here. If I could hypothetically promise two out of four with the others not being out of the realm of possibility?”
“Can we turn that down?” Hobbes asked.
“Can Hobbes come?”
That made Dr. McKay stop a moment. He stared at Hobbes, stared at Calvin, then shrugged. “Sure, why not. No weirder than some of the other quirks the scientists have.”
“The others have stuffed animals?” Colonel Sheppard asked.
“Have you seen Miko’s desk? Cats, everywhere. Pictures, plates, little stuffed… beany things.” Dr. McKay shuddered. “But, to the point. Hypothetically, what would be your answer.”
“I’d say, ‘Where do I sign?’” Calvin admitted. He almost begged for the pen.
Dr. McKay was as smarmy when he was smug as reputed.
When Calvin beamed up to the Daedalus for the first time, Hobbes was poking his head out of the Wormhole Extreme backpack over Calvin’s shoulder. He got a few weird looks from the military goons, but after meeting an actual Roswell Gray, neither Calvin nor Hobbes cared.
“He’s naked,” Hobbes said. “All the time.”
“So are you,” Calvin countered.
“I have fur.” Hobbes had used that argument when Calvin tried his nudist phase freshman year in college. His roommate hadn’t appreciated it and his classmates really hadn’t appreciate it. Calvin maintained that calling the cops was excessive, however.
“We should have called Susie before we left. She said we’d never amount to anything.”
“We’ve been making her eat those words since you almost ousted her for Valedictorian.”
“Yeah, but rubbing her nose in it with each new step has been such fun.”
“I suppose we could have said something about being recruited for an exclusive think tank. That wouldn’t conflict with all those non-disclosure forms.”
“Sure beats her acceptance to be abused as a med student. Still, too late now.”
“Nah. They say we’ll still have contact with Earth. I say email her regularly with confusing hints as to what we’re doing.”
“She won’t be sleeping for a couple years. I bet we could get really creative and she’d be wondering if it’s all a hallucination.”
“Slip in some images in the Spaceman Spiff outtakes.”
“Oh, yeah. We never did space vampires before.”
“Roswell grays will utterly confuse. Too mainstream.”
“And yet true. You’re evil, Hobbes.”
“Tiger. Bred in the bone.”
Atlantis was amazing. Stupendous. Exquisite. Glorious. Magnificent.
“Hobbes, I need a bigger thesaurus.”
“No, you need quarters with a larger window.”
“I have a perfectly large window. It takes up half the wall.”
“And faces north. At least until they decide to rotate the city.”
“Humph. Well, there’s that window in the Gate room. Lots of sun. Do you think they’d mind if I napped there?”
“Doctor, you need to take better care of your things.”
Calvin looked up from his computer and saw one of the command staff holding Hobbes. “Pardon?”
“I found him on the steps in the Gate room. You shouldn’t leave your things lying around. If Dr. Weir hadn’t recognized him—”
“Hobbes isn’t a thing,” Calvin spat, carefully taking the sulking Hobbes from the idiot. “If he wants to nap in the sun in the Gate room, that’s his decision.”
The minion glared back and stalked off.
Dr. Kusanagi patted Calvin on the shoulder. “Don’t mind Mike. He’s new. Not so understanding. Hobbes is welcome to nap in the sun by my desk.”
Hobbes perked right up. “Oh, don’t mind if I do.”
Calvin snorted as he watched Hobbes saunter off after the petite scientist.
Ronon studied the pier and the flags, balls, chalked shapes, and odd obstacles scattered across it. “This is a war game?”
“Not exactly,” Calvin said. “Though it can be.”
“Are there only… two players?”
“Nah, Calvinball has as many players as you want. The rules always compensate. The rules can compensate for most anything. We had… What was it, Hobbes, two hundred that time at Caltech?”
“Two-fifty,” Hobbes corrected.
“Right. Two hundred and fifty engineers blowing off steam before finals. It was great.”
Ronon studied the stuffed tiger sitting on a box in the field, then the man holding a green flag. “What are the rules?”
“Well,” Calvin said slyly, “first you need a mask.”
“You’ll blow us all up if you use that equation to try and do anything,” Calvin said, pointing firmly at the idiocy on the whiteboard.
“Do you have a degree in mathematics?” Dr. Idiot (Calvin hadn’t bothered to learn his name, just like that post-doc at CalTech that kept bashing Hobbes. No point encouraging idiocy with acknowledgement) sniveled.
“No, I don’t.
“No? Shut up and go back to your cardboard boxes and crystal chips.”
“Well, I may be crap at advanced math, but that’s why Hobbes checks everything for me, and he says—”
Calvin pointed back at his workbench, which was not covered in cardboard boxes and crystal chips, thank you very much. He and Hobbes were working on a way to interface Ancient crystal tech with Earth tech as a precursor to learning to make crystals. Hobbes was at their laptop, trying to formulate a computer model that accurately represented the energy transference across the crystalline structure. Or he was before noticing the whiteboard. Now he was glaring at Dr. Idiot.
“Your toy checks your math?”
“He’s a tiger, thank you very much.”
“My god. How did you ever get a job here?”
“Me? You’re the one trying to blow up the city.” Calvin leaned closer and eyed the jackass suspiciously. “You’re not a Zorg spy are you?”
“Zorg…? You’re insane. You shouldn’t be here, impeding research. You should be back on Earth in a mental hospital.”
“I don’t know about that.” Colonel Sheppard’s entrance shut down the argument. “However Calvin figured it out, he’s right.” Long fingers touched the board in five places. “You’ve transposed variables here and here, and this integration is wrong, and that derivative, and I don’t know what you did here but it breaks the laws of physics. And yes, I do have a degree in mathematics. But I’m not so sure about you.”
“You know, they wouldn’t let me near the gun range back home,” Calvin said, but not until he had the gun firmly in hand. His first gun, well, other than his childhood ray gun. He’d never really gotten it to do all he wanted.
The urge to rub this one possessively against his chin was more of a Hobbes thing but damned hard to resist.
“You know anything about guns?” Major Lorne asked, his tone disappointingly apprehensive.
“A little.” Calvin hefted it. Unloaded. Safety on. It took a moment to find the slide release, but after that he quickly had it in pieces.
“I may have done some research.” Calvin poked at the spring and considered if he could improve the design. “Purely for story purposes. And to get the drawings right.”
“Can you put that back together?”
It took two tries, and Hobbes gave a few corrections, but Calvin got the gun back together and was finally handed a magazine of ammo.
“Just do me a favor,” Hobbes said as Calvin loaded the gun. “Never point that thing at me.”
As excitement brought a rush of energy that had his hands shaking, Calvin set the gun down before turning to glare at his best friend.
“Problem?” Lorne asked.
Calvin bounced in place three times, ran four circles around Hobbes, did three jumping jacks and a back flip, then picked up the gun and planted two in the head and three in the upper torso.
“You missed four times,” Hobbes said.
“That’s… really good for your first time,” Lorne said. “But we need to work on your stance.”
Calvin ket the gun pointing downrange and stuck his tongue out at Hobbes.
“Calvinball?” Colonel Sheppard said, eyebrow raised at the collection of balls, flags, ropes, and bats Ronon had collected.
“You said I needed a way to train marines without doing so much damage.” Ronon crossed his arms, and Calvin yet again wondered just where he put all those muscles. “Rules of combat are never static. Neither are the rules of Calvinball.”
“And if we introduce more balls, maybe add a tennis ball machine or two, we could do some major dodging practice,” Hobbes suggested.
“A permanent course seems rather counter to the point,” Calvin said.
“Depends on your purpose,” Colonel Shepard said. “Dodging would be good. Advanced games could add Wraith stunners.”
Calvin humphed. “Calvinball is about fun.”
“No reason training can’t be fun,” Ronon said. “Lots of games on Sateda were both pre-military training and fun.”
“This could work.” Colonel Sheppard slunk across the pier and picked up a green flag. There was a mask tied to it. “Though I don’t know about the masks.”
“Oh no, Colonel Slinky,” Calvin snapped. “The masks stay. You may add Wraith stunners and dodgeball courses, but the only immutable rule of Calvinball is everyone wears a mask.”
“It’s not Calvinball without a mask,” Hobbes muttered. “Might as well call it Wraithball, and then where would we be?”
“Atlantisball?” Sheppard suggested, tying the mask on and looking at the others. “Hobbesball?”
“Very… cunning,” Ronon said.
“I like the sound of Hobbesball,” Hobbes said.
“Egotistical fuzzbutt,” Calvin hissed.
“Well, shall we try this?” Sheppard asked.
Calvin pegged him with a ball. “Ball of slowness. You’re stuck at half speed if it touches you until the tiger pounces.”
“Dr. Calvin, I’m afraid we need to speak about your messages back to Earth,” Dr. Weir said from behind her desk.
Calvin sprawled in the chair across from her, Hobbes in his lap. “What specifically? I send a lot of messages. There’s emails to my parents. Updates without much content to friends. Taunts to the girl next door—”
Calvin pursed his lips and slouched deeper into the chair petulantly. “I was told there was no problem with me continuing my webcomic. I distinctly remember clearing it with General O’Neill before signing up to come out here.”
“Your latest collection includes a subplot that violates those nondisclosure forms you signed as part of your employment.”
“I warned you that one was a stretch,” Hobbes said.
“Psychic vampires sucking energy from people is not an idea unknown on Earth.” Calvin crossed his arms petulantly.
“Space vampires from the ghetto?”
Okay, so he’d gotten the idea from one of Sheppard’s comments on the flight to Atlantis. Calvin shrugged. “I wasn’t going to, but Susie liked the idea when I sent her a joke strip.” After she’d sputtered and threatened to make him pay for her psych bills. He’d toned it down for the publishable version. Pity thought. The gore had been particularly impressive. “I figured I’d changed enough it was further from reality than Wormhole Extreme.”
“And I drew it, having never signed any non-disclosure agreements,” Hobbes added.
Dr. Weir ignored Hobbes and looked thoughtful. “I’ll discuss it with the IOA. You may have a point, but any approval will be some time in the future. For now, I suggest finding a new plot and redoing this set of comics.”
“Can I do a story about Spaceman Spiff trying to stop a mad scientist from destroying five-sixths of a solar system?”
Hobbes straightened. “Oh, he wins, but the weapon can’t be stopped and they barely escape with their lives.”
Calvin offered Hobbes his tablet, sketch program already open. Dr. Weir gave them a weird look but nodded.
“I think we can approve that. Get me a draft plot by the end of the week. I’m afraid you’ll be under scrutiny for a bit. Everything will be going through me until the IOA assigns someone on Earth.”
“Good thing I’m past the point of screaming about freedom from censorship.” Calvin grinned at her wince. “End of the week. Got it.”
“And you promise Rodney will never see those comics.”
“I promise I will never show Dr. McKay my webcomic,” Calvin said, hand over his heart.
“All right. You may go.”
Calvin stood, tucking Hobbes in the crook of his arm to brace the tablet. “Yes, ma’am, boss lady.”
Hobbes commented the moment they were out the door, “Liar.”
“Am not. I’ll never tell.”
“You don’t have to. Colonel Slinky already showed him.”
“And he loved the Zorg take over Hollywood to nitpick movie science arc. So I don’t have to tell him anything. Besides, that’s all I promised.”
“Hmm, nice hedge.”
“I had a good teacher.”
“Tigers are naturals at skating the truth.”
“So I’ve read that there’s one of these puddle jumpers with time travel capability?”
Dr. Zelenka nodded. “Ano, but is on Earth.”
“Think they’d be willing to ship it back here? I’d love to study that.”
“Ne.” Dr. Zelenka jumped back when the crystal he touched his pointer to sparked. “Time travel is not popular subject with SGC. Too many bad experiences.”
“Hey, if the Ancients could do it, I bet we could,” Hobbes said. “Lack of confidence and imagination is half the problem around here. And tell him he wants two crystals down if he’s trying to activate the shield from in there.”
“It’ll take longer from scratch.” Calvin covetously rubbed his hand over the doorway of the puddle jumper. “Still, we’ve got time. Doc, try two crystals down.”
“I am performing methodical review to map purpose of crystals in control system of puddle jumper.”
“Fine, but Hobbes says if you cross those two you’ll short out the—”
The lights went out. Dr. Zelenka muttered darkly in something other than English.
“Hey, can I learn to fly one of these things?”
“You have Ancient gene?”
“No, but Hobbes does.”
Dr. Zelenka gave Calvin an odd look and did not answer.
They hadn’t let Calvin through the Gate back on Earth. Said there wasn’t enough time for that level of training. Then they hadn’t let him through the Gate on Atlantis. Had to prove himself in hand to hand (training with Ronon has led to a Calvinball obsession for the military of Atlantis) and with a gun (that opportunity still left him so excited he had to run laps to burn off excess energy before going to the range. But his stance was spot on now) before anyone would consider letting him offworld.
But finally, finally, he’d been tagged for a Gate trip. Just a little visit to a friendly world that claimed to have weapons of mass destruction. No biggy.
The biggest issue was Hobbes bitching from inside Calvin’s pack. The marine in charge had ordered Calvin to leave Hobbes behind, so Calvin had insisted Hobbes keep his head down.
“Come on. I want to see. We’re going to go through a wormhole. Can you imagine the visuals?”
“We’re going to be disintegrated on this side of the event horizon,” Calvin muttered, hoping for once that no one heard, “and reintegrated at the other event horizon. What visuals?”
“Have you read the reports? Dr. Jackson’s are almost poetic. I want to see.”
“If the lieutenant sees you, you’ll be staying home.”
“Hmm, the sun is warm today.”
“If that’s what you prefer….”
“No, no. The sun will be there tomorrow.”
The Gate lit up and the Einstein-Rosen bridge formed with a loud “Kawoosh.”
“Huh. Looks like a toilet flushing sideways.”
Command crew snickered.
“You have a go,” Dr. Weir said.
Calvin threw a sloppy salute back. “Thanks, boss lady. Catch you on the flip side.”
“If you were nicer to girls,” Hobbes said, “you’d get more dates.”
“Why would I want them?” Calvin countered. Sex was fun, but dating usually led to baseball bats or threats about psych wards. “I’ve got better things to do.” He touched his hand to the event horizon, watching the ripples radiate out from his intrusion. “That is so cool.”
Rather than replying, Calvin stepped through.
“Oh, man, I shouldn’t have had that last tuna sandwich.”
Calvin grimaced even as he took in the beauty of the world around him. The forest looked a lot like the one he’d grown up with, the trees shortish and twisty. “You’d better not upchuck in my pack.”
“What do I care?” Hobbes said. “You’re the one who’ll have to clean it.”
“My clothes might stink of it, but you’re going to have to wallow in it until we get back to Atlantis.”
“Keep up, Doctor,” the lieutenant bellowed, waving toward the path beyond the clearing.
Calvin snorted. “Maybe I should have left you behind. You wanted poetic and got nauseated.”
“Oh, it was poetic too,” Hobbes said with a sigh. “Flashing ribbons of light abound, Traveling faster than thoughts profound…”
“And so we must be on guard while the IOA performs their inspection. Thank you.”
Calvin started at the ceiling or wherever the Ancient loudspeaker system was. He nudged Hobbes with his shoulder. “What’s the IOA?”
“The IOA is the International Oversight Advisory Committee. They’re the organization signing your paychecks,” Dr Kavanaugh sniped.
“Umm, no. I distinctly remember reading my contract very carefully and it was with the United States Air Force.”
“The International Overage Thingamajiggy wouldn’t approve sufficient tuna in our contract,” Hobbes added. “The US Military had fewer qualms.”
“And I certainly wasn’t coming to Atlantis without an appropriate supply of tuna for Hobbes.”
“I know they said emergencies were a dime a dozen around here, but really?” Calvin snapped, walking toward the rapidly beeping machine in the corner that up until five minutes ago no one had managed to do anything with. “There’s been two already today. We do not need a third, Zorg.”
“I am not a Zorg,” Kavanagh protested, still fiddling with the wiring of the machine. He always said that. Hobbes was convinced the ponytail was how he recharged his morphic disorienter and kept looking (mostly) human.
“Sabotage,” Calvin bellowed. “We’ve got another Zorg saboteur.”
The marines by the door snickered.
“What did you do?” Dr. McKay bellowed as he came into the room. Paging him had been Calvin’s first move. He’d learned to follow orders under certain circumstances. And he really liked living. How would he ever build an adult transmorgrifier if the Zorgs blew up Atlantis?
“Kavanagh’s fault,” Hobbes called from behind the crouching Kavanagh. “I told him not to, but he never listens.”
“No one listens,” Dr. McKay said. “Kavanagh, stand down right now.”
“I’m just trying to turn it off,” Kavanagh whined.
“You don’t know how you turned it on. How the hell do you think you know how to turn it off?” Dr. McKay grabbed at his com. “Someone get Sheppard down here. This thing feels gene controlled.”
“Hobbes, think off,” Calvin called.
The device shut down.
Dr. McKay looked at Calvin. “I thought you didn’t have the gene.”
“I don’t.” Calvin pointed at Hobbes perched on the table behind Kavanagh. “Hobbes does.”
“Well, Carson?” Dr. Weir asked.
“I’ve done the test twice since you asked. No, Calvin does not have the ATA gene.”
“And the toy?”
“And just how am I supposed to do a blood test on a stuffed animal?”
“Scan? Maybe there’s some circuitry in there?” Dr. McKay huffed. “Did anyone at the SGC check it out when he went through in-processing??”
“It’s a stuffed toy. Soft, no weight to it. No way there’s anything hiding in there.”
Dr. McKay poked Sheppard in the chest. “And just why have you been in contact with that scruffy thing, Colonel?”
Sheppard shrugged. “He asked for a lift across the field in Calvinball a time or two.”
“He asked?” Dr. Weir muttered.
“That game,” Carson snapped. “I’ve had more injured in my infirmary after one of those games—”
“But fist fights are down, and while bruises are up, broken bones and off world injuries are down,” Sheppard said. “It’s great practice in dodging for new marines.”
“None of which,” Dr. Weir said firmly, “explains how that machine was turned off. Do we know what it would have done?”
“Unfortunately, no. Even Atlantis’s fair haired boy here can’t seem to make heads or tails of it.”
“I haven’t had a chance yet. You dragged us off to medbay for testing.”
“Gentlemen, the Daedalus and the IOA representatives are due in four days. We have to sort this out now.”
Calvin shuffled backwards through the air vent, trying to make as little noise as Hobbes behind him. No reason to let everyone know they’d been listening in.
“It would have exploded,” Hobbes said once they were out of earshot. “The Zorg turned it on wrong, put it into overload.”
“But what would it have done if it was on right?” Calvin asked. “I can’t understand it without taking it apart. You usually can.”
“Lack of imagination.”
“Me?” Calvin pressed a hand to his chest and gave Hobbes a hurt look.
“I blame those drugs your parents put you on. Stunted your development.”
“Hey, I’m six feet tall.”
“I said development. Not growth. Your imaginative flexibility was inhibited. Though I think you should have been seven feet tall.”
Calvin elbowed Hobbes once they were in the hall and there was room to do so.
“But I’m not sure either. I didn’t get a chance to really dig in before the Zorg messed with it.”
“So let’s check it out. If we can give them answers maybe they’ll stop asking dumb questions.”
“What are you doing here?”
Calvin didn’t bother to look up from the wiring he was working on. “Fixing this.”
“Are you insane? No one knows how that works.” Dr. McKay charged over, but he had the sense not to pull Calvin away from the machine. Fast moves around Ancient machines tended to produce poor results.
“Well, no one knows what it does, but how it works isn’t so hard to sort out. Hobbes figured out that Kavanagh reversed these two lines to create the overload. So I’m fixing it.”
Calvin made the last connection and finally looked up. Everyone from the medbay meeting was now standing in the doorway looking hesitant and Dr. Weir looked ready to do something drastic. Calvin stepped back from the machine and gestured for the others to approach.
“Let me have a look at this,” Dr. McKay said. “No one think at it.”
“I love this place,” Calvin muttered to Hobbes.
“Me too,” Hobbes replied.
Dr. McKay poked, prodded, and finally called over Sheppard. Who touched it thoughtfully.
“I think it’s safe…” Sheppard said. “Still don’t know what it does. Maybe something to do with ascension?”
“Extra-dimensional beings, actually. What ascension made the Ancients,” Hobbes corrected. “Actually….”
Hobbes pounced on the top of the machine. Dr. McKay squeaked. Lights flashed.
“Dr. Calvin, control yourself,” Dr. Weir snapped. “Rodney, do we need to evacuate?”
“Hobbes pounces when he wants to pounce,” Calvin protested.
“I’m not sure…. No. Maybe not.”
“I put up with a lot from you, Dr. Calvin, but this is going too—”
Hobbes sat up and stretched as the machine stopped flickering. Everyone’s eyes widened.
“What are you staring at?” Hobbes asked.
“Umm, you?” Sheppard said. He reached out and poked a finger into the pale fur at Hobbes’ belly.
“Hobbes?” Dr. Weir squeaked.
“Extra-dimensional beings, did you say, Calvin?” Dr. McKay said thoughtfully.
“No, I said that,” Hobbes said, poking Sheppard in retaliation.
“Someone has some explaining to do,” Dr. Weir snapped.
“Right. Everyone down to medical,” Dr. Beckett said. “Looks like I have more tests to run.”
“Cool,” Hobbes said, hopping down from the machine. “I always wondered how much that scanner tickled.”
“It doesn’t tickle,” Dr. Beckett said. “You shouldn’t feel a thing.”
“Says the man to the tiger… thing,” Dr. McKay muttered.
“Hey, it does so tickle,” Calvin said, falling into stride with Hobbes. He touched his temple. “Right in here.”
Hobbes grinned, sharp teeth glinting in the corridor light. “Cool.”
“We have not seen Hobbes so much in the labs since his transformation.”
“Nope. He says the sun feels better than ever. I’m sure he’ll get the extra naps out of his system and be back soon.”
“Let him know he is welcome to nap on my desk any time,” Dr. Kusanagi said. “Even now.”
“You just want to get him back to check the whiteboards.”
“Well, he usually is around more than Colonel Sheppard.”
Calvin was still laughing when he triggered the door to his quarters.
“Alright there, Calvin?” Dr. Kusanagi asked.
“He’s fine,” Hobbes said from atop Calvin’s chest. “I did this all the time when we were kids.”
“You… were… smaller,” Calvin wheezed, shoving ineffectually at one of the four huge paws pinning him.
“So were you,” Hobbes said.
“I believe he is protesting the use of your largest size,” Dr. Kusanagi said. “Did not Dr. Beckett report you were over six hundred pounds in this form? Compared to the one fifty of your standard form...”
Hobbes huffed but shrank down to the form he usually wore, the one that could walk on its hind legs like a man and had a kind-of hands.
“Get off me, you fuzzy lump.” Calvin’s shove this time did move the tiger a little.
“Whine, whine, whine.” Hobbes curled up next to Calvin on the floor. “You weren’t this pathetic at six.”
“You scratched me up but didn’t tend to crack ribs when I was six.”
Hobbes pawed at Calvin’s ribs a moment. “Just bruises.”
“Perhaps it is best to limit pouncing to smaller forms,” Dr. Kusanagi suggested.
“Be more boring after you squashed me to death.”
Calvin watched the arrival of the IOA representatives from the control console in the gate room.
“Who’d we get, Chuck?”
“Richard Woolsey, USA, Jean LaPierre, France, and Colonel Chekov, Russia.”
“Is Russia more points or China?”
Chuck chuckled. “Depends on their mood, but I think we’re better off with Russia.”
“What the hell is that?” LaPierre bellowed suddenly, freezing at the base of the stairs.
Hobbes yawned and stretched in the sunbeam through the gateroom windows, growing to his largest form to better show off his teeth.
“Dr. Hobbes, perhaps you might consider napping in the labs for the time being,” Dr. Weir said blandly.
“Dr. Hobbes,” Woolsey squeaked.
Hobbes sniffed. “Your life expectancy would improve if you didn’t respond to a dangerous unknown by drawing attention to yourself.”
“Come on, Hobbes. Daedalus day means tuna in the mess hall,” Calvin said. He only made it halfway down the stairs before Hobbes pounced.
They clipped Chekov on the way down, but Hobbes was in his middle form so only Calvin was bruised.
“Dr. Hobbes, what did I say about pouncing in public areas?” Dr. Weir said firmly.
Hobbes sniffed and helped Calvin to his feet. “A tiger pounces when he wants to, as well you know, Lizzy.”
Calvin could almost smell the burning as they left.
“You sure you want to do this again?”
Hobbes clung to the back of Calvin’s pack in his smallest form, a fuzzy fellow barely bigger than the stuffed tiger he’d once used to anchor himself to humanity’s reality. “Outside the pack it should be better. Motion sickness is always better when you can see.”
Calvin huffed and tried to readjust the weight across his back. “You could walk.”
“Nah. That’d confuse the natives. No tigers in this galaxy”
Sheppard snorted. “And your fuzzy face over Calvin’s shoulder will be better? Not a lot of cats either.”
Hobbs planted his chin on Calvin’s shoulder, widened his eyes, and pouted.
“Ack! Not the puppy dog eyes.” Sheppard raised his hands to ward off the look.
“Kitty cat eyes, please, Colonel,” Dr. McKay corrected, scruffing Hobbes between the ears and ruffling Calvin’s cow lick as he passed. “Now, are we going or not? I have an Ancient weapons platform to inspect.”
The Wraith came out of nowhere. One moment the path contained six walking humans and one small tiger-like creature. The next, four humans were on the ground with Wraith standing over them and two were shooting.
Hobbes, having been pinned below Calvin as he fell, got a very good (or bad) look at the Wraith looming over them.
Six hundred pounds of tiger made a very satisfying wreck of one Wraith while Ronon’s gun took out the second.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Hobbes took out the third while Sheppard’s ammo made the fourth dance back.
“Hold fire,” Hobbes called, and Sheppard released the trigger just in time for the last pounce.
As the four clambered back to their feet, Hobbes took the time to lick his chops. And gagged.
“Oh, ick. Yuck. That is just… Gag.”
“Hairball?” Sheppard asked.
“Oh, very funny.” Hobbes spat loudly, shrinking to man-size. “Water, please.”
Calvin passed over his canteen. Dr. McKay one upped him with a package of wipes.
“Bless you, Doc.”
“Still.” Sheppard considered the scattered remnants of the Wraith. “Gotta say, I never thought I’d find someone more efficient at dispatching Wraith than Ronon.”
“I don’t whine so much,” Ronon said.
“Try taking them down with your teeth,” Hobbes said, stretching his mouth wide to show off every last pointy threat, now stained disgustingly blue. “Then see how you feel about it.”
Calvin looked up when the IOA representatives shuffled cautiously into the main lab. Looked like they’d learned not to just stride into an unknown area after getting caught up in the Marines’ Calvinball game the day before. LePierre had cracked two ribs but Woolsey proved adept at ducking. Chekov even looked like he had fun.
Woolsey went straight to Dr. McKay and Chekov followed, eyes looking everywhere. LePierre, however, walked up to Calvin and Hobbes’ desk.
“Dr…. Calvin?” LaPierre said hesitantly. Dismissively.
“And Dr. Hobbes,” Calvin replied.
“We have been reviewing some of your research,” LePierre said stridently. Calvin had a flashback to first grade and his teacher Mrs. Wormwood. “Not all of your work is consistent.”
“Pardon?” Hobbes asked.
“I am very consistent,” Calvin protested. “Mondays I work on crystal formation and growing techniques—”
“Unless there’s an emergency, in which case he does repairs,” Hobbes cut in.
“True,” Calvin said. Tuesdays I repair ancient technology with Dr. Hobbes and Dr. McKay—
“Unless Dr. McKay is off planet or we have a Wraith attack.”
“In which case it’s weapons of mass destruction. Wednesdays I work on an adult transmogrifier—”
“I think we’re getting close to the velociraptor setting.”
“Thursdays I check Dr. McKay’s theories on building ZPMs, work to improve the naquada reactors, and review the latest data on wormhole physics.”
“Dr. McKay thinks we can improve the power flow to the Gate based on my newest equations.”
“Fridays I keep Dr. Kavanaugh from blowing us up.”
“Though we all work towards that goal most days.” Hobbes glowered toothily at the Zorg spy in his corner of the main labs.
“Saturdays I play Calvinball with the Marines and work on my web comic.”
“Think we can weave this into the plot?”
“No, but I was thinking we could have Spaceman Spiff come across a man running from planet to planet in advance of the Zorg.”
“Oh, I like that.” Hobbes grabbed his tablet and made notes.
Calvin turned back to LaPierre, who was looking a little glassy-eyed. “Sundays I study the differences in the various human evolutions.”
“Mostly in Pegasus. Don’t suppose the IOA would be willing to share more data from the Milky-Way?”
“Heldays I work on the puddlejumpers with Dr. Zelenka. And in an emergency, which is really every other day or so, I do whatever is needed to keep Atlantis afloat and in one piece.”
Chekov had wandered over mid recitation and looked confused. “Helday?”
“This planet has a different day/week/year cycle than Earth. We chose an eight day week and added Helday,” Hobbes said.
“It seemed appropriate given how often we might as well be in Hel around here.” Calvin sniggered.
“You are here to work as a scientist, not a comic writer,” LePierre huffed. Eventually.
“Oh no.” Calvin shook his head. “I’ve already gone through this. General O’Neill approved Spaceman Spiff. I put up with IOA oversight, but my contract is with the US Military, not you.”
“Hey! You lot have oversight. But that does not give you leave to harass my staff.” Dr. McKay stuck with yelling from across the lab rather than come over. “Dr. Hobbes, come check this whiteboard. Something’s wrong here.”
Hobbes smirked and Calvin pouted. The IOA representatives watched in bemusement.
Until Hobbes started growling and getting larger. “Are you trying to blow us all up?”
Dr. McKay started verbally eviscerating the equation’s creator and scratched Hobbes between the ears until he shrank again with a blissful look on his features.
“How does he keep the tiger calm while yelling like that?” Chekov asked Calvin.
“He’s a cat person.”
“We’ve seen references to Dr. Hobbes for some time,” Woolsey admitted, “but we didn’t expect… this. Your intake forms only mentioned a stuffed animal.”
“Oh, you haven’t seen the latest report?” Calvin grinned. “Well, it all started when Dr. Kavanaugh crossed two wires and almost blew up Atlantis—”
“I may rip out Wraith throats, but I have never done the same to humans,” Hobbes huffed.
“I may have exaggerated.”
“I am also not a soul sucking demon.”
“Not for my kind of soul,” Calvin said with wide, innocent eyes.
“And I’m rather corporeal now. And have been to some degree since you caught me. I certainly am not going to haunt the IOA back to Earth.”
“But they stopped asking dumb questions about our research and your right to a tuna supply, didn’t they?”
Hobbes blinked. “You’re rather devious.”
“I had a good teacher.”
“Lizzy isn’t going to be happy if you broke them, though. I never taught you to rebel against authority figures.”
“Dr. McKay will think it’s hilarious.”
“Point to you. Though I’m still ahead by seven thousand, four hundred, sixty-eight times z.”
“No way. You shifted the decimal point.”
Calvin limped into the medical wing, left hand wrapped firmly around his right wrist to keep his blood inside him. Mostly. Dr. McKay was right behind him, berating him royally.
“I most certainly did not approve you blowing up a naquada reactor,” Dr. McKay snapped. “You could have killed us all.”
“Do you think Hobbes and I would have been there if we expected it to blow up?” Calvin countered. His limping slowed as his mind spun.
“I never know what to expect from you two.”
“Genius,” Calvin chirped. “Come on, Doc. If we’d doubled the output of the reactor, you’d be praising me.”
“Why did I ever hire you?”
“Because my theories on wormholes were light years ahead of yours without my having your practical experience.”
“Quiet.” The single word was not said loudly, or forcefully, but there was something about it that froze both men in their tracks. They turned and found a lanky brunette in a white coat glaring at them both.
“This is a medical ward and I have patients in need of rest. If you need treatment, go there.” She pointed at an empty gurney. “If not, get out of my ward.”
“Well, hello,” Dr. McKay said, smiling. “I’m Dr. McKay. And you are?”
Calvin stood stock still, jaw flapping in shock.
“Are you wounded?” She looked over Dr. McKay. “No, clearly not. You on the other hand—”
“Susan, please. Actually, I prefer Dr. Derkins….” She paused, looked up from the blood dripping from Calvin’s long fingers, and flapped her jaw once or twice herself. “Calvin?”
Calvin grinned and wiggled his bloody fingers. “Hi.”
“This is where you’ve been?”
He shrugged. “Yeah.”
“I thought you were joking about the other galaxy thing.”
“Well, you were supposed to. Non-disclosure agreements and all. What are you doing here?”
“Sit.” Susie waited until Calvin had done so and didn’t speak again until she had begun cleaning the slices in Calvin’s wrist. “Research in genetic sequencing catches the SGC’s eye, and having done more than my fair share of turns in the emergency room apparently netted me this choice posting.”
“Well, welcome to Atlantis.”
“How unexpectedly polite,” Susie said dryly. “Not a single ick or protest about girls.”
“Nah, he got over that years ago. Not that his taste in girls is particularly impressive. Or guys for that matter.”
Susie froze, shoulders hunching up around her ears.
“Dr. Hobbes, did you identify your partner’s mistake?” Dr. McKay said.
“You heard that?” Susie whispered.
“Hobbes? Of course,” Dr. McKay said. “And he still owes me an explanation.”
“Calvin didn’t make a mistake. Someone has been tinkering with the reactors, altering the wiring. And I found the wiring had been changed in two others.”
“What?” Dr. McKay rushed off even as Susie finally turned around.
And spotted Hobbes in his standard, manish tiger form. He grinned and waved, wiggling his pseudo-fingers at her.
She turned back to Calvin. “How?”
“Ancients. Weird tech. Extra-dimensional beings.” Calvin shrugged. “Ancients used to study with these out-of-phase beings. Turns out I caught one when I was a kid and he stuck around.”
“Umm… give me a minute.”
“Sure,” Hobbes said, patting her on the shoulder and ignoring her shudder. “Calvin, like I said, it wasn’t your fault.”
“I knew that” Calvin said. “But what happened?”
She focused on Calvin’s wrist, finishing cleaning the wounds and then stitching them, as Calvin and Hobbes discussed the wiring changes and power generation over her head. They seemed to come to some conclusion as she taped the bandage into place.
“Good work, doctor,” Dr. Beckett said.
“Thank you, sir.” Susie took a deep breath and pulled of her gloves. “Sir…”
“Forgive me, but…” She pointed at Hobbes. “You can see him?”
“Ah, Hobbes does tend to cause that reaction. Aye, luv, Hobbes is a bit unusual looking, but don’t worry about it. He’s very protective of Atlantis and an asset to the mission.” Dr. Beckett patted her on the shoulder and wandered off.
“Shit,” Susie muttered.
Calvin gasped. “Susie, really.”
“Well, I guess that’s it. I’d best start lobbying the IOA to turn Atlantis into a full base that allows children.”
Hobbes and Calvin both looked confused. “Planning to stay for a while?” Calvin asked.
“Well, it seems to me that you’re not leaving any time soon,” Susie said, gesturing at Hobbes. “Where else would Hobbes be so welcome?”
“True,” Calvin said. “Everyone was rather accepting even before they could all see Hobbes.”
“So I’d better plan on living out my life here after we marry.”
“Marry?” Calvin hiccupped.
Susie sighed. “I swore in high school that if you ever managed to convince me Hobbes was real, I’d give in and marry you.”
“What if… why would….”
“Are you saying you don’t want to marry me?” Susie batted her brown eyes at him.
“Don’t mind him,” Hobbes said. “He’s been in love with you since he was six. No one else compared. But he’s still crap at expressing himself.”
Susie snorted. “Why am I not surprised?”
“But….” Calvin protested.
“I want at least two kids. Maybe more given we won’t be adding to population pressure out here.” She tapped her chin. “We’d best have two weddings. One here so Hobbes can be best man and one on Earth for our parents.”
“Parents?” Calvin squeaked.
“I always liked you,” Hobbes said, pulling Susie into a hug. “Welcome to the family.”
“Thank you, Hobbes.” She hugged him back. “Though I expect you to take better care of him from now on.”
Hobbes sputtered. “Here now. I take very good care of him.”
“He’s got a broken ankle, which he’s been walking on, and could have bled out from the lacerations to his wrist.” Susie put her hands on her hips. “What would happen to me and our children if you let him die?”
“I would never… I’ve saved him from Wraith…”
Calvin put a comforting hand on Hobbes’ shoulder. “He takes good care of me. But no one can completely plan for Zorg sabotage.”
Sensibly, Susie just rolled her eyes and went to get the materials to stabilize Calvin’s broken ankle.
“So, did you bring Mr. Bun?”
“I thought you found his comatoseness disturbing.” Susie said it, but escorted Calvin and Hobbes to her room where, sure enough, Mr. Bun sat on the bedside table.
Hobbes got close, studying the ragged stuffed animal. “Yeah, I do, but I still kinda wonder what would happen if we—”
“You want me to what?”
“Get the IOA to stop shipping home pregnant mission members if they want to stay and name Atlantis a full base instead of a forward base.”
“So you can get married?”
“And start our life together.”
“With Dr. Calvin?”
“Now that I know Hobbes is real and not a figment of his imagination, I don’t have to worry about the hallucinations being genetic.”
“He’s a genius, as am I. Our children will be highly intelligent and quite suited to life on Atlantis.”
“Not to mention she’s been in love with me since she was six.”
“No, that’s you. I wanted to kill you when we were six. I didn’t fall in love until we were twelve. And I didn’t seriously consider marrying you until I played Calvinball with Death in college.”
“You said you swore in high school.”
Dr. Weir looked at Hobbes. “The IOA is not going to support his reproducing. And not with her.”
“How does one play Calvinball with Death?”
Hobbes grinned toothily back. “If it ensures he won’t reproduce on Earth…”
“It’s a legend, though usually one plays chess.”
“Oh…” Dr. Weir’s dawning horror was obvious on her face. “They’d direct us to become an independent colony to prevent that.”
“Extra-galactic citizenship would be cool.”
“As long as we have visitation rights for Earth.”
“They might offer to ship your families here to prevent that.”
“Oh, that would be wonderful. And I can think of a few others who would appreciate that option.”
Dr. Weir swallowed hard. “To keep Rodney and Calvin off Earth, they might just agree to anything.”
“Now you’re thinking logically, Lizzy.”