The San Francisco skyline drifted across the field of view as Atlantis slowly succumbed to the ocean's currents. It was a beautiful sight, lit and glowing under the starless night. The city stretched off forever in all directions, east into Oakland, south into San Jose, a sprawling beast of lights and sound and life broken by the blackness of the water and the loom of hills.
It struck Radek Zelenka as odd that this city, the one outside the confines of the cloak, seemed more inviting, more ethereal than the alien city of wonders in which he dwelt.
Maybe he'd been here too long. The city of Atlantis was too clean, too ordered, too familiar to hold the same attraction it once had. Of course there were labs to discover, secrets to unveil, dangers to combat, corridors to drain, and the database to translate but it wasn't the same. He missed the chaos, the filth, the dregs of industrialized society clinging to his hands as he dove headlong into that morass to find the beauty so carelessly discarded. He missed the thrill of almost getting caught, the silence of the night, the glow of the streetlamps, the shout of a security guard.
He was an engineer and with that, or perhaps because of that, came certain drives.
He needed to get out of Atlantis, if only for one night.
He needed it.
Zelenka found McKay burying himself in his work. Badly. The figures were all wrong, the writing was slipshod, the penmanship was ass, and the man himself was staring unseeing at the board, uncaring as to what he wrote.
McKay barely even noticed when Zelenka picked up the whiteboard eraser and started wiping the evidence away.
“I was working on that,” McKay said, snapping without vitriol.
“You are distracted,” Radek said. “As am I. Is no good to ignore it.”
Rodney pulled up a chair and dropped heavily into it. “It's this... we're on Earth and we still can't leave. The IOA isn't letting Atlantis leave, we're not allowed to leave Atlantis, Silicon Valley is right there and all I can do is look.”
“I know,” Radek said. “Is getting to me, too.”
“This can't go on. I'm a physicist, I shouldn't be like this.”
Radek laughed. “You are more than,” he said. “You have entire PhD in engineering. You are remembering that, I think.”
“I remember...” Rodney sighed. “When I was a kid I used to find things and take them apart just to... You know that bomb I built? Entirely out of junk I found. People just threw it all away! And I got put on so many watch lists as a damned kid for taking this stuff and turning it into...”
“I built radios out of tin foil, glass, wires, and a fork,” Radek said. "I used to listen to Cosmonauts in orbit and dream of being one."
“That's... not bad,” Rodney admitted.
They both looked out the window to the lights slowly drifting by. “We have got to get over there,” Radek sighed.
Rodney nodded. “But first... we need a plan.”
In a darkened storage room, in the bowels of the city where surveillance was never laid and the radios barely reached, the conspirators met.
Dr. Radek Zelenka, head of engineering.
Dr. Rodney McKay, head of research.
Dr. Peter Rowan, chemist and local pirate.
Dr. Rebecca West, genetic engineer.
Dr. Lionel Hedgewick, structural engineer.
Dr. Robert Fitz, mechanical engineer.
And Dr. Elizabeth Lee, software engineer.
“We all know why we're here,” Rodney said.
“Yeah, except him,” Dr. West said, pointing to Pirate Pete.
“He grew up around here,” Radek defended. “He knows area.”
“I went to grad school around here,” Pete corrected. “I worked around here. I didn't grow up here.”
“You may have been physical adult but by your talk you were growing up here,” Radek insisted, glaring Pete into silence.
“So what's the plan?” Dr. Lee asked. “How are we going to get over there? Once we're over there how are we getting around? Once we get around how are we gonna carry stuff? Once we have stuff how do we get it back here? On top of it all, how do we avoid being seen?”
“By any side,” Dr. Fitz added. “We want to avoid being seen by anyone. No cops, no air force, no locals, and sure as hell no Sheppard and no Woolsey.”
“We head over during the day,” Pete suggested. “The BART runs through all the best areas, we ride the train for a while to get a feel for our marks. That night we... will need transportation. Something we can use to haul our gains.”
“Can't we just borrow car?” Radek asked.
Rodney groaned and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I don't know what's worse, the fact that you just suggested we steal a car or the fact that I agree with it.”
“Not steal, borrow,” Radek defended. “We put it back once done.”
“Yeah, covered in fingerprints,” Dr. Hedgewick drawled.
“Do you have file?” Radek asked.
“I do,” Pete said.
“Shit,” Rodney swore. “Well, that's out.”
“Who here actually remembers their bank and shit?” Dr Fitz asked.
Rodney raised his hand. The others gave him a confused look. “What?” he asked. “I have a seven year old niece. I have to engage in actual commerce. And I'm not buying us a car. Too easy to trace, too much bullshit.”
“If I remember correctly, there's a police auction the last wednesday of every month,” Pete suggested. “They have cars there. It's just pay cash and go. They'll see us but they won't notice us, not unless we do something stupid.”
“We could Star Trek 4 it,” Dr. West said. “Cloak a jumper, leave it in the park, acquire cash, acquire transportation, acquire loot, profit.”
“But how are we getting jumper out of the bay?” Radek asked. “Military has tight hold over departures.”
“Only above the water line,” Rodney said. “We'll use the underwater jumper bay. There's still one down there.”
“But is it repaired?”
“Everything but weapons,” Rodney said, grinning.
Radek sat back, grinning madly. “We have plan.”
Twenty-four hours of leave time were asked for and approved of for each conspirator. Of course, since Rodney and Radek were the ones doing the approvals that made it easier. It was their own time off that proved harder to ensure.
Rodney looked up from his lunch and scootched over, letting Sheppard take the empty spot at the table.
Sheppard sat down and sprawled out. Rodney rolled his eyes and gently shoved back, embroiling them in a quick, quiet shoving match until Sheppard finally sat like a civilized person.
“What's up?” Rodney asked.
“You remember that thing, right?” Sheppard asked.
Rodney gave him a look and took a big bite of his sandwich.
“You know, the thing.”
Rodney chewed slowly, not looking away from Sheppard's face as he glared with disinterest. He swallowed with a deep rattle.
“All right, the whole game thing,” Sheppard said. “Lorne and a few others hit the mainland, wait, sorry, they hit the city last week and bought out a GameStop. They're getting the Xbox Circle, or whatever it's called and--”
“The Xbox 360,” Rodney supplied.
“That's the one,” Sheppard said. “Well, day after tomorrow they want to start a military versus scientist league, though how they're gonna do that for the game they've decided on I have no idea.”
“Day after tomorrow,” Rodney said. Wait, what day was today? It was near the end of the month, wasn't it?
“Would that be... tuesday?”
“Wednesday,” Sheppard corrected.
“Shit,” Rodney realized. “I can't, Sheppard, I've got this thing on Wednesday.”
“Yes, shut up, this 'thing',” Rodney said. “I won't be available at all.”
“Not even for good sci-fi?” Sheppard tempted. “They all decided on this game called 'Mass Effect'.”
“Not available,” Rodney reiterated.
Rodney looked down at his half-finished lunch. It appeared he would have to leave it half-finished as he got up. “Yes, really,” he said. “I'm busy. I have shit to do.” He left.
It wasn't fleeing, it was a strategic escape.
Tuesday night began with the slow collapse of the day shift. Earth was making them all lazy, conditioning them back into a simple day-night cycle uninterrupted by emergency. The night guards yawned as they stood in increasing slouches, the night shift stared unseeing at screens and boards. Night patrols were few and far between, inattentive as they paced to keep themselves awake.
The conspirators were wide awake, hopped up on caffeine, on the thrill of their raid, and on the simple fact that as scientists they refused to bow to darkness simply because sane people were asleep.
When that wore off, Pete had a few creations in his bag. And this time he wouldn't need to commandeer an Ensign to be his barker.
Pete had to hold in his laughter at the memory of one of the three-day battles on Atlantis, his barker standing next to his makeshift booth shouting 'Combat drugs! Get yer combat drugs!' while a line of marines curved next to a shouting, swearing Colonel whats-his-name.
“Hey, shut up,” Dr. West hissed, elbowing him.
“Sorry,” Pete said.
“We're almost there,” Dr. Fitz said. He pointed to the transporter at the end of the hall.
A single marine stood guard, one hand on his stunner.
“Great, how are we getting past that?” West asked.
Radek snuck up behind the scientists. “What's... oh...”
Pete jolted. “Holy hell how did you--” He shut up as Dr. West slammed her hand over his mouth.
“That's not hard,” Radek said. “All of you, be quiet and be ready to move.”
“What's he gonna do?” West asked.
“Hey, shut up,” Fitz snapped.
“You shut up.”
“Both of you shut up,” Pete hissed.
Radek glared at the lot of them until they quieted down. Then he moved, sticking to shadows the others didn't even realize were there. He stopped moving as he reached a decorative plant, not more than twenty feet from the tired marine. Radek put his hands to his mouth and...
“The fuck?” the marine asked. He could have sworn he heard a bird somewhere behind him. But how could a bird get in here?
Radek threw his voice again, making pigeon calls and coos.
The marine wandered off, looking for the bird.
Radek waved the group to the transporter, throwing his voice one last time before joining them.
The door closed.
They were at the underwater bay. The unguarded underwater bay.
“How the hell did you do that?” Dr. West asked.
“I raised pigeons before, well, before,” Radek said. “Also, learned throwing voice in Soviet military.”
“You were Soviet?” Pete asked.
“Not long,” Radek said. “Five years mandatory service.”
“Holy shit,” Pete swore.
“Are you really telling them about your time in the Soviet Army?” Rodney demanded. He was fiddling with the crystals of the open and waiting jumper.
“It got us past guard,” Radek shrugged.
“Fair enough,” Rodney admitted. “Welp, the jumper's all ready to go, Lizzy here has a program that should spoof the control tower into ignoring us, I've got all the papers we'll, well, I'll need, the tower staff have a scheduled break in ten minutes, we're all set.”
“Everybody have normal clothes?” Pete asked.
He cringed as people pulled from bags and duffels what they considered 'normal'. “Nevermind,” he said, sighing deeply. “Just... wear what you're all wearing.”
They all wore the blue shirts designating their department, black BDU pants, and combat boots.
“We look like a gang,” Rodney admitted.
“It's better than Lionel's band shirt with more holes than fabric,” Pete said. “We're trying to be inconspicuous but we also need to look decent. Police auctions are run by police and they're not military, they will ignore little things like 'rights' if you stand out. Especially since I have no doubt at least half of us don't have IDs.”
“Should we?” Radek asked.
“Point,” Rodney allowed. The ship's chronometer beeped. “All right, it's time. Now or never.”
A chorus of 'now's answered him as Rodney activated the cloak and eased the jumper out into the water toward the city.