Breaking Walls

Close Call

Dr. McKay held a pen over an old fashioned clip-board and stood in front of the line of 'newbie lab-rats'. Well… they were experienced experts in their field and among the best earth had to offer, but they were new to Atlantis. "Ok, boys and girls, welcome to camp Atlantis. Let's do role call!"

"Uh, Dr.McKay?" McKay dropped the pen to his side and turned to face the interruption. Interrupted already!

"What!" he sniped. "Can't I tuck the new guys into their shiny new labs without one of you children posing as scientists needing their hand held? This is role call time, and you had better be interrupting it for nothing less than averting a disaster of apocalyptic proportions." The line up of new scientists leaned slightly away from their Head of Department and glanced at one another in trepidation.

"Sorry Sir," The Canadian guy with the wild hair, who now manned what had been Peter Grodin's station apologized but seemed otherwise un-phased. This indicated to the observant new recruits that this was normal but harmless behaviour from their leader, "But there are some strange fluctuations coming from generator three."

McKay's scowl was replaced by mild concern, "Three?" He shoved the clipboard into the hands of one of the new guys and strolled over to Gro…dammit…Canadian guys control console. "Let me take a look at that." He took one look at the monitor and slapped his radio on, "Kavanagh, this is McKay. Tell me you didn't stop at Generator three on your way to where I told you you're supposed to be."

'It was on the way and it was clearly well overdue for recalibrating anyway.'

"It's not overdue, it's due to take place in three days. Get away from that generator."

'I'm already in the middle of recalibrating it.'

"Then stop! Kavanagh, there's a reason it's not scheduled for today. Jeffrey's team is working a level below you. They're interfacing some highly sensitive equipment. If you miscalculate..."

'I won't miscalculate', Kavanagh interrupted defiantly.

"Fluctuations increasing sir," the other Canadian advised, though McKay could see the readings perfectly well.

McKay glared at the other man for stating the obvious and flipped the channel on his radio, "Jeffrey's, this is McKay. We're getting some fluctuations on generator three. I want you to hold off on hooking up that equipment."

'We're already partially interfaced and are testing the power requirements for each unit. Do you want us to unhook it all?'

"That's a no. Just back up to a safe distance and wait." McKay switched the radio back to Kavanagh's channel. "Kavanagh. Get away from that generator now."

'I am perfectly capable of…'

"Get the hell away from that generator! I'm not going to ask again!" McKay's face reddened with anger then paled with alarm when the power levels spiked dramatically. "Jeffreys! Get your team out of there!" More than a hint of panic laced his voice.

'We're already out. But I think the equipments fried and my team is pretty shaken. It was like the whole room filled with lightning. It's a good thing we weren't in there.' The other mans voice was shaky.

McKay sighed with relief and leaned against the control panel before speaking again with a snarl, "Kavanagh."

'I wouldn't have miscalculated if you hadn't distracted me. This was your fault. Not mine! You could have caused a deadly accident.'

McKay's eyes turned steely with rage. The Canadian tech whose name McKay could never remember edged his chair silently away from the other man and watched as though waiting to see what would happen. The clusters of scientists and marines moving goods stopped what they were doing and watched with uncertainty. The line of newbie scientists got the message that this was an unprecedented situation and backed away a few extra steps.

McKay's voice was all too calm when he finally spoke into his ear-piece, "My office. Now."

'I have things to do!' Kavanagh blustered out of the speaker at McKay's hip. 'Work to complete. If you'd like to make an appointment to discuss your mistakes I might be able to work you in around…'

McKay's next words echoed sharply throughout the gate room, causing more than a few to jump, "So help me, if you don't shut up and get to my office of your own accord right now I will send a marine to shoot you and drag you there!"

'You don't have the authority…'

McKay clicked off his radio and snapped his fingers at a gawking marine, "You… go get him now." The tone was sharp but had returned to its normal volume. The marine actually saluted before turning to go. A new guy. Probably from last month. A meaningful look at a more familiar face sent a more experienced marine trailing behind the newbie. He would make certain Kavanagh wasn't actually shot.

"You with the hair." McKay addressed the other Canadian. He swore the man got some of his styling tips off Shepherd. "Take these." He pointed a thumb behind him to the gawking newbies. "I'll be in my office." And with that, he stormed purposefully towards the seldom used room.

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McKay slumped into the unfamiliar office chair and rested his head in his hands. He couldn't believe he'd almost lost more people to something so stupid. The weight of those lives, and his entire team, felt almost tangible on his shoulders at that moment. Minimizing the risks was his responsibility. Protecting them was his responsibility. Keeping them alive was his responsibility and he hated himself for every time he'd failed thus far.

He opened the bottom drawer of this desk and pulled out the thickening hard-copy of the safety procedures manual for the Atlantis Expedition. Every time an accident happened that killed a member of his team he wrote a lengthy paper detailing suggested additions for the manual and the reasoning supporting each. Elizabeth had added some of them. Most were rejected as impossible or impractical to maintain. Some risks were unavoidable. He opened the manual to the section that said all interfaced equipment was to be unhooked or shut down and other activities on the systems stopped while a scheduled generator recalibration was being carried out. That one had easily made the book.

He closed his eyes and tried to imagine how the coming meeting might go, what he wanted to gain from it.

What he wanted was to wring Kavanagh's neck. What he needed was to get the other man under control and following orders. But as long as Kavanagh only saw McKay as a rival, McKay could never accomplish that on his own. He'd been willing to let the obvious rivalry slide thus-far because it was a simple fact of any Science Community. But he drew the line when it risked lives. Kavanagh would completely ignore him if he tried to enforce this on his own. He reluctantly switched his radio back on.

"McKay to Sheppard."

'Sheppard here. You sound stressed. Is the new Science Squad misbehaving?'

"The Canadian guy with the hair is taking them around."

'Dr. McKay. This is Dr. Weir. Did I hear that right?' She must be helping with the Military tour. Probably to observe how Ronon reacted to the new recruits, and they to him.

"Dr. Weir, yes you did. Something has come up. Do you think Major Lorne could finish the military tour? I could use some back-up"

There was a short pause before Elizabeth answered, 'We'll be right there…where are you?'

"I'm in my office."

'You're office!' Sheppard really didn't need to sound so shocked.

"That's what I said. Isn't it?" McKay sniped then sighed tiredly, "It's a long story."

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Time seemed to drag while McKay waited. So he stood and paced. He hoped he'd have enough time to explain to Elizabeth before the two Marines arrived with Kavanagh. He wished he'd asked them to hold him outside his office until he was ready. He didn't even know their names. His pacing slowed when he noticed an odd inconsistency in the colouring and paper thickness in part of the open manual… was that another book in between the pages? He tilted his head and flipped through the manual to reveal a magazine that appeared to feature a very scantily clad woman leaning over a particle accelerator. The few articles in the magazine were written in Czech. Maybe his office wasn't that unused after-all, he mused. Hmm, that article on AI was actually pretty interesting. It served as a momentary distraction and he jumped when the door to his office slid open to admit one John Sheppard. McKay casually flipped back to the relevant section of the manual, hiding the incognito magazine.

"Sheppard, good, where's Elizabeth?"

Col. Sheppard closed the door behind him, "She had to make a quick stop. She'll be right along. So... this is your office?" He glanced around, and noted it was sparse.

"Yes!" McKay clipped. "This is my office."

"Have you ever actually been in it before?" Sheppard had his doubts.

"Yes! I've been in it before. And don't look so surprised. It was shown to me when it was first pointed out to me that I had one. So of course I saw it then."

Sheppard was curious about what had warranted this occasion but figured it would be better to wait for Elizabeth before asking, and this seemed like a good opportunity for a little McKay reconnaissance. It was one of his favourite Atlantis pass-times. McKay was like a challenging puzzle, and like most who had taken and passed a MENSA, challenging puzzles were tough to find. That, and he was genuinely curious. It was generally pretty hard to get McKay to really talk about anything other than work. Oh, every now and then he'd let something slip about the dog that ran away or his after-school job with the CIA (and John still wasn't sure if that was just a diversionary fib). Having secrets was one thing, everyone had those, but a guy had to share at least a little bit with his friends. And John considered himself Rodney's friend. He'd decided that a long time ago. Luckily it turned out that the verbal sparring involved in teasing McKay into opening up was, over-all, quite entertaining. Sure it was aggravating when he lost. But it wouldn't be any fun if he always won. Elizabeth often tried to get Rodney to open up too, but she was far too polite about it. So she would listen and encourage McKay to talk about things that she could see he enjoyed, usually science. But for anything more than that, Rodney had to be angered into spilling the beans.

"You're one tough guy to figure out." Sheppard baited.

"Huh? What do you mean?"

"Well, Elizabeth just told me that you're more charming than me because you noticed her herbs and Teyla's hair."

McKay wore a cocky grin at the news of his place on the charm charts, "What's so mysterious about that?"

"I've seen you with women."

Score one for Sheppard. McKay scowled, "What's that supposed to mean!"

Sheppard smiled in that 'no care in the world' way he knew irritated McKay, "It just means that as soon as you know they like you or you think you might like them it becomes painful to watch."

McKay's grin fell and he tried and failed to counter under Johns candid stare, "What? You're just jealous! I'm fine with women. Better than fine. Eloquent. Smooth. Charming… "

"Teyla thinks you need help to practice." John let that hang in the air.

McKay winced, "It's that bad?"

John gave him a straight look, "Do you even have to ask?"

Rodney folded his arms and glared, "Well we can't all be Captain Kirk!"

"Maybe, but Spock got his fair share too. You can at least be a Spock." John pointed out, conceding to McKay a small victory by revealing a little more of his own personal inner-geek.

"What did she mean by practice?" McKay narrowed his eyes suspiciously.

"You know, to say the right things while trying to rather than ramming your own foot up your throat. I'll help show you a few lines and moves." John supplied.

"Thank-you Cyreno but don't you think that's a little Junior High?"

"Well, it's pretty obvious you skipped that whole cultural experience, so ya, what say we get you up to speed a little?"

McKay rolled his eyes and turned several colours before sniping defensively, "Well you try talking to girls that are twice your age and half as smart! Honestly. You are so immature. I refuse to believe Teyla put you up to this!"

Bingo, another part of the puzzle solved. McKay really hadn't spent much time with kids his own age. Sheppard smiled and filed that away in the section of his brain labelled, 'Rodney McKay intel'.

Elizabeth arrived just in time to get Sheppard out of admitting that Teyla hadn't 'exactly' suggested it, at least not directly. "Have I missed anything?"

John smiled all too sweetly, "Nothing at all. Rodney was just about to explain why we're gathered here."

But Rodney was looking out the clear door to his office and watching Kavanagh stalk ahead of the marines he'd sent to fetch him. "It's too late to explain."

McKay quickly positioned a chair in front of his desk, and then dragged his two confused friends behind the desk to either side of his own chair, while rambling out quick instructions. "Elizabeth, stand here on my right. John, over here on my left. Don't look confused! Look stern and intimidating. Sheppard, feel free to fondle your gun. And whatever you do, look like you agree with everything I say."

Elizabeth and Sheppard both looked like they were about to question him but caught the begging look in his eyes right before he sent a stern look towards the door.

It was just in time for Kavanagh to charge into the office without knocking, and looking like he was about to verbally launch into McKay. It was a look that was quickly tempered when he saw who was standing on either side of the Science team leader.

All need for pretending flew out the now closing door. Elizabeth looked stern, and Sheppard 'fondled' his gun.

"Dr. Kavanagh, please sit down," McKay began, his voice stern and clipped. When the glowering man was seated he continued, "We have a serious problem. Your actions today have breached safety protocols which have been put in place to protect the lives of all the members of this expedition." He tapped pointedly on the thick hard-copy of the mission safety protocols.

Kavanagh answered with a forced calm, "I never would have miscalculated if you hadn't distracted me."

McKay narrowed his eyes, "You shouldn't have been working on that generator in the first place. You knew that Jeffrey's team was working on interfacing equipment in an area run primarily by that power source. You don't risk lives on the chance that you might not get distracted. You broke protocol that was put in place with good reason. You ignored my orders to stop what you were doing when a clear danger had been identified and communicated to you."

Kavanagh narrowed his eyes and folded his arms arrogantly, "Like you don't break protocol on a regular basis."

McKay clenched his fists, and a little of his emotion leaked into his voice. "Yes, when I feel it's necessary and not when it risks the lives of my team." He forced his fists to unclench and forced the calm he didn't feel back into his voice, "You don't make the call for whether it's necessary Kavanagh. I do. You are on probation until further notice. All your present work-load will be reassigned. You are banned from your lab for the next two days. You are not to attempt any repairs, tinker with any equipment, or work on any research without my personal permission."

"You can't do that!" Kavanagh snarled out, defiantly.

Elizabeth folded her arms and interjected calmly, "Actually, yes he can."

John took her lead, "And I'll be assigning a guard to your lab."

Kavanagh turned from red, to white to red, to a sort of almost purple, while his mouth worked wordlessly.

Rodney just put the thick manual back into the lower desk drawer before sitting up straight and looking emotionlessly back at Kavanagh, "You're dismissed."

Kavanagh clenched and unclenched his fists a few times before standing and walking out of the room with as much dignity as he could muster.

As soon as Kavanagh was out of sight, Rodney slumped exhaustedly in his chair.

A supportive hand appeared on his shoulder and he looked up to find Elizabeth wearing a smile of reassurance and pride, "You handled that very well. You were completely right to call us both to back you up. Let us know if he makes any more trouble. We're here to help." She frowned at the office door.

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'We're here to help.' Elizabeth's voice echoed those of his long-forgotten High-School Principal. A note with her phone number scrawled onto it was slipped into his hand. 'You could have caused a deadly accident!' Kavanagh's words snipped at the heels of the unbidden memory and the knowledge of her 'accident' came to the fore of his sleeping mind.

Rodney tossed in his bed and clutched the pillow that should have been under his head while his sleeping mind picked out words spoken in the day and illogically linked them to unrelated events long past. Images he'd refused to think about for years flickered in Rodney's dreams; Images of white lab coats, needles, darkness and the sounds of hissing gas followed by total silence.

A boys voice echoed distantly, "I want to go home. I want to see Jeannie."

"If you answer our questions honestly we'll try to arrange it." The other man lied. Rodney could see it in his head.

"Now", the man who had never told him his name held up a card with the picture facing away from Rodney. "What do you see?"

Rodney looked at the duck, "It's a cow."

"Are you sure?" The man who Rodney knew was named Ian Greggs and whose aged mother lived with him at his home and thought he was a pharmacist shuffled the cards and pulled out the one that actually was a cow.

"Duck."

"You aren't even trying! We know it's too soon after the last treatment for your abilities to have faded this quickly."

"I want to go home!" The stack of cards flew out of the man's hands and shrivelled as though burning.

"Rodney. Right now I'm thinking about what will happen to you if you don't cooperate. What do you see?" The man spoke with real concern.

The boy flinched and looked away, "I know the others died anyway, everyone here thinks about them."

The man smiled and looked unsurprised, "Yes. But then you also know you're different."

"Because they volunteered or because they were stupid?" The boy glared defiantly.

The man sighed and picked up the papers he'd been using to record results, "Because you're special. The others were overwhelmed by what they saw. They couldn't understand it and so they couldn't control it."

The sleeping Rodney understood that telekinesis wasn't as simple as willing something to move. You had to be able to look at what the thing was made of, and understand what energy was and how it behaved. The stronger it became, the more you needed to know or…

"The autistic people were 'special' too." The dream Rodney quipped. He already knew that a good portion of them had proved passable at the telekinesis at first, but the ESP had overwhelmed them. Having been locked in their own minds for their whole lives, they had no way to cope with seeing another persons mind and experiencing the stimuli another person felt. They lacked frame of reference.

The man slipped the papers into his briefcase and stood, "We'll talk again tomorrow. In the mean time I suggest you be more cooperative this afternoon."

They were going to lock him in that thing again. Make him look into the minds of people they wanted to know things from. Rodney hated himself for being so eager to take the language tests when he'd first arrived, and proving that he could quickly grasp any language they gave him to learn. He wished he'd never shown them most of the things he could understand. He wished he could go home… but he knew that home was here now. His parents had given him away. He had seen the papers in someone else's mind. Flicker – the dream leapt forward and he was being injected with a needle and shoved into that thing again. There was a hissing of gas… He felt like he couldn't breathe.

Dr. Rodney McKay shot out of bed, his arms flailing as his still sleeping legs gave out under him and he fell backward on the floor. lights! He thought forcefully at the city and instantly the room was no longer dark. He leaned back against the floor, panting, and ran his hands over his sweat-drenched face, "Dream…just a dream…."

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