Rodney ran like the hounds of hell were on his heels. He flung himself outside the entrance to the cave as his mind ended a countdown and he waited for the explosion.
And he waited.
Rolling over, Rodney frowned. "It...didn't explode. Why didn't it--" His eyes widened. "Crap. The mind-control, the illusions – they're working on me, too."
He stood and took a step toward the cave when he heard footsteps. He saw Teyla and John – and John saw him. Put down Teyla – and drew his gun.
"Oh, no!" Rodney drew his hands in front of him and a crystal dome surrounded his body. He felt the bullet impact it before he turned and ran – the dome moving with him.
Back inside the cave, and Rodney could hear pursuing feet. He fell to his knees back in front of the machine. "Hell with this," he said, shoving all the computer equipment aside and kneeling down.
Bolt after bolt after bolt of crystal shot into the machine from below. It began to spark and then to build more vines around the crystal. Rodney then aimed lower.
His bolts severed several vines, the thickest of which started to spark. "There..." Rodney encased his hand in a thin layer of crystal and trailed it parallel to the vine. At the end of it, he sheathed the vine in crystal and ---
It separated from the wall and then the generator slowly died. And with it, the illusions.
Rodney peeked around his dome to see John standing there, blinking in bewilderment. He looked at the dome – and whistled. It was pockmarked with bullet holes and ricochets. "Good thing it's as hard as the rock it looks like," Rodney murmured, looking back up at John. "Are you back with us?"
"I shot you..."
"No, you shot at me. None of the bullets made contact." He dissolved the shield. "Let's go home."
"I don't understand, you should be dead by now..."
"Oh, thank you for the vote of confidence." Rodney rolled his eyes. "I'm alive, okay? Clearly the progression of this – thing – that gave me all this other crap is slower than you thought."
"Aye," Carson said, turning to him. "But why is it slower? What is slowing it down? What is different from you than any other person who's been in that machine over the centuries?"
Rodney shook his head. "I don't know. Maybe it's cause I'm smarter – maybe it's cause the ATA gene was introduced artificially..."
John spoke from the doorway. "Maybe it's cause you're a mutant."
Rodney looked incredulously at him. "What?"
"Aye, you might be right," Carson said. "What produces a mutant, after all, but a gentle 'tweaking' of the genetic structure....and since Rodney here is a natural mutant instead of a created one..."
"Whoa, wait..." Rodney said. "You mean to tell me I'm alive and functioning right now instead of dribbling my dinner down my chin--"
"Lovely visual," John winced.
"Shut up, John – because of the very thing in my genetic makeup that gives me my powers? I-I mean my original powers.... I mean this!" He held up a hand and formed a small ball of crystal in his palm.
And when he did it, he felt a stab of pain behind his eyes. ".....ow."
Rodney looked up at Carson. "......I know how to fix this," he whispered. "....And you're the only one who can. Get me back to the machine."
Following Rodney's verbal instructions – and fighting the urge to treat him, as the effects had begun to move faster – Carson recalibrated the machine. "Wait," Rodney said. He closed his eyes and his entire body flashed for a second. "Okay....do it." He staggered onto the platform.
Carson frowned, but activated the machine.
Ribbons of energy coursed over Rodney from head to toe, then retreated. Rodney opened his eyes. "Huh." And with that, he collapsed.
"What happened?" John asked Carson as he lifted Rodney onto the gurney.
"Rodney said the machine needed a precise bit of DNA – I have blood samples of everyone on file. I gave it his DNA and the machine reversed his physiology back to what it was before."
"Not completely," Rodney smiled up at them blearily.
"What do you mean, lad?" Carson asked.
"At the last...what I did...." The grin grew. ".......erased....." His eyes began to close.
"What, Rodney?" John asked. "What did you erase?"
"........want.....when wake up..... want...."
"What do you want?" Carson asked.
And Rodney smiled. "....pie. .... lemon custard...." And he fell asleep.
John looked at Carson. "You don't think he---"
"It's possible. I'll need to do an allergy test to confirm, but...."
Rodney opened his eyes and blinked tiredly at John.
John smiled. "How are you feeling?"
"Good." He lay a tray on Rodney's lap after raising Rodney's bed.
Rodney blinked at the Jello and pies sitting there. "John?"
"Bloodwork confirmed it. You're back to normal – with one huge exception."
Rodney's eyes widened. "I did it?"
"You did it. Your natural mutant power enabled that final alteration to last." He handed Rodney a fork. "We fed you a little juice while you were out to make sure. We didn't need any epi-pens or anything. You're done."
Rodney blinked, then grinned as he took the fork and took a large piece of the lemon custard pie. He ate it, his eyes widening as a taste he'd had to deny himself since he was five years old exploded into his mouth.
"Rodney, there's no time to--"
"You're by a ventilation shaft, yeah?"
"Aye, but --"
"Then just hold on." Rodney put his hand on another shaft and concentrated. Crystal flowed from it through the shaft and he pictured it drifting around the cooler, coating it.....
"Oh, aye," Carson breathed. "Ye even gave me handles t'carry the daft thing!"
"Better than a cooler. And the extra layer of protection is for my peace of mind."
"Leave it to you, Rodney. Beckett to emergency team – I'm on the way."
In Elizabeth's office, John and Rodney were both chewing on their lips, listening to the channel Carson had left open.
"....easy...." they heard Carson breathe to himself. "Easy....."
Then another voice. "I've got it, Doctor."
"Aye...thank you." There was a moment, then they heard footsteps and Carson's voice again. "I've just made the hand-off."
Then came the muffled "WHOOMPH" and roll of an explosion.
Rodney shot to his feet. "Carson! ....Carson!.....Carson, report!"
He looked at John as silence greeted him. As one, the pair whirled and raced out of Elizabeth's office.
"Carson!" Rodney shouted every few seconds. "Carson, can you hear me! Carson!"
Then came a welcome groan and a few muttered words in Gaelic. Rodney froze, his eyes closed. "Oh, thank God --- Carson, are you okay?"
"No, I'm burned.....but I'm alive." There was a pause. "......and from the wave he's givin' me, so is that Marine. Rodney, if I hadn't waited while you put that shield about the cooler..."
And Rodney leaned against John, who supported him as he got his bearings back. "Carson," Rodney choked out. "Tomorrow, you and I are going fishing."
"Aye, Rodney," Carson whispered, equally as shaken. "......first thing."
Hearing the hiss behind him, John whirled to see the Wraith Queen enter the bridge. "Well....you're a hell of a swimmer, I'll give you that."
She tilted her head. "You have restored the power?"
He shrugged. "It'll fly."
"Good." She strode to the console and punched a sequence of lights. The self-destruct on her ship ended and she smiled up at John before approaching him.
"For this," she snarled, "you shall be rewarded. With a quick death!" She hissed, drawing back her hand.
There was a hail of bullets and Rodney stepped into the light, firing a P-90 into her back until the clip was empty. She hissed and whirled to face him, roaring in rage.
"She's not dying according to plan, here!" Rodney bellowed, throwing the P-90 aside. "C'mon!" he snarled, standing up straight. "You want me? Here I am!"
"Rodney!" John gasped, pulling his gun.
The Queen lunged for Rodney, her feeding hand plunging forward – only to come to an abrupt stop. She made an odd, strangled sound.
"....Rodney?" John whispered.
"It's all good," Rodney said in return. And he pushed something forward.
The tip of a crystal spear suddenly appeared behind the Queen, and she fell, making a gurgling sound as she choked on her own blood. The spear was revealed as she did so, embedded just below her ribs.
After all, thanks to his crystal-creating abilities, Rodney was never unarmed anymore.
Rodney sank into a low crouch, his head bowed.
"Rodney?" John asked.
Rodney looked up. "Is it just me, or are you getting tired of psychopathic Wraith Queens, too?"
John chuckled. "It's not just you. Let's go home."
"Sounds good to me."
The entire events of "Quarantine" were over in thirty minutes. Rodney broke down the door with a crystal battering ram, got to computer and figured out there was no real contagion, just a computer glitch. After a few moments of loud relief, Rodney freed John and Teyla and they made their way to the control room.
They fixed the glitch together and the lockdown was over.
But seeing the powers firsthand that she'd only heard rumours of – and had dismissed – frightened Katie Brown so badly that she broke it off with Rodney because Rodney was "not fully human."
It took several hours for John to coax Rodney out of bed after that. And a good deal longer to repair the emotional damage those words had caused.
John wouldn't be satisfied until Brown was sent back to Earth. Which she was, on the very next Daedalus run.
The entire team went back to Earth on the next one. John's unofficial adoptive fathers had scored four tickets to the Who, and there was a physics convention in San Diego that same week. And they had some R&R coming.....
Return to The Stargate: Atlantis page
Return to The Realm