Zelenka stopped a moment to think as he stuffed the things he was going to need into his bag. They were setting up in McKay's lab for the time being. They could get access to most of the systems from there and it was a lot closer to the infirmary should something happen. He shook his head. McKay was not well. Beckett had dragged him off to the infirmary to give him some kind of breathing treatment while he and Grodin gathered the things they needed.
There was a quiet knock at the door and he turned. Anger surged hotly through him when he saw the man standing in the doorway.
Kavanagh faced him, his ponytail flipped over his shoulder. Zelenka had the most insane desire to—
"Doctor Zelenka, I was hoping to catch you. I was wondering—" the man started.
"No," Zelenka said, crossing his arms across his chest defiantly and leaning back against the table behind him.
"You didn't even let me—"
"No," he said again and then gave him a warning look. "Doctor McKay may have his moments in which he can be arrogant, irritating, and egotistical, but he is a friend and respected colleague and," he said looking the man directly in the eye, "are you so sure you would really want me on your team, hmm?"
Kavanagh looked away, his face hardening as a sneer twisting his features. "Forgive the intrusion," he said, turning quickly and leaving.
Zelenka let out a deep sigh and turn his attention back to his equipment. He swore hotly in Czech, slamming his palms against the table top with a slap.
“This is a bad time, I take it,” a softly accent English voice said from behind him.
Zelenka turned to face Grodin and felt his cheeks warming. “Sorry,” he said, pushing his glasses back up on the bridge of his nose. He cleared his throat. “You will not believe who was just being here.”
Grodin frowned deeply. “I saw. I take it he was asking you to be on his team?”
“I did not let him get to that,” he said snappishly and then stopped. “Forgive me. I am—“ he searched for the word he wanted in English, “irritated.”
Grodin nodded. “I would be too. That man is an ass.”
Zelenka sighed. “Just so.” He turned back to finish gathering his things. “Um,” he thought for a moment. “This is not so good a plan of McKay’s. He is not well. You saw him in the control room.”
“I know,” Grodin said, moving to sit on a near by stool. “But I understand why he wants to do this. Kavanagh does have those who support him. This would quiet those dissenters once and for all. Personally, I agree with Major Sheppard. It would much handier to gate him to M3X269.”
Zelenka chuckled. “True. True.” He sighed. “We cannot let him win.”
”And we won’t,” McKay said from the doorway. He gave them both a forced smile. “Ready, gentlemen?”
“Question is,” Grodin said, getting to his feet, “are you?”
McKay gave a dry cough of a laugh. “Not really a whole lot of choice in the matter.”
"This is not something you have to do," Zelenka said. "Kavanagh has shown himself already to be untrustworthy."
McKay sighed wearily and leaned against the doorframe. "I know, but people will just always question who should be have been in charge and why I was the one asked."
Zelenka sighed. He could see the logic in what Rodney was saying, but the man looked exhausted.
McKay ran a shaky hand through his hair. "We had better be getting to the lab. Kavanagh's already having a bird that we're starting from my lab and not the Control Room, but I don't think I could make another trip up there and back down again."
"Let him have his, as you call it, 'bird'," Zelenka said hotly, stuffing the last of the equipment the though they might need into his bag. "He is the one who started this. He will have to suffer the consequences of his action."
"Well, said," Grodin said, heading for the door. McKay stepped back and swayed on his feet. Grodin grabbed him, steadying him. "Rodney, are you all right?"
"I'm fine." He nodded, waving his hand dismissively. "Just a little dizzy. Those breathing treatments do that to me."
Zelenka frowned. This was not a good idea.
* * * * *
Elizabeth Weir sighed and looked at the men and woman gathered in the lab. Rodney stood in the back of the lab, no jacket, his shirt untucked. Peter and Zelenka stood a bit protectively in front of him, neither wore their jackets either. Rodney looked terrible. His skin had a pasty grey cast to it and he was shaking slightly, his arms crossed tightly across his chest, trying to hide it. Carson had set himself off to the side, but was keeping a very close eye on the man.
In contrast, Kavanagh stood near the door, his clothing freshly pressed and not a hair out of place. Verochka Smirnova, one of the Russian engineers stood off to his side, trying not to make eye contact with Zelenka, and Andre Roux, a French biologist stood behind her. Each looked as prim and proper as their team leader.
Elizabeth cleared her throat to get everyone attention. "So there is no question as to the fairness of this, each team will have two neutral observers assigned to them. The observers for Doctor McKay's team will be Doctors Pablo Del Torro," the Spanish geologist nodded to McKay and his team in greeting," and Felicia Richardson," the English computer tech gave them a tight smile. Elizabeth could already see the protest forming in Kavanagh's eyes, but she continued. "The observers for Doctor Kavanagh's team will be Doctors Enrich Schroeder," the German anthropologist nodded grimly to Kavanagh, "and Betsy Martin," the American chemist looked distinctly uncomfortable, but just nodded to them as well.
"Will Doctor Beckett be remaining with Doctor McKay's team as well?" Kavanagh asked, stiffly.
"I will," Beckett answered. "I will be remaining to monitor Doctor McKay's condition. This whole duel of his and yours is completely against medical advice. Doctor McKay should be in his quarters resting, not—" he stopped himself and sighed. "I'll be staying," he said, crossing his arms and settling himself stubbornly on the stool.
Elizabeth gave him a brief smile of gratitude and then schooled her face back into a more serious expression. "Then if everyone is ready," she said. She saw the petulant look on Kavanagh's face. The man had already complained more than once about his team having to start in Rodney's lab. Tough, he would just have to deal with it.
She glanced over at Sheppard. "If you would do the honors, Major."
Sheppard gave her a startled look and then just said, "Um. Go, I guess."
Kavanagh and his team tore out of the lab and she saw some of the tension leave Rodney as he, Peter, and Zelenka went to work, smoothly falling into place beside each other talking quietly.
Elizabeth sighed, going to stand with Sheppard.
Carson came over to them. "This is bloody madness," he said in a low voice. "Rodney should be in his quarters resting, not taking part in some kind of idiotic duel. He's body's been put through the ringer in the last couple of days and his lungs are still bloody touchy. The medication I've got him on to keep them from reacting to everything's got him strung higher than a kite."
Sheppard frowned. "He's high?"
Carson sighed. "The medication dilates the bronchial tubes to keep the airways clear, but it also raises the heart rate and blood pressure pretty significantly. Not enough to cause damage if just used in the short term, but over the long term, it could cause damage."
"Not to be rude," Rodney's voice cut into their discussion. "But if you're going to talk, take it into the hall," he told them, his voice sounding rather harsh, the strain of keeping on his feet and working, clearly showing on his face.
"Sorry," Sheppard said and the paused. "Hey, McKay."
Rodney sighed and glared at him impatiently. "What?"
Sheppard smiled. "Good luck."
That seemed to startle Rodney and the carefully structured mask he was hiding behind slipped for just a moment, and they got a glimpse of the desperation, fear, and overwhelming fatigue dogging him, before he smiled. "Thank you." The mask slipped back into place and he turned, snapping at Zelenka about something he was doing with one of the laptops.
The Major nodded and ushered the three of them out into the hall.
"This nothing more than a—" Elizabeth struggled to find better way to put this.
"Pissing match?" Sheppard supplied and she grimaced.
"For lack of a better way to put it, yes."
The Major sighed. "It's more than that," he said slowly, glancing back at the lab. "McKay's leadership has been challenged. It’s a case of either throw in the gauntlet or throw in the towel. Either he shows he deserves his position on his own merits, or he loses the respect of the rest of the scientists and Kavanagh wins."
She sighed. "I hope, for our sake, he can."
* * * *
Rodney sat down on a stool and scrubbed both his hands over his face. He closed his eyes a moment. He was so tired his head was throbbing, making his stomach upset, and his chest was getting tight again. He either needed sleep or more coffee. Sleep wasn't an option at the moment and Zelenka was guarding the coffee carafe with his life, he had said something about drawing the limit at twelve cups. Carson had left a few minutes before in search of food for them. Their two observers were sitting against the wall, watching, but keeping out of their way.
"We have to be missing something," he grumbled.
"We've been over it a dozen times now," Peter said, leaning against the lab table facing him. "It's something tied to the desalinization units, but I don’t know how."
Rodney rested the heels of his hands against his eyes, trying to apply some counter pressure to the throbbing behind his eyes. "And they are still working?"
"Yes," Peter said in annoyance. "That system seems to be functioning perfectly."
"For what we know it does," Rodney interrupted.
The Englishman sighed. "Yes."
Zelenka poked at his laptop, his elbow resting on the table, propping his chin up on his fist. "I had a fish once," he said absently. "Little goldfish a friend gave me. I cleaned the tank regularly as the instruction for the filter said, but one day-" he made a pth like noise, "fish turned belly up. Dead. I found I had not cleaned a part of the filter that was not on the instructions and bacteria had built up."
Rodney looked up at him and then at Peter. "Where are the schematics?"
Grodin pulled them up on his computer and the Zelenka pulled his laptop over, and they started comparing the city's sensor readings to the physical schematics.
"There!" Peter crowed. "That system there," he said, pointing to the schematic. "It's tied to both the environmental controls and the desalinization systems."
Rodney studied the systems and then typed in a few commands, watching as the readings changed, grinding his teeth together a bit as he thought. Then he saw it, looking sharply at Zelenka. "It's a filter. It uses the desalination systems to filter the air. It was working in an auxiliary mode before the desalination systems were powered up, but once they were activated, it reverted to the mode we're seeing now. It just needs to be backwashed to clean it," he said in incredulity. "I can't believe it didn't send up some kind of warning unless—" He frowned deeply again, his fingers flying across the keyboard, accessing subsystems. "The whole system isn't working right," he said in irritation. He gave the keyboard a slap. "Half the system was never activated correctly. It's a wonder the whole thing didn't just lock up and tear itself to pieces." He growled in frustration and slumped back down on the stool. "It'll be a miracle if the whole system hasn't just chewed itself up."
Grodin sighed and turned the laptop Rodney has been working on back toward himself. "The Ancients would have worked in safety subroutines to prevent that. They weren't anything if not cautious. Most of the systems we have figured out have layers of safety protocols." He smiled. "Here," he said, turning the laptop back toward Rodney and Zelenka. "They did. That's what caused the shut down. We just need to reboot the system and reinitialize it properly."
Rodney slid the laptop towards him, tapping a few commands. "That has to be done from the environmental control system down in a control room by the desalinization tanks, and the main control room simultaneously." He looked first from Peter to Zelenka and then back again. "By two people with the ATA gene."
Zelenka started to smile. "Oh," he said softly and began to chuckle.
Peter looked at them. "What?"
Rodney sat back, a smug smile on his face. "What do we have that Kavanagh and his team doesn't?"
Understanding dawned on the Englishman's face. "Two people with the ATA gene."
Rodney rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "Shall we, gentleman?" he said, hopping to his feet. Darkness closed in abruptly on his vision, and he felt Peter grab him as his knees buckled.
"Rodney? Come on, Rodney?" a hand slapped his cheek gently and he struggled to get his eyes back open.
He was lying on the broad of his back, blinking up at the ceiling. "Oh, this sucks," he said softly.
Carson moved into his range of vision again. He could see Zelenka and Peter just behind him, concern etched on their faces.
He sighed. "What happened?" he asked, as Carson helped him sit up.
"You fain—passed out," Carson told him. "I told you that you needed to rest."
Rodney swallowed hard, grabbing Carson's arm try to pull himself up. "As soon as we get done."
"Rodney," Carson said in a warning tone, pushing back down.
"Um, excuse me, Doctor Grodin," Richardson, the English observer said softly. She blushed as they all looked at her. Grodin looked at her expectantly. "I'm not really supposed to tell you." She glanced at Del Torro.
He sighed. "If you will not tell them, I will," he said impatiently.
She nodded in relief. "Doctor Kavanagh's team has just figured out that the environmental systems are connected to the desalinization units."
Zelenka cursed softly in Czech and shook his head.
Rodney grabbed a handful of Carson's sleeve. "Let me finish this."
"We only need Rodney to initialize the sequence from the main control room," Zelenka said quickly. "Peter will be at the substation. I can finish the sequence after it’s activated."
The physician looked at Rodney, and then the others, and then sighed deeply. "I don’t know who is the bigger fool here; you for doing this or me for letting you talk me into helping you."
Rodney gave him a grateful smile as Grodin stepped in and helped hoist him to his feet. He swallowed hard against the dizziness and nausea that accompanied the motion. Zelenka stepped in quickly and took Rodney's arm from Grodin and pulled it over his shoulders. Rodney gave the shorter man a tight smile. Carson slipped Rodney's other arm over his shoulders. It felt rather awkward being held up by the two shorter men, but 'any port in a storm' as the saying goes.
Things blurred a bit for him after that. He was dimly aware of Grodin leaving with Del Torro in tow down the one corridor, as they went the other direction toward the control room. He gave up on trying to keep track of where they were and just concentrated on one foot in front of the other. He felt himself starting to drift off on them again when they got to the transporter alcove. Carson slapped his cheek, hard, and things pulled back into better focus until they reached the stairs up to the main control room. Stairs. He forgot about the stairs. He stared at them, trying to gather the strength to get up them when suddenly Carson and Zelenka both shifted themselves, each grabbing a handful of his belt and before he could protest, they had heaved up the stairs and someone had gotten a chair under him. He blinked stupidly at the two of them smiling broadly at him.
Zelenka pushed up over to the environmental control panel and placed his hands on it. "I will tell you when," he said, fixing an earpiece in place over his ear.
Rodney took a deep breath and looked over the controls. His head was starting to clear a little from the trip and mapped out what he needed to do in his mind.
"Are you sure you can do this?" the Czech engineer asked him, breaking into his concentration.
He nodded. "I need to activate the main power grid and then the subsystems one through four than then redirect power back through the grid and out to the subsystems," he said, picturing what he needed to do.
Zelenka nodded. "Peter is in place."
He sighed again and poised his hands. "I'm ready."
"In three…two….Now!" Zelenka told him.
Rodney let his hands move automatically over the system controls, reaching out with his mind, picturing what they should be doing step by step.
"Main power," Zelenka told him. "Subsystem one…then two…then three…then four."
Rodney followed the instructions, activating the system piece by piece, and in sync with Grodin down at the main substation. He could feel more than actually see the systems come to life one by one. He felt a tremendous sense of relief wash over him as the last system came back to life. A moment later, the environmental controls reinitialized themselves. He felt Zelenka push him out of the way and take over bringing other systems back online, and starting them through their operations.
Carson was back by his side, talking to him, but nothing he was saying was making sense. He let his eyes close. He was so tired. He just needed to rest his eyes for a moment. Just a moment.
* * * *
Major John Sheppard could hear the arguing even before he reached the Infirmary. He smiled at Ford and then young man struggled to keep from laughing. Teyla shook her head at the both of them.
"Carson, this is imprisonment," Rodney protested as they came in. "I'm fine. You said so yourself. You can't keep me here."
Sheppard stood back and watched. McKay sat with his back to them, his legs tucked up under him as he sat Indian style on the bed. The Doctor for his part glared at the man, his arms crossed tightly across his chest and mischief dancing in his blue eyes. "Oh, but I can, Rodney, part of being the medical doctor here. I can and will hold you if I deem it medically necessary."
"Doc, is there a problem?" Sheppard asked, smirking.
"Oh, no, Major Sheppard," the Scot said with a beatific smile. "I was just telling Rodney here, that I wasn't going to release him from the Infirmary here, until I was sure he was going to actually rest back in his own quarters."
"I've been sleeping for most of two days," McKay protested. "I'm rested."
"I wouldn't argue with the Doctor, Rodney," Sheppard said and then looked at Beckett. "Can we take him now? I promise to get him back to his quarters and tucked in before he turns into a pumpkin."
McKay did an impressive eye roll from his perch on his bed.
Beckett shot him a look. "Rest, fluids and your medication this time, McKay."
McKay whined, "Antihistamines make me groggy."
"Aye, but they keep you from ending up back down here with your lungs closing down again," Beckett shot back, earning a chagrined look from McKay.
He held up his hands in defeat. "Okay. Okay. I'll take them."
Beckett quickly went over the medications McKay would have to take for another week or so to prevent another flare of his allergies. Sheppard frowned at the amount of stuff McKay was going to have to take. McKay was only half listening to Beckett, it was obvious this was a drill he had been through before.
Beckett finally gave up and turned to Sheppard. "Get him out of here. He's driving the other patients crazy."
McKay looked down at the scrubs he was wearing and then at Beckett. "My clothes? I don't particularly want to be wandering around the halls of Atlantis wearing this."
"We have brought you fresh clothing," Teyla told him, holding up the smallish bag she had brought with her. "Major Sheppard and Lieutenant Ford packed these for you." She handed it to him and he got a suspicious look his face.
"Oh, really now." He glanced back and forth between Sheppard and Ford and then opened the bag as if expecting something to jump out at him. He relaxed as he found just his clothes. His expression softened for a moment. "Thank you." He quickly ducked back behind the mask he kept up between himself and others and he looked at them all sharply. "Okay, are you going to let me get dressed...hm?"
Sheppard chuckled and shooed Teyla from behind the curtain, but he and Ford sat themselves down on the two chairs still there. McKay sighed and then stripped off the thin scrub top and dug in the bag for a moment for his t-shirt. Sheppard noticed how much weight the scientist had lost since they had come to the Pegasus galaxy. Fieldwork was a lot different from the cushy research he had been doing before.
McKay caught them looking at him and flushed. "Would you two like some music or something to accompany this?"
Sheppard chuckled, but glanced away to give the man a little privacy. McKay finished dressing and then sat back down on the edge of the bed to pull his shoes on.
"Show's over," he announced, sitting back up, a bit paler than when they had come in, but still much better than he had looked in days.
Sheppard and Ford got up, Ford snagging the bag to carry it.
"Got your medication, McKay?" Sheppard asked.
"Medication," McKay said, turning to dig through the covers on the bed and producing the bottles. "Got it."
Ford held open the bag for them and McKay dropped them in. Sheppard caught the nervous twitch in McKay's movements. Apparently he wasn’t used to people actually caring about his well being beyond how he preformed his job.
Sheppard herded McKay out of the Infirmary and into the corridor beyond. Teyla and Ford fell in step behind them. He snagged McKay's arm as he started to turn in the direction that lead to his quarters, and guided him toward the transport alcove.
"Where are we going?" McKay frowned at him.
"Doctor Weir wanted to see you before you head back to your quarters to rest," Sheppard told him.
He just nodded and crossed his arms tightly across his chest. When he finally spoke again he asked. "What's happened to Kavanagh?"
Sheppard glanced at Ford. "He's under house arrest and in his quarters," the young Marine answered. "Doctor Grodin is working on a way to keep track of him with the city's sensors so we don’t have to keep a guard on the door twenty-four/seven.”
McKay nodded. "Good," he said and then lapsed into silence again.
The transporter whisked them off to their destination and McKay didn't even look up as they stepped out.
"Surprise!" the shout snapped the bewildered man's head up, and he stared around gate room at the assembled group of scientists and military personnel in bafflement.
A banner hung from one of the balconies reading "Congratulations Dr. McKay".
Zelenka and Grodin quickly pulled him away from the group and with McKay disappeared into a knot of scientists congratulating them on a job well done.
Sheppard jogged up the stairs to where Elizabeth was looking down on the scene with a smile. He stood at the rail beside her.
"Rodney did a good job," she commented. "I don't agree with why this was done, but it was what was needed."
Sheppard turned to her. "It was needed. Rules are little different out here than back home. Survival of the fittest and all that."
"But that still leave us with the problem of what to do with Kavanagh," Weir said. "He's not going to just accept this as the last word. He's just going to create another situation in six months when we have to let him go."
Sheppard watched McKay, Zelenka, and Grodin giving the group a play by play of what they done to get the systems back up and running.
"Maybe we'll have a way to gate him back home by then," Sheppard said then looked over at Weir. "Whatever happens, we'll take care of it," he told her and she nodded.
Someone started chanting, "Speech. Speech, Speech," below them and Zelenka and Grodin pushed McKay up a few steps so he was above most of the crowd.
He cleared his throat. "I'm not sure what to say," McKay started and a voice from the back piped up,
"McKay speechless, that’s a first!" Everyone laughed as McKay attempted to glare at the speaker.
"As I was saying," he continued, smiling. "I just want to thank everyone. This is a bit overwhelming," he said, his voice catching and he quickly cleared his throat again. "I just want to thank Doctor Zelenka and Grodin, without their assistance, this would have never worked."
Cheers erupted from the group and he had to wait a minute before proceeding. When he could he said, "I'd also like to thank Doctor Weir for believing in us enough to allow us to do it." Cheers greeted this and Sheppard looked over at Elizabeth, and she was blushing slightly.
McKay continued. "I'd also like to thank our observers who…observed us.” Del Torro, Richardson, Schroeder, and Martin waved hands in greeting to the exuberant crowd.
McKay tried to duck back down the stairs, but Grodin caught him and pulled him back into the limelight. Sheppard watched as McKay’s ease quickly gave into nervousness as the Englishman dragged him from group to group. Zelenka managed to disengage himself and wandered over to a group of the Russian engineers.
Sheppard sighed. "I better go rescue him," he said under his breath and then caught a look from Elizabeth, realizing she heard him. He shrugged. "I promised Beckett that we'd get him back to his quarters before he turned into a pumpkin."
She chuckled. "Go. You wouldn't want to break your promise to Carson and I don't think Rodney would mind either. He gets a bit flustered in social gatherings."
Sheppard skipped down the steps and headed over to the knot of people piled up around McKay. "Break it up people," he said in a teasing tone, as he made his way in beside McKay. The scientist looked ashen and a bit relieved to see him. Sheppard gave the group an apologetic look and draped an arm around McKay's shoulder. "Sorry, but I've got to steal your guest of honor. I promised Doctor Beckett we'd get him back to his quarters and resting. Can't have our resident genius passing out on us again."
McKay's pale face flushed. "Major—"
"No, he right," Grodin said quickly. "I'm sorry. I should have realized Rodney needed to rest."
"I'm fine," McKay said, sounding flustered. He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "I am a bit tired, though."
"Enough said." Grodin looked around, trying to get people's attention.
McKay grabbed his arm. "Peter, you don't need to break up the party. Let them enjoy themselves. I'm just going to head back to quarters and sleep."
The Englishman nodded and smiled. "You did well, Rodney. You do deserve to be the head of the science teams and I am proud to work with you."
McKay looked a bit embarrassed. "I couldn't have done this without you and Zelenka."
"Enough with the mutual admiration society. You two can do that later," Sheppard interrupted. "I promised to get McKay back to his quarters and if Beckett finds out I didn't take him straight to bed, he's not going to be a pleased man."
"And he isn't," a voice with a very distinct Scottish accent drawled from behind them.
Sheppard winced. "Doctor Beckett," he said turning slowly.
The physician stood behind them, his arms crossed tightly across his chest. He sighed and just shook his head. He looked at McKay and the physicist just shrugged. "I'm going. I'm going."
Sheppard chuckled and fell in step behind him. "And I'm taking him," he told Beckett.
They headed out into the corridor and Rodney smiled, well, smirked was a better word for the expression his face.
"Don't get cocky, McKay," Sheppard teased, shaking his head. The man’s ego was seriously going to be something to live with for the next few weeks.
"Whatever you say, Major."
* * * * *
Doctor Richard Kavanagh sat in his quarters staring at his laptop. He had managed to hack into the cities’ sensors and had found a live feed from the party in the gate room. He sat back, steepling his fingers, watching. He saw McKay and Sheppard leave and he glared at the figures until they disappeared from view.
It was just blind luck that McKay had fixed the environmental systems before his team had. Dumb luck in having two members with the ATA gene.
Dumb luck seemed to be McKay's ticket right now, but luck had a way of running out, and he planned to be there when it did.