Mathématique: From Nothing, Nothing Comes

Rodney hates the implementation of solutions that require destruction of any kind. It is, Zelenka thinks, a surprisingly poetic weakness in a physicist.

Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.

Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites. 

Warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Injuries.

From Nothing, Nothing Comes

Zelenka looks up, adjusting his glasses as he considers Rodney, hunched behind the elegant metal curvature of a Lantean console.

“No,” Rodney says, the color of his hair and the cast of his features made moderate under the gray light of a clouded sky. “No no no no no. I refuse to implement any kind of solution that’s going to have the side effect of making this guy an idiot. What the hell are you thinking, Radek? Are you wearing a cortical suppressant?”

“I am thinking that I am wanting him to live,” Zelenka replies pointedly, his eyes shifting from Rodney to the silent sea and sky behind him, out beyond the glass and shields. “I am thinking that Thursdays will not be the same if he does not.”

Zelenka had a not-so-secret affinity for the work of this Dr. Nicholas Rush even before the man so thoroughly impressed Rodney on an offworld cryptography mission. Rodney is not easy to impress. To do it, one must be intelligent and either forceful or attractive. Zelenka has only one out of those three qualities, and so he receives positive reinforcement from Rodney only when Rodney is dying, or when the man gets reprimanded by the IOA for not creating a sufficiently supportive working environment.

That’s fine with Zelenka. He loves the job. And he does not so much mind working with sensitive, high-maintenance egomaniacs.

At times, Rodney can bury the end goal so deeply beneath his concerns about secondary sequelae that nothing would be accomplished if it weren’t for Zelenka. He is good at refocusing the other man, but—Sheppard is better.

Living is good,” the colonel says, from where he’s leaning against a locked console in this room they have appropriated for their first pass brainstorming session, before they will summon their ‘minions,’ as Rodney likes to call them.

Zelenka prefers to refer to them as ‘colleagues’.

“I’d rather die than live on a fraction of my IQ,” Rodney snaps, not looking at either of them, his eyes fixed on his console.



This hurts.

Zelenka knows where that sentiment comes from. Where it must originate. He has the urge to turn his head and look at Sheppard for unspoken confirmation. He resists that urge.

He’d rather die. Well. Rodney is one of the few people who can make such a statement with authority. But Zelenka does not say this. Because that is not what they do. And, even if it were, it is a not a thing that should be done now.

Z ničeho nebude nic,” Zelenka says.

They look at him.

And that was not English. Well, Rodney does not deserve English at the moment. Sheppard always deserves English, but people are not frequently getting what they are deserving.

“I’m not even going to ask,” Rodney says, brow furrowed and hands spread over the monitors like the pianist he wishes he were.

I’ll ask,” Sheppard says. 

Zelenka, now free to look at Sheppard, does so. The man is tired and wan in the gray light. He’s watching Rodney with so much pain in his expression that Zelenka instinctively looks to see where the man might be bleeding. Nowhere but inside, it seems.

Sheppard looks at Zelenka, who, ah yes, has not yet translated for him.

“From nothing, nothing comes,” Zelenka supplies. “I believe a cortical suppressant is our best option, given that we need a solution within hours.”

“Well we’re not doing that,” Rodney snaps.

“It will not make him stupid,” Zelenka says, hearing a desperate edge in his words. “It will simply prevent him from—“

“Accessing his higher cortical functions?” Rodney hisses.

“No,” Zelenka replies. “It will prevent uncontrolled waves of electrical potential from repetitive discharge that will damage him permanently.” They are both looking at him now, which was his goal. “I am wanting the same things that you are wanting,” he says quietly, speaking to Rodney only now. “We can write a program for fine control of interference. Titratable. You can titrate it. Or Carter can.”

“Oh, I’ll be the one titrating it,” Rodney says, a blustery front for a near surrender.

This is the way. They both know it is.

“And then,” Zelenka says, unfinished, “Dr. Rush can do it himself, once he’s near his cognitive baseline. He’s a computational genius, yes?” 

Zelenka hopes he’ll get to meet Rush at some point. He’s always liked mathematicians.

Rodney hesitates, torn, his expression frozen and his hands still.

Zelenka has seen him sit exactly so many times. Rodney hates the implementation of solutions that require destruction of any kind. It is, Zelenka thinks, a surprisingly poetic weakness in a physicist.

“So how is this going to work?” Sheppard asks, with a calculated ease that Zelenka interprets as closet encouragement.

“Well,” Zelenka begins, freeing his hands from the tools he holds, “his problem is uncontrolled, repetitive electrical discharge that is metabolically demanding and therefore damaging, yes?” he asks, as he completes a demonstration of repeating waveforms with both hands.

“That much I got from the briefing,” Sheppard says, uncloseting his closet encouragement.

“They have tried to control this pharmacologically. It worked for a short time, but pharmalogical control is now failing. Control is required for the operation and preservation of his mind, yes?”

Rodney is watching him intently now.

Sheppard looks at Rodney, and then back at Zelenka. “I’m with ya,” he says.

“So we control by application of interfering electromagnetic waves, generated by paired devices fixed to exterior of head!” Zelenka gestures emphatically at his own temples. “Cortical suppressants!”

“He thinks it’s going to work,” Sheppard says, looking at Rodney. “You can tell because he starts dropping words.”

Rodney says nothing until he says, “I don’t like it.”

Do prdele,” Zelenka mutters, casting his gaze up at the ceiling. “Why.”

“Because there’s no exit strategy. Because I don’t want to do that to him and I don’t want to leave him like that. He’s also, apparently, an abduction target, and you don’t affix a blazing electronic signature to someone like that and then make it impossible to take off without insanity, electrophysiological decompensation, seizure, and death.”

“I don’t see why you treat this as permanent,” Zelenka says. “I don’t see why you treat this as end game. There may be genetic solutions. There may be pharmacologic solutions. This may stop spontaneously. He may gain conscious control of whatever process is causing this discharge. We need time. He needs time. This will give it to us.”

“I treat it as permanent because Altera will always exist and if that city did this to him, then it’s going to keep doing it. I treat this as permanent because he’s not here. He’s not here, and we’re not there, and that’s going to make fine-tuning difficult, time consuming, and ultimately imperfect. I treat it as permanent because if someone used this kind of untested, 1.0, beta-version, electric club on my cortex, in short, if someone did this to me, and it caused any kind of cognitive damage? I would be furious.”

“But you’d be alive,” Sheppard says, leaning against the windows. “Come on, McKay, if you don’t like this, then what else have you got?”

“With four hours left on the six hour window that Lam gave us?” Rodney snaps. “Nothing.” He looks away from his own honesty.

“If you wish to continue thinking,” Zelenka says quietly, “I will build it.”

“You build it,” Rodney says, in defeat that is unmistakable and total, “and I’ll start laying in the programmatic architecture that will control the cognitive rheostat. Or whatever.”

You are going to code it?” Zelenka asks. “But then—”

The only coding language in which Rodney has sufficient proficiency for a task of this magnitude and complexity is—

“Coding it in Ancient will make it more difficult for a terrestrial or LA programmer to alter it,” Rodney says, already turning back to his monitor.

“And it’s classy,” Sheppard adds.

It also significantly cuts down the pool of individuals who will be able to edit the program once it is in place. Zelenka thinks there must be only five or six people on Earth who would have the requisite skill level.

Samantha Carter.

Amanda Perry.

Bill Lee.

Jay Felger, may God help him. May god also not let him anywhere near this cortical suppressant.

And of course, Dr. Rush himself.

“Of course it’s going to be classy,” Rodney snaps.

“And stylish,” Zelenka adds, already half-finished designing the requisite electronics and their housing at the station where he sits. “But, primarily? Functional.”

“I’m going to go pass the message up the chain that you guys have something,” Sheppard says, pushing away from the silver metal he’s been leaning against. He stumbles, then rights himself on a lab bench.

Zelenka and Rodney stand, both of them starting toward him, but Sheppard waves them back.

“Are you gonna need these monstrosities we’re making?” Rodney snaps, fiery tone and frightened eyes. “What happened on that planet?”

“I’m fine, Rodney,” Sheppard says, heading toward the door. “Just tired.”

“Yeah, real convincing,” Rodney shouts after him.

And then, it is only Zelenka and Rodney in the glass-enclosed lab beneath the gray sky. There is silence between them. Outside, it has begun to rain. He can see a gray patter pattern on the surface of mostly still ocean.

Zelenka has always felt unnerved in the presence of a silent Rodney McKay.

This has been happening with increasing frequency in the past half year.

Rodney leans against a lab bench, bracing himself. “Ugh,” he mutters. “Who am I kidding.” He looks straight at Zelenka. “It is a good idea,” he says, a quiet admission.

This is even more unnerving than the silence.

“Thank you,” Zelenka says.

“What do you say we make two sets?” Rodney asks, his eyes darting to the doorway through which Sheppard had exited. “Just in case.”

Zelenka nods, looks down, lets his eyes rest on delicate loops of wire, destined to become circuitry. In his peripheral vision, he sees Rodney take his seat, place his fingers on the keys of his laptop.

“It will not be for Dr. Rush like it was for you,” Zelenka says quietly.

Rodney says nothing, and Zelenka thinks of him as he was—and, God willing, will never be again—mentally unmade by a parasite over that long and terrible span of weeks. How he came to the lab, but how he moved with foreignness there, his hands lacking dexterity and his mind lacking first words and then concepts as he unraveled slowly, with acute awareness.

“We will not allow it to be so,” Zelenka says.

“No,” Rodney says, “we won’t.”

Popular posts from this blog