The Puppet Master
Chapter One - Static Shocks
A short, sharp zap to his fingers, like a powerful static charge, enough to make him pull back with a curse and suck on the offended digits, whilst glaring at the cause.
"What did you do? Did you break it?" Zelenka leant past McKay to examine the device closely, pushing his glasses up with one hand and reaching out with the other.
McKay slapped it away irritably. "No, I didn't break it. And thanks for your concern."
"You'll be fine," Zelenka replied automatically, without looking up. "What happened?"
"Damn thing nearly killed me," he mumbled, through a mouthful of fingers. Removed them long enough to point at a flat, dull square of metal on the surface of the device. "I found the power inlet."
"Hmm." Another pause to push up the glasses. "Must have been some residual energy in its buffer."
"You think!" He studied his hands suspiciously.
Zelenka clapped him on the back. "At least now we can charge it. Figure out what it does."
"True," McKay admitted, brightening. "At least we'll get something interesting out of that god awful place."
The last mission had been to M4P-278, a desert planet where molten rock bubbled up to the ground, venting great clouds of hot sulphur from large cracks. Whilst McKay was investigating the ruins of a building with Sheppard, Ford and Teyla had remained by the gate, paddling in one of the natural springs. They were apparently more content to ignore the stench of rotten eggs than Rodney was.
"I hear some of your team enjoyed themselves. Doctor Weir is considering a return trip to see if there are any bigger baths, enough for swimming."
"Seems rather pointless," McKay answered absently, having turned to his laptop.
"She thinks it would be good for morale, and I am inclined to agree. It's been months since I had a proper bath," the Czech said, wistfully.
"Always seemed like a waste of time to me. You know you're essentially sitting in your own filth?"
"Each to their own, I suppose." Zelenka rested one hip on the table, his head tilted thoughtfully. "I once worked with an astrophysicist who took baths three, four hours in length. He claimed it was the best place for him to solve problems."
Rodney gave an irritable, pointed sigh. "And I'm sure his help would be appreciated now because I'm not getting any from you."
Radek scowled, but pushed himself up from the table, joining McKay at the laptop. "So what does the computer say?"
He frowned, tapping at the keys. "It's some sort of data storage device, although god knows what anyone would want to store on that heap of a planet. We'll have to hook it up to the Atlantis computers."
"You know we'll have to be careful," Radek warned. "Dr Weir will want to protect Atlantis' systems from any intrusion."
"I'll take precautions," he snapped. "Besides, we have to work out how to interface the two first."
"True," Zelenka admitted, then yawned, barely managing to cover his mouth. "Tomorrow."
McKay was about to object, then stopped. A month ago he might have stayed up all night, but he was beginning to learn from Sheppard that it was better to grab sleep when you could, because who knew when the next Genii invasion would force you awake for three straight days. Besides, he reasoned, the object wasn't going anywhere.
It sat on the surface of the table doing nothing, impassive. About the size of a football, but covered in hexagonal flat surfaces a perfect two inches in diameter. There was no inscription, no buttons, no decoration of any kind, nothing to mar the flawless silver squares save for the sole matte shape McKay had accidentally touched.
It was neither Ancient nor Wraith, bearing no resemblance to any culture McKay had seen previously. And in the hours since returning from the planet, they knew little more than it was a memory storage device, and it gave a nasty static shock if handled improperly.
"Alright," he agreed, grudgingly. "But tomorrow I want Johnston and Kusanagi to join us. See if we can't figure out this one before we get to the next."
Zelenka blinked, surprised. "I thought you disliked Doctor Kusanagi?"
"No," he shot back, flustered, burying his gaze in his laptop.
"You normally assign her to Dewi's team."
"She," he paused, admitted: "She scares me?"
Radek's eyes widened. "Miko?"
"She hides behind those glasses of hers. And every time I go somewhere she's always two steps behind me. And I swear, the other day she tried to grab my feet. Just," he mumbled, "don't leave me alone with her."
"Ah," said Zelenka, amusedly.
"Ah? Ah what?"
"God only knows why, Rodney, but you may have an admirer."
"Kusanagi?" The laptop was forgotten. "I thought she, ah..." and he stopped.
"Yes?" Zelenka nudged.
"Well, most of the time it's hard to tell she's even female."
He received a muttered Czech curse and a glare for his comment. "Sometimes," Zelenka started, then stopped, descending back into exasperated Czech. He scooped up his notes with one arm and stalked away from the table, still muttering.
"What?" Rodney called out after him. "What!"