Rodney shut his laptop down and rubbed a hand across his face. He didn't get it. He still didn't see where he'd made a mistake. According to everything they had, in ALL the simulations they'd run, it should have worked. It really should have! What was he missing? Where did he go so utterly wrong?
Error, while uncommon, was not unknown to Rodney McKay, and he'd meant what he'd told Jo...the Colonel down on the planet. He was *not* in the habit of repeating his mistakes. Whether it was over-confidence, blind ambition, or guilt over Collins' death that had driven him was completely beside the point. A mistake in his *calculations* had been made and by all that was Holy, he was going to know where!
After he and John...he and the Colonel had gotten back safely from Duranda, Rodney had apologized to everyone he could think to apologize to, and then he'd gone back and apologized to Radek again, this time specifically about the "professional jealousy" comment. Once that was out of the way, they'd managed to sit down and go over Radek's theory about the "exotic particle production" as the source of his error. But...but while, yes, he did see that the problem existed, the manual adjustments *should* have be able to compensate.
After a few hours of yelling and general name-calling, which helped remarkably to clear the air for both of them, he'd even gotten Radek to concede the simulation showed an 85% probability of working with his calculations. Which was a victory of sorts at least, but it didn't change the fact he had failed.
Regardless of what anyone else might think of him, risking someone's life, especially his own, no matter what the stakes, was not something he did lightly. He wouldn't have done that, not with his *and* Colonel Sheppard's lives depending it, unless he was absolutely sure. As hard as it might be for anyone to believe, especially now, he took the lives of others very seriously. Goddammit! It should have worked!
And even if it hadn't, which he *had* considered, just not where anyone could hear him, even then, the safety protocols had been re-done after the incident with Collins. Those routines were in a separate program all together! Why hadn't he at least been able to shut it down when it was clear it wasn't working?
That...that really worried him, possibly even more than the error in his calculations. A flaw in the shut-down protocols? That was something else entirely.
So..., what had gone wrong?
"Dr. Weir?" Elizabeth tapped her comm with one hand while continuing to work on report on her laptop with the other.
"Yes, Radek? What can I do for you?"
"I found something in the files we saved from Duranda I think you need to see. I'm sending it to you now."
Something in the tone of his voice made her stop everything and frown in concern.
"What is it?"
"You will see. Just watch."
Her laptop chimed. "Alright, I've got it. I'm opening it now."
When the file opened, it was to a dark, grainy image of the inside of the Durandan facility, apparently part of a security feed. The lab itself was full of grey smoke. Chunks of rubble were scattered about and the lighting was down to a dim flicker. Two people were visible only as dark shapes leaning awkwardly against a damaged console in the left foreground, but their voices could be heard clearly.
The first figure spoke, his voice harsh from the smoke. "You know it has to be done, Pawelek. We have no other choice."
The second figure, Pawelek, answered. "I know! I do know. It's just...hard. Another day or two at the most, and we would have had the answer!"
The first shook his head vehemently, then hissed in pain and wrapped one arm around his abdomen. "It doesn't matter now. Everyone else is dead, and...and we are both dying from the exposure, you know that. Whatever else happens, we can *not* allow a power source of this magnitude to fall into the hands of the Wraith!" The figure took a deep breath, then continued. "The only thing limiting the Wraith to this galaxy is the fact that their hyperdrives are merely interstellar, and not intergalactic. But with this much power, coupled with their ability to hibernate, they wouldn't need intergalactic drives. They could point a Hive ship at any galaxy, activate the interstellar drive and simply hibernate until the ship finally arrived. For the sake of the rest of the Universe, we must see to it they never get that chance."
Pawelek pulled himself painfully to his feet and began examining one of the remaining intact consoles. "You're right, Selar. I know you're right. The only question is how are we to stop them."
Selar looked up sharply at that. "What do you mean?"
Still examining the console readings, Pawelek continued, "With that last surge from Acturus, all the power has been completely drained. I can't restart the system to trigger an overload, not until power has built back up, and I...I don't think we have that long. I do have an idea, but it has it's risks."
Selar leaned his head back against the console. "At this point we don't have much choice. The Wraith currently in this system may be destroyed, but we must assume more Hive ships are on their way even now."
"My thoughts exactly. So, we let them come."
"We let them come. I may not have enough power to restart the system, but I can still cripple the protocols."
"You mean sabotage?"
Pawelek nodded sharply. "Sabotage. I can set it so that the next time the machine is powered-up, it will self-destruct."
"You can guarantee it?"
"That's the risk. It is possible the Wraith might detect the changes or override our protocols."
"Then it's too risky. We need a way to guarantee this facility with be destroyed."
Pawelek thought furiously for a moment. "I can cripple multiple systems; that way even if one change is found, there are still others to act as a back-up. I figure the most critical systems to sabotage would be the containment and shut-down protocols." Pawelek broke off, bent double with a fit of coughing. When he resumed, his voice was noticeably rougher. "We need to hurry. There isn't much time."
Elizabeth slowly closed the laptop and stared with unseeing eyes at the masks on the far wall of her office. My God. It was...hard to accept and yet..., hadn't she been willing, even ready, to do exactly the same thing? Hadn't she been set to destroy Atlantis right before Colonel Everett had stepped through the wormhole?
Rodney. Oh God, Rodney. What was she going to say to him? And after the way she'd torn into him in front of the rest of the crew, would he even bother to listen?
Rodney looked up as the door to his lab opened. Eliz...Dr. Weir and Radek? He took in the somber looks on their faces and stood up to face them, hands clasped behind his back in an approximation of parade rest. "So, am I being asked to step down as Head of the Science Department?"
Dr. Weir seemed completely taken aback by the question, But honestly, Rodney thought, why else would they both be down here at the same time?
"No. No, Rodney. That's not why we're here."
"Alright." Rodney cocked his head to one side and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "Then why are you here, if it's not about my rather spectacular failure?"
"Well...actually that is what we wanted to talk to you about. It...Rodney, it wasn't your fault."
Rodney huffed and gave them both a disgusted look. "Wasn't my fault? *Of course* it was my fault! Who else's would it be?"
"No! No. We mean you weren't wrong!" Elizabeth insisted. Rodney just shrugged.
"Oh that. I knew that."
"The Ancients, they...what? Wait...You, you knew?"
"Well, of course I knew! I told you, didn't I? I said, 'By my calculations, it shouldn't have happened!'"
"No, no, what I mean is we have proof that the Ancients sabotaged the protocols."
"And I said, I know."
"Rodney, I know you think..."
"No, you don't. You really don't. Regardless of how you may think I operate, I am very careful in what I do. I checked all my calculations, not once, not twice, but *THREE* times. Do you understand? Three times."
Rodney started pacing the length of the room. "After the...the first incident, I went back and re-worked everything. I knew what was at stake, and my calculations were *right*. I actually bet my life and the Colonel's on that fact."
He stopped and turned to face the pair. "So, if they were right, then something *on Duranda* must have been wrong. The thing was, we'd checked those systems as well. So, whatever was wrong, it had to have been hidden on purpose. And a 'deliberately hidden wrong' equals sabotage to me."
Both Radek and Elizabeth stared at Rodney in shock for a moment. Radek was the first to recover. "Then if...if you knew...why did you not say something?" Radek asked, honestly puzzled.
"I had no real proof. Nothing concrete I could show anyone, and without proof...well, it was just my word against The Ancients, and we all know what my word is worth right now," he said with a grimace.
With a deep sigh, he continued, "Besides, none of that changes the fact that what happened on Duranda was entirely my fault. I let my own pride and ego completely take over." He looked apologetically at Radek. "I refused to listen to any of my colleagues, and as a result, I cost us our best chance at learning more about the theories behind so much of the Ancient's technology." He shook his head. "Even if we'd never gotten the machine to work, the information alone in a research facility like that, would have been invaluable." The anguish and guilt he still felt shone clearly in his eyes.
"It was worse than that, Rodney," Elizabeth said softly, "You nearly cost us...you."
Rodney blushed uncomfortably at that and looked away. "Yes well, thank you both for coming down, but if that was all you wanted, I still have work to do."
Elizabeth looked at him uncertainly. "Rodney? Don't you want people to know the truth?" she asked.
Rodney gave a heavy shrug. "It's entirely up to you, but like I said, I don't see how it changes anything. While it is gratifying to have proof my calculations weren't at fault, it was still ultimately my attitude that allowed Duranda to happen. And it's my attitude that is the real issue." He gave a sad smile.
"How long have both of you known me? I've always been like this. The flaws are there. I know them, you know them, and now all of Atlantis knows them. The best I can do try to minimize the damage in the future. I earned people's trust before, by being who I am. And I now I've lost it, by being who I am. The fact the two of you know you can still trust my calculations, that helps. But let's not kid ourselves. Knowing Atlantean sabotage was the reason for the overload on Duranda doesn't make any of what I did right."
With that, Rodney turned away and started working on his laptop. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I really need to finish this analysis."
Radek and Elizabeth both stared at Rodney's unmoving back, exchanged a silent look, and quietly left the lab.
Once outside in the hallway, Elizabeth turned to Radek. "I'm not sure what I expected, but that definitely wasn't it."
"Nor I. I don't think I quite realized just how deeply to heart he has taken all of this. I had hoped knowing he wasn't entirely at fault would...cheer him up, I suppose? He has been far too quiet lately."
Radek ran a hand through his hair. "I had assumed his, let us just say, 'reclusive' attitude lately was due to the fact his calculations had been wrong, and showing him they might not have been would snap him out of it."
He looked intently at Elizabeth. "You must understand, math is a *basic* tool for what we do. Our logic may be flawed, our implementation may be wrong, but our math? Dr. Weir, It would be as if you couldn't speak English anymore. To have his calculations appear to be so completely wrong, Rodney has to have been questioning his value to the expedition."
Elizabeth thought about that for a moment, she hadn't really considered it like that before. "But surely Rodney knows we value him for himself, not just for his contributions?"
"Does he?" Radek stopped walking for a moment to take off glasses and rub his nose. "There was a time I would have agreed, but now? We've lost so many, Dumais, Gaul, Peter, Lieutenant Ford, and gained so many new faces, it's different. There was a feeling of shared purpose, of camraderie here, that's missing now. The newest members don't know what Rodney has gone through for us in the past. They can only go by what they've seen for themselves and the way the current staff treat him. Lately, what they've seen hasn't exactly shown Rodney in a very good light, and as for treatment, well, our attitudes toward him have been...cold at best. The new recruits take their cues from us and Rodney has had to deal with the result."
Elizabeth gave him a long, searching look. "You know, you're right. And it's high time we changed that."
Rodney straightened up as soon as the door to his lab closed and turned to stare at the space where Elizabeth and Radek had stood. It seemed almost too much to hope for, after his blatant display of...of unbridled arrogance.
He'd resigned himself to the fact he'd destroyed whatever trust he had developed here in Atlantis, and to be honest, he'd lost far more, over much less in his past. But, somehow, he'd apparently regained Elizabeth's trust. And it had been made clear to him when he'd tried to apologize that he had never really lost Radek's.
Now all that was left was the Colonel...John. With a new sense of hope, Rodney actually believed, for the first time since that moment at the transporter, he might actually be able to regain all he had lost.
Summary: My take on what *really* happened on Duranda... (SGA_Flashfic Documentation Challenge) Spoilers for "Trinity".