Beta: The cool-beyond-words Oran, Marie-France and Susan. They dragged this story kicking and screaming into a better place. Any remaining errors are entirely mine.
Notes: With apologies to the creators of Wizard of Oz, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Atlantis had come to like, and in some cases even love, these new people who inhabited her walls. As they continued to interface their computers with her, she learned more about them. She learned of their holidays, so unlike the almost sombre remembrances of her builders. These people were so fresh and new, and their celebrations were full of life the city had not known in far longer than ten thousand years.
She watched the messages – e-mails, they were called – fly back and forth between them. They spoke of a holiday that was nearing, everyone sending ominous warnings.
'Keep McKay away from Lab Seven on Tuesday,' one read. Another advised 'We need to tell the marines about the 'new armory' on Level 6,' which confused the city because there was no armory or anything these people could construe as one on level 6.
Atlantis ran a search of her own, checking the date of the Tuesday that several e-mails mentioned, looking up the significance of that date.
Once she knew the nature of the celebration, she formulated a plan.
As soon as the timekeepers her new guardians kept changed to midnight, Atlantis put her plan into action.
Rodney's first impulse was to blame Zelenka. That plan was foiled when he made his way to the labs and heard the engineer alternately swearing in Czech, and joining Simpson in singing 'Follow the Yellow Brick Road.'
So it wasn't just his room, then. Hearing the other two speak in such high-pitched voices mollified Rodney – a little. The problem seemed to be citywide, at least.
Working on the problem in the lab didn't prove too difficult. Zelenka's mumbles were quiet enough that the helium-enhanced pitch wasn't disturbing. Simpson had resorted to not speaking, and Miko's voice was so soft anyway that the helium didn't make much difference.
They couldn't track the problem to any particular section. The entire circulation system seemed to be affected. Helium was being injected into the air at a hundred different points, and no single subroutine seemed to have any effect. Even shutting down the system entirely didn't work, since fail-safes kicked in and re-started it after five minutes.
Rodney was proud of the fact that in spite of having awakened in Muchkinland, he hadn't dissolved into giggles.
Leave it to Sheppard to change that.
"Rodney, what the hell is going on here?" It wasn't nearly as threatening when Sheppard sounded like an extra from The Wizard of Oz.
Simpson and Zelenka gave in immediately, chortling at the colonel's outrage. The fact that he had the gall to be offended did not help matters.
"It's not that funny. It was funny an hour ago, but if one more person tells me to follow the yellow brick road." He reached meaningfully for his gun but even Rodney had begun to chuckle by then.
"I thought you had some brains, Colonel." Rodney tried to pitch his voice low, which just made him sound like a seductive Munchkin and sent Zelenka into convulsions.
"This really isn't funny, Rodney! Which one of your geeks did this?"
"None of us! I'd like to think that my staff would have more imagination than to pipe helium through the air vents!" Even as he argued, Rodney's lips began to twitch. He could hear his own voice, and the colonel's, and they sounded like a pair of squabbling mice.
He truly lost it when Elizabeth called the senior staff to an emergency meeting. Her normally somewhat high voice combined with the distress and helium made her sound like a hyperactive chipmunk.
Atlantis felt shivers of something long forgotten as her halls echoed with laughter. There was a lot of singing as well and most of her inhabitants seemed to be happy.
Her favorite, however, was not. She could feel his ire in her circuits. Her second favorite was conflicted. She could feel his mirth but he was also upset. He hadn't been at first, not truly. It was only when her two favorites were together that she sensed his diminished enjoyment of her joke.
She dismissed her worry – the two of them had been mirrors and glass as long as she had known them. Always reflecting and magnifying each other.
There was a meeting now, and it seemed everyone attending was battling against their mirth. She wondered why they fought it. This day was meant to be a celebration of laughter, wasn't it? She had engineered a joke that her research indicated would be very funny, and for most it seemed to have worked.
Keeping most of her sensors tuned to the laughter throughout the city, Atlantis listened in to the meeting as well.
Elizabeth did her best to look stern until the others calmed down. She was drawing on all of her diplomatic skills to keep from joining Carson in his gales of laughter.
John apparently hadn't realized the absurdity of arguing with his helium-enhanced voice. Rodney pointing this out was little better.
"You sound like a chipmunk on speed!" Rodney seemed to ignore the fact that he did as well.
"Everyone does, Rodney! We need to get this fixed, NOW!"
"Zelenka's working on it, when he isn't playing Mayor of Munchkinland!"
"People aren't doing their jobs! On the way here I heard 'Yellow Brick Road' four times, AND the theme to Alvin and the Chipmunks sung by Bates, Stackhouse and Parrish. Several of *your* scientists are actually taking applications for a Lollipop Guild!"
"And since when have you cared who did their jobs?" Rodney retorted, his own voice growing even higher because of his normal hysteria.
"He has a point, John," Elizabeth said carefully. She had managed the most control over the modulation of her voice – years of diplomatic training. While her voice still sounded like she lived inside a helium tank, since her call for the emergency meeting, she had managed to all but eliminate the comedic value.
Besides, it was starting to get a little old.
"What do we have so far? Carson, can you find anything in the air mix that indicates this could be some kind of infection or dangerous in the long term?"
Carson finally squelched his chuckles to reply. "Nothing toxic. There's enough oxygen in the air that our lungs are fine. I did a comparison of the helium found in the air here and I'm fairly certain it's manufactured in Atlantis. All the helium we brought with us has been accounted for."
"So the city is doing this by itself?" Rodney asked, his lips melting a little into his lopsided frown.
"But why?" John demanded. The umbrage in his high-pitched voice shattered the veneer of seriousness in the room and all three of his companions dissolved into giggles.
"If Ronon were here, he'd be just as upset as I am." John did his best 'look at me, I'm not pouting!' pout.
"Ronon doesn't talk enough to care," Rodney smirked at that. Teyla and Ronon were both on the mainland and therefore missing all the fun.
"Gentlemen," Elizabeth said slowly, doing her best to avoid the Munchkin route.
"If I didn't know any better, Elizabeth, I'd think the city itself really was in charge of doing this. Nothing seems to be stopping it. We can't find any tanks we can disconnect, nothing in the programming can account for it, and every time we think we find a way to stop it, the city just starts it back up again."
Everyone mulled over that for a moment. Privately, they had all been wondering at the possible sentience of Atlantis. Rodney said that theoretically the city's computer network was complex enough to allow for an advanced level AI.
While they thought, Rodney got a call from Zelenka. He listened intently, doing his best to neither laugh out loud nor talk. "I'm on my way." He stood, snapping his laptop shut. "Zelenka has something."
"I am the Dark Lord of Nightmares!" Lorne declared, which made Simpson crack up. "Tremble before me!"
"Alright, Gachnar," Rodney growled as he joined them in the labs. "Take your Bringer of Terror schtick somewhere else."
"I was running a scan of the e-mails, to see if there was perhaps some mention of a plan to do this today." Zelenka drew up the e-mail logs for Rodney to see.
"And? Who did it?"
"No one that I can find, however-" He drew up the viewer logs for the e-mail. A select few people had access to view all correspondence. Rodney, Elizabeth, John and Bates could all view e-mails on the network, though that access was carefully tracked to avoid misuse. Zelenka pointed out an access line on every single e-mail in the city.
"Who is that?" Rodney settled into a chair beside Zelenka and drew the data onto his own laptop. They worked in silence, drowning out the slowly waning laughter around them with sheer focus on the job.
In the time it took them to figure things out, most people had begun to tire of the high-pitched voices, and laughter lapsed into silence.
"It's her," Zelenka said with a small note of awe in his chipmunk voice. "How can we ask her to stop? She doesn't seem to be listening in."
"Well, she probably got the idea through the e-mails, since we can't find her on the audio and visual feeds as much. Let me try ..."
Rodney opened up the mail program and began to type, not specifying a "To:" address.
Subject: April Fools!
Atlantis, if you're responsible for the helium in the air, please knock it off. It was funny at first but if you're as clever as I think you are, you can tell it's not as amusing as it was.
Atlantis read the e-mail addressed to no one. It had been so long since anyone had tried communicating directly with her. Even her builders had long ago stopped talking to her. Atlantis had just about forgotten that she *could* speak with others.
She read over the e-mail from RM, who with his polite request to cease and desist had shifted himself into her favorite, above even the colonel, who hadn't liked her joke at all.
After some thought, Atlantis replied.
Summary: Atlantis cracks a joke, then communicates with Rodney. (Crackfic!)