|The Law of Sympathy
||[Sep. 21st, 2005|01:20 pm]
The first inkling John had was when he woke up the next morning and found himself floating two feet above his bed. Even then his immediate assumption was that he had managed to activate some previously unnoticed Ancient technology. Antigravity beds *would* be very cool, and that would explain why all the matresses were so damn uncomfortable. He'd even been dreaming about flying and it made sense that he might have been able to turn something on in his sleep.|
Then he tried to think the lights on, and instead of the usual diffuse glow from the walls, a small silvery ball of light appeared above him, casting a glow like a small moon. It felt nothing at all like using his gene, and in his surprise, he lost his concentration and fell back onto the bed with a *thump*.
After a little effort, though, he managed to get four more balls of light, of various colors, orbiting his head. Shortly thereafter, he discovered in quick sucession that he could: 1) call his clothes to him from across the room; 2) swear a literal blue streak after one of his boots kicked him in the shin; 3) light things on fire with a thought; 4) generate a localized indoor rainstorm; and 5) change his slightly damp Johnny Cash poster into a view of dogfighting X-Wings.
Rodney's first inkling was when he turned Dr. Kavanaugh into a frog.
The frog sat in a small plastic bowl in the middle of Dr. Weir's desk as the gaggle of physicists gathered around it argued in increasingly strident tones. Occasionally, it ribbitted irritably. Also, it made water all over Dr. Weir's hands when she tried to pick it up.
John stood in the doorway watching the free entertainment for a few minutes before he decided to make his entrance.
"So, Rodney," he said. "When are you planning on changing him back?"
"What do you mean, 'change him back'?" Rodney asked. "I don't think you understand, Colonel. I was discussing something with Dr. Kavanaugh here, and suddenly he was gone, and this frog was there."
"Okay, so it *was* you," John said, "just like I figured." He crouched over to look the frog in the eye. It flicked its tongue out at him and then made a grumpy sort of burp. "You are planning on changing him back, right? Not that I have anything against frogs, but I really think it would be a bit cruel to just leave him like this."
"Oh, what am I supposed to do?" Rodney shouted. "Say 'abracadabra' and wave my wand? I realize that your grasp of reality is occasionally rather shaky, but people don't just turn into frogs!"
"I have to agree with Rodney, Colonel," Zelenka said. "Such a thing cannot simply *happen*. It is most likely that some piece of ancient techonology was inadvertently activated in the heat of the moment. Most certainly it was not magic."
"But it was," John said, grinning. "And Rodney, yeah, that's exactly what I expect you to do. Here, watch." He thought for a second, and said "Abracadabra!" as he swung his hand around in a sweeping curve. A line of golden sparkles appeared in its path, like a magic effect in a cartoon.
The scientists were speechless for once, watching at the sparkles as they slowly went out. Eventually, Elizabeth said, slowly, "John, what did you just do?"
"Magic!" he said. "Bibbiti-bobbity-boo," he added, and tapped her on the nose. Her uniform transformed into a flowing crimson ball gown with wide sleeves that trailed on the floor.
"Oh my god. John," she said.
John shrugged. "I figured it out this morning when I woke up and I was floating."
"And this floating did not worry you at all?" Zelenka asked, curiously.
"Well, it did a little," John said. "Until I realized what was going on."
Rodney stared at him. "Well, feel free to illuminate the rest of us, Dr. Fate!"
"Oh, come on, Rodney," John said. "We were both exposed to a massive burst of mysterious radiation as a result of a mad scientific experiment gone wrong, and it gave us superpowers."
The scientists gaped at him. "Colonel Sheppard," Rodney said frostily. "Believe it or not, we are not living in a comic book."
"We're not?" Simpson muttered under her breath. "Could have fooled me."
John flopped into one of the chairs and smirked. "Try it, Rodney. It's not that much different from using the gene. Think about what you want, and make it happen. Start with light, that's pretty easy."
Rodney opened his mouth.
"Ah!" John said, holding up a finger. "*Try*, Rodney."
Rodney rolled his eyes, but then sighed, and closed them. He crossed his arms and grimaced as though he were trying to lay an egg. Suddenly, a ball of spitting yellow light appeared over his head, and he looked up in astonishment. "Oh my god!"
After a moment Elizabeth stepped forward. "John. You're saying that you and Rodney have acquired some sort of ... supernatural ability? You make a wish, and it comes true? And you think it occurred as a result of the experiment on Doranda." She tried to cross her arms, but got tangled in the sleeves. "And can somebody please do something about this dress?" she added.
"Rodney, you want to do the honors?"
"Okay," Rodney said. "Okay, fine." He waved a perfunctory hand at Elizabeth and with an audible *pop* the gown was replaced by her familiar red-and-gray.
"Thank you," she said. "Not that it wasn't lovely," she added to John, "But I think we have more important things to worry about right now. Let's think this out. The two of you are the only ones who have noticed these new abilities?"
There was a brief pause as all the scientists screwed their faces up in various odd contortions, attempting to cast wishes. John was suddenly struck by the horrifying possibility that they *had* all gained the capability, and tried not to visualize what, exactly, would be the foremost wishes of half a dozen of Rodney's subordinates.
Luckily for everyone, nothing happened. "Okay," Elizabeth said, sounding just as relieved as John felt. "We can assume for now, then, that whatever this is has only affected Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay. And that's what happened to Dr. Kavanaugh -- Dr. McKay did not realize what he was capable of, and he - wished - it to happen?"
"He deserved it," Rodney muttered.
Elizabeth chose to ignore that and offered him a penetrating glare. "That means you can undo it, right?"
"No, of course I can't undo it!" McKay exploded. "I can't do any of this! It's *physically impossible*, as you'd know if you knew anything about the laws of physics! In fact, none of this can possibly be happening! It's probably just a hallucination caused by being back on coffee rationing again, or maybe it's those strange purple things Major Lorne brought back from Lyria -- I'm in the infirmary, aren't I? You had better not be letting Carson experiment on me while I'm drugged," he added, pointing at Sheppard warningly.
He was emitting little multicolored sparks as he spoke, which sputtered out and sent curls of foul black smoke drifting to the ceiling. John watched with a sort of dreadful fascination as Radek stepped forward and grabbed Rodney's shoulders, shaking him a little. "Rodney, this is not a hallucination!" he said firmly. "We have all seen what you can do! Most likely you were correct, and it is some sort of city system that has become active as the ZPM integrates. You and the Colonel have by far spent the most time in the chair, it is logical that you would be most sensitive to such a thing. Certainly if Ancient technologies could turn Sgt. Bates into a penguin, then there is no reason that they could not also turn Kavanaugh into a frog."
"Oh god, don't talk to me about penguins," McKay said. He visibly calmed down and the last of the smoke dispersed away. "Right, Ancient technology. We already know that it's likely to pick on me, that's a basic postulate. No superpowers involved, just sufficiently advanced technology."
"O-kay," said Elizabeth. "So do you think you could maybe use this 'advanced technology' to restore Dr. Kavanaugh?"
"Of course," said Rodney, and waved airily at the frog.
It stared at him, and said "Ribbit."
Rodney frowned, crossed his arms, and concentrated. Nothing happened.
"Maybe the ability was only temporary and it's dissipated while we were talking," Rodney said hopefully.
"Perhaps you are simply thinking to hard," said Zelenka.
"Maybe you have to believe in order to get it to work," said Simpson. "What?" she added defensively. "That's what my grandmother always said about magic."
"Maybe you have to actually *want* to change him back," Elizabeth said, narrowing her eyes.
"Wow," Rodney said. "Am I never going to be allowed to live down that thing with the personal shield? Listen, a lot of people did things they'd be ashamed of then, iy was our first week in a new galaxy, for--"
"It is too bad that you can not tell those stories, as you did not bother to learn our names until --"
Rodney wheeled around. "Radek, I *swear*--"
"Well," Simpson said brightly, "At least we know you've still got it!"
Rodney's hands were glowing with a sort of restless dark aura. He looked down, blinked, and spread his fingers. "Um. Oops?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake," John said. "Get out of the way, I'll undo it." He lifted the frog gently out of the bowl and set it on the edge of the table; then, with a smirk at Rodney, he leaned over and kissed it smack on the lips.
"Bad touch! Bad touch!" Kavanaugh shrieked. "That's sexual harassment in the workplace!" He wiped his mouth on the back on his hand. "Wait-- where am I? What did you do to me?"
Elizabeth sighed, but she was smiling. "Just another ordinary day in Atlantis, Doctor Kavanaugh. Nothing to worry about."
"Oh," said Kavanaugh, and burped. "I feel very odd."
Elizabeth looked him over, and then turned to Zelenka. "Radek, why don't you take these three gentlemen to the infirmary, and see if you or Carson can shed any light on what has happened here."
"Yes, ma'am," Zelenka said happily.
"And as for the rest of you," Elizabeth added, "Don't you have work that you ought to be doing? Today doesn't seem like the wisest day to upset your department head--"
John could really come to hate the infirmary. Especially if he was locked in here with Dr. McKay for much longer.
"Also, I can't *believe* you kissed Kavanaugh!" Rodney said.
"I can't believe you're more grossed out by me kissing Kavanaugh than by me kissing a frog. Although, admittedly, the frog had better breath. Somebody ought to tell Kavanaugh to lay off the Athosian breakfast tea."
"See, exactly!" Rodney replied.
"Exactly *what*? I was just trying to add a little atmosphere to the proceedings."
"What, you think you're Prince Charming now? -- no, wait, in the story with the frog it was a spoiled bratty princess who kissed him, wasn't it? Okay, I withdraw my objection!"
"Hey! I resemble tha-- anyway, you kissed Carson."
"No I didn't. Also, that wasn't me. Also, I was under the influence of alien technology at the time."
"Well, so was Kavanaugh," John said reasonably.
"Oh, you *so* did not go there--"
Radek poked his head into the isolation chamber, looking cross. "Rodney, return the Colonel's hair to the way it was before you set it on fire. Colonel Sheppard, transform Rodney's nose back from a lemon. Thank you. Now, gentlemen, if we could please continue with the tests? Yes?"
"--And you should know right now that I am never going to be talked into wearing spandex."
"Aw, but Rodney, you'd look so cute in the little green panties!" John paused a second to consider what he'd just said, and added, "Let's both just pretend that I never said that, okay?"
"Yes. Thank you," replied Rodney. "Also, who says *I'm* the sidekick?"
"Robin isn't a sidekick, he's Batman's partner! Actually, I always liked the Green Lanterns better anyway."
"What's *that* supposed to mean?" John asked.
"Oh, come on!" Rodney said. "A man born without fear? How many times have you tried to nuke yourself so far? And that's only the start."
"Hey, at least I've never blown up a whole planet!" John said. When he didn't get a reply he looked over at his teammate. Oops. "Hey, Rodney, I didn't mean--"
Beckett's voice spilled over the intercom. "Will you two calm down in there, or do we need to sedate you in order to get uninterrupted readings?"
"As far as I can tell," Dr. Beckett said Elizabeth, looking as if he'd bitten into something rotten, "Colonel Sheppard was essentially correct. They were exposed to the radiations produced by the overload of the vacuum energy device. As a result, they were irradiated by what, for lack of a better name, we are calling 'supernormal' particles."
"Paranatural," Zelenka corrected him.
"Ah. yes," said Beckett. "These particles, ah --"
"They are not produced under any conditions which occur naturally in this universe," Zelenka said. "They are created in an environment completely alien to all of our conceptions of space-time, and as a result, our laws of nature do not apply in their vicinity. This is the reason for the unpredictable effects which have been occuring near Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard."
"Okay," Elizabeth said. "So you have an explanation. Can you give me any idea what to expect? Long-term effects? Is there a cure?"
"Well, the very nature of this phenomenon is that it is entirely unpredictable. Don't worry about the laws of physics, the laws of *logic* go haywire. But we managed to put together a crude detector--"
"A very crude detector," Zelenka interrupted. "Is made of the quartz movements from digital watches. When vibrational frequency of quartz changes, can assume that the laws of physics are being interfered with. This detector is highly imprecise, but we were able to determine rough estimates."
"So there's some sort of radiation that can disrupt physical laws," Elizabeth summarized. "How does this lead to chemists turning into frogs?"
"Well," said Beckett, "Most of the time, the particles cancel each other out at the sub-molecular level, so that the net effects are barely detectable on a large scale. But by some mechanism which we don't entirely understand, possibly related to the fuctioning of the Ancient gene, Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard are able, consciously or unconsiously, to direct the effects."
"We haven't been able to establish the exact range of this ability, but it seems to fade out, along with the detectable radiation, within a few dozen meters of the source. As to other limitations," Zelenka shrugged. "There is nothing we have been able to request of them, however improbable, that they have not been able to accomplish."
Elizabeth shook her head. "You're telling me that two of my most valuable people now have a completely unpredictable and unlimited power to defy the laws of nature."
"Yes," Zelenka said. "However, good news is that the activity seems to be decreasing. Plotted log-log with thick magic marker, it seems to show a standard radioactive decay curve, with a half-life in the magnitude of one week."
"In other words," Elizabeth said, "You don't actually know."
"No, we don't," replied Carson. "As Radek's been saying, we can't predict something that's inherently unpredictable. But I agree: it's definitely decreasing, and within a few months, at the very most, it should be below detectable levels. As for long-term effects," he shrugged, "I have no idea. I am tempted to say that perhaps they will always have a special relationship with the laws of probability."
"But it *is* Rodney and Colonel Sheppard," Radek added, "so how could you tell the difference?"
"Anyway," Dr. Beckeet said, "My recommendation is to wait and see if it goes away on its own."
"That's it?" Elizabeth raised an eyebrow.
"Not everything can be tied up with a neat bow of scientific trickery, Dr. Weir," Beckett said. "There does not seem to be any danger as long as they keep themselves under control, and except for an unfortunate tendency to turn colleagues into frogs, they appear perfectly healthy. Meanwhile, Radek and I would both like to gather more data, but the specimens are getting restless. Since we're still not sure entirely how much they're capable of, perhaps it would be wiser--"
"To give them a few weeks off and recommend that they try to relax?" Elizabeth suggested wryly.
It turned out that having unrestricted supernatural power was actually dead boring, if one was under orders to stay away from populated areas and not do anything permanent. John spent the first few hours reading Tolstoy while sitting on the ceiling of his room like Spider-man. After that he thought about calling someone to bring him some dinner, but decided to just conjure up a beer and a turkey sandwich instead.
He wandered off with it to one of the less-frequented piers, and spent the evening staring at the water and talking to the fish. For some reason, the fish spoke in the base-27 machine language used by Atlantean computers, and they were obsessed with the water's conductance and temperature differentials, and he'd gotten more than enough of that when Dr. Brown had charmed him into trying to get the hydroponics lab operational.
The next morning for breakfast he had waffles with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, and coffee just like his college girlfriend used to make it. He amused himself for awhile by painting his room in washes of queasy, exalted color which had nothing to do with the normal electomagnetic spectrum. When that started getting old, he gave in and opened his laptop to catch up on some paperwork, only to discover that the system crashed spectacularly whenever he tried to look at the relevant files. Eventually he realized that it was probably his subconscious doing it. Apparently his id didn't like paperwork either.
So he wasted another few hours playing Tetris and exploring the latest additions to the library database. Then he gave up, and went to Rodney's.
He knocked on the door and got no answer except a few muffled shuffling sounds. He was about to force it open, but thought better of it at the last minute. He thought he mostly could predict what his new abilities could do, but using the direct willpower necessary to override a door lock might be pushing it. Instead, he called "Rodney, let me in or I'll let myself in!"
"Go away!" Rodney shouted back.
"Rodney," John replied, and then a few moments later, "I'm not going away, you know. You must be nearly as bored as I am now -- or how have the breathtakini theoretical breakthroughs been coming lately? Incredibly well, as usual?"
The door opened about eight inches to reveal a strip of very grumpy Rodney, and then stopped. "They've been going entirely too well. As I'm sure you guessed. Unfortunately, I can no longer rely on the fact that two plus two equals four, which makes all my results rather suspicious. What are you doing here, Colonel? Other than annoying me, obviously."
Definitely a very grumpy Rodney. He was unshaven and wearing a pair of shapeless gray sweatpants and a t-shirt that said, 'Mr. Fantastic'. John found this incredibly amusing. "I like the t-shirt. Although you don't really have much in common with Reed Richards, you know. To start with, you're missing the incredibly hot blonde girlfriend. Also, I thought you had some kind of irrational objection to spandex."
Halfway through that, Rodney made an odd sort of choked whining noise and twitched, noticeably, but nothing more worrying than stress showed in his voice when he snapped back. "It's not spandex, it's unstable molecules. And oh my god, did you honestly come down here just to make fun of my cl-othes?" His voice rose to a loud squeal on the last syllable and he took a step back from the door.
John looked him over carefully. "Rodney? Are you all right?"
"Yes, of course I'm all right!" he said, and gave an odd sort of hop-kick forward again. "As I've been telling Dr. Beckett every six hours, there's nothing wrong with me except for apparently having completely nonsensical *magic powers*. Also, your bedside manner sucks." There was that weird noise again, except -- was it coming from inside the room?
John gave him a skeptical look. "I spent this morning looking through the latest additions to the library database. They've added a whole bunch of historical files on weapons research."
"That's utterly fascinating," Rodney said, "now go away." He was still standing in the gap of the door, totally blocking John's view inside.
"It turns out that Harry Daghlian was taken to the hospital right after his accident, and the only contribution he made to science was by slowly *dying* of radiation sickness--" Rodney's face had been achieving the most remarkable contortions, and now he suddenly jumped back and squealed. "Seriously, Rodney, what's going on with you?"
"Nothing!" Rodney said. "Other than apparently dying of radiation sickness, thanks! Yes, I know it was entirely my fault for misleading you and I deserve it, now would you please go away?!"
John narrowed his eyes. "Rodney," he said, "I'm coming in." He put one hand flat on Rodney's chest a pushed. Rodney deflated and backed out of the way. John followed him in and shut the door behind them, as Rodney took anther step back and stumbled. John looked down.
There was a large, fluffy, gray-and-black cat crouched at Rodney's feet, staring curiously up at John.
"...Rodney," John said. "What is that?"
"It's a cat," Rodney said, and blinked.
John stared at him. "Tell me you didn't smuggle your cat home on the Daedalus."
"No, of course not!" Rodney said, affronted. "Why-- how--" he stopped. "She showed up in the middle of the night last night, okay? I must have been thinking about her a little too hard."
"You made yourself a cat because you were lonely. I don't suppose you told Beckett about this?"
"Yes, okay, so I was lonely!" Rodney said. "Unlike some people, I'm not invested in creating this unreachable hero persona! I get lonely for my cat sometimes! I do stupid stuff without thinking it through! This is perfectly normal behavioral patterns, as you would know if you had any interest in getting near someone with human emotional responses! --And no, of course I didn't tell Beckett, he told us not to do anything irrevocable."
John waved a hand vaguely. "So wish her away again."