Title: Hero for a New Age
Characters: Ronon Dex, Rodney McKay, Atlantis cast
Spoilers: Set between 4x03: Reunion and 4x07: Missing
Recipient: For liviapenn's prompt, "(2) Ronon/Rodney -- books, stories and legends" in the ronon_loveRonon Love Thing-a-Thon.
Summary: "Superman's the last of his kind, too," Ronon said quickly. “I'm going to try to get McKay to rig me up some heat vision so I can melt steel like Superman."
A/N: Endless thanks to wojelah for kicking me around two diners this weekend to get this done, and to reccea who stayed up far too late for either of us to make sure this was in English. Any remaining mistakes are entirely mine.
Hero for a New Age
It wasn't that Ronon was bored on Atlantis. He ran with Sheppard and ran alone. He trained Marines and got his ass kicked by Teyla. He taught scientists to shoot weapons and doctors tenshari, the art of escaping the grasp of an enemy. As a group, they were pretty clumsy, but every one of them showed up with a determined set to their chin. So Ronon didn't smile when they lost their balance, and told them that they worked hard and did well. He only said the first if it was the truth but he said the second no matter what. Each practice made them a little stronger, a little faster, a little more sure. Each practice gave them a better chance of surviving. Ronon didn't take it personally when they failed, but he knew Sheppard and McKay did.
The mess hall was always open, there was also someone to spar with or a movie to watch or a mission to go on, but after he carried Beckett's casket to Earth, after Weir sacrificed herself on the Replicator planet, after Tyre and Rakal and Ara had left him alone to be the last living person who knew what it meant to be Satedan, Ronon knew he wasn't just killing time anymore.
In the Army, he'd risen to the rank of Specialist. He stayed with the infantry, and chose ground-to-air warfare. He learned about the range and accuracy of triple-barrel shotguns, where to aim to destroy an entire Dart with one shot. He trained on grenade launchers, some carried on his back, some dragged behind on sledges.
Infantry skills were good on missions, targeting good for close-in battles. But when Ronon watched Carter hook McKay and Sheppard up to some machine to let Sheppard see McKay's dreams, he remembered standing on a balcony, watching the Asuran's laser beam beat down on the city shields and thinking about how useful that science stuff was when there was nothing to punch, stab, or shoot. And no one was better at science stuff than Rodney McKay.
McKay's lab was a weird place. Half the people were doing nothing, but doing it very intently. The other half were working very hard, but what they were doing, Ronon found completely incomprehensible.
Someone was drawing some Earth language all over a white board with a blue pen, but it wasn't anything Ronon recognized. He kept his distance from that guy and edged around the pretty dark-haired girl who was playing that sudoku game that Sheppard liked, to get to where McKay was shouting, "No, no, no, oh my god, do you even listen to me, that will never work!" to Zelenka, who resolutely kept on talking as if nothing McKay said mattered.
Ronon liked Zelenka so he crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall to wait until they got done their thing. It didn't take long - Zelenka stomped off muttering in his Earth language, and McKay went back to stabbing a stylus on his computer until Ronon ambled over and loomed over McKay's shoulder.
"What is it?" McKay asked, putting his computer down and moving away to look up at Ronon. "Oh, wait, did I forget to go to the gym for my weekly beatdown?"
"I had a question," Ronon said, pulling a stool up to McKay's worktable.
McKay looked up as Ronon settled in. "Make yourself at home," he said sarcastically and then returned to his project. "So? What do you want to know?"
"Who's better?" Ronon asked, because McKay was ignoring him again. "Mr. Fantastic or Batman?"
That got McKay's attention. "What? Well, that's like comparing apples and oranges. Batman, of course. I mean, Mr. Fantastic is a genius but so is Bruce Wayne and really, Bruce Wayne is the complete package and he's only human, no special powers to help him out. I must say, Sue Storm was a hottie, though, with that little blonde bob."
"Sheppard says Mr. Fantastic's better," Ronon interrupted, just to see how fast Rodney shifted back to Batman's side.
Instead, Rodney snapped his fingers and looked around the lab. "Hey!" he called. "Who reads Marvel around here? Someone's got Fantastic Four scans on the server, don't they?"
"Doctor Murray," someone called from the other side of the room.
"Great," Rodney said. "Look, you have a computer, right?"
"Yeah," Ronon said. He wasn't about to start wearing it on his back like Rodney did, but Sheppard had set him up two years ago and he kept up with the team emails, could find A-Team episodes on the common server, and beat Lorne at Halo 3, when Zelenka hacked the game and put it on the servers.
"I'm emailing you the filepath," McKay said, fingers flying over the keyboard. "I don't know what issues Murray has, but there's a separate Batman archive with issues as far back as Knightfall, and some of the standalones. Start with Year One, Death in the Family, the classics, okay?"
"How do I know which ones are the classics?" Ronon asked.
McKay didn't look as annoyed, as Ronon had thought he would. "Read the Fantastic Four first," he ordered. "Then start with Year One and then let me know and we'll see what's on there and what you should read next."
"Cool," Ronon said. It wasn't really what he was expecting. In some ways it was better.
Ronon went back to his room and found the email McKay had sent. It said, "Batman > Mr. Fantastic." and "/shared/media/comics/Murray/". There were folders called "Spiderman" and "Daredevil" and "Incredible Hulk" along with a half dozen others. He double-clicked on the first file in the Fantastic Four folder. A bright, busy picture filled the screen, cartoon faces and explosions warring for his attention. He resized the screen and settled in to read about Reed Richards and Ben Grimm, friends from a battle called World War II, and about Sue Storm and her little brother Johnny. By the time they went up in Reed's rocket ship and were bombarded by cosmic rays, Ronon's stomach was growling.
"I don't get it," he said when he put his tray down on the mess hall table next to Teyla.
"Don't get what?" Sheppard asked with his mouth full. It was spaghetti and meatballs day. Ronon liked the meatballs. He could take or leave the spaghetti.
"Why are you Mister Fantastic?" Ronon asked. "McKay's the scientist."
"Um," Sheppard said, stuffing a whole meatball into his mouth.
Teyla looked up from her meal and raised one eyebrow at John. "That is the story with the Invisible Woman?" she said, distaste evident.
"Mrm," Sheppard said.
"She's not really invisible," Ronon confided in Teyla. "It's her superpower. And she ends up marrying Mister Fantastic."
Sheppard choked on his oversized mouthful, then, and Ronon pounded him on the back, and in the end, never really got an answer to his question.
The next day was Sunday, and Ronon took his computer up to one of the balconies to read. He left his headset in his room because golf was a pretty stupid game and as much as he liked Sheppard, he'd also spent a lot of time alone before he'd come to Atlantis and sometimes all the people got to be too much. Ronon liked that they were there if he wanted them, he liked that they all made him feel normal again, but sometimes their strange Earth customs and constant talking were annoying.
Instead he read about Sue and Reed Richards and their son Franklin. He read about Alicia Masters, the blind sculptress and thought of Lorne who painted cityscapes and shot P-90s with equal skill. He read about Ben Grimm, transformed into the ultimate tough guy, who stared at Alicia’s statues and saw himself. He read about Ben and Johnny’s prank wars and thought of Chuck and Keller. He read about Galactus and about Reed in his lab for hours like McKay and Sue losing the baby she carried. He read about She-Hulk take Sue’s place on the team and laughing in a tangled heap with Reed as Sue huddled on the floor of Reed’s lab and sobbed with only Franklin to comfort her. He thought of Teyla and wondered who ever saw her cry.
When the suns started to sink behind the spires of the city, Ronon realized that his ass was numb and his eyes were bleary from spending most of the day staring at the screen.
"Uh, hey." McKay was standing in the doorway, looking uncertain. "Sorry. I - Sheppard said to let you know we're going to have movie night after dinner."
"Cool," Ronon said, standing up and stretching his arms over his head. It felt good to extend muscles that had been contracted all day. "What're we watching?"
"Spiderman 3, actually," McKay said.
"I know Spiderman. He and the Human Torch are friends," Ronon said, pleased. He wondered if Sheppard would think Zelenka was like Spiderman, or maybe Carson, before he died.
"Well, no," McKay said. "They're not really. I mean, the Human Torch thinks he is way cooler than Spiderman and seriously, if you want to break down the sheer applicability of their powers...."
"Yeah, they are," Ronon said because McKay sometimes wasn't all that smart about everything. He squatted down to close his computer and scoop it up. "Fantastic Four would make a great movie."
"Surprisingly, no," McKay said. "But Jessica Alba as a blonde is pretty hot and I hear the sequel was much worse."
"We should watch it," Ronon said, because even if the movie was bad, it would still be cool and Teyla could see how awesome Sue Storm really was. Sue made Ronon think of the legendary Task Master Lanyan Rao. He developed the arts of shariten, defense, and its sister discipline, tenshari, the escape techniques Ronon taught the scientists. It was said that when Rao brought opponents to their knees, trembling and broken before him, by using their own strength and aggression to exhaust and batter them.
"Okay," McKay said. "I know someone has it on the shared server. If you want, maybe we could talk Sheppard into watching that instead."
"Nah," Ronon said, as they made their way off the balcony and to the nearest transporter. His stomach was growling and he wanted dinner. "I want to finish the stories first. Which reminds me. Why is Sheppard Mister Fantastic?"
"What?" McKay said. "Did Sheppard tell you that?"
"He said he was the leader." Ronon liked stirring up McKay’s temper. It was fun to watch.
"Oh, there is so much more to Mister Fantastic than being the leader," McKay snapped. "What about the brilliant physicist? Would they even be the Fantastic Four without his scientific knowledge? Wait. If Sheppard was Mister Fantastic...who was I?"
McKay's outrage over Sheppard's casting of the team as the Fantastic Four lasted through dinner and movie night, and into the next day's mission.
"I mean, look at his hair!" McKay said as they tramped through an overgrown field. "If that's not the Human Torch - you've been reading them, right? Doesn't Sheppard just scream overgrown sidekick?"
"The Human Torch was not a sidekick," Sheppard said. "Robin was a sidekick. Kid Flash was a sidekick. Marvel didn't have sidekicks."
"Bucky Barnes was totally a sidekick," Rodney said smugly.
"Yeah, and he died before we were even born!" Sheppard shot back. "He didn't even get to come back to life."
"Actually, he did," McKay admitted. "I'm a little fuzzy on the details. Haven't kept up."
Ronon glanced over at Teyla to see if she was following the discussion. She rolled her eyes at him and he grinned back. Whenever someone talked of sidekicks, he thought of Topher Garhan, the orphan tagalong of Sunra Squadron, who who grew into the hero of Bascron Valley, where he drove the Wraith from Sateda and kept them away for three generations.
"Oh, hey, wait.” McKay stopped dead in his tracks and raised one hand. “Lady and gentlemen, we have...power readings.”
“How can you tell?” Ronon asked, peering over McKay’s shoulder.
“Lifesigns detector,” Sheppard said.
“Well, as adept as Lieutenant Ford was at naming things,” McKay said, waving his Ancient scanner vaguely at Ronon, “it’s more than just a lifesigns detector.”
“How’s it work?” Ronon asked, grabbing McKay’s wrist mid-air. He looked at the screen and saw four white-blue dots near the bottom of the screen and at the top edge, a green smudge. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Sheppard raise an eyebrow and Teyla sigh with a rueful smile.
“How does it - well, there’s energy transfer going on all the time. What the scanner does is measure how much energy is transferring over a unit of time - that’s power - and when more energy is transferring in one place relative to surrounding places - that’s what differentiates us - “ He tapped the white dots at the bottom of the screen. “- from something transferring power at a different rate - “ He tapped the top of the screen. “In short, that structure is making more power than we are, and we’re all making more power than the air and this grass is, just sitting here.”
“It’s not transferring energy,” Ronon said, tromping down some grass as he said so.
“It is, but very slowly,” McKay told him. McKay looked excited. He was smiling and his eyes were bright and he turned around so he could keep talking to Ronon. “Years, maybe, to transfer the same amount we do in seconds. I don’t know, plants are so...plant-like. Not worth thinking about. But whatever is giving off this reading has plenty of power.”
“ZPM power?” Ronon asked, because if there was one thing he did know about Ancient science, it was that you needed a ZPM if you were going to do anything big.
“Not, too big.” Rodney made a spreading motion with his hand. “Lots of energy, but it’s covering an area larger than we are, so it’s probably more spread out.”
It took another half hour to find the thing and another quarter hour to figure out what it was.
“It’s an air traffic control tower?” Sheppard asked with a lift of his eyebrow.
“More of a warning beacon,” McKay grumbled. They’d been unable to see the bright white light in the bright sunshine until they were in sight of the tower itself.
"Who were they warning off?” Sheppard asked.
“Or what danger were they warning of?” Teyla countered.
“I can’t believe a light house is giving off this much power,” McKay said. He checked the scanner again and shrugged.
“It’s been here a long time,” Sheppard said. “Think the Wraith got whoever was here?”
“They are not here any longer,” Teyla said. She looked around. “I see no signs that any civilization was ever here.”
Sheppard made a face. “Let’s pack it in, then,” he said. “McKay, any chance at getting at the power source for this thing?”
McKay shook his head. “It’s probably buried to protect it,” he said. “And anyway, we could probably generate the same amount of power by rigging a couple of Mark II naquadah generators together.”
They turned and tramped back toward the gate. Ronon hung back with McKay, who looked disappointed. “Macaroni beef night,” he said. It was one of McKay’s favorites.
“Well,” McKay said. “Thank goodness for small favors.”
“Want to watch Fantastic Four after that?” Ronon asked.
“Are you done?” McKay asked. “You said you wanted to read all the stories first.”
“There’s a lot of them,” Ronon admitted. “And you said that Sue Storm girl was hot.”
McKay was kind of right about the Fantastic Four movie. It sure wasn't Jaws or Alien. But it was fun to see Reed and Sue and Ben and Johnny all come to life on McKay's laptop screen. Ronon didn't know any of the actors, although McKay made sure to point out Jessica Alba who was definitely beautiful but not really Ronon's type.
McKay fell asleep right in the middle of the best part. Ronon wasn't about to turn off the movie so he let Rodney slump against him. Once he started to snore, though, Ronon pushed him over on his side, just like he did on missions. When the movie was over, Ronon closed the computer and lay down on his back next to Rodney and thought about heroes.
McKay was still passed out on Ronon's bed when Sheppard came by the next morning to go running.
"Is that McKay?" he asked when Ronon stepped into the hall.
"Yep," Ronon said, swinging his arms around to loosen up his shoulders.
"You didn't get him drunk, did you?" Sheppard asked.
Ronon chuckled and started out with an easy, loping gait. Behind him, Sheppard muttered something and started running. "I didn't get him drunk," Ronon told him when he'd caught up. "We were watching a movie and he just went down like a sack of trigoth."
"Trigoth?" Sheppard panted. "Which one is that?"
"The heavy one," Ronon reminded him. "McKay said it looks like little coffee beans but it he won't eat the bread it makes."
"Oh, that stuff," Sheppard said. "It's not exactly...light. If you know what I mean."
Ronon chuckled. He knew. No one on Sateda made bread out of trigoth. Trigoth was grain for fermenting into thick beer, or mixing with other grains for hearty traveling bread. He would have told them not to make bread out of plain trigoth but no one had asked and he hadn't volunteered the information. It was more fun to watch everyone try to chew it.
The air coming off the ocean was warm and crisp at the same time, like the macaso fruit Melena ate for lunch at the hospital and sliced into sweet pies at home. This was comfortable, the stretch of his muscles, air on his skin, instinct guiding his movements, his brain blissfully centered on one mantra. Harder, faster, harder, faster....
"So, uh, you and Rodney?" Sheppard said. His voice was a little strained but he was far from wheezing so Ronon picked up the pace, just a little, because if Sheppard had breath to gossip, he had breath to run faster.
"What?" Ronon asked. It wasn't like McKay had been naked or anything.
"Nothing. Just, when did you two start hanging out?"
"Don't worry," Ronon grunted. "I won't go running with anyone but you."
"Funny," Sheppard said, and then he stopped talking altogether because he was trying to keep up with Ronon.
Ronon was reading Fantastic Four while he ate lunch. Sheppard had everyone with the ATA gene out for jumper practice and it was pizza day, so Ronon figured he should get to the mess early. He'd done bantos katas with Teyla that morning and worked up a huge appetite. Teyla had claimed not to be hungry. Ronon hoped she wasn't sick. More likely she was going to hop a ride on one of the jumpers to go over to the mainland and visit the guy he'd seen her with last time. Kanaan, he thought. The guy who made Teyla smile like a little girl. Ronon thought maybe he should have a mug of ale with this guy and make sure he knew just who Teyla had watching her back .
"Hey! Mind if I sit down?" The guy who asked was wearing science blue and put his tray on Ronon's table anyway. "I'm Joe Murray," he said by way of introduction.
"Yeah." Ronon looked up from his screen. He recognized the name. "You're the guy who has all the Fantastic Four stories."
"Hey, yeah, Rodney said you were reading them. Listen, have you gotten to the Mark Waid issues?" Doctor Murray asked. He folded a piece of pizza in half and took a big bite off the end.
Ronon shook his head. "Which one is Mark Waid?" he asked.
"He's one of the writers," Murray said, sounding a lot like McKay. "You know where they start to renumber them? He starts with number 60, picks up after Adam Warren. Anyway, he totally reimagined Reed Richards. It's genius. You wouldn't believe how many people started reading because of him."
Ronon raised an eyebrow because Murray on Fantastic Four might be crazier than McKay on Batman. "Hey," he said. "Who do you think it more like Mister Fantastic? Sheppard or McKay?"
"See, that's not as easy a question as it sounds," Murray said. "Obviously, you think, brilliant scientist, makes grievous error and turns all his friends into well, superfreaks. That's definitely McKay. But Teyla is way too hot for McKay. And she's the Invisible Woman, right?"
"She's not invisible," Ronon pointed out, because Teyla wasn't there to do it herself.
"No, but Mark Waid said he thought she was the most powerful of all of them and I think he's right. I mean, Mister Fantastic is water, Thing is earth, Johnny is fire, and Sue is air, and in some of the later issues, man, if she just let loose, she could rule the world."
"You think?" Ronon asked, raising an eyebrow as he pulled the rind off an orange.
"Definitely," Murray said, finishing off his pizza. "Look at Franklin. He might have gotten his brains from Reed, but all that power is definitely Sue's."
"Yeah, blows you away, huh? Look, I have a briefing but let me know what you think of the Waid issues, okay?"
"Yeah. Hey. Thanks." Ronon nodded a goodbye to Murray and turned back to his computer. He closed the file he had been reading and scrolled down the file list until he found Fantastic Four #60.
The story was okay. Some guy was supposed to make the Fantastic Four famous - toys and comics and stuff Ronon didn't know anything about - because Mister Fantastic didn't get invited to some party for smart people. But then there were guys on the street making up songs about the Thing, and Ronon liked that. He didn't recognize their slang but he knew they thought Ben Grimm was da chim, which was a word Ronon had never heard the Earth people say, but it seemed to be a good thing, from context. He had gone to Earth once, with Beckett’s casket heavy on his shoulder. He thought maybe, if he ever got to go back, he’d like to see New York. He finally turned his attention back to the issue on his screen, where Reed Richards was alone for the first time, holding his baby daughter and telling her secrets he wouldn’t say to anyone else.
Once upon a time there was a genius who...
A very bright man who...
Once upon a time there was a very arrogant man who did something very stupid.
Without proper preparation or shielding, he took his friends through a wave of radiation that made them all something other than human. His guilt was unbearable...and deserved. These were the people he loved and he'd destroyed their lives. Thanks to him they were fated to be freaks...lab specimens...or worse...unless he changed that fate somehow.
Because maybe by turning his friends into celebrities...he could be forgiven for taking their normal lives away. Someday.
Ronon closed the computer and stared at the top. He thought about the stories Teyla had told him, about Sheppard killing The Keeper and waking up the Wraith fifty years too early. About the necklace he'd found in a cave on Athos, that brought the Wraith down on her people, and revealed his team's position for almost a dozen missions. He thought of Sheppard missing pizza day to teach the genebearers to fly the jumpers. In case of attack. In case he couldn't save them. He thought of Zulie Obishiku, who hadn't so much as run a mile her entire life and was a vegetarian because she loved animals too much to eat them and was terribly afraid of heights, and how she had gone up in a jumper to shoot away the asteroid field in their path two months ago, and how she was up in a jumper now, learning to be a combat pilot, just in case it was necessary.
Maybe Sheppard was Mister Fantastic after all.
"I finished Fantastic Four," Ronon said, pulling up a seat in Rodney's lab. "Ready to read Batman now."
"Really?" Rodney asked. "Oh, well, great. Let me see." He pressed a few buttons on his computer and a giant chart popped up. It was divided into many small blocks with very tiny print in each. "This is my own personal collection," he said by way of explanation, using buttons on the computer to scan down the list. It was ridiculous.
"You keep files?" Ronon asked. "Of all your books?"
"Of course," Rodney said. "Title, number, date, condition - you would not believe what some of my issues would be worth today if Jeanie hadn't cut them up to use as paper dolls - storyline, guest characters, the writer and artist, what rating I gave it, when I scanned it, the file size...."
McKay kept talking and Ronon stopped listening. Batman was starting to sound like more trouble than he was worth.
"Hey, uh," McKay said suddenly, interrupting his own discourse on his unified whatever of comic classification. "Looking through these reminds me that I haven't read them in a while. If you want, we could hook up a laptop to the projection screen and read some of them together. That way, if you have any questions, about characters or really, whatever, you can just ask me."
Ronon grinned. "Cool."
They covered a lot of ground that night - Year One, and The Long Halloween, and Batman Begins. (Which was a movie instead of a book and had about the best car of any movie Ronon had ever seen.) Ronon knew that a few of the comics were very old, their scanned pages already yellow and smudged and the dots of ink visible in the magnification of the projection screen. They were good stories, better than some of the later ones. There were good guys and bad guys and right and wrong and good guys were always right and always won. It was the way stories were on Sateda, boastful, and confident, and more often than not, too good to be true.
McKay was in charge of the order, making sure Ronon came to know Dick Grayson as Robin before introducing Jason Todd and Tim Drake. He showed Ronon The Killing Joke, and A Death in the Family, and A Lonely Place of Dying. People got hurt in those issues, and died, and later in Knightfall, Bane broke Batman's back. ("But he got better," McKay assured Ronon.)
McKay flashed through the violent images and stories more quickly than he did the mysteries. If Batman used clues and science and explained what he'd done to figure out the antidote to the Joker's poison, or the location of the Penguin's hideout, or the secrets behind the clues the Riddler left behind, Rodney stopped and studied each panel and pointed to the screen when he figured it out. After a while, Ronon started to play along, and it was a race to solve the puzzle before Batman.
People wandered in and out, sitting through part of Batman Begins or pausing to guess which storyline they were reading. Some of them had their own favorite Batman stories and wanted to tell Ronon about them. McKay tried to wave them away, but Ronon snatched the remote and let them talk as long as they wanted.
Colonel Carter was no Elizabeth Weir. Ronon watched her from one of the comfortable chairs in her office and wondered if she'd read comics. All the scientists seemed to, but she hadn't wandered by the projection room the night before. Maybe she didn't know, but Doctor Weir would have known. Doctor Weir would have stopped by and touched shoulders and nibbled on popcorn and hovered near the doorway, watching her people relax, before she took her leave. Ronon never thought he'd miss that.
"So Ronon and I were reading JLA: Year One, and while this really has nothing to do with that storyline, it made me think of another story in which Green Lantern - "
"McKay," Colonel Carter said. "Cut to the chase."
"What?" McKay asked. "You didn't read comic books when you were a kid?"
Privately, Ronon thought maybe that was Colonel Carter's problem, because when McKay had pointed to the screen and shouted, "Maybe it's a weapon!" Ronon knew exactly what he was talking about.
Colonel Carter just raised both eyebrows - she wasn't as scary about it as Doctor Weir, and Ronon suddenly had a feeling that if Sheppard was Mister Fantastic, then maybe Doctor Weir was Susan Storm - and said, "McKay?"
"Right, well, anyway, that thing, what, three or four missions back - "
"Six," Ronon supplied helpfully.
"Six - the thing Sheppard kept calling the Washington Monument, in an extremely American-centric sort of manner? On PXG-572? I think it might be a weapon."
"Do you have a reason to believe this?" Carter asked. "Or are you just hoping to use it to build your own JLA Watchtower?"
"Hello," McKay said in what Ronon recognized as his, why is the world stupid except me? voice. "How long have you been in this galaxy? Two weeks? Everything is a weapon here if you say, can't figure out how to turn it off and wind up starving yourself to death."
"Mmmhmm," Colonel Carter said and Ronon shifted uncomfortably. "What kind of manpower are you asking for?"
"Just me. My team. Maybe a half dozen people with the gene?"
Colonel Carter nodded, then looked at Ronon. "You up for a little scientist duty?"
"Always," Ronon told her.
"All right," Carter said. "The two of you have until noon tomorrow to report back on your findings."
"Noon to- what?"
"If you find evidence to support your theory," Carter said, "then we'll devote some more time and manpower to it."
"You saw the energy readings," McKay protested. "You know there's something down there. What if it's a ZPM factory?"
"Awesome," Ronon editorialized.
"Or," Carter countered, "it could be what you thought it was six missions ago - a shiny light to keep Darts from flying into it."
"If that's all it is, they wouldn't have built it in the first place," Rodney said.
Ronon didn't have a lot of love for babysitting scientists on missions - they tended to wander off and fall in holes, or pick up things that made them turn purple and bumpy - but he'd walked right into this one and now he was stuck with it.
"Do you have comics on your computer?" he asked McKay, who was squinting at the life signs indicator.
"Yes, but I'm using it," McKay snapped.
Ronon sighed. Maybe he should get a velcro pack for his own computer. "There's nobody here," he observed.
"Well, there might be," McKay said. "Someday. So be ready to save my life if they show up."
"I'll get right on that," Ronon shot back. He prowled around the tower, scowling at the grass for a while, but that got boring fast. "So this science thing," he said, circling back to where McKay was typing furiously into his computer "It's kind of like a superpower, huh?"
"Well...yes. Yes, it is." McKay paused for a moment. "It's really not. I mean, it's useful to be brilliant. But it's not cool like telekinesis or superstrength."
"Guess not." Ronon shrugged. Then he said, "So if you get to be Batman, does that make Sheppard Robin?"
"He wishes," McKay replied. "I guess Zelenka would be Robin. I am somewhat of a mentor to him."
Ronon coughed because he was pretty sure this would be news to Zelenka. "He's not Team," he said instead.
"In that case, you can be Robin," McKay offered. "Teyla can be Catwoman...."
"Catwoman isn't actually useful," Ronon reminded him. Teyla had refused to hear anything more about the Invisible Woman so he didn't think she'd want to be a thief who dressed up like a cat, either.
"But she's hot," McKay said absently.
"She'd kick your ass," Ronon said.
"I think she should be Black Canary," Ronon said. Black Canary had been in an issue of Batman and she was a detective and she could kick ass. Plus she walked into Batman's town and he didn't boot her out. Not everyone could get away with that. She was maybe even better than Ralla Tedor, who shot down three Wraith darts in the Battle of Gyrad before taking out half a hive ship with a grenade hidden in her boot.
"Yeah," McKay said. "Okay. That works."
"Sheppard can be Superman."
"Not in this lifetime," McKay returned.
"Not all on his own. Really, he's more like...Wonder Woman. With her invisible jet."
"Wonder Woman has an invisible jet?" Ronon mentally bumped Wonder Woman up his to-read list.
“So who was Ford?” Ronon asked. They were back in McKay's lab. After the seventh hour of playing Cast the DC Universe and Six Degrees of Black Canary - Ronon was great at that one because he'd just read approximately two hundred Justice League issues - Rodney had thrown the life signs detector at the tower in frustration and inadvertently revealed a door. There was a key of some sort, a jumble of small cubes that moved and twisted and made various shapes as McKay arranged it into first one design and then another, and another. Finally, Ronon dragged him back to Atlantis withe the thing cradled protectively in his arms, where Rodney won an argument with Sam to study it and then proceeded to set up a system where he turned one cube at a time and wrote down which one had failed to work.
Ronon's question made McKay look up. “Who was Ford?” he repeated. “You’ve met him. Well, the crazy him. He wasn’t always like that.”
“What was he like?” Ronon asked, even though he had just meant which character Ford would have been in their constructed comic book. He picked up a glowy rectangular box that was just sitting on McKay's lab table. “Did he do science stuff, too?”
“Ford? No. No.” McKay chuckled but it was pitched wrong to be funny. “Actually you probably would have liked him. He liked to blow things up. Grenades, flash-bangs, C-4...anything that made a loud noise, really.”
"That's science, isn't it?" Ronon asked.
"Well, yes, if you want to count applied mechanics...I suppose, in the end, it really is all about making a bigger bomb."
"I could do that."
McKay opened his mouth. He was going to say something rude, Ronon saw it written all over his face. But then he said, "Huh, you know, that might just - Sheppard has a problem holding on to explosives experts. Ford and Cadman and - " He stopped and his mouth pressed into an unhappy slant. "Is this because of Carson? Because seriously, there is no way to defuse an exploding tumor, believe me because I've spent enough time trying to figure that one out and you know, just forget it because I really don't need another friend blown up."
"Hey." McKay wouldn't look up so Ronon used both his hands to turn McKay by the shoulders. "I'm not gonna get blown up," he said. "I want to do the blowing up."
McKay rolled his eyes and Ronon took it as a sign he was okay. "Why does that not surprise me? All right, fine, if you're determined, at least l can make sure you don't blow yourself up out of ignorance."
Then he took the glowy box away from Ronon and talked about combustion and combining elements, and flashpoints and how, if you had enough action, your equal and opposite reaction would be as good as any bomb.
Ronon hadn't known so much thinking made you so tired. Rodney taught him about circles and blast radii and how shaped charges could blow down as well as up. Rodney taught him about triangles and how everything Ronon knew about ground-to-air missiles was based in math and that everything Rodney knew about math didn't mean he could shoot at and hit anything more than an arm's length away.
Sheppard watched from a distance with a cocked eyebrow and an endless supply of wry observations.
"Yes, thank you, that's enough from the peanut gallery," McKay said when he failed once more to hit a target the size of a Wraith dart.
"What's the peanut gallery?" Ronon asked, taking the weapon away from Rodney and sighting down his arm. He squeezed the trigger and a big splotch of green paint appeared on the tarp that was playing the part of the Wraith dart in their exercise. "You know," he added to Rodney, "they're usually moving."
"Yes, thank you," Rodney said, glaring. "The peanut gallery is the unwelcome audience that stands around being completely useless and making moronic comments."
Sheppard smiled and folded his arms. "It's nice to be appreciated."
"Batman's life sucks," Ronon announced.
"What?" McKay said, still intent on his work. "How can Batman's life suck? Have you seen the Batmobile? The Batcave? Catwoman?"
"But he doesn't really care any of it," Ronon said, hoisting himself up on McKay's workbench so he could kick his feet. "And he never really gets to hook up with Catwoman."
"Actually, on Earth 2 - well, never mind." McKay flapped a hand in Ronon's direction. "That doesn't exist anymore and there's no way I'm explaining Crisis to you."
Ronon shrugged. "Suit yourself," he said. "So that's it? Batman's your hero because he has a great car?"
"Also seven networked Cray computers, the Bat-Helicopter, the Bat-Plane, the Bat-Boat, and people who keep coming back, no matter how crazy he is."
Ronon thought about that and he thought about the people who had left him, who had walked away before they had died. "He must have loved his parents a lot, to keep doing that for them."
"Well, they loved him," Rodney said, "and also, did I mention the Bat-Grapple?"
"You know we're not going anywhere, right?" Ronon asked. "Me. Sheppard. Teyla. We're staying right here."
"What?" Rodney said. "I wasn't talking about me." He turned back to his computer but his face was flushed and he was typing so fast, Ronon could tell that some of the words on the screen weren't really words.
"I need a sandwich," Ronon said. "You wanna come to the mess?"
"No, no, you go on," Rodney said, waving Ronon away without looking at him. "Oh, but you could bring me something back, you know, if they have the roast beef ones, or if they're serving meatballs subs?"
"What do I look like?" Ronon asked. "Alfred?"
That made Rodney look up. "Not even a little bit," he said regretfully. "It's kind of a shame, isn't it? It would be nice if we had a lab butler."
Ronon shook his head and went to find out what the mess was serving for lunch. And if he happened to run across a meatball sub, he just might bring it back. Maybe.