The Gift of Music

by ljc

EMAIL: ljc

Begun May, 2010

Finished Oct., 2010

A fanfic for Stargate Atlantis 


Summary: A gift spurned? 

Complete. For General Audience. No warnings except that there are spoilers for some episodes, and a couple of mild swear words. Set late in the series. Most of the characters make an appearance (not Aiden, though). 

My thanks to Lyn. You're a wonderful beta reader. Thank you for taking on another 'project'. Any and all remaining errors are definitely mine. I did quite a bit of rewriting after Lyn beta'd it. Words, phrases, sentences, and whole scenes came and went. I tried to be good, Lyn, and I hope the changes make it a better read.  

Note:  Does anyone really know the speed of intra-galactic travel?  

Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis belong to Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Film Corporation. All other publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis or any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story was written by ljc with the love of the show in mind. 



Jeannie never thought of herself as being especially devious, but after Mer saved her life, after she'd seen where he'd been these last few years, after she'd  heard of the extraordinary exploits of her dear, thoughtless, arrogant, irritating, and unquestionably brilliant brother … well, she hatched a devious plan. It had to be devious to have a chance of success.  

Jeannie (McKay) Miller was a genius in her own right, but she knew that she absolutely needed help to pull it off.  She chose the best, Dr./Major Samantha Carter. It was still a lot of work even with Sam's help but after a long list of exchanged favors, and reams of paperwork, Stargate Command finally gave approval to send a piano to the City of Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy on a spaceship named Daedalus.  

In the meantime, she could only be grateful that her husband, Caleb, maintained his equable temper.  He took all their shenanigans in stride. He was the one that made sure their home ran smoothly, and Madison was fed and clothed during that time. Madison thought it was great fun and had to be sworn to giggling secrecy about the gift for Uncle Mer. 

Jeannie had thought long and hard about “the gift”. As hard as she worked to get it there, she knew the deception was probably pointless. Mer would see through it pretty quickly no matter what or how she did it. So, to make it even more devious, she didn't send it to him because Mer would totally ignore it if she did.  Mer was nothing if not stubborn, but she was a McKay, too.  

She remembered the day Meredith had been told that he was “technically perfect on the piano, but 'ah, the soul was missing'”.  He'd been devastated, but he'd held it all inside, and he thought no one saw the pain. She did but hadn't known how to fix it. Maybe now she did. She hoped this gift would make a difference for Mer.  

She was informed when delivery was made, but not a word about it came from Mer. The piano now sat in Atlantis' recreation room but was totally ignored by him. Jeannie knew this because she kept in touch with Lt. Colonel Sheppard, and others, but she never questioned anyone too deeply, afraid that Mer would hear about it. She was afraid that he'd cut off all communication if she pushed it … well, pushed it more than she already had. 

Well, she'd tried. If Rodney didn't want to play, then he wouldn't. But since it was a gift to all, he couldn't return it, only spurn it.  Which of course is exactly what he did.  She'd just have to wait and see if this 'carrot' tempted her 'donkey' of a brother into doing what he'd really like to do anyway. She'd just have to be patient and wait to see what happened. 


The Gift of Music 

One evening Lorne was on walkabout, as most of the Expedition members were wont to do at pretty regular intervals, just to check things out, make sure everything was okay in, on, and around Atlantis. The balconies were his usual destination as they were for many members of the expedition.  They were a life-line, a connection with the 'real' world, even if it wasn't Earth.   

This evening Lorne was in an exploratory mood, and he'd taken to walking the interior corridors.  His artist's eye was taking note of the many magnificent architectural details that graced Atlantis when he heard a noise. It was in an area near the heart of the city.  A hum that was almost subliminal because it was more felt than heard.  For something that he could almost convince himself was in his imagination, it was profoundly affecting. Atlantis was at it's mysterious best tonight, he thought.  

He turned unerringly to the next corridor which lighted as he approached.  He continued, pursuing that faint tone until he came to an area he knew well.  He wondered if a request to Atlantis through his ATA gene would reveal anything interesting. He involuntarily stepped back in surprise, as an area as large as the Chair room opened before him. There was no question that the hum was coming from here.   

The room lit up as he entered revealing staggered seating areas surrounding a slight dais.  It seemed obvious to him that it was an area designed for lectures or performances although it wouldn't seat many. It might be 'obvious' to him, but it wasn't healthy or safe to assume the Ancients that had built the city had the same idea for its use. 

He decided he'd better call in. He probably should have done that when he first heard the hum because this was an area that had been searched early in their days in Atlantis.  It was directly opposite the Chair Room but he didn't remember another opening off this hallway. That worried him because as part of his duties he'd studied the schematics of the city many times.   

He clicked on his mic to speak to Colonel Sheppard.  When Sheppard clicked on though, Lorne was once again surprised. He hesitated to speak at first because he was trying to reconcile what he heard in this room to what he heard from the mic. The program planned for tonight was already underway, and the pulse he'd just discovered 'here' was keeping perfect cadence with the evenings musical performance 'there'.   


John had answered Major Lorne's call softly and headed out of the rec room. When he reached the corridor and the Major hadn't answered right away, he spoke a little louder, “Sheppard here.  What's happening?” Sometimes a good shortcut question helped people get right to the point and cut down on unnecessary information. Too bad that didn't work with McKay.  

“It's Lorne, Sir.  I've found something interesting, Colonel.  Head down to the corridor outside the Chair Room. There's something you need to hear.  It doesn't seem to be a problem, at least not an obvious one.  Oh, and don't let them stop the performance in the rec room.  I don't know if it's connected but I'll let you decide.” 

John clicked off, and then clicked on for McKay, who had forgone the musical entertainment yet again and had disappeared after the evening meal to work in his lab.  “McKay, meet me near the Chair Room.  It seems that Lorne has found something interesting.” 

“On my way,” Rodney snapped tersely but with his usual display of pique. 

John glanced back to the program in progress and decided there was no stopping it short of an Alert Warning, so he didn't waste any more time getting to the Chair Room.  Even before he arrived he knew what Lorne was talking about.  It seemed to resonate in his bones.  He felt the urge to stop, listen, and just take it all in, but the urgency of an unknown variable, with no known outside cause, just pushed him faster. And since it was making him worried, it didn't make sense not to get another opinion. Just to be careful, he put in a quick call to Dr. Beckett to join them. 

John had just ended his call to the doc when he entered the hallway to the Chair Room. At the same time he saw McKay step out of the nearest transporter and into the corridor.  He was facing John but he came no further.  He appeared transfixed by the sound.  

“McKay?  … Rodney?” 

John walked slowly to Rodney's position at the end of the corridor.  “What's wrong?”  Because 'something' was wrong.  Rodney's face was intent and he'd lowered his laptop slowly, almost absently, down to his side.  As John reached him, he made an instinctual grab for the laptop, and sure enough, Rodney just seemed to let it go, as if it was of no importance. Now 'that' was not right.   

When Rodney took a step toward the room Lorne had found, John used his other hand to pull him to a stop. Giving him a little shake he asked sharply, “Rodney.  What's going on?” 

“Ah.  Well.  I came.  I heard.” He turned his head abruptly toward Sheppard. “You do hear that, don't you?” he asked urgently, as if suddenly afraid he was alone in this. 

“Well, I hear something.  It hasn't affected Lorne or me like it seems to affect you.  Tell me what's going on with you.” 

Rodney scrunched up his face and seemed to listen even more intently. “Well.  That's ... hmm … no overtones.” 

John waited in vain for more, because that answer was decidedly less than helpful.  It was also not the usual rate of discourse for Rodney McKay, whose penchant for talking endlessly about the admittedly esoteric and extremely important scientific investigations he was undertaking was legend in two galaxies … and their lives usually depended on it.  For that very reason John had gotten in the habit of listening because it paid off, with the exception of Doranda. If he was honest, if that had worked out, their lives would be immeasurably better.  And safer.  And therefore, probably longer. 

So now he was worried.  He gently squeezed Rodney's arm and asked, “McKay, are you alright?  Is it hurting you?” 

It was at that point that Carson Beckett arrived and asked, “Is what hurting him?” 

John still had one hand on Rodney, and one holding the laptop, which left none to gesture with which was a little frustrating.  He nodded upward and shrugged a shoulder and said, “The … hum … music … whatever.  You hear it don't you?”


“Huh?  Oh, yes.  That I do.  That's strange.” 

That didn't instill confidence.  “What's strange, doc?” 

“Just, I feel it in ma' bones.  You too?” 

“Yeah.  Me too.  What about Rodney?  He's not talking.” 

“Well, that can't be good.  Rodney.  Do ya' hear me, lad?” 

Rodney shook his head quickly, as if to wake himself up, but growled, “Of course I hear you.  I was just concentrating.”  He brought his hand up and looked at it in confusion. He snapped, “Where's my laptop?” 

John smirked and held it in front of him, knowing it would be seized immediately.   

John tried to gain his attention. “Rodney?”  

“What!?” Rodney snapped. He already had half a dozen graphs that he'd enlarged and minimized, and looked like he was just getting started. 

“What were you concentrating on?  Is this … vibration … going to be a problem?  Is it dangerous medically?”  The last question was directed by John to the doctor, but Rodney hadn't been watching for visual cues. 

“No, no.  Not at this strength.  And the Ancients wouldn't have something broadcasting that would harm them physically.  So what were they trying to do this time?” 

“Well?” John tried encouragingly. 

“Well ... there are very small energy fluctuations showing up all over Atlantis.  It seems to connect 'this' room to the Chair Room, and the 'Gate Room.  It's directly connected to the ZedPMs!”  Rodney lost all concern for John and Carson, and Lorne, who had never ventured past the doorway into the corridor.  Instead Rodney was on the radio to Radek to send equipment and a team to his location with other teams searching the database and to start tracing the 'connections' for any unwelcome surprises. 

Lorne finally walked slowly out into the corridor and John clapped him on the shoulder.  “Well, it seems our work here is done, at least for the moment.  Come on doc, we might as well let McKay do his thing.” 

Beckett looked a little concerned, “I think I'll stay a while.  Make sure Rodney doesn't stir up some vibrations that are a little more detrimental to us mere humans.” 

“Okay, doc.  You're the medical officer.  Let us know if something comes up that might pose a problem, even if Rodney doesn't think so now.”


“Oh, aye.  That I will.” 

Rodney looked up at that, stilling the furious typing on his laptop.  “I said it wasn't dangerous.  I know what the parameters are.  I'll keep you informed.” 

The Doc glanced at Sheppard then said, “Rodney, lad.  'I' know that.  Allow me to indulge my own curiosity will 'ya now?” 

“Oh.  Alright.  If you must.” 

“Let me see …,” 

“I'm still configuring …,” 

“I know that!  I just want to see,” Carson said in frustration. 

John had to stifle a smirk at the bickering between the two old friends. “Ah! Rodney. Doc. Keep it civil, and keep me informed. I'll send some marines down to keep watch over you.” With that John stepped into the transporter with Lorne to head back to the rec room.   

Rodney spared a moment to glare at Sheppard, and John got to smirk back at him as he tapped the transporter panel.  

Sheppard and Lorne continued to the rec room where the performance continued for another half hour.  After it ended John and Evan were leaving with Teyla who seemed to have enjoyed tonight's performance.  She was usually quietly enthusiastic about the programs, although she did seem more thoughtful whenever 'heavy metal' was being played. 

The radio clicked for John and before he could answer, Rodney rushed to ask, “When did the performance stop?” 

John didn't waste his breath to ask why he wanted to know, “Just about two minutes ago.” 

“That would be right.” 

“Rodney?  McKay?” John sighed in frustration. “Come on Lorne.  Let's see what's going on.” 

Rodney and Radek were intent on their respective laptops when they entered.  Various scientists were sprawled under consoles that had previously been hidden behind panels while the babble of a half dozen heavily accented voices were rising and falling in decibels that had to be harmful to the human ear.  John wondered idly if Beckett had ever checked that out. 

Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne stood at the doorway taking it all in for a moment before John heaved a sigh and entered the fray.   

“Alright, McKay.  What's up?” 

Rodney looked indignant, “Well, I could give you the short story, or do you expect the long one that we haven't had time to figure out yet, and which has generated more questions than answers?” 

John lifted one eyebrow slowly. 

Rodney sighed disgustedly, “Oh, alright then.  Here's what we 'know' ... the humming stopped when the performance stopped, and that's about it.  Was the music the cause? One of the causes? We simply don't know for certain. You know the rest, and any more is just speculation.” 

“Got any 'good' speculation?” 

“You want me to guess?!” 

John drawled, “Yeah.  Guess.” 

Rodney's mouth thinned and he crossed his arms.  “All right.  You're aware that there are connections that make this room interconnected with the Chair Room, 'Gate Room, and the ZedPMs … so my 'guess' is that there's a reason ... Unfortunately I don't have a good 'guess' as to 'what the reason might be' or 'how it affects any of those areas or us'.  Is that of any help, Colonel?” 

“Well, no.  Not really.” 

“What I'd like to know is, if it started when I think it did, 'why' did it?” 

Sheppard looked like he had to think through that statement before he asked,  “You mean, it didn't start with the performance tonight? That could be useful information, McKay.” 

Rodney looked disgusted. “But it still doesn't tell us why it's connected the way it is. I've checked the readings all the way back to our arrival.  I thought that maybe it's been going on for a long time and we just never noticed.  I'd like to know what set it off tonight so that Major Lorne heard it. Was he … or his ATA gene ... just in the right place at the right time? Did he somehow activate it? But that doesn't make much sense because it stopped approximately when the performance stopped, not when he left the area.”  

Rodney seemed ever more frustrated as he continued. “Unfortunately we've all learned the hard way that sometimes it isn't easy to 'turn off' Ancient tech once initialized. So … why isn't it working 'now'?”  

Rodney gestured wildly as he spoke ever more sharply, “Then there are the energy spikes themselves. They can barely be called 'spikes'.  They're barely above the norm.  They were easy enough to find in the records when I went looking for them, so why were they overlooked? Someone should have been looking hard enough to notice before today.” 

Sheppard knew McKay's frustration wasn't only with the situation, or even with his 'minions'. It was with himself, too. “You mean, no one was watching as closely as you'd have been watching?  As it is, I never see you sleep unless you pass out on your laptop.” 

“I don't ...” 

“Ah, ah, ah!  You did.” 

Rodney sighed in dignified self-control.  “Once.  It was a difficult time.” 

John smirked knowingly. “Yeah, for everyone.  I remember waking you up once. I thought you'd invented a strange new computer code from what was visible on your screen.” 

Rodney sniffed disgustedly. He glared at the science team members that had stopped to listen, and said loud enough for everyone present to hear, “My people sleep when I tell them to, Colonel.” Turning to Sheppard, he said, “Now, if you don't mind, I'll 'carry on' as requested.” 

John could see the looks McKay was getting behind his back, and he had to bite back a grin. His 'minions' seemed to have their own thoughts about being allowed to sleep when the Chief Science Officer saw fit. “Well, this room has been here longer than we have, a few more hours won't hurt.” 

“Sleep is highly overrated. Do you understand that we don't know how the spikes are generated? What they're for? Can they possibly be detrimental to Atlantis, or to us? If we change one parameter, what will the effects be? ….” 

“And you're going to find all that out tonight?” 

Rodney deflated tiredly. “Well, probably not.” 

John snorted softly, and Rodney's crooked smile made a short lived appearance.  “Just … delegate something, Rodney. I'll see you in the morning.” 

John stifled a yawn as he turned toward the transporter and his own too few hours of sleep. 


The next morning John ran with Ronon, ate breakfast with Teyla and Toren, and met with Dr. Weir for a staff meeting and gave a brief update on the latest discovery/mystery, since Rodney seemed to be 'missing-in-action' this morning.  She found the information about the 'Performance Room' interesting, but since it had raised more questions than it answered John knew she'd show up there sometime before lunch, so he definitely had to beat her there and make sure the research was coming along smoothly.  Not that Rodney wasn't efficient, but he'd bet the next batch of chocolate chip muffins that Rodney hadn't slept a wink and was now browbeating his minions.   

When John arrived, he let himself stand back for a moment to enjoy the show.  Rodney was directing placement of chairs and instruments on the dais like an orchestral conductor.  It was hilarious.  His hair was worse than his own cowlick-laden mess, and he wielded his pen like a baton. John bit back a grin, gave an unconscious and ineffectual swipe at his own unruly hair, and finally stepped forward.  

“No,nonono.  Put the violins in the left front section.  Then the cello there, and the clarinets there.  The tympani goes there!  I thought you played in a chamber orchestra!  You should know the basic layout!  Out.  Out.  Go find your instrument.  Hurry up people!” 

“Hey, Rodney.” 

“What!  Oh, Colonel.  I'm kind of busy right now.” 

“Didn't you forget something?” 

Rodney stopped in mid-wave of his 'baton'.  “What? Oh. Staff meeting. Sorry about that but I was busy!” 

“Well, yes, I can see.  If you'd like to know, Weir is interested.  I'm sure she'll show up sometime soon.  You can explain your absence to her. Wasn't there something else you forgot?” 

Rodney looked frustrated, “It can't be a mission briefing!  It isn't for two days.” 

“You're right. It isn't a mission briefing, although we might end up postponing it anyway because of new developments here.” 

“Alright.  I don't have more time to waste.  Just tell me.” 

John sighed in exasperation. He didn't really have to ask, but he was trying to make a point. “Just how long did you sleep last night?” 

“I didn't sleep.  You really didn't expect me to, did you?  You should know me better than that by now, especially since I have a plan to find out what this does.” 

“You do? Okay. How?” 

“The only pertinent data we've come up with showed that the energy signature departed from normal when music was played in the rec room.  So … we'll … play something.” 

“And see what happens? Right here? In 'this' Room?” 

“Well, yes.  Of course.” 

“But you don't know what will happen.  Right?” 

“Well, no.  This would be a test, of a valid hypothesis. If we can induce a change in the energy signature while in this Room, we'll have advanced our knowledge considerably. We have some basic readings to build on ….” 

“Rodney ...” 

Rodney jumped in and cut him off. “Colonel, we have to start somewhere.  You know how hopeless the database is.  As advanced as the Ancients were, couldn't they leave an Index or Table of Contents, or maybe a Search Engine that works?  We haven't found anything that makes sense, but we know now that it reacted to music.  At least … we think it reacted to the music.  Maybe it was something else, but I think it had to be the music, and there is a general consensus on that by the way. We think that the piano might have been the initializing agent since the spikes have only been recorded since it arrived, and they were smaller when only the other instruments were played.  We're just not sure of all the variables that may have been involved yet.”  He stepped down from his impromptu conductor's platform and said, “Therefore, the next step would be ...” 

Sheppard felt exasperated. He stepped down from the dais and away from anyone that could eavesdrop, and pulled McKay with him. John wanted a little privacy for his next words. He spoke softly, but firmly, trying to make Rodney realize how serious this step could be. “Rodney. You do understand that this would put the whole orchestra in jeopardy!  Sound vibrations can kill at the wrong frequencies, Rodney.” 

“The Ancients built this. They wouldn't build something that would kill them would they?” 

John felt cold fury build in his chest. He fought to regain control and breathed deeply. When he could speak once again, he almost lost control despite his best intentions. “Rodney, think about what you just said!” John took a firm grip on his emotions and asked quietly, “Do you really have to ask that question?  A lot of their projects and experiments could, and have been, extremely detrimental to us!” 

“Well … yes.  But they weren't … usually … built into the structure of Atlantis and connected to all the best parts!  That isn't something I see them doing.” 

“Maybe not on purpose. But what if it was on purpose? Have you figured out what they were planning? What all these connections were for?” 

Rodney was obviously frustrated. “Look, we've tried single notes, increasing the decibel level, and played a few single instruments. The results, if you can call them that, were negligible.  This is the next step. I'm not going to have the full orchestra play right at the start!” 

John sighed deeply.  He knew that at some point they'd probably have to try it, but had they exhausted all the alternatives? Would Rodney admit it if he hadn't?  Since Doranda, he was still a little on edge about Rodney's decisions. John had been truly angry with him because mistakes had been made.  A man had died. John felt that experimenting with “all the best parts” of Atlantis, and all at once, was too risky.  

He suddenly wondered if his own mistakes made everyone else nervous, because even in his own mind they outweighed Rodney's several times over. But slowing this down to make a risk assessment seemed to be the prudent thing to do. Sometimes he hated being the CMO. And he really hated being at odds with the CSO. 

“Okay, but ...” 

Rodney's shoulders drooped and his expression became closed off. 

“Rodney,” he said softly, so the others wouldn't hear, “you haven't slept. You haven't kept the command staff up to date with what you've already accomplished. Look, your people can finish setting up, and I'll call a staff meeting in an hour so you can lay out the pros and cons.  Tell Elizabeth the steps you've taken and what needs to be done next.  She won't like it if you keep her in the dark about this.” 

“Fine,” Rodney snapped. 

“Rodney?  You said it's wired into the structure of Atlantis.  This is big.  And it's risky …” 

“And you don't trust me.” 

“I do trust you.”  John slowly glanced around at the busy figures of Rodney's scientists.  “But it's not just about me or you this time, and Atlantis is our home. Their home, too.” 

Rodney slumped even further and John didn't know if he was just tired, or if what he'd just said had been the cause.   

“Staff meeting. One hour. I'll be there, Colonel.” With that Rodney grabbed up his laptop and began typing furiously. 


Dr. Weir arrived last, which was unusual.  “Sorry I'm a bit late.  I understand we have a proposed test for the 'Performance Room'.  Dr. McKay emailed a list of the steps already taken and the avenues of research already pursued.  Has everyone else had a chance to at least look this over?”   

At everyone's nod, Elizabeth continued, “Good.  It seems very comprehensive, Dr. McKay. I can certainly understand your frustration with the project. The results of your research and tests haven't shown much progress, but it's been less than a day. Are there any other avenues that you would like to investigate before involving other expedition members in the investigation of this area?” 

Rodney hesitated only for a moment as he glanced at Sheppard.  “There is one that would endanger less personnel.”  Rodney seemed to consider it intently for a moment and said, “Yes, I think that would be a better approach, and would perhaps allow for more logical … but perhaps slower … progress.  Though it would take more time to set up, there's no impending crisis so I don't see any real need to rush this yet.  I think everyone … here on Atlantis … would feel better if another avenue was investigated first, and trials were advanced in smaller steps.  I don't want anyone else … I don't want anyone else injured, or killed.”  This was delivered with a nervous shuffle of papers, and reluctance to meet anyone's eyes. 

“What would that involve, Rodney?” John asked gently, knowing how Rodney felt about the truly devastating result of their investigation into the Ancients' Project Arcturus. 

Rodney fidgeted uncomfortably for a moment more before hesitantly admitting, “It would involve moving the ... piano.  It has the natural harmonics to replace a handful of instruments.  My thinking, at least in part, was that it was a lot easier to move the individual instruments.  Another reason was the 'possibility' that the piano was the initializing agent.  But a piano can be played one note at a time and that's exactly where we'll begin. You're right, Sheppard. We don't know enough to just jump in with the whole - or even part - of the orchestra. The piano risks only one person. In the early stages at least, that person could be a member of the science team. He or she wouldn't have to be able to play the piano, just be able to play one or two notes as required for the tests. I'll see to having it moved if that's acceptable.” 

“I think that sounds like an intermediate step that I can approve,” said Elizabeth thoughtfully. She took a moment to clasp her hands before her before continuing. “I'd really like to be present, but I won't be free until tomorrow morning. Will that give you time to set up?” 

John cleared his throat, “Dr. Weir, maybe that's not such a good idea. You're the head of the expedition. Maybe you should stay away from the testing area, at least at first. Major Lorne, as my 2IC, will be stationed in the Control Room. Perhaps you could join him for the beginning of testing.”  Elizabeth sighed but nodded easy acceptance.  

He grinned much more easily when he turned to Rodney. “But moving the piano shouldn't be a problem. I'm sure a few marines would love to help with that, McKay. I can add it to the schedule for first thing in the morning.”  

Rodney sniffed, “Yes, I'm sure,” knowing the groans that would result from that order, but he managed a glance at John, recognizing that he and Elizabeth had more-or-less gracefully maneuvered Rodney into delaying long enough for everyone on his team to be well rested. He really could use the time … and a few hours sleep, too. This wasn't a crisis, after all. They had the luxury of time. 


Most of the clutter from all the individual instruments was cleared from the immediate area. From Rodney's revised outline of the steps necessary for the tests, it would be some time before the instruments would be of any use.  When the marines finally placed the piano to Dr. McKay's exacting specifications, Rodney wasted no time burying himself in his laptop calculations. 

John thought Rodney would have been surprised by the abbreviated salutes the marines executed as they passed the Chief Science Officer.  John wasn't though.  He nodded casually to them as they left.  They respected McKay.  He was one of the few scientists that went offworld, and his griping and whining were as legendary as his Hail Mary last minute saves.  He'd seen their respect grow with every new crisis as they threw themselves in harms way to protect McKay and his science crew until they came through with an answer that would hold off the Wraith or some other disaster just one more time.  He wondered if Rodney had any clue that they'd follow him into hell, or just go there, if he said it had to be done. He thought Rodney would be appalled at the responsibility that unknowingly rested on his shoulders. 

Rodney finally looked up and around at the placement, had a last huddle with Radek, and then ordered everyone out of the Room that was nonessential, and that still left a good number.   

John, of course, headed for Rodney.  “Ready for the dress rehearsal?” he quipped. 

“As ready as we'll ever be.  Let's hope this works.” 

“Okay, who's going to be the soloist on this watch?” 

“Well, I haven't played since I was twelve, but I think I can remember enough to get this started.” 

“Really?  I tried to get you to play.  Why haven't you before?” 

“Did you hear me?  I haven't played since I was twelve!  That might be the reason.” 

“Huh.  Were you any good?” 

Rodney's eyes bugged out and he began to splutter, “I was technically perfect, I'll have you know!  I – I just had better things to spend my time on.  So I stopped.  Music was just a waste of time and effort when my real talents were in math and physics.” 

John nodded mock-sympathetically. 

“I was!” 

“Of course.” 

“You don't believe me!” 

“Not believe the great Dr. McKay?  That would just be, well, wrong.” 

Rodney visibly quelled his rising temper and John decided that a change of subject would be good.  “Well, Maestro, what's on the program for today?” 

Rodney seemed to dither before admitting, “Scales. Maybe we'll be able to progress to some simple two-note exercises.  I need to see the effect of a piano's harmony with the acoustics and how the room reacts to it.” 

“Okay. Just keep Elizabeth and me informed of anything out of the ordinary.” 

“The spikes have been minimal in all our tests. They were no worse than the night Major Lorne discovered the 'hum'.  Besides … do you know anything about harmonics?”  At John's questioning look Rodney sniffed disdainfully.  “Harmony and melody aren't just pitches and chords and their construction.  You must have heard of consonance and dissonance ...” 

John gave a shaky, “Well, yeah, maybe.” 

Rodney sighed and continued determinedly, “Many 'things' oscillate, that is, are composed of harmonics – like the human voice, a violin string, or – or a Cepheid variable star.*”  At John's blank look Rodney attempted a further explanation.  “Consonance and dissonance are defined by conventions, by culture.  You're aware of the huge variety of sound in human languages.  That's all part of our physical and neurological makeup.  Where someone from a Western culture would be disturbed by what we think of as dissonance and would try to moderate or resolve it musically, someone in another culture, Indonesian being just one example*, would appreciate that dissonance and try to incorporate it.”  At this point John was starting to look a little less lost, and Rodney seemed to take that for 'enough'.  “So, okay, this little experiment will start simply and we'll see what reaction we get.  Later we'll move to two and three note combinations and see what it takes to make the room appreciate the music, and hopefully not hate it.  Then we can work on finding out why it's connected in the way it is to Atlantis.  And what it's supposed to do with those connections.” 

John held up a finger, hoping to slow Rodney enough to insert his question.  When Rodney looked exasperated but did indeed stop, John asked, “Hate it?” 

“I don't know what the Ancients perceived as consonant or dissonant.  Part of this experiment is to find where they require resolution.”  Rodney admitted reluctantly, “Well.  You were right in a way.  Baby steps … just in case it hates it so much that it …” 

John rubbed his face with his hands and ordered, “Stop right there.  You 'have' planned for oh, say, the 'worst case scenario'?” 

Rodney looked insulted.  Rodney held up one of his own fingers and said, “Baby steps.  One note at a time.  Working s-l-o-w-l-y up to melody, harmony, consonance and dissonance.” 

John quickly added, “Okay, okay. Just checking. And what about 'just in case'....” 

Rodney grimaced and added, “I had them trace the connections and I have someone sitting at each cutoff switch, and I have the master cutoff programmed into my laptop.  So does Radek.” 

John looked relieved, “Good.  When do we start?” 

Rodney glanced around once again then clapped his hands together and seemed suddenly eager to get started. “We're ready to go. Sheppard, just … stand out of the way until we're sure things will go according to plan.” 

John counted silently to ten. Once he had control of his temper he moved away from the dais and all the open control panels.  

Rodney took the stage and seated himself.  He dragged his fingertips gently over the keys never making a sound, and then placed them in various chord positions as if reacquainting himself with the layout, again without a sound. 

John wondered what Rodney was thinking.  He looked oddly preoccupied, where just a moment before he'd been eager to get started. Maybe he was just remembering.  Whatever it was it was interrupted by Radek who had also been watching the little silent performance. 

“Yes, Rodney.  We know you were technically perfect when you were child.  But play something, already.  Scales will undoubtedly still be within your skill level, even after so many, many years.” 

Rodney glowered at him but finally placed one finger to the keys, at middle C and hesitated ever so briefly.  “Radek, aren't you supposed to be in the Control Room.  You have the second master cutoff.  Go, go.” 

John was staying, of course, as was a crew of scientists at the various control panels.  Some things they couldn't do 'long distance'.  John wondered what they would be watching for. 

As Radek headed for the door, Rodney glanced around quickly to make sure everyone was where they were supposed to be and gave some last orders, “Just remember people, 'I' touch the keys, you 'do not touch anything' unless I tell you to, or unless there's, you know, an explosion or something … and then you only touch something if I'm unconscious and Radek tells you to.” 

John shoved his hands into his pockets and clenched them. Outwardly calm, he had to remind himself to breathe. 

Radek turned in the doorway and just blinked in surprise and said, “Thank you for vote of confidence, Rodney, but 'I' am not the musician here.  I think this is 'your' show today.  Please, no explosions.” 

Rodney still sat stiffly at the piano.  He had several laptops on the piano top showing various graphs waiting for the information to flow.  Even though someone was assigned to watch every 'wiggle' on the graph, he seemed intent, as usual, on keeping his own watch on the readings and energy spikes and anything else that might result.  He clicked on his mic and notified Dr. Weir, the Chair Room, the 'Gate Room, and also the ZPM room.  They all reported they were ready for the next step, so it was now up to Rodney.  He clicked on his mic and gave a general warning to the whole of Atlantis that the current experiment would be under way in one minute. 

He checked in quickly with the science teams at the remote sites and then he began slowly, with one note.  Readings were noted, 'things' were recalibrated, scientists offered ideas and advice, and a second note was played.  And that's the way it went, and it continued that way for h-o-u-r-s.  Rodney was so very thorough that even his scientists seemed on the verge of catatonia.  John finally decided he would leave the test in Lorne's capable hands. He ordered the Major out of the Control Room and left early in the third hour, but the others weren't so lucky.   

At the next day's staff meeting, Rodney was happy to report that single notes had posed no problem.  Minor spikes had been noted, but it was still unknown if these would pose problems later, or if they were signs of positive results.  The hum noticed in the hallways seemed softer but clearer, cleaner.  Rodney's hypothesis was that it was a result of the single-note-only test.  Atlantis' Performance Room appeared to like Rodney's 'test'.  The morning staff meeting ended on a happy note, and Rodney returned to the 'Room' to step up the testing for two note combinations. 

John thought, //Oh, joy!// and glanced guiltily toward Lorne. 

Lorne sighed deeply and said, “I'll, uh, head to the Performance Room, Sir.”  

John nodded quickly to Lorne as he left, pretending not to see the withering glance that followed him.  John did make an appearance that morning, but he didn't wait long before bailing on the experiment once again. 

It wasn't until after lunch break that a strong vibration rattled the Control Tower. 

John clutched at several stacks of papers that headed toward the edge of his desk.  He waited a beat and as the vibration settled to a quick stop, he reached for his mic. “Rodney?” John asked as he ran for the transporter. 

“Yes, yes.  I know.  I have it under control.”


“You stopped the experiment? That caused the shaking?” 

“Yes.  I said I have it under control.” 

“On my way.” 

“Oh, right, because I couldn't possibly know enough to turn-the-thing-off!” 

John entered right on cue.  “Of course you'd turn it off, although I wasn't absolutely sure you 'could' turn it off even if you wanted to.  But then, you'll turn it on again, too.  Right?  You know, I'd kind of like to be here for that.” 

Radek entered, while typing furiously on his laptop and didn't stop even while talking, “Are you going to tell him?  Tell him!”  He glanced quickly to Rodney, while still typing, “The energy signature is incredible.  This must be the reason it is connected to the ZPM and the Chair Room!”  He returned to his laptop, punched a couple more keys, picked it up and ran to the nearest open control panel. 

“Something you need to tell me, McKay?” 

Rodney's eyes blazed with an incandescent awe.  “This – this, it's a magnifier!” 

“Of what?” 

“Energy potential.  It's all in the harmonics.  The frequencies converge at amplitudes we've never seen before.  Never guessed.” 

“That's good?” 

Rodney looked at John as if he felt sorry for him.  He said as if to a child, “Yes, John.  That's very good.  Very good indeed.” 

Elizabeth Weir raised a questioning eyebrow and asked from the doorway, “Perhaps a little explanation is in order, Dr. McKay.” 

Rodney sighed, but picked up his laptop and gestured for Colonel Sheppard to join them.  After bringing up files of experimental data, he put them in an order that seemed proper for this function.  He set the laptop on a convenient table in the seating area of the Performance Room and began.  “The two note tests revealed a nearly parallel degree of consonance and dissonance.  Meaning, what we humans think of as dissonant, Atlantis does, too.” 

John looked a little confused, “But do we like dissonance … or not?” 

“We still label it dissonance, even the cultures that like it.”  When John looked less confused, Rodney continued.  “Working from there, to three note combinations and beyond, you can see on this chart of energy usage and production that the peaks and valleys correspond to an increase in harmonic complexity … and … energy output.” 

John interrupted, “I thought you were only working on two note combinations today?” 

Rodney rocked back on his heels and glanced quickly to Dr. Weir before answering.  “Well, it was obvious from our observations of the patterns what was happening.  We took it a step farther.  That's all.  And it worked!” 

John said witheringly, “It 'shook' Atlantis.” 

Rodney looked only slightly chastened.  “Well, I think it was only the Control Tower.”  When he saw that John was going to interrupt he continued quickly, “And I know what I did wrong.  It won't happen again.  Look at this screen.”  Rodney paged quickly to the last screen.  “See the energy potential?  It's … incredible.  It's not nearly what Doranda's weapon could have produced, but I'm sure that it could boost energy output by at least 200%.  For a short time anyway.” 

“Ah.  I knew there had to be a 'but'.” 

“No.  Really!  It's a means of generating vast amounts of energy in a short time. I don't know yet if it could ever equal the creation of a new Zedpm, but this is incredible. The short time I mentioned would be because there is a limiting factor, which is the physical limits of the performer, or performers.  Also, the complexity of the sound depends on the depth of the musical production. Maybe that's why the Ancients didn't make much mention of it.  I mean, have you even seen an Ancient musical instrument?  It would make sense that they had them, but no pianos, no organs, nothing smaller either and they'd need many, or some - one - thing that creates complex harmonics.  Though they could be here and we don't know what they are.  I wonder why they didn't produce the complex harmonics with something like a synthesizer?  One multipurpose instrument wouldn't have to be large … well,  anyway ... I think the more instruments involved, the greater the harmonic complexity, and therefore the greater the energy differential.  It would be a geometric progression.  Forget 200%.  Think BiG!” 

“Rodney.  Where would all of this energy potential go?” 

“Well, to the Chair obviously if it was needed.  The Chair was built to direct energies produced by the ZedPM in the event of attack, and this room could augment the ZedPM.  It could increase the available energy by … well, maybe even exponential growth.” 

John looked worried, and he felt he had a right to be.  “One person is expected to control those energies?  Through the Chair?” 

Rodney looked pensive.  “That's my thought.  The research so far is still a little obscure on just what the effects would be.” 

“A little obscure?  How obscure?  I'm the one that usually sits in that Chair, or have you forgotten?  And how is the energy produced?  Can it be stored?  Can the ZPM handle it? If not, where?  How can we access it if it can be? If we use the energy produced, how long before we can build it up again? Can it augment the weapons systems that we have? How? To what extent?” 

Rodney sighed, “I – I'll … get back to you?” 

“You do that!” 

Research continued.  Rodney decided on his own, with no further argument, to return to the slow and careful progressions with which he'd begun.  Not without mounting boredom, but John respected boredom, embraced it, since it meant the Control Tower wasn't shaking. 


As testing continued, Atlantis' 'Gate teams didn't stay totally inactive, but only routine missions were approved. No first contacts were attempted. No previously unvisited sites were approved. Only missions to fulfill promised deliveries to or from already forged trading partners got the go ahead. 

At Colonel Sheppard's suggestion, Lorne's team invited a bored Ronon to join them.  They returned in good spirits from a harvesting mission. The fact that a Harvest Festival concluded the heavy work was a big plus. Ronon had a good time, and that meant that he wasn't running extra laps around Atlantis and dragging John with him. 

Teyla was happy to be able to include a group of Athosians on a mission with another SGA team. They had attended a market and trade fair well known to them, where old friendships were renewed. When they returned, Teyla's plans had been to visit the mainland settlement for a few days, but she unexpectedly left her people at the 'Jumper instead. After seeing them off, she sought out Sheppard. She found him in Elizabeth's office. 

“Colonel. Dr. Weir. I am glad to find you together. May I have a moment of your time?” 

Elizabeth smiled and gestured her to sit, “Of course. Would you like some coffee or tea? You must be tired after your trip. I understand you only just returned.” 

Teyla accepted a cup of the coffee they were drinking. “Yes, we had a wonderful visit,” she said wistfully. “Jonnah's children have grown almost to Jinto's height. Twins can be such a joy.” 

John grinned, “Not thinking of adding a brother or sister for Toren, are you?”  

Teyla hid her own grin, and tried to look seriously thoughtful. “Perhaps.” She had to chuckle at the somewhat startled looks on their faces. “ … But not soon! Do not worry yourselves.” But she sobered quickly. She had worries of her own, which she must now convey.  

John obviously read her well. He set his cup down and said quietly, “But there's something you do want to tell us.” 

Teyla leaned back, trying to relax. After all, did her news mean trouble or was it just a troubling aberration? She told them in detail all she had learned, both factual and rumor. What it added up to was an absence of 'known' Wraith attacks in more than a week. This lack of activity could be caused by any number of factors and wouldn't have normally caused worry, but there were also reports about the disappearance of several known groups of Wraith-worshippers. This was not information that rested easily in her mind, and she could tell it bothered both Elizabeth and John. What were the Wraith up to now? 

They discussed several more upcoming missions and what questions needed to be asked of their allies. They needed information, but for now their worries would have to await the results of their intelligence gathering. 


Pushing Teyla's news and new worries aside for now, John was diligent in following the tests undertaken by Rodney's staff.  It wasn't long before he discovered that he wasn't going to be allowed to pass off the test observation to Lorne forever.  Rodney announced at a staff meeting after the eleventh full day of tests, that he thought they should begin again, with John in the Chair … observing.  John's glare didn't dampen Lorne's smirk an iota.   

“And why would that be necessary, McKay?” John managed to ask calmly. 

Rodney seemed quite happy to explain and was obviously missing the byplay between the Chief Military Officer of Atlantis and his 2IC.  “Well, so far, everything we've done has been rather passive.  We've noted the Rooms reactions to the piano, and I'd like to note that we still haven't played massed instruments.  That could produce a whole order of magnitude of difference.  Remember that I mentioned geometric progression, well ...” 

“Okay.  We get it.” 

Rodney sniffed, “I'm sure you don't, but I'll move along.” 

“Yes, that would be good, McKay.” 

“We've had the connections in place … you know ... ZedPMs, 'Gate Room, Control Room, Chair Room … and although we've added to the energy stored … and yes that was a good question, Colonel.  We were able to trace connections to empty storage cells for unused energy not absorbed by the Zedpm's. That suggests that the potential energy output may be greater than I previously hypothesized.” 

“Rodney, let's get back to the point.” 

Rodney rolled his eyes and sighed.  “Of course.  The point.  We need to see how it reacts when everything is 'on'.”   

“You mean with me in the Chair.” 

Rodney looked uncomfortable for a moment, “More like … you in the Chair and being part of the … circuit.”  That brought a long moment of quiet shock in which Rodney once again wouldn't meet any eyes and shuffled paper that John was beginning to suspect he only brought with him for a diversion. 

John looked extremely calm when Rodney finally looked up.  But he was caught like a deer in headlights until John carefully cleared his throat and steepled his fingers, pressing until they were white.  Rodney was suddenly fixated on them. 

“Rodney.  Tomorrow, I'll be in the Chair.  You get one note.  Then we'll talk again.” 


The test was delayed until afternoon so that the two SGA teams that were out on missions could be recalled. Nonessential personnel would once again be on alert for the duration.  It was Colonel Sheppard that requested that the Athosians 'visit' Atlantis during the 'Alert Phase' … just in case.  John wasn't taking any chances. He remembered only too clearly what had happened when Dr. Beckett couldn't control the Chair in Antarctica, and he and General O'Neill had almost been killed by a wayward drone.  

But at last the science teams were in place and briefed. The ZPMs were brought online, the 'Gate controls were locked, with the Iris in place.  Rodney and Radek were in consultation with the Performance Room's teams until the last moment, when John entered from the corridor separating them from the Chair Room.   

He seemed confident enough.  He smiled, clapped his hands and rubbed them together and asked, “Ready, McKay?” 

Rodney glanced up and said, “As I'll ever be.” 

John's hands stilled.  “Couldn't you be a little more upbeat?” 

“Ha, ha.  Upbeat?” 

“I hoped it was appropriate,” John muttered darkly. 

Rodney headed for the piano bench, and John stepped across the corridor, where he found he had his own science team armed with their own set of laptops.  He hesitated just a beat and continued with a sigh.  He looked around the room, seeing nothing out of order.  Knowing he couldn't delay any longer he stepped up on the dais which he suddenly realized was similar to the one in the other Room.  He sat, and he called up diagnostics.  Everything seemed clear.  Nothing the science team had done was interfering with data flow.  He clicked on his mic, “McKay.  All set here.  Give me a heads up when you're ready to start.” 

Rodney clicked his mic, “Alright people.  Sheppard, your one note is coming. Counting down.  Three … Two … One … !”   

     Rodney pressed and held Middle C.  He held it because everything else that happened was unexpected, and well, even Rodney could be surprised.

     John was suddenly surrounded with multiple displays, most of which John had never seen before, and he frantically tried to sort them into something comprehensible.

     The ZPMs hum caused it's science team to back up several steps, and when nothing else happened there was a flurry of data swapping.

     The walls came down.  Literally.  The walls separating the Performance Room from the corridor and the Chair Room slid aside to open the two areas into one.

     Middle C rang through the hallways and towers of Atlantis like the purest, mellowest tubular bell that anyone present had ever heard. 

Then Rodney remembered to let go and everyone remembered to breathe, and then the hubbub grew to stupendous proportions.   

The science teams had enough data to keep them busy for, probably, months, and Rodney finally had enough data to extrapolate into areas others might never reach.  Finally he remembered Sheppard.    

He knew that even he couldn't shout over all the conversations taking place around him, so he stood and clicked on his mic.  “Sheppard.  You alive over there?” 

Lt. Colonel John Sheppard waved a hand vaguely in his direction.  “Don't bother me, McKay.  Can't you see I'm busy?” 

Rodney grinned crookedly in relief, “Ah, playing with your new toys, Colonel?”  

“To quote O'Neill, 'you betcha'.” 

“I got my one note.  Do you want to talk now?” 

Another wave followed by, “Later, McKay.”  Then he turned abruptly toward Rodney and said, “Didn't I hear Atlantis join in?” 

Rodney's grin widened. “Yeah.  Later, Sheppard.  Do another diagnostics.  Compare it to before.  Staff meeting tomorrow, unless something comes up before.” 

John's focus drifted to the displays and all Rodney got was another wave. 

But of course something came up ….. 

Alarms sounded throughout Atlantis before Rodney even had a chance to sit down. 

“Sheppard … What?” 

“On it.  Wraith.  Lots of them.  Hell, maybe ALL of them from the looks of these displays.”  

“What do you have?” 

“Well, you know our long range display?” 


“Well, did the Ancients ever get to that galaxy over … that way?” John waved to the left and down. 

“You're kidding.” 

“Nope. There are 'lots' of map displays that Atlantis is keeping 'filed' for me. McKay, I had a glimpse of a map of Ancient outposts that you'd swoon over! But those really aren't important right now. Wraith Hive ships are, so Atlantis is helpfully displaying those for me.” 

Rodney snapped impatiently, “Sheppard. The Wraith. Tell me you're kidding about 'all of them'.” 

“Ahh, Rodney ... I really don't think so. There's a display showing the Hives on the move. There's another display that shows the locations of Hives that have been destroyed by us … and a few others that must have died from 'natural causes' or breakdowns, whatever.  From the looks of the display, the Hive ships are either listed as destroyed or they're headed this way.... None are shown to be inactive in any other way than being outright dead or destroyed.” 

Elizabeth asked shakily, “But 'all' of them? Why are they coming here now?” 

Rodney interrupted, “Sheppard, trace back to their launch points, or the point where they turned toward Atlantis.  How long have they been traveling?” 

John flipped screens in a dizzying order, tracing ballistic arcs that all ended up aimed at Atlantis.  “Some have been traveling almost eleven days, others less. But all will rendezvous here in … a very short time!” 

Radek looked at Rodney in horror, “The first day.  The first note you played in Room.” 

“Yeah, eleven days ago they aimed at us.  Maybe 'that's' why the Ancients made no mention of it.  Maybe they gave it up as a very bad idea.  Magnifier ... and Beacon?” 

“More like 'target',” muttered Sheppard. “Sheppard to Major Lorne, What's the situation?” 

“Hive ships.  Multiple sightings.  Sir?  How can we detect them that far away?” 

“I think it just became possible … with Atlantis' help.” 

“Yes, Sir.  Orders?” 

“Dial out in case we have to evacuate.” 

More alarms sounded as the 'Gate started dialing on it's own.  Wraith tactics were predictable, but they hadn't moved fast enough even with the earlier warning.  There would be no dialing out for 38 minutes. That was immutable “Stargate Physics 101”.   

“When they get in range, raise the Shield.  I'll let you know if we come up with anything else.  Sheppard out.” 

Rodney stepped off the dais and hurried to the Chair.  He needed to speak to John, make him understand his idea.  If 'all' the Wraith were descending on them, they were dead without a new strategy … a new weapon.  He drew up beside John.  He could see displays of Shield parameters, and armaments, Puddlejumper readiness, drone charges, everything and more that they'd used in the past.  None of it would ever be enough against this large a threat.   

Rodney snapped his fingers, then grabbed John's arm.  He needed his full attention.  “Listen.  The Performance Room is a magnifier.  I – I'm not sure if we can coordinate something this soon, but if it works ...” 

John didn't stop, just snapped, “We're connected.  ZPM, 'Gate, Chair, Room.  What are you thinking?” 

“First, I was thinking about the Shields.   Wait, if the Wraith are too far away we still won't have enough energy to dump into them.  The Wraith will have to be closer.  A lot closer. We'll have to use the drones, too. They expect them anyway.  Did I mention super-charging the drones?”   

“No-o-o. They're energy weapons. Can they be over-filled? Full is full isn't it?” 

“Well, yes and no.  They carry as big a charge as they can, but there's a limit to how much we can drain the ZedPMs.  Sometimes it's been do-or-die time but the energy levels were pretty low then.  Atlantis is not suicidal.  It was designed to serve and protect its inhabitants but also itself.  It can't do any of that if it's destroyed, so it always holds something back.  See if you can get the 'old girl' to get ready to throw everything we make available.” 

“I'm on it.” 

“But honestly,” and Rodney glanced hurriedly at the displays, “that still won't be enough for this armada.  But if we can pick off some of them, and work to store power for the Shields while the rest of them get closer ....” 

“Then what?  Just hold them off?  Another siege?  Even the Ancients gave up on that eventually.  But if that's what we've got ...” 

“No. No.  Not a siege.  The Shield as weapon.  Hold it in close.  Let the Hive ships come in as close as possible while we build up the energy in the Zedpms and the extra storage units.  Release it quickly and direct everything to the Shield and enlarge it at the same time.” 

“Smash them on the Shield?  Like bugs on a windshield?” 

“Well ... crudely put, but yeah.” 

“I like it.  Now how do we do it?” 

Rodney thought for a long, long minute.  He nodded abruptly.  “Tell everyone to assemble, with instruments.” 

“I take it you've thought this idea out.” 

“Yes.  Of course.  Sheppard, get back to your screens.  I have to know how long before they're within firing range. I assume it's going to be less than 38 minutes.” 

John did as he was told, but had a few hundred questions he'd like answered before facing the Wraith yet again.  “McKay, we've never tried activating everything at the same time.” 

Rodney looked mock-surprised.  “Well, no.  We haven't.  You wouldn't let me work any faster!” he accused. 

“Then this is going to be one hell of a test.” 

Rodney grimly nodded assent before turning hurriedly away.  When he sat at the piano he clicked on his mic.  “Sheppard, how long?” 

“Jeez, Rodney, give me a minute at least.” 

Rodney wondered sarcastically, “So … we have a minute to spare.” 

“Well, no.  On my mark, eighteen minutes.  Mark” 

“Eighteen! ... Damn.”   

Rodney and John locked gazes and then turned to their tasks. 

Rodney raised his hands to the keys and froze.  He shook out his hands, trying to relieve the stress that made his nimble fingers momentarily immovable.  Everyone watched as Rodney seemed to hesitate before moving his hands jerkily to the keyboard once again.  He began playing the two note combinations that had been step two of his experiment and stopped abruptly.  He looked around as if hoping for inspiration.   

Rodney licked his lips and raised his hands once again, but Radek yelled out, “Wait.”  He ran up on the dais, leaned in close, and whispered in Rodney's ear.  Rodney shook his head vigorously in the negative.  Radek shook his head slowly in the positive.  Rodney took a deep breath and gave one nod in assent.   

John wondered about the near instant consensus, as Radek and everyone else went scrambling to parts unknown.  Rodney never gave in that fast on anything.  Then slowly he heard Rodney begin a melody with one finger as he tapped his mic. He left it on for the duration. His hands were going to be busy.  “Come on people.  This has to work and I hate to admit it but I can't do this alone.” 

Rodney's one-finger melody increased to his full hand, then two.  Never breaking rhythm, never varying loudness, almost robotically repeating measure after measure.  Over and over the notes of “Bolero” repeated mechanically. 

John's interface with the Chair became clearer.  Diagnostics windows floated in his field of view, some rotating in sequence on one side and others flashing in and out of view as needed, some without his direction.  Atlantis was helping.  That was reassuring.  Scary, yet reassuring.  Still, John listened as the notes repeated seamlessly.  “Hey, McKay!  Bolero?” He was so surprised that his voice actually squeaked on it.   

Rodney could see John clearly in the Chair across the wide open space.  Since they were basically alone and waiting for others to arrive he might as well explain.  “Well, we've been discussing the results of the piano tests, and Atlantis seems quite happy … extremely happy ... with crescendos, and mechanical, almost robotic repetitions.  I had suggested “Bolero” and everyone was oh so mocking!  But you saw their reaction just now.  Radek said to do it, and really, it's better than scales.  Are you even listening?” 

John said tersely, “A bit busy here McKay!  But yes.  I'm listening.” 

“Well, I'm a bit busy, too, if you hadn't noticed.” 

“But Bolero?  That's hardly mechanical or robotic.” 

“Oh, I know what you're thinking.  It was written for a ballet, and the interpretation of it was very sensual.  But that wasn't Ravel's description.  His stage design included a factory in the background.  He was absolutely fascinated with automation.  So I'm going with 'mechanical'.”   

“If you say so.  So, what next?” 

“Right now I'm trying to plan this out so we produce the power we need, hopefully when we need it, and where … but that part, I'm sure, is your problem, Colonel.” 

“Yeah.  Thanks. I'm over here trying to figure out how to direct it where we need it, and when.”   

“Colonel, how much time left before they're in range for attack?” 

John flipped more screens around in the air, “The calculations make it a little more than fifteen minutes.” 

“Okay, the plan for the score of Bolero is about 15-17 minutes depending on who's conducting, and their thoughts on the subject.  I'll have to speed up the pace once everyone gets here and see how long we can hold it together.” 

Radek had entered during Rodney's discourse and he hurriedly sat in a seat in the first violin section, setting his laptop on a stand, one of many scattered among the chairs waiting and ready for further musical experiments. 

Radek picked up his violin and sat to view the laptop, and announced to Rodney, “Orchestration has been downloaded to everyone's laptop.” 

Rodney looked relieved, but growled, “Yes, yes.  Are you going to play or not?” 

Radek grinned smugly, “Am ready when you command, Maestro.” 

“Right now we're in a kind of holding pattern.  I'm waiting for more players and just keeping the melody and rhythm holding.  Just be ready.  It won't be long.” 

“I knew you would be ready.  It is what you argued for.  You 'are' genius.  You have it all in your head.  I know.” 

“It was my idea.  I was ready to take it to this step days ago.  But I thought you didn't agree on Bolero.  Why did you have the orchestration ready?” 

“Because after much thought … and much heated discussion when you were not in lab – which was not often – we finally agreed.  It took a while to dismiss preconceived idea of previously seen presentations.” 

“After much discussion ...” 

“... much 'heated' discussion.” 

“Hmph.  After much heated discussion you decided I was right?  Ha!  Took you long enough.” 

“Well, images of a beautiful flamenco dancer ...” 

“Yes, yes.  Ravel, himself, was fascinated with the 'well-oiled pounding of heavy machinery'*.” 

Radek continued with this thought, “'Others hear a “veritable hymn to desire”*, an “exaltation of the erotic”*”, at which point Radek stopped abruptly and distinctly blushed.  He muttered hurriedly, “I am quoting, of course.” 

Rodney smirked at his discomfiture, “Of course, Radek.  As was I.” 

Radek answered sharply, “No matter.  Your argument of mechanical interpretation made much sense.” 

Rodney stiffened.  “Yes.  Of course, my old music teacher said I did lack in the emotional interpretation in my playing.” 

Radek countered with, “He was idiot. 

Rodney looked surprised. 

Radek continued, “You were twelve.  You had not found your passion.  We here, know where it lies.” 

Rodney had continued his playing throughout the conversation.  He finally found his voice, “I'll direct your entrance soon.  Do tell me the others are coming.” 

“Of course, and we have been practicing.  Do not worry.” 

“You have?” 

“Yes.  Of course.  You expect nothing else but for us to be ready when we are needed.  If this path was the one to be chosen, then we would be needed.” 

Only Rodney's hands moved until he muttered, “You're a good second in command Radek Zalenka.  Are you ready?” 

Radek, with a stunned expression, could only nod. 

Rodney stared him in the eye and gave a sharp nod, and the orchestration was begun. 

The drums were still in place, and when the drummer arrived the snare finally took up the beat.   

Rodney snapped, “Well, the drummer finally drops in.  You do know you're the lynchpin in this piece.  You hold the beat … but yes, as always, McKay to the rescue.” 

A flutist arrived to share the melody with Rodney, and he grudgingly nodded her into the mix, with nary a word of assertion of fault of some kind.  Then Dr. Miko Kusanagi arrived with her flute and her melody floated steadily, persistently higher than the rest, but raising the intensity with that small voice.  A clarinet, a bassoon, and a trumpet all arrived together, but waited for Rodney's nod to join in their time, adding to the growing fullness of sound.   

And in the background only at first, Atlantis just kept time.  The hum clear and bell-like but soft, steady.   

Rodney clicked on his mic.  “John, how long?” 

“On my mark, twelve minutes.  Mark!” 

Rodney looked at his small assemblage and passed on the time.   

Radek, knowing full well that his mic was still on, muttered, “I am glad Ravel is not listening.  He might throw fit to match best of Rodney's.  I don't think he would like this production.  Did you know he had major blowup with Toscanini because he played it too fast?” 

Rodney sniped back at him, “Yes, yes.  And everyone said he was mad.  But that didn't stop this from being his most famous work.  Genius will always win out in the end.  Just sour grapes if you ask me.  Who wouldn't be jealous?” 

More members of the orchestra began arriving and gasps of breath were quelled with difficulty. Science uniforms were joined by Military, and uniform patches were present from all over Earth. One by one they joined the complexity being woven around them, around the repetitive, insistent, seemingly simple melody begun by Rodney, and the unfaltering beat of the drum.  The background hum became a solid beat, and rounder of tone, but still clear and at least as unfaltering as the drum. 

The hum in the corridors rose with each addition until it pounded relentlessly but did not become overwhelming during this fairly early stage.  The rhythm that now rang through the very bones of Atlantis had that same insistent quality as the music, matched note to note by Atlantis itself.   

The music flowed and surrounded.  A pulse of irresistible power paced it.  Never overpowering yet inescapable until one 'must' embrace it, feel it, breathe it, share it, till their hearts beat in time to it.    

Rodney felt it; feared it; but directed it with confidence and determination.  Finally, finally a horn was allowed to join.  Then more strings and woodwind instruments.  All carefully paced to the beat.  Rodney led the crescendo by example, with minute changes that, when combined with the growing number of instruments, raised the level of sound to newer and higher levels in lock-step increments. 

Atlantis had never felt more alive.   

John's focus on the displays was hypnotic.  Everything became a dance with more grace than anything mechanical should have had.  The link with Atlantis was less than telepathic, not empathic either, yet it 'read' him and anticipated with growing surety.  John grinned fiercely at the awesomeness of it all.  Better than flying, Ferris wheels, and Johnny Cash all together. He felt a fleeting moment of heresy at that thought but shrugged it off. Atlantis rocked!   

John shouted out a brief warning, “Rodney!  They're here!”   

Atlantis shuddered through the beginning bombardment of the Wraith attack. 

Lorne shouted over the mic, which John thought was very un-Lorne-like, that multiple ships had begun their attack.  “You won't believe it Colonel!  We took direct hits from half the hives and we're still here!  We're still in one piece!  Only very minor reports of damage.  Whatever McKay's doing is working.” 

“Hey,” John said, “I was doing something, too.”  

Lorne laughed a little hysterically, “Sorry, Colonel.  Didn't mean to slight your efforts or anything. I thought for sure the first round would be the last. Without McKay, we'd all be dead.” 

John muttered to himself, “We could all still wind up dead.”  To Rodney he said, “The ZPMs are holding.  We even have some overflow.” 

Rodney nodded and kept playing, directing yet another player to join in.  “John, I just had an unsettling thought.” 

John tore his eyes from the heads-up displays, “Now?  What?” 

Rodney glanced over to him and asked, “Elizabeth's question has been bouncing around in my brain. Really … Why here? … Why now?” 

“Why now?  What?” 

“Why are the Hives here now?” 

“Well, if they … I don't know what you're thinking McKay.  Just tell me.” 

“It's a magnifier of energy output.  Energy output … that's how we detect things with the scanners.  Was that how this was somehow … detected?  Or was it something else?” 

John sighed deeply and answered, “Doesn't really matter now, does it? Why, McKay? Do you think Atlantis 'called' them?” 

Rodney hung on grimly.  “I see you just had your own unsettling thought.  I'm glad we shared. Let's hope Atlantis thinks we're ready to take them on.” 

By now a trumpet, a bassoon, another clarinet, and flute had been added. 

Rodney started speaking softly, as if to himself, but he knew John could hear him clearly. “You know, Ravel wrote in only one element of variety, and that's the orchestral crescendo, although a very gradual one.  The beat just keeps going like that little pink bunny, with everything absolutely uniform as to harmony, melody, and rhythm.  Ravel was fascinated by the machine age.  Automation.  It's relentlessness.  Unceasing.  This begins quietly and steadily, but grows, also steadily, in complexity.” 

“Yeah, McKay.  Steady.  Complex.  Where are you heading?” 

“To the obvious conclusion … resolution, Sheppard.”  Rodney nodded once, and told John to contact Lorne, because, “Duh,” Rodney's hands were busy. 

“And what do you want me to ask him?  Or tell him?” 

“How often are Hive ships popping in?  Are there gaps in arrival time? I have to know, John ... When will they all be here? When will we have to reach 'resolution'?” 

John's displays danced around him while they waited for Lorne to check his sensors, too. “Lorne says that it appears that every Hive ship we've detected is now in close orbit and in direct line of sight of Atlantis.” 

“Good.  That's 'very' good.  They all wanted to be in on the kill.  Well, I've heard that turnabout is fair play.” 

“McKay?  Isn't it about time to super-charge the drones? You 'do' know how we're going to accomplish this, right?” 

“This is the easy part. You have the Chair, Colonel, and Atlantis has the power transfer equation. It's the same power transfer you do for the drones normally … just more.”   

“Got it! Working on it. The drones are drawing the power from the storage cells. Just a power transfer, McKay? Are they supposed to glow 'blue' like that?” 

“Sounds right, Sheppard.” 

“Hey, Rodney. The power's disappearing fast. I was just wondering, how long will it take to power back up for the Shield? How long can your 'crew' keep playing if they have to?”  

Radek had been listening to the command channel so he piped up with, “How long we want to live, you mean?  Oh, long, long time.  We can play for … many, many hours, at least.” 

Rodney snorted, “Well, I don't think we'll have to. I'm following energy production and usage. It shouldn't take long to fill them at this rate, and there'll be a sharp jump in production when the dissonance and resolution are reached.  Sheppard, do you have enough drones to send one to each ship?” 

“Just one?  Overconfidence can kill, McKay.” 

“Have I ever been overconfident?  Don't answer that.” 

“As you know, we don't have an inexhaustible supply of them. We have barely enough to send one to each Hive, but at least now they're fully loaded. Still, the Hives are mobile and they have their own defenses. A drone might only damage a Hive, and a damaged Hive would still be dangerous.” 

Rodney turned to look at Sheppard. “John?” He caught Sheppard's eyes and urged, “Don't use them up! Hold some back. The Hives were somehow called by Atlantis' new energy signature. They won't know for sure what caused the difference. If we throw stronger drones at them, that might be enough to fool them into thinking that all we've done is step up their strength.  After we've used our drones, they'll think the Shield is the only defense left. Pull the Shield in close to the city's limits. Hopefully they'll think it has buckled, and collapsed in size. They'll think it's weakened, damaged. They'll move in close to try to finish us off quickly.” 

“Hopefully ... now there's a nice turn of phrase, McKay.” 

“Check with Lorne again. We're nearly at the limit of the crescendo. When we hit the dissonance and then the resolution things are going to happen fast.” 

“Okay, Rodney! I'm going to hold some of them back. You're right. If the expanding Shield doesn't finish off the rest of the Hives, we're going to need any we've held in reserve. You were right about the storage batteries, too. They're almost full again.  Now, just give me a moment.” 

“A moment … for what?” 

“Well, I don't want to burn out the delivery system for the drones for one thing. That's a lot of firepower being launched at the same time.  For another, I want each shot that we do launch to count.  I want to nail the trajectories the first time.” 

“Doesn't Atlantis do that?” 

“Well, yeah.  Don't tell me 'you' don't double-check even Atlantis?” 

“Well, of course!  That goes without saying!” 

“Of course it does.” 

Rodney waved in the tuba and the tympani all the while wondering why anyone would play the tuba, and who allowed it through the 'Gate … or maybe on the Daedalus.  Anyway, he wasn't complaining. At least, not out loud. 


Rodney's calculations had been correct, up to a point, and that point was “resolution”.  He was calculating on-the-fly for the exact moment when John Sheppard must direct the Chair to dump every erg of energy into a suddenly expanding Shield, and it worked just as well as hoped.  

The crescendo had built unceasingly with Atlantis adding it's own brand of relentless rhythm.  Uniform harmony, melody, rhythm. All were thrown into chaos by the dissonance.  Resolution was the welcome calm after the storm.  

They had no way of knowing that the dissonance … and it's resolution ... would be a problem for them. The dissonance was a crushing sound that ended with the resolution ringing through the halls and towers of Atlantis like one huge tuning fork.  A tuning fork with human inhabitants.  The dissonance was incredible. Too bad none of them really heard the resolution.  But, not to worry, Atlantis kept the mechanical inhabitants humming right along in their own perfect harmony.   

The readings they examined after “The Event” clearly showed that the energy potential far outstripped even Rodney's most extravagant calculations. The drones had destroyed many of the Hive ships before the end of the piece and the Wraith had indeed been fooled by the shrinking Shield. Only at the last moment, when the City of the Ancients Shield flared into a brilliant blue 'star', did they realize their mistake.  


As the science and military members of the expedition awoke one by one, the first thing each of them did was check the scanners. They found a great deal of wreckage that had once been Wraith Hive ships. It was quickly determined that it wouldn't be an immediate problem, since the push by the Shield had sent everything on outward trajectories. Still, it had the potential to be a problem for the future, but it wasn't something that needed their immediate attention. It could easily wait until they'd put in a call to Dr. Carson Beckett. 

The Doctor's med team was kept busy dispensing analgesics and there soon was a run on aspirin and acetaminophen. Carson was very glad they were items that were kept well stocked. He took some himself, and hoped fervently that tintinnabulation was something he wouldn't be hearing again soon.  


It was some time before Rodney could tear himself away from his laptop. When he finally appeared in the infirmary, he managed a pitiful whine when given two aspirin, and Beckett basically said to “Call him in the morning.”  

“Don't you have anything stronger, Carson?  Aspirin?  Come on.  You know I was at the center of the action!” 

“Aye, you and half the science and military staffs.  They're fine with it.” He looked at Rodney and sighed, “Just take it and call me in an hour if it doesn't help.” 

Rodney muttered acerbically, “That, spoken by a man who wasn't there.” 

“I might as well have been. Ma' ears are still ringin'. I'm mighty grateful I was as far away as I was.  I already took my aspirin and it's helped.  Run along.  I'm sure I'll be prescribing something stronger if you need it. Now, off with you. Go wait for the Colonel to wake up, and call me when he does. He'll need something for his headache, too.” 

Rodney squinted and rubbed at his temples as he headed for John's hospital bed. He picked up a chair and set it carefully and quietly on the floor, then settled into it gently with a pained sigh and a visible wince.  He continued to rub his temples gently, as that seemed to help more than the aspirin at this point, and he waited for John to wake up.   

Sheppard was the only one that Carson had admitted to the infirmary for observation. Carson had promised that the Colonel would wake up soon, and Rodney was going to hold him to it. John was going to have a heck of a headache if it was even half as bad as Rodney's.  

Rodney had tracked the power surge and the drone launches after he woke up.  He grimaced a little at the thought of all that power being directed through the Chair.  And he was pretty sure that John had known what was coming even better than he did.  He was going to have a word with him about it … later.


“Hey, McKay,” John whispered tiredly.  He had opened his eyes only long enough to see who was visiting him and had decided that he'd just keep them closed for now. 

Rodney spoke softly, for John's sake as well as his own. “Sorry. I was trying to be quiet. Carson's giving aspirin to his patients.” 

“Oh!  That's … great!” He sounded as if he really doubted that it was 'great enough', and then he moaned pitifully. 

Rodney leaned forward with his arms crossed on the bed at John's side.  “Do that again.” 

“What?  Do what again?” 

“That moan.  I bet Carson will give you the good stuff with a moan like that.” 

“Rodney.  No offense but, go away.” 

“Well, if that's all the thanks I get, I will.” 

“Thanks for what?  Giving me the world's worst headache?” 

“That wasn't me.  That was Atlantis, and I'll have you know that she shared it out impartially. It's just that you were a little closer to the action than even I was. I'll tell Carson you're ready for your dose of aspirin.” 

John just flopped his hand up and down in a feeble wave.  “Thanks. I'll talk to you tomorrow.  Okay?” 

Rodney patted him gently on the shoulder, “Yeah, tomorrow.” He leaned forward and with a wicked grin said, “Maybe I'll play something for you.” 

John just moaned softly and pulled his pillow out from under him and down over his head. It didn't really help the pounding in his head, but Rodney left, and that was good enough for now. 


John went to the cafeteria as soon as he was kicked out of the infirmary.  He wondered, since they all ate the same food, why it always tasted worse in Carson's domain.  He still wasn't very hungry, but he had to eat something so he could take some more aspirin.  He spotted his team and Radek at the corner table so he went to join them.   

He sat down gingerly and rearranged what little food he had on his tray before deciding he'd wait a while.  His stomach was still queasy.  Maybe he'd start with the dry toast if he could keep it away from Ronon, who wouldn't let a little headache stop him from helping himself to anything left untouched on someone's tray.   

John squinted at his table mates, and tuned in to their conversation. He knew he'd missed something when Rodney turned slowly to smirk at Radek, while Teyla grinned evilly. It was quite a shock to John to see that look on her face! 

Radek seemed oblivious. “The whole piece was quite moving, Rodney!  The resolution of the dissonance must have been an incredible release of tension ...”  Radek stopped abruptly and pushed his glasses up his nose with his forefinger. He stared indignantly at Rodney when a muffled snort of laughter turned McKay's face a brilliant red.  Radek glanced at John and added hurriedly, “I am just saying.”   

John smirked openly as Zalenka looked quickly at Teyla. Seeing her evil grin, Radek ducked his head hurriedly, grabbed his tray and left, but not before John saw a blush spreading over his face. 

John grinned as he tore off a bite of toast and popped it into his mouth.  He was in much better spirits now. 

Rodney's laughter died out quickly, and he winced. He eased his elbows up onto the table and began rubbing his temples gently. “Yeah, well, it's easy to see that Radek's eager for another performance anytime.  Me, I'd at least like to get rid of this headache first.”  

Elizabeth had come through the line and joined them.  She didn't have as many pain lines to show for the 'performance', but she surprised Rodney with a topic of conversation he hadn't expected.  “Rodney that was a great bit of playing yesterday.  Will you be joining the orchestra?” 

Rodney grimaced, “Me?  In the orchestra?  I don't think so.” 

John grinned and said, “Excuse me, Elizabeth, but Rodney would make a great conductor or maybe he'd prefer top billing 'Rodney McKay, Soloist'.” 

“Ha. Ha.  That's a funny one, Sheppard.” 

Elizabeth grinned and said, “I don't know about that Rodney.  You bowled me over.” 

John smirked as he added, “I don't know. That stuff was good for a warmup, but after that you need to move on to something classic, maybe some Johnny Cash.” 

Rodney didn't even bother to try to stutter out a horrified response.  He just moaned pitifully. 



From: M. Rodney McKay, PhD, PhD

To: Jeannie McKay-Miller 

Dear Jeannie. 

I hope you and Caleb are well.  Say hi to Madison from Uncle Mer.  

Surprisingly, your gift turned out to be just what we needed. I'm sure that you can read between the lines when I say that it saved our collective … expedition. Yes, yes, there's a great long story to tell you when I visit, but you'll just have to wait until I get there because the censors would make it unreadable. 

Well, in any event, thank you for the present. It was enjoyed by all. Thank, Sam, too. I can't believe you two managed that incredible feat of procurement. It should be held up as an example to Quartermasters everywhere. I should set you two to supplying us with coffee. 

Jeannie, I had no idea you could be so devious even with Sam's help. But please tell me you didn't have to promise your first-born to get it here. I'm actually rather fond of Madison.  

And Jeannie … I played. 


Meredith Rodney McKay 


The end 



YouTube:  You can watch a short version of Ravel's Bolero.  Andre Rieu, Conductor 


{A scenario by Rubinstein and Nijinska was printed in the program for the premiere:

Inside a tavern in Spain, people dance beneath the brass lamp hung from the ceiling. [In response] to the cheers to join in, the female dancer has leapt onto the long table and her steps become more and more animated.

Ravel himself, however, had a different conception of the work: his preferred stage design was of an open-air setting with a factory in the background, reflecting the mechanical nature of the music.} 


*   Wikipedia articles on Harmony, Consonance, Dissonance, Power Chords, Counterpoint, and many digressions along those lines. I used the chart that was provided of the order of introduction of the various instruments (at least, as much as I could). 


*Bolero - which Ravel insisted reflected his fascination for the well-oiled pounding of heavy machinery, but in which others have seen a "veritable hymn to desire" and an "exaltation of the erotic" - is, apparently, played somewhere in the world every 15 minutes.