Big Changes — Chapter 9

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Tony watched the stars stream by as Atlantis flew through space dazzled by the fact he was in space. He was standing on a balcony off the NCO’s preferred dining facility as he alternated eating at the four on the city. He liked being visible to the enlisted and civilians hoping that the familiarity of seeing him in the common areas would make him more approachable if they should need him. He encouraged both Ray and Benton to do the same although they generally ate together. He heard someone clear their throat and turned to see Sergeant Major Scrivens standing in the doorway in civvies.

“Alec,” Tony smiled, “looking good in those jeans.”

“Thanks,” he blushed, “The film club meets tonight at 1930, right?”

“Yes in the Collins Theatre. Are you coming?”

“Yes,” Alex grinned, “I’m leading by example. Psych has impressed upon us the importance of treating Atlantis as our home. I’m just going to catch a quick meal. Would like to join me?”

“Sure, that’d be great. They’re serving fish and chips.”

“I heard, apparently the Brits are cooking tonight.”

The men entered the dining hall and grabbed trays. Only a few of the others were in civvies with most in their uniforms. Tony greeted everyone he knew by name and made polite small talk with the people behind the counter and in front of him in line.

“Looks like there is a slight American influence here,” he said as he sat at a table in the center of the room. The point was to be seen.

Alex chuckled amused by Tony’s behavior, “Yep, coleslaw instead of mushy peas for me.”

“You need to submerse yourself in the local cuisine.”

“Have you ever had mushy peas before?” Alec asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No,” Tony grinned at him as Alec laughed.

“Well, I’ll leave the adventurous eating for when we get back to Pegasus. Trust me, the food there is…” Alec paused, “interesting.”

“John has told some stories and Rodney wants more of the Plangos?”

“Yeah, those are delicious. Shaped like a mango but tastes more like a plum.”

Tony made a puzzled face, “I can’t imagine it.”

“I prefer the Pegasus version of the apple myself,” Alec said as he sprinkled malt vinegar on his food, “I think they’re more like the heirloom apples on Earth. Not pretty like what you find in the grocery store but they taste so good. And the cider! The people on M7Y-673 make a cider,” he glanced to see if anyone was listening, “that’s better than their beer. And their beer is outstanding.”

Tony chuckled, “I look forward to it.”

Alec smiled sunnily at him and Tony realized he had never seen the usually serious Marine relaxed before. He kept a professional distance while in uniform but today, in his jeans, Tony was struck how cute he was.

“What?” Alex asked wiping his chin self-consciously.

“Nothing,” Tony said, “So tonight’s movie, have you seen it already?”

“Nope. I still can’t believe you choose a silent film for the first movie in the remodeled BMR, sorry, the Collins Theatre.”

“I’ve heard it called BMR before but I don’t know what it stands for.”

Alec swallowed, “Big Media Room.”

Tony snorted, “Really?”

“We weren’t focused on naming things,” Alex said sheepishly, “Anyway, Sheppard named it.”

“Well, that explains everything. You can’t let John name things.”

Alec coughed, “Don’t make me laugh about the General.”

“I’m surprised it wasn’t related to Johnny Cash,” Tony grinned as Alec tried not laugh, “or football.”

Alex hung his head and they both laughed. They ate for a few minutes in silence. When Alec leaned back in his chair, “You’ve known him a while?”

“We graduated from the same military high school. We would touch base with each other every few years. I was apparently the only person he called before he left for Atlantis the first time.”

“Wow,” Alec said softly, “What did you talk about?”

“Nothing. I was on a case and came back to find a message saying he’d be out of touch and not to search for him. Six years later, he and Rodney are knocking on my door after a terrible day at work.”

“I heard a rumor that the character of Tommy in Deep Six was …” Alec trailed off as Tony started to curse, “Huh, I didn’t think you knew those words.”

Tony made a rude gesture, “I am not Tommy.”

“Okay,” Alec drew the word out, “That’s more of a response than I expected.”

“The author, Thom E. Gemcity, is a former teammate.”

Alec watched Tony eat for a minute, “Since you don’t want to talk about Deep Six and that’s fine,” raising his hands in surrender when Tony glared at him, “Why did you choose a silent film?”

“Metropolis is one of the first feature-length science fiction movies. It cost over 5 million Reichsmarks which would have been worth about $4.20 US each. This film cost about $21 million US in 1927.”

“Wow.”

Tony waved a hand, “I actually have a short lecture I’ll give before. It’s a classic and it seemed fitting. They recently re-released it. It had been edited but the full version of the film has been lost. They found a damaged full print and were able to restore 95%. It’s … you’ll hear all this later. Let’s talk about how disgusting these peas are.”

Alec laughed and Tony counted it as a win.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tony glanced at Alex lounging in the doorway. The normally reserved Marine had been friendly with everyone who came to the movie. Everyone who had joined the Film Club had shown up and there were a handful of others, but the theatre wasn’t even close to being full. Rodney and Radek had shown up intrigued by the choice of the film. They had both been participating in the discussion afterwards but a small emergency demanded their attention. Tony ushered Dr. Michi Schulze, a German scientist, who was praising his choice of films, towards the door where Alec was and wished him a good night.

“Seems like the film was a hit,” Alex said, “for those who saw it anyway.”

Tony smiled and focused on having Atlantis shut the theatre down for the night. As the door locked behind them, Tony asked, “Did you enjoy it?”

Alec nodded, “More than I thought I would. I really enjoyed myself tonight.”

Tony gave Alec a puzzled glance when he got in the transporter with him. He knew Alec bunked with the other Marines in Sumner Tower which would require using a different transporter. Tony grinned, “Are you walking me home?”

Alec blushed and looked away. Tony quietly laughed a little and nudged Alec’s shoulder with his, “It’s all good. I’m glad you enjoyed the movie.”

“Not just the movie,” Alec said meeting Tony’s eyes. And it was Tony’s turn to blush. Unfortunately, the moment was broken by the crackle of both men’s radios. It seem the small emergency was bigger than they thought.

~~~~~~~~~~

Tony watched Rodney pace as the newest geneticist on Atlantis reviewed the files Rodney had recovered. John and Alec had shown up dressed in civvies but Lt Colonel Lorne and Senior Master Sergeant Sands were both in uniform as they were on duty for the night.

A small device had been found on the back of a computer. No records could be found about it and it was missing any of the normal identifiers. Dr. Oshiro had dropped a Kimekomi ornament behind the computer and spotted the device when he was trying to find the gift from his mother. He called his friend in the IT department, Dr. Ruiz, when he realized it wasn’t properly connected. When Dr. Ruiz realized it wasn’t supposed to be there, they panicked and called Radek.

Dr. Smith cleared his throat and turned to the group, “I can confirm these files are research into the retrovirus.”

“Well, fuck,” Rodney sighed, “I personally removed all the retrovirus research from our servers before I resigned. What else can you tell us?”

“The oldest is around 3 months old,” Dr. Smith glanced at John when he made a wounded sound, “It appears someone is running simulations when the lab is closed. They are automated and do not require someone to be physically in the lab. It appears that it is only virtual work at this time.”

“Virtual work?” Tony asked.

Rodney waved a hand, “Computer generated models. They don’t actually have samples of the virus.”

“Exactly,” Dr. Smith agreed, “This is theoretical work leading up to actual trials. Based on what I’m seeing they are months away from that point. I know this research is classified but would it be possible for me to see some of the previous work? It might help me understand this better.”

Rodney rubbed his face and shared a look with Radek, “I’ll think about it. Carson did the original work so maybe I’ll ask him to review this.”

Dr. Smith sighed, “I don’t recommend that.”

“Why not?” asked John.

“Dr Beckett is,” Dr. Smith frowned, “greatly impacted by this research and not in a good way. He considers this his greatest folly and, I believe, would react poorly to anyone attempting to continue it.”

Rodney walked over to John and buried his face in John’s neck. John gently held him as Dr. Smith continued, “I know you both consider him a friend but I think dealing with this might be asking too much of him.”

John signed and shared a look with Lorne, who focused on Smith. “We don’t disagree, Delta,” Lorne finally said.

Rodney suddenly pulled away, “Delta get me a report on what you’ve found. I’ll need it in time for the 0800 senior staff meeting. I’ll bring up your concerns with Woolsey afterward.”

“CC me on that report, Dr. Smith,” Tony said. Smith looked at Rodney who nodded.

“Okay,” John started, “those of us who are off duty need to go to bed. We’ll deal with this in the morning. Oshiro and Ruiz, thank you for bringing this to our attention. Please keep this incident to yourselves until told otherwise.”

Both men nodded. “Yes,” Rodney cleared his throat, “Thank you. You did the right thing notifying us. I’d like a report from both of you preferably before my 0800 meeting.”

“Anyone else?” Rodney glanced around, “No? Good. Then dismissed and sleep well.”

John snorted as the two younger men hurried out of the room with Dr. Smith following at a more sedate pace. Lorne, Scrivens and Sands wished everyone a good night as they left.

Radek turned to Rodney, “Delta is correct. Carson would react poorly to this news. He is not adjusting well to being CMO again.”

“I know,” Rodney sounded defeated, “It was selfishness that I insisted he be given the job.”

John rubbed Rodney’s back, “I trust him.”

Rodney sighed as Radek nodded, “Me also. But he does not want to be CMO. His heart is that of a researcher. Although with Hoff virus and this clusterfuck,” he waved the small device around, “he struggles returning to pure research. He really needs a leave of absence.”

“Why didn’t he take one while on Earth?” Tony asked as the four men moved towards the transporters.

“IOA refused to allow him to be unsupervised,” Radek revealed, “due to his circumstances.

Tony raised an eyebrow, “Because he’s a clone?”

Rodney snapped his fingers at Tony, “That is need-to-know information.”

Tony scoffed, “I heard about it my first day in Colorado.”

The three men nodded and Radek continued, “Yes, is an open secret. One that creates great pain for him.”

John nodded as he rubbed Rodney’s back, “Yeah, Tony, please don’t talk about it. We’d like to keep the gossip down to a minimum.”

“Understood, but me not talking about something isn’t going to improve the situation.”

“True,” Rodney sighed and looked to John, “We have to review that list Woolsey created for a new CMO. Carson needs the break.”

John scrubbed his face tiredly and nodded. Radek spoke up, “Perhaps Carson can pick up research into the LM gene to improve the gene therapy.”

“And be the doctor of record for a select few?” Tony offered.

“Yeah, that might work,” Rodney said as John ushered him into the transporter.

Radek watched them leave with a frown and then turned to Tony, “I apologize for interrupting your date.”

“Wasn’t a date,” Tony laughed softly, “Or it wasn’t a planned date.”

Radek smiled, “Alec is a good man. It was nice to see him relaxed at the film and out of uniform.”

“Yeah, it was. Good night, Radek.”

“Good night, Tony.”

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