Rating: M for Mature
Word Count: 17,500
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters, or anything related to the show. But I love them a whole lot, and that has to count for something!
Author’s Notes: Funny story. My sister-from-another-mister, taste_is_sweet, encouraged me to sign up for sga_santa. We laughed, saying wouldn’t it be funny if we were assigned each other? And then I opened my assignment e-mail…and it was her! I laughed so hard my son started to get concerned. LOL! Even funnier, we’d already promised to Beta each other’s fics. And since I couldn’t not let her Beta without giving everything away, she unwittingly Beta’d her own fic. The universe can be a funny, funny place.
Taste, I tried to put as much of what you’d asked for in here as possible. McShep, of course, because what else is there? ::grins:: Atlantis AU, Bug!John, Heroic Rodney, Happy Ending. I hope you like this just as much knowing it’s yours, even though you’ve already read it. ::winks::
Summary: Life in the Pleasure Dome had been filled with very little actual pleasure for Rodney McKay, one of the city drones. Until John Sheppard arrived and turned his whole world upside down.
Crossroads - Part One of Two
The Pleasure Dome was the one and only vacation destination in the Pegasus galaxy. Those who had built it had rigged up tech from two galaxies and several different alien races to ensure that it was protected, a safe haven even in time of war. Not that there was any altruism involved. Anyone was welcome--as long as they could pay. It didn't matter whether or not their entire village had just been culled and they had nowhere else to go. That hadn't always been the case, but things changed at the Dome after the war, just like they'd changed everywhere.
Beneath the Pleasure Dome's shield and cloaking tech was a city that catered to every hedonistic desire. We've got the vice if you can pay the price; not just a catchy soundbite but a way of life under the Dome. Anything could be had: sex, drugs, money, and the adrenalin rush that only comes from risking everything.
It wasn't all pleasure, of course. If you couldn't pay up, if you didn't follow the rules, there were consequences. Visitors to the Pleasure Dome knew that they'd get what they paid for, be it a bit of low-key blood play or a Roman-style orgy or synthetic Enzyme. Privacy was relegated to the bathrooms and bedrooms because they were watching. Always watching. Anyone who went too far, who took too much, would be dealt with.
All city systems were run from the Hub, buried in the heart of the city far from the artificial sunlight and the masses of humanity that filled the Dome. The workers there were technically engineers, though everyone referred to them as drones. They monitored the air filters and temp settings and traffic flow, watching the many wall screens and consoles so they could alert Patrol of anything that needed to be handled on the streets, like violence outside of designated areas, overdoses, theft. The drones were the eyes and ears of the Dome.
Rodney McKay was one such drone, simultaneously monitoring facial recognition at the Pleasure Dome's one point of entry while at the same time debugging the sidewalk cams in the Chem Block. His skin was pale because drones almost never left the Hub, never got exposed to the artificial sun. But even when he got his downtime, Rodney didn't go topside. He'd always been more comfortable interacting with computer systems, though in the ten years he'd been a resident of the Dome he'd spent some of his credits in Carnal Block. Even drones had needs.
Rodney didn't mind being a drone, though most of the time the work was mind-numbing. Occasionally, though, something interesting would ping. For example, the facial rec software which was always running red-flagged someone coming through Registration, and Rodney tapped the screen to bring up more information. Ciara Lin. She'd been banned over a year ago for mishandling a whore and then resisting when Patrol came to collect her. Now she was trying to gain reentry using a false name, but there was no tricking the computers.
Rodney typed in his user ID number and made sure Lin's information was sent to the goons who monitored Registration. Patrol would be automatically notified, Lin would be taken into custody and all of her belongings, including whatever ship she'd arrived on, would be confiscated. If she didn't have her own vessel, the poor dumb fucks who owned the ship she'd traveled with would have to buy it back. They'd also have the option to bail Lin out, but with one strike already against her Rodney was betting she'd be a long-time guest down in Detention Block.
"McKay." Geneva waved a hand in his face. "Lunch. You coming?"
"Anything good today?" It was a ridiculous question. In the Pleasure Dome, even the little buffets for the staff were gourmet. It was definitely one of the perks of the job.
"Fake steak and those roasted malacks you like so much." Geneva licked her lips, which were painted a deep plum and matched the eyeshadow she used with too heavy a hand. She'd been a drone for just a couple of years, and Rodney had occasionally hooked up with her when their schedules allowed. She was an energetic lay with a fondness for toys and ass-play. Rodney was bisexual, so she was practically his perfect sex partner.
"Yeah. Sure. Let me just switch this to auto." He made the necessary adjustments, but as always took his tablet with him. He'd sooner go without a limb than cut off connection to the Hub.
"If you got the interface you wouldn't have to drag that thing around all the time." Geneva walked beside him toward the small cafeteria utilized only by the drones. She had generous hips and knew just how much sway to put in them.
"Not gonna be here forever," he reminded her. It was an automatic response, and one he wasn't even sure he believed anymore. The Pleasure Dome was supposed to have been a quick stop, a chance to get his head together after everything that had happened; but once he'd gotten in he found it almost impossible to leave. The work he was doing was far from significant, or even particularly rewarding, but somewhere along the line he'd gotten too set in his routine, too used to the safety afforded him under the Dome. He was sure he wouldn't have the slightest idea what to do with himself if he left now.
"So you say. They can always reverse it, you know." Geneva batted her heavily-mascaraed eyelashes at him. He couldn't recall what color her eyes used to be before she had the neural interface implanted, but now they were golden-orange and her irises were oddly pixelated.
"I don't know that they've ever done a successful reversal, just so you know. Probably because no drones ever leave. Do your eyes even function on a human level anymore?"
Geneva shrugged, and Rodney couldn't understand anyone being that careless with their own body. He'd rejected the option each and every time it had been offered to him. The idea of someone messing with his eyes gave him the heebie jeebies. Rodney himself had only consented to the gene therapy that made working with the Ancient tech so much easier, but that had applications beyond the Dome; once upon a time that had been important to him.
The cafeteria was bustling with the lunch crowd. Rodney got in line for the buffet, closing his eyes and just breathing in the scents of fresh, hot food for a moment. He loved to eat, as his slightly paunchy midsection could attest, and the best thing was that there was never anything with citrus in it. He liked to believe this was because they were cognizant of his allergy and not just because citrus wasn't native to the Pegasus galaxy. Geneva handed him a plate and prodded him forward.
"Let's go. I have a hot date tonight and I have to run systems checks on all the arenas before I leave."
"With who?" Rodney asked, curious. He'd have thought she'd made the rounds of the drones already, and there were only a couple she routinely went back to, himself included. "There a newbie you're breaking in?"
Geneva waved a hand at him. Unlike the painting she did on her face, her nails were bare and bitten down. "Kyle wants a second chance to make a first impression." She grabbed them each a plastic bottle of blue Fizz and they found a free table.
Rodney snorted. "Kyle? The drooler?"
"He said he got something from the infirmary to take care of the excess saliva." Geneva started slicing into the fake steak, which Rodney had never found appealing.
"Let's hope so. You don't want to drown right in the middle of the good stuff." He waggled his eyebrows at her suggestively.
"We'll see how good his stuff is."
They ate in companionable silence until the Hub alarm strapped to Rodney's wrist started to buzz. He immediately dropped his fork and whipped out his tablet. Facial rec again, this time alerting to the presence of a non-human. They didn't get many of those at the Pleasure Dome. The Goa'uld had thankfully never made it to Pegasus, though many other Milky Way denizens had, and the Wraith existed only in tiny pockets scattered around the galaxy since the end of the war. Still, occasionally there were some non-humans interested in checking out the city; they were always flagged in the system just in case there was trouble.
Rodney pulled up a screen cap of the alien, and stared. Colonel John Sheppard certainly looked human. Well, mostly human. He had a cascade of bluish-gray scales running down the right side of his face from his hairline and down beneath the collar of his shirt, curving around an eye that was almost the same color as Geneva's, though the other was a greenish-hazel. He had an over-abundance of dark hair that stood up in a mess of cowlicks on his head, and Rodney couldn't seem to stop staring at his picture.
"Problem?" Geneva asked, swiping a malack from Rodney's tray.
"Not sure yet. Shut up and let me work." Rodney ran a background check on Sheppard, though there wasn't much in his file. Average career in the US Air Force - just a handful of notes regarding insubordination - and then he came to Pegasus and distinguished himself during the Wraith War as a formidable foe and leader of men. He'd been stationed at the Atlantis stronghold, which had been the focus of the Wraith forces and one of the major defensive positions in the galaxy. It was unclear if he was still affiliated with Atlantis, or if he'd moved on to greener pastures after the war. Rodney dug a little deeper and there it was. He'd spent some time in a medical facility after being bitten by a Wraith hybrid that had infected him with a mutant strain of the Iratus virus. No wonder he was pinging non-human.
Since nothing alarming turned up in Sheppard's background, Rodney cleared him for Registration. He tagged him in the system, though; a top-level member of the SGC just running around the Dome? Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe not; Rodney wasn't taking any chances. With that done he turned back to his lunch. "So where are you and the drooler going on your date? Topside?"
Geneva shook her head. "No, of course not. That's not even a fourth date destination."
"Like you ever have a fourth date."
"I had one with you," she pointed out.
Rodney snorted. "Fucking in the supply room can hardly be counted as a date."
"It barely qualified as fucking."
"I told you I had a cold!" he said defensively.
"We're going gazing, if you must know."
"Ooh, fancy." Rodney rolled his eyes. "Are you going to let him get past second base this time?"
"We'll see." Which was Geneva for yes, as long as the saliva issue had been dealt with. "Are you done? I have to get back to work."
"Yeah." Rodney popped the last malack in his mouth and grabbed a slice of carob cake to go.
An hour later, while he was waiting for systems checks to finish running, Rodney decided to check in on bug boy. Whenever SGC staff came to the Dome he kept pretty close tabs on them. It sounded like bragging, but he was a genius and he was always waiting for the SGC to realize he was there and send an extraction team to get him. After all, he'd been a large part of making the weapons platform at the Dome operational during the war and something like that couldn't have gone unnoticed.
He pulled up Sheppard's movements on his tablet, tracking him from Registration to the taxi stand directly out front of it. He selected the audio from the on-board camera - all vehicles were monitored - and listened as Sheppard requested to be delivered to Boystown. His voice had a gravelly texture to it, perhaps another side effect of the virus. Rodney liked it.
Now doubly interested in the man, Rodney checked the sidewalk cams in the Boystown section of Carnal Block, and watched as Sheppard left the cab and made straight for Velvet Steel, one of the better houses in that part of town. Interesting that he stopped there first, instead of getting a hotel room and dropping off his duffel bag. Rodney switched to interior cams, interested to see what kind of sexual partner the man would choose. He was tall but lean, so perhaps a twink? But Sheppard didn't go directly to the lounge; he asked to see the manager.
The manager, Kranik delCou, was a little too oily for Rodney's taste, but then he was Genii and most of them gave off a sleazy vibe. They owned several buildings in Carnal Block, though Velvet Steel was probably the best of the lot. Kranik showed Sheppard into his office, his greasy face clearly showing his disgust at even having to talk to a non-human, though presumably he'd have no trouble taking his credits.
"Thank you for seeing me," Sheppard said, sitting in one of the two chairs on the guest side of the desk. "This is my first visit and I wanted to check on your freak policy."
Rodney bristled to hear Sheppard call himself that, but it was certainly in keeping with the vernacular.
"We can certainly accommodate you," Kranik said. He made it sound like a great imposition. "Several of our boys are experienced with...your type."
"That's pretty open-minded of you. Funny, I hadn't heard that about the owner."
Kranik frowned. "You would be surprised, Sir."
"I think I'll make that determination myself." Sheppard pulled a small rectangular package out of his leather coat and slid it across the top of the desk. "If you wouldn't mind setting something up."
Well, now. Rodney thought that was interesting. Sheppard was clearly bribing this guy, but for what purpose? Did he want to meet the head of the whole operation? The Genii could be a secretive bunch when they wanted to and most regular visitors wouldn't have even known that Velvet Steel was part of their operation. Clearly Sheppard had SGC intel, and maybe he was there on official business.
"I'll see what I can do." Kranik said, eagerly snatching up the package and peeling the end of it open to peer inside. The camera angle was no good for Rodney to see inside too, but he could well imagine that the package was crammed with credits. Nothing less would have Kranik drooling over it the way he was.
"Shall we say three days from now?" Sheppard leaned back in his chair, seemingly relaxed except that even on the small tablet screen Rodney could see how tightly his hands were clenched.
"That will be quite impossible. She'll be going out of town the day after tomorrow."
Sheppard visibly tensed at that. Rodney wondered if he was on some kind of time table. And then he wondered why the hell he even cared. He shouldn't be watching. SGC business was none of his concern, nor were the travel plans of the Genii, but he couldn't quite make himself shut it down.
"I need to see her before she leaves," Sheppard said, though he didn't sound at all happy about it. He nodded his head at the package. "That should cover any costs."
Kranik nodded. "Of course, you must stay and take full advantage of our services. On the house, naturally." If he'd had a moustache he'd probably be twirling it.
"There's no need for..."
"Oh, no, Sir. I insist."
Kranik seemed particularly gleeful as he walked Sheppard to the lounge, where all manner of half-dressed men were...well, lounging around. Rodney was a little confused. Was Sheppard's only purpose in going to Velvet Steel to make that backroom deal with the oily Genii? No-one turned down free sex with a professional.
Seemingly resigned, Sheppard made a quick choice - a man similar in height but much broader. The guy was all over him on their way up to a second-floor room, really overdoing the feigned interested, but Rodney was paying close enough attention to notice that the whore was very careful not to touch any of the scaled areas on Sheppard's body. No cameras in the bedroom, alas, but Rodney tweaked the hallway cam and amplified the sound until he could hear that same gravelly voice grunting with exertion. Clearly he wasn't much for romance. Rodney found it a little disappointing.
"Perv," Geneva said over his shoulder, startling him. Rodney quickly flicked off the tablet, flushing, but he knew better than to try and defend himself; he'd just sound as guilty as he was. He was glad he hadn't been watching on one of the consoles because Geneva would've known about it right away; it was the downside of working with so many tech savvy drones. At least the tablet was protected.
"Don't you have a job to do?"
"I'm just waiting for the protocols to run on the Rollerball arena and then I'm out of here. They don't have a game until tomorrow night, so I'll still have time to tweak any problems." Geneva rested her chin on top of his head. "You should get yourself some action, McKay, instead of remote viewing it."
"If only you didn't have a date tonight." He sighed dramatically. "You're my sure thing."
"Why don't you ask Dickson? He's cute."
"Well...that can be kinda cute."
"Go away." Rodney pushed back in his chair, rolling it into Geneva and forcing her to move.
"Don't work too late."
He waved her away and she went, shaking her ass at him just because she could. Rodney looked down at the tablet and then sighed, pushing it away. Geneva was right, it was creepy using the cameras to listen to other people get laid. Maybe it was time for another topside trip himself. He hadn't been to Boystown for a year or so, surely that's why he was half-hard in his pants, and not because he'd listened to that gravelly voice groaning with desire.
Rodney's apartment was down on level four of the Hub. It was small, but then he'd never needed much. His one indulgence was the picture screen window that he could program with any number of views, which helped him feel a little less like a mole person. At the moment it projected a mountainous landscape, the sun slowly sinking behind one particularly tall peak and turning the sky deep pastel colors.
"I'm home," he called. Moments later his cat came trotting over, meowing loudly. "Hey, Groucho. How you doing?"
He picked the tuxedo cat up, petting him as he kicked off his shoes and padded over to the mini fridge for a bottle of water. Groucho wasn't a real cat, but he was an excellent example of zoodroid tech. Rodney had built him from a kit, making adjustments and improvements as he went. Groucho never needed to eat, didn't require a litter box, and never clawed the furniture, which made him a great pet for someone who didn't spend a lot of time at home. He could purr, jump, and play with cat toys just like a real cat, though, and he kept Rodney company.
"There's a good boy." He set Groucho down and then leaned against the counter and drank his water as he pondered what to do with the rest of his evening. He had about eight hours to kill before he was due back in the Hub, and he should probably get some sleep. Or he could watch the entertainment screen in the living area, but that didn't seem particularly appealing. Rodney wandered into his bedroom, stripping his clothes as he went. He took a quick sonic shower and then lay back on his bed, legs spread, and lightly stroked himself until his cock filled and hardened; no-one said he needed a partner to get off. With his free hand he flicked the tablet on and queued up the footage from Boystown again. He replayed the sounds of Sheppard fucking behind the closed door, guttural and dirty in all the right ways.
Rodney tightened his grip on his cock and closed his eyes, listening to Sheppard moan. He pictured the man's face in his mind, strangely exotic with the scales and the one golden eye. He wondered where else on his body there might be scales, what other changes the Iratus DNA had wrought. On the tablet Sheppard came with a curse and moments later Rodney followed, spilling over his hand and stomach. When he opened his eyes Groucho was crouched at the end of the bed, staring at him.
"Don't judge me." Rodney got back in the shower, quickly removing all traces of his completion. He changed into a pair of sweatpants and took the tablet out to the loveseat. He propped his feet up on the glass coffee table and tracked Sheppard back through the city.
He hadn't lingered long at Velvet Steel. Instead of hailing another cab he'd walked from Carnal Block to one of the cheaper hotels and booked a room. Unlike private residences and whorehouse bedrooms, hotel rooms were fully monitored apart from the bathrooms. Rodney watched as Sheppard stripped out of his black cargo pants and dark blue shirt. He was lean but muscular, abdomen rippling as he slid off his underwear.
There were more scales along his ribcage, wrapping around from his back to his bellybutton, but none on his mostly hairless chest; the ones on his neck ended at his clavicle. Scales ran down his right leg, the toes looking a bit more like talons. His right arm had scales from shoulder to elbow, and two of his fingers were disfigured, longer and with sharp, curving nails. It was hard to tell from the in-room cameras, but his cock looked to have been untouched by the bluish tinge of scales.
Rodney wondered if it was the mix of Iratus and human DNA that led to the scales; he'd have expected something more like chitin covering the affected areas of his skin. He wasn't a biologist - the soft sciences were mostly a waste of time as far as he was concerned - so he couldn't begin to understand the inner-workings of human physiology, but whatever the reason for the scales, Rodney certainly didn't mind them. Quite the opposite, actually.
Sheppard left his clothes on the floor and disappeared into the bathroom. He didn't close the door but the camera angle wasn't good, so Rodney cranked the volume again. It sounded like he took a piss, and then a quick shower. Rodney knew it was incredibly, incredibly wrong, spying for his own personal pleasures, but he just couldn't seem to help himself.
The nudity was short-lived. Sheppard dressed in different clothes, black jeans and a long-sleeved grey shirt, and then left his room. Rodney tracked him to another taxi, this one taking him to Nebula, one of the premier casinos under the Dome and another Genii establishment. He spent several hours there, gambling and drinking and generally making himself seen. Rodney was sure that was related somehow to the meeting he was trying to set up, and wondered if Sheppard knew what a dangerous game he was playing.
The fancy casino, and the amount of money he dropped there, seemed at odds with the bottom-barrel hotel he'd chosen to stay at. Rodney could only guess what he'd had to trade at Registration in order to get credits enough to gamble the way he had, to say nothing of the stack of them he'd given to Kranik. All transactions under the Dome were done on a credit system, and to get credits you needed something to trade in kind: currency, precious gems, high-end tech...almost anything that could be resold was fair game.
While Rodney watched he pondered what it was that made Sheppard so compelling. He'd seen his share of non-humans since coming to work in the Hub, as well as humans with unusual facial markings, though that was normally from tattoos, paint or scarification. But for some reason he was drawn to this man with scales on his face.
Rodney had no clue why. Sheppard didn't say much, beyond giving directions to the cab drivers or ordering drinks, so it wasn't like he was particularly deep or witty. Maybe it was the hard set to his face, or the way he carried himself with such fluid grace that it was easy to overlook the fact that he seemed poised at all times to pull a weapon, despite how no weapons were allowed inside the Pleasure Dome unless they belonged to Patrol.
Rodney checked the time and cursed. He'd wasted most of his off time watching Sheppard, and he only had time now for maybe two hours of sleep before his next shift started.
"Idiot," he grumbled to himself. Even so, he made sure the system was still set to tag Sheppard before shutting down the tablet and getting into bed himself. Probably he wouldn't even remember him when he got up again, but surely there was no harm in keeping a watchful eye on the guy. Just in case.
When Rodney finally fell asleep he dreamed of scaly caresses.
The next day Rodney was too busy to think of Sheppard. There was a major malfunction in the sewage filtration system that took Rodney the better part of a day, and four additional drones, to fix. Luckily he was able to do it without getting his hands - or any other part of his body - dirty, but he still sent off yet another agitated e-mail to Management, demanding an overhaul of all the lower city systems. He'd been sending the same e-mail for three years, to no avail. Management was reluctant to shut down any part of the city in order to do necessary repairs, citing loss of revenue.
Rodney took his downtime early, retiring to his apartment with a relieved sigh. There was a rush that came from figuring out a difficult problem, but like any kind of adrenalin rush there was a crash, and he was tired. And jittery. He chugged a blue Fizz for the sugar and used the FoodWizard to dial up a plate of vegetarian stir fry, which he ate standing up at the kitchen counter. He fell into bed and got a solid six hours in with Groucho curled up at the small of his back.
When he woke up his first thought was of Sheppard. After a brief battle with himself, where he used words like obsessed and stalker, Rodney turned on the tablet. His skin flushed with heat as soon as he laid eyes on Sheppard. God, that man really turned his crank. He went into the archived footage first, to see what the man had been up to while Rodney slept. On the screen he watched as Sheppard walked all the way from his hotel to the Crossroads.
It was said that you went to the Crossroads to make deals with the devil. It was populated by everyone the Dome liked to pretend they didn't allow in: mercenaries, bounty hunters, killers for hire, even doctors that worked well beyond acceptable levels of practice. Violence wasn't tolerated under the Dome, but if you hired someone for an act of vengeance elsewhere, well, that was okay. Following Management's example, the drones had learned to turn a blind eye. But Rodney couldn't do it, not this time.
"What are you doing?" Rodney muttered. "You shouldn't be there."
It went from bad to worse when Sheppard arrived at his location, a deceptively innocuous bakery that was a front for Genii mercenaries. The Crossroads wasn't exactly on the city map, but people looking to hire someone ready, willing and able to get blood on their hands always seemed to know where to go. The Genii were some of the worst. They had a reputation for brutality against their enemies, and it was ridiculously easy to become one; they were a suspicious lot.
"I'm here for Sora," Sheppard said after he stepped inside. The big-boned woman behind the counter nodded once and two guards appeared out of a back room. They escorted Sheppard back the way they'd come, until they disappeared from sight. Rodney cursed when he attempted to access the interior cameras and received an error message.
"What do you mean, disengaged?" He tapped at the tablet, bringing up electrical subroutines and checking the remote conduits. The Genii shouldn't have been able to disconnect their cameras; there were layers of firewalls and access codes to prevent exactly that. But it looked like they had, and reconnecting them would take a lot of computer time and a site visit. Rodney didn't like not knowing what was happening inside, and he amped up all the camera mics to see if he could pick up any ambient noise. He had to apply several filters before he was able to get anything useful.
Rodney winced. Sheppard's gravelly voice was only coming in sporadically, but the conversation didn't seem to be going very well. When the next sound he heard was a blaster being fired his mouth dropped open. "Oh, no!" He assumed Sheppard didn't have a weapon, and, God, he hoped he just hadn't heard the man die. He skipped ahead to real time, using the sensors built into the street cams to determine if Sheppard was still on the premises.
"Come on, come on." Rodney tweaked sensor sensitivity, feeding in Sheppard's unique DNA signatures, and immediately got a hit. He was still with the Genii and, according to the building schematics, he was in their sub-basement. Fuck. Nothing good ever happened in a mercenary's sub-basement.
Rodney drummed his fingers on the edge of the tablet, thinking hard. Sheppard was clearly in need of assistance, but Rodney wasn't sure he was the right person to give it. He could contact the SGC, but it was unlikely they'd get there in time to do more than take possession of his body. Patrol would likewise be useless, since anyone working the Crossroads sector was probably on the take; how else did the Genii get weapons into the Dome?
Whatever it was about the partially-scaly Colonel that drew Rodney, he couldn't just leave him there to die. He'd heard plenty of stories about the Genii, and knew torture was always on the menu for them, for no other reason than they liked doing it. They were co-owners of a pleasure dungeon in Carnal Block that had been the scene of more than one instance of fun gone too far. One more violation and they'd be in danger of losing their operating license.
Groucho meowed at him, and Rodney absently reached over to scratch him under the chin. "I'm going to have to go over there. Because clearly I'm insane. Jesus."
Rodney changed into jeans and sturdy hiking boots, and threw some items he'd need into a satchel. He returned to the Hub and logged into the main system, noting his intention to do an on-site service call; that would keep him on the grid but free him up to launch his rescue mission. The words rescue mission filled him with a little thrill, even though the idea of actually rescuing someone from the Genii was terrifying.
"Where you going, McKay?" Geneva appeared as she always did, quiet as a phantom even with the clunky shoes she wore. "You don't do service calls."
"Well, I'm doing this one. It's important." He grabbed his tool case and stuffed it in the satchel, along with a hand-held scanner and a fistful of nutrient bars.
"Then I'll come with you."
"No, I've got this." Rodney patted her on the cheek. "I'm the smartest one here anyway, right?"
"Egomaniac," Geneva replied affectionately. "Keep your comms on."
"I'm well aware of protocol." Even so, he double-checked his earpiece just to make sure it was functioning properly.
"You know, McKay, I have the sudden urge to fuck you in the laundry room." Geneva winked at him. "Don't be gone too long."
"Who could resist that generous offer? Sex and fabric softener."
"You know you love it."
"Yeah, sure. Hold down the fort while I'm gone." Rodney slipped the satchel over his head, adjusting the strap so it lay comfortably across his chest, and then he headed out of the Hub on what was surely a fool's mission.
Being a drone had its benefits. Rodney was more than a little familiar with the complex warren of access tunnels and sub-basements that made up the under-city. He had the complete schematics on his tablet and a pretty good sense of direction to lead him. There was no need for him to traverse the streets above his head, or interact with any other people, though he did encounter one or two random maintenance workers. They exchanged nods but no words.
The Crossroads were located at the edge of the Pleasure Dome, and the tunnels lost a lot of their spit and polish the further Rodney got from the Hub. He made notes on the tablet as he went, intent on sending Management a detailed list of work that needed to be done before major city systems started failing. One of the sub-basements just north of Boystown had a water leak; he had to slog through ankle-deep water and was thankful that his boots were waterproof.
"You better be worth it," he grumbled to himself, though he knew that even if the guy turned out to be a dick Rodney couldn't regret going to get him. He just hoped that he didn't run into any Genii, or he was dead.
Yeah, Sheppard had really better be worth it.
Rodney kept checking for Sheppard's signal, afraid each time that he wouldn't see it, that he'd be too late. The Genii weren't known for having a lot of patience. Particularly Sora Tyrus, the one Sheppard had asked for at the gate. She'd lost her whole family in the war, which had hardened her, and though she was fairly young she'd clawed her way to the top of the group that lived in the Crossroads. Rodney didn't know every resident of the Dome, but it seemed like a good idea to find out all he could about some of the more...infamous ones.
When he reached the Crossroads Rodney checked his schematics, then checked Sheppard's signal and tried to figure out the best way to get into the Genii sub-basement undetected. With a sigh he realized he'd have to crawl through the duct work to get to Sheppard's exact location, which meant he was going to get dirty. Damn.
Rodney shrugged off the satchel and pulled out his tool box. He had to remove the access panel, and was thankful that there were no cameras down in the tunnels, since only drones and maintenance had clearance to be there.
McKay? How's it coming?
He jumped when Geneva's voice crackled in his ear. "Jeez, give me a heart attack! It's coming. I'm almost where I need to be."
Just checking. It's been forever since you've done a service call. Figured you were probably rusty.
"Even at my rustiest I'm still ten times better than you. Can I get back to work now?"
You really know how to sweet talk a girl.
"I'll make it up to you."
Counting on it. Geneva out.
Rodney rolled his eyes and pulled the panel off the wall, setting it aside carefully so it wouldn't fall over. He pulled out his scanner, which had a built-in flashlight, and shone it into the duct. The filters worked well, but there was still a thin layer of dust and dirt coating the smooth insides.
He packed the bag back up, leaving out the scanner and stuffing his only weapon - a hand-made stun stick - in his back pocket. He set the satchel aside with the access panel, attached the holster for the scanner to his thigh, and then boosted himself up into the duct. Rodney wasn't overly fond of small spaces, but being a drone he'd been forced into his fair share, particularly in the early days of his tenure under the Dome. He took a steadying breath and started crawling on his hands and knees.
After about five meters he came to a T junction. He consulted the scanner and the last bit of schematics he'd memorized, and made a right. Another fifteen meters and he came to the second access panel. He peered through the vents, visually assessing the room on the other side the best he could. There wasn't much to see, just several aluminum crates, a large cabinet, and Sheppard zip-tied to a chair.
Rodney's heart was in his throat. The man he'd been stalking for the last two days was right there on the other side of the access panel. He still had a chance to talk himself out of going through with his plan; it would be easy enough to just crawl back the way he came and go back to work. But Sheppard was possibly unconscious, which was bad, or maybe even dead, which would be much, much worse. Rodney really had no choice at all.
Working loose an access panel from the inside was a bit more difficult, but Rodney was able to do it with just his small pocket multi-tool. The real trick was lowering it quietly to the floor without falling head first out of the duct, but he managed it with the least amount of noise he could. The hardest part was turning himself around in such narrow confines so he could exit feet first.
Rodney pulled out the stun stick and flicked it on before making his way stealthily across the room. Sheppard hadn't moved, nor had he given any indication that he knew anyone was there. As Rodney got closer he could see that the Genii had roughed him up: he had blood on his mouth, and more dripping from his nose, and there was a gash on his temple. Sheppard's wrists were rubbed raw from pulling at the zip ties.
Biting back a curse, Rodney crouched down in front of Sheppard and put a hand on his arm. The response was immediate. Sheppard's head whipped up and he arched in the chair, growling wordlessly. Rodney reared back, gripping the stun stick tightly, and almost landed on his ass.
"Hey, whoa! I'm here to help you!"
Sheppard stared at him with those disconcertingly bicolored eyes, looking far more dangerous than the Genii that resided just upstairs. Rodney swallowed hard, eyes drawn again and again to the blue-gray scales that defined the right side of Sheppard's face.
"Who are you?"
"Rodney. Rodney McKay. Well, Dr. McKay, not that it means much here." He had to fight the ridiculous urge to put his hand out to shake. Sheppard merely glared at him, but didn't make any further violent moves. There was an awkward silence, and then Rodney fumbled in his pocket for the multi-tool. He snipped the zip ties at Sheppard's wrists and ankles and then stood back when Sheppard lurched to his feet.
There was noise from over their heads and they both looked up, and then Rodney scurried back to the duct. "Come on, Sheppard. We're almost out of time."
"How do you know my name?"
Rodney made hurry-up motions with his hands. "Can the chitchat. Unless you want more face time with your friends."
Sheppard touched the corner of his mouth and winced, as if realizing for the first time that he was injured. Rodney pulled his scanner out of the holster and checked the life signs. Three of them were headed their way.
"Did they hit you too many times?" Rodney demanded. He waved his scanner at Sheppard's face. "Three Genii are coming! We have to go!"
Sheppard blinked and shook his head.
"Okay, you know what? This was clearly a bad idea. I don't know what I was thinking. You stay here and play punch-the-bug with Sora's cronies. I'm gone. Nice to meet you, have a nice life."
Rodney hauled himself up into the duct, hoping that Sheppard would actually follow him. He was about to turn around and retrieve the access panel when he felt Sheppard finally crawling in as well. The sudden proximity was awkward, since Sheppard's face was pretty much in Rodney's ass.
"Can you grab the panel?" Rodney hissed over his shoulder. "We have to put it back up."
He moved further up the duct to give Sheppard room to maneuver. Once he had the panel Rodney instructed him on how to attach it so that none of the Genii would know where their prisoner had gone, although anyone with half a brain would eventually think about the air ducts.
"Go," Sheppard said when he had the panel fastened in place. Rodney went. He led the way back to the T junction and made a left to get back to the sub-basement. When he slid out of the duct he rubbed his hands on his jeans, disgusted by the grey smears of dirt on them.
"Someone needs to clean those things out."
Sheppard slid out and immediately took up a defensive position. "Do you have any weapons on you?" he asked hopefully.
Rodney had already put the stun stick back in his pocket and decided his newfound companion didn't need to be reminded about it. No sense arming an only mostly-human with possible brain damage.
"Just my staggering intellect. Get out of the way." Rodney pulled the tool kit from his satchel and re-attached the second access panel. He slung the bag over his shoulder, tossed Sheppard a nutrient bar, and then headed back towards the Hub, telling himself he didn't care if the other man followed or not.
Rodney's plan was to return to the Hub, show Sheppard out, and get back to his life of routine city maintenance. Perhaps he'd also suggest that Sheppard leave the Pleasure Dome while he had the chance, because surely Sora's people would be looking for him.
What he hadn't known to figure in was stubbornness and paranoia on Sheppard's part.
"How did you know where to find me?" he asked.
Rodney took a few seconds to think that through. He could hardly admit to stalking the guy, because that was creepy and would probably end up with him punched in the face. "You were flagged in the system at Registration," he said, deciding to keep as close to the truth as possible.
"Because I'm a freak." There was a surprising amount of bitterness in Sheppard's voice, so much that it stopped Rodney cold. He turned to look at his companion, speaking before he had any time to think through what he was going to say.
"You're not a freak. I think you're...uh...it flags anyone with non-human DNA."
Sheppard quirked an eyebrow at that. "Doesn't explain how you knew where I was, or why you didn't just call Patrol."
Damn. Turned out there was a working brain under all that hair after all; just his luck. "I happened to be running diagnostics on cams in that section and noticed that all the ones inside the Genii compound had been disabled. It was only by accident that I found you there."
Okay, that was partially true. Enough to maybe sound convincing, anyway. Rodney tried to get moving again but Sheppard grabbed hold of his arm with his mutated right hand, clawed nails biting through the fabric.
"Why did you come?"
Rodney should've been panicking, considering Sheppard could probably kick his ass, but he found the other's man's touch incredibly exciting, all heat with an edge of danger. "The Patrol doesn't have much luck with the Genii. They don't do anything bad enough to get kicked out of the Dome, but they don't play well with others either. The Patrol wouldn't have come...I mean, been able to help you."
It wasn't like he could tell Sheppard that he'd been worried about the SGC coming to get him since he'd run away from the Gate Bridge project. He'd only been a civilian contractor but they'd recognized his genius, had started talking to him about other projects when everything went to hell. Ever since he'd helped Management get the Dome's weapons platform up and running ten years ago he'd been expecting to get beamed right out of his apartment. So yeah. He monitored all SGC personnel that came to the Dome. Although he hadn't listened to them having sex.
"You're just a drone," Sheppard pointed out. Then he frowned and leaned closer, his nose almost touching the side of Rodney's face, and breathed in deeply. "Are you turned on?"
Rodney yanked his arm free, leaving little tears in the sleeve of his shirt, and scowled. "You know what, find your own way out of here. Or not. I don't particularly care. I'm just a drone, clearly I have no feelings on the matter."
He stalked off, heart pounding in his chest. Betrayed by his own body, how typical. The part of his brain that wasn't fuming and mortified found it fascinating. Clearly the Iratus DNA gave Sheppard an enhanced sense of smell if he could detect whatever pheromones Rodney was giving off.
Rodney winced and put a hand over his ear. "You don't have to shout, Geneva."
Seems the only way to get your attention. Where the hell are you?
"I'm on my way back, so take it down a notch or two."
I know you know how to use the radio, dickhead.
"Oh, that's mature." Rodney cut a glance to the side and saw that Sheppard was still with him, his stoic features showing the slightest hint of amusement.
Did you fix the problem?
"Oh. Uh. No. No, I didn't."
What? The great McKay couldn't get the job done? What was...are you shitting me? You went to the Crossroads?
Geneva had looked up his work order, no doubt. He should've tried to cover his tracks, but this cloak and dagger shit wasn't generally in his wheelhouse.
"Cams are down and they need to be brought back online."
Where? No, don't bother. I'm already checking.
Rodney braced himself for another outraged scream. "Geneva..."
The Genii? Are you out of your fucking mind?
Do you have any idea what those thugs could do to a drone? They'd never find your body, McKay. Never.
"Well, it's a moot point because I couldn't fix the cams and I'm almost back. So give it a rest."
You can forget about the laundry room, mister. I don't feel like an angry fuck today.
"I'm sure I'll manage." Rodney flushed. He wondered if Sheppard had enhanced hearing as well as the ramped up sense of smell. "I gotta go."
We're not done with this, Geneva threatened before cutting the connection.
"Problems with the wife?" Sheppard asked with a little smirk.
"Co-worker. One who needs to mind a little more of her own business." Rodney was glad he'd taken precautions so she couldn't track him in real time. The last thing he needed was to explain Sheppard and the fact that Rodney stole him right out from under Sora's nose.
"That was pretty stupid, you know," Sheppard said conversationally. "If the Genii had caught you you'd probably be dead right now."
The only response Rodney got was a non-committal hum, which was about what he'd expected. Neither one of them made any further attempt at conversation until they arrived at the door that led to the Hub. Rodney hesitated with his hand over the keypad and looked at Sheppard, who merely stared back at him.
"Look, I obviously can't tell you what to do. But if you're smart, you'll leave the Dome and go back to whatever it is you do. Sora can be...tenacious." Which was an understatement, but if Sheppard had gone looking for her he presumably already knew that.
"I appreciate the concern."
Rodney snorted at that little piece of insincerity and typed in his ten-digit access code. The door beeped and swung open, revealing another long corridor. At the end of it was the elevator that would take him either up to the level of the Hub he worked on or down to his apartment. It would be easier to sneak Sheppard out from the lower level, so when they made the elevator he pressed the button for four.
While they waited Rodney took out his tablet and did a quick check on Casa Crazy. Interior cams were still down, no surprise there, but some of the Genii were on the move. He switched to streetside cams and followed their car. All vehicles in the Pleasure Dome were electric, and they had the biggest one that was able to run off a battery. It was pretty ballsy of them, out on the street like that. The Genii, like the other known denizens of the Crossroads, were on a watch list; if too many of them gathered together Patrol was notified. Rodney hacked into their onboard GPS, though he already had a pretty good idea where they were going.
The elevator doors opened and Rodney walked blindly, still tapping away at the tablet. He tried to access the internal vehicular camera but it, like the ones at the complex, had been disabled; there was no way to tap into the audio feed. He'd really like to know who the Genii had that could manipulate the tech that way. And why they wanted Sheppard so damn bad.
Rodney automatically stopped right in front of his door. "Your friends are on their way to your hotel. I hope you didn't leave anything important there."
"I travel light," was the only response.
"Go home, Sheppard."
"Can't. I'm not done here."
There were a lot of things Rodney could've done at that point. Told Sheppard to find himself a new hotel room and hope the Genii didn't find him there. Called Patrol and had Sheppard put into protective custody, or escorted back to his ship. Left him in the hall and wished him the best of luck.
"You'd better come in, then," Rodney said with a sigh as he opened the door.
( Crossroads - Part Two of Two )