- Science Fiction
The kid was unconscious by eight every night. In fact, one of the first things Sebastian had told him was that his mom said his bedtime was eight except for on special occasion until he was at least twelve then it could be negotiated. John had agreed. Then he’d asked for a list of Karen’s important rules so they could both make sure her wishes were adhered to. It’d seemed like the thing to do.
When the door chime to their quarters sounded, he prodded the door open from his place on the sofa and wasn’t all that surprised when McKay wandered in with his open laptop. He’d sent the CSO a copy of Beckett’s experiment proposal since the doctor hadn’t which was another cause for concern. Beckett had made a habit of going around McKay for a while, and it was really getting on McKay’s nerves.
“He uses my friendship to get away with this shit,” McKay said and dropped down on the sofa next to John. “I’m trying to figure out if he could’ve talked us into this if we both hadn’t immediately imagined introducing the kid to an altered wraith.”
John shuddered. “Beckett wants to name his subject Michael.”
“He says in the summary that it’s an alternative to genocide but really? Is it?” Rodney made a face. “Destroying their species identity is a form of genocide—it’s just supposedly more gentle but really? I don’t see how we can do something like this and still hold ourselves above the wraith or even the Goa’uld for that matter. We’d be no better than them. Maybe seeking their extinction is terrible but they eat people, sort of, and that’s…” He sighed.
“It’s kind of horrifying not to be at the top of the food chain,” John said. “The wraith aren’t a natural species—that’s what I cling, too, in the end. The Ancients made them in an experiment and lost control of them. Their foolish pursuit of ascension brought this entire galaxy to this point, and we can’t let them spread beyond this galaxy.”
“And they could,” Rodney said quietly. “Easily. We don’t have a lot of easy choices out here, but I think coming down on the side of medical experimentation is the wrong choice for everyone, even Carson. He’s blind to the ramifications, and I don’t know why.”
“He wants to make up for the mistakes that were made on Hoff,” John said. “But that can’t be undone, and no matter how we all feel about the situation, in the end, they did it to themselves.”
“Maybe they wouldn’t have gotten there without us.”
“Or maybe they would have with a vaccine even less successful and more than half would’ve died,” John said grimly. “Maybe they would’ve all died in the end. It doesn’t resolve the guilt but hell, what could?”
“I’m considering suggesting that we replace Carson as CMO. He’s so invested in research that I don’t think he’s doing a very good job of the rest of it.”
“I’ve already made an appointment with Biro for Sebastian,” John said. “I can’t believe…” He huffed. “I’m a terrible parent.”
“You’re doing a great job,” Rodney protested. “His clothes are clean, and he’s not running around like a hoodlum.”
“Low standards there, McKay,” John said and laughed. “I have to finish this report for his homeschooling before the next data burst. He’s only really lagging on history because it bores him silly. But since he’s in high school classes at his age, they’re not really all that concerned about his slow reading regarding World History. He has to sit a standardized test on my next leave—math, language, and reading compression.”
“You should check with Sam and see if she can arrange for him to take the ACT. I’d like to see where he is on that.”
John made a face. “Rodney.”
“He’s already in high school at ten. Let’s not throw up him at college courses just yet.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s humoring you on that whole homeschooling thing,” Rodney admitted. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he could sit and pass the GED today.”
John sighed. “I know that, but there is no need to rush him through childhood, okay?”
“Yeah, okay. How about the PSAT? That’s a test that kids in America get in high school.”
“I’ll ask Carter about the PSAT if Sebastian is interested,” John agreed, but he really didn’t want to. He wondered how Karen dealt with this part of their kid.
The only thing he really knew was that Sebastian had spent six months in a public school at the age of five before Karen removed him for homeschooling. He hadn’t asked Sebastian about that, and he figured he should. He’d been treading carefully on the subject of his mother for various reasons chief among them that talking about her often reduced Sebastian to tears. As much as John knew that his son needed to process his grief, he hated to see him cry. It made him feel helpless and like the worst kind of failure as a father. He really didn’t know how his own father had handled not one but three grieving children when his own mother had died.
“Did you want me to handle any of the summaries?” Rodney questioned.
“Honestly, yes, but I should do it myself.” He frowned at his laptop screen. “We already have to tell a bunch of lies about his circumstances, so I guess I’d like to say I really did do this part.”
Rodney laughed a little. “I get it.” He yawned. “I should go to bed. I have a big day planned for tomorrow.”
John sighed. “Please try to keep him out of as much Ancient tech as you can. I really don’t want the IOA to…” He sighed. “They’re very proprietary over me, and I don’t want that for him.”
“That ship’s probably already sailed, John. The best we can do is make sure he’s savvy enough to make them pay through the nose for his time and attention. Plus, we need to guard his intellectual property rights like dragons. Since he’s a minor, he can’t be contracted with the SGC, so his position is precarious.”
“I’ll fix that,” John said and opened up a fresh email. “Even if I have to sign a contract on his behalf.” He fired off an email to Carter and O’Neill with a CC to McKay and Weir. “This thing with Kavanagh…”
“He’s an American,” Rodney said flatly and sighed. “Look, your government can be real dicks about intellectual property rights and patents when it comes to government contractors. There were incidents at Area 51 where Kavanagh managed to wrench control of a project away from a non-citizen because of his seniority and the fact that he’s American. He took a concept from Zelenka about a year before the expedition and ended up with three patents in his name. Plus he got a quarter of a million dollar bonus from the DOD for it.”
John’s gaze narrowed. “That’s bullshit, McKay.”
“Yes, well, he paid for it after the fact. There isn’t a single scientist at the SGC that will collaborate with him as a result. I won’t let him get anywhere near Sebastian’s work. I never pass him ideas to work on that I don’t have time for—not even ones that are essentially worthless on the money front. I wouldn’t help him build a better mousetrap.” He yawned again.
“Go to bed so you can be alert to keep my kid from blowing a hole in the galaxy tomorrow.”
Rodney scoffed as he stood. “We don’t have the equipment for that on the city.”
John just laughed as the scientist shuffled out of his quarters.
– – – –
Sebastian zipped his backpack and set it on the couch before going back into the kitchen. He put the coffee on and pulled out a steel to-go cup out of the small dishwasher. The coffee pot was from Earth, but the dishwasher was Ancient. It cleaned with an energy stream and required no soap which kind of put him off. He’d read the research on it and the washing machines hoping that knowing how they worked would help him get over the lack of soap thing. He understood the mechanism but he still kind of wished his clothes still smelled like Snuggle.
The coffee finished so he filled the to-go cup and snapped on the lid. Then he put on another pot because if he wanted McKay out of his quarters and heading toward the mess from breakfast, then he needed to be properly medicated. His Dad entered the kitchen, and Sebastian shot up.
“Good morning, Daddy.” He grabbed the cup and left their quarters at a trot. Three doors down he hit the chime for McKay and waited a few moments before it was answered.
McKay glared at him. “It’s not even six.”
Sebastian offered him the cup.
McKay took it with a huff. “Fifteen minutes.”
Sebastian laughed as the door shut and he headed back to their apartment. Just as he was about to enter their rooms, the door to McKay’s place opened, and Katie Brown left. He made a face at that and prodded their door closed quickly to avoid any sort of interaction with her. In the kitchen, he found his dad drinking a cup of coffee.
“I made that for Dr. McKay.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Don’t encourage his caffeine addiction.”
“It’s too late, Daddy, at his age we’re in a maintenance pattern to keep him out of jail,” Sebastian said earnestly. “Are you going to eat with us in the mess?”
“Yeah, I have a few trips to the mainland to make this afternoon but my morning is all paperwork. Botany and biology both have specimens to gather. Sit for a minute, I want to talk to you about a few things.”
Sebastian sat but pursed his lips. “It’s McKay Day, Daddy.”
John snorted. “From now on, I don’t want you to work with anyone on anything science related without McKay’s explicit approval. Moreover, give Dr. Kavanagh a wide berth—he has a history of stealing other people’s work. If he asks you questions or invites you to research with him, tell him I said no and direct him my way if he has questions. He won’t.”
“Dr. Zelenka says that Kavanagh is afraid of you,” Sebastian said. “I’ll stay away from him, and I don’t want to work with him anyway. He whines a lot and…” He felt his face heat. “The thing is that he’d just slow me down. I don’t like to waste my time explaining stuff to people. I don’t have to do that with Drs McKay, Zelenka, or Kusanagi when it comes to engineering. Kavanagh is more interested in making money than making science, and it shows. Money is important, I guess, especially if you don’t have it but to put that above discovery is kind of…appalling.”
John nodded as their door chime sounded. “Go let the caffeine fiend in.”
“Come on Sheppard, it’s waffle day!”
John stood and picked up his laptop. He figured he’d do his paperwork in the mess where there was a constant source of coffee…and snacks since he worked best on a personal reward system.
He followed Sebastian and McKay to the transporter.
“You stole my extra coffee.”
John took a sip of his coffee. “There’s more in the mess.”
“That’s not even the point. It was made for me.” He waved an empty cup at him. “If I have problems maintaining a cheerful demeanor today, I’m blaming you.”
“Who do you blame other days?” John asked curiously and laughed when Rodney huffed dramatically. “Is there a system? Am I taking turns with someone?”
“Asshole,” Rodney muttered and punched the button for the mess hall. Shortly they were deposited in a transporter in the main tower. “You realize your kid is the only reason I still tolerate you, right?”
“Lucky me,” John said wryly as Sebastian laughed.
“I have it on good authority that single fatherhood has increased his hot factor,” Sebastian interjected. “So I’m taking that into account.”
“Account for what?” John asked in shock. “And who said that?”
“Practically every woman on the city,” Sebastian said. “I’m a chick magnet, Daddy. The only thing better would probably be a fluffy puppy. Which, you know, I’d like a dog.”
“Pets aren’t currently allowed due to the charter,” Rodney said. “Or I’d have a cat.”
“We need to work on that charter thing then,” Sebastian said as they got in line. “Dr. Weir is focusing on morale lately, and pets are excellent for stress relief.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” John prodded.
“Oh, well,” Sebastian said and bit down on his lip. “I’ve not finished with it.”
John eyed him. “Fine, keep your secret.”
The kid grinned and selected a bowl of strawberries for his waffle. “Okay.”
“I’m going to regret that,” John muttered to McKay.
McKay snorted. “So much. You should just start regretting now so you won’t get behind when it lands.”
He took his time with breakfast, but McKay and Sebastian plowed through all of their food like a pair of Vikings then dashed out of the mess in favor of the lab. John found them more amusing than alarming and just hoped his kid didn’t end up with a stomach ache for his trouble.
He was contemplating a second waffle when Kate Heightmeyer sat down with her own tray.
“John.” She shook her milk gently and opened it. “I saw Sebastian leaving with McKay.”
“Yeah, it’s McKay Day,” John said wryly. “He spends the whole day with McKay being his mini-me.” He grinned when Kate laughed. “I’m pretty sure McKay is a terrible influence on him but separating them would probably be dangerous for the galaxy.”
“Certainly,” she said in amusement. “It’s nice though—to see him connecting with a child like Sebastian. I think they probably have a lot in common on several fronts. Have you spoken to him about making an appointment to talk with me?”
“You know Elizabeth has to order McKay into therapy,” John said.
She huffed. “John.”
“Sebastian doesn’t want to do therapy,” John admitted. “I have discussed it with him, and he’s agreed to think about it, but I believe we both agree that forcing it wouldn’t be helpful at all. He’s a little stubborn.”
“I don’t wonder where he got that,” she said and rolled her eyes when he pretended to be offended. “His nightmares?”
“Consistent,” John said. “Which I guess is better than escalating? He says they’re about the car wreckage and maybe that’s true but his circumstances have changed drastically in the last month, and I have to think he’s got some anxiety about living in another galaxy.”
“Certainly and he isn’t alone in that,” Kate said. “I’d be worried if he wasn’t a bit anxious about living on another planet. His grief and the nightmares are normal, John, I just wish he was more open to a conversation with me. Does he talk to you?”
“Sometimes he evades questions, but if I press, he’ll talk. The topic of his mother always makes him cry, and I think it will for a while. I…well. Hell, Kate, I can’t talk about my own mother for any length of time without getting upset, and she’s been dead since I was fourteen.” He cleared his throat. “It’s not something you really get over, you know?”
“I do know,” Kate admitted. “Well, keep me in the loop about his emotional state and watch his temper.”
“He hasn’t any sort of tantrum since we met.”
“Then you’re about due,” she said wryly. “He’s ten, John, and despite his intelligence, his hormones are going to be all over the place due to puberty. You can anticipate a genuine meltdown in your future.”
“Don’t threaten me,” John said in horror and huffed when she laughed. “My child is perfect.”
“Oh, John.” She shook her head and started cutting up her waffle.
– – – –
Sebastian liked to work on the opposite side of the lab from McKay when is own work was under review. Mostly because the man had the most expressive face in existence and watching him frown at his work was nerve-wracking. The CSO always spent the first hour of the day reviewing people’s work that had been submitted to him, and quite a few groans were going around the main lab as email notifications started to ping. He only hesitated a few seconds before opening his own evaluation.
It’s tempting to cut corners because of our extra knowledge, but for a project to fly on Earth on its own, you can’t do that. Earth materials aren’t enough—confine yourself to the concepts as well. Harnessing vacuum energy is theoretical as far as the science community is concerned. Your battery is going to prove that theory. You must be able to talk about it in depth without mentioning the Ancients or anything else off-world that might have inspired you.
This isn’t a huge concern now as the origin and patent for the device will likely be classified until you’re in your 30s or older. But keep these facts in mind for current and future projects – MRM
He frowned but responded back that he understood. Sebastian brought up his project and stared at the schematic. Nothing looked overtly alien in design so far, but he resolved to spend some more time on the aesthetics to make it look more in line with Earth tech. Though something about McKay’s email was bothering him, so he opened it again and read then frowned some more.
“Was he mean?” Zelenka questioned. “He clearly has not had enough coffee.”
“Daddy drank the extra coffee I made him,” Sebastian said absently. “And, no, Dr. McKay is never mean to me. He’s honest which I appreciate, but he saves the insults for the people who get paid around here.” He exhaled sharply as he read over the email again. “Oh.”
“Oh, what?” Rodney questioned as he joined them at the work table.
Sebastian looked around. “I…would prefer to say in a less crowded circumstance.”
“What the boy genius thinks he’s too good to share his ideas with the whole department?” Kavanagh asked snidely.
“My Daddy told me you were a thief and I shouldn’t talk to you at all,” Sebastian said in Kavanagh’s direction, and the scientist flushed bright red. “And I’m not allowed to discuss my battery project in front of you because you can’t be trusted.”
“It should be given to someone with experience, McKay, and you know it.”
“Given?” McKay questioned. “You want me to steal from a ten-year-old and give it to you? Do you think I’m stupid, Kavanagh? Do you think you’re the only one who’s realized this kind of project could win him a Nobel before he even graduates college?”
“Ugh,” Sebastian uttered. “I have no interest in winning any sort of prizes.” He closed his laptop.
“Why not?” Zelenka asked curiously. “It’s a very prestigious thing.”
“That kind of prestige is useless, really. It does nothing to help anyone. I mean the money would be nice, but the actual Nobel part itself is just a bunch of smart people patting other smart people on the back. They should invest their time in things that really matter—like helping others. Earth is literally brimming with problems—starvation, drought, global warming.” He shrugged. “That’s just my opinion. Can we talk in your office, Dr. McKay?”
“Sure kid,” Rodney said with a small, bemused smile. “Everyone get to work. Kavanagh, you’ve already got your assignments for the day. Why are you even in here?”
“I want to talk to you about the kid’s work. One of us could finish it twice as fast. It has benefit to the program and needs to be moved—perhaps even to a full team of scientists.”
“That’s a bunch of crap,” Sebastian said flatly, and they all turned to stare at him. “If it were that easy for you to figure out, Dr. Kavanagh, you’d have already done it. Plus, every single one of you is approaching the zero point energy from the wrong perspective so you couldn’t finish this project in a hundred years.” He turned to McKay. “Which is exactly what I want to talk to you about in your office, please.”
Rodney cleared his throat. “Zelenka, with us, the rest of you get to work.”
Sebastian slid off the stool with his laptop, grabbed his bag, and went to McKay’s office to wait. His stomach knotted as he considered his theory. He knew deep down that he was right, but he wasn’t sure how to say it without being…more insulting than he already had been. McKay and Zelenka stepped into the office and the door shut. Zelenka joined him in the second visitor’s chair, but McKay came around to lean on the desk instead of sitting at it.
“Talk to me,” Rodney said.
“I.” He bit down on his lip.
McKay squatted down in front of him. “When I was your age I built a working model of a nuclear weapon in my parent’s garage. Well, the only thing it was missing was uranium. They were horrified, and the Canadian government stopped pretending I didn’t exist. My life changed a lot after that and even more so when I started college. It was scary and sometimes horrifying how seriously adults took me.” He plucked the laptop from Sebastian’s hands and put it on the desk. “Now, you had an epiphany, right? When you were reading my email?”
“Yes.” Sebastian felt his cheeks heat. “You can’t…you can’t harness zero point energy. The ZPM doesn’t do that. If it did that, then it would never run out of energy, and they do deplete.” He reached his hand out and wrapped it around air. “It captures a bit of it. Not much—just a little bit because too much would destroy the device. Feynman and Wheeler calculated that there’s enough zero point energy in the space of a light bulb to boil all of the oceans on Earth, but I think it would take much less than that. My battery won’t ever run out of energy because it will draw ZPE from its environment every twenty-four hours. The bigger the battery, the more energy it will trap for its needs, but it will do it in discrete packages to prevent overloads. Kind of like how we travel through the stargate in a discrete package of energy to prevent parts of us from getting lost. Which is also how people lose parts if not all of them gets through the event horizon before the gate disengages.”
He watched the color drain from McKay’s face.
“Are you okay?” Sebastian asked.
“I.” Rodney exhaled and stood. “Give me a minute, I think you just gave me a stroke.” He rubbed his face with a shaking hand. “Radek?”
“If he’s right then we can’t recharge a ZPM,” Radek said. “And we’ve been working toward that goal for years.”
“I think we both know he’s right,” McKay said roughly. “The ZPM doesn’t have a mechanism for recapturing zero point energy which means we should’ve been searching for a way to capture it ourselves.”
“Except you already have a way,” Sebastian said. “The naquadah generator creates zero point energy as it decays. It does so in a very predictable and controlled fashion—capturing that energy should be the work of nothing.”
“For fuck’s sake,” Zelenka said. “Yes. I see!”
“Great, now he’s having an epiphany,” Rodney said dryly. He exhaled slowly. “I sort of kind of promised your father I wouldn’t let you do anything huge to catch the IOA’s attention.”
Sebastian flushed. “Sorry.”
“No, you’ve just…literally advanced your species. No apologies allowed.” Rodney cleared his throat and handed his laptop back to him. “Let’s move your work to my private server.” He focused on Radek. “And we’re not discussing this with anyone until I’ve had a long talk with Elizabeth and John.”
“Agreed,” Zelenka said. “Bring them both liquor for that meeting. They will need it.”