by Domenika Marzione

"Nobody destroys worlds by accident," Rodney is told early on in his academic career.

At the time, he doesn't think much of the comment -- the warning, really. Doesn't even recognize it as a warning. Thinks it's just Strelow going off on one of his nostalgia-fueled disquisitions on the ethics of science and scientists and Why Things Were Better Back Then despite the fact that Back Then didn't have electron microscopes or particle colliders or a decent understanding that you should back the fuck away from the radioactive isotope. Strelow treats science like it's polo, a gentleman's game played by gentlemen's rules, and his disdain for anything that doesn't belong and anyone who doesn't play along (or both, since he's not averse to bitching about the rising tide of women and Chinese and Indians in the hard sciences) is ill-hidden. He's straight out of an astrophysics staging of one of those morality plays set in the British Raj that are always getting turned into movies or television series, the aristocrat/bureaucrat who cannot abide by the uppity natives acting like they're English. It would be hilarious if Rodney had only heard it the first time, or even occasionally. But he doesn't. Strelow is his advisor and thus Rodney (whom Strelow will not actually call Rodney, insisting on using the Meredith that is still his legal first name or McKay, like they were on the pitch at Eton) has to suffer through all sorts of most-polite rants about this, that, and the other in between being gifted with exquisite baubles of profound knowledge. Because Strelow, for all of his Strelow-ness, is still a brilliant, brilliant man who believes that passing on what he's learned in forty years in the field is his most important duty left on this mortal coil. (That might be a paraphrase; after two years of acolytehood, Rodney's mental narrator tends to sound like Strelow when thinking about him.) Rodney thinks Strelow is a dinosaur plodding determinedly toward the LaBrea tarpits, but he's marching with purpose and not because he's got a brain the size of a walnut. Strelow expects Rodney to surpass him -- why do you think I'm spending my time and wasting my good scotch on you, boy? -- and Rodney is driven by that as much as he is by anything else.

Which is another reason why Rodney doesn't recognize the warning for what it is -- sometimes, if less often than it used to be, Strelow is saying something important and Rodney just isn't bright enough to grasp it.

The successful pursuit of science is prefaced and accompanied by the successful pursuit of money. The tools of brilliance are expensive and the means to achieve greatness are even more so. It's not about the salary; most of them work for crap money, if they are getting paid at all. Fellowships and grants aren't for you, but instead for your lab, your institute, your department, your company, wherever it is that you do what it is you do. Your genius will buy ridiculously expensive tools for you to use as well as everyone else and, maybe, occasionally, they'll remember who the cash cow is when it comes time for contract renewals and tenure reviews.

Maybe it wasn't always this way, which is why Strelow gets that look whenever someone mentions DARPA, or maybe it was and Strelow's just revising history to fit his ocher-tinted wishes for how things should be. Either way, by the time Rodney's anywhere close to getting substantive work done on his thesis, it's how things are done and he accepts that.

Getting money from the American government isn't so much as status symbol as not getting money from the American government. Because if you're in the hard sciences, especially if you've got any kind of practical bent to your research, if you're not getting money from the American government, you're either a talentless hack with a future teaching in high schools or you're one of the black helicopter crowd who thinks the JFK assassination was an inside job.

Rodney is neither crazy nor a talentless hack, so the Pentagon's interest in his research starts shortly after his first couple of conference presentations. A week after the conference at Berkeley, he gets an email from an Air Force colonel. The email's still a bit of a novelty, since almost all of his emails (all three per week) are forwarded lists of various 'a mathematician, a physicist, and an engineer walk into a bar' jokes, and Rodney's at first suspicious that someone's playing a prank. But it quickly becomes evident that it's not a prank and it is instead a feeler. Rodney spent most of his time in Berkeley getting into arguments with some guy from U Kansas -- which was pointless because the guy was wrong and who the hell takes anyone from U Kansas's physics department seriously? -- and didn't notice any military personnel there, but apparently they were and they were impressed.

They're not impressed enough to offer him money at this juncture, which is not surprising because Rodney has yet to provide anything close to actual results in his work. But they want him to know that they are impressed enough to want to keep an eye on his progress and could he maybe let them know if he's publishing any papers or presenting anywhere in the near future.

He mentions this to Strelow, which is when Strelow makes his comment about destroying worlds, which is why Rodney thinks he's just griping about the military-industrial complex sullying the elysian paradise of science.

Rodney is neither crazy nor a talentless hack, but his genius is still nascent and narrowly-focused and he has never been really that great at picking up on metaphors.

The period between Berkeley and his dissertation defense can be summarized as a chaste long-distance epistolary romance, not unlike that dreadful movie he had to sit through when he was trying to date Dorothy Chisholm (the last time he made the mistake of dating in the liberal arts end of the gene pool). He and Colonel Corfanus exchange letters, emails (still novel), and the occasional phone call; Rodney sends him offprints of his articles and dates of conference appearances and, in return, he gets occasional gift packets of DARPA articles and monographs (some of which he sends right back, full of notes in the margins and corrections) and the more-occasional heads-up that there is a grant available that might suit his needs.

Rodney is maybe a little disappointed when Corfanus doesn't greet the news of Rodney's imminent hooding as a doctor of philosophy with a job offer and details of relocation expenses to move to Arlington. Instead, Rodney ends up taking a job at Cornell, since it is the best combination of agreeable philosophical direction, prestige, lack-of-teaching-responsibility, existing funding and equipment, and desperation to have someone come in and be a rainmaker. Ithaca is almost Canadian in its climate and quiet and there's not enough going on in town for him to feel even the slightest twinge that he's missing out on anything by spending fifteen (eighteen) hours a day in the lab. He will be happy there, he thinks. Strelow is grudgingly pleased.

Corfanus keeps up the correspondence until the day he emails Rodney (no longer quite the novelty) to tell him that he's retiring and that Colonel Engstrom will be his contact now. Rodney's interacted with Engstrom before; he's a double-doctorate whose work on black holes kept getting interrupted by requirements to actually be a soldier. Corfanus doesn't so much disappear as fade away as Engstrom, enthusiastic about Rodney's work and with fingers in more pies than Corfanus could (or would) muster, becomes his penpal and, in a hindsight that won't clarify for another decade and in another galaxy, his seducer.

After a few years at Cornell, Rodney is content with his progress. He's got a monograph out, a bevy of articles in some state of peer review, three graduate students he is comfortable using as slave labor, and two not-very-subtle open offers from other schools in case he should ever tire of Ithaca's bucolic scenery. (He's already tired of the hippies and New York's Canadianesque tax burden and the fact that nobody knows how to drive in the snow, but between the aggies and the hotel people, it's got fabulous food right on campus.) He's not looking to leave, certainly not when he's maybe two rounds from landing the department an astrophysics grant that will make Caltech and Princeton weep with envy.

Rodney considers Engstrom's latest email to be mostly routine -- the last paper was brilliant (although you might want to look at what Chang over at UCSB is doing, since it's peripherally related to the second section), Holloway has a pretty clever article coming out in the April issue of TAJ, I'll take a look and see if we can find something that would work as a useful internship for your new student -- until he gets to the end. That's where Engstrom has chosen to suggest that Rodney apply for DARPA funding if he's going to spin that Manchester paper into something more hefty.

Uncle Sam's money has been paying for a portion of Rodney's research all along -- he's not a talentless hack and even if they want him to teach a section of General Relativity, it's not high school -- but the money's always been filtered through various institutes and prizes and not as checks from the Department of Defense.

"So I've finally found something that's DARPA-hard," he says to nobody in particular.

Writing up a proposal takes longer than planned, although not because Rodney's got anything like qualms about accepting DoD money. He's got the existing proposals to nurture, his graduate students to keep from killing themselves with their own stupidity (he's already revoked #2's license to chew gum and walk at the same time after that thing with the laser), and, to top it all off, his sister's thinking of U Illinois Urbana-Champaign for graduate school.

The proposal does, eventually, get written. And then revised and then resubmitted because Rodney's not used to direct contact with American government agencies beyond the IRS and the DMV and the postal service.

"Bending over for Uncle Sam?" Vattimo asks as they stand around drinking white wine and eating shrimp during one of the graduation receptions. Vattimo is a refusenik, unwilling to accept any government money because he's convinced the Pentagon is going to weaponize everything he does. If he wasn't a veritable article machine and didn't mind teaching the Intro classes to the undergrads, Rodney is sure he'd have been turfed already. As it stands, his tenure review comes up next year and Rodney's willing to bet he won't get it because their chair is most certainly not a refusenik and she cannot abide by Vattimo's conflation of poverty and virtue and there's always someone who is willing to teach the undergrads.

"If you wanted to be a martyr," Rodney tells him, chewing and swallowing another shrimp. "You should have gone to a seminary."

Engstrom turns out to have a flair for translating Rodney's succinct-if-technical prose into smaller words that people who wear guns and camouflage can understand and it takes less than a year from suggestion to grant approval. Rodney is officially working for The Man.

Rodney's DARPA project is in a somewhat different vein that most of the rest of what he's been working on since before Cornell, which is fine with him in that it keeps him from getting bored (and having the same arguments with the same people at every professional congress), but it also means he's got to do a little more work because the answers aren't quite as intuitive. Which is also fine, since Rodney likes to work.

Engstrom's interest, now that there is a real and tangible connection between what Rodney is doing and who signs Engstrom's paychecks, becomes more involved. Instead of just waiting for offprints or CCs of blistering letters to the editors of the various journals, Engstrom asks questions about progress and avenues of exploration and methodology and possible resources. It's not invasive and it's not even bothersome most of the time, since Rodney is happy to have someone interested in what he's doing without an eye toward competitiveness or even sabotage. But it's different.

"You're not used to having a boss," Kadyrzhanova tells him. She's the new Vattimo, except she's not getting government money not because she's a refusenik but instead because her work is so theoretical Rodney thinks she should be teaching fairy tales over in English.

"Don't tell Straum that," he retorts. They're having lunch together since they both like to eat Hotel School food and she's completely unoffended by him telling her that she should be teaching fairy tales.

"Straum is scared of you," Kadyrzhanova says with a shrug. "You are responsible for, like, what percentage of our money? And you made Xu cry."

Xu is a delicate soul who has managed to get this far in life without being forced to face the fact that he's not the most brilliant man in the world. Rodney was only doing him a favor.

"I don't have a problem with authority," Rodney says.

"Which is good," Kadyrzhanova replies, tapping her creme brulee delicately with the back of her spoon. "Because you are working for one that does not like to be told 'no.'"

It's not an important conversation until Engstrom sends him a paper by an Air Force Captain Samantha Carter and suggests he take a look at it because it could prove very relevant to his reseach. Rodney knows from the title that it's not -- Carter's work is far too theoretical -- and says as much when Engstrom asks.

"I think you should give it a chance," Engstrom emails back. "She's been doing some pretty exciting work lately. The Air Force is bending over backward to keep her from leaving once her obligation's done."

That's all Engstrom has to say on the matter, but Rodney thinks of Kadyrzhanova and her stories of Moscow University and so he reads the paper.

"It's not bad," Rodney emails back. "It's a little credulous in places, but she's got the germs of some good ideas. It's also blatantly WRONG, but it's not bad."

Engstrom sends him three more of Carter's papers. They are all similarly flawed -- Carter's got a nuanced approach to subspace particles, but she doesn't have either the imagination or the experience to harness it to do anything spectacular with her approach. That said, it does give Rodney a few ideas for his own research and, since he does have the experience and the imagination to make something spectacular, he spends the next three weeks living on coffee and non-Hotel School cafeteria food to bend the laws of physics to his whims.

"Holy crap," he says when he's finished. "I think I'm going insane."

Because it's either that, or he's got a bead on how intergalactic travel works. Or he's been drinking DiLaurio's super-caffeinated soda again. But it's probably the insanity because he's checked his work half a dozen times and caffeine sharpens his thinking.

"Find my mistakes," he orders Kadyrzhanova, handing her a copy of his work.

"Is this a trick question?" she asks warily. "I know what you did to the students in Intro to Waves."

He'd given them a perfectly good series of equations and told them to either prove him right or prove him wrong. It had been the last time he'd had to teach an Intro class, but it had also been two years before Kadyrzhanova had arrived.

"It's famous," she tells him, reading his expression. She taps on the paper stack with a painted fingernail. "Are you fucking with my head because I won't sleep with you?"

"What?" he yelps. "Since when did I-- no. This is legit. Also, when did I ever ask you to sleep with me?"

She smiles at him. "Give me until Monday," she tells him, gesturing at the papers. "I have an exam to create."

Monday morning, the papers are stacked neatly on his desk. There are red pencil markings on three of the pages, but it seems like Rodney's errors canceled each other out. The last page, in Kadyrzhanova's sloppy script, is one question and a smiley face.

"Now who's telling fairy tales?"

Rodney is working on his contribution to Strelow's festschrift -- fifty years in the field and Strelow might well actually be a dinosaur (albeit a dinosaur who has grudgingly made his peace with email, even if he cannot be trusted to fax anything) -- when Engstrom calls him.

"You up for a trip?" Engstrom asks and Rodney glares at the phone, which is on speaker.

"That's a joke, right?" Rodney asks, furious with himself because he's made a miserable mess trying to global find-and-replace a persistent spelling error, something he'd like to blame on the new Windows OS, but he can't because he was making the same mistake when he was using word processors.

"Not really," Engstrom says. "But it can wait until the end of the semester if that's easier. It's not pressing. Just want you to meet someone."

Rodney wonders briefly if he should be more attentive to Engstrom's unspoken words, if this is some coded message that normal people would pick up on, then decides that Engstrom has known him long enough to not be surprised that Rodney either doesn't get or doesn't want to get what he's saying.

Engstrom does not bring up any more road trips until April, by which point Rodney has freed himself of the festschrift and is about to be free of one graduate student and has celebrated both by spending every free moment in his office working through the problems that have cropped up since Kadyrzhanova failed to decimate his theory. He has two choices in his approach -- either he can fight his own conclusions, since they make no sense by conventional physics rules, or he can roll with them and see where they go. The problem with the latter is that it's not just his time that's being wasted if it turns out the destination is 'nowhere' or 'fantasy' -- how much money and effort and attention has DARPA (through Engstrom) put into this and him? He has enough rope to roam as far as Cornell goes, but he has no idea how long his leash is with Uncle Sam.

Which is why when Engstrom brings up the road trip again, Rodney agrees. Then asks where he's going.

"Groom Lake," Engstrom tells him.

"Area 51?" Rodney is lucky Engstrom is still 350 miles away so he can't see the incredulous look on Rodney's face.

"Don't you want to see the aliens?" Engstrom asks and Rodney can hear the smile in his voice. Maybe Engstrom can imagine the look on Rodney's face.

Area 51 is the home of most of the Air Force's secret projects and testing sites. Forget aliens, Rodney would be happy to get a glimpse of the fighter and UAV prototypes.

A week after Commencement, he tells Straum that DARPA's sending him to Vegas for a week. She tells him to make sure to have dinner at Spago and make sure to come back. Rodney assures her that he hates the desert.

There are non-disclosure forms to sign, which seems redundant in that Rodney's already signed enough of them to wallpaper his office -- there seems to be a new one every time he gets down to Arlington and Engstrom's prone to making him sign things to read certain papers -- but he agrees without hesitation. He doesn't have many friends, less those who care about the details of his work. Who is he going to tell?

But there's one additional one, on blue paper, and Engstrom holds it separate because he wants to say something first. "This is the important one," he warns Rodney, all good-natured geek glee tamped down. "This is the one that promises you that if you breathe a word about what you see here, there's nothing and no one that can protect you. Your Canadian citizenship won't matter -- there's nobody in Ottawa who'll be able to do a thing."

Rodney looks up at Engstrom, disturbed and intrigued both. Astrophysics has very few secrets that normal people would kill for. "Is whatever you're going to show me worth it?"

Engstrom smiles. "Fuck, yeah."

Rodney signs.

Engstrom takes him to a waiting jeep and they drive off to another point in this sprawling facility. They stop next to a hangar and Rodney follows Engstrom to a double-door guarded by two strapping men with rifles.

"This is it," Engstrom says. "Last chance to back out."

Rodney is not anyone's definition of a brave man. He's scared of death, disease, dogs larger than toasters, and having to run anywhere fast. But he's not scared here. This might be huge and awesome and terrifying, but it's also in his specialty and Rodney firmly believes that there's nobody in the world who is better at what he does than he is. In the world of flesh and bone and frailty, he is just the grown-up version of the last kid picked in gym class. In the world of the mind, however, he is a slayer of dragons.

"Let's go."

"You said that you hated the desert," Straum says.

"I do," Rodney affirms. He does hate the desert, although the dry air did wonders for his allergies after suffering through Ithaca's belated spring. "I'd buy stock in Coppertone and whoever else makes sunscreen because I'll be buying a lot of it. Do they make anything higher than SPF 50?"

A week at Groom Lake had ended with a job offer, one that had required zero pressure by Engstrom for Rodney to accept. How could he turn it down? Even after a week, none of what he'd seen seemed real. Aliens. Space travel. Weapons and spaceships and devices that started well after even the most vivid imagination ended. His crazy theories had not put off Engstrom; they had instead been the impetus to bring him into the Stargate Program. How could he live with himself if that week would remain his only taste of what was truly possible -- what was already real?

"You could stay," Straum offers. "We can push up your tenure review. You'll get it."

Rodney smiles tightly. Once upon a time, that would've made his day. But that time has passed. "I'll make sure the Sager grant is finished before I go."

The Sager Institute will be giving Cornell all sorts of fabulous toys. It's a nice parting gift.

Rodney isn't starting with the Stargate Program until September, which gives him ten weeks to close up shop in Ithaca and move his life to Nevada. In addition to the Sager grant, which will not be a walk in the park, he has two articles to finish writing and one he's peer-reviewing, a task he is not offered regularly because of his habit of reducing his nominal peers to blubbering by grading their articles the way he would an undergrad midterm. He also has to find new advisors for his two remaining graduate students. He could leave them to their own devices or, worse, leave them to the department's devices, but that would be counterproductive. He has kept these two because they have futures and he doesn't want to smother them in the crib. The girl he gives to Subokhin, who is not sufficiently brilliant, but is otherwise an excellent match and, perhaps most importantly, can network like a gigolo and get her contacts with people who are sufficiently brilliant. The boy he ends up writing a letter in support of a transfer to Princeton, telling Halloway that he would otherwise have to offer up his right nut for a student with this much promise.

"So they finally made you the offer you couldn't refuse." Kadyrzhanova stands in his office doorway as he packs up his desk. The girl and the boy, presumably in gratitude, have packed up the rest of the office and his lab space, everything in a neat stack of wine and whiskey boxes filched from the dumpster near the Hotel School.

"Not like that," Rodney replies, looking up from his unexpected bounty of multi-colored post-its. "It's... unexpected good fortune."

Which is really a very sunny summary of a week that started out with 'they're out there and they want to enslave us.'

"Don't blow up the solar system," Kadyrzhanova exhorts and turns to go. They're not really friends, more like work buddies, and anything heartfelt would just be out of place. But she stops and turns around and Rodney wonders if she'll say something sappy anyway.

"Was it because I wouldn't sleep with you?"

Rodney laughs.

Once he gets the boxes retrieved by the Air Force movers, he turns in his office keys. Closing the door for the last time feels like more of a era-ending than did any of his graduations or moving out of his parents' home.

His apartment is rented through July and he spends his remaining days in upstate New York wrapping up his academic work. He'll still be able to publish, Engstrom assured him, but it'll all have to be vetted six ways to Sunday to make sure he's not inadvertently letting something slip. Most of his writing will be for the Program and its limited audience and its very different goals. He's not a dancing pony here, required to help the department bring in money and new talent and maintain and increase its prestige, and Rodney couldn't be happier. Finally, after a decade in the field, he's becoming a scholar.

It's the weekend of the Fourth when the box comes from Strelow. In it is a biography of Enrico Fermi and a photo of what is presumably Los Alamos, a mushroom cloud in the background with silhouettes of behatted figures in the foreground. Tucked into the book is a short note from Strelow. It starts off with a congratulatory tone, but time has not tempered him that much and it ends with a more dire tone. "Much may be asked of a man who has accepted the king's shilling. Be wise and hold true."

Strelow in retirement is still Strelow and time and distance have provided Rodney with the ability to take the warning with fond bemusement. His job at Groom Lake isn't anything to do with weapons or even the war against the Goa'uld; he's focusing on the stargate itself and how it works and how to make it work better. He's nowhere near the front, not getting involved in the exploration aspect of the mission (which might disappoint him if it didn't mean that he'd also not get involved with the getting shot-at and captured and killed aspects), and if someone were to try to weaponize his research, he'd almost welcome the opportunity because he certainly can't figure out how to do it otherwise.

It'll be a while before he realizes that the Stargate Program never quite runs out of ways to prove that you should be careful what you wish for.

Sam Carter is beautiful and credulous and has clearly hit her peak too soon. Her work, once too pure for this world in its theoretical basis, is now sullied by her time in the trenches with SG-1. She's been seduced by the logical fallacies of the end-user, confusing what something looks like with what something is actually doing, and just because she travels through stargates doesn't mean she's gained any insight into how they work.

"Her physics has gone from Planck to Aristotle," Rodney sighs during one of the weekly meetings of his department. He holds up a copy of her latest paper, covered in red pen and multi-colored post-its. "Next I expect her to start telling us that the air is pushing the arrow."

Sam Carter is beautiful and credulous and lucky beyond all measure. A room full of monkeys with typewriters will eventually crank out Shakespeare, but Carter, with about as much insight into the process, defies those odds and gets Teal'c back to Colorado and Rodney packed off to Siberia in less than forty-eight hours.

Engstrom's been gone for almost a year and, even if he wasn't, protecting Rodney is beyond his pay grade. There's nobody at Groom Lake who has both the guts and the strength to stand up to the SGC, so Rodney packs up his life in Nevada, spends one of his generous paychecks buying winter gear, and emails Kadyrzhanova for a suggestion for a good Russian-English dictionary. The thought of quitting does cross his mind -- he'd have his choice of named chairs should he return to civilian work -- but he doesn't because he can't even imagine what he'd do research on if he couldn't do what he's doing now. It's be like going back to a Big Wheels after riding a unicycle on a high wire. And while Siberia is exactly the kind of exile it sounds like it is, it's also an opportunity -- the Russians are years behind the Americans and desperate to catch up and, far from the looming and monolithic presence of the SGC, he can build up the Russian program in his own image.

For these reasons and several (surprising) others, Siberia turns out to be not so bad. Cold and depressing and devoid of good food and good culture and a quorum of people who can speak English beyond technical jargon, but working this far from Mordor has its advantages in that the Eye of Sauron can't see this far and what the SGC can't see, it can't cut off at the knees. Rodney's research output triples and he manages to prove that yes, it is completely possible to use the stargate for intergalactic travel. The power requirements for movement over such long distances is prohibitive, true, but not as bad if they use the DHD Rodney's developed in prototype.

This is the paper that gets him off of the SGC's shitlist and back on to their speed dial once something else crops up that Sam Carter can't fix. That, in turn, gets him out of Siberia and over to Antarctica, which is an entirely different kind of isolation, but it comes without swarthy women named Olga and a better budget and direct access to Ancient equipment without having to climb over the corpses of dead SG teams and Jaffa to do so.

Rodney's a little surprised to get the job, frankly -- it's the best science assignment in the entire Stargate Program and he doesn't know why Sam Carter's not all over it. He asks her during a brief stopover at the Mountain and she murmurs something about having personal reasons not to want to leave North America and her research interests veering more toward more conventional methods of space travel.

"I used to be a fighter pilot," she says with a too-casual shrug. "They offered to let me help design a spaceship."

Rodney cannot imagine anything more important than life on the bleeding edge of research like this and feels disappointment in Carter surge anew. Especially once he gets to Antarctica.

The Antarctic base is crowded, at least after Siberia, but people bathe more often and the food is better and the research possibilities endless. Elizabeth Weir has to put limits on consecutive working hours entirely because Rodney is content to sleep on a cot across from the control chair and because he's not the only one. It's full of people who are thrilled to be there, either because it's the mother lode of alien tech on Earth or because their social skills are not compatible with the SGC or both.

Even if they are the Island of Misfit Toys, every day is still Christmas.

The work continues at a blistering pace -- even if Rodney can't get anyone to consistently work the chair and is reduced to badgering Kusanagi and Beckett -- and if he could name a child ZPM, he might. He can't imagine things being better than this... until his Eureka moment, which follows shortly after Jackson's Eureka moment, except that (as usual) it's up to Rodney to tranform what the liberal arts people have dreamt up into useful and possible results.

Intergalactic travel is possible with the stargate and the ZPM, but courtesy of Jackson and Rodney, they have an address to go to.

Weir drags O'Neil down to show him how and why and, completely by accident, O'Neil ends up bringing along the missing link. (Which is how Rodney refers to Major Sheppard until Elizabeth tells him not to, at least in quasi-official documentation.)

The trip to Atlantis is guaranteed after that and Rodney almost doesn't care that they could be marooned in Pegasus for the entire time it takes for the SGC to finish building the Daedalus, which will be the first ship capable of intergalactic travel at reasonable speed. (Prometheus can be retrofitted, but it will actually be cheaper to build a third vessel and so there is one already in the planning stage.) If Atlantis is at all like the Antarctic base -- which he expects it is, albeit not built under ice -- then he won't even notice the time pass because there will be so much to do.

There are people not as excited as Rodney, people who are relieved that they can't get medical clearances to go to Atlantis and people who can get clearance but don't want to go and Rodney finds himself unable to even look these people in the eye as he works on his preparations for transit. How could you not want this? he wants to ask every one of them. How can you call yourself a scientist and be content to settle for 'almost' when you've already come this far?

At the time, he thinks they'll be perfect working for Carter, who also folded while holding a full house. Later on, once Pegasus is revealed in all of her terrible majesty, he will perhaps think more kindly of them.

It takes longer before he revises his thinking about Strelow, whom he never actually thought ill of, just... perhaps a little timid in ways that had nothing to do with traditional methods of measuring courage. (Strelow had served in World War II; he had that kind of courage in ample quantities.) To appreciate that, one final time, he was missing out on his one-time mentor's wisdom.

Rodney takes the Fermi biography with him to Pegasus, entirely because he hasn't read the thing yet and figures it would be as good a time as any. The note and the photograph are tucked into the flyleaf, so they come along entirely by accident. They remain untouched because Atlantis turns out to have so much more to do than reading about a genius and his regrets. At least until Rodney has his own, by then which he could finally understand that Strelow hadn't been warning him about what the Air Force would ask him to do or what it would do with with what he created for more peaceful purposes. At least not just about that. He was warning Rodney that the true devil in disguise was his own ambition and the places that could lead him were far more terrible.

Rodney, whose genius is no longer nascent but could still be shockingly narrowly-focused, had missed that part of the lesson until it was far too late.

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