mapsandlegends: Joe and David at FedCon 2010 (Default)
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The Lt. Colonel at the Center of the Labyrinth

White owls aren't that common in the Pegasus Galaxy, but it should still come as no surprise that Rodney didn't notice it perched on the balcony railing. It watched with curious black eyes as he muttered to himself and tapped away feverishly at the device in his lap. The owl was familiar with Rodney by now, having watched him for several days, flitting from balcony to balcony as Rodney moved around the city.

"It's not fair," Rodney grumbled to himself, "Sheppard always has women throwing themselves at him. Why can't I ever get in on the action?"

The owl spread its wings and flew off into the dark Lantean night. It had seen enough for now.

-----

"Rodney!"

Rodney ignored Sheppard's voice in his ear. He contemplated removing the earpiece altogether but he was afraid that the city might burst into flames at any moment. It had been known to happen.

"RODNEY!"

"What is it, Sheppard? Don't you realize that I'm busy here?"

The truth was that Rodney wasn't busy. His power consumption ratio simulation would take at least an hour to finish and he'd been puttering around with a broken Ancient doodad to see if it could be fixed. He didn't really think it could be repaired, but he'd still poked at it halfheartedly and pretended to work on it so he could avoid Sheppard for a while longer. Rodney reminded himself that he was a fine looking man and there was no reason for him to be jealous of Sheppard. None at all. And he was most assuredly not sulking.

"So that means that you're too busy to come to the mission briefing where we'll find out vital information that could save our lives and keep the natives from trying to kill us tomorrow?"

"Er. Well, no. Not really. I was just in the middle of fixing an Ancient device and lost track of time."

"Would you mind joining us, then? This is kinda important, y'know."

"Yes, fine. I'll be there in five minutes. Don't start without me and don't eal all the donuts this time!"

"When have we ever started a meeting without you? That wasn't me, by the way, that was you. Remember how you snuck the last chocolate glazed out of the box while Woolsey was distracted with his paperwork? I thought he was going to kill you." Sheppard laughed and Rodney tried his best not to smile. "Sheppard out."

-----

Rodney huffed and turned to Sheppard as they walked back towards the gate. They'd secured a fair trade of Lantean medicines for grain and root vegetables, but Rodney still wasn't happy.

"It's really not fair, you know."

"Life's not fair, McKay, it's just fairer than death. Also, shut up, because we are so not talking about this."

"Why do all the women of the Pegasus galaxy seem to love you?"

"Rodney, it's not like I'm doing anything to provoke it. It's not like I'm even--"

Sheppard cut himself off and Rodney was left to wonder what Sheppard had almost said but thought better of, what he didn't think he could say to Rodney after all this time. Rodney cut his eyes sideways at Sheppard. Sheppard avoided looking at him.

-----

Rodney didn't remember where he'd found it, but the tiny red book captivated him. It was the first hand account of a scientist and his quest to build the perfect zpm. He assumed that it had been left behind by the Ancients and spared a few seconds to wonder how it had ended up in the back of his third favorite lab, the one he used when he wanted to hide from Radek after a particularly nasty blow-up (over quantum thermodynamics, this time). He promptly forgot to wonder when his eyes fell on a particularly interesting paragraph about zpm construction.

It was strange how remarkably it paralleled his own activities since he'd come to Atlants, but Rodney sighed as it diverged into wild fantasy. He would have considered it completely impossible, but Rodney had lived in the Pegasus galaxy long enough to realize that when you encountered catfish-faced space vampires who sucked your life force out with their mouth-hands, maybe goblins and labyrinths and castles weren't such an impossibility anymore.

-----

Rodney wasn't sure what made him say it. Maybe it was the fact that they had just gotten back from a disastrous mission where Sheppard had accidentally incited a riot by choosing to walk along the riverbank with one of the Queen's sons instead of one her thirteen marriageable daughters. Rodney had offered himself in Sheppard's place, but by that time the room was a whirlwind of flying lace and precious gemstones. Rodney had always liked the idea of a cat fight, but witnessing one was really more intense and far less sexy than he'd always thought it would be. He wasn't sure he wanted to stay and watch, so he carefully stepped over the golden crown that landed haphazardly at his feet and sneaked as quietly as he could from the room.

He met up with Sheppard, Ronon and Teyla in the hallway outside the throne room and they moved silently out of the castle.

When Rodney got back to his room after the mission debrief and the unavoidable infirmary visit, his eyes fell on the little red book. He looked at the cover, at the tiny golden letters imprinted on the fine texture of the cover and it was almost as if the words leapt unbidden onto his tongue.

"I wish the goblins would come and take Sheppard away. Right now."

Then Rodney fell face first onto his bed and slept for six hours, not thinking, not dreaming. He woke to the sound of scratching at his balcony doors and rolled over. The scratching continued and he sat up, pulling the sheet up around his chest.

He saw lightning flash and rain pelted the windows of this room. Worried that the storm might affect the city, Rodney hurriedly dressed. Just as he was jamming his foot into his shoe, the shadow of a bird beating its wings against the balcony doors made Rodney's gaze jerk up from where he'd been tying his shoelace. The doors burst open, and Rodney was so taken aback by this that he fell back onto his bed and sat watching the curtains billowing out and back as the bird circled through the room. A flash of lightning bright as daylight made it easy to see that the bird was a snow white owl, wings spread, wheeling around to fly back out the way it had come.

Another crackle of lightning flashed so brightly that Rodney had to turn away from it. When he turned back, Rodney was astounded to see a human figure shadowed in the doorway. He turned on the lights in his room with a thought and marveled at the sight before him. There was no rational explanation for this man being in his room, and yet, there he was.

"Uh," Rodney said eloquently, "who are you?"

"Surely someone as smart as yourself already knows the answer to that question?" The man's voice was smooth and warm, almost mocking.

Rodney's eyes were drawn to what the man was wearing. He looked like the worst sort of Gothic romance hero, high-collared black leather coat, tight black breeches, polished boots and mop-like hair. It was, as far as fashion statements go, not all that unlike Wraith gear. At least the man looked like he didn't want to eat Rodney's soul for dinner.

"You're him, aren't you?" Rodney said hesitantly. "You're the Goblin King."

"My name is Jareth," he said, and bowed.

"What are you doing here? I thought you were a fairytale in the book I was reading."

"Come now, Rodney. I think you know why I'm here. But if you wish me to say it, I will."

Rodney groaned. "Tell me I didn't. Tell me I didn't really wish Sheppard away to the goblins."

"Oh, yes, I'm afraid that you did just that."

Rodney was starting to get worried now. "Where is he? What have you done with him?"

Jareth laughed meanly. "You know very well where he is, Rodney."

Rodney stood up and walked over to Jareth.

"All right, fine," he sighed, "what do I have to do to get him back?"

Jareth tutted at Rodney. "Oh, I thought you were brighter than that. You did read the book, did you not? If you'll remember, you have to go through the Labyrinth to rescue your fair Colonel."

"And where would this Labyrinth be?"

Jareth pointed beyond the balcony, where Rodney could suddenly see land and a large walled maze stretching out to the horizon. He could have sworn it wasn't there before.

"He's in my castle, beyond the Goblin City."

"Okay, good, alright. Let's get started. I screwed up and I guess I'll just have to fix it."

Jareth looked at Rodney with a bemused smile. "Very well, then, let us begin."

Jareth started to fade away before Rodney's very eyes. "You have thirteen hours to solve the Labyrinth before your precious Colonel becomes one of us. Forever." Jareth's voice echoed on "forever".

Rodney grabbed his tac vest, several Power bars and his laptop. Jareth had never seen Rodney McKay in action. He'd either save the Colonel or blow up five sixths of the Labyrinth trying.

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April 2011

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