michelel72 (michelel72) wrote,

Like Thermodynamics (SG-Prompts #29: Luck)

Title: Like Thermodynamics (sg_prompts #29: Luck)
Author: michelel72
Series: Crossover? (SG-1 timeline, pre-SGA)
Genre/Rating: Gen; Teen for themes
Wordcount: ~2400
Timeline/Spoilers: AU of SG-1 5x14 "48 Hours"; includes spoilers for SGA 3x08 "McKay and Mrs. Miller"
: Major character deaths; a little gore; dark.
Disclaimer: Plot mine; Stargate characters and environments not mine. (Transformative work.)
Notes/Credits: This is not in the same continuity as my "Remorse". I won't be continuing this 'verse, but anyone else who wants to pick it up may feel free. Beta by (and my profound thanks to) valleya and greyias, who helped me with characterization particularly and who reinforced my faith in the beta process; any remaining errors or problems are of course my own.
Audio: Podfic by sophia_sol
Archives: At Dreamwidth; At AO3

Summary: Unlike Sam Carter, Rodney McKay did not rely on luck … and unfortunately for everyone, he was right.

Zeroth: You must play the game.
First: You can't win.
Second: You can't break even.
Third: You can't quit the game.
— The Laws of Thermodynamics, as summarized by C. P. Snow

Rodney McKay did not consider himself a lucky man, simply because he didn't consider "luck" a rational concept. He had worked very hard to accomplish what he had in his life; his successes and failures could be ascribed to specific causes. He didn't depend on luck or blame his setbacks on unluckiness, and he felt only derision for those who did. Working at a facility located near Las Vegas gave him ample opportunity to mock those who handed their money over to the casinos on the theory their luck was good or was due to turn around soon.

Despite that long-held worldview, he suspected his being alive at the moment had as much to do with luck as anything else.

He was lucky that he had disregarded his attraction to Carter to speak up when he had, trying to warn them that the Goa'uld's scheme for the DHD was far more likely to explode the gate than to magically produce their missing team member. He was lucky they had all disliked him enough to rush him out of the mountain before they tried it. He was lucky the driver had directed him into the back seat of the car. He was lucky they had made good time moving away from the mountain. He was lucky there were just enough buildings between the car and the mountain to absorb most of the force of the blast. He was lucky the seat belt hadn't failed when the driver lost control. He was lucky he was sitting on the right side of the car when momentum threw them both left, relatively speaking.

The driver hadn't been as lucky. They were far enough away or shielded enough or positioned just precisely enough that the car's windows hadn't shattered and fallen away with the explosion; the one next to the driver's head had been intact and solid when his head struck it.

Rodney reached forward shakily to check for a pulse at the man's neck, but he wasn't surprised to find nothing, not when he could see entirely too much organic matter smeared on the cracked and crazed glass.

He released his own seat belt and climbed carefully out of the car, his ears ringing. He wiped at moisture on his upper lip and his hand came away bloody. He would have panicked, but he was too stunned at what had happened.

He wasn't surprised. He had predicted it, after all. The scope of it was humbling, though, and he hadn't wanted it to happen. And he also wouldn't be surprised if he turned out to have a mild concussion. Everything seemed remote, a little unreal.

A cloud rose in the distance. Rodney could see people with mouths wide, presumably screaming, though he heard them only faintly through the ringing. A few fell to their knees as if praying. One person kept shouting something that sounded like nuclear war, and in a calmer time Rodney would have spent hours lecturing him about the properties of matter and explosions. A mushroom cloud would form with any sufficiently large explosion, not only atomic ones.

He was in fact a little surprised the explosion hadn't been larger. The gate was naquadah, after all. Then again, it was under quite a lot of mountain, which had apparently blunted the worst of the force, and the explosion itself might not have consumed all the gate material cleanly. He would run the math on that, but … later. Later. That was academic, and he had far more pressing problems.

He pulled out his cell phone and dialed, his mind racing. He didn't have the number programmed, not after the way they'd been fighting, but it was easy enough to remember. The call failed the first four times, which was no surprise at all, but it connected on the fifth. Luck? The answering voice was probably her. "Jeannie?"

"Oh, what now?" Jeannie snapped, her voice distant and faint. "If you think —"

"Shut up, no time," he said. "Explosion. Huge. Get to the store, stock up. Staples, non-perishables. Hurry, before news gets out."

"Ow, Mer, quit yelling —"

"Hurry. Might destabilize the continental shelf, atmospheric effects, I don't know. Oh, your meds, refill those too, if you can. Be careful. Take care of yourself."

"Mer? Is that — are you —?" Her voice was louder, sounding scared, but he hung up on her. He couldn't count on the connection to remain stable much longer, not as more people started trying to call out, and he ought to free up the tower for emergency communication anyway. He had just needed to warn her, because they might not get along, but he cared whether she survived.

He turned back to the car. It had slammed sideways into a building, and the front end looked intact, so it might still run. Yet more luck? He opened the passenger door, released the driver's seat belt, and wrestled the man out of the car, trying not to look at him any more than he had to. He couldn't do anything to help the man, and he needed the car, but he'd never had to touch a dead body before and he hoped he never would again. He swallowed heavily a few times and the slop from the SGC commissary did stay down, barely.

He straightened the body as best he could and muttered an apology. He was just wishing for something to cover the man's face with when he noticed the driver's coat, the one he had taken off as they got into the car, the one that had been dragged along as Rodney pulled the man's body across the seat. He used it to cover the man's face. That didn't make him feel as much better as he had hoped it would.

Rodney started to climb back into the car but hesitated. After a few more seconds, and with another apology, he went ahead and took the man's sidearm. Just in case. He wasn't in Canada anymore, and he had just become one of the most important people in the world — far more than he had already been.

There was nothing for him to do here, no reason to linger. His training for handling lab accidents would be of little use. The few actual injuries and accidents around him were being dealt with by others who had some idea what to do, and he certainly wouldn't be any use calming anyone. He doubted any of them were in any real danger past their immediate alarm anyway, despite what he'd told Jeannie. He wasn't a geologist, a seismologist, even a volcanologist, and he had never dreamed he would need to know anything from those fields; but as his mind cleared from the first shock, he found himself doubting the explosion had been quite big enough to be that disastrous. He couldn't be positive what would happen now, though, so he had no advice or reassurance to offer them either. Whatever decisions they made about leaving or staying would be just as valid as his own.

But Earth's safety depended on Stargate access, especially considering that the American gate had been lost as part of what was surely a more detailed Goa'uld plot, and continued Stargate access now depended on him. He needed to move somewhere far safer for him personally, not just in terms of the immediate disaster but also in terms of people and politics.

Back in the car, he grimaced at the side window. Having that in the corner of his vision was going to make him sick. The car's engine didn't seem to be running, but the key was still turned forward, leaving the accessories engaged. With a grinding noise he could hear even over the ringing that still filled his ears, the window eventually responded to the control and moved downward in a series of jerks. It was cold, but he couldn't bear seeing that mess any longer and he didn't trust the window mechanism to work again, so down it would stay.

He tried starting the engine back up and it caught quickly. He then tried easing it forward, and it felt a bit wobbly, but it moved. There was little by way of traffic or other obstacles as he headed away from the abating chaos, too, and all the little signs of comparatively good fortune were starting to creep him out.

Carter had counted on luck.

Working at Area 51, Rodney had heard all the stories about SG-1. They escaped harm and disaster time and time again, pulling success from the most certain of failures. Everyone had agreed they were good, but everyone had also agreed they were inordinately lucky.

The problem with counting on luck so heavily was that it eventually ran out.

Did luck operate under conservation principles? Had SG-1 relied so heavily on good luck that a true disaster was necessary to balance the equation?

Rodney blinked firmly a few times, disliking the irrational turn of his thoughts. Concussion, definitely.

Carter's impish smile flashed in front of him and he blinked again. He had liked her, even though she was so profoundly wrong. She was gorgeous, and brighter than most.

If only she had listened to him.

But no, she had been too sure of her own theories, too blinded by the loss of her friend, too trusting that a Goa'uld would tell the truth. Too reliant on luck over everything else.

And now she was dead, along with the friend who had probably been gone long since. And with them had gone the whole of the SGC, and the American Stargate, and their dialing program. All that was left were the program members who hadn't been on duty, or had come back through Russia and not made it back to Colorado yet, or were researchers at Area 51. And the Russian gate.

And Rodney.

He had already been the world's foremost expert on gate technology, Carter's greater practical experience notwithstanding. Now even she was gone, leaving no one anywhere near his level. Rodney could reconstruct a dialing program, and the Russians now held all the cards. They would come calling soon, and Rodney had to work out exactly what his conditions and requirements would be. At least he would get the real gate access the Americans had so long denied him; they would have no option. They needed him.

He was also much more valuable to the darker elements of the American political structure. Had Simmons still been in the mountain? Rodney couldn't quite bring himself to grieve if so. He didn't like being used. He was no pawn for someone else's game. Simmons wasn't the only one out there who would be willing to use him, though. That was why he was headed back to Area 51, to the closest thing he had to a base of operations. Besides, he wanted to get back to his cat.

Come to think of it … he had just about given up on Jeannie, but maybe this would be enough to make her see sense. They would need people capable of truly advanced work, and he knew she was qualified for it. Surely she wouldn't stick to her bizarre plan of becoming a stay-at-home mother if the safety of the planet depended on her. She might have dropped out of her degree program, but Rodney could endorse her. Maybe they could even work together. That might be … that might work out.

With her or alone, he would eventually go to Russia. It was ironic that the Americans had meant to send him there anyway, for an energy program, when now he would be headed there as the one person who could restore the planet's access to the rest of the galaxy within any acceptable timeframe. The Russians wouldn't let him be completely in charge, he was sure, but he was also sure he could wrest quite a lot of control from them.

They would also be much more clear-headed than the Americans. They would never tolerate risking the entire program for one probably-already-lost person. Their entire history was steeped in tragedy, not improbable fortune and derring-do.

The Russians would never gamble everything on luck.

They might in fact be a little too draconian, really. If he remembered correctly, their response to trouble with their first gate experiments was to neutralize the personnel of an entire facility and plan to blow it up as well. He would have to have a few words with them about proportionate responses if he was going to put himself in their hands.

On the whole, though, Rodney knew he and the Russians would fit together well. Between their fatalism and his pragmatism, they would prevent anything like this ever happening again.

The ashes of the Cheyenne facility smeared across the sky in his rear-view were more than a testament to folly; they were a memorial to a life that should never have been lost. He regretted the deaths of everyone in that facility, of course, but one hurt more than the rest. Carter had been wrong in her theories and wrong to disregard him, but he had admired her. He had respected what she had accomplished in her part-time science, and he had been impressed by the promise in her papers.

A part of him had wanted to impress her in turn. He had wanted to prove himself to one of the few people who had any real prospect of understanding. If things had gone very differently, and perhaps if he had been a little better at dealing with people, she might have deferred to him. Over time, he could have guided her away from her misconceptions — preferably with a more personal relationship to sweeten the tuition, but even strictly as colleagues would have been enough. He thought he would have liked that.

That possibility was lost forever, though. That and so much more.

Rodney was determined it would not happen again. By manipulating the natural tendencies of the Russians and judiciously exercising the power he could demand from them, he would ensure that no misguided but promising minds were ever again sacrificed on the altar of luck.
Tags: fanfic, fanfic:sga

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