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Newton's Third Law

Unsurprisingly enough it started with the engineering department, for reasons that in retrospect were more than obvious.

The engineers chose Dr. Simpson as their representative and, in the hours before Radek entered Dr. Weir's office, they fell suspiciously silent every time Rodney came near. He was too tired, punchy, and too busy thinking about the necessary city repairs to notice anything amiss, so he simply dissolved any such gatherings with his usual: "You are idiots. You are non-productive idiots. Stop whispering and get back to work already!"

On paper, he was the department head of hard and soft sciences alike, but he was happy to hear as little of the anthropologists, linguists and biologists et al as possible. Thankfully they were usually sensible enough not to interrupt his much more important work, but today seemed to be the exception. So while he noticed Katie Brown, mousy and unattractive with tear-swollen eyes and a new-found penchant to stare at the floor, scurrying through his lab and dragging Zelenka to the side, he was quite happy not to be the person chosen to resolve whatever blunder the biologists had made.

Perhaps her tears even stemmed from a more personal problem (after all, breaking up with him had to count as a monumental mistake, Rodney thought smugly), and now needed advice as how to win him back. No matter - he was over her.

The silent tug-of-war between a resolute Dr. Parrish and a ghostly pale Major Lorne at the doors to the astrophysics lab was something else entirely, but considering that Lorne and Sheppard had an 'I-don't-notice-anything-amiss-if-you-don't' thing going on, he bit back a sarcastic comment that otherwise would have more or less amounted to, "Having a lovers' spat, are we?". Instead he just stared at Parrish until the man was finished whispering with Zelenka, started twisting his hands and hurried out.

The rest of the morning was spent making sure that any Trust manipulations of the city's systems had been eradicated, new security parameters set, and that Cadman had finally tied her stupid hair out of her face. She had refused to budge from her computer, and the fourth time she had blown back a blonde strand hanging into her face, Rodney had pointed her in the direction of the infirmary and told her that Atlantis was no place for a Barbie contest and to go rediscover her secret inner woman with Carson.

Her rejoinder had been particularly biting, but he'd closed the lab door in her face; sometimes he really loved having the gene. He snorted at the memory, looked up from his laptop, intent on sharing his observations with Radek, only to find the other scientist gone.

Then he heard shouting coming from the 'gate room and hurried to investigate.

He stopped short and averted his gaze to stare at the handful of techs and guards next to the dialing computers. Elizabeth was sequestered with someone and voicing her displeasure rather loudly - an experience he remembered only too well. He frowned as he realized it was not her raised voice that resonated from her office overseeing the 'gate room - the voice was male and had a Czech accent.

He couldn't come up with a single explanation as to why Radek would be in a shouting match with Elizabeth. Yesterday he would have sworn that Zelenka would never dare stand up to Elizabeth; the Czech's puppy-dog worship was as pathetic as it was wretched, and he'd told Radek so until the other man had shot back with a barb concerning Rodney's understandable admiration of Dr. Carter. After that, they'd decided on a détente and Rodney even refrained from rolling his eyes when it got really bad. Although, on these occasions the staring matches between Zelenka and Teyla were a thing of beauty.

He tried to understand the words being shouted which, due to the volume, wasn't all that difficult.

"...Dr. Weir, you have no choice! We are civilians and not subject to orders given by the US military! If we want to go back, nobody is going to say we cannot; this is an outpost and the first line of defense in the war against the Wraith, and everybody at home will understand that we don't want to die out here now that we can go back to Earth. I've e-mailed you the new crew manifest for the Daedalus' return to Earth. The ship leaves tomorrow with Colonel Caldwell in custody, and 96 of Atlantis' 117 scientists on board."

Rodney's mouth was hanging open. That was almost the entire science department.

"We will not wait for replacements for who knows if or when they will be sent. More than one government would happily leave us here to die if only to get back a little Ancient tech, yes, or the Daedalus' next trip will be miraculously delayed - we cannot take that risk. You of course can meet each of us and ask us to stay, but they have all asked to have their departmental representatives present at each such discussion."

Rodney blinked. He couldn't wrap his mind around what he'd heard. He waited for a riposte from Elizabeth, but her office remained strangely silent. That was when he remembered that he was Atlantis' Chief Science Officer, and it would be well within his rights to have a part of any shouting matches involving his underlings, especially if they were of the Czech Judas variety.

He stormed up the stairs and burst into Elizabeth's office after a wholly perfunctory rap against the stained-glass door.

"Radek, Elizabeth, are you both insane?! What is going on here?!"

Elizabeth was not the furious red color he'd expected, but rather a shade of pale that made her too-dark mascara stand out even more than usual. Radek flinched, dropped a PDA and stared at him as if he were on the edge of a heart-attack. Rodney noticed in a detached way that the other man was trembling.

"Okay, fine, when did I enter the Twilight Zone? Why do I have to hear about pretty much the whole scientific department wanting to return to Earth? Radek?" He shot the Czech his best glare and kept waiting for Elizabeth to react. He couldn't understand why she didn't say anything.

Zelenka visibly pulled himself together and said quietly, but firmly: "The engineering department has started a petition that 96 of us have signed - we want to leave Atlantis and return to Earth. We are civilians and cannot be forcibly held in a war zone against our will. We will leave on the Daedalus."

"Yeah, I got that bit," Rodney snapped back. "I thought the Goa'uld was only in Caldwell's brain and not in everyone else's." He shuddered at the thought of Caldwell's eyes flashing white. "Leave Atlantis? What for? Sure, there are the Wraith, but we survived the siege, and unless Sheppard spills it all - again! - to the next pretty female Wraith or Wraith sympathizer he stumbles across, they'll keep on believing we are dead. Flaming nuclear inferno, remember?"

"Rodney!" Radek pulled off his glasses and pushed a hand through his hair. It looked even more Einsteinesque than usual. Elizabeth kept staring at the top of her desk. Rodney smirked and tried to ignore the heavy weight in his stomach warning him that something was seriously wrong.

"Dr. Simpson has talked to Dr. Kavanagh--"

"What?!" Rodney shouted.

"--and while they often disagree professionally, yes, they are still colleagues and perhaps even friends, and she refuses to stay under the command of someone who ordered him tortured. As do we."

Rodney's brain suddenly was strangely blank and refused to come up with a rejoinder.

"I come from a country where not too long ago civil rights were something that the government agencies spurned whenever they felt like it. Many of us had friends arrested for nothing, yes, or friends who disappeared, or friends who fled the country. Even the Geneva Convention forbids the torture of captured military personnel, and we are civilians. Dr. Weir and Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard crossed a line that should never have been crossed--"

"Now wait a minute! Sheppard had no--"

"--and we don't trust her leadership anymore. We leave. Perhaps we'll even leave the SGC altogether." And with that, Radek turned on his heel and left.

Rodney stood rooted to the spot, mouth open, face hot, looking at Elizabeth who was still staring at her desk and hiding her face behind her hand. She made no sound, but there was moisture running through her fingers and dropping on the uppermost report spread on the desk's surface.

He was just about to offer her a tissue when a cheerful Sheppard bounced in through the door.

"Elizabeth - oh, hi Rodney - we can recommence gate travel tomorrow, right? Are will still up for M7X-452? The MALP came back--" Sheppard fell silent at the sight of their frozen expressions.

"Hey, what happened? Rodney, is your lab out of coffee already?"

"Stargate: Atlantis" ficlet by allaire mikháil, 1.508 words, McKay/Sheppard, Lorne/Parrish and others, McKay POV, rated PG-13.

This story is as much agenda!fic as one can get and stemmed from various discussions in the aftermath of "Critical Mass". The episode and its statement - "Torture is okay if the victim is a jerk and if you feel moderately bad about it afterwards." - turned my stomach, and the non-reaction it caused in far too many corners of the fandom really got my ire up. I'm particular like that.

Thanks to ljfenris_wolf0 for insisting that I value canon over fanon (in regard to Zelenka's speech pattern) as well as for making me defend my opinions. The biggest thank-you, though, goes to ljlemonbella for a beta job extraordinaire and for encouraging me to polish this until it shone.

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