Summary: Narcissistic. Arrogant. Coward. These were all words that were used to describe Rodney McKay. When people looked at him they saw the mad scientist, the friendless geek who would sacrifice the universe to serve his own ego. But that's okay. There are procedures now to fix that. Modern medicine will make him better whether he wants it or not.
Author's Chapter Notes:
Warning! This chapter contains a detailed description of a lobotomy. Also, some of the "nonsense" that Rodney says during the procedure actually come from Philip Glass's Einstein on the Beach, which I had been listening to when I came up with this story.
Rodney was going to win the science fair this year for sure. He had spent months working on his project, not to mention all of the bashed thumbs and chemical burns he received from trying to wield his dad's tools. He was so excited to show off what he had done. Rodney stood proudly beside his model of the atomic bomb, trying to will the judges closer with power of his brain. The two lucky teachers that had been chosen this year were going around making little notes on everyone's contribution. He groaned in frustration as they came to a stop near Annabeth's booth and listenedto her babble on about seeds and fruit skins or something. They seemed utterly fascinated. Rodney pulled at his face and slumped forward. Really? How long did it take figure out if a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable?
It was a vegetable, right?
Finally! Rodney perked up again as the judges moved away from Annabeth, who was grinning brightly at the high praise they had given her. Ha, if the judges liked her project then he couldn't wait to show them his. He was going to blow their minds. Pun completely intended.
Seated on his table was a nuclear warhead split in two to show the judges how the chain reaction occurred within a gun-type fission bomb, minus the uranium-235, of course."Rodney," one of the teachers said with that weird sort of squinty-look teachers sometimes got when they talked to him. "What have you... got... here..."
Rodney grinned brightly at the way the teacher sort of trailed off, looking dumbfounded at the machine in front of him. The judges shot each other a look that clearly spoke of their disbelief, but no. There was no mistaking something like that. They knew a bomb when they saw one. "This is a model of the 'Little Boy' gun-type fission bomb that was detonated over Hiroshima in 1945."
Rodney's neighbor was a boy named Jason. His project had something to do with fruit flies. Rodney wasn't sure exactly what because it sounded stupid, so he hadn't botheredpaying attention when the other boy tried explaining it. Jason, however, had apparently been listening intently to Rodney's introduction because all of a sudden the boy cried out "Rodney built a bomb!"
After that it was nothing but pure chaos.
Rodney tugged ineffectually against the thick padded straps that kept him chained to the bed. He could feel it rolling down the hall, the weaving motion making him feel sick. He closed his eyes against the sensation, but that only made it worse. He wrenched his eyes back open and the bright florescent light seemed to dance above him, making his drugged head swim. "Don't do this," he begged. His tongue felt thick in his mouth and he wasn't quite sure if his words were coming out the way intended them to. "The Wraith are evil. Serious, serious bad guys here. I'm not crazy."
"No one thinks you're crazy, Rodney." Rodney could hear the soothing voice of Dr. Ferin from somewhere above him. "This isn't a punishment. We're here to help you. After the procedure you'll feel like a new man. All those emotions, all that resentment and arrogance and narcissism that have been holding you back from establishing truly meaningful relationships will be gone. You'll be free. We can make you better; we can make you happy. Then you'll see that there's nothing to be afraid of."
The gurney came to a sudden stop and Rodney looked around, trying to pinpoint where he was, but his vision swam and another wave of nausea rolled over him. He felt someone take a strip of cloth and wrap it lengthways downs his face, over his nose and one eye. Another set of hands peeled back the eyelid that was still exposed. Rodney found himself looking at the kindly face of Dr. Ferin. He was holding an icepick above his eye. "Now, Rodney, you might feel some pressure in your eye socket and a vague sensation of... wiggling. But I assure you, you won't feel any pain. Now, I want you to take a deep breath and try to relax for me while counting backwards from ten." Slowly the icepick began to inch downwards.
"Ten." Rodney felt the tip of the icepick come to a rest underneath his eyelid just above the eye itself. "Nine." The hammer came crashing down and with resounding crack the alien psychiatrist began to nail the icepick through his eye socket and into his brain. Dr. Ferin was correct: he didn't feel any pain. "Eight." The pounding continued, the sounds setting him on edge like the sound of the drill had always done when he went to the dentist. "Seven." The hammering had stopped and Rodney could feel the icepick scraping along his upper eye socket as the doctor wiggled it around. He cried out. This hurt. This hurt a lot. "Six. Sailboat. Five. We could get some wind for it. It could be a balloon. So it could be those ones. But these days of 888 cents in 100 coins of change... Five.. Five... Five..."
"And that's when you know when to stop," Dr. Ferin explained as he gently removed the icepick from the man's eye. "Let's move on to the next one."
Rodney stepped out of the Gate and onto a thriving metropolis. "Thank God it's not another farming village. I might actually be able to carry on a conversation with someone here who doesn't consider the wheel to be the height of technological advancement."
"Rodney," Teyla said in that slow, deliberate way that she used when she wanted him to shut up. "I know that I come from a simple farming village, but I hope that I have never burdened you unduly with my stupidity." There was a bite to her voice that made the hair on his arms rise up.
"No, no, of course not," he babbled. "Not unduly, anyway. Most people can't keep up with me and-"
"Now that Rodney has stuck his foot in his mouth, let's get moving. We're attracting strange looks," Sheppard commanded without giving him so much as a backwards glance. Rodney bit back a sigh as they all started forward. It was like that now between the two of them. Rodney would say something mean or embarrassing and instead of laughing Sheppard would just ignore him. The Colonel had told him it might take a while to regain his trust after Doranda, but Rodney had never been a patient man and he couldn't help but wonder when that might be.
Teyla bumped him lightly with her elbow as she passed. He assumed she meant it to be affectionate, but it had kind of hurt. Was he going to bruise? Rodney rubbed it to see how tender it was. She looked at him quickly over her shoulder, a hint of a smile on her lips. "I am not so sure such an advanced people is a good thing," she commented. "All the ones we have encountered so far have turned out to have some dark, evil secret."
Rodney had to concede she was right about that.