Title: Solid to the Touch
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: SG-1, Atlantis. Rodney introduces Sam to the Ancient version of a holodeck. 1800 words.
Spoilers: Stargate SG-1 post-Season 10; Stargate Atlantis post-Season 3. Possible vague spoilers for SG-A Season 4; references to SG-1 6.02 "Redemption, Part 2" and SG-A 3.15 "The Game".
Notes: For ijemanja, for the sg1sga pairing ficathon, for the request: "Sam/Rodney; Hot snarky science-as-foreplay". I don't think I quite managed foreplay, but I gave it my best shot.
Sam frowned, studying the bare walls of the room she'd tracked McKay to. It was almost perfectly square, and surprisingly bland of decoration; the colored glass and artistic paneling found throughout most of the city were not present here. It was simply a big, empty, cube-shaped space, with a single computer interface set into the far wall. Unless it was some kind of dedicated access to information not found elsewhere, it was difficult to see what the irritating scientist might have found fascinating enough to spend all his off-time on-- according to Zelenka-- over the last few weeks.
"McKay?" she called again, taking in the uniform-clad legs-- and surprisingly fit derriere-- protruding from a hole in the wall just beneath the interface.
The visible portions of the scientist's body stiffened, and she heard a muffled thud from somewhere inside the hole, followed by a brief display of thrashing legs. "Ow! What do you want? I hope it's an emergency, because, if you couldn't tell, I'm just a *little* busy here."
"Nothing urgent," Sam said, "but you haven't been answering your radio, and I was curious what had you so engrossed."
"Colonel Carter?" McKay stilled again. "Just-- just a minute." She heard a few clinking noises, like the sounds control crystals made when they bumped against one another, and the unmistakable whoosh of an Ancient system powering up echoed from the now-faintly-glowing walls. Then his body began to squirm back out of the hole, displaying the muscle groups in his thighs and glutes to excellent advantage.
Sam cleared her throat and crossed her arms as she waited for him to finish emerging, chastising herself for letting her thoughts slip in that direction. It *had* been a long time since Pete, but that was no excuse. "Well?" she said.
He writhed free, then sat up and pushed the panel he'd removed back into place. "Just-- just a minute," he repeated, holding up an imperious finger in her direction, then scrambled to his feet and turned to the computer interface. "What do you know about holodecks?"
Sam blinked at the non sequitur. "Holodecks-- you mean the recreation rooms on Star Trek?"
"They weren't just for recreation purposes-- but yes, that's what I'm referring to. How much do you know about the science behind them?" he asked, tapping furiously at the computer screen.
Taken aback at his continued focus on the machine-- he hadn't even looked at her once-- Sam walked further into the room, trying to get a look over his shoulder at what he was doing. "Mmm-- didn't it have something to do with replicated matter, tractor beams, forcefields, and holographic projection?"
That got his attention; McKay turned a bright, sweaty face from the console to grin at her. "Yes!" he exclaimed. "Exactly. The people inside the holodeck never actually went anywhere, but the computer could project a seemingly-solid landscape around them, pipe in fragrances or breezes or sound-dampening fields or gravitational lenses to stimulate the other senses and give the impression of distance, and of course had a complicated safety mechanism to keep any interaction with the so-called holomatter from injuring the users."
Sam blinked at him, thinking about the implications. "But that was a fictional program, McKay. Are you saying the Ancients actually had something like that? I know they had extensive holographic capability, just like the Asgard do, but--"
"More than that," McKay blurted. "Remember the knights? The one on Camelot, and the one Colonel Mitchell fought in Avalon? I read the reports. They were capable of interacting with *humans* or with a particular weapon, but nothing else affected them-- in effect, they were selectively solid holograms. When I heard about that, I knew there had to be more to their holographic technology than what we'd uncovered so far. So I went looking for it."
Sam glanced away again, surveying the blank walls of the room with a new eye. "And you think this is it," she said.
"I'm certain of it," McKay declared, then turned back to the console, keying in several more commands faster than Sam's eyes could follow them.
"But why now?" Sam asked thoughtfully, as she watched his fingers flash across the screen. Maybe she'd been remiss in dating only cops and soldiers all these years; none of them had ever had hands like-- but she was digressing again. "We've known about the knights for a couple of years now. And why aren't you down here with Zelenka, or Colonel Sheppard?" It wasn't exactly *that* much of a secret that the man who'd commanded Atlantis' military the last few years was at least as geeky as the city's chief scientist. "I would have thought they'd jump at the opportunity to help you with this."
"Yes, well..." McKay shrugged as he tapped a few last commands. "I'm not sure if you heard about the observation system on M4D-058, which Sheppard and I had mistaken for a strategy game..."
Sam snorted, amused. "I remember. I've been accused of playing god before, McKay, but never quite *that* literally."
He rolled his eyes at her over his shoulder. "Ha, ha," he said. "It wasn't intentional, and you know it. But the point is, we're kind of in a competition to find the next great diversion; you can only play so many games of chess. And I didn't want to show it to him, or Zelenka and Lorne and the rest of them, until I had it at a usable level."
He typed a final command, then turned to grin at her again. "Go ahead," he said, enthusiastically. "Try it out. Think of a place in the universe."
She raised an eyebrow at him. "Any place?"
She stared at his eager expression a moment more before sighing theatrically and giving in. "Okay, okay," she said, closing her eyes. "I'm picturing-- Hawaii."
"Tropical environment, sandy beaches, scantily clad women," McKay summarized aloud. "Check, check, and-- ah, check."
Sam blinked open her eyes to find his gaze fixed somewhere a little bit lower than her face. She glanced down to find herself apparently clad in a rather skimpy two-piece swimsuit, though she could still feel her uniform against her skin. "What?" she blurted, startled-- then registered the white sand visible beneath her feet, the smell of salt in the air, and the sound of waves crashing off to her left. She glanced back up to find McKay naked but for a pair of swimming trunks, looking a lot more muscular than she would have guessed without his loose-fitting uniform. "Rodney--" she said, a warning note in her voice.
"Not to worry," he interrupted, dragging his gaze up to her face, "it's all holographic, remember? This isn't one of those plug-and-play mental simulations; the clothes-- or lack thereof-- are just a projection over what you're actually wearing. The rest of it should be solid to the touch, though. Go on! Check it out!"
She scowled at him, but knelt obediently to gather a handful of sand in her palm. The scenery around her certainly looked real enough, though not exactly Hawaii; she supposed the system was projecting the closest equivalent it could find in the Ancient database. The sand certainly felt real enough as she let it trickle across her palm and back to the ground, and as she studied it, her irritation with McKay faded before the sheer joy of her long-term love affair with science.
"This is amazing," she said. "How does the mechanism actually work? The city has its own variety of matter transporters, and we've seen forcefields and other kinds of energy manipulators before. I don't think I've ever seen them work in tandem like this before, though, not like they'd have to in order to form a complete, simulated, physical environment. I can actually feel each grain of sand trickling across the nerves in my skin."
"I *know*," McKay replied. "As far as I can tell, it's all technology we've encountered before, just recombined in a different way. Unfortunately, it's a huge draw on power; I've only been able to get it to run for a few minutes at a time before the energy consumption rises above what the remaining naquadah generators can provide and becomes a drain on the ZPM, which is the last thing we need. Until we find more ZPMs or I can finesse it to use more simple projections in place of solid matter for the more background elements, thereby reducing the power requirements, we won't be sailing any pirate ships in here or refighting the Alamo or anything along those lines."
"Can it generate interactive human forms?" Sam had to ask, standing up again and brushing off her hands. McKay's eyes drifted downward again, and she had to resist the urge to swat him as she waited for his answer.
"I, uh, haven't experimented with that very much," he said. "We've already seen that holographic teachers-- and that knight-- are available in the databases; there's no use trying to interact with them on a more physical level until I get the room working for more than a few minutes at a time."
"*Sure* you haven't," Sam teased him, then blinked as the bright sunshine abruptly dimmed back down to the level of standard indoor Ancient lighting.
Rodney sighed a little, wistfully, as the beach disappeared around them and their uniforms became fully visible again. "So there you have it," he said. "Can you *imagine* how valuable this technology is going to be when I get it reverse-engineered? And not just for military applications; this is going to revolutionize the *world*. And it'll have *my* name all over it."
Sam stared at him, in all his smug glory, then shook her head with a wry grin. He was just as chauvinistic, one-track-minded, and utterly brilliant as he'd always been, but somewhere along the way she must have misplaced her revulsion for unwarrantedly egotistical men, because she was actually finding his display somewhat charming. Exasperating, but charming. It really *had* been too long since she'd broken up with Pete.
"You know, sometimes I really hate you, McKay," she said, admiringly.
"Really?" He stared at her a moment, then perked up as he visibly recalled her throwaway comment from five years before. "Does that mean you find me more attractive now?"
"Don't push your luck," she said, then leaned in to kiss his cheek as she had then.
Predictably, he turned his face before she could reach him.
Sam leaned back, licked her lips, and decided she didn't mind. Her temporary assignment to Atlantis might turn out to be more fun than she'd thought.
"Put your radio on, McKay," she said, her voice a little huskier than before.
He swallowed visibly, a stunned expression on his face, as she turned to leave.