At the Edge of the World

~ Back-up fic for the Radek Zelenka ficathon.

"Please, Dr. Zelenka," Dr. Parker begged, holding his hands clasped together in front of him. The older man looked faintly silly, but Radek supposed he had been driven to desperation.

"This is ridiculous." Radek shook his head, turning back to his computer, though he knew the others would not let him work in peace until he had agreed. "He does not even know my name."

Radek had been in Antarctica for three months, and had worked with Dr. McKay every single day. So far, the closest McKay had got to correctly pronouncing his name was "hey, you, with the glasses."

"You're the only one he likes!" Dr. Galchev added, standing behind Dr. Parker. Radek gave her a look, and she frowned. "Well, he doesn't *hate* you." Radek kept looking at her, until finally she gave in and said, "You're the only one he'll talk with for more than five minutes."

Radek sighed and pushed his chair away from the desk. This was true, he had to admit. He didn't understand it -- the SGC had brought together over two dozen of the best, most brilliant minds that ever gained the highest US security clearance. Surely some of them could hold their own against one egotistical astrophysicist.

But apparently, they could not. It seemed like nearly every day, someone dropped by Radek's lab and asked if he would not mind doing this or that one little favor. Please take this report to Dr. McKay. Please ask if we should begin the next stage. Please tell him...

Radek thought perhaps he should simply make up a sign for his door which read "Rodney McKay Liaison" -- except he was fairly sure that the non-scientists would take it as an offer, and he would never get any work done.

He sighed again. "Fine, yes. I will talk to him. But if he is not pleased, then he is coming to you to tell you so. I am not relaying messages back."

Drs. Parker and Galchev looked at each other uncertainly, apparently weighing the benefit of not seeing McKay now, with seeing him at some unexpected moment, later. But they seemed to reach an agreement, for they turned back to him and Dr. Parker nodded. "Thank you, Dr. Zelenka."

Radek waved them off, and focused on his computer. He had no intention of going to find McKay at the moment, because it was barely ten o'clock in the morning, and McKay would have been stuck in administrative meetings since eight.

Right before lunch would be better, because he would be distracted by the prospect of getting some food, and escaping into his own work for the rest of the afternoon. Radek could deliver the message, duck into the cafeteria for his own lunch, and be gone before McKay found Parker and Galchev sitting together over sandwiches and coffee and asked them what the hell they meant by "need more time."

"May I sit?" Radek asked, walking up beside the only table with an empty chair -- which was not occupied by military personnel.

Carson looked up and smiled, waving a hand towards the chair. "Please."

"Thank you." Radek set his tray down and sat, scooting the chair forward and wishing, as he had at every meal, that someone had thought to bring chairs which were not at ambient temperature. There was a sigh, and he looked up. "You have had a long day?" he asked, seeing the exhaustion on Carson's face.

"It wouldn't have been, if Rodney would have just--" He shook his head. "Not that I haven't enough of my own work to do. He's constantly interrupting me, dragging me off to his lab to turn something on."

"It is unfortunate that Dr. McKay does not have gene," Radek said, continuing a conversation they had had several times before.

"Aye. We're trying to find more personnel we can bring in," Carson said, nodding. He didn't look as though he expected any success, any time soon. "So far, it's just myself, General O'Niell, and five names who will never get high enough security clearance to even know there's a research facility here, much less what we're working on."

"But you have found more people," Radek said. "This is encouraging?"

"No, not really. We found them by accessing the US federal DNA databases, which means we're mostly looking at children, and convicted felons. Oh, there's also the database for military personnel, which -- you'd think would be good, because they're more likely to be able to get clearance to be here. But so far we've had no luck finding any with the gene."

"Is too bad you cannot clone yourself," Radek said, grinning.

"Oh, don't think I haven't considered it!" Carson laughed. "After Rodney hauled me out of *bed* to test some piece of equipment that couldn't *possibly* wait until morning...." He shook his head. "Turned out to be a temperature gauge."

"I remember that," Radek said. "He gave it to Matilda to work on. I think she uses it to test her coffee before she drinks it."

Carson sighed, and stabbed his lunch with his fork. "I hope this gene therapy works. Then I can give the bloody thing to whoever wants it."

Radek almost asked how it was going -- but the last time he had asked, Carson had launched into a long, detailed explanation of genes, mice retroviruses, and other, biological-sounding things. He'd been lost before Carson had got the first sentence out.

Instead, he simply said, "I wish you luck."

"Thanks, I going to-- oh, lord. Here he comes. Radek, tell him you haven't seen me." Carson stood up quickly, grabbing his tray, but from the other side of the room they both heard McKay shout.

"Carson! There you are!"

Radek smiled in sympathy, then schooled his expression as McKay walked up.

"Carson, I need you in my lab." McKay looked down at Radek. "You. You..." He frowned, then nodded. "You, too."

Radek blinked in surprise, then simply rose, picked up his coffee and sandwich, and made to follow. Carson did the same, though from his expression he didn't seem to think he'd have a chance to actually finish eating.

"Dr. Zelenka, how are things going?"

Radek looked up as Dr. Weir walked in. "I am not sure that these circuits are functioning," he told her, gesturing at the piece of Ancient equipment he'd inherited from McKay's latest attempt to get Carson to turn something on. "They do not appear to capable of carrying power."

Dr. Weir paused, looking like she was torn between a smile and a frown. "I actually meant, how are things going for you? We haven't had much of a chance to talk, since you arrived."

"Ah." Radek blinked, and thought about it. The work was challenging and plentiful, the people he worked with were competent, and the food was no worse than any he'd ever had at university or even -- sacrilege as it might be to say -- at his mother's table. He shrugged. "I am fine?"

She half-smiled, hiding it quickly. "You've settled in all right? Any... personnel conflicts you need to address? Supplies you need? Concerns you want to discuss?"

Radek shook his head. "No."

There was a pause, and Dr. Weir kept looking at him. Then she nodded and said, "I notice you haven't taken any of your time off. You do know that you're allowed one week off, for every four weeks you're here."

"Yes, yes. But... there is too much to do." Radek waved a hand at the lab. "I do not need week off."

Now she was frowning, and Radek recognised the expression from every time he'd ever told his mother he did not want to go outside to play. "We aren't on a deadline, Dr. Zelenka. You can take the time off -- just because we can't pry Rodney away from here doesn't mean the rest of you should follow his example."

"I understand," Radek hastened to explain. "It is just... this is what I would be doing, if I were not working." He shrugged. "If I went away for a week, I would spend my time making notes and thinking of things I wanted to be doing once I got back -- so if I go nowhere, I do not have to wait to see if new ideas work."

Dr. Weir grinned. "Almost every scientist I've talked so far has said the exact same thing. All right, Dr. Zelenka. I certainly won't require anyone to take time off. But -- don't work too hard, ok? Take a break; have some fun."

With that she left, and Radek sat there, staring after her. She was obviously not a geek, if she did not understand that this *was* fun, and tinkering with Ancient machinery which might or might not ever work, was 'taking a break'.

"I think, two more," Radek said. He shifted his left elbow and lowered his head to peer underneath the chassis. He held up his hand and felt two bits of cold metal drop into his palm.

"Think that'll do it?" Bjorn asked.

"We shall see. It should work, now." Radek attached the two weights to the bar they'd installed for just that purpose. Fastening the lug nut back into place, he scooted backwards on the ice, then carefully stood up. "There. Now try."

Bjorn lifted the remote, and Radek watched him push at the lever. The vehicle's treads began to spin.

For a moment, it went nowhere, and Radek was afraid they'd still not weighed it down enough. It *should* have been enough; his calculations were correct. But the ice was not uniformly smooth, and it was impossible to tell precisely how much traction the vehicle actually needed to get purchase.

Then the vehicle lurched forward. Slowly at first, then it quickly gained speed.

"Whoohoo!" Bjorn yelled, and Radek echoed him. They slapped their gloved hands together in a high-five, then they turned to watch the vehicle roar across the ice.

"Do you think that's what the Ancients meant that remote to be used for?" came Dr. McKay's voice from behind them.

"Yes," Radek said, simply, watching the vehicle come to a sudden halt as Bjorn jumped, guiltily. Radek reached over and took the remote and aimed it at the vehicle. He got it moving again, and brought it around in a tight turn.

"I highly doubt...huh." McKay stepped up beside him, and Radek ignored him in favor of seeing how fast the vehicle could go. "That is rather..."

Radek grinned. He brushed his thumb across the directional pad on the remote they'd finally got working four days ago. They hadn't filed a report yet, wanting to test their theory that the device was a remote control for small, unmanned, robots. He and Bjorn had built a test-robot -- and if the 'test-robot' was a miniature tank, then what of it?

"Let me see that." McKay reached over and took the remote out of Radek's hands.

Radek gave Bjorn a wink, then watched as Dr. McKay drove the tank around in another circle, sent it rolling backwards, forwards, then around the opposite way.

"Your left tread is--"

"Loose, yes, we know," Radek interrupted. "This is first working trial. We have not fine-tuned tank yet."

"We thought it'd be best to make sure the remote worked first, before we tweaked the tank anymore," Bjorn put in.

"Does it-- well, no, never mind," Dr. McKay said.

But Radek grinned and reached over to take back the remote. He got the tank turned away from them, then hit the firing button.

A blue splotch of paint appeared in the snow from the "missile" they'd loaded into the tank's cannon.

"Oh, *that* is cool!" Dr. McKay exclaimed. He reached for the remote, and Radek held it out of his reach. Dr. McKay started to frown at him.

"There was only one paint pellet," Radek said. "But if we get back to lab and finish second tank, we can load both with up to six missiles."

"Second tank?" Dr. McKay's eyes grew wide.

"Well, you did find two remotes," Bjorn said, casually.

"I did," Dr. McKay said. "Indeed I did. We should test the second remote right away." With that, he headed off, back towards the elevator.

Bjorn grabbed up the tank, and they hurried after him.