|The Towers On The Heights Reach To Heav'n's Own Blue
The senior staff each got their own compressed file from the SGC's bi-weekly databursts; Elizabeth's was mostly personnel reports, expense accounts, administrata -- Rodney's files were from Sam Carter and Dr. Lee and Jeannie, half personal emails (Jeannie) and half project reports on various pieces of Ancient tech (Carter and Dr. Lee). Everyone had personal emails in the databurst, except for John, because there wasn't anyone on Earth who John wanted to hear from. Or who, if John had heard from, John would write back to.
John got weapons specs to check out, and the occasional mission report from General Landry, if the General thought the battle information was important. One of the Marines -- one of the only Marines who'd liked him while he was commanding SG-9 -- occasionally sent him sports scores, but that was it. No personal email, filtering down from the databurst files and popping into his inbox, days after they'd been sent.
It was kind of a relief, actually. John didn't mind at all. (Rodney hated the way the databurst handled emails sent from outside the Atlantis network; he filtered everything that came from the SGC into a folder and sometimes didn't look at them until weeks later. "They waited a week," he said to Elizabeth when she complained about Rodney's email habits. "They can wait another week.")
The second week of December (on Earth), John sat down to look at the specs for the prototype F-305 that was in development, and all of a sudden his email chimed, new message. It wasn't that week's menu for the mess, which was what John was expecting and the only reason he'd clicked over from the truly drool-inducing 305 specs -- it was from firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line (None).
John stared at it for three minutes before double clicking. The entirety of the email said:
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: (None) Raleigh News & Observer. 12/07/06. Now comes this, appropriately from a school that kept BC out of a better bowl with Daniel Evans' version of the Doug Flutie pass. O'Brien may have decided it was OK being a new member of the ACC, but it would be even better to really be part of it. -- sucks to be boston college, sheppard. -- c.m.
John slouched around for three days, pissed at Mitchell. He printed out the email and folded it up and shoved it in a pocket of his tac vest, even though their stash of Laser Jet paper was for official use only and Rodney yelled at anyone he caught printing personal emails on the physics department's one battered printer.
They were off-world, camping in a cave in a rain forest in the middle of monsoon season with no humanity of any sort in sight, waiting for the gale-force winds to die down enough that they could hike back to the gate and go the hell home, when Rodney said, "Colonel, what the hell has your panties in such a twist?"
"Nothing," John said, and flopped backwards onto his sleeping bag. He flicked idly at the wall of the cave, watching pieces of dirt crumble away from the wall, and flinched when Rodney prodded him in the ribcage, hard, with a finger. Rodney had, lately, taken to hauling little bits of Ancient tech with him wherever he went -- he reminded John of a guy he'd known in Afghanistan, who'd whittled. Anywhere they set up camp, Rodney was surrounded by shiny puzzle-looking bits of machinery. They all fit together, but John hadn't figured out how they fit together, yet. It didn't seem like Rodney had, either.
"You're crankier than Ronon when he hasn't gotten to shoot anyone in days," Rodney said. "And if you bring this cave down on top of our heads, I swear to God, I will make you regret it."
"Relax," John said. "Cave's structurally sound. I'm not cranky."
"McKay's right," Ronon rumbled in the corner. "You're crankier than him."
"See?" Rodney said. "Everybody's noticed. Who ate your pudding cup?"
"Nobody," John said, knowing he sounded sulky and not caring. "I'm fine. Leave me alone, go do something useful."
"Nothing useful to do here," Rodney said. "Laptop batteries are dead, and Ronon ate the Queen of Hearts out of the deck of cards."
"Do an anti-rain dance," John said. "And fuck off."
"I'll make you go talk to Heightmeyer if you don't spill," Rodney said.
John shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled Mitchell's email out. He shoved it at Rodney and rolled over, mashing his face against his pack and watching Flutie's pass on repeat in his head until Rodney poked him in the side again. "This is what you're so upset about?"
"I didn't even think you liked Mitchell," Rodney said.
"I don't," John muttered.
Rodney snorted, and John heard the sound of ripping paper. "You are secretly a 12 year old girl, aren't you?"
John punched Rodney in the arm and put his coat on his head. He fell asleep to the sound of Rodney trying to explain intercollegiate athletic conferences to Ronon and Teyla, and when he woke up, the shredded pieces of Mitchell's email nowhere to be found.
The rain lasted another two days. No one killed anyone else, though Teyla and Ronon almost took out the MALP while they were sparring, and Rodney didn't starve to death. John brooded about N.C. State's football team. On the way back to the gate, they all got so covered in mud that even Atlantis's high-tech cleaning systems couldn't get the grime off and they'd all ended up just tossing out their pants.
Then he remembered, trying to pull his foot out of a 10-inch deep sinkhole: it had taken N.C. State four weeks and six different rejected offers before they'd gotten Sidney Lowe to say yes to the basketball job, and the hiring process had apparently included an unsolicited resume from some 20-something woman, who'd offered to coach the team for $100K a year, with the promise that she'd lose just as much as Sendek had, but she'd do it in high heels, a short skirt, and a low-cut top. The AD at State had actually considered hiring her for about 14 seconds before deciding that even State's fans weren't that stupid.
John kind of thought otherwise, but nobody had asked him.
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re:(None) back-to-back losses to teams from virginia? give it time, we'll see what sidney lowe can do for you. -- sheppard.
John spent a week missing Sportscenter desperately -- most of the time, he just missed Deadspin and the boxing matches on ESPN Classic -- and complaining about it to anyone who would listen. It turned out that one of the geologists was from Boston and had all seven games of the 2004 ALCS on her computer, and John traded her half the coffee he'd been saving to butter up Rodney for a favor in exchange for the files. He spent AR-1's entire two days' downtime with his comm off, curled up in his quarters watching the Yankees collapse like a cheap house of cards.
It didn't scratch any of the itches that he was feeling, when he finished Game 7 midway through his second day off, he ended up wandering -- sleep-deprived and wondering if this is how Red Sox fans had felt after Game 5 -- through the hallways down by the science labs begging for any football games anyone had.
One of the Marines went to Carolina, and he had about 15 years worth of Carolina/Duke basketball games on his computer -- John wondered when all these people had the time to digitize what John knew were probably originally ancient crackling VHS tapes -- plus, inexplicably, the tournament game in 1994 when BC upset Carolina, the defending champions. He took the tournament game and another game that the jarhead pressed on him as a classic, totally a classic, double overtime at Cameron, you've got to watch that one.
John might actually have gotten around to watching it, just to have something to watch that wasn't the pick-up soccer games on the East Pier, except that they went off-world the next day and ended up sitting in a local jail on M4X-279 for six days before Lorne and 14 Marines showed up to break them out.
Ronon had a cut all the way across his face, one that would scar, and Rodney had a rising black eye that he'd gotten defending John's ribs from another boot, and John had a couple of ribs that if they weren't broken, he would eat his Flutie jersey. Teyla was the only one who walked out unhurt, and even if she was insulted that the friendly people of M4X-279 were too polite to hit a woman, John was glad about it. He limped back to the gate leaning against her shoulder and thinking about his bed, and how he wanted nothing more than to spend 72 hours straight sleeping in it.
After Carson taped up his ribs -- two cracks, nothing broken badly, so John felt justified in not eating the jersey, though that may just have been the pain killers -- John limped into a transporter, limped into his quarters and into a shower, and then he fell into bed totally naked. He dreamt about the natives on M4X-279 beating the University of Texas football team in a hockey game, and when he woke up 14 hours later, Rodney was squawking over the comm that John had forgotten to turn off, and John's ribs had turned a shade of purple that he didn't know was normally found in nature.
"What," he said to Rodney. John sat down and booted his laptop up, clicking open his email and watching the inbox fill up.
"I wanted to make sure you hadn't died in your sleep, Colonel," Rodney said. "Also, I'm bored."
"Hey, I got this great basketball game from one of the Marines," John said. "BC humiliates Dean Smith and the defending national champions. We could get Ronon and Teyla and -- "
"No," Rodney said firmly. And then, "Radek has hockey games."
"This year's Stanley Cup?" John said, hopefully. He liked Edmonton. The Oilers. Good team, good team name. Good old-fashioned mid-70's logo.
"No, real hockey," Rodney said scornfully. "International hockey."
"Sure," John said. "Let me just send an email."
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re:(None) When BC makes the annual Final Four highlight reel, we can talk. Til then I'll just be over here, watching Jim Valvano run around the court like a maniac.-- c.m. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re:(None) BC fans are way classier than that. -- sheppard. p.s. the hurricanes suck.
John fell asleep with his head in Teyla's lap midway through the second period of Russia versus somebody from somewhere else really cold, like Finland or maybe Norway, and when he woke up, Ronon was grilling Rodney about hockey. Rodney said, "They don't make skates big enough to hold you, caveman," and Ronon bared his teeth and dropped Rodney from the couch to the carpet with the best illegal check John had ever seen.
Surfing lessons had gone badly (Ronon's sense of balance with a gun didn't add up to any kind of sense of balance on a board, plus Rodney had drawn Ronon diagrams of exactly how much surface mass -- ie, skin -- Ronon had to hit the water at high velocity with, and Ronon had freaked out completely) and Elizabeth had nixed the Atlantis Hockey League for the first time when Zelenka racketed a puck off the glass wall of her office during a game of street hockey, and for the second time when Rodney started talking, a little too dreamily and practically, about flooding the gate room for use as an ice rink.
"Plus Elizabeth said no building a hockey rink anywhere in Atlantis," John said groggily.
"Elizabeth also said no building stills anywhere in the lower levels or the physics lab, too," Rodney said, "and I didn't see that stopping you from drinking Zelenka's Athosian potato swill at the Christmas party, Colonel."
"How many people in Atlantis actually play hockey, Rodney?"
"Including Ronon," Rodney said, "uh, eight."
"Don't you need 12 for a game?"
"That's a technical point," Rodney sniffed. "Come on, there's still four more years of World Championships to watch."
John staggered to his feet, clutching at his ribs, and said, "I have, uh, paperwork to do. Lots of paperwork. Enjoy the hockey."
"You don't have any appreciation for the beauty of the sport," Rodney said. "You are a terrible liar, Colonel."
John shrugged amiably, which hurt his ribs. Rodney frowned when John winced, and then said, a little sheepishly, "Hendrickson in Chemistry is a Chicago Bears fan."
"Thanks, McKay," John said, and he limped downstairs to see if Hendrickson had the '85 Super Bowl uploaded to the central server.
Carson (and two Marines) caught John out of bed halfway down to the Chem labs, and Carson shoved a Vicodin into John's mouth before John could even blink. John, mourning the loss of an immediate viewing of the best defense in NFL history, reported that Rodney and his black eye were watching hockey with Ronon, Ronon's healing cut, and Teyla in the lounge by the West Pier and watched Carson hustle over to a transporter, before Carson's Marines grabbed his arms and frog-marched John back to his bed.
"Either of you play football in college?" John said, after they deposited him at his quarters.
"No, sir," Braun said. "Lacrosse."
"I never got lacrosse," John said. He could feel the Vicodin thrumming through his veins. "All that padding, big guys running around with sticks, and you wear shorts. Makes no sense."
"It's the state sport of Maryland, sir," Braun said. "I grew up there. Everyone plays. The women's players wear skirts, sir."
"That's even sillier," John said. "Miller, what about you?"
"I was too short to play football, sir," Miller said. "College basketball, sir."
"Neither of you are making any sense at all," John said, and the world tilted cheerfully under his feet when he tried to pat Miller on the arm. "Too short for football, but you played basketball?"
"Yes, sir," Miller said. He reached out and propped John up against the wall. "I was a gym rat, sir. Didn't matter that I was short, because I had hustle and I could shoot three pointers, sir."
John waved his hand at the door sensor and it slid open. Miller sort of wrestled John through the door, because John's legs seemed to have stopped working, and dropped John onto the bed. "Ever thought about playing football?" John said.
Miller turned in the doorway and said, "To be perfectly honest, sir, if you're thinking about teaching Dex how to play, I'd rather spend three weeks in a lab with Dr. McKay than line up opposite him."
John tried to answer that, but his mouth felt full of cotton and his ribs were hurting again, so instead he just fell asleep. He dreamt about a gate team made up of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and an offensive line where Kolya was the quarterback, and woke up sweating.
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] The Double Round Robin: not that the Big East and their money-grubbing, fit as many teams as we can in and who cares if they don't all get to play in the conference tournament (seriously, what's UP with that, Sheppard?) ways would understand it, but there's a beautiful symmetry to playing every team in your conference twice: once at home, and once on the road. Even Clemson can beat Duke in Death Valley once a year -- but when they've got to go to Chapel Hill and lose for the bazillionth straight time and they don't get a chance at payback (and God strike me down for speaking up in Clemson's favor), that's just unfair. Double round robin -- it was *beautiful*, Sheppard, it was a work of art, and now it's *gone*. The ACC Football Championship Game: the only people who are still pretending that the ACC is secretly a football powerhouse conference are Chuck Amato and Bobby Bowden, and ol' Chuck got canned, so he doesn't count. The First Annual ACC Football Championship Game featured Wake Forest and Georgia Tech. *Wake Forest* and *Georgia Tech*. Real football powerhouses, right there. Travel Time: Do you have any idea how far apart Miami and Boston are? These are *student-athletes* we're talking about, Sheppard -- they shouldn't have to travel that far during the semester. Even the ones who play for Boston College. -- c.m. P.S. Boston College sucks.
John hadn't bothered to read past the 8th line (Weapons Training) of every personnel file he'd inherited from Sumner (except Rodney's, out of idle curiosity, and his own, out of morbid curiosity), but -- after finally securing Hendrickson's assurance that he'd upload the Super Bowl for John as soon as possible -- he sat down at his desk for the first time in six weeks and opened up the first personnel file (alphabetically by last name). Abrams, Daniel Peterson, USMC -- undergraduate degree from Furman in History, four years on the varsity football team.
By the time John had worked down to the bottom of the alphabet -- Zabriski, Pamela Janine, Ph.D., cellular botany, and it took him three days, grounded to the city because of his ribs -- he'd found eight football players (including three all from the same graduating class at the Citadel) and two New Zealanders who'd played professional rugby and who worked in genetics with Carson. Halling came to the city for a meeting with Elizabeth and the botanists who were working to hybridize the Earth crops with the Athosian crops, and he had smiled cheerfully and nodded when John asked him if he would be interested in playing football.
John wasn't sure that Halling actually knew what playing football entailed, but Jinto had grown three inches in the last six months and the top of his head was past John's shoulder now. If Halling had second thoughts, Jinto -- who treasured the football John had brought back to him on the Daedalus after the siege -- would talk his father into playing -- and probably into letting Jinto himself play.
John had his feet on his desk, thinking about a 6 on 6 football league, and whether or not the Marines who'd played soccer and basketball and lacrosse would agree to play if John promised that Ronon wouldn't maim anyone, when Rodney called him on his comm and John's email pinged at the same time.
"I can see the files you're highlighting in the personnel system, Colonel," Rodney said, without so much as a hello. "And I know what you're doing. There's no way you'll get those geneticists to play American football."
"Shut up, Rodney," John said, clicking from the personnel file for a Marine from Utah (who apparently was a talented amateur skier) over to his email. It was the databurst, and Mitchell had sent another email. John snorted at the subject line and opened it.
Rodney said, "I can hear you rolling your eyes at me, Colonel. The Kiwis all think that American-rules football is for pussies, in their words."
"Cameron Mitchell is kind of a freak," John said.
"Well, yes," Rodney said. "I think being on SG-1 alters body chemistry in some fashion. I mean, think about Colonel Carter -- she's never wanted to date me. Total freak. And Mitchell threatened me with a lemon."
"I gave that to him," John said absently. He couldn't tell if Mitchell's email was entirely earnest -- given what John had seen of him at the SGC while John was leading SG-9, it might very well be -- or slyly sarcastic and funny, which would have made John like the guy a lot more.
"I know you did," Rodney snapped. "Because you are also a freak, and a freak with a really twisted sense of humor. That said, I am certain that Mitchell is in fact a freak. He couldn't lead that team if he wasn't a freak."
John closed Mitchell's email and opened the next one, which was from Kilpatrick on SG-9 and had five attachments -- all ESPN.com saved webpages about Ohio State and Michigan, and an inexplicable sports column from the Detroit newspaper that called the University of Florida all sorts of rude names.
"Hey, Rodney, what do you know about the University of Florida?" John said.
"Excellent marine biology program," Rodney said immediately. "But a notable party school, why?"
"I meant their football team," John said.
"They have a football team?" Rodney said.
John disconnected his comm and opened Mitchell's email back up.
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] mitchell, has anyone ever told you that you're a freak? -- sheppard p.s. > Boston College sucks. YOU SUCK. p.p.s. what the shit is all this crap about ohio state, michigan, and florida's bowl game placement?
"The Ancients played what?" John said, leaning over Elizabeth's shoulder to squint disbelievingly at the display screen.
"It appears to have been a variant of cricket," Elizabeth said, and John didn't have to look down at her, seated at her desk, to know that she was hiding a smile at his surprise. "Even less like baseball than cricket, but it bears the closest similarities to cricket, and in the woven bats, a little to lacrosse."
"Figures," John said. He slouched around to the other side of her desk and slumped into a chair. "Left to their own devices, they build flying cities, learn how to achieve higher consciousness, and invent cricket, the stupidest sport in the history of the universe."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Elizabeth said, failing to hide her amusement. "Didn't you read the report that AR-3 brought back from M5X-A42? The natives on that planet play some sport that involves beating the ball carrier about the head and shoulder with large clubs -- it apparently has a very high mortality rate."
"Cricket would be improved by a good beating," John grumbled.
Elizabeth said, "I understand that you're a football fan, John, but I have to ask -- did something prompt this recent interest in the Ancients' athletic developments?"
"What?" John said.
"Your request that the social science team search the database for references to team or individual athletic events," Elizabeth said. "You've never expressed an interest in their research directions before."
John said, "Elizabeth, I didn't make that request."
"I'm sorry?" Elizabeth said.
"I didn't make that request," John said. "Even if I'd thought of it, I wouldn't have made it. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to know that the Ancients were just as frustrating and annoying in their sports as they were in everything else ever, but I didn't -- is there a form I would have had to filled out?"
"Rodney," Elizabeth said.
"You got that right," John said. "Cricket. Jeez. The Ancients were freaks, you know that?"
"Now, John, that's not very generous," Elizabeth said, but the corner of her mouth twitched.
"Sure it is," John said. "They're in good company. The Ancients, and Cameron Mitchell, and Rodney wants Sam Carter included in the freak count, too, since she still won't go out with him."
"I've been busy, it's true," Elizabeth said. "But I get the feeling I've missed something."
"N.C. State stole Boston College's football coach," John said morosely, feeling depressed all over again. For all he knew, BC was hiring an unqualified 26-year-old woman to coach the team as he spoke. "Mitchell emailed me about it."
"Well, that's nice," Elizabeth said cheerfully. "You and he are not so different, John."
"He's completely weird," John said. "Also, he's an N.C. State fan."
"I think that's where he went to college," Elizabeth said. "He's from North Carolina, up in the mountains somewhere."
"That doesn't change the fact that they took our coach," John said.
"Some regular contact with Earth can't hurt you," she said.
John heard the unspoken it's good for you to have other friends, John, and screwed up his face in disgust. Mitchell wasn't a friend -- he was just some guy who liked sports and happened to do the same job as John. If this was an office and not another freaking galaxy where the natives' idea of good times included cricket and fatal beatings, Mitchell would be the guy at the water cooler who everybody talked to about basketball and nobody actually considered a friend. "I'd rather have ESPN," John said.
"I know, John," Elizabeth said, consolingly.
"It wouldn't be so hard," John said. "Just for the 11 o'clock SportsCenter."
"No," Elizabeth said.
"Cricket," John said, and slouched out of her office.
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] Sure, Lt. Col. Carter tells me that all the time. To sum up the bowl situation: the Ohio State coach didn't vote in the last BCS placement poll because he "didn't want to pick his own opponent" (and because he was scared Michigan would beat them the second time around); Michigan fans are whiny bitches; and Florida sucks. General O'Neill was in Colorado Springs over Thanksgiving and he made me watch the Army/Navy game with him. Do the terrorists win if I admit that I don't give a flying fuck about Army/Navy? -- c.m. p.s. >> Boston College sucks. > YOU SUCK. McKay's sister sucks.
"Your preoccupation with competitive sports is starting to be disturbing," Rodney said to John. They were sitting on a low wall at the edge of the only village on M12-XV5, watching the kids in the village play something that looked like soccer -- Teyla was negotiating with the local leader, who knew Halling but had looked skeptically at Rodney's laptop and John's sunglasses, and Ronon was prowling the perimeter of the village, standing guard and probably looking for local wildlife he could shoot.
"All I'm saying, that would have been a yellow card in World Cup play," John said.
"I can't believe you miss that stupid sports network more than you miss unlimited coffee," Rodney said. "Or Big Macs. Or Farscape marathons on Sci Fi."
"To each his own," John said idly. This was the third planet in six months that they'd seen kids playing something like soccer; either AR-4, whose scientist was a soccer-obsessed Panamanian geophysicist, was going on unauthorized missions and spreading un-football dissent across the Pegasus Galaxy, or the Ancients hadn't cornered the market on inventing the stupidest Earth sports. "I wonder if there's a Pegasus World Cup."
Rodney snorted and rolled his eyes. "I think that the inhabitants of the Pegasus Galaxy have better things to do than coordinate massive, pointless sporting competitions. Like, for example, surviving the Wraith."
"I'm just saying, it would be fun," John said.
"Cameron Mitchell is really getting to you, isn't he," Rodney said. "I think he's warped you even more than you were already warped."
"He said your sister sucks," John said, mostly to watch Rodney twitch, splutter, and turn purple.
"How did my sister come into your demented teen-aged-boy conversation about football?"
"Mitchell said that Boston College sucked," John said. "So I said that he sucked. And then he said that your sister sucked."
"Oh, wonderful," Rodney said. "That's fantastic. Dragging my poor sister into this. You are so mature, Colonel."
"I didn't drag Jeannie into anything!" John said. One of the kids made a great kick straight over the goalie's head. "Hey, nice shot, kid!"
"Don't change the subject," Rodney hissed. "I'm going to be reading all your emails from now on, just to make sure that Jeannie's good name isn't being dragged through the SG-1 mud."
John snorted. "You read all my emails anyway, McKay, just for fun."
"I have to make sure you're not giving away any state secrets," Rodney said imperiously.
"You're just nosy," John said.
"Elizabeth told me that I should tell you that it's nice that you have a friend on Earth," Rodney said. "She says that all the name calling is just how men deal with each other. I'm supposed to encourage you, but she didn't know that you had gotten Jeannie involved in this mess."
"It's not like I'm forcing Jeannie to give her opinions on college football," John said. "Mitchell's not my friend, anyway. He's annoying."
"And yet you keep responding to his emails," Rodney sniffed. "You're worse than a pigtail pulling grade schooler."
"What's a pigtail?" Ronon said. He had a squirrel-like thing draped over his shoulder and was looming ominously behind Rodney. John had to twist his neck uncomfortably to see Ronon when Ronon said, "Hey, furna!"
"Hey, what?" John said.
Ronon twitched his head toward the kids. "Furna. We played it on Sateda. Before the Wraith, there was a ... league. Professional league, that's the right name? Sometimes teams from other planets came through the ring and played our best players."
"Ha!" John said. "See, Rodney? I told you. Mitchell is going to be --"
"Jealous?" Rodney said.
"No, he'll probably laugh at me," John conceded. "But they had all-star games."
"You play this on Earth?" Ronon said.
Teyla emerged from the chief's house, touching her forehead to his and smiling beatifically. She crossed the square, weaving around the boys playing soccer -- furna, whatever they called it on this planet -- and sent the ball arcing nicely over their heads when it crossed her path. The teenagers stopped and applauded her shot, and Teyla smiled again.
"They play this on Athos?" John said.
"The trade was successful," Teyla said. "We may return in one week's time to complete the transfer of goods. I believe that the game played here is not identical to a game we played on Athos, but similar in its rules and tenants."
"Soccer," John groaned.
"Lopez is going to be thrilled," Rodney complained. "I'm going to have to listen to him talk about this for weeks, and he's more annoying than you."
"Maybe he should write to Mitchell," John said.
"You play this on Earth?" Ronon said again, sounding interested.
"He doesn't give a damn about hockey," Rodney said.
"Or football," John said morosely, sliding his sunglasses on and standing up.
"But he gets excited about soccer," Rodney finished. "I hate this galaxy."
"Now we're on the same page," John said.
"Can I cook this in the mess?" Ronon said, twitching a shoulder so that the squirrel's tail flapped.
John shuddered, and they set back off toward the gate.
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] so, who won? the bcs system is a piece of crap, but it's not like a march madness-style tournament is going to be any better, right? by the time you get to the end of january, nobody cares about football anymore, they just care about conference basketball and super bowl commercials. they play soccer in the pegasus galaxy. all over. on multiple planets. they had a world cup, before the wraith. i feel the fabric of my reality unraveling. the geophysicist in mckay's department is thrilled. >Do the terrorists win if I admit that I don't give a >flying fuck about Army/Navy? i don't know. how do you feel about citadel/vmi? -- sheppard p.s. >>> Boston College sucks. >> YOU SUCK. > McKay's sister sucks. your MOM sucks.
John mentioned the soccer thing off-hand in his mission report, and the next thing he knew, he had three anthropologists beating down the door to John's quarters on his day off. He stared at them blankly while they gabbled on about something involving shared cultures and the ritualistic aspects of sports in war-torn civilizations -- and then he said, "You really want Ronon and Teyla, I am not a native of the Pegasus Galaxy, no matter what McKay tells you."
The anthropologists took off at high-speed, and when John ambled down to the mess later, they had Ronon cornered at a table and were quizzing him, apparently, about furna, and the Satedan sports culture. Ronon shot John a look over the tops of the anthropologists' heads -- it was a look that said I will find you, and I will kill you where you stand.
John fled back to his quarters with a sandwich and hid from Ronon. When he checked his email, he had a dozen new messages, half of which were from people he'd never met. He clicked through the messages one by one, and they were all the same -- people offering him sports in digital format, all kinds of sports. Basketball -- college and the NBA -- and football and golf and tennis and lacrosse and even bowling. No cricket, but someone had three years' worth of national lumberjack competitions, which baffled John even more than people in the Pegasus Galaxy playing soccer.
He figured that Elizabeth or Rodney had put them up to it -- and it was probably Elizabeth, because they all seemed reasonably cheerful about sharing, rather than resentful, angry and bullied. John emailed them all and told them to upload the files to a central folder called "sports", because he didn't want to insult anyone by telling them that he had less than zero interest in women's tennis. Two days later Rodney changed the folder name to "Stupid Acts of Public Machismo (And Why Didn't Any Of You Jerks Bring More Hockey)".
"You've created monsters," Rodney said crankily at lunch the next day.
John had been trading emails with Mitchell for almost a month -- they'd celebrated New Year's on Earth and the Athosian New Year both the week before, and everyone had been hungover for three straight days afterwards -- and the bootleg Atlantean sports network had only been thriving for about 10 days, so John didn't really think it was his fault. "I had to create a mailing list," Rodney griped. "A mailing list specifically so that people who wanted to find sporting events could stop clogging up my inbox with crap like 'Please somebody upload the 1997 semi-final game between North Carolina and Arizona' and 'Does anyone have any championship golf from the late '80s?'"
"I think that's really a public service, McKay," John said. The anthropologists were still harassing Ronon, and Teyla, and any of the other Athosian who came to the city, about Pegasus Galaxy soccer. The anthropologists, who almost never wanted to go off-world primarily because it was nearly impossible to pry them away from the Ancient database, were also lobbying that they be put on gate teams, first contact, please, to Elizabeth -- they wanted to go soccer-hunting across the galaxy.
"It is a public service only to me," Rodney said. "I am 12% less annoyed by the existence of professional and collegiate sports than I was this morning when I found six different requests in my inbox. That it is a public service to anyone else is just to keep Elizabeth off my back."
"Professional sports I get, McKay," John said. He was drawing Xs and Os in ketchup on his plate, thinking about the best ways to explain a shotgun offense to Athosians. "I can understand how you hate people getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play games. I don't really understand it, but I can at least sort of halfway try and get it. But college sports, what have you got against college sports? They're just kids."
Rodney snorted into his coffee. "Just kids?" he grumbled. "They don't get paid, but they're -- people worship those athletes. You can't turn on a TV in March without seeing people worshipping 18 year old kids who can jump high."
"Nobody worshipped you when you were an undergrad?"
"Ha," Rodney said. "I had two groupies, once I showed up the TA in my first aeronautics course. Nobody ever put me on TV, though."
"Physicists aren't a ratings draw," John said. He held up his plate and said, "Would you understand this?"
Rodney squinted at it, and said, "Understand as in understand what you were trying to convey, or understand as in have any idea at all why the shotgun offense is ever a good idea? Because, really -- neither."
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] Florida, actually, and they destroyed OSU. It wasn't even a game. I'll send you a copy the next time the Daedalus goes out. Kansas beat the shit out of BC's basketball team a couple of weeks ago. And Bobby Knight broke Dean Smith's all-time total wins record. The Packers kicked the shit out of the Bears on New Year's Eve. And Houston upset the Colts on Christmas Eve -- I swear you could hear the screams of joy from Baltimore. The Ravens beat Buffalo today and got a bye in the first rounds of the playoffs. I was in Germany when they moved the Browns to Baltimore, but I still think it's *weird* that they're not the Browns anymore. > i don't know. how do you feel about citadel/vmi? I can fairly say that I have never given more than about six seconds of thought to Citadel/VMI pretty much ever. What does that say? -- c.m. p.s. >>>> Boston College sucks. >>> YOU SUCK. >> McKay's sister sucks. > your MOM sucks. The Pegasus Galaxy sucks.
Admittedly, John wasn't paying attention in their weekly senior staff meeting -- that was why Lorne was there. Lorne listened, and prodded John when John needed to stop smiling and nodding, and to start actually contributing to the meeting. Lorne hadn't prodded him, but something in the way Elizabeth said, "And I don't think that's necessarily the way we need to go, but the concept is excellent."
John said, "Mmmm?", as though that would hide the fact that he'd been daydreaming about World Series tickets.
"A football league is really out of the question, John," Elizabeth said. "I'm sorry about that, but the equipment alone is simply an expense that we couldn't justify to the SGC, or to the space it would require on the Daedalus. But soccer, on the other hand, could certainly be well within our reach. It's such an international sport."
"Intergalactic," Anthropologist #2 said. (Despite the fact that all three of the anthropologists had been dogging his team for two weeks, now, and despite the fact that all three of them kept asking John about the planets where he'd noticed soccer being played, he had a very hard time remembering their names. One was Jones, one was James, and the other was something totally unrelated to either of those, and John -- he tried to be polite to them, as best he could while he was answering totally pointless questions about soccer, about rules variations that he might have noticed on MG7-XV5, about things that he didn't care about at all, but he couldn't remember his names.)
John had been wondering why the anthropologists were sitting in this staff meeting. Plus it was Thursday, and their staff meetings were usually on Monday mornings, like they were a normal office and not an intergalactic outpost without ESPN and FoxSports and Cubs baseball on WGN. He'd been wondering why they were all sitting in Elizabeth's office, but even if they were talking about starting some kind of sports league, which he supposed was his fault, and which he supposed he was nominally in favor of, he still couldn't figure out why Rodney was there.
"Intergalactic sport, yes," Elizabeth said mildly. "I think we could certainly use something to pull the city together. A soccer league seems like an excellent idea."
"Oh, and then we could enter the Pegasus Galaxy World Cup?" Rodney said snidely.
Ah, John thought. He's here to make rude remarks.
"Perhaps one of our allies who plays the sports would be interested in competing against us, yes, Rodney," Elizabeth said. "I've discussed this thoroughly with Drs. Jones, James, and Bartholomew, and we all feel that even if soccer is not necessarily true to the Ancients who once lived here, teaching an entire city how to play an antiquated version of cricket is not the best use of anyone's time."
"Well, at least you got that right," Rodney mumbled, and then he glared at John like this was all John's fault.
Elizabeth smiled beatifically at Rodney and said, "Rodney, I told you that there is no physical place to put an ice rink -- and hockey suffers from the same equipment request problem as football does."
"This is your fault," Rodney said to John, which at least made his glare logical.
"What?" John said. "I hate soccer! It's a stupid sport -- not as stupid as cricket, but definitely stupider than, say, golf. Or tennis. Or bowling." He stopped mid-sentence when he caught the anthropologists glaring at him -- he'd forgotten that two of them were British, and Bartholomew was Spanish, a huge Real Madrid fan, if the poster on the door of his quarters was anything to go by. John said, "Uh."
"This is John's fault," Elizabeth said. "But not quite like I believe you're implying, Rodney. John's interest in the Ancients and their sporting activities, as well as his realization that he'd seen soccer played on several Pegasus planets, simply brought it to my attention that perhaps the team here on Atlantis might be missing the sort of recreational competition that is available on Earth. We don't have any sort of intra-team competition here, at all."
"Not unless you count Cadman's Ladies' Poker Night," Rodney grumbled.
"Which I don't," Elizabeth said airily. "You're not invited to that because you're not a woman, Rodney, not because the participants dislike you."
"Uh, sorry," John said, though he wasn't sure if he was apologizing to Rodney, or Elizabeth, or the anthropologists who were all still stonily glaring at him from the other side of the table.
"No need to apologize, John," Elizabeth said. "I simply can't believe that we didn't think of this sooner -- you should be commended, for bringing the subject to the forefront of everyone's mind."
"Okay," John said. "Sure. Glad to help."
"Now," Elizabeth said. "We should discuss the league's format. John, would you like to captain a team?"
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] thanks, i guess. top five teams moving that i still find really strange: the washington nationals; the l.a. lakers (there aren't any LAKES in los angeles, mitchell, that name is really stupid); the dallas stars (at least they took "north" out of their name); all of the other hockey teams that used to be in places with ice and are now in places that have 70 degree christmases; the indianapolis colts. >> i don't know. how do you feel about citadel/vmi? > I can fairly say that I have never given more than about > six seconds of thought to Citadel/VMI pretty much ever. > What does that say? pretty much i think you're a failed product of the rotc system, mitchell. i'm so disappointed in you. elizabeth is trying to start an intramural soccer league in atlantis. seriously: i'm in hell. -- sheppard p.s. >>>>> Boston College sucks. >>>> YOU SUCK. >>> McKay's sister sucks. >> your MOM sucks. > The Pegasus Galaxy sucks. the state of north carolina sucks.
It was mid-February on Earth before the soccer league got off the ground. Two weeks after the staff meeting where Elizabeth had declared that, thanks to all of the senior staff's interest, they'd be forming a soccer league, Rodney found a cricket pitch underneath the North Pier.
John was sitting in the mess with Ronon and Lorne, trying to get out of captaining one of the military's two soccer teams ("But I don't know anything about soccer! And what's the point of playing if you don't win! We won't win if I captain the team. I should just sit on the sidelines and ... start fights. That's what they do at soccer games, right?"), when his radio crackled to life and Rodney's voice started shrieking about crickets and dead grass and the North Pier. "Yeah, sure, Rodney," John said, and Ronon grinned at John. "If a cricket didn't have any grass, I bet it would die. Do crickets eat grass? You should take it up to the bio labs, they can look at it."
"Not a cricket, you beautiful dumbass," Rodney said, sounding suddenly a lot clearer. Half the city actually interfered with the radios, which was useful if you wanted to go hide somewhere with your laptop and watch a college bowl game from 1998 -- pick a spot where the radio crackling with static every time anyone said anything, and you would be home free from kickoff to the last seconds of the game. (Unless Rodney really wanted to find you, in which case, John had discovered, you could usually placate him with whatever new hockey games had showed up on the server while he was busy saving the world.) "A cricket pitch. A cricket field. The grass is all dead, but Jesus Christ, it's -- here. The Ancients actually played cricket. I'm sort of appalled."
"The database said they did," John said. "You didn't believe it?"
"They were geniuses," Rodney said, starting to crackle again. "I wished they'd invented something classier, something that was more mathematically - advanced. Definitely not cricket. But here's a pitch, and so I guess they played it."
"Well, was there a point to this phone call, or did you just want to complain?"
"I have watched so much sports in the last two months," Rodney said, "that I figure I have a license to complain to you about anything I want to complain about for pretty much the rest of my life. But no, I thought that if the botanists could get the grass into shape -- they've got seats, and it's about the same size as a soccer pitch, and you know those big squares in the North Pier, that look opaque but they're different colors than the rest of the pier? They're windows. Skylights! From this side, they're translucent, and the sun is shining through. It's like being outdoors without actually having to go outdoors."
"So it's paradise, huh?" John said, and Ronon and Lorne both quirked eyebrows at him, in exactly the same way. He wasn't sure who'd learned that from who, and it freaked him out.
"Not exactly paradise, because cricket," Rodney said. "But it's not so bad."
"Good to hear," John said. "Anything else?"
"Oh, did I interrupt something important, Colonel?" Rodney snapped. "Sorry about that, I thought you'd be excited that there might be somewhere nice and soft and grassy to play your stupid sport."
"It's not my sport, Rodney," John said. "Lorne and Ronon are going to captain the two military teams. I'm going to catch up on my paperwork while I watch the games, and also I'm going to start the fights."
Lorne opened his mouth to say something, and John raised an eyebrow at him. It was John's favorite eyebrow -- his I'm-your-CO-and-you'll-do-as-I-say-even-if-you-hate-soccer-too eyebrow, and Lorne slumped down in his seat as soon as he saw it.
"You delegate so well," Rodney drawled.
"I do," John said. "And you are interrupting something -- I was having a chocolate pudding cup in the mess."
He was actually eating pink Jell-o because the supply of chocolate pudding cups had run dry exactly three days after the Daedalus had brought the pudding cups (and John's DVD of the Ohio State/Florida game, which turned out to be a really crappy rout), but it was worth it to hear Rodney splutter and hang up.
"So," John said cheerfully.
"That wasn't very nice, sir," Lorne said.
"Rodney deleted the 1995 Rose Bowl from the server last week, just because he could," John said. "He earned a little pudding related trauma. So, what are you going to call your soccer teams, kids? I recommend something that suggests you'll eat the other team alive if they screw with you. Easier for me to start fights in support of a team like that."
The botanists were in heaven -- they got to re-seed the field with native grasses. They developed some hybrid -- in record time, it seemed like to John -- that didn't require cutting and then they refused to let John help them plant it in a grid pattern. Elizabeth told him that if all of this had just been so he could requisition a riding lawn mower from the SGC, it might have been easier just to ask for that to begin with.
"I always wanted to mow the lawn at the Astrodome," John said to Rodney. "I was 15 before I realized that the grass was fake."
They were watching Ronon's hand-picked team absolutely destroy one of the teams of scientists; Elizabeth had hoped for four teams, two of scientists and two of military personnel, but apparently interest in running around kicking at each other was more popular than she'd thought -- they had 9 teams, one from almost every science department, plus Lorne's team of Marines who didn't really like soccer but who enjoyed the exercise, Ronon's hand-picked team that was summarily destroying the rest of the league, and a team of Athosians who could compete with everyone but Ronon.
"I still think you shouldn't have let him pick his own team," Rodney grumbled. The physics department was the team getting killed that day, and Rodney had turned down both the physics department's invitation to play on their team ("You really want me out there, kicking at things, with your shins on full display, on days that you've down something totally stupid?") and Ronon's team ("You'll make me run."). "He had some -- sixth sense about who to pick. He got all the good ones! Even the good ones that nobody knew were going to be good ones!"
"You're just mad that Zelenka is playing for Ronon instead of Physics," John said. He was catching up on mission reports while they watched the game -- Elizabeth required the senior staff to watch at least two games a week, although so far she hadn't said anything about John doing paperwork and Rodney doing ... Rodney's genius-type things during the games.
"I am not," Rodney said. He was surrounded by half a dozen bits and pieces of Ancient tech, and even though he complained more than John did about having to watch the games, he was spending more time watching Zelenka run circles around the rest of the physics department than he was tinkering with whatever it was that he was surrounded by.
"What are you futzing with, anyway?"
"Uh," Rodney said. "Hey, Zelenka just scored. Go, Radek, go!"
"You are terrible at cheering," John said. "What is it? You've been screwing with it for weeks now, and you haven't asked me to turn it on once."
"Uh," Rodney said again, and flushed. "I think it's a -- I think it's a pinball machine. We've been trying to fix it, because we thought -- I thought -- Elizabeth thought -- I mean, you might like it."
"Oh," John said. "Thank you. That's -- thanks, Rodney."
"I didn't even know if you played pinball," Rodney said sheepishly.
"Badly," John said. "About as well as the physics department plays soccer."
"That's not very nice," Rodney said.
John said, "But totally true."
"I still don't know why you got so obsessed about sports," Rodney said, and the piece he was fiddling with was clearly a pinball paddle, now that John knew what he was looking at. Rodney could be saving the world -- but he's putting together a pinball machine for John instead. "It wasn't really Mitchell, was it?"
John shrugged. "He just reminded me. We didn't -- we didn't move around as much when I was a kid as a lot of military families, but we moved enough. Sports were an easy way to fit in -- I didn't have friends, but I could throw a football and I was always a baseball fan, so I could talk to anybody."
"Don't tell me that Mitchell made you feel lonely," Rodney said.
"I'd deny it to my death," John said.
"Now you've got soccer," Rodney said.
"I know," John said. "I kind of wish I'd never said anything."
"Bet you're not lonely," Rodney said.
John leaned back in the Ancient bleachers and peered at Rodney over the top of his laptop. "Don't tell anybody," John said. "But soccer's not so bad."
From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] I had to call in about six favors to General O'Neill, and he had to call in another three to somebody else to get these, and I only asked for two but the next thing I knew, Teal'c was going, and then Carter, and then Jackson and Vala and O'Neill. Teal'c is a Joakim Noah fan, apparently -- maybe it's the hair, as in Noah has a ton of it. The rest of them are going along for team bonding, although I'm not sure how the General factors into that, except maybe he's trying to make me crazy. Anyway, Carter says the bridge will be totally functional by March at the *latest* and the second one is yours, if you want it. -- c.m. Attached: tix.jpg From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] mitchell. are you asking me on a date? -- sheppard From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] Oh, Jesus wept, *NO*. -- c.m. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] okay, then. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] Okay what then? -- c.m. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] okay, then, i'll go to the final four with you. -- sheppard. p.s. sidney lowe totally sucks. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] > p.s. sidney lowe totally sucks. MCKAY'S SISTER SUCKS. From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com Subject: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re: RE: Re:Why Boston College Has Ruined The Atlantic Coast Conference and Other Truths [Was RE: Re: RE: Re:(None)] OKAY, THAT'S IT, LEAVE MY SISTER OUT OF THIS BIZARRE DISPLAY OF MACHISMO, OR I SWEAR TO GOD, I'LL MAKE YOU BOTH WATCH SOCCER. FOR A WEEK STRAIGHT. WITH YOUR EYELIDS TAPED OPEN.
author's notes: shep. cheerlead, inspired, and wrote some of john's emails. queen r. audienced. ash is the president of the boston college sucks fan club. (we're not atlantic coast conference purists like my mom because we tolerated florida state, but we disapprove of the new acc completely.) the title is from boston college's fight song, supplied by this website. many of the games mentioned specifically in this story are real games (including the '85 super bowl, the carolina/duke '95 double overtime and the '94 carolina/bc tournament upset); many are also not.
this story came about entirely when n.c. state stole boston college's head football coach, the first time a head coach had been poached within the atlantic coach conference in a major sport. it was originally intended to be entirely epistolary, but as i said to sid over new year's, it's hard to write an epistolary story when your characters writing letters are manly men who don't talk about their feelings.
john sheppard's opinions about soccer, cricket, golf, women's tennis and the state of north carolina in no way reflect my own. john sheppard's opinion about bowling totally reflects my own.
in my own personal canon, Cameron Mitchell went to North Carolina State University; Doug Flutie was playing for Boston College when he threw John's beloved Hail Mary pass; Mitchell's first email quotes directly from this story, which appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer the day State hired Tom O'Brien away from BC.