McKay muttered under his breath, “You can’t be serious.”
Sheppard immediately agreed. “No way in hell.”
Beside John, Ronon grunted his own agreement as Teyla crossed her arms. Lorne and his recently reconfigured team stood staring blankly, digesting the news for a moment, before they started to fidget, itching to escape.
Woolsey clasped his hands behind his back, looking for some inner fortitude as he addressed the teams. “My apologies, but it wasn’t a request. The orders come straight from the I.O.A. Now that we’re uncloaked and permanently anchored, and in light of your newfound ... talents, their orders are that all teams must be clearly identifiable to the public. Your goal is not only to protect but also to be easily recognizable in your new role as guardians of Earth. Ms Mode was specially commissioned for her expertise—at great expense, so I’m told.”
Searching their faces, he had hoped to find at least one — Teyla, or maybe Lorne — with a glimmer of acceptance for the I.O.A’s order. Instead he found only animosity. Feeling defeated, Woolsey sighed, “At the moment you have no choice, so I suggest you accept the inevitable before she arrives to take your measurements.”
“Darling, she is here.”
The voice billowed out from behind him. Woolsey whipped around, glaring at the door only to see no one was there. Then he heard an irritated tap. Following the sound, he lowered his gaze until he found himself staring down into the face of famed designer Edna Mode, who returned his glare with palpable annoyance. Behind the large oversized black frames that somehow stayed balanced on her small button nose, her eyes narrowed. Then, just as quickly, she dismissed him and walked around him to face the others.
“Do you have a problem my designs?” she inquired. “Any of you?” Her foot then tapped in double-time, irritated, as she bellowed, “DO YOU?” The boisterous voice coming from such a diminutive frame surprised everyone.
Without waiting for their reply, she pulled out what appeared to be a large measuring tape. “Hmm, good, good. Then, darlings, let’s move things along. Now who are the team leaders?”
No one spoke, each looking with dread at the woman before them. She crossed her arms and then flung one hand out, feigning boredom. She started to walk around them, glaring at and inspecting one and then another. “Come now, I don’t have all day.” She stopped at Ronon. The others had cowered and inched away when her eyes landed on them, but he was the only one who stood his ground. Her eyes traveled his body with clear appreciation. “You?”
One side of Ronon’s mouth lifted in what Woolsey would guess was a pleased smirk before he grunted a denial. He reached behind himself and clamped a hand down on Sheppard's shoulder, propelling the man forward. “That’d be Colonel Sheppard.” Half a second later he added, “And Major Lorne, behind you and to your left.”
Woolsey noticed how Ronon kept his hand firmly in place on Sheppard’s shoulder. Whether it was for support or to keep the man from running, Richard couldn’t guess.
He suspected Ms Mode had come to the same conclusion. He was surprised to realize that the negative reactions to new uniforms didn’t appear to hamper Ms Mode’s attitude toward the job. Instead she seemed to thrive on their response.
She turned to look where Ronon had directed. At her direct gaze and nod, Lorne twisted around, surprised to see himself standing alone. His team had collectively deserted him by stepping back. His shoulders dropped and he turned back to face the designer.
Woolsey watched as Ms Mode pursed her lips at their antics. Dismissing everyone else from her attention, she focused on John and Evan. She shook her head as she looked between the two men and walked around them, inspecting every inch of their bodies.
Suddenly the floor moved. Somehow there was a disk under her feet, rising and lifting her up to hover at Lorne’s eye level. “Hmmmm, it will be a challenge.” The disk swished back and forth, allowing her to move quickly and effectively between the two men. She pulled out her measuring tape and started to take their measurements.
Quickly jotting the numbers down on a pad she pulled from one of the pockets of her dress, she continued to talk. “You are mission leaders, and your uniform must indicate your status. It must be subtle, yet bold. The material will be light, form fitting to the body, but flexible, breathable, indestructible. More importantly, practical.” She paused a moment as if sharing a secret, then practically burst in excitement as she announced, “My fabrics, they are now machine-washable.”
McKay sputtered, “Wait, what? Indestructible, that’s impossible.”
Abruptly the measuring tape recoiled with a loud snap. “Are you questioning my work or my word?” The disk moved, bringing the audacious woman to hover in front of McKay. Everyone else moved out of the line of fire. Her voice rose. “Hmm, are you?”
McKay stood there, his mouth hanging open, incredibly hesitant. Woolsey would laugh at McKay’s comical expression under her gaze if he wasn’t afraid to draw Ms Mode’s attention — along with her wrath. Ms Mode didn’t miss a beat as she postured and leaned into McKay’s face until they were nose to nose. Woolsey could only imagine an intense gaze, under the sting of her words. “I do not question the reasoning of your latest work, now do I? No matter how boring. Reading your data, dry and unimaginative dribble as it was, is quite rudimentary —though even I would acknowledge that your work to interface hyperdrive motive technology and its attendant untethered loci with a wormhole-based matter transfer system has merit.”
McKay pulled back, blinking in surprise that she not only knew of his work but, more importantly, obviously understood what he did.
Richard waited, curious to see if McKay would actually admit he had prematurely jumped to the wrong conclusion. Instead Ms Mode only smirked with a slight, knowing nod and seemed to accept his silence as apology. “Do not question my work or my word, yes! Your uniforms, they will be indestructible. At least to standard earth element hazards, namely fire and water. The material covering your body will protect your weaker flesh.” The disk backed up a foot and she pointedly glared at McKay’s stomach. “For you, yours will even push in that gut.”
“Do not thank me.” She waved her hand as the disk moved, zipping until it stopped in front of Sheppard.
The disk lowered and then slowly rose again as she took his measurements. Abruptly she stopped, hovering as she faced Sheppard.
For a moment Richard thought maybe she’d been taken in by Sheppard’s good looks. When the disk lifted a few more inches, suddenly it was clear — she was staring aghast at Sheppard’s hair. Her mouth dropped and her face contorted as she mumbled, “What is this?” Not expecting an answer, she muttered to no one in particular, “Maybe a cap?”
John stepped back, a hand going to his head protectively. “No cap.”
McKay offered, “Maybe it’ll be like Batman’s?”
John shook his head, “What? No.” But Woolsey and nearly everyone else could see John was imagining himself in a Batman-like suit.
Curious, Ronon asked, “Which one is Batman?”
John answered, challenging anyone to contradict him, “Singularly the most important hero of DC comics.”
However it was Teyla’s answer that Ronon understood. “The one with the gadgets and car Radek was telling us about.”
Rodney added arrogantly, “I’ll give you the man’s intelligence, but he doesn’t hold a candle to Superman in the powers department.”
Confused, Ronon questioned, “So why did you just say Batman?”
“What? No I didn’t. I said maybe she’ll make a cap like Batman’s to hide that monstrosity he calls hair.”
John’s chin jutted out defensively. “All right Rodney… fine, be that way, and you can wear the tights.”
Rodney started to sputter, “I didn’t say —”
Undeterred, Ms Mode ignored their argument and continued working, taking measurements as the team members verbally battled. Each opinion regarding the greatest comic book hero became more boisterous than the last. The discussion quickly evolved as they debated the merits of comic book versus movie, then included television heroes and their various powers. Even Ronon and Teyla had gotten into the debate, each adding their own world’s versions of a superhero.
As the volume increased, no one else noticed when Edna Mode stopped taking measurements and hovered in front of Richard briefly. “I will return in one week for fittings on the prototypes.” Then she left. His mouth hung open as he watched her leave, flipping through pages on her pad and making additional notes.
A week later, they met in the lobby of what would be their new workout room, which was tailored after the illustrious X-Men's Danger Room. Richard stood by the door as they slowly filed into the room. In the center of the floor, folded to stand up on the hover disk, was a card. It was Teyla who walked over to pick it up and read the note aloud.
<center><i>Darlings, it is time for your fittings. On the table against the wall are your new uniforms. Change and be ready before I return. Now GO!
Everyone turned to see a collection of small bundles on the table. As they walked over, they could see each bundle had its new owner's name embossed on a small card.
John’s mouth slanted as he gazed at the bundles. He leaned to the side and nudged Rodney with his shoulder. “Go on, Rodney, open it and try it on.”
Aghast, Rodney exclaimed, "What?"
Without taking his eyes off the table, John elbowed Rodney again, pushing him toward the table. “Come on, Rodney, you know you want to. You’re the scientist, right? Love to discover the unknown?”
At first Rodney didn’t respond. Then, almost cheerfully, he stated, “Fine.” He moved toward the table, but instead of grabbing the bundle with his name, he grabbed Sheppard’s. “Let’s see if she made you that cap.”
Before Rodney could open the bag, John snatched it out of his hand. “Never mind, I think I got it.”
Though their antics were slightly entertaining, Richard was anxious to see Ms Mode’s designs. Hoping to prod them along, Richard said, “If I may interject … I’d suggest you get a move on and change before Ms Mode arrives. I’ve been told she has a very tight schedule.”
It was Lorne and his team that first conceded the inevitable, moving toward the table to take their bundles. There were partitions on opposite sides of the room, offering them privacy as they changed: one for the women in one corner of the room, and the other partition for the men. Teyla and Ronon were the next to move, grabbing their own bundles. Teyla walked over to share a partition with Lt. Cadman and Sgt. Mehra while Ronon joined the major and Parrish.
That left Sheppard and McKay. Annoyed by their reluctance, Richard folded his arms and waited to see who would break first. John just stood there with a dumbfounded look on his face, holding his bundle clutched tight in his fist, while Rodney just stared at his lone bundle on the table. Richard couldn’t help but wonder whether their hesitation was intentional and whether it would jeopardize the I.O.A’s contract with Ms Mode.
Finally John cursed. “Come on Rodney,” he muttered, moving behind the partition with the other men. Seconds later, with obvious reluctance, Rodney followed John.
Richard was left to practice patience as he listened to the teams change. There were low mutterings, grumbles, and whispers that he couldn’t make out. Slowly their whisperings grew louder. Then a giggle erupted, followed by outright laughter. It didn’t sound like ridicule but more festive cheer — similar to the sounds he had heard on Christmas morning from his sister’s children. Their infectious laughter was loud enough that he didn’t hear Ms Mode enter the room. She marched over to step onto the disk, which hovered high and swished past him, moving swiftly behind the women's partition.
Richard could only listen.
“Darlings, you are beautiful. Turn, yes, yes – do you feel that? See how it moves, and the color. Do you like?”
Teyla’s voice was in awe. “I have not seen anything like it in any galaxy.”
“But of course, darling! That is the point, yes?”
The lieutenant let out a distinctive squeal of approval. “It’s gorgeous, a work of art. I don’t know how to, it feels … it’s indescribable.”
“Each garment is customized to its owner, to enhance your skills and highlight each of your powers. And for you, darling, since you are able to create and discharge kinetic energy to explode, I designed it to complement your power – creating a shield. Though all my fabrics are fireproof, for you it is intensified to deal with such harsh conditions. Now concentrate and think the word <i>shield</i>.”
A moment later Richard heard Laura’s laughter.
Edna continued, “Yes, there, see how it’ll protect you. It is capable of expanding large enough to shield your entire team. Now you, darling, besides being a natural diplomat with the power of omnilinguilism and your developing telekinesis ability, you are also a warrior. This material is specially fit to allow you to maneuver and fight hand-to-hand, but here, do you see it? Yes, concealed pockets. There are more here and here. Yet there will be no bulk or burden of weight, they have an endless depth to hold any size of weapon. And here in this pocket, you can carry your child or perhaps someone injured — protected and hidden from others whenever necessary.”
For a moment, Richard thought it was Laura who spoke next, but he quickly realized his mistake — that was Teyla answering with girlish glee. “This is incredible!”
“Naturally. And you darling, how many elements have you played with?”
He couldn’t hear Sgt. Mehra’s response, though she had to be asking Dusty since she was the only one with a power of elements. To confirm his thought, he heard a sudden crack of wind above him that was quickly followed by the splattering of rain hitting something — Richard suspected it was Laura’s shield. “Good, good, you must practice changing your elements. Tell me immediately if the material does not keep up with you.”
Ms Mode came out from behind the partition, a smile lighting up her face as she waved off their compliments. She was ready to focus on the men; leaving Teyla, Dusty, and Laura behind, hidden from his eyes as they continued to explore their powers and the limits of their new uniforms.
She hovered at the men’s partition, eyeing them critically. He could see the top of McKay’s head however Ronon, John, and David were tall enough that he could see their expressions. They didn’t just sound like children; their features were bright and giddy with wondrous delight.
Suddenly he saw Lorne’s face as well as the man jumped above the partition and then floated there. Lorne’s uniform was tight, similar to a form-fitting wetsuit. It shimmered almost like Lycra. It appeared black, then a dark blue, before changing colors again to purple, then green, and then suddenly Lorne’s body was partially invisible. She nodded, pleased. “Good, you have the right idea, but focus your thoughts. It will change at will to act as a camouflage with your surroundings, casting you invisible. Or it can flick colors that will match your mood if you desire.”
Briefly Lorne was completely invisible as he shouted out in cheer. Then he was visible and continued to change colors, bouncing around the room in exuberant joy. At one point Lorne accidently knocked one of the partitions down, looking more like Tigger from Winnie the Pooh than a military officer.
The commotion rose as each person came out from behind the partitions to show off the abilities that each uniform complemented — even Parrish. Richard was slightly taken back to see Parrish so animated. He had heard rumors that the man was a motormouth and that on a good day he could out-talk McKay, but in Richard’s experience, for some reason David was extremely introverted.
Whatever Ms Mode whispered in his ear had the botanist pulling out gloves and something else from a pocket in his bodysuit. The suit, like Lorne’s, was form-fitting, emphasizing David’s lean length. Black with green swirls decorated his sides. The design reminded Richard more of a ski jumper’s bodysuit. Blinking, Richard realized David had seeds in his hand, but what amazed him was to see the seeds grow to small saplings and then into larger plants as David waved one gloved hand over the table, producing soil and water to help the roots take and grow further.
As he watched in amazement; Richard ached with envy that he didn’t have the ATA gene nor the gene sequence Teyla and Ronon shared. Not that it would have mattered. Others had the gene naturally, like General O’Neill and Carson Beckett, and there were others that had it artificially like McKay. But only Sheppard's and Lorne’s teams had traveled through what McKay called a sonic plasmid wave – it was what had activated their DNA to produce enzymes that changed them and gave them powers.
After their powers developed and it was clear they weren’t a danger to anyone else or themselves, they were released from isolation. With McKay free, he was able to concur with Radek’s findings: they wouldn’t be able to create another sonic plasmid wave within their lifetime. That left them to accept and adjust to their newfound powers.
Shortly afterwards they destroyed the super-hive ship and anchored Atlantis on Earth. The I.O.A immediately proceeded to enlist (draft) both teams to act as guardians of Earth, utilizing their powers.
McKay’s scream pulled Richard out of his introspection. He looked up just in time to see McKay and Ronon, ten to fifteen feet off the ground. Rodney was struggling against Ronon’s hold, yelling, “Put me down, now — NO! Wait!” It was too late as Ronon let go. McKay shrieked but was easily caught by Sheppard.
Snickering, he reprimanded McKay, “Well, maybe you could be a little nicer and watch what you say.”
“That is <i>so</i> unfair. I’ve saved everyone’s lives ten-fold and do I get awesome powers? No! I should be the one flying around or better yet able to kill a certain colossal idiot with a thought. I mean how the hell can he be flying around with that bulk of a body — Parrish makes more sense than Conan does.”
“Keep it up and he’ll fly you somewhere I might not be able catch you, or <i>want </i> to.”
“What? What did you say?”
“Come on, Rodney, give it a break. None of us had the option to pick and choose our powers, you know that.”
“Yeah, right, this coming from the man who’s probably faster than The Flash. And don’t tell me you wouldn’t have a fit if your only power was augmentation.”
“Hey, that’s not such a bad power; just being around you enhances our own powers.”
McKay’s shoulders slumped. “Oh, goody.”
Laura and Teyla came over to join them. Teyla was the first to speak. “Rodney, John is correct. Because of you, our own enhancements are amplified.”
Laura nudged him, adding, “Rodney, you’re not fooling me. Would you really want to give up the increased intelligence?”
“I told you the increase is suspect. At this point there’s no way to really tell since I was already a <i>genius</i>.”
Behind Rodney, arms crossed defiantly, Ronon slowly descended until he touched down. He was dressed in a similar suit as the others, but his was sleeveless to slow off his tattoos. “Hmph. Genius, maybe. Humble, no.”
“Ronon,” Teyla chided.
John shrugged. “All right, I get it. So this time you don’t have the super-hearing or the telekinesis – at least you’re not going to die.”
“That you know of,” Rodney replied bitterly.
John’s eyes narrowed in obvious annoyance. “Yeah, well, that’d apply to all of us, then, not just you. Besides, according to you, we’re all still developing, so you have no idea what other skills you might acquire over time.”
Rodney nodded reluctantly.
“Soooo, that means what?” John rolled his eyes when Rodney just stared blankly at him. “That means, in the meantime you should be having fun. Come on, Rodney, you can’t tell me you’re not happy with the uniform.”
Ms Mode interrupted, “Yes, darling, tell me, do you like it? How does it feel?”
Rodney met Edna’s eyes. The corners of his mouth lifted into a smug smile, and then he bobbed his head in obvious delight.
“Good. I marked what adjustments I might make, but for now the fittings are sufficient. You must wear them and continue to test their effectiveness. They will remain unspoiled for a month. Now go, play, my darlings.”
Woolsey watched as she effectively dismissed the group, and the hover disk lifted her up until she was facing him. Nonchalantly, she ordered, “I expect a report each week. If there are no problems by the end of the month I will commence with the order and create additional uniforms.”
He had just opened his mouth to thank her, but she was already gone, whisking toward the door without a backward glance. Richard stared at the empty space, but he was quickly reminded where he was as he felt drops of rain hit his neck, chilling him. Lorne bounced by, kindly pointing out that maybe he should leave and observe from the control room.
He didn’t bother to answer but took Lorne’s advice. At the door, Richard turned back and saw that McKay was back in Ronon’s arms. This time, though, McKay appeared quite comfortable as he told Ronon to fly up higher, yelling back at John to be ready to catch him. The door swished closed just as he heard Rodney’s shout of excitement and he was surprised to hear Rodney yell, “Again!”