Prompt: This town ain't big enough for the both of us.
Word Count: 5,300
Warnings: Bad tropes and sci-fi cliches abound.
Summary: All clones are evil. Everyone knows that.
Notes: Thanks to Koschka and Kodiak Bear for their beta help. All remaining mistakes are my own.
Art by trishkafibble
“This is not my fault!”
Rodney’s declaration may have held more sway if it wasn’t the hundredth time he’d said it in less than a week. As it was, his teammates rolled their eyes in unison and hunkered down a little lower behind the stone wall as another volley of gunfire came from the tree line across the field.
“So you’ve said, McKay.”
Sheppard’s response was punctuated by Teyla’s uncharacteristic grumble of, “Repeatedly.”
“Well, it’s not!” Rodney defended yet again.
“Say it again and I’ll be the one shooting you, not them.” Ronon jabbed an angry index finger toward the group firing at them to accentuate his threat.
McKay frowned at the warning. “Technically, genetically, you are one of the ones shooting at me.”
“Which is why,” John snapped, “technically, genetically, this is your fault since it was your clone that convinced them to go rogue.”
Rodney sat up straighter so that he could glower more menacingly at Sheppard. “I cannot be held responsible for the delusions of a madman--”
More gunshots had John yanking McKay back down behind cover. “A madman who is technically, genetically you,” Sheppard reminded.
Ronon peeked through a hole in the wall to try to catch sight of their assailants. “I still don’t get how this happened.”
McKay sighed. “I’ve explained this a dozen times already. When the sensors malfunctioned in the city a few months ago and read that everyone had been killed, it triggered a failsafe in the system. That same failsafe then took genetic material on file in the infirmary and created clones to repopulate Atlantis. Since the four of us had the thickest medical records on file, we were the four it chose to clone first. It mistakenly assumed that all that data on us was in there precisely for the failsafe, never taking into consideration that we’re on Sheppard’s team and, therefore, doomed to a statistically improbable, if not impossible, rate of illness and injury.”
“Hey!” John protested.
“It’s not a reflection on you as the team leader,” Rodney assured him. “At least, not entirely.”
Ronon stepped back into the conversation before Sheppard could object some more. “No, I get how Atlantis made the clones. The whole thing with them growing in tanks that we didn’t know about until a few days ago.”
“Actually,” John interrupted, tilting his head quizzically toward McKay, “I don’t get that part. How did you go months without knowing there was a clone tank actively working in the city?”
Rodney threw up his arms in frustration. “What was I supposed to do, set sensors to ‘clone’? There was no reason to suspect such a thing was even possible--”
“Carson was cloned,” Teyla interjected. “Therefore you knew cloning was possible.”
McKay ground his teeth. “There was no reason to suspect it was even possible on Atlantis. I mean, the genetics involved are so highly complex--”
Teyla spoke once again. “You knew from your own experience with the ascension machine the Ancients could rewrite a person’s genetics.”
Rodney glared, choosing his words very carefully. “Regardless of whether or not I suspected the Ancients were capable of cloning, I had no reason to conclude the city would spit out genetic replicas of us at this particular time. It’s not like a real-time image suddenly appeared on a screen in the control room like a webcam on the Shamu tank at Sea World. No one knew anything about them until Woolsey got lost, yet again, trying to find the water desalinization systems, and stumbled across them roaming the hallways completely nude and goopy.” Rodney crinkled his nose at the thought. “Fortunately our clones had our genetic memories and were able to lead him back to his office else we never would have known about them… or what had happened to our expedition leader, for that matter.”
“I get all that,” Ronon interjected to get the conversation back to his original concerns. “What I don’t get is why they turned evil.”
“Oh,” Rodney stated simply, “all clones are evil. Everyone knows that.”
“The Carson clone isn’t evil,” Sheppard noted.
“Isn’t he, John?” McKay challenged thoughtfully. “Isn’t he?”
Teyla’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Even if they are evil, I do not understand why they must all have goatees.”
* * * *
“I do not understand why we all must have goatees,” the Teyla clone wondered as she tentatively touched at the patch of hair on her chin.
“Because all evil clones have goatees,” the Rodney clone pointed out, stroking his own with an undeniably maniacal panache. “Everyone knows that.”
The way the Sheppard clone scratched at his own hairy chin suggested he felt the same way Teyla did. “Then why doesn’t Ronon have to wear one?”
“I had to shave my beard so Teyla would have something to glue onto her chin.” The Ronon clone ran his hands over his smooth jaw. “Actually, I find this rather…liberating.”
“But you must grow it back once more,” Teyla insisted. “Is that not true, Rodney? He will be required to wear a goatee like the rest of us.”
Rodney considered for a moment. “Normally, I’d have to say yes, but seeing as the original Ronon still has a beard, it may be best that he doesn’t have one. That way the two can be told easily apart.”
“And just where exactly are you getting these rules, McKay?” Sheppard asked, pulling a blade of grass from his own goatee. “And how did you keep things from getting stuck in your beard all the time, big guy?”
“I didn’t,” Ronon confessed with a grin. “Besides, the more stuff you have in there, the crazier you look. Gives you an advantage in a fight, not to mention a convenient source of food in case of a shortage.”
“See? That’s the way we should all be thinking now.” Rodney smiled at Ronon. “Way to work on morale, Ronon. Hey! Maybe you should shave your head. Next to a goatee, nothing says evil like a bald head. And with both… you’re building volcanic lairs and death rays in space in no time.”
John didn’t seem too pleased with Ronon’s explanation or Rodney’s motivation. “Which brings us back to the rules, McKay,” he reminded.
Rodney rolled his eyes. “Sheppard, have you never seen a sci-fi show or read a comic book in your life? Any time there is a clone or alternate version of a main character, they are evil and typically goateed.” He started ticking them off on his fingers. “Star Trek- evil Spock. Goatee. Xena- evil Hercules. Goatee. Good Ares. No goatee. Superman- Bizarro World, all evil. Star Wars- the Clone Wars.”
John mimicked McKay’s exasperated expression. “Last I checked, we weren’t in a sci-fi show, Rodney.”
“Really?” McKay crossed his arms. “You live in a floating city that’s actually an enormous space ship built by aliens tens of thousands of years ago. You traveled to that city through a worm hole that spans galaxies and is powered by a device that uses a piece of subspace trapped in what looks like a half-melted, decorative pillar candle. Not exactly the type of battery one would find back on Earth, now is it? While here, you fly a smaller spaceship with just your touch and thoughts, to fight aliens who literally suck the life-force out a person with their hands. Oh, and did I forget to mention that you actually don’t do any of that because you are a clone of the person who does?”
“Fine,” Sheppard grumbled, “for all practical purposes, we live in a sci-fi show. That doesn’t mean we have to be evil.”
“Precisely,” Teyla agreed. “After all, Rod was from an alternate universe, but he was not an evil version of you.”
“I have no doubt Rod shaved his goatee before he came to this reality and regrew it as soon as he was back home.” Rodney lifted his hairy chin defiantly when the others looked disbelieving. “Because of Rod, we burned out our only power source which left us vulnerable to the Replicators.” McKay snapped his finger triumphantly. “Ah ha! Replicator Carter! She was an evil twin, too.”
Teyla scratched at her chin causing small tufts of hair to fall out. “I doubt she was required to wear a goatee.”
“A technicality,” McKay dismissed. “And look at Ba’al back in the Milky Way; he and all of his clones had goatees. Hell, he was so malevolent he even wore black turtle necks.” As if that reminded him that he was evil, as well, McKay leaned around the tree and fired off a spray of bullets toward the stone wall where their genetic donors hid. “And why am I the only one shooting at them?”
His three cloned teammates looked at each other uneasily, as if expecting one to come forward and speak for the rest.
Finally, Sheppard shrugged. “It just seems…wrong to kill them.”
“Hence the evilness!” McKay waved arms in frustration. “What part of the definition of the word evil are you people not comprehending?”
“Can’t we be evil without killing the originals?” Ronon asked.
“No!” McKay insisted.
“But why them?” Sheppard asked. “I mean genetically they’re us. It seems a little suicidal.”
“Oh, now you suddenly have a problem with being suicidal?” Rodney scoffed. “Strap yourself to a nuclear bomb, no problem. Need someone to pilot a moon and you’re jumping to the front of the line. Ask you to shoot your DNA donor and suddenly you’re balking.” With a disgusted tsk and disappointed shake of his head, McKay looked to each of his teammates. “You know, I’m starting to doubt all of your commitments to the whole evil clone oath we swore.”
“Do not question my dedication to this cause, Rodney McKay.” Teyla’s eyes had narrowed and her voice had become low and threatening. “I am wearing facial hair that is not even my own!”
John stepped in before Teyla could become violent on the wrong McKay. “Look, let’s say we buy into the whole inherently evil clone theory you’re pushing. All I’m asking is what’s our master plan? Every evil genius has to have a master plan, right? So what’s ours?”
“To take their place on Atlantis.” Rodney’s mouth curled into a wicked smile. “We off them, lose the beards, say we’re them, they were us, and no one will be the wiser back in the expedition.”
Ronon seemed to have caught on to the plan. “And if everybody thinks we’re the original us, we’ll be able to take over the city?”
Rodney shook his head as he continued to smile at his own brilliance. “Nope. We become them and take up saving the galaxy right where they left off.”
“Wait.” John took on an expression like he was trying to puzzle out how to conjugate a verb in Swahili when he didn’t even speak Swahili. “We’re being evil so that, eventually, we can go back to being good?”
If anything, Rodney’s smile just grew. “Go ahead, you can tell me I’m a genius. I’m mean, it’s obvious, but I don’t mind you saying it if you feel compelled to do so.”
Sheppard stared at him blandly for a moment before finally speaking. “You know, you’re a ridiculously terrifying man, and it has nothing to do with the goatee.”
* * * * *
“You know, that clone of you is nuts, and it has nothing to do with the goatee,” the original John insisted after the original Rodney had finished explaining his evil clone premise of science fiction media and how it applied to their current predicament.
“All I’m saying is that it’s a perfectly logical conclusion for him, or anyone else for that matter, to reach. Therefore, none of this is my fault.”
Ronon pulled his gun for the first time since they’d become pinned down. “That’s it, I’m shooting you.”
“Ronon!” Teyla grabbed his wrist to stop him before he could pull the trigger.
Ronon growled at McKay, who was doing his best to use Sheppard as a human shield, before returning his sidearm to his holster. Fortunately for Rodney, Ronon didn’t notice as McKay motioned silently to the Satedan then his chin as he mouthed the word ‘beard’ to Sheppard, as if that just proved his point about evil facial hair.
The told-you-so nod of Rodney’s head had John rolling his eyes. “Okay, let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that McKay’s evil clone hypothesis--”
“Theory,” McKay corrected. “There is a difference between a hypothesis and a theory, and this is definitely a theory.”
“I’m aware of the difference, Rodney. And as I was saying, if we assume your evil clone hypothesis is correct, what can we do to stop them? Short of shooting back and killing them, because I’d really like to avoid doing that if at all possible.”
“Me, too,” Ronon agreed.
“Less than a minute ago you were ready to shoot me!” Rodney reminded.
Ronon shrugged. “Yeah, but I had a good reason to shoot you.”
“Helllooo?” McKay motioned adamantly toward the tree line. “Evil clones with guns trying to kill us. Is that not a good reason?”
Ronon thought about it for a few seconds. “I guess if your clone is as annoying as you are, I’d have a legitimate reason to shoot him.”
“And the others?” Rodney demanded with crossed arms.
“Perhaps they are not evil,” Teyla suggested, “only misunderstood.”
With an exasperated shake of his head, McKay acquiesced. “Fine, then what do you propose we do with these misunderstood killer clones?”
“They must want something,” Sheppard reasoned.
“World domination,” Rodney offered. “Unlimited power. The destruction of Atlantis. To spit on our cold, rotting cadavers.”
John grimaced at the list. “Instead of just jumping to wild-ass conclusions, I was thinking maybe we could simply ask them what they want.”
McKay motioned dismissively toward the tree line. “Okay. Whatever. Knock yourself out.”
Sheppard exchanged worried glances with the rest of his team before peeking over the top of the wall. “Hey…clones? Can we talk a minute?”
“No!” the Rodney clone yelled back. “Eat lead, protos!”
John ducked back down as the clone fired his P-90. Original Rodney gave Sheppard an ‘I told you so’ look.
“Protos?” Ronon asked in confusion. “Why is he calling us hobbits?”
“Not Frodos,” Rodney explained over the gunfire. “ Protos.”
“That’s what I said.” Ronon gave McKay a look like he was the idiot. “Proto. Proto Badguns, the little guy with the hairy feet in those movies we watched.”
“His name was Frodo Baggins,” Rodney correct. “Not Proto. As in proto types. We’re the originals, so they’re implying we’re inferior early failures and they are… oh, never mind.” He sighed at his teammate’s lack of understanding or even interest in what he was saying.
Teyla took on a contemplative expression. “Why is it that in Earth movies, hair on one’s face is a sign of evil, whereas hair on one’s feet is a sign of heroism?”
“Gandalf had that long ZZ Top beard and he was good,” John pointed out as he also pointed to a spot on his chest to show how long the wizard’s beard was. “And the dwarf…what’s his name?”
“Gimli,” Rodney supplied, leaning back against the wall, pinching the bridge of his nose at the discussion that was now taking place.
“Right! Gimli!” Sheppard nodded approvingly. “He was nothing but a walking, talking mass of body hair. That dude could use a full body Brazilian.”
“The pretty boy with the pointy ears, he had hair like a Wraith Queen.” Ronon snarled disapprovingly. “I didn’t trust him. Too clean for spending that much time in the woods.”
John snorted knowingly. “Oh, I guarantee Legolas waxed.”
“Not that there’s anything wrong with a little manscaping,” Ronon mumbled, suddenly very interested in his boots.
Rodney’s eyebrows rose. “Seriously? You do… that …down there?” His hand flicked uncomfortably toward his crotch. “Doesn’t it hurt?”
“Men,” Teyla snorted almost to herself. “You have no idea what true pain is.”
Ronon squared his shoulders. “I am a warrior of Sateda. I was taught to laugh in the face of pain from the time I could stand on my own.” He shrugged. “Besides, if you exfoliate properly afterwards, you almost never have problems.”
Rodney turned to Sheppard and asked quietly, “Why does he pay so much attention to grooming down there but not anyplace else?”
“Well, let’s put it this way,” John murmured back, “if Gimli were to cut off all that hair, he’d look a good foot and half taller.”
“Really?” Rodney asked in awe. “It actually makes your, er, light saber look bigger?’
John’s head tilted conspiratorially. “Why hide that light saber under a bushel when you can let it shine?”
Teyla’s quizzical furrow of her brow had returned. “Rodney, given their similar features, are elves and Vulcans, such as that Mr. Spock you enjoy so much, distantly related? Much like the human species here in Pegasus are related to those on Earth?”
Rodney hitched his thumb in Sheppard’s direction. “You’ll have to consult with the expert on that one.”
“Me?” John demanded. “Why am I the expert?”
McKay shrugged. “Well, if the ears point…”
“My ears are not that pointy!” John insisted, unconsciously reaching a hand to cover one.
“Oh, please,” Rodney exclaimed with an exaggerated roll of his eyes. “You have Spock’s ears and Kirk’s personality. You’re the living, breathing, flirting, pointy-eared embodiment of Dr. Kirkenspock’s monster.”
“Was this a creature that was created by the evil, goateed Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk?” Teyla inquired.
“No, it’s a creature created in the demented mind of a crazy person who thinks clones are evil because they have more hair on their chin than on their balding head.”
Sheppard’s snide comment had Rodney jabbing an insistent finger toward his hair. “Thinning. Not balding; thinning. And the concept of the evil goatee is not my idea; it’s a proven science fiction fact! Furthermore, it wasn’t my idea to wear the evil goatee, it was my evil clone’s!”
“Which, technically, genetically, is you!” Sheppard shouted back.
In fact, he and McKay were shouting so loud that they almost didn’t hear John’s clone’s wary call across the field. “Hey, guys? We’ve taken McKay’s gun away from him. So, if you still want to talk, we’re game.”
“This is a bad idea,” Rodney warned before John could respond. “They’re obviously luring us into a trap.”
* * * * *
“Good idea,” the McKay clone praised. “Lure them into thinking we’re unarmed, and they’ll walk right into the trap.”
“We’re not luring them into anything, McKay,” the Sheppard clone corrected. “They want to talk, then I say we should talk.”
“Perhaps we can come up with some mutually beneficial plan for all of us,” Teyla reasoned.
“Mutually beneficial?” Rodney scoffed. “We’re their clones. We’ll always be second rate citizens on Atlantis if we go back with them.”
Ronon obviously wasn’t buying into McKay’s logic. “Why would they treat us any different?”
“We’ve gone over this a thousand times, people.” McKay threw his arms wide in frustration. “We’re clones. They are the originals. That means we are mortal enemies, arch nemeses.”
“People don’t have arch nemeses, Rodney,” Sheppard contended. “Not unless they’re Bond villains.”
“Oh, no?” Once more, Rodney started ticking off examples on his fingers. “The Wraith in general, Todd and Michael in particular, the Goa’uld, the NID, the Ori, the Replicators-- both on Earth and in Pegasus—Kolya, the Vanir… Hold up your hand, I’ve run out of fingers of my own.”
John frowned at McKay’s logic. “Okay, fine, we have enemies. But the original us have the same ones.”
“Well, obviously, if they’ve pissed off that many people, they can’t be trusted,” Rodney concluded with jutting chin and derisive sniff.
“But they’re us…kind of,” Ronon reasoned. “Without the goatees, nobody would ever know the difference.”
“Hence my brilliant plan to kill them and take their place,” Rodney pointed out once more.
“What if we didn’t have to kill them to take their place?” Sheppard pondered aloud. “What if they agreed to let us take their place?”
McKay scoffed at the idea. “And why would they do that?”
“It’s like when you played cops and robbers as a kid,” John explained. “Sometimes you got tired of playing the cops and wanted to mix things up for a little while.”
Teyla seemed to understand what John was proposing. “Are you suggesting we offer to swap places on a rotational basis?”
Sheppard shrugged. “Couldn’t hurt to ask. We’re the good guys for a few weeks, chasing them around the galaxy. In the meantime, they get to kick back, relax, have a little fun playing at being bad. Then we switch back and they become the good guys again and we get to run amuck for a while.”
“Do you think they’ll actually go for it?” Ronon asked.
“Only one way to find out,” John drawled as he stood with hands raised to show he was unarmed and went to the center of the field to talk to the original Sheppard and the rest of his team who came out from behind the stone wall.
The Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon clones stayed in their position in the tree line and watched.
“Man, that is so weird seeing two Sheppards standing there talking to each other like that,” Ronon observed as Teyla watched the conversation through binoculars.
“Do you think the two Sheppards will kiss?” Rodney asked curiously.
Teyla and Ronon stared at McKay in silence, shocked and slightly repulsed expressions on their faces.
“Well, Sheppard flirts with anyone he finds mildly attractive, and he’s more than a little narcissistic, so it only seems natural that with two of them thinking the exact same way…” When the expressions on Teyla and Ronon’s faces didn’t waver, Rodney cleared his throat and changed the subject by turning his attention toward his own prototype. “Does the tac vest really make me look that fat?”
“Yes,” Teyla and Ronon confirmed in unison.
“Wow,” McKay noted dryly, “sure you don’t want to think about it for a minute?”
“No need,” Ronon assured him.
Teyla, apparently feeling sorry for hurting his feelings, told him, “I have often worried that the gun belt makes me look…hippy.”
“Nah,” Rodney assured her, “your boobs balance it out.” Pointing to the original Teyla, he noted, “See? You look really well proportioned. Nice, classic hourglass shape.”
Teyla smiled at the compliment. “Thank you, Rodney.”
“I’m just telling you the truth. Besides, without the belt you tend to look a little top heavy.” Rodney used his hands to indicate his perception of her breast size on his own chest, which was grossly overstated.
Teyla’s smile vanished. “Would you like to borrow the binoculars? Perhaps you can better view your bald spot on the back of your original’s head.”
“ Thinning spot,” McKay stressed with a frown.
Ronon ignored the way his two teammates were glowering at each other, instead putting out a hand. “I’ll take them. I want to have a closer look at my ass, because it looks damn good in those pants.”
“Do you want to go kiss your proto?” Rodney asked.
“No one is kissing anyone, Rodney,” Teyla told him firmly.
“So I suppose you… and her…” McKay attempted cautiously.
“Rodney!” Teyla snapped, eyes narrowing threateningly.
“Right, completely out of the question,” he agreed hastily, although his disappointment was obvious in the sigh that followed. “I guess the goatee would make it a little weird anyway.”
Teyla was already forming a fist when Sheppard started back across the field from his meeting and gave them a thumbs up as he entered the tree line.
“We’re good to go.”
“They actually went for it?” Ronon asked in surprise.
John placed hands on his hips and looked back where the original team still stood conferring in the tall grass. “Well, you know, John Sheppards, in general, are very reasonable. This one was no exception. Did you notice how good his hair looks today?”
McKay looked hopefully at Teyla, who frowned harder at him and repeated, “No one is kissing anyone, Rodney.”
“Oh, come on!” Rodney complained.
John, having no idea what the exchange was about, slapped Rodney on the back. “Maybe after you shave the goatee, you’ll have better luck with the kissing, McKay.”
Teyla’s face lit up at the prospect of losing the facial hair. “We can truly remove the beards?”
“No one will believe you’re the real Teyla if you show up on Atlantis with one,” Sheppard told her.
McKay shook his head in disbelief. “You really convinced them to swap places with us.”
“Ends up, they could use the break,” John informed them. “And a month from now, we meet up again right here, and switch back.”
“I can’t believe you actually got them to agree to our plan,” the Rodney clone admitted approvingly.
* * * * *
One month later…
“I can’t believe you actually agreed to their stupid plan!” Rodney yelled at Sheppard as their clones fired at them from across the field.
Apparently, their clones had had a change of heart during the month of living the lives of the “good” team. When the originals showed up on the planet, ready to return to their normal lives on Atlantis, they found themselves in an ambush and pinned down behind the same stone wall they’d been trapped behind when they’d established the now obviously defunct agreement in the first place.
“He seemed so sincere!” John insisted, covering his head when a stone from the wall tumbled down thanks to the bombardment from the P-90 fire. “How could I lie to myself like that?”
“You lie to yourself every damn day you look in a mirror and think your hair looks good!” McKay snapped before sitting up and firing off a quick blast from his own gun. “Now do you believe my evil clone theory?”
“Yes!” Teyla and Ronon concurred in unison, shooting John a dirty look before shooting their guns at the shadows in the tree line.
“It’s not my fault!” Sheppard defended. “Who would have thought they would lie?”
“Uh, hello? Me.” Rodney raised his hand with mock innocence before frowning deeply. “And technically, genetically--”
Sheppard held up a warning finger. “Don’t say it, or I swear to God I will rip that damn goatee off of your face with my bare hands.”
“If I say it, will you rip the goatee off of my face?” Teyla asked. “Because one way or another, it is being removed today.”
Ronon fired off a shot from his gun. “So what do we do now?”
“I will tell you what we will not be doing,” Teyla volunteered angrily. “We will not be wearing goatees and pretending to be evil clones any longer.”
John rolled his eyes. “Okay, I get it. You don’t like the goatee.”
With a snort, Ronon observed, “I don’t know why you’re complaining. They aren’t that bad.”
“Says the man with a clean-shaven face,” Teyla snapped back. “A face, I might add, that looks unusually large without all that hair on it.”
Sheppard raised his eyebrows at McKay. “See? What’d I tell you? Works every time.”
“Incredible,” Rodney observed in amazement. “Apparently, hair on top is good and down below it’s bad?”
“Hey, it’s not like there’s anything wrong with having a little mansulation,” Sheppard conceded, “but it’s like they say in real estate-- it all comes down to location, location, location.”
“And prime real estate can always benefit from a little landscaping.” McKay concluded. “So where can I get some wax?” Rodney asked.
Teyla looked at Rodney in shock. “You plan to wax off your goatee?”
McKay’s eyes darted nervously. “Uh…yeah…right. That’s exactly what I plan to wax.”
Rodney was saved from anymore potentially embarrassing questions by his clone yelling, “Hey, protos, heads up!”
A duffle bag landed at his feet, and Rodney did what any logical, yet slightly paranoid, person currently under siege would do.
He screamed like a little girl…
“ BOMB! ”
…and continued to scream as he ran as fast as he could away from the duffle bag. In fact, given the seemingly random directions he was running, away was the best way to describe his retreat.
As Sheppard followed after him, he honestly wasn’t sure if McKay was simply panicking, or bobbing and weaving to avoid any gunfire coming their way. Although the shrieking and flailing arms made McKay a rather obvious target and tended to nullify any strategic advantage the evasive maneuvers may have afforded him.
Eventually, Rodney tripped over a rock hidden in the tall grass, knocking the wind from his lungs and bringing to an end his less than graceful tactical withdrawal and associated wailing. John seized the opportunity afforded by his teammate’s clumsiness to grab Rodney’s arm and pull the dazed man toward an old farm wagon where Teyla and Ronon had taken cover.
The four hunkered down and waited for the inevitable explosion.
Finally, the Sheppard clone called to them, “It’s not a bomb.”
“Then what the hell is it?” the original John asked.
“Look,” the clone responded, “we feel bad about the whole double cross and screwing you over thing.” When the McKay clone barked a sharp laugh, the John clone amended, “Well, most of us do anyway.”
“So, let us go back to Atlantis,” original Sheppard told him.
“Sorry, but we just can’t do that. Ends up, McKay was right; deep down we can’t deny the essence of our evil cloneness, complete with goatees,” his clone explained. “Or at least we would have them if it wouldn’t blow our cover as the big damn heroes of Atlantis. And once you’ve played the leading men, and woman, of the story, it’s hard to go back to living the life of outlaws on the run.”
“Not to mention the video games,” the Rodney clone chimed in, “and the RC cars and all the other cool toys you have.”
“Have you been in my room?” the real McKay demanded.
“I’m pretending to be you,” the clone told him, “so living in your quarters is kind of critical to the plan.”
“You’re touching my things? Sleeping in my bed?” Rodney’s eyes widened in repulsion. “Wearing my underwear?”
“It’s not like you’re going to be needing them anytime soon,” the clone taunted.
Original John tried to change the subject. “Okay, fine, you guys are bad. That just means we’re good. You can’t expect us to keep running around wearing goatees and pretending to be the villains to your heroes.”
“No,” clone Sheppard admitted, “which is why we got you what’s in the bag.”
The original team members looked at each other, trying to decide what they should do next. Finally, Ronon shrugged and darted back to retrieve the duffle bag. The clones held their fire, and a few minutes later, they had the bag open, examining the contents.
Rodney held the shirt out at arm’s length, as if it were a bomb after all. “Red shirts? They gave us red shirts?”
“Think of it as your new role in life, proto!” the McKay clone taunted with a maniacal laugh before he started shooting again.
“This is not my fault!” Rodney insisted, ducking down to avoid the gunfire.
Ronon glanced across the field longingly. “If I grow my beard back, do you think they’ll let me join up with them?”
“Wait,” Teyla asked hopefully, “if we wear these shirts, we do not have to wear the goatees any longer?”
McKay, meanwhile, seemed to be reconsidering his stance on the shirt. “Although to give credit where credit is due, my clone has a certain amount of panache. After all, he came up with a plan that uses something as innocuous as clothing as one of the most deadly weapons in the science fiction genre.” He was now looking at the red garment with a bit of admiration. “Which means, technically, genetically--”
“--we are totally and irrevocably screwed,” John finished with a groan.
Maybe the goatees weren’t so bad after all.