Characters: Dr. Rodney McKay
Spoilers: "Trinity" & "McKay & Mrs Miller"
Words: 549 words
Author's Notes: Written for the ordinarymoments ficlet-a-thon with the following prompts: Rodney McKay, calculator, the mainland. Initially I was going to write about the latter prompt, because I couldn't imagine Rodney using the former. Only when I was absolutely frustrated with the first story did McKay really start talking... but he didn't tell me what I expected to hear.
My father bought me this scientific calculator for my 17th birthday. The technology is laughable by today's standards, but at the time, it was state of art, handling everything from the simplest of sums to the hardest of equations.
Dad meant well. To him, I was just his Nobel Prize winning scientist in training, an exercise in frustration and impatience. He just wanted me to have the best tools. He had to make do with slide rules and punch cards when he went to school. No point in his son going through the same trauma.
Initially I was excited by the gift. I liked watching the numbers flash across the little screen. As I started playing around with it enough, I also saw how easily the numbers could be manipulated. I felt cheated. I stopped using the calculator, relying on my own brain power. That way there was no doubt in my head that I was right.
Teachers forced me to write out the math longhand. I still remember the first time I had marks taken off because I hadn't shown all my work. My mind worked so fast that I'd already jumped ahead in the problem to the obvious answer. I never did teach myself how to slow down. That's why I keep Radek around. He's just as good at making those rapid calculations, but he's not afraid to recheck his work. Or call me on a potentially fatal mistake.
Jeannie used to love that calculator. I can't count the number of times she "borrowed" the damn thing from me, just to check her stupid math homework. She didn't need it anymore than I did, but the calculator was a useful crutch, something to rely on in a tight jamb.
At times I feel like some handy gadget hastily pulled out of a hip pocket. I'm always around to save the day, always there when Atlantis needs me the most, just in the nick of time. Elizabeth throws me a problem and I spit back the answers to her in raw numbers and percentages. All I need is a blinking LED screen to complete the picture of a living calculator.
Before I was just a parlor trick to impress Dad's friends. Now I have to factor in more variables. I'm not just solving some random word problem anymore. I'm discovering things, but I'm also saving countless lives. Nobel Prizes are nice, but it's nothing compared to the rush of surviving a Wraith attack or finding a way to hold back a massive hurricane. The best reward is waking up and knowing you've survived another day.
Sometimes I wonder what Dad would think of my work on Atlantis. Would he have been excited by my discoveries at Doranda? Or would he have been horrified at his son's nearsightedness? He taught me all I know about being a scientist. He taught me how to hypothesize and how to problem solve. He showed me there was nothing wrong with asking questions. But he always cautioned me about jumping to conclusions and making assumptions. I nearly didn't listen to Radek that day, because in my mind, I had to be right. Dad never taught me what to do when I didn't have all the answers. Maybe he always assumed I'd have them.