Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Carson,
Warnings: #32 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1, 2); "The Tao of Rodney," thru SG1 s10e14 "The Shroud," SGU s1e01 "Air"; mentions of genocide, hard core science.
Summary: Things Fall Apart
Notes: This is where I intended to leave off part 2 the other day. But I sort of lost the will to continue with it, and really don't think it works as part of the next chappie or as one of it's own... so chapter 2.5
10 March, 2007 / XII Mai. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
In the end, it's the rather cavilling fact that the device Rodney wants inserted into his head doesn't actually get put into his brain that convinces Carson to agree to preform the surgery. Granted, as far as Rodney's concerned, sticking a small computer bus the size of his thumbnail into his spinal cord between his C2 and C3 vertebrae is the same as having what essentially amounts to a mental expansion card inserted into his brain, but he's not about to quibble if hair-splitting gets him the results he desires.
-although desire might be underselling things a bit. Need would probably be more accurate a term, but that's more prevaricating he'd rather not get into when doing so could mean the difference between survival and destruction.
The story goes like this:
The Cogniatus is flawed. Fundamentally. Rodney designed it on Earth to work with the technology he had access to at the time – which is to say, computers with clock rates of a few gigahertz and processing power barely approaching a dozen petaflops. Compared to the human brain, this is piffling. The data any one of these was capable of sending over the neural uplink was insignificant compared to the quotidian functionality of his mind. A bucket of water would have more effect upon a reservoir; side effects rarely included more than a headache and the occasional dizzy spell.
But Rodney's not on Earth any longer. On Atlantis, even the most primitive of Terran computers is networked to the city to such a degree that, on some level, they're no longer distinguishable from the city's own AI. 'Lantis has absorbed everything, from the earwigs all personnel wear to their personal computers all the way on up to the server banks that the Second Expedition thinks are too heavily encrypted and firewalled for the expatriates of the First to crack.
This is the mistake the had made when designing his first device. There is no division between the city and the AI. Where there is an integrated circuit, there is 'Lantis. Where there is a hard disk drive or solid-state disk, 'Lantis is there as well. And where there is an embedded computer or wireless connection or peripheral device, some portion of the city's consciousness exists, waiting to call the rest of her great and terrible concentration upon the poor soul who sparked her interest at any given moment. Which is precisely what has happened each time Rodney's tried to use the Cogniatus since returning home.
Simply put, Atlantis is capable of sending exponentially more data through the neural link than Rodney anticipated, and although the human mind is far superior to any Terran computer, even it has its limits. There is only so much data it can process at any given time and when that maximum is reached it looks for background programs to stop running so it can try to process more – background programs in this instance being things like tactile perception and cardiovascular function.
This is, naturally, a problem. What Rodney eventually realizes, however, is that John and Lorne have the exact same problem. Their nanoids allow them to interact with the city in the exact same way his Cogniatus is meant to simulate, but, unlike Rodney, they don't go keeling over every time 'Lantis wants to debate interior design with them. It makes no sense-
-until he goes back to the reservoir metaphor. Because just as a reservoir has a limit of how much water it can hold, it also has spillways to deal with anything extra that comes its way. And, like a spillway, John and Lorne's nanoids are capable of taking all those pesky background programs that would otherwise be shut down and outsourcing them to a place that can more than handle it. Atlantis sends data in, they send data right back, and everybody gets to continue to breathe as they should.
Which is what the latest device he's created is designed to do. It can be that spillway for his mind. So Rodney can keep breathing. So his heart can keep beating. So the headaches will go away and he can maybe keep a meal down on the days following his use of the Cogniatus.
It's only after he explains all of this that Carson agrees to preform the procedure. He's still understandably leery, but apparently sticking a tiny chip through the disc that separates Rodney's C2 and C3 vertebrae so that it can brush up against his spinal cord is less upsetting to the good doctor than preforming traditional brain surgery. But again, Rodney won't quibble. Not on this. He needs the Cogniatus if they are to keep one step ahead of the Wraith and the Replicators and the Second Expedition and all the other enemies waiting at their door. An emperor not yet crowned, twenty-four Terran exiles, and what technologies they can beg, build, or scrounge hold the Confederation together. If they falter, nearly two hundred planets will fall with them.
He can only hope John forgives him when he finds out.