The Jumper loads of wounded were gone, and only the dead remained behind. Snorting softly to himself, Radek shook his head. He really wasn’t that much of a romantic, and but while the thought was unpleasant there was still an element of truth to it. The only people from the Daedalus’s crew left at the crash site were the dead.
Looking around said crash site, Radek took a deep breath and immediately coughed. Although the crash had been almost a week ago, the scents pervading the area were still nauseatingly strong. Thinking over what he had been told of the conditions inside the ship, Radek knew that respirators and supplemental oxygen needed for anyone venturing inside.
Walking through the tent city nestled in the shadow of the wrecked space ship; Radek started taking notes on what needed to be done to strip her down. In an emotional meeting the engineers from both Atlantis and the Daedalus had gone over every available sensor scan of the ship to determine if they could get her back in the air. And with bitter regret, the collective answer had been ‘No’; there was just too much damage.
Passing by the morgue tents, he began to try to breathe shallowly through his mouth and not through his nose. While they had a naquadah generator hooked up to several supersized chillers, the smell of old death continued to permeate the area, overwhelming the reek of burnt plastics. Radek knew that Brio and the other doctors were working as quickly as possible to get the dead identified and then back to Atlantis for storage and then eventual transport to Earth. And given that the last of the wounded were gone, the Jumpers could now be turned into space borne hearses.
Preparing a memo on his tablet computer to have the Jumper crews strip out the back compartments and upgrade the life support systems, Radek continued his walk. Hitting send on the tablet, he glanced up, it seemed he had reached the mess tent. Pausing at the threshold, he waited for his eyes to adjust to the dimmer light inside and for the notification of receipt to come back from the mainframe. Looking around for company, he saw the Colonel and Rodney sitting at a table towards the back and waved. Getting the nod that said it was okay to join them; Radek detoured over to the buffet and picked up a fresh carafe of coffee and a few tired pastries before he walked over to his friends.
Nodding in greeting, Radek slid his meal onto the table, “Colonel, Rodney. It is good to see you again.”
“Hey Radek. Anything new?” asked the Colonel as he reached for the new carafe of coffee.
“We are ready to begin stripping the Daedalus and emptying any intact storerooms. Also, the Jumpers will need to be reconfigured once again to be bulk haulers and”, here Radek felt his throat grow tight, “as hearses.”
Watching as the Colonel and Rodney stared into their coffee cups, Radek found himself wondering when they had last slept. Both had gone on the initial rescue flight of Jumpers out and then had found their new space station. Once they had gotten that up and mostly running, the Colonel has taken over organizing the recovery and evacuation of the wounded. Meanwhile Rodney had monitored the power situation on board the station and doing quick diagnostics and repairs on the Jumpers they had found in a hanger bay near the main air lock.
Sighing softly at some thought, the Colonel swirled his coffee in his cup. “Okay, when the incoming group of Jumpers gets in, I’ll make sure the guys know what their new job is. Radek, is there any way to lower the temp in the back compartment to right above freezing?”
“Have already thought of that, Colonel. Jumper maintenance crews have information and will set everything up.” Radek was glad that he had at least anticipated that request. And while it would be a cold trip, the crews wouldn’t have to contend with the overwhelming smell of what they were transporting.
Looking a bit green around the gills, Rodney cleared his throat and rather obviously tried to change the subject. “What decision did your engineers reach on the viability of repairing the Daedalus?”
Hesitating momentarily before answering, Radek realized that time really had changed his friend for the better. Rodney was no longer the uncaringly arrogant man who he had first met in Antarctica. While he might not overtly show his caring for his coworkers (or frankly, his respect), he did do his best to look after them all and try to keep them from harm. And he had actually learned how to delegate, a skill that had taken years to finally get through. “I have talked to Lt. O’Neill, Miko, and the others on the aeronautical team and they all agree. We do not have facilities to repair Daedalus, or even to get her off planet. However all members agree that stripping her would increase our reserves several times over.”
Watching as Rodney closed his eyes, trying to hide his disappointment at the thought of losing the Daedalus, Radek sighed, and tried to offer some comfort, “We still have plans for spacecraft of our own. With parts from Daedalus, work will go much faster.”
“Well that is something at least. Any chance we’ll be able to grab the engines? Or the Asgard beaming technology?” came the soft question. Wistful was an interesting expression to watch on Rodney.
Obviously trying to break the news gently, the Colonel looked over at his friend. “Rodney, you know those engines are huge. There is no way we would be able to lift them using Puddle Jumpers, let alone get them through the Gate. Sorry, buddy.”
Sighing softly in agreement, Rodney nodded. He knew the lift capabilities of the Jumpers and it was nowhere near enough to lift even one engine, let alone two.
Listening to the silence as they all sat back and sipped their coffee, Radek felt comfortable. The two men across from him were good friends and there was no awkwardness as they pursued their own thoughts. Watching them over the rim of his coffee cup, he could see how close they had grown. This type of silence would have not been possible five years ago, if for no other reason than Rodney’s nervous chatter would have broken through within minutes.
Draining his mug, the Colonel started playing with it, obviously thinking something over. Looking over at Rodney, he asked, “I have a question for you both. If we manage to salvage the Asgard beaming technology, can’t we just beam the engines up?”
Radek felt himself stop and actually think about the question and what the possible answer might be. He knew a bit about the technology in question, but not all that much since their allies had refused to explain how it worked. Glancing at Rodney, he watched ideas flash over his face. “Once we get the array out…”
“We can start back engineering it,” said Rodney, completing the obvious thought. Moving on to the next idea, he said, “I wonder if the tech is…”
Following his thought was as easy as usual, “Yes, yes. Crystals must hold memory of object scanned. Also, energy usage…”
“It can’t be that much. Daedalus had a standard power core, nothing too special or unusual. Unless, …” and snapping the fingers of his right hand, Rodney started to look excited.
Staying with Rodney, Radek felt his eyes start to widen at the idea they were sharing. “Yes, that must be it. We must have a Jumper run scans for hidden energy sources on Daedalus after we pull the power core.”
“Because, there is no way that the system can’t be an energy hog. And if we can refit it to a Jumper, we may have another means to rescue people.” And nodding to himself, Rodney poured another cup of coffee for himself and the others.
“And what,” came the clearly confused question from the Colonel. “Have you two figured out?”
Opening his mouth to explain, Radek was surprised to hear Lt. O’Neill’s voice instead. “Basically Colonel, they think the beaming technology is a memory hog and has to have a separate primary power source, with minimal amounts supplied by the Daedalus’s reactors as a way to divert attention.”
Blinking at the spot on explanation, Rodney looked over at the Lieutenant. “Please tell me that you are not going to be acting the idiot this time around? And do you know the answer to either question?”
“Uhm, last I heard anything from Sam, the transporter takes up a whole bank of crystals and they had their own secure compartment in the engine room. As for the possible power source, I think it is Asgard and that’s all I know.” And taking a sip out of the mug in his hand, O’Neill sat down the table next to theirs.
Thinking over what Jon had said, Rodney looked at Radek, “So Sam knew the answer? I think we need to go over her files again, when we get back to Atlantis.”
Nodding his head fast enough to make his hair fly, Radek agreed. “Yes, answer would come much faster with correct information. Or at least, correct place to look.”
Conversation dwindled again at the table, turning instead to who had been released from Becketts clutches and who was still in the infirmary. Thankfully more and more people were being listed as stable and recovering, with the most seriously injured improving daily. The only person still listed as condition unknown was Hermiod, and he was locked in an Asgard status pod. Two days after they had recovered the pod from the wreck of the engine room it had started broadcasting a signal through subspace towards the galaxy of Ida and the Asgard home world.
When they had first found out about the signal, Radek knew that Rodney had combed through all known Wraith signals to see if any were similar enough to spark a response. Meanwhile Radek had gone over the information that had been gleaned about Wraith communication arrays and their detection capabilities. Both of them had come to the conclusion that the Wraith would never notice the signal, and the only reason they had noticed it was due to the Asgard based equipment installed on Atlantis’s command deck. Once that had been determined, everyone has relaxed.
Taking a bite of his pastry, Radek pushed himself back into his chair and enjoyed the quiet with his friends.
Leaning back in his chair, John made sure to brush Rodney’s shoulder with his own, enjoying the amount of heat that his body gave off. It was an oddly comforting gesture, given that they had barely seen each other, let alone touched over the last week. Reaching out to grab the carafe, he shook it. Empty. Oh, well. It was time to get back to work anyway.
“Gentlemen. I need to get back to work. Walk with me Rodney?” and glancing at his friend, John tried to put as much entreaty into his expression as he could.
“Certainly, Colonel. Shall we?” and after making sure to police his side of the table, Rodney fell into step next to him.
Walking quietly with Rodney was no longer a strange or disturbing experience for John. It allowed him time to think over the last week and the amount of time they hadn’t spent together. He had gotten used to having Rodney nearby, if not within reach then within hearing distance. Having him on the Da Vinci while he himself had been planet side had been disconcerting.
When the Daedalus had pulled out for the last time, they had spent several hours together and talked. Not to say that the talk had been easy, because it hadn’t been. John knew that he was uncommunicative at best, and Rodney was in some ways worse. But they had persevered and reached some decisions. The biggest of which was; they were going to (god help them) start to date. Because even though they had years of sexual tension, years of knowing that they wanted the other, they prized their friendship too much to jump into a physical relationship without making sure that it was going to work. Wondering aloud, John had actually come out and asked Rodney why they hadn’t just fallen into bed with each other.
Looking as serious as John had ever seen him, Rodney’s answer had caught him unawares. “John, we take enough risks in our professional lives with the Wraith, Asurans, the IOA and just living in Atlantis. What we have between us means more to me than I am willing to risk while the odds against it are so bad.”
Thinking over what Rodney had said, John found himself agreeing. The risks they lived with everyday were huge and had the ability to kill them all. But the two of them having a relationship carried risks to more than just them or their team. If they had been caught, the backlash could have toppled all of Atlantis. Which was arrogant to think, but when the CSO and the CMO were potentially in a relationship, it involved more than just the two of them.
Once they had taken the City back from the Ancients and the Asurans, John knew that the IOA and the SGC had made the decision to place watchers on the senior staff. And when those hadn’t been able to gather the requested evidence, the PTB’s had tried investigations and review boards, all designed to put the most pressure possible on their weak points. Elizabeth had been called back to Earth on numerous occasions to explain her decisions before the SGC, the IOA board and the President of the United States. Rodney had been saddled with review committees that had tried to put limits on what he could research and when, plus who he could hire. Carson had been put through three different ethics boards over the years, each bringing up decisions that had been made during those first frantic years. And as the head of the military on Atlantis, John had gotten unannounced inspections, scathing reviews from senior brass, personnel who took too much interest in his personal life and the occasional honey trap (sex of the offered honey not important). That aspect had been very odd to realize as he never did see those types of things coming, be it on world or off.
The Earth based military had made their collective opinion of the Atlantis vets well known. And they had also tried to enforce the rules and regulations that all military personnel lived by with a heavy hand. So one of the first things John and his senior staff had done after the vote for independence had gone through was to go over the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) and the code of conduct for the IOA troops stationed on Atlantis. After picking and choosing what they knew would work; a set of rules had been hammered out for the newly combined military. Rules that reflected what was actually happening on Atlantis, not what Earth had demanded happen. Thanking his lucky stars, John knew that the people who had chosen to stay on Atlantis were by and large the most open minded of the bunch, and the new rules reflected that knowledge. And on another positive note, none of the unofficial minders assigned to the senior staff had chosen to stay.
Thinking about the new rules for the military and the changes they had made led John back to his developing relationship with Rodney. Because so much was riding on how things turned out, they were taking things slowly and carefully. This meant actually doing the dating thing. And then on the day of their first date, the Daedalus got shot down and the whole of Atlantis was back on crisis scheduling. So they were in separate places, on different schedules and not likely to see each other. Having Rodney come down to the crash site for a few hours had been nice, and being able to eat dinner with him had been even better.
But the time together was drawing to a close, and Rodney needed to get back to the Da Vinci. Exploration teams were crawling all over the structure and the programmers and their assigned translators were combing through the database, trying to figure out how to get the station operational. And John knew that he needed to stay with the remains of the Daedalus for a while longer, if only to get the salvage operations going. Sighing softly, John bumped Rodney’s shoulder as they walked, he really couldn’t wait until they were able to get back home to Atlantis.
Rodney knew that his minions thought that he never shut up, that he constantly had to hear the sound of his own voice, but he knew better. When it was just himself and John walking, either in the City or off world, they normally did so quietly. Well, at least they did if they didn’t have anything to say. The two of them could have some truly spectacular arguments and discussions, all at top volume with wild gestures and insane asides. But right now walking with John was turning out to be the nicest part of his day so far. Restful, quiet, and comforting.
Thinking back on the meal he had just eaten, Rodney hummed in contentment. It hadn’t been the date that he and John had agreed to go on a little more than a week ago, but it had been nice. Really nice. Which he wasn’t going to reveal to anyone, no matter what.
Trying to not think about the amount of work waiting for him on the newly christened Da Vinci, Rodney turned his thoughts to the past. Despite the distressingly large number of “run for our lives” missions and “recuperate in medical” downtimes, he could honestly say to himself that the past few years had been good ones. They had managed to keep the majority of their people alive, threats to the City were at an all time low and their allies were prospering. Even the numbers of lab accidents had been at an all time low, and considering the number of labs and incompetent personnel he had been sent, that was perhaps the biggest miracle of all.
Thinking on that thought further, Rodney shook his head. The biggest miracle of the past few years wasn’t how many of the moron squad they had managed to keep alive, it was the fact that they had kept Carson alive. Feeling himself start to slide down the well trod path of anger at the Ancients, Rodney wished the Ancients had bothered to think about what their experiments would do in unknowing hands. Even the so called “benign” experiments were anything but. And the weapons research and the delivery platforms! Rodney was convinced that the Ancients had no concept of what they were letting their descendents in for when they had allowed some items be built. Human borne bombs were frowned upon in his culture, and the Ancients who were supposed to be a group of people who valued human life, had built a machine that caused exploding tumors. And then to make things worse, they didn’t even have the common courtesy of slapping a warning label on their messes, let alone cleaning them up. To say nothing of their habit of declining to enter information on the failed, unstable or just plain dangerous items in the database.
Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Rodney tried to let the whole thing go. Nothing had happened and it wouldn’t on his watch. Still Rodney wanted Helia back so he could ask her what her contemporaries were thinking when they had begun recklessly building these things. That and finding out what certain labs were used for and how to get the data base to spit out the information they needed without the whole song and dance routine they were using now. But Helia wasn’t there, and there was no one available to ask in any case.
Turing his attention outwards, Rodney saw they were back at his Jumper. Glancing at his watch he saw that they had about a half hour before anyone was due to show up to get shuttled back up to the space station. Pulling an unresisting John into the shadows of the Jumper Rodney pressed him against the little ship’s hull. “I know we decided to take this whole thing slow, and really I am all for that. But I am not going to go back to that cold station without something to make it worthwhile. So, want to make the trip worth my while?”
Ten days after the Daedalus crashed and Elizabeth had declared Atlantis’s independence to the SGC, she took her place again on the City’s command deck. Through hard work, determination and an unwillingness to give up on anyone, they had managed to keep everyone who had made it back to Atlantis alive. All the remaining wounded were now stable enough that the short time they would be without medical support on the trip back to Earth would not unduly delay their healing. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth moved over to the main communications screen and gathering her courage, nodded to Chuck. Atlantis needed to talk to StarGate Command and the surviving crew of the Daedalus needed to go home.
Watching as the eight symbols that denoted the address for Earth were dialed in, Elizabeth really hoped this would go smoothly. As soon as the wormhole stabilized, Chuck sent through Colonel Caldwell’s IDC and a data burst detailing the condition of the Daedalus and her crew. If nothing else, they owed it to their friends to let the SGC know what happened to their personnel and ship.
Waiting the two minutes needed for the SGC to decrypt and at least glance at the information they had sent was hard. Starting verbal communications with them was even harder. Best to start out boldly then, “StarGate Command, this is Atlantis. We have some people of yours who would like to go home.”
“Atlantis, this is General Balok. StarGate Command does not negotiate with traitors and kidnappers. Release the crew of the Daedalus and surrender.”
Looking at the StarGate in shock, Elizabeth could only stare. This was something that she hadn’t considered. But maybe she should have. Wait, Atlantis personnel had been labeled terrorists and kidnappers?
“StarGate Command, this is Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Under whose authority have we been designated traitors and kidnappers?” she asked. And locking her hands together at the small of her back, she signaled Col. Caldwell over to stand beside her.
“The Atlantis expedition,” spat General Balok with a perverse sort of pride, “has been convicted in absentia of treason against Earth, terrorism and the kidnapping of the Daedalus and her crew. The trail and conviction were done with the full cooperation of the IOA, the member countries and the President of the United States. All persons who colluded in these crimes are to surrender and will be taken into custody.”
Watching as Steven stiffened and started to speak, Elizabeth knew in her gut it wouldn’t work. But she had to let him try. “Sir, this is Col. Steven Caldwell, commander of the Daedalus. General, neither myself nor my crew are here on Atlantis under duress. We were in fact, rescued when our ship was destroyed. All the information on the incident, rescue and the status of my crew should be in the data burst we sent.”
When the General spoke again, everyone in the control room could hear the sneer in his voice, “Col. Caldwell, you and your crew are now considered compromised and thus prisoners of war. Once the SGC has regained control of the Atlantis base, you will be thoroughly debriefed and dealt with.”
Crossing her fingers, Elizabeth tried one more time to get the people she had made a promise to home. “General Balok, we have over a hundred people from the Daedalus who would like to go home. Please open the iris and let these people through.”
There was no response. After a moment, the sound of the open carrier wave shut down. The SGC was now ignoring them. Straightening her shoulders, Elizabeth turned to Chuck and motioned for the ‘Gate to be shut down. It was no use wasting power when no one was even listening.
Gathering her command crew together by eye, she motioned for Caldwell and his remaining senior officers towards the conference room. Walking ahead of the crowd, Elizabeth managed to reach her seat before the whole insane conversation she had just had really sank in. The SGC, the IOA and who knew how many governments, thought that the Atlantis expedition members were traitors, kidnappers and terrorists. And given the attitude of General Balok and the way he had treated Caldwell, it sounded as if they could expect unfriendly company soon. Very soon.
Watching as her friends and colleagues file into the room, Elizabeth knew that the decisions reached in this meeting would affect them on an even deeper level than the decision to declare their independence had.
Showing that he was no slouch in connecting the unwelcome mental dots, John laid out what everyone was thinking. “Elizabeth, we need to evacuate the mainland and move the City. Preferably off this planet. The SGC has to have sent out the Odyssey or one of her sister ships with orders to bring us back under control. By force if necessary.”
Surprising them all with his support, Caldwell nodded in agreement. “For what it is worth Elizabeth, I never thought the SGC would do this. You need to move everyone who wants to stay as far away from this location as possible.”
“So we are running and abandoning Lantea.” Elizabeth sighed.
Sliding into her seat at the table, Teyla shook her head. “No Elizabeth. We are surviving. For all that I loved Athos; I have learned to love Lantea. And I will learn to love our new planet. We will set down roots in whatever new place we call home, and we will be safe.”
Nodding in agreement, Rodney announced “My departments can be packed up in a day or so. The two tasks that will take the longest are disconnecting our feed from the thermal plant and getting everything back from the mainland. Some of the stuff we have there will need to be blown in place because we built the installations to last. As far as what we have set up in the City, the labs are relatively easy to lock down once we get a few things wrapped up.”
Carson also had good news to report, “Medical can also be ready quickly. We do have clinics open around the City, so those will need to either be locked down or beefed up, depending on the level of activity around them. The botanists have assured me when we were doing our contingency planning that the hydroponic labs are able to supply our nutritional needs, should we be in that situation. Teyla, they also say that the medicinal herbs your people use can be grown in a greenhouse. Botany has the materials and seed prepared and they are just waiting on your okay.”
Watching the relief flash across Teyla’s face, Elizabeth felt a bit guilty. This would be the third time the Athosians had been moved from world to world due to the expedition. At least this time they would be able to bring all their physical belongings, the seeds for their crops and their medicinal herbs.
Turning her attention back to the meeting, Elizabeth realized that she hadn’t heard anything against an evacuation, but there was one area they hadn’t heard from and that was the military contingent. Sheppard’s people had taken the brunt of the search and rescue operations for the Daedalus survivors and the salvage operations that had started as soon as everyone was clear. And they were still on site, working hard to strip the wreck of every useful bit of technology and intact supplies. So anything Sheppard or Lorne had to add to the discussion would have to be contingency plans that were already in place.
Taking the ball passed to him from this CO, Lorne cleared his throat as he stepped forward into the spotlight. “The armed forces branch of the expedition has had several evacuation plans on hand since shortly after we reached Atlantis. The plans get updated and reworked with every new batch of personnel we received, and with ever physical change we have had in the City and on Lantea. There have been ongoing drills during that time to make sure that all our people know what needs to be done and who has to do what. Once Dr. Weir lets us know when we are going to pull out and how much time we have, we will begin our part of the process. Per standard SGC procedures, we have also looked into possible alpha sites and the list of suitable planets is long. However most of the planets we are looking at are still pending the in depth review by the science and medical departments.”
“Major, before you go any further into that, I need to interrupt.” And with an apologetic look over at Col. Caldwell, Sheppard cut off his second in command. “Colonel, are you and your people still planning on returning to Earth?”
Eyes snapping up to look at Caldwell, Elizabeth could feel the shock of that question reverberate through her. Why hadn’t she thought of this? Shock and the familiarity of working with everyone in the room she supposed. Turning slightly to catch the answer, she tried to school her features to show only interest.
Nodding in acceptance of what was and wasn’t being said, Caldwell tried to reassure everyone. “As far as I have been able to determine Colonel, we all still want to go back to Earth. And I know that we need to leave this meeting so you all can discuss whatever world you need to head to without worry. I would ask that you delay as long as you can, so the remaining injured can stay as long as possible in the infirmary. Those of us that are mobile will help where we can.”
“Thank you for that offer Colonel, but I think we can handle the evacuation. Your crew needs to concentrate on getting well and helping those who are too injured to help themselves.” And though the words were hard, John managed to convey his sincere apology for saying no, and his thanks for the offer with just a look.
“Right. That is our cue to leave. Ladies and Gentlemen of Atlantis base, we of the Daedalus thank you for our lives. And we wish you the best. Until we meet again.” And with an air of quiet dignity, Caldwell and his command crew moved out of the meeting room.
Blowing out a loud and blustery sigh, Rodney leaned back in his chair. “Well that was uncomfortable. And needed.”
“Uncomfortable as it might have been, Rodney it was done for them as much as for us.” John snapped.
“I know that Colonel. Now that they are gone, any idea of where we are going to move to?”
“We still have a few things to settle on that front. We do have two or three recently visited planets that might meet most of our requirements, but we are going to need the geek squad to do their thing. A big point against those planets is the fact that they were all reported to the SGC as possible Alpha sites before the vote. We do however have some alternatives that we kept in reserve. Just in case. ” And reaching out John started accessing mission logs from the conference room laptop. Grabbing the remote, he moved over to the screen and started listing the pros and cons of each location. “Once the decision to start hoarding against the possibility of losing contact with Earth was made, Lorne and I started looking in alternative Alpha sites, ones that were not going to be included in the SGC database. Finding a planet that could support human life was easy; finding one that could also house Atlantis herself was a bit harder. Rodney, do you remember those sensors I had you build?”
Sitting up now that he had the answer to a question that had bothered him for several years, Rodney looked at his friend and team leader. “Yeah, they were to monitor incoming and outgoing activity on a wormhole. I know I attached them to a number of ‘Gates over the past few years. Well in addition to the normal atmospheric and seismic monitoring equipment that we always set up. Is this what they were for? And why didn’t you tell me?”
“What you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell. Plus it was a good way to find out how many of those ‘uninhabited’ planets really were deserted. All our possible Alpha site planets have a good breathable atmosphere, a large ocean to land ratio, and the gravity is close to Earth norm. Of the dozens of sensor sets that were planted, four of the ‘Gate monitors have had no activity since they were set. Well, besides our status checks. Of those four worlds, two have had seriously violent seismic activity, leading to one having the clearing around the ‘Gate to be destroyed and on the other planet, the ‘Gate fell over. Of the remaining two, one has had lightening storms every fourteen days or so, with several severe strikes hitting the ‘Gate. The fourth world has had some seasonal storms but nothing like number three, no recorded seismic activity like numbers one and two and the environment checks out so far. Basically, this looks like our best choice to hide out at once medical signs off on it.”
Blinking slightly at the rapid fire flow of information, Elizabeth grabbed a hold of the most important item in what she had just heard. They had a safe place to retreat to, and it could take everyone. Letting go of that particular worry, she thought of another. “Rodney, can we move the Da Vinci?”
Looking startled at the question, Rodney glanced over at Radek and shook his head. “We have been exploring the station slowly. Mainly because we don’t want to turn on any more of the station than we are able to power with the naquadah generators we have on site. We know that it does have a stardrive and are confident that it is in working condition, but without a ZPM or two to power it, the station is staying put.”
“But you said the station has power. Everything is up and running and we are getting regular traffic from there.” Now Elizabeth was confused. Hadn’t Rodney told her that the station was operational?
Leaning forward and looking vaguely disappointed in her, Rodney began to lecture. “Elizabeth, I know that you are not normally this dim. I also know that I said that while there is power on at the station, it is just enough for life support, basic ‘Gate activity and to open and close the doors. Maybe there is enough available to bring up a basic shield, but we would have to cut something else to do so. If we decide to turn on the equipment that produces the drones? We need a ZPM. If we want to fire up the stardrive? Needs a ZPM. Full shields? Again, the answer is a ZPM.
“And honestly, if we do want to move the station, we need to have full shields up to get out of the asteroid belt and the drive going at full strength to move that mass into hyper. So to be safe, we would need to have two fully charged ZPM’s. And I know I could find a better use for two fully charged ZPM’s here in the City. What we need to do is start shipping as many of the completed drones and intact puddle jumpers through as possible. Once we have done that, I vote for shutting the station down to the standby power levels he had before we went aboard him. That way he’ll be able to blend back into the asteroid belt and hopefully be missed when the SGC goes looking for him. Because you know they will. The only reason we found him was because he lit us up with his own sensors.”
Quietly absorbing the unusually brief rant/discourse, Elizabeth nodded at the points that Rodney had made and ignored the initial insult. Moving on to the next item on her mental list she asked her next question. “Okay, since that’s obviously settled, I have another question for you. Can we dial another ‘Gate in the Milky Way so Steven and his people can get home?”
Watching as Rodney opened his mouth and then closed it as his thoughts caught up was always entertaining. Actually managing to catch him off guard enough that he didn’t have a ready answer was even more entertaining. “Well we have a ZPM and the ‘Gate crystal, so logically we can. Where would you like to send them?”
Clearing his throat, Lorne put his opinion out for consideration. “If I might put my vote in for a destination for the crew, I would suggest either Cimmeria or the Land of Light. They both have Earth friendly cultures and rarely visited by anyone else. And both are on the list for SG teams to head to in case of trouble, so there should be a cache of supplies close to the ‘Gate.”
From her brief time as head of the SGC, Elizabeth remembered the two worlds in question. They were safe planets where the SGC could retrieve their wounded quickly. “Sounds good to me. So we have the start of a plan. Move as many drones and Jumpers from the Da Vinci back here as we can, pack up everything possible from the mainland and get all our people back in the City. Does anyone have anything else to add?”
“I’ve got nothing. Do you Rodney?” asked John.
Shaking his head, Rodney turned to Carson. “Nope. Carson? Have you got anything?”
Holding up one finger, Carson nodded. “We are going to need to make sure that everything that could tip over or slide across a floor is tied down. Lifting the city won’t be easy and we don’t need anyone to be crushed by falling objects. Or have irreplaceable equipment be destroyed because it crashed into a wall.”
Making notes on her tablet, Elizabeth agreed. “I’ll have support personnel start doing that right away, Carson. Rodney, you and John need to get back to the Da Vinci to begin loading up the drones. I do how a couple of questions before you head out: Are the racks the drones are stored on mobile? And once you get as much as you can off the station, how will you shut him down again?”
“Good question. I have no idea if the racks have wheels. I’ll have to look. And shutting him down should be easy. We just need the Colonel to initialize the mothball procedure again. Well, after we get things covered up again.” And now Rodney was the one making notes on his tablet.
“Okay. It looks like we have a workable plan on that front. Next item on the agenda: Do we have any idea how long it takes the Odyssey to make the trip out here?”
Looking faintly ill, John answered that question. “From the information that Jon brought us, the Odyssey was to be on the far side of the Milky Way Galaxy from Earth. At best speed, she could make it back to base in only about four days. With two days taken up in getting supplies and bringing in extra manpower we are up to six days. It takes the Daedalus eighteen days to make the trip between Earth and Pegasus, so I am estimating the Odyssey can make the trip in a little over a week. We thus have four days. At the most.”
“Four days. We had less than that with the storm in year one. We can do this. Last question, Rodney. We have one ZPM. Is it enough to fly the city?” and taking a deep breath, Elizabeth waited on Rodney’s answer.
Trading glances with Radek, Rodney seemed paused. Tilting his head and lifting a brow, Radek seemed to be confirming some unasked question. Wilting slightly, Rodney shrugged. “Theoretically there is enough power. But Atlantis was never meant to be flown on only one ZPM. And she still has some residual damage from her time underwater plus the Wraith attacks. The Asurans fixed most of the structural damage, but not everything.
“We are going to have to make sure our shields are up at all times once we reach space. Not just because they are the main thing holding our atmosphere in where we need it, but also because there are things up there that can hit and cause serious damage. To do this we need shields to be at full power, all the time. To get us to our new home planet we need the stardrive to be at full strength. All of this means that we are going to be on a dangerous balancing act of keeping just enough power to the environmental systems, the shields and the drive. Too much to any one of those and we are sunk.”
Sitting still for a moment, Elizabeth let everything that Rodney had just said sink in. “So what you are saying is: it can be done, but it is going to be extremely dangerous and tricky to do.”
Nodding his head Rodney agreed. “That is exactly what I am saying. And we need to get moving.” And grabbing his tablet, Rodney stood up and walked out of the meeting.