Because he was watching the long ranged sensors that were normally trained on the Daedalus, Chuck was the only one to really see the icon that represented the ship stop and then wink out. Staring at the screen in shock for a moment he blinked. Then with a shudder hit the red alert siren. The Daedalus may no longer have been theirs to call on in time of need, but the people on her were theirs, and you never left anyone behind.
As soon as the siren started its call, the door to Dr. Weir’s office opened so fast it seemed to bounce on its track. Running out of the room at full speed were Dr. McKay and Col. Sheppard, followed closely by Dr. Weir. Dancing his hands over his controls, Chuck called the data from the long range sensors up onto the main screen and transferred it all to the spare laptop Dr. McKay left on the command deck for these situations. Grabbing the laptop as soon as the transfer complete light lit, Chuck handed it off to Dr. McKay. His part was done now, well it was unless they wanted him to report on what he had seen.
Grunting in thanks, Rodney took the computer that Chuck passed him. Flipping through all the sensor data took only moments and glancing at the larger display screen for confirmation, he nodded.
“Okay. Here is what it looks like. Daedalus for some reason drops out of hyperspace and less than two minutes later is apparently shot down. Thanks to time, the war between the Ancients and Wraith and a tight-fisted set of governments, we have very little senor capability in that area of space. All of which mean that definitive sensor data is sketchy as to who shot the Daedalus and what she was shot with. There may be Gates close to there, but we’ll need to check the database for that. One thing is certain however, it wasn’t the Wraith that shot her down. Daedalus is or rather was, on a new heading out since the route they had taken in is currently crawling with Hiveships. So it has to be something else.” and as he was talking, Rodney was typing in orders and data requests for Radek into the computer. Hitting the button to transmit his orders, he looked up at John and Elizabeth, “It is going to be at least an hour before we can get any detailed information out of the database. Now what?”
“Now we get to figure out what we do next. Obviously calling the SGC for help is out of the question. For one thing they have no way to send out a rescue ship in anything close to time. And having them come out here so close to our little bombshell would not be smart. So, do we at least know where they were last?” said Elizabeth as she walked closer to the main view screen.
“Yeah, that we do know.”, and snapping his fingers at Chuck, got Rodney got him to put the ships last known location of screen. “What is out there besides the Daedalus? Right now we don’t know. I’m going to need have Jackson and his department go over what the database has to say about that section of space to find out what is in that system.”, and muttering to himself and at Radek over his radio, Rodney started towards the main computer terminal, intent on starting the search right away. As John and Elizabeth followed behind him, they both started getting calls from their second in commands.
“Lorne? Good, get O’Neill and Jackson out of the chair room and the three of you need to be up here for a meeting. We need to get the Marines scrambled for a possible search and rescue, rescue conditions are currently unknown as are the number of casualties. Have each of the team medics coordinate with the infirmary for what supplies would be best to have on hand. Also, make sure that the crews have all of the Jumpers refitted to carry multiple stretchers and have one outfitted as a mobile OR, the plans are in the emergency response folder. Anything else can be decided at the meeting.”, and saying that, John grabbed Rodney by the elbow and started steering him and the laptop into the main conference room instead.
“Right Teyla, we will need to open up the refugee quarters and have anyone who hasn’t given blood in the last four to six weeks start lining up outside the infirmary to donate. Also, we are going to need to have the commissary make up coffee and tea thermoses plus food packs for the rescue crews. Carson? Please tell your staff to get ready for a large number of personnel arriving for blood donations. It looks like we will be doing a SAR operation for the Daedalus. After you get that started, I need the both of you in the main conference room ASAP. Weir out.”, and sliding into her chair, Elizabeth looked over at John and Rodney. “This is not going to be that easy, is it?”
Twin snorts greeted that statement. Shaking his head, John said softly, “I have done SAR’s on aircraft before and that was an absolute horror; this isn’t going to be fun by any stretch of the imagination. And given that we are talking about a spaceship, which has hopefully crashed into habitable albeit unknown territory, this is going to be worse than most. Rodney, have you or Radek worked out the location of any Gates near the Daedalus’s yet?”
“Busy here, Major! I have only much I can do. I mean, yeah I suppose I could drop finding out what shot at and hit the Daedalus, but hey? I’ve only been working on the problem for the last three minutes. Bother me when it has been five,” sniped Rodney as his hands flew over the keyboard of the laptop.
“McKay!”, snapped John. He knew that Rodney was busy coordinating his teams response, but there were some priorities that needed to be met first.
“Okay, okay! Yeah, alright, alright, checking. Radek says that there are three that are in the area, but all are a ways away from the exact location. There’s nothing that I can see in the database on this area, but I am not the one really looking. I also have nothing on what shot Daedalus down, and I so do not want to go into an area where ships are shot at just for being there.”
“McKay! Put Jackson on that, he reads Ancient better than you do. You need to figure out how long it will take us to reach the Daedalus’s last known location by PuddleJumper,” John growled. Pushing and prodding Rodney towards a set goal was an art that John had long since mastered. However in instances like this, managing Rodney’s ability to multitask was more important than being polite. John needed all of Rodney’s attention on just this one problem, they had other people to take care of the rest.
Forty-five minutes after the Daedalus had disappeared off of the long distance sensor array, the planning of the search and rescue mission was done. Initially three Jumpers would head out to each of the three possible Gates. Each ship was equipped with the latest in McKay/Zelenka sensors, and would attempt to find any and all traces of the Daedalus. Piloting the Jumpers would be John, Lorne and O’Neill, since the three men had strong expressions of the ATA gene sequence and could get the little ships to push their sensors further than their rated optimum.
Riding co-pilot would be Rodney, Parrish, and Jackson, each of whom would be monitoring the sensor arrays for any sign of the Daedalus. Once the ship was found and triangulated, each group would report back and then start at best speeds to find and recover as many survivors off the Daedalus as possible. Along for the ride on each ship would be a detachment of Marines trained in SARs, emergency first aid and basic engineering.
Watching the spread of stars outside of the window, John fought the urge to snap at Rodney to hurry it up, after all he was the self proclaimed miracle worker. Taking a deep breath, John decided that discretion was the better part of valor in this case and that there was no reason to start another sniping war. Given how long this trip was to take he knew that having a pissed off Rodney sitting beside him, right before a mission like the one they were on, would not be fun. Besides, his Scottish accent was horrible.
Glancing at the displays, John decided to try adding another five percent power to the sensor array. As soon as it was added, the *ping* of an active find was heard. Working quickly, Rodney soon isolated the data and throwing it up on the HUD confirmed what John had known. It was the Daedalus, and she was a long way’s away.
Nodding at Rodney to dial the Gate to let Atlantis know, John started to get ready for a long ride. They had eight hours before they would be at the Daedalus’s location.
Concentrating on the controls before him, Lorne managed to keep his mind blank as they moved ever closer towards their rendezvous with the other ships. He had worked SAR’s before with the SGC and Atlantis, but the missions had all been to rescue populations that had been attacked for one reason or another. He had never had to deal with the crash landing of a space ship. Listening to the Marines who had experience with airplane crash recovery, he knew this was going to be bad.
Trying to keep his mind (and Parrish’s) off the grisly topic of conversation going on in the crew cabin, Lorne decided to indulge his curiosity. He had been wondering what the real reason had been for Col. Caldwell to direct his ship onto the heading she had been on when they left Atlantis. Mentally flipping through the program list available for the HUD, Lorne drew up a three dimensional view of Pegasus and began to plot the voyages he remembered the Daedalus taking. Finishing that took very little time and looking at the places where the Daedalus had entered and exited the galaxy nothing really seemed to spring to mind, there seemed to be no pattern.
“Try adding these points to that.”, and nodding at the display, Parrish handed Lorne a tablet with a list of all the planets that Daedalus had stopped at over the last five years.
Glancing over the list, Lorne still couldn’t see the pattern, but why not? It would eat into the time they were spending in transit. “Right, you read them out, and I’ll enter, okay?”
“Got it. Okay, first planet on the list is P2X-883.”, and in a clear voice, Parrish started to read down the list. As each new data point was added to the model on the HUD, more and more patterns started appearing, drawing the attention of the group behind them. Muttering and comments started getting louder as it became clear what their new picture was telling them.
Cris-crossing the three dimensional picture of the Pegasus galaxy was a classic grid pattern delineating a search pattern that had taken years to complete. Admittedly the survey had been intermittent over the years, and it was by no means in depth, but for a surface look, it covered most of the galaxy. One of the last major spots to be covered had been the area where Daedalus had been shot down. Now they knew a possible reason as to why the ship had been there.
Looking at the pattern, Lorne shook his head. Turning to face the people behind him, he said, “Okay people, we are not going to go and tell everyone about this right now. Once we get back to Atlantis, all of this will be turned over to Dr. Weir, the Colonel and Dr. McKay and they can take it from there. That means that until and unless it is disclosed to the rest of the City, you lot can’t talk about it. Got that?”
“Yes, sir! We understand.”, said Sgt. Patterson, the Marine medic normally assigned to AT-8. The rest of the personnel in the crew cabin nodded. This wasn’t something they wanted to get into the middle of. Even if they were hoping to find out what it meant.
Watching Danny as he translated the Ancient database was one of the more boring aspects of this flight. But being able to read ahead of his translations was much more fun. Weird, but fun. Having Danny *catching* him at it though, was not so much fun.
“Sic quamdiu vos validus ut lego Anqueetas, Jack?” So how long have you been able to read Ancient, Jack?” asked Danny in Ancient. “Quod quare vos permissum nos teneo?” And why didn’t you let us know?
Flinching slightly at the tone of his voice, Jon replied in the same language “Uhh…. It started the first time I sat in the control Chair on Atlantis and has been getting stronger ever since. And that was weeks ago, with no side effects.” Hopefully that would be enough for Danny. A pissy Dr. Jackson was not something he wanted to have within arms reach.
“Apparently you read Ancient better than I do now.” Danny said quietly in Ancient. This was not good.
“Because most of what I was doing before wasn’t actually reading like I do English. Most of the time it is basically recognizing words that I know, so I didn’t really realize I was reading Ancient until now.” muttered Jon in the same language. Switching over to English he said, “Besides, I was hoping this was left over fluency from ‘Ground Hog Day’.”
Danny sat still for a moment and then snorted. Switching back to English as well, he said, “Right, that was the day where I spent three plus months teaching you and Teal’c Ancient and don’t remember a bit of it.”
“Yeah, that’s the one.” nodded Jon. Deciding that changing the subject was the better part of valor, he said, “So, have you figured out what shot down the Daedalus?”
Accepting the change in subject, Danny nodded as he looked over his notes. “You know how Atlantis has a finite supply of drones, and seemingly no way to make or get more?”
Feeling more than a little cautious at the leading question, Jon nodded. “Yeah, I’d wondered about that. Sheppard and Lorne have been bitching about the numbers of drones in the launchers at most of the military supply meetings. And the griping was worse before we broke things off with the SGC because there were rumbles about shipping some of the Atlantis drones back to Earth. Now that we are on our own there doesn’t seem to be a way easily to get more. All of us are seriously worried. Why do you ask?”
Flipping his notes back and forth, Danny nodded. “Well I know why the drones aren’t built anywhere on Atlantis. From this entry in the database they’re extremely hard to build and unstable until the final step in the growing/manufacturing process. So the Ancients put the plant to make, or is that grow,” and now he frowned down at his notes, “them in an out of the way area of the galaxy. The coordinates for the plant were in the data base and, correcting for stellar drift and a base eight number system, it turns out that Daedalus showed up at its front door. Arriving as they did without the right technology or codes, the automated systems must have shot them down.”
Looking up from his notes, Danny frowned over at his friend. “Jon, there may not be anyone left aboard her to save.”
Spatially speaking, O’Neill and Jackson turned out to be closer to where the scans had originally placed the Daedalus’s emergency beacon and so had less time to travel. Holding station an hour away from that point, they paused waiting for the other puddle jumpers to reach them. While they were waiting for the others to arrive, Jon decided to have the passive scanners take a good hard look at the remnants of the solar system ahead of them. It was a constructive way to pass the time, because as soon as the others were in range they all needed to talk.
Watching the other ships come in, Jon knew that the “easy” part of this was now over. Once Danny had dropped his bombshell they, meaning McKay, would have to come up with something. Thinking over that idea, Jon could only shake his head and wonder for the millionth time why Loki hadn’t cloned Carter too. For all that he and Jack had the ATA gene sequence, Carter had the real scientific smarts. Well Daniel did too but still, Carter ran rings around both himself and Jack!
Getting the icon on the screen that meant incoming transmission, Jon initiated the mental command that allowed the Jumper to accept it. Nodding at Sheppard and McKay as their images took the place of the HUD, he waited. Just a few seconds later, another icon popped up and the screen split to show Lorne and Parrish. He knew that on each of the other Jumpers something similar had happened and could only be glad that these ships existed. Doing this in a Tel’tak was not something that he would have looked forward too.
“Okay, now that we are all here do you have anything new to add Dr. Jackson? I know that you said that you would be continuing your research and translations while in flight, what have you got for us?” asked Sheppard.
Daniel took a deep breath and nodded. “What Jon and I have found isn’t good. It looks like Ancients placed their weapons factories in uninhabited solar systems as far off the beaten track as could be easily managed. In this specific case, it looks like the Daedalus stumbled across a factory in which they made drone weapons. From the description, the drone factory is housed in a large space station type thing; and it was to be placed in an asteroid belt. The information I have doesn’t give the breakdown on how it made the drones; just that the reason it was placed there was because the manufacturing/growing process is too dangerous and volatile to do planet-side. At the end of the war, before the Ancients left for Earth, they sent the shutdown codes on a secure data burst, so the factory itself should be mothballed. But the structure it is housed in was powered by ZPM’s and should still have active defenses. Plus the defenses are geared to recognize only Ancient technology as friendlies.”
Looking horrified, McKay broke in, “The Daedalus isn’t made of Ancient materials or design, so they must have tripped the sensors as an unknown, possible hostile ship. Oh, shit. This is not good.” and looking down at his laptop, he started to type. “Can you send me all the information you have on this, Daniel?”
“Yeah, I am transmitting now.” sighed Daniel.
Watching the data scroll across his computer screen, Rodney had to admit that having Jackson in Atlantis had several good points, not the least of which was the speedy translations. While he could read and understand the Ancient version of scientific jargon, translating anything straight out of the database was a chore best left to the experts, even if they were from the soft sciences. And while this had been a rushed job, it had been expertly done. Wait a second, O’Neill had helped with this?
“Did you say that you and O’Neill did the translating?” he questioned.
“Yeah, I helped. Years ago Jack and Teal’c got caught in a version of ‘Groundhog Day’ and they had to learn Ancient to get themselves out of it. It’s all been coming back to me since we moved to Atlantis.” said Jon. He looked a bit sheepish at admitting that he had contributed to the translation.
Looking interested, John leaned closer to the screen, “I seem to remember that the General also got a Repository of the Ancients downloaded into his head as well. Has any of that been coming back?”
Rodney glanced up to watch O’Neill’s face as he answered that question. Given who and what he was, it was a question that really should have been asked weeks ago, but hadn’t for one reason or another. The main reason being Sheppard and Weir telling Rodney he couldn’t grill Jon for the information locked in his skull. Watching as O’Neill started to look more than a bit uncomfortable at the question, Rodney had a hunch that the side-stepping had been there on both sides of the equation.
“What’s mainly coming back are the language skills. Since I’ve no real need for anything else at this point, I don’t think I’ll be developing any new abilities, at least I hope not. So, Doc, got any ideas on how we can get around the defenses?” and plainly hoping for a change in subject, Jon looked at Rodney.
“I just got this information. Give me five minutes to work a miracle or two, would you?” he snapped. He wasn’t angry or anything, just really distracted by the information coming up on his computer. Reading further into the translated entry Rodney had to admit (at least to himself) that the odds of the Daedalus getting through this in any shape at all were more than slim; they were into serious miracle territory here.
Keeping a small percentage of his attention on the discussion flowing around him, Rodney opened the window containing the sensor information and started accessing the data Jackson had transmitted. Thanks mainly to Radek; the sensor arrays on all the Jumpers had been upgraded beyond what the Ancients had thought sufficient. This had included the passive sensors and thanks to those upgrades, the computers now had a lock on where the Daedalus had been heading. Following the trace should be relatively easy.
What was not going to be easy was figuring out a way to safely get into the system and start evacuating any survivors. And even if the space station was in stand down, Rodney knew he was going to want to board it and find out had a crop of drones. If there were any onboard, he was going to want to see if they could ship a few thousand of them home to Atlantis. He was also going to want to try to move the station to a system closer to Atlantis, but not the same system of course, but close.
Dropping that line of thought, Rodney moved on to the next item on his mental list; what was in the system ahead? From the passives on all three Jumpers, there looked like to be something at or right before the traditional spot for a water bearing planet, and the trace from the Daedalus was pointed in that direction. It seemed they had survived the initial run in with the station and its defenses and had made all possible speed to someplace that might be safe.
Reaching the analysis of the debris left by Daedalus scroll by, Rodney noticed the chemical composition of the trail. It seemed as if the trail left by the Daedalus held trace elements of nitrogen, oxygen, argon and several more notes from the chemical make-up of air. Add in a few dashes of trinium, naquadah, and the esoteric elements of a drone weapon and you had a fine mess that was hopefully going to lead to a bunch of survivors.
That figured out, it was time to find that station. Hunting through the mass of passive scanning, Rodney could find no trace of it. It looked as if they would need to either go active scanners or get in a lot closer. He was voting for closer and active. With shields. Lots of shields.
Listening to the reports from the other two teams, John kept an eye on Rodney, letting him have the five minutes he asked for and then a bit more. Finally deciding that enough time had passed and that Rodney had likely reached all the decisions he was going to reach, John cleared his throat and brought the discussion back to the subject at hand.
“Okay, Rodney. What have you found for us?”
“Right. Well I am indeed a genius and I have proven it again. In the good news, it looks like Daedalus made it through the initial altercation with the station. There are traces of atmosphere, hull material and drone leftovers trailing from where the Daedalus must have dropped out of hyperspace. All signs are heading towards what may be a planet at the M3/M4 location and that means there should indeed be survivors.
“For the bad news, at the present time I can find no trace of the station. Which means that it either shut down it self down again, or it cloaked itself. And if it is the first, we’re going to need to get a lot closer and go active on the sensors. If we do that, I suggest we do so under shields and spread out so as to cover as much space as possible. If it is the second we have a bigger problem, in that the station is active and we will be moving into sensor range and that means that we are going to be in range of its drones.” and leaning back in his chair, Rodney closed his eyes, for the moment, finished.
Listening to the good news and then the litany of doom and gloom, John had to admit, nothing kept Rodney down for long. Even this. “Right. We know that Daedalus has been hit and hit hard, we have a mystery space station that needs to be found and neutralized, add in a seriously long distance rescue operation and we have problems.
“Elizabeth will have dropped three communication satellites at each of the Gates we exited and there will Jumpers leaving Atlantis every two hours with more bodies to help with rescue. By now, Teyla, Ronon, and Carson will have set up the emergency quarters and med stations outside of the Jumper Bay.” Ticking off his points on his hands as he talked, John started running through the disaster relief plan that had been set up two months after the Expedition had gotten to Atlantis.
The decision had been made to just fly in. Given that they were in Puddle Jumpers of Ancient design, it was deemed that they should be safe enough.
Leading the way into the system were John and Rodney in Jumper One, and ranging ahead of them in overlapping waves were the active sensors of all three ships. With Rodney riding herd on the scanner data, the three Jumpers were radiating for all they were worth and the data was pouring in. It looked as if there really was a planet at the M3 position and that the trail left by the Daedalus was definitely heading in that direction. The rest of the solar system seemed to follow the standard pattern of several rocky inner planets and a few gaseous outer planets, all separated by a field of asteroids.
The station itself was still hiding out. Working by process of elimination, Rodney moved his way into the system, ruling out the farthest planets, their moons and attendant debris fields. As the other two Jumpers had come into the system, their data was added to his analysis and thus narrowing the field of study even further. Since there wasn’t a hostile response from anything in the outer system, it was determined that the station had to be hidden somewhere in the asteroid belt. A place that was actually logical when you considered the fact that that was where most of the easily accessible raw materials in the system located.
Letting the search for the station fall back into second place on his monitor, Rodney started refining the data on the Daedalus’s current position. He had the planet pinpointed and then extrapolated which hemisphere could be housing the ship and hopefully any surviving members of her crew. Redirecting the output of the active sensors towards his possible crash site, Rodney concentrated on finding out what information could be teased out of them. Which wasn’t much. They were going to have to get a lot closer. Again.