Episode Three- The Ruins- Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Fifteen

Inside it is dark but clearly Ancient.  There aren’t any designs on the floor in a darker shade to match the paneling like there is in Atlantis and all the russet coloring that signified Atlantis’ transporters is darker here giving it the starker appearance of dried blood.  The raised paneling is so darkened that it looks almost black in the shadows of the transporter adding to the effect of being surrounded by old blood.  It’s door remains open providing at least some ease from how stifling it could be with five people, three geared up, one with his own sort of geared up, and one with basically nothing but her attitude crammed in such a small space.  In Atlantis, it normally seemed packed with just two people in there at once with no gear on and maybe a computer tablet in hand.  Rodney and Kenmore are closest to the blue button with Sheppard and Teyla pushed to the transporter’s round sides and Ronon’s enduring mass guards the opened door just in case the Asgard or at least that crazy one actually managed to find a way in.

As if it isn’t crammed enough, Rodney’s busy fidgeting with the numerous schematics of the circuitry connected to the teal-colored button he’d brought up on his lifesigns detector.  And John thought it was torture watching Rodney do the same thing in his lab with a regular computer.  John made the mental note to clearly avoid being around the astrophysicist when they happened to be near transporters the next time the city had a power failure or an accidental lockdown.  There is no way in hell he was going to go through this for hours and hours with no end in sight.  Suddenly Rodney shifts again, calling up another schematic while simultaneously jamming his elbow back into John’s back.  John takes the hit again with another heavy sigh and roll of his eyes.  Okay so that’s three times he gets to slap Rodney up-side the back of his head when they get home.  But at least Rodney’s chirping happily now, so that at least might be indicating that an end to this torture might be in sight.  Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Rodney hold up a finger as he stares intently at the new schematic he’s brought up on the detector.  Thank God there is the finish line.

“Okay, I think we’ve only got one chance at this so is everybody rea—“

Tired of McKay’s talking, Kenmore reaches out and pushes the button.  The door slides closed, making it even more cramped, how wonderful, just before…They disappear without a sound and without a light, the typical highly understated and kinda freaky Ancient way of transporting.

 

 

The team and Kenmore appear, again without a sound or flash of any sort of light, in the middle of the real, life-size lab the miniature had showed them at the top of the shaft.

“—dy,” Rodney finishes.

He freezes for a moment.  He can’t believe she did it again.  He turns to Kenmore and before he can say anything…

“Look, I’m covered in I really don’t want to know what exactly and if pushing the button gets me home then I’m pushin’ the button.”

Rodney stares at her as she starts to walk away from him looking around the room.

It’s round and the same size as the room with the horror show display cabinets except there isn’t a transporter shaft running through the middle of the room.  It’s open which only makes it seem larger, which was also disturbingly comforting.  The first thing they notice is that it looks frankly like just another lab they could’ve found in Atlantis, except for the coloring of course.  It’s still that spooky, gleaming silvery white that seems to show off the Ancient design aesthetic while simultaneously reminding them of exactly where they were and what Hell extended below their feet.  There are raised panels creating the image of the rank wedges of the Army in what John figures is once again the four compass points of NE, NW, SE, SW.  Couldn’t the guy at least have an obsession with N, S, E, W?  Something normal?

The second thing they notice is how naturally well and comfortably, not really bright or starkly, lit the room is which is mostly due to the fact that the hole in the domed ceiling that the button had revealed on the miniature has actually really opened the domed ceiling of the room.  The sky above them is solid white.  The air is clean, crisp, fresh and cold.  It would feel so wonderful really if you didn’t remember the house of horrors extending below your feet.  Kenmore shivers then walks over to one of the small upside down by Atlantis standards, semi-rectangular-shaped windows topped with clear glass and bottomed with some ornate stained glass in those trademark autumnal oranges and golds, the kind in the windows dotting the walls of Atlantis.  She stands on her tiptoes to see out through the clear glass.

“Well that explains it,” she lowers back down on her heels, rubbing her hands together to warm them up, “we’re on an ice planet.”

Sheppard walks up beside her, he doesn’t have to lift up to see out.  Yep, it did.  Outside there are huge snow-covered mountains, part of a range in the distance, and this outpost is on a plain of nothing but snow.  They’re probably on a frozen solid lake or some other frozen-over massive body of freshwater.  Ironically, like a lighthouse guarding a harbor…a very phallic lighthouse.

He looks back at the room.  And for once he can see his breath float out from his nostrils like a puff of quickly condensing then quickly dissipating fog.  The cold has finally reached them and it only took it a couple of seconds.  In between the compass points are great big Ancient computer consoles the sort of which are used in the gateroom’s command center to operate either the gate or oversee the daily operations of the city, equipment some of which looks like Ancient interpretations of weird sort of grandfather clock-looking lava lamps formed from what looks to be the same metal as the walls and filled with what John can see through the clear glass is absolutely nothing, and supplies for operating said equipment line the round walls.  It looks like the Ancient answer to a college chem lab, or at least that’s what Rodney referred to them as when they found these sorts of rooms in Atlantis.  Their panels and control crystals aren’t glowing, signaling their up and running, yet, but McKay can have that little problem fixed in no time.  Those freaky tall sort of accordion-seeming lamps that usually accompany an Atlantean lab hold guardian positions right in front of the wedge-shaped panels on the curvature of the wall.  They aren’t on either but, with all the “sunlight” coming in from the white, clouded-over sky above, they really didn’t need to be.

“Is there anything here that tells us how to get home or at least anywhere but here,” Sheppard asks.

Rodney walks up to the nearest and largest of the computer terminals and tries to activate it.  For the first time in this place, his touch manages to activate something but like all the other times, it doesn’t help them as easily as either John or he hoped or wanted it to.

“He has the computer coded,” he announces, “It’ll take me some time to break it and gain access to its contents.”

Sheppard nods at him and Rodney pulls out his computer tablet, plugs it in, and starts to go to work, leaving the rest of them to pace around and get a chance to look everything over a bit better.  Teyla walks over to one of the many pieces of equipment, a giant clear ball hovering a couple of inches over a raised platform.  Inside it is a clamp, like the sort used to hold a glass vial over a Bunsen burner in class, holding a small medallion of what looks like steel with a weird shape that sort of looks like the number 4 carved into the middle of it.  Sheppard and Kenmore walk over to Teyla and look over the object as well.

“What is it,” Teyla asks.

Sheppard shrugs.

“Ancient jewelry making,” he offers.

He looks over at McKay.

“McKay, how’s it coming?”

“Slow.  I’ve cracked his code, but so far I can’t find a thing telling us how to get out of here.”

“Great, we’re stuck here,” judging by Ronon’s tone, John can tell that he blames Kenmore for it.  It really wasn’t going to help matters if Ronon decided to vent a little steam—or anxiety but John knew that the Satedan would never admit to something like that other than perhaps to say ‘I don’t like just standing here like this’—by flexing his trigger finger and perhaps just so happening to be aiming at Kenmore when he did so.

“Well, what does it tell you,” John asks McKay.

“That he was experimenting with gaseous chemicals and how they influence the molecular structure of steel.”

Well that explains the medallion but it really doesn’t offer them much help.  Perhaps Rodney’s wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time.  The first time cost a solar system five-sixths of itself and had also temporarily cost Rodney John’s trust.  Rodney gained back John’s trust with a simple apology, which was huge for the self-absorbed, egocentric astrophysicist, but it had also left John realizing that there were going to be times when Doctor Rodney McKay was going to be wrong or not genius enough to save them and there was going to be the chance that that could cost them dearly.  Sheppard starts looking around again.  Right now that was indeed looking true.  They’re stuck up here in the relative—John can’t stress that enough to himself—safety of an exposed Ancient lab but only until one of two things happened—well three, but John really didn’t want to think of three happening right now.  First, the Asgard mobilize on a ship and come up here and get them.  Second, no one comes to get them and they just suffer and die up here either from starvation, hypothermia, at least for Kenmore, or shooting each other, again at least for Kenmore.  And the third, well that’s the more likely one right now, which is why John was trying to keep it as far from the front of his mind as possible:  they do something really, really stupid by messing with the equipment up here and end up blowing themselves sky-high for the Asgard anyway.  But he had, he had really thought that coming up here had been the only answer.  That whatever was up here would be their way home—at the very least a friggin’ puddlejumper—but no.  John was about to ask McKay what the hell experimenting with gaseous chemicals and the molecular structure of steel had to do with genetics and the anatomy class horrors downstairs just on the off chance that it might take them somewhere when he notices Kenmore looking around again too except with a slack jaw, wide eyes, and a look of ‘Oh my God’ on her face.  That’s usually Rodney’s light bulb moment face and Sheppard is already becoming familiar with it meaning generally the same thing when it comes across the Lieutenant’s face as well.

“What?  What is it,” he asks her urgently.

The others look over at her too.  Kenmore points at McKay and starts doing what is usually his trademark snappy-finger thing at him.

“Which things contain the gases and which gases,” it was an order and a very ‘hurry up and answer me’ one.  Not attitudinal, just think I might have got it.

McKay, dumbstruck, points with his thumb at the three fat grandfather clock looking things coming up to Ronon’s height, which John had presumed to be empty, directly across from her.

“Over there.  Left is oxygen, middle is hydrogen, right is nitrogen.  They’re pretty basic.  Why?”

Kenmore rushes over and starts examining them.  Looking over every inch of them she can and being careful not to touch any part of them just in case they might react to her Ancient genetics.

“How do you turn them on?”

“From here, why?”

She rushes over to McKay.

“What is it,” John wants to know.  He hated being left out of the loop and the last time she looked like this she and Rodney had gotten them away from the Asgard, just in the nick of time according to Rodney.

“Alchemy.  He was experimenting with Alchemy,” she tells him in a rush.

That is it, all hope shifts in John.  He can’t believe this.  He keeps staring at her.

“Fairy tales,” the crest-fallen ridicule comes out in his voice, “You think he was conducting experiments on fairy tales?”

Rodney suddenly gets her look and snaps his fingers, “No she’s right.  He was combining the gases in a way so that when they’re introduced to steel in a controlled environment, they would be able to change the molecular structure of the metal at the atomic level.”

Rodney turns back to the computer and starts furiously working.  John’s brain stalls for a moment, Wait, what?  You mean this is real?  Suddenly the clear glass globe behind Teyla, lowers and seals itself over the platform with a hiss indicating that all the air had been sucked out of inside of it.  Hissing sounds start coming from the cylinders across the room.

“Rodney, what are you doing,” Sheppard asks warningly, suddenly teetering on the scary side of ‘on edge’.  An exploding solar system suddenly at the forefront of his mind as he eyes the hissing globe suspiciously.

“Following the recommendations of the last experiment he conducted.  I think that’s how he got out of here.  It only makes sense that the Ancient here would create a way for him and only him to get out of here in case the Asgard found out he was holding out on them or his own experiments in genetics were proving more useful than theirs,” he answers him.

“By changing water into wine?”

“No, by changing steel into the transporting mechanism.  All the transporting mechanisms back in Atlantis are made of gold, solid gold.”

“What?”

“Look, that’s all I’ve got.”

John doesn’t argue with the frantically working scientist.  If any one of them knew what the inside of an Ancient transporter looks like, it’s Rodney McKay.

“Okay, I think that should do it.”

Rodney unplugs his tablet, abandons the computer console, and rushes over to Sheppard and Teyla.  Kenmore follows him.  Ronon joins them too.  They focus on the clear, glass globe quickly filling with smoky gas.  After a few moments, the gas is so dense inside the globe they can’t see anything except that there’s a slowly yellowing blur in the middle of it as the gas engulfing the medallion starts to condense and literally change the steel metal into gold.  When the cloudy interior seems to be illuminated by a bright yellow core, the globe’s seal breaks and it lifts completely off its base, releasing the gases to quickly dissipate in the open air, and revealing the medallion to be completely gold now.  Sheppard can’t believe it.  It really did work.

“Okay, everybody hold on to each other.  We’ve only got one chance at this,” Rodney informs them.

Sheppard nods slightly dazed as he and Teyla each put a hand on Rodney’s shoulders.  Kenmore doesn’t hesitate to put a hand on Teyla’s, the Athosian glances at it for a moment, and Ronon puts a confident hand on Sheppard’s shoulder.  It is comforting John thought to have his friend’s grip there ‘cause…There’s a pretty good chance that this thing is going to kill us.  It was an at-least-I-know-I’m-not-dying-alone sort of thing.  McKay’s hands fidget as he reaches out to the clamped medallion.  And John had tried so hard to suppress the thought of that third option.

“Here it goes,” Rodney says.

He touches the medallion.  The group disappears again, no sound, no flash.

 

 

As soon as they arrive, it only takes a second for Kenmore to realize where they’re at.  The crunching of their boots grating dust against stone.  She starts throwing the team into the entrance way before they can really process where they’re at.  She’s going to be damned if Will Robinson isn’t gonna take the hint again.

“Go.  Go.  Go,” she urges them.  After their experience, it doesn’t take much for them to heed her warnings.

They all bolt down the entrance way, turn, and break into the open wooded daylight of Athosia.  They had transported back into the collapsed cave that had sent them to the Asgard outpost in the first place.  And, hopefully, they just fled before the Asgard could try and transport them back out.

As they run through the woods, not entirely knowing whether or not the Asgard have managed to mobilize quick enough to be able to follow them back to the cave and definitely not wanting to wait and find out, Sheppard barks out orders…

“Whoever gets to the gate first dials, whoever’s second send your IDC, and everyone else—“

“Just run through the damn gate,” Kenmore snaps, finishing for him and frankly Sheppard could’ve cared less who gave that particular order.

Ronon quickly outpaces them all with his long strides and Teyla’s natural ease in her native surroundings starts to pull away too.  They’re the first to break across the open ground and past the Athosian leader’s home village.  It flashes through her mind:  Yet again I am running for my life among family and friends, from my home.  They disappear from sight of the village as the trees once again surround their path.  It is a strange response Teyla did not think to expect in herself but she feels her body push itself to its limits.  She was running away from her home out of consideration for more than just the Asgard that might be following them but the ghosts that still haunt these grounds for her.  Her mind floods with all the bad memories this place can muster for her.  For a moment she actually thinks she’s a little girl again and her father is running beside her.  She even hears his words of encouragement:  Teyla run…Run fast Teyla, with all the strength the Ancestor’s have blessed you with…Run daughter, Run!  Teyla’s lungs feel like they’re on fire as she strives to match Ronon and pass him.  All around her phantoms, like those the Wraith can conjure, run with her, screaming.  Cullings.  From her past.  From her home’s past.  Tears threaten to blur her vision.  For her father’s sake, for the sake of his words she can still hear, she runs.  It seems like forever.  Finally Ronon reaches the DHD and starts dialing.  As soon as the gate activates, Teyla dials her wrist IDC and transmits it.  It’s a ten second count before she passes Ronon, standing by the DHD guarding the rest of his team and Kenmore from anything that might be coming after them, and runs through the waiting undulating pool of the Stargate’s connected wormhole.  She hopes that is enough time for them to lower the iris.  A tense twenty second count later and Sheppard blows past Ronon and runs full tilt into the pool with Kenmore right behind him.  An extra fifteen and McKay scrambles past Ronon, Ronon follows his heels, and they enter the wormhole.

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