Series: Part of Dramatic Exit, and is a direct sequel of "To Seek Out New Life". Read that first.
Summary: In which Major Lorne has a rather better time that his superior. Takes place just before "First Strike." Betaed by archae_ology
When the gate activation alarm sounded, Evan Lorne checked his watch and rolled his eyes. Only Team Sheppard was off-world, and they'd been gone barely more than half an hour. It didn't quite qualify as their shortest mission, but it was still unusually short. He figured that they'd been run off the planet by angry natives again or they'd actually found something useful, and either event meant he should to head for the gate room in case he was needed.
Stepping into the control room, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary at first glance, although the techs seemed to be a little too occupied with their work and Chuck was looking a little flushed. Evan stepped out onto the balcony and saw that three-quarters of the team was there. McKay and Ronon were sitting on the stairs up, giggling at random intervals, while Teyla was speaking with Weir, who had an unusually broad smile and whose shoulders were nearly imperceptibly shaking has she leaned on her cane. Whatever was up didn't seem to have harmed anyone, which left Evan with a question.
"Where's the colonel?" he asked, turning around and walking over to lean on Chuck's console.
The Canadian flushed more, and said, "He's, uh. I think he said something about his quarters and a shower."
"I take it he's all right, then?" Evan frowned as Chuck's blush spread to his ears and neck, even worse than it had after That Trip. Somewhat concerned, he ask, "Are you all right?"
"Major!" Evan turned before he got an answer, and saw Weir waving at him. "Major, I'd like you to meet us in conference room two in, oh, thirty minutes. Bring John with you."
He could have sworn she nearly broke out laughing at John's name. Shaking his head, he made his way down to John's quarters. Slipping inside, he heard the shower running inside the bathroom and called out, "John, you ok?"
"You all right in there?" Evan called after getting no reply for a minute. He'd almost decided to go in and make sure John hadn't lost consciousness or something when he heard the shower turn off and footsteps approaching the door. A moment later John stood in the open doorway, his entire body red and radiating heat and his hair looking especially silky and shiny, like it had been washed repeatedly with the shampoos he saved for special occasions.
"What?" he growled.
Evan raised an eyebrow at the obvious annoyance, but frowned when he spotted a paw-shaped bruise on John's forehead near his hairline. Reaching out to touch it, he said with concern, "What happened to you, John?"
John batted his hand away with a clenched fist, which he waved in Evan's face. "That's Colonel Furry to you, Major," he gritted out, before turning around and heading for the shower again.
Evan looked after him, eyes wide. "Excuse me?"
"I am not in the mood," John shouted from inside the shower as water started to run again and steam billowed from the entrance.
"Oh, Christ." Evan lowered the lid on the toilet and sat down. He listened to the sounds of vigorous scrubbing for a while, and when it was clear John would say nothing more, he said, "Seriously, what's going on?"
"Major, if you're still there in ten seconds, I'm having you shot for mutiny!"
Evan rolled his eyes. "You can't do that."
"I'm not paid nearly enough for this," Evan muttered as he started to strip off his clothes. He'd just have to get John out the hard way.
It took some effort, but eventually he managed to pry John out of the shower and shoved into some clothes before leading the grumbling man up to the conference room. Weir and the rest of John's team were already there, sitting around the triangular table along with Doctor Zelenka, who was talking with McKay about something technical that Evan couldn't quite understand. Everyone looked up when they entered and the room filled with silence as John stalked to one of the empty chairs with Evan following him. Everyone looked at them, and they both glared back, Evan mostly out of sympathy but also because he had a well-tuned sense of self-preservation.
Eventually, Weir politely cleared her throat. "Colonel, Major, I'm glad you could join us. We've already gone over the, ah, specifics of the aborted mission. Obviously, the planet's outpost still needs to be investigated, but I got the feeling that it might be appropriate for someone else to do so."
"Damn straight," John muttered under his breath.
Weir ignored him and looked at Evan. "Major, your team was scheduled for a mission this afternoon already, so I was thinking that you could go, along with Doctor Zelenka."
"I can do that, ma'am," Evan quickly replied. They had been planning to take a few new marines along for a literal milk run, but it wouldn't hurt for them to stretch their legs elsewhere.
"Meanwhile, John, your team can take their mission," she continued. "It's just a routine checkup on the Ephebans, and I'm sure they'd be delighted to see you again."
"What?" McKay said, sitting up straight. "Elizabeth, surely the rest of us, and by that I mean me, don't need to miss exploring the outpost just to talk with some goat herders?"
"We'd love to," John said firmly, his voice making it clear that even if he didn't like the smell of goats, he knew that Rodney liked it even less, and he'd clearly not forgiven McKay for his earlier actions. For a minute the two of them stared across the table at each other, and every time McKay would open his mouth John's eyes would narrow just a little more as he growled deep in his throat.
"Fine. It's not like they'll find anything useful," McKay eventually said, slumping back into his seat. "Zelenka will still be searching aimlessly by the time I'm back in my lab doing real science."
- - - - -
They found the Ancient bunker mostly by accident when Evan literally stumbled across the entrance. Evan had gotten so distracted watching Zelenka constantly glance skyward and tug his helmet tighter that he'd misstepped and ended up rolling down the moss-covered entry ramp to thud against a large blast door at the bottom.
"Uh, sir, you ok?" asked Lieutenant Palmer, peering down at him from the top. Evan pushed himself back up and brushed off a few damp leaves.
"Yeah." He turned around to face the door and after a series of clicks and thuds it started to slide open. Evan stepped cautiously inside, with marines fanning out on either side and Zelenka close behind, and the room beyond light up. It was nothing more than an empty space with controls on one wall and another large door, but beyond it they found a hangar with three jumpers lined up along the side.
"My day's getting better already," Evan remarked. Spare jumpers were always useful, and if nothing else the bunker could make a better alpha site than the current one.
From further along, Palmer called out, "Sir, we've got a transporter and a stairwell over here."
"Right. Bockoven, De Felice, you guys stay topside. The rest of us will head down." They all squeezed into the transporter and Evan studied the screen for a moment. It looked like there were several levels buried a few hundred feet under the surface, and after a moment he picked a spot on the diagram that was near the center. They emerged into an atrium with several corridors leading off it. "Split up, take a look around, and radio in if you find anything."
It only took a few minutes before Zelenka called him over to a door directly across the room. Beyond it Evan saw a hexagonal room with screens and consoles lining the walls. Zelenka had already sat down at the largest console, hooking his computer up to it and tapping at the controls. "I believe this is the control room, Major."
"Cool." Evan leaned against the back of his chair and looked over his shoulder. "Any idea what this place is for?"
"Some sort of remote command center, although I'm not sure for what," he explained. "My first guess is for some sort of deep-space telescope, given how far off the galactic plane we are, but it could be anything. The computer is even less cooperative that the database back home."
"I could give it a try."
"Couldn't hurt, I suppose," Zelenka said. Evan slid into the chair next to him and placed his hands on the controls. A moment later, he felt something probing at the corner of his mind and he felt something turn on.
/ unrecognized user / authenticating / imperator secundus atlanti recognized / access granted / system startup / running remote system check /
Compared to Atlantis, the interface seemed cold and lifeless, but it apparently had no problems with him. Evan shook his head and looked up at the main screen, which had activated and seemed to be running through a start up routine. A moment later a three-dimensional diagram of the planetary system appeared. Circling were several moons, including the one they were on, plus a small ring system. One object in particular was highlighted, popping up a window where it showed a structure stretched across a potato-shaped moon like a metallic spider
"What's that, some sort of moon base?" Zelenka didn't reply, too caught up in whatever he was reading. Evan grinned and sat back, waiting for him to find something worth mentioning.
Sure enough, a few minutes later Zelenka pushed his glasses up and peered at the screen. "Oh, now that is interesting."
Evan looked over. "What's up?"
Zelenka pressed a few buttons and the screen switched to a schematic of the station. "See there, in the center? Is some sort of storage and deployment system for a wire or tether, very large. I think much of the rest of insides are capacitors, transformers, and the like."
"A tether?" Evan said, frowning. "What kind of tether?"
"Some sort of nanotube, probably," Zelenka said with a shrug. "And I'd guess perhaps several thousand kilometers in length."
"Like a space elevator?" Evan couldn't quite think of what use that would be, given that the station was an such a small rock, and even then the Ancients had anti-gravity technology that made putting jumpers and ships in orbit child's' play. "Maybe they spool it into the planet's atmosphere to lift things out?"
"Hmm." Zelenka tapped controls and the screen zoomed in more, and he pointed at several labels. "Naquadah-laced, too, so it'd be an extraordinarily good superconductor."
"Oh. Oh, I get it," Evan breathed. Even though he 'only' had a masters in civil engineering, he'd taken more than enough electrical engineering and physics courses to start thinking of implications. "It's a generator, isn't it? You trawl a big conductive tether through the planet's magnetosphere, and you get a hell of a current."
"Trading momentum in exchange, precisely," Zelenka replied, grinning broadly and clearly glad that Evan understood. "This station has engines, too. I think it latches onto a moon, deploys the tether, and once it starts to fall from orbit it moves on to the next. Very elegant."
It was essentially the same principal as every electric generator on Earth, just a million time larger, but Evan was puzzled. "Why go to the trouble, though, when they have naquadah generators or ZPMs?"
"Well, it's renewable, for one. We've seen Ancient facilities that use geothermal power." Zelenka pushed his glasses up a bit, looking a bit bemused himself. "It's not in a terribly useful location, I must admit, but the Ancients weren't always practical."
That was certainly true. Evan wouldn't put it past them to build the thing just because they could. "Is it even functional?"
"Quite possibly. I'll need to study the diagnostics it's running in more detail, but I don't think it should be too hard to bring it online." Zelenka shrugged, and a bit disgruntled, he added, "Assuming we can find the resources and time, of course. We're still behind on repairs."
Evan nodded sympathetically. "Well, if we can find out what it's for, maybe you can justify the -"
Evan's radio chirped and a second later he heard a breathless Palmer say, "Sir, you're not going to believe what we found."
"What is it, lieutenant?" Evan sighed and stood up, while Zelenka unplugged his computer. Experience had taught them both that excited marines who had 'found something' could be talking about anything from a high-tech weapon to an alien booze cache to something that was 'cuddly and harmless, sir, can we keep it?"
"It's a ZPM, sir." Evan felt his chest seize up at the word. Given their constant lack of power, even a minimally charged ZPM would make things go a lot smoother at home. "We're in a storage room, not too far from you. Take a left at the transporter then another left at the end."
"We'll be right there." Evan practically bounced as he looked at Zelenka, who was grinning like mad, and as they started to briskly walk through the facility he said, "If you tell me this thing's some sort of giant battery charger, I might have to hug you."
"Please don't, major" Zelenka replied, holding up his hands as if to ward him off. "But yes, very good possibility."
They were turning the first corner when Evan slowed, looked around to check that they were still alone, and in a carefully casual tone said, "You know..."
"It might be best if we underplay just how operational this place is." Zelenka shot him a look, and he explained, "Just so we don't get hopes up back on Earth. We'd never hear the end of it if this doesn't really do what we think."
Zelenka seemed to get the point, and smiled slyly. "Yes, yes. Very much the case. We can compare notes before submitting reports." The scientist chuckled. "Although, you are assuming we live through McKay and Sheppard finding out we beat them to this."
"Come on, doc," Evan said with a laugh of his own. "What's the colonel going to do, throw me off the control tower?"