NOTES: Thank you, everyone, who left reviews or favorited other stories in this series. I'm so happy y'all are enjoying these stories. :)

Events in this story rely heavily on what happened in Part 6 of this series, Gauntlet. (And to a lesser extent, Part 4 Mark of a Warrior.) If you haven't read those yet, you really should read them first, especially Gauntlet. Otherwise, a lot of what happens in this story will be very confusing.

This story takes place between The Eye and The Defiant One.

I may have mentioned to a few of you Sergeant Thompson would have a much larger presence in this story if everything went to plan. Yeah. Things didn't go to plan. Have no fear, however, the idea is still there and will be used in another story.

Special thanks to Lyn for all of the beta help!

UPDATE November 2022: This is the latest story to get some updated attention. As with previous stories, there is nothing drastically different, plotwise. However, there was a lot of passive exposition in this one. Those bits have been reworked to make them more active. There's also been some general clean-up of grammar and typos.

Rodney groaned as an incessant beeping woke him.

"Not already," he muttered and turned his head enough to glare at the alarm clock on his desk. He squinted at the clock and groaned again.

Four am.

Rodney gave passing thought to throwing the clock out the window, but instead, he slowly crawled out of bed and shut it off. He scrubbed his hands over his face in a vain attempt to wake up and stumbled into the bathroom.

"Who's idea was it to have a meeting at five in the morning?" he grumbled as he peeled off the uniform shirt and trousers he had slept in and stepped into the shower. "Oh, that's right. It was you," he chastised himself and let the spray assault the back of his neck and shoulders.

With the exploration of the city, visiting new planets with Sheppard, and the near-constant tweaks needed to keep a ten-thousand-year-old city functioning, Rodney decided once again there just weren't enough hours in the day.

"Just imagine how bad it would be if you were still on a twenty-four-hour day instead of twenty-eight," he reminded himself as he found the bar of soap and quickly washed and rinsed.

Over the course of several months, everyone in the expedition had adjusted to the change, but an early morning meeting was still an early morning meeting.

Especially when you're up half the night trying to get plans finalising for upgrading the power grid, Rodney grumbled to himself and turned off the water.

Standing in front of the mirror, Rodney caught a glimpse of his right arm as he shaved. Beckett had removed the last of the bandages a few days ago, but Rodney still couldn't bring himself to look at the scars.

"These are healing nicely," Carson said as he removed the last of the bandages and examined Rodney's arm.

Rodney grunted and refused to look at the thin red lines tracing up his arm. A permanent reminder of what he, no, Kolya, he reminded himself, had done.

Carson tapped Rodney on the shoulder. "The scars will fade with time," he said as if reading Rodney's mind.

"I hope so," Rodney said to his reflection. "Getting tired of wearing long sleeves all the time."

He dressed and beelined for the mess hall and a cup of much-needed coffee before heading down to the science labs.

"All right, let's hear what you have," Rodney said as he walked into the conference room and sat at one end of the long table.

Corrigan and Jenson traded a startled look, then Corrigan nodded and handed Rodney a file.

Rodney flipped through the file on M4J-772 as Corrigan and Jenson explained their hypothesis that the ruins held an underground complex that warranted further study.

"The complex was clearly the site of cultural as well as scientific achievement for the people living on the planet before the Wraith came to dominate the galaxy," Corrigan said with an eager glance at Rodney.

Rodney closed the file and sat with his arms crossed, trying to keep his growing annoyance under control as he glanced from Corrigan to Jenson.

"And?" he asked impatiently once it was clear Corrigan was finished.

Corrigan frowned. "And?" he parroted with a puzzled frown. "I don't …"

"The site is a chance to study how people living in the Pegasus galaxy thousands of years ago worked and lived, their systems of government, how they -" Jenson jumped in, but Rodney held up a hand, stopping her mid-word.

"Was this an Ancient settlement?"

"Umm, no," Corrigan replied, confused. "As I said before -"

"So," Rodney interrupted again, "there's no chance of finding a Zed-PM, or Ancient research, or any information on how to defeat the Wraith at this site. Is that right?"

"We can't just focus on that one thing -" Corrigan tried to explain, but Rodney refused to let him continue.

"If we want to survive here, then yes, we can," Rodney told him forcefully and stood to leave. "Unless you can show a reason tied to our ability to survive in this galaxy, your request for further exploration of M4J-772 is denied. Move on to the next site survey."

"But, Doctor McKay! Wait!" Corrigan called, but Rodney was already out the door, no longer listening.

That was worth getting up at dawn? Rodney wondered, shaking his head as he went back to his lab.

He mentally turned up the lights as he entered his lab and glanced at his watch. Still a couple of hours until breakfast, Rodney realised with a mental groan. May as well try to get some work done.

Rodney turned on the light over the desk, sat down, and sorted through the files and papers that had accumulated over the last few weeks.

Even without the need for grants, committee oversight, or peer-reviewed publication, it still amazed him how much paperwork the science half of the expedition generated. There were the work rotations needed to keep the city functioning. Then there were the research projects to approve or, as was more often the case, deny. Reports on completed research needed to be read and signed off on. Hazardous experiments needed to be carefully reviewed, and safe areas set up where they could be performed. And then there were the areas flooded during the storm last month that still needed to be surveyed and cleared.

Rodney rubbed his eyes as he finished another report and glanced at the clock in the corner of his computer. He did the calculation for Atlantean time and shook his head when he realised he was late for the team breakfast.

"It's all Corrigan's fault," he muttered as he hurried out of the lab.

John, Teyla, and Ford were already seated at a table near the windows when Rodney arrived in the mess hall. He saw John watching him, and Rodney nodded as he headed for the food line.

"Morning," he greeted as he sat next to Sheppard. He noticed the others were mostly done eating but sipped from cups or glasses, obviously waiting for him to join them.

"Good morning, Doctor McKay," Teyla said, setting down her cup.

"Hey, Doc," Ford added with a smile.

"As I was saying," John said with a glance at Rodney, "we may have a mission. Elizabeth told me about a planet Grodin found in the Ancient database -"

"He did?" Rodney asked, looking up from his plate. "Why am I only hearing about this now?"

"I don't know, Rodney," John replied. "Maybe you need to read the reports your science teams give you."

Rodney thought about the stack of unread files on his desk and scowled at Sheppard.

"Anyway," John continued, ignoring Rodney, "Grodin sent a MALP to P2J-338. The preliminary images show what looks like an abandoned town. If the rest of the data looks good, we'll head out tomorrow or the next day."

"Make it the next day," Rodney said, setting down his coffee cup. "We're starting on the power upgrades tomorrow."

"Upgrades?" Ford asked, glancing around the room. "Everything seems to be working. Why mess with it?"

Rodney glowered at Ford and shook his head. "Trust me, Lieutenant, just because it's working now doesn't mean it will stay that way. When we arrived, we jury-rigged the generators into the city's systems to get critical systems working as soon as possible. Now that we can sit down and look at things without the threat of the city flooding, the Wraith attacking, or our friendly Genii making another appearance, we can work on setting the system up correctly. Hopefully, that will put an end to all of the grid issues we've been having. Maybe even open up new areas of the city for exploration and possibly habitation."

"This could be important," John countered. "Most of the buildings look to be intact."

"So's this," Rodney retorted. "If we can get these upgrades done, we'll have a stable power grid which will make all of our lives, never mind our possible survival, better."

"And these upgrades can be done in a day?" John asked, skepticism clear in his tone.

"Are you kidding?" Rodney snorted. "It's going to take days, maybe even weeks, to get this done. I need to be here to ensure everything is going as we expect. After that, I can leave them alone with it for a few hours to check out a planet."

John frowned, then nodded. "All right, I'll talk to Elizabeth about waiting an extra day." He looked over at Rodney and added, "Just one day. After that, we need to go."

"Fine," Rodney said and went back to his reconstituted eggs.

"I spoke to Halling yesterday," Teyla said a few minutes later. When she didn't continue, Rodney glanced at her. "Several of the parents in the village would like to speak to you, Doctor McKay," she told him, and Rodney felt a jolt in his stomach.

"Umm, why?" he asked. He glanced at John and tried not to look guilty.

Why would parents want to talk to him? he wondered.

He did his best to avoid children and hadn't been to the mainland since their trip right after the storm. Rodney absently rubbed his arm at the reminder of Kolya's attempted coup. He saw John watching him, let go of his arm, and picked up his coffee cup.

Teyla shook her head and smiled. "It seems Jinto and the other boys are neglecting their chores and staying up too late due to the telegraph machines they built during our last visit."

John laughed, and Ford grinned.

Rodney scowled. How was this his fault? he wondered as the others shared in the joke.

"I told you so," John added as he looked at Rodney. "It's the noise. My parents couldn't stand the constant clacking as David and I sent messages back and forth to each other."

Teyla nodded. "These parents would seem to agree, Major."

Rodney ignored the humor as he looked at his watch and hurried through the rest of his breakfast.

"Hot date?" John asked as Rodney gulped the last of his coffee and stood.

Rodney shook his head. "Meeting with the head of the Earth Sciences team … we really need to think of a new name for them." He paused for a moment, lost in thought, then looked back at John. "Kavanagh and the chemists want access to some rock samples the geologists say they still need for their research. I may actually have to agree with Kavanagh about something. It won't be pleasant."

"Do not forget we have a lesson today," Teyla said as Rodney picked up his tray.

"Lesson. Right." Rodney frowned.

"No, you aren't ditching it," John told him before Rodney could say anything. "You've missed too many lately."

"Fine," Rodney said with a huff. "I'll be there." He cleared his dishes and trash and then returned to the science labs.

Rodney heard Kavanagh and Volkov yelling at each other as soon as the transporter opened on the section with the geology lab.

"This is ridiculous," Kavanagh sneered. "You've had the samples for weeks. If you haven't learned anything else by now, you aren't going to."

"Unlike you, I prefer to conduct my research in a responsible manner," Volkov countered. "Tell me, have you managed to repair all of the damage caused by your last series of experiments?"

"That was not my fault!"

"So you say."

Several people in the hallways gave the open door a wide berth and disgruntled looks, and Rodney clenched his jaw.

"You two do know you sound like a couple of kids fighting on a playground, right?" Rodney growled as he walked into the room. Both men stood on opposite sides of a work table, with a sample case on the table between them.

"Good, you're finally here," Kavanagh sneered in reply. "Now, kindly explain to Doctor Volkov that I need these samples." Kavanagh grabbed the sample box and scooted it a few centimeters toward his side of the table.

"These samples are priceless," Volkov retorted and pulled the case back to the center of the table. "It's not as if we can easily go back to P9X-565 and get more."

"And if you want to know anything of value," Kavanagh countered, "we have to analyse them with the mass spectrometer." He tried to reclaim the box, but Volkov refused to let go of the case.

"You break them down, and we have nothing left to study or confirm your results," Volkov snapped as the tug-of-war for the case continued.

"Oh, enough, the pair of you," Rodney said in disgust. "Volkov, give Kavanagh the samples. We need to know the chemical composition before we can do anything else."

Kavanagh smirked, and Volkov glowered, but Volkov let go of the sample case.

"Thank you," Kavanagh said sarcastically.

"Do not use all of the material," Rodney ordered. "Volkov is right. It won't do us any good to know what you figure out if there's nothing left afterwards."

"I know how to do my job. Unlike some people," Kavanagh replied snidely as he cradled the case with the precious vials in his hands.

Rodney didn't bite on the obvious attempt to bait him and left the lab in disgust. No wonder the military half of the expedition thought so little of the scientists, he thought. Rodney scratched absently at his right arm and returned to his lab. He wanted to read Grodin's report on P2J-338 before his defence lesson with Teyla.

Two hours later, he stood on a workout mat, his hands held awkwardly in front of him as Teyla showed him how to block various punches.

"You must keep your balance centered," she told him as she knocked him back several paces. "If you do not, your opponent will control the engagement, and you will not have sufficient power in your attack."

Rodney sighed as he moved back into position. Teyla had been telling him the same thing for months. He could understand the physics of what she was saying, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't manage to get his body to do what she described.

He waited for Teyla to attack again and, this time, managed to block almost half of her hits before she knocked him off balance again.

"That was … better," Teyla said. "Now, you try to attack me. Remember to use all of your upper body, not just your arms and shoulders."

Rodney really hated this part of the lesson. He'd been taught from a very young age not to hit girls. But when he'd tried to explain that to Teyla, she had just rolled her eyes and kicked his feet out from under him. Intellectually, Rodney knew Teyla was more than capable of fending off whatever attack he attempted, but it still made him feel uncomfortable.

He ducked his head for a moment, then put his hands back up and went through the series of drills Teyla had been patiently teaching him over the last few months. Teyla made him repeat the sequence of punches and counterpunches several times before she called an end to the lesson.

"You are doing much better, Doctor McKay," she told him as he rubbed a towel over his sweaty face.

Rodney didn't believe her but smiled gamely as they headed for the door.

"I will see you at the same time the day after tomorrow?" Teyla asked as they left the workout room. "Assuming, of course, we are not visiting the planet Major Sheppard mentioned at breakfast."

"Day after tomorrow," Rodney replied resignedly as he headed back to his quarters to shower again.

After a hurried lunch, Rodney was back at work in his lab, reviewing all the reports for rerouting the power systems for the upgrades. He stuffed the schematics, the list of final duty assignments, and the routing plan for the crew section they planned to work on first into a folder and hurried back to the conference room on the other side of the science section.

"We'll take the system down piece by piece and reroute the power through here and here." Rodney pointed to the graphic on the screen behind him as he wrapped up the meeting three hours later. "That should increase the efficiency by at least twenty percent."

"And then we can open up more areas of city," Zelenka added.

"Well, yes, obviously," Rodney replied sarcastically. "Once we know the system is stable."

"Yes, yes, but once we know that -"

"Then we can open up more of the city," Rodney agreed. "Maybe find some living quarters that have more space. I could go for something with a balcony," he mused with a faraway look before focusing on the men and women in front of him again. "So, I'll let Elizabeth know we're ready to go. She can alert everyone to expect power outages and take whatever steps are necessary. Is the infirmary and control room set up with temporary generators?"

Zelenka nodded. "Yes, Grodin and Beckett know what to expect."

"Fine. We can get started in the morning."

Rodney watched as the scientists stood, gathered computers and notes, and filed out of the conference room. He glanced at his watch, picked up the file with the rerouting information, and headed for Elizabeth's office.

He knocked on the open door and entered without waiting for her to acknowledge him.

"Rodney," Elizabeth greeted as she looked up from her computer. "Something you needed?"

"No. I'm here to update you on the power systems." Rodney dropped the file on her desk and sat in one of the chairs. "We're set to start making the changes in the morning," he added.

Elizabeth closed her computer, pushed it to one side, and picked up the folder.

Rodney sat in his chair and tried not to fidget as Weir paged through the file. "How long do you estimate each city section will be without power?" she asked, still flipping pages in the folder.

"It depends," Rodney replied. "We're going to start in a non-critical area, one of the lesser populated sections of crew quarters and see what we're dealing with."

"You don't know what the system looks like?" Weir asked with a startled frown as she closed the folder. "Everything seems to be working well enough at the moment. If you need more time -"

Rodney grimaced and tried to keep his impatience under control.

"More time isn't going to matter," he replied. "We know how we have the naquadah generators hooked into the Ancient systems. We have a good idea of how those Ancient systems are interconnected to share power." He picked up the file. "But until we actually start tearing one apart, no, we don't know if there are secondary systems that will need to be shut down or if the reroute will still supply enough power to an area. That's why we're starting with crew quarters and not, say, the stargate. Once we get one section done, the others should go faster."

"But you think this power rerouting will work?"

Rodney could tell Elizabeth was still skeptical of his plan, even though his department had been working on the idea for weeks. He tried to keep his growing frustration out of his voice as he explained, again, why they needed to get the project moving.

"Yes. If we can get the systems wired more efficiently, we open up the possibility of better defences in case, oh, say, there's another monster storm or the Wraith come calling. We may be able to open up some new areas of the city, as well. Abrams and some of the others have been doing some research into the outlying areas of the city. There are some interesting buildings out there that might hold some useful technology."

Elizabeth frowned, and Rodney realised he must not have masked his frustration as well as he'd hoped.

"This is important, Elizabeth," he tried again. "We need to get this done before these power glitches turn into something catastrophic."

"All right," Elizabeth said and sat back in her chair. "I'll send out information to everyone to prepare for power outages of indeterminate length."

"Good," Rodney said shortly and stood to leave.

"Rodney?" Elizabeth's call stopped him before he reached the door.

He turned around, his mind already working on alternative scenarios in case they ran into any snags.

"You are aware Major Sheppard has a mission planned for the day after tomorrow? Will you have enough of this rerouting done by then?"

Rodney rubbed a hand over his face. "As I told Sheppard this morning, if we get enough done tomorrow, it shouldn't be a problem taking a day to investigate the planet."

Weir nodded, and Rodney left the office, glancing at his watch.

"Plenty of time to start on the analysis of those objects Tsao brought back from the north pier before dinner," Rodney said to himself and headed back to his lab.

He had one of the larger devices in pieces and was studying its inner workings to figure out what it did when John came into the lab carrying a tray with two plates and two cups of coffee.

"You missed dinner," John said as he set the tray on Rodney's desk.

Rodney looked up from the mass of crystals and wiring in front of him and glanced at his watch. Somehow several hours had gone by while he'd worked on the mysterious device.

"Oh," Rodney said. He put down a screwdriver and scooted his stool over to the desk. "Thanks." He picked up one of the plates on the tray.

"You're welcome," John replied as he sat in the desk chair and took the other plate. "What's so fascinating it could make you miss a meal, anyway?"

Rodney glanced at the work table. "Tsao's team found another cache." He pointed at the work table with his fork. "It looks like the room they found was used as some sort of design lab. Those devices look like prototypes."

"Prototypes of what?"

"All sorts of things," Rodney said and swallowed some coffee. He rolled back to the work table and picked up a small box with a pronged holder in the middle. "I'm hoping this might be some sort of recharger for the personal shield device." He turned the box over in his hands before putting it on the table. "Not sure yet, though."

He pushed himself back to the desk. "One of the others," he waved a hand at the domed glass object sitting on the shelf behind the work table, "could be a sort of recording device. There seems to be some sort of input access in the base. If I can get it to work, it might have information on the others. Notes, plans, that sort of thing."

John nodded as he finished his dinner. "Got time to play the computer game tonight?"

Rodney grinned behind his coffee cup. "You sure you want to? My settlement was on the verge of a major breakthrough the last time we played."

John scoffed. "Your settlement is so resource-poor, all I need to do is outwait you. Your people will come crawling to mine just to eat."

Rodney humphed and put his plate back on the tray. "We'll just have to wait to find out. I can't tonight. I have to get everything set up for the power grid work tomorrow."

"Just don't forget to sleep at some point," John admonished gently as he gathered up the dishes and the tray.

Rodney nodded as John left the lab. He hadn't meant to spend so much time on the Ancient devices. He was behind on what he needed to do for the power project the next day and pulled up the schematics for the area where they were starting the next morning and ran one last check of all the systems.

~*~*~*~ SGA ~*~*~*~

Rodney hurried into the mess hall the next morning, grabbing a cup of coffee and his usual eggs and toast before heading over to the rest of the team. He stifled a yawn as he sat down next to John.

"Morning," he mumbled to the others and started to wolf down his breakfast.

"Did you sleep at all last night?" John asked quietly.

Rodney glanced up at him. "A few hours. I found an odd power fluctuation in the section where we're starting the power upgrades. Had to run it down and make sure it wasn't going to cause any problems."

He felt John's steady look and glared back. "What?"

Rodney swallowed half of his coffee and hoped the caffeine kicked in soon. He wanted to get at least three sections of the rerouting done today.

"Nothing," John said with a sigh. He waited a beat, then changed the subject. "Grodin contacted the MALP on P2J-338 an hour ago. For once, it looks like the 'gate is in the town instead of out in the middle of nowhere. No indications of life signs, and the town looks abandoned. Assuming nothing happens to the MALP today, we have a go for tomorrow." John paused and glanced at Rodney. "Assuming Rodney's science project goes to plan."

"I can fix it so you're reading by candlelight," Rodney threatened casually as he ate.

"And I can make running laps part of your daily routine," John replied with a smirk.

Rodney glared at John's smirk but said nothing as he continued to eat.

"Do we know who lived there?" Ford asked.

"I do not know of many places where a stargate is situated in the middle of a town or village," Teyla said. "It is not safe to build near the stargates."

"So this might be a place that dates back to the Ancients?" Ford asked, and his eyes widened. "Like an Ancient city?"

Teyla shrugged. "I would need to see the images to be certain, but it is possible. The Ancestors would not have had the same fears concerning the Wraith that we do today. They would have had defences near the stargate if they were attacked."

"You don't say," John drawled, and Rodney saw his eyes light up.

"It is possible," Teyla replied, seemingly oblivious to Sheppard's eagerness.

"In that case, Rodney, you better get a move on," John said. "P2J-338 just got a lot more interesting."

Rodney finished his coffee with a nod. "I'll see you guys later," he said as he cleared his tray and left the mess hall.

Rodney entered his lab and found Zelenka, Tsao, Kusanagi, and a few others waiting for him.

"Tsao, you and Kusanagi take your teams and start in generator room three. Be ready to go with the new cables once the crew section is powered down," Rodney ordered as he gathered his tools. "I'll take Wagner and start shutting down the transformers. Once we have the section offline, we can start rerouting the conduits. If all goes to plan, we should have the section done in a couple of hours."

"Were you able to determine what caused the fluctuations last night?" Zelenka asked him as everyone stood to leave.

Rodney shrugged. "Probably something left over from the surge last month," he replied. "I adjusted some of the levels, and it seemed to work. That's why we're doing this. So we don't have to keep tweaking the grid."

"True," Radek agreed as they left the lab. "I will set up in the control room with Peter to monitor the power levels," he added and headed for the nearest transporter.

"Come on." Rodney waved at Wagner to follow him toward the transporter at the other end of the corridor.

Rodney exited the transporter and looked around the deserted crew section. The area had been used by the Athosians, and there were still a few candles or bits of fabric decorating the hallways. Once the Athosians had moved to the mainland, some of the Marines had moved into the section. Rodney glanced inside an open door and saw a shelf of books along one wall and a game table surrounded by chairs in the middle of the room.

"Rodney," Zelenka called over the radio a few minutes later. "We are ready to cut the power in the crew section."

"Go ahead," Rodney ordered.

The lights winked out, and Rodney clicked on his flashlight. The section was completely dark except where light from the stained-glass windows filtered through the halls.

"Looks like we found all of the emergency fail-safes," Rodney reported as he and Wagner walked down one hallway. "No emergency lighting is on."

"Confirmed," Radek replied. "The section is completely powered down."

Rodney led the way through the quiet crew section, the beams from their large flashlights dancing along the wall. He stopped at a junction and pulled his laptop out of his pack. He balanced the computer on top of one of the water bubblers and brought up a map of the crew section.

"There are four maintenance rooms in this section," Rodney said, waving his flashlight down the hall in one direction and then the other. "One there." He highlighted the door halfway down the hall with the flashlight. "Another, in that direction." He jerked his head toward the hallway to his left. "And two more on the other side."

He caught Wagner's eye-roll but chose to ignore it for the moment.

"You take the close room," he ordered Wagner. "I'll get the other one. If you start getting any strange readings, stop what you're doing and come find me."

"Yeah, I know," Wagner said impatiently and started down the hall to the maintenance room.

Rodney heard Wagner muttering but chose not to listen as he packed up the computer and headed down the opposite hallway, looking for the second maintenance room.

He walked into the second maintenance room a few minutes later and waved the flashlight around the room. A transparent central pillar of crystals dominated the middle of the room. As far as the expedition could tell, the column acted as a transformer for the section. A control panel sat in front of the column while cables went from the top of the pillar into the ceiling.

Rodney set his flashlight on the end of the console and took a step back when he thought he saw some of the crystals in the pillar glowing. He double-checked the console, then looked back up at the column.

Was it a reflection from the flashlight? he wondered, watching the crystals inside the column.

Rodney tapped his earpiece. "McKay to Zelenka."


Rodney eyed the crystals and said, "Are you getting any odd readings from the number two west maintenance room?"

"There was a strange anomaly for just a brief moment," Radek reported. "There is nothing there now." He paused, and Rodney heard him ask Grodin a question off the radio. "Tsao confirms generator three is completely offline," Zelenka said a moment later. "It should be safe to proceed."

"Oh, your confidence is so reassuring," Rodney replied with all the sarcasm he could muster.

Rodney waved the flashlight beam up and down the column and glared at the crystals. The pillar remained dark, and after another suspicious look, Rodney set the flashlight on the console and set to work. He shrugged off the backpack, pulled out the laptop, and hooked his computer into the console. He verified the console was powered down, then started disconnecting the old cable from the transformer, keeping half an ear on the conversation by Tsao's team as they rewired the naquadah generator.

Twenty minutes later, he was done disconnecting the transformer and called Zelenka back. "The first transformer is ready," he reported as he left the maintenance room.

"Mine is done, too," Wagner added.

"Confirmed. Both transformers read as offline," Zelenka replied. "Once you have the transformers on the other side of section disconnected, we should be ready to run the new cables."

"You heard the man, Wagner. Let's get to the other side of the section." Rodney led the way around the dim crew section and pointed out the third room to Wagner. He watched as Wagner dismantled the old cables for the transformer, then headed for the last maintenance room.

"Rodney?" Zelenka called over the radio. "Are you doing anything with the transformer in the east three maintenance room?"

Rodney stopped outside the door for the last maintenance room. "No. I'm not even in the room yet. Why?"

"The anomaly is back," Radek said. "You are sure the problem last night was fixed?"

Rodney shook his head. "It wasn't anything major," he said as he reached for the maintenance room door control. "There was a fluctuation in the power levels, nothing we haven't seen a hundred times since we got here. That's why we're doing all this work."

"Yes, yes, I know, but …"

Rodney sighed and rubbed his head as he triggered the door to open. As soon as he stepped into the room, he knew he was in trouble. Unlike the transformer in the other room, this one pulsed as the crystals in the column glowed and faded.

"Rodney!" Zelenka yelled over the comm. "There is a huge spike occurring."

"Yeah, thanks, I got that," Rodney snapped as he hurried to the console in front of the transformer. "I thought you said the power was shut down in this section! Where's the excess coming from?"

"I don't know," Zelenka replied.

Rodney tore off the backpack and yanked out his computer. He plugged the laptop into the console and started a diagnostic.

"Not good. Not good," he muttered, double-checking the data. "But where is it coming from?"

He heard Radek and Grodin talking to other technicians as they searched for the cause of the spike but ignored the chatter as more data filled the computer screen.

"It's more than a spike," Rodney said over the radio with surprising calm. "We've got something down here drawing a huge amount of power from generator two, and it's all getting routed through this transformer. It's nearing an overload."

"Rodney, you need to get out of there," Radek said, and Rodney heard the worry and fear in Zelenka's voice.

Rodney grimaced and started typing commands into the computer. If he didn't get the power shut down before the transformer blew, the question of what was drawing so much energy would be moot.

"I can't do that, and you know it," Rodney snapped, glancing up at the transformer as the pulsing increased. "I have to get some of this excess energy bled off, or when it goes, the explosion could take out this whole section of the tower."

Rodney's hands flew over the console as he tried to reroute power back through already overstressed systems.

"Doctor McKay? What's happening?" Wagner called from the doorway.

"Get out of here," Rodney ordered. He glanced up and saw Wagner standing just inside the maintenance room doorway. "Go! I've got this."

Rodney turned back to the transformer as an ominous buzzing sound started, and the pulsing suddenly stopped, plunging the room back into darkness. The buzzing increased, and Rodney glanced at the transformer and swallowed.

He had done what he could, but he suspected it wouldn't be nearly enough. The buzzing changed to a high-pitched whine. Rodney took a stumbling step toward the door, but in the back of his mind, he knew it was too late.

The transformer blew a moment later in a brilliant burst of light. Rodney tried to protect his face, but he felt heat searing his skin and then his body slammed against something hard, and he lost consciousness.