Disclaimer: I do not own SGA nor do I make any profit from this story. It is for fan reading pleasure only.
SPOILER ALERT: 38 Minutes
Lessons in Leadership
By Kerr AvonLesson One: Plan for the Worst Case Scenario
"You heard me! As a scientist, and obviously the most intelligent of the group, I should be in charge." McKay defiantly crossed his arms over his chest to add emphasis to his latest declaration. "After all, I'm the reason we're here; if it weren't for my expertise, none of you would even know what to look for." The superiority positively dripped from his voice.
Ford, holding back his annoyance by the barest of threads, snorted. "All Gate-teams are commanded by military personnel. It only makes sense." Despite the discussion, his eyes stayed glued to the cockpit monitors as he scrutinized the nuances of Major Sheppard's piloting style. Small details could make the difference between life and death if their "hotshot" pilot was incapacitated, and the Lieutenant was determined to pick up as many pointers as possible. Teyla and the two young enlisted men assigned to the mission were wisely staying out of the conversation and sat quietly on the side benches of the Jumper, listening.
The team's resident genius was exasperated. "And how exactly does that 'make sense'?" he demanded.
Ford opened his mouth to reply, but Sheppard decided it was time to intervene. "As team leader, you are responsible not only for your own life, but the lives and actions of those you command." His eyes were likewise fixed forward as he estimated their landing trajectory near the old ruins. "It would leave you precious little time to investigate and study any technology we find, which is, as you so graciously pointed out, the reason we're here." His hands flew deftly with a natural grace over the alien controls as he slowed their descent and scanned the area visually for hostiles. No matter what his instruments told him, he trusted his own eyes more.
"Oh come on; how hard can it be?" Rodney grunted scornfully. "We're all adults, and quite able to take care of ourselves. 'Team Leader' is just an excuse to boss everyone else around."
The corner of Sheppard's mouth quirked in a knowing smile as an idea began to form. "Right....that's why all line officers have to take years of training before they're given a Command." Rodney clearly didn't understand the difficulties of leadership and could use a little education. This planet appeared deserted and the mission as bread-and-butter routine as they came: check out the ruins of the Ancient city for any useful technology and better yet, find a charged Zero-Point Module. He'd never have a better or safer opportunity for instruction. "OK, then." He drawled contemplatively, "From here on out, for the rest of this mission, you're in charge."
McKay threw up his hands, "Finally someone understands my point."
Teyla and Ford turned surprised faces towards the Major, until he raised a hand and continued, "Conditionally." He ticked the points off on his fingers. "First, as we go along, I'll give you advice on the art of command, that I expect you to actually listen to..."
"Oh, come now...is that really necessary?" McKay interrupted in a smug tone, subtly rolling his eyes.
"If you want to be mission leader today, that is condition number one. And second, if we really encounter trouble, command automatically reverts to me. Agreed?"
With poor grace, McKay muttered, "Fine, whatever".
As Sheppard began to land their craft, McKay decided to exercise his new-found authority and jumped up to stand at his shoulder. "Why don't we set down over there?" he pointed imperiously to a spot much closer to the center of the ruins than the one Sheppard had chosen. "If we land there, we'll save the half a kilometer hike to reach the city. Not to mention the shorter distance we'll have to haul anything we find back."
"OK, lesson one: always plan for the worst case scenario." He pointed to the area Rodney had indicated. "Admittedly, that is a good landing site; it's flat, unobstructed, and near the area we want to investigate." McKay looked self-satisfied with the assessment.
"However," he continued, "It's too vulnerable. It is low-lying, with several taller piles of rubble nearby that could afford cover to potential enemy attackers. It is easily approachable from all sides, and would be difficult for two men to defend alone. Additionally, it has the disadvantage of being near our objective, thus revealing both our goal and the locale of the landing party to any observer."
Sheppard then indicated the area where he was setting down the Jumper. "This spot is more remote; no one would know where we went unless they followed us. It is on high ground, allowing a wide view of the surrounding land so no one can sneak up unobserved. Finally, with the cliff at our back, two men can guard the ship and only have their front to worry about in the case of a hostile attack."
Rodney was suddenly apprehensive, "I thought this planet was deserted? There aren't any Wraith here?" His self-assuredness had seemingly vanished.
"That's the point." The Major spoke patiently as he made last minute adjustments of the landing controls. "We think that the planet is deserted. That is not the same as knowing that the planet is deserted. And, as one of our erstwhile trading partners was quick to point out, when a habitable planet is deserted, there is usually a good reason. Until we know what that is, we plan for the worst case scenario." On his last word, the craft gently touched down.
To the physicist's credit, he took the information in stride, nodding as he processed the information given. Sheppard was pleasantly surprised; he had expected some face-saving posturing. He also noted that Ford seemed to be listening with rapt attention as well; maybe there were side benefits. He rose along with Ford, McKay, and Teyla to gather their gear, leaving the two young non-coms to protect the ship.
An hour later, McKay was feeling increasingly vindicated about his original landing site decision. While no hostiles had been sighted, the terrain had proven more difficult to traverse than they had expected, and the hike was grueling. "My feet hurt" he muttered under his breath as he sat on the edge of a fragmented wall, slung down his pack, and proceeded to take off his boots. It seemed that they just kept encountering more and more debris from fallen buildings and fractured pavement. 'Humph. You'd think the Ancients would have built better than this.' He was busily massaging his right foot when someone cleared their throat. Glancing up, he saw the three other team members standing, packs in place, staring at him. Remembering that he was 'in charge', he nonchalantly waved his hand as he ordered, "Take five, everybody."
Sheppard smirked as he helped Teyla with her pack, then shrugged out of his own. "Thanks for remembering us, Team-Leader," he commented as he took a swig from his canteen. The whole group was becoming dehydrated as the day had turned hotter than predicted, and the walk really had been strenuous. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he glanced first at Ford, then Teyla, to make certain that they were drinking plenty of water as well, then allowed his gaze to rest on Rodney again. "So, where to from here, boss?"
The scientist pulled out his scanner from one of his multitudinous pockets and began to slowly survey their surroundings. Pointing to his left, he replied, "I'm getting some low level power readings from that direction; I can't tell for sure because of the rubble, but it's a start." He looked around expectantly. "Shall we go?"
Sheppard put away his canteen and stood, brushing the dust off his trousers. "Sure, boss, whatever you say." He smiled without derision this time; except for this latest slip, McKay hadn't been doing too badly. He seemed to have shifted slightly outside his normal egocentric reality and was actually paying some attention to the rest of the team for a change. Hefting his pack, he noted everyone else shouldering theirs as well. 'Not too bad at all,' he thought. 'We may have to try this again sometime.' It beat listening to the man whine, anyway.
They trekked through increasingly thick piles of brush and debris until they reached a nearly-intact three-story structure. As McKay reached for the door, he was irritated to discover his hand's progress halted a mere inches from the handle by the Major's. His gaze flew from the hand to Sheppard's face. "What?!"
"Have you considered the possibility of booby-traps?" Sheppard stared at him unblinkingly.
"Worst case scenario, again?" McKay withdrew his hand quickly.
Sheppard tilted his head and grinned at McKay's quick grasp of his 'first rule'. "Let's check it out, shall we?"
A careful examination of the door revealed no untoward surprises, and it was soon deemed safe enough to open. The four eased slowly into the dark entrance, allowing their eyes to adjust to the decreased light level. A low rumble from what they assumed was long-unused machinery shook the floor, and dust trickled down on them from above. After a few seconds the shuddering stopped, but the dust took longer to settle. It could be seen in the air as the ambient lighting fixtures seemed to recognize the presence of living creatures and, like in Atlantis, began turning on.
The interior was magnificent. The ceilings were at least 12 feet above floor level, and reflected the glow emitted from the light panels to increase the illumination (without increasing the energy output). The main room had the same arching architecture that they had become accustomed to in their new home, but the floorspace was filled with row upon row of waist-high lab tables, mostly covered with mechanical components or electronic debris. McKay was in Nirvana. All thoughts of 'being boss' flew out of his head as he studied the room.
"This has got to be a research lab!" he crowed in delight. "Just look at all the equipment." He fingered a nearby device speculatively. The whole group looked up as the floor shook briefly again.
Sheppard shot him a wry grin. "Careful; I think it heard you."
"Buildings don't have ears," McKay replied disdainfully. He turned his attention to deciphering the function of one of the more complex objects immediately at hand, and was quickly lost.
His fascinated contemplation was interrupted by the sound of someone clearing his throat. Glancing up in irritation, he snapped, "What now?"
The Major was amused. "What are your orders for us, Team-leader?" The three non-scientists were still standing in the center of the room.
Rodney was temporarily nonplussed. 'Oh, right. Didn't Ford say something about this?' "Uh...why don't you...umm...go check the place out?" He waved dismissively toward the door at the far end of the main hall.
Sheppard looked askance. "All of us, or do you want someone to stay here and watch your back while you examine your doohickeys?"
McKay glanced down at the instrument in his hands, then irritatedly back at Sheppard. 'Worst case scenario again, huh? Still, I'd hate to have a Wraith sneak up on me!' His natural arrogance reasserted itself as he issued orders. "Alright, Teyla, you'll stay here to guard; Ford, you go with Major Sheppard to scout out the rest of the installation."
John nodded, then jerked his head at the Lieutenant. "Come on, Ford. Let's see what else is here." As they turned to leave, Sheppard creased his brow, then returned to where Rodney had gone back to his study. "McKay, why don't you hand me that detector; I'll scan the building for power sources as we go. Who knows, maybe we'll find a ZPM."
McKay, still engrossed, nodded his head absently and fished the device out of his pocket, handing it over without comment. The Major grinned at his single-mindedness, then shook his head as he returned to where Aiden was waiting. Teyla watched the two men depart, then spent a few minutes observing their self-proclaimed genius tinker and mutter to himself. Bored, she decided to make sure the hall was secure, and began to do her own exploration. She carefully circumnavigated the main chamber, taking in the details of her surroundings. The astrophysicist was truly in a world of his own; she was glad Sheppard cautioned him post a guard. With her people, Rodney's type would soon dead if not looked after. She noticed the sporadic rubble on the floor, and wondered where it had come from. Squatting down, she picked up a piece of the rough stone and examined it. Smooth on one side, but rough and almost fibrous on the other, it was clearly artificial. Running her hand along the smoother surface, she was reminded of the walls back on base. On instinct, she stood and inspected the nearby casement. Sure enough, the material was identical. Staring closely at the surface, she discovered a number of fine lines that ran together, forming larger and larger crevasses, until she found the area where the chunk had fallen away. 'Was this what happened as the material aged?'
"Doctor McKay..." she began.
"Hmmmm...?" He was still engrossed in his study.
"Why do the walls have lines?"
"Hmmmm...?" He was clearly not listening.
"Lines...cracks...where pieces have fallen to the floor." Teyla tried to clarify her question.
Rodney's head came up, and his eyes fixed intently on her face. "What do you mean by 'cracks'?" A familiar feeling of dread washed over him. "Show me!"
Sheppard and Ford had found a number of similar but smaller rooms behind the main hall that appeared to be storerooms. Each would start to glow as they entered, revealing lines of shelves fastened to the wall with firmly-strapped packing crates securely holding everything in place. Sheppard's radio crackled to life; "Major, can you hear me?" McKay's obviously concerned voice floated up to them.
"Maybe he's found something useful." Sheppard was hopeful. They had seen quite a bit of miscellaneous equipment, but he couldn't tell a weapon from a toaster. Definitely no ZPMs, charged or not. He keyed his mike, "Yeah, what've you got?"
"Look at a wall; what do you see?"
John stared at his radio in confusion, then shrugged his shoulders and did as the scientist asked. "Lots of storage shelves."
"No, no, no. Look at the actual wall!" frustration was evident in Rodney's tone.
Sheppard got within a few inches of the surface, then ran his fingertips over it. His own eyes widened as he replied, "It seems to be covered with cracks, with some chinks missing here and there." He examined the areas where the shelves were attached; many of the fasteners were either missing or loose. Finding an even more decrepit section, he observed, "There even seem to be several fairly large breaks in some segments, and several of the shelves have come loose from their tie-downs."
McKay held his radio to his chest as his eyes flew back and forth; he was thinking furiously. He didn't speak until Sheppard's voice interrupted him; "McKay, why do I have a bad feeling about this?"