SEASON: Sometime during the 1st Season - probably before "The Brotherhood"
MAJOR CHARACTERS: McKay, Zelenka, Ford, Sheppard and Teyla
DISCLAIMERS: The characters, Atlantis, etc, all belong to MGM, Gecko, Showtime, the Sci-Fi Channel. I own nothing.
NOTE: As always, I don't know much about SG stuff... and science and medicine. Sorry if I got it all wrong. I don't know any Czech, although I'm half Czech. Mom wasn't any help. Forgive me if some of that isn't right.
SUMMARY: Rodney and Zelenka investigate an Ancient structure which unfortunately collapses on them. It isn't the only thing to collapse.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Thanks Tipper and Sable Cain for your comments, corrections, and support. And if you're looking for someone to blame, my favorite target is Tipper... but I suppose I should remember that when one points their finger at someone, three fingers point back at oneself. That, of course, is a load of crap.
SPOILERS: small one for the Defiant One

MISCONSTRUED - Part I - by NotTasha


Doctor Rodney McKay was annoyed -- annoyed by the tight quarters they were working in, annoyed by the lack of progress, annoyed the conclusions drawn by his analysis, and annoyed with analyses drawn by others. Dr. Merritt annoyed him – being too damn excited about this site, too enthusiastic about what he 'thought' he'd found, too young and full-of-himself and buoyant. Merritt's scientists annoyed him by always backing up their superior. They seemed to forget that McKay was above Merritt. Zelenka annoyed him by being pleasant and acting as a go-between to calm down both sides. Ford annoyed him by leaving the underground facility to stand guard outside. Sheppard annoyed him most of all by not being anywhere on the planet.

The Capilanos had finally agreed to open negotiations, so Sheppard and Teyla had been spirited off to a three-day 'get to know you' session with the touchy-feely people. It was only coincidence that Merritt had discovered this facility on P6M-301 at the same time that the Capilanos on P11-589 sent their invitation. The Major should be stuck in this mess along with me, McKay decided. Teyla? Well, she should be here, too. For some reason though, McKay wasn't quite as annoyed with the Athosian as he was with the others.

Along with Weir, Teyla had an incredible skill for negotiation. Weir, of course, was needed in Atlantis, so Teyla was the most logical choice to send. It was only right that Teyla was there instead of here. Perhaps McKay's acceptance of the situation had something more to do with the fact that she could break his arm with one of those whacking sticks if she got aggravated with him. He didn't want to tempt her.

So he spent his time being annoyed with everyone, especially himself. When Merritt announced his findings the day before – that he'd located a possible Zero Point Module manufacturing site – well, McKay had been elated! He couldn't wait to get there! He'd pressed Merritt, insisting that he be included in the team, insisted that Zelenka come, too. After all, Dr. McKay was the foremost authority on Ancient technology – and Zelenka wasn't half-bad himself. So, in the end, he had no one to blame but himself.

Yes, McKay was rather pissed off with himself.

Merritt had balked when McKay first announced his decision, coming up with excuses as to why the Canadian should stay away, insisting that McKay accompany the rest of his team to the Capilano home world, attend their little love-fest instead of coming to the ruins. Of course, McKay overruled him – but it didn't stop Merritt from going to Weir about it – telling her that it would be best to keep that team together.

In the end, Weir agreed with McKay. He shouldn't go to P11-589. Rodney wasn't always the most agreeable person when met with such painfully pleasant people. Negotiation with tree-huggers wasn't going to be his strong point. Besides, with the amount of trouble that McKay and Sheppard stirred up when together, perhaps it was a good idea to split them up.

It had been Weir's final decision to split the team – sending Teyla and Sheppard to talk about plants… Ford and McKay were to accompany the ZPM expedition, under advisement that this was Merritt's mission. Rodney was to behave.

Merritt's excited team left Atlantis on the same day that a morose Sheppard left to his little retreat. The Major had seemed rather put out about the whole thing, stating that he'd rather put a pointed stick through his eye than to sit around singing 'koom-ba-yas' with a bunch of granola eaters for three days. The phrasing had perplexed Teyla, but once the whole granola thing had been explained, her reply had been… "But is the granola not the reason we seek their partnership?"

Atlantis had been running low on food supplies, and a good trading partnership was critical, so Sheppard went off with Teyla on this mission of peace, while McKay went on this mission of pieces with Ford, Zelenka and Merritt's team.

So far, that was all they had found so far… pieces. The promising facility had proven to be empty and broken when they reached it. Where walls and ceilings had once been festooned with bright tile, floors and counter tops were now covered with chipped and broken ceramic. Floors and walls were cracked by some violence. Equipment had been cannibalized -- technology torn down to nubs. The place was gutted.

Still, they searched, for anything that would provide them with answers concerning how to construct ZPMs – vital knowledge. But so far, they'd found little of use. The team picked up the bits of broken tile, trying to assemble them into pictograms that might tell them all the secrets.

It was after about a half hour of searching that McKay came to the conclusion that there was no way in HELL anyone ever built a ZPM here.

When McKay expressed this fact to the team leader, Alvin Merritt, he'd gotten an amused expression in response, and the retort, "How would you know? Have you ever seen a ZPM manufacturing site?"

Well, no, but he'd imagined it – vividly. This place didn't fill the bill. Nothing here seemed capable of dealing with the containing of subspace-time.

And Merritt wouldn't listen to reason. No matter how McKay tried to corner the young scientist to convince him, Alvin Merritt would not back down from his beliefs. McKay tried to point out that Merritt simply wasn't paying attention, didn't know what he was talking about, wasn't even aware of the nose on his face. McKay might have used the word "simpleton" at some point.

Things didn't go very well after that. Merritt's team was decidedly aggravated. The group got snippy, and McKay snapped back.

Ford had stayed with the scientists for the first two hours as they searched through the rubble in the rooms. But, the young lieutenant soon tired of the bickering and joined the guard above ground, leaving the scientists below with Sgt. Moody, and Corporals Fairholm and Alava.

Zelenka was the only one in the group that seemed to be capable of standing being near McKay. Dr. Burnaby had taken Zelenka aside at one time, asking how in the hell the Czech put up with the Canadian. Radek had shrugged, and said philosophically, "One gets used to him. It only takes time."

The others, apparently, had no desire take that time, and left McKay alone with only Zelenka for company. And that's how it had been for the past two hours.

Radek picked up his pace as McKay let out a sigh and moved from the latest room under investigation and continued down a long hallway. "Dr. McKay," he called, catching up to the scientist. The Czech turned, looking back the way he'd come to see if anyone was nearby. Finding no one about, he asked in a quiet voice, "This is fruitless, isn't it?"

McKay grimaced. "There's nothing here!" he groused as he shone the light into another destroyed room. "If there had been anything here of use, it's long gone." Shaking his head, he stated, "Merritt should have known that from the moment he first laid eyes on the place. It's pointless! He makes up stories." Rodney pointed the light upward as he searched, noting an ornate archway in the hall.

Radek made a soft sound and commented, "This appears to be the last archway still in place."

"And what's up with that?" McKay asked. "What caused all this damage? We've taken readings and found no residual power signature. Not due to an explosion it would seem. Seismic activity perhaps?" McKay toed a crack that ran along the floor. "Seems possible."

With a shrug, Zelenka responded, "Yes, that seems most likely."

"No sign of recent activity," McKay added. Before Zelenka say anything else, he asked sharply, "So, what do you think of Merritt?"

With a sigh, Zelenka answered, "He is very enthusiastic."

"Enthusiastic?" McKay remarked as they continued along. "He's like one of those yippy dogs." With his free hand, he demonstrated what he meant with a, "Yip yip yip!"

Two of Merritt's team stepped into the hallway as he spoke, but McKay made no attempt to halt his comments. "Really," he went on. "He should get his facts straight before he goes touting them about as truth."

Doctors Burnaby and Powell gave Rodney a dark look as they passed in the corridor, but the Canadian chose to ignore it as he maneuvered around them. Zelenka gave the scientists an apologetic smile as he passed them. "He believes in his work," he tried.

"Did you read the report he presented to Dr. Weir?"

"Yes, of course," Zelenka replied. He paused, checking to see where Burnaby and Powell went – they turned into the next room throwing annoyed glances in their direction. Snatching off his glasses, Zelenka cleaned them on his shirt, saying, "He was…passionate about his cause."

"He lied," McKay pointed out. "He claimed evidence that doesn't exist. If I were to have fully believed his reports, I would have expected to walk in here, flip a switch, and 'ta-da'… instant ZPM."

Zelenka looked thoughtful as he rubbed at the lenses. " Maybe he … drew conclusions that were a little…"

"Outlandish? Overzealous? Over the top? Out in left field?"

"I was going to say, 'optimistic'"

"He has no idea. None whatsoever!" McKay directed the light into another room. They'd checked it earlier and found it less damaged than some of the others. The tile was still mostly in place, but aside from the alcoves along the wall, it was utterly featureless. "Just our luck," McKay muttered. "One room undamaged and not a bit of information to be found there."

"Do you think there's a reason that?" Zelenka asked.

With a snotty expression, McKay said, "Of course!" He puzzled a moment, as he tried to come up with an explanation. "But I can't come up with anything just yet. Give me time, though, and I'm certain to come up with something."

"I have no doubts," Zelenka responded. "Whether the explanation will prove correct or not is another matter."

Rodney responded with a harrumph, then continued, "If nothing else, we can use the space to store the trash from the other rooms." He made a face, looking like a child about to have a tantrum. "Oh! We'll be here for days! Sheppard will probably be back before we're even halfway through this mess." And he scowled in irritation. "And all for nothing."

With a shrug, Zelenka finished his cleaning and pushed the frames onto his nose. "We may yet discover something of interest," he declared, following McKay as he continued to the deepest part of the facility.

Rodney snorted, as he pointed the light into another room. "Yeah, and monkeys might fly out my…"

Zelenka waited a moment for the sentence to complete but, when McKay said nothing more, he turned his light into the room as well. "Ah," Radek stated as he noted the panel illuminated by McKay's light. "You were saying something about monkeys?" It looked plain enough to an untrained eye, but something had caught Rodney's attention – and with that, Radek became aware of what had enticed the man. "Monkeys flying from…."

"Quiet!" McKay growled. "Do you have any idea what this is?" He dove into the room, kicking away the broken tiles that covered the floor.

"A protective panel?" Radek tried. "Used to guard, perhaps a recessed Ancient device?"

McKay opened his mouth, as if to correct Zelenka, but then snapped it shut when he realized what the Czech had said. "Yes, it's a panel protecting a recessed Ancient device." He touched the smooth service carefully, feeling about for the secret to open it. "It has to be," he muttered.

"There has to be a release somewhere," McKay decided. Tired of fumbling with the flashlight, he turned it off and shoved it into his pocket, letting Zelenka's illuminate the area. "Somewhere," McKay said again running his fingers along the 'cookie sheet' sized panel.

"Hey!" a voice called from behind them. Zelenka turned, but Rodney didn't – too occupied with his current task to care. "You found something!" Alvin Merritt stepped into the room, looking as excited as a child at the circus. "Why didn't you report it?"

"Because we just located it," McKay snipped, "and haven't had a chance to properly investigate the finding."

"You should have called me immediately," Alvin told him. "Do I have to remind you again that this is my mission? You're just along to help out." And he smiled, lording in this position.

"Funny, you hadn't mentioned that before," McKay replied, looking thoroughly exasperated as Alvin squeezed is his way close and started messing about with the panel, too. The young scientist shoved McKay to the side with his hip. With a disgusted sigh, McKay stepped back and slung the pack from shoulder. As Merritt fiddled with the panel, McKay retrieved his scanner.

"This is fantastic!" Merritt said breathlessly. "I bet we find a hidden database here! Oh, imagine it! The instructions on how to build out own ZPMs! We'd have an endless energy source at our fingertips."

"Yes, well," McKay muttered, fiddling with his device. "I'm sure that's all it takes. Don't worry about finding the equipment needed to harness the vacuum energy derived from a self-contained region of sub-space time."

"This is going to show us how to build what we need," Merritt insisted. "Have some faith, McKay."

McKay looked unmoved. "Sure. One quick glance at a Betty Crocker recipe and we'll be popping out ZPMs like kolaches."

Radek laughed at the reference. "Kolá¼. If only," he said wistfully, remembering that special treat.

With a click of the tongue, McKay stated, "I show no power source."

"It's powered down, of course," Merritt told him snottily. "After all these years, even a ZPM manufacturing facility would run out of power." And he laughed, joyfully.

"Hmm," McKay responded, and added, "Somehow, I imagined this work would be done on an orbital platform. Not underground on some backwater planet."

"It's the perfect place," Merritt insisted, still fluttering his hands around the panel without success. "You just have no imagination."

McKay watched Merritt for a moment longer, wondering if he should say something. He glanced to Zelenka who had also stepped back, still holding a flashlight to the scene. Finally, with a sigh, McKay suggested. "Try pressing on the corners."

Merritt threw him an unpleasant expression, but tried what McKay suggested, and the panel snapped off. McKay gave Zelenka a self-satisfied grin, and the Czech could only respond with a shake of the head, knowing that the Canadian had scored another one.

Merritt stepped back, bumping into McKay as he looked in wonder at what was exposed to them.

"Obviously ancient technology," Alvin breathed out excitedly.

"Obviously," McKay snapped back, tired of everyone having to express 'the obvious'. As if any of them wouldn't have instantly recognized the origins of the mechanism. Recessed behind the panel, was some sort of control device: a dim monitor, buttons, a series of crystals.

With a gleeful expression, Merritt reached forward, running one finger along the embossed symbols. "It says that it's some sort of regulating system," Merritt stated, sweating with excitement. "Obviously used to adjust the speed at which the subspace/time region is accessed."

"Obviously?" McKay growled out, "Not so much. You're talking nonsense. This may have been used to regulate the humidity levels in the facility, or the water flow… or the septic system." He sighed. "In fact, it doesn't say anything about being a 'regulator system'… simply that this control regulates… something."

"Look," Merritt responded. "This data pad… this display. It has to be about powering ZPMs! It all makes sense. It was a device to control the access to —"

"You really aren't paying any attention to what I'm saying, are you?" McKay sniped back. "Because I am speaking quite distinctly. Do I need to slow down?" He looked to Zelenka for confirmation. "You can understand me, can't you?" When the Czech nodded thoughtfully in response, McKay continued, "See, even HE can comprehend and I'm not speaking in his native tongue. I can switch to French if that would help. Russian? I know speaking in Ancient won't work in your case."

"You're obnoxious," Alvin told McKay.

"Again," Rodney said with a sigh, "You're stating the obvious. Do you want to know what I think…?"

"It doesn't matter what you think," Merritt said in a clipped tone. "You're always trying to discredit me and my theories. I'm getting this out of here, bringing it back to Atlantis and prove to everyone that I know more than the great Dr. Rodney McKay, Genius." And he paused, reveling in the idea of what it would be like to bring back such a find, being the one to figure it out first! "I'll study it back in MY lab and be able to claim any distinctions that come from this."

Grumbling, McKay returned, "Take the distinctions. This probably is little more than a toilet flushing system."

Merritt wasn't paying any attention. "It looks like it should pull straight out. This'll be so easy."

"Nothing is easy, Merrick," Rodney responded with a sigh.

"My name's Merritt!" Alvin shot back, as he pulled off his own pack and retrieved some tools. "And, look, you can either help me with this, or I'll call in Burnaby or Powell to give me a hand." He gave Zelenka a pointed glance. "You, at least, have enough sense to see how important this is."

Zelenka shrugged, saying nothing.

"I agree that we might find some interesting information if we examine the device," McKay went on. "But it's not what you think it is."

"Let us agree," Zelenka tried, "That it is worthy of study…" and he looked between the two scientists for concurrence. "Agreeing to agree might be good."

Merritt shook his head. "Yeah, I'm not holding my breath," he commented. "Getting Dr. Rodney McKay to agree with anyone besides himself would be a monumental day in history!"

It was at that moment that a weird rumble sounded through the facility. For a moment, the three men stood stock-still, and then the ground began to roll beneath their feet. "Zemětřesení!" Radek shouted as the world shook.

A rumble sounded as the chipped, broken tile shattered and rained down on them, smashing to the floor. The walls creaked and split, the floor cracked, uplifting. Rodney, his eyes wide, dove toward the door. "Out!" he cried. At the doorway, he turned back to the others. "Come on," he ordered through gritted teeth. "Zelenka! Merritt! Now!"

From down the hallway, he could hear the clatter of scientists frantically fleeing. Corporals Alava and Fairholm worked at ushering them out. Moody, at the entrance was helping the scientists up the narrow, shaking staircase toward the safety of outdoors. Ford, above ground, was shouting down to Moody, trying to get him to hurry them.

Zelenka went immediately to the room's doorway with McKay behind him, but Merritt was leaned over the recess, prying at the device. "Merritt!" McKay shouted. "We're getting out now!" He stormed to the man, grabbing him fiercely by the arm as the room continued to pitch.

"Not without this!" Merritt argued. "We can't let this be destroyed!"

"We're not going to die over it!" McKay shot back, hunching his head into his shoulders

His face red, Merritt contended, "If it has ANY significance regarding ZPMs, it's worth the chance! I'm not leaving here without it! I, at least, can understand that some things are worth the risk!"

The ground hopped and leapt beneath them, as disconcerting as hell because the ground wasn't supposed to do something like that. The remaining tiles kept popping, shattering. The earthen blocks started to crumble. The place was going to pieces.

"You can't be serious," McKay returned, looking up fearfully. "This isn't worth it!"

"I'll die before I abandon it!" Merritt responded, glaring at McKay. "And, God help me, I won't let you stop me."

McKay tottered, turning toward the exit, then back to Merritt. Finally, with a groan of disgust, he ordered Zelenka, "Get out! Make sure everyone gets out." And he moved back to Merritt who was still working to free the Ancient technology from the wall before the whole place came down on them. "You don't know what the hell you're doing," McKay yelled at Merritt. "Press here! Look, if you keep doing that you'll break the damn thing!"

Zelenka didn't move, watching the others pry at the device, trying to force it from its hiding place. Radek flinched as a bit of tile caught him on the shoulder, letting out a startled "Ah!" and jumping back.

"Radek! NOW!" McKay demanded, not turning.

Zelenka turned, fleeing up the hallway, stopping at the first room and finding two of Merritt's people hastily trying to jam handfuls of tile into satchels as the room vibrated around them. Alava stood nearby, looking thoroughly disgusted as he gripped his P90 and watched the walls shake. "Get your asses out of here," he growled. "I swear, I'll drag you out by your freakin' hair if you don't start moving!"

"Spěchat!" Zelenka shouted, as he clung to the still shaking doorway. "Get out, now!"

"Yeah," Alava agreed. "Move your goddamn asses!"

The scientists seemed to realize this was good advice and they hoisted the bags to their shoulders. They stumbled toward the doorway with a relieved Alava behind them. The soldier looked as annoyed as hell when the pair of scientists came to a dead halt at the doorway, as the dust continued to come down.

"Dr. Merritt?" Burnaby asked frantically, "Did he get out?"

With a jerk of his head, Zelenka indicated the far room. "He is coming as soon as he frees the device," Radek explained, breathlessly. His eyes darted back to the room as he leaned against one wall. Another tile struck him and he jumped back. Quickly, he explained, "Dr. McKay found a device. Merritt must remove it before he can leave. They can not leave without it."

From further down the hall, they could hear McKay shouting, "What the hell do you think you're doing? Look, I told you to press there! If you bend the casing… forget it… I'll fix it later. Get it out, now! Damn it, you idiot, just pull it!"

The shaking quieted, the creaking and moaning faded, but the loose tiling continued to crack and fall, smashing to the floor around them. The rumble reduced and the world stilled. Within seconds, everything went back to normal, with almost an audible sigh.

They could hear McKay still, "Oh, thank God… thank God… it's over. Now, stop messing around and get the damn thing out of here."

Burnaby furrowed his brow and gave Powell a disquieted look. The two made a move to follow the voice.

"No!" Alava demanded, blocking their way as dust sifted down on them like snow. "Out… now! I'm not going to die here because of goddamn scientists in a snit."

At the exit, Ford shouted from above, "Dr. Zelenka, is everyone okay?"

"Yes, yes!" Zelenka responded. "We are coming out!"

"What's going on?" Ford called down. "Get them up here!"

Shaking his head, Zelenka said under his breath, "That's what I'm trying to do."

Alava gave Burnaby a shove toward the door. "Get moving!" he ordered.

"Radek!" McKay shouted from further in. "Get down here. Merritt's worthless! Ah! The idiot can't get his arms around it." And before Alava could stop him, Zelenka ran toward the back of the complex.

The room was full of filtering dust, and Zelenka coughed against it as the flashlight beam tried to cut through the heaviness. McKay and Merritt, working under the illumination of Merritt's flashlight on the floor, had managed to heave the microwave-sided device from its hole in the wall. Merritt was trying to hang onto it, while McKay, halfway in the hole, was working at detaching the wiring. Zelenka reached Merritt in time to save the man from dropping it.

"I got it!" Merritt crowed happily, his hair coated in dust, making him look old beyond his years. "Oh, God, this is tremendous! This is the answer to everything I've searched for! Atlantis will come alive due to my findings."

"Right, right," McKay grumbled, "It's all you." He straightened and shook his head. "It's free. Now let's get the hell out of here! Before another earthquake hits."

McKay looked terrified, ready to bolt, but Merritt looked as happy as a pig in slops. "We can't leave now!" he demanded. "This is just the start! Think of what else we can find! The earthquake is over. I'm going to keep looking."

Annoyed, McKay grabbed hold of the device, wrenched it away from Merritt, and shoved it toward Zelenka. The thing was more awkward than heavy, and Radek managed to handle it without much difficulty, even keeping a grip on his flashlight that shone rather feebly from its new position beneath the device.

"We're leaving… now!" McKay growled, giving Merritt a shove toward the door.

"We're staying until we rescue all the technology!" Merritt shot back. "This is only the first! Certainly there is more to find."

McKay decided, "The thing would have been safe if we just left it in the wall! We're getting out," and he shoved Merritt again, pressing him through the doorway and into the hall.

"Oh, you can't do that," Merritt griped, trying to get around the Canadian, but McKay shoved him again, hard, forcing him up the hallway and toward the light.

"Doctor McKay?" Ford's voice sounded through the hallway. "You need me to come in there?"

Frustrated, tired and still terrified, McKay shouted, "We're coming out! As soon as I can get this moron to listen to me!"

Merritt bridled against the abuse, and tried to fight against him, but McKay was determined and had gotten some momentum going. Rodney kept up the pressure, forcing Merritt along the hallway toward the door with Zelenka behind him, hefting the device and illumining their path. At the end of the long hallway, Sgt. Moody waited, looking impatient.

"Why doesn't he come down and help us?" McKay muttered. "He's a soldier. He could carry the device if nothing else!"

"But the research! The technology!" Merritt kept up. "We can't abandon it!"

"Earthquakes tend to kill people," McKay commented.

"We're not going to die," Merritt declared.

With a frustrated sigh, McKay uttered, "Have I ever mentioned how much I hate certain death."

"All the time." Shaking his head, Merritt declared, "Look, it's already stopped. We're safe! It's over."

"There could be an aftershock," McKay insisted, continuing to hustle Merritt up the hallway.

Groaning, Merritt asked, "Why do you have to be such a goddamn coward all the time?"

McKay continued, ignoring the statement, "We should have just left it in the wall. We'd be out of here and it would probably still be intact. You know, some people never learn…" he scowled at Merritt's back. "… always listen to Rodney McKay, because Rodney McKay is always right."

Behind him, Zelenka, struggling with the device intoned, "That's not always correct. There have been times when—"

"Zelenka!" McKay groaned, turning to meet his accuser. "I really don't need that right now."

"I just wanted to clarify the point," Zelenka returned.

Merritt, freed, dusted angrily at his sleeves, and took a step toward McKay to give him a taste of his own medicine. McKay groaned, seeing Merritt's determined look, and he wished the soldier at the end of the hall would help them. And the shaking began again.

Panicked, McKay turned, grabbed hold of Merritt and propelled him toward the door. The man, facing McKay, was forced to stumble backward. "Get out!" Rodney shouted, his eyes wide with panic. "Now, dammit!"

Merritt back-stepped, trying to catch his balance on the churning wall.

It was at that moment that the last existing archway in the facility came down in a thudding, crashing cascade of rock, directly over Alvin Merritt's head.

"Alvin!" McKay shouted, shoving one hand toward the man and jerking it out of the way as the heavy stone rained down. Alvin had only a moment to look frightened, and to pointlessly throw his arms over his head.

Horrifyingly, the falling rocks smashed the man to the floor, turning tender flesh into pulp, shattering what had once been a man. "Oh God… oh God…" Rodney sputtered, as the ceiling continued to fall, all along the hallway. He had only an instant to catch sight of the solider coming toward them – and the man disappeared in the dust and the rubble.

The Czech kept his gaze where Merritt had fallen. Zelenka could say nothing, panting with his terror, still clutching the clumsy device to his chest, with one hand awkwardly holding onto their only light source.

Merritt…and the solider…gone? The world still shook. He hardly realized that McKay had latched onto him and was pulling him backward.

"Come on!" Rodney called as the rumbling continued, as the ceiling continued to come down. All around them, huge chunks of bricks were falling.

Zelenka stumbled where Rodney propelled him. The heavy dust coated his glasses, blinding him. He could only hold onto the device and trust that McKay knew what to do.

TBC - yeah, they're all shook up