Spoilers: 38 minutes but keep in mind this is an AU too!
Thanks to Fanwoman for betaing this. :)
38 minutes to save them. Wait, like he says now it's 35, even less. Times turning. The seconds slip away as she organises the troops. Only the people who are helping are scientists, not used to life or death situations, and if she'll admit it, neither is she.
28 minutes. She's never been that mathematical, but she wonders just how long they have. As the moments slip past, she becomes obsessed with their counting --just 1680 seconds now. The minutes seem so long, silent for the most part, set along with lies. Pretending everything is fine, that intelligence combined can solve anything, even this. But as has been said, they've only so much time, a sure deadline until certain death.
She finds Dr. Zelenka working away in the jumper bay, and she can't help but smile when he tells her very politely to be quiet, to go away. At least he has some idea, giving her hope. It's just a shame he and McKay aren't working together, one here, one there, who knows how redundant some of the tests might be – both attempting the same, wasting precious time. But there's so little time. They each get on with it, and she prays someone will find a solution, being glad the top minds are in the briefing room brainstorming, discussing ardently. Returning, she finds them arguing, and her heart skips a beat at Kavanagh's suggestion, swallowing her fear and backing up Simpson, because they can't give up on the team, no matter what.
Such a small amount of time in which to find a solution, and she just can't deal with Halling's concerns adequately when he approaches with a band of Athosians behind. Her patience is tested as she tries to explain, her voice raised. Finally at his last interruption she breaks, tells him she won't send the message to her team, won't tell people she considers friends that they've no hope – because she can't handle that herself.
Of course she should have seen that people wouldn't accept this, Halling not being the only one, nor the most adamant, and here is her challenger in her face, not backing down whatever she says. Kavanagh flinches at her barely vieled warning to drop the issue. He simply shakes it off in disbelief and then takes another step forward, towering over her, playing games despite that people's lives are at stake. That's when she makes her choice and Sergeant Bates and a few others arrive to take him away. She sighs, hoping she was right to confine him to quarters. Instead, she leaves Grodin and Simpson in charge of the group. 22 minutes.
Zelenka calls in with a result and hope flashes in everyone's eyes, they're onto something. She expects joy, but what she gets is Rodney's voice meek in reply, a subtle tension as he calls her name and voices the exact concern Kavanaugh had raised earlier. It's a risk but one she accepts. Her decisions are made, all that's left is to wait.
15 minutes. Waiting gets them nowhere good, gets them into a worse situation. The ship has slid in further, instant death now, just as promised. The young lieutenant is still hopeful though, repeating his words to Rodney as if he can make them true. And as far as she can gather, it works, and they keep at it, all doing their best to make headway.
They deal with Major Sheppard as the minutes go by, until eventually their only option is to send him through the event horizon with Teyla. A small part of her is glad because things aren't looking good, and at least that's a painless way to go. Mindless too, without the pressure and fear of these last 7 minutes – the panic she hears in Rodney's voice as he tells her it's hopeless five minutes later. She wants to help, to make it all better. They can't die, she won't let that be, and yet her suggestions only antagonise him. What does she know about it? He's the genius, and he thinks there's no chance. The one thing that keeps her breath steady and heart beat under control is that he tends toward pessimism, and she knows there's at least some chance, and that he's exaggerating it all. She can't blame him, but she wishes he'd realise it might well work out okay.
And she smiles when he's proven wrong, the glee of his exclamation over the radio as he reports the pods are retracted.
And they still wait. Her ecstatic smile faltering because something's wrong, nothing's coming through the gate.
One minute now. They know what's wrong – lacking inertia – but what can they do? She glances to the briefing room and runs there, a demanding look on her face. They have to know what to do, someone has to have the answer. But their faces are guilty, nothing forthcoming. She turns back to the control center, watching Peter's sad face and looking beyond to the shimmering wormhole of the gate.
45 seconds. They can all hear McKay racking his brains, talking outloud, and then he gets it – blow the rear hatch. She hears a scuffle as Ford argues with him about who should do it, but it seems as they hear, there is no time to argue and Rodney, McKay, is the one left on that side. He calls out, voice rough as he moves about hastly, a few words before he pulls the hatch.
"If this doesn't work..." he mumbles over the channel, everyone listening.
She hushes him, "There's no time, just do what you have to, Rodney."
"See you on the other side," he says before the radio is overcome with a curious rushing sound of the air escaping the compartment.
There's so little time left, cutting it so close. She made her decisions and hopes they're right. The well-being of the base, of her friends, depends on that. If anything happened to, them she'd regret it for the rest of her life.
One second. The countdown ends as they see the ship emerge, the wormhole closing just as it is nearly though. A 38 minute deadline, and all they needed was a fraction of a second more – the end of the jumper cut off, vital systems not completely reconstructed.
She said she'd regret it for the rest of her life if anything happened, and she does. But it turns out that's not very long at all, and his last words 'see you on the other side' are possibly accurate in more way than one. If the solution had been carried out just that bit earlier, this wouldn't be the result – the low rapidly climaxing hum of the engines as they overload. The last thing any of the crowd in the control room sees is the explosion, the light in the room changing violently from watery blue to a painful fiery red. The sound of the explosion could be heard from the mainland, a noise that jolts the senses enough that they come to find the sore sight of Atlantis, its main spire a torch on the horizon.