An hour later, Elizabeth wondered if John'd had the right idea. Right now, there was something incredibly appealing with burying oneself in a task and not coming up for air for a few hours.
The problem was, everyone kept looking to her to assign them someplace.
First, it had been Rodney and Zelenka going back and forth on the radiation readings and the effect they would have on the ZPM. About the time Rodney had suggested where Zelenka could try looking for the as-yet-unrecalled data from the explosion -- using not-so-vague terms about certain orifices and lines of parentage -- Elizabeth realized she really needed to just let them work, all of their inquiries to the contrary. They might have come to her, but she ended up walking away.
Neither had so much as looked up from the computer console. Five minutes later, they had ducked into one of the side offices and shut a door. A minute or two later, Carson contemplated her seriously, and then hurried out of the room with some mumbling about cataloguing the Wraith enzyme.
Quelling a spasm of jealousy, she'd settled back into her chair, only to have Colonel Caldwell call next, demanding Major Sheppard's radio frequency. Apparently the first few times trying to find the good Major had resulting in nothing but dead air, and the colonel had thought his data banks had been scrambled by the EMP. When she had given him the override code and explained the situation, the colonel had sworn softly, then barked out something about chain of command and signed off abruptly.
She hadn't heard anything yet in response to that. it was entirely possible the Major had taken whatever the Colonel had wanted in good grace. Elizabeth rubbed her eyes and let a slow smile creep across her face. Then again, knowing the mood he was in and his flair for hammering at the chain of command...
At least it was quiet now -- even if she couldn't dig a hole and climb into it at the moment.
"Elizabeth!" Rodney's voice rang out from the floor below, heavy with exasperation and annoyance. She scrambled to her feet and went to the railing.
What she saw completely fell out of her range of comprehension. Rodney, Carson and Zelenka were standing on the deck, each surrounded by a small complement of Marines from the Daedalus. None of them had their weapons drawn, but none of them looked particularly willing to let either doctor move more than a few feet - illustrated when Carson moved forward and was immediately surrounded yet again.
He rolled his eyes and glared up at her.
"This is bloody well intolerable!" Carson's voice bled impatience. "I d'na know wha the Major thought he would accomplish, or if he even bothered to use his brain, but ye nay goin' to get me--"
"Carson!" Elizabeth used the same kindergarten teacher tone she usually reserved for Rodney, and the stream of words from Carson came to a halt. Which was just as well, as the angrier he appeared to get, the deeper the brogue became. However, at the moment, she'd be confused even if Carson was making any sense at all.
Elizabeth turned to Rodney, wondering if he'd be of any help. Questioning him with her eyes, she felt a spark of alarm when he rocked back on his heels, crossed his arms and smirked.
"It appears Major Sheppard has decided that Carson, Zelenka and myself, along with the rest of the scientific staff, need a military escort." A slight edge of sarcasm slipped into his voice. "For our own protection, apparently. Personally, I think someone should have his paranoia checked out--" He stopped and shot a look at Carson, who rolled his eyes "--but that's outside my field. Sorry."
Carson spoke up again.
"And ye know damned well it's Heitmeyer that'd have a thing or two to say about that, so dinnae give me that tripe, ye--" Carson's voice trailed off, and he stared at Rodney suspiciously. "And why aren't ye complaining, Rodney?"
"Well, I should think that was obvious." A look of superiority crossed Rodney's face. "There could possibly still be a few wraith hidden in the city, or what if they decide to suddenly return? And don't forget about the Ge'nii. I don't suppose anyone's bothered to wonder if they're going to come pay a visit and see how their nuclear weapons panned out, or--"
Zelenka, up until this point quiet, snorted.
"In other words...jak se to udržuje?" Zelenka stopped and smirked. "Je vylekaný."
Rodney glared at him blankly.
"Is scared, Rodney. Are frightened for life. Exhibiting signs of--"
McKay huffed, and smirked back in irritation.
"Oh, sure, you make fun of it. You weren't running through the city with--"
"Yes, yes, with Wraith warrior trying to feed on blood."
Elizabeth bit back a groan.
"Gentlemen, I'm sure Major Sheppard has a reason for this added caution." Though at this point, Elizabeth wasn't making any bets. The absurdity of assigning an escort to the scientific staff was clear even to her.
She gestured at the Marines.
"Whoever's in charge?" One of the men, a sergeant, stepped forward, and she nodded. "Why don't you come up here and explain the Major's orders to me?" The young man, looking increasingly uncomfortable, gave a single nod and came up the stairs.
When he reached her, he went to snap a quick salute before he appeared to remember she wasn't part of the military. He stared at his hand for a moment, looking at it like it was a foreign object, and then looked up at her.
"Ma'am, I'm sorry." His voice shook, and it was barely above a whisper. "Colonel Caldwell told the troops from the Daedalus to report to Major Sheppard for assignment. It took a little while to find him, and when we did, he--" The sergeant swallowed hard before continuing. "He suggested something anatomically impossible involving our weapons and certain parts of our body."
Elizabeth coughed slightly, trying to cover the light snicker that had rippled up her throat.
The sergeant, who couldn't have been more than 20, continued.
"When we told him that the Colonel had given us specific instructions not to leave until we had his orders, he told us to locate every member of the research staff, and assign two of us to each and every member." A slight note of exasperation crept into his voice. "Ma'am, I don't know if you're aware of how many personnel there are on the research staff, but so far we're coming up short on men -- and cooperation. And pardon my saying so, but in spite of what Dr. Beckett said to the contrary, it doesn't appear like this was meant as a joke."
Any impulse Elizabeth had to laugh disappeared. She had no doubt the Major was serious. Before the Wraith had shown up in the city, he might have done this just to annoy Rodney, and she would have silently cheered him on. But to single out each of the research staff, including the ones he was actually getting along with?
She let out a soft sigh.
"Sergeant, you have your orders for the moment, but feel free to take your time." She nodded towards the console. "You can use the city's sensors to track down where everyone is. I'm sure Dr. Zelenka will be glad to help."
She started to walk away, but the sergeant grabbed her arm.
"Ma'am, what are you doing?" His already nervous face tightened another notch. "I mean, where do you intend to go?"
Elizabeth screwed up her eyebrows in puzzlement.
"I'm going to go find the Major, unless you can think of a reason not to."
The sergeant called down for a Private Valaquez, and Elizabeth had a sinking feeling she knew what was coming next.
"No, ma'am, not at all." The sergeant almost squirmed in his shoes, and Elizabeth found herself caught between wanting to laugh and wanting to scream in frustration. "But I'm afraid Private Valaquez and myself will have to escort you there.
"We're your security escort, and Major Sheppard gave us specific orders not to let you out of our sight."