Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate Atlantis or any of its characters. I am simply borrowing them for a while.

Chapter One

Sheppard and McKay trudged tiredly down the corridor, each carrying several cases of equipment. They had been trying to walk side by side, but they were both beginning to lose their grip on one or more pieces of cargo and their collective array of baggage had spread out considerably. As their step got off sync with one another, some cases began knocking together. Both men were becoming annoyed as their efforts to rectify the situation proved fruitless. Sheppard finally came to a dead stop and threw all his cases on the floor.

"McKay, what the heck did you do, bring the whole lab? Why didn't you tell me you were bringing all this crap? We could have gotten someone to help carry this stuff. And where's Zelenka? Why can't he carry something? It would help if you would at least walk in a straight line. You weave almost as much when you walk as when you drive. You should come with a warning label." Sheppard was almost panting between the exertion of the past thirty minutes and his outraged tirade.

"Watch it, that's sensitive equipment," McKay cried, his face getting red in anger. "You can't just throw that stuff on the floor. You might damage it. It's not like we can run down to the corner 'science equipment is us' store and replace it, you know." McKay very gently set his cases down and began examining the materials Sheppard had loudly deposited on the floor.

The tension seemed to ease out of Sheppard as he stretched and began kneading the aching musces in his neck and shoulders. He sighed as he watched McKay tend to the equipement like the proverbial mother hen. "Look McKay," he said sheepishly, "I'm sorry about that. I guess I'm just tired. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that . . . or dropped your equipment so . . . hard."

McKay looked up, ready to go another round with the major until he saw the truly pitiful expression on his face. He felt the anger begin to subside. "Well, I guess it's okay. Nothing seems to be broken." He stood up and began gathering his cases together. "Weir was right, you have perfected the wounded puppy dog look."

Sheppard grinned innocently. "I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Yeah, right," McKay muttered to himself.

Sheppard began gathering his cases. "So how much farther is this fabulous lab you and Zelenka discovered?"

McKay looked around to get his bearings. "Actually, we're almost there. It's right up here," he said, pointing to an area several doors down. They began walking, this time single file. "I should probably warn you, nothing seems to work. We can't even get the doors to open. There's always a chance it was a waste of time to drag you down here."

Sheppard's mouth dropped open a couple of inches. "And you're telling me this now?" He thought briefly about killing McKay where he stood, but dismissed the idea when he realized he'd have to carry all this equipment back by himself. "How do you know this place has cool stuff if you can't even get the door open?"

McKay rolled his eyes. "I didn't say we couldn't get it open at all, we just couldn't get it to open automatically. We pried it open with a crowbar," he said grinning proudly.

"So much for advanced technology," muttered Sheppard.

McKay stopped and deposited his load on the floor. Sheppard followed suit. "Okay, this is it. Let me dig in this bag to find the crowbar and I'll have it open in a . . ." McKay heard the sound of the door sliding open. Sheppard, standing right next to the opening, peeked in.

"I thought you said the door didn't work," he said, trying to hide a smile.

McKay sighed. "It figures." He looked up to see Sheppard go military with his P90 held steady and pointing forward. He took one slow step into the room, eyes sweeping the room for movement. As his foot hit the floor just inside the door, the lights immediately came on. Sheppard paused, blinking against the sudden change in light intensity.

"Lights work, too."

"Thanks, Captain Obvious," sneered McKay. "What ever would we do without you?"

Sheppard put his gun down and smiled, satisfied that nothing evil lurked in the lab. "My guess is stumble around in the dark with a crowbar." With that, he walked into the lab and began looking around.

McKay began shoving cases into the lab. Life was so unfair. Why couldn't he have the Ancient gene? There was so much he could do with it. And he would have the proper respect and appreciation for it. Sheppard bounced between being proud he could activate things no one else could and being aggravated at being treated like a 'lab rat', as he put it. The man had no respect for what was important. If he couldn't fly it, shoot it, or blow it up, he wasn't interested. "Are you going to help me get this stuff in here or go window shopping? And don't touch anything!"

"Aw, keep your shirt on, McKay! I'm coming. I thought the whole reason you brought me down here was to touch stuff." Sheppard began hauling cases in from the hallway.

"Yes, yes, but only what I tell you to touch and when I tell you to touch it. This can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing."

Sheppard looked at McKay, a twinkle in his eye. "So when did you say Zelenka is going to get here?"

"Ha! Ha! A soldier and a comedian. I'll try to contain my laughter. I happen to know what I'm doing. And Zelenka should be here any minute . . . if he didn't get lost. Sometimes I wonder why we brought him."

"I heard that, Rodney," said Zelenka as he entered the room with a couple more cases of equipment. He looked around the room, somewhat suprised. "You got the lights on?" McKay just sighed again as Sheppard grinned.

Thirty minutes later, McKay and Zelenka were almost finished setting up equipment. They were currently huddled over a console in the center of one side of the room, arguing over the best way to hook everything up. Sheppard paced around the room nervously. He had examined every nook and cranny at least three times and he was really starting to get bored. It was a large room with several complicated consoles down three of the four walls. The only bare wall was the one with the door. Each console had a complex array of buttons and plates. Most of them were the same size and looked very similar, except for the center console the two scientists were working on now.

Sheppard leaned his back against the wall and rubbed his eyes as he yawned. He hadn't slept well in several nights and it was beginning to catch up to him. Every time he closed his eyes, he either replayed events he wished he could have changed or worried about various aspects of their current situation. He could really use a nap. "McKay, when you guys get done with all your setting up and arguing, give me a holler. I think I'm going to close my eyes for a minute. I'm operating on about two hours of sleep and you guys are boring me into a coma."

"You don't have time for a nap," said McKay. "We're ready. Come over here and let's put your Ancient gene to work. Itmight as well do something since the rest of you has been pretty useless up until now."

Sheppard put on his best 'I'm hurt' expression and replied, "Hey, at least I got the door open and the lights on."

"Just get over here! Now I'm getting bored," said McKay.

Sheppard strode over to the console andplaced his P90 on an empty table next to it. He sat down in the chair situated in front of the center part of the controls. The floor panel under the chair began to glow with a blue light. "Cool," he whispered.

McKay and Zelenka looked at one another. They had stepped on that same panel at least a dozen times each in the past half hour, but nothing unusual had happened until now. McKay rubbed his hands together in anticipation, This was going to be good. "Okay, major, I think you put your hands there and then . . .I guess . . .just . . .think it on."

Sheppard noticed what looked like two hand print depressions on the console. They looked almost familiar. They looked like the depressions he had put his hands in on the planet Dagan when they were searching for a ZPM. The poor schmuck who put his hands into those same depressions right before him had been killed. He glanced nervously up at McKay. "Uh, . . .are you sure this is . . . safe?"

"Positive," replied McKay without hesitation. "Well, at least . . . I mean this is nothing like the ones on Dagan. This is in Atlantis, for heaven's sake. There's no need to protect anything. I'm sure it's perfectly safe." McKay nodded, having convinced himself, if not Major Sheppard.

Sheppard still looked uncertain, but turned his attention back to the handprints. "Okay, here goes." He raised his hands, McKay almost drooling to see what happened next. Then he paused and turned to the two scientists. "Maybe you guys better step back."

McKay thought a minute and then nodded, "That might not be a bad idea Radek. We don't actually know what this thing does." The two men stepped back a couple of steps.

Sheppard just stared at the men for a second. He shook his head in wonder and then turned back to the console. Raising his hands again, he slowly placed them in the handprint depressions. He was relieved when nothing grabbed his wrists or stabbed him in the hand. As he began to relax, the console began to hum.

McKay and Zelenka were aware of the humming noise building in the console. McKay's heart began to beat wildly in anticipation of what would come next. He lived for this stuff. The blue light being emitted from the panel under Sheppard's chair suddenly reached up and took Sheppard in completely. McKay thought he heard him whisper, "Cool,". That didn't seem bad.

Suddenly, the blue light flickered, as if it was going out. Just as suddenly, the intensity flashed twice as bright as it had been in the beginning. McKay and Zelenka could no longer see Sheppard, just the bright, blinding light. The hum had also grown in intensity and McKay realized Zelenka was trying to shout something to him. He leaned closer, yelling, "What?"

"Is the major okay?" shouted Zelenka.

"I don't know. I can't see him." Just as McKay finished answering, the blue light seemed to withdraw back into the floor panel it had originated from and extinguish completely. Sheppard was sitting in the chair, his back to them. As they rushed forward to see if he was okay, he leaned to one side limply and began sliding out of the chair.

McKay and Zelenka reached the major quickly and eased him onto the floor. His eyes were about half open, but glassy and unseeing. McKay was relieved to find a pulse, even if it was racing faster that he would have thought possible. "Major, can you hear me? Come on Sheppard, talk to me. I need you to look at me and say something. I am not carrying all of this stuff back by myself, so you better wake up."

He had barely finished speaking when Sheppard jerked hard, arching his back off the floor as his muscles contracted sporadically. His legs stiffened and his hands curled into tight fists. He let out a small moan as he clinched his teeth. His entire body seemed to spasm for a moment before his eyes rolled back in his head and he went completely limp.

McKay was already screaming into his headset, "We have a medical emergency. I need a medical team NOW!"