Less Than a Minute by nebbyJen
Summary: It's amazing how everything can change so quickly, and for McKay and Zelenka, it's not for the better. An explosion in the jumper bay leaves them desperately waiting for rescue.
Season/Spoilers: Season 2 / No spoilers.
Archived: Jumper Bay, FF, SGAHC
Beta: Thanks to Emergencyfan and Gaffer for their continued help, wit, eagle eyes, and suggestions. Any and all errors are mine if there are any. No matter how many times this is reviewed, one still seems to pop out, but I will catch it eventually.
Author's Notes and Disclaimer: First and foremost, this was written for enjoyment purposes only and no infringement is intended upon the Stargate Atlantis television program or the companies involved in its production. Secondly, this is my first ever truly H/C centered fic and although parts of me wanted to get involved in some in-depth super plot, I successfully avoided it and stayed firm. No weird aliens, no bad guys, no mental trauma…just good old fashioned whumping. (I'm not a large fan of that terminology but no other word fits for this fic!)
Less Than a Minute (Part 1)
Sheppard's team's latest trip off world had been an overwhelming success. They had stumbled across a virtual gold mine of abandoned technology, due to a recent wraith culling that left a mechanized ghost town in their wake. Once the coast was declared clear of any more danger or sneaky darts, the science teams had been allowed through the gate to do a culling of their own, in a less horrific manner. To some it felt as though they were grave robbing, but after Rodney clearly pointed out that it would either be them using the technology, or raiders confiscating it to possibly use against Atlantis in the future, the reluctant scientist's attitude changed. Eventually, the teams had gleaned whatever they considered to be useful, and loaded jumpers returned home late in the evening. Weary from working tirelessly throughout the empty city, most retired to their quarters to rest up for what they knew were going to be days, possibly weeks, of extensive research. Most, that is, except for three individuals who just couldn't resist the challenge and for whom sleep would wait.
It wouldn't take another rocket scientist to figure out exactly what was going through McKay's and Zelenka's minds as they both stood back and watched in undisguised contempt while Kavanagh awkwardly carried a cumbersome piece of equipment out of the jumper bay. Neither man offered a hand when their arch nemesis stumbled and almost lost hold of his precious 'find'. And only when the door to the outer hallway finally slid shut, effectively blocking their view of said 'scientist' while catching several strands of limp blonde hair in the process, did the pair dare to look at each other with respective raised brows of disapproval.
"Tell me, how did that moron make it to Atlantis?" Rodney blurted out, no longer able to restrain himself. "He wasted an entire day!"
"Did you see look on his face when he found 'his' machine?" Radek punctuated with air quotes. Taking off his glasses, he huffed warm breath on both lenses before wiping them clean with the bottom of his shirt and slipping them back on. Blinking several times, he glanced about the disarray scattered around the open jumper. "Where would you like to begin?"
"Well, gee, now that Kavanagh took the guts to an air conditioner, I was thinking perhaps I might start with the matrix to the shield generator."
Following Rodney inside the jumper, Radek helped lift an awkward control board, and the two carried it out to the jumper bay floor. "How long do you think it will take him to realize he has cooling unit?"
Setting his end down with an exaggerated wheeze of exertion, Rodney scowled down at his watch, "Morning if we are lucky.
The Czech blinked in surprise, "You intend on working through the night?"
"Do you have other plans?"
"Uh, no. I just thought I might sleep.'
"If you need to toddle off to bed, don't let me stop you." Irritation radiated off Rodney and he turned his back to Zelenka. Hooking power cables from a small generator to the board, he was instantly intrigued at the small hum emitted. When a hand appeared in front of his face holding out the lead clips for the diagnostic computer, he accepted them without comment. Soon he heard a familiar sound of keys tapped on a keyboard and knew the only semi-capable scientist available on the floating science station had decided to join him.
Without looking up, he snapped the leads in place. "What kind of readings are you getting?"
"Give me minute to configure the interface sequence," Radek mumbled under his breath.
Rodney glanced up in annoyance and reached for the laptop, "Give me that."
"To quote American bumper sticker, 'You can have it when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.'"
"Oh, that's mature." Seeing that he wasn't about to gain control of the laptop, Rodney snapped his fingers, impatiently gesturing towards the screen, "At least give me the power intake readings."
More tapping. "Seventy- two percent." Radek studied the display screen and scowled when the numbers slowly began to rise. "Seventy-three, seventy-five, seventy-nine, eighty-two…" With increased worry, he swallowed and shot McKay a concerned glance, "Rodney?"
The scientist ignored him as he ripped the cover off the panel, his eyes scouring every circuit and relay. Half listening to Radek counting out the increased level, he yanked several wires free before glancing up to see if that had stopped the power surge only to spot the Czech scientist slowly backing away from the console. One final option available, he lifted what had to be the motherboard and froze.
"Rodney…" Radek squeaked, his eyes wide as he glanced at what scientist had discovered, before looking to the laptop screen and turning it swiftly to show the Canadian.
"Run!" Rodney shouted, giving Radek a hard shove from across the board before he spun around to get some distance between himself and the equipment, only to trip and fall over a piece of apparatus on the floor behind him. Curling into the fetal position, he covered his head with his hands and held his breath.
A blinding flash and terrific explosion of heat rocked the bay before instantly enveloping it in a cloak of darkness; lit only by the shower of luminescent sparks arced high towards the ceiling, while pieces of blown debris rained down on the exposed scientists in a noisy clatter. Acrid smoke from the burning rubble billowed in great rolls, filling the air with noxious fumes. The sound of heavy doors sliding shut signaled the fire suppression system enclosing the area like a tomb to prevent further spread of the danger, effectively sealing McKay and Zelenka within. Ventilation protocol quickly drew the toxic air out of the bay while a fine mist of spray erupted from the ceiling, successfully dousing the fire in a film of white foam.
It had all happened in less than a minute. Backup lighting flickered on casting an eerie red glow over the now silent devastation. Silence descended, only to be interrupted by the sudden blaring call of the emergency alarm.
Sheppard was certain that he'd just laid down and closed his eyes when he felt an unfamiliar tremor through Atlantis. Abruptly sitting back up and tossing his blanket off to the side, he swung his feet to the floor and listened intently. He wasn't disappointed when the obnoxious blare of the emergency siren disrupted the stillness of the night. Grabbing his earpiece, he was in time to hear the control room tech's request for all emergency personnel to the jumper bay.
"This is Sheppard," he called out while yanking on his pants and boots before racing out the door, "What happened?"
An unfamiliar male voice replied, "Unknown at this time, sir. According to the diagnostic readouts, fire suppression systems have been activated and Atlantis initiated shut down protocol for the jumper bay."
"Was there anyone in the bay?" he demanded while rounding a corner and running smack into a med team led by Beckett.
"Unknown at this time, sir," the voice replied.
Sheppard suddenly had a very bad feeling. Knowing the bay was full of new toys that the science teams had been salivating over throughout the day, the whereabouts of Atlantis' chief scientist suddenly became top priority. "McKay, this is Sheppard, come in." Not receiving any answer, he called again more urgently, "Rodney, answer me." Shooting a quick glance to Beckett and seeing the worried Scot shaking his head in dismay when there was still no answer, he ground his teeth in frustration.
The group came to a halt outside the closed doors to the bay and the colonel tentatively reached out to touch them, only to draw his hand back quickly when he encountered the heated surface. "McKay," he paged again, hoping to receive some response and praying it didn't come from inside the jumper bay.
Greeted by silence once more, he looked to those surrounding him before paging the science labs, "Has anyone seen McKay this evening?"
"I saw him and Dr. Zelenka in thejumper bay," Kavanagh's nasally voice replied over the earpiece.
"How long ago?"
"Half hour at the most."
"Kavanagh, do you know what they were doing?"
"I have my own projects, Colonel. I don't have time to keep tabs on McKay and Zelenka."
Dead silence emanated over the communication system as most of the residents of Atlantis held their breath, knowing that Kavanagh might as well be a dead man walking.
Beckett's hand dropped onto Sheppard's arm, tugging him back from the doors as a team of engineers made their way over with equipment to force the doors apart. Using a tool similar to one firemen use to pry cars apart after an accident, they attempted to nudge it between the tightly sealed doors to no avail. Atlantis was determined to keep the bay sealed.
"Colonel Sheppard," the voice from the control room paged once more, "we've been able to access one of the surveillance cameras from inside the bay."
"Can you see anything?" he asked, watching Beckett step closer to hear the answer.
There was a pause. "No sir, it appears emergency back up lights are on and fire retardant is visible, but there doesn't appear to be any activity."
"What about life signs, lad?" Carson asked.
"One moment, sir. We are working on getting the sensors reestablished."
"Well, hurry up," Sheppard barked.
"Almost there, sir."
Several voices could be heard from the control room, including Weir's, before the voice returned. "We've got it back online, sir." A moment passed before the voice returned excitedly, "There are two lifesigns inside the bay!"
"Yes!" Sheppard blew out in a tight breath. Stepping over to the engineers, he watched them attempt a second try at opening the door. "What's the hold up?"
"Sorry, Colonel, but if I didn't know better, I'd say the doors were fused together," the senior engineer replied.
"Fused, as in heat?"
Another tech nodded, reaching out to touch the panels. "They're cool to the touch now. Possibly the explosion released enough heat to fry the controls or melt the conduits. Either way, these aren't coming apart any time soon."
Sheppard wasn't ready to give up. "What about blowing them open with C-4?"
The senior engineer shook his head 'no'. "There's already been one explosion sir. A possible second detonation might trigger further devices inside the room."
"What about another way in?"
"Already tried them all, sir. They're also sealed. The only other possible way in is through the overhead hull doors."
Carson glanced to Sheppard, "The top of Atlantis?"
"Yes, sir," the junior tech answered for him.
"It's the middle of the night," the Scot exclaimed as it dawned on him what was about to be tried. "How do you plan on making a rescue in the dark?"
Sheppard rubbed the stubble on his chin thoughtfully, "We're gonna have to climb. Once we get the overhead bay doors open, we rappel down, load them in a jumper, and then fly them out."
"What if the doors won't open, Colonel?" Beckett asked. "Or if the jumpers are damaged and won't fly? You need me to come along."
That was the last thing Sheppard wanted to do. Shaking his head, he began to try and dissuade the physician, "I don't think…." only to be cut off.
"I'm not asking, Colonel." The tone of the Scot's voice left no room for argument.
"Colonel Sheppard," Dr. Weir interrupted as she spoke over the system, "there appears to be movement inside the jumper bay."