I blame my husband for this story. He's the one who got to speculating about the state of 10,000-year-old Atlantean plumbing. It's all his fault. While I was at it, I also thought it might be fun to fill in some of the gaps in the first part of Season 1. Between "Rising" and "Hide & Seek", the characters transition very quickly from a bunch of strangers stuck on a mission together, to teammates who seem to enjoy hanging out and spending time with each other. How did this happen?
The location of the local bathroom facilities had not been the first thing that Elizabeth Weir had considered when she first walked through the Stargate. It hadn't been the second, third or twenty-fifth thing, either. There had been, to say the least, no shortage of other things to worry about. It wasn't until Sumner, Sheppard and the rest of the exploratory team had departed through the gate, leaving the rest of them in a city in eminent danger of flooding, that someone had first raised the issue.
"Ma'am, some of the men have a bit of a problem," one of the soldiers -- Bates, she remembered -- had said to her.
"What's the nature of your problem?" She was simultaneously trying to pay attention to one of McKay's scientists trying to explain their latest plan for rerouting power to avoid a catastrophic shield failure.
"It's ... difficult to ... well, the thing is, ma'am..."
While she'd only worked with Bates for a few hours so far, he had not struck her as a diffident person, and she wondered wearily just what had happened now. "Try," she said.
Bates stared over her head. "We haven't been able to find the bathrooms yet, ma'am. Some of the men are getting a little ... desperate."
As if we don't have enough to deal with ... Elizabeth thought. "Can it wait?"
"Not for very much longer, ma'am."
She turned to look up towards the control room. "McKay!"
"Busy!" he hollered back down.
Elizabeth mounted the stairs two at a time. "This is important."
McKay glowered at her. "So is avoiding our impending watery demise, I'll hope you agree."
Water ... Elizabeth decided that now was a very bad time to spend too much time dwelling on water. "Rodney, I just need to ask if, in going over the Ancients' schematics of the city, you've noticed any bathrooms."
"I've been a little concerned with the state of the shield. Watery demise, ring any bells?"
Elizabeth took a deep breath and reminded herself that she had negotiated with terrorists, dictators and crazed hostage-takers. Surely she could handle one stressed-out physicist. "I realize that what you're doing is of the utmost importance right now --"
"Great! So why don't you let me get back to it!"
"Rodney." She tried to catch his eye; he'd already gone back to one of the computer consoles. "I'm not asking you to stop what you're doing immediately, but as it may be awhile before Sumner and his men come back, I would suggest that you consider the consequences of having this many people cooped up in a small space with no bathrooms."
This sunk in and Rodney raised his head to look at her with a slightly more reasonable expression. "Ah," he said.
"Ah, indeed. If you could spare one of your people for a few minutes to look over the schematics for bathroom facilities, I would really appreciate it."
Rodney gave her a sharp nod and snapped his fingers at someone working near him. "Uh, Nelenka -- Nezenka -- Zeleska -- you!"
"Zelenka," the man said with a small sigh.
"That's what I said. Give her a hand with her, er, issue, would you?" With that, he spun around and started yelling, "What are you bringing up THAT system for? Are you TRYING to kill us all? Am I the only person in the Pegasus galaxy with a brain?"
Elizabeth and Zelenka were left standing in the comparatively peaceful wake of Hurricane Rodney as he charged over to berate a cowering Japanese scientist. "Is not too late to apply for a nice, quiet post at ground zero of Chernobyl," Zelenka muttered under his breath, and smiled at her.
Elizabeth smiled back. She'd had no personal contact with Radek Zelenka aside from the pre-mission interview, but she had been impressed with his resume and references, and found herself liking him.
"What was it I can help you with, Doctor?"
"Bathrooms," Elizabeth said succinctly. "The Marines haven't found any yet. I was wondering if you could show me some maps."
Zelenka pressed some buttons. At first the screen filled with symbols -- Elizabeth recognized some Ancient words, but most of it was unfamiliar to her. Then it flashed a few times, and finally a diagram appeared, rather like a glowing blueprint. "I am sorry," Zelenka said. "We have only the barest knowledge of any of this works. I believe that this is the closest thing to a map we have found, but we are still trying to understand how to navigate it."
"Don't apologize, Dr. Zelenka. I'm impressed more than words can say at how much you've managed to decipher of these systems in only a few hours." As Zelenka blushed, Elizabeth frowned at the screen. "Where are we?"
Zelenka pointed at a cluster of glowing dots. "Us."
Elizabeth's frown deepened as she began to understand the map and the glowing lines slowly resolved to a representation of actual physical features of the city. "There's not very much detail," she said. "You can see large rooms and halls, but not much else, and I can't even tell what level of the city it's showing us, or if it's a composite of all the levels stacked on top of one another."
"You can rotate." Zelenka demonstrated. "But, no, I agree, it is very difficult to decipher. We have not yet figured out how to zoom in or out, and nothing is labeled." He spread his hands at the room around them. "Nothing is labeled anywhere. We are deciphering the database very slowly, but we have had so little time --"
"How about there?" she asked, pointing. "Is that a safe section of the city? Those small rooms look promising."
"Nobody is leaving this room, got it?" Rodney announced in passing as he rocketed past them en route to somewhere else. "I'm having a hard enough time shutting down unnecessary systems without people walking around setting off the automatic life support just when I get it turned off!"
Elizabeth nodded her thanks to Zelenka and took off after Rodney. "Dr. McKay, I'm sorry, but if we're going to be here more than another hour or two, we do need to find the bathrooms. And we have no idea how long Sumner and his team --"
"You're assuming they even had bathrooms," Rodney said, his fingers flying over keys as he spoke to her without looking up.
"The Ancients were corporeal at the time they built Atlantis. They walked, ate and slept. Of course they had bathrooms."
"How do you know?" Rodney demanded. "Maybe they had evolved beyond the need. Maybe they had something like a personal ZedPM that just shunted off bodily waste into a parallel dimension."
What a lovely mental image. Elizabeth tried to get in front of him, force him to look at her. "Rodney, that may be, but we haven't evolved beyond the need yet, and I'm starting to have that need. I'm sure a number of your people are, as well."
"Zelorka!" Rodney hollered over her head. "Didn't I tell you to help her? Go find some bathrooms for Dr. Weir! Don't go too far and for God's sake don't touch anything!"
Elizabeth heard him muttering as he left, "Why yes, your highness. Right away, O great lord and master of the gateroom. Your command is my ..." His mumbling faded as he vanished down one of the corridors.
She hoped that this wasn't a bad sign as far as the two men's working relationship was concerned. A little disagreement was to be expected, since she'd deliberately picked people who had the ability to think and act independently, but the last thing she needed was having her carefully hand-picked team continually at each other's throats. But they were all professionals. Of course they wouldn't spend all their time bickering. She hoped. She supposed that she could always assign them to different shifts if they simply couldn't work together without fighting.
"Thank you, Rodney."
"Mph," he grunted and went back to work.
Or maybe assign Rodney to one shift and the entire remainder of the scientists to another shift ... but hopefully it wouldn't come to that.
Then one of the other Marines had a question about gate protocols, and she found herself too busy to think until the increasingly uncomfortable looks on some of the faces around her, not to mention a growing regret of her last few cups of coffee, made her wonder how Zelenka's search was going. She tapped her earpiece.
"Dr. Zelenka? It's Dr. Weir. Any luck?"
There was a mutter in what she assumed was Czech, then Zelenka said, "I am uncertain. I think I am beginning to understand where they are, the bathrooms, but I cannot open the doors."
"Radek, am I hearing you correctly? The bathrooms are locked?" Elizabeth wondered if this could possibly be the Ancients' revenge on trespassers. Or was there some intergalactic equivalent of a gas station rest-room key that they didn't have?
"I do not have the gene."
The key, the ATA gene ... damn it, of course. She looked around for Rodney only to find him barrelling down the gateroom stairs towards her. The man didn't seem to do anything by halves.
"Rodney! Do you have a --"
"Not now, gotta go, bye!" He nearly slammed into the gate and dropped to his knees, studying the interface between the gate and floor for a moment before jumping up and charging back up the stairs. "Conduits are completely buried! It won't work, not the way we want it ... Dammit, where'd that woman go? Miko!"
Elizabeth pursued him. "Rodney, can one of your people with the ATA gene--"
"Not right now!"
She paused at the top of the stairs. There would definitely have to be a talk about chain-of-command later, but she could sympathize with his current situation. Gene, someone who had the gene but wasn't too busy at the moment ... she needed all of her available military at the moment for moving crates ... She activated her radio. "Dr. Beckett, are you available?"
"Anytime you need me, lass." There was a pause, then: "Er, I didn't exactly mean that the way that it..."
Elizabeth's mouth quirked. "If you're available, could you meet Dr. Zelenka on the level above this one? He needs your help."
Instantly he was all business. "Hurt? Sick?"
"No, he just needs someone with the ATA gene."
"Story of my life, women only want me for my genes..." She heard rustling and bumping. "Okay, and where is he, now?"
"Dr. Zelenka, could you tell Dr. Beckett where you are?"
She left them to it and went back to overseeing the Marines' and scientists' exploration of the gate area.
"You must be Zelenka. Carson Beckett, M.D."
The two men shook hands and Zelenka went back to his inspection of the wall. "You have the gene?" he asked.
Zelenka looked a bit surprised. For the scientists, Beckett imagined that it must be a dream come true. He just wished he could get rid of the bloody thing.
They were in one of the many, many nearly-empty Ancient rooms -- maybe someone's former living quarters, maybe something else entirely. This city reminded Beckett vaguely of the world's biggest condominium complex, only with the building directories all printed in Swahili.
"Dr. Weir sent me down here to help you activate something, but she wasn't too clear on what," Beckett added.
"We are looking for bathrooms," Zelenka said. "There are many doors that we cannot open, those of us not having the gene, and I have come to conclude that bathrooms are behind some of these doors. Makes sense, yes? Now, I have seen these sorts of doors in many of these rooms." He waved his hand at the wall. Beckett didn't see anything that looked remotely like a door to him; just different panels of wood or glass or whatever the walls were made out of. "Same kind of doors, should probably have same kind of rooms behind them, and what else would be dozens and dozens of same kinds of rooms except for bathrooms? What else would people need that many of?"
"I suppose that does make sense," Beckett conceded.
Zelenka nodded, smiling. "So, do you want to try it?"
Not without a twinge of nervousness, Beckett ran his hand across the wall. Even this close, he still could not tell what it was made of -- a substance with the deep, rich gloss of wood, yet smooth as plastic.
"You know, half the time these things dinna work for me in any case," he said. "There could be a dozen bathrooms behind this wall and -- whoa!"
With a quiet shwoosh, what appeared (to Beckett) to be a seamless wall suddenly slid back to reveal a brightly lit alcove, about six feet deep. The far end was shielded with some sort of glistening, pearly gray material. Otherwise it appeared to be completely empty. A row of glowing panels down both sides of the room illuminated the small space with a blue-white light that shone out into the larger, darker room at their backs. The walls were decorated with a curving pattern in shades of blue and brown, at about shoulder height and running around the inside of the alcove.
The two men peered nervously into the alcove, neither one particularly eager to step a foot inside. "It could be a bathroom," Zelenka said.
"Could be a pantry," Beckett added. "Could be a room for incinerating garbage. Could be the control room for the city's weapons systems."
Zelenka reached a hand inside -- Beckett drew back and moved his arms to cover his face -- and waved his hand around. Nothing happened.
"Does not appear to incinerate," the Czech scientist said, and cautiously he tiptoed into the little room, crossing it to tap on the sheet of shiny material at the far end.
"I think this is a shower."
"Really?" Beckett approached slowly. Up close, he could see that the pearly gray substance was something like semi-opaque plastic. He could see through, dimly, into the space beyond. Zelenka was right. It did look like a shower stall. In fact, the alcove in which they were standing reminded him vaguely of a mobile-home bathroom ... granted, a very clean, tastefully decorated mobile home bathroom, in which the plumbing fixtures had been stolen.
"If that other one is a shower, then somewhere ..." Beckett said.
"Only if their bathrooms are like ours." But Zelenka sounded hopeful.
A few minutes of examination and random wall-tapping yielded nothing.
"I think we're going to have to call Rodney," Beckett said. "He might have some ideas."
Zelenka frowned. "He won't like that."
"I know, but this is getting us nowhere."
Reluctantly, Zelenka tapped his radio. "Dr. McKay?"
"Oh, NOW what," the scientist snarled over the radio.
"Do you have a minute?"
"People keep asking me that. You do realize that I'm trying to save us all from --"
"Watery doom, yes, yes, we know," Zelenka said. "Well, we are trying to save us all from a very different kind of watery doom, and for this, we need a moment of your time. We are having difficulty understanding the operation of the machinery here."
There was a silence. When Rodney's voice came back, it was oozing scorn. "You are telling me that you people can't figure out how to use a bathroom without my help?"
Beckett bristled. "It's a very odd bathroom ... look ..."
"No, you look." Even through the static on the radio, they could both hear Rodney's voice crack with fatigue and strain. "There is a city full of people, including the two of you, who are all about to die if I don't save them. Do either of you want my job? Do you want my brains? Right now you can have them both. I don't want 'em. But seeing how I'm stuck with them, I'm up here doing my damnedest to save us all. Now please deal with your bathroom problem by yourself and let me do that."
"I'm sorry," Beckett said quietly, but he wasn't sure if Rodney heard that, as the contact had already been terminated. He raised his eyes and met Zelenka's gaze. Neither of them said anything for a moment.
"I should probably be up there, helping him," Zelenka said finally.
Beckett nodded. "Maybe. But Dr. Weir's right ... we need a solution to the bathroom problem. Assuming that we're all going to live ..." his mouth quirked, "and right now I'm choosing to assume that, we're gonna have to either get the bathrooms up an' running, or close off a hallway and use that."
Zelenka winced at that suggestion. "He is right, you know," he said, tapping his foot on the floor and staring intently around the alcove. "We are intelligent men. We should be able to figure this out without having to ask Doctor I-Am-So-Much-Smarter-Than-You. This should not be a difficult puzzle."
"If it's a bathroom, it should be easy to use, wouldn't you say?" Beckett asked. "I mean, you wouldn't want to go through a five-minute intelligence test every time you needed to use the facilities, if you see what I mean."
His radio crackled. "Zelenka? Doctor? Any luck?" Dr. Weir's voice asked them.
"We've found something --" Beckett began, but broke off as the lights flickered and the floor trembled slightly underfoot. "Er, I probably don't want to know, but what was that?"
There was a pause. "Dr. McKay says that one of the sections of the city's shield just failed."
Beckett swallowed. "Flooded, you mean."
"I suggest you both get back up here," Weir said. "We simply don't have enough power to continue exploring the city, regardless of reason." She hesitated. "And, I'm preparing to evacuate. We just don't have a choice. If we stay in Atlantis, we will destroy it. I'm waiting for Sumner to check in, but I don't intend to wait until the entire city floods."
"I see," Beckett said quietly, swallowing.
"I'll see you both back in the gateroom. Weir out."
They looked at each other. "Well," Beckett said, "you heard the lady."
Zelenka frowned in frustration. "It is ... so close. I can understand this. I am sure of it." His frown deepened. "I believe I will have to understand it soon. Should not have had that third cup of coffee."
Beckett stifled a laugh, turned it into a cough.
Zelenka tapped the wall lightly, thinking out loud. "We assume we are looking for toilet, yes? But only in Western bathrooms is the toilet like a chair, something that you sit upon. Most of the rest of the Earth, it is a hole. I have seen that sort of bathroom in many places in Europe as well. Maybe the Ancients think that way."
"A hole?" Beckett looked around. "But there isn't a hole."
"Of course not. You do not want to fall in. But somewhere there must be a trigger to open it, and surely it would not be terribly well hidden." Zelenka looked around the room. "We are, perhaps, missing the obvious." He pointed at the design on the wall.
"That's wallpaper," Beckett said.
"Are you sure?"
No, he wasn't sure. He stepped forward and began touching and tapping at the curvy blue-and-brown markings on the wall.
Part of the design curved into a big spiral, the size of a human hand and located at a comfortable height for an adult to reach. When Beckett's hand settled on it, there was a soft gling! sound and the floor moved. He had to jump backwards as a section of floor slid back and a new structure rose smoothly out of it. There was absolutely no denying the function of this: it looked similar enough to an Earth toilet that it was obvious what it should be used for.
Behind him, Zelenka laughed aloud in delight. Beckett turned, grinning, and held out a hand; after staring at it for a moment, Zelenka high-fived him.
"Score one for the second-string team," Beckett said, laughing himself. He cut off in mid-chuckle when the floor trembled sharply underneath them and the lights nearly went out.
"Dr. Beckett," came Weir's impatient voice over the radio. "Where are you? Are you on your way back to the gateroom?"
"We have figured out the bathrooms," Zelenka said.
"That's wonderful, but Dr. McKay tells me that several million tons of ocean is about to come crashing down onto us, so we really need to -- what? Gate activation?" The radio cut off.
Zelenka and Beckett looked at each other. Reluctantly, Beckett reached for the spiral to return the toilet to its dormant state.
"Wait a minute," Zelenka said hastily. "I believe that after coming so far we should ... make sure it works, don't you think?"
The next part should be less silly. And will have considerably more McKay and Sheppard, but they're a little busy at the moment. It's been ages since I watched "Rising", so I hope I haven't messed with canon too badly. Any suggestions for improvements are most appreciated!