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14 December 2008 @ 05:10 pm
Help from Unexpected Places: Grace under Pressure  
And the third one. Sorry about the confusion.





GRACE UNDER PRESSURE


Lorne slowed as he approached Sheppard’s office, frowning. The Colonel was talking loudly, too loudly. Lorne rapped on the frame, waiting for the yelled “Come in!” before entering.

“Sir, you and Alice really need to keep it down. Morning, Alice.”

“Morning, Major,” she answered, and he grinned. He could hear her more or less all the time now, though he still couldn’t see her. He couldn’t decide if it was better hearing a disembodied voice, or seeing Alice the way Sheppard had described her. “It’s his fault,” she added. “The fact is empirical.”

“It’s a negative, you can’t prove a negative. What’s up, Major?”

“Reports.” He waved the sheaf of paper.

“Drop ‘em on the pile. And tell Alice you can’t prove a negative.”

“Can’t prove a negative,” he repeated obediently. “What’s the fact?”

“Simply that...”

He frowned, glancing at Sheppard. “Didn’t catch that.”

“She’s not talking...Alice?”

“Mayday,” Alice said slowly.

“From who?”

“Gate ship 6. McKay and Griffin.”

Sheppard tapped his radio, listening for a moment. “On my way. Major, lock down the base.”

“Yes sir.”

“Alice, come on.”



“Why are you wearing that, anyway?” he asked, heading for Control.

Alice glanced down at the Ship’s uniform she was wearing. “In honor of my cousin.”

“Can you talk to Rodney’s ‘Jumper?”

“No. It’s too deep. Water diffuses the signal.”

“How close?”

“Maybe 1500 feet, give or take.”

“Our radios carry further than that!”

“Your radios carry sound waves. They require almost no power and carry almost no information. My programs are a little more complicated.”

“What’s with the sarcasm?”

“I’m making up for Dr McKay. All that time in his systems, you know.”

“I knew you were spending too much time in there.” He caught up to Elizabeth and Radek as they left Control, following them towards her office.

“I thought you said life support could sustain them for days?” Elizabeth asked, nodding in acknowledgement.

“I said life support would most likely sustain them for days,” Radek corrected her. “I-I had no idea the ship would sink so quickly or that the cockpit would flood.”

“That's when you lost contact?”

“If they didn't make it to the rear compartment in time ...”

“They made it,” John interrupted him.

“Still, they are going to be much harder to locate now that they're no longer broadcasting.”

“Then find another way.”

“Look, even if we *do* locate them, our options are limited. They're already deeper than a rescue Jumper's windshield can handle,” Radek pointed out.

I'll handle the rescue,” John said sharply. “You just worry about finding them. I've already got some ideas.”

“Alright, we're on the clock.” Elizabeth glanced from John to Radek and back. “Let's get back to work.”




Almost half a day later John stood in Elizabeth’s office, studying the screen. Zelenka’s team had worked out where the ‘Jumper had to be, and while it was still a huge area it wasn’t as bad as it might have been.

“Three miles – a very searchable area – and you've narrowed it down, Radek. You did a good job.”

Radek shook his head. “He's too deep. Your grapple's only got a thousand feet of cable.”

“Well, we know the Jumper should be able to dive at least a thousand, so if he's above two thousand, we should still be able to get him with the grapple.”

“And if he is deeper?” Elizabeth asked.

“He probably is. The area we're searching goes to six thousand.”

John ignored him. “When the Wraith attacked the city, you were able to turn the shield into a cloak.”

“Yes,” Radek said cautiously.

“Why can't we do the opposite?”

“Turn the Jumper's cloak into a shield,” Elizabeth said slowly.

“Good,” Alice murmured. “That’ll work, John.”

“That would hold back the water, yes,” Radek said thoughtfully, “but it would take significantly more power.”

“We shut down everything we don't need,” John said with a shrug.

“But it would take hours to reconfigure.”

“Take what we need, we'll make the changes down there.”

Radek blinked, suddenly realizing what he meant. “Oh! No-no-no-no-no-no – I cannot possibly ... uh, no.”

“Radek,” Elizabeth said carefully.

“I-I ... I can't even swim!”

“There's not a lot of swimming under a thousand feet of ocean,” John said off-handedly.

“Look, I'm not gonna order you to go...”

“I will!” John interrupted her.

“You can’t, he’s not military. You have no direct command over him,” Alice said quietly.

Elizabeth managed to convey much the same information in a glare before turning back to Radek to continue, “All I'm saying is that if Rodney can't turn to you, who can he turn to?”

Radek closed his eyes, obviously thinking hard. After a moment he nodded, looking back at them firmly. “Right. Give me a few minutes and I'll get my gear.”

Alice followed John out of the office. “I won’t be much help, John. Gate ship programs aren’t programmed for this, only as navigational aides.”

“Yeah, I know, but we get close enough ours can talk to his, right? See what kind of shape he’s in?”

“Yes, but remember it will have to be close for that.”

“Yeah. 1500 feet, right?”

“Give or take. What ship are you taking?”

“One. Why?”

“I’ll update her now. She’ll be ready for you.”

His radio beeped. “Major Sheppard? I’m ready.

“Good. Meet me in the ‘Jumper Bay.” He clicked the radio off, nodding at Alice. “We’ll be back in a while.”

“Aye, sir.”



The flight out to the search area didn’t take long; Radek spent most of the time in the back, reconfiguring the shield. Alice spent the time watching over his shoulder, reporting to John as he went.

“Alright – we're above the search coordinates,” John said over his shoulder.

Radek came forward, dropping into the co-pilot’s seat. “OK – it should transition seamlessly.”

“Alright, then. Here goes nothin'.”

Radek gripped the console, muttering under his breath in Czech as the ‘Jumper began to sink.

John thumbed the radio. “Atlantis, this is Sheppard, come in.”

We can barely hear you, John.” Elizabeth’s voice was distorted, fading in and out.

“We're gonna lose you altogether when we get deeper, so now's a good time to wish us luck.” John glanced at Radek as he scrambled out of his seat, moving to a console at the back of the cockpit.

Good luck, then.”

“We'll contact you as soon as we head back to the surface. Have the divers on Jumper Eight standing by.”

“Will do. Weir out.”

“What d'you think, Radek?” John asked, turning in his seat.

“About what?”

“We're underwater! I've always wanted to try this.”

“Yes, yes, yes – just make sure we're not under too much water!”

“I've levelled out and holding steady at, uh, nine hundred and ninety feet. How's it coming?”

“All I'm getting is sporadic lifesign readings.”

“As in ... sea monster lifesigns?”

“There are no sea monsters on Lantia,” Alice said reprovingly.

The ‘Jumper groaned as they went deeper. Radek flinched, looking around nervously.

“I'm gonna need those shields up and running,” John reminded him.

“Yes, well then – stop talking, please.”

“Will do!”

“Really? That’ll be interesting,” Alice said innocently. “Shall I stop talking as well? Of course, Zelenka can’t hear me, so I don’t think it really matters. I certainly won’t be affecting his concentration. What do you think, John?”

John made a face at her, and she smiled. “That’s what I thought, too.”



It took Radek almost twenty minutes to get the shield working. John managed to keep mostly silent; Alice kept silent too, only warning him of sensor readings every so often.

“I think we may be on to something,” Radek said finally, coming back into the cockpit. “Initializing shield.”

“Shield is holding steady,” Alice reported.

“Nice work, Doc! OK, let's take this thing a little deeper.”

“Wait. Wait-wait-wait-wait-wait-wait.” Radek stood up again, scrambling back to his laptop. “I was afraid of this. The shield is draining our power at an alarmingly fast rate.”

“Why's that?” John asked, glancing at Alice.

“Well, a cloak draws its power at a constant rate, whereas a shield draws more power the more it is taxed,” Radek explained.

Alice nodded. “I assumed you’d accounted for that.”

“Never assume,” John said under his breath. Louder, he added, “So, being under several atmospheres of pressure ...”

“Yes. It's continuously draining power from our shield.”

“How much time do we have?”

“Once we're deeper, thirty minutes, tops.”

“Alright. Descending through one thousand.”

“Do prdele, to je na hovno tohle to. Kdo to vymyslel, že budeme pod vodou, tentokrát...?”

“I think my Czech's getting better, 'cause I know what you mean,” John agreed.

“He said...”

John cut Alice off with a look, and she shrugged, looking back at the viewscreen. “Alright then. I’m almost close enough to talk to Gate ship 6.”

“Could be the shields, could be the depth – I'm having trouble detecting the Jumper,” Zelenka said absently. “Only ...”

“Only what?”

“Could you bring up the HUD please?”

The HUD snapped up and John blinked, watching a blip move in circles. The database listed a name, but it was in Ancient and meant nothing to him.

“What's that?”

“Something like a whale,” Alice said off-handedly. “They’re not dangerous.”

“Your sea monster,” Radek said at the same time. “It's at least six to eight times as large as this Jumper, so let's not venture too closely, OK?”

“How're the shields doing?”

“Twelve minutes.”

“Alright. Let's check it out.”

“Why?” Radek protested.

“Because it's still swimming around in circles in the same area, which means it might have found something interesting.”

“It did,” Alice said abruptly. “The Gate ship is there.”

John glanced back at her, lifting an eyebrow, and she continued, “Rodney is alive and awake, but lifesigns indicate he’s minutes from hypothermia and has a concussion.” She frowned, adding, “And he’s talking to himself. That’s a bad sign. Hurry.”

The HUD flashed and John headed towards it.

“Jumper. I have the Jumper,” Zelenka cried, dashing forward from his laptop. “The animal's circling around it.”

John flicked the comm. “Jumper Six, this is Sheppard, come in.”

“According to these readings, it's dead. There's no power.”

“A little power,” Alice assured him. “Rodney’s still breathing.”

“Alright, let's get a grapple on this thing and go home,” John ordered.

“No, it won't work.”

“Why's that?”

“It's taken on too much water. Sensors indicate even the rear compartment is partially full. The cable can't take the strain.”

“But we can try.”

“No, listen to me. No. It's a matter of simple physics.”

“He’s right,” Alice added. “Your cable would snap and there’d be no hope. Rodney would die before you could try anything else.”

“I'm not coming this far without doing something!”

Radek snapped his fingers triumphantly. “The shield. We can extend the shield between the two Jumpers.” He headed back to his laptop, muttering calculations under his breath.

“Do we have enough power?” John yelled after him.

“Yes. If-if we touch down on the ocean floor to conserve engine power, it should be just a matter of walking between the two Jumpers.”

“Alright. I'll get us close.”

“Hurry,” Alice murmured. John nodded grimly, turning the ‘Jumper so the rear was closer to Rodney’s ‘Jumper. As soon as it settled Zelenka extended the shield, watching his monitors anxiously.

“There. We now have...perhaps five minutes, then not enough power to surface. Understand?”

“Yeah.” He tapped the comm. again. “McKay. Griffin. D'you copy?”

Sheppard!

John scrambled out of his seat, heading past Radek to the hatch. “Hey, buddy! What say you lower your door?”

That's-that's probably a bad idea.

The hatch lowered and John took the three steps to Rodney's ‘Jumper. “Listen. Long story short, we've converted the cloak into a shield and extended it around your Jumper. I'm standing outside right now.” He banged on the door, wincing at the lack of echo.

What?!

“All you have to do is open your door and walk to my Jumper.”

“Ok, he’s going to the release, he’s got his hand on it...” Alice frowned. “He’s stopped. He’s talking to himself again.”

“Hurry up!” Radek called.

John grimaced, touching his headset. “McKay? What's the hold-up? We need to do this sooner rather than later. This shield ain't gonna hold forever.”

There was a pause before Rodney answered, “Better stand back – we've taken on a lot of water.

Radek joined John, both standing to one side of the door. It didn’t move for a moment --“Release is jammed,” Alice murmured, “he’s going for the secondary.”—and then it finally jerked open. The water gushed out, but they avoided most of it and hurried inside.

Rodney was sprawled on the floor, coughing and spluttering. Between them they got him sitting upright.

“Rodney, are you alright?” Radek asked.

“I will be.”

“Where's Griffin?” John asked, frowning.

“He was in there.” Rodney gestured towards the cockpit.

John straightened up, staring at the closed doors. “He was brave,” Alice offered. “He wasn’t afraid. He saved Rodney.”

John nodded slowly. “Alright, let's get you home.” He reached down to grab one of Rodney’s arm; Radek echoed him, and they got him onto his feet.

“No, I need to decompress. Carter told me to increase the pressure.”

“Carter?” Radek repeated without really listening.

“I mean I did, I did. I told myself. Oh, my head!”

The whale-thing was still overhead; as they left ‘Jumper 6 it cried and Rodney glanced up, almost overbalancing.

“Oh – see, pal. Sorry you don't get to eat me today.”

“He's the reason we found you,” John said, watching his feet.

“Really?”

John nodded, leaning over to ease Rodney onto the bench. “Almost thought we lost you.”

“I knew you'd think of something … subconsciously, at least.”

John clapped him on the shoulder, heading for the cockpit. Radek smiled faintly, following John, and the ‘Jumper lifted off.




“Colonel?”

John glanced up. “Rdaek, hey. I was just finishing up the reports. You did good out there.”

“Thank you,” Radek said absently.

“Something wrong?”

“No, is not wrong, is...” He sighed, sitting opposite John. “City talks to you. Yes?”

John shifted, eyeing Alice over Radek’s shoulder. “Well, the ATA...”

“No, nono.” Radek waved that off. “Not the ATA, because City does not talk to Rodney. Only you.” He considered for a moment. “Is only you, that I’ve seen. Today in the ‘Jumper...you were listening.”

“To you.”

“No. Colonel, listen. This City is beautiful, and powerful, and has welcomed us. And sometimes...databases open, sensor readings appear without us looking. City helps us.”

“Tell him,” Alice said quietly.

“You sure?” John asked, ignoring the look on Radek’s face.

“He loves the City,” she said quietly. “Like you. It’s home.”

“Yeah.” John looked back at Radek. “Alice.”

“Alice?”

“She’s a research programme. Databases and sensors. There are versions of her in each ‘Jumper and similar programs in a lot of the installations and ships we’ve found. Lorne can hear her, and Teyla knows about her, but that’s it.”

“It’s the gene? But Carson and McKay?”

“Yeah, something about the strength of the genes. The artificial gene is never strong enough. And Carson hasn’t shown any signs of knowing about her.”

“And he really should, the amount of time we spend down there,” Alice added.

“The Alice in our ‘Jumper was talking to the Alice in McKay’s ‘Jumper as soon as we got in range. The programme at Arcturus helped me figure out what was going on, and the programme on Aurora helped us there.”

“You had an Alice on Aurora,” Alice remarked, and he made a face at her.

“I see. Is useful. And you...” Radek turned, looking over his own shoulder. “You said, Lorne hears her. And you...”

“See her,” John agreed. “She said a bunch of stuff, I wasn’t really listening...”

“Hey!” Alice protested.

“...but basically she’s projected into my head, which is why no one else perceives her. Lorne hears her, but that’s it. The only other way she can communicate is by using the display screens.” He watched as she circled the desk, perching on the corner and eyeing his screen. Taking the hint, he pushed it around so Radek could see it, catching a glimpse of the Czech words spilling across the screen.

“Ježišmarija,” he breathed, half-rising from his seat.

“Alice, you want to tone it down some?” John asked.

“Yes, John,” she said obediently. John pulled his screen back towards himself; ‘Yes, John’ was printed across it.

“Smart alec.” He looked back at Radek. “You ok, doc?”

“Yes.” He glanced around the room. “Alice is...”

“There.” He gestured vaguely.

Radek nodded once. “Alice, it is a pleasure to meet you.”

John glanced at his screen; ‘You’re welcome’ was printed across it, and he swiveled it back towards Radek. “Should make it easier to do your research. Just watch it around the others.”

“A secret?” Radek said, nodding. “Yes. I can do that. Thank you, Colonel.”

“Alice’s decision. She’s usually a pretty good judge of character.”

“John, I think that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said about me!”

John grimaced, pulling his screen back for the last time. “You; hush. You...” he glanced up at Radek. “I seem to recall Rodney being banned from work for the next three days? Which probably means you have at least another two hours or so before he sneaks off and starts micromanaging you.”

“Yes, good point.” Radek nodded agreement, scrambling out of the seat and heading for the door.

“Bye, Radek,” Alice murmured. “John, you’re not finished your report yet. You don’t want to send it.”

“What? ‘We found the ‘Jumper and rescued Rodney.’ What’s wrong with that?”

Alice shook her head. “I’m not writing it for you today.”

“Aw, c’mon! What else have you to do?”

“McKay’s leaving the infirmary.”

“No changing the subject.” John frowned. “Actually, no. I should go find him and get him back. You don’t mind finishing off that report for me, do you?”

“No, of course not,” Alice said demurely. “Would you like me to send it when I’m done?”

“No.” He eyed her. “Leave it for me to review. Just to be sure.”

“Very wise.”

“And quit with the demure little girl bit, you’re creeping me out. Come help me find McKay.”

“Yes, John.”

“I said stop that!”
 
 
 
(Deleted comment)
Acting my shoe size: Homewild_force71 on December 15th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)
Thanks! I'm glad you liked.