Mathématique: Chapter 22
The esprit de corps of SG-1 was an event horizon of mutually-dependent, self-deprecating charm that was as exhausting as it was addictive. Once one passed a certain point, there seemed to be no escape.
Revised Author’s Notes: This is a piece of fan fiction. It’s a trope-twisting, epic-length, crossover AU that spans all three series of Stargate. There’s a lot of science. A lot of plot. A lot of emotions. Timelines have been slightly altered so that season 4 of Stargate Atlantis (without Carter in command) occurs contemporaneously to season 10 of SG-1, which occurs in the year prior to season 1 of SGU.
Disclaimer: I’m not making money from this; please don’t repost to other sites.
Warnings: Stressors of all kinds. Injuries.
Five hours after a lunchtime conversation with Jackson and one hour post a meeting with Landry, the Acting Commander of the Icarus Project found himself in the archaeologist’s office along with Vala and Mitchell, killing time while he waited for the next mission report from Sheppard. He was perched on a non-regulation, Ikea bookshelf, which seemed have been acquired for the express purpose of housing the stacks of paper that weren’t able to fit on the archaeologist’s desk.
“And then what she say?” Vala asked, the heels of her boots hitting the back of Jackson’s desk with a quiet double clang.
“Why are you having this conversation here?” Jackson asked the ceiling.
Young wasn’t entirely certain what any of them were doing there, truth be told. The esprit de corps of SG-1 was an event horizon of mutually-dependent, self-deprecating charm that was as exhausting as it was addictive. Once one passed a certain point, there seemed to be no escape.
“Well, she said that Friday ‘would be good’,” Mitchell replied.
“Yes but how did she say it?” Vala asked. “Did she seem excited? Did she—hang on just a tic here, let me get my documentation regarding American cultural practices. Daniel, darling, where did you—“
“I filed it for you,” Jackson said mildly. Without looking up he pointed toward the right-hand side of his desk.
Vala followed his gaze, then shot Jackson a dark look as she fished a manila folder out of the trash.
“You really need to work on your interpersonal skills,” Vala snapped.
“Did you seriously just say that?” Mitchell asked. “To Jackson? I mean—the guy is like—Mr. Cultural Sensitivity. I think he might have even written a book on the subject.”
“What’s the story with all these manuals of yours anyway?” Young asked. “There seem to be a lot of them. No offense, but—”
“Another thing of which we do. Not. Speak.” Jackson shot Young a pointed look over the tops of his glasses.
“Yeah, there’s a little cave of minions somewhere that reads Jackson’s field reports and then puts the books together,” Mitchell said, stealing several peanut M&Ms from the open bag next to Vala while she flipped through the open folder in front of her.
“If by ‘cave of minions’ you mean the most advanced Linguistics Department in existence, then yes. Yes you are correct,” Jackson said.
“All right boys,” Vala said. “Here we go. Now. When Dr. Lam said that Friday ‘would be good’,” Vala paused to make air quotes, “did she a) mirror your posture, b) touch your arm, or c) look at the clock?”
“Um,” Mitchell said. “None of the above?”
“Not a choice, good-looking. Let’s stay focused here.”
“I don’t even know what we’re doing,” Mitchell said.
“You’re getting a modified version of a Cosmo Quiz,” Young informed him, digging his knuckles into the small of his back, trying to massage away the omnipresent ache.
“And you know this how?” Mitchell asked.
“Experience,” Young replied.
“Okay,” Mitchell said, drawing out the word. “I have decided not to ask you any follow up questions out of manly solidarity.”
“Thanks,” Young replied.
Mitchell turned back to Vala. “What she actually did was just look at me with a sort of neutral facial expression. Can that be a choice? What is this even a quiz for?”
“Hmm,” Vala said, picking up a pencil. “We’ll call that one a ‘c’.”
“I don’t think you want it to be ‘c’,” Young advised him. “Try to negotiate for ‘a’.”
“Why is ‘c’ bad?” Mitchell asked. “Can I change it to the mirroring one?”
“Well that depends on how much you value accuracy,” Vala replied, with a disapproving look over the top of the folder.
“This is supposed to be a work day for me,” Jackson said. “A day on which I do work.”
“That’s like saying ‘today is a day I breathe air’,” Mitchell replied. “Besides, everyone wants to find out if Everett’s neighbor unlocks the mysteries of life, the universe, and everything.”
“What you really mean is that everyone wants to buy John Sheppard a beer,” Jackson said dryly.
“Sheppard,” Mitchell said emphatically, “is an intergalactic baller. And you are cranky. What gives, Jackson?”
“I’ve explained it to you at least five times,” Jackson said. “Namely it’s you. Being here. Now.“
“Today is a light day,” Mitchell said. “Light. It means less work, more beer.”
“Look, if I don’t get through this regional variant of the Book of Origin pertaining specifically to prophetic mentions of the Orici—“ he broke off as Vala flinched.
Mitchell froze, his eyes on Vala.
Jackson dropped his eyes, twisting a pencil between his fingers.
Completely in the dark, Young caught Mitchell’s eye. The other man shook his head nearly imperceptibly. Don’t ask. Fine.
“Yes, that’s all very interesting, darling, I’m sure,” Vala said, recovering with a casual flip of her hair and the clang of her boots against the metal base of the desk, “but I’m doing some cultural research here, so if you don’t mind—“ she turned back to Mitchell. “Next question. On your first date, did you a) give her a hug on her doorstep, b) kiss her on the cheek, or c) kiss her on the lips.”
“What?” Mitchell asked, his voice cracking. “We aren’t dating. We’re just friends. Respected colleagues. Chess buddies.”
“Did you just say chess?” Jackson said mildly, shutting the file in front of him. “How interesting.”
“Little slow on the uptake over there, darling,” Vala said, twisting to look at Jackson.
Jackson held her gaze, managing to communicate something to her that Young could only guess at. Apology? Understanding? Empathy, perhaps.
“We. Are. Not. Dating,” Mitchell said, casting a glare around the room.
“Yet,” Young added.
“What do you mean slow?” Jackson asked, still looking at Vala.
“I hate you all,” Mitchell said.
“I got you jello,” Young pointed out, “and this is the thanks I get?”
“That was hours ago. Where’s Sam. I’m going to—”
“Leave?” Jackson said. “Please do.”
“We’ll go with ‘b’,” Vala said.
“You should just discount the question,” Young said, “if you’re really after accuracy.”
“What kind of quiz is this?” Mitchell asked.
“Next question,” Vala said. “Your first compliment to her was that you a) liked an outfit she was wearing, b) thought a joke she told was funny, or c) you liked the way she smelled.”
“Um, it was d), ‘nice work on stopping that intergalactic plague’.”
“Hmm,” Vala said. “That’s a tough one, but I’ll say ‘b,’ because that seems the most intellectual. You have to be witty to tell a good joke.”
“And to stop an intergalactic plague,” Jackson said. “Very well reasoned. Though, I think it was the Priors that actually put a stop to the epidemic to which you’re referring.”
“There’s no need to be cynical,” Vala said.
“I am the least cynical person in existence,” Jackson said. “It’s a documented fact. Ask anyone.”
“Why don’t all y’all finish this thing for me,” Mitchell said, “Let me know how it turns out. On second thought, don’t let me know how it turns out.”
“I think your tactical error was inviting Dr. Lam to a team dinner,” Young said, “rather than just dinner.”
“But then it seems like a date,” Mitchell said. “And it’s not a date. It’s not, at all, a date.” He looked around the room. “So just—drop it. We’re doing something nice for someone who’s done a lot for us, which is something we do all the time, thanks to Jackson being a complete pushover about everything in existence, except for intolerance so just—” Mitchell seemed to lose steam. “Just cut me a break here.”
“Sure,” Jackson said, smiling faintly as he looked back down at his book.
“No problem,” Vala said, shutting the file, her boots clanging against Jackson’s desk again. “And in that laudable spirit of camaraderie—”
“Nope,” Mitchell said. “Whatever you’re about to say—I’m good.“
“I will act as your fashion consultant for the entire length of our dinner series.”
“Thanks but no thanks,” Mitchell said dubiously, “and since when is it a dinner series?”
“You think this adorably-cut SGC jacket is regulation?” Vala asked, hopping from the desk to twirl around once. “Think again.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” Jackson began. “You know you can’t alter standard—” Jackson was cut off by the shrill, simultaneous ringing of the wall phone and his cell phone.
“Shall I—“ Vala began, only to stop as another ring split the air.
“Well, this is not a good sign,” Mitchell said, as he examined his own vibrating phone.
Young’s cell phone began to buzz in his pocket. With a sinking feeling, he pulled it out. Caller ID showed it was SGC dispatch.
“Colonel Young,” came Harriman’s careful diction before an automated message began to play. “Please report to the SGC immediately. If onsite, please report to the briefing room on level twenty-seven. To confirm receipt of this message, please press one. To repeat this message, please press two. Should you be unable to comply with this message within a twenty-five minute window, please press three to connect with dispatch.”
Young grimaced and hit the appropriate button on his phone, taking note of the time. There was only one possible reason why dispatch would be paging him and SG-1. He looked at Jackson.
Jackson was looking back at him.
“You too, handsome?” Vala asked quietly, fingering her own phone.
Jackson rounded the desk and the four of them left the room together, making their way without speaking until they stepped into the elevator.
“It’s not emergent,” Vala said into the oppressive silence. “If it were, they would have paged overhead.”
“Yeah,” Mitchell said. “It could just be—“ he trailed off. “It could just be that McKay broke his finger or something.”
“I don’t think so,” Jackson said, glancing at Young.
“Yeah,” Young said. “Me neither.”
By the time they arrived at the briefing room, Young’s back and leg were a collection of raw nerves that seemed intent on effecting an unnecessary and painful spasm of strained muscle for no further insult than a brisk walk over a stable surface. He did his best to ignore the sensation as he lowered himself into a chair across from Teal’c and next to Dr. Perry, both of whom had already arrived.
Landry was in place at the head of the table, his hands clasped in front of him. “They missed their check in,” he said without preamble as they all found their seats. “Both Colonel Sheppard’s team on the planet and the Odyssey.”
“The Odyssey? Crap,” Mitchell said, the last word almost inaudible.
“Yes,” Landry said, the word one long, gravelly pull. “Crap.”
“We sending a MALP?” Mitchell asked.
“We are,” Landry said. “They’ll patch the feed through any minute now.” He indicated the monitor mounted on the wall at the far end of the room.
“Even if they broke the DHD,” Jackson said, “the Odyssey should be—”
“Reachable by subspace?” Landry said grimly. “I know. Harriman’s been trying for the last fifteen minutes and we’re getting nothing. Communications with Prometheus are uninterrupted, so it’s not our array.”
Young rubbed his jaw, trying to ignore the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Do we need to spring Sam for a consult?” Mitchell asked.
“Ideally yes,” Landry said, “but not until we know more. Brightman was pretty clear on a strict half-hour window. In the meantime—Dr. Perry, do you have any thoughts that might shed some light on what the hell is going on?”
Perry cleared her throat, her eyes flicking quickly around the room before speaking. “Given what Dr. Rush was planning to do,” she said, “the most likely outcome of a failed implementation of our entanglement protocol would be a software glitch that disabled the DHD. I have a difficult time imagining a scenario in which any such glitch would either directly or indirectly compromise the Odyssey’s communications array or other systems.”
“Do your best,” Landry growled. “Imagine. Because if this is not some kind of technical issue, then—” he leaned forward. “Then we are facing a level of infiltration by the Lucian Alliance that is beyond the scope my imagination.”
Perry looked steadily at Landry. “As I stated, it’s likely not a software glitch. But, barring that, there are several potential problems with the hardware of the DHD that could interfere with the communications array of an orbiting vessel, especially given that we’re recently outfitted our ships with additional control crystals that are now integral parts of not only of the hyperdrive but also long range sensors, shields, and the subspace communications array. I suppose a massive EM pulse generated by the DHD could be enough to knock out any or all crystal-based arrays on the Odyssey, depending on the resonant frequencies of both the crystals and the shields.”
“What would the consequences be for the Odyssey,” Mitchell asked, “if, say, a DHD overload caused every crystal based control system on the ship to fail?”
Perry cleared her throat. “The ships aren’t entirely crystal controlled, so it’s likely they’d avoid a failure of life support. It’s also likely they’d be able to replace component parts in time to avoid any kind of catastrophic outcome, provided they weren’t in the midst of a firefight or in an unusually low planetary orbit when the failure occurred.”
The monitor on the far wall flickered to life and they saw the live feed from the MALP in the gateroom displayed on the screen in shades of gray and the flickering blue of the open gate.
“Sir, are you getting this up there?” Harriman’s voice projected out from the speakers beneath the screen.
“We are,” Landry said. “You have a go.”
They watched as the MALP approached the open wormhole, until the entire screen was swallowed in a field of rippling blue. There was a brief interruption of the signal and then—
The landscape was dark grays and deep greens. Trees lashed back and forth in the wind. Directly ahead of the camera, they could make out a shape, unfamiliar and glowing a silver-white in the darkness. Whoever was controlling the MALP centered the unfamiliar object and zoomed in.
“What is that?” Young asked, sitting forward, ignoring the twinge from his lower back.
No one answered.
“Hey.” They heard McKay’s come through over the static sound of gusting wind. “Hey. Thank god. I have no idea how they do this kind of thing in the Milky Way these days, apparently not very efficiently, but in Pegasus we send a MALP ten minutes after the first missed check in. Not half an hour.”
With a nausea-inducing twist, the MALP camera spun away from the glowing object and toward McKay. The scientist’s face was pale, his hair soaked and plastered to his forehead.
“One,” McKay snapped, “we triggered a novel subroutine in the DHD. Two, that subroutine either directly or indirectly, ugh, vanished both Dr. Rush and Colonel Sheppard, who were in contact with the DHD at the time. Three, simultaneous with the vanishing, the DHD-from-hell fired an EM pulse, rendering all of our equipment useless. Four, the fact that we’ve gotten no backup from the Odyssey leads me to believe that they are in similar straits because there’s no way they’re just not paying attention and missed a pulse of that magnitude. Five, we are currently on the lead edge of a major storm with little survival gear to speak of. Six, we need Carter. Right now, no arguments, gear her up and send her through that gate.”
For a moment, no one spoke.
“What kind of novel subroutine?” Perry asked.
“That thing is the DHD?” Vala said, pointing at the video feed. “It doesn’t look like any DHD I’ve ever seen.”
“Go back to point number two,” Young snapped.
“What do you mean it vanished them?” Jackson asked. “Are you sure they haven’t shifted phase? That kind of thing is always happening—”
“We should get out there,” Mitchell said. “We should go now.”
“Quiet,” Landry shouted over all of them.
“Thank you,” McKay said, with the air of a man who was skirting the edge of panic. “Now. I’m not dealing with a committee made up of people who have no idea what the hell is going on here. Get me Carter. We have two high-ranking personnel missing and we have a rapidly closing window of action and I do NOT have time to explain myself to an entire ensemble who may or may not have had undergraduate level physics. So. I need Carter and I need at least one more SGC issued laptop in a water resistant case at a minimum. Thanks to the EM pulse, none of our equipment is working, which means I haven’t been able to do anything and I’ve just been waiting for you to—”
“Carter was shot,” Landry said.
“What?” McKay breathed, the word nearly inaudible over a burst of static. “When? Why didn’t anyone—”
“She’s okay,” Mitchell said. “Or, she will be, but we can’t send her. We can get her on the line for a consult, for maybe half an hour or so.”
“Do it,” McKay said. “Set that up. I want Carter and Perry and no one else on the line. I’ll let you get that organized while Reaves tells you what survival gear to ship through the gate.”
“Can you dial out?” Young asked.
“I don’t know,” McKay said. “I haven’t tried. Knowing the buffer system in this thing—“ he glanced over his shoulder at the alien looking DHD, “there’s a possibility that the outgoing matrix might be storing their patterns somehow. Bottom line? I don’t know if they’re still present here on the planet but shifted, or if they’re dematerialized and held inside the device, or if they’ve been displaced in space and or in time. Whatever happened to them, I’m sure it’s somehow Sheppard’s fault. I need that laptop now.”
“You got it,” Landry said. “That, and whatever else you need. SG-1 is going to be standing by and supervising the assembly of the gear for your team.”
“That’s something,” McKay said. “Don’t send personnel through until I’ve had a chance to run this by Carter.”
“Gear up,” Landry growled as he got to his feet. “Dr. Perry, you’re upstairs with Carter in the infirmary. We’ll get a feed up there.”
Young pushed himself up, trying not to betray even a hint of weakness as he got to his feet. Landry caught his eye.
“You’re not cleared,” Landry said.
Young tightened his jaw.
“When mission parameters fall outside those explicitly delineated in SGC regs, the determination of ‘light duty,’ shall be at the discretion of the ranking officer overseeing the mission or project in question unless directly countermanded by a member of the SGC medical staff,” Jackson said
“In what universe is the ranking officer not me, Jackson?” Landry growled.
“We could use him,” Jackson said, shrugging, “and he’s acting head of Icarus.”
“Suit up,” Landry snapped, “but make no mistake—the final call is mine.”
“Yes sir,” Young said.
As they left the room, Vala twisted to give Young a wink and Jackson a subtle ‘okay sign,’ which the other man waved away with an exasperated air. Once they were in the hallway, Young could feel the gravity of Jackson’s gaze pulling him in. It was impossible to not to look at the other man.
“Thanks for backing me,” Young said.
Jackson gave a nearly imperceptible nod.
Thirty-five minutes later, thanks to the reestablishment of contact with the Odyssey via maddeningly slow light-speed radio communications—passed from the Odyssey to the dubiously friendly Langarans who subsequently dialed the Alpha site—they had enough information to know that the ship had, as Perry had surmised, suffered a failure of every crystal-based array on board. Repairs to the transporter and shields were already completed, and, following Carter’s recommendation, Landry deemed it sufficiently safe risk gate travel to the planet. The general had also been convinced, given the degree to which the damage on the Odyssey had matched the hypothetical scenario outlined by Amanda Perry, that there was little evidence of Lucian Alliance involvement in the current situation.
The combination of all these factors had persuaded Landry to one—send a team, and two—to put Young in command of that team.
Young wasn’t certain that anyone could really command SG-1—with its two colonels, its two aliens, and its machinating linguist with friends everywhere, including on other planes of existence. He tried not to think of himself as nothing more than a terrible substitute for Colonel Carter.
With SG-1 flanking him, Young stepped through the gate into the midst of a storm.
Rain struck the metal arch of the gate, rebounded off the stone underfoot and hissed through the trees that surrounded the small clearing. A faint tang of ozone was carried on the intermittent gusts of wind that seemed determined to unbalance him. He widened his stance on the rain-slicked rock of the platform and pulled out his radio.
“Odyssey, this is Colonel Young.” He waited, feeling the rain soak through his hair.
There was no response other than static, barely audible over the roar of wind through the forest. “Their radio array is supposed to be back online,” Young said, looking up into the swirling darkness of the storm.
“I’m guessing we’re gonna have to boost our signal to cut through this shit,” Mitchell replied, holding a hand up to shield his eyes as he looked into the forbidding cloud-cover above them. “And speaking as a corn-fed, Midwestern, twister-veteran, I’d say this thing looks like it’s about to get real bad, real fast.”
“Twister?” Teal’c asked, zipping his jacket up to his chin.
“Have I got a film for you, muscles,” Vala replied, as she tucked her already wet hair beneath the collar of her fatigues. “Something like As Good as it Gets, but with truly atrocious weather.”
“It’s the same thing as a tornado,” Mitchell said to Teal’c. “Y’know. A violently rotating column of air? In contact with the ground?”
“Don’t even say it,” Jackson said, squinting up into the downpour. “And Teal’c, you’ve been on Earth for how long? Ten years? How is Vala better than you are with the cultural references? How is that even possible?”
“It’s not a competition, darling,” Vala said, rocked by a vicious blast of wind.
“I do not go out of my way to acquire Tau’ri slang,” Teal’c said, his eyes narrowed, his gaze sweeping the tree line where low-hanging clouds seemed to generate their own darkness.
Young stepped down from the platform, treading carefully over slick stone to approach the team huddled in a miserable fan around McKay. Around them, dead radios and McKay’s original computer spread out like wind-stripped leaves. The three soldiers were valiantly trying to secure a tarp that would protect his new laptop from the worst of the gusting rain. It was clearly a losing battle.
“Oh great,” McKay shouted over the wind as they approached. “More soldiers, a linguist, and—someone who is just—way too hot to be a physicist,” he finished, eyeing Vala.
“McKay,” Carter snapped, her voice barely audible over the open channel.
“No offense,” McKay said. “As you know, I consider you to be a statistical anomaly in a very, very hot package. What do you think of the current state of the outgoing matrix buffer? Please god, tell me you think it’s intact.”
Vala smiled a patently false smile that seemed to twist in a manner that struck Young as vaguely predatory. “Isn’t this one a charmer?”
“So, are you?” McKay demanded, glancing at Vala before clicking between windows on his laptop, “A physicist, I mean?”
“No,” Vala said cheerfully. “I’m just here to increase the aesthetics and decrease the ethics of the SGC’s flagship team.”
“Witty. So, a linguist then. You’re also hot for a linguist, in case you were wondering,” McKay replied absently.
Jackson subtly elbowed Vala, looking half annoyed, half-impressed, and wholly drenched.
Vala elbowed him back with quite a bit less subtlety, but she kept her eyes fixed on McKay as she said, “Funnily enough, I wasn’t,” with another faux friendly flash of teeth.
“McKay, you’re going to need to stay focused,” Carter said, her voice a static-frayed snap.
Overhead, there was a flash of lightning from somewhere deep in the clouds. Young looked up involuntarily, catching the last flickers of fading light. Almost immediately, thunder hit with a crack that faded to a long, menacing growl.
“This storm is pretty much on top of us,” Mitchell said, catching Young’s eye.
“I am. I am focused,” McKay said, rapidly scrolling through data. “This is how I focus. You should know this about me by now and I think you do, you’re just giving me a hard time so that Dr. Perry doesn’t get the wrong idea about our complicated personal history but look, I don’t just stare into space for two seconds and have intuitive insights that I’m one hundred percent sure are related to the fact that you’re a woman. Perry’s a woman. All this crystal-based stuff—it’s like perfect for you guys. You ladies. Gals. Whatever. Not that I’m implying you’re not intelligent, because, clearly, you are. In some areas possibly more so than I am, I’m just saying that our brains are different and—”
“Stop talking,” Carter snapped. “You’re shattering Dr. Perry’s illusions about you by the second. And we have no personal history.”
“Dr. Perry has—illusions about me?” McKay asked.
“Not anymore,” Perry replied.
“Whatever,” McKay said. “Anyway, tell General Landry thanks for the backup. This is extremely helpful. A little bit more helpful than a thirteen year old with an umbrella, just to put it in context for you. Doesn’t America’s most preeminent cryptographer have an assistant of some kind?”
“He works alone,” Young growled.
“Well, the weird ones always do,” McKay replied, looking back at his computer, wiping rain off the plastic cover that enclosed the monitor.
Young narrowed his eyes at McKay’s precarious, weather-assailed setup. The man’s laptop was clamped to a crate beneath the scientist’s wrists and angled into the wind, half-closed. It was connected to a messy, delicate array currently held by Greer that glowed green and interfaced with the altered DHD via a tangle of wind-whipped wires.
The entire thing was a disaster waiting to happen.
Judging by McKay’s nervous glances at the wiring, the other man knew it too.
“Listen up,” Young shouted the roaring wind. “We need to do two things. One, weather-proof this array to the best of our ability, and two, reestablish local communications capabilities with the Odyssey. SG-1, you’re on the array. Reaves and Atienza, stick with McKay. Greer and I will start unpacking the portable communications kit to see if we can’t boost our radio signal through this mess.” He gestured up at the clouds above them.
Greer fell in next to Young with a brief nod after handing whatever he was holding off to Vala.
“You done this before?” Young shouted over the wind as Teal’c handed him the kit containing the communications array. He motioned to Greer and then knelt next to one of the plastic crates with considerable difficulty, dropping slowly to his bad knee, keeping his back as straight as possible.
“No sir.” Greer shouted back.
“No time like the present,” Young said, blinking as a stinging spray of rain, rebounding from the crate between them, hit him straight in the face. “Crack it open, sergeant.”
Greer released the metal clamps on the top of the case and flung the lid back as lightning crawled through the clouds above them in a flickering fan. With a clattering sound, hail began to fall, pinging off the gate and DHD.
“I think we might need to get out of here,” Mitchell called back toward Young, his head ducked low, his hands wrapped around the wires connected to the array as another round of thunder split the air above them. “As in, away from the gate. This thing is going to draw lightning like you wouldn’t believe.”
“No kidding,” McKay shouted in Mitchell’s direction before he turned to look at Young. “But we’re not going to outrun the principles of electrostatics. And we may have people still out here. We are not dialing out from this gate until I am certain that they’re not linked to it or in the buffer. We have to wait out the Odyssey’s transport repairs.”
Young gave him a thumbs up and turned to Greer, who was brushing a layer of small hailstones off the open kit. “Did your team get any details from Emerson about the weather before you lost contact?” Young asked.
Above them, there was another flash, followed by a long roll of thunder.
“After a six hour window it was going to get ugly,” Greer replied. “Colonel Sheppard wanted us out by gate or by ship—“ the sergeant made a sweeping upward motion with his hand, that suggested beaming technology, “about an hour ago.”
Young grimaced, blinking rain out of his eyes and looked down at the kit. “Power supply,” he snapped, pointing out items in a rapid-fire clockwise list, “base, transmitter, signal booster, and receiver. Base,” he said, as Greer pulled it from the kit, “Right here.” He swept a patina of hailstones off the surface of the crate between them.
Without being told, Greer picked up the power supply and snapped it into the base of the unit before setting it down where Young had indicated, then correctly positioned the transmitter.
“You came up from where?” Young asked, as Greer subjected the signal booster to a brief, critical examination.
“Marine Corps,” Greer said, clicking the booster into place as he pulled the receiver out of the kit.
“You don’t say.”
Overhead there was a flash of lightning that was almost immediately followed by a deafening clap of thunder. Young watched Greer glance up at the threatening, irregular light that flickered deep within the clouds before powering up the unit and handing the receiver to Young.
Young depressed a button on the transmitter and spoke into the device. “Odyssey, this is Colonel Young. Please tell me you’re reading this.”
“Colonel Young,” he heard faintly over the static. He pressed the receiver to his ear. “This is Colonel Emerson—“ a hiss of interference interrupted the signal before he was able to make out “—rrent status?”
“Two of the original team are missing,” Young shouted into the array, feeling a strange prickling sensation at the back of his neck, “and we’re having a tough time of it down here with the weather.”
“Understood,” Emerson replied. “—eric scans show—”
A flash of lightning too bright and too close seared Young’s retinas even as it drew his gaze in a brilliant arc between sky and active gate. There was almost no interval between the light and the deafening clap of thunder that followed.
The gate shut down.
“Damn it,” McKay snapped.
“Everyone away from the DHD,” Young shouted. “Away from the gate.” Already the team was pulling back, Atienza and Reaves pulling McKay away from his laptop.
“I need that computer,” McKay shouted in Young’s direction, as he was dragged bodily away. “I need that computer.”
Young straightened with a vicious pull in his back and forced himself to jog the few steps over toward McKay’s laptop. He reached down, disconnected the cables with a snap, freed it from its clamp and shoved it at the scientist.
“Thank you,” McKay said, with an unsettling earnestness.
“We need a beam-out now,” Mitchell shouted over the wind.
“They could still be here,” McKay shouted back, tucking the laptop under his arm.
“Or they could be somewhere else,” Mitchell said. He pointed at the sky. “You see that rotation? This storm is no joke. Make for the tree line,” he continued. “Go. Go.”
Young turned back toward Greer, only to find the sergeant already next to him, transmitter in hand.
“We need a beam-out now,” Young said as he pulled the array from Greer’s grip. “Odyssey, do you copy?”
“Yes,” Emerson said, “But the transponders—“ the signal faded to a hiss “—original team—“ The man’s voice was cut off by another brilliant streamer of lightning and deafening clap of thunder.
“Go,” Mitchell shouted again over the drumming of the hail against leaves and plastic and metal, and over the strange, ominous buzz that seemed to emanate from the gate and DHD. Young could feel his hair beginning to stand on end. He forced himself into a jog and then an unstable run over grass and through tangled undergrowth. “Odyssey,” he shouted into the array. “We need a beam out.”
“—only five transponders—do you copy? We read only five transponders.”
“McKay,” Young shouted, barely able to see the man ahead of him through the driving hail and rain. It was hard to keep his eyes open. “McKay.”
The scientist slowed and Young caught up with him. “They don’t have a lock on everyone,” Young said as another strike of lightning connected, somewhere behind them with a deafening crack. “They’ve only got five of us.”
“I’m amazed they have anyone through this—” Another flash of lightning cut him off.
Young didn’t see where this strike hit but he could smell the ozone, feel the charge in the air.
“Five,” McKay shouted, his hand on Young’s arm. “You’re sure it was five?”
“Yes,” Young replied as they made the tree line. “Yes.”
“They’re going to have to sweep for us,” McKay shouted as they slipped beneath the dark violence of windswept branches. Around them, the trees groaned under the strain of the wind.
“No,” Jackson said, his voice and silhouette unmistakable even in the dim light. “A sweep? No. No. Have you seen—”
“Shut up, linguist.” McKay snapped. “Group together. Two concentric circles. Original team inside, new team outside.”
“McKay—” Young began.
“You said five. Our embedded transponders were blown out in the same EM pulse that killed our radios and our computers. They’re picking up the new team only.”
“Do it,” Young confirmed.
They formed up quickly, Young and SG-1 on the outside, surrounding the other four.
Young depressed the button on his array, but McKay, positioned opposite him, stopped him with a chilled hand around his wrist.
“John,” McKay screamed at the top of his lungs into the storm, his back arching with the effort. “If you’re out there, get in the center of this circle. RIGHT NOW.”
Young spoke into the radio. “Odyssey, stand by to do a transport sweep that encompasses a radial area defined by the five signals you’re locked onto. Give us as wide a margin as you can, on my mark.”
Young held his breath as the trees roared around them, hoping that wherever Rush was, it wasn’t here, in the midst of this storm.
McKay’s fingers released Young’s wrist.
“Mark,” he said into the radio.