He might have managed to get through the actual crisis with the smallest possible amount of casualties after the initial tumour explosion- considering the scale of the blast, five deaths and twenty injuries wasn't that bad- but he was still troubled by the most personal revelation of that night.
Elizabeth had been on a date?
It might not have worked out, but the fact that she could do something like that had just reinforced how he couldn't even really try to 'move on' from his own feelings for her; even if he could consciously accept that she didn't see him that way, he doubted anyone would be willing to even date someone who looked like they'd come off the loser in a fight with a bag of wrenches.
People might say that it was what was inside that mattered, but no woman should have to put up with a face like this on a regular basis…
He was actually grateful when they were assigned to take a look at the underwater drilling platform some distance from Atlantis; he'd noted the thing during some of his searches of the city's archives, but with Atlantis's own power reserves more than sufficient he'd never felt inclined to take a closer look at it when the city itself had so much to capture his interest. It might put him in close proximity to Elizabeth- who had insisted on coming along to survey this new discovery even if she acknowledged that she couldn't directly contribute anything to the search- but at least it gave him something interesting to think about while 'flying' the jumper through the ocean to search for the station's precise location. McKay had a few comments to make in the rear whenever anyone complained about his inability to pin down the station's precise area, but John was actually glad to hear that; it gave him something to think about beyond his current personal anxieties.
It was just a pity that the rest of the team didn't share his view on things; even if he'd learned to tolerate that kind of discussion, it was still a bit irritating to hear McKay griping about the demands placed on his time when everyone else knew that he enjoyed being the go to guy for these kind of enquiries.
"Still glad you came?" John asked Elizabeth as the conversation in the rear turned to McKay's apparent confusion over the name of one of the other scientist he'd brought along on this expedition; however he felt about Elizabeth 'moving on', he didn't want to lose her friendship.
"Oh, sorry," Elizabeth said. "I was… preoccupied thinking about the geothermal drilling platform."
"We should be there soon," John said, reaching over to check the ship's scanners. "We just passed the thermal layer and I'm getting some readings a couple of hundred feet ahead."
"If we can find an alternate and possibly limitless power supply, that would make even this long search seem worthwhile," Elizabeth said. "Don't get me wrong, we appreciate your donation of your ZPM supply, but it's still limited given our inability to create or recharge them ourselves; geothermal energy might be complicated, but if it's something we could maybe recreate… well, that could be very helpful back on Earth."
"Fair theory," John nodded, just as the HUD activated. "OK, we're coming up on our target."
As the other scientists came up to the front of the ship, John smiled in approval as he took in the station ahead of them, the whole structure resembling photos he'd seen of oil rigs back on Earth, apart from a more complex 'control tower' at the end and a more unusual kind of docking system at the other. Its long-dormant systems were already responding to the 'command' of his Ancient gene, as lights came on and various other subtler computer programs were brought online, indicating a platform that seemed prepared to take the jumper if they wanted to dock.
Even as he moved the ship into position to one of the tunnels in the side, John tried not to wonder if they were about to discover some deeper reason why the Ancients hadn't gone back to this thing long ago…
"All systems are online and functioning at full capacity," McKay said a couple of hours later, laptops connected up to the various consoles in the station's main control room. It hadn't taken long for them to identify the station's central control area- it might be limited compared to Atlantis's, but it was also the only place here with any kind of computer in abundance- but Elizabeth was still cautious about what they might discover in this area.
"You mean we're generating power already?" Elizabeth asked sharply.
"Well… no," McKay replied. "No, but we probably could if we wanted to."
"No, slow down," Elizabeth said, holding up a warning hand. "The Ancients abandoned this project for a reason; let's try to find out what that reason might be before we start drilling into the planet's crust."
"Yes, well, fair enough," McKay said.
"Quite," John noted, from his own position beside Elizabeth. "The last thing we want is some kind of real-world Inferno project."
"Inferno?" Elizabeth asked.
"I had a couple of cousins in Britain who were big fans of Doctor Who," John smiled slightly. "One of their favourites was this storyline where the Doctor witnessed this attempt to tap geothermal energy that released some kind of strange gas that mutated everyone it was exposed to into… well, some kind of wolf-man thing is the best I can come up with."
"You do get that was only a kid's show, right?" McKay asked.
"With some interesting ideas; no reason to ignore the possibility because of the source," John countered, before he turned back to study the controls. "As Elizabeth said, there has to be some reason the Ancients decided not to take this project any further…"
"Ronon Dex," Ronon's voice suddenly announced over the radio. "Everyone back to the Control Room; we might have a problem."
It might be a potentially dangerous turn of events, but John sincerely hoped that whatever Ronon had discovered would explain what had prompted the Ancients to abandon this station in the first place…
"We did a complete life signs scan; it's the first thing we did when we stepped aboard this station," McKay said, looking tetchily at the Athosian woman who had apparently just detected a Wraith presence in the area. "Look, I promise you, there is nobody here but us."
"I know, Rodney, but I am sensing it even closer now," Teyla said, moving her head around in that manner he'd come to recognise as her trying to 're-tune' her 'gift'.
"Well… maybe it's the pressure," McKay said dismissively. "It's been known to do things to the mind."
"Check again," John said firmly, in a tone that wouldn't allow McKay to disagree. Swallowing slightly in apprehension at the stare John shot in his direction, McKay nevertheless turned around and activated the life-signs scanner once again.
"There," he said, turning back to John once the scanner had been triggered to show only the twelve people currently in the central control room. "All life signs accounted for; are you happy now?"
"Wraith don't show up on life-signs detectors if they're hibernating," Elizabeth noted.
"I know what I am sensing," Teyla affirmed apprehensively.
"There is no Wraith here!" McKay protested. "I'm telling you-!"
"Nothing here…" John said, holding out one hand as a terrible thought came to him.
"What?" Elizabeth asked, looking back at him.
"We know that the Wraith and the Ancients fought their last battle on this planet, right?" John said, looking between the rest of the assembled team. "And we know that Wraith can live a long time… so isn't it possible that a Wraith ship crashed here and at least one of its crew managed to survive until we woke them up by passing by?"
"You mean… like on that planet on the outer reaches of this system?" McKay asked, looking at him with a new curiosity. "You know, I've been meaning to ask since you started working with us officially; did you kill that thing?"
"Stumbled across it when I was scoping out the solar system and was a lot more paranoid than I am now," John replied with a brief shrug. "That thing was hungry and tired when I went to that planet, and I'd kept my jumper's defences up; knocked him off-balance with a drone, cut his hands off before he could get over the disorientation and try to feed, and after that he was almost easy to take down."
"What are the odds of that being the case here?" Elizabeth asked, looking at John with a more commanding presence at the thought of a potential crisis.
"Depends on what survived the crash," John said. "The Wraith on that planet was just a standard warrior who lucked out on being woken up first and ate the rest of the crew to keep himself going, but anything that made it this close to Atlantis was more likely to be crewed by the elite…"
"In other words, if you're right, we'd be dealing with something more powerful and more dangerous than the standard Wraith no matter what survived the crash," McKay sighed. "Well, that's all we needed…"
"I can determine the truth easily enough," Teyla put in. "If I can reach out with my mind and establish a link…"
"Couldn't that be dangerous?" Elizabeth asked.
"If there is no Wraith, then there will be no mind for me to link with, and therefore no risk," Teyla explained rapidly. "But if there is a Wraith nearby…"
"We need to know," Elizabeth nodded in grim understanding, before she turned to look at John. "Is there somewhere we could go for Teyla to establish a link in private?"
"Should be a few crew quarters down here," John indicated a nearby corridor. "This place was only ever intended to be a drilling platform; they wouldn't have wanted to make it difficult for the crew to get back to work if something came up."
"Fair point," Elizabeth nodded, before joining Teyla, Ronon and John as they headed towards the indicated corridor. A few moments later, Teyla was sitting on a bench in the middle of the room, her legs crossed and her hands held out palm-up as she prepared for what she was about to attempt.
"You ready?" John asked, looking anxiously at the Athosian woman despite the mask that concealed most of his features.
"I only require brief contact to determine if I am right or not," Teyla said, looking at John with a brief smile, her usual uncertainty about him forgotten. "I will be fine."
"Remember, just link up long enough to determine what we're dealing with should be enough," John said.
"And we'll all be right here to bring you out of it if things go wrong," Elizabeth added.
As Teyla closed her eyes, John exchanged a brief glance with Ronon, the two displaying their weapons to each other to confirm that their energy pistols were already set to stun in case of a worst-case scenario. Their focus soon returned to Teyla as she took a deep breath and concentrated, her hands moving to her knees as she reached out with her mind…
"Teyla?" Elizabeth asked, looking anxiously at the other woman as she finally opened her eyes.
"I-I was mistaken," Teyla said, looking slightly bewildered. "There's nothing there."
"Good to know," John said, even as he noted that down as something to be concerned about; even if he didn't want to have to face any Wraith that had survived this long, he doubted that Teyla's powers were something that could be 'tricked' by pressure like she was currently claiming…
"Well," Elizabeth shrugged as she stood up, "if there's nothing for us to worry about, we have a lot of exploring to do."
"'We'?" John repeated.
"Until Rodney delivers the preliminary status report, I'm all yours," Elizabeth smiled. "Put me to work, Colonel."
"Although, let's make up some time," John said, taking a moment to think about his best decision right now before making his mind up; regardless of his concerns about Teyla's senses, if there was a Wraith out there, it couldn't do anything to them when they were inside the locked drilling station. "Ronon, you and Teyla search that way, Elizabeth joins me in checking out the other side; we rendezvous back here in an hour or if we find anything interesting."
As Elizabeth followed him out of the room and down another corridor, John was already trying to figure out what would be his best plan for the current arrangement. Obviously, he wasn't going to bring up her 'date' no matter how much the experience had hurt him- if she wanted to go out with someone else, he didn't have any real right to object or feel hurt by it- but on the other hand, he didn't have any real evidence for his concerns about what might have happened…
"Is something wrong/" Elizabeth asked, after a few moments of silence.
"Just… Teyla," John said, lost for anything better to say as he looked at Elizabeth; after everything he'd shared with her when he was 'officially' Atlantis's 'most wanted', it seemed ungrateful not to tell her at least some of the truth now. "I get what she said, but I just can't share the idea that her gift to sense the Wraith doesn't really work in a manner that could let it be 'tricked'…
"You think she was lying?"
"I think there might be something else going on here…" John said, shaking his head as he looked around the corridor they were walking through. "I just don't know what; even if a Wraith crashed, it couldn't have gained access to this place while the whole facility was on lockdown…"
Further conversation ended when the lights in the corridor suddenly went off, prompting John to pull out his Ancient shield device and clip it to his chest.
"What-?" Elizabeth began, before the device began to glow with a low light.
"One of the alternative functions I discovered for this thing; on a low level, it can just serve as a kind of flashlight without needing to create a full shield," John explained. "Takes up less power and it's a useful little extra."
"Nice," Elizabeth nodded in approval, before she turned to activate her radio. "Rodney, what's going on?"
"What do you mean, what's going on?" McKay replied.
"We just lost lights in our section," Elizabeth explained.
"What?" McKay replied, followed by a brief pause before he continued, most likely checking something at his end. "Huh, you're right…"
"Can you clarify how that happened?" John put in.
"No idea; we've just lost power to some forty percent of the station, including sensors," McKay explained. "Zelenka, what are you doing?"
"What do you mean, what am I doing?" the Czech scientist asked as he joined the conference message.
"Have you lost power where you are?"
"No; have you?"
"No," McKay replied.
"Well, we have, and I want to know what's going on," John said. "Ancient tech of this quality doesn't just shut down after centuries of dormancy; we need to work out what happened here."
"It's probably just a few operating glitches; I'll get the power back soon…" McKay said in frustration.
"Ronon, Teyla?" Elizabeth asked, turning her attention to a different channel. "Report your position."
The lack of response was enough for John to know that things were going increasingly wrong; the only question now was whether it was something he could stop before it got any worse…
"McKay," he said, turning his radio back to the Canadian scientist, "we've lost contact with Ronon and Teyla; you have their position?"
"No, internal sensors are out…" McKay said, pausing for a moment before he continued. "However, I have determined where the power went down; it's an auxiliary control area in search grid six, near where Teyla and Ronon were searching."
"Right," John said, taking a moment to consider his options before making his decision; whatever was up right now, Teyla and Ronon almost certainly needed help, and he'd have time to determine if any of his worst-case scenarios were actually happening before even the worst of them became an issue…