Much to his relief, the console activated, followed by the rest of the consoles in the ship's bridge quickly turning on afterwards; clearly the Taranians had done a good job in terms of physically repairing the damaged components even if they hadn't been able to turn much of the ship on afterwards.
"I wonder how many more ships like these exist," Teyla mused.
"A few more like this, and we can give the Wraith a serious fight," Ronon commented, a slightly approving smile on his face.
"Life support should be back up and running in a few minutes," McKay added as he walked around the control room, briefly checking a few consoles before he turned to address the others.
"Good work," Sumner noted briefly, nodding in approval at the Canadian; he thought about asking why life support needed to be reactivated in the first place, but reminded himself before he even spoke that it probably wouldn't have been considered a necessity to keep life support on when so many other systems needed work and the ship was on the ground anyway.
"And I've discovered the ship's name- its original name before the Phantom named it, I mean," McKay added, glancing briefly at his portable computer. "It's named the, uh-"
"Hippoforalkus," Norena added, smiling slightly at him.
"Huh?" McKay said, looking at her in surprise. "You know that?"
"Yes, the Phantom discovered that when we first managed to activate the ship's computer systems; we left it off more of the time as we did not want to drain the ship's power, particularly since we were unable to do much about damage that the operating systems had sustained without access to the programming codes to do so, but a casual analysis allowed us to better determine what hardware was in functional condition and what was not," Norena clarified, smiling slightly as she looked around at the rest of the team. "The Phantom felt that 'Orion' was a simpler name for all concerned, and we agreed with him after he provided us with the tale of the original Orion; a mythical hunter whose skills attracted the attention of his world's gods seemed a more appropriate name for such a ship than a general that we knew nothing about."
"I... see," Sumner noted, wishing that he could work out whether that particular piece of information was relevant to his efforts to find out more about the Phantom or not; could it just be a coincidence that the Phantom came from a world that shared at least that myth with Earth, or was there more to it than that?
"Whatever its name," Teyla said, drawing Sumner's focus onto the presently most relevant issue, "this ship is large enough to fit many people."
"Could fit all the settlement if we had to," Ronon added.
Sumner was trying to decide how he felt about that idea, but the sound of his radio activating drew his attention in another direction.
"Colonel Sumner, this is the Daedalus," the voice on the other end of the connection said.
"Go ahead," Sumner replied as he turned his radio on, only to wince as nothing but static reached his ears.
"We're too far underground for conventional signals to reach us..." he muttered, half to himself, before he turned to look at McKay. "Can you get this ship's communications systems online?"
"Right, I'm on it," McKay said, hurrying past Sumner to another console and activating a few controls. "Right, try it now."
Nodding briefly in response, Sumner activated his radio. "We're here, Colonel Caldwell; what's your status?"
"We've just arrived in orbit above Taranis," Caldwell clarified. "Where are you? We've scanned the base and found no life signs."
"Well, this part of the complex must be, uh, shielded," McKay suggested as Sumner looked inquiringly at him.
"I hear you could use some assistance?" Caldwell said.
"Quite," Sumner confirmed with a grim nod. "The Stargate on this planet has been swallowed by lava and the volcano we're in is about to erupt within the next few hours; any assistance that you can provide would be appreciated."
"Get yourselves out into the open where we can get a lock on you," Caldwell responded.
"That's not going to be possible," Sumner replied; as much as he prided himself on his rationality, he knew that this was one occasion where he had to at least try and save everyone involved in this current mess. "We're working on evacuating the population, and we've managed to locate an Ancient ship that these people have mostly repaired that we can use for that purpose, but Doctor McKay's still working on making sure everything's connected up properly; right now, the most useful thing you could do for us is get some of these people back to Atlantis so we don't have to worry about them ourselves."
"Just to clarify, you don't expect us to take everyone on that planet, right?" Caldwell asked. "From the number of people we're detecting, that would be at least four trips."
"Daedalus is quite large," Teyla put in. "Sure you could fit more..."
"This is a spaceship, which means that our life support resources are finite," Caldwell interjected. "Four trips would already stretch those resources to the limit."
"Just give me a minute, and I'll get back to you on that," Sumner said, before he terminated the connection- it might be rude, but this was something it would be best to discuss with his team before he told anything to the other colonel- and turned to McKay. "How long would it take to get this thing ready to fly if we focused on propulsion and ignored weapons for the moment?"
"Well," McKay said, studying another console contemplatively, "actually, most of the power regulators are up and running, the connections are all sorted, even the hyperdrive seems to be ready to go; the only thing not operational right now is..."
He paused for a moment before he groaned in frustration. "Oh, crap."
"Problem?" Ronon asked.
"The one system that's in really bad shape, and it's the sublight engines," McKay said, looking grimly over at the rest of the team. "Everything else is... well, the controlling programs are missing some bits in some places- the crystals containing the code were probably damaged in their last battle or something like that-, but we've still got all the data we acquired from the Aurora to fill in what we can right here for a quick patch job, and Atlantis should have enough spare control crystals to sort out the rest- we've got everything we need to get this ship going, even if I wouldn't recommend getting into a fight any time soon until we've had time to test the other systems-, but without sublight engines-"
"Is the hyperdrive still working?" Sumner asked, hoping that the apparently-obvious solution that had just occurred to him didn't have some complication that he wasn't aware of that would prevent it from working.
"Well, everything's pretty much there- like I said, there's just a few blank bits of code to fill in; the program must have degraded a bit over the years-, but-" McKay began.
"Problem solved, then; couldn't we use that to get off-planet?" the colonel continued (He just hoped that he hadn't missed a report or something about what would happen if you engaged hyperspace in a planet's atmosphere; he tried to stay up-to-date with the SGC's discoveries, but he still found himself focusing on more planetary-based matters when it came to technological advancement, particularly since he'd never been that interested in commanding a ship himself).
"Well, theoretically, yes, but that's not going to do us much good; we might be able to activate it, but we need to be in motion before we can go through a window-" McKay began, before he snapped his fingers in inspiration. "Of course!"
"What?" Teyla asked.
"We can use the eruption!" McKay clarified.
"Excuse me?" Sumner said, looking incredulously at McKay as he wondered if the possibility of death had finally driven the scientist insane. "You want us to use the eruption? By which you mean the eruption of this volcano that we're currently standing in? The eruption that you said would be sufficiently powerful enough to completely render this planet uninhabitable-"
"Look, the shields are already in fairly good condition; all we need to do right now is make sure that they stay that way long enough for us to pull this off," McKay explained, as he turned around and began to rapidly study the information displayed on another console. "Admittedly, even at full power, we won't be able to take that kind of assault for much more than a matter of seconds after the eruption starts, but if I divert all power that would be going to the sublight engines into the hyperdrive, that should be long enough for us to open a hyperspace window that will send us into the upper atmosphere."
"OK, that's... one way we could get out of here; are there... any others?" Sumner asked, looking critically at McKay; as much as he respected McKay's intellect, the issues involved in the timing of that plan weren't exactly encouraging...
"Well, one or two, but since they would rely on me figuring out how to develop the equivalent of a tractor beam in the next few hours and having Daedalus pretty much lift us out, I'm going to have to say this is our best shot," McKay said, dismissively turning back to the console he'd been studying before he realised that his teammates were glaring at his back.
"What?" he said, turning around to look at them in exasperation. "Look, I've got a plan, and I'm reasonably sure that it's going to work; just... give me a little time to run the numbers while Daedalus takes the first load of refugees, OK?"
"Fine," Sumner said after a few moments of silently staring at McKay made it clear that the Canadian scientist wasn't going to give him any further information, before he reactivated his radio. "Sumner to Daedalus, are you still there?"
"Colonel Sumner?" Caldwell's voice replied. "You've been incommunicado for the last few minutes; is something wrong?"
"Just got a little bit caught up in brainstorming a few ideas about how to deal with the current situation, Colonel," Sumner replied with a slight smile. "Doctor Weir may not have had time to mention it in her initial contact with you, but it turns out that the Taranians have been working on an Ancient-related project of their own for the last few years; the reconstruction of an Aurora-class ship called the Orion."
"Really?" Caldwell said, apparently impressed with the find despite himself. "Well, with a ship that large, you should be able to get everyone else out in one trip."
"Quite," Sumner replied. "Unfortunately, the sublight engines may not be up and running in the time available to us, but Doctor McKay has devised a plan to use the upcoming eruption to help us open a hyperspace window that should allow us to enter orbit; he's just running the numbers for it at the moment."
"Hold on; 'running the numbers'?" Caldwell repeated (Sumner suddenly wished he'd come up with a better phrase than that; he must have been spending too much time with the team outside of missions if he was starting to sound that unprofessional). "In other words, Doctor McKay isn't sure that the plan will work?"
"I just need a bit of time to make sure I haven't missed anything; based on what I've got so far, I'm fairly sure we can do this, OK?" McKay said, waving an impatient hand at nothing as he continued to study the console screen in front of him. "Just... see if you can get the first wave of evacuees out of here and I'll be ready to give you the news when you get back."
"Understood," Caldwell said after a moment's pause, evidently resigned that he'd been told everything he was going to get about the current situation. "Call back when you've got everyone organised. Daedalus out."
A few hours later, Sumner had to admit that things were actually going fairly well for them, even if he'd recently had to abandon the Taranian control room when the eruptions reached a point where remaining in that area could have been dangerous. With the first wave of evacuees having been successfully beamed up to the Daedalus and even now on their way to Atlantis- they may have even reached the city already if all had gone well-, McKay had completed his analysis of the Orion's systems and had confirmed that everything that needed to be in working order for the plan to work was in the necessary shape. There'd been some tension among a few villagers from the more outlying settlements who'd preferred the possibility of retreating to a more distant part of the continent in the belief that they could outrun the eruption, but when Teyla and Beckett had been able to promise them an alternative evacuation point in the form of the Orion, that argument had ended in favour of getting everyone into the Ancient vessel.
Sumner just wished that their plan didn't depend on them waiting for the actual eruption in order to get off-planet, but he had to admit that McKay had a point; they had no way of towing other ships along that they could use to lift Orion out of the hanger on its own power, the ship had to be moving if it was going to enter the hyperspace window, and the eruption was the only think capable of providing the necessary momentum that he could think of. He'd briefly thought about launching a couple of drones to try and clear the roof away so that they wouldn't need to depend on the shields as much as the current plan required them to, but that plan had been quickly shot down when he'd reminded himself that the resulting debris would just fall on the ship and either damage the hull or deplete the shields, neither of which were desirable at this point.
He'd never admit it on the record, but he definitely had reason to be grateful to the Phantom right now. If it hadn't been for his previous efforts in helping the Taranians complete what repairs they could on the Orion, the ship would probably be nowhere near ready for them to use her in this kind of situation; even in a best-case scenario, he doubted that McKay could have carried out enough repairs even to allow them to survive the eruption, never mind get off-planet afterwards...
Admittedly, he still wished that the Phantom had told them about the Orion before now- it might have come in useful during the siege last year, among other things-, but criticising the vigilante in question wouldn't exactly accomplish anything at this point; the masked man had shown time and again that he could easily evade any attempts to capture him while always coming through for them when his aid was genuinely required.
All that Sumner could do was focus on the task at hand and hope that the Phantom wasn't concealing anything else that might have been important earlier for whatever reasons he had for keeping secrets.
God, was it so hard for that man to take orders from a superior officer? He somehow doubted the Phantom had any actual training, given the relatively haphazard manner of most of his combat strategies and methods from what he'd seen of the other man in the past; Ronon might have a fighting style that favoured power over finesse, but given the life he'd lived and the foes he'd faced that was almost to be expected, and he still showed some degree of training behind it all...
As much as he acknowledged how the Phantom had helped them in the past, they'd get a lot more done if the Phantom would just make himself accountable and available to them on a regular basis; he might not be 'comfortable' doing that, but they needed to know what he could actually do if they were going to successfully defend Atlantis, not just rely on his as some-!
"McKay to Sumner," a voice said over the radio.
"Go ahead," Sumner replied, grimly hoping that the Canadian scientist had better news for him.
"We've managed to get most of the people into the Orion, but the tunnels leading to the ship from the settlement have collapsed," McKay replied, his voice grim as he spoke.
"Was there anyone left in the settlement?" Sumner asked, his fingers crossed at the implications of that particular turn of events; judging by the time since the Daedalus had departed, there was still time for the ship to get back here to pick up anyone who might have been trapped on the wrong side of the tunnel...
"Teyla and Ronon were trying to collect the last group," McKay replied, eliminating the brief hope Sumner had that it wouldn't be anybody significant missing; Teyla and Ronon might not be official members of the expedition- they didn't even have any 'rank' to speak of, and their position in the city command structure was sketchy at best even if Teyla had done a decent job in charge of Atlantis during their return to Earth after the siege-, but the loss of Teyla's diplomatic skills and Ronon's combat-based knowledge of the Wraith wouldn't exactly be something they could lose easily.
"Based on last count, how many were still out there?" he asked, trying to bring his mind back to the wider issues facing them right now.
"Apart from Teyla and Ronon, a couple of hundred or so; I had Beckett and Norena do a quick crew count using Orion's internal sensors," McKay replied.
"In other words, nothing Daedalus couldn't handle if they get here in time, right?" Sumner asked; the last thing he wanted was to have to deal with more innocent lives on his conscience.
"Unfortunately, the key word there is if- based on the atmospheric sensors there's dangerously high levels of sulphur dioxide spewing into the air from dozens of fumaroles; it won't be possible for anything to survive out there for much longer-, but if they can stay inside and stay low in what's left of the tunnel they should be able to get through the worst of it before Daedalus gets back," McKay replied. "I'm trying to send the ship a message, but there's too much between us and the surface; a lava flow just covered the hanger door completely-"
"Is that going to have an impact on our plan?" Sumner asked, his mind automatically flashing to the worst possible outcome of the current crisis; if they were stuck in the Orion, he didn't need to be a scientist to know that their deaths would be very unpleasant...
"So long as I've calculated the power available to the shields, we should be all right," McKay replied. "If they last as long as I think they will, we should be blown through the roof far enough for me to activate the hyperspace engines; it's only if I'm wrong that things get awkward..."
"Right; so, as long as you're right, we're fine," Sumner said, hoping that he'd concealed the worst of his scepticism at that statement; McKay might have been right about this kind of thing most of the time, but the last thing they wanted was another Arcturus-like mess when they didn't even have a Stargate they could use to evacuate if things turned ugly on them...
"Pretty much, yeah," McKay replied, evidently oblivious to the scepticism (Although that could be the result of him ignoring it as much as it being the result of Sumner successfully concealing it). "Look, if you could just see who you can find out there, that'd probably be a good thing; it's getting a bit warm out there, and given the declining state of the atmosphere in the area I wouldn't recommend staying in the base longer than you have to..."
"Understood," Sumner said, ignoring the casual manner in which McKay disregarded the chain of command by giving him orders in favour of getting the current task finished.
He'd only agreed to go through with McKay's plan because the scientist had seemed fairly confident that he could get this ship in reasonably-working order in the time available to them; if he'd doomed the Taranians because he'd relied on McKay's hunch...
After a couple of hours of hurried searching had turned up no sign of any other Taranians in the facility- anyone behind those hot doors was almost certainly beyond any help he could offer at this point-, Sumner was on his way to the Orion's bridge after leading the last of his group into the ship, his fingers privately crossed that McKay had lived up to his usual reputation.
Walking onto the ship's bridge, he allowed himself a slight smile at the sight of Beckett, McKay, and Norena sitting at various chairs around the bridge; it didn't guarantee that the ship was ready, but at least it suggested that McKay didn't feel the need to make any last-minute modifications to improve their chances.
"Colonel Sumner!" Beckett said, turning to look at him with a smile. "How's your group?"
"Everyone I could find in the facility has been brought into the Orion," Sumner replied, nodding at Beckett in a brief but reassuring manner before he turned to McKay. "How's your plan coming along?"
"Well, we're pretty much ready to activate the shields; I just want to hold it off until the last second in case we have any kind of power issues..." the scientist replied, shrugging slightly at Sumner's pointed stare. "Look, no matter what everyone's done to get this ship back into shape over the years, it's still not been used for several centuries; I think I'm entitled to want to be a bit cautious about how I'm using it..."
"Understood," Sumner said, staring intently at McKay. "Just so long as you're confident your plan will work..."
"Oh, no problem at all, really; all we have to do is ride out the eruption for the four seconds necessary for us to open the hyperspace window," McKay replied with a nod. "It won't let us go very far, of course- even with the repairs the Taranians did over the years the computer's just lost too many control crystals to give it the necessary processing power for longer trips-, but it'll definitely be enough to get us into orbit-"
"I'll take it," Sumner said, walking over to sit down in the bridge's central chair as the two doctors and Norena took up position around the bridge. "How long have we got?"
"No way of knowing, but we're pretty much ready anyway," McKay said, studying his console urgently. "Inertial dampeners are engaged, hyperdrive's ready, shields are up... we're good to go."
"Right then," Sumner said, reaching over to activate the ship's P.A. system from the control panel on the side of the chair. "Everyone, this is Colonel Sumner. The ship's programmed and ready to enter hyperspace, but you should all strap yourselves in; things are about to get... rough."
"Don't hold your breath; it could happen any time in the next half-hour," McKay said as he sat back in his seat, just moments before the ship began to shudder around them; Sumner vaguely noted Beckett tightening his grip on the handles of his chair as McKay held tightly onto his console, but for a moment there was no sign of any activity...
Then, as Sumner watched the view in front of the ship's observation window, the Orion was launched upwards as magma and lava burst through the floor, sending the ship hurtling towards the roof that Sumner could only hope was collapsing above them-
"NOW!" McKay yelled.
As Sumner watched, the brilliant orange of the magma was momentarily replaced by the brilliant blue of hyperspace, before he found himself looking at the black of space, stars spread out before them as the familiar shape of the Daedalus drifted into view from out of the corner of the window.
"It worked!" Beckett said, voicing Sumner's own thoughts of relief at the sight before them.
It had been a close call, but they'd done it; they'd saved the Taranians, and they'd recovered a potentially highly useful future weapon against the Wraith into the bargain.
"You really are a genius," Norena said, smiling over at McKay just as Sumner turned around to look at the rest of the people on the bridge.
"Uh... yeah," McKay said, loosening his grip on the console slightly as he noticed that they had survived the blast. "Well... that's... always good to hear..."
"This is the Daedalus," Caldwell's voice said over the radio. "Are there any survivors aboard?"
"Affirmative," Sumner replied, allowing himself a relieved smile as he took in what had just taken place. "Actually, we have virtually everyone here."
"Good to know," Caldwell replied, nodding in approval. "What's your engine status?"
"Hyperdrive's potentially accessible, but sublight's out of action until I can do some more work with it, and the computer's lost too much data with the damage it sustained to the control crystals for it to provide the necessary processing power to calculate trips on the magnitude we're facing," McKay put in. "If you could provide us with the necessary equations from Daedalus, I should be able to get us back to Atlantis, but it'll take a bit of time to get everything working once we get there..."
"Just so long as you can do it soon, Doctor McKay, we'll take what we can get right now," Caldwell said, a slight edge to his voice that set off more than a few warning bells in Sumner's mind.
He might not be saying anything more at this time- not that Sumner could blame him; even if he had just helped to save the Taranians, he didn't want to say anything with Norena in the room that might give them a negative impression of Atlantis's capabilities-, but Sumner was prepared to bet that there was going to be something problematic waiting for them...
AN 2: Well, that's Orion recovered; next up, we jump to shortly before the opening scenes of Allies, as Elizabeth tries to talk to John about possible strategies to deal with the approaching Hive-Ship...