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Chapter 5: Search and Rescue

While waiting for the rescue teams to arrive in the control room, Peter Grodin had used the recently discovered biometrics sensor to locate the exact position of Major Sheppard and Dr. Weir. Fortunately, the readings had also indicated that both were still alive much to Peter's relief. That McKay finally made radio contact with Elizabeth was even more welcome news. As soon as Rodney and Carson had spoken with Elizabeth, they hurriedly apprised the rest of the gathered personnel of the situation at hand. Along with Dr. Beckett's trauma team and the military contingent lead by Lieutenant Ford, a team of hastily assembled engineers lead by their department head, Dr. Johnson, was ready and waiting to help their trapped teammates. McKay was glad to see that the engineers came with an assortment of excavation equipment and gear they would need to access the collapsed section of the city.

"Ah Dr. Jones. I trust you are familiar with the structural design of the northeast section? It will help immensely if we have an inkling of what problems we might run into down there so we can plan for any unforeseen contingencies." McKay asked the Chief Engineer.

"It's Johnson. Yes, I downloaded all the available schematics and architectural data into a handheld PDA. We'll be able to refer to it in the event any electronic wall maps have been disabled by the collapse." The engineer explained.

"Yes, Johnson. Sorry, I am bad with names. Hmm...Good. Good. Good. Excellent thinking." McKay replied impatiently as he got the groups ready to move out.

The trauma, engineering, and military teams were packed, ready, and under way in record time. Knowing time was of the essence, the expedition members hustled along at a brisk pace. Even the added burden of carrying backpacks and pushing carts loaded with essential medical supplies, electronic gear, and digging equipment did little to slow them down. Not one of them wanted to be the reason for not reaching their destination in time.

They had been on the move for approximately a half hour when the Scotsman's radio signaled an incoming call from Dr. Weir. Tapping his receiver, the doctor answered promptly. "Dr. Beckett here. Elizabeth, how are you holding up? How's our patient doing?"

"Carson, the major just regained consciousness." Weir's voice sounded anxious and fatigued as she updated Carson.

Relieved that his patient had awakened, Beckett was eager to know Sheppard's neurological responses to a few basic questions. "Good to hear. Is he lucid?" He told her what questions to ask the major.

Elizabeth conferred with the injured man before coming back online. "The major doesn't seem to be suffering from any memory loss. He knows who he is, what day it is, and he remembers everything that happened. He's in extreme pain though. There are some ampoules of morphine in the emergency field kit. Should I give him some?"

"No, I am afraid not, lass. Pain meds are not advised in cases of possible head injury. Is the major experiencing any nausea or dizziness?" Beckett replied.

As Elizabeth paused, the doctor could hear the muffled sounds of the major vomiting in the background. "That's an affirmative on the nausea."

After another brief pause, she responded to the rest of his question. "Yes to the dizziness too."

Trying to refrain from causing added worry, Beckett instructed Weir on how to care for the concussed man. "Well, Elizabeth, it certainly appears Major Sheppard has a concussion at the very least. Listen, lass. This is very important. I need you to keep him awake. We need to prevent him from possibly slipping into a coma. And keep him from moving too much in case he has broken ribs. We wouldn't want him to be puncturing a lung or vital organ."

He could hear the unvoiced fear in her next question. "Carson, what if he's bleeding internally?"

Beckett knew in all likelihood the major was experiencing internal bleeding, but did not want to unduly alarm Elizabeth. At any rate, there was nothing that could be done to repair any internal damage until they got the man to the infirmary.

"Well, let's just hope that is not the case. Best to stay steady and deal with one problem at a time. Are his wounds still bleeding?"

"They haven't stopped completely, but they have slowed considerably."

Carson was glad for at least one positive bit of information. "Aye, that's at least a hopeful sign. You're doing fine, lass. Just keep him calm and awake as best you can until we get there. I will be a radio call away if you need me. We are making good progress and will get there soon."

Hitting his headset to shut it off, Beckett glanced over at McKay who returned his concerned look. "Rodney, if you happen to find in your wee bag of tricks a way to get us there quicker, you'd best be using it now. It doesn't sound like the major is doing well at all. I don't like the sound of his symptoms from what the lass is telling me."

"If I could change the immutable laws of physics, don't you think I would do so? I would so just love to be able to wave my hand to make John and Elizabeth rematerialize in the infirmary. Even better, I'd just snap my fingers and turn back time so we would again be in the mess hall this morning. Then, I could use my precognitive capabilities to prevent them from even heading out on this ill-fated trip. Yes, Carson. Believe me when I say I would love to pull either one of these abilities out of my so-called bag of tricks!" Rodney snapped at the physician striding purposefully alongside him.

"Aye, Rodney I am as worried about them as you are. So I won't be having you all peevish with me, son. I was just thinking out loud, really. I dinna expect you to be able to change the circumstances." The Scotsman replied.

The look on the doctor's face reminded McKay that he did not have the monopoly on concern for their friends. Every member of the rescue party wanted nothing more than to reach their two leaders as expeditiously as possible.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to snip at you, Carson. It's just...well...the major's the closest thing to a best friend I have ever had, and I am the reason he is even in this predicament. If he doesn't survive, it will be my fault." McKay stated.

"Now I know that overactive, genius brain of yours employs some interesting logic, but just how do you come by that line of reasoning, laddie?" Beckett was not about to have Rodney blaming himself for the tragedy.

"Let's see, shall we? The only reason Sheppard went to that remote location was to retrieve a laptop that belongs to yours truly. If I hadn't taken such umbrage over Kavanaugh leaving it behind, the major would have never volunteered to go all the way to get it. I could have waited for it, but did I? Did I? No. No. No. I had to gripe so much about some inconsequential data that I had stored on it, that John thought he'd do me a favor. Jesus, Carson, he was off duty for the first time in weeks. He should have been using his day off for some much-earned down time. Some rest and relaxation he's getting now, isn't he?" McKay retorted in self-disgust.

Dr. Beckett shook his head as he admonished the scientist for his self-recrimination. "Oh, did you cause the walls to come tumbling down, Rodney? Did you whip up the hurricane that caused the damage in the first place and send it on the collision course with our fair city? Did you force Major Sheppard to volunteer? No, I don't think so. You are intelligent to know you cannot control every circumstance. Sometimes, these things just happen, son."

"Carson, Sheppard called me when they first arrived in the northeast location. He told me they noticed some storm damage, yet did I check the database thoroughly for any indications that the area was unsafe? No, not me. Not Mr. I-Know-Everything-So-Spare-Me-The-Details McKay. Oh no. Uh Uh. Nope. I let the information go in one ear and out the other and left them to their own devices. I'm the resident genius. I should have been able to extrapolate that the whole situation had the potential for calamity when I factored in the presence of the major in combination with an area displaying observable structural damage. I should have known it was a disaster waiting to happen." McKay seemed determined to not let himself off the hook.

"You are a stubborn bugger, you are, Rodney! It's not your fault, and I will not be hearing any more of this foolish talk." Dr. Beckett insisted.

Coming up behind the two men, Lieutenant Ford overheard the last part of their conversation and felt compelled to add his two cents worth.

"Dr. Beckett is right, Dr. McKay. No one can predict these things, and Major Sheppard himself would not want you to blame yourself. He would tell you to get over yourself."

"The lieutenant is right, Rodney. Don't be such an hlupák. Such a big brain and can't see the forest for the trees. Always you make it about yourself. It's better to use your overabundance of energy to solve the problem instead of moaning about the past you cannot change. Unless you have been building a time machine in your spare time, you can only act in the now to maybe influence the future, yes?" Dr. Zelenka chimed in. The Czech scientist had been trotting along next to Ford, trying to keep up with the taller soldier's longer and more determined strides.

"Well, yes. It still remains to be seen whether we will be able to affect a positive outcome." McKay muttered.

"Think positively, lad. Think positively." Beckett added as the four continued down the hallway.

The search and rescue team continued to make good time. Over the next hour and a half, they marched without stopping once for a breather. There would be plenty of time to rest once they had extracted their teammates and delivered them to the medical facilities for proper treatment. Periodically, Dr. Beckett contacted Dr. Weir to obtain updates on the Major Sheppard. As time passed, the injured man's condition steadily deteriorated, making the doctor grow increasingly apprehensive. The longer it took to get to the major, the greater the chance his injuries would prove fatal.

Finally they arrived at the passageway leading to the five rooms that had been on Sheppard's search grid. Checking the lifesigns detector, McKay located the exact room where Elizabeth and John were trapped. They double timed their way down the hall and turned the corner into the corridor where the collapsed room was located.

"Oh bloody hell!" Carson lamented when they came to the end of the corridor and finally reached the entrance to the room where their colleagues lay trapped. "We best have the engineers get their equipment up here right away, Rodney. We have to clear this mess out of here as soon as possible if we are to get to the major before it's too late.

Rodney took one look at the seemingly insurmountable obstacle that blocked their path. The doorway was obstructed by a tangle of toppled beams, wall and ceiling debris that prevented them from gaining easy access to the demolished room before them. McKay swallowed and tried to ignore the nagging feeling of despair. A nervous glance at his watch made him all too aware that the swift passage of minutes had left them precious little time to save their critically injured friend.

"Oh no. This is not good. Not good at all."


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