"It does?" Ronon commented skeptically.
"Yes. Yes, it does," Teyla said, spearing him with a look. She turned to give Radek and Miko a reassuring smile, adding, "We need only look for the way to the surface."
"Right." John turned back to the shadowy room. "Stay together."
There was an open triangular archway at the back of the chamber, leading to an almost identical space, but unlit. John had thought the lights would come on once they got into the darkened section; they did in Atlantis, responding to any movement now that they had been initialized by the Ancient gene. But the pillar-lights here stayed dark. "That's not good," John commented, carefully examining the walls with his P-90's light while Zelenka and Kusanagi got out flashlights. He didn't see anything like a console to turn the lights on manually, either.
"This area must have taken some damage," Rodney agreed sourly, looking from the life signs detector to his tablet. "Everybody turn on your breathing units; there's a strong flow of air, but this section isn't holding pressure." He tucked the tablet under his arm and switched on his own unit, looking up with a wince. "I hope our hypothetical escape route doesn't need power."
"Great," John muttered, switching his unit on. He caught a worried look from Teyla. Yeah, they were potentially in a lot of trouble here. They had about an hour's worth of air in each tank, which had seemed like a lot when they had had a clear path back to the jumper.
Rodney said uneasily, "At least the chamber at the bottom of the shaft is pressurized, if we, ah…" He tapped the strap of his breathing tank significantly.
John just said, "Right," and picked up the pace. The air at the bottom of the shaft might keep them alive, but staying there didn't exactly offer a lot of options for searching for the way out.
They went through three more rooms and a couple of corridors, all unlit. Then the escape route stopped being hypothetical, but might as well have been mythological for all the good it was going to do them. Their lights had started to find cracks in the walls and the floor had become grainy with dirt and pebbles. Then they found the tumble of rock blocking the end of the next large room. Rodney swore, and John agreed, "Yeah, this sucks."
"But look at this," Teyla said, directing her light toward the far wall. There was a narrow silver track set into the floor, partially concealed by dust and rubble.
"Huh, that's intriguing," Rodney muttered, starting toward it. John used his longer legs to get there first, sweeping his light around to check the ceiling for any sign of imminent collapse. It looked like the wall had buckled, the rock pushing through the metal panels and piling up on the floor, but the roof hadn't given way and didn't look inclined to it. Rodney moved back and forth, his flashlight flickering around impatiently, picking out a large rounded shape buried under the rubble. "There's something under here, some kind of small underground vehicle. It must use that track-"
"What, like a little subway?" John asked.
Rodney waved his hands. "Yes, that is what an underground vehicle would be called, yes. But it's obvious this is-
"Perhaps it goes to the spaceport," Miko said, standing on tiptoes to see as she stood next to John. She had apparently taken the order to not get ahead of the military personnel literally, and he sure as hell wasn't going to fault her for it.
"Yes, exactly." Zelenka crouched with his flashlight, trying to get a better look at the smashed metal and glass under the rocks. "If this is escape route, it would make the most sense for the subway to head directly there, at very high speed. And it could have a self-contained power source, like a jumper, and wouldn't be affected by power loss in the main complex, as a transporter would."
Rodney glared. "Of course! That's what I was trying to-
"So how do we get out?" Ronon asked.
"We're working on it," John said easily, before Rodney's head exploded. They were still finding stuff; it wasn't time to start the real worrying until they had exhausted all the possibilities. "Right, Rodney?"
"Yes, yes." Rodney turned away from the crushed subway car, flicking his light around. "There should be alternate entrances, if this was a regular method of transportation to and from the port. In which case, there could be something nearby…" He stepped over the rubble, moving toward the wall.
They spread out a little, searching, their lights finding more rubble and dust and buckled metal. John kept a close eye on the time, thinking about their air tanks.
Finally Zelenka halted, shining his flashlight toward the ceiling. "Wait, Colonel, Rodney? What is this?"
John stepped over the rocks to reach his side, squinting. "That.. looks like a hatch." It was a door-sized panel set in a recess in the flat stone ceiling. From the chunks of metal still attached, there had once been a stairway or ladder to access it. John saw with relief that it had a little console, which meant Rodney could trick it into opening for them if there was any power left in this section at all. "Good job, Radek."
"Yes, you get a gold star," Rodney added, joining them.
It was too high for even Ronon to reach while stretching up and standing on his toes, but fortunately there was no shortage of rocks. They piled up enough to make a small platform for Rodney to stand on and reach the console.
Zelenka stood below, handing Rodney tools and kibitzing. Ronon offered to hold Miko up so she could see too, but she declined. After a few minutes of work and trading insults with Zelenka, the console popped and the hatch groaned, starting to slide open. John stepped back as dirt and pebbles poured through the growing opening, a red landslide. Rodney hastily jumped down as everyone else backed away. Tucking his toolkit back into his pack, Zelenka said fervently, "Don't be blocked, please-Hah, I see light!"
He was right; wan daylight was visible through the cascade of dirt. There were murmurs of relief. "Looks like we're in business," John said, trying to get closer, squinting to see through the dust cloud. The slide trickled to a halt and he stepped up onto their awkward rock platform, looking up through the opening. It led into a metal-walled shaft about eight feet long, and he couldn't see much beyond that but the curve of the planet dominating the sky.
He still couldn't see anything when Ronon boosted him up, but he could tell the edges of the hatch were set securely in some kind of stone platform. Ronon half-shoved, half-flung him, and John scrambled for a moment, sending another small landslide down. The walls of the shaft were crusted with dirt, but he finally got a grip on a set of handholds forming a ladder in the wall. He hauled himself up enough to brace his feet on the metal of the shaft, then climbed the rest of the way to the surface.
Poking his head out cautiously, he saw the shaft opened into the bottom of a semi-circular pit with sides too regular to be anything but manmade. Dirt was still trickling down the opening, and it looked like whatever covering that had originally shielded it had been torn away, and the whole thing buried under weather-shifted soil, most of which was now down on the floor of the chamber below.
John climbed out and struggled through the loose sand toward the side, finding a set of steps by luck when his boot caught on the first one and he smacked into the side of the pit. They were still mostly buried, but provided enough purchase to make the climb easier than trying to swim upward through a sea of shifting sand. His headset came on and Rodney's voice demanded, "What are you doing? What do you see?"