So far it was the second option all the way.
Now Radek Zelenka glanced up from an array of laptops spread out on a folding table, wiping sweat off his brow wearily. "Hello, Colonel, Rodney." He waved around at their equipment. "Still nothing."
Dr. Chandar, tinkering with the connections of one of the laptops, added, "There haven't been any new fluctuations in the signature, so we haven't been able to test the new triangulation method." He was one of the new scientists who had come out on the Daedalus, and this was his first offworld mission. Unlike the science team veterans who had come to Atlantis with the original expedition, the new people had never been through an attack by a hiveship fleet, never seen their friends turned into empty husks by Wraith, never lived for months with the fact that they were out here on their own and might never see Earth again. Even now that the Wraith thought Atlantis had self-destructed, and the Daedalus ran regular support and supply missions between galaxies every few months, this still wasn't a safe mission, and John preferred to go offworld with expedition veterans, people who knew that in their bones. Just because nothing had tried to kill them yet in this apparently empty city on this uninhabited moon, didn't mean it wouldn't happen.
"Yes, I actually didn't need the word `nothing' translated." Rodney sourly eyed Chandar, the equipment, the chamber, and the scientists and techs studying the monitors. "I wasn't really expecting anything to have changed in the past half hour."
Miko Kusanagi, young, Asian, with most of her face dominated by coke-bottle glasses, looked up from her laptop, waving shyly at Rodney. "Dr. McKay, I have the new analysis of the readings-"
"Right, fine, yes." Rodney stamped over to peer at her screen. "Not that I suppose it's any different from the old analysis." This was Dr. Kusanagi's first time offworld, though John wasn't too worried about her survival skills. She had been with the expedition from the beginning, and had survived a year in Rodney's lab, so she had to be much tougher than she looked.
John wandered over to the Ancient consoles, looking at the crystals set in the smooth metal surfaces. The archeology team had pointed out the places where other devices had been attached, the spots on the floor where they thought other equipment, long since removed, had once stood. "So we still don't have a clue, huh?"
It was a rhetorical question, but Chandar said earnestly, "I still think it's a monitoring device of some sort." He threw Rodney a wary look. "McKay, I know you and Zelenka do not agree-"
Zelenka leaned back in his chair, and shrugged amiably. "We would agree perfectly, if we could find some hint of what it could be monitoring."
Rodney waved a hand in weary resignation. "Yes, if Archeology would get off their collective asses and find something-anything."
John knew Archeology had to be bitching just as hard about Ancient Tech, but at least they had the courtesy to keep it among themselves. In the interest of fairness and not just to relieve boredom by messing with Rodney, he pointed out, "Archeology wants you to get off your ass and find the location of the power source, so they know where to dig."
"Yes, thank you, Colonel Obvious, I'm aware of that," Rodney said with acid emphasis, gesturing so sharply he nearly hit Miko in the head. With the ease of long practice, Miko leaned out of the danger zone. "If you have any other earth-shaking revelations-"
Zelenka interrupted, "But Dr. Corrigan has told me that he now believes most of this installation was dismantled at the same time as the city was abandoned. You would think that the Ancients would also have removed the power source, whatever it was, but-"
"But something keeps doing that!" Rodney shouted, stabbing an angry finger at the console.
There wasn't a big light show or anything else impressive, just a faint glow from the crystals and a low bass hum that John could feel in his back teeth. But every laptop in the room went crazy, beeping, flashing, displaying rapidly-scrolling screens of data. Rodney snapped, "Move." Miko scrambled out of the way, and Rodney sat down at her monitor as the others bolted frantically around the room.
Used to this by now, John smothered a yawn and checked his watch. During the eclipse they shut down operations everywhere but here, since the Mystery Power Source Room needed constant attention in case it did something explicable. "Rodney, you coming or staying?"
Rodney waved a hand vaguely, and John correctly interpreted that as a dismissal.
John finished his pre-eclipse security check, and in the wider passage that led to the Stargate platform, he ran into Carson Beckett and a couple of the Marines assigned to help him. All three men were covered with dust and blue smudges, and they smelled a little like rotting lettuce. The two Marines looked sour and Beckett looked blissfully happy. "How's it going?" John asked him. "Find some good fungi?"
"Aye, we've been very successful," Beckett said, contentedly patting the specimen case slung over his shoulder. "There's a lovely new species under that big slab Archeology is digging out."
Beckett was the only one happy with this moon. The Ancient database had hinted that there were some species of fungi here that had been used to make some of the medicines mentioned in the Ancient medical records, and apparently it had been right. Beckett checked his watch, adding, "They've found what might be a sewer entrance a couple of streets over. I'm going to take a look down there first thing after the eclipse."
"Great." The two Marines looked a little desperate, and John made a mental note to switch them out and let somebody else have a turn.
They parted ways and John headed up the passage, climbing the smooth steps to the Stargate platform.
The `gate stood on a flat-topped pyramid in the exact center of the ruins. It had the best vantage point in the city, with a good view of the only open ground with enough space to land the puddlejumpers, a large roofless enclosure nearly the size of a football field that might once have been an arena or theater.
The naquadah ring of the Stargate gleamed faintly in the reflected light from the gas giant. Off to one side, out of the path of an initiating wormhole, was the MALP they had first used to test the address. Sitting on the platform and leaning back against the MALP was Ronon Dex.
"How's it going?" John said, and sat down on the sunwarmed stone.
Ronon shrugged slightly, apparently having learned by now that that was a question that didn't necessarily need an answer.
It was helpful that Ronon had volunteered for the most boring guard duty post, but after seven years of being hunted for sport by the Wraith, John got the idea that he found it restful. It wasn't a bad post; it was quiet, the gas giant and its satellites put on a continual show in the sky, people stopped by occasionally, and there were regular breaks for meals and sleep.
And an Ancient ruin, abandoned for ten thousand years, was a far cry from a human city destroyed by a Wraith culling, with burned ruins and bomb craters where science centers or weapons emplacements had once stood, desiccated corpses in the streets and recently orphaned children scrounging for food.
John leaned back, propping himself up on his elbows, tilting his head back to catch the last of the failing sun. "You want to be relieved?"
Ronon shook his head. It was too dark during the eclipse to make this post practical; they would depend on the life signs detectors and the instruments in the three jumpers for a warning of anything approaching. Instead of taking a break during the dark period, Ronon usually patrolled with the Marines on shift, making a circuit around the camp.
They sat there in silence for a time, then Ronon stirred a little and asked, "They find out why the Ancestors put this here yet?"