Zelenka added, "Perhaps the system detected the jumper's landing, and restored atmosphere to this section only."
"But why should it?" Rodney waved a hand, still frowning. "This isn't a landing pad, it's a foot entrance. If there's a jumper bay, it should be accessed through the roof."
"Atlantis was pressurized when we arrived," Miko pointed out hesitantly.
"Well, yes, I know that," Rodney said acidly, "But-"
John tuned out the debate, touching the wall console next to the inner door. It slid open to reveal a corridor, gently curved to follow the shape of the building. The lights came smoothly up, giving the dark blue stone a soft glow. John stepped in, feeling the strong flow of air as the open door behind him created a breeze, the lower pressure sucking out the air inside. The rounded ceiling was about twelve feet high. "Looks good so far."
The others followed him in, Rodney pausing to shut the outside door. John eyed him. "That a good idea?"
Rodney shook the tablet at him. "I have no idea why, but this building appears to be pressurized. We can save the air in our tanks for emergencies and exploring outside."
"Okay." John drew the word out, making Rodney glare at him, but John had to admit he had a point. An hour wasn't a long time to explore a building this size, and for all they knew it could take them that long just to find a lab or monitoring equipment.
John shut off his breathing set, pulling his mask down as the others followed suit. The air didn't smell dusty or musty or of anything except empty stone hallways. "So where to now?" he asked.
"Good question." Rodney glanced up from his detector with a thoughtful frown. "Let's try this way."
John put Ronon on their six again, and took the lead with Teyla, following the curve of the corridor. After a few minutes walk, John could see a section ahead where the cool white light took on an unhealthy red tint. "Rodney, do you see that?" he asked warily.
Rodney peered down the corridor. "The quality of the light? Yes, it's probably not a good sign."
"A good sign of what?" Zelenka asked a little ner vously.
"How the hell should I know?" Rodney said in frustration.
They reached the edge of the red shadows and John stopped, shining the P-90's light over the floor. Nothing seemed different. Ronon, who was tall enough that his head was almost even with the bottom of the nearest light fixture, stepped close to the wall, frowning. He said, "It's a plant. It's grown over the light."
He lifted a hand and John said sharply, "Don't touch it!" He realized a moment later the entire group had shouted the same words practically in unison. He shook his head. It was a good thing they hadn't been trying to sneak up on something.
Ronon stopped, looking back at them with a lifted brow. "It's just a plant."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Yes, well, when your skin falls off, let us know."
"Alien plants can be very dangerous, and not just ifyou ingest them," Zelenka added more reasonably. "There were the flowers on PX5-237, that gave Sergeant Bates those nasty bites."
Miko nodded. "Yes, the mold on PX3-58, that tried to chase Sergeant Stackhouse through the Stargate."
Teyla winced. "I remember that well."
Ronon frowned at the fuzzy growth and stepped back carefully.
John moved forward, his light revealing more patches of the stuff. "It's like that algae we keep getting in the city, in the rooms below the waterline." The lowest levels of Atlantis had been flooded in the early stages of the catastrophic storm that had hit the city in their first year there. Even with all the repairs they had been able to make and the restored power from the new ZPM, those sections were still uncomfortably damp and subject to occasional weird growths.
Teyla nodded. "Very like. And it seems to be all over these walls. Should we take a sample for the botanists?"
"Screw the botanists," Rodney said impatiently. "The gigantic Quantum Mirror that could kill us where we stand is our top priority at the moment."
"Rodney, just calm down, we're getting there," John said pointedly.
After about fifty more yards, Rodney said suddenly, "Stop." His voice was tight with tension. John halted in step with Teyla, scanning the corridor ahead. Rodney continued, "I'm getting a life sign flicker. Something small." He turned the detector, then pointed, his eyes still on the screen. "On that wall."
In another instant their lights found it. It was a dull red lumpy knobby thing, about the size of a dinner plate, flattened against the wall. P-90 raised, John took a cautious step toward it, squinting, trying to get a better look. He could tell it had short stubby tentacles that it was using to cling to the wall; it looked a little like an octopus that had suffered multiple amputations. He said, "That's… ugly."
"Shouldn't you be shooting it?" Rodney wanted to know.
Watching it carefully, Teyla pointed out, "It is not attacking us. I do not even think it knows we are here."
"Yes, but it might attack," Rodney said in exasperation. "Granted, it doesn't seem to have any legs, or arms, but-"
"What if we kill this one and that antagonizes the whole herd or whatever, and they attack us?" John said, taking another cautious step closer.
Rodney huffed in annoyance. "Oh, fine. I see your point."
The wall here was thickly covered with the algae-like reddish growth, and the octopus had attached itself right in the middle of it. John didn't want to kill the thing if it was harmless, but he needed to find out if it was safe to just ignore it.
He stepped close enough to the wall to get a better view of its head, staying well out of the short tentacle range. It looked like its mouth was a big pad, which it was using to suck the red growth off the wall. As John watched, one big purple eye opened and rolled to study him. Its stubby tentacles tightened protectively on its stretch of wall and it edged away from him a little. "It's sucking up the algae," he reported, stepping back. "I think we'd be a little much for it."
Teyla frowned, playing her light over the walls. "But if this building has been sealed since the Ancients departed, how did it get in?"
"There could be a door open somewhere," Ronon answered, still watching the corridor behind them.
"But this section must be sealed, or it couldn't stay pressurized," Zelenka told him. He looked a little jumpy, and was clutching his tablet protectively to his chest, but other than that he seemed to be doing okay so far. "Even if the air system was somehow activated by the jumper's arrival."
"No, this building was open at some point." Rodney squinted uneasily at the creature. "Maybe the Mirror's energy discharges triggered some sort of reactivation of the installation's systems, and it sealed and pressurized itself."
"Let's just leave the wall-octopus alone," John concluded, and they kept moving.
A little past that section, John almost walked by the tall triangle embossed into the inner wall, thinking it was just decorative. Rodney stopped abruptly. "Wait, wait. Does this look like another door?"
"Not really." John came back to contemplate it. It had a narrow blue-green metal frame, and there was a smaller triangle set in the center panel.
"I wasn't talking to you. Well?" he demanded.
Zelenka was already examining the edge of the embossed area, shining his flashlight into the minute cracks. "These are seams, so this whole piece may lift up, but why no wall console?"
His face intent, Rodney laid a hand flat on the center triangle. There was a faint pop of displaced air as the door started to slide upward. Rodney flinched back, then caught Zelenka by his jacket and pulled him out of the way. John jerked up his weapon to cover the opening, Teyla and Ronon stepping up behind him. But the space inside was empty, a stairwell with a wide set of steps spiraling upward. "This is interesting," Rodney said, preoccupied.