Still covering the corridor, Ronon asked, "Why?"
It was Miko who said, "There is no wall console, so only someone with the Ancient gene could open the door."
"It's probably security feature," Zelenka added, a little uneasily. "They didn't want just anyone to access the Mirror controls, perhaps."
John stepped into the stairwell, looking up. The lights had come on, but he couldn't see anything but stairs. Teyla stepped in to look, pointing out, "It would also keep out the Wraith."
"Good point." John glanced at Rodney. "Up? Or keep going around?"
Rodney had taken the tablet away from Zelenka and now waved it and the life signs detector in frustration. "I have no idea. In this one instance, your guess is as good as mine.
John lifted a brow, exchanged a look with Teyla, then said, "Right. Let's try up."
On the first landing there was a doorway that opened into what seemed to be an empty shaft. It had tiny blue lights set in narrow silver bands running down the sides, and seemed to lead straight down to the floor below. "The elevator's broken?" John suggested, leaning out to look down. Teyla stretched around the other side, shining her light down the shaft.
"Ali, better not to put your heads in there," Zelenka said, studying the tablet. "I'm getting a low-level energy signature."
As John eased away from the opening and Teyla stepped back, Rodney snatched the tablet again. "Wait, wait, wait. This looks like…" Brow furrowed thoughtfully, Rodney pulled a pen out of his tac vest and tossed it through the opening. It hung in midair for a moment, then vanished.
Rodney and Zelenka had their eyes on the tablet's screen, watching it analyze the readings, with Miko craning her neck to see over Zelenka's shoulder. John and Teyla stared at the spot where the dematerialized pen had been. "Hope you didn't need that," Ronon commented dryly.
"Why would this be on the stairwell where anyone might stumble in?" Teyla asked, sounding mildly horrified.
"It's not a walk-in disintegrator, if that's what you're thinking," Rodney said, still thoughtful. "Hold it, let's try this." He took out a small pocket flashlight, clicked it on, and tossed it into the shaft. It vanished. Rodney leaned cautiously out to look down. "The energy signature is almost identical to the transporters on Atlantis, and this is the right location for a safety shaft. See, there it is."
John looked. Down at the bottom, right about the level of the first floor, was the gleam of the flashlight. "Cool. So it's a transporter-safety exit." And the fact that the Ancients had seen a need for it.. probably didn't mean anything good.
Going up, they found three more levels, though the topmost wasn't nearly high enough to be at the top of the structure. There were obviously more levels that this stairwell didn't access, that there had to be another way to get to.
Looking at the interior rooms, John could see the walls were unusually thick, much thicker than they had to be to support the weight of the building. "They built this place to last," he commented to Rodney, as Zelenka and Kusanagi scanned a room they had found off one of the landings. Every piece of equipment seemed to have been removed, like the ruined city on the base moon.
"Yes, I suspect they anticipated frequent quakes from the discharges," Rodney said, mouth twisted as he studied the readings on his tablet.
John's brows quirked. "So…the Mirror was probably unstable even back when they built this place?" They had heard another couple of low rumbles, but nothing close to the size of the first discharge.
"Yes. Doesn't bode well, does it," Rodney said with a grimace.
Zelenka rejoined them, tucking his equipment back into his pack. "They certainly didn't leave in a hurry," he said tiredly, wiping sweat off his brow. "Everything was removed, very carefully."
"Except the Mirror," Teyla put in. Ronon was watching the corridor and she was standing on the landing, keeping a cautious eye on the stairs.
"And either the instability caused it to activate," Rodney said, his eyes on his tablet screen. "Or another reality accessed it."
"So something could come through that thing anytime," Ronon asked, flicking an uneasy look at Teyla.
"Yes. Anything, at anytime," Rodney said, snapping his tablet shut. "Did I not make that abundantly clear before?"
"You did," John told him. "But standing next to it and knowing that adds a little extra drama."
As they continued, they found more empty rooms that could have been labs or control areas, and a section of transparent wall filled with bundles of crystal conduit. John saw the seams in the floor by accident, his light catching one when the others had stopped to take readings again. It was just to one side of a broad blue-green band that he had thought was just more floor decoration. The bands lay about every ten yards along the corridor. Signaling the others to halt, John went back to look at the last two bands, checking for seams. As he returned, Rodney came over, asking, "What the hell are you doing?"
John knelt beside a band, shining his light on the seam. "What does that look like?"
"That's just a decorative-Oh, wait." Rodney dropped to a crouch, frowning as he ran his fingers along the little gap. "This is a door, a blast door. It must come up from the floor-"
Teyla stepped closer, eyeing the floor uneasily, as John said tightly, "They're all along this corridor, and from the size of the bands, the doors are a good foot thick. We don't have any tools that could cut through this. And yeah, we have C-4, but the space we'd be trapped in is too small; we couldn't blow the wall without killing ourselves. If they close for some reason, like another explosion, we'd be screwed."
"Of course we'd be screwed, we're always screwed," Rodney said, annoyed. "What do you want me to do about it?"
"I don't know," John snapped. "You tell me."
Rodney said rapidly, "Look, there's been minor discharges since we discovered this structure and the doors are still open. Either it takes a bigger energy burst to activate them, or after the danger is past, they open automatically." His mouth twisted as he thought that through. "If the power failed temporarily, we would… probably have enough air to survive."
"Right." John considered going back. But if they did that, they might as well pretend the damn Mirror didn't exist at all and just leave. It wasn't going to get any safer to do this. He said reluctantly, "We'll keep going."
"Good," Rodney said, though his expression showed he knew exactly how wrong this could go. John looked up to see Zelenka and Kusanagi looking down with anxious faces. He suppressed the impulse to tell them it was going to be okay. He had said that too many times when the outcome had been anything but okay. He just said, "We need to move faster."
Zelenka said, "Of course, yes." Kusanagi just nodded sharply, though she looked terrified.
After that they stopped checking the empty labs, just glancing in and scanning briefly to make certain nothing useful had been left behind. They had passed two more open stairwells and John estimated that they had traveled three quarters of the way around the structure's circumference when they came to a sealed doorway in the inner wall. "I have a good feeling," Zelenka said, scanning it thoughtfully. "All the other empty labs were left open."
"Try it," John said, hoping this was it. "We're due a little luck here."
"Hold that thought," Rodney muttered darkly. He took one last look at the life signs detector, waved Zelenka out of the way, and touched the triangle in the center of the door.
It started to slide up and he stepped quickly aside so John and Teyla could cover the opening.
Bingo, John thought, as the door revealed a stretch of wall with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the Quantum Mirror. He stepped inside cautiously, Teyla following. It was a long room, curved to follow the inner wall, and there were three banks of consoles set in the center of the floor, all of them blue-green metal with the familiar crystal touchpads and controls. "Yeah, this could be it."