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The Puddle Jumper Variations

Chapter Text

"So, what does it do?" John asked, trying to keep the doubt out of his voice. This was Rodney after all. Then again, it was Rodney.

John peered into the schematic displayed on the wall in front of them. It almost looked like an engine, but at the same time, it didn't. Rodney had been all but bouncing on his toes all day, anxious to show whatever this was off to John.

"It's a variation of Zelenka's wormhole drive, sized so it can be put into a Jumper," Rodney replied smugly.

They were in Rodney's 'personal' lab... the one with Rodney's special coffee pot that made the best coffee in the city. Rodney used it as a 'reward' when one of his scientists did something special. It was at least as popular as Zelenka's still.

"Really?" John was impressed. "How close are you to really building it?"

"This is the conceptual drawing but I've started working on the engineering specs," Rodney admitted, settling into place. "But -- well, depending on what happens around here -- maybe a couple of months. And there are some tweaks I still need to make in the design."

"What kind of tweaks?" John did frown at that.

Rodney shrugged. "Some things I learned from that time on the other Daedalus..."

John sighed, rubbing his forehead to ward off the headache. "Rodney!" They had been lucky to escape that particular trap and John didn't want to take any risk of repeating that.

"No, no, no..." Rodney protested, arms waving. "That's why it's taking so long," he tried to assure John. "I'm doing this carefully."

"You sure?" John demanded.

"Yes," Rodney promised seriously. Then grinned. "But it's cool? Right?"

John had to smile back. "Yes, it is!"

It was actually three more months before the first prototype was built. There had been a 'misunderstanding' with some Wraith worshippers, a detour into getting the hydroponics section up and running -- fresh food was always a higher priority than theoretical hyperdrive engines -- and an Athosian hunting festival that Teyla insisted they all attend, before Rodney finally finished the engine.

If John didn't know what kind of effort had gone into building the prototype, the look of dismay on Rodney's face when it blew up -- quite spectacularly but rather completely -- would have been comical. It was the same look Rodney got when he got to the mess after the last serving of tormack had been given out.

"No, no, no!" Rodney had muttered, as he frantically pounded on the computer keyboard as the indicators started to go bezerk. But there was no stopping the explosion.

Good thing they had lifted it into the atmosphere with a drone rather than a Jumper. They would have lost yet another Jumper in the effort. The drone would be much less expensive to replace. Although the explosion did make quite the extravagant fireworks display.

"I told you the frame needed to be heavier!" Zelenka pointed out. Loudly and waving his hands in frustration.

"But the jumper needs to be able to fly!" Rodney shot back. "If the frame is heavier, it's going to affect the ability of the jumper to fly in normal space!" Obviously an ongoing argument they had had in the labs while building the device.

"Okay," John broke in before the argument could go any further into obviously well-worn territory. "How long before you can build the next version?"

Rodney stopped for a moment to think and Zelenka frowned. John thought it was rather eerie that they looked at each other, Rodney shrugged, Zelenka nodded. Rodney said, "Two months." He grinned. "We have to rebuild the frame from scratch."

John could hear Zelenka swearing under his breath but everyone ignored it.

The next prototype really was built in the predicted two months.

The destruction of the second prototype wasn't -- quite -- as spectacular but it was equally thorough. There was less shouting, evidently even Zelenka thought this version had a better chance.

It was close to a year before they got a prototype that didn't explode. It was larger than the earlier versions, it turned out it didn't need a heavier frame as much as it needed a larger frame.

"We'll have to sacrifice space in the rear compartment to install it," Rodney admitted as they watched the engine work on his monitor. They had used a drone to take it into the upper atmosphere and it had opened a hyperspace window at what Rodney had promised was a safe distance from the planet.

"If we can get a jumper to fly into hyperspace, that'll give us a tactical advantage that's worth losing the space for," John replied calmly. "Get it working properly and then you can focus on the size as the next phase of the project."

"I guess," Rodney was frustrated. John knew Rodney's default setting was to want to get it right the first time... that already wasn't happening with this project.

More drone tests, with cameras and telemetry, were performed before John would even think of letting Rodney modify a Jumper. They did take a Jumper into space to be away from the planet with the last tests. They watched as the engine opened a hyperspace window, the drone flying into it. A few minutes later, Rodney captured the signal as the drone re-entered real space about two light years away.

"Works perfectly!" Rodney crowed.

"What about that drone we lost... what, about three months ago?" John asked with a small frown.

Rodney shrugged. "That was an anomaly," he replied easily. "All of the other tests have been perfect."

"It's just odd that the one drone went into the window and didn't seem to come out anywhere," John persisted. Anomalies made the back of his neck itch.

Rodney turned and looked at John. "I can't make a 100 percent guarantee that anything is 100 percent perfect," Rodney said seriously. "I'm doing the best I can."

John held up a hand in surrender. "I know that," he replied. "I also have to ask."

Rodney grinned. "Fair enough!"

John could only grin back helplessly.