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Key to the Future -- Maybe, Maybe Not

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Rodney had explained that the semi-useful Atlantis database had identified a space across the city as the key to the future. Or maybe the path to power. The linguists were divided on an exact translation.

And, not helpfully, there was only a general reference to the location of whatever it was, not an exact room location.

Great.

On the other hand, even a remote chance at finding a power source had to be followed up on.

It took Rodney and Radek the better part of a week to put some parameters around the location.

"It's part of that space the asteroids took out," Rodney admitted. "So there are no transporters in the area. So that means walking."

"We've done worse," John said.

"At this point, we can't tell if it's part of the building that's still there, or part of the building that was lost," Rodney went on. "And... if it's still there, no idea what shape the space will be in."

"One thing at a time," John decided.

Rodney had a science team -- and the linguists -- working on a more specific location for the lab.

"Okay," Rodney reported. "We're pretty sure the lab is still there. We've identified the building and have sent a drone to fly over the area. The building that the lab is in is on the outskirts of the damaged area. There's some damage to the building, but it looks mostly superficial."

"Okay, we can hand that information over to the engineering group and they can take a basic look-see to investigate the structural integrity of the building. Not even a dozen ZPMs are worth a building that's going to collapse on us," John decided.

Rodney tapped on his data pad. "Sent!"

"Once we know more about the building, we'll talk about going there," John said.

"But we can..."

John held up a hand. "Rodney. Safety first. I'm not going to lose anyone to an unsafe building."

Rodney settled back. "Okay."

"You'll get daily reports," John allowed. "You know they won't be looking into rooms without cause. Your whatever-it-is will be yours to explore."

"I know, I know. It's just the first reasonable lead to a possible power source we've had in ages," Rodney admitted.

"Come on, it's dinner time," John said. "I hear there's tormack!" He laughed softly as Rodney's eyes lit up.

The first reports from the engineers weren't very optimistic. Before they could get to the building with the lab, there were concerns about adjacent buildings that were in seriously bad shape collapsing on the building Rodney wanted to explore.

"Damn! It's a good thing we don't need the space," John said. "If it was possible, I'd shut down the entire pier and raze all those buildings to the ground."

"It's a huge area," Rodney nodded. "That alone would take years."

"Does it affect the structural integrity of the city itself?" John asked.

"It hasn't so far," Rodney shrugged. "We've flown the city around a couple of times since the asteroid hit and it hasn't seem to have had an effect on the city in general. We've been in one place since we came back from Earth, and the fact that nothing happened on the trip to Earth and back is a good sign."

"I guess. Put that on your 'to be checked on' list, then," John said. "This isn't good."

"Sure," Rodney said. "But that's a pretty big list."

"I know, but I'll feel better if we look at it eventually."

"Okay, on the list!" Rodney promised.

The next reports were slightly more hopeful. The engineering team decided that the surrounding buildings weren't in immediate danger of falling but that the entire area should be declared off limits.

They finally moved onto the building with the lab.

"What's taking so long?" Rodney asked after a week of we're working on it reports.

John shrugged. "I told them to be thorough. We're not in immediate danger and we're between things. So slow is better."

"I guess," Rodney said with a frown.

"If you need something to do..." John offered.

"No, thank you!" Rodney replied quickly. "I have plenty on my to-do list!"

John just grinned.

In all, it took a month before the engineers declared the building safe enough for limited exploration. They also identified a handful of locations that fit the description of the lab Rodney was searching for.

John had a Jumper on standby when they went to the building. Just in case. He also took SGA-4 and a team of the engineers with them. Since they had some educated guesses about where Rodney's lab might be, they could speed up the search time and it would help get them in and out quicker.

The first three locations were a bust but the fourth had promise.

Rodney roamed the room, carefully turning on equipment and reading screens.

"Oh, fuck me!" Rodney groaned. He sighed and rubbed his eyes.

"So, what is it?" John asked.

"It looks like it's another fucking worthless ascension machine!" Rodney groused. "I was hoping for a power source, or a ZedPM recharging station."

The Ancients and their obsession with immortality through ascension was a huge frustration to everyone on Atlantis.

"You mean we've spent weeks and hundreds of man-hours on an ascension experiment?" John was beyond frustrated.

"At least it doesn't look like Janus' work?" Rodney offered a small smile.

"Small consolation!" John sighed. "Well, at least we know more about this section of the city."

"Should we check the other rooms the engineers found?" Rodney asked. "There's only four more."

"Might as well, as long as we're here," John nodded.

Tucked in a closet of the last room were two ZedPMs.

Rodney picked the ZedPMs up reverently. "I wonder what they're doing here."

"Heaven only knows," John said. "They aren't connected to anything, are they?"

Rodney shook his head. "No. Which means they could be full."

"Or empty," John said.

"I'm going to be an optimist," Rodney said.

"Okay, now you've jinxed it."

"At least we found something possibly useful," Rodney declared.

"Yes, it's not a total waste of time," John agreed. "Anything else? It'll be a while before we come back here."

"But if we found two... there may be more!"

"Rodney. They were in a closet. Not connected to anything. Someone was hiding them for their own purposes," John said. "It will take years to search every closet of every room. And we have safer spaces to start that kind of search in. Bring me evidence that there may be more ZPMs and we'll come back. But otherwise, this entire area is going to be off limits to everyone. Including you."

"But..."

"Rodney," John said softly. "I don't want to see you hurt. Your safety is my responsibility and I take that seriously."

Rodney huffed. "Okay, I get it. Sorry."

"I get it. Besides, you already have some new toys. Go play with them!"

It took Rodney and his team three days of careful work to clean up the ZPMs and test them.

They were fully charged.