Well, this was a problem.
“Look, I'm too busy to go and Zelenka,” Rodney glared at his colleague, “is afraid to fly. I can give you Donaldson or the other guy.”
Really, he'd had plans for today—nice ones, too—and they had involved him, Rodney, and the small cabin of the Jumper. But when duty called...
“Donaldson. I can't listen to Archimedes wax poetic about Teyla's hair again.”
“He's moved on from hair,” Radek remarked. “Rodney threw him out of the lab for rambling about her proper holding of spoons.”
Rodney grumbled and John, sensing the impending rant, smartly backed out of the room.
“What is it? Turbulence?”
“Shouldn't be. The inertial dampeners should smooth that out.”
“What the hell?”
“You tell me.”
“The right drive pod's intermittently switching to reverse thrust.”
“Cut it. I can fly with one.”
“I'm trying! It's not recognizing the commands!”
“All right... brace for impact.”
“We're going down. Strap in.”
“Atlantis, this is Jumper 6. Mayday, mayday, mayday.”
Donaldson came to first, pushing himself up from the console he'd slumped over and immediately, his eyes went wide.
McKay was never letting him out of the lab ever again.
“Jumper 6, come in please. Sheppard, Donaldson, come in please.”
Radek dropped the talk button, hoping for something, anything, that might indicate contact, and was not surprised to find nothing: he'd been at this for an hour, and he was beginning to worry the impact had been too much for the Jumper to survive.
“Jumper 6, this is Atlantis.”
Silence still met him, and Radek rubbed at his eyes as Elizabeth walked up, Rodney on her heels.
“Well, keep trying. Carson thinks that the force of the crash might have rendered them temporarily unconscious and hearing the calls might bring them around.”
He nodded, catching Rodney's eye.
There was fear in them, that much he could identify.
“Jumper 6, come in please.”
John blinked awake as the Jumper passed a thousand feet, then promptly groaned as he righted himself in the seat; searing pain shot up his leg and he grit his teeth to keep from crying out. After a moment, though, it receded to a manageable level and he looked around for Donaldson, who was standing in the rear compartment, wires and bits hanging from various open tiles in the ceiling and bulkheads.
“Hey, you all right?”
The sluggishly bleeding head wound said otherwise, but John preferred aloof calmness to panic. As it was, he had never been a fan of diving, not after one particular experience as a kid, and he could feel the anxiety creeping in.
Distraction. That's what he needed.
The HUD did not, however, provide one, as it flickered to life and showed that they were passing 1100 feet, but as he started trying to calculate how much further it could potentially be to the bottom given light penetration from the surface and known terrain of the ocean on Lantea, the radio crackled and popped and Radek came through.
“Sheppard, Donaldson, come in please.”
“Nice to hear from you, Atlantis.”
“Colonel Sheppard, thank God... the Jumper you were flying dropped off our screens. I've been trying to reach you for over an hour.” There was something too softly said to be understood, which John suspected was an order for someone to find Elizabeth, before Radek asked, “Are you all right?”
“Donaldson's got a head wound and I've got a broken leg, probably a concussion, but otherwise, we're both conscious.” John glanced at the screen—1200 feet and continuing to fall. “Any plans for how you're going to find us?”
There was some more quiet chatting, then, “We've determined the direction of your radio signal, but not the range.”
“McKay's working on that, I hope.”
“The entire department is.”
The thought of the entire Atlantis Science & Research Division working on the injured Jumper's location was soothing, so of course, it couldn't last.
John cursed, loudly, and Donaldson rushed to help him up, shouting, “The windshield is giving way to the pressure of the ocean,” down the comm line.
“Move to the rear compartment, the seal should hold.”
“Way ahead of you, Radek.”
Donaldson practically threw John onto the bench, slamming his hand onto the button to seal the door.
"You know, I bet the Jumpers could be used as submersibles.”
“They're air-tight and there's that bay of Jumpers below the waterline. I mean, the planet's mostly water, makes sense that the Jumpers would have been utilized to explore it.”
“I'm not saying you're right, but it is an interesting hypothesis.”
“Think we could get Elizabeth to let us test it?”
John threw his head back against the seat and closed his eyes: it was his job to die for the scientists, not the other way around.
The jumper bay was so full, Elizabeth had to edge around them in order to find Rodney in the middle of it all, and once she did, she lifted an eyebrow asking, “What's all this?”
“Ah, this is my plan!”
“Yeah, I figured that much. Care to elaborate?”
Rodney grinned. “Doctors Moore and McNab are here to study the ocean on M8R-1229, which happens to be under a thick sheet of ice, so they brought a thousand-foot cable and a winch to lower their instruments.”
“And one of John's men is responsible for the magnetic grapple designed to lower the F-302s into our Jumper Bay.”
“And you intend to put the two together.”
“Is the mechanism going to be strong enough to lift a half-flooded Jumper out of the water?”
That made Elizabeth pause. “Then, why are you...?”
“Because we only have to get it near enough to the surface so the rescue team can cut them out.”
“Good. How long?”
“Three hours, probably less if I keep everyone on task.”
Finally, Elizabeth let Rodney's exuberance bleed over, saying, “You and John have been bugging me for a chance at trying a Jumper as a submersible, but you sure went a hell of a long way to make me say yes,” with a small smile.
He shrugged. “How close is Zelenka to finding them?”
“I'm gonna go ask him.”
The temperature had dropped steadily and John shivered as he pulled the emergency blanket he'd yanked down from the overhead over his shoulders. He'd looked at Donaldson's tablet in the immediate aftermath, but while he'd been able to discern power levels and what little bit of life-support was working, he was not Rodney: Donaldson had been trying to do something, John just didn't know what.
He pulled the tablet back into his hands, messing with the temperature gauge in the top corner. Slowly, it brought it up, watching as the timer dropped down by twenty minutes, and then moved on to the CO2 levels. Thankfully, they were operating at 100 percent, eliminating the danger of hypoxia, something Donaldson must have foreseen.
“At least someone was looking ahead.”
John refused to look up, but muttered, “I was kind of busy being unconscious, you know.”
“You always have an excuse.”
The Jumper was all ready to go, Elizabeth had given them ago, and half of Atlantis was arguing over who would be joining Rodney on the rescue mission.
(That decision had been made hours ago: Lorne.)
All he needed now was coordinates.
“What do you mean making progress?”
“We are working with minimal data, Rodney. It is not so simple to triangulate the Jumper's location with what we have,” Radek answered, gesturing toward the workboard; his hair was wilder than usual, truth be told, and he kept running his hands through the mess while calculating numbers.
Rodney stared at the board for a moment. “You took into account currents?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And accounted for accelerated descent rates?”
“Also the initial veering off-course from the crash.”
He ran the numbers again, then, “Here. They're somewhere in here,” as he pulled his finger over a three mile radius.
Unfortunately, it was also the area with the deepest topography, and Radek winced. “They are likely below the reach of the grapple.”
“I know.” Rodney had the look on his face, though, of McKay contemplation, and after a moment, he snapped his fingers in the air and pointed, saying, “The cloak.”
“What about it?”
“We reverse the cloak into a shield.”
“Like when we cloaked Atlantis?”
“Yeah. It'll take a few hours to configure...”
“But it'll be a massive drain on power. That much pressure being exerted... you'd need to shut down nearly every system excepting life-support and navigation.”
“Do you have any better ideas?”
“I'm just saying...”
Rodney's shoulders dropped back, and he muttered, “I know,” but with his eyes on the search zone, he added, “Keep working within this zone. See if you can narrow it further.” Then, plan in mind, he set off for his private lab to gather everything they'd need.
“So this is what you do these days? Pilot strange aircraft into oceans?”
John glared at his father, saying, “Not exactly.”
Patrick hrumphed. “Not exactly?”
“Can't believe I'm even answering,” John muttered, “Fucking figment of my imagination,” and, “I work in another galaxy now, Dad. Fly all kinds of alien ships and sometimes, they fall out of the damned sky.”
“So not pilot error?”
“Nope.” He resisted adding, Not this time, and resumed watching the parameters on the tablet change. If he was right, the Jumper was below 4000 feet now which meant he was closing in on the bottom, and that could potentially be disastrous if it hit with enough force.
The bench creaked across from him.
“Well, what's your plan?”
John didn't ask him what he meant. “Made contact with Atlantis before the radio was destroyed, so McKay and Zelenka will be on it. I'm going to sit tight until they come and get me.”
“So you're going to sit here on your ass until they do?”
“Broken leg. Kind of limits what I can do.”
Patrick kicked his good leg, growling, “Bullshit.”
“Oh, what should I be doing?” John swung his arm out into the cabin. “You see something that might help, let me know, but lacking controls or McKay's brains, I'm stuck here until the cavalry arrives.”
Patrick opened his mouth to say something else, his lips curled into a sneer, but he was interrupted as the Jumper bounced and skid, stopping suddenly with a loud grinding noise.
“What was that?”
John sighed. “The bottom.”
“We're above the search coordinates, Doc.”
Rodney slid into the co-pilot seat, glanced out at the water, and, with a swallow, told Lorne, “It's ready.”
“You're sure about this?”
“Yeah. Should be seamless.”
“All right, here goes nothing.”
”My father read me Moby Dick.”
“Mine didn't check the equipment.”
“So we both have issues with deep water.”
“And we still want to try a Jumper as a submersible.”
“Atlantis, this is Lorne, come in.”
“We can barely hear you, Major.”
“We're gonna lose you altogether once we're a little deeper.”
“Godspeed then. Good luck.”
“Thank you, ma'am. We'll contact Atlantis when we're on our way back. Have the rescue team standing by with Jumper 8.”
“Will do. Weir out.”
The radio crackled out, silence taking up the Jumper; Evan looked over at Rodney, noticing how unsteady the man looked, and asked, “You okay over there?”
“Yeah, yeah. I'm good.”
“You sure, because you look kind of pale.”
“It's nothing. Let's just... find them and get back home in time for dinner, hm?”
Lorne nodded, because hell, yeah, he could get behind that plan, and with the HUD up and Rodney's assurances that the shield was running, he began to dive the Jumper. Several lifesigns blinked along the distant edges of the scanned zone, though one seemed to linger closer.
“Sea monsters?” Rodney gulped at one point.
“Whales, probably. Some Earth species can dive to over 6000 feet.” The look that was cast in his direction had Evan explaining, “Grew up near San Francisco. Water creatures are every kids' obsession at some point.”
The look didn't change.
“What is that?”
John was futilely tapping at the screen, trying to figure out which setting might help slow the water the Jumper was steadily taking on. His father, the bastard, was doing nothing to help him.
“I don't know.”
He futzed with the temperature settings again, trying to balance out heat to warm the water and keep him out of hypothermia with the remaining power levels. So enthralled in doing so to a precise number, he jumped, startled, by the introduction of a new voice, telling him, “Positive pressure.”
Immediately he looked up, finding Rodney staring at him from between the still-hanging cords. “How are you...?”
“Please, you know you're hallucinating, otherwise he,” the finger pointed in Patrick's direction made the other roll his eyes, “wouldn't be here. So let's skip the whole 'brain giving you help' thing, and move on. Positive pressure. You've heard me talk about it before: increase the environmental pressure to slow leaks.”
“Right.” John stared down at the tablet, his vision blurring for a moment, and when it cleared, Rodney was beside him, expression worried. “I'm fine. Tired. My ears are going to pop when I do this.”
“Yeah. Go slow, incremental increases.”
“I have to max it out though?”
“In this instance, yes. This is catastrophic trauma to the hull and the pressure will slow the microfissure leaks to dripping.”
“Or stress the hull even further and destroy the integrity of the remaining structure.”
Rodney whipped his head to Patrick. “Excuse me, do you have degrees in mechanical enginnering and physics? Have you been working with Ancient technology for nearly a decade? No? I think perhaps John's better off listening to me then, don't you think?”
“I think you're the reason he's down here in the first place.”
“Like he'd even be waiting for rescue if you'd been with him.”
(The two bickered for several more minutes, ignorant of the rising pressure that had John popping his ears as the level reached max; he wondered amid the arguing if his subconscious really was upset that Rodney wasn't with him, that he was down there alone and unsure of what the hell to do next.
Then again, even if that was bothering him, he couldn't be too overwhelmed with it because really, Rodney not being there meant Rodney would be coming for him and that was probably the better way to handle the situation.
After all, what the hell would he have done if it had been Rodney down here? He wasn't a scientist or an engineer—he'd be sitting with his thumb up his ass, fidgeting until someone told him where to point the Jumper. No, it was definitely better this way.)
Water slowed and what was already in warmed, John laid his head against the seat once more, closing his eyes for mere seconds before Rodney snapped, “Stay awake!”
“Come on, Rodney, five minutes.”
“Five minutes and you could be in a coma,” the other retorted. “You've got a concussion, I think by now you know that from the headache and the blurred vision.”
“Yeah. Wanna play prime/not prime? Make the time pass a little quicker?”
With nothing else to do for the time being, John accepted the offer and tried to figure out how to explain this to Carson later.
Without a transmitter, the search was taking longer than either Rodney or Lorne cared for. The Jumper was draining power into holding back the ocean, cutting them slowly down until twenty minutes remained.
“Any ideas?” Lorne asked as they crossed over the center of the zone.
“None,” Rodney admitted, bringing up the HUD to examine the data once more. He muttered, “Your whale is seven to eight times larger than this Jumper. Try to avoid drifting near it again, would you?”
“The whale,” he pointed to the lifesign that they'd seen in the same spot earlier.
It was circling repeatedly, diving and rising, and Evan cocked his head as he watched it for a minute. “Doc, you take any of the drugs Beckett sent you with?”
“What? The xanax? No, of course not.” Clear heads were needed for this kind of mission, Rodney knew that, and anyway, the drugs were for John, in case he needed them for the trip back.
“You might want to take one.”
Rodney's hackles went up and he asked, “Why?” before flicking his eyes between Lorne and the screen. “No.”
“I think he's interested in something and there's only one thing in this area that I can think of that might be unusual enough to gain attention.”
“You know, I like water. Surfing, swimming, I'm good with all that, but this is...”
John was shivering again, the water having risen high enough to cover him to the waist. His broken leg was not pleased by the jarring as the water lapped and waved, but it had also taken the pressure of gravity off the break. Rodney, having remained at his side, as if trying to be a shield between John and Patrick, nudged John's emergency blanket higher.
Patrick, meanwhile, was still interjecting comments here and there about John's recklessness and history. Always a joy, his father.
A hard shake followed by a low-whine outside the Jumper had Rodney whimpering, and John told him, “Hey, it's settling. No sea monsters for miles, I'd bet.”
“You say that like you've done an oceanography study of the planet.”
“Kind of am right now, and until a minute ago, we haven't heard anything, right?”
“Hmm, see, that's not sound logic given your neurologic state. Not to mention, what if the sea monster doesn't make noise that we can hear?”
John had to concede that, “True,” and sighed; he reached for the floating tablet, trying to decide if he should sacrifice a few minutes of power for some additional heat.
Then his earpiece clicked and Lorne said, “Colonel Sheppard? Dr. Donaldson? Do you copy?”
His heart raced, as he waited for the reply, eyes closing in relief when Lorne spoke again.
“Colonel! Finally. Listen, Dr. McKay and I are outside your Jumper,” there was a knock on the rear hatch, “He, uh, converted the cloak into a shield, so it's safe, but we need to move quick. Can you lower the door?”
His leg throbbed as if to answer, but John knew he was looking at his only chance; he answered, “I can try,” to which he heard Rodney, the real one, mumble, “Try?”
The crawl and drag toward the door release was agony, his head pulsing, yet he made it the short distance to the button and pressed it. He wasn't surprised when it failed to open, carefully getting down onto the floor to get to the secondary release.
Lorne and Rodney both grabbed at him as the water poured away, Rodney with a cry of, “John!” and Lorne asked, “Sir, Donaldson?” after John had regained his breath.
“He was in the cockpit.”
The pair looked between each other, having seen the crushed glass and the empty chairs on approach, then Lorne announced, “Let's get out of here.”
“Sounds like a good plan.”