She slid the probe slowly around the casing of the panel door, seeking any indication that the bomb was wired to the door. When she was satisfied that it wasn’t – she pulled it loose. The mess of wires and crystals above her head boggled but no more than the ordinary and all to recognizable configuration of C4 mounted on top of a significant amount of naquadah. She followed all the wires visually – seeing how it was wired into the communications device and then into the ship itself.
“Rodney. Check this out.” She scooted over as much as possible and let Rodney slide under the engineering computer station with her. “It’s a good thing no one tried to beam this thing out into space.”
“Yeah.” Rodney held out his hand from the light and relinquished it. “John, remember that kid from MIT?”
“The one that tried to kill Keller?” John asked ruefully. “Not likely to forget.”
“We should have totally let Ronon kill him,” Rodney murmured. He pointed with his flashlight. “That’s not good.”
“No. Not good at all.” Laura slid out of from under the console and reached out for the bag, she started to pull it and jumped a little when John’s hand covered hers.
“Talk to me, Cadman.”
“The bomb is wired into several subsystems any one of which could blow this ship to hell. We’re going to have to rewire the entire console so that we can safely remove the bomb.” She looked down at their hands. “It’s a trap but at least it’s not a timed one.”
“What do you need?”
She needed a hundred things then, but his eyes were dark with emotion and something desperately hard to see: fear. “You’re trust.”
“Done.” He lifted his hand and tapped his ear piece. “McKay and Cadman believe that they could disarm the device but it will take time.”
“We’ve transferred the last of the crew to the planet and I’ll stay on the command deck to be ready to beam us all out just in case. I’ll open a comm channel with the room at this point.”
Laura slid back under the panel dropped a tool kit between her breasts and flipped the second light she’d retrieved. “Okay, Rodney, I need a crash course in Asgard engineering.”
“Yeah, because that won’t take long.”
She elbowed him in his side. “Stay on task. Talk to me about the crystals. What can we remove without disturbing the power supply to this console?”
“These six,” Rodney reached out but Laura grabbed his hand in a grip so tight the scientist hissed.
“No touching, McKay.” Her voice was neutral, commanding. “We’ve got ten pounds of C4 and at least one hundred pounds of weapons grade naquadah on top of our heads.”
“Yeah.” He flexed his fingers when she released him. “You’re unnaturally strong.”
She laughed softly. “These six crystals. What else?”
“We can pull the connecting cables here and here – they serve no power purpose – just network stuff.” He cleared his throat. “The three cables that have been worked into the bomb are routing from top to bottom: sublight control, the life support system, and the shields. Each system individually is a energy hog like you wouldn’t believe and it looks as if our bomb maker decided to use the power of the ship to trigger his bomb.”
“So, if we remove anyone of the cables?”
“See this?” She moved her light to a small wire leading into the C4. “That’s your average everyday trip wire. It’s a decoy; insulting really to think we’d fall for that. If we remove the bomb—it’ll sever one or more of the systems hooked into it—causing a systems failure…”
“And we go boom.”
“I love it when you get all sciency on me.” Laura pulled a small screwdriver out the tool kit and handed it to McKay. “Okay, so we have a few things to do… so set your genius to kill. We need two things—one, to reroute the systems that are connected to the bomb, and two—we need to do it in such away that the bomb does not notice it’s lost the juice it’s used to.”
“And don’t touch the bomb.”
“Right. Don’t touch the bomb.” She held her hand out from under the console. “Sir, I need the wire cutters.”
They slid into her hand without a word – his fingers brushed over hers but it wasn’t slow or purposeful. Just a touch, a reassurance that he was there and her stomach settled. She could do this. Failing at this wasn’t an option; not with him on board.
“Okay, Rodney, we’ll take our time – do things one at a time and watch those giant hands of yours.”
“Is that why you are so good at the weapons thing? You and those little hands?”
“It makes things easier,” Laura admitted softly. “There, start with the crystals—one at a time and lets watch for reactions. Reactions are bad.”
– – – –
Four hours and John had barely moved. He’d watched them, listened to them bicker, and handed them tools from the bag when they demanded and said nothing. He didn’t know if he even had the voice for it anymore. It was overwhelming, really, two people who meant more to him than even really understood shoulder to shoulder under a bomb that could blow up at any moment.
“No way,” Laura muttered. “I want the naquadah, McKay. Do you know…”
“It’s dangerous and stupid. Don’t be stupid.” McKay snapped back. “We have not spent the last fucking four hours on this hard floor with my bad back dismantling this thing for you to get all greedy and want to keep the pretty bang. I’ll find you a whole mine of naquadah and you can build boomy things until you’re old and gray.”
“Boomy things?” She repeated, her voice rich with amusement and tainted with exhaustion. “Colonel Caldwell, you can lock onto the device and let’s put no less than 10,000 kilometers from the planet and the ship.”
“And not near the sun.” Rodney added. “I mean the chances of us blowing up the sun are astronomically small….”
“Relax, McKay, I’ve not interested in adding solar system destruction to my resume. We’ll leave that to you.” Caldwell snapped, obviously as exhausted as the three of them. “Caldwell out.” The intercom speaker in the room cracked slightly, ending both the discussion and the audio surveillance.
“Ouch.” Laura sighed. “I don’t know what they say it was a whole solar system. Because it wasn’t at all.”
“I know!” Rodney exclaimed.
They both screamed as they were jerked abruptly from underneath the console by one leg each. John dropped their feet and glared. “Because – Rodney – you destroyed so much of it that it isn’t even technically a solar system any more.”
Laura scrambled to her feet. “I’d like to bring a team on board and search the ship for more devices. It would move faster with at least ten.”
John nodded. “Coordinate it with Caldwell—I’m sure he has a few people he’d like back on board.”
He waited until she left the room with her little scanner in head before he looked at Rodney. His eyes dark with anger; but he couldn’t say anything. Couldn’t tell the man how fucking furious he was that he’d picked Cadman out of all the people on Atlantis with experience with explosives. It was wrong to be this angry; wrong, stupid, and he was full to the brim with it.
“She’s the best,” Rodney said simply. “I’ll never understand why she wasted herself in the Marines. The woman has a mind as sharp as any of the scientists on my team. Her innate understanding of mechanics, thermal dynamics, and physics simply stuns me. Granted, she puts all of that potential into destruction – but it’s probably the most graceful and beautiful destruction any of us will ever see.”
“I know.” John turned on his heel and left the room. Cursing when a little shock wave from the exploding bomb rolled over the ship despite the shield, he entered into the first room he could, closed, locked the door, and sank to his knees. “Fuck. Fuck.”
– – – –
He had Caldwell ‘beam’ them back directly into Evan’s room which earned him a very unprofessional glare from the major. “Why the hell are you still in the isolation room?”
Jennifer glared at him. “I don’t know – it could be because he nearly had a stroke because the three of you decided to play with a bomb instead of evacuating the ship with the rest of the crew.” She finished injecting something into his IV and checked the fluids bag. She left the room with a muttered, “assholes.”
Evan was staring at all three of them in silence – furious barely seemed to cover it.
“Suck it up, Major.” John walked over to the bed, leaned down right in Evan’s face. “We all have jobs here and if you think I don’t understand what it must have been to sit down here in this bed… why don’t you think about what it was like watching them crawl under that console and bicker like children while they took that bomb apart like it was a fucking Lego castle. Because between you and me—I’d have let that ship blow to fucking kingdom come if Caldwell hadn’t been standing right there.”
“John…” Laura began softly.
“Not one fucking word from you.” John lifted away from Evan. “Not one word.” He held Evan’s gaze for a few seconds more until the Major nodded. “Get some sleep, Evan.”
John walked toward the door. “Cadman. Ten minutes.”
She flinched at his clipped tone and glared at his back as he left the room. “That arrogant… son of a bitch.”
“Lt. Cadman,” Evan snapped in reprimand, his voice hard and so angry. “Watch your mouth and get out my room.”
She went to her quarters. It was on her way that she discovered that the entire city had listened to her and Rodney dismantle that bomb in near silence. The comm system wasn’t necessarily a private thing and it had been nothing for one of the communications tech to grab the feed and pipe it into the city. Letting anyone listen that wanted to and apparently everyone had wanted to listen. Everyone.
He was sitting on her bed, leaning back on his hands, his feet crossed at the ankles. “You disobeyed me.”
She glared at him. “Yeah, well, ‘ten minutes’ wasn’t much of an order and besides I can’t be seen going into your quarters in the middle of the day. How the hell did you get in here without being seen?”
“Fucker.” She jerked her t-shirt over her head and tossed it aside. “I need a shower so you’ll just have to wait to berate me until after that.”
“Number one, you’re not allowed to hang out with McKay any more… he’s a bad influence on you and your vocabulary. Two, it is inappropriate for you to start stripping when a superior officer is preparing to…”
He sprung and god help her he could move fast. She screamed a little when they both hit the floor. John had her pinned in seconds, his beautiful hazel eyes hard with anger.
“How fucking dare you.” He pressed both of her hands against the floor above her head and lowered his head until their mouths were almost touching. “How dare you laugh and joke and snark with Rodney and pretend that you weren’t seconds from getting yourself killed… goddamn it!”
Her eyes widened as he lifted off of her. He pulled her from the floor and let her go. “John. I did my job and Rodney and I know each other pretty much from the inside out thanks to my little vacation in his head. It’s how we both deal with stress and frankly, I don’t need the Monday morning quarterbacking from you. We got the job done.”
“Do you know what that bomb would have done?”
“Yes. It would have destroyed the Daedalus. There wouldn’t have been enough debris to analyze for a cause. The shock wave and power of the explosion would have actually effected the weather and the atmosphere on this planet. That much weapons grade naquadah, combined with the energy output out the ship? The EMP wave that followed the explosion could have done enough damage to Atlantis to sink this whole fucking city.”
He just glared at her, anger rolling off of him waves.
“What? Only the great John Sheppard gets to stupidly risk his life around here?”
“You think I’m reckless?” he asked casually. Too casually if she was going to put a fine point on it. “Rodney is an arrogant bastard, he doesn’t consider failure an option. Never figures it into his plans… never expects it to happen.”
“We didn’t fail.”
“Caldwell didn’t leave the ship because I didn’t leave the ship,” John murmured. “He was prepared to blink out of existence because I stayed.”
“You both should have evacuated with the rest of the crew.”
His hand shot out and grabbed her, but the grip was gentle as he pulled her to him. “You’re out of your fucking mind if you thought I would leave you on that ship with a goddamned bomb.” He pulled her close and she noticed he was shaking. “I didn’t plan on you, Laura. I didn’t plan on you at all and I would really appreciate it if you wouldn’t get yourself killed before I’m finished with you.”
“You told Lorne we were doing our jobs.” She resisted the urge to pet him. Petting a leashed wolf was like daring it to bite your fingers off and that’s exactly what he felt like against her—a barely restrained predator.
“Yeah.” His fingers slid into her hair, tightening into a desperate fist. “I kept thinking it over and over again but it still scared the shit out of me. After all the things that I’ve seen – all the times that I was pretty sure I was going to die – today I was scared and that’s a bullshit thing to do to a man, Cadman. Just bullshit.” He pressed his face against her shoulder as a small shudder ran down his back. “I hate you a little right now.”
She sighed and cupped the back of his head with one hand. “I might hate you a little, too.”