Thanks to Kay for the beta!
The malfunctions started slowly and in sections of the city not yet used. Rodney and his team took note and assigned a spot in the long list of things that needed to be done. Had it not gotten worse, it would have been several weeks before they got to it. The transporters had been non-operational for a full day before, but they had been having problems with those all month. No connection was considered.
It did get worse. The malfunctions started happening more often and Dr. Gibson's quarters fell victim; the first time a room currently in use was affected. Dr. Gibson of course reported to Dr. Zelenka when she couldn't get into her room and Zelenka first sent a team out, then set to work himself at one of the city's mainframe computers.
Over the span of several hours searching for the problem, he had nominal luck. Beyond the fact that the doors would not open, it appeared that complete power loss in all circuits leading to the rooms affected were the only other symptoms of the problem and did not make much sense.
When he couldn't get any further, he brought in Dr. McKay, who muttered and reviewed the data Zelenka had retrieved for him. After verifying a few hunches of what the problem could not be, he decided to notify Dr. Weir, who called an emergency meeting of senior staff.
"I was able to pry the doors open during the nano-virus outbreak. Why is this so different?" Sheppard drawled while he slowly rotated the chair from side to side, like he couldn't sit completely still. He was in full slouch mode, so low in his chair he looked a head shorter than everyone around him.
"No, no, you don't understand," McKay said irritably. "The doors seal shut, but it's not like when the nano-virus was set loose. The city was made to fly in outer space, and they had safety protocols in place in case of a hull breach. We can't simply pry them open, they are air tight and locked down. Once they lock, for whatever reason completely unbeknownst to people with common sense, the City shuts down power to all circuits controlling that room, including the doors. We can't pry it open, and we can't hack it open."
"And you say this malfunction is getting worse?" Major Lorne put in from beside his CO. He had his data pad in front of him, ready to take notes, but obviously not quite ready to believe that this problem was going to be his to bear.
Zelenka answered before McKay could. "Yes. It has been happening over the past twenty-four hours, but in isolated rooms we do not use. It started out with one, but more and more are being affected at a quicker rate of speed as time goes by. We thought maybe it not affect rooms we use, but..." he trailed off, shrugging his shoulders while simultaneously pushing up his glasses with his finger.
At the back of the room, Dr. Weir sat up straighter in her chair, focus intent on her Chief Science Officer and his second. "Do you know how to fix this?" she asked.
McKay blinked at her. "Yes, of course. Just some duct tape and bubble gum, and we'll have everything right as rain. I just thought I'd come and debrief you before I fixed it, you know, just for kicks."
Weir frowned at him.
McKay shook his head. "At this point we don't even know what's causing it, so no, we can't fix it. We thought it might be something with the isolation program since it did act somewhat like the nano-virus incident, but everything is running smoothly . We even shut down the program for an hour to see if that helped but another unused lab fell during the test so that's not it. I have people looking into life support and security systems, but that's going to take time."
Zelenka nodded. "The operating systems of the city are not just complicated, but layered. Takes time to find and fix errors, even when we know exactly where to look."
"Which we don't. Hence it taking even more time than usual to get this fixed," McKay broke in.
Colonel Sheppard spoke up from his spot across from Rodney. "Ok. So this computer bug is locking down rooms for no reason. Is there any pattern to which rooms? What type?"
McKay shook his head but it was Zelenka that replied. "No, is completely random. Some are quarters, some are labs, there are even a few sections of hallway. Lucky we only inhabit such a small part of city, otherwise people might be stuck."
That caught both Sheppard's and Weirs' attention. "So people could definitely become trapped?" Weir stated, alarmed. Sheppard sat up straight from his slouch.
McKay rolled his eyes. "Yes." Zelenka looked at him, opening his mouth, but McKay cut him off. "Well, actually, I'm not sure. There is nothing indicating that the city did a search for life signs in any of the rooms before shut down, so I'm not completely sure, but yeah, I think so."
Looking down at her own data pad thoughtfully, Weir tapped her nails against the table. "Can you give me an estimate on how long it will take to discover and fix the root of the problem?"
McKay snorted, "Sure, sometime between an hour from now and a year or two." He deflated a bit "It just depends on our luck of hitting on the problem early on in our search. And if we are depending on luck, well... let's just say we may want to think of evacuating all non-critical personnel to the mainland for a nice little vacation."
Sheppard knocked his knuckles on the table, leaning back into his 'thinking slouch' and began to rotate his chair a little quicker. "Mass evacuation is a last resort. Is there someplace inside the city that we can move people, somewhere big enough that this won't effect?" Weir looked on hopefully, waiting for an answer.
Shaking his head, Zelenka replied, "Nothing long term. The balconies and piers obviously, but seeing how we don't know when we will get problem fixed, it's not really an option."
Weir laid her hand on the table, and pinned her gaze on her two chief scientists. "Exactly how imminent is it that someone will be trapped in one of these rooms, and is it your official stance on this matter that an evacuation of all non-crucial personnel be commenced at this time?"
Zelenka and McKay looked at each other, obviously having a silent conversation. They turned to face Dr. Weir simultaneously. McKay began haltingly, "Since the pattern is random, I can't give you an exact time, but I would say calculating the odds it'd be about 12 hours or so before we'd need to mount a rescue operation. As for the evacuation," he trailed off, glancing at Zelenka, "Yes, we do believe that would be the best right now."
Elizabeth drew a deep breath, and looked around the room. She had everyone's attention. The concern was obvious but no one was visibly tense, having been through similar things in the three plus years they'd been in the city. They all had confidence in their fellow expedition members to bail them out, even if it meant leaving the city for a few days.
"Alright then. Colonel, you and Major Lorne get started on evacuation protocols. Rodney, give him a list of people you think need to stay behind from your area. I only want people who are working on this problem directly to stay in the city, and I want them under supervision of the military. I know they can't do much in the way of protecting from this bug," she continued, overriding McKay's upcoming complaint, "but it'll give me piece of mind to have someone there with them."
Sheppard shook his head. "If we are in any kind of a rush here, evacuating to the main land is not going to cut it. The puddle jumpers are equipped to fit 20 people at the most so even if we use all of them, it would take several trips."
Weir frowned. "Yes, of course. The gate?"
Sheppard nodded. "I still say we take 3 jumpers to the mainland, including some of the medical staff and several marines. That way if anything goes wrong, those left in the city will have support if needed. But everyone else, I think, should go to the Beta site, and to be safe, the remaining jumpers with them."
Dr. Beckett nodded from next to Lorne. "Aye, I'm sure Dr. Biro and a few of the others will be happy to go to the mainland. I'll stay here in the city, for immediate support" He saw Dr. Weir frown and hastily added "My ATA gene might come in handy as well." He grimaced slightly, obviously hoping that a situation involving him using the technology would not come up."
McKay nodded. "Yes, he could come in handy, if the Colonel were not available."
Weir agreed. "Okay. So we are evacuating all personnel to the Beta site, with the exceptions of those few staying in the city or moving to the mainland. I'll make an announcement city-wide in five minutes. Colonel, McKay, contact those you wish to stay in the city and update them. I want marines assigned to the scientists staying, and I want everyone accounted for at all times while they are here. Anyone else have anything to add?"
Everyone shook their heads. Elizabeth stood. "Okay then. Let's get this done calmly and quickly."
One at a time everyone rose and headed towards the opening doors to get their assigned tasks completed.
Summary: A malfunction in the city has the people of Atlantis running a race against time, and the city herself. Will everyone get out alive?