Words: 2,478 (of 16,253)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Stephen Caldwell, Elizabeth; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 5 of #13 (part 1, 2, 3, 4) in the Ancient!John 'verse. Some Trek-like technobabble
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: The mechanics of ZPMs
Notes: Frak it. I know I said 5 would be the last, but, well, I lied apparently, because it was either post this or delete it and I'd put too much work into it to do that. But 6 will be the fraking end of "Socii", I promise. (And I've obviously been watching too much BSG, but what can you do. We all have our bad habits.)
Anyway, as near as I can tell, the science for this is, well, vaugely sound. And possibly series compliant. But a white hole is the opposite of a black hole, oxypnictides are the ultimate in superconductive materials, and, while I'm not sure if there's an USAF publishing directorate, I know there's an Army version, so there's probably something like that with the Air Force as well, if under a different name or something. Oh, and I'm still in the process of making the timeline more userfriendly, as well as the master post for this 'verse, so bear with me. RL is being fairly time consuming at the moment.
An Ancient!John Story
"I'm going to need approximately eighty feet of thirty-two gauge copper wire, maybe half a kilogram of oxypnictide – something lanthanum-based preferably but I won't say no to something with samarium if Area 51 can spare any - and the best clean room we can build as far from any of the city's power conduits as is both possible and practical," Rodney announces as he enters Elizabeth's office, completely not caring that he's probably interrupted some big, important meeting between herself, John and Colonel Caldwell regarding the city's defences. Or something else equally important but less interesting than what he's been working on since mid-December.
"Copper wire. Oxypnictide. Clean room. Things I need," Rodney repeats at Elizabeth's bewildered expression. "Oh, and I'll have to borrow the charged ZedPM we already have for a couple hours but that probably won't be for a couple weeks yet."
"Yes, I got that much," Elizabeth says. "But what you haven't said is why you need them."
"To recharge the ZedPMs, of course."
There's a beat when both Elizabeth and Caldwell stare at him blankly before the Colonel, quickly regathering his wits, asks, "You completed the equations then?"
"Yes – two days ago, actually." He frowns. "Didn't John tell you?"
John holds up both of his hands in what is surely meant to be a placating gesture, "I was going mention it after the outcome of the Asgard's latest genetic trials."
"Really?" Rodney asks, momentarily distracted, "How's that going?"
"They managed to get one of their modified zygotes to survive for all of twelve hours before the incubtum declared it inviable and aborted it. Heimdall considers it progress."
"Huh. That's... moderately disturbing, actually."
John shrugs, "The Asgard are the Asgard. Trying to judge them by human – or Alteran – terms is pointless and hurts everyone involved."
"And yet," Elizabeth says, eyes crinkling with amusement, "I seem to recall you saying just the other day that descendants are weird."
"Ninety-seven percent shared genome, ninety-seven percent judgement," John says evenly. "But, yeah, Rodney finished The Dorandan Equations two days ago-"
"The Dorandan Equations?"
"It's what he's calling the equations we found for recharging the Zero Point Modules," Rodney tells Caldwell. "Because apparently we can't just go around calling them the ZedPM recharge equations for the rest of our lives or, God forbid, name them after the person who's spent the better part of the last three weeks slaving away at them to make a full proof out of half a page of somebody's hastily scribbled notes."
"Well, if you can think of a name for them that doesn't take almost as long to say as they do to solve, you can call them whatever you want. But I like The Dorandan Equations and I'm the one with final naming say-so, so... The Dorandan Equations they'll remain."
Rodney harrumphs at this but sinks down on to the couch next to him without further comment.
"Anyway, as I was saying, Rodney finished the equations a couple of days ago and Doctor Zelenka and I have gone over them so many times I swear I'm starting to see them every time I close my eyes, but there's nothing in the maths that say they won't work and Radek says the same about the science, so..." He pokes Rodney in the leg, possibly as a cue for him to take up the explanations.
Before he can say anything, however, Elizabeth does, repeating, "You've been over the math?" in a tone of such disbelief that he can't keep from snorting.
"Don't let the hair fool you," he tells her, "John's a mathematical genius."
Smirking now, "Is that so?"
"Yeah," Rodney says as John groans, slumping further down into the couch, as if doing so would render him deaf to the conversation going on around him. "He solved the Riemann Hypothesis between debriefings while we were back on Earth 'cause he was bored. Actually," Rodney glances at his watch, "the USAF Publishing Directorate put out his monograph last Monday. So, unless the CMI and IMU really drag their heels, we'll probably need to find a way for us to be back on Earth for most of next December for the award ceremonies."
Elizabeth blinks at him.
"The Riemann Hypothesis is – or, rather, was – widely regarded as the most important unsolved problem in speculative mathematics in modern history. It's on both the Clay Mathematics Institute's list of Millennium Prize Problems and Hilbert's list of unsolved mathematical problems from the turn of the last century. Basically, the only way he's not going to win a Fields Medal for this is if someone starts looking too closely into the background the SGC made up for him and the awards ceremony is right before Christmas, so..."
"Why, John, I didn't know you were into math."
"Father's version of parenting was to act like I was one of his research assistants," John says with minimal emotion, staring rather sightlessly at one of the figurines on Elizabeth's desk. "When I was young, he'd give me equations to solve while he went off to his lab. When I got older, he'd have me crunch numbers for whatever project he was working on at the time. Can't say much of the science stuck, but..." he trailed off with a what can you do sort of shrug.
"Well, be that as it may..."
"Yes, yes," Rodney breaks in quickly, diverting the conversation before they can get bogged down in the trials and travails of John's childhood, which he knows John won't appreciate, "while we could spend all day trying to reconcile John's brain with the rest of him, how about we concentrate on my genius for the moment which, while already assured, has reached entirely new heights with these Dorandan Equations."
"Go ahead, Rodney," Elizabeth says, smiling slightly, "astound us."
"Well, you know how we've always pretty much thought the ZedPMs were miniature universes in a bottle?"
"Well, turns out we were wrong – or, rather, mostly wrong. Thank God, too or else we'd never be able to recharge them."
Sitting (if possible) a little bit straighter at this, "What are they then?" Colonel Caldwell asks.
"Essentially?" he says, whipping out his tablet and using it to pull up a schematic of the device they'll have to build to recharge the ZedPMs on the large monitor in the corner of Elizabeth's office. It looks a little like a wood lathe with a coil of wires where the dowel would normally go but Rodney's not going to let looks get in the way of what represents the biggest step forward for humanity since Sam's dialling program for the Stargate. "That, while the Zero Point Modules still draw power from a region of subspace that is otherwise unable to interact with space-time as we know it, instead of, well, containing said region as we've always thought, it connects our universe to a region of subspace inside another universe entirely."
"So you're saying what, exactly? That there's a wormhole to a parallel universe inside each and every ZPM?"
"In layman's terms? Yes. Though, rather than parallel universes, like we've seen with the quantum mirror on Earth, we're talking about completely different universes entirely, ones which have no connection to our own other than through the the ZedPM." Ones which, rather than sharing a common history, are lucky to share common laws of physics. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.
"So how's this important?"
"It means that when a Zero Point Module loses its charge, it's not the Zero Point Module itself that becomes inert, just the region of subspace in the universe it's connected to. The wormhole connecting them is still active – well, technically it's a white hole but, for the sake of this conversation-"
"The point, Rodney," John reminds him, leaning forward to prop his elbows on his knees and his chin on his fists, somehow managing to look not so much bored by the proceedings as mildly nostalgic. Granted, from what little John was willing to share about his childhood, most of it probably had been spent listening to scientists of one sort or another talk to each other about things far over his head. But still. Weird.
"Yes, right," he says quickly, blinking to try and rid himself of his John-filled thoughts. "The point is, if we can direct the right amount of charge to the right part of the ZedPM, we can make the wormhole inside jump, more or less, to a different region of subspace, most likely in a third universe entirely. Regardless, it'll be a region of subspace rife with zero point energy."
Elizabeth seems to muse on this for a moment. Then, "What's the catch?"
"Er, well, to make the wormhole jump we've got to set up a superconducting magnet around the ZedPM. It shouldn't be difficult but the possibility – the very small-"
"One point four percent," John offers, grinning for some strange, unknown reason of his own.
Rodney glares at him while continuing emphatically, "-minute possibility remains that we could damage the ZedPM itself. But," he says more assuredly still as he turns back to Elizabeth, "we've got the three that were left behind during the Exodus to try on, plus the one that General O'Neill originally used to power the Antarctic Outpost. So that's four chances at getting it right, which means potentially four new ZedPMs to fight the Wraith and the Ori with."
"And possibly four more chances of blowing a hole in the universe until you figure it out."
"You blow up one solar system," he mutters under his breath, feeling himself flush at this. "It's not like that. If we do manage to damage the ZedPM in some way, all that's likely to happen is it cracks open – which does absolutely nothing but cause the wormhole inside to dissolve. No noise, no lights; nothing that could possibly blow a hole in the universe at all. Just a tiny crack that, in all likelihood, we'd not even notice until we went looking for it. Very anticlimactic – and safe – and the only thing we've lost is a ZedPM we couldn't use anyway. But there's only a one in one hundred chance of that happening – even less once we run some preliminary tests on some inert crystals we've found with similar properties to the ones that make up the ZedPMs."
Elizabeth bites her lower lip, looking vaguely chastised by this remark. Or, at least, embarrassed that she'd voiced her fear at all. "It's not that I'm not thrilled, it's really not. It's just, well, wouldn't we be finding a lot more charged ZPMS if the Ancients had had an effective way of recharging them?"
"The Ancients were a race of people who went about regularly tapping the zero-point energy of other universes. Suffice to say that conservation and efficiency were not exactly high on their list of priorities."
"Don't look at me," John shrugs when Elizabeth does just this, presumably for confirmation of this. "Science, once again, was never my thing. All I know is, Father and his colleagues did a lot of experimenting and they were never short for supplies, even after Tirianus fell."
Caldwell changes the direction of the conversation before Elizabeth has a chance to probe further – perhaps to ask, as Rodney has so often wondered, just what Tirianus was and why its destruction had been so particularly devastating. Either way, it's a question that doesn't bear asking, not if they want honest answers, and they've other things to worry about today. "So how long before we'll be able to see if this idea of yours works or not?"
"It'll probably take two or three weeks to build all the equipment we'll need and another week at most to do the initial tests... So we're looking at the end of March at the earliest, depending on what the Daedalus' turn-around time on Earth is."
Though Earth days and calendar months mean little on Atlantis, by them it is barely January. And, while waiting is the only option they have, the situation could change drastically in the time it would take Daedalus to get back to Earth, resupply and arrive back at Atlantis. The Ori could reach the Milky Way before then or the Wraith could realize that Atlantis isn't as destroyed as they'd made her out to seem but it's the best they can do.
"I've actually been thinking about that," John interrupts, surprising all of them.
"We take a leaf from my people's book and scrounge for it."
Rodney turns and looks at him. "For basic building supplies, yeah. But I've not exactly seen piles of superconductive materials laying about anywhere. At least, none that are in any places we can afford to scrounge them from."
"Ah, but I've not shown you the really good labs yet."
"You haven't?" Rodney's mildly surprised by the hurt he hears in his voice.
"Do you tell all your secrets to people you've just met?"
"You've known us for eighteen months!" Not to mention the fact that they'd been seeing each other (or whatever the hell they wanted to call it) for the last twelve.
"Yes, well," he says somewhat abashedly, "I got distracted. 'Sides, it's not like there weren't plenty of normal, run-of-the-mill ones for you to explore."
"Eighteen months," Rodney repeats.
"The Genii. The Siege. Project Arcturus. The Asgard," John counts off on his fingers. "Do you really need me to go on?"
"Fine. Whatever. But if there's something in one of them that could've kept you from almost flying yourself into the side of a Wraith hive-"
"-I might not ever be able to forgive you."
John's eye-roll is almost audible. "Race of cowards, remember? Things that could destroy the Wraith also had the potential to destroy us, so we kept them off-world in case something went wrong."
"That's... understandable, I suppose."
"I'm sure your approval would've meant everything to them," he says dryly. "So, now that we've got that out of the way, what do you say you let us finish up here and then tomorrow we can start looking for the parts you need?"
"Fine, but don't think you and I won't be talking about this later."
"Wouldn't expect anything else."