The monks say they would be happy to show Dr. McKay their energy-making device only, only --
"Only what?" McKay demands. "Only fire-breathing dragons? Only flesh-eating bacteria? Only caustic gases that melt your eyeballs and cook your brain inside your skull? Only what?"
"Only, it is cold in the caves," the head monk admits, looking ashamed, also nervous. "Asha will take you."
Asha is called through the calling-tube and soon comes skidding around the corner. "All right! New people!" he says, pumping a fist in the air.
McKay looks at John as if this is somehow his fault.
"Asha," says the head monk, who wouldn't tell them his own name, "came to us as a young boy after his village was destroyed by a fire. He has become comfortable here and does not travel like a boy his age should. I'm sure he would be eager to hear of the world you come from."
John raises an eyebrow at Teyla. The old guy's totally trying to foist off the hyperactive teenager on them.
McKay scowls at all of them. "I'd like to see the energy-making device before we all grow old and die, thank you."
"Of course," the monk says, "right this way. You may wish to take an extra garment with you to ward off the chill." He gestures at a rack of hats, scarves and giant cardigans that look like they've been knitted out of a hundred years of leftover yarn.
"Nah," says Asha, who is wearing leather sandals and a pair of pants cut off at the knee. "You don't need that. It's fine down there."
Teyla takes a torch off the wall and starts it with her lighter, the same one she used the first day they'd met. Asha finds it fascinating and as he leads them into the tunnels, Teyla tells him about Athos.
McKay is nose down in his life signs detector and probably hasn't heard a word anyone's said for the past five minutes. John herds him down the stairs and grabs a striped multicolored scarf monstrosity off the rack. It's about six feet long and has a hat knitted to one end. He wraps it around his neck, jauntily. McKay's going to want it later.
"This energy signal's weird. It --" McKay glances up at him. "Why are you wearing Tom Baker's scarf?"
"No reason," John says.
McKay squints at him, then goes back to his energy readings. Ronon brings up the rear with another torch and they all troop down to check out the monastery's energy-making device.
"It's probably not a ZPM," McKay mumbles to himself. "But the output signature's similar to the, hm..."
The stairs wind around and around, going deeper and deeper into the rock until finally giving out to a round chamber about the size of the gate room. The chamber has its own light source and Teyla and Ronon hang their torches by the stairs.
"This is it!" Asha says cheerfully. "The thingy's over there --"
McKay perks up like a bird dog and runs over to check it out. John ambles along behind him.
"Do you guys play Quat?" Asha's saying to Teyla and Ronon. "It's more fun with three, and we've got a whole wall. I haven't even tried this side yet. The monks don't like to come down here."
Teyla and Ronon seem interested in what Asha's showing them, so John focuses his attention on McKay, who's crouched over the energy-making device -- a solid grey box -- and prying at it with his bare hands.
"This isn't Ancient," McKay says, breath coming out in little puffs in the cold air. "They never made anything square in their lives!"
John runs his fingers over the top of the box. It doesn't feel Ancienty to him, either. "Maybe there's something inside?"
"You think?" McKay says. "Or maybe boxes are the solution to the energy crisis! Help me with this."
McKay gets a screwdriver from his vest and together they pop the side off. McKay immediately sticks his head inside. "Flashlight! Flashlight!" he says, slapping at the empty air. John hands him a flashlight and McKay shines it into the box. "Huh," he says. "Colonel, come look at this."
John gets on his knees and sticks his head in the box next to McKay's. In front of them, illuminated by McKay's flashlight, is something that looks a lot like a blue ZPM.
"Huh," John says. "But you said --"
"I know what I said."
"But it looks --"
"Not exactly," McKay says. "See how it's part of the system? It's not a separate component." He prods at it. "It's not meant to come out."
"This is not the ZPM we're looking for," John says.
"No, but it might tell us something about ours. If this one's not meant to come out, it can't be replaced like -- our ZPMs must be rechargeable!"
"Or maybe this one is," John says.
"No, it's like a cheap digital watch," McKay says, already tinkering with the connections to the ZPM. "When it dies, you throw it away. You don't buy a new battery."
John scoots out from the box. "A cheap digital watch that's lasted for thousands of years."
"That's beside the point. The fact that it exists at all --" McKay squirms around to look underneath the ZPM. "I need pictures of this. Can you get the camera from my pack?"
McKay sits up to enter some data on his PDA. "Dammit, it's freezing down here."
"They could have warned us," McKay says, shivering. He looks up from his notes and his eyes fix on John's scarf. "Give me that."
"Nope," John says, unpacking the camera.
McKay makes a surprised noise. "You don't need it! You have that ridiculous pelt to keep you warm!"
"Get your own scarf."
"I don't see any others around. Hand it over. I'm the genius here, and I'm cold. I'm sure my brain is only operating at half its maximum efficiency due to temperature stress. You could be standing in the way of a serious breakthrough!"
"Wouldn't want that to happen," John says, unwinding the scarf from around his neck. McKay grabs it out of his hands, greedily wrapping it around his own neck and then pausing when he comes to the hat on the other end.
"What the --"
"It's a scarf/hat," John says.
McKay digests this, then declares it brilliant. "It's a very smart idea," he says, jamming the hat on his head. "You'd never lose your hat this way." He goes back to work, smug with victory and the possibility of discovering something new.
John snaps a picture.