They weren't going to win, John knew it. Rodney, who worked frantically from a corner of the chair room, knew it, even as he called out damage reports every few minutes. Teyla knew it, though she refused to speak of it. Ronon knew it, he was out in the corridor, holding back the newest wave of wraith drones that had beamed in.
The latest attempt to capture the city and the last surviving ATA gene carriers intact had turned into a suicide run for the wraith that had lost their queen. The Hive Ship had that plummeted through the atmosphere on a trajectory that had not only take out a huge chunk of the mainland. The resulting blast wave had incinerated the continent's surface, leaving it an ever spreading inferno. Everyone on the mainland had died within minutes of the impact.
The explosion that rocked Atlantis was bigger than anything John had ever felt. He hissed as part of the superstructure cracked and two of the science towers shivered and fell into the waves, taking a dozen soldiers and scientists with them. There had been no way to evacuate, not when the gate was being held open by an incoming wormhole, not with the Daedalus nothing more than space debris in orbit, having sacrificed themselves to take out two hives.
A war cry from Ronon signaled he was down to hand weapons. Teyla was laying down fire as several wraiths made it past the Satedan. They were forced further back, nearly into the Chair Room itself.
“Sheppard,” a voice called through the com system. “Surrender and give us the city. You shall be exulted as he that guided us to the new feeding ground.”
“Fuck off, Todd,” John growled back. “You're getting nothing from me.”
“John,” Teyla said in a rasping voice. “We can't hold them off.”
“Don't let them take the city,” Rodney said. He ran over to a panel that opened under his hand. “I've made a pathway in the city circuitry.” He pulled a crystal from the wall, inverted it, and slammed it home. “Follow the path. You'll know what to do when you get there.”
“Rodney?” John opened his eyes and saw his friend looked scared but determined.
“Do it, John,” Rodney said. “While we still have time. Don't let them take her.”
He closed his eyes and saw what McKay had been talking about. A pathway of open circuits, blazing in warning red. Rodney had bypassed fail-safe protocols as old as the city itself, a safety measure that was put in place to keep anyone from doing exactly what John was attempting to do. His mind raced through the pathway, into the main power chamber, and into the heart of the ZPM that rested there. Nearly depleted as it was, there was more than enough power to do this.
The city around him cried out in distress, from the destruction happening to the city and for what it knew he was about to do. He sent an apology out through the circuits to the AI and felt what could only be an answering caress in his mind.
In an act of pure will, John grabbed the crystal structure of the greatest power source in the galaxy and shattered it. The vacuum of subspace that held the energy contained in the ZPM expanded at the speed of light and the planet and everything within their sun's orbit was obliterated between one heartbeat and the next.
John opened his eyes and sat up from where he had been sleeping. He gasped and clutched at his chest, his eyes wild as he searched frantically for something familiar. His eyes rested on an old-fashioned CRT television that was flashing images of a commercial about the latest Motorola Razor cell phone. Something that had been considered state of the art, ten years previous.
He climbed out of the bed and took stock of his surroundings. There was a garment bag draped over a chair in the corner. An opened closet door to his left showed his Air Force dress blues. A uniform that he hadn't had in years. He took a closer look and his eyes widened in disbelief. The lapels didn't show the rank of a colonel or even a major. There were captains bars reflecting light back at him.
“Okay, John,” he said to himself. “Stay calm. Figure this out. Keep looking.”
It was a hotel room, that much he could tell, a single queen sized bed, which he had just left. A mini-fridge sat under a counter with a coffee pot and a microwave. There were a couple empty bottles on the counter and two glasses sitting next to the sink in the bathroom. He turned on the overhead bathroom light and looked at himself.
He was younger like he had been after Todd had given his life back. He had no gray hair at all. There was no feeding scar on his chest, nor was there one on his neck from where the iratus bug had attacked him. He turned to look at his back; the burn scars from the explosion in lab six were also gone.
He found an Air Force issued travel bag and rifled through it. A plane ticket and an order for two weeks leave. Also in the bag was a picture of Nancy Werther. He grabbed the old style flip phone and stared down at the date in dawning horror. He was standing in the hotel room he had slept in the day before his wedding. The drinks had been with his best man Dexter Martin. The friend he would soon watch be killed by an RPG.
He felt his heart start to hammer in his chest even as his hands started to shake. This couldn't be real, he couldn't possibly be here. Hours away from one of the biggest mistakes of his life. This was the day he got married.
He remembered the emotions he had felt this day. The nervousness, the excitement, but now it was muted with the weight of other memories. The losses from years of fighting an alien race hell bent on turning the Milky Way Galaxy into their personal all you can eat buffet.
The love he had felt for Nancy was still there, but like everything else; time and distance had muted it into something that felt more like nostalgia. A lot of things that had seemed so genuine back then, paled in comparison to life on Atlantis.
John had thought, at the time, that he had loved her with all his heart. He had liked her a lot, the sex between them had been fun, and his father had actually liked her. It had been great, until the two of them had conspired to try and transfer him to some desk job in Washington, D.C., with the ultimate goal of using what connections he might create there to influence government policy in some way to favor his father's company. This was something he hadn't known until after the divorce papers had been signed.
Nancy had been working in DC for years but hadn't shown where her ambition had truly lay until after their first six months married. She had been pushing for him to request a transfer stateside since the honeymoon had ended, but John had never been one to abandon his post. He and his crew had the best rescue and retrieval records of all the Pararescue units in Afghanistan and he'd still had another six months left on his current deployment. He wasn't going to destroy unit cohesion just because his wife didn't like that he was getting shot at.
After he and his unit had their deployment extended another year, things started to get ugly. The fights they'd had via Skype hadn't been fun, but he had a skill set which could not be easily replaced. Also, he wasn't going to be a paper pusher in the military culture of Washington so that she could have trophy husband to take to important fancy dress dinners.
The divorce hadn't been pretty but it had been fast. John hadn't even cared at the time that it had restarted the rumor mill regarding his sexuality he'd just wanted it over. Of course, the letter he'd received from his father about how disappointed he was and 'wasn't that just like him to screw up the one good thing in his life' had been the icing on the cake.
He looked around the room again and saw a large laptop computer on the floor next to the bed. It had been state of the art when he had purchased it. Nearly an inch thick and probably eight pounds in weight. It looked like a brick compared to the slick data pads that he was used to. It was plugged into the wall and it had an Ethernet cable that was also plugged into a jack in the wall.
He turned it on and logged into the hotel's network. From there he was able to get onto the internet with relative ease. It had been a long time since he'd had to think about security protocols. He did a quick search for the one name he hoped would be easy to find.
“M. Rodney McKay, Ph.D.”
The results weren't terrible; a MySpace page with a very much younger and thinner version of his best friend than he had ever seen before. There wasn't much else, but that wasn't surprising since McKay had been working on classified projects almost his entire life.
“Okay,” John took a deep breath and went to the site, not expecting much. To his surprise, there was an email address. After checking around for a free email service, John created a free yahoo account and logged in. He had to think about what he was going to say. What if he said something Atlantis related and Rodney didn't know what he was talking about. Would that mean he was here alone?
He ground his teeth and sent:
Tell me I'm not here alone.
Less than five minutes later the mail client chimed.
Subject: Re 105578
Oh, thank god. I thought it was just me going crazy. I woke up in my old apartment in Nevada of all places. It's 5AM here by the way. Where are you? Never mind. I'm going to pick up a burner phone as soon as the stores open. Get one for yourself and email me the number. We need to talk.
John fell back onto the bed feeling so relieved he could barely think. The codes where their personal IDC codes, not just the team codes. Only used when they had an off world emergency and were dialing the city from the Alpha site. There was no mistake, Rodney was here with him in the past.
There were so many things he wanted to talk about, so many things that had been left unsaid. They had been given a second chance and he was going to take full advantage of it. But first, he had to make sure he didn't make the biggest mistake in his life for the second time.
He called the airport and found a flight that would get him to Las Vegas in less than twelve hours. Luckily there had been an opened seat for the next available flight which was scheduled to leave in four hours. He took a quick shower and packed his bags. He then called the lobby and asked for them to call him a cab to pick him up in an hour. He needed to talk to Nancy before he left, a sudden disappearance would bring in the authorities. This had to seem impulsive, not dangerous or reckless.
John dressed in a clean set of BDUs and headed down to the dining room where the wedding party was supposed to have breakfast. He remembered doing this the first time, being nervous but excited about this new chapter of his life. Now he was nervous for a completely different reason. He entered the dining area to find Nancy, his father Patrick, his younger brother David sitting together. Dex, Lyle Holland, and Peter Endi were seated together along with some of Nancy's relatives.
He squared his shoulders and walked in, his eyes searching for any sign that this was some sort of illusion or that he was being manipulated. Even though he was ninety-five percent sure at this point that this was all very real. He stopped in front of Nancy's table even as he waved off the invitation to sit down with his buddies from the Air Force.
“Nancy, could I talk to you in private?” he asked.
“What's the matter, John,” David asked from across the table. “Not getting cold feet are you?” He said it loud enough that everyone in the room heard it. There were titters of laughter from those assembled, but those died down when they noticed that John wasn't laughing.
“John, what's wrong?” Nancy asked. She looked worried. “Why aren't you wearing that nice suit I bought for you?”
“I'd rather not discuss our private business in front of all these people,” John said, to her quietly.
“Please, John, we're all family here,” Patrick said with a dismissive wave. “Sit, have a decent meal for once. God knows what swill you're served in that hell hole of a base you're stationed at.”
“Fine,” John looked right at Nancy. “I would have rather done this without making a scene, but since you don't seem to give a crap, I'll just say it here. The wedding is off.”
“What?” Nancy stared at him in disbelief.
Patrick rose to his feet. “You can't be serious.”
John turned to the gathered guests. “I'm sorry to have placed you all in this uncomfortable moment and I know that many of you have traveled quite a distance to be here for the wedding of Patrick Sheppard's oldest son. However, I can't in marry someone that doesn't respect my career choices.”
Nancy's naturally pale complexion turned ashen. “I don't know what you're talking about, John.”
“I'm talking about all those calls between you and Dad that had nothing to do with the wedding and everything to do with my future,” John replied. “Calls that started well before I ever proposed to you.”
“Now, son,” Patrick started, standing from the table. “This isn't the time or the place to be talking about something that is clearly a misunderstanding.”
“Dad,” David stood as well, his eyes switched quickly from father to brother. “What is he talking about?”
“It's nothing, David.” Patrick tried to sound reassuring, but it was obvious that David didn't buy it.
“You said John was on board with this,” David said, his eyes narrowed. “You said it was just a matter of time and he would be an asset to the company.”
John turned to his brother. “So you weren't in on this. Good to know.” He filed that way along with the long list of misunderstandings and general crap that had happened between the two of them over the years. “Listen, David, I know you don't understand my life choices and I know you resent my going into the military.”
David's face turned red with embarrassment. “It wasn't like that.”
“Really?” John crossed his arms and tilted his head to the side.
“This isn't the place for this,” Patrick said. His stern gaze locked on John, though it was clear he was keeping an eye on the movements of the people in he room.
“What's the matter, Dad? You afraid to lose a couple investors?” John asked, all the old bitterness he had lost upon his father's death rose back up.
“John!” Nancy hissed, taken aback by his cold demeanor. “What's gotten into you?”
“Clarity,” John replied. He turned back to his brother. “You want the company to go forward into the future? Invest in alternative energy technology. Solar and wind tech is going to be huge and unless you want China to be supplying the parts, you'll need to pour money at R and D into it.”
David blinked at him in shock. “Okay, right.”
“And you,” John turned to his father. “You need to take better care of yourself. Go to the doctor and get a checkup.”
He turned and went to his friends at the other table. Everyone was staring at him like he had lost his mind. “Gentlemen.”
“John are you alright?” Dex asked. “Are you in some sort of trouble?”
“I'm fine,” John replied with a laconic smile. “Sorry, there won't be a party.”
“Hell, we can always entertain ourselves,” Dex said with a shrug.
“The question is,” Lyle said in a low tone. “Is there anything you can tell us?”
“It's nothing like that,” John replied. “I just woke up and realized I was doing this for all the wrong reasons. I'll see you all when leave is over.”
“Where you headed?” Lyle asked.
“To see an old friend,” John replied.
“Are you sure?” Peter asked.
“I'm sure.” It hurt to look at his friends, knowing that in less than two years they would all be dead. “But you listen to me all three if you. You make sure you're gear is up to spec and verify all intelligence before you head out anywhere. You hear me?”
“Yes, sir.” They all said together, then blinked in surprise.
“See you in a week.” John gave them all a sloppy salute and headed for the lobby, ignoring the calls from both Nancy and his father. He got to the main desk and retrieved his rucksack where he had left it after turning in his room key.
The cab was waiting for him just outside the main lobby just as he had requested. He handed the driver his bag and was about to climb in when he heard someone call him.
“John, wait!” David said at a run.
“David?” John replied.
“What did you mean about investing in R and D?” he asked, breathlessly.
“Growing up you always had the best ideas when it came to energy storage,” John said. “Remember that battery you made as a science project. It lasted twice as long as a D cell bought in a store.”
“I remember,” David replied.
“Dad never let you pursue your dream to be a research scientist, but that doesn't mean you can't get your hands dirty now.” He placed his hands on his brother's shoulders and looked him square in the eye. “Get into the mix and make the world a better place. You'd be amazed how much the world will change in a few years.”
“Dad has his head stuck in the fossil fuel industry,” John replied. “Just look at the lengths this country is willing to go to protect and control it. We're at war for all the wrong reasons and good people are dying every day because of it.”
“I never thought about it like that,” David admitted.
“Listen, I have a flight I need to catch,” John said. “But call me, if you feel like it.”
“Okay,” David replied, surprised.
“I'm still your big brother. You're important to me.” John almost pulled him into a hug but didn't because that would have been too out of character for them. He climbed into the cab and headed for the airport, he didn't look back.
The flight from Virginia to Nevada felt like it took forever. The anticipation of seeing Rodney kept John on the edge of his seat.
He'd picked up a burner phone at a kiosk at the airport and spent the next few hours working with McKay via phone calls and emails setting up a secure, encrypted line which they would implement once they were together.
He walked out of the MacCarren International Airport to find Rodney in short sleeves and sunglasses, leaning against an old Ford Taurus. He smiled and shook his head. “Are you going for cool, Rodney? Because you know you can't pull that off.”
Rodney's shoulder's slumped. “I was wondering if you would recognize me.”
“Well, you could pass yourself off as Quentin Tarantino, with all that hair,” John teased.
“Shut up,” Rodney huffed. They got into the car and Rodney slipped him a note. Don't say anything else until I signal it's safe.
They took off heading south until they hit route 160 and started heading north. After ten minutes of driving in silence, Rodney reached between them and picked up a small device. He flipped a switch and was rewarded with a green light and a soft hiss.
“Okay, now we can talk,” Rodney said, his tense posture relaxing finally.
“What was all of that?” John asked. “That was pretty cloak and dagger even for us.”
“I work at Area 51,” Rodney replied. “Half the time some agent from the NSA, the CIA, or NID is watching me. I find bugs in my stuff all the time. That is a scrambler and white noise generator. No one gets to listen in on my conversations unless I want them to.”
John nodded and leaned back in his seat to watch the road go by. “What is the last thing you remember?”
“Teyla going down. This male wraith, not Todd, heading straight for you.” Rodney swallowed. “You and everything in the room, including me, started to glow and then nothing. I assume you destroyed the ZPM and we all died.”
“Then how did we end up here?” John asked. “I don't remember ascending, I sure as hell don't remember traveling through time.”
“I have a theory,” Rodney replied. “But I don't like it.”
“Lay it on me,” John said.
“The Ancients sent us back in time in order to save Atlantis from being destroyed.”
“Then why send us back so far?” John asked. “Why not send us back a few months? I thought they were all about non-interference.”
“Right,” Rodney replied. “The farther back you send someone the higher the chances are that they can create change in ways that won't get noticed in the over all scheme of things.”
“We need to get back to Atlantis,” John said. “But we need to be smart about this.”
“Exactly.” Rodney turned off the main highway and into a small community just off the beaten path. He pulled into a diner and climbed out. “I don't know about you, but I'm starving.”
“I could eat,” John admitted. “Nice place.”
“I ate here a lot when I worked out here,” Rodney admitted. “They know my eating habits and allergies.”
“Good to know.” They order food and ate quietly for a while.
“So how much time do you have before you get shipped back?” Rodney asked.
“Two weeks,” John said. “Then back to the sands. It was supposed to be my honeymoon.”
“You'll be careful?” Rodney asked. “I don't like the idea of you going out there without your team.”
John felt his heart swell. “I promise I'm not going to take too many risks.”
“I want to get you into the SGC as soon as possible,” Rodney said. “I'd rather you didn't get put on a gate team without me, but we need a way to get you on the expedition. Some way that doesn't involve you being exiled to Antarctica. I know you did the right thing, but that black mark didn't do you or the expedition any favors.”
“Rodney,” John sighed.
“Listen to me,” Rodney hissed. “We can't afford to have someone like Sumner as head of the military. The supplies and equipment we brought through the gate were completely inadequate for what we found when we got there. You know what we'll need militarily, so you need to have O'Neill's confidence when you make your choices.”
“You want me to try and get command before we leave?” John asked.
“Well, yes if we can swing it,” Rodney replied. “We've got two years before SG-1 discovers the ZPM on Proclarush Taonas and Antarctic base in time to stops Anubis' attack on Earth.”
“And we can't tell them about it ahead of time,” John sighed and sat back.
“No, we can't,” Rodney replied. “If they think we know more than we should, you can bet your pointy ears that we'll get shoved down an oubliette somewhere and every ounce of knowledge wrung out of us before they kill us.”
“We could tell General O'Neill the truth,” John suggested.
“Except that right now, he is just a colonel,” Rodney replied. “I'm going to be called to Cheyenne Mountain in a few weeks to try and help save Teal'c when he gets trapped in the gate buffer. If things go the way they did the first time, I will piss off a lot of people and get shipped to Siberia to help the Russians with their naquadah generator technology. The Russians basically ignored me the entire time I was there, while I tried not to die of either food poisoning or hypoglycemia.”
“Rodney,” John shook his head. “You piss everyone off when you first meet them.”
“Even you?” Rodney asked.
“Well, yeah,” John smirked. “But you showed me the Stargate and helped me not get lost inside that freaking mountain when no one else gave a crap. That counts for a lot in my book.”
“At the time I just didn't want to lose the strongest gene carrier to military hazing,” Rodney said quietly.
“What?” John stared at him. “This is news to me.”
“I didn't want to speak ill of him. Not after he died like that,” Rodney squirmed. “Sumner was a good Marine, but he was a real hard ass with a serious grudge against you. I heard he wanted his men to give you a hard time, but only when you were alone. That way no one could file a complaint. So I made sure you were never alone.”
John's mind reeled at the implications. Marines could be scary as fuck, especially when given a chance to create their own version of mischief. Give a guy like Bates the green light to cause trouble, people could get hurt. He would have ended up in the infirmary at least once. He met Rodney's eyes. “Thank you.”
“You deserved better than that,” Rodney shrugged. “We all deserve better than that.”
“Even Kavanagh?” John asked with a raised eyebrow.
Rodney smirked. “Even Kavanagh.”
After lunch, they drove the rest of the way to Rodney's apartment. John smiled at the giant gray cat that decided he was the best thing since catnip and proceeded to fall asleep in his lap for over an hour.
It took cannibalizing ever spare piece of electronics that Rodney had in laying around but he managed to cobble together another scrambler for John to use. “Don't lose it,” he warned even as he worked furiously on a shielded desktop computer writing code as quickly as he could. “This program is as advanced as these machines can handle. There is enough encryption to flummox your average code breaker for the next hundred years.”
“Adding our old Atlantis encryption in there?” John asked, peeking over his shoulder.
“Yep,” Rodney replied. “As you know, Asgard and Ancients both used complex base eight versions of calculus for most of their equations. Using that base as the core of the encryption means people have to be familiar with it before they can hope to try and figure out the coding let alone crack it.” He pushed away from the keyboard. “Check my math.”
John rolled his eyes. “Fine.” He checked the math as he scrolled through the coding. It looked good, but there was a missing part of it. “There is a missing...
“Yep,” Rodney replied. “You enter the missing line of code when you're ready to send it out.”
“And since only you and I know the missing code,” John smirked. “Only we get to read it.”
“Exactly.” Rodney's eyes lit up as they always did when John was actually using his math skills. “You take a copy with you on a DVD for now. It'll just look like a copy of your Hail Mary football game if someone looks at it.”
John nodded and slipped the disk into his laptop bag. “We need to see if anyone else came back.”
“I already tried with Radek, Miko, and Carson,” Rodney said. “It didn't take much to figure out they don't remember.”
“Already?” John blinked.
“You've been in transit for five hours,” he shrugged. “What else was I going to do?”
“So, it is just us. I wonder why?” John said.
“Maybe because we were together in the chair room?” Rodney speculated. “I don't know. I thought it might have been all the gene carriers, but that isn't the case.”
“Speaking of Carson.” John winced when he saw Rodney flinch slightly. “You already know what I'm going to say.”
“He has to come,” Rodney replied.
“He's a menace.” John shook his head.
“He created the first working ATA gene therapy,” Rodney insisted. “If it wasn't for his work we wouldn't have gotten nearly as far as we had in working with the city systems.”
“But he can't be allowed to experiment on the wraith,” John replied. “Not again.”
“You're right, I know.” Rodney grimaced. “I didn't understand the first time around what it really entailed. Medical science isn't my purview. As Chief Medical Officer Carson's experiments could only be stopped by Dr. Weir or by the joint protest of more than one other division and the head of the military.”
“Ronon warned us it was a bad idea,” John said. “I should have listened to him.”
“We were scared,” Rodney said as he paced the living room area of his apartment. “We were all scared and the idea that Carson might be able to change the wraith by tapping into the human aspects of their DNA was comforting.”
“And in the process, he compromised the security of Atlantis after we had just tricked them into thinking we were dead.” John shook his head. “If he has to come, then fine but he won't be CMO. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
“No, you're right,” Rodney replied. “He's safer if he is being supervised.”
“I want an emergency room trained doctor, a surgeon, for that position,” John said. “Someone with field experience. The medical team was understaffed and inexperienced. Some of them had no business actually working on live humans.”
“Of course it was,” Rodney agreed. “Weir brought scientists for an exploratory mission of discovery. She was being optimistic, everyone was, even me. I'm paranoid enough and cynical enough to know better, but I was so caught up in what I would need on the science side of things. I didn't think to check what Weir was bringing for the survival side. I had foolishly thought that the military was in charge of that part.”
“Yeah well I read through the supplies we brought after Sumner died.” John shook his head. “I don't know what the hell they were thinking. We'd have all died within the first three months if it hadn't been for Teyla and her people.”
“Well, that's terrifying.” Rodney fell back onto the couch with sigh. His cat jumped up on his lap and demanded cuddles. “You want to make that list and send it to me? That way when we get to that stage we can support each other when it comes to inventory requests.”
“Yeah,” John rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands. “I spent the plane ride writing up the inventory for the military. What I remember of what we had and what I know we desperately needed by the end of the first year.” He turned his laptop screen to show the list.
“Body armor, swords?” Rodney looked up at John. “Really?”
“Ronon could take down a dozen wraith in close combat,” John replied. “We lost more personnel in hand to hand situations than we did anything other than a culling beam. I am not having my men be defenseless this time.”
“On the subject of fitness,” Rodney said. “I promise I will go running every morning, even if I have to bring in a treadmill.”
John smiled at him. “I know you will.”
Their planning was interrupted when Rodney looked at his calendar and swore.
“What is it?” John asked.
“Jennie,” Rodney replied. “She's getting married next weekend.”
“Really?” John blinked.
“You want to come with me?” Rodney asked. “I was a jerk. No matter how much I disapproved of her life choices, I should never had treated her like that. She's my only family.”
John smiled. “I'd love to.”
John drove the rental car from the airport to Jeannie's house. He had watched Rodney become more and more nervous as they got closer to their destination. It was always better not to let the man take the controls of a moving vehicle when he was so far into his anxiety. They had nearly run into a stationary asteroid on a survey one time because he was distracted.
They pulled into the driveway and Rodney fidgeted in his seat for a full minute before he climbed out of the car. John followed a step behind letting his friend take the lead. He had help smooth things over the first time around, but Rodney needed to do this on his own. They had called in advance, but it was still going to be awkward.
Rodney knocked and the door swung open to reveal a painfully young looking Jeannie McKay. She stared at him in shock for a long, long time. “Hey, Jeannie.”
“Mer, you're actually here.” She smiled brightly and pulled him into a hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“You're welcome.” Rodney folded his arms around his sister and held her tight. “I'm sorry it took me so long to get my head out of my ass.”
Jeannie pulled away and chuckled. “You said it, not me.” Her eyes moved to John. “Hello.”
“Oh, um, Jeannie this is my friend Col- Captain John Sheppard.” Rodney quickly corrected himself.
“You brought a friend?” Jeannie looked more shocked at the prospect that Rodney had a friend than the fact that he actually showed up at all. “A really good looking friend.”
John coughed a laugh and smiled. “I'm flattered.”
“Wait, you aren't a hired escort are you?” Jeannie asked.
“Jeannie!” Rodney yelled, aghast.
“What?” Jeannie looked like she was going over what she had just said in her head. “Oh my god. I am so sorry. I didn't mean to imply that you were a hooker.”
“But you're not sorry that you implied that Rodney couldn't possibly have a friend like me?” John asked.
“No! I totally meant that,” Jeannie replied. “I mean he's him and you're, well, you. Did you know he changed his name so people would think he was cool? His real first name is-”
“Meredith, I know,” John drawled. “You seem like such a sweet person, but then you start talking about your brother like he isn't standing two feet from you and suddenly, all that sweetness just melts away.” His expression hardened. “I would hate for you to take this special day as an opportunity to score points on him, especially in front of all your friends.”
Taken aback, Jeannie stammered for a moment. “I wouldn't do something like that.”
“I'm sure you wouldn't,” John replied. “Now it is really nice to meet you, but are we invited in, or should we make other arrangements?”
“What? Oh.” Jeannie moved out of the doorway and motioned for them to proceed. “Please come in, I have a spare room to the left with a day bed and a pullout couch.”
“Thank you, Jeannie,” Rodney said.
They set their bags in the guest room and went back into the living room. Jeannie made tea for them all and they sat in awkward silence for several minutes.
“Is there anything you need help with tomorrow?” Rodney asked.
“No, Kaleb's family is taking care of all the arrangements,” Jeannie said. “I chose the colors and some of the decorations.”
“Is that what you wanted?” Rodney asked.
Jeannie sighed. “In a perfect world. Mom would have been alive to help me choose a dress and a venue. Dad paying for the reception and walking me down the aisle.” She shrugged. “They've been gone a long time. Can't dwell on what isn't possible.”
Rodney swallowed a mouthful of tea. “I guess everything is well in hand then. I suppose you've chosen someone else to walk you down the aisle.”
“You want to give me away?” Jeannie asked her eyes wide with surprise.
Rodney turned to face her fully and took her hands. “I know I haven't always been the best person. I know I've hurt you, but I've recently learned that family is important. The kind you grow up with and the kind you create along the way. I would be honored if you would allow me to give you away.”
Jeannie's eyes were suddenly wet with tears. “Yes, Mer. Yes. You can walk me down the aisle.” She pulled him into a tight hug. “Thank you!”
“No,” Rodney pulled and kissed his sister on the forehead. “I should be thanking you.”
The wedding took place in a small chapel on the outskirts of Ottawa. It was a medium sized wood and brick structure built some time during the early 1900s. There was a small reception hall next door that was also owned by the church. Which was where the wedding banquet was to be held.
Kaleb Miller and his extended family were apparently all members of the congregation. This brought Rodney's esteem for the man down a few more pegs. If anything bored Rodney more about a person it was their religion. He was a card carrying atheist and the more he learned about ascension and higher plans of existence, the less respect he had for people that worshiped invisible beings.
He wanted to tell Kaleb that, as an English teacher, he wasn't good enough to breathe his sister's air, let alone marry her. He wanted to keep her from ruining her prospects as a scientist by becoming a stay at home mom, but he wasn't going to do that. John was sitting in the front row pew on Jeannie's family side of the aisle along with her friends from college.
Rodney looked up from where he was standing in the back waiting for his sister to appear. To see her standing in an all white dress that was so beautiful it took his breath away. The wedding march started and he stepped up next to her, to take her arm. “You look amazing,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” Jeannie said, her voice shaking.
“Jeannie, are you happy?” Rodney asked.
“I'm the happiest I've ever been,” Jeannie replied.
“Then that is all I can hope for,” he replied. He paused for a moment before adding, “If he ever hurts you, I'll destroy his college records so that he'll never teach again.”
“Meredith!” Jeannie laughed and threw her arms around him. “You really do care!”
“I really do,” Rodney replied. And because he cared that much, he gave her the escort down the aisle she deserved. When he sat down next to John who looked disgustingly hot in his dress blues, he couldn't help the tears that fell. He refrained from rolling his eyes at the overly religious parts of the ceremony.
Then at the reception, he danced with Jeannie and then let her go. When it came time to leave he hugged his sister and promised to write and call when he could. He refused to let them become estranged like they had been. Even though he would be leaving the planet at some point, he wanted, needed, that connection to family. He wouldn't lose it again if he could help it.
Colonel Frank Simmons showed up at Area 51 right on time. His complete lack of Air Force uniform should have warned Rodney the first time around that things weren't completely on the up and up. But he had to admit to himself that back then, he'd had his head so far up his own ass, he wouldn't have noticed aberrant behavior until someone pulled a gun on him.
Rodney had been going through the backlog of unidentified alien technology for the past week, trying to identify anything that he knew was of actual Ancient origin and not some reverse engineered piece of Goa'uld technology. It wasn't difficult once you knew what to look for. The crystal matrix that the Goa'uld used tended to be crudely made when compared to the cold elegance and perfection of Ancient crystal designs.
It was busy work to keep from worrying about Sheppard, who was back in Afghanistan. Every time he thought about John out there without Teyla, Ronon, and himself it made him twitchy. Simmons arrival was a welcome distraction.
“Dr. McKay,” Simmons said without preamble. “There is an emergency at the SGC involving the gate.” He handed Rodney the file. “Please come with me, we need your expertise in this alien technology.”
“Certainly,” Rodney said after skimming the file. “Just let me grab some things and I'll be right with you.”
“Now, Doctor,” Simmons replied impatiently. “Time is of the essence.”
Rodney paused and glared at him. “Are you trying to get me to leave without proper equipment and notes? I'll have you know that gate technology isn't like working on a toaster. You need to know what you're doing or it'll blow up on you. Give me five minutes to gather my things.”
“Of course, doctor.” Simmons backed off and waited.
Ten minutes later they were on a private jet heading for Colorado.
“Let me be clear, Dr. McKay,” Simmons said. “The continued access to and operation of the stargate is vital to the security of this nation.”
“I'm aware of that,” Rodney replied, pretending to ignore the man.
“I want a time table for this issue to be remedied.” Simmons continued. “How soon before we can safely reopen the gate?”
Rodney looked up from the file. “With the sparse information you've handed to me? I couldn't possibly make that call. Once I get there and take a look at the raw data, then I can give you an estimate.”
“You're supposed to be this countries expert,” Simmons said heatedly. “Are you saying you can't give me a proper time table?”
“That is exactly what I'm telling you,” Rodney replied. “Crystal matrix buffering is like storing information on the RAM of a computer. So long as no more information is sent into it, the pattern of the man trapped could stay there indefinitely.”
“It isn't a man,” Simmons bristled. “It is the alien, Teal'c.”
“Are you saying that his life is less valuable because he is an alien?” Rodney asked.
“When compared to the lives of the people on this planet, yes,” Simmons replied.
“Understood,” Rodney said and went back to his reading. “But my answer remains the same. I can't give you a timetable until I see the actual gate information.” He could actually feel Simmons vibrating with frustration, but he wasn't about to change his answer.
When they arrived at the SGC the gate room was in a state of controlled chaos. Major Samantha Carter was tearing through the information from the gate as quickly as she could but was hampered by the very coding used in the Earth created dialing program.
The scientists working on the problem were ushered into the conference room along with General Hammond, Colonel O'Neill, and Major Carter. Once they were settled, Colonel Simmons introduced Rodney and where he was from. Then ruined any chance Rodney had to make a good first impression.
“You have forty-eight hours to retrieve the alien from the gate,” he said. “After that, you will resume normal gate operations. Dr. McKay as the premier gate expert will be returning to Area 51 after that time, so I suggest you all get to work.”
Simmons left the room and Rodney couldn't help roll his eyes.
“Where do you come off giving us such an arbitrary deadline?” Major Carter demanded, her fury obvious.
“Major Carter, I can assure you I did not give him any such thing,” Rodney replied. “Despite the man pressuring me to give him just that the entire flight from Nevada.”
“Why would he do that?” Sam asked.
“He's a xenophobic megalomaniac with self-aggrandizement issues,” Rodney replied offhandedly, his eyes flying over the data in the data printouts on the table. Now that he'd had so many years working with gate and Ancient technology he could see the problem in real time. “General Hammond, we need the DHD from Russia.”
“Excuse me?” Hammond sat back in his chair.
“What?” Sam asked taken aback.
“The actual DHD. The genuine piece of alien technology that makes the gate work. We need it or the next time someone dials out, your friend is going to cease to exist,” Rodney said. He sat up and looked at her. She wore a pissed off expression that he always equated with him overstepping his bounds.
“We are not getting to Russians involved in this,” O'Neill objected strenuously.
“Jack!” Daniel admonished.
“What?” Jack asked, defensively.
“Listen to what he says before you jump all over him,” Daniel replied.
“The dialing computer has worked fine for years,” Carter argued.
“Has it really?” Rodney asked, standing up straight. “While I admit that your coding is a masterpiece. It is not actually a true DHD. You wrote enough code to make the gate work, but you've missed at least a dozen safety protocols that are designed to keep things just like this from happening.”
“Is that true, Major?” Hammond asked, leaning forward.
“Technically, yes,” Sam admitted. “Since we've had time to study other DHDs on other planets we've found a lot of redundancies and safety features that our gate program doesn't have.”
“Why haven't I seen any of this come across my desk?” Hammond asked. “There haven't been any recommendations, that I can recall for upgrading the dialing computers.”
“Frankly we haven't had the time,” Sam said. “It's been one crisis after another the past few months. My science teams have had their priorities elsewhere.”
“Fair enough.” Hammond turned to Rodney. “And your recommendation is for me to call up the President and have him call the Russians in order to borrow their DHD?”
“We don't have time to code in a program to replace the one built into the DHD,” Rodney said. “It would take weeks and gigabytes worth of hard drive space to make it work under our current level of technology.”
“It'll take at least twenty-four hours to get the DHD here,” Sam said. “Assuming the Russians are agreeable.”
“No offense, but you need to get this ball rolling or Simmons is going to find an excuse to open that gate in forty-eight hours,” Rodney said tersely.
“Simmons does not dictate how this mountain is run, Doctor McKay.” Hammond reminded him stiffly.
“Glad to hear it, but that man has a lot of pull in certain areas,” Rodney said. “Even with the gate cut off from the network, there is only so long that you'll be allowed to keep the gate shut down before you are ordered to cut your losses and put it back online.”
“Our losses?” Jack bristled. “That is what you're calling Teal'c.”
“No, that is what the Pentagon and the President will call him,” Rodney shot back. “Stop putting words in my mouth. I know he is your friend, but Simmons will push to have his way and NID has a lot of power.”
“Then it sounds to me like I need to start making phone calls.” Hammond stood from his chair. “You're all dismissed. I'll let you know if and when the Russian DHD will be delivered.” Jack and Sam saluted as he left.
“You better be right about this, McKay,” Jack said in a warning tone.
The members of the science team and SG-1 left the conference room and Rodney let himself fall into the chair he hadn't actually sat in yet. He felt a little shaky, he probably needed to eat. It was so hard to not say exactly how to fix the problem because he could have probably written the coding in the time between the wedding and when Simmons had arrived. But everyone would have wanted to know how it was that he just happened to have a program ready to go for this. The DHD was their best bet, he just had to make sure they didn't blow it up this time.
Thirty-six hours, a lot of coffee and one shouting match with Major Carter later, the DHD arrived. It had to be lowered into the gate room via the roof hatch but there it was. The connection from the gate to the pedestal was crude, but they would work. The buffer he had designed to keep a power surge from blowing them all up sat between the two devices.
“Major Carter, we're ready to try it,” Rodney called as he made the last connection.
“We're ready here as well,” Carter said. “General Hammond, with your permission.”
“Major, you have a go,” Hammond replied.
The entire room shook and sparks flew everywhere, but the event horizon appeared in the gate and Teal'c strolled onto the metal platform. He looked around in confusion.
“Cut power!” Rodney yelled. There was a hesitation from everyone and the buffer sparked and began to melt. Carter hit the emergency power switch, everyone ducked for cover as bits exploded everywhere despite that. Fortunately, no one was hurt and the DHD stayed intact.
“What has transpired here?” Teal'c asked.
“We thought we lost you, buddy,” Jack said with a smile, giving his a punch in the shoulder.
“I have avenged my love and Tanith is dead,” Teal'c replied with a satisfied smile. “There is much to celebrate.”
“Follow me, Teal'c,” Dr. Fraiser said. “I want a thorough examination of what just happened.”
The giddily happy members of SG-1 headed out of the gate room and down the hall. Rodney looked at the mess in the gate room and sighed. “Someone call maintenance and have them clean this up. The gate needs to be reattached to the network while we're at it.”
He was under the console of the gate computer checking connections when he heard someone clearing their throat. “Dr. McKay?”
“Just a minute,” Rodney said, then pushed his way clear so he could see who was talking. “Oh, General Hammond.” He stood and brushed the dust off his clothes.
“I want to thank you for your assistance in this crisis,” Hammond said.
“I did what was necessary to fix a flawed system,” Rodney said.
“Well regardless, we have both yours and Major Carter's work to thank for getting Teal'c back.” Hammond offered his hand.
Rodney was shocked by the gesture and hesitated for a moment before he took it. “You're welcome.”
“If there is ever anything you need, name it,” Hammond said. “If it is within my purview of course.”
“Actually there is something.” Rodney hesitated again. “I have a friend. He's Pararescue, his unit is currently in Afghanistan. I think he and his unit would be an asset to the SGC.”
“Pararescue, you say?” Hammond said thoughtfully. “What is this friend's name?”
“Captain John Sheppard,” Rodney replied.
“I can't promise anything, Doctor,” Hammond said. “But I will look into it.”
“That is all I ask,” Rodney replied. “Now if you'll excuse me, I need to make arrangements to get back to Area 51. Colonel Simmons appears to have left without me.”
“Well, that I can help you with,” Hammond replied. “Walter! Please make arrangements for Dr. McKay to fly back to Area 51.”
“Yes, sir,” Walter said and hustled out the door.
“Captain Sheppard!” John turned at the sound of what he thought was one of the ground crew as he was climbing out of the cockpit of his MH-53 Pave Low. He had just done one of the toughest search and rescue missions he's ever been assigned to. But he had managed to bring all his people and their mission objectives back with minimum casualties. Lyle had taken a bullet, but it was a flesh wound, he'd be fine.
“Captain Sheppard.” A young man with Lieutenant bars strode up and saluted him.
“Lieutenant Dodson?” John saluted back. “How can I help you?”
“Colonel Ryan has ordered that you are to report to his office, sir.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant,” John replied. “Please inform the colonel that I will be there as soon as the safety check is completed. We took heavy fire and I don't want this bird going back into service if there is anything wrong with it.”
“Sir,” Lt. Dodson looked very uncomfortable. “He was insistent that you report as soon as you had landed.”
John frowned. “Lt. Endi, you're to make sure this bird is flight ready.”
“Yes, sir,” he replied from the other side of the fuselage.
“Lead the way, Lieutenant.” Whatever this was, it couldn't be good.
The walk to the Colonel's office took several minutes, and it gave John time to consider several possibilities. Colonel Frank Ryan was a decent commander, but he was impatient when it came to confirming intelligence reports. While John would agree that ground troupe movements were very time sensitive, several missions had nearly been a public relations disaster when the so-called troupes had turned out to be farmers moving livestock.
He entered the large insulated tent that served as Colonel Ryan's command post, through the extended entrance that was meant to keep as much sand outside as possible. It took everything in his considerable will to salute the man that he despised. This was the officer that had sent Holland out with bad Intel and got him and his team shot down. This was the man that refused to allow John's team to attempt a rescue. This was the man that had forced John to steal a civilian chopper to mount his rescue attempt because all the Paves were ordered grounded. The only human John hated more than Col. Frank Ryan was Acastus Kolya. John planned to shoot the Genii Commander in the head at the first opportunity.
“Captain Sheppard, reporting as ordered, sir.” It was a sign that this was going to be painful when colonel didn't acknowledge him for a full minute.
“At ease, Captain Sheppard,” Col. Ryan said, finally looking up from his paperwork. He tapped the folder on his desks several times. “Tell me, Captain, did you request a transfer from my command?”
“No, sir,” John replied truthfully. If anything he had made sure not to look too eager to leave.
“Then why do I have papers ordering you and your unit back to the states?” His voice was cold and steely.
“I wouldn't know, sir,” John replied. He was shocked and elated, but he didn't show it.
“Really?” the colonel said. “Let me tell you something, Captain. I've been keeping an eye on you.” He started pacing behind his desk. “You don't like me. You never have. Not from the moment you stepped foot on this base.” He glared at John. “You're careful, I'll give you that, but I see it. The little hesitations, the lack of respect for the chain of command.”
“Sir, have I been derelict in my duties?” John asked.
“No, and that is what I just can't stand,” Col. Ryan spat at him. “You do everything you can to make sure I don't have anything concrete against you. If it wasn't for your record I would think you were just biding your time. I have men from other units singing your praises because you're pulling off fucking miracles out in the field. You're making a name for yourself Sheppard, and I don't like it.”
John didn't flinch, keeping his eyes straight ahead. This asshole had nothing on a Wraith Queen.
“I don't know who would want a shit officer like you,” Col. Ryan continued. “You've been nothing be trouble since you got here and you're men aren't much better. I don't give a fuck what your record says about your successes in the field.” He waited a full minute staring at John as though daring him to say something. “But ever since you got back from leave you've haven't let a single man in your unit step out of line. Your reports have been perfect and your maintenance records are up to date.” He signed several lines on the documents in the folder. “I don't know how you pulled it off, but you are going stateside. Theses orders come from the Pentagon. You and the rest of your squadron are being transferred to Peterson Air Force base in Colorado. You will report to General Hammond in one week. You and your squadron are shipping out at 20:00 tomorrow with the scheduled C-130. Your Pave Low will be reassigned, as will your ground crew. Any questions?”
“Then get your shit packed and get the hell off my base, Captain,” Col. Ryan growled. “Dismissed.”
John saluted and headed back out to the landing strip. Most of his squadron was still there working on the Pave. He was going to miss the old girl, she had been as sure and steady as anything he had ever flown, but he was getting out of Afghanistan without losing his people. He didn't know what Rodney had said or done to swing it, but he had.
“Gentlemen,” he called to his men. They all looked up in surprise, obviously not expecting him back so soon. “When you're done with the check, please remove any personal items from the bird and report to your quarters to pack your things.”
“Sir?” Airman Burton said questioningly.
“We're being reassigned,” John replied. “Pack your gear and be on the tarmac by 19:00 tomorrow night. We're heading stateside.”
John couldn't help but smile at the whoop that went up among his men. He would be glad to put the desert behind them.
“Unscheduled off world activation!” Walter shouted into the mic, even as the iris closed.
Major John Sheppard stood near the main elevator door with a P-90 at the ready. He'd been at the SGC for just over a year now, and if you could say one thing about it, it certainly wasn't boring. There were all sorts of situations that could and would happen. Foothold crisis, alien tech going rogue, and naked Asgard showing up when you least expected it.
Then there was the weird stuff. Prime example, the camera crew that was currently filming all over the base like it was the newest season of The Deadliest Catch. This was something he had not heard about in the original timeline, but then any footage was most likely classified, so that wasn't surprising.
It was just weird having the guy with the camera following the members of SG-1 everywhere. He was glad his unit, SG-21, was being ignored for the most part. He and his Pararescue squadron had been recruited to the SGC thanks in part to Rodney name dropping at just the right time. His friends Holland and Endi came with him, Dex hadn't passed vetting and had been reassigned. Last John had heard, he was still alive somewhere in Iraq but was in a rear area training the newly deployed on safety procedures. His team didn't go through the gate often but when they did it was for what they were trained for, rescue and recovery. One time Sargent Longstreet of SG-12 had been attacked by a four legged creature that resembled an alligator, except that it was covered with crystal like growths along its whole body. His leg had been bitten off at the knee and even with the advanced field training, they had almost lost him.
He heard the elevator descend and turned to see who was coming down. His jaw dropped in shock when he saw Rodney step out wearing BDUs, a tac vest, and both a 9mm and a P-90 strapped to his body. “What the hell, McKay?” John whispered. Rodney had been assigned to John's team as their alien technology specialist, but he rarely wore the full kit until they were heading out the wormhole.
“Sheppard.” Rodney grabbed him and pulled him away from the security cameras. “Need you to get the squadron ready to move out.”
“You want to be on film?” John asked incredulously.
“What? Of course not,” he said quietly. “Remember when we were talking about missions at the SGC that ended horribly?”
“Of course,” John said, tensing up.
“This, here, is one of them,” Rodney replied.
“SG-13 is, right now, calling in a report of a Goa'uld probe that they deactivated,” Rodney explained. “When they destroyed it, it sent out a subspace signal, and in three hours several squadrons of Jaffa are going to show up on P3X-666 and kill a lot of people.”
“Fuck.” John looked down the hall. “So we need an excuse to evacuate them.”
“No, we just need to tell them the truth.” Rodney held up his computer which showed a wave pattern that John could recognize as some sort of repeating signal.
“And you just happen to be monitoring those readings because...?” John asked.
“Because my current project it to monitor for background anomalies in wormhole energy patterns,” Rodney said smugly.
“You're a sneaky son of a bitch when you want to be, McKay,” John said.
“You bet your ass,” Rodney replied. “My acting skills have improved too.”
“Not that much.” John teased.
“Shut up,” Rodney replied, exasperated. He waited for John to call the ready room and tell his team to report to the Gate Room before heading to the Control Room where O'Neill was talking to Sergeant Harriman. “What was that? Who dialed in?”
“Calm down, McKay,” O'Neill said without bothering to look up. “It was SG-13. They destroyed a Goa'uld probe, no harm done.” He nodded at John. “Good afternoon, Major Sheppard, the promotion seems to be sitting well with you.”
“Thank you, sir,” John replied. “Flying the X-302 into the upper atmosphere with an unstable stargate strapped to it wasn't how I imagined receiving a field promotion.”
“I was going to take that bird up you know,” Jack replied, sounding put out.
“Yeah, but I have more test flight hours than you, sir.” John shrugged. “I was the logical choice.”
“If you say so,” Jack sighed. “So, McKay is this a legitimate issue or are you being paranoid.” He looked up as he spoke, his eyes taking in Rodney's equipment.
“Not so much with the paranoia, Colonel.” Rodney pulled out his laptop. “This is a reading from a normal wormhole. This here is the readings that just came through.”
“What am I looking at,” O'Neill asked. He glanced to his left, where the film crew was trying to be unobtrusive, but still get a view of the laptop's screen.
“It is a subspace signal, being broadcast in Goa'uld,” Rodney said. “SG-13 didn't stop anything. That signal is going to bring the enemy right to them. They need to get out of there now.”
Major Carter came into the room with another camera crew behind her and saw the readings. “Is that what you just got, McKay?”
“Yes,” Rodney said. He handed her the laptop and let her look them over.
John watched the telltale twitching of his friend's fingers and rapid foot tapping showed he thought they were wasting time. It was all he could do not to put his hand on his friend's shoulder.
“As much as I hate to admit it, sir,” Sam said. “Rodney is right. SG-13 probably set off an emergency beacon when they destroyed it.”
“Damn it,” O'Neill swore. “Major, how soon can you have your squadron ready?”
“We're the standby team,” John replied. “Give us fifteen minutes.”
“Go. I'll dial them back now and hold the gate open,” O'Neill ordered. “I hope you're wrong, McKay.”
“So am I,” Rodney replied and followed John out the door.
“SG-21,” John called as he entered the ready room glad to see his people were fully geared and checking each other. “Gear up, we are through the gate in ten minutes.”
“Hell, yeah,” Captain Holland crowed. There was a very little talking, but the distinct sound of weapons being checked was reassuring. The team, including Rodney, were standing on the ready line in the gate room five minutes later.
“We have a rescue mission and time is short. Our objective is to find SG-13 and get them back to the gate alive before we are overrun by an invading Goa'uld force arrives. We don't know how long we have to assume that every second counts,” John said looking at his people. “The minute we call that we are through the gate, Stargate Command will shut down the wormhole so we can dial in. We need to keep the gate secure for a quick evac. If for any reason we lose control of the gate, we will go to ground and rendezvous at the designated coordinates.”
“Five clicks downwind of the any Jaffa or Kull warriors,” Airman Burton replied.
“Any questions?” John asked.
“One moment Major Sheppard,” O'Neill said from the control room.
“Sir?” John turned to the observation window.
“You're bringing the camera crew with you.”
“Oh, fuck me,” Rodney muttered in horror.
“This is not a secure situation, General,” John reminded him.
“I'm aware, Major,” O'Neill replied. “However, I have been informed that allowing a crew through the gate would give them a better perspective on what is going on out there.” Even as he spoke a camera man and a tech came through the blast door dressed in flak vests.
John turned to them he did his best not to look into the camera as he spoke directly to them. “You will do everything you are told. If you deviate from the instructions you are given, I will personally throw your asses back through the gate without using IDC protocols.”
“But we would hit the gate's iris,” the tech said with a hard swallow.
“So you were paying attention to the briefing,” Rodney sneered. “Let's go, before the Jaffa shows up.”
They were through the event horizon in ten minutes flat according to the gate computer's threshold timer.
The moment they stepped through the gate onto P3X-666 the wormhole disengaged. Rodney ran to the DHD and dialed back. “Stargate Command this is Dr. McKay, sending my IDC now.” John and the bulk of SG-21 continued forward into the trees.
“We are receiving you,” Sergeant Harriman replied. “The iris is currently in place. Remember you'll need to send another code before you come through the gate.”
“Understood,” Rodney replied. “We're ready here, Major.” He motioned to Airman Ross to find cover. “You two, get under cover with Airman Ross. You can film from there all you want, but you are not following the major's team.”
“Okay,” the cameraman said, still reeling from having gone from the SGC to a forest in less than a minute.
“Thank you, Rodney,” John replied. “SG-13, this is Major Sheppard of SG-21 please respond.” There was a burst of static over the radio. “Col. Dixon, this is Major Sheppard of SG-21 please respond.” Right at that moment, John would have given anything to have an Ancient Life Signs Detector.
“This is Col. Dixon, Major Sheppard, I wasn't expecting company for this mission.”
“Sir, the planet is no longer secure,” John said. “The probe you destroyed sent out of subspace signal, we're expecting hostile forces at any time.”
“We can't leave,” said a distraught voice over the radio. “This could be a significant discovery.”
“Dr. Blankski,” Rodney yelled over the radio. “No pile of rocks is worth your life or the lives of your team. Drop your dental picks and get your ass back to the gate.”
“It's Balinsky,” yelled back Dr. Balinsky. “And I don't answer to you, Dr. McKay.”
“No, you don't,” John broke through. “But you will all answer to General Hammond if you don't heed a direct evacuation order.”
“On our way, Major.” Col. Dixon replied. “We are three clicks from the gate.”
“Holland, Burton, and Mason,” John called. “Run ahead and make sure SG-13 actually on their way.”
“Sir!” they called in unison. They were the fastest runners on the squad. Airman Mason was the fastest of them all. Her long legs could eat up terrain like nothing John had seen other than Ronon Dex.
Ten minutes later the call John was dreading came through. “Sir, SG-13 has a man down.” Captain Holland called.
“Fuck,” John muttered to himself. “Down how?”
“Sergeant Ortega had an inch thick tree sticking out of his left thigh just below the hip.”
“How the hell did that happen?” John demanded.
“It appears to have been a sapling that they themselves cut down to clear the path earlier today. He tripped and landed on the point,” Holland replied.
“Can you get the wood out of him?” John asked, breathlessly. He picked up his own pace
“We're concerned he might bleed out if we try.”
“Do what you have to to make him mobile,” John replied.
“Major Sheppard, this is Stargate Command,” O'Neill's voice cut in. “SG-6 is willing to escort Dr. Frasier if you need it.”
“Negative, Colonel,” John said immediately. “I have enough non-combatants to worry about already.”
“Hey!” Rodney protested.
“Not you, McKay,” John replied.
“Sir,” Airman Burton called. “Dr. Balnisky wants to go back to the site while we work on Ortega.”
“Negative,” John replied, now pissed. “I don't care if he found a repository of Ancient treasures. We will come back for it.”
“If he tries to go back, sit on him,” Rodney said over the radio.
“You don't give me orders, Dr. McKay,” Dr. Balnisky protested.
“We have fourteen minutes before the wormhole closes and I have to dial back. If anything dials in before I dial out because you're trying to emulate Dr. Jackson's level of stupidity, I will recommend you be removed from your gate team,” Rodney shouted back. “If any of my team gets hurt I will destroy you academically, assuming I let you live long enough to get back home.”
“First rule of Pararescue,” John said. “Don't argue with the people saving your fucking lives.”
“What I wouldn't give for our Pave Low right now,” Sergeant Whittle muttered. “Can't we build something that we can fly through the gate?”
“Believe me,” John said, desperately missing the puddlejumpers. “I've seen some of the rough plans for gate ships. Nothing the geeks have come up with are even close to what we would need.” They made a small turn in the path to find SG-13 gathered around Sergeant Ortega as Captain Holland and Airman Burton used a saw to cut the chunk of tree free from the ground.
Sergeant Whittle dropped his pack and pulled out the collapsible stretcher and started assembly.
“Sir, how we doing?” John asked, with a quick salute.
“Better now that your team is here,” Col. Dixon said. “Ortega tried to stand up, so they knocked him out with some morpheme.”
“Get off me!” A muffled shout was heard a few feet away. John turned to see Senior Airman Bosworth sitting on a very pissed off Dr. Balnisky.
“It was also to keep him from screaming while we sawed through the tree,” Holland replied. They set the stretcher next to the fallen soldier and carefully rolled him over onto it. Making sure not to move the wood protruding from his leg. There were bandages packed tightly around the wood to keep it from moving. Once Ortega was strapped down the four strongest each grabbed a handle and they made their way down the path toward the stargate.
Ten minutes later the gate was in sight. “Rodney, We're three minutes out. Time on the gate?” John called.
“You're cutting it close, Major,” Rodney replied. “Dr. Frasier's medical team is on standby.”
There was a sudden roar that echoed through the air, it sent a chill through John's spine. “McKay?!”
“Major, a death glider is advancing on our position,” Rodney replied a hint of panic in his voice.
“Where the fuck did that come from?” John demanded.
“I think there must be a Goa'uld ship somewhere in this system,” Rodney said. “They might have sent it into scout the area since they couldn't dial in.”
“Airman James, you get a clear shot, you take it,” John ordered. The man had their biggest gun. While most of the SGC favored the P-90, Rodney preferred it, due to its ease of use. John's Pararescue team was trained on and normally used an M4 Carbine. John and Airman James both carried the M203 M4 in the field, which had the optional grenade launcher.
John was pushing for at least one more heavy gun to be added to their arsenal, a 134 mini-gun, but none of his men were cleared to use it yet. In the back of his mind, John added that particular weapon to the list of things they were going to take to Atlantis, even if he had to use his own money and smuggle them in with the coffee.
They burst out of the treeline in time to see the death glider turn sharply in order to avoid the grenade shot in its direction. Rodney was kneeling next to the DHD his eyes locked on the gate.
“Rodney! How much time?” John yell.
“One minute ten seconds!” Rodney yelled back. “Sending IDC code. Stargate Command we are coming in hot. Clear the ramp. I repeat clear the ramp.” The camera crew was literally right in front of the gate filming. Airman Ross was yelling at them to go through the gate over the roar of the death glider's engine.
“Fuck!” John swore. “Go, go, go!” He spurred his men and SG-13 on. “Don't wait just get through the gate.” Of course, his men didn't actually listen. His fastest runners stopped short of the gate and set up a protective perimeter and laid down cover fire as the death glider came back.
The moment the stretcher reached the event horizon John and Col. Dixon started shouting at everyone to get through the gate. The camera crew was shoved through next, with Rodney pushing Balniski forcefully through ahead of him. The death glider fired again and again as the SG teams dove through the gate. John fired his grenade launcher one more time but didn't bother to see if he hit anything before he drove through himself. He rolled his landing down the gantry, a shower of rocks and dust followed in his wake. “Close the Iris!” Everyone not occupied with first aid shouted. There was a moment when the room seemed transfixed by the iris closing, then a soft booming noise as something hit it just before the wormhole shut down.
“So, that looked like fun,” O'Neill said from his position in the control room.
“If by fun, you mean the complete polar opposite of it,” Rodney replied. “Then, yes, it was.”
“On the bright side,” John said from his position on the floor. “We didn't lose anyone.”
“There is that,” Rodney conceded. He slumped against the wall under the control room's observation window.
“That was amazing.” Everyone turned to look at Emmett Bregman standing with his camera crew just outside the blast doors. “We were getting a feed off the off world camera the whole time.”
“Out of the way!” Dr. Frasier ordered them as she and her medical team pushed the gurney the had strapped Ortega to in their direction. The camera crew plastered themselves against the wall of the corridor and then followed the medical team, filming the entire way.
“All teams stand down,” O'Neill ordered. “Col. Dixon, Major Sheppard, I want a briefing in one hour.”
“Yes, sir,” they said in unison.
“This is completely unacceptable,” Dr. Balnisky said. The normally level-headed man was ranting in Dr. Jackson's lab. He was freshly showered and wearing civilian clothing. There were a dozen other scientists from other departments gathered. Many of them had been working at the SGC for years. “I have never been so humiliated in my entire life.”
“I think maybe you're overreacting, Cameron,” Daniel said calmly. He glanced over to the door where the ever-present camera crew was standing quietly filming.
“Overreacting?!” Balnisky shouted. “They sat on me!”
Rodney was at the far end of the longest table, bored at having been dragged into the archaeology lab. His laptop in front of him as he was going over the data gathered from the mission. “Do I have to be here for this?” He had a spiral notebook in his hand and he was scribbling notes on it as he deciphered what he saw.
“Rodney,” Daniel chided. “This is a legitimate concern. Cameron has the right to air his grievance.”
“If you're just going to let him continue to whine, I have more important things I could be doing.”
Rodney checked his watch. “The fact is I should be heading to the target range. Sheppard wants me checked out on one of the heavier guns.” His aim had improved with regular practice and he knew John wanted him as proficient as possible before they returned to Atlantis.
“That! That there,” Balnisky shrieked. “He doesn't care that we left untold discoveries to be gathered up by the Goa'uld.”
“One minor system lord is not going to be able to gather up anything from that site,” Rodney said. “Nothing of significance anyway.”
“You don't know that,” Balnisky insisted. “You weren't there, you didn't see the Ancient writing.”
“No, but you had Sergeant Ortega recording you as you were working,” he replied. “And from what I've seen of the Ancient technology we've found over the last few years, unless you're very lucky, none of it is going to work for you. I doubt you could get through the front door.”
“You read it?” Daniel asked. “Just like that?”
“No, not just like that,” Rodney rolled his eyes. “I've been studying Ancient tech since I was assigned to Area 51, I actually needed to learn what all those symbols mean so I didn't kill myself trying to figure out what all those broken bits of tech you were always finding did. I used your translations to double check of course. It reads, roughly, 'none but those of the blood will pass'.”
“And you didn't think to share?” Daniel asked blandly.
“I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson,” Rodney began snidely. “I've been sitting here working on this translation. Doing your job, while you let this moron attack me and my team after we saved his life.”
“How dare you!” Balnisky shouted, red-faced.
Rodney slammed the notebook onto the table surface. “Your team destroyed a Goa'uld probe, assumed everything was all sunshine and flowers and went on about your merry way. You are lucky I was monitoring subspace transmissions. If I hadn't been you and your team would have probably been caught flat-footed when the Jaffa came through the gate.” He marched up into Cameron's personal space. “How many soldiers would have died, trying to save your sorry ass, if that had happened? Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to ascend and come back from the dead.”
“Hey now,” Daniel protested.
“No,” Rodney rounded on him. “No discovery is worth people's lives. This work is important, it has saved the planet multiple times.” He turned to the rest of the scientists in the room. “But you do not have the right to put the lives of others in jeopardy because of idol curiosity. If you don't understand that, then you have no business being on a gate team or working for the SGC.”
He grabbed his notes and stormed out. Ignoring Daniel trying to call him back.
John climbed up to the top of the observation platform that held the radio towers and satellite dishes at the peak of Cheyenne Mountain. It was there that he found Rodney. The scientist was letting his feet dangle off the edge of the catwalk. His one arm was wrapped loosely around the guardrail. It was the one place on the mountain where listening devices didn't work because of all the signal interference.
“I understand you had something of a meltdown after the mission,” John said after he sat down next to him.
Rodney snorted in derision. “Is that what Daniel called it?”
“Basically.” John pulled off his backpack and pulled out a six pack of Canadian beer, handing one over.
“So what happened?” Rodney asked, opening his bottle with a tight twist.
“Dr. Balnisky is off SG-13,” John said. Taking a drink from his beer.
“Really?” Rodney asked, surprised.
“Yep,” John emphasized the 'p'. “Blatant disregard for the health and safety of himself and other field personnel in a time of crisis. Disrespecting the chain of command, verbal abuse of a colleague. There were a couple other things on the list, but those were the big ones. The best part is, they got it all on film.”
“Oh crap, I forgot they were there,” Rodney drank half his beer and then stared out into the mountains. “I miss the city.”
“Me too,” John replied.
“I screwed up today,” Rodney admitted.
“The translation thing?” John asked.
“Yeah,” Rodney sighed. “I was just so pissed off.”
“I almost screwed up too,” John admitted. “Whittle wanted to know why we don't have ships that can go through the gate. I wanted to tell him about the puddlejumpers.”
“Almost.” Rodney sighed.
“You covered it nicely. No one suspects anything,” John assured him.
“I want to go home,” Rodney whined tiredly.
“Not long now,” John pulled Rodney's head until it rested on his shoulder. “We'll be back before you know it.” Rodney relaxed and took a deep breath. John turned and kissed the top of his head. “Not long now.”
John and the members of SG-21 were in the mess hall enjoying lunch after having spent the morning in the training room with Teal'c. His exceptional endurance and strength was something John wished he had experienced prior to going to Pegasus. It might have prepared him better for his first encounter with the Wraith.
Rodney was the only one exempt from getting his ass kicked by the Jaffa, but he was still required to take self-defense. Those lessons were mostly learning a grappling style of Judo that took advantage of his natural upper body strength. He would never achieve the ability to fight as trained soldier and John didn't want that for him. His mind was his best weapon, he just needed the skills to fight back and not panic in a combat situation. He was so much better than he had been in the first years on Atlantis, that John knew he would handle nearly anything the Milky Way could throw at them.
Everyone on his team was taking an off base course in bladed weapons combat, even Rodney. He couldn't explain properly to O'Neill or Hammond why he thought it might be a useful skill. Fighting Jaffa close range didn't hold the same level of threat that a Wraith did. Close combat instruction usually involved hand to hand, combat knife, or pugil sticks. Grappling just wasn't an option with the Wraith.
You couldn't let those bastards touch you. Col. Everett's fate had been sealed when he'd had to resort to a handgun during the first siege of the city. But how did you explain that you wanted to be able to use a weapon that would allow you to slice off limbs?
Rodney had hired the sword master with his own money, flying him in from Japan at Miko Kusanagi's recommendation. She had trained in Kendo since she was a child and was quite skilled in several bladed weapon types. Something John hadn't known until the young woman had grabbed one of Ronon's swords during an off-world battle and cut a swath through the Wraith drones with a ferocity that had shocked everyone.
Weapons training was only a small part of their Atlantis preparations. There was a storage facility not far from Cheyenne Mountain that John and Rodney were using to stockpile equipment they planned on taking with them to Atlantis. One of those was a crate of sharpened Japanese Kumo Iaito katana. There was a separate crate of practice katana because John wasn't going to let a bunch of soldiers that had not used a sword outside of the parade grounds handle a blade that could cut your fingers off if you were horsing around.
None of the things they were either adding to the manifest or were going to smuggle in were cheap, but the advantage of having time traveled was the ability to game the system. Rodney created a shell corporation from which he made judicious investments in stocks and bonds. He bet against Blockbuster videos and invested in Amazon, Facebook, and a few other companies that they knew would do well. The money was used to purchase what they wanted to bring with them.
Rodney was also trying to reverse engineer Asgard beaming technology from memory. Even with John checking his math, it was slow going. He might think the little, gray, naked, guys were creepy, but he would be willing to deal with his issues if they could get a little help.
The SGC's mess hall was nearly full today with several gate teams having rotated through already. Rodney was sitting next to John with a pile of chili cheese fries, munching way happily, his eyes tracking over to the far side of the room where the television was. He looked a little too smug for John's liking. Which meant he had done something sneaky and was waiting for the fallout.
There was a new flat-screen television that had been mounted on the far wall, it was tuned into ZNN which was covering the Presidential elections. It was still a few months away but it was only a week until the conventions in which the two parties would choose who would actually be on the tickets.
The strong contenders were Don Booker for the Democrats and Henry Hayes for the Republicans. This would be the only the second time in since the inception of the stargate program that a new president would come into power. The first had known about the original expedition that had discovered Abidos and Ra, but the administration had changed by the time Apophis attacked. There was some speculation that if Booker was elected he would most likely demand full disclosure to the American people. Hayes, on the other hand for all his seeming jocularity and easy going nature, was pretty hard lined about some things.
The real worry was Hayes' relationship with Senator Robert Kinsey. A man that had ambitions that were far more sweeping that just a few terms in the Senate. The rumor mill was that he had framed Colonel O'Neill for the attempt on his own life over a year ago, in order to gain leverage against the SGC.
While no one said it out loud, the idea that Hayes might choose Kinsey as his running mate was terrifying. It would put him one heartbeat away from the presidency. The man believed he was chosen by god to lead the country to glory. That kind of thinking always lead to disaster.
The monitor suddenly showed a “Breaking News” splash screen and the entire room tensed. Usually, that meant something horrible was happening somewhere in the world.
“This just into the ZNN newsroom. Senator Robert Kinsey of Virginia has been arrested by the FBI. He was taken into custody less than an hour ago. A spokesperson from his office has refused comment, but we have the footage from several reporters that were on hand for what had been a press conference that was scheduled for two hours from now.”
“Holy sh-,” Major Carter said from across the room. She tore out of the mess hall at a dead run, probably in order to find O'Neill and Jackson.
A few minutes later all of SG-1 was back in the mess hall with General Hammond in tow. Half the room sprang to attention as he came in.
“At ease everyone,” he said, even as his eyes locked on the television.
The room erupted into multiple conversations as the reporters started speculating as to what kind of charges were being brought against the well-known senator. This went on for several minutes when the people started shushing each other. Someone grabbed the volume controls and turned up the sound on the television.
“We have just received word that the Attorney General of the United States is making a statement on the steps of the Capitol Building. We are going to switch over to our reporter on the scene.”
The scene image switched to a middle-aged woman with long black hair and a serious expression standing before several microphones.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the press. I have called you here today to announce that we have, over the last three hours, made multiple arrests in one of the most sweeping corruption cases that I have ever investigated in my twenty years as a prosecutor.
This investigation began almost two years ago with an anonymous tip. The information arrived in a sealed package that contained evidence against one of the countries most powerful and influential leaders. But let me be perfectly clear, the arrest of Senator Robert Kinsey is but one of two dozen arrests that have occurred this day in Washington D.C. and we are not done yet.
With the cooperation of the Department of Justice and the Department of the Judge Advocate General, we have also taken into custody key members of several other government agencies. Those include several highly placed military officers and a member of the US Supreme Court.
Of the charges we have filed, they include; influence peddling, bribery, black mail, espionage, and attempted murder. We will release the complete list of those accused tomorrow. However these are the names we are willing to share at this moment. The a fore mentioned Senator Kinsey, Air Force Major General Henry Bauer, Colonel Frank Simmons, Supreme Court Justice Richard Hoskins, Junior Congressman Donald Reese, and Reverend Peter Conrad.
Make no mistake, this was a deeply rooted corruption that threatened to tear our way of life apart. We will not rest until all of those involved in this conspiracy have been brought to justice. Thank you.”
The reporters scrambled to get questions out, but the people behind the microphones moved quickly and were headed back into the Capitol Building.
“Rodney,” John whispered. “What did you do?”
Rodney blinked at him, his eyes wide and innocent. “I don't know what you're insinuating.”
“You did something,” John said. “I thought we weren't going to make any massive changes.”
Rodney sighed. “I couldn't let it go. Kinsey was going to become Vice President. I couldn't let that happen. In the few months he was in power he did a lot of damage. Politically he was a nightmare to deal with. He'd faked his own assassination attempt, framing O'Neill for it. The public perception of what happened made him a national hero and gave him a lot of political power. Internationally he pissed off a lot of this countries allies, including Canada, which actually takes a lot to do.”
“Okay, I get it.” John rubbed his eyes. “Next time, tell me when you're going to make a massive historical change.”
“Fine.” Rodney sighed. “If I screwed it up, I didn't want you to get caught up in it.”
“So you were giving me plausible deniability?” John asked.
“Yes,” Rodney replied.
“What am I going to do with you?” John shook his head.
“Declare your undying loyalty and love?” Rodney said with teasing smile.
John rolled his eyes. “You've already got that. Idiot.” He carefully laced his fingers of his left hand with Rodney's right and gives them a quick squeeze before letting go.
Rodney's eyes widen for a long moment, but then he looks down at the floor to hide a soft crooked smile. “Ditto.”
“Did you just quote 'Ghost' at me?” John asked, still smiling.
Rodney looked horrified and affronted. “I hate you.”
John chuckled but didn't reply as the mood in the room shifted. The general and SG-1 were now huddled together talking and the rest of the occupants of the mess were losing interest in favor of their meals.
“That's some crazy shit,” Holland said. “My Dad thought Kinsey should have been running for president instead of Hayes. I can't wait to rub it in his face.”
“I don't like to deal with politics,” John said. “But I do know that the first year after Apophis attacked Earth through the stargate, Kinsey tried to have the program shut down.”
“What the fuck?” Holland said. “Why?”
“He thought that if we buried the gate, then the aliens couldn't get to us,” Rodney interjected. “Of course what he didn't know was that the Goa'uld had ships capable of traveling through hyperspace. That allows them to travel faster than the speed of light. If O'Neill and SG-1 hadn't acted against orders, we'd all be slaves to the system lords now.”
Holland and the rest of SG-21 stared at them in disbelief.
“I take it you haven't read that mission report yet,” John asked his friend.
“No, not yet,” he replied.
“Add it to the list of things I want you to look at,” John replied. “Trust me, the nightmares are worth it.”
“How can we protect the planet if members of our own government conspire against our own best interests?” Lt. Endi asked, shaking his head.
“Well, part of the oaths we take as a soldier covers that,” John reminded him.
“Against all enemies foreign and domestic,” Airman Ross quoted, raising her mug in a toast.
“Exactly,” John replied, as he raised his mug with her. The entire squad echoed the toast.
John, Rodney, and Holland stood in a rough semi circle in the conference room along with Col. Reynolds and Major Warren of SG-3 and Col. Makepeace and Major Harper of SG-5. They were currently waiting for the members of SG-1 to arrive. There was some delay in the lab where Carter was working with Tok'ra data crystals and a not quite compatible interface that she was trying to build with the help of Dr. Lee.
The door opened and a tired and harried looking Daniel stumbled in followed closely by Teal'c and Sam. The three members of SG-1 sat in the open chairs and arranged some papers. Teal'c looked at the waiting officers and nodded.
Rodney looked at his watch when General Hammond walked in a few minutes later. “Do I have to be here for this?” he stage-whispered.
“Rodney,” John sighed.
“What?” Rodney said defensively. “I do have other work I could be doing.”
“Dr. Jackson,” General Hammond began. “Where is Col. O'Neill?”
“Sorry, General,” Daniel said. “Jack said he'd be here a half an hour ago. I think he was a little distracted this morning.”
“Trying to win the crossword puzzle bet he had with Major Carter,” Col. Reynolds said with a chuckle.
“He told you about that?” Carter asked.
“He tried to get me to help,” Reynolds replied. “I told him no.” Soft chuckles were heard across the room.
The door opened again and O'Neill walked in looking a little smug. He handed a piece of paper to Carter. “Finished.”
Carter looked at the paper in disbelief. “No way.” She narrowed her eyes at the crossword puzzle. “23 down, the atomic weight of boron. The answer is ten, you wrote fat.” She handed it back to him.
He snatched it up and held it to his chest. “Your point?”
“The point is that you are late, Colonel,” General Hammond said.
“Sorry, sir,” Jack replied, still distracted.
General Hammond turned to Col. Reynolds. “Your report Colonel.”
“Sir, we had a confirmed sighting of a Goa'uld drone on P3X-439,” he said. “The drone scanned the Ancient ruins and then attempted to escape through the stargate. We destroyed it, but I'm pretty sure it got off a signal.”
“Is there anything of strategic value in those ruins,” Hammond asked.
“The translation of a colonnade within the ruins speaks of a great library.” Daniel passed around several photos of the ruins. “We're pretty sure they are talking about a repository of Ancient knowledge.”
“Isn't that one of those things that grabbed Col. O'Neill's head and scrambled his brain a few years ago?” Col. Makepeace asked.
“It downloads the entirety of Ancient knowledge into the brain and it slowly unspools until it completely rewrites the person's mind,” Carter said seriously.
“Unfortunately,” Daniel interjected. “The human mind isn't advanced enough to handle something like that. The information nearly killed Jack.”
“If not for the help of the Asgard,” Teal'c said. “O'Neill would have been lost to us.”
“So, sticking our heads in that thing is a bad idea,” Major Harper concluded.
“Yeah,” O'Neill agreed. “I barely remember what happened to me and I know it was a bad trip.”
“With the Asgard not answering any of our attempts to communicate, I'm reluctant to risk another life on the hope that we might glean information that could help us against Anubis,” General Hammond said.
“I don't think we'll need to,” Sam said. “I've been working with Tok'ra high capacity data crystals. If we can get the two technologies to interface we might be able to download the library without risking anyone.”
Rodney snorted at her suggestion before he could stop himself. He remembered reading her notes on the failure of her interface before he had gone to Atlantis. Her frustration had been clearly written n every page. From her understanding of Goa'uld and Tok'ra technology, the interface should have worked. It had been those notes that lead him to understand how artificial crystals could be grown for solid state storage. How the matrix formed would determine their compatibility with different technologies. In hindsight, Rodney had discovered her error, one that he only knew now because of his extensive time on Atlantis.
“You have something to contribute, Dr. McKay?” General Hammond asked.
“The Ancients use a base eight math,” Rodney said. “The Goa'uld and the Tok'ra use base ten. The physical crystal matrix of the Tok'ra crystals isn't going to allow for a smooth transition of information. Assuming it works at all, the base difference will cause the packets of data to break apart in order to fill the gaps. Anything you manage to retrieve will be reduced to gibberish.”
“You don't know that for a fact, McKay,” Carter replied defensively.
“No, but then I'm not the one that has been cursing over the initial tests for the past week.” Rodney countered. “You need to use Ancient data crystals to download Ancient data.”
“We don't have the technology to grow our own,” Sam replied. “What do you suggest?”
“My suggestion would be to cannibalize the Ancient devices we have sitting in storage for the data crystals we need,” Rodney said.
“You're suggesting we destroy artifacts that could be over a million years old?” Daniel said in horror.
Rodney narrowed his eyes. “They aren't artifacts, they are tools. Tools we should be making better use of rather than gathering dust both here and Area 51.”
“And how do you suggest we use them?” Sam asked. “We still don't know why the technology will appear to be functional when found, but when we begin to study it, it ceases to function.”
“I've told you my theory but you don't want to hear it,” Rodney replied.
“Because it makes no sense,” Sam retorted hotly. “The repository didn't react to Teal'c because he is a Jaffa. I can understand that, but it is ridiculous to assume it went any farther than that.”
“If you had listened to me, we wouldn't be dealing with vandalism charges and a possible international incident,” Rodney shot back.
“Doctors.” Hammond interrupted. “Is there something I should know about?”
“It's an interdepartmental issue, sir,” Sam replied. “It was handled.”
“The hell it was,” Rodney shot back.
“Enough bickering,” Hammond ordered. “Explain, now.”
“Three weeks ago,” Rodney cut in ignoring Sam's glare. “There was an incident at Area 51. Dr. Miko Kusanagi, who is on loan from the Japanese government, was accused by Dr. Kavanaugh of sabotage because the Ancient device she was working with ceased to function when he took over the project.”
“Did she-,” Jack began.
“She did nothing,” Rodney cut him off. “The device just stopped working, like they always do when Kavanagh touches anything Ancient. Only this time he filed a formal complaint and now the best-damned code writer I've ever had the pleasure to work with is under house arrest while NID reviews the complaint.”
“Major Carter, is this true?” General Hammond asked.
“Yes, Dr. Kavanaugh filed formal charges,” Sam admitted. “But there was no reason for that machine to stop working.”
“And I told you,” Rodney replied. “It is a safety feature of Ancient technology. We just haven't figured out what Col. O'Neill, Dr. Kusanagi, and Dr. Beckett have in common yet.”
“And who is Dr. Beckett?” Hammond asked.
“A genetics researcher at Area 51,” Rodney said. “He is currently attempting to map the Ancient genome and compare it to humans to see if any of the genes match. It is his theory that many pieces of Ancient technology have some way to tell the difference between Ancients and non-Ancients and shut down.”
“Not unlike Goa'uld technology requires naquadah in the blood to allow the use of the Kara Kesh,” Teal'c said.
“Exactly,” Rodney replied. “But because I'm Canadian and Beckett is Scottish, NID won't listen to us. Dr. Kavanagh's complaint holds more weight because he is American. Everyone and I am including you in this Major Carter, is overlooking the fact that he is also a bully and a racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic fuck wit. Since she never had to deal with that side of him, Carter gives him a pass. The fact that he kisses her ass only exacerbates the issue.”
“How dare you-” Carter shot up from her seat.
“Major Carter!” General Hammond was on his feet as well. “Stand down.” There was a long silence as Sam and Rodney faced off from across the table. Sam was seething with indignation while Rodney tilted his chin up and to the side in an obvious challenge.
“I think we are getting sidetracked,” Daniel said carefully, his eyes darting from Sam to Rodney.
“Dr. Jackson, be quiet,” Hammond ordered. He turned his attention to his officer. “Major Carter, is Dr. McKay correct?”
“Dr. Kavanaugh is a bit of a creep that likes to throw his weight around,” Sam admitted reluctantly. “Though he has always been respectful of me. As for the rest... There have been several complaints against him, but nothing that could be proven. It is possible that Dr. Kusanagi's nationality may have prejudiced the investigation against her.”
“And what of Dr. Beckett's theory?” Hammond pushed.
“There is evidence, though only anecdotal, that his theory has merit,” Sam replied. “But there is no proof as of yet.”
“You've worked with less and come up with a solution that saved the entire planet, Major. How is this situation any different?” Hammond asked.
“To be honest, sir,” Carter began. “I have been so focused on my work here in the mountain I haven't kept up to speed with a lot of the work over at Area 51.”
“I'm going to have a talk with General Wilks over at Area 51 and find out what is going on over there. This current crisis can not be hampered by personal prejudices,” Gen. Hammond said. “I want a thorough review of who is able to work with Ancient technologies and who isn't and I want to know why.”
“Sir,” Carter squirmed in her chair.
Hammond leaned back in his chair and took a deep breath. “For now, though, I'm going to authorize the mission to P3X-439. SG-1, SG-3 and SG-5 you have a go. If there is a repository there, try to retrieve it. If you can't, and it looks like the planet is compromised, you are ordered to destroy it to keep it from falling into enemy hands.” He pushed away from the table and stood. “Major Sheppard, SG-21 is on standby. You are the first through the gate if they call for assistance. Dismissed.”
Twelve hours later
SG-21 watched as O'Neill was carried back through the gate over Teal'c shoulder. He was pale and barely conscious. Dr. Frasier arrived with a gurney and rolled him away into the infirmary.
“What happened?” John asked Major Harp, who was catching his breath at the end of the ramp.
“Anubis' troops started to overrun our position, so O'Neill stuck his head in that repository thing and then Major Carter blew it all to hell.”
“Oh, man,” Captain Holland muttered.
John turned to Rodney, who nodded. This is what happened the last time. This was supposed to happen. If it didn't, they wouldn't survive the attack by Anubis, nor would they find the outpost which would give the SGC the address to Atlantis.
That didn't mean that John was happy about it. He would probably have stuck his own head in the thing if he didn't think that Rodney would kill him for risking his life like that. Though he honestly wondered if he might be able to handle the download better than O'Neill.
He could easily hear the rest of the members of SG-1 talking to Hammond.
“Sir, it wasn't an accident,” Sam said.
“Jack did it deliberately,” Daniel agreed. “I was going to do it but he stopped me.”
“Why would you put yourself at risk like that?” Hammond demanded. “Why did O'Neill?”
“To access the knowledge of the Ancients,” Teal'c replied. “He believed that it was necessary.”
“Chances are we'd never get another shot,” Daniel admitted. “With Anubis closing in, there wasn't much of a choice.” Their voices faded away down the hallway.
“How long does O'Neill have?” John asked.
“About two weeks,” Rodney admitted. “Give or take a day. The data in his brain will take several days before it starts to expand. Things will get really interesting from now on.”
Three days later, John was having second thoughts about his understanding about who's side Dr. Elizabeth Weir was actually on. By order of President Hayes, the Stargate Program was officially shut down for review. Weir was ensconced in the main conference room that had a window looking down on the Gate as she went over the bulk of mission reports and financial records. Daniel Jackson was currently trying to convince her to let them seek out the information that Jack was slowly disseminating.
The bulk of SGC personnel had been ordered to stand down. All non-essentials had been ordered off base. Something that felt wrong on many levels that the mountain felt empty. SG-6 and SG-21 were still considered active because, if something happened to the three SG teams that were currently still off-world, there had to be someone available to mount a rescue. But until something actually happened, they were all at loose ends.
“Unscheduled Off-World Activation!” Sergeant Harriman called over the loud speaker. It was SG-6's hour to respond, John couldn't help but follow. He was stunned when the rebel Jaffa, Master Bra'tac, walked down the ramp.
John didn't listen to most of it, as it was Daniel trying to explain to the elder Jaffa why General Hammond was no longer there. Weir, of course, was trying to reassure him that she was willing to hear what he had to say.
“I come with grave news,” Bra'tac said. “Anubis is gathering his forces. He will launch his attack in three days.”
Some dialog was taken directly from the SG-1 season 7 episode The Lost City part 1
President Hayes entered the main conference room of the SGC, with two secret service agents in tow. He looked at the gathering of soldiers, scientists, and aliens with a critical eye. “Alright, tell it to me straight.”
“The situation is worse than when I first briefed you on, Mr President,” Dr, Weir said. She was tense in her shoulders and it looked like she honestly might be out of her depth. “But thanks to our ally, Master Bra'tac, we at least have some warning.
“Anubis is on his way here. We have about three days to prepare,” Daniel said. “If we're very lucky, he'll just try to scare us all into submission. However, we've pissed him off enough times, that I know he is on his way to subjugate the planet.”
“So, what can we do to stop it?” Hayes asked.
“We need to find the Ancient's lost city,” Carter said.
“I read the report of the sacrifice that Col. O'Neill made, but are you any closer to finding it than you were a month ago?” Hayes asked.
“I know where it is,” O'Neill blurted.
“You do?” Daniel asked, startled and hopeful.
“I will,” Jack amended. “I can feel it in my fron.” He made a waving motion in front of his face.
“Fron means head,” Daniel told the room, his expression one of deep concern.
“Unless we get very lucky and the city is on a planet within the known gate network,” Rodney began. “We're going to need a ship and I doubt the President would be comfortable with you taking the Prometheus.”
“No, I really wouldn't be,” Hayes admitted. “If there is a direct attack, we're going to need everything we've got to defend this planet.”
“Then with your permission, I shall seek a ship from my people,” Bra'tak said getting to his feet.
“Please,” Hayes agreed. “Any assistance you can give us will be greatly appreciated. Sergeant Harriman, please dial the gate to wherever Master Bra'tak needs to go.”
“Yes, Mr. President,” Walter said and escorted Bra'tac out of the room
“Ladies and gentlemen,” Hayes said. “I know our time is short, but I want to assure you that if there is anything that you need, that this country can supply, we will get it here as soon as humanly possible. Now I'm going to get out of your way and let you do the job you have all been doing for so long.”
He turned and left the conference room with his entourage in tow, Weir escorted him out.
“Oh thank god,” Rodney sighed. “I thought he'd never leave.”
“Rodney!” Sam exclaimed, aghast.
“What? He isn't my president and besides, he was keeping us from doing our jobs.” Rodney grabbed his mug and pour himself more coffee before leaving the conference room.
He waited impatiently at Dr. Weir's office door for her to return. She paused for a moment when she saw him but continued inside. “Is there something I can do for you, Dr. McKay?” She offered him a chair as she went to her desk.
“Yes,” Rodney said, not bothering to sit. “In all the commotion of the changing of personnel, the inquiry into the arrest of one of my colleagues was back-burnered. I want to make sure she is safe.”
“You are talking about the case against Dr. Miko Kusanagi?” Weir asked, shuffling some papers.
“Yes,” Rodney replied.
“I read the file. She is currently under house arrest, and restricted from using any technologies that could transfer information,” Weir replied. “General Wilks has promised me a swift resolution to the problem.”
“And Dr. Kavanaugh?” Rodney pushed.
“Is also under review,” she replied. “What is this about, Doctor?”
“I want to make sure that good people aren't lost in the shuffle of yet another crisis,” he replied. “The SGC needs all the brilliant minds it can get, but a good fifty percent of the best are held away from the Mountain because the US Military is too paranoid to allow full international cooperation, even with countries that have been fully read into the program.”
“From what I've read of the reports, it isn't all paranoia,” Weir said but raised her hand to keep him from speaking. “But I see your point. Assuming we don't all die in the next week, I will make the inquiry into this case a priority as well as review the vetting process used to approve international personnel.”
“Thank you, Dr. Weir,” Rodney said and left without another word.
It was only two hours later, but Jack had gleaned the address of Praclarush Taonas. However, they had found that it was not in the gate network. The only way to get there was with a ship.
John leaned back against the wall of the storage room as he watched O'Neill gather seemingly random items from the shelves. He was there ostensibly to make sure Jack didn't become a danger to himself or others, but he was really there to make sure that SG-1 didn't leave the planet without SG-21.
The mission had almost failed in the original timeline because the pilot of the ship Bra'tac was able to get turned out to be loyal to Anubis. The elder Jaffa had nearly died because of that betrayal and Jack had nearly fried himself using the healing abilities of the Ancients in order to save him. John was going to make sure that didn't happen, even if he had to sneak onto the ship by himself.
Elizabeth and Daniel came into the storage room as Jack's pile of crap increased with the addition of a TIG welder. “What are you doing, Colonel?” Weir asked warily.
“I don't know,” Jack said, sounding freaked out. He turned in a circle and stopped in his tracks when he came face to face with John. They stared at each other for a long moment, then Jack started grabbing more stuff. “Daniel, grab a naquadah generator from the other store room.”
All SGC personnel had been recalled to duty by the time Master Bra'tac dialed back in with the news that he had a ship waiting for them. SG-1 was in the gate room with a MALP covered in equipment ready to go. John and Rodney and their team had suited up and entered the room.
“I hope you weren't planning this trip without us,” John said.
“Major Sheppard? Dr. McKay?” Weir turned in confusion.
“This is an extremely important mission, Dr. Weir,” John said. “While I believe that SG-1 is capable of a lot of things. We can't risk Colonel O'Neill's safety to a handful of people who will be distracted by the need to find the lost city. SG-21 volunteers for security detail.”
“That won't be necessary, Major,” Carter said.
“Go with them, Major Sheppard,” Weir said.
“But Dr. Weir,” Daniel protested. “A Tel'tak isn't a very large ship. Between all the equipment and extra people, we might be overloaded.
“That's a direct order,” she said sharply. “I'm not comfortable letting you go unprotected. SG-21 will be there to make sure nothing goes wrong. If it turns out there isn't enough room for the entire squad, you will at least take as many as you can safely. Is that understood.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Carter complied, eyeing Rodney distrustfully before maneuvering the MALP through the gate.
As it turned out, there was plenty of room for SG-21 in Ronan's Tel'tak though the Jaffa was less than pleased with the size of the group going with on the trip. They didn't have any problems bunking in the cargo area and it was easy to set up in guarding positions at each hatch and door to make themselves appear less conspicuous. Rodney was going over the modifications that Jack made to the hyperspace engines, to see if there was a way to replicate it without burning out the engines later.
They made it to Praclarush in twelve hours flat. It might have been a planet the Ancient once inhabited, but now the surface was covered in active volcanoes and rivers of lava. There was a hollow dome of lava that had been formed over an energy shield. Jack and the rest of SG-1 put on environmental suits and used the transport rings to get down to the surface.
“At last, the lost city,” Ronan breathed.
“So it seems,” Bra'tac said.
“Hey, Ronan,” John said coming up behind the young Jaffa. “Is that a dagger in your hand? Because that seems an odd thing to be holding right when everyone is so focused on what is going on down planet side.”
“Ronan?” Bra'tac stared at the young man in disappointment. “Why would you betray your people?”
“I serve Anubis,” Ronan declared. “A true god in a sea of false gods.” He lunged with the dagger, John sidestepped the attack and landed a punch on the side of the Jaffa's face.
“You are no Jaffa,” Bra'tac declared. “You have no honor. Attacking from behind like an assassin.”
“Silence old man,” Ronan growled. “I should have killed you when you first approached me.”
“Bra'tac, can you hear me? We're ready to be ringed up,” Major Carter called over the radio.
“Take care of that,” John said. “I got this.” Bra'tac turned and activated the transport rings.
Rodney entered the cockpit and swore. “Harris, Ross, get in here, Ronan is attacking Sheppard.”
The two airman came in quickly, assessed the situation even as John fought off the stronger, faster man.
“Stand down,” John ordered. “I got this.” He felt a smirk cross his lips. He'd been wanting a good fight for a while, he'd been holding back at the SCG, but he let loose on Ronan. Twenty years of combat training, first by the Air Force, then learning tactics from Teyla and Ronon flowed through his muscles. He lashed out at the Jaffa with all of his pent up frustration when Ronan gave him a contemptuous sneer. Less than five minutes later, Ronan was unconscious on the ground.
“Holy crap, sir,” Ross said, shocked.
Harris came forward with a set of zip-cuffs. During that time, SG-1 had transported back up to the ship. Jack stumbled and leaned against the outer hull, taking in deep slow breaths.
“What has transpired?” Teal'c demanded of the scene before them.
“Ronan is an agent of Anubis,” Bra'tac said. “He attempted to attack me when my back was turned. Fortunately, Major Sheppard was able to subdue him.”
“Well done, Major Sheppard,” Teal'c said in surprise. “You have been holding back in the gym.”
“Maybe a little,” John admitted with a wince. He was sore from the fight, Jaffa were punishingly strong.
“We need to head back to Earth,” Daniel told them. “The city is there.”
“Then why did we come all this way?” Airman Ross asked from where she was searching Ronan for hidden weapons.
“We needed this, apparently,” Sam said, pulling out a glowing crystal power source that was a Zero Point Module, from a backpack. “There is no telling how powerful it is, but it kept that outpost intact for thousands of years.”
“Are we going to get back in time?” Captain Holland asked.
“Believe it or not, we're actually closer to Earth than we are to Chulak,” Rodney said. “It'll take us half the time to get there than the trip here did.”
“Teal'c come, let us depart from this world,” Bra'tac said and headed back to the control room.
“At least we won't be late for the party,” John said laconically.
Jack spun at his voice, his eyes narrowed and he lunged at John. He grabbed him by his tac vest and slammed him against the cargo bay wall. “Quis es!”
“Ow,” John complained as bruises let themselves be known.
“Jack?!” Daniel exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
Jack ignored Daniel and knocked John against the wall again. “Quis es!”
“He's asking who you are,” Daniel told John.
“Major John Sheppard, SG-21,” John replied, not fighting back.
“Mendax!” Jack hissed.
“O'Neill!” Teal'c shouted with concern.
“He doesn't believe you.” Daniel translated.
“We get that,” Rodney replied. “O'Neill, back off.”
“Quid tu hic?” Jack snarled at John. “Altera.”
“He wants to know why an Alteran is here.” Daniel stared at the two men. “Jack, are you saying that Sheppard is an Ancient?”
“Great,” Rodney muttered.
John shoved Jack back hard, suddenly furious. “I'm not a fucking Alteran!” he shouted back. “Non sum, Alteran! How dare you compare me to those assholes.”
“Terran, Atlantus?” Jack queried confused and off-kilter.
“Inimicus umbra.” John replied. “Finem habent.”
“Non potest,” Jack shook his head in denial, stepping back. “Via stulti.”
“Maybe, but it needs to be done,” John said. “Aliquam sed oportet fieri.”
“Quare,” Jack asked softly.
“Obligatio,” John replied.
“What are you two talking about?” Daniel asked, completely confused. “What obligation?"
“Ne pugna nosti,” Jack said insistently.
“Foedus Altantus,” John spat.
“Whoa, wait,” Daniel said. “What are you saying.”
Both men turned to look at him.
“Danny,” said Jack softly, regret and confusion warred in his expression. He blinked and suddenly he was gone again.
He walked back into the cargo area and started grabbing equipment. He knelt on the floor and started modifying the ring transporter. John waited until Jack was on the other side of the cargo bay before he stomped away. Torn between mysteries, Daniel followed John with Rodney close behind.
“What was Jack talking about?” Daniel demanded.
“I don't know.” John denied.
“Major,” Daniel rubbed his tired eyes in frustration. “We're about to walk into the biggest battle of our lives. Keeping secrets seems a bit petty at this point.”
“We all have secrets, Dr. Jackson,” John replied.
“He was angry,” Daniel said. “And maybe a little scared. You can't deny that he reacted to you.”
“Maybe I remind him of someone that he saw in the repository of knowledge.” John shrugged.
“That doesn't explain how you knew what he was saying,” Daniel said with narrowed eyes.
“I don't know, what you mean,” John replied. “Latin is a derivative of Ancient. I've been studying it since I was recruited to the SGC. It really isn't that hard.”
“Isn't that hard?” Daniel stared at him, incredulous.
“Once you know the vowels,” John explained. “It all falls into place, structurally. Isn't that what you said when you figured out the ancient Egyptian language when you first went to Abydos.”
“Exactly how many languages do you speak, Major Sheppard?” Daniel demanded, nonplussed.
“Counting English?” John shrugged. “Three, the other two are Spanish and Pashto. I took Latin in high school as well, but it wasn't exactly a spoken thing.”
“Why are you interrogating Major Sheppard,” Rodney demanded. “Shouldn't you be keeping an eye on Colonel Ancient over there, to make sure he doesn't attack anyone else.”
“He didn't just randomly attack someone,” Daniel replied defensively, but he went back into the cargo bay.
Quis es = who are you?
Mendax = liar
Quid tu hic = why are you here?
Non sum = i am not
Inimicus umbra = shadow enemy
Finem habent = an end
Non potest = not possible
Via stulti = you're a fool
Aliquam sed oportet fieri = the story will unfold
Quare = why
Obligatio = obligation
ne pugna nostri = not our fight
Fodeus Atlantus = alliance of atlantis
John spent the next few hours actively avoiding SG-1 as much as he could in the small ship. He wandered into the cockpit to watch the view screen. Rodney followed him a few minutes later, having taken to shadowing him as a buffer against prying questions.
“Is O'Neill well?” Bra'tac asked, from the controls of the ship.
“He's about as well as can be expected with that much information racing through his head,” John replied.
“He got a little confused about John's identity,” Rodney added.
“I did not thank you for your help, earlier,” Bra'tac said. “With Ronan.”
“That's why we insisted on coming,” John replied. “This mission is too important to lose any of you.”
“I am in your debt,” Bra'tac replied.
“Hey, if you hadn't found this ship, we'd be evacuating the planet right now,” John said. “I'd say we're even.”
Bra'tac examined him critically. “As you say.” A light started blinking on the control panel, grabbing their attention. “We are approaching the planet. Our sensors are detecting multiple ships at strategic points around the globe. There are death gliders in aerial combat situations on multiple continents.”
“Are we too late?” Daniel asked entering the cockpit the rest of his team a step behind him.
“No reports of damage on any of the major continents,” Carter said. “But there appear to be multiple countries broadcasting on the emergency channels. President Hayes is giving a speech from the White House.” She brought the transmission up on the screen.
“-the danger to not only this country but the entire world can not be overstated. This is not a hoax, this is not a conspiracy. The attack on the Fifth Fleet was as devastating as it was unprovoked and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have already fallen to this otherworldly threat.
Leader from across the globe, both traditional allies and people yesterday we would have considered enemies have all agreed to band together against this threat. We will not surrender, we will not yield. God bless you, and God bless America.//
“The broadcast is over in the US, but other countries are still talking,” Sam said. “Anubis is taking out our communication satellites. This is bad.”
“Well that takes care of that whole disclosure debate,” Rodney said, his voice strained. His eyes met John's. This hadn't happened in the previous timeline.
“In order to get past Anubis' flagship, we will need to exit hyperspace just inside the atmosphere,” Bra'tac informed them.
“We need to get as close to the southern polar continent as you can,” Sam said. “The information we have indicates that the city is there.”
“Everybody buckle in,” John shouted to his team. “This is going to get rough.”
The next few minutes were an exercise in terror as it really looked like they were going to crash into the mountains of Antarctica.
“We've got maybe five minutes before Anubis' forces reach us,” Rodney said.
Jack ran into the room as motioned for Bra'tac to allow him at the controls. He flew in an erratic pattern until they exited the mountain range and settled at a spot above a glacier. He hit the control for the ring transporter. Instead of the normal effect, the added energy from the naquadah generator, plus whatever modifications Jack had made to it, created a powerful beam that blasted down into the ice creating a shaft that burrowed over a mile down.
“Multiple targets are approaching our position,” Rodney said. “Coming from two directions each one has small fighters and one larger ship trailing behind it.”
“Attention SG-1 this is Colonel Cameron Mitchel, commander of the F-302 squadron. We are here to assist.”
“Glad to have you with us, Colonel,” Sam replied. “Keep them off of us for just a few minutes.”
“Roger that.” The F-302 fighters rocketed past the Te'tak and straight into the approaching death gliders, guns blazing.
“Major Carter, this is General Hammond aboard the Prometheus, we'll cover you until you're clear.”
“Good to hear your voice, sir,” Carter replied. “We could use all the help we can get.”
“SG-21, get ready to move out,” John said. “Our job is to hold back any forces that try to get in there while SG-1 does whatever they need to. Burton, Ross, pull out the Kull disruptors and everyone get ready for a firefight.”
“Bra'tac, as soon as we are down, clear out. You'll be a sitting duck here,” Carter said.
“Fear not,” Bra'tac replied. “I shall join the battle and bring glory to Free Jaffa everywhere.”
SG-1 beamed down first, followed quickly by SG-21.
When the rings cleared they set up position just outside the long shaft. It wasn't long before another set of rings came down, depositing four Kull warriors. Ross and Burton opened fire with the disruptors first, then a barrage of conventional weapons fire made sure the genetically engineered creatures would not be getting up again.
John turned to watch as O'Neill was confronted by what looked like Anubis standing between them and the Ancient outpost. The colonel frowned for a moment before stepping straight through what was actually a holographic projection. The colonel opened a plate in the floor and pulled out a ZPM that was completely drained of power and motioned for Sam to hand him the backpack. He pulled out the one from Taonas and slid it home.
Another wave of Kull warriors arrived firing immediately. A stray shot hit Teal'c in the side and he fell. Jack spun at the shouts of dismay. He walked over and knelt down next to the Jaffa his hand touching the area around the wound.
“I will be fine, O'Neill,” Teal'c protested.
Jack ignored him and closed his eyes in concentration. His hands glowed with a soft light for a long minute. When he pulled his hands away the wound was completely gone.
“O'Neill,” Teal'c breathed in a voice full of wonder and sadness. “You have the healing powers of the Ancients.”
Jack touched Teal's face for a long moment before turning away and head to the silver metallic chair sitting in the middle of the room. Daniel tried to speak to him but he was completely focused on the moment. He settled into the chair and the entire complex brightened.
A holographic display appeared in the air above the chair showing the Earth and hundreds of dots across the globe. Some flashed and winked out as they watched. There were signs of damage to the Prometheus and to the shuttle Bra'tak was flying.
“Whatever you're going to do Jack,” Sam said. “You need to do it now.”
The ground beneath them shook as something deeper in the ice was activated. Then a shaft of golden light erupted from the ground as hundreds of squid shaped missiles shot into the air. There was a tremendous explosion high above them. The holographic projection showed Anubis' ship explode along with the two ships escorting it. Then the lights suddenly dimmed and Jack went limp in the chair.
“Jack!” Daniel cried out. “No, no, you can't stop now.”
John turned to Rodney, who nodded. “Holland maintain position.”
“You, got it, Sheppard.”
Both men raced to the other room. Jack was unconscious in the control chair. Sam, Daniel, and Teal'c were frantically trying to wake him. The display that floated overhead showed Anubis' ship was breaking up but several Ha'tak remained intact. Some where heading away from the planet, but others were looking like they were heading for the surface. Little gold points of light that indicated drone missiles were just hanging in the air, inert after Jack had lost consciousness.
“Get him out of the Chair,” John ordered.
“Sheppard, we're losing him,” Carter said, desperately. “I need the medical kit.”
“Colonel O'Neill can hang on for five minutes. Unless you missed it, there are at least two Ha'tak vectoring in on major metropolitan areas,” Rodney said. “Get him out of the Chair now!”
“Ross, we need the medical kit,” John yelled.
“Coming, sir,” she called.
Teal'c lifted Jack's unconscious body from the Chair and carried him away.
“I don't know what you think you're going to be able to accomplish, Major Sheppard,” Carter said, even as John settled into the chair. “You don't have the knowledge of the Ancients. You can't possibly-”
The Chair reclined back and as John closed his eyes and stabbed his fingers into the gel-like control pads on the armrests. He regained control of the drones still floating in orbit after a moment. The glowing missiles scattered across the globe taking out death gliders and the larger Goa'uld ships with extreme prejudice.
Rodney pulled out his laptop and plugged it into the control chair's access panel with a set of clear crystal alligator clips and data cables that he designed just for reading Ancient crystals. “You have about a third of charge left, Major. Use it wisely,” he said quietly enough that only John heard him.
“Colonel O'Neill's pulse is weak and thready,” Ross announced. “There isn't anything in this kit that can help him.”
“There is a stasis pod in the wall,” John said distractedly. The pod lit up as he spoke. “It's the only way to save his life.”
“Jack,” Sam said in a harsh whisper. “Please.”
Jack's eyes fluttered open. “Sam.”
“Don't you quit now,” she demanded. “We won.”
“Danny,” Jack muttered. “Dormata.”
“Sleep.” Daniel translated. “Jack, is this what you need to do?” He pointed at the pod.
Jack nodded and weakly reached toward it.
Teal'c lifted Jack into his arms and placed him in the stasis pod and held him there as the Colonel seemed to find he strength to stand on his own.
“Danny...” Jack whispered.
“Jack, I'm here.” Daniel said and was surprised when Jack grabbed him and leaned close.
“Fides,” he said. “Confidit eis.”
“Trust them? Jack? Trust who?” Jack looked up and away from them to the Chair Room. Daniel followed his gaze back to see Sheppard and McKay, still working the Ancient chair device. “Okay, Jack, I understand.
The energy in the pod increased and a field enveloped Colonel Jack O'Neill, effectively freezing him in time.
“Jack!” Sam called her hands touching the icy containment.
“SG-1,” a familiar voice came over the radio. “This is General Hammond on the Prometheus. Do you require assistance?”
“We're clear, General,” Sam said. “We could use a hand getting out of here though.”
“Tell Hammond to search about three clicks south of our position,” John said. “There is an F-302 pilot that needs help more than we do at the moment.”
Sam stared up at the image of a smashed fighter with a heat signature in the snow. After she relayed the information she rounded on both men with her sidearm drawn. “Rodney, stop whatever you're doing,” she ordered. “Get out of the chair, Major.”
“Whoa, whoa,” Captain Holland got between Carter and his commanding officer. “What is going on?”
“Get out of the way, Captain. That is an order,” Carter said.
“Sam!” Daniel protested. “What the hell are you doing?”
“Major Carter,” Teal'c called. “Your actions are not rational. Please put down your weapon.”
“I don't know who you two are, but we don't have the technology to interface with Ancient technology like that,” Carter declared. “How can Sheppard use that chair just as easily as Jack did without the knowledge of the Ancients?”
Rodney put his laptop down and glared at her. “You can't interface with Ancient tech, because you didn't listen to me when I said it was possible to create a compatible interface.” He pulled another set of wires and tossed it to Daniel. “The one end is a standard USB plug. The other end is a set of hand carved Ancient data relay crystals that I fastened into a custom alligator clip design. Dr. Kusanagi wrote an algorithm that translates the information so that an earth computer can display the readings.”
“Then make it fix Jack,” she demanded. “Get him out of there.”
John sat up in the Control Chair and the lights dimmed. “I'm sorry, Major Carter, but this place doesn't have the ability to help Col. O'Neill. If did, it would have helped him the moment he sat down on this chair.”
“You're lying,” Carter said. Her eyes were wet with tears and her hand trembled just a little.
“Why would I lie?” John asked. “What would I possibly have to gain?”
“Jack said something about you being an Ancient,” Sam said.
“He also said we should trust them,” Daniel reminded her.
“For fuck's sake, I am not an Ancient,” John growled as he stood. “I'm just as human as he is. Whatever allows O'Neill to interact with Ancient tech, I have it too.”
“Why didn't you say anything?” Daniel asked. “Why keep it a secret.”
“The way people like Col. Simmons and Senator Kinsey treated anyone with a hint that they might not be fully human?” John replied. “Do you blame me?”
“You knew,” Carter glared at McKay. “You knew he could use Ancient technology and you said nothing.”
“Like you never withheld information to protect someone you cared about,” Rodney shot back.
“Sam, let it go,” Daniel said gently. “They didn't do anything wrong. Hell, without them here a lot more people around the world would have died.”
“We can't just leave Jack in there,” Carter insisted. “There has to be an answer here.”
“I don't think so Sam,” Daniel replied. “Take a look around. This place is like Taonas. It's too small the be the fabled city of Atlantis. This is just another outpost.”
Carter lowered her gun and everyone relaxed a little. “Then what are we supposed to do?” she demanded.
“Colonel O'Neill is stable in the stasis pod,” John said. “If you take him out, he'll die. At the moment he is the safest of all of us.”
“Safest?” Holland asked. “Oh, hell, the press conference.”
“Yep,” John said rocking back on his heels. “The cat is well and truly out of the bag.”
“I don't suppose there is any chance they could say it was all a huge hoax,” Ross asked.
“Yeah, that's not happening,” John sighed. “Not when I had to use a set of drones to force an Al'kesh to land at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey. It was trying to bomb New York City.”
“This could be a good thing,” Daniel said. “Once... the panic... dies down. Right?”
Rodney sighed and went to look at the opening in the glacier. He walked past Daniel and patted him gently on the shoulder. “Keep telling yourself that.”
“Close the Gate! Close the Gate! Close the Gate!” The crowd of people shouted. There were about two dozen of them all dressed for the cold Colorado weather, holding up signs.
John watched from the passenger seat of the Humvee as he and several other servicemen drove through the security checkpoint into Cheyenne Mountain. It had been six months since Anubis had been defeated and things were finally starting to calm down.
It had not been fun watching the world awaken to the reality of life on other planets. Rioting in the streets had actually been pretty rare. Protesters had basically set up permanent camps at the UN Building in New York City and in front of the White House. The Senate was holding hearings demanding to know who knew what when. President Hayes was the only one safe from the wrath of those hearings since he had only learned about the Stargate Program a few weeks before Anubis had attacked.
Former Senator Kinsey was still trying to convince people that he'd had the country's interests at heart when he became a member of the Trust. The SGC had no problem revealing the damning evidence that he'd had General Hammond's granddaughter kidnapped and had used her as leverage to place his own handpicked flunky in charge of Stargate command. General Henry Bauer's actions had resulted in the deaths of over two dozen soldiers and an entire planet reduced to a burned out husk because they had been greedy and careless.
The doomsday preppers had gone to ground, convinced by the purveyors of paranoia on right wing news and talk radio, that the end of the world was at hand. There had been several incidences of armed groups breaking into gun shops and stealing guns and ammunition. The armed camps were being monitored from a distance, but otherwise, there hadn't been any signs that they were planning anything stupid.
Government conspiracy theorists and UFO hunters were thrilled and disappointed that even though they were absolutely right, they had gotten just about everything wrong. The interviews with General Hammond and the members of the SGC that could be spared from the day to day work at the mountain had been fodder for everyone from late night television talk shows to the Archaeology Magazine's huge cover story with a picture of the great pyramids proclaiming: “We were Wrong!” Along with a profile of Dr. Danial Jackson and his grandfather Dr. Nicolas Ballard, both having been vindicated in the eyes of the scientific world when their radical theories had finally been proven correct.
It was the religious fundamentalist movements that turned out to have the most disturbing reactions to the truth. The first two months saw the sixteen separate congregations commit mass suicide. The methods varied from group to group but the outcome was the same. At last count, over two hundred thousand people had taken their own lives as to behest of their religious leaders around the globe.
Individual suicides had also risen statistically to the point that the World Health Organization had declared it an epidemic and sought to find ways to calm the fears of those for whom the proof of life on other planets had shattered their faith. Amazingly though, most people went on with their lives as normal, going to work or school with the added knowledge that there was so much more out there when they looked up into the stars at night.
On a personal level, John was back to square one with his family. Patrick was pissed that he refused to be a figurehead for the company, space-faring war hero and all that crap. David was pissed because he hadn't told him the truth about what he was doing. Nancy was pissed because she had actually been a part of Kinsey's personal staff. Luckily she hadn't been close enough to the man to get caught up in the dragnet but she had lost her job and no one wanted to touch anyone that had anything to with the man.
“Welcome back, Major Sheppard,” Sergeant Bates said at the checkpoint just before the elevator.
“Good to be back, Sergeant,” John replied.
“I heard that the Antarctic research team finally figured out the address for the lost city,” he said in a low voice. “And that was why so many people were getting transferred here. They're getting ready to send an expedition.”
“I can neither confirm or deny the existence of any plans to send anyone anywhere through the gate,” John said with a wink.
“You've been around the press too much, sir,” Bates replied.
“I blame my family for that,” John said with a growl. “I wanted to stay anonymous, but of course the second my father found out I was assigned to the SGC, he got all eager to be proud in public.”
“Better you than me, sir,” Bates replied with a tight smile.
“Has Dr. McKay arrived?” John asked.
“Yes, sir,” he replied. “Twenty minutes ago.”
“Excellent, have a good day,” John replied.
“You too, sir.”
John road the elevator down trying to loosen his tight neck muscles. This was going to be the first official meeting of the Atlantis Expedition. Rather than a secret mission to find the Lost City of the Ancients. It was a United Nations sanctioned mission with an international team of soldiers and scientists.
He exited the elevator and nodded to members of various departments as he headed for the main conference room. The door was open and there were quite a few people standing around talking in small groups. He paused when he saw faces he knew, Colonel Sumner and Dr. Carson Beckett. Then there were a few faces that he knew from the SGC that had not been around until after the expedition had departed in the other timeline. Dr. Carolyn Lam, who had replaced Dr. Frasier as Chief Medical Officer at the SGC, Dr. Lindstrom, who had died on the Daedalus after they had established contact with Earth, and Captain Lorne, who had the ATA gene, but not nearly as strong as John's or O'Neill's.
He met Rodney's eyes from across the room and his friend nodded. They hadn't seen each other in over a week, trying to make sure that the years of careful planning didn't get fucked up by the change in the timeline. John was hoping that the committee would green light bringing as many as six F-302 fighters with them. As fantastic as the puddlejumpers were, there were some things that they couldn't handle. Not to mention there were a lot more pilots that were qualified for F-302s than there were pilots with the ATA gene.
Life on Earth was a bit challenging at the moment. On the bright side, they had solved the payload problem with the help of the Asgard, though they hadn't told anyone about that yet.
“General in the room,” a voice called from the doorway. Every soldier stood at attention as Brigadier General Jack O'Neill entered the room followed closely by Dr. Elisabeth Weir, Mr. Richard Woolsey, and Representative Shen Xiaoyi, of China. He had been restored by the Asgard a little over two months ago, his return had prompted even more changes to the command structure of the SGC.
“Have a seat everyone,” Jack said as he walked over to the far side of the room. There was a large table with three chairs at the head of it. He, Weir, and Xiaoyi each took a seat while Woolsey took a chair farther down the line. The table had cards where those chosen to be there were assigned a seat. John was relieved when he saw that he had been seated next to Rodney.
There was a pause as Jack looked at an empty seat and sighed. A moment later the door opened and a harried and distracted looking Danial Jackson came in the room. “Sorry, I'm late!” He looked around. “I am late, right?”
“A little,” Jack said with a sigh, squeezing the space between his thumb and forefinger.
Daniel shuffled over to the last empty seat with his hands full of papers. It took him a couple of minutes to get organized. Jack rested his chin on his fist and waited for him. Daniel finally looked up and Jack said. “Are you ready now?”
“Yeah, all set.” Daniel seemed determined not to be embarrassed.
“Dr. Weir, you have the floor,” Jack said.
“Thank you General,” Weir said. “As you all know, we have been searching for the location of the Ancient's lost city, Atlantis. The original reason for the search was to prevent the system lord Anubis from gaining its knowledge.” She looked around the room. “Thanks to the bravery and sacrifices of the people of the SGC, Anubis was stopped, but the location of Atlantis has alluded us.” She picked up a remote from the table and touched a button. A computer-generated image of what the ancient outpost looked like appeared the screen behind her. “Thanks to the tireless work of the best scientific minds on the planet, we have determined that the outpost in Antarctica is but one of hundreds that once existed throughout the galaxy. The data gleaned from the outpost suggests that the city rested on our planet's southernmost continent until approximately three million years ago. At which time, they left our planet in order to escape a plague that they had no defense against. It has taken months, but Dr. Jackson and his team have finally determined that the address for Atlantis.” She nodded to the anthropologist. “Dr. Jackson?”
“Thank you, Dr. Weir,” he said, standing. “The Ancients, as Dr. Weir said, left our world due to a plague that was devastating their people. The origins of that plague have yet to be determined. However, it was so widespread that it appears they felt compelled to leave the Milky Way entirely.”
He walked over to a whiteboard and started writing a list of chevrons. “The standard address for dialing out is seven chevrons. However, the address we have discovered is an eight chevron address, which makes it farther away than we ever thought, but not it is not out of reach. The address, when we take in account three million years of stellar drift, points us to a dwarf galaxy we call Pegasus. It is within our local group, but father out and in the opposite direction of the galaxy Ida, which is where the Asgard originate from.”
“Shouldn't you be doing this presentation?” John asked Rodney in a low voice.
“Not according to them,” Rodney replied. “They said I'd go into too much detail.”
John gave him a sideways glance. Ten minutes later he picked up a pen and wrote a note. He pushed it over so Rodney could read it. Too much detail? Really?
Rodney rolled his eyes.
John wrote again. -What is Xiaoyi doing here?
Rodney wrote back -I don't know. No IOC, so maybe the official UN Rep?
-I don't like it
“Thanks to the skill of Dr. Beckett's genetics research team and with the cooperation of those few people that we have seen demonstrate an affinity for Ancient technology, we've learned that all of the more advanced Ancient systems are keyed to a very specific gene that, it appears, all Ancients possessed. That gene only occurs in one-tenth of one percent of humans.”
-How much blood has that vampire taken from you? Rodney demanded in his next note.
-About three pints.
-No more. I put my food down.
-Oh joy, he's talking about the goa'uld invasion of Earth, again.
-blah blah blah bored now.
-tic tac toe?
-prime not prime?
-omg! he's still talking
“-To explain the power requirements to make such a journey, I've asked Dr. Rodney McKay to take over this section.”
“Thank you, Dr. Jackson.” Rodney stood and walked over to the display. “As Dr. Jackson has explained at great length where we need to go, I'm going to make this very simple. We need the Zero Point Module installed into the gate's power systems in order to make a successful dial out to another galaxy. Otherwise, this debate is just a huge waste of time.”
“Not a huge waste-”
“Dr. Jackson,” Rodney snapped. “I have the floor at the moment.” The anthropologist raised his hands in surrender.
“I thought Gen. O'Neill had dialed another galaxy the first time he was under the influence of the Ancient repository,” Mr. Woolsey asked. “Why can't we simply recreate the same device?”
“We've actually tried multiple times over the years to duplicate what Gen. O'Neill did,” Rodney said. “The design is unstable and highly volatile. I have come to the conclusion that many of the shortcuts and modifications that the General made were kept together in an act of pure willpower.”
“Willpower?” Col. Sumner snorted. “You're saying he made it work?”
“The Ancients had many mental abilities,” Daniel interjected. “Healing, telekinesis, even the ability to read people's thoughts.”
“Did Gen. O'Neill consciously know what he was doing? Probably not,” Rodney said before Danial could get going. “But it is still a fact that he was able to create something that we can't replicate because it simply should not have worked at all.”
“I don't like the idea of taking that battery out of the Antarctic base,” Colonel Sumner said. “What if we're attacked in the interim?”
“The power requirements needed in order for the outpost to function are far less than what is required for an intergalactic dial out. If you are that worried we can hook up a half dozen naquadah generators in place of the ZPM. After the expedition leaves you can always reinstall it,” Rodney said testily. He reached into his neatly separated piles of papers. “This configuration will work without overloading any single relay while allowing full functions of the chair for at least six hours at full capacity.”
“I am still not convinced that such an endeavor is worth the cost,” Xiaoyi said. “To supply an expedition with the manpower and equipment is a great risk.”
“But the benefit to humanity, should we be successful, out ways anything we've found so far,” Weir replied.
“Perhaps,” Xiaoyi. “Or this is a fool's errand, and we send our best and brightest out to an unknown world, only for them to be trapped, perhaps to die. Will you order men and women to leave their homes and families for your treasure hunt?”
“I assure you, no one will be going against their will,” Weir said affronted.
“The list of those going is yet to be determined,” Xiaoyi replied. “I can not see how you would find enough people willing to risk their lives like that.” She turned a steely eye to those assembled. “Who here would be willing to blindly step through to an unknown galaxy?”
Daniel raised his hand immediately, but Jack grabbed it and pulled it down. “You aren't going anywhere, Daniel.”
“Daniel,” Jack's tone was implacable.
“Fine.” Daniel huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
John raised his hand, as did Rodney, Carson Beckett did as well. Then half a dozen scientists and soldiers raised their hands as well. Weir smiled at the those in the room before turning back to Xiaoyi. “I believe you have your answer.”
“This will be a strictly, volunteer only, expedition,” O'Neill said. “No one, no matter how skilled, will be coerced into going. If we find we don't have enough manpower to make it a safe or sustainable trip, then we aren't going to do it.” His eyes fell on John who stared right back. They hadn't talked about what had happened on the ship, but John had a feeling that was going to change. “That being said, in order for this expedition to work, we are going to need a list of skill sets and equipment that will make a trip sustainable. We have a preliminary list that Walter is handing out now. Give yourselves a few minutes to look it over, if you have any other suggestions, we're more than willing to hear it.”
John and Rodney skimmed the list and found it wanting.
“This is all you could think of?” Rodney asked. “Seriously?”
“You find this list objectionable?” Xiaoyi asked.
“As a matter of fact I do,” Rodney said. He reached for another stack of papers. “Major Sheppard and I have talked about this and have come up with a list of things we think would be absolutely necessary.” It took several minutes for everyone to read through the list. Several people were making incredulous noises.
“I do not see why an astrophysicist would want to to bring one thousand yards each of linen, cotton and hemp fabrics,” Xiaoyi said her eyes on a sheet in front of her. “And four industrial sewing machines and accompanying sewing supplies.”
“They are for clothing repair and replacement,” Rodney said. “Unless you expect us to find shopping mall when we get out there, we're going to need it.”
“You expect to go through clothing so quickly?” she said with a hint of disbelief.
“Ms. Xiaoyi,” Sheppard began. “How many times have you ruined clothing at work?”
“That isn't even a proper question. If one is careful and clothing properly washed, there should be no need for this sort of frivolous expenditure,” she replied. “I find this list to be, on the whole, excessive.”
“No offense, Ms. Xiaoyi,” O'Neill said. “But this is an expedition to another galaxy, not a weekend camping trip. Soldiers go through uniforms, just from doing standard exercises. What McKay and Sheppard are suggesting on this list is actually easier than supplying replacement uniforms in every size available. Things happen.”
“I see.” Xiaoyi didn't look happy. “You find it necessary to include twenty hazmat suits of levels A through D?”
“That is the bare minimum we should be taking,” Rodney said. “While I would prefer each of the expedition members be issued their own suite and that they would all have to be trained in their use, I won't hold my breath.”
“In general I did find a lot of what is on this list to be not unreasonable, even if the numbers appear excessive,” Weir said as she shifted in her seat. “I have to say I'm surprised at some of the choices and I don't think transporting live animals through the gate is a good idea.”
“I've looked over the armament list that you submitted, Col. Sumner,” O'Neill said. “Is there anything that you are missing from this list. It seems a bit sparse.”
“I was informed by Dr. Weir that we have a finite weight limit. So some of the armament that I would normally consider essential is being left out,” Sumner admitted.
“Such as?” O'Neill pushed.
“AT-4 rocket launchers for one,” Sumner replied. “I've halved the munitions I wanted to take.”
“This is to be a scientific mission, not a hostile takeover or a colonization,” Weir said. “If we go armed for war, what are those we encounter supposed to think?”
“The military contingent of the expedition is there to safeguard the scientists from hostile encounters,” Sumner replied. “What if we get out there and find a hostile force?”
“Going through the gate guns blazing is hardly going to endear us to anyone we might find on the other side,” Weir countered testily. “We're going to be heavy with equipment as it is without the added weight of military ordinance.”
“Sir, we have a solution for this,” Sheppard interrupted. “The SGC has been in negotiations with the Asgard for months in regards to the construction of the F-304 fleet.”
“I'm aware,” O'Neill said it in a way that suggested that John should be less aware of such things.
“One of the items that they have agreed to give Earth is Asgard beaming technology,” John continued, undeterred. “The actual units are very small when compared to a Goa'uld Ring Transporter. They are only about the size of one of the computer rack towers that we are planning on bringing. If we could bring one with us, we could digitize the bulkier items and store them as data and restore them once we set up our base of operation.”
“Somehow I doubt that those aliens would care one way or the other about your excessive greed, Major Sheppard,” Xiaoyi said, coolly. “You will have to make due with what you can carry on your backs if you wish for this expedition to move forward.”
“The Asgard don't like sharing their tech any more than most other advanced races,” Rodney said. “However, due to General O'Neill and SG-1 saving their entire society, they feel they owe him and his team a debt. As part of their gratitude they have relaxed their restriction when it comes to us.”
“I know they were grateful, but I hadn't realized how much it contributed to their current generosity,” Weir said.
“While they had only agreed to supply us with beaming technology for the first three F-304 ships,” Rodney replied. “However, I have been reliably informed that they have agreed to give us one more for the expedition to Atlantis.”
“When did this happen?” O'Neill asked.
“Last week, when you had me escort Hermiod during his visit to Ancient Outpost,” John admitted. “He made a statement about the doubting a human could easily convert base math on the fly. I said it wasn't that hard. So we played a few rounds of Prime Not Prime, switching between base math types. He agreed to provide a beaming array for the expedition if I won.” He did a one-shoulder shrug. “I did.”
“Just like that?” Xiaoyi asked, incredulous.
“With the understanding that if we find Atlantis intact, that we inform the Asgard of its location and condition,” John replied. “I didn't see any reason to say no since it is part of our treaty with them to share any knowledge of the Ancients we might find.”
Xiaoyi's expression was furious, but she kept quiet.
“I thought you didn't like dealing with the Asgard,” O'Neill said with amusement.
“I find their traditional mode of dress to be discomforting,” John replied diplomatically. “But that isn't enough to distract me from a good math puzzle.”
Lorne snorted. “Math geek.”
“That is Major Math Geek to you, Captain,” John replied, cheekily.
“Major,” O'Neill called his attention back. “Were you the one to suggest a squadron of F-302s?”
“Yes, sir,” John replied. “I know the risks of transporting something as volatile as jet fuel through the gate are pretty high, but what happens if we get out there and we're floating in the middle of space? Atlantis is a space ship after all.”
“You're assuming that it is still functional after millions of years,” Xiaoyi said. “The request is ludicrous, warplanes are not going to be allowed in this money pit of an endeavor.” The room was stunned into silence at her pronouncement.
“Ms. Xiaoyi,” Dr. Beckett began. “Forgive my ignorance, but why are you so against this expedition?”
“I have not stated as much,” she replied. “I am simply pointing out the difficulties.”
“You're here to represent the UN, correct?” Beckett continued.
“Of course,” she confirmed.
“Are you sure you represent a multitude of countries, or are you looking out for the interests of your birth nation?” he asked.
“I feel I should be insulted,” Xiaoyi retorted. “The United States has a great deal of influence in these proceedings, too much in my estimation.”
“I'll ask your forgiveness,” Carson continued. “However, as a native of Scotland, I have no loyalty to the United States, so do not think that I'm in any way prejudiced in their favor. I was somewhat taken aback when my brother, who works at the UN, called me last week. He was there at the UN Security Council meeting when you petitioned for control of the stargate be given to your nation. This is a matter of public record so don't look so upset.” Everyone in the room was suddenly very interested in their conversation.
“Is that a fact?” O'Neill asked dryly.
“It was tabled due to a growing concern that the Chinese government would not honor the existing treaties with our known allies,” Carson said. “The fact that there is video evidence of an execution that was carried out using a Zat-gun in order to test its effectiveness was also a concern.”
“Excuse me?” Daniel stood. “Your government used a Zat to execute someone?”
“I am not personally responsible for the actions of my government,” Xiaoyi replied heatedly, her faces flushing.
“No, but their actions call into question your motives at these proceedings,” Dr. Weir said. “As well as the petition to have you personally appointed as the civilians leader of the expedition. Which was denied, with prejudice.”
“Your government has had the advantage of gaining untold amounts of data and technologies from the worlds beyond the gate. While the rest of the world has barely seen a single piece of it being used for the betterment of the people. Do you blame us for wanting our fair share?” Xiaoyi said, standing up.
“And yet, not once has a legitimate government organization used any of this vast collection of technologies against our own people or the people of any other nation of the world,” Daniel retorted.
“That you will admit to,” Xiaoya replied. “I doubt your dirty laundry will stay hidden with the stargate program now in the public eye.”
“Is that a threat?” O'Neill asked, icily.
“It is a reminder that the United States is not the paragon of high morality that it wishes the world to think it is,” she replied. “When the truth comes out, you will find the power you hold is but mist when the world turns against you.”
“Ms. Xiaoyi,” O'Neill began, his voice tight with anger. “You will be escorted from this room and this facility by a pair of very nice security officers. If you find this objectionable, I suggest you file a formal complaint with the UN.”
“Your monopoly on the gate will not stand,” she replied. “Atlantis will not be the jewel in the crown of the imperialist Americans.” The security guards entered the room and escorted her out.
“Maybe not,” O'Neill said, standing, his eyes bright with anger. “But it won't be yours either.”
“Well that was exciting,” Dr. Lam said as the room erupted into multiple conversations.
“Alright then, back to the list of things we need to take on this expedition,” Weir said calling the room back to order. “Now, about this odd request for bees-”
John walked up to the porch of Jack O'Neill's house. He had been 'invited' over to a small party. Jack supposedly wanted to give him a few pointers when it came to first contact situations. But John was pretty sure that was just a cover story. They were two weeks from departure and Rodney was taking the opportunity to visit his sister one more time. John was planning to see his father and brother, but he wasn't going for another few days.
There was a motorcycle in the driveway, next to the general's SUV. John stared at it for a minute before he hit the doorbell. The general was in civilian clothes, a ratty pair of sweats and a Simpsons t-shirt. “Come on in. I've got a couple cold beers with your name on them.”
“Thank you, sir,” John said. “Though if it's all the same-”
“Take the beer and don't argue,” Jack ordered. He motioned for John to follow him and they headed into the living room. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small device that flashed when he hit the button. “Okay, now we can talk.”
“Sir?” John looked at the jammer now sitting on the table. It was smaller than the one McKay had made him, but it was obvious what it was for.
“The Trust may be in its death throws, but that doesn't mean other groups aren't trying to listen in,” Jack said. “Ninety percent of the time I wouldn't give a crap, especially after the truth came out, but some things don't need to be heard.”
John nodded his understanding and sat in the chair opposite O'Neill.
“Now, first thing. There is a young man named Jonathan O'Neill,” Jack said. “He's my clone, thanks to a rogue Asgard named Loki. He'll be joining the expedition as your personal executive officer. The disclosure of mission briefs is happening faster than I'm comfortable with. He might be discovered, so I want him off planet ASAP.”
“He's okay with this?” John asked.
“Ask him yourself,” Jack said. The door from a back room opened and a man in his late teens, early twenties came in. He really did look like a young version of Jack O'Neill. The hair was different, a little longer maybe, but the eyes were the same. He could pass himself off as Jack's son easily.
“John, this is Nathan O'Neill,” Jack said. “Nathan, this is Major John Sheppard.”
John stood and offered his hand. “Good to meet you, Nathan.”
“A pleasure,” Nathan replied as they shook hands. He settled onto the couch across from both of them. “Jack's kept me informed on what has happened at the SGC and the plans for the expedition.”
“So you're alright with going on what could be a one-way trip?” John asked.
“I'd rather go to Pegasus than deal with a media circus,” Nathan said. “Even with the identity change, there are people that might try to find me and use me against Jack.”
“Physically he is barely twenty years old, but he has all my memories up until the time he was created, so he'll be an asset,” Jack said.
“Will you have a problem taking orders from me or anyone of higher rank?” John asked. “Technically you were a full bird colonel when this happened.”
“I'll tow the line,” Nathan replied. “But if someone does something stupid, don't expect me to keep my mouth shut.”
“What does Sumner think about this?” John asked. Knowing the marine was a hard ass about regulations.
“I've informed him in no uncertain terms that if he objects, he can be replaced,” Jack replied. “Now about the other issue.”
John nodded his understanding, “What do you want to know?” He took a long swallow of his beer.
“I want to know who you are,” Jack said. “I've had you vetted nine ways to Sunday, trying to understand what I saw when I looked at you under the influence of the Ancient database. Trying to uncover what you're hiding, but there isn't anything.”
“That's because there is nothing to find,” John said with a sigh. “I'm John Sheppard, son of Patrick and Maria Sheppard. I have one younger brother David.”
“What aren't you telling me?” Jack demanded.
“I'm from the future,” John said.
“Seriously?” Nathan gaped.
Jack stared at him. “How far?”
“About eight years,” John replied.
“Why are you here?” Jack demanded, eyes narrowing.
“It wasn't by choice,” John said, spreading his hands open. “Things were okay, we found Atlantis. I mean, it was bad, don't get me wrong, but it wasn't anything we couldn't handle, and we were handling it. We were betrayed and things went from not great to fucking horrible in the blink of an eye.”
“Who betrayed you?” Jack asked.
“Someone we thought was a trusted friend,” John replied. “We evacuated everyone that would leave back to Earth. Rodney and I, with the rest of my team. Teyla and Ronon, they're natives of Pegasus. We held our ground as long as we could. Then we blew up the city and ourselves with it. We woke up in the past, in our own bodies.”
“We?” Jack blinked. “McKay is from the future as well?”
“Yes,” John replied, tensely.
“Anyone else?” Jack demanded.
“No,” John replied. “We've seen no evidence of anyone else from the original expedition with memories.”
“What are you doing?” Jack asked bluntly. “What is your goal?”
“All we want is to get back to Atlantis and make sure the expedition doesn't make the same mistakes,” John said. “And I will be the first to admit that we made mistakes, big ones. We're making sure that this time, we won't lose people through carelessness or ignorance.”
John expected Jack to say something but they lapsed into silence for several minutes.
“Was I on the expedition last time?” Nathan asked.
“No,” John replied. “I didn't even know you existed in the last timeline.”
“Not sure how I feel about that,” the younger man said with a grimace.
“Sir, you need to understand, this wasn't our decision,” John explained. “It isn't like we hit a switch and made this happen. Whatever brought us here, it wasn't anything we did. Once we realized what happened, we had to make a choice between letting everything play out the way it happened before, or making small changes over time in order to make things better.”
“Give me an example,” Jack demanded. “What did you change?”
“Dr. Frasier is alive,” John said. “In the original timeline, she went through the gate and was killed by enemy fire. I lost my Pararescue squad in Afghanistan when an RPG was fired into the back of my Pave Low. I punched my CO in the face after that mission and was sent to Antarctica to wait out my commission. I didn't join the SGC until I accidentally sat in the Control Chair when I flew you to the outpost. Kinsey was picked to be Vice President and the Trust was taken over by the Goa'uld.”
“Jesus,” Jack muttered. “I think I need something stronger than beer.”
“The Russian DHD exploded when Carter used it to save Teal'c from the stargate buffer,” John added. “But because Rodney knew it would happen, he attached capacitors between the connection and saved it. He also kept Col. Simmons from using him as a pawn to make waves at the SGC.”
“Can I have a drink too?” Nathan said. “Think I need it.”
“Sorry,” John said. “You asked.”
“I did,” Jack sighed. “You haven't told me details about what is going to happen.”
“No, I haven't, because I don't know how it will play out this time,” John replied. “We're being very careful.”
“Is there anything you can tell me?” Jack asked.
John had discussed this with Rodney. What could they trust O'Neill with? “Sometime after the expedition left, a cave was found here on Earth. It was thought to be the treasure cave of the mythical Merlin. As it turns out, Merlin was an Ancient who created the Camelot mythology in order to hide his abilities,” John said. “There was a device inside the cave made of crystals and small black stones. It's a way to communicate with another galaxy, but it only works if there is another device elsewhere being used at the same time.”
“That doesn't sound too bad,” Nathan said.
“Dr. Jackson decided to see how it worked,” John said.
“Oh crap,” Jack grimaced.
“He got the attention of a group of ascended beings that don't play by Ancient rules of non-interference,” John replied. “They feed off the worship of sentient beings. They started a holy crusade to convert all of the Milky Way into worshiping them.”
“That sounds... bad,” Jack said slowly.
“Billions died,” John said angrily. “Any world that wouldn't convert, they wiped out of existence. The Free Jaffa were destroyed. Langara destroyed. The Tok'ra went to ground and no one had heard from them in over a year. General Carter died, Master Bra'tak died. Nearly the entire fleet of F-304s was wiped out in a single battle. All because Jackson leaped before he looked.”
“And here on Earth?” Jack asked. He looked like he was going to be sick.
“The enemy sent a plague. Two hundred thousand people died before the Ancient, Orlin, sacrificed himself in order to help find a cure,” John said. “I don't know everything, I was busy with my own problems on Atlantis. I know Jackson was never the same. That he carried the guilt for all the lives lost to the Ori.”
“Ori?” Nathan said.
“Short for Originators. They call the religion Origin,” John said. “The Alterans, the people we know as the Ancients and the Ori are two sides of the same coin. They are the same species but there is something seriously wrong with the ones they ran from.”
“So if we find this cave?” Jack asked.
“Destroy the device before Daniel gets any funny ideas and save billions of lives in the process,” John replied.
“If Pegasus is so dangerous, why not just leave the city where it is?” Nathan asked.
“The city is currently underwater, with a thinning shield that will eventually fail. If we don't go it will rise to the surface and be exposed to anyone that has space travel capabilities. If the wrong group manages to find Atlantis, they'll come here and we won't know what hit us,” John replied. “We need the knowledge we can gain from Atlantis, but she needs us too.”
“She?” Jack asked, warily.
“The city isn't fully sentient, at least not in the way that science fiction would have us think,” John explained. “The AI can communicate to ATA gene carriers even with minimal power, but it is a more like a buzzing through your nerves rather than words.”
“What if the city was at full power?” Jack asked seriously. “Would this AI be considered a threat?”
“Not unless you tried to remove it from the system,” John said honestly. “There was a point a few years after we arrived... We'd lost Dr. Weir and they replaced her with some political appointee. They decided that the AI was a threat, simply because the system wasn't created by humans. The city fought their attempt to delete her and nearly self-destructed. It is an integral part of the city, without it, you can't repair anything.”
Jack narrowed his eyes. “You sure your not a de-ascended Ancient just fucking with me?”
“How would I know?” John shrugged. “Those assholes wouldn't let anyone keep their memories if that were the case.”
“Good point.” Jack sighed. “Anything else we need to know?”
“Yes, sir,” John replied. “Kill Ba'al as soon as possible. He somehow managed to steal Asgard cloning technology and made a couple dozen copies of himself. He needs to die before that happens.”
“I'll put that as a top priority,” Jack promised. He fiddled with the scrambler before turning it off. “Everyone going on the expedition is going to be given two weeks leave to sort out their lives. I want you to get acquainted with your XO during that time.”
“That sounds reasonable,” John agreed. He turned to Nathan. “Hi, I like football, Ferris Wheels, and anything that goes over two hundred miles per hour.”
“I like astronomy, hockey, and big guns that go boom,” Nathan replied with a cheeky grin.
“Well, then we're practically friends already,” John said, smiling back. “What now, sir?”
“I'm going to finish my beer and then I'm going to teach you the fine art of fishing,” Jack said. “After all, that is why I called you here.”
“Yes, sir.” John gave him a sardonic smile.
There was someone pounding on his door, the kind of knock that you don't want to hear in the middle of the night. John opened his eyes and looked at the clock. It read 8:30 AM. He reached into his nightstand and pulled out his sidearm. He wasn't expecting anyone today, let alone at this time of morning.
“Who is it?” He called through the door.
“Let me in, John,” a familiar voice called.
“David?” John opened the door for his brother but left the safety chain in place. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“It was all over the news this morning,” David said. “I flew out as soon as I could get the jet prepped.”
“What is all over the news?” John asked, opening the door reluctantly.
“Haven't you turned on your television?” David pushed his way inside. He looked around and saw the apartment was nearly empty, except for a few boxes. There was a recliner and a couch, but they were covered in moving boxes as well.
“As you can see, I don't actually have one at the moment,” John replied.
“You're leaving,” David said flatly. He turned to face John his eyes wide. “It's true, you're actually part of it!”
“David, if you don't start making sense, I swear I'll kick you out of here,” John replied testily.
“There was a UN document that was leaked to the press. It said there is going to be an expedition to another galaxy,” David said. “They had a list of the command staff that was going. Your name was on it.”
“Christ.” John ran his hands through his hair. “It was classified. Does anyone get what classified means anymore?”
“Were you ever going to say anything?” David demanded.
“Would it have mattered?” John shot back.
David took a step back. “What?”
“We haven't talked to each other properly in years. The last time I saw you it was right after Anubis' attack and that was for ten minutes while you were heading out the door for a business meeting,” John said. “I called to see what your plans were for the holidays, but you never got back to me.”
“Dad was all over you for that press release,” David replied. “It's wasn't like we were going to have a lot of time to talk the way he was working the media.”
“Bullshit,” John shot back. “I wanted to spend time with you and the rest of the family. You blew me off.”
“I had a meeting, it was important,” David said defensively.
“I'm a fucking embarrassment to both you and Dad because I refused to join the family business. Then I helped save the fucking planet so Dad decides it's okay to talk to me again.” John shook his head. “I came back to the house because I thought maybe you'd at least take the time to have a fucking beer with me, but no. You're just like Dad, aren't you? Business trumps family always has, always will.”
“What would have been the point?” David looked confused and a little hurt. “Do you still hate us all that much?”
“What the fuck, David? You really think I hate you?” John walked into the kitchen and started making coffee. “I am not awake enough for this conversation.”
“Well, what am I supposed to think?” David demanded. “But then this has been your MO since we were teens. Things get tough so you run away. First into the Air Force and now to another fucking galaxy.”
“That is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time.” John chuckled. “I didn't run anywhere. I had a chance to serve my country, to be more than another fucking corporate paper pusher while getting to do something that I love.” He poured a cup of coffee and started adding cream.
“You could have flown any time,” David said, exasperated. “We have a fleet of corporate planes. You could have played stick jockey anytime.”
“I save lives, David.” John slammed the creamer down on the counter. “I'm trained in Pararescue. Since by the look on your face, you obviously don't know what that is, you can take your judgments and shove them up your ass.”
“Whatever you do, it isn't worth your life,” David said, sounding angry and desperate. “And there is no way you're going to another galaxy.”
“You don't get decide that,” John replied. He took a long drink from his coffee. He didn't offer any to his brother. Sure it was petty, but he felt a little pettiness was justified for the early wake-up. “And neither does Dad.”
“You're going to tell the SGC that you've changed your mind and you're not going,” David demanded.
“Why the fuck would I do that?” John replied, his eyes narrowing with suspicion.
“If you don't, we'll tell them about your bisexuality,” David replied with a sneer. “After all, why else would you call off your wedding and fly to Vegas?”
John froze for a long moment and carefully placed his cup back on the counter. “You won't because Dad would never tolerate the stigma of his oldest son's name being dragged through the mud of the right wing radio he is so fond of listening to.”
“You think I'm bluffing?” David asked, his face going red with anger.
“I think you're scared,” John said smoothly. “I think you saw my name on that list and you decided that you had to make sure I didn't vanish through the gate before you could decide whether or not it was worth your time and effort to reconnect.”
“Fuck you, John!” David spat. “It's not like that you selfish bastard!”
“I'm selfish?” John asked. “I'm not the one planning on sending his brother to prison, just because he can't deal with his life choices.”
“W-what?” David stuttered.
“You don't actually know the penalties for violation of the Uniform Code of Conduct do you?” John said. “I could be jailed for lying on my paperwork about my sexuality. Ten years, I think is the usual sentence, plus a dishonorable discharge, and loss of pension.”
“That's- that's not what I want,” David said, going white.
“Well, that is what would have happened,” John replied, checking his watch. “Of course as of tomorrow at 1200 hours eastern time, it won't matter.”
“Didn't you hear?” John asked. “President Hayes is signing an executive order, ending Don't Ask Don't Tell, and making it legal for gays to serve in the military openly.”
“What? Why?” David asked.
“Because one of the stipulations of the Atlantis Expedition is that all soldiers are be treated equally under a single uniform code of conduct. No country with laws that restrict the rights of its soldiers may participate in the expedition. In order for the US militarily members to join, DADT had to end.” John smiled and leaned back against the counter. “Next time you try to blackmail someone, get your facts straight.”
“How can you just stand there so calmly,” David demanded. “Get mad, yell. Hit me. Do something.”
“And mess up that five thousand dollar suit you're wearing?” John shook his head.
“Damn it, John!” David threw himself at him, fists flying.
John dodged the attack easily, grappled with his brother for a few minutes before throwing him to the floor. It was a sad sight, seeing his little brother in a heap on the floor of his apartment. “I'm telling you and you can tell Dad this. I am going on the expedition. If you or he try anything to keep me from going, I will ruin you.” He waited for his brother to pick himself up off the floor. “You want to talk to me like an adult that respects my choices, you know where to find me. Until then, get the fuck out of my apartment and stay the hell out of my life.”
As soon as his brother was out the door he grabbed his phone and dialed Rodney's number. “McKay-”
“I know, “ Rodney said. “I saw. I'm pretty sure it was Shen Xaioyi that did it. I can't prove it, but this stinks of petty revenge.”
“So what does this mean for us?” John asked.
“This will probably delay departure for another month at least,” Rodney sighed. “At this rate, I'm starting to worry we'll walk through the gate the day before that hurricane is due to hit.”
“Please tell me you're joking,” John replied, tensing.
“I wish I were,” he said, tiredly. “Are you okay, you sound odd.”
“My brother showed up this morning,” John admitted.
“Do I need to ruin your family's stock values?” Rodney asked. “Because I could totally do that.”
John laughed soft and low something in his chest felt lighter just by talking to McKay. “I know you could, but no.” They were silent for a few moments. “Hey, Rodney.”
“Marry me,” John said.
“What?” Rodney gasped.
“Now?” Rodney squeaked.
“Well not right this second, but you know, soon,” John said.
“What the hell did your brother say to you?” Rodney demanded.
“I'll tell you later. But will you?” John asked again.
“You're an emotionally stunted asshole who has issues with suicidal ideation and I can not believe you are doing this over the god damned phone at eight in the morning,” Rodney complained. “But yes, you unrepentant psychopath, I will marry you.”
John felt his heart swell with contentment. “Thank you, Rodney.”
Rodney was finishing up some paperwork in order to have a clean slate before leaving on the expedition. The thick titanium band on his right hand still felt odd after wearing it for two weeks, but it was the best decision he had ever made. Not only was he secure where his relationship with John was, he now had a legal advocate that he trusted would understand his needs. Inscribed in the inside of each ring were the words “Time Unending”. He planned to never take it off.
After Rodney had been named Chief Science Officer. He got together with the other department heads and discussed what specialists they might need. When he mentioned the need for fresh food, suddenly everyone started looking for agronomists and veterinarians who might be interested in exploring strange new worlds. They added an entire Agricultural department that was separate from Botany and Biology but had several people that had crossover skills. The roster of soldiers that had experience with farming or raising livestock was marked as potential assistants.
The idea of bring bees was nixed almost as soon as it was mentioned. Rodney remembered that the planet they originally found Atlantis on had its own pollinators that made the Pegasus version of honey. Due to the Alteran tendency to seed planets with flora and fauna that mimicked Earth, Terran herbivores could easily adapt to the mainland.
There was a long argument about bringing in non-native species into an unknown environment, bring possible pathogens with them. The decision was made to bring any animals they thought might be useful, stored in Asgard beaming crystals. That way if there turned out to be problems they could be kept in storage.
There was a knock on his door which interrupted his thoughts. He looked up and felt a punch in his gut which he tried really hard not to show. It had been a long time since he had seen the young man standing before him.
“Dr. McKay?” the young marine called as he entered the room.
“Yes?” Rodney replied after a hard swallow.
“I'm Lt. Aiden Ford, sir,” Ford said. “I was asked to remind all the department heads that there is a meeting in ten minutes.”
“Thank you,” Rodney replied. As Ford turned to leave Rodney called him back. “Lieutenant?”
“Yeah?” Ford asked.
“I've been working on several projects, so I haven't had the chance to meet all of the members of the expedition,” Rodney said. “I assume you are coming with us.”
“Yes, sir,” Ford replied with a beaming smile. “I'm looking forward to seeing what is on the other side.”
“As you should,” Rodney agreed. “How much gate experience do you have?”
“Not a lot.” Ford shrugged. “I was part of the geology survey team for the last six months.”
“No combat experience?”
“A couple skirmishes with the Lucian Alliance in the last few weeks,” Ford replied. “No one gets to go through the gate without some combat experience. So it isn't like we're just out of boot camp.”
“I never suggested that you didn't have experience,” Rodney said. “I'm glad to have you on the team.”
“Thank you!” Ford gave him another bright smile. “Listen, um, I heard about you and Major Sheppard getting married.”
“Yes? And?” Rodney straightened.
“Well, I just wanted to say congratulations,” Ford replied, shifting a little uncomfortably. “I know some guys might give you problems, but none of them are part of the expedition. So you don't have to worry about that.”
Rodney relaxed a fraction. “Thank you, that is good to know.”
Ford looked at the clock on the wall. “Eight minutes until that meeting.”
“Yes, yes,” Rodney waves him off. When Ford was gone he lowered his head into his hands and tried to breathe deep.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the Atlantis expedition,” Gen. O'Neill called as he entered the conference room with newly promoted Col. Carter and Col. Everett a step behind him. “As you know with the information about our plans were leaked to the press. This has created something of a sensation in the media and the UN and Homeworld Security have asked the SGC to make the expedition's departure open to the public.”
“Excuse me?” Col. Sumner said, standing. “How public?”
“We're going to move the stargate to Falcon football stadium at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs,” Col. Carter said. There was dead silence for a moment and then the entire room erupted with shouts of disbelief and consternation.
“Permission to speak freely,” Col. Sumner asked O'Neill.
“Granted,” he replied, warily.
“That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard in my entire life,” Sumner said. “It'll be a logistical and security nightmare.”
“Don't you think I know that?” O'Neill replied. “I've been arguing against it for the last forty-eight hours. Unfortunately, President Hayes happens to think it will be great public relations.”
“Fine,” Sumner growled. “How much security will we have?”
“The academy is at minimum staff at the moment, Summer courses have started yet. We'll have the place mostly to ourselves,” O'Neill reassured him. “We're going to turn the place into an armed camp. The media will have very limited access to the site. Stationary remote-controlled cameras will be set up to cover the event. There will be a lottery for people to enter to get tickets, enough to fill the stadium.”
“We'll make it work,” Weir said optimistically. “Now, there are a few last minute changes that need to be handled. Nothing huge.” She turned her attention to the room. “First, I would like to let everyone know that my long-time partner, Dr. Simon Wallace, will be joining the expedition. I told him where we were going and he didn't like the idea of me disappearing through the wormhole. We got married last week after he passed his security check. His research is focused on pediatric medicine so his skills won't be immediately useful, but I hope that he can be welcomed as a member of the medical team.”
“We can always use another doctor,” Dr. Lam said. “I've had a chance to look over his files and I find him to be an acceptable, though not my first choice.” She turned to Col. Sumner. “As we are all here I regret to inform you, Colonel, you won't be making the journey.”
“Excuse me?” Sumner said. “What do you mean I'm not going?”
“I'm sorry, Marshal,” O'Neill said. “Please report to the infirmary, Dr. Fraiser will apprise you of the situation.”
“I don't understand,” Sumner said, he turned to Everett. “Dillon? You're taking command?”
“I am,” he replied, conveying his discomfort. “I don't know any more than you do, buddy. Just go do as they said, you know the drill.”
Sumner saluted O'Neill and walked out of the room. Rodney and John looked at each other, this was nothing like they expected. The room erupted into conversations as everyone tried to recover from the shock of what had just happened.
“Major Sheppard, Dr. McKay,” O'Neill turned to him. “I understand congratulations are in order?”
“Yes, sir,” John replied. “We would have invited you, but we had to go to Canada to make it official.”
“My sister Jeannie and Nathan were our witnesses,” Rodney replied.
“I know,” he replied, dryly. “Nathan is the one that let the cat out of the bag. I wanted to know what the hell he was doing going on a road trip. To say I was surprised is an understatement.”
“Did you really expect him to hide in the mountain or in that safe house you dropped him into until we left?” Rodney asked.
“Yes,” O'Neill replied, annoyed. “Not the point.”
“Then what is the point?” John asked, raising an eyebrow in a casual challenge.
O'Neill met his eyes for a long moment, then relaxed. “Never mind,” he sighed. “Honestly I'm happy for you both. Though why you would marry McKay is beyond me.”
“You could say I've become accustomed to his face,” John replied, slipping his hand into Rodney's.
“If you're still having problems choosing between your old teammates,” Rodney told him snidely. “I hear a lot of planets practice polyamory. It might be less messy than the slow torture you've put them through for the past eight years.”
O'Neill gaped at him, shocked and furious.
“So I'm curious, sir,” John said quickly. “How are we going to dial out? We don't have a DHD and from what I can tell, the dialing computer isn't exactly portable.”
“Something I've been pointing out for years,” Rodney added.
“The Russians are flying the DHD in over tonight,” O'Neill sighed. “As much as I don't want them here, the powers that be want to make it an event of international cooperation.”
“Sumner wasn't wrong, sir,” John said. “This is going to be a logistical nightmare.”
“Let me worry about the logistics,” O'Neill said. “Just make sure you have everything you're planning to bring either digitized or packed and marked for transport.”
“Speaking of digitizing,” Rodney said quietly. “Has Hermiod delivered the beaming apparatus to the SGC?”
“Yes, this morning,” O'Neill replied. “Why?”
“No reason, just making sure,” Rodney replied.
“I'm not going to ask what you two are planning to smuggle to Pegasus,” he said, shaking his head. “Just don't get caught.”
“Yes, sir,” John replied.
The bulk of the expedition's supplies were being housed in a previously unoccupied building across the street from the stadium. It was under guard twenty-four hours a day and buzzed with activity. Military and civilian personnel came and went at all hours adding to the ever growing pile of supplies.
The power requirements for the gate were too much for the campus power grid, so they brought in a naquadah generator. which would power the gate directly. The interface for the ZPM had to be plugged into a set of capacitors which would absorb any outside power fluctuations.
With the team finalized, the countdown to departure was officially underway. While Rodney wasn't turning cartwheels over all the choices, it was a nice mix of pragmatic and experienced gate personnel and bright minds eager to explore. Despite what Rodney had remembered of the man from the original timeline, Everett turned out to be even-tempered and reasonable.
SG-21 had to be broken up in order to allow Sheppard's participation in the expedition. Captain Holland and Airman Ross had volunteered to go. Neither of them had any family and were willing to see something new. After some discussion, it was decided that Endi would to take over the team and SG-21 would be rebuilt.
Captain Lorne was added when it was found that he had an affinity for Ancient technology. Nathan O'Neill was sorted in as an Air Force Lieutenant and given all the relevant paperwork. He would be equal in rank to Marine lieutenants Aiden Ford and Stephen Uboshita.
The rest were sergeants like Bates, Marcus, Stackhouse and non-commissioned infantry from six different nations.
Dr. Weir was still the civilian head of the expedition, however rather than be alone at the top, a UN adviser, Dr. Camile Wray and her wife Sharon Walker, had joined to work in a secretary/advisory position in order to help manage the day to day issues of the roughly three hundred people going through the gate.
Dr. Carolyn Lam was named Chief Medical Officer, she was a trauma surgeon, with years of experience working in harsh conditions as a member of Doctors without Borders. She had a strict moral code when it came to treating all her patients equally. She was opposed to chemical and biological weapons and had strong reservations about genetic experimentation. She also had a strong expression of the ATA gene and was not intimidated by alien technology.
There was an entire social science department that contained anthropologist, archaeologists, genealogists and political scientists of which Weir technically part of, but Dr. Wray was in charge of the scientific research aspects.
Hermiod had come through with the Asgard beaming array which he delivered directly to John at his apartment because it was John that had won the bet, therefore John was the person that the array belonged to. John, Rodney, and the little alien spend a day reducing all the extra equipment and supplies that they had stockpiled into a dozen Asgard crystals, which they sewed into the lining of their expedition jackets.
They then went to a farm Rodney had secretly hired to raise animals with the Lantean climate in mind. He was clueless when it came to animals and farming, but he knew what had worked on Lantea and what the climate had been like at the mainland settlement. There was over fifty head of Highland Cattle, another thirty head of goats, over a hundred chickens, ten draft horses, and twenty Appaloosa riding horses. Hermiod assured them that the animals would not be harmed no matter how long they were left in the storage crystals, so long as the crystals remained intact. These crystals they sewed into the inner lining of their personal backpacks. Rodney paid the farmers double the cost for the livestock in order to buy their silence about where the animals went.
The remaining crystals were used to store the official stockpile of standard artillery that the military wanted to bring and several larger pieces of scientific equipment that they thought they would need but were too delicate to just roll through the gate into an unknown location.
“If that is all that you require, Major Sheppard, Dr. McKay,” Hermiod said. “I shall take my leave. I have been informed that a Dr. Lee is in need of assistance in comprehending the hyper-drive schematics.”
“That's a lost cause,” Rodney replied. “This is for you.” He handed Hermiod a data crystal. “It is the coordinates for a world of Asgard in Pegasus that you lost contact with about half a million years ago.”
“When we meet again, you will explain how you know of that,” Hermiod said.
“I'll be happy to,” Rodney replied.
“Safe journey, Dr. McKay, Major Sheppard.” In a flash, he was gone.
“I still don't get why they insist on being naked,” John muttered.
Rodney looked at him hard and rolled his eyes before he walked away.
“What?” John called after him.
It was a wholesale spectacle at the football stadium the morning of the departure. Ten thousand people had packed into the bleachers all of them yelling and carrying on. The SGC and local law enforcement had to create a perimeter around the field to make sure no one tried to rush the gate. Several people had attempted to sneak into over the past few days. A few were just pranksters, but one group had been found to be carrying explosives, with the intent to destroy the stargate for the 'good of humanity'.
The United Nations Secretary General stood behind a podium and gave a speech about how this was a step forward for the entire human race. President Hayes gave a speech about history judging their generation by their accomplishments. Dr. Weir stood before the lights and cameras looking confident and unbelievably happy. Standing behind her was the last minute, unexpected, addition to the expedition, Dr. Simon Wallace MD. In the previous timeline, Weir had left on the expedition without telling Wallace where she was headed or how long she would be gone. John had learned much later that Weir had left a video message for him that was delivered long after it the expedition had gone through the wormhole. Which was probably the most tone deaf 'Dear John' letter he had ever heard of.
Weir took her place at the microphone and spoke of the need to explore, to seek new horizons, and of the benefit to humanity that might be found beyond the event horizon. She spoke of the bravery of all those going on the journey and how there was a chance that they might never be able to return home. “Now remember we only have enough power for one shot at this. We will dial in, check for viability and go. All in one shot. If anyone has any second thoughts, now is the time to step back.” She waited for a long moment, even the crowd had hushed to hear if anyone would step away. “Then dial the gate.”
Col. Chekhov of Russia walked up to the DHD and started pressing chevrons. As the seventh chevron locked the crowd began to cheer when the eighth chevron locked and the wormhole was established the crowd roared in excitement. A MALP was sent through and the readouts were announced. Breathable air, no measurable toxins, and while it was dark, it appeared to be structurally intact. The images were projected onto the stadium's jumbotron for everyone to see.
“Jack, I could just-” Daniel could be heard muttering over the microphones.
“No,” Jack replied.
“I have a pack.” Daniel seemed to entreat.
“No,” Jack said again, very calmly.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Col. Dillon Everett said over the roar of the crowd. “Remember, we have thirty-five minutes to get everything through. As soon as you are past the event horizon, move to the farthest clear area. Do not pause to stare, do not touch anything until you are given the all clear.” He reached the top of the walkway and turned around.“Dr. Weir,” he called. “Would you accompany me through the gate?” This was a break from what they had practiced. Weir was supposed to enter with the second line along with the heads of each department.
“It would be a pleasure, Colonel,” she said with a smile.
“Atlantis expedition team,” General O'Neill ordered through the PA system. “Move out.”
John broke through the event horizon into the darkness of the Atlantis gate room, not sure what to expect, Rodney was a step behind him. Spouses were paired up for the gate transfer, just in case, there was a sudden shutdown. They didn't want to strand couples millions of light years apart.
As they walked forward, the lights in the room began to turn themselves on. John saw Everett was already on the control level, though it remained dark. The risers on the stairs started to light up the moment John stepped on them. The intense feeling of welcome coruscated over his skin as the room brightened with each step he took further away from the gate.
“Who is doing that?” Weir asked as several more areas lit up.
“All teams report. Any sign of movement?” Everett called over the radio. At the negative replies, he shook his head. “Dr. McKay, do you have any theories?”
“Sheppard has a very strong expression of the ATA gene,” Rodney replied. “He has made rooms in the Ancient outpost on Earth light up just by walking into it. I don't see this to be any different.”
“Thanks for throwing me under the bus, honey,” John said with a bright smile.
“Just doing my job, dear,” Rodney replied, waggling his eyebrows.
Everett scowled at them. “Be careful then.”
“Yes, sir,” John replied. They made it up to the control area and started pulling off dust covers. “Rodney, can you interface with these like you did at the outpost?” The question was for the benefit of those watching them.
“It should be fairly easy,” he replied, as he pulled his pack off and pulled out the connecting wires he needed. In less than five minutes he had the cities power grid information displayed on his laptop. “Okay, this is looking terrible, but then I was expected nightmarish, so we have some time.”
“Sir!” Ford called from next to the gate. “That is the last of out people and equipment.”
“Thank you, Lt. Ford,” Everett replied. “Dr. Weir, you have the honor.”
Weir activated her radio. “People of Earth, this is Dr. Elizabeth Weir, leader of the Atlantis Expedition, sending you greetings from the Pegasus Galaxy. You may power down the gate.”
“We read you, Dr. Weir,” O'Neill replied through a roar of the watching crowd. “Good luck. We'll keep the lights on for you.” Just before the gate shut down, a crate on wheels rolled through the event horizon, holding what looked like a case of champagne. Then the gate shut down and they were on their own.
“How are we on power?” John asked in a soft voice.
“Critically low, as expected,” Rodney said. “But I'd like to try and bring the city up rather than waiting for the failsafe to kick in. A lot of very sensitive areas were flooded and damaged last time. I'd like to avoid that.”
“How do we do that and keep our cover?” John asked.
“I'm willing to go all in on the Atlantis is speaking to you,” Rodney replied.
“Seriously.” John huffed. “She didn't start that until we installed a ZPM.”
“True, but I don't have the gene therapy yet and I felt that rush of warmth directed right at you,” Rodney replied.
“Okay, okay, yes, she's pushing me to do something.” John looked around. “I'm pretty sure I know what it is, but it'll freak people out.”
“Right, so let's play up the ATA influence,” Rodney replied. He gave John a once over. “We don't have to play it up at all, do we?” John shook his head minutely.
“Dr. Weir, Col. Everett,” John called. “If you could come over here a minute.”
“Have you found something Major?” Everett demanded.
“Yes, sir,” John replied.
“Dr. Weir!” Peter Grodin ran up the steps. “You have to see this.”
“There are a lot of things to see, Peter,” she chided him gently.
“We are underwater,” he said excitedly. “Hundreds of feet below the surface. It's incredible.”
“What?” Weir exclaimed.
“I'll show you,” Peter replied. Both Weir and Everett followed him down the stairs and out a side corridor that leads to one of the many wide windows.
“Seriously?” Rodney huffed.
“Fuck it.” John put his M4 on top of Rodney's pack. “I'm doing this now.” He stalked down the stairs to where Dr. Zelenka was sitting on a pallet of crates. “Radek, I need you to move that pallet.”
“Certainly, Major,” he said standing. “Where would you like it?”
“Five feet to the right,” John said.
“That is rather specific,” he said, but grabbed the controller for the pallet jack and pulled the pile of irreplaceable computer equipment to another section of the floor.
Dr. Lam walked over to him and looked down at the floor. “What are you doing Major?” she asked.
“Well,” John knelt down on the floor and pushed on a specific plate. “I'm not completely sure.”
“But it is really important that you do it?” she asked.
“Something like that,” John said. “Do you feel it too?”
“Yes,” she replied. “It's like a whisper in my head since the lights started to turn on.”
“Okay, let me do this.” A cylinder rose from the floor, causing a whole lot of commotion through the gate room. “Nobody panic,” he said. The top of the cylinder opened to show a palm reader glowed invitingly.
“Major, what are you doing,” Ford asked, his P-90 gripped tightly in his hand.
“Relax, Lieutenant,” Rodney said, coming down the stair. “Ancient technology had yet to cause Major Sheppard any harm.”
“I don't think you should touch that,” Ford replied.
“Lt. Ford, stand down,” Lt. O'Neill called as he ran into the situation from the far side of the room. He might have the face of a twenty-year-old, bu he was still able to use his command voice to effect. “It's nothing harmful.”
Ford turned to look at Nathan, which is when John put his hand on the palm reader. A bright light erupted from the floor and the ceiling, enveloping him. He felt the presence of the city wrap itself briefly around his mind in greeting before he thought at the system. “Authorization; omega omega 9011, 521, gamma. Directive: Rise.”
“Authorized; City protocols active. Genetic Key Override Recognized. Sea floor anchor disengaged. Welcome home, scion of Janus.”
“Well fuck,” John muttered as he pulled his hand off the column and it sank back into the floor like it had never been there. Th city shook violently sending unsuspecting people tumbling to the floor. Cries of alarm went up as the city shook again and the entire structure began to rise.
“Major Sheppard!” Col. Everett ran into the room on unsteady legs. “What the hell is going on?”
“He touched something on the floor and now the whole place is shaking apart,” Ford said, trying to bring his gun to bear.
“Don't shoot!” O'Neill said over the din.
“Wait for it!” Rodney yelled coming to stand between Ford and his husband.
“Make it stop!” Ford demanded, his eyes wide with fear.
“Give it two minutes,” John said, he had his hands in front of him in a non-threatening way. “We're heading for the surface.”
Weir entered the room, her hand on the wall to steady herself. “You had better be right, Major.”
“We're moving,” Zelenka said excitedly.
Suddenly the gate room was flooded with natural light coming through the stained glass windows on every side. It took several more moments for the rocking to subside and the city to settle on the surface. Doors and windows opened to let in fresh air as the water drained away. Everyone who was able to ran to look outside. The magnificence of the city was on display for all to see, glittering silver on the bright blue waters of an alien sea.
“Major,” Everett barked. “What the hell was that?”
“The city was underwater,” Rodney said. “It needed to be on the surface or the shield that was protecting it was going to fail within a few hours.”
“I asked the Major,” Everett growled at him. “Not you, Dr. McKay.”
“If Sheppard hadn't acted, I would have,” Dr. Lam replied. “There was a pressure to do something, it centered on the part of my mind that is stimulated when I interact with Ancient technology.”
“I was just a step behind the both of them, sir,” O'Neill added.
“If the shield had failed we would have all drowned,” Rodney told him. “Sheppard used his affinity with the ATA to do what needed to be done to save all our lives.”
“Fine!” Everett growled in frustration. “But next time, you come to me before you pull another stunt like this.”
“Yes, sir,” John said, trying to get to his feet. Everett marched out to look at the city, Ford only a few steps behind him.
“Are you alright, John?” Rodney asked quietly.
“Yeah,” John breathed out slow. “Just... I used the authorization codes we found that last year. The city opened up the protocols to accept us. It called me a scion of Janus.”
“Well that explains a lot,” Rodney replied. “Come on, let's go see our city.”
“Yeah, okay,” John replied but paused as he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
Simon Wallace ran to his wife's side. “Elizabeth, are you alright?”
“I'm fine,” Weir grabbed his hand and hugged him. She pulled back and stared into his face with a look of intense love and trust. “I'm glad you're here with me.”
“Let's take a look around shall we?” he smiled back and escorted her out to one of the balconies.
John frowned at them, a niggling worry in the back of his head.
“Hey! I think we just found spaceships!” Someone shouted over the radio and everyone was off exploring again.
“That can not happen again,” Weir said tightly, she was sitting with Col Everett at her right and Dr. Wray at her left. She had called a meeting of all the command staff but had included all the people with the strongest expression of the ATA. Sheppard, Lorne, O'Neill, were supposed to be there as they were part of the military chain of command. Sgt. Stackhouse and Sgt. Markham were standing uncomfortably in the rear of the room with a half a dozen other soldiers, because of they all had the ATA gene. Dr. Beckett, Dr. Lam, Dr. Kusanagi, and Dr. Parish were seated along with several other civilians.
“Begging your pardon, Dr. Weir,” Carson said. “but it was a bloody good thing that Major Sheppard seemed to know what he was doing. Otherwise, we'd have all met a very sticky end.”
“I am aware of that,” Weir replied, clearly shaken by what had happened. “But what happens if next time one of you feels compelled to touch something, someone dies?”
“I can attest that the likely hood of that happening is infinitesimal,” Rodney replied. “The protocols in the Ancient technology are passive ninety-five percent of the time. The only time anyone feels compelled to touch something is when there is a problem. When something needs to be fixed or activation is necessary for safety reasons.”
“We actually have procedures for these sort of situations,” John admitted. “And I'll be the first to admit that I ignored them, but this was a red alert screaming in my head. I tried to tell you, but both you and Colonel Everett weren't listening.”
“So you're saying your behavior should be excused?” Camile Wray asked, her fingers tapping impatiently on the table.
“I'm saying that the urgency in which I acted was unique. We were under an immediate threat,” John replied. “If the situation were to repeat itself, I would have tried harder to alert the Colonel or one of the other command staff.”
“Now that the immediate danger is over, I can tell you all what we were facing,” Rodney pulled up the data on the main monitor in the room. “This is the city, the green you see is where the shield was covering the structure as a thin skin, just barely holding the water back.”
“What are those red areas?” Weir asked.
“Those are areas that the shield failed and were already flooded,” Rodney replied. “We are fortunate that the water hadn't penetrated beyond the first hundred yards of the structure. There is no telling what salt water would do to Ancient equipment under pressure.”
“From what I see, we still had time,” Wray commented.
“Yes, the city was sacrificing uninhabited areas to save the central tower,” Rodney agreed. “But we have no idea what volatile or dangerous experiments the Ancients might have left behind in those structures and as I said, salt water and hundreds of feet of depth pressure? Not a good combination.”
“You've made your point,” Weir said, testily. “Any disciplinary issues will be handled by Col. Everett. For now, we use extreme caution as we explore the city.” She looked down at her tablet. “Dr. Lam, Dr. Beckett has submitted a report that claims that his gene therapy is ready for testing.
“Yes, I have reviewed it,” she replied. “I am willing to allow limited human trials.”
“Dr. Lam, we need as many people as possible with the ability to handle Ancient technology,” Weir said. “We were stymied right and left when we were exploring the outpost on Earth because some of us can't even get the doors to open.”
“I do understand that Dr. Weir,” Dr. Lam replied. “I have a list of people who have the genetic marker but it is recessive. I'll allow them to have the treatment if they wish. If there are no problems, then I will allow the therapy to be used on those without a recessive gene.”
“Dr. Beckett?” Weir turned to him. “Do you have a list of those willing to take the therapy?”
“Yes,” Carson replied. “I'll set up a time for them to receive the treatment.”
“They will be kept under observation for at least twenty-four hours,” Dr. Lam cautioned. “I want video of how they react and scans every hour.”
“I don't think that is necessary,” Dr. Beckett replied.
“It is standard protocol,” Dr. Lam reminded him sharply. “Just because we are in another galaxy does not give us the right to ignore safe medical practices.”
“Yes,” Dr. Beckett paled. “Of course.”
“I'll expect a full report by the end of the week,” Weir said. “Now on to the next issue. Sleeping arrangements.”
It was nearly two weeks later after finding suitable living quarters for everyone and setting up a power grid of naquadah generators that now powered most of the city at acceptable levels when they finally cleared the puddlejumpers for a test flight. O'Neill, Sheppard, Dr. Zelenka and Dr. Parish flew out to see if the maps of the planet were accurate and locate the main continent.
“So what do you think?” John said as he let the lieutenant take the controls.
“The ride is smooth, but I'm a little leery about not being able to feel the velocity,” Nathan said.
“Considering how fast we're going, that's not a bad thing,” John pointed to the readings. “We're going Mach 10.”
“Seriously?” Nathan double checked the readings. “I'll be damned.”
“So this thing is shaped like a piece of pasta and it's designed to fly both in the air and through space?” Parish asked.
“Yep,” John said. “Rodney thinks it could go underwater too.”
“Designs to keep vacuum of space out are different than keeping depth pressure from cracking the hull. I don't see how it would work for both,” Zelenka said.
“We'll have to test it out later,” O'Neill said. His eyes stared at the readings. “What the hell is that?”
The HUD showed a huge storm on the long range sensors.
“That is really large,” Parish said. “Bigger than any hurricane we've ever had on Earth.”
“Let's head up and get a look at this from orbit,” John said, changing direction. “We need to know where this is going.”
“Can we still get the soil samples?” Parish asked. “Because I really need them.”
“Yes, Dr. Parrish,” John assured him. “We'll just fly over the storm.”
“This storm is how big?” Weir asked st the head of the conference room table.
They had moved there after calling a meeting of all department heads. She had claimed the office just off the gate room as her own, just as she had in the first timeline because it afforded her a clear view of the stargate. This was something that John had hoped to avoid, but somehow she had convinced Col. Everett to allow it. He had learned the hard way that the room was a security and logistical nightmare. There was no safe egress out of there if an invasion force gained access to the gate room. While there was a second door in the office, it leads out to a balcony, worse, the glass that made up the bulk of the interior walls wasn't bulletproof, let alone blast proof.
The conference room, was where the Alteran leaders had always conducted city business. It was large, with two points of egress even when the multi-paneled door was closed. Those doors were both blast proof and laser resistant.
“One thousand one hundred kilometers wide and getting larger as it moves into warmer water,” Zelenka said. “We measured wave heights as tall as twenty meters in places and a sustained wind of one hundred and fifty kilometers an hour around the eye.” He used one of the Ancient monitors to upload the information the puddlejumper's scanners. The image of the giant hurricane was startling.
“And it's heading for us?” Everett asked, worried.
“Yes, sir,” John replied. “We've got about three days before the first cloud bands reach us, but it is coming.”
“What are our options,” Everett asked, turning his attention from the screen to the men and women around him.
“Is there any way we could move Atlantis out of the way?” Weir asked.
“Atlantis is not a boat,” Zelenka replied with a shake of his head. “While there are water jets that the city uses to maintain position, there is not nearly power to create enough thrust in them to push the city out if the way with the time we have.”
Weir grimaced but nodded her understanding.
“Can we sink the city back under the water?” Wray asked.
“No,” Rodney replied. “We would need the shield up for that and there is nowhere near enough power.”
“There is also the problem that we have no idea how the Ancients lowered the city under the water in the first place,” Zelenka muttered.
“So what do you suggest?” Everett asked.
“Rodney and I have been discussing this over the radio for some time,” Zelenka said. “We need the city shield to save the city. However, we do not have enough power left in the ZPM to operate it.”
“There is a chance we might be able to power it with the storm itself,” Rodney said, his eyes on Zelenka who nodded in agreement. “The plan isn't without risks.”
“There are a several grounding stations around the city, meant to stop the build up of static electricity from causing problems as well as channeling lightning from smaller storms away from the superstructure and into the water. We can use the power from the storm, channeling it into the shield generators and save the city.” Zelenka said.
“What's the catch?” Everett asked.
“The catch is the power will run through the conductive metal in the walls and floors all over the city,” Rodney replied. “The control room and the jumper bay, are the only exceptions as they seem to be insulated.”
“That would be tight quarters,” Everett said, thoughtfully. “Bunking everyone down on the floor through the storm.
“While I'm fairly confident in my own ability not to get seasick, I can't say the same for my fellow scientists,” Zelenka said. “Dr. Wagner, in particular, will be highly susceptible to it as the storm gets closer.”
“And the storm will affect the city for days, not just the hours that the eye is closest,” Rodney added. “As Sheppard said, three days for the leader bands of clouds, then the storm has to move past us, which with its size and speed should take about two days. After that, it should be clear sailing,”
“A week of bad seas,” Everett grimaced. “I may be a Marine, but that isn't going to be pleasant for anyone. We do have an alternative though.” He nodded toward the closed doors that lead out to the gate room.”
“Are you suggesting we should evacuate the city?” Weir said.
“It would be the safest option for all our people,” Everett said.
“Yes,” Rodney replied. “But first we need to move all our sensitive equipment into the gate room. That will take some time since we've unpacked everything.”
“We haven't been through the gate yet.” Everett pointed out with a mildly reproachful look at Weir. “We need to find a safe haven.”
“Col. Everett,” Weir said as she turned to him. “Find us a safe harbor until the storm is over. A ZPM would be better, but we'll take what we can get.”
“Yes, Ma'am,” Everett nodded and headed out of the room. “Sheppard, Ford, Bates, gear up.”
Rodney stood, his face pensive. “Colonel, you are going to need a scientist with you.”
“Are you volunteering, Doctor?” Col. Everett said in a way that seemed mocking.
“As a matter of fact I am,” Rodney replied. “The gene therapy worked, so I can use the Ancient hand scanners to help us find strong energy sources.”
“I should go as well,” Dr. Parish piped in. “We need to get an idea of what the flora and fauna are like beyond this world.”
“Very well doctors,” Everett sighed. “Gear up and be ready in twenty minutes.”
There was a great deal of excitement as the first group made ready to go through the gate. Several scientists bustled around the team. Many, it seemed, wanted a chance to go through the gate.
Grodin seemed to appear out of nowhere and handed each of them a GDO. “These are just like the ones at the SGC, remember, we won't lower the shield unless we get your code.”
“Understood,” Everett replied. “Have we chosen a gate address?”
“There is an entire library of them,” Grodin shrugged. “I thought we would go with the first one to connect and hope for the best. The DHD said the first was listed as habitable, but nothing else.”
“The new MAPL will give us a better idea,” Everett replied.
“Certainly better than those clunky things at the SGC,” Rodney replied.
The new remote controlled sensor drone was about half the size of the original. They had been assembled weeks ago as one of the first projects but had simply sat in a small storage room gathering dust as Weir dragged her heels about assembling gate teams.
“Guess where we're going,” Rodney said to his husband in a low tone.
“Athos,” John breathed over the noise of the gate dialing. “Teyla...”
“The first habitable planet on the list,” Rodney confirmed. “Just make sure we don't touch anything wraith related.”
John nodded and gripped his M4 tightly as Everett gave the order for everyone to move out. He glanced back at the balcony, seeing Simon Wallace standing close to Weir was so odd it made him uncomfortable. It wasn't as if he didn't want Weir happy, but this change was throwing him off. A moment later he stepped through the event horizon.
The darkness of the world was a little unsettling. The way the sun sank so quickly over the horizon spoke of the twelve-hour Athosian rotation. The people of this world had always lived with the idea that the darkness was a part of their lives and they celebrated the rise of their twin moons as much as they greeted the rising of the second dawn.
The search team spread out but kept their weapons slung. It had been Sumner that had insisted they search with weapons free. It had not been the best way to make friends, and John had never allowed his gate teams to be so openly aggressive once he'd had to take command. Everett was a more pragmatic man, who had been given command of one of the geology survey teams after Jack O'Neill had been promoted to Brigadier General. In truth, neither Sumner nor Everett had a lot of first contact experience. They were often given command of situations that had already been negotiated.
“There are life signs only a dozen meters to the right.” Rodney indicated toward the sparse trees.
“There is a well-worn path leading that way,” Ford said.
“Well let's go meet the neighbors,” Everett said. “After you, Sheppard.”
They walked down the path a short distance. Until John could see movement. “Greetings,” he called.
“Who comes down the path,” a familiar voice called.
“Travelers,” John replied. “May we approach?”
Halling was a very tall man, kind and generous, but also very set in his ways and traditions. Over the years his belief in the divinity of the Ancients had been a source of friction between the expedition and the Athosians.
“Greetings, travelers,” he said. “I am Halling.”
“John Sheppard,” John replied. “This is my commander Col. Dillon Everett. My husband, Rodney McKay and several others of our people.”
“Have you come to trade?” Halling looked over their equipment warily.
John glanced at Everett, who was watching with a keen eye. The colonel motioned that he should take the lead.
“Yes, but perhaps we could speak to the leader of your people?” John replied.
“Of course,” Halling said. “This way.”
They followed him down the path, there were about a dozen kids running around as they neared the village. Everett didn't seem too impressed by the domed tents, but the tall, elegant torches that lit the area spoke of skilled metal work.
“Teyla, I bring men from away,” Halling said.
“Enter,” Teyla called.
John stepped through the tent and looked right into Teyla Emmagan's eyes. She stared right back, eyes widening for just a moment. “I am Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan.”
It took a lot for John to make himself work a script that he knew he needed to say, but he managed it. Introducing his leader and the men around him.
“We do not trade with strangers,” Teyla said.
“Well, then we'll have to get to know each other,” John said. “May we sit and talk a while?”
“Please,” she said and motioned to the other side of the table. “Perhaps a friendship can begin.”
After an hour a very light talk, John got down to business. “My people are in a position where a storm might wipe out our settlement. We need to evacuate through the gate until the storm is passed. The damage can be repaired, but we don't want to risk our people.”
“How many people?” Teyla asked.
“A little over three hundred,” John admitted. “All we need is an open field to set up tents until the storm is over, then we will be out of your way.”
“And how long would you plan to stay here?” Halling asked.
“Not long,” John said. “Six days at the most. Um, days being a twenty-four hour period. I'm sorry, I'm not sure how you measure time here.”
“Our world rotates fully every twelve hours,” Teyla explained. “Your scale of time would make that twelve solar rotations.”
“I see,” Everett stepped in. “We're hoping this won't be a problem.”
“It is a bit of an imposition, to bring so many through the Ring of the Ancestors,” Teyla replied. “Do you have anything to trade?”
Everett blinked, obviously not having thought of it.
“Linen cloth,” Rodney said. He reached into his pack and pulled out a sample. He passed it across the table and Teyla's fingers brushed his. Their eyes met for a moment, but Teyla was all business.
“This is very well made,” she said of the undyed cloth. “I would be foolish not to avail my people of such a resource, but so many people, even bringing your own supplies will make for crowded living. I would be agreeable to two hundred yards of such cloth.”
“That's a bit steep,” John said, smiling. “Seventy-five yards.”
“Perhaps you do not need shelter as much as you claim.” Teyla replied. “One hundred and fifty yards.
“One twenty-five.” John said.
“Done.” Teyla agreed. “There is a large grassy field to the north of the Ancestor's Ring. There is a river that runs through it for fresh water.” She turned to Everett. “Please let your leader know I look forward to meeting more of your people.”
“Of course Ms. Emmagan,” Everett said. “Sheppard, McKay, stay here, I'll inform Dr. Weir we have a place of egress.”
“Don't forget the cloth,” Rodney called. They finished the tea that was served under the watchful eyes of several Athosians. Dr. Parrish asked casually about where the tea came from and if he could have a sample. Teyla promised to give him a small packet when they received the linen cloth as a show of friendship.
“Please walk with me,” Teyla said standing. She led them down the path to the lake as the noise from the camp died away she said, “I wonder, do you still like Ferris Wheels, John?”
“Teyla?!” Both men exclaimed.
“You remember!” Rodney said in disbelief.
“Yes,” she said, her eyes bright with tears. “When I woke in my father's tent. I thought I had gone mad.”
“I missed you so much,” John said as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her into a hug. Rodney hesitated for a moment but joined the embrace.
“We didn't know if anyone else went back in time with us,” Rodney said. “I'm really glad you're here with us.”
“I missed you both so very much,” Teyla said. “I didn't dare try to talk to anyone, it seemed like a dream.”
“What about Ronon?” John asked. “He was with us in the Chair room.”
“He is alive,” Teyla said. “He remembers too. I was able to find him, and get the tracker out. He is currently on a trading mission.”
“How did you get it out?” Rodney asked.
“Osalia, Halling's cousin, is a gifted healer,” Teyla said. “She trained on Hoff with their surgeons for many years before returning only recently. We took Ronon to M7G-677 and used the jamming field to deactivate the tracker while she removed it.”
“That great!” John said excitedly.
“Wait, what about Keras?” Rodney said.
“The ritual,” John said, his voice suddenly going soft. “Is he?”
“He is fine,” Teyla assured them. “My people have extended an invitation to any who wish to live past their traditional age of sacrifice. They have been given the gate address to Athos. Several have accepted our offer, in turn, we have a good trading agreement.”
John let out a breath. “That's... Thank you.”
“Some things can not be changed, but others were easier to prevent with hindsight,” Teyla replied. “We had hoped you would come, but when the gate stayed silent on the day you first appeared, I feared you had decided not to come to Pegasus.”
“We had to make some changes ourselves,” Rodney admitted. “We were delayed for political reasons, not by any hesitancy on our part to come back.”
“I swear,” John assured her. “We would never leave you or your people behind.”
“I know,” Teyla sighed. “I was afraid the Wraith would come before you.”
“So was I,” John admitted. “The necklace?”
“Destroyed,” Teyla assured him. “We made sure of it.”
“This is so strange,” John said. “God, I missed you guys.”
“I miss Torren,” Teyla said suddenly. “I feel this hole where he rested in my heart. But my people are still alive and we are still on our own planet.”
“I miss him too,” Rodney replied. “But you have a second chance, a better chance now. We won't make the same mistake. Hoff won't happen, Michael won't happen.”
“Good,” Teyla replied. “I will tell you truly. Ronon will kill Dr. Beckett if there is even a hint of those experiments happening again.”
“I'll kill him myself,” Rodney said with a bleak expression. “He's my friend, but I won't let that blind me again.”
“Come,” Teyla said. “They will think we are having a tryst if we are gone much longer.”
“We would do no such thing!” Rodney replied, offended. “We're happily married.”
Teyla turned in surprise to look at their matching rings. “John! Rodney! I thought I had misheard. I am so very happy for you.” She hugged them both again. “Now go on, before this version of Everett returns and Toran gets jealous.”
“Is that guy still a possessive jerk?” John asked as they walked back.
“Yes, but he has his uses,” Teyla replied with a sly grin.
“You are so bad.” John laughed.
“Really?” Rodney thought for a moment. “Well, yeah, I suppose. I can see that.”
The hardest part of hiding the fact that you are from an alternate timeline is that you have to pretend not to know people that you've known for years. Each time John or Rodney came across the two boys, Jinto and Wex, it was hard to see a total lack of recognition in their faces. They had grown up as a part of Atlantis. Jinto had joined the combined militia of Pegasus natives and Earth soldiers earning his own gate team in their later year. Wex had proven himself to have a sharp mind and had been apprenticed with Zelenka in the science labs. But at the moment, they were just two young boys, living and playing like all children do.
The evacuation to Athos went smoothly enough. Weir and Wray met with Teyla and Halling to finalize the deal the next day. The field they had chosen was wide and flat with plenty of space. Teyla admitted that in several months when the rains came, the river would swell and flood the field, but this time of year it was simply grazing for wild herds of Athosian elk. At the end of the meeting, both Wray and Weir came out of the meeting looking annoyed.
John intercepted Teyla as she exited the tent heading for her own quarters. “What was that about?” he asked.
“They didn't believe me when I told them about the Wraith,” Teyla said with a shake of her head. “I do not understand why. Weir was thoughtful and sincere in her wish to learn about my people. But she expressed doubts when I tried to impress upon her the danger they present.”
“Damn it,” John muttered.
“Wray was worse,” Teyla said. “She all but accused me of trying to frighten them so that we could renegotiate the terms of our trade agreement.”
“What the fuck is wrong with that woman?” John asked the sky. “I hope you didn't let that go.”
“Of course not,” she said, changing direction back onto the main path. “I explained to her that such an insult from any other trading partner would result in a trial by combat, but since she is still quite ignorant of the ways of my people I would give her a moment to apologize.”
“Did she?” John asked.
“Grudgingly,” Teyla replied. They walked together down the path that led to the stargate. “There is something else that you need to know.”
“What is it?” John asked.
“When I first awoke, I was worried that we would face the same difficulties with powering Atlantis as we had the first time,” Teyla said. She turned as the trees opened up to show the lake and the ruins of the old city in the distance. “I began searching the city, looking for any clue of what kind of power source they used.”
“What are you saying?” John asked his throat tight.
“I have found one,” Teyla replied. “There is a ZPM deep underground. I wasn't able to retrieve it as I don't have the Ancient gene, but it is in there.” She pointed to an oddly shaped building that resembled a giant tuning fork.
“Is it too late to get it before the storm?” John asked anxiously.
“It would take several hours just to get into the building's lower level. The ground floor damage is extensive and there are many unstable areas,” Teyla admitted. “It can not be rushed.”
“Rodney would want to see it anyway,” John replied. “We'll give you something awesome in trade.”
“I would not say no to one of your naquadah generators,” Teyla suggested. “And perhaps some popcorn?”
“You've got a deal,” John replied, hope rising in his chest. The alliance their two people once shared through mutual need would have to be built on something stronger than gratitude and fear of the Wraith. Hopefully, they could create a working relationship without shared horror of the first timeline.
The quick setup military tents were a lot like easy-ups with expanding metal framework that only took a few minutes to erect. The camp was set up in a few hours and everyone was settled before the second nightfall.
The largest tent, a communal kitchen tent, was the sight of another if many interminable meetings that Weir insisted they have. Every time they did anything Weir insisted on meetings to hammer out details, it was actually slowing down the expedition's ability to work efficiently.
Rodney tapped his fingers on his tablet impatiently, then looked at his watch. “Do I have to be here for this?” he demanded. “I have grounding stations I need to set before the epic storm from Hades slams into Atlantis and sinks her for good.”
“Yes, Rodney, you need to be here.” Weir snapped back, causing the gathered scientists to shift uncomfortably.
“Dr. McKay,” Wray said smoothly. “I am to understand you and Major Sheppard did the initial negotiations for our stay here?”
“Yes, we did,” Rodney replied. “Is there a problem?”
“I was wondering who gave you the authority to make such a trade?” she demanded.
“Was it a bad trade?” Rodney demanded.
“Excuse me?” Wray blinked.
“Was it a bad trade?” Rodney repeated. “Did we get swindled? Did the Athosians not make good on their side of the bargain?”
“I- No.” Wray stumbled. “That is not the point.”
“I think it is entirely the point,” Rodney said, testily. “Col. Everett doesn't have a lot of first contact experience, certainly not as much as John does. He allowed John to take the lead.”
“Everett isn't in charge of this expedition, Rodney,” Weir reminded him, her cheeks pink with anger.
“What should we have done then, dialed the gate and have you negotiate via radio?” Rodney asked snidely. “This was a time sensitive situation. They seemed like reasonable people with an intelligent leader, who had reasonable negotiating skills. I think we could have done a lot worse.”
“That was not for you to decide, Dr. McKay,” Wray shock back hotly.
“The point is,” Weir interjected before Wray could say anything more. “We have an entire department that is trained for this sort of thing.”
“Did we overstep, maybe,” Rodney shrugged. “If you wanted it handled differently you should have sent one of your social scientists with us. That is supposed to be their job, after all. Maybe you should let them do it instead of using them to shift through the database along with everyone else in the science department.”
The uncomfortable silence that followed Rodney's declaration lasted for several long minutes. It was obvious that he had hit a nerve. Everyone had assumed they would be making extraordinary discoveries, but thus far they had been confined to the first few towers and limited in what they were allowed to study. It was frustrating and disheartening, to say the least. Minds as brilliant as those that come on the expedition could not stay idle for long or they would make the lives of those around them miserable.
“How do we know we can trust them?” Weir asked.
“We don't,” John said, entering the tent. “But we can't stay in the city forever. Eventually, we'll need to get out here, into the galaxy and start exploring. Creating a good impression with the Athosians who seem to value honesty above anything else can only help us in the long run.”
“This was a civilian meeting,” Wray said, with annoyance. “This is of no concern of the military.”
“Is that was this is?” John asked. “That's odd because the gate team was made of mostly military personnel, other than Rodney and Parrish. If you have a problem with how it was handled, maybe you should be talking to Col. Everett.” John paused as the tent flap opened and the colonel walked in. “It seems to me that you are bullying my husband because you got your nose out of joint.”
“Dr. Weir, Dr. Wray,” Col. Everett nodded to them. “Is there a problem?”
“Not as such,” Weir said, even as the departments heads shifted uncomfortably. “We were discussing gate team protocols.”
“Then I'd say I should have been called to this meeting,” he replied. “The charter we drew up was very clear on the military's job within the city; security and support. However, we all decided that gate team structure could wait until we were settled.” He looked pointedly at Wray. “I'd say that meeting is long overdue.”
“Are you saying we are to blame?” Wray crossed her arms in front of her chest.
“There is no blame here,” Everett replied evenly. “I will admit that I didn't give it much thought when we went out with only two civilians. We should have hashed this out earlier, but we didn't.”
“So you're suggesting 'No harm, no foul'?” Weir asked.
“Exactly,” Everett replied. “Now if you'll excuse us, Dr. McKay was supposed to meet with the team chosen to do work in the city during the storm ten minutes ago.”
“Thank you, Colonel.” Rodney grabbed his tablet and headed out the door, John a step behind him.
“Unbelievable,” Rodney growled when they were out of earshot of the tent.
“Gentlemen,” Col. Everett paused when they were far enough away from camp not to be overheard. “Is this going to be a continuing problem?”
“Sir?” John asked.
“I haven't been seeing any friction between the military and civilians,” Everett said. “I will admit that I don't have the same experience dealing with the scientists and pencil pushers that General O'Neill has had over the years, so maybe I'm missing something.”
“Let's walk, while I explain,” Rodney said and turned to head to the gate.
“I'm listening,” Everett said.
“So remember after the city rose and we started exploring, we found the hologram room,” Rodney said.
“The one that talked about the enemy of the Ancients that forced them to run back to Earth?” Everett said rhetorically. “Not something I'm likely to forget.”
“Well, Teyla told Dr. Weir that the great enemy are actually creatures called the Wraith. That they are still very much alive and active in this galaxy,” he paused before adding. “They are highly advanced and feed exclusively on humans.”
“Excuse me?” Everett stopped in his tracks. “When did this happen?”
“During the second meeting with the Athosians,” Rodney said.
“And they kept this from me?” Everett growled
“Yes, sir,” John said.
“How do you know about this?”
“Teyla told us,” John replied. “She was very concerned because there aren't any people in Pegasus that don't know about the Wraith. Since we actually can't go home, she wanted us to be prepared.”
“I guess I'll have to have a nice cup of tea with Ms. Emmagan and see if she is willing to tell me about these Wraith,” Everett said.
“Sounds great, but let's save the city first,” Rodney replied picking up the pace to the gate.
Saving the city from the storm was a lot simpler when you weren't fighting for your life against the Genii. Sheppard, Lt. Ford, Captain Lorne, Sgt. Stackhouse, Sgt. Markham and Lt. O'Neill each took one of the grounding stations and ran to them using the most direct route.
Zelenka had opted to stay in the city with McKay and the soldiers, in case something went wrong. The storm, while terrifying to watch as it approached, produced so much lightning that the shield went up after the first hour.
“This would be better if we had a few beers,” Ford said as he opened his MRE.
“This would be better if it were fresh food,” Zelenka muttered. “We have been here nearly a month, we know there is open land on this planet, yet we make no attempt to even start the seeds we brought. Parrish is beside himself, worried that if we do not start soon we will run out of food before the first plants are ready to harvest.”
“I thought Weir would be more proactive about our survival,” Stackhouse said. “But she just sits in her office all day. I'm not even sure if she is reading reports or playing solitaire on her computer.”
“Parish has petitioned her more than once to get things moving,” Lorne said quietly. “Last time she had me escort him out of her office.”
“Weir listens to Wray more than anyone else,” Zelenka said in agreement. “Even Dr. Wallace is given less consideration and he is her husband. Though both he and Wray seem to hover over her when they think no one is looking.”
“What is going on then?” Ford asked. “It doesn't make any sense. Are they trying to sabotage the mission?”
“I have no idea,” O'Neill said. “If I didn't know any better I'd say Weir was under the influence of Nish'ta.”
“Nathan,” Lorne's head shot up. “You don't think it's possible, do you?”
“Crap,” O'Neill blinked. “It's possible.”
“If Wray was a member of the Trust, she could have easily gotten a hold of a small amount of Nish'ta,” Rodney said sharply. “Those assholes stole all sorts of dangerous technologies and substances from Area 51.”
“But they were all caught,” Ford said. “Weren't they?”
“How much Nish'ta did we have on Earth,” John asked. “I joined after most of that happened.”
“The cult of Seth's compound had two fifty gallon drums of liquid Nish'ta,” Rodney replied. “At least that was what the inventory said.”
“How much of this crap do you need to control a single person?” Ford asked.
“I wasn't part of the actually testing back then,” Rodney admitted. “Dr. Jackson's report of the cult of Seth said it was used as an aerosol, so it doesn't have to be a lot.”
“Hathor used it the same way,” Lorne replied with a shudder.
“So something small, that could be hidden in personal effects,” John said thoughtfully. “Like say a bottle of perfume.”
“We could check their quarters,” Ford suggested. “Now, before the everyone comes back.”
“Assuming we're correct and Weir is being influenced by Wray,” O'Neill said. “I know, I'm the one that suggested it, but for fuck's sake, we're in another galaxy. What could they possibly gain?”
“Maybe she thought she could take over. Make her own little kingdom far away from Earth.” John shrugged, thinking of how Col. Caldwell had been implanted with a goa'uld. “No one would be the wiser on Earth. We'd just disappear, lost in Pegasus.”
“What about Wray's wife? Sharon Walker?” Ford asked. “She seems nice enough, really focused on her work though. Always working on the database translations.”
“Shit,” O'Neill dropped his head. “How focused, Ford?”
“Like seriously,” Ford chuckled. “She jumped a foot when I touched her shoulder the other day.”
The SGC veterans all groaned.
“Wait,” Ford protested. “That would mean that she used Nish'ta on her own wife.”
“I think we need to check Wray for a snake,” John said. “No two ways about it.”
“Well this is terrifying,” O'Neill said calmly. Then he threw his canteen across the room. “I can't believe this. We need to tell Everett.”
“Assuming he hasn't already been compromised,” Lorne replied.
“Everyone was checked before we left,” Zelenka whined. “Where would it have come from?”
“We'll figure it out later,” John said. “We recheck fucking everyone, I don't care if we have to put everyone under house arrest until it is done.” He pulled out the Life Signs Detector that he had taken from one of the puddlejumpers and asked it to scan for parasitic lifeforms. He made no attempt at being subtle. When the scan was done, and everyone came out clean, he placed it back in his vest. “Good thing about Ancient tech, it's really versatile.”
“Well at least the Wraith are still asleep,” Rodney muttered. “That's one less thing we need to worry about at the moment.” A huge bolt of lightning crashed against the city's shield at that moment, illuminating the gate room, followed moments later by thunder that shook the city.
“The what?” Zelenka said, his eyes wide. All eyes turned to the astrophysicist. “You will explain now.”
“Good job, Rodney,” John sighed. “Okay, well we've got about six hours before the storm passes us enough that we won't need the shield. Who's up for story time?”
At the show of hands, John settled himself and told the Athosian story of the Wraith and how their hunger took over the Pegasus galaxy. No one slept very well after that, though most blamed it on the storm raging outside the windows.
Most of the Atlantis expedition members were through the wormhole headed back to the city the next morning. O'Neill was standing casually next to the DHD on Athos, medical grade life signs detector in his hand. He had set the device to check for parasites, Stackhouse was using another on the other side in case they missed something here. So far everyone had come up clean, but they weren't worried about the average soldier or scientist.
If there was a Goa'uld here, they would never take a host that low in the command structure, their egos wouldn't allow it. Everett, thankfully, had tested negative, as did Dr. Lam and all of the medical staff. That didn't mean they weren't being influenced by Nish'ta. Used in small quantities, the drug could create a feeling of trust toward the user and leave the victim susceptible to suggestion. The amount a Goa'uld would normally use created loyal slaves was pretty high, something that would be easily detected in a medical check. There was a real possibility that the medical staff was already compromised and any results suggesting that Wray was infected were being deleted on her orders.
After the storm had passed, the team that was on Atlantis had searched Dr. Wray's room. The scanners found traces of the main chemicals in Nish'ta, but no sign of any large amount. It was frustrating because there wasn't enough evidence to outright accuse Wray of either being a snake or carrying the dangerous chemical.
“That's the last of this group,” Ford said as the gate shut down. “Just the team taking down the big tents.”
Sheppard walked up to them and sighed in frustration. “I've got a bad feeling about this.”
“You're not the only one,” O'Neill said, scanning Ford before putting it away in his tac vest.
“What?” Ford seemed confused. “We're coming up clean all over the place. Maybe you were wrong.”
“I got some odd readings in the mess tent just before they took it down,” John said. “More traces of Nish'ta.”
“I didn't see anything odd at lunch,” Ford said. “Weir, Wray, and Walker were all there.”
“You were at lunch?” Sheppard turned to him.
“Well, yeah.” Ford shrugged.
“What part of minimum contact did you not get the first time I said it?” John growled in exasperation.
“Dr. Wallace invited me,” Ford replied. “I thought I'd chat him up, see if there was anything I could learn from him.”
“Did anything happen during lunch?” O'Neill asked.
“No,” Ford replied. “It was lunch. Dr. Wallace asked me about the general health of all the soldiers, and if I had any thoughts on how to improve the menu.” He shrugged. “It was just talking. He did say that he was hoping more labs could be opened for research.”
The gate began to dial in, they all tensed as the wormhole engaged, but it was only a group of Athosians coming back home. They had a large cart that was weighed down with boxes and crates.
A mountain of a man grabbed Major Sheppard and turned him around. “Sheppard?!” A moment later he was wrapped in a bear hug.
“Ronon!” John groaned and hugged him back. Then he squeaked as he was lifted off his feet and spun around like he weighed nothing.
“Huh,” O'Neill said with a tilt of his head.
“Ronon,” John gasped. “A little air.” Ronon put him back on the ground but kept smiling.
“Um,” Ford blinked. “Do you know each other?”
“Nope never met this guy before,” John replied, laughing.
Ronon looked Ford up and down critically before holding out his hand. “Ronon Dex.”
“Aiden Ford,” he replied. He shook his hand with a cautious smile.
“Right.” O'Neill gave Ronon an assessing look.
“Who's this guy?” Ronon asked, nodding to O'Neill.
“Nathan O'Neill,” he held out his hand.
“O'Neill?” Ronon shook his hand. “Any relation to the general that likes to wander around like he doesn't know anything?”
“You could say that,” O'Neill replied.
“Wait, how could he know about the general?” Ford was completely confused. It looked adorable on him but he was also probably about six seconds from getting pissed.
O'Neill turned to Ford. “You know, sometimes when you go through the gate, it's better not to ask.”
“I promise, I will explain it as soon as our current crisis is over,” John said and walked down the path with Ronon after the cart.
“Crisis?” Ronon asked sharply. “You need help?”
“I would love to have you in on this, but my people don't know you yet,” John sighed. “Listen, I didn't ask Teyla. What is the situation with the Wraith?”
“There are only a few active hives,” Ronon said. “I've been scouting the Wraith controlled worlds. Most of them are still sleeping.”
“Good,” John sighed. “We don't want to wake them up if we can avoid it.”
“The Genii are active though,” Ronon said. “Their spies are all over the place. I never noticed them the first time but I know what to look for now.”
“I want you to be careful,” John said. “You hear me?”
“I hear you,” Ronon replied and clapped him on the back. “I'll see you soon?”
“Give us a few days,” John promised. “McKay will be happy to see you.”
“I bet.” Ronon grinned again and turned to head to the village.
John shook his head and joined O'Neill at the gate.
“Where did Ford go?” John asked.
“He said he wanted to make sure there was nothing left behind at the camp,” O'Neill replied.
“How screwed are we?” John asked.
“If Wray or Weir somehow released Nish'ta in the mess tent, we've got a fucking lot bigger problem than just a few members of the command staff,” O'Neill replied. “We do have one advantage. Atlantis' grounding stations are still configured for the storm. If we can discharge a shock into the floors and walls, not enough to hurt, but enough to stun. We can take out anyone that isn't in the gate room.”
“We'll need to wait until everyone is back in the city for that,” John reminded him.
“True,” O'Neill replied. “I should still be immune to it. Thor said there is no biological difference between me and the original model other than physical age. He developed an immunity to Nish'ta in the early years of the SGC.”
“Alright, get back to the city and check in with Rodney. I'll make sure we don't have any stragglers.” John ordered.
“Yes, sir,” O'Neill gave him a sloppy salute and started dialing.
“Ford report!” John called.
“That is the last of our people through the gate, sir,” Ford replied.
“Good, let's go home.”
They stepped through the gate and back into the city. John looked up at Rodney, who was standing by the console that controlled the major city systems. Rodney nodded to him, but then his eyes tracked to Weir's office.
Wray was sitting at the small desk just in front of the glass doors, inside Weir and Wallace seemed to be in deep discussion. Both of them looked serious, but Weir was leaning forward, her body language was open and inviting.
John climbed the stairs joined Rodney. “What's going on?” he asked.
“We have a problem,” Rodney said softly.
“And that is?”
“The reason we were safe last night, is that here and the Jumper bay is insulated,” he replied. “That also means that this trick won't work on anyone who is standing in here when we set it off. Which means we still won't know who is the victim and who is the perpetrator when dealing with the civilian side of the command staff.”
“Damn,” John muttered. “I should have asked to borrow Ronon's gun.”
“You saw Ronon?” Rodney's eyes brightened. “How is he?”
“He good,” John said. “He's looking forward to seeing you.”
“Really?” Rodney asked.
“Yep,” John replied.
“Hmm,” he said with a pleased smile. “O'Neill ran down to the armory to pull out a couple taser guns. You know the ones that shoot out the wires?”
“Yeah,” John nodded. “We need to give him a few minutes to get back?”
“Right,” Rodney replied. “I'm still pissed we weren't allowed to bring Zats. Seriously, they loaded us with all the heavy artillery we could have ever wanted, but a couple Zats was asking too much?”
“We have enough of a charge for this?” John asked, ignoring his rant. It wasn't anything John hadn't thought himself.
“Oh yeah, just the wind against the towers can build up a charge in all metal structures,” Rodney replied softly. “If we'd had a proper way to store it, we could have powered the city for six months with the energy the storm produced.”
O'Neill jogged into the gate room from one of the lower doorways. He looked a bit out of breath but nodded to John and Rodney.
“Now,” John said.
“Let's do this and not die, shall we.” Rodney hit a button and there were cries of discomfort and pain coming from out in the halls. “That's got it.”
“Sheppard, McKay!” Weir came running out of the office, Wray directly behind her. “What just happened?” Simon Wallace followed at a slower pace.
“It was a discharge of static electricity,” Rodney replied. “Painful, but not dangerous. I apologize, I didn't think having the grounding stations up on a calm day would be an issue.
Everett came stumbling into the gate room. “What the hell is going on? There are people passed out in the corridors.”
“This is Dr. Beckett. What the bloody hell is going on?” he yelled over the radio. “I've got calls for assistance coming in from all over the city. Dr. Lam is passed out, along with half the staff.”
“Stand by, Carson,” Rodney said and cut off his transmission. “”Radek, what is your status? Dr. Zelenka report please.” He looked around. “I can't raise Radek.”
“Maybe he was affected by the discharge,” John offered. “We'll check on him.” He turned his attention to the others in the room. “Dr. Elizabeth Weir, Dr. Camile Wray, Dr. Simon Wallace put your hands where we can see them,” he ordered. O'Neill had his 9mm in one hand, a taser gun in the other, pointed at the highest ranking civilians of the expedition.
“I warned you, Colonel,” Wray said. “Sheppard and McKay can not be trusted.”
“Dr. Wray now is not the time,” Everett said as he stomped up the stairs. “Sheppard, O'Neill, stand down and tell me what is going on.”
“Colonel,” O'Neill began. “I regret we had not had time to inform you of a foothold situation occurring in the city.”
“Foothold?” Everett stopped short. “What kind of foothold?”
“Arrest these men, Colonel,” Weir ordered. “This is obviously an attempt at a military coup.” Her husband stepped up behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders in a calming gesture. She leaned back, against him. Obviously still angry but taking comfort from Simon's presence.
“This is not a coup,” Rodney said testily. “Dr. Weir and many of the command staff have been compromised. We've found traces of Nish'ta in areas of the city. We think Weir is under its influence.”
Everett paused and turned to look at Weir. “If that's true, who is controlling her.”
“Colonel, do I look in any way compromised?” she demanded, stepping away from her husband. “They've obviously been planning this from the beginning. Arrest them!”
Everett turned to face the three men brandishing weapons. “Gentlemen, stand down.” He called a security team into the gate room. “I don't know what is going on, but I'm not going to take all of you into custody until we figure this out.”
The three men paused and reluctantly lowered their weapons as the first set of security guards, lead by Sgt. Bates entered the gate room.
“This unacceptable, I am the leader of this expedition,” Weir said. She marched up to Everett, her eyes flashing with anger. “They tried to kill me and my husband! I want them arrested.”
“You're being affected by a mind altering substance, Elizabeth,” Rodney said. “We're trying to help you.”
“Lies,” Wray spat. “You want to control the city.”
“I'm the head of the science division of this expedition,” Rodney replied. “I'm the smartest man in two galaxies and the leading expert on Ancient technologies. I already control this city in all the ways that count. Why would I want to run the day to day political side?”
“I don't know what is going on here but I'm not willing to place half of my command staff in custody without a full explanation,” Everett said sternly. “As far as I'm concerned you're all acting suspiciously.” He glanced at Bates, who was waiting for orders at the bottom of the stairs. “Disarm all of them and put them in restraints. We'll question them all.” There was a sudden shift of movement between Weir and Everett. The colonel made a soft gasp and his eyes widened in shock. Weir stepped back to reveal a long thin blade covered in blood clutched in her hand. It looked like the letter opener that she had on her desk.
Wray turned fired a Zat'nik'tel striking the O'Neill and Sheppard, they fell in agony, writhing on the floor. Rodney dropped to the floor, only receiving a partial charge as the console shielded him. At the same moment a beam of energy shot out from where Simon Wallace stood, it hit the security team and tossed them across the gate room and against the far wall.
“Well done my pets,” Wallace said. He swaggered over to his wife and kissed Weir on her lips. When he pulled back, his eyes glowed. He stepped over Everett's body as he stalked over to the DHD and looked down at the configuration, frowned and then turned to look at Sheppard and O'Neill. “I was less than pleased when Ford told me of your suspicions this morning. It took a great deal of planning to implant me into this host.” He started hitting chevrons. “This was supposed to be a treasure hunt. The wonders of the Ancients at my disposal. Then this host appeared to be resistant to the ATA gene therapy. My very nature seems to prevent it from working.” The gate opened and he began to walk down the stairs. “Ford, meet me in the gate room,” he called into the radio. “Come my darlings, it is time we left these pitiful fools to their city.” Weir and Wray followed without hesitation.
Ford came down the steps from the Jumper Bay. Zelenka was tied and gagged being dragged behind him. The scientist looked pissed off, his glasses were crooked and he had a bruise forming on his left cheek. “I dosed him as you requested, but he doesn't seem to be affected,” he said
“Ah, well, another of these wretched Tau'ri that appears to be immune to the Nish'ta. Leave that one with his friends then,” Wallace directed. The young Marine bumped Zelenka on top of John, who groaned and tried to roll over.
A second security team burst into the gate room and froze at the situation. Lorne turned to look at the open Gate the four figures heading toward it and his commanding officers on the floor.
“Sheppard and O'Neill tried to kill Col. Everett,” Weir said. “Take them into custody.”
“Dr. Weir,” Lorne called. “Don't move.” He leveled his weapon at her.
“You were given an order, Captain,” Weir said. “My husband and I have important business through the gate.”
“Lt. Ford stand down,” Lorne demanded.
“Sorry, sir,” Ford said. “I can't do that.” He trained his weapon on Lorne's team.
“Where are you going?” Lorne demanded.
“Wherever my husband wishes,” Weir said happily.
“Don't let them through the gate,” Rodney called from his position on the floor. Wallace turned and it was only at that moment that anyone noticed the gold covering his fingertips. He opened his palm and the power of the Kara Kesh fired out of the jewel embedded in the palm. The force rippled through the gate room and sent the security team flying backward.
Rodney grabbed the taser from next to O'Neill and fired, trying to hit Weir, but Wray stepped into the shot. She spasmed and fell to the floor. “Elizabeth, snap out of it!”
“So sorry, Dr. McKay,” Wallace said, his voice reverberating unnaturally. “Weir is mine. She might not have the precious ATA gene, but her knowledge of the Ancients language is invaluable. We will find a place suitable for us. If the Athosians are anything to go by, I will have this galaxy under my rule in weeks.”
“Stop them!” John shouted from the floor, where he had finally managed to move.
Several soldiers opened fire with their M4s only to have the rounds deflected by a shield that enveloped Wallace and Weir. A stray shot hit Ford in the leg and he fell. Rodney stumbled for the DHD but even as he slammed his hand down on the button that activated the gate shield, the two protected figures had stepped through the gate. “God damn it!”
“Open the shield,” John ordered as he staggered over to the DHD. “We have to go after them.”
“We can't,” Rodney said.
“What the hell are you talking about,” O'Neill said as he tried to get to his feet. “Lower the shield and get after them. We can't let a snake make off with Weir.”
“I can't!” Rodney shouted back. “They're already dead!” Everyone was stunned into silence as Rodney's words echoed through the room.
John looked down at the chevrons that had been dialed. “No,” John said softly in despair.
“Wallace dialed an orbital stargate,” Rodney said bleakly. “They walked right into the vacuum of space.”
“Medical team to the gate room,” Lorne said slowly, trying to shake off the effect of the ribbon device. “Repeat. Medical team to the gate room. Multiple injuries. We need the trauma team.”
O'Neill knelt down next to Everett and checked his pulse. “Damn it,” O'Neill swore softly. “Col. Everett is dead.”
This was possibly the worst week of John's career, and that included the day he shot Sumner and woke the Wraith in the other timeline. He had lost not only the military commander but the civilian commander all in one fell swoop. Now he was trying to figure out who was supposed to lead the civilians. Camile Wray was in a catatonic state and was currently in the infirmary under twenty-four monitoring and a suicide watch. Her wife, Sharon wasn't much better off. Ford's leg wound was serious but he would recover with proper care.
John had taken a jumper out through the space gate and with some very careful flying had managed to retrieve the bodies. They had not been pretty to look at and he had ordered the jumper's cargo area scrubbed from top to bottom.
John had put O'Neill in charge of the investigation. He had the most experience of all of them when dealing with the Goa'uld. His investigation was thorough and damning, at least in John's opinion. They had dropped the ball and civilians had paid for it. The Nish'ta was finally found in Weir and Wallace's quarters in a bottle marked as portable oxygen. It had not been part of the regular inventory. Wallace's computer and all of his personal effects were searched for any other dangerous items.
Even as the members of the expedition gathered to mourn the dead, it was obvious that everyone was deeply shaken. The funerals were held in the gate room, but the bodies were taken to the mainland and cremated. The ashes carefully gathered and placed in storage until they could contact Earth.
“Sgt. Bates as head of city security, you were tasked with interviewing everyone,” John began the meeting. He had gathered all the department heads for this. He needed full transparency or people would question what happened. As it was, many of the scientists were afraid that the military would try to take over. “What can you tell us about your part of the investigation?” The man still had bandages on his head where he had hit the wall, but he was recovering.
“Of the three hundred and ten members of the expedition, sixty-five were dosed with Nish'ta,” Bates said. “When each event occurred isn't certain. Many of them were dosed on Athos in the mess tent, others were given doses during meetings here in the city. Some were affected as far back as a month. Setting off the electrical charge through the floor broke everyone out of the effects of the gas. There appears to be no evidence that the Goa'uld was attempting to sabotage the mission or cause any lasting harm to the city itself.”
“How are the people that were affected?” John asked.
“All of them are recovering,” Dr. Heightmeyer replied. “Dr. Walker and Sharon Wray are dealing with the worst psychological trauma. Sharon has reported that nothing happened to her beyond being unable to tell anyone what was happening. Camile on the other hand... Wallace's interest in her was more intense.”
“I don't want to sound indelicate,” O'Neill said. “But is she in any shape to help us understand what Wallace was trying to do?”
“Dr. Wray will need time to deal with the trauma,” she replied. “I can't reveal more.”
“Dr. Biro,” John said, redirecting meeting. “Could we please have your final report?”
“Col. Everett's wound was fatal,” she said, adjusting her glasses. “Even if we'd gotten to him within the first few minutes there was too much trauma to the heart.” She shuffled her papers. “The weapon, what you initially thought was a letter opener is actually a weapon favored by the Ashrak, goa'uld assassins. As for Dr. Weir and Dr. Wallace, vacuum trauma is very fast but very painful way to die. There are signs that the goa'uld attempted to burrow deeper into Wallace's corpse in order to escape death, but it only delayed the inevitable. It suffered from a combination of asphyxia and hypothermia.”
“The Goa'uld's remains are still being studied in the lab. We're trying to do a DNA match to any known system lords to see where it came from.” Dr. Biro added. “Though that may take some time.”
“Why did it dial that gate address?” Dr. Lam asked. “Why would it just kill itself?”
“I don't think it did so intentionally,” Dr. Zelenka said. “The concept of an orbital gate is unknown to the Milky Way Galaxy. Rodney only knew where that gate went because there was a warning glyph on the control panel that lit up after the wormhole connected. None of us were sure what those glyphs meant when we first examined the DHD, but upon further research, that glyph stood for the vacuum of space. That he refused to lower the shield saved many more lives.”
“So, Wallace dialed a random address and just walked through, confident it would be safe?” Lorne asked.
“Yes,” Zelenka replied. “But for a few notable exceptions, if the gate connects in the Milky Way, it is safe to go through on foot. Why would it think this galaxy was any different?”
“We found a journal in Wallace's affects,” O'Neill said. “It let him write in the journal at night. Some of the stuff in there is really depressing. It seems the Trust had funded a bunch of his research. He hadn't known it at the time, but they used that as leverage to keep them updated on Weir after she was tapped to head the SGC just after the presidential election. Even after most of the Trust members had been swept up in that scandal last year, there were just enough players to cause trouble. When the expedition was getting off the ground they had Wallace snaked. It was about a two months later that they got married. They needed Weir's knowledge, but putting a snake in her would be too obvious a target.”
“How did we miss this?” John asked, feeling sick.
“He was in the background most of the time,” O'Neill sighed. “The loving supportive husband. He dosed Weir with a large amount of Nish'ta on their honeymoon. After that, it was disgustingly easy for him to get things passed inspection.” He shifted in his seat. “Wray and Walker were the next to be dosed, after that he would try and dose people in larger groups. At department meetings and such, but he was having problems getting military members. His first major attempt was the mess tent on Athos.”
“Where he got Ford,” John said.
“Yes, sir,” O'Neill said. “There were a bunch of others he managed to dose as well, but we shocked them out of it with the discharge across the city. Our actions tipped his hand. I guess when he realized we were on to him, he decided to cut his losses and run.”
“And stepped into the vacuum of space, because he didn't know how to read Ancient,” John nodded.
“The first chance we get, we need to contact Earth and let them know that the Trust is still a major issue,” O'Neill said. “If they got to Weir through Wallace, who else might they be targeting?”
Everyone at the table grimaced at the idea of more parasites on Earth.
“Okay.” John stood and looked at all the people in the room. “We have suffered a major loss. Not just our military commander, but the civilian leader and her second, Dr. Wray, will be unable to fulfill her duties for the foreseeable future. We could not hope to have a plan in place to deal with this. I may be the highest ranking officer, but I am not qualified to fill Weir's shoes. I can not do her job as well as my own, moreover, I wouldn't want to try.”
“So what do you suggest?” Dr. Lam asked.
“Our situation is the same as it was before this tragic event. We are still cut off from Earth, in a galaxy that we know almost nothing about,” John said. “We need to get out there, exploring, learning, meeting new people, making friends and allies.”
Dr. Lam stood. “I agree with Sheppard, we need to begin exploring. If for no other reason then we must actively seek a way to contact Earth.” She looked around at her colleagues. “My father is career military I joined this expedition because it was headed by a civilian. I am grateful that Major Sheppard is not planning to take over. However, it does present a problem of how we proceed. Rather than a single leader, I suggest instead, that we create a council, made of all the department heads. We take a vote when it comes to decisions that will affect the people in this city.” She looked at all of them to make sure she had their attention. “That being said, there are plans that were set even before we left that should have been implemented as soon as we had the opportunity to do so. Those plans were never even started because of an alien influence. I believe, Major Sheppard, that you are well versed in those plans?”
“Yes, Dr. Lam,” John replied. “The agricultural department has seedlings and cutting that desperately need to get planted in the local soils and given time to adapt before we can even hope to harvest our own fresh food. Dr. Parish, how soon can your people be ready to start work on the mainland?”
“Tomorrow morning,” he replied excitedly. “The soil samples we were able to take before the storm were very promising. We'll need at least two jumpers to transport all the tools and seedlings. I would like the mess tent we used on Athos as a temporary shelter until the Quonset huts are constructed.”
“You'll have it,” John agreed. “Let me know how much manpower you need to help with the fields.”
“The first breaking of the ground will take time, we weren't allowed to bring large farm equipment. So we brought horse-drawn tillers thinking that we would be allowed to bring some livestock with us. Weir vetoed it at the last minute, citing the hazards of bringing animal-born diseases with us and their environmental impact. For god's sake, we will impact the environment by planting our crops. Even a few hundred head of livestock isn't going to do that much damage if they are properly managed.” Parish looked frustrated and regretful at his own outburst.
“What if I told you that isn't a problem,” Rodney said, he had been silent throughout the meeting, mourning the loss of someone he had always considered a friend.
“What do you mean, Dr. McKay?” Dr. Parish asked.
“We have animals stored on an Asgard data crystal,” Rodney admitted. “I bought them with my own money and had them stored in the crystals just like we did for the F-302s. No one knew about it except Major Sheppard and Hermiod.”
“Why didn't you say anything sooner?” Parish looked elated. “This solves a host of problems.”
“We were concerned by Weir's lack of action and decided to wait until we knew where things were headed,” he admitted. “Hermiod assured me they will have had no adverse reactions to long-term storage as data.”
“This is-” Parish turned to Sheppard. “We'll need all the men you can spare to build a corral for the animals and then to set up the shelters. And we have to start tilling the soil, yes, we need people for that too.”
“You'll have them, Dr. Parish.” John promised. “Chose places for cattle, goats, chickens and horses. We brought draft horses and riding horses and enough tack for half a dozen people to be able to ride. I'll give you the numbers after the meeting.”
Parish looked like he was going to faint. “Yes, good, okay. The draft horses first. We'll need to check the mainland for natural predators before we let the chickens free.” He suddenly burst into tears. “Oh thank god. I thought we were all going to starve to death.”
“Our second most concerning issue is power,” John said. “Rodney, what can you tell us.”
“We need ZPMs to power Atlantis to her fullest potential. So we need to go and find some. The city's database, as you all know is a jumbled mess of data that is in desperate need of a defrag program. However, I was able to pull up a set of gate addresses that are or at least were Ancient outposts. Chances are good that the outposts will still be there. Even a partially charged ZPM would do wonders for the city.” Rodney took a deep breath. “Which brings me to the fact that Teyla, the Athosian leader, believes there may be a ZPM in the ruins of the city that we can see from her current camp.”
“What does she want for it?” Dr. Lam asked.
“She would be willing to trade for a naquadah generator, more linen fabric, and a standing trading partnership,” Rodney said.
“That seems like an amazingly good trade in our favor.” Dr. Lam said skeptically. “Why would she be so generous?”
“Who cares,” Grodin said. “If it really is a ZPM, we shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth.”
“I doubt a people as primitive as the Athosians even knows what they have there,” Bates said with a shrug.
“The Athosians are not primitive,” John replied sharply. “Something you would know if you spent ten minutes talking with any one of them.”
Bates sat up straighter, seemingly surprised by the rebuke.
“They have a lot of very subtle technologies that use very little power,” Rodney said. “A ZPM gives off a huge energy signature when it is active. They worry that anything that powerful could bring the Wraith down on them.”
“Is that true?” O'Neill asked. “Would the Wraith notice? Hell, why would they care?”
“I think it depends on if they are actively monitoring,” Rodney replied. “Teyla said they are currently experiencing a dormant period for the Wraith so the dangers are less, but that doesn't mean they are one hundred percent safe. They never allow the humans of this galaxy to advance enough to pose any sort of threat.” He shook his head. “What matters is that they might have a ZPM that they are willing to give us because they can't or won't use it.”
“Then I say we should talk to Teyla and see how soon we can get our hands on this ZPM,” Dr. Lam said. “All in favor?” Everyone at the table raised their hands. “Excellent. This might just work. Major, we need to assemble a team to go to Athos, and we also need to start exploring this city and this galaxy.”
“We also need to find a good planet for an Alpha site,” O'Neill said. “That should have been our first priority the second we got here.”
The room erupted into shouting over what should or shouldn't have been given top priority. The several scientists including Dumais and Lindstrom argued over whether the city should have priority. While Parish and Gall started shouting at each other over the importance of botany over astronomy. This went on for a good ten minutes, getting louder and more shrill as time went.
Rodney stood from the table and whistled between his fingers, the arguments stuttered to a halt. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said calmly. “I'm going to say this once, as a reminder. We are in a far away galaxy with untold wonders and dangers all around us. This is not Area 51, this is not the SGC, if you don't get along we can't just transfer you to another facility. Our top priorities are the safe exploration of this city that we have made our home. The procurement of sustainable food for all of us, if that means trading with Pegasus natives or cultivating it ourselves and finding and obtaining ZPMs to power the city so that we can dial Earth and let them know that we are alive. That is it, and not necessarily in that order.” He paused a moment when no one argued he continued. “I want volunteers to go with Dr. Parish and our agricultural team to the mainland to help to cultivate the soil at whatever site he chooses. If I do not get volunteers I will choose you at random from the pool of perfectly healthy individuals that are currently complaining that their field of study is being neglected. Is that understood?” There was a discontented wave of agreement, but no one argued with him.
“Alright, I want at least three teams ready to go through the gate in the next week,” John said. “As heads of your departments, you need to decide who is the best qualified for off-world exploration. I will have my own team, with McKay and two others. I would like to a have some locals to help us with the cultures so I'm going to ask Teyla Emmagan, as part of our growing partnership, if she and her people would be willing to act as guides for us. We will meet with them at a neutral planet and hash out a mutually beneficial arrangement.” John smiled. “And for that, I need the social science department to step up and be diplomats and negotiators.”
“You only have to ask,” Dr. Heightmeyer said. “My department has been ready for weeks.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” John replied. “Now is there anything else that we need discussing?”
“That is all for now,” Rodney said, checking his list of topics. “I suggest a meeting every three days until we are confident things are running smoothly. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of it is playing catch up from our own missteps, so let's get to it.”
Sheppard led the small team on through the gate on foot, back to Athos. The team included Dr. McKay, Dr. Dumias, Dr. Wagner, Lt. Ford, and Airman Ross. They carried climbing gear and ropes as well as shovels and a small handheld cutting torch. The team had been chosen with gate experience and knowledge of engineering.
The new Alpha site had been chosen a few days ago and they were all required to travel their first, before going on to their destination.
“Greeting, Sheppard,” Halling said as they stepped out of the event horizon.
“Good to see you gain, Halling,” John replied. “Are you our escort?”
“Teyla will join us shortly, she is dealing with internal matters,” he replied. “Please follow me.”
Jinto came trotting up to the group his eyes wide with excitement. “Are you really going to explore the old city?”
John smiled at him. “Yes, we are. Your leader, Teyla, has given us permission to explore.”
“Can I come?” he asked eagerly.
John glanced at Halling, who looked more than a little upset at the suggestion. “Not this time, Jinto.”
“Why?” Jinto didn't whine, but he was a boy that had endless curiosity.
“We don't know what to expect when we get in there,” McKay said. “Some of the structures are damaged and are probably unstable. We wouldn't be comfortable letting you in there until we were sure nothing was going to either fall on our heads or collapse under our feet.”
Jinto's shoulder's slumped in disappointment.
“But we can show you what it looks like after we're done,” Ross said. She pulled a small camera out of her gear. “I'm going to be recording the whole time, so if we miss anything we can review it later.”
“Really?” Jinto stared at the camera. “Does your world have a lot of technology like that?”
“Some, but it is mostly used for fun,” Ross replied. “We didn't know that there were other people living on different planets until recently, so we record as much as we can.”
“But don't the Wraith come to your planet?” he asked as they continued to walk past the village.
“No,” Ross replied. “But we had other enemies that came from the stars and through our gate. That was why we started to explore. To learn as much as we can.”
“And that is how you came to Athos?” Jinto asked.
“In a roundabout way,” Ross replied.
“Can we go to your world? I've never seen a world that didn't know about the Wraith,” Jinto said wistfully.
“Unfortunately it is a very far away,” McKay interjected. “We can't go back until we have enough power for an eight chevron dial.”
“Eight?” Halling paused. “There are no gate addresses that use that many chevrons.”
“They are only for dialing intergalactic addresses,” Dumias replied. “As we said, we never encountered the Wraith before.”
“Because they don't live there,” Jinto said, wide-eyed. “Why would you come here then?”
“We didn't know about these wraith things when we left,” Ford said. “I don't know if I would have been as willing to come here if I had, but it isn't like we can just turn around and go home.”
“Our galaxy isn't all sunshine and roses either, Ford,” Rodney replied.
“Maybe, but the Goa'uld don't try to eat people,” Ford countered.
“No, they just try to take over your body and use you like a puppet,” Ross countered.
“Can we avoid debating which galaxy has the worst monsters in it,” John said evenly. “There are different types of horror and they're all horrible.”
“What's a Goa'uld?” Jinto asked.
“Do we have a copy of Dr. Jackson's presentation on them?” Ross asked, turning to McKay and Dumias.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, we do,” Rodney said. “It is on the main server.” He turned to Jinto. “I'll let you see it the next time we're here.” Halling made a noise and he glanced over at the man. “With your father's permission of course.”
“I will wish to review this information for myself first,” Halling said sternly.
“Of course,” Rodney replied, managing not to roll his eyes.
“Jinto,” Halling said, turning to his son. “Please inform Teyla that Sheppard's people have arrived and we are heading to the outer edge of the old city.”
“Yes, father.” Jinto sighed in disappointment before running off to the village.
“I would thank you not to fill my son's head with unrealistic notions of escaping from our fate,” Halling said tightly.
“We meant no disrespect,” John said.
“Do you have any children, Sheppard?” Halling asked.
“No,” John replied.
“Then you do not know the true importance of protecting the next generation,” Halling said sharply. “Please refrain from trying to influence the children of my people with your strange ideas.”
As they approached the edge of the city, John saw Ronon waiting for them in the shade of one of the buildings. “Ronon,” he greeted with a smile and a nod.
“Sheppard,” Ronon grinned back. “I'll guide them from here Halling.”
“As you wish Ronon,” Halling replied with a sour expression.
John waited until Halling was out of earshot before he turned to Ronon. “What's his problem?”
“Halling is pissed because I started teaching the kids how to sword fight,” Ronon said with a shrug. “Bantos Rods are fine for keeping the Wraith at arm's length...”
“But you can't kill one with them,” John finished. “That reminds me, I've got a few soldiers that could use a refresher on the dangers of close in combat. Teal'c was good for that at the SGC, but I don't want them getting soft here.”
“I'd love to help,” Ronon replied smiling, but then his expression sobered. “I'm sorry about Weir. I was looking forward to seeing her.”
“I'm still trying to wrap my head around what happened,” John grimaced.
“McKay,” Ronon suddenly turned to the scientist.
“Ronon,” McKay replied warily. Then he squeaked in an undignified manner when he was scooped up in a hug. “Oh my god!”
John couldn't help laughing in delight. This was the first time the two men had actually seen each since the time shift. They had a strange friendship that seemed to baffle both of them even as it was full of genuine affection. It hadn't been an instant thing, growing slowly over years of near death experiences and mutual respect, but it was a strong one.
“Sir?” Ford said in confusion.
“It's all good,” John replied.
“Ronon,” Teyla admonished as she approached. “Please put Dr. McKay down.” She was trying to be stern, but there was laughter in her voice.
“I hate you,” McKay growled at Ronon, as he adjusted his gear. “So much.”
“Yeah, I know,” Ronon replied with a huge grin.
“Shall we proceed?” Teyla suggested.
“Lead the way,” John said.
The buildings looked intact, from the direction they were walking in, but when they reached what was supposedly the city's center, they could truly see the devastating effect of an aerial bombardment. The far side of the city had a crater over a kilometer across. There was nothing in the center but rubble and bits of plants trying to reclaim the land. The buildings on the edges of the crater had chunks missing as though they had been scooped out with the ends of structural beams melted in place.
“What hit this place?” Ford asked. “It almost reminds me of what a Nuke would do.”
“Well, fortunately for us, there doesn't appear to be any harmful radiation,” Rodney said, checking the Life Signs Detector.
“They use energy weapons for aerial bombardment,” Ronon said as he ducked around a section of wall. “ Wraith Hives ships and cruisers have energy weapons that can fire from orbit. My planet was wiped out after they culled our population using the same sort of weapons.”
“How long ago was that?” Ford asked.
“Six years,” Ronon replied. “Most of he Wraith are sleeping, but they don't tolerate any sign of advancement in humans. They came n force, six hives and over a dozen cruisers. A population of over a million people wiped out in less than a week.”
“I'm sorry,” Ford said. “I can't even imagine what that must have been like.”
“I hope you never do,” Ronon replied, tightly.
The center of the city there was a sculpture, or what was left of one, that looked like an Ancient weapons satellite. The building next to it looked like a giant tuning fork and appeared to be mostly intact, even though most of the window appeared to have been shattered on the side of the weapon impact.
“This one?” John asked pointing to the building.
“Yes,” Teyla said. “Follow me.”
The ground floor entrance to the building was blocked by rubble from nearby structures. Teyla lead them around the far side, where several girders were sticking through the second and third floors, making a crude access. The climb inside wasn't difficult, just time consuming, as they had to make sure each place they stepped was stable enough to take their weight.
Once inside, there were two distinct sections of the building, each one had a stairway and what looked like an elevator shaft. The stairs were blocked with debris after they climbed down to the ground floor.
“How did you get down?” Rodney asked.
“Through the shaft on the north side,” she replied. “There was debris that I was able to climb down, but it wasn't stable.”
“How unstable was it?” John asked evenly.
“I was careful,” Teyla replied with a knowing smile.
“Right,” John drawled.
“This shaft is empty,” Teyla said. “But it is very deep.”
Rodney used the LSD to scan the area. “You weren't kidding. This shaft goes down several hundred meters.”
“If we can find a place to secure the lines,” Ford began as he leaned over into the shaft, shining the light from his P-90 down. “We can use the climbing gear.”
“There are plenty of pillars in here,” O'Neill pointed out. “Major, your orders?”
“Right.” John took a deep breath. “Gear up and I want all anchors double checked. Airman Ross, as you have the most experience rappelling, I want you down the shaft first.”
“Yes, sir,” Ross said and gave a snappy salute.
All too soon they were heading down the shaft one at a time. Ross went first, checking for debris that might fall on them. Knocking down hazards as she went. Ronon went next, testing the weight of the ropes.
“I'm at the bottom of the shaft,” Ross said over the radio. “Looks like there is a door that we can open with a little muscle.”
“Don't touch anything until we get down there,” McKay reminded her.
“Understood,” Ross replied. “Ronon has another twenty feet to go before he joins me. You can send the next person down.”
Half an hour later, they were all down in the shaft when the doors carefully pried open. Ronon went first, his sword at the ready. Ross and Ford a step behind him on either side. The lights from their weapons illuminating the room.
“Look at that,” O'Neill said softly. “Look familiar?”
“Definitely Ancient inspired design at least,” McKay said.
Artificial lights stuttered to life as John stepped past the threshold. “Definitely Ancient.”
“That was unexpected,” McKay said softly, holding the scanner in front of him. “I'm reading a massive power source past the next wall.” He walked over to where there was a window and peered inside.
“There is a panel in the wall, it would not open for me,”Teyla said.
“John,” McKay said weakly. “You need to see this.”
“What have we got?” John peered inside and froze. There in a cradle was a softly glowing zero point module. “How do we get to it?”
McKay scanned the wall with his eyes. He had not encountered this set up exactly, but then they hadn't had an opportunity to examine Athosian technologies before the Wraith had destroyed the planet.
“I had no idea this was even here,” Teyla said. “Entering the city was forbidden for decades. No one dared disobey my father.”
“But you went,” John said softly, his eyes searching the room.
“Not until he passed,” Teyla sighed. “Unfortunately, his death was something I could not prevent.”
McKay paused, his eyes meeting Teyla's. “How did he die? You never said.”
“He had what you call a heart attack,” Teyla replied. “I tried to convince him to let me take over more of his duties, but he was always stubborn.”
“Sorry,” McKay said, sincerely.
“To die naturally is a rare blessing,” Teyla reminded him. “Even though most of the Wraith are asleep, they still come to remind us that we are theirs for the taking.”
“How many of these wraith are there?” Ford asked.
“Hundreds of thousands,” Ronon said. “Maybe as many as a few million. No one alive knows for sure.”
“Is there any way to find out?” Ford replied.
“Wraith controlled worlds are extremely dangerous,” Ronon said. “No one goes to them willingly except the Arreptitii.”
“The what?” Ford blinked at the contempt in Ronon's voice.
“That is what we call those that worship the Wraith as gods,” Teyla replied. “They are mad.”
“And on that happy note,” John interjected. “Do you have anything, Rodney.”
“There,” he said pointing to a slightly raised section of the wall. “Place your hand there and ask it to open.”
“Maybe I should do that, sir?” O'Neill suggested. “You know because you're our military leader and all.”
John frowned. “Really?”
“Technically you shouldn't be doing gate missions at all,” O'Neill said. “Hammond never went through the gate.”
“We need every able body to go through the gate,” John reminded him. “And all the gate teams need an ATA gene carrier exploring off-world sites. So, no, I can't stay safely hidden in the city.”
O'Neill grimaced. “Fine, but I get the next one.”
John grinned at him before carefully placing his hand on the raised plate. The plate glowed softly for a moment and the lights began to dim. A section of the wall next to him retracted into the floor and the cradle that was holding the ZPM slid into view. “Okay,” he breathed.
“O'Neill,” McKay said. “Touch the plate above the cradle. John, keep your hand on the panel.”
When O'Neill touched the plate, the cradle opened fully exposing the ZPM. McKay reached in and carefully lifted the crystal power source out and stepped away. “Okay O'Neill, let go. John you do the same.”
As they all stepped away the lights in the room dimmed slowly until they were forced to turn their own lights back on.
“Is that it?” Ford asked into the darkness.
“I think so,” John said. “Let's get this back to the city.”
Teyla stiffened, her eyes widened. “Wraith.”
“Where,” Ronon asked, drawing both his pistol and his sword.
“Close,” Teyla replied. “Hungry. Like it just woke from a long sleep.”
“Probably been in hibernation since the last great culling,” Ronon said. “They did that on Sateda. They left a few behind in case people came back.”
“Weapons free, everyone,” John ordered. “Full auto.”
“Yes, sir,” the soldiers replied.
The wraith was fast, using its mental abilities to try and confuse it. John hadn't spent the better part of a decade fighting these living nightmares without learning to tell the difference.
“We can't leave until we kill that thing.” Rodney stuffed the ZPM into his pack and secured it tightly. He pulled his pistol out and checked the safety, before scanning the room.
“Check all the corners,” John said as he trained his light up to the ceiling. “Don't let anything sneak up on you.
Airman Ross let out a yelp of surprise as her light illuminated a greenish white face framed in long white hair. It sneered at her and backhanded her across the room.
“Ross!” John shouted. He fired even as he said her name. His aim was true, but it still moved fast, dodging the initial barrage of bullets. Ronon fired his gun, the energy blast forced the wraith to change direction right back into the M4's line of sight.
O'Neill hit it on full auto in the chest. He paused expecting it to fall to the ground dead, but it simply sneered at him.
“Keep firing,” John ordered.
The wraith staggered back from the impact of the M4 and P-90 rounds. Its look of shock was almost comical as it finally fell to the ground. Ronon charged forward and sliced the wraith's head from its body. He lifted the head by its hair and threw it across the room.
“Jesus,” Ford gasped in shock. “Was that necessary?”
“You do not give a wraith a chance to regenerate,” Ronon said tersely.
John moved to check on Ross. “You alright?”
“Yes, sir,” she replied a little groggy. “Damn thing hits like a Jaffa.” She carefully moved her jaw. “Ow. That is going to leave a mark.”
“Good thing it was still weak from hibernation,” Ronon replied. “Hadn't fed in a long time.”
“If that was weak, I'd hate to meet one fell fed,” O'Neill said examining the body.
“Wrap up the head and bring it with us to confirm our report,” John said reluctantly. “We'll retrieve the rest of the body later. The biologists will want to study it.”
“Yes, sir,” Ford replied.
There was a small crowd of Athosians just outside the city limits when the team emerged with their findings. Halling was at the front as well as several other men. They all looked gravely concerned.
“Teyla!” Halling called. “What has happened? Kannan said he felt Wraith, but then the feeling ended abruptly.”
Teyla stepped up to Halling, he bent low to touch her forehead with his own.
“Halling, I am fine,” Teyla said in a low, reassuring voice. Then turned to address her people. “All is well. There was a Wraith hibernating in the city, but it is no longer a problem.”
“You killed a wraith?” Toran gasped in disbelief. “You will bring more down upon us.”
“A single wraith,” Ronon countered. “Especially one that has been separated from a hive like that one was, isn't even going to be noticed by the Wraith as a whole.”
“You don't know that, Runner,” Toran sneered. “How do we know that it didn't come here for you?”
“Because it was weak and hadn't fed in a long time,” Ronon replied, unfazed. “But you wouldn't know that, since you'd probably piss yourself if you ever saw a wraith in person.”
“We should have never let you join us,” Toran shot back. “Leave and take your taint with you.”
“Toran,” Teyla said sharply. “You do not decide who is welcome here.”
“But Teyla,” Toran began. “It is not safe to let a runner stay in our midst and now you are allowing these strangers to explore the old city. It is as though you wish the Wraith to come.” The murmur of dismay from the small crowd showed that he didn't have many supporters.
“I have led our people since the day my father passed,” Teyla said tightly. “Are you now questioning my judgment?”
“I question your fascination with these strangers,” Toran replied. “The Wraith-”
“Will always come,” Teyla shot back. “They will always hunt us, always cull us. I will not live in fear, I will not turn away people in need out of fear of retaliation. My father always welcomed those in need, as did his mother before him. If you do not agree with that tradition then perhaps you should look into your own heart and find out why.”
“I fear that you are lead astray by a pretty face,” Toran glared at John.
“Hey! He is happily married,” McKay shot back.
Toran snorted. “As though I would believe the words of an off-world deceiver.”
“What are you talking about?” Teyla demanded.
“That one,” he pointed to Ford. “He told me you are living in the lost city of the Ancients.”
“Um,” Ford blinked. “I don't remember doing that.”
“You lie, again,” Toran growled. “You told me the day you broke your camp that you were returning to Atlantis.”
“Fucking Nish'ta,” O'Neill muttered. “Makes people more likely to answer a direct question with the truth,”
“Okay, just calm down and let us explain,” John said raising his empty hands.
“You are all liars,” Toran accused. “False friends. Why should we believe anything you say?”
“Because we actually are from Atlantis,” McKay shouted in frustration.
“You're living in the city of the Ancestor?” Halling asked, clearly horrified. “How could you defile such a sacred place?” Now the grumblings were more angry and confused.
“Because,” John reached into his tack vest and pulled out an LSD and activated it. “I'm descended from them.”
Halling and Toran both took a step back in shock. “What trick is this?” Toran demanded. “Where did you get that?”
“From Atlantis,” John replied. He tossed it casually to Ford, who caught it deftly. The scanner stopped working immediately.
“As you can see, not everyone has Ancient blood, but enough that the city accepted us into its walls,” Rodney said tersely.
“Why would you lie about something so profound?” Halling demanded. “The blood of the Ancestors is so rare I have not met one in my lifetime.”
“Because, you seem to revere the people we refer to as Ancients as gods,” John replied, evenly. “We wanted a chance to get to know your people, without adding that into the mix.”
“Halling, Toran,” Teyla interjected. “I've known since the day that they came through the Ancestor's Ring where they are from. They asked that I keep it in confidence and I agreed with their reasoning.” At the stunned silence Teyla stood straighter exuding the power of her position. “If you are offended that I may have deceived you in some way, let me remind you that Tagan often kept many secrets.”
Halling looked away. “Forgive me, Teyla,” he said. “I often have trouble separating the leader from the friend I've known since childhood. I had no right to question your decisions.”
“You have the right to question,” Teyla replied, her eyes narrowed. “Come to me and ask the questions that plague your mind. You know I will always listen.” She turned to Toran, who looked sullen and angry. “What you do not have is the right to conspire to undermine my authority out of petty jealousy.”
Toran flushed and looked away.
“I will not discuss our personal issues in this public setting, Toran,” Teyla said tersely before turning to the rest of the Athosians gathered. “I will, however, expect the rest of you to trust my judgment in this. I was going to let you all know where they come from when the time was right, but as it is no longer a secret we shall have a meeting tomorrow one hour after the first sunrise. Before then, you may all know this, I believe that our new trading partners have much they can teach us just as we have much we can teach them.” The gathered Athosians agreed and dispersed back to the camp, some more reluctantly than others.
“That was awkward,” McKay said.
Teyla turned with a frustrated sigh. “It is partly my own fault. I have been pushing Toran away for a while. I knew of his jealous streak, but I had not realized he assumed I was being intimate with John.”
“It wouldn't be the first time someone thought I was a Lothario,” John replied with a pointed look at his husband.
“Yes, well,” Rodney huffed and crossed his arms defensively. “There is more than one reason I said yes.”
John rolled his eyes. “Right. Should I send a team back tomorrow?”
“Yes,” Teyla replied. “But not until after the second sunrise. I want to have a long discussion with my people.”
“Okay,” John agreed. “We'll talk about having representatives of your people come to the city as a show of good faith.”
“I think that would help mend trust,” Teyla agreed.
arreptitius: adjective posessed (in mind), inspired; raving, delirious; raving mad
This is the final chapter. Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed it.
It was several days later when Halling, Charin, Teyla, Ronon, Osalia, and Toran stepped through the gate into Atlantis. They had gated first to the Alpha site on M7G-223 before dialing into Atlantis. The planet that had been called New Athos when the expedition had been forcibly kicked out of the city by a ship full of Alterans. Something that the former members of Atlantis Recon 1 planned to never allow again.
John escorted them dressed in casual BDUs, unarmed, with only one security guard who followed at a discreet distance. Dr. Lam and the rest of the department heads agreed with John and Rodney's insistence that a show of force would not be necessary. Sgt Bates had not been pleased but was at least willing to follow orders.
“I did not think I would see the great city of the Ancestors in my lifetime,” Charin said. “It is more beautiful than the stories describe.” She touched one of the many pillars that were filled with bubbling water reverently.
“We're happy to be able to show it to you now,” John said lightly. “The city stood abandoned for so long there are areas that are still unsafe.”
“Unsafe?” Osalia asked. “How could the city be dangerous?” She was Halling's cousin and held the Ancients in reverence much like he did, but she was also a brilliant doctor.
“It is as with anywhere that has long been abandoned,” Dr. Zelenka said coming into the hallway. He had put on his least rumbled uniform and his Einstein-like hair had been tamed with a quick trim and a good brushing. “This break over time, even in a place as advanced as Atlantis. We hope that the ZPM, which we have just finished examining, will allow us to repair areas that were damaged by the flooding where the shield failed.”
“You haven't used the ZPM yet?” Teyla asked surprised.
“Not yet,” Zelenka sighed. “McKay insisted that the power grid was inspected first. In a city this large it has taken several days. We also needed to make sure that the ZPM was safe. I've never encountered one that was as fully charged as the one you gave us, but any sort of flaw in it would be disastrous.”
“Where is Dr. McKay?” Ronon asked, turning to John. “I thought he'd be here.”
“He's down at the gym,” John replied. “He's working out with Dr. Kusanagi and several of the Marines.”
Ronon's eyebrows shot up in surprise. “McKay is working out? Willingly?”
“Willingly,” John gave him a sardonic smile. “Follow me.” He took them to one of the transporters and directed their destination to the gymnasium. As the doors slid open, the Athosians gave small noises of surprise that their location had changed. “Thankfully the transporters work on minimal power, otherwise there are thousands of flights of stairs that we would have to traverse to get anywhere.”
Ahead of them, they could hear the shouts of an instructor and the replies of a class. The double doors slid open to show a dozen men and women all following a petite sword wielding instructor that was facing them. Each of the students was holding a wooden practice sword and as Miko shouted a command, they replied and moved to a new position.
Rodney stood at the head of the class, slightly separated from the others, sweating profusely. He was holding an actual sword, his movements weren't as fluid as his instructors, but they were better and more experienced than most of the class.
Miko called a halt and turned to the door. “Major Sheppard, is there a reason you are interrupting my class?”
John bowed. “Forgive me, sensei, but I need to borrow McKay.”
Miko narrowed her eyes. “You will be prompt for your next class, Major.”
“Yes, sensei,” John replied. “Come on, Rodney.”
McKay carefully sheathed the sword and placed in on a rack on the wall. He bowed to Miko and left the room with a sigh. “I was doing really well you know.” He grabbed a towel and wiped the sweat off his face before grabbing his gym bag and leaving the room. The could hear Miko continuing the lesson as the door slid closed.
“I can tell,” Ronon said. “How long have you been doing that?”
“Three years now?” Rodney looked at John. “Since we met up at the SGC. John thought it would be a good skill. We had a sword master flown in to teach us the basics. He was also able to certify Miko as a master instructor. So we could keep taking lessons when we left Earth.”
“And you're training the soldiers to fight with swords?” Ronon asked.
“Yeah,” John replied. “I'm ordering swords to be standard issue to all gate teams once Miko clears them. One of the problems the SCG had was that standard hand to hand combat, as effective it is against regular humans, doesn't really translate to someone that is twice your strength.”
“Smart,” Ronon said. “Let me know if you need someone to teach them wraith fighting techniques.”
“I would really appreciate it,” John said. “Assume you have an open invitation to come to Atlantis.”
“You can keep him,” Toran muttered softly.
“Toran!” Teyla turned on him.
The taller Athosian's eyes were wide with surprise. “Forgive me, Teyla. I don't know why I said that.”
Ronon snorted in disbelief. “You should watch what you say in a place made of metal,” he replied. “Sound carries really far.”
“Is there a problem?” McKay asked, glaring at Toran.
“Toran doesn't like me too much,” Ronon shrugged. “He thinks I'm gonna steal Teyla away from him.”
“Seriously?” McKay said. “I can think of a dozen reasons she should kick him out of her tent. The main reason being that he's a dick.”
“Rodney!” John admonished him, trying hard not to laugh at Toran's squawk of indignation. “And on that note, let's finish this tour and you can watch as Dr. McKay and his team install the ZMP.”
“Yes, let us continue,” Halling agreed. mortified by the entire exchange.
There was a small observation room just off the power distribution hub where the ZPMs were housed. Several of the scientists were going over last minute checks, to make sure there was nothing that might interfere with installing the new power source.
The Athosians along with Dr. Lam and Sharon Walker stood with Sheppard as McKay ordered everyone out of the room.
“Is this dangerous?” Osalia asked watching intently.
“It shouldn't be,” John said. “But it has been several thousand years since a new ZPM was installed. McKay doesn't take chances with other people's lives.”
“And we are inserting the ZPM into the cradle now,” Rodney said as he slid it into place. The cradle slid down into the pedestal and locked into place. For a moment, nothing happened, then the lights around them grew brighter.
“Rodney, there are a dozen new systems coming online,” Zelenka said.
“Major Sheppard, to the gate room. Repeat, Major Sheppard to the gate room,” Dr. Grodin called using the Ancient version of a public announcement system.
“Go, John,” Rodney said. “I'll be up there in a few minutes to check the readings anyway.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” John said quickly. “I hate to cut the tour short, but duty calls.”
“We will be fine, Major,” Teyla said. “I'm sure you can find someone that would be happy to help us finish the tour.”
“Of course,” he clicked on his radio. “Dr. Grodin, this is Sheppard. I'm on my way.”
John entered the gate room to find half of the on-duty staff having drawn weapons on Dr. Brendan Gall
and Dr. Grant Hays. “What the hell is going on?”
“Sir,” Sgt. Bates replied. “These two attempted to dial the gate without permission.”
“Seriously?” John muttered. “Doctors, can you explain to me what you were thinking?”
“We need to contact the SGC,” Dr. Gall replied. “They need to know what happened.”
“And we will,” John assured them. “However, trying to dial without authorization, especially after what happened with Dr. Wallace, is sketchy at best. You're lucky Sgt. Bates didn't just shoot you.”
“But the SGC need to know what happened to Dr. Weir and Colonel Everett,” Dr. Gall said.
“Yes, they do,” John agreed calmly. “What we can't do is waste valuable time and power doing an intergalactic dial without all out ducks in a row.”
“Dr. Gall, Dr. Hays,” Rodney shouted as he entered the gate room. “Is there a reason you aren't in your lab compiling data?”
“Dr. McKay,” Dr. Hays swallowed. “We can dial-”
“You were ordered to compile your research for a data burst,” Rodney said impatiently. “You think I did that for no reason?”
“Well, no,” Dr. Hays muttered. “But we can send the data burst later.”
“No,” Rodney snapped. “We are not going to waste power because you are too scared to deal with being in another galaxy. We are going to dial once, we are going to send our information and then we are going to shut it down as soon as we are done. I don't care if we have a ZPM. We don't know how long it will last, despite the fact that three lasted ten thousand years, that doesn't mean that we can just treat it like an unlimited power supply. We need to conserve power as much as possible because we don't know what the power consumption for the city will be like with all these extra systems coming online.”
“But, Dr. McKay,” Gall began.
“You don't like it?” Rodney said. “You can pack your shit and get go back to Earth when we dial them.”
“What?” Dr. Gall went pale. “You can't-”
“I am the CSO, you are under my authority,” Rodney reminded him. “You can bet your ass I have the authority to send you packing.” He turned to all the other civilians in the gate room. “That goes for all of you. In the meantime, get your reports in order and have them ready for the dial. You have one week, I suggest you use your time wisely.”
The bulk of the expedition crowded into the gate room waiting for the moment they would renew contact with Earth. There was a buzz of excitement, things were good, despite the losses. They had made allies and learned of a new and potentially terrifying enemy.
“Alright, Dr. Grodin,” John said calmly. “Dial Earth.”
The quick succession of chevrons began to light up as they reached the eighth the gate stuttered and went dark. John stared at the gate in disbelief, this had never happened before. “Rodney!”
“On it,” Rodney ducked under the console of the DHD and pulled a panel free. “There is nothing wrong here.” He said his hands deep in the guts. The crystal that allows us to dial Earth is intact.”
“Try it again,” John ordered.
Rodney crawled out from under the console, not bothering to put the panel back in. “Dialing.” As the chevrons lit up, the tension in the room grew stronger. It reached the eighth and again failed to connect, the gate shutting down. “What the fuck?” Rodney said loud enough for everyone to hear. “Radek.”
“Yes, yes,” Zelenka said. “Running a diagnostic.”
The noise in the room began to grow as people started panicking. “Everyone please,” Dr. Heightmeyer called. “Try to stay calm. Obviously, there is some issue with the gate. I suggest we all go back to our normal routine until we discover what has happened.”
“Rodney, there is nothing wrong with the gate system,” Zelenka said quietly.
“I'm dialing Athos,” Rodney declared. “Make sure it isn't our gate system.” There was dead silence in the room when the gate connected without any problems.
“Alright, no one panic,” Nathan said quickly. “The gate systems have had problems before. We wait a day and try again.”
“I want all command level staff in the conference room in one hour,” John said. “Check all the systems and then we'll discuss our option.”
Rodney ducked back under the DHD's console and started checking everything again, barking orders over the radio.
John slowly turned to look at his executive officer. “Call all the officers, I want a full inventory done. Keep people busy.”
“Yes, sir,” O'Neill replied with a quick salute.
“So what have we got?” John asked. The meeting was postponed for two hours so that Rodney could be sure he has all the data. Everyone looked nervous, Dr. Beckett looked like he wanted to be sick.
“If there is a problem it isn't from our end,” Rodney said. “Nothing is amiss on the DHD, the power levels are steady, the gate crystals are intact.”
“So what are our options?” Dr. Lam asked.
“Our options are limited,” Dr. Zelenka said. “Unless we discover a ship that can traverse the distance between galaxies, we can do nothing but continue to dial out.”
“I don't want anyone obsessively dialing Earth. It'll just make for bad moral,” Dr. Heightmeyer said. “I would suggest limiting attempts to once a day for the next week. Then if nothing changes, limiting to once a week.”
“I agree,” Rodney replied. “Even attempting to dial is a power drain, though nothing like an actual connection.”
John grimaced. “Alright then, we need to act as though it is business as usual. Exploration of the Pegasus galaxy, finding trading partners and discovering everything we can about the Ancients and the Wraith.”
Two weeks later:
The Athosian Winter solstice celebration was in full swing. John and Rodney sat with Teyla and Ronon on one of the many wooden benches set in front of a roaring bond fire. Booze flowed freely as a several huge fire pits roasted meats and vegetables of all sorts. A communal pot sat on embers keeping a dish that had always reminded John of paella warm. It was a beautiful night, with a carefree feeling to it.
Jinto, Wex and other children were playing Wraith vs Humans in a macabre version of hide and seek. Meanwhile, the adults talked in small groups speaking of plans for the next growing season and what they hoped for the most in the future.
The gate to Earth had stayed silent and while things were not desperate, it was a worry that weighed on everyone's minds. The every fact that they couldn't find out what had happened was probably the most distressing issue.
There was a large group of people from Atlantis in attendance, they were using the celebration as a distraction from their current crisis. They were, as always, accompanied by a security team, but rather than be a show of force, John ordered that they be dressed casually with weapons hidden or secured. They had not yet garnered the unwanted attention of the Genii, but they had already made a casual first contact with them.
“I see some old friends here tonight,” Rodney said quietly. He glanced over where the father and daughter team of Tyrus as Sora were mingling with the crowd. They were wearing the simple homespun clothing that they used to make people think they were nothing but a farming community.
“Yes, I could hardly shun them as a trading partner,” Teyla sighed. “Though I know they are deceivers, I can not simply break two hundred years of peaceful commerce because of what I remember from a different timeline. My people would not understand.”
“I get that,” John said softly as the pair started making their way towards them. “That doesn't mean I have to be so friendly.”
“I would prefer it if you didn't deliberately cause trouble,” Teyla replied with a knowing smile.
“I would never!” John gave her a wounded look.
“Yes, you would,” Ronon replied with a feral smile.
“You totally would,” Rodney agreed.
John placed his hand over his heart. “I'm hurt,” he said dramatically. Ronon gave him a shove that sent him toppling over into the grass. His indignant squeak made them all laugh.
“Teyla, Ronon,” Tyrus greeted a minute later as John was climbing to his feet. “I greet you on this day of celebration.”
“Tyrus,” Teyla greeted with a cool smile. “I'm pleased you and Sora could come.”
“I would never miss a chance to see you, Teyla,” Sora said with a smile. “And who are your friends?”
“John Sheppard, Rodney McKay,” Teyla introduced them. “They are new trading partners.”
“Really,” Tyrus eyed them critically. “From where do you hail?”
“We're the Tau'ri,” John said. It had been decided that calling themselves Lanteans was just asking for trouble. Adopting the Goa'uld word for Earthlings seemed appropriate. It would have no meaning to those in Pegasus, but it would remind everyone from the expedition that they were not safe here despite the perceived lack of threat.
“I am not familiar with that name,” Tyrus replied.
“Our culture hasn't gone through the Ring of the Ancestor in hundreds of years,” Rodney said truthfully. “We only discovered it again a few years ago, it took us a long time to understand how it worked.”
“Remarkable,” Sora replied. “What do you trade, perhaps we can share our bounty?”
“Currently we're working on developing a cheese from our domesticated herbivores,” Rodney said, deadpan.
Tyrus blinked. “I see. You are a farming community then?”
“It's one of the things we do,” John replied. “We have a small population, but we're happy to meet new friends.”
“Yes,” Sora said, flirtatiously. “It is always good to make new friends.”
“The foundation of a good friendship is understanding and respecting each other's boundaries,” John replied, taking Rodney's hand in his. “As we've only just met you, I'd say there is a lot we could share, as long as there are no misunderstandings.” The matching looks of discomfort on the Genii's faces confirmed something that John had suspected for a long time about their culture. “We believe, much like the Athosians, that peaceful relationship begins with an open and honest dialog.”
“It is always a comfort when one finds cultures that have beliefs that mirror your own,” Tyrus said, trying to hide his distaste with a smile.
“One day maybe we'll have a chance to find our own common ground,” John smiled right back.
“Perhaps, we will speak later, Teyla?” Sora suggested.
“Of course, Sora,” Teyla replied. “Please enjoy the rest of the evening.”
“We will have to deal with them sooner or later,” Rodney said once they were out of earshot.
“Let's say later,” John said. “I want to work on the Daganians first. See if we can convince them to let us have their Potentia.”
“John, you already have a half charged ZPM in the city.” Teyla reminded him.
“Yes, thanks to you,” John replied. “I still can't believe you found it in the old city.”
“As grateful as I am for it, a fully charged ZPM would make Atlantis that much safer for all concerned,” Rodney replied. “If we can get it, we can start taking the fight to the Wraith.”
Ronon leaned forward eagerly. “I'm looking forward to that.”
“Are you sure you want this fight?” Teyla asked.
“We weren't ready the first time around,” John said. “And even though most of them will continue to sleep for another fifty years, I'm not willing to let them continue to terrorize this galaxy anymore.”
“They'll never stop, so long as we do nothing,” Rodney said. “As much as I hate the idea of going to war with them, I'm not going to let them rule Pegasus unchallenged.”
“Then I shall happily join you in this fight,” Teyla said. “That my children and my children's children, may live free from the Wraith.”
It was as if their words had summoned them Teyla's eyes widened and she turned toward where the stargate was. "Wraith!" she shouted. "The Wraith have come."
A call went out from Lt. Ford over the radios almost simultaneously. “Sir, the gate activated and three ships of unknown design just came through headed for the settlement.”
John was on his feet in seconds, he reached behind the bench he had been sitting on and pulled out his M4. “Bogies on the planet. I repeat, bogies on the planet. Don't let them reach the village and for God's sake don't let them fly directly over you.” He started running toward the gate, Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon only a step behind him, with weapons free.
The first Wraith Dart came into view, it turned to make a run at those gathered around the bond fires. The celebrants screamed and started running in all directions seeking shelter. The expedition soldiers stood their ground and fired. John had minor thought that the Genii would see their weapons, but that was of little consequence. The Wraith needed to be stopped before anyone was culled.
Someone farther into the crowd fired their grenade launcher and a Dart exploded in mid-air. The second Dart met a similar end soon after, as Ronon found high ground and fired repeatedly with his pistol. His attack was joined by small weapons fire from several directions. A cheer went up from the Athosians even as they kept moving
"Ford, dial the Alpha site. Tell them to expect evacuees any minute,” Sheppard ordered.
"Yes, sir," Ford replied. "What if the ship tries to get through?"
"Don't let the gate go dark. If that ship can dial out on its own, it'll escape," Sheppard said. The final dart fired its weapon at the far side of the scattered humans causing many to turn back and stumble into large groups. Rodney pulled him out of the way as the Dart flew past, culling beam sweeping, but several others, Tyrus among them were swept up.
“Father!” Sora cried in horror as the Dart screamed past her.
“Concentrate all fire at the front of the ship,” John ordered. “Bring it down!”
The needle-like nose of the ship held most of the navigational elements. Any damage to it would make the Dart unstable and more likely to crash. Bullets tore through the nose and the ship teetered and wiggled violently before it took a nosedive and landed in the shallow muddy bank of the lake.
Ronon reached it first his sword drawn. The cockpit opened and a male Wraith hissed menacingly, many of the gathered Pegasus natives screamed at the sight of a living Wraith. Ronon wasted no time and cut the Wraith's head off with his sword before it could reach for its personal self-destruct device.
“Rodney?” John called.
“I'm on it,” McKay replied. He pulled his laptop out of his pack. “I need the ship raised to onto its side so the culling beam port is exposed. Otherwise, we'll crush anyone that comes out of the beam.”
All around them people were still running in panic, grabbing family and friends for comfort, or making a hasty retreat to the gate. John gave quick orders to allow anyone that wanted to dial their home planets, but to keep the gate occupied otherwise by dialing the Alpha site.
“What are you doing?” Sora demanded her eyes were dry of tears but she was extremely upset.
“We're getting everyone the culling beam caught out of the ship's storage system,” Rodney replied. He watched impatiently as a group of soldiers used makeshift braces to hoist up one wing to expose the belly of the ship. “Now stay back. Chances are good this thing could still blow up on us.”
She watched with great suspicion and distrust but did as she was told. John signaled Sgt. Markham to keep an eye on her to make sure she didn't interfere.
It took nearly an hour of messing around with the insides of the ship, but McKay managed to force the ship to release its cargo. The dozen people appeared on the muddy shore and promptly collapsed.
A medical team had arrived to help transport anyone injured to the Alpha site where they could be safely treated. They came to examine the people rescued from the Dart. The decapitated remains of the wraith were bagged and sent through the gate for later study.
Sora's expression was at both relieved and calculating, even as she ran to check on her father. It was pretty obvious that the expedition had made themselves a target by being helpful. “How did you do that,” she demanded. “Who are you, people?”
Rodney ignored her questions and started pulling useful parts out of the Dart. It would take too long to bring the entire ship back through the gate, but the data storage components were easy enough to remove if you knew what to look for. There were several interface relays that were at least partially organic. It would be easier to marry their tech with Earth computers with proper connectors.
“What have you done?” Halling asked, his eyes wide with shock, even as he held his unconscious son in his arms.
“Saved your son's life,” Rodney said. “You're welcome.”
“How did you know how to do that? Sora demanded again.
“We all have secrets, Sora,” Rodney replied tightly. “And trust is earned. I don't know you and you sure as hell don't know me. You looked at me and my husband with disgust, so unless you get over your prejudice, you don't get a chance to earn my trust.”
Sora's stared at him in stunned silence. Rodney snorted and grabbed his gear, stuffing it back into his backpack.
“It's been over an hour,” John said. “The Wraith are going to wonder what happened to their ships.”
"I think you're going to have to evacuate Athos, Teyla," Rodney said as she came to join them. "Sorry."
"I have my people breaking down our camp as we speak, Rodney," Teyla said. “This is as it always has been. They will always come. They will always take. I am just grateful you were here to help us."
"But this time, we'll make them pay for it," Ronon said as he spun his gun before holstering it.
John moved to join them and watched as the people of Athos began to break down their camp calmly and efficiently. "We'll gate them to the Alpha site. Once the guests have gone home to their own worlds, we'll head to the city. Tell them we welcome them to the Atlantis."
"I'll let them know," Teyla replied and headed to help with the evacuation.
This fight was what John had come back to Pegasus for. Not just getting back to the city he loved so much, but to return to these people. The people of Pegasus who had been cruelly abandoned by the Ancients to suffer and die at the hands of the monsters they had created. There were plenty of people in this galaxy that would resent what he and the people of the expedition represented, but he wasn't here to be thanked. He and his team were here to fight creatures that should have been wiped out ten thousand years ago. This was only the beginning.