Three years earlier when Anubis attacked Earth with his entire fleet of Ha'tak's and Al'kesh - Goa'uld motherships and bombers - the I.O.A made a decision to reveal the existence of the Stargate Program to the rest of the world. Despite Earth's victory over Anubis, it wasn't handled well. The resulting riots and looting was put down to fear from learning that not only were we not alone in the universe, but also vulnerable to attack. Some people saw it as the end of the world and perhaps in hindsight they were right. Rodney mulled over that thought for a moment as he reset the parameters for another test.
At the height of the riots President Hayes stepped down under public pressure and General Landry took his place. It wasn't exactly a military coup as Landry refused to wear his uniform from the moment he was sworn in as President, determined to present himself as a man of the people rather than as a military dictator, but he introduced Martial Law immediately. At his first national address he promised it would be a short term measure until the country accepted the situation and settled back down, but that never seemed to happen.
Less than a year ago a pandemic swept across the world and over half of the world's population died within days of the outbreak. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had never seen something so virulent before and there seemed to be no pattern for who it took - age, race, or gender. Some families were left virtually untouched while others were wiped out from the oldest to the youngest. If the I.O.A. had noticed a pattern then they refrained from mentioning it.
Rodney wondered if there was a pattern, aware he had been one of the lucky ones, losing most of his family on his mother's side but fortunately not his sister or his niece.
"Or Kaleb," he added as an afterthought even though he quite liked his brother-in-law, and he knew Jeannie loved her husband with all her heart. Admittedly his relation ship with his sister was not on the best footing these days, with her disappointed in him for spending less and less time on theoretical physics and more time on business ventures, especially the defense contracts he pursued with the U.S. government for weaponry.
When the general public learned that this pandemic had been a plague sent by the Ori as a punishment rather than some new strain of flu virus that wouldn't respond to any known vaccines, the riots grew worse, spreading out across the world. People started to demand answers, refusing to be placated with empty promises. Acts of terrorism rose, though most of those so called acts were just ordinary people trying to maintain a hold on their human rights and protest the current state of the country; a stranglehold on their lives that was slowly becoming a permanent state.
Despite this new threat from the stars, and protests from various groups, most of Earth's governments continued in their refusal to cower down and worship the Ori, standing firm with Landry.
Convert to Origin or face annihilation, and the leaders on Earth had chosen to fight.
Rodney had stopped believing in a 'higher power' back in his teens, and as Earth had already defeated one creature pretending to be a god - Anubis - along with several other Goa'uld System Lords, he was actually pretty hopeful they could defeat the Ori. His company had several contracts with the U.S. Government, producing high grade weaponry by reverse engineering - and improving upon - some of the alien technology found scattered across the galaxy.
For the next few months following the plague, the combined Earth forces managed to keep the Ori at bay by falling back to Earth and leaving the rest of the galaxy to fend for itself. The Solar System was on the outer arm of the Milky Way, almost at the furthest point from where the Ori warships entered the Milky Way galaxy, and that worked in Earth's favor. However, the Ori moved swiftly from system to system, and when the first Ori warship reached Earth, General O'Neill used the Ancient Chair, which had been relocated from the Antarctic outpost to AREA 51. He deployed most of the remaining drones, sending them to attack and destroy the Ori ship.
In response, the Ori sent three more ships.
Unfortunately, Grodin was still reverse engineering the single drone provided by the SGC, and no other weapon used off-world had proved as effective at destroying Ori warships. With just five days left they'd all been praying to their own gods for a miracle, and it came in the form of Colonel Samantha Carter.
Activating the Merlin device had phased the entire planet out of existence, allowing the Ori weapons to pass straight through harmlessly, and the Ori warships gave up when they realized the planet was beyond their reach. They had the rest of the galaxy to either convert or destroy so eventually they moved off. At least that was Sam's theory, but after months of study Rodney realized she had been wrong. Sam had experienced the equivalent of stepping through a quantum mirror when she activated the Merlin device within a force field in her own universe at the same moment his Sam activated her inter-dimensional bridge.
Using a similar technique, the planet hadn't just phase-shifted, it had moved completely to a parallel universe. The Earth had simply appeared in orbit around the same sun in the same position but in another universe. The math it took to create such an event without causing a catastrophic collapse of both universes was almost beyond his comprehension, something he wouldn't admit to anyone, but he determined their Earth had merely replaced a dead equivalent of Earth, negating the cascading effects. Rodney knew he could spend a lifetime studying the math and the device and still not understand its full potential.
Sam was back in her own universe where she belonged, and knowing another Sam existed out there had at least made Rodney's grief at the loss of his Sam more manageable. Perhaps they had not ended their marriage on the best of terms, especially after he revealed his equal opportunity preference for either gender, but they had remained friends. He snorted at the memory. That particular conversation had not gone down well at the time, and the reason why he believed Sam was exactly who she said she was - a Sam Carter from another universe - was because of her reaction when he mockingly asked if she was a lesbian. He'd expected a snarl of residual anger from that reminder of a less than stellar meltdown of their marriage rather than confusion, but Alternate-Sam had no frame of reference for anything more than shock at the suggestion.
Yet she was still Sam Carter - beautiful and smart. He would miss her.
The immediate threat from the Ori was over but several months later everything had changed on Earth, and once more it was not for the better.
President Landry was assassinated, throwing the world into disarray as each country blamed another, or blamed the dissidents crying out for the return of democracy, though once again Rodney had his own theory. However, it wasn't a theory he planned to share with anyone especially after the man he thought might be responsible for ordering the assassination stepped up to take Landry's place. President Kinsey insisted on tightening Martial Law after holding a YES-NO election that was heavily slanted on the YES vote in his favor, mainly because anyone opposing Kinsey's 'regime' tended to disappear fast. Soon after, the rest of the world was forced to accept him as their first Planetary President, with those countries that didn't fall in line finding themselves on the wrong side of an F302 carpet bombing... or worse.
Sam had told him Landry was a reasonable man who wanted to do the right thing, implying Rodney might be able to influence him once the threat of the Ori was contained, but Kinsey was another matter entirely. He was a xenophobe who, nonetheless, wasn't against using alien technology to his advantage to subjugate other countries, and he was power-hungry. It was a deadly combination. Martial Law spread across the entire world with any dissidents taken away to special camps or in most cases, simply disappearing without a trace.
Rodney had seen that happen. He'd seen a Zat gun in operation, feeling sick as he watched General Hammond stunned, killed, and then disintegrated in quick succession after Hammond had the audacity to question Kinsey's policies openly. Rodney didn't plan on becoming the next person to 'disappear' so he kept his mouth shut and his head down, aware he was safe for as long as he was useful. It wasn't like he had anything to go back to as his company was slowly being dismantled by Kinsey's people, with all his research and development appropriated by the new Earth State. Strangely it didn't bother him as much as it should as he was given access to some of the incredible findings at Glastonbury and from Egypt and Antarctica - Ancient artifacts spirited away to AREA 51 before the other world governments had a clue over what was happening. He self-taught himself the Ancient language and immersed himself in the both the physical and theoretical physics, devoting most of his waking hours to learning as much about the technology as possible.
As promised, Sam had left notes beyond how to use the Merlin device, and she had mentioned the lost city of Atlantis in the Pegasus galaxy and the ATA gene needed to use some of the Ancient technology. She had named important events, named scientists who had made major breakthroughs, though he suspected some of those scientists were none too pleased when Kinsey's people dragged them from their own countries and forced to work in AREA 51 alongside him. Not that he was a problem for them in particular as that wasn't what he meant when he... He sighed, aware his thoughts were rambling once more. His thoughts often went off at a tangent because his mind was being pulled in so many different directions these days.
Sam had mentioned a Doctor Carson Beckett as the geneticist who had discovered a way to give him an artificial version of the ATA gene. The problem was Beckett had found his breakthrough using a strong natural ATA gene carrier who just happened to be the son of one of Rodney's biggest former competitors for Government defense contracts, and who also happened to be drop-dead gorgeous.
With Sam returned to her own universe, Rodney had become the man Kinsey trotted out to galas and functions, but as the Prometheus was undergoing repairs he was offered the use of his own private jet after attending the latest function at the White House. Apart from the obvious annoyance that Kinsey had even taken ownership of Rodney's company jet, he had to share the journey back to AREA 51 with none other than the drop-dead gorgeous John Sheppard, and he could barely keep his eyes off the man. It took him over an hour before he decided to strike up a conversation despite them being the only two passengers on-board, having used his laptop as a convenient excuse to avoid eye contact and conversation until then.
"So you're the man with the strong ATA gene," Rodney stated nervously as he sat opposite Sheppard. "Um... Is that all your own hair," he asked, wincing when he realized he'd engaged his mouth before thinking, judging by the way Sheppard raised one eyebrow. "Not that I'm suggesting it's a... a..."
"I think you should stop talking now."
Rodney grimaced. "I'm not usually so... but you're..." He waved a hand as Sheppard tilted his head in confusion. "Well, look at you. You're... and I'm-." The plane shuddered, causing Rodney to look around momentarily, but nothing more happened. "Huh! Just some turbulence," he waved airily, sitting back feeling smug as Sheppard continued to glance around warily.
"I know what turbulence feels like, McKay, and that wasn't normal."
"Really?" Rodney sat up straighter when Sheppard glanced out the closest window.
Sheppard frowned harder, scrunching his eyes as a bright light flared from just outside. Suddenly the alarms were blaring and Rodney felt his stomach try to claw itself out through his throat as the jet dropped hundreds of feet. He held onto the arm rest, white-knuckled, staring directly into Sheppard's worried eyes in terror until the jet began leveling out. Even though the worst seemed to be over, his heart was still racing and his head was throbbing from the adrenaline rush, and still he couldn't look away from those incredible hazel eyes.
"McKay... Rodney, it's okay. We're okay." Sheppard reached under the small table dividing them and placed his hand over one of Rodney's white-knuckled hands. Slowly Rodney let go of his death grip on the armrest, taking a deep, shuddering breath and releasing it only to tense up with Sheppard's next words. "I need to go up front and find out what just happened," Sheppard stated.
"No, no, no. You can't leave me here alone. You should stay here with me and... and... I'm a very important person, Sheppard," he added for good measure. Both eyebrows rose this time and for a moment Rodney forgot they'd just been in a death dive of doom, feeling a little slighted. "I am," he insisted, straightening.
Sheppard smirked. "Then maybe you'd better come with me then," he replied, head rocking slightly like he was talking to a child, or an imbecile.
Rodney huffed and stood up, taking several steps towards the front of the plane before realizing Sheppard was not following. "Well, come along then, Sheppard. Chop, chop."
"Chop, chop?" Sheppard mouthed in bewilderment as he stood up, and Rodney rolled his eyes.
When they reached the door to the cockpit, John knocked but gained no response. He tried knocking a little harder, looking worriedly towards Rodney before trying the door handle. It was locked, as required by aviation regulations, and Rodney saw Sheppard's eyes drift back through the cabin, obviously searching for a means of gaining entry. With a huff of resigned annoyance, Rodney gently pushed him aside after grabbing a dinner knife from the drawer in the air steward's small kitchen. Within seconds he had the control panel off and was rewiring the inside, sending a smug look towards Sheppard when he heard the tell-tale click of the lock disengaging. Sheppard gave him a slightly more respectful nod before opening the door and stepping inside.
The cockpit was empty.
Rodney squeezed up beside him. "Where are they? Did they jump?"
"Wait, wait, wait. If they're not here then..." He turned to John, feeling the panic begin to rise anew. "Then who's flying the plane?"
Sheppard's lips tightened as he moved all the way inside the cockpit, not stopping until he was sliding into the pilot's seat. "Looks like I am," he stated before disengaging the autopilot that must have kicked in to bring them out of the steep dive.
"Wait! You can fly?"
"I'm an air force pilot, McKay."
"Really? I thought you were Patrick Sheppard's son."
"Yes," he drawled, as if speaking to a small child, "But I'm also an air force pilot."
"Oh my God! You're the black sheep of the Sheppard family. The one who ran away and joined the circus... so to speak," he added lamely when Sheppard gave him the equivalent of a stink-eye.
"Yeah, you just go ahead and insult the man who's flying the plane... and saving your ass in the process."
Rodney would have taken umbrage but he caught the way Sheppard's eyes momentarily flicked towards his aforementioned ass before staring back at the cockpit controls. No straight guy checked out another guy's ass like that and Rodney blinked, mind churning over all the possibilities until Sheppard spoke suddenly.
"What the hell is that?"
"What?" Rodney sank into the co-pilot seat and stared through the cockpit window, frowning when he saw beams of light sweeping through the air and across the ground in the distance, coming from small needle-nosed craft. Ahead of them was a single massive column of light over Kansas City. "What are you...?" he looked across at Sheppard as the jet turned away from the terrifying sight.
"Whatever that is, we need to get as far away as possible." He looked across at Rodney. "As you reminded me just a while ago, you're an important man, McKay. I need to get you back to AREA-."
"No." Before the jet had turned too far for him to see, Rodney had followed the beam up just as something large broke through the cloud cover above it, and it looked like nothing he'd ever seen in any off-world report and it was most definitely alien technology. "We need to head to Cheyenne Mountain."
"Why?" Sheppard followed his gaze.
"Because we're under attack... and I have a very bad feeling about this."
Rodney felt sick to his stomach, recalling Sam's description of the enemy that had defeated the Ancients, forcing them to abandon Atlantis and the Pegasus galaxy ten thousand years ago.
"Wraith?" Sheppard repeated the word in confusion but very few had been read in on this long-lived, ancient enemy that sucked the life force out of humans for food. Sheppard continued. "If we're under attack then we need to get to the Chair-."
"The Chair won't do us any good!" Rodney shouted. "What drones were left after the Anubis attack were used against the Ori warship... and Grodin..."
He bit back on a curse, wishing he'd taken over the reverse engineering of the drones or at least thrown more resources at it. Instead he'd been holed up inside Cheyenne Mountain trying to figure out how to control the Merlin Device and create their own ZPMs. For once Rodney didn't feel like talking but Sheppard demanded to be told about this new enemy. Rodney recounted everything Sam said about Atlantis, the Ancients, and the Wraith.
"So activating the Merlin device drew some unwanted atten-."
"No, Sheppard, they weren't drawn to us by using the Merlin device."
"And you know this how?"
Rodney sighed, still feeling sick inside. "A few months ago, not long before the Ori arrived, AREA 51 tracked a signal traveling through subspace giving away Earth's coordinates. They thought it was directed towards the Ori because no one knew about the Wraith in the Pegasus galaxy at that time."
"And you know about this because-."
"Because I came across the report just a few days back but I didn't see the relevance until now. The signal didn't originate from our universe and we'd shifted to a third, completely different universe by then. For all anyone knew the Wraith might not have ever existed in this universe." He looked through the cockpit window, horrified by the sight of more of the massive, intense columns hitting other major populations in the distance. "But they do exist, and that signal must have been transmitting across the multi-verses, including this one."
"Then how do we fight them?" Sheppard demanded, but Rodney shook his head, unable to think of anything. "Rodney!" John snapped. "How do we fight them?"
All the fear and shock drained out of him in defeat.
"We don't. We can't."
"We have to do something," Sheppard insisted.
"We can't fight them." He closed his eyes in abject misery only to blink them open as an idea struck him. His voice softened as he looked back across at Sheppard, feeling a surge of hope. "But maybe we don't have to. Maybe we can hide instead."
"Rodney," Sheppard warned.
"The Merlin device."
"You want us to shift back into the other universe?"
"If necessary... Yes." He swallowed hard, thinking back on all he had learned about the device. "Or I can send us to another universe."
By now they were close to Cheyenne Mountain and Sheppard headed for the landing strip at the Petersen military air base before realizing it was already under attack. The needle-nosed craft were buzzing around it, with beams sweeping across the base, taking out Earth's F302 defenses.
"Darts," Rodney stated morosely, recalling the name Sam had given to the small single-pilot attack craft.
"There's no place to set down," John remarked quietly.
He did something with the controls and stood up, leaning over to grab Rodney by the lapel of his expensive tuxedo and drag him up too.
"What...? Where are you...?" Rodney balked, taking several steps back when Sheppard removed two parachutes from a compartment near the cockpit and slapped one against Rodney's chest. He clutched it, still looking at Sheppard in horror. "No, no, no. I'm not jumping."
"It's either that or a fiery death in a few minutes when we hit the side of that mountain." Sheppard indicated through the cockpit window to where the Colorado mountain range was getting closer by the second.
"No! There has to be another way."
Sheppard grabbed him by both biceps, staring into his eyes intensely. "There is no other way, Rodney."
"John. My name's John."
Rodney swallowed hard. "John."
"Let's get this on you." He helped Rodney into the parachute harness, tightening the straps while he explained to Rodney what he had to do. "You're gonna be fine. Trust me," he stated, leaning in suddenly and pressing his lips against Rodney's. "For luck," he replied with a smirk before opening the emergency exit door and pulling Rodney out with him.
Rodney was too terrified to scream even if he could have with the force of the air rushing past him, forgetting he was supposed to be counting but remembering to pull the release as soon as he saw John yank on his own release chord. He saw the plane hit the side of the mountain in the distance; a fiery death averted in favor of a long fall to his death as the ground seemed to be coming up way too fast... until Rodney realized he could slow the rate of descent a little using basic aerodynamics, except he'd never had to put theory into practice before. Below him he watched as John seemed to touch the ground like a leaf kissing the surface of a pond, but his own landing was a lot less graceful. Fortunately John reached him before the wind caught the chute and dragged him too far, but he felt his expensive tuxedo jacket rip as it caught on sharp rocks and shrubs.
"I'm alive!" he stated once he was back on his feet, awed by his continuing existence. John smiled brightly, reminding Rodney about that kiss. "What the hell was that, Sheppard?"
"What?" John started checking around them.
"Not... The kiss."
"Took your mind off the jump," he shrugged, but Rodney could see there was more to it than that. Just as he was about to protest further John grabbed his arm and dragged him down.
"Quiet!" John whispered harshly and something in his tone warned Rodney this had nothing to do with avoiding the 'kissing conversation'.
They had landed near a road and peering through the shrubs Rodney could see two muscled figures with pale skin and strange face masks. Both were wearing some sort of armor and they were carrying an elongated weapon. These had to be the Wraith drones Sam described, carrying stun weapons as their food was no good to them dead. In the distance Rodney could hear a car approaching and both drones raised their weapons, firing towards the car as it came round a bend in the road. It went out of control, fishtailing before striking one of the drones and coming to a halt. The downed drone simply rose back to its feet and headed for the car. As they watched, it ripped open the door and pulled out the driver, revealing incredible strength as it held the man aloft before slamming its hand against the man's chest. Screams of horror from the others in the car mirrored the scream inside Rodney's own head as he watched the man grow old and shrivel to a husk before his eyes, drained of his life force as the creature - the Wraith fed upon him.
Rodney was so caught up in the horror he didn't see John move until it was too late. John must have been listening to his description of the almost immortal Wraith, for every shot from a hand gun he must have found on-board the jet was a head shot rather than aimed at the center body mass, taking both Wraith down quickly and efficiently. Two more shots to each of their heads finished them off.
"Try coming back from that," John stated savagely. He gave Rodney a quick check from his mussed hair and torn tuxedo down to his scuffed dress shoes before turning to the frightened passengers. "We need a lift."
The woman in the passenger seat scrambled into the back, squeezing in with three others while both John and Rodney took the front. Moments later they were heading up the mountain to Stargate Command.
John spared another quick glance before focusing back on the road and the possible dangers ahead. "You're not dressed for a five mile hike uphill over rocky terrain."
Rodney was not surprised when they reached the Cheyenne Mountain complex and found the upper levels empty, but he still felt sick at the loss, knowing the Wraith would have targeted the military first, wanting to take control of the Stargate. He expected to find Wraith deeper inside the complex but their enemy was so over-confident they must have believed they'd taken out any remaining resistance from Stargate Command. By now the Wraith knew Earth had no true means of defending itself from them, treating the remaining F302s like mosquitoes to be swatted from the skies after culling the pilots.
Leaving the car passengers locked in the mess hall where they had food and water for at least a week, Rodney followed John cautiously through the corridors and down to the lower levels. Occasionally he leaned past him to point out the direction they needed to take to reach the laboratory housing the Merlin device.
Turning another corner deep inside the complex, John halted abruptly when a door ahead opened a fraction but Rodney recognized the anxious face of the little Czech scientist who was actually pretty competent compared to so many of the other scientists. Under different circumstances he would have offered the man a job in his company - of course, that was when he actually had a company. They made their way across and slipped into the large room, closing the door firmly behind them. Rodney was surprised to see a large number of SGC staff hiding with the Czech, but no armed soldiers.
"Are they gone?" The Czech asked. Zunko, Zelako, Rodney wracked his brain for the man's name. Zelenka!
"No, but I have a plan. We need to get to the Merlin device."
Zelenka nodded, understanding immediately. "Yes. I will help."
Rodney recognized the guy who operated the Stargate, Sergeant Harriman, and he could also see Sergeant Siler; he called both men forward.
"What happened to the Stargate?"
Harriman answered. "We think the... the..."
"Wraith," Rodney supplied, curtailing any further unnecessary questions with, "It's a long story for another time."
"Wraith. We think the Wraith are dialing in to lock down the Stargate, but they either haven't figured out how to shut down the iris or simply don't care."
"Probably don't care," Rodney replied.
Sam had mentioned something about the Wraith locking down the Stargate on the Pegasus worlds to prevent their 'food' escaping while they 'culled their herd'. He guessed it made sense, giving them an advantage over the humans who had no other means of defense other than running and hiding.
"Several teams were off-world at the time of the attack, on reconnaissance missions," Harriman added, but to Rodney's surprise, Harriman had turned to report this to John. "Including Colonel Lorne's team."
"We can't abandon them," John stated.
Rodney thought for a moment, then snapped his fingers. "The massive hive ship in orbit must have a Stargate like the old Goa'uld motherships. If we take that one out or at least temporarily disable it, then we can regain control of our Stargate, and bring our people home."
"And how do we do that?" Siler asked. "Prometheus was destroyed in orbit so there's no Asgard transporter beam to get anyone on-board, or even send in a nuke."
"We do not need to get on-board. We have the Chair and six Ancient drone weapons," Zelenka stated, turning to Rodney. "It was brought here two weeks ago from AREA 51. However, we do not have General O'Neill."
Rodney looked across at John. "No, but we do have the next best thing... John Sheppard."
John raised both eyebrows but he didn't seem affronted, thankfully, but then Rodney doubted he had ever sat in the Chair despite his strong expression of the ATA gene.
Rodney hated the idea of parting from John after all they'd been through recently, but they both had jobs to do if they were to save as many people as they could. Even as they moved through the corridors Rodney was aware thousands more people would have been sucked up into the Wraith storage ships, and they had no means of saving any of them. All he could do was save those still in hiding on Earth. When he reached the Merlin device he ordered Zelenka and Siler to start the interdimensional bridge device to begin transferring zero point energy as he knew the chances of drawing sufficient energy from the U.S. power grid was highly unlikely. If the Wraith had not already destroyed the power plants then they would target them as soon as they registered the pull of power towards Cheyenne Mountain. He grabbed the radio.
"Sheppard, you have exactly fifteen minutes to disable that Wraith superhive and get the off-world teams back."
"It's not enough time, Rodney."
"It's all we have! The Wraith have already picked up the rising energy levels to fuel the Merlin device, and are on their way."
Rodney knew John had been successful in breaking the Wraith's hold on the Stargate when he heard the incoming wormhole klaxon sounding through the base. He had left Sergeant Harriman in charge of contacting the off-world teams so now it was just a waiting game as he watched the energy levels rising. He was bitterly aware of how long it took the Stargate to dial an address and make a connection, and just hoped each off-world Stargate team took the initiative to dial in and step through quickly once their identity was confirmed.
"A Wraith cruiser is approaching," someone said, and Rodney looked across at Zelenka as the figure reached 96%. It was enough.
He held his finger poised over the initialization button for as long as possible. "I'm so sorry," he whispered to all those he couldn't save, and pressed the button to engage the Merlin device.
The planet shifted between universes, and he knew the Wraith superhive and most of its accompanying flotilla of smaller craft and darts were now gone from the skies above them, left behind in another universe but taking with them hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps millions of lives lost. The Wraith had emptied whole cities across the globe in a less than a day, having perfected their culling methods over ten thousand years, and from the look of the superhive ship and the hundreds of craft accompanying it, they had come here fully prepared for a bumper harvest.
When he reached the gate room everyone was looking shocked. Reports were flooding in from across the world, read out by Harriman to a subdued crowd. The worst hit areas were places with dense populations, with all the major cities across the world hit simultaneously; an endless list of cities emptied by the massive culling beams. Rodney's estimate of the total lives lost had now risen past the billion mark by his own calculations and he knew it might not end there. After all the recent losses from the Ori plague it was a devastating blow to humanity and it could quite easily have them falling back into the Dark Ages unless someone took up the reins now and started guiding everyone back from the brink.
"Doctor McKay? Sir?" Harriman looked between Rodney and John. "President Kinsey and his entourage was in Washington D.C. at the time of the attack. We think he was beamed on-board the Prometheus only moments before it was destroyed. Either way, the President's dead, along with the Vice President, Joint Chiefs... everyone."
Rodney could hear the panic in the man's voice so he pushed forward, standing up on a box to gain height over those present. Someone had to take control immediately, and who better than a man who had built his own company from scratch and had at one time employed hundreds in various capacities. Perhaps he wasn't a politician but he could be a leader for now.
"Everyone! I realize you're all scared but the planet has shifted to another alternate universe and most of the Wraith are gone." He paused a moment to let that sink in. "But not all of them. Those on the ground are still out there. Our people are still in danger."
He had never been one for speeches but the words seemed to flow as those present began to rally round him. He could see the fear and shock replaced by determination and a desire for action. After his speech ended he looked for John in the small crowd and saw him nod and smile, and he waited for John to make his way across to him.
"You did good, Rodney."
He wasn't aware until much later that his speech was transmitted across the world, replayed in every continent, in every surviving city and town, and in every language. His words rallied the survivors to hunt down and take out any Wraith they found, while also promising every effort to provide aid and resources to all those in need.
"John, we need to help where we can. Sergeant Harriman? Call a meeting in the conference room. I need to speak to department heads and... Who's the highest ranking military-?"
"That would be me, Rodney. Colonel John Sheppard, USAF."
Rodney blinked because he had seen Lorne in the gate room, grateful to learn his team had managed to get home. "But isn't Lorne a colonel too?"
"He's a Lieutenant Colonel. I'm a full bird." John smiled with fake innocence, wiggling his eyebrows. "If you want proof I can go dig out my spare dress blues from my quarters?"
The image of John in dress blues overtook Rodney's mind for a moment until the second part of his sentence hit. "Wait. You have quarters here?"
"Rodney, I've been stationed here since not long after Colonel Carter said I had this special ATA gene, and Landry ordered my transfer to Stargate Command. I'm the SG-5 team leader."
"Really?" Rodney was sure he would have noticed someone this gorgeous walking around Cheyenne Mountain, except most of his work these days was at AREA 51 and he tended to get beamed in and out of whatever room he needed to visit so it was highly possible he'd never seen John here in the SGC before today. However... "Then why..." He waved his hand at John's obviously expensive though now damaged and grimy suit.
"I don't tend to wear my dress blues for civilian flights back to base."
"Huh! Uh, and so the gun...?"
"Was in my hand luggage." John reached out hesitantly at first before pressing his hand down on Rodney's shoulder. "Maybe we can hold this conversation for later. We still have a lot of work to do... and a meeting to attend."
Rodney sat down in the conference room with John on one side of him and Zelenka on the other. He decided to treat it like a regular boardroom meeting, working out targets, assigning resources, but the surviving military and higher level civilians filling the other seats or standing against the wall made it feel more like a war-room. Perhaps that was actually the case because they were at war with the Wraith who had attacked their world and killed their people. The Wraith may have been cut off from their ships permanently but they were still a problem spread out across the planet's surface.
"The Wraith can hibernate for decades at a time so we need to be able to find them not just by following the trail of dried out husks that used to be people. Carson, I need you to head up research into their physiology. Find out their weaknesses, work out a way to locate their bio-signs. We need to be able to find them even when they are hibernating." He looked intensely around the table, accepting no 'bleeding heart' objections from anyone where these monsters were concerned. "I want every last one of them destroyed."
Rodney relaxed just a fraction, glancing around the table again. Owning his own company had made him acutely aware that he couldn't do everything himself no matter how much it irked to see others floundering or taking forever to accomplish what seemed like a simple task to him. He had to learn a little patience, and the art of delegating, but he only recognized a few of the people present and had no idea what skills they had brought to the table. He picked on one of the strangers at random.
"You. Who are you and what do you do?"
"Doctor Elizabeth Weir. I'm a negotiator and linguist."
Rodney nodded. Others spoke up when requested, and Rodney realized he had the makings of a good team in this room so he handed out responsibilities, fully aware he was placing a lot of faith in people he did not know. By the time the meeting ended he felt exhausted, both mentally and physically, but he had mobilized what remained of the U.S. military to hunt down stranded Wraith and keep the peace while the scientists focused on the relief operation for all citizens of Earth.
One of Kinsey's surviving advisors spoke up just as he was about to leave. "We should extend Martial Law from sundown to-."
"No. I want Martial Law lifted immediately."
"But people will panic. Looting, murdering-."
"Not if we have a common goal for survival of the human race. Not if we can provide aid to anyone who needs it... food and water, shelter and security. Reports are still coming in and at the last count it's estimated over a billion people are missing. Over a quarter of what was left of the world's population following the Ori plague."
It was a sick thought but at least there were not as many bodies to bury this time around as the Wraith had taken most of them in the culling beams. There was less chance of more mundane diseases such as Cholera or Typhus breaking out if they coordinated their efforts to help all the survivors, no matter where they lived on the planet. Kinsey had crowned himself President of the World, and although Rodney had no claim to the title, he would honor the ideal.
"Come on," John murmured. "You need to rest."
When he reached a set of quarters a few levels above the gate room Rodney was a little confused at first when John followed him inside and closed the door behind him. The confusion fell aside when John reached for him, drawing him into a slow and gentle kiss, one hand stroking his cheek while the other cradled the back of his head. Rodney broke off the kiss only to lean forward and rest his forehead against John's. The stress of the day was finally catching up to him, along with the heavy weight of responsibility he'd taken onto his own shoulders.
"I've got you," John said softly, pushing Rodney down until he was seated on the edge of the bed.
John crouched down in front of him, lifting one foot in turn to remove his scuffed dress shoes and pull off his socks before standing, drawing Rodney back up with him. Despite his tiredness, Rodney got with the program, mirroring John item for item as they both slowly stripped, and gasping when the final piece of clothing was gone and they moved together, naked flesh on naked flesh. He could feel the warmth of John's skin, feel the tickle of chest hairs and the slide of gentle hands moving from his shoulder, down his arms to his thighs before sliding round to cover his ass, pulling them even closer together. Warm lips sought his, the flicker of a tongue demanding entrance as the kiss deepened, passion rising despite his fatigue.
Somehow they ended up on the narrow bed, thrusting against each other almost frantically, as if the act of passion could erase the horror of this day from both of them. Almost too quickly Rodney fell over the edge into desperately needed release, tightening his hold on John as the his whole body felt fully alive and free of any thoughts for one blissful moment. Afterwards he dozed with his head on John's shoulder, fingers trailing through the dark curls on John's chest. In the past, having a lot of money meant he'd could have a bed partner whenever he wanted but he recognized the difference between those moments and this one. He had felt the genuine caring and, dare he say it, love in John's embrace.
He fell asleep on that thought.
After a week ordering bombing raids on Wraith strongholds across the world, arming civilians, and setting in motion the means to ensure everyone across the world had the basic necessities of food, water, medical assistance, and shelter, Rodney was exhausted but still determined. Many others, like John and Elizabeth, had stepped forward to take some of the workload from his shoulders, dealing with all the little details for putting his plans and demands into motion. When he barked out a request, people jumped but judging by some the questions asked they never felt obliged to follow blindly, and that suited Rodney just fine as he had no use for those who couldn't think for themselves.
He wasn't even aware of what he meant to the rest of the world until Sergeant Harriman knocked and entered and said, "Mr. President, the video conference is about to begin."
"The video conference-."
"No. Not that. The other thing. The... The..."
He snapped his fingers. "Yes! That!"
John stepped up smoothly. "It's been a long week. Let's table that for now and deal with this conference."
"Wait! No. I'm not tabling... The Presidency should be decided by a democratic process. I'm not Kinsey or Landry-."
"Rodney. You were voted in... by the whole damn world."
"When? Under duress of further Wraith attacks, or having food and medical aid withheld unless they hit the YES button?" He looked across at John earnestly. "I'm not a despot or some tin pot dictator, John."
"No. You're not, but you are the best man to do the job while the world gets back up on its feet."
He calmed down as he saw the sincerity in John's eyes.
"That's what they said to Landry, and look where that took us." He saw the bitter twist of John's lips acknowledging his words. "Two months. I want a democratic process in place within two months."
"Done," Elizabeth stated, and he blinked because he hadn't realized anyone else was present other than John and Harriman. She was smiling warmly. "And I intend to be running against you in those elections, Rodney."
"Humph!" he uttered but he relaxed further, no longer afraid he would be used like some puppet President, or be seen as another power-hungry Kinsey. "Perhaps we can discuss ideas for a world council later." He frowned at the sound of his own words because he'd sworn he'd never be a politician or weaken sufficiently to even consider the soft sciences of art and diplomacy, but Landry and, worse, Kinsey had both proved to him how important it was to have both if they were to survive as a species.
Still, despite Elizabeth's words, he had no intention of running against anyone. He had no intention of running at all, happy to let those with a flair for politics, and more importantly, for democracy take the lead.
"A world council. I like the sound of that," Elizabeth replied.
Five Months Later:
Rodney stood straight and tall as Richard Woolsey was sworn in as the first official Chairperson of the new World Council at a ceremony held within the Oval Office of the White House, broadcast live across the world. John stood by Rodney's side wearing his dress blues, and though Rodney teased him once or twice about being his 'first lady' while he was acting President, John had given back as good as he got, keeping Rodney's feet firmly on the ground. As Rodney listened to Woolsey's vow to use his position wisely to protect and support all the people of Earth he couldn't help but feel proud of his own achievements in just a few short months. For the first time in Earth's history they truly were one people, with representation for all no matter their differences of gender, race, religion, or any other characteristic that might have set them apart in the past. The whole world had come together after the loss of so many to Ori plague and the Wraith, united by those terrible events, and accepting a council of nine as their leadership with each member of the council chosen by the people and acting for the people.
Elizabeth had run against Woolsey for the position of Chairperson, and in four years time she would likely win more votes than him, but for now the people of Earth had spoken and though initially they had wanted Rodney to remain their leader, he knew stepping aside was the right thing to do. Rebuilding the world from the ashes of the old would take some time, and they still had pockets of Wraith in hiding to contend with, but Woolsey was surrounded by people who were determined to support him and the rest of the council every step of the way. Plus Woolsey had the sort of administrative mindset that made him perfect for the task.
Rodney knew he could probably reclaim his company from the former U.S. government, and all his millions too, but he had gained so much more in recompense. He had regained the excitement of discovery, able to spend his days immersed in new technology as Earth's first Chief Scientist, unraveling the mysteries of the universe. His sister and her family had survived the Wraith attack and with John's help he had mended the bridge between them. Of course it helped that she no longer saw him as a rich industrialist wasting his precious intellect on boardroom meetings rather than working on new theories to expand the human understanding of the universe, or worse, supplying a dictatorship with the weapons they needed to subdue the world's population - her words, not his. Jeannie was working alongside him now, overseeing the work on the inter-dimensional bridge, and remarking how weird it felt to be analyzing and improving on a process designed initially by an alternate version of herself - before it was expanded upon by the other universe's Sam Carter to remove any danger of forming exotic particles.
As for Rodney, he had achieved everything the alternate Sam had asked of him except for finding a way to help the rest of the galaxy defeat the Ori. That was beyond his powers as they could not go back. Not ever. What they could do was move forward and use all they had learned from two other realities to make their world a better, safer place for all.
These days the Stargate was a silent sentinel in the gate room deep inside Cheyenne Mountain but the council wanted to ensure Earth's future before they opened any new doorways to other worlds that could lead to more danger. Yet at the same time Rodney knew there could be Wraith in this alternate universe already making plans to cross the void between their two galaxies, looking for the billions of humans believed to exist on Earth. It was a dilemma but Sam had mentioned the lost city of Atlantis, even going so far as to leave the coordinates for him. Rodney felt he and John had a date with destiny, to journey to this lost city and assess any risk posed by the Wraith, if they existed in this universe - or any other race that could wish harm to Earth.
The party moved to a large function room and it was the usual dull affair but Rodney only had to glance across the room at John to make him realize how his luck had changed for the better. When he was not caught up in the wonder of math and science he was enthralled by the beauty of John Sheppard - both intellectually and aesthetically. Together they had already created so many amazing memories, because if there was one thing Rodney had learned since the day Anubis attacked Earth, followed by the Ori and the Wraith, it was that nothing existed in a permanent state. Change was inevitable so it paid to live life to the fullest, and never look back with regrets.
As John smiled back from across the room, making his excuses to Elizabeth Weir so he could return to his side, Rodney knew he had no regrets at all.