It was a dark and stormy night.
No, it wasn't, Rodney.
Fine.——It was a cold and windy day, and the snow drifts were up to our—
Dr. McKay, I believe you are in error.
FINE. Okay, it was kind of windy and a little colder than I prefer.
Felt warm to me.
Not all of us are surgically attached to a goddamn trench coat.
Hey. Be nice to Ronon, Rodney. He saved our asses today.
Yeah, well, if you hadn't felt the need to flirt with Six, then we could've gotten out of there with a few real power sources. As it is, the entire complex is covered in rubble.
I must concur with Ronon, Dr. Weir: the complex that we discovered on the pleasant-seeming planet was nowhere near as nice as the weather outside.
It was not nice weather. I sneezed every ten seconds as we walked from the Stargate.
It was pollen season, Rodney, you can't hold that against a planet.
No, but I can certainly hold it against the planet that the DAMN INHABITANTS TRIED TO KILL ME AGAIN.
. . . I can't really say that I'm surprised, Rodney.
What's that supposed to mean?!
GENTLEMEN. While this is an extremely fascinating insight into your team dynamics, and one I will almost certainly be speaking about with Dr. Heightmeyer, you said you had important information for this briefing.
It started like this—the Stargate opened onto a planet, and Lt. Colonel John Sheppard, the disarmingly charming leader, stepped through, with his regulation uniform, most assuredly non-regulation hair, wicked grin and P-90 at the ready.
After him, in quick succession, came the rest of his team: Dr. Rodney McKay, chief scientist, already scanning the area with advanced Ancient technology; Teyla Emmagen, diplomat and trader of the Athosian people, her flashing Sticks of Death at the ready; and Specialist Ronon Dex, chief badass and master of the milles de espadas escondidas.
The planet looked safe; grassy vegetation had overgrown the area around the 'gate, and the verdant profusion continued in unbroken pace until the horizon. John Sheppard remained wary, for he knew better than to let his guard down. He'd been in situations more innocuous seeming than this and found out that behind the innocent patina lurked a heart of darkness. In particular, a planet of supposed simple farmers came to mind, a planet that turned out to be the headquarters of a barely averted nuclear holocaust.
The planet reminded you of the Genii's homeworld, Colonel?
Yes, ma'am. In fact, I wasn't so far off the mark.
Oh, please. If the Genii suddenly gained the kind of power it took to create the crater we found, it'd be like primitive humans going from discovering fire to creating nitroglycerin in two years.
So there's a bigger nuclear threat out there than the Genii were? This is not good news, Rodney.
Elizabeth, that's not what I'm saying at all.
No. The Ancients had to have done it.
Indeed. After Dr. McKay explained the kind of power, by explosion or other means, that it would take to create such an enormous crater, we unanimously decided that it was necessary for us to explore further. When Dr. McKay realized that the extremely strong power signals he had been receiving emanated from the middle of the crater, and were not merely his "equipment on the fritz again," he was extremely speedy. I certainly believe that the workouts and running Colonel Sheppard has encouraged him to do have helped his stamina and aerobic capacity greatly.
Yeah, I knew that was a pretty good idea.
If by pretty good idea, you mean an idea that's has taken me away from my work at key moments repeatedly over the past two years, then yes. I suppose in your head, it must be more important to be able to keep up a jog for 45 minutes than it is to be able to discover how to recharge a ZPM.
Didn't hear you bitch when we ran back to the gate, McKay.
Oh, and WHY were we running again? Let's ask the Colonel, shall we?
Heeeeyyyy... what can I say, y'know? Chicks dig the hair.
The door creaked open, slowly, before any of the four reached out to touch it. Suspicious, extremely suspicious. The outside decoration and general feel was quite similar to the alien-ice feel of Ancient architecture, but the building itself resembled a giant military bunker rather than the graceful spires of Atlantis.
It had been a brisk ten klick walk-jog from the 'gate, and Rodney McKay's momentum had never flagged. The other members of the team had exchanged grateful glances when they realized that the doctor's typical complaining about actually walking anywhere were not to make an appearance this time. But Rodney's chatter about the amazing, beautiful, curiosity-inspiring, dazzling, enticing readings——well, that was nearly as bad.
But only nearly, and so the members of the team endured in impassive silence, preferring to save their breath for the journey. Stoicism was their watchword even under the harsh whips of enemy torture, and the scientist's joy over his precious pretty information was akin more to the harmless babbling of a beloved (if annoying) infant than torture.
When the dubious door swung open, Rodney was carried forth by his marching momentum. Still engrossed in his power readings and mumbling something about how this building might even contain more than one ZPM, he had near stepped through the doorway before John could react swiftly to this unknown threat.
Catching the scientist by the arm, John swung the man around and glared into the man's excited blue eyes. With a quick cut gesture across his throat, John indicated the Presence of Danger.
John reached into the man's flak jacket, and Rodney's eyes widened, then the scientist relaxed against the wall as the Colonel pulled out a life-signs detector. After a quick scan, John's grip on Rodney's arm relaxed infinitesmally, and Rodney silently apologized with a shrug for not letting the soldier examine the area for hostiles before he had nearly walked into what could have very easily been another trap.
It had taken many episodes of being a hostage, but Rodney had learned his lesson and finally understood that the Colonel had his safety primarily in mind when he objected to one of the doctor's actions. And Rodney knew intimately that John took the safety of every member of his team extremely seriously, even going so far as to personally examine the base doctor's treatment of any wound Rodney might have possibly picked up.
John completed his scan of the area, and dismissed it with a grunt. Though supposedly there were no life-signs showing, they had learned the hard way that some enemies could conceal themselves even from this advanced technology. So with another gesture he sent Teyla, Mistress of the Whirling Death, and Ronon, Master of Explosive Retaliation, to circle around the complex and look for a different entrance.
When Ronon and Teyla nodded their acceptance of his orders, John indicated that he and Rodney would stay and check out the power readings through this entry-way.
Rodney's keen blue eyes tracked John's every movement; though the man's hands were unskilled in the use of common military hand-signals, he understood far more than he could express. And, John considered, Rodney's hands were very good at other, more esoteric tasks.
For example, the man could build a nuclear bomb in under 45 minutes given all the materials. John appreciated that in a partner.
So you sent Ronon and Teyla to circle the building from the back, Colonel?
Yes. I knew that I could count on them to retrieve us if there were in fact hostiles present inside the building. I had scanned for life-signs, but we know that hibernating Wraith don't show up.
Yeah, and evidently neither do—
I think you're getting ahead of us here, Rodney.
Ahem. There was, in truth, a back entrance, although I must admit that Ronon and I did not discover Dr. McKay and Colonel Sheppard's location until almost too late.
So there were hostiles present?
She—they— weren't hostile, exactly.
How can someone not be hostile, exactly?
Probably because 99% of the beings inside that building were either in stasis pods or in, well...
I'm afraid I don't understand, Rodney. If they weren't in stasis pods, and you've seemed to have indicated that this wasn't a case of hibernating Wraith, what exactly did you have to deal with?
I'm not a frellin' botanist, Elizabeth, but if I were stupid enough to have gone into the soft sciences, I might call what we found—
A house. For plants. We had those on Sateda, where they'd grow nivaela blooms out of season. When I could afford one, I used to send one to my mother for her Entrance Day Celebration.
Ronon, that was extremely thoughtful of you to do so.
Yes, touching. Can we get back to the part where the crazy hot babe hit on Sheppard and tried to kill me?
LIGHT. Brilliant, bright and forceful. Light, streaming down from lamps was everywhere. The excessive illumination washed out the inside of the building, and forced the two explorers to put their sunglasses on.
From a security standpoint, John felt grateful that there were no shadows for creepy life-sucking spiders or the two-legged equivalent thereof to hide in. From a scientific standpoint, Rodney claimed that this light was so bright he might have to take readings and add it to his running radiation tally, and also that he had left his migraine medication back on Atlantis and that was obviously a mistake.
John had ceased making the "shut UP" gesture at the scientist, ruefully shrugging his shoulders and letting the other man's words wash over him like a comforting wave, only occasionally inputting his own wry comments and jibes at the man's intelligence, parentage, and loss of hair.
After all, the last time he'd let Rodney's ego go unchecked, the physics expert had accidentally blown up five-sixths of a solar system. Now, John considered it his sworn and solemn duty to prick the man as often as possible.
The creepy self-opening door had swung open onto a hallway, an evident entranceway of sorts. The air around them was moist and fecund, the rich smell of earth mixing with the sweet odor of blossoms, as though the team had stepped into a rainforest rather than into a building. Inside, vegetation grew up the walls, reminiscent of a honeysuckle-ivy hybrid for the way it climbed and the faint sweetly pleasing way the plant smelled.
John felt that this was reassuring; after all, in the team's previous encounters with their immortal enemies, the life-sucking space-going vampires known as Wraith had not shown much taste in interior design.
In fact, if taste in design was taken as the measure of a species and embodied in a specific painting, the Wraith would be Edvard Munch's The Scream, the Ancients would be Van Gogh's Starry Night, whoever lived here would be something by Georgia O'Keefe—and Rodney would probably be MC Escher. Maybe that drawing with the little baby reptiles crawling out of the paper and emitting steam.
John smiled at the thought that that steam-snorting reptiles were rather reminiscent of Rodney without coffee, and filed the idea away as possible seed for the germination of a practical joke as he continued to carefully and cautiously sweep the vegetation-rife corridor for threats.
When they reached the end of the aisle, John's steps ceased, and he motioned Rodney to a stop as well. From a limited peek past the opening, the two appeared to be on the edge of a amphitheatre-like room—large and bowl shaped, probably built into the epicenter of the crater.
The sound of someone's soft, serene steps reached their ears, and John nodded at Rodney to assure the other man that he heard it, then moved to hold his P-90 in a relaxed attack position. Easy access for shooting if the natives were hostile, relaxed in case the glass was half-full. He clicked his tongue, making a pre-arranged signal into his ear piece—they may have found someone and were attempting to make contact.
John Sheppard, leader of the Atlantis expedition's last best hope for survival, and Rodney McKay, the most brilliant scientist in two galaxies, walked down the arena steps together.
Frankly, they weren't all that surprised at what they found. But then again, nothing really surprised them anymore.
The first thing they saw was her hair. A long flowing romantic mane of blonde with just the slightest tinge of green—easily explained by a reflection from plants that grew in profusion all over the room. Some were in pots, and there was more of that honey-ivy growing up the walls, and there seemed to be a giant greenhouse taking up the center of the arena-sized room.
Then she looked up at them and smiled. Her smile was a thing of beauty, blooming soft and welcoming as she acknowledged the two with a nod, even as the lights glinted off her impossibly white teeth. Her skin, a medium brown with hints of olive undertone, complemented the lush green of her trailing dress, and her cleavage? Well, her cleavage was the reason for the old Monty Python joke about tracts of land.
Huge tracts of land.
She sounds very nice, Colonel.
Yes, we all appreciate your extremely detailed description. Now, if we ever want to make a Pegasus Girls Gone Wild, all we'll need is to find a buxom blonde with a plant fixation and a willowy redhead who moonlights as a glowy octopus, and we can start our own porno series with you as the star.
I resent that. Chaya was more of a brunette, anyway.
Welcome. You may refer to this one as Alecta Mekhane. That is what the Creators did, before you.
Have you, John Sheppard, come to initiate the programming? Though my sisters have fallen in their duty, I carry on. You should be pleased with the contents of this facility. We have many. More than the last attendant believed possible. She informed us that there would be others who would come to validate our work. So you have.
Why do you bring the child? Children were never before permitted within this facility.
He speaks often, and without pause. This must somehow amuse you. Though he lacks comprehension, I perceive. Still, I suppose you all must learn somehow.
I knew all I needed to know at the moment of creation, of course. Is there something wrong with the child? I was unaware your species was able to turn purple. Is it a medical emergency?
I exist to serve you and all your companions, limited in understanding though they may be.
The purpose of this facility is to create those who will do battle with our foe. Were you not briefed before you left The Great City?
I see. I can comprehend some data may have been lost. We once worried of this.
One of my sisters feared we may have lost data, and this incited doubt in our mission. However, with regular database backups, probability of loss is computed at 5x10-100 even over the wait of this multiple millennial saeculum. We determined she was in error. Therefore she was removed, until repairs could be made by the Creators.
This young primitive plant life is profuse, but my sisters and I believed it ... appropriate. It also seems to comfort the Paliorus Parvulus. I have grown——fond——of it over the eons.
Of course. The Paliorus Parvulus sleep, but they are waiting. They wait for the day they may emerge as Paliorus Punio. They wait. They watch. They grow. For one day, they will kill all in their path and ascend to their rightful home among the stars.
Paliorus Parvulus... Paliorus Punio. Amazing. She spoke Ancient?
Yeah, but even with those classes in Ancient you instituted, neither of us caught the reference before she showed us what she meant, Elizabeth. I still don't really know what she was saying, although I think I may have guessed.
Well, I think the first phrase means, roughly, baby martyr plants. And the second, Punishing Martyr Plants. But that doesn't really make any sense—plants can't punis... you are all looking at me like you know something I don't.
All you really gotta know in Ancient is "DANGER." I learned it while I was running. Mostly 'cause the Wraith avoided everywhere that said that.
In fact, Ronon did mention this while we were outside the building, searching for a second entrance or exit. He informed me that the word danger was upon many a surface, and that perhaps we should attempt to contact the Colonel and the Doctor. We attempted to do so, but our radio signal was not confirmed received.
The chamber she led us to was probably shielded. You should feel lucky, really. You got to wander around outside, free as birds, and meanwhile, I was caught in a tacky remake of Little Shop of Horrors!
He's just irritated because we lost some stuff that could've been useful, Dr. Weir. Just ignore him like a two year old and he'll stop it eventually.
I most certainly will no——hey! That's extremely unfair. Just because some random native called me a child in no way gives you the same priviledge, Major.
Really, we should return to explaining what Alecta showed you, Colonel Sheppard.
Good idea. Maybe we should go back to that planet and drop Rodney off; let the mad scientist stew with the rest of the vegetables.
Not even going to dignify that with a response.
You just did, McKay. Heh.
The woman, though lush seemed somehow lithe and supple, and this impression remained with John as he watched her movements. Graceful, almost excessively so, her hair gorgeously straight in the midst of the humidity, she pressed a quick sequence of commands into a console that had been ingeniously concealed amid the foliage.
John shot a quick glance at Rodney, and saw that the man, while still obviously irritated and somewhat perplexed that Alecta seemed to consider him a child, was doing his solemn duty and memorizing her every movement in case they needed to retrace their steps a bit more hastily than this ceremonial unveiling.
Around them, the slick shush of technology seamlessly whirred into action. Walls were removed, and the reason that they'd had to walk such a large corridor became self-evident.
Alecta's face bloomed into a voluptuous ecstasy; she grabbed John's hand and watched the display reveal itself in evident rapture. While her focus seemed withdrawn from the two who stood and watched her, neither were under any doubt what they were dealing with, and no sudden moves were made.
You didn't get to be any older in the Pegasus Galaxy by trying to pull a Hail Mary too soon, and you didn't learn much by running for the door too early. Besides, there was still a good chance that this Ancient facility could be turned to their advantage, despite the fact that its caretaker had evidently smoked some serious loco weed. A place this huge had to be drawing its power from somewhere, and the readings that Rodney had meticulously gathered suggested one or more ZPMs.
Alecta let out a giant sigh of delight as the entire facility was revealed to be— full of stasis pods and in those stasis pods——
He's right, Elizabeth. Apparently the Ancients, or a group of Ancients, or maybe even just one, decided that the best way to defeat the Wraith was to create a race that the Wraith couldn't feed upon. And in order to do that, she or he created, well—
Robots. Ridiculously sexy robots, and plant people. I swear to god I've seen this on late night television.
Are they not magnificent? I can almost taste the despair of the Wraith when they will be faced with the Children.
No. Of course. You're correct. I lack the sense of taste.
Their programming is almost complete. With the fall of my sisters, the work has likewise fallen to me. Therefore it took slightly longer than anticipated. However, as directed, I sent a final acknowledgement of program completion 1.0345953 millennium ago. I wait patiently for program review.
The facility has 3 ZPMs, in order to provide power to the Children. Power levels have remained constant over time. We have never been called upon to defend ourselves. Therefore, the ZPMs are most likely close to full.
You must review the program, John Sheppard.
You must review the program, John Sheppard.
You may not leave without reviewing the program, John Sheppard.
The program consists of the following directives. First, seed all appropriate worlds. This will lead to multiplication of our forces. The Children are extremely poisonous to human or Ancient kind, as designed. They are also resistant to Wraith technology, and completely impervious to feeding.
Thank you. I was not alone for the hardest part. The initial gene work was almost... enjoyable. But——I have missed——my sisters. My sisters——we spoke to each other of what— we spoke. we knew... We knew what the others knew. We all knew.
It has been centuries since I spoke other than to ascertain that my vocal apparatus was still functional.
You have not finished reviewing the program, John Sheppard.
You may not leave until you have finished reviewing the program, John Sheppard.
The second proviso of the program is simply: annihilate. All life in this galaxy is either potential food for the Wraith, or Wraith. Both must be eradicated if the Wraith are to be defeated.
Yes. All life.
The Creator believed that the death of the Wraith was more important than the paltry few billion lives contained in this galaxy. Humankind is——depressingly resilient. They do not require a firm hand to tend their growth. Now, neither do my children.
Oh, no, not mine. But ——yes. Mine. My Children. I have kept them these many years.
I will keep them now.
You have reviewed the program. You have found it satisfactory. We will commence.
You have found it satisfactory. There is no other end to this sequence. We will commence.
I will not allow you to leave.
I will start with your child. The Creator would have desired your iron-rich fluid to nourish Our Children. I will require it of you now, child.
It was at approximately this juncture that Ronon and I approached the three. Upon hearing the being's plans for the—plant—children—, Ronon shot her immediately.
She didn't detect you?
No, actually, that's the amazing part. Apparently whoever designed these robots assumed that they would only have to deal with either Ancients or Wraith—thus her speaking of me as a child. She wasn't referring to my physical form, she was referring to the strength of my gene. Because neither Teyla nor Ronon have the gene... she couldn't detect them at all.
Yeah, lucky break, huh? I was pretty much caught as soon as she started talking about her program—her pleasant little hand-holding turned into hand-crushing, and I think she might've ripped off my arm if I'd tried anything funny.
So... all's well that ends well.
Yes, except Dr. Zaius over here decided to go back and blow up the entire facility.
It was a threat.
It had THREE ZPMs. THREE. Do you know how long we could've powered the shield for even if they were only 1/3rd full?
Those plant people were dangerous. C4 is useful.
He's got a point, Rodney. Alecta did say that the Children were extremely toxic to both Ancient and human.
I'm sure I could've figured something out! Now, I'm completely screwed. The ZPMs are probably shattered underneath the rubble of that damn bunker, and Alecta, who could've been reprogrammed—
Alecta would've been an extreme danger to everyone on this base, Rodney. And who, I might add, according to Colonel Sheppard's story, tried to kill you first. And I also believe you have repeatedly referred to her, in the course of your story, as "a crazy bitch"?
She wasn't that dangerous. And, and, and... ZPMs!
John shook his head sadly as he watched Rodney gesticulate furiously as he continued to argue. He had to agree with Rodney that the ZPMs would've been useful, and god, the man was going to be insufferable to live with for the next few weeks until he got it out of his system, but all in all he was rather more glad that they'd escaped alive. After all, they still had the ZPM from Earth, and that was ...
John's thoughts sputtered to a stop as Ronon casually reached into the pockets of his "goddamn trench coat" and eased three extremely familiar orange objects out, non-chalantly but carefully setting them on the table.
Teyla's mouth quirked, and she folded her hands in front of her, calmly waiting for Rodney to finish ranting and actually notice the world again.
Elizabeth pursed her lips together, trying not to laugh.
And John? John just grinned and kicked his chair back, putting his feet up on the table. Oooooh, yeah. Ronon could be dining off Rodney's chocolate for years off this one.