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Postcards from the Edge

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Disclaimer: Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis belong to their respective creators and producers, they are not mine nor are the characters that appear here or are mentioned. They are only ‘borrowed’ for the purposes of the story. Much gratitude to my beta reader, KarenK! The story was written for the 2013 Round Five of the Sci Fi Mini Big Bang. Notes: This could be considered more of a fusion or an AU considering the timelines of both shows.

The fantastic artwork created by the talented danceswithgary can be found here: http://archiveofourown.org/works/942129

 

“Postcards from the Edge”” by karrenia

 

“You pull me through when I felt that I could no longer stand and face the day and you light up my darkest hours, TJ.” Colonel Young stood by his desk with his hands folded behind his back, his back ramrod straight, and to all appearances as if he were a career solider forced to put up with a meaningless inspection by a higher-up.

She had not known, when she received the summons, what to expect, but what he had just said, certainly was nowhere among any of things Tamara Johansen had expected. She had imagined any number of things, but knew better than to let her imagination run rampant.

For her part, she also held herself erect, not letting either her emotions or her rather unpredictable tongue get the best of her.

“Aren’t you being just a little over-dramatic, Colonel Young,” she asked.

“Please, T.J, at this particular moment just calls me Everett.”

“All right, Everett. You know, after everything we’ve been through, it doesn’t feel at all awkward as it hear myself call you by your name.

“I am relieved to hear you say that,” Young replied, “And for that very reason is why I needed to talk to you.”

“In an unofficial capacity, I assume?” she quietly asked.

“I know it’s selfish of me to be more concerned for you as, I don’t if what we have together is what one would strictly call a relationship, given our respective ranks, but….”

“But what?” she asked, nervously tapping the heels of her hands against the sides of her uniform slacks, unaware at the moment that she was biting her lower lip. She stared at the thick ridge of eyebrows directly above those deep, dark brown eyes that in all the time that she had known him seemed capable of expressing a whole range of emotions, from compassion and anger and back again.

His expression made her wonder if this was about their baby, or if something else was bothering him. If it was the former, Tamara Johansen had just come from running a routine ultrasound on herself and had confirmed that the baby’s development was coming along just fine, and was now about eight weeks along. Everett’s thoughts seemed to run parallel to her own thoughts for his next question was to inquire after her well-being.

Tamara blinked and shuffled her feet a few times, a little taken aback by the nature of the conversational topic. Having long ago learned to school her expressions and body language, she simply replied, “I’m fine, thank you, in fact, we’re better than fine.”

Everett sighed and then smiled. “Well, that’s a relief, and on a ship like this, even as huge as it is, we all live too close to one another to keep it a secret for very long.”

“That’s what you’re worried about?” she asked, unable to completely keep the disbelief out of her voice.

“Well, yes, but it that’s not all the only reason why I called you in, but it does help set my mind at ease.”

“I’m glad,” she replied, with a short bark of laughter. After a heartbeat or two he strode the few paces which separated them and placed his hands on her shoulders and tilted his head to look her in the face, studying her features, and tracing the lines of her face with his hands. “I love you, I love what we have together, and I wouldn’t go back and change it even were I given half the chance to do so.”

“Even if you could, even if your wife knows about us? Even if it’s a matter of water-cooler gossip?”

“Even then,” he replied.

“Why, Mr. Young, who knew that you were a romantic old-softie at heart.”

“Yeah, who knew?" He replied. "But, back to practical matters. " Stepping back and placing his hands into the pockets of his uniform slacks, he continued, “I’m planning to hold a general senior staff meeting tomorrow at 0900 hours, but I wanted to run this by you first, in case it was just me being paranoid. But, ever since Colonel Telford’s actions nearly led to the destruction of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Tamara nodded. “I understand.”

Telford’s betrayal and the knowledge that he’d had been subverted by the Lucian Alliance into sending classified and important information to them had come as a shock to all aboard, no one more so than Everett himself.

“Why me?”

“Because I just needed to talk you, because as I grudgingly respect Dr. Rush’s brilliance, every time we talk to each other, it turns into a heated argument, and I wanted to run this by you before I broach the subject with everyone else.”

“The short of it, is that I don’t think we can afford to blindly trust our connections to Earth anymore, and basically I want you to talk to Rush and Eli about whether or not it’s feasible to set up a different communications relay, or the Ancient touch-stones, or if not, if it there’s anyone left alive at the Atlantis expedition. But, try to be discrete, doing so, will you?”

“Woot!” Tamara whistled, “You don’t ask for much, do you. Of course, I’ll do it, as if you ever had any doubt about that, but what happens if we do manage to do so.”

“I haven’t the faintest idea,” he sighed, reaching up to scratch at his chin stubble, before he replied. “Truth to tell, I guess I’ll figure that when the moment comes. And T.J, thank you, thanks for, everything.”

“You’re welcome, Sir, ah, Everett,” she replied, wondering whether or not she should salute and settled on a respectful nod on her way out of the door.

When she was once more standing in the hallway, she heaved a sigh of relief and could not help but feel that something more than was apparent on the surface had just passed between them. She could not quite put her finger on what exactly that something was, but it was a good feeling and one that she intended to savor for a good long time to come.
****

"This ship was launched to solve a mystery, not by arriving at some ultimate destination where all the questions are answered at one time, but by accumulating knowledge bit by bit." Nicolas Rush stated as matter-of-factly as if he were discussing something as mundane as baking bread or something of that nature.

But then, this was Dr. Rush we were dealing with here, thought Tamara, so I guess I should not be that surprised, I mean, after all, it might just be his version of a defense of mechanism, he’s far better with raw data and machines than he has ever shown towards people, with the exception of Eli and maybe Chloe, but then that last one is really messed up.’

“If you would all pay attention,” Rush irascibly said, as if he were reading her mind.

Of late, Tamara had to wonder if after everything both he had been through and all the hours he’d logged with the ship’s inner workings and computer systems if he could. She shook her head at the meandering course her own thoughts were taking and focused back at the task at hand.

“As you all know, the communication array with the Ancient touch stones is up and running, however as Colonel Everett pointed out earlier in this briefing, we have a problem.”

“Which is?” asked Lieutenant Scott.

“I didn’t want to broach the subject until I had all of the facts, and even then I didn’t want to believe the evidence right underneath my nose, but the departure of Telford and his people has led to one inescapable conclusion, and that is, we are very much on our own.”

Ronald Greer felt the lightest touch on his shoulder and he looked to his immediate left and down to see Camille Wray whisper in undertone, “What’s he up to?”

“I get the feeling that there’s much more going on here." Greer shrugged and offered her a reassuring smile. “Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m no expert, but something’s been eating at the chief and it’s not just this ongoing fight with Dr. Rush.”

“You’ll get no argument with me on that score.”

Young cleared his throat, as a non-verbal hint that he wanted the crowd’s full attention and resumed. “The long and short of it, is that I believe that we can no longer trust our connections with Earth, and to that end I think we should attempt to contact the Atlantis expedition.”

“Have you lost your freaking mind, Sir?” Scott exclaimed.

“No, Lieutenant Scott, I’ve given a great deal of thought to this, and it is in our best interests to see whether or not the expedition survived and if so, to reestablish contact with them." Rush nodded, for once, damping down on his all too obvious antagonism with the other man for the sake of the crew and the challenging and intriguing proposition.

“I’ve run various computer models, crunched the calculations forwards and backwards, and I believe that not only is its possible it’s also probable, with Eli’s help and once we know the approximate coordinates to start sending out our own signal, we’ll have a better idea how to best establish a two-communication link.

Young nodded and then said: “Who knows? We might even be able to exchange valuable knowledge and data with them, so it would be a win-win situation any way you cared to slice it.”

“Sorry, for voicing any doubts to your plan, Sir, but that’s gonna take a lot of raw power that the ship may not be able to handle, and what if the power bleed draws our enemies to our position.

“Then we’ll simply have to deal with that when the time comes,” Young replied.

Chloe Armstrong glanced over at where Rush and Eli sat and wondered if now that her own physical and mental changes at the hand of her alien abductor’s could help in any way. When she had first come aboard she had never felt that she was either needed or considered part of the crew, was just another civilian with a famous father who had one of the many instrumental in getting the Destiny’s mission off the ground.

Sure, she and Matthew Scott had been in a relationship, but that wasn’t what defined her, so she’d been treading water, waiting, waiting for what even in her own mind was a big indefinable gray area. Now, almost three years later, she was different, just how different, was again, in a word, complicated.

She had been captured, and had her mind and body altered in ways that she still not did not quite understand, it still felt very much as she would always remain an outsider looking in.

However, the knowledge of the mathematical computations that had been jammed into her head were valuable to untangling the various mysteries which had to be answered, and they only had a narrow window of opportunity in which to do so.

“We’re gonna to do this?” exclaimed Eli Wallace, his mobile features transitioning back and forth between shock, eagerness, and excitement.

“Yes,” Rush replied. “But it won’t get done unless you let me get back to work.” He both liked and admired the Eli’s enthusiasm and equally brilliant mind, but there were few things other than over-eagerness that could ruin any given enterprise and potentially cost lives. It would not harm the kid any if he learned to curb some of that enthusiasm for when it was really required.

“Can we pull this off?” asked Greer.

“Only God and the devil knows the answer to that Mr. Greer,” replied Rush with a wry half smile. Then, wiping his brow with the back of his hand, he continued, “And the devil is hedging his bets.”

Colonel Young forced back his wry smile at that and then said. “That’s the end to our meeting, then. Everyone can return to their duties, you are all dismissed.”

“Eli, come with me,” Rush said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us.”

Chloe crossed the room and stood facing Rush. “Let me help.”

Rush considered this slip of a girl with an intensity in her eyes far beyond her years, and debated, the changes to her body, the scales that were gradually covering her forearms and shins, and elsewhere,

He’d witnessed the overwhelming compulsion that took her over whenever she succumbed to a trance-like state and perform calculations that even he, with his acknowledged brilliance found both remarkable and was a little jealous of it.

In his own way, he had come to care for the girl, and felt a kind of rough empathy for their shared traumatic experience at the hands of their alien abductors, so at last arriving at a, he nodded.

Rush sighed and then apparently, finally conceded, “I may end up regretting this, but okay, come with us.”
*****

Hopeful Transmissions

Eli had seen Dr. Rush like this before, focused and displaying an attention to the minuscule details of both his calculations and manipulating the ships’ computers and alien technology to the point where he could completely shut out everything and everyone else around him. It was both fascinating to watch and a bit eerie.

He shuffled his feet on the metal deck and returned his concentration to his own calculations. If anyone had bothered to ask his opinion of this endeavor, several hours ago, he might not have been so sanguine about it. After all, what were the chances that even if they were successful in contacting the Atlantis expedition, that there would anyone left alive to answer? And even if they did, what was to say that they’d be welcome in their new home away from home in the Pegasus Galaxy?

Eli cleared his throat and realized that he was getting more than a little ahead of himself. After four years of living and working aboard a ship like the Destiny, the luster of space exploration had begun to wane somewhat. While the appeal of first contact and other such wonders still held an endless source of wonder for him, he had come to realize that with the wonder also came the risk to life and limb.

Speaking of risk, ‘he thought, ‘I figure it was an unspoken understanding when we all signed up for this gig, I just didn’t figure that it would hit me so close to home.’

Eli thought about Chloe’s transformation, and he winced. With treatment, and the passing of time most of the scales had subsided. However, the whole business had still left him feeling as if there might be something more that he could do or say, to make it, if not better, at least to be there for her. They had become much closer of late and he would hate to lose what they had together.

 

***

Assumptions of Risk

At first, Radek Zelenka believed it to be nothing more than random static, the kind of white noise that could only been heard at a level just below hearing and seen as a kind of sagging parabola that often accompanied long distant communications. He was just about to dismiss this latest in a series of such white nose when something about this series of transmissions caught his eye.

One they did not match any frequency that their computers had thus far identified, and they seemed to have been filtered and then sent using the ancient communication stones. “Fascinating,” he muttered under his breath.

Radek Zalenka darted a wary glance over at Dr. Rodney McKay, who, even in the best of times, was a difficult person to work with. To be fair, after several years of working together in trying circumstances, he was aware that that arrogance, brilliance and impatience with anyone who did not come near his own intellectual level was a kind of mask that he had learned to adopt like a secondary protective laye. Radek had also come to understand some of what made the other man tick.

All the same, the nature of the transmissions and their unorthodox origin, made him intrigued enough to sort out of himself.

“What’s so fascinating?” Rodney griped, coming up to stand beside him.

“It’s a message,” Radek answered, not entirely successful in keeping the mildly aggrieved tone out of his face; for his part McKay either entirely missed it or if, he had noticed it, chose to not remark upon it’

“I know it’s a message, but the odd thing about it, is that it appears to have traveled a fairly long distance in order to reach us, and to make matters even more interesting wherever this thing originated from, they’re using Ancient technology.”

“I know!” Radek exclaimed. His face was flushed with excitement and a gleam that he often got when on the brink of making some new scientific discovery suffused his face with a bright red color making his swallow white skin look more than a bit splotchy in the bright over-head fluorescent lights of the science lab. Rodney recognized ‘that’ look but chose not to remark upon it.

In the back of his mind, he thought- 'Yeah, okay, so you’re onto something, but you don’t need to shout out from the proverbial rooftop, so tone it down a bit. Aloud, all he said. “What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing, it’s just that I discovered this first,” Radek said, rather more defensively than he had intended.

“Okay, okay, you can tell her that you found it first when we call Elizabeth down her to show it to her.”

“Agreed, “ Radek replied.

Over the city’s communication, McKay, called Weir, saying, “Elizabeth, I think you’d better get down to Science Lab 5, we’ve got something I think you’ll want to see.”

On her end, she nodded, setting down the stack of mission reports and getting up from her chair. “I’ll be right down."

 

**
“What have we got here?” Elizabeth asked as she came and joined McKay and Zelenka in the science lab.

“Someone or perhaps something is using Ancient technology, to get in touch with us,” Radek Zelenka replied.

“Indeed, and what do they want?”

“I believe they’re asking for help.” Even as Rodney said this, he rocked back and forth on his feet, and heaved a sigh and went over to one of the many computer screens set up all over the lab, where various computer models were in progress and began to compare notes and run his computations. The other two in the room, along with the other scientists, having witnessed scenes such as this one before, merely went past or around him, like waves breaking around a rock.

A while later Rodney came back to where they waited, and then said. “Yes, definitely asking for help, and get this, the frequency matches was one of the standard ones that were once used by the SGC.”

“Could it be?” Weir asked. “But this SCG don’t have access to Ancient Technology, not even remotely to the amount that we do, and they wouldn’t use outdated frequencies.”

“Agreed,” Radek replied. “But who else could it be?”

“Any of our known enemies….” Elizabeth Weir trailed off, wondering what else to make it of this mysterious message and its perhaps even stranger sender. A part of wished to believe that Radek and Rodney’s initial supposition was in fact, the correct one. Another part, the much more rational and logical part, had to consider any and all potential senders and that the message might actually be a trick, or some kind of a trap. She hated to think that way, but after two or more years out here on the fringes of known space, well, one simply could not afford to be too careful.

At that moment, Rodney again stopped, idly reached up to scratch at an itchy spot on his neck and along his hairline, then quietly remarked, “Call me crazy, and I’m going go out on a limb here, but the only logical conclusion is that it’s the other expedition, and they need our help.”

“Destiny,” Weir mused. “According to SGC intel, that ship and its crew were thought long lost, with all hands aboard.”

“I guess, rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated,” Rodney said with an enthusiastic smile.

“I think we should reply,” Radek said.

“Oh, definitely,” Elizabeth said with a smile.

“What should we say?” Radek asked.

“Make it short and sweet, “ Elizabeth said with a smile. “Help is on the way.”

“I can do that,” Rodney said and began to transmit in all known frequencies and languages.

 

Break on through to the Other Side

Whenever Destiny’s faster than light drive were engaged as it passed through the cornea of a sun the ship shook as if as a giant were turning over and over in restless slumber, for those aboard Destiny, if you were standing up at the time, you’d fall over; if you were sitting down at the time, you’d take a tumble right out of your chair.

Regardless, it felt much like being caught in a titanic whirlpool, the sensation of being shaken by an invisible giant, while your teeth vibrated in your jaw as your every nerve ending vibrated like a strummed harp string, but traveling an incredible rate of speed at the same time.

You only thing one could do was hang on and hope for the best.

When the ship emerged on the other side, it took quite a while to recover, but all in all, it was an amazing experience. This time, however was different,

“What gives?” Liutenant Scott exclaimed.

“We’ve emerged on the other side, and according to our instruments, these are the coordinates that we were given by Dr. McKay…” Dr. Rush trailed off

“Why does this pause give me a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach?” Colonel Young asked.

“Because unless we get a tow, we’re going to be stuck here for a while,” Rush replied.

“A tow?

“Sir,” Eli said, “We’re receiving an incoming transmission, says it’s from a ship called the Daedalus.”

“They say they’ve come from Atlantis.”

“Well, well, who would have thought, it looks like our message got through after all, and you were worried,” Young remarked, turning to give Dr. Rush a pointed look.

For his part, if Rush noticed either the look or the conversational barb, he chose to ignore it. Instead, he merely nodded. “I think we should take them up on their offer.”

Under his breath, Colonel Everett Young thought-'Damn arrogant bastard, as if I needed him to know what I should do here.’

Aloud, he simply turned and told Lieutenant Scott; to respond to their hail, “Tell them, we’re standing by and thank you.”

“Yes, Sir,” Scott crisply replied and went off to rapidly issue instructions to those assigned to the task of using the Ancient communication stones.
**
With a Little Help from My Friends

Atlantis, present day

“The city is conceivably large enough to provide for both the current population and the influx from Destiny’s crew, however I am concerned about what to do with them,” mused Dr. Elizabeth Weir.

“I agree, but they’ve been stuck on that boat for a long time,” replied Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, “and it’s not long as if they trying to run us out of here.”

“No, I wasn’t implying that all, John,” sighed Elizabeth. “Colonel Young strikes me as a competent and resourceful individual, and from what I understand he was hand-picked by Colonel O’Neill to head up the Destiny’s mission.”

Sheppard nodded and then added: “I heard that as well, although we’ve never met face-to-face, I’ve heard good things about him, And I trust Colonel O’Neill’s judgment.”

 

“As do I,” Weir stated. However, that said, I think they will need time to adjust, and to that end, I want Dr. Beckett to give everyone a full medical exam. It might even be a good idea to have each of them meet with Dr. Heightmeyer and help them ‘settle in,” she stated.

“I can’t speak to this personally, “added Stephen Caudwell, a tall, lean man with the air of one accustomed to having his orders obeyed and the gruff tones accustomed to the give and take of commander. “The ship’s size is comparable to my vessel and I’ve already been bombarded with requests from the science branch to begin to exploring it and compare notes.”

Sheppard chuckled and flashed everyone seated around the conference table one of his trade-marked off-center grins. “I can imagine. “

Rodney flashed an annoyed look at everyone seated at the table. “I’m eager to consult with Dr. Rush and his protégé on just that subject. “

“I’m certain that you are, Rodney,” but there’s something that I don’t quite understand, and you’ve all been given copies of Colonel’s Rush reports. From what I can make out apparently this is not the full crew complement.

Sheppard spoke up: “Young tells me that there was a falling-out, which I gather is an understatement, a good handful of the crew that was loyal to a Commander Telford left when they ship encountered some kind of temporal anomaly.

“Caudwell added: “Telford and those loyal to him returned to Earth, and Young felt that this was his best best.”

“He told you that?” McKay asked.

“Yes, and I believe him. He certainly had no reason to lie to me when our ships’ crossed paths in that nebula and nothing to gain from doing so. “

“I would concur with that assessment, Colonel,” replied Elizabeth. “And whatever happened, that’s water under the proverbial bridge. In the meantime, they’re being here presents us with an unlooked for opportunity.

“What do you mean?” If you mean the ship, than yes, the idea of having access to two Ancient ships with its wealth of untapped knowledge and technology! I can’t wait to get to work on it!” McKay exclaimed.

“Pace yourself, Rodney,” Dr. Carson Beckett, quietly remarked, his native Scottish burr evident in his voice. “While I admire yer zeal and passion, a little moderation in while pursuing your goal wouldn’t hurt, and it might keep ye from burning out completely.”

“I know that, Carson!” Rodney snapped, his tone a bit less acerbic than usual.

“Well, the human equation is something that’s manageable, “Elizabeth, we’ll need somewhere less temporary to berth “Destiny” while she’s here.”

“While Daedalus is away on assignment she can use our docking bay,” Sheppard added. “Colonel Young and Dr. Rush have assured that the transition through the nebula considerably taxed the ship’s engines,”

“Is it space-worthy?” McKay asked eagerly.

“It is, but it will need to get out near enough to a star’s corona in order to fully recharge its engines.

“Fascinating, it doesn’t require a naquada reactor?” Elizabeth asked.

“I don’t know, Doctor McKay, “Caudwell replied. “That’s something that I suspect that you will have to put on the very long list of questions to ask Dr. Rush.”

“Very well,” griped Rodney, not liking to have to wait to answer to that question a thousand of others that were just waiting for him to inquire about, but he managed to reign in both his impatience and his snarky tongue, for a more opportune time for when he could get his hands on the other Ancient ship.

“I’d like to sit in on those tests also,” Sheppard remarked. “I’m curious about this ship, too.”

“Agreed,” Elizabeth replied, and held up her hand in order to forestall any protests from Rodney, glancing at him for a heartbeat or two, to see if any would be coming from that direction.

When none were forthcoming, she added. “I’m glad that’s settled, I would like to be kept fully in the loop of anything that we can learn from the ship and its crew. “

“I’ll get right on running those medical scans that ye’ve requested, Elizabeth,” Dr. Carson Beckett.

“Thank you, but if you would ask Colonel Young to join us, I think we’ve kept him waiting long enough. He deserves to her our decision in person.”

Sheppard got up and went out, and a few moments later returned with Colonel Young in tow.

“Have a seat, Colonel,” invited Elizabeth.

“If it’s all the same to you, Dr. Weir, I’d prefer to stand,” replied Young.

“As you were, then,” she replied. “I have good news and bad news for you,” she began.

“The good news is, we can accommodate your entire crew with room to spare, but you’ll have to earn your keep.”

“Sounds fair enough,” he replied. “What’s the bad news?”

Elizabeth paused a moment, and then added: “You agree to undergo full medical exams with Dr. Beckett and his staff, and work together with our people in examining your ship.”

“Easy enough, in fact, I think my crew would welcome another set of fresh eyes and hands to go over the damn thing, it would be a welcome break,” Colonel Young replied.
Elizabeth smiled, “You’ll have it, Mr. Young. In fact, I think you’ll have no shortage of eager volunteers for that particular task, am I right, Dr. Mckay?

“Yeah, I and everyone expects me to be first in line, I get it, so don’t look me at that way,” griped Rodney.

“Colonel Young, one last thing; thank you for being so understanding,” Weir added.

“You’re welcome. In fact, if our positions had been reversed, I think I would take the same precautionary measures,” stated Young.

“That’s all for today, and thank you,” said Elizabeth as she remained seated in her chair as everyone else got up to return to their duties and posts.

Right before he left the room, John Sheppard and Everett Young paused half in and half out of threshold of the conference room, through the open door they could both hear the steady stream of both human activity and computer from the command station on the other side. “That went well, don’t you think?”

“Better than I had expected, but we’ve still a long way to go,” Weir replied.

“Oh, I agree, “Sheppard replied and then grinning a rather feral smile he added, “From a purely military viewpoint, now we’ve got two ancient ships. “The Wraith had better think twice before messing with us again.”

“John, that is entirely not the point,” Elizabeth replied.

“No, but it does make a pretty good argument,” Colonel Young stated, and I would appreciate a full briefing later on the exact nature of any all threats that we might encounter here in the Pegasus Galaxy, before you involve either my ship or my crew. You know, just so we’re on the same page.

“You’ll have it, Mr. Young,” Elizabeth replied. “We’re all friends here.”

“I’ll second that,” Sheppard said.

“Good, then I’ll see you around,” Colonel Young replied and walked away from the briefing room, crossed the command post and took the turbolift down the next level. Sheppard and Weir watched him go and then turned to each other.

“I like him,” Weir stated.

“I do, too. This just might work out well for all concerned. Right now, I’m going to check in with Rodney and his crew and see how they’re coming along with examining “Destiny.”

Elizabeth nodded. “Keep me posted.”

 

***
Closer to Fine

“Do you think you can help her, Dr. Carson?” asked Eli hopefully.

“I don’t pretend to have any degree of certainty, lad,” Dr. Carson Beckett answered they young man’s imploring question while resting one hand on his shoulder, before adding, “but I promise you I will do everything I can to help her.

“That’s all we can ask,” Rush replied, glancing over at Eli, wondering if there might be more to the young man’s regard for Chole Armstrong’s well-being than the honest concern and compassion of one friend for another. If so, it really did not matter to him if that was the case, as long as it didn’t interfere with their working relationship.

He understood all too well how the driving obsession to work at solving the various mysteries that still lay ahead of them, could override concern for anything else.
Carson, nodded and turned to address Chloe. “From what ye’ve told me, the scales are merely the outward manifestation of your experience of being subjected to alien tinkering with your DNA at a microscopic level.”

“Yes,” Chole replied. “Dr. James has managed to stop the worst of it, which I’m happy about, but not completely.”

“Let’s take a look then,” Carson said.

Carson bent down to examine her exposed leg, noting with clinical and detached interest the rapidly growing scales that coated her skin from the knee on down. With his customary jovial smile, he glanced up her and smiled reassuringly. “I hope it will not hurt too much, lass, but I will need to scrape away a bit of this in order to have a tissue sample.”

“Do it, Doc, “she stated, as clearly and with as much determination as she could possibly muster, turning to offer Eli a reassuring and confident grin. She hated having to feel that she was shutting out all of her friends, like Eli, like Lieutenant Scott, and others that she cared about.

She was experiencing more and more extensive periods when she felt as if she were no longer herself, and she hated it. If this was here chance she had to take it, no matter what.

He did so, and placed the sample in a petri dish and brought it over to one of the desks that had a microscope on it, absently shifting away the piles of reports, and odds and ends that covered its surface. Placing the sample on the tray, he peered into the lens. What he saw,

“Well?,” Eli said defensively, worried not so much for himself as for his friend.

Carson looked up and heaved a sigh. “Not that long ago our Major Sheppard was infected with what I believe to be a similar alien virus, where it effectively allowed the alien DNA and genetic markers to override but not completely eras his core personality and human DNA.”

“And you believe that’s what happening to me?” Chloe demanded.

“Yes, Miss Armstrong. Very much so,” Carson replied. “

“During that time Sheppard was bitten by an alien spider and began to take on the physical and mental characteristics of a lizard. He became quite dangerous, but if treated immediately we were able to reverse the effects. I believe that similar treatments could be used to stem or even eliminate the progression in Chloe’s situation.”

“That’s great. We’ll do it!” Eli shouted.

“Be that as it may,” Carson said, evenly, “Early prognosis clearly shows that it cannot be left unattended. And if my computer models are accurate, prolonged exposure is not something that can be left to chance, or she might very well die."

“Die!” Eli exclaimed.

“There are worse fates than dying, and I don’t meant to sound callous or unfeeling, because I do not mean that in any way. I just want all three of you to understand the various implications.

“Trust me, Dr. Beckkett, I believe we do,” Rush replied.

Chloe closed her eyes and took deep breaths for a minute or two, before she opened her eyes to regard first Rush, and over at Eli, just to see if they had any more objections or concerns. When none were forthcoming, she turned back to and held eye contact with Dr. Beckett.

“I’m still me, most of the time,” Chole said quietly, “However, there are times when what feels like a secondary personality takes over, and my body is just along for the ride. It doesn’t happen all of the time, but whenever it
does I have no memory of it afterwards.

Rush nodded. “I can attest to that, however that secondary personality, or whatever you want to call it, has a phenomenal mathematical acumen, and Chole in her present state has been invaluable in helping with the calculations necessary to unravel the mysteries of Destiny that still lay ahead of us,” Rush said.
Eli, as much as he admired Rush, and wanted to learn from him, felt a surge of irritation at what he felt to be the man’s rather callous single-minded take on the situation.

“Yes, as tragic as that would be, and I say this with all due respect, Miss Armstrong, there is worse case scenario,” Carson said.

“Which is?” Eli demanded.

“That's the Chole we all know and love will be completely erased and the secondary personality that you have already previously alluded to will take over, and whether that secondary personality will prove to be friend or foe is anyone’s guess. “

“I don’t know about you guys,” Chole said shakily, “But I don’t want to take that chance. Dr. Carson if you can truly get rid of this ‘thing, do whatever it takes!”
Carson nodded. “Aye, lass, I shall do that.”

Turning to Eli, “I understand that you care and worry about your friend a great deal, but in order to prep her for the procedure, I will have to ask ye to leave the infirmary.”

Turning to Dr. Nicholas Rush, Carson said. “I’m afraid that goes for you as well.”

“I understand,” the other man replied.

“Sure, Doc, no problem,” Eli said as he vaulted down from the work table that was not as cluttered and rapidly crossed the distance to where Chloe sat pensively with her hands clasped in her lap and her hair framing her heart-shaped face.

He paused in front of her and then impulsively and without thinking overly much about whether it was the right thing to do or not; Eli took her hands in his and brought them to his lips and kissed her. “For luck, for strength, for everything, I just want you to know, that no matter what happens, I’m always here for you. You know that, right?”

“I do, Eli, and thank you, thank you so much, for everything,” Chloe whispered back to him.

Rush, silent throughout, simply sighed. The two of them were obviously quite close, and while they, all, each in their own way understood that no matter what precautions and technology, and care, every medical procedure was fraught with danger, there was hardly any need to care on in this manner; but then, he thought, ‘to each their own, let them have their moment. I certainly won’t stand in their way.’
***

 

Interlude

He found her in the mess hall, seated at a table near the back wall, a tray of salad in front of her, her attention focused on whatever was currently showing on the screen of her laptop computer; only pausing now and then to eat her lunch. There were only two other people who were currently sharing her table, but group and other folks were scattered around the large room.

He, in turn, paused for a few heartbeats, uncertain of his welcome. Camille Wray was prickly, for such a small, beautiful woman she could be pretty damn fierce when she put her mind to it.

Perhaps that was the very quality that had drawn him to her in the first place. God knew the two of them had not had anything much in the way of common ground from the get-go when both had signed up for the expedition, and it was only through a series of trials and shared dangers that both had come around to a kind of tentative friendship.

“May I join you?” he asked.

She appeared a bit startled, at first, glancing up at him, but immediately flashed a welcoming smile and waved for him to sit down.

“Of course,” she replied.

He did so, settling his tray of turkey and mashed potatoes down on the table with a thump, and then taking a sip from his plastic cup. “How have you been settling in?” he asked.

“Well enough,” Camille softly replied.

“I know what you mean,” Ronald exclaimed. “This city’s amazing, when the Ancients build something; they build on a massive scale!”

Camille’s attention, divided as it presently was, finally focused on him and what he was saying. “I agree, and I still can’t get over the similarities to the city and to Destiny!”

“Do you think it ever quite, oh, I don’t know, grows on you, I know it’s only been, what three years we were travelling around on the ship, but it started to feel like home, in a way.”

“I think so, but it’s hard to quite explain,” she replied, heaving a sigh and brushing a loose strand of her dark hair out of her eyes.

“I was compiling the informal interviews from all of our crew, trying to see how everyone was adapting from the sudden transition from the ship to the city...” she began and then trailed off.

“And,” he eagerly prompted.

“And, for the most part, everyone is doing fine. Although, I’m worried about Chloe,” she quietly replied.

“I think we all are, but from Eli tells me, I think she’s adapting quite well to the procedure she underwent with Dr. Beckett.”

“I’m glad,” she replied.

“Would you like to run it by me, despite all outward appearances, I’ve learned how to be a pretty good listener.”

“Wouldn’t you find it kind of boring,” she asked.

“Well, maybe a little, but truth to tell, I think I’d like to hear about all the same.”

“Why?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe because, well. I think it’s because, would you believe that it’s because I think I should know about how our people are adjusting, or simply because it’s you, and, I’ve come care about you a great deal.”

“Why, Mr. Greer, at the risk of dragging up a tired old cliché, I do believe, that we’ve begun a beautiful friendship.”

“Well, that’s a relief.” He sighed and offered her a warm and heartfelt grin. “Here’s to new beginnings!” reaching up with his cup and holding it in the air until she picked up her own cup and then clinked them both together.

“To new beginnings,” she echoed the sentiment.

“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for some time now, and somehow never got the chance,” he stated quietly.

“Which is,” she asked.

“The thing I’ve admired most about you is the strength of your convictions and how you’re willing to stand by them.”

“In your own way, I think that’s what I admire most about you, as well.” Funny how that works out,” she got up and walked around the table, and before she could think over much about her next action or even if she wanted to, reached over and taking his head in her hands, planted a long, lingering kiss on his lips. “See you around,” she said.

When she had gone, Ronald sighed. “Yeah, see you around.”

 

***

 

Blinding Light

Sheppard was in the dojo sparring with Teyla when the urgent summons from Dr. Weir came through the city’s communication system.
He immediately dropped the staves he’d been holding up defensively in front of his exposed left flank, flashing her an irrepressible grin and trying not to notice the throbbing in that area that was slowly spreading to the rest of his body.

For her part, Teyla simply responded in kind, her own held in a loose grip, saying, “Go, we were almost finished here, anyway.”

Moving at a near trot, but not yet a run, Sheppard covered the distance between the dojo and the command center in record time, he was worried, her message had been crisp, yet urgent, and he had not known what to expect upon his arrival.

“What’s up?” he asked.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir stood near to Major Lorne and the other technicians who were on duty during the late night shift, her head bent and her eyes intent on whatever was currently showing on the screen, but glanced up just long enough to acknowledge his arrival. “Glad you could make it,” she said.

“Wouldn’t miss it, what am I supposed to be looking at?” he asked

“See for yourself,” she replied.

Looking at the screen with the array of red and blue and green blips scattered across it that looked to him like the drop cloth or the sketch pad that would not have been out of place in Jackson Pollock’s art studio, he cursed under his breath.

"That many blips usually meant only one thing, and all bad. “Wraith?” he grimly asked.

“It’s too soon to know for certain,” Dr. Elizabeth Weir answered calmly. “But what are the odds?”

At that point, Major Evan Lorne spoke up, to say, “Long range sensors are not picking up the typical energy signatures given off by the Wraith vessels, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. They could be masking them, by running silent.”

“He’s right,” Sheppard said, with a grim nod. “But why now, and why so many? This isn’t like them, one of things that have worked so well in our favor, is the divisness between the hives; the more they fight amongst themselves, the more we don’t have to mess with them.”

“He’s right,” Major Lorne added.

“I think I’m going to need a score card to keep track of all the players,” remarked Young pointedly, then offered Dr. Weir a wry grin, “but until then, can you break it down for me?”

“That briefing will have to wait, I’m afraid,” she replied, and would have gone on but whatever she might have said was lost in a resounding heavy thud of something massive slamming into the city’s energy shields repeatedly.

“What the hell was that?” exclaimed Major Sheppard.

“I don’t know, but I want to find out, and I want to find out now!” Weir ordered. “Mister Lorne, do we have anything within visual range?”

Lorne and the other technicians in the command center rapidly bent down to their instruments and panels and input various instructions into the computers to sort through all of the random signals and images that were being picked up by the long and short range sensors, trying to formulate them up into a coherent whole.

When the images finally appeared on the screen, what they all saw was nothing like anything any of them had expected. What they saw were not ships, but they had a vague impression of some kind of space-worthy vessel, with bristling armaments on their noses and underbellies. They were shaped much like the disturbingly familiar dart shape of the Wraith, but there were differences as well.

For one, they were much smaller, quicker and apparently with no room for more than one pilot.

“Were the hell did they come from?” Young muttered to himself.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Sheppard remarked, absently sweeping one hand through his hair, the other rapidly opening and closing into a clenched fist.

“Try to hail them,” Weir ordered.

“This Atlantis, attention to unknown vessels, your approach is in dangerous proximity to our outer defenses, you are hereby ordered to pull back!” Lorne said, over the city’s communication network.

Over the two-way communication channel the only response they received in return were high-pitched whines and radio static.

“No response, Sir,” one of the technicians stated.

“Continue on all open channels, and in all known languages,” Weir stated.

No sooner than that was don; the earlier thud was repeated, this time tripled over a hundred times as the initial wave of the unknown vessels began to converge on at least more than a dozen points of the city’s energy shield.

“This attack makes no sense,” Young observed. “Their attack is concentrated all over the place, there’s been no attempt to make contact with us, or reply to our hails, and there seems to be no overall strategy, just battering over and over again at random points along the shield.”

“How do you want to play this?” Sheppard asked, turning to Dr. Weir.”

“I don’t know. The city’s shielding has taken worse poundings than this, it might be the better course of policy to simply wait them out.”

“You figure that they’ll get tired and go back to wherever it is that they came from?” Lorne asked wryly.

“Is the Daedalus within range?” Sheppard asked.

“Caudwell took it out for maneuvers over an hour ago, his flight-log said they would be gone for at least seventy two hours,” Lorne replied.

“We have the Destiny, but it’s still in dry-dock,” remarked Young.

No sooner than the words were out of his mouth when a trio of disheveled, flushed, and excited scientists rushed into the Command Center with Eli Wallace trailing on their heels, all of them carrying their laptops and seemingly talking over each other in their haste to make themselves heard.

“What is it, Rodney,” Elizabeth asked.

“You need to see this!” Rodney replied, when he finally got his breath back and ignored Radek Zelenka’s knobby elbow jarring him in the side.

“We’ve been studying the drones attack patterns and have come to the conclusion that they are not as random as they at first appeared, in fact, it is their belief that the drones are drawn to attack the city because of the energy signal put out by city and Destiny.”

“Let me see,” Sheppard stated.

Radek stepped forward and with Eli’s help set it down on one of the consoles so everyone could have a good view of the screen. Leisurely rotating on the screen was a series of images of a mathematical parabola, its curving lines describing degrees of arc and speed, and movement.

“A u-shaped curve with certain specific properties." Formally, a parabola is defined as follows: For a given point, called the focus, and a given line not through the focus, called the directrix, a parabola is the locus of points such that the distance to the focus equals the distance to the directrix,” Radek explained.

“If the shields fail the drones will get into the city proper and worse, if they fail completely they are sitting atop metric tons of water…” Rodney paused to draw in a much needed breath and then turned to glance meaningfully at both Weir and Sheppard.

“Parabolas can open up, down, left, right, or in some other arbitrary direction. Any parabola can be repositioned and rescaled to fit exactly on any other parabola — that is, all parabolas are geometrically similar,” Rush added quietly.

Young, for his part, not familiar with either of the two scientists, waited to see how it would play out, but from the looks on the faces of both Dr. Rush and his young protégé, Eli Wallace, he could only conclude that the odds added up in one of two columns, and it wasn’t good.

“So what do we do?” Weir asked.

“The chair?

“What chair? What are you talking about?” Colonel Young demanded.

“That’s right, I don’t recall if we show you the Ancient Chair when we took on you the formal tour of the place, but unless we go out there and take our ‘guests’ head on, the Chair might be our best bet,” Weir replied.

“I’m all for the head-on approach,” Sheppard remarked.

Weir, no stranger to making rapid decisions when the occasion demanded it stated: “No, we need you to remain here, so you’ll begin a counter-offensive, by fighting fire with fire. Our drones against those who seem so determined to get in.

Just then, there came another resounding thumping shook the city, and the technicians began to rattle off damage reports that came flooding in from the other sections, all reported minimal damage, and only Doctor Beckett reported that he’d been treating anyone who suffered bruises or scrapes from falling down or the like.

“This has gone way past the point of annoyance, let’s get to it,’ Sheppard exclaimed.

“Go,” Weir replied

***
Sheppard did not quite run to the chamber where the Ancient’s device known familiarly as the Chair was located, but it came close. And it wasn’t because he didn’t try, this wasn’t his first time facing unknown and perhaps extremely dangerous odds, no was anyone else stationed at Pegasus Base, whether they be civilian, soldier, or even Athosian.

John Sheppard arrived at the chamber and sat down, and immediately the sensation of being connected with the City’s awareness enveloped; it was an extremely heady feeling, but one he could not afford to dwell overmuch upon, but time was of the essence.

In his mind’s eye, Sheppard saw the parabolic arcs of the drones as the swooped and swarmed upon the city’s shields, battering against them one at one time here, in groups of a dozen elsewhere, and almost a hundred strong near the docking bays.

Offering a feral grin of determination in response, Sheppard focused his concentration and sent a command that would launch the city’s own remote-controlled drones in response, as they collided and beat the attacking opponents back.

Soon the attacks were coming fast and furious and if he hadn’t known any better, it almost seemed as if the attacks became even more frenzied than they had been before.

It was as if, whatever intelligence or computer programming that guided them sensed the counter-offensive and either were attempting to compensate, or even that if they had, they simply did not know how and were beginning to panic.

Elsewhere, Rush stood in front of the Destiny’s engines along with Dr. Rodney McKay, Radek Zelenka and Eli Wallace were debating whether or not they should shut down the ship’s power supply, if that would help serve to divert the course of the alien drones’ attack.

Meanwhile, Sheppard was so intent on what he was doing that the appearance of Rodney in the room, tapping on his shoulder and talking into his air, saying how it was over, that he could stop now, that it was all right.

Sheppard blinked and appeared to very gradually come out of the highly concentrated level of attention and slumped forward, sensing, but not really registering on his consciousness when Rodney caught him in his arms before he slumped to floor.

“You did it! It’s over, although I must say if it had not been for my brilliant calculations we never would figure out that they were been drawing to the Destiny’s engines,” Rodney preened.

“Did we get them all?” Sheppard muttered under his breath, leaning on Rodney’s shoulder, for a heartbeat or two, before he gently but firmly shrugged away and forced himself to stand upright, taking several ragged breaths before he was fully able to be attention to what was going on around him, or what the other man was saying.

“Oh, I’d say about ninety seven, ninety six percent, the rest is pretty metal confetti out there, which we go and collect with the puddle jumpers once everything settles down around here.”

“When does that ever happen?” John Sheppard joked.

“Not that often,” Rodney replied jovially, smacking the taller man good-naturedly on the shoulder.

“You okay?”

“No, but I will be,” Sheppard replied. “Let’s go talk to Elizabeth and the others, and see how they’re faring.”

***

Conclusion

Everett Young was in his assigned quarters, sort of focused on getting his belongings unpacked and sorted out, and deciding where to stash them; the normally simple task made more difficult by the fact that his thoughts kept wandering and he felt emotionally drained by recent events.

When he finally moved to open a drawer and carefully place his folded uniform slacks inside the pinging of the electronic door chime interrupted his admittedly meandering thoughts. “Come,” he automatically said.

Whoever it was that had come to see him in his quarters after hours, cleared his throat and did not say anything right away. When Everett Young turned around, he could not help but twist his facial muscles into a grimace of distaste, but immediately schooled his expression into a polite mask.

“Dr. Rush, to what do I the pleasure?” he asked, perhaps, in his own mind, a bit more harshly than he had intended.

If Rush noticed that slight inflection in either his voice or demeanor he chose not to mention it.

“Believe I wouldn’t be here at all, if not for the, shall we say, the change in our shared circumstances,” the other man quietly stated, looking up from where he stared at those long elegant hands that could fly across the console or write such complex equations. Nicolas Rush was also well aware of the bad blood that flowed between them, as well as the acrimonious and often extremely harsh words that they had exchanged in the past, for both personal and professional reasons.

For whatever set of circumstances had conspired to bring him to this point in time; he no longer held as much desire to see the older man suffer for the order he had given to exile him on that remote planet.

Nor did he wish to see the other man come harm, at least, not as much as he had in the past. It was not that he no longer cared to exact any kind of revenge, and the fate of the crew of the Destiny was perhaps a bit much for any one person to assume full responsibility for.

After all, he knew his own reputation, brilliant, outspoken, arrogant, and extremely difficult to work and get along with. And he could even be a bit of an ass, if he were being honest with himself, when you came right down to it. While Doctor Nicholas Rush knew himself to be many things, he was not an entirely unreasonable man.

For his part, Everett Young, also knew himself to be stubborn, a by the book type of seasoned commander, and while he had never personally liked the arrogant bastard, he had to admit that we clearly very good at what he did.

Neither had ever be willing to back down, and Rush was all that the fault for their long-standing feud, if one could call it that. In any case, he had given the matter a great deal of thought, weighed the pros and cons and added his own turmoil of emotions into the equation; and had come to the inevitable conclusion; it was time to bury the proverbial hatchet.

“What do you want?” Young asked.

“I want many things, some attainable and some not as much, “ said Rush softly, as he removed his hands out of the pockets of his slacks and held them out in the gesture commonly recognized as the universal gesture of good will.

Young shook his head and sighed, “I don’t know, I honestly don’t know, what you mean by that. But that hardly matters at this point, do it?”

“It means that I’ve come to realize that it’s high time that the two of us ceased to butt heads and, try and attempt at arriving at some kind of reconciliation.”

“It’s interesting that you would be the one to come to me rather than the other way around, I wonder why that is,” Everett Young mused.

“Perhaps, it’s perhaps while you’ve been understandably preoccupied with matters such as keeping the ship and its crew intact through our, transition, it gave you very little time to think of such matters in the grander scheme of things,” Rush stated, offering one of his infrequent, but sincere half-smiles.

“I suppose so. I don’t mind telling that, this, whatever it is that we have here,” said Young seriously, and then trailed off, half-turning on his heel to steal a glance out the window of his quarters, and then returned to Rush,

“Its’s not everything I expected it to be, but again, I honestly don’t know what I was expecting.”

“Neither did I, but I think we owe a great deal to learn, and I for one intend to take full use of any and all experiences and opportunities that come my way,” Rush said emphatically.

“I would expect any less from you,” Young replied, and despite his initial reservations and his own preconceived notions, the iciness and brittleness gradually seeped away and quite being aware that he was doing so, extended his hand to the other man. “A truce?”

Rush extended his own hand, and then sealed the bargain. “A truce, and one that I intend to keep. You have my word on that.”

“Duly noted, and you have mine as well,” said Young in return.

“Nor would I expect anything less than your best, Colonel,” said Rush quietly.