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Short, But Not Always Sweet

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 "Mr. Woosley, are you honestly trying to tell us that Atlantis is alive?"

"Yes, Col. Petrov. Not only is she sapient, or alive as you put it, but she has declared herself an independent body no longer under Earth's jurisdiction."

"It can't do that!" the Russian ambassador yelled as he banged his fist on the table.

Richard fought a sigh. Pedantic as he tended to be, being responsible for Atlantis had made him much better at accepting reality and moving forward with a plan to deal with it. Similar could not be said for his fellows on the IOA.

"I'm afraid she already has,” Richard informed them with typical aplomb. “Furthermore, she has expressed that she wishes to be referred to as a ‘she,’ not an ‘it."

"Utter nonsense," Mr. Chapman, the British representative, immediately twitching toward his cup of tea.

General Jack O'Neill tossed the pen he'd been playing with onto the table and leaned back in his chair. Hopefully, he wouldn’t inflame the IOA members and make Richard’s job more difficult.

"You're sure this isn't anything McKay or Sheppard dreamed up?"

"Yes, General. Everyone on the city was shocked and, if I may say it, dismayed to find out that she is sapient. They were further distressed by her decision, though I believe some are more concerned with the possibility of not being permitted to stay than they are about her state of being."

"Well," the General drawled shrugging one shoulder, "this isn't the craziest thing we've had to deal with over the past decade. I’m sure a room filled with diplomats as experienced in negotiation as you all can strike a bargain with the city to ease us through this transition."

Woolsey couldn't tell if O’Neill was being facetious. Then again, he had difficulty knowing when Colonel Sheppard was being sarcastic. Occasionally, Richard was tempted to believe the rumors that Sheppard was O’Neill’s love child or possibly his child from another universe.

"In order to aid us in deciding who would be offered the option to live on Atlantis, the city has given us a list of people she believes she finds… promising. They will be required to live in the city exclusively for a period of one month while Atlantis is on Earth. After that point, the individual and Atlantis will discuss whether or not he or she will be offered citizenship."

Woolsey paused, knowing the next statement was going to cause the most problem. "All candidates must be willing to relinquish citizenship to any single planet and also must be willing to return to the Pegasus galaxy once Atlantis has finished making her selections."

"Unacceptable!" The French ambassador lapsed into a rant that made Woolsey sincerely regret choosing French instead of Spanish or Chinese as his language choice in college.

"While I understand that you are feeling distressed Mr. LaPierre, the decision of who lives and works on Atlantis ultimately belongs to her." He glanced around the room, meeting each representative’s eyes. “Furthermore, Atlantis asked me to inform you that any attempts to control her through coercion or stealth will fail, and when it does, she will retaliate against the nation or nations involved. She will protect herself and her citizens first and foremost. Her secondary focus will be protecting the peoples of the Pegasus galaxy.

"Now, wait just a minute," O'Neill gave him a narrow-eyed look. "How exactly did Atlantis happen to come by this list of names?"

Richard cleared his throat. "Yes. It seems that as soon as the Ancient Outpost was activated, an automated data mining function was also triggered. Though not sentient, the Outpost transmitted all new data to Atlantis each time a wormhole was opened between the two."

Richard was immediately grateful for the Excedrin Migraine he'd been wise enough to take prior to the meeting, as the noise level rose exponentially.

"So this Outpost has been recording data on people of my nation?"

"Atlantis has been spying on us!"

“I bet the Americans knew and just didn’t tell us!”

“It wouldn’t be the first time they withheld information.”

A shrill whistle cut through the outbursts.

"Alright now, people." General O'Neill leaned forward and glared at each member until he or she became silent. "Thank you. I'd just like to remind you that having that Outpost active has saved our collective bacon more than once. Or maybe you'd rather be a slave to Apophis, Ra, or Ba'al right now."

It didn't surprise Woolsey that no one was willing to argue with O'Neill about that.

“And I would like to remind you that Atlantis is only in the Milky Way galaxy because she was willing to help protect Earth,” Richard snapped. “Despite the danger posed to her and those who live within her walls, she was willing to use the wormhole drive to make sure she would get here in time to prevent the Wraith from decimating Earth. Without Atlantis, none of you would be sitting here right now!”

Richard took a calming breath while the IOA were still stunned silent. He surveyed the room and nodded decisively. "Alright then. I have the lists here, so you can take them back to your various nations and decide if and how you wish to approach these people. I'm guessing that not all of them are going to make the cut, so each nation needs to figure out for itself the selection criteria."

“And you, Mr. Woolsey?” Shen demanded venomously. “Will you be remaining on Atlantis?”

Richard silently considered the woman who had been after his position on Atlantis not that long ago. He looked down and tapped his remaining papers against the table before he allowed a small smile to tug the corners of his lips upward.

“As a matter of fact, I will.”