Previously, on Stargate Atlantis...
Dr. Xiaoyi Shen stood at the head of the table to deliver her verdict. John leaned back in his chair, one leg propped up on the other. Rodney chewed a hangnail and scanned the room nervously. Teyla made an effort to relax her hands as she clasped them in front of her to keep them still. Richard Woolsey and Ronon Dex stood behind them, Ronon's arms folded across his chest.
"The IOA has come to a decision. Atlantis must remain on Earth."
John's face felt like it had turned to stone.
"Ronon Dex and Teyla Emmagen, you are welcome to remain with Atlantis on Earth, or to return to your homes in the Pegasus galaxy."
Ronon didn't so much as blink, but Teyla's eyes went hard and her jaw set as she stood to face Dr. Shen.
Rodney leaned in, his voice conspiratorial, his tone almost pleading. "You're the key, Colonel. This can't happen without you. If we don't have you, it all falls apart. You have to make a decision."
John closed his eyes and scrubbed a hand through his hair.
"Jennifer... come with us. Please." Rodney caught her elfin face between his hands, and she put her hands over his, her eyes welling up with tears and regrets. "I don't want to lose you."
"I don't want to lose you either." She stood on tiptoe to wrap her arms around his neck, and he leaned down to press his face into her hair. Then she stepped back, so that they were an arm's length apart. "But I can't go with you. My home is here, on Earth. My dad... I want... I don't want to be cut off from him, or my family. I want to practice medicine, maybe take some of the... the things we learned in Pegasus and use them for something good here, on this world. I don't know..." She bit her lip and looked down. "Maybe I want a family."
Rodney looked down, too, toeing a crack in the sidewalk. "I know. There's no way I could promise you that we'd be able to... I mean, if you wanted to... Pegasus isn't exactly family friendly for us, but Teyla and Kanaan are doing OK with Torren..." She shook her head, and he nodded. "You want a family on Earth... near your family. I'm... sorry." And guilty. He felt so, so guilty.
She closed the distance between them one last time to press her lips against his. "Take care of your team. And don't die."
Before Rodney could stop her, she turned away and stepped out from under the awning into a waiting cab.
"How did he get here?" John yelled. Richard Woolsey stood calmly in the middle of the command center, while the gateroom crew stood frozen in the midst of preparations for liftoff.
Rodney's hands waved frantically. "How should I know?"
"I had the Daedalus beam me in," Woolsey explained, and his tone suggested that the whole situation was quite reasonable, really. If they would only trust him. John trusted him and his smooth voice not one bit.
John shot Rodney a Look, which the astrophysicist returned with a helpless shrug.
"I knew you were up to something," said Woolsey.
"We're doing what's right," John snapped, and wondered if other things on the Daedalus were unexpectedly intact. Like the hyperdrive. If Rodney hadn't disabled the ship's hyperdrive...
Woolsey tucked his hands into his pockets. "When the dust settles, you're going to need someone who can negotiate with Earth," he said. "Daedalus beamed me in because I knew you were up to something. I convinced them that I could handle the situation. And so I am. Now that I'm here, I'm offering myself as a hostage until you need a negotiator." John stared at him, and Woolsey added, "Don't burn all your bridges, John. Leave one standing that can take you home again."
"All set, Colonel. Everything is secure, and we're ready for lift-off."
John studied Lorne for a moment, processing his words. Then he said, "It's not 'colonel' anymore, I guess."
Lorne just nodded and turned back to his station.
"I thought Todd said that all of the hives agreed to the administration of the drug!" Rodney shouted.
"That is what he said," Teyla shouted back, trying to keep her footing as the city reverberated with blasts from the hive ship.
"Apparently he was wrong," John snapped.
Through the window, they could see the darts whizzing past, and the hive ships beyond them, hanging in space against a vast background of stars and black.
All eyes were fixed on Rodney and Radek at the front of the briefing room.
"We have barely enough power to reach New Lantea, and I'm not even sure we'll have enough power to land," Rodney said.
"The Wraith battle used up everything we had," Radek chimed in. "When we land..."
"IF we land..." Rodney interjected.
"WHEN we land," Radek continued, "we will have no shield, and we will have no way to contact Earth."
"Huh," said John. "That story sounds familiar somehow."
"Except for the part where it's probably ships from our own planet that are most likely to blow us out of the water," Rodney muttered bleakly.
"If we are to secure Atlantis as a legacy for our galaxy," Teyla said, looking over the tops of her steepled fingers at the Genii leaders, "we will need to form an alliance."
Todd stood with his back to the bridge of the hive ship. "And how might we benefit from this... alliance, Dr. McKay?" Rodney swallowed, but before he could answer, Todd asked another question. "And where, if I may inquire, is John Sheppard?"
Rodney gulped again, and replied, "Well..."
"Alliance, hmm?" Larrin looked John up and down. He resisted the urge to lick his dry lips and matched her stair, hoping she couldn't see the bead of sweat that threatened to roll right down his forehead.
A circle of men and women surrounded Ronon. "Atlantis needs our help," he said, standing tall amidst them.
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Of all the words you could have used – confederation, union, affiliation, coalition, league of non-aligned worlds even – and you chose to call us the Alliance? I mean, why not just call us the Rebel Alliance and be done with it?"
"It's just a place holder name, Rodney." John smirked. "And you know, Babylon 5 had an Alliance, too – the one that replaced the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. Remember?"
"Whatever. Why won't you ever let me name anything?"
"Stand down, Sheppard." Colonel Caldwell's voice crackled over the radio. "I do not want to fire on my own people."
"Then don't fire, Colonel. But Atlantis is a free city. If you fire on us, we'll take it personally." John squinted his eyes and tilted his head, envisioning Caldwell's glare and the fierce set of his jaw.
"Perhaps..." Woolsey's voice broke in smoothly, and John wished to HELL that everyone would just keep off the radios until he was done facing down Caldwell, "...we can settle this another way. I believe Earth and Atlantis have a much brighter future as allies than as enemies."
A woman's voice cracked across the radio chatter. "Really? I kind of want to shoot him out of the sky. Or at least take his ship."
"Larrin... for cryin'... OK, who gave her a radio?"
At the top of the gateroom stairway, John fiddled with the braid on the hem of his new uniform. It was a gift from the Athosians, every piece of it made in Pegasus. Rodney was dressed in the Athosian version of a Sunday suit, and Ronon wore the same thing he wore every day, pretty much. Next to Rodney, Kanaan held little Torren John tightly in his arms, father and child both clothed in their finest.
"Ladies and gentlemen," John began. "It is my honor and my pleasure to present to you the first Guardian of Atlantis."
Teyla had declined any title such as President. Guardian sounded more appropriate – guardian of the city and its wealth of knowledge and technology, now to be offered freely to the many peoples of the galaxy. At the John's sweeping gesture, she descended the stairs in a simple Athosian gown, its creamy surface embroidered in joyful scrolls of red and gold. At the bottom of the steps, in front of the city's Stargate, with representatives from both the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxies to witness, Teyla took a deep breath and prepared to take her oaths.