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The Guardian of Atlantis

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Disclaimer: I do not own Stargate: Atlantis. This is a work of fan fiction.


Chapter 1: Forsaken

She had waited patiently for their return.

They were not coming back.

After waiting for nearly 4000 years she finally admitted to herself that they never would.

The crystals that powered the city's shield could keep out the ocean for at least a half dozen more millennia, but she knew that sooner or later they would fail as entropy slowly drained their lives away, as it eventually does to all things and to all life.

It was simple thermodynamics. Everything eventually runs down. Everything eventually dies.

As entropy gradually claimed the crystals one by one she knew that the shield would some day collapse, and when it failed it would implode the city as megatons of seawater rushed in, crushing everything in an instant, and then merciful death would come.

She walked the halls of her beloved city one last time. It was more out of sheer habit than anything else.

During her final tour of the city's great spires and piers she climbed up and walked out onto the roof of the North Tower to gaze out upon the surrounding ocean one last time. She saw shimmering shafts of light that illuminated a school of erita piciasis as they swam past. The brightly colored fish seemed almost close enough to touch, swimming out beyond the arching curve of the shield.

From her vantage point she scanned the sea for her companion, the magna balaena. She knew that it would not be the same great cetacean that she had befriended all those millennia ago, but it would still recognize her from its genetic memory. She had hoped to share a last goodbye with the huge creature but it was not in sight. She sighed, then she went back downstairs where she continued to pace the darkened halls like a living ghost.

Eventually she entered the central spire and climbed up to the gate room. There she lovingly touched the control consoles wrapped in their protective sheets of plastic, then she peered up at the gate. She remained in silent contemplation of it for several minutes, then she finally left.

She re-entered her private sanctuary, located in a remote and well-protected section of the city. There she opened the stasis chamber were she had spent most of her 4000 years. She climbed inside as the translucent door closed behind her. She stood on the pad, glancing down at the small blue crystal next to her right hand. All she needed to do was tap it three times and she would enter a dreamless sleep from which she knew she would never wake up.

She could not ascend. Indeed, it was a basic fact of her existence. And so she made the only choice that was left available to her: She chose to die.

She had previously adjusted the controls to prevent the city from waking her when the power levels dropped too low. It was because there was no point.

As her hand hovered over the command crystal she paused for a moment, thinking back over her sad and mostly solitary life, a life that had begun near the end of the Lantean-Wraith war. Her earliest memories were as a young child eager to please her proud father, who had explained to her that she was a very special little girl, the product of a very important experiment. She remembered how she was placed in the Time Acceleration Chamber where she was brought up to adulthood in less than 12 months, then followed the surgeries and medical tests, all culminating in the final grand experiment as the plethora of medical scanners and recording devices smothered her young body while a dozen anxious scientists watched in breathless anticipation of the very first act of Ascension ever recorded under rigorous scientific conditions, to learn how Ascension actually worked, for the purpose of understanding the mysterious phenomenon so that they could learn to induce it artificially and all flee from the Wraith together.

But the experiment was a failure. She remembered sobbing in her father's arms as he gently consoled her afterward, explaining that she had performed her role wonderfully and that she was not to blame. He had explained that the fault was his own, due mainly to an error that he had made in the design of her genetic blueprint during her initial inception as a zygote. He explained that because of his blunder that she would remain locked in a perpetual pre-ascendant state for the rest of her life.

Because of this the Council had ordered her termination. Her powers were too dangerous, they explained, and she was too emotionally immature to handle them responsibly. Her father had objected and he threatened to quit working for them. As one of their best research scientists the Council still needed him, and so eventually a compromise was reached that would spare her life.

And so, embarrassed at their collective failure yet again, the Ancients fled the city through the gate. The girl was left behind, to guard the city until they returned.

Over the millennia she became like a living ghost, the guardian of a dead city that was built by a dead race.

4000 years was long enough.

She closed her eyes, tapped the blue crystal three times, and she knew no more.


"McKay, this is a very bad idea."

"C'mon, Radek, the power readings are unmistakable. Something is in there."

"Yes, something bad. We shouldn't be doing this."

"What are you afraid of, ghosts? Look, there is nothing left in there but a pile of 10,000 year old Ancient techno-junk. And possibly a spare ZPM or three. We have to check it out."

"But the sign outside clearly said 'Forbidden'"

"Which is precisely why we need to go in there."

"The sign had an X in a circle. That means death, McKay, death!"

McKay finally stood up from his work on the open access panel. He sighed and turned to face his subordinate. "Radek, there's been no power in this whole section for ages, and with all the silt and seaweed, ugh.." He shook a damp glop of green off of his boot. "Yuck. Like I said, this outer section has obviously been flooded for years. It's all totally dead."

"There could be traps!"

"What kind of traps, hmm? We both know that all Ancient technology is energy based, right? No energy, no power. No power, no traps. It's safe now. The booby traps don't work anymore."

"Yes, Rodney, 'booby' traps, the deadly kind of boobies. Those metal plates on the floor of the entrance vestibule to this tower would have killed us!"

"Well, yeah, they could have but they didn't. No power, Radek, no power."

"And those beam turrets..."

"Radek, look at me." Rodney pointed at his face and spoke slowly "N.O. P.O.W.E.R."

"Rodney, I can feel it. There is something in that room. Something that we should not disturb."

"Like what? Ancient ghosts? I'm surprised at you, Radek. That's idiotic even by your standards."

Zelenka ignored the taunt as he checked his hand-held energy scanner. He moved the scanner in front of large imposing double-doors. "Rodney, there is a power reading behind these doors."

McKay glanced over Zelenka's shoulder. "The scanner reads 55 watts. That's less than one light bulb. And the energy signature is consistent with a ZPM in the idle state. That clinches it. We gotta go in there and check it out."

"But the sign warns..."

"Will you just forget the sign already? Yes, yes, this place was well protected once, 10,000 years ago. Not anymore. Just residual power now. Doesn't even keep the lights on. After 10,000 years the batteries for whatever trap or guard bot or protective gizmo that might be behind that door have gone flat. It's kaput now. Inert. Dead. DEAD. All that might be left alive in there now are Ancient ghosts, and those exist only in your fevered Czech brain. Now try to be useful for once and help me take off this access panel."

In the darkened hallway John Sheppard leaned against a wall behind the pair of squabbling scientists. He was wearing a standard black tactical outfit with a P90 strapped to the front.

He yawned. "Can you two Hardy Boys please hurry this up? It's already almost two and I want to get to the mess hall before they close until dinner."

McKay turned around from his work on the access panel. "Don't worry, I'll have this door popped open in a jiffy."

"Good." Sheppard was there only because Elizabeth insisted. Privately he agreed with McKay that Radek's worries were overblown, but he knew better than to say so out loud and give McKay the satisfaction. He yawned again and closed his eyes for a quick catnap.

McKay stood up and inspected the double doors again. "The left panel is bypassed. Radek, help me open the other one. Now, point your light in there and hold it steady. Let me take a look in here. Hmm. Ooh, this one has a combo lock! Heh, finally something interesting... Hmm.. Let's see.."

While holding the light Radek continued to plead with his boss in vain. "Rodney we have found so many dangerous devices and labs in this city, and none of them had warning labels, none! This is the first one with an actual warning sign. Think what that means!"

McKay ignored his plea as he continued to work on the second door lock. "Hand me that battery pack. Let's see, bypass the primary circuit.."

After a minute there was a hiss of air as the double-doors slid open. "Ah, see? Easy. Now let's go find us some ZPMs." McKay stood and lifted the portable lantern from the damp floor, then he walked into the darkness. Zelenka flapped his arms in exasperation and followed him in.

Back out in the hall Sheppard drawled, "You boys call me if you need anything, m'kay?"

"Sure, whatever." McKay eagerly stepped inside and panned the lantern around the room, which was larger than expected. "Hmm. No signs of water damage..."

As he swept the beam back and forth the lamp caught a flash of something white. What was it? He rotated the beam back. It flashed again.

Again something white.

No, someone white.

It was a hooded figure. The figure was wearing all white with an indistinct shape, as if it was wearing a cloak or a sheet. Indeed it looked just like..

Radek said it aloud. "A ghost."

Outside Sheppard's ears perked up. He was instantly alert. He snapped up his P90 and flipped off the safety, turning on the gun's mounted headlamp as he went inside after them.

Suddenly a blinding flash of light dazzled their eyes as the entire room flared up with a bright white light.

The ghostly figure spoke.

"Who are you?"

The voice carried a tone of authority.

McKay held his hands over his eyes as he tried to peer into the blinding white light. Eventually he saw the indistinct outline of a person standing in front of them wearing a white hood.

The authoritative voice spoke again.

"Why are you here?" The voice was female.

As his eyes adapted to the brilliant light he lowered his hands from his face and boggled. Under the hood he saw the face of a young woman with piercing blue eyes and high cheekbones. She had an aquiline nose that gave her a hawk-like visage.

Her piercing eyes were now blazing directly at the trio, showing a combination of surprise and rising anger.

"Why was I awakened?"

Sheppard instinctively took a step in front of McKay and Radek to shield them, his weapon ready.

The figure shifted her gaze to the man holding the weapon. The P90 instantly jumped out of Sheppard's hands, flying high into the air until it clattered on the floor far out of reach.

To his credit Sheppard recovered quickly. Leaving his now-empty hands open while slowly raising them into the air in what he hoped would be recognized as a gesture of surrender he said, "Hi there."

The voice now spoke in a low growl. "You have entered the Forbidden Archives. Take one more step in to this room and your life is forfeit."

Sheppard did an appraisal of the speaker: The figure was crouching slightly, legs and arms apart, hands open, ready to fight. It was a martial arts pose that reminded him of Teyla during one of her many sparring matches where she had kicked his butt. This woman looked like she could easily do the same. Her facial expression was hard and grim, a look that Sheppard recognized. Although she held no visible weapon, he knew that she was ready to kill.

Their lives were now in great danger.

She quickly pulled the white hood tighter over her head as she remained in her battle stance. Sheppard suspected that the hood provided some sort of physical protection. Draped around her body was a long white cape made of the same material, leaving only her arms and calves exposed. He saw that her arms were covered in a thinner version of the same material, with white gloves on her hands that were joined to the garment with no visible seams at the wrists.

Through a small gap in her cape he spotted a shapely and athletic body wearing a tight form-fitting white leotard consisting of the same thinner material, with the top of the garment rising up to protect a long and graceful neck. Circling her blond brow was a silvery metal ring that had intricate lattice work that made her look like a Tolkien princess.

Sheppard kept both arms up in the air as he gave the dangerous-looking woman his most charming and disarming smile. "We are so glad to meet you. As you can see, we are peaceful explorers. My name is John, and.." He took a chance and lowered one of his arms to gesture at the two stunned scientists. ".. over here are my good friends Rodney and Radek. They are the scientists who are exploring your fair city."

The woman began to assess her intruders, tilting her head slightly. She could see that they posed no possible physical threat to her person. Satisfied that there was no immediate danger, she straightened her posture and lowered her arms, allowing her cape to fall back to its normal non-combat position. She pulled down her hood, revealing luxurious shoulder length blond hair that she shook free.

Sheppard liked what he saw. She was stunningly beautiful. His smile brightened.

Meanwhile Zelenka sucked in his breath and whispered, "She is like, like Galadriel.."

McKay nodded dumbly and whispered, "Yeah.. or her younger hotter sister."

Now that Sheppard could see her face clearly, he saw that she did indeed look younger than he had originally estimated, definitely younger than Teyla, perhaps 20 years of age.

He continued to turn on the charm. "I take it that you are our new landlord?"

She spoke simply, "I am the Guardian."

"The Guardian? Hello, very nice to meet you. Like I said we are peaceful explorers. We thought the city was uninhabited. Sorry about that, our mistake really. Kind of silly. I mean, we must look like squatters to you, moving in without your permission, eating Cheetos on your couch, leaving crumbs under the cushions, and I can see why you might be a little upset about that. Again, we really apologize..."

She ignored his rambling mode of speech. "You claim to be explorers. How did you get here? And before you answer know this: I can detect lies."

"Right. Well, we came through the Stargate. Uh, by 'Stargate' we mean that round ring thing in the central tower..."

"The portal."

"Yes, the portal. We came through that."

"That is impossible. The portal is locked to admit only my people upon their return from exile on Terra."

"Terra? Oh you mean Earth? Well, yes. That is where we came from. We came from Earth.

His answer had visibly affected her. "No, that is totally impossible..."

"Honest. We're from Earth. You said you can detect lies, right? Look at me. Am I lying right now?"

She gazed at him. "No, you are not lying." She shook her head, for his answer had clearly upset her. "I still don't believe it. My people? What happened to them?"

She walked up to Sheppard and gazed right into his eyes, her face only inches away. "Who are you really?" She sniffed the air. "Wait, you smell.. Lantean."

Sheppard gulped then nodded, "Uh, yeah. I have some Lantean genes. Say, you must have a pretty good nose to smell that."

She was stunned. "That.. that is even more impossible.."

Sheppard decided to capitalize on her uncertainty. "I guess your people came to Earth and, well, you know, they must have got friendly with the natives, if you know what I mean. It happens. Hey, that means you and I are related! I could be your grandson. Well, your great, great, great, something, great, great grandson, but yeah! So that makes us family, right?"

She was frozen in shock.

"Uh, okay, you might not have kids, my mistake. What I really meant to say was that I am your great, great, great-something nephew. And, hey, you're my great Aunt! You're my Auntie Guardian!"

She felt dizzy. "They survived..? But why no contact? Not once did they dial in to check on the city.. What.. how.. How many years has it been?"

"Hmm?"

She grabbed Sheppard's tunic. "How many years have I been asleep? Tell me!"

"Uh.. we think your people came to Earth about ten thousand years ago, give or take."

She stared, then she pushed him away. She marched over to a wall. She approached a nondescript decoration on the wall and gave it a series of three quick rhythmic taps. A hidden panel opened revealing a status monitor. She began to fiddle with it.

Radek marveled, "There are decorations just like that one all over the city. In the halls, rooms, everywhere..."

McKay's jaw had dropped open. "Those decorations open hidden status panels? Nobody told me that. How come nobody told me that?"

She ignored the two gawking scientists as she brought up the chronometer on the status panel. It confirmed that she had been asleep for 6,000 years.

Her mind reeled. "The power crystals have been running all this time? No.." She tapped the panel again. "How much power is left?"

McKay spoke up, "Uh yeah, the ZPMs were nearly depleted when we got here. Our explorations had drained the last one completely, sorry. Didn't know until it was too late."

She whirled around and addressed Rodney for the first time. "The ocean!"

"Oh yeah, we're on the surface now. The city rose up by itself. Safety feature I bet."

She knew that the city would only do that if it detected the return of Lanteans. "Wait.. so you really did come through the gate from Earth?"

Sheppard nodded as he lowered his hands, "Yeah, we did."

"The city must have detected your Lantean blood.. Raised the city.."

Sheppard snapped his fingers. "Exactly! See? The city accepted us as Lanteans. Raised the city for us. That just confirms it. We're family. It proves it."

The Guardian's mind spun. She was still in shock at the revelation. Interbreeding with lesser races? It was unthinkable.

The Ancients were a prideful people who looked down on the human races as an inferior species. The purity of their genetic line was fundamental to their conceit. Indeed, it was one of the basic commandments of Lantean society, rules that were set forth after the terrible blunders of their ancestors with the genetic manipulation that inadvertently created the Wraith, followed by their creation of the Replicators to stop them with consequences that were even more disastrous. Such acts had brought their race to the brink of extinction. Genetic intermixing of any kind was absolutely forbidden.

Miscegenation was a capital offense. The Law also required the death of the offending human participant as well as the extermination of any spawn that emanated from such a detestable act.

She knew that humans of that era on Earth were not even at the lowest level of civilization. They were level 0, hunter-gatherers.

Her people had mated with cavemen. She felt sick.

"I, need to.. to sit down. I can't believe this.."

Sheppard decided that she needed to know. "I'm sorry. Your people are gone now. They died out long ago."

"I know that. They never came back." She was still shaking her head. "But I thought maybe at least perhaps some of our culture, our history, something, might have survived on Earth.." Her body slumped against the wall. She was crashing.

Sheppard took a chance and gently held her arm, propping her up. She did not resist. She was still in shock.

"Guardian, look at me." Her blue eyes turned to look into his gray-green ones. "Your culture isn't lost. We are here in your city, and right now we are in the middle of a big research project to translate your database. We saved it, at least the public parts that we can access. Your history, customs, everything. It is being preserved for posterity."

"The public database..?"

"Yes! You know, you could really help us with translating it. There are a lot of words and concepts we don't still understand. I think that if you and I work together as a team.." Sheppard made a hand gesture pointing to himself then to her. ".. we can salvage it. Save your culture, your history. Sound like a plan?"

She looked at him with pleading eyes, "Then you really are explorers? You're not here just to plunder my city?"

"No, we're not thieves. We're explorers. We're here to learn, to share our knowledge with yours. To help you, and you can help us. Remember, we're a family now."

She put her hand to her face and sighed, "I know you speak the truth, but this is so much to take in.."

She thought some more, then she came to a decision. She stood up tall and straight and spoke with authority.

"Very well. I will tentatively - tentatively mind you - accept who you claim to be. I will accept you as provisional Lanteans in my role as the Guardian of Atlantis, subject to my learning more about you and your people and what happened to mine."

"That's a deal. Oh, and thank you."

She tapped her tiara. "There, it's done."

Sheppard noticed the tapping gesture. He mimicked it on his own temple. "What's with the tappy thing?"

"Oh. Here." She removed the U-shaped tiara from her brow and showed it to him. "My limiter. It helps me block out your thoughts so that I don't read your mind accidentally. I am prohibited from probing the mind of a fellow Lantean without their explicit consent except in very specific legal situations. I am also not permitted to probe the mind of mere humans - she glanced over at McKay and Zelenka - without good cause; I have more leeway there." She replaced the tiara on her head. "By tapping here I can increase or decrease the level of the mental filter. I just raised the filter up to 90%, which is the normal level when I am among Lanteans. At the 90% level I can only pick up strong or violent emotions..." She gave him a thin-lipped smile. "... such as the deadly thoughts that you had when you were preparing to shoot me."

"Hey, I wasn't gonna shoot you.."

"But you were ready to do so."

"So were you. Ready to kill us, I mean. And I don't need any special mind powers to know that."

She looked away. "True. I was ready to kill you." She turned back. "I apologize."

"Hey, don't sweat it. It's just a misunderstanding among friends. We're family now, right?"

"As I said, I will accept your claim for now. You are the leader of this expedition?"

"Uh, no, that would be Doctor Elizabeth Weir."

"Doctor? Your leader is a civilian?"

"Yeah. This is not military expedition, it's a scientific one. Like I said, we're explorers. I'm simply in charge of security." Then he added, "Say, why don't you and I go visit Elizabeth right now? I think she would be delighted to meet you."

The Guardian sighed, "Yes, I suppose we should go see your leader." She sounded tired.

She then turned away and looked at the monitor again. "10,000 years..."

"Well hey, if it's any consolation, Earth has really changed since then. We've split the atom, gone into outer space.."

"You are a level 4 civilization? Mastered interplanetary travel? That seems surprising to me given your primitive gas-powered projectile weapons."

"Hey, we've been to the Moon."

"And to other planets in your system?"

"Uh, not yet, except in unmanned craft."

"Then you are at best a very low level 4. Borderline primitive."

That raised Sheppard's hackles a bit. He felt obliged to defend his homeworld. "Now wait just a minute, we humans have progressed quite a bit lately. We've mastered the gate system, traveled all over the galaxy.."

"Using the gates of my people, not your own means."

"Uh, yes. But we also now have interplanetary travel..."

"Using our gate ships no doubt."

"Uh yeah, but also other ships that, uh, .."

"That you got from other races. Not your own."

Sheppard was getting flustered. "Well, yeah, we borrow and learn." He looked at Rodney. "C'mon McKay, help me out here."

Rodney spoke up. "Uh, yes, well, we are creating our own ships now, the F-302 based on Goa'uld design, which means.. which means nothing to you of course. Anyway, there's also the X-303 prototype, and the BC-304 but it's still under construction.."

She ignored his rambling. "Fine. So, how many worlds have you populated using our gate system? I would expect that you must have a rapidly expanding interstellar empire by now."

"Uh, no. Just Earth."

"Really? You still live just on your original home planet even with gate travel? No colonies?"

"Well, no.."

"You live on just one world? How can you be so foolish? A single asteroid strike..."

Sheppard was conciliatory. "Okay, I admit maybe we should take your advice on that and spread out a bit. Probably a good idea. Earth is getting kinda crowded."

"It is? What is your population?"

McKay spoke up. "Approximately seven billion."

She stared at him blankly. "I'm sorry, there must be a language problem. Say that again."

"Our planet's population is seven thousand million. Seven times ten to the ninth power."

During the past 30 minutes the Guardian had been hit with three shocking pieces of information. This was the fourth, and it was the most shocking revelation of all.

"You.. wait a moment. Your.. your world has seven thousand million people?"

"Yeah."

She walked away muttering to herself. "No, no, no. I refuse to believe it."

Sheppard chuckled to himself. Finally a fact about 'mere' humanity that blew away even a Lantean. "Earth is a really interesting world. Lot going on there. You should come visit sometime." He pointed at her. "Hey, you come visit with me, I'll take you to go see Las Vegas. You'd love it. There's some really unique architecture there that would give even this city a run for its money."

She ignored him as she continued to think. Then she realized something. She rapidly tapped her fingers on the panel again. "No power, and the gate leads to Earth..." She whirled around and yelled, "The shield!"

McKay had walked up behind them to get a better look at the display panel. "Yeah, kind of a problem." He glanced around the room. "Say, you wouldn't happen to have a few spare ZPMs in this room by any chance?"

"Zed Pee Ems?" She mimicked McKay's Canadian pronunciation.

"Power crystals. Zero Point Modules." He started to explain. "Devices, about this big." He showed with his hands. "They compress a small unit of spacetime in a containment bottle and extract zero point energy from them. The theory behind them is really quite remarkable. You see.."

Sheppard interrupted. "Rodney, you don't need to explain what a ZPM is to her. I am sure that our nice landlady here already knows all about how they work."

"Oh, right, of course." Then his eyes brightened and he eagerly approached the Guardian. "Wait, you know! Of course you know! You know how ZPMs work? How to make them, I mean?"

The Guardian was bemused. The strong sense of fear she sensed from him earlier was now gone, replaced with almost childlike earnestness. Earlier she had marveled at the speed of his thoughts. They were so fast. It reminded her of a Lantean scientist. "Of course. The basic theory of crystal power generation is taught to every Lantean child."

McKay made a silly grin, "Oh yeah. Of course it is. Wow, man, this is so cool. I got like a million questions for you..."

Sheppard put his hand on McKay's shoulder. "Rodney, chill. Our nice new landlady is still trying to get her bearings. Why don't we back off and not bowl her over just yet with the full Rodney, okay?"

Rodney put his hands in his pockets. He looked morose. "Fine."

The Guardian decided to ignore the strange man. She was back to looking at the status display. A graph popped up showing a line that rapidly dwindled to zero. Her eyes widened in alarm. "The crystals, they are all depleted! The city is on the surface?"

Sheppard looked down and put his own hands in his pockets. "Yeah, we're sitting ducks."

"No.."

"Sorry."

"You are explorers. You've been using the gate?"

"Yeah."

"You are exploring other planets in this galaxy?"

"Yep."

She shook her head. "That is not good. The city is vulnerable. You have to stop. Listen to me carefully. There are creatures in this galaxy, terrible monsters, that you must avoid at all costs. They feed on human life energy. You must stop using the gate immediately to avoid attracting their attention."

McKay nodded. "The Wraith. Too late. We've already ran into them."

She stared at him. "You have..?"

"Uh huh."

"Then please tell me that you haven't..."

Sheppard said apologetically, "Sorry, they learned about Atlantis."

Her face switched to Sheppard. "Please.. please tell me you are joking."

"Sorry again."

She blinked her eyes. "So they know?"

"Yeah."

"The Wraith know that you came from Atlantis?"

"Yeah, really sorry there."

She marched in front of Sheppard and grabbed both his shoulders. "Listen to me. This is critically important. The Wraith. Whatever you do, do NOT tell them about Earth. It is absolutely vital they not learn about the size of your population."

Sheppard, McKay, and Zelenka all looked at each other guiltily. The Guardian did not need her mind powers to read the expressions on their glum faces . "Please, tell me you did not.."

Sheppard was fidgeting even more. "Uh.."

"Are you serious? You told them?"

"Sorry again.."

"You, you did? What kind of idiots are you people? I don't believe this. You TOLD them about Earth!? This galaxy has only one gate that can reach your world, this one! Do you have any idea to what lengths the Wraith will go to try to capture my city now? They will stop at nothing, NOTHING to get to your world! They will awaken the dormant hives..."

"Yeah, they already have. Sorry."

"How many hives have they awakened?"

"Uh, all of them, we think."

"All...?"

She was aghast. "You.. you... you are beyond fools." She exploded at them. "Idiots! You grow to a population of 7000 million only to invite the Wraith to feast at the biggest human dinner table in the entire universe? How could you do that your own people!?" She was ranting now. "You have to be the biggest idiots of all time! How can you be that foolish? My people were fools too, yes, I admit it, and they destroyed themselves in their prideful folly, but you.. you.. are even worse! Nobody can be that stupid! How do you people even remember to breathe?"

As she continued her epic rant Zelenka whispered to Sheppard, "She's like a female version of McKay."

Sheppard stepped in front of her and stopped her pacing diatribe. "Look, my commander was captured and interrogated by a Wraith Queen. We didn't know. It was an honest mistake." He looked down. "She started to feed on him."

"You.. you saw it happen? You saw her feeding on your commander?"

"Yeah. I ended up killing him before she could finish."

Her voice softened. "John, you showed him mercy. You did the right thing."

For the first time there was silence in the room.

After a minute she finally spoke again.

"John, we have a problem."

Sheppard nodded. "Yeah, we do."

She looked at him levelly. "You know what must be done."

"Uh, I do?"

"Thanks to your blunder the Wraith could arrive here at any moment."

"Yeah, look, we didn't know, and we're very sorry about that. It's our planet too, our home. We want to fix this problem just as much as you do. So let's work together on this, okay? As a team?"

She had turned away from him again. "Well, you are fortunate to have awakened me."

Her voice sounded bitter as she turned to face him again. "It appears that I will now pay the price for your sins."

Sheppard recognized the look again: hard, grim, determined.

"Excuse me?"

"It is decided. As the Guardian of Atlantis I am now officially taking control of the city. You and your people are to evacuate immediately. I will remain behind and activate the self destruct as soon as you depart."

"Now wait a sec.."

"I said it is decided. The risk to Earth is far too great." She sounded even more bitter now. "Congratulations, John. After 10,000 years of peaceful slumber your foolish actions have condemned my city to its final doom."

"Now hey.."

"You said it yourself. We are 'family' now. Fine, I accept that. Defending and guarding you and your people is now my prime function. Therefore, for your own protection, and for the protection of the seven billion inhabitants of Earth, a population which is greater than the human population of this entire galaxy at least ten times over, I am ordering you and your people to evacuate my city immediately." The three humans stared at her in stunned disbelief.

Secretly she was exhausted. The power reserves in her biopacks were almost entirely depleted from her 6,000 years spent in stasis.

She was putting on an act of imperious leadership mainly for their benefit. It didn't help that she knew that she was a fraud, just like her ancient brethren. Even more so actually. She also knew that much of what was in the 'public' database was actually pure propaganda.

Nevertheless, she was determined to make a proper show of Lantean superiority in front of the human visitors from Earth. She marched magisterially to the double doors like an aristocrat.

She did so despite knowing how fake she really was, how all those thousands of years ago when her people had prepared to leave her behind that she had illegally sensed their mocking thoughts, and from others their pity. She was a fraud created in violation of the Lanteans' most solemn ethics against the artificial genetic manipulation of their own race, all in a desperate attempt to save themselves via forced ascension in order to escape from the genetic monsters that they had inadvertently created in a foolish and quixotic quest to achieve physical immortality. Those monsters had orbited their skies, laying siege upon the last free world in the galaxy. So instead, in their cowardice, they had simply fled the galaxy altogether, leaving all their mistakes behind. Including her.

She reached the doors, then paused, turned, and made a commanding gesture for the three humans to follow her.

"You will take me to your leader now."

She started walking with purpose down the damp hallway. "Your Doctor Weir and I have much to discuss.."

She forced her failing body to keep on walking.

".. and not much time."