They hear the man shouting as they come up the last flight of Cheyenne Mountain’s emergency stairs. His voice is hoarse, and it’s the same thing, over and over: “We’re here! We’re here!” as though he’s daring anyone to deny it.
Teyla wonders who else is out there and why he’s saying “we”. His voice cracks and breaks but he keeps shouting defiantly into the empty arched entrance of the Mountain. He doesn’t see the side door to the emergency stairs as they crack it open and peer out.
“Careful,” whispers Major Lorne, finger to his lips in the dim orange glow. The emergency lights still work, but they’re not at full power. “Don’t know who’s out there.”
Don’t know if they have the sickness, Teyla thinks.
Carson says his tests on samples stored in the medical labs many levels below show the virus can’t live more than a week outside a human host, but he can’t rule out carriers. He thinks it very unlikely, though. Dr. Simpson says there’s nothing on Earth leaving traces she can detect with the NORAD arrays. No radio, no transmissions of any sort from any last, isolated pockets of humanity. She can’t scan for people though, just technology, and clearly at least one person’s survived. Maybe more, if that “we” means anything.
“I will go first,” Teyla murmurs. They can see him through the heavy metal door they’ve pulled ajar, a thin, dark, spiky-haired man bent over, hands on his knees, gasping as he croaks out one last “we’re…here,” his voice in tatters.
Major Lorne goes to protest but Teyla holds up a hand. “I do not believe he is dangerous. I do not wish to frighten him.”
Lorne frowns, but she takes the lead with civilians and this man looks nothing like a soldier, so he nods. “I’ll flank him and cover you,” he mutters.
“Ronon, open the door and then stay here as back-up,” Teyla murmurs. Ronon nods, pulls the heavy door wider, then melts back into the shadows, blaster at the ready.
Teyla steps out. The man does not see her at first; he’s facing away into the dark, arching tunnel. She waits. Finally he sighs and turns wearily towards the bright outdoors beyond the opening. Lorne slips into the maw of the tunnel behind him as he turns, gun ready in the darkness. The man has not seen Lorne, and has not noticed Teyla yet.
She takes a step forward, and he freezes. "I am Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tegan," she says, watching him curiously. He’s thin, his jaw stubbled, but he doesn’t seem unwell. She wonders if he has any voice left, to answer her.
He does, but it rasps in his throat. "Uh, hi, I'm John," he says. He stares at her wide-eyed, then says they are looking for the Stargate. Interesting – Lorne said the people of Earth did not know about their Ring, buried deep in this Mountain, kept secret. It made Teyla angry, that the Ancestors’ gift had been hoarded by the powerful and kept from the people of this world. She is glad to see that this man, John, knew of it, and knew he should come here for help.
She asks him what “we” means, who is with him. Only one, he says, pointing at a strange bulbous machine perched on metal struts, some way off. John says his friend is sick and Teyla flinches, steps back. She hears Ronon curse softly behind her in the doorway.
“No,” the man says, desperate, reaching out as though to keep her there. “He was bitten by a dog."
Teyla thinks she has heard Earth-people mention dogs, and something else…cats? Animals that lived with humans. Companion animals. They will have gone wild or died, if the plague did not kill them.
“That is…an animal?” she says, not entirely sure. He stares at her, nonplussed.
Behind him, Major Lorne steps forward. "Teyla, are you—"
Teyla reassures him she is not in any danger. The man – John – looks between her and Lorne and lifts his arms to show he has no weapons. Lorne watches him closely nonetheless, gun ready, his eyes moving between John and the machine, where another man is apparently injured and sick with a fever. There’s no movement from the machine.
“We need help, please," John says, and of course they must help.
Teyla says yes.
Lorne makes them all put on paper masks and unpleasant-smelling gloves, which John rolls his eyes at, impatient to help his friend. They approach the machine. It smells strange, of chemicals and burning. A man with thinning hair is slumped unconscious inside the clear window.
“Rodney,” says John, very gentle. “C’mon, buddy, we’re here, we’re gonna get you help now.” John’s voice cracks. “We made it.” The man does not move at all. John opens the door and goes to lift his friend, but staggers and almost falls. Ronon nudges him aside and slides John’s friend out, carrying him easily as they walk back to the side entrance.
Lorne had told Teyla about mechanical elevator machines which spanned the many levels within Cheyenne Mountain, similar to the transporters of Atlantis, but to Teyla’s mind, far less elegant. The elevators have not been reconnected, to save power – they might need to return here if they find more power sources and still need supplies. They squeeze through the half-open side door into the emergency stairwell, John following Ronon, who’s carrying his unconscious friend.
“Where do we…?”asks John once they’re inside, staring down the badly-lit stairs to the gloom of the next level.
“Down,” says Ronon. “Long way. Don’t trip.”
“Don’t you trip,” retorts John, eyeing Ronon anxiously. Ronon’s got Rodney slung over one shoulder now, to free up his right hand. His left hand steadies Rodney’s legs.
Ronon flashes a grin, teeth briefly white in the semi-dark. He gestures John on ahead. “You’ll break my fall.”
“Great plan,” mutters John, mustering a little sarcasm. They start the descent.
Teyla and Major Lorne pull the metal door closed between them, and Teyla takes a last look out at Earth. Bright sky, scrub and trees – it seems drier than Athos, but not so very different. The door shuts, blocking out this alien world, and Teyla regrets that she’ll never see what the Earth-people talk about around the fire, or when drinking ruus wine at festivals. Jungles, great rivers, real mountains, not like this hill that hides the Ring. Flying machines that criss-crossed the globe, great metal ships that rode the seas. Cities. Ruined now of course, the sickness having brought devastation greater than any culling.
She grasps the railing and steps onto the ill-lit stairs, following as Ronon carries John’s friend Rodney down twenty-one levels, to Carson’s infirmary.
Carson watches the two men sleeping. Rodney, the one with septicemia from the infected dog bite, is still febrile, his breathing stertorous. Carson’s pretty sure he’ll pull through, now he’s on antibiotics. His skin turgor’s better, and his pulse is stronger, less rapid.
The other man, John, lies on his side facing Rodney. He pulled their beds closer before agreeing to get some sleep, and his hand’s on Rodney’s arm – the one that doesn’t have the IV line. He’s too thin – it’s obvious he’s lost considerable muscle mass – and even in sleep he’s restless, twitching a little with dreams or nightmares. Probably nightmares, Carson thinks, hoping they’ll pass soon. Poor bugger.
Carson’s not wearing a mask. As soon as he had Rodney stabilised he analysed samples from them both, and they didn’t have the sickness. Just as well – despite Lorne’s attempt at precautions, he’d sheepishly admitted that none of them managed to keep facemasks on during the twenty-one-level trek down the stairs to the infirmary. All that way in the near-dark, sweating and hot and breathless – Carson’s not surprised. Ah well. Carrier status had never been likely, so no harm done.
He wonders why these two were immune, why so few were immune among all of Earth’s billions. He hopes they’ll tolerate more blood being taken while he’s got access to the Mountain’s medical laboratories. Carson’s itching to run a barrage of tests on them both.
They’re in the infirmary – Carson hasn’t cleared Rodney to leave yet and he’s still got an IV site for antibiotics. He’s a lot better, though, sitting up in bed and lucid again. His friend, John, sits close by. He’s barely left Rodney’s side since they arrived, except to use the bathroom. Trauma, Evan thinks. He can’t imagine what it must have been like to survive the plague and go on somehow, surrounded by all that death. He doesn’t think he would have made it.
At least we had each other, Evan thinks, watching them. At least, when we lost Earth, we still had each other.
They’d known it was a one-way trip to Atlantis, but finding the city submerged and without power had been a shock. As Sumner’s EO, Evan had been run off his feet overseeing the deployment of patrols and stores and getting Marines to herd lollygagging scientists away from uncleared areas. Elizabeth and Radek organized the civilians to some degree, but people kept wandering off and gaping at the architecture and the consoles, peering out the huge viewing windows into an underwater world. Christ, Evan had thought, the damn place was called Atlantis. They should have known. They should have planned for this.
After that it was one blow after another. Sumner and Evan led an urgent scouting party through the Stargate to M4K-487 – randomly chosen but the MALP said it was habitable and they needed an evacuation site; Radek said the city’s shield was failing. Lucky they’d even used a MALP in all the chaos back then – they’d no idea space-gates even existed, they were so wet behind the ears.
M4K-487 had been habitable, but jeez, what a clusterfuck. They’d split up into two groups, searching for a water-source and open space where they could set up a camp. They didn’t have time or equipment to fell a swathe of trees and build log cabins, and the place was heavily forested. They hadn’t been there ten minutes before Evan got hoisted up in a rope snare, dangling red-faced and cursing, twisting in the goddam breeze.
“Get me the fuck down from here!” Evan had yelled at the Marines in his group, but they were too busy cracking up. He remembered viciously planning the KP they’d be doing from here to goddam Christmas – if anyone could work out when the hell that was – when a giant of a man, all dreads and ripped leather, materialized out of the bushes and stuck a gun in his kidneys. All he’d fucking needed.
The Marines got professional real fast, but with Evan as a hostage there wasn’t much they could do. Then the wild man swore and spun, half-falling, and they were on him. Ford had crept around in the undergrowth and shot him in the leg.
“Sorry, sir,” Ford said, as he and the Marines cut Lorne down after immobilizing the big guy. “I’ll discipline them when things are more…”
“You do that, lieutenant,” snarled Evan, giving the now-penitent Marines a dark look.
The big hairy guy was glaring too, grunting around a makeshift gag and thrashing in his ties. Evan squatted down and cut the gag away.
“ ‘m a Runner, Wraith’re coming, get out!” he spat as soon as his mouth was clear.
Huh, Evan thought. It’s another goddam galaxy, so how come he speaks English? But it wasn’t, quite. If he really concentrated it was like the guy was saying something else, that Evan just heard as English. The harder he focussed, the more it made his head hurt, so he shrugged and went with it.
“What’s a runner? What are Wraith?”
The big guy stared at him, appalled, then shut his eyes and thrashed some more, apparently deciding they were too stupid to live. Evan grabbed him and shook him. “Hey!”
“Tracker in my back,” said the guy, like he was talking to a two-year-old, which was pretty fucking annoying. “Wraith follow it. Hunt me for sport.”
Evan looked at Ford. “How much blood did he lose? He delirious?”
“It’s just a flesh wound, sir, and Perkins put a field dressing on it. I wouldn’t’ve thought–”
Evan turned back. “What are these Wraith?”
But by then it was too late, a couple of gothic-looking creeps in long dark coats beaming in using something like Asgard tech, firing some sort of ray gun stunners.
When the dust settled, one of the marines – Perkins, damn it, one of their few medics – was dead, and the big guy had somehow gotten his hands free and his blaster back and killed both the Wraith despite his injury. But it was the way Perkins had died – if Evan hadn’t seen it himself he’d never have believed it. Drained, somehow, from one of those Wraith-things clawing at his chest. “Life-sucked,” Ford had said, and that was surely what it looked like.
They took the runner guy – who was called Ronon, apparently – and found the rest of their party, but the others had run into the Wraith creatures as well. Two more Marines dead and Sumner a drained, white-haired husk, a Wraith still feeding on him. Lorne had pumped the damn thing full of bullets from his P-90 and Ford had taken another one down, Ronon’s blaster finishing the job.
Sumner had no sooner died when another of those white beams swept through the clearing, Ronon shouting and backhanding Evan out of its path. They’d both fallen to one side, Evan watching helplessly as Ford was swept up in the beam, dematerializing. They’d never seen him again, but Evan hadn’t given up looking – the kid was tough and he’d been a damn good Marine.
No more Wraith had appeared and they got Ronon’s story, finally – despite the fact that they’d shot him, he still wanted Evan’s people to get away, saying more Wraith would come. Seemed to think that even with a flesh wound in his leg he’d be able to make it, and knowing Ronon as Evan did now, that was probably the plain truth.
Evan had figured they needed local knowledge desperately after all the shit that’d gone down, so they didn’t leave Ronon and retreat. Instead, Evan dialled up the Gate and called for reinforcements, and got Carson there as well, to excise the tracker from Ronon’s back. Ronon refused any anesthetic and smashed the bloody, evil-looking thing with a rock, afterward. They took him back to Atlantis, arriving just in time for the faltering shield to finally trigger a failsafe, raising the city to the surface, where she was a sitting duck, of course, now they knew about the Wraith.
They’d tried to hang on in Atlantis, focusing their trips through the Stargate on finding a ZPM while Radek and the scientists tried to discover some way to defend the city. They found a control chair like the one in Antarctica, but there weren’t many drones left, and no one had a strong enough gene to coordinate a mass drone firing, anyway. They really needed O’Neill, but then, so did Earth. All they had were weaker ATA-positives like Carson and Miko, and after nearly shooting O’Neill down with a stray drone back in Antarctica, Carson refused to use the chair again. The Gateships were great, but they only had a couple of people able to pilot them, which limited their use. Carson kept working on his gene therapy, using blood from himself and the other ATA-positives, but only a few people had responded, and then, not very well. Carson hadn’t given up, but to make the treatment more effective he needed someone with a stronger expression of the ATA gene.
Ronon had healed up and thrown his lot in with them – Evan valued his knowledge of Pegasus, and he joined Evan’s Gate team with Miko and Bates. Miko had taken to piloting better than Evan expected – she was tougher than she seemed, and she and Ronon sparred together regularly, Miko’s karate training pitted against Ronon’s skill with stick-fighting. Well, skill with any sort of fighting, really. The expedition still hadn’t found a ZPM, though, and after a few months things looked pretty grim.
"Without sufficient power, we weren't able to explore the city anywhere near as much as we'd planned,” Evan tells Rodney, as Carson changes his IV-site dressing under John’s watchful eye. “Then the supplies we'd brought with us started running out. And things happened. There were... losses."
That was putting it mildly. After Sumner and the Marines were killed and Ford was taken, they’d gone on losing Gate team members to frightened locals, Wraith worshippers, the Wraith themselves. Not that they met the Wraith often – Ronon said they were mostly hibernating, but darts turned up randomly, disrupting some missions and terrorizing the locals. Ronon wasn’t rational about the Wraith, and after Evan saw the ruins of Sateda on MALP telemetry, he understood. Those images of a high-tech ruined city, so like those on Earth, brought home to Evan what the people of Pegasus had suffered for millennia. No wonder so many worlds were barely scraping by, populations reduced to a handful of villages.
They were still sitting ducks. The Wraith being in hibernation had bought them some time, but without a ZPM to shield her they couldn’t stay there too much longer. The city wasn’t safe, either. They’d lost people when damaged areas collapsed, and Wagner, Johnson, Dumais and Hays had been killed when their lab suddenly filled with some sort of fire-retardant foam, suffocating them. Round the campfire on a mission, Miko told them what she sensed through her weak ATA-connection. The city felt grudging, as though they were intruders. Evan guessed that was nothing but the truth; they weren’t the Ancients, not even close.
He remembered the meeting Elizabeth had called about leaving Atlantis. “Only temporary,” she’d said. “Strategic withdrawal until we find a ZPM.” It had still felt like failure. They’d asked Ronon for suggestions, and he’d come up with Athos – no good for Ancient tech so they hadn’t been there yet, but he said the Athosians were “Not bad. Trade good knives,” which was high praise from him.
Ronon went on ahead, to talk privately with his contacts among the Athosians and plead their case. Evan’s team escorted Elizabeth the next morning, without the usual phalanx of heavily armed Marines. They were going as supplicants, and Elizabeth was both diplomat and head of mission.
Halling had greeted them at the Stargate and led them to the Athosian encampment, where Teyla was waiting. “I am Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tegan,” Teyla said, the first of many times Evan heard that introduction. Elizabeth bowed her head and responded in kind. It struck Lorne that they were lucky to have an impressive woman leading them, since the Athosians had an equally impressive leader. He wondered how this meeting might have unfolded if Colonel Sumner had still been alive, then felt ashamed to be thinking ill of the dead. Sumner hadn’t been a bad commander, just old school, and Evan sure hadn’t wanted to pick up that baton.
“You have truly found the City of the Ancestors?” Teyla asked.
“Yes,” said Elizabeth, “but we can’t remain there. It’s too exposed if the Wraith come, and we think having a large concentration of people there may draw them to investigate. We’re looking for sanctuary, for a place to live.”
“No worlds we know offer sanctuary from the Wraith,” said Teyla gravely, “but we are happy to offer you a home. Ronon says that you cannot return to your own world. The way is blocked?”
“It’s a very long way – longer than the usual…Ring travel,” explained Elizabeth. “We need a special power source. We’ve tried so hard to find one that I’m afraid we’ve neglected the basics of survival, and our food supplies are running low. We need to learn from your people how to trade more effectively, but there’s much we can offer in return. Our people have many skills, and we have technology–”
Teyla held up a hand. “That is not our way. Come.” She led them outside and down to the lakeshore. The morning mists were burning off and a great ruined city could just be seen on the far side of the lake. “It is the Old City. As great in its day as Sateda, until the Wraith came.” She turned to Elizabeth. “They will not tolerate a high level of development, especially technology. Ronon said you have seen images of Sateda. The same happened here – we call it a Great Culling. Old Athos was razed and our people scattered. We will not risk it again.” Teyla took Elizabeth’s hand. “Our numbers are not high, so we welcome new blood. Your people are welcome, but not your technology. That is the bargain.” Elizabeth agreed, and Teyla took her arms and bent her head, until Elizabeth, slightly awkward, joined her in the Athosian greeting.
They’d shared what they could, nonetheless – fishing gear, improved seeds, and the doctors were in high demand, their skills now a major trading resource with regular clinics at off-world markets brokered by the Athosians. The Marines were a useful source of labor as well, sometimes traded out to friends on agricultural worlds in exchange for a cut of the harvest. David Parrish and the botanists had improved the Athosian gardens, teaching them agricultural skills to supplement their hunting. Gradually, Athos became home.
Evan shakes off the memories, pulling himself back to this place, the SGC infirmary. After months on Athos, the Mountain is sterile and grim. He feels the weight of rock bearing down on them, knows Teyla dislikes it even more.
Teyla brings tea and Rodney asks for coffee. John glares at Rodney until he colors and apologises. Their bickering’s a smoke-screen, Evan thinks, taking a cup with a nod of thanks and inhaling the scent. He sees Teyla’s noticed as well: Rodney doesn’t drink until John tries the tea then okays it, like he’s Rodney’s personal poison-taster. John deflects their oddities smoothly, and Rodney crackles with bitter humor. They joke about being crazy but really, Evan thinks, they’re a team. He’s suddenly grateful they found each other, and wonders if they’d have made it, if they hadn’t. Probably not.
"We thought getting there would be the hard part," Evan says. "Actually, that was pretty easy. Getting back, not so much."
"So what changed?" John asks. "You found one of these... ZPM things?"
Evan nods and explains that they’d thought that was it, they were rescued. Sure, the expedition hadn’t exactly been a success, but they needed to return to Earth and regroup, rethink the plan, maybe find some more gene-holders. “We plugged it in, dialed Earth…"
"...And there was no answer," McKay concludes.
Evan shrugs and takes another sip. “Not entirely.”
He explains how all they’d got at first was a badly scrambled message. Then it cut out, and there was nothing. It had taken Radek a day to unscramble it and play them the transmission, a repeating message about the plague, and a warning, telling anyone hearing it to stay away. Evan puts his teacup on the table. He remembers what it felt like listening to the recording, the cold clutch of dread, then the grief as he realised his sister, his nephews, god, everyone he’d left behind, were all dead. He swallows now and looks down, tries to get himself under control. Carson’s eyes are bright as well, and Evan knows he’s thinking about his family.
Rodney goes to speak and John elbows him, shakes his head. The moment passes.
Evan picks up his tea again. "If it hadn't been for Teyla and her people, we wouldn't have made it," he says to John and Rodney, bleakly honest. "We weren't going to come back.”
“But you came back anyway,” John says, chewing it over. He looks up. “Supplies.”
Evan nods and tells them how they finally found a second ZPM, not mentioning that they took it from a particularly nasty nest of Wraith-worshippers after a short but brutal fight. He adds that most people still live with the Athosians, but the second ZPM’s allowed them to increase the population of scientists and Marines in Atlantis.
"Our alliance has benefited both our peoples," Teyla replies, courteous as ever. They smile wryly at each other, remembering the heads they’d had to bang together as the two disparate groups gradually integrated. Evan thinks they're through the worst, and they’ve even had a wedding, Marta hooking up with one of the Marines, Jake Halloran.
They’d never entirely abandoned the city. A skeleton crew headed by Radek had been left on Atlantis to continue work on the database even when the rest of the expedition moved to Athos. They expanded the city population with more scientists once they got the first ZPM, which let them run some of the city’s shields and sensors. Atlantis is still relatively powered-down and vulnerable, though, and if too many Wraith come by and take an interest they’ll have to lock everything down and blow the self-destruct. No Hive ships have turned up so far, so they’ve limped on, still searching for ZPMs when they can, but spending most missions trading for food and other essentials.
Evan’s had to adjust to command, shouldering that mantle after Sumner’s death. Sharing leadership with Teyla as well as Elizabeth has eased his burden somewhat. The Athosians aren’t warlike but they are warriors in their own way, whereas Elizabeth is very much a civilian. It helps that Teyla's a fighter, and after Bates chose to stay in the city and lead the small security force there, Teyla joined Lorne’s Gate team, with Ronon and Miko. It works well.
As though summoned by his thoughts, Miko pokes her head around a curtain, gesturing to Carson. Not many of them came on this sortie to Earth, and Carson’s roped Miko in to help him get the gene-assay arrays in the laboratories up and running. He goes over and has a quiet word with her.
“…we didn't meet any other survivors," John is saying.
Carson returns. He looks as though he’s got news, but Rodney interrupts. "Yes, but now we're going to find them," Rodney says. "Obviously."
"Wait a second," Evan says, cutting that one off at the pass. For Christ’s sake, they’re just here for supplies – this isn’t some kind of search and rescue mission – what, across the entire goddam Earth? Rodney’s already said he can hook his life signs detector up to the NORAD array and scan the planet. It’s insane. What would they search with, anyway? Planes or helos from the nearby military base? Evan bets there’d be damn few in working order; John took a hell of a risk. It’s not like they brought a Gateship here with them – the Atlantis mission couldn’t afford to lose any, and Miko wouldn’t have been an experienced enough pilot for long-range flying, anyway.
Emaciated, unshaven and riddled with PTSD as he undoubtedly is, John sets his jaw stubbornly and insists that a search and rescue mission is exactly what it is.
Carson glances at Evan. "If there are people out there, we should find them."
Jeez, thanks, Carson, Evan thinks, exasperated. Have they all gone nuts?
Teyla looks at Evan coolly. "You are very fortunate that was not the answer I gave when you came to me for help," she says. Fuck, there’s no answering that. She’s right. John and Rodney look impressed.
“I may have some news that will make this task a wee bit more manageable, Major,” says Carson. He turns to John. “It’s about your blood test, John.”
John frowns. “I thought you said we were free of the plague?”
“Oh, yes, yes, it’s nothing like that,” Carson reassures him hastily. “No, I check everyone routinely for the ATA gene, you see.”
“I don’t have it. They tested me years ago,” says Rodney.
“Aye. But John does. In fact, it’s the strongest expression of the gene I’ve ever seen. Maybe even stronger than Colonel O’Neill’s,” Carson says, excited. There’s a pause and his face falls. “Than Colonel O’Neill’s used to be,” he adds, quietly.
Rodney gives John a complicated look, envy warring with something close to lust. Evan looks away. Understandable, and it’s not like the old rules matter any more. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell died when Evan took command, and the US military’s as dead as the bulk of Earth’s population.
John looks puzzled. “I don’t really know what that means. And I don’t see how it’ll help us find survivors–”
Evan does. “The Gateship,” he says, snapping his fingers. “They had one right here at the SGC, that Bill Lee had been tinkering with before the plague hit. It’s still here.” They found it when they were taking stock, looking for supplies. They were planning to take it back anyway – there aren’t that many on Atlantis. “Miko can pilot it short distances, but she wouldn’t be skilled enough to traverse the planet; she’s hardly had any pilot training.”
Carson nods. “But John has, and he’s got the gene in spades.” He turns to John, who’s still looking doubtful. “You flew here in a helicopter? Well, we can do better than that.”
Teyla watches the rest unfold, helping where she can. John and Rodney have taken up her offer of a home with the Athosians, and John and the Gateship are inseparable. Rodney’s so envious that Carson’s had to promise to improve his ATA gene-therapy, with Rodney at the head of the list of recipients.
Their first mission to locate a survivor nearly fails as the woman is in a land Carson calls “Albania”, and she speaks no language any of them know. Teyla asks why the Earth Stargate does not translate her words, and Rodney gapes at her. “The Gates act as universal translators, in Pegasus?” he asks, oddly incredulous about such a mundane fact. “Yeah,” Major Lorne says thoughtfully. “Wonder if we can get this one to do the same?”
They take the woman anyway, as she’s desperate not to be left behind and gestures suffice to some degree, but it’s difficult to convey that her goats – animals like the bakshi traded in many Pegasus markets – cannot be accommodated in the Gateship. In the end, the woman weeps brokenly all the way back to Cheyenne Mountain, where Rodney, Miko and Dr. Simpson work fruitlessly on the machinery controlling the Earth Stargate for another two days before John finally solves the problem by standing before the Stargate with a look of concentration on his face. “I told it to turn on the translation function,” he says, “and it did”. Rodney punches him in the arm.
The Albanian woman is still upset about her goats, but Teyla reassures her they will trade for some bakshi in Pegasus, to replace them. Carson says it’s too risky to take Earth animals back, in case other diseases are spread. “No, not even one small cat, Rodney,” he says.
John and Rodney go on all the search and rescue missions together, with Evan and Ronon as back-up, Teyla to negotiate, and Carson there to test for the plague. None of the survivors are carriers; Carson says it’s a very remote possibility. They can’t afford to take chances, though – all the worlds of Pegasus are at stake, after all. Once the survivors are medically cleared, Teyla and John talk with them, explaining their options. They make a good team, she thinks, but there are so very few survivors, and not all are sane.
In the end, only thirty-five agree to come. Some are too mad or too dangerous. It takes a month to locate everyone, and by then Teyla is anxious that her people and Elizabeth’s, back on Athos, will fear they have come to harm. Miko and Dr. Simpson finally agree there’s enough power in the ZPM to send a very brief databurst on ahead, explaining the delay, so that buys the Marines and scientists who came on the sortie an extra week to finish packing supplies.
They fill the Gateship with crates and load up many pallets. Miko and Rodney fuss with the ZPM, and finally they dial Atlantis. The supplies and refugees go through, Carson and the Marines helping the wounded or disabled. Teyla, Ronon and Evan are in the Gateship, John piloting and Rodney claiming the co-pilot’s seat as they hover before the shimmering blue of the stabilised wormhole. They’re the last ones through; the Mountain’s all set to shut down to minimal power use as soon as the wormhole closes.
“You know,” says John, rubbing his freshly shaven chin thoughtfully, “Gateship’s a crap name. This is nothing more than a little old puddlejumper, really.”
“Oh you are not calling it that, no way,” snaps Rodney, as the blue disc engulfs them. Teyla suspects his protestations will be to no avail.
The Atlantis Gateroom is a scene of cheerful chaos, lit as usual by spotlights running off a naquadah generator. Late afternoon light slants in through the multicolored windows, and Teyla feels her heart lift. They have made it back safely, even if the habitually powered-down gloom of Atlantis is not the green welcome of Athos she longs for. She can be patient. Once they are ready, they will dial the Athosian Stargate, and this is still Pegasus; they are home.
Many of the expedition and the Athosians are here to greet them and to deal with the supplies. Radek and Rodney shake hands, Radek looking hugely relieved to have a physicist and engineer of Rodney’s standing joining them. Carson calls out from the balcony, and Teyla looks up and waves to Elizabeth.
“Come," she says, and ushers John and Rodney to the stairs.
John steps forward, his face rapt. He takes Rodney’s hand instinctively. Teyla watches them – she does not think they even know what they are doing as they stare about, fascinated.
Atlantis awakens around John as he walks, wall sconces lighting up, drowning the makeshift spotlights. He looks up at Elizabeth and smiles, each stair flaring to life in a cascade of welcome as he and Rodney ascend.
- the end -