In the fourth year of Atlantis' operation under Tau'ri control, the expedition had run into their most dangerous enemy yet. Considering the other perils they'd faced since raising the City from the deeps-- marauding Wraith, capricious Ascendants, and the Pegasus Galaxy's version of humanoid replicators among them-- that was saying a great deal indeed, but the designation was more than warranted in Carson's opinion.
It was one thing to face creatures that were only carrying out their programming, no matter how menacing that might be, or beings far enough above them there was no hope of holding them to a human standard; it was another to find a lost branch of their own kind capable of the kind of horror Atlantis now faced. The Anglo-Sino Alliance and their lab-created puppets made the Genii look like wee babes by comparison.
When Rodney had discovered a reference in the Ancient database to an artificially constructed solar system with dozens of planets and hundreds of moons in its habitable zone, separated from the 'gate network but close enough for the Daedalus to reach, they hadn't known what to expect-- but naturally, they'd assumed the Ancients must have placed something extraordinary there. It had been a bit of a surprise when Sheppard's team had discovered a very populous, very Tau'ri-derived culture, with technology at once several centuries ahead and behind of Earth's own.
The system's inhabitants had claimed to be from "Earth That Was", with a Terran-based calendar dated five hundred years in the future. Considering the Ancients' ability to fold the fabric of time and space, that had not been particularly difficult to grasp once everyone had recovered from the shock of contact. They'd also claimed, however, to possess a popularly supported, unified government that favored peace and understanding, and had made every appearance of extending a hand to the "homeworlders" in friendship. The dazzled IOA had been quick to order the exchange of Tau'ri-built hyperspace engines for medical and military advances, disregarding the SGC's experienced, cautious advisors.
Carson frowned as he made notations on his clipboard, noting the results of yet another failed series of treatments. They'd let the genie out of the bottle, given mass murderers the key to their own cell; Atlantis had been woefully unprepared when the Alliance's blue-gloved "ambassadors" had made the first move in the new war, releasing a chemical poison in an attempt claim the city for their own. The toxicity of the stuff was not to be believed, and it had taken precious seconds for Atlantis to zero in on it as a threat; everyone in the control tower had been affected.
It was a lucky thing he'd been detained off-world with Sheppard's team at the time; Atlantis had very nearly been decapitated by the attack. Nearly half of those dosed-- those without any version of the Ancient's gene-- had simply lain down, never to awake again, but each of the others had devolved into this: cunning, inhuman creatures motivated solely by hunger and rage. He shuddered to think of what it might have made of full-blooded Ancients.
In the next cell over, Lorne's snarls grew louder, a sign it was time to move on. Carson checked Elizabeth's name off his sheet with a sigh, then placed a hand on the transparent barrier in farewell. She snarled and lunged at him by way of reply, clawed fingers scrabbling on the slick surface; the ruin of her beauty was a painful reminder of what had been lost.
"I'm so sorry," he whispered, repeating his daily promise. "We'll solve this, if it's the last thing I do."