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Mutual Misunderstandings

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“That Sparrow guy was cool, but I hated the woman,” Ronon said while effortlessly snapping the Banto rods at John and nearly getting to him. John looked at him carefully as he stepped back and tried to form some sort of an attack. Ronon had a habbit of surprising his opponent, and he never stopped the session even if his training partner was otherwise distracted. 

“You hated Keira Knightley? She’s hot, how could you hate her?” John asked incredulously, doing his best to jab forward but earning himself a slap on the ass from Ronon’s rods. He jumped forward, his backside stinging, and shot a resentful look at his sparring partner.

Ronon didn’t even break a sweat. “She was annoying,” he said shortly, shrugging. The DVD set of the three Pirates of the Caribbean movies had arrived in Atlantis and John dragged Ronon to the public screening last night. Ronon, of course, was immediately hooked. John had to explain to him that there were hardly any real pirates left on Earth, and those that do exist are nowhere near Johnny Depp’s style or mannerism and most importantly – don’t parlay.

Ronon moved forward, teasing John with his rods in short bursts to his face and groin, which John did his best to counteract. He ended up receiving another sharp slap to his ass, and had to stop in order to rub some of the pain away.

“You know, if you keep this up I won’t be able to sit,” he muttered sullenly at Ronon. Ronon simply looked amused as he threw John his towel and took a sip of water from John’s bottle.

“If you’d have kept training, I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” he retorted easily, placing the rods back into the barrel. John was only grateful that they were practicing in the officers’ gym, which meant that no one witnessed Ronon wiping the floor with him, even though it wasn’t the best kept secret around the city.

“Well,” John ignored Ronon’s comment, even though it was completely true, “They’ll be screening the second DVD in two hours so maybe we should…” but then the Ancient door opened with a unique hydraulic sound and Rodney came running inside.

“You’re never going to believe this!” he said excitedly, a fine sheen of perspiration betraying the fact that he had actually run from the transporter to the gym. “We’ve established a connection with M1M-995! You’ve got to come and see it!” he said, his eyes bright and expectant.

John exchanged a look with Ronon. “Okay, you’ve got us interested,” John said finally, when no explanation was forthcoming. “Which one is M1M-995 and what’s so special about it?”

Rodney looked crestfallen. It was obvious that this was not the reaction he expected to receive. John had probably asked the wrong question, but he had no idea what Rodney expected him to say.

“It was one of the five planets on Elizabeth’s list!” Rodney said, sounding amazed that John didn’t know such a trivial thing.

Something in John twisted, just like it always did when someone mentioned Elizabeth. His mind flashed to the image of her as he had last seen her, a clone willing to sacrifice her life to save him. And now, the Replicator claiming to be her was floating in space, forever frozen, like Niam was when they recovered him two years ago.

“Elizabeth’s list?” John asked, to distract himself from the unpleasant thoughts. “Which list?”

Now Rodney got impatient. “The list she gave us when we woke her from stasis. The old Elizabeth!” Rodney huffed. “The list of planets with ZedPMs,” but Rodney’s exuberance got the better of him and he was nearly sing-songing that last one.

That was when John remembered. The Elizabeth of the alternate timeline, who slept for ten thousand years in order to get to them and deliver her message. 

“What?” Ronon asked, and both John and Rodney turned to look at him. Sometimes it was hard to remember that Ronon hadn’t always been there with them.

“When we got to the city from Earth for the first time, it rose from the ocean when the last ZPM was depleted. It was a fail-safe mechanism. A few months after that we found an old woman whose DNA matched Elizabeth’s and who was Elizabeth of an alternate timeline, where the city didn’t rise and all of us were killed. She managed to escape the flooding by boarding a Jumper equipped with a time machine. She went back in time and alerted the Ancients, and they built the fail-safe mechanism and that’s why we’re still here,” John explained shortly.

“She also gave us a list of planets where we could find other ZedPMs,” Rodney chimed in, smiling happily.

“Which were supposed to have been explored by the Deadalus,” John reminded him. They had been able to get a lock on only two of the planets from Atlantis: M7G-677, the kids’ planet, and Dagan, where the ZPM was taken from them after they solved the puzzle that led to it and nearly got killed by Kolya.

“And they were. We sent the Deadalus to the first one and discovered that it had turned into a red giant and the heat nearly burned the Deadalus up, and we stopped when the second one turned out to be a black hole that nearly destroyed the Deadalus as well. Coincidently, it was the same black hole that prevented the Ori’s supergate from working,” Rodney replied.

“Well, we had only one more to go, why didn’t we check it out?” John asked, irritated. The things they could have done with a fully charged ZPM in the last few years were numerous, and it annoyed him that one might have been lying under their noses the whole time.

“Because it was probably dead or destroyed as well, and we didn’t want to risk the Deadalus again. Look, things have changed in the last ten thousand years, in case it had escaped your notice,” Rodney snapped, crossing his arms over his chest defiantly.

John didn’t actually blame him. There was usually a good reason why they couldn’t get a lock on certain addresses and risking the Deadalus on a trip to what could be another black hole was reckless at best. But it was still fun to bait Rodney.

“If it was supposed to have been destroyed, how come you dialed it?” Ronon asked from John’s side.

“Oh. Um… actually that was a fluke,” Rodney’s hands dropped down from his chest and he wrung them together. “Radek and I were trying to shut down some of the automated protocols of the city’s navigation systems just when Chuck was dialing Major Kersey’s team off-world but there was a jump because of us and he… uh… dialed M1M-995 instead,” Rodney said, a little uneasily but with no apparent guilt.

John was impressed. They had a chance to find another ZPM and even though they already had one that was perfectly fine, another one was always welcome. Who knows when they’d have to take off into space again while maintaining the shield, or boost the Deadalus’ shields, or one of a hundred possible doomsday scenarios?

“Did you talk to Woolsey?” John asked Rodney.

“Yes. He says that as soon as we’re all ready we can send a MALP and go through,” Rodney was practically dancing with excitement, like a little kid, and John fought the urge to smile.

John exchanged another look with Ronon, who shrugged. There was a simple truth in Rodney’s statement. ZPMs were good. “Okay. Let’s go and get ready. And if you tell anyone else on that planet something you shouldn’t again, I’ll shot you,” John warned, remembering Dagan, and left Rodney staring after him in shock.

~o~o~o~o~

Getting ready took longer than usual, mainly because Rodney was practically dancing with anticipation and kept interrupting John as he tried to check if he had everything he needed in his MOLLE vest pockets.

However, when they arrived in the control tower Woolsey was still in his office and was talking to someone. John came in, intending on letting Woolsey know that the MALP was ready and awaiting his order, and discovered that that someone was Major Lorne.

The Major turned to look at John when he entered and smiled. Woolsey nodded, and got up from his chair. “Major, do you want to come with us? I think that this particular dialing-up is bound to be exciting,” Woolsey invited Lorne, who stood up when Woolsey did.

Lorne nodded first at Woolsey and then at John. “I’d love that, Mr. Woolsey,” he replied cordially. John simply shrugged indifferently at him when the Major’s eyes turned to him for permission. It wasn’t against the law to watch a team embark, and considering that they might find another ZPM… John couldn’t blame anyone who wanted to watch.

Woolsey led the way to the operations room where Rodney, Ronon and Teyla were waiting, followed by John and trailed respectfully by Lorne. Woolsey came to stand by Amelia’s shoulder and nodded to her when she looked up expectantly.

“Dial the gate, Amelia,” Woolsey gave the command calmly, and they all watched the chevrons circle before settling into place. It seemed to John that the entire room held its breath from the time the sixth chevron was engaged until the seventh chevron was locked.

The gate engaged with the usual burst of the event horizon before it rippled back into place to create the illusion of a shimmering pool. It never got old, and at that moment it was prettier than ever.

“Yeah!” someone was yelling in the background, and Rodney was already sitting by Amelia’s unoccupied side and interfering with her actions the best he could until she gave up and handed the control of the MALP to him.

“Send it through, Doctor,” Woolsey said, amused, and John watched with no small amount of anticipation himself as the MALP disappeared into the wormhole.

“We’ll have a visual in four, three, two, one, and…” Rodney counted, and the image became clear on his computer screen.

The first thing that they saw was a small room, lit only by artificial lights hanging on ropes around the walls. It was crowded with various tools and instruments that were scattered on the floor or lying in neat piles in the corners. The rough stone and uneven shape of the structure’s walls could have been a cave’s if it wasn’t too neat and the carvings that created the walls too new. Just beyond the small opening they could see a hint of green trees and sunshine.

“I think we can safely assume that the gate was buried, rather than destroyed by some catastrophe like the other two?” Woolsey inquired, looking at Rodney for an answer.

“Yes, yes,” Rodney said absently, engrossed in the information the computer was feeding him. “Yes. It was probably buried, because this planet’s atmosphere is breathable and the MALP can’t detect any remaining residue from any natural disaster or otherwise, nor toxins or bio-hazards,” he added.

“Yes, that would explain the tools on the floor,” John injected sarcastically, smiling when Rodney turned to glare at him. “I mean, someone must have put them there, right?” he asked, feigning innocence.

“Panning the camera,” Rodney said pointedly, ignoring him, and the view changed until it settled on a group of frightened and curious faces.

“Stop it right there!” Woolsey said needlessly, looking almost as surprised to see the people on the other side as they were to see the MALP. “It’s inhabited,” he added, with both wonderment and quiet excitement.

“Yes, kind of reminds me of the Milky Way though,” Lorne said from behind John, and John was almost startled by him. He had forgotten that Lorne was there.

“What does that mean?” Woolsey asked. John turned to him as well, waiting.

“It looks exactly like the pictures from MALPs the SGC sent to planets where the Stargate hasn’t been used in generations. I think they just dug it out and they have no idea what it’s for,” Lorne supplied, indicating the tools and the curious people.

“Think they ever heard of the Wraith?” John asked Woolsey. He had never met anyone who didn’t know what the Stargate was other than the people of Proculus, and that was weird enough.

“It’s possible that they have, and it’s possible that they haven’t. This planet is on the other side of the galaxy. The Wraith may never have reached there, or may not have many Hives in the area. There’s no way of knowing,” Rodney answered instead, looking up at them before panning the camera more.

All they saw was more astonished people and more stone walls.

“Very well,” Woolsey said, looking around the control room. “You have a go, Colonel. If there’s a ZPM on that planet, it would be highly advisable that you bring it back with you,” he said, and John smiled shortly and nodded to him as he turned to go, eager and curious to find out what was on the other side. Even if these people had never seen the Stargate being activated before, the prospect of finding a planet that may never have been visited by the Wraith and might host a ZPM was enough to make the adrenalin flood his body.

“However,” Woolsey’s voice stopped him from going further than two steps down towards the gate. “I want to remind you to do it in a diplomatic way. Even if these people have never been through the Stargate before there’s no telling what resources the Coalition of planets have and whether or not they’ll learn about our current adventure. We don’t need an interplanetary diplomatic incident. Not this soon after getting your team back,” Woolsey clarified. “Is that understood, Colonel?”

John grimaced, just like he always did when someone mentioned that damn Coalition. He had no particular fondness for any of them, and he hated politics almost as much as Woolsey loved it. It has been less than a month since they were captured by the Coalition and put on trial, and whenever a representative of the Coalition was in the city since then John has managed to arrange for himself to be somewhere very far away, preferably off-world.

“Colonel?”

“Yes, I got it. No stealing from the natives,” John repeated dutifully, a sour taste in his mouth.

“Very well. Good luck, Colonel, and good hunting,” Woolsey smiled, and John and Rodney turned back and joined Ronon and Teyla down the stairs.

Just before John went through the gate, he looked backwards. Every person in the control tower was watching them, even Woolsey, Lorne and Amelia.

With one final nod and a deep breath, John stepped through.

They reached the other side seconds later, just when a new group of people came into the cave through the entrance, making it even more crowded than before. For a moment John thought that they were guards that had came to arrest them and placed his finger on the trigger of his P-90, but then he noticed that none of them were armed.

Lorne was right. It looked like an excavation. These people must have only recently dug out their Stargate, and obviously were not used to seeing it activated. The faces around them, illuminated both by the strong white light of the wormhole and by the wane artificial lights hanging around the walls, looked just as curious as they were scared. They were wearing dirty clothes, but it wrapped their bodies completely and they didn’t look like slaves. More like… archeologists.

The new group of people who entered the cave just as the gate shut down behind John and his team were wearing similar clothes to the first group, though they were not as dirty as the archeologists who were clustered around the gate and the MALP.

One of the newcomers stepped forward, staring with wondering green eyes at them. He was wearing robes much like those of a British judge, only colored dark blue and cream, with the same diagonal stripe tucked into the cream-colored belt and the same cream-colored stripes around the end of the sleeves. It was obvious that he was an official representative of something.

“So it’s true. This is indeed a transportation device as the legend says,” he said cautiously, bowing his head respectfully at them. He had narrow features, brown hair and appeared to be kind. But John had learned early on that appearances can be deceiving. 

“It is,” John confirmed, carefully stepping forward as well.

“As evident from our being here,” Rodney muttered quietly, and John shot him a glare to keep him quiet. It was Rodney’s big mouth that lost them the Dagan’s ZPM.

“Greetings,” Teyla stepped forward as well, smiling calmly. “We come from the city of Atlantis and we mean you no harm,” she said. “I am Teyla Emmagen, and these are Ronon Dex, Doctor Rodney McKay and our leader Colonel John Sheppard,” she made the proper introductions, gesturing at each of the team in turn.

The official stepped forward, smiling and looking less tense than before. “I am Noman, currently charged with seeing to the cultural and historical interests of our people,” he bowed before them. “We have always known the legend of the city of the ancestors, but we have never even imagined that it might be true!” he said, his excitement pouring from him as he looked around at his people. “Welcome to Olam!”

The people around him clapped their hands and cheered at his exclamation, and it was like the ice had broken. The oppressive feeling of discomfort and fear disappeared from the air and everywhere they looked they saw smiling faces.

“Come, let us walk in the sun,” Noman offered, gesturing with his hand for them to lead the way out. John smiled at him as he took point, but still raised his gun a little and his finger never strayed from its position on the trigger. They might have been welcomed warmly here, but John didn’t want to take any chances.

Outside there were no hostiles. Instead there was yellow sun, evergreens and many tan colored tents. Some of the tents were merely fabrics stretched over poles, and underneath those yet more archeologists were examining various artifacts. They all looked up when John and his team came out of what appeared to be a small hill.

Noman came after them and directed them to a set of chairs. “Please, have a seat,” he offered kindly, and Teyla and John smiled. Rodney sat almost as if he had been on his feet nonstop for the last two days but Ronon preferred to remain standing and loomed over them all. After shooting a quick glance at Ronon, Noman proceeded. “As I was saying, welcome to Olam,” he greeted again.

“It’s a nice place. Kind of reminds me of Canada,” Rodney said as he started fiddling with some sort of a gadget that detected energy signatures, obviously eager to make friends with Noman as fast as they could so that they could get to the ZPM sooner.

“Canada?” Noman asked, confused, and John wanted to groan.

“Oh. Um… it’s a place I’ve been to once,” Rodney said quickly, smiling nervously at Noman and not making a very good first impression.

“What he means to say is that your world – what we’ve seen of it so far – is very nice,” John said sharply, kicking Rodney in the shin. Rodney grimaced but made no sound.

“I thank you,” Noman was almost glowing at the praise. “We love it very much,” he added politely. It was obvious that he was waiting for them to state the reason why they were there, and both Rodney and Teyla turned to John expectantly. John took a deep breath, well aware that their getting the ZPM, if it existed, may hang on his words now.

“We’re here to search for something that-” and then he was stuck. Should he say that they were the Ancients and lie? Should he say that they were their second evolution (which was true but how could he explain it accurately)? “-we know can help us a great deal in fighting the Wraith,” he said, settling for a different side of the truth.

Noman’s brow crinkled in confusion. “The Wraith, you say? Who are they?” he asked, and John could see the honesty of the question in his eyes.

John exchanged a look with Teyla and Rodney. These people didn’t look like Ancients, nor like they were protected by one like in Proculus. There was no real reason for them not to know who the Wraith were. It took John back to his first meeting with Teyla, when she told him that if his world was untouched by the Wraith then he should go back there. It was a galaxy-wide known truth.

“The Wraith are a formidable race that harvest people like beasts of burden and feed on their life force. They are very intelligent, very advanced and are feared throughout the galaxy,” Teyla explained, a note in her voice telling John that she both envied these people and found them strange.

Noman was quiet after hearing that, the breeze gently ruffling his wide sleeves. He looked at some of the workers who were still staring at them with unmasked curiosity before he turned back to John’s team. He exhaled and spread his hands wide in a gesture of disbelief.

“I do not know what is more astounding. The fact that we, as the legends have told, are not alone in the universe, or that the evil beings that were portrayed in our legends are real,” he said finally, and John had to smile. He could well relate. That was how he had felt when General O’Neill told him about the Stargate, the Goa’uld and the hundreds of populated planets on the Milky Way filled with people who had originated from Earth.

“They’re real,” Ronon said, speaking for the first time since their arrival, and Noman looked at him with a spark of amusement in his eyes.

“You speak?” he asked, teasing hesitantly. Ronon simply shrugged, while John tried to suppress a smile. Then Noman’s face clouded over once more. “Are these beings a threat to us?” he asked, addressing John.

“They’re a threat to all human beings. We’re their food,” John said simply, which was entirely true. The fact that they hadn’t come in ships to Olam was another mystery. John hoped that it wasn’t because of a device like that on M7G-677, because that would mean that it was powered by a ZPM and then they couldn’t have it for themselves.

“We certainly haven’t seen them here in as many generations as my people can remember. In fact, the date of the legends regarding them is around the time of the Cataclysm,” Noman replied.

“What is this Cataclysm you’re talking about?” Rodney asked, raising his head for the first time from his instrument. From what John remembered about this energy patterns detector, it took some calibration before it could be used, which was probably what Rodney had been doing while they were chit-chatting. It would explain the lack of sarcastic comments and impatient huffs.

“The Cataclysm is the event that nearly wiped out our civilization. It happened so many generations ago that it was a legend as well before this excavation began. It was told that during the Cataclysm the ground shook with unimaginable force and the mountains spat fire and covered all living things with the boiling essence of the earth. It was said that this event had claimed the lives of most of our people, and had destroyed all their property, knowledge, history and culture,” Noman retold, and then gestured at the hill behind them where the Stargate was found.

“Until recently this story was considered a legend as well, but then we started excavating this area and found the Ring of the Ancestors and many more various artifacts that appeared to be encased in rock. Our scientists are studying it as we speak,” he concluded, and showed them a piece of tablet with unintelligible markings that was covered with volcanic rock that one of the workers hastened to hand to him.

“Just like Pompeii, a volcanic eruption that buried an entire city with lava. When the lava turned cold there were only human-shaped statues where real humans once stood. Amazing!” Rodney said excitedly. John shot him a warning look, which was wasted since Rodney was looking around them and not at John. While it was cool to know that there was a Pompeii in the Pegasus galaxy as well, he doubted that getting excited about an event that nearly wiped out the entire civilization of the people who might hold a ZPM was the smartest thing to do.

Noman, however, appeared to be taking this in stride. “I gather you’re familiar with the phenomenon?” he asked, and John thought he might even be amused.

“Yes, it happened on our planet as well. But more importantly, this could explain why we couldn’t make contact with this planet until you dug out your gate. It was covered in rock! I mean, you’re lucky that it wasn’t destroyed!” Rodney said, turning to John and gesturing with his hand at the hill behind them. His face then changed when some horrific realization came to him, and it took John only a second longer to figure it out as well.

It was pure luck that the gate wasn’t destroyed, but what about the ZPM?

“You have tried to contact our planet before?” Noman asked, interrupting the silent conversation that passed between John and Rodney.

“Yes, we did. We believe that there’s a device on your planet that might help us defeat the Wraith, as we’ve said,” Teyla replied. “What is the matter?” she asked when Noman looked uneasy.

Noman sighed, his look turning sharper than before. “You must understand that until a few weeks ago we believed that the Cataclysm and the legends that were tied to its era were children’s tales. The only reason I believe what you’re saying is that you and your machine have stepped through the Ring and that our excavations support the legends. I find it hard to grasp that there is an enemy out there whose reason for being is to destroy us, even if I know that it is probably so, and even harder to think that somewhere on Olam there’s a weapon that might help you to defeat it,” Noman said candidly, looking at the skies as if expecting the Wraith to drop by for a visit as well.

“The Wraith are real, and they terrorize many worlds in this galaxy. They may not have been here in a very long time, but that could change any day. In the mean time, many worlds are suffering at their hands. Villages are being destroyed, civilizations wiped out and people separated from their loved ones. You must believe that they are real and that there is a chance that on your world we might find a device to help us fight them,” Teyla said seriously, with an intensity that she used only when she talked about something that she believed in whole-heartedly.

Noman looked at her with a measuring eye, but whatever it was that he was thinking he did not share. “And how were you hoping to find the device?” he asked instead, mildly.

Rodney raised his detector. “This allows me to detect all sorts of energy readings, and if I can just…” he trailed off, pressing a few buttons and turning the small dial in the middle of the black rectangle. “There. Now we can start sc-” he began, and was cut short when the device beeped at him.

John looked at Rodney, suddenly tense. “Does this mean what I think it means?”

Rodney’s eyes were practically gleaming, and a smug smile was blooming on his face. “I have a reading!” he exclaimed, and without waiting for the others rose up and started walking away.

John turned to Noman, who looked once again more amused than enraged, and raised his eyebrows in question. Noman rose gracefully and smiled in response. “By all means, let’s go after your friend, Colonel. He seemed very eager, and I must say I’m intrigued myself,” he said, gesturing with his hand.

John led the way after Rodney’s retreating form, and just knew that Ronon was smiling behind him. He liked Noman, and so did John. Given what he had just learned, he was either dealing with the truth admirably well or was planning on killing them once they led him to the ZPM, but somehow John found the latter harder to believe. Nevertheless, a quick glance towards Teyla and Ronon showed that they were still on their guard as well.

Now all that was left was to find the ZPM, hope that is wasn’t already being used and hope that Noman’s people would allow them to take it back with them. John could see so many things going wrong, and he hastened his pace to reach Rodney and get it over with as soon as possible.

They didn’t have to walk for long, and the view never changed from the rocky terrain and the evergreens. Once they were a little further away from the gate they could see that they were located in the middle of a mountain range, consisting mainly of trees and long stone stretches. A little further down in the camp they could see a strange structure made out of wood that looked like a covered bridge.

They caught Rodney by a large tan colored stone wall that towered well above his head, moving his detector up and down and frowning to himself. “This might take longer than we expected. I’m getting the reading from behind this rock, but probably during the Cataclysm the place where the ZedPM was being kept was covered with lava. We’ll have to dig it out but there’s definitely something there,” he told John when the rest of the team caught up with him.

Noman looked at Rodney’s detector, that was now emitting a constant thin and annoying beeping sound, and then at the wall. “My people would be happy to help,” he offered. “I think that my people will be easier to convince of the truth in your story once the evidence is in front of their eyes,” he added when John turned and looked at him with surprise. Somewhere in all the time John had been dealing with the Pegasus galaxy he had forgotten that there might also be good and helpful people out there.

John approached the wall. It certainly didn’t look like basalt, but it could have been simply a rock slide that blocked the entrance to whatever it was that protected the ZPM. Geologic activity takes a lot of time to make a change, but it had had ten thousand years to turn a rock slide into this wall. And if Rodney’s detector was picking up the energy signature, then despite all that the ZPM must still be there.

John walked a few feet along the big stone wall trying to see if there were any loose rocks or an opening in it, but it looked like it was a part of what appeared to be a very large precipice. The work would probably go faster if they brought in their own equipment, because so far Olam didn’t seem like an overly advanced world.

“It looks like it will take some work,” John commented, placing his hand on the wall for emphasis…

…and nearly falling forward when the wall disappeared under his hand and his support was gone. The startled breath he drew in had the foul smell of stale air to it and he was forced to cough it out. 

“This isn’t dangerous, right?” John wheezed, remembering a different wall he had fallen through. He had no desire to get stuck in some pansy ascension cult again, or worse.

“I don’t think so,” Rodney said weakly, staring in awe at the place where the wall was a second ago as he walked through after John. “I think it was a hologram meant to preserve what was inside, not trap people in.”

Looking around, John saw what looked like an Ancient chamber, combined with the lights that came on by themselves and the geometric patterns in brown and green. Now that he was over his own shock and reasonably sure that it wasn’t dangerous, he was smug at having saved them a lot of work, and turned to Rodney to savor his friend’s envious look. Teyla looked as surprised as Rodney did, her mouth actually opening slightly and her breath quickening, and Ronon had instinctively pulled out his gun. Noman was gaping at John openly.

 “This is just like Janus’ lab, only this one simply required your gene to be activated!” Rodney exclaimed excitedly, forgetting his resentment at John’s natural ease with Ancient technology in the face of their newest discovery.

“The Ancients must’ve put some sort of shield up to protect this outpost from natural disasters,” John mused, which would explain why the entrance wasn’t blocked.

“So are we going to go in or what?” Ronon asked, not lowering his gun.

“Uh… Sure, just…” Rodney started to mutter, looking down at his detector again. His brow creased. “Wait a minute, this can’t be right,” he said, annoyed, and started fiddling with the detector.

“What is it?” John asked, coming closer to look over Rodney’s shoulder. It told him nothing, of course, but it got Rodney’s attention from his dark mutterings about lousy equipment.

Rodney looked at John and showed him the device as if John couldn’t have seen it before. “The detector is malfunctioning,” he complained. “These readings can’t possibly be right, they’re practically off the scale.”

“Well, we could try going in and finding out,” John suggested sarcastically, and Rodney shot him an annoyed glare before gesturing resignedly with his hand for him to take the lead.

John signaled Ronon and they both went in first, aiming their guns and checking every corner and every shadow for threats. It had crossed John’s mind that the place was sealed off until they got there, but then again, until recently there were the Replicators who could have had access to this place and who could plant tiny tubes with killing nanites, so he didn’t think that his caution was over the top. And there were, of course, those rough Asgards who proved to be capable of penetrating Ancient shields and who didn’t have the best intentions either. No, his caution was definitely within reason.

The small room turned out to be a hallway that led to a larger chamber. As John stepped forward and passed the threshold the lights burst into life and he was left speechless.