Title: The Return
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 9
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Rating: NC-17 (language and sexual content)
Pairings: Ronon/Teyla, McKay/Sheppard, Weir/Wallace (many secondary pairings—see the series index page for a full listing)
Warnings: Adult themes, het sex, male/male sex
Author Note: I’ve added actor pics to the series page.
Summary: Ronon allows the Lanteans to travel to his home world but the sight of his devastated world hurts more than he expected. John learns that he has three latent Sentinels on the mission and must determine how best to deal with the likelihood that their circumstances alone might bring them online.
– – – –
Simon raised an eyebrow and glanced over at his shoulder at his wife. “Colonel Sheppard. This is a surprise.”
John offered him a small smile. “I hope I’m not disturbing your morning. I know you’re both off duty.”
“No, please come in.” Simon motioned him in as Elizabeth slipped into their bedroom to throw on the rest of her clothes. “Coffee?”
“No, but thank you. I have to watch my caffeine intake. Sometimes it makes me edgy for the wrong reasons.” John sat down at the table that Simon motioned to. “But the Athosian tea is nice.”
Simon nodded. “I enjoy it but it has an adverse effect on Elizabeth.” He grinned then. “Well, not exactly adverse but she certainly can’t indulge in it if she’s going to be out in public.” He brought a steaming tea pot to the table and provided a cup. He watched Sheppard prepare the loose tea in a small metal basket and submerge it in the boiling water. “You have something on your mind.”
John nodded and glanced up when Elizabeth came into the room. “Good morning, Elizabeth.”
“John.” Elizabeth poured herself some coffee and eyed the contents of their table. “I already loathe the day when we run out of flour.”
John chuckled and split a muffin open for butter. “Teyla has been working with the kitchen staff on that stuff. We have a very good line on a corn product that might work well for corn meal and Parrish picked up a product off world before the incident that might be a wheat substitute. They’ll be doing some experiments so we have something to look forward to or alternately run in fear of.”
Simon watched him with shrewd eyes and after a moment cleared his throat. “Tell me what’s on your mind, Colonel.”
John sighed. “I’m scheduling a mission to Sateda. I know that you did an introductory session with Ronon and his Guide. I won’t bother asking you for information you can’t give me but I need to know if you feel that you should come with us to Sateda.”
The question was a serious surprise. “What do you think?”
“I think that he’s holding onto a lot of rage and grief about the loss of his people. I believe that he has an intense desire to recover what he can of his lost world and that includes forming strong bonds with the Sentinel/Guide pairs on the mission. He’s at least a level 6 Sentinel and his responses border on primitive but considering how he’s lived for the last few years I can’t say that I blame him on that front. I believe him loyal and I trust him as much as I trust any of the other people on this mission.”
Simon knew that wasn’t as much as perhaps other mission commanders might trust their people but John Sheppard was exposed to the motivations and fears of their people on a level that no one else could come close to. Between his enhanced senses and his empathic abilities—he was a force unto himself. “And you want to know if going to Sateda will damage him emotionally?”
“We can’t even fathom the level of destruction we’re going to face on the other side. I’ve seen Sentinels blow during natural disasters because of the destruction of their territory and the people they are imprinted to protect.”
“Yes, fortunately for you that Ronon is adept at moving his territory. The transitory nature of his life with the Athosians has prevented him from creating a territorial imperative. He’ll eventually imprint on the city because the rest of the pride has. The Athosians have picked a site on the mainland and once they get settled and are relatively safe he’ll be able to devote himself to the mission he’s dedicated himself to. Your mission.”
John nodded. “So, did the two of you want to take a trip to the oldest inhabited world known in the Pegasus?”
Elizabeth hummed softly. “Yes, I’d love to and it would be good for us to be on hand if Ronon or Teyla need support. Our relationship with their people is important to our survival in Pegasus.”
John nodded. “Very well. We’re taking a Jumper. We’ll have a mission meeting this afternoon. I’ll put it on the community schedule and update you both with a time. I’ll have to harass McKay out of the lab for lunch so I’ll have a good take on when I can pry him loose from whatever ground breaking discovery in astrophysics he’s going to make today.”
– – – –
Sentinel. Teyla thought the word was elegant and fitting. It said more than guardian ever had and she wondered, considering what she knew about her own ancestry now, why those from Earth started to call themselves Sentinels and when they did so. Also, guide was definitely better than consort. On many worlds, a consort was little more than a sex slave. Still no matter the words that were used in the past or those that will be used among their new people—she was pleased with the role she had in Ronon’s life.
She picked up her bantos rods and glanced her Sentinel’s way and smiled. “Shall we?”
Ronon rolled to his feet and stretched. His beautiful golden brown skin practically glowed in the afternoon sun filtered through the stained glass windows that took up one wall of the room the Lanteans called a ‘gym’. He was wearing a pair of thin woven pants—she’d traded for them more than a year ago—seeking to find a material that would move easily on his skin without being abrasive. He usually wore them to sleep in but on Atlantis they’d become part of his workout clothes. She thought it demonstrated the measure of trust he had in the people they’d surrounded themselves with.
He swung his rods in a full arc and took up the stance she’d taught him. “Did you know the people from Earth have something similar to this?”
“It makes sense if our peoples share blood,” Teyla said and then raised an eyebrow. “On your guard.”
They fell into an easy rhythm, ignoring the audience that gathered around them. It was easy to do—most of her people were prone to watching the two of them train together so it wasn’t as distracting as it could’ve been otherwise. Her forms were stronger than Ronon’s because he’d stopped training with the rods when he’d joined Sateda’s military in favor of other kinds of training. His Consort had not followed the old disciplines. She really didn’t consider it a fault against him but a part of her was pleased that it was she that gave this to Ronon—that these old ways were hers to teach and explore with her Sentinel.
– – – –
The best thing about Atlantis was the plumbing. Ronon had sacrificed a lot after the fall of Sateda—it had been easy to give up a lot of things because in the face of survival they no longer mattered. Technology hadn’t been all that compelling when faced with the extinction of his entire race. But, plumbing—he’d really missed showers. Hot showers.
Teyla ran her small hands down his back, using the soft and perfect soap they’d gotten from the Earth people. It had been years since he’d had products made for his kind and it made all the difference. He hadn’t had a rash or a sense flare since they’d come to Atlantis. It made Teyla’s task as his Consort easier, he knew that and that helped him relax.
“The empathic bleed off we get from Sheppard—does it bother you?”
“No, he’s actually very disciplined,” Teyla responded. “He only really loses his grasp on it when he’s…” She laughed softly. “Being pleasured.”
Ronon chuckled. “The Marines say that McKay ‘rocks his world’. I really don’t know what they mean by it but I think I understand. They have a very passionate bond and it’s a pleasure to be around by them.”
“Yes, a pleasure,” Teyla agreed.
She smiled when he turned and pressed her up against the wall. He hitched her up and she laughed softly as she wrapped her legs around his waist. Teyla arched against him and sighed as he pushed his cock into her. He nuzzled against her neck and then started to thrust deep into her body. The sensuality of having him pressed against her was almost overwhelming. It always was. There had been men before Ronon but none had ever touched her with such confidence or with such reverence. She felt loved and often times worshipped in his embrace. It was a heady responsibility but one she took without a single hesitation.
“You smell different to me,” Ronon whispered. “A small change… what is it?”
Teyla sighed. Leave it to him to ask such a question in the middle of mating. “I stopped using the tea for birth control and started to use a method that Jennifer gave me. It’s more effective, easier.”
“Hmm, so we can be less careful?” Ronon questioned.
She laughed and nodded. There were days every month where she’d felt no choice but turn him away. They’d decided early on that a child wasn’t something they could indulge in—at least not any time soon. Also, when they’d first gotten together it would’ve been difficult to imagine finding a partner for the child they would have. Now, with the people from Earth… things were different.
He cupped her ass and thrust in deep and she came before she could even conceptualize who far gone she was. Teyla melted around him, her body clenching on his invading cock so tightly that he groaned and came with her.
– – – –
John hated the big weird conference table in the large conference room off his office. McKay sometimes used it to spread out and work but for the most part the big room stayed empty. Now it was crowded with the team they were taking to Sateda.
“We sent a MALP through to Sateda this morning,” John said. “Ronon and Teyla both have seen the footage you’re all about to see. I want to say up front that the destruction was pretty complete and devastating.” He gave his Guide a nod and Rodney activated the large viewing screen on the wall. The video footage was a little grainy because of the MALP transmission but the content was clear.
“Jesus,” Rodney muttered. “Do we know what they… that’s not all from darts?”
“No, they had ground troops and they fired on us from orbit,” Ronon responded. “We had five major cities on the single continent on our planet and they were all destroyed in much the same way. They dropped several large explosive devices from the hives as well. It was systematic and they tried to keep the gate open as much as possible to prevent us from dialing out to escape. Less than one hundred of my people were able to escape. As far as I know, I’m the only Guardian. I gathered up some of my people and they were adopted by the Athosians. There are others spread out over other worlds, taken in by family on other planets.”
“It’s obscene,” Elizabeth whispered. “So many… lost. Has a thorough search of the planet been done to find survivors?”
“Yes,” Ronon responded. “I spent the first year after I bonded with Teyla taking trips back to Sateda to search for survivors. During the first few months I found several children. They were adopted by families within the Athosians.”
“You were able to search all of the cities?” John asked.
“Yes, it took a long time but, yes. I was able to find functional vehicles that helped me travel to the different cities. Even most of the animal life on Sateda was destroyed. They didn’t use chemical weapons but the air quality was bad for several years afterward.”
“How long has it been since you’ve been to the planet?” Elizabeth asked gently.
“Three years.” Ronon drank deeply from the water bottle his Guide provided for him but John was pleased to note that his hand was steady.
“And you’re comfortable with is us going to Sateda?” Simon asked.
“Yes, Dr. Wallace. I’m comfortable with it. If there is information that can help us in the fight against the Wraith we need it. The Ancients might have left a facility like this one or some kind outpost then we need to go and find out. It’s a dead world. My people no longer move on the land, breathe the air. I can’t think of it as my home.” Ronon looked at the still image on the screen. “Maybe one day in the future, when the Wraith are gone it will be reclaimed by others and made beautiful again. But I can’t function if I continue to hold onto things lost to me.”
It was a healthy view point but John could feel the burning grief under Ronon’s words. Grief that had lessened since he met him, since he’d sacrificed the last of his bond to his former Consort and surrendered himself totally to Teyla’s care. He’d felt that change in them both when they’d been reunited after the culling of Athos. Their bond was stronger, more flexible and durable than it had been. His pain didn’t resonate in her so clearly now and the burden of his loss seemed less somehow.
John nodded. “Alright. We’re wheels up in three hours.” He paused when half the people in the room frowned at him. John sighed. “We’re leaving the city in three hours.”
“Oh. Wheels up—like a plane?” Elizabeth questioned.
“Yes,” John answered and picked up his computer. He gave her a pointed look. “Pack very light for the excursion part of the mission. You’re allowed fifteen pounds.”
“I was allowed thirty last time,” Elizabeth pointed out.
“Yes, and you weren’t required to hike in rubble and move through a city on alien planet where the air mixture is slightly off Earth norm.” John raised an eyebrow when she started to complain. “Everyone is getting their weight limit cut in half. It’s not negotiable.”
Elizabeth offered him a snappy little salute and he shot her a grin before leaving the conference room.
– – – –
John leaned back in his chair and regarded Marcus Stackhouse seriously. “I’ve read your report. The situation you mentioned to me when you returned home wasn’t mentioned. No one on your team mentioned it.”
Stackhouse shifted in his seat. “It’s speculation, sir. I didn’t question any of the people in the square about it and I wasn’t there to witness it. They were all taken down my head shots—just one seemed entirely too precise and the body position… but he’s a scientist.”
“He’s a Sentinel,” John corrected. “And you can be certain that he neutralized every threat in that square with extreme prejudice. He was blunt in his own field report which is on the server. As the team leader for the mission you have access to it. You should read it.”
“Yes, sir.” Stackhouse cleared his throat. “He executed him.”
“Yes. The man threw away his weapon and Zelenka shot him in the head anyway.” John raised an eyebrow when Stackhouse’s mouth dropped open. “Don’t think for a second I would’ve done differently because I wouldn’t have. Sentinels don’t take prisoners unless we are under direct orders to do so. We always shoot to kill and every threat is equal in our estimation. He wasn’t feral but his Guide was at his side and no Sentinel can allow a threat to remain within reach of his Guide. It’s against our nature.”
“So his actions were instinctive.”
“Instinct combined with training. He wasn’t always a scientist. I don’t know what he did for his own military but considering his intelligence he probably wasn’t infantry. He wore glasses before his Sentinel gifts surfaced so not a sniper. His military records weren’t included with his personnel files from the SGC. Probably because he defected from the Czech Republic and the SGC has basically been hiding him for the last ten years.” John shrugged.
“So you agree with what he did.”
“I wouldn’t have done differently. I can’t foresee a circumstance where I would let a Wraith worshipper walk away from me. The very idea is appalling. Beyond that, we can’t afford to give the Wraith a single piece of intelligence on us. Not when what suspect to be true about Sateda and why that planet was really destroyed.”
Marcus nodded. “No, I agree with that. I don’t… I don’t disagree with what he did. I don’t think anyone on my team does we were just a little surprised that he did it. On one hand we see a scientist who gets giddy over new technology and for all the world looks very distracted ninety percent of his day and on the other we see a ruthless Sentinel. It doesn’t mesh in my head.”
“He’s both,” John said. “And he’ll continue to be both.” He sighed. “Now, there is something else we have to discuss.”
“Okay.” Stackhouse straightened in his chair. “I think…I mean…I know you know and I want you to know, sir, that no matter my personal relationships…”
“Hush,” John admonished. “I don’t care who you take to bed. If it bothered me I never would’ve approved his assignment as your roommate. What happens on the other side of your locked door is none of my business and if anyone gives you a hard time about it—let me know. I’ll make them regret it.”
Stackhouse laughed. “Okay.”
“Now, you know Jennifer has been doing some advanced DNA testing and she found out that the gene we were using to mark Sentinels is actually the wrong one. The equipment on Atlantis has allowed her to do a more intensive study of the available Sentinel genomes we have on the city and as a result she’s found three latent Sentinels.”
Stackhouse’s mouth dropped open. “Seriously?”
“Seriously and you’re one of them. I won’t ask you to sit in the chair and let Atlantis activate your latent genes but you have to know that if our situation gets more dire that you may come online all by yourself within the next six months. You’re living amongst a strong pride and you already respond to me on a level beyond what the other soldiers on the base do.”
“You think on some level I’m recognizing you as my Alpha?” Stackhouse questioned softly.
“Yes, it also explains your intense affection for Jason Markham. There is a reason you’ve barely let the man out of your sight since you met him in basic.”
“He’s a Guide.”
“He’s probably your Guide,” John clarified. “When you met him—you wanted to touch him.”
Stackhouse flushed and averted his eyes. “I’d never even thought about a man before Jason, sir.”
John grinned then. “Well, that’s certainly an indication that the two of you are well matched. If you come online—he’ll follow suit. If he comes online before you do, and he might, you’ll follow within the year. It’s pretty common for pairs in close proximity. He’s saturated daily in a lot of feel good emotions from the other Guides on the mission so keep an eye on him. If he comes online and we don’t help him soon enough he could… we lose many Guides on Earth to suicide because they don’t automatically know how to protect themselves with mental shields.”
Stackhouse shifted forward in his chair. “Then perhaps we should get one of the Guides to teach him in advance. To talk to him about what could happen so that he’ll be prepared if it happens. I don’t want… I don’t want him hurt because of our circumstances.”
“Actually, Dr. Wallace has already set aside time to speak with all ten of the latent Guides Keller has identified on the mission. They’ll be enrolled in special classes to help them. Vala and McKay both have advanced skills in this area so we’re in good shape in that respect.” He paused and tilted his head slightly. “Feel free to ask Dr. Wallace if you can attend sessions with Jason. It might be beneficial to you both.”
“You think I’ll come online?”
“Yes. Survival always wins out and we need all of the help we can get in that arena. I think the three latent Sentinels on this mission will come online within the next six months.”
“I’d rather not worry about when it’s going to happen,” Marcus complained. “Can I just… sit in the chair?”
“Speak with your partner first. It’s not just a decision you are making and it would be better if he came online first. Training you both at the same time would tax our resources.” He sighed and clicked his radio. “Corporal Morgan, stop baiting the geeks when they are handling things that explode! If I have come down there—I’m going to kick your ass until I feel better about you.” He clicked off the radio abruptly and scrunched his nose in distaste.
“How… did you hear?”
John looked at him for a few minutes and sighed. “I have a full imprint on every single person on the expedition and all of the Athosians. I know them by the beat of their hearts—no two hearts sound the same. Dr. Whitley’s heart rate skyrocketed and I focused on her briefly so I could figure out if she was in trouble.”
“So you hear all of our heartbeats all the time?”
“No, that would be an agony. I check the city over once an hour—eliminating each heart beat I can hear until everyone is accounted for. It’s how I would determine if we had intruders or if one of our people was to go missing or die.”
“So all of the Sentinels do that?”
“Yes, we split the duty so that we pretty much have an ear on the city’s population all the time during working hours and we wake up in intervals at night to do it. It’s purely instinct. I can even tell you which one of my Sentinels is doing the check any given time because their heart changes slightly as they work through the scan.”
“Jesus.” Stackhouse swallowed hard. “And I could do that?”
“Yes, Marcus, you could. It’s not easy mastering our gifts but the value of them has no equal in a place like this.”
“And other latent Sentinels?”
John paused. “I’ve classified that information—Jennifer reported only to me on that issue because I’m not going to let anyone be pressured into being forced online by the city. Sometimes having the gifts I have is a torture, Marcus, and no one will be pressured into it including you. One is a Marine. The other is a female civilian.”
“Wow.” Marcus’ eyes widened in surprise. “Really?”
“It stunned me too,” John admitted roughly. “I could hardly believe the results when Jennifer presented them. The woman has both latent ATA genes and latent Sentinel genes. You’re the only latent I’ve told so far. I’d like to think some more about a plan for dealing with the civilian before I tell her but I won’t wait long. I’m not sure we can afford to wait that long at all. I don’t want one of them to come online and blow.”
“Does she have a Guide in place already?”
“There is someone in her life that is probably her Guide. When I met him, I remember being stunned by how orderly his mind and emotions are. He reminded me of my own Guide and that should’ve been a clue. Dr. Keller thinks I have some built in instinct for other Sentinels and Guides.”
“Female Sentinels are rare, right?”
“Very,” John admitted. “They aren’t like the men either—Cadman has other instinctual drives we’ll have to watch out for in the field. She’s just as likely to go feral over a child in mortal peril as she is her own Guide. They have a… maternal drive that most theorists in Sentinel studies can’t even explain. It’s why she is spent the morning going over all of our equipment in the Jumper for a mission she isn’t even going on. She’s mothering me.”
Marcus chuckled. “A great mom is a mom who packs automatic weapons and C4 for sleepovers.”
– – – –
Lt. Laura Cadman prided herself on a job well done and packing forty pounds of C-4 in a storage compartment on the Jumper just made her day. It was pretty—all of those blocks of plastic explosives. With a little sigh she closed the compartment and opened the one they’d retrofitted for weapons. She was able to put six P-90s and ten 9mms with enough ammo for a small war in it.
The other half of the Jumper’s storage was for food, survival gear, and medical supplies. She wasn’t thrilled about giving up the space but they had three days allotted for this mission and tents might come in handy.
“I got the mess hall to pack them some sandwiches.” Aidan shoved a box under one of the benches and glanced around the Jumper. “You get all the C4 stored?”
“Absolutely,” Laura checked her watch. “Twenty minutes until Sheppard comes down to begin his pre-mission flight stuff. Jennifer double checked the medical supplies and they’re all set for their first trip overnight off-world.”
“Wish you were going?” Ford asked eyeing his Sentinel critically.
“Yes, but it’s good that I’m staying behind to support Colonel Mitchell. Between us, Lorne, and Zelenka we can maintain the security protocols for the city while Colonel Sheppard is off-world with Dex.” Laura glanced around the Jumper Bay as they exited the Jumper. “And I figured I’d make the Marines do double PT tomorrow. Keep their minds off shit.”
“Sounds good,” Aidan admitted. “It might help if we set up some scenarios and maybe some war games on the mainland. Keep their skills fresh and their minds on the game. The geeks have their own projects what with figuring out how to dial Earth and how to compress all of the information we’ve gathered.”
“Good idea. I’ll run it by Colonel Mitchell and we can prep a plan to present to Sheppard.”
– – – –
“I’m surprised that the Colonel put us on this mission.”
Marcus Stackhouse glanced over at Jason Markham as he pulled on his TAC vest. “Oh yeah?”
“I mean, I figured he would be pissed about that thing with Zelenka.” Jason flushed. “We left our geeks on their own in the field. It was a dumb ass thing to do.”
“Well, Sheppard pointed out to me rather bluntly that Zelenka isn’t just a scientist—he’s a Sentinel and he certainly didn’t need us. I guess I would’ve preferred to do the shooting since it obviously pissed him off in the extreme that he had to do that but Zelenka isn’t a regular civilian anymore.” Marcus glanced around the empty locker room and reached out touched his lover. “Have you been thinking about what I told you?”
“Yeah. I’m worried.” Markham admitted. “I remember how fucked up Zelenka was when he came online so suddenly and you haven’t had any more training than he has. If I don’t come online before you… or if I’m not your Guide… what will we do?”
“I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t be my Guide.” Marcus pulled him close and curled his fingers against the back of Jason’s neck. “It’s… impossible to think of anyone else in that place in my life. Sheppard believes I’ll come online in the next six months because of our situation and I believe him.”
“I’m going to talk to Keller and Wallace about getting the city to bring me online the way it did Zelenka,” Jason admitted. “I want to be prepared for you so you won’t suffer.” He lifted his face and offered his partner a smile. “It would… make us bullet proof on the relationship front as well.”
“Yes.” Marcus sighed. “It would.” He kissed him then and only lifted his head when someone noisily cleared their throat. Jason jerked back from him but Marcus just shook his head and offered Bates a practiced glare.
Bates for his part just smirked and jerked his thumb over his shoulder. “Second squad is due for gear up for a mainland trip.”
“Right.” Marcus picked up his field pack and glanced towards Jason who was studiously fastening his TAC vest. “Haul ass, I don’t want to explain to Sheppard we’re late because you can’t work your buttons.”
Jason snorted and picked up his P-90. “Fuck you.”
Marcus quirked one eyebrow as they left the locker room. In the hallway going towards the Jumper he took a deep breath. “Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Jason clipped his P-90 on. “I think he knew already. I doubt we’re a secret to anyone really. The expedition is too small. They didn’t let anyone on the mission that was homophobic. Sheppard got all of those assholes out of the way long before we came close to leaving the mountain.”
“Still, there is no need to throw it someone’s face that we’re in violation of the regs.” Stackhouse rubbed the back of his neck as they entered the bay. “Sometimes I just can’t help it.”
“I know.” Jason glanced at him. “That’s probably a sign of how close you are to coming online.”
“Hell, Jason, I wanted to crawl on top of you the moment I met you.”
Abrupt female laughter caught them both off guard and they both turned to find Elizabeth Weir leaning against the Jumper. She was dressed for the field, a small pack at her feet. “Good afternoon.”
“Ma’am.” Marcus gave her an abrupt nod. “Did you need your weapon checked before we leave?”
“No, Sergeant, I’m all set.” She patted the 9mm confidently and continued to put up her hair. “I’m thinking I should cut my hair if I’m going to be in the field a lot.”
Simon Wallace snorted his disagreement from a bench inside the Jumper. “I think that braiding thing you do works out just fine.” He glanced towards Stackhouse and Markham. “I’m told to expect you for a few discussions, Sergeant Markham.”
“Yes.” Jason nodded. “I’d rather be prepared. Do you know what the others are going to do?”
Simon paused and nodded. “The Guides have been notified. Colonel Sheppard wants to evaluate the people we’ve identified as Sentinels a few days before he speaks with them about what could happen to them. I’ll want to speak with you both individually and together so we can formulate some plan. I have training manuals—I made sure to visit the Sentinel-Guide Center before I left Earth. They pretty much gave me everything I asked for after Dr. McKay made it clear I needed the access in order to help him and Colonel Sheppard.”
“You can send me some of those files?” Jason asked. “I guess I need information on symptoms to look for—things that might be out of the ordinary for us both if we’re close to coming online.”
“Absolutely, when we get back.” Simon looked up as the Jumper Bay doors opened and Sheppard and McKay entered.
– – – –
John surveyed the HUD on the Jumper as everyone got settled behind him. Teyla and Ronon had taken the seats directly behind him and Rodney which wasn’t much of a surprise. Dex really didn’t like the Jumper much and liked to be able to see out of the craft as much as possible. John really didn’t blame him. The construction of the Jumper was isolating. So isolating, in fact, that he figured he could use the Jumpers as a way to isolate himself if he started having problems with his senses. A Jumper in space would be practically perfect for a Sentinel. Zero stimulation outside of the buzz of the Ancient tech.
He glanced back at the cargo area where Stackhouse, Markham, Weir and Wallace were settled. His gaze lingered on Elizabeth. He had a lot of evaluating to do on that particular front. He looked at Simon and found the psychologist staring at him. John sighed; he knew that the man was very curious about the results especially after he’d been told he was a latent Guide.
He activated his radio. “Control, dial the gate.”
Lowering the Jumper down into the gateroom and through the open gate a minute later helped him settle on the task ahead of him. Having seen pictures of the destruction did little to belay the shock and fury that gathered in his gut as he saw it for the first time with his own eyes. It was like the old cities in the Middle East he’d been in before he’d been recruited by the SGC.
– – – –
Three years hadn’t been long enough to kill the horror and fury that he had buried in his heart. Ronon closed his eyes briefly and relaxed when Teyla slipped out of her chair and into his lap. He rubbed his lips against her pulse point and forced himself to settle down. This was nothing he hadn’t seen before and he had a duty to his mate not to lose his mind. I can’t live in the past. He’d been telling himself that for years but lately it had become more important. It had become true.
“I want to scan the planet and do a few passes from orbit unless…” Sheppard trailed off and looked back at Ronon. “Is there something you’d like to do first?”
“No. That sounds good. I’ve never seen Sateda from orbit.”
Minutes later, they were in orbit above the planet. McKay was chattering in the background but Ronon found it easy to tune him out. He shifted forward in his chair, his hands tightening on Teyla briefly when she tried to leave his lap. It was beautiful—his former world. Beautiful and from space it looked pure and undamaged. It was an agony to see it look so perfect and to know that it wasn’t. To know that it may never be that way again.
– – – –
“No radio signals, a few energy signatures. There is a geothermal energy plant in one of the oceans. Very advanced. I’ve love to study it long term at a later date but it’s not useful to us now.” Rodney pulled another computer out of his pack and started another scan. “If there are Ancient ruins here—they aren’t active. Not really a surprise if they were mothballed to keep them safe from the Wraith.”
“Like Atlantis?” John asked.
“Yes, like Atlantis. The city didn’t have any records that she was willing to reveal on any Ancient labs or outposts on Sateda.” Rodney glanced at his Sentinel. “I believe she considers us to be rather like children.”
John didn’t disagree with that. The city’s AI seemed to feed them information in careful doses perhaps so they wouldn’t be so overwhelmed they all jumped off the pier at the same time. He smirked at that thought and then returned his attention to the HUD. Sateda was rich in natural resources; the ocean was teeming with life—large and small.
“There are several large groups of animals on the land—mammals and what looks like lower primates.” John looked toward Ronon. “It looks like the nature found away even in the face of the Wraith. The ocean life is abundant and the environment is very stable. Air is better than we expected across most of the planet. There is some heavy pollution around the gate but it probably wouldn’t take more than a few years to clean that up with the right people and resources.”
Ronon nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
John held his gaze for a few seconds and then nodded abruptly. “Your capitol city?”
“Northwest from the gate.” Ronon urged his Guide off his lap and touched her face gently before moving up into the cock pit to view the map Sheppard had put up. “There. It is a six hour walk from the gate but not far at all in this thing.”
“No,” John agreed. “Not far at all. Okay. What do you know about the government structure and military installations?”
Ronon pulled a small silver case from his pocket and offered it to McKay. “This is a data core that I pulled out of my command post on the last day before it fell and I had to retreat to the gate. It contains my access codes, maps, all the data our sensors gathered during the culling.”
“How far did your clearance go?” John questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“I was the Alpha Sentinel of the Lenora—the city that housed the Ring of the Ancestors. During the final days of the culling—I became the Alpha Sentinel of Sateda. As far as I know the final day I was the only Sentinel still breathing Satedian air. Each time a Sentinel fell I was elevated in the governmental hierarchy. I’m not sure how far my access will go because the last of the government structure fell earlier in the week.”
“Understood,” John murmured. “You said your Commander blew in battle when his Guide was lost. He wasn’t the Alpha?”
“No, he was a high ranking military officer but I was a stronger Sentinel. I took my place as Alpha the day I bonded with my Consort. My position was far more political than anything else. I was basically the governor of Lenora and I was trained as an assassin in the military. I was taken off active military duty when my gifts immerged and they recognized what I was capable of.” Ronon returned to his seat without another word.
Rodney turned and looked at him. “And your wife?”
“She was a healer—a talented one and my father thought her the perfect wife for a politician.” Ronon offered McKay a grin. “Unfortunately, I was entirely too blunt to be a successful politician. I was always giving my leadership fits but they couldn’t retaliate because I was a Sentinel.”
“I’m not all that political myself,” John admitted. “I doubt I’d do well in such circles on Earth. Fortunately there are others who take care of that kind of thing.”
– – – –
John shifted the flash light of his P-90 so his Guide could see down the hall ahead of them. “What do you have?”
“His data is very organized and easy to decipher. If we can get past the security protocols on the next level we should be able to get access to their military data. I’ll download everything I can and hopefully we’ll be able to get some data about the Wraith strategy in that. They had to have military scientists working on the analyzing the Wraith’s attack.” Rodney glanced over at his Sentinel. “That would be useful right?”
“Maybe, the hives don’t seem to work together like a single entity. Ronon says sometimes a single queen will control more than one hive but rarely more than five. Three cruisers ships per hive… a single hive is a threat all on its own. Still, we might pull something out about how the Wraith think in battle. It’s something we can focus on for the time being.” He clicked his radio. “Stackhouse, report.”
“Dr. Weir was successful in connecting with the databases in the cultural center and has filled up several hard drives with historical data. There is a big exhibit on the Ancients—the benefactors of the Sateda but it looks like propaganda to me, especially considering what we know about their real relationship with the original tribes of Sateda.” Stackhouse cleared his throat. “She thinks another thirty minutes and she’ll be ready to move to the medical research complex down the street.”
“Just keep track of those geeks better than you did the last two I gave you to play with,” John responded.
– – – –
Teyla sat down on a stone park bench and watched her mate walk around the destroyed fountain that was in the center of the court yard. She had vague memories of it from when she was a child—the sculptures that had been playing in the streaming water were broken—a heinous reminder of all the lives broken and destroyed on Sateda by the Wraith.
“I don’t know how to ease you.”
Ronon glanced her way. “Just your being here is enough.”
Teyla frowned but nodded. She really couldn’t imagine how it could be enough but she was willing to let his words stand. Nothing in her experience, not even the loss of their summer village on Athos, had prepared her for Sateda. Ronon had never allowed her to travel with him when he’d gone on his missions to search for survivors. She’d been furious at being shut out but she’d done her best over that first year to provide what little comfort he would allow.
“Is there… are there graves you’d like to visit?”
Ronon turned and shook his head. “No graves. The Wraith took every living person from Sateda and time took care of the bodies that remained before I was well enough to return. I found scattered bones at first but after a while not even that. Melena was killed in an explosion. I never found her remains and Jonar…” He cleared his throat. “I buried his body on another world. I took him through the ring with me. I couldn’t leave him on this dead world.”
Teyla swallowed her surprise and averted her gaze. She’d never asked once about Jonar’s body and she was ashamed of it. “We could visit his grave site together if you wish?”
Ronon shook his head. “He would not wish me to dwell over his remains. It is not our way.”
– – – –
“Did you know Stackhouse was a latent Sentinel?”
John shook his head. “No, I’ve never been able to find latents. That’s one reason why I was so freaked out when I could tell that Koyla was dormant. Maybe it’s because he’s batshit.”
Rodney snorted. “I won’t deny he’s a few protons short but I didn’t notice anything about him that would make me think he was a dormant Sentinel.”
“I can’t explain it,” John admitted roughly. “I just knew. Kind of like I knew that Cameron Mitchell was in trouble when I found him in that mental ward on Earth. I knew there was a damaged Sentinel in the building and more importantly I knew that he needed me and that I could help him.”
“Did you always know you’d find Vala?”
John paused and considered that. “I didn’t have any prophetic dreams if that is your question but I did believe from the onset that I could find her if we dialed the right planet. I’ve always been able to sense and locate Guides. At least, online Guides. With online Sentinels there is a wiggle in the back of my mind—sometimes it’s a good wiggle and sometimes it’s a bad one but I can’t put a finer point on that.”
“And Koyla gave you a bad wiggle?”
“No, Koyla made my skin crawl the moment I set eyes on him. At first I thought I was having some kind of reaction to something he was wearing because it didn’t happen until he entered the room. Everything about him was wrong. His scent pile was corrupt. There were the normal smells—food, soap, sweat, hormones but on top of all of that was this other odor.”
“What did it smell like?”
“Dead animal,” John admitted roughly. “And not the dead smell I get from prepared meat before it’s cooked. It was some strange decay odor that doesn’t smell like any dead thing I’ve ever encountered before.”
“That’s disturbing,” Rodney muttered. He pulled a power bar out of his pack and tossed it to his Sentinel before pulling another out for himself. “After we finish here, there is a government building a half a mile east that has the earmarks of a research facility. Military research. We should check it out.”
“Like SGC military research kind of thing?”
“Yeah, if they had anything classified going on—I think we’d find it there. There are probably other facilities and maybe records there will lead us to them. I have to think they have a few secret facilities on the planet—I don’t know how they couldn’t. From the aerial overview we know that the Wraith targeted their military bases and the major populated areas of their cities with weapons. We should definitely check out a few of the bases see if we can’t make some effort on the weapons front.”
John nodded. “Rifles and pistols. Ronon said his people used energy weapons exclusively because it was less work for Sentinels in the field—to filter out the noise. The problem is that the Wraith probably used that against them. Creating noises that their Sentinels couldn’t ignore—hadn’t been taught to work with in the field.”
“Bastards,” Rodney murmured. “When I think about… it’s disgusting.”
– – – –
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “I found some population records.”
“Oh really?” Simon left the computer station he was browsing and walked to his wife.
“The estimated population on Sateda at the time of the final culling was one hundred thousand. Of which, there were twenty-five thousand Sentinel/Guide pairs.” Elizabeth turned to Simon. “That is nothing like the ratio on Earth. Half their population…” She trailed off and shook her head. “It boggles the mind. If the Ancients hadn’t bred with them and tainted their gene pool their entire world would’ve been Sentinel and Guide.”
“The Ancients might have tainted the gene pool and did experiments we consider horrific but they also saved the Satedian tribes from being obliterated when they were still primitive. Thanks to the Ancients they were able to live, survive, and even thrive for ten thousand years after the Ancients left this galaxy.” Marcus Stackhouse shrugged. “That’s gotta mean something, Doc.”
Elizabeth nodded. “You’re right—and if they hadn’t brought Satedians to Earth—the legacy of the Guardians would’ve died here in Pegasus.”
“And that is the most amazing gift they could’ve given my people,” Ronon offered from the doorway. “Far worth the sacrifice of the few they took and misused in the beginning. It’ll never be just—what the Ancients did—but it is understood and accepted.”
Elizabeth nodded. “We’re almost finished here. Is there anywhere you’d like to see before we hike to the next location?”
Ronon offered her a sad smile. “No, there is nothing left here for me.”
– – – –
Rodney hated the outdoors. As a younger man, he’d been forced on more than one occasion to go camping with his family and he could hardly stand to think about those trips.
Still sharing a big sleeping bag with his Sentinel wasn’t all that bad considering. “So, what’s going on out there?” He waved a hand as if to encompass the entire destroyed city they were camping in the middle of.
“Stackhouse wants to get laid but Markham is saying no because I’ll hear them. Ronon and Teyla are at the fire on guard duty. Elizabeth is sound asleep and Simon is reading. There are some animals on the outskirts of the ruins—sort of like cows and there are a few predators but Ronon says they’ll stay far from us.”
Rodney laughed softly and rearranged his pillow. “I’m surprised he gets laid on the city if that is a concern.”
“I imagine it’s easier to pretend they’re alone and they have privacy when I’m not sleeping four feet from them. There is a reason why I chose to house us in the Central tower away from where we put all of the others. A reason beyond the fact that I wanted to be close to the gateroom.”
Rodney sighed. “Any chance I’m going to get laid?”
John chuckled. “No, never off world if I’m aware enough to make a choice. I won’t risk your safety for sex.” He ran his hand down his Guide’s back. “I get too lost in you for it to be safe.”
Rodney understood that and it wasn’t like he was exactly deprived on the sex front. He’d had more sex since he’d met John than he ever had in his life. “Long day.”
“Very,” John admitted. “Sleep. We take watch in four hours.”
– – – –
“You are not flying that.”
John shot his Guide a look as he circled what looked very much like a helicopter. “It’s slick.”
“It’s a death trap,” Rodney returned evenly and only glared at Ronon when he laughed aloud. “Can you fly this thing?”
He shook his head. “Sentinels were never allowed to be pilots. I can barely stand to ride in one of these things as a passenger. The vibration was extreme. If I think about it—I can feel my bones rattling.” Ronon gave a little involuntary shudder and walked away from the machine. “I used ground vehicles when I searched for survivors.”
John sighed and opened the door. He held up a hand in defeat when his Guide opened his mouth to complain. “I promise I won’t take off in it. I just… wanna sit in it.” He slid into the cock pit before Rodney could say a word and let his hands drift over controls both familiar and alien. It was intensely awesome to find something like this on a world in Pegasus. The Jumpers were great. He loved them but this was something else entirely.
“You’re looking at this thing like you look at me when you want to fuck,” Rodney complained and only glanced briefly at Elizabeth when she choked back laughter. “Seriously, it’s freaking me out.”
“It’s gorgeous,” John murmured wistfully.
Rodney sighed. “If we can get it back to Atlantis—I’ll put an engineering team on it. We’ll see if it’s even capable of flying. If it can—we’ll maintenance it and you can do some… ya know very limited test piloting.”
John grinned and hauled Rodney close. He kissed him on the mouth. “Ronon. Find a truck for this thing.”
“The closest word to standard language that fits for the machine is Aviator,” Ronon offered. “There is a special transport vehicle for it. We’ll need to fold down the flight blades and secure them so they don’t get broken or damaged in the move.”
John nodded and inherently reached out for the ignition. “Clear the deck. Give me twenty feet around this thing.”
Rodney glared at him pointedly. “Do not leave the ground.”
John waited until they were all back as far as he demanded and he powered up the Aviator. The engine hummed gently, nothing like a helicopter on Earth. Cleaner, John though, and certainly not a standard kind of machine. Very few moving parts, less to break. The HUD activated and it reviewed all of the readings critically. About eighty percent of it made sense to him, he wondered if there was a manual tucked away in the hangar they hadn’t explored yet. He found the controls for halting and the storing the blades. The engine hummed at him gently, the blades stopped circling on the three propellers and folded in on themselves in a way that was right out of a Transformer movie. It was the slickest thing he’d ever seen. The craft shut down easily and John hopped out.
“This is awesome!” John patted his slightly used alien helicopter on the side and turned to Ronon. “You mentioned a transport vehicle?”
Ronon laughed softly. “Yeah. I did. I’ll take care of it. We’ll get it ready to go and then I’ll drive it to the ring when we’re done with the mission.”
John really didn’t want to leave it alone but he couldn’t think of a single excuse to offer the rest of the team but he did take note of the fact that even Stackhouse was smiling at him indulgently. “Right. Okay. Stackhouse, Markham—check this hangar for anything of interest. A manual for the Aviator would be appreciated. Elizabeth, Simon—you’re with Teyla. Check out the administrative buildings and hit any computer terminals you come across for information. Ronon, I need you with me and Rodney. We’ll take the armory. I’ve got a few engineers and a lot of Marines on the city that would kick someone’s ass for your gun.” John paused. “Obviously not your ass. They’re all afraid of you.”
Ronon frowned and touched his gun. “They should be.”
– – – –
Teyla found Elizabeth Weir and Simon Wallace very interesting. They had a close, even intense relationship. For the most part, Athosians didn’t create monogamous relationships. She’d noted early on that seemed to be the norm for the people from Earth. The exclusive nature of her relationship with Ronon had caused some problems among her people in the beginning. Many of them had never lived with a Guardian in their midst. They didn’t understand his territoriality over her and early on women and men alike in her village were offended when their overtures for intimacy were summarily dismissed by him.
The situation had improved over the years as they’d learned how much Ronon depended on Teyla for balance and safety. Still, they pressured her to provide an heir—someone she could teach the ways of their people and prepare to lead them when it came time for her to step aside. They weren’t easily put off by the argument that her Guardian needed her more. She thought perhaps it was time that she made a different choice for her people. She had a great responsibility and it had been hers since Ronon had knelt at her feet and offered himself to her in the oldest of ways. Her Guardian came first.
“You seem upset?”
Teyla looked toward Elizabeth and shook her head. “Just reflecting. Have you been able to use the power supply to start the console?”
“Yes, the generator is working well.” Elizabeth smiled. “This looks like scientific data—mostly mechanical engineering if I’m reading it right. I have some people on Atlantis that will be thrilled to receive this to study. Hopefully it will include information on the aircraft that John is so enamored with.”
Simon snorted. “That was a 12 year old girl crush in the making.”
“You know he can hear you,” Elizabeth reminded with a grin.
“I’m not afraid of him,” Simon returned loftily. “Besides, it’s true. He practically hugged it. He might as well send the thing a note asking it if liked him back. With little boxes for yes and no.” Simon grinned. “I just found his flight manual for that thing. He’s going to let me get away with anything short of murder for at least a month.”
Teyla shook her head and laughed softly. No, she didn’t understand the people from Earth at all but a part of her was thrilled and even soothed just by knowing them. For the first time in her life she felt like the future might hold more for her than death at the hands of the Wraith. That kind of hope—was as alien to her as her new friends.
“Yeah, well, I found the files on the fuel cell making process,” Elizabeth proclaimed. “Which means I’m definitely Geek of the Month in Colonel Sheppard’s estimation. The manual won’t mean squat if we can’t power it. I might get a crown out of this. Maybe even Rodney’s chocolate ration.”
Simon snorted. “In your dreams, sweetheart. Even Sheppard wouldn’t cross McKay on the subject of chocolate.”
– – – –
Stackhouse clicked his radio. “Stackhouse to Sheppard.”
“Go ahead, Sergeant.”
“I found some big ass guns, sir.”
“How big?” John questioned.
“We’re gonna need another truck. I think it’s a laser canon. There are four of them.”
– – – –
John raised an eyebrow at Ronon. “Laser canon.”
“We had portable and ground canons for taking down darts,” Ronon admitted. “They’ll need fuel cells which Dr. Weir seems to have located the plans on.” He tilted his head. “Teyla finds her and her mate very amusing.”
John grinned. “Yeah, but Simon’s right. There is no way in hell I’d give her McKay’s chocolate. I value my sex life way too much for that.” He clicked his radio. “Go ahead and sort them for transport. We found a cache of rifles and pistols. Enough to outfit the entire expedition and the Athosians.” He closed the connection when Stackhouse answered with a ‘hoorah’. “So, about the sword?”
Ronon glanced his way. “There is something satisfying about cutting a Wraith’s head off. I can’t even describe it.”
John got it. He got it probably a lot better than Ronon thought. He had a burning hatred for the Wraith that he couldn’t even articulate and it all began and ended with Sateda. The world of his ancestors. A world that had once been full of his kind—wiped out in their prime. He’d have the entire Wraith species pay for it. Every single motherfucking one of them.
“I hate that I didn’t get here sooner,” John finally said. “I feel like I failed your entire world.”
“It wasn’t your fight, Sheppard.”
“Yes it was,” John returned evenly. “And it still is my fight. This world—this dead world is the home I’ll never get to claim. It’s full of the bones of thousands of my people—people I’ll never get to touch and know. Every single Wraith in this galaxy is going to pay for that.”
Ronon stared at him for a long silent minute and then nodded. “They would’ve been pleased to meet you—to know you and they would be honored by the war you seek to wage in their honor.”
John nodded and then turned as Rodney wandered back into the room they were in. “Find anything interesting?”
Rodney nodded. “You could say that.” He cleared his throat. “I found a generator that will probably allow us to dial Earth.”
John’s mouth dropped open. “Say that again?”
“It’s not as powerful as a ZPM and it’ll take some work to make it work with Atlantis’ systems but it’ll put out enough power to dial Earth at least once with a big enough window that we could send some people back if necessary and all the data we’ve collected on our situation out here.” Rodney took a deep breath. “It’ll fit in the Jumper but it probably weighs upwards of five hundred pounds. I’m going to need help moving it.”
“Very,” Rodney assured. “Not unlike the naquadah generators we make. It’s made of Lorian ore. I hope we can find plans for making them because this one is almost depleted.”
John clicked his radio. “Elizabeth, did you find any date related to Lorian ore?”
“Yes, Colonel, including information on energy production in relation to the ore. Important?”
“Very, Rodney just found a generator made out of the stuff and he’s super excited. He thinks we can use it to dial Earth. Get everything you can. Leave nothing behind—do you need another hard drive?”
“No, I’m good. The compression algorithm that Rodney created is working great. I have about sixty percent of the engineering data downloaded and Simon is working on pulling what looks like very much like mission reports and information on Wraith troop movements.”
“Understood, Sheppard out.” John closed the connection with a wince. He really hated using the radio but at least the ones the SGC had supplied didn’t provide feedback. He’d have never been able to tolerate wearing it if it had.
– – – –
“Are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?”
Simon turned and looked at his wife. Their small tent provided them an illusion of privacy but he knew better than to think they had any at all. Sheppard and Dex both were on high alert because of the mission. He sat down on their joined sleeping bags. “My mother was a latent Guide. She never came online. When I was young I had some small empathic gifts but they never manifested to the point that the Center even came close to labeling me as a latent Guide myself.”
“But you are,” Elizabeth swallowed hard. “You’re a latent Guide? You’re on the list Jennifer gave John?”
“Yes, along with nine others on the city. I know that three latent Sentinels were identified.” Simon watched her digest the information and then cleared his throat. “Elizabeth.”
“What if…” She took a deep breath. “What if a Sentinel in the city came online and you came online with them? That would mean that you’re their Guide.”
“Probably,” Simon answered neutrally. “But you have to know that I would never… it would have to be a platonic bond, baby. There is no way I would… you’re my life.”
She blinked rapidly to keep tears at bay. “The Sentinel comes first, Simon. I read all of the literature you gave me. All of those books said the same thing about that.”
“There are thousands of Guides on Earth that never bond,” Simon reminded gently. “Many more latent Guides who never come online at all. My mother never did and I probably won’t either.” He reached out for her and was gratified when she came to him easily. “Don’t be upset and don’t worry—you’re the heart of me. I can’t imagine any circumstance where I would choose another over you.”
She curled around him and shuddered. Her breath caught briefly and she burrowed close to him, her small hands clenching his t-shirt.
– – – –
Rodney sucked in a deep breath. “Christ, did Wallace just admit to cheating on her or something? She feels like someone just stabbed her in the chest.”
John shook his head and looked toward the tent the two civilians were sharing. “He told her he was a latent Guide. She didn’t take it well. She knows that she couldn’t compete with a Sentinel for her husband’s affection and attention. Not long term. Even if he had a platonic relationship with a Sentinel—eventually his loyalty to his Sentinel would destroy any outside relationships.”
Rodney frowned. “They are so dedicated to one another…” He turned to his Sentinel with wide eyes. “John!”
“Shh.” John touched him. “I’ll tell her. I’m just saving her for last.”
“I don’t have a fucking clue what to do with her,” John admitted roughly. “Stackhouse is one thing and Bates…” He shrugged. “I think Bates already suspects he’s a latent Sentinel. His father is a Sentinel and one of his older brothers is as well.”
“Except the Center would’ve tested him and said no.”
“Right,” John sighed. “Still, he isn’t the problem that…” He waved his hand towards the tent. “Just Jesus.”
– – – –
Lt. Colonel Cameron Mitchell liked to think that he had his shit together. He’d had a few months to recover from being wacko even before Vala had been recovered. But he was bored out of his fucking mind and Sheppard’s office had zero entertainment value. He pushed back from the desk and left the room with a sigh. The command deck of the gate room was basically empty. The gate room guards were sitting in an alcove under the balcony—both armed with lap tops. Chuck was at the DHD, a tablet PC in hand.
Zelenka was at the main console—with two laptops. Both were active and he had a hand on each one—typing away. Cameron wondered if he was able to do that before he came online and figured that the scientist had probably been born keyboarding. He leaned on the console and sighed dramatically.
“It’s not my job to entertain you, Colonel.”
Cameron laughed. “What are you doing anyway?”
“Writing a report on the DHD systems in Pegasus. Rodney wants to create a program that would allow us to retrieve information from the DHDs in the field.” Radek rubbed the back of his neck. “I don’t know why but he elevated the project above everything else we have—including the ET Project.”
Cameron raised an eyebrow. “ET Project?”
Radek offered him a wicked grin. “ET phone home? It is what we are calling the compression program we are writing to communicate with Earth in a few seconds.”
He laughed. “Cute. Okay, so maybe he has…” Mitchell shrugged. “Maybe he has some premonition that we’ll need it.”
“Rodney has never mentioned any precognitive abilities but perhaps he’s developing something in response to his bond,” Radek admitted. He tilted his head briefly and shook his head. “David is… obsessed with plants. It bothers me greatly. I live in fear that he’ll find the Pegasus version of the Venus flytrap and it’ll eat him before I can get to him.”
Cameron patted his fellow Sentinel. “We’d help you pull him out. Promise.”
They both turned and looked at the gate at the same time. Then a chevron lit. Chuck set aside his tablet PC. “We’re an hour from Colonel Sheppard’s scheduled return.”
“Maybe they finished early,” Cameron responded. “Raise the shield.” He glanced out onto the gateroom floor and was pleased that the Marines had assembled without a verbal cue from him. He thought sometimes the shield over the gate made them a little complacent.
The gate swooshed and after a few seconds, he resisted the urge to click his radio. Everyone in the gateroom tensed it—then something hit the shield. Cameron started in surprise and clicked his radio. “Our gate is shielded! Do not come through!”
There was another thump—a big one because the shield rippled and seemed to bulge briefly and then the wormhole blinked out.
Radek prodded Chuck from the DHD with hurried hands and started to run a diagnostic. “It was… one second.”
“Jesus, Radek, please tell me that was not Sheppard,” Cameron demanded in a hoarse whisper.
Radek hurried through the diagnostics and scooted back to his station for one of his laptops. “He knows… he would never. I can’t believe… no. Just no.” He worked silently for a few seconds and then went slack with relief. “No, the dial in didn’t come Sateda.”
Cameron sat down abruptly in a chair and ran a shaking hand over his face. With a half a ear, he listened as everyone in the gate room calmed down. Heart rates returned to normal. “Do you know who?”
Radek frowned. “The Genii.” He clicked his radio. “Jorgens, Davis, Kusanagi—I need you in the gateroom. We need to run a scan on the gate.” He turned off his radio. “I think at least one of those impacts was an explosive device, perhaps both.”
Cameron blew out a frustrated breath and sincerely wished he was bored again.
– – – –
“Atlantis, this is Sheppard. We are returning—clear the gateroom after the Jumper. Then prep SGA 3 and 4 to help with the equipment we’ve gathered.”
“IDC confirmed,” Chuck offered, his voice remarkably steady after the hour they’d had.
“Lower the shield,” Cameron murmured and clicked his radio when the shield blinked away. “This is Atlantis. We’re ready to receive you, sir. Welcome home.”
– – – –
John paused on the ramp of the Jumper, unprepared to see Cameron Mitchell standing there pale and obviously shaken. “What’s up?” He reached out and cupped Mitchell’s shoulder with one hand and steered his second-in-command out of the way. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
Cameron relaxed under his hand visibly and shook his head. “I’ve had a hectic last hour or so. Fortunately, the gate shield held but the Genii sent us a nuclear present.”
John’s mouth dropped open in surprise. “Excuse me?”
“Yeah, I know. Radek is still working on the gate data but apparently the Genii have decided if we can’t be managed like fools that we should be dead.” Cameron took a deep breath. “But at first, we didn’t know who was dialing in and we had these two big thumps on the gate.”
“There is no way in hell I’d come through the gate without an IDC—no matter the circumstances. That’s why we have an Alpha dialing site.” John squeezed his shoulder gently and released him.
“Mistakes happen in the field—we had a team do it at the SGC. They were under fire and while we don’t know exactly what happened we were left to assume they thought their IDC transmission came through but it didn’t. We lost six people.” Cameron leaned against the wall outside the Jumper Bay. “Just a very hectic hour, sir.”
“I bet.” John tilted his head as he swept his hearing over the city to check each of his people personally. “Everything seems to be in order. Radek is pissy but he’s sort of always that way since he came online. I think he has a small empathic sensitivity. I’ve been meaning to discuss it with his Guide.”
“Think he’s picking up something from McKay or just the entire expedition?” Cameron asked as John guided him down the hall towards the infirmary.
“He works with McKay the most so it could just be him. Mundanes don’t normally pick up anything from Guides but goodwill and all of that jazz but Rodney has to soak up a lot of fear and negativity from them.” He chuckled as they turned the corner. “Sex helps.”
“Then he must be relieved how well you take care of him, sir,” Cameron returned with a small grin. “The gateroom doesn’t show any signs of radiation so the shield held up phenomenally well. We don’t know how it would hold up under the strain of a weapon like Anubis used at the SGC but it’s proven that it’s a solid defensive option today.”
“Good,” John murmured as they entered the infirmary. “When does your shift end?”
“Two hours and then Lorne is on,” Cameron said as he followed John across the room and watched shrewdly as his CO hopped up on an infirmary bed. “McKay wasn’t on the Jumper.”
“No, he is with Ronon and Teyla on Sateda helping secure my new slick ass alien helicopter.” John grinned, his eyes bright with complete joy. “It folds down like a transformer and only weighs about a thousand pounds. We’re trying to figure out how to get it from the gateroom to the East Pier where that big empty hangar is without flying it.”
“Cargo capacity?” Cameron asked a little wide-eyed.
“Not sure about the weight limit but has six jump seats and a co-pilot chair,” John waved a hand as Jennifer approached with a scanner and a small tray. “I got to sit in it and turn it on but McKay says I can’t fly it until he’s inspected it.”
Cameron laughed softly. “Sounds like fun. Weapons?”
“On the Aviator? I don’t know—I think it’s purely transport but Dr. Wallace found me a manual so we’ll know for sure soon enough. We did however find four large laser canons we can put on the piers and a stockpile of pulse rifles and pistols. Plus a bunch of engineering and social data the geeks will love. It was like shopping at Weapons R Us.” John paused then and sighed when Jennifer gently inserted a butterfly needle into his vein. He frowned at the sensation and watched for a few seconds as his blood poured into a vial. “But, it was heart breaking seeing the world of our ancestors destroyed like that. Most of the buildings were destroyed, the military bases were decimated. Even all of these years later I could still smell human ashes in the air and embedded in the walls. The streets— the pavement is starting to break up and vegetation is crawling over the structures. In another ten years—nature will have reclaimed most of the cities.”
Cameron nodded. “How did Ronon hold up?”
“Better than I expected but I’m glad I took Wallace and Weir with me. It was interesting seeing them in the field. They pitched right in and learned how to access computer terminals and download data. Both were very eager to explore.”
“Have you thought about what I told you?” Jennifer asked neutrally.
“I’ve spoken with Stackhouse. Bates is next on my list. I’m saving her for last,” John admitted. “I think Simon suspects since all of the latent Guides have been informed. But he hasn’t told her—I hope he understands why it should come from me.” He glanced up as the rest of the mission team entered the infirmary. “What’s the word, Stackhouse?”
“We pushed the Aviator through the gate and the Jumper Bay retrieved the damn thing with a tractor beam,” Stackhouse grinned. “It’s the coolest thing. We could probably go back and find you some more of them, sir.”
“Might want to look for craft with weapons instead,” Ronon said as he passed John’s bed. “We had these one man fighters called Snipers. I’ll have to look around—I don’t know that they were all deployed during the final culling.”
John shivered just a little at the thought. “You’re my favorite alien, ever and that’s saying a lot since I met some aliens that can bring you back from the dead.”
Ronon laughed softly and helped Teyla up onto the infirmary bed as Rodney sidled up beside John. “I think—since you lot are visiting my galaxy—that you’re the aliens.”
Since it was a fair assessment, John just nodded and turned to his Guide who had shrugged out of his jacket and offered his arm to Keller silently. “Tractor beam?”
“I know,” Rodney murmured. “I think it’s connected to the system that catches the Jumpers if we come in too fast. Also it makes sense if we had a damaged Jumper—we’d need to be able to pull it out of the gateroom and back into the Jumper Bay for repairs. Did Ronon tell you about the Snipers? I have plans for them if we can’t find any intact.”
John turned to him. “We should go back to our quarters and have lots of sex.”
Keller snorted and walked away with her samples. “How is that different from any other day around here?”
– – – –
John released his Guide’s cock from his mouth with an audible pop and crawled up Rodney’s lax body with a predatory smile. “Did I say thank you for the helicopter?”
“You might have babbled something about it when you were throwing off my clothes,” Rodney whispered and then arched of the bed with a sigh when John pressed to slick fingers into his ass. “It was pretty hard to say no—you have no idea how beautiful you are when you’re excited.” He slid his fingers through John’s hair and pulled him down for a kiss.
“It’s very exciting,” John responded. “It’s probably the coolest helicopter I’ve ever been in and I flew an Osprey.”
“That’s a pretty noisy aircraft for a Sentinel.” Rodney spread his legs wide and sighed when John hooked his arms under his knees. “God, yes.”
John closed his eyes as he pressed deeply into his Guide, the sweet almost unbearable tightness on his cock made his breath catch in his throat. “I love you.”
“I love you.” Rodney’s fingers clenched on his shoulders as he moved under him. “So much—I don’t even remember my life without you.”
John urged his legs around his waist and groaned loudly when Rodney eagerly complied. He took his mouth in a kiss and fell into an easy rhythm that had them both breathing hard. John pushed one hand between their bodies and caught McKay’s half-hard cock in a firm grip. He stroked him carefully, feeling the blood rush and swell with each movement of his hand.
“That’s it,” John whispered. “I want you to come with me.”
“Ah, fuck, John!” Rodney tightened around him and came all over his hand as he pressed in deep against his prostate.
John groaned softly pushed thrust in deep one last time and came himself. He stayed where he was for a few seconds—soaking up the mental and physical pleasure pouring off his Guide. “I love to make you come.” His kissed McKay’s mouth gently and then did it again with a little hum. “Just love it. The way your body feels, sounds, and smells.”
Rodney relaxed under his Sentinel and only sighed when John pulled carefully from his body. “I can’t say I hate it.”
John laughed softly and then rolled onto his back. “So, the generator?”
“Kusanagi finished her check of the compression algorithm and we’re going to start tests on the generator first thing in the morning.” Rodney shifted and then rolled from the bed. “It’s time for a shower. You’ll get a rash otherwise with all that dust from Sateda on your skin.”
John grimaced. “We’ll have to change the sheets.”
“Always, it’s like my life became one big laundry day the moment I met you,” Rodney answered as he disappeared into the bathroom.
“I’m worth it, right?”
Rodney reappeared in the doorway to stare at him, sprawled on the mess of their bed. “Yeah, you are so worth it.”
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