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“The IOA doesn’t think it’s a good idea to send more people and supplies to Pegasus.”
Daniel glared pointedly at Landry. “Are you serious? Those are our people out there! They are barely surviving, General. We sent them out there and they deserve our support. This is obscene.”
“It’s not my decision to make Dr. Jackson; the IOA has given me no room for maneuvering. They want to reserve the ZPM the expedition sent us for one of our own ships in order to fight the Ori. We have bigger concerns that must be considered.”
Daniel’s gaze hardened. “Fine. I understand you’ll be reporting to Washington in two days to discuss this situation with the President and General O’Neill?”
“Good, you can take my resignation from the program with you when you go. I won’t be part of a mission that would abandon our own people in another galaxy to fight a war they have no hope of winning.” Daniel cleared his throat. “I’ll have my office cleaned out and the resignation on your desk before your departure.”
“Dr. Jackson, give yourself some time to calm down,” Landry advised. “I’m just as frustrated by this issue as you are—but I know the only way I can work to change it is to stay here and try. Leaving isn’t going to help the people on the Atlantis mission.”
Daniel paused and inclined his head. “You’re right. You’re absolutely right. I’ll think about what I want to do and get back to you. Perhaps between the two of us we can come up with some arguments to encourage the IOA to actively support the Atlantis mission.”
“Right.” Hank Landry smiled. “That’s the spirit, Dr. Jackson.”
Daniel nodded abruptly and left the General’s office before he gave in to the urge to punch the lying son of a bitch in the face. He found the rest of his team in Sam’s lab—it was where they always congregated when they wanted to bitch about Landry. “He said no.”
“This is…” Cameron Mitchell trailed off. “We can’t let this stand.”
“No.” Sam took a deep breath. “We can’t. That’s why I asked General O’Neill to get Landry out of the mountain in two days. Major Lorne is doing a discreet check for military personnel. Daniel you’ll have to approach scientists. We’re hoping to get at least forty volunteers.”
“They won’t be able to come home—won’t they all be court-martialed?”
“No, General O’Neill said he would take care of them if they make it back.” Sam took a deep breath. “I’m prepared to resign my commission so they can’t court-martial me if it comes down to it. Cameron—I want you off-world when this happens so you’re going to go on SG3’s mission with them. Teal’c will be with the Jaffa and…” She turned to look at Vala. “I figured you might be going with Daniel.”
Vala looked at Daniel then. “You’ll go to Pegasus?”
“It’s what I want but if you…”
“No.” She reached out and touched his arm. “It’s good. We could do more good there than we can here under Landry’s authority.”
He put his hand over hers and nodded. “So, we go.” He looked toward Sam. “You’ll tell Jack?”
“He’s aware,” Sam admitted. She handed him a flash drive. “Nathan brought this with him from Washington. He said it was for you.”
Daniel took it and raised an eyebrow at the mention of Nathan O’Neill. “Jack is going to send his mini-me to Atlantis?”
“Nathan said that it was his duty as an O’Neill to spread the snark far and wide,” Sam admitted with a small, sad smile. “And perhaps this planet really isn’t big enough for the two of them.”
* * * * –
Major Evan Lorne slid into Daniel Jackson’s office and shut the door tightly. “I’ve got a list.”
“How does it look?” Daniel questioned rubbing the bridge of his nose. “It’s funny—I figured I wouldn’t miss my glasses after I got the Lasik but I still reach out for them to play with when I’m thinking.”
Lorne laughed softly. “I noticed.” He sat down and sighed. “I’ve had to be pretty damn careful about who I talked to, obviously. I have 30 who are willing to make the trip. They’ll be ready to go when you are. Colonel Carter is helping me rearrange duty schedules so we’ll have someone in the control room that we can trust.” He cleared his throat. “How many scientists did you wrangle?”
“Fifteen,” Daniel admitted. “But I had to be careful, too. Most of them are veterans of the program—explorers and they all have a great deal of field experience. They understand how important it is that we try to help the people on Atlantis.”
“How about supplies?” Lorne questioned. “I’ve got a few guys working on the ammo, guns, and C4 they requested but some of things they asked for were pretty weird.”
Daniel nodded. “Five hundred pounds of refined platinum comes to mind. Jack got his hands on it and it is coming to the mountain in my name within the next few hours. Since it was at the top of the list—I assumed it was a 911 need. The rest…” He sighed. “We’ll just have to get everything we can and go with only what we can push or carry. Food has to be a priority. I have a botanist preparing a food crop kit—we just don’t know what they’ve been successful with growing from what we sent out originally. It wasn’t in the databurst. I don’t want our additional numbers to be a burden on the expedition. Did you get any pilots with the ATA gene?”
Lorne blushed. “Just four. One is at Area 51 but I nudged O’Neill and he’s reassigning the pilot to the SGC for a brief tour. He’ll arrive about six hours before your target dial out.”
“And he’s game?”
Lorne took a deep breath. “Yes. We’re… he’s…” Evan took a deep breath. “We’re a package deal, Dr. Jackson.”
“Oh.” Daniel’s gaze widened briefly and then he blushed. “I see. Well, good. I’m glad you’ll have someone with you on the city—because the people of the expedition, we can expect them to be standoffish at first. They’ve been on their own for two years and Landry has pretty much ignored them at every turn. I don’t expect them to welcome us with open arms.”
“I understand, sir.” Evan paused. “Did… were you in the mountain when Atlantis dialed in?”
Daniel nodded. “Yes, I was in my office. I felt… something.”
“She woke me from a dead sleep, sir.” Evan focused on the wall above Daniel’s head. “It must have been the city because the only time I ever came close to feeling anything like that was at the Ancient outpost. But…”
“Right, it was a hundred times more powerful,” Daniel admitted. “I dreamt about the city last night. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that every gene carrier in the mountain did so as well.”
“I dreamt about the ocean and I was…” Evan blushed and exhaled sharply. “I was very lonely in the dream. When I woke up this morning I had this overwhelming urge—this need—to go find Atlantis. A lot of the people I asked—they seemed relieved to be asked. Do you think she communicated with us while the wormhole was open on some subliminal level?”
“Yes,” Daniel nodded. “At least to those with some kind of connection to the Ancients. I don’t have the gene.”
“But you’ve Ascended twice,” Lorne pointed out dryly. “I guess she… noticed. Christ.” He rubbed his face. “I want to step through the gate right now.”
“Are you worried about it?”
Daniel shook his head. “It doesn’t feel like I’ll die if I don’t. I just want… it. I’ve always wanted it—since the Ancient Outpost when John Sheppard sat down in the chair and lit up the whole place like no one else ever had. It’s been in my head since then.”
Evan nodded and relaxed. “Okay. I’ve got a pretty good list—about five officers not including Nathan O’Neill. We’re hiding him downstairs in one of the combat simulators.”
* * * *
Jack O’Neill picked up his office phone on the fourth ring. “This is O’Neill.”
“Hey.” Daniel cleared his throat. “I got your note—are you sure about this?”
“Yeah, Space Monkey, I’m sure.” Jack relaxed back in his chair. “Don’t worry about me or Carter—if it comes down to it we have friends in very high places. I know the program isn’t going in a direction you’re comfortable with. You’re entitled to have a life.”
“Vala is helping me go over my research options,” Daniel said, wishing that what might be his final conversation with Jack was private. Neither one of them had any illusions about that. The General had been heavily monitored by the IOA, the President and the NID since he’d tried to contact the Asgard that last time without permission. “We’re thinking we might take a dig in South America.”
Jack nodded to himself, relieved that Daniel was finally admitting that Vala was a part of his life. He knew that the younger man had fought the relationship for a very long time. “I bet she’ll look great in one of those off the shoulder things and a long skirt. Take a few pictures.”
Daniel laughed weakly. “I will.” He cleared his throat. “Jack, you’re my best friend.”
“Always will be,” Jack promised roughly. “And after I retire, I’ll be sure to look you and Vala up. Maybe find some place to do some fishing down there while the two of you dig around in dead people’s stuff.”
“Sounds good,” Daniel said finally. “I’ll be sure to get a house with a nice guest bedroom or two. I know Teal’c hates to share with you.”
“Other way around, my friend, the man snores like a trucker.” Jack swallowed hard. “Take care of yourself and if you get arrested or whatever—just let me know. Sam and I’ll come bribe someone to get you out.”
“Right.” Daniel laughed. “Right. I sure will.”
* * * *
The next two days passed in a blur—so when Daniel found himself in the control room preparing to dial Atlantis, it was almost overwhelming. Vala was down in the gateroom organizing the civilians, keeping everyone focused on their tasks instead of worrying about getting caught. There were enough armed men in the gateroom to assure they’d get to leave the mountain, one way or another.
He turned to Sam, aware that Walter was getting nervous. “I love you… at one time I even might have let myself fall in love with you, because you’re so beautiful, smart and brave.”
Sam’s mouth dropped open. “Daniel.”
“But, now all I see when I look at you is someone I want to know for the rest of my life—someone who is family to me and I don’t want to leave you here to face the consequences of my actions.”
Her eyes welled with tears. “I can handle it.”
“Right.” Daniel nodded. He pulled her into a tight hug. “The thing is… I can’t let you.” He kissed her forehead gently and took a deep breath as he separated from her. He pulled the ZAT from his leg holster and fired first at her and then at Walter without pause. He barely managed to catch Sam before she fell and then carefully lowered her to the ground. He pressed another kiss against her forehead with a sigh. “Jack better take care of you or I’ll come back and kick his ass.”
He prodded Walter away from the keyboard carefully, making sure the man didn’t tumble to the floor in the process and dialed the address he’d wanted to dial for nearly three years. The people in the gateroom cheered as it activated. “Atlantis, this is Stargate Command, can you respond?”
“This is Atlantis.”
“Dr. Weir.” Daniel took a deep breath. “We have supplies and people to send your way. I’m sending the SGC’s IDC now.”
“Dr. Jackson, it’s a pleasure to hear your voice.” Elizabeth Weir said cheerfully. “I’d love for you to step through the gate.”
“I’m really thrilled to hear you say that,” Daniel admitted. “I owe you a big hug from Jack O’Neill so be prepared.”
The silence was a little scary but then he heard her take a deep breath. “Well come and get it, Dr. Jackson. Never let it be said that I passed up an opportunity to hug Jack O’Neill by proxy.”
* * * *
Evan Lorne took a deep breath to steady himself as he exited the gate and blinked in surprise at his first real look at the city of the Ancients. It was beautiful and the darkness of the night sky just beyond the stained glass windows didn’t detract from that beauty at all. The fifty-eight people he brought with him were moving quickly and efficiently. After a few seconds, he focused on a tall dark haired man who was standing at the top of a large staircase, arms crossed, expression serious.
The man nodded and came down the stairs, dressed in a pair of thin cotton sleep pants and t-shirt with the words “I Kill Space Vampires for a Living” embossed across it. Evan smirked briefly at the shirt but then executed a perfect salute which Sheppard returned wearily.
“Major Evan Lorne, sir. Jack O’Neill sends his regards and this.” He held out a USB drive which Sheppard took without hesitation. “Reporting as your new XO, sir.” He whistled sharply and several men and two women separated themselves from the crowd. “Major Anne Teldy, operations and combat engineering. Captain Alicia Vega, Marine Special Ops pilot. Captain Chase Harris, Air Force, Aeronautical Engineer. Lt. Nathan O’Neill, US Marine, combat engineering, amateur fisherman, and a fairly decent chess player in his spare time. He is exactly who you think he is, sir. Lt. Benjamin Bates, US Marine, fresh out of Annapolis. He has absolutely no field experience and has only been with the SGC for two months in logistics. If I hadn’t brought him he would have snuck into a crate.” Evan paused when Sheppard laughed softly. “And finally, Major Gideon Moore—we were promoted to Major on the same day. We flipped a coin to see which one of us would get the honor of doing all of your paperwork, sir.”
“And you lost?” Sheppard questioned with a raised eyebrow.
Evan shared a glance with Major Moore and schooled his expression. “We are reporting with thirty-one military assets including myself, sir.” The wormhole blinked out behind them. “And I should tell you…” He glanced around as everyone that had come through the gate with him grew quiet. “We are probably all going to be charged with treason at some later date.”
Elizabeth Weir moved toward John then, Daniel Jackson close at her side. “John, perhaps the Major and Dr. Jackson should join us in the conference room while everyone else gets settled?”
John nodded and glanced up as McKay entered the top of the gateroom. “Conference 2, McKay.”
Rodney waved an empty coffee cup and disappeared.
* * * *
John watched Evan Lorne get settled at the table as he plugged the USB key the man had given him into a laptop. “Talk to me, Major.”
“The IOA, with Landry’s full support, decided not to use the ZPM you guys sent us to resupply you with personnel or supplies.” Evan dropped his gaze to the table. “General O’Neill disagreed and with his help—Dr. Jackson and I arranged with others who were like minded to come here on our own. We isolated O’Neill from this as much as possible and Dr. Jackson rendered everyone in the control room unconscious before we dialed out so they couldn’t be held responsible for our actions. We don’t know if it was enough to protect them.”
“You all volunteered and left Earth against orders to come out here?” Elizabeth questioned, her eyes wide. “Knowing what we’re facing? Knowing that Earth isn’t going to… ever… I.” She rubbed her face with both hands. “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
Daniel cleared his throat. “The majority of the people who came through the gate with us are ATA gene carriers, Dr. Weir. Some of them are natural and some of them have had a gene therapy developed by the people at Area 51 based on the research you guys transmitted during your first year. I think that probably explains it all.” He flushed slightly. “When you dialed Earth—all of the gene carriers in the mountain were, for lack of a better word, embraced by something powerful and compelling. I started out with just 15 scientists but it didn’t take long for others to start approaching me discreetly—every single person that came to me and asked to take this trip with me has the ATA gene naturally. We brought a total of thirty-one military and twenty-eight civilians through the gate.”
John sat back in his chair as McKay got comfortable beside him. “Ally.”
The city avatar appeared abruptly at the head of the table and Daniel Jackson’s mouth dropped open. Evan, to his credit, merely blinked before straightening in his chair.
“Did you call to the gene carriers in the mountain when we opened the wormhole to Earth?”
Ally inclined her head and considered his words. “No, I did not. Theseus…”
John blew out an impatient breath. “Words games are really inappropriate at this juncture. I assure you.”
“Theseus is uniquely connected to all gene carriers—as you know, no matter how they received the gene,” Ally said her gaze narrowing slightly. “As you must have realized by now, he is empathic and those who carry his genetics—ATA gene carriers—are connected to him on an atomic level.”
“Who is Theseus?” Daniel questioned softly, his eyes wide.
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Theseus is the biomechanical organism that we live on. Atlantis is a synergy of organic sentient metal and artificial intelligence. Ally is the city avatar—The Atlantis Collective. Theseus believes himself to be the last of his kind—his species, the Levyathans, come from Altera. The Ancients used him to escape the people you know to be the Ori when they were little more than a religious cult. The original ATA gene was created by Theseus, and distributed among the Ancients so they could use the technology he built for them. There are extensive historical files available to you, Dr. Jackson.”
“I look forward to learning…” He paused and flushed. “Everything. I want to learn everything.”
Ally smiled and tucked her hands behind her back. “Welcome home, Dr. Jackson.”
* * * *
Rodney paused in the cargo bay where Radek and Bates had corralled the newcomers. The supplies were being moved around the city into various storage areas. Fifty-nine people who had volunteered to come to Pegasus, people who never expected to go home. It was stunning really… and for all of his previous worry, the knowledge that they’d risked a great deal, including their own lives had they been caught in the gateroom trying to leave, made him relax. He wasn’t ready to trust them completely and each person would have to be thoroughly vetted but it was a lot better than what he expected.
He was silent as John came into the room with Jackson and Lorne and then prodded them into the crowd of newcomers. Finally, he set aside his coffee cup and cleared his throat. “Welcome to Atlantis, the city of the Ancients, I am Dr. Rodney McKay, Chief Scientist,” Rodney started dryly. “I’m sure you’ve spent at least a few days reading the reports and research materials that we sent through previously. Here is what you don’t know… Atlantis is a biomechanical organism that is maintained by a series of sophisticated artificially intelligent programs.
“These programs are governed by the city avatar that is formally known as The Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas. The TAC is the central program that all personnel use to interact with the city and she prefers to be called Ally. In order to interact with the city, you must have the advanced ATA gene therapy.
“There are natural gene carriers among you; even you will need the advanced therapy to gain any control over the use of your gene. In fact, as natural carriers you are far more a risk to us than just about anything else on this city.
“To that end, until you can be given the advanced gene therapy and taught to wield it appropriately you’ll all be fitted with an ATA suppression device. This will prevent you from blowing us all up. This is not negotiable. I do have enough power to open up a wormhole and send you right back to Earth despite the reception you are likely to receive once you get there.”
Evan Lorne stepped forward and fell into parade rest in front of McKay. “I have the gene naturally, Doc. You can start with me.”
John nodded when Rodney looked his way. It was a good choice, and he was pleased that Lorne had taken the step forward. The scientists would see the suppression device in use and most of them probably knew Lorne at least by reputation if not personally.
“Why didn’t you report this about Atlantis to the SGC?” One of the scientists demanded, his voice rough with disbelief.
“Perhaps for the same reason the Earth has two hyperspace capable ships in orbit while we die out here,” Radek Zelenka snapped as he handed McKay a bracelet.
The man frowned. “Well, I didn’t pack the right equipment!”
McKay chuckled. “Put a lid on it Sawyer, I’ll make sure you have all the right gadgets to study shortly enough. You don’t honestly think anything you could have brought from Earth could compare to what the Ancients left behind, do you?” He slid the bracelet onto Evan Lorne’s arm. “Now, Major, this isn’t going to hurt. The device is Ancient, and will be activated by my gene. If there is an emergency and you need to use Ancient equipment, Ally will deactivate the bracelet herself.”
“Thank you, Doctor.” Evan held still as the device lit and then shrank to fit his wrist. “Cool.”
Rodney snorted and looked at John. “Cool?”
“It is cool,” John conceded.
“Now, your access to the city will be restricted until which time we can be assured that you won’t wander off and get yourselves killed. Ally?” The avatar appeared to his left, dressed in one of the science uniforms. Rodney glanced over at her but didn’t roll his eyes. “This is the city avatar; she can appear anywhere the city. She can duplicate herself upwards of six times at our current power levels. That ability will increase as we bring the city up to full power.”
“You’re building ZPMs,” Daniel said. “Right?”
“Right, but it takes months and we’re going to burn out one just to build two. It’s a process but once we are at full power things will be different for us here,” Rodney explained. “I think you can all understand why we chose not to share this information with the SGC.”
“They would have come out here and tried to…” Chase Harris trailed off. “I believe we all understand.”
* * * *
Dean Bates motioned all of the officers into one of the smaller conferences room but held out a hand to stop his brother when he would have slid into the room. “How long do you expect to avoid talking to me?”
Benjamin flushed and jerked his head towards an empty office across the hall. “I don’t know what to say. I busted my ass trying to find you for the past six months—it got me the attention of General O’Neill who ended up parking me at the SGC after I graduated to keep me out of trouble.” Ben leaned against the wall as Dean shut the door. “The thing is, I promised Mom I’d find you. You’re all the family I’ve got left.”
“Same goes here, kid.” Dean took a deep breath and then touched Ben’s shoulder carefully. “I really missed you and I’m sorry—really fucking sorry about leaving. But, I thought the money…”
“And it did. The money helped Mom a lot until Landry had you declared MIA.” Ben rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “O’Neill started looking into the records for the expedition last month. A lot of what Landry did was… financial.”
“I don’t…” Dean sighed. “Are you telling me that son of a bitch is embezzling money from the SGC?”
“O’Neill thinks he’s managed to funnel off several million dollars in the past two years—sometimes as much as a hundred thousand at a time. He’ll request some kind of precious metal for trade off world and then only two-thirds will end up going on the mission. Equipment gets ordered but never delivered to the mountain—yet the money gets paid out anyway. He’s smart about it and doesn’t take too much at once. It’s a pretty big mess and O’Neill doesn’t know how far it goes. The IOA asked him to look into it when their books stopped adding up. The bottom line is pretty important to them. I was gathering intel for him until… this chance came up.”
“He left us out here to die for money?” Dean questioned, clearly horrified. “That just doesn’t… how can O’Neill leave him in charge?”
“The word at the SGC is that Landry has something on President Kinsey—something pretty big that’s letting him keep his job. I don’t know why they haven’t just sent him off world and killed him.” Ben shrugged when his brother lifted an eyebrow. “I’ve heard it voiced more than once in the mountain—that things would be better if Landry had an accident.”
Dean nodded. “I’m… I want to be glad you’re here but I really wish you were safe on Earth.”
Ben blinked in surprise. “Christ, Dean, I wasn’t safe on Earth. The only reason I’m not already dead is that Landry couldn’t send me off world. O’Neill said I had to spend a year in operations in the Mountain before I was allowed off-world. Landry sends his “problems” on basically what amounts to suicide missions. Half the guys we brought out here with us are only alive by the grace of God it seems. He’s sent Major Moore on six different operations in the last year that should’ve by all rights gotten him killed.”
* * * *
John had Bates and Ford set up a small conference room in the military tower for his new officers. He watched Bates and the younger Bates brother get situated at the table before he spoke. “I guess at this point, I want to say thank you. I didn’t… we didn’t know what we’d get from Earth, if anything, but it was important that we tried to connect with the SGC before we had to start making decisions about our future. It honestly didn’t occur to me that people would go to such lengths to help us and I should probably be ashamed of that. Unfortunately, the last two years makes that impossible. We have never been able to depend on Earth for support. I certainly never expected to get actual volunteers—especially volunteers who know what you know about our chances of survival out here.”
Anne Teldy sat forward a little in her chair. “I believe we all have different reasons for what we did, sir.” She fingered the suppression bracelet on her wrist with a small frown. “I can’t explain what made me go to Major Lorne with the request to join this mission. I guess I’m waiting for you to explain to it to me—but what I will say is that I’ve never in my life felt so at home as I did the moment I stepped through the wormhole.”
John nodded and relaxed a little. “I can explain that but it will take some time. I believe we all have some work to do together on the trust front. We have relationships to build and motivations to explore on both sides of the equation. I don’t expect it to be easy but I do believe that if we work hard we’ll only be rewarded for those efforts when it comes to building a command team this city can depend on for security and safety.”
Gideon Moore cleared his throat. “You know, I’ve been with the SGC for five years and I’m pretty jaded when it comes to technology and aliens and really cool space ships and weird food and sex rituals.” He paused for the laughs and then stared pointedly at Sheppard. “But, sir, you’re approaching forty and you just don’t look it. Can you offer us an explanation?”
John grinned. “You heard McKay mention advanced gene therapy when he gave out the suppression bracelets? Well, one of the things the advanced therapy does is give recipients some impressive healing abilities—including cell regeneration. The Ancients who received the therapy lived for thousands of years. The oldest on record in the city was a man named Koralis who lived to be eleven thousand years old.”
“Daniel Jackson met a ten thousand year old Ancient on another planet—Merlin.” Lorne offered. “Unfortunately, they were unable to get his help in defeating the Ori—he died before he could finish the device that would have killed the Ascended Ori in their galaxy.” He paused. “Sir, are you telling us that you’re… that you’ve become an Ancient?”
“No, I’ve become a Lantean. The difference will be made clear to you as we talk about the Ancients, their relationship with the city, and their eventual departure from the city and this galaxy ten thousand years ago.” John paused and took a deep breath. “Ally.”
The avatar appeared, appropriately dressed in BDUs and a tight black t-shirt. “Sir.”
“I’d like to talk to you about what Ally is—specifically what she is in relation to how we do our jobs on the city.” John glanced her way and found her offering his officers a fierce little grin. “She’s a 28/9 security system. Every inch of the city is at her disposal at any given time. There is nowhere she can’t go and nothing she can’t see. There are programs within her neural net that monitor everything from individual lifesigns to air quality. She controls the environment in each room and will tailor your individual quarters to match your unique preferences automatically.
“She is a direct interface to the organic metal organism that houses us—his name is Theseus. He is a living being who is self-aware, capable of adaptation, learning new things, and procreation. That means that we are living in a sentient being. If we engage in combat on this city—and we fire our weapons—any bullets that go into the floor or walls will injure him. He feels pain just as much as you or I do when his superstructures are damaged or punctured. Theseus and Ally both accept that injuries of this nature might happen if we are invaded. They accept it and so must we. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should engage in such combat situations as a first option.”
“Can he feel us walking on him?” Alicia Vega asked with a small frown.
“No,” Ally answered. “His surface structures are immune to such stimulation. What he feels most from our inhabitants are your emotional states. He is empathic and as such is very susceptible to biofeedback. Whatever influences him—influences me. If you are all angry and worried—then we will be angry and worried with you. Theseus and I will share in your joys and your fears as long as you dwell within us.”
“And he doesn’t mind if we live here?” Anne asked, her expression pinched with worry.
“It is… our purpose,” Ally answered carefully. “We were lonely after the others left us here—the lack of input, even while we slept, was difficult. The arrival of the expedition was such a relief to us both. We hope to provide a home for you all for many years to come.”
John stood. “Okay, I want to go touch base with the Marines you’ve brought out with you and then we’ll sort everyone for some downtime while Carson works through all of the new arrivals. I can’t let any of you through the gate or on the mainland until we’re sure you aren’t carrying something that will act like a plague out here.”
* * * *
Daniel Jackson dropped down on the edge of the pier and took a deep breath. He took another as Vala joined him. He lifted her hand up carefully and curled their fingers together. “I didn’t say thank you.”
“You needn’t.” She cradled his hand between both of hers. “I came to Earth for you—I stayed on Earth for you. This place—it’s just another world that I chose to come to for you.”
“I don’t know what I did to deserve that much loyalty from you,” Daniel admitted roughly. “There have been times when I haven’t even been kind to you.”
“You’re the first man I’ve known in a great long while that I felt I could trust,” Vala said, her gaze drifting over the ocean spread out in front of them. “You… have never treated me like other men have in the past. Even when I would have made it easy for you to use me, you refused. Part of that was just self-defense, I know that, but that wasn’t all of it. You’re a genuinely good person and I haven’t had a lot of good in my life, Daniel. Not even before I was a host.”
“And that’s enough for you?”
She laughed softly. “Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I’m here, Daniel, because I couldn’t let you go to another galaxy with me. I would’ve found a way to follow you if you’d told me I couldn’t step through the gate with you. I’m more than capable of stealing a space ship or two.”
Daniel grinned and carefully brought her hand up to his mouth. He kissed her palm gently and inhaled the sweet smell of her skin. “It was self-defense. The first time I met you—when you stole the Prometheus. I wanted to crawl on top of you—most of that trip. At least, I wanted to when you weren’t kicking my ass.”
She grinned and bumped her shoulder against his. “Yeah, that was pretty fun. You’re always so pretty when you’re angry.”
“That’s…” Daniel turned to look at her and found her eyes sparkling with amusement and so much affection that it was overwhelming. “Oh.”
She reached out and stroked her fingers down the side of his face. “I see you’re finally paying attention.”
“Yeah.” He nodded. “Sorry about that.”
“You’re forgiven.” She bit down on her bottom lip.
Daniel slid his hand through her hair, cupped the back of her head and pulled her into his arms with a small smile. “Thank you for not giving up on me.”
She laughed against his mouth as he kissed her.
* * * *
John rubbed the back of his head as he entered the cargo bay. The men and women in the room immediately came to attention. Lorne and Teldy were standing at parade rest in front of the company. He’d very briefly considered going back to his quarters to put on his uniform. He doubted thin cotton pants, bare feet, and a t-shirt demonstrated the right kind of image for a base commander. The t-shirts were first clothing that the geeks had pushed through nanite production. It had amused the hell out of them to give one to John so he wore it proudly.
His gaze connected with Bates as he entered the room shortly behind Vega. Vega made her way over to stand next to Teldy and Bates closed the door behind him. Bates flicked a gaze over Sheppard’s attire. “Great shirt by the way, Colonel.”
“The geeks made it for me.” John shot him a grin. “You’re just jealous.” He curled his bare toes against the cool floor of the cargo bay and sighed. “I am Colonel John Sheppard. Every day is a challenge here and failure to follow orders can and will get you killed. Over the next several days, you’ll be absorbed into our operations and receive your duty assignments. Your choices are simple: you adapt and survive or you can fail to adapt and you die. There is absolutely no in between. Major Evan Lorne is my XO. Major Moore will handle training schedules. Major Teldy will handle field operations and assignments. Captain Bates is the head of City Security.” John turned and focused on Amelia Banks. “Lt. Banks, anything that concerns you?”
Amelia consulted her tablet PC. “No, sir, we’re all in order and everyone has their billets. I have teams 2 and 3 on standby to help get everyone squared away and in the right place to bunk down for the evening.”
John’s drifted over the Marines and he took deep breath. “I don’t know how to begin to say thank you for coming out here—for joining this mission the way you did. I can’t even pretend I’ll be able protect you from facing criminal charges if the SGC sends a ship out here to get you, at least not yet. Personally, I don’t think they’ll be all that interested in retrieving you and those of us from the original expedition have no interest in abandoning the city and this galaxy to the Wraith. There will come a time when each of you will be given a choice between becoming part of our society and holding onto your humanity. I don’t expect anyone to make the same choices I’ve made when it comes to Atlantis or this galaxy. What I will say is that I woke up the Wraith and there isn’t a fucking day that goes by that I allow myself to forget that. I assume you’ve read the mission reports we’ve sent the SGC in the past—do you have any questions?”
“Marshall Sumner,” one of the Marines said blurted out from the first row.
“I shot him in the head,” John said simply. “I was wearing a field camera during the rescue operation and the entire, unedited footage is available for you to review. I don’t ask that you blindly accept what I did but I do ask you to respect my position and my authority. That’s not negotiable and insubordination will be dealt with swiftly.”
“Can we get a class from some of the geeks on Wraith biology?” A woman asked from the back row. “I’d like to be ready to kick the ass of the first one I see, sir.”
John inclined his head. “We’ll work on it. We have some advanced combat VR rooms that we’ll be setting up with training scenarios. One of them has already been repaired by the city engineers and they’re working through the others. I’m sure Ally will be able to design you some training ops so realistic you’ll come out of it smelling like you killed a Wraith.”
The woman nodded and grinned. “Where can I get one?”
“Get what, Sergeant?”
“Master Sergeant Mehra, sir.” She supplied. “The shirt, sir. I want a t-shirt.”
John smirked and glanced down at his t-shirt. “You kill your first real Wraith, Mehra, and we’ll talk.”
“Hoorah,” she offered with a grin.
Ally appeared on his left, still dressed in BDUs, her arms crossed and her expression serious. “Colonel, Team 4 is overdue for their check in. Dr. Weir is ready to attempt to make radio contact and wanted to know if you were available for that?”
John stood. “Lorne and Vega, you’re with Bates. Teldy, you’re with Ford. I want you all up to speed on city security and deployment by 0600 tomorrow. Major Moore, you’re with me for the moment.” He paused and raised an eyebrow at the younger Bates. “Bates, Jr. you’re with me. Banks sort everyone to their bunks and keep the ready room clear for outgoing teams. Pull Team 5 for duty to help with that. I’ll need Team 2 on standby for rescue.”
He could tell that Lorne chaffed under the order to go with Bates but he followed it without a word. John motioned Moore to follow him and clicked his radio as he moved towards a transporter. “Control, this is Sheppard. SITREP on Team 4’s mission.”
“Routine meet and greet, sir. Established trade partner. They are now 15 minutes over due. Their last check in was six hours ago and it came and went as scheduled.”
“Understood. Have Team 2 and Team 6 suit up for recon and rescue. Put Jumper One on stand-by with a med team.”
“All that necessary, sir?” Moore asked as they started down a flight of stairs.
“More than,” John admitted. “My people don’t miss check-ins, Major. They aren’t reporting in because they are captured, injured, or dead.”
The two officers followed him into the command center. He pulled a chair out from an empty console. “Bates, Jr. Sit. Everyone this is Lt. Benjamin Bates, he’s just become our gate team logistics officer. His purpose for the next eight hours is to watch you, make notes about you, and determine how he can best serve our mission from the command center until which time I determine he is field ready.”
Ben offered them all a silent wave and Chuck Campbell waved back. “Lieutenant, if you join me you can learn how to use the dialing console. Everyone in the command center is required to be familiar with it and launching the shield in case of emergencies.”
Bates glanced briefly at Sheppard who nodded before rolling his chair into place beside Chuck. “Thanks.”