The new military uniforms were black, not much different in design or implementation from the ones they’d all worn from the SGC, outside of the use of pseudo leather in the field jackets, and combat boots. Rank insignia had been distributed much the same way the uniforms had and the military personnel had signed off on the new military code with little to no fanfare. John hadn’t been surprised—by the time he reached the enlisted personnel everyone had been informed so the surprise had worn off.
It was the civilians that were the problem. One of them, and John wasn’t entirely sure which, was in the gateroom giving off a high level of anxiety and building anger. There were about thirty people currently in the gateroom—preparing for a first contact mission that was going to last a week or more. A Jumper had already been prepped in the Jumper Bay and Elizabeth was going over the final points on the cultural information they’d managed to gather for Bates, who was leading the two teams off-world.
Elizabeth separated from Bates and went over to Captain Chase Harris who had taken on the role of flight commander. All Jumpers on and off world were his responsibility and John was pleased with the level of competence and dedication the scientist had already demonstrated. He’d gone back into the simulator shortly after he’d signed his commission papers with the new military and completed a series of courses on the construction, repair, and maintenance of the Jumpers themselves.
John looked over the civilians in the room critically—he knew it had to be one of them because every single military asset in the room had already gone through the CIC. There were only about fifteen enlisted left to train and be given the gene therapy—none of them would be allowed off-world until that was completed. Less than half of the new civilians had gone through the CIC despite the fact that Ally had produced another chair so two people could be trained at the same time. She’d been concentrating, with Elizabeth and John’s support, on the military because of security concerns.
John found the source of his unease the same time his gaze hit the man’s raised weapon. “Elizabeth! Gun!”
The man fired, twice, and civilians started scrambling away from him; everyone completely focused on a man they’d all been ignoring. Miko Zelenka was the only one not fast enough to get away.
John skidded to a stop at the bottom of the stairs, glancing briefly at Elizabeth who had taken one of the bullets in the shoulder and Chase Harris who had taken the other for her—in the chest. Teyla was with them, both of her hands on Chase’s wound—her skin already faintly glowing.
“Dr. Seward.” John held out both hands and mentally started ordering his people to back off. The gun pressed against Miko’s temple was so horrifying that everyone was shocked almost still. “Miko, sweetheart, close your eyes.”
Miko swallowed and her eyes fluttered shut.
“Shut up, General. Jesus, fuck, what the hell is wrong with you people?” He took another step back, dragging Miko nearly off her feet, the protrusion of her entirely too pregnant form making the maneuver graceless and as scary as fuck from John’s point of view.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw one of his men grab Radek as he hurried into the room. The scientist didn’t fight him but the rage and worry swirling in the room increased a hundred fold. John reached out for the gun briefly before he realized he wasn’t confident he could jerk it out of the man’s hand without it going off.
“Look, Dr. Seward, we obviously have a problem here and we’ll do everything we can to help you.”
“Problem? Christ, you don’t even know do you?” Seward spat. “I’ve been on this city for weeks and I see you all falling for its plans—catering to the whims of it. It’s an animal, Sheppard, an advanced animal and all of you are being influenced by it. You’re going to abandon Earth for it. How can you be loyal to this thing over your own planet? I’m going to dial the SGC and tell them what is going on—they’ll get you people help and if they can’t, they’ll at least help me destroy this abomination.”
The city started to tremble and John bit down on his lip to keep from calling out for Ally. The avatar had abruptly disappeared after the first shot had been fired. “Dr. Seward, Earth abandoned us. You volunteered to come out here because of it, remember?”
“No, what I remember is this fucking thing you’re so loyal to invading my dreams and making me want to come here. I didn’t want to leave Earth!” Seward shouted. “It’s that stupid gene therapy I had that made me want to be here. I didn’t even disagree with the decision to keep the ZPM for Earth’s defense. I didn’t even know you people before you left Earth.” He jerked Miko closer and then the floor behind him started to undulate. “Sheppard go to the DHD and dial Stargate Command so I can report to General Landry.”
Sheppard inclined his head. “Are you saying that General Landry knew you were coming here?”
“Of course he did.”
John nodded as he shot the floor another look, it was practically boiling and he didn’t even want to know what Ally or Theseus were up to. He knew they couldn’t risk force fields—not with Miko and her baby so close to Seward. He walked to the command deck, glancing only briefly at Harris who was barely conscious—Teyla’s hand the only thing between him and certain death. John knew she couldn’t get the bullet out of him, that was a skill practically unique to McKay and one of the nurses in the infirmary. Christ, Lorne wasn’t even in the city—how the hell could they tell the man who’d given up everything on Earth to support them, that his lover died while he was off-world on a fucking trade mission with McKay?
“No stalling, Sheppard!” The click of the gun being primed made a soft sob burst from Miko’s mouth and all of the men in the room make aborted moves toward them. “Do not come any closer! I’ll kill her. I fucking swear it.”
John reached out and hit the first symbol and lights all over the gateroom dulled as the floor started to expand upward and then something that looked very much like what John had only seen in mission files—a Replicator—flowed upwards and took form behind Seward. The seemingly human male grabbed Seward the instant he was formed—the moment he touched the scientist, several people in the room must have reached out for Miko at the same time because she was jerked forward, away from the gun. She fell to her knees and slid across the floor several feet before a shining blue force field was erected around her and she fainted.
“You have injured my people,” the man hissed against the side of Seward’s face. “You tried to assassinate Dr. Weir and you threatened the life of the first child to be created within my walls in fifteen thousand years.”
John’s gaze widened.
Seward struggled ineffectually against the man. “What the fuck are you?”
The gun dropped in several pieces on the floor from Seward’s hand as bone broke under the inhuman strength of Theseus’ grip. “I am the avatar representation of the animal you resent so much, Dr. Seward. I am Theseus, son of the warrior Levyathan Aegeus, the last of my race and the only one of my kind to survive the genocide at the hands of the Ori.”
The color drained out of Seward’s face and John started towards the pair.
Theseus stopped him in his tracks with a look and his gaze flicked briefly towards Radek Zelenka who had come down the stairs and was kneeling next to the force field that surrounded his wife. The field bled away. “Take your mate from this room, Radek.”
Radek picked her up with careful hands without a word and left the room.
Theseus cupped Seward’s chin and broke his neck—his gaze focused entirely on John as he did so. He let the man’s body fall to the floor and he stood before them—naked as the day any of them had been born. “Betrayal can never be tolerated. If we are to succeed as a people, John, there can be no enemy among us.”
John took a deep breath. “We understand, Theseus.”
“Those who have not entered my mate’s CIC will do so immediately—and will be under armed guard until which time they’ve been approved by the Atlantis Collective and myself,” Theseus said and then walked towards the command center. He knelt on the floor next to Chase and Teyla even as Carson and his medical team were allowed into the room by the gateroom guards. “My Ally is fascinated by you Captain Harris.”
Chase swallowed hard and coughed roughly. “She’s pretty great.”
Theseus reached out and covered Teyla’s hand with his own and they both started to glow. Teyla gasped softly and pulled her hand free. She dropped the bullet on the floor and looked at Theseus in wonder. “I see.”
“I did not understand how important such a skill would be,” Theseus admitted. “The Alterans had not used projectile weapons in over a million years. We will train further in the future, little healer.” When he lifted his hand, Chase’s skin was smooth but still damp with blood. “Dr. Beckett, he will need blood replacement.”
John helped Elizabeth off the floor. He ripped off her sleeve and inspected her shoulder. “This went through, Carson.”
Theseus stood and inclined his head in Elizabeth’s direction. “I must release this form before I burn out the second ZPM—our people will see to your injury easily.”
“Thank you for… Miko,” Elizabeth whispered, leaning heavily onto John as shock started to set in.
“She is special to me,” Theseus conceded and without another word retreated into the floor.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” John muttered under his breath and closed his eyes briefly. He knew McKay was going to be pretty pissed to have missed the whole replicator body thing.
* * * *
Ally was standing at the foot of Miko’s bed and between the two the medical pods across the room from the small Japanese scientist when John arrived in the infirmary. The version of the avatar next to Miko turned to look at him.
“I made a mistake with Seward. I should’ve realized he was weak minded.”
“No one noticed until it was too late,” John murmured. “What are you doing in the CIC? It’s moving too fast for gene therapy.”
“I am checking those who remain for mental defects and Theseus is… determining their motivations. They will not remember most of it. We’ll take care of the gene therapy at a later date—it’s not as important as making sure there are no more people like Raymond Seward among us. Theseus is furious.”
“I could tell.” John exhaled and closed his eyes briefly. “What is… how did he do that?”
“He made a body out of the nanites that lay dormant within his superstructures. It took a great deal of physical power and all of my processing power to accomplish it. I’m sorry that I could not warn you in advance what he was doing—I had no choice but to meet his immediate demand for assistance. I knew that I couldn’t be of any help in the situation. In fact, it was my appearance in the gateroom that set Seward off.”
“Have you found any information concerning Seward’s placement on the mission by Landry.”
“No. But I did discover that Jack O’Neill transferred Colonel Carter to Area 51 and put another military scientist in her place at the SGC. She won’t face any kind of criminal charges because there is no security footage of her actions during the departure of our new people.”
“Your doing?” John questioned.
Ally shrugged. “I will protect her as much as I can. I have a seeker program that will keep an eye on her and make sure that Landry leaves her alone. That being said, I’m fairly confident that Jack O’Neill will kill the man if he makes any kind of threatening move in her direction. She’s very important to him.”
“Very,” John agreed. “Alright, I need to speak with Carson.”
“I promised Radek I would stand guard over Miko until his return,” Ally explained and moved closer to the bed. “I will not fail him again in this regard.”
* * * *
Evan Lorne paused in the open doorway of the bathroom of the suite of rooms he’d been sharing with Chase for just a handful of days. They hadn’t made a big deal out of it but when Ally had started moving people around for habitation—she’d assigned them the same quarters. Chase was in the large, entirely hedonistic shower stall braced against the wall with both hands. Water was pouring over his entirely too attractive form but Evan couldn’t have been less interested in sex in that moment if he tried. He’d been six hours from the gate by Jumper when Sheppard had recalled his team with news that there had been a shooting on the city and that they had been trying to reach him for nearly a full day. Interference on the planet had made radio contact sketchy at best.
The moment he’d stepped through the gate John had taken him into a private office and related every wretched detail to him in full Technicolor, in what had amounted to a fucking mind meld. It wasn’t the first time he’d shared mental space with the Colonel. The entire command team had been practicing the technique since they’d all finished with the CIC. It had taken every ounce of discipline Evan had to not just be sick all over Sheppard when he’d been released from the mental conversation. He’d stumbled and Sheppard hadn’t hesitated to catch him. It had taken him nearly an hour to stop shaking—an hour before he could get up out of the chair Sheppard had pushed him into and go find Chase, who had only been out of the infirmary less than an hour before Evan stepped through the gate.
Chase turned then, and their gazes locked. “Come here, Evan.”
Evan shed his clothes without much of a thought—dropping his field gear in a messy pile on the floor before entering the shower. He hauled Chase close and buried his face against his hair. “What the fuck?”
He laughed softly and pressed his hands against Evan’s back. “I’m sorry. It was… instinctual I guess. It hurt like a son of a bitch.”
Evan took a deep breath and placed a soft kiss against Chase’s neck before shifting him slightly and pressing an urgent moan filled kiss against the skin over his heart. “I don’t know that I could do this without you.”
“I’ll do my best not to get shot again,” Chase murmured. “Ally has been muttering for the past twelve hours about making all of our clothes puncture proof. She’s all freaked out.”
Evan nodded. He thought it was a great idea. He was all freaked out, too. “Don’t die on me, Chase. Just don’t.”
Evan let the lie settle between them and took a deep breath. He knew, intellectually, that neither one of them could make such a promise but on a far more visceral level he was comforted by the words.
* * * *
Vala paced back and forth in front of the door leading into the CIC. She’d gone first and the hour she’d spent in the Ancient chair was one big blur. Daniel had been in the chair going on ten hours and finally she’d lost the ability to stay in her quarters as it had been suggested that she do. She turned to pace in the other direction and walked right into John Sheppard.
John laughed and steadied her. “Relax, he’s fine. Theseus finds him fascinating due to the fact that he’s been Ascended. Since he is the last of the civilians to be assessed, Ally offered him the gene therapy and Daniel accepted. He’s doing some training now in the VR and then we’ll keep him under observation for twenty-four hours in the infirmary. He’ll have to go into the medical pod for twelve of those hours.”
“Why?” Vala asked with a frown.
“The gene therapy makes some pretty sweeping changes physically and it’s exhausting—energy depleting. The medical pod helps restore balance to the body and replace any nutrients lost—much faster than if we did it naturally or with an IV.”
“Okay.” She rubbed her arms briskly. “Were there any more wackos?”
John grinned at the term. “No, everyone else checked out. I also have Ally hacking into Landry’s personal computer and Rodney talked her into taking all of the money he’s hiding away from him.”
Vala laughed and then bit down on her bottom lip. “I have a feeling me and McKay are going to be fast friends.”
“I do worry about the galaxy if that is the case,” John said and leaned against the wall. “You were a surprise. I mean—I’d read the report about you stealing the Prometheus. Ally pretty much grabbed every piece of data in the Mountain when she hacked the place for information. I just didn’t expect you to be one of the people that came out here—volunteer or not.”
“Do you have a problem with me being here?”
“Not at all, in fact you’re the kind of field asset that men like me dream of. Strong, capable, an excellent liar, a brazen thief, a beautiful distraction…” He shrugged when she laughed. “Daniel is a lucky man.”
“He is,” Vala agreed. “So, did you want me to steal something?”
John’s eyes lit up and he inclined his head. “As a matter of a fact, I do. We’ll talk about it after you come out of the gene therapy.”
* * * *
John found mini-O’Neill fishing off the North East Pier. Where the younger man had gotten a fishing rod was a complete mystery to him but he wouldn’t be surprised to find that Ally had made it for him. He dropped down on the pier beside Nathan and sighed. “Hell, I don’t know what to do with you.”
Nathan laughed softly and shrugged. He flicked the fishing rod. “I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do if I actually catch something—I saw a fish swim by earlier that was easily twice my size.”
John leaned forward a little to look down into the water. “Yeah, better be prepared to let go of that rod or you’ll be alien almost-shark bait.” He sighed. “So, why are you here?”
“NID was way too interested in me and Jack thought I’d be better off here.” Nathan frowned and then shrugged. “I can’t disagree with his assessment. I’d rather die fighting than end up in some secret underground lab and dissected by some mad scientist with dreams of human cloning. We both knew that I couldn’t trust Landry, and Jack has enough on his plate to deal with.”
“The Jumpers are great so that’s a plus.” Nathan flicked the pole again and sighed. “I’m not him, you know. I’m not the General—I’ve never been the General, never been the Director of Homeworld Security. I’m just a fifty-seven year old guy in the body of a twenty-two year old, who used to be a Colonel in the Air Force, who got a do-over on life and joined the Marines.”
“It doesn’t sound that bad when you put it that way,” John murmured. “But you’re also a fifty-seven year old guy who had what he thought was his life stripped away from him. His career, his friends, his past—none of it is really yours.”
“Sometimes it’s like Jack’s life was a dream I had,” Nathan admitted. “I think Thor made that happen for me—dulling those memories of Jack’s life until they aren’t even substantial. Some things are still pretty fucking painful but other things are just a blur.”
“Maybe better that way.”
“Agreed.” Nathan sighed. “Right now I’m trying to figure out what Bates is going to do when he realizes that his baby brother has a crush on me.”
“On this you or the old you?”
Nathan snorted and flicked his pole. “Me. Not Jack. Ben’s kind of terrified of Jack. He knows I’m a clone of O’Neill but he’s always treated me like an individual which is pretty cool.”
“He’s also pretty.”
Nathan laughed. “Yeah. Very. Too young though. I’d feel like the worst kind of dirty old man.”
“You look slightly younger than him,” John murmured. “And he’s a grown man. If he wants you and you want him—I suggest you make the most of it. Life is too short out here to deny yourself love or pleasure.” John paused. “I never took the General as even remotely bisexual.”
Nathan frowned then. “Getting a do-over on puberty readjusted my priorities and made me realize I shouldn’t deny what I want because that’s what my Dad would have preferred. Well—that’s what his Dad would have preferred.” He grinned then and wiggled an eyebrow at John. “Or, the Asgard made me bi.”
Sheppard laughed softly. “You know they freak McKay out. He says that no species that fucked up so badly that they cloned their own cocks off should be considered advanced.”
* * * *
Daniel entered his quarters and turned to drop two datapads on his already overflowing desk in the front room of his three-room suite. Ally had assigned him office space in the science tower already but unfortunately it was empty. He’d put in a request for furniture and was told he was at the top of the list but he didn’t expect it to happen within the next few days—not with everything else that was going on.
He’d been released from the infirmary four hours before and was kind of stunned that Vala hadn’t been around the infirmary since he’d come out of the medical pod. With a frown, he fiddled with his radio and tried to remember what Vala’s private code was as he walked towards his bedroom. The scent of candles hit him first and his hand dropped out of instinct to where his weapons holster should be just before he caught sight of her.
Vala was sprawled on her stomach in a pair of barely there white cotton panties and one of his t-shirts. Her hair was piled on her head in a messy fashion and there were just a few candles burning on the dresser. Not romantic lighting, he thought, ruefully and no sexy lingerie. The first time he’d found Vala in his bed she’d come displaying all of her weapons to their best advantage.
He watched her chew on her bottom lip thoughtfully as she worked through whatever was on the tablet in her hands. Her slim, bare feet were swaying slightly and Daniel felt like a really bad man for all of the filthy things he wanted to do to her in that moment. Vala turned then and looked at him—the smile was all too brief and then something hard and emotional shifted in her. The change was startling—far more unsettling than realizing he’d picked up her emotional state effortlessly.
She slid off the bed and started gathering up her things in a hurry. “I’m sorry. I’ll go. I shouldn’t have…”
“Wait.” Daniel moved forward and caught her by the wrist, only to realize she was shaking. “Hey, calm down.” Her breath hitched a little and that hard knot of emotional pain unraveled around him. “Fuck.”
“Just… I’ll go. You’re not ready for this and I’ve pushed you again… and I’m so stupid.” Her voice caught and she took a deep breath.
“No.” Daniel pulled her computer out of her hands and put it on the nightstand. “Why didn’t you…” He pulled on her pants and shoes then let them drop on the floor when she let go. “Why didn’t you tell me how much I hurt you before?”
Her eyes brightened with tears he knew she wouldn’t let fall. “Would you have believed me?”
He flinched at the question. “I’m the stupid one,” Daniel said softly. “I can’t believe… I’ve been so blind when it comes to you.” He pulled her close and was relieved when she didn’t protest. “You said it—you said you came to Earth for me and I tried not to let it mean anything more than that. I’ve done nothing in my life to deserve being loved so much and so well.”
“You’re a wretched person,” she whispered fiercely against his neck and wrapped her arms around him tightly. “You hardly deserve a gorgeous, awesome, space pirate like me.”
“You’re right,” Daniel murmured. “I’ll do better.” He turned her head gently and caught her mouth in a demanding kiss.
Her hands drifted down to his waist and slid under his shirt. Daniel shuddered and lifted his mouth from hers. It had been quite a while since he’d let anyone really touch him. Truth was—he had pretty horrible luck with women in the past and whenever something amazing happened to him some Goa’uld would come along and ruin it. Her eyes brightened with sudden humor and she took a step back as she hooked one hand in the front of his BDUs.
“You should come to bed.”
“Yeah.” Daniel nodded his agreement. “I should also take my shirt back and maybe spank you for stealing it.”
“Then we are agreed,” Vala said with a small laugh and sighed when he brought her close.
“Yeah, so agreed.” Daniel closed his eyes and buried his face against her neck in relief.
* * * *
“Did Halling say what he wanted?” John asked as he sat down in a chair across from Elizabeth.
“No.” Elizabeth set aside her teacup and sighed. “I don’t anticipate a pleasant conversation to be honest—Teyla was very blunt with her assessment of the situation on the mainland when it comes to the small portion of the population that has broken off from the rest. Most of them are Athosians but there are a few others besides who apparently have a real problem with her representing them and of course with what Atlantis gave her.”
“I can’t promise to keep my temper in check,” John muttered. “And Rodney… well maybe we should just let him stay in his lab?”
“Too late,” Rodney sniped as he entered the room with a laptop. “I’m already up here so I might as well stay and be outraged and offended first hand instead of second hand later on.”
“Stackhouse reported that they were landing a few minutes ago and he’s escorting Halling and the group of people he brought with him personally.” Elizabeth sat back in her chair as Teyla entered the room and took a seat beside her. “You don’t have to be here.”
“I know.” Teyla took a deep breath. “But I swore a duty to the city and I will not run away to hide in my quarters because things will be unpleasant for me.”
John recognized three of the four people that Halling brought with him as Athosian. The fourth man was Genii. He grimaced, the fact was… he’d never really trust the Genii and in his mind, anyone that still called themselves Genii would always be painted with a Kolya shaped brush.
“I requested a meeting with you, Dr. Weir not…” Halling glanced at John then Teyla before settling on Rodney. “We’d hoped to speak with you in private.”
Elizabeth offered the man what John called her ‘diplomat smile’. “Teyla, Dr. McKay, and Colonel Sheppard are my closest advisors and represent the various departments on the city that allow us to function as a community. Any proposals or questions you may have would be discussed with them before decisions could be made. Meeting all together just saves time.”
Halling nodded, his expression grim. “Very well.” He sat down in the chair at the end of the table directly in front of Elizabeth. “We are here to question the wisdom of allowing the tainted ones to remain in the city of the Ancestors. It is sacrilege and violates the very foundations of our faith.”
“Oh, I see. Well, you’ll be happy to know that we do not allow anyone to live in the city that Atlantis doesn’t approve of personally. Colonel Sheppard and I are very concerned about the wishes of the city. I’m sure she would be pleased to hear that you are concerned as well.” Elizabeth smiled again and John had to swallow hard several times to keep from laughing.
“You know very well we mean those who carry the blood of the Wraith,” Halling snapped, his voice deepening with temper. “Do not play games with me, Dr. Weir.”
“No games?” Elizabeth asked coolly. “Very well. Let’s try it this way. It is not your place or your right to say who lives and who does not live on this city. Atlantis decides who lives within her walls and who sleeps under her protection. It is my duty to honor her wishes to the best of my ability, which is what I do every day and have since the moment she made herself known to us. She also decides who receives the Lantean genetic legacy. Atlantis administers the legacy without our help or our interference. She invites whom she wants into the Citizen Induction Chamber and we aren’t consulted. She gifted Teyla with the Lantean genetic legacy because she wanted to. Atlantis told Colonel Sheppard to invite those you call tainted into the city because she sees value in them where you only see fault.”
“It is an insult to the Ancestors! They would have never approved,” Halling continued.
Ally snapped into the room with a flash of light and clap of what John could have sworn was thunder. She was dressed in a severe, startlingly white Lantean military uniform that John had seen in holograms and database records for years. She’d never worn it before. Her hair was pulled back in a tight little bun.
“You know nothing of what the Alterans would approve or not approve of.”
Halling stared at her and cleared his throat. “What are you?”
“I am the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas and for the record the Alterans themselves were not your Ancestors. The vast majority of the peoples in the Pegasus galaxy sprung from the systematic life seeding orchestrated by the Alterans. They encouraged human populations to develop over thousands of worlds in this galaxy and many others with science and technology but they rarely mated with them. Those you call the Ancestors originated in the Altera galaxy. After their society fractured due to internal strife, the Alterans left their home galaxy and travelled to the Milky Way where they settled on a planet they would call Terra. It might interest you to know they left their home galaxy because they believed the path to enlightenment and knowledge was rooted in science not religion. They would be absolutely horrified to know that there are people in this galaxy that worship them.”
“The city of the Ancestors is the legacy of this galaxy; not of those from Earth. Why do you help them? Why did you not ever seek any of us out? You are our birthright.” The Genii man fidgeted in his chair, obviously fighting with himself to keep from standing.
“I was born in the Milky Way and the first home I ever knew was Terra—the world now called Earth. The last of the Alterans, the people who nurtured me and became the Lanteans here in Pegasus, were born on Earth. Many of the people who come from Earth, like Colonel Sheppard, are direct descendents. In fact, John is even more than that—I can trace in his blood a line back to the man who birthed me in his mind and gave me life with his hands and his blood. I was his life’s work.” She favored John with a smile. “He even looks like Joral but Dr. McKay is more similar to him in personality.”
Shock rushed over the room and John sat back in his chair stunned. “Why didn’t you say something?”
“Most of the natural ATA carriers have linage I can trace back to the time that I was built,” Ally said carefully. “I thought you understood.”
He had understood he had descended from the Ancients, just not like that. “Chase Harris?”
Ally offered what could only be described as a smirk. “If Joral was my father then his mate, Helenia, was my mother. Chase Harris’ family descends from one of her brothers. I find him very stimulating—just like you John.” She turned to look at the Genii. “Davoy of the Genii, I am no one’s birthright. I am not a thing to be owned or controlled for anyone’s ambition.”
“But…” he started to protest.
“But nothing—you don’t have to accept it but you would do well to remember that I allowed John Sheppard to kill over one hundred of your people when Commander Kolya invaded me. I could’ve prevented him from raising the shield on the gate and killing sixty of your people. You should consider yourself lucky that I do not seek reparations from your people for the harm he caused me that day. My structures are both biological and mechanical. When I am damaged, it hurts. They emptied projectiles into my walls, nearly destroyed one of my grounding stations, and almost prevented Dr. McKay from erecting my shield to keep me safe from a storm that would have torn me asunder.”
Rodney blanched and left his chair abruptly. He barely made it to a trashcan near the door before throwing up. John was beside him in seconds, holding him as he threw up again.
“This meeting is over,” John snapped and hit his radio. “Carson, we need you in conference room three. Rodney is ill.”
Rodney rubbed at his mouth with the back of his hand and took a deep breath. “I knew. I mean, intellectually, I knew that they are a biological machine. I’ve known that almost since the beginning. It was hard to ignore it really—and I still—I can’t believe.”
“Rodney,” Ally murmured gently. “You’ve never once hurt us intentionally. All of the repairs you’ve done were done to help and we understand. Please do not be so upset. I’ve always had the utmost faith in you and your team to do what is best for me. It is one of the reasons why I let your people stay. You honor us with your brilliant, beautiful mind and your dedication to our survival is humbling.”
* * * *
Teyla was vibrating with fury as she led the mainland delegation back to the Jumper Bay where Stackhouse was waiting to pilot them back. None of them had said anything since John had dismissed the meeting. The double doors of the bay opened as they turned the corner and started down the hallway toward it. She could feel the city’s irritation as well as she could feel her own.
She turned abruptly and stared at the woman who had been silent during the entire meeting. “Natalia, I cannot believe you, of all people, believe this way. Your own son is among the ones you’re calling tainted.”
She lifted her chin, her eyes dark with anger. “A curse he received from his father.”
Teyla scoffed. “A curse? How many times did my gift save your life when we lived on Athos? How many times did your husband get you and your son to safety because of his so-called curse? I am so disappointed in you that I don’t even…” She trailed off. “I’m ashamed to know you.”
“It is we who are ashamed,” Natalia returned evenly. “To have had you for a leader, to have honored your father before you as a leader. It would have never been so if we’d known what you are. And I would not say that you’ve ever saved my life, for all I know you’re the reason the Wraith came to begin with.”
Teyla laughed then, a soft and mostly shocked sound. “The Wraith came to feed, Natalia. They will continue to come to feed as long as they exist.” She motioned them towards the Jumper. “I would suggest you and those who think like you begin searching for a new home—because you have no place in the home we are going to be building on Lantea.”
She turned on her heel and left the Jumper Bay, the double doors shutting sharply behind her. It took her just a few minutes to stumble out onto a little used balcony and surrender herself to her grief and something strangely close to relief. Teyla slid down against the wall and huddled there, her breath coming in little puffs as she cried.
A warm, familiar male body slid into place beside her and she allowed herself to be pulled into his embrace with a shudder.
Dean Bates pressed a kiss against her forehead and sighed. “When I was an utter prick to you that first year… did I ever make you cry?”
Teyla laughed abruptly and curled her fingers into his t-shirt. “No, I found you quite stimulating when you were being an utter prick to me.”
Dean picked her up off the floor and settled her into his lap. “You have to know… that those people who blame you for what the Wraith did to your family are wrong. They are foolish and bigoted. None of them are worthy of your time or your tears.”
She frowned at him but didn’t move off his lap. “You used to think I was a threat because of my Wraith blood.”
“I still think you’re a threat,” Dean returned amused. “You’re the most badass woman I’ve ever had the honor of being in the field with. Anyone that doesn’t consider you a viable threat is a complete fool. My mother didn’t raise a fool.”
She huffed and let her forehead rest against his. “I should not let you hold me this way—you will get ideas.”
“I’ve always had ideas about your body. I imagine I’m just one of many on this city who likes to picture you naked.” He laughed softly at her little gasp of shock. “I really am sorry I was so militant with you before.”
“It’s your job to protect the city,” Teyla allowed. “Now that we know… what the city truly is… your job is even more important. I don’t resent you for the actions you took in the past.” She sighed. “I should go check on Rodney.”
“I’m sure the General has McKay well in hand.” He stilled her with gentle but firm hands. “Stay with me a while and I can pretend I’ve made you feel better.”
* * * *
“Calm down,” John whispered against Rodney’s temple. He pressed a kiss there, without regard to anyone else in the room and pulled his lover closer. There was a little twinge of shock from Elizabeth and quite a bit of amusement from Carson. One less secret to keep buried, John thought. He lifted away slightly and picked up one of Rodney’s hands as Beckett started an IV for fluids. McKay had thrown up two more times since the conference room.
“I’m okay,” Rodney muttered. “I haven’t… I haven’t done that since I defended my third PhD.” He blushed and looked down their joined hands.
“Wow.” John chuckled.
“What? Wow? You know I’ve got three PhDs.” Rodney frowned at him.
“No, not that—it’s just you’re blushing and you look about sixteen when you blush. I’ve sort of gotten used to the changes, you know, but right now I sort of feel old and perverted for how hot I find this blushing thing.”
Elizabeth started laughing and leaned one hip against the end of the bed. “It is charming.” She patted his leg. “Get some rest and let Carson fuss over you for a while. He’ll want to make sure you aren’t having some kind of reaction to something from off-world.” She inclined her head. “You know, instead of just being a big emo girl?”
“Harsh,” John muttered but grinned as Rodney blushed even harder. “Maybe it’s hormones?”
“My hormones stopped fluctuating by the time I was nineteen,” Rodney snapped and pulled his hand free from John’s. “Not all of us are still randy sixteen year olds at thirty-six.” He shot John a pointed look and crossed his arms. “Get my computer so I can work while I’m getting these stupid fluids.”
* * * *
John exited the infirmary and wasn’t surprised to have both Evan Lorne and Gideon Moore fall into step beside him. He cleared his throat as they walked to the left and right of him. “How many people from the mainland are currently on the city?”
“Just the ones that have joined us formally and the ones that Theseus is assessing for the gene therapy. About half the men who have agreed to join our military services already have families on the mainland. They’ve requested that they remain with their wives and children as much as possible when not in the field,” Evan answered. “Several couples have qualified together—which isn’t a surprise considering how capable Teyla is in the field. The women in this galaxy appear to be bred for fighting.”
“The Wraith don’t make a distinction between men, women, or children when they cull…” He sucked in a deep breath as they entered the military tower. “Not true actually, they covet children when it comes to feeding but they limit themselves on culling them to make sure their herds are replenished.” The fresh horror that rolled off both men was more relieving than distressing but John gently pushed their emotions away from his own mind so he could think clearly.
“How is Dr. McKay?” Gideon asked as they settled into a small conference room several doors down from John’s office. The surface of the table was full of datapads from the various officers and a few pieces of paper from Commander Gil who had taken the Oath of Service but refused placement in the Lantean military formally. The reports were a tally of soldiers he’d found on other worlds that might suit their future needs.
“He’s fine,” John settled in with his datapads. “It was… hard for him to conceptualize how much physical pain we’ve put Theseus through since we’ve been on the city. He knew intellectually what happens to the city during repairs, and in past altercations like with the Genii when they invaded, but it was difficult having Ally describe it so vividly. In the beginning, because of the power problems—they city was in some ways at our mercy and we didn’t even know it.” John closed his eyes briefly. “During the first six months we razed two towers because of structural problems. They were dangerous but if we’d known that the city was organic we wouldn’t have done it.”
Ally appeared near the window of the room, dressed in a white summer dress. Her hair was flowing over her shoulders and down her back in soft curls. John blinked in surprise because he’d never seen the avatar look so real before. He felt he could reach out and touch her. She turned to look at him then, with bright blue eyes not unlike McKay’s. John wondered if she’d changed the color because of Rodney. Her affection for his lover seemed to know no bounds.
“Theseus is capable of severing parts of himself if he is damaged. When we realized you were going to remove the towers due to structural problems—we agreed that it was a wise decision and he released the structures so that he would not be hurt when they were removed. It’s not unlike—amputation.” She paused then and looked out the window. “In the future, however, such materials will be recycled in my NCL. It was disturbing that you chose to take the remains away.”
John’s gaze widened and his stomach tightened in horror at her word choice. “Ally. We could… we could retrieve the remains if that is Theseus’ wish. We used some of the intact modules for storage on the mainland. The rest was set aside for recycling because McKay thought we might be able to melt it…” He took a deep breath and almost gagged at the thought. “Christ.”
Lorne stood abruptly, went to a small refrigeration unit built into the wall, and pulled out a container of water which he brought to John. “Here.”
John took the bottle gratefully and unsealed it with a shaking hand. “I watched a documentary on medical waste once when I was stuck in McMurdo.” He glanced at the two men who were both pale. “I had nightmares for months.”
“Calm yourself, John,” Ally advised. “Else you’ll find yourself in an infirmary bed beside Rodney under observation. You would know if Theseus resented what you’ve done in the past to protect your people. Your people have always treated him with a reverence and a love that was stunning to us. The others saw him as nothing more than object to be used and they’d always known what he was. Even before you understood what the city was—your people treated us better than the Alterans ever did. Now that you know—your care and concern seems to know no bounds. We could not ask for more from our people.”
“The Ancient Outpost on Earth,” Evan began and then frowned. “Is that a part of Theseus?”
“No.” Ally shook her head. “It was built in the NCL—much like the Jumpers. Theseus left it behind when we left Earth—we have other outposts on other planets in the Pegasus system as well. Some were left behind for scientific research and others were military. That being said—Theseus has produced two children that would be considered outposts. They both sleep but I hope that once we’ve produced a ship we will be able to retrieve them.”
“We can’t get to them via gate?” John questioned.
“No, their gates will not function while they hibernate.” Ally paused and seemed to consider what to tell him. “While Theseus and I are two minds—the children we created are not. The AI interface I created for each of his biological offspring were introduced so early in their life cycle that they…merged completely. They are essentially a different species from him. A new species—a combination of us both.”
“That’s pretty awesome,” Gideon said softly. “The ships you made in the past are that way as well?”
“Yes. Dr. McKay and I are working on a new ship design. We believe we can build a ship within twenty-four months in an NCL provided we can maintain power levels and gather the nutrients he requires for development. Theseus has already spawned the biological material and placed it in stasis in the main NCL.” Ally turned. “Our son is developing in an isolated memory cell in my central processor. Once the AI is complete, we will merge the biological material with the AI and physical growth will begin.”
“So, the city is… pregnant,” Evan murmured, a little wide-eyed.
Ally smiled, clearly pleased with the terminology. “Yes. Once Dr. McKay has finished the plans we will present them to Theseus for approval and the plans will be given to the AI before the merger.” She stared intently at the sky. “The first time the merger happened so completely and we realized that our child would be considered at most a hybrid Levyathan, I told Theseus that we could try again and wait until the child’s personality had fully formed to introduce an AI interface. He said that Atlas felt truly like a child we’d had together because of the merger and that was his preference for our future children as well.”
“Atlas.” John cleared his throat. “He’s your first child?”
“Yes, a command carrier—he was born for war and he battled on our behalf for many thousands of years before the end came.”
“He was destroyed?” John questioned.
“Asleep,” Ally murmured. “He sleeps, I hope. I reach out for them—carefully so I don’t catch the attention of the Wraith and I find nothing but emptiness in my network where my children once lived. I lost fifteen in the Wraith wars and when the Alterans returned to Earth, I was only able to find five to order into hibernation. For security purposes, they did not alert me to their hibernation location.”
“What will you call your new son?”
“He will be Ares.” Ally lifted her chin slightly, in a way that screamed McKay. “And he will be fast and strong and he will wage war for his father as all of his siblings did before him.”
* * * *
The training rooms had changed after the gene therapy. The Marines, once content to lift weights, spar, and run laps, had reinvented their training space to meet their growing abilities. They still sparred and worked on their bodies but now they trained their minds with the same diligence.
John watched from the doorway as Stackhouse and Markham tossed a small ball back and forth across the room mentally. The two men—lovers since before they came to Atlantis—were just as connected as he and McKay were and it showed in their abilities. They played well off one another in the field and had an obviously deep mental bond.
There were a couple of other balls in the air and a heavy, intensely violent sparring session going on in the back of the room. Ally was hovering about twenty feet off the floor in the corner of the room watching it all. He knew she didn’t need to physically represent herself in a room to monitor them so the projection of her avatar was more of a reminder that she was watching them than anything else.
Teyla was waiting for him in the back of the room in one of the secondary sparring rings so John wove his way through the room until he reached her. She shifted easily off the floor and tossed him a pair of bantos rods. “You’re late.”
“Yeah, sorry, McKay needed my attention.”
Which was entirely true—McKay had been quite insistent that starting the day with a blow job was the only way to do it properly even though he had coffee at his disposal now and John wasn’t the kind of man to turn something like that down if he had ten minutes to spare and a semi-private location.
Teyla smirked at him. “I see.”
John grinned. One of the more interesting things about Teyla’s gifts after she’d come out of the CIC was her ability to pluck vivid memories out of other people’s heads with little or no effort. Of all of the people on the expedition, he was glad she was the only one to develop such a talent. He trusted that she would never use it for her own purposes, or really in any unethical way, but sometimes she’d look at him and he just kind of figured she was plucking the filthiest sex memories right out of his head for her own entertainment.
* * * *
The second new residential tower had been cleared for habitation and Rodney found himself wandering through the structure alone. They’d put the new people from Earth in the first tower as it had been easier to move them from the temporary quarters they’d been assigned. None of them had really had the time to collect a lot of crap. John had dashed off shortly after breakfast to spar with Teyla and Rodney, for once in a very long time, hadn’t been all that interested in going immediately to the labs. Ally appeared in front of him and rocked back on her heels in a way that reminded him of a little girl.
“I picked out a suite of rooms for you and the General.” She used one hand to motion him ahead. “I think it’s perfect and there is room for… children if that is your choice.”
Rodney paused and looked at her with growing horror. “If you neglected to mention that men can get pregnant after the gene therapy, Ally, I’m going to corrupt your language processor and not fix it for a year.”
She laughed. “No, that would have required significant changes to your body that would be obvious. The structure of your hips and of course your organs would have to be slightly rearranged to allow for a uterus. More than gene therapy would have been required. It’s not that I can’t do it; there is a lab on the city that was solely responsible for gender reassignment. Such procedures were as complete as it was possible because even among the Alterans sometimes people were born in what they felt was the wrong body. It was a great honor to help them develop technology to correct that mistake.”
“You can make a man a fully functional woman?” Rodney questioned, a little awed and perhaps more shocked than he wanted to be. “Seriously?”
“Hormone injections were required on a quarterly basis after the change to keep the individuals balanced but I can make that change in either direction.” She paused and regarded him seriously. “Theseus has not mentioned to me that you are uncomfortable in your gender. If you are, I’ll start work on repairing the gender reassignment lab immediately.”
Rodney could hardly help but cover his dick with one hand protectively. “No! I’m really happy with my arrangement. It’s just cool that you can do that for people.” He cleared his throat. “So, how would John and I have a kid?”
“There is a reproduction lab. The Alterans did not place any significance on the sex of their partners so same sex pairings were quite normal within their population. The ability to procreate was at one time important to them so Theseus and a scientist named Bavar created the artificial wombs to allow for safe reproduction. Eventually even couples who could conceive naturally came to prefer the artificial womb. It allowed the female to remain active and it decreased the likelihood of physical illness or death during the birth process. The lab is currently off-line but it is on my repair list for the future.”
“Right.” Rodney rubbed his mouth and tried to collect his thoughts. “So, the quarters?”
“Yes, I’ve already shown Elizabeth the quarters I’d like her to take in another tower. I believe it is good sense that the leadership be spread out over the city in case there is an invasion.” She paused and then quirked one eyebrow. “I made sure it had one of those big bathtubs you like so much.”
* * * *
Elizabeth paused and glanced towards the gate just seconds before it started to dial. She reached out for John mentally—touching him lightly and letting him know that there was an unscheduled dial in and relaxed when he acknowledged her. Everyone in the room was tensing by degrees, each wondering if this was the call they’d been waiting on from the SGC. She glanced towards Evan Lorne who had come down the stairs as the fifth chevron encoded. It had been a month since he’d brought the people through the gate from Earth.
John jogged in from one of the side hallways and Rodney exited the main transporter just off the gateroom at nearly the same time. Sheppard was dressed in workout clothes and was a little sweaty. She noted, ruefully, that it really didn’t detract from his attractiveness at all. Anne Teldy came to stand beside her as the gate finished dialing and a wormhole was established. Eight chevrons had encoded and that meant that they had a dial in from another galaxy.
She clicked her radio at Chuck’s nod. “This is Dr. Elizabeth Weir. Please be aware that our gate shield is active and travel to us is not permitted at this time.”
The silence was nerve wracking and she took a deep breath. Anne and John both moved closer to her—she wondered if they intended on defending on her. A ghost of pain shot through her completely healed shoulder. It was difficult to even conceptualize that she’d been shot just a week ago. There wasn’t even a scar to show for the pain she’d endured; which kind of sucked on some level. It seemed like she should have proof that she went through that whole thing.
“This is Supreme Commander Thor of the Asgard.”
Weir’s gaze widened and she looked around the room until she found Nathan O’Neill. He was a little wide-eyed but he came forward without any encouragement and activated his radio.
“Thor, old buddy, how the hell are you?” Nathan questioned and shrugged at Weir and Sheppard when they both frowned at him.
“I am very well, O’Neill, how the hell are you?”
Nathan grinned. “Pretty interesting out here. Didn’t expect to hear from you.”
“I was informed by General O’Neill when I visited him last night that you were no longer where I left you,” Thor said with no small amount of ire. “Your continued physical and mental health is my duty, O’Neill.”
Nathan winced. “Right. Well, I’m in great shape. Everything is cool now.”
“We will see for ourselves,” Thor said coolly. “Dr. Weir, the Asgard seek formal permission to send one of our geneticists to Atlantis to check on the welfare of Nathan O’Neill.”
Elizabeth took a deep breath. “Well, Nathan is a part of our team here now and we take care of our own.”
“He is for all intents and purposes a child of the Asgard,” Thor interrupted. “He was created with the same techniques that we use to procreate, Dr. Weir. Are you denying me access to my offspring?”
Ally appeared abruptly in front of Nathan and inclined her head thoughtfully. Chuck immediately killed the radio transmission. “Interesting. Theseus commented during your gene therapy, Lt. O’Neill, that you were genetically perfect. We have been studying your genome out of curiosity. While we were aware that you were a clone of General O’Neill, we didn’t expect you to be flawless. We couldn’t even locate evidence that you are, in fact, a clone.”
Nathan shifted, uncomfortable with the amount of attention on him and sighed. “It’s not something I like to talk about, Ally.” He looked towards Weir. “If you don’t give them permission to come through by gate—they’ll send a ship. Some of them still think that my genome is the key to solving their cloning problems.”
“How are they going to react to the legacy?” John demanded in a low tone. “You should have told us.”
“I didn’t know O’Neill would tell them I was here,” Nathan snapped. “This is supposed to be a fresh start for me, Sheppard.”
John relaxed minutely and he sent the young man a look of apology. “Right, sorry.”
Lorne cleared his throat. “The Asgard have repeatedly stepped right through the gate shield on Earth, sir. It’s doubtful that this one will hold out against them if they want to come here through the gate. They’ve been Earth’s ally and friend since the very beginning so I don’t know how I’d feel about us firing on them.”
It would be like murdering highly intelligent children, John thought with a grimace of distaste. The picture he’d seen of the Asgard didn’t lean towards them being a physically impressive race. “Right.”
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “Ally, what is your position?”
Ally nodded, clearly relieved to finally being asked. “Chuck, I would like to speak with Commander Thor.”
Chuck nodded and reactivated the radio. “Done.”
“Supreme Commander Thor, this is the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas. It is my pleasure to hear from the Asgard again after so many years.” She walked to stand in front of the gate. “If it is within your power, I would request that you confirm that the alliance between the Asgard High Command and Theseus, son of the warrior Levyathan Aegeus, will continue to be honored by your people.”
Elizabeth inhaled sharply and waited. She exhaled when Anne’s fingers curled around hers.
“The Asgard High Command is relieved to find Theseus, son of the warrior Levyathan Aegeus, alive and well after all this time,” Thor continued. “We are, of course, at his immediate disposal for whatever he may require of us. Do you wish to remove the people from Earth from your structure?”
“Theseus and I have taken the people from Earth as our own, Supreme High Commander—including your offspring, Nathan O’Neill. He now carries the Lantean genetic legacy.” Ally paused. “You may send two representatives through the gate at this time for a conversation. Theseus is curious to know how your problem with cloning has become so advanced in such a relatively short time period and having reviewed the research you’ve given the SGC he feels confident that he can provide you with the help you need to save your race.”
Elizabeth released Anne’s hand reluctantly and took a step towards the command deck to take care of removing the gate shield personally. If this was a trap—she would prefer to bear the guilt of allowing their city to be invaded personally. But before she even put one foot on the stairs, two Asgard stepped right through the shield, each carrying a small case. They both bowed formally to Ally and the wormhole disengaged.
“I am Thor and this is Heimdall.” Thor looked curiously around the gateroom and then focused intently on Nathan. “You never stay where I put you. It’s irritating, O’Neill.”
“You know, technically speaking, Loki made me,” Nathan explained, his expression earnest.
“I fixed you,” Thor said and pointed one long finger at him. “That makes you my responsibility.”
Nathan smirked then and wiggled an eyebrow. “The fishing is great here.”
Elizabeth could have sworn the two Asgard exchanged looks that looked exactly how she thought unmitigated horror might look on an Asgard.