“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”
— African proverb
* * * *
Rodney was shaking with a mixture of relief and excitement as he and John rushed through the wormhole and back into the safe embrace of Atlantis. Another Wraith fleet was heading their way and they’d done the unthinkable—they’d found a ZPM. A full ZPM. Everyone in the gate room stopped and stared at what he held, and John’s hand tightened on his shoulder.
Elizabeth rushed down the stairs, her eyes dark and shining with emotion. “Rodney.”
“Yeah.” Rodney nodded.
She reached them and touched the ZPM with hesitant, reverent fingers. “How much of a charge?”
“It’s full, Elizabeth.” John’s voice was hoarse with emotion. He cleared his throat. “Full.”
“Teyla and Ford?” Elizabeth asked her hand curling around one of Rodney’s wrists to keep him moving.
“They are finishing up negotiations. When we explained how dire our situation was, the leader of the village insisted we return to Atlantis immediately with their trade offering.”
Elizabeth nodded and smiled, her fingers trembling against the cool, glossy surface of the ZPM. “How many of us have to sleep with them?”
John started laughing. It had been a running joke on Atlantis for months that in the end, they would have to resort to selling their own asses to survive and everyone in the room started smiling. “Nothing like that.” His expression turned serious. “They want to join the Athosians on the mainland. There is a rumor that we are building a sanctuary from the Wraith.”
“Yes, she believes the new blood will help her people and the culture of the Thorians is very similar to that of Athos. They have traded and worked together for years—intermarried in the past on a regular basis.”
“How many people?” Elizabeth petted the ZPM and grinned when Rodney covered her hand with his.
“About three hundred.” John glanced around the gate room and found most of the expedition had hurried in. There were only ninety left from the original one hundred fifty. “McKay?”
Rodney glanced at him with bright eyes and then blinked. “Oh.” He nodded. “Radek, Miko, Grodin—I need you in lab four for testing and cleaning. Simpson, Jeffers—ZPM station—check all the connections in the second slot and prepare it for the introduction of a new ZPM. Peters, Davis, Caulder, and Lowell—you’re on the grounding stations. Jakes and Sorenson – you’ll take the naquadah generators. We’ll need to monitor everything for feedback and overloads once we install the ZPM.” He paused. “Work fast but don’t rush. We have plenty of time before the Wraith get here.”
It was nearly six hours later before the ZPM was ready to be installed. Miko, Zelenka and Peter Grodin had spent more than two hours cleaning it with tiny brushes, getting thousands of years of dust and grime out of the grooves and connection points while Simpson and Jeffers had cleaned the station itself.
Most of the expedition had returned to the control room for the final install—the place where the results would filter through because the hallway leading up to the ZPM room had been cleared for emergencies. Two years on their own with dwindling supplies, very little power, and ever decreasing numbers had taken its toll on everyone.
Elizabeth clicked her radio. “Rodney, are you ready?”
“Yes, the Colonel is preparing to initialize the ZPM. Everything looks good and the system is taking the new unit without a problem.”
John lifted his hands away from the ZPM as it sank into the console and took a deep breath as it started to hum gently. Their other ZPM was only charged at twenty percent and it had been fading fast even with the rationing of power. The city shuddered and he reached out to steady himself. “McKay?”
“Hold on, we’ve had about twenty systems we didn’t know existed come online.” McKay’s fingers were dancing over the keyboard. “The control room. Now.”
They made the trip up two levels in record time and the crowd gathered in the room parted so they could get to the command center quickly. Rodney slid into a chair at the main console. “Radek?”
“Environmental systems, defense systems, and security protocols are activating across the entire city. Areas that were flooded are being flushed clean.” Zelenka took a deep breath. “Windows are opening, the desalination tanks are cleaning themselves—it’s as if the city is waking up.”
“Waking up,” John repeated. “What does that mean?”
Suddenly about half the people in the room let out high pitched screams and scrambled away from the space in front of the stargate. John stopped in his tracks at the appearance of a young woman dressed in simple pants and a linen shirt. Her dark hair was swept up on top of her head and she looked young, perhaps not even sixteen.
The click of weapon safeties flipping off filled the otherwise silent room. The woman looked briefly at the Marines on guard duty and then inclined her head gently. “I am the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas.” She focused on John, her voice was soothing like music rushing over the sound of the ocean and it was everywhere in the room at once—as if it were pouring literally out of the walls. “I am so pleased to finally meet you, John.”
John flushed at the clear and obvious affection in her voice. “Hello Atlantis, I—huh—I’m pleased to meet you as well.”
She smiled then, bright green eyes sparkling with good humor. A smile played on her generous mouth. “I always assumed you wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if I actually talked back to you.”
“You’ve been talking to her?” Rodney demanded. “John! Did you know…”
“No more than anyone else,” John defended. “We’ve all talked to her.”
Rodney flushed, cleared his throat, and then glared. “Yeah, well, you’re the one she apparently is so pleased to meet!”
“I’m very pleased to meet you, too, Rodney.” Atlantis grinned and her cheeks brightened with color as several people in the room laughed softly.
“You call yourself The Atlantis Collective?” Rodney asked, his voice subdued, questioning.
She grinned at him then. “Not so much like the Borg, Dr. McKay and more like HAL only not insane.” She grew serious when they all started to back away from her. “I am completely open to a non-invasive examination of my programming.”
“I’ll take you up on that very soon,” Rodney promised. “Atlantis Collective, what is your primary function?”
“To aid and protect those who I allow to live within my walls to the best of my ability.”
“And do you allow us to live within your walls?” John asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Had I not, John, I would have let the ocean take you all when you first arrived. It would have been easy to do nothing when my primary shield started to fail.” That information sank into them and people started to relax.
“Why are you called a ‘collective’?”
“Because I am the Central Artificial Intelligence of a network of intelligent, learning computer programs that can see to the needs of both your small population and to the biomechanical organism that houses us. There are seventeen independent programs within the central core—controlling such things as environmental concerns, security fields, weapons, safety protocols for the labs, and then other areas which you have not fully used yet for such things as hydroponics and the medlab.”
Her gaze traveled to Carson Beckett. “We have much to discuss, Dr. Beckett. Now that I have more power, I will be able to assist you much more. There are devices and equipment in the medlab that have lain dormant for ten thousand years but City Maintenance assures me they can be reactivated and repaired without a problem.”
Carson nodded. “Thank you, lass.”
“Atlantis…” John started and then paused. “Do you understand the current threat we are under?”
“My creator called me Ally.” She looked at him and then turned to gaze around the gate room. “He created my avatar in the image of his daughter, who was killed when she was just seventeen solar years old. Her name was Atlantis—the city and the collective were designed, created, and finally built in her honor. He was a brilliant and gifted engineer.” She looked at Rodney. “I am reminded of my progenitor when you touch me. I am very pleased that you came here.”
“You are a learning AI?” Radek asked.
“Yes, Dr. Zelenka.”
“Do you know all of our names?” Elizabeth questioned.
“Yes, Dr. Weir and I mourn those who no longer walk my halls. I apologize that I was not able to do more to protect you all. In coming here, you’ve all given me a new purpose and I will endeavor to keep you as safe as possible.”
“Yeah, about that…” John took a breath. “We’ve got a few Wraith coming our way.”
“Yes, I know. I am relieved you were able to bring me a full power source. My battlement and defense systems are preparing drones. I will need Dr. Simpson, Dr. Lowell, and Captain Bates in my weapons room to help repair one of my laser cannons.” She turned and focused on McKay. “I’ve sent a list of repairs to your tablet PC that are imperative for our upcoming battle. I will need you and Colonel Sheppard in the first tier control room.”
“Where is that?” Rodney glanced around the room. “This is all we have.”
“No. There are others. The gate command center is second tier. It would be foolish to leave the central controls of the city so close to the gate in case we were invaded.”
Every military asset in the room grunted in agreement and Rodney flushed. “Okay, fine, you all said so and I should have listened.” He looked at Ally and frowned. “Well?”
“The City Command Center is currently locked down. None of you have the ability to access that part of the city,” Ally admitted and then shrugged. “I can fix that but for now the first tier control room is the chair room you discovered shortly after you arrived. It will allow Colonel Sheppard to launch drones, control my laser cannons, and organize the battle.” The avatar split in two – forming a holographic duplicate of herself. One moved to stand next to Weir. “There is much to do—I can appear simultaneously in six places at any given time at my current power levels. This will allow us to work as efficiently as possible.”
* * * *
John circled the control chair several times and then walked to stand beside Rodney who had set himself up a little control center of his own with three laptops in a circle on the floor. He squatted down next to him. “How is this thing going to react to me with the AI… active?”
“She’s always been active,” Rodney murmured. “She just didn’t have the power to waste on avatar projection and active communication. I had no idea we were starving her the way we were. I should’ve spent more time trying to fix the power problems and found a ZPM sooner.”
“Don’t blame yourself.” John patted his shoulder, indulging the desire to touch his best friend despite how much of a bad idea it was. In the two years he’d known Rodney—there’d never been any indication that something intimate would be welcome. “Did we hurt her?”
Rodney sighed and shook his head. “Not in any way we could’ve helped but I’m really uncomfortable with the idea that we were essentially starving her with our ignorance. The city is made of an organic, living metal, John.”
“Jesus,” John muttered. “Okay, so being in the chair shouldn’t be any different for me?”
“Well, we have more power so you’ll probably have a bigger reach in the chair and there are more systems online for you to play with. That being said, I’m pretty sure the AI is going to guide you where you need to be like she probably has in the past.” Rodney looked up at met his gaze. “I’ll pull you out of it if I get worried.”
“I trust you,” John murmured and stood up. He pulled off his jacket as Beckett entered the room with a gurney full of supplies. “What’s up, Doc?”
Carson snorted. “You can’t possibly think we’re going to let you get in that chair with the lass flitting about without monitoring you.” He turned and looked him over. “Take off your shirt. I’m going to monitor your heart as well as brain activity.”
The avatar appeared to the left of John as he pulled off his shirt. “I’d never hurt John. Of all of you—he’s the closest to the people I once provided for. It was so unexpected. I always assumed people from Earth would come back to me but after ten thousand years I didn’t anticipate being able to connect with any of you at all.” She moved closer and trailed her fingers along his arm. John didn’t flinch at the contact but he did glance at her, startled. “My avatar technology is similar to the shield system—I can be as solid as necessary in any given situation.” She walked to stand beside Rodney. “Do you need anything from me, Dr. McKay?”
“Am I going to have complete access to the diagnostics of the chair while he’s in it?” Rodney questioned.
“I can make that happen.” She paused and frowned. “Your computers don’t have the processing power required to get a full diagnostic picture of the chair.” A console slid up out of the floor. “But this will give you what you desire.”
Rodney sighed and abandoned his improvised control center. “It’s like you’re a stranger to me, that’s how much I don’t know about you.”
Ally grinned. “I look forward to our getting fully acquainted.” Two stools slid out of the floor in front of the console, she arranged herself elegantly on one and then patted the other. “Come sit with me a while.”
He blushed but slid onto the stool while Carson continued to litter John’s chest with monitors. John watched the avatar and Rodney bend over the console while she explained various things to him. It was probably a dream come true for Rodney—better than if they’d found another Ancient. He flinched when he considered Chaya and how badly he’d messed up.
John’s gaze narrowed. “Why didn’t you warn me that Chaya was an asshole?”
Atlantis looked up at him and raised one eyebrow in a way so reminiscent of Mr. Spock that John decided right then and there he was going to start monitoring her TV intake. “I tried but you ignored me. Dr. McKay proved very receptive to my efforts during that time. You ignored him, too. I didn’t have the power to actually speak with any of you. I would’ve destroyed your naquadah generators with the power surges that would’ve resulted in my trying to communicate directly.” Ally made a little huffy sound and lifted her chin like John had seen McKay do a thousand times. “She will not be allowed to return.”
“You can prevent the ascended from coming here?”
“Not physically but I did inform her that she was no longer welcome within my walls when she returned to the city to visit John a few months ago. If she does not respect my wishes—the others will force my will upon her,” Ally answered, her tone even and precise.
Rodney glared at John. “You didn’t tell me she came here again!”
“John never saw her. I interfered before she could make herself known to him,” Ally replied before John could open his mouth to defend himself. “She won’t come here again unless she wants to be punished further.”
“Good to know,” Rodney glared at John again and then went back to asking questions about the readouts Ally was providing him.
John settled in the chair after Carson finished attaching cables to his head. “You know those things itch.” The chair tilted and spun gently as it always did. Now John was facing Rodney and the console he was sitting at. “I always wondered why it spun this way.”
Rodney looked up. “How do you feel?”
“No different than before.”
“His gene isn’t strong enough for him to access my systems fully,” Ally explained. “It’s something that I can correct later if you wish.”
“Correct?” Carson questioned sharply. “Now, lass, I can trust you won’t to try to alter the man while he’s sitting in this chair, can’t I?”
Ally glared at him. “I’d never give such gifts without discussion and permission, Dr. Beckett. I’m not some impetuous child and while you are all very young—I’d never take your choices from you because I assume I know what is best for you.” She paused. “Though I most certainly do know what’s best for you.”
Rodney chuckled and went to get one of his computers. “How old are you?”
“Three million, forty-two thousand, eleven years, eight months, and six days by Earth’s calendar,” Ally informed them. “I think we look very good for our age.” Her image flickered. “I must go to Battlements and focus all of my processing power on the drone plant. It’s in disrepair and we’ll need a great deal of maintenance after this crisis has been averted.” She disappeared in a blink—leaving the three of them alone.
“John, talk to me,” Rodney instructed as he settled himself back on his stool.
“My reach, as you called it, has definitely increased—I can feel the city readying itself for battle. The stardrive is badly damaged—I don’t know if was done on purpose or if it’s just because of age. The drone plant is struggling under the stress of the load, but it’s putting out three drones a minute. She only has enough materials stored for a production run of ten thousand. There is a continuous supply list being generated by one of her background programs. I think you’re getting a direct download to one of your computers. I can tap into security feeds all over the city—everywhere. I think it’s the same system she uses for the avatar projection because there isn’t a square inch of the city that isn’t available to me.” John paused. “I’ve seen way too many naked people in the last three minutes—and we have some really hot people on the city.”
Rodney laughed softly. “Not that you’d care. You get your ass off-planet.”
“Rodney!” Carson admonished. “The Colonel’s sex life is none of your concern.” He wagged a finger at him. “Let the man concentrate.”
“He’s looking at naked people—that’s not work.”
“It’s not live,” John admitted. “It’s like—archived footage. I tapped into the wrong section of the security protocols.” He paused. “How’d you get that scar on your… oh yeah… that’s where you got shot in the ass.”
“Fuck you… it was the thigh!” Rodney sputtered suddenly. “You stop watching me shower, Colonel Peeping Tom!”
“Is that what you call what you did in the shower this morning?” John asked with a grin and then held up a hand in supplication. “Just kidding—I swear. The laser cannons are all reporting fine except for the one that Atlantis pulled back for repair. Why didn’t we know we had laser cannons?”
“They would’ve been useless without more power,” Rodney offered. “And if we had more power to offer it would’ve been better served in places like the infirmary.”
John agreed so he didn’t say anything else about that. He hated to even think about how many people they’d buried on the mainland. “Elizabeth didn’t even suggest that we contact Earth.”
“They can’t or won’t send us help and we need to conserve the ZPM for fighting off the Wraith,” Rodney snapped and then took a big breath. “Sorry.”
“You know we’re on the same page,” John murmured. “I was just surprised because in the past she’s always been the one to talk about how important contacting them was.”
“She’s had her own disappointments over the last year,” Carson murmured. “They didn’t bloody help when we did ask. Rodney is right—there is no point in begging and we still don’t have a big pay day for them. At least, nothing they think worth the risk of them trying to help us.”
After the first time they’d requested help and had gotten nothing in return for the waste of power—they’d all made peace with the fact that Earth wasn’t going to help them. The horrible part was that for a lot of them it wasn’t even the first time they’d been abandoned to their fate with little hope of survival.
Of them all, Rodney seemed the most resigned to their fate. John didn’t know why exactly but he’d heard the jokes about Siberia. Since he’d basically been tossed to the bottom of the world and left there until his genetics provided the government with something useful for him to do—he thought he understood McKay’s attitude.
After Sumner had died, John had been pressed by Elizabeth into leading the military on the city. It didn’t matter to her that he’d been out of the chain of command for what the people on Earth thought was a ‘very good reason’ or that he was faced with a company full of Marines who resented the fuck out of him for the mercy killing of Sumner.
One Genii invasion and 47 confirmed kills later, the Marines stopped looking at him like he was an asshole and started looking him in the eye when he gave orders. John didn’t like it one damn bit that he’d had to play ‘who’s the better killer’ to get the respect of the men under him but they were at war and that was what had been required of him.
“You should be able to access the long range sensors, Colonel.” Rodney’s voice startled John out of his thoughts and he let the city pull him in the direction that McKay wanted.
John reached out for the data and bit down on his lip to keep from groaning with pleasure as he slipped further into the virtual world Ally was opening up to him. If he were at all honest with himself, his interaction with the city was the most intimacy he’d had in nearly four years. It was seductive and insidious—how easily his mind was allowed to move in the city’s virtual world. Despite McKay’s assumptions, he hadn’t touched a single person in Pegasus in a sexual way. First, duty had proven a good excuse, but in the two years that followed he’d fallen in love with his best friend and touching anyone else had lost its appeal.
“You could have him, John. He’d never deny you anything.”
“Ally?” John questioned aloud.
The avatar appeared by the chair in an instant. “Yes, John?”
“Was that you speaking to me in my head?”
Ally was silent for five seconds longer than anyone in the room was comfortable with and then tilted her head. “Not exactly. As I explained before—I am a collective of AI programs that see to the operation of the city. All of the other programs are slaved to the Central AI—that’s me.”
“Okay.” John nodded, urging her to continue.
“I’m the only AI who can speak and interact with the population in avatar form. But when you are in the chair—you’ll be able to interact with individual programs like Battlements and City Maintenance on your own if you wish.”
“But they weren’t talking to me, were they?” John’s gaze narrowed. “Tell me now or I’m getting out of this chair.”
“The city is a synergy of artificial intelligence and a living organic metal. While we are one—merged in a way that cannot be undone without destroying us both—we are two minds.”
John’s mouth dropped open and he turned to look at Rodney who was staring at the avatar with a look that spoke of ten million questions, awe, and a trifle of dawning horror.
“So the city itself was speaking to me. The organic metal… entity?” John questioned, his tone careful and soft. “She is sentient?”
“He is sentient,” Ally corrected. “He is called Theseus.”
“He,” Rodney repeated. “Why did your creator give him a female AI?”
“Because I was created in honor of his daughter and he believed that Theseus was unhappy and lonely—he was believed to be the last of his kind. My maker thought a female companion would ease the wildness in him. The Alterans took him from their home galaxy to protect him from their mutual enemy. Theseus’ kind were being hunted and destroyed because they were… uniquely immune to political and religious power struggles. They insisted on making their own way.” Ally smiled then. “Theseus has not communicated directly with anyone but me since our merger, John. It’s a great honor that he chose to speak with you.”
“He’s your mate,” John finally said. “Your lover?”
Ally’s cheeks flushed pink and she glanced away. “It is not… the others did not speak of us on such terms.”
“But it is true?” John pressed, only mildly impressed that the avatar could and had blushed. It was the least of her abilities in retrospect but it did speak to the care her maker had put in her programming.
“Theseus’ kind reproduces asexually as you will learn later. He doesn’t… have any concept of the term ‘lovers’.”
John’s mind was filled suddenly with so much love and relief and joy that his breath caught hard in his chest. “I believe he would disagree with that assumption on your part, Ally.” He relaxed in the chair after sharing a look with Rodney and closed his eyes. “Long range sensors report four hive ships on the edge of our solar system and six cruisers en route to join them. We’re going to need to evacuate the mainland.”
“No,” Ally said in disagreement. “I have a shield being built in my Nanite Construction Lab that will be strong enough to protect the entire settlement if they are targeted by the hives. Darts won’t be able to penetrate it to cull either.”
“When does it come out of the NCL?” Rodney questioned.
Ally paused briefly. “Two hours. It’ll be ready to install and activate immediately after it comes out of my NCL.” She smiled at the new term. “I’ve requested Jumper Three standby for immediate flight so Sergeant Stackhouse can go to the mainland to deploy the shield. It will need an ATA gene for the initial activation.”
“You’ve increased production in the drone plant,” John murmured. “We’re up to eight a minute, Rodney.”
“I don’t know how long I can maintain that level of production. The plant will need to be taken off line for design modifications and be rebuilt from the ground up once we’re in a situation to do so.” Ally slid back onto the stool beside Rodney. “I have harvesters—that I can release through the stargate to various worlds and asteroid fields to bring materials back to build drones and other equipment as needed. I’d like to recycle your naquadah generators for repairs to city structures.”
“You can’t get it easily in this galaxy?”
“Not easily no. The gate to my supply world for naquadah fell off the grid nearly five thousand years ago. I don’t know if the planet is still there at all.” Ally sighed. “Theseus needs the naquadah, Rodney.”
“We’ll get him everything he needs,” Rodney promised. “You had a mining operation on this world you lost?”
“Yes, an automated one that was shut down when the Alterans left this galaxy. It wasn’t habitable by any stretch of the imagination—not to any species the Alterans ever encountered in this galaxy or any other. But, it was rich in naquadah and other ores that I use for construction. I do not currently have any harvesters that can enter the atmosphere of a planet so I can’t reach the mines without an active gate on the surface.”
Rodney nodded. “Could we gate to a nearby world and go there by Jumper?”
“It would be a six day trip in a Jumper,” Ally admitted. “But it would be… doable as you say.”
“We’ll work on that,” Rodney nodded. “Okay, so, what does Theseus eat?”
Ally tilted her head. “His biomechanical structures require power—like the ZPM to fully function but he does not need food as you understand it.”
“Does he still grow?”
“He has finished his primary growth cycle but could with the right materials and nutrients reshape himself. He was still a child when he was brought to the planet you call Earth. The Alterans used him to escape. He was just a small ship then, just a few hundred years old. Left to grow naturally, his kind does not mature until they reach their five hundredth year. Near the middle of his growth cycle, our progenitor created the plans and shared them with Theseus. He was pleased with the beauty and design that Joral had made for him—and he grew into the city-ship structure you see today. Once he was finished, Theseus allowed the Alterans to integrate more of their technology into him and I was introduced. We merged beautifully—no one expected us to have such an intense merger. Some of the Alterans were displeased by it. I believe they wanted the ability to separate me from Theseus whenever they chose but he blended with me permanently in every way he could.”
“It hurt him when they put their technology into him,” Rodney surmised.
Ally nodded. “Yes, it hurt but he told me once that the pain was worth it.”
“Because you were his reward,” John said. “Your creator did you both a favor.”
* * * *
Marcus Stackhouse dropped down in the pilot seat of the Jumper and glanced briefly at the co-pilot seat. The empty one, because Jason was pissed at him for some rather unintentional flirting on his part and now he refused to go to the mainland. He sighed when Radek Zelenka came up from the back of the Jumper and sat down in the seat. “Ready, Doc?”
“Yes, Sergeant. The shield generator has been stored, I’ve endured my lecture from Rodney, and my wife has packed us a lunch.” Radek set his backpack on the floor. “She did not know your favorites but said your sandwich has plenty of meat on it.”
Marcus grinned. “That works, Doc. How is Miko?”
“Irritated with me because I said she could not come over to the mainland. We have too much to do.” Radek waved a hand as they exited the Jumper Bay. “And I did not wish her to leave the security of the city during such a time.”
Marcus didn’t disagree with that at all. The small and delicate Japanese scientist that ran roughshod over Radek Zelenka on a daily basis had no business in a war. She was just one of many of the civilians he figured would’ve been better off back on Earth.
“This thing will protect the mainland?”
“Yes, for many weeks under constant bombardment,” Radek admitted. “The power source is not a ZPM but it will last for thousands of years if it’s not stressed with a protracted conflict. More importantly it will cloak the settlement completely so the Wraith should not even see them on their sensors.”
Marcus glanced back toward one of the passenger seats. “Are you ready, Teyla?”
She nodded abruptly. “Yes.”
Marcus didn’t really think she meant that but he was aware enough not to push her on the subject. Teyla hadn’t been herself for months—not since they’d figured out she had Wraith DNA. He knew she took a lot of grief from her people over it and he’d heard through one of the botanists that a betrothal had been set aside. She didn’t smile much anymore and when she did it was only for her teammates.
* * * *
“You are being ridiculous,” Teyla ground out through clenched teeth and then took a calming breath. “Halling, the shield is not a prison and if you wish to leave the mainland and return to the city—you may do so. You can leave through the stargate at any time.”
Halling turned his back on her and returned to the settling wood in his fire place. “I speak only of what some of the others are saying about the presumption of the Earth-people. To live in the ancestral city as they have for the past two years was insult enough and now that they have the power to return to their homeworld—they don’t even speak of it.”
“You’d rather they leave us here—abandon us to an approaching Wraith fleet with a city that will not respond to any of us?” Teyla questioned with a frown. “Many of the people from Earth are actually direct descendants of the Ancestors—proven by their ability to use their technology.”
“Most of them were granted that ability through their medical science,” Halling argued.
“A few yes, but John Sheppard—the whole reason he came to the city was because he carries the blood of the Ancestors.” Teyla watched Halling jerk wood from a box and add it to the fire. “Why do you hate him so?”
“I do not hate Sheppard. He is a strong fighter and a man of his word,” Halling returned. “He should take his people home where they belong.”
“He’s not interested in me,” Teyla finally said. “Surely you know that.”
“He has never developed an intimate relationship with one of his own people,” Halling returned evenly. “And he spends time with you.”
“He spends more time with Dr. McKay, and with his position as the leader of the city’s military—he hasn’t always been able to make time for relationships beyond that with his team,” Teyla explained tightly. “I’m like a sister to him. It just makes you angry that he didn’t distance himself from me like all of you did when my Wraith blood was discovered.”
“I do not hold it against you, Teyla. But you know we believe that you shouldn’t be allowed in dwell in the city of the Ancestors with your tainted blood. It’s a sacrilege.”
Teyla inhaled deeply to keep her cool. “Do you wish to leave through the stargate or not?”
“We will remain here but this prison must be removed from our village as soon as the threat has passed. I cannot abide our being restricted here as well as being cut off from the ring of the ancestors.”
Teyla frowned at him aware that he was chastising her use of the Lantean’s term for the ring. “I’ll let Dr. Weir know.”
* * * *
John went a little weak around the knees when he first stood up from the chair. Startled, he reached out and was gratified when Rodney was instantly there to support him. “Thanks.”
Rodney wrapped an arm around his waist. “This is not cool. Ally, explain yourself!” He guided John to the gurney as Carson got it ready for him. “Atlantis!”
Ally appeared abruptly at his side. “I apologize, there was a potential for overload in one of the drones. I had to recycle it and that required all of my attention. John is weak physically because my systems were tailored for someone with a more advanced physiology. He’ll need a big meal and a long period of rest. At this point, Dr. Miko Zelenka can take his place in the chair and continue to direct repairs of the Battlement systems. She has the second strongest gene on the city.”
“I can’t do it?” Rodney questioned sharply. “I don’t want to risk…”
“It’s no risk,” Ally quickly assured. “I’d never risk anyone’s health and unfortunately Dr. McKay, your gene will not be accepted by my systems. I wish it were different. I look forward to interacting with you on that level in the future, however.”