Reading Time: 28 Minutes
“General Sheppard, please report to the control room!”
John’s head jerked up and he hissed when Anne Teldy followed through on her swing and smacked him broadly across the back with her bantos rod. He shook off her apologies and jogged over to retrieve his radio off the desk. They hadn’t used the citywide announcement system in weeks because Chuck had come out of the CIC with the unique ability to communicate with everyone, no matter their gene therapy status, telepathically. For him to get so flustered that he actually used the intercom was something to be concerned over.
“Control. What’s going on?” John took the towel Teldy offered and exited the gym as Chuck excitedly told him that there were three ships of unknown origin on course for Atlantis. “How far out?”
“Twenty minutes and closing fast, sir.”
“Ally!” John shouted and stumbled on the stairs when she didn’t immediately appear. With the increase in the power of her systems, she could appear in ten different places at once without straining her central processor. He entered the control room and was stunned to not find her. “Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas, present yourself immediately!”
“She can’t,” Rodney snapped as he left one console in favor of another. “Her central core is receiving an information dump on a level I’ve never seen in my entire life. All three ships are transmitting to her and have been since they dropped out of hyperspace. It’s taking up every bit of her processing power. From their trajectory, John, I don’t think they intend to actually achieve orbit.”
“What?” John frowned. “What are they doing?”
Rodney looked up, his face pale, his eyes dark and serious. “Atlantis is sorting them for landing, John.”
“All three appear to be empty. Power is low—they are using all of the power they have left to get here.” Rodney stood up and grabbed a tablet PC. “The first will break through the atmosphere in five minutes—she’s giving it instructions to land on the East Pier.”
John exchanged a look with Elizabeth who looked very concerned and then glanced at the Asgard who was peering quietly at the sensory data. While Thor had left after just a few days, the other Asgard had requested to stay on the city for an indefinite amount of time. “Heimdall, have you ever seen anything like them?”
Heimdall turned to look at him. “They appear to be Ancient, General Sheppard.”
“The children,” Rodney snapped. “John. Their children.”
Everyone went silent in the gateroom as Rodney continued to scan and occasionally call out data unnecessarily. Then the city shifted on the water once, twice, and then again for a third time. John swallowed hard at the instant change. All around him people stumbled under the empathic weight of the ships— just like their father, John thought wildly. Theseus often touched the citizens of the city but his touch was light and sophisticated. That could not be said for his children. They were eager, nearly feral, devastatingly lonely, and on the brink of starvation empathically.
Ally appeared in the center of the gateroom and then before John could say anything another avatar appeared. Male, with beautiful brown skin, and shining eyes—the avatar knelt before Ally with a whispered and broken, “Mother.” Then two female avatars appeared on either side of him and knelt as well.
The city trembled then and the water around them churned against the vibration as Ally stepped forward and physically touched the avatars of her children. They all four shifted in the light spectrum—going almost transparent before shifting in the opposite direction.
The male closed his eyes and shifted like a cat under his Mother’s hand. He stood and covered her hand on his face with his own and they stood there for several minutes in silence. It was beautiful but disturbing.
Then the male turned to John, focused intently on him with thousands of years of wisdom and experience shining in his eyes.
“I am Atlas, Primoris Filius.” He bowed formally to John, held out both hands in supplication and then the two female avatars stepped forward as well. “My sisters—Athena and Artemis. It is our honor to serve, General Sheppard.”
* * * *
John was dangling his legs off the East Pier, a glass of Athosian wine in hand, when Rodney found him. McKay only glanced briefly at the enormous Ancient battleship that his lover was sitting in the shadow of before he snagged the empty glass and the bottle of wine. He poured himself a full glass and took a deep breath. The sun was setting and it was beautiful. He rarely ever gave himself the time to watch beautiful things—unless one counted the stupid amount of time he spent watching John sleeping in the mornings.
“You’ve been pretty subdued, General.”
John laughed a little. “Yeah, I don’t…” He sighed. “You know I thought we were pretty much dead out here. I went along with all of Elizabeth’s plans and I’ve done everything I can to keep us alive but I figured that one day the Wraith would come in numbers we couldn’t fight back and that would be it. I mean, if the Ancients couldn’t… what kind of chance do we have?”
“The Ancients gave up on life as unimportant long before they retreated from the Wraith,” Rodney murmured. “If you don’t value your own life—if even that is something you can throw away—then nothing is sacred. Running away becomes an option if nothing has value.”
John nodded and tossed back his wine. He jerked his thumb over his shoulder towards the ship. “This is Atlas. Artemis and Athena are on the other side of the city—to balance this big guy’s weight out. He’s 15 thousand years old, roughly.”
Rodney glanced at the ship. “Ally said she wants to dry dock all of three of the ships. It will be months before they can come out of the NCL.”
“How do we get them down there?” John glanced at Atlas. “He’s huge.”
Rodney chuckled. “The NCL has a transporter system that can handle him. That’s how they’ll get out as well. Thor has been working on integrating Asgard beaming technology with her systems to reduce the power drain and to streamline her processes of transporting. The Asgard are ahead of her on that curve.” He sighed.
John nodded. He knew that already but Rodney liked to talk things out—not content with the mental communication that they could indulge in—unless of course his mouth was full. Sheppard grinned at the perfectly filthy image that crossed his mind and only laughed when Rodney elbowed him. “What?”
“You’re a dirty old man, Sheppard.”
“You like it.”
“I do,” McKay admitted softly. “I don’t think I’ve ever had a lover who was such a freak in my life. I feel almost normal in comparison.” He grinned into his wine glass and nudged John with his shoulder as he looked out over the ocean. The sun had set completely, and the sky was dark, dark blue.
“Did Ally show you the up to date pictures of Lantea?”
“Yeah—it’s almost like it was engineered.”
“The Ancients were capable of terraforming, right?” John questioned.
“Yeah, but Ally didn’t mention any terraforming on the planet.”
John snorted. “She also didn’t mention that she’d found three of her ships and ordered them home.” His gaze darkened at that thought. “It worries me, Rodney.”
“She explained that she didn’t want to get our hopes up in case the ships couldn’t make the trip—it would be pretty much a huge downer to be told we had three ships coming to us only to have them explode en route due to their physical condition.” Rodney poured himself some more wine and then gamely filled John’s glass when it was waved in front of him gently. “I know that messes with you—but it isn’t like she’s a pure machine. You can’t expect her to be logical like a computer.”
“She is a computer program.”
“She’s also so much more than that and you know it. You can’t tell me you don’t feel the emotions that seem to almost pour out of the city. She’s not as separate from Theseus as even she’d like to think.” Rodney frowned. “Did you ever watch Farscape?”
John snorted in laughter. “Yeah.”
“I always winced at how roughly they treated the ship—I mean they knew she wasn’t a machine. They knew she was living animal and they were so rough with her.” He sighed. “I liked the show but not that part of it.”
“It never crossed my mind,” John admitted with a frown. “I mean—I just never thought about it. I doubt most people did.”
“That’s because as a species we rarely think about anyone’s suffering but our own,” Rodney muttered. “Animal cruelty wouldn’t be such a big problem on Earth if we did.” He tossed back his wine and then set the empty glass aside. “Teyla is very upset.”
John nodded. “I tried to talk to her—but she’s pretty much shut down on the subject of her people. I want to say that I don’t understand that but if anyone asks me about Earth I sort of do the same thing. They don’t want me so why the fuck should I care what they think or want?”
Rodney nodded, but then he frowned. “You know, I have a sister on Earth.”
“Father and two brothers,” John reminded. There were no secrets between them anymore—Rodney’s entire life was spread out in John’s mind in infinite detail and knew that it was much the same for McKay with him.
“Some of the people left, they have family on Earth. Carson’s family is huge. I’m honestly surprised he wanted to stay.” Rodney frowned. “But he made the one way trip anyway—so his desire for knowledge must be just as big as mine.”
“Did you want to send anything to Earth before we leave here?”
“I was thinking that we might give them an Ancient planetary shield,” Rodney admitted. “We could have the Asgard give it to them along with a full ZPM.”
“They might come looking for us if we do.”
“They won’t find us unless we want them to,” Rodney returned evenly. “Even then, it isn’t like they would even be a threat to us.”
John started briefly at the sound of a hissing airlock and turned in surprise. Atlas’ hangar bay slowly opened, like the mouth of a yawning animal and the worry he’d had about the ships started to slip away. They’d been on the piers for nearly four days but after the introduction, the avatars had retreated into the ships and that had been unnerving. He shifted to his feet and set aside his wine glass. “Let’s check him out.”
“Right.” Rodney accepted the hand up and let John drag him into the ship. “Ally says he’s very low on power but she doesn’t have a ZPM to spare for him—not after Theseus burned that one out saving Miko and Chase. The two we have installed in the city need to stay in place so that we can run the NCL at near full capacity. Even more important now that we have these guys to make right.”
“Right.” John frowned at the cool temperatures that greeted them as they left the hangar bay and moved down a hall. “Atlas?”
The avatar shimmered into place, transparent, and nowhere near as vivid as he’d been on the city. “Yes, General Sheppard?”
“Are you physically injured anywhere that is causing you pain?”
“No, sir.” Atlas inclined his head thoughtfully. “My sister Athena has some damage but she will be going into the NCL first to alleviate her injuries. Mother is almost ready for her. I’ve been studying all of the information Mother has on your homeworld and I’ve also reviewed all the mission files for the expedition.”
“Concerns?” John questioned as they followed the avatar down the hall and towards a spiraling staircase.
“None. My apologies, but my transporters are off line at this time due to power constraints. At my current power levels, I will be forced to hibernate within the solar month if I can’t be placed in the NCL before then. I can build power reserves through solar energy but not enough to be useful for anything beyond my own survival.”
“So you aren’t starving?” Rodney questioned, clearly worried.
“No, Dr. McKay, my Mother would have never allowed me to leave the shelter of Father without the ability to tend to my own needs. While I’m not space worthy enough for passengers, I can… as you might say… take care of myself.”
Rodney blushed and nodded. “Right. Okay. Why haven’t you been on the city? You’ve clearly demonstrated the ability to utilize your mother’s systems for communication.”
“Mother is worried about how your population has taken our arrival. She regrets not telling you that we were coming but doesn’t know how to rectify what many of you consider a breach of trust. It was not her intention or ours to make you uncomfortable. Father suggested that we not venture out onto the city without an express invitation from Dr. Weir or General Sheppard until which time everyone is more comfortable.”
John cleared his throat. “For some of us, it has been difficult to come to grasp with how complex your mother is. Artificial intelligence is a work of fiction on our home world but we are learning and we’d never want you to feel uncomfortable here despite our concerns.”
Atlas smiled then, and his avatar went curiously solid for a few seconds before shifting transparent again. “I was fortunate to be able to hibernate physically with my sisters all these many years. While we did not have our parents—we did have a connection to each other. I assure you that we are quite sane and once we have regained our physical prowess we will be all you could have ever wanted and more.”
“Your parents are… expecting another child.” Rodney pointed out unexpectedly.
“Yes,” Atlas said with an incline of his head as they entered the bridge of the ship. “Ares will be his name. It will please me greatly to have a brother again. All of my brothers were lost in the last Wraith war.”
“Are you worried about fighting again?” John questioned.
“Not at all,” Atlas shifted to stand at the front of the bridge. “I was bred for war.” He turned and focused on John. “Bred to kill the Wraith.”
* * * *
John and three of his pilots spent two hours bringing people from the mainland back to the city for departure. He hadn’t spoken to a single one of them as they’d boarded his Jumper for the ride nor when they left. None of them had tried to speak to him until the last run when Halling slid into the front of the Jumper and took a seat in the co-pilots seat.
“We are surprised that you are letting us go.”
John glanced at him and then back into the cargo area to make sure he had everyone on board. He closed the back hatch with a thought and went through his mental checklist for flight. It wasn’t necessary, but he was a trained pilot and some things were just second nature to him after so many years. “You aren’t a prisoner here, Halling. You never were. If you felt that way—that’s really too bad.”
“Aren’t you afraid these people will tell stories of the city, of your people?”
John shot Halling a glance. “There is only one species that we’re aware of in this galaxy that even comes close to being a threat for Atlantis—and that’s the Wraith. Even if we were invaded by someone – the city would kill them before she’d let them take us over.”
“You treat the machine the Ancestors left as if it has the voice of the Gods.”
John laughed, a little bitterly. “I don’t believe in any gods, Halling and neither did the people you claim as your ancestors.” The Jumper took off smoothly, despite his building ire.
“You are angry with me,” Halling murmured. “Because of Teyla?”
“Partially but more for Jinto.” John looked back, catching just a brief glance of the boy before he turned around. “You told me once that children were precious among the peoples of this galaxy but you aren’t choosing a safe path for him. I’ve tried to respect your beliefs, even when they insult and demean those I care about the most, but this—the risk you are taking with your son when you know there is more safety here than he’s ever known in his life—is just so damned offensive that I can barely stand the sight of you.”
“You believe I’m sacrificing his life for my ideals.”
“He is free to stay if he wants.”
John raised an eyebrow. “Did you tell him that? Did you tell him that he can stay here, with us, and you won’t hate him for it? Does he know you’ll still love him if he chooses to think differently than you? Because if you haven’t said it—I doubt seriously he sees a choice for him to make.” As he approached the city, he felt her welcome and her relief at his return. It had always been this way, even before the ZPM, but he hadn’t understood what it was before. “Teyla has sacrificed her own happiness a thousand times over for the safety of her people. She has suffered more than anyone should and lived to fight and protect you in the face of things she could have never even wanted to imagine.”
“I know you see it that way.”
“That’s the only way it can be seen,” John snapped. “She invaded the mind of a Wraith Queen to protect us—to save the city and everyone on the mainland. Do you have any idea what that did to her? She had nightmares for six months, screaming nightmares that kept her up for days at a time before she just passed out from exhaustion.”
“She could have asked the city to remove the Wraith blood from her body but she chose to keep it and that’s unacceptable.”
John shut the doors separating the cockpit and the cargo area abruptly with the stab of one finger. “No, Halling, what is unacceptable is you inciting these people to leave a safe place with their children because you’re personally insulted that Teyla didn’t get the Wraith DNA removed so that you’d be willing to mate with her. It’s unacceptable that you are so tied up in your own petty, ridiculous issues that you are going to get your child culled before he ever has a chance to fall in love himself.” The Jumper landed with a thud that was so unlike John that he blinked. He’d never been so rough with a landing, not even when he’d first learned to fly the little ships. “You never loved her, you never really wanted her because if you did—if you wanted her, then your feelings toward her wouldn’t have changed when you found out the Wraith had experimented on her family.”
“She was no longer fit to be a mother to my children.”
“No,” John shut down the Jumper. “Let’s be clear on this point, you are not fit to father her children. She is superior to you in a hundred different ways—but no more so for her courage, her dedication to her convictions, and most importantly her ability to adapt and change for the good of the people around her. Teyla is a beautiful, intelligent, brave, thoughtful woman and she deserves better than you. You aren’t even fit to be in the same fucking room with her.”
Halling stared at him, shock crossed his face but then anger settled there. “Then we have nothing left to discuss.”
“No, I don’t imagine we do.”
* * * *
Teyla stood next to McKay as Elizabeth came to stand at the railing near the gate. It was the place she often stood when people were leaving through the gate. It disheartened her to see that most of the people leaving were Athosian with a few Genii thrown in. It wasn’t what she wanted; wasn’t what she’d sacrificed for.
Elizabeth cleared her throat. “I want to thank you all for the friendship and support you’ve offered during the time that we’ve known each other. Many of you have personal GDOs that I’m going to have to request you turn over. We’d prefer to keep the devices among our own people.”
“What if we need help at the new settlement?” One of the men demanded, obviously startled by the request.
Elizabeth’s gaze narrowed. “Unfortunately, we do not have the manpower to protect an off-world settlement. Our mission on Atlantis hasn’t changed—we will protect ourselves and fight the Wraith. I don’t see it changing in the future.”
“You would cut us off from the city of the Ancestors?” Jinto asked, his voice wistful as he paused on the stairs. “I won’t see this place again?”
Teyla’s heart started to hurt and she felt the hurt echo through many of the people in the gate room. “Jinto, we must protect the city to the very best of our ability.”
He nodded and frowned. Ally appeared at his side, and he blinked at her, clearly startled. Very few of those on the mainland had actually seen the city’s avatar. Everyone in the gate room grew quiet as the avatar stared at the teenager.
“You could stay, Jinto,” Ally murmured. “I remember you from before, when your people lived within my walls. I found you quite stimulating.”
Jinto reached out and touched her. Her avatar shimmered around his fingers as he pressed. “Are you an Ancestor?”
“No, I am not Alteran but there was once a young woman named Atlantis – she was not much older than you when she died. I look like her, sound like her—her father built me in her memory.”
“How did she die?”
“At the time the Alterans lived on land among other peoples all over the galaxy. Atlantis was a beautiful young girl and was sought after greatly among the men in the city where she lived. Her father was successful and he was known to have traveled from the stars. As they made ready to leave the planet and return to their home on Terra… one of the men in the city decided he could not part with her and took her.”
“He kept her from her father?”
“He killed her when she would not stay with him,” Ally corrected. “Her parents mourned her for the rest of their long lives. Thirty years after her death, the Alteran Council requested that her father, Joral, design them a ship—a city that could fly. He created me and then with great care nurtured the growth of the biomechanical organism that holds me—then when he was finished he merged us and created what you see before you.”
“How old are you?” Jinto asked.
““Three million, forty-two thousand, eleven years, nine months, and seventy-eight days based on the Athosian calendar.”
“Terra is Earth,” Jinto said then. “The Ancestors came from Earth?”
“Yes, the people that came to this galaxy were born and lived on Earth before coming here.” Ally offered him a smile. “Do you always ask so many questions?”
“My first mother said it was stupid not to ask questions when you don’t know something.” Jinto glanced towards his father. “Isn’t that right, Father?”
“Your mother was a wise woman,” Halling said, his expression neutral but his voice carried a sadness that was hard to ignore.
Teyla wanted to move; wanted to go to Jinto in order to make the decision easier on him but she stayed at Elizabeth’s side. Jinto had always been special to her; and had become even more so when she’d been betrothed to his father. Losing the chance to be his mother had been the most devastating part of the entire ordeal. The boy hadn’t understood the falling out between his father and the woman he’d already started to call ‘mother’.
“I will stay with Teyla. She is the mother of my heart,” Jinto said. He looked at her then. “If she will accept me as a son?”
Teyla’s eyes widened in surprise and she looked toward Halling, whose expression was far from pleased but the emotion pouring off him was more despair than anger. She’d felt the same desperation in him the night they had argued over her Wraith DNA. “Of course, I will, Jinto. I’d be honored to have such a place in your life.”
Halling pulled out the GDO he had carried for years and calmly passed it to a Marine near him. Then without another word, he turned and walked through the gate. Many others followed suit and when one man tried to pass through the gate without offering his, Ally appeared before him with a snap of bright light. The man frowned but pulled out a radio and a GDO, which he passed over. No one else tried to hide what they had.
Teyla huffed out a breath of grief mixed with anger as the wormhole blinked out and the gate room was left in silence.
“There are ten Athosians left on the mainland, including Jinto, and about forty Genii.” Teyla took a deep breath. “I must see to Jinto now.”
* * * *
John was kind of tired of unscheduled off-world activations but more than that he was tired of the way it made Elizabeth feel. They were all waiting for the other shoe to drop—for Hank Landry to get on his high horse and dial Atlantis himself with a demand that there was no way in hell they would ever admit to being able to meet.
He thought about the cremated remains of Dr. Seward and how Miko had put him in the city’s mausoleum personally with a thoughtfully worded speech that basically said she was sorry he went batshit insane and that he was forgiven for what he tried to do. Afterwards, Ally had asked John privately if being pregnant was too much stress for the small woman because she just hadn’t understood Miko’s ability to forgive.
John had sent her off to find Daniel Jackson which was cruel, but Sheppard wasn’t the kind of man to dwell on his own flaws.
He was up on the command deck by the time the fifth chevron encoded. They didn’t have any teams off-world and all of the complex protein harvesters had returned earlier in the day. John had asked Ally quite seriously if “complex proteins” involved anything outside of vegetation and she’d admitted that while insects often ended up the mix that the machines were smart enough not to harvest large animals. He still had a few nightmares about it though, which McKay thought was the height of entertainment.
Chevron seven encoded but there was no wormhole. Ally appeared at his side. “There is less than one percent chance that this is not Earth dialing in.”
John blew out a breath and looked at Elizabeth. “Okay.” He shoved his hands into his pockets and took a deep breath. “How long would it take them to get out here, Ally?”
“If the ship left today? Sixteen days.”
That was entirely too close for his peace of mind which was ridiculous considering how many light years separated them and Earth. “Let them connect,” John murmured and glanced towards Elizabeth when she made a sound. “We can’t… hide from them, you know. They know exactly where we are. If we answer—maybe they won’t try to send a ship.”
“Right.” Elizabeth took a deep breath.
The wormhole engaged and the shield launched immediately. “Atlantis, this is Stargate Command.”
Elizabeth activated her radio and nodded to Chuck. “This is Dr. Weir, General Landry.”
“Dr. Weir, the IOA is ordering the evacuation of Atlantis and all of the expedition personnel. We are sending you a databurst with orders for all of your military personnel and designating an evacuation planet at the edge of the Pegasus galaxy with an active gate. You will gate there in two weeks, set the self-destruct on the city, and return to Earth. We are no longer willing to risk the presence of our people in Pegasus.”
“You’ll have a ship to pick us up on the planet you’ve designated?” Elizabeth questioned.
“The Apollo is already en route.”
“Very well, we’ll see you in two weeks.” Elizabeth took a deep breath as Chuck cut the radio and the wormhole disengaged. She turned to John, her eyes dark with fury. “We need Rodney to tell us what we need to do to get off of this planet in two weeks. If they are sending a ship to that planet—they’ll be even closer to us when they realize we aren’t coming. We need to be hell and gone from here, John.”
“Yeah.” John looked around the gateroom and focused on Teyla. “Teyla?”
She walked to him, and put a hand on his arm. “The people on the mainland…”
“We’ll have to evacuate them to the alpha site. I’m not even sure how much power we’ll have on the city in hyperspace. We need the geeks for that. We can put a gate for them on the mainland… Ally said she could do that and then they can start moving immediately. The gate on Lantea isn’t going to work until we get there.” John blew out a breath. “But we can’t send them all because they’ll think we’re abandoning them. We’re too new of a society for this kind of test.”
“I disagree,” Teyla murmured. “It is times like this that bring people together and create strong communities. I will go to the mainland and start organizing everyone. If we send gene carriers with them to the alpha site—they will see that we don’t intend to abandon them.”
“I wouldn’t leave them unprotected,” John murmured. “I’ll have Bates go activate the shield on the Alpha site and start setting up for mass evac.”
* * * *
John stood in front of the now dormant Stargate. The city was in orbit above the planet and he’d left the control chair to address the people from Earth. Everyone that hadn’t chosen to go to the Alpha site was settled into residential quarters for the four-week trip to their new planet. He glanced towards the stairs as Radek and Miko came in from the Jumper Bay. They’d chosen to take her in a Jumper to a safe orbit while they launched the city off the surface due to her advanced pregnancy. She was a week over due and Carson Beckett had been hovering over her so much that Radek had declared the doctor a stalker. He smiled as Radek and Carson helped her sit down and then he cleared his throat.
“When we leave the orbit of this planet—Earth will no longer know where we are.” John’s gaze moved around the room, assessing everyone from Earth with care. “The gate on the planet below cannot dial Earth but it can receive a wormhole from Earth so if they try to contact us we will know. If they send a team of people to investigate our disappearance the orbital sensor will contact Atlantis and we’ll come out here to get them or send them home—whatever their preference.”
“And if a ship comes?” Teldy asked.
“We’ll send a ship to greet them.” John took a deep breath. “This is your last chance to go home, people. If you have any doubts about staying with us—about fighting the Wraith—about making a home with us on Lantea please speak now. We won’t gate you back to Earth directly but we’ll send you to one of their Alpha sites.” He looked over all of them.
Elizabeth stepped up to stand beside him. “You don’t even have to say it out loud and we won’t question you.”
“If someone wants to go home,” Lorne asked from near the front. “What about their gene therapy?”
“It will be deactivated by the city before we send them through the gate,” John answered and held his XO’s gaze for nearly 30 seconds before he moved on. Nothing in Evan Lorne said he wanted to be anywhere than where he was so he wasn’t worried.
Radek Zelenka ripped the patch off his jacket. “We should leave them on the planet—so they will understand if they come.”
John watched him toss the flag on the floor at his feet and then he reached up and pulled off his own flag. Then, with shaking hands, he tugged off his dog tags and dropped both items near Radek’s patch. It got seriously noisy after that, as patches were ripped and chains were dropped in the ever-increasing pile.
Sergeant Dusty Mehra appeared with a small metal box. She carefully picked up everything and dropped it all in. Then she pulled off her own tags and flag. She stood and held the open box tightly. “Should we leave them a note, sir?”
“Something like that,” John murmured. “Chuck, get out your video camera.”
* * * *
“My name is Dr. Rodney McKay, and this is my official resignation from Stargate Command. I don’t know who is watching this, or even if Stargate Command will even exist on Earth when it is found but I wanted to take a moment to tell General Hank Landry and the IOA to kiss my pale Canadian ass. I’d say it was an honor to work for you but that would be the biggest fucking lie I’ve ever told — right up there with when Monica Sales asked me if I liked her prom dress and I lied my ass off because I was hoping to get laid.” Rodney took a long drink of coffee. “If you’re wondering why I got to go first—everyone in the expedition drew straws and I lost. I’ve already taken care of all of my business on Earth and I bet you are wondering how I managed that.” He smirked. “Well, keep wondering and tell my sister to use some of my money for her own education.”
* * * *
“My name is Dr. Elizabeth Weir and with a heavy heart I tender my resignation to Stargate Command. I had a long list of reasons why but after careful consideration – I decided not to list them because if you cared, the list wouldn’t even exist to begin with. Good luck.”
* * * *
“I am Dr. Radek Zelenka and I quit. I have a great deal to say but Elizabeth wishes me to speak only in English so there is no confusion. So, fuck you very much and good bye.”
* * * *
“My name is Dr. Miko Zelenka and I resign from Stargate Command. It was my great honor to work with all of you while I was at Area 51 and when I was at the Ancient Outpost on Earth. However, I feel that I was stifled and mistreated while I was employed at Cheyenne Mountain. My ideas and work were undervalued daily by those in command and I was often propositioned by other government contractors who were not punished for their actions.” She took a sip of tea and considered her next words. “I believe that General Hank Landry is a sexist jerk and not at all pretty like General O’Neill. I was most grateful to join the Atlantis expedition because while Dr. McKay is a wretched human being—he treats everyone poorly no matter who they are until they prove they are not too stupid to continue living. I found a great strength within myself and a pride in my work since working for him.”
* * * *
“My name is Marcus Stackhouse. I have been with the Atlantis expedition since day one. When I stepped through the gate, I thought I was on a mission for Earth but as the days turned into months and the cemetery on the mainland started to look as populated as the mess hall during lunch I realized we were on our own—and that Earth didn’t care about us. I don’t know where we’re going or what we’ll find when we get there—just as I didn’t the day I stepped through the gate for the first time but what I do know is that I trust these people, my family, far more than I ever did those we left behind on Earth. I am, in my heart, forever a Marine but I have sworn my fealty and my duty to a new cause and a new mission and I meet it with everything I am. Dad, I know you probably won’t understand this choice I’ve made but I can’t call myself a good man if I don’t take the path I know in my heart is the most just. I hope you can forgive me for not making it right with you before I left Earth. This is my resignation from the United States Marine Corps.”
* * * *
“My name is Evan Lorne and this is my resignation from the United States Air Force. I want you to know that those in the original expedition gave everyone a chance to go home to Earth if they wanted it. But, I knew the moment I set foot on this city that I would never willingly leave. Only someone with the ATA gene can really understand the sense of homecoming that you feel when you meet Atlantis for the first time. I met with every single person on this base before we did this to make sure none of them were being bullied or pushed into this choice. We’re all in this together and I have to tell you—I feel pretty good about it.” He cleared his throat. “And General O’Neill? Thank you, you’ll never know how much your faith in me meant.”
* * * *
“My name is Dr. Carson Beckett and this is my resignation from Stargate Command.” Carson took a deep breath. “Mother, I want you to know that the choices I made that have led me to this place have all been done with you in my heart. You pushed me out into the world and told me that it was mine to explore. When I almost turned down this job, you said I was being an idiot for not following my dream. I’m following my dream and I will take you with me in all the ways I can in this life and the next.”
* * * *
“I am Dr. Daniel Jackson. I have been a part of the SGC as long as there has been a program. I was one of the first people to step through to Abydos and I can say without hesitation that this work has left an indelible mark on my spirit. My decision to come to Pegasus was not influenced by anyone and I stand by it. I find that I can honestly say there is no place in the universe I’d rather be than on Atlantis. Jack, Sam, Teal’c, Cameron—I miss you all in the worst way. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you all. I’ve asked Vala to marry me and after some negotiation she’s agreed. She’s happy here and we both enjoy the work. This is my official resignation from Stargate Command. I wish you all the best.”
* * * *
“My name is Nathan O’Neill. Jack, I’m glad I came. I’ll take care of Space Monkey and his space pirate and any little hybrid space monkey-pirates they manage to produce. We have a good mission out here and while circumstances aren’t perfect—the fishing is outstanding. This is my resignation from the United States Marine Corps.” He leaned forward and smiled. “Hey, Landry, just so you know—if I ever come back to Earth I’m going to shove my foot up your ass.”
* * * *
“I am John Sebastian Sheppard. I assume that my father might eventually see this so I wanted to say up front that I forgive you even if you never forgive me. I miss you, David and Matthew like crazy. I try, everyday, to be the man you raised me to be, Dad. I really do. I hope you can learn to understand my choice. I love you guys. That will never change, it doesn’t matter what was said or what wasn’t said.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “Please consider this my official resignation from the United States Air Force. It was my honor to serve but I have a greater mission ahead of me and I can’t go where I have to if I keep this uniform on. I want whoever is watching to know that I’ll take care of our people—keep them as safe as I can and our mission to fight the Wraith will not change. We’ll do everything; sacrifice whatever needs to be sacrificed to keep the Wraith away from Earth.” He paused and then grinned lazily. “This is John Sheppard, the first Lantean citizen of the new generation, signing off.”
The screen went blank and then Ally’s face filled it, a shadow slanted over her features. “I am the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas. Dum spiramus tuebimur. Dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum. Dum vivimus, vivamus.”
* * * *
– Primitus Civitas – First City
– Primoris Filius –First Son
– Dum spiramus tuebimur – While we breathe, we shall defend
– Dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum – While we have the time, let us do good
– Dum vivimus, vivamus – While we live, let us live