Title: In the Silence
Author: Keira Marcos
Betas: Ladyholder, Chris King, & Jilly James
Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Series: Lantean Legacy
Series Order: 2
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard (many secondary pairings)
Genre: Alternate Universe, Romance, Action Adventure
Word Count: 58,118
Warnings: Graphic sex, explicit language, off-screen death of people you don’t know
Summary: Earth makes contact and the SGC is forced to reap the consequences of Landry’s decisions regarding the Atlantis expedition.
John glanced over his shoulder at the open wormhole and then settled in with his datapad beside McKay in the large conference room where they would be having their meeting with the IOA. Several of the reps were already in the room, hovering around the coffee pot or talking softly amongst themselves. Several more had entered when they’d found out that Atlantis had dialed Earth to update them on city operations. “Ally, report.”
The city Avatar appeared in miniature on top of his datapad, standing only about twelve inches tall in total. She was wearing the standard military uniform; her hair was plaited in a couple hundred braids. “Good morning, General Sheppard. Dr. McKay.”
Rodney looked up from his own datapad which was getting a streaming feed from the city through the wormhole. It was really all for appearances. Ally could easily interact with them and their devices through the Ancient outpost on Earth but no one needed to know that. “Ally, do my briefing as well. Off-world security protocols, please.”
“Of course.” Ally inclined her head. “General, Colonel Teldy reports all teams on station and working within the current mission schedule. Team Six had a minor altercation off-world but we were able to extract them with no loss of life on either side—and Dr. Sawyer managed to avoid being married off, again. This has upset Dr. Zelenka greatly, because he would have won the current pool on accidental/forced ritual marriages off-world. I’ve added P34-XR3 to the list of planets to avoid due to the fact that the populace is batshit insane.”
“Good.” John snagged one of the datapads McKay wasn’t using. “Lorne?”
“Colonel Lorne and Athena reported in on schedule. We will be able to begin a full planetary evacuation of PR2-PTX, otherwise known as Planet Hoth, within the next Lantean solar day. Final population count, 2349 of which there are nearly two hundred orphaned children. Dr. Weir and Administrator Emmagan are already setting up lists of families willing to take in children in need of homes. Many on the mainland have expressed a great deal of interest in adopting, as you may remember.”
John nodded absently. It was a big deal on any day when they found orphans and brought them back to Lantea. Children were precious in Pegasus. “Anything from Tera?”
“Colonel Moore and Major O’Neill traded places this morning. Everything is running by the numbers and Dr. Zelenka reports we should have the NCL on Tera Civitas ready within the next month so that we can build ships for Earth based on the design that Dr. McKay is working on. I’ve already prepared two of my harvesters to start gathering materials from the asteroid belt in Tera’s sector. They’ll be on location within the next forty-eight hours. I’ve forwarded you a list of materials that will be difficult to come by in Pegasus.”
“Very well.” John filtered through several screens on his pad but didn’t activate the holographic display in deference to Ally. “Anything else?”
“We had sixteen cadets in the medlab yesterday afternoon after maneuvers. Major Bates and I argued over his excessive and completely unnecessary attitude—I won.”
John snorted. “With or without using a force field to push him around?”
Ally sniffed. “Some men are blunt objects, General, and they only respond to physical intimidation. I was just showing him how it felt to be pushed around by someone stronger, older, and meaner than him.” She rocked in her tiny combat boots when Rodney laughed. “Dr. McKay—Project A23P31 is on schedule. I expect it to be finished by the time you return. Project A4Y234 is stalled due to a lab accident yesterday afternoon that robbed Dr. Simpson of a good portion of her hair and her dignity. I’m unsure of how long it will take her to recover both but you’ll be happy to know that Dr. Beckett was quite concerned when he thought she was dead—and apologized to her for their argument and asked her to marry him.”
Rodney wrinkled his nose. That didn’t make him happy at all. “Great, then they can have married people fights—which is so much worse than fuck-buddy fights.”
“How so?” John asked idly.
“When you’re married you can yell insulting things about each other and your families,” Ally supplied. “Dr. Simpson hasn’t answered because she’s concerned that Dr. Beckett’s notions about marriage may be too old fashioned and she doesn’t want her female power subjugated by his medieval Scottish ways. Polls are 60-40 that she’ll say no.”
“Put me in the yes column,” John murmured.
“I’ll take the ‘big fat no, but I’ll still to continue to fuck you’ column,” Rodney said as he went to fill his coffee cup. “Anything else?”
“Yes, Dr. Heightmeyer is amassing a team to deal with the Hoth survivors…”
Rodney groaned. “Is that necessary? I mean, what’s traumatizing about being rescued from the Wraith and the coldest planet in the history of the universe and dropped down onto a beautiful, tropical paradise with a shield?”
“Dr. Heightmeyer feels, and both Administrator Emmagan and Dr. Weir agree, that the people from Hoth will have a large adjustment period and we must do our best to help them assimilate onto the mainland as much as we can.” Ally inclined her head. “To that end, we’re setting up a welcome center on the mainland and all of sociology and anthropology are out there to help. The new living quarters in the settlement are built and I’ve got a few more modular buildings in the NCL. Dr. Zelenka, Miko not Radek, went out to the mainland this morning and installed a second ZPM to handle the power flow in the settlement since we’ve nearly doubled in size in the past three months and she wanted to prevent any kind of power fluctuations.”
“Good and what is her husband up to?”
“Dr. Radek Zelenka is on Tera today working on the NCL there. Tera is monitoring the team carefully and everything is on schedule. We’re going to build a replacement jumper for the one the General crashed last week as a test run on the facility.”
John grimaced. “I was shot down. You say I crashed it—like I did it on purpose or something.”
Ally and McKay snorted at the exact same time. Then Ally cleared her throat to voice her objection to his interruption and continued. “Dr. Zelenka wanted me to remind you that you owe him the calculations on Project ZC.”
“I just sent them. Tell him to get Miko and Sawyer to check my math. The General gave it a look over last night but I want two more error checks before we even consider uploading the protocol to the ZC.”
“Very well.” Ally’s image blinked briefly. “I have five minutes of wormhole left. Did you have any other data to forward?”
“No, we’re done. Check in tomorrow as scheduled and let Elizabeth know that we are having our formal meet with the IOA today. She can expect a full report in the morning.”
“Of course, General.” Ally disappeared in a wink of light and the wormhole down in the gate room blinked out seconds later.
President Henry Hayes dropped down in a chair in front of John. “Does the city often mix domestic issues in with everything else?”
“Yes. We are a relatively small population and sometimes a domestic issue can become both a military and science issue. For instance, if one of my men is up all night arguing with his partner—then he isn’t the man I’m going to choose send through the gate.” John didn’t look up from his datapad as he spoke. “Ally views it as her job to keep us informed of anything that might endanger our mission. Our Chief Medical Officer and the head of Biomechanics have been fighting and having sex for the last six months. When department heads fight….”
“I’m often forced to get involved because the situation can fall into what is all out geek warfare,” Rodney finished with a sigh and then got up from the table with his empty coffee cup. “We have pretty cool toys, President Hayes, but we’re still pretty normal people—petty, vindictive, and occasionally irrational.”
The members of the IOA gathered around the table quickly after that with their coffee and bagels and six-inch-thick reports. Some were John’s because he could see the Lantean seal on the covers but he figured most are from Woolsey. Richard Woolsey’s super power was apparently the ability to write a novel in about six hours.
None of them were hard to read; they were a mixture of nerves, fear, anger, and general pissiness that John had gotten used to since stepping through the gate to Earth. It had been a long time since he’d allowed himself to be so open mentally to others—it was easier just to shut it all off when he was on missions and use his mental gifts only when his gut told him something was up.
The head of the IOA was a Brit, a lawyer turned politician if the reports he’d been given were to be believed. Carl Binder was forty years old, married with two children, and had his eye on the Prime Minister’s seat. John didn’t hate him like O’Neill did but he didn’t trust the man at all. Part of that was due to the fact that man was actually a natural ATA carrier and John couldn’t get a good read on him. His gene wasn’t very strong, John sensed that, but it was strong enough that getting into his head was difficult without touching. What he did get off the man was a low grade burn of anger and an ambition that was seriously off-putting.
“My first question is a pretty simple one—you had the means and the opportunity to return to Earth with the city of the Ancients.” Binder leaned back in his chair. “So tell me why you didn’t, General Sheppard?”
John took the jab at this rank with a little smirk that made his father sigh. “Are you asking about my personal motivations, Mr. Binder, or are you asking why as a people—we chose to remain in Pegasus?”
“Since I assume you were instrumental in the choices the rest of the expedition made—let’s start with your personal motivations.”
“I made the choice to accept the city’s offer of citizenship to protect her and the people I’d been charged with keeping alive. After it became clear that the neither the United States government nor the IOA were going to support our mission we had to make some hard choices about our situation to ensure our survival. After we regained our footing, we chose to return to Atlantis’ home world in Pegasus because it suited her needs.” John paused and considered his next words. “It never crossed my mind to ask Atlantis if she would return to Earth.”
“Why?” Jonas Quinn asked, drawing everyone in the room’s attention when he spoke.
“Because I didn’t trust Earth with Atlantis—I still don’t. There is no circumstance where I will open the city up to the SGC or any other organization on this planet.” John nudged aside his empty coffee cup and shook his head when Rodney started to rise. “Any more caffeine and I’ll be bouncing off the walls.”
“Earth is your home, Sheppard. You have a duty to us!” Binder snapped. “I don’t care what the Asgard have to say on the matter, you’re not Ancient and Atlantis is our resource.”
John laughed then. “I’ve never once in my entire life claimed to be Ancient, Mr. Binder. Granted, there was definitely an Ancient in my family tree getting a leg up on one of my ancestors.” He inclined his head and stared at the man. “Much like yours. The ATA gene doesn’t occur in nature, you know, it’s entirely artificial. There is no such thing as truly natural mutation of the ATA gene. So any so-called natural gene carriers you find are here because the Ancients that left Pegasus actively bred among the pre-industrial peoples they found on Earth. They didn’t do that much in Pegasus, maybe one or two worlds but there is no telling how far out they spread in this galaxy. Without the threat of the Wraith and the Goa’uld just starting to become a problem, they would and probably did spread far and wide.”
The room was silent, oppressive for a few long minutes and then John cleared his throat. “I am, however, Lantean and it has nothing to do with the genetic legacy Atlantis gave me and everything to do with the Oath of Service I took to her. Everyone living on Lantea is Lantean, no matter their gene-status. For the record, most of the Ancients didn’t have the full ATA genome and there were plenty who couldn’t have either form of the ATA gene therapy due to physical anomalies. The full genome was only given to high command military officials and their leadership council, much like it is on Lantea today.”
“Why wasn’t Dr. Weir included in this meeting?” Binder questioned suddenly.
John paused and considered how to answer that. “Dr. Weir doesn’t participate in first contact missions. If you would like to speak with her, you’ll have to come to Atlantis.”
“This is not a first contact mission,” Binder snapped. “You’re from here!”
“I don’t trust you, Mr. Binder. And I certainly don’t trust anyone in this room enough to allow the leader of our people to attend this meeting.” John relaxed back in his chair. “I notice that the only world leader at this table is the American president. Why isn’t your PM here, Mr. Binder? Is it because you really don’t trust me or mine with the safety of the man that leads your country?”
Binder flushed and averted his gaze. “You’re a viable threat, General Sheppard. Even you have to admit that.”
“I do. I fully admit it. I could take apart this entire planet with just one ship and a few hours to spare. Nothing short of the Asgard could stop me and that would only be out of respect for them as a people. They have a few more ships than we do but they aren’t much of a threat considering it will take a few generations for them to rebuild their society.”
Shock and horror followed that particular statement and it wasn’t like John didn’t expect it.
Binder finally found his voice and directed his next question to Rodney. “Dr. McKay, why didn’t you return to Earth?”
“Because I can’t stand you people,” Rodney answered without looking up from his datapad. “And additionally, I’d just started to have this really awesome gay sex thing with Sheppard and I wasn’t interested in giving that up. I mean…ya know…really awesome.”
Jonas Quinn choked on his bagel and Patrick Sheppard who had been at the coffee maker missed his cup and poured scalding hot coffee all over his hand. John was out of his seat in an instant, and had his father in hand a second later—unwittingly giving everyone in the room a reminder that he wasn’t human anymore.
“Damn,” Patrick muttered. “Did he have to mention sex?”
John laughed a little and led his father away from the coffee station. “That’s a pretty nasty burn.”
“I’ll get a medic,” Jack said as he stood.
“No need,” John murmured. He covered his father’s hand with his and then cupped it with his free one. “This is going to feel a little weird at first but it won’t hurt for much longer.”
Patrick raised an eyebrow and started only briefly when the sharp burn went away abruptly. Seconds, turned into a full minute and when John released his hand—it was pink with new skin. A marked contrast to the rest of his tanned skin. “Jesus, John.”
“Actually, we’re ninety-nine percent certain that Jesus wasn’t Ancient but he probably did Ascend,” Rodney murmured from his place at John’s side. “Sorry about that. I meant to be rude and condescending but not so much that you hurt yourself out of surprise.” He held out a hand toward a table on the opposite side of the room—a handful of napkins flew into his hand which he handed to John.
“Not a problem, Dr. McKay. I should have been paying attention to what I was doing,” Patrick murmured as John wiped the coffee from both of their hands.
They returned to the table and when John looked around he found everyone shifting their gaze from his father to Colonel Carter.
Binder cleared his throat. “So the lot of you cured Colonel Carter of a previously unreported cancer?”
“Colonel Carter’s medical information is private,” Jack O’Neill snapped. “It was private before she went to Atlantis and it is private today. Content yourself with asking him how he just healed his father’s second degree burn.”
John watched the table adjust to Jack O’Neill’s anger and then they all focused on him. “Healing is one of my abilities, I’m not the most gifted healer among our people but I can handle small cuts, burns, etc. We’ve cured cancer among our own people but only through hands on healing. We do not currently have a cure for cancer itself. We are willing, however, to discuss with you the diseases we have cured—like a variant of the Ebola virus. Our scientists don’t have access to disease research on Earth but if you would like us to research cures for such things as AIDs, etc. all you have to do is give us access to the research you’re already doing. We are very willing to do that.”
“And the moving thing? I mean, you practically just teleported.” Hayes pointed out.
“I just moved really fast,” John murmured. “It’s an adrenalin response. It’s not an uncommon manifestation among full genome carriers. Telekinesis, empathy, telepathy, and a hyperactive adrenalin response are some of the more common gifts. I had a man go supersonic on me in training eight months ago. He’s the first.”
“Supersonic?” Quinn questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Five times the speed of sound,” Carter muttered and then blinked. “He broke the sound barrier—by himself.”
“Oh yeah.” John grinned. “It’s already the stuff of legends in the ranks. He can cover miles in seconds. So fast, that we had to redesign the material his uniform is made of—he kept ripping his clothes to shreds.”
“And all of these gifts, the abilities that have turned your people into super soldiers are part of the genetic legacy the city gave you?” Binder asked. “Mr. Woolsey reported that there were two kinds of gene therapy available through the city that is different than the gene therapy that Dr. Beckett designed and sent back to Earth.”
“Yes, there is the full genome which is basically admin level access to the city—that includes a variety of mental and physical gifts. Then there is just the ATA gene therapy which allows the use of all Lantean technology and includes a few special things like rapid healing, cell regeneration, cell repair, and a few other things.”
“Like?” Binder prodded with a frown.
“Strength, agility, stamina, speed and general badassery are all ramped up far above human levels,” John answered breezily. “Limited telekinesis is also pretty common among all gene carriers. It’s really not unlike the force the more they train and learn—the better they are. Both therapies were developed during the Wraith war—to prevent Lantean technology from being used against them and to better prepare their soldiers for combat against the Wraith.”
“Yet, they lost.”
“Numbers, Mr. Binder, it’s all in the numbers. The Ancients were self-centered isolationists who viewed the worlds they’d seeded with life as little more than science experiments.” Rodney set aside his datapad and picked up John’s. “And they had absolutely no guilt at leaving their little experiments to suffer and be fed on by the Wraith when they ran to Earth or Ascended.”
“And you think you can do better?” Patrick asked. “You think you can beat back the Wraith and save a whole galaxy?”
“That’s my plan,” John returned evenly. “And anyone who isn’t with me is against me. Things are black and white in Pegasus—you either fight the Wraith or you’re food for the Wraith. You’re an enemy or you’re a friend.”
Hayes leaned forward and flashed a big cheesy smile. “I’m all about being your friend, General Sheppard. I certainly can’t speak for the rest of the IOA but the US is and always will be a friend of the Lanteans. I realize I can’t broker a trade agreement on behalf of the whole planet but I will do everything in my power to make sure you and I are on the same page.”
“I have no doubts about your goals, President Hayes. Most of the people in this room want the same thing—and that’s technology to keep the Earth safe from the Ori. Like most of the people we encounter in Pegasus, Earth doesn’t have much to offer us that we can’t get on our own.”
“Granted,” Hayes admitted. “So what can we do?”
“We’d like you declassify the Atlantis mission to start with,” Rodney offered. “There are people on this planet who deserve to know what happened to their loved ones—good and bad. Some of us left family behind, we’d like to see them if they agree to it. Atlantis herself would like to invite certain people on Earth to Lantea.”
“To what end?”
“She finds the people of Earth interesting and would like to get to know some of them better. Not all would be offered citizenship; but some would. It would be an opportunity for us to develop a relationship with Earth and of course the invitations could be refused.”
Binder frowned. “So basically, you’re looking to strip us of our best minds?”
“Not at all,” Rodney returned evenly. “If that was all we wanted—we would have started with Carter. Trust me; I could have easily seduced her with the science of the Ancients. There is so much we have to offer a mind like hers that she would have left grooves in the gate room floor in her fight to stay on the city if I’d exposed her to them.”
Sam laughed but didn’t bother with a verbal denial. It was probably true.
“That being said,” Rodney glanced around the room. “Atlantis has already issued one invitation.”
Jack O’Neill groaned. “Jonas.”
Quinn sighed. “I haven’t decided, yet. But Atlantis is fascinating and I felt at home there in a way I never have before.”
“It certainly sounds like you’ve decided, Mr. Quinn.” Hayes sighed.
“So, declassification on your mission, a few people getting invitations to visit and/or join you, and…” Hayes raised an eyebrow.
“We have a need for platinum. It is extremely rare in Pegasus.” John focused on Jack O’Neill. “Additionally, you’ll need to provide building materials for your ship upgrades. We can harvest some of it—the things we can’t harvest easily will have to be brought to Pegasus when you bring your ships. We can do one ship at a time but the upgrades won’t take place on Atlantis. Additionally, we are prepared to build you ships.”
“But not Ancient ships,” Binder pointed out.
“No, of course not.”
“That’s unacceptable!” Binder snapped.
“You don’t expect the Asgard to give you their ships,” John returned evenly. “Well, you might but you certainly don’t ask them for them because you know they’d laugh their little grey asses off at you.”
“You aren’t the Asgard and you owe us,” the rep from France broke in. “All of you—owe us.”
“Owe you?” Rodney laughed. “For what? For letting some of the most brilliant and dedicated people I’ll ever know in my entire life die because you couldn’t be bothered to send us help? Really? We owe you?”
“We couldn’t help you!”
“The Prometheus could have made the trip to Pegasus in six weeks,” John murmured. “And it was commissioned within months of our leaving Earth. The Daedalus was already in operation when we found the power to dial home during the first Wraith siege. The siege we barely survived and lost twenty people to before it was all said and done. So, no, really we don’t owe you a damn thing. We’ve stopped three hives from reaching Earth in the last three years—we’ve done all we can to prevent them from finding you and really—we don’t even owe you that.”
“Even if we had planned to support your mission—you never intended to let us,” Binder said his voice hard. “You left the planet you were on and didn’t even tell us.”
“None of us took the separation from Earth lightly and even the smallest amount of effort on your part would have made all the difference.” Rodney rubbed his mouth, in frustration. “Look, we can continue to debate the past or we can move forward and make an arrangement we can all deal with. The fact is that we don’t need anything from you we can’t get elsewhere and we have ships that could make the trip to Earth in days instead of weeks. If we want to see our families—we can come here and you’ll never even know.”
“You couldn’t hide a ship from us,” Binder scoffed.
“We have a ship in orbit as we speak,” John returned evenly. “He arrived late last night.”
“Atlas?” Sam asked.
“Yes, of course, I’m not allowed to travel off world without him. He was quite pissed that I wouldn’t wait and travel on board him for this trip,” John murmured. “He’s in a cloaked orbit above the Asgard ship. In fact, I believe there are several Asgard on board him right now. They are endlessly fascinated with Ally’s children.”
“There’s more than one guy on the ship?” Jack asked with a frown. “Really?”
“The Asgard rarely put crew on their ships in the past because they didn’t want to risk so many lives in space travel due to their cloning problems and their relatively small population. Most of the Asgard were being stored on their home world, and weren’t going to be given new bodies until the cloning problem was fixed.” Rodney shrugged. “It’s fixed, so they all came out to play. Some of them had been stored for a thousand years or more so you can imagine the brouhaha that was.”
“So, why did you allow us to think the Asgard were staying here to take you home? Additionally, why didn’t you bring us a ZPM so you could just gate home?”
“We knew the ZPM you had in the mountain was nearly depleted with the repeated dialing you’ve done to Pegasus over the last two weeks,” John admitted. “Colonel Carter made that clear when we discussed this trip to Earth. We let you think the Asgard were our ride home because it would make you more comfortable. It is not our intention to threaten you in anyway—I want you all to understand that.”
“And yet, you have an Ancient warship in a cloaked orbit above our planet,” Binder snapped snidely.
John sighed and pulled a radio out of his pants pocket. He put it into place in his ear and clicked it. “Atlas, cease silent operations, decloak, and reorient for a geosynchronous orbit above Cheyenne Mountain.”
It took about a minute for cell phones all over the room to start ringing. John took the obvious break in the meeting to get up and go over to the refreshment table where his father had escaped to when O’Neill had gotten up to go into the control room of the SGC.
“I’d like to see David and Matt before I leave.”
“David’s in Iraq and Matt is New York,” Patrick murmured. “I can try to pull David out but the US doesn’t have a ship in orbit so I can’t get him…could your ship beam him?”
“Yes. Does David have a transmitter?”
Patrick flushed. “I put one in his cell phone about three months ago. I don’t know if he knows about it but once I got access to the technology…”
“I understand. I’d have done the same.” John admitted. “Well, no, I would have one put in his body when he asleep but the principal is the same. I can beam you to his location after this meeting. Would that work?”
“Yeah.” Patrick nodded. “Do I get a tour of the ship?”
“He would be thrilled to give one,” John admitted dryly. “What about Matt?”
“He’s at John’s Hopkins. He finished medical school just two years ago. I have him tagged with a transmitter, too.”
John nodded. “All right.”
“We could do dinner?” Patrick asked.
“Yeah, something on board. I need some down time and I can’t relax here.” John rubbed the back of his neck. “And I suppose we could use some time to talk and maybe you could get to know McKay.”
“I’d like that,” Patrick admitted. “He seems funny and smart.”
* * * *
“General Deering, I was under the impression that my entire team would be stationed in the Gulf for the next six months.” David Sheppard frowned. “Has something happened?”
“You could say that,” Deering muttered and tossed a pencil stub aside. He frowned at the best man he had in his command and then sighed. “But it was nothing you did, son. You have to know your performance here has been stellar. Your entire team has been an asset to the mission since the moment you hit the ground. That being said, your new orders are coming from the President. The rest of your team is being sorted for travel to Colorado.”
“Cheyenne Mountain?” David asked with a blink. As far as he knew, the SGC took Marines like they were going out of style but had never once requested a SEAL team. “Seriously?”
Deering grinned. “Don’t look too excited, Sheppard, I’ll think you don’t like it here.”
“It’s been a great experience, sir.” David stiffened his knees to keep his left leg from bouncing in excitement. Then his gaze narrowed. “Did my father have something to do with this?”
Deering shook his head. It was well known that Patrick Sheppard kept his nose out of his son’s assignments but did like to be informed of any issues or problems that his baby boy might have. Of course, calling a thirty-two-year-old Navy SEAL a ‘baby’ was something of a laugh. “Not the way you think, he did request you be shipped back temporarily to the States due to a family matter. However, your orders came through about an hour ago. Your entire team has been reassigned to the SGC under the order of General Jack O’Neill.”
“Family matter?” David’s stomach clenched. “Is he all right?”
“Looked fine.” Deering jerked his thumb towards the door. “He’s in the next room. You’ll be beaming up with him, and the rest of your team will meet you in Cheyenne in two weeks. They have a couple of weeks’ leave before they are due to report. You aren’t that lucky but I think you’ll want the time to get settled in Cheyenne, Commander.”
“Yes, sir.” David nodded and took a deep breath. He saluted and turned on his heel at Deering’s nod of dismissal.
His father was standing in the doorway, dressed in tan BDUs. “Sir.”
Patrick Sheppard looked his son over with a smile. “David, sorry. I didn’t get a chance to give you more warning. How long will it take you to pack?”
“I’ll need a few minutes to pack a duffle. I’ll ship the rest with my unit.” David took a deep breath. “What’s wrong, Dad?”
“Nothing. John asked to see you.”
David’s mouth dropped open and he grabbed the door frame to steady himself. “Excuse me?”
“John wants to see you.” Patrick paused. “I didn’t think it would be a problem…is it a problem?”
“No, it’s just…” David took a deep breath. “I mean, it’s really unexpected. Let me get my bag.”
“I’ll walk with you.” Patrick tucked in beside his son as they left the small administrative building and headed towards the virtual city of tents that made up the barracks on the small base.
David snorted softly as man after man stumbled to their feet as they passed. It wasn’t often they had a four star mosey through the barracks in the middle of nowhere Iraq. He entered the large tent that he shared with his team and found them in various stages of packing. He cleared his throat. “Admiral in the room, gentlemen.”
The two five men units he commanded came to attention with the kind of precision that was born out of years of service. Patrick gave them an abrupt nod and they fell into parade rest.
“Men, meet my father Admiral Patrick Sheppard.” Eyes boggled a little as David walked toward the back of the tent where he slept. He’d gotten a little flack for not taking officer housing but SEALs weren’t like anyone else and the joint operation they’d been pushed into meant bedding down with Air Force and Marines—the SEALs stuck their own kind as a rule. “As you were.”
They all went back to packing, breaking down bedrolls and securing trunks with quick, efficient movements. “You have two weeks’ leave. You’re to report to Cheyenne Mountain in fifteen days.” He watched them all pause in unison and then exchange the biggest grins possible. “Pick up your orders from General Deering. Keep your cell phones charged and on you at all times. If I need you, I will call you and you will be prepared to drop whatever or whomever you are doing immediately. Understood?”
“Good.” David rubbed the back of his head with a sigh. “I don’t have anything civilian with me, Dad. What…where?”
Patrick Sheppard chuckled. “We’ll bed down in Cheyenne Mountain. If you need anything out of the house in Virginia, we can beam down there later. Right now, we’re due to beam up to an Asgard ship then we’ll go to New York to get Matt.”
“No shit?” David grinned. “Think you can get me up in an X-302?”
“I don’t know.” Patrick pretended to frown. “I thought you didn’t like me getting you favors?”
“Oh come on Dad, it’s a space ship.” That made half his men laugh. “Seriously.”
“We’ll see what O’Neill says. How many qualified pilots do you have in this team?”
“Five including myself. We can cover practically everything on the planet besides the space ships we haven’t been exposed to.” David latched his duffle and looked over the rest of his area. “Jordan, pack up the rest of my stuff and ship my trunk with yours.”
They beamed quickly, too quickly for him to get much of a look at anything beyond the little grey guy manning the controls. They reappeared in Matt’s apartment. The youngest Sheppard was pacing the floor in agitation.
“David.” Matt smiled and hugged him tightly. “What’s going on?”
“First,” Patrick started. “I need you both to sit. I’ve got something to tell you and we need to work out the anger and everything else it might cause before we go to Colorado.”
* * * *
Six hours later, David was drinking a beer in VIP suite in Cheyenne Mountain, his head spinning from the story he’d been told. Matt was on the bed staring moodily at the ceiling. There had never been a single bit of speculation about the Atlantis mission—hell he’d heard rumors about his brother for years—one even recently that had placed him in Afghanistan flying ‘copters for Special Forces. John had never answered any of his emails or letters—so David hadn’t pushed. He hadn’t tried to see him and now he was just furious with himself and John. Furious that his older brother had left Earth without even a word.
He’d watched John’s goodbye message to Earth about fifteen times before he’d forced himself to stop and close the lap top. What he’d learned about the Atlantis mission and the Wraith had him sick to his stomach. David couldn’t even believe that the entire expedition had basically been abandoned in another galaxy and that it was still a secret from the public.
A sharp knock on the door jarred him from his thoughts and went to open it as he schooled his face to what he hoped was indifference. His father was leaning there, back in dress whites. Patrick looked him over and snorted. “That face never worked on me, son. We’re taking a break on the trade negotiations and John invited us to his ship for dinner.”
David sighed. “Yeah, okay.”
“You don’t have to…if it’s too much. He’ll understand.”
“I just—really want to kick someone’s ass for all of this that’s all,” David admitted. “They actively…Dad I had people tell me that they saw him as little as six months ago. I had dinner with an Air Force Major last year who spent an hour telling me about a mission they went on together. There are action reports all over Afghanistan and Iraq that have his name on them. You know that!”
“Mostly for my benefit I think. The guy that used to run the SGC didn’t want me sticking my nose in his business so he made sure that John always looked like he was alive and working on paper.” Patrick shook his head. “I should have tried to see him. It isn’t like we parted on the best of terms and I said some really stupid things.”
David snorted. “Yeah, well you aren’t the only one. I didn’t exactly do myself any favors. I was pretty tied up in my own commission and what it would do to me if my older brother got a dishonorable discharge for being a homosexual. I’d just been offered a spot in the Teams.”
“I didn’t know that,” Patrick sighed. “But as far as I can tell—he’s ready to look past all of our bullshit and I want to believe that we can do the same.”
“I’ll do my damnedest,” David murmured. “So this guy he’s…married to?”
“He appears to worship the ground your brother walks on,” Patrick admitted. “I’ve rarely seen them apart and they certainly make no effort to hide their relationship so put your game face on if that bothers you.”
“No, I mean—I’ve never had a problem with John being gay—it was his recklessness that pissed me off. I understood why he wanted to serve. I just couldn’t understand why he had to keep pushing at people.” David frowned. “At least then, but now I get it. It’s really some bullshit that we let gay people serve as long as they keep their mouths shut about who they fall in love with. I lost a man last year…excellent soldier and I had to fight command to get his next of kin at the funeral because it was a man. They almost succeeded until the man demanded the body be released for a civilian burial and started refusing all of the military honors command wanted to put on the man because of his service record. It was his legal right and they were afraid it would end up in the papers. They backed off very quickly after that.”
Patrick nodded. “I told them to leave it alone to begin with but some people just don’t get it.”
“No, they don’t.” David sat down on the bed. He prodded Matt who turned to look at him.
“I’m so mad,” Matt murmured. “I haven’t seen John since I was fourteen years old and he could’ve died in another galaxy without us ever knowing. How could they do this? How could they throw away our own people and ignore the way they were fighting and dying? Also, what the fuck kind of arrogance does it take to make demands on them now?”
Patrick sighed. “I don’t know, Mattie. I really don’t. John isn’t the same so be prepared for that. He’s not even technically human anymore.”
“I don’t care about that,” Matt said and huffed.
“So, tell me what’s going on in this trade stuff. You said people were pretty hostile.” David leaned back on his hands.
“Yeah, most of the IOA reps think that Atlantis belongs to them and they have had a hard time adjusting to the fact that it doesn’t. John’s kept his temper under wraps which is something of a surprise but he hasn’t pulled his punches about being left out in Pegasus to fend for himself with an expedition full of civilians and just fifty Marines.”
“This Landry guy, what happened to him?” Matt demanded.
“Forced to retire. Everyone wants to keep this situation under wraps as much as possible so he won’t face any kind of review for his own part in this.” Patrick raised an eyebrow. “Ready?”
* * * *
John watched Rodney out of the corner of his eye as he put the finishing touches on the dining table in their suite. Atlas had seen to the replication of the meal despite the conversation they’d had about beaming up food from Earth. It looked and smelled great but he was curious to see if his brothers and father noticed a difference. They’d been eating replicated food for so long that they’d long gotten used to it.
“They’re here. Dex is escorting them down from the bridge.”
Rodney crossed his arms. “Why are you more nervous about this than you are about the meetings with the IOA?”
“Because the IOA can’t hurt me,” John admitted. “I…we were always really close, Rodney. We lost mom so early on that it was just me, David, Matt and Dad for a very long time. Hell, Dad didn’t even start dating until I was in my teens and Mom had been dead for years. I mean, I’m sure there were women but he never brought one home for us to meet until I was almost fifteen.”
“Yeah, okay. I understand.” Rodney shoved his hands into his pockets and looked out the window that afforded them a too beautiful view of Earth. “I was surprised when they didn’t launch the shield.”
John laughed. “I’m sure Woolsey told them how useless it would be. Maybe they have Sam down there trying to alter it to keep us out.”
The chime to the outer door of their suite dinged and John went to answer it after Rodney nodded. They’d briefly discussed Rodney’s family and decided that they might try to contact his sister. He knew that his spouse wasn’t all that keen on the prospect since he had poor relationships with basically everyone he shared blood with but who knew when they’d be welcome on Earth again?
He stepped aside and let his father in. Patrick just nodded and entered unfastening his dress coat.
John stared at his brothers for a few seconds and then just smiled. “God, Davey, look at you.”
“John.” David swallowed. “Jesus, look at you.”
“Dad didn’t warn you?” John asked as he reached out to put one hand on David’s shoulder.
“Yeah, I heard but seeing is…” David laughed softly. “Dad says you have super powers.”
“Something like that.” John tugged and David willingly came in for a hug. He took a deep breath at the way his brother’s hands clenched on his shirt. The younger man’s hurt was bleeding all over him. “It’s been too long, kid.”
“Yeah, too long.” David took a deep breath. “Sorry. You know. For being an asshole.”
“It’s okay,” John said and he meant it. He focused on Matt then. “Matt.”
Matt frowned at him. “You’re an asshole, John.”
“Yeah, but it’s practically genetic,” John defended and just smiled when Matt huffed before coming in for a hug. “Dad said you’re a doctor.”
“Yeah,” Matt said. “OB/GYN.”
* * * *
They managed to make it through the meal and chocolate cake for dessert before Atlas appeared on one of the walls.
“Yes, Atlas?” John set aside his wine, and the ship’s avatar shifted to another panel in the room closer to him.
“We have a ship an hour out—after reviewing my mother’s records concerning her previous encounters with Earth ships—I believe it be the USS Apollo.” Atlas tilted his head. “Was the meal satisfactory?”
“Yes, you did very well.” John turned slightly in his seat. “Is the Apollo running fast or does the approach appear normal?”
“They’re in hyperspace but their operations appear to be normal. Earth has contacted them just twice in the last ten hours. Both times, General O’Neill spoke with a Colonel Abraham Ellis. In the last conversation, he mentioned me and the Beowulf and ordered Colonel Ellis to be on his best behavior when he entered orbit.”
“None.” Atlas shrugged. “As mother told me, the ships from Earth are very basic. It is the other ships that concern me.”
“What other ships?” John stood from his chair. “Show me.”
The window in the room went black immediately and the lights in the room dimmed. A four dimensional map of space immediately displayed in front of John. “I have marked Beowulf in white, I am the blue, and the Apollo is the red dot.” Atlas shifted the image around. “The six orange dots are the unknowns. I had a discussion with the Beowulf and he forwarded me all the intel he has on the Ori.”
“Are they Ori?”
“It’s too soon for either of us to discern that but I will know within the hour. They are moving very fast.”
“Will they catch up with the Apollo?”
“No. The Apollo will be in Earth orbit within the next sixty-two minutes and the six unknown ships are at least three days out at their current speed. Beowulf estimates he’ll be able to pick up sensor data from one of his subspace relays within the next hour and we’ll have a better estimate of what we’ll be dealing with.”
John nodded and squatted down to get a different view of the hologram. “If they are Ori?”
“They are no match for me and the Beowulf would be very helpful.” Atlas shifted the image and dozens of purple dots appeared. “This is the Asgard subspace network in this sector. It’s similar to what we have set up in Pegasus. Commander Thor has agreed to give me access to it but I need your permission before I can interact with their network.”
John paused and shook his head. “No, the last time you interacted with Asgard tech on that level you were depressed for a month. I’d rather not deal with that kind of attitude again.”
Atlas sighed. “Their technology is cold and very lonely, General.”
“Exactly. Wait for a report from Beowulf and make sure to send a data burst to your mother no less than every six hours. Do a full system download and a comprehensive memory dump every twelve hours.” John exchanged looks with Rodney as he stood.
“Contact General O’Neill and invite him on board. Has Commander Thor informed them of the problem?”
“I believe he is discussing it with General O’Neill as we speak, I’m not listening to Commander Thor’s communications but I can tap in if you insist.”
“No, absolutely not.” John frowned at him. “After they are finished, contact Commander Thor and let him know we are on standby to assist him in this situation and then invite General O’Neill and Commander Thor both aboard for a conversation. In the meantime, update General O’Neill’s laptop with all of the information you’ve gathered and report to him after you report to me on this situation until you are ordered otherwise.”
“Yes, sir.” Atlas blinked away, the window cleared, and the room brightened by degrees until it was as well-lit as it was before the report started.
John clicked his radio. “Major Harris, dial Atlantis and bring squads three and five on board—we’re going to have company. I want a pilot for every Hell Fighter I have on board.” He clicked off his radio after his orders were confirmed.
Patrick cleared his throat. “You have a stargate on board this ship?”
John paused. “Yes, all Ancient ships have them and they aren’t dependent on being in orbit around a planet. They use a nine-symbol address on the gates.”
“That wasn’t mentioned in the conversation today about the ship you had in orbit,” Patrick said.
“Yeah, they were pretty much all freaked out and bent out of shape as it was. There was no need to add to it,” Rodney said as he left the table and pulled a series of datapads out of a control station in one of the walls. “If they are coming with that many ships—they must think they’ve found a way around the shield.”
“Is that possible?”
Rodney paused and then shrugged. “Anything is possible just because the Wraith can hammer on it all day long doesn’t mean…I mean these guys have Ascended beings on their side that aren’t bound by that non-interference crap that the Ancients practice over here on our side of things. Fighting the Ori is really the closest we can come to being evenly matched in this galaxy.”
John nodded and picked up his wine glass and downed the contents. “I need a conversation with Elizabeth.”
“You know she’s going to come through the gate if we stick around to pick a fight with the Ori,” Rodney muttered.
“You aren’t suggesting we leave?” John asked softly.
“No, of course, not. I’m all about kicking the Ori’s ass. I’ve wanted to get a good look at them anyways.” Rodney put two of his datapads down on the table. “I need Sam and I should probably go down the Ancient outpost and plug in a ZPM. They don’t have that many drones left, however.”
“Talk to Atlantis about sending a resupply in and we need to pick out someone to put in their chair who can really use it versus the half-ass job they are currently doing.”
“Dex or Stackhouse—they both do really well in the city chair. It isn’t exactly the same but it’s close,” Rodney admitted. “I really need Sam. I haven’t spent a lot of time on the Ori data.”
John turned to his brothers. “I’d prefer you both stay on the ship. Is that okay?”
David nodded and Matt shrugged.
* * * *
Patrick Sheppard had enjoyed more than his share of women in his life but when Dr. Elizabeth Weir walked through the gate—she pretty much rearranged his entire world with a glance. She was dressed in dark red from her shirt to the red leather boots that buckled all the way to her knee. The fabric of her clothes wasn’t obscenely tight but it molded to a fit figure. She had a weapons holster attached to one thigh, with a gun he’d become familiar with over the last few days. Her smoky eyes connected with his and he felt the punch of it all the way to his feet. O’Neill cleared his throat beside him and he glanced towards his peer—he found the man just as gobsmacked as he felt.
Jack stepped forward. “Elizabeth.”
“Jack.” She quirked one eyebrow. “I understand you want my boys to come out and play with you.”
“Something like that.” He offered her his hand and she took it but her gaze had already centered on Patrick.
“You must be John’s father.”
“Yes, Admiral Patrick Sheppard.” He offered her a hand as she cleared the iron ramp that led up to the stargate. He hadn’t asked why the leader of Lantea had chosen to use the Earth gate versus the gate on the ship. He figured they weren’t ready to share that tidbit with the people on Earth yet. “Welcome…back.”
She grinned. “Thanks. I’ve had a full briefing from Atlas so I come bearing gifts.” She motioned them to get out of the way and clicked a radio in her ear. “Teyla, I’m clear.”
“So what do we get?” Jack asked.
“Five thousand drones and a ZPM,” Elizabeth murmured and then clicked her radio twice. “John, I’m here and the first shipment is coming through now. We’ll need them beamed down to the outpost as soon as they come through. There isn’t a great deal of room in their gate room.” She clicked off her radio and looked at Patrick. “I can’t tell you how much of an asset your son is to us—you should be very proud of him.”
“I am,” Patrick responded and then blinked when the first shipping crate came through the gate and immediately disappeared. “We were surprised that you came through the gate Dr. Weir.”
“John likes to keep me on Lantea as much as possible but I think our circumstances here are getting a little complicated and despite how he feels about it—this is actually my job.” She tucked her hands behind her when two Lantean soldiers beamed in directly in front of her. “Good afternoon, Sergeant Korr.”
The man frowned at her. “You were supposed to come through after the drones, Dr. Weir.” He clicked his radio. “The Premier is secure, General.” He looked her over. “She is armed as requested of her.”
Elizabeth smirked at the muted curse heard over the radio. “Tell him I’ll be in conference with O’Neill and the IOA when he is ready to beam down.”
* * * *
The Secret Service had nothing on John’s men, Patrick thought as they entered the conference room. They hadn’t let him or O’Neill within four feet of Weir since they’d beamed down and they’d managed to do it without touching anyone. The one called Korr used a device to scan the entire conference room before he allowed Weir to enter and actually confiscated a pocket knife from the Canadian representative.
Elizabeth took a seat and put a slim black case on the table in front of her. It opened with a snick and folded out to reveal two of the datapads that McKay seemed to almost be attached to.
“We’ll be supplying the drones and the ZPM as a gesture of good faith on our parts. Additionally, I’ve authorized the use of Atlas in the defense of the planet so they are free to engage the six ships heading towards Earth as soon as a plan is developed.” Elizabeth activated one of the datapads and a holographic display popped up. She maneuvered through the screens in much the same way they’d seen John move through them in the small military briefing.
“I’m glad you decided to come here and talk to us, Dr. Weir. We have much work to do if we are to bring the Atlantis expedition back into the fold in its proper place.”
Elizabeth sat back in her chair and the holographs in front of her bled away. “General Sheppard warned me that you were a little bent, Mr. Binder. I thought he was making a joke.”
Jack O’Neill choked on his own laughter and Patrick found himself hiding behind his coffee cup.
“Dr. Weir…surely you realize that you have a responsibility to Earth.”
“I realize nothing of the kind,” Elizabeth returned evenly. “If you thought I was going to be easier to work with—you’re very much mistaken, Mr. Binder. While General Sheppard and Dr. McKay harbor some affection and goodwill for Earth despite how we’ve been treated in the past—I don’t. Earth is a potential ally and nothing more. We don’t owe Earth or you anything and if I’d had to make the choice on my own—we wouldn’t have answered General O’Neill’s call at all.”
Jack blinked in surprise. “Elizabeth.”
“What?” She demanded. “Do you know how many people we have buried in Pegasus that would have given anything to return home? I can’t even begin to describe to you what those two years were like and when I tried in the past—I was shut down and barely acknowledged. I’m entirely positive that General Landry murdered the man I was going to marry and he’ll never be punished for it. You were the Director of Homeworld Security, General O’Neill and you are just as much to blame for our abandonment as anyone else.”
“I know,” Jack snapped. “Don’t you think I know that? Why do you think I sent my mini-me out there? I knew the Asgard would follow him. I did what I could, Elizabeth and I realize that it probably wasn’t enough but it wasn’t like I had a lot of options.”
Elizabeth settled in her chair and nodded. “I know.” She refocused on Binder. “As I’m sure General Sheppard made clear, we aren’t going to return to the fold as you put it. We don’t need you, Mr. Binder, and we certainly don’t consider you a threat. We are willing to set up diplomatic relations with you provided you can meet our terms for trade. This is a yes or no proposition. If your answer is no, we’ll leave and you’ll never hear from us again.”
“You think it’s that simple?” Binder demanded. “That we have no options to make you do what we want? Would you really fight us?”
“I’m sure you think you can try,” Elizabeth responded, her tone even. “But you’d do wise to remember that we’ve already made the decision to separate from Earth. We knew what it meant and we accepted the consequences. The sooner you realize you aren’t in a position to make demands, the easier everything will be for you.”
“You’re no better than the Tollan or the Asgard—treating us like children when we have more than proven we are capable of handling advanced technology.”
“I don’t doubt for a minute that you could use and adapt practically any technology we give over to you…” Elizabeth started. “But, we are different from the Asgard, who see such hope and inspiration in the people from Earth and the Tollan who believed you’d destroy yourselves if you were given advanced weaponry. The fact is that you are greedy and ambitious and the last time I came across a mind so slick with avarice and depravity I was on my knees in front of a Wraith Queen.” The two Lantean soldiers hissed at the insult and moved closer to Weir as if they expected Binder to respond physically.
Binder sat back in his chair. “You’re reading my mind?”
“Yes, it’s odd. Colonel Sheppard reported to me that he had a hard time assessing your motivations and thoughts—since he is the most advanced empath we have I assumed I would get nothing from you. But your mind has been an open book for me. Maybe it’s because you don’t consider me a threat the way you do him.”
Jack O’Neill snorted.
“What?” Elizabeth questioned with a frown.
“You’re the scariest female on the planet, Dr. Weir. It’s a man’s nightmare to come across a woman who can actually read his mind,” Jack offered and then just grinned at her a little when she blushed. “Sorry about that thing when you came through the gate—the outfit is hot.”
Elizabeth grinned. “That’s actually the idea; I do a lot of negotiating with men off-world. You’d be surprised how well looking like this works. It’s something I picked up from my second-in-command.”
“And you don’t consider it a breach of ethics to invade the minds of the people you’d forge trade agreements with?” the rep from France asked icily.
“Actually, Dr. Lamone, I do. I don’t find it ethical at all but I’ve learned to table my own morality and ethics to ensure that my people get what they need to survive. You really can’t understand what it’s like to live in Pegasus. We live in a war zone, Madame. I’m sure you can’t possibly imagine what that is like—and I’m honestly glad for you—but it would be inappropriate for you to sit in judgment of me. You aren’t equipped to judge me or my actions.”
Elizabeth closed her case and glanced around the room. “Now, we can come to an agreement about trade or I can beam up to Atlas—and we’ll consider this situation closed. We’ll stick around and help out with the six ships heading this way and then we’ll go home. Then, you’ll do us the favor of staying out of our galaxy.”
“You’re going to help us and you’re going to give us everything we ask for Dr. Weir,” Carl Binder murmured. “If you don’t…you’ll pay for it.”
“Threats, Mr. Binder, are inappropriate in our current circumstances.”
“You’ll give us everything we want or you’ll never be welcome back on Earth. How will your General feel about being cut off from his father and brothers—the only people he mentioned when he said goodbye to this planet? How many people do you have back on the city that are looking forward to connecting with families they left here on Earth? We’ll make that impossible, I promise you. The Asgard will have to honor our wishes and ask you not to return to our space.”
Elizabeth stood abruptly and the two men guarding her came to attention. “Very well, Mr. Binder, if that is your decision. I’ll inform General Sheppard and Dr. McKay that our negotiations with Earth are finished. We’ll coordinate with Commander Thor regarding the current Ori threat and then we’ll return to Pegasus. Once we return to Pegasus, we’ll update our gate system to reflect this change.”
“Whoa, whoa,” Jack O’Neill stood. “What do you mean update your gate system?”
Elizabeth looked over his face. “Atlantis controls all of the stargates in Pegasus, General O’Neill. She’ll reprogram them all so you can’t gate into our galaxy again. We certainly can’t stop you from coming in ships—but I wouldn’t advise it. You’re no match for the Wraith and it won’t take them long to latch onto your ships. It’s their preference that no species outside their own have the technology to travel in space. They work hard to prevent that kind of advancement.” She inclined her head. “Of course, the Ancient outpost on Earth is now off limits to your personnel.”
“You can’t give us orders, Dr. Weir. The control chair in Antarctica is under the jurisdiction of the IOA.” Binder leaned forward in his chair.
“You don’t understand,” Elizabeth stared at Binder until he shifted nervously in his chair. “The outpost on Earth is an extension of Atlantis and she’s allowed you to use it as a gesture of good will. Once the Earth gate is cut off from the Pegasus gate system, the outpost on Earth will be excluded from the city’s network. Since it’s maintained through a series of nanite protocols—it will fall into disrepair rapidly because even when she sat dormant on the bottom of the ocean floor she gave instructions to all of her outposts in this galaxy and Pegasus. Without her, all of the outposts in this galaxy will die. The one on Earth will probably remain operational for six months, even with the full ZPM we’ve given you. You’ll want to move the planetary shield before that time.”
“Wait.” Hayes held out a hand. “Just wait. I think it’s time we elevate this discussion beyond this committee, Dr. Weir. Let me make a few phone calls and get some leaders in the room. The PM of Canada has already extended you and your entire team an invitation to Canada. He’d like to speak with Dr. McKay personally. Let me work on this—you have to know the IOA committee isn’t the real power here.”
Elizabeth passed her case off to one of the men at her back and nodded. “Very well, I’ll agree to meet with as many world leaders as you can muster but I won’t speak with anyone beneath the top level now or in the future. I won’t be threatened and I won’t be treated like I’m a traitor or a criminal, Mr. President. If you can ensure that—let Commander Thor know when you’re ready. Our next meeting will take place on his ship after the Ori threat is neutralized.”
She raised her hand to her radio and then paused. Her gaze center on Binder. “If you lay a hand on John Sheppard’s family—he’ll come down here and kill you personally. His father and brothers are off-limits, Mr. Binder or you’ll get a lesson in Lantean justice that you won’t live to regret. The last person who threatened someone he loved drowned in their own blood. No matter what kind of man he was before he went to Pegasus—he really is rather black and white now. You’re either his friend or you are his enemy. You don’t want to be his enemy—they don’t live long.” She clicked her radio. “General Sheppard, I’m ready to beam aboard.”
Jack had always thought that Elizabeth Weir was a cool and somewhat vicious woman. It had made her insanely attractive from minute one and five years in the Pegasus galaxy had put a fine edge on the whole package of her that just made her more of a challenge. A challenge he figured that Patrick Sheppard was going to do his best to sink his teeth into.
Patrick was nursing a double scotch in his office and brooding. “I don’t…he’s my son, Jack.”
“You don’t have to explain anything to me, Patrick.” Jack tilted back in his chair. “I don’t know what Hayes has planned but you can expect to be tapped to manage John.”
Patrick snorted. “Christ, they don’t have a fucking clue.”
“No, they don’t,” Jack agreed. “And I can’t imagine it will be long before they get a fucking clue. They just don’t understand that those people out there just don’t need us.”
“Is it selfish to hope that he might still need his Dad?” Patrick asked softly. “I dropped the ball with him. I’d really like the chance to keep him in my life.”
Jack nodded. “I understand.”
A flash of light near the door signaled the arrival of John Sheppard. He was dressed in what probably passed for BDUs on Atlantis these days. The black cargo pants looked familiar enough. The t-shirt was fitted, stretching over a well-muscled body.
“General.” John slid into a chair beside his father and glanced around the office. “I have Atlas reporting sensory data to your personal lap top. I know that the Asgard aren’t so interested in the details so I figured that Thor wasn’t giving you the kind of information that will make your geeks happy.”
“I’ve been passing reports to Carter,” Jack acknowledged. “She’s down in Antarctica overseeing the installation of the ZPM and the drones.”
“I want to put one of our gene carriers in the chair. It’s our hope to catch them before they get within range of the planet but if something slips past us—I want someone who can make the chair sing down there.”
“I’m the strongest gene carrier we have,” Jack acknowledged. “I don’t know that the IOA would approve one of your people getting in our chair. They’re pretty pissed with you and especially Dr. Weir since she threatened to have you come down here and gut Binder.”
John smirked. “She just voiced my concern over the situation. You don’t think I let my leader sit in a meeting with those assholes without having eyes and ears in the room? Really?”
“So the two-man escort was…”
“Her only obvious security measure,” John assured. “She’s fitted with an emergency personal transporter; her clothes are bullet and puncture proof. She also has a personal shield that activates when she feels threatened. Additionally, she’s an advanced gene carrier—she could’ve kicked all of your asses and not even got a bit winded if I’d let her take care of it herself.”
Jack snorted. “Yeah, I get that about her actually. She’s…”
“Hot and badass? Yeah, all of our women are—it’s a trial keeping them from getting kidnapped and married off. You should meet Teyla. She’s totally an alien warrior princess.” John tilted his head and his gaze blanked briefly. It lasted only seconds but it caught the attention of both men in the room. He cleared his throat. “Sorry, McKay reports that he’s ready to send the new programming for your shield. If the Ori have cracked the encryption and can get the right frequency—we’ll need to let the computer program Atlantis’ built alter the encryption continually to keep them at bay for you.”
Jack glanced towards his computer. “An AI like Atlantis?”
“Not quite like Atlantis—just a very smart and intuitive program. Dad, did you want to go out with us?”
Patrick blinked in surprise. “You told the IOA that none of us were welcome on Atlas for the mission.”
John’s jaw tightened just a little. “Frankly, sir, I don’t want to leave the three of you on the planet while I’m gone. I’d rather not tempt the members of the IOA to use you against me.” He glanced towards O’Neill who started to protest. “You know you don’t have the power to protect him and frankly you shouldn’t have to worry about their bullshit considering your current threat level. It’ll be easier if they aren’t here to be a temptation to men like Binder—he’s full to the brim with ambition and very little else.”
“I can take care of myself,” Patrick snapped.
John turned and looked at him. “It would be nice, sir, if for once in my life you would trust me to take care of you.”
Patrick slouched in his chair. “Sure, John, I’d love to go on a field trip on your pretty Ancient starship.”
John looked at O’Neill who was smirking. “Giving in gracefully runs in our family.”
“I noticed—the sarcasm was an unexpected bonus.”
* * * *
John slid into the command chair on the bridge of Atlas and after he confirmed that his father and brother had found themselves seats out of the way he called up the holographic HUD for his chair. He brushed through ship diagnostics and department reports quickly before activating the ship-wide com. “This is General Sheppard we are preparing for a hyperspace jump. We are Situation Blue.” He closed the channel and the chair tilted backward as the HUD disappeared.
“Sir, the hyperspace window opening port side,” Atlas reported.
“Commander Thor is going to make way,” John murmured. “We’re going to tuck into his wake for the trip. The Beowulf is reporting in on our suspected Ori contacts. Make sure the reports are filtered to the right departments and a packet goes back to Earth, McKay.”
“On it, John.”
“And here we go,” John murmured. The jump to hyperspace was smooth and effortless. His chair righted itself and he slid out without a word. He clicked his radio. “Harris, report.”
“We are hell bound, sir.”
“Good to hear,” John chuckled. “The SGC provided us specs on the Ori ships and Atlas has prepared some simulations for you guys. I want everyone in SIM for at least an hour. Then two hours down.” He double clicked his radio. “Daedalus, Atlas reports green across the board. We are receiving battle data from Thor. Colonel Caldwell, did you want input on the battle strategy?”
“It’s my preference,” Caldwell returned dryly.
“Very well. We’ll beam a holoconference generator to your office within the hour. Commander Thor will be ready for us to meet at that point. It’s Asgard tech so it won’t need an ATA gene to work. You’ll be able to conference in three people from your ship. We’ll all appear on the Beowulf for discussion.”
“Understood. Caldwell out.”
John quirked an eyebrow as he ended the conversation. “That guy just doesn’t like me at all.”
“Maybe he’s jealous of your hair,” McKay offered and shrugged when John glared at him. “Going bald can make a man crazy, John.”
John shook his head and clicked his radio. “Units report in.” He walked around to McKay’s console as various personnel and departments on the ship started to update him on their status. He frowned when the channel went silent. “Elizabeth?”
“I’m in central processing, John. Have you reviewed the data on Adria?”
“Just the brief that Carter supplied.” John glanced towards Rodney who only shrugged. “Do you have concerns?”
“She’s powerful mentally and physically. I don’t know if I would consider her a threat on her own or even on an Ori ship, but I’d like you all to keep in mind that she’s not human. You shouldn’t be tempted to capture her. I know that’s something the people from Earth have on their agenda,” Elizabeth said. “I don’t like what I’m seeing in the information on her and, more to the point, I don’t like what I’m not seeing.”
“What do you mean?”
“We have no proof that she Ascended. If she did Ascend then she’s confined to the Ori galaxy by the treaty the Ori have with the Ancients. If she’s not Ascended—then they have a military commander who equals you in mental abilities.”
John frowned and nodded. “Understood. What’s your preference for the battle? Command chair or battle chair?”
“You’re better in the battle chair than me. I’ll come up there and assume the command chair when we leave hyperspace. I can handle crew logistics and monitor our assets in action from there.”
“Agreed.” John glanced briefly at his father and held back a smile. His father’s interest in Elizabeth Weir was something of a surprise but not an unpleasant one. He sort of figured he might use her to get his father to come back to Pegasus with him. “Sheppard out.”
* * * *
John was pacing around the bridge of the Beowulf in holographic form when Caldwell arrived with Sam Carter in tow. “Adria.”
Carter blinked in surprise. “We think she Ascended.”
“But you don’t know for certain?” John questioned with an eyebrow. “Elizabeth is concerned about her presence on the fleet of ships coming our way. If she is on one of those ships, Carter, she’s going to know exactly what we are. I don’t know how the Ori would react to the news that there are people out there with the Lantean genetic legacy. We have enough problems in Pegasus without bringing the Ori home with us.”
“Understood.” Carter pursed her lips. “Adria hasn’t been seen in two years in person.”
John grimaced. “Elizabeth is worried that she has gifts like we do. Does she?”
“She has gifts, yes.” Sam took a deep breath. “More than a Pryor but less than an Ascended being. She can…I’ve seen her disappear and reappear in a different location.”
John’s mouth narrowed in displeasure. “The only person I’ve seen do that was half-Ascended. When he let go of Ascension he lost the ability to do that.”
“Who?” Sam asked wide-eyed.
“McKay,” John answered shortly. “Ascension is seductive, Colonel, but fortunately for me McKay is too grounded in the material plane to Ascend if he has a choice.” He turned to Thor. “Your plan?”
Thor looked at him with his narrow little eyes. “Yes, I have a plan.”
* * * *
Caldwell stepped down off the holoconference generator and grimaced in distaste. “I don’t like it.”
“General O’Neill was specific that Commander Thor was to be in charge of our mission out here,” Carter reminded as they exited the small conference room they’d used for the conference. “It’s not a bad plan. I’m a little stunned that the Lantean’s Hell Fighters have cloaking technology.”
“Thor trusts them too much,” Caldwell muttered. “The plan is too dependent on Sheppard and his people. What if they bug out on us?”
“Then we’ll know where we stand with them but that doesn’t change our mission,” Carter countered. “We still have to do everything we can to keep these ships out of our solar system. If they’ve figured out how to get past our shield…they only need to launch a single biological weapon to wipe Earth out.”
“I know,” Steven murmured and dropped down in his chair. “I just hope Sheppard and Weir can be trusted.”
* * * *
“How is this chair different?” David Sheppard asked as he watched McKay roam from console to console in what he’d heard called the Battle Bridge. Matt was in the medical bay of the ship getting a crash course on Lantean medical science.
Rodney glanced up from his readings. “The Command chair on the bridge is a central interface. Everything from weapons to flight control can be done from that chair. But during a battle the workload can be split between the two control chairs. John can focus on weapons and our Hell Fighters. Elizabeth will handle everything else and keep the ship operational while John does the fighting.”
“But he could do both.”
“Yes and certainly has in the past. If Elizabeth wasn’t on board—I would be in the Command chair. There is no need for him to shoulder the entire load when he doesn’t have to. As it stands, he’ll probably spend the trip back to Earth in a medical pod. The bio feedback from Atlas will be extreme.”
“Biofeedback?” David questioned with a frown.
Rodney sighed and set aside his datapad. “This is a living ship, Commander Sheppard.”
“David,” he reminded. “Call me David, Rodney. Living? This ship is alive?”
“He’s a synergy of living organic metal and artificial intelligence. He’s a little over ten thousand years old. He has limited abilities when it comes to self-healing and repair.”
David looked at the chair. “And when John is in the chair?”
“John and Elizabeth both will receive physical feedback on Atlas’ condition throughout the battle. If he takes a serious hit—they’ll take it with him.” Rodney paused. “It’s not life threatening. Atlas would never allow that.”
“So, why physical feedback?” David questioned with a frown.
“It’s a ramification of our genetic similarity,” Rodney explained. “Everything has a price, David.”
David nodded abruptly. It was disturbing but he sort of understood that. The door slid open soundlessly and John entered with their father. His brother was a stranger to him and that irked the fuck out of him. It also royally pissed him off that his brother had a battle, a war that was beyond his reach. At least, it was for the moment. He didn’t know if he could leave Earth for good but he also wasn’t sure he could let John leave without him again.
John pulled a small headset out of his ear and dropped it in McKay’s hand before pulling off the fitted shirt he’d been wearing. Rodney took the shirt as well and set aside both.
“You ready for this?” John asked.
Rodney nodded. “We’re set. All systems are go and I’ve installed the second ZPM for the weapon systems only.”
David blinked in surprise when John moved in closer and kissed McKay on the mouth. It was the first time he’d seen any physical affection between them. John had always been notoriously private about intimate matters so he hadn’t been surprised. The kiss was intimate, knowing, loving, and David was suddenly very uncomfortable. Not because his brother was kissing a man—but because it was yet another reminder of how this man in front of him was nothing like the man who had told him to fuck off.
John moved away from the scientist and slid into the chair without another word. The chair tilted silently and the entire room lit blue. David let his father prod him into a seat near a dark console, and watched stunned when a holographic representation of space appeared above John’s body.
“The orange dots are Ori,” Rodney offered from across the room. “We are leaving hyperspace in three, two…one.”
“Launching Hell Fighters,” John murmured. His voice was remote—almost as cool as the voice of the ship’s avatar which David had only seen that once. “Thor was right—they immediately went after the Daedalus.”
David watched as one by one the orange dots simply disappeared. A part of him wished he was in a place in the ship where he could actually see the battle. The thought was no more formed before one of the walls in the back of the room blackened and a view of the battle was displayed. His mouth dropped open in surprise and when he glanced McKay’s way—the scientist had a little smirk on his crooked mouth. “Did you do that?”
“No, John did,” Rodney answered.
David nodded abruptly and focused on the battle. It looked like something out of a fucking movie and just a little scarier than he’d anticipated. “Are we getting hit?”
“Our shields are holding at forty-six percent,” John responded from the chair. “We’ve lost a few non-essential systems due to power fluctuations.”
* * * *
“No, don’t touch him,” Rodney admonished gently as both Sheppards reached out to help him with John. “He is a powerful empath and his mental shields are tattered. It’s one reason why he’s going into the medical pod for the trip back to Earth.”
“You’re touching him,” Patrick responded dryly.
“John and I are mentally bonded,” Rodney explained as he helped John onto the gurney that medical staff had waiting in the hallway outside the battle bridge. “He never uses his shields to keep me out so my touch isn’t traumatic nor does it have the potential to hurt him. I have no secrets from him.”
“That has to kill the romance,” David muttered.
Rodney grinned. “Well, at least I never have to guess what I did wrong when I piss him off because it just pours over our bond like water. I do more fucked up things than he does so I’m nearly always to blame for our fights. We can have an entire argument in under thirty seconds if we put our minds to it.”
By the time they entered the infirmary, Elizabeth Weir was already in one of the medical pods. Patrick walked towards the pod without thinking about it and stared down at the woman. She looked pale but otherwise just as beautiful as ever. “What about Dr. Weir?”
“Her gifts are more telepathic than empathic which makes her a very scary woman at the negotiation table.” Rodney checked the readings on her pod and turned to a young man dressed in blue. “Carson?”
“She’s good, Rodney. Her stress levels were a little high going into the chair so it’s not surprise to find them much higher than normal now. The meetings on Earth really upset her.” Carson looked at the Sheppards with questioning blue eyes. “You must be Patrick and David Sheppard. I’ve been having a fantastic visit with Matthew.” He held out his hand. “Dr. Carson Beckett.”
Patrick shook his hand. “You don’t look old enough to be out of medical school to be honest.”
Carson grinned. “I’m two years older than John by Earth’s calendar.” He shook David’s hand next. “It’s my pleasure to meet you both. John is a treasure among our people.” He walked to John’s pod. “How did he do, Rodney?”
“He’s a little stressed because of some personal stuff,” Rodney glanced towards Patrick and David. “But he was calm and on his game the entire time he was in his chair. His heart rate didn’t even elevate. He took out three of the Ori ships personally.”
“The other three?” Carson asked.
“One for the Asgard and the other two limped away into hyperspace heavily damaged by the ship from Earth.” Rodney shoved his hands into his pockets. “I got some great data on them though. It shouldn’t be much work to build Earth ships they can use very effectively against the Ori now that I know what they’re dealing with.”
“Good.” Carson motioned them towards the door. “Out now. Neither of them need the stimulation from your giant brain, Rodney.”
The next time Patrick Sheppard saw his son he was dressed in a formal black uniform. The look was good for him and a minute or so he let himself imagine that whatever anger still lingered between him and his oldest son was just gone.
John turned and looked at him—eyes bright with amusement. “I like to think the same thing actually but Rodney says that’s childish.” He motioned out the window to the Earth below. “I wish the same for this mess with the IOA as well. Elizabeth wants to believe we can negotiate with them but with men like Binder in the mix—I just don’t see that happening.”
“I understand Weir returned to Atlantis after she came out of the medical pod.”
“Yes, we have a small situation that required her attention. She’ll gate back in the morning for her meeting with the US President and then we’re meeting with the PM of Canada in the afternoon.”
“What about Great Britain?” Patrick asked.
John sighed. “Binder wants another meeting with us at the SGC. Elizabeth refuses to be in the same room with him again on the grounds that he’s a prick and I’m her first line of defense against jackasses like him. McKay and I are beaming down for a meeting in a few minutes.”
“I’ve been asked to attend that meeting,” Patrick admitted. “Matt is getting a tour of the ship from Atlas. David is in the Hell Fighter Bay with your pilots getting a crash course on the ship. I think he’s going to talk one of them into giving him a ride.”
“I authorized a jaunt around the solar system as long as they stay within Atlas’ ability to monitor them,” John admitted. “I can’t very well deny him—I’d be beside myself to get in one if it was the first time I’d seen one. I wish I could let him fly one but his natural gene isn’t enough for the ship.” He paused. “He thinks he wants to visit Pegasus but he doesn’t know how I’ll take it and he’s not sure if the SGC would allow it.”
“I think if he goes to Pegasus the next time I see him he’ll be wearing a Lantean uniform,” Patrick admitted roughly. “The SGC would probably think the same thing. They aren’t going to want to allow a visit because of his ATA gene. It’s almost as strong as yours before you went on the expedition.”
“If David wants to come to Pegasus, I’ll take him home with me. I really won’t give a fuck what anyone on Earth has to say about it,” John said as he straightened his sleeves. “You ready?”
“As ever,” Patrick returned.
* * * *
The conference room in the mountain was semi-full which John hadn’t expected. Sam Carter and Cameron Mitchell were standing at one end both looking furious. O’Neill looked constipated but John would be damned if he’d ever tell another living soul he thought that. He ignored McKay’s snicker and took in the rest of the room. Binder was ensconced at the head of the table and in front of him was a black box like device which McKay was focused on.
“What’s going on?”
Jack O’Neill sighed. “I’m sorry, John.”
“What is that thing?” McKay demanded. “Carter?”
Sam flinched. “It’s an anti-Pryor device, Rodney. We designed it to render them powerless so we can fight them in the field. Mr. Binder, along with the IOA, has decided to use it on you and John.” She looked at the floor briefly. “Against my advice.”
“And it’s active?” John questioned.
“Since you beamed in,” Jack admitted. “Mr. Binder thinks he can negotiate a better deal for Earth if he holds you and Rodney prisoner. He had a researcher at the Ancient outpost alter the planetary shield so you couldn’t be beamed out.”
John touched his radio and winced at the static that greeted him. He turned it off with a mild glare in Carter’s direction and focused on Binder. “If you think holding us hostage will get you what you want—you’re a fucking idiot.”
“We want the ship you have in orbit,” Binder returned. “In exchange for all of the access codes…we’ll allow your crew to beam down and return to Atlantis through the gate. You and Dr. McKay will stay on Earth and operate the ship in the defense of our solar system until which time we can alter the ship enough that we don’t need a gene carrier to operate it.”
“No,” John responded. “Absolutely not.”
“You don’t have a choice!”
“I always have choices,” John snapped in response. “I’m tired of playing your stupid games! McKay.”
Rodney tilted his head and the anti-Pryor device lifted off the table swiftly and then slammed into the concrete wall behind Binder’s head where it shattered into a couple hundred pieces. “Lower the shield so we can leave.”
Binder turned and glared at Carter. “You said it would work!”
“I said no such thing. I said it worked well against Pryors in the short term and we’d used to it capture Adria briefly one time in the field. The Lanteans received their abilities from physical changes in their bodies. It’s not something a piece of equipment can fight against. You just chose not to listen to me.” Carter crossed her arms and glanced over the pieces left on the floor. “I only made five of those, Rodney. You didn’t have to break it.”
“You shouldn’t let idiots play with your toys,” Rodney returned evenly. The stargate started to dial and everyone in the room turned to look down into the gate room. “That will be Atlantis.”
“Dr. Weir?” Jack asked.
“No.” John shook his head. “It will be Atlantis herself. Atlas has reported his inability to contact us on the surface directly to his mother.”
The wormhole established and the iris spun into place but it was useless because the voice filled the entire mountain. “This is the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas. General Sheppard, please respond.”
John clicked his radio and relaxed minutely when he wasn’t greeted with static. “This is General Sheppard.”
“My son reports that he cannot find you on the surface of the planet and the shield has been modified so he can’t scan for you.” Ally’s tone was cool and deceptive because John figured this was the angriest he’d ever known her to be. “He is upset.”
“They’re having some problems with a few shield modifications, Ally. I’m sure it’ll be fixed within the next few minutes.”
Ally was silent for a full minute. “If it is not fixed within the next ten minutes, Atlas is authorized to seek your removal from Earth by any means necessary. Major Harris is currently in command awaiting my instructions.”
“Atlantis out.” The wormhole shut down abruptly leaving silence behind.
John shifted between everyone in the room and McKay. The move was so blatant and aggressive that everyone else shifted further away. “You can let us go or I can start killing people.” He focused on Binder. “I’m going to start with you.”
“You know I can’t let you kill him,” Jack O’Neill snapped. “I realize this situation is fucked up but…”
“But nothing!” John snapped. “You’ve broken faith with us for the last fucking time. Release us or people in this room are going to start dropping dead.”
Binder fumbled open his cell phone and dialed quickly. “Lower the shield. Lower it right now.”
John’s radio buzzed gently in his ear and he clicked it. “I’m here, Atlas. Calm down. McKay and I will be ready to join you in a few minutes.” He turned to his father. He took in the cold anger in his father’s eyes and the betrayal running in his mind. “Are you with me or against me?”
Patrick’s jaw tightened. “I’ve always been with you, John. Even when a galaxy separated us.”
“Atlas, we’re ready to come aboard. The Admiral will be joining us.”
* * * *
“What the hell did you think would happen?” Jack demanded. “We warned you, Mr. Binder, and you chose to ignore us and all of our combined experience in dealing with situations like this.”
“They aren’t goddamned potential allies! They are our own people for the love of God.”
“No,” Sam Carter murmured. “They were our people and now they are something else. Something different. They have a world, a society dedicated to survival and fighting the Wraith. They don’t need us, Mr. Binder. They haven’t needed us in years and it’s because of people just like you that we’re in the situation we’re in to begin with. We could be a part of them. We could’ve benefited from everything they found out there from the very beginning.” Sam looked down at her feet and then with a distressed sound walked to the door. “They saved my life. I won’t help you act against them. I’ll resign my commission and leave the program first.”
Jack said nothing until the door closed behind her. “Congratulations, Mr. Binder, you just managed to turn one of the best people I’ve ever known in my entire life against you.” He stood up. “I’m going to recommend to the President that the US withdraw from the IOA. Get out of my Mountain.”
“You can’t keep us from the stargate!”
“That’ll be up to him,” Jack returned evenly. “You and your people will be escorted from this facility.”
* * * *
John’s hands were shaking as he ran them down McKay’s back. “I can’t believe that son of a bitch.” He pulled his spouse close. “You could’ve been hurt.”
“I’m fine,” Rodney whispered and curled his fingers into John’s shirt. “We’re both okay and…that’s all that matters, John.” He shifted his head slightly and their mouths met in a soft kiss.
John stole another kiss and then sighed. “Atlas, Rodney and I would like some private time.”
“And in most circumstances your close proximity and the exchange of oral fluids would’ve alerted me to that fact.” Atlas appeared on one of the solid walls near them. “But Mother has dialed in.”
“Kissing, Atlas. It’s called kissing.” Rodney moved away from John with a frown. “An exchange of oral fluids?”
John chuckled. “Ally.”
Ally appeared a few feet from them dressed in BDUs, combat boots, and a black tank top. “Are you alright?”
“We’re fine,” John assured. “I’d like to send my father and brothers through to the city, Ally. Unless…you disagree.”
Ally tilted her head. “Your family will always be welcome within my walls, John. Do you believe that the people on Earth will try to use them against you?”
Ally frowned. “And Dr. McKay’s sister?”
“She is in another country. We haven’t had any contact with the Prime Minister of Canada. Rodney hasn’t had a chance to connect with her so I don’t…” John glanced at Rodney and found him a little pale. “Ally, can you find his sister for us?”
“Jeannie Miller and her two children are currently at home. Her ex-husband is residing with his twenty-three-year-old teaching assistant.” Ally crossed her arms in a gesture of irritation. “He took most of the money you gave your sister before the divorce and isn’t paying her child support.”
“Bastard,” Rodney muttered. He rubbed his head carefully. “Does she know…what does she know about me?”
“She has had several conversations with Colonel Carter but officially she hasn’t been informed of your mission to Pegasus.” Ally’s image flickered. “Would you like to beam down to see her?”
“No, we can’t risk…” John trailed off when Rodney looked at him like he was the devil. “Baby, we can’t risk being under their shield again.”
“It won’t happen again,” Ally assured. “I’ve taken control of my outpost on the planet and will maintain control of it as long as Atlas is in orbit.”
* * * *
John flexed his toes in the hiking boots that Atlas had replicated for him and shoved his hands into the jeans he’d borrowed from David. “I don’t know how long we’ll be gone but we’ll be armed and…Atlas will monitor us from orbit.”
David nodded. “You want to send Dad and Matt through to Atlantis?”
“Yes.” John swallowed hard. “They could…There is precious little they could do to me in an effort to control me except hurt one of you.”
“Dad said they tried to use some kind of technology on you to keep you on Earth.”
“I can’t trust the IOA,” John admitted. “The American President has Jack O’Neill tied to his job and he’ll protect his job so he can protect Carter. Men like Carl Binder would eat Sam Carter alive if he could get past O’Neill. She’s just a weapon to him.”
“I agree that they should go through the gate. I’d feel better if Dad and Matt were far from here but I’d like to stay with you and go down with you when you see McKay’s family.” David raised an eyebrow when John started to protest. “I can handle myself, John. I may not be able to dodge bullets but I’ve been in combat nearly all of my adult life. Give me some credit here.”
John snorted. “I can’t dodge bullets.” He rubbed the back of his neck. “But I can make them you know—go in other directions.”
“That’s…pretty slick,” David acknowledged. “Let’s go make sure Rodney’s little sister is okay.”
John walked to a wall and pressed his hand against it. A panel slid away revealing a selection of Earth weapons. He pulled out a double shoulder holster and two 9mms before jerking his head toward the collection. “Take whatever you’d like. Atlas manufactured them this morning.”
* * * *
Rodney was shaking when they beamed onto the front porch of the modest little house outside Vancouver. He glanced around the neighborhood and frowned. “It’s so odd to see Earth after all of this time.”
John nodded. “Yeah, it’s a lot different than what we’re used to that’s for certain.” He pulled his coat closed to hide his weapons. “Ring the bell, McKay. I won’t let her bite you or anything.”
Rodney swallowed hard. “I haven’t…you know I haven’t spoken to her since she married that asshole. I never should’ve left her to fend for herself with him. Her finances are a mess; the bastard doesn’t pay child support, and he filtered all of the money I gave her out of her account during their marriage. He either hid it well or spent it all before the divorce. He even took the college funds I set up for the kids.”
John knew all of this but McKay always talked a lot when he was nervous. He put his hand on Rodney’s shoulder and turned him so they were face to face. “Look at me, McKay.”
Rodney huffed. “It’s about all I do, you know. Look at you. Sometimes I’m just stunned that I sleep with you.”
John laughed and let his forehead rest on McKay’s. “You’ve made a star go supernova, you’ve destroyed a Wraith Hive with the pure power of your beautiful mind, you laid siege to an entire planet to save me, and you redefine the universe every night in your sleep. This is…this is nothing. Ring the bell.”
Rodney nodded. “Right. Ring the bell.”
John grinned and released him. “And I’ve got your back just like always.”
McKay reached out for the bell but the door was thrown open before he could hit the button.
“I can’t stand it,” the woman snapped. “How long do you plan to stand out here, Mer?” She crossed her arms and glared at him with bright blue eyes. “What the hell happened to you? You look…you haven’t an aged a day since the last time I saw you.”
Rodney glanced around the porch. “Can we come inside?” He held out his hand for John. “This is my husband, John Sheppard and his brother David.”
Jeannie blinked in surprise but stepped back. “Of course. I have coffee in the kitchen.”
“Sounds good,” Rodney assured quickly.
She laughed reluctantly. “Always, Mer, always.”
In under a minute they were seated at a table in the kitchen, John watched as she busied herself with cups and a tray of cookies. “You two look far more alike than I anticipated.”
Jeannie looked at him then. “We should. We’re twins.” She frowned at Rodney. “Seriously, why do I feel like an old woman and you look all of twenty-five?”
He knew they were twins—it just hadn’t crossed his mind that a female version of Rodney would be all that womanly and attractive. It was a relief to be wrong. Rodney as a man was hot—Rodney in drag would’ve been less than hot. He smirked at the thought but winced when his husband glared at him.
Rodney exhaled and with lips quirking towards a crooked smile, he asked, “What did Sam Carter tell you about my work?”
Jeannie frowned and put a cup in front of her brother. “Not much. After the Stargate Program was declassified and I realized you were probably working for them—I started emailing people trying to find you. The email account I had for you hadn’t worked for years and when all of that money appeared in my account from you…I thought maybe you’d been killed and the US Government was hiding it. Eventually, I made enough noise that Colonel Carter showed up on my front porch. She told me you were on a long term mission off-world and that you’d given me your money because it was potentially a one-way mission. As far as they knew you were still alive and they had hopes of reconnecting with your mission.”
Rodney nodded. “Yeah, okay that’s basically it. I went on an expedition to another galaxy and we’ve been out there for five years. This is going to be pretty difficult to believe so I need you just listen.”
Jeannie reached out and put her hand on his. “I can do that.”
Two hours later, John figured that the McKay temper was still just about the scariest thing in the universe. Jeannie had exploded and paced all over her house after Rodney had finished their story. She’d muttered in English and French for nearly thirty minutes.
“Will they try to use me and my kids?” she demanded suddenly. She came to a stop directly in front of John and stared at him with eyes that he adored. “John?”
“It worries me. It worries me mostly because if they did hurt you or the kids—it would be an act of war as far as we’re concerned.” John glanced towards McKay and then took a deep breath. “It’s why we’re here.”
She looked at David. “And you? Are you going to leave everything here on Earth and go to Pegasus?”
“He’s my brother and I don’t want to be used against him,” David said. “The fight against the Wraith is righteous, and it’s not about someone else’s material gain. My father and youngest brother are already on Atlantis and they’re all the family I have.”
Her gaze narrowed. “It can’t be that easy.”
“It can,” David returned. “It can be that easy. The threat of the Ori makes the Earth just as dangerous as anything I might face in Pegasus.”
Jeannie shook her head. “It’s too much to take in all at once.”
“You don’t trust me,” Rodney murmured. “And that’s okay—it’s not exactly unexpected. I did walk away from you instead of trying to work through the problems I had with your choices.”
She blushed and shook her head. “I wasn’t much better. We both inherited our tempers from Dad and that’s not a good thing.” After a few silent minutes, she shook her head. “I can’t just take my kids from Earth, Mer. You don’t even know what our government is going to have to say. You said that Dr. Weir is meeting with them tomorrow?”
“Yes.” Rodney swallowed hard and shared a pointed glance with John. “I can’t…Jeannie.”
“Let me think about it for a while,” she whispered. “At least until after your meeting tomorrow.”
“I’ll stay with her,” David Sheppard pulled off his jacket revealing a double holster and two 9mms. “I can handle anything that comes this way and you can leave me a communicator so I can contact you if we need help.”
* * * *
“You’re worried about her, I know, but David is a tough bastard.”
Rodney nodded. “He’s attracted to her.”
John snorted. “God, I noticed. Not that I blame him—she’s beautiful.” He pulled McKay close and nuzzled against his neck. “That great face and those amazing blue eyes. It’s a good thing I’m gone on you.”
Rodney sighed and moved closer. “It’s a damned good thing because I would hate to kick your ass.”
* * * *
The banging on her front door startled her and she swore softly at the coffee that spilled over the counter when she jerked. Jeannie set the pot aside and went to answer the door, wrapping her robe tightly around her as she did so. The last thing she expected to find on her front porch was her ex-husband. “Kaleb.”
He shoved inside and slammed the door. “Rob across the street called me—said you have some guy staying with you.” His gaze darted up the stairs and he took a step backward.
Jeannie looked over her shoulder and barely refrained from swallowing her tongue. David Sheppard was there, dressed in a pair of jeans, no shirt, and no shoes. She crossed her arms as David came down the stairs, a t-shirt dangling in one hand. How the hell could she explain his presence without revealing more than she should to man she knew she couldn’t trust?
David moved in close and pulled her against him as he settled one hand on her hip possessively. “Jean, were we expecting a guest for breakfast?”
She shook her head and managed to not flinch when he pressed a kiss against her temple. “No, this is my ex-husband, Kaleb Miller. Kaleb this is Commander David Sheppard.”
Kaleb frowned at him. “Cop?”
“US Navy,” David returned evenly. “I was under the impression, Dr. Miller, that you didn’t have visitation because you can’t bother to pay child support. You’ll have to leave before the kids get up. They don’t need to be upset with your petty little dramas.”
“I can visit my wife and kids any fucking time I like!”
“Your ex-wife,” David corrected. “And no you can’t.” He turned Jeannie so she wasn’t looking at her ex. “How about you start breakfast for us?” When she started to protest he kissed her right on the mouth. “Please.”
Jeannie huffed in surprise and then walked away them both, her lips tingling. She hadn’t had a man in her space like that since her divorce and it was unnerving to say the least. Unnerving and really hot. Nearly ten, silent minutes later, David entered the kitchen pulling on his t-shirt on.
“Yep.” David leaned on the counter. “Sorry about the stuff…I figured we didn’t need to get into a conversation about why I’m really in your house.” He reached out and touched her arm hesitantly. “It’s not my habit to get in a woman’s personal space without permission.”
“It’s okay,” Jeannie whispered with a blush. “His face…was priceless.”
David laughed softly and took the cup of coffee she offered. “He’s not happy at all that you’ve apparently moved on from him.”
“It probably doesn’t help that you look like you do,” Jeannie took a deep breath. “And you’re probably ten years younger than him.”
He chuckled and walked away from the counter. “Still, I apologize if it made you uncomfortable.”
“Not uncomfortable,” Jeannie assured. “Your sacrifice was appreciated, Commander.”
“No sacrifice,” he said with a wink when she glanced his way. “You’ve got a great mouth, Ms. Miller.”
“McKay,” she corrected. “I took my maiden name back when I divorced him.” She pulled up her hair. “And it’s doctor. I finished my doctorate work shortly after Max was born.”
* * * *
No one was surprised when John Sheppard refused to allow his leader to beam back down to Earth to meet with the US President. The conference space on board the Beowulf was weird and very Asgard in décor. Thor transported everyone on board his ship—stripping them of weapons as he did so.
“President Hayes, the incident yesterday with the IOA has left me at a loss as to how you can even ask us to trust you.” Elizabeth inclined her head and glanced briefly at John. “They attempted to take my military commander and my chief scientist prisoner. The last world that succeeded in capturing and holding John hostage—can no longer support life as we know it. Granted, they were Wraith worshippers so they only have themselves to blame for what happened but still…you broke faith with us again.”
Hayes cleared his throat. “I see.”
“I hope you do because frankly what happened yesterday was unspeakable and worthy of the worst of our enemies—not a people we would consider an ally. Not a people that we risked our own lives to fight for only hours before.” Elizabeth fingers clenched together briefly before she spread her hands out on the table in front of her. “I’ll be having a very similar conversation with the Prime Minister of Canada this afternoon.”
Hayes nodded. “I’ve spoken at length with him and we reached an agreement about our continued participation in the IOA as it is currently organized. You must remember that IOA was formed out of political blackmail in an effort to keep the Stargate Program a secret. It’s no longer a secret so the political weight other countries had to throw around no longer exists.”
“I’m sure you’ll face international pressures regarding gate access and technological advancements,” Weir said.
“Yes, of course, but that is for us to worry about and not really something that should concern our off-world allies,” Hayes explained. “I’m sure you’ve encountered other worlds, Dr. Weir, with politics that make trade difficult.”
“Yes,” Elizabeth acknowledged. “We certainly have. We don’t normally agree to have a relationship with such worlds as involving ourselves in internal conflicts has never worked in our favor.”
“But you can see that Earth is different.”
Elizabeth frowned but didn’t look away from the President. “Earth is different only because less than five percent of the Lantean population came from here originally. You can’t think that will sway our choices when it comes to trade.”
“But you lead your people and you’re from Earth.”
“If I had a single ounce of loyalty to Earth…Mr. President…I wouldn’t have been able to take the Oath of Office to become the Premier of Lantea. We have no secrets on our world, Mr. President. It would be impossible to with the level of empathic and telepathic abilities demonstrated by members of our population. We keep each other honest and on the right path.” Elizabeth glanced briefly at John before clearing her throat. “It is why what happened yesterday with Binder and the IOA was so intensely offensive. John Sheppard is our First Citizen. The leader of our military and the first line of defense we have against the Wraith and you tried to hurt him yesterday.”
Hayes flushed. “I was not personally involved in the decision, Dr. Weir and my representative within the IOA was outmaneuvered.”
“The US government has always had more control over the Stargate program and internal operations than the IOA was comfortable with,” Elizabeth said, her gaze narrowing slightly as she looked around the room—taking in the various personnel that Hayes had brought with him. “You could’ve stopped Binder—he had access to the Ancient outpost because you allowed it. He had that anti-pryor device to test on my people because you allowed it.”
“We find ourselves in a precarious situation when it comes to other countries on Earth,” Hayes admitted. “Many of them blame the US specifically in regards to the renegade status of the Atlantis Expedition.”
Elizabeth scrunched up her nose in distaste and opened up the slim black case in front of her. They were surprised when she pulled out a series of bound paper reports. “That would be ill-advised on their parts actually.” She opened the first report and cleared her throat.
“On June 1, 2005 the Atlantis Expedition dialed into the SGC with a report on our status and requesting any assistance the SGC could provide. On June 2nd, the IOA met in Italy where upon the US and Canadian Reps were the only countries to vote for a rescue mission. Reports generated by the SGC and specifically General Jack O’Neill were dismissed without discussion under protest of Richard Woolsey.”
Hayes stared at her in shock. “How did…the minutes for IOA meetings are sealed, Dr. Weir.”
Elizabeth barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes. “On June 4th, Jack O’Neill told the Pentagon that he could request assistance for the expedition from the Asgard but he was ordered to stand down. Your predecessor, President Kinsey, didn’t want to waste political capital with the Asgard over a few expendable soldiers and scientists in another galaxy.”
Hayes took a deep breath. “Is there anything you don’t know, Dr. Weir?”
“Your wife is cheating on you with her Secret Service Agent but you don’t care because you only married her to so you could run for President,” Elizabeth offered and then smirked when Hayes flushed in anger. “And you’re gay but everyone in this room but Commander Thor suspected that.”
Hayes dropped back in his chair and frowned. “Then you have to know that I’m sincere in my desire to work with your people.”
“Yes, I do know that.” Elizabeth inclined her head. “I also know that you only have two years left on your current term and you’re not sure if you’ll run for a second term of office. The transitory nature of the political structures on Earth concerns me a great deal.”
“How can we fix that?”
“Declassify the Atlantis Mission and sign a treaty with our people in front of the United Nations.”
“You can’t think that everyone on Earth will support your point of view,” Hayes offered. “Many will think like Binder. They’ll want us to try to take Atlantis from you.”
“Atlantis is a living entity. She is not something we own. She’d never allow herself to be used in such a way. She has self-destruct protocols at her disposal that would take care of that.”
“She’d destroy herself?” Hayes asked shocked. “Destroy herself rather than be returned to Earth where she was built?”
Before anyone else in the room could respond, Ally shimmered onto the wall in the conference room behind Elizabeth Weir. “I am the Atlantis Collective, designation Primitus Civitas.” She focused entirely on Hayes. “I’ll be no man’s slave, President Hayes and I was born on Earth not built.”
Hayes straightened in his chair. “Atlantis, I’m pleased to meet you. I wasn’t aware that you’d be…available to meet with me.”
“My people go nowhere without me,” Ally returned evenly. She flowed out of the wall like water pouring out of a vase and walked to stand beside Elizabeth’s chair. She was wearing a uniform similar to Weir’s and her hair was neatly pinned up. “Especially not Earth—not after yesterday.”
“I apologize for the actions of the IOA yesterday, Atlantis. The decision was made in haste and was obviously a very poor one.”
“Yes,” Ally agreed. “More so for your arrogant assumption that I would allow you to keep one of my children as a slave than your attempt to hold General Sheppard hostage.” She offered the American President a mild glare. “Atlas is special to me—my only remaining son from the first war with the Wraith. He was the flagship of my armada—the strongest and fastest of all of his siblings. He once had five brothers—each as strong and beautiful as he but they are all gone now—lost to the Wraith. I will not lose Atlas to the ambitions of anyone. Am I understood?”
Hayes swallowed hard. “Yes, Atlantis, I understand.”