- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Death - Minor Character
- Explicit Sex
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Science Fiction
– – – –
John Sheppard looked up and found most of the senior staff of the Atlantis Expedition staring at him. Suddenly, he’d deeply regretted leaving Earth. He wished he’d never heard of the Stargate or anything that came with it. The fact is that he’d never really had a choice after the Pentagon had gotten wind of his excellent genetic potential. The Secretary of the Air Force had made it abundantly clear that he’d go to Pegasus or they’d court martial him for what had happened in Afghanistan. He’d called O’Neill had accepted a place on the mission within an hour of that conversation. At least on another planet, he was relatively safe from Leavenworth.
Now he was stuck in another fucking galaxy, and his commanding officer had been reduced to an old man with a failing heart because John hadn’t killed the Wraith Queen fast enough. And if that wasn’t enough of a clusterfuck, Sumner just wasn’t some hardass Marine. He was goddamned Revenant. John had been shocked actually when Sumner had still been alive when he’d reached him, and now he knew why. Being fed on by a wraith wasn’t enough, apparently, to kill a Revenant outright but his body was failing rapidly.
“Do we know who Sumner is anchoring?” Weir asked tightly.
John could tell she was genuinely horrified which surprised him but there were plenty of people who found Revenants an abomination. He’d never really thought about it one way or another. There were only about a thousand Revenants on the planet—eternal spirits that drifted from one mortal body to another. No one knew why or how a Revenant was made. For many generations, it was believed that Revenants were merely a different evolution of humans. Now, thanks to modern science the entire existence of Revenants had been reduced to a genetic quirk—a mutation. A few were born every year on earth, statistically speaking and they could live a very long time in their original body before being forced to either pass on from a physical existence, or they could anchor with another.
He’d read about the soul-blending that took place when a Revenant took a new anchor, but he’d never really thought it might be an option for him. The selection process for anchors was rigorous, to say the least. Revenants were special and blending your whole being with one causes changes for both anchor and spirit. No one wanted to risk the corruption of a Revenant, so anchors had to be good. They had to be free of family entanglements as much as possible. Children were discouraged as such relationships only brought grief to the blended soul eventually.
“You know it’s illegal for such information to be shared without permission. Colonel Sumner hasn’t given that permission and won’t. He’ll only tell the anchor he chooses from among the volunteers.”
Weir’s gaze narrowed. “There are no Revenant volunteers on the expedition, Carson. You know anchor volunteers, once approved, are coddled and protected to further the goals of the Triumvirate.”
“No, it just protects the anchors from undue influence,” John murmured. “As to the other, I volunteer. I can assume that nearly every Marine on this base will volunteer to anchor the Revenant Marshall Sumner carries.” He stood at the shock that drifted over Elizabeth’s face. “Dr. Beckett, I need to address the company. Are there any matters I should address during the discussion about the function of an anchor?”
“Just remind them that a true blending between an anchor and a Revenant is impossible if they have any doubts. Revenants require full, knowledgeable consent. I have a short document on the subject—I’ll see that it is passed around to the whole expedition.”
“That surely isn’t necessary,” Elizabeth protested. “No one has to anchor this thing. It can linger here on the city in its spirit form until we make contact Earth. A Revenant can travel through the gate without a body. The research has proven that so he can just roam around the city or maybe explore the rest of the planet until we make contact.
McKay cleared his throat and John focused on the scientist as Weir flushed bright red. “Dr. Weir, we might not be on Earth, but the rules and regulations regarding the Revenant could not be clearer in the Expedition Charter. Colonel Sumner has the right and the duty to seek a new anchor for his Revenant. And if we do a single thing to prevent or hinder that process—we’ll face a prison term if we return to Earth. Personally, I’ve no interest in going to jail. I have a smart mouth that I can’t keep shut on a bet. Prison wouldn’t be a happy-fun time for me.”
“He shouldn’t even be here,” Weir protested. “I’d have never agreed to Sumner leading the military on the city if I’d known he was a Revenant. They’re parasites, and you know it.”
“Anchoring a Revenant is an honor,” McKay said flatly. “They are among the greatest of us to ever live—brilliant, vivid souls who have been given a unique chance to continue to learn and grow.” He turned to Beckett. “I volunteer as well though I assume since the Revenant is currently anchored in a soldier that his preference is a military anchor.”
“You’d share your big brain with another soul?” Weir asked in shock. “You’re the smartest man of your generation, Dr. McKay. I can’t believe you’d let a forsaken soul share your body.”
“The Revenant are not forsaken. I can’t believe you’d even spout that ridiculous religious zealotry. And I would be smarter with a Revenant because I’d gain their experiences and wisdom,” McKay said. “Even a soldier’s memories would enrich who I am in such a way that it would be a gift.”
Weir frowned. “Dr. Beckett, make it clear to that thing in the infirmary that I prefer that it not corrupt what is left of my senior staff. Major Sheppard is now in charge of the military on the city.” She stood and with a firm little nod left the conference room.
“I had no idea she was such a bigot,” John said mildly.
“While I don’t share her harsh opinions regarding the Revenant, Colonel, I’d never volunteer myself,” Beckett said. “I have no interest in sharing my very soul and mind with anyone on that level of intimacy. It’s unthinkable.”
“Just send out the information,” McKay said shortly. “Now the city is on the water, we can relax a little and allow Sumner to make the best decision he can for himself.”
– – – –
Fifteen hours later, John was seated in a chair beside the bed that Sumner was dying in. They’d put him in isolation for his own protection after it was revealed he was a Revenant. Roughly fifteen percent of the people on the city had been absolutely horrified by the circumstances. Some of them had insisted on being transported to the mainland where the Athosians were exploring because they didn’t want to be anywhere near Sumner when the Revenant migrated into a new anchor.
“How are you doing?”
Sumner shook his head. “Not good but you already know that. Beckett told you my heart is failing.”
“Yes, sir,” John said and took a deep breath. “You’ve interviewed quite a few people. None of them looked happy to be dismissed though McKay appeared less upset than the rest.”
“He knew coming in here that anchoring me wouldn’t be the best choice for the Expedition. The men on this mission—I chose them and I brought some of them home with me from Iraq. They’re going to see my new anchor as their leader so in the end I really had two choices—you and Bates.”
“You know Bates pretty well.”
“He’s militantly straight,” Marshall said wryly. “And the thought of fucking another man makes him sick. I don’t think he could handle the memories he’d gain in the anchoring. That’s just one of the many reasons why anchors are carefully vetted. Sexual history has been a stumbling block in the past. Also, our previous anchor was a woman. I don’t think Bates would handle those memories well either—she gave birth twice though she was discouraged from it. Her son is here—on the expedition—so you’ll gain some honest-to-god maternal feelings for the little smart ass when the blending is complete.”
“Aiden Ford,” John guessed. “Hell, I did wonder why he was here. He’s so brand spanking new that I’m surprised he doesn’t squeak.”
“His mother’s name was Sandra, and she was a trauma nurse. She had a brain aneurysm. There is a duality in being an anchor, John, you’ll be both I and we. There are times when his presence in my mind is gentle and thoughtful, but there are other times when our merger is so tight that he thunders around me like a raging storm.”
“How old were you when you were merged?”
“I’d just started at Annapolis, and the Revenant insisted on a military anchor. I was on the volunteer list, but I’d never been vetted. The Revenant accepted the merger before the council completed their evaluation. I can’t say they were happy about that, and they won’t be happy about this but frankly the Revenant I carry rarely gives a fuck what those people think or want. They had plans for him after Sandra, and he refused to do anything they wanted. I’m sure when they find out that we left the planet that there will be hell to pay.”
“Who is he?” John asked quietly.
John wasn’t sure if he was more horrified or shocked. He felt sick, so he lurched to his feet and swallowed back bile. The last thing he wanted to do was throw up. It would be ridiculous. “You have the…Gaius Marius is the oldest Revenant on Earth. He was one of the founding fathers of the Roman Empire.”
Sumner laughed then coughed roughly.
“Shit,” John snapped and hurried to the tray. He poured water into a small cup and helped the older man sit up enough to drink it. “Don’t laugh, asshole.”
“It’s just—hell Sheppard—I know what I fucking did.”
John huffed and let Sumner relax on the bed. “You’ve led armies of thousands in battles across the planet for hundreds of years. I don’t even…how did you end up in a nurse?”
“I was tired of war,” Sumner said quietly. “I just needed something softer in my life, and I wanted to be part of something beautiful. Sandra said that having a baby would be the most beautiful thing I’d ever do and she was right. I served in two World Wars, and I just couldn’t take it another day so when my anchor finally died—I chose a beautiful young woman who wanted to save lives. I helped her dreams come true and while the council wasn’t pleased with my choice they had no say in it.”
“I can’t tell if I’m talking to Sumner or Marius.”
“Both,” Sumner said. “You’ll understand after the merger. There are a few technicalities. After the merger is complete, you’ll assume the highest rank available to the Revenant between the anchors which means when you leave this room, you’ll be a full bird Colonel.”
“And a Marine?” John asked and really hoped he didn’t sound as horrified as he felt.
“The men on the city will expect it,” Sumner pointed out. “It’ll be honorary for now, but if you return to Earth, you’ll have to make a choice. O’Neill and Rampart will take care of you on that front, and your choice will be honored. For now, let it slide and let the men think what they want about it.”
“Is Bates going to resent me for this?”
“I told him that three of my previous anchors were gay. He lost all interest in volunteering even if he didn’t admit it aloud,” Sumner said.
“You haven’t asked me about my sexuality,” John pointed.
“If you aren’t at least bisexual I’m going to be only slightly ashamed of how often I’ve jerked off thinking about fucking you since I set eyes on you,” Sumner confided and grinned when John laughed sharply.
“Well, I can look forward to those memories,” John murmured.
“You’ll have a lot to take in,” Sumner admitted. “But Gaius will modulate that for you, and you won’t be left helpless during the process. The merger will be smooth—like an embrace. He’s had a lot of practice. It won’t hurt, there won’t be nightmares, and he won’t inflict his emotional desires on you.”
“What sort of emotional desires?” John questioned.
“He has an immense nerd crush on McKay’s brain,” Marshall explained. “And his ass.”
“Well, that ass is a work of art.”
“Granted,” Sumner agreed. “But he won’t pressure you on that front.”
John considered that. “I have to admit I’m not opposed to indulging his little crush, so we’ll work that out between us.” He paused. “Will you be there?”
“In a way,” Sumner said. “My soul isn’t like his so when I die, I’ll move on to whatever comes next. But my memories and experiences will linger in him and in turn you for the rest of your life. I didn’t investigate your family situation.”
“Father, two brothers,” John said shortly. “Things are strained and have been since my mother died. I haven’t spoken to my father in five years, but I did have a weekend with my brothers in San Francisco before I came to Colorado Springs. There’s just an immense breach there that I’m not sure I can mend. He really doesn’t understand me and maybe he never will.”
“The gay thing,” Sumner questioned.
“Yeah,” John said with a sigh. “Wow.”
“I just told,” John admitted and Sumner laughed. “It’s just I’ve never come close to revealing that to a CO before.”
“I heard that the regulations were changing so you may return to Earth where DADT no longer exists but I have to tell you that as a Revenant, you’ll never be prosecuted for bullshit like that. We’re too valuable in the service for them to alienate one of us with crap charges. Speaking of charges, tell me about the fuck up in Afghanistan. I read the reports—I want to hear it from you.”
“My team was under fire the moment they hit the ground. I was ordered to evac by command, but I knew if I left those people there that they would all die. I pulled my service piece and shot out the radio. Then I aborted the mission and ordered them back on board. I was barely two minutes off the ground when the entire compound blew. The helicopter took some debris, and we crashed about a mile from base. We had two injuries so I carried one of them back to the base and I was immediately arrested for disobeying orders. They had to evac me out because the men in my unit were…unhappy with how I was being treated. I was sorted to Antarctica because, in my efforts to be a disobedient asshole, I’d managed to save the life of a senator’s grandson. That grandson, the one I carried over a mile back to base, raised so much hell from the bed he was put in that they couldn’t court martial me.”
“Apparently he was still raising hell when we left Earth,” Sumner admitted. “When you transferred to Peterson, O’Neill got a phone call from that Senator because he was furious that a goddamned hero was being shuffled around into dead-end assignments because he did the right thing.”
“I could’ve gotten them all killed,” John said. “If I’d gone back to base as ordered and argued with our CO over the situation I wouldn’t have been able to return for them. We could’ve all died in the helicopter crash. Anything could’ve happened.”
“General Dailey implied that your motivations were personal and that you were engaging in an inappropriate relationship with Captain Teldy,” Sumner said. “Is that true?”
John shook his head. “Anne Teldy is an excellent officer, and I went away without complaint to save her career. There was nothing romantic going on there for either of us. If anything, the rumors about her affection for me was more like a beard for us both because I’m not even bisexual despite the fact that I was once married to a woman.”
“O’Neill liked what he saw of her record, so I imagine she’s being recruited for the program,” Sumner said. “Take care of Aiden is much as you can. His mother loved him so much.”
“You said she had two babies.”
“A girl, she died in her sleep when she was eight months old.” Sumner took a deep breath. “It hurts a lot—even second-hand to think about that beautiful little baby.”
“Does he know that you anchor the Revenant his mother carried?”
“No, he doesn’t, and he shouldn’t be told. In all honesty, I should’ve left him on Earth, but when I met him again, I couldn’t part with him. Considering the situation, you’re going to want to field-promote Bates to at least Captain. Aiden doesn’t have the experience to act as your CO, and he knows it. He’s worried as fuck that he’ll disappoint everyone. There is no need to add the pressure of interacting with his mother’s Revenant.”
“How old was Aiden when Sandra died?”
“So you have memories of being his mother,” John said roughly. “Wow. Is body dysphoria problem? Do you ever feel like you’re in the wrong body? Are there gender issues to worry about?”
“No, not at all. Gaius is adept at adjusting emotionally and mentally to his new anchor. Your sexuality and personality will be dominant. You’ll just have memories of the literally thousands of experiences he’s had. Which honestly hasn’t been a fantastic time for me which is why I vetoed Bates pretty much immediately.”
“Gaius’ past is riddled with different kinds of trauma,” Marshall admitted. “Rape—in two different anchors one of whom was male. The memories are indistinct but terrible. You’ll carry them. It’s part of who he is—the fabric of his soul experience.”
“I understand,” John said and took a deep breath. “I…is there anything you want to do before it’s too late? Is there a message or letter you’d like to see delivered at home?”
“No, I’m good,” Marshall said. “I didn’t leave anyone behind. You’ll learn that carrying a Revenant requires a different kind of sacrifice. Gaius learned that with Sandra. It was difficult to walk away from his boy when she died, but he didn’t have any sort of standing as a parent, and I was just a kid of eighteen myself at the time.”
“Is Gaius Marius male or female?”
“Both, neither,” Sumner answered. “He is a summation of a two thousand years of experience. The life of origin was male, so those pronouns are appropriate when you discuss him in the third person. You’ll find out quickly enough that we is more comfortable than he. The merger will make you very protective of his spirit. We don’t know what it will do to you regarding your ATA genetics. As far as I know, a Revenant has never anchored with someone with Ancient genetics. So be careful and don’t get yourself killed, Sheppard. There is no one else on the city that could handle Gaius in a healthy way.” He coughed and waved John off when he reached for water. “You’ll have issues with Weir.”
“I was surprised by her and the fact that she didn’t know you were Revenant.”
“O’Neill told me that when she was briefly in charge of the SGC that she tried to fire four Revenants working in the Mountain and was infuriated that she couldn’t get rid of them without cause. She tried to tell the Pentagon that they were a security threat. She made sure those people knew that they were not welcome at the Outpost nor were they allowed on the mission. The Pentagon wanted me out here, so they removed the parts of my jacket that revealed my Revenant background.
“They’ll add it to your jacket upon your return—including all of the Revenant’s previous military service as far back as they can, so get used to it now before you have to deal with their crap on Earth. They’ll use you up if you let them because his military experience, your ATA gene, and skills as a pilot will make you a peerless military asset but you have rights, and you’ll need to use every single one of them to keep them from putting you places no one deserves to be. Sometimes they’re reckless with us in a way that they’d never admit in public because…”
“An anchor can be replaced,” John said flatly. “I get it. I’ve heard it said, but I’ve never believed that bullshit. Don’t they have any clue what kind of trauma dying must do to a Revenant?”
“Most Revenants avoid it—by leaving their anchor before the death occurs,” Sumner admitted as he took a ragged breath. “Okay, kid, it’s time. If you can’t do it, we understand. He can go for decades without an anchor even if it’s not his preference.”
“No, I’m game.”
John laced his fingers with Marshall Sumner’s and glanced just once at the observation deck above the isolation room they’d set up. Beckett, McKay, and Weir were all there—watching and waiting for Marshall Sumner to die. Weir’s disapproval practically radiated around her. She wasn’t the first person he’d ever met such opinions about Revenants, but he had to admit, at least privately, that he was profoundly disappointed in her. He hadn’t noticed their arrival, and that was infuriating. He dismissed them from his thoughts and focused on Sumner. The man’s eyes were glowing a gentle blue, and John realized that Gaius was unmooring. It was heartbreaking, and briefly, Marshall’s fingers tightened with his.
The spirit rose up between them, a misty blue shimmer of light, and John just nodded. Gaius Marius flowed toward him and slid into his body. It was warm, and there was a fleeting, shocking pleasure as the spirit settled. His vision blurred and the emotional hurt that he’d felt edging into his mind bloomed.
He cleared his throat. “All of you—get out.” John turned to stare at the observation room. “Now.”
McKay gave him a nod and prodded both Beckett and Weir out of the room.
John focused on Marshall. The older man looked weaker, and his eyes were dull. “Marshall.”
“Got you a pretty one this time,” Sumner whispered.
“I had a pretty one last time, too,” John said. He leaned forward slightly and cupped the back of Sumner’s head. “It was my honor all of these years to be with you, Marshall. I’ll have you with me always, but it won’t be the same.”
“We carry on because that is our purpose.” John leaned in and pressed a soft, chaste kiss to Sumner’s mouth. “Be at peace, my friend.”
“Gaius,” Sumner murmured, and his body went lax.
John let his head rest briefly on Sumner’s shoulder then he stood. He carefully tucked his hand under the covers, used fingers to gently close his friend’s eyes, and drew the sheet over a face that had been his own for decades. Slowly, he walked away from the body but stopped by the door and braced against the wall. Finally, he turned and just slid down the wall to sit there, his hands buried in his face.
“Fuck.” He rubbed roughly at his eyes to keep tears from falling. “Goddamn it.” John let his head fall back against the wall sharply. Gaius was drifting in the back of his mind now—hurt and furious over the loss of the anchor he’d had for fifteen years.
The door opened, and suddenly McKay was squatted down beside him. “Carson said that the monitors…” He sighed. “Are you okay?”
“I’ve got a grieving Revenant running around my head,” John said flatly. “How much did the three of you hear?”
“We arrived just in time for Sumner to tell you that the Pentagon conspired against Weir. His heart monitor was going haywire, so Beckett figured it was about time for him to let go. I tried to prevent them from watching but when they wouldn’t listen—I came too to make sure Weir kept her mouth shut.” He cleared his throat. “And I’m sorry that we saw what we did see.”
“I guess I’m not. I want Weir to know she doesn’t have any allies on this point on Earth,” John muttered. “What’s going on out there?”
“She’s furious that you accepted but is relieved that Sumner didn’t pick me but like I said, I figured he’d pick a military and you were the obvious choice due to your rank.”
“If she weren’t a bigot he might have picked her,” John admitted roughly. “When he first met her—he admired her strength and drive. But it didn’t take long for him to discover that she was vehemently opposed to the very existence of Revenants.” He scrunched up his nose. “My head’s full of shit I didn’t do, McKay. This is an utter mindfuck.”
“Tell me what you need.”
“I need to take Marshall’s body to the mainland. He’d like to be cremated. We’ll hold a memorial on the city for anyone who wants to attend, but his funeral will be private,” John murmured. “If anyone complains remind them that he’s my previous anchor and no one has the right to interfere in our wishes.”
“No one is going to gainsay your choices in this matter, you’re his next of kin. The laws on that are very clear. It’s funny, you know that Weir never realized just how important all of that Revenant language in the charter is.”
“She believed the expedition was Revenant free,” John said and frowned. “She’s going to be a problem.”
“If you’re asking me if I have your back, the answer is yes,” McKay said as he stood and offered John his hand. “It’s my job to support her professionally, but if she crosses the line and lets her personal opinions interfere in decision making, I won’t come down on her side.”
“I’m not trying to stage a coup here, you know,” John said. “I have no interest in leading the expedition and joining with a Revenant hasn’t changed that in the slightest. That being said, they picked Sumner as the military leader because his Revenant had the skills required to run the whole show if necessary.”
“Care to tell me who you’re carting around in that crazy-haired head of yours?”
“I’d prefer that you not tell anyone else,” John said roughly as they left the isolation room.
“I like keeping secrets,” Rodney admitted. “Especially awesome ones that I can lord the knowledge of over other people when I don’t like them.”
Sheppard grinned, he couldn’t help it. “Gaius Marius.”
McKay stopped moving and turned to stare at him. “Are you fucking with me?”
“Not yet, but I’m not at all opposed. Gaius is a hundred and ten percent on board with it, too. He thinks your ass is a modern marvel.” John smiled cheerfully as McKay’s dropped open.
– – – –
Hours after the memorial, Bates and Ford helped him load Sumner into the back of a jumper. Neither man had a lot to say, so John let the situation ride. He had too much going on his head to process what was happening with them. He did wonder what Ford thought about the whole thing since he hadn’t been a volunteer and had refused to speak at the memorial. John had enough memories, now, of Ford to know that the kid had pretty much worshiped Sumner. Maybe he blamed John for not getting there in time, or maybe he resented the fact that he hadn’t known Sumner was a Revenant. He just wasn’t sure, but he figured he’d have time to figure out later.
Building the pyre was oddly soothing—he had dozens of such memories though most of them were from the distant past. The last four anchors had been buried traditionally. John had touched briefly on Sandra Ford’s life before he’d pushed it away. Gaius had tucked all of it aside without any complaint or ire and for that John was grateful. He knew why children were discouraged, but he also knew how Gaius had been healed by that experience with Sandra, so while he didn’t resent the memories, he couldn’t embrace them the way Sumner had.
The Athosian’s temporary hunting village was just a mile from where he landed so he wasn’t all that surprised when a group of them appeared after he’d lit the pyre. He’d stopped to tell them what he’d be doing and where he would go but he didn’t begrudge them the choice to monitor from a distance in case he were to lose control of the situation. He’d picked a pretty isolated section of beach for it, so he sat down on the sand and ignored them.
He fed the fire for hours, and when there was nothing left but ash and bone shards, he gathered it all up and gave the remnants to the ocean. Deep inside him, Gaius calmed with each passing hour. John figured that the Revenant was accustomed to such grief and had learned to handle it over the years. He certainly wasn’t a help—he was still furious over the senseless death of his mother and it had been sixteen years.
John used a shovel to break up the pyre so the tide could carry the water away then tossed it in the jumper. He dropped back down on the sand to stare at the ocean. The longer he sat there, the more he resented letting the people on Earth bully him onto the expedition. But in the end, he’d done it protect the unit he’d left behind in Afghanistan. If they’d court martialed him, then Teldy and Holland would’ve probably been on the chopping block, too. In the back of his mind, Gaius swelled with feelings of retribution and a small smile slipped across John’s mouth because if his Roman passenger wanted a little revenge, he wasn’t the sort to deny him.
– – – –
John listened to the background noise on his headset as the two other pilots on the city who could operate Jumpers brought people back from the mainland as he ran. Five miles and counting, his sixth trip around the one-mile established route four Marines, including Bates, had joined him. Part of him figured that they were babysitting him but he let it slide because he wasn’t at the top of his game and Ford was still avoiding him. After ten laps, he stopped and tried to ignore the fact that he wasn’t even winded.
Everyone but Bates left him at that point as he braced one foot against a railing and started to cool down. “Talk to me, Bates.”
“Most everyone has calmed down since news of a successful anchoring. I can’t imagine how it would’ve gone if he’d been required to linger among us in spirit form for months or more. I doubt some of the people on the mainland would’ve agreed to return.” Bates paused in his own stretching. “Weir made sure everyone knows that it was you. She said it was a public service, but I think she’s just trying to make things difficult for you.”
“I figured she would.” John dropped down on the bench-like structure near them, and he took a deep breath. He’d always loved the ocean, so at least that was one feature of the city of the Ancients that he could enjoy. “This is a clusterfuck of the first order, Bates.”
“I read your file last night. You’ve apparently never considered OTS.”
“Never saw the point in officer training, sir,” Bates said wearily. “Come on, what have I done to deserve that?”
“You and I both know that the two green ass lieutenants I’ve been left with aren’t going to be…for fuck’s sake, Bates. One is a political favor, and Sumner picked Ford out of goddamned nostalgia—a decision he regretted pretty much the moment he set eyes on a wraith, by the way.”
“Lt. Crown is a political favor?” Bates frowned. “Who does she know?”
John sighed. “It wasn’t a favor for her. She told Sumner that she was transferred from Area 51 to the SGC and encouraged to volunteer because she accused General Landry of sexual harassment. O’Neill offered to get her into a different project, away from the SGC entirely, when JAG refused to file charges against Landry. Crown decided to stick with the mission since Pegasus was about as far as she could get from Landry and still be a Marine. Regardless, she’s just as green as Ford and has seen combat just once. She should be in logistics and has no business on a field team. I can’t have either one of them at my back. It makes my insides itch to think about it.” He paused. “So Captain.”
“Captain,” Bates agreed, but John could tell he wasn’t at all happy.
“I’d like to say it’s temporary but you and I both know that if you’re field promoted by a Revenant that it’ll be official when we make contact with Earth. Especially, considering…well, considering who I’m anchoring.”
“May I know who, sir?” Bates questioned. “I won’t spread it around.”
John rubbed his face with a shaking hand because Sumner should’ve told his ranking NCO who and what he was no matter what the official line was. He should’ve told both lieutenants that he was a Revenant, too, but that was neither here nor there. “Gaius Marius.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Bates muttered. “Sir.”
John laughed. “Right?” He took a deep breath. “Last night, I had a dream where I met Lucius Plutarchus. It was ridiculous.”
“Gaius Marius has seen a lot of combat,” Bates said neutrally. “How are you handling that?”
“I have vague memories of being on the ground in Normandy on D-Day,” John said roughly. “I can tell he’s trying to blunt the horror of it, but it’s pretty intense. I think the physical integration is the priority as he fully merges himself. Two days ago, running ten miles as fast as I just did, wouldn’t have been easy. I only slept six hours, but I feel like I got at least ten hours of deep, restful sleep. My vision has always been stellar, but it’s sharper now. Reflexes appear to be slightly above normal, but I think I’m integrating some muscle memory which is insane.”
“How can I help, sir?”
“I just need space to adjust, and I don’t think Weir is going to be too keen to give it to me. Just watch my back because I don’t trust her at all.”
Bates’ gaze narrowed slightly. “You were pretty chummy with her before the merger, sir.”
“Yes, that’s before I found out it was her idea to blackmail me into taking this assignment,” John said flatly. “The Pentagon threated me to court-martial me over that mess in Afghanistan if I didn’t step through the gate. It was Weir’s idea because she wanted my ATA gene. O’Neill and Sumner found out the day we left.”
“This mission is supposed to be volunteer only.” Bates stood and walked over to the railing. “I wonder if she did it to anyone else because between you and Crown, that’s two people who probably wouldn’t be on a potential suicide mission if they had a choice.”
“Crown had choices.”
Bates sent him a look. “Sir, you and I both know that Crown had few choices when it came down to it. JAG screwed her, and that’s bullshit.”
John joined him at the railing and looked out over the ocean. “Well, when I get back to Earth, I’ll make it my business to ruin Landry’s life.”
“I heard he was in line to lead the SGC,” Bates pointed out.
“The last thing O’Neill and Sumner talked about was Landry—Sumner made it clear that he didn’t want Landry in charge of the SGC and if he came back from Pegasus with that asshole sitting in O’Neill’s seat that he would make everyone regret it.”
“Well, considering who he was anchoring, I imagine O’Neill took that threat seriously.”
“We can hope,” John said. “Though I’m not afraid to throw my new badass Roman weight around as needed.”
“Good to know.” Bates grinned.
– – – –
“Lt. Ford, please sit.” Weir pointed him toward a chair, and Aiden sat though it was the last thing he wanted to do. “You’ll be in charge of the military going forward, so I wanted to speak with you about my expectations.”
Aiden shifted uncomfortably in the chair, as his heart raced against his rib cage. “Ma’am, has Colonel Sheppard committed some criminal offense that would remove him from command?”
Weir frowned at him. “No, but I’ve decided that Major—
“Ma’am,” Ford interrupted. “You don’t have the authority to remove Colonel Sheppard from his command unless he’s committed a crime. I will not have any part of a mutiny, and I can assure you no other Marine on this city would either.” He stood. “I won’t be able to continue this conversation as conspiracy to commit mutiny is a crime in itself.” Her mouth dropped open, and her face darkened with fury. “I would request on behalf of the rest of the military on the base that you do not attempt this with them—it is dangerous and inappropriate.” He started to leave but then stopped. “And for the record, Dr. Weir, I’m six months out of Annapolis, and I have been on four gate missions. I’ve never seen combat. I’m in no single way prepared to lead a company of Marines in what is fast becoming a war zone.”
Aiden left her office before she could speak again because really didn’t want to hear another word about her agenda. He activated his radio as he started down the stairs. “Ford to Sheppard, what is your location, sir?”
“My office, problem?”
“Yes, sir, I’ll meet you there.”
He’d been avoiding Sheppard since Sumner had died and he knew it was a dumbass move. Aiden figured that behavior on his part was certainly why Weir thought she might be able to get him on her side for whatever she might have planned. He rounded the corner and found quite a few unlisted loitering near what’d been designated as Sheppard’s office. His fault, certainly, he hadn’t even set up a schedule for Sumner much less Sheppard.
They came to attention as they saw his approach—the rank earning the respect. Aiden wasn’t foolish enough to think for a moment that he’d earned it for himself. Maybe he would, or maybe he would continue to fuck it all up because he was an emotional wreck.
He started to speak, but Sheppard stepped out of his office at that point.
“Stackhouse, go ahead and assemble the company and we’ll hammer out any pressing issues regarding equipment, housing, and training schedules,” Sheppard ordered. He focused on Aiden and motioned him forward with two fingers. “Ford, I need a word with you and Lt. Crown.”
He prided himself on the fact that he didn’t hesitate. Sarah Crown was already in the office when he entered, so Aiden took the seat he was pointed to and glanced only briefly at Dean Bates before focusing on Sheppard who’d chosen to lean on the front of the desk instead of sitting behind it. Not a reprimand then, Aiden decided.
“Due to the circumstances of Colonel Sumner’s death and the vacuum that is left in the officer ranks,” Sheppard began, “I’ve made the decision to field-promote Bates to Captain.”
Aiden was so instantly relieved he had stiffened up to keep from sliding right out of his chair onto the floor.
“Oh, thank God,” Crown blurted out then blushed. “I mean.” She coughed. “Sorry, sir.”
Sheppard laughed. “No, that’s fine. We need to do a little reorganization because we aren’t sorted logistically to handle a city the size of Atlantis. McKay wants to do some on base exploration, and we’ll have to start going off world to set up trade options. Our food stores were decent before we brought the Athosians through the gate, but now we have to make some choices and cultivate some relationships with the natives pretty damn quickly.” He focused on Aiden and Ford couldn’t help the way his stomach did a little flip—a mixture of apprehension and guilt.
“Bates, Crown—dismissed. I’ll see you both in the mess hall in about twenty minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Bates said and motioned Crown out ahead of him.
Aiden flinched when the door shut behind them and there was a snick of the lock engaging. Sheppard’s supergene no longer seemed all that cool.
“Tell me what’s going on in your head, Lt. Ford,” Sheppard ordered. “Are you afraid of me now?”
“No, sir, of course not,” Aiden flushed. “I mean, as much as any junior officer fears a superior but nothing personally.”
“You didn’t speak with Sumner before he died,” John said quietly. “I can’t pretend that it didn’t hurt him. He thought a lot of you.”
“I guess you know that because of the…” Ford waved a hand and flushed. “It’s my fault he’s dead. He pushed me out of the way of the culling beam, and they got him instead. Why did he do that? I was so mad, and then I was horrified because he was a Revenant and he was worth ten of me. What if he’d died on that hive ship? Could the spirit have found his way back to the city? How could he be so reckless with himself?” He glared. “How could you be so reckless?”
John raised an eyebrow at him, and Ford huffed the slouched down in the chair.
“This is so weird,” Ford snapped.
“You think it isn’t for me?” John asked and laughed when Ford crossed his arms over his chest. He had a fleeting memory of an eight-year-old Aiden doing the same thing because his mother wouldn’t let him go trick-or-treating dressed as MC Hammer. He pushed that memory aside so he could concentrate on the grown up version of Sandra Ford’s child. “He was under orders not to tell anyone about his status as a Revenant because of Dr. Weir.”
Aiden flushed. “Yeah, she’s why I was looking for you. She called me into her office and tried to put me in charge of the military. I told her that she was conspiring to commit mutiny.”
John snorted. “Ford.”
“What? Technically, that’s exactly what she was doing. She doesn’t have the legal authority to remove the military leader from his position without a serious criminal offense and even then you’d be subject to review by your peers. She’s not your peer, sir, frankly considering your new circumstances—you don’t have a peer on this city. I’ll not be party to the usurping of your authority over the military personnel on the expedition. I’m too pretty to go to Leavenworth.” Ford frowned. “My mom was an anchor. She died when I was ten. It was…difficult because I thought that the Revenant would at least come back to see me but he never did. Mom only ever told me that her Revenant was a man in his life of origin but that he’d anchored with women in the past.
“Being anchored helped her go to school—she had a great job. Everything was awesome, and she told me amazing stories from the lives her Revenant lived. Never anything specific that I could latch onto because I have to admit when I got older I tried to find him.”
“Why?” John asked.
“To thank him,” Aiden said. “They said the only reason I even got to say goodbye to my mother after her aneurysm is because she was anchored and he didn’t leave her until she died. He could’ve unmoored at any point, but he didn’t—he stayed with her as long as he could even when people from the hospital encouraged him to leave her so he wouldn’t feel her death.” He shrugged. “I contacted the Triumvirate Council once and tried to get his name. I was lectured severely for it. I was also told my unreasonable attachment to my mother’s Revenant made me unsuitable as an anchor volunteer. I thought maybe Colonel Sumner knew that so I didn’t volunteer and I’m really sorry about not going to see him. I was just kind of lost in my own head.”
“He didn’t resent you for it,” John said.
“But it hurt him.”
“Yes. Would you have preferred I lie to you about that?”
“No, sir, of course not.” Aiden stood. “I’ll go make sure the company is in place. I take it you’re going to do Bates’ field promotion during the meeting?”
“Good.” Ford nodded. “I’m just as immensely relieved as Lt. Crown, sir, I just learned how to keep my mouth shut about stuff like that.”
– – – –
The company relaxed after the meeting and Bates’ promotion, so John took it as a win. It a move more passive aggressive than he considered himself capable of, he sent Elizabeth Weir a copy of the UCMJ with the parts of about mutiny and sedition highlighted. Then he’d copied/pasted the relevant parts of the expedition charter in the email as well. He wasn’t at all surprised to be ordered to her office shortly after that. So he took a stroll and meandered his way up to her fishbowl of an office after he picked up some coffee from the mess.
He entered her office without knocking and ordered the door shut behind her. The windows darkened as he sat down. “There’s no need to maintain any sort of pretense of pleasantness in private, Dr. Weir.”
She blinked and cleared her throat before straightening her shoulders. “Very well. I insist you cede control of the military to the newly promoted Captain Bates.”
“No.” He took a sip of his coffee and watched her process that. “And you know very well you don’t have the authority to ask such a thing of me, Dr. Weir. Your limited authority over me doesn’t include removing me from the place my rank affords me without a criminal offense. A circumstance that Lt. Ford already explained to you. We are required by the charter we both signed to maintain a civil, professional relationship, and that is all. Your bigotry is startling and profoundly disappointing, of course, but you’re entitled to it. I mean, it’s genuinely disgusting to be in your presence if I’m going, to be honest about it.
“Your ignorance regarding the Revenant is appalling, and more so for the fact, the IOA knew this about you and let you come to Pegasus anyway. You have no business whatsoever being in the Stargate Program. How will you react to aliens if humans with a different evolutionary path make you practically hysterical? How will you respond to alien religions and customs that offend your delicate sensibilities? I guess we’ll cross that potentially murderous bridge when we come to it.”
“You’re disgusted by me?” Elizabeth repeated and laughed sharply as her eyes glittered with some emotion that John didn’t bother trying to identify.
“You’re a walking abomination, John, look what you’ve let that thing do to you. You’re ruined.”
“Colonel Sheppard,” John corrected. “You don’t have permission to be friendly with me, Dr. Weir. I have to speak to you because it’s my job, but I’d prefer no interaction with you outside of professional circumstances, and you’ll address me by my rank and last name without exception. If you attempt to address me differently in public—I’ll correct you on the spot, no matter the audience.”
Her cheeks flushed. “I can see it’s already making you arrogant.”
“This isn’t arrogance,” John said evenly. “This is fury. Sumner knew you were responsible for the Pentagon blackmailing me into joining this clusterfuck of a mission.” Her eyes widened, and she sat back a little from the desk that separated them. “You’re the reason I’m here—on what is basically a suicide mission. You might not have anyone on Earth worth returning to, but I have two brothers who may never know what happens to me. I blame you for it. The worst part of this, for you, is of course that even if I die the Revenant, I carry will move onto a new anchor, and he’ll make you pay for the deaths of both of his anchors. He knows, you see, how you argued against the rescue of Sumner and everyone else on that hive ship. He knows how much of my time you wasted arguing against it. If I’d left when I wanted to, Sumner would’ve lived.”
“I couldn’t have known that,” Weir protested as John stood.
“I don’t care,” John snapped, and for a moment Gaius welled up in him. He knew his eyes were glowing blue. “We don’t care.”
“You freak,” Weir muttered and stood from her desk. “Get out—email me the mission schedule. I don’t want to have to look at you unless we have a briefing.”
“The feeling is entirely mutual, I assure you,” John said evenly. “Insult me in such a personal manner again, Dr. Weir, and I’ll start a complaint file to transmit to the SGC as soon as I can accomplish it. It’s illegal to discriminate against a Revenant.”
“Calling me a bigot isn’t a personal insult?” Elizabeth demanded hotly.
“Considering how you display your bigotry without an ounce of shame, I figure it’s a truth you’re already intimately familiar with.”
He left her huffing and wasn’t remotely satisfied. The whole conversation had left him absolutely furious, and he had no real outlet. McKay was leaning on the wall just beyond the stairs when he reached the command deck so he veered off in the man’s direction and they walked silently out of the tower. He let the scientist lead the way since he figured McKay knew the city better than he did.
“It spread like wildfire that she tried to get that kid, Ford, to stage a mutiny,” McKay confided as soon they were out on one of the wide empty piers.
John frowned. “Ford repeated that a civilian?”
“No, she didn’t shut the door for that meeting, so Grodin, Simpson, and Zelenka heard the whole thing. They immediately told everyone they could get their hands on so yeah, it’s a thing and everyone is quietly horrified on your behalf. Even the people who are freaked out about Revenants are worried about her behavior and how it will impact our safety.”
John scowled. “Did all those assholes come back to the city?”
“Yeah, everyone is accounted for. The Athosians killed this elk-like creature, so we’re having elkburgers for dinner. I hope they taste okay. The thing weighed over a thousand pounds, and they were able to harvest a lot of the meat. The animal is common on several worlds, the Athosians already know what parts are safe to eat, so I guess we’ll get elk sausage out of it, too. They also scouted out some land that would be good for community fields. I have my people checking the weather data, so we’ll know what the growing season is like. I’d like to move the city closer to the mainland.”
“How close?” John questioned.
“This pier we’re standing on? It’ll extend another mile out if we want. It’s designed to act as a bridge when needed. I’ve been reviewing data on the ocean depth, and I found an abandoned geothermal plant about three hundred miles from where the city is currently floating. We’re drifting, by the way, because it would take too much energy to create a stationary position in our current location.”
“How much energy would it burn to move her?”
“That’s the brilliant part. The city has a hydropower plant, and that plant would provide the energy to move her. Granted, it would be slow going, but in about a month we could be tucked into a large gulf off the main consentient where the geothermal plant is. We could moor the city to it—which is a twofer.”
“Power and stationary position,” John agreed. “Have you sent the proposal to Weir, yet?”
“No, I wanted to run it by you first since you’ll have to get in the chair to make it work. Also, I figured if you quietly disapproved of it that Weir would approve it out of spite and I’d get what I want without a fight.” Rodney smiled when John laughed. “Thoughts?”
“I can play your devil’s advocate,” John said and dropped down on the pier. McKay joined him. “And you’re right, she’ll go out of her way to make me as unhappy as she can until we reestablish communication with Earth. Will the power plant help with that?”
“We should be at full power using the plant inside six months. The city has a large energy storage plant under the central tower, but we’ll need to do some maintenance before we start using it. It’s designed to power the city entirely, you see.”
“And the ZPMs?”
“Space flight and back-up.”
“Cool,” John murmured. “Go ahead and send your email and I’ll be thinking of questions to ask that make it sound like I hate the whole idea. We’ll see how easy it is to play her. It’s a good test subject. Full power means we can dial Earth?”
“I’d want to keep it to once a week, but yes, we’ll be able to establish a line of communication with Earth.”
“Six months,” John murmured. “Is that including the time it’ll take for us to move her?”
“Yeah, are you going to leave the first chance you get?”
John shook his head. “No, Gaius wanted this mission as soon as Sumner was told about it and while I’m not happy with how I got out here—we’re fine with staying.”
“We, huh? Is that weird at all?”
“It is completely weird, Rodney,” John said immediately. “This morning when I was brushing my teeth, I had this little memory of holding my nephew, Julius, when he was just a few months old.”
Rodney snorted. “Oh, yeah, Gaius Marius married into the Caesar family. Do you remember the civil war, too?”
“Vividly,” John muttered. “At least when I thought about it but it was pretty easy to set those memories aside. The memories of his origin life are bright like stars when I touch them, but the memories of his other anchors can be quite indistinct unless he helps me focus on them. I don’t know how to fully explain it.”
“What about knowledge?”
“It’s crammed into my head,” John said roughly. “Unpacking it is the work of years. I don’t have to go into any of it if I don’t want to but I’ve been exploring it—Sumner was trained as a sniper. That’s handy for our current circumstances. A past anchor worked in medicine, so that’s something I’ve been poking for field use. Gaius has always been a student of military history, so that’s there as well. Sumner got his degree in combat engineering.”
“Yours is math.”
“Applied for my master’s degree,” John said in agreement. “Though I did my undergrad in theoretical, once I was in the Air Force, I realized that application was more attractive.” John took a sip of his now cold coffee and grimaced. He set it aside and knocked his boots against the side of the pier.
“People were kind of weirded out that you took Sumner’s body to the mainland and burned it, so they’ve been speculating on how old the Revenant is that you carry. My favorite theory is the one about him being a Viking.”
“Well,” John began then laughed. “Actually, Gaius did anchor in a Viking for about fifty years. He traveled a lot after he was unmoored from his first life—he didn’t want to be weighed down by the expectations of his family, so he refused to be anchored to the person that’d been chosen from him. He drifted around a lot actually during that time—anchoring when it suited him so that he could learn and explore.” He grinned. “He’s been to Mars.”
“What?” Rodney demanded. “He’s been to what?”
“Mars,” John repeated. “In fact, he spent years off and on between anchors to visit the other inner planets—Mercury, Venus, and Mars. At the time, he didn’t know a lot about the sun and was worried about what it might do to him even his spirit form, so he never wandered past Mercury and didn’t spend a lot of time there either.”
“That’s amazing,” Rodney said. “I’ve never been so jealous in my whole life, and that’s saying something.” He cleared his throat. “So the sex thing you mentioned—would that be a casual sort of thing or what?”
John laughed. “Geez, McKay, I haven’t even gotten a blow job yet, and we’re having the relationship discussion?” He nudged the scientist when he noticed his cheeks were pink. “I don’t make a habit of using people for sex. I like you which is weird since you’re an arrogant asshole. I want to get to know you.”
“Did you like me before the whole spirit merger thing?” Rodney asked with a confused frown. “Because that is weird. Even people who want to have sex with me normally just tolerate the arrogant asshole part.”
“Totally before—though I have to admit that Gaius has a big crush on your brain,” John said with a little smirk as he leaned on his hands. “It doesn’t have to be any more serious than you want it to be. I know…well…the whole Revenant thing is a new set of circumstances, and I get that.”
“It won’t scare me off. I just wanted to know what I was getting into. DADT is more daunting than you sharing your body with another person which sounds crazy, I know.”
“A Revenant can write his own ticket in the service when they’re just an everyday Joe Blow from Ohio, McKay. I’ve got a Roman general time-sharing my brain. Trust me when I say that DADT is the last thing I worry about.” John turned around so he could face McKay. “But there’s Weir to consider, and she hates my guts now. I don’t know what her deal is, but I have to think she had a really bad experience with a Revenant at some point. She called me a freak during our meeting.”
“Wow,” Rodney muttered. “Does she not get out offensive her attitude is, or what? I mean even the people who ran away to the mainland were more afraid of some stupid urban legend than you.”
“Or they were replaying one of those repulsive horror movies about Revenants acting as body snatchers and going on killing sprees,” John said darkly. “I never liked those things, and now they’re deeply offensive. I don’t think anyone understands what it would be like for a Revenant to be an unwilling anchor. The existence would be nightmarish for them both. We trust in each other, and it’s weird since I barely know him, but the moment he touched my mind, I knew I was safe with him. Maybe part of that is left over from Marshall Sumner, who was an ass, but I knew from the moment I met him he was a good man.”
“There are a lot of people at the SGC who are going to be furious when they find out why he died,” McKay said. “Listening to argue with her for fucking hours about whether not we should rescue our own people was one of the more obscene things I’ve seen since coming to work for the SGC. Before that moment, I’d have never said she was heartless, and she didn’t even know he was a Revenant. If she’d known—she’d have never let you off the city to rescue him.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for myself,” John murmured.
“Oh, she doesn’t have a chance in hell of getting past Bates on such a thing. He’d have tossed her in her office and locked the door if it had been up to him. He’s one of many under your command who thinks the whole deal should be run by the military. Having a civilian leader is honestly pretty weird. The Air Force has run the show at the SGC since the beginning, and there was a lot of talk when Weir was put in charge at the Outpost. It was pressure from the IOA mostly.”
“I trust Bates,” John said. “Well, Sumner and Gaius trusted him, and that’s sort of transferred to me. He knows about Gaius by the way—I didn’t think it was a good idea to keep it from him since he’s my XO now. I needed the extra clout, or maybe I just thought I did. Either way, he’s firmly in my corner.”
“He probably has the biggest Marine boner ever, right now,” Rodney said. “I mean Gaius Marius is a legend and he would be even if he weren’t the oldest known Revenant to still be anchoring. He’s the soldier’s soldier and has been for thousands of years.”
John made a face. “You know they think I’m a Marine now.”
“I heard a good-natured argument about it in the mess. There are two camps, but the Marines are winning since there are more of them here than there are Air Force. Regardless, there’s a betting pool, and the stakes are high. I think half the chocolate in the city has already been wagered.”
“I really don’t want to think about it too much but there is a part of me who feels compelled in some way to honor Sumner’s service, and he was a Marine to his bone marrow.” John watched McKay for a few moments. “What’s your schedule for the rest of the day?”
“I was hoping you’d fly me out to that gulf were the power station is. I might be able to get some readings on it from a jumper.”
John nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
– – – –
Gaius loved to fly, and his joy was infectious. John had to admit that the jumper was a unique flight experience but it wasn’t the most thrilling experience he’d ever had as a pilot. He was kind of looking forward to taking his passenger up in a Blackhawk if they ever got back to Earth. The flight path was entirely over water. He resolved to spend a bit of time with the planetary data that the science department had found since their arrival.
Predictably, Weir had been on board with the flight as soon as Rodney mentioned that John wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving the city. It would’ve been funny if it weren’t so pitiful. He wasn’t even sure what it said about her abilities as a diplomat that she was so easily manipulated. McKay was smart, but he wasn’t remotely subtle, and Weir had been so focused on making John unhappy that she’d ignored everything else during the very brief meeting.
“Are you upset?” McKay questioned as he looked up from his tablet for the first time since they’d left the city.
“Yes.” John frowned as he turned to jumper so they could get a good look at the entire entrance of the gulf. “Are we going to be able to get the city through this?”
“Yes, the calculations will be tight, but I have no doubt you’ll be able to navigate it from the chair.”
“How long will I have to spend in the chair?”
“A few hours the first time to set up the navigation and maybe thirty or so minutes a day to check the course and tweak it as necessary. I’m not sure how the current will impact our movement, and there is weather to consider. I have a team already set up planning the whole thing so there won’t be any surprises if I can help it as far as the open ocean travel go. You’ll spend a full day in the chair when we get here—just for safety purposes. The mouth of the gulf is 1.5 kilometer’s wide and the city is 1.33 kilometers, so there is room for error. I wouldn’t trust any of the other gene carriers in the chair.”
“Depth of the gulf?”
“The deepest part is a little over a thousand meters, and the most shallow is just under eight hundred.”
“And the city is…” John prodded.
“The city is 680 meters from bottom to top and 320 of that is above sea level,” Rodney explained. “So we’re good on that front, but I’ll want to do a full survey of the gulf to make sure there haven’t been any significant changes to the ocean floor since the last time it was surveyed by the satellite.”
“About four hundred years ago,” Rodney said. “The planetary survey is pretty low on priorities for the satellite. The main function is weather data collection.”
“That’s weird, right?” John questioned. “That the Ancients put a permanent satellite in orbit that focuses that much on weather data.”
“It’s curious, so I have a team going over the data as quickly as they can considering it’s written in Ancient.”
“Ancient is close to Latin, right?” John questioned.
“We think Latin came from Ancient,” Rodney admitted. ‘Why?”
“Well, I speak Latin fluently now so I could probably pick up Ancient pretty easily at this point. Do you have a language primer that you can send me?”
“Yeah, Daniel wrote a book on the language. I’ll see that you get a copy of it. How many languages did you pick up?”
“More than I can make sense of,” John admitted. “I’ve kind of pushed most of it aside since it’s not helpful, but I could probably converse in Spanish or French without a problem, and I knew neither before the merger. Gaius was a world traveler and only anchored with an American shortly before World War II. He was merged with a Frenchmen before that, but his anchor died in 1938 while he was in New York.”
“I’ve read about that, Gaius Marius coming to the US was quite a thing back in the day because they expected he’d want to return to Europe and find a new anchor there,” Rodney said.
“Gaius doesn’t remember that time fondly—there was a lot of political maneuvering, and many people tried to make the decision for him. They even removed several people from the volunteer pool that he had to choose from in their efforts to control him. It’s why he’s become so contrary about picking anchors even today,” John admitted. “He’s pretty pleased with the complete fit the Triumvirate Council is going to have when they meet me. I’m too much of a wild card to have ever been seen as a proper volunteer.”
“That process must be so boring and frustrating for the Revenant—especially if they are already unmoored. Is that the right term, unmoored?”
“Yeah, it’s the right term. Gaius isn’t fond of being unmoored, and even those years he spent exploring other planets in the Sol system weren’t comfortable for him. Those years while fascinating feel empty and that’s what he hates the most, the lack of physical stimulation.” John cleared his throat when he found that McKay was staring at him in what looked like horror.
“I just…I never thought what it would feel like not to have a body. It must be a nightmare. Is that why he continues to anchor?”
“I think it’s why all Revenants choose to anchor, and eventually some of them move past that desire for physical form. I don’t know how since Gaius doesn’t appear to be remotely close to that point. He’s hungry for the human experience with all of its pleasures and pains.”
Rodney nodded and frowned slightly as he focused on his tablet. “I could…the whole thing is fascinating so please don’t let me treat you like a science experiment.”
John laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
“Can you get the jumper to scan the gulf?”
“I think so.” He prodded the jumper, and the HUD changed immediately. “This is honestly the coolest thing.”
– – – –
Dean Bates was a patriot. His mama had often fondly told everyone that her only son should’ve been born on the Fourth of July. His favorite comic book growing up was Captain America, and he joined the Marines the day he turned eighteen. His mother was already widowed the day he was born, and he’d been raised in his grandparents home. His grandfather had served, proudly, until he was made to retire from the Corps. His grandfather had also anchored a Revenant for seventy-one years. It was a point of pride in his family and for him personally.
Three hours after Sheppard became an anchor for the Revenant Marshall Sumner had brought to Pegasus, Dean Bates decided that Elizabeth Weir was a threat to his CO and to the expedition as a whole. Shortly after he was promoted to Captain, a circumstance he never expected to have to endure, he quietly made it perfectly clear to every single Marine on the base that their CO was to come first in all circumstances. Weir was dangerous, and Bates wasn’t going to allow her to get another anchor killed.
There were two kinds of civilians on the city of the Ancients and Bates wasn’t happy either of them. The first kind were eager, foolishly unprepared, and completely unaware of the fact that they were probably going to die horribly. The second kind knew they were going to die horribly and they were looking for someone to blame. Dean was going to make sure that they didn’t blame Sheppard.
It was easy enough to use the mythology of the Revenant to paint Sheppard with a brush full of security and protection. There were enough veterans of the Stargate Program on the city, and they realized they were only as strong as the military people they had to protect them. So Dean talked about Sheppard’s heroism in Afghanistan and how he’d defied mission protocol to protect his people at the risk of his own career. It was easy to play that up since Dean believed that Sheppard had done the right thing. The incident easily mirrored Sheppard’s insistence that he be allowed to leave the city to rescue their people from the hive.
Bates considered Elizabeth Weir to be the most dangerous thing in Pegasus, and he’d made sure all of his people knew that.
Lt. Crown was seated at the command console, watching Sheppard’s flight across the planet. Weir had been startled when Bates’ first act as an XO was to replace all of the people in the command center with military personnel. She’d wanted to argue, but base security was clearly outlined in the expedition charter as the responsibility of the military and Bates made sure she was aware of his full and complete understanding of the charter they’d all signed.
He leaned against the railing and in that moment, Crown looked up and gave him a firm nod. Sheppard was returning to the city. Dean relaxed a bit because he wasn’t on board with the Colonel being off the city with military back up. The fact that he’d only taken McKay, Dean knew, was more of a personal preference rather than a professional one.
“Date over?” Stackhouse asked as he came to stand with Bates.
Stackhouse laughed. “It’s honestly kind of charming.”
It was hardly charming, but if McKay made Sheppard happy, then that would be quite enough for Dean. It was just one more thing on the city he’d have to manage and protect from Elizabeth Weir.
The radio clicked in his ear as Crown activated the all-call channel and she announced, “Phoenix is back in the nest.”
“Is that a new call sign?” Stackhouse questioned with a quirked eyebrow.
Dean snorted. “No, he’s had it for years. It’s just…very fitting these days.”
– – – –
McKay didn’t know what to do with himself. Sheppard’s personal interest was exciting, and it had been a while since he’d indulged in an actual relationship. Getting sex had never really been a problem, but anything more than that had always been kind of difficult for him—with both men and women. He forgot important dates, missed dates for work, and honestly, sometimes he preferred his work to people. In the past, it really hadn’t mattered if he were involved with a man or a woman. Eventually, his work got in the way.
It was kind of annoying, actually, that Sheppard was offering him something potentially great that Rodney would just screw up. He slouched down at his desk and stared at the emails dropping from the server into his inbox. There were ten from Weir, and the subject lines pissed him off enough that he didn’t even want to actually open them. Disgruntled, he set up several filters that hadn’t bothered to do. There was only one from John, and it wasn’t labeled a priority, but he read it first anyway.
It was a request for scientists willing to join gate teams. He’d already made that list, so he wrote out a response quickly, putting his own name at the top of the list. He’d worked at the SGC long enough to have qualified to carry a weapon, and while he’d rarely been off world, Rodney had more experience than most of the scientists on the mission. He put Weir’s emails off for last and answered them as quickly and shortly as possible. Most of the science on the city was over her head anyway, and that wasn’t arrogance speaking. She had a Ph.D. in political science and in no single way did that prepare to deal with the kind of hard, practical science most of the civilians on the city did.
Rodney shifted slightly in his chair and motioned Elizabeth Weir into the lab. She hit the manual button to shut the door, and he barely refrained from sighing. He could tell already he’s going to hate this conversation. She had a cup of tea in hand as she sat down across from his desk and offered him a smile that kind of looked sincere which was unnerving.
“I wanted to talk to you about moving the city as quickly as possible. The faster we can accomplish that and restore power the better. Also, I wanted to congratulate you on getting Sheppard to agree to the survey. He’s going to be difficult to work around until we can contact Earth and get rid of him.
“Get rid of him?” Rodney questioned. “Not unless they send O’Neill out here first—Sheppard’s gene is the reason most of the city is working. You’ve read that report, right? Practically every internal sensor on the city is focused on him. There are some systems we couldn’t even turn on without him. We can’t afford to be on the city without a very strong gene carrier and right now that gene carrier is Sheppard.”
“Rodney, we can’t allow that Revenant to stay on the city,” Elizabeth said in exasperation. “They’re not like the rest of us—they have no concept of loyalty, and I’ve never met a single one that wasn’t working toward the Triumvirate’s agenda. Revenants move from one host to another, absorbing knowledge and skills without a single care to the emotional wreckage they leave behind.”
“Anchor,” Rodney corrected. “Calling them a host implies that the Revenant feeds off life and we know for a fact that’s not the case.”
“So what if they don’t actually feed on the body they infest?” Elizabeth questioned in frustration. “They certainly leech off their host intellectually and emotionally. Is that any different? They’re a parasite.”
“We’re going to agree on this subject, you know,” Rodney pointed out. “I’m a scientist, and my perspective on Revenant is rooted in a huge amount of actual data that was gathered over hundreds of years by actual scientists who didn’t let religion or mythology or fear form their opinions. A Revenant is merely another human being on a different evolutionary path than the rest of us.”
“They’re corrupted souls who’ve been punished and forced to remain among the living for their sins,” Elizabeth said haughtily. “God is punishing them.”
“I’m an atheist, Dr. Weir,” Rodney pointed out. “And even if your god appeared before me right this minute, I wouldn’t worship him. Honestly, I’ve met plenty of beings who call themselves gods. Plenty being three and I didn’t drop to my knees to worship those assholes either. Religion offers me nothing, and I can’t foresee a circumstance where that would change.”
Weir’s face was white with shock, and any other time it would’ve been amusing. “Did you just compare God to a Goa’uld?”
“Not really, I mean I have proof the that Goa’uld exist.” He shrugged when her mouth dropped open. “And I’ve met an Asgard, so I guess there is some truth to Norse mythology as well, but I don’t really care, you see.”
“Rodney, you’ll go to hell,” Elizabeth said in shock. “Don’t you know that?”
“I don’t believe in hell either—unless you mean that planet that Sokar used for a prison and if I ever end up on that planet, I’m going to blow it up.” He smiled at the thought. “I promised Carter, you see, and that’s one woman you don’t want to cross. Granted, I don’t think I should be bound to keep a sex-promise, but that’s neither here nor there. Did you need something?”
“I need your help managing Sheppard,” Elizabeth snapped.
“He’s done nothing but his job since he left the isolation chamber, Dr. Weir. What exactly would you like him to do differently?”
“He’s…” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “He’s an abomination, Rodney, and I can’t stand to be around him. You are the highest ranking civilian after me…”
“Stop right there,” Rodney said. “I do not have time to do your job and mine, too. There are currently fifty-six experiments being set up in engineering alone. Between moving the city, preparing the hydroplant, and setting up the city battery core to store energy from the geothermal plant, I have the work of ten people to do already.”
Her cheeks flushed. “So you won’t act as a liaison?”
“When exactly would like me to sleep?” Rodney demanded. “I’m already working fourteen hours a day, Dr. Weir. We’re understaffed, and we haven’t even started off-world missions that my people will have to go on if we’re going to meet the mission requirements the IOA has set down for us. We’re supposed to be out here learning and securing Ancient technology for Earth. I don’t have time to cater to your prejudice, and frankly, I will not facilitate your intolerance. It’s disgusting. You really need to learn to keep your mouth shut about Revenants if you can’t even offer the pretense of tolerance.”
Weir stood and glared at him briefly before turning to leave.
“One thing,” Rodney called out just as she opened the door. Weir turned to stare at him. “If your God has a problem with Revenants, then why would he allow them to anchor to other humans? Why do they even exist on Earth? Why were they born? Why were they allowed to evolve as they have?”
“You’d never understand God’s will.”
“No, you’re right. I’ve never understood intolerance,” Rodney said evenly and turned back to his lap top. “Have a good day.”
– – – –
His ten-mile morning run was starting to be a solace. John normally managed to get a least four in before anyone joined him. He’d showered afterward and met Bates on the way to the mess where they’d gone over the agenda for the day. Ford was setting up gate teams, so John had used his tablet to send McKay an email regarding scientists. It had quickly become clear that neither Bates nor Ford were on board with John having his own team which honestly sucked but he understood their point of view. He wasn’t moving around the universe alone anymore, and he had a duty to Gaius to take care of himself.
He’d agreed that Bates would lead the first recon team and Ford would be on that team with him. The junior officer was much too green to run his own team and appeared to have reached that conclusion on his own as well because he’d not hesitated to put himself on Bates team when it was suggested.
John had set up camp in the back of the mess at a small table near the open balcony doors. His office didn’t have a window, and he wasn’t thrilled with the location, but that was something he could deal with later. He’d been seated there for several hours when Dr. Kate Heightmeyer sat down abruptly in the chair across from him.
He raised an eyebrow. “Dr. Heightmeyer, how can I help you?”
“How much of Sumner’s memories do you have?” she demanded roughly.
John refrained from wincing. “Everything actually, that’s the way that the merger with a Revenant works. I gained all the memories and essential skills of his previous anchors, but I’ve not fully integrated everything. I won’t because some of the things the other anchors bring to the table are no longer really viable skills in the modern world. Though it’s cool to know that if necessary I could make a sword.”
“A sword? That’s pretty fascinating…” She trailed off and huffed. “I’m not here to talk about that.”
“No, I’d imagine not,” John said mildly. “Sumner was ordered not to reveal his status as a Revenant to anyone on the expedition. He didn’t keep it from you out of some personal reason. Marshall took great pride in his career, and he wasn’t the sort of Marine to ignore orders unless the circumstances were grave. If you’re concerned that I’m going to tell anyone about the…relationship you had with him, don’t be. I don’t talk out of turn about my own relationship much less someone else’s.”
“I don’t like the fact that you have intimate memories of me,” Kate said and frowned. “It’ll make it impossible for me to maintain any kind of professional relationship with you as a patient so I’ve asked Dr. Robinson to handle your field assessments. It’s not a reflection of your status as a Revenant, and I didn’t want there to be any confusion.” She stood and took a deep breath. “And I’m also not interested in continuing…I mean I don’t know how the Revenant feels about me, but it wouldn’t be the same.”
John’s eyes widened briefly. “I assure you that won’t be an issue.” He winced when she looked hurt. “Look, objectively speaking you’re a beautiful woman, and Marshall was fond of you, but you’re not my type.”
Her mouth quirked briefly. “That’s fascinating—I mean you must have memories of dozens of sex partners that you’d probably have never chosen for yourself. Is that invasive? Weird? Uncomfortable? Has it caused sexual dysfunction in previous anchors?”
“I thought you weren’t objective enough to be my therapist,” John pointed out and laughed when she flushed. “It is weird, but there is no trauma to speak of regarding past consensual sex acts. There are a few memories of more violent encounters that I’ve tried to process and store away from my active memories as fast as I could. The Revenant I anchor, merged with women and men throughout his time as a spirit.”
Kate sat back down. “I’m so curious, but you’ve seen me naked, Colonel, and that’s weird since I didn’t agree to it.”
“Don’t think of it like that—you’ll only taint what you had with Marshall, and that’s not fair to either of you. I’m sorry he’s gone.”
“It was casual, but I hoped for more,” Kate said with a frown, and she turned her head to look out over the ocean. “The memorial service was just as he would’ve wanted it but I think you know that. Did you spread his ashes in the ocean?”
“Good.” She crossed her arms and bit down on her lip.
“What do you need from me?” John questioned. “Marshall’s memories are pretty close to the surface because he was the previous anchor and they’re hard to ignore. I feel like it would be dishonorable for me to ignore them entirely. The Revenant was very attached to him. This situation is probably one reason why Revenants are encouraged to cut ties with people known to a previous anchor.”
“There haven’t been any transfer of feelings, right?” Kate asked. “Because I…”
“Doctor,” John said quickly because he really didn’t want to know what she was going to say next. “I’m gay. I’ve been with one woman my whole life. I tried to be straight for about five years to make my father happy. Fortunately, she only married me for my name and forgave me for using her as a beard. She still works for my father on Earth, and she couldn’t be happier being my ex-wife.”
Her shoulder sagged. “That’s great. I mean, you’re kind of beautiful, but I prefer men who are a little more…rough around the edges and I didn’t how much of Marshall is in that pretty head of yours and what you might want to do about it.” She huffed and stood. “Never mind. This is silly. Make an appointment with Dr. Robinson—you need it.”
John resolved to never, ever tell Kate Heightmeyer that Marshall Sumner had been practically allergic to commitment. Maybe it as Gaius’ fault but he didn’t think so. John had plenty of memories of other anchors who had engaged in serious life-long relationships while Gaius was on board so to speak. And the Revenant grieved his previous anchors far more than he did the families of the anchors he walked away from afterward which would’ve sounded callous to an outsider so it wasn’t something he’d share if he could help it.
He did a quick review of everyone on the city and was relieved to realize that Heightmeyer was the only member of the expedition that Sumner had taken to bed. That settled he prodded a little and made a list of people at the SGC that might come back to haunt him as it were. There weren’t that many, Sumner had been picky about his sexual partners, and they were all women despite the man’s bisexual leanings. Not a surprise considering the regulations and Marshall’s reputation as being by the book on the regulations front.
John wondered if Sumner would’ve been tempted to hit on him and Gaius helpfully supplied a vivid fantasy of John bent over Sumner’s desk. He hissed in a breath at the near-instant erection that caused and tried to mentally poke the spirit which amused his Roman passenger more than it ever should’ve. His plans to leave before the lunch crowd settled in were out the window until he could get rid of the erection, so he stared at the ocean and thought utterly unsexy things for nearly fifteen minutes while Gaius laughed wickedly in the back of his mind. The asshole.
– – – –
“Religious zealot met militant atheist,” Ford said as soon as he closed the door to Bates office. “Weir limped away from the altercation quietly horrified and convinced McKay’s going straight to hell.” He leaned on the door. “Seriously. I nearly ruptured something listening to the audio that Zelenka shamelessly recorded. I made you a copy.”
Bates took the USB drive though he was certain he probably shouldn’t. “Did you tell Zelenka that recording people’s conversations is illegal.”
“He doesn’t care,” Ford pointed out. “Because I told him, more than once. He’s hoping to get blackmail material on Weir and if I learned anything since joining the SGC is that you do not get involved in geek warfare.’
Dean couldn’t argue against that. “No, it’s best to stay out of it.” He put the thumb drive aside to listen to later. “Any other problems with Weir?”
“She seems to think that the SGC is going to remove Sheppard from the city as soon as we make contact which is why she’s on board with moving the whole place to the other side of the planet to that geothermal platform. McKay told her that was unlikely because of ATA gene, but that doesn’t even register for her. She called Revenants emotional parasites.”
Dean exhaled deeply then slouched back in his chair. “I liked it better when you were the superior officer, and I could watch you fuck up from a distance.”
Ford flushed. “Not cool, Bates.”
“I never let you drown,” Bates said with a grin. “But watching you flounder was probably never going to get old, so it’s for the best that Sheppard punished me with a promotion. Did you finish the recon team roster?”
“Yes, I was in Dr. Zelenka’s office getting the low down on the civilian volunteers. I tried to place them on teams that would manage their personal quirks the best. Which means that I’ve put McKay on your team, sir.” He paused. “I mean—it’s for the best, right?”
“Right.” Bates frowned. He really didn’t like the idea of taking the Chief Science Officer off of the city, but no one knew more about Ancient tech, so they had little choice but to take McKay into the field. “Who’s our fourth?”
“About that,” Ford began and wet his lips. “The leader of the Athosians has offered her services as a guide. She’s travelled extensively through the gate. There are others among the natives who have also agreed to help.”
Bates really wanted to say no but he wasn’t an idiot and if they went blundering out into Pegasus the way the SGC had in the Milky Way they were only going to make enemies left, right, and center. Honestly, the wraith was enough enemy for everyone in the whole goddamned galaxy.
“I’ll meet with her,” Dean said finally, and Ford grinned. “Don’t get any other bright ideas, though, we can’t afford to make mistakes about who to trust out here. I think you know that.”
– – – –
It hadn’t escaped his notice that the native woman hadn’t come near him since he’d brought her back to the city with the rest of the people they’d rescued from the ship. She’d been friendly enough on the planet—sharing food and tea while they’d talked about the wraith. So, John was slightly surprised when she brought her tray of food over and requested permission to join him. He hoped he kept the shock off of his face.
“Of course.” He pulled the tray that had been brought to him out of the way so she’d have plenty of room. “How is everything going? Is there anything we can provide to your people to help them get settled on the city?”
“Everything is going well,” Teyla said as she carefully opened the carton of juice on her tray. “We’re excited about the project to move the city closer to the land. Dr. McKay has requested that might people help survey the area around the small inlet he’s chosen. Dr. Weir has agreed that we can build a village in the location that best serves us in the inlet and we’ll also be planting fields. We’ve not had an opportunity to plant food crops in many generations. We were forced to move constantly because of the wraith.”
He watched her inspect her elkburger. “We prepare our food differently.”
“Very much so,” Teyla admitted. “But the children have embraced this particular meal eagerly, so I thought to try it as well. I’ve heard things, and I wished to address them with you.”
“About Sumner and the Revenant he carried,” John said, and she nodded. “What have you heard?”
“Conflicting stories of what you’ve become. Some say that you’re hosting some sort of eternal spirit and others say it is a monster.”
“I’m an anchor, not a host,” John corrected first because being called a host was offensive. “The Revenant I carry isn’t feeding off of me. We’re sharing a physical form so that he may continue to enjoy a physical life. A Revenant is an eternal spirit, gifted so by an evolutionary change in humanity’s biology. The Revenant I carry has been alive for two thousand years.”
Her eyes darkened. “Only the wraith live that long, Colonel Sheppard.”
“The Ancients—the people you call your Ancestors also lived that long and longer,” John responded evenly. He watched her process that information and her face relaxed slightly. “The Revenant I anchor was a soldier in his first life, and he served his people heroically and with great loyalty. He has continued that service throughout his long existence by consistently merging with anchors who were dedicated to the survival of our species. He is also a scholar and a teacher. I’m honored by his choice to merge with me, and I’ve learned so much in such a short time. My purpose is bigger now than it ever has been which is just one the gifts that the Revenant may bring to an anchor.”
“What are the other gifts?”
“In the past, anchors have exhibited various mental abilities, but that only occurs when a true merger is reached between an anchor and a Revenant. It could be years before I manifested such things.”
“Does your Revenant have a name?” Teyla questioned.
“Yes, but I’ve chosen not to share it at this time,” John said neutrally. “For some anchors, it is a very private matter because people’s expectations regarding the Revenant can be stressful and unreasonable. There have even been occasions on Earth when a highly coveted Revenant was so sought after that anchors were killed to free them up to merge with other people.”
“I can’t imagine your world. I’ve spoken others about how many people there are on Earth. There is no world that I know of in this galaxy with that many people. The wraith would feed for decades just from your world.”
“Our world is not defenseless,” John said. “The wraith wouldn’t be prepared for the fight they would get if they tried to cull Earth. But I can’t say we wouldn’t take losses, but we’d make them regret leaving Pegasus.”
“Do you regret merging with a Revenant?”
John hesitated but then shook his head. “No, but I regret Marshall Sumner’s death.”
– – – –
“McKay to Sheppard—we’ve got a problem. I need whoever would deal with a dead body.”
John stopped walking and shared a look with Bates who was half way across the gate room. He clicked his radio as Weir came out of her office, pale and wide-eyed. “McKay, can you…you’ve got a body?”
“Yes, civilian scientist—Peter Kavanagh. He appears to have been beaten to death.”
John’s stomach lurched. He focused entirely on Weir. She was at the top of the stairs obviously too shocked to move or speak. “Don’t touch anything, McKay.”
“I haven’t—I mean I watched CSI.”
John turned to Bates.
“Coleman and Markham have experience as MPs,” Bates said. “They’re the obvious choice to investigate a murder.”
A murder. John could barely wrap his head around the idea of it. “Tell me your location, McKay, step out of the room. Are you armed?”
“No, of course not. I’m on the city,” Rodney snapped.
“Put your back to a wall that gives you the best view of any entry in your location. Stay on the line and say the name of anyone who approaches you. If anyone approaches you with a weapon, shelter, and do whatever you have to barricade the door. Where are you?”
“Lab six, tower three.”
They moved quickly through the city, using the transporter that McKay had cleared travel, and John found McKay tucked into a corner at the end of the hall. He glanced only briefly into the room where the body was before continuing forward to stand in front of Rodney.
“Talk to me, McKay. Tell me what Kavanagh was up to this morning.”
“Kavanagh was on an exploratory mission this morning with Dr. Simpson and two Marines. Sergeant Gregson and Corporal Eaton. They were investigating the tower next to this one, the one we’ve labeled as five. Kavanagh should still be on that mission, John, it makes no sense for him to be here. This tower has been cleared, and I was checking the space so I could confirm the whole tower’s use for Engineering. They need the most space for practical experimentation, you see.”
John nodded. “Where’s Simpson? Did she return to the main science labs?”
Rodney frowned and clicked his radio. “Dr. Simpson, what’s your location?”
There was no answer. John activated his own radio and tried to contact both Cole and Eaton. He wasn’t surprised at all to get nothing in response. Reluctantly, he activated the private channel he shared with Dr. Weir. “Dr. Weir, we have three missing persons, and one body so far. We need a full head count and any reports from internal sensors regarding towers one, two, three, four, and five. I need to know if there any life signs indicated outside of the safety perimeter we’ve established.” He paused. “And I need to know if there are any unidentifiable life signs on the city.”
“Unidentifiable?” Weir questioned.
John inhaled through his nose because he shouldn’t have to spell it out for her. “Yes, like an alien.”
“Dr. Zelenka is directing the search from the command center. Should we concentrate on a certain location?”
“If there is some thing on the city, we don’t know how fast it can move or where it might have hidden.”
– – – –
They found Helen Simpson strangled and shoved under a stairwell in tower five shortly before Biro confirmed that Kavanagh had been killed roughly two hours before he was discovered. Simpson had been dead longer, though her death was far less violent. Neither death was consistent with a wraith attack, and the censors hadn’t revealed an unauthorized life sign. The sensors didn’t automatically create an archive, so they had no data to review. It was annoying, but John was quickly learning that the Ancients weren’t concerned about crime or danger within the city. As far as he could tell, the only real security measure designed entirely for protection was the gate shield.
Corporal James Eaton and Sergeant Tom Gregson were found dead in Gregson’s quarters. It was impossible to tell who had attacked who as they’d both died of injuries they’d inflicted on each other. They’d brought the entire population of the city into the mess hall which was the largest room they’d cleared for use.
John settled in a chair at the odd-shaped conference table. Biro sat down across from him with a tablet and McKay sat with her. Weir, Heightmeyer, and Beckett huddled together near the back of the room, but they sat down at the table as soon as the doors closed.
“Dr. Biro, I’ve been told that you’ve started forensic work on the bodies,” Weir said.
“I’ve not had time to complete DNA analysis, but I’ve been able to confirm blood types—all blood found is human.” Biro paused and straightened the tablet in front of her. “Dr. Kavanagh was the only Type A- blood type. I found his blood on Sergeant Gregson and in the smears of blood on Dr. Simpson’s neck. It appears that Sergeant Gregson beat Dr. Kavanagh to death then strangled Dr. Simpson.”
“Dr. Heightmeyer is there anything in Sergeant Gregson’s psychological assessments that could account for this?” John questioned. “PTSD?”
“No, Colonel, Tom Gregson doesn’t have anything in his background that indicates this kind of break with reality,” Kate said. “He’s assessments were normal—completely average in retrospect.”
John started to speak, but noise burst over his radio on the all-call channel. Shouting and a high-pitched scream filled his ear, and he stood as the connection cut off. Immediately, his radio activated again.
“Bates to Sheppard.”
“This is Sheppard,” John said as the doors to the conference opened.
“Dr. Zelenka has had some kind of psychotic break. I was forced to knock him unconscious after he injured several people. We’ve restrained him, and we’re preparing to move him to the infirmary.”
“No,” John answered and waved everyone around him silent when they started to speak. “Biro, I need you back on in the infirmary. Check Gregson and the rest of his team for drugs, chemicals, and any other contagion you can think of. McKay, I need a team in hazmat gear to investigate tower five.” He turned to Weir. “Unless you disagree, Dr. Weir?”
Weir’s mouth was pursed in displeasure, but she nodded. “This incident is a matter of expedition safety, Colonel, so of course the military should handle it. I agree that everyone should stay in the mess hall but that Dr. Beckett and Dr. Biro may need to examine Dr. Zelenka.”
“Everyone in the mess hall has been exposed to whatever the contagion is. We need to contain and control them
“He had a personal relationship with Dr. Simpson,” McKay said with a frown. “More sexual than romantic if the rumors are to be believed.”
– – – –
An hour after Zelenka blew, three more expedition members lost their minds and had to be restrained but not before there were significant injuries. Tower five proved to be empty full of residential suites, so they back tracked to the day before and found that Gregson’s team had cleaned out three labs in the main science tower one of which experimental weapons lab.
“The Ancients are dicks,” McKay announced to the room at large as he entered. “The symptoms reported—hallucinations, paranoia, loss of control, and eventually death are all listed as undesirable side effects by the scientists doing the experiment. We found the kill switch for the nanites and the procedure to flush them from the blood. The nanite protocol worked differently for various test subjects based on their body chemistry, size, and gender. The nanites are designed to multiply inside the body, and a variety of things impacted that construction. They experimented exclusively on Pegasus natives.”
Definitely dicks, John thought with a frown. “What was the goal of this experimentation?”
“They were trying to ramp up human strength and aggression to create disposable soldiers that they could drop onto wraith occupied worlds and transport into their ships to cause confusion and chaos.”
“Hamask,” John said and winced at the memories that flew across his mind’s eye. “They were trying to create an artificial feral mindset—a berserker.”
“That’s obscene,” Kate Heightmeyer said. “How could they possibly…”
“It wasn’t the worst thing they did,” Rodney said grimly. “I’ve also located notes on another experiment that uses radiation to create explosive tumors—also in non-Ancients. None of this technology is meant to hurt someone with the ATA gene so while they were fucked up assholes, they were smart fucked up assholes.”
It was honestly no comfort.
“Dr. Weir, how would you like to proceed?” John focused on her and found her staring at him with a mixture of apprehension and shock. “We’ll have the population tested and treated within the hour. What should we do with the labs?”
“Any experimental weapon on the city that could be used against us must be destroyed,” Weir said and took a deep breath. “Rodney, your priority will be to find every single experiment of this nature—in the database, on the city, where ever. We can’t allow such things to be left to be found if they can be used against us.”
“People on Earth might argue with that,” McKay cautioned. “We’re out here to find weapons and technology.”
“I won’t bring anything back to Earth that could be used as a weapon of mass destruction, and I don’t care what the IOA thinks about it. I don’t care what the SGC thinks about it.” Her mouth firmed up. “Colonel Sheppard, what do you think?”
John cleared his throat. “I think that the last thing anyone on Earth needs is a new way to kill a whole bunch of people at once. McKay?”
“I agree. Anything we find can be categorized as a threat to the expedition, and we only have ourselves out here. There will be plenty of people on Earth who will think they have the right to second-guess our decisions out here, but I’ve a reputation for telling such people to kiss my ass.”
“We’ll let McKay run point on that briefing,” John said, and for the first time since he’d merged with Gaius, Elizabeth Weir smiled at him.
– – – –
They cleaned the lab with an EMP device then threw the nanite construction device into the ocean—no one bothered to check the position of the city so finding it later would be very difficult.
McKay lingered by John’s side as the Marines who’d helped carry the machine out to the pier left. “I’m surprised by her position on this.”
“I’m not,” John said roughly. “She was the one that lobbied for a small military presence on the expedition. Marshall had to fight for every single military asset he brought to Pegasus except for me, and Weir didn’t see me anything more than a walking ATA gene.”
“Four dead, sixteen injured, and an untold amount of emotional trauma,” Rodney said suddenly as they started walking back toward the central tower. “I guess I never expected internal security threats which was short-sighted. There were problems at the SGC with the Trust, so it isn’t like our people haven’t been a source of a threat before. There have been contagions brought into the mountain from off-world as well. I think…” McKay trailed off then exhaled. “So I was thinking that I would suggest to Weir that we find a secondary site and use it for mission returns.”
“A stop-gap between the rest of the galaxy and the city,” John said and nodded. “Do you have any viable choices from the database?”
“Not yet but I’ll look sites that the Ancients might have secured for their own purposes.”
“Send them to Ford, and he’ll prepare a mission plan for Bates. But before you do that, suggest it to Weir and let her make in an order.”
McKay made a face. “I’m not good at that sort of thing—people management. They make no sense and no matter how much data I gathered—I still make a mess of it.”
John laughed and snagged Rodney’s hand. “Trying to warn me off, McKay?”
“Ha, not before I get laid,” Rodney exclaimed and grinned when John laughed. “And I expect it to be amazing.”
“What if I’m terrible in bed?”
“That kind of false advertising would be criminal,” McKay muttered. “Look at you.”
John felt his face heat in a blush and felt absolutely ridiculous. “Shut up.”
He pulled Rodney toward and an alcove as they turned off the main pathway leading to the central tower. Thankfully the man followed without any sort of verbal response. John backed him into the shadow cast by the stairs walkway above them. He hooked his fingers into the scientist’s belt loops as McKay settled against the wall.
“You’ve got something on your mind, Colonel?” Rodney questioned.
“I want to kiss you,” John murmured.
“Is that all you want?”
“Hmm, no, but that’s what I’ll settle for right now.”
McKay raised an eyebrow. “Then why aren’t you doing it?”
“Maybe I want your permission.”
Rodney huffed. “Yeah, of course. Stop being a tease.”
John brushed his mouth over Rodney’s but it wasn’t enough, and it didn’t help at all that McKay clenched his hands on John’s hips then pulled him close. The second kiss he got was demanding and greedy. It was exactly what he expected from McKay, and it was tempting, so tempting to take it further. He stroked his tongue into Rodney’s mouth again, the taste of him was delicious. John pulled his mouth free from McKay’s and tucked his face briefly against the other man’s neck.
“You’re so warm,” McKay murmured and pulled him closer.
“I wasn’t,” John admitted. “I’ve been like this since the merger.”
“So this is warmth is Gaius.”
“Yeah. Is that weird?”
“No, I mean maybe but I’m not put off of it.”
John laughed. “Good.” He stepped back and took a deep breath. “Let’s finish this fucked up day and get some dinner.”
“Yeah, sounds good.”
– – – –
“I have a confession.”
John raised an eyebrow and focused on McKay from his place in the pilot seat of the Jumper. “Relevant to our current purpose?”
McKay shrugged, clearly unhappy. “I mean, of course, I wasn’t going to let anyone test the jumper underwater, but I have…well. I have nightmares about drowning and whales. Mostly whales.”
“The data on the jumper indicates that the Ancients used it for air and sea travel,” John reminded. “There are underwater jumper entrances on the city.”
“Well, yes, but they could’ve been designed for use while the city is in space.” McKay pressed his lips together.
“I can take you back to the city before I try it.”
“No, you might need me if something goes wrong,” Rodney said and crossed his arms. “I just wanted you to know that I’m a little nervous about the whole thing. I also want to see the power plant to see if there are any structural issues.”
“All right,” John murmured.
He skimmed the surface of the ocean then slowly let the jumper go under. The HUD shifted to reflect the change in their environment, and he was provided with a wealth of information regarding water quality and current strength.
Rodney hummed under his breath. “I’m getting data from the power plant. It’s been closed down properly, but it is still docked with the coupler built around the vent. It’s low on energy reserves, however, because it’s not storing power.”
“Is that a problem?”
“Not at present but even five months from now, it won’t have enough power to stay attached to the coupler. I need to get on board it and start it.”
“Not today,” John said. “I’m going to have the jumper do a survey of the whole bay to update the information we have on the city.”
“Great.” Rodney continued to work on his tablet. “How’s the jumper handling the pressure?”
“Very well. There hasn’t been much of a change regarding the depth of the bay—I think we could move the city a little closer to land than we thought but I want to check out the beach, and we’ll need your people to do a tide survey.”
“Already on the schedule,” Rodney murmured. “They’re testing the soil for the Athosians today to make sure the area can support crops. We can…treat the soil if necessary because the city is recycling all of our waste and storing it in the waste management area. It’s in powder form, so I think it was probably used for fertilizer by the Ancients. Drs Brown and Parrish have started cleaning out the hydroponics farm which is large enough to produce crops that would feed a moderate population. We just have to get started. We’ll be working on both projects together until we’re certain of the growing season. Many of the Athosians are working with biology and botany on the food topic.”
‘That’s good. I was worried about integration in the short term.”
“Yes, well, you saving all of those people while you went after Sumner was very well received. I heard that their leader said that she’d never seen anyone stand up to the Wraith. The rest of the Athosians had already given the culled up for dead—that’s just their way because after culling there is no return. At least, not until you. But you freak some of them out.”
“Because of the anchor thing.”
“Yeah, of course. They don’t have anything like it here, and there are people on the city from Earth who find it offensive and have no problems talking about it at length. The positive opinions outweigh the negative ones but with anything—the negative comments get more attention.”
John nodded but focused on the tasks before him. “The bay is perfect for the city.” He paused and frowned. “Too perfect actually.”
“Terraforming?” Rodney questioned.
“Maybe, can we deepen the scans? I don’t suppose it really matters, but I’m curious because the shape of the bay is honestly ideal. Plus look here—this looks like a swimming basin.” John pointed to the area around the beach. “The continental shelf actually shifts upward to form a bowl-like structure rather than the traditional slope. I don’t a high tide would give a predator enough room to enter unless they jump and the lip itself is several meters wide.”
“We’re still reviewing ocean life,” Rodney murmured. “We have whales, and they’re huge. This would certainly prevent them from getting too close to the beach. The sand is so white it might as well be fresh snow.”
“Yeah, and the water is so clear near the beach you can probably see the bottom all the way to the edge of the basin. It looks planned and certainly recreational.” John shifted in his seat and stretched his back. “I have a weird thing going on.”
“What?” Rodney questioned.
“Gaius was riddled with injuries some of which crippled him the last few years of his original life,” John explained. “Back, hip, and both knees. Not really a surprise considering his battle record and the medical knowledge for the time period. I have some ghost pain—it’s dull and not a distraction. Pain medication doesn’t touch it because it’s not real.”
“Gaius can’t help you manage it?” Rodney question.
“He is but it’s part of our integration—he has to get used to a new body. Sumner was older than me so he had a few physical issues. Nothing that would’ve removed him duty, obviously, but he’d taken a few injuries over the years that Gaius helped to heal, and I’m getting a hint of those as well.”
“Can I ask a very personal question?”
“For Gaius or me?” John asked. “Because it matters.”
“I guess it’s for Gaius.” Rodney frowned.
“I can’t promise to provide an answer but yes.”
McKay nodded and focused on his tablet. “Has Gaius ever integrated fully with an anchor? And do you consider that an option?”
John hadn’t really thought about integration as they hadn’t completed a full merger. “Yes, he has, and he’s not opposed to doing it with me. But he’s only done it near the end of an anchor’s life because he found he didn’t want to part with the person he was anchored to. So he kept them the only way he could—he brought their soul into his. I think that’s why he continues to seek anchors—full integration renews his thirst for life and his desire for physical stimulation. I think he would’ve done it with Sumner if they’d had the time. Gaius loved Marshall like…well like a lover, to be honest. He keeps his grief separate from me now, but when I first anchored him, it was overwhelming.”
“What do you think? Would you want to?”
John considered a genuine union with the Revenant he carried. The thought of continuing forward long after his physical body died was alluring, and he’d admit at least privately that Gaius was a seductive presence in his mind. “It’s his choice in the end, but I wouldn’t deny him. Why?”
McKay took a deep breath. “Yes, well, Carson finished my genetic testing. I was kind of stunned to realize he hadn’t finished it before he gave me the ATA gene therapy but I’ve already had that fit so I can move on from it. Did you know that don’t test for Revenant potential in Canada until you’re an adult? Well, I was already living in the US when I turned eighteen, so I missed testing in both places.”
“Rodney,” John whispered and turned to him. “You have the RP gene?”
“Yeah,” Rodney flushed. “Gaius can’t tell? I mean though Revenants could recognize their own?”
“Only after anchoring—not in the life of origin. What about your sister?”
“Surely she would’ve told me if she were though we don’t talk much,” Rodney frowned. “I’ve never really read much about having the potential. What do you know?”
“Give me a few minutes,” John murmured. “Gaius is going to explain it to me.”
They worked in silence for nearly fifteen minutes, John guided the jumper around the bay—mapping the ocean floor and checking the integrity of the swimming basin that was obviously man-made based the additional scans that the jumper was completing one after another. In the back of his mind, Gaius was essentially pouring memory after memory into his head. His Revenant was powerful and more importantly very experienced, so the info dump wasn’t overwhelming.
Finally, John cleared his throat and put the jumper on auto-pilot. The craft slowed slightly as it adjusted to the course that had already been plotted that would take them around the bay in a wide circle. He turned toward McKay and Rodney put his tablet aside so he could turn in his chair.
“Okay, lay it on me.”
John laughed and reached out to take Rodney’s hand. The scientist smiled briefly and relaxed. “Potential is meaningless without desire. Many people with the potential to evolve never do so. It’s not a matter of self-actualization or enlightenment like Ascension which Gaius considers nothing more than physical suicide. It was kind of stunning to realize how offensive he finds Ascension considering his own state of being. As you near death, your spirit will start to disassociate with your physical body. In the last moments of your life, you’ll realize there is a choice for you to make.”
“And that choice is?”
“This is…you’re not religious, right?”
“Not remotely,” Rodney said with a wave of his hand. “I’m not going to freak out, promise.”
“Energy can’t be destroyed or created, as you know,” John murmured.
“But it can be transferred or changed,” Rodney supplied. “The first law of thermodynamics.”
“Yes, our soul is energy—pure energy. We are literally the stuff that stars are made of, Rodney, and I don’t just mean that physically. The human spirit is a transference of the energy found all over the universe.” John took McKay’s hand and put it over his heart. “Everything that makes me who I am was once the energy that flowed in a star. A star long destroyed, it’s energy dispersed throughout our known reality.”
“That’s honestly the hottest thing I’ve ever heard,” Rodney confessed and flushed when John laughed softly.
“When you die you’ll have a choice—to stay as you are anchor yourself to another human so you can continue a physical existence or you can rejoin the energy that flows through the universe. I think that Ancients sought Ascension so they could join with that energy as well but all they succeeded in doing is changing themselves so much that they’re no longer compatible with that energy so they can’t merge with it.”
Rodney’s mouth formed a perfect O. “That is stunning, and I don’t…” He took a deep breath. “I’m not sure what I’ll do, you know.”
“You have many years to decide.”
“What if I’m in an accident?” McKay questioned. “Will I just get snuffed out or will there be a choice?”
“You’ll get a choice,” John assured. “Gaius is positive of that, and he says that he’ll be around to guide you through the process if that is what you want.”
Rodney leaned in without warning and pressed his mouth to John’s. Sheppard slid forward in his chair and sank into the kiss with a needy little shudder.
“How long it’s been for you?” Rodney questioned as they parted.
John pressed his mouth against McKay’s jaw and took a deep breath. “That’s a complicated question because it’s been about six months since I’ve had anything but my own hand. Sumner, on the other hand, was sleeping with someone on the city and got seriously laid shortly before we left Earth.”
Rodney snorted. “Okay.”
“But it was a woman,” John said and couldn’t help but make a face. “Moreover, Gaius is bisexual, but he tends to prefer men. He hasn’t slept with a man in about twenty years. It’s made me kind of skin hungry, and I feel greedy.”
“I’m completely on board with you both getting laid sooner rather than later,” McKay said and grinned when John laughed.
– – – –
They left the water and to take several land scans. John plotted a course that would take them in several wide circles at five kilometer intervals. He wanted to know what was beyond their proposed settlement and if there were any large animal threats on the small continent, they were focused on. There were only four substantial landmasses on the planet, and the one they were going to settle on was the largest.
“What’s the weather data like?” John questioned.
“Because…these trees are young, Rodney. I would expect to see a lot of old-growth considering the ancient’s use of technology and how long they’ve been gone from the planet. It isn’t like they were burning wood for heat or using it to build, but we’re nearly twenty miles from shore, and the trees can’t be more than a hundred years old.”
“That can’t be good,” Rodney murmured. “We need to widen our survey and assign someone to dig deep into the weather data. It’ll be historical. The city hasn’t gathered data since it was submerged.”
“What are you thinking?”
“Well, let’s see how far we have to go inland before we hit virgin forest,” Rodney suggested.
John’s stomach tightened the further inland they went. The scans started to gradually change as the land steepened but they were nearly nine hundred kilometers in before they found trees over a hundred years old. He took a deep breath as he reviewed the data that was flowing across the HUD.
“We need to see if this is global or local.”
“Surely not global,” Rodney said with a frown. “Hurricanes and tropical storms are fairly localized, right?”
“Right,” John murmured. “Let’s look.”
McKay huffed. “Good thing I packed lunch.”
“I thought you just wanted to go on a picnic with me,” John said over his shoulder as McKay went to the back of the jumper.
Rodney came back quickly and sat down with a huff. “Do you actually want to go on dates? I suck at dates, John. Can’t we just, you know, skip all of that?” He rummaged through the backpack of food he’d brought and pulled out an icepack with a frown. “I have roast beef and turkey sandwiches. The mess said you liked turkey.” He proffered the wrapped sandwich.
“I prefer turkey, yeah.” John took the sandwich and unwrapped it as he mentally prodded the jumper to accept the new course he’d input. “I have to admit this is the slickest ride I’ve ever had as a pilot. Flying with my brain probably isn’t going to ever get old.”
“The Ancients are confusing,” Rodney admitted. “There is the technology front where they obviously excelled in fantastic ways, but then they went all weird and embraced an altered existence like a cult. I really don’t get out the two meshed.”
“Well, they obviously didn’t mesh successfully,” John pointed out. “The fact that they ran from the Wraith when they were technologically superior says a lot about their moral fortitude. They were perfectly okay with abandoning the people of this galaxy to a species that eat them. I’m not all that interested in meeting an Ancient.”
“No, I’m certainly not impressed with them on that front,” Rodney admitted in a wistful tone. “I wish they were admirable.”
John nodded and unwrapped his sandwich. He was used to that kind of disappointment. Gaius’ vast experience only seemed to add to that small, hard place of melancholy. “Greatness lurks in the heart of every man.”
Rodney huffed. “Shut up, Gaius.”
John laughed. “Hey.”
“Don’t pretend it wasn’t him. You’re not that profound—not with that hair.”
“You’re really lucky I like you,” John muttered and slouched back in his chair.
– – – –
“And the evidence of damage is everywhere,” Elizabeth said as she stared at the screen of her tablet. “What else do we know?”
“Based on historical data,” Rodney began and waved a hand, “the planet is essentially rocked by a series of tropical storms that eventually merge into a super storm cell that is beyond a category five hurricane we might see on earth. It happens every one hundred years. Considering what we found yesterday, Dr. Weir, that cycle is still very much in play. I’d say based on the available date we have less than a year before we have another serious event.”
“Is it dangerous to the city?”
“Without shields, the city will be torn apart if we’re on the surface,” Rodney said. “And we don’t have the power to submerge. Moreover, it’ll destroy any land settlement we’ll have created within that time frame.”
“We’re already doing it. We need to get that power plant online, and the city hooked up to it. We’ll be able to launch a shield that will not only cover the city but several miles inland. It’ll protect our crops and the Athosian settlement if we stay within the containment.”
“Is the settlement still a good idea?” Weir questioned.
“We don’t have the food stores to feed us all without help. We can trade, but we’re also dependent on the growing seasons on various planets. Also, we aren’t sure what we’ll be able to trade beyond our knowledge. We didn’t come prepared to barter which was short-sighted,” Rodney said with a frown.
Weir flushed. “It wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t have the Athosians on the city.”
“That’s silly,” Rodney said flatly. “If we ration, we only have enough food to last the expedition roughly eight months. I feel like an idiot for not even noticing it, but I trusted your administrative staff to handle the supplies.”
“Thank you for your work on this situation,” Weir said stiffly. “Let’s see if we can’t move the city a little faster?”
“I’ll double up the shifts on the hydropower drive. We found some pretty strong currents in our survey, so we’ll be able to generate power that way as well once we’re in the bay.” He checked his watch. “You’ll get an email within an hour with an escalated timeline on our move. I’ll need to consult with Kusanagi and Zelenka regarding a few topics on that front.”
“Fine, thank you.” Weir’s gaze flicked out into the control room below them. “How did things go with Colonel Sheppard?”
“It was his decision to check other continents to see how far reaching the situation might be,” Rodney said. “He’s doing his job, Dr. Weir.”
“Until he gets bored,” Elizabeth said evenly. “Then I guess we’ll have a different conversation. Revenants are greedy creatures, Rodney. They glut themselves on the human experience through one anchor after another. The moment his current circumstances stop stimulating him, we’re in trouble.”
Rodney’s gaze narrowed slightly. He was profoundly relieved that Beckett wasn’t allowed to discuss his results with anyone without his permission. He couldn’t imagine how Weir would treat him if she ever found out about his potential. It was annoying that he wasn’t free to fully explore the knowledge he’d been given about himself because of Weir’s attitude. The last thing they needed was for her to be hostile to both him and Sheppard.
– – – –
A week after the survey, John settled into the city control chair and sank down into the interface mentally.
“It’s different from the outpost,” John murmured as his fingers clenched on the gel pads. “Our girl is complicated.”
“Never met a woman who wasn’t.” Rodney sat down at the table they’d brought into the room so the scientists would have a workspace. “Miko?”
“The city systems are converging on the chair like a flock of birds,” Kusanagi said as she focused on her tablet. “Each program acts independently, but they’re coming together to do his bidding. It’s fascinating. The hydropowered engines are coming online as expected.”
“Five knots—that’s the maximum output. I don’t know how long we’ll be able to maintain that speed.”
“Ocean currents will help push us along,” Rodney said. “How is the solar panel restoration going?”
“Cell growth is on schedule,” Zelenka answered as he looked up from his own work. “I’ll be able to start replacing panels within the month. I expect to generate roughly five hundred megawatts of power from each tower. The Ancients’ advanced solar technology will be a very lucrative on Earth. The SGC will be able to market it with very little tweaking as the materials we’re using can be duplicated on Earth. I’ve already started prepping the information to send back.”
“Good.” Rodney looked up and focused on John. “Colonel?”
“I’m fine,” John murmured. “Ocean navigation is a little different than air, but my Revenant has some experience with it, so I’ve been kind of dipping into his well of knowledge.”
“The Viking?” Rodney said with some amusement.
“No, a British sailor in the 1700s,” John said. “It’s weird actually.”
“I’ve always considered myself a patriot,” Sheppard admitted roughly. “And I have memories of fighting in the Revolutionary War on the wrong side.”
“Not funny,” John muttered and shifted in the chair.
“What is the largest battle you remember being a part of?” Zelenka questioned and flushed when Rodney glanced his way. “If you don’t mind saying.”
John’s eyes opened, and he focused on Radek. “We were at the Battle of Somme.”
Rodney felt the blood drain from his face and he took a deep breath as Radek exhaled sharply. “That’s…”
“Stunning and horrifying,” Radek interjected. “I’m very sorry to know that you have such terrible memories in your mind now, Colonel.”
“I have cool stuff, too,” John said as he returned to his task. “We met Galileo Galilei in Florence when he was a young man. He was fascinating even then and quite attractive. Great in bed.”
Rodney huffed. “Shut up.”
“What? It was centuries ago,” John said in protest.
“You can’t brag about banging the father of modern science.”
“I can though,” John said with a laugh.
“Radek, tell him he can’t…”
“Eh.” Zelenka waved a hand. “I would brag as well.”
Rodney turned to Miko and found her staring at John in what looked like speculation.
She pursed her lips. “I’d write letters to scientific journals to discuss his technique and prowess on a quarterly basis until they insisted I stop.”
“The Revenant you anchor is quite old,” Miko said. “There aren’t many of those.”
“He’s old,” John agreed. “But I’ve not made the decision about sharing his name. Sumner rarely did, but it was his choice more than the Revenant’s.”
Miko nodded. “I appreciate the experience and skills he brings to the mission—no matter his name.”
– – – –
“I feel like I need to make a list of people that I can’t trust,” John said as he watched Rodney work on his laptop.
“I already made a list,” Rodney said and looked up. “Because I don’t know if I can trust Beckett to keep my status to himself long term. I can tell he wants to inform Weir. He even told me I should do it in case I have to anchor unexpectedly. I mean I know he’s supposed to because of doctor/patient confidentiality, but he’s made some questionable decisions. Also, Weir has a lot of power over him, and she’s used it to her own ends more than once. She’s furious that the ATA gene won’t work for her and has made it clear that he is to continue researching it until it does work for her.”
“That’s unlikely, right?”
“It appears to only work for people who have dormant components of the ATA gene. Descendants of Ancients but with a heavily diluted bloodline.”
“It makes me question how much my family tree is forked,” John said and grinned when McKay laughed. “Seriously.”
“I think Miko figured you out, you know.”
“I think so, too,” John admitted. “But I don’t believe she’ll gossip about it with other people.”
“No, she’s the sort to protect the privacy of others,” Rodney agreed as he shut his lap top. “Do you have any more work to do?”
“No, but I’m waiting on Bates’ team to return. They’re on a planet Teyla recommended trying to arrange trade. They’ve had good luck so far in securing small arrangements as most are allies who are sympathetic to the loss the Athosians suffered. Bates has a developed back story for our people that does not feature the Ancients or the city.”
“I read through it—Operation Tauri. Bates has me on his team, but I’m only scheduled for exploratory missions. He said he’d rather not waste my time with trade missions unless we find Ancient technology. Did you want to go to the gate room to wait?”
“He’s due within the next thirty minutes. Chuck will let me know if they’re late.” John checked his watch and frowned.
“I don’t know why,” John admitted. “We’ve had a dozen off-world missions so far and none them bothered me like this one.”
“You’re dealing with new instincts,” McKay pointed out. “You should listen to them. Maybe things are a little off because of the recent anchoring or whatever but being vigilant never hurt anything. Maybe Bates will think you’re paranoid.”
“Or he desperately wishes I’d made contact already,” John said grimly. He turned on his heel and stalked out of the lab.
– – – –
A half hour later, John was in a jumper going through the gate because AR1 hadn’t responded at all. He’d rendered the jumper invisible as it had been lowered into the gate room by the automated system. McKay was in the co-pilot seat armed with a tablet and a life signs detector. Weir hadn’t argued with the mission at all which would’ve put John on the defensive automatically if he hadn’t left Marcus Stackhouse in charge in the gate room to make sure he was allowed back on the city. Weir had looked offended at the idea that she might try to strand him off-world but John didn’t put it past her at all.
The Genii village looked normal, but the jumper was giving them readings that told them a very different story. Teyla had described them as a primitive but helpful people who were dedicated to farming. The Wraith had left the world alone for generations though no one knew why.
“Underground bunker,” McKay said with a huff. “We’ve got radiation readings here and here.” He pointed to different places on the map the jumper had generated of the Genii compound. “These two life signs—Ford and Teyla.” He pointed to another room where there was a blue dot. “Bates.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve programmed my life signs detector to identify their individual life signs. They’re my team, and I wanted to be able to keep track of them off-world if something happened.” He shrugged when John briefly glanced his way. “They’re unhurt though Bates heartrate is elevated, so he’s probably being interrogated. I’m getting a radio signal from Bates location, so he has his radio with him or at least it’s in the room.”
John quirked an eyebrow and activated his ear piece. “Captain Bates this is Colonel Sheppard.”
The radio activated. “Colonel Sheppard, my name is Jendar Cowen, and I’m the leader of the Genii Federation. I am prepared to negotiate the release of your people.”
“The Tauri doesn’t negotiate with an enemy, Cowen,” John said neutrally as he turned the jumper and stared out over the large field of crops. “And by taking my people hostage, you’ve declared yourself the enemy. Release them immediately, or I’ll set fire to your fields.”
“You’d not dare,” Cowen shouted.
John fired a drone at a shed the jumper told him was empty. “Your demonstration. The next time I fire—it’ll be on the field. I have enough ammunition to lay waste all the farm land around your village.”
“How dare you! You don’t know what you’ve done!”
“You have no idea what kind of enemy you’ve made today,” John said evenly. He glanced toward McKay who nodded. “If my people are injured in any single way—your people will pay in kind.” He turned the jumper toward the main village when the scientist motioned with a hand.
Through the front of the jumper, they could see Ford, Teyla, and Bates being escorted by people in uniforms to the gate. Bates dialed the gate, and with a brief glance up, the team disappeared through the wormhole.
“You’ll pay for this Sheppard!” Cowen hissed through the open radio connection.
John closed the connection without responding and activated the channel for the temporary beta site. “This is Sheppard.”
“We’ve cleared the area, sir. You can bring the jumper through.”
– – – –
He said nothing while Bates and Ford outlined the events on the planet. Teyla had remained silent through the explanation unless asked a question. She was obviously irritated to have been so misled by the Genii for years. McKay outlined his findings regarding radiation and his belief that the Genii were making nuclear weapons of some sort. The idea was horrifying, but Weir seemed fascinated and several times during the conversation she floated the idea of trying to form an alliance.
“No.” John leaned forward and focused on Weir the fifth time she brought up negotiating with the Genii. “The last thing we need to do is bring nuclear material into an environment like the city. The Genii have absolutely nothing to offer us at this point that would be valuable. Technologically speaking, they’re sixty years behind us, and their go-to solution to gaining further technology and weapons is hostage-taking. They have all the markings of terrorists, Dr. Weir, and you know it. You also know that we couldn’t trust this Cowen person. They want weapons, and frankly, we are under supplied on that front already. When Captain Bates suggested that we keep a low profile in this galaxy and to avoid an association with Atlantis and the Ancients, you agreed. That means our trade deals off-world will never include advanced technology or weapons.”
“That was because Teyla led us to believe that there were no advanced societies in Pegasus due to the Wraith,” Weir said in protest and glared briefly at the native woman. “Obviously she was mistaken.”
“The Genii are killing themselves,” Rodney said shortly. “Every single person living and working in that bunker will probably be dead within the next five years. Yes, we could help them, but that would just make their weapon of mass destruction more of a threat to us. Right now, we’re relatively safe from them because they don’t know who are or where we actually live. If we engaged in a true alliance with them—they would learn about us and most definitely about the city. Eventually, they’d see our ships, our more advanced weapons, and they’d realize that everything we have could be theirs. They’ll quickly come to know that they outnumber us greatly and we have no hope of reinforcements. It would endanger every single person on this city and for what?” He waved a hand. “I made a nuclear warhead when I was in the sixth grade.” He paused when they all stared at him in horror. “I mean it wasn’t functional, but it could’ve been. I just didn’t have all the supplies I needed.”
“You could make nuclear weapons?” Weir asked.
“I have made such weapons for the SGC,” Rodney said evenly. “I’m not particularly proud of it, but we had no choice regarding such weapons before we discovered Ancient technology. I helped build all the bombs that were stock piled to arm the ships that Earth is building and some of those are nuclear. You spent your career on Earth trying to get rid of WMDs, Elizabeth.”
“Yes, well, that was before I knew about the Stargate Program,” Weir said shortly. “That was before I realized that there were people leaving the planet and finding enemies like the Goa’uld.”
“It doesn’t matter who we fight, Dr. Weir,” John said evenly. “How we fight, and the weapons we deploy in that fight is what defines us as a species. I will not encourage nuclear proliferation in Pegasus. If the Genii will use such weapons on the Wraith, then they will use them on other enemies as well. Do you want to be a party to mass murder?”
She paled. “No, of course not. I hate to see their potential wasted. We could teach them….” Weir exhaled and sat back as she crossed her arms. “No, they’ve already learned the lessons that will shape them. You’re right, Rodney, we’d just be opening ourselves up to an invasion.” She stood. “Colonel, I think it’s best if we not have any more off-world missions until we’ve established a secure Alpha site.”
“Agreed,” John murmured, and she left them with a firm nod. He focused on Teyla. “It’s not your fault—you had no reason to suspect the Genii weren’t exactly who they’ve claimed to be for years. We’ve learned over time that nothing reveals a person’s true nature more than what they prove to be greedy for.”
“There is a problem though,” Rodney said. “When I was scanning for the team I found a signal. I’ve tracked the signal to you, Teyla. Are you wearing some kind of transmitter? Did the Genii give you something during the trade discussion?”
“No,” Teyla said and shook her head. “I…carry no technology but what I was given by Captain Bates.” She glanced toward Bates for support. “We had several discussions about how we would present ourselves in the field to avoid discussion of the city of the ancestors.”
“What about your necklace? The Ancient one?” John questioned. “I found it in the ruins that first night.” He turned to McKay. “It glowed when I picked it up.”
Teyla took off the necklace with a frown. “I lost it many years ago, and Colonel Sheppard found it shortly before the Wraith came.”
She put the jewelry down on the table and Rodney reached out to take it. The moment his fingers brushed over the pendant, it started to glow. McKay withdrew his hand and focused on the tablet. “Do you know where it’s from?”
“No, I’m afraid not. My father gave it to me long ago. Why?”
“It’s responding to the ATA gene, but it’s not Ancient.”
“It’s not?” John questioned. “It looks Ancient.”
“Yeah, it does. Unfortunately, the signal is Wraith,” Rodney said. “It’s weak, but it’s transmitting—probably whenever the gate is open.”
Teyla pulled her gun and slammed the butt of it against the pendant—the pieces shattered over the table. She hit it again and would’ve probably hit a third time if Bates hadn’t grabbed her wrist. Her eyes were wet with tears. “We’re safe here.” She turned to Bates. “We’ve never been safe, Dean. I…”
“Does the Wraith know we’re here?” Bates asked neutrally as he gently prodded back into her chair. “Ford, get her some tea.”
Aiden immediately left the table in favor of the small counter in the back of the room where they kept supplies.
“I don’t know,” Rodney admitted. “As I said, it’s probably been using open gates to transmit. We certainly can’t back the planet we’ve been using to stage missions, and we should avoid any planet she’s visited while wearing the pendant. We haven’t any unauthorized dial ins.”
“If they’ve tracked the pendant to this planet then they’re on their way,” John said. “They probably already know the city has a shield over the gate. Historical data that Weir’s people have already gathered told us that the Ancients abandoned the city because of a Wraith siege.” He looked at the parts of the pendant. “We need to shift our focus a little in the field.”
“How?” Bates questioned.
“We need intel on the Wraith—current locations, culling rate, fleet size,” John said. “We need to know how many are awake and how many are coming our way. How fast do their hives move? Can they travel in hyperspace? What kind of engines do they have in their ships and what are their power sources? We need to know how to destroy their ships, how to kill them quickly and efficiently in the field. Food and trade are important, but now we need to trade for information as well as supplies.”
“I’ll go brief Dr. Weir on the new development,” Rodney said wearily.
“Can she do anything beyond pitch a truly unbecoming fit in her office?” Bates interjected as McKay started to stand.
“No,” Rodney admitted.
“Then perhaps we should keep this to ourselves,” Ford said as he returned to the table with a steaming cup of tea which he placed in front of Teyla. “At least for the time being? Does the city have long range sensors?”
“What like on Star Trek?” Rodney asked and rolled his eyes. He frowned then and huffed. “I’ll check.”
Ford offered him a bright grin.
“Weir’s behavior is bad for morale,” Dean said, and he focused on John. “The way she tries to undermine you is making people, both civilian and military, furious with her. It got around quickly that she tried to put Lt. Ford in charge as military leader. His relative inexperience is no secret.” He glanced toward Ford who just nodded his agreement. “Things calmed down a bit when it became clear she wasn’t going to get her way on that front, but the last thing we need for her is to come unhinged in public.”
“So we keep it from her until we know for certain they’re coming?” Rodney asked.
“We don’t need her input to prepare for an invasion or a siege,” Bates said. “Also, she might get it in her head to blame Teyla for the threat. She might try to force us to evict the Athosians, and that would create a host of security threats that she’d probably overlook. She’s not prepared mentally or emotionally to lead in a war zone.”
John tapped his fingers on the table as they all turned to him for an opinion.
“He’s right. We can’t trust her,” Rodney said quietly. “Her response would be self-serving no matter what it turned out to be. She’s already proven that her own comfort is more important than the safety of the entire expedition.”
John focused on Teyla Emmagan. “Are you prepared to keep this a secret from everyone outside of this room?”
Teyla looked briefly at the remains of her pendant. “She’s not a good leader. I knew this within hours of being on the city. I watched her attempt to subjugate many of your people regarding the anchoring of Colonel Sumner’s Revenant. She threatened several of them—to prevent them from volunteering. When she didn’t get the response she wanted, she screamed at them. I didn’t know what a Revenant was, but in the hours after our capture, I came to believe that Marshall Sumner was a strong and brave man. I couldn’t understand how she could turn on him as he lay dying.”
“And now that you know what a Revenant is?” Ford asked. “How do you feel about her campaign now?”
“I thought her foolish and disrespectful before I understood,” Teyla said. “Having learned the truth of the existence of the Revenant hasn’t changed that opinion. Moreover, I find her behavior deeply offensive. She sought to interfere in a very intimate matter regarding bodily consent. Such behavior among my people is profane and on par with a Wraith feeding.”
John exchanged a look with McKay. “You won’t be able to tell your people either.”
“They would be powerless to prevent what is to come. I won’t tell anyone what has been said in this room.”
“Thank you,” John said. “We should make a plan to keep our people safe if the Wraith get here before we have a shield.”
“I need coffee for this,” McKay decided and left the table. “And I need Miko and Radek. We don’t have to tell them about the incoming threat, but they’ll be good to have for implementing plans regarding areas on the city to create shelters for non-combatants.”
John sat back in his chair with a nod and watched as McKay called in his people to help brainstorm the situation. He opened the conference room doors with a thought because the rest of the conversation needn’t be private. His gaze drifted across the open gate room to where Weir’s office was. The leader of the expedition was seated at her desk, smiling at something on her tablet. It was a soft, pleased smile and John wondered what she was reading. She looked up then, and the smile fell from her face as she caught sight of him. Weir glared at him before turning in her chair enough that he couldn’t see her.
“Childish,” Bates muttered.
It was so John just nodded and returned his attention to the matter at hand as Miko Kusanagi entered the conference room. “Let’s get started.”
– – – –
They could see the inlet from various places on the city and were just a few hours from being in place to tether to the geothermal platform. McKay had spent more time on the platform than he had the city—preparing it for the city. In a way, it was a good thing because John figured they should take their time moving into a relationship. The scientist was had a lot on his plate professionally, and Sheppard didn’t want to load him down with personal issues as well.
John had moved his office space to a large round room in the top of the central tower. It’s walls were entirely made of windows that he could darken when he wanted. It afforded him a great view of the city and the mainland now that they were close. He sat at his desk and watched a jumper leave the water, fly upward briefly then slide right down in the Jumper Bay he had a great view of. Miko Kusanagi was currently in the control chair, but John would take over in a few hours as McKay wanted him in the chair for the travel through the mouth of the inlet and for the tethering.
“How did you get this awesome space again?”
“I ordered a few Marines to clean it out,” John said as he turned in his chair and focused on McKay who was leaning against the wide, currently open door. “It was full of junk when Weir surveyed space for herself or she’d have probably chosen it. Though she wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much as use out of it without the gene.” He motioned toward to one of the windows as it darkened and displayed the gate room. “Like that.”
Rodney snorted. “You show off. It’s cool up here. I’m sure she’s jealous as hell.”
“She did mention that she thought this space was probably used by the leader of the city historically,” John said and grinned. “I had them bring you a comfortable chair.” He pointed to the big chair to the left of his desk against the window. “For when you visit.”
“We could share that chair.”
“I had noticed,” John said and grinned when McKay rolled his eyes. “The platform ready?”
“Energy production is sixty-five percent which is what the station is designed for when it’s untethered. It’s storing energy with ninety-eight percent efficiency which is unheard of on Earth.”
“How much do you have stored so far? I haven’t read the report from yesterday.”
“A little over two hundred megawatts but we’ll expend half of that with the tethering. There are a lot of essential systems on the city that are offline because of automatic power rationing. Once power is flowing—those systems will come online, and I can’t do anything about it. Not that I’d want to since they are essential, but Weir has already fussed about the immense energy cost.”
“I read that email,” John said and rocked in his chair. “But I’m not on board with breaking various parts of the city to conserve that energy. I noticed that you included system security in the list of programs coming online. You meant solar system, right? Because Weir thinks it’s some IT thing we can cut off.”
“There is a network of sensors in the solar system and about six thousand years of unprocessed data because it was one of the first systems to be rationed when the conservation protocols kicked in. I thought I was pretty clear about what it was since I included that particular operation in the section regarding external security.” Rodney dropped down in his chair. “Okay, you get about a hundred points for this find.”
John laughed and prodded the double doors shut. “How much power do we need to dial Earth?”
“A terawatt,” Rodney admitted. “And another five hundred megawatts would be required to maintain it for a full thirty-eight minutes. We’re going to store more energy than we use. I think we’ll have enough in about five months to dial Earth unless…”
“Unless that storm appears and we have to use the shield, or the wraith appear in orbit.”
“If the wraith appear in orbit, we’re screwed. The shield won’t hold against them. There’s a reason the Ancients sank the city.”
“Can we cloak? Like a jumper?”
“Not currently,” Rodney said roughly. “I’ll work on it. But we need to fight them our way, John, because they’re not prepared for that.”
“You mean take the fight to them,” John said.
“Yes, as soon as they get near us,” Rodney admitted. “We infiltrate their ships using the jumpers, and we blow them up. I’m working on a drone-based bomb that’ll have the yield to take out a hive. I need to study one, really, and the scans I pulled from the jumper used during the rescue were helpful, but I’d like to spend some time on one so I can figure out their technology. The more I know about them, the more I can use it against them.”
“This drone-based weapon,” John began, “it’s not radioactive.”
“No, I promise. I could make an A bomb with startling ease but I won’t, and I won’t allow anyone else who could do it either. There aren’t many of us with the practical know how on the city for that kind of project at any rate.” He put his feet up on the corner of John’s desk and slouched down in the chair. “So, I’ve been monitoring her database use.”
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. “Is there something to worry about?”
“She’s been reading about Ascension experimentation. We’ve isolated a lab that was dedicated to it. I’ve pulled all of the power crystals from the room, and I have non-gene carriers in it taking the whole thing apart. She doesn’t know.”
“What’s her game, you think?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve come to realize that a great many of the experiments had regarding Ascension could be weaponized after a fashion since they all failed. Every single scientific approach collapsed under the weight of the spiritual requirements, and eventually they stopped trying to do it without the mental components.” Rodney paused. “But not before they killed hundreds of volunteers seeking Ascension. Weir flagged the lab I’m currently dismantling this morning for exploration. I’m waiting until the team is finished with physical component recycling before I open her email. I viewed it from the server so currently it appears to be unopened and undelivered. Zelenka has secured the data with the rest of the material we’ve gathered on various experiments that we’ve destroyed on the city.”
“You think she’s looking for a weapon to use against me?” John questioned.
“Or more specifically, Gaius,” Rodney said. “Weir would be thrilled to rip him right out of you, John. After all, her problems begin and end with you volunteering to become an anchor.”
The thought of Gaius unmooring and leaving him was so horrifying that his stomach tightened. He felt the soothing presence of the Revenant settle over him—heavy and warm which made him relax.
“Why?” John murmured. “Why does she care so much?”
“I don’t know,” Rodney admitted with a frown. “I mean, why does any bigot feel the way they do? It’s a mental illness, really. I’m not offering an excuse for her but a reason. There’s honestly no excuse for her behavior, even if she is batshit insane, but I have to think anyone that genuinely believes they’re better than someone else because of their race or color or gender or whatever is dealing with some deep psychological problem. It’s certainly not normal.”
“Agreed,” John said with a frown. “You know—when I came to Colorado, she took me off base to have dinner and discuss my role on the expedition.”
Rodney’s feet hit the floor and frowned. “Weir took you to dinner?”
“Yeah,” John said and shrugged. “Decent steak but the conversation was limited because of the setting. An off-base meeting didn’t make a lot of sense for security reasons.”
Rodney huffed. “You fluffy haired idiot.”
John threw a paper clip at him. “Asshole.”
Rodney laughed and picked up the little piece of metal. “Where did you get this?”
“Bates has a whole crate of them. I don’t know why. Why am I an idiot?”
“Did she invite you back to her quarters to finish discussing the mission?” Rodney asked impatiently.
“Yeah, but I was tired, so I suggested we meet in the mess next day for breakfast.”
“She was trying to get into your pants,” Rodney said and rubbed his face in frustration. “Seriously? How could you not…”
“I’m gay,” John protested. “Most women get it immediately. Three different women in the Mountain took me aside and let me know that you were bisexual because they caught me looking at your ass. I even endured a very explicit conversation about your dick, McKay. I mean with an exception for a recent situation because of Sumner, I’ve not had to tell a woman I prefer men in over a decade.” He frowned as he considered the night in question. “She was wearing this swishy blue dress.”
“Swishy?” Rodney repeated with a laugh.
John flicked his hand. “You know, swirly around her legs and stuff. But seriously, Rodney, I haven’t touched a woman since my divorce. I learned that lesson. I’d rather have my hand than pretend to want a woman.”
Rodney winced. “That sucks—that you ever tried to pretend at all. Who talked about my dick?”
“Carter.” John frowned at him. “She said you were a jerk, but your cock was perfect.” Rodney blushed, and John almost laughed. “I’m looking forward to taking a ride.”
“You.” McKay exhaled noisily and slouched more deeply in his chair.
“Gaius is, too,” John continued.
“Shut up, seriously, it’s like the two biggest assholes from Earth met and decided to share a body.”
Since that about summed up his situation, John just nodded and grinned when McKay frowned at him. He glanced toward the window/screen that was displaying the gate room and prodded the system to change the angle of the camera so he could see Weir’s office. She was at her desk, staring at her tablet. “What’s she reading right now?”
“I don’t know but she downloaded four different documents from the database this morning, and they were all on Ascension. If she weren’t so vehemently opposed to your circumstances, I would be worried she was going to try to Ascend.”
“What if she’s trying to figure out a way to force Revenants to Ascend?” John asked. “I mean—that’s impossible based on what I know about our evolution, but she’s foolish enough to think what she already thinks so…”
“I’ll investigate. If she’s gone that far, I’ll start the process to remove her from her position,” Rodney said frankly. “Because that’s murder and I won’t stand by and watch her plot such a thing against anyone much less you.” He stood with a reluctant frown. “I’ll be back to visit the chair.”
Rodney grinned but then grew serious. “I was thinking—after we tether tonight and everything is as settled as it can be that we could have dinner in my quarters.”
“And you could spend the night.”
John’s mouth went dry. “If you’re ready for that.”
“I am if you both are.”
Gaius was doing a victory dance, so John figured his Roman passenger was very ready. “Yeah.” John rocked back in his chair and smiled. “We’re both ready for that. Thanks for asking.”
“Yes, well, I’m wrapping my head around your dual existence as quickly as I can. I don’t know how it would work if one of you wanted someone the other one didn’t, but it wouldn’t be a great situation for anyone involved.”
John honestly didn’t have any memories or emotions from Gaius on that subject which was a relief. He’d hate to think that his Revenant might have anchored with people in the past that would ignore him that way in their mind and body. “Let me know when you’re ready for me to get in the control chair.”
Rodney inclined his head and left with a longing glance toward the chair.
John grinned and sent Bates an email that just said, ‘great call’. His XO would get the reference since it probably wasn’t a secret to anyone that McKay had returned to the city and immediately came to Sheppard’s new office space. He glanced briefly at Weir again then cleared the window with a frown because looking at her made him furious.
With the small boost the city had received from the hydropower plant, various systems had come online, and each one seemed to seek him out constantly. He’d talked with Zelenka and Kusanagi about it. Both scientists had done what they could to blunt various non-essential processes because it had quickly become more annoyance than anything else to be told on an hourly basis how much salt was being produced in the desalination plant. He’d done his part, coaxing the various systems into what he called emergency-only communications. Nearly every single program fallen into line.
The one hold out was the city security sensors—the program that governed that system reported a population count, general health statistic, and the city power levels every hour on the hour. He’d gotten used to that particular trickle of information as quickly as he could because he considered it important. Even if he’d have preferred to only get an update when there was a problem. In a way, it was almost soothing, and after the first few days it didn’t even wake him up at night.
He tried to go over his pre-anchor interactions with Weir to see if he’d missed that she was attracted to him, but nothing stood out except for the dress. John had heard rumors that the leader of the expedition had left a man behind on Earth with a break-up video. He really hoped that wasn’t true. But then, the woman had already proved to be a complete asshole so leaving her man just a video would certainly fit in line with her known behavior.
A knock on the door frame of his office had him looking up. Bates was gone most days on missions—they’d gathered a lot of intel and made decent trade agreements under the man’s plan. But on a day when John planned to spend hours in the chair, his XO made a point to be around. Sheppard didn’t wonder why—he was vulnerable in the chair. It was even more of a problem since he’d anchored as Gaius utterly fascinated with the city of the Ancients and the interface seemed equally enamored with him.
Bates made the same face he always made when John called him his new rank. It was a mixture of pride and disgust that amused the hell out of Sheppard. “Sir. I’m not on your schedule.”
“Sit,” John said and motioned to the two chairs directly in front of his desk. “How did the last food delivery go?”
“Great and the glass jars we traded for have proven viable for the canning operation. We’ve put up enough food to last year based on our current population of 272. We’ve also cured various meats from hunting expeditions—salted and smoked. Dr. Zelenka managed to turn one of the larger supply closets near the mess hall into a freezer using environmental controls.
“But that’s not why I’m here.” Bates frowned and shook his head. “Through various sources, we’ve confirmed that the Wraith has culled ten planets to extinction in the past month.”
“Ten?” John repeated in horror. “Estimate on the number dead?”
“Over four thousand,” Bates said grimly. “And it’s apparently only the work of a single queen. She has six hives under her control. The Genii tried to destroy one of them three days ago—the entire infiltration party was lost on the mission, and they’ve had to abandon two of their off-world camps because of wraith retaliation. They might be advanced for their circumstances scientifically, but their military tactics aren’t on par with that advancement.”
“It seems like they know how to play the long game,” John murmured. “But then you get them in the field…”
“It’s revenge-driven,” Bates supplied. “Their tactical plans fall apart because they let their emotions make their decisions. I can’t put myself in their place, really, but they’re proving more of a distraction to the wraith than an actual threat.”
“Any thoughts on how to manage that distraction to our advantage?”
“Not without an operative on their world. We get all of our intel regarding the Genii after the fact which is more helpful in figuring out their psychology than it is anything else. They’ve been playing the defensive so long that they don’t know how to go at the wraith with any sort of success.”
“Plus they don’t have the technology to do it,” John said.
“No, this last attack was a suicide mission. They allowed themselves to be culled—suicide bombers but none of the explosives they brought with them were enough to take out the ship. It’s damaged and on the ground. I’ve put out a bounty on the location. I expect it to bear fruit within the next seventy-two hours.”
John’s gaze narrowed. “You aren’t changing your mind about them, right?”
“The Genii?” Dean scowled. “They held me hostage and kept my favorite knife. I want to go back over there and shove my foot up their asses.”
John’s mouth quirked in a grin. “You know I’d let you if McKay hadn’t declared the planet the Chernobyl of Pegasus. We’re lucky that your team didn’t suffer any radiation poison during that visit. Personally, I think they’re lucky they haven’t already suffered some sort of nuclear accident considering what they’re playing with.”
“Well, our country has a history of playing with dumb shit like that as well,” Bates reminded.
“Granted. I can’t say that I don’t feel guilty for leaving them to make their own mistakes regarding that situation.”
“Don’t feel too guilty,” Bates said. “The so-called Genii home world is nothing but a front. The village is a shell, and there are no non-combatants on that world as far as I can tell. The military is primarily male, and most of their women and children are housed on a planet the address of which is guarded like a state secret. I’ve heard that the community on that secret planet is large and several hundred miles from the gate on the planet—partially underground.”
“The wraith are culling in large numbers. Is anyone speculating as to why?”
“Teyla says that the species is prone to such behavior shortly before they hibernate, but they’re all in the midst of waking up from a hibernation period. Some off-world say it’s early and others think that they’re actually a bit late waking up en masse to feed. We know that the Queen you killed was known as a Keeper. That role is centralized to a hive or hive group depending on the Queen’s power. When you killed her, all the Wraith under her command woke up. That particular grouping was due to sleep another fifty years, so there is a bit of in-fighting going on among the hives for feeding rights.”
The thought was sickening. “So they take turns hibernating.”
“There are always roughly a hundred hives awake any given time, but right now that number has nearly doubled.”
“She had that many hives in her group?”
“No, sir, but there was a bit of a panic apparently, and several hive groups woke up in response to her death which they would’ve felt empathetically. The one you killed has already been replaced in her group which is rumored to be ten hives strong.” Bates paused. “Each hive could have as many as ten thousand wraith on board. The average hive will have three cruisers and a host of darts for culling. They also have scout ships though I’ve not seen one nor do I have any intel on what they might look like.”
“Yeah, their tech is largely organic, and they grow their hives on a planet with no stargate. The Genii have been hunting for that planet for nearly five hundred years.” Bates cleared his throat. “One of my main goals from this point forward is to secure samples of this organic material. I’m pretty sure half the civilians on the city can figure out how to kill it if I can bring a sample back.”
“Biological weapons?” John questioned.
“No, sir, no. I’m not on board with that. I’m just kind of hoping for some weed killer.” Bates grinned when John laughed. “But seriously, if we can kill their ships—retard their ability to travel in space—then it would be a huge step forward in eliminating them as a threat.”
“I’m not opposed to weed killer, but we’ll tread carefully on this topic. I’ll get with McKay, and we’ll set up guidelines for proceeding.”
“What’s your line on the wraith?” Bates asked quietly.
“They eat people,” John said flatly. “I’m not at all opposed to causing their extinction.”
“So there is no line.”
John would’ve probably denied to anyone else, but Dean Bates looked pleased by that information, so he just nodded and looked out one of the windows. “Jealous of my office?”
“Everyone is jealous of this find, sir,” Bates said with a laugh. “No one knew there was anything above the Jumper Bay and you have a personal transporter. I heard Weir is furious, but she made such a big deal about getting the office space that she did that she can’t really just demand yours. Sumner said from the beginning that her space was better suited for security and operations since it’s located above the gate room but she insisted on having it for herself.”
“She wanted to loom over us,” John said. “You realize she considers this whole city her personal little fiefdom.”
Bates’ left twitched. “Right.”
“In other news, I talked Rodney into building us plasma canons. He’s working on plans that are a mixture of Asgard and Ancient. He was part of the team that designed the ships that Earth is building, so he knows what the Asgard brought to the party for those projects.”
Bates offered him a grin. “Can I get a gun?”
“I told him we needed space guns. He told me I was ridiculous.”
“I’ve seen some off-world,” Bates said. “Weapons trading is tricky, of course, so I’ve been avoiding it, but I’ve made a few contacts that I think could put us on the right track for them. I’d give my left nut for a ZAT.”
John grimaced. “Too far.”
“The right one’s my favorite,” Dean told him solemnly.
“Get out of my office, Bates.”
– – – –
Gaius loved the control chair. The flow of information was astounding, but the expansion of their physical form was utterly beguiling. Sitting in the chair made John feel like he was part of the city. He could feel her deep in his bones, and that feeling was richer on the city. He wasn’t certain if it was the city or because of anchoring with Gaius. He hadn’t had a chance to sit in the chair before he’d taken on his passenger. John had avoided discussing the physical expansion in his reports regarding the chair, but he’d mentioned it to McKay in private.
John had made the decision early on to be open with Rodney because he really wanted their relationship to work on every level. He couldn’t say why he was stupidly invested in the scientist, but he was. Sheppard wanted to blame Gaius for his attachment, but that wasn’t fair. He couldn’t ignore the tapestry of Gaius’ emotional history. The Revenant, even after two thousand years, remained deeply enamored with the idea of being in love. John wondered how Sumner dealt with that on a daily basis since the man seemed to be allergic to the very idea of being in a serious relationship.
People were talking around him, but he ignored the voices because when he was in the chair, only McKay’s voice mattered. They’d quickly learned that the person interfacing with the city needed a single point of contact. Miko preferred Radek. Jason Markham worked best with Miko, and John only worked with McKay. They were currently the only three gene carriers on the city who could carry the burden of the control chair from a gene perspective.
He pulled the navigation program to the front, and the other systems backed away as if they understood that they couldn’t have his attention. They’d spent the last week turning the city so that when they entered the inlet, the expansion-capable pier would point toward land. Dr. Susan West was in the bowels of the city with a team of engineers monitoring the tether system which was largely automated. It the weeks it had taken to move the city, that team had worked hard to prepare the city for the platform.
What stunned him most about the entire operation was Weir’s hands-off approach. Her lack of interest in the process had served them well enough because they’d done a lot of other work outside of her view to prepare shelters in the city for a civilian retreat in the event of an invasion. The people from Earth had been slightly hesitant about the safe rooms until the Athosians had gotten involved in the clearing and fortification of rooms. It hadn’t taken more than a handful of stories about wraith cullings for them to get on board with the project. Weir had barely paid any attention at all to the security plans when John had sent them out.
“I’m here,” John turned his head slightly and looked at McKay. “What’s wrong?”
“You tell me.” McKay’s mouth was a bit tight. “You’re glowing.”
“Glowing like what?”
“Like Sumner did when the Revenant unmoored.”
“Oh.” John shifted in the chair. “He really likes the city—the expansion and the experience. Nothing to worry about.”
“Well, it ran Weir off,” Rodney muttered. “She came down to get an update but barely remained in the room for a minute. Then she stood outside in the hall way and glared at you until Miko asked her if she needed anything else.”
“We’re fine,” John murmured. “Promise.”
McKay nodded and after a few seconds of hesitation moved away. He didn’t like leaving John in the chair for long periods of time, but it was necessary for the final leg of the operation. While he’d spent most of his time on the underwater platform in recent weeks, Zelenka and Kusanagi had kept him informed of the atmosphere on the city. It had quickly become apparent to everyone that Weir considered herself above the rest of them and certainly above the work they’d done to clean out various spaces in the central tower for safe rooms. Apparently, she was too good for physical labor, and she’d gone so far as to insist that all of her meals be delivered to her either in her office or private quarters.
Rodney thought that was bullshit, but the military ran the mess hall and John had okayed the deliveries for reasons he hadn’t inquired about. Perhaps it was about giving the woman small victories. He knew the whole thing with the office space had been a bigger, more hostile situation than Sheppard had let on. Weir had fully expected John to give up the space he’d found and had his people clean up for him because it was better than the what she’d fought tooth and nail with Sumner to secure when they’d first arrived.
“They’re okay?” Miko asked quietly as McKay joined her at the work table.
“Fine. Apparently, the Revenant finds the city pretty exciting, so that’s what the glowing is about.” Rodney sat down in his chair and put his tablet aside. “Have you finished the research I asked for?”
“Enough to answer your first question,” Miko said quietly. Her gaze flicked to the open doorway of the room and the doors snicked shut. “Every single system on the city that has power is focused on almost entirely on Sheppard. You were right about the rooms adjusting to his preferences regarding temperature. It happens every single time he enters the room. Everything adjusts to make him comfortable. The security program logs when he leaves the city specifically. He’s the only person the city keeps track of on that level. There are logs in information systems regarding his preference for everything—like shower temperature, favored foods, and how he likes his coffee.”
“Are you…” Rodney huffed. “Of course, you’re serious. Your theory for the rest of us?”
“She’s tolerating non-gene carriers because John is,” Miko said. “There are secondary logs for various other gene carriers including you, but it’s obvious the city considers John her leader and protector. She feeds him security information whether he wants it or not. With work, he’s managed to push down various other programs, but security isn’t going to allow itself to be pushed away. He told me he gets a report when he’s in the jumper, too, no matter where he is on the planet.”
“Are non-gene carriers in danger being on Atlantis?” Rodney questioned.
“In the short term, I don’t think so. She’s treating them like guests and in the case of the Athosians, honored guests. She pays special attention to the children and has erected security fields over various balconies and railings without prodding. Jinto managed to transport himself across the city but thanks to the power being generated by the hydro plants—the city had the ability to lock down the labs and storage rooms he was near until Colonel Sheppard could retrieve him.”
“Anything dangerous that way?”
“Yes,” Miko said with a huff. “I’ve had the whole area quarantined by the security system until we have the time to clean it out safely. The Ancients were dicks, and their Ascension research is nothing more than a series of death traps just laying around like discarded toys.”
Rodney couldn’t argue with that, so he just nodded. “Have you written any of this down?”
“No, Weir has admin access to reports coming out of all departments. She doesn’t need to know that the person she hates most on the city is the only reason we’re still alive. If John hadn’t come through, I imagine the city would’ve allowed us all to drown instead of surfacing. There’s more.”
“Great,” Rodney said unhappily. “What?”
“You.” Miko pulled an elastic band from her pocket and put her hair. “She’s started monitoring you on a level near Sheppard’s and started communicating with the geothermal plant as soon as she could to monitor you. You’re the only person she gathered data on the underwater rig.”
“Thoughts on why?”
“Yes, but you aren’t going to like it.”
“Okay.” Rodney frowned because Miko was pretty a good judge of things that were going to piss him off.
“She’s noted the Colonel’s emotional attachment to you and has labeled you—Consors.”
“Consort,” Miko corrected. “I’ve done all I can to hide that particular bit of information in the system reports, but if Weir gets a wild hair and decides to read through those, she’s going to notice. Just a head’s up. I know the two of you haven’t made your personal connection public. She’s going to react poorly.”
“Very poorly.” Rodney frowned. “How is John labeled in those reports?”
“Praestes.” Miko paused. “Leader or perhaps in these circumstances, protector.”
“It was obvious on Earth that Weir had a boner for Sheppard, yes?” Zelenka input.
Miko frowned at him. “I think lady wood would be more appropriate if you’re going to be crass, Radek.”
It really didn’t make a difference in Rodney’s mind. “Yeah, I think so. He was clueless on that by the way. He told me she took him out to dinner in this swishy blue dress to discuss the mission and he didn’t even realize she was trying to sleep with him when she invited him to her quarters.”
“Swishy?” Miko repeated and laughed.
“You know I can hear you, McKay,” John interjected.
“I can’t bear the burden of your cluelessness by myself,” Rodney retorted. “Concentrate on your job, Colonel. If you scratch the paint—I’m going to be pissed.”
“I passed through the mouth of the inlet five minutes ago, McKay. We’re on a strong current. It’s prodding us a little faster than we had planned, so I’m going to need to slow down to five knots within in the next thirty minutes. Who’s in the hydro plant, right now?”
“Simpson’s team. Time to tether?”
“Ninety-three minutes.” John shifted in the chair. “How many people are on the platform?”
“We’re down to two—essential personnel only per Bates orders,” Rodney explained. “One Marine and Dr. Easley for the science.”
“Two.” John sat up abruptly. “There are two people on the platform?”
Rodney gaped as he slid right out of the chair. “What? Get back in the chair.”
“Miko, take my place,” John said flatly and left the room without another word to them.
“John?” Rodney abandoned his tablet and rushed after him. “What’s…”
“271,” John snapped as he activated his radio. “Beckett, has one of the Athosian women unexpectedly popped out a kid?”
“Hmmm, not that I’m aware of. There are two pregnant among the population, but they’re not due for months, yet.”
John clicked his radio. “Bates, we have an unknown life sign on the city. Lock us down. Now!”
Sheppard picked up speed as he rounded a corner, his hand curling briefly around a doorframe for purchase as he headed for a transporter. Radio activity got extreme at that point, and distantly he heard sirens just before he entered the closet-like transporter. In seconds, they were exiting into a hallway full of Marines who were darting out of the armory armed to the teeth.
Rodney activated his radio. “Beckett, confirm the baby thing!”
“I already have,” Becket snapped. “I’m heading for my assigned shelter with my staff and one patient. This isn’t a drill, right? Sergeant Stackhouse is recovering from surgery.”
“Not a drill,” Rodney confirmed and ended the connection.
John exited the armory clipping a P90 onto his vest. “Dr. Weir, I don’t have time to argue with you. Allow Lt. Ford to take you to your assigned shelter, immediately.” He changed the channel as he strode past McKay. “Ford, toss her in the goddamned safe room and meet up with your team. Try not to hurt her.”
Rodney barely had time to consider going into the armory before Bates appeared shoving a holstered 9mm at him and a tac vest.
“Stick close, Doc, we might need you to help lock down areas.”
Rodney shrugged on the tac vest and fastened the holster around his waist as he walked. At the transporters, teams were being divided and sent to various sections of the city to create a perimeter. McKay tied the thigh part of the holster as he came to a stop beside Sheppard. “Is the city giving you any other information?”
“No, the sensors aren’t fully online. The life signs detector you have—can you expand it’s abilities?”
“It has a three hundred meter limit.” Rodney pulled the device from a pocket and flushed John raised an eyebrow. “What? It’s my favorite device.” He paused. “Why is Stackhouse in the infirmary?”
“Appendicitis.” Bates moved from his place by the transporter since it was there turn to move and static burst over the radio.
Female screaming followed then Ford’s voice cut through. “Wraith! It’s a fucking wraith! She’s heading for the gate room! She has Dr. Weir!”
“Don’t let her off the city under any circumstances!” John ordered as they entered the transporter.
“Radek, get into the network and cut all power to the gate,” McKay snapped out just before John activated the beam.
“Ahead of you,” Zelenka responded tightly. “Emergency power only—the gate is down, and the control center is dead.”
They moved quickly through the two short halls separating the transporter from the gate room. John leveled his weapon as he entered, his gaze sweeping around the room taking in the position of his Marines. Bates and McKay entered behind him. The wraith had Weir by the throat, one handed while she slammed uselessly on the DHD. She screamed and jerked Weir around.
“Make it work!”
Weir clutched at the hand holding her and struggled to speak. The queen dropped her. “I can’t—the power’s been cut.”
“You’re the leader,” the queen said and shoved Weir against the control deck. “I heard the man you were with say so. Order your people to restore power.” She shoved her feeding hand against Weir’s chest, and Elizabeth screamed. “Do it, or I’ll kill you.”
“She’s not in charge, right now,” John said evenly as he moved into position between the control deck and the gate. “I am.”
“Let me leave, or I’ll kill her,” the queen said and jerked Weir up by the throat again, using her as a shield.
“No.” John’s gaze connected with Weir’s and he hoped she understood. He couldn’t let such a threat leave Atlantis. “How did you get here? Do you have a ship in orbit?”
The queen’s gaze narrowed. “I crashed, long ago in the ocean. I slept until recently when I felt the presence of a viable food source.” She pulled Weir close to her body and pressed her feeding against the woman’s chest. “Her fear is delicious.”
John didn’t care, and he figured it was written all over his face because Weir’s gaze widened with shock and she started to struggle. They were at impasse of sorts—neither had anything to bargain with. The queen must have realized that because she abruptly tossed Weir aside and climbed over the control deck with startling speed. John got off ten rounds before the bitch was on him.
Gaius welled in him as the queen ripped the P90 from his hands and tossed it aside. The wraith hissed as blue light seemed to envelope them and John pulled his knife free from the holster on his hip. The fury of his Revenant was almost overwhelming as she ripped open his tac vest. John shoved the knife straight up through her rib cage and bucked up against her. Sheppard rolled with the wraith, pulling out his knife and slamming it into her chest repeatedly. Blood splattered all over him warm and black. It was disgusting. He shoved the knife in once more and scrambled off her body.
Inside him, Gaius was raging and their connection started to blur. John stumbled, and McKay was there to catch him.
“I…” Sheppard’s vision blurred.
“Sir?” Bates caught his other arm. “Are you all right?”
I’m sorry, John, were the last words he heard before slipped into unconsciousness.
– – – –
John’s gaze flicked open without much warning, and Rodney moved forward in his chair even as his gaze drifted briefly to the Ancient monitoring panel. “Hey.”
“Hey back,” McKay said. “You’ve been unconscious for six days. Your brain activity has been off the charts. Are you still you?”
“Yeah,” John said and wet his lips. “And more.”
McKay’s face tightened briefly. “I thought as much. How…” He sighed. “How much is you and how much is Gaius? The literature wasn’t clear on how a full soul merger would go.”
“It’s called Revenant Integration,” John said. “I can’t put a number on it. I’m sorry, that probably messes with you. He used to just share my mind and now our soul energy is together. Permanently.” He tried to sit up.
“Let me raise the bed,” McKay said and fiddled with the panel briefly until he could get the head higher than the rest. “A few things have happened while you were getting your beauty rest.”
“Ford’s in a bed outside of this room in the regular part of the infirmary—both of his legs were broken, but fortunately he doesn’t have a spinal injury. His head took a hit, but he appears to have all of his questionable mental facilities. He’s tried unsuccessfully to rename half the medical devices in the infirmary. He didn’t have a weapon because he was still fighting Weir on going into the fucking safe room when the queen came upon them. He was thrown over a railing in his attempts to protect Weir.”
Rodney paused and took a deep breath. “She has a severe head injury, a broken back, and is in a coma. Carson doesn’t know when or if she’ll wake up. Per the expedition charter, he made the decision that she’s no longer capable of leading.”
“So you’re in charge,” John said.
Rodney made a face. “Yes, unfortunately. I tried to make Miko do it, but she threatened to go live on the mainland. Radek promised to throw me in the wraith cage and keep me there if I put him in charge.”
“Did we get tethered?”
“Yes, and we’re storing power within the projected totals.”
“Did we lose anyone?”
“The team I had in the hydro power plant—she must have come through the moon pool just down the hall from the control room for the facility. She fed on them all and we couldn’t keep them alive. Susan West, Mike Branton, Jim Collins, and Paul Abrams.”
“268,” John murmured, and his eyes closed briefly. “How many Athosians are going to live on the mainland?”
“Right now we’re working on farm land. I don’t think any of them actually plan to live out there—just work and hunt. I haven’t had time to ask Teyla. It’s their decision I guess.” Rodney patted his hand. “So, yes, right now the population of Atlantis is 268.”
John took a shuddery breath. “Did I make the wrong call with Weir?”
“No, and no one who has seen the footage believed you could’ve responded differently. Allowing that queen to leave the city would’ve been the death of us all. There may or may not be a threat headed toward us, but if she’d left and found a hive, then it would’ve no longer been theoretical. She was over ten thousands years old—there is no telling what kind of mental gifts she had. Teyla said the older a queen is, the more of a threat they become telepathically. She could’ve gathered all kinds of information before she came on board the city.”
“Everyone in the gate room has already written their reports regarding the incident, and it was done independently. I made sure there wouldn’t be any question of collusion or whatever. It’ll be no secret that Weir hated you because you anchored so I had to make sure no one would be able to say you let her get hurt on purpose.”
“If she’d gone to the damn safe room…” John took a deep breath. “Ford will recover?”
“Yeah, she’s the only one with a permanent injury. Even if she wakes up, Carson doesn’t think she’ll ever walk again. The damage to her spinal cord is catastrophic.”
“The wraith was strong as fuck,” John complained.
“I was going to shoot her,” Rodney said. “I couldn’t get an angle—it happened so fast, and you were both moving like crazy. Then you did that whole ninja thing. You never mentioned a ninja anchor.”
John laughed and let his head fall back against the pillow. “That’s all me actually—I have a black belt in Krav Maga. But there is no way I could’ve moved that big bitch without Gaius. He provided the strength.”
“Was that why the two of you integrated?”
“He couldn’t allow another anchor to be fed on,” John murmured. “I think it might have driven him insane if she’d managed to do it. He was burning in my body like lava.”
“You glowed blue for three days,” Rodney admitted roughly. “I was really relieved when you stopped, but then you didn’t wake up, so that sucked.” He looked away and took a deep breath. “Do you still…”
“Hey.” John’s fingers tightened on his. “What’s going on?”
“Well, you’ve integrated.” Rodney looked at him, feeling helpless and sad all at once. “Do you still want this?” He waved his free hand between them.
“Of course, and I’m really pissed about getting cock blocked by a wraith queen.” John’s fingers curled against McKay’s palm. “You still cool with it? I may be a little different than I was before.”
“Do you still like Star Trek?”
“Do you still think Iron Man is the best Marvel superhero?”
“Who else could possibly be better?” John demanded with a frown.
Rodney laughed and brought their hands to his mouth. He kissed the top of John’s hand and flushed when Sheppard smiled. “Yeah, I’m still cool with it.” He cleared his throat. “I should get Carson.”
“Stay for a bit. I’m not ready to be poked,” John murmured and shifted a little on his side so he could focus on the scientist. “Did you find anything cool during my beauty rest?”
Rodney scowled. “The whole damn city is one big energy hog. The Ancients are not only dicks, John, they’re inefficient dicks.”
– – – –
John’s hands trembled just a little as he pulled Rodney closer. There had been some worry that it would be awkward—that he would falter in action despite his intent. McKay’s mouth was eager yet languid against his as their bodies settled together on the cool cotton sheets on his bed. Post-integration his interactions with Gaius had deepened mentally, but there were times when the Revenant’s thoughts were bright in his mind. He’d thought it would be intrusive, it wasn’t.
“John.” McKay’s voice was as wrecked as Sheppard felt. “Please.”
John nuzzled against Rodney’s jaw, stubble scraped together. Neither had bothered to shave before they’d gone to bed. “I’ve never wanted anyone like this in my life.”
“Is it Gaius?”
John hummed under his breath. “It’s you—I want to crawl inside you.”
“Fuck, yes, where’s the lube?”
Sheppard laughed softly and took a deep breath. Reluctantly, he released Rodney and rolled slightly to reach out to the small dresser he’d placed by his bed. The lube was in the top drawer—he snagged a condom as well. They hadn’t a conversation about it, but he didn’t want to assume they could go without despite the fact that Gaius appeared to hate them.
“I can…” McKay trailed off as John slicked up his own fingers. “You want to then.”
“Yeah,” John murmured. “Unless you’d prefer to do it yourself?”
“No, I’m on board with…” Rodney spread his legs. “Anything you want.”
John slid his fingers under McKay’s balls and brushed over the rim of his asshole. “What a thing to tell a man with two thousand years of experience.” He grinned when Rodney’s mouth dropped open. “Relax.”
Rodney took a deep breath as John slid a single finger inside him to spread the lube. “That’s good.”
“Yeah,” John agreed. He slid a second finger in when McKay rocked down on the penetration. “Do you need a third finger?”
His breath hitched, and John pressed in to graze his lover’s prostate. “How do you want it?”
“Just like this.” Rodney spread his legs further. “Now.”
John pulled his fingers free and grabbed the condom which he opened as quickly as he could. Sliding between Rodney’s thighs was a heady experience. He felt like he was starving, but perhaps that was more Gaius than himself. John braced himself with one hand used the other to position his cock until he could rub the head against Rodney’s hole.
“Fuck, John,” McKay’s hands curled over Sheppard’s shoulders.
He pressed in with one long slow stroke and Rodney shuddered then lifted his legs up as high as he could, tucking them against John’s body.
“Amazing,” John whispered.
The pleasure was so intense that he could barely breathe for it. Since anchoring, everything was brighter, deeper, and more vivid; sex wasn’t an exception. He moved slowly—the luxury of being inside another person had never been more clear to him.
“Yes, John, yes…that’s…oh fuck. Harder, please.”
John met the demand as Rodney slid his hands down John’s back and cupped his ass. He already knew that McKay would be bossy in bed, but he was surprised by how challenged he felt.
“Fuck, wait,” Rodney demanded and took a deep breath as John immediately stopped moving. “I need to turn over.”
John laughed softly and pulled free. “Okay.”
McKay glared at him briefly, but there was no anger in the expression as he shifted to his knees and turned around. “I’ll ruin your life, Sheppard.”
“Don’t threaten me when we’re naked,” John retorted.
“Stop talking and fuck me,” Rodney ordered huffily.
John slid a hand down McKay’s back as he got into position. “Your ass is perfect.”
“Are you objectifying me?”
“Yes, of course, I am,” John responded as he positioned himself and slid right back in before McKay could respond. “I’ve wanted this ass since Antarctica.”
The only response he got was a low groan, so he took it as a win. He cupped McKay’s hips as he moved. Rodney met him for each thrust—their skin smacked together as their bodies met repeatedly. Orgasm was edging closer and closer with each thrust, trying to push it back wasn’t working so John shifted forward, grabbed the headboard of the bed with one hand and wrapped his free hand around McKay’s leaking cock.
“We’re so close, Rodney. Come for me.” He leaned down and pressed a fleeting kiss to McKay’s shoulder.
“I.” Rodney arched his back with a shudder. “I don’t need a hand. Just fuck me. Hard.”
John groaned. “God.”
He shifted again, hands sliding down Rodney’s back hurriedly before he gave in and just took. It felt primal, and kind of mean but McKay only encouraged him with groans and hoarse demands for more until the scientist sank down the mattress. John followed him, his hands grasping at sweat-slick skin. Finally, he gave into the pleasure that was rushing inside him and came.
“That…” John took a deep breath and rubbed his face against McKay’s shoulder. “Did you come?”
“Yeah,” Rodney laughed a little. “Harder than I have in years.” His breathing hitched when John pulled free from his body. “How did Gaius like…how does that work?”
“If he had a cigarette he’d be smoking it,” John said wryly and left the bed when Rodney shot him a grin.
John hesitated only briefly about tossing the condom into the recycler in the bathroom. He wasn’t entirely sure where else he could’ve disposed of it. By the time he rinsed the soap from his hands, McKay had entered the bathroom and was fiddling with the shower controls.
“Because the city is in love with you—the rest of us have to do it manually in order not to be half-frozen,” Rodney said gruffly. “Join me?”
“You think she’ll be nicer to you if I’m in there?” John questioned and grinned when McKay frowned at him. “You know most people smile at me more after I make them come.”
“I’m going to need at least ten more orgasms before smiling at you is a regular thing.”
“Challenge accepted,” John murmured as he crowded McKay into the stall with a laugh.
– – – –
It was proving difficult to keep a smile off his face so shortly after lunch he just gave up. He wasn’t a sour person by nature, so he wasn’t getting a lot of attention anyway. Bates had given him the side-eye several times during a meeting where they were supposed to be lecturing two Marines for a fist fight but other than that he’d managed to skate by on an immense amount of afterglow. He mostly blamed Gaius, and the Revenant didn’t appear to be at all bothered by that.
Beyond his own fantastic mood, the rest of the city had relaxed as they’d settled into the bay close the mainland. John didn’t know if it was because they could land or if it was the ability to leave the city. There were many civilians on the city that wouldn’t see field work so going to the mainland was their only outing. The beach was lovely, and because of the way the city was situated, the pier extended straight out across the swimming area all the way to the sandy beach.
The biology and botany departments were exploring the land near the city with the Athosians. John had seen several reports concerning soil samples, but he’d skipped most of it in favor of the summary of results. He figured he’d read more than Rodney had so he was okay with his progress regarding the immense amount of scientific data that had hit his lap top shortly after breakfast.
“Colonel, do you have a minute?”
John looked up and found Peter Grodin standing in the doorway of his office. “Dr. Grodin.” He waved him in. “Is there a problem?”
“Just logistics,” Grodin admitted. He sat down in one of the chairs in front of John’s desk. “Dr. McKay looked at me like I was insane when I tried to present him with the new work schedule for the administrative staff, and Captain Bates told me that I’d have to speak to you before he’d accept the schedule as part of his own. I’m not sure, honestly, where my department fits in the big picture for the city.”
John blew out a breath. “Honestly, Dr. Grodin, I’m not even sure what you do on the city.”
The British science took a deep breath. “That’s the thing—we aren’t doing anything of substance. And we’re at loose ends. Our main focus before Dr. Weir’s injury was researching ascension and working on the organization of the Ancient database.”
John couldn’t help but frown. “What are you supposed to be doing?”
“I’m a linguist, Colonel Sheppard. I speak ten languages and have a working knowledge of Ancient. We have three highly accomplished diplomats in the department, and they’ve been reduced to electronic filing within the database after the translation program works since they don’t read or speak Ancient. I’m on the mission officially as Dr. Weir’s scientific liaison and administrative coordinator. I was supposed to be her buffer—from Dr. McKay. As it turned out, I wasn’t needed for that job because McKay started ignoring her as much as he could outside of official meetings that he had no real choice but to attend.”
John nodded. “Okay, McKay doesn’t need that level of management from you, but I figure you already know that. What would you like to do for the expedition?”
“I’d like to work with Bates on our off-world relationships. I’ll take on anything he wants in that regard. I’m trained for the field and qualified to carry both a 9mm and a P90. Dr. Weir segregated the civilians on the city in a way that the SGC never did so it’s been a difficult few months for some of us. We’re isolated on the city and trips to the mainland were severely restricted since we had to use jumpers to go. Of course, now things are a little better on that front.”
Grodin took a deep breath and pushed on. “We’re explorers, Colonel, just as much as anyone else, and we’d like to be included.”
“Okay. I’ll send an email to McKay and let Bates know that your people can join his efforts. You should know that beyond trade and alliances that Bates is seeking intelligence on the Wraith and their movements. We need to know where they are and what they’re up to, Dr. Grodin.”
Peter nodded. “Yes, I agree.” He relaxed. “Thank God, I was…Elizabeth wasn’t worried about that situation at all. I think that’s why she argued with Lt. Ford during the incursion. She’d have not been hurt at all if she’d done as she was told.” He slouched slightly in the chair. “It’s been difficult to support her since Sumner died and you anchored his Revenant. She was furious over your situation and ranted about it to me often. She called you ruined and believed that you’d destroyed her plans.”
John frowned. “Personal plans?”
Grodin shrugged in a way that looked helpless. “I honestly don’t know. She never gave me specifics, but as much as her condition is a tragedy, I am relieved that she’s no longer in charge. Her fixation on ascension was frustrating, and she saw no problem with how much of our time she was wasting with a project that didn’t serve the expedition in any single meaningful way.”
John sighed. “Do we need to look at her personal work, Dr. Grodin?”
“I think so, Colonel. She didn’t share anything nefarious with us, but that doesn’t mean… Her anger toward you was unreasonable. It stretched far beyond what I would even consider bigotry. There are several people on the city who find your circumstances horrifying. I’d personally never consent to anchor a Revenant, but I was raised in the Catholic Church which considers anchoring a sin on par with suicide.” He flushed. “But I’m not horrified or disgusted by you, Colonel. I understand the science and I know that the Revenant you carry wouldn’t force someone to anchor him. I’m not afraid of his presence.”
“But Weir was?” John questioned.
“No, she didn’t fear you or the Revenant. She said once…” Peter sighed. “Colonel, Dr. Weir’s interest in you was personal. On Earth, she confided in me that she found you very attractive and that when you agreed to join the expedition that she decided not to request a place for her fiancé on the mission. She left him behind with just a good bye video.”
John flushed. He hated that McKay was right about the situation with Weir. “Wow.”
“And,” Grodin continued and grimaced. “She mentioned more than once that she wanted children with the ATA gene. Since you have the strongest representation of the gene…you were probably the ideal candidate to father those children.”
“Dr. Grodin.” John frowned. “Stop trying to give me nightmares. I’ll tell McKay.”
“Well, at least anchoring prevented her from launching her seduction campaign in your direction.” Grodin smiled cheerfully. “Which honestly probably saved her life since McKay would’ve certainly shoved her through a space gate.”
John laughed. “Why don’t you go visit with Bates? Has he finished moving his office to the gate room?”
“Yes.” Grodin stood. “I’ll go inject myself into his day in a way that I’m sure will make him unhappy. He’s such a creature of habit that it’s actually a comfort. We always know exactly where he is and what he’s doing when he’s on the city.”
John just nodded because he found Bates steady-as-he-goes routine soothing and shooed the civilian away before he was told something more horrifying.
“Beckett to Sheppard.”
He honestly considered ignoring the call, but that would just lead to another person invading his little tower of solitude, so John activated his radio.
“This is Sheppard.”
“I’ve finished the autopsy of the wraith queen. Did you want an oral report as well as the written?”
He really didn’t. “Does anything stand out that needs an immediate discussion?”
“No, she’s on par with other records I have from the Ancients,” Beckett said. “I’ve allowed various samples to be removed for further study. Did you want to keep the body?”
The thought was kind of horrifying, and he really didn’t know. “Why are you asking me instead of McKay?”
“He told me he was too busy.”
John glanced at this lap top. He had forty-five emails in his inbox that he hadn’t opened. “I’ll be down shortly, Doctor.”
“Thank you, Colonel.”
– – – –
The issue was that Rodney didn’t have time to handle the administration part of the city when he was too busy keeping the place afloat. He’d been ignoring his email all morning because he was elbow deep in a grounding station replacing the conduit system. The super storm was lurking on the horizon per historical data, and they couldn’t take any risks with the safety measures the city had in place.
“I don’t even know what she was doing,” McKay griped. “Beyond looking for ascension experiments.”
“That’s all she was doing,” Miko said as she took apart the power relay so that it could be cleaned. “Sheppard and Bates have been managing our resources and making sure we’re fed. They handle security. They put together missions for trade. They’ve negotiated alliances with the Athosians and other worlds.” She huffed. “Weir just swanned around. Her departmental staff doesn’t have any sort of standard work schedule because she gave them assignments every morning and they only ever worked with the database.”
“The database is corrupt and unsearchable,” McKay muttered. “So they’ve been doing nothing for months.”
“Nothing valuable since she wasn’t even focusing on disciplines that would be beneficial within the database. They didn’t even have a plan for sorting through the data. She’d just pass out downloaded sections that she found interesting. All of it was historical data on the Ancients on the search for ascension. Plus she was pressuring Carson to figure out why the gene therapy didn’t work for her and to create a version that would work for her.”
“We’re lucky he was able to create one that didn’t kill anyone, to begin with,” McKay said and groaned. “I guess we need to schedule a meeting with Sheppard and Bates—to see if we can’t figure out a system that will work for us. It’s not fair for me to throw it all in John’s lap.”
“Agreed, besides I think we’d actually be in violation of the expedition charter if we made them take care of everything,” Miko grimaced as she finally pulled the casing apart. “No rust but it’s filthy.”
“I think this section was flooded for quite a while,” Rodney said. “We’re lucky that their technology appears to be rust proof. I’ve not found any corrosion of any sort actually which is more surprising that not. Even Goa’uld technology could break down.”
“Only if they used metals besides naquadah,” Zelenka interjected as he placed a tool box near McKay’s feet. “Most of their technology was stolen, and they haven’t always been picky about what they stole.”
“True,” Miko agreed. “Rodney thinks we need to meet with the military and figure out how to run the city.”
“Well, he doesn’t have the time to do it, and Weir obviously wasn’t doing much of anything. She certainly made it appear as if she were quite busy but I’ve been looking at her server access—she hasn’t opened a single report out of the science department regarding our settlement. She focused entirely on exploration reports and historical data.”
“I was telling Rodney about the historical data.”
“She wasn’t reading Bates’ mission reports regarding food trade and alliances either,” Radek pointed out. “She also put every single email she received from Colonel Sheppard in a folder, unread. She didn’t read anything he sent her—not even reports on city security. I think that’s part of the reason she fought Ford on seeking shelter. She didn’t even know we had arranged safe rooms throughout the city in case we’re invaded.”
“If she wakes up, she’s going to blame John for her injury,” McKay muttered. It made him furious to even think about it.
“I’ve already filed a report regarding the fact that she’s been ignoring his emails since he anchored,” Radek input. “Plus, I’ve secured all of the reports regarding the wraith incursion and made a copy of them so they can’t be altered without my knowledge. Weir had confederates on the city, but her foolishness regarding the Wraith situation may have made them question her. Still, I wanted to ensure that no one would try to make the situation look worse than it actually is.”
The air around them filled with a series of whistles. Rodney slid right out of the grounding station because any kind of noise was bad when you were in a machine that was supposed to be powered down. More whistles were followed by what sounded like whale song. Rodney shared a look with Miko who scrambled to her feet beside him. The three of them slowly walked to the railing.
“Holy shit!” Miko exclaimed.
A fish surfaced, and the song resonated out of the water before it submerged again. “That is the biggest animal I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Rodney muttered. He clicked his radio. “McKay to Sheppard.”
“This is Sheppard. I’m in your lab—where are you?”
“Grounding station number six—we’ve got…” He trailed off when several more whales broke the surface briefly. “We’ve got whales.”
“Yes, hmmm, well whale-like certainly. They’re huge, and they’re singing.”
“The biggest one appears to be about four hundred feet long,” Rodney said.
“For the love of God, Rodney, get away from the railing,” John snapped from behind them, and the radio clicked off.
McKay turned and found Sheppard, Bates, and several armed Marines. “They aren’t hurting anything.”
“Currently,” John interjected.
“I think they’re just saying hi,” Miko said as she leaned forward a bit.
Bates grabbed a fist full of her jacket and pulled her back gently from the railing. “Come on, Doc, you don’t want to be an appetizer, right?”
Rodney spared a glance John’s way and found him frowning. “Oh, come on, stop giving me that face. It isn’t like we were going to crawl over the railing and try to pet them or anything.”
“Why don’t you call the people from biology out here to check them out?” John suggested. “Maybe there are records for them.”
– – – – –
“They’re called Flagisallus.”
John looked up from his sandwich as Rodney sat down at the table across from with a tray of food. “Yeah?”
“Not a mammal despite their whale like appearance. They’ve already wandered off. Speculation is that the species took note of the city during the move and was checking out the new location. We’re retrieving biological data though there isn’t much at the moment. The real problem, of course, is that we’ve also discovered that those particular animals gather around the city every fifteen thousand years.”
John frowned. “I’m really not going to like this, am I?”
“So,” McKay began as opened his milk. “Every fifteen thousand years, the star in this system has a coronal mass ejection.”
John took a healthy bite of his elk burger and chewed slowly as he processed that. He swallowed and held up one hand when McKay started to say more then he picked up his water bottle. “Do you have any idea what is so special about this fucking planet that would make the Ancients stay on it?”
“Super storms, extinction level clouds of solar plasma, giant fish that probably eat people—I mean why terraform that big bowl for swimming in the inlet if Flagisallus weren’t dangerous?”
“It stands to reason that the Flagisallus has a natural predator,” John said mildly and raised an eyebrow when Rodney stared at him in horror. “Nature must have a balance or an ecosystem will fail.”
“You’re…” McKay’s gaze narrowed. “Are you hiding some ridiculous degree in oceanography or something?”
He laughed. “No, but I did take several classes in undergrad—environmental science and biology. They’re required, you know.”
“I took environmental physics,” Rodney said. “It wasn’t terrible. Actually, it was terrible, but it could’ve been worse. Regardless, I have no idea why the Ancients were so enamored with this planet. And we haven’t even started looking at the animal life on the mainland. It’s probably full of snakes, dinosaurs, and giant spiders.”
“Ask Carson’s people to start looking at medical records,” John suggested.
“Because—if one of their people was attacked or killed by an animal on planet or off then it would likely be listed in the medical records.”
“I’ll send an email.” McKay picked up a vivid purple French fry. “Look at this.”
John grinned. “It tastes okay.”
“Whatever.” Rodney rolled his eyes but stuck it in his mouth.
“How did the Ancients survive the last mass ejection?”
“They extended the shield to cover a large portion of the planet to deflect the plasma cloud,” Rodney said. “And before you ask—no we don’t currently have the power to do that.”
“I’m working the numbers,” Rodney said. “Miko has suggested that we extend the solar panels out onto the piers.”
“Would still be able to walk on them?”
“Yeah, of course, they’re very hardy.”
“And the output?” John questioned.
“The historical data is pretty exciting—we’ll be able to store about ten thousand watts a day with the current configuration. Miko thinks we could double that in about two months if we install more panels. In our current position, we’re going to get about six hours of full sun a day—it’ll vary based on weather conditions.”
“And what we need to launch a shield over the planet?” John questioned.
“We’d need nearly a terawatt to launch it another three hundred thousand watts to maintain it for an hour against the plasma cloud.”
“It is doable provided that we can get enough power together to protect us, the settlement, and the solar farm we need to build before the storm gets here. That’s our first goal. People are asking about dialing Earth as well.”
“Well, we need a full terawatt to dial Earth.”
“We need that much to create a traversable wormhole, but we could create an Einstein-Rosen bridge so that we could transmit a message. Miko and I are working on a program to compress data. We could make a data packet and send it through. The connection would be brief, but the SGC is set up to automatically record any data received through the gate to an isolated system.”
“A few seconds,” McKay said. “But we could pack a lot of data into those seconds.”
“And how much power would that take?”
“A traditional wormhole would be expensive even if we only managed to lock in for a second, but a bridge may cost as little as dialing a local gate. If it’s possible—we’ll send the programming to the SGC so they can respond. We’ll also work on maintaining such a bridge long enough for a conversation. It can’t be our first goal, either.”
“Understood.” John sat back in his chair. “We should start doing some on-planet exploration. Obviously, there’s something here that the Ancients were keen to keep.”
Rodney frowned. “Every time I give my people an on-planet project they discover another thing that will kill us all.”
“We’re living on the Australia of Pegasus, and you’re laughing like a donkey. Great!” Rodney threw a fry at him as John continued to laugh. “How can you still be hot sounding like that?”
– – – –
John left the transporter at a near run and entered the gate room as the wormhole winked out.
“Sir,” Dean Bates began and turned to face him. “We have confirmation that the Alpha site has been compromised. Two dead, and Lt. Ford is currently being held hostage by the Genii.”
“How the fuck did they get our Alpha site address?” John demanded. They’d been using a Beta site for gate missions with the Alpha site as a stop-gap between various worlds and the city.
Dean shared a look with Teyla Emmagan. “Lt. Ford managed to report in briefly before he was taken hostage—Halling is dead. He was tortured for the address. They have Jinto as well—apparently, they threatened to kill his son, and Halling gave in.”
Gaius stirred inside him, and John took a deep breath. “What do they want?”
“The weapon you used to destroy that shed on their fake home world.”
“They want a weapon they can’t actually use,” John said flatly. “Has Ford given up the city address?”
“No, sir, but he’s young.” Bates took a deep breath. “I don’t know that he’ll hold out, sir.”
“Dial them,” John said grimly and turned to Rodney who was sitting next to Chuck at the command console. “McKay?”
Rodney turned in the chair. “It’s your call, John. I can go build a big bomb to send them as a present if you’d like.”
John smiled briefly, he couldn’t help it, and he noted that the offer had earned McKay quite a few looks that looked grade-A fondness from the Marines around them. It probably wasn’t good as McKay with Marines at his back was capable of an unholy amount of destruction. The wormhole splashed and stilled. He waved a hand when Chuck motioned toward the radio.
“People of the Tauri, I demand to speak to your leader!”
John activated his radio. “This is Colonel John Sheppard, and I’m the leader of the Tauri military.”
“I’m Commander Acastus Kolya. We’re ready to negotiate for the release of your soldier.”
“As I explained to Cowen some weeks ago, Commander, Kolya, we don’t negotiate with enemies. You’ll release Lt. Ford immediately and leave our Alpha base without harming him further.”
“Administrator Cowen isn’t a soldier—he doesn’t understand how soldiers think. You and I can come to an agreement. I have no wish to kill this very young man in my custody, Colonel Sheppard.”
“And the two very young men you’ve already killed?” John demanded. “Any hope you had of an agreement died with them. You’ve made yourselves our enemy, Commander Kolya.”
“I imagine we have a lot in common, Colonel. I am the leader of the Genii military.”
John grimaced, and he clenched his fingers into a fist when he noticed they were starting to glow. “Are you sitting at the communication center?”
“Your soldier is nodding yes.”
“There is a large black button on the side of the console—it activates the camera. Turn it on.” John turned just as the large viewing screen in the command center flickered on. With a little prodding, Gaius shifted inside as warmth filled him. Blue light poured out of his skin in waves. “You’re not a damn thing like me, Commander Kolya.”
The older man stared at him, slack jawed. “What…what are you?”
“Dangerous,” John said evenly. “Utterly furious with you and prepared to step through the thing you quaintly call the ring of the ancestors and rip your fucking head off.”
“Your technology is much more advanced than Captain Bates has led others to believe.”
“Like you aren’t hiding a federation of worlds, underground bunkers, weapons of mass destruction, and a secret home world full to the brim with enough people to keep a hive fed for a decade?” John asked and smirked when Kolya lurched forward slightly. “That little bomb your building on your fake home world—my people mastered that technology decades ago. How would you like to fight two wars, Commander Kolya? How would you like to fight an enemy that can blend in with your allies, who can buy information about you from them easily? You’ll never see us coming.”
Kolya glared. “We just want weapons to fight the Wraith.”
“You’ve already proven that you can’t be trusted and your actions today just prove that further. You’re callous with the lives of everyone around you, including your own people. We heard about the living bombs you created and allowed to be culled. Were they even volunteers or did you force them to do it? Did you threaten to murder their children like you did Halling? How often do you make people choose between the lives of their children and certain death?” John leaned forward slightly, and the light around him darkened almost black. “Get the fuck off my base, Commander Kolya and if you hurt anyone else—I’ll hunt you down and skin you alive.”
The wormhole disengaged abruptly, and John glanced toward Rodney.
“Impact,” Rodney said simply. “There was no need to give him a chance to respond. Also, I want you to find him and kill him. We’ll get footage from the base. You should kill every single soldier who participated in his little invasion, too. Administrator Cowen needs a lesson in diplomacy.”
John nodded and focused on the gate. No one said anything in the ten, long agonizing minutes they had to wait. When the chevrons started to light him, he relaxed just a little. The wormhole settled and Chuck exhaled sharply. “It’s Ford’s regular IDC not his emergency one. We’re clear, sir.”
“Drop the shield,” John murmured and said nothing as the men guarding the gate raised their weapons just in case.
Ford stepped through carrying Jinto. He looked a little roughed up but essentially uninjured. Gaius calmed down inside John, and at that moment he resolved to send Aidan Ford back to Earth the moment he could. Being around the kid was compromising his judgment, and he didn’t know how Sumner thought he could do it—not with the way Gaius felt about the kid.
John turned and left the command area in favor of the large balcony just off the gate room. The sun was setting, and its beauty wasn’t really comforting at all since it looked nothing like earth’s.
McKay leaned on the balcony beside him. “What’s your thoughts on a response?”
“I’m going to go to their fake home world and destroy every bit of it—including their underground bunker and their weapons research,” John said. “Bates assured me that it’s just a front, and they don’t keep women and children there, but I’ll do verify that before we begin. I have four pilots who can handle the jumper in a combat situation.”
Rodney nodded. “Okay.”
“Are you agreeing with me because of our personal relationship?”
“No.” Rodney took a deep breath. “Halling was a good, strong man and they murdered him in front of his son. Jinto is never going to get over that—watching his father tortured to death, and they deserve as much justice as Corporals Waverly and Phelps. They were just doing their part to keep the expedition safe, and they were gunned down like…their lives were worth nothing. Cowen and his people need to pay for what they’ve done. They need to know that if they come at us again that they will suffer further.
A throat cleared behind them. “I wonder how many worlds in their so-called federation were just places they took over and started to control. How many people in Pegasus are being hunted to death by the wraith and subjugated by the Genii? If they’re really only in this to fight the Wraith then why was their first act with us one of hostility? They never really even tried to make friends with us, you know. You were right to call them terrorists and people that radicalized can’t be reasoned with. If the Wraith were gone tomorrow, the Genii would still be a threat to us and probably dozens of other worlds.”
“Bates.” John turned and found his second in command standing at parade rest in the doorway. “We’ll secure the Alpha site, retrieve our men and pack up our equipment. We’ll need to pick a new base from the list you made. Then we’re going to the Genii’s fake home world and…destroy the place.”
“Sounds like a plan, sir.” Bates nodded, turned on his heel and started shouting out orders.
“This isn’t a step the people at the SGC would take, you know,” John said roughly.
McKay shrugged. “They shouldn’t have let Gaius come on the mission then. Sumner wasn’t the only choice—hell he wasn’t even the IOA’s favored choice. O’Neill picked him for the mission.” He stretched. “I’m going to go prep your jumpers.”
“Thanks.” He took a deep breath. “265.”
Rodney patted his back and left.
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