- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- Fix It
- Time Travel
Chapter One: Beginning of the End
‘For fuck’s sake, McKay, will you stop moaning!’
‘I beg your pardon, Colonel, but a broken ankle isn’t something we mere mortals can suffer without any fucking pain!’
‘You don’t know it’s broken.’
‘I’m pretty sure an ankle isn’t supposed to twist in that direction.’
‘Gentlemen? Do we have a problem?’ Hank Landry joined SG19 at the foot of the ramp as the Stargate closed down.
‘Oh, no, General Landry.’ Rodney McKay told him, his face twisted in pain. ‘My ankle always faces backwards. Do you think we might call a medic? I’m not sure I can hop all the way to the Infirmary.’
‘So until Dr. McKay’s ankle is recovered, your team will be on stand down, Sheppard,’ Landry explained with a sour look on his face. ‘Dr. Lam thinks it’ll be a month at least, even with the Goa’uld healing device. The ankle was dislocated as well as broken and the tendons, apparently, need time to recover. Care to explain how two of your team managed to injure themselves?’
‘Wallace fell over his feet, again, and managed to pull McKay over with him,’ John explained succinctly. ‘McKay broke his ankle and Wallace broke his arm. Really, sir, I don’t think Corporal Wallace is suited to a gate team.’
‘Fortunately, that isn’t your decision, is it, Colonel?’
‘No, sir.’ John bit his tongue before he told Landry that he’d been organising gate teams before Landry even knew about the stargate. It wouldn’t do any good.
‘I suggest you get your report written up as soon as possible. The IOA views injuries to civilians very seriously and this is the third time members of your team have ended up in the Infirmary. Perhaps it’s you who isn’t suited to a gate team. Dismissed!’
John stood, executed a perfect salute and about face, and left Landry’s office with another word. He made it to the lift before he leaned back against the wall, squeezed his eyes closed and counted to ten in both English and Ancient.
‘You alright, Sheppard?’ a voice asked. John opened his eyes to find Cameron Mitchell regarding him with a worried frown.
‘Yeah, ‘m fine. Rough mission, that’s all.’
‘Did you come across the Ori?’ Mitchell asked in consternation.
‘No, thank God! A couple of unavoidable injuries Landry seems to think are my fault.’
‘He’s not a bad man,’ Cameron told him. ‘He’s just got a lot on his mind. The Ori have breached the Milky Way and so far we’ve had no luck on finding Merlin’s weapon. If we don’t find it soon and they make it as far as Earth…’
John nodded, aware of the threat the Ori posed. At least the Wraith only wanted to eat humans! ‘Yeah, I know. It’s tough being the one in charge.’ John saw the look of sympathy on Mitchell’s face and hurriedly continued. ‘Anyway, I must go and see how my men are doing. See you later.’
He made his way to the Infirmary and heard McKay before he saw him.
‘Take it away! I’m deadly allergic to citrus of any kind.’
‘But Dr. McKay, you need to take your medication.’
‘Then bring me a glass of water. Without lemon!’
‘But the lemon makes it taste much better.’
John entered the small room McKay was in before the scientist could erupt.
‘Dr. McKay is allergic to any citrus. It’s all in his notes. If you bring a glass of plain water, I’ll make sure he takes his medication.’
The nurse looked at him uncertainly. ‘Dr. Lam says he can’t have anything to eat as he may need an anaesthetic later, but she wanted him to have something.’
‘Just not orange juice. It could kill him.’
‘But General Landry told Dr. Lam that he was just making that up.’
Rodney squawked while John clenched his eyes closed – again.
‘Probably best not to chance it, eh? I suspect he was just joking,’ John told her with a forced smile. ‘Just bring some water, please.’
She nodded her head and trotted out of the room with the glass of orange still in her hand. John sank into the chair beside Rodney’s bed.
‘God, I miss Carson. What did he want to go to Scotland for, anyway?’ Rodney muttered.
‘You know he wanted to see his mother. Has that happened before?’
‘What? Carson going to see his mum?’
‘No, idiot. Someone bringing you something with citrus?’
Rodney sighed. ‘Yeah. It’s one of the reasons I never liked being posted here at the mountain. That and being twenty levels underground. Someone once said I was making up being allergic to citrus, that someone being Landry, I guess. I have to be very careful about what I eat and drink here. Why do you think I’m so fond of MREs?’
‘Christ, Rodney! I had no idea.’
‘Why should you? We’ve never been here for very long before. It was one of the reasons I was hesitant about joining your gate team here. I have to be on my guard so much.’
‘Would you rather be at Area 51?’
‘And leave you alone with Wallace? I’d only be gone a few hours before he’d have you in traction.’
‘He’s not that bad.’
‘Yeah, John. He is. I was nowhere near him and yet he managed to take me down with him when he fell.’
‘Landry says you’ll be off your feet for about a month, even with the healing device.’
‘Without it I’d be off my feet for much longer. They can’t use it until the swelling goes down considerably and then the ankle bone itself needs repairing. That’s why Lam’ll have to operate later.’
‘You did a pretty good job on yourself, didn’t you?’
‘Yeah, I did.’ Rodney laughed humourlessly. ‘What’ll you be doing while the team’s on stand down?’
‘I apparently need to write a report explaining exactly what happened as the IOA take injuries to civilians very seriously.’
‘That’s because it costs them whenever any one of us is hurt.’
‘It costs them? What? Financially?’
This time it a real laugh Rodney gave. ‘It was something Daniel Jackson had written into civilian contracts early on. If any of us are injured, we get double pay for the amount of time we’re inactive.’
‘Double pay?’ John repeated in disbelief.
‘Apparently, in the early days of the SGC there were a number of avoidable casualties, some more serious than others, because the military didn’t offer decent training to civilians. They didn’t think it was worth it. Jackson decided that the best way to make them do it was to hit them where it hurt. In the pocket. Hammond and O’Neill supported him, as did Carter, I presume, and so a clause was added to all civilian contracts that we’re given double pay for injuries which prevent us from doing our allotted duties. Since I’m a scientist and a member of a gate team, I can’t do my allotted duties, so I get double my salary.’ He grinned at John. ‘And I’m paid a lot.’
‘So all those times on Atlantis when you were in the Infirmary…’
‘I was paid double my salary.’
‘But some of those times had nothing to do with lack of training.’
‘It doesn’t matter, there’s no distinction between work I’m trained to do and any other work.’
‘I’m surprised Elizabeth went along with it.’
‘To be honest, I’m not sure Elizabeth knows about the clause.’
‘But she’s a civilian.’
‘But was on an entirely different contract as leader of the SGC and then leader of Atlantis. And, speaking of Elizabeth, has anyone heard from her?’
John frowned and sank lower into his chair. ‘No. I’ve left message after message but she’s not returned a single call.’
‘She hasn’t returned mine either,’ Rodney frowned. ‘Do you think she’s okay?’
‘I’ve no idea since she hasn’t returned any of my calls.’ John noticed the lines of pain on Rodney’s face and sat up and looked around. ‘Where’s that nurse with your meds? Shall I go and find her?’
Rodney nodded gratefully. ‘If you don’t mind.’
By the time John returned, Sam Carter was seated beside Rodney. He nodded to her and held out a glass of water and the tablets which Rodney took from him and swallowed thankfully. John dragged a second chair over to the bed and settled himself into it.
‘Are you adding nursing to your CV?’ Carter asked with a grin.
‘I think I’d look great in a short skirt and apron,’ John told her.
‘I’m sure you would. I hear Wallace managed to screw up another mission.’
‘I told General Landry I didn’t think he was cut out to be on an off world team.’
’No, I don’t think he is. Not everyone enjoys it as much as we do. What did Landry say?’
John hesitated before replying. ‘He said he’ll give some thought.’
Sam nodded, making no sign she’d noticed the slight pause. ‘Well, we’re off in an hour or so. Daniel thinks he’s got a lead on Merlin’s Weapon.’
‘Merlin’s Weapon?’ John repeated. ‘What on Earth is—’
‘Ha! That’s the point, though, isn’t it?’ Rodney interrupted. ‘It’s not on Earth.’
‘It’s something we think will destroy the Ori. Merlin was working on it after he deascended and Daniel thinks he knows where it is. We have to hope he’s right because the Ori have already destroyed Dakara and thousands of Jaffa. If they get as far as Earth…’
Jack O’Neill sighed to himself as he wandered the quiet corridors of Atlantis. Damn, but he wished Danny was with him. You’d give anything to have time to kill here, wouldn’t you? He smiled and nodded at the occasional person Ancient? he passed on his way to the East Pier where he’d managed to fix himself up with a fishing rod, although he knew Helia and her crew thought he was crazy to want to spend hours sitting and watching the sea, hoping not to catch anything.
‘General O’Neill, I must speak with you,’ a angry voice behind him said and Jack closed his eyes in despair. He thought he’d managed to avoid Woolsey today.
‘I’m going fishing,’ he told him. ‘You can join me if you like but you have to keep quiet or you’ll scare the fish away.’
‘Then we’ll speak here.’ Woolsey dragged him into a small area containing a couple of chairs and one of the bubbling tanks no one could explain the purpose of.
‘Mr Woolsey,’ Jack began. ‘Can’t this—’
‘I wish to complain about Commander Helia,’ Woolsey interrupted. ’She is refusing to meet with me regarding a trade agreement with Earth, and you know how important it is to the IOA that we have this signed as soon as possible.’
‘I don’t know what you think I can do,’ Jack told him. ‘I have no influence over any of the Ancients here.’
‘But it is vital that we continue to have access to the technology on the city.’
‘Maybe, but I can’t do anything about it.’ Jack looked at him curiously. ‘I thought you and her got on okay? You seemed buddy buddy last time I saw you.’
‘That was two days ago. You have avoided me ever since.’
So, what’d y’do to piss her off, then?’
’She doesn’t appear to understand how important an agreement between Atlantis and Earth is. I have offered supplies and personnel from Earth in exchange for some of the technology we’re interested in, but she refuses to even consider it. You must speak to her and impress upon her how important this is.’
‘Mr Woolsey, I have no influence over anyone on this city. You know that. I’m not even sure why I’m here. They agreed to have a member of the Expedition stay behind in case of any problems with city, and the IOA wanted that to be you rather than someone who’d actually lived and worked on Atlantis. As far as I can tell, I’m just window dressing.’
‘The IOA want continued access to the city.’
‘Y’know, keeping on repeating it isn’t gonna make it true. Now, I’m going fishing. I’ll be in the gateroom at 6pm to make our daily call to the SGC.’
He left Woolsey opening and closing his mouth like a fish. The man irritated him more than anyone else had ever managed, even McKay. At least McKay had his uses. Woolsey was simply a bureaucrat, more concerned with ticking boxes than in people’s lives. Not for the first time Jack wished the IOA had listened to him and appointed Daniel to be the one to negotiate with Helia. Regardless of his own relationship with Daniel, the man was an expert at getting people to agree with him. He couldn’t count the number of times Danny’s diplomacy had got them all out of trouble. He sighed to himself as he stepped out onto the pier where he’d set up his fishing tackle. Boy, did he miss Danny.
The call to the SGC was made on schedule. Landry’s face filled the screen in front of them and Jack stepped back in shock.
‘For fuck’s sake, Hank, step back a bit. You’ll scare the natives!’
Jack bit his tongue as soon as the words were out of his mouth and he smiled apologetically at the people around him, except when he looked, there was no one there but Woolsey, a frown on his face. He moved aside to let Woolsey make his verbal report, a data burst with the written reports being sent as soon as the gate connected. He tried to see around Landry, hoping Daniel had remembered the time and would be there in the control room with Hank, but there was no sight of him.
He heard a voice calling him and he looked back at the screen to see a worried look on Landry’s face.
‘You okay, Jack?’
‘Yeah, just overcome by the warm welcome we get here.’
Landry gave a short laugh. ‘I’d swop places with you if I could. Sheppard got two of his team of three injured today. I have no idea how the man ever made O5. I guess the story he was sleeping with Weir was true.’
Jack glared at him. ’I was the one who argued for his promotion, Landry. Weir was dead against it. He’s a good man and a fine leader. He deserves better than SG19, I told you that.’
‘I run the SGC now, remember? You were happy enough to leave to take up your important job in DC.’
Jack bit back a retort. It would do no good to point out that he’d fought to stay at the SGC and that he’d only agreed to leave after George Hammond had begged him to, so he could take the retirement he’d been requesting for six years.
Woolsey gave him a worried look and stepped forward again. ‘Do you have any update on the Ori, General Landry?’
’SG1 have gone off world to hunt down a reference to Merlin’s Weapon. They know the situation is urgent, especially since it appears Ba’al is looking for the same weapon. I may know more when you call tomorrow.’
The screen went blank and the gate shut down. The two men looked at each other.
‘Dinner?’ Jack suggested, extending an olive branch after their disagreement earlier. Woolsey nodded and they made their way to the mess hall leaving the gate room completely empty. Jack shivered. The city had never felt so lonely.
The call came in the middle of dinner in the mess. Rodney had finally been released from the infirmary a few hours earlier with strict instructions to use the crutches he’d been given. He agreed, mainly because he was tired of the grim grey walls of his pseudo prison and didn’t want to have to return there before necessary.
‘God, I miss Atlantis,’ he told John bitterly. ‘I miss the sound of the sea, I miss the quality of the light, I miss Teyla and Ronon.’ He shook his head. ‘I hate it here.’
‘I’ll tell Teyla she came way down your list,’ John grinned, then his face went blank as he realised what he’d said.
Rodney wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch John’s hand, make a gesture of comfort, but he knew he couldn’t, that John probably wouldn’t appreciate it and that the ever-watching eyes of the SGC would take gleeful note and hold it against them both. He sighed and took another mouthful of dinner and grimaced. ‘When did mashed potato and salisbury steak become inedible? It used to be my favourite. Now, I miss the food we had on—’
Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay to the main conference room
John and Rodney looked at each other, aware that all eyes in the mess had turned upon them.
‘God, I miss the little radios we had.’
‘You wanted to see us, General?’ John asked, coming to attention as they entered the conference room overlooking the stargate where Landry was waiting for them.
‘At ease, Colonel. Sit down, the pair of you.’
Landry remained standing and although Rodney sat, leaning his crutches against his chair. John moved into parade rest, the years of military protocol drummed into him in the past all coming back to him now.
‘We received a databurst from Atlantis about half an hour ago,’ Landry told them,motioning towards the screen. A distorted image of O’Neill appeared with a cowering Woolsey at his side. Over the sound of explosions they could just make out O’Neill’s voice.
The Replicators have overridden their programming and have attacked Atlantis. The city is almost destroyed. Request immediate evacuation. We’ll try to get to the mainland so—
Both the sound and picture ended abruptly.
‘We’ve tried dialling back via the gate bridge but we can’t make a connection,’ Landry told them, his face grim. ‘I understood that the base code of the Replicators prevented them harming the Ancients. How in God’s name did this happen?’
Rodney frowned. ‘It’s possible that they managed to overwrite their protocols. It wouldn’t be the first time.’
‘Surely it’s more important to work out how to rescue General O’Neill and Mr Woolsey,’ John pointed out. ‘If we take the jumper through the gate bridge—’
‘The gate bridge has been destroyed.’
‘What?’ Rodney demanded. ‘Why would you—’
‘It’s an open door to the Milky Way and Earth,’ Landry spoke over him. ‘The Daedalus is leaving shortly with a nuclear bomb to make sure the Atlantis gate is fully destroyed. We don’t want either the Replicators or the Wraith to make their way to Earth.’
‘But you have an iris,’ John pointed out. ‘Surely that w—’
‘I’ve read all the reports on the SGC, Colonel, even if you haven’t,’ Landry told him, his lip curling. ‘The iris has been overcome countless times. We can’t risk—’
This time it was Landry who was interrupted as a shout came from the control room below.
‘General Landry! Fuck!’
Landry, scowling heavily at being called in such a manner, ran down the stars to the control room, followed closely by John with Rodney following, taking care not to fall down the spiral staircase.
‘Look, sir!’ A panicked Lieutenant pointed at a screen at the back of the room where six blips had appeared over…
‘Christ Almighty!’ Landry exclaimed.
‘Is that…is that Earth?’ John asked in some confusion. ‘What—’
He didn’t get to finish his sentence before the room shuddered and base was plunged, momentarily, into darkness. The emergency generator kicked in almost immediately but the lighting was much dimmer than usual. One of the phones began to ring and the Lieutenant snatched it up as the room rocked and the faint sound of explosions somewhere above them could be heard.
‘What the— Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I understand.’ He replaced the phone and turned to face them, all colour drained from his face.
‘The Ori have six ships in orbit and are attack—’