Reading Time: 128 Minutes
Title: Untold Burden
Series: Untold Burden
Series Order: 1
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Genre: Action Adventure, Episode Related, First Time, Het, Pre-Relationship
Relationship(s): John Sheppard/Teer, Pre-Relation McShep
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, possession by an alien force, descriptions of lack of control due to the coercion. Temporary Character Death by Ascension.
Word Count: 54,665
Summary: John had a chance, a glorious chance to fix his mistake of waking the Wraith. He just had to avoid the ascended, his grandfather, alien princesses and the overbearing Wraith. The plan hinges on him carrying his untold burden alone, so will he avoid detection.
Chapter 5: Crumbling Towers
Caldwell woke up with a shout of anguish. He hadn’t remembered being forced under like he had every other time since the snake had got ahold of him. It was disconcerting, but after he got his breathing under control, he noticed there was no other presence. He had a vain hope that maybe his body was once more his own. “How? What?”
Dr Beckett raced to his bedside, having been alerted by the monitors that he was now conscious. “Ah, excellent, we’re glad to see you awake, Colonel.” He started to perform cursory checks to ensure that he was healing correctly and not hiding a potentially serious.
Caldwell let himself be poked and prodded because he was no stranger to hospital procedures, but he had caught something in the doctor’s tone. “Was that in doubt?” He didn’t know why he was free, but he didn’t care right now. He was glad to have control of his own body once more. He’d been able to tell when the snake had created a false dream to trick him.
Beckett looked a little unsure on just how he should answer the question; in his opinion, honesty wasn’t always the best policy. “You never know what can happen when the host is released. All the cases have suggested that it all depends on how vindictive the goa’uld was during their stay.”
It was a delicate way of saying the damn snake invaded his life and allowed him zero control. He wasn’t amused because he’d suffered for two months, he’d been snaked just after his last time covering for Sheppard during his bug incident. He had tried in the beginning to get tested. He then tried acting out of the ordinary to catch people’s attention, but no one noticed at the mountain. “How did you figure it out?”
Beckett wished they could take credit, and he was replaying the situation in his mind. “We didn’t. Colonel Sheppard was the one to realise you’d been possessed and descended to protect the city.”
“What did it want me to do?” He asked his voice rough with worry. He’d fought so hard until he’d been so exhausted it had used it against him to push him further down in his mind. Steven couldn’t remember any time from landing on the city so it must have been pretty bad for such ruthless measures.
Weir had appeared by his bedside, stopping him from getting an immediate answer. He would guess that it was terrible, but she didn’t seem to hate the very sight of him so he must have failed. Thank God.
“Colonel Caldwell, it is good to see you awake.”
He sat up, wanting to discuss what he could. “I hear I have Colonel Sheppard to thank?”
She had a wry smile because the whole infirmary could hear the question that he wanted to ask. She didn’t imagine the way all the personnel in the infirmary were listening carefully to eavesdrop some answers. They’d all seen Colonel Sheppard in the flesh but heard no details. To be honest, no one really cared why they just felt safer that he had once more returned. She shrugged. “Yes, it turns out a threat to Atlantis was enough to get him to descend.”
“He broke the rules like Dr Jackson,” Caldwell remarked. He was beginning to wonder with the Alterrans if they would start to block humans ascending as they were too much trouble.
Weir shook her head, not wanting to go down old roads. “Nope, as I understand it, he side-stepped the rules. He chose to descend so he could take action as a human being once more.”
“So he wasn’t dropped buckass naked in a field? I suppose it was a smarter choice,” Caldwell mused.
She chuckled because she couldn’t disagree. She was aware that most of the nursing staff were sorely disappointed that Sheppard hadn’t returned in a similar fashion. “No, he wasn’t naked. He did negotiate for your release with the Goa’uld, and he has left you a present.”
Caldwell looked at the jar sitting on the table next to him. His heart was racing, thinking about whether he could be reinfected. It wasn’t logical, but fear rarely was – and he might not be afraid of a lot, but losing all agency would be the only one. “Wait? The IOA hasn’t demanded it’s returned to Earth?”
Weir quirked a lip acknowledging the fact she was choosing to be sly. “Do you know we’ve yet to report whether the goa’uld survived? Colonel Sheppard argued, and I agree that ultimately that decision lies with you.”
Caldwell stared at the glass specimen jar and wondered what type of human being he was when faced with a tricky choice. The smart choice would be to let it go back to Earth, but any intel would be shaky as the damn creatures lie as easily as they breathe, or, stop all nightmares by killing the thing.
John tried to go to sleep in his quarters for the first time in too long. He couldn’t regret his ascension or the chance it was giving him to fix the mess, but it was odd. He didn’t think he would forget to be human, but some things were coming back with more difficulty. He hadn’t been too fond of sleeping before his sanctuary visit.
He looked around the room that was exactly as he’d left it before the sanctuary mission. It seemed Atlantis had sealed his quarters for him and refused to let anyone in. The familiarity provided comfort that he appreciated and didn’t know he needed.
He sat on his bed and asked the city. Is everything okay?
Ally sent her equivalent of a burst of amusement. She found the scientists endlessly amusing and frustrating all at the same time. It usually depended on whether their experiments were putting her at risk or not. Your soldiers can’t decide whether to throw a party for you or not.
John groaned because socialising so wasn’t his thing. And yet he knew that he would show his face at any gathering or party if his officers asked him. In fact, there was very little he wouldn’t do for the men and women under his command, which is why they adored him. He didn’t get it because as far as he was concerned, it was simple. He would never ask something of the men he wouldn’t do himself. Okay, let me know when – What about the scientists?
Her amusement was back in full force, but Ally didn’t leave him in suspense for long. The one you like ordered no stupid stunts for seventy-two hours as he refused to have you drift off back into space after you’ve just returned.
John groaned because Ally would often refer to Rodney as the one-he-liked or future consort depending on her mood. “You are not subtle, you know.”
Ally was laughing at him, and he was sure of it. Your grandfather didn’t want me to be subtle – Just be his interface with the city.
John grinned up at the ceiling. It was a good job he was alone right now, or people would be questioning his sanity. “And you’re great at it.”
Ally knew what her favourite son needed and bathed the area in lower light and changed the hum to what it would be in space. Sleep now, you know you will be busy tomorrow.
John didn’t like the sound of that because Ally always seemed to predict when trouble was about to head there way. He’d figured he should be allowed a day to get back into daily life.
He was sleeping, he was sure of it, but John freaked out as this was the place where he started to train with Janus. No one had said he could ascend in his sleep because that was a careless choice if it was the case.
John whirled around. “What is it with you and Ally being perpetually amused by me?”
Janus shrugged. “It could be your actions.”
That was harsh but fair. “How are you doing Grandpa? And am I in trouble?” John had to ask because they’d made their plan, but he was always conscious of the fact it was subject to no interference from the others.
Janus looked startled and shushed him. “No, you are okay in that regard. Were you worried about it?”
John snorted at his calm retort. “Yeah, a little.”
Janus rolled his eyes. “You’re my grandson, and we’re part of the high council, Johnathon. We are held to a different standard, and rank hath privilege.”
It was nice to know that hypocrisy was alive and well in the ascended races. John didn’t get into a debate as he was already trying to deal with so many different things. He wasn’t sure he needed another issue on top.
His grandfather handed him a sheet of paper. It might be a dream, but he read it, and his grandfather assured him, “You’ll like it there, I am sure.”
John sighed. “You know being family and all you don’t have to be cryptic.”
“But where is the fun in that?” His grandfather smirked at him. He was enjoying this moment way too much for John’s liking.
John shook his head. “Will you give me a clue about what might be there?”
Janus smirked. “Atlantis doesn’t deserve to be alone.”
So John was guessing a ship or some sort of interface technology was there that might help the city. He would blame the fact he was sleeping for being slow, but another thought struck him. “How am I supposed to get us there?”
Janus shrugged. “That is for you to figure out.”
His bit said, his grandfather disappeared from his dream as swiftly as he entered. John was asleep, and by himself, so he started to mutter. “It better be really awesome technology for my headache.”
He took one last look at the coordinates on the paper to commit them to memory and woke up. He may as well see if Ronan was up for a morning run. He’d asked his friend to find him in the morning so they could go for their traditional morning run. The rationale being that he needed to get used to his body once more – he was promised his body would be at its peak. However, John knew his body wouldn’t stay that way unless he put in the hard work. It was one of the downsides to once more having a mortal body.
Ronan knocked at his door, which John opened with a thought. He saw Ronan quirk an eyebrow at that new trick but didn’t ask him anything. He instead asked his team leader, “You ready to run?”
John smiled. “You betcha.”
They ran in silence, and the Atlantis workers were all nodding their heads and offering friendly greetings or variations of glad your back. It was a sweet sentiment, but John couldn’t shake the planet coordinates from his head that his grandfather had given him.
“What’s bothering you?” Ronan demanded to know as they were cooling down.
John shrugged. “Just a weird dream.”
John wasn’t used to being pressed by Ronan but he did love the way he still kept to minimal words. “I woke up and had these coordinates in my mind.”
John chuckled because if he knew the answer, he wouldn’t be mulling the problem over in his mind. “A planet I guess, I just don’t know where or why?”
“So ask McKay,” Ronan said as if it was simple and should have been obvious to John in the first place.
John snorted. “And when he asks why?”
“Who cares? It is you asking about a hunch.” Ronan pointed out which made sense.
John would so remember that reason the next time one of his stuffy superiors asked him his reasoning. It was gold, but it did give him an idea going forward so he’d take it. They did say running would help you clear your head. “Okay, let’s change and go eat.”
Breakfast was fun. The eating area was quiet, but John got the impression he could sympathise with animals in a zoo. He’d been back for a couple of days, and people were still staring. He picked his food choices and smiled when the cook gave him his favourite option even though it wasn’t on the menu. “Thanks, sergeant.”
“It’s good to see you back, Colonel.”
John admired the way she made it sound like he’d just been away on regular leave. “Good to be back.”
He waited for Ronan to get his food, as he wanted reinforcements, and they both made their way over to Rodney and Teyla who were already seated. The looks and whispers were still in force once he sat down. In reality, it didn’t bother John because he expected there to be some reaction to his sudden return.
He had a smile for his team as he sat down. “So I guess I am still the most interesting thing today?”
Rodney pinched his muffin. “Yep. You added to your mysterious circumstances.”
John smirked because the best response he could have to Rodney’s snarky comment was to say nothing. Teyla hid her amusement behind eating her breakfast.
He shoved over a piece of paper to Rodney. “Here’s your new mystery.”
“What is it?”
John shrugged. “That is what I want you to use your genius brain to find out.”
“They’re coordinates,” Rodney replied as if it was so obvious it didn’t need to be said.
John rolled his eyes. “Yes, I know that, but I woke up from a dream, and these coordinates are in my mind. I want to know why.”
“Did you get a visit?”
John shrugged because he wanted to downplay how easily he could still talk with his grandfather. It was the type of connection the higher-ups in the IOA would think nothing of trying to exploit whether John was willing or not. He wouldn’t entertain any kind of coercive tactic and if they did – he would ascend and not come back. “Maybe, I don’t know. Will you just take a look?”
“Okay, your Highness.”
John rolled his eyes. “I’m American Rodney we don’t do Royalty.”
A day later, Rodney was looking strangely at his friend as he sat down for the briefing. “Did you know about the planet you asked about?”
John looked at his friend and could answer this honestly. “Nope, It’s like I told you … I woke up, and that planet was in my head. Why?”
Weir was curious too and hoping that perhaps one of the other Ancients had offered John a clue. It stood to reason that John would have made friends who could give him some invaluable information. “Yes, Rodney. Please do tell us. Do we believe there is something of potential value on this planet?”
Rodney snorted because seriously it should be obvious. He didn’t get excited over just anything. “There are references in the archive of their been an enclave of Ancients who lived there.”
Teyla checked the coordinates at the top of the briefing notes, and she knew of the planet. “We have traded with the planet in the past.” She paused as she knew this might dampen enthusiasm, “And I don’t remember hearing of an ancestor link.”
Ronan snorted. “Not everyone is the image they present … what about the Genii?”
John smirked. “They’re not allowed to visit anymore. I made sure of it the last time they tried their crap.”
Weir shuddered. “Yes, quite. Let us go back to this planet. What might be there?”
John was smart enough not to appear too keen. “Look, I can’t say why … I woke up and thought it was important to visit, but I asked Rodney to check it out because I am sick of going places and ending up in more trouble than we started.”
Teyla preferred a cautious approach. “It is pleasing to hear that.”
John shrugged. “I know that I will wear my welcome out if I pull the stunt I did too often, and I like it way better here.”
Rodney looked at him dubiously while everyone was reading the report he’d compiled. “Yes, well if you look at figure 3 you will see reference to a city.”
John perked up. “Are you saying Atlantis has a sister out there?”
Rodney didn’t see why they had to anthropomorphise everything. “As much as a ship can have a sister, yes potentially.”
John looked at their leader. “We can go check it out, and if we’re really lucky, I will give you a ZPM for your birthday.”
“Much better than diamonds,” Weir replied sarcastically.
“Much more practical here.”
John felt odd, as he got ready for the mission, and that felt silly because he was a grown-ass Colonel. It wasn’t like he was a novice to missions, but he knew what it was – it was the use of physical weapons once more. He’d spent a long time honing his body and mind to be the weapon, and now he was going back to guns. As efficient as his P-90 could be, they could and did run out of bullets, but knives never let you down. He had to remind himself that he couldn’t use his extra gifts overtly. He may have the right, but it would make things extra complicated. He was supposed to be keeping his ‘otherness’ under control until the time was right.
Rodney was looking funnily at him as he secreted two more knives on his personage. If John were the type to be paranoid, this would be why. He didn’t leave John in doubt about why as he asked sarcastically. “Have you been taking lessons off Conan?”
Ronan was looking at John with approval, and he agreed. “You can never have enough knives. They never let you down as long as you keep them sharp and true.”
John nodded his head to the sage wisdom offered. “For me, they don’t run out of ammo.”
Teyla added her voice of approval because she had complained previously about their fascination with guns. “That is why I carry them and my Bantos rods with me.”
John chuckled at that response. “Yeah but not everyone is as deadly as you are with them.”
“Then it is on them to improve their skills.” Teyla replied as if it was that simple. “Let us hope we can renew friendships and trade for good supplies if nothing else.”
John knew it should be a milk run mission because everyone was still nervous for him. It was sweet, but ironic considering he was far better equipped to deal with threats than ever before. The only trouble was he couldn’t say that. He plastered a smile on his face. “Everyone has gotta eat.”
The trouble is that some people are greedier than others.
The stargate spat them out, and John immediately cloaked the ship before landing the jumper in what appeared to be an abandoned grove. John asked the jumper for scans of the area to gain an insight into the lay of the land.
He’d specifically asked for a search of similar technology, but he wasn’t picking up anything. He was disappointed and confused – something was not adding up here, and there would only be one way to figure it out. “Guess we better go and say hello.”
“This is so not cool.” McKay started to bitch, having not found anything worth his time. “Why would your brain lead us to another farming planet?”
John tapped him on the shoulder in false sympathy. “Sorry buddy, sometimes a planet is not going to have cool toys for you to play with.”
They walked for about half a click when they stumbled upon a village which was a hive of activity. It seemed everyone was bustling around trying to prepare something, but they couldn’t tell what.
John looked to Teyla and Ronan relying on their more local knowledge, but he got back a blank look from both of them. He sighed, knowing the only way they would get information was to ask.
Thankfully, a young blonde girl probably around 18 came towards them. She greeted John with a smile. “Greetings, my name is Ella, are you passing through for the festival?”
McKay made some mutterings under his breath about how Kirk was back in play. John manfully ignored it as he wasn’t going to get into that argument again. So ignoring Rodney’s snarky comments, he chose to adopt his best greeting face. “Yes, we’re travellers from the far North on an exploratory mission.” John wasn’t even lying, “May I ask what is going on today? It seems like the whole village is busy.”
The girl wiped her brow, and you could see she was exhausted in every fibre of her being. She could do with some rest but wasn’t willing to stop. John looked around and could see the worry on too many of their faces.
“We have to prepare the tribute for the soldiers coming from the tower.”
John took his glasses off and looked in the direction she pointed. He froze for a second because it was from the East where they hadn’t flown. He would have noticed that type of tower immediately. It added to his mystery though on several levels. Why couldn’t he just get something simple for the first mission back?
To the girl, he offered his most charming smile even as he tried to think of reasons it wouldn’t have shown on the scan. “Would that be the tower?”
She nodded. “Yes, that is where the great Lord Protector and his family and friends live. They protect us, and all they demand from us is food in tribute.” She explained, and John was beginning to get an impression of what was going on. There was indeed Alterran technology on this planet, but it was out of juice.
The team looked at the tower in question and John could tell they all arrived at the same conclusion he had. Teyla was the one to say it. “Does that not look like the …”
John nodded, cutting off the words that might identify Atlantis. They were still trying to limit the knowledge that they’d survived the Wraith siege from as many as possible. “Yeah if we’d chosen to bury her in the ground…” And the idea repulsed John, as Ally should always be allowed to land on the water considering her design which she loved. “And only the central spire remained visible.”
The girl was intrigued by their answers and keen and eager to learn of places beyond her own village. “You have your own tower where you live?”
McKay went to say something, but John smacked his shoulder. He was a genius, and for once, he took the hint and changed what he was going to say, “Something like that.”
Ronan and Telya were waiting to see what happened as this mission just got complicated in ways they hadn’t expected. It had been many seasons and never once had she come to this world, so she’d never see the central spire. She whispered to Rodney. “Why could we not pick it up?”
McKay looked aggravated because that was precisely what he was trying to figure out. It was Ancient in design, so it should have shown up on their systems. “The only thing I can guess is the technology is out of power?”
John was trying to stretch his mind out to the tower to see if he could get an answer. He got a weak response, so while the team was theorising, he tried to connect with any technology. It was not just in the tower, but all he could sense was sluggishness. If the city was sentient like Ally, then it was like it was suffering from the mother of all hangovers. “Well, there is only one way to find out.”
“The Tower will be coming soon enough to demand tribute … I only hope that they will accept what we have managed to harvest.”
John didn’t like that tone, and the fact the woman in front of him was so exhausted she repeated herself meant his suspicions were more than likely correct. He’d heard it enough on Earth in areas with oppressive regimes. “I’m sure that an agreement can be reached.”
The male elder, who walked over to join them probably wasn’t as old as he appeared couldn’t help but snort with derision. “You have obviously not met Otho and his goons. They do not understand things like reason and calm discussion.”
John was careful to keep his voice calm despite his anger levels rising. “Sorry I never got your name? I’m Colonel John Sheppard, this Dr Rodney McKay and Teyla Emmagan and Ronan.”
“I am Eldred.”
John was about to ask who this Otho was, and just what could he do to make him so feared. He was distracted by a noise, and it was all too familiar but impossible at the same time. There was no way he could hear the whistle of an incoming missile. It was familiar to the villagers also as they began to scatter into what they considered to be a safe place.
“We need to take cover,” Ella shouted, terrified of being out in the open.
John looked up at the sky and caught the weapon in his eyesight. It was an odd quirk, but it was much easier to interrupt and take control of it – if he could see it. Rodney was alarmed at the fact Sheppard hadn’t moved. “Why are we not alarmed?”
John rolled his eyes, but he knew no harm would come to them. “Let’s take cover. The trajectory isn’t going to hit here.”
Rodney just pouted. “It is ugly the way you can do that in your head.”
“Purlease you think it is awesome in reality don’t lie.” John bantered back.
In truth, Rodney found it hot, but that was not the type of comment you gave to your team leader unless you wanted to end up in sexual harassment seminars. Rodney was no doubt ready to respond but instead stared at the squid-like drone landing uselessly on the ground.
John looked smug and flipped his sunglasses up. “Huh. Fancy that. Guess they were out of juice.”
He was supposed to be hiding his newer gift so didn’t mention he was the cause of the misfire. Amid the chaos, he made a fist with his hand and snuffed out the power in the missile. It hadn’t been that difficult as there was barely any power in the device in the first place.
McKay gave him a look that could only be described as speculative, but John said nothing more. He wasn’t going to actively lie to his best friend if he could help it. The villagers started to peer around at the downed weapon with their curious glances. In fact, one of the braver teenagers chose to poke it, before jumping a mile and taking a step back.
Eldred’ mood seemed to improve exponentially when the missile failed. “He has forgiven us, and perhaps things will go well.”
Ronan’s ear was sharper than the others, and he said in a lower voice for the Atlanteans only to hear. “Soldiers on the march from that direction.”
“Then let’s go and say hello,” John replied, but his tone was as cordial as it was towards the Genii. The fact all four of them primed their weapon proved they were all on the same wavelength.
The soldiers marched into the village, and the Atlantis team stood back to see who the power players were because that it would be them that John would choose to target. The old adage of cutting the head off to kill a snake may be a cliche, but it was invariably right.
In the middle of the soldiers, a pompous bald man stood, who was obviously begging to start monologuing. John looked at him, and he was reminded of all the Washington toadies. The type of sycophants who hung on the coat-tails of the powerful, but whoever the bald guy was – He clearly enjoyed whatever power he’d managed to accrue at the expense of the leader.
He now stepped forward, and John whispered to Eldred. “Would this be Otho?”
“Yes, he is the Lord Protector’s chief advisor.” The man whispered back, not wanting to draw the attention of the soldiers.
John winced hearing the advisor’s next comment to the growing crowd of people. “One of you has the gift.”
Rodney quirked an eyebrow at him because there could only be one person that referred to – John.
John remained placid and calm, not letting his face give anything away. John was mentally assessing the situation and not liking what he saw. The bastard had brought a big group of soldiers with him to intimidate the crowd. He was sure that he and Ronan could take a chunk of the contingent out, but he had to consider the consequences of his actions. If they killed the soldiers and left, there would be nothing stopping reprisals against the village taking place. He’d seen enough death and would prefer not to have many more on his conscience.
“What gift?” Eldred stepped in front of the villagers. He was their leader, so it was his responsibility to take the lead in such a conversation. “You have taken everyone who shows a hint of power up to the tower. We’re working our fingers to the bone trying to get the tribute of the harvest ready.”
Otho slinked forward, and John was starting to call him Grima in his head after the advisor in Lord of the Rings who kept his King in a lingering poisoned state. His lingering eyes were roving over the crowd, and John knew he would be forced to act. “You have someone here who shows a talent that few possess, and that is not something that I can allow to remain here in good conscience.”
John managed just to hide his grimace when Otho’s eyes lit with joy when he saw the Atlantis team, who had kept back not wanting to interfere in the affairs of the village as much as possible. “So who would you be?”
John sighed and motioned for his team to stay calm but stepped forward. “We are from far, far away. My name is John, and this is Teyla, Ronan and Rodney.”
An item in the slimy guy’s pocket started to beep loudly, and John had missed the tech unless it was something that was a derivative of Alterran technology. He could see the sheer joy in the advisor’s eyes. “So you’re the talented one.”
Rodney groaned because he recognised that look. He’d seen it in other planet peoples eyes when they wanted to keep one of them for their skills or their genetics. “No, you can’t have our Colonel we just got him back.”
John weighed up the options and shared a look with Teyla. She shook her head, and he knew that there was only one way for this to go without any blood spilt. He put his sunglasses on his head, wanting to see into the guy’s eyes and stepped forward. “If by the gift you mean I can work those items, yeah, I have some proficiency.”
John sent a silent prayer for Rodney not to make his usual comments about his proficiency. He usually had a snarky line or two about the tech happily rolling over for him like an eager puppy. He needed to play down his ability to look like an unattractive prospect for whatever the man had planned. John knew his type, and this man would have plans in plans and still be calculating the odds of doing something different to improve the odds in his favours. He was under no illusion – this man worked for his own agenda. If he were this Lord Protector, he would be sleeping with one eye open.
Otho shook his head, laying on the charm. “Oh, you have more than some proficiency. Come you need to join us at the tower, you can come quietly, or I can tell my guards to bring you by force, and your friends will not be joining you.”
John held his hands up in a surrender motion. Ronan growled, and John shook his head because now was not the time to fight. “Relax Chewie, stick around here things could get fun.”
Ronan and John had built up an understanding in such a short time. It was clear that the warrior did not like the idea of watching John just waltz off with the soldiers, but there was one thing you learned about fighting, there was a right time to do battle. Sometimes, as much as it might hurt in the short run, you had to stay put and watch, regroup and plan.
Rodney was looking annoyed and scared by John leaving them once more. He was flashing back to what happened the last time the team was separated. “You better stay safe.”
John smirked his best easy grin to show he wasn’t worried. “Don’t worry about me because I won’t float off this time. You know you should take a walk around the trees there might be something you can learn.”
He kept his speech deliberately vague not to tip off the people from the tower. John had used the time of grandstanding to do a secondary ‘feel’ of the area to see if he could sense any technology. It was odd because unlike before, he could detect some power lines running from the tower and he traced them back through the ground, but everyone one of them seemed to end at that treeline.
John wasn’t exactly sure what was wrong with the city, but he was guessing the source of it would be around that area. He hugged his team in what would look like a defeated goodbye, but that wasn’t John’s style. He whispered to his team. “Help them, and I will be in touch when I can.”
Chapter 6: Crumbling Power
Rodney had to watch helplessly as John walked off with the soldiers. John had gone along with the demands of the local soldiers because it wasn’t a winnable situation, and that pissed Rodney off. He couldn’t help his growling because the whole situation sucked. He looked at Teyla and Ronan, and made a vow, “We cannot allow this to stand.”
Teyla might have said something about Rodney sounding like Ronan, but she also was worried watching Colonel Sheppard walk-off surrounded by militia. John made it seem like it was his choice, but if the options are non-existent, then it is no choice at all.
She took a deep breath and knew they needed to come up with a plan and fast. “Okay, so the Colonel has brought us some time. Rodney, can you make a report to Dr Weir about the changing situation?”
“And if she suggests reinforcements?” Rodney queried.
Teyla shook her head, “We’re already intertwined with the events, but we can extract ourselves, we just have to be careful. Furthermore, we don’t want to send any more ATA gene users for the people in the Tower to have a chance to take.”
“They probably won’t care now that they have his supergene,” Rodney grumbled even as he mentally composed what he was going to say.
She settled on him with her most disapproving face, and he wilted. “I will go back to the jumper. Ronan are you coming with me, or staying here.”
Ronan didn’t like the fact they were splitting up, but he knew Teyla could take care of herself, and he was useless when it came to talking negotiations. It was that and hated whining, which was where Eldred was heading.
“Let’s go McKay.”
They walked off to where the jumper was, and Teyla started to prepare how she would explain their sleeping arrangements. The jumper would make an ideal area to camp in, especially as no one could see it when cloaked. She turned around to speak with Eldred, who still appeared anxious from the militia visit.
Eldred was indeed pacing back and forth, still trying to get his heart under control. “Oh, Otho is going to punish us all. We need to improve the crop yield, or he will have the Lord Protector smite us into the ground. We have no way to fight back.”
Teyla knew they could fight back, but they now had the added complication of a hostage, in the Colonel, thrown into the mix. Whatever should happen, they would need to see his safe return. She let the man pace and fret for a few minutes because sometimes all leaders needed a minute where they could be human. They got stressed and worried about their choices, and then they needed to put themselves back together to be as strong as possible for their people. “Eldred you need to calm yourself now. Your people need to see you in control, and we want to help you. Now I need to know what’s over there?” She pointed in the direction that John had spoken about cryptically before he left.
Eldred was clueless. He had no idea why the Colonel would think that area was of importance. The village didn’t care for it as they couldn’t grow or rear anything in that space. “We have no idea, the only one who ever goes off with his head in the fields is Baldric.”
Teyla was calm but assertive, not wanting him to backslide into insecurities. “Then we must speak with this, Baldric. Where is he?”
John had to wonder if this had been part of his grandfather’s plan. If so, then he learned his lesson because he was going to ask way more questions if he popped in with something interesting again. He was surprised at his feelings seeing the ship sunken into the ground. It felt wrong on a visceral level.
“You haven’t taken your eyes off the tower?” Otho observed.
John just stared at him but offered a smile. “I’m wondering what is so special you felt the need to threaten me into coming along, and separating me from my team.”
Otho smirked. “You have not been threatened. You have been allowed to keep your weapons I just made it so that you saw the reason .”
John hated the fact they hadn’t taken his weapons from him. It sent a powerful message, and it said we’re in such control of the situation that we don’t even need to take your weapons. It would be so easy to show them that he was hardly powerless, but that would hardly be appropriate. He was supposed to be keeping a low profile and using his gifts to take out his welcoming committee wouldn’t be in keeping with that plan.
The Tower was just like Atlantis, but wrong and John knew what was bothering him, it had been allowed to lose its majesty through disrepair. He was well aware that the King’s advisor was looking at him with curious eyes. “You have looked at nothing else, but you are not in awe of the tower, are you?”
John smiled because, in his mind, the word awe was overused. It had also come to mean something else since his day job involved living on an alien planet. “I have seen many splendid and wonderful things on my expeditions.”
It was evident that Otho hoped for more detail if so, he was going to be sorely disappointed. He tried a different tack by saying. “Well, we’d be honoured if you would share the stories for the Lord Protector and his family.”
John was guessing he didn’t have much choice in the matter considering the situation. His position right now would be akin to a medieval hostage, the person used to ensure proper behaviour. He would play the game and bide his time. “So what is your role exactly?”
The bald man was pleased to be asked. He puffed up his chest as he said it, “I am the Royal Advisor. I give valued advice to the Lord Protector, and he ensures the lands stay safe.”
Yeah, and John had seen what the bastard Lord Protector demanded in return. If he could access the power in the Tower, then creating food and clothes should not be difficult as they made it seem. John was smart enough not to directly criticise this highly respected figure amidst his fiercest allies so instead offered a non-committal response. “I am sure you do a bang-up job.”
Otho grinned and clapped him on the back. “You will soon see the majesty of the tower is such that you won’t want to leave.”
And that wasn’t ominous at all. John was pretty sure Ally might have something to say about it. He offered a weak smile. “I can’t wait for you to show me around.”
Otho did just that, and John couldn’t help but make comparisons with Atlantis. The Tower’s central area wasn’t like Atlantis’ as it was more medieval in style and use, but the control chair was intimately familiar.
“Do you have something like this where you are from?” Otho enquired.
John looked up and tried to play up that he was impressed with everything. This guy wasn’t stupid, and the legends of the ancients and possibly Atlantis would no doubt be ingrained in their history. “Sort of, nothing this size though it is impressive.”
Otho smirked because if he played this right, he could craft a willing and powerful ally that was ignorant of the workings on this planet. He wasn’t naive because he was aware the Lord Protector would soon die. The only question was, would it be through age or his greedy son offing him. He needed to ensure he kept power, and it wouldn’t be through helping the Protector’s heirs. “There will be a feast tonight, and there will be a test to see how strong your gift is?”
John froze, “And what will this test entail?”
Otho waved off the concern, “You need not worry, as you will sit on the chair.”
John breathed a sigh of relief and thanked his grandpa for the training. “I look forward to it.”
Otho was leading him through a maze of halls that John would have thought Atlantis except these corridors had silk banners draped over the walls.
“Where are we going?”
Otho waved his hand over a wall. “Why these will be your temporary quarters while you stay with us. We have some clothing that should be able to fit you, and it will ensure you are comfortable for dinner. Please rest, and refresh yourself, Attica and Janda will be outside your door.”
John looked at the two burly men and guessed they were not here to fetch things for him. “Thanks. I am sure you are very busy.”
“An advisor’s work is never done.”
John waited until the door closed to throw a piece of fruit at the door. It was a petty rebellion, but it had taken all his self-control not to punch the petty bastard in the face. It would have been so satisfying to punch the smug asshole in the face, but it would have made matters worst.
He looked around the room and saw no obvious devices. He pressed his radio. “Anyone there?”
Teyla spoke first. “It is good to hear your voice. Are you okay?”
“I’m trapped in a Rohan wannabe place, and Rodney all it is missing is the horses?” John replied. He felt terrible for the solely Earth-based reference, but just because he couldn’t see any listening devices, it didn’t mean he should be careless in his speech.
Rodney snorted. “Have you met Theoden?”
John knew he would get it. “No, Grimma is the only one who has greeted me so far.”
Rodney reminded him, “Be careful. You have no Gandalf to save your ass.”
John snickered. “No, just me, and my wits. The Tower is odd, but I can deal. Keep in contact.”
Rodney paused for a second. “I would kill for some electricity.”
John sighed. “Me too but that is not how the tower works.”
Rodney chuckled. “I see. Keep in touch if you can.”
“I feel like a freaking Prince in a tower. I am safe as I can be. It is just my ego that’s bruised.”
John didn’t think to mention the clothing he was now wearing because that would just open him up to more teasing, and he had some self-preservation skills. He wanted to assure his team that they may be separated, but he was still okay and had no intention of ascending. He just had to manoeuvre his way through medieval politics carefully – There was no course for this in War College.
Seeing that it was mid-afternoon by his estimates, John figured he might as well use the time before the feast to try to connect with the Tower. He wasn’t sure that it would be possible given how sluggish the technology in the Tower felt.
He looked at the clothes and kept his gear on for now, but took off his jacket. Figuring he had nothing to lose, he got off the bed and sat on the carpeted ground in a meditation pose that he’d not forgotten. It had the added bonus if he were being observed, it would look like meditation instead of something shady. He’d learned to turn off the glow ages ago so that it wouldn’t be too suspicious to one of the family.
His first attempt at connecting was unsuccessful. He thought come on, work with me. He straightened up and tried again, aware that just because you didn’t succeed on the first go, it didn’t mean that it was a failure. He risked going deeper, hoping to make a tentative connection with the weak city.
If he were hoping to be left alone until the feast, then he would be severely disappointed because a loud chime surprised him. He chose to keep his meditative pose, hoping it would show he was calm and in control, and that he was uncaring of his situation. “Come in.”
A stunning redhead walked through the door. She took one look at John and demanded to know. “Whatever are you doing on the floor?”
John smirked and didn’t move from the ground. “I was meditating, Princess. I wanted to have a clear mind and body for the feast this evening.”
She frowned. “Why did you call me, Princess?”
John snorted because he wasn’t stupid no matter how many times he was misunderestimated. “Are you not the Lord Protector’s daughter?”
“Yes, I am, my name is Lady Mara.”
John tilted his head, “I am Colonel John Sheppard,” guessing his chances to meditate were gone he stood up with fluid grace. His body had come back from ascension brand new as that would not have been smooth in the past.
She let her eyes linger over his body, and John wasn’t too sure if she was checking him out or judging his appearance. She couldn’t hide her haughty look. “Are our clothes not to your liking?”
John went all bashful. “They are very expensive and refined. So much so that I didn’t want to damage them before the feast by meditating.”
She seemed perturbed. “Why would you do something so boring?”
“A centred mind will lead to a complete body,” John replied, aiming for something full of wisdom. He was ninety percent certain that he’d stolen the lines from Yoda, but that didn’t matter so much here.
“Do you really believe that?”
John couldn’t help but grin. “It is not a case of believing, but a wise man where I live said it, so I don’t want to chance my luck.”
She looked wistful. “I have never been past this Tower. Will you tell me stories of your adventures?”
John found himself comparing Mara to Teer, which was unfair but was bound to happen. She had left a lasting impression on him. He did regret leaving her behind, but he couldn’t resist the allure of fixing his mistakes. It was why whatever games this planet hoped to suck him into would ultimately fail. He already had a mission that would be consuming all his time.
“I will be happy too. When is the feast exactly, your father’s advisor merely said it would be tonight.”
She huffed not quite able to hold her poker face. “Well, Otho thinks that he runs everything.”
“Am I keeping you from any duties?” John asked, looking worried by the thought he might be instead of praying that was the case.
She had her own smirk now as the situation changed to her favour. “Advisor Otho ordered that I ensure our feast, and our treasured guest is made welcome and run smoothly.”
“He must trust you if he is giving you such an important task.”
She chuckled. “That must be it, Colonel. Shall we take a tour of the Tower?”
“I get the impression I am not allowed to leave this room,” John said carefully. In truth, he was eager to go, but he didn’t want the woman in front of him punished.
She outright smirked at John. “Don’t you worry about me, Colonel. Remember, I was ordered to see you were comfortable and made to feel welcome. I hardly think keeping you in one room is making you feel welcome.”
“You do have a point.”
She looked pleased. “The only thing I would suggest is that I would change, so you don’t look like so much of an outsider.”
John huffed but could tell when he was getting good advice. “Is there somewhere I can change?”
He was going to need to figure out a way to hide his weapons in a way that wasn’t too obvious. If he was going to sit down to dinner with a bunch of medieval power-grabbing lunatics, then he wanted weapons. He knew it might be an overreaction, but he was going to want more than a butter knife, and nothing he’d seen or heard since arriving inside the Tower had convinced him otherwise.
She showed him the central spire, the library area and the training zone. John looked at some sparring sessions with a critical eye, and he itched to join in. What he wouldn’t give for Teyla to be with him and some bantos rods – then he could show them how you trained with an expert.
She finished her tour by saying, “My brother will soon run all this.”
John was careful and measured in his response. “You seem enthused by the idea.”
She snorted. “I don’t want to spoil it, so I will let you make up your own mind about Tavius.”
They walked around another corner and walked into Otho, who seemed pleased to see them there together. “Mara, I am pleased that you are making Colonel Sheppard feel at home. You know he is the one that is unnaturally strong in the gift.”
She looked at him speculatively, and John did feel a little hunted. He could see where this was going, and he didn’t think he would be a better husband this time around.
The time of the feast was soon upon him, and it was clear that the Protector’s family was definitely considered the royalty of this planet. John could tell just from the way people were reacting it was the presence of the ATA gene. It let them use the technology, and thus protect the planet. It was a simple fact that those who could offer them the best protection would hold power within their society.
He was seated between Otho, and Mara, which he was guessing was deliberate. He finally got to see the Lord Protector, and John was going to have to stop calling him Theodred in his mind. It was too bad because from how frail and old the guy looked. It was an apt comparison to make.
The guy sitting opposite him was around the same age as Mara and was glaring daggers at John. There was no doubt in his mind that this was Tavius, the brother. John groaned in his mind, as he’d already figured out the one with the strongest genes was the ruler here, and John had arrived with a super strength gene. Perfect. He was going to have to sleep with one eye open.
“You have put on a magnificent feast,” John complimented the family. “I thank you.”
“You’re welcome here, Colonel Sheppard, and I hope we can forge a strong partnership.”
John nodded his agreement. It wasn’t like Atlantis couldn’t do with more allies, but he hoped they didn’t want him to seal the partnership the old-fashioned way. Mara was a lovely, ambitious woman he was sure, but he wasn’t looking for a wife.
Tavius was viciously biting his bread. John had never seen anyone eat so aggressively, and he’d seen Rodney and Ronan hungry. “So, Colonel Sheppard … How are you finding our fair city?”
John couldn’t help himself. “It’s been most insightful everyone has been so friendly.”
Tavius nearly choked on the bread he was eating from the insincerity. He managed to cover his surprise by drinking his mead weakly. “I’m glad.” He gasped out.
John said nothing in return just carried on cutting up the steak-like meat that he’d been served and would eat our of etiquette.
Dinner had passed, and so had the pudding they’d been served. There was a tension in the crowd that John was aware of – and he knew he was the reason. It was unnerving, and he was slightly confused at the source of the tension.
He looked to Otho. “You said I would have my blood tested?”
Tavius shook his head. “No, I think you should sit in the great chair. There is no better way to test the strength of your link with the ancestors.”
John would have lived to activate just one missile hat he could smash into the smug bastard’s face. It was a refreshing thought, and right now, it is probably stopping him from committing violence on the principle of the matter. “Sure.”
John stood up and walked over to the chair with a calm exterior. This situation wasn’t ideal, but if there were a way to figure out what was going on, it would be from the control chair itself. He could have done without it being turned into a dog and pony show.
He sat down on the chair, and it didn’t quite feel as welcoming like it did on Atlantis. Still, it was all the opening he needed and he sunk into the city to do his best to wake it up. He could run mentally along the power lines and hit a brick wall. Ahh. He’d been right in his original assumption of the problem. The area in the village that felt weird had a substation below, which was the source of the power drain. For his next trick, he needed to extricate himself from this feast and get a message to Rodney.
“Why is the chair turning blue and not green?” Tavius whispered furiously.
Otho’s voice betrayed his enthusiasm. “Oh, our Colonel is an extraordinary find, one might say he is of royal ancestor descent.”
John made a mental note to make his grandfather’s life miserable when he had a moment of time in his schedule. He was sure there would be other ascended beings who would support his endeavours.
John opened his eyes. “How did I do?”
“You have the most impressive control for one not acquainted with the technology.” The Lord Protector announced, and the excitement ran through the crowd. John could feel the relief run through the group, and it was almost palpable. It was just not so good for him as now they were less likely to let him go.
The Lord Protector put his hand on John’s shoulder. “Come, I wish to discuss matters with you in private.”
He barely managed to wait until they’d left before Tavius whirled around the fury evident on his face. “Why did you bring that interloper here? You should have let father level the place like you first suggested.”
Otho rolled his eyes at the stupidity of the statement. “You’re not thinking. The Tower needs repair, and he can do it.”
“He has no loyalty to us.”
Otho shrugged. “Then, we give him the incentive to do so … Just like I was forced to do to get him here.”
“How can he have High-Ancestor blood?” Tavius asked in horror as he thought through the events once more. “He is just a soldier.”
Otho needed to remember that he was biding his time and the man’s arrogance, which would be his undoing was useful to him in the long run. So he was forced only to imagine gutting the whiney little bastard where he stood.
He had plans in place, and he would see them through to fruition – he had invested too much time to fail at the last hurdle. He would use the foreign Colonel to destroy the two siblings, and it would take no time at all to dispose of the old man.
“You are intriguing, Colonel Sheppard.”
John sat opposite the man in a room that John would assume was the man’s private office. “I am not that mysterious, my Lord.”
The man snorted. “You used your gift with precision today. It was like the Tower accepted you today as one of his long lost people.”
“That would be impossible you know that the ancestors are long gone from this galaxy.”
The man nodded his head in regal agreement. “And yet you and I exist, I expect they are around somewhere.”
John knew the answer to that, but instead, he gave his best pretty boy vacant smile. The only way he could see to stretch this whole stupid affair out, and give his team the chance to ferment a rebellion was to be vague and mysterious. He was going to offer very little and listen to everything he could from the key players.
“Your advisor did explain that I am a Colonel in my people’s army. I have no background in genealogy.” He feigned a yawn, hoping to delay this conversation if it all possible.
This fact seemed to please the Lord Protector even more, which was so not the plan. “Yes, you could be a great military adviser to Mara. She is excellent with our people but has no interest in strategy.
John didn’t bash his head against a wall as it was considered rude, but wow, he couldn’t believe the man was already offering his daughter to him.
John had taken the first available opportunity to escape from his after-dinner drinks with the Lord Protector. The older man had confessed his ability to push the technology to respond was slowing and close to failure. The Lord Protector had practically offered John his daughter if he would stay and protect them, and their planet.
He waited until he was back in his rooms alone to touch his radio. “How are things over there?”
“Sheppard?” McKay was still working on a plan to fix things with only what they had on the jumper. They’d contacted Dr Weir, and she agreed with the initial sentiments of sending no one else. She did demand regular check-ins should the situation change or, Colonel Sheppard report he was in danger.
John rolled his eyes at the shock in his friend’s voice. “Yes, McKay, I am still here. It’s not my favourite thing, but I can be diplomatic when I need it. Did you go for that walk yet?”
McKay groaned. “No. No, I did not. Teyla was too busy persuading Eldred not to have a meltdown. He seemed to think we would hate him and would hold the village accountable for you being dragged away.”
John snorted. “It was my choice.”
“Yeah, we told him you were jeopardy friendly, and Ronan was along as your bodyguard who was extra sad because you left him behind.”
John pinched his nose with frustration because he’d wanted a mission where they could team build, not be separated once more. In fairness, the fact they were still functioning even while separated said their team bond was strong. He knew McKay would be smart enough to keep their communication guarded in case of eavesdroppers.
John couldn’t say he was being kept hostage for a specific reason or been offered a bride and a planet. He couldn’t tell Rodney that he was going to be safe because he was useful. He’d better assessed the situation at the feast, and he knew he was in too precarious a position to be careless. He may be able to ascend to avoid death, but the others would not be happy if he used it carelessly to get out of every single jam.
He’d been thinking of the best way to communicate his sentiments without letting anyone understand. “You know I would sure like a walk right about now, but I could do with some slumber. I have to sleep in a castle that may as well be from an episode of the Borgias.”
Rodney groaned. “At least you will have good food we’re stuck with farmer’s delight.”
John snorted. “I will think of you, buddy.”
Back in the village, Rodney looked at Teyla and Ronan to get their thoughts on how to proceed. They also seemed as unhappy as he did about being down a leader once again. They were relieved to hear he was safe, but they still needed a good plan. The last thing they wanted was to have the death of the villagers on their conscience if they went against the Tower.
Rodney knew he would have to translate the conversation. “So you heard his remarks.”
Teyla knew there was more to the conversation than what was said out loud. “Who are the Borgias?”
Rodney snorted as how did you summarise one of the more infamous families of history. “You know they were an infamous family in Earth’s history… They operated around five hundred years, and they loved to wine and dine their politicians, and occasionally poison their enemies at the same time.”
Teyla looked alarmed with how Rodney ended that sentence. “And this gained them fame on your world?”
Rodney could guess that wouldn’t sit well with the Pegasus natives. They could understand murder in battle and fights, but petty killing was such a foreign concept. He tried to explain it as best he could. “It was from a time on Earth where we only have oral histories, and the written word wouldn’t be objective as the winners often wrote it.”
Ronan didn’t get it. “Warriors don’t poison people.”
Rodney shrugged because it wasn’t his place to comment. “They never cared about being honourable.” He had a dawning realisation as he finished his train of thought and understood John was using it for a two-fold purpose. “It was all arranged marriages and alliances for power, and if that failed, you could always kill them.”
Teyla agreed and reached the same conclusion as Rodney. “So it was a deliberate choice in words.”
“Yes, almost certainly.”
The timid villager was now with them after the group had finally managed to get through to Eldred. He was a weedy little thing who didn’t fit in with the rest of the village. He wasn’t out in the fields toiling away. “What is your role…”
Teyla smiled gently, and Rodney watched as she weaved her spell over others. He was always impressed with how she managed it, especially as she did it with nothing more than the force of her personality. “I am Teyla Emmagen, and we’re pleased to meet you, Baldric.”
Rodney watched as she spoke passionately about their needs. You could tell though that this guy wasn’t the adventurous type.
Baldric was nervous, but that might have had something to do with Ronan looming over him. “I don’t see how I can help.”
Teyla stepped forward, so he focussed on her rather than Ronan glowering at him in the background. “Colonel Sheppard suspects there may be something interesting for us around that tree line.” She pointed at the area John had scoped out just before he’d left with the soldiers from the Tower. “You wouldn’t happen to know what is there? It may help us against those in the Tower.”
Baldric didn’t get it because it wasn’t exactly a weapon. “You mean the weird room in the tunnels? It’s like the Tower, but everything is dead, and I can’t find the right energy to make it work.”
Rodney’s interest grew. “Like the tower you said.” So more than likely a substation that wasn’t working and blocking power to the Tower. It would explain all the things that Sheppard had reported to them. “Can you show us?”
McKay was just praying that he could get the lights back on in time to help John.
John had woken up with a groan realising he was still trapped in Lord of the Rings: Borgia style. He wanted to be back on Atlantis yesterday.
She is too bossy.
If John hadn’t been on the bed, he might have fallen off it. He could hear a male voice in his head, and he knew what it was – Finally, he’d broken through to the city.
What should I call you? – John asked.
Father called me Poseiden.
John wanted to bash his head against the wall because he had to wonder if his family were responsible for the Greek Pantheon. Cool, I am going to give you a nickname, Po.
He got a bubble of excitement. They don’t feed me energy, so I am too weak.
John didn’t speak out loud, but it was a near thing. The city felt sad, and for better or worse, the massive city structures were like family. He mentally tried to reassure him, “I know, buddy. I am working on it.”
I don’t like them, the one you call Otho is plotting with Tavius to takeover.
Huh. John figured that Otho was going to use him as the patsy. John was guessing he hadn’t come across as gullible enough to be managed. Keep an eye, Po and let me know what they plot.
It was the next day, and Lunch was just as lavish as the feast the day before. He remembered Po’s warnings as both Tavius and Mara asked him to eat with them. He’d offered a sensible if uncomfortable compromise of sitting between them much to the amusement of Otho and the Lord Protector.
“So how did you come to have ancestor blood?” Tavius asked him directly, not having the sense to at least be subtle in his interest. Then again, John looked around the table, and they were several eagerly watching him for his answer.
John shrugged and thought of the best half-truth he could. “We’re not sure. I was discussing it with your father, and we think a relative may have had an affair, but with no proof, it is difficult to say.”
He had no doubt his grandfather was pacing and cussing up a storm above him in the clouds, but he didn’t care. The Lord Protector grinned and didn’t bother to hide his interest in John any longer. “It is good to know someone of potent blood will be around to ensure the area’s safety.”
John had seen the son flinch and then glared at him. It was good to know Tavius or Otho hadn’t prepared the food or John would be six feet under from poisoning. In reality, John was sure that Tavius would greatly enjoy the trappings of power but wouldn’t want to make the decisions that went with it. Of course, that was where Otho would come in, but Tavius wasn’t able to control the technology.
Po helpfully chipped in. I wouldn’t trust him with my resources even if I had power.
John was guessing that Po was going to be a lot more snarky than his sister. He didn’t get a response because Otho decided to speak up. “I understand the Lord Protector has offered you the hand of the lovely Lady Mara.”
Tavius dropped his fork. “Did you?” The question was not directed at him but rather the man’s father. Mara had lowered her head to not give away her own feelings on the matter.
John wondered when this had descended into medieval Jerry Springer. He would prefer it much more if he weren’t living it.
The older man though didn’t back down on his sentiments. “Yes, Mara would be the perfect wife and queen, and we could continue to protect this world from the Wraith.”
John tried to be careful in his next words as he put the breaks on them planning his wedding just yet. “Mara is a stunning and refined lady, but you see I made a promise to the United States Army and becoming Lord Protector of a planet could break that, and there would be consequences.”
“How would you suffer these if you have the backing and resources of the Tower? You hold the magical blood in such potency that the Tower is now once more waking up in ways that I have only read about in the scriptures.” Otho explained with a reverence that didn’t entirely hide the lust for power in his eyes.
John sighed, not bothering to hide his weariness because he’d been using quite a bit of his energy to dampen down the Tower’s response to him. He guessed that his conversation with Po must have registered on some devices that the advisor used to spy on people. “I suppose you may be right, so I will retire for the afternoon and weigh up my options.”
Rodney’s excited voice broke through his ear. “You’ve got the power back.”
John didn’t know when his vocabulary had been given a medieval upgrade. He didn’t get a chance to react to Rodney’s statement either because a commotion on the other side of the table broke out. It didn’t matter though as he was ecstatic to know he could take control if needed.
“THE PRINCE IS TRYING TO KILL THE LORD PROTECTOR!?!?!” Mara screamed as she pushed her chair away from the commotion. Tavius was seemingly trying to choke the air from their father not accepting the idea of Mara taking over instead of him.
John didn’t care to watch a murder before his eyes, and he sure as shit wasn’t ready to be King. He jumped over the table and threw Tavius off his father. He watched the shock in the prince’s eyes at such rough treatment because John was guessing that it wasn’t the norm. John let his face show his emotions. “What the hell is wrong with you, that’s your father?”
“He is going to pass the throne to you … I needed to off the old bastard before he could marry you to my bitch of a sister.”
John was glad the city liked him because he’d taken control of the systems without having to even go near the control chair. He didn’t care for the man’s attitude and given the looks on the faces around him, neither did the others. “Mara is awesome and doesn’t deserve to put up with your wretched ass.”
Tavius pulled a knife on John, and John couldn’t believe this asshole. He may have a knife, but John was career military and not in the mood. Still, he wouldn’t cheat and looked directly at Tavius. “We do this, you will lose, and your sister still gets the big chair.”
“No, she won’t.” Otho offered, tired of the whole charade. He refused to work for this idiot family any longer, who didn’t appreciate him. He grabbed Mara and held his own knife against her neck, careful not to let the blade touch her skin.
Tavius frowned. “You advise, you don’t rule.”
John hated when a mystery novel had this many twists, and it wasn’t much better when he was living it.
Otho kept a blade on him, and he had always worn one. Mara was pale, knowing what was on it. “It’s poisoned.”
Otho sneered. “Right you are Princess so I would stay very still. All we need to do is take a short walk to the chair.” He was smirking as he faced the room which was all frozen unsure of the action they should take. He didn’t like the way the Colonel was grinning at him as if he knew something Otho didn’t.
In fact, John was smug because he knew even if Otho had the ATA gene, the chair wouldn’t work for him. He spoke softly, “You know the thing about power … it pays to have it before you go about making threats.”
“What the hell would you know about power, you pretty boy dandy?” Tavius sneered.
John was glad they’d got past the polite truths stage of their acquaintanceship. “So says the man who has never worked a day in his life.” He looked calmly at Otho. “So I take it you’ve stopped pretending you don’t want the throne for yourself?”
“I have the power and prestige, plus, I also have the same power running through my veins as that family,” Otho announced as he used the dagger to manoeuvre himself over to the throne. It was clear that the soldiers were frozen and decided to wait and see who held power after all when all was said and done.
John looked at Mara, who was shivering in fear. He wanted to keep her as calm as possible. “Don’t worry, princess, let his lying ass sit on the throne.”
Otho leaned back and settled into the chair, radiating smugness, but it was all for nought – nothing happened. The chair stayed dead. “NO!”
John smirked, knowing what was wrong with the chair. He couldn’t resist being a little bit of an asshole. “Hey, don’t sweat it performance issues hit us all as you get older.”
“No, the line works, I turn it green just like them.” Otho insisted, like by saying it that he would change what happened.
John smirked. “So not truly powerful then.”
Tavius strolled forward, “Guess it should be me.” He used Otho’s shock to toss him off the chair and sit in it himself. Mara had been the only one to show any type of care for her father checking on him now she was free of the mad man.
Tavius sat back, but yet again, nothing happened.
John stood serene, “No, no juice. Too bad.”
Tavius understood at that moment why John had been so sure of what would happen. “This is your doing!”
John rolled his eyes because, of course, it was his doing. “Your all terrible people. You’re plotting to end your family, all of you, in some way or another. Your advisor is trying to kill all of you to become some type of despotic ruler. You don’t deserve to have the Ancestors technology work.”
“And you do?”
John raised his hands, and it was over the top, but he sent a command through the tech to work once more. “And yet, look. It all switches on for me.”
Otho charged at him. “I won’t be denied.”
John stood his ground. He grabbed hold of the knife and flicked it around on the stupid advisor. He didn’t aim to kill rather disable, but the advisor groaned in pain at the slice in his arm.
The man staggered around and had a fatalistic expression was about the best way to describe it. “You know I am fantastic with poisons.”
And dropped dead.
Chapter 7: Good things always come in two’s
The guy dropping dead made everyone freak out.
John groaned because he was already two hundred percent with this whole world and its mysterious tower. He wanted to be back on Atlantis yesterday where everything made sense, and the only thing he had to worry about was if the IOA was going to give him grief. He’d expected a lot more hoops upon returning to Atlantis, and he was still waiting for the other shoe to drop. He had a feeling it was just the calm before the storm – translation it took the Prometheus 3 weeks to make a journey.
It was a sad fact, but Otho’s death by poisoning himself (sort of) solved only one of their problems. The area now essentially had a power vacuum and if there was one thing he’d learned in Earth’s politics was nature abhors a vacuum. John looked to the Lord Protector and the courtiers who had no idea what they should do now and could guess what would happen next. John thought it was a sad state of reality when your statesman couldn’t lead. He needed to take quick action, or he might find himself being ‘volunteered’ for the job.
He thought about the current royal family, and the older man was past it. He would soon be sidelined with comments of age being the justification. He didn’t need to have Elizabeth’s expertise to see that being on the cards. The son had shown while he was a fantastic party boy – he didn’t have the trust, or brains, to actually lead. So John figured the burden would fall to Mara, who had shown the right qualities despite being hamstrung by societal expectations.
John looked at the Princess and quirked an eyebrow. It was a silent challenge and one she met because Mara stepped forward, showing she did have leadership qualities. It was clear that she was willing to take the opportunity provided. Mara walked over to his side and implored with her eyes for some type of help. She spoke honestly and from the heart but loud enough for the courtiers to hear. “I know you have no reason to believe me considering Otho’ and my brother’s treacherous actions but any advice you can give would be appreciated.”
John took a moment to compose himself, so he didn’t go with his most forthright answer. Elizabeth would be so proud of him right now. “The Wraith have no idea about your planet, but I’ve woken up this tower by my presence, and I can’t undo it, and now it will be a threat to your peace. They track the ancestor technology, so if you keep the tower now it’s awake, you’ll die.” He knew it was harsh, but it seemed to be the only way to break through their thick skulls.
“The tower will protect us.” The Lord Protector had managed a miraculous recovery and tried once more to take control of proceedings. It seemed he was now conveniently recovered once all the threats against his reign had ended.
John shook his head because this was the consequence of their actions. They had forced him to come to the tower with an armed guard to settle the issue. He was now stating the facts pure and simple, and they wanted to bury their heads in the sand. “No, it won’t. The facts are simple now that I have initialised it. The tower will look to someone with my strength of genes to work, and it will reject anyone of lesser strength.” He confirmed now what they might have already suspected. “The fact I am from off-world means that the odds of finding someone like me is astronomically low.”
“So stay here.” The Lord Protector said as if he should just drop all of his responsibilities and work for them.
John looked at the corpse on the floor, “Like I told Grima here. You should know I made promises to my people to serve, and I can’t in good conscience leave them. My mission is to explore, but I must return home.”
John wanted to wince because he felt a burst of anger in his head from the city. It seemed Poseidon felt like he could become home if John gave him a chance. John sent back mentally. Allow me to work something out with my people.
Mara could see the solution that John implied, but it was a scary implication for them. She was smart and saw no other solution. She ordered the soldiers out the room because this conversation wasn’t one the courtiers and soldiers needed to be privy too yet. The Captain of the guard asked her. “What should we do with Lord Tavius?”
She tilted her head to the side and took the time to make a measured choice, not one based on her feelings. She could see that her brother was waiting on her every word – no doubt dreading her judgement. It was clear that for now, he was out of favour and no matter his previous collusion with Otho – he wasn’t going to be calling any shots. It was exemplified by the head of the guard asking his sister for their orders – He wouldn’t be able to move against her while the militia favoured her.
Mara sighed, knowing that no matter what he had done – He was still her brother and thanks to Colonel Sheppard, no real damage had occurred. “Take him to his room and see that he stays here.”
“I am not a recalcitrant child that can be sent to my rooms.”
She snorted rather inelegantly for a lady of her station, but it was just too funny. “In that case brother, you shouldn’t act like it. Better sent to your rooms than the jail for trying to kill our father.” She finished sweetly – letting him know just how close he was to her last nerve.
The Lord Protector was finding his voice, although it was still raspy from the attempt to strangle him. “Oh, make no mistake that is still an option.”
He saw sense and wisely chose to go with his assigned guards. The main hall was now empty of everyone but John, Mara and the Lord Protector.
The Lord Protector sighed at the absolute mess he had led them too, and now he had no advisor to trust. “What can we do?”
Mara managed to womanly hide her disbelief because she could see what needed to happen clear as day. She knew she would have to step into the void, it was clear to her and show as guessing the soldiers that her father was now too old to lead. “There is a solution, but it is a radical change.”
The Lord Protector was confused as he was not seeing what his daughter could see so clearly. “What are you suggesting?”
She just looked directly at John. “The Wraith are attracted to the technology … so if the tower moved away, we would be safe.”
“You can’t move the tower! It is not possible.” He exclaimed it would be sacrilege, their whole society was built around the tower, and it was embedded in the ground for goodness sake.
Po helpfully chipped into John’s mind. Take off will be terrible, but my star drive is just fine. NO POWER.
The city reminded John of Rodney when he had a total focus on one thing that was bothering him so far all their conversations had revolved around power. John could guess that the lack of energy was bothering the city AI. I got this thanks. He thought to the city, but to the people in the room, he replied. “It could be done.”
“How do you know this?” The Lord Protector pressed. The tower may be failing, but it was a symbol of their people and strength. He could use it to bluff an opponent potentially. After all, it was what he had done for years.
John thought about it, and it was a calculated risk. He went with a half-truth. “I have a tower of my own, and it flies, that is why I was not in awe when I arrived here.”
Mara chuckled. “I had guessed that on the first day. You live there too would be my guess. You are so at ease here, and you were moving into areas as if they belong to you.”
John had tried to hide it, but it wasn’t like he could turn off instincts. “Can I ask my team to join us up here? I have a team member who takes the lead for negotiations. I would like her input if you are serious in this endeavour, my Lady.”
Mara was trying to think through all the things that needed to happen. “So your people can see to it happening? They can move the tower to avoid the Wraith threat?”
John started to think through the implications of potentially gaining a second Ancient city. And wow. His after-action report was going to be a doozy. His grandfather had suggested the planet would be a good idea, and now he understood why. He didn’t realise it was to pick up Ally’s brother. He’d been hoping for ZPMs or another power source. He might not have expected to gain a second city, but it could become groundbreakingly useful, especially as the war against the Wraith heated up. It could make having a beta site a hell of a lot more accessible too if they needed to host refugees from Earth. They always have an updated contingency plan for it the war against the Ori goes badly.
John would not leave the world unprotected if they did take the tower. “If the offer is sincere, a group of my people will come here and seek a trade negation, so you are not left unprotected. I do not doubt that you will make sure your people get a good deal out of this bargain.” He just had to make sure Atlantis took the lead and not an IOA stooge they would want to send.
She chuckled and found herself liking the Colonel more and more. “You know it is too bad we’re not getting married. I think the city would make an excellent wedding gift.”
It was funny how he could relax and see the humour too. “You know I would make a terrible husband. You deserve someone who understands you and your people.”
“Well if I can’t call you husband, I am glad to call you friend.” She finished magnanimously.
John could take that and knew things were finally truly going his way. He saw no point in delaying what needed to be done and touched his radio. “McKay, nice job with the power. You can now bring the team up to the tower as we have things to do.”
Rodney’s acerbic tone cut through. “Are we all friends now?”
“Grima is dead and long live the family.” John intoned solemnly thanking god for the literary classics.
Rodney snorted, as he didn’t need to know full details, but that was enough for him. He informed John cheerily sounding a lot happier himself. “Okay Colonel, we’ll be there in twenty.”
Rodney, Teyla and Ronan stepped through the gates that kept the tower closed off from the masses. As soon as they entered, one of the servants was on hand to greet them by one of the servants.
Teyla spoke softly. “It is uncanny.”
It didn’t take them long to gain an invitation inside the tower, and they really wanted to see Sheppard was okay with their own eyes. Rodney was looking at the ceilings in fascination. “The Colonel wasn’t wrong.” This tower was exactly like Atlantis only the culture that had developed in this society was decidedly leaning towards medieval tendencies.
“It is odd, is it not?” Teyla observed knowing what they were all thinking about Atlantis and the natural comparisons. The only difference was the colour hues felt more masculine than those on Atlantis.
“Like we’re there but not,” Ronan commented. He was still getting used to the idea of having a base that was safe and wouldn’t be overrun by the Wraith at any moment.
Rodney turned the corner to see John waiting next to a pretty redhead. He would have loved to make a bitchy comment about John and his Kirk ways, but if his best friend had managed to broker some fragile peace, he wasn’t going to risk his mouth breaking it.
John hugged his team, relieved to see a truly friendly face. “It is so good to see you. Lady Mara, this is Dr Rodney McKay.” He gestured next to Teyla, “This is Teyla Emmagen of Athos and Ronan of Sateda.”
Mara looked at John and adored the fact his negotiator was a woman. Her eyes lit up with amusement as she said. “You picked a wise negotiator to begin talks.”
Teyla’s voice was warm and full of relief at seeing her friend. “It is good to see you are in good health, Colonel. What will we be negotiating?”
John knew this was probably going to raise some comments. “Lady Mara is discussing what trade can be completed for the city with our people?”
Rodney’s eyebrows would have shot off his head if possible. “What part of the city?”
John kept his voice even as he replied. “All of it.”
There were so many comments that Rodney desperately wanted to make. He didn’t. It was a challenge, but in his head, the words of a new city were bouncing around his skull. “Do you ever do anything quietly?”
John shrugged. “No, not really. Go big, or go home, right?”
Ronan snickered practically seeing the vein on Rodney’s head explode. “So what is the plan?”
John wanted to get things moving, and to be honest, he was missing Atlantis but knew there was still work to do on this planet. He just hoped Po would put up with visits for a while. He was still getting used to being back on two feet and figuring out exactly how he would get a chance to fix the Wraith. “Teyla, if you and Ronan head back to the gate, we can start the ball rolling to get a negotiating team through here ASAP. Tell Elizabeth our trip needs to be extended for vital negotiations, but SGA2 should relieve us if only for respite.”
He loved his team because they were able to roll with the changes of plans without any complaint. There was a small part of him that would have loved to have seen Elizabeth’s face when she was informed they had a chance at grabbing a second Ancient city.
The arrangements made for the negotiations to begin meant John could drag Rodney to his rooms. He was eager to catch up with his friend because John knew how much the last few days would have upset him. Rodney didn’t say it, but he had abandonment issues, and John ascending had done nothing to help them. There had been so many tumultuous events in such a short space of time – the distance would be useful. Not to mention, John was sure that Mara and her father were considering the fate of her sibling.
Rodney couldn’t hold in what he was thinking, “They offered you the city, didn’t you?”
John rolled his eyes because he didn’t appreciate the judgement he could hear in his friend’s voice. “I have no intention of being a King, Rodney. I need to deal with the Wraith, and being a monarch would just get in the way of that.”
Rodney might have said something about impossible tasks, but he remembered who he was talking to and stopped. “I can’t believe you almost managed to Kirk yourself into a city?”
John bit back his irritation because he knew that it was Rodney’s way to snark sharply if his world order was threatened. “No, my arse still belongs to the United States Air-Force as you well know.”
Rodney smirked and knew the perfect response. “No, your arse belongs to Atlantis and don’t pretend otherwise. Are you sure she will not get jealous of you if you are not careful?”
John wasn’t sure how best to answer that question without revealing a lot more than he intended because he was trying to figure out if Ally was about to become a jealous sibling. “It will be fine, I am sure.”
Rodney was smirking at him. “You say that now but when she starts glitching because you are on her sister and is having a tantrum even with you, you will start thinking differently.”
John shook his head because that would never happen as she adored him as her creator’s grandson but because he was distracted and exhausted he responded with, “This city identifies as Poseidon.”
Rodney frowned because it made sense with the theme of water that the ancients seemed to revolve around. Then his brain caught with the full implications of what John had just said. “How do you know that?”
John could see the look of worry on Rodney’s face and moved too quickly to reassure him. “Relax, McKay I promised you that I wasn’t going to drift off into space again. Not unless I can help it.” He finished, which wasn’t entirely reassuring he knew, but he refused to lie to his friend. His mindset was to protect even at the expense of his own life. He wasn’t suicidal, but he had work to do.
“So where did Poseidon come from?” Rodney asked, rephrasing it, letting John know that he wasn’t going to be side-tracked.
John took a deep breath and figured a partial answer. “It seems that Janus was on a Greek kick when he made Atlantis and her brother. I found this out when I sat down on their version of a control chair.”
“You are not telling me something, that is your half-truth face.”
John shrugged. “If it was, know that if I wasn’t sharing it with my best friend, then there must be a vital reason.”
Rodney didn’t say anything, just stared into his eyes. In some ways, it was more invasive than any interrogation, but John just let his face for once, convey his emotions. “Okay.”
Rodney was letting his natural excitement take over at the new prospects. He loved a great challenge, and getting a spaceship to fly off from a landlocked position was going to be the latest challenge. He just hoped the IOA didn’t demand something stupid from them or the planet dwellers.
Only time would tell, but no one was hopeful when it came to the IOA.
Back on Atlantis, Elizabeth was listening to the latest update with disbelief. She was no stranger to fast-moving situations since leading the expedition, but this took the cake. She was sure that she heard Teyla correctly but had to ask, “Can you repeat that?”
She shared a look with Steven, who was now up and on his feet, having been cleared by Heightmeyer. He had been in her office on something unrelated, in truth, he was eager to get back on the Prometheus where he belonged, but the ship was still a few days out from landing. Teyla relayed the information. “It seems that the leadership is now largely in the hands of the daughter and she has indicated that the city, which is very similar to Atlantis is something she would be willing to trade if negotiations go favourably.”
Elizabeth stood there in stunned silence, which was unusual, considering words would always be her stock and trade. “How?” It would be crazy to give away such a resource even if they had to barter for it as it would be something incredible.
Teyla was in truth, as astounded as Elizabeth, about how the events had turned around. , “You would have to ask Colonel Sheppard. As you know, he was separated from us under duress but kept unharmed. It seems like there is a regime change, but it would be difficult to give you accurate facts, I can only give you my surmisings.”
Caldwell shook his head in bemusement, some people in the programme seemed to have luck on their side – Jackson, O’Neill, Mitchell but Sheppard was definitely winning this one. “He is going to collect Ancient City’s now?”
Weir could see the humour in the situation even if this was going to give her a personal headache. She much preferred having these dilemmas than the dark months they’d had previously trying to avoid a siege with the Wraith. “You know the city likes him better than most.”
Caldwell snorted because he was well aware of the statistics. He could also hear some almost type of question, but Steven would be forever grateful to the man and wasn’t afraid to say as much. “I am not going to complain as Atlantis helped Sheppard to free me.”
She looked at him sympathetically. “We are reviewing all the procedures to avoid a repeat of the situation again, and I know the SGC are doing the same back on Earth.”
In truth, Steven didn’t blame Atlantis as he was hardly there. He did though hate the fact no one noticed on his ship, nor in the SGC itself. “It wasn’t your fault, and it happened when I returned to Earth.”
Weir shook her head because she didn’t see it that way. “You may not be in the city all the time with your position, but we do consider you one of us. We would have struggled without your support and supplies. Plus, I think you have seen how protective we are of each other.”
“That is not a bad trait considering the galaxy you live in,” Steven observed.
Weir agreed and forgot that Teyla was still on the other side. “Teyla, can you tell the Colonel that he needs to find a reason to give me a report. I have several questions for him.”
Weir just listened as John offered a summarised version of his side of their visit. She did wonder just how he managed to get himself into so much trouble, but unlike others, he got out of it too. She just had to hope that his luck didn’t run out. She had thought it had when he chose to ascend but even that he’d managed to circumvent.
“So explain how you ended up from nearly being married off to us gaining a second ancient city as a potential beta site?”
John had at least found the humour in the whole situation. “The society is stuck in what I could charitably describe as Lord of the Rings-esque. Then you had all the parts for a Shakespearean story; the ageing King; the useless playboy prince; ambitious advisor and ignored Princess.”
Weir snorted appreciating the analogy, and she wondered if Sheppard knew he’d given away a clue about himself being more educated than he would have people believe. “So how did you end up separated from the team and stuck in a wannabe-Hamlet?”
“Big group of soldiers came down from the tower, they barely had the gene to use the ancient tech, but they did have enough to sense to know there was a strong gene user in their vicinity. So they came in numbers with weapons and rather than risk a bloodbath, I went with them. I kept in radio contact as an unwilling guest of the festival.”
“Understandable in the circumstances.” She offered, wanting him to know that he wasn’t in trouble regarding his judgements at least in her book. She couldn’t say what the IOA would say on any given day given their shifting judgements and moods on any day ending in a -y.
John snorted but carried on with his verbal report knowing Elizabeth would need as much information as possible before she arrived. “So as the report will say … I stayed, watched, listened, and exploited the weaknesses I observed.”
He yet again gave a clue about his past. It showed just why he’d been allowed to stay in service with a black mark. A straight pilot wouldn’t have had the skills just mentioned. It smacked of time as an operative and given the way he’d handled the Genii – it wasn’t a surprise.
“So you then persuaded the Princess that the Tower would be a security risk and she agreed?” Caldwell asked to ensure he had the right grasp on facts.
John nodded. “Pretty much.”
He’d found by adopting Ronan’s technique of only answering with short replies – It caused him less trouble. It also tended to shut down avenues of questioning that he would prefer to end swiftly.
Weir took a deep breath. “So I now have to negotiate a deal for a city. That will be new.”
John smirked because he knew Weir well enough to know she was teasing. “You know Atlantis. We like to keep things fresh.” He wouldn’t say the word interesting as he had no interest in jinxing them. “Lorne’s team will act as your security and then can be rotated with my team.”
“Is the city functioning?”
John thought carefully about the best response here. “The city is awakened in a way it hasn’t been for a long time. It seems my gene was all the activation it needed. It has also locked out the locals because it doesn’t want to interact with anyone of a lesser gene.”
Weir frowned. “Is that always going to be the case?” She asked carefully because John had the most potent gene amongst the programme so it would be useless to negotiate wasting resources if two people could use it.
John looked as innocent as he could manage. “You know I am sure it can be solved relatively simply once I sit in the control chair.”
She sighs, “Okay, we will open preliminary negotiations this week and then we can review our plans once the IOA finally gets back to us with their wishes.”
“Sounds like a plan, Sheppard out.”
Despite John’s hopes, SGA1 still had yet to get off this world – Mara would prefer John and his trusted team be present while things were settling down. John might disagree about the necessity of it, but they had a chance at a second city which could prove invaluable if the citizens of Earth ever had to bug out.
Rodney couldn’t complain so much because at least the whole team was now being hosted in the control tower. Although, the scientist did make a sarcastic comment about John’s room being nicer in style and size. The fact the tower was now working meant Rodney had been busy exploring to his heart’s content. The people were in awe of what they’d managed to get from the tower in the last 48 hours.
As much as things may have changed, Rodney’s penchant for food had not. They sat together as a team to eat lunch. “I still can’t believe you could have been King but chose to take the city.”
John did that annoying sexy smirk of his. “I’m terrible husband material. You’ve said it yourself too jeopardy friendly.” He finished his fruit. “Do you think the IOA will back off now that I have brought them a city?”
John knew that he was hardly their favourite choice, but Elizabeth had gone to bat for him, and O’Neill appreciated what he’d managed to achieve. He was sure that considering his ascension – they would be launching some type of powerplay. He was betting some type of monitoring visit where he would be audited in his role.
McKay snorted at his friend’s question because he said it with such hope but resignation at the same time, as he knew it was all too likely. The trouble was even with all his intelligence. There were still things around him that he couldn’t predict. “Maybe, who knows? But I figure Atlantis has had its miracle for the year.”
John’s heart warmed because Rodney, as a scientist wasn’t the type to put anything into religion or miracles. So the fact he was using those words with regards to his return meant a lot from his best friend. He confessed, “I have no idea how the hell I am going to write this mission up without it sounding ridiculous.”
McKay smirked and showed his competitive and devious sides. “You don’t. I figure we report plain facts with no opinions or superfluous information. The upside is SG1 only found head-sucking brain devices. They haven’t found a whole city so they won’t be able to top this.”
It was one of the things that he loved most about his friend. He needed to remind himself that Rodney was his friend, and even if the rules had changed, his friend was straight.
Sheppard and his team were finally departing from this world. Mara was there to see them off. She had a mischievous grin as she bid them farewell. “For what it was worth, I am not too sad that Otho forced you here.”
John could hear the others suck in a breath. He could see Ronan’s hand twitch towards his gun, but John defused it. “You know it wasn’t terrible and I hope our two worlds can foster a positive friendship moving forward just ask us in the future.”
It was funny how two such simple words could cover so much meaning. John knew it was saying thank you for seeing her as a leader and not just a wife. It was thank you for dealing with Otho who had been poisoning their system for his own gain. It was thank you for warning them about the Wraith and not just walking away like they could have done.
John just nodded his head. “You’re welcome, Dr Weir and Major Lorne will be here soon.”
Lorne announced himself by stepping out of his shielded jumper. “We’re here. I take it you are eager to return to base.”
“Damn straight, I’ve missed my girl,” John replied, not concerned by the gentle teasing.
Mara flushed and felt even more guilty. “Are you promised to another?”
Rodney chuckled because he could see how what Lorne said could be interpreted. “Not in the way you think, Lady Mara.”
John softly smiled, but he did promise her. “I will explain when I return.”
“So they will let you return?” She was curious because they couldn’t have been impressed with her people taking him hostage. It hadn’t been hard to see how well he was respected and how high up he was in their society.
John grinned. “If the tower is to be moved. I will be doing the lifting but until then My Lady.”
Weir could see that Lady Mara was glad to be speaking to another woman. She had only a relatively small handover with her Military Commander. “Colonel Caldwell is eager to return to the Prometheus so hurry.”
John smirked and with their goodbyes said they stepped into the jumper, which SG1 favoured. John couldn’t wait to get back to Atlantis. Don’t get him wrong, he found Poseidon fascinating, but it wasn’t home like Atlantis.
Rodney had the good sense to wait until the jumper doors were closed to ask. “Teyla when did you manage to beat diplomacy into him?”
She smirked. “Alas, I cannot take credit for this. Perhaps it is a miracle of the ancestors?”
John blushed thinking of that one day where his grandfather had lectured him for nearly half a day about why diplomacy was important. He’d upset Teer with a stupid stray thought, and her temper had almost caused a supernova, which Hedda had thought to be hysterical. “I’ll never tell.”
And with that, he flew them back to Atlantis and John wasn’t above begging the ship for a bit of extra speed to make it quick.
The negotiations had been going well with Weir and Lorne making up one team, which changed over with Teyla and John as the other team. It stopped the Atlantis team from being tired when making such a vital agreement and John could work on eeking out what he could from the city mainframe without anyone noticing.
John knew that it would soon be the weekly dial-in with the SGC and was wondering who would be answering – Landry or O’Neill. He was guessing with the additional city being possible it would be O’Neill.
At the moment, John was on Atlantis so he would be the one to answer the call. Chuck spoke through their radio system. “Colonel Sheppard, the dial-in has begun.”
It made sense to be on time for it. Sure enough, O’Neill’s face was the one that greeted him on the video-call. He held up the mission report, “Is this report serious?”
John nodded, trying to convey how serious it was with his body language. “Yes, General. Scott’s honour.”
“You go to a world, get offered a Kingship. Turn it down. You then, in the midst of handling a coup, you manage to convince the emerging leader that they really should get rid of their Ancient city for their own safety.”
John pouted because the General was making it sound horrible in that summary. “I’m not sure if you think it is a good thing or a bad thing, Sir.”
“Only you Sheppard could manage to pull off something that audacious,” O’Neill concluded, which wasn’t unfair. He said it without too much judgement as he did not doubt that General Hammond thought the same about him many times. In fact, when he’d asked Hammond to sign off on making Sheppard Atlantis commander, the General had laughed at him and made comments about karma being a remarkable thing.
John knew there was no good reply he could give when a General calls you audacious, so you accept it and move on. He chose to deflect the conversation to something more critical and what could have the greatest consequences for the first ancient city. “How is the IOA playing this, Sir?”
O’Neill grimaced at the question telling John everything. It was clear that the man wasn’t happy with what decisions were communicated to him. John was also aware that despite the man’s great power, he still had to play the political game. It was no fun, but someone needed to do it, and John did not envy the man.
O’Neill explained the current plan. “They are letting Atlantis take the lead on gaining the city. I think they knew that they would muck it up. It seems they would like an independent member of the Committee to review the final agreement. They want to ensure the expedition makes no promises of an impossible nature.”
John was impressed with the amount of disdain the General managed to convey in one sentence. He may not work in the family business, but he knew what this was about and the IOA didn’t know just how well he could play the game. “I promise to be good and do my best to return…”
“… In one piece.” John finished without missing a beat. He would be the man that IOA used as a way to assess what was happening on Atlantis. He had no doubt been tasked with the job of evaluating how effective John was in his post, as secretly as possible. “Thanks for the heads up, Sir. I assume he will be coming out on the next Prometheus run?”
So there was a small silver lining they had time to come up with a plan. Plus, now Caldwell was once more in charge of the Prometheus. They had an ally on the ship rather than a passive-aggressive person hindering their chances.
O’Neill looked at his Military Commander for Atlantis, and he could practically see the plots forming in his mind. He couldn’t wait to see how this played out because he knew his Colonel had a lot more traits and tricks up his sleeve than others knew about in the IOA. He would let the man go plot in peace. “Well, news delivered, go and keep the crazies from Earth.”
John saluted. “Yes, Sir.”
Prometheus – T-7 days from Atlantis
Woolsey hadn’t expected the ship to be so busy. It was clear that the Colonel ran a tight ship. He’d tried his best to strike up conversations with different members of the crew. He was never treated with disrespect considering his position, but not a single person spoke with loose lips around him.
The one member of the crew that he had not managed to get a hold of for a meaningful conversation was the man in charge – Colonel Caldwell.
It seemed that even the Colonel was bored of evading him. He stood by him on the observation deck. “I believe you wish to talk to me. You should join me for my evening meal, Mr Woolsey.”
“I shall be there, thank you, Colonel Caldwell.”
The meal prepared was excellent, and Woolsey had been surprised by the quality of the meals. He must have commented to that effect as Caldwell snorted, “I am expecting my men and women to be on this ship for six weeks at a time. They deserve good quality food, or I probably wouldn’t keep my crew after one round trip. That would be stupid and a waste of training.”
Woolsey could appreciate the logic and could see the man’s training and leadership qualities in his measured reply. The meal was going well with surprisingly pleasant if useless chatter. Richard was curious to know how long the Colonel would keep up such a pretence, and he didn’t make it to the end of the meal.
“What do you want to ask me, Mr Woolsey?”
Woolsey put his cutlery down and didn’ bother to prevaricate around the issue. “What is your opinion on Lieutenant Colonel Sheppard?”
Caldwell smiled, having expected the question. “And what would you specifically like to discuss, Mr Woolsey?”
“Do you feel he should be in charge considering his recent time with the Ancients?” Woolsey probed hoping to get a reactive answer. He had listened to all the gossip, and it all agreed that there was no love lost between Caldwell and Sheppard. The sentiment being that Caldwell felt he should be the one in charge of the city and not Sheppard.
Caldwell gave his most politically correct answer. “My feelings are irrelevant to the United States Air-Force, Mr Woolsey, and the General’s make posting choices, not me.”
Woolsey quirked an eyebrow surprised by the answer. He probed further wanting to see if it was a real change of heart or just a smart reply. “You didn’t feel that way in the past.”
Caldwell chuckled, but there was no humour in his voice. “I’m a human being Mr Woolsey we are allowed to change our minds.”
Woolsey was about to add something, but Caldwell cut him off. “You should be less overt in your intentions on the city when asking such questions. You will soon see the staff, the armed forces and even the city itself loves the man.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d heard something along those lines. When he’d been preparing to make the journey to Atlantis he’d heard marines begging to go back to their Commander. Scientists were pleading to go on the new beta site to explore the secondary tower. It was a stark change to the initial expedition, and that was not counting the dangerous foe they’d found in the Galaxy. It seemed that in trying to find resources to fight the Ori, they’d found only more danger.
Woolsey had one last avenue of questioning to explore knowing that if he were unsuccessful with Caldwell, who was hardly the man’s biggest fan, then it wouldn’t be an avenue to explore on the city. “You mentioned the city itself loves the man. Doesn’t that concern you?”
Caldwell snorted because he’d hoped the IOA would be capable of joined-up thinking. He would point it out for them if necessary. “No, and nor should it bother you if you want to continue to explore the very advanced technologies on the city. You should keep the man there.”
“It is impossible for a city to love one man.” Woolsey countered. The city was just that, a city.
“Well, as I understand it from the eggheads, it is more his genes than him. The error reports spike when he is off the city.” Caldwell calmly responded like it should be apparent and possibly not a big deal.
Woolsey wanted to be clear in his understanding. “So you’re saying if Colonel Sheppard is taken away from the city it slowly starts to shut down.”
Caldwell was done playing games. “It is well documented that Colonel Sheppard has the strongest gene expression, and that is still true with General O’Neill coming in second.”
“Some would say for that very reason he should be on Earth.”
Caldwell was so done with this crap. “You were in the forces before your retirement. There is not a single soldier for any reason that should be treated as a science experiment. There is a danger in the extreme for doing something for the greater good just look at your history books.”
“I don’t like what you’re implying,” Woolsey remarked.
Caldwell just looked up from his papers. “Then, I would be careful with my words. After all, Dr Weir is an infamous negotiator.”
It was words to consider because it was true that the IOA did not like the latitude that seemed to have been given to the Atlantis expedition, especially given the potentially endless advancements Earth could gain.
Chapter 8: Burdens, Ego and Deals with the Devil
“The negotiations were made in good faith!” Elizabeth slammed her hands on the briefing table. She couldn’t believe the words that had come out of his mouth. They’d worked hard on the agreement so that it was sensible and fair, considering Atlantis was going to be taking the city from the planet and they deserved protection.
Woolsey looked down his glasses at Elizabeth like he was disappointed in her emotions. John knew that such an attitude with the formidable woman never ended well. He didn’t say anything, just watched, he would wait for Elizabeth’s signal. After all, he was her second in command and acted like it. They’d figured out their dynamic during their first year on the city through all the trials and tribulations.
Woolsey wasn’t impressed with her response and demanded to know their ideas. “And how do we justify the expense of the shield and the generators for yet another off-world community?”
Weir snorted, knowing precisely what the concern was for the committee. She saw no reason to be coy, “Money is a terrible thing for you to find considering the huge budget you can command. I can’t imagine how useful it would be to have a second city that is capable of housing the entire IOA and their families should the evacuation from Earth be necessary if the war against the Ori goes badly?”
John had to hide his smirk because she really did go for the jugular when necessary. He could tell it was the right way to play this as well. If he had seen one factor that motivated the IOA above everything else, it was self-interest. He had yet to meet a member of the SGC who was fond of the members of the committee.
Woolsey countered showing that he wasn’t stupid, but he was no longer aggressive in his tone. “Who knows? The cities do fly, so nothing is stopping either city going to Earth. If the IOA can agree where it lands, if that were the case, it would need the most powerful gene user to run the operation.”
John was intrigued because that sounded an awful lot like bribery and flattery. He was confused and would never happen but could see the humour in the idea of the IOA all agreeing on anything. “You’d be right I could fly the city, but there is currently a massive security risk that means I would not feel comfortable landing either city on Earth.”
“To do that we would need to end the Wraith.” Elizabeth pointed out. “It would be too risky to allow Atlantis or Poseidon to return to Earth otherwise because it is well-documented that the Wraith track Ancient technology.”
John snorted seeing the furrowed concern on Woolsey’s brow return. It seemed the city wasn’t so attractive all of a sudden. He felt like he had to be sarcastic, “Understatement but ending them is on my to-do list. I made it a New Year resolution and everything.”
He may have said it with sarcasm rife in his voice, but he meant every word of it – it was the whole reason he was willing to shoulder the burden of the ancient legacy and hide who he was from everyone around him.
Woolsey wasn’t quite sure how to respond to the colonel’s flippancy which he didn’t appreciate. The only trouble was their meeting was rudely interrupted by a new person shouting at the top of his voice.
“I can fix the Wraith!”
The three people in the room turned their head towards the excited voice. Elizabeth looked chagrined about being interrupted. On second thoughts, John upgraded that to murderous; he usually got that look if someone mentioned Kolya’s name. It was odd too because she had managed to train the scientists to respect the rules. Normally.
She sighed and reigned in her own comments because the last thing she was going to do was show weakness in front of the auditor. “You may as well explain that in more detail now that you have rudely interrupted us, Dr Beckett.”
The good doctor had the sense to blush at least. He didn’t look upset by the chastisement obviously excited by his miraculous discovery. “Colonel Sheppard has given me the blueprint to eradicate the Wraith.”
“You want to explain that slowly,” John repeated because he was curious as to how he managed it. He had a feeling that when his grandfather had said he would be the key – it would be a little more complicated than his blood. No, John knew it would be more difficult, especially as Atlantis had obscured his bloodwork to pass as an average human. He could see the excitement in both Elizabeth’s and Woolsey’s eyes, and he didn’t like it one bit. There was a tendency with such a proclamation to rush in, and he’d learned that lesson the hard-way that didn’t end well. The saying about good intentions paving the road to hell was a cliche, but it was around for a reason.
Becket sat down, and once he got his breath back from running. He explained to his audience but specifically looked at John. “The blood tests we drew from you since you returned to us show no junk DNA when analysed.”
John sent a quick thank you to the city for continuing to keep his secret. He didn’t like hiding but knew it was vital if he was to succeed.
Woolsey looked sharply at John as if he was some kind of imposter. “If his DNA is not the same, how can you say that Colonel Sheppard is the same person?”
John would forever treasure the look on Beckett’s face. The doctor didn’t bother to hide his disdain at the question. “Perhaps because I can read DNA. The DNA I am referring to was junk DNA from his run-in with the Iratus bug and the odd hybrid girl, not the key strands that uniquely make him John Sheppard.”
John pinched his nose but figured he’d keep this conversation somewhat on track. “So you’re saying my trip to the stars got rid of the excess junk in my DNA?”
John hadn’t realised how much that excess DNA had bothered him until Beckett just now had said it was gone. He’d known there had been some awkward conversations because O’Neill had ordered his medical file to be locked down about two weeks before the sanctuary planet mission. At the time, he’d wanted to ask just what had been discussed back on Earth, but had guessed when he noticed a young geneticist, Keller, had been blocked by Elizabeth from transferring to the city.
Beckett carried on explaining why he was sure he could solve the Wraith problem. “That is exactly what I am saying. Your DNA is pure and clean now, and your ATA gene is as strong as ever. I know that I can use the same coding structures in a vaccine to cure the Wraith.”
John winced inwardly because he would rather that pronouncement hadn’t occurred in front of an IOA member, but it couldn’t be helped. He deflected Woolsey with a possible reason. “Yeah, I know. I think being forced to awaken Poseidon didn’t help. Now back to the Wraith, Doc?”
Beckett nodded, and the look of excitement overtook his face once more. His head was too far into the science to think about the implications in the real world. “So it got me thinking of how we could clean the Wraith genes of the need to feed. Your DNA change can essentially be the blueprint for an RNA virus that could stop the need to feed on lifeforce.”
Weir was stunned, but then she allowed herself to get carried away with the thought of saving their enemy. “You mean we can stop the Wraith from feeding on humans?”
Beckett nodded and was quick to reassure his leader that this time he’d thought it through. “Yes, and this wouldn’t be like the Hoffan drug as it isn’t preventative.”
“That had some pretty serious consequences.” She said in reproach and John could see the sheen of excitement be somewhat doused, but worryingly it was still there. She had been horrified by the loss of life on the planet, and the choice the inhabitants had made.
John wanted to laugh out loud at that comment because it was the most diplomatic way of saying that the population decided to allow 50% of itself to die to escape the fate of being Wraith food. The irony was that the strong measure was futile as once the Wraith caught wind of such a tactic – they had wiped out the settlements from space. It had caused Beckett to spiral into depression for a while in the aftermath. It had taken a lot of work with Heightmeyer to get back on an even keel.
On reflection, she might have done too much good work with her patient. After all, John had seen this excitement before, and it was just before Beckett had revealed the Hoffan vaccine would kill fifty percent of them. John may have a soldier’s mindset, but he’d been horrified at the casual way Beckett had at the time dismissed such a loss of life. The problem for John was he could see history repeating itself. Beckett wasn’t the only one showing enthusiasm for the idea. There was growing intrigue on Weir’s and even Woolsey’s face.
John knew this ‘vaccine’ would lead to anything good. He had to tread carefully. He had the kudos of bringing a new city to Earth’s fleet but balanced with the potential distrust of recently having returned to the mortal plane of existence. As John guessed, Woolsey was very interested in this, and the man cleaned his glasses.
“This is promising news, Dr Beckett. Tell us more.”
Beckett had a massive grin and sat down at the bottom of the table. “This is more than promising. It could be momentous.”
Weir was grinning because if they could take away the threat of the Wraith, it would make it easier for the Atlanteans to work. The whole city could move off a war footing to a pure discovery focus which had been the aim of the expedition in the first place. “So what is your plan?”
“We could use gene therapy to take away their feeding hand… We just need to isolate the specific markers, but your altered DNA from the conversion event has given me the data I need.”
Woolsey frowned because that didn’t sound like a secure plan although he was more than happy to throw his support behind it if it could become a proactive solution. “And how are you going to be sure?”
“The Colonel’s DNA has been cleaned. We can use the new markers present as a targeted attack vector.”
Woolsey was dubious, but if he could bring this back to the IOA, it would cement his place and pave the way for one or both of the cities returning to Earth. He looked to Dr Weir, “I suggest that we all read over the details that I hope are in Dr Beckett’s hands.”
Beckett flushed in annoyance at the not too subtle rebuke. He may have been excited, but he was not a first-year grad student. He knew how this all worked and did indeed have the files ready to hand over. “Of course, here you go.” He pushed the data at Dr Weir, John and Woolsey.
John watched Elizabeth’s eyes narrow because Woolsey was given his file before she was and that hadn’t gone unnoticed. Beckett really was treading on thin ice with the leader of the Expedition, and he didn’t seem even to comprehend it.
John wasn’t naive when it came to politics. If he were going to fight against this, then he would need allies. So John needed some space to go and sound out who that might be without Woolsey or the others being in his way. He would only know to play this once he knew how people, and then make a plan of attack.
John took his briefing papers showing no emotion. He stood up. “Great, I suggest we go our separate ways and reconvene having read the document.”
Elizabeth was already engrossed in the proposal. “Yes, what do you say if we return here after two hours?”
He needed to talk with Rodney and gain Teya’s thoughts on the matter. He was aware it might seem odd for him to be against this proposal, but he had bad feelings about this whole idea. It was one thing to be at war and fight an enemy to the death but to single-handedly modify the bodily functions because you found it unpalatable – had much broader and nastier implications.
Rodney watched John come into his lab space and flop on the couch. Well, more slink onto the sofa, and despite his efforts to hide it, Rodney could see he was vibrating from annoyance. Rodney had no idea how the man could make even sprawling over a couch look good, but John did.
Rodney dismissed any snarky comments because he knew how terrible the man’s bark was in a mood, it was worse than his own, and that was rather infamous. It had made even the SEAL team cry much to the marines’ amusements, but John’s title as resident BAMF was cemented in the first year and wasn’t going to be challenged.
Of course, Rodney being Rodney couldn’t express this vocally because he had a reputation to uphold. He saw Zelenka in the corner of his eye raise an eyebrow at him because no one on his staff was allowed to even sit on his office couch, and here John was sprawled over it. It was weak, but he had to offer at least a snarky comment of, “Why are you distracting my staff with your Kirk ways?”
John smirked at him, and it was their smile, the one that said I’m on to you and you are not as prickly as you wanted to believe. “Buddy, you’re the only one in your lab. You are in a fabulous mood as you have made even Zelenka run for safety the minute I appeared.”
“My blood sugar is low.” He replied with a pout. “Oh, and it was your mood that had everyone running for the hills.”
It wasn’t quite right, but it was his go-to excuse when he didn’t want actually to tell the truth. He caught the bar flung at him. He smiled at the thought of John carrying the sugar bars with allergy warnings attached.
The care and the slinkiness was a dangerous mix, and Rodney was trying to remember that this was his best friend. He wasn’t a stranger to the fact his best friend was too good-looking for his own good. He’d figured he could settle for a best friend, but then it was more complicated when he ascended, and Rodney had lost him. Things were all mixed up for him right now, especially as he had broken up with Katie over something stupid. He didn’t understand how she could be the other woman when he wasn’t seeing anyone else.
He figured he would have time to talk to John about the breakup, but Rodney didn’t have the time to deal with his emotions right now, so he was going to settle for the tried and tested technique of distraction. “Okay, so why are you flopping on my couch instead of pretending to do paperwork?”
John smirked at him. “That’s what Lorne is for, don’t look at me like that. I know you have your own minions to do your paperwork.”
Rodney knew that as well, but he snarked about it. He was also aware that John did a lot of his paperwork himself despite what he wanted others to believe. For now, he was willing to indulge this strange conversation, but he was running out of patience. “Yeah but Radek bitches me out in Portuguese when I ask him to do mine.”
“A language you don’t know?” John couldn’t hide the glee from his voice. It was good to tease Rodney about things he wasn’t aware of – kept his ego vaguely in check. It was a game they played just as much as prime/not prime.
“You know it is,” and Rodney gave him a pointed look because he’d found his limit. “Quit deflecting. What’s annoyed you to the point of you slinking on my couch rather than sparring. When you’re this mad, you try and find something to hit.”
“I can’t spar with anyone but Teyla or Ronan in this mood,” John replied, letting Rodney know just how mad he was about what was bothering him.
John, when he was in a mood, was a little darker and spared just a little bit meaner. The infirmary had made a rule that he couldn’t spar with anyone but his two team members as they didn’t stock enough painkillers.
“Have you spoken to Carson today?” John asked carefully.
Rodney sneered because he was less than impressed with the Chief Medical Officer right now. Ah, now he could guess the source of his friend’s bad mood. “Do you mean, do I know about Carson’s miracle cure?” He replied with a withering glare.
“You’re a scientist, so you don’t believe in miracles.” John pointed out but started to breathe easier. If Rodney was that snarky, it meant he was pissed, and that said he had the chief scientist on his side. It would mean opposing this idea just got a hell of a lot easier.
“You’d be right … I don’t believe in miracles as I am not a witch doctor like him. What did you think about his sales pitch?”
Rodney carefully asked because he had to weigh his options about things. He was not too impressed about Carson’s attitude but knew he had to tread carefully and as much as he detested it – play the politics right in this situation.
“Believe it … not in a million years.” John finished cynically.
Rodney chuckled. “It is good to see he is no better a salesman than he is a doctor.”
“So what is your issue?” John pressed him. It wasn’t like there was anyone around but them. So they didn’t often hold back their opinions when it was just them. It had become an unspoken rule during their first year – they needed a safe place to vent, so it was each other.
“You know there has to be testing for a theory to be true. Well, Beckett has completely skipped that stage before making such grandiose statements to us and IOA.” Rodney sighed. “It presents ethical problems in the extreme and ones I am not comfortable with answering without a lot more details.”
You see the trouble for scientists on Atlantis was that John was smart and hid it. Rodney knew about his doctorate in Applied Mathematics from Stanford but kept quiet on the matter because his friend liked to be underestimated. The only price of his silence was that John would check his math when he was stressed. Thanks to his own academics, John knew what was needed to pass research – like say, an ethics board. It was a little tricky on Atlantis, but they had still created protocols to keep the dangerous research in the realms of safety.
John was starting to smile because finally, this was good news. John pressed for details because this could be an avenue for them to object safely without blowback from the IOA. “So he hasn’t brought this up for peer-review or ethics check?”
Rodney snorted because he wouldn’t be in such a mood if he had. “No, the resident witch doctor has not shared his research or ideas with anyone. Hence my bad mood and low blood sugar.”
John could see why Rodney was furious because as Chief Science Officer – He chaired the peer-review committee that all work had to go through on Atlantis with Radek and Miko. It was not like their own work wasn’t checked, but it went through the SGC with Carter leading the review. It was why there hadn’t been more of a fallout over the Trinity device. As much as the IOA would have loved to lay the blame at Rodney’s feet – he’d followed procedures.
John knew Rodney would offer his honest opinion. “So I take it that I am not going to be the only one objecting to this ridiculous plan?”
Rodney shook his head. “Oh, I intend to object most strenuously and as loudly as needed for any idiot to see sense.” Rodney had been planning his rebuttal of the plan in five languages since he’d caught wind of the ridiculous charade masquerading as a notion.
“It could take a while,” John replied because they were way too many people without common sense on the IOA. He had a mental hit-list of those who might need future action. He might be stuck on Atlantis, but he still had friends on Earth who owed him favours.
Rodney snorted because that wasn’t news to him. He had dealt with the idiocy and bureaucracy of working in their sector for longer than John. “I have been doing it since I could talk, I don’t see any reason to stop now.”
The trouble was they both knew that this solution would be seized upon as a saving grace. The powers-that-be would, sadly, not even give it due care and consideration. On the surface, it seemed like a perfect palatable solution as it wasn’t killing their opponents.
John clapped him on the shoulder. He wanted Rodney to know that he was in total agreement but that they might be in the minority. “I hear you, buddy. I feel we will have our work cut out.”
Rodney’s bright grin suggested he had a devious plan to help them.
John prodded him. “Go on Rodney … Tell me what diabolical plan you have in mind?”
Rodney didn’t think it was diabolical but rather common sense. He figured it would be a good start. “We get Teyla on our side. She can make anyone regret their rash choices.”
It was insightful but genuine, and she was his next visit. John adored Teyla, and he was forever grateful that they went to Athos first. She was a fierce warrior, but he’d always found her ability to cut someone to the core more impressive with words than anything else. The only thing John was conscious of the fact that while Teyla’s opinion was held in high regard on Atlantis – Some of the IOA could be rather speciest in their viewpoint.
He stood up, feeling better and tapped Rodney on the shoulder. “I’m going now, so you finish plotting buddy.”
When John opened the door to the gym, he found that Teyla was meditating. He wanted a workout, but he wasn’t stupid enough to interrupt her meditation. If there was one thing that his time in the sanctuary had given him – was the patience to meditate. He kicked off his shoes and joined Teyla on the mat.
He didn’t see it as he respected her rules, but she had a small smile on her face. In truth, she had found since his return from the ancestors that he was a calming presence and helped her relax into a meditative state.
It was evident to her that he’d returned with something more about him. She said nothing as Dr Beckett wasn’t able to find it with his science and it was clear her friend didn’t want to draw attention to it. She had always trusted him, and she would continue to do so. She only hoped that when the time was right, he would share his truth with them.
It was clear that whatever was wrong – her friend needed the time to relax even if he didn’t know it. She was aware of his preferred methods, but sparring wasn’t always the best way forward.
“You are troubled,” she pointed out.
John snorted because that was an understatement. “Dr Beckett has a risky plan to ‘fix’ the Wraith.”
Teyla quirked an eyebrow but didn’t challenge his statement. “I would have thought that would be ideal.”
John shook his head. “It is not the plan. It is the aftermath that I have a problem with as there is no plan. I will forever feel responsible for waking the Wraith, but I don’t want us to be in the worst situation.”
“So join my meditation. You will find the answers to your burdens.” Teyla finished serenely. She wanted more details, but as many things had changed with John, his reticence to talk about problems was still the same.
John figured he could use the opportunity that meditating provided to try and reach his ascended friends. Once he relaxed, he found it easy enough to slip into that mode. John cast his senses out to make sure the high council wasn’t watching him. It had been covered between him and his grandfather after one training session he had freaked out on his part. He was sure that he wasn’t being watched but would know if Teer or his grandfather appeared.
Teer appeared first. She had a grin on her face that was probably his fault. She asked him with a teasing lilt. “How is it back on two feet?”
John pouted because it was one of the hardest things about returning to Atlantis. He had mostly been his own plane and had been able to travel at incredible speeds without any need for a spacecraft. He was honest with Teer because she deserved it for how much she had helped him heal. “Limiting. You know how much I love to fly, but so far, everyone still thinks that I am human once more.”
“You are,” She assured him as she was aware that it bothered him although she was sure that John had yet to figure out that bit. “You are just a bit more.”
And wasn’t that the problem.
After all, it had been his new bloodwork that had given Beckett the ridiculous idea. He didn’t think his grandfather’s plan was going to be as simple as his blood, but he still wanted to check. He didn’t wish to Teer to believe he was disappointed to see her so tried to make conversation. “Yeah, it is great to see you. How have you been?”
She giggled at his awkward attempt at making small talk. She had known how he felt about her because of them sharing essence because if it were through his communication skills – it would have never happened. “I have been watching Hedda roll around the universe and watch you pine for your good friend.”
John stiffened because his ex was essentially telling him to move on with another man. He may have thought about it in the past, especially on the cold nights in Antarctica but DADT had still been a thing. The Air-Force had been looking for a way to get rid of him, and he was not going to offer them the reason on a silver platter. He’d managed over the first year to bank his arousal into a deep friendship that he treasured. So much so, he didn’t want to risk it. “I don’t know what you mean.”
She gave him a pointed look because that weak evasion wouldn’t persuade her otherwise. “Sure, you don’t. You seem troubled?”
John thought that was an understatement, but Teer didn’t deserve his anger. “Yeah, I am. I was hoping to reach out to my grandfather.”
She snorted because having gotten to know Janus better she could definitely say the Sheppard line was full of chaos bringing. “Might be difficult. He is causing mischief with the high-council so you can wreak havoc on Atlantis, but he did give me a message.”
Knowing that Janus was both his grandfather and originator of most of his trouble on Atlantis, John almost dreaded to think what he quantified as mischief. “Is this going to frustrate me?”
She shrugged and offered only a serene smile as she flitted out of his dream. “Trust your instincts about the healer’s plan. He also said that even Sheppard’s need to return to their flock when they needed help.”
John’s mind was racing with the implication.
John came out of his transcendent conversation to see Teyla’s curious gaze. “Hey. So I need to brief you on something?”
John explained everything about Beckett and his idea. He couldn’t speak about his own part as there were still rules. It was the greatest irony for all his potential – he was still locked down by regulations. It had been his greatest fear during the tower planet that he’d be discovered through his stunt. He knew the only way he could stay with his friends, was if the ruse wasn’t discovered too early.
Teyla took a deep breath as she weighed all the facts. She couldn’t help but comment, “I don’t think we meditated for long enough.”
John snickered because it wasn’t often that he heard Teyla say something so bitchy. “I was hoping to spar if that will help.”
She threw John his bantos rods. They went through the warm-up katas but kept up their conversation, and she couldn’t help but despair at the hubris. “And he thinks this will work?”
“Yes,” John replied.
She used a vicious spin to go for his legs. “And he’s tested it?”
John jumped over the low sweep. “No test, in fact, he has asked me to go out and procure him a test subject.”
The tone Beckett had used when asking was nothing more than a person asking someone to pick up a few items shopping. It was that tone that disturbed John more than anything. There wasn’t even a thought at the considerable risk it would put his men under when procuring the Wraith.
Teyla was not amused. “And are you going to back a live Wraith to Atlantis?”
John smirked as he blocked her next attack. “You know. I intend to make sure that Ronan and I have extra itchy trigger fingers in our future missions.”
Teyla relaxed a little hearing that proclamation. “I suppose I can be most disappointed with you both.”
John’s smirk grew. “You usually are vexed with one of us, and if we can keep stringing him along until a better plan forms that would be great.”
They didn’t get a chance.
John should have known that he wouldn’t get the chance to finish sorting all his plans out. Beckett had seen the way Weir had wavered in her support once Rodney, John and Teyla had all voiced their objections.
So Beckett had been sneaky in return and made an even bigger mess in the process.
John had never seen Elizabeth this mad before. She was pacing and spitting out curses in a few languages. Rodney and he both shared worried but impressed glares. He was sure the marines would blush at some of the comments if they were translated. That, or be impressed with some of the ideas she was tossing out in a fit of peak. It turns out for a diplomat she could be quite blood-thirsty.
It was an excellent job that it was just the senior staff briefing, which meant it was only himself, Rodney and Elizabeth. By rights, Beckett should also be here, but John was guessing that he was the source of her aggravation and therefore not invited.
“He went above our heads.” She finally shared with them.
John went cold because that was unfortunate. He’d debated, mediated and had Ronan spar with him until he could look at the situation objectively and he still knew this was a fundamentally bad idea. He’d even been mature enough to check with his ascended friends.
“Has the IOA made a decision regarding his plan?” Rodney asked, finding his voice first.
She shook her head, still not able to get a hold of her anger. She trusted Rodney and John enough to share her fears. “No, but this will not look good for me that he slipped a message out.”
“You are not weak Elizabeth, but we need a smart plan.” John tried to reassure her.
“Miko and I hack their computers and terrorise them into seeing sense.” Rodney offered his suggestion.
John snickered because he was fairly sure that O’Neill would look the other way if they did. Carter would help Rodney too as she wasn’t fond of the IOA. “Tempting but they could fire you even if it would be monumentally stupid.”
“You have an idea.” Rodney started with a surety that showed just how good friends they were. “And it is devious, but you don’t have a nuclear bomb, so I am worried.”
John snorted. “Like I need plutonium to cause chaos.”
“So what is going on in your brain?” Rodney asked him because he was never too sure what way John would go on a good day. It was what made them work as friends, he loved the fact he could never predict John’s action, and therefore the man was never boring or predictable.
John knew what Teer’s message was about – John should return to his original flock. His family on Earth could help him, and they had the power to burn and resources to match wits with several small countries. He knew that O’Neill would be intrigued by his proposal and could solve several of the SG’s problems in one fell swoop. “I am going to be something that I might detest. You are all going to owe me huge. Forever.”
Rodney thought about what he knew regarding John’s life. There was only one thing that John hated talking about, much like himself – it was family. “You are going to go home?”
John slumped his shoulders. “You learned all about space as a kid. I learned to play a far more vicious game on my father’s knee. He will be so shocked that I am finally going to use what he taught me.”
Elizabeth was shocked. “You mean Patrick Sheppard?”
“Yep, Pops taught me everything he knew and hated that I went into the Air-Force rather than use my brains to make the family money.”
Rodney knew all of this, and it had been covered on more than one occasion during their pier visits. “You’re going to make nice with your Daddy.”
John spoke with perfect clarity and absolute truth in his voice. “Rodney, I woke the Wraith and one day I will end them all because they are a threat that needs to be eradicated. Beckett’s plan is too damn dangerous and relies on their agreement. Why would the Wraith choose to take us up on the offer? Right now, they feel they are gods and have no intention of going back to lesser mortals. We don’t rationalise our choices about eating our food, why should they?”
“I never knew you felt that way,” Elizabeth remarked slowly.
John snorted. “I don’t share my feelings, just ask my ex-wife, but you know what I would dance with the devil himself to end the Wraith. To go and make nice with my father is easy in comparison.”
For better or worse, John was going home.
The END … for now.