- Action Adventure
- Alternate Universe
‘Well, it’s certainly not a coincidence,’ John told Jack in a low voice as they leaned against the balustrade on the balcony overlooking the gateroom. ‘Three missions to three different planets and the Wraith show up each time? That’s a pattern, not an accident.’
‘And you’re sure it’s got nothing to do with Teyla?’ Jack tried to keep his voice neutral but John still swung round and glared at him. ‘Okay, okay, but there’s something going on, you’ve just said so yourself.’
‘Yeah, I know. But I’m almost certain it’s got nothing to do with Teyla. One of the Wraith would have fed on her today if McKay hadn’t managed to shoot him enough times to get his attention while Teyla got away.’
‘McKay shot him, eh? Good for him, he’s obviously been practising. First time I took him off world he couldn’t hit the side of a mothership.’
‘He’s told me about the messes you used to drag him into,’ John said with a grin, then sobered. `I just wish some of the other scientists we brought with us had off world experience.’
Jack nodded. ‘Most of the scientists who came out here were either recruited especially for the Expedition or came from Area 51, like Radek and Miko Kusanagi. Some, like Peter Grodin, came from countries who are part of the IOA.’
‘Well, we need to get some of them trained up to join off world teams, and we also need to decide on a list of priorities, both on and off world. I’ve had a couple of ideas, but I want to bring McKay in to discuss it. He obviously knows his people better than we do.’
‘No time like the present,’ Jack said. ‘You got time now?’
John grinned. ‘Yeah, because if I go back to my office I just know Lorne’s gonna want to talk paperwork, although why we still have so many forms to fill out beats me.’
‘Preaching to the converted here, John. I wanted to get most of them ditched but George and the IOA overruled me. Come on, call McKay. He might agree if you ask him.’
Jack wandered over to Chuck Campbell, the admin clerk who doubled as a gate technician since Jack had declared he didn’t have – nor wanted – enough admin to warrant a clerk, and asked him to arrange for some coffee for them. As he settled himself behind his desk he wondered – for almost the first time since they arrived, he realised – how Walter and the rest of the SGC were managing with Elizabeth Weir in charge.
Rodney’s arrival was heralded by his strident tones verbally chastising a member of his staff over his radio: ‘What part of “don’t touch the Jumpers” are you struggling with? Because if you break another one, you fuckwit, I’m going to let the Colonel break you, and I’ll hand out popcorn to anyone who wants to watch.’
‘Who’s broken one of my Jumpers, McKay?’ John growled as Rodney joined them in Jack’s office.
‘Oh, who do you think?’ Rodney snapped back at him as he sank into a chair. `Three guesses.’
‘Kavanagh, Kavanagh, Kavanagh,’ Jack said with a sigh. `What’s the idiot done now?
‘Radek’s been working on one of the Jumpers, trying to see what powers and charges it. He left it while he went to get some lunch and when he came back, Kavanagh had managed to not only wreck the experiment Radek was running, but did something to the Jumper which has made it stop working altogether.’
‘Can you fix it?’
Radek’s not managed it yet. He needs one of you to go and sit in it and see if you can find anything through the neural interface.’ Rodney heaved a great sigh. `The sooner Beckett can get his gene therapy working, the better for all of us.’
Jack grimaced. ‘Yeah, about that. Carolyn came to see me earlier, while you were all off world, and told me Beckett think’s he’s got a workable vaccine but she wasn’t happy with either his methods or his testing procedures. He says it’s ready to use but she wants him to go back and do some more work on it.’
‘He think’s he got a workable vaccine already?’ John asked with a frown. ‘How? We’ve only been here a couple of weeks, and most of that was spent either running for our lives or sorting out the chaos that results from almost 400 people living in a place with supplies for only 200.’
‘Carolyn’s pretty sure Beckett completed his work on the gene therapy while we were back on Earth but didn’t say anything because it would have had to – legally – go through a number of panels before it could actually be administered. It’s not particularly unusual, we moved a few projects off world to get around the various legalities connected with the FDA, but that was mostly due to the secrecy of the Stargate Programme rather than an issue with the drug itself. All the projects concerned had gone through rigorous testing and review.’ Jack ran his hands through his hair in frustration. ‘Carolyn’s concerned that the protocols Beckett should have followed have largely been ignored and she wants to set up a panel to peer review the work of both Beckett and Keller. I get the feeling she doesn’t trust either of them and wants a panel to make an independent opinion rather than her relying on her own gut reaction. She’s going to email you about it, Rodney.’
‘Is that why you wanted me up here?’ Rodney frowned. ‘I don’t know much about Keller at all as she arrived at the Outpost only just before I left.’
‘We want to talk about increasing the number of off world teams and training up a few scientists to join them,’ Jack explained. ‘At the moment yours is the only team with a scientist and while the other two are negotiating useful trade agreements, especially with the two Athosians Teyla suggested as guides, we did come to Pegasus to explore and discover technology, for which we need teams with scientists. John’s had a few ideas but wanted you here to discuss them.’
Rodney turned his raised brows to John and waved his hand in a ‘go on’ motion.
‘I’m of a mind to create three different types of teams,’ John began, reaching for the coffee Jack had just poured for him. ‘Off World, City and Training, if you like. At the moment, you, Rodney, are the only scientist qualified to go off world. If Jack and I had been in charge from the very beginning we would have insisted on all the scientists having some level of weapons training but by the time we were, there simply wasn’t time.’
‘I told Elizabeth Weir that’s what we needed but she tried to remove me as CSO before I could do anything about it,’ Rodney scowled. ‘Bitch. She’s the reason we had to bring Kavanagh with us. The IOA wouldn’t support her when she tried to get him appointed as CSO but they did insist we bring him out here. Personally, I think they just wanted rid of him.’ He paused and shook his head. ‘What was the question again?’
‘There wasn’t a question, Rodney, I was simply saying you’re the only scientist who’s actually got any weapons experience,’ John told him with a sigh of impatience. ‘This is why I’m suggesting three different types of science team. The Off World teams, obviously, will be the ones with scientists who’ve passed my weapons test which at the moment is just you, Rodney, although it won’t take much to get Radek qualified since he was conscripted into the Czechoslovakia People’s Army for four years.’
‘Was he?’ Jack sounded surprised. ‘I thought he would’ve been exempt.’
‘No one was exempt from what he’s told me,’ said Rodney, wryly. ‘It’s why he’s only got the one PhD, although I suspect he just needs to defend on at least one other. I agree with John, though. He could probably pass the test John’s devised tomorrow, and I know he’s quite keen to go off world, as is Miko. As are several of the scientists in fact. They just never got the opportunity before.’
‘Why not?’ Jack asked, with a puzzled frown. ‘I thought all the scientists working for the SGC were given the choice to go off world if they wanted, very few seemed to want to, that’s all.’
‘General Landry was very reluctant to allow any of the Area 51 scientists to even go to the SGC, let alone ask for off world training,’ Rodney told him. ‘It’s amazing how many of their requests never got passed on. Sam and I did what we could but…’ he shrugged his shoulders. ’It’s all ancient history now. The fact is, that almost all of the scientists need some degree of weapons training if you want them to go off world, and that’s going to take time.’
‘Which is why I’m proposing we have two other types of science team,’ John said. ‘One type will do weapons training and practice, the other will start exploring the city. The scientists won’t need any arms training for that and they’ll be accompanied by Marines to protect them and, hopefully, prevent them from getting injured or causing accidents by over enthusiastic touching.’
Jack and Rodney grinned at this. Both had been guilty of doing this while off world in the Milky Way, and had indeed been why Jack had originally had an Ancient database downloaded into his brain.
‘I propose that the teams alternate what they do, some training and some exploring so none of them get bored or discouraged and all the scientists get to discover exciting shiny things,’ John continued then laughed when Rodney’s face fell.
‘I want to discover exciting shiny things in the city,’ Rodney whined, but both Jack and John could see the glint in his eyes.
‘You’ll get to discover shiny things off world.’ John reached over and patted his hand. ‘And you won’t have to share most of them.’
‘Sounds like a good plan to me,’ Jack told them with a grin.
‘And it means we can rotate a few Marines around to give them experience in herding scientists and see who works well within teams with a view to sending them off world together,’ John added.
‘I wouldn’t mind doing some city exploration myself,’ Jack admitted. ‘At least I wouldn’t have to do too much running for my life.’
‘You do know you’ve just jinxed the whole thing, don’t you?’ Rodney said in amusement. ‘But I have to agree that it’s a good idea. I’ll get together with Radek and we’ll work out who wants to go off world and is prepared to do the training required. We’ll probably find that some scientists will be happy to just explore the city, although I think it’s a good idea to give training to as many as we can.’
‘Teyla has offered to do some hand to hand training with the Marines, she might be willing to extend that to the scientists, or recommend another one of the Athosians who’ll do it,’ John suggested, and Rodney nodded.
‘I’ll add that to our list. If Teyla doesn’t have anyone willing, maybe one or two of the Marines with hand to hand training will be willing to teach a class or two?’
‘Which brings me back to what we were talking about earlier, John,’ Jack said, and Rodney looked up from the notes he was making.
‘What was that?’
‘The fact that we’ve met the Wraith on each of our missions so far. Jack and I agree that it’s no longer a coincidence.’
Rodney scowled. ‘Surely you don’t think Teyla—‘
‘No, especially after the mission today,’ John interrupted. ‘But there’s something going on, I’m just not sure what it is. Nor how we go about finding out.’
‘Neither do I,’ Jack admitted, ‘but we’ve got almost 200 extra people on the city at the moment and I think it’s safe to say that our answer is probably amongst them. And we must also decide what to do with the Athosians. We simply don’t have the supplies to feed all of us and they were able to bring very little with them when they escaped.’
Very reluctantly John had to agree with him.
They sat in silence for a while, each sipping coffee and chasing thoughts and theories through their minds when Rodney suddenly sat upright and clicked his fingers.
‘I may have an idea that would help with the Athosians.’
Rodney was struggling to keep a straight face over breakfast the next morning as he watched his two friends have a silent battle over who was going to help him execute the idea he’d come up with the day before. He found it highly amusing that a USAF General and a USAF Colonel could each be reduced to the age of five – possibly six – over who got to fly the puddlejumper. They’d finally resorted – after the battle of eyebrows had ended in a draw – to rock, paper, scissors when Rodney made the suggestion he’d been holding onto for this precise moment.
‘Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t we take two jumpers and Teyla with us as well? She’s going to want to see any place we find that we think is suitable for the Athosians, so let’s just take her with us?’
Perhaps his innocent air of ‘oh, look what I’ve just this minute thought of’ was a little overdone, but he was fairly sure it didn’t warrant the almost murderous looks on his companions’ faces.
‘And you couldn’t suggest this half an hour ago?’ John growled, narrowing his eyes.
‘What? If you two had bothered to use the brains I’m pretty sure you have…’ Rodney began, then decided he’d better make a run for it.
He and Teyla met up with them both about an hour later. Thankfully, there’d been no argument about who flew which puddlejumper as both John and Jack each had their own favourite.
‘How did you know there’d be a roof opening?’ Jack asked when Rodney demonstrated his discovery which made the whole exercise possible.
‘There had to be, there was no other way to get the jumpers into the air.’
‘Yeah, but how’d you find it?’ Jack persisted.
‘In the city plans Radek discovered. Does it matter?’
‘Nah, just wonderin’,’ Jack grinned and sauntered over to jumper three.
Rodney shook his head and went to sit at the front of jumper one, John’s favourite. There had been no argument over the division of labour. Jack seemed to be positively encouraging John and Rodney to pair up and they were both more than happy to indulge him in his rather obvious matchmaking efforts.
‘All set?’ John asked him as he took his seat. ‘Sergeant Smith’s provided us all with a picnic lunch so we don’t need to rush back. We might find a deserted beach to have it on.’
Rodney looked at John curiously. ‘Are you taking me on a date?’
John’s face warmed to a faint pink. ‘Maybe? Would you object if I was?’
Rodney smiled shyly. ‘Not at all, in fact I think I’d quite like it. Though it might be a good idea to keep it quiet for a while. There’s a lot happening at the moment and we’re all under quite a lot of pressure.’
John focussed on finishing his pre flight checks before he replied. ‘Fair enough. We’ll keep it low key for a while. It’ll give us chance to get to know each other properly while we’re not running for our lives.’
‘Okay, we can do that,’ Rodney agreed, then with an abrupt change of subject asked:. ‘Have you worked out a course yet?’
‘Jack and I worked out a grid pattern survey for the whole planet,’ John said, his attention on the HUD. ‘We’ll do half each then meet up and see what we’ve got. If there are any suitable land masses we’ll go and investigate them in greater detail afterwards.’
‘That makes much more sense then just fixing on the first land we see. Good plan.’
Glad you agree came Jack’s voice through the jumper console speaker. Teyla and I will make sure you’re not disturbed while you’re on your date.
‘You keep your mind on your own business, General Eavesdropper,’ Rodney told him crossly and turned to his companion. ‘How did we not know there was a radio of some sort built into the jumper systems? Or that it was open?’
Guess you were too busy making lovey-dovey eyes at each other.
John just shook his head although he knew Jack couldn’t see him. ‘You’re not going to let up on this now, Jack, are you?’
‘Flight, this is Jumper One requesting permission to launch,’ Rodney said into his radio, deciding to just ignore Jack, although he had little hope the subject would be dropped quite so easily.
Love Machine, you’re cleared for launch, came back Radek’s cheerful reply while John and Rodney exchanged looks of resignation.
‘Okay then, I think we’re pretty much done.’ Jack smiled happily at the people gathered around the conference table, most of whom smiled back at him. ‘Thank you for your patience and forbearance while we got everything settled. Now, is there anything else anyone wants to bring up before we all go and get dinner. Sergeant Smith told me earlier that there’s apple pie on the menu tonight with the last of the apples we brought from Earth and I don’t want to miss second helpings of that.’ He rubbed his hands in anticipation.
‘I am still not happy with the laboratory space McKay allocated me,’ Calvin Kavanagh began. ‘I still say—’
‘Oh, for fuck’s sake, Kavanagh, enough already,’ McKay told him, throwing down his pen. ‘We’ve been over this. It’s the only lab available at the moment until we have the time to get some more cleared. Stop griping.’
‘There is a large laboratory on the West Pier that I think—’
‘What were you doing in any labs on the West Pier?’ John demanded, his eyes narrowing. ‘That area hasn’t been cleared and you know perfectly well that it’s off limits for the moment.’
‘If your men worked more efficiently, it would have been cleared and be available for use.’ Kavanagh’s chin jutted up. ‘Instead you waste your time taking pleasure trips with your boyfriend and—’
He spluttered to a halt as Jack slammed his hand down on the table.
‘That’s enough! You concern yourself with your own affairs, Dr. Kavanagh, and leave the organising of anything else to the senior staff.’
‘No, that’s enough.’
‘I’m not the only one who—’
‘I said shut up!’
‘Keller and Beckett are equally dissatisfied!’ Kavanagh managed to say without being interrupted.
‘If Dr. Keller and Dr. Beckett have any complaints they should bring them to me,’ Carolyn Lam said in a crisp tone that promised pain for anyone who crossed her. Jack could only imagine the size of needles such a tone might herald and it appeared that Kavanagh did too from the way he pressed his lips together to prevent himself from saying anything more.
‘And on that note I think we’ll finish,’ Jack told them all and, to circumvent any further pointless interruptions, he stood up, thereby forcing both John and Evan Lorne to follow suit. His ruse hadn’t fooled anyone though, but he grinned cheerfully and headed the exodus to dinner. Just occasionally, being a General was worth it’s weight in…pie? He nodded to himself, satisfied with the his own personalised idiom.
‘Unscheduled off world activation,’ Chuck bellowed.
Jack came running out of his office and looked around as if trying to see what might be causing it. The pounding of footsteps on the stairs heralded the arrival of both John and Evan Lorne.
‘Any IDC?’ Jack demanded. ‘How many teams are off world at the moment?’
John raised a single eyebrow. ‘Jack? We only have three gate teams at the moment and as Lorne and I are standing here with you…’ He waved one hand between them for Jack to make the connection while Lorne hid a smile behind his hand.
‘I knew that,’ Jack mumbled.
‘It’s Sergeant Stackhouse’s IDC,’ Chuck announced and Jack pretended he hadn’t heard Sheppard’s muttered ‘Imagine the surprise!’ and gave the order for Chuck to take down the shield.
Four men tumbled through the stargate, all four of them firing back through the open wormhole.
‘Raise the shield,’ both Stackhouse and Markham yelled and Chuck hit the switch as fast as he could manage.
The event horizon shimmered for a moment then blinked out as the sound of energy blasts hit the invisible shield.
Markham made it to his feet first and offered a helping hand to Corporal Brown and the Athosian Trader Bohdan.
‘I’ll just lay here, shall I?’ Stackhouse muttered and scrambled upright while his teammates grinned at him.
‘Staff?’ Jack called out. ‘Problem?’
‘Wraith, Sir,’ Stackhouse replied. ‘But nothing we couldn’t handle.’
‘Okay, go and let Dr. Lam stick needles in you then debrief in an hour,’ Jack told them and turned to Sheppard and Lorne and raised his eyebrows.
‘That’s the first time they’ve come across Wraith that I’m aware of,’ John said quietly.
Jack nodded. ’Fancy a coffee, gentlemen? We can talk in the Mess Hall,’ he added in a low voice, then patted Chuck on the shoulder. ‘Well done, Campbell. If I closed my eyes I could have sworn it was Walter.’ Chuck gave him a cheery grin in reply.
As they made their way down the stairs McKay stumbled into the gateroom, panting.
‘I was on the East Pier and the transporter out there isn’t working.’ He bent over and rested his hands on his knees while he tried to catch his breath. ‘What’s happened? Is everyone alright?’
‘Wraith attacked Stackhouse’s team,’ Jack explained while John helped Rodney stand upright.
‘Yeah, you’re definitely coming running with me in a morning. We can start tomorrow,’ John told him.
‘Oh, that’s right,’ McKay grumbled, still breathing heavily, ‘I run all this way in case you need my expertise and you mock me.’
’S’not mocking, McKay. You need to be fit if you go off world, the amount of running for our lives we do. Come on, we’re going to get coffee.’
‘I won’t argue with getting coffee, but don’t you think we should talk about this? The Wraith—’ The rest of what he was going to say was cut off by John’s hand over his mouth.
‘We’re gonna sit in the Mess and drink coffee and no one’s going to think there’s a problem, alright?’ John told him quietly, tugging him along by his jacket. ‘We don’t want to worry everyone by rushing into Jack’s office and talking in secret.’
‘Which we do, what, almost every day because, hello! Wraith keep appearing whenever any of us go off world!’ Rodney said in what Jack thought he honestly believed was a whisper.
John didn’t answer but simply firmed his grip on Rodney’s jacket and towed him a little faster so he had to trot to keep up with him.
‘Okay, okay, I get it. You can let go now, Colonel Tugboat!’
Jack and Lorne both held back a little to watch the comedy.
‘Are they always like this together?’ Lorne asked quietly.
‘Nah, sometimes all they do is just bicker, bicker, bicker.’
By the time Jack and Lorne arrived in the Mess Hall, John and Rodney were already sitting at a table out on the balcony with four mugs and two carafes of coffee. It was a perfect place to sit, Jack thought to himself. They could be very private while looking as though they were simply enjoying the view.
‘So, what’s this? Out of eight off world missions, six of them have involved meeting up with the Wraith?’ John asked, pouring creamer into his coffee.
‘It’s the first time the Wraith have shown up on a mission led by Stackhouse,’ Lorne said, accepting the creamer from John. ‘My team’ve come across them twice. Only you have a hundred percent record, sir,’ he told John with a small smile.
‘Yes,’ Jack said thoughtfully, ‘but if I remember correctly, Major, you said the Wraith made no attempt to feed from any of you. They merely stunned Davis and du Pres and would have stunned you if Kevork hadn’t pulled you out of the way, and they left him alone entirely.’
‘Yes, sir, but Kevork did explain that the ones with a sort of mask over their faces are drones. They appear to be pretty expendable and only do what the commanders tell them to. Both times we were attacked it was by drones,’ Lorne explained. ‘And they, according to Kevork, rarely feed on a captive but instead capture them and take them back to their hive.’
‘Wraith takeaway?’ John suggested with a smile, then winched as Rodney flicked him. ‘McKay,’ he growled, making the name several syllables long. ‘Cut it out!’
‘The attacks on your team, John, were they by drones or commanders?’
‘A mixture of both, I think,’ John said thoughtfully. ‘But they definitely tried to feed on Teyla on our last mission. The couple of time before that I’m not sure about. We were too busy running for our lives.’ He grinned at Rodney.
‘It is a concern, the gate teams frequent brushes with the Wraith,’ Jack said. ‘We’re going to have a few more teams ready to go shortly but if the attacks continue each time our people set foot off world, we might need to think again.’
’The thing which confuses me is that Teyla said the Wraith are in a hibernation cycle,’ John said, ignoring Rodney’s muttered ‘Only one?’ ‘There shouldn’t be all that many Wraith around as this is when they… allow their food crop to recover from the previous cycle of cullings,’ he finished, screwing his nose in disgust.
‘Kevork said a similar thing,’ Lorne agreed. ’The majority of them should be in hibernation for another fifty years or so, yet judging by the number of attacks we’ve suffered in such a short period of time, it’s as though they’ve all woken up early or something.’
‘We need more intel on this,’ Jack said, sipping his coffee. ‘If something out of the ordinary’s happened since we arrived, we need more details. We need to cultivate some allies in Pegasus to give us regular information.’
‘Well, we’ve concentrated primarily on food so far, with only, what? Two science missions thus far?’ Lorne looked towards McKay for confirmation.
’Two,’ Rodney agreed. ‘And both of them were a bust as we came across Wraith on each of them. Now that the Athosians are gone, though, we should be able to have a few more science missions, shouldn’t we?’ He looked at Jack for confirmation.
‘We won’t be able to give up on the number of trade missions as we did use a large amount of our longterm food supplies while the Athosians were here,’ he explained. ‘I’ve already had a long list from Sergeant Smith about what we need. I sent it on to the biologists who are working with Teyla to see what Pegasus can provide as substitutes. I’m so glad she decided to stay on the city rather than settle on the mainland with most of the other Athosians. But in answer to your question, McKay, yes, we’ll get a couple more science teams through the gate as soon as the scientists pass John’s test. And the frequency you all seem to stumble across the Wraith off world proves it’s not a wasted effort training the scientists to shoot straight.’
‘Radek’s good to go now,’ John told Jack. ‘And I think Miko’s about ready to pass, isn’t she, Lorne?’
‘Yes, sir. I emailed you Dr. Zelenka’s scores this morning, and Dr. Kusanagi’s got her test in a couple of days. Saturday morning I think.’
’So by the start of next week we should have at least two new off world science teams,’ Jack said thoughtfully. ‘Maybe we should look at having a couple of new first contact gate teams who’ll work on finding us a few allies to tap for intel.’
’And how does that work? They march into a village and announce they want information from them?’ Rodney asked, his eyes creasing in a frown. ‘We come in peace, now tell us what you know about everything?’
‘John? Do we need to rethink AT1 being a first contact team?’ Jack grinned. ’No, McKay, we use the two anthropologists who came with us. They’re trained in that sort of thing.’
‘Huh. I did wonder why we brought them with us.’
‘You appointed them!’ John shook his head in disbelief.
‘Well yeah, but only because Sam said they’d be useful.’ McKay shrugged. ‘I didn’t actually talk to them about what they do.’
Jack glanced at his watch which he was still wearing despite the days on this planet being longer than Earth days. He wondered if the science department could adjust it somehow but decided he didn’t want to get into a discussion with McKay at the moment. ‘I’m debriefing Stackhouse’s team shortly but you’re welcome to join us.’ He looked around the table including them all in his invitation.
‘I should get back to Zelenka out on the East Pier,’ Rodney sighed. ‘I told him I wouldn’t be long.’
‘And we’ve got some paperwork to look at,’ Lorne said with a glare at Sheppard.
‘Guess I’m doing paperwork,’ John said with a wry smile. ‘Unless you need me?’ he asked Jack hopefully.
‘Nah, I can manage on my own, I think. I’d hate to get between you and your paperwork.’ Jack stood up and stretched then noticed someone who’d just walked into the Mess. ‘I’ll see you all later. I just want a word…’ He flapped his hand vaguely and strolled back inside.
’See you for dinner?’ John asked Rodney, his eyes on Jack who had paused to speak to one of the Marines.
‘Mmm. Usual time?’ Rodney agreed as he concentrated on his tablet computer.
John turned back to Lorne. ’So. Paperwork. Are you sure you need me?’
‘Quite sure, sir. Don’t make me drag you down there.’
Two more missions, two more meetings with the Wraith.
‘Right, it has to be something we’ve got with us,’ John told Jack when he and his team met for a debrief after their latest mission ended with an attack by the Wraith. ‘None of the other teams have been attacked since Stackhouse’s team last week.’ He turned to his team mates. ‘You three, go and get all the stuff you had with you when we went through the ‘gate. Everything you had with you and everything you wore. Rodney? Will you bring my things as well as yours, please? I’ll go and get the weapons we were all carrying.’
‘Have we had the chance to pick up anything that might attract the Wraith?’ Ford asked. ‘We’ve been here less than a month.’
‘Five off world missions and five meetings with the Wraith aren’t a coincidence, Lieutenant,’ Jack said quietly. ‘I agree with Colonel Sheppard. Go get everything you had with you today, dirty laundry included. Bring it all into the conference room. There’s more space there and I don’t particularly want my office stinking to high heaven with your smelly socks, Ford.’
Ford gave him a cheery grin, not in the least bit abashed.
‘I’ll get Radek to bring a radio frequency scanner up,’ Rodney said, heading out of the door.
‘You think it’s a transmitter of some sort?’ Jack asked, and Rodney came to a halt and turned round while the others stopped to listen.
‘It’s the only thing that makes sense unless there’s someone on the city using a subspace communicator.’
Teyla frowned. ‘I do not know what that is.’
‘It’s a means of… of speaking to someone, or sending a message, by radio using a number of…satellites which bounce the message between them until it reaches the person or thing they want to communicate with,’ John explained but this made Rodney frown.
’No, it isn’t, that’s a—‘
‘It’s a good enough explanation without going into a depth of physics that none of us would understand,’ John interrupted, but all he got in reply was a grumpy ‘humph’.
‘Thank you, John.’ Teyla bowed her head. ‘The person on the city, then, would have to have a communication device to use? And may they do this at any time or only when the Stargate is opened?’
Either, I think,’ John said raising his eyebrows questioningly at Rodney who scowled at him but nodded in agreement. ‘Have you seen anyone using such a device amongst your people?’
’No.’ She shook her head. ‘While my people were once large in number and extremely advanced in terms of technology we were forced to abandon our city many generations ago and now live a more primitive life to avoid the attention of the Wraith. They will allow no one in Pegasus to advance to a level that might threaten their existence.’
‘Has anyone ever been able to advance far enough to threaten them?’ Jack asked curiously.
‘In my lifetime only Sateda, as far as I am aware. Their planet was attacked several years ago and their cities were completely destroyed. A very few managed to escape and now live on other planets but the majority of their people were killed. I have heard tell of other planets that were destroyed when they became sufficiently advanced to be a threat to the Wraith. To my knowledge, you are now the only people who might be a danger to them. If they discover where you are, they will most assuredly attack you.’
‘Oh, joy,’ muttered Rodney. ‘That’s something to look forward to,’ and he stomped off to collect his and John’s belongings.
By the time John got back to the conference room, loaded down with weapons, Radek was busy scanning the items Ford and Rodney had brought back.
‘Is it likely to be anything connected to the weapons?’ Ford asked as John spread them out on the table.
’No,’ Radek replied looking up from the small screen on his scanner. ‘But is sensible to check them since the Wraith have extremely advanced technology and may have developed a miniaturised transmitter which could easily be overlooked.’
‘Really? They didn’t look very advanced to me when we were on their ship.’
‘And their ships are so very different from the ships we have on Earth?’
‘We don’t have any ships on Earth,’ Ford retorted, ‘not yet anyway. Oh.’
‘Exactly.’ Rodney pointed a finger at him. ‘Earth doesn’t have any ships while the Wraith have been whizzing around Pegasus for over ten thousand years. You stick to what you know, Ford, and let Dr. Zelenka do his job.’
The younger man flushed and opened his mouth to reply when Teyla came in and spread out her belongings. Radek ran his scanner over everything and shook his head.
‘May I see?’ Teyla stepped closer to him to look at the tiny screen on the scanner but as she did, it began to beep. She looked up quickly. ‘What is it?’
‘It’s…’ Radek frowned. ‘Rodney, come and look.’
Rodney peered over his shoulder then pushed the scanner towards Teyla. It started beeping much faster.
‘Gentlemen?’ Jack asked. ‘Would someone like to tell me what’s happening?’
Rodney grabbed the scanner from his friend and moved it up and down Teyla’s body. The beeping was fastest the closer to her head it moved. ’Teyla, would you mind removing your necklace, please?’
She gave him a puzzled look and unhooked it, passing it to him. The scanner’s beeping was now an almost continuous sound. Radek took it from him and examined it closely.
‘Here,’ and he pointed to the stone in the centre.
’Teyla, where did you get this from?’ Rodney asked.
‘My father gave it to me many years ago but I lost it. I found it again only a few months ago. Is it this which has brought the Wraith upon us?’
‘I suspect that the stone contains a small transmitter.’ Radek peered at it, then laid it on the table. ‘The only way to confirm this is to smash the stone which will ruin the necklace.’
‘Then please do so,’ Teyla told him. ‘If it is this which attracts the Wraith, I want nothing more of it.’
Radek pulled a screwdriver from his pocket and brought the handle down sharply on the stone which split, revealing a tiny object.
‘I guess that proves they can make a miniaturised transmitter,’ Rodney said dryly. ‘Where did you find it? And after you found it again, did you notice the Wraith appearing every time you went off world?’
‘I found it amongst my belongings. I must have missed it when I searched for it originally. I rarely wore it as I was afraid of losing it again. It was precious since it was a gift from my father. I began to wear it after we left Athos as way of reminding myself from where we came, to remember our home in some way.’
‘For sentimental reasons,’ John offered. ‘I can understand that, but it doesn’t explain why it only suddenly began attracting the Wraith.’
‘I need to examine it under a microscope,’ Rodney said, turning it over in his hands, ’but I suspect there’s some sort of switch on it,’ and when Ford opened his mouth to ask a question he continued. ‘Don’t be an idiot, Ford. Nothing like a light switch, just a…a…’
‘Mode of operation,’ Radek finished for him and Rodney nodded.
‘Which means someone somewhere was able to turn it on,’ Radek pointed out. ’So although we have discovered what has been attracting the Wraith to your position, Colonel, we have no way of knowing if it was accidental or on purpose.’
‘So it’s essentially using kinetic energy via the sea to produce enough power to operate all the systems on the city that don’t use ZPMs?’ John clarified as Rodney explained the most recent discoveries of the science department to him.
‘At the moment, yes. We think there’s also a geothermal drilling platform that used to be connected to the city but it broke off sometime in the last ten thousand years.’ Rodney shovelled a large forkful of food into his mouth. ‘What’s this called?’ he asked thickly, poking his knife into a mound of purple coloured vegetables that tasted like potato.’
‘We call it grefol,’ Teyla told him. ‘We mash it and add oil to it, if we have any.’
‘Can we reconnect the geothermal platform?’ John asked, getting Rodney back on subject.
‘Probably, but we’ll need to use the jumpers to get to it.’
‘Use the jumpers to get to what?’ Jack asked, setting his tray down at their table. ‘If it’s anything that uses a jumper, I’m in.’
John grinned at him. ‘McKay says there’s an underwater power plant that’s got disconnected. We’ll need to go down to the sea floor to have a look at it.’
‘I’m in,’ Jack repeated. ‘When are we going?’
‘Probably not for a while as there’re more urgent repairs to make,’ Rodney told him. ‘I was explaining to Teyla and Sheppard that I’ve discovered what’s powering many of the city’s systems. It makes me wonder just what the ZPMs are used for as we’ve isolated…’ He broke off when he saw that Jack had stopped listening to him. ‘Who thought it was a good idea to make you leader of the Expedition, O’Neill? You’ve got the attention span of a gnat!’
‘Hey, that’s gnatist that is,’ Jack grinned. ‘So, you folks ready for your next mission tomorrow?’
‘Ooh, yes, a trade mission. I can hardly wait,’ Rodney grumbled but subsided when he saw the look on Teyla’s face that promised him a large amount of pain if he continued.
‘May we join you?’ a voice asked.
They looked up to see Doctors Keller and Beckett standing holding trays and waiting for their answer. Rodney opened his mouth to say there wasn’t enough room with the four of them there already when Teyla shuffled closer to him and moved both their trays over to give them enough space. Keller gave a bright smile – which didn’t quite reach her eyes he noticed – and motioned for Beckett to pull up another chair.
An uneasy silence fell over the crowded table. Keller finally broke it. ‘Are you finally satisfied that Carson and I have followed regulations with the gene therapy, General O’Neill?’
Rodney was taken aback that she would bring up the subject quite so brazenly – and aggressively – and saw that the others were similarly affected. Even Teyla’s usually serene demeanour appeared ruffled by the question.
‘I don’t think this is an appropriate place to discuss such matters,’ Jack told them both, his tone probably the coldest Rodney had heard him use. There was no doubt that this was General O’Neill. ‘Jack’ had definitely left the building. ‘If you wish to continue this discussion I suggest you make an appointment with myself, Dr. McKay and Dr. Lam.’
Keller glared at him angrily. ‘I want—‘ she began, but Rodney interrupted her, keeping his voice low.
‘Are you deaf as well as stupid? General O’Neill told you to shut up, and I’m repeating it.’
‘Now, Rodney, ye canna speak to the lassie that way. She was only—‘
‘She was trying to force a discussion in a public place that she knows should be kept private,’ John told him coldly.
‘You don’t want me to say anything in here because then everyone would know you’re just being unfair,’ Keller retorted in a shrill voice that gained the attention of people at the tables around them. ‘You’re all being racist and sexist.’
‘So, not gnatist, then at least,’ Jack said in an undertone to John who burst out with a braying laugh which made Keller colour up.
‘Oh, don’t be so childish,’ Rodney told her, the slight up tilt of his crooked smile and his quick glance at John proving that he too had heard Jack’s comment.
Keller, however, took it personally and flew into a rage. Only Teyla’s hand on her arm prevented her from throwing a cup of water over one or, indeed, all of the senior staff.
‘I suggest you remove yourself from the Mess and attempt to cool your temper before you make your apologies to us all,’ she said to Keller in her quiet, measured tones. ‘You bring embarrassment only upon yourself.’
Keller stumbled to her feet and glared at the whole table, then turned and ran out of the room. Conversations, which had stopped while everyone watched the excitement, started up again, no doubt discussing the exit of the young doctor.
Beckett looked around the table in shock. ‘I didn’t know she was going to do that,’ he told them, anxiety writ large upon his face. ‘She said we should have a quiet word with the General, not…’ He trailed off.
‘Just how much input did she have into the gene therapy,’ Rodney asked quietly.
‘Not very much,’ Beckett admitted. ‘It was almost finished when she came to the Outpost. Dr. Weir wanted her on the expedition and I agreed because…’
‘Because you were fucking Weir,’ Rodney finished baldly. ‘Don’t look so surprised, it’s the only thing that makes sense of Weir wanting you as Chief Medical Officer.’
Beckett flushed. ‘I am qualified—‘
‘You might be on paper,’ John interrupted. ‘But you’ve not actually treated anyone for years. How’d you think you’d’ve coped with 200 people to look after, even with Keller as an assistant? Especially as the majority of them are military and get more injuries than civilians, and that’s without anything that might happen off world.’
‘Dr. Weir didn’t intend there to be such a large military contingent,’ he said in annoyance. ‘That only happened after General O’Neill took over.’
‘And yet you made a huge fuss about being removed from the post of CSM,’ Jack said, leaning back in his chair but keeping his voice low.
‘I would have managed perfectly well,’ Beckett said angrily. ‘Instead, you—‘
‘I do not think this is an appropriate place to have this discussion,’ Teyla interrupted quietly, almost echoing Jack’s earlier words.
‘I agree.’ Rodney got to his feet and picked up his tray of half eaten food. ‘And thanks for disturbing my dinner, Beckett. I was enjoying that.’ He turned and went to stack his tray.
‘He’s been so busy today he only had time for a power bar earlier,’ John told a pale faced Beckett. ‘In future, keep any complaints to yourself until an appropriate time, and if I can offer a piece of advice? Don’t let Keller lead you around by your dick!’ He stood and followed Rodney leaving Teyla and Jack with the miserable doctor.
‘He…Rodney always uses my first name.’ Beckett was almost in tears. ‘I thought he was my friend.’
‘I find friends do not usually try to make a person uncomfortable merely to prove a point,’ Teyla told him, her voice cold as ice. ‘I suggest you think of a way to apologise to him.’
Jack got to his feet and loaded his tray with his barely touched dinner. ‘I’m taking this back to my office. Teyla? You’re welcome to join me.’
Teyla bowed her head. ‘Thank you, General, I will. The Mess Hall has become a most…uncomfortable environment in which to eat dinner.’
Rodney got to his feet and stretched, looking over the systems he and Radek had been working on since early morning.
‘What’s next on the list? I’ve got Kavanagh checking the solar cells on a couple of the towers we’ve cleared. He can’t really do any damage and he might even be able to get them working again.’
‘Miko is looking at the sensors General O’Neill asked about. She is attempting to configure the long range sensors since he is concerned the Wraith may have determined our position before we were able to destroy the transmitter. I do not believe that there are any other outstanding serious problems. We may even manage to work on our own projects for a while,’ Radek suggested with a smile of anticipation.
Rodney pulled a face. ‘I’m going off world on a mission shortly. Teyla’s taking us to meet a farming community who she thinks might agree to trade with us. I’ve told both Jack and John that I’m useless on first contact missions, or any trade mission at all. I’m a scientist, not a biologist or…or—‘
‘You are, however, very experienced at eating food,’ Radek said slyly. ‘For that, you are a perfect choice.’
‘He’s not wrong, McKay,’ John drawled, and Rodney turned to see him leaning in the doorway, a wide grin on his face.
‘Don’t you have anything better to do than slink about the city—’
‘Off world mission, remember?’
‘It can’t possibly be time for that. It’s not until 1500.’
And it’s 14.30 now. You’ve got half an hour to gear up before we go – and don’t think we’ll leave you behind if you dawdle.’ John pointed a finger at Rodney. ‘We won’t, but we will find new and unusual ways to punish you if you make us late. Now, get a move on!’
Rodney glared at him, but it was mostly for show. He liked being a regular member of a gate team rather than a stand in for a member who couldn’t go as he had been at the SGC. Not that he hadn’t enjoyed his infrequent forays off world, mostly with SG1, because he had. Having a team of his own, though, was entirely different, particularly considering his developing relationship with John Sheppard.
For the moment, however, he began tidying up his tools while giving Radek instructions on keeping the other scientists busy. ‘I don’t want to come back and find they’ve broken the plumbing or anything. And don’t let—’
‘Rodney. I will watch them as a mother hen watches her chicks,’ Radek interrupted. ‘Now go, make trade agreements to keep us all fed and happy.’
‘C’m on McKay.’ John grabbed hold of his shoulder and steered him towards the doorway. ‘Let’s go before Teyla and Ford leave without us.’
‘No problems, then?’ Jack asked when AT1 arrived in the conference room for their post mission debrief.
‘Not a single Wraith to be seen anywhere,’ John told him in a cheerful voice. ‘No Wraith, no running for our lives, and a shipment of grefol to be delivered to the beta site in three days. Quite boring really.’
‘And Carolyn found nothing wrong with any of you?’ Jack frowned. ‘I’m kinda waiting for the other shoe to drop now.’
‘Nope, nothing, nada,’ John assured him. ‘Nice community of mostly farmers who say they’ve not heard of anymore Wraith around than usual. They’re happy to do business with us in exchange for some help when it comes to planting and harvesting and are willing to let us have the grefol on account, as it were. They’ve a harvest of tava beans due in a month or so and would appreciate the help a dozen Marines can give them in exchange for a few sacks.’
‘Their leader, Petrov, was good enough to say that if the Marines can help his people plant and harvest the crops for next year, they will give us what we want as their help is so valuable,’ Teyla explained.
Once again Jack was thankful that Teyla had offered them her help in making trading partners. They’d brought a pallet of things they hoped might make good trading items, such as cloth and some electronics – he’d nixed McKay’s suggestion of beads and bibles – but when Teyla had seen them she’d suggested that man power would be a better trading currency in Pegasus, particularly in exchange for food items, as so many worlds had such small populations due to the Wraith.
‘Great,’ Jack said happily. ‘Perhaps our luck is finally starting to change.’
‘Unscheduled Off World Activation,’ they heard Chuck call out, and Jack groaned.
End of Part I