- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
The planet dubbed Lantea was beautiful from space. It was very much like Earth with blues and greens with white clouds. There were ice caps at the magnetic poles and thick rain forests at the equator. There was less actual land mass than Earth and the oceans were deeper. The two moons would be full in a few days which would give the new arrivals as spectacular sight to behold.
The Orion detoured to the closest planet with a stargate and dialed Atlantis for a quick discussion on the needs of the refugees. It was agreed that other than trade missions and surveillance of key planets, all other off world missions would be suspended for the time it took to get the city ready.
John smiled as the planet came into view. “Atlantis, this is Orion, on approach.”
“We read you, Orion,” Dr. Grodin replied. “Landing pads one and two are ready for you.”
“Thank you, Dr. Grodin,” John said. “Is everything ready for our arrival?”
“Medical teams are standing by,” Dr. Grodin confirmed. “Security personnel has been placed in sensitive areas and Residential tower two is being rearranged to disperse the new arrivals in with base personnel as well as Pegasus natives as per Teyla and Dr. Heightmeir’s recommendation.”
“Good to hear,” John said. “Have the command staff meet us in conference room one. The crew of the Icarus have not been informed of the command structure, so it is going to be an unpleasant shock for them.”
“Understood,” Grodin replied. “The Athosians and the Satedans will be there as well.”
“I take it that means Ronon’s mission was a success?” John said, a thrill of excitement running through him.
“Yes, Major,” Grodin replied. “Thought it means we’ll be ever more crowded in the next few weeks.”
“It’ll be worth it,” John said. “I’ll expect a full report,”
“Chief Thomson has opened up some more stores of canned fruit for the new arrivals,” Grodin added. “He wants to know if he should pull out the frozen stores of meat.”
“Tell Chief that is good thinking, we’ll have a few hunting parties head to the Alpha site and Athos tomorrow,” John said. “But let Teyla know that a few hunting parties on the mainland would be appreciated.”
“Of course,” Grodin said. “Launching Puddle-jumper and F-302 escort.”
“We’re going to hover just east of the city and let the Icarus land under her own power,” John reminded him. “I want everyone to keep their distance until it is on the pad.”
“Yes, sir,” Grodin replied.
John settled deeper into the controls of the Orion in order to feel the angle of the ship as it entered the atmosphere. There were a dozen safety protocols that were built into the ship, but as a pilot, John wanted to do as much hands-on as he could. He took a more shallow approach to the city, bleeding off speed and heat until the hull sensors went from yellow to green.
Atlantis appeared on the horizon and John felt some tension in his back ease. The ship and the city sent subtle pings of recognition that he could feel though the Chair as the two systems connected. John sent a thought through the connection to prepare for a friendly, but damaged, ship and was acknowledged by the city itself.
“Orion to Icarus,” John called. “We are approaching the city, we are over the landing zone, be ready to launch on my mark.”
“Engines are warmed and ready for launch,” Col. Chekhov replied.
“We are in position,” John said a few minutes later. “Hover is stable.”
“Rigging has been disconnected,” Rodney called. “The main cargo bay had been evacuated of all crew. The Icarus is clear to launch.”
“Col. Chekhov, you are go for vertical lift off,” John said.
“Firing vertical thrusters,” Col. Chekhov replied. “Thirty percent thrust capacity, forty percent, achieving lift.”
John felt the moment the Earth ship actually started to hover inside the cargo bay. “Opening the cargo bay outer doors in three-two-one, mark,” The doors opened slowly, allowing the atmosphere in the bay to equalize. “Cargo bay doors open, Icarus, you are clear do descend.”
“Acknowledged, Major,” Chekhov replied. “Maneuvering thrusters at full power, sub-light engines at eighty percent. Commencing descent.” There were several tense moments as the ship seemed to stall just above the landing pad, but then the landing struts extended from the belly and it touched down with a slight bounce.”
The city didn’t so much as sway with the extra weight when the ship settled. The Icarus shut down its engines and the ground crew came out of the nearest building to secure the ship to the city’s superstructure.
“Welcome to Atlantis,” John said and began his own landing sequence on the main landing pad.
As much as Rodney wanted to stay with his sister to assure her that she was safe, he did have a job to do. He sent her and Madison along with John’s brother and wife with the rest of the refugees to the cafeteria so that they could all have a decent meal for the first time in months.
He grabbed his data pad and met his husband on the main gantry way. “We’re ready for show and tell,” he said. “Radek has a presentation for the refugees and the command officers and scientists are waiting to debrief Chekhov, Mitchel and their chain of command.”
“We both know that either one of those men might attempt to take command of the expedition,” John said. “It certainly wouldn’t be the first time.”
“Trust me,” Rodney said. “No one on the City is going want either of them taking charge.”
“Sgt. Markum and his team is escorting the Icarus command crew to the conference room,” John said. “We’ll beat them by a few minutes.”
“Time to put your game face on,” Rodney said as they exited a transporter.
John paused as he entered the conference room, there was an air of determination that filled the room. The room was filled with a lot more than just the command staff. All his officers and NCOs were there as well. He turned to Teyla who looked way too pleased with herself, and Ronon looked ready to burst.
“Sheppard, McKay,” Ronon said in greeting.
“Ronon,” John replied seriously. “I hear you had a good hunting trip.”
“You could say that,” he said, trying to be serious, but his eyes sparkled with excitement.
“I look forward to hearing all about it,” John replied. He narrowed his eyes at them. “What’s going on?”
“Major John Sheppard,” Dr. Lam began. “We are all aware of how much you have tried to maintain the health and safety of not just Atlantis, but the people of all the worlds we have encountered, even if those worlds didn’t necessarily appreciate your efforts.”
“Though it may seem abrupt,” Teyla said. “We have all agreed that your position as the military leader of this city is put in jeopardy by anyone of higher rank coming from your world of origin.”
“And while it is true that you’re supposed to get a promotion from a superior officer,” Nathan O’Neill said. “The military contingent of the expedition believes that you deserve a rank that allows you a way to level the playing field.” He took out a small box from his pants pocket. “As the clone of General Jack O’Neill, I’m as close as we’re going to get to someone qualified to do this.”
“You got the short straw, didn’t you?” John joked, staring at the box.
“Yeah, sure, you betcha,” Nathan grinned. “I’ll be honest, when Everett and Weir died, there was a discussion about me taking over.”
Rodney made a noise of outrage but stayed otherwise silent.
John felt like he should at least be offended, but he wasn’t even a little surprised. “Why didn’t you?”
“I’ve already fought a war against an alien menace,” Nathan replied. “I might not like it, but I don’t have the temperament to play the long game with either the Genii or the Wraith. If it was just one of them I might have been tempted but you understand Pegasus in ways I just can’t get my head around. You also handle working with Ancient technology like you were born to it. Something I just can’t do, it feels invasive. I am constantly fighting with contradictory instincts that cause hesitation on my part.”
“In light of those shortcomings, I had to make it clear to those who are aware of my origins that I was not going to step in and try to take command.” He sighed. “The military contingent had a lot of discreet discussions over the past few months, ever since the first dial-out to Earth failed, about what we were supposed to do if something happened to you. If someone were to come and try to replace you as our commanding officer. It was the majority opinion of the military, that you are vital to the success of this mission.”
“That isn’t really true,” John tried but was cut off.
“It is the will of the people of the expedition and our allies that you, Johnathan Sheppard are to be given the title of Praeceptor in Ancient or Commander in English, of Atlantis.” Nathan opened the box and exposed a pair of pins. The design was an eight-pointed mariner’s compass star with a winged horse leaping forward. “Do you accept this burden?”
John stared down at the pins and swallowed hard. This was not something he ever could have predicted. “I do,” he replied. “With the understanding that I am still just one part of the whole. I can’t do this without you, all of you.”
Nathan reached over and removed the oak leaf pins from John’s uniform and replaced them with the new rank insignia. He then stepped back and saluted him sharply. The salute was repeated by all the soldiers in the room, including Ronon.
“We have your back, Commander Sheppard,” Dr. Lam said. “No one from Earth can understand what we are going through, and we will not have our choices questioned or the people of this galaxy marginalized because they are thought of as less important.”
“You could have warned me,” Rodney groused to no one in general.
“We decided that we couldn’t wait any longer,” Nathan shrugged.
“You knew about this?” John glared at Rodney, though there wasn’t any real heat to it.
“I knew you would be all weird about it, so I didn’t want to say anything until the rest of the city was onboard.”
“Honestly, John,” Dr. Lam said. “We weren’t going to do anything until the two-year mark, but the news from the Icarus pushed us into acting.”
“Thank you,” John said, straightening his uniform. “Everyone put your look sharp. The Icarus crew is almost here.”
Col. Cameron Mitchel had, what could charitably be called, an interesting military career. He had been something of a hot head. Determined to prove himself worthy of the pilots chair. His father had been a USAF test pilot, his uncle had been a pilot in Vietnam. There wasn’t a single aircraft he couldn’t fly.
Unfortunately, he had gotten cocky during his time in Afghanistan. On a mission with bad intelligence, he had mistakenly fired on a convoy of refugees. He had faced an investigation and had been exonerated, and while his superiors had been reprimanded, it felt like none of the victims had been given the justice they deserved. He had been transferred out to Nevada, where he thought he was going to spend the rest of his career behind a desk, the sky taken from him.
He didn’t know why he had been tapped for training to fly the new F-302 until he walked into the hangar to see the bird for the first time. The swept forward wings and the larger than average cockpit made it appear too heavy for standard flight. It wasn’t until he looked at the engines that he realized he was looking at the next generation of human flight.
He had been one of a hundred pilots that had been given the chance to learn how to pilot the fighter. The attrition rate of drop-outs was terrible. Of those one hundred pilots, only forty made it to the end. As the first two squadrons of F-302 learned the limits of the craft, they were also read into the Stargate program.
It had been terrifying to read how close the Earth had been to being either conquered or destroyed over the period of a decade. Yet in spite of it or because of it, humans were now capable of travel to other planets. Cameron had never been so frustrated in his life to not be able to tell his extended family about the work he was doing.
Then the invasion by Anubis happened, he had crashed in Antarctica. He had thought that his flying days were over, but Major Carter of SG-1 had come to him with a Goa’uld healing device and fixed his fractured spine. He still spent weeks in rehab, but he was walking in a month and was certified flight ready within six months.
In that time, he had watched as certain factions of the earth’ populace used the fear of another possible invasion as a launching platform for anti-alien rhetoric. Fear of what could come through the Stargate turned and twisted as the hate grew and turned on an unsuspecting minority.
When, in the interest of full disclosure, it was revealed that a certain percentage of the population carried what was essentially alien DNA, things turned ugly. Religious and political leaders that had been spouting a principle of Earth First demanded to know if anyone in the government was tainted. How could someone that had genes from creatures from other worlds be trusted to work for Earth’s interests.
Then someone tried to steal the stargate, which was damaged in the ensuing firefight. With gate teams still out on missions, it became a priority to bring them home. Days turned to weeks, weeks turned to months, and people started to wonder why the gate was still broken.
Two months after the Atlantis Expedition left for the Pegasus galaxy, every current and former member of the SGC was forced to have a DNA test. General O’Neill and General Hammond were forced to appear before a congressional hearing where it was revealed on live television that Jack had the ATA gene. Things went downhill fast after that.
Cameron hadn’t known how bad it had gotten until he had been asked by members of NID to inform on his fellow soldiers if there was any hint of alien influence. He refused, citing military code of conduct rules and reported the attempted coercion to his commanding officer. Not long after that two members of his F-302 squadron had been transferred out, without warning, and their replacements were not nearly as qualified.
The thing was, outwardly, it didn’t look that bad. Sure politicians were trying to enact laws in several countries to curtail the rights of those who had any level of alien DNA, but none of it was getting past the legislatures. The Earth First groups were in the minority. Loud and provocative, but small in numbers. There was no way they could have enough pull to get away with what seemed to be happening not in the long term.
Six months after the gate was damaged, he was woken in the dead of night by a beam of light erupting in his bedroom. He was shocked to see General Jack O’Neill standing next to his bed. By the time the general had left, Cameron had a new mission that he was determined to carry out.
Now standing within the walls of the Ancient city of Atlantis, Cameron was wondering if he hadn’t made a huge mistake. The soldiers that had come aboard the Icarus had been armed to the teeth. The medics and the engineers had been wearing tactical gear. More people than not were carrying swords either strapped to their backs or on a belt sheath. The men and women assembled before him looked like soldiers, even the scientists.
Cameron recognized the men and women of the expedition from the file he had tried to memorize. It was clear that something drastic had changed in the time that the expedition had been on their own. It was also clear that these people were determined to show a united front. What was most telling, was who was missing from the room. Col. Dillon Everett and Dr. Elizabeth Weir were nowhere to be seen.
“Col. Chekhov, Col. Mitchel. I am Dr. Carolyn Lam, Chief Medical Officer of the Pegasus Expedition. Welcome to Atlantis.”
End Part 6