- Dark Themes
- Alternate Universe
- Time Travel
Being the inside the Icarus made Rodney nervous, not just because the commander was being elusive, but because the ship itself was unsafe. Just walking from the main gantry to the engine room, he had seen a dozen places that had bad shielding and slap-shod construction. How the ship had made it this far he had no idea.
He entered the sub-light engine room and stared for a long minute at the nightmare before him. There were control crystal panels that were completely exposed. There were cracked and shattered crystals still sitting in mounting brackets. Fragments of the shattered crystals lay all over the floor making walking hazardous.
“Dr. McKay!” A vaguely familiar woman approached from the far end of the compartment. “It is a relief to have someone of your skill here to help.”
“And you are?” Rodney prompted.
“Captain Lindsey Novak,” she said. “We met when I was part of the design crew for the Prometheus.”
“Ah, yes,” Rodney nodded. “I see your hiccoughs are under control.”
“Well after what we’ve been through,” she shook her head sadly. “It’s tough to get nervous about the little things.”
“Right,” Rodney filed that away. “Now, can you please explain to me what the hell they were thinking when they put the heat exchange that close to the main control crystals? From what I remember it was supposed to be another meter aft from this position. It looks like it was dropped into this position and everyone said ‘Close enough’ before bolting it to the deck.”
“Funny you should say that,” Cpt. Novak said, biting her lower lip. “Look we didn’t have much choice. It was this or risking everyone we were trying to protect.”
Rodney didn’t push, it was obvious that Lindsey assumed that he knew the full story. “We let’s see what we can do to get this crate flying again, because I don’t relish the idea of using the Orion as a dry dock.”
An hour later and Rodney was pretty sure they could get the Icarus out of the cargo bay under its own power. The question would be if the sub-light engines would hold long enough to land on the city. He would talk to John about their options.
Some things Lindsey had said about the ship’s construction hinted at an act of desperation. The ship’s complement was barely over one hundred, but the information he kept getting from the life support systems read like it was trying to scrub a lot more carbon dioxide than that. He was more determined than ever to find out what was going on in that ship. He headed to the bridge to work with the main scanner.
Dr. Biro used the Ancient medical equipment for a more in-depth scan of the injured in her care. Several of the men and women she recognized from the SGC and Area 51. None of them were the type that she would expect to see on an intergalactic journey.
The airman she was scanning suddenly woke and came up swinging. Biro was lucky that she had been dealing with military wounded her whole career. She managed to dodge the blow and backed off.
“Now I have been told that I have a terrible bedside manner,” she said in a calming tone. “However, that might be an assumption since I tend to work with the dead more than the living.”
“Where am I?” the airman demanded.
“You’re on the Atlantis expedition ship, Orion,” she said. “We intercepted the Icarus when you entered the Pegasus galaxy. What’s your name?”
“Airman second class Frank Morris,” The airman just sank back into the bed. “So we’re safe?”
“As safe as you can be in Pegasus,” Biro said with a shrug. “Now I would like to ask you about some odd readings I’m getting from you. Have you by chance recently donated bone marrow?”
“Donated?” Airman Morris snorted. “That is one way to describe it.”
“How would you describe it?” Biro asked. Ten minutes later, she almost wished she hadn’t asked.
Rodney stared at the readings on the scanner. Both main and secondary cargo areas of the Icarus had some sort of shielding on them, making it impossible to see what was inside them. He hadn’t noticed when he had scanned the ship earlier because he was looking for life signs and damage to the ship.
He turned to John who was getting a system update through the control chair. “John, I need you to look at the results of the scan I just did.”
John didn’t respond verbally, but he frowned slightly. The light around Chair changed colors briefly, sending a discrete message to all security personnel to high alert status before he sat up. He grabbed his own weapons and his head set. “Col. Chekhov, this is Major Sheppard, please meet me at the main cargo bay.”
“Of course, Major,” Col. Chekhov replied.
The ship had instant transporters like Atlantis did, only to key areas, but they could only be used by people with the ATA gene. Everyone else had to get around the old-fashioned way. Even so he had a full complement of soldiers ready to go by the time he arrived at the cargo bay.”
“Col. Chekhov,” he said tightly. “In the few hours that we have had your people on my ship, I have seen some things that have concerned me greatly. One of those things being the general condition of both your ship and your crew.”
“We have had a rough journey, Major,” Col. Chekhov said. “You can not expect us to be ship shape and Bristol fashion after what we have experienced.”
“Exactly what have you experienced, Colonel?” Rodney demanded. “You’ve told us next to nothing about your journey here.”
“We have orders not to speak to anyone but Col. Everett and Dr. Weir about our mission,” Col. Chekhov.
“Which I would not have cared about if you had been under your own power,” John said. “However, we currently have your ship inside our ship. As the commander of this ship I’m going to ask you once. Are you transporting anything that is a threat to my ship or my City?”
“I assure you Major, there is nothing on board our ship that is a threat to you or your people.”
“Then please tell me, Colonel,” Rodney said. “What is so important in cargo compartments three and four of your ship you have a shield blocking our scans?”
“Those compartments are empty,” Col. Chekhov said. It was such a blatant lie that John was amazing the man bothered.
“Ancient scanners would show an empty room,” Rodney said. “I’m getting a bounce back. Considering the condition of your ship, I’m shocked that you would use so much power to hide whatever it is that you’re carrying.”
“I’m going to ask you one time, Col. Chekhov,” John said coldly. “What are you transporting in your ship.”
“I do not have to answer your questions, Major,” Col. Chekhov shot back. “Both I and Col. Mitchel out rank you. We would be well within our rights to assume command of this ship.”
“But you can’t,” John said with a tilt of his head. “Because neither you nor Col. Mitchel possess the ATA gene. And the Orion needs an ATA gene carrier of better than average expression to sit in the control chair. Trust me when I say that you can try to compel me to obey your orders, but you really don’t want to do that.”
“Are you threatening a superior officer, Major?”
“When you are on my ship, Colonel,” John said confidently. “You’ll find that regardless of rank, I am the one in charge.”
“Major,” Col. Mitchel was suddenly pushing through the crowd of soldiers. “Wait, please, you don’t understand. We’re just trying to obey our orders. We can’t reveal the contents of those cargo bays without violating those orders.”
“No,” Rodney interjected. “It is you who doesn’t understand. We are bringing you back to Atlantis, if you’re transporting something that is a danger to our people we have the right to know. If you don’t let us see the contents, you’re going to force us to do something that we’d rather not do.”
“What will you do?” Col. Mitchel asked, looking sick.
“There is a second planet in the Lantean system,” Rodney said. “It is basically a rock with a roughly forty-eight hour planetary rotation, it has very hot days and very cold nights.” He looked between the two colonels. “If your insistence on secrecy, we will be forced to drop your ship off on that planet instead of taking you to Lantea. Allowing you to effect repairs as you will.”
“What?” Col. Mitchel was horrified. “Why would you do that to your own people?”
“Because,” John said. “We have just over four hundred people that would be effected by an unknown element on your ship. Those people take priority over whatever it is that you’re hiding.”
“Major Sheppard!” Dr. Biro called coming out of the nearest transport at a dead run. “Major, the cargo on the ship, its people.”
“What?” John stared at her. All of his possible suspicions crumbling to dust as he tried to parse what he was being told.
“Hundreds of people,” she repeated. “Refugees.”
John turned to Chekhov and Mitchel both seemed to collapse in on themselves. “Why didn’t you just tell us that?”
“We were under strict orders,” Col. Chekhov. “You don’t know what we’ve been through to get here.”
“Right,” John covered his face with his hands. “Fucking hell. You’re going to explain what is going on when we get back to Atlantis.”
“As CMO of this ship,” Dr. Biro said. “I’m taking charge of your passengers, so unless they are all carrying some horrible disease, I’m ordering you to open those holds and let them out. It can’t be comfortable in there.”
“No, they are all healthy,” Col. Mitchel said. “Just tired, hungry, and scared.”
When the doors to the cargo bays opened, Rodney didn’t know what to expect. The pale tired faces of people he had never met before stared out at them left him feeling at a loss. They all looked like they hadn’t had a decent meal in days, if not weeks. They were packed in tight quarters, row upon row of triple bunk beds filled the room.
It wasn’t just adults, there were children, somewhere in the crowd Rodney heard a baby crying. He was grateful that the city was at nearly full power, because they were going to need every open apartment available to house all of them.
“Please, don’t be alarmed,” Col. Mitchel called. “We’ve found help. We’re going to be able to get you all off the ship and into safety in a few hours.” The sound of someone bursting into tears could be heard over the din of conversation.
“Just how long has it been since you left Earth?” Rodney asked.
“Two and a half months,” Col. Mitchel said. “We packed as much food as we could for the journey, but as you can imagine, we didn’t think it would take quite that long.”
“Are we on a new planet?” A voice asked. “It felt like we landed.”
Rodney turned, toward the voice. “My name is Dr. Rodney McKay. The Icarus is currently docked inside a larger ship called the Orion. We’ve come to bring you to the Atlantis Expedition’ base of operations. Due to the condition of the Icarus, we’re asking all of you to pack your things and exit the ship. It’ll be safer for all concerned if you’re on the Orion proper when we attempt to land the Icarus.
“MER?!” Rodney felt his stomach drop at the sound of a very familiar voice.
“Jennie?!” Rodney called as he pushed his way through the crowd to where his sister was standing a three-year-old Madison. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh my god,” Jeanie threw her arms around him and broke into tears. “It was awful. They killed Kaleb.”
“Who?” Rodney demanded, horrified. “What the hell happened on Earth?” She didn’t answer him, just hugged him harder and cried like he hadn’t seen her do since she was six.
He touched his ear piece. “Sheppard,” he began. “Something had gone seriously wrong. Jennie and Madison are here.”
There was a long pause. “Right,” John sounded distracted. “Their not the only ones.”
The crowd began to thin as people grabbed there things and shuffled out of the cargo bay. Rodney lead his sister and her daughter out of the Icarus and toward the transporter. He planned to put them in the Captain’s quarters until they reached Atlantis. He saw John was talking to someone, off to one side of the hatchway.
“John?” Rodney called.
“Rodney,” John turned, his expression tight and unreadable. “I want you to meet my brother David and his wife Stephanie.”
“Um, wow,” Rodney said. “Your family are all disturbingly good-looking.”
“Rodney,” John groaned, exasperated.
“Mer!” Jeannie admonished.
“What?” Rodney asked. “It’s true.”
David’s face went pink as his wife started laughing. It sounded a little strained but honest. “Thank you, Dr. McKay,” he said. “I think this is the first time either of us has laughed in weeks.”
“You’re welcome,” Rodney replied, nonplussed.
“Major, Doctor,” Col. Chekhov called. “In the ***** of full disclosure, I think it prudent to show you the extent of what we are dealing with and why we left Earth.”
“I’m not going to like this am I,” John said.
“No, Major, you are not,” Col. Chekhov said. “Please follow me.”
“One moment,” John said. “Sgt. Markham, please escort Jeannie Miller and David Sheppard’s families to the Captain’s cabin. I’d like our family to be comfortable while we deal with the rest of this.”
“Yes, sir.” Sgt. Markham saluted. “Please follow me.”
“Lead the way, Colonel,” John said.
They didn’t have far to walk. Down the main corridor from the first cargo bay to the secondary cargo bay. “I must explain that we did not know to what extent things had gone so very wrong until just before we evacuated. At that point it was already too late for some. We saved as many as we could.”
He opened the cargo bay doors and John was immediately hit by the smell of disinfectant. Over two dozen hospital beds with bodies laying on them heart monitors and resporators kept track of life signs. At the far end of the room, a half dozen of what looked like Asgardian stasis pods lined the wall.
“What the fuck is this?” Rodney demanded.
“The long term fallout of unchecked fear mongering by the Earth First movement,” Col. Chekhov said. “All of these people were taken into custody under suspicion of being of alien decent or under alien influence.”
They walked down the row of patients. Rodney stared down at one of the faces as they pasted some he had no idea who they were, but others were members of the SGC. “Major Louis Ferretti.”
“Who?” John asked.
“He was on the original mission to Abydos,” Rodney said. “He retired before you joined.”
“Yes,” Col. Chekhov said. “He was arrested and accused of treason a few weeks after you departed for Pegasus, when no trial date was ever set O’Neill demanded to know where he was being held. By the time the truth was learned, dozens more had been targeted.”
“Targeted for what?” John demanded.
“Experimentation,” Col. Chekhov said. “The men and women you see here, are the lucky ones. We were able to get them out. The rest, we gave them what mercy we could before we left.”
End Part 5