- Death-Minor Character
- Science Fiction
Heimdall had retrieved the hard drive from John and a USB drive from Daniel Jackson that held the information McKay needed to unlock the gate. Thor had checked both pieces of hardware for corruptive software which he’d warned both sides against doing then passed the USB to John.
“Carter says it’ll be an easy fix with the data she’s provided,” Daniel said as John passed the drive to Ronon who took it their gate exit after Hermiod dialed Atlantis. “It’s just removing a line of code from the dialing program that was preventing the DHD from adjusting for stellar drift.”
John frowned as Ronon flicked the USB through the gate and focused on O’Neill. “There are over four million lines of code in the DHD’s program, and it’s written in Ancient. Carter is amused that McKay couldn’t find a single line of code out of millions? Seriously? It’s like trying to find a specific needle in a stack of needles.”
O’Neill just shrugged a little. “It’s the little things.”
“Maybe one day I’ll sit down and figure out how many of our allies died in Pegasus because we couldn’t render them aid quickly when they asked because of her little program adjustment. I wonder how amusing she’ll find that list.” John focused on Woolsey before O’Neill could respond. “Supreme Commander Thor was clear in that Earth had a series of issues regarding Atlantis, future access, and the Daedalus. I’m ready to listen to your requests at this time, Mr. Woolsey.”
Woolsey cleared his throat. “We’ve scouted several planets in the Milky Way, and we’re prepared to migrate your entire population to one for your own safety. We’re preparing a second expedition to take over the city.”
John raised an eyebrow. “You want the city? You’re out of your damn mind if think we’ll give her up without a fight.”
“Mr. Sheppard, your people are in no position to continue the mission set forth by the IOA. Your reduced population alone makes that unfeasible.”
“The IOA can shove their mission goals in the orifice that will cause the least amount of pleasure,” John said evenly. “You’re not getting the city, and you’re also not getting another piece of technology from her. Atlantis is our nest, and I’d see her destroyed before allowing her to fall into the hands of anyone from Earth. You’ve already proven you can’t be trusted, Mr. Woolsey, with such technology.” His gaze flicked briefly to Shen who was outright glaring at him. “We’re keeping the Daedalus, too.”
“Earth built that ship.”
“Consider it compensation for the genetic rape your organization perpetrated on 709 people,” John said evenly. “Do you honestly expect, Mr. Woolsey, to get away with what’s been done to us? Do you think we’ll just forgive and forget? The only Tatsu on Atlantis who don’t blame the IOA and Earth entirely for our new circumstances are the ones too young to talk.”
“You have to be willing to negotiate with us, Mr. Sheppard, if you want our assistance in the future,” Tremblay said.
John quirked an eyebrow. “Rodney told me that you’re a reasonable man, Mr. Tremblay. He was shocked to see your name on the list the Asgard gave us. The last he heard you were the Prime Minister of Canada.”
“I didn’t seek re-election, but my successor asked me to represent Canada with the IOA,” Tremblay said smoothly. “I regret leaving McKay in the SGC. I should’ve recalled him when he was erroneously sent to Siberia. It was clear, then, that he wasn’t valued as he should’ve been. He certainly wouldn’t be in the position he’s currently in if I’d done so. Earth has lost one of the greatest scientific minds of this generation because of an experiment that 2/3’s of the IOA council had no inkling of until the outbreak was reported.”
Shen cleared her throat. “Let’s talk about the outbreak and how it happened. Since we lost access to Beckett after you stopped sending data bursts, we have no idea how the retrovirus spread through the population. You said it went airborne?”
“Beckett had been using me as a guinea pig for months with no outward success,” John said. “Over the course of six months, he injected me with several different variations of the gene protocols he created based on the work he’d done with the Hoffians plus what he called genetic cocktails that were designed to give me the positive traits of the Unas and Iratus. He also delved into ATA research again in an effort to unlock mental abilities the Ancients were known for—telepathy, telekinesis, and hands-on-healing being the most important to him.”
“And there were no side-effects for you?” Shen questioned as she made a note. “Nothing felt out of place?”
“Not until I woke up one morning with scales.” John looked away from her, there was a spark of something in her eyes that made him deeply uncomfortable. “My senses went haywire and started to shut down. By the time medical help reached me in my quarters, I could barely see. Everyone thought I was having a secondary reaction to the original Iratus retrovirus I was exposed to. Everyone but Carson Beckett that is. Looking back on it—I could tell he was elated by each development. All of his hard work was starting to pay off.”
“You speak of him like he was a monster,” Tremblay said.
“He was a monster,” John responded. “Far more a monster than anyone his experimentation left behind. Three days after my scales emerged, every single person I’d had contact with started to show similar symptoms. Within a week it had spread to the Daedalus and the Athosians on the mainland. Then Miko came to me late one night in the infirmary and told me she was pregnant—at least three weeks pregnant. She’d hacked Beckett’s private medical server and discovered what he’d done. Dr. Weir pretended to be horrified and stunned. She even ordered Beckett arrested, but she reeked of deception and dishonesty.
“We tried to get a handle on the spread of the contagion, but it was too late. It mutated and went airborne. We landed the Daedalus after Colonel Caldwell was infected. He died within twenty-four hours of being diagnosed. All of the Athosians were brought to the city for treatment and in a lot of cases—hospice. We did our best to help those that weren’t going to survive to go as peacefully as possible. Frankly, every single man, woman, and child that died during the epidemic suffered an immense amount of pain as their bodies rejected the retrovirus’ attempt to mutate them. In the end, we kept them heavily sedated until they stopped breathing—out of mercy.”
Daniel Jackson stood. “Let’s take a break, Thor?”
“Of course, Daniel Jackson.” Thor turned to John. “Would you like to return to Atlantis at this time, Alpha Sheppard?”
“No, I’ll stay here,” John said. “But we’d like some privacy.”
Thor inclined his head and pushed a button on his chair. The force field darkened black and all the noise from the other side of the room muted.
John left the table as Ronon and Anne stood. He walked to stand near the gate, and Anne pulled a small device from her duffle which she flipped on.
“Simmons called it a privacy bubble,” Anne said. “Another layer doesn’t hurt. It’s basically a fancy white noise generator.”
John slid his radio into his ear and activated it. “Captain Bouchard.”
“Alpha, Atlantis dialed in several minutes ago and confirmed that the city gate is once more fully operational. McKay has launched a firewall to prevent the SGC from, specifically, dialing the gate both from any gate in the Milky Way and Midway. We’ve set charges on all ten gates on our side of the gate bridge, and they are ready to be destroyed on your order. They expect to be ready to leave the planet within the hour. Any orders?”
“Tell Miko not to scratch the paint.”
Bouchard snorted. “With all due respect, Alpha Sheppard, I’m not picking a fight on your behalf with the Primus.”
John grinned. “Sheppard out.” Anne offered him a bottle of water, and he took it.
“How long do you think you’ll last before you lose your temper?” Ronon questioned.
“Slightly longer than you,” John said wryly and shook his head. “This room is full of the unfun kind of assholes.”
Anne chuckled. “Woolsey is just a paper pusher with a normal kind of agenda attached to the status quo. Tremblay plays a good game, but he’s got some pretty big motives. He smells like stress and anger.”
“What he has is a pretty big boner for McKay,” John corrected. “I figure he’s probably furious about this whole thing because now he knows that Rodney is never returning to Earth or him specifically.”
“Like the love of his life boner or McKay can make him a lot of money boner?” Anne questioned.
“The first with a smattering of the second,” John said roughly.
“That makes him dangerous then,” Ronon said. “A man would do a lot of fucked up things for love.”
“It probably makes him more dangerous for the people on Earth who were part of the conspiracy,” Anne speculated. “He’ll be looking to avenge himself and the life he expected to have. I mean, not that he’d have gotten what he wanted even if we hadn’t been experimented on. McKay doesn’t deny himself which means he never wanted Tremblay on a long-term basis.”
John nodded and pulled out his radio then tucked it into his vest pocket as Thor announced that the break was over. He sat back down at the table and set his water bottle in front of him. Woolsey looked uncomfortable, and his leather binder was closed. Tremblay and Shen, on the other hand, were relaxed and looking pleased.
“At this point, Canada, China, Japan, and Russia will be recalling all of their personnel from the Atlantis expedition,” Woolsey said stiffly.
“Every single Tatsu forfeited their citizenship to their former countries,” John said. “Moreover, I’ll not allow anyone or anything to force a member of our flight to return to Earth as it is merely a path to more exploitation and experimentation. At the least, the would be imprisoned and controlled for the rest of their lives.”
“We’re not taking no for an answer,” Shen said. “Specifically, the representative from Japan is demanding the return of Miko Kusanagi and her offspring.”
“My son will never set foot on Earth.” John leaned forward as his gut heated. “And the Primus has no interest in speaking to anyone from her former country for any reason.”
“What does Primus mean?” Shen questioned. “Miko Kusanagi is the Primus?”
“She is the Primus of the Flight, our leader.”
“No, not a queen—such a thing would be a grave insult in Pegasus due to the influence of the Wraith. Our species is not matriarchal. We took a vote.”
“She replaced Dr. Weir.”
“No, Dr. Weir was never the leader of the Tatsu,” John said. “She lived and died entirely human. Though in the end, she’d have been dead either way—she was just as guilty as Beckett of the crimes committed against us.”
Woolsey cleared his threat. “You said that Beckett was charged with two different counts of genocide.”
“The Athosians and…” John took a deep breath. “Ronon was the lone survivor of Sateda. There were others, but they’ve been killed by the Wraith since the culling. We also learned, from his personal journals, that he’d picked out several different populations in Pegasus to experiment on including the people of Hoff. It was like he considered the whole galaxy a laboratory. His obscene and unethical plans seemed to have no end in sight. I know he has several counterparts on Earth. I hope you’re working to contain them, Mr. Woolsey. There’s no telling what they’ll create or set loose on Earth if they’re left to continue Beckett’s research.”
“How long did it take for the mutations to stop?” Woolsey paused. “They did stop, correct? You’re not still…evolving?”
“Stabilization took about three weeks,” John said. “I’ve suffered my share of trauma, but I’d never known anything like that. I can’t say all of us came out of the other side without severe emotional damage. Some of the civilians were barely functional the first few months after the virus ran its course. We all had therapy, whether we wanted it or not.”
“Since you were capable of leaving the planet despite our efforts to quarantine you, did you infect anyone from other worlds?” Shen questioned.
“Of course not,” John said evenly. “Not a single one of us even considered stepping foot off Atlantis until we were all no longer contagious. Of course, that meant rationing food—feeding the children before ourselves. We all lost a bit of weight in the process, but after everything stabilized and the virus was finished, we sought out our trade partners. Most of them accepted our transition—it helps that we don’t look a damn thing like a Wraith despite the Iratus DNA.”
“Have your dietary needs changed?” Woolsey interjected, and Shen offered him a mild glare.
“Why?” John questioned.
Woolsey blinked in surprise. “We can’t very well provide you food, Mr. Sheppard if we aren’t fully aware of your needs.”
“Why bother now when you didn’t before?” John asked. “Why suddenly offer us supplies when you cut off our gate and left us on our own for fourteen months?”
“Not all of us agreed with that plan,” Woolsey said. “General Landry’s questionable handling of the entire situation has led to his replacement in Cheyenne Mountain. We were going to reach out, but by the time all of that was settled your people had contacted the Asgard for assistance, and we were instructed not to contact the city directly by Supreme Commander Thor. It was clear you no longer trusted us.”
“We wouldn’t take food from Earth for any reason,” John said. “Because we don’t trust you and we never will again. Why risk further manipulation or outright poison? It’s clear you want the city, and it’s even more clear that there are those on Earth who wouldn’t have a single damn problem with the outright murder of our entire Flight.”
Woolsey’s heart rate increased and his cheeks stained red. Temper, John thought.
“I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t paint us all with the same ugly brush, Mr. Sheppard,” Woolsey said stiffly and shifted his binder around in front of him. “I’d never be a party to murder.”
“You’re sitting there representing the IOA,” John said evenly. “You’re already a party to murder. This incident should’ve caused the entire thing to fall to pieces. The US should’ve withdrawn immediately. China and Russia conspired with Great Britain to create a supersoldier, Mr. Woolsey, and they experimented on an officer in the United States Air Force. They destroyed my humanity and even now their representative is trying to rip my mate and child from my arms like I don’t have the right to them. I wonder what China promised Japan if they could get Miko Kusanagi on earth with her offspring.”
“The continued operation of the Stargate program depends on the existence of the IOA,” Woolsey explained. “Russia could demand the return of their gate at any time.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” John said evenly. “If the SGC hasn’t already retrieved a DHD and a gate from off-world then I genuinely worry how the place continues to operate. You don’t need Russia’s gate, and if you had a DHD on the planet, they wouldn’t even be able to use the second gate. You could use the DHD to make their gate completely useless. I’m sure Carter wouldn’t have a problem figuring that out. This is about money, Woolsey, and technology. It’s about Carson Beckett’s experiment and access to the data. The US wants supersoldiers just as much, if not more than the other countries involved in this mess. My kind would be fodder in your conflict with the Ori and whatever else you manage to make an enemy of next.”
“You don’t think much of me, do you,” O’Neill interjected. “Do you?”
“I did, once,” John said. “But then you let Landry and Carter try to kill us with isolation. Perhaps you all hoped we were too far gone physically or mentally to operate the Daedalus or the jumpers. Some of you may have even hoped that the virus would turn us into a bunch of primitive creatures who would end up eating each other for food. Either way, Major Davis seemed really fucking surprised I was even capable of speech when he accompanied Thor to Atlantis for the initial review. I guess it would’ve been easier, really, if we’d all starved to death like a bunch of caged animals.”
“I’ve been trying to fix this situation for a year,” O’Neill protested. “The new president doesn’t happen to care that I’ve saved the planet a few times. He doesn’t want us here at all, but the IOA overruled him.”
“There was a time when you’d have never allowed politics to interfere in the survival of your people.” John glanced at Daniel Jackson. “Or maybe it was always about specific people. Regardless, O’Neill, I don’t trust you and I never will again. I find it offensive to be in the same room as you. With all of you, actually. You stink of Earth. It’s stomach turning.”
“What do you want from us?” Tremblay questioned. “What are your goals for this meeting, Alpha Sheppard?”
“Honestly, we’d like you to leave us alone,” John said. “We don’t need or want anything from Earth at this point. The only thing we wanted was the gate unlocked—we just wanted to avoid damaging the city by removing the command consoles and setting up a new DHD. There’s nothing else Earth has that we want or need.”
“Contact with your families?” Tremblay suggested.
“People who end up on missions in other galaxies, Mr. Tremblay, tend to not have deep emotional attachments on Earth. I haven’t spoken to my brother or father in five years. I have no interest in doing so now. Tell our families we’re dead. It’s a level of truth—the people they knew no longer exist. Earth means nothing to us.”
“Then how can we depend on you to keep the Wraith contained in Pegasus?” Shen demanded.
“You can’t,” John said. “Because it’s not our concern at all. We fight the Wraith to protect ourselves and our allies. Earth is not and never will be an ally to the Tatsu.”
“We’re not your enemy,” Woolsey stated. “We want to work with you.”
“The Wraith experimented on the people of Pegasus.” He paused and tilted his head. “Did you know that? It was a report we sent in early on. If I remember correctly there was a Goa’uld who experimented on humans…she was trying to make herself a superior host. It’s like you’re learning all the wrong lessons, Mr. Woolsey, as the SGC fumbles through the Milky Way making enemies left, right, and center. Would you have really protested Beckett’s little experiment? What’s one man in the scheme of things?”
“I would’ve never approved,” Woolsey snapped and took a deep breath. He sat back in his chair. “I’m disgusted and horrified by the entire thing. I’ve lobbied for the imprisonment of every single person involved in this…heinous situation.”
“And you failed.”
“I did, yes,” Woolsey said. “This meeting is my last act as the US representative for the IOA. I can’t be apart of the organization anymore. Within the week, I’ll be taking command of the SGC. Any agreements we make here today, Mr. Sheppard, I will see they are met to the letter.”
Shen glared at Woolsey and averted her gaze when he merely stared back at her.
There were undercurrents that John didn’t understand, but honestly, he didn’t care. What was happening on Earth wasn’t his problem as long as they didn’t bring that shit to Pegasus.
“But you will answer to the IOA one way or another, Mr. Woolsey, and they clearly have plans that involve Atlantis and my people.”
“China and Russia are losing traction in the IOA, and they’ll lose more support when the details of the experiment are released to the entire committee,” Tremblay stated. “The city of the Ancients will remain a point of contention, I’m afraid as many believe it to be the property of Earth.”
John smirked. “Atlantis is useless to you, Mr. Tremblay. She’ll no longer respond to anyone who isn’t Tatsu. It’s the first thing we did after we were fully recovered. We changed the biological signature required to operate all the Ancient technology we had access to. That’s not all we’ve done, of course, but it was the beginning.”
“That’s why McKay didn’t figure out the gate thing,” Jackson said in a subdued tone. “He was focused on the city herself.”
“Priorities.” John picked up his water bottle and took a long sip.
“It can and will be changed again,” Shen said. “In fact, we’ll need that information so we can open Ancient tech to all of us, not just those with the ATA gene.”
“McKay wouldn’t teach you how to accomplish that for any single reason,” John explained. “He’d honestly like to set most of you on fire. That’s one reason why he’s not here today. He loathes Earth and never intends to return.”
“He’s not interested in contacting his sister?” Tremblay questioned. “I could arrange that. Perhaps even a meeting here on Midway if she would be willing.”
“No, he’d prefer his sister to be told he’s dead,” John said. “There is nothing to gain by telling her what really happened—let her think her brother died a human being. It’s for the best.”
“Cutting yourselves off from Earth seems like an unhealthy choice,” Woolsey said in a tone that bordered on pensive. “We want to help you—we want to find a way to treat your condition.”
John sighed and shook his head.
“You seem to think we’re here to negotiate,” Shen interjected. “We’re not. We will be sending another expedition to Atlantis. The Daedalus will be returned to us, and your population will be migrated to a planet in the Milky Way. Those that have been recalled by their governments will be sent home. Your…off-spring…has a dubious claim to dual citizenship in both Japan and the United States. Its fate will be decided by our two governments at a later time.”
“How exactly do you plan to make this happen?” John questioned and glanced toward Thor. The Asgardian’s mouth was pursed though he had no way of knowing if that meant he was displeased or not.
“We’re more than willing to force the issue,” Shen said and smiled then checked her watch. “In fact, it should be starting right about now.”
“I really hope you didn’t send anyone to Pegasus you wanted to get back alive.” John pulled his radio from his pocket and tucked it into his ear. “Bouchard. Situation Red.”
The shimmer of transporter energy around him started and he offered them a smirk as he disappeared.
Bouchard was standing at parade rest when they solidified on the bridge of the Daedalus. “Sir.”
“They sent ships to Atlantis. What was the last status you received?”
“They were preparing to leave,” Bouchard said and hit a button his command chair. “Wilkes—dial Atlantis now.” Several long moments passed.
“No, joy, sir. The last chevron refuses to lock.”
– – – –
“What the fuck have you done?” O’Neill demanded.
“What the SGC should’ve done months ago!” Shen snapped. “The Korolev was dispatched to Pegasus to take control of the city. We’re no longer willing to tolerate their rebellion. Those science experiments need to be rounded up and contained. Colonel Chekov has orders to subdue the population and transport them off the city.” She crossed her arms when Woolsey stood from the table. “Relax, they’ll be careful with the children, at least. If the adults fight back then whatever happens is on them.”
O’Neill turned to Woolsey. “I told you it was a mistake to give Russia the second 304. We should’ve kept it like we intended. I had a great name picked out. It’ll be another six months before the third is ready. Now, Earth doesn’t have a ship at all.”
Shen huffed. “You don’t honestly think the people on Atlantis destroyed the Korolev. It’s got Asgard shields.”
Thor cleared his throat. “I imagine the ship lasted at least fifteen minutes under the bombardment of Ancient drones—perhaps a little longer depending on how much patience Dr. McKay had.” He focused on O’Neill. “The Asgard will no longer be involved with this matter on Earth’s behalf, O’Neill. I am disappointed in how the Tauri has handled the situation with the Tatsu. Should Alpha Sheppard request our help—it will be given.” He pushed a button on his chair and disappeared. Heimdall shimmered away seconds later.
Jack didn’t bother to check the control area from Hermiod. He had no doubts that Thor had retrieved all of his people. “Fantastic.” He glared at Shen. “You do realize you’ve damaged our relationship with the Asgard with this stunt, right? We agreed to take no hostile action against Atlantis!”
“My government didn’t agree.” She shrugged. “We already have all the technology we need from the Asgard.”
“Really?” Daniel laughed bitterly. “They’ve shared less than ten percent of their knowledge with us, and without them, I’m not sure we stand a chance against the Ori.” He ran a hand through his hair. “For fuck’s sake, Jack.”
“We need to prepare in case they decide to retaliate,” Jack murmured.
“You think Sheppard would do that?”
“I think it will depend entirely on whether or not anyone on Atlantis was hurt during the altercation,” Jack said evenly and glared at Shen. “If there were any deaths I expect they’ll make us pay in kind. The fact that they didn’t lash out over the virus is a miracle considering the obvious primal drives they’re dealing with. Sheppard is a predator—a very dangerous predator.”
“Agreed,” Woolsey said. “It was like being in a room with a pride of lions. We certainly don’t know the full extent of their abilities or what they’ve learned to do with them. Sheppard was obviously keeping track of our vital signs. He knew I was honest just as easily as he knew that Ms. Shen was profoundly dishonest.”
“This meeting was a mistake,” Tremblay said. “They got the only thing they needed out of us, and now the relationship is even more hostile than it was before. Sheppard will rightly think he was brought here to make the city more vulnerable to a takeover.” He rubbed his face. “Let’s just hope that all they did was blow the Korolev up. Because if they’ve taken hostages, we have nothing to bargain with.”
“I have a feeling that the Tatsu doesn’t take prisoners,” Jack said neutrally. “It was clear that Sheppard’s world is a black and white one. There are enemies, and there are friends. We are their enemies, and I don’t expect a dragon gives an enemy a single bit of quarter.” He focused on Shen. “If you ever refer to Sheppard’s son as an it again, I’ll ruin your life. That kid, no matter his origin or species, is off-limits to you and your government. The SGC will not be a party to any action going forward that targets that infant.”
“He’s patient zero, General O’Neill. He’s the reason that Sheppard’s altered genetics activated and the virus was generated,” Shen snapped impatiently. “That infant is the key to repeating the experiment. He will be retrieved from Pegasus, one way or another. What you want isn’t going to matter for much longer. When I get back to Earth, Russia will be taking their gate back.”
Jack grinned then. “Sheppard was right about one thing—we don’t need Russia’s gate anymore. I’ve several back-ups at this point and a few DHDs, too. We’ll be happy to throw Russia’s gate back their way. Not that it’ll do them much good.” He shrugged as she huffed.
“We should dial Atlantis to apologize for what’s happened and order the Korolev to stand down if the situation is ongoing,” Tremblay suggested.
Jack nodded, and Daniel left the room at a trot. Within a few moments, the Pegasus gate started to lock chevrons. It stalled on the last symbol.
“It won’t lock, Jack,” Daniel said in a subdued tone. “You don’t…think they…surely they didn’t destroy the city to avoid being taken over.”
“Sheppard said he would do exactly that,” Jack said grimly and took a deep breath. “Dial Earth. We need to get off this thing immediately.”