- Science Fiction
– – – –
John listened to the background noise on his headset as the two other pilots on the city who could operate Jumpers brought people back from the mainland as he ran. Five miles and counting, his sixth trip around the one-mile established route four Marines, including Bates, had joined him. Part of him figured that they were babysitting him but he let it slide because he wasn’t at the top of his game and Ford was still avoiding him. After ten laps, he stopped and tried to ignore the fact that he wasn’t even winded.
Everyone but Bates left him at that point as he braced one foot against a railing and started to cool down. “Talk to me, Bates.”
“Most everyone has calmed down since news of a successful anchoring. I can’t imagine how it would’ve gone if he’d been required to linger among us in spirit form for months or more. I doubt some of the people on the mainland would’ve agreed to return.” Bates paused in his own stretching. “Weir made sure everyone knows that it was you. She said it was a public service, but I think she’s just trying to make things difficult for you.”
“I figured she would.” John dropped down on the bench-like structure near them, and he took a deep breath. He’d always loved the ocean, so at least that was one feature of the city of the Ancients that he could enjoy. “This is a clusterfuck of the first order, Bates.”
“I read your file last night. You’ve apparently never considered OTS.”
“Never saw the point in officer training, sir,” Bates said wearily. “Come on, what have I done to deserve that?”
“You and I both know that the two green ass lieutenants I’ve been left with aren’t going to be…for fuck’s sake, Bates. One is a political favor, and Sumner picked Ford out of goddamned nostalgia—a decision he regretted pretty much the moment he set eyes on a wraith, by the way.”
“Lt. Crown is a political favor?” Bates frowned. “Who does she know?”
John sighed. “It wasn’t a favor for her. She told Sumner that she was transferred from Area 51 to the SGC and encouraged to volunteer because she accused General Landry of sexual harassment. O’Neill offered to get her into a different project, away from the SGC entirely, when JAG refused to file charges against Landry. Crown decided to stick with the mission since Pegasus was about as far as she could get from Landry and still be a Marine. Regardless, she’s just as green as Ford and has seen combat just once. She should be in logistics and has no business on a field team. I can’t have either one of them at my back. It makes my insides itch to think about it.” He paused. “So Captain.”
“Captain,” Bates agreed, but John could tell he wasn’t at all happy.
“I’d like to say it’s temporary but you and I both know that if you’re field promoted by a Revenant that it’ll be official when we make contact with Earth. Especially, considering…well, considering who I’m anchoring.”
“May I know who, sir?” Bates questioned. “I won’t spread it around.”
John rubbed his face with a shaking hand because Sumner should’ve told his ranking NCO who and what he was no matter what the official line was. He should’ve told both lieutenants that he was a Revenant, too, but that was neither here nor there. “Gaius Marius.”
“Jesus fucking Christ,” Bates muttered. “Sir.”
John laughed. “Right?” He took a deep breath. “Last night, I had a dream where I met Lucius Plutarchus. It was ridiculous.”
“Gaius Marius has seen a lot of combat,” Bates said neutrally. “How are you handling that?”
“I have vague memories of being on the ground in Normandy on D-Day,” John said roughly. “I can tell he’s trying to blunt the horror of it, but it’s pretty intense. I think the physical integration is the priority as he fully merges himself. Two days ago, running ten miles as fast as I just did, wouldn’t have been easy. I only slept six hours, but I feel like I got at least ten hours of deep, restful sleep. My vision has always been stellar, but it’s sharper now. Reflexes appear to be slightly above normal, but I think I’m integrating some muscle memory which is insane.”
“How can I help, sir?”
“I just need space to adjust, and I don’t think Weir is going to be too keen to give it to me. Just watch my back because I don’t trust her at all.”
Bates’ gaze narrowed slightly. “You were pretty chummy with her before the merger, sir.”
“Yes, that’s before I found out it was her idea to blackmail me into taking this assignment,” John said flatly. “The Pentagon threated me to court-martial me over that mess in Afghanistan if I didn’t step through the gate. It was Weir’s idea because she wanted my ATA gene. O’Neill and Sumner found out the day we left.”
“This mission is supposed to be volunteer only.” Bates stood and walked over to the railing. “I wonder if she did it to anyone else because between you and Crown, that’s two people who probably wouldn’t be on a potential suicide mission if they had a choice.”
“Crown had choices.”
Bates sent him a look. “Sir, you and I both know that Crown had few choices when it came down to it. JAG screwed her, and that’s bullshit.”
John joined him at the railing and looked out over the ocean. “Well, when I get back to Earth, I’ll make it my business to ruin Landry’s life.”
“I heard he was in line to lead the SGC,” Bates pointed out.
“The last thing O’Neill and Sumner talked about was Landry—Sumner made it clear that he didn’t want Landry in charge of the SGC and if he came back from Pegasus with that asshole sitting in O’Neill’s seat that he would make everyone regret it.”
“Well, considering who he was anchoring, I imagine O’Neill took that threat seriously.”
“We can hope,” John said. “Though I’m not afraid to throw my new badass Roman weight around as needed.”
“Good to know.” Bates grinned.
– – – –
“Lt. Ford, please sit.” Weir pointed him toward a chair, and Aiden sat though it was the last thing he wanted to do. “You’ll be in charge of the military going forward, so I wanted to speak with you about my expectations.”
Aiden shifted uncomfortably in the chair, as his heart raced against his rib cage. “Ma’am, has Colonel Sheppard committed some criminal offense that would remove him from command?”
Weir frowned at him. “No, but I’ve decided that Major—
“Ma’am,” Ford interrupted. “You don’t have the authority to remove Colonel Sheppard from his command unless he’s committed a crime. I will not have any part of a mutiny, and I can assure you no other Marine on this city would either.” He stood. “I won’t be able to continue this conversation as conspiracy to commit mutiny is a crime in itself.” Her mouth dropped open, and her face darkened with fury. “I would request on behalf of the rest of the military on the base that you do not attempt this with them—it is dangerous and inappropriate.” He started to leave but then stopped. “And for the record, Dr. Weir, I’m six months out of Annapolis, and I have been on four gate missions. I’ve never seen combat. I’m in no single way prepared to lead a company of Marines in what is fast becoming a war zone.”
Aiden left her office before she could speak again because really didn’t want to hear another word about her agenda. He activated his radio as he started down the stairs. “Ford to Sheppard, what is your location, sir?”
“My office, problem?”
“Yes, sir, I’ll meet you there.”
He’d been avoiding Sheppard since Sumner had died and he knew it was a dumbass move. Aiden figured that behavior on his part was certainly why Weir thought she might be able to get him on her side for whatever she might have planned. He rounded the corner and found quite a few unlisted loitering near what’d been designated as Sheppard’s office. His fault, certainly, he hadn’t even set up a schedule for Sumner much less Sheppard.
They came to attention as they saw his approach—the rank earning the respect. Aiden wasn’t foolish enough to think for a moment that he’d earned it for himself. Maybe he would, or maybe he would continue to fuck it all up because he was an emotional wreck.
He started to speak, but Sheppard stepped out of his office at that point.
“Stackhouse, go ahead and assemble the company and we’ll hammer out any pressing issues regarding equipment, housing, and training schedules,” Sheppard ordered. He focused on Aiden and motioned him forward with two fingers. “Ford, I need a word with you and Lt. Crown.”
He prided himself on the fact that he didn’t hesitate. Sarah Crown was already in the office when he entered, so Aiden took the seat he was pointed to and glanced only briefly at Dean Bates before focusing on Sheppard who’d chosen to lean on the front of the desk instead of sitting behind it. Not a reprimand then, Aiden decided.
“Due to the circumstances of Colonel Sumner’s death and the vacuum that is left in the officer ranks,” Sheppard began, “I’ve made the decision to field-promote Bates to Captain.”
Aiden was so instantly relieved he had stiffened up to keep from sliding right out of his chair onto the floor.
“Oh, thank God,” Crown blurted out then blushed. “I mean.” She coughed. “Sorry, sir.”
Sheppard laughed. “No, that’s fine. We need to do a little reorganization because we aren’t sorted logistically to handle a city the size of Atlantis. McKay wants to do some on base exploration, and we’ll have to start going off world to set up trade options. Our food stores were decent before we brought the Athosians through the gate, but now we have to make some choices and cultivate some relationships with the natives pretty damn quickly.” He focused on Aiden and Ford couldn’t help the way his stomach did a little flip—a mixture of apprehension and guilt.
“Bates, Crown—dismissed. I’ll see you both in the mess hall in about twenty minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” Bates said and motioned Crown out ahead of him.
Aiden flinched when the door shut behind them and there was a snick of the lock engaging. Sheppard’s supergene no longer seemed all that cool.
“Tell me what’s going on in your head, Lt. Ford,” Sheppard ordered. “Are you afraid of me now?”
“No, sir, of course not,” Aiden flushed. “I mean, as much as any junior officer fears a superior but nothing personally.”
“You didn’t speak with Sumner before he died,” John said quietly. “I can’t pretend that it didn’t hurt him. He thought a lot of you.”
“I guess you know that because of the…” Ford waved a hand and flushed. “It’s my fault he’s dead. He pushed me out of the way of the culling beam, and they got him instead. Why did he do that? I was so mad, and then I was horrified because he was a Revenant and he was worth ten of me. What if he’d died on that hive ship? Could the spirit have found his way back to the city? How could he be so reckless with himself?” He glared. “How could you be so reckless?”
John raised an eyebrow at him, and Ford huffed the slouched down in the chair.
“This is so weird,” Ford snapped.
“You think it isn’t for me?” John asked and laughed when Ford crossed his arms over his chest. He had a fleeting memory of an eight-year-old Aiden doing the same thing because his mother wouldn’t let him go trick-or-treating dressed as MC Hammer. He pushed that memory aside so he could concentrate on the grown up version of Sandra Ford’s child. “He was under orders not to tell anyone about his status as a Revenant because of Dr. Weir.”
Aiden flushed. “Yeah, she’s why I was looking for you. She called me into her office and tried to put me in charge of the military. I told her that she was conspiring to commit mutiny.”
John snorted. “Ford.”
“What? Technically, that’s exactly what she was doing. She doesn’t have the legal authority to remove the military leader from his position without a serious criminal offense and even then you’d be subject to review by your peers. She’s not your peer, sir, frankly considering your new circumstances—you don’t have a peer on this city. I’ll not be party to the usurping of your authority over the military personnel on the expedition. I’m too pretty to go to Leavenworth.” Ford frowned. “My mom was an anchor. She died when I was ten. It was…difficult because I thought that the Revenant would at least come back to see me but he never did. Mom only ever told me that her Revenant was a man in his life of origin but that he’d anchored with women in the past.
“Being anchored helped her go to school—she had a great job. Everything was awesome, and she told me amazing stories from the lives her Revenant lived. Never anything specific that I could latch onto because I have to admit when I got older I tried to find him.”
“Why?” John asked.
“To thank him,” Aiden said. “They said the only reason I even got to say goodbye to my mother after her aneurysm is because she was anchored and he didn’t leave her until she died. He could’ve unmoored at any point, but he didn’t—he stayed with her as long as he could even when people from the hospital encouraged him to leave her so he wouldn’t feel her death.” He shrugged. “I contacted the Triumvirate Council once and tried to get his name. I was lectured severely for it. I was also told my unreasonable attachment to my mother’s Revenant made me unsuitable as an anchor volunteer. I thought maybe Colonel Sumner knew that so I didn’t volunteer and I’m really sorry about not going to see him. I was just kind of lost in my own head.”
“He didn’t resent you for it,” John said.
“But it hurt him.”
“Yes. Would you have preferred I lie to you about that?”
“No, sir, of course not.” Aiden stood. “I’ll go make sure the company is in place. I take it you’re going to do Bates’ field promotion during the meeting?”
“Good.” Ford nodded. “I’m just as immensely relieved as Lt. Crown, sir, I just learned how to keep my mouth shut about stuff like that.”
– – – –
The company relaxed after the meeting and Bates’ promotion, so John took it as a win. It a move more passive aggressive than he considered himself capable of, he sent Elizabeth Weir a copy of the UCMJ with the parts of about mutiny and sedition highlighted. Then he’d copied/pasted the relevant parts of the expedition charter in the email as well. He wasn’t at all surprised to be ordered to her office shortly after that. So he took a stroll and meandered his way up to her fishbowl of an office after he picked up some coffee from the mess.
He entered her office without knocking and ordered the door shut behind her. The windows darkened as he sat down. “There’s no need to maintain any sort of pretense of pleasantness in private, Dr. Weir.”
She blinked and cleared her throat before straightening her shoulders. “Very well. I insist you cede control of the military to the newly promoted Captain Bates.”
“No.” He took a sip of his coffee and watched her process that. “And you know very well you don’t have the authority to ask such a thing of me, Dr. Weir. Your limited authority over me doesn’t include removing me from the place my rank affords me without a criminal offense. A circumstance that Lt. Ford already explained to you. We are required by the charter we both signed to maintain a civil, professional relationship, and that is all. Your bigotry is startling and profoundly disappointing, of course, but you’re entitled to it. I mean, it’s genuinely disgusting to be in your presence if I’m going, to be honest about it.
“Your ignorance regarding the Revenant is appalling, and more so for the fact, the IOA knew this about you and let you come to Pegasus anyway. You have no business whatsoever being in the Stargate Program. How will you react to aliens if humans with a different evolutionary path make you practically hysterical? How will you respond to alien religions and customs that offend your delicate sensibilities? I guess we’ll cross that potentially murderous bridge when we come to it.”
“You’re disgusted by me?” Elizabeth repeated and laughed sharply as her eyes glittered with some emotion that John didn’t bother trying to identify.
“You’re a walking abomination, John, look what you’ve let that thing do to you. You’re ruined.”
“Colonel Sheppard,” John corrected. “You don’t have permission to be friendly with me, Dr. Weir. I have to speak to you because it’s my job, but I’d prefer no interaction with you outside of professional circumstances, and you’ll address me by my rank and last name without exception. If you attempt to address me differently in public—I’ll correct you on the spot, no matter the audience.”
Her cheeks flushed. “I can see it’s already making you arrogant.”
“This isn’t arrogance,” John said evenly. “This is fury. Sumner knew you were responsible for the Pentagon blackmailing me into joining this clusterfuck of a mission.” Her eyes widened, and she sat back a little from the desk that separated them. “You’re the reason I’m here—on what is basically a suicide mission. You might not have anyone on Earth worth returning to, but I have two brothers who may never know what happens to me. I blame you for it. The worst part of this, for you, is of course that even if I die the Revenant, I carry will move onto a new anchor, and he’ll make you pay for the deaths of both of his anchors. He knows, you see, how you argued against the rescue of Sumner and everyone else on that hive ship. He knows how much of my time you wasted arguing against it. If I’d left when I wanted to, Sumner would’ve lived.”
“I couldn’t have known that,” Weir protested as John stood.
“I don’t care,” John snapped, and for a moment Gaius welled up in him. He knew his eyes were glowing blue. “We don’t care.”
“You freak,” Weir muttered and stood from her desk. “Get out—email me the mission schedule. I don’t want to have to look at you unless we have a briefing.”
“The feeling is entirely mutual, I assure you,” John said evenly. “Insult me in such a personal manner again, Dr. Weir, and I’ll start a complaint file to transmit to the SGC as soon as I can accomplish it. It’s illegal to discriminate against a Revenant.”
“Calling me a bigot isn’t a personal insult?” Elizabeth demanded hotly.
“Considering how you display your bigotry without an ounce of shame, I figure it’s a truth you’re already intimately familiar with.”
He left her huffing and wasn’t remotely satisfied. The whole conversation had left him absolutely furious, and he had no real outlet. McKay was leaning on the wall just beyond the stairs when he reached the command deck so he veered off in the man’s direction and they walked silently out of the tower. He let the scientist lead the way since he figured McKay knew the city better than he did.
“It spread like wildfire that she tried to get that kid, Ford, to stage a mutiny,” McKay confided as soon they were out on one of the wide empty piers.
John frowned. “Ford repeated that a civilian?”
“No, she didn’t shut the door for that meeting, so Grodin, Simpson, and Zelenka heard the whole thing. They immediately told everyone they could get their hands on so yeah, it’s a thing and everyone is quietly horrified on your behalf. Even the people who are freaked out about Revenants are worried about her behavior and how it will impact our safety.”
John scowled. “Did all those assholes come back to the city?”
“Yeah, everyone is accounted for. The Athosians killed this elk-like creature, so we’re having elkburgers for dinner. I hope they taste okay. The thing weighed over a thousand pounds, and they were able to harvest a lot of the meat. The animal is common on several worlds, the Athosians already know what parts are safe to eat, so I guess we’ll get elk sausage out of it, too. They also scouted out some land that would be good for community fields. I have my people checking the weather data, so we’ll know what the growing season is like. I’d like to move the city closer to the mainland.”
“How close?” John questioned.
“This pier we’re standing on? It’ll extend another mile out if we want. It’s designed to act as a bridge when needed. I’ve been reviewing data on the ocean depth, and I found an abandoned geothermal plant about three hundred miles from where the city is currently floating. We’re drifting, by the way, because it would take too much energy to create a stationary position in our current location.”
“How much energy would it burn to move her?”
“That’s the brilliant part. The city has a hydropower plant, and that plant would provide the energy to move her. Granted, it would be slow going, but in about a month we could be tucked into a large gulf off the main consentient where the geothermal plant is. We could moor the city to it—which is a twofer.”
“Power and stationary position,” John agreed. “Have you sent the proposal to Weir, yet?”
“No, I wanted to run it by you first since you’ll have to get in the chair to make it work. Also, I figured if you quietly disapproved of it that Weir would approve it out of spite and I’d get what I want without a fight.” Rodney smiled when John laughed. “Thoughts?”
“I can play your devil’s advocate,” John said and dropped down on the pier. McKay joined him. “And you’re right, she’ll go out of her way to make me as unhappy as she can until we reestablish communication with Earth. Will the power plant help with that?”
“We should be at full power using the plant inside six months. The city has a large energy storage plant under the central tower, but we’ll need to do some maintenance before we start using it. It’s designed to power the city entirely, you see.”
“And the ZPMs?”
“Space flight and back-up.”
“Cool,” John murmured. “Go ahead and send your email and I’ll be thinking of questions to ask that make it sound like I hate the whole idea. We’ll see how easy it is to play her. It’s a good test subject. Full power means we can dial Earth?”
“I’d want to keep it to once a week, but yes, we’ll be able to establish a line of communication with Earth.”
“Six months,” John murmured. “Is that including the time it’ll take for us to move her?”
“Yeah, are you going to leave the first chance you get?”
John shook his head. “No, Gaius wanted this mission as soon as Sumner was told about it and while I’m not happy with how I got out here—we’re fine with staying.”
“We, huh? Is that weird at all?”
“It is completely weird, Rodney,” John said immediately. “This morning when I was brushing my teeth, I had this little memory of holding my nephew, Julius, when he was just a few months old.”
Rodney snorted. “Oh, yeah, Gaius Marius married into the Caesar family. Do you remember the civil war, too?”
“Vividly,” John muttered. “At least when I thought about it but it was pretty easy to set those memories aside. The memories of his origin life are bright like stars when I touch them, but the memories of his other anchors can be quite indistinct unless he helps me focus on them. I don’t know how to fully explain it.”
“What about knowledge?”
“It’s crammed into my head,” John said roughly. “Unpacking it is the work of years. I don’t have to go into any of it if I don’t want to but I’ve been exploring it—Sumner was trained as a sniper. That’s handy for our current circumstances. A past anchor worked in medicine, so that’s something I’ve been poking for field use. Gaius has always been a student of military history, so that’s there as well. Sumner got his degree in combat engineering.”
“Yours is math.”
“Applied for my master’s degree,” John said in agreement. “Though I did my undergrad in theoretical, once I was in the Air Force, I realized that application was more attractive.” John took a sip of his now cold coffee and grimaced. He set it aside and knocked his boots against the side of the pier.
“People were kind of weirded out that you took Sumner’s body to the mainland and burned it, so they’ve been speculating on how old the Revenant is that you carry. My favorite theory is the one about him being a Viking.”
“Well,” John began then laughed. “Actually, Gaius did anchor in a Viking for about fifty years. He traveled a lot after he was unmoored from his first life—he didn’t want to be weighed down by the expectations of his family, so he refused to be anchored to the person that’d been chosen from him. He drifted around a lot actually during that time—anchoring when it suited him so that he could learn and explore.” He grinned. “He’s been to Mars.”
“What?” Rodney demanded. “He’s been to what?”
“Mars,” John repeated. “In fact, he spent years off and on between anchors to visit the other inner planets—Mercury, Venus, and Mars. At the time, he didn’t know a lot about the sun and was worried about what it might do to him even his spirit form, so he never wandered past Mercury and didn’t spend a lot of time there either.”
“That’s amazing,” Rodney said. “I’ve never been so jealous in my whole life, and that’s saying something.” He cleared his throat. “So the sex thing you mentioned—would that be a casual sort of thing or what?”
John laughed. “Geez, McKay, I haven’t even gotten a blow job yet, and we’re having the relationship discussion?” He nudged the scientist when he noticed his cheeks were pink. “I don’t make a habit of using people for sex. I like you which is weird since you’re an arrogant asshole. I want to get to know you.”
“Did you like me before the whole spirit merger thing?” Rodney asked with a confused frown. “Because that is weird. Even people who want to have sex with me normally just tolerate the arrogant asshole part.”
“Totally before—though I have to admit that Gaius has a big crush on your brain,” John said with a little smirk as he leaned on his hands. “It doesn’t have to be any more serious than you want it to be. I know…well…the whole Revenant thing is a new set of circumstances, and I get that.”
“It won’t scare me off. I just wanted to know what I was getting into. DADT is more daunting than you sharing your body with another person which sounds crazy, I know.”
“A Revenant can write his own ticket in the service when they’re just an everyday Joe Blow from Ohio, McKay. I’ve got a Roman general time-sharing my brain. Trust me when I say that DADT is the last thing I worry about.” John turned around so he could face McKay. “But there’s Weir to consider, and she hates my guts now. I don’t know what her deal is, but I have to think she had a really bad experience with a Revenant at some point. She called me a freak during our meeting.”
“Wow,” Rodney muttered. “Does she not get out offensive her attitude is, or what? I mean even the people who ran away to the mainland were more afraid of some stupid urban legend than you.”
“Or they were replaying one of those repulsive horror movies about Revenants acting as body snatchers and going on killing sprees,” John said darkly. “I never liked those things, and now they’re deeply offensive. I don’t think anyone understands what it would be like for a Revenant to be an unwilling anchor. The existence would be nightmarish for them both. We trust in each other, and it’s weird since I barely know him, but the moment he touched my mind, I knew I was safe with him. Maybe part of that is left over from Marshall Sumner, who was an ass, but I knew from the moment I met him he was a good man.”
“There are a lot of people at the SGC who are going to be furious when they find out why he died,” McKay said. “Listening to argue with her for fucking hours about whether not we should rescue our own people was one of the more obscene things I’ve seen since coming to work for the SGC. Before that moment, I’d have never said she was heartless, and she didn’t even know he was a Revenant. If she’d known—she’d have never let you off the city to rescue him.”
“I’ll keep that in mind for myself,” John murmured.
“Oh, she doesn’t have a chance in hell of getting past Bates on such a thing. He’d have tossed her in her office and locked the door if it had been up to him. He’s one of many under your command who thinks the whole deal should be run by the military. Having a civilian leader is honestly pretty weird. The Air Force has run the show at the SGC since the beginning, and there was a lot of talk when Weir was put in charge at the Outpost. It was pressure from the IOA mostly.”
“I trust Bates,” John said. “Well, Sumner and Gaius trusted him, and that’s sort of transferred to me. He knows about Gaius by the way—I didn’t think it was a good idea to keep it from him since he’s my XO now. I needed the extra clout, or maybe I just thought I did. Either way, he’s firmly in my corner.”
“He probably has the biggest Marine boner ever, right now,” Rodney said. “I mean Gaius Marius is a legend and he would be even if he weren’t the oldest known Revenant to still be anchoring. He’s the soldier’s soldier and has been for thousands of years.”
John made a face. “You know they think I’m a Marine now.”
“I heard a good-natured argument about it in the mess. There are two camps, but the Marines are winning since there are more of them here than there are Air Force. Regardless, there’s a betting pool, and the stakes are high. I think half the chocolate in the city has already been wagered.”
“I really don’t want to think about it too much but there is a part of me who feels compelled in some way to honor Sumner’s service, and he was a Marine to his bone marrow.” John watched McKay for a few moments. “What’s your schedule for the rest of the day?”
“I was hoping you’d fly me out to that gulf were the power station is. I might be able to get some readings on it from a jumper.”
John nodded. “Yeah, okay.”
– – – –
Gaius loved to fly, and his joy was infectious. John had to admit that the jumper was a unique flight experience but it wasn’t the most thrilling experience he’d ever had as a pilot. He was kind of looking forward to taking his passenger up in a Blackhawk if they ever got back to Earth. The flight path was entirely over water. He resolved to spend a bit of time with the planetary data that the science department had found since their arrival.
Predictably, Weir had been on board with the flight as soon as Rodney mentioned that John wasn’t thrilled with the idea of moving the city. It would’ve been funny if it weren’t so pitiful. He wasn’t even sure what it said about her abilities as a diplomat that she was so easily manipulated. McKay was smart, but he wasn’t remotely subtle, and Weir had been so focused on making John unhappy that she’d ignored everything else during the very brief meeting.
“Are you upset?” McKay questioned as he looked up from his tablet for the first time since they’d left the city.
“Yes.” John frowned as he turned to jumper so they could get a good look at the entire entrance of the gulf. “Are we going to be able to get the city through this?”
“Yes, the calculations will be tight, but I have no doubt you’ll be able to navigate it from the chair.”
“How long will I have to spend in the chair?”
“A few hours the first time to set up the navigation and maybe thirty or so minutes a day to check the course and tweak it as necessary. I’m not sure how the current will impact our movement, and there is weather to consider. I have a team already set up planning the whole thing so there won’t be any surprises if I can help it as far as the open ocean travel go. You’ll spend a full day in the chair when we get here—just for safety purposes. The mouth of the gulf is 1.5 kilometer’s wide and the city is 1.33 kilometers, so there is room for error. I wouldn’t trust any of the other gene carriers in the chair.”
“Depth of the gulf?”
“The deepest part is a little over a thousand meters, and the most shallow is just under eight hundred.”
“And the city is…” John prodded.
“The city is 680 meters from bottom to top and 320 of that is above sea level,” Rodney explained. “So we’re good on that front, but I’ll want to do a full survey of the gulf to make sure there haven’t been any significant changes to the ocean floor since the last time it was surveyed by the satellite.”
“About four hundred years ago,” Rodney said. “The planetary survey is pretty low on priorities for the satellite. The main function is weather data collection.”
“That’s weird, right?” John questioned. “That the Ancients put a permanent satellite in orbit that focuses that much on weather data.”
“It’s curious, so I have a team going over the data as quickly as they can considering it’s written in Ancient.”
“Ancient is close to Latin, right?” John questioned.
“We think Latin came from Ancient,” Rodney admitted. ‘Why?”
“Well, I speak Latin fluently now so I could probably pick up Ancient pretty easily at this point. Do you have a language primer that you can send me?”
“Yeah, Daniel wrote a book on the language. I’ll see that you get a copy of it. How many languages did you pick up?”
“More than I can make sense of,” John admitted. “I’ve kind of pushed most of it aside since it’s not helpful, but I could probably converse in Spanish or French without a problem, and I knew neither before the merger. Gaius was a world traveler and only anchored with an American shortly before World War II. He was merged with a Frenchmen before that, but his anchor died in 1938 while he was in New York.”
“I’ve read about that, Gaius Marius coming to the US was quite a thing back in the day because they expected he’d want to return to Europe and find a new anchor there,” Rodney said.
“Gaius doesn’t remember that time fondly—there was a lot of political maneuvering, and many people tried to make the decision for him. They even removed several people from the volunteer pool that he had to choose from in their efforts to control him. It’s why he’s become so contrary about picking anchors even today,” John admitted. “He’s pretty pleased with the complete fit the Triumvirate Council is going to have when they meet me. I’m too much of a wild card to have ever been seen as a proper volunteer.”
“That process must be so boring and frustrating for the Revenant—especially if they are already unmoored. Is that the right term, unmoored?”
“Yeah, it’s the right term. Gaius isn’t fond of being unmoored, and even those years he spent exploring other planets in the Sol system weren’t comfortable for him. Those years while fascinating feel empty and that’s what he hates the most, the lack of physical stimulation.” John cleared his throat when he found that McKay was staring at him in what looked like horror.
“I just…I never thought what it would feel like not to have a body. It must be a nightmare. Is that why he continues to anchor?”
“I think it’s why all Revenants choose to anchor, and eventually some of them move past that desire for physical form. I don’t know how since Gaius doesn’t appear to be remotely close to that point. He’s hungry for the human experience with all of its pleasures and pains.”
Rodney nodded and frowned slightly as he focused on his tablet. “I could…the whole thing is fascinating so please don’t let me treat you like a science experiment.”
John laughed. “Yeah, okay.”
“Can you get the jumper to scan the gulf?”
“I think so.” He prodded the jumper, and the HUD changed immediately. “This is honestly the coolest thing.”
– – – –
Dean Bates was a patriot. His mama had often fondly told everyone that her only son should’ve been born on the Fourth of July. His favorite comic book growing up was Captain America, and he joined the Marines the day he turned eighteen. His mother was already widowed the day he was born, and he’d been raised in his grandparents home. His grandfather had served, proudly, until he was made to retire from the Corps. His grandfather had also anchored a Revenant for seventy-one years. It was a point of pride in his family and for him personally.
Three hours after Sheppard became an anchor for the Revenant Marshall Sumner had brought to Pegasus, Dean Bates decided that Elizabeth Weir was a threat to his CO and to the expedition as a whole. Shortly after he was promoted to Captain, a circumstance he never expected to have to endure, he quietly made it perfectly clear to every single Marine on the base that their CO was to come first in all circumstances. Weir was dangerous, and Bates wasn’t going to allow her to get another anchor killed.
There were two kinds of civilians on the city of the Ancients and Bates wasn’t happy either of them. The first kind were eager, foolishly unprepared, and completely unaware of the fact that they were probably going to die horribly. The second kind knew they were going to die horribly and they were looking for someone to blame. Dean was going to make sure that they didn’t blame Sheppard.
It was easy enough to use the mythology of the Revenant to paint Sheppard with a brush full of security and protection. There were enough veterans of the Stargate Program on the city, and they realized they were only as strong as the military people they had to protect them. So Dean talked about Sheppard’s heroism in Afghanistan and how he’d defied mission protocol to protect his people at the risk of his own career. It was easy to play that up since Dean believed that Sheppard had done the right thing. The incident easily mirrored Sheppard’s insistence that he be allowed to leave the city to rescue their people from the hive.
Bates considered Elizabeth Weir to be the most dangerous thing in Pegasus, and he’d made sure all of his people knew that.
Lt. Crown was seated at the command console, watching Sheppard’s flight across the planet. Weir had been startled when Bates’ first act as an XO was to replace all of the people in the command center with military personnel. She’d wanted to argue, but base security was clearly outlined in the expedition charter as the responsibility of the military and Bates made sure she was aware of his full and complete understanding of the charter they’d all signed.
He leaned against the railing and in that moment, Crown looked up and gave him a firm nod. Sheppard was returning to the city. Dean relaxed a bit because he wasn’t on board with the Colonel being off the city with military back up. The fact that he’d only taken McKay, Dean knew, was more of a personal preference rather than a professional one.
“Date over?” Stackhouse asked as he came to stand with Bates.
Stackhouse laughed. “It’s honestly kind of charming.”
It was hardly charming, but if McKay made Sheppard happy, then that would be quite enough for Dean. It was just one more thing on the city he’d have to manage and protect from Elizabeth Weir.
The radio clicked in his ear as Crown activated the all-call channel and she announced, “Phoenix is back in the nest.”
“Is that a new call sign?” Stackhouse questioned with a quirked eyebrow.
Dean snorted. “No, he’s had it for years. It’s just…very fitting these days.”