- Death-Minor Character
- Permanent Injury
- Science Fiction
They could see the inlet from various places on the city and were just a few hours from being in place to tether to the geothermal platform. McKay had spent more time on the platform than he had the city—preparing it for the city. In a way, it was a good thing because John figured they should take their time moving into a relationship. The scientist was had a lot on his plate professionally, and Sheppard didn’t want to load him down with personal issues as well.
John had moved his office space to a large round room in the top of the central tower. It’s walls were entirely made of windows that he could darken when he wanted. It afforded him a great view of the city and the mainland now that they were close. He sat at his desk and watched a jumper leave the water and head for the city. Miko Kusanagi was currently in the control chair, but John would take over in a few hours as McKay wanted him in the chair for the travel through the mouth of the inlet and for the tethering.
“How did you get this awesome space again?”
“I ordered a few Marines to clean it out,” John said as he turned in his chair and focused on McKay who was leaning against the wide, currently open door. “It was full of junk when Weir surveyed space for herself or she’d have probably chosen it. Though she wouldn’t have gotten nearly as much as use out of it without the gene.” He motioned toward to one of the windows as it darkened and displayed the gate room. “Like that.”
Rodney snorted. “You show off. It’s cool up here. I’m sure she’s jealous as hell.”
“She did mention that she thought this space was probably used by the leader of the city historically,” John said and grinned. “I had them bring you a comfortable chair.” He pointed to the big chair to the left of his desk against the window. “For when you visit.”
“We could share that chair.”
“I had noticed,” John said and grinned when McKay rolled his eyes. “The platform ready?”
“Energy production is sixty-five percent which is what the station is designed for when it’s untethered. It’s storing energy with ninety-eight percent efficiency which is unheard of on Earth.”
“How much do you have stored so far? I haven’t read the report from yesterday.”
“A little over two hundred megawatts but we’ll expend half of that with the tethering. There are a lot of essential systems on the city that are offline because of automatic power rationing. Once power is flowing—those systems will come online, and I can’t do anything about it. Not that I’d want to since they are essential, but Weir has already fussed about the immense energy cost.”
“I read that email,” John said and rocked in his chair. “But I’m not on board with breaking various parts of the city to conserve that energy. I noticed that you included system security in the list of programs coming online. You meant solar system, right? Because Weir thinks it’s some IT thing we can cut off.”
“There is a network of sensors in the solar system and about six thousand years of unprocessed data because it was one of the first systems to be rationed when the conservation protocols kicked in. I thought I was pretty clear about what it was since I included that particular operation in the section regarding external security.” Rodney dropped down in his chair. “Okay, you get about a hundred points for this find.”
John laughed and prodded the double doors shut. “How much power do we need to dial Earth?”
“A terawatt,” Rodney admitted. “And another five hundred megawatts would be required to maintain it for a full thirty-eight minutes. We’re going to store more energy than we use. I think we’ll have enough in about five months to dial Earth unless…”
“Unless that storm appears and we have to use the shield, or the wraith appear in orbit.”
“If the wraith appear in orbit, we’re screwed. The shield won’t hold against them. There’s a reason the Ancients sank the city.”
“Can we cloak? Like a jumper?”
“Not currently,” Rodney said roughly. “I’ll work on it. But we need to fight them our way, John, because they’re not prepared for that.”
“You mean take the fight to them,” John said.
“Yes, as soon as they get near us,” Rodney admitted. “We infiltrate their ships using the jumpers, and we blow them up. I’m working on a drone-based bomb that’ll have the yield to take out a hive. I need to study one, really, and the scans I pulled from the jumper used during the rescue were helpful, but I’d like to spend some time on one so I can figure out their technology. The more I know about them, the more I can use it against them.”
“This drone-based weapon,” John began, “it’s not radioactive.”
“No, I promise. I could make an A bomb with startling ease but I won’t, and I won’t allow anyone else who could do it either. There aren’t many of us with the practical know how on the city for that kind of project at any rate.” He put his feet up on the corner of John’s desk and slouched down in the chair. “So, I’ve been monitoring her database use.”
Sheppard raised an eyebrow. “Is there something to worry about?”
“She’s been reading about Ascension experimentation. We’ve isolated a lab that was dedicated to it. I’ve pulled all of the power crystals from the room, and I have non-gene carriers in it taking the whole thing apart. She doesn’t know.”
“What’s her game, you think?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve come to realize that a great many of the experiments had regarding Ascension could be weaponized after a fashion since they all failed. Every single scientific approach collapsed under the weight of the spiritual requirements, and eventually they stopped trying to do it without the mental components.” Rodney paused. “But not before they killed hundreds of volunteers seeking Ascension. Weir flagged the lab I’m currently dismantling this morning for exploration. I’m waiting until the team is finished with physical component recycling before I open her email. I viewed it from the server so currently it appears to be unopened and undelivered. Zelenka has secured the data with the rest of the material we’ve gathered on various experiments that we’ve destroyed on the city.”
“You think she’s looking for a weapon to use against me?” John questioned.
“Or more specifically, Gaius,” Rodney said. “Weir would be thrilled to rip him right out of you, John. After all, her problems begin and end with you volunteering to become an anchor.”
The thought of Gaius unmooring and leaving him was so horrifying that his stomach tightened. He felt the soothing presence of the Revenant settle over him—heavy and warm which made him relax.
“Why?” John murmured. “Why does she care so much?”
“I don’t know,” Rodney admitted with a frown. “I mean, why does any bigot feel the way they do? It’s a mental illness, really. I’m not offering an excuse for her but a reason. There’s honestly no excuse for her behavior, even if she is batshit insane, but I have to think anyone that genuinely believes they’re better than someone else because of their race or color or gender or whatever is dealing with some deep psychological problem. It’s certainly not normal.”
“Agreed,” John said with a frown. “You know—when I came to Colorado, she took me off base to have dinner and discuss my role on the expedition.”
Rodney’s feet hit the floor and frowned. “Weir took you to dinner?”
“Yeah,” John said and shrugged. “Decent steak but the conversation was limited because of the setting. An off-base meeting didn’t make a lot of sense for security reasons.”
Rodney huffed. “You fluffy haired idiot.”
John threw a paper clip at him. “Asshole.”
Rodney laughed and picked up the little piece of metal. “Where did you get this?”
“Bates has a whole crate of them. I don’t know why. Why am I an idiot?”
“Did she invite you back to her quarters to finish discussing the mission?” Rodney asked impatiently.
“Yeah, but I was tired, so I suggested we meet in the mess next day for breakfast.”
“She was trying to get into your pants,” Rodney said and rubbed his face in frustration. “Seriously? How could you not…”
“I’m gay,” John protested. “Most women get it immediately. Three different women in the Mountain took me aside and let me know that you were bisexual because they caught me looking at your ass. I even endured a very explicit conversation about your dick, McKay. I mean with an exception for a recent situation because of Sumner, I’ve not had to tell a woman I prefer men in over a decade.” He frowned as he considered the night in question. “She was wearing this swishy blue dress.”
“Swishy?” Rodney repeated with a laugh.
John flicked his hand. “You know, swirly around her legs and stuff. But seriously, Rodney, I haven’t touched a woman since my divorce. I learned that lesson. I’d rather have my hand than pretend to want a woman.”
Rodney winced. “That sucks—that you ever tried to pretend at all. Who talked about my dick?”
“Carter.” John frowned at him. “She said you were a jerk, but your cock was perfect.” Rodney blushed, and John almost laughed. “I’m looking forward to taking a ride.”
“You.” McKay exhaled noisily and slouched more deeply in his chair.
“Gaius is, too,” John continued.
“Shut up, seriously, it’s like the two biggest assholes from Earth met and decided to share a body.”
Since that about summed up his situation, John just nodded and grinned when McKay frowned at him. He glanced toward the window/screen that was displaying the gate room and prodded the system to shift upward so he could see Weir’s office. She was at her desk, staring at her tablet. “What’s she reading right now?”
“I don’t know but she downloaded four different documents from the database this morning, and they were all on Ascension. If she weren’t so vehemently opposed to your circumstances, I would be worried she was going to try to Ascend.”
“What if she’s trying to figure out a way to force Revenants to Ascend?” John asked. “I mean—that’s impossible based on what I know about our evolution, but she’s foolish enough to think what she already thinks so…”
“I’ll investigate. If she’s gone that far, I’ll start the process to remove her from her position,” Rodney said frankly. “Because that’s murder and I won’t stand by and watch her plot such a thing against anyone much less you.” He stood with a reluctant frown. “I’ll be back to visit the chair.”
Rodney grinned but then grew serious. “I was thinking—after we tether tonight and everything is as settled as it can be that we could have dinner in my quarters.”
“And you could spend the night.”
John’s mouth went dry. “If you’re ready for that.”
“I am if you both are.”
Gaius was doing a victory dance, so John figured his Roman passenger was very ready. “Yeah.” John rocked back in his chair and smiled. “We’re both ready for that. Thanks for asking.”
“Yes, well, I’m wrapping my head around your dual existence as quickly as I can. I don’t know how it would work if one of you wanted someone the other one didn’t, but it wouldn’t be a great situation for anyone involved.”
John honestly didn’t have any memories or emotions from Gaius on that subject which was a relief. He’d hate to think that his Revenant might have anchored with people in the past that would ignore him that way in their mind and body. “Let me know when you’re ready for me to get in the chair.”
Rodney inclined his head and left with a longing glance toward the chair.
John grinned and sent Bates an email that just said, ‘great call’. His XO would get the reference since it probably wasn’t a secret to anyone that McKay had returned to the city and immediately came to Sheppard’s new office space. He glanced briefly at Weir again then cleared the window with a frown because looking at her made him furious.
With the small boost the city had received from the hydropower plant, various systems had come online, and each one seemed to seek him out constantly. He’d talked with Zelenka and Kusanagi about it. Both scientists had done what they could to blunt various non-essential processes because it had quickly become more annoyance than anything else to be told on an hourly basis how much salt was being produced in the desalination plant. He’d done his part, coaxing the various systems into what he called emergency-only communications. Nearly every single program fallen into line.
The one hold out was the city security sensors—the program that governed that system reported a population count, general health statistic, and the city power levels every hour on the hour. He’d gotten used to that particular trickle of information as quickly as he could because he considered it important. Even if he’d have preferred to only get an update when there was a problem. In a way, it was almost soothing, and after the first few days it didn’t even wake him up at night.
He tried to go over his pre-anchor interactions with Weir to see if he’d missed that she was attracted to him, but nothing stood out except for the dress. John had heard rumors that the leader of the expedition had left a man behind on Earth with a break-up video. He really hoped that wasn’t true. But then, the woman had already proved to be a complete asshole so leaving her man just a video would certainly fit in line with her known behavior.
A knock on the door frame of his office had him looking up. Bates was gone most days on missions—they’d gathered a lot of intel and made decent trade agreements under the man’s plan. But on a day when John planned to spend hours in the chair, his XO made a point to be around. Sheppard didn’t wonder why—he was vulnerable in the chair. It was even more of a problem since he’d anchored as Gaius utterly fascinated with the city of the Ancients and the interface seemed equally enamored with him.
Bates made the same face he always made when John called him his new rank. It was a mixture of pride and disgust that amused the hell out of Sheppard. “Sir. I’m not on your schedule.”
“Sit,” John said and motioned to the two chairs directly in front of his desk. “How did the last food delivery go?”
“Great and the glass jars we traded for have proven viable for the canning operation. We’ve put up enough food to last year based on our current population of 272. We’ve also cured various meats from hunting expeditions—salted and smoked. Dr. Zelenka managed to turn one of the larger supply closets near the mess hall into a freezer using environmental controls.
“But that’s not why I’m here.” Bates frowned and shook his head. “Through various sources, we’ve confirmed that the Wraith has culled ten planets to extinction in the past month.”
“Ten?” John repeated in horror. “Estimate on the number dead?”
“Over four thousand,” Bates said grimly. “And it’s apparently only the work of a single queen. She has six hives under her control. The Genii tried to destroy one of them three days ago—the entire infiltration party was lost on the mission, and they’ve had to abandon two of their off-world camps because of wraith retaliation. They might be advanced for their circumstances scientifically, but their military tactics aren’t on par with that advancement.”
“It seems like they know how to play the long game,” John murmured. “But then you get them in the field…”
“It’s revenge-driven,” Bates supplied. “Their tactical plans fall apart because they let their emotions make their decisions. I can’t put myself in their place, really, but they’re proving more of a distraction to the wraith than an actual threat.”
“Any thoughts on how to manage that distraction to our advantage?”
“Not without an operative on their world. We get all of our intel regarding the Genii after the fact which is more helpful in figuring out their psychology than it is anything else. They’ve been playing the defensive so long that they don’t know how to go at the wraith with any sort of success.”
“Plus they don’t have the technology to do it,” John said.
“No, this last attack was a suicide mission. They allowed themselves to be culled—suicide bombers but none of the explosives they brought with them were enough to take out the ship. It’s damaged and on the ground. I’ve put out a bounty on the location. I expect it to bear fruit within the next seventy-two hours.”
John’s gaze narrowed. “You aren’t changing your mind about them, right?”
“The Genii?” Dean scowled. “They held me hostage and kept my favorite knife. I want to go back over there and shove my foot up their asses.”
John’s mouth quirked in a grin. “You know I’d let you if McKay hadn’t declared the planet the Chernobyl of Pegasus. We’re lucky that your team didn’t suffer any radiation poison during that visit. Personally, I think they’re lucky they haven’t already suffered some sort of nuclear accident considering what they’re playing with.”
“Well, our country has a history of playing with dumb shit like that as well,” Bates reminded.
“Granted. I can’t say that I don’t feel guilty for leaving them to make their own mistakes regarding that situation.”
“Don’t feel too guilty,” Bates said. “The so-called Genii home world is nothing but a front. The village is a shell, and there are no non-combatants on that world as far as I can tell. The military is primarily male, and most of their women and children are housed on a planet the address of which is guarded like a state secret. I’ve heard that the community on that secret planet is large and several hundred miles from the gate on the planet—partially underground.”
“The wraith are culling in large numbers. Is anyone speculating as to why?”
“Teyla says that the species is prone to such behavior shortly before they hibernate, but they’re all in the midst of waking up from a hibernation period. Some off-world say it’s early and others think that they’re actually a bit late waking up en masse to feed. We know that the Queen you killed was known as a Keeper. That role is centralized to a hive or hive group depending on the Queen’s power. When you killed her, all the Wraith under her command woke up. That particular grouping was due to sleep another fifty years, so there is a bit of in-fighting going on among the hives for feeding rights.”
The thought was sickening. “So they take turns hibernating.”
“There are always roughly a hundred hives awake any given time, but right now that number has nearly doubled.”
“She had that many hives in her group?”
“No, sir, but there was a bit of a panic apparently, and several hive groups woke up in response to her death which they would’ve felt empathetically. The one you killed has already been replaced in her group which is rumored to be ten hives strong.” Bates paused. “Each hive could have as many as ten thousand wraith on board. The average hive will have three cruisers and a host of darts for culling. They also have scout ships though I’ve not seen one nor do I have any intel on what they might look like.”
“Yeah, their tech is largely organic, and they grow their hives on a planet with no stargate. The Genii have been hunting for that planet for nearly five hundred years.” Bates cleared his throat. “One of my main goals from this point forward is to secure samples of this organic material. I’m pretty sure half the civilians on the city can figure out how to kill it if I can bring a sample back.”
“Biological weapons?” John questioned.
“No, sir, no. I’m not on board with that. I’m just kind of hoping for some weed killer.” Bates grinned when John laughed. “But seriously, if we can kill their ships—retard their ability to travel in space—then it would be a huge step forward in eliminating them as a threat.”
“I’m not opposed to weed killer, but we’ll tread carefully on this topic. I’ll get with McKay, and we’ll set up guidelines for proceeding.”
“What’s your line on the wraith?” Bates asked quietly.
“They eat people,” John said flatly. “I’m not at all opposed to causing their extinction.”
“So there is no line.”
John would’ve probably denied to anyone else, but Dean Bates looked pleased by that information, so he just nodded and looked out one of the windows. “Jealous of my office?”
“Everyone is jealous of this find, sir,” Bates said with a laugh. “No one knew there was anything above the jumper bay and you have a personal transporter. I heard Weir is furious, but she made such a big deal about getting the office space that she did that she can’t really just demand yours. Sumner said from the beginning that her space was better suited for security and operations since it’s located above the gate room but she insisted on having it for herself.”
“She wanted to loom over us,” John said. “You realize she considers this whole city her personal little fiefdom.”
Bates’ left twitched. “Right.”
“In other news, I talked Rodney into building us plasma canons. He’s working on plans that are a mixture of Asgard and Ancient. He was part of the team that designed the ships that Earth is building, so he knows what the Asgard brought to the party for those projects.”
Bates offered him a grin. “Can I get a gun?”
“I told him we needed space guns. He told me I was ridiculous.”
“I’ve seen some off-world,” Bates said. “Weapons trading is tricky, of course, so I’ve been avoiding it, but I’ve made a few contacts that I think could put us on the right track for them. I’d give my left nut for a ZAT.”
John grimaced. “Too far.”
“The right one’s my favorite,” Dean told him solemnly.
“Get out of my office, Bates.”
– – – –
Gaius loved the control chair. The flow of information was astounding, but the expansion of their physical form was utterly beguiling. Sitting in the chair made John feel like he was part of the city. He could feel her deep in his bones, and that feeling was richer on the city. He wasn’t certain if it was the city or because of anchoring with Gaius. He hadn’t had a chance to sit in the chair before he’d taken on his passenger. John had avoided discussing the physical expansion in his reports regarding the chair, but he’d mentioned it to McKay in private.
John had made the decision early on to be open with Rodney because he really wanted their relationship to work on every level. He couldn’t say why he was stupidly invested in the scientist, but he was. Sheppard wanted to blame Gaius for his attachment, but that wasn’t fair. He couldn’t ignore the tapestry of Gaius’ emotional history. The Revenant, even after two thousand years, remained deeply enamored with the idea of being in love. John wondered how Sumner dealt with that on a daily basis since the man seemed to be allergic to the very idea of being in a serious relationship.
People were talking around him, but he ignored the voices because when he was in the chair, only McKay’s voice mattered. They’d quickly learned that the person interfacing with the city needed a single point of contact. Miko preferred Radek. Jason Markham worked best with Miko, and John only worked with McKay. They were currently the only three gene carriers on the city who could carry the burden of the control chair from a gene perspective.
He pulled the navigation program to the front, and the other systems backed away as if they understood that they couldn’t have his attention. They’d spent the last week turning the city so that when they entered the inlet, the expansion-capable pier would point toward land. Helen Simpson was in the bowels of the city with a team of engineers monitoring the tether system which was largely automated. It the weeks it had taken to move the city, that team had worked hard to prepare the city for the platform.
What stunned him most about the entire operation was Weir’s hands-off approach. Her lack of interest in the process had served them well enough because they’d done a lot of other work outside of her view to prepare shelters in the city for a civilian retreat in the event of an invasion. The people from Earth had been slightly hesitant about the safe rooms until the Athosians had gotten involved in the clearing and fortification of rooms. It hadn’t taken more than a handful of stories about wraith cullings for them to get on board with the project. Weir had barely paid any attention at all to the security plans when John had sent them out.
“I’m here,” John turned his head slightly and looked at McKay. “What’s wrong?”
“You tell me.” McKay’s mouth was a bit tight. “You’re glowing.”
“Glowing like what?”
“Like Sumner did when the Revenant unmoored.”
“Oh.” John shifted in the chair. “He really likes the city—the expansion and the experience. Nothing to worry about.”
“Well, it ran Weir off,” Rodney muttered. “She came down to get an update but barely remained in the room for a minute. Then she stood outside in the hall way and glared at you until Miko asked her if she needed anything else.”
“We’re fine,” John murmured. “Promise.”
McKay nodded and after a few seconds of hesitation moved away. He didn’t like leaving John in the chair for long periods of time, but it was necessary for the final leg of the operation. While he’d spent most of his time on the underwater platform in recent weeks, Zelenka and Kusanagi had kept him informed of the atmosphere on the city. It had quickly become apparent to everyone that Weir considered herself above the rest of them and certainly above the work they’d done to clean out various spaces in the central tower for safe rooms. Apparently, she was too good for physical labor, and she’d gone so far as to insist that all of her meals be delivered to her either in her office or private quarters.
Rodney thought that was bullshit, but the military ran the mess hall and John had okayed the deliveries for reasons he hadn’t inquired about. Perhaps it was about giving the woman small victories. He knew the whole thing with the office space had been a bigger, more hostile situation than Sheppard had let on. Weir had fully expected John to give up the space he’d found and had his people clean up for him because it was better than the what she’d fought tooth and nail with Sumner to secure when they’d first arrived.
“They’re okay?” Miko asked quietly as McKay joined her at the work table.
“Fine. Apparently, the Revenant finds the city pretty exciting, so that’s what the glowing is about.” Rodney sat down in his chair and put his tablet aside. “Have you finished the research I asked for?”
“Enough to answer your first question,” Miko said quietly. Her gaze flicked to the open doorway of the room and the doors snicked shut. “Every single system on the city that has power is focused on almost entirely on Sheppard. You were right about the rooms adjusting to his preferences regarding temperature. It happens every single time he enters the room. Everything adjusts to make him comfortable. The security program logs when he leaves the city specifically. He’s the only person the city keeps track of on that level. There are logs in information systems regarding his preference for everything—like shower temperature, favored foods, and how he likes his coffee.”
“Are you…” Rodney huffed. “Of course, you’re serious. Your theory for the rest of us?”
“She’s tolerating non-gene carriers because John is,” Miko said. “There are secondary logs for various other gene carriers including you, but it’s obvious the city considers John her leader and protector. She feeds him security information whether he wants it or not. With work, he’s managed to push down various other programs, but security isn’t going to allow itself to be pushed away. He told me he gets a report when he’s in the jumper, too, no matter where he is on the planet.”
“Are non-gene carriers in danger being on Atlantis?” Rodney questioned.
“In the short term, I don’t think so. She’s treating them like guests and in the case of the Athosians, honored guests. She pays special attention to the children and has erected security fields over various balconies and railings without prodding. Jinto managed to transport himself across the city but thanks to the power being generated by the hydro plants—the city had the ability to lock down the labs and storage rooms he was near until Colonel Sheppard could retrieve him.”
“Anything dangerous that way?”
“Yes,” Miko said with a huff. “I’ve had the whole area quarantined by the security system until we have the time to clean it out safely. The Ancients were dicks, and their Ascension research is nothing more than a series of death traps just laying around like discarded toys.”
Rodney couldn’t argue with that, so he just nodded. “Have you written any of this down?”
“No, Weir has admin access to reports coming out of all departments. She doesn’t need to know that the person she hates most on the city is the only reason we’re still alive. If John hadn’t come through, I imagine the city would’ve allowed us all to drown instead of surfacing. There’s more.”
“Great,” Rodney said unhappily. “What?”
“You.” Miko pulled an elastic band from her pocket and put her hair. “She’s started monitoring you on a level near Sheppard’s and started communicating with the geothermal plant as soon as she could to monitor you. You’re the only person she gathered data on the underwater rig.”
“Thoughts on why?”
“Yes, but you aren’t going to like it.”
“Okay.” Rodney frowned because Miko was pretty a good judge of things that were going to piss him off.
“She’s noted the Colonel’s emotional attachment to you and has labeled you–Consors.”
“Consort,” Miko corrected. “I’ve done all I can to hide that particular bit of information in the system reports, but if Weir gets a wild hair and decides to read through those, she’s going to notice. Just a head’s up. I know the two of you haven’t made your personal connection public. She’s going to react poorly.”
“Very poorly.” Rodney frowned. “How is John labeled in those reports?”
“Praestes.” Miko paused. “Leader or perhaps in these circumstances, protector.”
“It was obvious on Earth that Weir had a boner for Sheppard, yes?” Zelenka input.
Miko frowned at him. “I think lady wood would be more appropriate if you’re going to be crass, Radek.”
It really didn’t make a difference in Rodney’s mind. “Yeah, I think so. He was clueless on that by the way. He told me she took him out to dinner in this swishy blue dress to discuss the mission and he didn’t even realize she was trying to sleep with him when she invited him to her quarters.”
“Swishy?” Miko repeated and laughed.
“You now I can hear you, McKay,” John interjected.
“I can’t bear the burden of your cluelessness by myself,” Rodney retorted. “Concentrate on your job, Colonel. If you scratch the paint—I’m going to be pissed.”
“I passed through the mouth of the inlet five minutes ago, McKay. We’re on a strong current—it’s prodding us a little faster than we had planned, so I’m going to need to slow down to five knots within in the next thirty minutes. Who’s in the hydro plant, right now?”
“Simpson’s team. Time to tether?”
“Ninety-three minutes.” John shifted in the chair. “How many people are on the platform?”
“We’re down two—essential only per Bates orders,” Rodney explained. “One Marine and Dr. Easley for the science.”
“Two.” John sat up abruptly. “There are two people on the platform?”
Rodney gaped as he slid right out of the chair. “What? Get back in the chair.”
“Miko, take my place,” John said flatly and left the room without another word to them.
“John?” Rodney abandoned his tablet and rushed after him. “What’s…”
“271,” John snapped as he activated his radio. “Beckett, has one of the Athosian women unexpectedly popped out a kid?”
“Hmmm, not that I’m aware of. There are two pregnant among the population, but they’re not due for months, yet.”
John clicked his radio. “Bates, we have an unknown life sign on the city. Lock us down. Now!”
Sheppard picked up speed as he rounded a corner, his hand curling around the briefly around a doorframe for purchase as he headed for a transporter. Radio activity got extreme at that point, and distantly he heard sirens just before he entered the closet-like transporter. In seconds, they were exciting into a hallway full of Marines who were darting out of the armory armed to the teeth.
Rodney activated his radio. “Beckett, confirm the baby thing!”
“I already have,” Becket snapped. “I’m heading for my assigned shelter with my staff and one patient. This isn’t a drill, right? Sergeant Stackhouse is recovering from surgery.”
“Not a drill,” Rodney confirmed and ended the connection.
John exited the armory clipping a P90 onto his vest. “Dr. Weir, I don’t have time to argue with you. Allow Lt. Ford to take you to your assigned shelter, immediately.” He changed the channel as he strode past McKay. “Ford, toss her in the goddamned safe room and meet up with your team. Try not to hurt her.”
Rodney barely had time to consider going into the armory before Bates appeared shoving a holstered 9mm at him and a tac vest.
“Stick close, Doc, we might need you to help lock down areas.”
Rodney shrugged on the tac vest and fastened the holster around his waist as he walked. At the transporters, teams were being divided and sent to various sections of the city to create a perimeter. McKay tied the thigh part of the holster as he came to as top beside Sheppard. “Is the city giving you any other information?”
“No, the sensors aren’t fully online. The life signs detector you have—can you expand it’s abilities?”
“It has a three hundred meter limit.” Rodney pulled the device from a pocket and flushed John raised an eyebrow. “What? It’s my favorite device. He paused. “Why is Stackhouse in the infirmary?”
“Appendicitis.” Bates moved from his place by the transporter since it was there turn to move and static burst over the radio.
Female screaming followed then Ford’s voice cut through. “Wraith! It’s a fucking wraith! She’s heading for the gate room! She has Dr. Weir!”
“Don’t let her off the city under any circumstances!” John ordered as they entered the transporter.
“Radek, get into the network and cut all power to the gate,” McKay snapped out just before John activated the beam.
“Ahead of you,” Zelenka responded tightly. “Emergency power only—the gate is down, and the control center is dead.”
They moved quickly through the two short halls separating the transporter from the gate room. John leveled his weapon as he entered, his gaze sweeping around the room taking in the position of his Marines. Bates and McKay entered behind him. The wraith had Weir by the throat, one handed while she slammed uselessly on the DHD. She screamed and jerked Weir around.
“Make it work!”
Weir clutched at the hand holding her and struggled to speak. The queen dropped her. “I can’t—the power’s been cut.”
“You’re the leader,” the queen said and shoved Weir against the control deck. “I heard the man you were with say so. Order your people to restore power.” She shoved her feeding hand against Weir’s chest, and Elizabeth screamed. “Do it, or I’ll kill you.”
“She’s not in charge, right now,” John said evenly as he moved into position between the control deck and the gate. “I am.”
“Let me leave, or I’ll kill her,” the queen said and jerked Weir up by the throat again, using her as a shield.
“No.” John’s gaze connected with Weir’s and he hoped she understood. He couldn’t let such a threat leave Atlantis. “How did you get here? Do you have a ship in orbit?”
The queen’s gaze narrowed. “I crashed, long ago in the ocean. I slept until recently when I felt the presence of a viable food source.” She pulled Weir close to her body and pressed her feeding against the woman’s chest. “Her fear is delicious.”
John didn’t care, and he figured it was written all over his face because Weir’s gaze widened with shock and she started to struggle. They were at impasse of sorts—neither had anything to bargain with. The queen must have realized that because she abruptly tossed Weir aside and climbed over the control deck with startling speed. John got off ten rounds before the bitch was on him.
Gaius welled in him as the queen ripped the P90 from his hands and tossed it aside. The wraith hissed as blue light seemed to envelope them and John pulled his knife free from the holster on his hip. The fury of his Revenant was almost overwhelming as she ripped open his tac vest. John shoved the knife straight up through her rib cage and bucked up against her. Sheppard rolled with the wraith, pulling out his knife and slamming it into her chest repeatedly. Blood splattered all over him warm and black. It was disgusting. He shoved the knife in once more and scrambled off her body.
Inside him, Gaius was raging and their connection started to blur. John stumbled, and McKay was there to catch him.
“I…” Sheppard’s vision blurred.
“Sir?” Bates caught his other arm. “Are you all right?”
I’m sorry, John, were the last words he heard before slipped into unconsciousness.
– – – –
John’s gaze flicked open without much warning, and Rodney moved forward in his chair even as his gaze drifted briefly to the Ancient monitoring panel. “Hey.”
“Hey back,” McKay said. “You’ve been unconscious for six days. Your brain activity has been off the charts. Are you still you?”
“Yeah,” John said and wet his lips. “And more.”
McKay’s face tightened briefly. “I thought as much. How…” He sighed. “How much is you and how much is Gaius? The literature wasn’t clear on how a full soul merger would go.”
“It’s called Revenant Integration,” John said. “I can’t put a number on it. I’m sorry, that probably messes with you. He used to just share my mind and now our soul energy is together. Permanently.” He tried to sit up.
“Let me raise the bed,” McKay said and fiddled with the panel briefly until he could get the head higher than the rest. “A few things have happened while you were getting your beauty rest.”
“Ford’s in a bed outside of this room in the regular part of the infirmary—both of his legs were broken, but fortunately he doesn’t have a spinal injury. His head took a hit, but he appears to have all of his questionable mental facilities. He’s tried unsuccessfully to rename half the medical devices in the infirmary. He didn’t have a weapon because he was still fighting Weir on going into the fucking safe room when the queen came upon them. He was thrown over a railing in his attempts to protect Weir.”
Rodney paused and took a deep breath. “She has a severe head injury, a broken back, and is in a coma. Carson doesn’t know when or if she’ll wake up. Per the expedition charter, he made the decision that she’s no longer capable of leading.”
“So you’re in charge,” John said.
Rodney made a face. “Yes, unfortunately. I tried to make Miko do it, but she threatened to go live on the mainland. Radek promised to throw me in the wraith cage and keep me there if I put him in charge.”
“Did we get tethered?”
“Yes, and we’re storing power within the projected totals.”
“Did we lose anyone?”
“The team I had in the hydro power plant—she must have come through the moon pool just down the hall from the control room for the facility. She fed on them all. Helen Simpson, Mike Branton, Jim Collins, and Paul Abrams.”
“268,” John murmured, and his eyes closed briefly. “How many Athosians are going to live on the mainland?”
“Right now we’re working on farm land. I don’t think any of them actually plan to live out there—just work and hunt. I haven’t had time to ask Teyla. It’s their decision I guess.” Rodney patted his hand. “So, yes, right now the population of Atlantis is 268.”
John took a shuddery breath. “Did I make the wrong call with Weir?”
“No, and no one who has seen the footage believed you could’ve responded differently. Allowing that queen to leave the city would’ve been the death of us all. There may or may not be a threat headed toward us, but if she’d left and found a hive, then it would’ve no longer been theoretical. She was over ten thousands years old—there is no telling what kind of mental gifts she had. Teyla said the older a queen is, the more of a threat they become telepathically. She could’ve gathered all kinds of information before she came on board the city.”
“Everyone in the gate room has already written their reports regarding the incident, and it was done independently. I made sure there wouldn’t be any question of collusion or whatever. It’ll be no secret that Weir hated you because you anchored so I had to make sure no one would be able to say you let her get hurt on purpose.”
“If she’d gone to the damn safe room…” John took a deep breath. “Ford will recover?”
“Yeah, she’s the only one with a permanent injury. Even if she wakes up, Carson doesn’t think she’ll ever walk again. The damage to her spinal cord is catastrophic.”
“The wraith was strong as fuck,” John complained.
“I was going to shoot her,” Rodney said. “I couldn’t get an angle—it happened so fast, and you were both moving like crazy. Then you did that whole ninja thing. You never mentioned a ninja anchor.”
John laughed and let his head fall back against the pillow. “That’s all me actually—I have a black belt in Krav Maga. But there is no way I could’ve moved that big bitch without Gaius. He provided the strength.”
“Was that why the two of you integrated?”
“He couldn’t allow another anchor to be fed on,” John murmured. “I think it might have driven him insane if she’d managed to do it. He was burning in my body like lava.”
“You glowed blue for three days,” Rodney admitted roughly. “I was really relieved when you stopped, but then you didn’t wake up, so that sucked.” He looked away and took a deep breath. “Do you still…”
“Hey.” John’s fingers tightened on his. “What’s going on?”
“Well, you’ve integrated.” Rodney looked at him, feeling helpless and sad all at once. “Do you still want this?” He waved his free hand between them.
“Of course, and I’m really pissed about getting cock blocked by a wraith queen.” John’s fingers curled against McKay’s palm. “You still cool with it? I may be a little different than I was before.”
“Do you still like Star Trek?”
“Do you still think Iron Man is the best Marvel superhero?”
“Who else could possibly be better?” John demanded with a frown.
Rodney laughed and brought their hands to his mouth. He kissed the top of John’s hand and flushed when Sheppard smiled. “Yeah, I’m still cool with it.” He cleared his throat. “I should get Carson.”
“Stay for a bit. I’m not ready to be poked,” John murmured and shifted a little on his side so he could focus on the scientist. “Did you find anything cool during my beauty rest?”
Rodney scowled. “The whole damn city is one big energy hog. The Ancients are not only dicks, John, but they’re inefficient dicks.”