Chapter One – Getting Started
Old Earth Calendar
While John was being taken down to the infirmary to recover from his second trip through the Chair, Elizabeth pondered the next round of decisions that needed to be made. Chuck had notified her that the City had been placed in a stable Lagrange Point Orbit and the computer monitoring the main DHD was reporting that an unknown search function was being carried out. Before he could finish the status report, the program had finished running and returned the DHD to ready condition. Atlantis was back on the grid.
Grabbing Rodney before he parked himself in the infirmary next to John, Elizabeth pulled him into her office. “Before you go sit with John I need you to confirm if it is possible for us to do something. Per Chuck we are back on the ‘Gate network but I don’t want to give out our new address. I know some of the cultures we are allied with use certain planets as blinds, so how hard would it be for us to do that? To set up an alternate planetary address for our allies to dial as a way to keep everyone at a remove? Someplace that we can give to our suppliers as a point to drop off and pick up merchandise without actually telling anyone we are space-bound? Someplace where we can park a Jumper on station, in case anyone needs backup or emergency transportation.”
Blinking slowly as he thought over her suggestion, Rodney stared into space. Clearing his throat gently, he obviously struggled to focus on what she was asking, not his lover on his way to the infirmary. “Uhm… That actually is a very good idea. And setting up something like that is easy. Teyla probably knows a planet or two that would be good and if she doesn’t, check with Ronon. For the mechanical aspects, get Radek or anyone he recommends to work on it. He can handle the communications as well.”
“Thank you Rodney. I’ll let you know how the whole plan goes. Give John a hug from me?” and she let him go. Because his mind obviously wasn’t on her or even on the questions she had asked, it was on John. And really, Elizabeth was mildly irritated with herself for not even thinking of asking Teyla or Ronon if they knew of a planet to use as the City’s blind. She made a mental note to herself that she needed to start relying more heavily on the two Pegasus natives when it came to things like this. Tapping her radio firmly, she asked Chuck to call Ronon, Teyla, Major Lorne, Lt. O’Neill, and Radek into the conference room; they had some planning to do.
“Before we get started here, I wanted to let you all know that yes, Colonel Sheppard has been taken back to the infirmary. Carson says that this is just a precaution and that John isn’t exhibiting the same symptoms as he did the last time he was in the Chair and flew the City. He seemed just fine when he got out of the Chair and was in fact protesting the gurney ride when I last saw him.” Everyone in the room seemed to relax at Elizabeth’s announcement. “Now, on to business. Per Chuck, we are back on the grid as far as the ‘Gate is concerned and I need a solution to a problem we now have. We’re going to be floating here in space for a while, ladies and gentlemen, and that means that we can either give out our ‘Gate address to our allies or we can find a planet to use as a waypoint. My vote is for the waypoint. Any thoughts?”
Leaning forward slightly to draw attention to himself, Lt. Jon O’Neill glanced around the table, his expression serious, “From a security stand point, not giving out our address is the best thing possible. I know that the old man was never comfortable with how many people knew where the City was and with us moving, that problem has been largely taken care of. Frankly being able to say that our meeting point is such and such a planet is better from a strategic point of view than trying to explain that Atlantis really is a spaceship to a bunch of people who generally equate spaceship with the Wraith.”
Agreement on the Lieutenants’ last point flashed across every face at the table. Sparing a quick look at John’s second in command, Elizabeth asked, “You have a very good point, Jon. Major do you think this idea is feasible?”
“Actually ma’am this is one of the scenarios that the three of us were kicking around before everyone agreed with the ‘Lost In Space’ option. This particular version wasn’t considered as a credible alternative since we didn’t know how the City would be able to handle space. The plan was to do this as a means of keeping a low profile with the City being planet-bound. Since she isn’t, I know that he prefers that the planet designated as a blind not be a one we had planned to use as an Alpha site, but other than that? Sure. It’s feasible.” Major Lorne agreed after a glance at Jon.
Something else to remind herself of, Elizabeth decided. Jon O’Neill was not really a fresh faced Lieutenant, no matter how young he looked. Time to call on her next set of experts then, “Teyla, Ronon, do either of you might know of a planet that we can use as our way station? Someplace that is currently uninhabited, but still viable?”
Teyla was as serene and knowledgeable as ever, but Elizabeth could tell that she was pleased to be consulted on this. “Certainly Elizabeth, I know of many worlds like that. Ronon and I will work with Major Lorne and Lt. O’Neill to find an appropriate one.”
“Might want to have more than one at the ready. Never know when the Wraith are going to check out some of those abandoned planets. We wouldn’t be the first people to think of making a home on an,” and here Ronon looked over at Lorne and grinned at him! “Abandoned world.”
Chuckling lightly at the byplay, Elizabeth turned to the one person who hadn’t joined in the discussion. “Radek, when I mentioned this to Rodney before he went to check on the Colonel, he suggested that you would be able to set up some kind of a long-lasting and easy to use communications array. Something that we can leave behind if needs be, but it needs to be something that can’t be directly tied to us if the Wraith stumble across it.”
“Hmm… Is very easy to do. When Colonel and Rodney are out of the infirmary, I will check to see if they want anything added to array beyond straight communications. Perhaps make it a satellite?” and Radek picked up his tablet and had started poking away at it, apparently lost in thought already.
Feeling satisfied that her impromptu meeting had gotten results so quickly, Elizabeth stood up. “Right. It looks like we have a plan at least. I’ll let you get back to work and will have Carson inform you all when the Colonel is up to visitors.”
Nodding slightly at the dismissal, Teyla stood as well. “Ronon and I will be with Major Lorne, Elizabeth. We will be going over all the worlds we know to confirm which ones would be ideal to designate as our ‘waypoints’.”
Late April 2011
Old Earth Calendar
They had been at their new location for three weeks. An initial team had gone out to make contact with one of their friends and allies as a sort of test run. Several trade items that had been agreed to before Atlantis had abruptly fallen off the grid had been delivered to the new depot planet and the whole transaction had gone smoothly. So smoothly that Elizabeth was starting to twitch. Nothing in Pegasus ever went this well for this long. Something had to give.
Running through her mental checklist, Elizabeth reviewed the status of the various teams. First up was SGA-1 who had left on their first away mission earlier that morning. It was supposed to be a quick trip to visit an ally and then some shopping at the local bazaar to round out the day. SGA-2 had gone out with Major Lorne had taken one of Rodney’s engineering teams to check out an Ancient ruin on P3R-447. It had been found during the second year of the Expedition, but had been placed on the low priority list since no active power sources had been detected. Now that they had cut themselves off from Earth, the ruin had a higher priority as a source of spare parts and material. SGA-6 was on the rotation to go out as soon as one of the other two teams came back. Their destination was to be M7G-667 and a meeting with Keras and the council there to look into expanding the amount and type of goods Atlantis traded for.
When the Gate started dialing unexpectedly, Elizabeth walked out of her office quickly. Depending on who was dialing in, there were several options open to her, most of which she hoped that she wouldn’t have to use. Glancing at the status screen behind Chuck, she waited with him for the address of the originating planet to register. When the depot flashed on screen, she relaxed slightly and turned to face the Gate.
His voice calm and unhurried, Chuck passed along the good news. “Dr. Weir, we are receiving the IDC for Colonel Sheppard’s Team.”
“Thank you, Chuck. Drop the shield.”
“Elizabeth, we have a problem.” Sheppard hadn’t even bothered to get all the way through the event horizon before he had started talking. Whatever it was, she wasn’t going to like it, that much was clear. Checking the body language of the rest of the team showed that they were equally annoyed and upset, but not homicidal. Not good, but whatever it was not going to lead to immediate bloodshed.
“Colonel Sheppard, unless it is a matter of immediate life and death, it can wait until you all go through medical and get cleared. Report to the conference room once you are finished.”
“Right. And it’s more annoying than anything else right now. Oh, and we picked up some odds and ends of stuff along with a few bushels of fruit at the bazaar. We left them with the Jumper at the Depot.” And unclipping his P-90 from the clip on his TAC vest, John handed it off to the armory sergeant as he moved towards medical.
“It can wait. And I’ll have coffee delivered too. Should I have Lt. O’Neill at the meeting as well?”
“Both him and Jackson. They both need to hear this.” Rodney called as he passed her position.
“See you there.”
“So we’re wandering around the bazaar and Rodney is having geek-gasms over some of the shiny tech they have on display and Ronon notices that there is this guy who is paying him way too much attention. When Teyla went over to help him haggle for his new toys, the nosey guy damn near flips out and starts trying to get closer to them.” Slumping in his chair, John was now oozing a level of annoyed and offended irritation that had climbed to positively lethal. “When Ronon closes in on him, our new friend drops what he is carrying and scoots off. Ronon, could you show the good doctor what that asshole was looking at?”
Pulling what looked suspiciously like a beat up and dirty manila folder out of a jacket pocket, Ronon slid it over to her. If John was annoyed, Ronon was obviously feeling betrayed at something. “Seems like the SGC isn’t going to give up easily. And they are putting some serious effort in finding us.”
Dread was curling in Elizabeth’s stomach as she took the folder. Flipping it open, she saw photos that had to be culled from their own mission reports. Each photo was of a different member of her command staff: John, Rodney, Teyla, Ronon, Major Lorne, herself, and even Jon O’Neill and Dr. Jackson. Everyone was there. Everyone was named. “You know this wasn’t really a surprise. We knew they weren’t going to be willing to let us go easily. At least there aren’t prices on our heads. Did you manage to talk the man who ‘gave’ you these pictures?”
Obviously deciding to push his mood to the side, John pulled himself up in his chair and answered. “Uhm… no. We weren’t able to catch up with him. He got away in the crowd. But we did go back and talk to the owners of the various stalls. Seems our nosey friend had been asking if anyone has seen us, if they know where we are based and how do they get a hold of us if anyone needed to.”
“My contacts at the bazaar informed me that no one had any information to offer him as we have just started to resume our trading Elizabeth.” Though Teyla’s manner was as unruffled as usual, everyone at the table could tell that she was irritated at something. “However several shopkeepers did say that word has gone out to our allies on our change in status. They have been informed that Atlantis is no longer part of Earth. Much interest has been expressed. Not all of that interest has been favorable to us. I fear we will have to be wary when we move to make new allies.”
Normally Ronon had a better handle on his temper, but this situation had apparently irritated him enough to start playing with his gun in public. “Right now I just want to know what we going to do about this? Because you know that Balok guy isn’t going to give up on this.”
Suppressing a sigh at that unwelcome truth, Elizabeth turned to look at the last member of SGA-1. Given who that was and that he hadn’t spoken up, something had to be wrong. Rodney was shaking his head when she turned a questioning eyebrow on him. “I haven’t got anything for you Elizabeth. I can honestly say that this isn’t my area of expertise and I have no idea what to do.”
“Hasn’t stopped you before.” Ronon muttered with a grin.
“Hey! I’m trying to learn, you overgrown caveman!” the scientist spluttered.
“So right now all we can do is wait and watch. Find out who is asking the questions, and what the questions are. Without that information, getting upset about the whole situation isn’t going to get us very far.” Daniel summed up.
“Basically, yes.” And Elizabeth nodded in agreement.
“Anyone else feel like they are an extra in some big budget apocalyptic movie where the evil, over the top ruler is beating every bush around to flush out the plucky hero’s? And we got stuck with the roles of the hero’s?” groused Jon as he fiddled with a folded paper football.
Everyone was quiet for a moment as they tried to make sense of what had just been said. And then Rodney started to giggle and that set the rest of them off, breaking the tension that had risen. Grinning openly at the laughter, Jon O’Neill flashed Elizabeth a look and then quickly winked at her, mission accomplished.