“This quorum is called to order!” Rodney almost had to shout to make himself be heard over the top of the noise that his people were putting out.
When that didn’t work, he grabbed one of the empty laptop cases piled behind him and whapped it on the table. The boom of noise worked better than his voice had. Everyone shut up.
“Thank you,” he said without an ounce of irony shading his voice. “Now that I have your attention, we need to call this quorum to order. I’ve taken myself, Dr. Zelenka and Dr. Kusanagi off the panel. We have all been affected by the events being discussed today and can’t be considered impartial.”
There was a great deal of discussion on that and Rodney let it go on for several minutes before he interrupted again. “The list of people who took the time to qualify as part of a quorum before we left was limited, so we took what we had. Dr. Grodin, Dr. Biro, Dr. Abrams, Dr. Gaul and Dr. Dumais, you are up.”
Radek picked up the thread of his speech and took over. “You will have the floor to question the people who are under review for quorum. The questioning cannot be aggressively confrontational, but you can request clarification when an answer does not meet your needs.”
Kusanagi took the reins next. “You will have up to four hours or until the rest of us vote to end things. Whichever comes first. Remember, you are not playing to the audience, no matter how it seems. You are trying to get the information behind why the events that led to the formation of this quorum came about. If you can’t remember that, you will be removed and one of the alternates, Dr. DiAngelo, Dr. Wagner or Dr. Kavanagh will be called in your place.”
Rodney took a deep breath and stood up. “Is this all understood?”
The five scientists that had been chosen to man the quorum all stood up and nodded. Good. McKay moved out from behind the table that they had set at one end of the room they were in. It had enough chairs to accommodate the five scientists and each of the alternates. “So, it’s all yours now. I’m gonna sit down and have some coffee.”
The five scientists huddled together and talked while McKay got his coffee and settled into his seat. Whatever they were going to do, he at least needed to be awake for it. He had gotten his nap, but it hadn’t quite been enough to take the edge off his exhaustion.
The discussion at the lead table seemed to be finished as he settled into his seat and he sighed. Knowing the people that had been picked, they would run hard up against the four hour limit. But he couldn’t find it in himself to be upset at that. For what they were dealing with, the more time his people had to hash things out, the better.
“Dr. McKay, before we get started, we do have a question of you,” Grodin announced, and Rodney nodded. He had a hunch he knew what was coming. “Dr. Weir. We know that there has been a change in the leadership of the Expedition, but we need to know that she is being treated well.”
“What happened with Weir is germane to this quorum, but I am not going to start off with that. You need to determine what is happening to Simpson and Miller, first. However, having said that, Dr. Weir is safe, comfortable and not in any distress at this time,” Rodney told the men and women before him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to tell them, but there were things they needed to find out ahead of his announcement that would affect how they took the news.
There was more whispering at the table and Rodney took a deep drink of his coffee. The whole scene where they had gone to take custody of Weir had been heartbreaking. The ‘alternate’ version of her had been in charge when they had come in, only to be completely replaced by the Elizabeth Weir he had known in Antarctica. Sedating and then transporting her to an isolation room had almost broken him, and he knew that Carson was beating himself up over the whole mess. Heightmeyer was just as bad.
Sheppard had rightly decided that he wasn’t going to get involved in the whole mess. Once they had things stabilized on the leadership front, Rodney was going to push to have a quorum called to deal with Elizabeth herself. And get everyone, scientist and military in on it. Because what had happened to her needed to be disseminated to all of them, if only to quash the rumor mill.
Sipping at his coffee, he watched as the quorum members sat down and looked to Grodin to lead them. Simpson and Miller were led in and sat in the two chairs that had been left empty in front of the main table, looking nothing so much as two people on trial. Which they totally were.If he had been able to get his way, they wouldn’t have made it this far. But then, that was why he had pushed for this. He was far too bloodthirsty to be allowed to pronounce judgment on someone.
Grodin had a computer open and he stared at the screen for a moment before he turned to the two sitting in front of them. “Why don’t you tell us what happened?”
The whole sordid tale fell out in fits and starts as the two scientists under trial tried to explain themselves to their peers. Rodney did his level best to keep his mouth shut the entire time. It didn’t always work, but every time he had the urge to leap in and scream at them, he either took a sip of his coffee or ate some of the food that Miko had shoved at him.
It wasn’t lost on the people in the room either. As the tale wound down, the members of the quorum looked at him and then back at the other two. Grodin pulled everyone in and had a very hushed conversation before he took the lead again. Rodney was certain that the Englishman had a list of questions waiting on the laptop.
“Dr. McKay, when you set up the generators in the ZedPM room, who did you have with you?” Grodin asked, opening the floor.
“Dr. Miko Kusanagi accompanied me since I needed an ATA carrier to initialize all the equipment and safely access the power runs tied into the ZedPM plinth,” McKay told him calmly.
“Whose codes did you find when you went to check the status of the generators when you were called by Major Sheppard?” Dumais asked as soon as he finished speaking.
Rodney fought not to grimace. “I found that Dr. Kusanagi’s login code had been used to disconnect the power cables connecting the generators to the plinth.”
“Since she had been the one to help you with the installation, would it not be logical to assume she had tested the ability to disconnect the cables from their positions?” Dumais observed.
“Possibly, Doctor, but the time stamp recorded for the entry of her code took place while Dr. Kusanagi was a large cat and her every move was under review by upwards of a dozen people. There was no way she could have gotten away from them, down to the ZedPM room, entered her code and gotten back under observation without her absence being noted,” Rodney explained.
The people at the head table all leaned together and had another discussion. The scientist was ignoring how Miko was stiffening beside him in waves. That behavior brought up some interesting things that he wanted to check into, but this wasn’t the time or the place to do so.
Grodin looked at the two scientists in front of them. “From your own admission, Dr. Weir gave you the orders to remove the generators and that was it. Why did you use Dr. Kusanagi’s login instead of your own?”
Simpson looked like she had swallowed something sour and Miller was looking at her, too. “I used hers because she is one of McKay’s favored children and I wanted her to have something not go the way she wanted. Plus she had the level of authorization to actually remove the cables.”
That answer caused some whispers to break out, both with the quorum and in the crowd. “We realize that Dr. Kusanagi would not have given you her passcode, so how did you get it?”
Miller was looking at Simpson as well. From the way he was reacting, Rodney was fairly certain that there had been a lot left out of the explanations she had given the man. “Dr. Weir gave me the code.”
“Fuck, you didn’t tell me that!” Miller exclaimed.
And trouble in paradise, right on time, McKay realized. He picked up his coffee cup to help hide his expression and found that it was empty. Staring down at it, he tried not to glare. God damn, but he was glad that they had locked Weir out of everything. When a coffee carafe appeared at his side, he looked up to see it was one of the nurses on Carson’s shift. Nodding his thanks, he tilted his cup to accept a refill. “Thanks.”
“Not a problem, Dr. McKay. You’re doing great.”
He flashed her a brief grin and turned back to the drama. There was currently a raging argument taking place between Miller, Simpson and Dumais, with asides being thrown around by the rest of the group. It was confusing, entertaining, and he really, really hoped someone was recording the whole mess since he wanted to pick it apart later. Entertainment on this level was so very rare in his life.
“Don’t worry, Rodney. I talked Atlantis into recording the whole thing,” Miko told him, voice pitched low enough that he was certain that only he and Radek heard her.
“You are totally one of my favorite people ever,” he told her without an ounce of shame.
Rodney kept an eye on everyone and set his coffee down as Grodin took control of the quorum again. The questions came thick and fast, and he spent quite a bit of time answering and explaining what had happened, how he had figured out who had done what, and what had been done to fix the damage. They even managed to get Sheppard on the radio to answer questions on what he had found when he had walked into the ZedPM room.
The four hour mark was coming up on them hard and no one had voted to close the discussion down. McKay was deeply proud of all his people. They were taking the whole event as seriously as he did and trying to figure out what the repercussions of it would be. It was good that they had gelled the way they had.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the quorum, you have fifteen minutes before the end of your four hour period,” Miko announced from her spot beside him.
The announcement dropped the room into silence and the quorum gathered together behind the table, voices quiet. They seemed to be reaching a decision, and Rodney sat back, trying not to squirm. They had been at this now for hours, and his coffee was starting to catch up with him. But he could hold out a while longer. The end of this mess was near.
Grodin took the lead again when the five judges sat back down in their chairs and called the question and answer stage to an end. “We have reached a decision as to the fates of Doctors Simpson and Miller. At this point, there is no way we can fire you from the Expedition. And we don’t have the option of shoving you back through the wormhole for Earth, so something has to be done about you here.”
He was silent for several heartbeats and Rodney wondered what he was thinking. The Englishman was normally one of the gentlest men he had ever met, but on the rare times that his temper lit, he was incredibly vicious. It would be interesting to see what side won.
“The both of you, but mostly Dr. Simpson, almost caused the deaths of every person on this city. That isn’t just the Expedition, your coworkers, that’s also the remaining members of the Athosian peoples. So in one fell swoop, not only would you have been committing mass murder, but also genocide. If the generators, whose function by your words, you didn’t check, had gone unstable and had an uncontrolled reaction, we wouldn’t be here,” Grodin told them.
“I can personally only be glad that the Major took the time to check out the power supply and saw the problem. Because there is no way that could have lasted,” Gaul muttered.
“No, it wouldn’t have lasted much longer. There were already instabilities building up in the system, enough to overwhelm the four generators that we had in place. And without the other two there to absorb the pulls on the power supply, it would have only taken one large spike to set everything off,” Grodin agreed.
“We didn’t know that was what was going to happen,” Simpson protested. Miller was shaking his head as well, but Rodney could tell he was angled away from her. At this late date, it wasn’t going to save him, but pointed to some interesting fissures in their relationship.
“You didn’t bother to find out either,” Biro told her. “And you knew that anything to do with the power supplies for the city needed to go through McKay or Zelenka. From your own testimony, you hadn’t been put in charge of the power supplies; you had been put in charge of determining what was needed to keep our new spaceships up and running. The puddle jumpers, as the Major calls them.”
Simpson settled into her chair and, the only word for it was, sulked.
Miller sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Rodney could feel for the guy. If he was right, pussy blindness was going to get the man in a shit ton of trouble. “If I haven’t said it before, I want to say it now. I really, really didn’t know that she didn’t have permission. I didn’t hear Weir give her the codes, I didn’t hear her direct Alicia to pull the generators, even if they were in use. All I was told was that I was to help move them once they were disconnected,” Miller told the room
“Understood, Dr. Miller. We will be getting to you in a moment,” Grodin promised him. He was staring at Simpson and Rodney waited. “Dr. Simpson, it is the decision of this body that you are to be stripped of all your projects, your accesses, and privileges. Once contact is resumed, the recommendation that we will be putting in your permanent file is that you be fined at the maximum rate possible for an Expedition member and fired. Whether you will be blacklisted is totally up to Dr. Carter.”
Simpson deflated and sat back in her chair. “What am I going to do then while you all make life-changing discoveries?” she asked with a sneer.
“I hear that Lt. Cooper needs some help in the mess,” Rodney informed her. “But I really don’t want to let you near something as important as our food supply. You might poison someone. What you are going to do will be determined later.”
Grodin flashed him a searching look before nodding briefly at Miller. Rodney just shrugged. He had known that Miller would come out the better of the two of them. Pussy blindness was bad, but thankfully no one had died. If anyone had, there would be no saving the man. “Dr. Miller, you are also to be stripped of your individual projects and will be closely supervised for your remaining time on Atlantis. Again, as soon as we can get in contact with Earth, you are going back. We are recommending that you also be fined, but at a reduced rate. Any other disciplinary actions will be up to Dr. Carter.”
Miller let out a huge sigh and nodded. “Fair.”
“This quorum is now closed. But before we go,” Grodin turned to him and McKay stood up, “Dr. McKay, you said that you would explain what was going on with Dr. Weir?”
“I did,” he agreed. Taking a deep breath, he launched into the whole messy tale. Had it only been two days since everything had gone to hell?
“Fuck, that could have gone better,” Rodney told his hands. Both of them were over his face and trying to rub out the stress headache that had developed over the last six hours. Four for quorum and two for the whole Weir mess. His people needed to learn the meaning of the word succinct.
“It went about as well as it could have, lad. And really, no one is trying to talk Kate out of her diagnosis, so that is a plus,” Carson told him.
“Right.” He looked up and stared at Sheppard. “Did we find any place for her to live until we can get her back to the SGC?”
The Major nodded. “We found a series of rooms that have access to an outside terrace where we can install some planters to give her something to interact with beyond that artificial world Miko is constructing for her. Plus there are plenty of spots for you to put shield generators up to keep her contained.”
“Thankfully there are a lot of those little things running around here. We can easily grab some to repurpose to keep Weir safe,” Grodin informed them. He had been added to their council when it became apparent that the admin side of the Expedition wasn’t being represented.
“Where are they coming from?” Sheppard asked.
“The walls,” Rodney told him. “About every ten feet or so, there is a set. We’re just removing some from the highest levels of the tower. The chances of us using those rooms are rather slim at the moment and I would like you to lock the access to them out of the system once we get them removed.”
Sheppard nodded without questioning him on it. “Done. Let me know when you are ready for me to lock everything down.”
“Thank you. Once we get the generators installed, we will be able to adjust the density of the shield. I’m thinking that I want it thin enough to let wind and rain through, but not allow anyone to throw themselves off. Does that sound about the level that everyone else is comfortable with?” Rodney asked.
The agreement flowed around the room and he nodded. Adding the task to his list, he sighed. It was a good thing that the day here on Atlantis had been proven to be 28 hours long. He was going to need every single one of those hours to make a dent in the ‘to do’ list in front of him.
Tuning back into the conversation around him, it took him several seconds to realize that Carson was being lightly grilled on what medications would need to be produced for Weir. Most of them weren’t in their physical pharmacopeia but were present in the list of drugs that they had brought the formula and creation methods for. The part none of them were looking forward to was how in the hell they were going to get the drugs down Weir. If the ‘original’ personality was in charge, there was no way she would take pills, if it was the ‘alternate’ version, coming after her with a needle would make her freak out. And hiding the medications in her food was just asking for haphazard dosing.
“We can’t not try to treat her,” Heightmeyer protested when Miko had wondered why they were bothering.
“She’s dangerous,” Miko told her, and actually the rest of them, bluntly. “I am building her a world that she can play in, can try to get around us and commit her little insanities without hurting the rest of us, but what happens in real life? We are going to be asking the nurses and any volunteers to go into her rooms with her and interact with her. To try to get her to take her meds and not escape when they slip up. There is no real way that we can do that long term.”
Carson sat back and sighed. He was looking resigned and so was Heightmeyer. “We know, lass. But we can’t not try.”
“If I am not overstepping myself,” Grodin spoke up. “I would suggest that we get the whole area ready for her while she is in medical. Stock it up well with enough easily eaten food for a week and then put her in there unconscious. She can wake up by herself, with stuff to do and all the planters you all were talking about ready to get planted. We can spare some seeds as needed for her to plant. That will help, I hope when things get tight.”
The room was quiet and then Heightmeyer nodded. “All in favor?”
Everyone raised a hand in agreement. They had a plan to handle Weir at least. “Major, we are going to need the men you have on the cleaning crew to get to work on the rooms we have set aside for her. And someone needs to go to the mainland to get us some dirt to replace what is currently in the planters. Ten-thousand-year-old dirt won’t sprout anything, I’m sure,” Heightmeyer told him.
Sheppard looked at her for a moment before he nodded. Rodney wasn’t kidding himself when he made a bet with himself. He was sure that Sheppard wasn’t going to be this easy going for much longer. Right now, it suited the Major to agree with them, but there was going to come a point in time where some hard decisions needed to be reached. The council method they had worked well, but there still needed to be someone in charge.
But that was something else for their next meeting. And it really was, because he put it on the minutes to be discussed. He wasn’t going to have that hanging over his head any longer than he had to.
Last item on the list for this meeting though. “What are we doing about the Athosians?”
“I want to trust them,” John told McKay, voice steady.
“I want to trust them, too. After all, they live in this galaxy and know a lot of stuff that we don’t. And they seem to be willing to share that knowledge, maybe take us around to some trading partners, let us know what food can kill us or won’t. All good things to know,” McKay answered.
“They didn’t have to tell us about the Wraith,” John continued, thinking aloud. Well. That was what it looked like he was doing…he had learned politics at the knee of Patrick Sheppard as the man moved in and out of the various parties that were trying to control his company. His dad had been very good at getting people to do what he had wanted without letting on that he was manipulating them.
“True, they didn’t. Especially since we were very upfront about not knowing about them. And when the Wraith showed up, you said that their leader shoved you out of the way of a culling beam,” Bates muttered.
John suppressed a smile at how disgruntled his new Captain was. Becoming an officer had not apparently been on the former Gunnery Sergeant’s to do list. Too bad that he was one now. The muttering Bates had been indulging in had been pretty epic. “She did,” he allowed.
And hadn’t that been a surprise. He had known the woman for all of two hours and she had taken his place in front of her greatest nightmare. John wasn’t certain why she had, but he was very grateful that had done so. The rescue wouldn’t have stood a chance otherwise.
“So I want to move up the suggestion that we take two puddle jumpers through the gate tomorrow and start salvage efforts on the Athosian village,” Cooper put forth. “Even if we don’t find much of their stuff, we can take some of them to help us hunt in their hunting grounds and get some game to supplement our supplies.”
John looked around and saw that everyone else was nodding. “I can get behind that. This means I have no problems releasing enough troops to guard everyone while they are out and about. It also means that we will need at least two pilots for the mission and two here on Atlantis.”
“Speaking of pilots,” Miko said, raising one hand to get everyone’s attention. “How long does it take to confirm if the gene therapy has taken?”
John nodded to himself. Kusanagi was one of the ATA positive people who would be on call for the duration of the mission and she still hadn’t sat in a jumper. He made a note on his tablet to get all the ATA positive people familiar with the little craft. Thankfully they were pretty intuitive.
“… about four hours lass, why?” he heard Beckett tell her.
“Because I want everyone who was tagged as a recessive carrier to get it. That way we don’t have to worry when one of the natural carriers is off the city,” she told him bluntly.
“You’re right.” Biro sat back in her chair. “It’s you, Carson, the Major, Stackhouse, and Chuck right now. That’s not enough to run the city at all.”
“Jesus, we only brought five natural ATA carriers? What in the hell was Weir thinking?” Bates muttered into his coffee. The room fell silent and he looked up. “Look, before the Major got the wild hair, I was the senior noncom for this mission. I know that of the Marines and Air Force personnel we had under consideration, around a dozen of them had the active genome. And Coop, those two seamen that were cut? They had it as well.”
Everyone was silent for a moment and then they all cursed. John had a feeling he would be doing that a lot in the coming months. Weir had managed to fuck them over royally and he was deeply worried about surviving to see the coming ships. He really, really didn’t want to play Survivor: Atlantis where people just died instead of getting voted off the city.
McKay flicked him a quick glance and then nodded. “I’m getting it.”
Grodin nodded his head as well. Every person that he knew who had the recessive genome raised their hand. In the end, it was most of the people in the room.
“Did Weir man the Expedition on the basis of our genome?” he asked. He hadn’t been there for the initial stages of filling the rosters, he had come on too close to the end to do more than be sneaky and add some odds and ends to the supply lists. Useful stuff, but not enough in the long run. “I mean, there are five active ATA carriers, enough to wake the city and get some control and then what? She gets Beckett to offer everyone the chance at the ATA and they are all grateful to get it and go along with her madness?”
“I have no idea,” Grodin told them. As her second, he was, by their charter, the current head of the Expedition. John wondered if he was aware of his promotion? Tapping out the question, he sent it to McKay and Zelenka. “She didn’t share much with us beyond the basic operational information that we needed to run everything. I was hoping that Miko would be kind enough to break the encryption on her private journals so I can at least figure out what in the hell she was hiding.”
“Already done, Peter. The passcode is in your email. So is the method to come up with a command code and once you figure that out, I can get that entered,” Kusanagi told him.
John looked at the little Japanese scientist and shook his head. She was a very pretty picture, all demure looks, sweet smiles and an impression of absolute calm. But he knew that was, mostly a lie. The woman ran over McKay and Zelenka in ways that only a trusted ‘minion’ could. She was the third in command of the labs, and if McKay was the one who everyone looked to for direction and Zelenka to temper his boss’s fits, Miko was the one who made it all work.
So, yeah, he respected the hell out of Miko Kusanagi. Because after the weeks he had spent right in the middle of the labs, he had a very good idea of all that she did. Actually, that all three of them did. His email pinged right then and he opened the three replies. All three of the science department triumvirate told him that, no, Grodin didn’t have a clue. When he looked up, they were all smirking at him. He quickly sent back a single word: ‘Showoffs.’
“Thank you, Miko,” Grodin told her softly. There was a slur at the edges of his English accent and John grimaced. They all had been running long and hard over the last three planetary days and it was really starting to catch up with them. They all needed a good night’s sleep and food. Soon.
“So, should we get the shots tonight?” McKay asked. His hands were wandering over his laptop keyboard in a nervous manner and John could sympathize. If everything went according to plan, the scientist had a 50/50 chance of waking with fur in the morning.
“I would suggest it, yes,” Carson told him. “And I want everyone in medical when we do this. I want to monitor the first batch of prospective ATA carriers to see how they react to the treatment. If they get fur, it will be after the four-hour mark and humans have a 90-minute sleep cycle. Depending on when you fall asleep, we should have at least a few REM cycles to see if you transform.”
“And if we transform back,” Cooper muttered. “It’s damn hard to cook when you have fur and no thumbs.”
Miko snorted softly and then clapped a hand over her mouth to cover the laughter that broke out. It really wasn’t funny, but it was the note that needed to be hit and everyone started laughing. Yeah, thumbs, they were important.
John was the only one that had the time and frankly the connections to meet with the leader of the Athosians and let her in on their plans. Hopefully, she would be okay with them going back to Athos to get anything that had survived the bombardment.
“Teyla, would you be okay with us going back to Athos with your people in some of the little ships, puddle jumpers, and seeing if we can bring as much as is still good back here to Atlantis?” he asked carefully. He sucked at talking, but he was the CO of the military and he was just going to have to be a big boy and use his words.
The look the alien woman was giving him was full of bemused consideration. “You would do that?”
Sheppard winced. Yeah, the Athosians had been on the city for three days and events had basically shoved them to one side. Thankfully Grodin had stepped up and gotten them spaces to live and supplies, but the Athosians had pretty much been ignored while the Expedition had sorted out its own drama.
“We would. I know that there will be a lot of damage and things will be bad on the other side, but you need to go back and see if there is anything left of your village. And frankly, we need to make sure that we have enough food to feed everyone, so we will be seeing if we can find anything to hunt while there. It’s your planet, so your people know what is good to eat and what isn’t. We were hoping that some of your people would be open to helping us with that,” John explained bluntly.
And if the Athosians brought their own stores back with them and started eating out of them, they would be that much less of a burden on the Expedition supplies. He was reasonably certain that the lady in front of him could figure that out as well.
“It is a generous offer. Will we be allowed to come back to the City of our Ancestors?” she asked carefully.
John took a deep breath before letting it out carefully. “Yes, we want you all to come back. And to make sure that you all get everything that you need, we are going to be taking as many puddle jumper trips as is needed to pack everything up. If that means that we are moving the whole village through the gate, so be it. We have the room, you need the things left behind and we have the time right now to do it.”
The look of relief that flashed across the Athosians face was startling. She was so self-contained that it was a surprise when she showed any overt emotion. “Thank you.”
“No.” John shook his head. “Thank you. Thank you for warning us about what we didn’t know. Thank you for saving my life when you shoved me out of the way of the culling beam. And thank you for keeping your head while you were captured. You were a huge part of why so many of your people and mine had a chance to come home.”
The look she flashed him was full of a shy type of pride before she stood tall before him. “What time should we expect to go to Athos?”
“When is dawn there? If we start about then, we will have as much time as possible to get your people’s things,” John asked her.
Teyla stared into the distance for a moment and played with the necklace he had found for her. Reaching out, he carefully touched one finger to it. It tingled with the feeling that was almost like the Ancient tech he brought back to life did. Reaching across the mental distance, he firmly told the equipment to turn itself off. The little piece of tech fought him for a moment before it went dark.
Sighing in relief, he made a mental note to get Radek to look at the damn thing before they went out the next day. He didn’t want to take any chances with any lives. Blinking back to himself, he looked at Teyla. “Sorry! It was blinking and well. I was wondering if it was something that the Ancients had made. I can get one of our people to look at it to make sure that the blinking isn’t something that means I broke it?”
The Athosian clutched her necklace for a moment before slipping it off and handing it to him. “Please. I had it for a very long time as a child and I would rather it not be damaged by its extended stay in the cave. And I believe the best time to get a full day’s work will be if we leave right after the midday meal here.”
John carefully slipped the necklace into his pocket and nodded. “That will work out great. Thank you. I’ll leave you to your rest.”
“Sleep well, Major. And thank you again. From all of us,” Teyla told him with a smile.
“You are most welcome,” he told her.
And hey, he was even sincere. He just really, really wanted to get this thing to Radek and then send out an email to all their volunteers. He needed to arrange some really quick flying lessons. His newest potential pilots were all adults and he was fairly certain that they could all drive. Hopefully, that would carry over to their flying lessons?
“So, lad. You certain that you want to do this?” Carson asked his friend.
McKay was clutching one of the newly christened LSD’s in his hands. Since he only had the recessive genome set, it was inert. The LSD was a good thing to test his abilities on. Much better than the piece of unknown tech that he had originally brought in. Miko had plucked that right out of his hands after saying something scathing in Japanese. Carson hadn’t understood her, but apparently, Rodney had because the man had actually blushed.
He was going to have to ask Miko exactly what she had said to the Canadian to get him to comply with her order.
“Yeah, I do.” Rodney looked at him, face serious. “We don’t have enough ATA carriers, and, to be honest, I need it for my job. I can’t keep having Miko drop what she is doing to come to play with whatever Ancient thing I’m examining at the time.”
“Point. Well, let me at it.” Carson waved a hand at his friend’s ass. He had a syringe full of the gene therapy in hand and he just needed a square of skin to poke.
“Does it have to be my ass?” Rodney groused as he pushed the side of his sleep pants down.
Carson had made damn sure that all of his test subjects had gotten good meals and then prepped out for their snoozes in something comfortable and easy to get out of. He remembered, unfondly, how hard it had been to get out his own clothes when he had been a wolf. It had not been the most enjoyable experience he had ever had.
“Yes, it has to be, you daft man,” Carson muttered as he swiftly swabbed the pale skin before him and then uncapped the needle and stabbed it in deeply. Ignoring the cursing going on over his head, he made absolutely certain that every cc of serum got deposited into the Canadian’s muscle. Taking note of the time, he recapped the needle. “There now. All done.”
“You enjoyed that,” Rodney accused as he rubbed the skin over the injection site.
“No, I didn’t,” the doctor lied without a qualm. Yes, he was a very nice man. He just liked stabbing people with needles. Sue him, it was one of the reasons he had become a doctor.
“I really don’t believe you,” the other man told him with a pout before settling back into his bed. He was hooked into a number of monitors to see if there was any way they could monitor the transformation.
“Go to sleep, Rodney,” Carson told him.
Patting his friend on the shoulder, he stepped out of the area his bed was in and drew the curtain to give him as much privacy as possible while he settled in to try to sleep. As soon as the dozen test subjects were all asleep, those curtains were going to be opened so the medical staff on duty could monitor them easier.
Rubbing his hands together, Carson walked back to the small room he had designated as his office and the pallet he had set up for naps. He had three and a half hours before the earliest of the volunteers was slated to become an active gene carrier. Enough time for a nap. A quick stop with his head nurse and he was shuffled off to his sleep. His people were good.
Carson woke up with the clearheaded clarity that any survivor of med school and a residency got ingrained into them. If there was an emergency, they didn’t have the time to try and get rid of the fuzzes. “Maria? Is it time then?”
“Yes, sir. We are at the three hours, forty-five-minute mark on Lt. Cooper. Dr. McKay is at three hours, forty minutes. The others are just behind them,” she reported.
“Vitals?” he asked as he threw off the covers and stood up.
“Steady, no fevers and no one has sprouted whiskers yet,” she told him.
“Cute,” he grunted as he stretched the kink in his back out. Cocking his head to the side, he could hear an alarm going off. “Sounds like something is happening out there.”
Stepping around his nurse, he hurried over to the site of the alarm. Of course, it would have to be Rodney. Damn the man for being the overachiever that he was. Sprawled out on his bed was a very large… puma? Whatever type of cat it was, it was buff colored, huge and totally out for the count. Even while wrapped up in the Canadian’s sleep gear.
Carson reached over and shut off the alarm and the cat didn’t twitch. Smiling slightly at the evidence of how tired his friend was, he looked over the animal. He was damn large. Larger than Miko or Chuck by almost half. Whatever the thing was that was allowing them to transform, they were keeping most of their mass when they did so.
Another alarm went off quietly and he headed over to see what had come about with that one. Cooper was the second alarm and he took note of the time. Three hours fifty minutes. The Lieutenant was also sleeping soundly, mostly hidden under her blankets. The doctor switched off her alarm, and her head popped up, a fold of blanket over her forehead. Large green/gold eyes looked at him, all hazy with sleep, and he waved at her carefully. “Go back to sleep, lass. Nothing bad going on.”
Grumbling, Cooper dropped her head back onto her pillow and snuggled under the covers. Carson had to suppress a laugh as her tail fell out and flicked from side to side. Whatever type of cat was under there, it was large, black and mostly asleep.
All across sickbay, the alarms attached to their guinea pigs were going off and his nurses were quickly shutting them off. No one else woke up, but everyone transformed. Rubbing a hand over his head, Carson deeply hoped that the ATA carriers all learned how to control their shifts soon. Because this was getting ridiculous. How in the hell were they going to feed themselves? What could sustain a human wasn’t going to be enough for thirteen large canines and four huge cats.
At least the Major was going to be happy. There were now more people to carry the load for pilots. And that meant that the mission for the next day was totally a go.
“I managed to watch over our volunteers as they slept and they all seemed to shift on the same basic schedule. The first REM after the genome activated caused the initial shift and the only person who woke up was Lt. Cooper and she settled right back down. After that, everyone followed the standard REM sleep pattern, even when they were transformed.” Carson took a sip of his coffee. “Right before I left, most of our people were shifting to a waking routine and none of them were in fur.”
“So what, it’s us waking up in the middle of the cycle that caused us to get stuck?” John asked.
“I believe so, lad. Marie, my night nurse said that I shifted as soon as I fell asleep and when she checked on me about 20 minutes before she was to wake me up, I was human,” Carson told him.
“Well, this is weird,” Stackhouse muttered as he watched the feed into the medical bays. His eyes were wandering back towards where Markham was stashed and John suppressed a sigh.
When he had gotten sucked into the mess that was the SGC, he had found that the whole base was so far out of compliance on DADT that it was insanely lax compared to his previous few duty stations. The whole attitude could be traced back to some really fascinating shenanigans that were only hinted at in the reports that he had access to.
But there was the SGC’s habit of ignoring the fact that DADT existed and then there was flaunting the regulation wholesale. He was far too certain that the Expedition was going to get back in contact with Earth to let the whole wretched directive be forgotten. Plus he had eight soldiers who he had just pissed off and one who was pissed off to the max at everyone. So it wasn’t outside the realm of the possibility that one of them would be an asshole. Until they heard otherwise from General O’Neill that it had been repealed, DADT was the order of the day.
In other words; discretion, discretion, discretion. He was so going to have to teach the two of them that skill.
“Has anyone tried to get up while furry?” Radek asked, face smoothly innocent.
John flashed the engineer a sharp glance. He knew that the other man had opened a book on the whole mess. So far, the engineer had pulled a steady amount of goods in. Everyone knew he was the bookie for the city, but they were being fairly discrete about placing their bets.
“No, everyone slept the night through,” Carson told them before cupping one hand over his radio adorned ear. “It looks as if people are waking up. I’m going to head down.”
John nodded and stood up with Stackhouse. “Looks like we are following, doc.”
As they walked down to where they had stashed medical, John debated when he would call the two of them into his office. Or even if he would, because he had no idea how in the hell to approach the whole mess without it blowing up in his face. Clattering down the stairs, he looked around. The tower was 250 stories, there was no way the Ancients had used the stairs for everything. But there were no recognizable elevators.
Something to have the guys who were on the field day duty to look for. The eight who were on the field day punishment could look for the Ancient elevator while they were cleaning everything in sight. It would give them something positive to do and free up manpower they didn’t have to do other things. Win, win, and also a morale booster for everyone.
The infirmary was thankfully only a few floors away from the main level that they were branching off from, so the trip was fairly quick. Walking into the room, all three men moved back into the recovery room and spread out. Stackhouse actually showed some discretion and survival skills and went to check on Cooper. John checked in with Markham and found his new Lieutenant staring at the ceiling. “Markham? How are you doing?”
“Was this place always this noisy sir? And what’s with the smells?” the newly awakened man asked.
“As near as I can tell, it’s the leftovers from the transformations you had last night. I know that mine have stayed fairly steady, but then, it seems we are still transforming in our sleep,” John briefed him. He had curled up in his skin because he wasn’t planning on waking up to being strangled by his t-shirt again.
“Won’t that be a joy,” Markham muttered. Sitting up in the bed he looked at his hands and then scrubbed his fingers over his scalp. “Damn, that feels better than normal. So what did I turn into?”
“A very large canine. Something along the lines of what the Major did,” Stackhouse reported. He was escorting Cooper over to sit in the chair by the bed and the Navy Lieutenant flopped into the seat as if she had no bones. Trailing behind them was Bates, who looked just as wrecked as the rest of the room’s overnight guests.
“So, I can guess that Cooper is a cat of some type and I am guessing that you pulled the canine card,” John observed. It was a well-known fact around the base that Cooper was one of the people who needed caffeine to get to a level of human that was safe to be around other humans. Given their new abilities? “Hey, Doc? What’s the word on coffee for the feline among us?”
One of the nurses wondered over and looked at the five officers and sighed. “Coffee, tea or any other caffeine-like substance is fine while you are human. If you ingest it while furry it might poison you. We’ll have to do some testing to be sure.”
Cooper woke up enough to flash the nurse a grateful smile. “Thanks. I’ll try to remember that.”
The nurse just laughed and patted her on the shoulder before walking away. John was carefully watching and saw the moment when the Lieutenant held in her reaction. Voice soft, he let her know he had seen. “Good job on suppressing that.”
“There are reasons, sir, that I put out the notice not to touch me before I wake up,” she confirmed.
“One of these days, I’m gonna have to ask about that,” John told her and then changed the subject. “So everyone changed and that means you get lessons in how to fly a jumper. Go get something to eat, shower and then meet me at the jumper bay in an hour.”
The chorus of agreement was ragged, but there, and he moved away from them to check the rest of their people. Everyone seemed to be coming to terms with their new natures and most of them seemed to be adapting to the enhanced senses well enough. He made it a point to stop by and check McKay while he was there. The scientist was sitting on his bed playing with an LSD.
“Pretty nifty little machines, aren’t they, Doc?” he asked as he sat down in the nearest chair.
“Yeah, they really are,” the other man agreed. “Look, we’re going to be working with each other a lot. Call me Rodney?”
“Only if you call me John. Being called Sheppard or Major gets old after a while,” John shared.
Smiling ruefully, McKay, no Rodney, nodded. “I really understand that. Anyway, I think I’ve figured out some ways to change the parameters on these things to they are useful for more than telling us where various life-forms are. Now they’ll tell us what the life-forms are, how far away, and something about the area surrounding us. Changing them to check for allergens will take more time.”
John took the little machine out of Rodney’s hands and stared at the symbols on the screen. It was all written in Ancient and he had only the most minimal understanding of the language. He had been studying it, but it was a pain in the ass to learn. “Any hope that you can get these things to work in English?”
Rodney took the LSD back and poked at the back. From the angle that John was at, he could just barely see a seam. “Maybe. I’ll have to get Miko on the programming for them, but we should be able to load up something pretty quickly.”
“Thanks. Not everyone reads Ancient as proficiently as the science department does and if we are going to get many more active ATA members, I want them to have one of these as standard issue. Which means they need to be able to read everything on them. And have them reprogrammed to fit the various jobs they are doing,” John told him.
“Something to go over then.” Rodney nodded and dropped the little machine beside him on the bed. “So I understand we are all to get lessons in how to fly a jumper?”
Sheppard nodded before waving a hand back at where he had been standing. “I’m going to be teaching my officers first, but then I’ll grab the next best pilot and we’ll start on the civilians who are ATA positive. We can do that while we get the salvage mission going.”
“Sounds like a plan,” the scientist told him and then yawned. “So, I need to go find me some coffee and then find out what happened while I was getting furry. Call me when you are ready to take us out for our lessons.”
John closed his eyes and did his best not to watch the man walk towards the door in sleep pants that were doing wonderful things for his ass. Sighing, he gave up and looked. Yup, he was so, so screwed.
“You know, I’m really, really glad that you are another wolf,” Stackhouse muttered into his best friend and lover’s shoulder. “It would be too weird if you were a cat.”
Joseph Markham ran a careful hand over the other man’s head. “I am not a cat. I could have told you that before I got the full Monty last night. Now I need to shower and get some of the loose fur I can feel in my clothes off me, and then find some breakfast. I’m hungry!”
Stackhouse laughed and released him to the shower. “At least we don’t smell like wet dog when we shower in human form.”
Joseph looked over at him from his spot in the bathroom, playing with the temperature of his shower. The whole mentally controlling the tech around him thing was very handy. If he was ever injured, it would be beyond handy. At any rate, the water was at an acceptable level of heat and he wanted to be clean. He was not a fan of dog hair inside his clothes. “If we smell like wet dog while wet, I’m gonna be pissed. And we are sleeping in the nude from now on. The clothes thing sucks when you shift in your sleep.”
“I can get behind that,” his lover murmured as he stripped down and climbed into the shower with him. Their morning routine was very brief since they were working on a time limit, but it was enough that they reconfirmed the connection they had shared since they had started at the SGC.
Getting dressed, grabbing breakfast and then heading to the hanger bay took up the last twenty minutes of their allotted hour, and they got there with three minutes to spare. Cooper rolled in right after them, but she was talking to her people in Housekeeping and Services as she walked in, so she got a nod from the boss to stand to the side. Everyone was silent as she finished her conversation and then signed off.
“So, sir. We have enough MREs for four months of eating them three meals a day. We have enough flour to last us about a month of very skimpy baking–not counting McKay’s shortbread for Miko–and the rest of our ‘fresh’ supplies are about the same. Veggies consist of massive amounts of dried goods, and I am not thinking about how much beef jerky one of my guys found. Plus the two pallets full of fifty-pound bags of various types of beans. None of which is what I ordered,” she told him.
“Using the food on hand? How long will we last?” Sheppard asked as he leaned against one of the jumpers.
“If we use the dry stuff first and just that while dropping the MRE’s to two a day? I would buy us two more months,” Cooper told him. “But we’re living on a floating city. Said city is floating on an ocean. There has got to be fish out there. We need to get the science guys to tell us what’s edible and then have people at the piers with lines and nets. We need all the protein that we can get. And if we can get more off of Athos, that would be great, sir. Plus there are other edibles to be found in an ocean, so we need to see if anyone can do a study on seaweed and stuff.”
Bates was staring at the ceiling and doing the math. “Does that take into consideration the Athosians?”
Cooper shook her head. “No. It doesn’t. Cut everything down to a third the time if we fold them in. They have kids and a number of pregnant women, who all eat more and need a more diverse set of foods.”
“So number one priority after we deal with Athos is looking for a trading partner?” John asked.
“More than one if we can swing it,” Cooper told him. “We need everything. Remember, there is no Costco out here. Or NEX either.”
The Major nodded and looked at the spaceship he had been leaning against. “Okay, everyone. You are going to practice opening and closing the back door of this beast first. Once you have that down, we’ll get started on the next steps. Bates? You’re up first.”
John spent two hours running his people through a very thorough training to make sure that all of them could handle what they might run into on Athos. Flying, some evasive maneuvers, cloaking and entering a stargate. Or as Stackhouse and Markham called it, threading the needle. It was an apt term.
The training showed him the areas that he would need to modify for the civilians and he let them go after he had gotten them comfortable with the systems. The little craft were incredibly helpful in supporting his new pilots. John was hoping that the helpfulness would extend to the civilians.
Opening a line on his radio he called for his first civilian class. He had just enough time to get them trained and then they needed to go to Athos as scheduled. “Kusanagi, Grodin, McKay and Campbell, this is Sheppard. It’s time for your flight lessons. Meet you in the hanger bay in ten.”
Each of the people he had called straggled in with only Campbell being on time. Then again, the man was actually RCMP, and civilian wasn’t quite right. “Sir, I can fly a bush plane. It was something handy to know on my last duty station before I came to the SGC.”
John looked at the younger man and nodded. “Go warm up a jumper. Let me know if you have any problems understanding the controls?”
“I read Ancient, sir. So, that won’t be a problem,” Chuck told him dryly.
“One up on me then, Sergeant,” John told him. “I have to guess. Thankfully the programming is learning how to adapt.”
“Sounds like a blast, sir,” Chuck said as he walked down the row of jumpers, before stopping at one. Trailing his fingers over the back end of it, he got the little spaceship to open up and let him in. Once inside, he closed it up and John watched as he put it through its paces.
So far he had a total of four natural pilots, and the rest were technical flyers who could do in a pinch. About what he had expected if he was honest with himself. Chuck, Markham, Stackhouse and himself as the primary pilots so far with Bates and Cooper playing backup.
When Grodin, McKay, and Kusanagi got in, he set them to the same exercises that he had his officers. Grodin was looking like he would be decent at the helm, and Miko was at a level where she could at least pitch in. He wasn’t however, letting McKay drive anything he was in if he had a choice. He could make every sensor in the little ships sit up and take notice, but he just could not fly. It was a good thing that the gate room had safety features built into it or the Canadian would have wrecked most of it in his maneuvers.
“You don’t drive, do you?” John finally asked as he took over the control of the little craft from the copilot’s seat.
“No, I really don’t. When I was working at the SGC, if I needed anything in town, I either got a cab or I called for a driver from a service I know. Otherwise, I didn’t need to because I rarely went anywhere. When I was in Antarctica, well. We were flown in and then out of the Outpost and I never drove.” Rodney shook his head. “Same thing when I was in Russia and then Area 51. The only reason I have a driver’s license is that it’s a form of ID.”
John shook his head and made the scientist switch seats with him. “You aren’t flying anywhere, Doc. If you have to get somewhere you need a jumper, we will assign you a pilot. I want you proficient enough to take over if your pilot is incapacitated, but you aren’t to fly if we can help it.”
“I can live with that,” McKay admitted.
He was very careful to follow the rest of the lesson on how to access the cloak on the ship and shields. When it came time for him to put them up, they went up without hesitation. For that alone, John was going to pass him. He just wasn’t going to let him get behind the metaphorical wheel, ever, if he could manage it. His nerves would never forgive him otherwise.
His watch beeped out an alarm as he got Miko to put up the shields on her jumper and he called the lesson at that. His students were as ready as they were going to get. “Lunch and then meet back here to get assigned your group to ferry to Athos. Ninety minutes.”
Miko, Grodin, and Chuck all nodded, and Rodney looked at him, eyes curious. “If you want to come along, McKay, I have no problems with it. But you aren’t driving.”
The scientist shook his head and chuckled. “I didn’t expect I would be. Ninety minutes? Do you want me to tell the Athosians?”
“Nope, I’ve got it,” John told him. He knew where the refugees were being housed and it took him only a few minutes to reach that level. Stopping the first person he saw, he asked after Teyla.
“She is over there, Major.” The boy, Jinto, pointed towards the knot of people gathered around a table.
John nodded and let his hand rest briefly on the boy’s shoulder. “Thank you, Jinto.”
Walking up to the cluster of people, he could hear them making some kind of plans. The suspicious part of him that remembered IEDs and RPGs far too well stirred and then he caught sight of what they were doing. Laid out on the table was their village done in what supplies they had at hand. They were dividing up the salvage operations to get things done as fast as possible.
“Pardon me for interrupting, but I wanted to let you know that we will be ready to head to Athos in about eighty minutes. Uhm…” he looked at his watch and then at the Athosian leaders bare wrist. Pulling off the timepiece, he quickly set the alarm to let her know when to show up at the hanger bay with her people. “When this makes noise, it will be just about dawn on Athos. So if you can head up towards the gate room by then, we can get started.”
Teyla looked at the watch and nodded. “A timepiece?”
John was reminded all over again that just because the Athosians looked primitive, didn’t mean they were. For all he knew, the village had had clocks. If they did, he was going to bring them back. There had to be something left for them to bring back to the city. “It is. I’ll explain how our version works after we get everything done.”
The smile Teyla graced him with could have come from the Mona Lisa it was so mysterious. “I would enjoy that.”
Bowing slightly at the waist, John excused himself and headed towards the mess. He was hungry as hell and he really hoped that Cooper had made something interesting for lunch.
The sight that greeted them on the other side of the gate was like something out of hell. “Oh. My. God.”
John didn’t have the heart to tell the person who had broken radio silence to shut up. What they were seeing was totally worth the break in radio silence. The Wraith had done one hell of a job fucking the place up. But he could see the underlying order and he hoped that they would be able to salvage most of the Athosians’ effects. No one deserved to have all traces of their home destroyed.
“Okay folks. Let’s get to work.”
John was carefully boxing up everything in the third tent he had entered in some of the crates that they were repurposing from the Expedition’s move. Everything was being packed up, loaded into jumpers and delivered to the gate where it was shoved through to Atlantis. It was the fastest method they had to get the goods moved.
Somehow, he was hoping that the person whose life he was handling was still alive and on Atlantis. They had very good taste in the things that they had decorated their dwelling with. The blankets were warm and sweet smelling, the leather was well-tanned and they had some really nice pottery. Shaking his head, he was very glad that the transformation that the ATA positive people had gone through had not led to telepathy. He was sounding way too gay even for himself.
Nestling the last item he had found in the corner into one of the boxes, he looked around. The only thing left to remove were the carpets, and from what he could see, they were all overlapping in an effort to keep as much of the chill out as possible. Walking back to the entry, John reached down and flipped an edge over itself and started to roll. Grunting at the effort, he got the first one done and sat back on his heels.
Taking a deep breath, he moved over to another edge and started again. He was on his fifth carpet when he caught the edge of a wooden board. Exiting the tent, John looked around for one of the Athosians he knew. “Jinto? Can you come here?”
“Major? What have you found?” the teenager came trotting over, carefully weaving his way through the piles of goods outside of every tent.
“A possible hidden pit?” John waved at the wood peeking out from under the mass of carpets.
“Were most of these on the floor?” Jinto asked as he picked his way to the edge of the wood.
“Yup. Should they have been?” Sheppard looked at the fabric and started trying to drag one of the rolls out of the way. Jinto helped by picking up the other end of the mass and they ended up piling the rolls just inside the entry, but not blocking traffic.
“No, they shouldn’t have been,” the young Athosian told him as they moved the final carpet. “Some of those were used to divide the structure, to make rooms.”
John looked at the pile of more than a dozen ‘carpets’ that had been piled on the floor and then at the wooden plank over a spot on the floor. He was desperately hoping that what he was worried about wasn’t under there. Taking in a deep breath through his nose, he tried to see if he could smell decay or even the stench of Wraith. Nothing. Tipping his head to the side, he listened. If there was someone under there, they were being incredibly quiet.
Waving the boy off, John moved them out of the line of sight for the pit. Their ear based comm pieces seemed to be working for the moment and he needed to get at least another Expedition member to help. Preferably two. One to help heave and the other to cover them. A few quiet orders and he had a set of Marines helping clear the area a bit further.
“You get the far end and I’ll pick up this end?” John directed his helper with a wave. When the Marine squatted down at the far end, Sheppard did the same. Wriggling his fingers under an edge, he counted down. “Three, two one, lift!”
They lifted the whole mass straight up and now he could smell what was missing before. Unwashed human, flavored with terror and long-term hunger. Tipping the plank to the side, he looked underneath. Jesus, God. There were six kids crammed into a space the size of a large chest freezer. All of them were blinking at him and he felt a kick in the gut. They needed to get them to Beckett. They had been hiding for almost four days and he had no idea if they had had any water since they had been hidden.
“I will go get Teyla. And the ones you said were there to help when we are sick,” Jinto exclaimed before he ran off.
Tapping his radio, John pulled up an open frequency. “Bates, come in.”
“Major? What can I do for you,” his Captain asked.
“I need a jumper at my location and it has to have at least one of Beckett’s medics. It would be better to have two,” he told him as he squatted down to reach into the pit and carefully pull one of the kids up to ground level. Tapping his radio off, he carefully maneuvered the child onto the ground. “Hey, kiddo. I’m Major Sheppard. Do you remember me?”
The little girl, at least he hoped she was a little girl, shook her head. John smiled at her anyway and passed her off to the Marine helping and reached in again, pulling another child up. Child by child, they pulled each of them out of their hiding spot and into the light. The kids were all blinking hard at the sun and wincing away from the brightness. The oldest was holding her arms around her middle as she waited for her turn to be pulled up. Unwrapping her arms, she handed up child number seven, a baby who was so new that John was certain that it was almost a newborn.
Cradling the child to his chest, he reached down and pulled the eldest out just as he heard the sound of running feet. “Major! Major Sheppard, I have the people who can help!” Jinto yelled as he came back into the tent.
“I need some glucose, some water, and a syringe without a needle,” John demanded of one of the nurses as she broke open her emergency kit. He was ignoring the nastiness that was coating the butt of the baby in his arms because the kid couldn’t help it and there had been no way to keep everyone clean while hiding. As soon as he had the items in his hands, he put the baby back into its caregiver’s arms and mixed up a sugar tit for the baby. It would help give the baby some needed energy, some water and hopefully keep the baby alive until they could find some formula or his mother.
Rubbing the wet edge of the syringe against the baby’s lips, he squirted the solution into the little mouth. As soon as the baby tasted the sugar, it latched onto the open end of the syringe and started to weakly suck. John carefully pressed the plunger to keep up with the rate of the baby’s needs. He had a 30cc unit full and the baby had taken ten before it pulled off and panted. John let the tip rest against the baby’s lower lip and as soon as it tried for more, he started feeding it again.
“Major? How’s the baby?” the medic asked.
John looked up and saw that the person standing by him was Beckett’s night nurse, Marie. “Hey. So far, the baby’s taken about a third the volume and it is a pretty strong sugar solution.”
“Keep up the good work and let me check your helper here and then I will get to your patient,” she told him as she started getting the older girl’s vitals. The necessary information was jotted down on some paper and then pinned to her clothes. As soon as she was done, Marie turned to the baby. Carefully unwrapping the swaddling clothes from the little form, she hissed. The baby had done exactly what a baby did and the swaddling had contained the mess against the delicate skin. The kid had a raging case of diaper rash.
Wincing, John kept up a steady pressure on the plunger and let the liquid energy trickle down the small throat. His helper was wincing at the sight of the rash on the baby’s skin and he shook his head at her. “You kept,” he checked the little one in his hands before continuing, “him alive against all odds. Even if he has some rash, he’s alive. And we can fix the rash.”
The look of relief the kid flashed him made the mess on his hands totally worth it.
“Okay, Major. I have an interim diaper here and I can take over the food if our helper doesn’t think she can?” Marie asked as she washed the little form in his hands. The water was cold and the baby jerked away from the syringe and started crying. John handed the baby back to his caretaker and stepped back.
“Jinto? Can you take charge of the kids and help get them to Atlantis and their families?” John called out.
“Yes, Major Sheppard,” the younger man agreed cheerfully. Gathering the kids together, he started telling them who had made it and where they were. From the positive reactions, most of their parents seemed to have survived.
John walked out of the tent and into the sunshine, ignoring the mess on his hands for a moment. Glancing up and down the ‘street’ of the village, he saw that most of the tents had piles of boxes outside them. Turning back towards where the gate was, he could see that someone was running towards his location. From the flash of red hair and short stature, he was guessing it as Teyla. Resisting the urge to shade his eyes from the sun, he looked around for someplace to get clean.
One of the puddle jumpers was set up between tents and it had a large jug of water set over a basin to be used as a sink. Lava soap and some towels were set to the side and he went over to it gratefully. Yuck. He had touched grosser stuff, but the baby had been very generous in how it coated everything. He was scrubbing his hands for the second time when Teyla slowed to a stop beside him. “Two tents up from here,” he pointed with one soapy hand, “there are seven kids who had been hiding. All alive.”
The look she flashed him was full of gratitude and she was off again.
Finally clean, John tapped his radio again. “Bates, we have seven more Athosians who need to get back to the city.”
“I heard from Nurse Lopez about the kids,” Bates told him. “I’m glad that we came back, sir.”
“Me too, Captain. Because there was no way that those kids would have been able to shift the lid of their hiding spot the way things were,” John agreed grimly. “What else has been found?”
The silence at the other end of the line was weirdly grim and the Major sighed. “We found another body sir. She couldn’t have been more than three and was sucked dry. We’ve put her with the others and are getting wood ready for a pyre for her.”
The Major swallowed heavily. That little girl made it body number twenty-five that they had found, and with the seven living kids, they had accounted for all but three of the missing Athosians. Wincing, he remembered the corpse that had been draped over the Queen’s dining room table. Make that two missing people. “Have someone go up in a jumper and see if we can get a life signs read on the surrounding area? If the two who are missing ran, they could be miles away from here.”
“Already done sir. They haven’t found anything. Current scans are at fifty miles away,” Bates reported.
“Damn it. Okay. Go out to one hundred and then bring them in. We need to start moving all this stuff back to Atlantis and I want to get it done before the local sundown,” Sheppard directed.
Teyla Emmagan, leader of the last of the Athosian people, looked at the numbers of her dead and wanted to cry. It was so very many and she knew all of them. Knew their names, the names of their loved ones, their children and who their ancestors had been. It was a burden she was far too used to feeling as the Wraith culled their human herds.
The foreigners, the Tau’ri, had placed each of her people on a pyre and she walked among them, one last time. None of them had been untouched by the Wraith and she could only hope that these people from Earth could keep their promise that none of her people would be touched so again. They had lost too many.
Stepping back into the embrace of all of her people who could come back to their planet to say farewell, she lifted her face to the sky and started to sing. It was a song that was taught to each child so that, if their people were culled that far down, the dead would still be honored as they left. As her voice soared to the stars, she hoped, she prayed that the Ancestors that she had spent so many years honoring, would hear her and carry the dead home.
As she sang the last note, she nodded and the men and women holding the torches thrust them into the hearts of the pyres. The dry wood caught with the help of whatever the Tau’ri had added to the piles and the night was lit by their flames. She stood there and tried not to breathe as their dead were reduced to ashes.
When the last fire had burned out, Teyla led her people back to the city. There was nothing left for them on Athos. Their future was on Atlantis. And she was going to build them a future that would allow them to stay safe.
As she walked through the Ring of the Ancestors, she looked at the one she had saved. Touching his arm, she drew his attention to her and away from the surrounding forest. “In the morning, I would meet with your council. We Athosians are known as careful traders and we would like to help.”
The Major nodded at her words. She was aware that he wasn’t the one in charge of the city, but he held some sway. Putting the request in with him was all she could do until she learned who was the leader. “We can do that. Thank you.”
“You are most welcome. I think, given how many we are, that we need to talk to a people I know who often have a surplus of foods and a willingness to trade it. They are called the Genii.”
So I’m doing an Author Note in reply to something that came up in the comments that I’ve gotten about this story… In regards to how Ford is punished for his actions when Sheppard is out of contact.
In the story, I had Elizabeth order Ford to pull the guards from the Gateroom, since they were going to rely on the shield that had been found to protect them. And he did it. No questions asked.
At the time she ordered this, Major Sheppard had been in his rooms, getting ready to sleep. He hadn’t transformed into his wolf form and wasn’t out of contact. I know Ford didn’t know about the transformation that was to come, but he did know that his immediate superior officer was still reachable.
Here’s the main reason he got hammered so hard. He didn’t tell Elizabeth; “Yes, ma’am!” and then go and clear the order with Major Sheppard, the man in *charge* of the Expeditions military. He didn’t post the guards on the outside of the doors to the Gateroom in a bid to get around the letter of the order, but still protect everyone. And he sure didn’t check with Bates, the guy in charge of internal security for the Expedition, to see if something like that was kosher.
What he did, was pull the men out of the Gateroom and then made sure that their replacements weren’t going to show up either. And he had NO firm knowledge that the shield that Elizabeth was relying on was still workable.
Because power was at a premium. The city had risen because there was so little energy left in the ZPM it couldn’t support its own shields that kept it safe from the water it was immersed in. There were four naquadah generators spliced into the ZPM mount to try to take up the slack and even they were only supporting a limited number of things. McKay, the Chief Science Officer for the Expedition, hadn’t authorized the use of the shield after the one time they had used it after the rescue. And Ford sure hadn’t checked with McKay if the shield was ready for use.
So on multiple counts, Ford fucked up. The military arm of the Expedition was on war footing. And Ford left their only means of egress unprotected. And he didn’t tell anyone else that there was no line of defense there anymore. In other words, their ass was hanging out in the breeze for all to see and shoot at. Given that they had just managed to not die due to the city raising and meeting the Wraith, it was exceedingly stupid.
And that’s why the whole damn bookshelf was thrown at him.