Old Earth Calendar
Sitting at her desk sipping her first cup of coffee, Elizabeth paged through her morning memos. Thanks to the pictures being circulated throughout Pegasus, most of the senior Gate team members had decided to confine themselves to the City. That wasn’t to say that teams weren’t still going out, because they were. They just weren’t going out at as high a tempo as they had been before the Expedition broke with Earth. And that meant that there were between twenty and twenty-five very bored people who had been exploring a galaxy less than two months before stuck with little to do in the City.
So Elizabeth, as the duly elected head of the newly formed Commonwealth of Atlantis, had decided that since they had the time and the manpower, the City was to be explored from top to bottom. As a way to cover more ground and keep everyone busy, the extra personnel were organized as two man teams and given an area to explore and sent on their ways. Hopefully the exercise would keep everyone occupied for a few months, without anyone getting injured. Hopefully.
Floating up the stairwell came a voice punctuated by loud, huffing breaths, “You know,” Rodney gasped, “I could’ve sworn ::huff :: that I was actually fit. I mean, :: huff :: I hike with the lot of you over terrain that used to give me nightmares, I work out with Teyla and Ronon and I even jog now. Why is this so ::huff:: hard?”
John did his best to keep his own labored breathing quiet even as he answered the irate question, “Maybe because we don’t usually hike the equivalent of a thirty minute stair-master program, Rodney? How many stories are we up anyway?” And really, who could blame him for not letting Rodney see how much the climb had taken out of him? After all, he was the military commander of Atlantis and he had his pride, didn’t he?
“I hate you. Just so you know. ::huff ::” Rodney was red faced and sweating lightly as he climbed the final stairs to where John was standing. “Lemme check the map and I’ll let you know if we have reached our destination.”
“Cool. And you like me just fine. You even said so in front of witnesses.” John said as he turned to look around the area they were taking a breather in. It wasn’t really a room or a hallway, but more like a foyer in front of a penthouse apartment. In addition there were no windows, inscriptions or even a transporter alcove on their current level and only the one door which reinforced the penthouse feel. Since the door had what looked like the standard locking mechanism beside it, they should be able to gain access to the room beyond it fairly easily.
Tilting his chin up at an indignant angle, Rodney demurred, “I can’t be held accountable for what I say when I am drunk. We’re at the top of this particular tower, which is about 35 stories tall. Right where we should be. Here, hold this.” And Rodney shoved his tablet into John’s free hand as he moved towards the lock. Humming lightly in concentration he grabbed a miniature tool kit out of a thigh pocket and with a flick of his wrist opened it up. After that it took only minutes for Rodney to hotwire the door open.
John moved forward and cut in front of Rodney before he could get any ideas about entering the room and handed the tablet he was holding back to its owner. “Time for me to do my thing. And you were not drunk, Rodney.”
“Whatever” and sounding like every teenager John had ever had contact with, Rodney stepped aside to let him pass. “Just don’t turn anything on yet, Colonel.”
“Gotcha.” Thankfully there were no more stairs to climb, but the room was pitch black, and John hadn’t thought to bring along his Night Vision Goggles. “Rodney, there are no windows in this room and it is pitch black. Can I at least initialize the lights?”
John could tell from the dull tapping sounds that Rodney was poking around on his tablet computer, probably trying to find some reference to the room they were currently exploring in the database. This meant that most of his attention was on the information passing under his fingertips and not on where he was actually standing. “Rodney. I need you to look up now. Can I turn the lights on?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure. John there are some notes in here that say the room has some type of a… Oh, that’s the same word that the Ancients used to talk about the technical elements for the room with the holographic woman who doesn’t answer our questions.”
“So we may have a holo-deck up here? Why would the Ancients put one of those things this far out?” John asked, curious.
“Well, all it says is that there are holo-emitters here, there is nothing to say that they used it for entertainment. Go ahead and turn on the lights.”
Nudging the lights, John requested that the level of illumination be turned up slowly so they wouldn’t be blinded. Despite his care, there was nothing to see in the room beyond a single console and smooth, featureless walls. There were no alcoves, no other doors, and no place for anyone or anything to hide. A quick glance at the ceiling confirmed the place was deserted.
“All yours, Rodney.” Moving his gaze back down from the ceiling, John saw that the scientist had already initialized the console and was hard at work.
It took over an hour for Rodney to hack his way into the database the console was hooked into. When the information lit up the screen it was as a panorama of star charts, with notations in Ancients on the side. Tapping away at the keys on the console, Rodney hummed and muttered his way through the data, obviously reading each screen quickly. After listening to the babble for what felt like hours, John decided that he had given the scientist enough time to figure out what they had found, and he was rather bored of staring at blank walls. “Rodney? Are you going to share what you have discovered with the rest of the class?”
Jerking his head up in surprise, Rodney looked over at John. “Huh? What? Oh, Colonel, this whole room is where the Ancients plotted out the stellar cartography for whatever galaxy they were in. They also apparently used it to decide where they were going to place the StarGates. All the information from the long range sensors can be routed here for in-depth displays and analysis.”
“So, not a holo-deck for playing games or the like. Rodney, if they had this, why did they need to holographic Ancient lady in the command tower?” John asked.
“The HAL,” and John snorted in laughter at Rodney’s use of the term. “Hush, it isn’t that funny. Anyway that set up down there is basically a librarian. She is somewhat useful for looking up data and getting the bare facts, but that’s not a place where you go to actually do work – this is. Watch,” and tapping a few keys on the crystal display, Rodney lowered the lights and brought up an outsiders view of the Pegasus galaxy.
John looked around at the representation of the galaxy surrounding him. It was deceptively beautiful, but there were very few fine details to be seen. “Can we move in? See the system we are in?”
“Sure. Lemme… Got it.” There was a sound of satisfaction as Rodney tapped something into the console before him.
The change in perspective was dizzying as their viewpoint went from extra-galactic to the level of their solar system in less than a minute. With the change came a change in the display as well. Now each feature of the system they were in had a label floating beside it, and all but one of which was in Ancient. The one that wasn’t, however was in English. Written in perfect Times New Roman script was ‘Lagrange Point, L2 orbit’ beside a representation of Atlantis.
Glancing at each other in perfect understanding, John heard Rodney echo his heartfelt, “Oh, shit.”
Close to the City Center
First Floor Hallway
“Why am I here again?” complained the young Lieutenant.
“Because you have the Ancient gene and I don’t? Because the rules, which you helped draft by the way, state that no one can go into the unexplored areas of Atlantis without an armed escort? Because I thought you might like to get out of the center portion of the City, which is, and I quote ‘boring’?
“I’m gonna be paying for being a brat for a while, aren’t I, Danny?”
“Oh, hell yes you are, Jon! So suck it up and deal.”
“I heard that!”
Jon O’Neill was feeling great. He was armed to the teeth, out on a mission with his archaeologist, and exploring a strange new world. Well the world in question was really a space faring Ancient City that showed occasional flashes of sentience, but still, he stood by his statement. His life was good and he was feeling mighty fine.
At least this time they were exploring one of the towers instead of being down on a sub-level… because most of those areas stank. Jon knew that the Replicators had managed to fix the various structural weaknesses that had arisen from Atlantis’s time on the ocean floor and from being bombed by the Wraith, but they hadn’t bothered to fix the smell. Maybe they couldn’t smell, or maybe they hadn’t gone down there. Either way, the smell was horrible. It smelled like an unholy combination of rotting fish, stagnant sea water, decaying electronics and that peculiar smell Ancient crystal gave off when they shattered. And to make matters worse, the smell got into your skin and clothes and took forever to get out. Yuck.
Another point in favor of the area they were currently exploring was that it had power. This made opening doors and clearing each room much easier because they didn’t need to pry any of them open. Conversely it also meant that their exploration was taking a lot longer because there were active consoles in some of the rooms they were looking in. Danny was making sure to access and read something on each of them, but so far there hadn’t been anything earth shattering to be found. They had made sure that the location of each had been recorded on the main City map for further review though.
The two of them were approaching a new room now and Jon took point, Danny watching his six, P-90 at the ready. Even though they were in the City and it had been cleared by Sheppard’s Marines, Jon wanted the two of them to get some practice in on entering unknown rooms. Waving his hand in front of the lock, he firmly thought ‘open’ at the door and as soon as it opened he went low while his partner cleared the high areas. “Clear.” Jon said quietly.
“Same here. Looks like there is another door on the other side of the room and one console. I can’t tell it’s function from here.” Danny answered back just as softly.
Nodding in agreement, Jon moved quickly through the room to stand to the left of the door. “Right. Reverse order this time, Danny. You need to work on the lower level stuff.”
The archeologist didn’t bother to argue, just took his place at the door and repeated Jon’s earlier actions. Moving swiftly the two men cleared each room in the complex including a large balcony. Finding nothing overtly dangerous or interesting in any of them, they moved back to the original room to check out the console which had been placed so it was front and center as a person entered.
Placing his hand on the housing of the console, Jon concentrated for a moment and felt the tingling rush of Ancient machinery powering up. He opened his eyes and smiled faintly as his best friend worked to understand this latest mystery. “So any idea what this place is?”
Already distracted by the Ancient script scrolling across the screens, Danny’s answer was both absent and pointed. “Not yet, Jon. Why don’t you go poke through the piles of stuff we saw in that other room? That should keep you busy for a while and you might find something interesting.”
“Right. Well, I’ll just be over there. Poking through the ten thousand year old garbage.” And pointing with the hand not on his P-90, Jon waved at the door leading to the other rooms in the complex. “Scream if you need me.”
The only reply he got was a grunt and an absent wave as Danny dropped into pure research mode. Jon watched for a moment and then turned back to his task with a smile, Danny was looking more and more like his progenitor with every passing day, but the relationship was just more noticeable when he was working on something that he enjoyed. Like ten thousand year old puzzles.
It didn’t take Jon long to find the mass of indeterminate stuff that was piled in one of the complexes inner rooms. Gently he nudged Atlantis to turn the lights up in the room so he would actually be able to see what he was going to be handling. Thankfully none of it currently smelled of anything objectionable and none of it looked dangerous either. Making sure that his gloves were on, he started sorting through the junk and quickly had three piles laid out.
In the first pile was the stuff that Jon was pretty sure was strictly garbage. There were slivers of shattered crystals, scraps of the fabric the Ancients used to cover consoles and perishable items, what might even be bits of an ancient rubber analog, clumps of what he hoped were dirt and pieces of the dead plants that had lined the hallways of the City when the Expedition had arrived. Into the second pile went things that he could identify: whole crystals, a slightly banged up LSD, a few sheets of that fabric, some of the fiber optic wiring that the Ancients used in everything and a few of the small data recorders that he had seen in McKay’s lab. The final pile was full of unknown items – most of which he wasn’t going to take the time to examine in detail. Well, at least not until he got everything sorted.
Once everything in the mass of undifferentiated stuff was divided into the separate piles, Jon took a break and did a quick check in with Danny. That got him a very distracted “Busy now! Quit fussing! I’m fine, Jon.” With that task out of the way, he started poking at his new toys. Many of the items in the pile were clearly some sort of electronic gadget and they all seemed to require the ATA gene to initialize. Since they didn’t seem to have any power, he wasn’t getting too far in figuring out their usage. Deciding to take a shortcut, Jon decided to lay out all the unknown items on one of the drop cloths until he came across something that let him know it still had some juice. Humming the theme song to ‘The Simpson’s’, he got to work.
It took less than two minutes for one of the knickknacks he was looking at to come alive in his hands. Prodding it gently, Jon tried to determine its purpose and smiled when it began to play a slow and gentle song, filling every corner of the room. Grinning at the sound, Jon listened to the song in its entirety. If he was asked to label it, he knew that he would call it a lullaby; it was that sweet and soothing. Deciding to share his discovery, he tidied up a bit and was on his way back to Danny when his radio chirped at him. Tapping the channel open, Jon called out a cheerful “O’Neill here. What can I do for you Danny?”
“Jon, I think I figured out what this place was. I think it was a crèche for the children here on Atlantis. There are records of caregivers getting newborns and the education the kids are to have. From one end to the other Jon, this was a place where babies went in and adults went out to take their place in society.”
Emergency meetings to discuss what an exploration team had discovered were not her idea of early morning fun, Elizabeth decided. But since their arrival on Atlantis she had been to far too many of them and had figured out ways to survive the ordeal. Food and strong hot coffee helped to get everyone in a decent mood and keeping the meetings short kept them that way. But this meeting looked like it was going to go long which meant that she was going to have to think of something to smooth over the inevitable ruffled feathers. Chocolate? Or maybe she should go straight for the whiskey that Jack had sent her and skip sharing it. Taking a deep breath, Elizabeth closed her eyes briefly and pushed the tempting thought away. She’d think about it in a few minutes because Rodney’s voice was hitting that note again…
“So… what? When people around here finally start producing kids, there’ll be a safe place for the parents to park them when all hell breaks loose in the City?” and Rodney’s hands seemed to punctuate the depth of his disgust with the Cities original inhabitants. “Well, it’s good to know that the Ancients actually placed some value on their progeny. Too bad they forgot to clearly label the place on the floor plans so everyone else could find it!”
“Did you know Rodney, that your level of snide and disparagement increases every time you talk about the Ancients in any capacity?” the words were as mild as milk, but pointed for all of their sweet and smiling delivery.
Rodney flashed the Colonel a look that screamed ‘Duh!’ in 24 point type, but he thankfully refrained from ripping into him for stating the obvious. Elizabeth was glad that the scientist’s mood could only be called peeved as he gave his report. Because when he was truly upset he would let his mouth run and use that as a way to bleed off some his tension. Raising a hand to her lips to hide their twitching, she nodded at Rodney to start his report.
Sighing deeply in an obvious play to show how deeply he was picked on by everyone, Rodney dropped his eyes to his tablet computer and then back up to meet hers. “Bruce Riley and the structural engineers have gone over the building and declared it sound and available for habitation, so we can explore it with some expectation of safety. Jackson, Radek and Major Lorne have been combing through the database using our friend HAL,” and here Rodney flashed an amused glance at John who smothered a chuckle, Elizabeth figured that she was going to have to ask one of them later to explain the reference. “And apparently they have found something interesting. Radek, Dr. Jackson, if you would be so kind as to share what you discovered with the rest of the class?”
“Thank you, Rodney.” Amusement, and dry sarcasm colored the Czech scientist’s voice as he caught the verbal cue Rodney had thrown. “Once we were able to pinpoint the exact tower Dr. Jackson and Lt. O’Neill found the crèche in, it was very easy to convince HAL to produce the plans for the tower. We were also able to get her to allow us access to the files so we could determine what the rest of the building was used for. Dr. Jackson is still translating them fully, but initial efforts show that there are two more floors above the crèche that are part of the same complex. Tentative translations show that the one directly above the explored level was used as a natal unit. What specifically a natal unit was used for is currently unknown, but…”
“Radek, stop.” And Daniel was looking faintly green all of a sudden. The linguist had kept his laptop open to allow him to work on his translation and had obviously found something that disturbed him. “From these notes, the floor above the crèche is basically a baby growing facility. It was in use by the Ancients until right before they abandoned the City. From the entry I am reading it seems that when the council made the decision to leave, Atlantis was directed to sanitize selected units within the facility and then place the whole thing into stasis once all the Ancients left the City. There are notes in here that show Commander Helia was looking into restarting the facility, but didn’t get a chance to before the Replicators came. So it has basically been sealed for ten thousand years.”
Leaning back in her chair, Elizabeth watched as Lt. O’Neill read the database entry over the scientist’s shoulder. For a moment Jon lost some of the control he had over his face and looked as disturbed at the information he was reading as Daniel seemed to be. Given that it took a lot for either man to show how badly they were shaken, it was obvious that the entry contained more than the reported information on the new facility. Elizabeth made a note to herself to read it as soon as possible. No matter how bad it was, it was information that might be needed one day. In the meantime… “Daniel, when you have that entry translated, please send it on to Dr. Beckett. Gentlemen, is there anything else in the database on the complex that we need to know about?”
At the sound of her voice, Daniel twitched slightly, as if she had startled him. “Uhm… there are notes that the floor above the natal unit was used for genetic research, but I will have to spend some more time on the entry to translate it. I’ll send it all on to Dr. Beckett as soon as I get it written out.”
Watching Carson as his face lit up, Elizabeth knew that the translation teams in the Linguistics department were going to be working overtime to keep up with the fascinated Scot. This was after all, his area of expertise. So anything the Ancients had discovered and recorded was going to be endlessly interesting to him. And possibly useful to the rest of Atlantis as well. “Is there anything else to add gentlemen?” She paused to see if anyone had something to add to what was already on the table. No one spoke, so it was time to close out the meeting and maybe hit some of her chocolate stash before she was tempted by the whiskey – it was way too early in the morning to reach for it anyway. “Right. Then I’ll let you all get back to work and I need to get started on my paperwork. Unless one of you wants to help?”
She was finally alone in the conference room moments later. Dusting off her hands with a smug expression, Elizabeth grabbed the last carafe of hot coffee, her cup and her laptop on the way out of the room. Time to go hunt down some chocolate.