One of the few good things you could say about the Ancients was that they had built things to last. While his current posting wasn’t exactly his idea of an ideal climate – being damn near freezing all the time, the structure of the outpost was still solid despite having over a mile of ice above them. On the other hand, the Ancients apparently had no real need for privacy because there wasn’t a door to be found in the whole place, just arches dividing the rooms. Aside from that, his time here had been intensely peaceful (read: boring), and he was able to make a difference… even if it wasn’t a big one. Flipping the page on yet another report, Colonel Steven Caldwell tried to pay attention to what he was reading.
Between one moment and the next, the lights in the outpost changed from the normal warm sunlit glow to a pulsing red. Unseen speakers started wailing out the Ancients version of a red alert siren. At the same time his radio screamed out a warning from the gene carrier manning the control chair. “Colonel! We’ve got bogies on the long range scanners!”
Dropping the unread report, Caldwell bolted towards the door, intent on getting to the Chair room so he could help direct their response. Tapping his earpiece as he jogged through the archway delineating his office he demanded, “Do we have an identity on the bogies?”
“They’re Ori battle-cruisers, sir! Two of them.”
Nodding to himself as he came around the corner to the Chair room, Caldwell took stock of the holograms projected above their heads. It looked as if the Ori ships were over twelve hours outside of the solar system’s heliopause and were moving quickly towards Earth. “Lt. Ralston, have you informed StarGate Command of our visitors?”
“Yes, sir. They’ve been notified. I’ve also gotten notice that the Apollo, the Odyssey, the Potemkin and the Iron Duke have all been informed and are making all possible speed towards our visitors. The Halifax reports that she won’t be able to make it due to her current location on the galactic rim and the Enterprise is unable to leave atmosphere, so she’s staying on planet.”
Taking command was such an instinctive thing for him now, as was making his will work through his subordinates. Despite not being on the bridge of a starship, the whole situation still had the familiar ebb and flow to it that he recognized and was a bittersweet reminder of what was lost. Pushing thoughts of the past away, Steven started firing orders to his small crew. “Thank you Lieutenant, make sure we are able to talk to the SGC. Captain O’Conner make sure that the SGC and the fleet is receiving a feed off our sensors. We want everyone to be using the same play book for this engagement.”
Hearing a round of “Yes, sir!” coming from both men, Stephen paused and looked up. The solar system was laid out in all its glory above him, and speeding across it were four Tau’ri ships. The men and women aboard them were all that was going to stand between Earth and the remainder of the Ori fleet. Speaking of the Ori fleet… “Captain, please have our sensors sweep the Ori vessels. If we can get an accurate read on them, pass all the information onto the fleet. Lieutenant, I need to speak to Colonel Ellis on the Apollo.”
“Yes sir, you’re patched through.”
Studying the symbols above him, Steven was glad that he had taken the time to really be conversant in written Ancient. It was a skill that was coming in very handy now. Crossing his arms against the lingering cold, he started talking to his fellow Colonel. “Abe, you have two Ori cruisers right outside the system. So far, we aren’t getting any readings that are out of the ordinary for them, but they do have their shields up. There’s been no attempt at communication from them but they have to know that we can see them. The Chair isn’t exactly all that subtle when we are looking at ships that far away.”
“Yeah, Steven, I see them. I’ll keep a channel open to you in case you see any changes in their status.” Waving a hand at his communications officer, Colonel Abraham Ellis flicked a quick glance over his shoulder in time to see the nod of confirmation. “StarGate Command, do you have any additional orders for us?”
There was a brief moment of silence from the SGC, and then the voice of General Balok came over the radio. “Your orders remain the same, Colonel. Keep them out of our solar system at all costs. The Ori cannot be allowed to take Earth.”
“Yes sir! We will do our best,” the Colonel acknowledged. Quickly switching communications back to the Antarctic base, Ellis rapped out an urgent question, “Steven, does the base have enough drones to be able to man an effective line of defense if things go bad?”
“We’ve got plenty, Abe. We can reach the outer areas of the solar system if we need to, so you will have someone watching your backs if needed. But it’ll take a while for the drones to make it that far, so we won’t fire them unless you tell us to. Drone time to target is currently fifteen minutes and decreasing.”
“Roger that. We’ll keep in contact. Apollo out.”
The mood in the command center at the SGC was somber. Everyone was watching six small lights on computer screens and the status bars that floated along side of them. Everyone was listening to the chatter of Asgard radios relaying a battle that was more than three light years away from them. And even though everyone was listening to the battle as it happened, they could do nothing to help.
Listening to the distant battle, as men and ships died for their world, was even harder than anyone had ever imagined. There was no enemy the listeners could shoot, no piece of technology for them to work on, no wounded for them to tend. All they could do was trust in the men and women who manned their small fleet and pray that they would be enough.
Suddenly, one of the blue lights started flickering madly. It was ten minutes into the battle and one of the red lights representing the Ori cruisers had gone dark minutes before, its status bars indicating catastrophic damage. The blue lights of Earth’s fleet were also showing damage to a greater or lesser degree… but one ship, the HMS Iron Duke, had started flashing faster and faster. The status bars beside its ominously blinking light showed that the damage done to her was nearly catastrophic. The only way for her to even have a chance to survive the battle was to leave it, but there was nowhere for her to go.
“Duke you need to pull out. The area above you is clear. Get out of the way!”
“Sorry old chap, not this time. This bastard is not going to have a chance to take out anyone else.” There was a pause as the listeners heard the captain take a deep breath and ask, “You have my men?”
“We’ve got them all Malcolm. Everyone. Please, try to get free.” The listeners, both near and far, could hear the pleading in the voice of Colonel Ellis for the commander of the HMS Iron Duke to listen, to turn back from some course of action that only the other ships could see.
“Abe, there is no other choice. The Odyssey can’t do this, you have my wounded and the Potemkin is keeping you all safe.” Ignoring how his voice was breaking, Captain Malcolm Pomeroy II continued, “You’ll talk to my wife, Abe? You will let her know that I did this for something important.”
“I will Malcolm.”
“As will I, my friend.” And though he was far away, Captain Horatio Anderson of the HMCS Halifax made the promise. Echoing behind his voice was the surging sound of every pilot and ship commander in the fleet, voices rippling outwards, all of them promising the same.
“Thank you. Well lads, apparently this bloody bastard hasn’t figured out when to give in and it looks like it is up to me to teach him. It won’t take more than a moment.” Captain Pomeroy said his good-byes with a stiff upper lip and his voice oozing determined British cheer. Never could it be said that one of Her Majesty’s Finest went towards his destiny without courage and honor intact. The distant listeners watched as the blue status bar for his ship abruptly dropped into the black. Even if the Iron Duke pulled out of the battle now, she would have to be scrapped, the damage too severe to be fixed. “See you lads on the other side.”
The dot that represented HMS Iron Duke moved quickly towards the remaining red dot. From the status bars and notations underlying the picture of the battle, the Ori ship was firing everything they had on the Duke. But against all odds, the Duke’s shields were holding. Then the two dots merged, and without a sound, were gone.