An application of Newton's third law of motion:
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard stood high on a hillside, near a steep river bank and looked around at the surrounding countryside. P6M-728, looked pretty much the same as any other one planet he had been on in the last two and a half years… except this one was in the Milky Way Galaxy and not in Pegasus.
He remembered hearing about the similarity from Ford, and a few other S.G.C. veterans, during their first year in Atlantis, but at that time it had only been of passing interest to him. Now, seeing the reality, it brought home to him just how much the Ancients had influenced both galaxies.
They were now approximately two miles from the Stargate and so far his team hadn't found anything interesting. They'd come through the gate just before the planet's dawn, sent the MALP back to the S.G.C. and, after taking some readings, started walking along what might once have been a road between some very tall pine trees.
He checked his watch and put on his sunglasses as the sun cleared the mountain range to illuminate the valley floor. The temperature was already quite high, even though it was still early in the planet's day, which did not bode well if they were walking, or working, out in the sun for any length of time.
He looked over his shoulder to make sure that Lieutenant Peters was keeping his eyes on both Bambus and Wallace who were further down the hillside, before reaching in to his tac vest for a pair of compact, digital binoculars, with which he could also take photographs; so that he could scan and record the terrain ahead and look for any signs of human habitation. He took a good, long look around, but there were no signs of any fields having been cultivated, and no smoke from a fire… though he admitted that a fire didn't really need to emit smoke to cook breakfast.
He then turned slightly and walked right up to the summit of the hill to get a wider view of the valley stretching away in the distance ahead of them. Before raising the binoculars to his eyes, he checked on his three team members again. Peters had moved closer to the other two, and John smiled wryly to himself. Peters was like Ford in some ways. He had some gate experience, like Ford, and was a Marine Lieutenant like Ford had been… but there were also differences, he was a lot older and not so near the beginning of his career as the exuberant young Lieutenant. He missed Ford… he had always hoped that his team, or another Atlantis team, would find the missing man and bring him home. Now that they had been exiled from Pegasus, he would have to let that dream go.
Peters, unlike Ford, seemed to lack drive. It was painful to see him struggle to exert his authority over the barely competent duo with which he'd been saddled as the third and fourth members of his team.
He turned further round to look back towards the Stargate and the rising land beyond it. Using this hill, the highest point along their route, to his advantage; checking out the lay of the land without having to walk it. Rodney would have approved. I'm also getting paranoid, he thought, as he checked on his new team, again… Bambus was still walking slowly along the river bank with the two soldiers keeping watch. So far, so good. Wallace hadn't managed to trip over his feet… yet. Raising the binoculars to his eyes, he searched the new direction for any signs of habitation.
They were due to spend at least one full day here, possibly two, depending on what they found… which would give his new team some experience of camping off world. They had left most of their gear concealed near the Stargate, since they would have to report in that evening whether they made the decision to stay, or not. All of which meant that Rodney would have arrived at his apartment by the time he got home. John was pretty sure that the only thing keeping him sane were Rodney's weekend visits…
Suddenly there was a shout behind him and John turned towards the sound and watched, torn between fascinated disbelief and horror, to see Bambus flailing around in the brook twenty feet below where he'd been standing, and Wallace in the process of going to his aid, tumbling in to the water after him. There were times when he wondered what he'd done to piss Landry off enough to saddle him with these idiots.
God, he missed having Rodney on his team, not that he'd ever admit that to anyone else; even though he did make jokes about it occasionally.
Stuffing the binoculars back in his tac vest, he walked quickly down the hillside at an angle which should bring him down to the river bank well below where Bambus and Wallace were inexorably being swept downstream from where they had fallen in. The place he was heading towards promised to be shallow where the river turned quite sharply and he could see that the bank had formed a dry, sandy spur out towards the middle of the flow.
He looked for Peters, and found the man had also seen the broad, shallow bar, and was heading towards it.
When he reached the sand bar, Bambus was slowly climbing to his feet, plucking at his sodden clothes with a sour expression on his face. Wallace, however, seemed to be having a problem; as he put his weight on his right foot he fell back in to the water with a pained shout.
Peters waded in to the water to help Wallace, while John gave Bambus a hand up the slight slope from the sand bar.
"It might be an idea to remove your boots and wring out your socks," John suggested once the botanist was safely on dry land.
"Thanks for the hand up, Colonel," Bambus replied, "And for the advice." He sat on a hillock and followed the guidance he'd been given, while John went back to see if Peters needed any help extracting Wallace from the water.
John went out on to the sand bar and got under Wallace's left arm which made it much easier for Wallace to hop, rather then try to walk, between them. They sat Wallace down on a rock, and John eased the boot and sock from the painful foot.
"I'm pretty sure the ankle is broken," John told him as he examined it closely. "Peters, let's have the med kit so we can bind this up until we can get back to the S.G.C.."
Peters shucked his backpack and extracted the necessary supplies. John quickly bound up Wallace's foot, then put the still wet boot back on to help support the ankle.
Once the clumsy duo had their socks and boots on again, John said, "Peters, take Wallace's pack. Bambus, I'll need you to help me support Wallace back to the gate. Let's go."
In his lab in area 51, Rodney McKay was feeling extremely bored. Nothing he could do here even held a candle to what they had been accomplishing on Atlantis, he sometimes felt that he was wasting his time even trying to recreate some of the marvels he'd seen and used while in the city; and he cursed the day they had found the Ancients and their ship in the void between galaxies. It would have been so much better for him, and the expedition as a whole, if he had simply ignored the anomalous readings and concentrated all his mind on the testing of the gate bridge.
His gloomy thoughts were interrupted by a light tap on the office's outer door which then opened to admit his bouncy personal assistant, Bridget. "Good morning, Doctor McKay," she said brightly. "A package has just arrived by courier for you." She placed it on the desk directly in front of him, then asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?"
McKay, shook his head, "No, not at the moment."
Bridget nodded and left, closing the door quietly behind her. After staring at the parcel for a few minutes he reached out and picked it up. Seeing by the doodled aircraft that the package was from John, he carefully peeled the tape away and opened the small box inside the wrapping paper. Tipping it up caused a folded sheet of paper and a bunch of keys to land on his blotter. Pushing the keys to one side he opened the sheet of paper which proved to be a letter dated yesterday. At the top of the page there was a printed address, complete with telephone number, in a fancy script, which caused him to raise his eyebrows.
I've finally found a place to live. As you can see (since I'm sure you will Google it) it's quite a way from the mountain, but so much better than the temporary accommodation that I was living in the last time you were over.
I've just learned that I'm going on a mission tomorrow, and could be away for a couple of days which is one of the reasons why I've sent you the keys. Feel free to make yourself at home if I'm not there. I'll let you know if we get back early.
Rodney shrugged. Frankly he hadn't been able to see why John hadn't liked the apartment he'd been using. It'd had two bedrooms, two bathrooms a fair-sized living room and a big kitchen. What wasn't to like? Ultimately, though, it was John's choice where to live, and he admitted he was curious to find out what had made John sound so upbeat about finding the new place.
On impulse he buzzed his PA and when she answered he said, "As I don't have any meetings today I'd like to travel to Colorado today rather than tomorrow. Can you see if there's room for me to change to today's flight?" Once Bridget had said 'Yes sir' he released the button and picked up the letter again. Turning to his laptop he Googled the address… he wasn't going to avoid doing it, just because John teased him about it… and saw that it was part of a gated community which, according to the blurb he was reading, was only recently completed and most of the homes were already sold. He was now intrigued, rather than just curious, to see what type of home John had chosen.
Just then Bridget interrupted his musings with the news that there was a seat available on today's shuttle to Colorado and that the ticket would be waiting for him at the desk - they would take his old ticket back at the same time.
£Okay," Rodney said. " In that case I'm going home now to finish my packing and I'll be back, as planned, on Tuesday."
"Yes sir," she replied. "Have a good weekend…." She released the intercom button as Rodney said, "I will."
He dashed a quick email off to John, letting him know he would be arriving today instead of tomorrow, and shut his laptop down. Then he quickly packed up his desk, let his deputy in the science lab know he was leaving early, and drove home.
In a flurry of activity there, he packed his case, told the security service he was going away a day early then called a taxi to take him to the airport.
Waiting at the gate on P6M-728, John was very pleased to hear General Landry tell him to 'come on home' after he'd sent his IDC through to the S.G.C. He supported Wallace, while Bambus and Peters threw their gear in to the gate room, then led his team home, Wallace limping, and groaning, at his side.
"Get your damned weight off your foot, you'll be fine," he told the whining man for what seemed like the millionth time.
At the bottom of the ramp he handed Wallace off to two members of the medical team, then almost groaned himself when Landry made an appearance.
The General looked at him for a moment then said, "Tell me you didn't engage the Ori, Colonel."
"We didn't engage the Ori, Sir." John dead-panned back to him. He gestured to the man standing immediately behind him. "Bambus here was inspecting some curious fauna when he discovered the ground underneath him wasn't stable. He fell twenty feet in to a babbling brook." He then waved a hand in the direction the medics had just taken the other man. "Wallace there was trying to help him get back up when he lost his footing and broke his ankle."
"Never thought I'd miss Rodney McKay being a member of my team."
Landry wasn't impressed. "Well, chemistry doesn't happen overnight. We'll debrief as soon as Wallace is out of the Infirmary."
"Yes, sir," John replied, then looked a little startled as the gate began to dial in behind him.
From the Control Room, Sergeant Harriman announced, "Off world activation."
Both Peters and Bambus hurried away for their post mission medical, but before John could follow them Landry said, "Hold on, Colonel. You may get a kick out of this." He led John from the Gate room and in to the Control Room. "This should be General O'Neill on his scheduled check-in from Atlantis."
"He went back, sir?" John asked.
"Woolsey needed a little back-up. Apparently the Ancients find him a bit trying." He chuckled when John gave a rather pained smile. "Imagine that!"
John wasn't sure what to reply to that, so he made a noncommittal 'Mmm!' sound. Landry went to stand in front of a large video screen, and John joined him there as General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey appeared on it.
O'Neill looked at them, then said, "General!"
"General!" Landry replied
O'Neill stared through the monitor, then asked "Is that Sheppard there with you?"
"Yes, sir," John replied for himself.
Woolsey, however, didn't acknowledge anyone, he just started giving his report. "Talks are proceeding at an acceptable pace; but the real news is that the Pegasus Replicators are heading back to Atlantis to make another run at the city."
"They are?" John questioned, unable to keep quiet at that news.
O'Neill wagged his eyebrows a bit. "No-one here seems to be that worried about it."
Landry beat John to the question this time. "Why not?"
"They're Ancients!" O'Neill replied with a look on his face with which John could sympathize.
Woolsey went on with his report as if there hadn't been an interruption. "Apparently these Replicators have a law in their base code that makes it impossible for them to harm their creators."
"And they're expecting to find us," John stated, knowing that part was aimed at the expedition.
General O'Neill took up the tale, "According to Helia, they're gonna run in to some kinda nasty surprise."
But Woolsey wasn't finished making snide remarks yet. "So you can pass it on to Doctor McKay that if you and he hadn't rescued the Ancients and returned Atlantis to their care…"
"… I'd have lost the city anyway," John finished the sentence for him.
"Right," O'Neill replied, not looking completely happy.
John smiled briefly back at them, but he didn't look, or feel, at all reassured by the news… something was bothering him. While he was still contemplating what the problem might be, O'Neill signed off, and the Gate shut down.
Worried, John turned to Landry and said, "Sir, I'd be happy to talk to you more about these Replicator guys."
"Naah, sounds like they've got everything under control," Landry brushed his offer aside and walked away.
"Yes, sir…" John replied, staring after Landry and still looking worried. "…I guess they do."
Gathering his wits, John made his way to the infirmary to get his after mission medical, and to check on Wallace. Once he'd been given the all clear, and talked to the medics who confirmed that Wallace did, indeed, have a broken ankle, he made his way to the commissary to have a late lunch before going to his office.
While he was eating, he made up his mind to check through the Atlantis mission report from their original contact with the Replicators, to see if there was anything in there that could be causing his concern. However, after he'd tapped in enquiry, he found that the reports had been archived and were not available without the okay from General Landry.
Still feeling unsettled, he went to Landry's office to see if he could get access. However, Landry denied his request stating that the reports had been reviewed, and there was nothing in them that he should be concerned about.
John accepted his second dismissal with fairly good grace, and went back to his office. He logged back in to the system, and checked his email. His mood lightened when he read Rodney's comments, and when he saw that Rodney was actually arriving today instead of tomorrow, he quickly wrote up his after action report and emailed it to Landry. He took the memory card from the binoculars, fitted it in to the appropriate slot in his laptop and then saved the photographs to the designated folder on the server. John then checked in with Walter to see if he was needed on base any more - and once it was confirmed that he was now free until next Monday, he packed up his things, signed out of the server, and went home - determined to meet Rodney at the airport so he could actually see Rodney's reaction to his new home rather than hear about it second hand.
Once he was outside the mountain, and on his way home, John breathed a sigh of relief. The feel of the powerful car under his hands a kind of balm to his soul. He'd been very tempted to get a bright red Chevy Camaro just to piss everyone off, but a voice in his head, which sounded very much like Rodney, had started muttering about penile extensions and mid-life crises. So, still feeling he needed to make some kind of statement, he chose the new Chevy Impala in a sedate black instead.
On arriving home he took a quick shower and dressed casually in a pair of black chinos coupled with a light blue shirt. Fairly soon he was on the road again making his way through the late afternoon traffic to the airport to surprise Rodney.
The first thing he did once he'd parked the car was to check the flight arrival boards to find out exactly when Rodney's plane was landing. Seeing that it was supposed to be on time, he made his way to arrivals and bought two extra large cups of coffee from the speciality coffee shop; then stood drinking his own while watching through the windows as Rodney's plane landed and off-loaded it's passengers.
John grinned to himself as he watched Rodney enter the arrivals lounge and then full out laughed at Rodney's expression when he realized that John was waiting for him.
Rodney's grin widened when he realized that John was holding out a large cup of coffee towards him. "Oh! Thank God," he murmured as he snatched the cup and took a deep draught. "The coffee on the plane was absolutely appalling."
"I made sure this one is all espresso - no added water," John replied. "Let's get out of the way and drink these in peace before I drive you home."
"Yeah, about that. I thought you were off… er… away from home until at least tonight - if not tomorrow as well."
John closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep, calming breath. "The clumsy duo struck again. Bambus fell in to a river and Wallace lost his footing trying to get him out and broke his ankle. So we came home early."
"Yeah, I've got quite a lot more to tell you, but all that will have to wait until we get home."
"That sounds… ominous."
John finished off his coffee, then shrugged. "I may be being extra pessimistic: I'll let you decide."
Rodney grinned then drained his coffee cup. "Come on, let's go!"
John grinned back and then led the way to where he'd left his car.
When they reached the parking lot, Rodney started looking out for John's car… and was puzzled when he was led off in a direction where there were very few cars, and none of them was anything like the somewhat beat up Land Rover that John had been driving the last time he'd been here, just over a week ago. When they reached a shiny black car, John opened the trunk and helped Rodney stow his luggage inside, before getting in the driving seat and starting the engine.
Rodney sank in to the plush interior, and fastened his seat belt as John slowly guided the car out of the lot. "So what made you decide to change your car from the old Range Rover you had?" he asked, once they were out of the airport.
"I started having problems with the gearbox, amongst other things, and I thought that although the Range Rover had given me good service over the years, it was time to let it die gracefully; especially now that I have a place of my own instead of base housing."
"Why the sudden move? Just a couple of weeks ago, you told me that you didn't want to move out in case you… we were able to go back to Atlantis soon."
John gave a one-shouldered shrug. "I realized that I was not doing myself any favours with the brass by being obstinate - so I made them think I was just holding out for the right place to come on the market. Actually, I think that the wait was one of the best ideas I've ever had, because I've found a house I think I can live in, and I think you will like it too. Actually, I think getting the house in a nice part of the town was the reason I wasn't too upset that I had to replace the Land Rover when it broke down again so soon after having it serviced."
Rodney laughed, knowing that John had, more than once, been urged by an S.G.C. shrink to move out of the temporary base housing and abandon his spartan lifestyle. This was his way of showing that he was perfectly all right. "You wouldn't have got that past Heightmeyer, you know."
It was now John's turn to laugh. "Yeah. Weitz went on, and on, about sulking in the dark under the mountain… which, of course I denied… but I guess in a way he was right. It wasn't sulking per se, it was that I couldn't decide what to do. For a while I was seriously considering transferring out of the S.G.C., just so that I could fly again… I miss flying a lot…."
"I know you do. Even I miss flying a jumper, and, unlike you, flying was never my passion. What made you change your mind?"
"Well, the Rover broke down just after you left, and I had to get a lift back to base… and without a car I was stuck on base while the car's problems were being assessed… and suddenly living there any longer wasn't an option. When the garage came back and said that basically the car was too old, and hadn't been maintained for years while I was overseas. So I told them to scrap it, got on line and had a look at the current crop of cars, and went to a few dealerships. They let me test drive a few of the models and I liked this one best.
"Anyway, while I was test driving one of the cars, I saw some housing which was just being completed. So, once I'd decided on which car I wanted, paid for it, and signed all the paperwork that came with it, I took a drive over to the sales office and asked to look around. The realtor was rather surprised when I asked to see this particular house… but was very pleased with the commission… and we're nearly there…"
Rodney took more interest in the surroundings. The roads were wide, a lot of the old trees had been left in situ when the houses had been built… the houses all had wide spaces between them, and a large back yard by the look of things. Most importantly, in his view anyway, the houses were not carbon copies of each other. They had been tailored to fit in the plot of land that had been allocated to them.
John turned a final corner, in to a short road that had houses only along one side of it. He drove along to the end and stopped outside the last house.
Rodney immediately saw why John had chosen it. The plot it stood on was almost wide enough for two of the houses, but, if they had tried to put two houses on it they would have looked squashed, so they had built only one… which sprawled in a sort of serif 'L' shape, and had a completely unobstructed view of Pike's Peak. He got out of the car and walked slowly up the drive towards the house, while John moved the car on to the property and parked the car outside the double, or maybe even triple, garage. It was hard to tell from this angle.
John retrieved the luggage from the trunk, and ambled towards the porch door. Following John though the outer door, Rodney discovered that there was a wide verandah along the front of the house with a balcony above, and it looked as if both also curved around to cover at least some of the opposite side of the house to the garages, too. Going through the house's main door he found himself in a fairly large, lofted lobby from which a staircase led to the floor above. John left the luggage at the foot of the stairs, and beckoned him forward.
"Come look at the rooms on the first floor, then I'll take you upstairs and show you the rooms we are going to use."
"How about we go and examine the master bedroom first?" Rodney interrupted, picking up the lightest item of his luggage. "I've been travelling for over six hours, and I want a shower and you…." He reached over and pulled John closer to brush a kiss on his lips. "I know it's only been two weeks since we were together, but I've missed you. So, shower, bed, and you," he stole another kiss. "You can show me the rest later: much later."
John laughed and pulled away. He picked up the rest of Rodney's luggage and led the way up the stairs, through the only door leading off the landing, and along a wide, sunlit passage. Halfway along the passage, he opened the first door they came to. "This is your official room," he said. "The other door at the end of the passage leads in to mine."
"Then why are we going in here?"
"Be patient and I'll show you," John replied with a grin, as he ushered him in to the huge bedroom, and locked the door behind them. He dropped the bags he'd been carrying on the floor, then walked through what was obviously a dressing room, to a very large bathroom.
Curious, Rodney followed, marvelling at the size of the rooms, and took special interest in the well appointed bathroom. He cocked his head when John locked the bathroom door behind them as well, then opened another door opposite, which turned out to be another large room with an airing cupboard for towels and linens, and a huge jacuzzi. He was surprised when John didn't stop, just walked through and opened the door on the other side… which led in to another bathroom, dressing room and finally another bedroom.
Laughing at Rodney's expression, John said, "I know, I couldn't believe it myself when I saw the plans. The door from your bathroom to the jacuzzi can be locked and bolted from my side only, but it gives us an almost secret way to get from one bedroom to the other."
"As long as we remember to lock the door to our bedrooms, and my bathroom. I wondered why you locked my doors when we came through."
"Well now you know…. So, wanna share a shower?"
Rodney just grinned, toed off his shoes and then started stripping off his sweaty clothes leaving them in a trail behind him as he walked back towards the bathroom.
John followed him, collecting the strewn garments, as far as the dressing room and dropped Rodney's clothes on one of the chairs. He then efficiently rid himself of his own garments, before following his lover in to the large wet room, and ducking under the already running shower.
Rodney was already soaping himself with one of the sponges, so John grabbed another one and scrubbed at Rodney's back for him, then started washing himself.
Rodney rinsed himself off, then turned John around to return the favour and scrub at his back. John did his usual cat stretch impression until he was pushed under the shower-head to rinse off.
John then pulled Rodney under the water with him, and initiated a searing kiss, nipping and licking his way in to his lover's mouth, and effectively silencing Rodney's protest that water was getting in his ears. Both of them were already half hard, and the heat of the kiss was enough to start Rodney rubbing himself off against John.
John pulled back, grasping the base of his cock, trying to prevent himself from coming. "I thought you said you wanted a shower then to try out the bed," he said breathlessly.
"A shower and you is more than enough for now…." Rodney pulled John back against himself and started nipping at John's neck and shoulders as he took both their cocks in hand and brought them to completion.
With his legs feeling like jelly, John leaned against Rodney who was propped up against the wall and only held up by his weight. As their breathing slowed, and their legs began to feel as if they had bones in them again; they parted slightly, still tightly holding on to each other, and let the water sluice away the evidence of their orgasms; happy just to be together and not wanting to let go for a while.
Then Rodney's stomach rumbled and broke the spell.
John stepped completely away, turned off the water, and padded across the room to take a couple of large, soft bath towels off the rack. Handing one to his lover, he dried himself, and then said, "Go get dressed in something comfy. Unlock your door, and as soon as I'm dressed we'll get something to eat."
Rodney nodded that he understood, then, having wrapped the towel around himself, left to return to his own bedroom - scooping up the pile of discarded clothes on the way out.
He couldn't help grinning when he passed the large jacuzzi on the way back. He and John could have some fun in that. He also checked that he, too, had a wet room as well as a bathroom. Leaving his smelly clothes in the laundry hamper, he went in to the bedroom to fetch his suitcase - unlocking the main door as instructed.
Back in the dressing room he quickly unpacked his suitcase and put most of his stuff in one of the drawers, leaving out boxers, jeans and a T-shirt to wear. He was just putting on his shoes and socks when John tapped on the outer door and came in.
Standing on the threshold of the bedroom, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and bounced slightly on his toes. "So what do you think of the house so far?" he asked.
Rodney tied the last lace and stood up. "I can see why you bought the place just by looking at the bedrooms - if the rest of the house matches up - well, it seems perfect."
"Initially it was one of the show homes. Apparently, the architect was originally going to live here once all the houses were sold. He planned to retire here."
"So how did it come to be sold to you?"
John pulled a sour face. "A drunk driver lost control of his car and ran up on the sidewalk. He killed five people, including the architect and his wife. Since they hadn't yet sold their old home, and hadn't actually paid a deposit on this house, it was immediately put back on the market. I was told that because of its size and the fact that it cost a lot more than the others approaching this size because of all the fixtures and fittings, it was very difficult to get anyone interested in it. According to Ms Wise, who showed me round, the fact most of the rooms were almost completely furnished, put them off as they already had their own furniture. As far as I was concerned, the fact that I wouldn't have to decorate and go furniture hunting was its biggest asset. No delay in moving in!" John guided Rodney back down the stairs and in to the hallway beyond the lobby. "As you can see, the builders had invested a lot of money in this house, way beyond what was normal for a show home on this estate, basically customizing it, because they wanted to please the man who designed the layout of the estate and all the houses which have been built on it."
He led Rodney in to the kitchen and opened the freezer. "Do you want one of these dinners, there's pizza as well, or shall I send out for a chinese?"
"One of the chicken and rice dinners would be great."
John took two dinners out of the freezer and popped them in to individual microwaves; programming each one to cook the meals. He put plates to warm in the oven and retrieved two bottles of beer from the fridge, then started laying out the cutlery and condiments on the table in the breakfast nook.
"Well, go on with the story," Rodney prompted him impatiently.
John gave one last look at the table, then sat in one of the chairs gesturing for Rodney to sit also.
"When I came along, they only had a couple of the smaller houses - and by smaller I mean four to five bedroom houses - and this one which, from what I gathered from the Realtor, was becoming a bit of a mill-stone around their necks. Originally I was going for one of the other houses on this street - I'd had the Realtor send me details of large houses for sale - but when I went to her office to arrange a viewing she already had a client with her. So, I wandered around the outer office which had a plan of the estate pinned to the wall. All but three of the houses had been marked as sold; the two four to five bedroom ones and this one. Looking at the location, and the obviously large size, I told her that as we were already due to look at one house on this street, I'd like to take a look at this one too. The rest is history."
"So what else does this place have apart from two sinfully large bedrooms and this enormous kitchen?"
"Well our bedrooms, and all the other rooms on this side of the house, all have great views of Pike's Peak. There's a living room, dining room, and a library cum office. Between the living room and the other wing of the house is an atrium which also hides the jacuzzi upstairs, there are five further bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom and dressing room. In the basement, there is the utility room, and a gymnasium, complete with an indoor swimming pool."
"It must have cost a fortune!" Rodney exclaimed.
John shrugged. "It's easily twice the size of the house down the street, and, Mister Nosy, it was nearly three times the price."
Rodney gaped at John. "But what if we go back to Atlantis? What will you do?"
"I'll put in some full-time staff and use it when we come back for reviews instead of staying in the damn mountain. I really hate being closed in there."
"That's actually a good idea. I'm not keen on being inside the mountain myself now; not after living in Atlantis anyway.
The pings from the microwaves broke in to their conversation. They retrieved their meals and emptied the containers on to the warmed plates, which they carried back to the table.
Rodney dug in quickly, as usual, then paused when the flavour of the meal registered. "This isn't a store bought meal. Is it?" he asked.
John swallowed his mouthful and shook his head. "No. I hired some part-time help. A couple who come in during the week to take care of the house and garden - they would become the caretakers when necessary; and a cook who also does the shopping. If I need anything extra I've arranged with her to write it on the mag-note thing on the fridge - so if you want anything just add it to the list. She comes either Tuesday or Wednesday, and she has also hinted that she's willing to cater any parties I might have." John laughed then, trying to imagine what kind of parties he might organize.
Rodney, too, laughed at the idea, then turned his attention back to the food. "So, what is it we are eating?"
"It's arroz con pollo, a chicken and rice casserole of which I am particularly fond. We've also got things like boeuf bourguignon; beef stewed in red wine, fish pie, shepherd's pie, and cottage pie - only one or two of each but enough to give me a choice, rather than having to make do. Oh, and before you ask, I impressed on her, and on the cleaners, that there is to be no citrus in the house at all, not even in things like polish or cleaning fluids. To introduce them to the house would mean instant dismissal - I had it written in to their contracts."
"Thank you." Rodney beamed at him.
John reached over the table and rested his hand on top of Rodney's. "You're welcome. I would really rather not see you have an allergic reaction ever again if I can do anything to prevent it," he replied. He then patted the hand he was touching and went back to his meal.
For dessert they had a variety of cheeses with crackers, and shared a pot of freshly brewed coffee.
While Rodney savoured his third mug of coffee, John cleared up the kitchen, quickly washing everything they had used, and putting it all away.
"Neatnik," Rodney teased when John returned to the table with a second mug of coffee for himself.
John just shrugged and grinned, used to Rodney's ribbing about it. "Come and sit in the living room for a while, it's more comfortable in there." He picked up a thermos of coffee and led the way in to the other room. After putting the thermos on the glass coffee table, he turned on some of the lights and drew the heavy drapes across the windows, shutting out the creeping darkness as the sun went down.
They sat and chatted for a while about items that had been in the news; some silly things that Rodney's minions had done and John told him the full story of the clumsy duo's fall in to the river on P6M-728.
After they had run out of trivialities to talk about, Rodney cleared his throat, then asked, "What was it you wanted to tell me about earlier that had to wait until we were here?"
John had debated with himself earlier in the evening as to whether he ought to bother his lover with his concerns about the news from O'Neill about the Replicators - but had eventually decided that as he had mentioned it earlier on Rodney would expect him to follow through, and would probably pester him about it until he gave in anyway.
Shifting his gaze to the silent television across the room, he took a deep breath, letting it out in a gusty sigh. "Well, after reporting to General Landry at the bottom of the ramp, I was about to go get my post mission medical when the Stargate began to dial in. The General invited me up to the Control Room because it was the time for General O'Neill to dial in from Atlantis."
"O'Neill! What's he doing there?" Rodney exclaimed.
"I pretty much asked the same thing… apparently the Ancients find dealing with Woolsey rather trying, so O'Neill went back to help out."
"It should have been one of us - Elizabeth would have been a much better choice-."
"Yes, Rodney. You and I both know that, but they don't want any of the former Atlantis personnel there. Anyway, after Landry and O'Neill had exchanged greetings, O'Neill noticed that I was present. He reported that the Pegasus Replicators were heading back to Atlantis."
"That's exactly what I asked, and I think I irritated Landry by not keeping quiet. O'Neill went on to say that the Ancients aren't worried about them because they have a law in their base code that makes it impossible for them to harm their creators. So, after some snide remarks from Woolsey about the fact we would have lost the city to the Replicators if we hadn't rescued the Ancients, they ended the dial in." He sighed, a slightly pained expression on his face. "I don't know why, but there is something about that report that makes me uneasy.
"I tried to talk to Landry about it, but he waved me off. Anyway, after I'd had my post mission medical, I decided to look up the after action reports from when we had our brush with them. However, I was not able to access them as they have all been archived and anyone wanting to view them has to have Landry's permission.
"I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask, so I went to Landry's office to see if he would grant me access - to no avail. Landry denied my request and told me that all the reports had been reviewed and that I should not concern myself with them. In other words 'go away, it's none of your business'."
He turned his head to look at Rodney, then asked, "Am I right to be concerned, or am I worrying about nothing?"
Rodney shrugged. "We left copies of our reports, detailing our interaction with the Pegasus natives, including the Replicators, which they assured me they would read. I don't see that we could have done any more than that. They created the Replicators after all."
"So I am being paranoid."
"Maybe, maybe not. The fact is that having experienced the whole hand in the forehead thing any mention of them is likely to make me a bit paranoid myself."
John nodded, and relaxed slightly. "You're probably right." He suddenly yawned and looked a little abashed. "Sorry, I didn't get much sleep last night as dawn on P6M-whatever - is almost in the middle of our night - originally we were supposed to stay there all day and report back via the Stargate on whether we were staying overnight. We had enough gear with us to stay there if necessary."
Rodney's lips quirked as he got to his feet. "Let's get some sleep. You're tired, and I'm tired after over five hours of travelling in sardine cans and waiting in noisy airports. We'll both feel better in the morning."
In answer John held out his hand and allowed Rodney to pull him to his feet. "Yeah. Okay."
They returned the coffee thermos and the mugs to the kitchen and filled them with cold water, then went upstairs, putting out all the lights as they went.
"Don't forget to lock your door," John reminded him as Rodney went in to his bedroom. Once he'd heard the lock click in to place, John went in to his own room and locked his door too. He undressed, put on his night clothes and cleaned his teeth on autopilot: he was just climbing in to bed when Rodney walked in to the room. They met in the middle of the bed, and with a chaste kiss settled in to each other's arms and went to sleep.
When Rodney woke up the next morning, he found that John was, as usual, spooned up behind him, even though John's head had been on his shoulder when they had gone to sleep. Needing to pee, he slipped out of bed, used the facilities, and then washed his hands. By the time he got back to the bedside, John was doing his starfish impression, so after dropping a light kiss on his head, Rodney headed back through his room and then downstairs to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. Once the coffee was ready, he took another thermos and two clean mugs from the cupboard and went back upstairs in to John's bedroom.
Placing everything on the table on 'his' side of the bed, he poured out the coffee and wafted a mug near John's nose. Sleepy green eyes half opened and John rolled over enough so that Rodney could get back in to bed with him.
John stretched, then sat up and wriggled backwards, pushing up the pillows as he went, until he was resting against the headboard. He then turned sideways to give Rodney a peck on the cheek and took his mug of coffee as he leaned back with a contented sigh. "Thank you."
Rodney leaned in to give him a kiss. "You're welcome."
They sipped their coffee in companionable silence until both mugs were empty, then they gravitated towards one another and started kissing… sliding slowly towards the horizontal as the kissing and nuzzling moved further down each body… to neck, to nipples. Rodney following the black furry trail down John's body with kisses and licks, while John arched upwards and stroked his hand down Rodney's spine to caress the firm globes of his magnificent ass.
Rodney swallowed John down, and John whimpered and whined, and tried to reach Rodney's erection which was trapped against his shoulder. Rodney rolled over and sat up which allowed John to grasp his cock and start to slowly move his hand up and down. Rodney didn't stay still though, his got up on hands and knees to scrabble in the drawer of the bedside table for the lube which he knew must be there…
When he triumphantly turned back to John, his lover just spread his legs, in a mute appeal to which Rodney was happy to say yes, with lubed fingers to stretch him open… and when John started to whimper and moan again, he slicked his cock and worked his way inside the hot, tight hole, pulled John's legs over his shoulders and settled in to a rhythm that he could, and had, sustained for a long time…
John, however, had learned to short circuit his plans if he wanted to, and started to stroke himself and clench his very strong ass muscles to encourage his lover to move faster - not that Rodney was going to object… his brain whited out as they both came and he collapsed to one side, turning John with him, and with John's legs still wrapped around him.
After a while, John had to move, he arched his back and pulled his legs from under and over Rodney. Groaning slightly, he moved them until they both had their heads on the pillow, and held Rodney close, nuzzled in to his neck… aiming for a little more rest before they got up to face the day.
Then the phone rang and they sprang apart like guilty teenagers, which made Rodney crack up laughing while John answered the phone, trying hard not to laugh himself. "H'Lo?"
John listened for a moment. "Oh hi, Carson. How are you?" he said, glaring at Rodney. "It's just Rodney doing his hyena impression." He cast an eye at the alarm clock beside the phone. "You have? That's good. Yes, okay, see you later."
When he finally managed to stop laughing, Rodney asked, "What did Carson want? We're still seeing him for dinner tonight aren't we?"
"Yes, we are still seeing him for dinner. Apparently he bearded the lioness in her den this morning and had arranged to pick Elizabeth up to bring her along too. I wonder how he managed that."
"Probably wouldn't take 'no' for an answer. He can be so damn persistent sometimes that eventually you find yourself saying 'yes' to whatever it is he wants you to do."
John laughed. "Yeah, I've been on the wrong end of one of those talks a few times too." He looked at the clock again. "I didn't realize that I'd slept so long; I don't really sleep well any more when you're not beside me."
Rodney nodded. "I sleep better when we are in the same bed, too." He started to lean in towards John when his stomach rumbled. "Why is it always my intestines which interrupt our romantic trysts?" he complained, looking at the offending portion of his anatomy - when it rumbled again.
Then John's stomach joined in the chorus. "I think I'd better get us some brunch to assuage our manly hunger."
Rodney thwapped him lightly up side the head before getting out of bed again. He picked up his mug and padded away towards his bedroom. "I'll see you downstairs."
John had his shower, shaved, and got dressed in record time, though he only beat Rodney to the kitchen by a little more than a couple of minutes - just about enough time to rinse the thermos and mugs.
Rodney took over the task of making fresh coffee - and toast when he was handed a loaf and pointed in the direction of the toaster, while John scrambled eggs, cooked sausages, beans, and bacon, and sautéed potatoes.
After the initial feeding frenzy of quieting hunger pangs, Rodney asked, "So, do you feel any less paranoid this morning?"
"Marginally, perhaps, but I think that may be more due to the fact that you are here to share my worrying, and also we can bounce ideas back and forth." He knew that he was feeling happy at having Rodney by his side so they could exchange snide remarks.
"Ideas? What type of ideas do you have in mind?"
"Well, the worst case scenario is that the Ancients are wrong, and the Replicators don't just turn around and go away. Would they… could they find a way past the city's shield?"
"Now there's a scary thought. Since they had a shield over the city they flew towards Atlantis I would say they knew rather more about shield technology than we do. Probably as much as the Ancients do."
"Ohhhh-kaaay," John grimaced and dragged out the syllables. "The Replicators have 'lived' - existed the ten thousand years between the Ancient's retreat to Earth and our arrival - Captain Helia, and the crew of the Tria, have not. We can't be sure that the Replicators haven't developed technology to circumvent in some way, or found a way to batter through, the city's shield."
"Aren't you a ray of sunshine today."
"Sorry. It was probably something along the lines of these thoughts that were making me want to read our after action reports…" he trailed off in to a thoughtful silence - still, slowly, making his way through the food on his plate.
Rodney turned his attention to his own meal. He wasn't entirely comfortable with John's sudden silence, but he wasn't about to interrupt it either. If anyone knew the value of single-minded concentration on a problem, he did.
John's preoccupation lasted through the rest of the meal and the cleaning up afterwards. Only once the last plate was put away did John break his silence.
"Let's make ourselves comfortable, I have some questions I would like to ask you," John said, leading the way out of the kitchen and in to what the architect had meant to be the library. "I haven't got many books and they would look a little forlorn in here, however, it does provide somewhere separate to keep my paperwork and my laptop." He gestured to the group of over stuffed, high backed arm chairs by the window. "Take a seat," he invited, setting an example by sitting on one of them himself.
Rodney sat. Then, unable to keep silent any longer, asked, "What's on your mind, Sheppard?"
John gave a wry smile at the unusual use of his surname, but decided to ignore it for the moment. "As you know, I'm still a little worried about O'Neill's message. If we did need to mount a rescue, would you still be able to get past the Stargate's shield?"
"Yes. I left the back door there and didn't tell the Ancients about it…. Why, what are you thinking?"
"Bear with me, depending on your answers I've got at least a couple more questions for you." John took a deep breath. "The first, and most important one is: Can the Puddle Jumper they have here at the mountain control Earth's Stargate?"
"Not without modifying the S.G.C's dialling program - but that wouldn't take long. I've already been given, er, well actually, I gave myself access to the programs the last time I was in Bill Lee's lab…. He needed some help while we were still being debriefed after our return from Atlantis, and I was feeling bored, so I hacked around their systems for a while…. So, yes I have the necessary access to modify the program-."
John smiled indulgently at the typical Rodney justification babble. "Okay," he interrupted, "Last question: The macro you wrote for the gate bridge… does it have to end in Atlantis, or can we come out somewhere else in Pegasus?"
"Yes, we can come out somewhere else. Do you know the address where they sent Teyla and Ronon?"
John smirked. "Yes. It was in one of the first reports that Woolsey sent back, so I made a note of it." He reached out for the decorative box on the coffee table between them, which Rodney belatedly realized was a puzzle box, when John started pushing pieces until it yielded up its prize - a small piece of paper with a gate address written on it in block capitals. He handed it to Rodney, who got his PDA from his pocket and transferred the information to the contacts directory. He then returned the scrap of paper to John who hid it back inside the box.
"I assume you would like me to get these ready as soon as possible in case we have to use them." He raised an eyebrow at John who grinned back at him, making puppy-dog eyes. "Oh stop with the eyes, I'll admit I'm as concerned as you are about the Replicators. Do I need to go in to the mountain, or do you have a broadband connection here?" Rodney asked, getting to his feet.
John's grin widened. "Yes I have broadband, and the whole house is networked to it. There's an Ethernet port in every room. The network password is: Capital N, zero, four, two, c, three, two, five, Capital H, three, r, three, exclamation point." He spoke slowly enough so that Rodney could input the information on his PDA.
Rodney looked at it for a moment, then said, "Cute, John, very cute." He started laughing, and when he had finally recovered his breath, he went on, "Even knowing you as well as I do, I would never have guessed that. You certainly haven't made it easy for just anyone to get in to the network."
John laughed, too. "I wanted something that was easy for me to remember, but fairly difficult to guess."
"I think you've achieved that objective quite well." He got to his feet. "I'm going to fetch my laptop so I can work at your desk… and you can keep me supplied with coffee."
"You've got a deal," John replied with a grin.
Three hours later, after four pots of coffee, and a trip by John to the local mall where he bought a very large suitcase on wheels, a whole list of items from a computer store, and bags of coffee from the speciality coffee shop he patronized, Rodney tucked an SD memory card in his wallet, and gave another card to John to put in his wallet… "Just in case," he said.
John just smiled back at him, his shoulders relaxing slightly… at least they were ready. All they had to do now was to charge up all the batteries and then pack their gear in to the large suitcase. The last thing would be to put it in the trunk of the car before they left the house for their dinner engagement that evening.
John had booked a table at Piper's Restaurant for eight o'clock. They had showered, shaved and dressed in smarter clothes before leaving the house, and arrived at the restaurant with nearly half an hour to spare. They went in to the bar area and sat in a position to watch the main entrance, both of them sipping at a glass of beer.
With only five minutes to go before eight, they were just debating whether it was wise to drink a second beer when Carson and Elizabeth arrived. There was a round of handshaking by the men, and hugs from Elizabeth, and then they were being escorted to their table.
They talked of what they had been doing since they last met, and John told Carson and Elizabeth about the clumsy duo that had been assigned to his gate team. Elizabeth laughed until tears leaked out of her eyes at his description of their tumble in to the river, and the subsequent abandonment of the mission. He even told them, in a very quiet whisper, about General Landry's question concerning the Ori, which elicited chuckles from not only Carson and Elizabeth, but Rodney as well.
They were on the dessert course when Elizabeth looked Carson straight in the eye, and asked, "Have you seen Laura Cadman recently?"
Carson shook his head. "No. I dinna think it was a good idea; she has her own team now."
Still chewing on a mouth full of fruit, John said, "You should call her."
Rodney made an "Mmm" noise, agreeing with John.
Carson shook his head again. "Who me? Call Cadman?"
Elizabeth grinned. "You guys did make a cute couple."
"It didn't work out. May have something to do with our first kiss being through Rodney!" Carson mock-glared at Rodney accusingly.
Rodney grimaced. "Oh! I thought we made a solemn vow never to speak of that again!"
Carson just grinned at him. "I remember no such thing!"
Elizabeth stirred in her seat as if suddenly uncomfortable. "You know what? It's getting late."
"Since when do you sleep?" John asked, sounding surprised.
"Since I got back. I've got a lot of catching up to do. But it's been lovely seeing all of you again," she replied, then putting a hand on Carson's arm, she went on, "Thank you for getting me out."
John interjected, "No, we should thank you. You're taking us to dinner, right?"
"Cheeky!" Elizabeth tried to sound scandalized, but spoilt it by grinning.
John's cell phone, which he had put on the table, started to ring. As he reached to pick it up, another phone started to ring. Rodney rummaged in his pockets and took his phone out as John answered his.
Then a third phone started up. Elizabeth reached in to her handbag as Rodney answered his own.
Elizabeth retrieved her Blackberry from her bag and looked at the screen. The message read, "Incoming call — N.O.R.A.D." Following the others' lead she answered it.
Carson patted at his pockets, then said. "I didn't bring my bloody cell phone with me. What's happening?"
The message to John, Rodney and Elizabeth was very short; an automated voice asked them to report to the S.G.C. as soon as possible.
John relayed the message to Carson, and then arranged with him to drive Elizabeth there, while he dealt with the bill.
Carson tried to protest that he should contribute to the cost of the meal, but John waved him off. Carson capitulated with fairly good grace, then escorted Elizabeth from the table and out to his car.
John called their waiter over and went up to the pay desk with him, explaining that he had been unexpectedly called in to work, and would have to leave straight away. The Maitre d' was very accommodating, and had the bill sorted out, and John's card charged within a few minutes. After thanking him for his help, John and Rodney made a bee-line for John's car.
Even with having given Carson that much of a head start, John still managed to catch up with the other car before it reached the main security check point.
Once all four of them had been given clearance, and had parked the two cars in their allotted spaces, they found a Marine Lieutenant waiting to escort them to the briefing room where General Landry was waiting for them.
When they were all seated at one end of the table, Landry picked up something from a side table and walked across the room to stand at the opposite end of the table from them. "We got this data burst about twenty minutes ago," he stated without preamble.
He activated the remote control he had picked up, and a recording began to play on the wall screen. Jack O'Neill appeared on the screen, broadcasting from Atlantis' Control Room. The recording was of poor quality, filled with static and there were several moments when the image broke up completely.
"Atlantis is under attack from Replicators," O'Neill reported. "Somehow they figured out how to override their programming. The Ancients were taken off guard and have lost most of the city already."
Woolsey, who was standing behind O'Neill, suddenly turned towards something off camera and fired a pistol at it several times.
O'Neill hurriedly said, "Request immediate evacuation!"
Woolsey turned toward O'Neill. "They're coming!"
The screen blanked out. Landry then turned to the other four people in the room, who had watched the recording in horror.
"They never made it to the Gate," Landry said gravely. "I was informed they had a law written in to their base code that made it impossible for them to harm the Ancients. How the hell did this happen?"
Elizabeth and John both looked over at Rodney.
Rodney looked unsettled. "It is remotely possible that in trying to rewrite Niam's base code, I … uh, we may have opened the door for them to make other changes."
Landry was outraged. "You did this?!"
John interrupted before Rodney could say anything more. "All this was thoroughly detailed in our after action reports, Sir. When I spoke to you about them yesterday, Sir, you assured me that they had all been reviewed. We also left a copy of that report with the Ancients on Atlantis, so I respectfully submit that we did everything we could to forewarn that there might be problems."
There was a pregnant silence, in to which Elizabeth said, "Under the circumstances prevailing at the time, General, we thought it was the only possible way to save the city."
John's mind had already moved on. "How it happened doesn't really matter now. For all we know they may have changed it on their own. The question is: how do we fix it?"
Landry still didn't look very happy. "That's why I called you in. I have my orders. The Daedalus is already on the way. Now, what I need from you is…." He activated his remote control again and a schematic of Atlantis appeared on the screen. "What's the best way to get a nuke past the shield?"
The former Atlantis command team stared at each other, appalled.
Carson was the first to recover the use of his vocal chords, "Well, I have no idea."
Landry scowled at him. "I didn't call you in, Doctor."
"You're going to use nuclear weapons on Atlantis?" Elizabeth asked incredulously.
Landry turned his scowl on her. "It's the gateway to Earth."
"And we have an iris!" Rodney retorted.
Landry didn't seem impressed. "Yes, we do, but thanks to your Intergalactic Gate Bridge, all they have to do is rewrite your macro and they can come out anywhere in the Milky Way."
Rodney shrugged that off. "Yeah, but those macros are very complicated."
Landry was getting angry now. "They are very complicated, Doctor McKay. They just rewrote their own damned base code! I think they can handle it."
John tried to calm things down. "Sir, General O'Neill and Woolsey may still be alive. Now, I know the city like the back of my hand. Just give me sixty marines and some of Colonel Carter's new, um…"
"… Anti-Replicator weapons," Rodney reminded him.
"Yeah, those things."
Landry didn't let John get any further. "I'm sorry, Colonel. I have standing orders. They happen to be General O'Neill's standing orders. The Daedalus will be there in a little under four days. Now, how do I get a nuke past their shield?"
Rodney leaned back in his chair and considered the question carefully. "My first reaction would be: 'with great difficulty' unless you can sneak up on them before they can raise the city's shield."
"You should be able to do better than that, Doctor McKay."
Rodney shrugged. "Hermiod and I ran quite a few tests on the shield, and he wasn't able to penetrate it, even though we only had one ZPM running it. He came to the conclusion that only continuously firing at it would be enough to eventually wear it down, which I had pretty much guessed at the time of the siege by the Wraith, when the Daedalus came to our rescue. The Replicators, though, know how to make Zero Point Modules, and I'm betting that they now have three of them powering the city."
"Also, if you recall, Sir," John said, trying very hard not to sound snide, "In another of our after action reports, which would have been submitted about a year ago, it was proved that the gate shield could also withstand a nuclear blast."
Landry decided to totally ignore John and concentrated his gaze on Rodney instead. "I'm told you are one of the brightest minds in two galaxies, Doctor. I suggest you prove it and find a way for the nuke to get past that shield."
Rodney got to his feet, anger in every line of his body. "Oh, for God's sake! Haven't you been listening at all! If Asgard technology can't pierce that shield, then nothing is going to get past it."
John got to his feet, too, and put a restraining hand on Rodney's arm. "Sir, might I suggest you take another look at the strike team idea-."
Landry looked at John, and said, "Get him out of here." Then the General turned on his heel, and left the room.
John let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding. "Come on," he said, "Let's go to my office and get you some after dinner coffee."
Still red-faced and seething, Rodney allowed himself to be dragged away from the conference room and in to John's office.
John sat him down in his comfortable desk chair, and made a pot of coffee from a secret stash he kept in one of the cupboards. "Sorry, I don't have any other chairs in here… I don't get many visitors," he said, as he distributed mugs of coffee.
"So what are you going to do, Rodney?" Elizabeth asked.
Rodney looked at John and raised an eyebrow at him.
John nodded back, then said, "Rodney and I were talking about this earlier on today, after I had told him about O'Neill's message that the Replicators were approaching Atlantis, and how uneasy it had made me feel. We made a plan to get back to Pegasus using the Puddle Jumper… what we didn't expect was for our suggestion to be rejected out of hand. I was hoping, expecting even, to lead a team of marines in to the city, with the help of Ronon and Teyla."
"Yeah. Landry's an idiot," Rodney said sympathetically. "He wouldn't know a good plan if it sneaked up behind him and bit him on his fat ass!"
John hid a grin at Rodney's staunch support for him, while Carson and Elizabeth laughed outright at the aptness of the latter part of the remark. He cleared his throat, then said, "Okay, fun time over guys. We need to come up with a plan of action based on being able to use the Puddle Jumper they have stored here. Rodney, I think your first task is to go take a look at the Jumper and make sure that it's ready for flight. If you take Elizabeth with you, she can act as lookout, and your alibi for being there, if you need one. After you've made sure of it's flight status, perhaps you could visit the armoury and get us as many ARGs as possible. Meanwhile, Carson and I will get packs together of medical and other supplies that we might need; I'll collect the stuff we left in the trunk of my car, and I'll also pick up conventional weapons, and spare ammunition, for all of us. Once we've got the Jumper in the Gate room I don't want any stops until we reach New Athos, not even at the Midway station, Rodney, so please make sure the macros will run as close to consecutively as possible."
"Any comments or additions?"
"I have a suggestion," Rodney said. "There's a store room, just outside the Jumper's hangar. It would probably be best if we put all the supplies we are collecting together in there. That way no one should stumble over them by accident. Then, when we're ready to go, we can quickly move them in to the Jumper while you're powering up and doing the pre-flight checks. I'll lay down a marker where I think it would be best to put our things."
John grinned and pointed at him, "That's a good idea; just make sure that it's unlocked when you go to check on the Jumper. Does anyone have any other suggestions?"
"I've got a comment", Rodney said, "Landry is not going to be happy with you."
"Landry never seems happy with me. As you know, I tried to talk to him twice about this and he just brushed me off. I always get the feeling when dealing with the General that he doesn't like me very much; and I really have no idea why that should be."
Elizabeth cleared her throat to get their attention, then said, "It may well be because General O'Neill and I put his nose out of joint. He was making plans for Colonel Caldwell to take command of the military in Atlantis. O'Neill and I both felt that you had done an excellent job and deserved to keep your post, the President agreed."
"Well, thank you for your faith in me," John said grinning at her. "And that kinda makes sense of the way he's been treating me." John shrugged any further thoughts aside on that subject. "He's probably going to be even more upset with me by the time we leave the S.G.C. tonight."
Rodney looked concerned. "John, are you really sure that you still want to do this without Landry's okay? You could get in to big trouble."
"Yes, I am going to do this because it's the right thing to do. Even if we don't manage to save O'Neill and Woolsey, we must attempt to take back the city, because ultimately it's Earth's best defence against any Wraith incursions in to the Milky Way… and if we get it back we might even find a way to defeat the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy before they even get that far." He shrugged again. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. I'm certainly not going to worry about it now…. Anything else?"
"Not at the moment," Rodney said with a grin, picking up the laptop he'd left in John's office earlier, "I'll soon let you know if I think of anything."
"Okay then, before we go, I think we should have the bare bones of a viable plan in place… or at the very least, an idea of what we don't want to do. Mainly, in case we find we need something we haven't already made plans to collect."
After a few moments of silence, Rodney spoke up. "What about using that Replicator we ejected in to space…"
"Niam?" John questioned.
"Yes, him. We could collect him from where we left him, and, while he is still frozen, re-program him to over write the base code of the Replicator invasion force."
John looked sceptical. "How close would we have to get him to the city before his code could over write theirs?"
"Very close!" Rodney stated emphatically.
John took a deep breath and narrowed his eyes. "And by very close you mean what? Five miles? Two miles?"
Rodney winced. "Inside the city probably."
"You want to take a Replicator, who has already tried to kill one of us, on to the Jumper and then in to the city in the hope that your program will be strong enough to over write theirs."
"No, Rodney, I'm not willing to take that risk for two reasons: the first is that we would have to decompress the rear compartment of the jumper, and not everything we are taking will fit in the storage bins, nor will there be room in the front compartment. Secondly, even if I did agree to pick him up, what happens if he comes to life and you can't control him…? We face having to use an uncontrolled decompression to get rid of him again, and stand to lose gear we need and possibly people as well! Think of something else."
Rodney looked downcast as he carefully considered John's objections. "Yes, you're right," he agreed, "It's not worth the risk. However, at the moment, I'm coming up empty."
John raised an eyebrow. "Come on, Rodney, you're the answer man…."
Rodney lifted his shoulders up to his ears, and then lowered them slowly, indicating that he really could not think of anything else at the moment. "You think of something," he challenged.
"Ohhhh-kaaay." John frowned, then said. "Let's think this through. We've already decided that we have to take the Atlantis gate shield down at the start of the mission, as it's the only way we can get the team on to Lantea…. At the same time I think we should knock out the Control Room in some way, so that we don't show up on their sensors, something that will keep them occupied for a while. We will need to make the most of that time before they can see us again."
"We can't land in the normal Jumper Bay because it's above the Control Room, so I suggest that we either land on one of the piers, there are plenty of small courtyards which would be just large enough for the Jumper to land; or we could use one of the larger balconies which would put us closer to the city's centre. The second option, though, does make it more likely that the Jumper would be found… one of them only has to walk in to it…."
Rodney slowly nodded. "I would be inclined to go with the first option, too. Also, whatever we do to disable the control room would have to be made ready and/or be fitted to the Jumper on New Athos. We can't spend too much time in the hanger here."
"I'll have a look round the armoury while I'm in there collecting the A.R.Gs, I am sure I can find something that would be useful in there."
John couldn't help laughing at the last comment. "I'm sure you will." He held up a finger for quiet, and stood deep in thought for a few minutes, then asked, "Is there any way we can blast the city with an anti-Replicator field… like when I dropped an overloading naquadah generator over the city to destroy the nanites with the EMP field?"
Looking at the floor, Rodney scratched his head, then said slowly, "Okay, I doubt that any EMP blast we could generate would be strong enough to disable them… but it has given me an idea. Let me ponder on it for a while… In fact, why don't we get everything together, because I want to take a closer look at how the A.R.Gs work." He bounced on his toes for a moment, a grin lighting up his face. "I might be able to find a way to amplify the nanite disrupter beam in some way: In fact, I'm pretty sure that I will be able to do that." He clapped John on the back. "It's at times like these that you show that there is a brain under all that hair."
John mock scowled at Rodney before he asked, "Any more questions or suggestions?" Elizabeth, Carson and Rodney all shook their heads. "Okay then, we'll meet up in the storage area in one hour at the very latest. I want to get away from here as soon as possible. If we delay our departure much longer we risk someone wondering why we are still hanging around here."
Rodney nodded and touched Elizabeth on the arm, indicating that they should go.
After Rodney and Elizabeth had left, John said, "I'm going to collect the stuff from my car and I'll drop it off at the Jumper store before I meet you in your office, Carson."
"Okay, lad. See you later." With that, Carson left John alone in his office.
John picked up a key and some other items from the back of the bottom drawer of his desk, then left his office, locking the door behind him. No one challenged him when he went up to the parking level and took a heavy, wheeled suitcase from the trunk of his car. As the case had already been checked through security at the main gate, the guards just saluted and noted his presence in their log. Going back down to the S.G.C. levels, he went in to the locker room and retrieved, and donned his tac vest, thigh holster, and his hand gun. From the other vests hanging up he selected another five. He then took everything he'd collected so far to the storeroom that Rodney had suggested, and easily recognized where he was supposed to put his booty. From there he went to Carson's office, and helped the Doctor finish packing up an off world medical kit, and when they were ready they carried the three cases to the storeroom and checked on what had already been secreted there. Taking a folded up duffle bag out of his pack, he left Carson sitting on one of the cases, while he went out to collect the final items of weaponry they would require.
A short way along the corridor from the store room, he opened an emergency door, and climbed up two levels. He inched open the door to make sure the coast was clear, before going out in to the corridor. One of the arms caches of conventional weapons put there in case of invasion, was right next to the stairs. He quickly opened up the cabinet and took out five hand guns complete with thigh holsters, four P-90s and extra clips of ammunition for both types of gun. He also picked up a satchel of C4 just in case they might need it, and some other goodies stored there also 'just in case'. Packing everything he'd taken in to the duffle bag, he returned to the store room the way he had come.
The first place Rodney led Elizabeth, was to one of the main engineering labs where he picked up a spare laptop, then they made their way to where the Jumper was stored, one level up from the Gate room.
They checked inside the bay and were relieved to find that the hanger was empty. Rodney left Elizabeth there and went back out to the hallway and quickly unlocked the store room door. He checked inside, and secreted the laptop he had taken from the lab, and made sure that his hiding place wasn't too obvious, then moved a couple of the items on the shelf in the front left corner of the room to form a sort of arrow and left a fifty cent piece on the floor. That done, he looked around and felt satisfied that John would easily recognize where he intended that they should put their purloined goods.
Then he went back in to the hanger to check the Jumper over; just to make doubly sure that Bill Lee hadn't broken it again. He connected up his own laptop and ran the standard diagnostics that he and Radek had developed on Atlantis, and when they all came back green he breathed a sigh of relief. He unplugged the laptop, put it in standby mode, and left it in one of the empty storage bins in the back of the Jumper. He then joined Elizabeth at the door to the hanger where she was keeping watch.
"The Jumper checked out okay, so it's time we raided the armoury," he murmured quietly.
Elizabeth nodded her agreement. "It's been very quiet so far. The regular patrol went past here five minutes ago, going that way." She pointed in the same direction in which they were going to go.
"Let's be on our way then."
They walked at an even pace to the armoury, and then Elizabeth kept watch while Rodney picked the lock. She then followed him inside when he'd got the door open.
Rodney, having been shown where the A.R.Gs were kept when he been given a demonstration of how they worked, went straight to the cabinet in which they were stored, and took out a complete row, then locked the cabinet back up again.
He and Elizabeth then evenly distributed the weapons between two carrying cases. Then he carefully inspected the rest of the ordnance in the room, picking up items that interested him; always with a view to making a 'distraction' as John had called it. Finally he had enough parts and stuffed them in to the case he was going to be carrying.
Picking the heavier case up, he motioned to Elizabeth to pick up the other, then they eased open the door, and after checking that the corridor was empty, they walked quietly back the way they had come, letting the armoury door automatically lock behind them.
When they reached the storage room, he and Elizabeth dumped the A.R.G. cases on the floor, then went to raid the commissary for some bottles of water, packets of salt and sugar, and anything else they thought they could carry away without raising any eyebrows. Fortunately, there were very few people around, and no one took any notice of them when they walked along the counter with a tray each, filling them up as they went from one end of it to the other, then left.
John and Carson's final foray was to where the MREs were stored. They helped themselves to enough of them to feed eight people for two weeks. If everything went as planned they shouldn't really be on their own for even a week, but with both Rodney and Ronon along it was never a good idea to underestimate how much food to take with them. By the time they got back to the store room, the other two members of the strike team were already waiting for them. Rodney had a laptop open and was transferring information from a USB drive on to it.
Not wanting to disturb Rodney, John spoke quietly to Elizabeth, and asked, "Did you get everything?"
She nodded, and asked just as quietly, "Did you?"
"Yes, we did." John replied, "And as soon as Rodney has finished what he's doing, we can move all this stuff in to the hanger and lock the doors behind us."
"I'm done," Rodney announced a couple of minutes later. He dismounted the flash drive, leaving the laptop still running, and walked in to the hangar and connected it to the S.G.C. network, ran a program, then disconnected it again.
They quickly moved all their gear from the store room in to the hangar, and Rodney locked both doors behind them. Since all the storage bins in the back of the Jumper were completely empty, they didn't have any difficulty finding space to get most of the small items of gear safely stowed away, just the large crates and cases had to be left on the benches, and the floor. John then made sure that everyone had their thigh holster on correctly, that the handgun in it was fully loaded, and their spare ammunition was tucked away in the pockets of the tac vest they were wearing. Only when he was completely satisfied that everyone was ready did he power up the Jumper.
Rodney plugged in his laptop again, and set up the macro ready to run as soon as the gate was open.
"I'm ready," Rodney reported, then hurried back outside the Jumper to the hanger's own computer terminal. He pulled up the screen which showed an image of the Stargate and the message 'Idle'. He entered a Gate address, then called out to John. "You set?"
"Go for it."
Rodney activated his command, and then ran in to the Jumper.
In the Gate room, the Gate began to dial and Sergeant Harriman, who was manning the control desk, looked up in surprise.
"What the hell?" he exclaimed, then quickly activating the tannoy, he broadcast, "General Landry to the Control Room immediately."
Back in the Jumper, Rodney reclaimed the seat behind John, and said, "Okay, they'll be able to get through my hack pretty quickly."
John smirked. "It's all right… I don't need much time," he replied as the activated the Jumper's controls.
In the Control Room, General Landry walked up behind Harriman, and asked, "What's going on?"
"I don't know, Sir. The Gate just started dialling on its own."
Landry looked incredulous. "It doesn't do that!"
"I know that, Sir."
Then the Jumper glided down from the ceiling until it was opposite the open wormhole.
"Close the iris," Landry ordered the frantically typing Sergeant.
"I can't, Sir."
General Landry was not amused. "Find a way Walter!" He then called out to the Jumper, "Colonel Sheppard, stand down! That is a direct order!"
Before he could finish the sentence, the Jumper had moved in to the wormhole and the Gate had shut down behind it.
Harriman looked up at the General and asked, "Do you want me to try to find out where they are going, Sir?"
"Don't bother. I already know." Landry replied. "Dial the Midway Station." He waited impatiently until the wormhole had stabilized, then spoke in to the microphone. "Colonel Sheppard. I'm going to assume that you're still at the Midway Station waiting for Doctor McKay to rewrite his macro. I understand what you're doing, Colonel. Hell, I'll even call it brave." His voice began to rise. "But if you don't turn that ship around immediately and come back to the S.G.C., I'll see to it personally that your career in the military is over."
In the Jumper they got a view of the Midway Station for a few seconds, then they were on the move again. Some ten minutes later the wormhole from the Milky Way side opened… but the intended recipient of General Landry's message was no longer there to hear it. A short time after the Midway station's Milky Way Gate had shut down, the Jumper exited the Gate Bridge on New Athos.
As soon as the Jumper cleared the event horizon on New Athos, John switched on the cloak, and activated the sensors. They did a sweep of the settlement and the surrounding area, before he selected a spot to set the Jumper down - hopefully where no one would accidentally walk in to it.
John powered down the Jumper and opened the back hatch letting in a light breeze which carried with it the smell of wood smoke and cooking food. He ushered his passengers out, then used the remote to lock the hatch shut. Taking point, he led the way towards the village and made his usual joke, "Don't forget where we parked."
Carson and Elizabeth both laughed, but Rodney shot him a sour look - which was totally lost in the current lighting conditions, but John grinned in his direction anyway, because he knew from past experience what his lover's reaction had been.
They paused when they reached the edge of the trees to get their bearings, and accustom their eyes to the brighter levels of light created by a large fire with a pot of bubbling stew hanging over it; quite obviously the source of the appetizing smells which had been wafting towards them.
Even while they stood there, Teyla and Ronon left a nearby tent, and walked towards the fire. They appeared to be having quite a spirited conversation, but were still too far away for them to distinguish actual words.
As Ronon turned to walk back towards the tent and Teyla turned to follow him, John started forward and said with a slight smile on his face, "That smells great."
Teyla and Ronon turned towards them in surprise, as John led Elizabeth, Carson and Rodney out of the darkness towards them.
While his former team mates were still bereft of speech, he went on, "Hope you saved some for us."
Teyla was the first to find her voice. "John! It's wonderful to see you… all of you!"
"And you." Elizabeth answered for them all.
"We missed that… whatever that is." John went on, pointing towards the pot on the fire between the two groups.
Ronon looked at the four people from Earth closely, then stated, "Something's wrong."
Teyla nodded her agreement to Ronon's statement. Backing towards the tent, she said, "Come inside, all of you. Let us eat, and you can tell us what brings you here."
"Thank you, Teyla, we would be honoured to share your meal," John replied as he followed her and Ronon, in to the tent.
Once they were all inside the brightly lit tent, John stated, "The Replicators have invaded Atlantis - I'll tell you how that happened later. We have brought some Anti-Replicator guns with us - they are called an A.R.G. for short".
"Do they work good?" Ronon asked.
"I'll show them to you," Rodney told him, as he opened the case of weapons and picked one out. "They emit a directional energy beam that disrupts the connection between nanites."
Ronon took the gun from him. "Not what I asked."
Rodney grimaced. "Uh, yes. They work good."
"Good." Ronon commented as he lifted the gun and sighted along it. "So you need us because we know our way around the city?"
"I need you because you're part of our team," John replied.
"There may be hundreds of Replicators on Atlantis by now," Teyla said, being understandably cautious.
"We've got a plan," he said, "A good one. I wouldn't ask you to come with us if I didn't think we could do it."
Elizabeth added her two cents. "Also, General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey were both on Atlantis when the Replicators attacked. There's a chance they're still alive."
"I'll be damned if I'm gonna let a bunch of Replicators take our home away from us," John stated, then asked, "So… you with us?"
Ronon looked over at Teyla. She returned the look, then they smiled at John, who smiled back.
All decisions now made, they sat down to eat their meal at one end of the long rectangular table. There was a huge platter of Athosian bread in the centre of the group, and a large bowl of stew each.
During the meal John and Rodney took turns to tell them what they knew about the Replicator's attack on Atlantis.
John, of course, told them all about his aborted mission to P6M-728 and its fortuitous consequence of allowing him to be in the S.G.C. Gate Room when General O'Neill dialled in from Atlantis with the news that the Replicators were approaching, and that the Ancients weren't worried about it, because they had written some law in their base code which meant they couldn't harm their creators.
"I admit I was concerned," he said, "Not only because we had fiddled with Niam's code in an attempt to over write the code of all the other Replicators, but also because they have 'lived' the ten thousand years since the Ancients left this Galaxy - and although the crew of the Tria had come forward ten thousand years in time, because of the relativistic time spent travelling at near light-speed - they had not actually aged more than a few years. They hadn't had any time to make any technological advances."
"I attempted to speak to General Landry about the Replicators twice. The first time was while I was still in the Control Room just after talking to General O'Neill, but the General was sure that the Ancients had everything under control."
"Later on the same day, I decided to access our After Action Report on M7R-227, the Replicator home world. I found that all of the Atlantis reports had been archived off the server, and to access any of them I needed General Landry's permission; which I sought, but my request was denied with the comment that all the files had been reviewed, and there was nothing in them that I should be concerned about." He finished the last few bites of his meal.
"So, getting back to the plan," John went on. "We intend to create a diversion and knock out the sensors and find out if O'Neill and Woolsey are still alive. We then land in the city and find a way to wipe out the Replicators… Rodney says he has a few ideas on how to do that."
Rodney nodded his agreement. "Before we leave new Athos for Atlantis there are some modifications that I need to make to the Jumper to carry out the first part of our plan. The rest I'll tell you as we go along… it will be far easier to show you than try to describe it now."
"So when do we start?" Ronon wanted to know.
"As soon as we've all finished eating," John told him.
"Do you need us to supply you with anything, John?" Teyla asked.
"I can't think of anything. Elizabeth has the list of the things we brought with us. Why don't you take a look at it together and see if you can spot anything we might have missed."
"I shall be happy to do so," Teyla assured him.
After they had finished their meal, Rodney, accompanied by John and Carson, went back to the Jumper to work on the control Room disruption weapon; while Teyla, Elizabeth and Ronon read through the list of items they'd brought from Earth and see if they needed to add some things to the Jumper's inventory.
Teyla immediately suggested they take some of the Athosian stout tea, a few loaves of bread and some of the sweetmeats which were made in the village and had been much sought after by the people from Earth.
By the time they had finished updating the list, John had called to say that they were nearly ready, and that if they entered the Jumper they should be careful as Rodney had the floor up at the moment.
When they approached the Jumper, the first thing they noticed was that the cloak was no longer active, and they could see Carson holding a large powerful light, and both John and Rodney kneeling on the floor with their arms elbow deep in to a hole where the gratings had been pulled aside.
"How are you getting on?" Elizabeth asked.
"We're almost done," Rodney replied, then said, "John, let go with your left hand… yes, that's okay. Now, let go with the right…. Careful!" He lifted his own hands away then checked something on his laptop's screen. Then he looked up at John and grinned. "We just need to replace the floor and we're ready to go."
"Great!" John sounded relieved. "You can put the light down now, Carson. Thank you for holding it still for so long."
"Thank God for that. I was worried my arms were going to fall off," Carson replied, switching the light off and placing it in one of the bins. He then stretched his arms and rubbed both them and his legs to get the cramp out of them.
John stood up and looked at Teyla and Ronon, "Are you ready?" he asked.
"We are ready when you are," Teyla replied, while Ronon just said "Yeah!"
"Come on then, climb aboard and let's get this show on the road."
John helped Teyla, Ronon and Elizabeth, put the bundles they had been carrying on to the benches in the rear of the Jumper, then took his seat in the pilot's chair. The others took their places: Rodney was beside John this time, with Carson and Elizabeth sitting in the seats directly behind them; Ronon and Teyla having decided that they would rather travel in the rear compartment.
John moved the Puddle Jumper close to the Stargate and set it to hover while Rodney worked on his laptop, now connected to the D.H.D. console at the front of the craft.
Rodney checked over everything he'd done, then said, "Okay, I think I've loaded up the G.D.O.. It'll lower the shied when we dial."
John looked pleased. "Go for it."
"All right," Rodney looked round at everyone for a moment, then said, "Dialling Atlantis." He punched in six symbols on the D.H.D.. "And…." He hit the final symbol, and the Stargate kawooshed in to life.
Rodney studied his laptop for a moment. "That's confirmation. The Gate shield has been lowered."
"I hope this little plan of ours works." John commented, grasping the controls tighter and looking across at Rodney.
"Ah, you and me both."
With a determined look on his face, John sent the Jumper in to the event horizon.
As the Replicators aimed their weapons at the open wormhole, the Jumper burst through the Gate and smashed in to a Replicator who had just run down the stairs and he fell underneath the craft. The other Replicators fired at them but with the shield raised they were unable to do any damage. Rodney touched the button that shut the Gate down.
Whilst he kept the Jumper hovering just in front of the stairs, John activated his radio. "Authentication code Alpha Six Delta Charlie Niner. General O'Neill, Woolsey… do you copy?"
In a dark corridor, Jack activated his radio. "Sheppard? Is that you?" he queried.
"Yes, sir. I need to know if you're anywhere near Stargate Operations."
"No, we're not." Jack replied, wondering why he was being asked.
"That's good. Can't talk right now, sir. I'll get back to you in an hour or so. Sheppard out." John deactivated the radio and turned to Rodney. "Drop the package."
Rodney touched some controls, then reported. "Package is… away."
"Hold on." John warned everyone.
Everyone braced themselves. As the Replicators continued to fire, John threw the Jumper in to reverse, sent it back through the Stargate and smashed through the giant window behind it, leaving a black box on the floor where the Jumper had been.
In the Control Room, Talus, who apparently was the Replicators' leader, turned to Cetus, his second in command and said, "Follow me." The two of them hurried from the Control Room.
Down in the Gate room, Replicators cautiously approached the black box. It was beeping ominously. As they walked closer, the rate of beeping began to increase until it was an almost continuous tone.
The Jumper, having smashed its way out through the Control Room's window, flew backwards away from the city just as the top of the tower exploded. Inside the Jumper, the team stared at the devastation in front of them. Elizabeth allowed herself a small smile
John just shrugged and said, "That went well."
The Jumper slowed down and it's engine pods deployed. It started to go forwards again, flying past the burning tower and up in to the sky as if heading towards the mainland.
John brought the Jumper down to sea level and turned back towards the city.
"It's good to be back… however, briefly," Rodney remarked, as he stared out of the windscreen.
Carson looked queasy. "I feel like I'm going to be ill," he said.
"Don't be," Ronon said grimly.
Elizabeth was more sympathetic. "Alright, just take some deep breaths, Carson."
"Should we not have informed General O'Neill of our plan?" Teyla asked, sounding puzzled.
"He knows we're here. We'll contact him again as soon as we've secreted the Jumper and we're inside the city."
"Well, that is gonna be easier said than done. With all those hits we took, it's gonna be impossible for me to convert the shield back to a cloak." Rodney stated.
John shot him a look. "And by 'impossible', you mean…?"
"I mean 'not possible'. What do you think I mean?" Rodney replied a bit peevishly.
"Well, hopefully we took out the sensors when we blew the tower."
Elizabeth leaned forward to speak to Rodney "You said they could rebuild remarkably fast. How long do you think it will be before they can restore critical systems?"
"At a guess I'd say a couple of hours."
"Plus the painting and redecorating," John quipped.
Rodney ignored John's remark and completed his reply to Elizabeth. "If we time this right, this could work to our advantage."
The two Replicators who had left the Control Room when the Jumper had dropped the box on the floor, walked in to the Auxiliary Control Room.
"We far outnumber them. If we conduct a search…" Cetus said.
Talus wasn't impressed. "We will be able to locate them more effectively once repairs are complete."
"The damage was severe. We had to dismantle our ship to provide the raw materials," Cetus reminded him.
"Once repaired, Atlantis will be all the ship we need."
"There was a transmission from the Gateship to someone here in the city. If we can capture them, we would have the others at a disadvantage," Cetus argued.
Talus considered the suggestion. "I agree. Send out a small search party and concentrate the search on that part of the city where the sensors were already damaged, since that is the only way they could have hidden from us."
As the Jumper approached the nearest pier, Elizabeth asked, "How far away do you think the Daedalus is?"
"Judging from what Landry said in the briefing room, it's probably about two to three hours from showing up on the long range sensors," Rodney replied, as John eased the Jumper down a very narrow gap between buildings to land in a courtyard.
"Why did you choose here?" Elizabeth asked, as she eyed the closeness of the walls.
"One, because unless you're actually in one of these buildings you can't see the courtyard; there aren't any sensors that cover it. Two, there is a transporter here which, until they get the sensors back on line, we will be able to use. And three, there are some labs here which Rodney can use to check the status of the sensors before we set out." He opened the back hatch, then got to his feet. He, Ronon and Teyla left to look around.
John was back at the hatch a few minutes later. "Nothing has been touched here. We're good to go, Rodney."
Rodney nodded, disconnected his laptop from the D.H.D. console and followed John in to the building immediately behind the Jumper. He quickly connected it up to the console in the lab and checked the sensor status.
"Everything is down. No sensor data at all. The transporters are working." He typed on the keyboard in silence for a while, then said, "I've isolated the transporter system so they won't report any use of them until the sensors are back… I won't be able to control them after that."
"Can you tell if the Control Chair is still working?" John asked, peering over his shoulder.
Rodney quickly typed another enquiry in to the system logs. "Yes, it is. Why do you want to know?"
"I was just thinking that if it was active we'd need to be very careful if we had to move the Jumper for any reason, especially once the sensors come back."
"We'll just have to try to make sure we don't have to move it," Rodney replied, snippily.
"So, what now?" Ronon asked, hefting his A.R.G.. "Do we just blast every replicator we see?"
"No, no, no!" Rodney cried in alarm. "In fact we need to try to avoid shooting them at all."
"If we shoot too many of them they could work out the frequency we're using and become immune. What we are going to do is sneak around the city and modify the shield emitters. The shield will still function, but they will also be sending out a blast from the Anti-replicator crystals contained in these A.R.Gs. There are a total of ten emitters, so we'll all go to the nearest one and I'll show you what to do." He turned to John. "Did you pick up those bricks of C4 I worked on?"
John lifted up a bag which he'd placed by his feet. "They'll all in here," he confirmed.
"Good." He brought up a schematic of Atlantis on the screen and highlighted the ten emitters. "As you can see the emitters are evenly spaced around the city. John brought us as close to this one as we could reasonably get and still keep the Jumper concealed. So that's where I will be showing you what to do. Teyla and Carson will then go and do these three emitters; Elizabeth and Ronon will do these, and John and I will do the final three." He powered down the laptop and then picked up his A.R.G. "Let's move… time's awasting."
John led the group out of the lab and along the corridors to the first shield emitter. He pointed out the layout from the closest transporter. "All the emitter stations," he said, "Are in close proximity to a transporter for obvious reasons." He then went through the doorway in to where the emitter was housed.
Once inside, Rodney opened the crystal tray and, after removing the crystal, handed his A.R.G. to Carson, and placed the crystal in a slot. He then took out a block of C4 with it's connecting cable. "Now, I need to show you how to do this, so listen carefully. You slide out the crystal tray, take the crystal from the Replicator weapon, you place it in the third slot from the right. Third symbol from the left activates the crystal tray." He pressed the third symbol on the front of the tray and it slid shut. "Clear on that?" Everyone nodded. "Great."
The team moved back towards the transporter they'd passed, ready to break into smaller groups.
"They are bound to find one of our groups working on the shield emitters," Teyla stated.
"I already thought of that." Rodney replied, smugly. "That's what the C4's for."
"We blow them up?" Ronon guessed.
"No. We feed them misinformation. If you're caught, whatever you do, don't think about the crystals, think hard about blowing up the emitters with the C4…. To them we must appear to be a strike team, here to take out the emitters so the Daedalus can nuke the city."
"Got it McKay," Ronon bared his teeth in a feral grin.
"That's a good plan Rodney," Teyla complimented him.
"To be fair, most of the plan is based on an idea John had before we left the S.G.C., only the implementation is mine," Rodney replied with a fond smile at John.
John grinned back, and said. "Thanks." He turned so that he could see them all. "Ronon, Elizabeth, you take the transporter first, then Teyla and Carson. Rodney and I will go last. Once you guys have made all your alterations, avoid using your shiny new toys even if that means getting caught. Okay?"
Elizabeth and Teyla both looked at Ronon, wondering if he could restrain himself, and Ronon frowned back at them.
Ignoring the byplay, John said, "Good luck, guys." He watched closely as the other two teams entered the transporter in turn. Then as he and Rodney stepped inside, he grabbed his lover's tac vest, pulled him in close, and gave him a quick kiss on the lips… "For luck," he said, then touched the map for their first destination.
They were just finishing the first emitter on their list, when John's radio activated.
"Sheppard!" O'Neill said in a loud whisper, his voice barely audible over the sound of gunfire in very close proximity. "We've been discovered. Don't contact us again." Then the radio went silent.
John and Rodney looked at one another.
"Fuck!" John exclaimed. "I had hoped that they would remain loose. However, and I really hate to say this, we could use their captivity to our advantage. If we can find them, we could pretend to attempt a jail break, and tell O'Neill and Woolsey about planting the C4 to blow up the emitters…. I'm pretty sure that O'Neill could hold out against them, but Woolsey would give up the information without much of a struggle."
"I was just about to suggest the same thing, John. Replicators like to be smug, and they would accept the lie from them without question. Because why would we lie to our own people?"
After trying three cells in the lower levels, they eventually found where O'Neill and Woolsey were being held.
"Okay, here's what we will do. We'll both go in, then…. "
Inside the holding cell, Woolsey was asleep sitting on the floor in the corner and O'Neill, who also seemed to be asleep, was curled up on the bench.
The door opened behind the two Replicator guards and John shot them both with his A.R.G.
John then left Rodney working on the keypad, while he kept watch outside. In between working, Rodney mentioned the plan to plant C4 in the emitters so that the Daedalus could nuke the city.
Neither O'Neill or Woolsey seemed to be enamoured of the plan.
However, Rodney assured them that they all should be able to escape in the Puddle Jumper between the time the shield went down, and the Daedalus arrived.
John, who was listening to their conversation just outside the door, waited until Rodney had reached the end of the plan, then ran in to interrupt. "We got company," he informed them. "Sorry, Sir, we'll have to come back for you."
"No-no-no-no-no-no, we can't leave them here. They know too much," Rodney informed him.
John frowned at him."What'd you tell 'em?"
"Uh, uh, I mean, they guessed most of it."
John smacked him round the head and growled, "What, and you filled in the rest?!"
"I thought I would have time to get them out of here." He turned to Woolsey and O'Neill. "Look, just forget what I said."
O'Neill gave Rodney a look of disbelief. "Sheppard, get out of here while you still can. That's an order."
"Sorry it has to be this way," John apologized.
"Yeah, I get it. Go."
John and Rodney hurried out of the holding area and Jack closed his eyes in resignation as Woolsey sat down on the bench.
"So… we're back to being vaporised," Woolsey moaned.
Once they were out of earshot of the cell, John said, "General O'Neill didn't buy it, but I think Woolsey did."
"Well, that's good, right?"
"Yeah." John hadn't liked doing that, even though it was a necessary part of their plan.
They headed off in the direction of the next emitter station they needed to modify. When they got there, Rodney quickly started on the modification while John kept watch.
As he attached a block of C4 by a cable to the emitter, Rodney said, "Okay, that should do it."
"One more to go…."
"…and it's all over but the crying," Rodney finished for him.
"Hopefully them, not us," John replied, still thinking back to their visit to the holding cell.
As the crystal tray slid back in to place, a loud noise came from somewhere above them and they both looked up.
"What the hell?" Rodney exclaimed.
Then a sound like an engine being powered up could be heard. Rodney hurried across the room to a wall panel. "No wonder they didn't come after us. They've been busily repairing the city."
John looked up again as the engine noise got louder. "What is that?" he asked.
"They brought their Zed.P.Ms to power the star drive."
John was pretty sure he knew what that meant, but he asked anyway, "So that sound is…"
"The city is about to take off. Time to start crying," Rodney confirmed John's suspicions.
"They'll still have to activate the shield to take off, won't they? We got most of their emitters."
"Yeah, 'most' ain't gonna cut it. For this plan to work, it is all or nothing."
"What do they want to fly around for," John wondered.
"Maybe they wanna fly home, back to their home world."
"And take on the Daedalus." John was worried. "How are we gonna stop 'em?" he asked, almost shouting.
"Well, I…" Rodney trailed off, unable to think of anything that they could do.
John suddenly got an idea, he pointed at Rodney, and said, "Drones. You said the Chair was active."
"You wanna fire drones at the city? We're nowhere near the Chair," Rodney grumbled.
"But Teyla and Carson are." John reminded him, as he took out his radio and activated it.
Somewhere near the Chair Room, Carson stared in horror as he talked to John on his radio. "You want me to do what?"
"Carson, just do what I say."
"All right, I'll give it a try," he replied sarcastically, "But no apologies if I happen to destroy the entire bloody city."
John replied with studied patience. "Star drive, Carson. Concentrate on the Star drive."
Carson sighed, "Right."
John continued talking, "And Teyla, you may have to fight your way in."
"I'm ready, Colonel," she replied.
"Use your A.R.G. sparingly. They may build up an immunity. You may have to go to plan…" he stopped to think. "B."
"Okay…" Carson sounded puzzled. "Which one is that again?"
John and Rodney exchanged eye-rolls.
"Never mind, just go," John told him, then shut off the radio.
"Do you think they'll make it?"
John nodded. "Yes, I think so. Teyla will get them through, plus they do have surprise on their side… and we had better get to the last emitter on our list, since we made a side trip to visit with O'Neill and Woolsey, the others are probably finished already."
They went back to the transporter and, just after they exited in to another corridor, there was the sound of three explosions just above them. Seconds later, the shock wave swept over them pushing them off balance.
"I guess Carson managed to hit the star drive…" John said as he pushed himself away from the wall.
"Yeah," Rodney replied, rubbing the shoulder that had collided with the wall. "That's gonna bruise," he muttered as he went through the doorway which would give them access to the emitter's crystals. He made the modifications while John watched, then as the tray closed, he turned to John to comment. But then a look of horror crossed his face and he raised his hands as several Replicators come in to the room and pointed their stunners at him and John.
"And I was so sure we were gonna survive this one," John quipped.
John suppressed a sigh as he and Rodney were roughly divested of their weapons and tac vests.
He had hoped that they would not get captured by the Replicators before the Daedalus arrived in orbit, but with all the sensors back on line it had been impossible to hide, even impracticable as they needed to complete their part of the plan as quickly as they could. So they had thrown caution to the winds, they had almost run through the halls to reach the last of the emitters. He had to conquer an almost overwhelming urge to laugh when the enemy had finally caught up with them - seconds too late to stop them from completing the modification to the final emitter on their list.
When their captors were satisfied that they were completely unarmed, he and Rodney were frog marched to a holding cell where the other members of their very small strike force were already being held.
As he and Rodney were being hustled and then thrown roughly in to the cell - so roughly in fact that John lost his footing and ended up sliding across the cell's floor, almost colliding with Ronon - he was very pleased to see that all the members of this team didn't have any obvious injuries… so no casualties on their side. Yet!
However, even as Rodney landed on the floor beside him, he couldn't help feeling a little concerned that they were being held in a separate room from O'Neill and Woolsey and he hoped that they were both still alive.
Then he heard one of the Replicators behind him say, "Bring the prisoners from the other cell."
Both John and Rodney got to their feet as John asked, "Everyone okay?"
"So far," Elizabeth replied.
Carson said, "I'll be fine."
Ronon, who was sitting on the bench, asked. "Why aren't we dead yet?"
"Probably saving us for a little recreational mind-probing," John replied, then asked, "Did everyone get the…?"
Teyla nodded. "We completed our task."
"So did we … in the nick of time," Elizabeth chimed in.
Ronon looked directly at John, and asked, "You?"
Rodney replied for him, "Yeah. Just under the wire." He made a moving under motion with his right hand.
The force field was lowered and the door opened. O'Neill and Woolsey were marched in to join them, followed by Talus.
"Did you really think you'd be able to stop us?" Talus asked John, who was standing in front of the others.
John tried to look crestfallen. "Well, of course we did. Why else would we be here?"
General O'Neill butted in. "Colonel? Am I gonna have to fire you?"
John turned towards him. "No, sir. I think you'll have that to look forward to when we get back."
"I'm afraid your plan has been discovered, Colonel Sheppard," Talus stated. "It is over."
Everyone turned and looked accusingly at Woolsey.
"He put his hand in my forehead." Woolsey explained. "How can you resist that?"
"Well, I like to close my eyes and think of England," O'Neill dead panned back to him.
Talus continued as if there hadn't been an interruption. "Mr Woolsey informed us of everything we needed to know. All of your C4 has been removed from the emitters."
To prove it, a Replicator opened a bag and pulled out one of the C4 blocks. John grimaced.
"I'm afraid they won't be destroyed when the Daedalus arrives," Talus told them smugly. "Which should be in any moment."
Elizabeth closed her eyes and turned away, trying not to show her relief.
"Your plan has failed."
From the Control Room, Cetus reported. "Talus. The Daedalus is approaching the planet."
"As expected," Talus replied. "Activate the shield."
Cetus pressed the control. The shield rose over the city. Then, the moment the shield was complete, an energy wave washed downwards… and all over the city the Replicators disintegrated. Jack and Woolsey stared in amazement as Talus and his colleagues fell to pieces.
John smiled in satisfaction.
"Ha! It worked! I can't believe it worked!" Rodney crowed.
Elizabeth congratulated them, "Rodney, John… amazing."
"Well, it was a group effort. We couldn't have done it without your help."
John picked up the bag of C4 and tossed it to Rodney. "Good old Plan D… works every time. You guys stay here a sec."
He and Ronon left the cell to check that the coast was clear.
Woolsey was unable to understand what had just occurred. "Excuse me, but what just happened?" he asked.
Rodney turned to him and explained. "We turned the shield in to a giant Replicator weapon."
"I knew that!" O'Neill stated.
"You knew?" Woolsey exclaimed, obviously upset that no one had told him what was going on.
O'Neill shrugged. "Well, I've seen Carter crack enough codes to know that McKay was faking the door thing."
"He was? I bought it completely."
Teyla turned back to him. "I believe that was the point," she said.
"Wait a minute…. You… you used me?"
Carson cut off the incipient tantrum. "You're alive… and you're welcome."
Ronon came back in to the room. "Hey, we're clear," he stated.
Elizabeth took the lead. "OK, we've gotta get to the Control Room and contact the Daedalus," she said as she exited the room behind Ronon. Teyla, Rodney and Carson hurried after them. While O'Neill and Woolsey walked out more slowly. Jack put a hand on Woolsey's shoulder as they went, thinking back to the many times that Woolsey had said he wasn't good at this or that. "You see, Richard? You were good for something," O'Neill consoled him.
Woolsey nodded, still not exactly happy. "Thanks."
As soon as they reached the Control Room John initiated contact with the Daedalus. "This is Colonel Sheppard speaking from Atlantis. Please put me through to Colonel Caldwell."
Moments later, Caldwell said, "Colonel, I'd like to believe this is you."
"Well it is," John replied. "Authentication code Alpha Delta Charlie Niner Six."
"That code is no longer valid, Colonel."
General O'Neill looked annoyed. "Hey, Caldwell. General Jack O'Neill here. That valid enough for you?"
"You may have been compromised, Sir." Caldwell responded.
Elizabeth decided it was time to end the pissing contest. "We're lowering the city's shield, Steven." She nodded to Rodney, who moved to comply with the order. "You can send a team to come check us out if you need to, we'll explain everything."
There was a few minutes of silence, then Caldwell was back on the radio to them. "A team of marines and a medic is beaming down, Elizabeth. Once you are all cleared of any nanite infection, I will beam down to meet with you. This should be a very interesting explanation."
Even as Caldwell finished talking, the medic and the team of marines from the Daedalus beamed in to the Gate room, all dressed in Hazmat gear.
"Not taking any chances I see," John quipped, laying his weapons aside, he gestured to the other five members of his strike team to do likewise.
The marines relaxed slightly now that all of the potential enemies were not armed. They escorted the six men and two women to the infirmary, where the medic, starting with the women, checked each one of them for nanites and any signs that they might otherwise be compromised.
As each one was cleared they were allowed to return to the Gate Room, where another squad of marines was standing guard over the Stargate.
When John returned to the Gate Room, he found Teyla, Elizabeth and Rodney sitting at the top of the stairs staring at the Stargate.
Rodney, of course, was talking. "They're dealing with those who didn't have their heads probed first, so General O'Neill and Woolsey will be the last to be done. They're being kept separate until the medic has finished with John, Carson and Ronon."
"Ronon is being done now," John said, walking up behind them. They all turned around looking startled.
"You and your Ninja ways, Colonel…. One of these days I'm going to put a bell on you," Rodney threatened.
John laughed. "I'm not a cat, Rodney, I don't need a bell." He stood looking down at them for a moment, then said, "You do know that there are meeting rooms on other floors of this tower… which means chairs… or we could go to the mess hall, that was untouched, too."
"We didn't like to leave without letting you guys know where we were." Rodney replied.
John frowned. "Rodney, there are ten marines standing guard in this room. Surely one of them could have relayed a message."
Rodney blinked, looked around the room, then back at John. "I'm so used to seeing them around, like part of the furniture, it just never occurred to me."
John turned to the marine closest to him. He read the rank and name, then said, "Captain Upton, do we need an escort if we relocate to another floor?"
"No, Sir, that won't be necessary."
"In that case would you relay the message to the other members of my party, that we have moved to the green conference room, which is ten floors below this one. Perhaps you could also relay that message to Colonel Caldwell, should he care to join us."
"Yes, Sir. I will do that."
"Thank you, Captain."
John cocked his head at the others and they got up off the stairs and followed him in to the transporter.
As they traversed the wide corridor ten floors below the Control Room, Elizabeth asked, "Why did you refer to this conference room as being 'green'?"
"It was much easier to give it a name, rather than a floor number," John paused to indicate the way, "Turn right out of the transporter, and it's the second to fourth door on your left. I named it when we first got here and then sent out a memo giving the directions for how to find it. There's another room the same size another ten floors down, that one is designated blue."
"Did I get a copy of this memo?"
"Yup!" John turned towards a door, and all four doors to the room opened for him.
They found themselves in an almost identical room to the one on the Control level. They sat in their usual places, and relaxed.
Some time later, Ronon and Carson arrived together, then O'Neill and Woolsey, who also brought Colonel Caldwell with them.
When John went to stand, O'Neill waved him back to his seat. "We're not going to stand on ceremony here. This is just an informal get together, so Steven can catch up on what we've been up to."
Caldwell nodded. "I must admit I was surprised when I was hailed by Colonel Sheppard. I was under the impression that only you and Richard Woolsey were on Atlantis when the Replicators attacked, Sir."
"We were," O'Neill confirmed. "I'm not sure myself how the others came to be here - we haven't had time to really talk about it." He turned to John, "How about filling us in, Colonel."
"Yes, Sir. Elizabeth, Carson, Rodney and myself were having dinner when we were called in to the S.G.C.. General Landry showed us a recording of your message about the Replicators attacking, and wanted to know how to get a nuke past the shield. I offered to lead a squad of marines to take back the city, but the General wasn't interested in doing that."
"We, and by we I mean Rodney, explained to the General that there wasn't a way to get past the Ancient shield. He and Hermiod had run exhaustive tests against the shield, which at that time was only powered by one Z.P.M., the Replicators know how to build Z.P.M.s and they have installed three."
"Then how did you get in to the city?" O'Neill asked.
"There is a way past the Gate's shield, but only if you are in a Jumper with a fairly strong ATA gene carrier as the pilot."
"The nukes we use would never have fit through the gate anyway," Caldwell muttered.
"Yes, Sir, I know," John replied quietly.
"So then you converted the shield to an Anti-Replicator weapon," Woolsey stated.
"Not so much as converted as modified it to not only raise the shield as normal, but also as a weapon against the Replicators," Rodney clarified.
"While I think to ask," John said. "Can we leave the Anti-Replicator crystals in place in case of another incursion…."
After some thought, Rodney replied, "Hmmm. I'll have to look in to that, Colonel."
"If it is possible, perhaps we could also protect the S.G.C. in the same manner," John speculated.
Rodney nodded. "That sounds like a good idea, Colonel. I'll have to talk to Colonel Carter about it though. She knows the layout of the S.G.C. far better than I do."
"Can we get back to the shield and the Anti-Replicator weapon," Caldwell asked, leaning forward on the table.
"Certainly, Colonel," John responded politely. "There are ten emitters and we had to modify them all to make the weapon effective. Basically what happens when the shield is raised is a signal is sent to the emitter from the Control Room and a few seconds later the shield is completely covering the city. By adding the crystals from the A.R.Gs, it also sent an Anti-Replicator blast up to the top of the shield which then reflected it to cascade down throughout the whole city, destroying every Replicator in its path."
"Thank you, Colonel. I now understand what was going on, and why, all of a sudden, it was safe for us to approach." Caldwell sat back in his chair, satisfied that all his outstanding questions had been answered.
John leaned forward, looked Caldwell in the eye, and said, "Could I ask a favour, Colonel? As none of us have had any sleep for two days, or more in some cases, could we continue to borrow your marines to guard the Gate room, and perhaps a more senior officer to stand in for Elizabeth and myself until tomorrow morning."
"We should contact the S.G.C. and tell them what happened too," Caldwell, stated.
"I'd like to retrieve the Jumper we borrowed, and offload the rest of its cargo, before we dial in to the S.G.C…. For one thing it has real food on it, as well as some M.R.Es, and our clothes et cetera. It won't take more than a few minutes, because we left it near a transporter. So that if they want it back as soon as we dial in, we can either send it through the wormhole immediately, or send it back via the gate bridge."
"I'd actually like to return to Earth in it via the gate bridge, Colonel. I think its time Richard and I had some R and R." O'Neill spoke up before Caldwell could say anything. "Also, I think we could all do with a proper meal before we do much more. I feel as if I could eat a horse."
"The room we were using as a Mess Hall, still has tables and chairs in it, and the ovens et cetera are still there, too. We didn't see the point of taking them away." Rodney interjected. "Actually, we really weren't given enough time to dismantle them. So almost everything that was in the kitchens is still there."
O'Neill looked at the ceiling, and said. "Colonel Sheppard, take who you need with you and retrieve your Jumper, and its supplies. Colonel Caldwell, I'd like to borrow one of your cooks, and invite you to dine with us. We can all talk to the S.G.C. tomorrow, when we've all had some much needed sleep. I'd rather do that briefing all in one go so that we don't waste any of the lovely Z.P.Ms we've been given."
John and Caldwell both stood and saluted. Caldwell called up to the Daedalus to retrieve him, as John said, "Rodney, you're with me. I'll need you to disconnect the equipment we set up. Ronon, Teyla and Carson, please meet us in the Jumper bay in about fifteen minutes, so we can unload Carson's medical equipment and supplies, and get him set up in the infirmary." He and Rodney then left the room.
Jack O'Neill then looked at Elizabeth, and said. "I know I haven't said much to any of you yet. But I do want to assure you that I will authorize the reinstatement of you, Sheppard, and McKay as the command staff of Atlantis. It's the least I can do for you, partly in thanks for the rescue and, I'm sure Richard will back me up on this, you all deserve to be here."
"I concur," Woolsey affirmed.
"Thank you, General… Mister Woolsey. We all appreciate it." Elizabeth said, and beamed at them both. "I think I'll go up to the mess hall and see if there's anything I can do to help… or at least sit on its balcony for a while."
"We might as well all go," O'Neill replied. "That will save them paging us when dinner is ready."
"True!" Elizabeth laughed, then let O'Neill lead the way out of the room, so his gene could activate the doors, and then led them back to the transporter.
While he was waiting for Rodney to disconnect his laptop from Atlantis's systems, John said, "We need to strip everything out of the storage bins as soon as we land in the Jumper Bay. There's a small storage area at the back of the bay, which was never used for anything, it has a lock on it so everything will be safe."
"What have you got in there that you don't want to be seen?"
"Zats! Ever since I saw what they could do, I've wanted to try one out on the Wraith. Maybe they'll prove to be more effective than the P-90s we've been using."
"That's not a bad idea, actually."
John's grin widened. "Okay, so… when we get there, and as soon as Carson and Teyla have left with his cases… I'll move the Jumper as close to that as I can to make it easier to unload everything."
"Okay, I'm ready to go!" Rodney broke in, hefting his pack on to his shoulder.
John grinned and led the way in to the borrowed Jumper. It seemed strange… and wonderful at the same time, to have just Rodney sitting beside him in the Jumper. "We're Home."
Rodney grinned back at him. "Yes, we are…"
John closed the hatch, and carefully moved the Jumper upwards until they were clear of the surrounding buildings, then quickly flew across the city to the overhead entrance to the Bay. It opened at his approach, and he manoeuvred the craft down to land, gently, near where the others were already waiting.
Once they had the back hatch open again, John said, "Teyla, could you help Carson with his medical cases, while we strip everything else out.?"
"Yes, of course, Colonel."
John handed over the three large cases full of medical equipment that Carson had brought with him, then looked busy for a moment, while Teyla and Carson left the bay. "Hold on a minute while I move the Jumper in to a better position." He went back to the cockpit, turned the Jumper around and slowly backed it almost up to the rear wall. Getting out again, he placed his hand on an access panel and thought at the door; moments later the door slid open and the lights came on inside as soon as John stepped over the threshold.
"Okay! Rodney, you stay in the back of the Jumper and hand the items to Ronon, who will then pass them to me to put on the shelves."
Ronon and Rodney said "Right" and "Okay" in unison, and started working. Since everything that they had packed at the S.G.C. had been in bags or sacks to start with, it did not take them long to move everything from one place to the other. The only things John did not put in the store room were his and Rodney's field packs and the bags of food they had brought with them from the S.G.C. stores and New Athos, getting Ronon to put those to one side of the door.
John, after thinking the light out, and the door locked, moved the jumper back to where he had landed it originally. He then shouldered his pack and picked up a couple of the food sacks. "Let's get these to the mess hall," he said. "We should have someone there to deal with them by now."
Rodney took up his pack and two of the smaller sacks, and Ronon hefted the other three.
In the kitchens they handed the sacks to the staff who had just arrived from the Daedalus, courtesy of Colonel Caldwell, then joined the others on the Balcony where they had made one large table out of two smaller ones so that they could all sit together.
They were all hungry, and the meal when it came was delicious, but few attempts were made at conversation… for all of them, excepting Colonel Caldwell, had already been awake for more hours than they cared to think about.
After they had all eaten their fill, seven out of the eight people around the table were almost asleep.
Colonel Caldwell told them all to go to bed, he and Major Wallcott would make sure that their rest remained undisturbed.
O'Neill said, "Thanks Colonel. Come on Richard, I'll see you back to your quarters," and they left the room together.
John gathered up the rest. "Thank you Colonel, it's much appreciated. Come with me guys and gals, I know where there are some furnished quarters we can use."
He led the sleepy strike team out of the mess and in to a transporter, taking them to another building further out from the Operations Tower. He allocated them all rooms as they went along the corridor, saying 'Good night' as each door closed, until there was just Rodney and himself left. He pulled Rodney away when he was about to enter the next room.
"Not there, Rodney. I have somewhere else in mind for both of us." A little further along the corridor they entered another transporter which took them up to the top of the same tower… and he then led the way in to a large, three bedroom apartment. He locked the door behind them, dumped their field packs against the wall, and led the way in to one of the bedrooms which boasted what looked like a king-sized bed.
"How the hell did you know about these?" Rodney asked, knowing that they hadn't explored this far out of the city.
"Atlantis told me… after the Ancients had taken over and put their Z.P.M. in next to ours. Just before we left the city she brought me here - diverted the transporter and opened all the doors in my path. It was almost as if she was saying, you'll come back and live here."
"How come you didn't tell me about it?"
John shrugged. "It never seemed the right time to mention it… you know?"
They stripped down to boxers and used the bathroom, then climbed in to bed, rolled towards the centre and went to sleep in each other's arms….
John woke up in the very early hours of the morning, just as the sun was rising, and realized that he had forgotten to draw the blinds. Cursing under his breath, he unwrapped Rodney from around himself and padded over to the window, drew the blinds then decided to use the bathroom before getting back in to bed. While he was in the bathroom, he remembered that the suitcase he'd taken from the trunk of his car was still in the Jumper Bay's store room.
He ran his tongue over his teeth and decided to go and retrieve it while most of the inhabitants were still asleep. So, he dragged on his shirt and pants, then slipped his feet in to his boots.
The trip to the Jumper Bay and back was the work of only a few minutes, and he didn't meet anyone to note his passing with the odd combination of a large suitcase on wheels, and the duffle bag containing the rest of their weapons cache.
Back inside the apartment, he unpacked some of the contents of the suitcase, then stripped off his clothes again. He took all the discarded garments in to the bathroom, and put them in to the Ancient's version of a dry cleaning machine, then went beck to bed.
Rodney blinked at him sleepily as he climbed in, then became John's blanket again, falling back to sleep without saying a word. John just smiled and drifted off to sleep again.
A long time later, John was disturbed again. As he swum up to consciousness, he was aware that there appeared to be someone talking in the distance. Then he smiled when he realised that it was Rodney whispering in his ear, he rolled his head, and kissed his lover on the nose.
"Morning," he croaked.
"Morning, sleepy head." Rodney rubbed his nose along John's cheek. "You really need a shave… you've got the makings of a very fine beard."
"I take it that's a hint…"
Rodney grinned at him. "I've already washed and shaved while waiting for you to wake up. Thank you for getting our stuff from the Jumper Bay, by the way."
John stretched and rolled his shoulders before getting out of bed and walking towards the bathroom. "Okay, I can take a hint," he muttered just loud enough for Rodney to hear.
Rodney laughed and threw the bed cover off revealing that he was completely naked underneath it. "Here's some incentive for you to hurry," he murmured back. He took his cock in his hand and started to rub up and down it.
John rapidly disappeared in to the bathroom; there was no way that he was going to allow Rodney to finish without him. He had a quick shower, a more careful shave, then hurried back to the bed, where his lover was still lazily stroking himself.
John rubbed his now smooth cheek against Rodney's. "Is that better?" he asked as Rodney's lips quirked upwards.
"Much, much better."
John leaned over and licked his way in to Rodney's mouth, rubbing his body slowly against his lover's.
Rodney sucked enthusiastically on the invading tongue, and shifted so that their cocks were rubbing together.
After a few minutes John broke the kiss and rolled on to his back, pulling Rodney on top of him. "Do me," he said, "I want to feel you today."
With a lecherous grin, Rodney kissed John on his nose, and reached over for the lube that John had so handily placed on a chair by the bed.
John gave him another breath-stealing kiss, then laid back and moaned as Rodney touched, kissed and licked his way down the body spread beneath him. He licked at, then swallowed down the hard cock jutting from its nest of dark curls, when he finally reached John's groin… the breathy moans encouraging him to coat his fingers with lube and breach his lover's entrance.
He explored the cavity beyond, adding more lube until John's pleas of "come on" and "yes… now" became desperate. Pulling his fingers out, eliciting a bereft whimper, he carefully coated his own straining erection, then, lifting John's legs he pushed in to the entrance, waited until he felt the muscles relax then pushed further, and further inside until he was completely buried inside his lover.
Resting on one arm for a moment, he took John's wilted erection in hand, and quickly stroked it back to being completely hard. Then he balanced himself on both arms again, to start moving back and forth, his cock moving in and out of John's body… slowly at first making sure to rub at John's sweet spot, then gaining momentum, until his lover cried out and came, the spasming muscles triggering his own orgasm.
His arms no longer capable of supporting his body, he slumped to the side, not wanting to let his full weight crash down on to his lover.
They lay quietly together, foreheads touching as John leaned down towards his lover, while they recovered from their exertions. Eventually Rodney summoned up enough energy to roll away on to his back.
John took a very deep breath, and sighed. "I suppose we'd better shower and get dressed. I put the uniforms we wore yesterday in to the Ancient washer, so they should be clean now. Also, if we don't put in an appearance soon, they'll come looking for us." Still not really wanting to part, they slowly got up off the bed. Rodney went in to the shower, and John picked up his bag and went in to the other bedroom, to use the shower there.
Rodney had a very quick shower, then emptied the Ancient washer, slipping on his boxers and pants before delivering John's uniform to the other room. John, for obvious reasons, was taking a longer shower this time. So he was dressed and waiting, and had put the bedclothes they'd mussed up in the washer, before John made an appearance. John picked the tube of lube up off the floor and, after raising an eyebrow at Rodney, put it in the bathroom cabinet.
Rodney grinned unrepentantly at him, then started for the living room and the outer door. They made straight for the mess to get breakfast… brunch whatever… and found that most of the others were just starting on meals too.
Piling up their plates, John and Rodney joined the others at the table they had occupied the night before, the only difference being that Colonel Caldwell was missing.
"How did everyone sleep?" John asked, looking round the table.
"Very well indeed," Carson replied. "There's a very comfortable bed in that room. I think I might keep these quarters, if Elizabeth doesn't mind."
"I must say, they were very comfortable," Elizabeth said, "and as they are very close to a transporter, I see no reason why you couldn't keep them."
After they'd had a general discussion about what they were going to do concerning the lack of furniture on the Control levels, General O'Neill approached John, and said quietly, "I need to have a talk with you, Colonel."
"Yes, Sir." John replied. "May I suggest we use the same conference room as we did yesterday?"
"Lead on, Colonel."
"Yes, Sir," John answered, and snagged two bottles of water as he led the General out of the Mess Hall.
They did not speak again until the conference room doors were sealed behind them. General O'Neill gestured to a chair for John to take a seat, and sat down himself on the opposite side of the table.
"Now, tell me how you came to be accompanied by Doctors Weir, McKay and Beckett, plus Ronon and Teyla on your mission to rescue Richard Woolsey and myself."
"Well, Sir, I returned early from a mission to P6M-728 when the clumsy duo assigned to my team fell in to a river and one of them broke their ankle. I was still in the Gate room when you started to dial in from Atlantis, so General Landry invited me up to the Control Room."
"Yes, I was a little surprised to see you there," O'Neill admitted.
"After you had delivered the message about the Replicators approaching, I was concerned and offered to brief General Landry on our interactions with them. However, the General felt the Ancients had the situation under control; that further discussion was not necessary, and walked away.
"I then went for my post mission medical, and had lunch afterwards. Later, in my office, I went to check the mission report on M7R-227, the Replicator home world, and found that they had been archived and that I needed permission from General Landry to access them. I contacted the General's office but my request for access was denied. I then went to the General's office to offer reasons why I was unsettled, but I got a message via Sergeant Harriman, that the reports had already been reviewed, and to go home. So I did."
O'Neill broke in to John's narrative. "But that doesn't explain how the others got involved."
"I was just coming to that, Sir," John replied as he opened his bottle of water and took a swig. "Usually McKay comes to the S.G.C. about once a week to do a consultation with Bill Lee; and we often go out to dinner on the first night with Carson Beckett. We always invited Elizabeth to the meals, but she had up to now turned us down. Apparently Carson went to see her and managed to persuade Elizabeth to join us. Anyway, as I was not originally due to return to Earth until the Friday evening, I had sent a duplicate set of my keys to McKay, so that he could let himself in. Knowing he had somewhere to stay, McKay decided to arrive a day early for some retail therapy, and so flew in to Colorado the same day that I spoke to you when you dialled in.
"When I went back to my office to read my email and found out that Rodney was coming early, I went to meet him at the airport, and after we'd had our evening meal I told him about your message… hoping that I was just being paranoid, and that he would be able to allay my concerns about the Replicators. Instead, he became concerned too."
"Why did you become concerned in the first place?" O'Neill asked, then took a drink out of his own bottle of water.
John sighed. "Although Captain Helia and her crew were Ancients, they hadn't actually been in transit very long, and hadn't had any reason to make any technological advances. The Replicators, however, had 'lived'," he made in the air quotes, "those ten thousand years. When we met them they had a flying city, powered by Z.P.Ms, and protected by a shield, exactly the same as Atlantis; I felt it was possible that they might have found a way through the shield in all that time.
"The next day, we talked about it some more and decided that if they did overwhelm the Ancients, and we were called upon to help, it wouldn't hurt to get some programming, and a few other things, done which would cut down the time getting ready for the rescue mission."
John drank some more water, talking was thirsty work. "We were in the restaurant, just finishing our desserts, when first my phone, then McKay's and finally Elizabeth's phone rang as well. We were summoned to the S.G.C.. General Landry wanted to know how to get a nuke past the city's shield. As I obviously know the city well, I immediately offered to lead a team of marines, but my offer was brushed aside. Very shortly afterwards it became obvious that the General had not read the reports we had made about the Replicators, or about the tests that Hermiod and McKay had run on the city's shield… nor did he know that the Gate shield could withstand a nuclear blast. So when McKay told him categorically, that we did not know of any way to get a nuke past the city's shield, he walked out and left us to our own devices. We went to my office and conceived the plan to rescue you and Woolsey."
"And that's it?"
"Landry didn't ask you to lead a rescue at any time at all?"
"No, Sir. The only thing the General seemed to want to do was to destroy Atlantis. He said those were the orders he'd been given by you, and he was going to follow them. Was nuking Atlantis really the only option you'd given him?"
General O'Neill pulled a face. "It was kind of a last resort kind of thing… I would have expected him to at least authorize a rescue attempt, especially when you volunteered. I shall have to talk to Hank when I get back to find out the reasoning behind his decision."
O'Neill stood up, and John followed suit. "I guess we'd better join the others upstairs, so we can have a meeting before we dial in to the S.G.C..
They made their way back to the Control Room, where Rodney was typing away at this laptop attached to one of the consoles. He looked up when John went to stand beside him. "We're ready to put a call through to the S.G.C. whenever you want, we just have to let Colonel Caldwell know when we are ready to dial Earth, and he will join us," he told them. "Elizabeth is waiting with everyone else in the conference room, so now you two are here we can start the meeting." He got up from the chair, and marched in through the open doors where, as they moved closer, they could see that most of the seats were already occupied.
John followed General O'Neill in to the room and thought the doors closed behind him, then took his usual seat. O'Neill walked around the table so he could sit in the seat directly opposite Elizabeth.
Elizabeth looked up from her note pad, and said, "General, would you like to start?"
The General nodded. "Richard and I were talking earlier, and we want you to know that the basic reason for this meeting is so that we can agree a way forward for Atlantis. But first, we would like to say a formal thank you for your timely rescue. Secondly, we are agreed that we should get as many of the former Atlantis personnel back here as soon as possible… we have the roster at the S.G.C., so if there's anyone you don't want back, please let me, or Richard, know at the end of the meeting."
"Just don't ever send us Kavanagh, I will murder him if he ever comes anywhere near me," McKay said at once.
"Later, McKay, later…" O'Neill muttered, a pained expression on his face, and everyone laughed. "Now is the time to put forward your ideas, no matter how odd they may seem, for what you would like to see the Atlantis expedition doing in the future. Also, what extra equipment you might need. Be aware though, that although we will consider what you say, you probably won't get everything you want."
"I've been thinking," John said slowly, then remained silent.
"Well, you're on a winning streak," McKay encouraged him, "So speak up, and let's hear your pearls of wisdom."
John pulled a face, and shot Rodney a wrathful glance. "I've been thinking," he started again. "About Atlantis, and our enemies. I'd like to propose two things. First, while we have three almost full Z.P.Ms, I think we should relocate Atlantis to another planet. Too many people know where we are: The Replicators will probably have another go at taking over the city; for the moment the Wraith don't know we're still here, but that could quickly change; the Genii know our address… and that's only three groups of people, there are many more.
"The second suggestion really goes hand in hand with the first. Some of our more advanced trading partners use a proxy planet to make trading exchanges so that no one actually goes to their home world, and they don't usually give out their 'home' address. We only learned about them from the Ancient database. After we've moved, I'd like to institute the same trading method. I do have some planets in mind for the location of the proxy, but I'd like to investigate them a little more before finally deciding on one."
There was a stunned silence after John had finished speaking, and he could almost see the wheels turning behind the eyes that were still staring fixedly at him.
Minutes passed, then Elizabeth blinked and said, "I think that's a very good idea, John."
"I agree," Woolsey concurred. "The I.O.A. have long been concerned about your Gate address being so widely known. Though, obviously, with only one almost depleted Z.P.M. there wasn't much you could do about it. Do you have anywhere in mind, Colonel?"
"Yes, actually I do. When we were scouting for gates to harvest for the gate bridge, we investigated M3R-428. It has a space gate and no human life. There obviously was a civilization there at one time, but there's nothing left there now, except ancient ruins - without the capital A. It looked very much like ancient Rome, actually. We left the gate in situ because of the ruins, and had an archaeological team there for quite a few months. We only recalled them when we were forced out of Atlantis.
"The planet orbits a yellow sun and has a temperate climate. According to the oceanographers, the sea has a wide range of fish, most of which are edible, and they even pinpointed places where the ocean was more than deep enough to support Atlantis. The biologists like the soil, according to them it's very fertile, and there are a number of edible game animals and some other animals that look very much like sheep and cows. That's the place we brought those lovely apple-like things back from."
"I think we all liked that planet, John," Teyla remarked. "I know that we suggested putting the gate on the surface and using it as an alpha site."
"Yes, we did," John said and grinned at Teyla. Then turning back to Elizabeth he went on, "The Daedalus also made some extensive scans of the planet, so that won't have to be done again. I would like the Daedalus to take a quick flyover before we settle on going there, just to make sure there haven't been any changes since then."
"General O'Neill. What do you think?" Elizabeth prompted.
"I think it's a good idea too," O'Neill said. "What about the gate bridge though? Will moving affect it in any way?"
McKay shrugged. "Depending on the location in the galaxy of the planet to which we moved, we could have to re-position a couple of the gates, or perhaps just add or subtract one. It certainly won't have any effect on the operation of the bridge as a whole. If we do go to M3R-428 the disruption would be negligible, we would actually be slightly closer to the Midway station; and for the record, I agree with the Colonel's choice of that planet, too."
Elizabeth looked around the table. "Anyone not in favour of moving Atlantis, please raise your hand." She waited in silence for a full minute, then said, "Carried unanimously."
"Okay, good!" John smiled, looking a bit relieved. "Another idea which could be used in conjunction with our move, is to site a spare gate on the mainland here. I know that some research was taking place over there before we had to leave… so whoever was doing that could use a jumper to continue whatever it was they were doing."
Rodney spoke up, "The archaeologists will be pleased, if no one else. I, also, have a suggestion to make. I'd like to try to retrieve The Tria from the void between galaxies. We know the engines work, so if we could persuade the S.G.C. to allow us to borrow the Daedalus for the project, we could start the Tria moving with the Daedalus fairly close in front of her, and have both ships use the same hyper-space window to get her somewhere she could be repaired."
"That could take some time-" Woolsey demurred.
"I'm not saying we do it straight away," Rodney interrupted him. "But I'd like to put it on the table as a future project."
Woolsey nodded. "We can do that."
Elizabeth grinned. "Are there any more projects anyone wants to add to either the 'to do' list or the wish list?"
"Can I leave my answer to that as 'pending'," Rodney replied, causing another round of laughter.
"I would like to add something Doctor Weir," Teyla said, sounding a little apologetic. "On our trips through the gate since you left, there have been some enquiries from a few of your trading partners about the trades that were due to be made… some of which are now a little overdue. I believe we must make some effort to catch up… so as not to turn them against dealing with us in the future."
"Yes, you're right." Elizabeth acknowledged. "Does anyone have a list to hand of the trades we had agreed to make?"
Frowning and deep in thought, John tapped his fingers rapidly on the table in front of him. His fingers stilled as he said, "I have my laptop and some USB drives in the pack I brought with me. I probably still have a copy of the mission schedules on there somewhere. Would someone remind me to fetch it when we take a break, please."
"I will try to remember, Colonel," Teyla replied gravely.
"I've added that to the to do list, Teyla," Elizabeth assured her. "Is there anything else to add?"
"We need to ask Colonel Caldwell if we can borrow his marines for a while longer, until we get our own detachment again," was John's immediate response.
"Noted," Elizabeth replied, writing in her note pad.
Rodney looked at Woolsey, and asked, "Did you remember to ask the crew of the Tria if they knew how to make Z.P.Ms?"
"What?" O'Neill sat up straight.
"Z.P.Ms. You know, the wonderful crystal things which power the city," Rodney helpfully clarified.
"I know what they are," O'Neill replied testily. "But why would Richard have asked?"
"Because I asked him to, as soon as I found out that their chief engineer knew how it was done."
Woolsey sorrowfully shook his head. "I'm sorry, Doctor McKay, but I don't have an answer for you. The engineer, Julius, muttered something about Potentia and database, then said he would retrieve the data for me…. I didn't get the data because the Replicators arrived."
"Well we've searched the database in Atlantis as thoroughly as we were able, and didn't find anything on the subject."
John leaned forward. "Could the database to which he was referring be on one of the data devices they brought in to the city with them?"
Rodney looked thoughtful. "I think that's very possible."
"Do we know what happened to these devices?" O'Neill asked, obviously very interested.
"We'll have to make a thorough search of their living quarters and any labs they were using," Rodney stated.
"Is it possible that the answer could be on the Tria?" John interjected. When everyone looked at him with raised eyebrows, he said, "What? I always keep more than one copy of important things." He looked directly at Rodney. "Do you keep only one copy of your research papers?"
Rodney looked affronted for a moment. "Good God! No!"
"What about interesting papers by other people?" John asked.
Seeing what John was getting at, Rodney said, "I always keep research papers published by other people if I think their theories, or discoveries, might help me solve a problem at some time. So, yes, I think that's another good reason to go look at the Tria if we can't find anything about Z.P.Ms here."
Elizabeth looked down at her pad for a moment, then looked across at O'Neill and Woolsey. "Do we have any idea what happened to the Ancients… I mean are we going to come across a pile of dead bodies somewhere?"
O'Neill took a deep breath. "No, no dead bodies. When we were discovered, Talus took great pleasure in telling us that they had buried their bodies in a pit on the mainland, and that as soon as they were finished with us, we would be joining them there." The General then looked pointedly at his watch. "I think it's about time we called Caldwell down here and dialled the S.G.C. to let them know what has happened. Then I think it would be a good idea to set some sort of time-table to move the city, before Richard and I go back to Earth. Plus, I think I would like to take a physical look at this new planet for myself."
Elizabeth nodded. "I'd like to read through the file on M3R-428 again before we make a final decision about making that our new home, though I can't see any drawbacks at the moment."
"Right!" O'Neill clapped his hands together. "While we're talking to the S.G.C. I'll get them to send that file to you, unless you already have a copy, Doctor McKay."
"Unfortunately not. Before we left we took copies of all our files, then wiped them off the database here. It wasn't worth our while to take the servers we were using, so we just moth balled them and locked them away in a room on one of the piers. In fact, we did that with most of the equipment we were using, there just wasn't room on the Daedalus for even a fraction of it. Speaking of the Daedalus, we used their Asgard beam to move most of the stuff there, General. Do you think you could arrange for us to use it to get all the gear back again?"
"I'll have a word with Colonel Caldwell before we contact the S.G.C. so we can tell them approximately how long it will be before the Daedalus will return," O'Neill assured him. "Colonel, can you ask him to join us, please."
"Yes, Sir." John went out to the Control Room and put a call through to the Daedalus, asking them to apprise Colonel Caldwell that General O'Neill would like him to join them.
A few minutes later, there was a flash of light which left Caldwell standing a few feet away.
"Colonel," John greeted him. "I'd like to thank you again for letting us all get some sleep last night; and for much of the morning, too."
Caldwell gave him a tight smile. "You're welcome, Colonel."
"We're gathered in the conference room on this level, now. I understand some of your marines were busy moving furniture earlier on," John gestured towards the open door, and followed Caldwell inside, thinking at the doors to close them behind him.
"Come in Colonel, take a seat," O'Neill said as Caldwell came in to the room. "We've been talking about the implications for Atlantis after the Replicators' invasion, and we'd like to run a few things by you before we actually contact the S.G.C…. It's been suggested that there are entirely too many people who know where Atlantis is located… and that while they have three Z.P.Ms available to them they should relocate the city to another planet. Any thoughts?"
Caldwell sat back in his chair and studied the ceiling for a few minutes. "From a strategic point of view I'd say that was a very good idea. Do you have a candidate for your new home?"
"We thought M3R-428 would be a good place to settle," John told him. "It has a space gate we were thinking of harvesting, but because of the archaeological finds we didn't remove it. You did the planet scans for us a few months ago."
Caldwell nodded. "Yes, I remember. It seemed to have a very pleasant climate."
O'Neill sat forward. "We'd like to borrow you, your marines, and your ship for a few more days, Colonel. We'd like an up to date scan of that planet… just to make sure that no one has colonized it in the last few months. Also, Doctor McKay tells me that, because of lack of time and cargo space, they left a lot of their equipment here, which you helped to move. We'd be grateful if you could move the equipment back to where it came from."
Caldwell nodded. "I'm sure we still have the schematics that Doctor McKay provided when we helped with the move; so it should be a fairly simple task to return them to their original locations."
Rodney shot him a grateful smile. "Great! I'm glad you've still got a copy, because I don't have one with me. When I left home on…. Thursday? Or whatever morning it was, I didn't know I was going to end up here." He typed rapidly on his computer for a while, then said. "I'm ready when you are for the dial in to the S.G.C.. It would probably be best if we were all this side of the table, so that you can all see the screen over there. Also I'd like to give them a quick update on the gate bridge before we sign off."
There was a shuffling of chairs while people moved around, and when things became quiet again, O'Neill said, "Dial when ready, Doctor."
McKay tapped a couple of keys, and the view on the screen shifted from the usual snowflake schematic of Atlantis to the Stargate dialling… almost immediately thereafter, McKay was talking to Sergeant Harriman at Stargate Command, and the view on the screen shifted to the S.G.C's Control Room.
A few minutes passed, then General Landry was looking out of the screen at them.
Once the greetings were over, O'Neill got Caldwell to confirm that they had all been cleared of having any nanite infection. Then he gave Landry an update on the Replicators, the Ancients, the rescue and the proposed relocation of the city to M3R-428 and asked Landry to have the file retrieved from the archives - without giving the Earth bound General any time to ask questions.
When O'Neill did stop talking, Landry looked a little shell-shocked, and surprised to see everyone in one piece. "Thank you for the update, General, and I'm very glad to see that you all survived your encounter with the Replicators."
"There was a point when I wasn't sure that I was going to survive either. Now, before we sign off, Doctor McKay wants a quick word, and then we'll be sending a data burst…. Doctor?"
Rodney poised his hands over the keys of his laptop. "General. Before we left the S.G.C. I rewrote the macro which controls the gate bridge so that we didn't have to pause at the Midway Station. I am sending this to you, and the corresponding one from this end, so that they can be used until the station can support foot traffic, when we will revert to the previous two part version. Of course, I will send you updated ones when we have moved Atlantis." He touched a few more keys, then said, "Sending now!"
A few seconds later they heard Harriman's voice reporting that the data burst had been received.
O'Neill then took centre stage again. "Hank, I'll be coming back to the S.G.C. in a few days. I'll brief you more thoroughly about everything then."
Rodney cut the connection, then asked, "What's next on the agenda?"
"I believe our first priority should be to get Atlantis moved as soon as possible," Elizabeth stated, looking round the table at everyone, then fastening her eyes on General O'Neill.
O'Neill nodded. "I concur. I suggest we take a short break, then re-convene here in one hour, to work out who is going to do what next."
John and Rodney both went to the mess hall to pick up sandwiches and coffee, before making their way back to the apartment they had appropriated.
They quickly ate their snack, then unpacked more of the contents of the duffle bag and the suitcase.
Rodney packed two of the cheap laptops he'd had John buy in to each of their field packs alongside their S.G.C. issued machines. He sorted out some cables and stuffed two of each type in the packs beside the new laptops.
He looked up at John. "Have you still got that SD card I gave you?"
John reached in to an inside pocket of his field pack and pulled out the card, still in its hard plastic case. "Yup. Do you want it now, or later?"
Rodney grinned, "Later will do, just make sure you have it on you." He picked up a few spares. "I want to make some copies, but we can do that back in the conference room.
John tucked the precious case in one of his shirt pockets, then pointed a thumb over his shoulder. "I'm gonna take a bathroom break," he said, then disappeared from sight for a few minutes.
When he had finished packing everything he wanted to take with him, Rodney followed John's example and went to the bathroom attached to the bedroom they had used last night; probably now designated 'his', as John seemed to have moved his own gear in to one of the others. After using the facilities, he retrieved the bed coverings from the Ancient washer, and laid them on the bed, ready for use again…. After all, there was no need to advertise that they had both used the same bed last night.
They arrived back in the living room within moments of each other. They both shouldered their packs, picked up their now empty coffee mugs, and went back to the conference room, making a short detour to the Mess Hall to fill up their mugs with more coffee on the way.
Once back in the conference room, Rodney asked John to take out one of the new laptops, and boot it up. He fished around in his pack for a moment and withdrew a CD case. "Put that in the drive, it will auto run and install an open source word processing program. When it finishes it will ask you to re-boot. At that point, remove the CD, and restart the computer. When it has come back to the desktop, double click the Word Processing program icon to make sure it runs, then put the computer in front of Elizabeth's chair…. Unless you want to type up the minutes of this meeting…" he finished with an evil grin.
John gave him a finger, then got the laptop out and followed the instructions he'd been given. The program didn't take long to run, and the laptop was soon sitting in front of Elizabeth's chair ready for use.
Rodney worked on his laptop in silence for a while, then unpacked a couple of the SD cards, and copied two macros to them - first the one he used to get here from the S.G.C., and second, a new macro he had just completed for the return trip. He wrote on the labels of both of them, and kept one of the cards out on the table, giving the other one, in its case, to John.
"Get the other new laptop out of your pack please, Colonel, and boot it up for me. When it's ready, copy the contents of that to a folder called 'bridge' all in lower case on the 'C' drive. Then put the SD card in its case and store it with the other one." John nodded and did as he had been told.
Rodney then took the new laptop out of his pack, and booted it up. When it was ready, he slid the SD card in to the slot, copied the contents of the card to the hard drive in exactly the same location that he'd given John, and then ejected the card and put it away.
By this time the other seven attendees of the meetings had all returned and taken their seats. When Elizabeth reclaimed her seat, John quietly informed her of the purpose of the laptop now sitting on the table in front of her. She thanked him for the information and typed up some notes to send to the S.G.C. via the next data exchange.
Eventually O'Neill asked, "Watcha doing, McKay?"
Without looking up, Rodney said, "We are woefully short of people, so what I am doing is creating an autopilot for the Jumpers. Once it is attached to the Jumper, the co-pilot will be able to select from a menu. One, Atlantis to S.G.C., and two, S.G.C. to Atlantis. That way, all that will be needed is for a gene carrier to hold the pilot's controls. The aim is to be able to shuttle people and materials between the S.G.C. and here as quickly as possible. What I would suggest is, as we have the room to store the Jumpers, we use two of them. We send out the first one, and on its return we immediately send out the second while we unload the first; when the second one returns, we send back the first one… and so on."
"Where did the laptops come from?" Caldwell asked, curious to know if they had been borrowed from his ship.
"John bought them, and quite a few other things that we are going to need, from a computer store in Colorado Springs, as soon as we had discussed what might happen." Rodney replied. "How many laptops did you buy, John?"
"Seven. That's all they had in stock of the design you wanted. They did blink a bit when I packed them, and everything else I had bought, in to a suitcase to cart them away, though."
Not quite able to believe what she'd just heard, Elizabeth felt she just had to ask. "You took a suitcase to the mall?"
John shook his head. "No. I went in to a department store and bought the biggest suitcase with spinner wheels they had in stock. That's what I took to the computer store with me."
Elizabeth covered her eyes with one hand and laughed… and laughed.
John and Rodney looked at one another, mystified by the hilarity. They both shrugged, then Rodney went back to fiddling with the laptops for a few more minutes. Only when he had powered both of the new ones down did he look up to find everyone's eyes were on him.
"Who paid for them?" O'Neill wanted to know.
John shrugged. "I did. Why?"
"What would you have done with them if we hadn't needed rescuing?"
"Stored them until we were absolutely sure they wouldn't be needed, then donated them to a local school, or a charity."
O'Neill just stared between Sheppard and McKay for a moment, and wondered what he had done to deserve having such dedicated people working for him. First he'd had Carter, Jackson and Teal'c; now Sheppard and McKay, too. Plus Teyla and Ronon of course…. They hadn't been obliged to join the rescue mission, yet had come with the others out of friendship, and loyalty.
Feeling slightly uncomfortable at the attention, John cleared his throat. "Teyla reminded us earlier that we had some overdue trading to complete. Food and minerals from them, for medicines from us. So, if Doctor Beckett will agree, I'd like him to take the first run back to the S.G.C.. He will then be able to point out where the medicines we sent back are stored and make sure that they are packed properly for transit back here," he said, getting back to business. "If any of the Atlantis medical personnel have been located and are willing to return, then perhaps they, and the medicines, can travel back together. Also, if there is room, any other ex-Atlanteans that the General is willing to release back to us."
"Aye. I'd be willing to make the first trip, Colonel."
"Thanks Carson. Also, if anyone complains about the cramped conditions in the Jumper, remind them that although the trip through the gate bridge itself lasts about half an hour, to the person being transported it's only a matter of a few minutes from beginning to end."
"Aye, I'll do that too."
John turned to Elizabeth. "Would you write an explanation to General Landry about the shuttle service we intend to implement to retrieve people and supplies? It will save having to wait for the Daedalus to do a round trip, and get everyone due to be sent here out from underfoot at the S.G.C. much quicker. Also… if anyone else would like to put anything in writing to the General, Carson could deliver those messages on the first run, too." John burrowed down his pack and fished out a dinky little printer and attached it to the laptop. "It's not very fast, and only prints in black and white… on the plus side it's very light to carry." He then fished a plastic folder out of his pack, from which he took some blank letter sized paper and filled the paper cassette with it.
"I do have a little more paper, and some ink cartridges, in the suitcase that I'll let you have," he said, "So if Carson could find the space for a couple of reams of paper on the trip back, you'll have enough to keep you going until we are back to normal."
"This isn't new as well, is it?" she asked, looking at the slightly battered little machine.
John shook his head. "No, I've had it a few years and had put it in store before we came to Atlantis. I retrieved it for use at home when we got evicted from here. I have to admit that I was surprised they still made cartridges to fit it when I went to the store… In computer terms it's almost an antique."
John fished a USB drive out of his pack next, and said, "If you'll let me borrow the machine for a couple of minutes, I can copy the mission schedule on to it. Then you can print it out as a test of the connections."
Elizabeth turned the machine around towards John, who quickly copied the file from one drive to the other, then dismounted his USB before turning the machine back towards Elizabeth.
"There you go."
Elizabeth opened the file and sent it to print… the little machine whirred noisily for a few seconds then slowly started to print out a page.
"It's not very fast," John said apologetically, "But it does produce very crisp and easy to read printouts."
"I'm just pleased we've got a printer at all," Elizabeth replied with a laugh. "While we're waiting for the mission schedule, I have a question for you, Rodney. How long will it take to wire one of your laptops in to the Jumper so that we can get at least something on the move?"
"I should only take a few minutes to attach the laptops to the Jumper, and then run the diagnostics… so, probably a total of twenty minutes for the whole job," Rodney told her.
"So we could have Carson make the journey to and from the S.G.C. this afternoon?"
"Yes, that wouldn't be a problem."
"And then perhaps Teyla, Ronon and John could go to the…." Elizabeth looked at the page again, "Narians… what's the time difference…?"
John peered at the upside down page still coming out of the printer. "Their early morning is our late afternoon. So if we could get Carson to the S.G.C. and back within the next couple of hours, we could probably go there this evening and still arrive there in the middle of their day.
"That's the most urgent one to do. Once we get that trade out of the way, the next two were both for minerals, and we usually send a team through to make the final arrangements for the transfer. We do this because they always seem to run a little late - which could work in our favour this time. If we can make up another full team, and if Ronon and Teyla wouldn't mind, we could send them to both the planets to negotiate the delivery date, while Rodney and I go with Colonel Caldwell and the Daedalus to M3R-428 to do the final scan of the planet. I suggest that we go through the space gate and make sure there aren't any Wraith around, before you make the jump."
"Agreed Colonel," Caldwell replied. "By the way, I have spoken to Hermoid and Doctor Novak. They have a copy of the schedule of moves, and have already started on the task of moving the equipment back to its original position. The marines are then securing it in place. We have already completed the move to the infirmary of the non-perishable medicines, and medical equipment, which were left behind. According to Hermiod, the rest of the task will be finished in about two hours. The marines will probably take a little longer to secure everything though. So we'll be ready to go to M3R-428 tomorrow, if you are."
John watched the mission schedule flutter to the table, then turned to Rodney. "Do you want me to come to the Jumper Bay with you to help run the diagnostics after you've installed the auto pilots?"
Rodney thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yes, that would be a good idea." He shouldered his pack, picked up his own laptop and one of the new ones, then said." If you'll bring the other laptop and your field pack, we'll get the job done now." John did as he was bid, and followed Rodney out of the conference room.
Elizabeth turned to Teyla. "Would you, and Ronon, be available to go out with another team tomorrow?"
Teyla smiled. "It would be good to be doing something useful again. If you can make up another team, then I, at least, will go with them."
"I'll go as well," Ronon declared gruffly, startling Woolsey who had forgotten that the tall warrior was sitting beside him.
A little while later, John was sitting in the pilot's chair of Jumper five, and Rodney was half under the control console, hard wiring the laptop in to the ship's systems.
"I know that I could just clip the wires in," he said testily in answer to John's query. "But you only need to get one clumsy oaf, and the wire will come adrift and they won't know where to put it back. This way, that can't happen."
"Ohhhh-kaaay… point taken," John drawled.
"Good!" Rodney wriggled out of the tight gap, and sat up. "Run the simulation, please."
John faced the front and called up the on-screen display. Thinking carefully, he ran the simulation of dialling Earth and running the macro… it finished with an Ancient string of words which he had long recognized as their way of saying 'success - this works'.
"That's one done, and one to go." Rodney stated, in a happy tone. "Let's move on to Jumper seven."
John picked up his gear and followed Rodney out of Jumper five, powering it down as he left, and over to the next one in line, which powered up as they stepped aboard.
They went through the same routine as before, and fifteen minutes later they were on their way back to the conference room, where for a moment it looked as if nobody had moved while they were gone.
John was just about to comment, when he realized that Ronon was missing and Major Marks from the Daedalus was sitting in his place.
"Both Jumpers five and seven are ready," Rodney announced as he walked through the door behind John. "We have run the diagnostics and the simulation in each one, and they both came back with no errors."
Carson picked up a small pile of paper, and said, "I'm ready to go. Colonel Caldwell has assigned Major Marks to accompany me."
John nodded at Caldwell. "Thank you, Colonel."
Caldwell gave him a brisk nod to acknowledge the thanks.
"As you're ready, I'll take you up to the bay and run through the procedure," Rodney said, dumping his pack in John's arms, and, doing an about face, started to walk out again.
Carson and Marks both jumped to their feet, and with a hurried "see you later," from the Doctor, they chased after the rapidly disappearing form of Rodney McKay.
John took it in his stride, and put Rodney's pack down next to the seat where his lover had been sitting, then shucking off his own pack, he sat down and leaned the pack against his chair.
"I see you managed to create some paperwork for Carson to take with him. Is the printer holding up okay?"
"Yes - to both," Elizabeth replied. "Stop worrying about it, it works just fine."
John grinned. "Any decisions arrived at while I was gone?"
Elizabeth shrugged. "Not really, I've printed out a list of the suggestions that were made earlier and we've been trying to prioritise things between 'before' we move Atlantis, and after the move. Most things fall in to the 'after we move' category. It's really only the trading we need to get under way as soon as possible to soothe any ruffled feathers."
They heard the Jumper come down in to the gate room, and Rodney talking to Carson. Then the Jumper was gone through the event horizon and the gate had shut down.
"What happened to Ronon?"
"He couldn't sit still any longer so he went for a run," Woolsey replied, just beating Elizabeth to answering John's question.
"Thanks, I really should have guessed that," John stated. "So… shall we take another coffee and snack break while Carson is away? The view is better from the Mess Hall." He looked at Rodney standing in the doorway. "Do you want your pack back, or shall I leave it here?"
"Leave it there for the time being. I just thought you'd like to know that the marines are being run ragged by Hermiod and Novak. The pair of them are moving things faster than the marines can rope things in to place."
"It's good exercise for them," Caldwell said with a completely straight face.
General O'Neill just laughed, which made Caldwell's stony expression break in to a seldom seen smile.
Elizabeth got up from her seat and walked towards the door. "Like Ronon, I'm getting a little tired of sitting. Since we have, at the very least, an hour before Carson gets back, I'm going to get a cup of Athosian tea and go back to my quarters for a while to freshen up."
"I believe I shall do the same," Teyla said, and walked out of the room just behind Elizabeth.
"Well, I'm going to get a coffee and something to eat," John stated as he, too, walked out of the room.
Rodney automatically fell in beside him, and they walked shoulder to shoulder to the Mess Hall where they passed Elizabeth and Teyla leaving as they went in. They collected a plate of pasta and bolognaise sauce, and another mug of coffee each, then made their way to where the two tables were still pushed together on the balcony to eat their meals in peace.
At the two hour mark after Jumper five had departed, Elizabeth went to the Control Room. She was soon joined by John and Rodney, then Teyla and Ronon. Not that they were worried or anything, but they just wanted to be there…. That's what they were telling themselves… and each other.
At two hours plus twenty-eight minutes the Gate opened and Jumper five came to an abrupt halt in the Gate room. Carson waved at them from the pilot's seat as the Jumper started to rise up in to the Bay. The group in the Control Room made their way up to the bay as quickly as possible, to see what, and who, Carson had brought back with him.
As the hatch lowered slowly to the ground, they could see lots of grinning faces. Amongst the first out were Radek Zelenka, Evan Lorne, David Parish, and Laura Cadman… Stackhouse and a couple of other marines… Chuck and Amelia, the Gate technicians… and a few other people, medical staff who they recognised, but couldn't put a name to.
Elizabeth positively beamed at them. "It's good to see you all again," she said.
John held out his hand to Lorne. "It good to see you, Major."
"It's good to be back, Sir," Lorne replied, his dimples showing.
John then shook hands with everyone he could reach, greeting them by name if he knew it.
Carson was last out, and called for volunteers to move the crates which were stacked all along one side of the Jumper.
"As soon as they realized that they would only be standing for a few minutes we were able to cram in as many people as we could," Lorne told them. "Stackhouse and I came with the first batch because we thought that you might appreciate having at least a couple more pilots for your shuttle service. I doubt that Doctor Beckett would want to keep going backwards and forwards on his own."
"You thought right, son," Beckett told him seriously. "As far as I'm concerned this was a once only return trip. From now on, I'm going to stick to the infirmary, where I belong, sorting through the crates and getting everything put away." He was clutching a large package to his chest as he walked past them and out of the door.
"Both he, and Major Marks travelled back with large packages on their laps, the rest of us were the packing that stopped the piles of crates from falling over." Lorne grinned again when John laughed.
"Who do you want as your co-pilot, Major?" John asked.
"I'll take Cadman, and leave Stackhouse to choose between the two Gate techs."
"Okay. The other Jumper which has been modified is number seven. So you can either take this one back, or take the one which hasn't been used yet."
"As it's already out of it's dock, I'll take this one." He looked at Cadman, and said, "Climb aboard Captain, we're going on a return trip to Earth." Lorne turned and went to the pilot's seat, with Cadman following him, the hatch closing up behind them.
By the time John got back to the Control Room, Jumper five had already left for it's second trip to Earth. He spoke quietly to Teyla and Elizabeth. "Do we now have all the medicines that we contracted to supply for the stuff from Nari?" he asked.
"Carson is cross checking the list now, just to make sure that all the perishables arrived with him." Elizabeth replied to the question, then asked, "What will you tell them if they ask why you are late with the trade?"
John pulled a face. "The almost truth… some of the medicine only arrived from the supplier today."
Teyla nodded. "It is not exactly a lie," she agreed.
Just then, Chuck, who was now sitting in his usual position said, "Doctor Weir, I have a message from Doctor Beckett: He says that Jumper One has the correct inventory, so the trading mission can go ahead."
"Please thank Doctor Beckett for me, Chuck."
"In that case, Colonel, you have a go for the mission to Nari."
"Thanks." He put his left hand up to his ear and switched on the headset he was now wearing. "Ronon, we have a go. Teyla and I will meet you up in the Jumper Bay." He handed Teyla a headset, then said to Elizabeth, "Rodney will be round shortly to make sure that everyone has a working headset." He then turned on his heel and followed Teyla up the stairs towards the Jumper Bay.
Rodney was waiting for him beside Jumper One, and he started talking as soon as John was within earshot. "I've run diagnostics on the Jumper and she's running fine. Colonel Caldwell has provided eight beefy marines, and Major Marks, to do the hauling for you and they'll come through the gate from the alpha site as soon as you call; and Sergeant Longdon will be following the Jumper through the gate to act as your liaison. Have fun!"
"I'll try," John replied drily, as he made his way to the pilot's seat. "See you later."
Rodney stepped away as the hatch started to rise and went back to his task of assigning everyone a new headset, that was appropriate for their security clearance level.
John powered up the Jumper and closed the hatch, then went through the obligatory flight checks. When he was satisfied that everything was in order, he activated his head set. "Flight, this is Jumper one, ready for take off."
"Jumper one, this is flight. The Gate Room is clear," Chuck answered.
John punched in the address for Nari, and let the auto-pilot take the Jumper down in to the Gate Room and through the gate. He did a quick scan of the area around the gate, then flew up high to make sure that there wasn't any sign of the Wraith, finally he flew towards the Narian's administrative centre which was nearly thirty miles from the gate.
A few minutes later, John set the Jumper down in what had become their designated parking spot, and lowered the hatch. Teyla was first out of the craft, with Ronon and John half a step behind her. As soon as they were clear of the ramp, John touched the remote to close the hatch behind them.
They walked towards the trade centre, and were soon rewarded by the appearance of the Narian Minister for Trade.
"Greetings, Garia," Teyla called out.
"Greetings, Teyla," Garia answered somewhat coolly. "We had expected to see you some days ago."
"The most important of our medicines; that which is most efficacious when used fresh, only arrived from our supplier today. We came as soon as we were able to load it on our craft."
Garia's stance softened. "Welcome then, friend Teyla. We will partake of some tea."
Teyla bowed her head, and followed in Garia's footsteps, with John and Ronon right behind her.
They spent the next hour in the garden of the trade centre, Teyla taking minute sips of tea, and eating delicate flower shaped cakes, in a ritual which John found very reminiscent of the Japanese tea ceremony he'd taken part in many years before, in a galaxy very far away.
Once all the tea was drunk, and all the cakes eaten, Garia and Teyla rose to their feet, and made their way to where the Jumper was parked. John activated the remote when they were close enough to let the two women in to the back of the craft, whilst he and Ronon stood guard outside, with the Minister's own guards for company.
When the manifest was declared correct, Garia motioned for her guards to stand aside, to let her off the craft before the servants could come on board to collect the medicines. Garia authorised the release of the harvested food, then contacted the Minister for Mines, and authorised the release of the minerals, too. John walked in to the front of the Jumper and contacted Sergeant Longdon and asked him to dial the alpha site, and advise Major Marks that he could send the marines though. Once the order was acknowledged he went back outside to stand beside Ronon again.
Eventually, Teyla and Garia smiled at each other, and declared the trade completed. The two women exchanged formal bows before Teyla entered the Jumper, with Ronon directly behind her.
John, being the last in line, closed up the hatch. They then waited whilst the Narian delegation walked back in to their compound, before John powered up the Jumper and set course for home. As rituals went, he supposed, This wasn't bad at all. Just very, very boring.
The Control Room balcony was full of people when Jumper One arrived home, and as the Jumper rose up in to the bay, John recognized many more faces he knew. Standing near Elizabeth were Doctors Simpson and Kusanagi, near them were Doctors Biro and Hewston… They all waved, so he waved back.
Rodney was waiting for them in the Jumper Bay, standing by the slot where Jumper one was usually parked. He was inside the craft before the hatch hit the ground. "Don't go in to the Control Room," he said breathlessly, "You'll be squeezed half to death. I've been hugged by everybody."
John, of course, looked horrified.
"Elizabeth said I was to tell you to go get some sleep, since we're going to M3R-428 first thing tomorrow morning… believe me, I'm going to bed too." He turned to the two Pegasus natives. "She told me to tell you that it was up to you whether you made an appearance or not. But since you also have missions tomorrow, people will understand if you don't join the party."
"I've really had enough of ceremonies and parties, today to last me for quite a while," John replied tiredly. "I'm going to bed, and no one is going to stop me."
The four team mates crept out of the bay though a small access hatch, and then along a narrow corridor to a deserted part of the tower where they used the transporter to reach their rooms.
Once they were inside their apartment, John told Atlantis that he and Rodney were not to be disturbed. He left a message for Elizabeth with Major Lorne, and flopped on to the bed.
When John woke up the next morning and looked at the time, he realized three things. Firstly, he really needed to pee; secondly, that he was alone in the bed, and thirdly he had slept for just over ten hours.
He attended to the urgent need to use the bathroom first, then went looking for his lover… not that he had to go very far. Rodney was planted face-down on the Ancient sofa in the living room. So either Rodney hadn't made it to bed, or he'd got up for some reason and fallen asleep here. John cocked his head and thought back to the night before… he was pretty sure that they had fallen asleep in the same bed. Deciding that it was pointless trying to speculate why Rodney was on the sofa, he went in to the kitchen area and started the coffee machine, which had also arrived from Earth in that huge suitcase. By the time the coffee was ready to drink, his lover was standing by his side almost drooling at the thought of fresh brewed coffee.
Picking up the two mugs, John handed one off to Rodney and started sipping at the other…. then went wandering back towards the bedroom looking for his headset. He eventually found it stuffed under the pillows of the spare bedroom… and he only found it because he could hear it squawking as he passed by the door.
Cringing, he put the radio in his ear, to find Elizabeth calling his name. "I'm here and sort of awake," he said. "Give me twenty minutes and I'll be in… your office?"
Elizabeth laughed, "Yes, Colonel, my office now has furniture again. Did you sleep well?"
"Yeah. Apparently I was so tired I just flopped on to the bed and slept like a baby. I've only been awake long enough to make coffee."
"Do you know where Rodney is, he's not answering his radio either."
"Yup. I found him sleeping face down on the sofa when I got up. He is now drinking coffee, too."
She laughed again. "I'll see you both in about half an hour then."
He turned to Rodney, and said, "We've overslept. I've promised Elizabeth that we'll be in her office within thirty minutes."
Rodney just nodded and went towards the bathroom, taking his coffee with him. Thinking that was probably a good idea, John went towards his bathroom, mug of coffee in hand.
Elizabeth was sitting reading a file when John and Rodney entered her office within the half hour allotment.
"Good morning, Elizabeth," John greeted her.
She looked up, and studied them both for a moment, then said, "Good morning. You certainly both look a lot better for your long sleep… and I'm not going to begrudge you the extra couple of hours. I think it's done you good." She got to her feet. "Come and take a seat in the conference room, the others will be joining us there in a few minutes."
"Teyla said you were really worn out when you got back from Nari, John, so I wasn't really surprised that you didn't come to the party last night. I'd already told Rodney to go to bed, at least an hour before you got back."
They entered the conference room, and almost as if by magic, the other members of their meeting group came in too, carrying coffee flasks and mugs.
Rodney helped himself to another mug of coffee, but John went straight to his seat. He reckoned he was caffeinated enough to last for a while.
Elizabeth opened the file she had been carrying, then said, "Right. This meeting is about M3R-428 and what we do about relocating Atlantis. I have read right through the file, and the planet certainly seems to have everything we could possibly want in the way of plant, animal and aquatic life. So I'm going to give the go-ahead to the project subject to the scans which are going to be done today. Does anyone have anything else to add?"
"Just one thing," Colonel Caldwell said. "I have spoken to Hermiod about the plan to send the Jumper first then make the jump to the planet in the Daedalus. He has said, that if you wouldn't mind, he would prefer to come out of hyper-space outside the solar system, so that we can also examine the other planets there for life, minerals etc. which would be of use to the expedition in the future."
"So he's proposing to carry the Jumper all the way to the planet?" John asked.
"Basically, yes. He feels that exiting behind the outer-most planet would be a more advantageous approach."
"Okay, I can see his point," John replied, "And it will give us a lot of extra information about the surrounding planets and moons. If you don't mind doing the extra scans involved, I'm all for it."
Elizabeth turned to General O'Neill. "What about you, General?"
"I think it's a good idea to take a good look round while you've got the chance."
"Okay, you have a go. When do you want to leave?"
"How soon can everyone be ready?" John replied with a grin.
"Let's try for forty-five minutes from now," O'Neill said. "That should give everyone ample time to powder their noses."
"In that case, meeting adjourned," Elizabeth declared.
The Daedalus exited hyper-space behind the small, ice-ringed tenth planet from the sun. Hermiod slowly expanded his array of sensors, looking for ships, or any other kind of radiation which might give rise to concern. Finding nothing, he did a scan of planet number 10 and moved inwards towards number nine. It was a time consuming and rather boring task, but they did learn that planet number seven had rings very much like Saturn, and number six had an atmosphere and some interesting mineral readings. The planet they were interested in was number four from the sun, and the readings were still exactly the same as they had been the first time they had been here.
Of the inner planets, number three was unusually small, looking more like an asteroid than a planet, and the two inner ones would be much too hot to be bothered with.
When they finally turned back to M3R-428 and Caldwell let them take the Jumper out of the 302 bay, John almost jumped for joy. Free of the Daedalus, they spiralled down through the atmosphere, sending data back to the large ship as they went. Hermiod making encouraging noises in their ears about the oxygen-rich layers as they got closer to the ground.
"You know," Rodney broke in, "If I didn't know I was in another galaxy, and the continents are the wrong shape, I would swear I was over an Earth that existed a couple of thousand years ago."
"I agree that the readings are very similar to your home planet, Doctor McKay. I believe you should do well here. I have enough data to analyze, you may return to the ship when you are ready."
"Are we ready, Rodney?" John asked.
"We may as well. The sooner we get back, the sooner we can move the city and get our lives back."
Without further comment, John turned the Jumper back towards the Daedalus, and flew at top speed back to the 302 bay. They were still disembarking when they heard the sound of the hyper-space engines coming on line.
"They're not wasting any time on the return journey," John commented drily. "I do wonder, though, why Caldwell suddenly changed his mind about being helpful…"
"Maybe he has grown to like you, John," Teyla suggested. "He seems more relaxed around all of us than he ever was before."
John laughed. "Maybe. I've been told before that I grow on people."
"Yes, you do," Rodney corroborated the idea.
Teyla laughed too. "And you still like a nice cup of tea. I believe I will go to see what kind of tea the Daedalus has to offer. Will you join me, John?"
John shrugged, and turned towards the bridge. "I have to go report to the Colonel, I'll see you in the mess later."
Caldwell looked round from contemplating the view out of the front windows when John walked on to the bridge. "Did you see anything that might have changed your mind about moving here?" he asked.
"No, Colonel. It still seems the best place we've seen; and all the science departments seem to agree for once… so I won't have any of them mad at me for choosing to live here," John replied with a half shrug.
Caldwell gave him a reluctant kind of smile. "I've found that scientists can be very picky at times," the Colonel replied drily. "We'll be back at Lantea in about two hours. Go get yourself a drink and relax for a while. I have a feeling it will be your last chance to do so until the city has been moved."
"Thank you, Colonel. I have a feeling you're right."
John left the bridge with a spring in his step. It seemed that Colonel Caldwell wasn't such a tight ass after all.
In the mess, he found that Teyla and Ronon had been joined by O'Neill and Woolsey. They were talking about the luxurious growth of trees and the long sandy coastlines of the main body of land.
"I think it will be a good place to live," was General O'Neill's final verdict.
As soon as they were close enough to Atlantis, the Daedalus sent a sub-space message that they had officially approved M3R-428 as the new home for Atlantis.
Elizabeth sounded very happy when she replied to their message, John had a sudden feeling that Caldwell might have been understating the amount of work he was going to be facing.
Ever since they had mooted moving the city, the combined forces of his and Caldwell's marines, plus some on loan from the S.G.C., had been scouring the city, looking for anything that wasn't tied down… and then making sure it was; the shuttle service had brought lots of rope and duct tape to aid their efforts. Nothing was going to move around when they took off and spoil the flight if they had anything to do with it.
They found that the Replicators had not mended everything and there were still a few places where some of the rooms were flooded. They were pumped out with positive air pressure via temporary bulkheads, the holes were then repaired as best they could with extruded plastic, and then braced with timber from the mainland.
Eventually, everything on their list of things to do before lift-off had been done, and it was time to go.
John sat in the Control Chair almost vibrating with excitement that they were finally leaving Lantea, and he was going to fly the city away. Rodney was at the nearby control panel where he would be monitoring their progress. The Daedalus was already en-route to the planet, so that they would be on hand to record the 'splash down' as a couple of the ex-N.A.S.A types liked to refer to it.
Rodney half turned towards him as the bright blue light from the Control Chair illuminated the room as it tilted back. "You're good to go!" was all he said.
John nodded, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes.
He felt the rumble of the Star drive as it powered up, and he smiled slightly when he thought of when he and Rodney had stood in one of the shield emitter stations wondering what the noise was; and the nausea which had overtaken him when he realized that the Replicators were going to try to fly away from Lantea. He'd have to thank Carson for making such a good job of firing those three drones at the drive. His lips quirked again as he thought of the Replicators having to repair it twice, and still getting destroyed by the humans they despised so much.
He took another very deep breath and concentrated on the task ahead. It was so easy to get side-tracked with Atlantis in his mind.
He eased the power up a little, and Atlantis slowly rose from the ocean, water streaming off the underside of the city. At Atlantis's insistence he held the city in position, despite protests from Rodney.
He tried to send the thoughts, the ideas that Atlantis was projecting at him, to Rodney; but Rodney couldn't hear them… then he tried putting them in to words. "Atlantis," he gasped out. "She said… need to wait or we'll spoil the new sea.."
"Spoil the sea?" what are you talking about Colonel?"
"Oh crap! That's something that none of us thought about."
Rodney studied the screens in front of him, trying to understand what was happening while they continued to hover, yet they were very, very slowly gaining height… there was a slight power surge, then they were rising more rapidly, higher and higher; suddenly the shield wrapped around the city and they moved inexorably upwards until eventually they left the atmosphere of Lantea behind them, and all they could see from the windows was the star-spangled blackness of space.
The city seemed to hang there for a moment, as if saying goodbye to the planet on which she had lived for so long, and then they were in hyper-space and the experience was nothing like being on the Daedalus… for here it seemed there were no solid walls between them and the rushing colours.
Rodney walked across the room to the slowly rotating chair, and looked down on John. It looked as if he were asleep. His eyes were closed, his body was relaxed and there was a slight smile on his full lips. It was a look of contentment he'd only seen on his lover's face after a bout of really good sex.
He felt a pang of jealousy that something else could put such an expression on his lover's face… and then he realized that he shouldn't feel jealous at all. This was John's love of flying… flying higher, flying faster… and he was awed then that he was loved this much, too.
He backed away, reluctant to takes his eyes off his lover, until he was leaning against the wall, and he felt Atlantis, almost touching him. Telling him something that he couldn't quite grasp; and then time meant nothing to him.
What seemed like moments later, he stirred and so did John, coming out of Atlantis's thrall as they were once again in normal space, hanging above the chosen planet.
Suddenly, above John there was a holographic representation of the oceans and land, with a golden circle growing larger as they dropped towards the atmosphere… the spot in a large bay which looked so very much like the Gulf of Mexico, the spot that they had chosen for the city to land.
Their downward plunge slowed, and then slowed even more as water was blown in to the air by their approach; and then they were down. Floating serenely on a new ocean, the shield down. There was still something that the city was doing because he could see John's eyes were now moving under his eyelids.
They stayed in their relative positions for about five minutes, then the power shut off and the chair slowly returned to the upright position; and at long last, John opened his eyes looking for Rodney. "The city has confirmed that our address will be M3R-428 and the space gate has, for the moment, been disabled."
Their eyes caught, and there was that moment of shared ecstasy between them, and then the real world was wrapped around them again as the voices of Elizabeth, Radek, Carson and General O'Neill, amongst others, intruded on their shared isolation. The voices asking questions that, for the moment, neither of them was capable of answering.
John brought his arms up over his head and stretched, breaking the eye contact and breaking the spell which had seemed to bind them together.
Then came the physical intrusion as Carson barrelled in to the room looking worried. "Why are you not answering your radio, Rodney? What is the matter?"
Rodney shook his head. "Sorry Carson, the city absorbed all my concentration and I simply did not hear you calling. I can't quite describe it, but it seemed as if all noise from outside the room had been silenced, so as not to disturb John."
Carson stopped in his tracks, the anger he had felt slipped away as he considered the explanation offered. "Aye, you're probably right, Rodney, it would make sense to isolate the person in the chair from all distractions."
He turned to face John who was still sitting down in the now dormant Chair. "How are you feeling, lad?" he asked.
John shrugged. "I feel as if I have run a long way very fast. Rather like I feel after my morning run with Ronon, except there's no sweat pouring down my face."
Carson laughed. "I've seen you walking back from your morning run, Colonel. There's definitely more sweat involved then."
John pushed out of the chair, wobbled slightly then stepped down off the dais to stand near them. "I also feel as if I could eat a horse."
Rodney immediately offered him one of his precious chocolate power bars.
John gave him a heartfelt "Thanks" and had stripped off the foil and eaten most of the bar within seconds. "That feels better," he said before putting the last piece in to his mouth. "Is the Mess Hall serving food yet do you know?"
"We could go and find out," Rodney offered. "We're done here. The city is in the correct place. The city's shield and the Star drive are both powered down. So I think we both deserve some food. How about you, Carson?"
"I could eat," Carson acknowledged. "Let's go to the Mess Hall and see what they have. At least if either of you faint… sorry Rodney, 'pass out', on the way, you'll have a doctor close at hand."
"Oh har har, Carson." Rodney was grinning though, his complaint only half-hearted.
Carson then spoke to Elizabeth, letting her know that both John and Rodney were fine, and that he was going to accompany them to the Mess Hall to make sure that they ate.
John shook his head, and started walking towards the nearest transporter. "Come on, guys, I'm hungry! If you don't hurry up, I'm leaving you here."
The two men quickened their pace so that they caught up with John as he was about to step in to the transporter. Moments later they were in the Mess Hall itself. The balcony where only a few days ago they had pushed two tables together was crowded with people gawking at the view.
The three men went quietly through the food line, then took their trays to a table as far away from the crowd as they could possibly get, and sat down to eat.
A little while later, Elizabeth joined them carrying a tray of her own, sitting down next to Carson and opposite John. "Having a meal seemed like a very good idea. General O'Neill and Richard Woolsey are eating with Colonel Caldwell in the small conference room, talking about the marvel of seeing Atlantis in space. Teyla and Ronon should be here very soon as I told them where we were going."
"They've just come through the door," Rodney mumbled through a mouthful of food.
John lifted his hand and waved at his team mates, Teyla smiled and bowed her head in acknowledgement and went to join Ronon in the short queue for the food. A few minutes later they came over and sat down at the table with them: Teyla next to John, and Ronon next to Elizabeth.
Most of the talk was about the fantastic views they'd had from the balcony as the city had risen up and hovered over Lantea, and then risen up in to space where they could see millions of stars shining around them. The next excitement had been when they had dropped out of hyper-space and seen the Daedalus waiting for them near their new planet's moon.
"I saw at least two of the archaeologists with cameras taking pictures of our journey," Elizabeth said. "They have assured me that the photographs will be put up on the shared space on the server, so those who were actually working during the flight can see the magnificent views that we were seeing. Apparently, the anthropologists decided to document the whole thing from start to finish. They are using both video and still cameras; and they even have footage of the survey that was done here a few days ago courtesy of the crew of the Daedalus."
"I hope they got some video of the Jumper in flight while they were at it," Rodney said. "If you ever told anyone that a metal box could fly very, very fast, they'd never believe you."
Elizabeth laughed. "I suggest that after we've eaten, we join General O'Neill and the others in the conference room, if we can get the debriefing done, perhaps they'll all go home and stop offering unhelpful suggestions."
John nodded wearily. "Please try to keep it short if you can. The serious lack of sleep since we came back to Pegasus is starting to catch up with me. There's going to be a point, in the not too distant future, when I'm just going to go to sleep no matter where I am… and I would really rather be in a comfortable bed when that happens."
"I'll do my best," she assured him. "Even I am beginning to feel that I could sleep for a week, so I really can't imagine how you must feel; at least I have been getting some rest."
"Yeah. Lorne has been trying to take some of the load off me, but with the triumvirate of General O'Neill, Woolsey and Colonel Caldwell, it hasn't been easy going for either of us." He put the last spoonful of fruit crumble in his mouth and savoured it. "That was excellent."
"I don't think I've ever seen you eat so much."
"When I got out of the Control Chair, I felt as if I hadn't eaten for days… yet I had a really big breakfast."
"I can vouch for that," Rodney pitched in. "I thought he and Ronon had entered in to a competition as to who could eat the most at one sitting…."
John laughed, "That would definitely be Ronon, there's no way that I could compete. I suppose we'd better go get this meeting over, then I can get some much needed sleep." He picked up his now empty tray, and took it over to the bussing station. Elizabeth and Rodney followed suit, but Carson remained seated with Ronon and Teyla.
"You won't need us at the meeting," Carson remarked "So I'm just going to sit here and enjoy the company, and now the crowd is thinning, perhaps the view as well."
"Lucky you," Elizabeth said over her shoulder as she walked away. She stopped on the way out of the Mess to ask the servers to send tea and coffee up to the conference room on the Control level, then hurried to catch up with John and Rodney, who were slowly walking towards the transporter.
When the three senior members of the Atlantis command staff entered the conference room, they found that the meal trays had been taken away and the three men were leaning back in their chairs, drinking coffee… a half full flask on the table between them
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," Elizabeth greeted them, "I trust you enjoyed your meal?"
"Although the vegetables looked very strange, it was delicious," General O'Neill assured her.
"The vegetables came from Nari, Sir, they were part of the trade deal we secured a few days ago." John replied as he slumped in to a nearby chair.
"You look tired, Sheppard," O'Neill commented, as he refilled his coffee cup.
"Yes, Sir, I am rather tired. The Control Chair is rather debilitating when you sit in it for a long time."
O'Neill nodded. "I don't remember much about my time in the Antarctic Chair, but I'm told that I needed help to move afterwards. That was a nice landing you made. I think the ex-N.A.S.A. guys were a little disappointed there wasn't more 'splash'."
John grinned tiredly. "I heard that some people were betting we'd create a tsunami when we landed, but with three Z.P.Ms in the city's power room, I was able to maintain complete control of everything. I believe if we'd tried this with any fewer of the Z.P.M. modules, that could easily have been the case, and we would have had to land much further out at sea."
"So the number of Z.P.Ms you have affects the city?" Caldwell asked, leaning forward with great interest.
"Yes, Sir, it does. When we only had one, even getting the minimum of sensors on line proved to be very difficult, and most of them stopped working altogether when we used the shield. With three, the city behaves as it should. Everything works without having the scientists and engineers run around like headless chickens trying to fix things, when really they should be doing other things."
"Yes, we should be doing other things. We came here to do research, not act as plumbers!" Rodney broke in. "The things we should be doing are: searching through the Ancient database for new weapons and advances in medicine, investigating the machines and other items we've found in the city. We have a huge collection of small and large items which have been found by the city exploration teams, and we haven't had the time to even look at most of them."
"As I was about to say," John took back command of the conversation, "Atlantis does have its own repair functions… it runs robots, mechanical not nanite, to clean and repair things, and most won't work without more than one Z.P.M. in place."
"In fact the only ones we could get to work using an enhanced naquadah generator, were the floor cleaners," Rodney stated. "Which, while nice to have, we really could have done with the maintenance and repair ones working instead."
"Then we would probably have arrived in a city knee deep in dust," John snarked.
Rodney looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "Okay I'll concede they do have their uses - but even only a few of the repair ones working would have been a godsend."
John grimaced. "I'll concede that one to you. It would have saved us a lot of heartache." He looked at the three men facing him, knowing that they wouldn't understand the comment. "We lost lives to un-maintained machinery; to flooding because the sensors didn't work… and electrical malfunctions." He leaned forward. "Every time a gate team has left the city they have followed two main directives… the most important has been to find a Z.P.M. the second has been to trade for food, minerals and other necessities. Sometimes in our travels we have found buildings left behind by the Ancients and we've searched them for the power modules we needed, but we haven't had the time to spare for finding out why they were built on that particular planet, or what they were used for."
John leaned back in his chair again. "Now that we don't have to worry about the power problems, though of course we'll keep looking for them, we should be able to revisit some of those facilities and investigate them properly… maybe one of them will turn out to be a Z.P.M. factory."
"Surely…" Whatever Woolsey was about to say was interrupted by the arrival of fresh tea and coffee, and they all waited as patiently as they could until the old flasks had been replaced by fresh ones.
Once the doors were completely closed, Woolsey started speaking again. "Surely you would recognize a factory when you saw one!"
"Since we don't know how they are made, we don't know what we are looking for," Rodney retorted, pouring fresh coffee in to his mug. "And that's why I was so insistent that you ask the Ancients' chief engineer for that information."
Woolsey had the grace to look abashed.
General O'Neill broke the awkward silence. "How long will it be before the gate bridge is operational again?"
"It already is. I updated the macros as soon as we decided this was where we were going to land; and the city confirmed to John, while he was in the Chair, that the address of M3R-428 will now be the city's designation."
"What about the space gate?" O'Neill asked. "A few years ago, the Russians started operating a Stargate and over-rode the Colorado Gate. Won't that affect the gate here?"
"The city says not," John replied. "Before I left the Chair, that gate was disabled because of the possible conflict. I was thinking that perhaps we could move it in to orbit around… planet six I think… the one with the minerals and interesting readings. It's far enough away that it would get its own address and it would save long round trips by Puddle Jumper to investigate the readings we got."
"I'll add that to my list of the things we need to do before we leave," Caldwell said drily.
John smiled at him, as Elizabeth said, "Thank you, Colonel."
"While we're on the subject of gates." Rodney said. "One of the gates we will no longer be using for the bridge is a planet bound one on M4F-788. The planet itself is a barren wasteland and doesn't have any minerals or anything else of interest to anyone. I was wondering if that could be put on the mainland of Lantea to preserve the continuity of address."
"Is there anything else before we leave you on your own again?" O'Neill asked.
"There is one thing," John said. "Could you find a way to hasten the return of the rest of our missing population. We're still stretched very thin, and although keeping the shuttle service going on a once a day basis, is helping, it's mainly stores rather than people that are arriving now."
"I'll see what I can do," O'Neill assured him. "Is there anything else?" When no one spoke up, he said, "In that case I declare this meeting closed… and recommend that you go get some sleep, Colonel Sheppard."
"Yes, Sir." John climbed laboriously to his feet. "I'm going to do that right now." He took off his headset and stuffed it in his shirt pocket as he made his way to the transporter… and his bed.
Hours later when Rodney entered the apartment they were still sharing, John was curled up under a sheet on his bed, still sleeping peacefully. He crept silently away and settled down to sleep on his own.
After the Daedalus had left on it's voyage to Earth, and O'Neill and Woolsey had left via the gate bridge, things slowly started to get back to normal on Atlantis. General O'Neill had obviously said and done something about their missing military personnel and scientists, because there was a sudden rise in the numbers coming back through the gate bridge, until everyone who was going to return had done so. He had also got Colonel Carter to return the laptop which had been temporarily attached to the S.G.C's Jumper for its return to Earth.
Elizabeth had gone back to Earth on the outbound trip one day to consult with the President and O'Neill about the new location and the new protocols they were going to implement. She returned the next day; not unhappy about the talks, but looking thoughtful none the less.
The day after her return, she called John and Rodney in to a meeting, and told Chuck that they were not to be disturbed.
The two men took their usual seats opposite her desk and waited to find out what the meeting was about.
Elizabeth looked gravely at them, her hands clasped on the desk in front of her.
"What's up, Elizabeth?" Rodney asked, as always impatient to be somewhere else.
Elizabeth sighed, then said, "It has been brought to my notice that you are cohabiting in an apartment on the top floor of the new building we've started using for quarters. I need to tell you to stop whatever it is you are doing for the sake of the expedition."
They were both bereft of speech at first, then John laughed. "If whomever brought it to your attention had asked, there is a very simple explanation. You remember when we first arrived and you had hysterics about a very large suitcase…? Well, that suitcase had not only all the computers and cables in it, but everything else we both felt we needed to bring with us; some of which we've used and some we haven't. Since I knew of the three bedroomed apartment on the top floor, I suggested we set up shop there. The suitcase was left in the living room so everything we needed was to hand."
Elizabeth visibly relaxed. "I do remember the image of you going shopping with a suitcase amusing me. However, I was instructed to ask, and while I can see that it was a necessity at the time, I would suggest that you move into separate accommodations as soon as possible."
"Can I keep the three bedroomed apartment?" John asked hopefully.
Elizabeth shook her head. "I don't think that would be wise, John. Just move a little further down the tower, and everyone will be happy."
"Okay, I know where there are some two bedroomed apartments, so we can have an office each instead of sharing one," John stated.
"That's good. I've got used to having a separate office instead of sharing it with my bed," Rodney told him.
"I'll take you with me so you can pick out the view you'd like, then I'll round up a few marines, and some crates, to help us move."
"Crates?" Rodney sounded puzzled.
"We've only got the one suitcase… we'll have to split the contents in to what's yours and what's mine," John replied, trying to keep a straight face.
"Do the computers count as yours or mine?"
John shrugged. "I don't know," he replied plaintively.
Elizabeth buried her head in her hands. "Just go away and get it done."
"Yes, Ma'am," John said, at the same time as Rodney said, "Yes Elizabeth."
They looked at one another, grinned; and left Elizabeth sitting at her desk, laughing.
Much later, in Rodney's new bedroom, curled up on the large double bed there, they made love slowly and carefully, just reaffirming their love for one another. They had regretfully decided that it was to be their last night together for a few weeks, since they didn't want to do anything that might harm John's career.
John did a rough cleanup, leaned over to kiss Rodney, then got dressed and left the apartment without looking back.
The Daedalus having got the gate from M4F-788 in place on the Lantean mainland, they started using that as the proxy gate for their trading. They kept a jumper there for protection, and a small detachment of marines, so that they could guard the gate from intruders.
The flagship team then started looking at planets to be turned into their more permanent proxy site, an address that wasn't known to all and sundry.
John had made a short list of three planets. All had been uninhabited at the time of the initial survey by one of the gate teams; and they all had somewhere near the gate where they could set up a permanent camp with a stream nearby to provide clean water.
The first day they visited M3N-659 and found that the whole continent where the gate was located was under three feet of snow, which definitely hadn't been there during the initial survey by Lorne's team. They dutifully had a look at the area around the gate, and found that the stream was completely frozen over. They struck that planet off the list.
The second planet was visited two days later. M6E-721 was one of the planets which had an Ancient outpost on it; and as John's team had already been there to investigate the outpost they knew what to expect. They followed protocol and re-did all the scans for their records.
The outpost wasn't overly large but it was big enough to provide the necessary cover for the personnel which would be required to live here semi-permanently. A channel could be dug from the stream, and water piped in to the facility without too much difficulty. This one was a definite possibility.
The last on the list was P2V-455; Stackhouse and his team had been the ones to visit this planet.
John hovered near the gate while Rodney did his scans, then when given the all clear, he landed the Jumper about half way between the gate and the stream. The Team then walked across the short grass to where the stream left a small canyon, for this was where Stackhouse had recommended the camp should be situated. They took a careful look around, and thought that this would probably make the best proxy site as their camp would be concealed by the canyon's walls, and there was a way out at the back should they be besieged. Although Rodney muttered about having to be a mountain goat to be able to use it.
The decision made, they left the same way that they had come following the stream. John had taken two steps outside the canyon when, with a grunt of pain, he fell backwards in to Rodney, a long arrow deeply embedded in his left shoulder.
Rodney immediately dropped to his knees, lowering John's upper body gently to the ground. He felt the breeze of another arrow fly by his ear, and then yelped as yet another gouged his left arm. Ronon flattened himself against the canyon's entrance and returned fire, as Rodney and Teyla grabbed hold of John and pulled him back in to cover behind a large boulder.
"Where the hell did they come from?" Rodney yelled. "There wasn't anything on the scans at all." He took a field dressing out of his tac vest and applied it to the bleeding gash on his arm.
"I do not know, Rodney," Teyla replied calmly, helping Rodney tie the dressing in place. "But we must attend to the Colonel's wound."
Rodney looked worriedly at John lying on the ground. "We'll have to get his pack and the tac vest off first." He took his own pack off and pulled out a medical kit. "We'll need to give him a shot of antibiotics and some morphine," he murmured as he followed his own instructions.
"Yes, and if Ronon will lend us one of his very sharp knives, we can reduce the length of the arrow to make bandaging the wound easier."
"Come over here and fetch one," Ronon replied. "But keep your head down, they're still out there so don't make yourself a target. Leave your P-90 with me, too. I don't want them to think I'm the only one shooting at them."
Teyla quickly moved to Ronon's side. She laid her P-90 on the ground, and gave him the spare magazines. She then took the knife he held out to her, and to the accompaniment of more blasts from Ronon's gun, accompanied by a couple of bursts from the machine gun, made her way back to where John and Rodney were protected behind the boulder.
Rodney put a thick strip of leather between John's teeth, then held the arrow as still as he possibly could while Teyla used the knife to cut in to the shaft. It was a relief to them both when John lost consciousness well before they had managed to sever the shaft.
They then sat John up and propped him against Rodney while they released the straps of John's pack and put it aside, then Teyla cut the laces of the tac vest so that she could lift it away at the back and over his head, before sliding it off the short stump that was now all that was left of the shaft.
Teyla opened her field medical kit, and followed the training that Carson had given her, cutting away the cloth of John's shirt, then used the packet of clotting granules to stop the bleeding and aid in the warding off of infection. She bound the remains of the arrow firmly in place, so that it would not be jarred accidentally; then placed John's left arm in a sling to help alleviate the pain.
"That's all we can do for now, Rodney. How long is it before Atlantis deems us to be overdue?"
Rodney looked at his watch. "We were due to return in about twenty two minutes. So, I would imagine that they will dial in at any time between twenty-five to forty-five minutes from now."
Teyla packed John's vest in to her pack after first extracting the magazines for both the P-90 and the handgun at his hip, putting those in her own vest in case of need.
About fifteen minutes later, Ronon said quietly, "I think they may be going to make a run at me, which may also be to distract us from the trail at the back. If they live here they must know that it exists."
"What do you suggest, Ronon?"
"Get McKay over here, there's a place he can kneel down and fire his P-90 though a gap. It's well protected. You should keep an eye on the trail at the back," Ronon suggested.
"We will do as you say." Teyla took up a position so that she could watch the trail and keep an eye on John.
Rodney slowly moved forward to the position that Ronon had indicated, his P-90 held firmly in front of him. It was easy to see why Ronon wasn't using this vantage point himself, Rodney could only just fit in the space. Looking through the crack, he saw that he had quite a wide field of vision, and would be able to do considerable damage to anyone charging them from the front. He, on the other hand, protected as he was by the boulders, would be very difficult to hit.
As Ronon had predicted they didn't have to wait very long for the attack to come. There was a sudden heavy flurry of arrows, then unusually shaped bodies were hurling themselves towards them. Ronon opened fire with both his own gun and the one he'd borrowed from Teyla. Rodney took his cue from Ronon and fired at anything that moved. Under the hail of lead and energy bursts the charge faltered and turned in to a retreat.
"Cease fire," Ronon ordered. Then Teyla started firing from behind them. "Keep your eyes on them, and fire if they start coming forward again," he ordered as he turned to face the trail, and added his gun to the slaughter of a small group of beings that had attempted to take them by surprise.
Rodney saw some of those in front of him pause and start to turn, so he fired a burst at them and was pleased to note that a couple of them actually went down, before the rest of them fled back the way they had come.
In the silence after Ronon and Teyla ceased firing, John moaned, then said, "Wass goin' on guys?"
"A group of the beings that shot you, have attacked us, but have now retreated," Teyla told him, laying a hand on his good shoulder. "Do not try to move, the head of the arrow is still embedded in your shoulder, and you would not wish it to do any more damage."
"Oh, okay, I'll just lie here and think encouraging thoughts at Elizabeth."
"You do that," Rodney told him. "We'll soon be overdue, and I would love to hear her voice about now."
They waited in silence, Rodney taking surreptitious glances at his watch in between keeping his eyes on where the beings had disappeared. At five minutes past the hour, the Stargate started to dial, and Rodney breathed a sigh of relief when he heard Elizabeth's voice calling them.
"McKay here," he answered. "We've been ambushed near the gate by beings that don't show up on our scans. They shoot nasty long arrows, and have wounded John in the left shoulder, which Teyla and I have bound up. The Jumper is still cloaked and is about half way between where we are and the gate. If Stackhouse is there he can pinpoint the canyon for you. We would appreciate being rescued before they get up enough courage to attack in force again."
"Understood, Rodney. We'll keep the gate open, and a rescue team will be with you in a few minutes.
A few minutes later a Jumper came though the gate. A flurry of arrows and rocks were fired at it from the cover of the trees, and the Jumper retaliated by firing a drone at them.
"Doctor McKay, can you hear me?" Lorne's voice sounded in his ear.
"I can see your Jumper. I'm going to set down behind it - back to back, when I say so, please uncloak it, and let the hatch down."
"Hold on a moment," Rodney said quickly, "Teyla, have you got the remote control for the Jumper."
"Major, you'd better talk directly to Teyla, she has the remote."
"Will do. Teyla, please decloak the Jumper."
Rodney watched as their Jumper shimmered in to view, and heard what sounded like a wail coming from the beings hiding in the trees.
"Please let the hatch down now." As the hatch on their Jumper lowered so did the one on Lorne's then his was on the ground, the two ramps almost touching. Two figures ran from one to the other, then the hatches were lifting back in to place.
Lorne's Jumper took to the air and came directly towards them, the other Jumper hovered, turning towards where the arrows had been fired from - an obvious warning not to do anything to force them to fire any more drones.
Inside their fortress there wasn't enough clear space to land a Jumper, so Lorne set his down at the entrance to the canyon. Four marines in full body armour got out, and stood guard between where John lay and the trail at the back, now littered with bodies to mark it's existence.
Next came the medics carrying a litter. They gently moved John on to it, then went carefully back to the Jumper. The marines ushered, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon inside, then they were airborne. The gate was dialled, and they were through the event horizon to the alpha site, the other Jumper immediately behind them. As soon as the gate shut down, it was dialled for Atlantis, and their Jumper went through and up to the Jumper Bay, where Carson and his team were waiting to take over.
Rodney, Teyla and Ronon handed their P-90s off to the marines and followed in the wake of the gurney carrying John to the Infirmary.
Elizabeth, knowing the team well, was already waiting for them there. Rodney told her in a few, well chosen words exactly what had happened, and then they sat in silence waiting for Carson to come out and tell them that John was okay.
As soon as Carson came in to the waiting area, Rodney jumped to his feet. "Well?" he demanded. "Is he okay?"
"Aye. He's in recovery at the moment, as he's still a little groggy from the anaesthetic. We should be moving him from there fairly soon. The collateral damage inside his shoulder was minimal, you made a very good job of immobilizing the shoulder and the missile. So, with some PT he should regain full mobility."
"That's good to hear, Carson," Elizabeth said, relief obvious in her voice.
Rodney's next question, was the usual, "When can we see him?" He sat down again, clearly meaning to wait until Carson let them in.
Carson looked at his watch. "Give him another two hours, at least, to recover from the drugs and the surgery and I'll let you in," he replied, knowing that John's team would not rest until they had spoken to the injured member, no matter which one of them it was. "Go get some food and get cleaned up, I'm no letting you in there in that state."
Rodney looked down at his mud and blood smeared uniform, and admitted to himself that Carson had a point. "Right! Clean up, then food, I think," he said as he wearily pushed himself out of the chair and made his way back to his quarters. "Though a snack wouldn't hurt," he muttered to himself as he took out a power bar on the way to the transporter.
Two hours later, Rodney was knocking on Carson's office door, with Teyla and Ronon standing behind him.
Carson rolled his eyes, then led them to where John was lying propped up in bed, still looking rather sleepy. "You can stay with him for a while-"
"Yes, Carson, we know the drill," Rodney told him as he pulled up a chair and sat down.
"Aye, you should do by now, you've been here often enough," Carson replied as he walked away. He knew they knew the rules… just as he also knew that they would be flouted as usual.
"What happened after I was shot?"
"You fell over," Rodney promptly replied.
"Yes! I remember that bit!" John rolled his eyes, then winced. That hadn't been a good idea.
Teyla took up the tale and recounted the events in minute detail, finishing with: "Ronon warned me to keep an eye on the trail behind us."
"And I was right," Ronon said. "They did try an assault from both directions. We killed a lot of them with the P-90s and they retreated back to the tree line. They left quite a few bodies on that back trail, too."
"When Elizabeth dialled in, I told her what had happened and where the cloaked Jumper was parked. Lorne came through the gate, and they fired arrows and boulders at him, so he fired a drone at them." Rodney said smugly.
"Why a drone?"
"Apparently, they had brought catapults… those things where you put boulders in a basket… so he took them out. They retrieved us, and the Jumper, and we came back here via the alpha site."
"I am very glad they did not get a chance to fire those catapults at us. They could have done a lot of damage."
"Yeah they could." John shuddered slightly at the thought.
After John had been released from the infirmary for light duty and some gruelling physio therapy, he had taken to aimlessly walking round the city, for want of something to actually do. Though Carson probably wouldn't approve of the amount of walking he was doing, since he'd been told not to overdo things…
The not quite loneliness that he felt without Rodney by his side, seemed to make Atlantis… sad seemed to be the best analogy. She had not seemed really 'happy' since he and Rodney had stopped having sex and had moved out of the apartment she'd shown him; ever since then, she had been showing her displeasure by not opening doors quite so quickly for him as usual, and she had started diverting him to the transporter outside the apartment again… and opening the door for him.
Four times in as many days he had stood outside the apartment he had really wanted to keep. On the fourth visit, he gave in and went inside to lean his forehead against the wall in the big bedroom he and Rodney had shared. Eventually he had managed to convey to her that he couldn't live here any more… not that he didn't want do… he couldn't.
For a few days afterwards he always concentrated on his destination and Atlantis took him directly to the spot on the map where he had intended to go.
Then one day, after some rather painful PT and having to deal with the aftermath of losing two marines to a stupid accident, Atlantis ignored his intention and took him to the end of the north west pier… and opened a door opposite the transporter. Too tired to argue, he went inside another large apartment… and found that all its windows faced towards the setting sun. The view from the main bedroom window was magnificent; and he knew what she was saying… here is where you can heal your soul, I will protect you.
This was the safe place to which he could bring Rodney, and make love to him, and Atlantis would protect them both.
He opened the door to the huge balcony and looked around, this place was huge… like the house he'd bought back in Colorado type of huge… and he laughed at the thought that both places had one of nature's finest views from their bedroom windows.
Going back inside, he touched the walls and thought 'thank you' and the wall warmed under his hand.
During the next few days, he often returned to the apartment at the end of the pier… he brought little things with him. A couple of Athosian rugs… and some of the pillar candles that they made so well. He also brought more mundane things like towels and toothbrushes.
Finally, Carson signed him off to active duty again, and he began to make serious plans to take Rodney with him to watch the sun set into the ocean.
John picked the day after another trading mission to Nari. Elizabeth always gave him the day off after dealing with the Narian's. He arranged with the kitchen staff to provide him with a basket of food to take with him… which he delivered to the secret apartment straight away, then went Rodney hunting; not that finding Rodney was hard. He hated going to visit Nari even more than John did, but since they were trading his mechanical genius, with John as his assistant, he hadn't had the choice to avoid going this time. He rapped on the door of Rodney's apartment, then let himself in. Rodney was, as he'd known he would be, sitting at his desk typing rapidly in to his computer.
When Rodney looked up at the intrusion, John said, "I have something to show you." When Rodney didn't move, John went on, "Atlantis and I think you will like it, at least come and have a look."
With a put upon sigh, Rodney got to his feet. "Very well, lead on," he muttered.
John just grinned and led the way to the transporter. He pushed a spot on the end of the south pier, and ignored the confused looks that Rodney was giving him. When the transporter opened, John circled Rodney's wrist with his fingers and almost dragged him out and across the corridor.
As the door lock snicked behind them, Rodney came to an abrupt halt. "Where are we, and why are we here?" he demanded.
"We are in an apartment on the north west pier which Atlantis found for me, and we're here because I'm tired of being careful. I want you with me, here and now!" John replied and tugged Rodney forward again until they were in the extra large bedroom with the panoramic view of the bay, bounded by the western peninsular, and the mountain range beyond.
"The beauty of this apartment," John said, "Is that you can't see in the windows, only out."
Rodney stood staring at the view, John turned towards him, wrapped his arms around Rodney and pressed their lips together. "I believe this is where we left off," he murmured.
Rodney needed no further encouragement to get with the program. He grabbed John's ass and pulled their groins together while enthusiastically returning John's kiss.
Somehow, between the kissing, they managed to get undressed and get themselves on to the bed, where Rodney took control and ground their bodies together until John suddenly moved and fitted his mouth around Rodney's cock, licking and sucking, then moaning when he felt Rodney's mouth on him… then they were arching together, drinking greedily.
They then collapsed in a sated sprawl… John moved only just enough so that his head was on Rodney's chest. They lay like that for quite a while until Rodney's stomach grumbled and they rolled apart, laughing.
"It's always me that does the interrupting," Rodney grumbled as they went into the bathroom to clean up a little.
John put some clothes back on and crossed over to a table he'd set up near the windows and started unpacking the contents of the basket.
Rodney followed John's lead and put on some clothes before he wandered over and was surprised to see a large plate of tiny sandwiches and several small bowls, all containing finger food. "Mmm. Nice!" he murmured taking a bite of one of the sandwiches.
John pulled out a chair, and made Rodney sit, before going round the table to sit opposite him. "It should keep us going for a while," he said, a huge smile on his face.
Later, when they'd finished eating, John put the remaining food in the cooler, while Rodney sat sipping the last of his beer.
When everything had been put away, Rodney crawled up on to the bed, then picked up the tube of lube and threw it at John, before bracing himself on his forearms.
Despite not expecting anything to be thrown at him, John caught the missile easily, and went towards the bed, his clothes dropped in his wake. He knee walked up to where Rodney was waiting for him.
He gently prepared his lover, eventually eliciting a mutter from him of, "There is such a thing as taking things too slow," and waggled his ass.
Taking the hint, John lavishly applied lube to his straining cock, then slowly eased himself inside his lover; resting occasionally so that the other man could adjust to the intrusion, until he was fully embedded inside his ass, their balls rubbing against each other at the slightest movement.
As he started to pull out and push back in, he heard Rodney saying, "Come on… come on!"
John balanced carefully, then reached around to take his lover's cock in his hand and worked him in counterpoint to his thrusts. Then they were coming: Rodney milked him as he ejaculated inside him, the cock in his hand shooting strings of semen over his hand and the bed.
Panting hard, John managed to withdraw his softening cock and guide them down on to their sides, still spooned together, they slept.