The Gene in Question (Faith/Sheppard)
A/N: Oh my god, an update! Will you look at that! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have stapled my muse to the wall and actually produced
something. Now I just have to hope she doesn't get away before I find a nail gun and some duct tape. Wish me luck.
FYI: ***SPOILERS for the pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis***
Also, there's sequels of a drabble-y nature in the works for this chapter (granted, my "drabbles" generally end up in the 2-5 thousand word range, but who's counting?). There's just too much fun to be had to let this go so soon.
John Sheppard pretended to wait patiently beside the helicopter, his eagerness to be in the air over the vast planes of unbroken snow and away from the rather dreary base hidden with an ease born from months of practice. He’d received word over the radio that his passengers, an Air Force General and a last-minute guest, would be along shortly. Generals tended to be overbearing and dull, and there was even less chance his “guest” would prove interesting, but any excuse to get off the ground was a good one. He definitely preferred to fly alone, but he could handle a few hours of attempting conversation if it meant getting airborne.
He quickly recognized his commanding officer and the slightly shorter General by his side, but it wasn’t until they got closer that he realized the third figure wasn’t wearing military issue gear. A scientist, most likely. Scientists were the main staple of the Antarctic population; in truth, it was only because of their presence that the American military was allowed on the continent in the first place.
As soon as they’d exchanged salutes, his CO, Colonel James, introduced his passengers. “General O’Neill, Ms. Lehane, this is Major John Sheppard, he’ll be flying you out to the outpost.”
Ms. Lehane, whom Sheppard noticed looked a bit young for a scientist with military clearance, did a double-take. “Sheppard? No shit!”
“Um… have we met?” Sheppard asked, confused.
“Not exactly,” she said, smirking. “Damn, I knew you were stationed out here, but they didn’t tell me you’d be our pilot.”
“Exactly who is this, again?” Sheppard asked Colonel James, jerking his thumb toward the young woman.
“Ms. Lehane, representative of the International Watcher’s Council. She’s here to familiarize herself with the research facility.”
Not a scientist, then, apparently.
“Call me Faith,” she said. “And I realize this isn’t the best time, but I need to talk to you later, okay?” Her eyes flickered apologetically to the general. “You know, alone.”
“Right,” Sheppard drawled dubiously.
“If you two are done, I believe we have somewhere we need to be?” General O’Neill reminded them.
Chatting with General O’Neill, while not exactly riveting, was more entertaining than Sheppard had expected. It had only taken a few minutes to realize that nearly everything the man said had an undercurrent of subtle yet biting humor.
“It was the one continent I never set foot on,” Sheppard answered the General's question with an easy shrug.
General O’Neill made a face. “It's one of my least favorite continents.”
“Aw, come on! Snow, cold, ice, and more snow? What’s not to like?” Faith teased. Her face was bright with excitement as she looked out the windows, though her face was no longer pressed against the glass like it had been for the first fifteen minutes of the flight.
“Well, for starters, there’s the snow, the cold, the ice, and oh yeah, the snow!” he said sarcastically.
“You seem to like it well enough,” Sheppard told Faith.
“Yeah, well, not sayin’ I’d like to live here, or anything, but it makes for a wicked awesome view.”
O’Neill shot her a disbelieving look. “Yeah, it is wicked
A voice crackled over the radio before Faith could reply. “All inbound craft, we have a rogue drone that can seek a target on its own. Land immediately and shut down your engines.”
“There!” Faith shouted, all traces of humor gone as she pointed out a flash of light that was quickly growing larger. “Can you get us on the ground?”
“A little late for that,” Sheppard growled through his teeth. “You’re going to want to hang on.”
Ignoring him, Faith leaned forward between the front seats to better see out the cockpit window.
“Brake right!” O’Neill ordered.
“You really think this is the time for backseat driving?” Faith commented.
“Could you sit down?” Sheppard asked her as the missile went screeching just inches from the chopper blades.
“I said brake right!” the General repeated angrily.
“I’m getting to that, sir!”
“Comin’ up hard and fast from the left, major,” Faith said.
Sheppard stifled a frustrated scream. “Did I ask for a peanut gallery?”
Somehow, amazingly, he dodged the missile yet again. There was a momentary lull as the thing presumably looped back somewhere far behind them, hopefully leaving enough time for him to land.
O’Neill appeared to be thinking along the same lines. “You going to land this thing or what?”
“Landing would be good,” Sheppard agreed, already dropping the chopper as fast as he could.
“Shut it down!” O’Neill ordered the instant the landing skids hit the ground.
“Sir, what the hell was that?” Sheppard asked breathlessly.
The General didn’t answer, looking intently at the landscape before them. “Wait for it...”
“Um, is there any particular reason we’re not gettin’ the hell out of this thing?” Faith asked, her harness already unbuckled. Before they could answer, the thing burst out of the snow, heading straight for the chopper. “Seriously, now would be a good time!”
“On it,” Sheppard sniped, slipping out of the seatbelt and throwing himself clear while the General was still struggling with his door. Faith’s mind was screaming too slow, too slow as O’Neill slid out his door dropped to one knee, the drone streaking right at him. Without even thinking about it, she dove headfirst through the open door, grabbing O’Neill as she flew over his head and managing to pull them both into a controlled tumble that left them a good ten feet away from the chopper and relatively unhurt.
Meanwhile, the projectile slid to an anticlimactic stop mere inches short of where O’Neill had been mere moments before.
“Was that really necessary?” O’Neill grumbled, looking down at his snow-covered clothes.
“What, no boom?” Faith asked, ignoring the glare the General sent her way.
“Doesn’t look like it,” Sheppard answered, staggering to his feet and brushing the snow off his pants.
Faith knelt to get a closer look. The thing, whatever it was, had gone dark. She thought for a moment it was some sort of creature, but it didn’t feel alive. In fact, it felt dormant; Faith could actually physically sense that the off switch had been flipped. She reached out to touch it only to have General O’Neill slap her hand away.
“Aht!” he scolded. “You tryin’ to get yourself blown up? Let’s go.”
“Well, that was fun” Faith asked as they all loaded into the chopper. "You guys do this often?"
“Uh, no, that was a new one for me,” Sheppard admitted at the same time O’Neill said “Actually...”
“Really?” Sheppard asked, surprised.
“It’s a living,” O’Neill answered with a shrug.
“This is the entrance to your super top-secret army base?” Faith asked, looking incredulously around the elevator shaft as they descended.
“Yeah, well, we used to have bat-poles, but the marines kept daring each other to lick them, what with the sub-zero temperatures and all,” Jack said, rolling his eyes.
They were met at the bottom by Dr. Daniel Jackson, who immediately grinned at Jack’s snow-covered appearance. “What happened to you?” he asked.
“Oh, you know. Near death experience, a little fancy flying, overenthusiastic rescue attempt. The usual. Thanks for that, by the way,” he added sarcastically toward Faith.
“Fancy flying?” Daniel repeated, looking at Sheppard.
“Major John Sheppard,” Jack filled in. “He likes it here.”
“Right, well, it’s a good thing you’re in one piece,” Daniel said as he started walking away. “Ah, Weir’s in here,” he added when he noticed Jack wasn’t following.
“What about her?” Jack asked, pointing at Faith.
“Er, right, sorry. You’re the Council representative?”
“Nice to meet you, Faith. I’m Daniel Jackson,” he said, shaking her hand. “Listen, I just need to borrow the General for a few minutes. We can send someone to show you the facilities while you’re waiting…”
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” she said, waving them off with a grin. “I can wait. Besides, I kind of needed to talk to Major Sheppard.”
“It shouldn’t take too long, we just need to brief Jack on an important development. Dr. Weir will be out to see you soon. We’re kind of on a tight schedule right now, something’s come up, but we’ll do our best to accommodate you.”
“I know how it goes.”
“And you,” O’Neill added, pointing at Sheppard. “Don’t touch anything!”
“Yes, sir,” Sheppard said distractedly, looking around in awe. Faith couldn’t help but mimic his expression a little; there was a lot of very odd, very cool stuff lying around.
“So,” Faith said as soon as the others were out of earshot. “You’re Sheppard, huh?”
“Don’t wear it out,” he answered, craning his neck to get a better look around the facility.
“Look, I kind of need to talk to you about something. There’s a reason I came out here-“
“The Council thing, right?” he said.
“Well, that too,” she conceded. “We’re checking up on all the top secret military projects, some kind of oversight deal we’ve got with the president. There was this one group a few years ago… Which is totally beside the point. There’s a reason I’m the one checkin’ this specific project.”
“You’ve got a thing for polar ice caps?” he suggested, walking further into the compound to get a better look at some of the gadgets lying around.
She snorted. “Not that they aren’t cool an’ all, but I’m not exactly dyin’ to catch the live action March of the Penguins.” She was about to continue, but a thick Scottish brogue caught her attention.
“The second I shut my eyes,” the man told his captivated audience, “I could see you see, I felt power I've never had before, I had it dancing across the sky...” He sighed. “It was magical it really was.”
“Yeah, not so much from our perspective, I gotta say,” Faith interrupted.
“Wait, this is the guy?” Sheppard asked, catching on to exactly what the man had been describing. The Scot’s associates scurried away.
“Who, me?” He asked, his face paling.
“You were the one who fired that thing at me,” Sheppard accused.
“Look we're doing research,” the man explained desperately. “Working with technology that's light-years beyond us and we make mistakes. I'm incredibly, incredibly sorry.”
“You’re also incredibly, incredibly lucky,” Faith pointed out, glaring.
He stepped back. “I’m becoming more and more aware of that, yes.”
“What the heck was that thing anyway?” Sheppard demanded.
“You mean the drone?” he asked. “The weapon the Ancients built to defend this outpost.”
Sheppard blinked. “The who?”
“You do have security clearance to be here?” the Scot asked the two of them.
“No worries, I’m covered,” Faith promised. “Not entirely briefed, but that’s kind of the purpose of my little trip out here. Faith, by the way.”
“Dr. Beckett,” he replied nervously.
“Major Sheppard,” John added. “General O’Neill just cleared me, we’re good.”
“Just now?” Beckett repeated. “Then you don't even know about the Stargate.”
“Seriously? All that time carting those scientists back and forth and they never said anything?” Faith asked.
“Apparently not,” Sheppard answered.
“Well, from what we know,” Beckett began, “a race of beings known as the Ancients...”
“ATA gene?” Faith repeated, confused.
“They think the gene was used as a sort of... genetic key if you will,” Beckett explained, “so that only their kind could operate certain dangerous and powerful technologies.”
“And some people have the same genes as these Ancients,” Sheppard said, nodding.
“The specific technology activation gene is very rare, but on the whole they looked very much like we do. In fact, they were first. We're really the second evolution of this form, the ancients having explored this Galaxy for millions of years before-“ Beckett stopped, realizing that Sheppard was moving to sit in the chair. “Major please don't.”
“Come on what are the odds of me having the same genes as these guys,” Sheppard scoffed as he leaned back. As soon as he made full contact with the chair, however, the entire thing lit up beneath him.
“Quite slim actually,” Beckett gaped. He ran off, calling for Dr. Weir. ”Don't move,” he added, shouting over his shoulder.
“Way to go, Major,” Faith smirked as Beckett, Weir, McKay, Jackson and O'Neill arrived, breathless.
“Who is this?” Weir demanded.
“I said don't touch anything,” Jack scolded.
“I- I- I just sat down,” John explained, bewildered.
“He’s Major John Sheppard,” Faith explained when nobody else did. “Dr. Weir, hi. Faith. I think you guys were expecting me?”
“Call me Elizabeth,” she said distractedly, her eyes focused on Sheppard.
“Major think about where we are in the solar system,” Dr. McKay demanded, ignoring the social niceties going on around him. As soon as the words left his mouth, a glowing, detailed image of the solar system appeared in the air over their heads.
“Did I do that?” Sheppard asked.
“Yes, yes you did,” McKay said gleefully. “You might want to get comfortable, Major.”
“Um, actually,” Faith said, tentatively raising her hand. “I should probably try that thing, too.”
“What? Why? And who are you?” Rodney asked.
“Faith, Council Representative. Dr. Beckett said the chair thingy lights up ‘cause of some kind genetic… whatever, right?”
“Yes, yes of course,” he responded impatiently. “Granted, it’s not so much a ‘whatever’ as it is the Ancient Technology Activation Gene, but I suppose the distinction is lost on one such as yourself. Why does this matter?”
She rolled her eyes at him and turned to John. “So, remember before when I was trying to tell you something?”
Sheppard spent several long seconds looking very confused before realization finally dawned. “You’re kidding.”
"Surprise," Faith said.
“You have spawn?” Rodney asked him disbelievingly. “I think this might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Do you realize what having a direct descendent of a carrier could do for our research? Between the scarcity of Ancient resources and the difficulties posed by the classification of the project, its proven impossible thus far to test direct blood relatives to determine the heritability of the ATA gene. This is…” he waved his hands, unable to articulate the full extent of his excitement.
“Amazing,” Beckett finished for him.
“Exactly. You, sit,” McKay ordered Faith. “And you,” he told John, “don’t go anywhere. I’m not done with you.”
“Willow,” the witch chirped when she answered her phone.
“Hey, Wills, I wanted to ask you a favor.”
“Faith!” Willow said, surprised. “Hi! So how did it go in Antarctica? Did you find your dad?”
“Wicked cool, and yeah, I did. That’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about,” Faith said hesitantly. “Do you think you could whip up some kind of long-range communication spell? And I mean really, really long range. Like, light years long range.”
“Light years? As in… light years? I mean, yeah, I guess I could. There’s a sort of large-scale magical version of Bell’s Inequality that could theoretically… but… light years? You’re not going through the Stargate, are you? Dawn and I are handling the SGC side of things. I thought you were just… “ Faith could practically hear the realization click in Willow’s brain. “Oh, my Goddess, they found Atlantis!”
Faith grinned. “And they’re sending an expedition, but there’s the small problem of only having enough power to go one way. I thought it might be nice if we at least had a way to keep in touch with Earth, you know?”
“We? We who?”
“We as in the Atlantis Expedition, which includes me, if I want it to.”
“Dr. Weir asked you to join the expedition?” Willow asked, unable to keep a note of jealousy out of her voice.
“Well, it’s an international gig, and she thought the Council might like to have a presence there. Giles has me listed as an expert in hand-to-hand combat, which she seems to think might come in useful, you know? That and I’ve got some kind of gene thing that gives the scientists nerd-gasms.”
“And you want to go?”
“I’m thinkin’ about it, yeah.”
“But… one way!” Willow said worriedly.
“I know, but it’ll give me the chance to do something important. Be useful for once. Besides…” Faith smiled to herself. “My dad’s going.”