John Sheppard knew there was more to Atlantis than meets the eye, but was hesitant to mention that fact to anyone. The one time he'd casually mentioned 'feeling' something from Atlantis, he'd spent the next five weeks on Heightmeyer's couch, trying to convince her that he wasn't going crazy due to stress.
No, he was going crazy for many altogether different reasons, but the 'stress of command' was not one of them. In fact, the Marines were – surprisingly – low on the list of stressful responsibilities. Dealing with the rest of the command staff, however, was right near the top, next to the Wraith.
So like a good little soldier, he kept the belief that Atlantis was more than just a city to himself. He didn't mention the odd flashes of images he'd occasionally get in his head, or that sometimes he'd feel a prickle along the back of his neck, like when he was in a sniper's sights. He completely ignored the foreign thrum of smug satisfaction he'd feel, when a new secret about the city was revealed.
He couldn't, however, ignore or brush away the overwhelming sense of anticipation coming from the city the instant an incoming wormhole connected to their gate. He had to stop himself from wincing at the shrill sounds of joy and ecstasy reverberating around his skull.
Then he found out the shield refused to activate, and panic and suspicion welled up in him. Atlantis was totally
up to something.
Extra Marines were called to the gate room, and arrived just as a figure stepped through the event horizon of the wormhole. Every weapon was immediately pointed at the intruder, though John had to wonder how many of them could actually see her. He had to blink repeatedly to lose the bright spots forming in his vision after looking directly at her.
He was positive it was a her, the long hair and backlit female figure the main clues in that direction. When the glowing light died down enough for him to finally see her, John was mildly surprised at what he saw.
She was from Earth – he was almost positive of that. The wispy white shirt could mean anything, but the form-fitting jeans were what clued him in. He hadn't heard of any planet in either galaxy that had mastered the art of denim.
Not to mention the spat of weapons fire that proceeded her through the wormhole, catching two of his men in glancing blows before the connection was cut. Then they were left with this problem, which had apparently walked through the Cheyenne mountain complex, dialled the stargate and strode on through to the Pegasus galaxy without much effort.
He called out questions and orders to her, but didn't hold much hope that she'd respond. Her face was a picture of rapture, features glowing with both happiness and that strange light that seemed to follow her around yet came from nowhere. It was the same brilliant white light that shone out of her eyes, and was reflected off her pure white hair that was being blown around in a breeze that didn't exist.
He could feel Atlantis' exultation in his mind, and promised himself that after this, anyone who didn't believe him about Atlantis being more than a city was being booted back to Earth on the first available transport. Or sent to spar with Teyla and Ronon until they changed their minds.
Then she turned and left the gate room, walking with a purpose that scared even him. Panic set in and some of the Marines opened fire, only to see their bullets vaporise before getting within a foot of her. All they could do was follow her as she made her way further into the depths of Atlantis, moving down hallways and into sections still unexplored by members of the expedition.
John had grabbed a P-90 off the closest Marine, leading the envoy as they trailed this stranger down silent, dark halls. He'd ordered all the scientists back, and was just glad McKay had been in the labs when she came through, because there was no way he'd let John leave him behind for this.
“What's she doing, sir?” asked one of the marines, keeping his voice low. The woman had stopped at a blank wall, seeming to be uncertain at this point.
“I have no idea,” John replied, keeping his voice just as low. None of the wanted to spook this woman, in case vaporising bullets and walking through heavily armed bases unchallenged wasn't all she could do.
Then the wall opened to reveal a hidden room beyond, and she stepped through. Before anyone could follow, the walled sealed up, blocking them all from entering.
John cursed heavily as they lost contact with her, calling for McKay to come and open a wall when thinking at it did nothing.
While waiting, John walked up to the wall, placing a hand over the door and practically begging Atlantis to let him in.
“What the hell have you done?” he murmured questioningly.
All he got back was a blast of satisfaction and pure joy.
Three days later and the reports had come in, giving a pretty clear picture of who she was and how she'd come to Atlantis. The only real question that remained was 'why', and still, nobody could answer that one.
The entire city was on edge, the rumours and hypotheses running rampant about what was going on in Atlantis. It didn't help that Rodney was even more irate than usual; he was taking his inability to even find
the hidden door as a personal insult to his genius.
John was in talking with Elizabeth when the call came in from the men he'd stationed outside the hidden room, and he took off with a flash, Elizabeth right behind him.
The sight that greeted them was not the strangest he'd ever seen, but that didn't provide any comfort. His men had their weapons pointed at the woman – Willow, he now knew – who was framed in the doorway of the room. She was dripping a clear goo, soaked in the stuff from head to toe, still in the same clothes she'd worn coming through the gate. Except she was barefoot – and apparently a red head.
“What do you want? Why are you here?” John asked, his own weapon aimed at her. Elizabeth had apparently taken exception to his demands for answers, and tried her own brand of questioning.
“My name's Dr Elizabeth Weir-” she began, speaking in her 'diplomatic voice of reason' tone that John hated so much.
“We know,” her voice resonated, sounding like it was coming through a voice synthesizer. “We regret that we could not warn you in advance. Our power levels were too low to allow for direct communication.”
“Who's this 'we'?” demanded John, moving slightly in front of Elizabeth to keep her out of a direct line of fire.
“'Direct communication'?” repeated Elizabeth, “but you did
try to communicate.”
“We are the city; we are Atlantis,” she said, and John felt all kinds of horror start to build. The city was alive, “we tried to tell you in many ways what we needed. Of the few that were receptive, only you were able to hear us, yet you did not want to listen.”
She was looking directly at John as she said that, and every curse he'd ever heard or said started flying through his head. He heard Elizabeth say his name in that reprimanding way she had, and lost patience with her.
“The one time I mentioned being able to 'hear' the city, you thought I was crazy and sent me to Heightmeyer. Forgive me for not wanting a repeat of that 'pleasant' experience, when I start hearing whispers and having weird dreams.”
He couldn't tell if she was suitably remorseful or not, because he hadn't taken his eyes off the red head in front of him.
“We did not understand, either,” she said, advancing slowly but with deliberate intention, “until we merged with this body. Many human traits suddenly became clear.”
“About that body...” John added, wishing she'd changed out of that white shirt before coming out of that room. White shirt and wet goo didn't really hide anything.
“Willow. Our first in generations; since long before the Abandonment,” explained Atlantis through Willow's body.
“So you took her over?” asked Elizabeth, surprise and anger colouring her voice.
“It was consensual,” she replied, her eyes still locked to his gaze, as if answering only for him. Maybe she was.
“Can we speak to Willow, or is she gone now that you have her body?” asked John.
“She is resting. The Joining took much energy on both our parts. I am able to speak to you only because her mind is resting.”
“Why did you do this?” asked Elizabeth from behind him, a hand on his shoulder to still him as he tried to prevent her from moving closer.
“It is not in my nature to be alone,” Atlantis-Willow explained, “yet I have been by myself for so long. So long since I felt the presence of a compatible companion.”
John could hear the wistful and sad tone of her voice, and idly wondered what it must have been like to be a conscious entity stuck alone beneath a dark, cold sea for ten thousand years. She had called it 'the Abandonment', and John didn't doubt that to her, the departure of the Ancients had been that.
“So you, what? Called her up to come and 'merge' with you? How did that happen?” he asked, forcing himself to hold his ground as she moved to stand in front of him.
“My Favoured One,” she said, reaching a hand up to cup his cheek as she smiled at him, “my Bright Shining Beacon. I felt you the instant you stepped through the portal. I would not have awoken for anyone else.”
John didn't know if he should be pleased or frightened by that, and promised himself he'd ponder it later in the privacy of his quarters.
“I sensed Willow each time the portal opened to your home world. I asked and she answered.”
“Why Willow?” asked Elizabeth, who really didn't like to be left out. “what's this 'joining' that you've done?”
“A kind of avatar,” answered John, his mind running furiously through everything he'd tried to pretend Atlantis wasn't showing him, “a human interface for the city.”
listen,” Atlantis-Willow smiled widely.
Closing her eyes briefly, Atlantis-Willow lowered her hand from his face and seemed to sway in place.
“I must rest. This body is not yet fully adapted to the changes.”
John watched as she turned back to the room she'd first come from, this time leaving the door open as she laid down on the bed he hadn't noticed before.
Turning to look at Elizabeth, he was taken aback by the fierce anger in her eyes.
“The city's been talking to you?”
It was going to be a long day, he just knew it.
END - DONE