I own neither Stargate nor the X-COM franchise. No infringement is intended, no profit is to be made and I'm just not worth the hassle of suing anyway unless you want a share of the wages of an underpaid Civil Servant.
Omega Site – PX0-999 (Terra Nova) – June 2005
With his helmet and body armour on, side-handle baton, a couple of grenades, a trinium-handled P1-A1 Plasma Pistol hanging from his belt and with an L2-A3 hanging off his backpack Commander Russell Sharp made for a suitably intimidating sight although his reputation and war record alone would have ensured he had the full attention of the parade of new recruits formed up before him. ‘Good morning Troopers’ Sharp addressed them. Although his body clock often got screwed up by gate travel to different worlds he was pretty sure it was morning in this part of Terra Nova although you’d have to travel upwards through a lot of rock to see the sun rising above the bunker complex.
‘Good morning Sir’ they chorused back.
Sharp looked along their ranks, they didn’t have the far-away look in their eyes or the hyper-alert body-language of veteran X-COM squaddies yet but the next stage of their training and a few missions would hopefully bring out their predatory instinct. They were all Special Forces of course, the majority drawn from the various armies of Earth with a few Langarans, Tagreans, Orbanians and Pangarans mixed in, but X-COM prided itself in turning the merely elite into the kind of soldiers who when told they had a fifty/fifty chance of returning alive from the next mission would breathe a sigh of relief and think “I like those odds”.
‘Some of you may have already heard some of what I’m about to tell you but I’ve got a good memory for faces and I hold a grudge so you’d better all still look awake and interested’ Sharp told them, smiling just enough that they knew he was only being semi-serious. ‘Firstly I’m sorry I wasn’t around to welcome you all properly to Terra Nova when you first arrived but I’ve been even busier than normal recently and beating up on the goa’uld has been eating into my schedule’ he said. His battle-gear wasn’t just for show, after this he was off on another mission straight away attacking a recently established forward operating base being used by the Replicator-Allied System Lords in their war against Baal.
‘Anyhow’ Sharp continued, ‘I’m sure you’re all getting settled into your daily routines and I’m certain you’ll be pleased to hear that soon you’ll graduate from getting shot with zats to toughen you up to being shot with Intars in training exercises instead’ he advised them. ‘It doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much’ he said before smiling evilly. ‘On the other hand we can shoot you several times in quick succession with an Intar and not kill you which saving on sarcophagus time’ he added. The fact it did hurt to get shot by an Intar made them excellent training tools which were far more effective than other weapon simulators like MILES. Nothing motivates the body and concentrates the mind more than knowing it’s going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch if you screw up and X-COM never professed to be a caring, humane organisation, results were all that counted and negative reinforcement worked.
Sharp continued to smile. ‘Don’t worry too much about the Intars though’ he advised. ‘Even at full power they can’t kill you, although if you’re male and get hit in the wrong place you might wish it had at the time’ he said, smile replaced by a grimace as the memory of it happening to him once came rushing back.
In reality it wasn’t actually the Zat’nik’tels or the Intars which represented the most unpleasant part of the process X-COM now used to prepare new recruits for battle however. After a couple of weeks of being pitted against veterans in training exercises they would start to be cycled through the new-model Virtual Reality Pods which had been developed from the original Volsinni design. When your mind was interfaced with the machines you could be placed in any scenario and the simulation would seem perfectly real as you played through it. By extracting the memories of UFO Retrieval Missions from X-COM soldiers who had participated in them rookies could experience what it was like to fight Loki’s armies in early 1999, taking assault rifles up against plasma weapons and getting ripped apart by Chryssalids (pain included, only slightly dialled down). After a week of being put through those simulations at least four times a day more recent missions against the goa’uld were added to the training cycle for another three weeks and then the recruit was deemed ready to go on their first real mission.
X-COM training by mid-2005 was terrifying, painful, stressful and hard with a very high drop-out rate. On the plus side fighting Jaffa or Wraith for real seemed like a nice stress-free vacation afterwards and it resulted in soldiers comparable in skill to those who had survived the 1999-2000 campaign against Loki without having to kill off three quarters of them in the process. In the longer-term the R&D people thought they might be able to reduce the training period by several weeks by utilising the Memory Transfer technology the Galarans were working on, simply transferring the combat experiences of veteran squaddies into the minds of rookies, but that looked problematic so far and it might not be possible for a year or two at least.
‘Now I know you’re all gnawing at the bit’ Sharp told the rookies, ‘itching to get out there shooting holes in Jaffa and shattering replicator bugs but you’ve still got to prove you’re crazy and mean enough to wear the X-COM insignia on your uniform while doing it’ he said. ‘The best advice I can give you is that even though it’s voluntary you do want to start popping the pills we give out and taking the injections because in this organisation when we ask for a hundred and ten percent we mean it’ he continued. ‘There’s an unofficial motto in X-COM: “Losers don’t do drugs”, take it to heart’ he advised.
Not being bound by the rules of the FDA, or any other body that regulated pharmaceutical trials, had allowed X-COM R&D to make continuing strides in developing drugs that would increase Trooper effectiveness. The latest strand of research was based around analysis of the Wraith Enzyme that kept their prey alive during feeding and it looked extremely promising so far according to the reports that crossed Sharp’s desk. Injecting small amounts of the enzyme regularly would boost physical performance, particularly strength and endurance, while a parallel strand of research sought to develop what the biochemists were jokingly calling a “Berserker Pack” based around injecting a massive dose of the enzyme along with adrenaline to produce a massive, if short-lived, boost in strength and pain tolerance. So far preliminary study showed it would most likely kill you but hopes were high that a mix of beta-cantin and tretonin injected concurrently might stop your heart exploding in your chest after a couple of minutes and keep you alive until the enzyme was flushed out of your system.
The sheer volume of technology arriving from Pegasus was swamping the ability of Earth to keep up, even with Tollan help and increasing outsourcing of some projects to the Optricans. The latter were currently throwing much of their R&D resources at developing a puddle-jumper like fighter/light transport that could carry their Air-Mobile Brigades through the stargate allowing for rapid deployment of forces anywhere within the gate network. Thanks to the design limitations presented by the stargate the prototype in fact looked very much like a stretched puddle-jumper only with side windows in the cockpit to increase visibility and wide gull-wing side doors as well as a rear ramp.
Zrbite, the Aquatoid power source, was proving to be even stranger than first thought. Aquatoid devices sent to the Milky Way via stargate would not function when they arrived and this was soon found to be due to the Zrbite now being inert. If sent back they started to work again immediately which was leading some scientists to theorise Zrbite worked by acting like a receiver for wireless energy transmission. The crystal might be the means to connect to a subspace-based galactic version of Nikola Tesla’s ideas of turning the atmosphere into the power-grid which was certainly an impressive undertaking and a notion which was quite concerning given the technology and understanding of physics required to make something like that work.
If any of the wraith prisoners transferred from Atlantis to Earth had been expecting their situation to improve they were rudely awakened from that belief when they discovered that the Alien Containment Cells at Area 51 were even smaller and more spartan than their previous accommodation and the human in charge of their “care” was not only inordinately more horrible than they had thought possible she wasn’t actually human either.
While most other captured goa’uld had been long-ago handed over to the Tok’ra to be extracted from the host, tried and executed, Nirrti had proven to be so useful she now not only had proper quarters instead of a cell but several staff reporting to her. After experiencing defiance and “insolence” from the wraith queen in particular Nirrti had requested to temporarily obtain the use of a particularly effective piece of goa’uld technology and with eyes glowing had slammed the queen around a cell with a kara-kesh for a while before willingly giving back the ribbon device and heading back to her rooms with a deep sense of satisfaction. The other wraith took the hint and thereafter became far more compliant, not even daring to complain at being given nothing but food animals to consume and making sure not to make eye-contact with the vicious bitch in the lab-coat and sari.
Sharp had continued his pep talk to the rookies for a while, telling a few jokes mixed in with some very real assessments of the war, or rather wars, and how they would play their part in defending the human race. Checking his watch he realised he needed to wrap this up and remembered something he was supposed to tell them. ‘Okay Troopers’ he said, ‘just one more thing before I let you go and you don’t have to pretend to laugh at my jokes any more’ he continued. ‘There have been a few anonymous complaints through diplomatic channels, I’m guessing from the Tok’ra and Free Jaffa, about X-COM soldiers and other personnel saying things that bother our allies’ he told them.
Sharp looked around at the rookies. ‘I know that for some the use of the term “Tau’ri” is irritating because it’s a goa’uld word’ he said. ‘I’ve even heard it referred to as an offensive “slave name” we shouldn’t use’ he told them. ‘Now it doesn’t bother me personally being called Tau’ri, mainly because it’s become a label the System Lords fear, but if anybody wants to follow the bandwagon coming out of Pegasus by using the Ancient term “Terran” instead that’s fine’ he continued. ‘However the IOA and United Worlds have forcefully objected to the spreading habit of referring to the Tau’ri Protectorate in front of our allies as being the “Terran Empire” because it’s making certain groups twitchy’ he announced, trying to keep a straight face. ‘Also rumours of a secret treaty between Earth, Tollana, Optrica and others to divide up the galaxy after the goa’uld are beaten aren’t true, particularly the parts about putting the surviving Jaffa on reservations.’
Commander Sharp rested his right hand on the handle of his pistol. ‘To be honest I don’t know why anyone would have believed that rumour anyway’ he said. ‘Since when were Jaffa dangerous enough on the loose to warrant rounding them up?’ he asked rhetorically. ‘I guess they’ve just got an inflated sense of their own importance and how much of a threat they are’ he reasoned. ‘Shit, there’s more chance of those petty fucking gangsters based out of Lucia making a play for galactic domination’ he said to himself, laughing.Atlantis – Pegasus Galaxy – June 2005
Configuring the holographic display chamber to act as an adjunct of the command centre had taken the best part of three days, including figuring out how they were going to manage it, but as Colonel Vaslov entered and saw the three-dimensional image of Lantea floating in space, it’s single large moon shown in orbit along with the location of the various artificial satellites, he realised it was well worth the trouble. It wasn’t just the aesthetic issue, it was simply so much easier to understand a three-dimensional battleground if you weren’t looking at it on a two-dimensional screen.
‘Want me to zoom out and show you where the Wraith are Sir?’ Chuck, the assigned hologram operator asked from the other side of the room. He was sat at a recently installed terminal, looking between his own computer screen and the projected image.
‘Please do Sergeant’ Vasilov replied, Lantea and its moon rapidly shrinking in size as the scale of the image shifted to show a volume of space roughly ten times the original diameter. ‘So that is the Wraith Fleet?’ he asked rhetorically, looking at the cluster of red dots which showed where the enemy had arrived nearly an hour ago only to remain stationary in the same position ever since. ‘Centre on them and zoom in again please’ he requested.
‘Yes Sir’ Chuck replied, doing as he was ordered, the red dots spreading out and eventually becoming tiny images of hiveships and smaller cruisers arranged in a pattern so they could best protect each other.
At this scale the thousands of darts surrounding the armada were just barely visible as a swarm of minute red dots that moved almost like a rolling mist and for a moment Vaselov idly wished he could just grab a can of insect spray to deal with the things rather than climb into the cockpit of his F-302. On the other hand swatting them with laser-cannon would be a great deal of fun he thought.
The Hologram Room used up quite a lot of power, Vaselov was told, but that really didn't matter so much these days. The old Geothermal Drilling platform had been moved to a position below Atlantis on the seabed and now provided much of the cities regular power requirements with naquadah reactors most of the rest. There was even an emergency backup power-supply of sorts in the form of the Tollan Stargate Capacitor which could flow electricity back into the city grid if required, not to mention the carefully husbanded ZPM's of course.
‘Oh Colonel, here you are’ one of the cities two resident Elizabeth Weir’s said, walking in. It was the blond one meaning she was the time-traveller not the one actually in charge of Atlantis. ‘Still just hanging there doing nothing?’ she asked, looking at the projections of the Wraith ships.
Vaselov smiled. ‘They are not doing nothing
Doctor Weir’ he corrected her. ‘They are continuing to expand their search pattern looking for the Sher-Mal
but as yet of course with no success’ he said in an amused tone.
‘Not looking out there they won’t’ Weir replied.
‘They are also conducting long-range scans of Lantea and will have already detected the Daedalus
and our Avenger Corvettes in orbit’ Vaselov noted.
‘But not our defence satellites?’ Weir queried.
The Russian shook his head. ‘Not at that range’ he said. ‘Their new active transphase sensors still only have a range of hundreds of kilometres at best from what we can determine’ he told her. ‘None of their ships have ventured anywhere near us so far.’
‘Not even the scouts they’ve modified?’ Weir asked.
‘No but I’m sure they’ll send a few of them ahead of the fleet along with a large screening force of darts once they decide to make their move on the city’ Vaselov replied. ‘We are only fortunate that the Ancient Cloaking Technology used by the Puddle-Jumpers works on a very different principle to the phase-based Goa’uld designs we copied or else we would not be able to spring an important part of our surprise welcome party on them.’
Weir looked at the tiny hiveships again. ‘It’s strange but I expected them to come straight at us as soon as they arrived’ she told the Colonel.
‘Hyperspace travel weakens their hulls’ Vaselov explained. ‘Even though their last hop was only a handful of light-years they likely want to only seek battle once they have regenerated their armour completely’ he said. ‘And of course they do not age so I would imagine immortality makes them a patient race, if only one that is currently acting with such caution because of the losses we inflicted on them getting here in the first place.’
The academic and diplomat frowned. ‘But shouldn’t we have attacked them as quickly as possible ourselves to take advantage of their temporary hull weakness?’ she asked.
‘They might be uninvited guests but that is no cause to behave so inhospitably’ Vaselov replied smiling. ‘Like good hosts we throw open our doors and welcome them into our home’ he said. ‘And you should never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake’ he added meaningfully.
‘Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly’ Weir quoted quietly to herself, giving the wraith ships one last look before turning away. ‘Janus thinks we’re crazy for actually relishing the idea of a Wraith Fleet arriving overhead’ she told Vaselov.
Vaselov smiled. ‘That is because he thinks of them besieging us while in truth they are just making it very convenient to kill a great number of them all at once’ he replied.
In orbit above Atlantis the battlecruiser Daedalus
and the ten Avenger Corvettes arrayed beside her waited for the Wraith to make their move. All missile and torpedo bays restocked, shields fully charged and her plasma beam, rotary staff-cannon and laser armament operating at peak efficiency Colonel Caldwell was confident the first of the 304 Class ships would again put up a hell of a fight against the far larger but generally inferior enemy vessels.
‘They’re on the move Sir’ Major Marks announced from the tactical chair. ‘Our sensor feed from Atlantis shows multiple squadrons of darts plus scoutships ahead of their cruisers with the hiveships following.’
‘Finally’ Caldwell said with some relief, the waiting and apprehension was starting to get to some of the crew.
‘Atlantis is preparing to scramble her F-302 complement’ Marks announced. ‘Colonel Vaselov is taking one up himself.’
Caldwell nodded. Vaselov was a good pilot, you had to be to have flown against Loki’s machines and lived, and in this battle he could probably do a lot more good from inside a “Reaper” than he could on Atlantis. ‘Prepare to launch our fighters in support once the Atlantis squadrons get up here’ he ordered, leaning forward in his command chair. Between them the city and Daedalus
could field a mere thirty-two aerospace fighters against the thousands of darts the Wraith were bringing to the fight, sobering odds indeed. An X-COM aerospace fighter might be greatly superior to a wraith one in performance, firepower and survivability but not by enough to happily contemplate being outnumbered by perhaps two orders of magnitude in a battle where you were defending a fixed position.
‘The wraith fleet has stopped accelerating, at current velocity their lead elements will start picking up our cloaked satellites in approximately twenty-five minutes Sir’ Marks informed Caldwell. ‘Major Sheppard on Atlantis is in the command chair and is preparing to raise the city shield once the Atlantis F-302’s are clear’ he continued. ‘Doctor Weir has just transmitted a final demand to the wraith fleet on their own subspace comms frequencies for them to either vacate this star system or surrender.’
Caldwell uncharacteristically chuckled. ‘Any reply?’ he queried.
‘No Sir, not yet’ Marks responded.
‘I guess we’ll have to kill them all then’ Colonel Caldwell replied sounding not in the least bit upset about that prospect.
The Wraith weren't stupid, they had already perhaps paid the price in losses for the overconfidence brought by thousands of years of unrivalled dominance of the Pegasus Galaxy, but they certainly weren't stupid or uninventive. The most recent proof of their ingenuity was that not only had they countered the phase based cloaking technology of their enemy but they had then quickly managed to mount the equipment needed to do so onto their pre-existing scout ships, now allowing them to sweep for phase-shifted opponents much like an ASW Frigate would search for submarines in the oceans of Earth.
Quite how the wraith had developed the technology so quickly after encountering it for the first time had been inexplicable until Janus had revealed it wasn’t actually the first time the Wraith had encountered it because the Ancient military had utilised phase-shifting themselves for a short while at the start of the Wraith/Lantean War. Lantean soldiers had even used personal cloaking devices not much different than those later invented by Nirrti until the technology was suddenly shelved for reasons unknown to the public.
As a member of the High Council himself later on in the war Janus did
know this was not
because the Wraith had actually discovered a means at the time to detect phase-shifted matter. He could therefore only assume that the Wraith must have continued R&D on the problem later just in case and it was this research which allowed them to develop transphase sensors now. Otherwise all he knew of regarding the discontinuation of the use of phase-shifting by his people was a cryptic reference he had once read in a classified document about the technology conceivably attracting the attention of something far worse than the Wraith, though all other references to exactly what that might be were stricken from the records.
Until they had fired shots ineffectively through
the Tollan warship the Wraith had likely thought the humans were only using the other Lantean cloaking system which was more closely related to their shield technology than it was phase-shifting and could not be so readily countered. Annoyingly to the defenders of Atlantis they themselves had planned to strap a few of Nirrti’s personal cloaks to naquadah-enhanced nuclear missiles and fire a few dozen of the things at the cruisers and hiveships in order to score some easy and relatively cheap kills, but now they would have to do it the hard way instead.
Self-sacrifice for the good of the hive and the species as a whole was very much a Wraith cultural and racial characteristic. Add in the cheap production of darts, which like most Wraith biotechnology were mostly grown rather than made, and it was easy to see why they were so willing to throw so many of the things at the enemy, using their tiny fighters not only as scouts and combat aircraft but even as kamikaze projectiles and anti-missiles. In material terms it was better to lose a staggering number of darts in order to preserve even a cruiser, much less the gigantic investment in resources a hive represented, so the waves of inbound darts spearheading the Wraith fleet was no surprise, nor the even larger number that escorted the capital ships. Moreover when fighting the Lanteans darts had actually helped win the war in economic terms because near every one the Ancients had destroyed was a net victory for the Wraith. A dart and its pilot were in fact worth far less as a material investment than the drone which destroyed them, this horrible realisation only registering late in the war when the already overstretched Lanteans lacked the R&D resources to quickly perfect a much smaller, less powerful but cheaper drone considerably better suited for massed use against dart swarms while their bigger brothers dealt with cruisers and hives.
Unfortunately for the Wraith vast numbers of cheap, unarmoured fighters were not quite as good a tactic against a foe that liked to deploy directed-energy weapons and had plenty of cheap, compact power-generation.
Before the scoutships mixed in with the darts in the vanguard of the fleet were close enough to detect them the two types of X-COM Laser Defence Orbitals positioned in space above Atlantis powered down their cloaks and raised shields. Lasers powerful enough to take out a Goa’uld Al’kesh at hundreds of kilometres with a single shot were aimed at the much less robust scoutships and opened fire at the extreme range of their targeting computers, starting to score hits with increasing regularity as the Wraith closed the gap between them. After the scoutships were eliminated the satellites then began to engage the darts, turning any of them which were hit to vapour as the LDO targeting computers struggled to cope with the sheer wealth of laser-cannon fodder that presented itself.
If the ZapSats had been originally intended for use against large numbers of unshielded, thinly armoured craft they would have sacrificed beam strength for rate of fire but unfortunately the LDO’s had instead been designed to take out Sectoid and Goa’uld ships not Wraith darts. As such even the handful of modern Mark II ZapSats had a six-second recharge time between firings and the older Mark I a full twelve seconds. At the velocities the darts were going that meant it wouldn’t be too long before the Wraith fighters were upon them, at which point the F-302 squadrons and Avenger corvettes would engage the darts themselves not least to try and keep the Laser Defence Orbitals in the fight as long as possible, at least long enough to bait in the larger Wraith ships anyway which was of course the ZapSat’s primary mission.
Flying his F-302X as much via the neural interface built into his helmet as he was the joystick, throttle and peddles, Colonel Alexi Vaselov and his fellow Grim Reaper pilots had already determined from examination of flight-recordings of the previous battle between darts and reapers that high-speed runs right through the dart swarm was the best way to conduct this fight. While it was true that a dart couldn’t match the acceleration or manoeuvrability of an F-302X, making classic dogfighting a one-sided affair in favour of the reapers, there was simply a greater opportunity to kill more darts more quickly if you simply tore through the whole damn lot of them like a lunatic while holding down the fire-button. Moreover it was a great way to break up the dart formations gunning for the ZapSats as they either tried to dodge out of the way or in some cases crash right into you as Vaselov found when one of his opponents smeared his dart all over the shield bubble of the Russian’s F-302, like a bug hitting the windshield as the American’s would say he thought.
For the Wraith it was still a numbers game and what they lacked in quality they more than made up for in quantity. A second-generation F-302X might be the meanest thing in the skies short of one of Loki’s Type 4 fighters but they couldn’t be in more than one place at once and while hundreds upon hundreds of darts were fighting it out with ZapSat’s and Grim Reapers just as many had bypassed the fight and were entering the Lantean atmosphere heading towards Atlantis.
In the cities command chair Major John Sheppard watched the incoming wraith fighters projected as a hologram above him, they were nicely bunched up he thought with satisfaction as he shrank the bubble of the city shield to uncover the ends of the piers and the VLS batteries placed on three of them started launching surface-to-air missiles into the sky. The SAM’s were only Earth-Tech, incredibly primitive compared to the city itself, but they were long-ranged, supersonic... and carried nuclear warheads.
From one of the balconies from the main tower both Elizabeth Weir’s watched the missiles lift off, the trails they left behind as they soared away and them shrinking into dots before ending as blindingly bright flashes in the sky high above the city shield. Unlike most of the other spectators they didn’t respond with whoops and cheers at the incineration of dozens of wraith with each flash but instead they recalled the moment they had learned what mankind on Earth had been created for. ‘Weapons’ one said, ‘weapons using the greatest weapons they invented’ she added sadly.
‘Perhaps both our races should be proud of our accomplishments’ Janus suggested from behind them.
‘Or deeply ashamed’ the other Weir responded.
‘That too’ Janus agreed, watching as more nuclear flashes were now joined in their efficient destruction of the enemy fighters by laser and plasma beam turrets mounted on the piers. If any darts managed to get closer they would face a barrage from radar-controlled gatling-staffs and rotary-cannon CIWS which would quickly shred them, and all without wasting a single, precious, and as yet irreplaceable drone.
Eventually back in the orbital battle massed fire from the darts had started to take out the Mark I ZapSats but the Mark II’s still stubbornly refused to be destroyed. Their far more impressive internal power-generation recharged their shields faster than the Wraith aerospace fighters could deplete them with weapons fire, or even multiple kamikaze attacks which they also tried, and with the satellites continuing to target and destroy another fighter every six seconds, between them, the F-302s and the cities own defences dart losses were climbing fast.
Moreover the entry into the fight of the Avengers with plasma beams and rotary staff-cannon blazing, and also in particular the Daedalus
with her multiple weapon turrets had resulted in the Wraith leadership ordering the hives and cruisers to accelerate and intervene themselves. The ability of some of the human satellites and their puny capital ship to shrug off the plasma bolts of mere darts would mean little when they were under the main guns of the leviathans now accelerating towards them at full thrust.
This was of course the point at which the Lantean Weapon Platform itself decloaked and promptly blew one of the hives all to hell with a single shot, there was a good reason why the ZapSat’s had taken out the scoutships first, they wanted to lure the hives into range of their big brother and they couldn’t have transphase sensors spoiling the surprise.
The warships started to fire back immediately but the huge weapon satellite was both shielded and already starting to manoeuvre, making itself a tricky long-range target for the low velocity plasma bolts of its opponents. As it fired again, this time knocking out the lead cruiser, the entire armada of capital ships pushed their engines into the red and changed course to accelerate headlong at the platform, seeking to take it out before it could inflict any more damage.
If the wraith had been paying more attention they would have noted it was positioned almost directly above Atlantis although they still might not have guessed this was because not only were the ZapSats bait to draw the hives and cruisers in range of the old Lantean weapon satellite it was bait as well.
On the city below Major John Sheppard grinned. ‘Heavy Ion Cannon numbers one, two and three calculating firing solutions and preparing to engage Wraith warships’ he said as the Tollan weapons came to life, turrets swinging about and gun-barrels elevating. ‘AG-3X satellites decloaking and firing’ he continued as he sent the signal ordering the last type of the various satellites defending Lantea to join the fight. ‘This should soften the bastards up at least’ he reasoned.
Notably smaller than even a ZapSat, let alone the six-hundred metre diameter Lantean weapon platform which had now drawn in the hives and cruisers, what the liquid-naquadria powered AG-3X satellites lacked in stature they more than made up for in raw firepower. True the things had a tendency to catastrophically overload on the first shot, and the chances of them blowing up went up with each subsequent firing, but woe betide anything in the way of the sub-atomic particle beam they projected because they punched ridiculously above their weight.
When the beams from the diminutive satellites first starting slashing into the hulls of the cruisers and hiveships, cutting right through the thick armour with ease, the Wraith at first believed they must each be powered by a ZPM because they couldn’t conceive of something quite that small being able to cause so much damage otherwise. It was only when the AG-3X’s started spontaneously blowing up (without taking half the solar-system with them) that the Wraith realised they must have just encountered a new power-source with incredible energy density, albeit a power-source that seemed to be more than a little unstable to say the least.
Fortunately the humans only seemed to have a limited number of the things because in their short lifespans the satellites had quickly managed to destroy one cruiser outright in a titanic explosion of its engines, cripple two more leaving them tumbling in space and caused severe damage in three hives and moderate damage in several others. With most of the wraith warships now venting varying quantities of atmosphere and debris into space, they then lost another of their number to the Lantean Weapon Platform which had carefully targeted and destroyed one of the as yet undamaged hives.
‘If you liked that you ain’t seen nothing yet’ Sheppard said with a feral grin as the trio of Heavy Ion Cannon mounted on Atlantis opened up. ‘Somebody signal the Sher-Mal
and tell them it’s time to say hello’ he continued. ‘And tell the jumper crews to start taking out hiveship engines, we’ve got them exactly where we want them now.’
Phase-Cloaked deep inside
Lantea’s moon the Tollan Cruiser Sher-Mal
accelerated and after passing through hundreds of kilometres of solid rock it emerged from the surface and headed towards the Wraith fleet which now lay between her and Atlantis.
Still undetectable by the Wraith the full force of puddle jumpers available for the defence of Atlantis had let the hives and cruisers fly right past them so they now found themselves behind the enemy capital ships, positioning themselves a few tens of kilometres away as they followed. Since they didn’t have to fit through a stargate it hadn’t been a particularly tricky task for the Atlantis engineers and technicians to strap an Elerium Plasma Beam Cannon to the top of each and now as they shimmered into view they started firing directly into the sublight engines of the hives seeking to disable as many as possible.
The most senior queen in the coalition of hives which had assembled to attack watched with disbelief as the first plasma-bolts from the surface crashed into a hive and blasted off massive chunks of the ship. Other reports then began flooding in that told of engines being knocked out and then of the powerful Tollan warship having finally appeared too.
‘It’s a trap’ she exclaimed before realising just what a pointlessly redundant and obvious statement that really was.Cheyenne Mountain – Earth – June 2005
If the expression on Jacob Carter’s face was any indication the situation out there according to the Tok’ra was pretty grim, O’Neill decided taking a seat across from him in the briefing room. ‘Sorry to pull you away from whatever it was you were doing Jack but you need to hear this’ Jacob told him.
‘If I wasn’t here I’d only be doing paperwork so I’m all yours’ O’Neill replied. ‘Carter, I mean the other Carter, is on her way’ he continued. ‘She’ll be pleased to see you.’
‘This isn’t a social visit’ Jacob told him.
‘Didn’t think it was, but she still will be, and besides which I usually need her to explain any science stuff that comes up to me later’ O’Neill responded. ‘And here she is’ he added as Jacob’s daughter appeared.
‘Hey kiddo’ Jacob greeted her.
‘Hey dad’ Samantha Carter replied. ‘What’s up?’
‘Nothing good’ Jacob told her seriously. ‘I’m going to hand over to Selmak to explain’ he said, closing his eyes and opening them again ‘Lovely to see you as ever Samantha’ the Tok’ra symbiote Selmak now greeted the daughter of it’s host. ‘A pity it only seems to be when we are bearers of sad tidings.’
‘Yeah, with the possible exception of Major Davis nobody else suddenly turning up at my door makes me more worried about the state of the galaxy’ O’Neill wryly commented. ‘So I guess you aren’t here to tell us the Replicators have turned over a new leaf and have decided to give up on galactic conquest and form themselves into little scale-model towns instead?’
‘Would that were the case Brigadier-General O’Neill’ Selmak replied, laughing as Jacob explained the reference to Legoland. ‘No I am afraid the Replicator/System Lord Alliance has continued to rapidly expand its domain with Baal’s forces, the Tok’ra and Free Jaffa unable to do more than slow the tide somewhat’ Selmak told him. ‘If it was not for Baal recently rigging all his ships to automatically self-destruct on boarding the war would already be lost.’
‘According to our intelligence Thor and the Asgard Fleet can take some of the credit there too Dad’ Sam Carter interjected. ‘I mean Selmak’ she corrected herself.
Selmak nodded. ‘The intervention of the Asgard certainly weighs heavily against our joint enemy but unfortunately they have but few ships and the Replicator-enhanced hyperdrives used by the foe have robbed them of their previous massive advantages in speed’ the Tok’ra replied. ‘An Asgard battleship is still a match for several Ha’tak but the numerical superiority of the enemy is such that the Asgard must travel in groups of three or more ships in order not to be overwhelmed.’
‘I hate to say it but Loki has probably helped save our asses so far too’ O’Neill noted grudgingly. Every so often several squadrons of the advanced fighters of the renegade Asgard would appear as if from nowhere, shoot a few Replicator ships to pieces and then vanish again.
Selmak frowned. ‘Unfortunately it is the intervention of another of our enemy’s enemies that has brought me here’ he said. ‘The Tok’ra have learned of manufacturing facilities on four Goa’uld worlds so far being destroyed by what we believe to be the NID renegades and their cloaked ship’ Selmak continued. ‘In three cases the facilities were set inside heavily populated areas but this did not stop the renegades from using naquadah bombs.’
‘How many dead?’ O’Neill asked through gritted teeth.
‘Many tens of thousands of Jaffa at least’ Selmak replied. ‘The Free Jaffa are angry at the nuclear incineration of so many of their people, as you would expect, but knowing that the renegades have enough weapons-grade naquadah to do the same to dozens more worlds is horrifying.’
‘But you all know it’s got nothing to do with us right?’ Sam Carter asked.
‘It’s still Tau’ri doing it’ Selmak replied evenly. ‘Certain groups within the Free Jaffa, including a few people in authority, have long resented you and are suspicious of your motives and methods’ he said. ‘I regret that some amongst the Tok’ra may be thinking on similar lines.’
‘Sharp passed your test didn’t he?’ O’Neill pointed out.
‘It is more a case of thinking you are deliberately not doing all you can to catch the renegades rather than a belief the mass killing of innocent Jaffa is official policy’ Selmak explained. ‘The Tok’ra and Free Jaffa know that you have psionic devices and means of interrogation which could be used to try and track down those responsible but they also know that you aren’t using them.’
‘Yes we’re not torturing American citizens or letting X-COM mind-rape them I’m happy to say’ O’Neill responded curtly. ‘I know that so far Maybourne hasn’t made as much progress as we first hoped he would but we’re chasing down a few leads and he’s still the best at what he does.’
Selmak sighed in a very human fashion. ‘Unfortunately this is being portrayed as you stalling’ he said. ‘That you’re letting the rogues do your dirty work by destroying targets you couldn’t yourselves without causing a permanent schism with your offworld allies’ he told O’Neill. ‘The Nox, Gadmeer and perhaps also the Tollan would likely break off ties immediately if you were equally as ruthless and cavalier in your disregard of civilian deaths but this way you can plead innocence of the crimes while sitting back and reaping the benefit.’
‘But you’ve told them why we can’t use those methods right?’ Sam checked. ‘You know as well as Dad does that we have laws against them.’
‘Laws that you don’t apply to other people’ Selmak pointed out. ‘Innumerable Loyalist Jaffa prisoners taken by the Tau’ri were subject to such means of interrogation and that just opened you up to accusations of hypocrisy too’ he said. ‘In any case we’ve strayed into another matter Jacob and I wanted to discuss, one that the Tok’ra High Council did not dispatch me to.’
O’Neill leaned forward in his chair. ‘Sounds intriguing’ he said.
‘Your agreement to a Tok’ra acting as an observer in the Atlantis mission has not been well received’ Selmak stated flatly.
‘Why?’ O’Neill asked, confused. ‘The Tok’ra have been complaining about not being allowed to participate in the project ever since they found out about it.’
‘True and while our leadership would have been pleased to have even a token presence on Atlantis they are extremely unhappy at the Tok’ra the IOA selected’ Selmak replied.
Samantha Carter frowned. ‘I thought it was a great choice’ she said. ‘Kelmaa is one of your best scientists and her host is an archaeologist’ she noted.
‘It is the host that is the problem’ Selmak responded. ‘In a manner of speaking anyway’ he continued. ‘Zenna Valk is unusual for a Tok’ra host because unlike the vast majority of them she grew up on an industrial world free of Goa’uld control.’
‘Right, she’s Pangaran’ O’Neill recalled. ‘I think the Pangaran government was happy at having one of their own go to Atlantis too so the IOA won points with them as well’ he said. ‘Yes I do read some of the stuff which crosses my desk’ he told Carter who had seemed surprised he knew that.
Selmak looked awkward. ‘Unfortunately there is a growing school of thought among the Tok’ra that humans who come from such worlds do not make suitable hosts because they end up having undue influence on the symbiote’ he said. ‘Such opinions were already being voiced because of the perceived excessive influence of Jacob Carter over me but it has been far worse with Kelmaa and Zenna.’
‘Because Dad is military and understands the need to maintain the chain of command and follow orders I’ll bet but Zenna doesn’t’ Sam Carter reasoned.
‘Yes that may play a part’ Selmak agreed. ‘Kelmaa sometimes seems as loyal to her host’s homeworld as she does the Tok’ra’ he said. ‘She is considered erratic in temperament and questions our society more than is socially acceptable.’
‘She’s a rebel’ O’Neill decided, his opinion of her already rising.
‘Or at least a malcontent’ Selmak replied. ‘The only reason why she has managed to get away with her manner so far is that Egeria now resides in Kelmaa’s previous host and has inherited a fondness for her as a result’ he said. ‘Even so Kelmaa is skating on thin ice, to use an expression Jacob just suggested to me, and may face ostracism from Tok’ra society if she does not mend her ways.’
O’Neill looked Selmak in the eyes. ‘So basically the Tok’ra don’t want Kelmaa on Atlantis because they suspect her loyalty’ he said.
‘They would much prefer a proven loyalist such as Ren’al who was suggested instead’ Selmak confirmed. ‘Jacob wishes to continue for us’ he said, closing his eyes for a moment. ‘Gotta love politics don’t you Jack?’ Jacob asked sardonically. ‘Some of the Tok’ra, including Malek, think that the IOA deliberately chose Kelmaa in order to try and stir up trouble’ he said. ‘But then Malek also thinks Russell Sharp called his kid Jacob because we’re best buddies.’
‘So much for the theory that it’s using the sarcophagus that made the Goa’uld so paranoid’ O’Neill responded with a laugh. Sharp and Jacob Carter were certainly not on what you could call friendly terms.
Samantha frowned. ‘You don’t think that the IOA really did choose Kelmaa for that reason though do you?’ she wondered.
‘No, but only because I don’t think they’ve got good enough intelligence on the Tok’ra’ Jacob replied honestly. ‘Even if they disagree with my assessment Egeria and the Tok’ra High Council might not want to kick up too much of a fuss about Kelmaa because they know it’ll not be taken well by the human planets in the United Worlds that the Tok’ra think former slaves from primitive societies make the best hosts, but it’s just one more thing that’s helping to drive in a wedge between the Tok’ra/Free Jaffa Alliance and Earth.’
‘If we don’t beat the Replicators how we feel about each other doesn’t matter one bit’ O’Neill pointed out.
Jacob grimaced. ‘Yes and that’s the other reason we’re here’ he said. ‘As you know the Tok’ra and Free Jaffa have been fighting alongside Baal to try and stop them.’
‘Better to side with Baal than the bugs, can’t blame you guys for that decision’ O’Neill replied.
‘We thought so’ Jacob replied. ‘So we got a message from Baal that he thinks he knows a way to beat the Replicators’ he said. ‘We’re waiting on more information, and it could just be BS, but Egeria wanted you to have a heads-up.’
‘How does he plan to do it?’ Samantha queried.
‘We’re not exactly sure’ Jacob admitted. ‘The problem is who he said contacted him with the info.’
‘Loki?’ O’Neill suggested.
‘Anubis’ Jacob replied.
O’Neill blinked then looked up at the ceiling. ‘What next?’ he asked whatever higher-power that might be listening. ‘I’m telling you right now that if Ra, Apophis and Sokar show up tomorrow wanting to be friends I’m quitting’ he declared.
Note from the Author:Intars would make great training weapons, we see the SGC use them in the show and X-COM would as well. The SGC also developed VR training technology based on the Volsinii design and this would be very useful as a means to harden rookies by putting them through the hell of the Sectoid War without killing most of them. The Wraith Enzyme drastically boosts human strength but has a few nasty side-effects. X-COM wouldn't give a crap about the side-effects (if you die they can bring you back anyway) they'd just see it as being instant super-soldier serum. After the destruction of T'leth in the Second Alien War (X-COM: Terror from the Deep) Zrbite became totally inert. Here I'm saying that the Aquatoid device that makes it work has a limited range so Zrbite based tech only works in Pegasus. Nirrti continues to earn her keep at Area 51. Having her borrow a Kara Kesh (Hand Ribbon Device) to deal with an obstinate Wraith Queen (it's the one captured on the Drilling Platform) seemed apt. She gave it back because she knows full well that she wouldn't have a hope in hell of escaping even with the thing and they're only letting her live as long as she's useful and not causing trouble. Nirrti unlike most goa'uld also seemed to enjoy research and working for X-COM means a steady stream of interesting aliens to dissect.
We know not only from Arthur's Mantle but also the Personal Cloaks used by the Sodan that the Ancients had phase-shifting tech but they don't seem to have used it against the Wraith. As to why they started using the technology but then stopped... well you'll find out in the next story in the XSGCOM series! Wraith Scoutships are quite a bit larger than darts and are hyperspace capable taking an equivalent role to a goa'uld Tel'tak (or an X-COM Avenger). The Transphase sensors they have now been equipped with are an active system that works in a similar way to a Transphase Eradication Rod (or a searchlight perhaps). Atlantis was firing Standard Missiles from its new Vertical Launch System Batteries. A nuclear tipped version was developed in the 1980's during the Cold War but was discontinued (X-COM simply dusted off the old blueprints). For the city it was actually a little like playing Missile Command until they switched to laser and plasma beam cannon that is after which I suppose it was more like Space Invaders! Slapping an X-COM Plasma Beam Cannon to the top of a Puddle-Jumper to turn it into a gunboat should work quite well. The beam is long-ranged and accurate enough to hit something a lot smaller than the engine of a hiveship at over 50 kilometres and as long as you make sure there aren't any darts on CAP nearby when you decloak you should be able to safely get off a shot (or two) before going invisible again.
The Tok'ra starting to believe that Jacob Carter had too much influence on Selmak (because unlike most human hosts they had he was strong-willed and had grown up free) was mentioned in SG-1 episode 7:16 Death Knell. When Egeria took the former human host of Kelmaa (back in chapter 33 of XSGCOM: Goa'uld Defence) Kelmaa was placed in the Pangaran volunteer Zenna Valk and over the proceeding months and years Zenna has been progressively becoming more dominant causing disquiet among the Tok'ra.