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.
UN Building – New York – June 2004
Shen Xiaoyi smiled and there was something about it that made Elizabeth Weir fear the worst. In the theatre of diplomacy that usually meant you needed to start checking for daggers in your back. ‘The shrimp are very good aren’t they?’ Weir asked, turning towards the buffet table that took up this side of the conferance room. This was supposed to be a friendly, somewhat informal meeting over lunch and that only made Weir more concerned because if they were trying to make you relaxed that meant they were going to really stick the knife in deep and planned to twist it too.
‘I’d have another but honestly I’ve probably already had a few too many of the canapés’ the Chinese representative to the IOA replied, smiling again. ‘Monsieur LaPierre seems to be having doubts about the cheese selection’ she observed, indicating the French representative who was casting dubious looks at another portion of the buffet.
‘Wait until he samples the wine’ Weir responded, with a smile of her own. ‘I’m surprised to see that Vice President Kinsey didn’t make it’ she said.
‘I’m sure he’s doing good works opening a school somewhere’ the Chinese diplomat replied putting just a touch of sarcasm into her tone. ‘The United States is already well represented by Mr Woolsey in any case’ she continued. The American currently involved in what seemed like a fairly heated discussion with Russell Chapman from the United Kingdom on the other side of the room.
Weir popped a shrimp into her mouth, chewed daintily then swallowed. ‘Do we know when our new Committee Chairman might be arriving?’ she asked.
‘Unfortunately his regular briefing of the Security Council is expected to overrun badly this time around’ Shen Xiaoyi replied. ‘We were asked to go ahead without him if he wasn’t able to get out of there before two o’clock’ she said, checking her watch. ‘It’s a pity however, Mr Strom was looking forward to telling you himself’ she added.
‘Telling me what?’ Weir queried, trying to sound nonchalant.
The Chinese IOA member gave into the urge to have another canapé and reached for the platter holding them. ‘That with the agreement of the Security Council that your brief tenure as Head of the SGC is coming to an end’ she said, biting the canapé in half.
Elizabeth Weir tried not to show too much reaction. ‘Really?’ she asked. ‘I thought I was doing a good job and was well regarded?’ she replied.
Shen Xiaoyi swallowed the rest of the canapé. ‘Oh but you are’ she replied, ‘you could think of it as a promotion’ she said, ‘I certainly would in your shoes’ she told her.
Richard Woolsey and Russell Chapman came to join them. ‘You’ve told her I assume?’ Chapman asked the Chinese representative.
‘Only the part about the SGC’ she replied, ‘not about the Atlantis expedition’ she said.
‘Atlantis expedition?’ Weir responded in surprise. ‘I thought that had been shelved as even a possibility?’ she queried.
Woolsey shook his head. ‘Certainly the idea that we would further deplete the only means we have at present to power the Ancient Weapons Platform is out of the question’ he responded, ‘but an alternate method of charging the stargate sufficiently to allow a long-distance intergalactic wormhole has presented itself and so the mission is now very much back on the cards’ he said.
‘Alternate method of charging the stargate?’ Weir asked in confusion. ‘The briefing I received subsequent to Doctor Jackson discovering the eight symbols that dial the Lost City indicated that only a Zero Point Module or perhaps several Asgard Neutrino-Ion-Generators working in conjunction could do the job’ she said.
Chapman chuckled. ‘I wouldn’t claim to understand the science but we received an offer through diplomatic channels from Joseph Faxon our Ambassador on Tollan for a device that could do the job’ he told her. ‘The Tollan Curia are willing to provide technical assistance and support and we’ve decided to take them up on the offer’ he said.
‘They named their price though’ Shen Xiaoyi added.
Woolsey shrugged. ‘The Tollan are concerned that if we managed to obtain more Ancient Technology without them there to supervise, or at least advise, we might get ourselves and plenty of others killed’ he said. ‘The Curia want at least one of their own people along to make sure that we don’t do what the Seritans did to themselves given access to radically more advanced science.’
‘Plus the Curia wants unrestricted access to anything we find of course’ LaPierre interjected, joining the group. ‘They’re not acting completely on altruism’ he noted wryly.
Shen Xiaoyi looked around at the other representatives. ‘It will be at least few weeks before we can organise the personnel and equipment’ she told Weir, ‘the Curia has also suggested we involve some of our other allies in the expedition and we’re considering it but as far as you’re concerned Doctor Weir the question is simple’ she said, ‘will you agree to lead the team going to the Pegasus Galaxy?’ she asked.
Weir was going to say yes immediately but then she paused. ‘Why me?’ she asked.
‘There are a number of reasons’ Woolsey began, ‘firstly the Tollan requested it’ he said, ‘they along with several of our other offworld friends hold you in high esteem...’
‘And they don’t want our military in charge’ Weir interrupted him, ‘particularly X-COM.’
‘Quite so’ Chapman confirmed.
‘It’s not just the Tollan either, the Tok’ra and Free Jaffa don’t like X-COM themselves and the Nox and Gadmeer have already stated that they would consider any military-led expedition as objectionable on philosophical grounds’ Woolsey told her. ‘They all like you though’ he continued, ‘they see you as a moderating influence on our barbaric ways.’
‘So that explains why the aliens like the idea of me being in charge what about the IOA and the Security Council?’ Weir asked.
‘Do you want the truth?’ Shen Xiaoyi responded.
‘As much of it as you’re willing to give me’ Weir replied sardonically.
‘In that case there is an element of doing to you what we did to Commander Sharp’ LaPierre told her, ‘send you off into the cosmos where you can do your job and not cause trouble for us’ he said.
Weir frowned. ‘Sharp screwed up, that’s why he was sent to the Omega Site’ she said.
‘And you don’t think that having Earth ally itself with a goa’uld faction wouldn’t be seen in some quarters as a bad thing?’ Woolsey responded.
‘Though oddly enough getting the High Council of the System Lords to accept Earth control over this region of space did drastically improve your image amongst certain sections of the military’ Shen Xiaoyi told her. ‘They seem to think of it as a diplomatic coup, some kind of machiavellian masterstroke rather than a miscalculation on your part.’
‘I was trying to keep Earth out of an internal goa’uld dispute’ Weir told them.
‘We know, not that we wouldn’t have gotten involved in any case, most likely in opposition to Baal as we are now anyway’ Chapman said, ‘but it would have been entirely on our terms.’
‘Unfortunately it’s just not good policy to back on an agreement once made’ LaPierre observed, ‘the last thing we want is for the galactic powers to think that Earth would sign a treaty and not stick to it’ he said.
‘Even the goa’uld understand the game well enough to have stuck by the terms of the Protected Planets Treaty for centuries’ Chapman pointed out, ‘we cannot sacrifice our future reputation as a world whose word can be trusted for short-term gains so whether we like the implications or not the treaty you negotiated holds’ he said. ‘Of course there are ways around it’ he added with a smirk.
The Chinese representative smiled evilly. ‘Whilst we
cannot take military action against any of the System Lords allied against Baal the Tok’ra and Free Jaffa are in no such position’ she said. ‘With a little encouragement, and perhaps some additional supplies, they should be able to continue to press Lord Yu, Camulus and the others and prevent them re-building too much of their military strength whilst we’re otherwise occupied.’
‘No exactly in the spirit of our agreement with the High Council of the System Lords’ Weir responded disparagingly.
‘We knew you’d think so but the letter of the law is good enough for us’ LaPierre replied.
‘If you expect I might make waves about us being underhanded I’ll point out that while I made the agreement I was never that keen and I certainly don’t trust the goa’uld to hold to their end of the bargain for one second longer than it serves their interests’ Weir told them.
‘Whether you would or not it would be best for your reputation as an honest broker be unsullied in case we ever need you again, regardless of any other considerations’ Chapman told her. ‘With you in another galaxy you won’t be implicated in any shady business that occurs after you’ve departed so if the need ever arises where we need your services to treat with another power we can bring you back to do so with your reputation for honesty intact.’
‘I’m an asset’ Weir replied.
‘We’re all assets Doctor Weir’ Woolsey replied. ‘At the present moment you as a resource can serve your planet best by not being on it’ he said.
Weir sighed. ‘I feel like I’m being drafted’ she said.
‘To a job that you’ve said previously you would like to do anyway so please don’t overplay the martyr card Doctor Weir’ Chapman responded. ‘The military would prefer to be leading any mission themselves of course but after a few grumbles they can be relied upon to do as they’re told like good little loyal soldiers’ he said.
‘Do I get to choose my own personnel if I decide to accept?’ Weir asked.
‘Yes within reason, but you will have to accept that a reasonable proportion of your team will be military given the nature of the expedition’ Woolsey told her. ‘That includes X-COM who insist on having a role’ he added.
‘Being international and under UN Command the Security Council also desires X-COM participation’ Shen Xiaoyi told Weir. ‘We don’t
want this to end up another United States dominated affair like the early stargate program’ she said, looking directly at Woolsey who shuffled uncomfortably under her glare.
Elizabeth Weir became lost in thought. Ever since Doctor Jackson announced his theory that the Ancients had departed Earth millions of years ago in their “Flying City”, a notion that might have been consider slightly absurd if you hadn’t ever seen the one the Nox had, the notion of actually going there had been lodged in her mind.
They already knew that the Ancients had been devastated by a great plague that ravaged the Milky Way long ago, though the lengths they had apparently gone to in order to escape it was rather extreme with those still uninfected simply packing up and heading to another galaxy. Examination of the Ancient Outpost in Antarctica had provided the gate address but they had then been presented by another problem, if it still existed at all Atlantis was a very very long way away.
The Asgard galaxy of Ida was much
closer in galactic terms and even then you needed one of the Ancient power-boosters O’Neill had made the first time he had the Ancient database downloaded into his mind in order to get there. According to the gate address the Lost City had headed to the Pegasus Dwarf Irregular Galaxy which lay three million light years from Earth, thirty times the distance from one side of the Milky Way to the other and the power needed to open a wormhole that far was staggering.
The power source O’Neill had fetched from Proclarush Taonas could do it but they had learned it was more akin to a battery than a generator and there wasn’t much left in it. Dubbed a ZPM, or Zero Point Module, by the physicists led by Rodney McKay who had studied the thing it still had enough charge to power the Ancient Weapons Platform one or maybe two more times but after that Earth would lose its most effective defence. Certainly draining it in order to send a few people across the universe on what could be a wild goose chase was never going to be allowed so Jackson’s discovery had been merely academic so far despite Weir lobbying hard to send an expedition.
‘If I do this then who gets command of the SGC?’ Weir asked the IOA representatives.
‘We had to throw the Americans a bone, their Pentagon in particular, so with one objection we’ve agreed with a recommendation from your predecessor’ Russell Chapman replied. ‘Vice-President Kinsey was not happy by any means but despite what he might think his voice doesn’t carry more weight than anyone else merely because he’s an elected official of the United States’ he said, the others nodding apart from Woolsey.
When she returned to Cheyenne Mountain Elizabeth Weir couldn’t help but be amused at how the newly promoted, and recently defrosted, Brigadier-General Jack O’Neill was taking the news that he now ran the place, admittedly he wasn’t the only one wearing a stunned expression at the prospect.Cheyenne Mountain – Earth – June 2004
Brigadier-General Jack O’Neill looked in dismay at the pile of paperwork on his desk and wondered again why he had agreed to take the job. Sure he got a better parking space and getting a star on his collar was nice but the promotion didn’t come with a pay-rise because he was on the X-COM rolls and they paid everyone the same from Private on up. Admittedly they paid everyone a hell of a lot but it was the principle of the thing he thought ruefully.
The news from Cydonia Base had been a nice distraction which had kept him away from the office for a while this morning at least. Apparently one of the team combing through the wreckage of all those Ha’taks the Asgard had helpfully dumped on Mars had gone “loony-toons” according to witnesses before he jacked an Al’kesh which had just arrived with a load of naquadah from the asteroid mine in the Oort Cloud and flew off with it. Other than the weirdness of that in itself he wasn’t even a pilot, let alone trained to fly a goa’uld ship, so after failing to catch him before he went into hyperspace everyone was now thinking he must have been an infiltrator working for one of the System Lords or maybe the rogue NID.
X-COM was now in the throes of even greater paranoia than usual and was instigating a new round of compulsory screening of personnel. Everyone would be subjected to scan by Mind Probe as well as being checked with a Za’tarc Detector before being cleared to work again. This would cause days of disruption, perhaps weeks, and was the last thing he needed to add to the irritation of Elizabeth Weir running around trying to poach staff and those damn Tollan patronising everyone and complaining about the quality of the plumbing and the softness of the beds in the guest quarters.
O’Neill took another look at the stack of reports he was being badgered to read. ‘I’d better check on the Tollan’ he decided, standing up and heading out the door.
Everyone was treating him different now, O’Neill noted as he walked through the corridors. He always thought of himself as being the one that stuck it to the man but now he
was the man and the likes of Lieutenant-Colonel Ferretti were out to stick it to him
. There was something particularly insolent about the way that the commanding officer of SG-2 said “Sir” now that O’Neill was trying his best to ignore but it was difficult and he wondered how on Earth General Hammond had managed to cope with him
all these years.
Carter was a very different problem. She had received a well-deserved promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel and was now head of SG-1 but O’Neill was finding it hard to let go for more reasons than he cared to admit, even to himself. Watching her lead the team through the gate while he stayed behind and drank coffee was painful, although Walter did make an excellent brew he had to admit. In his usual way Daniel had tried to help O’Neill through the trauma of change, Teal’c was full of sage advice whereas Andianov was complaining that she didn’t get a promotion herself and had no sympathy for the problems of those that had received recognition for their efforts. The latter had expressed this in front of a visiting Major Davis who looked like he might applaud for a moment before he stopped himself, opting to offer to buy her a drink instead.
The team of Tollan engineers had established themselves in a large room situated near the gate and after it was stripped out they had begun putting together what Doctor Bill Lee described as the mother of all capacitors. Arriving in one of their cruisers the Tollan had utilised an Asgard-supplied transporter beam to offload the parts and had been carefully assembling them in the three days since stopping periodically to reply to questions from Earth scientists most of which were answered with “You wouldn’t understand”.
The main body of the thing looked like ten Tollan stargates stacked vertically around a column separated by small blocks of what looked like obsidian, which was basically what the thing was. The Tollan had initially described them as being “half a gate” which O’Neill had imagined as a bunch of semi-circles until Carter explained that they meant they didn’t have the ability to open a wormhole, just the ability to hold a charge. Between them the stack of rings could store a staggering amount of energy but you had to charge them in a certain way and do so slowly in order to build up enough charge to open a wormhole to the Pegasus Galaxy and maintain it for a useful amount of time.
The Ancient “Stargate-Destroyer” device utilised two years before by Anubis had demonstrated that you could drastically
over-charge a stargate if you did it the right way and the Tollan had figured out a means to replicate that effect. A large rack of Orbanian Naquadah Generators fed power into a transformer-like device which then transferred it to the stack, slowly charging them all to a level not far off the point where they would explode. It took days at minimum, the Tollan advised five or six in order to be safe and not overtax the system but once it was fully charged you could then dump all the accumulated energy into the actual stargate and hold an inter-galactic wormhole open for some time, at least until the stack ran down and had to be recharged again. The part of the device that transferred the stored energy to the stargate was itself in fact based loosely upon the Power Booster previously used to open wormholes to Ida, the Tollan having previously expressed an interest in studying the design.
It wasn’t ideal of course, once depleted you had to wait days to use it again, but the Tollan were confident it would work. It was a rather brute-force solution in some ways, not typical Tollan elegance of design, but they reasoned the Earth humans would appreciate that sort of thing anyway. There was certainly no way they were going to give them a couple of their own UFT Generators after what the Seritans did with them, the worst case scenario for the stack exploding wasn’t literally planet-shattering like a UFT Generator could do if misused. There would be a very impressive crater where Colorado used to be though but there were plenty of safeguards to prevent even that, the Tollan were deliberately making the system idiot proof because deep down many of them still considered the locals well qualified for the description.
When O’Neill arrived he carefully avoided talking to the lead Tollan engineer and struck up a conversation with her deputy instead. The woman leading the team was not happy about being on Earth, inside the SGC in particular, and when pressed on why she was so tetchy the previous day O’Neill had learned she had been one of the team led by Omac who had been rescued by SG-1 from their original homeworld years before. Given that the United States had attempted to enslave her as forced intellectual labour on her previous visit her attitude was perhaps understandable, Earth had not exactly made the best first impression there.
O’Neill had learned that before they had been pulled off their previous project and sent to Earth the engineers had been on Langara helping build one of the ore-processing plants the Curia was now constructing there. Raw materials from the star-cluster nicknamed “The Frontier” were transported from largely automated Tollan-built mining facilities to Langara via stargate to be refined there before dispatch to either Tollana itself or other worlds looking to purchase raw materials. The plants provided relatively high-wage jobs to the Langaran people and additional tax revenue to their governments helping them rebuild their economy. The Curia considered it a far more effective and beneficial way to help the Langarans than merely sending aid and Tollana itself would benefit from a better resource supply.
Although it had been a culture-shock being on a world like Langara at first, O’Neill was told as he talked to the engineer, it was hard not to become fond of a place where everyone seemed to want to shake your hand and thank you. The Tollan had of course declared war on Loki as a result of his invasion of Langara and more recently when the possibility of a goa’uld invasion had threatened Tollan warships arrived in orbit to defend the planet if necessary so it wasn’t surprising that the Tollan were greeted warmly. For that matter O’Neill suspected the engineer had found it very easy to get laid judging from a few of his comments regarding wanting to get back there.
Deciding that if he stayed too much longer it would look too obvious he was trying to avoid work Brigadier-General Jack O’Neill then headed to Daniel’s office to ask if he had made any further progress translating whatever artefact he was currently enthralled by. O’Neill didn’t actually know for certain there was such a thing but it was a reasonable bet there was and if he feigned interest for half an hour he could then justify a short break for coffee before looking for some other justification for not being at his desk.
The now very pregnant Doctor Janet Frasier carrying a box blocked much of the corridor and after being snapped at for offering to carry it for her “I’m pregnant, I‘m not an invalid” being very much her phrase of choice right now, O’Neill finally got her to relent and found a means to kill a few more minutes as he escorted her towards the infirmary carrying the box. The birth due only weeks away now she would be going on maternity leave very soon having refused to do so any earlier because the boredom of not being at the SGC would kill her.
‘So how are things with Cassie?’ O’Neill asked, making conversation as he put the box down where she indicated it was to go.
‘Very angry’ Janet replied.
‘What about?’ O’Neill queried. ‘Sit down if you want’ he told her, she had remained standing and he realised it might be because he had that star now.
Janet sat down gratefully, although not an invalid she was carrying around more weight now. ‘Did you know that Weir approached Captain Gaston and asked him to join her expedition?’ she asked.
‘No’ O’Neill replied, there might be something about that in one of the files on his desk though he suspected. Maybe he should read them, at least tomorrow maybe?
‘Well she did and Cassie has got it into her head that I had something to do with her boyfriend being sent to another galaxy’ Janet told him. ‘She thinks I got Russell to do it.’
‘How exactly did she think he’d manage that given he’s not exactly someone Weir would listen to?’ O’Neill asked. ‘Unless she thinks he told Doctor Weir “Under no circumstances will you ask Captain Jake Gaston to go to Atlantis” using reverse psychology.’
‘Cassie isn’t thinking logically she’s just upset’ Janet responded. ‘To be honest I am glad their relationship could be about to become the most long-distance in history’ she admitted. ‘One day he’s going to get killed, permanently I mean, and it would devastate her.’
O’Neill shrugged. ‘I don’t know what anyone would see in one of those X-COM guys anyway’ he said then realised his mouth had run away with itself badly as Doctor Frasier directed a searing look in his direction that an elerium plasma-beam cannon could only dream of emulating.
‘Ah yes, Captain Jake Gaston’ Janet began, ‘early twenties, tall, better than average looks, athletic’ she said, ‘not only that he’s also a war hero who fights evil aliens for a job, a job that pays an obscene salary so he can buy her nice things, and in his spare time he writes poetry
’ she continued, ‘why would any young woman be attracted to him I wonder?’ she asked wryly.
‘Okay, I see your point’ O’Neill conceded. ‘On the plus side unlike other guys she could date he probably thinks that if he hurt Cassie in any way he you’d have Commander Sharp send him on a one-way suicide mission’ he said before smiling. ‘I’ve got to ask, does Sharp play the intimidating father if Gaston visits Cassie while he’s there?’
‘No’ Janet replied, ‘I expected him to though and when I asked him about it later he told me that Gaston already knows him well enough to be scared of him so why bother’ she said. ‘Anyway he has the idea that any man who would date a girl that could read his mind and telekinetically beat him up if she didn’t like what she saw in there must
have good intentions.’
‘Well it’s safe to say he won’t cheat on her at least’ O’Neill agreed, although thinking about it later he pondered if given the dubious sanity of much of X-COM that was necessarily the case.Atlantis – Pegasus Galaxy – July 2004
The first reconnaissance had been made by MALP robots a week before. Four of the things had been sent through and finding themselves in the dark the remote-operators back on Earth had activated their lights and then the things had spent the next quarter of an hour crawling around what was clearly a much larger complex than the one in Antarctica sending back images and other telemetry until the gate shut-down.
Wherever it was the environment could support human life so the next time a wormhole to Pegasus was opened after several days recharging the Tollan Stargate Capacitor it was deemed time for the first part of the human expedition to be sent and along with three dozen soldiers, scientists and engineers Elizabeth Weir stepped through the event horizon of a stargate on Earth only to emerge three million light-years distant in an Ancient City that smelled like it needed airing very badly.
Although the city had ignored the robots it seemed to react to the presence of humans and the lights started coming on as the explorers started to scout around making it much easier to survey their new surroundings, discovering they were underwater was a revelation although Weir had been less happy at finding out why the Ancients had submerged the place and then left.
According to Carson Beckett, the teams head physician who had happily transferred from the Omega Site to join this mission when invited, the holographic recording now being projected standing on a platform in the middle of the room, had come on as soon as he entered. This was possibly because he carried what they now called the ATA Gene, the one responsible not only for how much psionic strength a human had but was also now proven to be needed to use certain Ancient technologies. He had already watched the automated recording right through himself when Doctor Weir arrived with her senior military staff and Rodney McKay her chief scientist in tow and judging by his expression it wasn’t all good news.
Presumably they were looking at the likeness of an Ancient woman who had left the recording to explain what had transpired to the next person that visited Atlantis and Weir couldn’t help but be transfixed at the very idea, they were so much like us, she thought as she listened.
‘...in the hope of spreading new life in a galaxy where there appeared to be none. Soon, the new life grew and prospered. Here...’ the hologram said.
‘What have we missed?’ Colonel Alexi Vaselov the Russian commanding the military personnel asked. A former cosmonaut and more recently a fighter-pilot who had flown an F-302X against Anubis during the attack on Earth he was ardently professional and came with the highest recommendations from both X-COM and the Russian Government. It had been a choice between him and an American Colonel named Sumner for the job but when Weir had personally requested that Major John Sheppard be on the expedition, both because of his known ATA Gene strength and the fact she already knew him, Sumner had been ruled out because the IOA didn’t want both of the highest ranked officers to be from the same country.
‘Not much’ Beckett replied.
‘...exchange knowledge and friendship. In time, a thousand worlds bore the fruit of life in this form. Then one day, our people set foot upon a dark world where a terrible enemy slept’ the hologram continued as another image appeared, a depiction of the galaxy they were in. ‘Never before had we encountered beings with powers that rivaled our own. In our overconfidence, we were unprepared and outnumbered. The enemy fed upon the defenseless human worlds like a great scourge, until finally, only Atlantis remained’ she said.
As the stars being projected changed colour to red to indicate the systems being conquered the hologram continued to speak. ‘This city's great shield was powerful enough to withstand their terrible weapons, but here we were besieged for many years. In an effort to save the last of our kind, we submerged our great city into the ocean. The Atlantis Stargate was the one and only link back to Earth from this galaxy, and those who remained used it to return to that world that was once home. There, the last survivors of Atlantis lived out the remainder of their lives. This city was left to slumber, in the hope that our kind would one day return’ she finished.
‘Huh. So the story of Atlantis is true. A great city that sank in the ocean’ McKay observed.
‘It just didn't happen on Earth’ Beckett responded.
‘Well, the Ancient Greeks must have heard it from one of the surviving Ancients’ McKay reasoned.
‘I am more interested in finding out more about this enemy that defeated them’ Colonel Vaselov stated, turning to Major Sheppard stood beside him. They were both wearing X-COM jumpsuits and torso armour made of trinium/cydonium alloy. ‘Inform the troops of the possibility of hostiles’ he ordered.
‘Yes Sir’ Sheppard replied, turning away and reaching for his radio headset.
Another of the scientific team joined them and whispered something to McKay. ‘Don’t play it again’ he told Beckett. ‘Power levels thoughout the city are dropping like a stone’ McKay declared. ‘We need to find out why and until we do we need to stop wasting power’ he told them.
What seemed to be the control room for the entire city overlooked the stargate and McKay was working on a computer he had interfaced with the local systems. They were fortunate that the goa’uld had copied Ancient technology rather than inventing much of their own because it wasn’t all that different from doing the same thing to the computer core on a Ha’tak. Plugging into a goa’uld mothership was of course something they were well used to doing, having once owned two and still possessing the Kuznetsov
had been lost.
‘From what we've been able to ascertain, the city is powered by three Zero-Point Modules’ McKay announced. ‘Two are entirely depleted, and the third is reaching maximum entropy. When it does, it will die too, and nothing can reverse that’ he said.
‘Meaning?’ Weir asked him.
‘The force field holding back the ocean has collapsed to its minimum sustainable levels’ McKay replied. ‘Look, you can see here and here where the shield's already failed and the city’s flooded. It could've happened years ago. But this section is likely more protected because of the Stargate’ he said.
‘All right, well, how much time do we have?’ Weir asked.
‘At least a week if we plug in all the naquadah generators we’ve brought with us’ McKay replied. Those were something they had plenty of at least but they weren’t up to keeping a shield that size powered for much longer whilst holding back an ocean.
‘So we need more ZPM’s right?’ Weir asked.
‘If there were more in the city we’d detect them’ McKay replied.
‘I think that Tollan guy had the right idea not wanting to come here until the next week’ Sheppard muttered.
‘Can we use the stargate to get home?’ Weir asked.
‘Not enough left in the ZPM’ McKay replied apologetically. ‘We can plug in a naquadah generator and get you to any other planet with a gate in this galaxy if you want to evacuate’ he said. ‘The shield should hold until the next time they open a wormhole from Earth and we can tell them where we’re going, ask for additional supplies and ask them to send a ship.’
‘Pity we didn’t just come here
by ship’ Sheppard remarked.
‘We would have arrived in orbit, found no sign of Atlantis and gone home’ McKay pointed out.
‘Yeah but I wouldn’t be worried about getting crushed by a billion tons of water’ Sheppard replied, ‘there was a reason I wanted to fly aircraft in the USAF not drive submarines in the USN’ he said.
‘A team with submersibles could come to this world and retrieve much salvage’ Colonel Vaselov suggested.
McKay nodded. ‘Not ideal but we could do that’ he agreed. ‘Even a few of those little ships we found in that hanger upstairs would be well worth hauling out of this place when it’s flooded’ he said. ‘I’ve found a library of gate addresses in the database which lead to habitable planets, I suggest we try the one at the top of the list first and look for somewhere we can wait for rescue he said.’
Vaselov nodded. ‘I will lead the scouting mission’ he said. ‘Put together a reconnaissance team Major’ he told Sheppard.
‘Want the Powered Armour and the P3-A1’s unpacked Sir?’ Sheppard asked.
‘No, if we meet anyone I would prefer not to scare them’ Vaselov replied. ‘Standard body-armour and light weaponry’ he told him. ‘With your permission of course Doctor Weir’ he added, turning to the expedition leader.
‘Go ahead, I don’t want to be here when all that water comes crashing in either’ Weir told him sincerely.
When the MALP they sent through to the first planet on the database reported back that the environment was safe, although it was night there unfortunately making looking around less easy than it would have been Colonel Vaselov led through his team. Fortunately one thing they did not lack for was equipment so the X-COM soldiers put on night-vision goggles and began scouting out from the stargate following what seemed to be a well-worn trail through the surrounding forest that at least indicated recent inhabitation.
Captain Gaston was the most experienced at visiting new worlds after his long secondment from X-COM to the SGC and he was paying for it now because the rookie on the team Lieutenant Ford was shadowing his every move. To the amusement of the rest of Gaston’s squad every time the captain stopped to look around or listen Ford did the same, and a few of them were trying not to laugh, especially the Israeli medic Nava Eitam who knew she had a tendency to giggle and not be able to stop once it started.
Sergeant Kevin Nash, veteran of X-COM and the Royal Marine’s elite Special Boat Service wasn’t happy with the people in charge. He had been on a good few missions with the young Captain and was confident he knew his business, having cut his teeth fighting Sectoids and Mutons up close and personal, but the Colonel and the Major were pilots not ground-pounders even if they did both have good records. If the shit hit the fan Nash and the other X-COM Troopers hoped Vaselov and Sheppard were smart enough to listen to the experienced professionals and wouldn’t think that rank meant ability. Nash respected Sheppard, the crazy bastard had flown him into several hot LZ’s during the Sectoid War, but that didn’t mean he was going to be any good in a fire-fight.
Nava heard a twig snap and suddenly charged into the trees emerging seconds later holding what appeared to be a young boy in her free hand who was yelling and hollering. As he struggled Sheppard was the first to reach them and told him to calm down as another boy appeared and begged the strangers not to hurt him or his friend as he pulled off a mask he was wearing.
‘Why didn’t you just zat him?’ Sheppard asked wryly as the medic released her hold on the boy and lifted her goggles as a few flashlights were turned on.
‘If he’d been taller I might have’ Eitam replied.
A man appeared running towards them. ‘Please!’ he called out. ‘They're just playing’ he said as the oddly dressed newcomers pointed what he guessed were weapons at him.
Sheppard stood aside to let the boy the medic had grabbed hold of run to the man, the other boy doing the same.
The Russian Colonel approached, also taking off his goggles knowing they would look intimidating. ‘Hello’ he greeted the man. ‘We do not mean you any harm’ he reassured him, smiling. ‘I am Alexi Vaselov’ he introduced himself.
‘I am Halling’ the man replied guardedly. ‘Are you here to trade?’ he asked. ‘Did you come through the Ring of the Ancestors?’ he queried.
‘We call it a stargate and yes we came from there and would like to both trade and look around your world if we can’ Vaselov told him. ‘We are explorers and travellers.’
The man Halling nodded. ‘Teyla will wish to speak to you’ he replied now looking more relaxed as he turned to address the boys. ‘Now, how many times have I told you not to play in the forest after dark? I'm just glad you're safe’ he chided.
Detailing a couple of soldiers to guard the stargate and report back to Atlantis that they had found an indigenous human population Vaselov and the others followed Halling and the boys back to their village, Sheppard striking up a conversation with the boys who were fascinated by the night-vision gear he had. The boy who had been wearing a mask of his own explained it was “Wraith” when Sheppard asked about it and seemed very surprised the strangers had never heard the name.
The locals lived in tents suggesting they did not remain in one place too long and there was little evidence of technology Vaselov noted as Halling took them to a particular tent. The Russian introduced himself and Major Sheppard to a woman who gave her name as “Teyla Emmagan, daughter of Tagan” and was justifiably wary of them given their appearance though not especially unfriendly.
Like many people who lead a nomadic existence the locals, who called themselves Athosians after their planet Athos, seemed to have a certain way of dealing with strangers and Sheppard and Vaselov tried to make a good impression accepting an offer to share the tea Teyla was preparing before the coming dawn. Whilst the Colonel and the Major played nice with the locals Gaston and the others did their best not to look too intimidating and continued scouting the local area until the sun rose high enough to reveal exactly the sort of thing they might have hoped for.
Not too far from the settlement on the other side of some swampy ground the remains of a city indicated that Athos had not always been so primitive. The Athosians called it a “City of the Ancestors” and warned it was not safe but Vaselov could not pass up the opportunity to investigate the site looking for somewhere to set up home or even technology that might even include a ZPM if it had been built by the Ancients and they were very lucky.
The Athosians were adamant that if anyone visited the ruins then the Wraith would come. They were all more than surprised that the strangers had no idea who or what the Wraith were and said that if they had never been to the world the strangers came from then they should count themselves lucky and go back there. Sheppard replied that wasn’t an option right now but asked to learn more about the Wraith if he could whereupon Teyla offered to take him to some caves to show him something.
Sheppard was surprised when Teyla used what appeared to be a laser to light a torch before leading him into the caves, it seemed the Athosians weren’t always the pre-industrial culture they were now and may have been ahead of Earth perhaps before the Wraith destroyed their civilisation, a story that was told in pictures on the cave walls.
‘The Wraith allow our kind to grow in numbers’ Teyla explained, ‘and when that number reaches a certain point, they return to…cull their human herd’ she said. ‘Sometimes, a few hundred years will pass before they awaken again. We've visited many, many worlds. I know of none untouched by the Wraith. The last great holocaust was five generations ago, but still, they return in smaller numbers, to remind us of their power’ she told him.
‘That's a hell of a way to live’ Sheppard replied.
‘We move our hunting camps around’ Teyla explained. ‘We try to teach our children not to live in fear, but it is hard. Some of us can sense the Wraith coming. That gives us warning’ she said. ‘We should go. It will be dark soon’ she said. Athos had very short days it was only a few hours since dawn and already the sun was going down as the planet quickly rotated on its axis.
Colonel Vaselov had performed a quick survey of the city, it was not in a good state and there were no power-sources to be found on cursory examination but he wanted to bring in a scientific team to check properly before giving up the notion entirely. He sent Lieutenant Ford back to the gate to collect a few additional personnel he had requested from Atlantis and pondered his next move. They could certainly set up camp here and wait for a rescue ship but he was curious about these Wraith wondering if they could be the enemy the Ancients spoke of. No matter anyway, he decided eventually, they couldn’t stay in Atlantis and Athos seemed as good a place as any right now to establish a temporary home.
It was dark again when Ford reached the stargate. He was about to dial the address for Atlantis when the gate lit up indicating an incoming wormhole and to his great surprise instead of people coming through three sleek aircraft shot out from the event horizon and after climbing and banking slightly headed towards the location of the city at high speed. They reminded him in principle of the chappa’nok’kek gate-fighters Apophis then Lord Yu employed that he had seen depicted in training manuals but they were much faster and less bulky and he reported that to Colonel Vaselov on the radio as the things streaked towards him and the others.
The Athosians panicked and scattered, the sound of a Wraith Dart familiar and terrifying as they ran for their lives.
Teyla and Sheppard were already running back towards the village. Somehow she had known they were coming even before she heard the Darts and he already had a suspicion how but for now his theory would have to be forgotten.
Without orders to fire as yet Jake Gaston watched as one of the alien ships swept overhead directing a beam of light at the ground which swept up a group of Athosians. ‘Transporter beam’ he reasoned, the Asgard had similar technology.
Colonel Vaselov watched the same craft bank sharply heading in for another run. ‘Open fire’ he ordered.
Halling watched as one of the strangers raised his weapon and aimed along it. They could not possibly hope to hit such a fast moving target he thought for a moment before a beam of light shot out from the strangers weapon and struck the Wraith Dart he was aiming at.
The Wraith Dart exploded and the wreckage showered the forest.
Vaselov was suddenly struck by the notion he was surrounded, there were monsters amongst the trees, they were everywhere. ‘They are everywhere’ he said, starting to panic firing wildly into the forest.
The Colonel got off three shots before a zat discharge hit him and he fell to the ground. ‘Psionic attack’ Sergeant Nash yelled out after dropping his commanding officer.
‘Fight it’ Jake Gaston ordered, pushing the attempt to attack his mind back like he had when Ethereals had done the same thing. ‘Knock those fucking fighters down’ he bellowed, firing his L2-A3 into the sky full auto along with the other soldiers.
A second dart was hit, the laser beam that connected going through a less vital system this time and instead of exploding it crashed into the ground in more or less one piece. As the canopy seemed to vanish the pilot stumbled out nearly managing to get two steps before Gaston hit it with a zat’nik’tel discharge putting it down. ‘That’s one for Alien Containment’ he said, rolling the comatose alien over with his foot.
The pilot of the third Dart decided that discretion was the better part of valour and he headed back towards the gate at full speed trying to use his culling beams to collect any other human he could on the way. Most scattered clear but he did manage to sweep up an unconscious Russian going past as he remote-dialled the gate address to his home.
‘Bugger it’ Nash swore as he watched Vaselov disappear. ‘Cease fire, it’s got the Colonel’ he called into his radio.
Lieutenant Ford still by the stargate had the presence of mind to memorise the symbols which had been dialled as the alien fighter returned at high speed shot through the event horizon of the outgoing wormhole and disappeared back from whence it came. The entire action had lasted only a few minutes.
Elizabeth Weir had not been expecting Major Sheppard to return with a number of refugees, still less an alien prisoner, a load of salvaged parts from some kind of ship and the news that Colonel Vaselov had been captured. According to the Athosians, who were still almost as shocked by the way the strangers had dispatched the Wraith as they had been the attack itself, the lost of the Darts would lead to massive retaliation so they had to leave their world.
The Athosians had claimed to know the addresses of many other worlds the strangers could look for a new home on instead and Sheppard had decided their knowledge could be an asset so he told them they come along with his people for now.
As the unconscious Wraith was carried away Weir went to meet the refugees, Sheppard introducing her as the leader of his group.
‘This is the Lost City of the Ancestors’ Teyla said in wonderment, looking around. ‘I thought it was just a myth that it survived’ she said.
‘We thought Atlantis was a myth too not long ago’ Weir replied. ‘Millions of years ago this city stood on our own homeworld until the Ancients, who I guess are the people you call the Ancestors, left to make their home here instead’ she told them.
‘From what world do you come then?’ Teyla asked. ‘It must be far away’ she reasoned.
‘We call our world Earth’ Weir replied, ‘the Ancients, the Ancestors I mean, called it Terra’ she said.
Teyla nodded. ‘So you are the Terrans’ she said. ‘I greet the Terrans on behalf of the Athosians.’
‘Beats the shit out of being called the fucking Tau’ri anyway’ Sergeant Nash muttered.
‘Ma'am the Colonel was captured and according to what I’ve learned about these Wraith he could still be alive’ Sheppard told Weir. ‘We’ve got the address where they took him, request permission to go get him back.’
‘Before I agree to anything I want to hear everything you’ve been told about the Wraith and I also want to talk to the one you captured’ Weir replied. ‘If these are the people that beat the Ancients I’m not going to do anything before I’ve had a chance to consider the situation’ she told him. If they could strike up a dialogue perhaps they might be able to negotiate she hoped.
‘Yes Ma'am’ Sheppard responded, bringing himself to attention. ‘Can I at least ready a team in case you authorise a rescue attempt?’
‘You can’ Weir agreed.
‘Captain Gaston’ Sheppard said loudly, ‘un-crate the Powered Armour and the Heavy Plasma Rifles’ he ordered. ‘If we’re doing this we’re going in loaded for bear’ he added.
‘Right away Sir’ Gaston replied. ‘You heard the Major’ he called out, ‘Gear up X-COM, I want us ready to go in thirty minutes’ he announced.
‘You cannot seriously be thinking about undertaking such a mission’ Teyla responded incredulously. ‘It is suicide to attack the Wraith’ she told them.
‘Ms. Emmagan’ Gaston responded in a calm tone, ‘you may think this sounds like hubris’ he began, ‘but if you think that we don't know enough about these Wraith allow me to offer the counter-argument that, for their part, the Wraith have...’ he paused, ‘no idea who they are fucking with
’ he bellowed resulting in a spontaneous chant of “X-COM, X-COM, X-COM” from the troopers around the room and a lot of rifles being brandished above heads.
‘Is anyone else reminded of the Satedans?’ a frowning Teyla asked the other Athosians after a minute or so of such nonsense.
Note from the Author:Elements of the end of episode 8:02 of Stargate SG-1 and the start of episode 1:01 of Stargate Atlantis here with a touch more politics at work. Shen Xiaoyi, Russell Chapman, Jean LaPierre and Richard Woolsey were all IOA members. In this universe the IOA and the UN have more authority over the stargate program and related projects than the United States which is why they can decide who leads the Atlantis Expedition and why Jack O'Neill can end up head of the SGC despite the fact Kinsey is still VP and hates him. Opening an inter-galactic wormhole requires an 8 symbol address and considerably more power than a regular jaunt between two points in the same galaxy. In episode 2:16 The Fifth Race O'Neill used Ancient knowledge downloaded into his head by a Repository of Knowledge to create a Power Booster Device enabling him to open a wormhole to Ida. Another was made to do the same thing in an alternate dimension in episode 3:06 Point of View as well but since we know that Pegasus is much further away than Ida (it takes far longer to get there even using Asgard hyperdrives) its logical to assume that the booster can't produce enough power to do the job. The Zero Point Module retrieved from Proclarush Taonas isn't as depleted here as it was in the show (less drones were needed to be fired as a fair chunk of Anubis's fleet was already destroyed by other means) but it's still the only one they have and its a dangerous galaxy so they don't want to drain it opening a wormhole to Atlantis if they can help it. Fortunately thanks to the Tollan there is another means available.In SG-1 episode 8:03 Lockdown we found that Anubis wasn't really gone and his "spirit" was still present within a piece of wreckage left over from his ship. In the show it transferred to a Russian officer on a space-station that encountered it but in XSGCOM all the salvage was collected by the Asgard and dumped on Mars. Anubis hijacked one of the team going through the wreckage there and then hijacked an Al'kesh to make his escape (not that anyone knows this yet in-universe). Newly promoted Brigadier-General Jack O'Neill put a great deal of effort into avoiding paperwork in Season 8, much to the chagrin of Chief Master Sergeant Harriman. His command style whilst running the SGC was as unauthodox as you might have expected. The Ancient built Stargate Destroyer Anubis attempted to use to destroy the SGC in episode 6:01 Redemption showed that it was possible to overcharge a stargate. Here the Tollan are using ten of their own version as a giant capacitor connected to a version of the Power Booster in order to open a wormhole to Pegasus. The technology is mainly off-the-shelf and proven so it's not a huge undertaking for them. When the Tollan first encountered Earth in episode 1:17 Enigma they were going to be held against their will and prompted to hand over their technology. Daniel helped them escape with the assistance of the Nox and relations between Earth and Tollana improved greatly later but any Tollan who was among that group seemed likely to still be harbouring a grudge.Given that they are not limited to only one trip to Atlantis I thought an initial survey with MALPs followed later by half the expedition with the rest to come later made sense. They're still facing the problem seen in canon that the Atlantis ZPM's are nearly depleted but they've arrived with a lot more Naquadah Generators (they've got masses of the things thanks to billions of tons of naquada ore and the Orban making them for Earth) so they have the power to keep the city running a while longer. Colonel Alexi Vaselov appeared in SG-1 episode 8:03 Lockdown. I've decided to have him replace Colonel Marshall Sumner as the initial military commander of the Atlantis Expedition because the XSGCOM universe is rather less US dominated than canon. Athoswas the site of a ruined Ancient City and the home of the Athosians including Teyla Emmagan and Halling. The Wraith were seen to use mental attacks to panic their human prey and demonstrated other psionic powers in the show too. Being well-used to facing enemies that used such tactics the X-COM infantry were rather less fazed by the situation than they would have been otherwise so they coped better than the soldiers did in canon. Wraith Darts are extremely fragile, they are shot down by far less powerful hand-weapons than an L2-A2 in Stargate Atlantis and given that laser rifles don't require you to lead the target they should be very effective against the Wraith fighters. That zat'nik'tel discharges work against Wraith is seen in SGA episode 4:17 Midway, they really should have taken zats to Atlantis!