The Mailbox Mysterybeing the continuation of
"The Courier" in HD
Disclaimer: Neither Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Stargate Atlantis,
or any other recognizable elements in my story are my property. They are being used solely for my (and I hope, your) amusement.
Author's Note: This is the second portion of my revision and expansion of the story previously published as "The Courier". In the original story, there was a point at which the story skipped forward by several years. In the revision, I decided to divide the story at that point; this portion picks up just after the skip. As it also includes a change in style and point-of-view, it is possible to read this story without reading the first one.
For the SGA universe, this is taking place in early Season Three; some of the dialogue, though not the physical descriptions, in this chapter, up to "Samantha Carter's idea", is almost a direct copy from the beginning of the episode 303 transcript (I removed a few sentences that didn't fit with this story). It will, however, be a self-contained story without reference to episodes taking place during the story, so it should be good for people not familiar with SGA (or who don't remember it all that well).
I reserve the right to disregard scenes from Season 2 of SGA dealing with the fate of Sateda; I have a slightly different take on it in this story.
[[ text ]] indicates voice communications heard via radio.
Chapter One: Corona
"We should be focusing on harvesting space Gates."
Sheppard's fingers twitched over the controls and he breathed a deep breath, pushing his frustration aside while he suppressed the sarcasm in his voice that was still an almost-automatic response to Rodney McKay's whining, even after two years. "That's what we're doing, Rodney."
"I am just saying that identifying potential space Gates to complete the intergalactic bridge should be our priority!" Rodney pounded a fist - very gently - against the 'dashboard' of the Puddlejumper.
"Are you that eager to return to Earth, Rodney?" Teyla wondered.
"This isn't just about me!" Rodney huffed, before adding, "It is about the ability to go back and forth between Earth and Atlantis conveniently," and in a lower tone he added, "and whenever I want to."
"How's that work again?" Ronon asked, and Colonel Sheppard just rolled his eyes and turned his full attention back to the Puddlejumper's controls; he for one was tired of hearing Rodney jabber on and on about the damned Gate bridge, and they hadn't even built the thing yet!
Rodney swung his chair around to face Ronon, eager to tell him all about the proposed Gate bridge once again. "Once we've seeded enough Stargates across the void between Pegasus and the Milky Way, we'll be able to take a Jumper from one to the other to the other ‘til we reach the other side. That way, we won't tax the ZedP.M., we won't be reliant on the Daedalus
, and travel time between Earth and Atlantis will be cut from three weeks to thirty minutes." Rodney smiled, turning back to face the front of the Puddlejumper.
"Very clever." Teyla nodded, approving of the idea.
"Yes." Rodney panted, before adding under his breath, "Samantha Carter's idea."
Sheppard grinned. "Women always have useful ideas." While they had been discussing the Intergalactic Gate Bridge, Sheppard had been awaiting clearance to launch; they were taking the Puddlejumper to an unknown address, hoping it was either an uninhabited planet, or even better, an unused space Gate, so that it could be taken and incorporated into the Gate bridge project.
Finally, the radio came to life, the voice of Atlantis' gate-traffic controller coming through clearly over the digital link, as if he was sitting inside the Jumper itself. [[ Puddlejumper One, you are clear for launch. ]]
Sheppard didn't even bother to verbally respond; the Jumper's DHD had already been programmed, and he hit the activator while the Jumper came loose from its gantry and began to autopilot toward Atlantis' Stargate. The Gate wooshed
to life just in time, and the Jumper slipped nose-first into the silvery-blue shimmering portal...
...to emerge over a tropical beach-like landscape. Colonel Sheppard barely had time to mentally register the sand and palm tree surroundings while he hurriedly reached for the piloting controls, overriding the autopilot and quickly swerving the Jumper over to one side in a hard banking, climbing turn, to avoid a... flagpole? Good thing that the Jumper had artificial gravity, or he would have tumbled his passengers out of their seats with a sudden, sharp turn like that (the Jumper didn't have seatbelts). Obviously, this was not an uninhabited planet, though it was rude of them to put that thing
right in the flight path of craft exiting the Gate. Still, that didn't mean that it wasn't worth coming; instead of a space Gate collection mission, this had just become a first contact mission.
Sheppard brought the Jumper circling back around, slowing it down while curving around in a wide banking turn over a beautiful, shallow harbor. He could tell that it was shallow because the water was a crystalline, almost-clear shade of Caribbean blue, and he could see through it right to the sandy bottom. A number of fishing sailboats were scattered out over the bay, there were currently vacant wooden docks sticking out from a white sand beach, and the sea itself was sparkling under the light of the planet's sun, which was very high in the sky, nearly high noon. There must be a reef or sandbar or something out on the horizon, because there was precious little wave action; the surface of the water was almost as smooth as a sheet of plate glass. On the beach itself, a number of huts, seemingly built mainly from palm fronds, occupied a clearing in the palm trees.
John brought the Jumper in for a landing on the wide sand beach, the nose of the jumper coming to rest just a few feet to one side of the pole he'd seen and avoided coming in, about five hundred feet from the Gate. The team took up their weapons, because it never hurt to be prepared, and the ramp opened to release the Jumper's passengers into the warm, tropical summer day outside. The warmth had Sheppard reaching for his jumpsuit's zipper even before he followed the rest of his team outside, and he smiled as he searched his jumpsuit pockets for his sunglasses.
"Forget the Gate bridge, folks. I think we were just cast in a Corona commercial."
Teyla and Ronon both stared at him, and Rodney groaned. "We'll never get the Bridge finished now."
John looked around; spotting the pole, he took a few steps toward it. On close inspection, it wasn't a flagpole at all, which had been his first guess even though there was no flag fluttering from it. In fact, the pole was
metallic, but it had no rope and pulleys or any hardware attached at all. It was just a bare metal rod, standing vertically to a height about ten feet taller than any of the neighboring palm trees. Its base was sunk into the sand, he couldn't tell how deep but certainly enough to hold it in place, and seemed to be attached to the back side of a wooden weather station. The dark color, streaked with rust, implied that it was iron or steel, though he'd need a scanner to be sure. Glancing to one side, he saw that Rodney was already taking care of it.A weather station?
He hadn't seen one of the things in ages
, since the last time he'd been back in Colorado actually, but that's what it looked like. A redwood cabinet, about the size of a college dorm room's mini-fridge, was standing about chest-high above the sand. The half-sunburst pattern engraved into the planks was what confirmed his thought that it was a weather station. It also had a plank sitting on top of the sand as the base for its front legs, which crossed between the front legs of the cabinet, and then extended about four feet to one side with a slot down the middle of it, pointing toward the Stargate. He shrugged and decided the damned box was unimportant. He didn't even point it out to the rest of the team, who were busily looking in other directions, watching for a potential threat - or whoever the residents of this planet were. He shrugged, gesturing off toward the cluster of huts, another hundred yards or so down the beach.
"Hello!" He called out, hoping the natives were friendly, and spoke a language that the Ancient translator circuits built into the Atlantis Expedition's headsets would recognize. As they approached the village, a single woman emerged from one of the huts. She was about his own age, maybe a little older, and dressed in a typical hula girl outfit - coconut shell bra and grass skirt, even. And a little bit pregnant, unless he missed his guess. He fought back a laugh, as the next line came unbidden. "We come in peace."
The woman smiled. "Please, come have a seat." She gestured at a massive bench, crafted from a split palm trunk, which lay between the huts. "Welcome. May I have your names?"
Teyla cocked her head, as if she almost
recognized the voice, and John thought that was quite interesting. Teyla hadn't recognized this planet's address, but perhaps these people had relocated at some point? "I am John, this is Rodney, Teyla, and Ronon." He introduced them rapidly, and the woman smiled. "We are... explorers."
Spreading her arms wide to indicate the surroundings, the woman replied, "Welcome to Culebra. I am Gatun." She cocked her head as well, before shaking it; perhaps she found Teyla somewhat familiar as well? But then she took a coin out of her pocket, and flipped it through the air - directly to Ronon.
Ronon dropped his guard and caught the coin left-handed, keeping his right on his weapon as he bowed, looking at the silvery coin carefully. Sheppard watched as Ronon cautiously flipped it in his hand, then looked up at Gatun in wonder. He broke his usual silence to rumble, "Where did you get a silver sword?"
Gatun grinned. "I thought
you looked Satedan. Haven't seen any of your kind in eight years. Trying to rebuild, are you?"
"No." Ronon's voice grumbled, in a lower register than usual. John knew Ronon didn't like to talk about Sateda, and this woman had just thrown it in his face, three sentences into their acquaintance. "Sateda is gone."
Gatun shrugged. "I missed me a good Fair, I did. Did you ever go to the Ring City Fair?"
Ronon didn't answer, still staring at the coin and absently turning it over repeatedly in his hand, then looking at Teyla, Rodney, and finally at John himself, who finally gestured toward Gatun. Ronon finally broke his silence again, and replied, "Several times. I grew up in the city."
"I suppose I owe you a long-awaited thank you, then, for your hospitality. I will be happy to exchange mine now, for you and your... friends?"
Ronon held the coin back out to Gatun and nodded. "Friends." Ronon allowed. Gatun smiled, taking the coin gently from his fingertips. Sheppard finally got a decent look at one side of the coin, which was stamped with several concentric circles, each of them broken by twelve radial lines, producing an effect just like the hour markings on an analog clock.
John smiled, slapping a bare hand against his knee. "Now that that's settled... what's a silver sword?"