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Help from Unexpected Places; The Return

Previous parts are here. Enjoy!





STARGATE ATLANTIS
3X10 - THE RETURN (1)



“Is Rodney’s plan really going to work?”

Alice looked up from the screen. “His math works out.”

“Yeah, but math isn’t always all that counts.”

“I can’t see the future, John, but Rodney is right far more often than he’s wrong, and this is a good plan.”

“Yeah...”

“And Radek’s double checked everything.”

“Now we’re talking.”

John? Daedalus is ready when you are,” Elizabeth told him.

“Right,” John agreed, powering up the ‘Jumper. “Gate is dialed, forwarding macro has been updated.”

Elizabeth was watching from the balcony; he tossed off a wave, and she smiled. “Alright, John. You have a go.

“Alright, then. Here goes.”

He headed through the ‘Gate.

The journey seemed longer than usual, but eventually he flew out on the other end. Daedalus was hovering nearby.

Colonel Sheppard, right on time. What's your status?” Caldwell asked.

“Felt a little weird, but everything seems to be in one piece. Ready to proceed to next phase. Uploading macro and initiating dialing sequence.”

He dialed in the address, watching the ‘Gate lit up. “Alice,” he murmured, “stay out of sight on the other side.”

“Yes, John.”

The ‘Gate connected, and he triggered the ‘comm again. “Daedalus, ready to proceed.”

There was a long pause before Caldwell came back on the line. “Colonel Sheppard, you have a go.

John took a deep breath, nudging the ‘Jumper forward.

The ‘Gate room in Cheyenne seemed smaller than he remembered; he drew the ‘Jumper to a neat halt, just in front of the control room window. General O’Neill and General Landy were watching, both looking amused.

It's about time!” O’Neill said over the comm.

“Sorry, sir,” John said contritely.

Colonel Sheppard. Welcome to Earth,” Landry said.

“Thank you, sir. Good to be back.”

You know where to park. We'll debrief and go over the flight data as soon as you're ready.

“Yes, sir.”

He lifted the ‘Jumper up towards the roof.

“He has the gene,” Alice said from the back of the ‘Jumper.

“Yeah, General O’Neill. I gotta go debrief; stay off line, alright?”

“Yes, John.”

“And no poking around the SGC computers!”

“No, John.”

He grinned, powering down the ‘Jumper and heading out to meet the generals.




Debriefing over, he headed back through the ‘Gate to test the procedure in reverse. Daedalus was still standing by, hovering not far from the framework for the Midway Station.

Colonel Sheppard, welcome back to the middle of nowhere.

“Thank you, Colonel. I've got a take-out pizza for everyone back at Atlantis. With your permission, I'd like to upload the macro and dial out before it gets cold.”

Negative,” Caldwell said absently. “We're putting that leg of the trip on hold for now. Seems like we're expecting company.

“Company?”

Yeah. Come aboard, Dr McKay’s just dying to tell you all about it.”

“Translation,” Alice murmured. “He’s already driven everyone else crazy talking about it, and now it’s your turn.”

“On my way,” John acknowledged, flipping the comm. off and heading for the docking bay.




Rodney’s plan to contact the strange ship, such as it was, was ready. John stood on the Bridge, watching the viewscreen.

“They're gonna fly by us in three, two, one.”

The other ship was barely even visible before it was gone again. Rodney studied his screen, frowning. “Interesting.”

“What?” Caldwell asked.

“If these readings are correct – and to be perfectly fair, they may not be ...”

“Rodney,” John said warningly.

“It's an Ancient warship. It's possibly Aurora class.”

“Who's flying it?” Caldwell protested.

“I ... would imagine Ancients.”

“But there hasn't been any of them around for over ten thousand years.”

“Relativity?” Rodney reminded him. “Look, remember, for them only a handful of years have passed.”

“Don't those ships have hyperdrives?” John asked.

“Well, maybe their hyperdrive was damaged in a battle with the Wraith,” Rodney suggested. “It happened to us all the time. Maybe it conked out on the way and they were forced to continue at as close to light speed as possible. That would explain how they got a million light years away from Pegasus without having to leave a million years ago.”

“You know the subspace drive specs better than I do, Doctor, but I'm not sure an Aurora class ship has the power to do what you're suggesting.” Caldwell frowned, studying the screen.

“Well, maybe they have a ZedPM.”

John grinned. “That would be worth finding out.”

“OK, we need to send them a message before they get out of range and we have to jump ahead. Uh, something like, you know, ‘We are humans from Earth currently occupying Atlantis, uh, yada, yada, yada ...’ “

“Why don't we just ask `em to slow down?” John suggested.

“Colonel Caldwell,” Kleinman said from the helm. “The unidentified vessel is slowing down.”

“Maybe they heard me,” John said, shrugging.

“No, they saw us.” Rodney leaned over Kleinman’s shoulder. “They're not just slowing down – they're slamming on the brakes at something like twenty-seven gees.”

“So now what?” Caldwell asked.

A hologram of a blond woman appeared at the front of the Bridge. John blinked, looking at her in surprise; she was wearing the Ancient uniform.

“Unknown vessel, I'm Captain Helia of the Lantean warship Tria. Our ship has suffered damage. We've scanned your vessel and determined that it is capable of hyperspace travel. We've begun deceleration maneuvers. Will you render assistance in the form of hyperspace transport?”

“Well, yes! Yes, of course we will,” McKay said quickly.

Helia didn’t react, watching them patiently.

“I don't think she can hear you,” John said lightly.

Caldwell turned to Kleinman. “Open a channel. This is Colonel Steven Caldwell of the Earth ship Daedalus. It would be an honour to render assistance in any way we possibly can.”

Helia smiled politely, bowing her head, and the hologram vanished.

“We're gonna meet Ancients!” Rodney laughed. “I mean, flesh and blood Ancients who know what everything is and how everything works! I mean, I don't even know what to ask first!”

“Well, it's gonna be a couple of hours before we can match velocities for transport,” Caldwell told him.

“That should give you enough time to write out that list,” John added.

“Right, right!” He hurried off, grinning.

John excused himself to Caldwell, heading for the docking bay and climbing into his ‘Jumper. “Alice, how close to Atlantis do we need to be for you to talk to her?”

“A lot closer than this. Why?”

“We’ve met a ship called the Tria. Do you know it?”

Tria was assumed lost, shortly before the People left Atlantis. Captain Helia commanding. Why would she still be here?”

“Problem with her hyperdrive, apparently. Look, as soon as we get close enough to Atlantis, warn her.”

Tria will be able to talk to Atlantis much sooner than I will.”

“Do it anyway. Her engines are shot, she might be staying here. That’d give us a better chance.”

Alice nodded slowly. “You know Alice will have to follow their orders above yours, unless they clash with her self-preservation order.”

“Yeah, I know, but maybe we can get some warning this time, huh? Just give her the warning when you can.”

“Yes, John.”




Helia was polite but noncommittal when Daedalus finally matched speeds. Caldwell transported her crew aboard and the ship started back towards Atlantis.

John and Rodney beamed down to the ‘Gate room with Helia and a couple of her crew. Elizabeth was waiting, flanked by Teyla and Ronon.

“Doctor Weir, Ronon, Teyla – this is Helia, captain of the Ancient ship Tria.” John glanced around; Alice was standing by the stairs, watching them warily.

“It's an honor to meet you,” Elizabeth said.

“Thank you.” Helia smiled, bowing her head. “And from what I'm told, you've done a remarkable job preserving our city.”

“We did what we could with what we had.”

“I need to speak to the leader of your people.”

Elizabeth frowned, glancing at John. “I'm in charge of the Atlantis expedition.”

“You misunderstand me, Doctor Weir. I need to talk to the one who can speak for all the people of Earth.”

“That can certainly be arranged, but may I ask why?”

Helia looked away. A small console lifted up from the floor between them; John and the others all took a step back, Ronon drawing his blaster.

“What is that?” Rodney demanded. “How come I've never seen that?”

Helia laid her hand on the console and every screen in the control room turned off. Alice flinched, taking a step forward before catching herself to stand still.

“Excuse me, what's going on?” Elizabeth asked.

“Thank you for all that you've done, Doctor Weir, but your guardianship of this city is no longer necessary. The city is now under my control.” Helia smiled politely.

“Your cont...I’m sorry, but that is not...”

“We wish to speak to your leader,” Helia interrupted her. “Please arrange this. We have no wish to harm you or any of your people, Dr Weir. As I’ve said, we are truly grateful for everything you’ve done here.”

“Captain Helia,” Alice said carefully.

“Later,” Helia told her. “Dr Weir, please arrange the conversation.”

“John, I would,” Alice advised him. “Captain Helia commands the Tria for a reason.”

“Yeah. Elizabeth, let’s go call home, huh?” To Helia, he added, “We need to dial the ‘Gate.”

“Of course.” She touched the console again.

“We have ‘Gate control!” someone called from the balcony.

“Elizabeth,” John repeated, touching her elbow. “Come on.”

Elizabeth let him draw her away, scowling. “John...”

“We don’t have a choice,” he murmured. “They can turn Atlantis against us. Let’s just call Earth right now, alright?”

“They can’t do this,” Elizabeth said quietly, but she followed him to the Control room anyway.




Being kept out of meetings wasn’t as much fun anymore, John decided. Helia was more or less ignoring Alice, but her programming still kept her from disobeying even the implied orders and she was having trouble keeping him as up to date as usual.

Richard Woolsey, from the IOA, and General O’Neill had come to meet with Helia in the hopes of changing her mind. It didn’t seem to be going very well.

“Helia won’t change her decision,” Alice said now, glancing nervously over her shoulder. “Your men have made some good arguments, but she won’t listen.”

“You're right. They want us out of here.” John glanced up, catching Elizabeth’s eye.

“But why?” Rodney protested. “There are maybe a hundred of so of them? I mean, they could use us. They might even need us.”

“What if you were forced from your home by a war, only to return to find someone on your couch, eating your Cheetos, watching your TV?” John raised an eyebrow at him.

“Well, I'd be fine with that,” Rodney muttered, but he wasn’t fooling anyone.

“No, you wouldn't.”

Alice vanished as Jack and Woolsey came in. John rose to his feet, watching them.

“How go the talks, sir?”

“No talks,” Jack said ruefully. “Listening is what we did.”

“It was essentially a transitional meeting,” Woolsey agreed. “They needed to know how much time we needed to vacate the city.”

“I said forty-eight hours, unless you need more.” Jack looked at Elizabeth.

“No. It should be enough.” She turned away, staring at the wall.

“That's it? We're just gonna take this lying down? We rescued them!” Rodney looked from one to another of them.

“And they're immensely grateful,” Woolsey agreed.

“Well, they're not showing it!”

“From their point of view, Doctor McKay, they're being extremely generous. Keep in mind that when they left Atlantis, we were basically a hunter-gatherer species.”

“Well, did you remind them that if we hadn't hunted and gathered them out of the void between galaxies, they would still be stuck there?”

“We should have left them out there,” John muttered.

“I know you feel as though you're losing the city,” Woolsey started.

“This isn't just about losing a city, Richard,” Elizabeth said sharply. “It's about losing an opportunity to talk with and learn from living, breathing Ancients.”

“They are willing, over time, to let us back in the city – just not right now. That way we get all the benefit of Atlantis with very little of the risks ... or expense.”

“Yeah, it's not like we don't have our own galaxy to worry about,” Jack agreed.

John grimaced, leaning back against the wall. Rodney had given up as well – he could read it in the slump of his shoulders.

“Colonel, I'd like you to supervise the withdrawal,” Jack said gently.

John glanced at Elizabeth before nodding. “Yes, sir. What about Orion?”

Orion’s on New Taranis at the moment,” Elizabeth reminded him. “She can stay there. Helia doesn’t seem to know or care about any of the other ships.”

“Go ahead,” Jack said quietly. John and Rodney headed out with Woolsey to start the evacuation.

“They want Woolsey to stay,” Alice said abruptly, stepping out of a doorway to join them. A passing Ancient glanced at them, frowning; Alice didn’t react except to nod slightly. “An ambassador, O’Neill says.”

John nodded, turning away to go and find Lorne and get the Marines moving.





Late that night John stood outside Elizabeth’s quarters, scribbling on a notepad. They were almost ready to leave; he’d been putting off this conversation for most of the evening, now.

“John?” Alice said quietly.

“Yeah.”

“I’m sorry you’re leaving.”

He glanced up from his notebook. “Yeah. I’m sorry we’re leaving, too. Helia gonna keep you around?”

“She hasn’t said. She hasn’t really seen me yet. None of them have.”

John nodded, remembering a ‘Jumper on Proculus and Alice sounding very young as she said ‘I'm made to be useful. Without you I can't fulfill my function. I want to be useful.’ “They’re still settling back in. I’m sure they’ll have all kinds of research for you, once they get going.”

“Yes, I’m sure they will.”

“Elizabeth still up?”

“Yes, she’s awake.”

“Thanks.”

Alice nodded, turning away, and he said quickly, “Hey. Thanks. I mean it.”

“You’re welcome, John.”

He let her go, turning to tap the chime on Elizabeth’s door.




Rodney was still subtly trying to get Helia to let them stay. Since his campaign was mostly pointing out things that had gone wrong since the City had risen, it wasn’t working very well.

“Rodney!” Elizabeth called.

He leaned over the railing, grimacing. “Uh, right, yes, well. I gotta go.”

Helia smiled faintly as he turned away, not quite hiding her relief.

“You have been good friends,” Teyla said. “To all the people of this galaxy.”

John took a step closer to her, bowing his head. She matched his move, resting her forehead against his.

“Farewell,” she murmured.

“Take care,” John said, just as softly.

“Bye.” Rodney waved, ducking past them to join Carson and Elizabeth.

John looked past her to Alice, standing at the base of the stairs. “Be careful,” he said, looking back at Teyla.

“We shall.”

Elizabeth led them towards the ‘Gate, pausing just before she stepped across the horizon to look back. John didn’t, pushing forward and leaving the City behind.




Seeing Atlantis on a screen, John decided six weeks later, was worse than never seeing it again. General O’Neill had returned to Atlantis to help Woolsey with his liasing. It wasn’t going very well, apparently.

“General!” Jack said cheerfully.

“General!” Landry echoed.

“Is that Sheppard there with you?”

“Yes, sir,” John said in surprise.

“Oh, good. Tell me, Sheppard, did you leave me anything? Any little helpful thing?”

“Helpful...?”

“Yay high, kinda hard to understand?” He gestured vaguely; Woolsey was frowning at him, but he ignored the look.

“...thing,” John finished, suddenly understanding. “Yes, I did leave that helpful thing. How’s it working out?”

“Little quirky!”

“Yeah, you get used to that. I just thought it might come in handy for you. Strange city and all that.”

“No...” Jack said thoughtfully. “Yes. It is helpful. Thank you.”

“My pleasure, sir.”

“Are you done?” Woolsey demanded.

“Not sure. You watch the Simpsons at all, Sheppard?”

“Sorry, sir, I was off world on Sunday.”

“Aw, shucks.” He turned to Woolsey. “We’re done now.”

“Thank you.”

“No, thank you.”

Landry was chuckling quietly, but he stopped when Woolsey started talking.

“Talks are proceeding at an acceptable pace; but the real news is that the Pegasus Replicators are heading back to Atlantis to make another run at the city.”

“They are?” John said in surprise.

“No-one here seems to be that worried about it.” Jack shrugged.

“Why not?” Landry asked.

“They're Ancients!”

“Apparently these Replicators have a law in their base code that makes it impossible for them to harm their creators,” Woolsey said. Jack was frowning slightly; Alice must have been talking to him, John realized.

“And they're expecting to find us,” John realized.

“According to Helia, they're gonna run into some kinda nasty surprise,” Jack said.

“So you can pass it on to Doctor McKay that if you and he hadn't rescued the Ancients and returned Atlantis to their care ...”

“... I'd have lost the city anyway,” John finished when Woolsey trailed off.

“Right,” Jack agreed. “Well, we should get back to our talks...and talks and talks. O'Neill out.”

John turned to Landry as the ‘Gate shut down. “Sir, I'd be happy to talk to you more about these Replicator guys.”

“Naah, sounds like they've got everything under control. Assuming Jack can handle whatever secret ‘thing’ you left for him.” He was grinning, so John didn’t think he was that upset.

“Yes, sir.”





A day or two later Jack stood in the Control room on Atlantis, watching the screen as it displayed the oncoming Hive. A ‘Jumper had launched and was approaching it.

“That seems like a pretty big ship,” Woolsey said nervously. “You're sure only sending one Jumper up to fend it off is the right thing to do?”

“It is impossible for them to harm us,” Helia reminded him patiently. She did a lot of things patiently; it was like being surrounded by teachers.

“I could use some enemies like that,” Jack murmured.

We have established communications, Commander,” the ‘Jumper pilot told them.

“This is Commander Helia. The city you're approaching is once again under Lantean control. Stand down and return to your planet immediately, or you will be ...”

The tiny ship disappeared.

“They destroyed it!” Alice was suddenly beside Jack, staring wide eyed at the screen.

“I thought you said they couldn't harm you!” Woolsey protested.

Helia ignored him, turning to one of her crew. “Raise the shield!”

The shield started to raise but before it could fully cover the City an explosion rocked the room. Several panels exploded, sending sparks raining through the air.

“General!” Alice called from a corridor. Jack glanced around; Helia was already trying to coordinate retaliation, but she spared a moment to wave him off.

“Come on.” He caught Woolsey’s arm, hauling him into the corridor. “Where are we going?”

“You’re asking me?” Woolsey protested.

“No. Shush. Where are we going?”

“Comm station,” Alice told him. “Commander Helia is preparing to dial Earth. You need to request backup.”

“She’s asking for backup?”

Woolsey squinted. “Who is?”

“Shh,” Jack said irritably.

“She has no choice. They can’t defeat the Replicators; the code was their only defence. Your people have weapons proven effective against the Replicators.”

“Oh, now they want our help?”

“General, who are you talking to?” Woolsey protested.

“Atlantis’ AI.”

“I’m not an AI,” Alice reminded him.

“He doesn’t need all the words, they’ll just confuse him.” To Wolsey, he added, “Atlantis has an AI – type thing – and she’s trying to help us. Helia’s going to dial Earth, and we need to send a request for help. Got it? Which way?”

“Here.” Alice was standing by a ladder to the lower levels. “Transporters are out. You need to run.”

“Running it is,” Jack said with a sigh.




“Atlantis is under attack from Replicators. Somehow they figured out how to override their programming. The Ancients were taken off guard and have lost most of the city already. Request immediate evacuation!”

“They're coming!”


General Landry clicked off the screen, turning back to the table. Elizabeth, John and Rodney, and Carson were watching in disbelief.

“They never made it to the ‘Gate. I was informed they had a law written into their base code that made it impossible for them to harm the Ancients. How the hell did this happen?”

“It is remotely possible that in trying to rewrite Niam's base code, I ... uh, we may have opened the door for them to make other changes.” Rodney winced.

You did this?”

“At the time we thought it was the only possible way to save the city,” Elizabeth reminded him.

“How it happened doesn't matter,” John pointed out. “They may have changed it on their own. The question is: how do we fix it?”

“That's why I called you in. I have my orders.” To give him credit, Landry looked faintly upset. “The Daedalus is already on the way. Now, what I need from you is ... what's the best way to get a nuke past the shield?”




Late that night John and the others slipped into the temporary ‘Jumper bay. John moved around to the front of the ‘Jumper, peering through the windshield. Alice was standing in the cabin door with her back to him, watching Sergeant Siler fiddle with something. She turned abruptly to look at him, grinning; he ducked out of sight, edging around to the back. Leaning around the edge of the hatch he triggered his zat; Siler collapsed, rolling down the ramp to land in a heap on the floor.

“Let's move!” John ordered, scrambling into the ‘Jumper. Carson hunkered beside Siler, checking him over quickly before climbing in after the others. Rodney dialed the ‘Gate quickly.

“You set?”

“Go for it,” John agreed, settling into the pilot’s seat. The preflight was all done and he started them going immediately.

“OK, they'll be able to get through my hack pretty quickly,” Rodney warned him, dropping into the seat beside him.

“It's alright – I don't need much time.” The ‘Jumper was already dropping through the ceiling of the ‘Gate room, rotating to face the ‘Gate.

The radio flicked on. “Colonel Sheppard, stand down! That is a direct order!”

They were through the ‘Gate before the sentence had finished. John flipped the radio off as they arrived at the Midway Station.

Rodney turned to the console behind John, working quickly.

“My turtles!” Carson blurted.

“What?” Elizabeth asked.

“I just bought some wee baby turtles and no-one knows to feed them.”

“Well, turtles are pretty hardy,” she said uncertainly. “I'm sure they'll be fine.”

“And they make good soup,” John muttered.

“I figured I'm back for good so I might as well get a pet. I'm allergic to cats and, well, I'm at work too long to be fair to a dog, so I went with turtles. I've probably killed them.”

“Any time now, McKay!” John snapped.

“Oh, trust me, I am going as fast as I can!”

“Poor little buggers.” Carson shook his head.

The HUD flashed up; John turned around, frowning at it. “The Milky Way ‘Gate just activated. Did you do that?”

The HUD vanished and Landry’s face appeared. Rodney leaned back in his seat, eyeing it. “Nope.”

“Colonel Sheppard. I'm going to assume that you're still at the midway station waiting for Doctor McKay to rewrite his macro. I understand what you're doing, Colonel. Hell, I'll even call it brave. But if you don't turn that ship around immediately and come back to the SGC, I'll see to it personally that your career in the military is ...”

John cut it off before he could finish the sentence. “That way I won't know what he was gonna say,” he explained when Elizabeth stared at him.

“OK. OK, I've got it,” Rodney announced.

“Alright. Last chance to change our minds.”

No one spoke, and he nodded quickly. “Alright. Let's do it.”

They plunged through the wormhole.



The ‘Jumper came through a ‘Gate on the new Athosian homeworld. John switched on the cloak, busying himself with the final checks while the others filed out.

“Welcome home,” Alice murmured.

“Thanks. Can you find Teyla and Ronon from here?”

The HUD flashed up and he studied it for a moment, watching the two blinking life signs. “Good.”

“Do you have a plan, John?”

“Yeah. I have a plan. We’ll be back in a little while...hopefully with Teyla and Ronon.”

“John!” Elizabeth called from outside. “Ready?”

“Coming!” He flicked the HUD off again, heading out of the ‘Jumper.



The preflight had been done again when they got back to the ‘Jumper. John smiled quickly at Alice, dropping into the pilot’s seat and bringing everything online. “McKay?”

“Give me a second, we just got here...OK, I think I've loaded up the GDO. It'll lower the shield when we dial.”

“Go for it.”

“Alright. Dialing Atlantis.” The ‘Gate dialed out and he studied his laptop for a moment. “That's confirmation. The ‘Gate shield has been lowered.”

“I hope this little plan of ours works.”

“Ah, you and me both.”

They entered the wormhole.

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Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
tlyna
Apr. 3rd, 2011 02:43 am (UTC)
I have just read this story and really loved it. I hope you will be going back to finish it as it really is quite intriguing and I have thoroughly enjoyed your take on the AIs, a different twist that works very well.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )