Richard Woolsey sits behind his modern, nickel desk in his office. His arms steepled before him, his hands clasped together, and his lips pressed against his knuckles. He pensively gazes down at his desk’s frosted glass top, but he’s not seeing the calendar or the stacks of loose papers and files on it. After a few moments, he exhales through his nose, his breathing becoming audible. Richard lifts his head up enough to pull his lips away from his hands.
“So what is your verdict, Doctor Jackson?”
His eyes finally look up to see Daniel’s eyes looking down at the area of desk top in front of the archeologist. The good doctor sits in one of the former attorney’s cushy, light grey, guest chairs, taking his own moments to think over his answer.
None of SG-1, both past and present membership of the Stargate Program’s flagship team, had liked what had happened to their friend and her son. In fact they had railed against it as much as they possibly could without starting a civil war inside the Stargate Program itself. Teal’c and his mentor Master Bra’tac, who’d become just as fond over the years of Kenmore and her child as Teal’c has, tried to get what remains of the Free Jaffa Nation’s fleet to go to the Pegasus after Urs and Michael, but let alone did the Jaffa High Council say a definitive no to it citing the growing restlessness and power of the still strong and getting even more in charge by the day Lucian Alliance, despite Teal’c and Bra’tac citing Michael as Teal’c’s Godson and therefore in their eyes a Jaffa child being oppressed as well, the High Council was not about to potentially start a war with the Tau’ri. There had also been the little matter of one Brigadier General Jonathan “Jack” O’Neill being so spitting and screaming pissed off throughout the whole of the Pentagon and shouting for a ship to take him to the Pegasus and get Ursula and Michael back that scared the crap out of everyone who knew about the program from Washington D.C. to Cheyenne Mountain. But all of it was to absolutely no avail. The IOA’s power and decree were absolute. But when Woolsey had dialed Earth a few weeks ago with a private message for Daniel and offered the archeologist the chance to come to Atlantis to evaluate Ursula specifically, Daniel had leapt at the opportunity. He hadn’t even let General Hank Landry, the man in charge of Cheyenne Mountain, have the chance to give him the go ahead first.
And then there came what Daniel, and basically everyone else at Cheyenne Mountain, would call ‘the catch’. In their previous mission, Ursula had been the main target of an incursion and Colonel Sheppard, Doctor McKay, and Major Lorne had been taken along for the ride as well. The Ancients, specifically Morgan Le Fay, which Daniel as well as the rest of SG-1 and Stargate Command thought they were done dealing with for the rest of their lives at least, had infiltrated the city and seized the four of them. An ordeal during which, the best Daniel could describe it, Ursula was harassed and abused with the death of her husband Michael and the existence of the Ancient Project Veritas, the project Atlantis’ flagship team had discovered was responsible for her being half-human and half-Ancient. Woolsey had reported that he didn’t know the exact details of the harassment but judged that it had to have been pretty severe considering that neither Sheppard nor Lorne would surrender even so much as a peep about it and even loose mouth Rodney McKay had been keeping tight-lipped about it as well. And Ursula, Woolsey also reported during that private communication, had emotionally shut down. He said it was like she had become numb. She would get this distinct distant look in her eyes, her face would become expressionless, her body would stiffen, and she wouldn’t say anything to anyone, she’d just stare right through them or straight ahead of her. With that, Daniel knew he definitely had to come. He knew those signs well. All too regrettably well.
Colonel Samantha Carter had practically jumped at the chance to bring Daniel here too. Let alone had it been a chance for her to catch up with her old teammate, but the I.O.A had been forcing the SGC to keep Sam and her ship, the General George S. Hammond, expressly away from Atlantis so that none of Ursula’s friends and comrades could possibly get the chance to get her and her son out of the Pegasus Galaxy against the I.O.A’s will, a furtherance of the banning of anyone from the Milky Way ‘rescuing’ Ursula and her son from Atlantis. Replacing the Hammond as one of Atlantis’ standard resupply ships with Colonel Abe Ellis’s vessel, the Apollo. The I.O.A only relented on that unfair policy recently after conducting its own covert investigation in which they learned that Urs is good friends with many of the Apollo’s crew even if she isn’t as friendly with the vessel’s commander. They also found out that she’s such good friends with those crewmen that letting the Apollo near Ursula was just as dangerous as letting the Hammond near her.
Onboard the Hammond, Sam had met up with Daniel in the Mess Hall late one night of their almost two week journey and the two had poured over the Atlantis Expedition’s flagship team mission file Woolsey named “Veritas”. Reading in between the military and civilian lines and getting more and more worried about their friend and her child by the sentence. What wasn’t being said was as important if not more so than what was being said.
“I think she’s got a silver lining here,” Daniel finally says. He goes on, “Ursula has always been especially proud of her Irish heritage. It’s never yielded, never stopped, never lessened. It’s always been there. And now that she’s discovered that that same Irish heritage is the same as her Ancient heritage, you might just be getting exactly what you’re looking for. She might finally be able to accept that she’s half-Ancient and how she got to be half-Ancient.
“Now I’m not saying that she’s already there, but this means a huge step for her. She knows that part of her bloodline well, they’re honorable people. Good people. The thought that they were also Ancients and not just Ancients but the Ancients that had helped keep the Veritas experiment going on Earth won’t change her feelings about being Irish. That will help you.”
Woolsey nods. That’s good, that’s good to know. He was hoping to hear that. Hopefully this isn’t going to be a problem that comes up again.
“So you’re final evaluation is that…?”
“I hate to admit it, but I think being here is good for her as much as it’s good for Atlantis to have a half-Ancient being with them,” Daniel is forced to say.
Woolsey weighs how to say this next, but there’s no better way than plainly, “I know it’s hard for you to say that, I thank you for it though.”
“Don’t thank me. Just, just,” Daniel hadn’t expected this to be this difficult for him to say, but he feels he has to as much as Woolsey did in saying ‘Thank you’, “look after her and Michael okay.”
Woolsey starts nodding. Understanding.
“They’re our family,” Daniel goes on, “ and we feel that—“
“That you’re the only ones that know how to protect each other. To have each other’s backs the best and most able way possible,” Woolsey finishes for him.
Daniel nods too. A gentle smile touches Richard’s lips, making the corners of his mouth rise a little. Daniel’s surprised to see it.
“I know how you feel, Doctor, trust me, I know how you feel.”
Daniel eyes the man and for once sees a reflection in the former attorney’s brown eyes. A familiar one. One Daniel’s seen on every face he’s ever met at Stargate Command. Maybe Rodney and Sheppard were right, Mister Woolsey has changed… Daniel nods again. Yes, the man has changed since they last met. He’s Commander Richard Woolsey, Permanent Administrator of the Atlantis Expedition. He’s one of them now. If Daniel had a glass, he’d toast him. But before Daniel can say ‘Welcome to the club’ in lieu of the toast, his earpiece comes alive with the accented voice of Czech scientist Doctor Radek Zelenka.
“Doctor Jackson, we are ready for you.”
Daniel answers his radio, “Thank you, Doctor Zelenka. I’ll be right there.” The radio link breaks while Daniel keeps his eyes on Woolsey.
“I believe your presence is required, Doctor Jackson,” Woolsey tells him.
Daniel nods again, “Sounds like it. Oh, I should tell you though that you might want to work on your welcome reception for your next guest. Some of your people can be bit… frosty.”
Woolsey starts nodding again, knowing full well that that’s a reference to Ronon Dex, “Yes, I’ll work on putting all our best feet forward. In a way it’s been a blessing that your trip was an unscheduled one. It’s shown me what we could work on before he gets here.”
“Yeah, even though they know me, springing such a surprise guest appearance again might not be a good thing.”
“Yes, I know. I’ve already made Colonel Sheppard well aware of the upcoming visit as well as our upcoming visitor.”
“Good,” Daniel finally gets up and starts to leave. But on the office door’s threshold, he stops and turns back to Woolsey, “Oh, and call me Daniel.”
Richard smiles at him, “Call me Dick.”
Daniel begins smiling as he turns back to the doorway and starts to head out again, “Already do,” he laughs.
Richard takes that information and laughs to himself a little as he goes back to the work of running a city.
It’s dark down here, it’s always dark down here. The hook lamps don’t make any difference. The eight-foot tall chainlink fence doesn’t help any either. With his hands in his pants pockets, he follows his hears straight through the opened gate, past two-story high stacks of pallets of storage containers, beyond a few rows of these stacks, and up to a pallet of shipped crates and other still duct taped closed, packed boxes… and Lieutenant Ursula Kenmore. Sheppard stops a couple of handfuls of feet away from her and watches her loudly sift through an opened box full of books. He notes the markings of capital letters on the side of the box written in thick black marker:
1ST LT. URSULA B. KENMORE
HQ, CMD, 2ND BATTALION
His mind automatically translates the lines. Lieutenant First Class, he’ll check her personnel file sometime in the future to see what particular name that her middle initial of ‘B’ pertains to. Headquarters, Cheyenne Mountain Division, and the code for the Atlantis Expedition as Stargate Command’s “2nd Battalion”. Air Force, but most likely Army in the Lieutenant’s case, Post Office and Stargate Command’s numerical designation for Atlantis. One, twenty, twelve. The first, the twentieth, and the twelfth letters of the alphabet being A-T-L, short for Atlantis. John coughs to make his presence known, Kenmore looks up at him.
“Oh, hey Colonel. What are you doing down here?”
“Looking for you actually, Lieutenant.”
She crinkles her face at him, “Why?” She reaches back into the box.
“Rodney says he and Zelenka got the room setup for running scans on the Silver Arm,” Sheppard tells her.
“Oh, okay, I’ll be right there. I’m just picking up some things for Daniel first.” She pulls some books out of the box and sets them aside atop another nearby crate that also bears her thick black markings but reads BOOKS #2 instead as she reorganizes the other books she’s obviously disheveled in her retrieval of the newly pulled ones.
John waits her out by looking around this part of Atlantis’ storage area. Dark green, basically black walls, tiled like the walls of the outer reaches of the piers, like the walls of the hallway he and Rodney drive their RC cars in. Same black floors, lacquered once but time spent under the water for ten thousand years has washed away pretty much all of the high-gloss polish, too. There are sconces here and there, but in such a large dark area, they’re pretty much useless. His eyes travel around at the dozen or so stacks of crates and boxes all around him. His eyes look out beyond those to take in the tons of other stacks leading out of his sight and filling up the rest of the storage area that’s roughly the size of a football field. In fact, when the Expedition first set up shop in Atlantis, he and a handful of other soldiers and civilians had gone to then Expedition Commander Elizabeth Weir and asked her if they could use this room as a football field for playing games. She, in her own polite and well-honed negotiator skills way, read them her own subdued version of the Riot Act and told them to start putting any excess supplies the Expedition had in that room; she capped off the Act by telling them to find someplace else to play, you know whenever they felt they had free time from their apparently none too considerable duties establishing their presence as Atlantis’ new residents. So he and the rest of his football players went back to exploring the city and the much larger Pegasus Galaxy on a regular basis and ended up using one of the balconies of one of the piers as a driving range to practice their golf swings on. John’s current yardage with a driver is four hundred-fifty yards.
John’s eyes keep wandering. He hasn’t ever really been down here since the Expedition returned from Earth to retake up their residence in the city after the Replicators killed the Ancients of the Tria. He knows a lot of the other members of the Expedition have stuff stored down here, but he can’t recall, looking, exactly, still looking around, that he has anything down here anymore. He shakes his head, nope, not that he can immediately recall. He’s always packed light and Nancy got basically everything in the divorce so there wasn’t any baggage to tow around with him other than the emotional and mental stuff. Suddenly the short hairs on the back of his neck rise. He fights off the abrupt shiver. He senses it. The voice. That nasty little voice that had popped up loud and proud in his mind when Kenmore first arrived in the city and apparently it had only gone into hibernation for a little bit until yesterday. It’s not saying anything, just letting him know that it’s there and that there is a part of John that is evidently always going to play Devil’s advocate against himself. What had that alien A.I. that’d made him hallucinate Kolya told him, that John is really good about beating up on himself? Pretty damn good about taking off his own hand about it too back then. He hears the rustling of Kenmore closing the box back up and returns his eyes and attention back to her.
“Okay, ready to go,” she gathers up her set aside books and walks over to him.
He looks down at the books. One is short but two inches thick, it’s cream and dark moss green binding saying The Story of the Irish Race by Seumas MacManus. The second is a couple of inches thick, dull lime green colored, and is called A Treasury of Irish Folklore by, Sheppard has to squint a little, the script is so tiny, Padraic Colum. The last book’s tall, about twelve or eight inches wide. Its binding is black with white writing The Silver Arm, putting it bluntly there, by Jim Fitzpatrick.
Interested, Sheppard reaches out and pinches the half-inch thick between his fingers and pulls, Kenmore lets him take it from her. He looks at the cover. A black framed artistic rendering, somewhat Art Noveau looking of a light grey-skinned warrior on a light grey-skinned horse charging into battle with his sword held high over his head and an awkward triple halo of what looks like starlight around him, emanating from him. Beside his image, written in block capital letters in red are the title words ‘The Silver Arm’.
“That’s Lugh the Il-Dana,” Kenmore supplies as Sheppard keeps looking the cover art over, “Lugh the Shining One.”
“I thought you said that Nuada had the Silver Arm.”
She nods, “He did. But this tells the day when Nuada lost his kingship, when Breas took over, how Nuada got the Silver Arm and his kingship back, and then about how he died at the hands of Crom-Crúach during the Second Battle of Moy Tura and then how Lugh avenged him by fulfilling the prophecy about him killing his own grandfather, Balor.”
Sheppard nods, sounds like every other story he could possibly get about legendary or myth-based families around the world. Hello Oedipus… sort of. And not exactly light reading perhaps either. He opens the book and is immediately impressed by preliminary filler sheets of beautifully ornate Celtic designs. He remembered his mother showing him pictures of the illuminated manuscript the Book of Kells, it’s kind of like this only a lot older and less Art Noveau and more medieval. He turns a few more pages and the book itself automatically opens to a two-page spread image of water crashing in on a golden towered city and smoke rising from the city as black demon-looking things look on from the sky with white eyes, the sky is colored bright red at the bottom of the pages then shifts into dark brown at the top of them. A lone bird, a seagull he thinks, looks to be flying away from the destruction. Inset in the upper left-hand corner of the left page is a white box with black writing in it. Sheppard reads it out loud to himself.
“The golden cities I once loved lay fathoms deep beneath grey seas: the shining towers of Hy-Brasyl, earthly and heavenly Paradise where men walked with gods yet were in accord with the beasts of the forests and mountain wilderness. Time when springtime and harvest were as one; flowers and fruit hung heavy on every bough. Time when hands moved only in grace and giving, eyes smiled, lips spoke of love without shame, bravery without bloodshed,” he finishes, letting the eloquence hang there in the silence. Then he walks straight ahead, back to the crates and boxes Kenmore had been at, he rests the book on the waist-high boxes, and continues flipping through the pages of the Silver Arm book; Kenmore staying by his side the entire time.
The next page he goes to has just a bunch of writing and a part of the writing has the bold type headline of ‘2. THE CONCEPTION OF BREAS AND THE VISION OF CARNÚN’. His mind can’t help but get interested even more at that, the vision part not the conception bit. He turns pages again. This time flipping to a chapter called ‘PART THREE THE RE-INSTATEMENT OF NUADA OF THE SILVER ARM’. He turns the page and the right-side page’s image is of three beautiful women. Three very familiar looking beautiful women—well, at least the central foreground woman is very familiar looking. Kenmore catches his recognition and starts nodding, she points down at the page’s title at its very bottom right corner: Mórrigan of the Badb. The woman looks truly sexy in her sheer bright red flowing gown swirling around her in an apparent alluring dance movement. It’s not like she hadn’t looked as attractive in her rusty brown-red, equally sheer clothes in the stasis pod, it’s that this picture accentuates it very successfully.
“She was hot in her heyday, wasn’t she,” Sheppard asks. Then rethinking that when his next memory is that he and Kenmore shot the woman up and left her body in its Ancient stasis chamber turned coffin in that moment.
“Yeah, she was,” Kenmore says. He detects the sadness in her tone of voice and turns the page again.
Coming to another double-page spread. This one depicting a landscape of star-speckled space with—
“Is that…,” Sheppard trails off pointing down at the picture while lowering his face down a few inches closer to it, not believing his eyes.
“Yep, it’s the plain inside the mountain.”
Sheppard nods, that’s the part he can’t believe, “And that demon-looking guy with the red eyes?”
“I’m not really sure, but I think it’s whoever rules the Other World.”
“And that guy?” He points at the small figure of a man with golden red-hair wearing gold armor and a long flowing red cape, even though he’s pretty sure he knows the answer.
“That’s Nuada. My ancestor.”
Sheppard looks over at her, but she keeps her eyes down on the picture. On Nuada. Sheppard returns his eyes to the book, didn’t look like the picture they’d seen in the book Daniel’d shown them back in U’dana’s village. Although that one was a full page close-up and this one is two pages and a heck of a lot smaller. He turns the page again. For the last time, he promises himself. Flipping past a large chunk of the story… to a double-page spread of a storm-skied field on the edge of a cold-looking stream with a crane standing in it eating a fish staring straight at a couple… having sex. Sheppard gapes. Kenmore smiles, turning her eyes away from the copulating couple. John’s frozen, he’s not sure what to do, and he’s pretty sure that Kenmore’s grin is at his discomforts expense. He’s also finding that he can’t physically close the book he’s so stunned by—
“That would be Dagda the All Father and the Daughter of Indech the King of the Fomor,” Kenmore tells him.
He stares at her, a part of him grateful to be looking somewhere other than a happily screwing couple, “That’s a Fomorian woman?”
She nods at him, “Did you think the women weren’t good looking?”
“Well, yeah,” he admits. The guys were so ugly before the Silver Arm changed them, then they all looked like pretty boys from the covers of romance novels… and they hadn’t actually encountered any women either in combat, in the mountain either, or back in the village again so…
“Well, they are just as beautiful as any of our women,” she points at the picture, at the couple; Please don’t do that, “The King of our Gods thought so.”
Wait, what?! Sheppard stares down at the couple again, “That’s…”
“Yep,” Kenmore nods, “Dagda was Tuatha Dé Danann. King of the gods among us.”
“So you two…”
“Yes, our two cultures had no problems sleeping together. Breeding too, Breas is the result of a Tuatha Dé Danann woman and a Fomor man, remember Elathan, Breas’ father. Her brother actually,” again Kenmore points at the woman straddling the man in ecstasy.
“Wow,” Sheppard says.
A slyly playful grin crosses Kenmore’s face, she bites her lower lip teasingly and bumps the side of his hip with the side of her hip, “Uh-huh. They made love so intensely that it actually burrowed a pit into the ground that remains there to this day on the strand of Eba. It’s called ‘The Bed of the Coupling’.”
Sheppard actually blushes. Kenmore puts him out of his socially awkward misery by reaching out, closing the book for him, and picking the book up and putting it back with the two others in her arms. Sheppard looks at her gratefully, trying to shake off the heated reddening of his cheeks. Kenmore’s grinning at him then turns.
“Come on,” she heads back for the entry gate and Sheppard hurries after her, falling into step beside her.
They walk into the lab. Ursula immediately heads over to Daniel, stationed at an observation computer, and hands him the books. He looks up at her as he takes them, “Thanks.”
Kenmore smiles and nods as her friend sets the books down beside him and goes back to examining the detailing of the magnified image of the Silver Arm on his computer screen, utterly riveted. She glances at the gauntlet sitting on a table in the middle of the room underneath the stark pouring light of a spotlight as she follows after Sheppard as he makes his way over to another computer console that Doctor McKay’s sitting at with Doctor Jennifer Keller sitting at the computer console on his immediate right. Her computer is set up to register any medical information that the gauntlet could possibly give them. Zelenka, stationed at a computer on McKay’s left, is monitoring any other key scientific information that won’t fit on McKay’s screen. All of them are waiting and watching their screens regardless of the fact that absolutely nothing is going on with the Arm. Clearly, it’s simply fascinating to stare at something that while it’s known to be a powerful device is also something incredibly beautiful to look at. A true example of artistic craftsmanship. Sheppard takes up residence a couple of steps behind Rodney.
“Okay, we’re here. Start her up,” Sheppard gives the order.
As if he needed the soldier’s okay… “Let’s go people,” Rodney announces.
As he and Zelenka gear up the computers to start scanning and running analysis on the Silver Arm, Kenmore glances over at Sheppard who’s intently watching McKay’s screen. She’s not sure what she’d been expecting of him when he’d accidentally flipped to the sex picture in The Silver Arm, but he’s abruptly ‘Oh Dear God’ was not it. In a way, from all the rumors she’d heard all over the city about his Captain Kirk ways with some of the alien women they’ve met in the Pegasus, she found it extremely cute that he reacted with unadulterated embarrassing shyness. It was sweet of him. She returns her eyes to Zelenka’s computer screen… and casually leans towards Sheppard ever so slightly.
She keeps her voice low, so it’s just for the two of them, “Hey Sheppard.”
He’s riveted by the screen, “What,” he asks absently.
He looks at her, confused, “What?”
“The codename for the rumors about…,” she trails off delicately as she discreetly gestures her head at McKay then back at Sheppard, “It’s ‘Slash’.”
Sheppard looks at Rodney, still not sure what the hell Kenmore’s kind of whispering about, then it hits him. Like an electrical shock.
“Oh, oh.” He looks over at her again, confused again but for a whole new reason, “Why—“
“Judging by some of the stories I’ve heard, I don’t want to know. Ev-ver,” she immediately cuts him off with a held up hand and a warningly stern look.
He stares at her. Petrified. He quickly glances around the room. He’s clear. They’re clear. Everyone is really distracted. Great. He leans in really close to her, perhaps closer than he really needs to and trying like crazy to make it look nonchalant which he’s definitely sure he’s totally failing at, and whispers, casually again, “Wh-wh-what have…”
She whispers as quietly back, “One of the new scientists had been told about Slash and she asked around for some of the stories. She was in the Mess Hall with her little table of four other friends. They were just gabbing and, anyways, when she told them about how she found out about Slash, one of her buddies called her ‘You poor innocent victim, you’ and one of her other buddies laughed and agreed that the scientist chick had been set up.”
“And, and what’d she say about the, uh, um, the, uh, stories,” he stammeringly asks, trying to still be discreet while being so conspicuously close to Kenmore and not making any eye contact with her or watching any of the computer screens whatsoever. Just going about business as usual, people. Nothing awkward to see here… or overhear here.
“That they are just so wrong.”
He stares at her. Petrification turning into abject horror in the fraction of a heartbeat.
“Oh, no, it’s not that she has any problem with gay people or gay sex for that matter. It’s just how graphic… some of… the stories… can get.”
His whole body tenses up, “And, and wh-wh-what have you heard?”
She doesn’t even blink, “Graphically hardcore porn even by graphically hardcore porn standards.”
His eyes widen, mouth slackens. Did he actually just hear himself squeak? Wait, was that out loud or just in his own head. Please let that have been in his head and not out loud. No one else has reacted, so yes on the in his head thing. Kenmore nods at him. Understanding, well, at least in some part understanding what he’s feeling. At least she hasn’t squeaked and after all, she’d read part of that stuff apparently to give that sort of description. The stories circulating around Atlantis like some sort of sordid black market underground of typed and stapled together pages traded all over the place. Never staying in one place for very long. Always moving. Oh my God, what are people thinking about my command?
“Mm-hmm, I know,” she says, “I was the one who called her a poor innocent victim.”
Sheppard eyes her for a moment. Opens his mouth to say something when Rodney makes another announcement…
“We’re at full power. Starting the first scan… now.”
A smaller overhead device similar to the scanner that Jennifer uses to scan whole bodies in the Infirmary descends from the ceiling down over the gauntlet, stopping about a foot away from the Ancient arm device. The machine’s grid-patterned green laser glittering on the silver.
“Results are already coming in,” Radek broadcasts, hunching closer to his screen’s readouts.
Everyone leans in to the computer screens around the room to see the data as the overhead device starts moving down the gauntlet.