Episode Six- The West Pier- Chapter Four and Chapter Five

(Sorry I missed posting on Friday, I’m getting ready to head to Creation’s final Stargate Convention in Chicago.  Between working two jobs and getting ready and other commitments, it’s been nuts.  So here’s a two-for-one, two chapters of the story in one blog post rather that one chapter per blog post.  Have fun reading and if anybody is going to be at the convention in Chicago, I’ll see you there!)

Chapter Four

Apparently the business of before was just the tip of the potential iceberg. The West Pier hallways are crammed with people to the point where he can’t see the walls except for when the walls height stretches over someone’s head and even then it’s only a foot or two’s glimpse before his eyes’ gaze reached the ceiling. Despite Atlantis’ considerable size and wide corridors, it’s the sheer volume of personnel allocated to this privatized section alone that rendered it cramped looking most of the time. Now it’s claustrophobic. Out of the city’s more than four hundred inhabitants, it seems like all four hundred are working right here despite the actual number being a mere twenty-five. Marty G.’s arms are once again laden, this time overflowing, with stacks of file folders and loose papers not to mention a closed laptop and a computer tablet pressed to his chest as he hurries through the flesh and blood quagmire. All the business before of people zipping from one place to the other across the hallway is gone. Replaced by people running. Up the hallway. Down the hallway. Back and forth. Every cardinal point at once. Grabbing papers from the top or inside of the file cabinetry lining the corridor. Shouting to each other from behind computers in adjacent rooms with their doors constantly propped open. Everyone working on this and running around like the future of the world depends on them… Actually, it does. He comes up to the single fan-style door, it opens at his presence.

 

 

Martin Gero fumblingly slips in sideways into the small West Pier conference room from the afternoon’s meeting. Now let alone is it packed with files and papers and everything else anyone could possibly need to conduct a meeting covering dozens of topics that needed absolute attention, it’s also packed with other personnel. Some of the hallway’s miasma has leaked in. Many of them are the assistants to the senior staff members in here already like Martin Wood, Peter’s assistant, or Ivon Bartok, Rob and Brad’s assistant. They and others zip around the background of the room, delivering things asked for from different rooms or pulled from the file cabinets in the hallway and adding to what’s already been built up for the senior staff’s quick retrieval as they’d left the Operations Center on their urgent way back to this room. Their war room.

The semi-‘round’ table is pretty much hidden from view. The mound of even more files, loose papers, opened laptops, computer tablets, and water bottles covering it indicate the overall shape of the object beneath it. Making the room’s earlier afternoon’s appearance seem downright tidy and unfettered. But that was when the city was in normal operation before a crisis hit and this is how things look when the city is in normal crisis mode. Busy bee time turns into pissed off beehive real quick and it shows.

Peter and Allan and Rob and Brad pace around the very back perimeter of the room, the sides of their bodies brushing against the wall as they continue talking on their radio links. Still getting as much extra information as they possibly can, as much real time and quick time intelligence as they can before coming to the table. As Marty unloads his armful onto the table in front of his usual spot at it, a few of his documents slip away and threaten to float down to the floor. He catches it. Joe, Paul, and Carl, seated once again in their usual chairs, try to sift their way through the quagmire in front of them. It’s hard to tell if they’re succeeding in anything or not.

“What have they got so far,” Marty asks while eying Peter, Allan, Rob, and Brad as they ignore everything and everyone around them as keep prattling on to their individual radio connections.

“Other than Joe and Paul deciding that they like this brand of bottled water,” Carl holds up one of the bottles of water on the table, a regular clear plastic bottle with no design attempt at hip and edgy looking with a light blue label with basic script on it, “over this one,” with his other hand he holds up one of the other water bottles, one with long steep angles of dark blue tinted plastic and a dark blue label with pretty white calligraphic script on it. He’d go on but he honestly believes that the looking over at the two Deputy Gate Teams Directors and telling them to shut up time has passed.

Marty’s deep blue eyes slip over to Joe and Paul.

“You guys actually debated that,” he asks, “Seriously?”

Joe and Paul nod, “Yeah.”

“You should really try that one,” Joe points to the bottle in Carl’s left hand, the basically styled one, “It’s so much better than the other one.”

Martin looks at the two bottles incredulously, he knows his friend is a major foodie, but, “Water is water. There isn’t a difference.”

“Oh, there is a difference,” Paul defends his compatriot, “That one,” he points at the right hand stylized bottle, “tastes really purified—“

“Maybe that’s because it’s purified water,” Carl grumbles sarcastically.

“It’s too purified tasting though,” Paul explains to him, “and that one,” he points at the left hand one, “just tastes really… fresh.” He sounded relieved as he said the word.

Joe agrees whole-heartedly, “He’s right. Go ahead. Try them for yourself.”

He hands one of each of the brands of the spare bottles on the tabletop over to the young Gate Team Secretary and Science Department Liaison. Martin Gero takes the first one, opens it, and takes a sip. Always taught to be polite, he gives the tasting a chance and processes how he likes the taste of the water, swishing it around his mouth a little bit not unlike a wine connoisseur sampling a barrel at a winery or a glass at a restaurant. Then closes that bottle and picks up the other. Again he opens it, takes a sip, and—makes a face. Oh… Oh God… He forces himself to swallow the liquid down in lieu of not having any vessel handy enough to spit it out in and quickly caps the bottle while nodding at Joe and Paul, who’re already nodding.

“You’re right,” Marty accedes. The young man hurriedly opts for a second swig from the first and better, to him, brand.

Paul turns with a smile to Carl, “See.”

Joe seconds, “See.”

As Marty caps his preferred bottle, Carl can’t believe this. He looks away from the three of them and mumbles to himself, “This cannot be happening right now,” he pulls himself away from his personal aside with a roll of his eyes and adds, “They also put in their orders for dinner.”

“I also radioed Akemi and told her I wouldn’t be able to make our dinner date tonight,” Joe adds.

Carl’s head falls back and a frustrated sigh escapes his open mouth, “Really? This is happening. It’s mindboggling that the Wraith haven’t eaten us yet.”

The other three look at him. There was no need for that. But there’s also a healthy dose of suitably censured on their faces. It was an innocent discussion about the merits of certain brands of water that the city gets over others, what’s the problem with that? And the problem is is that at a time like this, this is what they’re choosing to discuss? Really? They concede to Carl’s main point, but, yes, this is what they do during crises like this; the mundane helps.

Carl’s head lifts back up, “Getting back to your original question, we have the basics so far. The bare minimum.”

“Really,” Marty asks disbelievingly.

Oh for the love of… Carl looks away from him and mouths the words silently ‘Please shoot me’. It’s been half an hour of this, hasn’t he suffered enough? Even being fed on by the Wraith taking their sweet time with their meal would have been over by now.

Joe takes a swig of water from his preferred brand and fills in Marty, “Two of the planets are uninhabited with one having both flora and fauna on it and the other having just flora on it.”

Marty finally takes his seat as Paul joins in the conversation, “The other three have the trifecta of being inhabited by humans as well as having flora and fauna on them.”

“Who’s on those planets,” Gate Teams Director Carl Binder and among the eldest of the staff asks. Grateful that the mind numbing Hell of water bottle drinking is over and moving on to things that in his opinion is, oh what are the words he’s looking for, genuinely important.

Rather timely, Peter and Allan break off their individual radio conversations and come back over to the table; Allan sits down while Peter remains standing and opens up his own bottle of water regardless of whatever the brand was, water is water.

“P1W-001 has people who’ve taken in a group of Hoffan plague survivors and on M1W-001 there’s a village of Wraith worshippers,” Peter announces before taking a swig.

“Wraith worshippers? Do we really think this could be something they’ve done,” Gero asks. It sounded unlikely that it’d be them regardless of this afternoon’s reports of the worshippers starting to take terrorist actions in the galaxy.

Allan McCullough keeps tapping away on his laptop, absolutely zoned in on its screen, as he covers the answer to Gero’s questions, “No. The Wraith go around destroying people who’re even remotely technologically advanced like the Satedans or the Hoffans or the Genii or even us for that matter, why would they let anyone no matter how dedicated they seem to be to them be as advanced enough to tinker with the Stargates themselves?”

There’s silence as eyes flit to Allan. The Deputy Chief of Staff presses on, still zeroed intently on his computer screen and oblivious to whatever misgivings or discomfort the others around him are going through at his words. Considering they’re his favorite things to look for, he considers it to be his personal job to point out the twists, the angles. God, he loves those things. While continuing to tap-tap-tap on the sleekly designed black and silver keyboard, “The Wraith managed to break Ronon and turn him into a worshipper and look how long that lasted for them.”

There’s a moment of troubled silence as everyone processes what he’s just said so glibly. Furrowed brows abound, coupled with tightened jawlines with flexing cheek muscles. The cheeks flexing with the mouths beneath them trying to form words or working the sudden anxiety unsuccessfully away. While Allan’s other remarks were going to fester in the first place, that last one is in your face personal history for the entire city. It had scared the crap out of everyone when Ronon had been brought back from that mission to rescue him unconscious and looking like crap. The whispers were immediate that the Wraith had done it to him, brutally tortured him although the guesses at what brutal torture at the hands of the Wraith actually was, until the reality of his teammates’ reports slipped out to the public. It was always hard keeping something that ‘Oh my God’ under wraps no matter how hard they tried to, even under the sort of lockdown treatment they’d given other definitely divisive mission files like that one most assuredly was. Even the whereabouts of the semi-recent mission that had returned them to the Pegasus, the one Woolsey designated, following in Doctor Elizabeth Weir’s footsteps of giving nicknames to mission files, ‘Extinction’ was kept in the most secured lockdown possible in the city.

And so the rumors of brutal Wraith torture went from whispers to outright conversations about the truth in semi-secluded parts of the city and the Mess Hall when people realized that Ronon was brought back unconscious because Teyla had had to stun him three times in order to get him to stop killing one of his oldest and dearest Satedan friends. The rest of his team and Major Lorne came back through the gate with two of Lorne’s men dragging Ronon between the two of them without that Satedan friend, Tyre had stayed behind to raze the Wraith facility that had held Ronon. A final act of devoted and repenting friendship and loyalty. Matters didn’t get any better when nursing staff started talking amongst themselves, and of course were over heard by other Expedition members, about how his horrific detox was making him look so frighteningly sickly. Not that he’d looked fantastic before the detoxing. And, of course, how his detoxing was in fact due to Wraith chemical abuse.

That’s the torture. They’d fed on him to the brink of death then pumped all of the life they had taken from him back in… then fed on him almost to death again then rejuvenated him again. Over and over in a sick loop via the chemical they inject into their victims that enables the victims to endure the feeding process for as long as the Wraith want them to. Chemical abuse. Bouncing back and forth from death to life. All of it to control him. They’d made him one of their own. They had broken Ronon Dex and made him one of their followers. A Wraith worshipper.

Damn, it’d shaken everyone in the city and outside of it. The orders, unknown to the public but known to every man in this room and Richard Woolsey, had come quickly from Earth: if the Ronon they knew could not be recovered from this, then they were supposed to kill him. Kill Ronon Dex. It still wracks their consciences. The fact that Jack O’Neill himself had delivered the orders to them over private signal hadn’t been any relief either. If only the others knew…

In the uncomfortable silence Rob and Brad break off their individual radio conversations and return to the table as well. Both of them sit down.

“PWW-014 and M1W-001 both have previous reports of Genii activity,” Rob reports.

Allan scoffs. Finally stopping his typing and looking over at his bosses, “I think you’ve got bad info on that one.”

Rob shakes his head. He wishes Allan were true.

Peter backs up his fellow Deputy of Chief of Staff, “Seriously, Allan’s right. M1W-001 has Wraith worshippers on it. We already found that out half an hour ago. It was one of the easiest planets to look up on the Ancient database.”

Rob nods. This is why he wishes they were true, “And now it probably has Genii on it too.” The implications can only mean bad things.

Everyone sighs and rolls their eyes. Great, that’s all they needed. The Wraith’s minions getting feistier and the Genii right in there poking the hornet’s nest with a stick. The only thing that’s missing was a little fate kid nicknamed Piggy wearing glasses and they were all set. Great. Peter takes his seat at last as well.

“How can that possibly be,” Joe’s mind struggles to grasp what’s been said, “The two sides hate each other. They’re the complete antithesis of each other.”

Brad leans back in his white swiveling IKEA desk chair, “The Genii are picking the lesser of two evils in their opinion.” It’s a guess but an educated one given their experiences with them over the years and it doesn’t sound good to anyone.

Marty looks at Brad and Rob, “So the Genii are trying to become power brokers? That sounds ridiculous. They’ve sucked at everything else so far, like this is going to turn out any different for them? It’s like smacking your head against a brick wall then wondering how your forehead got bloody then smacking your head against the wall again and wondering the same thing. Eventually shouldn’t you get the hint that it’s smacking your head against the wall that’s making you bleed?”

Succinct in metaphors as always. But…

“They aren’t trying, the Genii are power brokers,” Joe Mallozzi corrects him, “They started out trying to be the most powerful people in the Pegasus with their nuclear bombs built like crap. But we show up with all of our advanced technology and Atlantis and its Ancient technology and blow that part of their plan for galactic domination to Hell. Then they try their hands at behind-the-scenes political intrigue power brokering ala the Tok’ra. First by trying to interfere with Queen Harmony assuming the throne of her planet, which Colonel Sheppard and Doctor McKay but a thorough stop to with Queen Harmony’s help, then with nudging the Pegasus’ newly formed Coalition of Planets into putting us and specifically Colonel Sheppard’s team on trial for basically showing up in this galaxy period, not to mention rigging Kelore’s vote to go against us on said tribunal, which Dick so handily took care of.

“What do they have to lose now? It’s not like the Genii weren’t interested in Ancient technology already. They put out a bounty on a lot of our ATA field people for their Ancient DNA before. And if they could get the blame put on a group of Wraith worshippers or us, then why not mess with the Stargates? How do they lose in that situation? It’s actually perfect for them. Right up their alley.”

Paul runs with his fellow Deputy Gate Team Director’s ball, “Likewise with that reasoning, the Wraith could have worshippers doing this knowing full well that if the worshippers fail, then the Wraith know the worshippers will take their own lives rather than be taken alive or under the misguided delusion that it would be better to hari-kari themselves rather than own up to the disapproval of their masters. And think about this, if the Wraith worshippers succeed, then the Wraith know they’ll kill the worshippers as soon as they return to their hive as a means of tying up loose ends and the worshippers will live under the continuing delusion that they’ll be rewarded when they return to their masters. It’s a win-win for the Wraith.”

The group, except Marty who looks like he’s intensely off in his own personal la-la-land, nods. Seeing the validity of the two opinions.

Peter points at Paul as a further visual aide to his nodding and understanding, “Now that sounds like the Wraith.”

Everyone, again except for Marty still so intensely focused on some unseen distance beyond the obscured table top in front of him, nods again.

Then Martin Gero finally comes out of his concentrated stupor with his thinking’s conclusion, “What if the Genii or the worshippers, and consequently the Wraith, are messing with the Stargates as a means of blaming it on Atlantis?”

He’s met with silence. They hadn’t thought of that yet. With the way they bounce ideas off of each other, it was only a matter of time before the thought would come up, but not this soon in the conversation. He has their rapt attention as he goes on with it.

“It’s not like Atlantis hasn’t been responsible for something like this before. Remember Janus’ Attero device, it killed thousands and Atlantis got the wrap for it by basically everyone. Todd took over the Daedalus because of it and even the Travelers sent someone to yell at us for it.”

Yet another uncomfortable and valid point… Aw crap. It’s looking from a lot more angles than before that Atlantis is going to get the bad rap for this. Someway, somehow, chickens are going to come here to roost and this isn’t even the damn birds’ home! Brad swivels his chair to look at the members of staff sitting behind laptops: Marty, Carl, and Allan.

“What does the Ancient database have on the planets and moon?” Chief of Staff Bradley Wright asks. Even he can hear the sigh in his voice, he’d tried to fight to not let it out of his mouth. Not let his frustrated irritation show… So much for that.

Joe doesn’t hesitate to be the first one to speak regardless of no computer in front of him, “According to the database, the planet we’ve designated P1W-001 has an environment not unlike the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico with a climate to match. The people dress for the hot weather too. They are recorded as being kind and benevolent like the Athosians. Their leader is a man, or was a man named Nahotl, who is, was, both the political and spiritual leader of his people. He led them in prayers to the sun every morning and to the moon every evening.”

“Why’d you hit on the sun and moon thing,” his boss wonders.

“After the Ancients abandoned the Pegasus, the Chuacans turned their reverence for them to the sun and because the Wraith took over after the Ancients left, they also pray to them when it comes to the moon.”

Everyone startles at this.

Allan asks the question, “Does that mean that these people are Wraith worshippers too?”

Paul shakes his head and comes up with the quick recovery, “As far as we’ve been able to gather, praying to both the Ancients and the Wraith is simply a way for them to include what’s going on politically in the galaxy with their nature worship. Nothing more. They don’t actually worship the Wraith, the just use them as an effective analogy.”

Brad nods. Okay, that sounds reasonable. Acceptable. “Anything else?”

Marty G. pipes up, “That’s one of the things our team there is supposed to be getting better information on, whether or not they’re Wraith worshippers, while they’re checking on how the plague survivors are doing and also whether or not the natives need assistance in supplies to help them cope with the survivors being added to their population.”

Brad and Rob nod. Even more reasonable and acceptable.

“What else,” Rob asks.

Joe picks up an opened file in front of him and begins reading from it aloud, continuing with what information on the planets has been recovered from the Ancient database.

“According to the Ancients, the people of M1W-001 have been on the Wraith’s side ever since the war first started. They’ve modeled their society after the Wraith’s, i.e. women dominate the households with one woman in charge of the whole society while the men have a hierarchy of leadership with a few acting like Wraith Commanders on behalf of the women and the rest of the men wearing masks and doing the hard labor like Wraith Drones. In acknowledgement of the potential for hubris in the eyes of the Wraith, the Commanders are simply referred to as Males and the mask wearers are known as Slaves and the women are known as Heirs with the chief woman referred to as the Sovereign. Another hat tip to the Wraith, the women mate and breed with the Slaves solely. With the Sovereign taking the best specimen of the Slaves for herself as well as some of the Males. Think Darwinism with a mix of the best and brightest.

“These people even go so far as to be primarily nocturnal in order to have pale skin and white hair which everyone grows long and keeps straight. Even the women do this, again not to show hubris by way of individual appearance like the Wraith Queens have. They all wear long, dark leather robes except the Slaves, who wear black leather trousers with no shirts. Also in keeping with their aspirations to be Wraith, the people eat primarily meat with little fruits or vegetables or anything else.” He tosses the file back onto the table and looks up at the rest of them.

He finds everyone is staring at him. Slack jaws and dumbfounded expressions. For a moment, Joe’s taken aback at what he’s seeing.

“Wow,” floored, Peter says it all, “The, the, the Ancients were really interested in these people.”

Paul Mullie agrees, nodding sagely, “As far as we can tell from the database, these people, who’ve never given their race a name by the way, they’re waiting for the Wraith to give them one, were the first humans in the Pegasus to side with the Wraith. They literally are the original Wraith worshippers. The very first ones.”

Ka-boom. Every mind in the room is blown. Peter whistles loud and long. Whole new ballgame on that planet, whole new ballgame in this situation now. Their glance over of the planet’s general information had been enough to warrant a cursory investigation by a gate team. Apparently they should have looked at the inhabitant’s information in the Ancient Database as well. Apparently asking for a gate team to be sent there and check them out wasn’t such a good idea. They should have sent a more specialized team in a cloaked jumper or even the Daedalus itself to set up shop in the planet’s orbit and check out the place before they ever thought of letting a gate team set foot on that place. Covert ops specialties of that team aside.

Allan fights the urge to say what W.T.F. actually stands for out loud and instead goes with the far more pertinent, although W.T.F sounds pretty damn pertinent to the situation right now too, but…, “Would the Wraith consider using these worshippers for a move like this since these people have been so devoted to them for so long?”

Paul shrugs, “It’s plausible,” he concedes. In fact he’d been thinking the same thing ever since he’d found the information in the Ancient database. He, Joe, and Marty really dropped the ball on that one. A gate team never should have been sent there, not even a MALP. A ship would have been way better. Way safer. But hindsight is twenty/twenty and doesn’t due a damn bit of good at the moment. Later, yes, but now, no.

“That’s why we sent a team to the moon in the first place,” Martin’s voice comes into the fray soberly and softly, “They’re doing covert surveillance and intelligence gathering. We even got permission for four modified Sodan cloaking devices for this specific reason. Colonel Carter brought them when she came here to pick up Doctor Jackson.” Like Paul had been thinking, covert ops specialties aside…

Okay, let’s head from bad to either really bad or not exactly the worst of the three. Rob asks with a heavy tone, “And what about the last world?”

This time it’s Carl’s turn to speak, he’s been unusually quiet. He reads from his laptop’s screen, “PWW-014 is a human village, somewhat medieval, with numerous large farms outlying the area. Other than that there’s nothing more to tell.” He leans back in his chair, holding a water bottle in his hand.

Rob breathes a sigh of relief. That one’s honestly the best news of all.

Marty G. lifts up one of the files he’d brought in with him, opens it, and starts reading from the top sheet, “We’ve received reports from other worlds who are mutually friendly with us as well as these people that the Genii are starting to bully the planet’s farmers just like they’ve been doing on other worlds. So we sent in a team as a good will gesture to let the farmers know that Atlantis has their backs when it comes to taking on the Genii without us expecting anything from them in return.”

Carl suddenly scoffs. The rest of the staff look at him.

“What’s that for,” Allan asks.

“Oh nothing,” Carl’s lidded frustrations start building up, “We’re just lying to them when we tell them we don’t expect anything from them in return.”

Rob rolls his eyes. “Here we go,” he mutters under his breath.

Carl hears him and that sets him immediately into feisty defensive mode. Like the sharply exploding firecracker intense situations can push him to be.

“What, Robert,” Carl snaps at his boss.

“It is not lying, Carl. We really don’t expect anything from these people in return for protecting them from the Genii.”

Pop!

“Yes we do, Robert,” Carl yells, “We expect them to be on our side when it comes to the Genii in return for us protecting them from the Genii in the first place even though we don’t need these people for anything!”

Marty can’t help reminding Carl, granted timidly like a gazelle easing cautiously away from the pride of lionesses crouching in the savannah grass, “Goodness of our hearts.”

The firecracker can’t be defused until all of its fuel’s been spent.

“‘Goodness of our hearts’,” Carl mocks sardonically and looks like he wants to pitch his water bottle against the wall like a stress ball, “How did the ‘goodness of our hearts’ do for Colonel Sheppard and his team at that trial, huh? How has it done for us ever since we came to this God forsaken galaxy!

An uncomfortable shush descends over the room. It usually did when Carl Binder blew his top. There were commonly two emotions coursing through the room as eyes looked to one another but not for long: fear, was it possible to speak or move without Carl jumping all over them, or patience, is Carl done yet or not? Either way everyone used it as some moments to gather their nerves. The answer to that last emotional possibility was always answered by how long the quiet goes on.

Brad changes the subject to prevent another string of snaps, crackles, and pops from the human firecracker, “Do we have anything specific about the gate failures themselves?”

Peter shakes his head, his eyes distinctly ignoring Carl, and delivers the bad news, “Radek and the others are working on it, but they should be contacting us with their findings any moment now. Radek believed it should be a simple enough process to sort through given how many of them are working on it.”

Robert turns his chair to their science liaison, “Marty, why don’t you go down to Radek’s lab and see if you can get them to hurry it up a bit.”

Marty nods and starts getting out of his seat when Radek’s voice comes over Rob’s earpiece, “Doctor Zelenka to Mister Cooper.”

Marty freezes in mid-rise. His eyes lock with Rob’s. All eyes focus in on Chief of Staff Robert Cooper as he reaches up and taps his earpiece, “Rob, here Radek. What’ve ya’ got?”

 

Chapter Five

Truth is that during times like this, Richard Woolsey doesn’t know exactly what to do with himself. Well, that’s not really true. He knows exactly what to do. This is a big city with a lot more problems than five Stargates in the network suddenly going dark via some ulterior purpose. There are gate teams offworld, a few of them possibly facing hostile problems…not to mention the problems that have arisen between Atlantis and Earth that he found about only a few hours ago. Dick looks over at his open and operating laptop on his desk. On its sleek streamlined screen are numerous windows of files he’s opened and each and every one are documents from the I.O.A. to him about their issues with his leadership, documents he admits that he’s been trying to ignore.

Their issues with Atlantis’ leadership aren’t anything new, the International Oversight Advisory always had countless issues with the leadership of whoever was in charge Atlantis since the Expedition was first thought of. Richard knew that all too well considering he’d written well more than his fair share of those issue reports before he became the city’s leader, but these are different reports. Usually the I.O.A. members didn’t know the Expedition’s leader personally. Of course there had been Doctor Elizabeth Weir who had been introduced to the Stargate Program through the I.O.A as one of the Advisory’s personnel by one of its then Very Important People, Vice President Robert Kinsey. Granted her introduction was via a power grab from the then Vice President, Mister Kinsey, Richard remembers sourly, had unceremoniously and behind everyone’s backs in the most complete and truest representation of the phrase ‘stabbed in the back’ removed the much beloved and definitely settled General George S. Hammond from command of the Stargate Program and installed Doctor Weir. Her reception had been frosty during the imminent crisis of Anubis attacking the Antarctica outpost looking for the powerful control chair the Ancients had left behind there in his bid to destroy or dominate Earth and its population.

Honestly, it was never viewed as a good move by anyone, not even by the rest of the I.O.A and Doctor Weir herself. The only people who approved of it were Kinsey himself, of course, the hyper-ambitious man would either kiss a baby or shoot it depending on what he perceived to be as the sway of the crowd, and his cronies, the underground illegal and illicit organization that referred to itself simply as the Trust. A privately owned organization of CEOs etcetera that fit perfectly well with Mister Kinsey, power mongering, ruthless, looking out only for themselves and let everyone else go to Hell under the wonderful guise of political patriotism… and whose machinations ultimately ended in Kinsey’s body being taken over by a Goa’uld symbiot. The man’s hideous personality suppressed by an even more hideous personality. He ultimately faced an end that not even he had imagined happening to him… like Elizabeth. One of the most civilian members of the Expedition and the least involved in firefights and exploration, much to her personal objections, had sacrificed herself to the enemy in order to save the lives of the people she commanded. Now that’s real patriotism. No politics, no guise, merely the truest sense of the phrase. Its purest embodiment…

Dick sighs heavily and scans the opening lines of each document. His eyes catch random words, ‘disappointed’… ‘ignorance’… ‘dereliction’, it goes on and on and his brain processes the words’ overall blatancy. He can’t hide in the city any longer. As it stands right now, both of the Expedition’s previous leaders had been on more field missions and had made more face-to-face First Contacts than Richard has. Albeit their tenures, Elizabeth with three years and Colonel Carter with one very eventful year, were… well, he couldn’t exactly say that Colonel Carter’s was longer than his, but… he sighs again. Takes off his glasses and lays them on the desk top beside him and rubs his eyes. The fact of the matter is that—

“Mister Woolsey,” Doctor Radek Zelenka’s thickly accented voice comes over his earpiece.

Richard slips his glasses back on then taps the tiny radio device wrapped around his ear, “Yes, Radek?”

“We have something, Sir.”

“I’ll be right there.”

As his laptop goes to its screensaver of a spinning and rotating Atlantis Expedition logo, Richard Woolsey hurries out of his office.

 

 

Radek’s seated at his work station in his lab with Rob and Brad waiting off to one side of him, standing in front of long wheeled steel table topped with computer screens. Unlike Rodney’s twice as large personal lab, the room’s well lit. Clear light from the ceiling fills the room. Small potted ferns play sentinel on either side of the two doors of the room. Woolsey rushes in through the primary door, his wake rustling the right side fern’s fronds harshly. His eyes fixing instantly on Radek.

“What have you discovered,” he asks while still entering the computer filled room.

Radek says nothing. Instead he turns his chair towards Rob and Brad, deferring to them. Woolsey’s eyes divert too and Robert steps forward.

“Doctor Zelenka and his team traced the pattern of gate failures back to what they are referring to as Gate Zero on the planet designated PWW-014. They further traced the gate infringement back to a test form of a computer virus. Many of the science team as well as Doctor Zelenka recognized the style of coding being used.” Chief of Staff Cooper pauses to make sure the information sinks in as well as for a bit of a brace. “Richard, it was a test run by the Genii on a way of taking control of the entire Pegasus Stargate Network that has resulted in the stranding of three gate teams, two of which are on hostile worlds featuring Wraith worshippers and possibly the Genii themselves.”

Richard continues to absorb the information as Bradley steps forward. Coming up beside fellow Chief of Staff.

“Dick, this was a pre-emptive attack and the main assault is truly going to be a main assault of a magnitude the likes of which this galaxy has only ever known once before… with Janus’ Attero device.”

Richard’s numb eyes travel from the unknown distance the news had taken them to back to Bradley and Robert alone. Suddenly the whole world narrowed down to these two men.

“Sir,” Chief of Staff Wright addresses him formally, something he almost never did, “we have to come up with a proportional and military response.”

Richard stares at him. Brad knew he would, the Chief of Staff’s been doing this job long enough that he can read that expression, that daze of what’s simply referred to as The Burden of Command on any leader’s face no matter what their gender is. It’s the look of not sure what to do and thinking that possibly they’re so far out of their depth they can’t even see the sunlight refracting on the surface anymore. So deep in the dark. Rob sees it too and from his five years of experience as one of the two Chiefs of Staff for the Atlantis Expedition Commander, he knows exactly what to say next.

“Sir,” formality again, “the requisite staff members are already assembling in the main briefing room. We’re prepping it as a War Room now.” Prompt his commander to action.

Woolsey starts nodding, still a little dazed but the fog seems to be lifting, “Good…  That’s good to know.”

*                      *                      *

Late afternoon brings even more intense sunshine to the planet and Atlantis. The Ancient city-ship’s steel gray seems to be an even darker tone and its towers gleam in the sunlight like polished silver. There’ll be migraines for some personnel in those areas, all the reflected light making them squint. The windows, glittering like amber topaz, citrine, crystal, and smoky quartz, are dazzling but can be tolerated only for so long before their beauty is literally painful.

 

 

No one’s squinting in Atlantis’ main briefing room. There are no windows here except for the series of fan doors that are the only way into and out of the small secluded room just off of the Gateroom area. Representing the West Pier staff, Rob and Brad, as well as Colonel Steven Caldwell, Commander of the Daedalus, and Major Evan Lorne, Colonel Sheppard’s stand-in as the primary gate team leader for military situations like this whenever Sheppard’s team is offworld, along with Richard Woolsey and Radek Zelenka are assembled around the long, rectangular, mahogany briefing table. The overhead triangular, inset ceiling lights and the sconces dotting the perimeter of the room spotlight the close quarters and the men, giving it the vibe of a location where shady deals and conspiracies are made and talked of.

Numerous monitors and computers line the back and side walls of the room. Their LCD displays showing countless images of the illicit computer code, the sector of Pegasus space that has pockets of sudden non-communication, and simulations running on a loop of how the code had successful done exactly what it was supposed to do. Robert Cooper, Bradley Wright, and Radek Zelenka have their laptops opened in front of them with files uploaded from the Ancient database on the screens. Already so much has happened in so little time.

“Do we know for sure that it’s the Genii and not the Wraith or any of their worshippers,” Caldwell asks. His deep voice adding to his rigid military presence and making the man come across as abrasive and off-putting, someone not to be messed around with. A demeanor that has always caused problems with many members of this Expedition.

“We know for sure it is the Genii. The Wraith do not use code such as this and we highly doubt that they would allow any of their worshippers the ability to do any of this either,” Radek confirms, not for the first time since he and his team made the discovery.

But Steven Caldwell needs more than just Radek’s good word, “I’m not so sure about that. I seriously doubt that these particular worshippers have been around so long if they weren’t smart or have proven themselves exceptionally loyal and trustworthy to their masters.”

Radek doesn’t waiver in the face of the stern Colonel, “I am certain. It is the Genii. It is the same coding that they use for detonating their nuclear bombs. It has not changed since the last time we worked with them.”

“You’re making my case for me, Doctor,” Caldwell points out, “I highly doubt that the Genii under Ladon Radim’s rule would not have changed their computer coding since giving us that exact same code. It’s not as though we’re the friendliest of elastic alliances with each other and their nuclear bombs were a failure. If the Genii managed to figure out a way to get another one of them, and might I point out that we’re not the only space-faring culture in this galaxy,” an unspoken finger point at the Travelers, maybe not Larrin’s faction, but the Travelers nonetheless, “it wouldn’t be that hard for the Wraith to capture that device especially if it’s a dud and examine it to see who it belonged to.” Worse than his irascible sounding voice and intimidating nature, everything he’s said is completely plausible thus rendering it valid.

“They have not changed their coding because they simply do not have that option. They are not as advanced as we are. It is only because of their struggling for several generations that they attained even the one form of computer coding and that was with the aid of a Wraith computer component. When all of the Wraith awoke, there was neither the time nor the ability through manpower to create new coding even with our help in finishing their first bombs. And, I might also point out, we have never heard reports of the Wraith capturing any of the Genii’s nuclear bombs or of the Genii attempting to deploy more without our involvement,” the Czech scientist objects.

“Yeah, because both the Wraith and the Genii would be so forthcoming about that information if it has happened.”

There’s an uncomfortable pause. More thoughts that will fester in their minds. Caldwell’s gruff and blunt manner’s ruffled feathers again. He can’t help it, it’s the military in him and, aside from Major Lorne, they’re all going to need to get a lot military real soon.

Richard Woolsey sits up straighter and places his arms carefully on the table in front of him, clasping his hands together and coming to his Acting Chief Scientist’s aide. He directs his cool, measuring, brown eyes to the Colonel and the Colonel only, “What do you propose?”

“We go after Ladon Radim himself,” Caldwell doesn’t hesitate.

“What?” Richard can’t believe his ears. Woolsey’s always known Caldwell, both personally and from reports, to be head strong and fiercely aggressive with a penchant for immediate and direct confrontation, but even Richard’s shocked to hear that come out of the man’s mouth.

So are Rob, Brad, and, judging by the pinched expression on his face, Evan Lorne.

This time, however, both Radek and Caldwell lean forward. Clearly what’s coming next is something they’d been discussing before Woolsey, Rob, Brad, and Lorne had made it into the room and is something that quickly puts away the previous tension that had built between them.

Zelenka begins. “We know the Genii predominantly live underground in an extensive bunker.”

Woolsey nods. This he knew and something else about it too. “Isn’t the bunker also shielded,” he asks.

Radek shakes his head, “No. Their experimentation with nuclear technology causes sensor interference due to the excessive radiation, but it does not create or power any actual shielding of any kind around the bunker.”

Robert had been expecting this. It had been one of the ideas on his own mental list of how to deal with the situation, granted it was one of the ideas that he’d designated as last resort, but he’d had yet to confirm the possibility of any of it with Radek. Some of the other scientist in the department but not Radek yet. He chimes in, “The science teams believe that they can work to minimize the interference in order for the Daedalus’s Asgard beaming technology to work.”

Richard still thinks what he’s hearing or at least what he thinks he’s hearing is ridiculous. Suicidal both politically and physically. According to this afternoon’s West Pier briefing, many people in the galaxy already preferred the Genii over the Expedition in the first place, this would most likely push even more as yet to be encountered good opinions towards Radim and his people and against Atlantis. Apparently the Expedition Commander has to be the voice of reason here, “So what? How does that help us? How can we be sure which of the lifesigns the Daedalus’s scans detect is Ladon Radim’s? Let alone where in fact Radim’s office or private living quarters are in the bunker in order to try and get him when he’s in either of those locations. I highly doubt a man such as Ladon Radim would be unintelligent enough or lacking the diplomatic foresight to remain in the same office and quarters that his predecessor Cowen did years ago.”

Point made. Point taken.

“No,” Steven agrees, “I don’t think Ladon Radim’s that dumb either, but there are ways around that problem.”

Woolsey eyes him, “How?”

Brad leans forward. Taking the helm of the informative part of the discussion, he places his arms on the tabletop too and clasps his hands together. “We do have connections to people who know and are friendly with the Genii,” Brad says, “We should use those connections.”

Richard’s chocolate brown eyes narrow at his Chief of Staff, “What exactly do you have in mind, Bradley?”

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