(To everyone, I’m sorry this didn’t get out on Friday like usual. Work is ramping up on being crazy, ’tis the season.)
At the triggered memory, Ronon draws his weapon without hesitation and aims it right between Jacob Carter’s eyes. His thumb immediately flicking it’s powercell on. It’s setting the shining red light of ‘kill.’ Kenmore’s head immediately snaps back to Ronon. Her face one of horror. Woolsey glances at Sheppard, the ‘I told you so’ frown all too clearly spread across his lips, and Sheppard shrugs in return. All right, so Woolsey had a point, maybe they really did need to work on their welcome wagon technique. Kenmore turns around and flings out her arms, not hesitating a moment to put herself in between the gun and Carter.
“Hey, hey, hey.”
“Get away from him,” Ronon growls at her. It wasn’t like him to say anything even remotely protective of her or to her, but it’s just that he doesn’t like any enemies of Atlantis… and he prefers clear shots in close quarters when he can get them. Why waste the ammo.
“He’s a friend,” Kenmore defends.
“He’s a Goa’uld,” Ronon attacks.
“I am not a Goa’uld,” Selmak and Kenmore snap at him at the same time, although Kenmore said ‘He is’ instead of ‘I am’…
“Then what are you,” the Satedan demands.
“I am Tok’ra,” the alien behind Kenmore tells him firmly.
“Yeah, I remember hearing about your people back at the SGC,” Rodney says nonchalantly, as if he could care less about what was going on in front of him—all these Tok’ra/Goa’uld people sounded alike anyways —then he finally bothers to look up from his always only really so engrossingly important to him work and takes in an eyeful of the Tok’ra dignitary that had come to visit them. “Oh,” he says suddenly aware.
Teyla, tense and alert but restrained as always until required to be otherwise, glances at him; the tone of his voice indicated he had some unknown knowledge, what did he know? Woolsey takes this opportunity to jump in before one of the more reckless members of his top team could pull the trigger.
“Yes, the Tok’ra have been our allies for years against the Goa’uld in the Milky Way Galaxy.”
Ronon looks to Sheppard, Sheppard nods, and Ronon reluctantly lowers his gun. Kenmore is still horrified at the greeting for one of her dearest friends.
“Yeah,” she snaps, “and this is Major General Jacob Carter, Colonel Samantha Carter’s father…,” she trails off expectantly. As in take the friggin’ hint and show some respect…
Rodney and Teyla untense. Rodney glad that he didn’t have to be the one to reveal that particular bit of information; he wasn’t sure how Ronon would have reacted, the genius scientist’s mind did trail to the image of Ronon turning and shooting Rodney as the messenger of news the Satedan didn’t particularly want to hear. God, he’s been so pissy since Amelia left. And Teyla was relieved at finally having verification, in her mind, that this new arrival was indeed friendly to them. She found it hard to believe—indeed she could not believe that Samantha Carter would have a father who would pose any threat to any of his daughter’s interests be they past or present. Jacob Carter, however, gladly leans forward, his smile so bright and rather paternal to all of them, and reaches out to shake Rodney’s hand and then Teyla’s. The Athosian leader returns his smile with just as genuine and as bright a one of warm greeting of her own. In truth… she sensed no ill will from him. Ronon remains stony. And wisely their visitor makes no offer of greeting to him.
“…and his Tok’ra symbiote, Selmak, the eldest of her people,” Kenmore finishes.
Carter’s eyes flash again, Ronon shifts leery and uncomfortably at the sight again and leery and uncomfortable at not being able to do anything about it, and all Selmak does is bow her—Jacob’s—head in a suitable and formal greeting in silence.
“Her,” Rodney quirks his head, “It’s female?”
“We Tok’ra have neither gender, but I do identify with the feminine most often,” Selmak answered.
“Tok’ra,” Teyla asks, saying the word peculiarly. She had heard it spoken before when she had been taken to Earth along with the rest of her team in order to combat a Wraith threat in the DNA of humans on that planet, but otherwise, she had never had cause to say it or even try to say it herself. There was no need to in Atlantis. And her fellow Earth members of the Expedition very rarely said it.
“They’re the same race as the Goa’uld,” Rodney answered, “except, well, the Tok’ra are good guys and the Goa’uld are bad guys.”
“Kind of, they’re a sister race, but yeah,” Kenmore confirms, even though that really wasn’t the way she would have described it and she knew Jacob definitely wouldn’t have described it that way either… Gees, Selmak must be riled like hell in there, “The Goa’uld’s relationship with their host is parasitic whereas the Tok’ra’s relationship with their host is truly symbiotic.”
“How so,” Teyla asks. This was truly curious and fascinating. She had never before encountered a race such as this. Two beings inhabiting the same body to the mutual satisfaction of both?
“Our hosts are willing. They are all sorts of inhabitants from many worlds in the Milky Way Galaxy. Some are people suffering from diseases that their civilizations cannot cure. In Jacob and I’s case, my previous host, a woman named Saroosh, was dying from old age. Even with having a symbiote inside of them, the human body can only go for so long,” the Tok’ra took a moment’s pause and Teyla could see the alien entity inside of him as well as Jacob Carter feel the need to take a moment to feel the pain and loss of a dear one, the Athosian knew that need well and maintained a respectful silence; quickly though, Selmak recovered and continued her explanation of her people to Teyla, “I could no longer heal her body and Jacob was in the late, for his people irreversible, stages of cancer. So he agreed to become my new host, I healed him, and we have been together for years now.”
Teyla nods. For a moment her mind lingers on the ramifications of such a relationship for her people and all the other people of the Pegasus Galaxy. The unleashing of the Hoffan plague into the galaxy had cost all so much; if the Tok’ra could heal the plague… Perhaps Stargate Command and the IOA, with Mister Woolsey’s help, could find it in their capabilities to allow for Teyla to open negotiations with these Tok’ra on behalf of her people and those of the Pegasus Galaxy. It would be a great benefit to both concerned parties. A great trading opportunity… many people in this galaxy would gladly fight all those who would enslave humanity whether that enslavement occurred here in their own galaxy or in another… Or perhaps Teyla could endeavor to open negotiations herself during General Carter and Selmak’s stay here in Atlantis…
“Even died together,” Kenmore says solemnly to the floor then looks over at her friend. He returns the sentiment. There’s a moment of an unspoken exchange between their eyes.
Teyla sees it and her eyebrows furrow. She did not understand. And, judging by the privacy of the exchange and the knowledge of something so deep, so shared, perhaps she was not meant to. It was not unheard of for the dead to come back, Ronon had done it, Carson, Rodney, but still…
“And what do the Goa’uld do,” Ronon interrupts hostilely. He still didn’t like this. Every part of his mind and body screamed that this was another trap, another betrayal, another of Atlantis’ bad ideas that they would all end up ultimately paying the price for later on—how later, that would be up to how bad the idea was.
“They enslave people. They take hosts. They don’t heal them, they imprison them. There’s nothing symbiotic about it,” Kenmore’s vehement.
She looks at all of them. “Gees, don’t any of you people talk to each other?” She finally exclaims. She shouldn’t have had to explain all this crap to them. Even she, although not intending to stay here on that first day had at least read the damn crash course file she’d been given on the Wraith. And not a single one of these guys in six years could pick up so much as a handy-dandy pamphlet on the difference between a Tok’ra and a friggin’ Goa’uld? What the hell?!
Ronon ignores Kenmore’s outburst.
“What are you doing here,” he demands. Although with his antagonistic attitude, it comes out as more of the heart of an interrogation than a question.
Without having to bob his head again, Selmak took over the explanation, “We’ve received some disturbing reports that a Goa’uld mothership is heading towards the Pegasus Galaxy.”
Kenmore suddenly grabs Carter’s arm. For the first time, the team sees blatant panic on her face as she looks her friend dead in the eyes.
“Where is it?”
“In the space between our two galaxies,” Selmak tells her.
Kenmore doesn’t hesitate to start running for the corridor back behind Ronon. To the ‘locker’ rooms where their gear was normally kept.
“Lieutenant,” Woolsey shouts after her.
Kenmore stops in her tracks and looks back at all of them.
“Atlantis doesn’t have the capacity to stave off an attack from a mothership. I’ve seen the city’s weapons systems, she can’t do it,” she immediately tells them.
John stares at her. It wasn’t like her to feel like she had to explain herself, let alone her actions, to them. To any of them… especially Woolsey. Kenmore’s panic is so acute that it set Teyla’s entire body tensing anew, Rodney’s eyes bugging out of his head—of course that could actually be due to more of what the Tok’ra just told them than Kenmore’s reaction—and Ronon—well, Ronon hadn’t actually reacted in any way—but still. Not for the first time today, John feels like asking himself what the hell were they all facing here.
“He has a ship,” John offers instead.
Kenmore stares at Carter intently, “Where?”
* * *
Kenmore checks a stack of boxes, just some spare munitions and more major artillery, in the back of Puddle Jumper One as Rodney double-checks some of the jumper’s systems between his computer tablet and a pulled out overhead panel in the jumper’s rear compartment as well. Then she walks over to the stretch of left side bench, side-stepping Teyla checking the security of the netting of the right side overhead compartment, and checks the packs of spare personal gear lying there as well. Kenmore zips one pack back up and throws it back on the cushioned bench then heads the rest of the way to the front of the jumper. Rodney angles his body and peeks at Kenmore’s back through the tangle of wires dangling between the overhead panel’s interior, its cover, and his computer tablet, and Teyla gives her some space also. As soon as the Lieutenant passes by, they throw a cautionary glance to each other before going back to their work, which was mainly to stay out of the Lieutenant’s way.
The jumper’s front compartment was in an entirely different configuration. Calling shotgun in the co-pilot’s seat sat Jacob Carter with Ronon sitting behind him, in Ronon’s usual seat, and Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard sits in the seat behind the pilot’s seat, not his usual one and one he was definitely uncomfortable sitting in—A jumper shouldn’t look like this, not to its pilot… not to me—. The men turn their chairs around to watch Kenmore coming up to the pilot’s seat. She starts pressing some buttons on the main panel before she even begins to think of sitting down.
“Have a ship my ass,” she grumbles, practically slapping the buttons.
Sheppard winces at the sound of every harsh clacking hit. Or maybe he was just perceiving it as harsh, no one else was flinching the way he was. Of course, no one was probably feeling the way he was… she’s hitting my baby. Even in his mind, John’s thought came out as whinny as anything Rodney could produce, probably worse because it’s whining coming from John… But… she’s hitting my baby. It had been a somewhat unanimous decision—Sheppard had voted ‘No’ but everyone else, including Ronon and Teyla had raised their hands, which was a betrayal, to a degree, that John was still having trouble forgetting—that the half-ancient that seemed to bring out the best in all of the little puddle jumper vessels should helm at least the piloting portions of this mission. General Carter, it was all hands up voting, could handle the flying of the mothership, but if the jumper needed fancy flying unlike anything that they’ve ever put it through so far or needed the small ship to reveal any tricks it might have up its engine hubs or any other place on it, then Kenmore’s DNA needed to bring that out in the little vessel as quickly and as much as she possibly could get it. But still, it’s my baby, John winces again at another slap, she’s hitting my baby.
“It’ll be arriving here with the Daedalus tomorrow,” Jacob tries to defend himself. And it sounded not like the first time he had to contend with an irate young woman who was very near and dear to him being thoroughly pissed off at him. John side-glances at him, in fact it looked like old hat to the man.
SMACK! Her hand slapped upside the back of his balding head and Kenmore finally sat down in the pilot’s seat.
John hides his almost giggling smirk at the sight of the former General’s head popping forward a few degrees and the man’s own smile at the apparently likewise not exactly unfamiliar gesture coming from a ticked young woman who was very near and dear to him.
“Tomorrow is not good enough. You know how much ground a mothership can cover when she’s on a mission,” Kenmore went on.
“How much,” Ronon asked, his eyes focused on the back of the Tok’ra’s head.
Although he was trying very hard to hide it, the fact that the General took the insubordinate hit so well, so humorously actually, was something he really did find curious. He’d hoped no officer in Atlantis, he swiftly side-glances at Sheppard, especially Sheppard, would take that crap from a subordinate.
Ronon remembered one time, just the once, during his officers training back on Sateda. He had been sitting on the edge of the left side of his bunk bed. Even now Ronon could remember the feel of the itch of the scratchy beige-colored blanket that lay over the softer, but still not exactly lush, crisply white bed linens underneath every time the side of his wrists brush across the itchy fabric as he sat there unlacing his boots. All around him in the massive barracks that seemed almost as big as the warehouses around the city—well, the barracks were just as long and as wide as any of the warehouses, but they definitely weren’t as tall; the barracks were about two stories tall and the ceiling’s sides were rounded off making the roof look like half a cylinder—other soldiers/officers-in-training were hanging around. Some were like Ronon, newly returned from field exercises and only had a limited to get their sweaty bodies cooled down and into fresh clean clothes in order to head off to their officer classes next. Others were back from their round of said classes and were getting into their own exercise clothes. And still others had neither classes nor exercises and were just hanging around talking and joking with others like them. Ronon had just managed to unlace and yank one dirt and grass dipped boot off his foot when Kell walked into the barracks amid the cheers of all present including Ronon, who had hooted and clapped his hands over his head with the biggest grin of pride on his face—That is my commanding officer, my taskmaster, he’d been thinking then—and Kell had taken it all with a jovial laugh and waving off of the cheering and cracking a few jokes of his own with some of the men and women present. Then one officer-to-be, young and relatively new to life in the barracks let alone the life of the process to becoming an officer—he’d only been part of the unit, had only joined about four months ago—, but still some things were ingrained into your skull from the very split of a heartbeat you stepped foot into training, he cracked off a joke to Kell, which wasn’t a problem, then slapped Kell on the back of the superior man’s shoulder… which was a problem. No subordinate ever, EVER, physical strikes a superior in any way. Playing. No. Not playing. Definitely No. All the happiness in the room immediately died. The kid had been absolutely clueless to it. Still smiling. Still keeping up the last huffs of his laughter when Kell grab the guy’s wrist, bent the kid over and around, and then yank, snapping the kid’s wrist like a twig. The once happy officer-to-be screamed in pain, howling and groveling for mercy on his knees, but Kell refused to let go of him. Kell made the youth beg for forgiveness and then apologize for his behavior before releasing him to stagger off—no one would dare stain their own personal honors by helping someone like him—to the infirmary. Once the wrist had been treated and healed, Kell followed through with the traditional punishment for such a violation of the rules: the kid was taken out into the unit square, stripped of his shirt, and lashed till the offended superior felt the offense had been suitably appeased. For Kell that meant until the kid’s back was practically raw with bloody striations and was nearly dead from the pain alone before injury… Kell… the traitor, Ronon eyed the back of the Tok’ra’s head again; perhaps a superior officer that could take a hit like that, perhaps it said something about the man, the general, that he can accept a ribbing from a subordinate and still maintain their loyalty.
Then Ronon’s eyes slip to Kenmore, then again perhaps you didn’t want to maintain the loyalty of someone like that…
“It can shorten a year’s travel to a few hours with one hyperjump,” she answered him without looking back at him.
Sheppard sits up as Teyla walks up from the back of the jumper.
“How much,” she gasps. To her mind, that was the equivalent of Atlantis’ notorious ‘super’ faster than light travel jump the city made in order to save its mother world of Earth from the surprise and quite possibly devastating attack of a super-sized Wraith hiveship more than a year ago.
An alert goes off. Kenmore ignores Teyla’s shock and keeps pressing buttons. This time, to Sheppard’s relief, much gentler. Like normal actually. Firmly, perhaps a little too firmly, but… normal.
“We’re coming up on the mothership,” Kenmore announces.
Sheppard and Ronon lean forward as Teyla steps up between them and Rodney walks into the front compartment with just as much curiosity as his teammates have. Neither of them have ever seen a Goa’uld mothership before. Rodney had seen pictures, Sheppard, he, and Teyla had read about them in past SGC reports, but none of them had ever actually seen one in person before. Kenmore points at a point in the black of space.
“There it is.”
The Atlantis team lean further forward, squinting. They stare at a semi-golden speck outside the jumper’s viewport. That’s it? When will these people ever learn about blowing these things out of proportion especially when it came to threat assessments, Ronon shrugs and sits back in his seat. They always made the little things a lot more hostile than they actually were and made the great big hostile things in their face, like their Michael experiment… or Todd, into these sweet little innocent things that they couldn’t possibly imagine hurting anybody else let alone them.
“It doesn’t look as big as a hiveship,” he scoffs.
“It doesn’t have to be,” Jacob tells him with a look, “Not all of the nastiest surprises come in the biggest packages.”
Ronon looks away, off to his right at a piece of jumper paneling. Okay, so the old glowing-eyes, snake guy had a point.
Carter pushes some buttons on the panel in front of him. Kenmore glances over at him.
“How are ya’ doing over there?”
“It is… different,” Selmak speaks up, “This ship is very impressive.”
“Thanks,” Sheppard takes the compliment on behalf of his treasured craft… or his ‘second home’ as he sometimes liked to call it in private when no one else was around. No need to go around letting everybody know how sentimental he’s become about these little ships especially his favorite one of them. Kenmore doesn’t acknowledge the compliment in any way.
Selmak nods her own acceptance of Sheppard’s gratitude as he presses a few more buttons.
Then Sheppard’s eyes trail over to Kenmore. It still floored him that Kenmore had somehow managed to get the jumper to let a non-Ancient DNA possessing person use the jumper’s controls to the extent that General Carter is. There was a little twinge in John’s chest again, in his heart. Just like there had been when the General first pressed a button on the console in front of him and the jumper readily answered his call. It was as though the jumper itself was betraying John too, making a comment on his flying capabilities… or who it preferred to pilot it.
“Sending her in,” Jacob announces.
And that was another thing John was going to have to get used to here pretty quick. It was nice on first meeting that General Carter/Selmak bowed his head to indicate when there was a transition in control of the voice and body and mind between symbiote and host. But after that short initiation, apparently neither one particularly felt like they had to do that anymore. They just transitioned without the slightest heads-up, or in their case it was more like heads-down-then-back-up-again, that they were doing it.
“Wait,” Kenmore suddenly speaks up.
Carter’s hand freezes just above the controls. Everyone looks over at Kenmore. She was staring out the viewport just like they all had been, but there was something different in her eyes… something different in her entire demeanor. Like she was waiting for something.
“What,” Sheppard asks, putting a hand on the back of her chair and inching up closer to it while eyeing her.
“There’s something wrong here.” Her eyes dart slightly from side to side analyzing the black void.
Ronon sits up, “What is it?”
“Where are the death gliders?”
“What,” Rodney asks.
“We’re well within sensor range of the mothership. That thing should have launched dozens of gliders by now. So… where are the gliders?”
The group looks out the viewport. There’s nothing out there, but space, them, and the other ship.
“I don’t like it,” Kenmore says.
“Are we not still far away,” Teyla offers, “perhaps their sensors are not as far reaching as you suspect?”
“I don’t suspect, I know. They could detect an Earth approach from the other side of Saturn.”
“What,” Teyla asks. She didn’t understand the Lieutenant’s comparison.
“They’ve got a long range,” Sheppard amended for his teammate.
Teyla nods at him.
Rodney leans in further still, kind of infringing on Teyla’s personal space. She looks over at him, hoping her polite but warning expression would retract him, but he is too busy trying to analyze every part of space in front of them looking for those gliders Lieutenant Kenmore had mentioned.
“Maybe they’ve used them already,” he says.
“Against what,” Sheppard asks. What could possibly be out this far besides them?
“The Wraith,” Rodney answers, “They’ve come out this far before.”
John was about to call him out on the fact that that one time had been because they had stupidly allowed the Wraith to get a hold of the coordinates to Earth, Not in fact because the Wraith just came out here of their own accord. And the second time was because someone had sent the Wraith, i.e., the Superhive, a massively strong transmission containing the same information. There again, Not because the Wraith just naturally come out this far.
“That would be bad,” Kenmore says.
“Why,” Sheppard asks her, staring at the back of her head in front of him again.
“Could you imagine a Goa’uld in the head of a Wraith?”
He couldn’t. And neither could Rodney…
“Can they even do that,” Rodney asks.
“They can try. It might prove to be a disaster, but the Goa’uld would try anything for the power over another species. A new harvesting ground of hosts,” Selmak informs them matter-of-factly.
“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Ronon says, “The Wraith have been harvesting people for years. Sounds like the Goa’uld would be giving them a taste of their own medicine. I’m fine with that.”
“Or the Wraith could have eaten them,” Rodney offers, “That could explain why the ship is dead in the water. How many want to bet that if the Wraith got on board that ship, that not a single Jaffa or the head hancho themselves didn’t send a warning back to the other Goa’uld using one of those long distance communication beacons hooked up to its Stargate?”
“’Its stargate’,” Teyla repeats astounded.
Kenmore looks back at her, “Yeah, a Goa’uld mothership comes equipped with her very own Stargate scavenged from a planet that no longer needs theirs.”
“Sort of like what we did to build the Gate bridge.” Rodney adds, still looking for any signs of those elusive gliders in the solid black of the between galaxies void.
“The Gate what?” Kenmore looks at him like he’s suddenly gone insane or developed a truly abrupt case of bad B.O.
Rodney waves her off.
“We had to destroy the Midway station because the Wraith used it to get to Earth,” Ronon reminded Rodney while simultaneously informing Kenmore.
Kenmore gawks at him, “What? You mean you were the dumbasses responsible for that?”
“If the Wraith have made it onto that ship, then we must go there and destroy it,” Teyla states.
“I agree sister,” Kenmore makes a second sortof perturbed glance at Ronon and Rodney—So that’s how those damn things got into Cheyenne Mountain—before nodding in agreement with Teyla’s call for action, then turns her attention to the jumper’s piloting console, “but I’m going to take her in under cloak.”
Jacob stares at her.
“This thing has cloak,” he says.
Kenmore nods as she leans forward and starts making the preparations. He looks back down at his own panel of controls in front of him.
“Even more impressive,” Selmak says.
* * *
The jumper starts to glide towards the Goa’uld mothership in the distance and vanishes within a few seconds as the jumper activates its cloak.