Leaving Sheppard and Teyla to their own disturbance at the situation, Kenmore returns her attention to Woolsey.
“I recommend we immediately start evacuating the city.”
“I agree. Colonel Caldwell…”
Caldwell nods, “I’ll start prepping the Daedalus.”
He hurries out of the office, slipping in between Sheppard and Teyla, reaching up to his earpiece as he goes and radioing his ship, “Daedalus this is Caldwell…”
Kenmore and Woolsey follow Caldwell out, trailing him by a handful of feet, and Sheppard and Teyla follow on their heels across the bridge and into the Command Center. It was a rarity, the light from the bright sunny mid-morning day outside Atlantis’ walls was shining through the large windows at the back of the center. Imbuing the room, normally perpetually in shadow and in almost battle-conditions darkness, with a refreshing white haze of sunshine reflected off the floor at the back of the room. Everyone seemed to have been enjoying it until the start of the small group from Woolsey’s office entered the center then everyone had looked up at their approach, their smiles disappearing. As Caldwell quickly moves off to the quieter far side of the small overseeing room, still talking to his earpiece, Woolsey addresses the nearest technician, a shoulder-length blonde-haired woman that looked to be in her mid to late-thirties named Jennifer Johnson that had become Amelia’s replacement since her promotion and transfer back to Earth.
“Put me on city-wide.”
Jennifer nods her head and begins working on the computer console in front of her. After a few seconds, she looks back up at Woolsey and nods her head at him, knowing not to speak so that his voice was the first and only voice the city would hear.
“Attention Atlantis personnel,” his voice boomed through the speakers and reverberated through the city’s halls and rooms, “effective immediately we are evacuating the city. Follow your evacuation procedures as quickly as possible. This is not a drill. Please, all personnel follow your evacuation procedures immediately and quickly. This is not a drill. We are evacuating the entire city.”
Woolsey nods at Jennifer again and the technician turns off the city-wide communications system as every expedition member in the room seems to jump into action. It was a small mirror and pale comparison of what was happening around the city. In the mess hall, where people had either been in line to get trays of food, were filling their trays, or paying for their trays or were sitting down with friends and colleagues to discuss what either the day’s or week’s gossip was or the work they were doing, there was now nothing but a small tidal wave of uniformed men and woman racing out of every entrance/exit into the room as orderly as they possibly could. And the mess staff left behind were shutting down and gathering up everything they could; Hell, even people at the Alpha and Beta sites needed to be fed. Those that weren’t fortunate enough to be on break but were in their labs or other designated work areas abandoned whatever they were doing and raced over to their designated evacuation commanders to receive directions on where to go and what to pack and in what order. Almost instantly Doctor Jennifer Keller, Atlantis’ Chief Medical Officer, had a substantial flood of nurses and fellow doctors crowd over to and around her like they were bracing to mosh in front of the stage at a concert, and each and every face stared at her waiting for her to tell them what they should be doing for this evacuation. She took a deep breath, set aside the clipboard of one patient’s current medical information, reached up to the wall crowded with taped and magnetized-pinned information above her desk, plucked off the bright yellow packet containing their latest sets of evacuation procedures, turned around, pulled the information out of it, and started issuing orders as quickly and firmly as she could breath. Richard Woolsey turns his attention to the substitute technician sitting at the dialing console, who had come to fill in for Chuck Campbell while Chuck had left to get lunch.
“Dial the Alpha Site as soon as the first wave is ready.”
The technician nods his head and turns back to his computer console, going through the computer station’s own evacuation procedures.
* * *
Atlantis’ medical wards on their busiest days were not like this, not anything like this. You couldn’t see the walls even if you wanted to unless you looked up at the high reaching cathedral ceiling and see the stretch of the walls that was far out of reach. As for the floors, definitely no. Too many pieces of either stationary or moveable equipment covering them up and too many feet rushing around in a blur.
Ronon Dex semi-sitting up in a hospital bed watches the people rushing around him. He had never seen an evacuation of the city from this position before, normally he was in the Command Center or a hallway somewhere or the training room. He didn’t like it. He watches a nurse rush past the foot of his medical bed and notices Jennifer Keller is a few beds away, checking medical charts and dictating to a small squadron of other medical personnel gathered around her. She looks so in command, so calm here, like this was a moment she was born to be in over and over again. It was one of the things he had admired in her and had initially drawn his…intimate attention to her. In truth, it was one of the things still keeping his attention on her even after she’d picked Rodney over him and he had started… and ended a relationship with Amelia. Jennifer moved another bed closer and finally Ronon could just make out her voice above the clatter of supplies and equipment being prepped for removal and the chatter of those making that possible.
“Okay, this one needs to be beamed to the Daedalus as soon as Colonel Caldwell gives the okay to start beaming people aboard,” she says.
A female assistant breaks away from the group and starts prepping the unconscious marine and his bed for transport. Keller and her group move another bed closer to Ronon. Keller picks up the chart clipped to the bed’s footboard and reads it.
“She can wait and go with us to the Alpha Site, but I want her in the first wave through the Stargate, do you understand me,” she looks at the woman standing to her right.
The nurse immediately nods at Jennifer and breaks away to prepare the female patient, an elderly Athosian woman in her fifties that Ronon knew well from his short time living among Teyla’s people and a long time of just knowing Teyla—in the woman’s regular clothes, and not the cool white medical gown she was wearing now, Ronon had heard some members of the Expedition refer to her fondly as Babushka—for departure through the Stargate. Ronon’s eyes linger on the old woman’s sleeping form as Keller moves to the bed next to his. Even though moving quickly, the nurse that had remained behind and the extra male nurse that had broken off the main group as well gently lower the top half of the woman’s bed to lie flat with the bottom half.
“She definitely needs to go to the Daedalus, maybe not the first wave, but the second.”
Ronon’s eyes return to Jennifer. A male doctor breaks off to tend to the mid-twenties female patient, another marine, as Keller and her group move to the foot of Ronon’s bed. Keller snaps up his clipboard with a loud clack and reads his chart.
“Why are we evacuating,” he asks her before she can prattle off an order to one of her subordinates.
Jennifer looks up at him like it was the first time anyone’s spoken to her ever. Probably was the first time anyone’s said anything to her that wasn’t a question about patient or equipment evacuation procedures since the announcement went out over the city-wide.
“I don’t know,” she says then immediately goes back to his chart. “He needs to go to the Daedalus, make sure he’s in the first wave.”
“I’m not leaving.”
Jennifer looks up at him again.
“Ronon,” she cautions.
“No, I’m not leaving.”
“But your wounds—”
“You let Sheppard and me go save Teyla when Michael had her and his injuries were just as bad as mine are now. So were mine then,” he cuts her off.
Keller doesn’t know what to say for a moment, Ronon has almost a point. An ‘almost’ she can’t help but make clear to him.
“You’re wounds aren’t just as bad as either his or yours were back then, they’re worse.”
“You still let him go,” he tells her, “You let me go.”
Keller looks down at his chart again. The face of the watch on her wrist staring back up at her too. Time was not on her side already and she was wasting more of it discussing this with him. Her eyes flit to the medical forms with her own handwriting scrawled all over its lines and in its boxes. His injuries were severe though, although the bullet had missed everything important, abdominal muscles were always slow to heal and even when they received the proper rest and management, they were never the same again. Never as tight, never as effective as they once were…
“Okay,” she finally relents, “you can stay, but if at the last minute it looks bad, you go.”
She looks him dead on.
“No arguments,” she adds as firmly as any drill sergeant could.
Ronon nods his head. He’ll take that. She’ll take it too. She hooks his chart back to the footboard and moves on to the next bed. Some of the group eyes him in amazement; clearly none of them had ever thought or even considered tangling with Jennifer when she was in evacuation mode. Ronon meets their gazes until they look away and then he continues to watch the group of fellow doctors and nurses huddle behind her and other people rush around them and him. No one paying any more attention to him. Fine with him, he didn’t need anyone looking after him or trying to remove him. He was staying put. As Jennifer issues an order to another doctor beside her, she absentmindedly brushes a loose piece of hair that had fallen in front of her eye behind her ear… Peppermint. Ronon suddenly looks away and watches the rest of the commotion going on around him. Still no one was paying any attention to him. Good. Fine with him. He didn’t need anyone looking after him.
* * *
Kenmore rushes through the hallway, making sure to allow others to pass in front of her as the hallway has become quickly crowded but still making sure that she herself wasn’t losing any ground to them either. Sheppard’s following her and Teyla’s lagging just a step behind him.
She doesn’t look behind her to answer him, “What?”
“What is a fallen Ascended being exactly?”
Wow, that was a big step for him. “When Ancients reach a certain point in both physical and mental maturity, they do something called Ascending.”
Even rushing through the hallway dodging people, Sheppard rolls his eyes at her, “Yeah, we know that already.”
“Well, when they ascended, they made up—”
“Rules, yeah we know about that too. There’s a lot of them,” he snaps. She was wasting their time. How stupid did she think they were?
Kenmore dodges around another person and finally makes the last few steps of her way to a transporter, it’s doors open smoothly at her presence, she steps inside, and politely waits—which was something Sheppard hadn’t expected her to do—for him and Teyla to get in with her. Then she turns around and presses her destination button on the city map on the back wall. The transporter doors close.
“Anubis was a Goa’uld and, like most of his kind, he was clever at manipulation. He went to Oma Desala and tricked her into helping him ascend, she fell for it. But as she was helping him, she find out what he was really like and, like I said before, she couldn’t reverse the process by herself, so she got the other Ascended to help her descend him and, also like I said before, they sent him back down to a normal plan of existence half ascended.”
Finally, she was getting to crap they didn’t already know about exactly.
“They kicked him out of the club,” he reconfirms.
The transporter doors open on a new hallway, again, crammed with people going in every direction the hallways can possible allow them to. Kenmore heads straight out and up the hallway and Sheppard and Teyla follow her.
“There was a catch though, he still remembered some of that all knowing knowledge you get when you ascend except he couldn’t re-Ascend and he couldn’t exactly retake his old human form like you can when you’re ascended. Do you know what an Ancient looks like after they Ascend?”
“Yeah, they look like a giant cloud of white light,” Sheppard answers remembering his considerable time, due to a time dilation bubble, with a group of Ancients who later went on to ascend right in front of him and his team and the Expedition’s then leader, Doctor Elizabeth Weir.
They go around a left corner.
“Energy,” she amends him; he let the irritation of her correcting him nipping at the tense muscles at the back of his neck pass, “Well apparently when you get kicked out of the Ascension club, you turn into a giant black cloud of energy. Anubis looks more like he’s made up of shadow than light actually.”
“That would explain why Colonel Sheppard did not see anything come out of Doctor McKay,” Teyla speaks up.
“It does more than just explain it, it confirms it. Sheppard couldn’t have seen a shadow go through the floor with how dark the floors were on the mothership let alone with the way McKay fell to the ground. Anubis could have slipped out Rodney’s back, directly into the floor, and slipped away into the level right below us. And none of us would have been the wiser.”
They make another left turn. And for the first time, John pays attention to where they’re at. It’s not a hallway he normally travels.
“Where are you going,” he finally asks her.
Kenmore stops and looks back at him.
“I am getting my son off this city. The Goa’uld like to take human hosts, the younger the better. That way the host grows up knowing only the Goa’uld way of life. I will not let my son be put in a cage. Especially that one,” she looks at Teyla, “I suggest you do the same for your son too.”
Teyla nods. Kenmore turns and runs up the hallway. Abandoning them for the sake of her child. Sheppard watches Kenmore’s fleeing back dodging in and out of the throng of people. Atlantis’ hallways weren’t normally this crowded; normally there was more warning before such an evacuation as this, like a hiveship in orbit or on approach, replicators, something. Then he turns to his left. But Teyla’s already turned and is running back to the transporter full tilt, dodging agilely in and out of the oncoming traffic too. Abandoning him for the sake of her child as well. He watched her practically fly into the opening transporter.
* * *
The Command Center was no longer a haven of a combination of business as usual and ease. Technicians that had been all around the city at the time of the evacuation call had flash-flooded into the center and were now breaking down what equipment that could be taken with them to either the Alpha site or onboard the Daedalus. As people scramble around him, Woolsey leans over a computer console by the command center’s entrance and checks its technician’s work. The man looks up at Woolsey, waiting. Woolsey looks down at him and nods. The technician, James Robbins who’s been with the Expedition since year one, continues with their procedure. Woolsey walks over to the computer console immediately to the right of the one Robbins was working on, it had already been abandoned. Woolsey leans over it, checks it, and clears it again. Then he turns and gives the still working technician a curt nod as he walks back into his office. The solid clear glass door slides shut behind him as he goes behind his desk and sits down, blocking out the sounds of what it was like to evacuate the city at her heart. But not the sights of it. Everything beyond the short little bridge to his office was all controlled chaos. Teamwork at it’s finest. Groups or duos of people shutting down apparatuses and helping each other to carry them out to a predesignated beaming location for the Daedalus to pick up both the machinery as well as the personnel or down below to the gateroom floor in preparation of the first gate connection to the Alpha site. With a heavy sigh, Richard reaches out to his sleeping laptop and wakes it up by pushing the ‘K’ button. He inputs his personal password and as soon as he’s in, he brings up the city’s main systems and calls up the program that would allow them to sink her. Silently he starts activating it right up to the second to last step. Then he brings the main systems’ window back up again and makes his way to the self-destruct program. There he also types his way up until the second to last step…
…then Woolsey takes a moment at his desk, staring at his computer screen split between the two near final protocols of damnation the city had to offer. John Sheppard walks across the bridge towards Woolsey’s office in a hurried pace, but when he sees Woolsey in a moment of silence through the glass, Sheppard slows down and quietly waits at the door for it to slide back open then walks into the office. And just as obediently and heedful, John Sheppard waits at the door for it to slide closed behind him again. Inside the room was practically deathly silent. Well, at least the Ancients were good at sound proofing.
“This city is always on the brink, isn’t it,” the administrator says without looking up.
Sheppard nods his head, “Yeah.”
“I’ve lost count of the times we’ve nearly lost the city under my command alone. In the first week, we almost lost her to a plant growing out of Doctor Keller’s stomach. Colonel Carter’s command had Replicator’s blowing down her door and Doctor Weir’s first year ended with her having to pretend to nuke the city in order to stop the Wraith from destroying it.”
“She’s survived a lot,” Sheppard tried to boost the man’s morale.
Woolsey continues to stare at his computer screen, clearly not buying it.
“Richard,” Woolsey looks up at Sheppard, never having really heard his name said in a tone of a conversation from one commander to another before, one friend to another. Sheppard finally moves to take the guest chair he normally took when sitting in this room, the one of the two chairs in front of Woolsey’s desk that was on the right, “She’ll survive. She’s been through tougher times than this.”
“John, Anubis is the Goa’uld who all of the other Goa’uld considered his crimes to be so heinous, even to them, that they banded together to force him into exile. He is the Goa’uld who created the Super Soldiers. Even after blowing up his fleet, he survived in our orbit in their remnants. And he’s survived being frozen to his host’s death on an ice planet. He is an enemy, a being, that may well have more access to this city than even Lieutenant Kenmore has. Forgive me, Colonel, but I’ve had to activate these systems far too many times.”
Richard Woolsey stands up, tugs the bottom hem of his uniform jacket neat and crisp and fastidious again, and turns his laptop around to show John Sheppard exactly what he was talking about. Silently Richard gathers up his notebook, comes out from behind his desk, walks past John, out his door, and back across the bridge into the bustling Command Center. John stares at the computer screen. The two systems, glowing in red, are waiting for the final two steps. And they require both commanders’ access codes.