Prompt: Tools and Weapons/Friendship
Word Count: ~42,100
Warnings/Spoilers: Set a few years in the future so anything and anyone can and do show up.
Summary: The discovery of an alien race that predated the Ancients in Pegasus leads to something no one ever thought they would see-- peace. But is it worth the price they have to pay?
[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]
They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
Dr. Rodney McKay
Personal Journal Entry
February 18, 2012
In 1962, the United States government, under mounting concerns regarding the purely military applications of their expanding nuclear arsenal, decided to investigate the use of nuclear weapons in civilian applications, such as mining and major excavations. Need a new canal like the one in Panama? Why not just blow the bejesus out of the ground with a nuke instead of spending decades excavating it? The project was dubbed Operation Plowshare, after the biblical concept of converting destructive weapons into tools of peace and progress. A noble concept at first glance; and the Plowshare test did manage to demonstrate you could make one hell of hole with a shallow burial detonation of a nuclear device. The test displaced over twelve million tons of dirt on the Nevada Test Site in a matter of seconds. In the process, it formed Sedan Crater, the largest manmade crater on Earth... the radioactive fallout from the test also contaminated the most U.S. residence of any weapons test before or since. But, hey, it's the thought that counts. Right? Apparently the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and plowshares can be just as dangerous as swords.
I drove past Sedan countless times on my way to Area 51 when I was stationed there, and I never really thought much about it beyond 'wow, that's one big-ass hole in the ground'. But for some reason, today when Sheppard and Todd were surrendering their weapons to the Eslaterans, a symbolic gesture to represent the truce that has been thrust upon us, I found my thoughts going back to that crater in the Nevada desert. Not to the good intentions meant to result from the peaceful applications of destructive weapons, but to the deadly fallout that occurred as a result.
December 12, 2011
"Eslateran?" Rodney demanded as he walked quickly beside Sheppard through the hallways of Atlantis. "An Eslateran settlement?"
"That's what he said," John responded, sounding unconcerned with Rodney's disbelieving tone.
McKay, however, still wasn't buying it. "You must have heard Lorne wrong."
Sheppard gave a small shrug. "Zelenka was standing right next to him during the transmission, and he seemed pretty damn excited when he confirmed it was Eslateran, so I think it might actually be Eslateran."
"But they don't exist!" Rodney insisted. "Even the Ancients decided the Eslaterans were just myth. How the hell could a myth build a settlement?"
"I'm just telling you what they're reporting back," Sheppard defended with a bit of exasperation.
They had found sporadic references in the database to a race that was believed to have even predated the Ancients in the Pegasus Galaxy. When the Ancients had arrived in Pegasus after leaving Earth millions of years before, they had determined the galaxy was devoid of sentient life and set to populating it. But there were also a few references to contentious debates among the Ancients residing in Atlantis a few thousand years before they left for Earth again regarding questionable findings on some worlds. Some felt the ruins were early Wraith settlements from when the species was still evolving from the Iratus bug. Others contended the remains were too advanced for such a primitive race that was still emerging and the artifacts must indicate a more advanced group had been in the galaxy prior to the Ancient's arrival. This mystery race was dubbed Eslaterans by those who supported such a notion. There were even theories that they had been capable of interdimensional travel. Apparently the idea that there was an earlier race spread throughout the populated worlds in the Pegasus Galaxy and took on a mythos all its own for a few generations. If the Ancients were the equivalent of the Olympian gods of Pegasus, then the Eslaterans were the Titans who had been cast down by the upstart Ancients. It was then that all references to the Eslaterans disappeared, as if the Ancients had intentionally stopped talking about them in order to quell these budding beliefs.
And now, over a million years later, Radek believed he'd found some proof they had actually existed on a practically barren planet?
"We went there ourselves less than a month ago and didn't find anything but a few foundations of old buildings. It was a total dead end mission," Rodney reminded. "It's why we sent Lorne's team back to do the final investigations."
They entered the control room where Woolsey and several techs were gathered around a small screen. The blue surface of the event horizon wavered fluidly within the gate, indicating the link with the team on the planet was still active.
"Radek's off his rocker," McKay snorted dismissively. "He's always been fascinated by those legends, and now he's let his imagination run away with him."
"If you say so, Rodney." Sheppard raised his eyebrows in a slightly condescending way, as if he knew something he wasn't telling and he was just going to let Rodney stick his foot in his mouth while he stood back and watched.
Rodney didn't have time to question him further as they had joined the others around the console.
"Dr. McKay has arrived," Woolsey informed the men on the other side of the wormhole. "Why don't you show him what you found?"
The frown on Rodney's face at John's previous patronizing tone morphed into an open-mouthed gape as Rodney looked at the screen with the video feed being sent back by the MALP. Radek beamed smugly, taking up most of the screen, and even Major Lorne, who was standing next to the scientist, looked pleased with himself. The two men parted like a curtain opening on a theater stage to reveal a cityscape in the distance behind them.
Rodney blinked as if to clear the image he was seeing. Surely it wasn't right. Surely this was some sort of mirage or optical illusion.
"That's... that's..." he stammered in shock. "It's not..."
"It is not Ancient," Radek supplied needlessly. Of course, it wasn't Ancient. The architecture was nothing like what was trademark of the Ancients, and yet it rivaled even Atlantis for sheer size and complexity of design. "And Major Lorne estimates it is one and half times the size of Atlantis."
"That's just a best guess based on a flyover in the jumper," Lorne clarified. "But I've never seen anything like it here in the Pegasus Galaxy."
Rodney managed to gather a bit of his faculties, enough to jab a finger at the image of the metropolis on the screen. "That was not there before."
"Trust me, McKay, even at your least observant, I doubt you would have missed that," Sheppard drawled. "And no one else on the team saw it either."
Woolsey nodded in agreement. "Which begs the question, where did it come from?"
Radek appeared again and scratched at the back of his neck. "Preliminary data is very rough and impossible to translate at this time as our programs have never encountered this language before. But there is something...an electromagnetic field, very weak, but the readings... Rodney, they are similar to what we saw when alternate you came to Atlantis."
If possible, McKay's eyes bugged even further. "Are you suggesting this city came from another reality?"
With a finger push to the bridge of his glasses, Radek shrugged. "Was that not one of the theories proposed by the Ancients as to where the Eslaterans went?"
Rodney looked between the screen and Sheppard, back to the screen, then back to Sheppard. "We need to go to that planet."
John simply grinned. "Teyla and Ronon are already gearing up."
* * * * *
Mission Report 6 of 23 for PX5003
Submitted by Dr. Radek Zelenka
December 18, 2011
Today we had a huge breakthrough with the translator program. While on a routine scouting mission through Sector A4 of the city, Major Slater's team discovered what appears to be a primary school. Basics of the planet's prior inhabitants' alphabet and beginning vocabulary have been programmed into the system, allowing for an exponential growth in the number of words in the translator dictionary. Rodney compared it to finding the alien equivalent of 'See Dick Run'. I, however, believe this could provide a veritable Rosetta Stone for the Eslateran language. After all, children's books were how most of us learned to read our native language, were they not? With today's input, the program has even begun to extrapolate conjugations of some basic verbs. At this rate, I project a viable translation program for the language within a few days.
The additional teams searching the city have also been of enormous benefit. Mapping of my assigned Sector A is at approximately 70% and appears to be predominantly residential dwellings and community infrastructure. The most amazing finds continue to be the simplest things- parks that are well landscaped as if the lawns were trimmed days before, dwellings where furniture and linens are perfectly preserved and there is unspoiled food in the pantries. It is as if the entire city simply slipped into stasis and did not age one moment past the time it went dormant. Only when it reawakened, the residents had vanished as none of the search teams have found any sign of living beings.
December 24, 2011
"McKay," John warned with a tap at his watch. "Tick, tock."
"Just five more minutes," Rodney assured...like he had the past dozen times.
"You said that the first time an hour ago," Ronon grumped, standing and stretching to work out the kinks in his back.
Sheppard knew how he felt. As exciting as the discovery of the city had been, the fascination was starting to wear a bit thin after nearly two weeks. Granted, he'd lived in Atlantis for nearly seven years and it was still as amazing as the first day he'd stepped through the gate. The difference was Atlantis responded to John's genes, whispered her secrets in a way he could feel in his bones, made him feel welcome. This city was just a bunch of buildings all tricked out but devoid of life. The lights were on but nobody was home, literally. To be honest, it was creepier than hell, like a bad zombie flick made real, and he kept expecting the living dead masses to appear shambling down the barren streets any day now.
McKay, however, was in geek heaven. John wasn't sure that Rodney was completely convinced the city had been built by the Eslaterans, probably because Zelenka was convinced they were the founders of this civilization. But as Rodney said himself, what they called them didn't matter, what they could learn about the technology was what was important.
"Do you have any idea what we've found here?" Rodney asked their Satedan teammate without looking up from the interface where he had managed to link his laptop. Alien text scrolled across the screen with the English translations appearing in a window at the bottom of the monitor. "No, don't bother answering, I know you don't."
"It is what appears to be a government facility that provides a central data link to various centers of education, research, and medical facilities throughout the city," Teyla supplied with thinning patience.
Rodney frowned when she gave the correct answer and mumbled, "Yes, that's right," before turning back to his data.
Good for Teyla; she must have been paying attention when Rodney was blabbing on and on earlier. For John's part, McKay had been pretty much right on target with the colonel's lack of knowledge about the building where they had spent the entire day.
Teyla crossed her arms at McKay's admission that she was correct. "Do you have any idea what day it is?"
"It's the day I make the breakthrough that will eventually lead to my Nobel?" He stopped what he was doing and seemed to perform some internal calculation before shrugging and going back to work. "Possibly my second Nobel depending on when certain critical wormhole-forming apparatus are finally declassified."
John sighed and explained as if to a child, "It's Christmas Eve, Rodney." No, not as if to a child, because a child would have known the date and why nobody wanted to be sitting in downtown Nightofthelivingdeadville when they could be back partying it up on Atlantis.
"Teyla and Ronon had never even heard of Christmas until they met us," Rodney argued.
"Over the years, Torren has grown quite fond of the annual holiday celebration," Teyla pointed out. "In fact, he is eager for Santa Claus to visit this year."
While Torren may have been excited about the Christmas traditions he'd learned from the expedition members, it was obvious from the glare Teyla shot at John that she was less than pleased by the new responsibilities she'd had thrust upon her this year.
"Hey, the kid asked about the fat guy in the red suits, I told him," John defended. "It's not my fault the notion appealed to him."
Teyla rolled her eyes. "Yes, why would any child be attracted to the concept of a multitude of toys being left overnight by a secret benefactor?"
"Hey, sign me up, too," Ronon volunteered.
"I have," Teyla informed him. "You are to act the role of Santa tonight when I put Torren to bed."
A pleased smile spread across Ronon's face. "Cool."
"Look," Rodney started in exasperation, "if you guys want to head back?"
John cut him off with a definitive shake of his head. "Oh, not on your life, McKay. This is exactly why we all came today; so we could make sure we all make it back to Atlantis before Christmas morning."
"Sheppard, you don't understand," Rodney implored, spreading his arms wide to encompass not just the room they were in but the entire city. "This is the best Christmas present I could ever imagine in my entire life. Except for maybe the second Nobel, but I can't get that if I don't have this." With a shake of his head to dismiss that notion, he turned the laptop around to show his team the seemingly endless stream of data. "Do you see this? It's a security code I'm trying to break. There's a whole parcel of data that is locked off and restricted."
"Maybe it's restricted for a reason, McKay," Ronon pointed out.
"Yes, because it's important... and possibly dangerous..." The entire team rolling their eyes at that confession only had Rodney talking faster. "But that could make it even more important. What if we've triggered something we didn't even know about when we arrived? What if this city is on a timer and it's going to vanish after a predetermined amount of time?"
"All the more reason to leave now," John stressed.
Rodney waved his hands as if to erase that thought he'd just planted in all their heads. "Okay, bad example. But the point is still valid that if there is some unknown security protocol protecting the city, the prudent thing to do would be to find out as much about it as possible."
John considered for a moment, then asked with a bit of dread, "How much longer do you think you'll need?"
McKay eagerly jumped on the chance to stay. "Half an hour, forty-five minutes to an hour tops."
Sheppard grimaced and checked his watch. An hour would still get them back to Atlantis in time for dinner, a little late but still in time. He scrubbed his face, really wanting to leave, but also admittedly curious to see what was being protected in the database. Finally, he turned to Teyla and Ronon.
"You two go on back to Atlantis. I'll stay here with McKay."
Ronon exchanged a quick glance with Teyla before shaking his head. "You set the rule about we all go together."
"Well, now, I'm changing the rule. As team leader that's my prerogative."
"Ronon is right," Teyla agreed. "And half an hour more will make very little difference on tonight's festivities."
John didn't have a chance to argue anymore because Rodney let out a triumphant cry.
"Ah ha! I cracked the security barrier. I'm in!"
"So can we go?" Ronon asked hopefully.
McKay, however, didn't seem to hear him. His smug grin had transmuted into a brow furrowed in confusion. And that was always something to worry about.
"What?" Sheppard asked in growing concern. "What did you find?"
"It's medical surveillance data," Rodney told them.
"Oh, hell," John groaned. "What is it? An active virus? A dormant plague we've unleashed? What?"
Rodney shook his head. "No, nothing like that. It's just vital statistics on five individuals that appear to be perfectly healthy."
"So?" Ronon asked.
Rodney looked up, blue eyes wide in a childlike wonder at finding an unexpected gift under his Christmas tree that even Torren would envy. "These perfectly healthy individuals are currently being monitored... today... right here in the city."
* * * * *
SGC Mission Update: Atlantis Expedition
Submitted by Richard Woolsey, Expedition Leader
December 25, 2011
It appears that PX5003 continues to be full of surprises. Despite several flyovers with jumpers combined with building by building searches of the city with Life Signs Detectors that had shown no evidence of sentient beings, Dr. McKay stumbled upon five viable life signs in a computer database he was accessing yesterday. Colonel Sheppard once again flew over the city and was able to locate the life signs in a building that had just been searched two days prior with no signs of life. The five individuals, their gender is indistinguishable at this time, seem to be in some sort of suspended animation or stasis, although there is no stasis pod or similar technology like we have seen with the Ancients. They are simply standing, unresponsive, on a platform, almost like statues. Photos taken by Colonel Sheppard's team are attached to this report and show they are humanoid in appearance, although they stand well over six and a half feet tall with a pale green tint to their skin and no hair. There are, for lack of a better way to describe them, gill slits on their cheeks and their noses are little more than a ridge down the centerline of their faces.
Dr. Beckett, with his extensive background in genetics, has been given the lead of the medical team who will be working the Dr. McKay to determine how to proceed with awakening these new arrivals, or perhaps returning inhabitants, of the Pegasus Galaxy...
December 27, 2011
Carson was at his wits end, and this time it had little to do with Rodney and Radek...well, relatively little to do with them.
"See?" The Czech scientist jabbed an insistent finger over Rodney's shoulder to point at the readings on the laptop. "There! The blip! It is consistent with phase modulation readings?"
Rodney cut him off with a sharp shake of his head. "For the last time, there is no phase modulation of the field because there is no field to modulate."
"But the blip!"
"Oh, you mean the static? The completely random background interference?" Rodney typed a few staccato strokes into the keyboard. "Look for yourself. Ever since you got on the blip kick I've been recording them and they are completely random. No pattern, no rhyme or reason, no anything but background noise from the sensors."
"Perhaps they are random by design..."
Carson did his best to block out the never-ending argument between the two men and tried to concentrate on his own confounding data. The physician had run every test he could think on the people they had found and nothing made any sense. Of course, how was he supposed to make sense out of data that was unlike anything he had ever seen before? They had green blood that was nearly devoid of iron but was high in other metals like copper and zinc, with an oxygen contents twice that of a human's. Carson was able to identify some of the basic human organs through body scans such as heart, lungs, and stomach, but their locations were in completely different places in the bodies, mainly to make room for the eight unidentified 'extra' organs he'd also seen.
Perhaps the most confusing thing was why they didn't move, didn't respond to stimulus, didn't do anything but stand there with muscles locked against any attempt to move them. Monitoring their brain activity showed they were on the level of a fully awake, alert, and actively engaged human, yet their physical responses were at the bottom of the Glasgow Coma Scale, if you could even apply that to an alien species that had appeared out of nowhere. For all he knew about them, this could be their normal state.
Carson's gaze drifted to the medical monitor readouts, as if the patterns he'd been observing for the past two days would somehow magically resolve themselves and reveal all the answers about this mysterious species. The EEG pattern on one of the humanoids spiked, as if the being were engaging his higher brain functions.
Behind him, Radek exclaimed, "There! It is another blip in the field."
Rodney was already pointing out all the reasons why there was no field to blip against, but Carson frowned at the coincidence.
"Rodney," Carson called, "could you show me the readout of all these blips you've recorded?"
"Not you, too, Carson," Rodney sighed in exasperation.
"I just want to see something is all," Carson assured.
Radek, obviously curious of what Carson was thinking, moved the laptop he and Rodney had been studying and sat it beside the one Carson was using. "What have you found?"
"It may be nothing at all," Carson admitted as he pulled up the log of EEG data, "but the last 'blip' you noticed coincided with a spike on the EEG readout of the middle fellow there."
Carson still couldn't tell male from female of the species given their unusual physiology, which led him to speculate if they could change gender at will or during different cycles of their life like some Earth fish could do, or perhaps they were neither gender like the Asgards had been.
Carson's last observation about the blip, however, caught Rodney's attention, and he quickly elbowed his way in past Radek. "Let me see."
Sure enough, after reviewing the last day's worth of data from both their energy monitoring and Carson's EEG readings, they saw that the spikes and anomalies lined up perfectly.
Radek shook his head in wonder. "We are able to detect their brain activity on our energy sensors? That is... well, it is unheard of."
Rodney, however, was busily typing in commands to his computer.
Carson furrowed his brow. "What are you doing?"
"Converting the energy readings into a tonal matrix to see if there is a discernable pattern," Rodney explained.
"Tonal matrix?" Carson asked in confusion. "Like music? You think they're singing?"
Rodney sighed. "Yes, Carson, the weird, green, bipedal, fish aliens came all this way to sing you a song. Do you have any requests? Maybe break out a lighter and they'll sing Free Bird."
Rodney didn't even notice Carson's glower as he was busy working on his conversion, so Carson turned to Radek for a more sympathetic explanation to his question.
"There are several physical consistencies throughout the universe, certain mathematically consistencies... Pi, prime numbers and exponential growth for example. But if we do not know the basic mathematical vocabulary of an alien species, the math can be translated into sound, frequency, harmonics."
"Like in the movie Close Encounters?" Carson supplied, finally grasping what Radek was suggesting. When Radek nodded in approval, Carson's eyes widened. "You think they're trying to communicate with us?" He stood quickly and went to look over Rodney's shoulder. "What are they saying?"
Rodney turned up the volume on his computer so that they could hear a tone, then another, then another. Carson had never had an ear for music, so when Rodney smiled happily he was lost.
"Do you hear that?" Rodney wagged a finger at the computer.
It was a series of notes, then a chord that sounded somewhat off. Not bad, just not the typical 'do, ray, me' Carson was used to hearing. "The notes sound...different. Is that important?"
Rodney played the sequence again. "It's a scale progression proposed by Harrison that's not widely used since it's not standard on most western instruments."
"George Harrison?" Carson asked, perplexed as to how the Beatles fit into this whole thing.
Rodney shook his head. "John Harrison?an 18 th century mathematician. He developed a whole musical theory that is based on Pi." He grinned broadly at the implications. "I think they're trying to say hello."
"So what do we do now?" Carson wasn't sure if he was more boggled that they were trying to communicate using music or that they were doing it with their bloody minds.
Rodney shrugged, still smiling. "We find a way to say hello back."
* * * * *
Mission Report for PX5003
Transcribed from tape recording by Ronon Dex
January 3, 2012
Okay, this is Ronon Dex recording my mission report for PX5003. The date is [pause and sigh, incoherent mumbling that possibly says stupid Earth calendar] I don't know, I think we finished December with the big party a few days ago, so that would make it January...third maybe... or fourth. [soft chuckle] That was one hell of a party. [clears throat]
Anyway, remember about a week ago I told you about how the Eslaterans started singing with their minds and McKay was all, [changes voice to mimic Dr. M.R. McKay] 'They're trying to communicate with us using math and music and all sorts of crap no one else can understand but me.' Then Zelenka got pissed and said he understood it, and then Carson got all in a huff and said he kind of understood it, too, and McKay said they were just saying they understood it so they didn't look stupid. That's when Sheppard and Teyla had to step in and keep them from punching each other, and Zelenka accidently touched Teyla's breast trying to get at McKay. Radek started babbling a lot of words nobody could understand, breathing really fast, and passed out. [snicker] Then we had chicken for dinner that same night, and when the line cook asked if Zelenka wanted a breast or thigh, he had to sit with his head between his knees so he didn't pass out again. [louder snicker].
So, since Radek can't be in the same room with McKay or Teyla, McKay had to get one of the other scientists to start working with him, one of the language guys...I can't remember his name but he doesn't have much hair... then again, half the scientists don't have much hair. Anyway, this guy and McKay downloaded the translation program into the computers and used it to teach the statue guys how to talk, and they started singing different things with their brains that said they were stuck between dimensions and they told McKay how to fix it. McKay's been doing his thing for the past few days and me, Teyla, and Sheppard have been taking shifts staying with him so he eats and sleeps and doesn't try to strangle somebody with an extension cord for plugging something in wrong. While I was there with him today, whatever he did finally worked, because the Eslaterans moved. They kind of stumbled forward, like they had been pulling against something that finally let them go. One of them said, "We are grateful", then they all vanished, like they were bubbles popping. Just, poof! Gone.
I think McKay thought he might have killed them. He kept checking his computer and was yelling about it not being his fault. But a few minutes later, they popped back, said they had reported what they had learned to their superiors and were ready to start negotiations to those in command here. I have no clue what they plan to negotiate, but they're talking to you [Note: 'you' is believed to refer to R. Woolsey based on prior history with R. Dex transcriptions], Sheppard, and McKay now, so anything else that happens, you can report yourself.
January 3, 2012
Richard Woolsey wouldn't say he was a born negotiator, but he had some fairly impressive notches on his diplomatic belt. He certainly didn't have the experience that Elizabeth Weir had, but his time with the SGC had offered him numerous chances to represent his country and his planet in an ambassadorial capacity. Still, hosting a delegation of a species that was as old, if not older, than the Ancients themselves was quite a responsibility, and he locked his hands behind his back when the incoming worm hole from PX5003 established in the control room. Colonel Sheppard came to stand beside him.
"What did Ronon have to say about our guests?" Richard asked about the recently returned Satedan.
"Tall, green, weird," Sheppard crossed his arms casually across his chest. "About what you'd expect Ronon to tell you."
"This is a momentous day, Colonel," Woolsey noted with a small bounce on his toes.
"So you've said," Sheppard acknowledged with a small tip of his head, apparently unfazed by the prospect of meeting the Eslaterans.
Richard blinked at him, nonplused, from behind his glasses. "You don't agree?"
The colonel gave a minute shrug. "Well, you know, you've met one super-advanced alien race..."
Before Richard could respond, Dr. McKay stepped through the stargate, followed by five tall, lithe, pale green humanoids dressed in identical, long robes made of a thin, white fabric. Dr. Blaylock from linguistics and a few marines brought up the rear. Woolsey stepped forward, ready to greet the delegation, but stopped when he noticed Colonel Sheppard's previously casual stance stiffen.
Dr. McKay seemed to be as unsure about what to do as Richard was, but he waved a hand between the first alien and Woolsey. "This is Richard Woolsey. He's our expedition leader."
Rodney ducked his head self-consciously and stepped back behind Sheppard, as if thankful to be done with his half of the introductions. Richard was caught off guard by how Dr. McKay hadn't volunteered a name for their guests, but he recovered quickly.
"Welcome to Atlantis. It is an honor to have you here." When the five aliens tilted their heads in unison, Richard took that as an acknowledgement of his greeting. "Forgive me for asking, but how do you prefer to be addressed?"
"However you see fit," the first humanoid told him in a struggling, thickly accented speech. Not only did they seem unfamiliar with the sounds and patterns of the language, they seemed almost incapable of forming the words with their mouths.
Regardless of their impediments with speech, Richard still had no idea what to call them. He looked to McKay and Blaylock for some help in the matter, and both men just shrugged. Turning back to his guests, Woolsey asked, "Do you have names or titles?"
"We are," the same being informed him.
Woolsey waited, thinking the declaration would be followed up by something more... we are called Bob, we are pleased to meet you, we are hungry, we are confused... anything. But there was no more. They simply stared at him with the same serene expressions on their faces that hadn't wavered since they walked through the gate, the gill slits on their cheeks fluttering as they breathed. This was apparently the Eslateran equivalent of I think therefore I am.
They simply are.
"I see." Richard gave them a pained smile before calling, "Dr. Blaylock?"
The linguist stepped forward and spoke quietly. "From the best I can gather, they have been aware of other species in the universe, but have never encountered them. Therefore, they have never had any reason to define themselves as anything more than just themselves. It's similar to the Sioux on Earth referring to themselves as 'the people'."
"And the lack of names?" That was perhaps the most disconcerting since the only other group Woolsey had ever encountered who didn't refer to themselves as individuals was the Wraith.
"It appears they recognize and distinguish one another by some other means? scent, telepathy, aura. I don't believe spoken language it common for them."
Of course. Nothing was ever easy around here was it? Well, it wasn't like he'd been able to remember half the names of the fifty-seven delegates the Rylish had brought to the trade negotiations last year. He'd find a way to improvise around this, too.
Richard took a deep breath and gave a single sharp nod. "Thank you, doctor." Waving an arm toward the stairs, he advised his guests, "If you'll follow me, I'll show you to the conference room. I've made arrangements for some refreshments, but if there is anything that you would prefer or need, please let me know and we'll do everything in our power to accommodate you."
The aliens tilted their heads in unison again and Richard started up the stairs beside them. A few steps behind, Colonel Sheppard and Dr. McKay followed.
"Where the hell are your guns?" Sheppard hissed in a whisper, and Richard finally understood what had the colonel on edge.
"Gone," Rodney told him.
"What do you mean gone?" Sheppard demanded.
"They don't like weapons in their city," Dr. McKay explained. "So they made them go to wherever it was they came from."
"To another dimension?" Colonel Sheppard couldn't seem to believe what he was hearing and neither could Woolsey. "How?"
"I have no idea," Rodney admitted, "and they aren't saying. But one minute we were standing there with our guns, listening to them singing to each other and the next they were just gone. Mine, the marines', every one of them."
That was enough to have Richard halting his climb up the stairs and asking Dr. Blaylock to show the contingent to the conference room. Once they were out of earshot, he turned his attention to the two men behind him whose conversation was quickly turning into an argument.
"Can they do the same to our weapons here?" Sheppard asked in growing concern.
"In all likelihood, yes," Dr. McKay snapped.
The colonel, not surprisingly, was not happy to hear that. "And you brought them here anyway?"
Rodney rolled his eyes and fluttered his fingers mystically. "They can Siegfried and Roy our guns into another dimension. Do you seriously think I could have kept them from coming here if they really wanted to?"
Sheppard turned pleading eyes toward Woolsey. "Sir?"
Richard knew what he was thinking? get these people the hell out of my city? but Richard raised a hand to silence him. "Is there no way we could block them from doing the same here? Possibly raise the shield around the city?"
"Did I mention they sent them to another dimension?" McKay stressed again. "This isn't an alternate or parallel reality in the multiverse like Rod came from. From what we can gather, this is another unique standalone reality all together."
Colonel Sheppard crinkled his brow. "Do those even exist?"
"Hellooo?" Dr. McKay jabbed a finger in the direction their visitors had gone. "Did you see the big, green aliens who just walked past us and made our guns vanish? Did you have any idea they existed a month ago?"
Sheppard frowned and turned to Woolsey. "No offense to your momentous occasion, Mr. Woolsey, but this sucks."
"None taken," Richard mumbled, just as unpleased by the turn of events.
"Look," Rodney told them, "Blaylock has done his best to explain why we have the weapons in the first place, that we mean no harm to them, and that by inviting them into our home knowing full well what they can do, that they will accept this gesture of friendship in the manner in which it was offered andnot make our only defenses against our enemies vanish."
"And you believe they'll abide by this agreement?" Richard asked dubiously.
McKay patted the gun strapped to Sheppard's thigh. "So far, so good."
The colonel stepped away and placed a hand protectively over the sidearm. "So it's like when you brought your girlfriend home from college to meet your parents and you had to sleep in separate rooms. You're expected to abide by the rules of the house you're in."
Rodney shifted awkwardly. "I'll have to take your word on that, Sheppard, seeing as I was never faced with that particular quandary during my college years."
Sheppard sighed and started up the stairs toward the conference room. "Yeah, well, the problem is, I never kept my word or abided by those rules during mine."
Richard fell into step behind him. "Let's just hope our guests have a better moral compass than most twenty-year-old males when it comes to keeping agreements."
The delegates were seated at the table when the three men arrived in the conference room. Woolsey smiled as he entered the room. "Is everything to your liking? Can I get you anything?"
"Our needs satisfactorily met at this time," the one being assured him in his broken speech, apparently the designated speaker for the group. It looked around the room curiously. "This city built by others." Five sets of bulbous eyes drifted to rest on Colonel Sheppard. "Your ancestors."
Sheppard seemed caught off guard by the question and Rodney quickly shook his head no, indicating he hadn't told them anything about the colonel's natural ATA gene.
"The people who built this city," Richard interjected smoothly, "who we call the Ancients, traveled to this planet, this galaxy, from our home world, Earth, millions of years ago. Then ten thousand years ago they returned to Earth where there genetics were passed down to some of our population through many generations."
"We became aware of others, your ancestors, when they arrived here. It is they who trapped us." The five then looked to Rodney. "We are grateful for assistance."
"Oh," Dr. McKay stumbled, "glad to help. Any time."
Richard was genuinely surprised. "It was Ancient technology that kept you from returning? How?"
They tilted their heads, ignored the question, then the spokesperson stated, "We wish to see ours. They dwell among you."
"Yours?" Rodney asked in confusion. "Your what?"
"Ours," the being repeated, as if it should be clear as day. "They dwell among you, here in this city."
"Descendents?" Woolsey thought must be what they were trying to say. "You have descendents living here in Atlantis?"
"Three are here," it acknowledged with a tilt of its head. "A female, a male, their youngling. They are ours."
Richard furrowed his brow. There was only one family with a small child in the city.
Sheppard spoke up then. "Teyla? Teyla and her family are your descendents?"
* * * * *
Halling, greetings and well met.
Dr. Keller has reported the outbreak of Scardas Fever is waning in the village, which is wonderful news to everyone. Teyla and I had hoped to accompany this latest shipment of medical supplies to New Athos now that the quarantine has been lifted, but as is often the case on Atlantis, events have taken an extraordinary turn. You have no doubt heard word of the discovery of the Eslaterans, a name the Ancestors gave to this strange race countless generations before, and one the Earth people have adopted as these being do not refer to themselves by any name of their own. Two days ago, an envoy of Eslaterans arrived in the city. They have brought news that may impact not just my family, but all Athosians. These beings, who claim to have inhabited this galaxy long before the Ancestors arrived, have singled out Teyla, Torren, and myself as possibly being their descendents. If this is true, our lineage may not have been brought about by the Ancestors, but may actually precede them. Can you imagine, Halling? Yet more of what we have believed of the Ancestors may not be true. It is still unclear at this time if this revelation applies to all humans in the Pegasus galaxy or just a select few. However, if they believe Teyla and I to both be of their line, then it suggests all Athosians may be the same.
I have asked Major Lorne to deliver this letter directly into your hands, as I believe it best to keep this information to ourselves until a more definitive conclusion can be reached. Our people have been shaken deeply over the past several years, with Michael's treachery only the latest trial we have endured. The Athosian people have proven themselves strong, and I have no doubt we can handle anything that may come, but I do not want to concern anyone needlessly if it can be avoided. I only wish that I or Teyla could have delivered this message in person. However, Dr. Beckett is running various medical tests to determine the validity of the Eslateran's claims. Once we have definitive results, we will let you know the conclusions.
Unfortunately, it is not only the medical tests that keep me from you and our people. There is something, I cannot say what exactly, that sets me on edge with these beings. Of course, their physical appearance is alien, but it is more than that. All I can say is, while they have shown no malice or hostilities toward anyone here, and indeed seem to be a peaceful race, I do not trust them. I believe Teyla feels the same as she has yet to agree to let them see Torren, although they have requested repeatedly. Perhaps the memories of Michael's attempt to take our son are still too fresh in our minds and are clouding our perception of the Eslaterans. Maybe we are simply more protective of our child than is necessary and there is nothing to fear. I hope that is the case, just as I hope for the return of health to the residence of New Athos.
Peace and long days for us all,
January 6, 2012
Teyla stopped and sighed at the sight of the small shoe in the middle of the floor in her quarters. "Torren," she called, trying to keep the strain from her voice, "you must not remove your shoes. Amelia will be here shortly to take you to the pier."
Torren had reached an age where he believed clothing to be optional and, preferably, absent. Normally, in the privacy of their quarters, neither Teyla nor Kanaan were too particular about their child's state of dress or, more commonly, undress. However, trips to the pier were another matter. She just counted herself fortunate that a shoe was all Torren had chosen to remove.
Perhaps she had been too hasty with her thoughts, considering the way Kanaan exited the bedroom with a giggling and wiggling Torren slung over his shoulder with the boy's shirt in his hand. "I shall hold him while you dress him?"
"Of course, you always choose the easy task," Teyla countered with only a small amount of jest, struggling to put a small arm through the hole of the shirt as Torren's laughter quickly turned to complaining.
"Enough!" Teyla scolded once the shirt was in place and Torren continued to squirm. "Your father and I have an important meeting, and we will be late if you continue to misbehave."
Sensing the stress in Teyla's voice, Kanaan offered, "I can stay and you go ahead. Amelia should be here shortly and I will follow once she arrives."
Teyla shook her head as she retrieved the discarded shoe. "This is important to both of us... to all of us," she amended with a meaningful look at their son. Carson was going to report on the findings of his medical tests and what, if any, link there was between Teyla's family and the Eslaterans. "You need to hear this as much as I."
Kanaan nodded in understanding and tried to alleviate the tension in the room by tickling Torren as soon as Teyla finished tying his shoe. Her son's fits of laughter had her own mood lightening at the sound. Ever since John had summoned her to meet the Eslaterans, she could not seem to shake the feeling of dread their pronouncement had brought.
"You are one of ours," the spokesperson had announced as soon as she entered the conference room. "We sense it."
There was something about the use of the possessive word 'ours' that sent a shudder down Teyla's spine. Mr. Woolsey had suggested afterward that it was probably a simple matter of translation, but Teyla could not shake the feeling that it was more.
The chime at her door had Teyla standing and opening it to see Amelia wearing an abashed smile. "I'm so sorry I'm late. Chuck had to recheck a glitch in the dialing sequence and I couldn't get out of the?"
Her excuse was cut off by Torren running across the room with an excited, "Amelia!"
Amelia scooped him up into a hug. "Hey, there, kiddo. You ready to head to the pier to feed the sea birds?"
Torren held up the bag of bread scraps he had collected from the cafeteria. "Yep. You betcha'"
Teyla rolled her eyes at the Earth vernacular Torren had easily acclimated into his own speech before telling Amelia, "We should easily be finished before dinner."
"No worries," Amelia assured. "We'll be fine."
"No worries, mama," Torren echoed.
While she had no concerns for Torren in Amelia's care, she wished she could say the same about their meeting. Covering that unease, she gave Torren a quick kiss. "Mind Amelia."
"And try to remain clothed," Kanaan added with a ruffle to the boys dark hair.
They parted ways, with Torren and Amelia heading for a transporter to the outer piers while Teyla and Kanaan made their way toward the main hub of the city. Less than halfway there, they ran into John, Rodney, and Ronon.
"See?" Rodney pointed out when he saw Teyla. "I told you we wouldn't be late."
John checked his watch. "Just because they're late, doesn't make us not late."
"Sure it does," Rodney reasoned. "The only reason we're going to this is to see what Carson has to say about them. Since the briefing can't start without them, any time we arrive before them, we're early."
"But the meeting was supposed to start five minutes ago," Teyla reminded.
Rodney shook his head. "Doesn't matter. Meeting start times are relative to the importance and subsequent arrival times of the attendees. Regardless of my arrival time in relation to the scheduled start time, as long as I arrive before the preeminent attendees," he waved a hand at Teyla and Kanaan, "I cannot be late."
"Does the same apply to Kanaan and me?" Teyla asked, her lips quirking at the conversation.
"Oh, no." Rodney snorted. "You two are definitely late,"
"But we're not?" Ronon asked as if to clarify.
Rodney pinched his thumb and forefinger together to pinpoint his explanation. "Not as long as we arrive before or at the same time as them."
John raised an eyebrow in consideration. "So you're suggesting there is some flux in the time space continuum that takes place at the plane of the conference room door and is triggered by who enters first?"
"Exactly," Rodney agreed. "It's called the Agenda Paradox."
"And Woolsey will buy this theory?" John challenged.
"Highly doubtful," Rodney admitted. "But we can take comfort in the fact that we'll be joining a long line of prominent names in the fields of math and science who were persecuted for their beliefs."
"Or you could have stopped playing Mario Kart ten minutes earlier," John pointed out.
"Or that, too," Rodney conceded.
It was amazing how the familiar banter of her teammates could put Teyla at ease. Even their first year together, when some had questioned the loyalty of the Athosians, John and Rodney had been among the first to stand behind her and her people as allies to the expedition. The four men walking with her were the people she trusted more than any others in her life. Having them here made her feel safe, no matter what Carson's results showed.
Ronon bumped her shoulder as they walked. "Nervous?"
Teyla took a deep breath. "More anxious to hear what Carson has to say. The waiting has been most trying." She brushed fingers lightly on Kanaan forearm. "On both of us."
"Well, the waiting's almost over," Ronon offered, and he was right.
Carson wasted no time in delving into his findings once they arrived in the conference room where he and Mr. Woolsey were waiting.
"The tests are fairly conclusive," the physician informed them. "In comparing the DNA samples from Teyla, Kanaan, and Torren, to those collected from the Eslaterans, I was able to segregate a distinct DNA marker that was common to all the samples."
Teyla's stomach clenched at the news and Kanaan reached out and placed his hand on top of hers.
"So what does that mean?" John asked, a frown on his face.
"The marker is similar to the SNP marker that was used on Earth to map the human genome back to Mitochondrial Eve." When most everyone in the room looked confused, Carson shook his head. "It's a way to trace the entire human population back to a common ancestor. Of course, the furthest we've traced back to a common human ancestry on Earth is tens of thousands of years, and it has been at least a million years since the Eslaterans left Pegasus and became trapped in the other dimension. Therefore, the number and significance of evolutionary mutations taking place between the time they left and now are expected to be quite large. And yet despite all that, this marker is distinct enough to suggest there is a common lineage between your family and the Eslaterans."
"Then we are their descendents?" Kanaan asked. "Will this be true of all the Athosians?"
"No," Carson told him with certainty, "because there's more to it than that. This marker is the same that we isolated to show Teyla had Wraith DNA."
Oddly, Teyla almost found the news comforting. She knew she and Kanaan both had the gift of sensing the Wraith and that it was a result of the Wraith DNA in their bodies. And if she and Kanaan had the genes, then, of course, Torren most likely would, as well. Since the DNA had been a result of genetic manipulation of Athosians in the past by the Wraith, they were not true descendents of the Eslaterans.
The same, however, could not be said about the Wraith.
Rodney came to that conclusion very quickly. "The Wraith are descended from the Eslaterans?"
"It would appear so," Carson confirmed.
Mr. Woolsey held up a hand. "Wait a moment, Doctor. I thought the Wraith were a result of a mutation caused by the Iratus bugs feeding on humans."
"Aye, that has been my theory for years." Carson shrugged. "But the data is fairly conclusive. I even double checked it against some Wraith DNA we have on file. There is definitely a link between the Eslaterans and the Wraith, although that commonality is very...primitive."
Ronon asked what Teyla was thinking. "What's that mean?"
"Considering that in the same time period since the Eslaterans vanished from Pegasus, humans on Earth have evolved from Homo erectus into Homo sapiens, I would expect the offspring of the Eslaterans to have evolved further than the Wraith." Carson's examples had little meaning to Teyla, but what he said next cleared it up some. "It is as if they took an evolutionary step back instead of forward."
"Unless the Wraith didn't evolve directly from the Eslaterans," Rodney broke in. "Just like Homo sapiens didn't evolve directly from Neanderthals."
Carson seemed to consider the idea for a moment before brightening. "An off shoot from the family tree of a common genetic ancestor."
"Like maybe the Iratus bug," Rodney suggested.
"Wait," Ronon broke in. "So the Wraith and the Eslaterans started out as Iratus bugs?"
"I would have to run a few more tests," Carson told them, "but it is a very viable theory."
"Great," John sighed. "So if the Wraith and Eslaterans are cousins, where the hell does that leave us?"
Teyla thought that was a very good question.
* * * * *
Sent: January 10, 2012
Subject: Care packages
Thanks for sending the holiday care package. Like I say every year, you don't have to do it, but it's greatly appreciated. Although, next year, you might want to send Rodney more cookies since he keeps trying to steal mine. Sorry it's taken me so long to write this thank you note, but I'm sure Rodney has gone against regulation and told you about our new guests we have here. They're kind of weird, keep to themselves, but are anxious to meet some of their relatives here in the neighborhood. We're heading out tomorrow to round up Todd now that he finally decided to answer his phone. We figured of all the relations, he's the only one we can stand to have hanging around and getting reacquainted with his cousins. Well, at least some people think he is. I'm not so sure myself. But, hey, that's what hand guns are for. Right?
Anyway, I'm sure Rodney will fill you in on all the details you're not supposed to know. Thanks again for the gift, and don't forget to send more cookies... for Rodney... or to me in anticipation of Rodney stealing them.
Give the family my best,
* * * * *
Continued in Part Two