Five Times Atlantis Died

by Domenika Marzione

one

"Rodney, do you have any gate addresses for this galaxy?" Weir asks and Marshall watches McKay try to come up with a way to say no when the answer is clearly yes.

"Dial one," he tells McKay. Orders him. Because the building is collapsing around them, after which there is nothing but a failing shield to keep them from death by drowning far beneath the ocean surface. He did not leave the war in the desert to die in some other galaxy's ocean. He taps his radio. "Marines, get everyone and everything back into the gate room. Now. What they can't carry gets left behind, but make sure we've got the food."

McKay hasn't moved, rooted to the spot mostly by fear and partially because he's still waiting for Weir to validate the command. McKay has fought him tooth and nail over every little thing from the moment he came on board and Marshall is long past sick of it and fresh out of patience. "Now, Doctor, unless you'd like to have two hundred deaths on your hands, starting with your own."

"Go, Rodney," Weir says and Marshall can hear the concession in her voice. He's fought with McKay, but his battles with Weir have been far more delicate and, as a result, he's lost a lot more of them. But not now, not when it counts. Later on, when they're safe, he'll give her full marks for knowing when to withdraw. But right now, he's got an emergency evacuation to oversee.

McKay goes back to one of the consoles, the one that looks like the Ancient Speak & Spell, and starts fooling around with the laptop next to it.

"Lieutenant, where is Major Sheppard?" Sheppard had been attached to Weir's side, shadowing her as both protector and protege. He'd been making the consoles light up like a Christmas tree -- which is why they'd brought him -- but with the power dropping, that become counterproductive and he wandered off, presumably to stay away from crucial systems he could activate. With Sheppard, however, it was hard to tell.

Ford looks at him with wide eyes, an all-too-familiar expression, and Marshall rolls his own. "Find him, please?" he growls. Ford mumbles an 'aye aye' and disappears.

Over the radio, he can hear the various teams barking orders to civilians. The marines have their own channel and he can switch over to the civilian one if he wants, but that'll probably be all chaos and complaining in a dozen languages and he spares himself that aggravation as he'll be getting it face-to-face soon enough. He's standing on a tiny balcony and looks down at the boxes and laden trucks accumulating on the floor below.

"Sergeants, start sorting crates," he tells Laganzo and Toussaint, standing nearby. Knowing that none of the civilians would be focusing on contingency plans and not trusting the Air Force brass to be useful in the matter, Marshall had spent some of the ramp-up time familiarizing himself and his marines with the equipment manifest and what the essential items looked like. The marines had thought him a little nuts for giving pop quizzes on what was in the blue plastic crates versus the gray ones and learning the names of medicines being brought by the doctors. But they learned what they needed to and now, if they have to ditch crates during this hasty egress, he can be sure that they aren't going to wind up with five dozen microscopes and no potable water.

There is a noise from above them -- not directly above them, but over the stargate and Marshall runs back to the stairs, Weir behind him, to see what it is. Beyond the people and supplies directly below, if the stargate gets blocked by falling rubble, then they're all fucked.

It's not falling rubble. It's a fucking space ship, with Sheppard in the cockpit and Ford sitting next to him. "Might be useful, sir," Sheppard says over the intercom as the ship -- a fucking ugly log of a vehicle -- as it hovers at eye level.

"Park it and fill it," Marshall says, not sure Sheppard can hear him. But the ship floats down to the floor and a ramp opens up in the back. Sheppard comes out and runs up the stairs to meet him, dodging Eversby and Stackhouse, both of whom are carrying crates of medical supplies.

"There's a bay above us," he says, gesturing. "Another half-dozen of 'em."

Marshall nods. He's not sure where they're going or what they're going to do with a ship that's probably the Ancient equivalent of a scout vessel. (It's too small to be used for transport and can't possibly be intended for offense.) But having a ship has got to be better than not having a ship. "How hard are they to fly?"

Sheppard's a pilot, a damned good one, and while that hasn't mattered for the last six months, suddenly it does.

"They're pretty intuitive, sir," Sheppard says, "but they need someone with the gene to get them started. I don't know about the flying part."

"Great," Marshall sighs. Gate only works one way, so there's probably no chance to make more than one trip.

"But there seems to be some sort of auto-pilot for getting out of the bay," Sheppard goes on. "I'm pretty sure that once they're initialized, all you have to do is launch them and they'll go. The question is what they do on the other side of the wormhole when someone doesn't have the gene."

Nodding, Marshall taps his radio button and recalls Markham to the gate room. "He's got the gene. See if you can't teach him not to crash-land one of those things."

"Yes, sir," Sheppard replies. There's something in Sheppard's eyes that wasn't there on Earth. Maybe it's the residue of the drugged-out look he had when all of Atlantis apparently tried to react to him at once, maybe it's what he looked like before he'd been exiled to the ends of the Earth for pissing off the wrong brass once too often. If things are going to go to hell, Marshall will need Sheppard to be more his man and less Weir's, so it's something to keep in mind.

Markham must've been close by, since he appears almost immediately. Sheppard takes him to the now-packed ship -- chiding the marines for not leaving a walkway through to the cockpit -- and the ship lifts up with a relatively gentle downdraft, back up from whence it came.

Marshall takes a deep breath once it is gone, looking up to where McKay is still working and Weir is standing, a little apart. She looks like what she is, the embodiment of being careful of what you wish for.

"I think I've got some addresses," McKay announces as Marshall passes through the doorway into the control room. "If you can clear enough space for a MALP to get through, we can start checking them out."


two

Manaria is pleasant, even if it reminds Yoni of nothing so much as an old BBC set. Every time the heavy wooden door swings open, he's not sure whether to expect the Spanish Inquisition or Blackadder coming through, since it's too early for Sheppard or Weir. (It's been none of the above so far, just some messengers and servants.) He'd like to see Carson and Teyla, however, since they were supposed to be on the last jumper and that has not come. They are probably waiting out the storm with the others, since it is long past when it would be safe to fly back from the mainland.

The local government is polite and if they're a touch aloof, nobody really minds. The overwhelming majority of the expedition has not been off-world before, either in this galaxy or the Milky Way, and it shows. Mostly because of his known willingness to travel, Yoni has found himself in the unwanted position of liaison with the Manarian government, along with Sergeant Bates. His fate was probably also sealed by the fact that he has been to the planet previously to ply his trade in return for an extra few bushels of grain. He thinks he's gone from medical whore to courtesan, but doesn't say as much because he doesn't think Bates would either understand or appreciate the comment. Bates is efficient and polite and respectful, like every good marine, but he is also morbidly incurious and more than a little fussy and Yoni finds his presence tiresome and tiring.

They have been given someone's estate, a castle complete with portcullis and busty serving girls and livestock in the courtyard. (The first two greatly impress the marines, the last one terrifies the scientists who haven't seen beef, mutton, or pork walking around under their own power perhaps ever.) It's spacious and grand and probably drafty as hell in winter, but for a night ("maybe two if there's any cleaning up to be done") it can do more than adequately. They don't know the exact provenance of the place, but it's clear that it is either someone's weekend retreat or the occupant was recently removed -- it has a maintained-but-not-for-everyday-use feel about it and the staff looks more happy to have something to do than afraid of the strange guests. Yoni spent his first visit here among the aristocracy and he wouldn't be surprised if they amused themselves with coups and intrigues or if the previous resident is off in a dungeon somewhere or hanging in a gibbet.

The house staff is plentiful, but there isn't much for them to do. Bates's fussiness has its uses and the boxes and crates they've brought have all been neatly stored, everyone assigned rooms to sleep in, and the almost tangible unease of the first few hours has settled into something quieter and less quivering-mouse-like. The Athosians look almost at home, the children running around carefree and laughing. Most of Yoni's medical colleagues are playing euchre or reading and the engineers are mostly entertaining themselves on their laptops or by building small models out of the curiously resilient straw that is all over the courtyard. The marines are patrolling, although Yoni suspects it's more because they get to do so from the battlements and they're all charmingly excited about that. He wishes Ford were here; it's the kind of place the young lieutenant would enjoy. But Ford is with Carson and Teyla and will have to settle for pictures.

The sun positions of Manaria and Atlantis are off by about half of a day, so by the time it is approaching noon on Manaria, it is approaching dusk back home. The storm should have blown through by dawn in Atlantis, at least that's what the atmospheric scientists said, but giving them a margin for error and the possibility of some damage in the city, it's not a surprise that there hasn't been contact yet. When tea -- taken earlier than on Earth -- is offered, however, Yoni doesn't need to find Bates. The sergeant is already looking for him.

They agree to send two marines to the stargate to dial Atlantis and get a situation report. When the marines radio back to say that they cannot get a lock on Atlantis's gate, Yoni tells them that there could be power problems in the city and they'll try again later. Later comes, then later still, then the evening meal and then Yoni and Bates meet with Halling to determine what to do come the morning should Atlantis remain unreachable. The Manarian officials have been eager to the point of unctuous and Yoni, Bates, and Halling are all uncomfortable with the idea of staying longer than they have to.

The expedition is generally uneasy -- they want to get back to Atlantis first and foremost, but this feudal world with its servitude and firm class system is too far from their comfort zone and they will settle for more neutral ground. In Atlantis, they joked about the serfdom of graduate students and how they missed being catered to. But on a world where entire groups of people live to serve and have no chance to graduate to a rank of equality, it's no longer a funny joke.

With dawn comes breakfast and the packing up of all of their computers and equipment and sleeping bags. They thank the Manarians and leave behind some of the luxurious Athosian furs as gifts -- Halling's idea. They dial a planet the Athosians assure them is uninhabited and quite pleasant and trundle through to lush green grasses and a spectacular view of mountains in the distance. That there has been a shift in roles between the expedition and the Athosians, the cared for now becoming caretakers, has not gone past Yoni's awareness. Nor Bates's, whose suspicion (to the point of open hostility) of anyone not from Earth was no small part of why the Athosians left Atlantis in in the first place. But Bates has been quiet and unchallenging, accepting both Yoni's and Halling's suggestions while raising only practical points in response and making sure that the marines are constantly visible and active.

They sleep in the open, the thick, soft grasses serving as rushes under their sleeping bags. The Athosians take great pride in providing food for the group through hunting and by guiding expedition members toward the forests and showing them which plants are edible. It's clear that if they are forced to stay here for any duration, then they will not starve. It is also clear that if they are forced to stay here for any duration, then they also have a lot of work to do.

On the second day on Sivru, they establish a wormhole to Atlantis, but they cannot make contact with anyone. After the wormhole closes, Yoni feels everyone's eyes upon him and wonders, for a brief moment, why he has been made chieftain of this raggedy band. And then he asks Bates to send Sergeant Markham to Atlantis in the jumper with another couple of marines and a pair of engineers to conduct a survey and find their missing command element. (The jumper was apparently a bone of contention in the hasty evacuation plans -- they didn't want the Manarians to know they had ships, but if something did go wrong, they wanted one in reserve. Thankfully, whoever wanted the jumper to go won.)

The jumper returns three hours later and everyone stops what they are doing to watch it land. Yoni knows before the ramp comes down that they found no one and nothing; Markham informed him via radio that the city is almost completely destroyed, the stargate itself lying on its side among the rubble of what was the central spire. There were no bodies found, but no life signs, either. Markham doesn't think anyone could have survived if they'd been in the gate room when the tsunami hit.

Over the next months, they return to the rubble of Atlantis frequently. They search for usable equipment, clothes, food (MREs will survive anything), Ancient technology and control crystals, and the bodies of Weir, Sheppard, McKay, Carson, Teyla, Ford, and the three Athosian teens still missing. They eventually find some of all categories, along with other items that they cannot explain, such as a pair of rifles that are absolutely not anything they brought with them from Earth.

They know that a ship will come for them eventually -- the successor to the Prometheus was already being built when they left -- but not when and not what they will do if they find Atlantis destroyed. So they leave messages, carved in stone and written on whiteboards and painted on rubble. In English as well as Hebrew, Russian, and Chinese -- Earth languages not directly descended from Ancient and thus not readable to anyone who might come across it (say, the Wraith). And then they wait.


three

"....this is Sheppard. What is your status?"

John closed his eyes and prayed to a god he hadn't asked anything of since he was a boy. Around him, he could hear the beeps and bustling of the Daedalus's bridge, the hum of the engines and the dim shush of the air vents. But he couldn't hear what he most wanted to hear.

"Atlantis, do you copy?"

"There's a chance that the shield is affecting radio communication," the comm officer suggested. Or at least John thought it was the commo guy. "Also, the debris cloud from the darts' impacting will scuttle everything until it clears."

It was said with conviction and John knew it could be true, but he also knew that it was meant to give hope where there was none. He opened his eyes and looked out through the viewscreen that showed nothing but the stars in space.

"Move us forward a couple hundred kilometers," Caldwell ordered. "See if we can get a better angle."

It took more than five hours for the cloud of ash and debris to disburse enough for them to get a look at Atlantis. Or what was left of it; the city had been leveled, reduced to bits and pieces floating on the surface of the waves. They knew of her fate before then; the Daedalus's sensors were working well enough to not be able to pick up either life signs or power signatures within the hour. Once they got a naked-eye look, Caldwell gave him a few minutes to himself, then expressed his condolences and told him to report to either the commissary or the infirmary, preferably one and then the other.

John went straight to the infirmary, unable to even stomach the thought of food. He didn't surprise himself by falling asleep almost as soon as he lay down and the ship's doctor took his vitals. He'd been running on empty for weeks, didn't remember the last time he'd slept, and both shock and grief tended to exhaust him. He'd zonked out right after the PJs had tossed him in the back of the Pave Hawk, too.

He was still on Atlantis time (the last one to ever be so) and his watch said 0550 when he looked at it upon waking. He was directed toward the shower and handed clothes -- a set of standard SGC greens, black t-shirt, underwear and socks still in plastic -- and a shower kit and a towel. He was functioning on auto-pilot, aware of his surroundings but not really a part of them, and he didn't really care. He'd lost friends in combat before. Hell, he'd even been responsible for friends dying in combat before. But this... this was his life yanked away from him and he felt revolted by his own selfishness, but he couldn't wash it away with the grime and the stink. Elizabeth, Teyla, McKay, Ford, all of his marines and even crazy Doctor Blenheim were all gone, along with so many others. The city that kind of talked back, the place where he'd finally found a place to do what needed to be done without worrying about the brass and his (non-)promotion schedule and his OER and when they were finally going to toss his ass out of the Air Force. More than two hundred people -- minus the civilians still at the evac site plus the marines who'd come through with Everett... the civilians. They couldn't leave them there. John finished his shower and dressed quickly, stumbling with half-tied boots and damp hair toward the bridge, fearful that they'd be halfway back to Earth already.

"We haven't broken orbit yet," Caldwell told him when he barged on to the bridge. "We're doing sweeps for any possible survivors as well as trying to find the ZPM. We'll pick up the refugees as soon as possible. Give Major Reiss the gate address and we'll turn that in to coordinates we can use."

John did, then, feeling a little foolish and like a character in an improv sketch, he left. He got directions to the mess and found himself confronted by a dinner menu full of items he hadn't seen in a year, at least not in any form he was used to. He ate mechanically, not tasting anything and washing it down with coffee he normally wouldn't drink. Everyone seemed to know who he was and gave him a wide berth and he was both angered by it and thankful for it. He didn't want anyone's sympathy and he didn't want anyone's pity, but he didn't want to be alone with himself, either.

He returned to the bridge to find that Caldwell had retired for the night -- it was 0223 Zulu time -- and his XO was in the captain's chair. Lieutenant Colonel Cross was solicitous of John's needs, but John didn't know what he needed (apart from a do-over of the last day) and so apart from being given a radio to keep in contact with ship's command, there was was nothing for him there. He spent the next hours wandering the decks like a ghost, powerless and useless and so angry and so weak. The ZPM was recovered from the bottom of the ocean, near some human remains. John wondered if it was what was left of Rodney, who'd been with the ZPM when the city died. He'd already told Caldwell to leave any remains that they found. Almost everyone who'd died in Atlantis had died defending their home, so they might as well spend eternity together.

It was survivor's guilt that made him a tiny bit jealous.

It took most of a day to do whatever Caldwell wanted done to Atlantis and then they went and retrieved the refugees. John was beamed down and it took only a second for everyone there to realize that he'd come with the worst possible news. John offered sanctuary to the Athosians -- what was left of them; many had returned to Atlantis to help defend it -- despite no such authorization from Caldwell. He knew that they wouldn't accept it, that they'd stay behind to start again, and so it didn't hurt to ask. He said goodbye to Ethara, a cousin of Teyla's who'd now be their leader with both Teyla and Halling gone, and to Jinto, trying so hard to be a man when he was really just a boy who'd lost his father, and thanked them for their friendship and apologized for not being better friends in return. Ethara brushed aside his apology, but he couldn't help but remember that if it weren't for him, they'd be safe and happy and whole on Athos and not twice exiled and a quarter of their number.

The trip back to Earth took five days; Caldwell wanted to go back to Atlantis one last time. John was given something less than a hero's welcome and something more than what he'd expected. He got debriefed for most of a month, shrink appointments for two weeks, and then block leave to make up for almost three years of time owed (they seem to forgot that he'd taken his leave while in Antarctica, but either New Zealand didn't count on their map or they were just fudging the numbers to avoid putting him on compassionate leave). The time was mostly wasted doing nothing except acclimate back to Earth in general and the US in specific and the Rip Van Winkle feeling he had never quite left him.

Upon his return, he was put on an SG team. Six months later, he asked to leave the Stargate Program. It was denied.


four

"Clear!"

Rodney watched Elizabeth, unable to turn his eyes to where Carson was working on Sheppard.

"Come on, you stubborn bastard!" Carson bit off. "One more. Charge it."

Elizabeth looked stricken and Rodney didn't blame her. He probably looked the same way. Two weeks after Sumner, now it looked like they were going to lose Sheppard and Rodney didn't know how they were supposed to get through this. Morale, safety, and oh, yes, Sheppard's gene was indispensable and they still had so much more work to do.

He had no idea whether Sheppard had been any good at the command business -- he bossed the civilians around just fine, but the marines were half-human and who knew how good they were at listening to anyone not wearing their uniform. Not that that would matter anymore; Ford -- babyfaced, hyper, naive, gullible Ford was the only officer left.

"Clear!"

It was a stupid plan; they never should have gone through with it -- with any of it. Starting with going back to the Wraith Hive and ending with the asinine idea of killing Sheppard to save him.

"Call it," Carson sighed and, across from Rodney, Elizabeth gasped.

"Time of death 1742," the nurse replied dully.


"Doctor Weir, please understand," Teyla begged. "I would never bring the Wraith upon my worst enemy, let alone people I consider friends."

Elizabeth, standing a step below Rodney, shook her head. "I'm sorry, Teyla. This disturbs me greatly, too. Would that our two peoples could have remained partners and friends."

There was a coldness in Elizabeth's voice that even made Rodney shiver. It made Teyla raise her chin in defiance, beseeching done with, and turn to follow her people through the stargate.

The necklace-cum-transmitter had been clever -- retrieve it when they were ready to give their sacrifices to the Wraith, then let the Wraith come to them. But not clever enough to get past the equipment they'd brought with them from Earth. Bates had been right, although none of them had wanted to believe it. Not Elizabeth, not Rodney, and especially not Ford, who was watching from the control room balcony as if distance would keep anyone from seeing his heart break. Rodney didn't know if the two of them had actually gotten anywhere past the flirtation, but he felt bad for Ford when Teyla didn't even spare a look back before disappearing through the event horizon.

"This was not what I wanted to have happen," Elizabeth sighed. They'd opted for mercy -- Elizabeth had flat-out refused to consider trials for the Athosians -- where the marines had sought punishment.

"We'll be better off without them, ma'am," Bates said as they slowly climbed back up the stairs.

"Don't be an idiot," Rodney snapped at him.


The irony galled. They'd survived beyond everyone's expectations -- including the storm, which they'd only known was coming because Ford had threatened Markham with latrine duty permanently if he didn't take his flying hours seriously -- and had avoided the Wraith and not made any enemies and generally tried to be good neighbors. They were Pegasus's Canada, a benevolent great power and it seemed like fate had rewarded them for their modesty and generosity. But fate hadn't rewarded them. Fate was just lulling them into a false sense of security while she prepared the giant dildo to fuck them over once and for all.

They'd played nicely, followed all of the rules, done their good deeds, and it didn't matter. They'd opted for security over risk-taking, chosen the conservative path over flights of fancy, and it didn't matter. They hadn't needed to leave the city to destroy themselves.

The nanovirus was quick. Less than an hour from exposure to fatal brain explosion. It was a small mercy and a bigger problem -- Rodney needed more time to come up with a way to generate a big enough EMP to knock out the nanites without destroying Atlantis in the process.

But there was no time.

It was a virus geared to destroy humans, which made no sense considering that the Ancients had basically invented humans, but who the hell knew what the Ancients had been up to. The doctors had injected everyone with the gene therapy once they'd realized that that might save them, but the therapy had a 48% success rate and that was with a much longer activation period than what was afforded by the virus that hadn't been quarantined fast enough. It was everywhere now and they had no way of stopping its transmission.

Rodney knew he wasn't going to die. He knew Elizabeth would, since she'd already gotten the gene therapy and it hadn't worked. They'd tried again, but she'd spent her last hours typing up notes, giving Rodney orders and requests and exhorting him to be patient and nurturing with the survivors and to listen to Carson more than he did.

They shrouded the bodies they could, doing it old-school naval style with a weight at the feet and then over into the water. They had to burn the last few dozen, however, since there were only twenty of them and almost nine times that many corpses and some of them had started to decompose.

They stayed in Atlantis afterward, but even Rodney was starting to realize that they couldn't do so indefinitely. The ghosts of everyone they'd lost, the whispers of wasted opportunities and chances missed, and the weight of their guilt and their fears was all becoming too much. After the dart scouted the city, they understood. They were already packing when the sensors showed the Hive ships on approach.

Sending the message to Earth was practically easy -- hook up the generators, dial home. If it didn't work, well, they were planning on scuttling the city anyway. But it did work -- or at least they established a wormhole. Rodney didn't know if the message had gotten through and, if it had, what it would mean.

Carson had been the logical emissary to the Athosians; he'd been the one most opposed to tossing them out of the city in the first place. He came back from that first meeting with tear-stained cheeks; Rodney thought Teyla had told him that Atlantis was getting what she deserved, but it was quite the opposite. Carson had gone to ask them for the address of a place they could settle and she'd said come to them.

The self-destruct sequence was blaring as Rodney bundled up the control crystals from the DHD that would allow them to dial Earth from any stargate. Kusanagi entered the address for New Athos, but Rodney was the last one through the gate. He heard the first of the explosions as the wormhole closed behind him and he closed his eyes, opening them on the bright green and blue and maize of his new home.


five

"All right," John began, clapping his hands to draw the marines' attention to him. "Listen up. Everything useful's already been salvaged. You guys are hereby given free license to be the most Marine you can be -- break everything in sight. Completely, irretrievably, fuck it all up so that nobody can tell what the hell it was, let alone try to use it again. Just don't go so crazy that you hurt yourselves."

This wasn't how he wanted to do it -- he didn't want to do it at all, but it had to be done and, for better or for worse, setting the marines loose in Atlantis to wreak havoc and destruction before blowing the place to smithereens was the way to go. It wasn't strictly necessary, he supposed, but it was a precaution -- they knew the self-destruct wouldn't destroy the city sufficiently and even all of their explosives couldn't guarantee that the Ori wouldn't be able to put the city back together like a puzzle. Small-scale breakage -- grinding the crystals into powder before blowing up the equipment they ran -- would make it that much harder. Letting the marines take a role in it made them all feel like this was maybe a little less like defeat.

John didn't think anyone was actually fooled.

"Everyone stay on radio, don't get lost, and don't take longer than two hours. Now get going."

He was met with a chorus of ooh-rahs and then the sea of marines melted away into the hallways, leaving behind Reletti. Most of the marines with the gene could activate anything -- usually accidentally -- but Reletti was really the only one who had a deft enough command to turn things off. In this case permanently.

They started in the main transformer room -- it probably had some other name in Ancient and some other function as well, but that's what they'd always called it and so that's how John thought of it. Some of the bigger pieces, the ones that had come on automatically when they'd first set foot in the city, were extremely difficult to power down and two people working together made it easier. Or at least kept John from getting a migraine as he fought Atlantis's hardwired instincts.

"She hates it, doesn't she, sir?" Reletti asked as they forced a capacitor into submission. It was like wrestling and John could almost feel each piece struggle and finally take a knee.

He sighed. "Yeah, she does."

He had never been big on admitting that Atlantis was a she, that she had a personality, that she had likes and dislikes and was happy to see him whenever he came home. It was something personal, not something he wanted shared (or, in the case of Rodney, mocked). But Reletti had the gene, too, and even if he didn't get knocked over by Atlantis's eager puppy ways, he could still feel her. Feel what this was doing to her.

"Sorry, babe," Reletti murmured, patting the top of the console he was deactivating. John smiled to himself -- he had apologized to her, too. More than once.

Atlantis understood, as far as something not sentient could understand. The Ori were coming and they would do terrible things to her if they could -- terrible things with her. Her sensors had been tracking the Ori fleet as they had once watched the Wraith. They couldn't let either happen and so they were destroying her before the Ori could use Atlantis to destroy them. She understood, as far as something not sentient could understand, but that didn't mean she liked it.

They went room to room, fighting and cajoling and bending Atlantis's will. Splitting the work helped, but John still had a killer headache by the time they split up to take care of smaller items in distant parts of the city. They were on the same time limit as the marines, so John jogged from target to target, listening to the radio in his ear for problems, but there didn't seem to be any.

The control room was last. Reletti was already there, talking to Elizabeth (really, she was talking and he was listening, but that was just a detail).

"This is it?" she asked sadly. John nodded.

They waited for the marines to assemble in the gate room, count off, and get beamed up to the ship. John didn't want anyone running around the city once they started deactivating core systems.

Powering down the control room consoles hurt. Sharp pain, like icy daggers into his brain, and John staggered under the force of the pressure Atlantis was bringing to bear.

Please, he asked. I know. I'm sorry. There is no other way.

Earth was lost, the Milky Way reduced to pockets of resistance. Pegasus had fallen with laughable ease. John didn't like to dwell on the fact that he was now getting chased out of his second galaxy. The Asgard had offered them sanctuary and resources, but they lacked the numbers to do much of anything against the Ori armies. Nonetheless, they'd accepted the offer. Rodney was already there, setting up shop with the other scientists. The civilian refugees had gone as well, Teyla and Ronon and all of the other lost souls they'd picked up over the years having chosen to follow them into this exile. This was the last ship.

"Fuck!" Reletti was on one knee, face flushed and looking drained next to the life support network. "Sorry, Ma'am."

Elizabeth shook her head and smiled.

Please, John implored again. Let us save you. Let us save ourselves.

In the end, they got it all done. John could barely see straight for the exhaustion and the migraine and he doubted Reletti was much better. However, he didn't need to see straight to set the countdown on the charges the marines had set throughout the city. Elizabeth entered her code for authorizing the self-destruct and then John did the same, jumping in surprise as the charges detonated in the distance. Grimacing at himself, he finished the sequence.

With the alarm blaring, John radioed for the last transporter beam from Atlantis.

He thought as loud as he could at Atlantis as he felt the prickles on his skin that meant dematerialization.

I love you, too.

feed me on LJ?


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30 July, 2006