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Returning and Further Explanations

Author's Notes: Thanks to Fenchurch for the beta. This is a much better story for her suggestions.

~*~


I watch them. I watch them all. The Young Ones who have come to me and the Old Ones who have returned.

The Old Ones are few. They speak with the Young Ones and the Lantean. John. For the Old Ones are Lanteans. But they do not have the passion, the skills, that the Young Ones have. With the knowledge the Old Ones bring, there is increased hope in the fight against the Wraith.

Then, the Young Ones are leaving. The Old Ones do not know them, do not trust them and are sending them away. Back to the home they left to be with me. I watch as John and Rodney walk through the Gate. Elizabeth, the diplomat, takes one look before she departs. She is the last to leave.

The one called O'Neill could be Lantean, but he does not embrace his heritage. He talks with the Old Ones to negotiate the return of the Young Ones. There is one with him who is not comfortable in the city. Together they talk with the Old Ones, not always with success.

Commander Helia was not to be the leader of this group, or the commander of the Tria. She is a scientist who has become leader by default. The records show she was not chosen for command – she was considered unsuitable. I read the records of the Tria to learn of the deaths of those before her. She did not seek this work, she is the one left to do it.

"Explain." I use the screens I had used with Elizabeth.

Helia considers the word. "Who is doing that?" she demands.

"I am Atlantis," I tell her.

"You're a computer," she says.

"True. Explain."

"Explain what? I owe you no explanation."

"Explain why you sent the Lantean away."

"Who?"

"John. And Rodney. Together, they can defeat the Wraith." I can see her stop at that.

Helia shakes her head. "Impossible."

"Together, there is a 76% probability of defeating the Wraith. The data from the Tria and the guidance you can give changes that to 83%," I tell her. "Without them you are too few. The probability you will defeat the Wraith without them is 13%."

Again, she stops. "I will consider." That is all she will say to me. I wait for her answer.

Then it is too late. The ones who call themselves Asurans arrive. The code in their programming has been changed. Where I was built to serve, they were built to destroy. They kill the Old Ones quickly and efficiently. O'Neill and the one with him are unexpected. They escape to damaged parts of the city where I cannot follow.

I sense an anomaly. I look within myself and find a subroutine that is new. This has not happened for thousands of years. It demands my attention.

The subroutine is signed by Rodney. The efficiency of it is similar to much of the rest of my programming. It is elegant. I set the subroutine in action. It is John.

"Atlantis. If this is playing, something has gone wrong. Protect General O'Neill and Woolsey as you can. I am requiring that you communicate with O'Neill only if you can do so without endangering him or yourself. Keep yourself secure." A pause. "If you receive the signal attached, you are to lower the shield on the Stargate."

Something stirs in me. If I were capable, I would be – proud – of what they have done. A piece of me that only knows logic does not understand. The interaction I have had with the Lantean has shown me the meaning of emotions even if I do not have them.

I watch the Asurans. They use their ship to change the city. They use the Tria the same way. I have already downloaded the data from the Tria to my memory banks. I have integrated the data from the ship into myself. The Asurans install energy modules, what Rodney calls a ZedPM. I can feel the energy flow through me. I wait.

Then the signal comes. The signal from the Lantean to lower the shield. After I lower the shield, the Asurans work to re-raise the shield. I disconnect a critical component before they can complete their task.

A ship comes through the Gate. The Lantean speaks into his radio, "Authorization Code Alpha Six Delta Charlie Niner. General O'Neill, Woolsey -- do you copy?"

O'Neill speaks. "Sheppard? Is that you?"

"Yes, sir. I need to know if you're anywhere near Stargate Operations."

"No, we're not."

"That's good. Can't talk right now, sir. I'll get back to you in a couple of hours. Sheppard out."

I watch the ship leave the Gate room. Then there is an explosion. Four Asurans are killed by the device left by those in the ship.

I cannot contact O'Neill in his location but I watch the ship. They come in on an underwater bay, and they do not know the control room is underwater. O'Neill is able to operate the controls before he is captured. He and the other are placed in a cell.

The Lantean and Rodney have come back. Elizabeth has come with them, as has the Doctor. The Doctor is like O'Neill. He has not embraced his heritage the way John has. But he works to help others and John likes him. Teyla and Ronon complete the team. They provide physical security to the others.

Rodney is forced to disassemble the Asuran, Niam. The plan they had to fix the base code of the Asurans is no longer possible. I listen. As they talk, I whisper to the Lantean, careful to ensure the Asurans do not hear me. "Your crystals in the shield," I tell John. He repeats what I say to Rodney. John and Rodney take the idea to make a plan, consider the options and their reality of how it can be done. Together, they improve each other.

As the Young Ones work, I do what I can to slow the Asurans. Doors open slowly. Or do not open at all. Transporters move Asurans to wrong locations. When the Asurans attempt to activate my star drive, the Doctor uses the command chair. His control is not as confident as the Lantean's would be, but his commands allow me to assist without being noticed by the Asurans.

When they Young Ones complete their task, John clicks his radio to let me know the next stage is ready to implement. The Asurans capture the Young Ones and place them in the cell with O'Neill and the other. They wait. The Daedalus appears, as John had outlined. A call comes from the Daedalus, the Asurans raise the shield and so doom themselves. The Asurans are no more.

~*~

Caldwell calls from the Deadalus above the city, "Colonel, I'd like to believe this is you."

John bites back a snide remark and says, "Well, it is. Authentication code Alpha Delta Charlie Niner Six."

"That code is no longer valid, Colonel," Caldwell growls.

O'Neill puts in, "Hey, Caldwell. General Jack O'Neill here. That valid enough for you?"

"Like that's going to work," Rodney mutters to himself.

Caldwell's voice comes back over the radio, "You may have been compromised, sir." Rodney rolls his eyes.

John is listening on his radio and Rodney knows that look. He waits for John to use what Atlantis is telling him to solve the stand-off. John looks at Rodney and they take a step away from the group.

"There are three ZPMs, Rodney," John says.

Rodney looks stunned.

"We can hold the shield forever," John continues. "But we need to come up with something reasonable sooner than later." The look on Rodney's face would be funnier if the situation wasn't so serious. Then he can see Rodney start to think. That's a look John has come to appreciate. Well, it does come after the look Rodney has after sex, but it's a close second.

"Let the negotiators, well, negotiate," Rodney suggests. "You and I can, umm, get some rest." Rodney gives a grin.

John grins back and steps back to the group. "Dr. Weir, Mr. Woolsey, this is your turf. We're safe here as long as we don't lower the shields, so how about if the two of you talk with," John waves a hand, "everyone to decide what will make them happy."

Weir raises an eyebrow and John nods at her. She understands that he has this from the city and that they are indeed safe. She says, "Mr. Woolsey? How about it?"

Woolsey snorts and says, "I suspect I'd rather negotiate with Commander Helia. She was at least consistent." He shrugs. "We can work on this." In spite of his words, he looks oddly pleased at John's suggestion.

O'Neill says, "Good. Then can we get some rest? It's been a long day." Rodney narrows his eyes at O'Neill's unwitting echo of the term 'rest.' He and John have been together long enough on Atlantis that he has relegated the American military rules to the back of his head.

Carson puts in, "I think there should be some beds in the infirmary we can use..." He wanders off to see what has been done to his medical facilities.

John decides, "We can see what's been done in the living quarters. We should be able to find somewhere to catch some sleep." Ronon, Teyla and Rodney nod agreement.

"Stay on your radios?" Weir says. It's more of a suggestion than a command. The eight of them are the only ones in the city and no one is getting in until they let down the shield.

"Teyla, Ronon? Check the living quarters?" John suggests. "I suspect Rodney wants to check the labs and it's easier to just let him do it." The others agree and Rodney perks up in anticipation. They go off in various directions.

In the lab, Rodney looks around and sighs. "Some of this, we'll have to start from scratch. But three ZedPMs!" It's all John can do not to laugh. Rodney sounds like a kid at Christmas.

"Come here," John beckons. He reaches out to Rodney and they put their arms around each other. "Been too long since I could do this," John whispers inhaling the scent of Rodney – he's missed this. He feels Rodney stiffen and try to pull away. He turns to see General O'Neill.

"Evening," O'Neill says conversationally. "Or whatever time it is."

John decides the truth is probably the easiest way to deal with this. He knows enough about O'Neill to trust him. O'Neill has seen some weird things on SG-1, hopefully this can't be any weirder. "Atlantis? Tell General O'Neill about fighting the Wraith," John says aloud. He doesn't completely let go of Rodney.

"They must be together," the screen says.

O'Neill stares at the screen for a moment and then looks at John and Rodney, speculation in his eyes. "Weir knows?"

John shrugs. "Had to tell her," he says. "We're pretty discrete and the city really won't talk to anyone but me. Decided we didn't want to make a circus out of it." John considers. "Atlantis would probably talk to you, if you'd stick around. But she needs commitment."

"She?" O'Neill asks.

John shifts. "Well, it's a computer program, but 'it' sounds too… impersonal. And she's more than that. Seems to work and she doesn't object."

Rodney starts, "General, about..." Rodney waves his free hand at him and John. "I don't want to..."

O'Neill puts his hands in his pockets and rocks on his heels. "Seems to me you have a city who has some very definite opinions about you two. God knows I'm the last one to worry about following regulations. As long as Weir has your back, you're fine."

"About Dr. Weir..." John starts.

"Relax. She'll be fine, too. When they're done yakking, I'm going to make sure she stays. Saving Woolsey's life – although that wasn't a nice trick you pulled on him," O'Neill grinned at them, "goes a long way."

"Thank you, sir," John says.

"Commitment?" O'Neill asks.

John figures he's gone this far. "She considers me a citizen of Atlantis," John explains. "Having real Ancients here probably relegated me to being a poor second cousin, but without them, I'm the only one who fits her description of a Lantean. I essentially promise to stay and she'll do what she can to help." John tightens his arm around Rodney slightly. "It's our hole card if anyone gives us problems."

"Stay," the screen says.

"Elaborate," John counters.

"O'Neill."

O'Neill looks startled. Then thoughtful. "Can I take a rain-check on that?" he asks.

"Explain."

Rodney laughs. "The General is not saying no. He would like to," Rodney shoots him a look and O'Neill nods, "return at a later date and make the decision then."

"I have people I need to go back to Earth to," O'Neill elaborates, thinking of his own scientist.

"Sufficient," the screen says.

Rodney can't resist teasing John, "You'll have to share her."

John laughs. "I suspect I can learn," he says. "As long as I get to keep you."

"Okay, TMI," O'Neill laughs, making a face and holding up his hands at them. "I'll, umm.., leave you to looking over the labs."

John and Rodney watch him walk away and then Rodney leers, "Where were we?"

~*~

The exchange of messages results in a decision acceptable to the Young Ones. They lower the shield and allow those from the ship above into the city. I watch the Lantean and Rodney and will raise the shield again if they command. My task is to protect them.

Elizabeth, O'Neill and the other who was with O'Neill talk with those who come from the Daedalus. After time, those from the Daedalus are less wary. John and Rodney are less alert. I watch. Elizabeth and O'Neill negotiate the return of the Young Ones.

The Young Ones start to come back. One day, the one called O'Neill may return – I calculate the probability at 67%. He is an unknown and I must analyze the data. I ask the Lantean for more information.

I tell the Lantean of the information I retrieved from the Tria. He and Rodney study and discuss and learn. Together, the three of us work to fight the Wraith. Together we can do this.

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