Words: 2874 words
Summary: "There is another story among my people that has come to mind," Teyla offered at lunch one sunny afternoon.
Author's Note: A tag for both "The Shrine" and "Enemy at the Gate"; late entry for McSheplets #155 - Myth; And for ancientctybingo prompt "Sister City" -- phew!
"There is another story among my people that has come to mind," Teyla offered at lunch one sunny afternoon.
"What kind of story?" John asked warily.
"A story of a treasure of endless information and power and that only one strong enough can access the treasure," she replied.
"And you're just telling us this now, because?" Rodney demanded.
"It is a legend, a story without fact," she replied calmly. "But, after our experience with the Shrine of the Ancients, it occurs to me that there may be more to it. And there are many stories, mostly told to children, that we have not recounted to you."
"That sounds reasonable," John soothed, given Rodney a small kick under the table.
Rodney glared at him but didn't say anything.
"There is a similar children's story that was told on Sateda," Ronon put in. "And the warning that anyone who went searching for the treasure of information and power has never returned."
"Oh, good," Rodney rolled his eyes. "Like we need anything even more dangerous around here."
"What else is there?" John asked, kicking Rodney again. A bit harder this time.
"Stop it!" Rodney protested. rubbing his shin.
John ignored him and looked at Teyla and Ronon.
"There are only three symbols for the gate address," Teyla replied.
"Oh, sure, more gate-roulette," Rodney moaned.
"Hey, it's better than nothing!" John protested. "And I bet there's something in the Atlantis database that might help."
"I guess I can start a search," Rodney gave in. "It doesn't cost anything." He shot a glare at John. "Well, except for my time, which is valuable all by itself."
Ronon gave the symbols from his story and they were, interestingly enough, the same symbols Teyla had.
A few days later, John asked, "Anything on those symbols?"
Rodney nodded. "An interesting number of the addresses we've identified so far are space gates," he reported. "If someone chose faintly at random, there's a good chance they'd walk out into space. Just about every gate address that starts with any variation of those symbols is a space gate or non-functional. Although more non-functional than anything."
"Whoa," John replied. He thought about all the years Ronon had been a runner, and how lucky he had been not to stumble through a space gate.
"Yeah," Rodney was quiet for a moment, probably thinking the same thing. "So we're putting them on the end of the dialing sequence to see what we get. A lot of them are coming up bupkis in the database."
"Bupkis?" John teased.
Rodney grinned. "Yeah, bupkis. No entry, or nothing in the database beyond the gate address."
"We have plenty to do until you figure it out," John admitted.
"You could help," Rodney retorted. "Need to double check the database entry once it finds what little it finds."
"Sure," John said easily. "Let me know when."
"Tonight, after dinner?" Rodney asked, with a level of surprise in his voice.
"I'll be there," John promised.
Rodney reported his lack of progress on the mysterious gate symbols routinely. Although as time went on, 'routinely' worked out to once a month rather than weekly. Even with John's help, they found a lot of dead gates or space gates.
"Huh, maybe we have something," Rodney said, almost two years later.
"Really?" John looked up at him. Their search through the Ancient database had been on and off as time permitted. They had taken Atlantis to Earth and returned to Pegasus in the intervening time period. Scientists and military personnel had come and gone but the core group from the First Expedition was still there.
John didn't take his team out as often as they had in the beginning. He had made Lorne's team the lead SGA team, much to Rodney's relief. He still wanted first dibs on anything Ancient, but was willing to pass on the meet-and-greets that still went bad as often as they went well.
Teyla was expecting again, and Torren was pleased to be getting a baby brother -- he wasn't so sure about the idea of a baby sister. Ronon was spending more time on Sateda with the Satedan survivors they had come across in their explorations and offered refuge to. By now, there were enough survivors to populate a good size town on the planet.
The Wraith had... not gone away as much as seemingly gone back into hibernation. The Atlantis teams had created enough havoc that the Wraith had retreated... for now. There were still Wraith ships out there, just significantly fewer. Those that had gone to ground were relatively well hidden and no one seemed to know where they were. It wasn't exactly comforting, but it took some of the pressure off of the Lanteans.
It had taken the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", Jack O'Neill marrying Daniel Jackson in the Gate Room in Cheyenne and a judicious amount of alcohol for John to finally confess his interest in Rodney.
Fortunately, Rodney was fluent enough in 'Sheppard' to simply demand, "What took you so long?" and pin him to a bed for three days. Everyone else sighed in relief.
"Worth checking out ourselves?" John asked.
"It's yet another space gate, so we sent a recording device to see what we could find. And it has... okay, it has the usual non-specific energy readings that still need to be checked out," Rodney admitted.
"So we should check it out," John said patiently.
"Yeah," Rodney replied.
"Okay," John agreed.
"Just like that?" Rodney was surprised.
"Been a while since we've been off Atlantis," John admitted. "Our turn for some fun and games."
"Not just the two of us," Rodney said warningly.
John held up a hand in surrender. "Never," he said. "But we can take one of the newer teams that need some experience."
"Do we have to?" Rodney whined.
"Rodney, they're seasoned Marines," John pointed out patiently. "Been through the gate, just not here in Pegasus as much."
"Oh, all right," Rodney gave in.
"Besides, we'll be in a Jumper," John added. "That'll cut down on their opportunity to screw up."
"True," Rodney said.
The newly christened SGA-27 joined John and Rodney on their exploration. Not that they had 27 teams at the moment, but some team numbers had been 'retired' out of respect to those that had fallen.
"Everyone ready?" John asked. Rodney insisted on riding shotgun, 'to be able to take readings' he asserted. The members of SGA-27 had been brief by Lorne on dealing with Dr. McKay and didn't offer any comments.
Once through the space gate, the Jumper lit up in a way John hadn't seen before.
"Whoa," he murmured. "Rodney, what's going on?"
"Busy!" Rodney shot back, poking madly at his pad.
Matias, the leader of SGA-27, asked, "Anything we can do?"
"Strap in," John warned. "Not sure what's going on!"
"You heard the man," Matias repeated to his team. "Safety harnesses all around!"
"Rodney?" John gritted, obviously fighting.... something.
"Let it go," Rodney said suddenly. "Let it do what it wants."
"Rodney?" John asked with a thread of uncertainty in his voice.
"Trust me," Rodney said softly. "If this is what I think it is..."
John took his hands off the controls and the Jumper took on a life of its own. It moved pretty much in the same direction it had been going in when they came out of the gate, but picked up speed for about fifteen minutes. Then it stopped and hung in space.
"John, put your hands on the console but don't think at the Jumper directly," Rodney prompted him. "Think... friendly thoughts."
"Friendly?" John asked as he put his hands on the console. "What does that mean?"
Rodney shrugged but didn't take his eyes of his computer screen.
"Wait for it..." Rodney said slowly.
John peered out the front screen of the jumper and sat back suddenly.
"Whoa!" he exclaimed.
In front of them floating serenely in space, was another version of Atlantis. Mostly dark but strategically placed lighting showed the tower structure of the city.
John put his hands back on the controls and 'listened' to what the Jumper was doing for a moment. "Shields up but it's bringing us in for docking," he announced.
"Is it safe?" Matias asked warily.
"I guess we'll find out," John replied.
"Weapons ready!" Matias warned his team.
"I like these guys," Rodney said with a small grin. "Shoot first and ask questions later."
"Seeing any life signs?" John demanded. "Can you check for Asurans?" The thought of dealing with the humanoid replicators sent a shiver down his spine.
"Nothing yet," Rodney admitted. "But we'll know more once we're through the shield."
It wasn't long before they were through the shield and in a docking area very similar to the Jumper Bay in Atlantis.
"Rodney?" John asked.
"Air is breathable, gravity normal, minimal power," Rodney announced.
"Now what?" Matias asked.
"We go exploring!" John grinned.
"Not so fast!" Rodney cautioned. "I need more research first."
"Ro-o-od-ney!" John whined.
Rodney pointed a finger at John and said firmly. "Sit!"
John relaxed back into the pilot's seat but said, "Woof!"
Matias and his team grinned. While it hadn't been as up close and personal, they had seen the interaction between Colonel Sheppard and his husband before.
Rodney worked at the computer in his hand, checking some of the results against information he got from the Jumper. John waited patiently, watching Rodney work.
"Okay, I think it's clear," Rodney declared. "Doesn't mean we shouldn't be careful."
"Okay, then," John said. "No one wanders off and at the first sign of trouble, back to the Jumper on the double."
"Got it," Matias agreed.
"That means you, too, Rodney," John warned.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes," Rodney muttered, distracted.
"Matias, if McKay doesn't pay attention, you have my permission to shoot him," John said.
"Yes, sir," Matias replied weakly.
"He's only kidding," Rodney said, not looking up from his computer screen.
"Am not!" John retorted.
As it had the first time they walked through 'their' Atlantis, the floors lit and consoles went live as they entered rooms.
"Rodney, check power levels," John directed.
"D'oh," Rodney rolled his eyes. "What do you think I've been doing?"
"Well, then?" John asked.
"Plenty of power, holding at good levels," he reported.
"Really?" John was amazed.
Rodney looked up at him, "Really."
"Hey! Let's check the VR room," John suggested. "Since there's good power levels, it should be safe to run the holographic interface and ask some questions."
"Good idea," Rodney agreed. "Let's go!"
John let the Marines lead the way, checking out rooms before letting Rodney proceed further. Fortunately, the VR room wasn't that far from the Jumper bay.
Rodney stepped up to the control platform before John could stop him.
"Rodney! You're not supposed to do that!" John protested.
Rodney stepped back and waved John ahead. "Okay, but if this comes back to bite you, I get to say I told you so," he muttered.
"It's your turn," John agreed. He stepped onto the platform.
"Welcome," the hologram greeted him. It was an Ancient woman in a white robe, not too different from the hologram on Atlantis. "How can I help you?"
"Why did you greet me and not Dr. McKay," John asked.
"You are the Powerful One," the figure replied.
Rodney whooped in the background as John stared.
"Which of our Sister cities are you from?" the woman asked.
"Cities? Plural?" Rodney muttered.
"We are from Atlantis," John replied. "We do not know about more cities."
The figured paused as it seemed to think. John figured it was gathering data.
"Atlantis had been considered lost," the woman finally said. "I have updated the database."
John cleared his throat. "Umm... we're looking for ZPM... ah, Zero Point Modules. Potentia... whatever they are called. Any chance we can get some spares?" John asked.
"Tower 47, level 3, room 2," the figure said calmly, then went back into waiting mode.
John could hear Rodney bouncing in place. "Would you pinpoint that on a map for me?" John asked carefully.
"Yes," the woman said. A three dimensional map floated in front of them, highlighting their current position and the location of the ZPM room.
"John!" Rodney breathed.
"Yeah, I know," John replied. He looked at the image. "Thank you."
"You are welcome," she said. "Come back soon." She disappeared.
"Okay, small exploration," John said. "The moment anything gets hinky, we turn back and come back with reinforcements."
"John!" Rodney protested.
"Rodney," John said firmly.
"Oh, all right," Rodney replied.
"Matias, you take point," John directed. "McKay and I will be in the middle," he said. He looked at two of the team. "You two have the rear."
A small chorus of yes, sir! came from around them.
They avoided the transporters for the moment, not wanting to trust that they worked properly or they weren't a trap.
Rodney was huffing a bit by the time they climbed to the right level.
"Told you to lay off the tormack," John teased.
"No such thing as too much tormack," Rodney panted.
"Then you need to come running with me more often," John shot back.
"Sure," Rodney said, not really serious.
"Level 3," Matias reported ahead of them. "All clear."
They stood in the corridor for a moment, looking around. John could hear Rodney breathing heavily.
"It's not special," Rodney said. "We've been here on Atlantis and it was all empty."
"Let's find out," John said. "I think that's door number two."
"Har-de-har-har," Rodney snorted.
John held Rodney back. "Let's check it out first." He let Matias open the door with a nod.
"Clear," Matias reported after a moment.
Rodney went into the room, John followed.
"Well, you're right. That's really not special," John commented.
"Give me a minute," Rodney commanded. He poked at his computer again. He looked around and then at the far wall. "Come over here and touch... here." He pointed to a circular indentation on the wall.
"Matias, take the door," John directed. "Keep your guys in the corridor."
"No problem," Matias agreed. The other men spread out in the corridor.
Once the others were deployed, John pressed his hand against the wall and thought on at it.
Several drawers slid out of the walls. Half of them were empty but the other half...
"ZedPMs!" Rodney crowed. "Enough to give Atlantis the power it needs! And spares!"
"Rodney, breathe," John said softly. "And we can't take them all."
Rodney froze for a moment, looked sadly at the more than three dozen ZPMs. "I know, I know," he agreed.
John looked at Matias, "You only saw.." He looked at Rodney.
"Six," Rodney said. "We can take six."
"Why not take them all?" Matias asked quietly, so the others wouldn't hear.
"Think about it," John said. "This much power, Earth will want its share. And... well, not everyone plays well together. ZPMs can be used to power weapons as easily as they can support the power grid. There's no easy answer."
Matias considered for a moment, then nodded. "Understood," he said.
Rodney put two ZPMs in his backpack, John took two and Matias the other two. John went back to the wall and thought off at it.
All the drawers closed up and it looked like a bare room again.
"Let's take our treasure and go home," John commanded.
"Wait," Rodney interrupted. "Stop in the VR room again?"
"Since it's on the way out, more or less, sure," John agreed. "Why?"
"A.. theory," Rodney replied.
"No problem," John said.
They took a break at ground level, mostly to let Rodney breathe, although John would never admit to appreciating a break.
For all his running, keeping up with twenty-something year old Marines wasn't as easy as it looked.
John stepped on the platform.
"Tell me your name," the woman commanded.
"John Sheppard," John replied.
"Your name has been entered in the database," she replied. "You may return when you need."
"Thank you," John replied.
"Explain why you have taken only six of the potentia," she asked.
"With great power comes great responsibility," John replied.
"Oh, my god," Rodney muttered in the background. "You did not just quote Spiderman at the Ancient database."
The Marines snickered.
"Your companions are amused," she looked at the others ranged around the room. "A scientist and soldiers. You are well prepared."
"We try to be," John replied, mystified.
She looked at Rodney. "Place the device in your hands here," she pointed to a spot on the floor, near John's feet.
"What are you going to do?" Rodney demanded as he moved forward. "You're not going to erase anything?"
"There is information I wish to give to you," she said.
"Okay," Rodney placed the tablet down carefully.
The woman looked at the device and it glowed for a moment.
"It is complete," she said.
Rodney snatched up the device and held it to his chest.
"Anything else you need from us?" John asked.
Silence for a moment. John thought maybe he startled it. One usually doesn't offer to do something for a database, he realized.
"You are welcome to come back," she replied.
"Thank you," John gave a small salute and stepped off the platform.
"Let's go home," John said.