End Game

Eric Vought∗
25 Nov 2013†

A fan-ction set in the Stargate Atlantis cton.


IOA uses the Atlantis Game interface to replicate Earth
society and industry as a last-ditch defense against the Wraith
and other enemies. A mysterious man is sent from Earth to
implement the program, but what is his real mission? Targeted at a 'novella' length. Incorporates characters and ties
together events from Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis, the
various movies, and Stargate Universe.
∗ A Stargate Atlantis fan-ction. Stargate Atlantis, Stargate SG-1, Stargate
Universe, and related marks are trademarks of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios
Inc. Other trademarks owned by their respective holders. This work may be
redistributed with attribution but may not be sold.
† draft 0.40 - Chapter 7, Part of Chap. 8, changes throughout.






1 Painful Lessons


2 Resistance


3 Soul Asylum


4 Leadership


5 Blind Men


6 Burned Feathers


7 Spoils of War


8 Thwarted Intentions



The sapphire sphere of the Earth was visible in the lower-left quadrant of the viewport. The terminator was a sharp, black line cutting
through the Mediterranean, the craters of London and Paris only
visible as gaps in the glowing web of light that was the cities of
Europe. Snow on the Alps was painted with the faint rosy hue of
sunset. All this moved visibly below as the Jacob Carter shot past
in its low, fast orbit, leaving behind, too, the vast spidery framework of Miolnir, Earth's rst orbital construction yard, far above
Crew members moved in and out of the instrument-lit space
of the Bridge with purpose but no great hurry, carrying reports
or checking readings.

Technically, they were on watch while the

(rebuilt) Antarctic weapons platform was oine for maintenance,
but, since no one else was supposed to know that, they expected no
trouble. General John Shepherd sat in the newly installed Chair,
working through a sequence of exercises to troubleshoot one of the 
rst ever Earth-made chimeras of Ancient, Asgard, and Tokra technology. He was bored, tempted to clandestinely switch to a display
of the communications feed from planet-side, which included live
coverage of the 2028 Superbowl.
Tempted that is, until a swirling vortex opened and disgorged
a eet of armed vessels.

The giant pyramid-shapes rapidly de-

ployed squadrons of death gliders and began directing re toward




the planet below.
He dumped his hot coee into his lap and the ship shuddered
as the Ancient interface misinterpreted his reaction.


several choice words, he ordered the ship to Action Stations and to
prepare for launch of the ready X-305 attack planes.
Once again the ship shuddered, this time when three of the
Ha'Tak motherships turned their main batteries on the Carter.
The Earth ship's shields ared white-hot as they turned the enemy beams aside.

Instantly, Shepherd was aware of the shield

strength and energy reserves in his mind. Everything was holding,
but concentrated re would wear them down before too long. Responding to his thoughts once more, Carter began ring its Asgard
beam weapons at one of the motherships and a spread of missiles
launched from its underside.
"Miolnir, Miolnir, you have enemy gliders inbound.


gliders on CBDR for attack run."
Shepherd heard the report from his tactical ocer and checked
the status of his attack wing.

The four ready X-305s were just

clearing the bay and heading for the stream of gliders. More would
be ready to launch in minutes, but they did not necessarily have
minutes. A fresh set of impacts from sta blasts made up his mind
for him. 
Alright, enough of this: I'm missing the kicko. Hold on, people, activating the Miagi program! That was when things began
to change quickly.
Another blue vortex opened up in front of them and Carter
accelerated into it. Their view of Earth vanished to be replaced by
a black stareld and a sliver of the moon. Then the ship rotated
underneath them, bringing the edge of North America into view,
spinning rapidly away. They had passed entirely through the Earth
in an eye-blink and put themselves in an eccentric, elliptical orbit.

Miolnir passed beneath them against the backdrop of the Atlantic
Ocean and the broad sweep of death gliders were now in front of
them. Asgard beams sliced out again, enemy gliders hemorrhaging



air and ames. Some of them jinked back and forth against their
base vector to avoid the sudden menace.
Now they were coming up on the three motherships which had
been ring at them. Asgard beams lanced out just as the missiles
launched earlier were reaching the end of their ight path.


short of the Ha'Tak vessals, they exploded in a naqueda-enhanced
nuclear inferno, eye-achingly brilliant but harmless against the enemy shields. Small devices at the tip of each one ared bright as
they vaporized, a human design from the 1950s made with Goa'uld
and Asgard technology. Energy from the explosions was channeled
into invisible but powerful gamma rays which drained energy from
already stressed enemy shields. One Ha'Tak vanished in an incandescent cloud while another rolled away with its hull glowing from
the heat.
The remaining Ha'Tak from that group spun quickly to bring its
guns to bear and a red tongue reached for the Carter... which was
already gone again, passed through hyperspace and right past the
enemy, hurtling at the second group of motherships. The Carter
spun like a top as it came out of the vortex, focusing its beams rst
on its remaining attacker and then on the cluster of ships bombarding Earth. Once again it vanished before the enemy could respond,
leaving several more missiles behind, and now it was bearing down
on an isolated ship, tearing into it with bright blue coherent particle
The Lucian Alliance attackers, deciding they had had enough,
opened hyperspace windows of their own.

Only a few minutes

after the attack began, all but two of the vessels, damaged and
leaking air, as well a shattered squadron of eager-to-surrender gliders, was all that was left of the enemy in orbit. Shepherd scanned
the Chair's mind-link quickly for damage reports, secured the ship
from General Quarters, and brought himself back into the physical
world. He blinked for a moment at the sudden intrusion of the now
bustling activity of the bridge and then headed into the main corridor, leaving Colonel Snoodgras in charge of cleanup operations.



A legubrious man with a crooked smirk and a receding hairline
was already there, walking toward the lift. 
McKay! I didn't know you were onboard, how's it going, Pal? 
Still dead, thanks so much for asking.
Shepherd made an annoyed grunt and walked straight through
the scientist to hit the lift controls. The doors came open of their
own accord before he could reach them. The two of them got into
the lift. 
Asgard Core, I presume? entoned the late Rodney McKay in
a porterly voice. The lift started moving `downward'. 
Yeah, I gured I would see how the new systems are holding
up seeing as we just took them into combat the rst time, since
I'm missing the game and all, anyway.
Rodney smiled smugly. You're not missing it, I started recording it when the Lucian Alliance showed up. 
Rodney, how thoughtful, but since when do you care about
Since I have a bet with Snoodgras on the Giants. Two cases
of twinkies and a pound of really good coee.

I had the Asgard

systems crunch all the game statistics since the dawn of football
and come up with the spread: I can-not lose.
The lift stopped, the door opened, and Shepherd walked out of
the lift, calling over his shoulder, and what in hell are you going
to do with twinkies and coee if you win? 
Sure, rub it in why don't you.

Rodney McKay said sulkily

under his non-breath. The hologram vanished.
McKay was already there when he got to the Asgard Core. He,
General Samantha Carter, US Air Force (ret.), and a diminutive
Air Force Major Jennifer Hailey were all staring at a holographic
schematic which hovered over the computer core. It seemed to show
patterns of light passing in and out of a luminous hermit crab.
Sam Carter turned as he came in and smiled, her grey hair
longer than it had been when she was in the Air Force and held



back with a hand-carved Athosian clasp made from a wood with
deep gold tones. She was wearing a generic SGC uniform with a
contractor badge. As you can see, the UMP held up during the
entire engagement.

Of, course, if it hadn't, none of us would be

here to know it. 
Probably end up in the Earth's mantel or something. You'd
all be dead and I'd have to go back to my last backup.


then I could forget about that weird dream I had involving Jennifer
Love Hewitt, a row boat, and a bucket of fried chicken... oh, and
a whale. The chicken ended up having lemon in the batter and I
started breaking out in hives in the middle of... 
Rodney, Carter interrupted him, not now. 
Uh, right, well, anyway, Sam's right, the Miagi program worked 
awlessly, even if I had to nd out by going through the logs after
it was all over, having been rudely swapped out when it suddenly
sucked up all the computing resources in the ship... 
I didn't even know you were here. Besides, it was rather important, Shepherd interrupted him, But what concerns me more
is that the shields seemed to be drained more by our hyperdrive
than by enemy re.

A little bit longer and they wouldn't have

needed to shoot us. 
Well, we were opening back to back hyperdrive windows while
maneuvering, ring beam weapons... Hailey reached into the hologram and switched it to a display of energy usage which made even
less sense to him than the space crab diagram they had up earlier. 
...not to mention the Universal Multi-Processor, McKay gestured grandly to the array of pulsating equipment taking up one
wall of the Core room, which, I might add, made the whole Miagithing possible: `Best defense, no be there. ' 
So you're responsible for the stupid name... but don't suck up
all the credit old HAL, the Asgard built the micro-jumping technology into the O'Neill before their homeworld got Replicatored. 
Actually, sir, Hailey said with a hint of annoyance, I came
up with the stupid name, but the O'Neill was just a prototype.



Absently, she toyed with a plain silver crucix and a tiny reliquary
on a chain, The Asgard never got the technology working. Even
with the newest Computer Core they gave us there wasn't enough
processing power to calculate precise hyperspace windows one after
another in combat, close to a big gravity well, dumping exactly the
right amount of inertia to change orbits and so forth. In fact, there
wasn't enough processing power in the whole universe to do what
we just did... 
Enter, said Rodney triumphantly, the UMP, which uses multiple universes, an innite number actually, to do the calculation
for us without blowing up any solar systems in the process: 100%
environmentally friendly, non-cataclysmic computing. But it does
use a lot of juice.
Carter cut him o, The bottom line is that it did work, even
if we weren't intending to test it for another month and I think we
can ne-tune from here. How did the Ancient-interface work? 
Not bad. I ended up having to choose pre-selected attack patterns because it was too much work to tell the Core what I really
wanted it to do, but it did a good job of tting the pattern to
the tactical situation. I think we can work up a better selection of
patterns with some sim-time and training. I might even be able to
teach Major Smurfette here to y it.
Major Hailey glowered at him.

General Shepherd had been

inspecting an o-world outpost when she had been turned brightblue by an alien plant. Given her size and color, the General had
come up with the nickname and it had unfortunately stuck.
General Shepherd suddenly became thoughtful, How did we do
Not great, Sir, Hailey answered as she pulled up another hologram. This one Shepherd did understand, being a view of Africa
with a disturbing number of ashing red circles, They were targeting IOA headquarters in North Africa. The shield held o most of
the bombardment, but there were civilian casualties in surrounding areas, especially families of personnel outside the Green Zone.



Their orbit, the display zoomed out and showed a track cutting
across the equator and toward Antarctica, would have taken them
past IP-COM and McMurdo, which they clearly knew was oine
or they would have taken it out rst.

The IOA estimates two-

thousand dead, maybe that much again in wounded, mostly people
blinded or burned by the ash.
"The other interesting thing is that the attacking Ha'Taks had
signicant upgrades in the last ten years, both in shields and repower. If they hadn't cut and run, they could have taken us and
destroyed Earth's defenses. My question is: how did they know?"
Carter switched o the display and crossed her arms, leaning
back against the console, This isn't the rst time the Lucian Alliance has shown up out of nowhere.

The IOA rooted out three

highly placed moles in the last twenty years, including a zatarc.
Apparently we haven't gotten them all. I have a feeling, whatever
their source is, that they are going to be very interested in `Miagi'.
Shepherd's earpiece chimed, CIC to General Shepherd.
He subvocalized, Shepherd here, go ahead CIC. 
Have FLASH trac from IP-COM: Lucian Alliance troops on
the ground at McMurdo, the Carter ordered to provide X-305 support. You are requested to return to base, immediately. 
Well, folks, it's been fun, he said aloud and, through the
comm, Major, Tell the Colonel for me he ocially has his ship
back. Ready to transport.
With a ash of light and the sharp smell of ozone, the ship
vanished around him.

Chapter 1

Painful Lessons
I materialized in the Atlantis gateroom with a rucksack on my
shoulder amid a dozen other new personnel, including an attractive
young doctor. Along with almost everyone else, I stared around,
mesmerized for a moment by the colored light ltering through
the windows onto the softly glowing, symbol-encrusted steps, the
graceful sweep of balconies and archways, the smell of the salty
breeze. A trio of marines stood watching us as we waited for someone to tell us where to go, what to do, and what forms needed
to be lled out. I wobbled for a moment on the Canadian crutch
and readjusted the load of the rucksack, took a deep breath and
steadied myself, feeling the still unaccustomed feather touch of an
alien mind as it adjusted my blood ow and dampened the pain. 
I'm Amelia Banks, welcome to Atlantis. Everyone please follow
me to the inrmary where you will get your nal clearance from
the Chief of Medicine. If you leave your bags where they are, they
will be taken to your new quarters. 
Um, Amelia?

said the doctor next to me, I kindof am the

Chief of Medicine. 
Ah, yes, Dr...

Keller, Right?


Welcome aboard.





please, follow me...

she frowned, looking at a data pad in her

hand and then up to me, Except for `Jason Higgs'. You've been
pre-cleared. Master Sargeant Bolton will be here in a moment to
take you to your assignment.
I gave a thin smile and waved away Doctor Keller's concern.
She was one of only a handful of people on Atlantis who knew who
and what I was. I did need to visit the inrmary, but I would do
it when it was a little less...


Dropping the rucksack, I

moved to sit on the edge of a step as everyone else led out. Closing
my eyes, I breathed in the sea air and imagined the Outer Banks,
the rush of the surf and the heavy feel of sand on my sneakers as
I jogged through the dunes. 
Mr. Higgs? a marine extended his hand to me as I akwardly
rose from the step, Master Sargeant Bolton.

Please come with

me. He eyed me warily, taking particular note of my sidearm and
complete lack of insignia.
About twenty people stood in the Hologram Room, Nola and Baden
next to each other in the rst row, having gotten past much of their
personal enmity but still not quite comfortable with each other. 
You have just had a demonstration of what Tau'ri small arms
can do.

Here we will put it into perspective, I gestured to the

hologram woman who stood on the pedastal. She disappeared and
was replaced by graphic footage of World War II, a montage of

Soldiers with machine-guns fought back and forth

over devastated urban landscapes, bombs fell from aircraft amid
factories and schools, a tank lurched forward over a line of infantry,
naval vessals pounded each other with artillery, and nally, lines of
triumphant German soldiers and pictures of emaciated survivors of
death camps. I had to admit that the Altarans built one hell of a
home theater system. Even knowing what would be shown, it was
hard to not get caught up in the ood of images, overwhelmed by
the concussion of the bombs and the staccato of the guns. 
Sixty million people died in this one conict on Earth,





paused as people gasped and let that number sink in. The number
of lives lost was much higher than the total populations of their
ten respective planets, Six million people were executed in death
camps for being of a race, culture, or religion people found unsavory. But it gets worse. It ended in this:
A view of a Japanese city lled the pedastal, a perfect miniature complete with bustling trac and plumes of smoke from the
factories. A bright light seared everyone's eyes, a soundless, colorless ame burned bright in the heart of the city for just an instant,
and then the terrible shockwave tore out from the center, scattering buildings, vehicles, people like a vengeful child tired of his
playthings. A thing as great as any of them had seen on their own
worlds was replaced in a moment by smoke and ruin. They saw people running to the river as their skin seared and their hair burned
away. One of the o-worlders screamed. Several wept openly. I felt
tears wet my own eyes as I remembered a village far away which I
had never seen destroyed from orbit. 
The atom bomb, I said quietly into the now silent room, Our
people spent decades with thousands of these weapons pointed at
each other, an eyeblink away from extinction. We still have them,
are still working to settle dierences widened by the blood of innocents even as we face alien races far older and far more advanced
than we are. I am told that some of you know how easily that can

Nola looked back at me deantly. Baden refused to take

his eyes o of the oor, But know this: as far more powerful as
we are over you, the Wraith are that much more powerful still. If
we don't stand together against the Wraith and against other enemies just as nightmarish, all humans everywhere may be reduced
to slavery and cattle.

That is why we brought you all here, not

to toy with your lives as the `Ancestors' did, but to meet you as
equals, to teach... and to learn. 
Dr. Weir does not think we should be doing this, said Nola
No, she does not. She believes we have already made too many




mistakes where you are concerned, that if we teach you too much,
too quickly, you will destroy yourselves like we almost did, like you
almost did. The IOA... thinks dierently, and so do I. At least, I
believe you deserved the knowledge of what the consoles were and
the choice of whether to go back to your worlds in peace, to be left
alone by us or to join us in ghting. It is your choice. 
Now, you have enough to think about for the moment. said
Dr. Weir, entering the room, A lunch has been prepared and, at
least today, we will feast in your honor. Many of you have brought
samples of food from your homeworld to share and we have recently
brought food from Earth. It is not the best of what Earth has to
oer, I am afraid, but we are a long way from home and what we
bring cannot be fresh. That is one of the things which each of you
has to oer the people of the City of the Ancestors.
I looked at Dr.

Weir across the crowd and nodded, handing

o responsibility for the o-worlders.

When I thought everyone

had gone, I closed my eyes, leaning back against the wall, and
slowly sank to the oor. A wave of foreign images paraded through
my head: places I had never seen, people I had never met.


most disturbing were the unbidden smells, the acrid smell of fresh
tunnels, of hot alien spices, of stale shipboard air. 
Mr. Higgs? a female voice said kindly but insistantly at my
ear, I think you've been avoiding your appointment.
Well, the nerve regeneration is proceeding faster than even I would
have thought, but you are not well yet, Dr. Keller said as she went
over the recent scans on a datapad, I noticed you've stopped using
the crutch.
I nodded, I still have trouble with balance and have been keeping the cane handy, but I've been getting stronger every day. 
Is it still... quiet? she asked, hesitantly. 
Mostly, I nodded again, I've been having strange dreams and 
ashes of odd memories. I know something is there that doesn't...
belong... but it, he, stays under the surface.




That will probably continue until most of the damage has been
restored. But I've only seen one case like yours and I have no idea
what normal even is. I want you in here every day. 
Yes, ma'am. I said meekly, hoping that if I went along she'd
let me go back to my work, Have you gone over the samples left
by Dr. Carson? 

Becket, yes, she said, allowing the change in subject, 

Three of them are still in the morgue and they all support the
conclusions we came to on the Odyssey.

It's odd, though, I've

always focused on saving lives, not on nding the best way to end
Even Wraith? I asked, raising an eyebrow. 
Even Wraith, she replied rmly, I can't help think that there
are real people in there somewhere, like that one Dr.


retrovirus was used on. 
Michael Kenmore? Yeah, but he still turned out to be a monster in the end... I broke o, realizing there were people, Colonel
Caldwell in particular, who would now say the same about me.
I looked up to nd Dr. Keller looking at me hard, as if she had
followed my unspoken thoughts. 
A lot of us have had to do things lately we never could have
imagined, she said, I added some notes from the cadavers.


nish your report, she stood up and began looking for her next
task, then stopped and put her hand briey on my shoulder, But
I want you back in here tomorrow.
I nodded and escaped while I could.
Nine of us sat around the conference table underneath the Gateroom. Doctor McKay and Ronon were clearly bored, Colonel Caldwell oozed barely controlled hostillity, and Doctor Keller was uncomfortable and dgetted restlessly. 
So, bigger bullets make bigger holes? A little surprising, isn't
it? Dr. McKay said as he tossed several pictures of ballistic gelatin
tests onto the table.




It's not the size of the hole that matters, precisely, but the size
of the `permanent cavity', the volume of destroyed tissue. Our data
shows that Wraith heal very quickly from penetrating wounds but
that it takes longer for them to recover from tissue which is actually
ruptured sometimes days longer. Dr. Keller responded. 
Right, I said, looking to Colonel Shepherd for support, The
P-90's smaller 5.7x28mm bullets actually do better in this respect
than the 9mm ball in your sidearms because they tumble, but larger
calibers with hollow points or big, slow slugs do even better. 
As long as they get through the Wraith body armor, Shepherd
put in, The P-90 has done a real good job of that.

The 9 mm

parabellum has barely slowed them down. 
On Sateda, we used triple-barrel shotguns, 2-3 slugs per Wraith,
Ronon interjected.
Colonel Caldwell actually joined the conversation at this point, 

Keller and Mr.

Higgs put together a list of calibers and

specic bullets which should both penetrate the Wraith armor and
produce the kinds of wounds they can't readily recover from. It's
actually very similar to changes being made in the Milky Way for 
ghting Jaa. 
OK, so we start mixing heavy weapons in both outgoing teams
and city defense teams.
leaning on the table.

What's the problem?


Weir asked,

I was struck again by her unconventional

beauty and the forcefullness of her personality, especially her devastating use of the eyebrow. 
The US Air Force or any other military has a hard time ordering large amounts of hollow point ammunition without drawing

unwanted attention, I said. 
The Geneva Convention.

Weir said, leaning back, Wraith

aren't exactly signatory to the convention, but we can't really tell
the public why we want some very unusual munitions.

Can we

make them here? 
Sure, said Dr.

Zelenka, We can use the city's fabrication

facility to produce ammunition of any type given enough raw metals




and nitrogen feedstocks, but the power use would be... 
Astronomical, Dr. McKay cut in, Especially at the rate John
Wayne here uses ammunition. McKay ducked as a wad of paper
bounced o his head. 
Right, I said, which is why the IOA thinks it would be better
to use the fabrication facility to make dies and equipment and set
up an osite factory to make the ammunition in a more conventional manner. 
And where do they propose we do that? Dr. Weir asked. 
On one of the Game worlds, said Caldwell quietly. 
We already have enough problems with the Genii, aren't we
just risking exposing more technology for them to steal?


rearms are nowhere near as good as ours, Shepherd asked.
Rodney's face lit up, Not on the Game worlds. Every single
one of them has a space gate. 
So we're the only ones who can access those worlds, aside from
the Wraith, Zelenka said wryly, and I don't think we're too worried about the Wraith gaining projectile weapons. 
Ronon, Teyla, what do you think? Dr. Weir asked. 
I like big guns, Ronon shrugged. 
I think that our new allies would value something useful to do
against the Wraith. Many of them have experienced cullings since
the Ancestors abandoned them, said Teyla. 
All right, said Weir, I'll consider it. What is this other research from the Milky Way? 
Dr. Daniel Jackson of the SGC... I started. 
I've met him, said Weir. 
He's been doing research on human Vampire legends to see if
it turns up any other substantial weaknesses of the Wraith. The
'Lanteans returned to the Milky Way, and some of their stories
may have ended up in Taur'i culture. 
What, we should start carrying garlic? McKay cracked. 
We've tried that, countered Dr. Keller, Wraith tissue samples
didn't respond to garlic, but live Wraith might react to salt water




sprayed in the face or eyes, like the Iratus bug that was attached
Me, said Shepherd, Pardon me if I don't want to carry a
Super Soaker into combat. What about stakes through the heart
and that sort of thing? 
That, actually works, Dr Keller said, At least it keeps them
from regenerating as long as you don't take it out. So would chopping o their head and a number of... she grimaced, more gruesome things people do in stories. 
So you think there actually might be signicant information in
Bram Stoker? asked Weir. 
Dr. Jackson does, yes, I said, and added, Your people held
onto signicant information about the Goa'uld and the Asgard for
thousands of years.

The words just came out that way. I knew

it was a mistake as soon as I said it, with both Caldwell and Weir
looking at me strangely. 
Well, said Weir, cocking the eyebrow again, I think that's
what we had on the Agenda. Dr. Zelenka, I want a report on your
jumper modications later today.
I met Caldwell's eyes briey and ed the conference room as
quickly as I could in a dignied manner. It suddenly seemed much
too crowded in my head.
Make a hole! I said as I came up on a group of scientists clustered
near one of the common rooms. They quickly swirled apart as I
jogged on and down toward the North Pier.

I should have been

elated: it had been years since I had been able to run. I tried to
get caught up in the pace, to just get lost in the thump, thump of
my sneakers on whatever it was the Ancients had used for ooring,
to absorb the sea breeze, and smell of, what?



the Ancients seemed fond of, but layers of thoughts and memories
swirled and clamored for attention.
I thought of time in North Carolina learning Forensics and
spending every spare moment in the woods or weekends out at




Kittyhawk on the coast. Images of the Duke Forest preserve with
its hard pack paths, rocky outcrops, and bubbling creeks, the spicy
scent of St. John's Wort and thick, sweet smell of honeysuckle. A
village with grass huts arrayed around a eld with tall, deep-blue 
owers, the smell of evening res and smoking meat...

no, that

wasn't right. I shook my head to clear it and turned into another
Tenessee working under a prominent Forensics professor, trips
to South America to assist an archaeologist studying remains from
a striking burial nd, getting bitten by something in the brush, a
wound that would not heal. Making love to Pythia in the trees by
the lake... no, that's not mine. I turned too late this time and put
out my hands to stop a head-long plunge into a wall.


fought with memories as I felt myself falling.
I held my head in my hands and let myself slide to the oor.

You knew it would come to this. This was the price. We need
to work together.
I touched the tiny reliquary hanging around my neck and felt
blackness rise up.

Chapter 2

Jogging? You went jogging ?! What were you thinking? Doctor
Jennifer Keller was livid as she looked over my chart. 
Trying not to think, actually, I said groggily.

Apparently I

had been found blacked out in a random corridor. 
Stay there, and don't move until I tell you to, she said, going
to look at scans of my nervous system in private. I lay back against
the headrest, not able to move anyway. 
Don't take it too badly, said McKay from the next bed, chewing on an energy bar, I almost ended up here the last time I went

Actually, it wasn't me really, just my body.

You see, I

had this gal stuck inside of me, two people in one body you have
no idea how strange that is and she kidnapped me while I was
sleeping, decided to exercise in the middle of the night.
I sighed, What are you doing here, Doctor? 
Oh, McKay said brightly, Pressure sickness. I had to do an
EVA thousands of feet under water. My hands have had tremors
all day.
I turned my head and took a close look at him, widening my
eyes in surprise, I think your eyes are bulging a little, too, might





be intracranial pressure. 
You really think so? I knew it! What if there's brain damage?
Do you realize how critical this brain is to the success of the mission?

I need to nd a mirror, McKay rocketed o the bed and

out of the room. I smiled to myself, scarfed the other energy bar
sitting on his tray, and collapsed back into the headrest.
For a few moments, experimentally, I let the other part of me
dominate. It was like sinking beneath the surface of a still pool, like
I had been treading water for weeks and just let it go. But as the
water closed over my head, it was very hard to control the panic.
The ow of images was easier to handle but still overwhelming. I
was a control freak, and I knew I was way out of my depth.

This was a mistake, I thought. You would still be trapped in
that wheelchair, came the thought back.
My hand moved of its own accord, tore open the wrapper on
the energy bar, a simple act, but one I had not initiated myself. As
I ate the bar, I felt a rm pressure on my mind. I knew I could get
back control if I wanted it, at least this time, but it, he, was exing
his muscles, learning how my mind and body worked like someone
driving a car for the rst time. Maybe the wheelchair wasn't so bad.

You don't really think that.
I didn't answer.
I was in the gym, my sidearm hung up on a peg, working through

Chu Chi Chen, trying to let the form still the roilling surface of
my mind.

Move, counter-move, forward and back on the mat,

imagining my partner as I broke holds, blocked strikes, used the
position of my feet to protect my lower body. I remembered walking
the long path by the creek, looping back to the top of a ridge, and
doing forms until my calves ached, like Inigo and the Man in Black
on the top of the Clis of Insanity.
I was relearning my own body, my moves more choppy and mechanical then they should, but still not bad for a quadriplegic. I
also seemed to have another well of grace, of movement, of experi-




ence I was starting to learn to draw on. 
I have never seen this discipline before, Teyla Emagen had
entered the gym.

Her bag sat on the oor next to her as she

watched me work through the forms. 
It is called Shaolin Kung Fu, a traditional martial arts form
from China on Earth. It's a bit of an eclectic art, combining grappling, boxing, kicking, and deceptive footwork. This is one of the
basic practice forms, actually designed for two people.

The rst

part goes forward, I said as I demonstrated, and the second part
goes backward, so they interlock. 
So, you were a warrior, then, like Colonel Shepherd or Major
Lorne? Before your... injury?
I shook my head, Not exactly. I studied archaeology and forensics, a bit like Dr.

Jackson, but I liked to be hands on in my

approach. I learned many traditional and primitive skills to understand the people I was studying. Along the way, I learned Kung Fu
and fencing that's traditional sword ghting on Earth before


As I'm healing and getting stronger, I'm trying to

pick up what I lost along the way.
I didn't feel the need to tell her that I had also learned over a
dozen distinct martial arts on several dierent worlds and that I
still had no idea how to deal with those experiences, but I warmed
to the conversation.
vited trust.

There was something about Teyla that in-

When she spoke to you, you felt that she gave you

her undivided attention and you had the same feeling when she
Then perhaps you would enjoy a partner? I would like to learn
this `Chu Chi Chen'.
She was an extremely good student and an eective teacher as
she demonstrated a similar Athosian empty hand form.

By the

end of the session, she had mastered the basics of Chu Chi Chen,
had started on Zong Chi Chen, a more complex form with leaps,
chasing movements, and more advanced footwork.
grace and reexes were superb.

Her natural

I also found by the end that I




had not only regained much ground but that in some ways I was
faster and more uid than I had been before. We spoke a bit as we
worked, I about places I had been on Earth, she about growing up
among the Athosians and with the constant threat of the Wraith. I
started describing my time in South America and broke o when I
didn't know how to navigate the various conversational landmines.
We spent a few minutes sparring with the Bantu sticks, where
I was soundly trounced, but I was getting better. Finally, I backed
o and bowed in respect, I'm afraid that's all I can do or I'll end
up in the inrmary again and I think the good doctor will have my
When I rst saw you in Atlantis, you were hobbling on a crutch.
Now you are making me work for my hits. This is a remarkable
recovery, she said, dropping the sticks into her bag. I knew she
was subtley... and politely shing for information, trying to gure
out who I was and my role on Atlantis. 
I was badly hurt in South America, but I also discovered some
things which got me involved with the Stargate program.


opened up options for treatment most of my people never experience, it was only a small lie. 
I know Dr. Jackson's command of history made Earth's use of
the Stargate possible and lead to the discovery of Atlantis, but it
wasn't your skills as a scientist that got you sent here. Again, she
was shing, poking at something specic she knew or suspected. 
No, the IOA believed I had some unique skills to oer. 
As a trainer of... Guerillas ?
The shock must have shown in my face because she waved it
away and continued, Colonel Shepherd has also done some work
of that kind in a place on Earth he will not discuss.

He turned

the IOA down when they asked him to take charge of training the
people here. He has suspected from the beginning that you were
sent here in his place, that you were also military but for some
reason no one wanted to admit it perhaps because of things you
have had to do in the past.




He thought I was `Black Ops'.
Teyla shrugged. 
Not exactly, but very perceptive just the same.
She waited, to give me a chance to say more, then shrugged
again and shouldered her bag, You keep many secrets, Mr. Higgs,
and I wonder if you know all of them yourself. 
Jason, I said, you can call me `Jason'.
She turned and smiled at me on the way out, Thank you,

Jason, for the workout. If you wish to talk, I believe you can nd
me. Among the Athosians, trust begets trust.

And I still had some trust to earn, went the unspoken thought.
I knew I looked like death warmed over. I had spent the entire night
in long and heated conversation, working out the details of my next
mission and the details, too, of an interpersonal relationship more
intimate than any I had ever experienced. Hopefully I would handle
it better than previous relationships, but so far I was not placing
bets. I stopped to pray briey before leaving my quarters, which
itself devolved into an argument, so I was a bit frustrated by the
time I got to the Mess.

I crushed the edge of a plastic tray by

accident but did not think anyone noticed. It was early and the
tables were mostly deserted. 
Doctor Higgs, I turned at my name, noticing my mistake too
late. Dr. McKay beckoned me over to his table. Habits are hard
to break, he said, You did your dissertation at Duke University,
but it's sealed, even to someone with clearance to the Stargate
I sat my tray down and played with its contents. 
You have no rank, no insignia, he continued, but you are
authorized to carry a sidearm, even here. Your le says you have
diplomatic status, but not from whom. It was true, as a diplomat,
my symbiote was entitled to a security detail and I, Jason Higgs,
was it.

The fact that we resided in the same body was a minor

legal issue, You were a quadriplegic less than a year ago, perhaps




as recently as a month. Your medical records and scans are sealed.
Dr. Keller is careful not to operate the scanner when anyone else is
nearby and she clearly knows what she is dealing with, so I assume
you are not a Goa'uld. 
Continue, I said. 
You're Tok'ra, he said in triumph, part of a secret resistance
to the Goa'uld, but the fact that you have a snake inside you is
what drove Caldwell crazy. He was taken over by a Goa'uld not
that long ago; almost destroyed Atlantis.
Checking to make sure we were, in fact, alone, I dipped into the
pool and let the symbiote handle the situation,  Continue, I said,
but my voice changed and my eyes glowed brightly for a moment.
McKay was taken aback slightly, What? I was right? What I
can't gure out is why in hell you're even here, I mean, on Atlantis...
except, Oh.
I raised an eyebrow. 
Well, you're training people to resist the Wraith, just as you've
been quietly training people to resist the Goa'uld for... 
About eight hundred of your years, I said, I am Fel-thas. I
have healed this man in exchange for blending with him.

It has

been very hard for me to surface until now due to the extent of
the damage which had to be repaired. Dr. Keller monitored my
condition in transit on the Oddesey.

The IOA believed that my

identity should be kept quiet for the time being and, well, the
Aren't usually keen to announce themselves, anyway, McKay 
nished for me.
I nodded deeply, the way my Cifu, my Kung Fu instructor, did
when he was pleased with a student's answer: an odd gesture which
felt completely foreign to me. 
Don't worry, your secret is safe with me, but you so owe me a
Power Bar.




I stood with Major Lorne in front of a large group in the town

Teyla had made introductions for us before returning to

join Colonel Shepherd for a mission. It was a perfect rst test of
the IOA's plan outside the isolated Game worlds. The world had
escaped culling for centuries but had active trade with other worlds,
so they knew just how bad things could get and they were rapidly
getting worse as Wraith awakened everywhere to nd themselves
short on food. They had developed good metalworking skills and a
Classical (or late Medieval) level of technology. They already had
written histories hidden in underground vaults, modest compared
to that of the Hofans or the Genii, but still clearly thinking ahead.
I took a step forward and spoke, Many of you have asked, `How
can we escape the cullings?'

I come here from the people of the

City of the Ancestors, the people Teyla Emagen has chosen to join
and ght alongside, and I come to oer help, I paused to let that
sink in, but I cannot oer you safety.

Nowhere in this galaxy,

in all the worlds connected by the Ancestral Rings or indeed,
even worlds not so connected is there safety. This was met by
muttering and looks from neighbor to neighbor. 
Perhaps all of you suspected as much. But we can oer you
something else: the tools to ght, to protect some of your family
through the time to come, the tools for your people and your legacy
to survive this age. At this point, I was following a script worked
out by Fel-thas and I was depending on his experience that I would
be able to keep their attention and eventually get their agreement.
Once more I paused, and waited for the reaction.
As if on cue, someone spoke up, How can we ght Wraith? How
can we ght Wraith magic and Darts from the sky? Murmurs of
assent owed through the crowd.
I waved my hand drammatically to Major Lorne. A large amphora had been prepositioned nearby. The Major raised his P-90
and carefully turned it into splinters of stoneware and rushing water. 
Magic is as magic does, I said, What the Wraith have is not




magic, but technology, arte. You have skilled blacksmiths among
you who can fashion good steel out of ore from the earth. Is this
magic? I have seen today beautiful water clocks of cunning design.
Is this magic? The Wraith have great skill and powerful devices,
I turned to look over the crowd, catching as many eyes as I could, 
But we are not without power ourselves, and what you do not
know you may yet learn. 
You will give us these weapons of yours? an old and grizzled
man with a crossbow asked. 
Better still, I will teach you to make them for yourselves. Even
the most skilled among you could not understand this, I pointed
to the P-90 still in Lorne's hand, without many years of study, but
this one, I pulled a Civil War-era revolver out of a roll of oil cloth
at my feet, some of you could puzzle out, and these, I indicated a
pair of muskets, a double-barreled smoothbore and a long rie, not
Earth relics but devices top-down designed for o-world resistance
groups, I am condant I can teach your craftsmen to make.


red each of them in turn, operating the mechanisms deliberately. 
If we just gave you weapons, you would become dependent on us.
What we teach you is truly yours to keep.
They were impressed, but some of them had seen Wraith and
their weapons. There was still muttering centered around the old
man who had spoken up earlier, You do not need to defeat the
Wraith in battle, I said, All you need do is cost them for each
culling, delay them, and distract them from your families who will
be hidden elsewhere. I will teach you how to signal when the Wraith
arrive, how to disappear in an eye-blink, and keep your families
hidden from the eyes of the scouts. I will teach you to use superior
numbers for yes, you outnumber the Wraith in their ships to
isolate and pick o their soldiers one by one. 
And just where did you learn how to do this?

said the old

man, deantly, Who taught you how to defeat the Wraith? 
You are not without allies, even aside from those of the City
of the Ancestors.

I am not what I appear.

My people are older




than yours, older than the Tau'ri who occupy the ancient city.
Not as old as those you know as the Ancestors, but as old as the
Wraith. I have lived for over...

Fel-thas did a quick calculation, 

seven hundred of your cycles and have spent most of that teaching
people in villages just like yours to ght a race of monsters called
the Goa'uld and their fearsome armies of Jaa. The People of the
City and people you know such as Teyla Emagen have experience 
ghting the Wraith. Together we can be strong.
There was still a measure of doubt. Some people were won over
by my arguments, but some doubted my claims, We are supposed
to believe that a man who appears no more than twenty Cycles has
lived since the last culling...?
Slowly getting used to the process, I drew inside, not from inside, but more...

shrunk into myself...

for a moment to let the

symbiote have full control. I felt a brief but heady rush of strength
and euphoria. My eyes ashed brightly and my voice vibrated with
power, If you like, I can prove that I am not entirely human...
People stepped back, including, briey, Lorne, even though I
had already lled him in (some) on what I had planned to do.
Then Fel-thas released control back to me, more gracefully than I
had yet learned, ...but I would rather prove to you that together
we can kill Wraith, I said, back to a normal tone of voice.
It was very smoothly accomplished.

The townspeople were

pushed just to a point of being uncomfortable but no further. They
did not entirely trust (or understand) who and what I was, but
they saw with their own eyes what I was oering.

Their crafts-

people came forward to examine the muskets, catching the scent of
spent powder, looking at the simple but elegant mechanisms. They
eyed me warily, keeping their distance, but they had known and
trusted Teyla, they had heard stories of the travelers who came
from the City of the Ancestors, and they were ready, in a world
of interconnected Stargates, to believe in worlds and beings from
farther still... at least for the moment.
The old man was the captain of the town Watch, an old soldier




who spent his days teaching the younger. Some of the afternoon
was spent discussing tactics for attacking Wraith soldiers using
pairs of humans with a long rie and a double smoothbore between
them. The old man wanted something concrete to show that I knew
how to ght, not just as an individual, but as a leader of men. I
gave him tactics which had been deployed time and time again by
mere mortals against well-armed and trained Jaa.
We stayed through a meal overall a productive day and
then returned to Atlantis to nd that Shepherd's team was overdue.

Michael was back.
Lorne turned and asked me, before he went to the control room, 
If these guerilla tactics worked so well for seven, eight-hundred
years, why did it take so long for resistance to build up to eective
In the Miky Way, the Jaa had a tactic for villages which
resisted in any way or really made avoiding selections anything
more than an enjoyable sport: they destroyed it, often from orbit.
We had to be very careful when and where the resistance acted. 
And here? 
The Wraith in their overculling will wipe out whole planets

There is little to lose, I shrugged.

Lorne nodded and

dashed to the control room and Weir to report in. I went down to
one of the deactivated Ancient labs one that had nearly ascended
(or killed) Rodney McKay to try to accomplish another part of
my mission.

Chapter 3

Soul Asylum
You're in need of some
There's a place where you
should go
There's a bright spot on the
dark side of a long and
winding road
Soul Asylum, Directions

As I walked through Atlantis, I worried. Actually, I downright

fretted. Several times today I had said I referring to past experiences of Fel-thas, and I had just said we to Major Lorne referring
to the Tok'ra. The worst part is that it had not felt unnatural. I
was becoming more and more comfortable with the layers of foreign memories and more and more comfortable with the foreign
presence in my mind. I did not want to be. I wanted to resent it
more. I did poorly with housemates, let alone... whatever this was.
And now I was o on a secret Tok'ra mission without Weir's
permission and expressly against her standing orders. Oh, the mis-





sion was not a complete secret. There were a few members of the
IOA who knew what the Tok'ra really wanted in Pegasus, what
made it worth sending me, er... one of their best operatives all this
way, that is, assuming I even knew the full extent of what they

Was it possible for Fel-thas to lie to even me?


our relative levels of experience at this whole blending thing, I suspected that it was.
I did not get any real sense that my symbiote was duplicitous.
There was a level of arrogance, not the domineering megalomania of
the Goa'uld, but simply the self-assurance that Fel-thas' experience
of centuries vastly outweighed anything I had come up with in
my one brief lifetime.

There was an assumption that I should

simply accept his conclusions on principle and morality, on the
contemplation of the numinous, rather than an eort to achieve
a shared understanding from the standpoint of equals.


might bend here and there, but the same assumption was always
the starting point for the next issue.
I had had an opportunity to speak with Carter/Selmac before
their death and my rebirth. I know that Carter had regretted the
politics of the fragile Tau'ri  Tok'ra alliance, but there were no
misgivings about the choice to blend with Selmac in the rst place.
The younger Carter, too, had a rough initiation to the Tok'ra but
also seemed to genuinely respect them (us?) as a race and people.
General O'Neill, in a brief conversation, had minced no words.
I now knew that, though Selmac spoke no ill, there had been
bad blood between the two Tok'ra. Fel-thas had been undercover
on a planet seething with discontent. Selmac had been particularly
aected by the attrocities committed there because of the relatives
of his then host and had urged action.

Fel-thas had been more

cautious, fearing the reprisals of open rebellion.

In the end, the

humans revolted and several prosperous towns had been reduced
from orbit. Fel-thas now admitted he had not been 'right' the
situation might have gone either way but he had lost a woman he
loved and there had been friction between them for many decades




after as a consequence. Seeing Valla Maldaran in the SGC had also
been a bittersweet reminder of both a successful uprising against
the Goa'uld and near disaster for her personally. I knew that, had
I examined them, my symbiote's long memories of resistance would
be laced with bitterness. What use was victory if the personal cost
was always too high? What good even winning the struggle againt
the Goa'uld if the Tok'ra themselves became extinct?
And so, when I came down to it, I trusted the core motivations of the Tok'ra, even if, from time to time and individual to
individual, things had gone astray. I knew that none of us could
single-handedly heal all ills and perhaps that was a place where a
mere human had an advantage: I was used to thinking of myself as
a relatively small part of history and a core of faith told me that
the part was neverthelesss exactly what I needed to be doing.
I still felt badly about going behind Dr. Weir's back, but that,
too, was something I was used to dealing with ever since I had
been recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency back in college.
A student archaeologist had reason to travel to many countries
with relatively little attention or suspicion. That had made me a
natural t for many small jobs and often made it necessary to hide
what I was doing from my coworkers.
Finally, I stopped at the door to the lab and powered up a
tablet. I accessed the Trojan Horse Dr. McKay had tripped when
he tried to access my sealed records and used it to override the door
code. The IOA had gured senior Atlantis personnel would not be
able to resist snooping and had installed it ahead of time.


door opened silently; I entered and closed it behind me. Though
I knew no one would see it, I felt more secure leaving most of
the lights o. I approached the device cautiously. I did not want
to accidentally activate it and I had no idea what it would do to
Tok'ra physiology. Instead, I sat down at the console nearby and
Fel-thas began sifting through the notes and records on human
DNA manipulation we had not been able to access through the
Ancient library database.



After several hours, exhausted, I gave up and left.


It was

clear that the 'Ascendication' device did not have the capabilities I needed, but there was a more disturbing revelation: even the
Altarans never really understood how the communications stones
worked they had borrowed the technology themselves. But from
whom? And how had the technology been reverse-engineered? It
was clear that the communications stones worked on something
much more fundamental than the level of DNA. Anubis had known
something, perhaps something gleaned from the ascended Altarans.
He had made a `clone' of himself with all his memories intact, but
cloning DNA by itself did not copy memories. Perhaps the Dakara
`weapon' might have contained critical information... before it was
destroyed by the Ori.

Ba'al inherited many of Anubis' toys and

trinkets, but was not likely to help the Tok'ra; somewhere the original answer lay hidden.
I touched the reliquary at my throat on the way back up the
corridor, What we need is here, Egeria, and we'll nd it, I say
It was a busy week.

It started with a jumper ride to Geldar to

inspect construction there. The mine on the border of Geldar and
Hallona now had an entrance shaft on both sides of the river. A
new annex was being excavated to shelter portions of the population and, more importantly, records, tools, and knowledge, from
Wraith attack.

The mine's machine shop had been greatly ex-

panded with tools from Atlantis' fabrication facility. The rst runs
of ammunition were ready for shipment back to Atlantis and the
local population was also manufacturing quality home-grown boltaction ries based on .308 Springeld cartridges they were already
making for the alliance.

There was still a good deal of friction

between the two nations, but having a shared cause allowed them
both to move forward.
Next, I returned to Lenir, my test case for the anti-Wraith resistance. Progress here was slower, but the main town was now the




center for regional militia training in addition to its own watch.
Pikes and crossbows were being augmented by small squads of
musketeers. The jumper which had picked me up in Hallona now
deposited its cargo in the town square where a marine sniper was
to begin their instruction in using the twenty Geldaran ries we
had brought with us. In several days, the jumper would return to
retrieve us and a cargo of a local herb which made an excellent
non-addictive analgesic and sedative.
While one group of townspeople received their long-rie instruction, I walked with several others to a rocky eld just to its south.
Under their watchful eye, I placed a yellowy-green crystal on the
ground. After a few moments, it began pulsating and we could feel
the vibration of the ground in our bones and teeth.

It must seem like magic to you, Fel-thas entoned in my mind.
It does, I responded, but a type of magic I've seen before. My
dad was a farmer, like these people here.

We're used to setting

things on the ground and coming back later to nd a beanstalk.
Maybe the Tok'ra who invented these crystals was a farmer, I suggested.

No, Fel-thas replied, his lover was the farmer.

We needed a

better way to make new tunnels quickly and have them be consistent
from facility to facility. The metaphor of planting a seed seemed 

We have been planting seeds of rebellion for a very long

Once again, I 'remembered' a young woman by a lake, dark
hair and lithe curves, gathering lillies in the sun. Then the smell
of burning crofts and lillies on mounded clods of earth.
An hour later, I was adapting the ring platform to run o of a
portable naqueda generator. Now I just needed the generator.
Later that evening, however, a sonic boom like far-o thunder
announced the arrival of the intergalactic delivery service and I
was meeting Colonel Ellis at the gangway of the Apollo. His aid
checked o items on a list as they were unloaded, including the
portable generator and ten pounds of US silver coins.




What's this? I asked, indicating a piece of equipment consisting of several interconnected tubs, motor-driven paddles, and a lot
of tubing. 
A portable bio-diesel rig.

Relatively portable, anyway, he

said as four airmen set it down. One of them handed me a thick
military-drafted manual before the Colonel continued, Your request for an Al-Kesh was denied, both by the IOA and the Tok'ra
high council.
I blinked, Fel-thas just as puzzled as I was, And making biodiesel will replace this... how?
Colonel Ellis waved his hand for me to follow him up the gangway, to the lift, and nally to the starboard ight pod.

Then I

Inside were two Dodge Ram pickup trucks, inline-

six diesels with a few IOA-added bells and whistles. Finally, Ellis
handed me a small pouch containing data storage crystals. These
would contain any new orders and briengs from the Tok'ra high
Colonel, what was that being assembled on the ight deck?
It had looked suspiciously like a MRV, a multiple warhead nuclear
weapon, much larger than the X-303's usually carried. 
Not your department, Ellis answered briskly, We're due at
Atlantis with the rest of the cargo.

If you have any requests for

the next drop, le them with Dr. Weir as usual. 
Will do.

Oh, I have something for you, actually, I said, re-

trieving a small wooden keg from a nearby stump, The Lanirans
make a pretty decent stout. I had heard you were a connoisseur.
It had been Fel-thas' idea, actually. When running an op in remote
territory, it never hurt to grease the skids a little by making good
with the folks you might need to call in a hurry.
Shortly thereafter, I was cackling in mad glee as the generatorpowered rings-platform lowered my new trucks into the still cooling
cavern below.

The locals were already moving tools, books, and

crates of beets into the small complex.

Even Fel-thas had never

seen such an odd juxtaposition of alien technologies. Tomorrow I




would take a truck for a spin to the next planet and try out the
dashboard DHD.
A deer trail lead through a clearing ahead and then down to a small
stream. The vegetation near the large oak had been trampled very
recently, the outline of booted feet visible in grass stalks which had
not yet sprung back upright. I would have preferred to have Ronan
Dex here. I was a passable tracker and Fel-thas had centuries of
experience, but Ronan knew Wraith. He knew what their prints
looked like and he knew how their minds worked, what they would
have been thinking as they stood here for a moment.
One set of prints seemed lighter than the rest. The Wraith soldiers carried more weapons and armor; they were built more solidly
than the scouts or ocers. It seemed likely that the group's leader
had stood here, next to the oak, and looked down the trail. Two
Wraith soldiers stood protectively nearby and three more (four?)
took up positions on the trail to watch for enemies.


something the Wraith were not used to encountering on routine
culling expeditions.

The leader had turned in place, creating a

scu mark in the softer dirt by the tree, then they had gone on
their way down the trail and into the clearing.
I looked at Orin, one of the local militia recruits. I mimed the
Wraith going down the trail to the stream. Then I mimed us going
o trail and cutting them o where it looped back. He nodded and
pointed past the tree to where an older track ran. I gestured for
him to take point and for the team to expect enemy contact. We
had done small unit training in this exact area a few days before,
but Orin still knew the land, every root and bramble, better than
I did.

He quickly checked the primers and safety on his double-

musket and proceded softly into the brush. There was tension in
the set of everyone's features, a tightening of the grip on their ries,
but also excitement and anticipation that they would soon be able
to prove themselves and put paid to the invaders of their homes, if
only a handful.




The day was stiing hot, the forest air was still and close. No
birds or animals made noise, already driven o by the intrusion of
the Wraith. Mosquitos whined around us, sucking in small quantities what the Wraith would drain in full. We passed soundlessly
through low ferns and more slowly through a patch of bramble,
over the crest of a small hump of decaying trunks of trees fallen
long ago.

One of the men kicked loose a rock and I put up my 

st for 'freeze' as it skittered into thorny cramble-berries. Fel-thas
heightened my senses, as I knew my enemies' were heightened. I
strained to hear any sound or movement.

A crow called a short

distance o, possibly disturbed by Wraith on the loop of the trail.
After a moment, I lowered my hand and signalled to proceed,
Orin and three others ahead of me, three more men behind. Shortly,
Orin signalled with his arm across his chest that the lower loop of
the trail was just ahead and I could barely hear the sound of water
from the stream beyond that. We fanned out and took up hasty
positions, crouching behind what cover could be found. Then we
waited, but not long.
The Wraith came down the trail, looking and aware, but condent. There were just ve soldiers with the leader, but there was
a complication.

One of the soldiers lead a man roughly with a

pointed stunner. The Wraith had arrived through the stargate and
headed to the small village for a snack only to nd it empty and
deserted. Puzzled, they had begun searching the surrounding area
as we hoped they would. They must have caught a villager coming
or going who had not been able to get to safety. They had not fed
on him yet presumably because they wanted information rst.
Orin looked at me questioningly. I shrugged and raised my .40
S&W, silently clicking o the safety.

We would have to risk the

assault while we had the chance, especially if they had a prisoner
who might tell the Wraith what we were up to.
I put up three ngers with my support hand, then two, then
back to the handgun as I silently counted `one'.

The clatter of

muskets shattered the silence, a rst volley, then a second.





leader and three soldiers went down quickly, one was wounded and
one had escaped harm. One of my men was down from a stunner
blast. I red the last two rounds from my magazine at the uninjured Wraith, striking him in the chest, and yelled, Charge!


my musketeers reversed their heavy ries and took to the path.
Another of my men dropped to a stunner and then it was hand-tohand. I wheeled the reloaded handgun back and forth, looking for
an opportunity. A third man went ying from a Wraith soldier's
blow and crumpled against a tree. The Wraith was cracked in the
forehead by the butt of a rie and briey went down under a urry
of blows. It was just long enough: I had a good target and a clean
background to put two rounds into its head.
The other Wraith was also down, Orin hitting it repeatedly to
make sure it stayed that way. I walked over, administered a single
bullet, then looked for the prisoner, an older gentlemen as it turned
out, too old for the militia, who had been walking back from the
stream with a couple of sh when the alarm had sounded. He had
dropped to the ground and rolled into the brush when the rst
shots were red. Afterwards, his voice cracked a bit as he told me
what had happened. Old he may be, but steady and canny. People
who grew up under the constant threat of the Wraith tended to be
a bit more adaptable or a bit more dead before they got to his age. 
Two stunned, sir, and Bekin is a bit beat up; I think his collarbone and some ribs, Orin grinned at me, handing me my spent
mag, his brother walking around to check the bodies and collect
Well done, Fel-thas said, Drag those two onto the path until
they wake up and watch the perimiter in case there are more of
them somewhere.
Two weeks had gone by since my last contact with Atlantis.
The address would not lock. Without a jumper, I could not get to
any of the Game planets to use their consoles and satellite network
to communicate. Midway Station's stargate was protected by its
macro from being dialed except by Atlantis and the SGC. I was




cut o until someone contacted me or sent a ship.

Fel-thas was

concerned but sanguine this had apparently happened to him
many times before.

I was frantic.

Perhaps destroyed?

The thought of spending the rest of my life

Had Atlantis been attacked?

(however long or short) as a guerilla without access to decent coee
and Terry Pratchet novels frankly terried me.
We cleaned up our mess, splinted Belkin as best we could and,
when the other two woke up, went back to the village to give the
`All-Clear. Later, the bodies would be collected and burned. Our
plan had worked and the villagers-turned-monster-hunters were doing very well, but once the Wraith we killed went missing, someone
might come looking for them. We had to be prepared for a heavier
I radioed to the marine at the stargate to try the dialing sequence again: still no lock.

Putting on a face more appropriate

to victory, I walked to the square where the people were already
That night, I was going through the remainder of the updates from
the Tok'ra High Council and found this note:
Colonel Everett of the Tau'ri Marine Corp, victim
of a Wraith attack, died yesterday at a Tok'ra facility
despite our eorts to heal his injuries. We believe that
a symbiote can provide no protection against a Wraith
feeding. Even small amounts of Wraith enzyme appear
to inhibit activity of a symbiote and it is being considered for use in Goa'uld extraction ceremonies. More
experimental data required for solid conclusions.
I hefted a tankard of warm Lanirian stout, Here's to not getting
more experimental data.

Chapter 4

"On the other hand, a
leader never second-guesses
himself, and I think I'm up
to the challenge..."
Rodney McKay, Reunion

I hobbled into Dr. Weir's oce, noting the recent repairs. The
Atlantis engineers had been careful matching materials, but a good
eye could still pick out the patches of high-tech spackle. A partiallylled basket of fruit sat on a table by the door, the hand-woven reed
basket typical of one of the Game Worlds.

A stack of personnel

folders sat next to it, topped by a tray of half-eaten lunch. Colonel
Samantha Carter looked up as I came in.
Her eyes narrowed as she took me in, the cuts and burns my
symbiote had only started to heal, Dr. Higgs, you look like hell. 
The Wraith found one of our bolt-holes. They softened us up
with an orbital bombardment and then went in with ground troops
to mop up. We had just about had it when the damndest thing
happened: the Wraith motherships were destroyed from orbit. Af-





ter a week's solid ghting, we managed to get rid of the last of
them on the ground, but the butcher's bill was high. Very high. 
The Replicators, she pullled over a chair and gestured for me
to sit down, They destroyed the hive ships. 
That's my guess, I said, gingerly lowering myself into the
chair, but we only had the most rudimentary sensors installed.
Dr. Weir may have saved the entire End Game strategy. 
We all owe her a great deal, she murmurred, her blue eyes
grave and thoughtful for a moment, I'm sorry we left you out of
contact for so long. 
You had other priorities, and we knew the risks when we accepted the mission. Congratulations, by the way, I gestured to the
eagle on her uniform and to the oce, blinking for a moment at
the photo of Sam Carter on a motorcycle which lay haphazzardly
on one end of the desk.
She crossed behind the desk and sat down herself, steepling her
hands and xing me with a steely gaze, Speaking of which, I was
not happy about the decision to keep Dr.

Weir out of the loop

regarding... the full scope of Tok'ra activities in Pegasus.
My voice changed as Fel-Thas took fore, Perhaps, Colonel
Carter, but because of that secrecy, the replicators are now not
fully apprised of those activities. 
Do you believe your activities are of any interest to the Replicators? 
An interesting question, I said with a half-nod, but `a secret
shared only by the enemy is not a secret'.
It was her turn to acknowledge a point, Martouf was fond of
that saying.

But be that as it may, I do know your secondary

objectives. Have you made progress with the Ascension Device? 
No, a human's memories are somehow stored or linked on a
cellular level in a manner accessible to certain Altaran devices... 
Such as the communication stones, she interrupted. 
Precisely, but we are no closer to learning how that is accomplished.

The Altarans seemed to have borrowed the technology




from an even older race of beings.
She raised her eyebrows at that, But the Goa'uld... and Tok'ra...
themselves have an ability to pass memories genetically, do they
We do, under certain circumstances, but we believe that our
biology simply takes advantage of a trait humans already possess,
not accessible to them consciously, but implanted in them by the
Dhakharra device. 
To what end? 
We believe that it made it easier for the Altarans to monitor
the progress of experiments in human evolution. 
And that you can exploit that ability to recover Tok'ra sharedknowledge from the fragment of Egeria you keep in that reliquary? 
Recover, and replicate that knowledge in new Tok'ra symbiotes, I said.
She stood up as she digested that information, walking over
to the fruit basket, ignoring the `Salisbury steak' on the tray, and
selecting a green fruit resembling a papaya.

She oered me one

as well, which was politely declined. She perched on the edge of
her desk, brow furrowed, a crease at the corner of her mouth as
she turned the fruit in her hand, The Tok'ra believe we made a
mistake in the Milky Way.
We had not exactly been silent on that topic, so I saw no need
to respond. 
The Tok'ra believe that we created the Lucian Alliance by disrupting Goa'uld hegemony without planning for the future. Many
of the human worlds, including ones we freed, had no choice but
to turn to the organized crime syndicates for trade and security. 
That is a fair summary of the Tok'ra position, Fel-Thas said, 
In Pegasus, the Tau'ri have an opportunity to not repeat that mistake. The IOA and the Tok'ra believe stable proactive alliancebuilding in Pegasus can provide a foothold to counter-balance the
Lucian Alliance in the Milky Way, something of benet to all concerned.




I agree, Sam Carter's eye's ashed mischieviously, which is
why I suggested that approach to Anise. I knew the IOA wouldn't
take the idea coming from me.
It was my turn to be taken aback for a moment. Finally, FelThas nodded deeply, acknowledging the point, Martouf had said
that you were a formidable personality. I believed his partiality to
Jolinar clouded his judgement. Clearly, I was mistaken. You would
have made a good host to her... I smiled wryly, though perhaps
the galaxy is safer without such a pairing. 
What is your next step? 
I plan to install cloaking technology in several of the Alliance
bolt-holes to better protect them from attack, increase the number
of safe havens to minimize the risk of losing one, and encourage
limited oensive operations to hurt the Wraith while they are distracted by the Replicators. I have also found several resource-rich
sites which might make Pegasus operations more self-reliant. 
And toward the other objective? 
I thought I would have tea with Athar, I said simply and
worked my way to my feet, I am ocially a diplomat.
She seemed to try that one on for a moment and then shrugged, 
Please give her my regards, and inform her of the loss of Dr. Weir.
She gestured in dismissal, and then, as I turned toward the door,
she stopped me with a hand on my shoulder, Jason, how are you
I considered this carefully and nally matched her shrug, Shaken,
but I'll do. I think. Your... frankness helped me a lot to make my
decision, and I don't regret it. Yet.
On the way from Colonel Carter's oce, I stopped by the inrmary, both to be clucked at by Dr.

Keller and to pick up the

syringe with the ATA retrovirus which had been set aside for me.
While Dr. Keller was distracted, I palmed a second syringe, this
one with the Hoan drug. Fel-Thas was condant that he could
control the drug's side-eects and that it would provide at least




some protection from the Wraith. I then went back to my quarters. 
What the hell?
It looked like a bomb had gone o inside and quite a few of
my possessions were covered in some white substance which resembled... shaving cream.

Rapid decompression. Right.
I muttered several choice words using vocabularly augmented
by 800 years of Tok'ra memories, swept the worst of the debris
aside, and slept for ten hours to let my symbiote continue to heal
my wounds.

When I woke up, I injected myself with the drugs.

Two hours of cleaning got things into a bit better shape.
I was at one of the consoles in the Game Room when Colonel
Shepherd came by. I had already been there an hour longer than I
intended. It was very hard not to get caught up in the elegance and
raw power of the subspace satellite network. I had lost a good bit
of time in college to Sim City 2000 and Microprose could not hold
a candle to the Ancients' programmers. Following Dr. Zelenka's
notes, I had managed to unlock a higher level to the system, able
to ip through resource and production statistics across multiple
worlds, reuse patterns and designs, and even ddle with the Altaran
equivalent of Gantt charts, coordinating manufacturing runs on one
world according to resource constraints on another. The only thing
I really could not do was actually move the items from one world
to another, which is why I had requested the Al Kesh.
Lt. Col. Shepherd chimed the door. I shut down the console
and went to answer it. Sorry, Dr. Weir's standing orders, he said. 
I'm sorry? I asked, confused. 

McKay, Major Lorne, Dr.

Zelenka and I aren't allowed

in this room and Colonel Carter decided not to change the order.
Can't say I blame her: Dr. McKay can get a little carried away at
I was just nishing here, anyway, I said, stepping into the hall, 
What can I do for you, Colonel?




We walked a short distance to a nearby sun-lit alcove with a
couple of short benches, a mummied tree in a pot, and a few
well-worn copies of Reader's Digest. 
Well, rst of all, I want to apologize for leaving you folks
stranded out there so long, he said. 
I have already told Colonel Carter that I... er... we don't blame
you for that you had your hands full, I said.
Shepherd shued his feet uncomfortably, Still, I...

it's a bit

personal to me that we don't leave people behind. I've sortof been
there before. 
Tayla told me you worked some black ops back on Earth before
you joined the Stargate Program.

She also told me you turned

down the job they oered me. 
Well, yeah.

Don't get me wrong, I think that what you are

doing is important, but...

he paused, and shued a little bit

But you think you'd lose that last little bit of yourself and go
over the edge if you continued doing it...?
He stopped short and looked up at me in some surprise. 
I read one of the early mission reports out of the SGC of a black
ops specialist who went all `Apocalypse Now' and started enslaving
the natives. SG-1 had to go in and take him out, I explained. 
Well, it's not like I'm afraid I'd start looking for people to
worship me or something... now, Rodney maybe...
Fel-Thas cut in briey, and my voice changed, Believe me,
Colonel, I do understand. Everyone has to know where their own
boundaries lie.

In the work you are doing now, you are brought

up against the rules every day, rst by Dr.

Weir, and now by

Samantha Carter. You are surrounded by people who remind you
of your duty.

Out there...

my arm gestured out the window to

the ocean and beyond, it can be hard to keep your perspective. I
have a great deal of respect for your decision: A warrior without

restraint is a danger only to himself. 
What does it feel like when you do that whole glowy-eye thing?



Have you had breakfast?


Chapter 5

Blind Men
When the blind men had
felt a part of the elephant,
the king went to each of
and said to each:
'Well, blind man, have you
seen the elephant?
Tell me, what sort of thing
is an elephant?
The Blind Men and the

After a sizable breakfast at the Mess, I signed out one of the
Nintendo Game Cubes(tm) from the Rec Room and spent the next
two hours playing Super Mario Smash Brothers(tm). It took a bit
of work to play with one controller in each hand but it was a useful
exercise, learning to focus on dierent tasks and even, in this case,
competing against each other. It was one of the skills which made
the Tok'ra fearsome ghting against multiple opponents, and it was




a combat form that the Goa'uld, needing to constantly dominate
their hosts, could not match. Pikatchu had just knocked Donkey
Kong o a cli-face in one of my few victories against my symbiote
when the door chimed.
A female Air Force ocer entered, a bit puzzled at seeing the
game running, the two controllers, and a bowl of popcorn.


glanced around the room as if expecting my hidden guest to spring
at her from behind a Coptic Christian wall hanging. Am I interrupting something? she asked with a cocked eyebrow. 
No, I was just playing with myself, I said, and then backpedalled, Let's pretend I didn't say that. What can I do for you,
I'm Lieutenant Hailey, sir.

I'm to go with you o-world to

see `that Ancient chick of Colonel Shepherd's'  Dr.


words, sir and you're supposed to ll me in on my permanent
Dr. McKay sent you to me? 
He gave me the message. I guess he was upset that I was being
pulled from his team just after I got here.

Actually, I'm a little

confused myself: I've developed expertise in wormhole physics, and
I'm not sure I'm going to be useful running Guerilla ops in the
Oh, we'll make use of you, Lieutenant. I need someone to work
on interfacing Ancient, Wraith, and Goa'uld technology as well as
helping train some of the natives to use it. But rst, Athar.
A cool breeze blew across the rocky grotto at the base of Athar's

The clear, late fall air aorded a view of a wide, grassy

valley bellow. One of Athar's acolytes brought a tray of tea and
dismissed himself, leaving Lt. Hailey and I with the 'high priestess'. 
I am sorry to learn of the loss of Dr. Weir, she said, sipping
at the hot tea, she was a capable leader. I took a moment to sip
myself, the fruity aroma reminding me strongly of chamomile: did
the 'Lantean's drink pineapple weed? Athar continued, but that




is not why you are here. 
I came to ask you some questions about the origins of my
people, and yours, I said. 
Your people?

Does Lieutenant Hailey understand what you

are? Athar asked, innocently. 
I know he is a Tok'Ra, Hailey said, and I have met them
But does she really understand what that means?

For that

matter, does your host?
In that moment, I was literally beside myself.

Another me

appeared, sitting in another chair, also sipping tea, but his eyes
glowed, not the incandescent glow of the symbiote, but the red
glare of something from darker dreams. 

There, now we can all

I had a sudden ood of images through my link with the symbiote: dark images of war, depravity, and torture, of slavery, betrayal, and rapine spanning centuries across most of a galaxy. 
What is this? I gasped, reeling. 
It is the memories of the Goa'uld, Egeria's heritage carried
within you by your `symbiote.' It is an inescapable part of what it
means to be a Tok'Ra, Athar said quietly, sipping her tea. 
You hid this from me? I asked Fel-Thas.
The other me spoke, shrugging apologetically, I hide them from
myself. We all do, from the moment of our birth. Before we take
our rst host, we learn to supress the Goa'uld memories, searching
them sparingly and only at need in our ght against the Goa'uld
lest they twist even us with their depravity. But every one of us is
only a few thoughts away from any reminder we might need as to
why we ght and why Egeria turned away from the others. 
But those memories...

they contain...

enjoyment, pleasure,

glee at misery and suering. 
Yes, they do, Fel-Thas answered gravely. 
And you have been tempted by them yourself, haven't you?
If Athar said it, she echoed my thoughts exactly.




Fel-Thas turned and xed his eyes squarely on mine, Yes, Jason
Higgs. I have had to search through those memories several times
over the course of my life, over the lives of many hosts, looking for
information to support our cause. I cannot examine the knowledge
and not sense the emotions behind them, not sense that acts of
depravity felt good, the ecstasy and intensity of causing pain to
another, the thrill of power. None of us can. Egeria's training, the
iron discipline we learn, is the only thing which keeps the darkness
at bay. We are all a lapse of will or a use of the sarcophagus away
from the Pit, and then accusingly to Athar, Why do you bring
up this thing? Why disturb that which sleeps? 
Because you seek to disturb things which now sleep, and your
host deserves to know the whole of it.
Alter-me was silent for several moments, holding his cup in both
hands and staring at his feet, We are not proud of what we come
from, he whispered nally, but we are proud of what we are, or,
perhaps, of what we choose to be, despite that which we are.
Athar sat back in the chair and smiled, Well-spoken, child of
Egeria. Ask me what you will. 
You will tell us what we need to know? I asked. 
I did not say that, she said, and I am still bound by our laws
to not interfere in the lower planes a law I sit here imprisoned for
having broken. But we and I personally do have an interest in
what you have to say. I may exchange some knowledge of history
and philosophy in exchange for some of your own. 
You asked Dr. Weir about religion. You wanted to know all
about the beliefs which have developed on Earth since the fall of
Atlantis, Fel-Thas prompted. 
Yes, Dr. Weir was most helpful. I read the holy scriptures of
many cultures while I visited the City. 
But why, I asked incredulously, would you care about religion? You have Accension. 
Why do you still wear the sign of the crucix on the same
chain as Egeria's reliquary? she asked, spreading her hands, You




who have been granted the power and long life which people have
worshipped in `gods' ?

Has this not been a source of contention

between you and this Tok'Ra?
Now it was my turn to be silent and stare at me shoes. My skin
prickled with both shame and anger remembering the arguments
with my host when I insisted on praying, Because I still believe
there is something more, I said, my voice shaking slightly with
emotion, greater than ourselves, which gives meaning to our lives.
I believe there is a power beyond us, beyond all of us, which has a
purpose in and through us. 
Well-spoken, son of A-dama, she said, gesturing to herself and
taking in the unseen presence of the continuum of Alterans with a
graceful gesture, And so do we or some of us believe as well:
as we are to mortal beings, so may some Other or Others be to
ourselves. But what of your Holy Scripture? Can you still hold to
it in the light of all you have seen and experienced? Can you still
think that the universe cares for `Love' ? 
I do not believe we were ever meant to understand Scripture
in that way, as a literal and clear interpretation of past events.
Rather, it was meant as a guidepost for living and as... I grasped
for words, ...a sign that we are not alone. In any case, the Christian
Messiah is one that I choose to serve in my life and to emulate in
my thoughts to the extent that I can. It is not just the Tok'ra who
are at odds with themselves, one step away from darkness. I have
seen and experienced things in my life which I cannot understand,
but which I hope someday will make sense. 
So is `God' then to be just a placeholder for what we don't yet
know? A God of Empty Spaces, ever shrinking from the grasp of

Fel-Thas dismissed my arguments with a wave of my-

his-the hand. 
No, you know I don't think that. But science can only answer
the How. It cannot tell us Why or tell us whether to be men or
monsters with what we know.
Once again, Fel-Thas waved dismissively and turned back to




Athar, But you have not told us what interest you have in any
of this. What do the beliefs of billions of superstitious humans, or
of this superstitious human, mean to ascended beings? And what
does this have to do with...

he paused for a moment, with that

universal look of the hard-drive busy light on his face, Ah... The
Ones-Who-Came-Before, the Ancient Ancients. The transference
and storage of memory you learned to manipulate but which was
already there in the rst evolution of human-kind. That is what
this is about, isn't it?

There is a legend among Tok'Ra, just a

fragment of a myth, of some Ancients who believed in and pursued
a special destiny.
She turned her palm up, sweeping her index nger in a gracefull
arc, We all either seek truth or hide from it. There is no middle
ground. Our beliefs have often put us at odds with the others. Our
belief in a higher law means we often break the laws of our own
kind and are punished for it. Yes, we discovered the retention of
memory, the Well of Souls, as your fragmented myths call it. When
we recreated humans in the Milky Way through the Dhakarra device, we replicated its mechanisms for our own purposes. We built
technology to manipulate it, and that eventually led to...


How did you discover the Well of Souls? I asked, What lead
you to suspect that such a thing was possible? 
Shortly after our taming of our own solar system shortly at
least, in the span of our own history and memory we found a
naked singularity, an astronomical curiosity which we soon determined to be articial. 
I'm sorry, a what? 
A naked singularity, Fel-Thas entoned in his teacher's voice, 
is a 'black hole' which rotates so quickly that its event horizon
becomes a torus, exposing a window through its center, a holewithin-a-hole and warping space time around it. We have suspected
for some time that such a singularity might have been the basis
or perhaps the template of stargate technology. But how does




this answer Jason's question? 
Really, Fel-Thas, for a being so long-lived, you race is most impatient, she smiled. Very deliberately, she poured herself another
cup of tea, then sat back, Once we realized that the singularity
was articial, we had to reevaluate everything we believed. This
sowed the seeds for a deep split in our society, one which eventually
lead to us and the Ori. But more important to this story is that
we discovered information attached to the singularity at a level we
still do not understand. With what we learned from that device,
we began noticing information, structure, purpose everywhere we
looked, like the bar-codes attached to everything the Tau'ri brought
to the City. We found these on stars, on planets, even inside ourselves. When we went to another galaxy, eeing from the Ori, we
found more of them, scattered here and there, like pins stuck in a
map. Like the Tau'ri bar codes, they don't make any sense without
knowing the catalog behind them. But they meant something to
someone or something, and some of them were encoded on such a
fundamental level, that they hinted at understanding beyond... 
Beyond the Universe itself, I nished for her. 
The memories are not stored in the DNA, are they? Fel-Thas
You already know the answer to that question, she shrugged. 
Who then created the Goa'uld? he pressed. 
You know the answer to that as well. You have seen the planet
where the symbiotes developed. You still have legends of the First
Ones, the hosts you enslaved before Ra discovered humans. 
All life in the galaxy was destroyed when the Altarans left it
for Pegasus. The device left behind restarted and repopulated the
stars in the Milky Way. You designed the Goa'uld as another of
your experiments, gave them the ability to manipulate `genetic'
memory and set them loose on the galaxy.
Athar said nothing. 
The fragment of Egeria does not contain the data. It is just a
tag, a label pointing to data stored somewhere else, I said.




On the jumper ride back, Lieutenant Hailey glanced over at me in
the co-pilot's seat, I'm sorry you did not get any answers to your

I looked up, confused.

Fel-thas then 'replayed' for

me the memory of our conversation with the Alteran as our senses
recorded: what an outsider would have experienced. What would
another Ancient have seen transpire in that rocky grotto? 
Don't be too grateful yet, Fel-thas spoke in my mind, She
only gave us that much because she knows we don't have what we
need to do anything with it. Yet.
What bothered me more, and what I knew Fel-Thas was masticating beneath the surface of his dark pool, was that the Ancients
had created his people, perhaps with complete intention, perhaps
partly by accident as they did the Wraith, and all but a few of
them did nothing to amend their wrongs or alleviate the suering of many millions of beings. In some very signicant sense, the
Ancients were directly responsible for every horror in his our
memory, and yet the Ancients, their internal struggles, their forgotten technology were still the best hope for saving many.
So? said Carter, her head buried in a data tablet for a moment.
Then she swiped her hand across it, locking the screen, pushed it
back, and looked up at me.
I set a steaming cup of tea down on her desk. 

A species of

Matricaria, a relative of chamomile that is grown by Athar's people.
I also brought some seeds back for the Botany lab. 
OK... she said doubtfully, but she politely sipped at it. Her
eyes lit up, That's not bad, actually. Anything more substantive? 
Do we still have access to the Ori supergate in the Milky Way? 
Well, it hasn't been destroyed yet, she said, Why? 
There is a naked singularity in the galactic vicinity of the Alteran/Ori homeworld.
She digested this for a moment, sipping at her tea, The original




inspiration for the stargates?
I nodded. 
I'll see if we can get someone to take a look.
As I walked down the stairs from the tower, newly-healed muscle and bone still sti, I had another internal conversation, You're
still determined not to tell Carter what we learned about the Goa'uld
and the Well ? 
Why not? 
I will not tell the Tau'ri before I can report to the Tok'ra High
Council, but also because there is something Athar chose not to
tell us, and I am waiting for the `other shoe to fall'.

Chapter 6

Burned Feathers
If we burn our wings
Flying too close to the sun
If the moment of glory
Is over before it's begun
If the dream is won 
Though everything is lost
We will pay the price,
But we will not count the
Rush  Bravado 

Mr. Higgs? Can you come look at this for a moment?
Lieutenant Hailey was sitting at the game console with its debugging mode activated, painstakingly working her way through
line after line of the 'Lantean sourcecode which controlled the vast
subspace network it operated.

I leaned over her shoulder and

scanned the glowing Ancient symbols.

I could make little sense

of most of it, even the Tok'ra within me was no programmer, but
I could see enough Ancient words in the code to understand that
I was looking at instructions for tracking human projects on the




Game Worlds and reporting progress to the consoles. There was
an elegant ow and symmetry to the program which made it look
like poetry, though more like Lewis Carol or e. e. cummings than
You told me to pay special attention to subprograms for workow and fulllment, to gure out how the consoles track materials
and items through their evolutions in the Game?
I nodded. 
The consoles have an amazing ability to gure out... no, not
to `gure out' but to just `know' exactly which materials went into
which outputs, where they came from, who handled them and so
on. The whole thing puts Fed Ex to shame. Well, anyway, I'm not
a lot closer to understanding how it works, but it keeps coming back
to a set of external subroutines... She highlighted a specic symbol
in the text and then activated it. Immediately, a multidimensional
contextual help owed onto the screen and she selected information
on the author of the symbol, Janus:

she said, he wrote every

single one of the routines in this section of the program. Isn't he
the one in Dr.

Weir's report, the one who was reprimanded for

building the time machine?
Again, I nodded, I believe he was, but how does that help us? 
Look at this: Hailey indicated a set of symbols on the 'author'
page and sounded it out in Alteran,  `Icarii,' but the database
link is locked.

I can't open it.

It is connected to several of the

other Ancients who wrote portions of the Game, and I can't reach
anything from their records either. But, doing a separate search, I
found something else.
She brought one of the background displays forward and I scanned
the Ancient text quickly, then stood up and thought for a moment.
There were two at least two factions of Alterans here in Atlantis before the war with the Wraith, the Icarii and the Dedalii.
Janus was one of the Icarii, and had philosophical dierences with
the others. We already knew that he was punished for the stunt
with the time machine and that he was forced to destroy some of


his work.



This entry suggested that there were other Icarii who

thought like Janus and who were also punished, more than once,
and that much of their work had been hidden or destroyed by the
Alteran council. This `Game Room', in particular, had been closed
o several years before the Atlanteans lost their ght with the
Wraith and left for the Milky Way. Like Janus, some of the Icarii
probably continued to work on their projects in secret. 
So if we can nd remains of the Icarii's labs and notes, we may
be able to better understand how this system works, I said, but
how can we get into the locked database entry? 
Well, rst o, I think we know more about these factions than
we think. Look at these words. She rearranged the text to put the
two faction names next to each other in their rough transliterations:
Icarrii, Dedalii. Think like a human, not a Tok'Ra, she suggested. 
The two brothers, Icarus and Daedelus? You think the Earth
legend is connected to the Alteran dispute?

imprisoned on an island.

Two brothers were

They built articial wings of wax and

feathers, jumped o the cli and attempted to y to safety. The
older brother, Daedelus, ew safely to land, but the younger ew too
high, the sun melted the soft wax and the wings fell apart, plunging
Icarus to his death. Was the ancient myth some remnant of a truly
Ancient parable on the dangers of free thinking? 
I know it is, she said, crossing her arms and looking up at
me a bit smugly. Daniel Jackson repeated something to me. Oma
Desala said it to him after he was irradiated, while he was dying
of his burns, `Sometimes getting our wings burned is the only way
we learn. ' 
She was referring to the Icarii, I walked around the console
and began to pace the room, She may even have been one of
them, and there may be more leftover bits of information about
them, things we haven't recognized as important.

OK, that's a

good start... wait a minute... Fel-thas abruptly stopped me in my
pacing and spun me back toward the console, my eyes ashing and
my voice reverberating, When was the database entry locked?




Hailey went back to the earlier screen, nibbling on her lip in
concentration. After a moment, she was able to pull up an entry
about the entry. 
OK, when did that 'Lantean ship leave Atlantis? The one that
was stranded at the edge of Pegasus?
It took a few minutes of digging to nd that nugget of information. 
They left here before all of the information on the Icarii was

There might still be copies of these records in their

shipboard database, and they might only be protected by the ATA
gene like most of the records here, she said nally, Shall I call for
a taxi? 
No, I can do better. When that group of Alterans came back
to the City, they brought a copy of the shipboard records with

I dug through it looking for...


better to avoid

that conversation, Here, I'll show you how to access it.
It looks like a gate address, Carter said, handing the tablet back, 
but there are eight symbols, plus a point of origin. Eight symbols
dials long distance. What would a ninth chevron do? Can the gate
even dial nine chevrons? 
No, McKay answered, accepting the tablet back, I tried it
with our DHD and I sent a request back to Earth to check there.
Carter shook her head, The Earth gate can't do it.

I wrote

most of the code for the SGC DHD and I dug through the original
dialer code with Ba'al. The gate crystal won't even have a contact
to send it a ninth symbol. You said there was something about a
specic planet? 
Your mini-me managed to unlock some notes in the database
about a special power source, a planet with a naquadria core. Unfortunately, the Icarii blew up the rst one they were playing with
and were hoping to nd another, but the rest of the entry was
deleted and thoroughly erased. 
That doesn't make sense. Naquadria is articial. How can they




`nd' a planet made of naquadria? Unless... her forhead creased
in thought and she waved her own objection away with her hand, 
We created many of the trans-Uranic elements in the lab before
we discovered them in nature. Maybe we still don't know as much
about naquadria as we thought. 
The Ancients don't use the same word, but it has to be the
same stu. The Goa'uld who created naquadria just rediscovered
something the Ancients already knew about and specically decided


to play with, McKay said. 

Something like the solar system you blew up?

Carter asked

with a mischevious grin. 
Hey, you blew one up too!
She stood up and picked up her coee, Yeah, but I blew up my

on purpose.

Send what we have to the SGC and let them

follow it up. We've got bigger problems.
I was making my circuit of guerilla worlds as usual, dialing in to
Lanira. The moment I stepped through the gate, I knew something
was wrong. A hot dry wind hit me full in the face and an angry red
glow covered the horizon. I staggered down from the gate platform.
A ne layer of ash coated my clothing and the inside of my lungs.
My symbiote propelled me to the DHD and immediately dialed to
Atlantis, taking long, agonizing moments to make the connection
and enter an IDC.
I fell to my hands and knees the moment I cleared the puddle.
The gateroom marines rushed to help me, but I waved them back,
forcing myself to speak, Don't touch me. Get a decontamination
team. The deck leapt up and slammed into my head.

Once more, I was running through a blasted landscape, the
crater of what was once a village melding into the crater of the
now-dry lake. Twisted bodies lay half buried in mud. I ran, shouting, waving the handfull of lillies I had brought with me, brought
for her. 

I screamed, hopelessly, pointlessly and nally sank




into the mud, raging incoherently.
A few survivors crawled out of the stubble of an old-growth forrest, empty eyes and pale visage as they saw that there was simply
nothing to recover, nothing to rebuild. Her body, or most of it, was
placed with the others in shallow scrapings in the softer soil of the
lakebed, the lillies the only color in a dead landscape.

And then

they left: some through the gate, some to other villages, leaving me
lying where I had fallen by the old lake shore. 
My fault. My fault.
Teyla leaned closer, What is he saying?

Keller shook her head, He's still drifting in and out of


I have him sedated while the symbiote heals the

He'll make it? Colonel Carter asked. 
The burns are minor.

The radiation wasn't lethal for a

Tok'Ra but it's lucky no one else went with him through the

He breathed in a great deal of contaminated dust though.

I've ushed his mucus membranes as much as I can and I have him
on medications to chelate bind and remove the radioactive isotopes, she shrugged, There isn't much more I can do. Now we
just wait and see.
Carter's earpiece chirped. 
Carter. Go ahead.

She reached up to key the mike,

She listened for a moment and touched Dr.

Keller's shoulder, Keep me posted. Major Lorne is back.
I was back in the gym working forms, pushing myself, repeating the
moves over and over to block out the images that still crowded my
brain. My face was still tight from the burns, my stomach heaved
with naseau, but I could not aord to stop moving. Fel-thas was
quiet for the moment, a silent but ominous roiling beneath the
Teyla Emagen came in with her Bantu sticks.
and watched me, quickly assessing my mood.

She stopped

Then she made a

decision, set the bag down in the corner, and gestured with the




sticks, Would you like a partner?
I nodded and took two of the sticks she oered. We faced o,
each gave a slight bow, and then set at each other in controlled
fury, circling each other, sticks icking out, clacking together and
retracting back into protective stance. She too needed the distraction, and we beat the tar out of each other in companionable silence
for some time before, by mutual agreement, each of us took a step
back and lowered our arms, breathing heavily. 
How many? I nally asked. 
Two more, she answered between breaths, No survivors. Major Shepherd is working on evacuating some of the worlds we know
are in the path of the Replicators.
I nodded and raised the sticks. She raised hers and we started
circling again. A few minutes later, another pause to breathe. 
You made yourself their leader. They trusted you. It is only
natural that you should blame yourself.

But it is not your fault

any more than it is Doctor McKay's. 
Then whose fault is it? I spat angrily. 
No one's. This is war. People die. 
It is always war, I said, turning away for a moment, my knuckles white on the dark lacquered sticks. I smell the acrid stench of
burned esh, the stink of fear and spilled bowels. I hear the screams
of children torn away from their mothers by Jaa. My hand tingles
as I mangle a man's mind with a hand device. Centuries of Tok'Ra
and millenia of Goa'uld violence: experienced, witnessed, enacted,
parade through my mind.

My eyes ash as I try desperately to

stay in control. Teyla takes an involuntary step back but does not
go. It is always war and we are always on the brink of disaster. I
have expended lifetime after human lifetime to make a dierence.
People who trust me die...

and sometimes not quickly enough.

A broken body lies in my arms, covered by the marks of torture;
torture only endurable by a Tok'Ra and only through repeated use
of a sarcophagus. In the end, it is my own hand that kills both host
and symbiote, that ends their pain. Again and again, my failures




have been the cause of suering, misery, and death. 
I know, Jason. Believe me, I know what you feel.
I bite back the cruel response, answer more slowly, Your people.
The Athosians who are missing. Is there any news? 
None. But I will not stop looking. Not ever.
I imagine her nightmares for a moment: her people, in the hold
of a Wraith ship perhaps, being fed upon one by one. Maybe the
subject of experiments.

Dwindling, dying, losing hope.


the leader who abandoned them, the leader who is part Wraith,
part monster herself, the leader who allied herself with aliens from
far away. That is what she most feared, what she could least endure. I shudder and get control once more, letting the sticks clatter
to the ground.
I clasp her shoulder, meet her eyes for a moment and walk out
of the gym.
I am sitting in Atlantis' small chapel when Colonel Carter nds
me. She sits down beside me, making the sign of the cross, bows
her head for a moment, then asks, Am I interrupting? 
I didn't know you were religious, I say, a little taken aback. 
I'm not especially. My mother was Catholic and my dad went
along to humour her when he wasn't deployed somewhere. My mom
before she died, my brother, and I went to church and I got sent
to Sunday school. I wanted to believe in something. I still come in
here once in a while and see if I can catch a piece of whatever it
was that gave my Mom such... serenity and purpose. 
But you don't nd it, I oered. 
No, she said, chagrined, I like solid proof, tangible evidence.
I don't believe in anything unless I can take it apart. I took the
stereo apart when I was a kid. God, was my mother mad, but I just
wanted to see how it worked... and I did put it back together. I
tried to do the same thing to the Bible, but it didn't work the same
when I was done. It's just so full of inconsistencies and unanswered
questions: where did Mrs.

Cain come from, anyway?

How can




there have been 'day' before the Sun was rst made?

Why are

there two geneologies for Jesus and why don't they match up? 
Your Sunday School teacher must have loved you, I laughed.
She sniggered, It was agony. I was bored. I got in trouble for
asking too many questions... and I took all of the screws out of the
teacher's desk... But at the same time, I can't look at the sky and
not feel a sense of wonder. Did you ever read C.S. Lewis? 
What, like `the Lion, the Witch, and the Warddrobe' ? Doesn't
every kid? 
I loved that book, she said, Dad would read them to me when
he came home. I went around poking the backs of all the closets
to see if there was a secret world somewhere, a doorway I could
just walk through and explore. The space program was the closest
thing I could nd to being able to visit another world. 
Hmm, Dawn Treader was my favorite; I've always loved the
ocean, I sweep my arm in the general direction of the tower and
the gate room, Now you've got the stargate: you walk through a
doorway and go places, see wonders, meet strange beings. Fauns
and talking beasts must not seem that fantastic anymore. 
I know. My dad kept thinking I was heart broken because I
didn't get into the space program. I couldn't tell him that NASA
had been my second choice anyway, that I had actually found the
wardrobe! But I never found a big lion to tell me what it all meant
or to bail me out when I got in over my head. 
It's never quite that easy is it?

But sometimes He's there if

you listen for him; He'll act through you if you can let go of control
long enough. 
I'm not very good at letting go of control... or of listening for
secret messages. My own mind doesn't shut up long enough. she
pauses for a moment and looks at me hard, Do you really think
that everyone who doesn't believe in God is damned?
I look at the non-descript altar at the front of the room, think
of the dierent people who use it, most of them Christian in this
facility, but not all. I think of the hundreds of worlds which have




never heard of the Messiah I believe in. Finally, I shrug, I don't
think God has to spend much time punishing people for not believing or doing the right thing. In the end, I think we do a good
job of punishing ourselves by doing something other than what we
are meant to do. 
Blaise Pascal, the mathematician, said that if we believe in
God but He's not really there, it doesn't hurt us, but if we don't
believe and He IS there, we're screwed, so it's better to believe and
be wrong, Carter sweeps her hand in negation, I always thought
that was a cop-out. 
Me, too.

Seems like any God would have to know whether

your belief was sincere or not. If you just fake belief because you're
afraid of dying, I don't know that it will count for much.
We both fell silent for a moment, watching the icker of candlelight from the small side table. 
You've heard about Weir and the duplicates the Replicators
made? she asked. 
Yeah, I talked with McKay when he was working on that tracking device. Being brought back from the dead like that... for that
matter, the other team members nding out that they were manufactured clones: pretty freaky. Makes you wonder what we are,
what actually makes us us. 
It also makes you wonder how they actually did it. Sure, we expected them to copy Elizabeth's memories, because she had nanites
insider her, working in her brain, but they made new bodies and
transmitted memories into them.  
...and when did they have a chance to make complete, recent
copies of the other team members? I ask. 
It seems unlikely the Assurans would have been able to scan
the complete contents of their brains, she suggests. 
Which means that the Replicators have the technology I'm
looking for, I nish, The tracking device tells us where all their
ships are. I need to capture a ship  and its database intact. 
The Oddessey and the Apollo are on their way to Atlantis to




help us stop the Replicator attacks.

I can tell you that trying

to capture one isn't going to be a popular idea, but, if Rodney's
weapon works, we may get an opportunity.

Chapter 7

Spoils of War
It is well that war is so
terrible, or we would grow
too fond of it.
Robert E. Lee, as attributed
by Edward Porter

Several dozen ships are visible in the viewport against the backdrop of the planet. Beneath swirls of cloud, the large landmass illuminated by the primary is crisscrossed by networks of lines and the
geometric shapes of heavy industrial development. There is a striking lack of green for a clearly inhabited planet. Most of the ships
are Ancient Aurora-class warships. Several other kinds of vessals
are maneuvering in and out of them, including Wraith hiveships,
Earth's X-304s, and several smaller capital ships of some unknown

Lances of re ick back and forth between them, blind-

ing ashes illuminating expanding pockets of dust and gas from
ships already damaged, their contents and their crews disgorging
into naked vacuum. Smaller attack craft also swarm among them,





attacking capital ships, intercepting each other, dying in brief reballs of their own.
Suddenly the battle shifts as most of the Ancient-design warships stop maneuvering and cease defending themselves. 
What the hell? Major Marks exclaims.
Rivers of glittering particles stream from these Aurora-class vessals, converging on the landmass below where a vast city of technological marvels is dying.
Colonel Ellis grins, Son of a bitch!

He actually did it.


a moment, he stares, absorbing the beauty of the river of nanites,
then he nods to the Major who thumbs the com button, Away
boarding party! Away boarding party!
I materialize in the Auxiliary Control Room of the Replicator ship.
Angry red lights ash warnings from several consoles, illuminating
the other three members of my team in white skin suits, faces
hidden by their visors.

I hit a button on my wrist to select the

group communications channel and key the pickup with my chin, 
Team 2, this is Team 1 Actual, what is your status? Over.
Lieutenant Hailey's voice comes back to me over the headset, 
Team 1, this is Team 2 Actual.

All present and accounted for.

Area secure. Over. 
Team 2, wait one, I say, and approach the nearest console. A
schematic of the ship shows eight life signs and... zero replicators. I
gesture to the two marines who lower and sling their ARGs, taking
up station in the doorway. The scientist, Brody, goes to another
console. As we expected, the atmosphere is thin. Battle damage
and the abrupt departure of the replicators left tiny hull breaches
all over the ship, most of them too small to even leak air, but several
were substantial. Force elds now plugged many of the gaps and
life support struggled to catch up. 

Why do robots bother with air, anyway? Brody asked over
the local channel as he shut down life support completely; we would
need the power and network links for other things.




I switched displays to show the ship systems and damage indicators. The hyperdrive was oine and inoperable, a major control
link showing damage, Team 2, Team 1 Actual. As we expected, the
primary control link is severed forward of frame 32. The replicators
have already begun work rerouting hyperdrive functions. Execute
repair plan. Execute repair plan. The clock is ticking. Over. 
Wilco, Team 1. Executing repair plan. Team 2 out. 
Team 1 out, I reply, and turn to the others in the control
room, switching back to the short-range team channel, The life
support umbilical will be under that console. Make sure your O2 is
topped o. We don't know how long it will be until we can aord
to get life support back online.
We take turns hooking up to the oxygen line as we work, our
suits modied ahead of time to use the damage control facilities
of the Ancient ships which we hoped the replicators still copied
faithfully. I unstrap a tablet computer and hook it into the console,
activating several pre-congured database searches and beaming
the results back to the Apollo. If we cannot get the replicator ship
underway by the time the planet is scheduled to explode, then we
might still get some useful information. I watch the progress on the
repair and listen anxiously to the eet-level comm chatter as Dr.
McKay prepares to overload the ZPMs and destroy the replicator
By this time, we have a chat program running on the shipboard
computer system where we can communicate between the teams,
view eachother's displays and directly collaborate on the repairs.
Lieutenant Hailey has managed to reroute all of the hyperdrive
systems through an alternate network, but the alternate link was
not designed to handle all of the data from the navigational system
on top of its normal functions.

Trac is bogging down on our

improvised network and systems are failing all over the ship. We
start shutting down as many systems as we can to reduce trac,
but the whole network is now running sluggishly and the oending
systems don't always respond to their shutdown commands.




A few lines of text come painfully through the chat link, OK,
the problem is that the hyperdrive core is now locked up and needs
to be cold-booted, but I can't transfer enough data over this link
to boot the system, even if we shut down everything we don't need.
All of the subsystems are trying to reinitialize at the same time. 
What Would a Replicator Do? Brody asked. 
OK, he continued, Assuming the replicators knew what they
were doing, they had a way around this.

They chose to reroute

the network over the same links we were going to use. They had
a plan. Down on the planet, BlobZilla was sinking into the crust
and the ZPMs did not overload like they were supposed to. That
gave us a little more time until Carter and McKay came up with a
new plan. The ship shuddered from an impact with oating debris,
the shields not responding properly. Probably not much time.
I look carefully at the damage control console, at the list of
activities the replicators had underway before we arrived. Most of
it we had ignored: we did not need re control, for instance, and
did not have enough crew to simultaneously x so many dierent

there is a new control crystal in the job queue.


data needed to reinizialize the hyperdrive was being written to a
crystal in the damage control console the one I am standing at.
I drop to my knees and slide out a tray.

There, the translucent

green crystal. I hand the crystal to Brody and open the channel
back to Apollo, Apollo, this is the Boarding Party. Brody requires
transport to our Hyperdrive Core.
The scientist vanishes in a ash of light.

In a few moments,

I see a status update on my console as the hyperdrive begins its
startup routine, this time without overloading the network. Then
the network bogs down as the hyperdrive updates its navigational
Transfer slow, but working... appears in my chat window.
The ship shudders again and this time, does not stop.





planet is becoming unstable and the overloaded autopilot cannot
keep up. 
Boarding Party, this is Apollo. We are out of time. Are you
The status board turns green, Apollo, Boarding Party. We are
'Go'. We're prepared to bug out once everyone else is clear. Over.
There is another ash of light as a skin-suited Kevin Marks
appears in the control room.
Colonel Ellis' voice comes over the comm, Boarding Party, this
is Apollo Actual. Major Marks has command of the prize. Good
luck and God speed. Apollo out.
The swirling vortices of hyperspace windows appear and ships
disappear as the alliance eet, slightly smaller now, starts on its
way home.

Soon, they are all gone except one Wraith cruiser,

the empty hulks of lifeless replicator ships, and ourselves.

I am

standing with Marks at the console, looking over the short-range
sensors. Why is that one still behind, I ask, Is it damaged?
Marks looks over the scans of the Wraith ship, No, I don't
think so, and I'd rather not contact them to nd out. They're not
supposed to know we're stealing Ancient ships under their noses.
This one was supposed to y TARCAP over the replicator city, to
keep them from launching against our ships in orbit. It looks like
it's taking longer to recover their darts still in the atmosphere.
We watch anxiously as two dart icons crawl back toward the
Wraith cruiser while the planet is breaking up underneath us. Finally, the icons merge with the mothership. 
They are entering hyperspace, I say. 
Go, Marks says.
Our drive engages, opening a hole in space in front of us. We
race to enter it just as the planet collapses, its crust expanding in
a glowing cloud of dust, radiation, and gas.
What is that, the dead one from the prize ship? McKay stopped
behind Dr. Zelenka, hauling a heavily loaded tray from the mess.




Radik had a nest of wires going from his workstation to a darkened
Yes it is. Weren't you going to look at it? 
Why should I? It's dead. 
Yes, well, there's something interesting here. You know how

Higgs wants us to keep an eye out for anything related to

materials tracking? 
Yeah, what of it? Rodney shoved various oddments aside to
set down his tray. 
This seems to be a log embedded in the ZPM rmware. There's
a date and what looks like a location code. I think this was made
just over three hundred years ago and... see here, perhaps that was
when it was actually installed in the ship. 
Well, we knew the Replicators had the means to make these
puppies. We probably just destroyed the last manufacturing facility
in two galaxies. 
Maybe not. This location code? It doesn't match the Replicator homeworld. 
Well, what does it match? 
Nothing in the database, and look... Zelenka switched the display to another, similar log, This is from one of the depleted ones
that was here with the city. The date says it was manufactured... 
...before Atlantis left the Milky Way. McKay cut in. 

And this...

Zelenka scrolled down the display, 

Looks like a maintenance entry sometime after the city arrived
in Pegasus.
Rodney furrowed his brow, What kind of maintenance do you
perform on a ZPM? 
I don't know, but this location code...? 
...matches the Replicator ZPM's point of origin. Rodney nished, Maybe there's, what a ZPM dealership and service center? 
Still in Pegasus somewhere, they nished together.




The jumper cleared the puddle, the view instantly changing from
that of the Atlantis Gateroom to the hollow of a large asteroid.
Gantries and docking facilities had been partially constructed. Spacesuited workcrews scurried over habitat modules at the far end of the
hanger and around the battered 'Lantean Battle Cruiser parked in
between. Shepherd smoothly piloted the jumper toward a docking
collar in the side of the cruiser. 
Did Jamus' people do all this? Carter asked, looking in wonder at the ongoing construction. 
Most of it, Shepherd answered o-handedly, A good bit was
hollowed out with Asgard beams.

Out of the thousand people

stored in that device thingy, almost two hundred of them had space
construction experience. What else were they going to do?
I met the two of them at the airlock. After pressure equalized
with a hiss and the door slid open, Carter and Shepherd stepped
onto the optimistically named Hymenoptera. 
Permission to come aboard? Carter asked. 
Welcome, Colonels. How do you like what we've done with the
place? I asked, and moved to introduce... 
Captain Rogers, Carter beamed, Still impersonating an ocer I see? 
No, sir, he said, ngering his collar insignia self-consciously 
I have these for real this time. A number of us stayed on after...
that business. We couldn't stay on Earth and home... wasn't the
same by time we got back. 
I'm sorry to hear that, but I'm glad to see you're doing OK,
Carter ignored his extended hand and gave Rogers a brief embrace.
I looked back and forth between them a few times, and then
recovered, backing down the hall. Well, as you know, the goal of
seizing this ship in the rst place was to try to grab a Replicator
database fully intact and raid it for knowledge of their humanform
construction and cloning techniques... I stopped at a door on the
opposite side of the hall, This, is the ship's computer core...
I palmed the access plate and waited for the door to swish




open. Imediately, an amber force eld activated, keeping us from
entering and the air from leaking out, And this, unfortunately,
was done by one of our drones.
Carter winced as Shepherd leaned close to the eld, looking rst
up and then down, tracing the jagged path torn through the ship
from top to bottom, I'm not sure that's what I'd call, `intact'. Did
it come with a restore disk? 
Well, I said, kind-of like the design of the Atlantis data system, there is a lot of redundancy: data is scattered and duplicated
all over the ship, so it's not a total loss, but it is... 
A mess, Carter put in. 
Yeah, rather, and on top of that, we had to tear apart so much
just to get it here that the hyperdrive will probably never work
again, but we did get a full complement of puddle jumpers, we got 
re control back online so we can protect the system if the Wraith
show up, and we've started sifting and sorting the data we did get. 
We can denitely use the jumpers, Shepherd put in, Most
of the ones we found on Atlantis have been lost or destroyed, and
now Stargate Command has stolen a few to use with the Midway
How do you get cargo down to the surface? Wasn't part of the
point of this station to act as a hub for the Game Worlds? Carter
asked, shifting the topic.
I started walking toward the internal transporter as Fel-Thas
answered, We installed a rings platform in the habitat module and
a Tau'ri-style iris on the space-gate. Captain Rogers' team controls
access so that we still have a defensive buer between the gate and
the planet.

We have a copy of the macro here for accessing the

Midway Station and indirect access to the backup facility in the
Milky Way, 
The Alpha-Site, Carter interjected. 
Precisely, If something happens to either Atlantis or the SGC,
we will no longer be completely cut o.
Carter frowned, I can understand why that's so important to




you, especially after what happened last time, but I argued with
the IOA against having any other copies of the macro. It's just one
more chance that the Wraith can get access to the entire network. 

McKay seems condent that cannot happen, I/we said

Yeah, I know, Carter responded.
Hailey, Carter, and I sat in the Hymenoptera's Ward room amid
the wreckage of an excellent meal, Nolan, Baden, and Shepherd
having already gone on their way. I sipped at an excellent local red

Hailey, having more than sipped, was beginning to loosen

up, lose the edge of sarcasm she often wielded like an axe, and I
began to wonder idly what she hid behind the brittle armor she
always wore.
Carter put down her glass and picked up the tablet she had
protected closely throughout the day. After going through several
layers of security, she handed it across to Hailey and I looked over
her shoulder.

The readout contained data about a planet in the

Milky Way complete with plans for construction of a facility.
Hailey looked up from the readout in surprise, This planet has
a naquadria core.

Where in hell did you nd it?

then added

sheepishly, Ma'am. 
Right under our noses.

It's 27 light years from Earth.


Lucian Alliance wanted to develop it as a forward base against
us, but when they discovered that it was highly unstable, they
abandoned it. We don't think they ever understood the signicance
of what they'd found. Scroll up, Carter said, gesturing with the
wine glass she had picked back up.
Hailey did, Icarus Base?

It's appropriate.

Is this what you

stole Dr. Brody back for?
Carter nodded, I recommended him to General O'Neill. Straight
o, he's run into something rather interesting. She reached across
and selected a dierent window, this one with lines of mathematics, The database entries you found contained specications for




the power system required to activate the gate.
I looked at them with interest but little understanding. I could
sense Fel-Thas' interest prickle, however, and it was he who answered, It describes a series approximating a complex power curve.
The tolerances for error are specied, but the series is not carried
far enough to meet the tolerance; it simply stops. 
Presumably, being a series, knowing the rst terms should allow us to carry it out to any level of precision required. But... wow,
what in hell is this? Hailey frowned in concentration as the mathematics quickly left behind her knowledge, indeed current human
knowledge, of mathematics. 
I too, am entirely unfamiliar with this progression, I Tok'raspoke, It may be that others among us can discern the relationship
between this term I pointed, and this one, but I doubt it, and
without understanding that transformation, we cannot complete
the series.
Carter shook her head, Anise has already shown this to your
best mathematicians and she does not think they will solve it either. 
Anise is being modest. She is our best mathematician. If she
does not understand this then it is beyond anything in Tok'ra or
Goa'uld experience as well as what we know of Alteran and even
Asgard mathematics. 
There has to be a solution, Hailey said emphatically, handing
the tablet back, Someone left this as clues for us to follow.


just have to understand the puzzle. 
Once you understand the riddle, the answer is obvious, Carter
entoned in a deep voice, beating Fel-Thas to the punch. 
Indeed, I said, picking up my wineglass, Here's to Icarus
We three all clinked glasses and spent the next precious hour
in lighter topics.

Chapter 8

Thwarted Intentions
I hear some noise. Lady,
come from that nest
Of death, contagion, and
unnatural sleep.
A greater power than we
can contradict
Hath thwarted our intents.
Come, come away.
"Romeo and Juliet", Act V,
Scene III

I breathed in, lling my lungs with the clean, fresh scent of
grass and trees and sky.

I nudged the joystick forward and the

motorized chair struggled up the slight slope with a low whine from
the electric motor. Major Carter followed a few steps behind as I
navigated between two headstones to my destination.

A Marine

corporal remained at a discrete distance. 
Ruth Anne Nichols a simple monument read. The earth before
it was still raw, only newly covered with sod. I set the breaks on
the wheelchair and struggled to lever myself up. My limbs amed




and ached, my hands fought their instructions, nearly crushing the
small spray of yellow owers. After a moment, Sam Carter put a
gentle hand on my chest, pushing me back against the seat, and
took the boquet from me. Carefully, she knelt down and placed it
in front of the headstone. She had used the Goa'uld hand device
on me just a few hours before.

It was doing less each time now

and fading more quickly, but I had nally nished translating the
cartouche which had resulted in my death. 
How far along was she?

she asked quietly. At rst I didn't

believe I had actually heard the words, my head still spinning from
failed eort.
I opened my mouth several times to retort but couldn't nd

Someone I trusted very well had assured me that every

copy of the lab results had been destroyed. Even Ruth's mother
had not known.
Still on her knees at the graveside, she shook her head, I saw
a copy of the note she left behind in your CIA le. It's the only
thing that made sense. She shifted with her hand on the arm of
the wheelchair to put her face closer to mine and lowered her voice
further, Well, that and the rue, she said, gesturing to the owers, 
I shook my head and recited:
Poor queen! so that thy state might be no worse,
I would my skill were subject to thy curse.
Here did she fall a tear; here in this place
I'll set a bank of rue, sour herb of grace:
Rue, even for Ruth, here shortly shall be seen,
In the remembrance of a weeping queen. 
Richard the III, I corrected her, when the Queen hears the news
that her husband has fallen at Bosworth eld. 
Ah, she said, mollied, and sat back, Well, it was a good




Seven weeks, four days, I breathed, No one knew not even
me until... afterward. She had a miscarriage just after she got the
news that I wasn't going to make it.
We stayed there quietly for several moments as she looked at
me with the piercing blue eyes, considering the new information, 
Subject to thy curse... Jason, she made a choice. It wasn't your
I shrugged, She had just lost me or that's what she was
told and she had just lost our child. When I last saw her, she
told me she didn't want me to go back to the jungle, but she hadn't
told me why and I wasn't really listening. 
Now you have a chance to live... she said. 
But I'm not sure I want to, I nished.
She nodded and stood up, dusting the dirt o of her Air Force
blues. We remained in silence for some time as the rose of sunset
began to kiss the cold marble. 
So what will you tell her? 
What? I asked, startled. 
She left that note for you, thinking you would never read it.
What will you say to her?

When you give up and die anyway?

Will that make her happy, do you think? her voice was low, but
had taken a cold edge, unyielding, And what about the other life
you have a chance to save? 
I've told you all I can about what's at stake.

I can't make

your choice for you, Doctor, Carter said, turning and starting
back down the hill, but neither can she, She patted my shoulder
gently on her way past, but kept walking.
I sat for a few moments more and then, awkwardly, powered the
chair around and followed her to where she stood with the Marine.
I just turned to Carter and nodded, not trusting myself to
Carter turned to the Marine, Doctor Higgs will be away on
assignment for some time. He needs to know that his ance, she
gestured back behind us, will be taken care of while he is gone.




Do you understand?
The corporal turned a serious eye on me, Yes, ma'am, I understand perfectly, and then, Should I bring more of, um, those,
Doctor? he said, owers not being his strong suit. 
Daisies, I said, Please bring her daisies. She'd like that. 
I'll see to it, sir.
Carter was now gone. Hailey and I were in the small lounge near
our lab where one or the other of us would often catch brief naps
when we were absorbed in the data mining project.

A bottle of

Hallonan mead, spicy, avored with citrus, was being added to the
Geldaran red wine we had emptied earlier in the evening. 
So, what was she like? Hailey asked, passing the bottle back
to me over the heap of paper I still thought best on paper
This dead chick you're pining for. What was she like?
I shook my head, trying to clear it.

Why did I keep getting

into these conversations? And which one did she mean? I chose
my human past. 
She was beautiful and delicate, like a snowake, or frost on a
window. Luminous. 
Ah, Hailey said, taking the bottle back now that she had distracted me from taking a drink, So: fragile and high maintenance.
I gasped for a moment with the surprise of the blade sticking
between my ribs. I snatched the bottle from her and took a long
pull, Yeah, I suppose she was, but I loved her.

In some ways,

everything I am doing now, I am still doing for love of her. 
You know, that's kind of creepy, she said, leaning her head
back against the wall behind her and closing her eyes, She's gone.
No one can do anything for her.
I shook my head emphatically, I didn't say for her, I said `for

love of her'. There's a big dierence. When someone get's inside
you like that, you want to be better for them, for what you see




in their eyes when they look at you. After a while, you internalize
them and it just becomes a part of what you are, even if they aren't
with you anymore. 
`I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when

I am with you.

I love you not only for what you have made of

yourself, but for what you are making of me. I love you for the
part of me that you bring out, ' Hailey said sleepily.
I sat up a bit in surprise, I wouldn't have expected that to
come out of you. 
It didn't, she yawned, Elizabeth Browning Barrett... Barrett
Browning... something like that. Lieutenant Elliott really liked her
pottery... po-e-try. Victorian. Dead. Boring. 

I drew a blank, but nally Fel-Thas prodded me

from the depths where he was lurking, He was a host to Lantash.
Rather briey.
She nodded, Everybody in Pegasus has lost somebody. Sometimes lots of somebodies.

Look at Carter, she's lost just about

everybody she's touched.
I thought about some of the things people said very quietly 
about her in the rumour mill.

The Black Widow.

I nodded.

Maybe Hailey wasn't the only one walking around with a chip. In
the scheme of things, my losses were par for the course, at least
I've hated her, spent most of my career in her shadow. Being
compared to her. I wanted to see her shown up, to be better than
her, but damn she's good.

I don't know where I would be if she

hadn't kicked me in the ass when I needed it, Hailey said, slowly
sliding down the wall, her voice coming from farther and farther
I know where I'd be, I said, nding the bottle now empty and
screwing up my eyes to set it on the oor without upsetting the
papers, She saved my life.
Hailey squinted back at me, You and half of like three galaxies.
Take a number, the eye snapped shut again, I'm not sure some-




times whether to look up to her or just hit her with a stick and
hide the body.
I followed that rabbit for a bit, thinking about the academic
legend I had worked under for my doctorate. It seemed like there
had been nowhere on Earth to get out from under his...

well, I

wasn't on Earth anymore, was I, and I don't think he had had a
clue where an obscure bit of his work would lead. 
I did nd something odd in the data today, she said, from
somewhere at the bottom of a deep well, Not what we were looking
for, but... well, a library of code that accessed Janus' routines. It
was just a fragment of biological design, I think. Real old, maybe
something that went into the Dhakhara program...
Fel-Thas' attention pricked up and I was instantly sober, lled
by sudden anticipation... and dread. 
Anyway, I was surprised by who wrote it...

you know the

Ancient chick that had us for tea and didn't tell us anything?
Hailey paused and seemed to rummage a bit in her head.
I stopped breathing, resisting the urge to put her under a bright
spotlight and throttle her until she got to the point. 
Athar, she brought out in triumph, Anyway... she yawned
one last time and sank to the oor, one arm splaying out, I think
maybe... she designed the Goa'uld.