Summary: The Atlantis expedition steps through the Gate only to find that the Ancients weren't quite as they seemed. It's a good thing that one consented to be left behind to consult the next race of Lanteans.
Pairings: Sheppard/McKay, Sumner/OMC, Weir/Zelenka, Lorne/Parrish, and more
Warnings: Dom/sub world, will have sex scenes for slash, het, and femslash couples
Notes: This fic is totally self-indulgent. No haters allowed.
The last of the member of the Atlantis expedition stepped through the Stargate. The Gate shut down just as a bottle of champagne rolled through. Elizabeth picked it up, smiling to herself.
The military personnel were already spreading out to scout the area. The gateroom lights flicked on as they walked around it, but no doors opened. Out of the corner of her eyes, Elizabeth saw Major John Sheppard step forward as if to walk up the central stairs.
A holographic image flickered on up at the top of the stairs. It was of a young man, perhaps no older than thirty, with light chocolate skin and dark hair cropped short. The most startling thing about him, though, was that his eyes were bright blue.
Elizabeth heard the sound of several safeties being clicked off. She turned to glare at Sumner, who had his gun pointed at the holographic image.
"Hello," the image said. It repeated it again in about a dozen languages, only a few of which Elizabeth actually recognized—and she knew over two-dozen languages conversationally.
"Hello," Elizabeth called back. The gateroom was hushed. Rodney came up to stand by her side.
"Confirmed," the image said. He flickered and then he smiled. "Welcome to Atlantis. If the city Stargate opened for you, then you hail from Earth and as thus are likely descendants of the Lanteans who once inhabited these walls. I am Rein Rexus. This is a recording that I made just before placing myself in a stasis pod deep in the city. As long as the city has power, which it should if this recording is playing, then I am alive."
Elizabeth glanced at Rodney. His mouth was hanging open slightly, but his blue eyes were sharp. That's what she liked about him. For all he seemed a bit of a fool at times, his brain was always calculating.
"As soon as this recording began, the chamber I will place, or have placed myself in will have begun to awaken me. I should arrive in person into the gateroom soon after this recording finishes. Until then, the gateroom doors will remain closed to you." Rein, or Rein's recording, paused. "Atlantis will now show a number next to this image that indicates how long it has been since I placed myself in the stasis pod."
A number appeared in front of Rein's holographic body. Elizabeth gasped.
"This number is in Terran, or Earth, solar years," Rein's image said.
"Just over ten thousand years," Peter murmured on Elizabeth's other side.
"There is a threat in the Pegasus galaxy, the reason that the Lanteans abandoned Atlantis this many years ago. They are known as the Wraith. If you know of their existence, say yes. If you do not, say no."
"No," Elizabeth said. Dread pooled in her stomach. A threat? They'd come here to find ways to defeat the Ori, not deal with a new threat.
"Confirmed." The image flickered. "I am glad. That means that the Wraith have no yet managed to recover the location of Earth and the Milky Way galaxy. It is unlikely they are dead. A single Wraith has the ability to live almost indefinitely if food is available to them." Rein's image held up a hand and another figure appeared beside him. It was of a humanoid creature with reptile eyes and long white hair. It smiled, showing pointed teeth.
"This is a Wraith knight. They have only one food source and will starve if it is not available. No amount of rehabilitation and alternate food has been successful in turning them from this." Rein's image frowned. "The image I am about to show is disturbing, but imperative to make you understand the threat the Wraith pose."
A human appeared next to the Wraith. It was a pale male, bare-chested with a simple pair of white pants. The Wraith reached out with a hand and placed it on the human's chest. It's nails dug into the human's skin and then the human let out an unholy scream.
Elizabeth flinched, but couldn't turn away as the human aged rapidly until he was nothing more than a husk that dropped to the floor. Several members of the expedition screamed. Both the human and Wraith disappeared.
"After a Wraith feeds, it has temporary accelerated healing. They are very hard to kill. They are also vicious. The have no pain receptors and little emotion. They exist to feed and reproduce." Rein's image frowned. "They breed faster the more a food source is plentiful. When we first became aware of the Wraith, a thousand years before this recording was made, the population of humans, including the Lanteans that I descended from, was just over one hundred billion and spread across five galaxies. The Wraith completely wiped out three of those galaxies."
An image appeared over the holographs shoulder, showing five sections of the blue dots. Red began to overwhelm the blue until only two blue galaxies remained.
"The Wraith went to the Milky Way galaxy and wiped out the populations of all the terraformed and populated planets, except for Earth. On Earth, they destroyed one billion living there, but they knew that they were running out of food, so they left feeding grounds. Several pockets of human, little more than ten thousand each, were allowed to live on different continents on Earth. Their technology was taken and in the hundreds of years after, the Lanteans found that they had forgotten that they were once able to travel the stars."
"Oh my god," Elizabeth murmured.
"Meanwhile, the Wraith travelled to the Pegasus galaxy. The Lanteans had been preparing for many years and were able to put up a suitable defense, but the Wraith were strong. They destroyed many of our outposts on various planets, leaving the more primitive of our kind to continue living as future feeding grounds. We battled for one hundred years." Rein's image looked down. "We were not prepared. The Wraith had bred to numbers greater than we could deal with after destroying four galaxies. One last mission was conducted. It was a success. The coordinates of Earth were wiped from the Wraith drives and the last of the Lanteans left through the Stargate to join the primitive colonies on Earth and live the rest of their lives in peace."
Rein looked up, surveying the room as if his image could actually see the people in it. "The Wraith know that they had left a feeding ground behind in another galaxy. I have no doubt they continue to search for it. Depending on the number of years that have passed, we can work together to make plans to defend the occupants of Earth and of the other planets in the Milky Way galaxy if they have been repopulated." The recording flickered. "I should arrive in the gateroom soon. Thank you for listening."
Elizabeth turned to Sumner. He'd lowered his gun, but his hand was still on the trigger. He raised an eyebrow at her.
"He's an Ancient," Elizabeth said. "Let's not antagonize him."
"I won't shoot him," Sumner told her. "If what he says about these Wraith are true, we need more intel."
Elizabeth snorted, but nodded. They both turned back to the stairs, waiting for the doors up on the landing to open.
It surprised all of them when a door toward the side was the one to open instead. Rein stepped out. He walked to the top of the stairs and then down a few steps. He looked around at all of them.
"It's a pleasure to see you in person," Elizabeth said. She stayed in the front of the group with Sumner and Rodney. "I'm Elizabeth Weir."
"The pleasure is returned," Rein said. "I assume you all saw my recording. As it said, I am Rein." He studied them for another moment. "Atlantis has informed me that is has been ten thousand and thirteen years."
"That's what the number said," Elizabeth agreed.
"And you know nothing of the Wraith on Earth?" Rein questioned.
"No," Sumner answered.
Rein ran a hand through his short brown hair. A metallic white bracelet gleamed in the light from his right wrist.
"If you don't mind me asking, lad," Carson piped up. "How are you faring? You've been in a stasis pod for ten thousand years. Are you experience muscle weakness?"
"Lad?" Rein's lips curled up.
Elizabeth looked back in time to see Carson flush. "No offense meant."
"No offense taken," Rein said. "As an alpha, it's simply been a long time since I've been called anything of the kind."
"Alpha?" Elizabeth asked.
He turned his alarming blue eyes back to her. "I had wondered if Earth would lose this knowledge after so many years without connection to Atlantis. She is the one who awakens it after all." He brushed a hand against a step above him on the stairs and the flashed briefly as if reacting to his touch.
"Is Atlantis sentient?" Rodney asked.
"In a way," Rein told him. He cleared his throat. "To answer your question…."
"Carson Beckett. I'm a doctor."
"Doctor Beckett, I am in fine health. The stasis pod was designed for long-term use. It kept me hydrated and my nutrients levels in balance. The gel of the capsule was designed to push my muscles, simulating exercise, to keep me from loosing the ability to walk when I was awoken." He sighed. "I am not, however, at the same peak physical condition I was when I went into the pod. It will take a few months of true training to return to my former fitness."
Carson nodded. "Thank you for telling me."
"I will try to hold very little from you. I hope to be allies," Rein said. "We hold the same blood, the same genes, though they seem to be dormant in most of you."
"Dormant?" Rodney questioned. "Not nonexistent?"
"Just dormant," Rein assured him. "All the members of Earth hold the ability to be awoken by Atlantis. It is interesting that some of you are already partially awaken." He turned his eyes to Sheppard. Elizabeth watched as Sheppard met them unflinchingly. Rein smiled and looked away.
"About the Wraith," Sumner prompted.
Rein's eyes darkened. "There is good news and bad news. The bad news being that in ten thousand years, there is very little chance they have been killed. If they have kept to the Pegasus galaxy as I predict, then they will have had no large resistance. They will have maintained the people of this galaxy as relatively primitive civilizations for them to harvest in intervals."
"That's sick," Bates muttered. Rein must have heard him, because he nodded.
"The Wraith have no concept of morality like we do. They have been known to feed on each other in territory disputes. They hold no guilt for the humans they feed on and while they know how to make themselves seem civil, there is no chance of making peace with them. As I said in the recording, there is no other food source for them except human life force."
"So we need to exterminate them, before they discover the location of Earth," Sumner concluded.
"That would be the plan," Rein agreed. "What is the current population of Earth?"
"Around six and a half billion," Elizabeth said.
Rein frowned. "Are you not nearing capacity for the planet?"
"The vast majority of people on Earth are not aware that we have the means to travel to other planets and colonize them," Peter said.
"Then Earth is the only human-populated planet in the Milky Way?"
"No," Elizabeth said. "The Wraith must have left other… feeding grounds. Many planets in the Milky Way are populated, though few have as many as Earth. There are about twenty-five billion people estimated."
"It is imperative we do not let the Wraith discover that," Rein said. "Before the other Lanteans left, the human population of this galaxy was one billion. I imagine it has not changed much, and if so it would have decreased. With only a steady food source of less than a billion, the Wraith likely began to turn on each other."
"We don't want to give them a common enemy again," Sheppard said.
Elizabeth was surprised to hear him speak. So far, he'd seemed content to hang around in the background. Also surprisingly, Sumner didn't glare at the man. Instead, he nodded along.
"Yes," Rein said. "I have no real information, but I estimate that there are only a few hundred Wraith hive ships left. Many likely hibernate for hundreds of years to allow the human population to replenish after a mass culling." He sighed. "It is imperative that we do not wake them all up and instead learn as much as we can about their locations and numbers."
"You believe them beatable?" Sumner questioned.
"I do no know the currently weapons technology Earth has invented," Rein said. "However, many of the outposts in this galaxy were put into hibernation and should be able to be reclaimed. Our technology is superior to the Wraith, but we were outnumbered in the war. They would never have been able to sustain the numbers they had. Even toward the end of the war, they'd already dwindled, but by that point so had we and they were united in their attempt to eradicate us and the threat we posed to them." He smiled. "What I mean to say is yes. I believe we can. And we must, before they have a chance to fully realize that there is another generation of Lanteans come to defeat them."
"Earth doesn't have a full ZPM," Elizabeth said. "They aren't able to dial into Atlantis again."
"The power module. That harvests zero point energy," Rodney said.
"Oh!" Rein laughed. "ZPM. I like it. Atlantis runs off three of… three ZPMs. They were near depletion when I awoke. I headed to the power room and replaced all of them before coming here, so the city is at full power. She's still in hibernation mode at the moment, but it will be easy to awaken her at any time. Those three were the only ones stored on the city. There is a ZPM manufacturing plant on one of the outposts that was put into hibernation. It is my hope that it was not destroyed."
"So we can dial Earth?" Elizabeth asked to make sure.
"Yes, we certainly have the power," Rein said. "Atlantis runs optimally on three, but she can fairly easily sustain herself on just two. I can give you one of the full ZPMs to take back, so you'll be able to dial in again."
"And we'll look for the manufacturing outpost to get more," Rodney said.
"If not, then I can give you schematics for how they are made." Rein shrugged. "I'm not an engineer, but I should be able to find the relevant papers."
"That would be great," Elizabeth said. "That would solve a lot of our problems."
Rein nodded and then sighed. "Atlantis will change anyone who lives within her walls for more than a week. This change is irreversible. It was the core of Lantean society before and even during the war with the Wraith. The usual coming of age ceremony was a pilgrimage to Atlantis to be awaken."
"What sort of change are you talking about?" Rodney asked.
Rein fiddled with the bracelet on his right wrist. "What do you know of the Lanteans?"
"Other than what you have just told us?" Elizabeth asked. "We know you built the Stargates and seeded a number of planets."
"Seeded… that's an interesting way to put it," Rein murmured. "My apologies, please continue."
"You, or many of you, could ascend into a higher type of life form. The closer you came to ascension, the more abilities you developed and the longer you could live."
"Partially correct," Rein said. "The abilities you're referring you are what is awakened by Atlantis. Among these abilities include faster regeneration and healing, which allowed for some to live much longer than they would normally. There was a track of us who believe in ascension above all else and spent their lives attempting to do away with their mortal body, but the vast majority of us were content to spend a mortal life among the stars."
"So if we stayed on the city for a week, we'd get superpowers?" Rodney asked.
Rein blinked as several of the expedition members laughed. "I suppose you could put it that way. Regardless, I cannot allow you to remain here at the moment."
"Why?" Sumner asked. Elizabeth noticed the grip on his gun had tightened.
"Because it seems that you knew none of this," Rein said. "I'm sure your people on Earth would like to be informed and a number of you may not wish to live on a city that will very soon become a war base."
He closed his eyes. "When I say you will be changed, I do not just mean that you will develop abilities. The awakening will place you on in inherent rank based upon your power level. There are five ranks: alpha, beta, gamma, theta, and sigma. Once you have been awakened, you will be able to feel the rank of the others who have. If you operate under a different ranking system, this will be detrimental to command. This city will only operate smoothly if everyone understands and accepts their place in the ranks."
"You're an alpha," Elizabeth said.
"In a group of one hundred people, there is approximately one alpha, two betas, twenty-five gammas, thirty-three thetas, and forty sigmas. That being said, even if you return with only one hundred people, I would not be surprised to find more alphas than just one or two. In times of war, more alphas and betas awaken then in times of peace."
"What is that on your wrist?" Elizabeth asked before she could help herself.
Rein studied her. "It shows my classification as a white."
"Dude, you're not white," Ford murmured.
"What?" Rein asked.
Ford flushed. "Sorry, sir. It's just… your skin color isn't…."
"White," Rein finished for him. "We've never used the term white for skin color. We would use pale. Or fair. Neither of which I am." He smiled. "White and black are two categories used for pair bonding. Or mating, or whatever it is that your people call it."
"Dating, being in a relationship, being lovers, married," Elizabeth offered.
Rein shrugged. "Once you have awakened, you will also be able to tell if someone is white or black. It's the first and foremost qualification for… dating… that person. Whites only mate with blacks and blacks only with whites."
"Is it gender based?" Elizabeth asked.
"No, not at all. Lanteans have never cared about gender in mating." Rein fiddled with his bracelet. "Our population has rarely been so low that it has mattered, and regardless—we have long ago developed incubation chambers which allow same-sex couples to have children."
"So all Lanteans are bisexual?" Rodney asked.
"I… yes," Rein said. "Certainly some have preferences, but I have known very few who have outright refused to mate with someone of a single gender purely for that reason."
"Many on Earth have a much stricter viewpoint on that," Elizabeth said, glancing at Sumner. Surprisingly, he wasn't glaring outright, but he seemed stiff.
"To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if the awakening didn't change those viewpoints," Rein told her. "Most whites find blacks attractive as part of the biological change. Our receptors are focused for such. I have known of couples who have come to Atlantis on pilgrimage too late and when they have awaken have discovered each other to be of the same classification. There is no law against dating someone of the same classification, but all of these couples lost all their sexual attraction for each other."
"That is rough," Peter murmured.
Rein cleared his throat. "I think you have most all the information you need to make an informed decision now. I am the last Lantean and I wish for as many people as want to come colonize Atlantis. These people will also need to be prepared to aid in the war against the Wraith, whether they directly fight or not. We will need to establish trade with the other planets and assess their situations. I do not want your people to order anyone. I wish for volunteers and I want no one who volunteers to be turned away. I am aware I can't enforce those requests, but I hope you will abide by them."
"We need the full ZPM to return," Sumner reminded him.
"Of course. I shall go fetch it." Rein left the gateroom. The doors remained closed after he'd left.
Sumner turned to Elizabeth. "Not what you were expecting, Dr. Weir?"
"Despite the Wraith, I believe it to be better than what I was expecting," Elizabeth said honestly. "We may have another war to fight, but Rein will be invaluable in helping us understand Ancient," she paused. "In understanding Lantean technology."
"And ZedPMs," Rodney added excitedly.
"Right," Elizabeth said, smiling.
It took five minutes for Rein to return. When he did, he was carrying a metal case. He walked down the steps and set it in front of the expedition. Sumner gestured for Bates to pick it up. He did.
"When you return, I will have prepared enough rooms for at least five hundred. If there are more of you, we can air out more, but I do not expect there to be." Rein paused. "Should I?"
"Probably not," Elizabeth said.
Rein nodded. "I noticed your outfits. The colored sections indicate what type of field you are in?"
"That's right," Elizabeth said.
"I like them, but you will need to change the color of the military outfits," Rein said. "Black is used for classification, not field." He paused. "Among Lanteans, we used red for our military forces. Purple were for the physical sciences. Blue were for the life sciences. Green were for our healers. Yellow were for the city workers, such as the cooks, farmers, technicians, and the like. Orange were for those who dealt in human relations, like the traders and diplomats, but also for the therapists and mind healers."
Elizabeth exchanged a glance with Peter. "I don't see how that small change would be a problem. We'll make sure to bring extra outfits."
"Atlantis is capable of being self-sustaining. I will make sure the greenhouses and crop fields are viable, but I doubt the seeds have survived ten thousand years, so if you would bring those."
Rein dropped his glance to Sumner's gun. "Is that a projectile weapon?"
"Yes," Sumner said.
"The Lanteans have not used those in many years," Rein said, a contemplative tone to his voice. "I know the phasers will be still be operational. We can outfit all the military forces who come with those."
"How much damage do they do?" Sumner asked.
"They have two settings, stun and kill. On a human, one shot anywhere on the body with the kill will stop their heart. The stun affects only the portion of the body hit, unless they are hit in the upper torso or head, in which case the entire body is stunned. The pistols have a range of about five yards, but there are rifles that have a significantly longer range. We also have regular stunners that have no kill option. In the past, everyone on the city above the age of thirteen was armed with a stunner, no exceptions."
"And large ordinance?"
"We have some laser guns, but drones have always been the weapon of choice for that. We have three different types of ships. The gateships, the fighters, and the battleships. I know there are still a dozen of the gateships on the city, but the battleships equipped with fighters will have all been put into hibernation. I don't know how many we have left."
"Are they equipped with a hyperdrive?" Elizabeth asked.
"The battleships are," Rein said. "The gateships and fighters were designed to be small enough to fit through the Stargates and they are all equipped with dialing mechanisms."
"What about communication devices?" Elizabeth asked, touching the radio on her ear.
Rein's eyes flicked to where her fingers were. "We have personalized communicators that attach to the cartilage of a person's ear." He turned his head so everyone could see the silver piece. It wrapped around the top of his right ear, looking more like a simple piece of jewelry than a radio. "They don't hurt and can only be removed by the person wearing it, unless that person dies. They charge off heat from the body."
"That's really cool," Rodney said. "How long is their range?"
"Without the amplifiers that are in all the outposts, the city, and the ships… they have a single plant-wide range. With the ship amplifiers, they can reach across most solar systems."
"Sold," Rodney said. "Much better than these pieces of crap."
"Rodney," Elizabeth admonished. He just smirked.
"I'll also supply anyone who comes to live on the city with datapads that connect to the city's servers. I don't know how compatible the technology you brought is with Atlantis, so that will just make things easier."
"So basically you're telling us to go tell people that there's this mostly empty city and if you come to live on it you'll be granted superpowers and get really cool shiny technology," Rodney summarized.
"And fight the Wraith," Rein said. "It is unlikely the city would every be destroyed and we'd have the opportunity to escape back to Earth before that would happen, however the Wraith can and will kill a number of those who chose to live here. I will be waging war, whether I have to do it alone or if I will have the help of the descendants of the Lanteans that were my brothers and sisters is up to you and your people."
Rein turned around and headed up to the platform that seemed to hold the most consoles. He pressed in the dialing sequence and the Gate began to charge up.
"One more question!" Rodney called. "Can I bring back my cat?"
Rein leaned over the balcony. "Animal companion?" Rodney nodded. "I don't mind. There are no current animals on the city, so there isn't a chance of it being an invasive species. Just don't take it offworld." He looked around. "That goes for all of you. I don't want to limit what you bring. Any technology we can try to integrate with Atlantis, but I wouldn't worry about that. We probably have similar technology installed in her already. Anything organic—pets, favorite food, lovers… though keep in mind my earlier warning about that last one, feel free to bring it."
"We'll discuss it with our leaders," Elizabeth said. The gate opened.
"This is Stargate Command," Jack O'Neill's voice came through the Gate. "Is this Atlantis?"
Elizabeth touched the radio in her ear. "It's only been a few hours, but we have a lot to tell you. The Atlantis expedition is coming back through."
"All of you? Is the city uninhabitable?"
"We'll explain during debriefing. You'll want to call together the IOA and any military leaders who have been informed of the program. The President and Prime Ministers, too."
"That doesn't sound good," Jack said.
"It depends on your point of view." Elizabeth cleared her throat. "We're bringing back a full ZPM."
"Well then, start sending people through."
Sumner began to corral groups through the Gate. Rein walked back down the stairs. He held a crystal in his hand. He held it out for Elizabeth. She took it curiously.
"Point it to a wall and have someone who is already partially awakened press down on it. It will show a recording of everything my initial recording said as well as what I discussed with your expedition."
"That will be useful, thank you." Elizabeth paused. "What should we call you?"
"Traditionally, people in the same rank call each other by their first names. Those of different ranks and who do not feel comfortable referring to each other so informally will use the rank name. For instance, I would be Alpha Rein or Alpha Rexus."
"Good to know," Elizabeth said. "And thank you."
"I await the next time you open the Gate." Rein smiled. "Good luck."
Elizabeth walked over to where Sumner and Rodney waited as the last people to step through. Sumner looked at the crystal in her hand but said nothing. Elizabeth stepped through the Gate.
"I want to go," Daniel said.
"Danny." Jack sighed. "We talked about this before."
"Before, we didn't know if we'd have the power to come back. We do. Atlantis won't be cut off from Earth. I want to talk to Rein in person."
"Look, I'm not saying it wouldn't be good for you to go, but you saw the recording. You'll be changed, Danny. You won't be the same Daniel Jackson."
"I'm not going to become a completely different person." Daniel huffed. "Jack, I already changed. Surely you can see that? After I ascended… I think I know what Rein is talking about, okay?"
Jack stared at him. "You're not staying. If you go, you go to consult, but you'll come back to Earth. You have duties here."
"Duties," Daniel murmured. He wondered if Jack would ever acknowledge that there was a reason his duties always kept him close to the man. "I won't stay, Jack. Not yet." He sighed.
Sam cleared her throat from the office doorway. They both turned to her. She smiled at the surprise on their faces. "I have an idea. All three of us are needed on Earth, but I can't deny that these powers Rein was talking about would be useful. Rodney thinks that the awakening will allow us to control the Lantean technology far easier than we have been before."
"Since when did McKay become Rodney to the both of you?" Jack asked. "You hated him last I checked. Had him sent to Siberia."
"And then we made up and I realized his calculations were more accurate than mine." Sam sniffed. "He's a genius and he may be socially inept, but if you look past that he's not bad."
"You just like that he stopped hitting on you so hard," Daniel said.
"Well, I did start dating Cam," Sam said. "It did get better after that. He's easier to work with without the panting."
"So what's your idea?" Jack asked.
"After the colony settles in, we'll take a couple week leave and spend it on Atlantis," Sam said. "Cam wants to come along too. Teal'c says he doesn't want to change, but he agrees that it would be best for us if we did. We'll go, give me and Danny a chance to talk to Rein, and come back better prepared to face the Ori."
Daniel nodded. "I'm okay with that."
Jack leaned back in his chair. "Are you and Cameron sure? You heard what Rein said about not being attracted to each other afterwards."
"We're prepared for that, if it turns out to be the case. We still don't know what exactly makes someone a white versus a black."
"Just one of the things I want to ask Rein about," Daniel murmured.
"Okay," Jack said. "I agree. We'll give the colony a couple months, but then we'll go visit."
Sam and Daniel both nodded.
Marshall Sumner stood in front of the military volunteers. It had taken a month to organize everyone. The General of the Air Force, Admiral of the Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and the General of the Army were all part of the committee along with President of the United States, the Prime Ministers of Canada, the UK, France, Japan, Portugal, Spain, and several other countries from the EU.
Only military forces from the United States had been informed about the Stargate position, though scientists from nearly all the EU had been invited to join years ago. Everyone read into the Stargate program had been informed of Atlantis and had been allowed to watch the recording. And then there had been endless discussions.
Marshall wasn't the only colonel who volunteered to colonize the city, but he was the only one that had been accepted. Though Rein had expressed wish to let all those who wished to come come, the armed forces simply didn't work that way. They couldn't spare everyone, especially not for the first wave and without more information about how the awakening would change rank dynamics.
The same reasons Marshall had been in charge of the original expedition still applied to allow him to be the officer headed to Atlantis, those this time he'd have more officers with him. Not that those ranks would matter after they'd been awakened.
"You have all volunteered and have been accepted to join the Atlantis colony. We will be waging war on the Wraith. You've all watched the feeding recording and Alpha Rexus' explanation on them. It is our mission, come straight from the President, to eradicate any and all we can find. We will not leave a creature that uses us for food alive to discover Earth's location," Marshall said. "Am I understood?"
"Yes sir!" the crowd of two hundred and thirty eight men and women from all branches of the United States armed forces shouted.
"I have orders straight from the top of the Navy, Army, Coast Guard, and Air Force," Marshall said. "Once you officially sign onto this mission, you will no longer be known as a Marine, an Airman… you won't be SEALS or Rangers. You'll be members of the Atlantis Armed Forces, Lantean Soldiers. Public Earth records will not change, but your personal records will." Marshall took a deep breath. His eyes met Sheppard's for a moment. The man didn't look away. Marshall had a feeling that once they'd been awakened, there'd be no protocol stating that he had to.
"Chain of command will change. I don't care if you were a major, if you awaken to find yourself sigma ranked then you will be sigma ranked. That is a risk we will all take. It will take time for us to adjust, but we will adjust. If you don't think you can, you're still free to walk out and return to your previous listing."
No one moved. Marshall looked them all over. "I don't know if I will be standing above you like this a few weeks from now. At least one among us will be an alpha, that is a certainty. If there is more than one, the alphas will work particular chain of command out amongst themselves. This will also be true for all the ranks. Five ranks are far less than all of us are used to. We'll be adding ranks inside those categories, but again those will not be figured until after we have more intel—after we've all awakened."
Marshall crossed his arms. "I don't like people who don't follow the chain of command. If you don't adapt, you will be disciplined. This comes straight from the Generals and Admirals. I will say again, you are free to leave."
Again, no one moved. Marshall smirked. "Very well. You have one week remaining until we dial Atlantis again. In that week, you will pack everything you want and think you will need. This is not just a regular base. Those of you who have volunteered will be moving to Atlantis for an indefinite amount of time. I recommend sorting all your Earth affairs."
He knew that, like him, the majority of people who had volunteered had very few people on Earth that would miss them. Nearly all of the original expedition had volunteered to come back. What was more, for the men and women standing in front of him, this was about keeping back an enemy that wanted to eat them. This was about joining in an honorable war—a necessary war.
"Dismissed," Sumner said.
Only Sheppard remained. Sumner had expected it. He walked up to the man. Sheppard gave him a textbook perfect salute.
Sumner sighed. "Don't. We both know you won't be doing that soon."
Sheppard studied him for a moment. "McKay and Carter have been speculating that the people like me who have strong ATA genes already feel a level of the inherent rank we'll awaken."
"I wouldn't have said it before, but I think I knew the minute we stepped onto Atlantis that you were strong, Sheppard." Marshall's gaze flicked up to Sheppard's barely regulation hair. Sheppard grinned and ran a hand through it.
"You'll be an alpha as well."
Sumner frowned. "Nothing is certain."
"No," Sheppard said. "But my instincts have always been good."
Sumner let out a heavy sigh. "I still don't like you, but I don't like many people. If we're going to be working together, then we will work together."
Sheppard nodded. It had grated on Sumner before, the power the man carried within him. He hadn't like knowing that the man who was a rank below him felt like an equal. Now, though… now Sumner thought he understood. He'd had a month to think on it.
"Will you work with me?" Sumner questioned.
Sheppard looked him in the eyes. It felt like the man was assessing his soul. Sumner kept a tight rein on his emotions, but it still chilled him. "Yes," Sheppard said finally. "I will." He paused. "We're going to kill those sick fucks who want to eat us, or we'll go down trying."
Sumner held out a hand. Sheppard took it in a surprisingly strong grip. He grinned, knowing it was a bit feral. Sheppard met it with one of his own. "On that, we are most certainly agreed."
Elizabeth rocked on her heels. Four hundred and five, that was how many had volunteered. It was more than she'd expected. A little over half were military.
"You still have that champagne I sent you?" Jack asked.
"I do." Elizabeth smiled. "I'm going to give it to the alphas."
"You don't think you'll be one?"
"I don't know if I will." Elizabeth noticed Sumner and Sheppard walk into the balcony of the gateroom. The soon-to-be Lantean colonists were still filing into the lower platform by the Stargate itself. "I joined the expedition originally as its civilian leader, but I am content with work as a diplomat and a treaty-maker between the Lanteans and the residents of the Pegasus galaxy."
Jack nodded. "The IOA and the President expect a report on the ranks and command structure once you've all awakened and settled." He swept his gaze over to Sumner and Sheppard. If he was surprised to see Sheppard standing at Sumner's side like an equal, he didn't show it. "We'll be expecting once a month data bursts. We don't want to burn out either of our ZPMs until we know how easy it will be to make more."
"Understood," Sumner said.
"At some point, if you can convince Alpha Rein to step away from the city and come in person to the SGC, the IOA would appreciate it. They want to meet him in person." Jack paused. "You don't have to rush on that. If you forget to mention it for a few months, we understand. Gathering intel on the Wraith takes precedence over all else."
"We'll do our best," Elizabeth said.
"Cool," Jack clapped her on the shoulder. "Have fun."
Elizabeth smiled and followed behind Sumner and Sheppard as they headed down to the Gate platform.
Walter dialed up the address for Atlantis and engaged the loud speaker.
The Gate connected. "This is Elizabeth Weir," she called. "And the rest of the volunteers ready to fill Atlantis' walls again."
"It's nice to hear your voice again," Rein's voice came through the Gate. "I've lowered the shield. How many should I expect?"
"Four hundred and five, and many supply crates," Elizabeth told him.
"Understood. Come on through."
Not all the volunteers had fit in the gateroom. As waves of people, each pushing wheeled supply crates, disappeared through the Stargate, more people came from where they'd waited in the hallways. Elizabeth grabbed her own supply stack and wheeled it up the platform and through the Gate.
She came out the other side. Rein was directing people to park their crates along the back wall behind the Gate. She placed hers next to Rodney's and joined him as he headed over to where Rein was. A soldier took his place in directing traffic so that he could talk to them.
"I am pleased to see you both return. I never caught your name originally," he said to Rodney.
Rein smiled. "You remind me of my sister. You have her eyes." A heartbreakingly sad expression crossed his face for only a brief second, before it was gone.
Elizabeth cleared her throat. "Do you need help assigning rooms for everyone?"
Rein shook his head. "I won't be assigning rooms until everyone has awakened."
"Where are we going to sleep for the next week, then?" Rodney asked, frowning.
"We'll be expediting the awakening process," Rein explained. "It's what we used to do for those who came to pay pilgrimage. We had nowhere to house them so the city designed a way to wake them quicker."
"Oh," Elizabeth said. "Is it dangerous?"
"Not at all," Rein said. "At least, no more than the usual awakening. Things tend to be shaky for newly awaken as they learn to control their new abilities, but I have faith that you will preserve past that. You all seem very determined." He smiled. "It makes me happy to see."
The last of the volunteers stepped through the gate. Jack's voice came through. "Talk to you later!" he said cheerfully, and then the Gate cut out.
Rein laughed. "I like him. What's his name?"
"Jack O'Neill," Elizabeth said. "He and a few others wish to come to city in a few months for a pilgrimage. They won't stay here, but they wish to awaken."
"I think we can work something out," Rein said. He walked away from them and to the stairs. "Welcome, everyone! I see a number of faces I recognize. Welcome back. And for all the newcomers, thank you for coming. I am Alpha Rein Rexus. After the awakening, I will be just one of you—for we will all be Lanteans."
He cleared his throat and proceeded to explain as he had for Elizabeth and Rodney that they would be going through the speedy version of awakening. "In a moment, I'll lead you all to one of the auditoriums. Once everyone has been awakened, we'll begin assigning rooms and moving supplies accordingly. Are there any questions?"
Ford raised his hand. Rein looked at him. "Why is it lighter in here?" he asked. "Was it night, last time?"
"No, Atlantis was submerged underwater while she was hibernating. The planet we are on, Lantea, is ninety-five percent ocean. After you left, I had the city rise so that she could stop using her primary shield constantly, which was draining the ZPMs."
Rein smiled. "Anything else?"
No one spoke up.
"Very well. Follow me."
They followed in a mass behind Rein up the stairs and through the main sliding doors beyond. Rein led them past several hallways and to a large set of sliding doors that opened to an auditorium with what looked like thousands of seats.
They walked down to the first rows. Rein walked up to the raised platform and stood on it. When he spoke, his voice was amplified across the entire auditorium.
"Find a seat in the first five rows. It doesn't matter where you sit."
They all did as asked. Elizabeth sat in the front row with Rodney on her left and Carson on her right. There was a console in front of her that held a black datapad. The chairs were comfortable, with gel armrests and curved backs.
"There is a datapad in front of all of you. Enter your full name into it. It will prompt you to answer a series of questions about your skill sets, including whether or not you are military or civilian. The questions will specialize depending on what you answer. It shouldn't take you more than an hour to get through everything. As soon as you have, the datapad will prompt you to close your eyes and lay your hands palm down on the arms of the chair. You will them begin the awakening process. The process will take approximately two and a half hours.
Rein took a deep breath. "Once you've awakened, your datapad will have updated with your rank, classification, and your abilities. Most of your abilities won't be immediately accessible to you. They will slowly come online over the next week. There is no way to speed up that process, but otherwise you will be fully awakened. You can click on the abilities shown to learn more about them while you wait for everyone to awaken. Questions?"
No one raised his or her hand. Elizabeth supposed that, like her, everyone was just excited to get the process started.
"Very well. Begin."
The datapads switched on. Elizabeth reached forward and began answering the questions asked.