Prologue

Beta Site (P3X-224) – March 2010

Alec Colson had been living on this planet for six years now. He had come here – through the Stargate – to hide from some nasty businessmen who wanted him dead. Back then, the planet had rough and untamed, except for a small camp of Quonset huts and tents that surrounded the Gate. In the time since, the planet had been thoroughly charted and sampled. But the camp….well, it was exactly as it was six years ago. And that the source of the argument he was currently witnessing between Colonel Frederick Jones and Doctor Nikita Aranov.

Jones was the military commander of the base, while Aranov – a crack archeologist – led the civilian side of things. Aranov wanted Jones to ask for better – and larger – housing. But the Colonel was approaching his retirement. And he didn't want to rock the boat this close to finish line. The result was a shouting match between the two. It wasn't first time this had happened. And it always ended the same way, with Jones pulling rank and torpedoing the upgrades. This time was no different and Aranov stormed off. Colson had been watching the exchange from the mess tent and shook his head.

"I presume the work on the new targeting scanner is stuck again." A female voice suddenly said.

Captain Jennifer Haley was the ranking military scientist. She led a small team of soldiers and airmen who were working on several projects. The most important of those projects, however, were here attempts to dial the ninth chevron. A Stargate could dial addresses of seven, eight or nine symbols – or chevrons – long.

A connection between two Stargates in the same galaxy, was seven symbols long. If you want to dial from one galaxy to another, you needed a eight symbol address. And an extra power source. Because dialing between galaxies required more power that the Gate's default power source could provide. (Said power source was located inside the dial-home-device, which was an alien pedestal with a control panel on top. The DHD's control panel was how you dialed the Gate.) And finally, there was one address that had nine symbols.

It required an insane amount of power and led to an alien spaceship called Destiny. Destiny had been built by the same people who had invented the Stargates. And thanks to some trouble with a group of smugglers called the Lucian Alliance, over eighty people were stranded there. Haley's team was one of several working on a way to get to the ship and rescue those people. Alas, from the look on her face, it was not going well.

"What makes you think I'm stuck ?" Colson said.

"You're peeling potatoes." He was. "You always peel potatoes when you're stuck."

"That's the problem of being on the base with the least funding and the least imaginative CO in the program."

Earth had several off-world outposts. Of those, the Beta Site was considered the least important. This was because it was the back-up of the Alpha Site, which was the back-up of Stargate Command back on Earth. Haley sat down next to him, took out a knife and joined him in peeling. (The base had sixty people, so there were plenty of potatoes to peel.)

"Well, Project Nine…." That was the code name of her efforts. "….is not going anywhere either."

"What were you trying to do ?" Colson was an engineer. A good one. Alas, Colonel Jones – the paranoid bugger – had forbidden him from working on Project Nine.

"Design a capacitor." Haley began. "I figured that would allow us to make regular supply drops without having to find a new power source. But without better computers and equipment, it isn't going forward. Were Nick and Jones at it again ?"

"Yes."

Before they could continue their conversation, the Stargate activated. Colson looked at his watch and frowned. Once a week - on Friday at 1600 hours – Earth dialed the Beta Site. All their reports for the week were then transmitted home. But today was Wednesday and it was 1217. So this was not a good sign. Suddenly, two people walked out of the wormhole.

~Oh, brother, this is not good.~ Colson's mind flashed as he recognized President Henry Hayes and General Johnathan 'Jack' O'Neill. The brass had apparently decided to pull an unannounced inspection. ~There's going to be fireworks.~ Colson thought. Then he went to greet their two visitors.

Beta Site – A Week Later

There had indeed been fireworks. Jones had ended up reassigned to a desk at the Pentagon, while his second-in-command had been promoted to base CO. Captain Claus Anders had served on Atlantis from the start of the expedition until 2007. He had never been at the heart of things, but he had done his job well. So he had been promoted to his post on the Beta Site.

And now that he was in command of the place, he had some major changes in mind. To begin with, he had reassigned Colson to Project Nine and arranged for the targeting scanner project to be moved to the Gamma Site. Then he had taken a critical look at the budget for Beta Site maintenance. It had revealed that the budget was indeed no river of money. But Colonel Jones had been so cheap during his command, that there was a small lake of funds. And Anders was now draining that lake.

The Beta Site was located in a flat clearing. They got her water from a small stream, which two hundred meters to the west. But during the rainy season, that small stream turned to a raging river. And about seven hundred meters to the north of the base, that river had cut a passage through a large mountain.

What made that so interesting, was that it wasn't just as central passage. But also several side chambers. And Anders was using their budget to turn the central passage into a sealed pipe. Once that was done, they would be free to move the base into those side chambers. But before they did that, Aranov wanted to check them for artifacts. So now Aranov, Colson and Hailey were exploring the side chambers together.

"You do know that we haven't found a single artifact on this planet." Hailey began. "Ever."

"I know, but Colonel Jones never allowed us to explore a single cave." Aranov said. "Ever."

"We scanned them."

"That's not the same and you know it."

Up until now, the chambers had been domes, which had been connected by narrow passages. But as they had spoken, they had walked into a square space. The whole thing felt very unnatural. Aranov's green eyes went wide as he took in the place. He simply couldn't believe it. This led to him not looking where he was going. In the middle of chamber was a round slab of stone. He wandered onto it. There was a soft hum, followed by a flash. When it faded away, Aranov was gone.

"Nick !" Colson said.

"That was a transporter."

Colson ran onto the slab, followed by Haley. The hum was heard again and they dissolved in the transporter beam. When it faded, they were in a dark chamber. As their eyes adjusted, they spotted a crack of light. Haley took out a flashlight and turned it on. The crack was between a set of doors. The doors appeared to be Ancient. The Ancients were the race who had invented the Stargates and build Destiny. As they approached the doors, they slowly slid open. Beyond them was a balcony, where Aranov was taking in a view.

"Nick, are you okay ?" Colson said.

"I'm fine." Aranov said. "But you should see this."

The two of them joined Aranov at the balcony. Colson let out a whistle. Beyond the balcony was a massive cave. And in that cave – apparently in pristine condition – sat a city. An Ancient City.

Ancient City – Two Months Later

Millions of years ago, the Ancients had built a city called Atlantis. But Atlantis was not just a city, it was also a spaceship. What the Ancients had done with that ship was a long story, but that didn't matter to Aranov. What did matter, was that before they had built a full sized flying city, the Ancients needed to figure it all out. So they had begun with building a flying tower. The first one had been only five floors, the next seven, the one after that nine, and so on. And the cave was where the Ancients had stored all those prototypes.

But that was not the end of story. Because these towers were not exactly the same as those that made up Atlantis. Before getting settling on a final style and systems package, the Ancients had experimented. So when they had been build, some towers had lacked some stuff. While others had things not found in the final product. And tower seven – the last one before the Ancients – had come with repair Nano-probes. Which were tiny repairs robots. In fact, they were so small that you couldn't even see them with the naked eye.

The Ancients had not used them on Atlantis because they were to slow and too difficult to program. But when they had abandoned the prototype and shut everything, they had made mistake. They had missed some of the nanites. The tiny robots had set to work, bringing the rest of their brethren back on-line and maintaining the towers. This was why the towers will still around. There was no doubt in Aranov's mind that without them, the prototypes would have collapsed into dust long ago. At the moment, however, he was more interested with exploring the towers.

"They're mostly empty shells." He noticed as he and Major Anders opened up a room. "A couple of full established rooms to run diagnostics, control the experiments and live in."

"So they are not very useful ?"

"No really." Aranov said. "They're not meant for permanent habitation. We found one or two labs that were used for long-term research. But nothing big."

The room they were in now was a lobby, which led to a balcony and another room. Aranov opened the room. What he saw inside, made him gasp. The room was a lab. And in the rear of the lab was a stasis tube. He had seen Ancient stasis tubes, but this one was nothing like those designs. And it was active. Anders saw the tube and asked the one question that mattered.

"How the hell did he get in there ?"