TITLE: The Weapon
ARCHIVE: Ask, but I doubt I'll say no
SPOILERS: None yet
DISCLAIMER: As much as I wish I did, I own nothing in this story but my own characters and the plot.
NOTES: My first Atlantis fic, so I'd appreciate being told if it sucks. I haven't seen that many episodes yet; so sorry if I made any mistakes or anyone seems a bit out of character. I'll try to do better next time.
It was dark when they arrived. That was something Sheppard hadn't yet managed to get used to. He knew that it was impossible for all the planets they visited to experience day and night at the same time as Atlantis. It would have taken a lot of unnecessary planning to put a gate in the right place on every world to ensure the same amount of daylight on each side, and even then, a day one some planets was longer than on others. Still, there was something incomparably weird about going through the 'gate and suddenly finding that it is the middle of the night. Instant jet lag. Sheppard didn't like it. Normal jet lag was bad enough. They had lucked out this time though, the sun seemed to be coming up, just rising above the horizon and giving the planet an almost blue tinge. This was his favourite time of the day. Back on earth even as a kid he had enjoyed waking early to watch the sun rise. It had been a while now since he had had the chance. He missed it.
There was no time to appreciate the view now though. They needed make sure the area was secure, and if there was anyone around, introduce themselves before they ran off screaming. In this galaxy, an unexpected activation of the Stargate was just as likely to be a Wraith attack as a friendly visit. More likely, probably. They didn't want people fleeing in terror before they had a chance to introduce themselves.
As it happened, there was no one to introduce themselves too. Not nearby at least. The blue dawn light revealed an empty space, a huge expanse covered with nothing but grass, weeds and what might, once upon a time have been crops. But they had been left untended for so long different plants had become mixed together, making it impossible for any farmer to get a decent harvest. This was what farmland might look like if it had been ignored for years.
Not far away there were trees. Starting out thinly, they looked as though they became denser the further in you went, becoming a dark, sinister looking forest. At least sinister looking in the half light of the early morning.
The forest was too far away to e a hiding place for something nasty waiting to jump out at them. Aside from the trees, the land was flat and boring. If there was a threat lurking nearby, it was invisible. How boring. Not that he wanted to be attacked, but he had hoped to find something a little more interesting than a field. It looked a nice enough place for a day out, but not much else. A glance at the rest of his team's faces showed that they were thinking the same thing. He chose a direction parallel to the edge of the forest. "His way looks as good as any other. Tell me if you see anything worth stopping for," he said.
McKay snorted derisively. The landscape wasn't exactly what he would call fascinating. He wasn't interested in trees and grass, he wanted to see… "A city!"
"What?" asked Sheppard.
"There, straight ahead. A city."
The others all looked straight ahead and to their surprise there was indeed what looked like the tops of tall buildings, just visible from behind large cluster of trees.
"How about that,?" said Sheppard, "A city. Well spotted. Looks like there is someone here after all."
"Perhaps," murmured Teyla.
John turned around to face her, "What do you mean?" he asked.
"Only that it is unusual for crops to be left to go wild for so long," she said, "especially so close to the homes of the people who rely on them."
John nodded, "Okay, we'll go and check it out, see if anyone still lives there, then report back. Maybe we could bring a few more teams back with us if there's no one home and it looks like there might be something useful."
Ford squinted through the trees as they walked. Now that Teyla mentioned it, the city did look empty. One of the towers even looked at though the top half had fallen down. He couldn't be sure until the got closer, but it definitely didn't look right.
As they approached the outskirts of the city it became apparent that it was deserted, or at least no longer functional. It looked as though no one had set foot there in over a hundred years. The buildings were made of brick and stone, but they were crumbling. Windows that had been made of glass had long since broken or been smashed, and there was a terrible stillness about the place. A ghost town. Sheppard silently wondered to himself what had done this, and how many people had died here.
They walked in silence, every step seeming to echo loudly around the deserted streets as they made crunching footprints in the dust of the crumbled buildings that lay underfoot. Each member of the team was acutely aware of the sound of his or her own breathing. There was nothing here to deaden the sounds they made. No birdsong, no rustling of trees as there had been outside of the city, even the wind seemed to blow more quietly, gently, as though it was showing concern not to further disturb this dead city. Even McKay, who usually seemed oblivious to others' moods seemed to be affected.
Sheppard almost felt as though it would be wrong to break the silence as he spoke, "We'll start with this building," he said, indicating a small, square shaped two storey building to their left, "it looks as good as any other. Stick to the ground floor for now, until we're sure it's not going to fall down."
"Fall down?" echoed McKay, a slight squeak to his voice, "If you think it might fall down, maybe we should pick another building."
"Relax, McKay. I don't think it's going to fall down. It looks pretty sound, all I'm saying is be careful, okay?"
McKay nodded and held his breath as he followed Sheppard into the building. The space where the door used to be was an open, rectangular gap. The door had either fallen off, been removed or rotted away long ago. He rapped on the edge of the wall as he went through, ready to back off if the smallest fragment fell away. To his relief, nothing happened.
The dust from the street had blown inside, covering everything with a thin layer of grey. Inside, there was a narrow corridor with several rooms at either side and at the end a flight of stairs. "Spread out," said Sheppard, "look for anything interesting and report back if you find something."
"What counts as interesting?" asked Ford.
Sheppard shrugged, "As this point, anything that isn't dust."
At the word 'dust,' Teyla sneezed loudly and McKay jumped at the unexpected sound. He visibly blushed, smoothed down his clothes and said, "Right, lets get this over with. The sooner we find out there's nothing here, the sooner we can leave."
The downstairs rooms were completely empty and filled with nothing but dust and broken glass, so unoptimistically they moved carefully, one at a time, up the stairs at the end of the corridor. Sheppard went first, making it safely to the top before letting anyone follow him. The stairs were made of stone, not wood, so they couldn't have been weakened by rot and being inside had been spared the seemingly superficial damage that the elements had caused to the outside of the buildings, but he couldn't risk the stairs breaking under their weight. After all, they had no idea how long ago the city was deserted, or whether whatever had happened had caused structural damage to the buildings.
Considering the time and effort that they had put into the simple act of walking up a short flight of stairs, McKay was disappointed to find that the second floor looked remarkably similar to the first. There was less dust here than below, but again he walked into room after empty room. It wasn't surprising, considering how long the city appeared to have been abandoned. He was no expert in architecture, but the city looked old. Maybe not old enough that anything organic that had been left behind would have rotted and turned to dust, but old enough that they might have begun to decay. Still, it was surprising that there was nothing left behind. No plastics, no metals. Those things wouldn't have decayed in the same way that wood or cloth would. Still, maybe it was the wrong building. This one could have been full of things that wouldn't stand the test of time. It could even have been a brand new building that no one was using yet. Somewhere in the city there had to be evidence that someone used to live there. He had been hoping to find a computer. You could tell a lot about a people by their computers.
He had almost given up when he came to the last room on the floor. The last room in the building. He could tell that there was a difference straight away. The door was still there. Not intact, but the remains of what had used to be a wooden door still hung from three hinges at the side of the door frame. He sidestepped through the entrance, aware of the sharp looking shards of wood that hung pointing as him, and entered the room. Disappointingly, given the promising start, the final room was as empty as all the others. He turned to leave, then he saw it. In the corner of the room, at the side nearest the door, hidden from the view of anyone as they walk inside, there was something on the floor.
It was half covered in the dust, which gathered much more deeply in the corners of the rooms, but it was small, black and rectangular in shape. Or maybe it was dark grey. He couldn't make out the colour because of the coating of dust. He hurried forward and picked up the object, wiped it on his jacket to clear away the dust and looked at his find. He had no idea what it was. There was a small screen at the top, and the rest was covered in buttons. If he had seen it on Earth, he would have assumed it was a calculator, the strangest looking calculator he had ever seen. He pushed a few buttons at random, not expecting anything to happen. The device let out a squeal, and McKay almost dropped it in surprise. Keeping a tighter hold on it now, he saw that a row of lights had lit up on the top, then as suddenly as it had started, it stopped. The squeal faded away to nothing as though the power had run out.
He hurried to the door and shouted, "I think I found something."
Sheppard, Ford and Teyla looked at the metallic object in McKay's hand. "What is it?" asked Ford eventually.
McKay shrugged, "I don't know yet," he said, "but whatever it is, it has power. Or at least it did. I pressed some buttons like this…" Again, he pressed buttons at random, and again the device let out a painful sounding squeal. It faded much more quickly this time, and he barely had enough time to turn it around and show the others the row of lights at the top, before they went out.
"Huh," said Sheppard, he took the device from McKay and jabbed a finger at the buttons himself. Nothing happened. "You must have used the last of the power," he theorised. "And you've no idea what it is?"
"No, nothing has happened in the last five seconds that has made me realise what it is."
"Fine, just checking." He felt at the weight of the object and again tried to make it respond, but again it ignored him. The power was dead. "Well, we can…" he stopped suddenly, spinning around to face the door, weapon at the ready, "anyone else hear that?" he whispered.
"Hear what?" whispered McKay, looking worried.
"A sneeze," Teyla informed him quietly.
As she spoke, they all heard the sound of footsteps in the dust. Someone was running away. Sheppard nodded to Ford, who half leapt out of the room and chased the spy. Almost as quickly Sheppard followed him still clutching McKay's device. Telya went next and finally McKay, who stepped out of the room just in time to see Ford returning with their spy. He was a boy of no older than fifteen. He wore roughly woven clothes and no shoes. Slung over his back was a bow, with several arrows and a dagger at his belt.
"I'm sorry," he cried as soon as he saw the others, "Please don't kill me! I saw nothing important! I didn't mean to spy, I was just interested. I wanted to now who you were. Please!"
Sheppard felt a stab of sympathy for the terrified boy, "We're not going to hurt you," he assured him, "we just needed to know who was watching us."
Ford let go of the boy's arm. He didn't run away, instead he moved several steps closer to Sheppard, "Thank you," he cried, relief obvious on his face and in his voice. "I mean you no harm." He drew out his blade and placed it on the floor in front of Sheppard, then next to it he lay his four arrows.
"That's not…" Sheppard stopped himself. The boy may be young, but he was carrying potentially deadly, if rather crude weapons. Sheppard would not forcibly disarm someone who appeared to be no threat, but as the boy had offered there was no point in rearming him just yet. "What's your name?" he asked.
"Daynen," he answered.
"Okay Daynen, I'm John." He pointed to each of the team in turn, "This is Ford, Teyla and Dr McKay. We're just here to have a look around. We didn't think anyone lived here. You mind telling us where you came from? Do you live in the city?"
"Doctor McKay," repeated Daynen, as though he was trying out the name.
"Um…" McKay glanced at Sheppard, not sure what to say, "yes?"
"You found this box?" Daynen asked, pointing at the object that Sheppard was still holding.
"And it responded to your touch?"
McKay hesitated, "Well, I pressed the buttons, yes. But anyone could have done that. Why?"
Daynen shook his head, "No matter," he said.
Sheppard looked curiously at the device, and then back to the boy, "Do you live in the city, Daynen?"
The boy shook his head, "A village not far away. I am a guard. I watch at night for invaders from other villagers. When I saw you, I followed you to be sure you were no threat. No one lives in the city. Our people are afraid of it."
Daynen nodded, "This place had lain empty since the time of the Great Change. The survivors fled and never returned. Many now believe that death lives here."
"Death lives here?" echoed McKay, "What does that mean?"
"Many people believe that to enter the city is to bring death upon yourself."
"Right, maybe we should get going," said McKay.
Daynen smiled, "It is not true, it is a legend. I have spent many nights here and have come to no harm. The memory of the Great Change has not faded even after many generations. Those that lived in the city were the first to be taken."
"By the Wraith." Teyla said. It was a statement, not a question, but Daynen nodded.
"The people that lived here had created a great weapon," he explained, "it could destroy even the Wraith. It was used against them, and in retribution they returned and took as many as they could. Almost every adult, everyone over my own age, was taken and never seen again. The children left behind could not use the weapon. Nor could they make the city work. It became a place of disease and death, but that was long ago. Now it is only a place."
McKay cleared his throat, "Anyone else starting to feel a little uncomfortable here? Maybe we should get out of the city."
"Not yet," Sheppard told him, "we came to try to find something useful. The first building we come in you pick something up. Whatever it is, it means that there might be something else."
Daynen shook his head, "You will find nothing," he said, "Everything of use was removed long ago.
"Well what about this weapon?" asked Sheppard, "if we can find something about that, we might be able to build one of our own."
"We could search for months and find nothing," Teyla said, "the chances of finding something today are very small."
McKay nodded, "And that's if there is anything to find. If this weapon existed, would the Wraith really leave it or plans to build another one just lying around?"
"No," agreed Sheppard, "probably not. Okay, we'll go back, report to Weir and she can decide whether it's worth bringing more people back to search for this weapon."
Sheppard bent down to pick up Daynen's weapons and handed them back to him, "You're leaving?" asked Daynen.
Sheppard nodded, "We might come back, but for now, yeah."
Daynen resheathed his knife and replaced his arrows, "My village is not far away," he said, "our people would love to meet you, if you have time. The story of the weapon interested you? The village elders know much more than I do."
Sheppard glanced at each member of the team in turn. McKay looked less than enthusiastic, but Ford and Teyla each gave a brief nod. They were happy to go if Sheppard was. McKay was outvoted. "We do have time," Sheppard told Daynen, "and we'd love to meet your people too."