A Change in Routine

Gap filler for "Rising, part 1"

"That was different."

"For me? Not so much."

"Sir?" Still breathing hard, Major John Sheppard glanced at General Jack O'Neill.

"Never mind." Jack stepped back out of the helicopter and grabbed the deactivated Ancient drone. "Let's get going again, Major."

"Yes sir." Sheppard paused in his pre-flight procedures, watching as O'Neill carefully slid the weapon into the helicopter, behind his seat. "Uh, sir? Are you sure we want that…whatever in here?"

O'Neill settled into his seat and grabbed his headset. "It's deactivated, Major."

"Sir?" Sheppard's brows crinkled as the General waved his question off.

"Long story." Jack looked around for a moment, before fixing Sheppard with a bland stare. "Are we going to sit here all day?"

"Yes sir…uhh, no sir," Sheppard reached up, flipping a few switches as the helicopter's engines ignited. "Base, this is Major Sheppard. The…weapon seems to be…incapacitated. We're okay and en route. ETA: 7 minutes."

"This is Lieutenant Ford. Copy that, Major."

Sheppard watched as the long stretches of snow and mountains passed beneath them. What the hell is going on here? He'd never seen any weapon even remotely similar to what had attacked them. Quick and maneuverable, it'd taken all his skill just to evade that…whatever and land in one piece. And now it's sitting right behind me.

"Major?" Sheppard jumped at General O'Neill's voice over his headset.

"Sir?" John glanced at O'Neill.

"A little jumpy?" O'Neill asked, his voice as neutral as his expression.

Sheppard sighed. "Yes sir, sorry."

O'Neill looked out the side window at the passing landscape. "You've been in combat, Sheppard, that can't be the first time you've been fired on."

Sheppard's gaze turned incredulous as he glanced over at O'Neill. "With all due respect, sir, I've never been attacked by a…a…flying, glowing…thing before and I've damn sure never stopped, picked it up, and took it with me."

"Ahh, I see your point," O'Neill's expression was bemused. He pointed out the windshield at the barely visible outpost on the horizon. "Ever been here before?"

"Yes sir. Sometimes it seems all I do is transport bureaucrats and military big wigs back and forth between here and McMurdo." Sheppard's expression turned alarmed as he glanced at the General. "No offense, sir."

O'Neill smiled. "None taken. Ever been inside?"

Something in the thoughtful tone of his voice piqued John's interest. He chanced a long look at the General before returning his attention to flying. "No sir. My security clearance only gets me as far as the first level." He paused a moment before continuing. "I always wondered what was down there."

O'Neill's non-committal grunt only piqued Sheppard's interest more.

Before long, Sheppard landed the helicopter and shut it down. Removing his helmet, he stepped out and came around the front, falling in behind O'Neill.

Two guards saluted the General and opened the door for him. O'Neill walked straight through, making a beeline for a small elevator. Halfway across the lobby he stopped as if considering something. Slowly, Jack turned and smiled at Sheppard. "Major, you're with me."

Sheppard's brows arched. "Uhh, sir, I don't have the clearance…"

"Yadda yadda," O'Neill interrupted, "you want to see what's down here or not?"

"Well uhh…" John stammered, "yes sir."

"Okie dokie then. Consider yourself security cleared, Major." He turned and headed once more for the elevator.

Shocked, Sheppard willed himself to move and trotted a few steps to catch up with the general as he stepped into the elevator. "Uhh…sir, thank you but…"

"That isn't proper procedure, it'll get me in trouble…it'll get you in trouble, I'm taking a risk not really knowing you…" O'Neill waved his hand absently. "Feel free to stop me anytime, Major. How do I know I can trust you…"

"Uhh, yes sir, exactly." John grabbed the side of the elevator cage as it started it's slow decent down a large tunnel through the ice.

Jack pulled off his sunglasses, and slipped them into his pocket. "I've read your file, Major," he responded, "I'm going to transfer you to the SGC anyway, you may as well know what's going on here." He fixed Sheppard with another neutral expression.

Sheppard felt off balance around the unorthodox general. "SGC, sir?"

"Long story," O'Neill replied.

John risked a glance downward as the elevator slowed it's decent. "With all due respect, sir, I've been in enough trouble lately, are you sure you should be doing this?"

O'Neill looked at the major, his slight smile almost challenging in nature. "I'm a General. We do things like this."

Sheppard smiled. "Yes sir." He looked back up the long tunnel they'd descended. "What exactly is down here, sir?"

Jack's expression turned reflective. "A lot of things." He smiled at Sheppard as the elevator slowed to a halt. "Your world is about to change, Major."

Author's notes:

I was always intrigued that Sheppard never knew anything about what went on at Terra Atlantus, despite being posted at McMurdo for 11 months prior to O'Neill's visit. I was also always intrigued by Sheppard's response to Beckett's question about whether or not he had security clearance ("Yeah, General O'Neill just gave it to me.") Jack being Jack, I could definitely see him literally just giving Sheppard clearance. Besides, didn't you ever wonder what they talked about in that last 7 minutes of the trip to the Outpost?

The first two lines in italics are taken directly from part 1 of "Rising" and belong to the writers of Stargate Atlantis. I don't claim ownership to them!