Rating: I'm going to say for teenagers.
Warnings: None right now. Maybe language later on.
Spoilers: Poisoning the Well; Aurora; possibly Trinity
Summary: Sheppard and his team stumble upon a society that may have connections with the Ancients.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything! Especially not any of the characters or situations regarding Stargate Atlantis. Please don't sue! I'm serious…I don't own anything!
Okay, so I was going to keep this one under my hat for a bit, but I've been reading the Harry Potter books since August, and I just finished the latest one this afternoon. After investing many months with the characters, having them suddenly gone on vacation has made me feel….well…. off (For many reasons. If you've read the latest book you know what I mean. But I'm also saddled with the dilemma of what to read next! I actually slowed down my reading of the Harry Potter books, because I didn't want them to end. Since they're done for now, I don't know what to do!). Anyway, I opted to distract myself by posting this new fic.
This follows my other SGA story, Iron String. It might be helpful to read that first, but not necessary.
Additionally, I want to thank Titan5 for all of her encouraging words. This one's for you!
'Solon gave the following advice: "Consider your honor, as a gentleman, of more weight than an oath. Never tell a lie. Pay attention to matters of importance."'
Solon as quoted by Diogenes Laertius
"It's absolutely amazing, Elizabeth! This is the first world we've discovered in Pegasus with a level of technology that is equivalent to our own! Usually the Wraith wipe out a population before they reach this advanced state, but these guys are smart! Really smart! They've managed to survive the Wraith and maintain their scientific records, so that their technical knowledge has not been lost between cullings. Really, it's an extraordinary accomplishment! And, most interesting of all, their technology bears a distinct resemblance to that of the Ancients! Since their historical origins are unclear, I'm not able to determine if they actually are descended from the Ancients or if they simply stumbled across the technology in much the same way that we have. But if you give me the time to make some more observations, I may be able to figure it out. And that would be a really, really good thing, because, I mean, it's…it's just incredible!" Rodney ended his energized chattering with a broad smile and a quick, animated gesture of his hand.
"If you haven't noticed, Rodney's a little excited," Sheppard informed Elizabeth.
"I've noticed," Elizabeth responded with an amused look. "But what do they want?"
"The same things that we do!" McKay exclaimed exaltedly. "They want us to combine our knowledge so that we can make greater advances in our scientific and technological fields."
"They also want to be our allies against the Wraith," Sheppard added before Rodney could get too enthusiastic. The briefing would last all afternoon otherwise.
"They claim only to want to help us in our own endeavors," Teyla added, but there was a note of doubt in her voice that made Elizabeth take notice.
"Claim?" she asked.
"Teyla doesn't trust them," Sheppard responded immediately.
"Neither do I," stated Ronan who up to this point had appeared not to be interested in the conversation.
"Neither does Ronan," Sheppard added frivolously.
Personally he was confused by the two warriors' points of view. He had sensed no reason to be alarmed by the convivial people of Nethas, and he wondered if the level of technology they had all witnessed on the planet had overwhelmed Teyla and Ronan. But after all, the Athosian and Satedan had been living on Atlantis for quite some time, so John thought that being intimidated by the Netharian technology was an odd explanation for Teyla and Ronan's reticence. Consequently, he had taken his two teammate's distrust seriously despite his own confidence in the Netharian's neighborly attitude.
"You're just not used to that level of technology," Rodney stated dismissively and echoed John's thoughts in the process.
Sheppard saw Ronan's face cloud and Teyla's astonished look. The Athosian leader's expression hardened as she indicated the technology around her.
"I have become accustomed to living with technology, Dr. McKay," Teyla said calmly, her voice belying her stony expression.
"Yes, yes of course you have," Rodney replied, hurriedly. He did not want to dwell on the unquantified emotions of his two teammates.
"They are too friendly," said Ronan forcefully and thereby interrupted the exchange.
"They are awfully friendly," Sheppard agreed. He again used an amused tone in an attempt to keep the argument he saw building between his team from escalating.
"And what is your opinion, Colonel?" Elizabeth asked while carefully studying the team members seated around the conference room.
"They are friendly," Sheppard responded, this time seriously. "And they have a lot to offer us. But I can't just dismiss Ronan and Teyla's concerns out of hand," he added when he saw Rodney throw a smug look at his two teammates. "They've been right too many times in the past. I recommend that we continue our negotiations with the Netharians, but that no other personnel should be sent with us yet. Rodney is more than capable of dealing with the scientific end of things, and the rest of us can make a determination as to whether or not Citizen Setarcos has ulterior motives."
Elizabeth considered Sheppard's recommendations carefully but knew that she would have made the same proposals in his stead. Her only concern was that Sheppard still looked pale and tired from his bout with the strange illness that had affected him after his return from the Aurora. It had been a month since his release from the infirmary, but there remained an aura of exhaustion around him that she needed to consider.
But his recommendation held merit, and she knew that he would never have made it if he thought his own health would jeopardize his team. So she smiled and then nodded carefully.
"All right. When do you want to leave?"
"First thing in the morning. Rodney needs time to pack up some of the toys that he wants to bring along for the Netharian scientists to take a look at," Sheppard said.
"Do you think that's wise? We haven't finished negotiating yet. What technology are you planning on showing them, Rodney?" Elizabeth asked with a hint of alarm.
"Oh, no, nothing important!" Rodney responded hurriedly. "Just a few benign Ancient devices. Sandrina and I want to run some tests to see how related our two technologies are. Incredible really that they could maintain scientific records for centuries, but salvaging the historical paths of their ancestors was unsuccessful. Anyway, it would be helpful if the two technologies were similar enough in design so that they could be integrated together."
"Sandrina?" Elizabeth asked curiously. Her right eyebrow was raised to show her interest, and Sheppard grinned boyishly in response.
"One of the Netharian scientists," John said, affecting a theatrical aside. "She's got a little crush on our Dr. McKay here."
"Well, that is simply not true! We're just sharing our scientific knowledge!"
Ronan huffed at Rodney's indignant response, and Sheppard smiled playfully.
"Why Rodney, if I didn't know better I'd say that you had a crush on her as well!" he teased, and then laughed as Rodney's face reddened. "Really, McKay, I don't know why you keep referring to me as the Captain Kirk of the Pegasus galaxy, because your record of wooing alien women is much better than mine."
"I resent the implication, Colonel! I'm always a perfect gentleman. You on the other hand…."
"Yeah, that's right. Whenever I think of a gentleman, you come straight to mind," Sheppard replied glibly.
"Alright, I get the picture," Elizabeth interrupted while trying to hold back a laugh. "Go ahead, Rodney. Bring the technology with you, but nothing that is vital to Atlantis."
"Of course not," said Rodney while still glaring viciously at Sheppard.
"Dismissed," she said and finally succumbed to her amusement by laughing quietly as John and Rodney continued to bicker on their way out of the elaborate conference room doors.
"Can you turn it on?" Rodney eagerly asked the Netharian woman who practically glowed with ethereal beauty. All of the people in Nethas were exceptionally beautiful which allowed them to fit in perfectly with their delicately exquisite surroundings. During the time he had spent on this planet, Rodney often felt as if he were walking through the rooms of an insubstantial dream. The city was as large as Atlantis, and its layout was similar, but for all of its beautiful décor, Atlantis could not compete with the luminosity that was Nethas.
Sandrina obliged his question by closing her eyes and appearing to concentrate on the object that she held in her hands. Rodney felt his mouth go dry when the long eyelashes that framed her closed eyes with such a wonderful curl suddenly distracted him, and he wavered on his feet. The contemplation of what hell Sheppard would inflict if he were given the chance to see the physical weakness that Rodney felt in Sandrina's presence was the only thing that saved Rodney from keeling over. At the thought of Sheppard's self-satisfied smirk, he gathered his senses and forced his attention onto the Ancient device that he had brought with him.
As it glowed with increasing strength, Sandrina opened her eyes and she smiled beatifically at Rodney.
"I did it!" she exclaimed in a delightful way that almost turned Rodney into an unsightly puddle on the floor of the lab.
"That's amazing," he breathed.
"What is this machine?" Sandrina asked. Her face was perplexed as the light it emitted continued to gather in intensity, and Rodney could practically see the possibilities that her scientifically curious mind was conjuring up for her.
"Oh, it's nothing," Rodney said, dismissing the device. "Just a flashlight that the Ancients made. What's really interesting is that it shows that you are descended from the Ancients. You have the ATA gene, and that's, well, that's just, extraordinary!"
"So our people are distantly related then, Rodney! How wonderful!" Sandrina smiled broadly and grasped Rodney's shoulder enthusiastically.
"Wonderful…yes, lovely," Rodney muttered and felt his eyes glazing at the sight of her exquisite happiness. The fuzziness pervaded his senses for a few moments before he fully decoded her conclusion. "Oh, wait. No, that's not exactly true," Rodney said, backing away from the Netharian.
"What do you mean, exactly?" Sandrina asked.
"Oh, it's just that not all of my people carry the Ancient gene. Those of us who possess the gene would be able to activate the light, but many others would be unsuccessful."
"Do you possess this gene, Rodney?" Sandrina asked with a discerning look that unsettled Rodney slightly.
"Of course I do!" he declared in a proud and suitably masculine voice that was just made to impress the woman.
"Then you can activate this device as well?" Sandrina asked earnestly. She held the Ancient light out to Rodney, and the physicist could tell that she wanted a demonstration.
Damn! Caught. He had hoped that she would have been suitably impressed by the news of his possession of the ATA gene that she wouldn't have asked him to prove it. Even though it was true that he had the gene, it had been artificially incorporated into his DNA. Consequently, there were still some devices that he was unable to activate, and the light was unfortunately one of them. How could he have been so stupid as to bring it along with him! It was just so unfair, and yet typical of his experience with women. He thought back to Sheppard's accusation that he was more Kirk-like than Sheppard himself was, and he felt an insane desire to laugh.
"No, no I can't," he muttered. "My gene was artificially inserted into my genome, so I can't operate all of the Ancient technology." He saw her enthused look fade a bit and had the sudden yearning to bring it back. "But Colonel Sheppard can!" he said after a moment's calculation.
Okay, so Sheppard really was the kind of man most women immediately fell for, and including him in the sessions with Sandrina was a risk. In all probability, the Netharian scientist would turn her attentions to the Colonel, and since he would be able to operate the Ancient light, she would probably find him much worth her time and efforts. But Rodney was banking on his friendship with Sheppard and knew that a few carefully placed threats would keep the man in line.
"Really!" Sandrina exclaimed, and the excitement had returned to her expression. But suddenly, Rodney saw something else there as well. A cunningness insinuated itself in her eyes, and McKay wondered what it could mean. Up until this point she had exuded innocence and scientific curiosity, but both had suddenly dissipated.
"Citizen Setarcos," she said aloud. Rodney startled and then realized that she was externally communicating with the Netharian leader. "Please bring Colonel Sheppard to my lab," she said and turned a suddenly dark and brooding expression on McKay.
He felt his mouth grow dry again, but this time it was for entirely different reasons.
"Hey! That was completely unnecessary!" John exclaimed as he was roughly pushed into the laboratory by a brawny guard. He, Teyla, and Ronan had been touring the Netharian military grounds with Citizen Setarcos when suddenly guards had appeared and separated the three teammates. After it had become evident to all of them that fighting back was useless since it was apt to only succeed in rendering them unconscious, Teyla and Ronan had been ushered off to who-knew-where.
John grimaced as he recalled the fuming look Ronan had tossed him as they were lead away.
"You owe me those last three Almond Joys," the warrior had growled by way of parting.
Thinking of the Satedan, John fingered the candy that he had packed into a pocket of his vest. He and Ronan had made a bet about the Netharian's true motives, and the abruptly rough attitude that they had received had cinched Ronan's winnings.
Who knew that the burly warrior would love coconut so much?
He thought the words bemusedly, but maintained his attention on "Conan the Barbarian Guardsman" and Citizen Setarcos. Keeping them both in his vigilant sight, he acknowledged Rodney's presence.
"McKay, are you all right?" he asked cautiously.
"Yes, I'm fine," Rodney snapped, obviously infuriated by the mistreatment that had been visited upon John.
"Mind telling me what's going on?"
"I'm not sure," McKay replied, but his voice sustained a level of malevolence that made John proud.
"Please activate this device," said a woman whose beauty almost struck John dumb. She held out one of the Ancient knick-knacks that Rodney had brought with them, but John ignored it. Feigning disinterest he directed his attention back to the Netharian leader.
"Citizen Setarcos, I am a bit put off by the way my team and I have been treated," John said coldly.
"Your concerns are inconsequential. Please, do as Sandrina has instructed," the reply was equally cold and tolerated no argument.
"No, I don't think so," John said carefully.
"Please, do not misunderstand me, Colonel Sheppard. You will either do as Sandrina has instructed, or Doctor McKay will suffer the consequences of your impolitic nature."
John observed the scene and noted the second guard that had settled in a position that easily threatened McKay. Narrowing his eyes in calculation, he concluded that the best course of action would be to comply.
Keeping his eyes on McKay's guard, he took the Ancient device into his hand. Without any conscious effort, the instrument immediately glowed brightly in his grasp.
"Oh!" The breathless exclamation came from Sandrina, and John focused his attention on her. Her expression was ecstatic; in fact, she looked as if she had just found the Holy Grail. Annoyed by her display of emotion, John turned back to Rodney and tilted his head to indicate the Netharian woman.
"Is this the girl you were going on about?" he asked sarcastically. "Sure, she's a looker Rodney, but her personality needs some work," he informed his friend in a buoyant tone he found difficult to affect.
Rodney opened his mouth to respond, but John never heard the words. Instead, he felt a small stinging sensation in the right side of his neck, and then nothingness overtook all of his senses.