Spoilers for season two of Stargate Atlantis and three of Battlestar Galactica (takes place instead of The Eye of Jupiter).
Borrowed the title of an Arthur C. Clarke short story. Hope he doesn't mind.
Encounter At Dawn
Part 1: Dead Worlds
"Remind me again why we're visiting a planet that the database says is completely uninhabited?" Sheppard asked as the Puddle Jumper emerged from the Stargate and entered orbit, "The atmosphere is just this side of breathable, and there are no native life forms above insects."
"Because we need to harvest Stargate's to complete the intergalactic bridge between Pegasus and the Milky Way." McKay explained for what felt like the tenth time, "And while we could take them from habitable worlds, that wouldn't exactly win us many friends.."
"So?" Ronon shrugged, "There must be dozens, hundreds of worlds that we could take gates from. What makes this one so special?"
"Ha!" McKay smiled, "That's the interesting part: as far as we can tell, the Ancients had some kind of outpost here that might still be intact. And if it is..."
"...then we might find a ZPM." Sheppard nodded, "And that alone is worth our coming all this way."
"Exactly: with only one non-depleted Zed-PM in our procession, there is only so much we can do." McKay explained, "But a second could be used to provide more power for Atlantis, cut down the transit time between here and Earth for the Daedalus or power the Ancient outpost in Antarctica, thus protecting Earth from any attacks."
"All of which are very good reasons for us to get our hands on as many ZPM's as we can." Sheppard agreed, "Which is why Dr Weir agreed to this mission in the first place: there's nothing else on this planet that we could possibly find interesting..."
"The planet's a rock, but we can convert the algae there into something we can eat, even if it doesn't taste very nice." Admiral Adama stood beside the main plotting table, looking down at the photos the recon Raptor had taken, "We should land here, in this valley: there is a high concentration of algae in the area..."
"Sir, I'm picking something up on the edge of DRADIS range!" Lt. Gaeta reported, "Tracking... it's gone behind the planet, but it was defiantly there."
"Cylon?" Colonel Tigh asked.
"No way to tell." Gaeta shook his head, "But it looked like no Cylon craft I've ever seen."
"Have the CAP fly over the area and see if they can find anything." Adama looked at the main DRADIS console, "We need that algae, but I'm not going to risk opening ourselves up for a Cylon attack."
"Aye-aye, sir." Gaeta nodded before turning back to his station.
"You think that's wise?" Tigh leaned in closer over the plotting table so no one else in the CIC could hear him, "If we get caught flat-footed again..."
"Let's not be." Adama looked up, "But if we don't get some supply's soon, this fleet is going to tear itself apart."
"I'm not seeing any Ancient outposts." Sheppard scrapped algae off of his shoes for whet felt like the hundredth time, "If this is some wild goose chase, I'm going to let Zelenka carry out those threats he's been making since you sent him to M7G-677."
"You wouldn't?" McKay stopped dead in his tacks.
"Try me." Sheppard smirked, "Was there anything in the Atlantis database that gives a clue as to what we're looking for?"
"No: the entry was cryptic, even by Ancient standards." McKay pulled out his data-tablet and opened up the file, "There's all this stuff about a distant colony that was set up in a star cluster just outside Pegasus in a bid to provide a haven from the Wraith. Then there's something about an unspecified catastrophe that forced them to abandon the planet, transporting the humans who'd been living there with them to another system. The outpost on this planet was supposable created as some kind of way point should those humans ever try and find the Ancients."
"So it could be anything from a transmitter to some kind of warning." Teyla mused, "If they advanced to reach this world, then they would been seen as a threat and culled."
"Either way, the only thing that could power such a device for ten thousand years would be a Zed-PM." McKay pointed out, "So the sooner we find this so-called Temple of Five and this Eye of Jupiter that it holds, the better."
"I agree." Ronon nodded, "We should keep moving."
"And we got this job how?" Cally asked as she ducked down below a hanging sheet of algae.
"I blame our husbands." Dee smiled weakly, "Lee seems to be more than a little pre-occupied these days, and I have a very good idea just who's on his mind."
"Husbands suck: I'm only here because Galen chose me for his team." Cally agreed, "I should be back on the ship looking after Nicky."
"Oh, you should see the look on Lee's face if I even mention children." Dee laughed, "I think he's terrified of becoming his father. Not that that would necessarily be a BAD thing."
"Apollo to all teams: report back to base immediately." The radio crackled, interrupting their conversation, "Chief Tyrol's found something."
"Patrol two confirms." Dee reported, before looking at her map, "We should be able to take a short cut back between those two hills other there."
"Sounds good to me." Cally nodded, "But you're the officer."
"True." Dee nodded, "Okay, let's go."
"Nothing but trees, rocks, and this slimy crap that clings to anything it touches!" Sheppard wasn't happy, and wanted to make sure the rest of his team knew it, "I swear to god, Rodney, I'm going to actively help Zelenka get even when we get back."
"Even if we go back with a Zed-PM?" McKay asked, holding up a hand-scanner, "There's a trace of zero-point energy coming from the top of that hill there. Best guess, that where we'll find the outpost."
"Well, then maybe you'll earn a reprieve." Sheppard nodded, "Let's go."
"I hear something." Ronon drew his energy pistol, "Not far."
"I hear it to." Teyla brought her P-90 up, "Sounds like two people."
"But this world's supposed to be uninhabited!" McKay stared at them in disbelief
"Well, obviously it isn't." Sheppard smirked, "Ronon, Teyla; you two check it out while Rodney and I go find this damn ZPM so we can get off this hell-hole."
"Should be just over that next ridge." Dee looked at her map and nodded, "Wonder what your husband..." She stopped dead in her tracks when she hared the unmistakable sound of a twig snapping under foot, "RUN!"
Cally ducked down low as she started to make her way back down the hillside. She heard the distinctive bark of a standard issue Colonial side arm, followed by a much higher pitched report, and a something read streaked past her head, impacting on a nearby tree. But instead of a hole, the round seemed to resonate out from the point of impact like static electricity. She barely had time to register this before the next round hit her square between the shoulder blades, and her world went dark.
Dee was running in a slightly different direction, pausing occasional to fire one or two semi-aimed shots at the figures running through the trees behind her. They didn't seem to be Centurions, but that didn't mean that they weren't skin-jobs, as the crew had started to call the human-type Cylons. A Trio of bullets slammed into the tree she was hiding behind, so she leaped forward into a bush.
The other side of the bush looked out into a gully that led down the side of the hill, and Dee found herself in an uncontrollable slide, that thankfully took her further and further away from those following her. It wasn't until she was halfway down that she realised that it also took her further and further away from Cally, and she uttered a silent pray that the young mechanic would get away safely.
"Why is it we always run into hostile natives?" Sheppard lamented as another hail of bullets slammed into the boulder he was taking cover behind, "Captain Kirk never had to put up with this kind of crap!"
"Lucky him!" McKay snapped back, cowering next to the Air Force officer, "Maybe you should tell them we come in peace?"
"Somehow I don't think they'd listen." Sheppard ducked as a grenade went of hereby, showing them with dust and pebbles, "You see that ridge line over there?" He point at a low line of rocks less than twenty meters away, "Try and make a brake for it: I'll cover you."
"Do I look like an Olympic athlete to you?" McKay protested.
"On three!" Sheppard braced himself, "one...two...THREE!"
P90 pulled back tightly to his shoulder, he stood, firing a long burst in the general direction of the incoming fire. He counted to five to give McKay time to get moving, then fired another burst before taking off himself. Bullets sparked off the rocks around him as he jinxed left and right towards the cover. Summoning up what strength he had left, he dived forwards, rolling as he landed, coming to rest in a puddle of water.
"That was bracing." He looked round, "McKay?"
"Colonel Sheppard." Teyla's voice came over the radio, "We've captured one of the people we encountered. She is unconscious, but otherwise unharmed."
"Any idea who we're up against?" Sheppard asked as he pulled the magazine from his P90 and loaded a fresh one.
"Her uniform is unfamiliar, but it looks vaguely like those used by the Genii." Ronan commented, "Although I do not see how they could have reached this world."
"Yeah, well, we'll take her back with us; maybe she call tell us what the hell is going on and why people are shooting at us, again." The Colonel looked round, "McKay, if you can hear me, make your way back towards the Puddle Jumper. If we get three before you, we'll try and locate you from the air."
"Is it dead?" Apollo asked, looking down at the fallen form spread-eagled on the path before him.
"Not yet." Chief Tyrol held his gun in a too handed grip, keeping it pointed at the presumed-Cylon, "But it doesn't look anything like the ones I saw on New Caprica."
"We haven't seen them all." The Colonial Captain crouched down and pulled the gun from its holster on the man's belt, "Looks like a pre-war model: definitely not enough to take down a Centurion." He opened the man's pack and pulled out the contents, "Looks like a computer of some sort; much more advanced than anything I've seen. Maybe Gaeta can make something of it."
"Apollo, this is Galactica Actual." The radio squawked, "We've picked up the unknown craft on DRADIS: I'm sending Starbuck to intercept."
"Galactica Actual, Apollo copies." The young CAG responded, "Be advise: we have captured suspected Cylon agent on the planets surface. Recommends Starbuck exercises extreme caution."
"Copy that; will pass on to Starbuck." The older Adama answered, "Galactica Actual out."
"Tigh that thing up." Apollo pointed at the body, "I'll send a Raptor to come pick it up and take it back to the Galactica."
"Aye-aye, sir." Tyrol nodded.
"Any sign of Rodney?" Sheppard asked the moment he reached the Jumper.
"None." Teyla shook her head, "And we have been unable to contact him over the radio."
"That's not good." Sheppard took off his backpack and headed for the pilots seat, ignoring the still unconscious Cally who'd been strapped down on one of the bench-like seats in the rear of the craft. The HUD came to life as he sat down, indicating an pair of airborne contacts inbound at high speed, "It never rains but it pours!" He looked back over his shoulder, "Strap in!"
There was a loud roar as a dart-shaped craft passed overhead at tree-top hight, before turning in a wide circle and heading back towards them. The HUD showed that the other ship was circling high above, painting them with a targeting sensor of some kind.
"Time to be somewhere else." Sheppard brought the Jumper on-line, the rear hatch closing automatically as it lifted off the ground. The first unknown craft passed over head again, letting rip with a long burst of cannon fire that drummed into the hull. Thankfully for those inside, none of the rounds penetrated, but they did set of warning lights on the HUD.
"Oh crap." Sheppard moaned, "We've just lost our cloaking device."
"Shouldn't we return fire?" Ronon asked, "They fired first, without even attempting to contact us..."
"I'd rather not make a bad situation worse, especially if they have Rodney." Sheppard pulled back on the controls and the Jumper rose sharply, the initial compensator's protecting the crew from what would have otherwise been a painfully acceleration. The two dart-like fighters followed, forcing Sheppard to dodge and weave as they fired at it, rounds impacting against the rear with alarming regularity. The sky turned from light blue to black as they passed through the atmosphere and into space, the fighters on their tail slowly dropping behind, unable to match the Jumpers acceleration.'s
"What's that?" Teyla asked, pointing at a large collection of blip on the scanner.
"I have no idea, but whatever it is, it's between us and the Stargate!" Sheppard flipped the Jumper round, bring its nose in line with massive fleet, lead by a sleek, dark grey ship easily twice the size of the Daedalus, "Oh this can not be good..."
The space around them erupted in flashes of light as the mammoth vessel opened up, forcing Sheppard to use every trick he knew to avoid getting hit. Flying as close to the hull of the unknown warship as he dared, he managed to get inside the effective range of its guns. He urged the Jumper forward, almost as if he could make it go faster through force of will alone.
"Sixty seconds till the Stargate." He warned as the Jumper ran the gauntlet of the flack-barrage for a second time, "Start dialling the moment we're within range, and send the IDC once the wormhole's established."
"I'm on it." Ronon leaned over the DHD built into the central console.
The Jumper emerged from the fire-storm without sustaining any more damage, and Sheppard pointed its nose towards where the Stargate had been, but it was missing.
"Where the hell..." He blinked, then looked at the HUD; the gate had been taken on bored the strange starship, and was now in one of it's cavernous landing bays. "Okay, this is going to be a little more complicated."
Flipping the nimble Jumper end-over, he dived back towards the narrowly escaped weapons fire, aiming for the open landing bay. He swore under his breath as it started to close before him, the entire pod retracting into the side of the ship.
"Start dialling!" Sheppard shouted as he flipped the Jumper on it's side relative to the other ship, "This I going to be close..."
The Jumper passed through the opening with less than a meter to spare on either side, and headed towards the now active wormhole. Ronan quickly entered his IDC into the GDO and held his breath as Sheppard retracted the drive pods with only seconds to spare. There was a momentary flash, before they re-materialised in Atlantis, only to find that they were upside down compared to the city.
"Well, that's a first." Sheppard blinked as the wormhole closed behind them.
"Colonel Sheppard?" Dr Weir asked over the radio, "Something you'd like to explain?"
"Long story." The Air Force officer smiled faintly as he righted the Jumper, "But we have a problem: Rodney's MIA, and we have one of the people who might have captured him."
"Sounds like you've had an eventful day." Weir replied dryly, "I'll see you in my office as soon as possible."
To Be Continued...