Disclaimer: The usual

SPOILER: This is set in and post "Season 5", and contains stuff that may be happening in that show with regard to cast, plots, etc.

Summary: My resolution to the whole Sheppard-Weir thing. See also Author's Note

Rating: fruity language and some in flagrante delicto

For Greywolf Lupous, whose Revenge of the Discs made me laugh, despite nearly killing me (see below) from oxygen deprivation.

Note: This rabid plot bunny appeared at 3am and wouldn't die; considering I currently have bronchitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis, an ear infection, and fever and typed this thing one paragraph per hour on a laptop because I can't get out of bed…I've never written SGA until now because as an author your characters have to really be 'alive' to you inside your own head, not 2-dimensionally on screen.

So why 5 seasons in and at 3am when I've a temperature of 102°?…Actually, guess that answers that question. Anyhow, since the Atlantis gang have taken up residence in my imagination with the SGC, the Winchester Brothers, The Magnificent 7 and the Sentinel of Cascade…they have apparently decided that I need to play catch up in the SGA 'oeuvre'…

Chapter 1

"Great work here, John!" Sheppard snarled at himself as he kept under the tree canopy cover.

His hand fluttered up towards his earpiece, but he thought better of it – trying to contact Rodney, Ronan or Teyla would probably work, but was too great a risk of betraying his own position.

"This is just perfect," he growled in self-irritation. Acting as bait to lure the bad guys away - like that Earth bird that pretended it had a broken wing for foxes – whilst his team-mates evac'd everyone…

It had been a cunning plan to save everyone's asses, but as Ronan had earlier pointed out, you were only allowed to call it that if it actually worked, and on that point John was having some…technical difficulties. For a start, getting boxed in and cut off from your only escape route - a.k.a. the Stargate - definitely lost you points under the cunning column.

But it would've worked…John ignored the faint voice that told him being mulishly stubborn about his magnum opus when there was only himself around to convince was, come on, a bit ridiculous, as he risked ducking out from under the foliage canopy to scan the skies again.

This was MR-something-or-other; MENSA-eligible IQ regardless, John had better things to clutter up his brain cells with than binary-code stellar cartography designations only Samantha Carter or Rodney understood anyway. Football scores, for one, and why it beat-out ice hockey as a sport to irk anyone Canadian…oh, and remembering to call it 'stellar cartography' in the first place – the boffins felt that was way too Star Trek fanboyish…until you started calling it 'space maps' instead (which was what Stellar Cartography actually meant, come on!) which made them really sulk. Ah, geek baiting – hours of fun for all the family…

MERwhatever had a human population who called themselves the Pathrusim, who, yes, had 'Ancestors' that had placed them on the planet aeons ago – or dumped them and done a runner, as Rodney had put it. McKay's acerbic opinion of the Ancients had finally degenerated to the levels of acid only found in Dr Daniel Jackson's opining of the race. John had to admit they had a point. Five years and a new planet into the SGA Expedition, the more you learned about the Ancients, the less likeable in any respect they seemed to be. And it had been Rodney (and Radek Zelenka) who had both spotted what even Jackson had missed, for all his Ascended/De-ascended-plus-Prior status (and what was with that?), in that the Ori (who were Ancients) and the Wraith both fed on humans in the same way – both gruesomely sucked out your life force, the Wraith for food, the Ori for power.

Which apparently had some big 'awoooga!' implications for genetic research into humanising the Wraith according to Carson Beckett – this Carson, the clone that was - as it meant previous attempts like Michael – which had been done by the real Carson, the dead Carson – could have been operating on an incorrect premise. 'No kidding Carson! Yah think!' Rodney had erupted at that one when Carson (new Carson) had explained this during a very tense staff briefing with Atlantis' new administrator Richard Woolsey (oh the joy) and Colonel Caldwell (oh even more the joy).

Ignoring the patented McKay sarcasm, Carson had told them it was like designing an environmentally-friendly combustion engine that used water in place of oil – good as far as it went, but what you really wanted to achieve was do away with the larger problem of the gasoline. Basically, if the Ancients, rather than the Iratus bug, had contributed the Wraiths' distinctly non-charming life-force-sucking genes then eradicating the insectoid DNA would in fact do the opposite of solving the problem of eradicating the Wraiths need – and ability – to feed on human life-energy. In theory it could give rise to a situation where a Wraith could look entirely human and sneak off to Earth for a scrumptious all-you-can-eat buffet of 6 billion courses – and then invite family and friends.

Colonel Caldwell had looked particularly dyspeptic at that, understandably so since a Goa'uld, as part of an attempt to destroy Atlantis, had enslaved him in his own body for several weeks. John and Steven Caldwell were never going to be all Kum-Bi-Yah round the campfire, but the two had thawed slightly towards each other over the incident.

Caldwell had been having some major guilt issues over his actions, and John had admitted to the perpetually grim Colonel that when Beckett's retrovirus begun to transform him into a giant Iratus Bug, he had retained his mental 'humanity' for longer than he had let be known despite his rapid physical transformation into 'the bug man'. He had been unable to stop himself doing things like attacking Elizabeth or his team-mates, but had been more aware of what he was doing than his rapidly mutating physical appearance had led them to believe, a fact of which 'I'll always be ashamed, I guess…at the risk of insubordination Colonel, what I'm trying to say is I think we're both just gonna have to live with this stuff…'

Like so many of the human colonies abandoned by the Ancients when they fled the Wraith, the Pathrusim now numbered only 1500 people and were low-tech agriculturalists after centuries of repeated 50-year losses to Wraith attacks. However, the Pathrusim had long ago realised that 'low-tech' could also mean 'things invisible to bad guy technology', which they had demonstrated with pride to the Atlantean First Contact Team who had come through the Stargate – Major Evan Lorne, Dr Radek Zelenka, Dr Jennifer Keller, Sergeant Iain Markham and Corporal Emrys Cadwalladar in that instance.

Pathrus (what they called the planet logically if unoriginally) had a native predator, a six-legged spider-bug. It was clearly related in some way to the Iratus bug, though John had made sure to steer well clear after Carson (clone Carson not dead Carson) had given him a way too-detailed explanation of how he was probably 'sensitised' to the bug's venom in the same way as someone might be to wasp stings or peanuts after the first, apparently innocuous, exposure.

After being bitten initially, and 'saved' by Teyla, Ford and Rodney in the puddle-jumper – ironically by electrocuting him with a defibrillator – his body would have gone to 'high alert' against the insect. That had probably accounted for his rapid transformation when Ellia's bite caused Beckett's first retrovirus to infect him, a sort of Pegasus Galaxy variation on anaphylactic shock…'so, third time of one managing to sink its fangs into me would definitely not turn out to be a charm, I get it Carson…please, I get it.' For all the cautious détente between them, John could quite happily spend the rest of his life not looking like "Todd"-the-Wraith's louche brother.

The spider-bug thing fed on the large Pathrus avian species (similar to a heron) and its M.O. was to scuttle up the trunks of the extremely tall trees (similar to Eucalypts, often 70-100 feet tall) and spin a web between. Impressive didn't cover it - the 'web' had the stopping power of Atlantis's defence shields and, by virtue of the molecular structure, was invisible until you hit it – hence what Dr Zelenka had explained to them after his first visit as the extraordinary – and creepy - sight of huge – but clearly dead – birds apparently levitating high in the air suspended by nothing.

It had also turned out in the distant past that the webs were completely undetectable by Wraith Darts as well. Travelling too fast and at just the right – or wrong – height as they swooped down, the Darts either exploded on impact, or depending on the angle of impact, the web acted as a trampoline and the Darts were flirted backwards into the path of those behind. One nonagenarian Pathrusim claimed in the last attempted cull he'd seen one Dart flirted back half a mile and annihilate seven others in its death dive.

Pathrusim was definitely a galactic backwater; only smaller Hive ships with junior queens or male Wraith attempting to make a name for themselves to achieve status or attract a senior queen had ever come to the planet. Since the Pathrusim hidden deep in underground caverns were undetectable to the scanners and no energy signatures were apparent it seemed to the Hive ship that the Darts had simply blown up of their own accord. Rather than destroy the planet using precious ordnance the Hive ship might need against the Asuran Replicators or a more aggressive Wraith vessel, originally the Hive ships had simply left the planet for the next culling.

That had given the Pathrusim breathing room. Centuries earlier they had managed to collect enough Dart fragments to study and develop. That had enabled them to implement phase two of their one-two whammy as John privately thought of it. The Wraith Darts scanned for biological life – something moving, something humanoid shaped, something with warm blood, etc. That was why they didn't take the 'bait' of bomb-droids sent trundling out. However, the Pathrusim had built crude humanoid 'runner' robots and jury-rigged a Dart-based navigation system to warn of an approaching Hive ship.

When the Hive ship entered orbit, the robots were wired to blow up, then one of the local livestock was freshly slaughtered and its outer carcass draped around the runner, which were sent out into the open. From a fast-moving Dart, the stumbling erratic gait looked like a human fleeing in an extremity of terror; the shape was human, the sensors detected warm blood and organic tissue indicating a biological entity, and the robot was beamed aboard the Dart. The bombs were designed to detonate one second after the re-materialisation process, and according to the epic poem 'Haathru of the Pathrusim' (which John had managed to avoid sitting through), no less than three Hive ships had been obliterated in such a manner, their detritus being gathered into the orbit cloud of a nearby asteroid belt and thus leaving no clues for other Wraith ships.

It was pretty close to genius, and the Pathrusim were justifiably rather impressed with themselves. Unfortunately, it turned out they had a serious problem – the spider-bugs. John and Rodney and Kithu, one of the Pathrusim's best and brightest 'Bardaleers' (historians, to other people) had gone out in a puddle jumper to do a fly over of Pathrus to check there was no Ancient technology just lurking around.

They'd learned that lesson after the whole Lord Protector debacle when it turned out that another 'starship city' was buried underground on a planet. Rodney had gone a peculiar shade of purple when it had finally impinged on him (and, truth be told, everyone else) what it actually meant in that 'Atlantis' had been built as a spaceship not a city. It was Colonel Steven Caldwell who had made the intuitive leap to realising that, such being the case, 'Atlantis' could very well have not been the city's name but the designation given to an entire class of ships. Like the Asgaard's O'Neill Class and Valhalla Class warships like The Daniel Jackson and The Samantha Carter – or the U.S. Navy's four 'classes' of ship, the Kitty Hawk, Enterprise, Nimitz and Gerald Ford.

In short, it was entirely possible that several identical or near-as-damn-it versions of Atlantis were dotted around the Pegasus Galaxy (and several others?) like discarded candy wrappers that anyone could just 'pick up and play with' after uttering the most terrifying words in any language: I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF I JUST…And didn't that prospect just fill a man with joy…John had come to increasingly understand and respect General O'Neill's intense dislike of crystal-based technology. Sure, it was dirt-cheap and non-polluting, but when you forgot to turn it off, it would last on 'standby' for thousands – millions – of years until someone accidentally tripped over it…and wackiness ensued.

However, the flyover showed no Ancient technology apparent. What had got Kithu squawking was the southern continent – to the extent of major invasion of personal space by leaning right across John as if trying to shove his face through the jumper's front screen – 'hello, need to see where I'm going!' John had barked at him even as Rodney had employed the far more immediate solution of yanking Kithu back down into his seat with the full force of an aerophobic who wants his pilot to have 360° vision available to him at all times.

Admittedly, it had only taken a naked-eye glance to see that something was seriously wrong.

© 2008

C D Stewart

To be continued…