SEASON: Fourth Season
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Team fic - Sheppard, McKay, Ronon and Teyla
DISCLAIMERS: The characters, Atlantis, etc, all belong to Sony, MGM, Gecko, Showtime, the Sci-Fi Channel. I own nothing.
NOTE 1: This story was originally submitted for the SGA Ficathon for the genre-Action Adventure and the prompt AI
SUMMARY: The team investigates a version of Atlantis with a mind of its own.

City - by NotTasha


"So," McKay said, running a hand over the even surface. "This should be it."

Ronon glanced at the indicated wall. "Doesn't look any different than anything else we've seen," he commented.

"Well," McKay defensively, "It took a few tries for me to figure out the layout. It's not easy, you know. Anyway. This one…" and he tapped against the surface. "… should be the right way in."

Sheppard shrugged. "Doesn't look like much."

"Oh," McKay replied. "It's 'much'. Just wait until we get a look inside."

"Now would be a good time," Sheppard commented as he waited.

"I do not see a doorway," Teyla added. "This appears to be little more than another wall."

"Just give me a minute," McKay groaned as he ran his scanner over the featureless space. "This has to be the place."

"Said that last time," Ronon muttered, glaring at the woodland around them. Things rustled through the leaves. "We'll get attacked by a blargnaught before you get us inside."

At mention of the beast, McKay stopped and spun about. "Wait, you think one of them is nearby?" he uttered with a squeak.

"Just keep working, McKay," Sheppard said tiredly as Ronon chuckled.

"Right," Rodney sneered at the Satedan and returned his attention to the wall, slowly running the scanner this way and that. "This has to be it," he repeated in a hopeful whisper.

And Sheppard sighed again. They'd been at it for over an hour. The Atlantis database had offered tantalizing clues regarding the purpose of the structure. The Ancients had built it. Some sort of research had happened here – and then, it had been abandoned. That never boded well.

Rodney had been able to determine that the Ancients had created a smaller version of Atlantis at this site. The question was -- why?

"The reason behind it doesn't matter," McKay had said, "Whenever we get invaded, or the control room gets shot up, we need to replace half the technology in there. It'd be nice to have some back-up parts."

Sheppard did not deny that. Maybe they'd even find a few extra jumpers stashed away.

So they went, searching for this 'other' Atlantis and hoping to find it in better shape than the version infested by Camelot wannabes or as hard to access as the Replicator's version. They'd found the outline of the control tower, but the city appeared to be mostly buried.

Sheppard leaned a hand against the wall. "Maybe," the colonel said with a sigh, "Maybe, it's time we called it a day." He watched as Rodney pressed a finger against the surface.

McKay let out a happy exclamation as the wall split, and a door slid open. The others snapped to attention. Finally!

Only blackness was revealed.

They paused a moment before stepping forward to peer inside. It was dark – and little else.

"So…" Sheppard started, looking toward McKay. "Is it safe?"

"Safe?" McKay repeated. "Safe is a… relative term." He held out his scanner. "I'm reading power. Systems are coming online. No life forms." He glanced to the dark hole. "It looks relatively safe."

"Fine," Sheppard stated. "Let's check it out."

Teyla moved through first, the light of her P90 illuminating her way, catching familiar-looking architecture. Sheppard was right behind. They'd only moved a few steps when the whole place started to light up, revealing the large space bit by bit.

Rodney, stepping through the opening, halted briefly to take it in. Ronon pressed past him.

"Huh," Sheppard uttered.

Atlantis. It looked like the control room of Atlantis, as if they were entering from the balcony nearest Carter's office. A defused light came from plain panels where the windows should have been.

Sheppard glanced to the Gate's location, finding only a bare platform, and he missed the stunning stained glass that would have been behind it.

McKay was already moving forward, looking greedy and excited as he moved through the upper level.

The door shut behind them once Ronon stepped fully within, and Dex glared at it before he continued after McKay.

Sheppard looked upward to where the jumperbay would have been. He knew that the building didn't extend high enough to allow for that lofty space and he tsked quietly, annoyed that there would probably be no jumpers to add to their collection. Yes, it looked like Atlantis, but it wasn't their home. This underground re-creation was hardly the same and he glared unhappily at the light fixtures.

McKay stood over one of the control consoles, looking thoughtful. "Yes, see," he said, pointing. "A veritable treasure trove of parts."

"Yes," Teyla said quietly, smiling slightly. "Exactly as you had speculated."

"Of course." McKay responded, turning about as he took it all in. "And from my understanding, there should be much more than just the gateroom. They created most of the control tower's upper levels. I wonder how much was reproduced."

They jumped when a calm voice filled the room, responding, "There are five levels and approximately 45 separate spaces available. Which would you like to examine next?"

All four went for their weapons.

"Please be advised that firearms are not permitted within the city. Remove all weapons and deposit the items in the indicated bin."

A drawer opened near one of the consoles. If they'd been on Atlantis, it would have been the space used to store spare computer batteries and snacks.

Sheppard's eyes scanned the room, looking for whoever had spoken, and muttered, "I think we'll be just fine keeping our equipment with us."

"It is asked that all strangers remove their firearms," the calm voice reiterated. It was a maddeningly neutral sounding voice, without any identifiable accent.

"Not going to happen," Ronon snapped, looking annoyed as hell.

"We're keeping 'em," Sheppard proclaimed, even though Rodney looked as if he were contemplating complying.

There was a pause. "Very well," the pleasantness of the voice waned, and the drawer slid shut.

McKay lifted his scanner, watching its screen with an intense expression.

Sheppard let his weapon lower. He glanced suspiciously around the room. "Who are you?" John asked. "What are you doing here?"

"I am here because I must be here," the voice told them. "I am here to assist you in all your needs, to guide you."

McKay frowned. "Where are you? Because I'm not picking up any other life signs." He glanced toward Carter's office as if he expected to see someone staring back at them.

"I am everywhere."

"Yeah, great," McKay sniped. "Why aren't you registering?" he went on, pointing at the scanner.

"I am not a life form as you would know one," the voice said.

"Well then, what are you?" Sheppard asked, irritated at the smug response.

"I am the city," the voice told them.

"What the hell does that mean?" Sheppard shot back.

Teyla and Ronon looked toward McKay, whose eyes darted as he thought. Then, he snapped his fingers. "Of course! Of course!" He stepped quickly, moving to the center of the room. "You're an AI, aren't you -- an Artificial Intelligence controlling the city?"

"Artificial sounds…somewhat demeaning," the voice returned.

"Yes, well, only if you find 'artificial' shameful, and I can't see why you'd say that. And 'intelligence' – well, you can't beat that." McKay looked enthralled. "I had read something about this in the database, totally unconnected with what was recorded about this facility. The Ancients, at one point, were playing with the idea of adding an artificial intelligence to various computer systems in Atlantis. They abandoned the idea. No reason was recorded, but this must have been their test site. Yes, that makes perfect sense. Create a mock- up of Atlantis and trial it here." McKay spread his arms, indicating the space around them. He grinned widely. "Quite clever, actually," he added.

"Yeah," Sheppard wasn't convinced. "And why is it so clever?"

"Because if something went wrong," McKay told him. "The problem would only occur in this contained environment and wouldn't affect the actual Atlantis."

"Actual Atlantis?" the voice stated, sounding puzzled.

"McKay…" Sheppard muttered. "ix-nay on the alking-tay."

"What?" McKay's face went a little blank.

"HAL might get issed-off-pay."

McKay crossed his arms over his chest. "Ine-fay. I'll ut-shay up-pay!"

"Abulous-fay," Sheppard replied. "So do it now."

McKay did not look pleased, but he got the message.

"I was designed to be the perfect city," the voice continued. "I will be able to conform to your needs and assist you in any endeavor."

Ronon stalked around the room, muttering, "I don't like this." He looked toward the door. "I think we should go."

"Hang on… hang on…" McKay extended his hands in a placating gesture. "Just because HAL wants to be helpful, doesn't mean this is a maniacal killing machine, right?"

"I am not a maniacal killing machine," the voice said, a little prissily, "And if you are to refer to me, please use the name that I was given by my creators."

"Okay, fine," Sheppard responded, giving McKay the skunk eye. "What are we supposed to call you?"

"I am the city," the voice told them.

"So, we're supposed to call you 'City'?" Sheppard asked.

"It would be appropriate," City responded. "And how shall I refer to you?"

"Ah, Sheppard," John said, raising his hand slightly. "That's McKay."

"Hello, Sheppard. Hello, McKay," City responded warmly.

Sheppard went on, stating, "Over there is Teyla and Ronon." He pointed them out and wondered how City was watching them – did it have eyes, a face? Were they supposed to be looking somewhere specific when addressing it?

City replied, "It has been so long since anyone has been here. I was designed to please my makers, to keep them safe from all harm." The City paused. "What can I do to please you?"

"Maybe, we could have a look around?" McKay tried. "You could let us check out some of your 'rooms'?"

"Yes, of course."

"And jumpers," Sheppard added. "You have any of those?"

"Jumpers?" City repeated. "I am unfamiliar with that term."

Gritting his teeth, Sheppard corrected with, "Gate ships. You know, flying ships."

"Oh," City sounded disappointed. "I have no such vessels within me."

"Great," Sheppard said with a sigh.

"But I shall be pleased to show you whatever else you wish to see. I am vast and certainly there is plenty here that shall interest you."

Ronon looked unhappy. "Don't think we need to spend a lot of time here," he voiced.

"Yeah," Sheppard drawled, glancing about the room. "It'd probably be a good idea to take a just quick look and report back."

"But there's so much to explore!" McKay complained.

"We'll split up to cover more ground," Sheppard directed.

Doors opened on opposite sides of the room – one on their level, and the other on the lower 'gate' level. "Yes, please, come this way," City told them, its voice seeming to come from below now. "McKay and Sheppard, here is much to show you. The others may look about on this level."

Sheppard and his team exchanged looks, and split up. Sheppard and McKay heading down the stairs, and Ronon and Teyla going in the other direction.


Ronon didn't like it. He didn't like anything about the situation. First of all, being without windows or any visible means of escape was not good. Secondly, he did not like being separated from the rest of his team. Thirdly, and perhaps most keenly, he disliked computers and voices that came from nowhere.

"You will continue along this corridor," the voice told them flatly.

Ronon snorted, and muttered, "We'll go where we want. We know this place." The City didn't respond, but Dex had a fairly good impression that it disagreed with him. He was glad that his Atlantis didn't have this sort of thinking machine running the place.

He glanced to Teyla, who raised an eyebrow, apparently sharing the thought. She didn't like it either.

He stalked forward, his gaze moving quickly as he examined passageways that were familiar – and yet not. "Looks different," he declared.

Teyla nodded. "It is as Atlantis appeared when I first arrived," she said quietly. "And not unlike the Atlantis of the Replicators."

Ronon grumbled. "Replicators, robots, AI's, I don't like them. They're not real. Don't like dealing with them. Not worth the trouble. We're better off without them." He looked about, wondering if the City had something to say about that, but it didn't take the bait. Stupid computer.

He moved down the hallway, glancing into a room. It was a space that the gateroom staff used for storage, and he missed the Weimaraner calendar that should have been hanging by the door.

He didn't know much about Earth's dogs, but after years of Wegman's posed pooches, he figured it wouldn't be such a bad thing to own such an animal.

Without the calendar, the room didn't seem right. They moved on.

"Ronon? Teyla?" Sheppard voice sounded over the radio.

Ronon touched the control, and responded, "Sheppard?"

"Find anything?"

"Nothing," Ronon replied.

"Oh come on," McKay's voice came over the earpiece. "You haven't found 'nothing'. What kind of a comment is that? The place is full of…" There was a muffled bit of business on the other end as McKay and Sheppard squabbled and their voices became indistinct.

Ronon and Teyla waited.

Finally Sheppard came back, saying, "We're not finding much either. Looks like they have the basic furnishings, but not much more."

"Like I said," Ronon responded.

Teyla smiled at him, and then touched her own radio. "We are nearly finished with the upper level and can join you below if you wish."

"Might as well," McKay stated, sounding flustered. "So far we've found little more than replacement parts for consoles and such. You'd think they'd have something a little bit more exciting here. For one thing, I'd like to get a look at the processing system for this computer system because it has to be impressive."

"Okay," Ronon said, not caring. "We're gonna keep moving."

"Right," McKay responded, miffed. "So, talk to you later?"

"Check in with us when you've finished with that level," Sheppard cut in.

"We are nearly done," Teyla told him. "And will soon join you."

"Sheppard out."

Ronon shook his head. This place just seemed – wrong – without the thousand little bits and pieces left by the others. This was not his home. And, if McKay wanted them to find interesting toys, they weren't succeeding.

At least the voice was quiet. It had barely spoken to them since they started their search -- the quieter the better. The voice had a strangely neuter quality that annoyed him. How was one supposed to respond to something when it wasn't obviously male or female? The voice was too calm and too crisp.

He glowered, daring it to say something. Silence. Good.

They made a circuit of the upper floor and had doubled back to where they had started. Nothing. And still more nothing.

"You done?" he asked his companion.

Teyla smiled and nodded. "We should check in with the others."

"Yeah, we've seen everything up here," Ronon grumbled.

The City spoke finally, "But there is one room you have not examined."

Teyla tilted her head to ask, "What have we missed?"

And a wall slid open beside them. If they were on Atlantis, the doorway would have opened to air – a long drop – and sea.

They shared a glance, and then peered into a room they'd never seen before. It was a rather small place with a series of promising looking panels and a console with a strange device displayed.

"What is that?" Ronon asked.

"It would appear that we have found a new device," Teyla said with a small smile. "Exactly what Dr. McKay wanted."

Ronon tapped his earpiece. "Sheppard," he called.

"Yeah," Sheppard returned, sounding a little testy.

Ronon smiled, glad. "We might've found something."

"Found something? What is it? You could be a little more descriptive than that?" Ronon had become used to the bite in McKay's voice, and recognized it as frustration at the situation. Yes, they were all annoyed. "Let me guess, you found another room, with more of the same sorts of things that have been in other rooms."

"It's a new room," Ronon told him.

"Great. Wait…" The tone of McKay's voice changed considerably. "What do you mean?"

"Like I said," Ronon replied, "It's a new room."

Teyla replied with a kinder tone, "This room does not exist on Atlantis. It is in an area that would otherwise open to the outside."

"I'll be right there…" McKay started.

"Let them deal with it, McKay," Sheppard declared. "We'll finish this level and, if they find anything good, we'll stop there on the way out."

"Oh, yeah, good thinking. So, carry on."

"Yeah," Ronon responded, and ended the transmission with, "Dex out."

He couldn't explain why he felt a measure of trepidation at the idea of entering the room, but he stepped forward carefully.

Teyla lingered outside, perhaps feeling the same anxiety as he, but neither wanted to speak of it. The City was listening.

He frowned as he approached the device on the console, unsure of what it was. What was its use? It looked like every other thing that McKay kept slung in his pack. It was shaped to fit in the palm of a hand. It had pieces that appeared to light up.

Dex leaned over it, but didn't trust it enough to touch. He cleared his throat and asked, "What's it for, City?"

"I cannot say," the City responded. "The secret of the device was left to the Makers. Some people are not deemed worthy to understand such things." There was no doubting the meaning of the words.

Ronon raised his head at that statement and glared upward, wanting to see 'City', wishing it had a head so that he that could rip it off.

"Ronon," Teyla said calmly from just outside the room. "We should continue onward. Dr. McKay can examine the item before we exit."

"Yeah," Ronon returned, his voice a low rumble. "Sooner we get out of this place, the better."

The City spoke again, saying, "I couldn't agree more."

Teyla suddenly pitched forward, as if the floor beneath her had risen up, or the wall had slammed into her from behind.

Ronon spun about to catch her as she was flung within the room. The door descended with a whoosh, trapping them. Ronon, one arm busily steadying Teyla, reached for his blaster, but it was already too late.

The room filled with a bitter smelling gas – and everything spun.

TBC - I'm sure everything is going to be just fine