Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis is the property of its original creators and producers, as are any of the characters who appear here or are mentioned. References events from the 1st to the first half of the 3rd aired seasons. Notes: Written for isabeau's request in the 2008 3rd Round Multifandom Apocalypthon.
"One Minute to Midnight" by Karen
Maybe things would have been easier for all concerned if they taken precautions to prevent such a catastrophe from happening. But, as the old saying went, hindsight gives one perfect clarity of vision when it is far too late to do anything about it.
Sobek stood atop the steep slope bordering the valley where the village once stood. Now, he looked upon a barren plain devoid of life and color.
Once, if time still had meaning, once this valley had been home to several tribes, living in more or less harmony with one another, trading with their neighboring worlds for items and luxuries that they could not obtain or make themselves from the material and resources available to them.
His people, the Athosians, had raised grain, herded sheep, woven crafts, and observed traditional rituals that had been handed for generations from parent to child and so on, until now.
His thoughts turning as bleak as the scene that he looked down upon, Sobek realized with a certain grim irony, that death came to all sentient beings, but really, he shouted with more than a little bit of anger, "Did it have to be like this? It was easier to be angry at the feet of those Sobek held responsible for this atrocity: the Wraith; the scourge of the Pegasus Galaxy.
Only this time their pattern of strike and attack, capture those they wished to use as food, or hostages, or both, and then depart, did not add up.
The weapon that had destroyed the life that he knew, had been more subtle. The Wraith were many things, most of them terrible for the species they encountered; subtle was nowhere to be found on the list of things the Wraith were known for.
With a wry chuckle mostly at his own expense, Sobek thought, "Must admit, the Wraith can aspire to a certain low animal cunning, but that's all I give them. So where in the name of several hells did they manage to develop an energy weapon, let alone have the know-how to deploy it?"
Aloud he asked himself a question that he had been wavering on a knife's edge of
indecision, "Why me? Of all those left alive, why me? Why was I left alive? I am man alone on a windswept hill, crying out in the wilderness."
Teyla sat bolt upright in her bed with her fists clutching the sheets in a white-knuckled grip. As much as she possibly could to block out the nightly visions of the Wraith and their dark, cold, and horrible thought patterns; they were becoming more and more a backdrop to her sub-conscious thoughts.
While she was also very much aware that as abhorrent as it was to have this link, it was also a definite tactical advantage for bother her allies and her own people, the Athosians. "A Gift," she muttered releasing some if not all of the tension from her clutch on the bed sheets, "some gift., but whatever it will take to save those I care for, I will do so."
They gated through to the designated coordinates that their intel suggested was the most recent concentration of the energy-directed attack. Sheppard and his team fanning out in a wide dispersal pattern, in order to cover as much ground as possible. Teyla, more than anyone was both surprised and relieved to not have to have a lethal encounter with the Wraith within minutes or even seconds of their arrival off-world. In the wake of her night visions; it was something to be thankful for.
The man who had sent the distress signal and the message was there to met them at the designated coordinates; an stocky, short Athosian who greeted Sheppard's team with a terse: "I've been expecting you."
"So I've been told," Sheppard replied wryly. "What's up?"
"It would be best if you saw for yourselves."
"Sobek," Teyla began about to step forward and take her old friend Sobek, who had not been with her tribe in the last mass migration to the planet where she and her people had met the new inhabitants of the Atlantis base; he left months prior to that event to strike out with his own group; however he had kept in rather intermittent touch over the years so Teyla was both pleased and a bit taken aback to see her old friend again; shaken up and so grim with whatever knowledge that now wished to impart to her new friends and allies. "Please, when you are able, tell us what you know."
Sobek glanced all around, as if afraid that it was safe to do as Teyla asked and as though he had summoned her no doubt expected and perhaps deserved, especially if his visions and hard practical evidence indicated. The energy weapon that had attacked his world would not rest content with the destruction of one world; it would move on, its hunger unabated unless a way was found to stop it.
The Athosian man rocked back on his heels and moaned. Afraid that he was about to go into some kind of fit Sheppard moved toward him and placed a hand on his shoulder in order to calm him down.
His intention was well meant however the result was completely unexpected, through the merest contact of his hand upon the other man's shoulder, Sheppard saw, like he was watching a recording, that attack that had devastated this one village, and would soon, if left unchecked consume other villages, on other worlds, just as rapidly as it had consumed this one.
In the moments when John Sheppard still could claim to have a grip on his own conscious one thought leapt out with diamond-hard clarity: The Wraith were not responsible for the attacks, they just wanted other species to believe that they were.
Instead, with the vista of the stars as a backdrop, John was a mute witnessed to a crystalline energy sphere that moved with unbelievable speed, as it destroyed all organic life that crossed its path in a wave of incredible and lethal energy.
Sheppard would have screamed if he had had a voice with which to scream.
In that very moment John Sheppard lost his grip on Sobek's shoulder and his balance and toppled over backward to land on the hard dirt ground with a thud and a groan, and a muffled curse. In the back of his mind he could not help thinking that that was a damned cruddy way of learning things.
"I very much doubt the Wraith created this energy weapon," Dr. Radek Zelenka mused as he squatted down in the dusty ground and ran his hand-held scanner over the debris.
"What makes you think that, Radek," Dr. Rodney McKay asked as he came up to stand beside the other scientist assigned to Major Sheppard's survey team.
"For one thing it doesn't fit the Wraith's established attack patterns," added Sheppard.
McKay shrugged and then added. "Who knows? Maybe they're wising up to the fact that we're giving them a run for their money, and are trying to mix it up a little."
"Possible, but I doubt it. The Wraith seem to me more and more like creatures of habit, once they find something that works, they stick with it," replied Doctor Carson Beckett thoughtfully.
"What happened here, boys?" he asked. "No offense, and I don't mean to rush you, but we need more than theorizing. I need answers."
McKay with a quick glance at the dizzyingly rotating parabolas displayed on the screen of his hand-held computer replied: "The dispersal pattern of the debris would indicate the deployment of a massive energy weapon, one that was not discharge from any ship in orbit above the planet."
"Some kind of bomb, then?" Sheppard asked getting edgy and more than a little bit concerned at the fact that the Wraith might have developed the technology to develop something that could wipe out entire population centers leaving the terrain more or less intact.
It did not make much sense from the point of the enemy that they were fighting, considering that the Wraith's primary reason for attacking most inhabitant worlds was to use them as a food source.
"You heard Dr. Weir," McKay testily began as he bent over his work station tossing an "I could have had the solution to our current problem if I had not been hampered by amateurs wasting valuable time with theoretical speculation that's all very well in theory; but obviously not in practice."
Sheppard waited out the tirade, that for Rodney was relatively mild before chiming in: "Duly noted,
The crackling of the radios that all Atlantis teams carried into the field crackled and Major Sheppard broke off pondering in order to answer it. "Sheppard," he said.
"More or less a situation of 'if ain't broken, don't fix it." Major Sheppard broke into the conversation.
"John, I'm recalling all teams back to base," Dr. Elizabeth Weir said, her voice sounding strained and hoarse. "We've got a situation here and you'd better hurry. There's more to tell about our situation, but it has to wait until you arrive. Bring Teyla's friend, Sobek, with you. Weir, out."
"But, we still don't know if the Wraith were behind the attack or not," McKay protested. "We've barely scratched the surface of the investigation. We need more time."
Over the two way communication line Dr. Weir stoically and emphatically announced: "John, Time is a luxury we cannot afford just now. Get your team back to Atlantis. Now!"
Darting a glare at Rodney McKay, he added. "This, IS not, open for debate. Let's go."
Back at the Atlantis base the scene in the operations room was tense, for lack of a better word. The idea that the Wraith would deliberately construct and deploy a weapon that was both as elegant and as deadly as this had long since become a moot point.
Rodney stood in front of the screen his hands grasping onto the metal of the nearest console staring at the ten-sided geometric weapon bearing down on the city.
The thing was easily as big as a puddle jumper, maybe two, five times as big and seemingly to grow in size the more matter it entered, passed through, and consumed.
As much as wanted to understand the mathematical logic behind such a deadly but beautiful crystalline entity; he knew that everyone on Atlantis needed to find a way to stop it before its energy wave destroyed all of them.
"Colorful but accurate summation of the entity's behavior. Come on, McKay, you're a genius. Surely you can figure out how this trap works and time is running out."
In the back of his mind Rodney recalled the very first entity that thrived on energy they had faced upon their arrival in the Pegasus Galaxy.
The senior command staff had come to a rather startling and troubling discovery, playing unwilling to host to its sudden intruders: an alien entity traipsing around the base, and did not appreciate all of these corporeal and very unwelcome intruders into a place where it had been held captive for almost 5,000 years.
On the heels of that thought, Rodney recalled something John Sheppard had said when they had first discovered the entity's existence. "Trapped here for 5.000 years, huh? I'd
know I'd be pissed."
Dr. Weir, her face a shade paler than normal, ordered the communications officer on duty ordered him to open a city-wide channel and with her fists clenched over the table but her voice firm made the announcement that she would very much prefer not to have to make: "Attention, this is Dr. Weir. There is no easy way to say this, and I won't mince words or lie to you; we are under attack by as yet unknown energy weapon. I need you all to remain calm and follow the standard evacuation protocols and for those who are off duty to report to your watch officers for further orders."
"As of yet, the city's power supply is holding steady but the alien weapon is steadily draining it. We are using every means at our disposal to drive it away, but until then it is up to all of us to pull together. I'm counting of all of you. Weir, out."
"Nice speech," Major Cavanaugh remarked as he came up to stand beside her on the balcony that formed a semi-circle above the Operations Room.
"I don't suppose you have any better ideas, and yes," Weir held up one hand to forestall any of Cavanaugh's arguments that knowing him would likely include deployment of the Dadeleaus space ship "that includes your ship," she concluded.
"It's out there," he replied with a wry grin, "It makes both strategic sense to take the fight to the enemy."
"I'm aware of that," Weir replied, "but at the rate that this thing is gobbling up all the energy weapons we throw at it, I won't risk exposing the Dadelus to it."
"That might be erring on the side of caution," Cavanaugh grumbled. "And by the time we realize our mistake we'll all be dead, and it won't matter."
"If you take the ship out there and it drains the engines and the Naquada power cells" Weir replied, not in the least in the mood for argument over strategies with the overbearing old war hawk, "You'll all be dead, the heart of the city will be exposed, and we'll all be dead, and it won't matter."
Kavanugh cocked his head to one side thinking the matter over before he stating: "You have a point."
At the instant the teeth-jarring, heart-stopping sound of metal grinding together under incredible amounts of pressure interrupted their argument, the hum and murmur of the many other conversations taking place as well as the round-the-clock updates from elsewhere in the city.
Weir, shaking her head, spun around and crossed the distance to the steps leading down to the Operations nerve center to stand beside the duty officer on watch. Turning to Rodney she asked, "Now would be a good time for one of your patented eleventh hour miracles."
Startled out of his reverie Rodney nearly jumped and ended up banging his knee on the edge of the console he had been bracing against. "Oh, Elizabeth. I didn't see you there. You know, something has occurred to me, but I need to run a few more tests. It's probably crazy, but have you ever heard of Occam's Razor?"
Under different circumstances Elizabeth would have smiled, Rodney was a scientist at heart, she refrained from doing so, knowing that all eyes were on her and instead she simply answered his question. "The simplest solution is usually the correct one."
"Exactly." Rodney replied. "I think I just might have the solution to our current predicament. If you'll excuse me. I need to go see Zelenka."
With that he trotted across the room to the lifts and down into the heart of the city.
Zelenka bent almost double over his computer screen pored over the readouts and computer models, and without consciously even aware that he did so, reached up and ran his fingers through his unruly mop of hair.
Everything he knew about mass, density and various fields of theoretical physics were seemingly being defied by the entity with ease. It chewed through the outer defenses of the city as if they had been constructed of tin foil and crepe paper instead of metal. It was not so much that the entity cared about the obstacles in its path, it simply bypassed as if in a hurry to get to something more important.
"I've got it!" Rodney shouted as soon as he ran into the science lab."
"With all due respect, Rodney," Zelenka began rather nettled at the fact that McKay seemed to think and even thrive on the notion that he was the only one among them that could solve all of their problems. "you're not the only one who can come up with good ideas."
Rodney stopped up short his breathing hissing in and out of his lungs in the wake of his exertion and glanced at Zelenka. "I guess so," he muttered. "
"However," Rodney quickly recovered and went over to stand beside Zenlenka's computer. "This is a good computer model but, think about it for a second, what happens when matter and antimatter come together?"
"They have a distinct tendency to explode," Zenlenka softly whispered beginning to understand the first faint outlines of a working plan of attack; the only problem with implementing the plan was how to get close enough to the entity in order to deploy it.
Meanwhile Commander John Sheppard patrolled the hallways and byways of the Atlantis base, assault rifle perched over his left shoulder, eyes narrowed in concentration. In the back of his mind he wondered; 'How the hell do you fight something that cuts through metal and flesh and blood as easily as a knife through butter? How do you stop something like that, when it doesn't even distinguish between friend and foe?'
The creaking of metal and plastic and the familiar yet oddly comforting whine of engines coming on-line served as a counterpoint distracted him from any more stray thoughts, and
Sheppard squared his shoulders, concentrating of making certain that the payload of weapons had been properly secured into his puddle jumper's cargo hold. Over the radio, he could hear Weir and the Commander of the dreadnought, the Prometheus confirming the plan once more. Pre-Flight checks, Sheppard confirmed his own readiness over the open communications channel, and launched his puddle jumper through the open iris of the star gate. Under his breath Sheppard muttered, 'I just hope this works, for we get a second chance at this."
"Sheppard, here, go ahead."
"It's Weir. Are you in position? We're launching the Prometheus, just in case, but we can't guarantee just how much of a safety net we can give you, before the crystalline entity decides to snack on it," Dr Weir's even filtered over the puddle jumper's audio pickup sounded confident, and he had to give her credit; if anyone could hold it together under a crisis, she'd be his pick, bar none.
"Understood," replied Sheppard. "If all else feels, if this works, we won't have to worry about the entity snacking on one the most powerful ship's in the Atlantis' Base arsenal.
Within moments after pressing the button that would trigger the release of his ship's payload Sheppard was brought up sharply by the combination of both the gravitational forces of his' ship's momentum as well as the released kinetic energy of the matter/anti-matter bombs.
For a few brief seconds, glancing at the bank of monitors where the sky above the city was painted in a deadly yet still somewhat beautiful kaleidoscope of reds, greens, blues, and purples, Sheppard allowed himself a small, wry grin, speaking as if to the now destroyed crystalline entity, "Hmm, seems to me, that what we've got here is a bad case of over-eating."
With a crackle of static and then clearer, Doctor Rodney McKay's voice could be heard over the interference. "Sheppard, I do hope that you won't mind if I interpret that last utterance as a scientific observation, and not one of your lame jokes?"
"Take how ever you want, Rodney." Sheppard shrugged and begun to turn the puddle jumper into a sharp curve that would bring it back to base; back home. "I'm just glad that it's gone and we're all still here."
"We lost several warheads from our arsenal," Colonel Cavanaugh chimed in.
"Sheppard's correct, Colonel," Weir added. "Given that the entity is gone, and we're still here; then I'd chock it up as a win in my book."
"Ditto, that," Sheppard replied.