"Excuse me for saying so," Teyla interjected from her seat in the briefing room, "but I find it hard to believe that the few of us that are left on Atlantis would have any chance of defeating the Wraith."
Sheppard glanced at Stevenson, then back at Teyla. "We do have our own Ancient now."
"Yes, I noticed," Teyla countered, "but we've lost all support from Earth. No ships, no weapons, no soldiers…and no food."
Stevenson jutted a thumb at his chest.
"I think that means he's got it covered," Ronon speculated.
Teyla raised an eyebrow. "How, exactly?"
Stevenson opened the case lying in front of him on the table. He pulled out a small vile with gray dust inside.
"Nanites!?" Teyla exclaimed.
"You mean replicators?" Sheppard asked, stunned. "That's an insanely bad idea."
Stevenson shook his head. "Toooollls," he said, not quite getting the pronunciation right.
"Wait a minute?" Ronon said, leaning forward in his seat. "Are you saying we can use those things to build whatever we need?"
"Cool," Ronon decreed. "Why didn't we think of that earlier?"
"Because replicators have a habit of not taking orders," Sheppard said. "I'm hoping these are different somehow?"
Stevenson nodded emphatically.
"I'm wondering," Teyla added, "is this how the Ancients originally built Atlantis?"
Stevenson rotated his hand side to side in front of him.
"That means 'sort of,'" Sheppard translated. "Good enough for me, as long as you know what you're doing," he said, glancing at Stevenson.
"Do you mean to involve the humans in this galaxy in our fight," Teyla asked both Sheppard and Stevenson, "or do you intend to build an army of replicators to fight for us?"
"I…had expected to bring volunteers here and begin training them," Sheppard said hesitantly. Stevenson nodded his approval. "As for using replicators, you already know where I stand on that."
"But does he?" Ronon asked.
All eyes fell on Stevenson.
He reluctantly pulled out a datapad and meticulously typed in a message. He slid it across the table in disgust at his own inability to communicate, temporary as it may be.
"What did he say?" Teyla asked when John didn't immediately say anything.
"Seems he isn't opposed to using the technology, but he doesn't like the way the Lanteans built them to fight their war for them. At the least he intends to build some to use for security in Atlantis…" Sheppard said, shaking his head. "I am not going to agree to that…unless you can 100% assure me that what happened the first time isn't going to happen again."
Stevenson motioned for the datapad back. He typed a quick message, then returned it.
"Lanteans were stupid," Sheppard read aloud for the others to hear. "They programmed them to be autonomous and aggressive. Ours will be neither."
"Forgive my bluntness," Teyla interjected, "but if you have the replicators, what do you need humans for?"
"Good point," Ronon added.
"Much," Stevenson said, almost normally.
Teyla raised an eyebrow. "Like what?"
Stevenson retrieved the datapad again. This time he slid it to Teyla when he was finished.
"He says that machines can only do what they're programmed to do. They can't think for themselves, they have no sense of right and wrong. They are only tools. Nothing more."
Teyla placed the datapad back on the table, already feeling better about Stevenson. "I agree, and my people will be willing to help as they can."
"Good to know," Sheppard said, pleased. "Ronon, how do you feel about training ourselves an army to fight the Wraith?"
The Setidan smiled. "About time."
"Alright then," Sheppard said, standing, "Stevenson, get over to the control chair. We should be exiting hyperspace soon and I don't trust myself to put the city down in one piece over land."
Stevenson stood, gave him a thumbs up, then left the room.
"This whole not talking thing is starting to get annoying," Ronon said after he'd left.
"It is a little weird," Sheppard admitted, "but he doesn't have a choice. His mind was reprogrammed to speak Ancient the same way General O'Neill's did. I'm just glad he can understand us."
"Perhaps he'll be able to relearn to speak normally again," Teyla suggested. "He has managed a few words."
"It's either that or he gets to carry a blackberry around the rest of his life," Sheppard said sarcastically as they left the briefing room.
Forty three minutes later Atlantis emerged from hyperspace back inside the Pegasus galaxy. Stevenson immediately started to bring them down from orbit over an ice world.
"This is Sheppard. Everyone hold tight, we're going in."
Stevenson slowed the city's descent rapidly, coming to a virtual stop over a rocky ridgeline jutting up through the kilometer-thick ice. Utilizing the city's engines and the power of all three ZPMs, he drifted Atlantis to the east until they passed over a vast ice field. Atlantis stopped over the smooth surface and began its final descent.
Sheppard had to catch his balance as the city shook violently as it punctured the ice sheet. The city's great weight drove the lower sections deep into the ice until they'd hollowed out a sufficiently wide cradle to support the city's weight. With one final tremor Atlantis imbedded itself into the ice field, riding slightly higher above the surface than it had in the ocean, but its orientation was still exactly parallel to the ground…a testament to Stevenson's piloting ability. Sheppard doubted he could have put her down with such accuracy, but he wasn't about to say that out loud.
It took about an hour for Stevenson to get the city tucked in and reestablish their connection to the gate network. Now that they'd switched planets and addresses, it was unlikely that Earth would be able to find them again…if they were going to look for them at all.
Sheppard wasn't sure what they would do. They had wanted out of Pegasus pretty bad, but now that he'd stolen Atlantis from them they were sure to be pissed…he just didn't know how far they'd go to come after him and the others who'd chosen to go rogue.
And he really didn't like the idea of having to throw down against their own battlecruisers, but he knew that was a distinct possibility.
At least their new location would buy them some time to get organized and regeared for their self-proclaimed war against the Wraith. Sheppard still had no idea how they were going to fight that war, but Stevenson had been adamant that they could win without assistance from Earth, and after what he'd shown Sheppard in the Milky Way, he was eager to see how this was going to play out.
To that end Stevenson brought Sheppard to an obscure wing of the city where he had been spending the past several hours since landfall. Two large, clear containers were three quarters full of dust-like nanites…with a small, steady stream of the gray particles being added to each as they looked on.
"That's…a lot of nanites," Sheppard commented. "Are those the security replicators?"
Stevenson shook his head 'no' and stepped over to a control panel where he brought up a map of their current location. It rotated until they could see both Atlantis and several kilometers beneath the surface of the planet. The Captain highlighted several deposits of naquada and neutronium in close proximity to the city.
"Mining," he said, again managing a word in English.
"Cool," Sheppard said as Stevenson stopped the inflow of new nanites. The two canisters disappeared downward into the floor.
"Where are they going?"
Stevenson brought up another schematic that showed the canisters being moved down a shaft to the underside of the city. From there they would be released into the ice and work their way down into the bedrock, building micro-conduits as they went that would funnel the raw material back up into Atlantis.
Stevenson handed Sheppard a case of viles and a datapad.
"What's this?" he asked. He looked at the screen and found it to be another translation.
Take the canisters and release the contents on the following worlds. They are preprogrammed to activate ten seconds after the seals are broken. Don't open them until you are in position.
These nanites will begin gathering other materials we need and will report back to Atlantis via subspace.
Sheppard glanced down at the two dozen addresses listed below the message and was suddenly glad for something to do other than follow Stevenson around.
"Will do," he said as he picked up the case and left Stevenson to his work. He radioed Teyla and Ronon and had them meet him in the gateroom.
"What are those?" Ronon asked.
"Our cargo. We're going to make some deliveries," Sheppard told him while signaling the sparse control room staff, made up of mostly Athosians, to dial the gate.
"About time we had a mission," Ronon remarked. "We've been sitting on our butts for too long."
"I agree," Teyla said. "It's time we got back to work."
Sheppard smiled as the kawoosh retreated back into the event horizon. "It's good to be back," he said as the three stepped through the gate together.