Teyla stood in the center of the primitive town, perched on top of a small wooden platform. At her request the village elders had summoned all their kin to hear her speak about the Wraith and what they could do to oppose them.
"Year upon year we have hidden from the Wraith, trying to minimize the damage they've done to our people, all the while learning to let go of those that were taken because of the indisputable fact that there was nothing that we could do to stop it."
"Yes, some of us fought back, but without success. We did it out of spite, not truly believing that we could win. We fought back to save our sanity, for we could not simply sit by and watch as loved ones were taken away to be fed upon…at the very least we would have tried, and failed, but we tried. We did something, regardless of the outcome."
"Over the years our family and friends would pressure us to stop trying, stop provoking the Wraith and just accept the losses as inevitable. And little by little we lost hope. Generation after generation that hope dwindled until it was barely equal to the flame upon a candle…but it survived, buried deep within our hearts, forbidden from rising to the surface and causing us additional despair, yet it was always there. The hope that someway, somehow the situation would change and we would be able to take back control of our lives and our own destiny."
"A few years ago I was culled by the Wraith and taken onto one of their great hive ships. I was imprisoned within a cell and waited until the hour came when they would finally take me to be fed upon. I had lost any and all hope of surviving, but I did what I could to retain my faculties and at least die with some semblance of strength, of dignity, of defiance."
"But luckily for me the impossible happened and I, along with a few others, were rescued by a group of people from a planet called Earth, which lies far outside our stars and beyond the reach of the Wraith. They didn't fear them as we did. They didn't see the hopelessness that has dominated our entire lives. They saw the Wraith for the first time and didn't react with horror, but with determination. Where we saw an implacable foe they saw weaknesses to exploit, and did so."
"I owe them my life and the life of my people, yet recently they have decided to leave our stars and return to the safety of their world, leaving us to fight the Wraith on our own. My heart filled with dread when I first heard the news. I believed that they were our one and only chance of ever being free of the Wraith…and that chance was going to abandon us to the same fate which we have lived for generation upon generation, almost as if the universe were playing a cruel joke on us, giving us our first real hope only to snatch it away once we started to truly believe."
"The people of Earth are gone, save for a handful that bravely refused to leave us behind, and were themselves left behind as a result. But in what seems like our darkest hour, when the Wraith are culling so many souls out of desperation to feed their unexpectantly awakened numbers, far more than we have ever seen in our lives or the lives of our forefathers…we have a new hope, not just for survival, but for total victory over the Wraith."
"At long last one of the Ancestors has returned to lead us to freedom from the Wraith. He has asked me to travel from village to village to gather those of you willing to fight the Wraith and take you to where he is assembling and training an army that will hunt down and destroy every last one of the monsters."
Teyla raised her right hand in caution. "But make no mistake…the Wraith will not simply lay down and die. It will be a long hard fight, and there is no guarantee that those of you who leave with me will ever return again."
"I cannot promise you any outcome. Victory is not guaranteed, but for the first time in our lives it is a possibility. I can't speak for any of you, but for myself, back when I was imprisoned and waiting to be fed upon I would have given anything just to have been able to strike back at the Wraith. Just to hurt them as they have hurt me and you for untold centuries. Now we have that chance. The question that remains is…will you take it?"
Teylaheld up her left hand for all gathered to see. "This ring he gave to me to prove to you that I speak the truth. He crafted it himself, not as a decoration, but as a defense against the Wraith."
Teyla nodded off to her right and visibly braced herself.
Three quick, whining blasts of an energy weapon tore through the silence and hit Teyla…or rather the energy shield protecting her. As the shield shimmered back to invisibility she turned her attention back to the crowd.
"Those willing to fight should assemble at the Ring of the Ancestors tomorrow at dawn. From there we travel to a place where your training will begin. For now, think upon my words and the weight they carry. Whatever choice you make, danger awaits you, and you must decide how you are going to face it."
Teyla confidently stepped down from the platform and strode out of the village, with the crowd respectfully parting for her. Ronon met her at the edge of the crowd and fell into step beside her.
"Nice speech," he said as they started walking back to the gate.
"I only hope it is successful," Teyla said cautiously.
"We'll get a few at least," Ronon said assuredly. "We might even hit fifty with this group."
"Yes, Colonel Sheppard's magic number," Teyla recounted with some skepticism. "I still do not see the wisdom in starting with so few. My people can help train a much larger number."
"Quality over quantity," Ronon reminded her. "We're not training cannon fodder. We'll have the replicators for that."
"So Stevenson says," Teyla said neutrally. "It's been six weeks and we haven't seen a single one yet. I believe he may be having more trouble than anticipated with their programming."
Trouble he was having, but not with the replicators.
While he did have access to the full technological knowledge of the Alterra, as well as the small gains made by the Lanteans, he wasn't adept at starship construction, nor naval warfare…which made designing new warships from scratch problematic at best.
Stevenson stood in an unexplored section of Atlantis, his face half contained within the shroud of a neural interface. The green glow from the face shield was the only illumination within the dark room, save for the holographic schematics floating beside him that displayed his annoying lack of progress.
Stevenson pulled back from the device and rubbed his forehead in both frustration and fatigue. The Alterra never had a great need for warships, and instead designed their starships for other purposes, adding on their advanced weaponry almost as an afterthought.
The Lanteans had designed warships in a similar manner, relying on advanced technology but having no martial design about them. Stevenson knew that wasn't going to cut it down the road, even if it might be enough to defeat the Wraith in the here and now, which meant that he had to design entirely new warships…and the learning curve was not treating him well.
Stevenson blew out a defeated breath and stepped back up to the device. The three starship schematics floating in the air disappeared over the circular pedestal. Instead, another design that he had recently finished appeared in hologram over the pedestal and quickly drifted down atop of it, shifting from hologram to materialized creation.
It was a block of nanites. Not quite as small as traditional replicator cells, but nowhere near as large as the old style block replicators. These were still microscopic, but they were a much larger, hardier version, made up mostly of naquada, trinium, and only a dash of neutronium, unlike normal replicator cells that relied primarily on the stuff.
Normally he wouldn't have used the power hungry material synthesis technology to create nanites, but the limited amount of raw materials that had been gathered were being devoted solely to the specialized factories in Atlantis's core that were busily constructing an Ancient outpost beneath the city.
Those factories, and a few specialized labs, were the only industrial infrastructure located within the city. The Alterra had relied on outside production bases on the green gate network, such as the ZPM factory, to produce most of their technology, save for small items like clothing and food that could be synthesized without too much of a power drain on their ZPMs. Materializing an entire ship would have sucked ten dry instantaneously.
Which was why they were going to have to rely on the surviving Alterran infrastructure spread throughout the galaxies that made up the Ancients' former territory. What few facilities the Lanteans had built had been constructed on the public gate network and therefore easily discovered and destroyed by the Wraith, if not by the Lanteans themselves to keep their technology from possibly falling into enemy hands.
Only two gate networks had been built in Pegasus. The public gates and a limited number of supergates for their slower starships to move through, only two of which still existed.
All of which meant that he was going to be seriously racking up his intergalactic frequent traveler miles en mass.
Stevenson pulled out a datapad and activated the block of nanites.
It slithered apart, expanding in volume into its preprogrammed shape…that of a petite human female dressed in a trim, dark grey uniform. It stepped down off the pedestal and looked questioningly at Stevenson, yet said nothing. It just batted its long eyelashes and smiled naively.
"Come with me," he ordered in Ancient.