You feel like you are trapped in the endless infinity between moments. Your life is in a funk of indecision. You are in the figurative waiting room, sitting there, wishing the Doctor would just get off his ass and hurry up, so you can get on with the damn appointment. You are going nowhere at a snails pace. Your days are filled with alternate bouts of despair, loneliness and monotony, only occasionally broken up by the intensity of finding any near-impossible mental challenge or game for yourself to complete. This at least makes use of your near-genius rated intellect.
But when you complete the challenge you are reminded that despite your genius, you have no idea how to save the one that matters most to you. Your days are spent trawling through the Internet – searching for any new information that could help you in your self-appointed quest. When it turns out nothing, you fall back onto playing online games to while away the time and occupy the mind.
How did it all come this? How did your life boil down to practically only existing within your family home and on the Internet? When you were eighteen, you had a world of possibilities at your fingertips. You had made it into MIT of all places, you had been there for two years and you flourished in the challenge of completing a Major in Mathematics with a Minor in Physics. Then Fate decided to pull the rug from under your feet. You make the decision to leave; it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but there are times you begin to doubt that.
Though any doubt is dispelled every time your mother comes home from a shift at the hospital, looking like she had been put through the proverbial ringer, when she drinks the cornucopia of anti-virals with shaking hands, when you help put her to bed because she's even too tired to walk up the stairs. You realize that if you hadn't been there on that one occasion last year when she passed out at the wheel, that she would've assuredly been killed in the ensuing accident.
You occasionally see out of the corner of your eye how she looks at you; both extremely thankful and angry…that you would give up your bright starry future for her. She doesn't call you out on it, because she realizes it's your life and your decision. You're twenty one years old now.
Your growling stomach brings you back from the morbid thoughts to the present. You reach over to grab your plate of food and begin wolfing it down, whilst staring at your computer screen. It displays your avatar in a new online military sci-fi RPG that exploded into popularity a few months ago. You've managed to get your character to a fairly high level within just three weeks or so, but now you've been stalled in your development somewhat as you find very intricate puzzles in the game that a lot of the online community are raving about; especially the ones that are proving near impossible to solve. These puzzles are now what you're focused on, to the detriment of completing other quests that would award more experience points.
You don't care.
The puzzles are written in a whole different language that the game programmers invented and you've feasted on the challenge of figuring it out. It's taken you a month of work to get both a somewhat working dictionary mapped out via the clues that's given in the game and to solve the puzzle itself. That is was a mathematics puzzle only heightened your enthusiasm, and it harkens you back to those wonderful two years at MIT.
Having finished eating you put the plate away on your unkempt bed, and power up your second computer monitor that will conference with your online buddy, whilst putting on a small headset for audio. You take the mouse and keyboard controls and a few moments later your avatar is spawned in the game world. You're halfway to the location of the puzzle room when your friend comes online.
The challenge you're trying to solve is a unique method of blowing up an enemy ship in orbit of the planet you're on. Most players took the straightforward approach of getting in a starship and taking the massive mothership on in straight battle, usually getting killed in the process. You've discovered a planetary defence weapon built by an ancient alien race that once inhabited the planet you're on. You believe it's capable of one-shotting the enemy starship. The problem was that you had to figure out the language of this ancient race to merely get into the control room, via a large hidden door inside a mountain inscribed with the language. You then controlled three large circles embedded in the wall of the writing to alter the meaning of the inscription so that it made sense.
Once you were in the control room, however. That was where the mathematical puzzle came in. You had to figure out the precise frequency of power using an algorithmic formula provided by the game, then you had a number of option for powering the said weapon…either via a zero-point energy cell or the very core of the planet itself. It was obvious via the formula that there was no way the energy cell could deliver the necessary power.
Your friend disagrees with you and you indignantly turn to his image on the other monitor. "The core of the planet is the power source here. You have to channel it into the weapon and destroy the enemy ship."
"Can't do it, dude." You shake your head and move your avatar over to the holographic interface. "It's one of those programmer's jokes. It's a problem that can't be solved."
You smirk at your friend cockily. "Oh, I solved it."
Your avatar gets out his scanner and establishes a connection with alien weapon system.
"No, you didn't."
"Just shut up! Watch…this." You bend over your keyboard and hands fly over it as you type in the solution. You're done, and in the game world the holographic writing hovering over the weapon vanishes. Suddenly the screen blackens and is promptly replaced with a rather amazing picture of a hyper-futuristic tower, with a sun setting in the background. Just as quickly it vanishes and your avatar is now standing a few kilometres distant from the mountain at the planet's spawn point…the ancient weapon having done nothing to the enemy starship. Indignation and anger swells in you. "What the hell!"
You answer reluctantly. "No-nothing…happened. I'm…back at the beginning of the level."
Your friend smirks at you knowingly. "You're so full of yourself."
"No. No-no-no. It worked. The firing code locked in."
"Whatever. I gotta go, pal. Didn't have much time to play today, anyway."
"Yeah, see ya." With a few clicks you're disconnected from the servers and your friend is offline as well. You mutter to yourself, "That was extremely unsatisfying."
A month of work down the toilet. Only a day later though, you realize that it was hardly a wasted effort and it would change your life forever.
It all begins with a simple knock on the door. It's just before midday and you're still in your PJs, you don't care about answering the door like this. You pull open the front door while munching on a snack and it reveals a sight that you certainly never expected to see. Standing on the front porch were two men, one dressed in the unmistakable uniform of the US Air Force…and a Lieutenant General no less, flanked by a much smaller, weedier man with long hair and dressed in suit.
The General speaks first. "Eli Wallace?"
You blink and at beyond light speed try to work out what a three star General would be doing looking for you. You come up with absolutely nothing, whilst trying not to choke on your snack.
"Uh…yeah, that's me I suppose…who are you?"
"General O'Neill, two l's, this is Doctor Nicholas Rush," he gestured to his skinny companion. "May we come in?"
You ask the next logical question. "Why?" Both men looked uncomfortable speaking on the porch but continued.
Rush began the explanation. "You've spent a great deal of time recently playing an online fantasy game called "Prometheus"."
You scoff nervously. "And "Big Brother"'s got nothing better to do?" The General is not amused one bit.
"Last night, you solved the Dakara weapons puzzle." Rush sounded both amused and impressed.
"Yeah, a month of my life went into that. Huh. You know what happens when you solve that thing? Nothing," you complain.
The General's eyebrows shot up as did a sarcastic tone. "We're here! That happened."
Rush smirked. "To complete that particular puzzle, you have to solve a millennia old mathematical proof written in another language. For that, you've won something of a prize."
Your opportunity-o-meter blares and flashes red alter klaxons. "Oh, well whatever it is, I'll take the cash equivalent."
O'Neill shook his head. "There isn't one." Rush hands you a clipboard with a pen and a very official looking document attached to it.
"It's a non-disclosure agreement."
The puzzle pieces clicked and you're incredulous. "Non-disclos… So you guys really embedded a top-secret problem into a game? Hoping someone like…me would solve it?"
O'Neill smiled mildly. "Yep."
Your paranoia begins to flare, "What do you need me for now?"
Rush began to grin knowingly. "I assure you, it'll be worth your while to sign that."
You want to see how far they would go. "And if I don't?"
The General replied with a deadpan delivery that makes you think he would be a good comedian. "We'll beam you up to our spaceship."
That cracks you up and you laugh but you quickly see that both men in front of you don't. "Right. Uh…I-I think I want my…lawyer to look it over first?"
"And by "lawyer", I assume you mean, "mother"," O'Neill retorts wryly.
You begin to close the door, "So we'll just agree then, that…I will call you." You shut the door in their faces and head up the stairs whilst glancing at the NDA. It was clearly an official government document…even had an authentication strip all along its side…
What happens next you can't even begin to describe, yet you try anyway; the world is suddenly awash with bright white light, gravity is gone, you can't actually feel anything, then just as quickly it's over…sight returns to your eyes, the world resolves around you back into focus and you're not in your home anymore.
You're staring at a sight you've seen only in hi-res photographs. It's a sight fewer than two hundred people have seen like this ever since the dawn of the space age. The Great Lakes region is beautiful, but viewed from this high it was spectacular and your mind is struggling to come to terms with what just happened and a million other questions occur to you.
"What the…?" you finally gasp as you survey your new location…a large dark grey room, with high tech consoles on the walls and a curving desk console. Rush was there too and walking casually forward to stand next to you.
"Welcome aboard the Hammond, Eli. Yes, that is planet Earth, and yes, you are on a spaceship. We need your help, Eli. To be honest, I don't know how long it's going to take."
You reach in your pocket for your cellphone. Your mind is struggling to grasp onto anything familiar. "I should call my mom, uh…to-to tell her where I am?"
"That's…probably not going to work up here."
You try to play it cool and not show fear, but fail miserably. With the steely determination that you tackle math problems with you get a handle on your faculties, realizing that the dinky little cellphone had no way to would pick up a signal in orbit. "Ri-Right…Right."
"You can speak to her on the way. There's a cover story you'll have to follow."
"I-I'm sorry. On the way to…?"
"To another planet. Twenty-one light years from here."
You balk at this, whilst the selfish part of you wants to jump with both feet into this new amazing pool you've been presented. The former wins. "I can't go. I-I…I have things that…"
Dr Rush was prepared for this tack. "We know about your mother's condition."
You state matter-of-factly. "You just know everything, don't you?"
"We also know that you are currently unemployed and that your mother's medical coverage is…an ongoing issue. We'll see she has the best available care while you're gone."
You chuckle. "And if I don't sign? What? You're gonna…erase my memory?"
Rush shrugs nonchalantly. "Something like that."
You begin to visibly consider that; the fact that you're not weightless on this spaceship 'Hammond' dawns on you. Artifical gravity without rotating sections
…Rush had mentioned travelling twenty one light years as if he was taking a stroll…viable FTL? You realize that if these 'impossibilities' are possible then really erasing a few neurons in your brain would be piddlesticks in comparison.
You nod and visibly accede. "Can I get some…decent clothes? I…"
The flash was almost blinding. For an instant, the room seemed filled by light. You blink to overcome the disorientation and your eyesight. When it does you wish you had remained blinded. Dr Rush was also flailing about, seemingly totally surprised as well by what just happened. An alarm wail begins to sound throughout the room.
"What the hell is happening?!" you scream above the noise.
Dr Rush doesn't answer as he stumbles towards the large console desk and begins to tap on the controls and buttons frantically. You turn back to the massive window to space and see the Earth was still there.
"My God!" You whirl back to see Dr Rush gazing at the console like he had seen a ghost. He looks to you in a near daze. "I've got to get to the Bridge…stay here Eli, don't leave this room until someone comes for you! Understand?"
"Yeah! Uh! What's going on?!" you ask again.
"I don't have time to explain, come to this station and read, with your intelligence you'll get your own answers, I'm sure." Rush jumped towards a door to one side of the room which groaned open automatically and closed behind him.
You stand there amidst the wailing of the alarm. "What the fuck?"
It is hours later and you find yourself totally immersed in the BC304 Hammond's computer systems, using Dr Rush' authorization to trawl through the on board database. You realize you would need days to even begin to satisfy your curiosity on every subject you can think of, and more than a lifetime to even begin mastery of some of the knowledge that was on this ship.
You begin to learn about the ship itself. An exterior image shot and schematic makes you scoff at the visual design. "Damn military functionality. I could so design a better looking one," you mutter to yourself. It was four hundred and fifty meters in length, ninety meters wide, and seventy five in height. "Not exactly big…Victory Class Star Destroyer is bigger, and they're the lightweights of the Imperial Fleet."
The Hammond could also push itself to an impressive seventy five thousand kilometres per second with a gravitic ion engine. You boggle at that for a moment before learning how it deals with accelerating at such speeds without its crew turning to jello. The 'Inertial Dampeners' you find are a staple of sci-fi, how it became sci-fact was pure genius; the ship generated a graviton field that essentially cancelled out its mass relative to the rest of the universe, neatly sidestepping Einstein's speed limit and Inertia. In fact, the ship could go to half the speed of light if it wanted to, but safety interlocks prevented it due to Time Dilation effects.
Now you look for the FTL Drive that the ship simply had to have and aren't disappointed. "Oh yeah, Hyperdrive," the schematics and math behind it you find are Base 8, and damn, now you need a headache tablet. And it was no wonder that Rush considered the twenty one light year distance a walk in the park, it was more like a walk to into your backyard. The Hammond could attain a peak FTL velocity of one point nine two nine light years per second! It could cross the diameter of the damn Galaxy in fourteen hours and even occasionally made Intergalactic trips!
You move away from that, promising yourself to get back to studying the schematics later, now you're intent on the power source the ship is using. You find an actual working Fusion Reactor, with an output that defies what you thought possible for such constructs. The reason was that the thing wasn't being only fed deuterium but a combination of two new heavy elements entirely; a stable allotrope liquid form of an extraterrestrial metal called 'Naquadah' and an artificial element known as HU-2340 or Maclarium. That the ship database indicated that there were efforts underway to make this power source obsolete 'due to the long term strategic outlook' of the Galaxy boggled your mind.
"Weapons, weapons, weapons," you mutter as you browse. You're satisfied and disappointed by what you find. The Multiphasic Plasma Beam weapons were excellent but the Rail Guns velocity was still only hypersonic. There were no particle beam weapons or even lasers and its bigger cousin, grasers. You plan to take up this up with Rush or whoever was a scientist on this ship at your first opportunity. The sixteen VLS tubes for Mark 8 and 9 nukes are also standard fare, until you find the yield info. The Mark 9 could devastate a hundred miles of planetary surface as part of its core explosion alone, with the residual effects impacting an entire planet with enough time. Again it seemed Naquadah was the key ingredient here. The nukes were of limited utility against other ships it seemed, due to shields…actual honest to God, shields!
Here you are not disappointed…these shields made the ones depicted on Star Trek seem like wet paper bags. That they can shrug off damage from a 'fleet of Goa'uld motherships' was amazing. You also find another notation which showed how another ship of the same class used an 'actual' zero-point energy device plugged into the Shields to resist and deflect the coronal mass emission of a damn star!
Your mind grinds to a halt. "Goa'uld?" You follow the database links and find that, yes there is intelligent life out there, and they're icky parasites with godhood delusions that like the human body as a place to live. So much so that they conquered the planet at around 8000BC and divided it amongst themselves for 'breeding stock' and transplanted humans throughout the Galaxy! Thankfully, Earth rebelled successfully around 3000BC and kicked the snakes off the planet through a…
Stargate! You're not sure how much more revelation you can take. "That stupid Wormhole Xtreme show is based on reality…oh c'mon!"
You bury your indignation and continue to browse through the interspecies listing, finding it rather bare. The Jaffa was nothing more than humans turned into incubators for the Goa'uld. There were the Roswell Greys or Asgard, but they had apparently killed themselves off due to 'genetic cloning' problems and left their entire tech base to Earth. Which explained to you a great deal of how Earth was actually capable of all this.
The Nox were also very human looking, and a bunch of magical space hippies who were content to remain pacifist and hidden on their one planet. The Furlings, not much was known about. The Ancients or Alterans were, "What the fuck? The first evolution of humanity?" You spend nearly forty minutes reading everything before you're satisfied and move on. The Gadmeer were a sulphur-based species…now that was more like it. The Zerakans and Unas also fit the alien bill nicely too.
Your growling stomach makes you realize that it's been a while since you had breakfast. A glance at the digital clock mounted on the wall tells you it's already past midday according to Central American Time. You go back to the computer looking for the secondary systems the ship has, surely if it had a matter-energy transporter, then Food replicators was a logical offshoot of that.
It seemed the ship could use it's transporters as a molecular constructor to make energy into whatever matter was needed. It was a power hog to do that though, and so the ship still had traditional consumable supplies that it stored in cargo bays. You're mindful of Dr Rush' instruction to stay in the 'Auxiliary Control Room/Observation Deck' you were beamed into. So if Mohammed can't get to the mountain, the mountain had to get to Mohammed. It's the work of half-an-hour to figure out the beaming system controls and the internal sensors…and presto, with a flash of twisting white light a few boxes of MREs appeared. It was military food, but your hunger was good incentive to ignore the blandness of the protein bars and dense biscuits.
An amused female voice intruded on his eating bliss while staring at the console screen. "You realize you could've just used the com system to ask for help if you were hungry." You turn to regard an attractive middle-aged woman in an olive jumpsuit with tied back blonde hair. Your eyes pick up the various patches on the jumpsuit; on the front was a single general's star with two lightning bolts hitting it, and the name 'USS Hammond'. Another patch tells you 'Samantha Carter, Colonel, USAF'
You realize you're probably speaking to the CO of this ship, and hurriedly swallow the bite you just took.
"Uh, yeah, haven't got around to looking at that system yet," you reply and hurriedly grab the nearly forgotten clipboard and sign on the dotted line of the NDA and present it with a flourish to the Colonel.
Her mouth quirked with a smile as she accepted the clipboard. "Yes, well, it might be unnecessary given what's happened."
"Hiding the fact that a perfect sphere of space five hundred thousand kilometres in radius centred on Earth as a focal has been ISOTed into another Universe, the resultant light show, and the sudden change in star patterns, not to mention that the other planets in the Solar System aren't where they're supposed to be…I'm sure all the astronomers on Earth just had a collective heart attack, it's probably all over the news by now," you agree mildly.
She frowns briefly but her smile remains. "Isoted?"
"Island on a sea of time."
"Ah," she agrees with a nod of understanding.
"So have you figured out yet by how many years?"
"We haven't actually travelled that far, a mere ten years into our relative future. However, we've definitely left our original universe; we can't make Stargate connections anywhere in the Galaxy. The Gate system was seemingly never built here."
"Pity, I would've liked to go through one," you muse. "So any ideas on how this happened?"
The Colonel shook her head. "We know inter-universal travel is possible but never on this scale. The phenomena was barely detectable before it hit us. The best I and a whole lot of other smart people can describe it, is as a 'shard of space-time flux' that intersected with us."
"I realize my understanding of physics is outdated," you temporize, "but there's no way that's natural."
"Yes," the Colonel agrees. "There's a theory that it was an attack to get rid of Earth from our Universe…we've made quite a few enemies out there over the years. None of them were even remotely capable of this though. It borders on celestial engineering that only the Ancients were capable of."
You nod in agreement. "So, pardon my selfishness in the circumstances, what happens to me now?"
"We've recruited civilian specialists into the Stargate Program before, and while you have no formal qualifications, your demonstrated intellect is clearly what we look for. The Hammond has to break orbit to investigate strange power signatures detected on Mars and Charon, and you can't come with us. We'll be beaming you down to a place where you can settle in and evaluate your options." She reaches and unzips an arm pocket of her jumpsuit and hands you a medical vial of some purple green substance.
"Think of it as our way of alleviating your burden and ensuring that you come to work for us."
"You still haven't answered me," you don't like being manipulated like this.
"It's the first true anti-viral; it'll stop your mother's HIV in its tracks." You stare at the little vial as if it just morphed itself into the Holy Grail. You figuratively kick yourself that you didn't think of any comparable advances in medicine that was out there, considering that Earth had access to Ancient and Asgard tech. "Ready, Mr Wallace?"
You nod faintly, clutching the vial. She taps on a small earpiece in her right ear. "Bridge this is Carter, beam Mr Wallace to the co-ordinates."
As the flash and whiteness of the transporter overtakes your senses you belatedly realize that you should have gotten some damn proper pants before they sent you.
When your eyesight clears you are in an expansive hall-like room, copper toned walls and geometrically inspired design is everywhere. Shining sunlight filters through stained glass windows giving the whole place a magnificent ambience. You also note that the Alteran writing you learned to solve the Dakara weapon puzzle is everywhere, especially on the steps of the expansive staircase that is not twenty feet in front you. It leads to an upper level to either side with balconies that overlook your level. To the right were a series of consoles where people in grey uniforms with various primary colours on their shoulders were working, while on the left it seemed to lead off somewhere else.
You become uncomfortably aware that you're the focus of the attention of almost everyone in the hall. The people here were a mix of clear military, and grey uniformed people and civilians. One of the latter approaches you, a rather stunning young woman in a formal suit that flattered in all the right places.
She smiles at you in a friendly fashion, but is also bemused due to your state of dress.
"Eli Wallace, welcome to Atlantis." She extends her hand for you to shake, which you do carefully, but your mind is elsewhere as you whirl your head around.
"This…this is the Atlantis…the City Ship of the Ancients?"
"Yes it is; my name is Chloe Armstrong." You finally spot the larger than life form of the Stargate itself behind you; noting the Blue crystal chevrons and the stellar constellations on them.
"Yeah, er, hi, pleased to meet you," you answer distractedly.
"You'll probably want this."
"Huh?" You turn to face her and she has an unmarked olive jumpsuit in her hands.
"I figured you'll want the tour first before we get to the boring details like clothes and your quarters."
You nod and take the jumpsuit from her before stepping into it…everyone around you has gone back to their duties. It was a bit of an awkward fit over your PJs and sandals, but you manage to zip it up.
Chloe leads you up the large staircase and towards the large yellow stained glass windows, where a door opened up out to a balcony with the most breathtaking view you have ever seen.
You are in the top of a central tower, overlooking a city the size of Manhattan with such architectural beauty that it knocks the breath from your lungs. Despite the organic lines of some of the buildings, it was clear that this was all high tech materials and structures at work, light years beyond anything that was currently built on Earth. You look out over what Chloe calls the Eastern Pier, and onto an ocean and beyond that is something that makes you gape at both it and her.
"We're just outside San Fransisco Bay? Oh…of course, it's Cloaked isn't it?"
"Yes, the Navy is enforcing a no-go zone for all ship traffic. It's a bit of a mess but hopefully, with Disclosure potentially on the agenda now, we can soon decloak to alleviate the drain on power."
You lean forward on the balcony railing to drink in the sight, but then sigh deeply. "How on earth do you disclose this to the world?"
Chloe shook her head. "It won't be easy, not by a long shot. Thankfully, it seems we can at least assure people now that the planet is safe from all the enemies we had. No more Goa'uld remnant, no Lucian Alliance, and no Wraith, except for the one in a brig in Area 51. In fact we might not even need to mention them at all, only disclose the fact that we're a star-faring people now. We're in a fresh universe, and all the old enemies are no longer relevant."
You nod in agreement. "However, it makes you wonder what new ETs are out there? Will they be friend or foe?"
"Only time will tell. I've a feeling though, from what my father tells me, that the IOA is going to take this opportunity to focus on the homefront and not kick over any potential hornet's nests in this new universe, like we did in the past. Then begin a measured rollout of technology that will hopefully end scarcity completely."
You consider the possibilities of that. Deuterium based Fusion Power, cheap access to space, and asteroid mining alone had the potential to achieve that goal. Asgard tech from you had seen, had various means of terraforming…do that to Mars and you had a control valve to solve overpopulation on Earth. Colonies on the Moon and Jovian moons was also quite feasible…then extra-solar colonies on any nearby stars with habitable worlds on them, or worlds that could be terraformed efficiently.
"By the way, just how many countries are in the IOA?"
"Twenty four," Chloe answered. "All the big boys; Russia, China, Great Britain, France, and the United States. The others are major players on their respective continents. Soon I hope we'll have every nation on board, but that's being very optimistic." She gestured back into the Tower. "Shall we? There's a lot more to see."
"Sure," you hurriedly follow her and begin a tour that you will assuredly never forget. It was like something out of a dream, and repeatedly pinch yourself along the way to make sure you're not in one.