I know it has been a long time. I appreciate your private messages and words of encouragement and I am still humbled that you remain interested. I think I have broken thorough my writer's block because I know how I want this to end, just need to get there! I did start next chapter but I have to be honest and let you know that I am putting my house up for sale and moving so it's going to be hard to get in the kind of uninterrupted time. But getting this chapter done was such a relief! Thank you again for continuing to hang in there with me. Your PMs have meant a lot. Thanks to Highonscifi for the beta!
Chapter 11- Choices
Sheppard looked bored, but Teyla knew his countenance was well-practiced to hide his worry, annoyance, anger and even fear. He sat on the throne and his crown was glowing. He had held court all day and the last item on the docket was LaPierre. Sarik was standing next to him and whispered something in his ear. Teyla saw him shift his weight as he nodded. He was no longer bored, afraid or even annoyed. She saw his muscles twitch along his jaw and she knew he was angry.
LaPierre's feet and hands were shackled. He shuffled along toward the throne with a look of hatred at Sheppard. She did not need to read minds to see the former IOA member's disrespect for Sheppard. He stood arrogantly in front of the throne with his chin up. Sheppard eyed him curiously—no doubt reading his mind.
LaPierre suddenly fell to his knees and bowed with his head to the ground. Sheppard turned and looked to Etienne who seemed to shrug slightly. Sheppard shook his head, then stood and walked down toward LaPierre.
"Get up," he said firmly but with no malice.
LaPierre struggled to comply but his shackled limbs made it impossible. Sheppard bent down and helped him. LaPierre rose and quickly shook him off. "Don't touch me!" he hissed at the king.
Sheppard smiled again. "Still an asshole," Sheppard said pleasantly. "I am here to offer you a proposition—or rather some choices. The death of Elizabeth requires some justice. How I exact that depends on you." He was in full control and he was going to take a more pleasant approach than what had been shown him by LaPierre and his henchmen. He could get whatever information he needed whenever he needed it but he would offer LaPierre a choice. He did not take his eyes off of the Frenchman as he settled back on his throne.
"I can take the information from you. You saw what my knight did. Getting into your mind is easy…but it seems unethical and we try to reserve that for people I really hate." Of course, that wasn't true. Sheppard almost died as a result of not wanting to take over anyone's mind. "You're on that list," he continued, "and I am sure I would find your mind…unpleasant." He suddenly looked sad. "Elizabeth wouldn't want me to do that, of course, even with you; and Lady Teyla might not like me to do that either."
LaPierre started to look smug again thinking Sheppard had weakened from what he had seen back at the warehouse. Then the softness faded from Sheppard and his eyes burned the way they had before. "But I am the king. The law says I can put you to death for what you have done to our friends and what you have tried to do to our worlds and to the people of this galaxy."
LaPierre scoffed. "I am sorry for Dr. Weir but you have no authority over me."
Miraculously Sheppard remained nonplussed. "Actually I can do whatever I want. No one will come to take you back to Earth. I wish you had learned that a long time ago. I do think you are sorry for Elizabeth's death, but you are also a coward who used her and let her die so that you could try to get away."
LaPierre opened his mouth but Sheppard raised his hand. "You will tell my knight everything that you know about the vice president, the IOAs plans, and how you got to this miserable condition. You were used. There might be an opportunity for you to redeem yourself and actually help us save this galaxy and Earth."
LaPierre's expression remained haughty. "And if I don't?"
Sheppard looked down at his ring for a moment then locked eyes with LaPierre. "I will first knock that smug look off of your face then have you executed." Sheppard looked at Etienne who quickly led a silent LaPierre away. Sauriko stood in front of the throne and ordered the court dismissed.
Sheppard stood and walked toward the side throne chamber where Samsus was waiting for him. He sat in the chair in the center of the room. He had gotten used to the process of putting on this or that for whatever ceremony, court duty and anything else that required formality. His usual valet laid out the daily attire and simple robes in his chambers. It had annoyed him when he dressed in his room by one valet only to walk to the throne chamber to be then redressed for kingly duties usually by Samsus. His complaints went unheard so he stopped complaining and complied. He learned it really was not that much more trouble and it was a battle he did not need to win. In silence Samsus removed the robe the king wore for holding court. Its intricate golden pattern along the edges hid the ancient words of the king's oath. On the back the symbol of the Pegasi and the planets was placed at the lower end at the middle so it could be seen when the king walked in procession. Samsus then placed a simple and lighter cloak the king wore when he was "on the clock" as Sheppard would say. It gave him an air of authority but also provided a simple cover if he chose to go out on an excursion on Zorthos as he often did at the end of a day. Samsus continued to say nothing and let the king have his space as he put the crown away. Encounters with LaPierre had often left Sheppard uneasy and agitated, but he was unusually quiet today. Samsus was about to place the smaller crown on the king when Sheppard extended his arm and stopped Samsus from putting it on his head. Samsus held the smaller crown next to him for a second as Sheppard's hand rested on his arm. "Your Majesty," Samsus finally said softly after a few seconds.
Sheppard blinked as he turned toward the older man. "Oh," he said self-consciously as he removed his arm, "Sorry. It's just that…" his voice cracked and he hung his head down and looked toward the floor. Samsus saw the king's shoulders shake and for a moment, when the king had let his mental guard down, a rush of fear and doubt flooded in. Samsus held his breath as he mentally heard the king tell himself I am not a king! I am not a king! I can't… Samsus did not know the rest of the king's thoughts because the shield was back up. Slowly Samsus let out his breath but said nothing. Sheppard sighed and turned to Samsus with a nod. The king's eyes were moist but he gave no indication of anything. "Sorry, it's just that I have a headache."
"We can cancel the rest of your calendar for today."
Sheppard smiled. "No, it would just all be waiting for another day. We start our operations at the end of the week. We have a lot to do."
Samsus said nothing has he placed the crown on Sheppard's head. "A king needs to rest,"
he offered trying to open the door for Sheppard to confide in him.
Sheppard stood slightly bent over his chair as if he needed it for support. "A king must do what is right not what he wants. I would love to kill LaPierre with my own hands. I would love to hide our worlds from the Wraith and keep anyone I care for from being harmed. Yet I can do none of those things." He smiled slightly toward Samsus then turned to walk out toward his throne room and on to his next meeting near his chambers. Samsus watched as Sheppard pulled back his shoulders and lifted his head and walked confidently out the door.
But the king's pain lingered. It had been raw and powerful, so much so that it had poured over the king's defenses. Why was there self-doubt? Perhaps it was just a brief moment of fatigue. Samsus locked the glass cabinet with a swipe of his hand. He took a moment and looked around the room that held the accoutrements of being a king. The golden robe and scepter shone through the glass cabinet as did the heavy crown. Next to it hung the black robe the king had just worn. This planet was his home and each planet had a smaller dressing room with the robe he would wear at that planet. This room had two full walls of robes, scepters, crowns, and rings. Early when Sheppard used to complain about his attire, he would say this was too many clothes for any man, even a king. He had also said four planets was too much for one king. Perhaps Sheppard had finally realized what Samsus and his brother had known all along. Sheppard was a king for the Pegasus galaxy.
Samsus dimmed the lights and left the throne room dressing chamber. Sheppard had no choice now but to move forward whatever the cost.
"Scout ships have noticed movement toward our worlds," Sheppard said quietly as he pointed toward the wall. He was standing on a small dais and was interacting with the Ancient technology in the "war room" as he called it. O'Neill could see the Armentarian worlds very small in the corner and several hive ships throughout the area Sheppard projected.
"They don't really know where we are but they are looking. I have dispatched strike teams to eliminate hives in the other direction and some close to us so as not to give us away completely."
"Has the Wraith Queen tried to connect?" Lorne asked.
Sheppard shrugged. "I can sense her, but she cannot sense me. She and her hive are here." Sheppard said highlighting a small cluster of hive ships. They were in the center of the galaxy.
"What's the plan then?" Ronon asked. They were ready for this fight and he was ready to finally be rid of the Wraith.
"Well, we will eliminate all these outlying clusters looking for us. Our technology has exceeded theirs since they haven't advanced for all these years. We have been able to eliminate the largest hives with few casualties and with no loss of ships. Once we knock out all these hives here and here we will wait to see what her next move is. I will eliminate as many as I can without her detecting me but once I do she will know exactly where to zero in and will send all her forces except for the elite corps closest to her. All of our worlds are prepared for her onslaught and we have the lead team for each. She'll try to block our ability to communicate but won't be able to."
Ronon leaned in closer and asked the question everyone wanted to know the answer to. "How do you know all this."
Sheppard disengaged the technology. "Evander encoded his experience with her in the past in the original stone and I have been reviewing every battle and every engagement back then and until now and her tactics are unchanged. She may have started a war, but she does not know how to develop a strategy without the massive numbers she was used to in the past. She didn't realize the amount of damage we have inflicted slowly over the past year to the Wraith, including the breeding grounds, so she knows this is it."
O'Neill looked at Lorne and raised his eyebrow, impressed. "Where will you be?" O'Neill asked before they left.
Sheppard gave away no indication of what he felt. "Right here waiting for her. I need her to eliminate the rest of the remaining Wraith." I will make sure that we have eliminated most of her other hives except her main ship. She will be out for revenge and we will be waiting. Then with her help, we will finish the rest. It was a gamble to lure her here to his worlds, but this is where she would be outnumbered and he had the advantage. It was a risk he would have to take.
She watched how her hives had randomly disappeared. She had sent out the weakest to scout the galaxy for any pattern or hint of where Evander's heir could be. Gareth was of little use now. He had failed to eliminate the upstart earthling who now threatened everything she had built over the thousands of years; and, though he had warned her, it was not in time to prevent what was happening now. She had not thought it even possible and yet she knew he was here…somewhere…killing all of her children. His unconventional approach had caught her unawares as she thought rival hives were simply battling for a place in the hierarchy but then she noticed that there were no winners. Battles had increasingly left no winners and hives began to disappear out of nowhere. She gathered her strongest seven hives around her when she realized what was happening. She thought maybe she would escape but he seemed to be everywhere and know her every move. He would be waiting for her and whoever survived would have dominion over the galaxy. It irked her to think a human could do this but Evander was wise and she knew of the stones though she could never find them or his original worlds. Soon it would all be over and she was ready. She was tired of hide and seek.
He turned in his bed. He had dreamt of losing Elizabeth again. It had been a few months but encounters with LaPierre brought it all back over and over again. Against his better judgment the coward was still alive and he couldn't explain why.
"John?" He turned once more. She was still in his dreams and he wanted to say to her he was sorry but he could never get close enough to her to do it. "John," his eyes shot open. That was no dream. He looked around his room and sat up in bed when he saw the shadowy figure in the chair. He blinked twice and slowed his heart rate so that he could focus better. Finally he saw her. "Elizabeth!" he whispered. "What?…is that you?…but how?"
She came closer and sat next to him in bed and reached out her hand toward his cheek. He shied away at first but relaxed when her hand made contact with his cheek. She was warm against his skin.
His eyes glistened as he stated intently at her. He thought when he saw her after she had first died that he had hallucinated. He had hoped that she somehow was still alive but he had not seen her again and his dreams continued. "John," she said smiling, "I tried to let you know I was okay, but maybe it was too soon."
He kept staring at her with disbelief. He had not hallucinated. She was holding his hand and he gripped it tightly for a moment. "They let me come back to show you I am okay."
"You ascended." He said matter-of-factly.
"Yes. Evander showed me how and helped me complete it."
He sighed. "Why did they let you come back? The Ancients aren't really concerned about us here."
"They realize that even though they can't get involved very much more and besides what Evander has done, you should at least have a clear head, and many do care. They know their arrogance created this mess. Forget LaPierre and everything else. I really am okay. I am happy. There is so much I know now and can explore. It's amazing. You have to forgive yourself…you know there was absolutely nothing you could do…nothing."
She was standing now and she pulled him up to stand next to her. "John, free your mind because you are going to need every inch of it."
She turned around but he grabbed her by the arm and she turned back. He opened his mouth to say something but instead embraced her.
She wrapped her arms around him and put her head on his chest. "You are here for a reason so don't worry about me. Go and get the job done." She squeezed him again then walked away and finally was out of his sight.
He closed his eyes for a moment then mentally called for the Guard outside his door. He turned as it opened with barely a sound. The guard bowed deeply. "Yes Your Majesty how can I assist you?"
"Bring me the Pirate."
The Guard bowed again. "Immediately Your Majesty." He knew exactly who the Pirate was and how to get him.
LaPierre opened his eyes quickly when his cell opened. He had been half expecting it now for several days. He could hear the guards down the hall taking wagers on how quickly he would die. He had come to terms with it and admitted he probably deserved it, but each time his cell opened, he feared the outcome.
Two tall burly men walked in and stood in front of him. A shorter stocky man stepped out from behind them and looked over LaPierre with disgust. The Pirate looked up at the two men and nodded and before the Frenchman knew it, a hood was placed over his head and his hands were tied. He said nothing as they dragged him along. He was lifted and thrown into a cart. He had a second to acknowledge pain where he hit his head before falling unconscious.
He woke up to the sound of water…and the smell of grass and flowers. It smelled, he suddenly realized, like his home in France. He sat up slowly and looked around. A small white house was not too far from the creek.
"This is your new community Frenchman."
LaPierre turned his head and quickly got up though slightly unsteady. "What…what do you mean?"
Pirate looked around and waved his hand toward the village. "This is your community—your new home—and you can choose to interact with the people here or remain a recluse. This particular village is where I make my home. His Majesty calls me Pirate and you may do the same. That is how I am known here. The Guardian Sarik watches over this planet for the king."
"I still do not understand," LaPierre stammered. He looked past Pirate and towards the bay just over the hill. So much like France.
"You have been banished to this world to live out the rest of your days in a manner that you wish. His Majesty only left one condition. If you harm another person again you will be buried on this planet. I assume you have skills…plenty of work to be found when you are ready. Just go to the center of town. That is your house and it is stocked enough for nearly a month. After that you will have to figure it out for yourself. Don't think you are anything special. It is tradition for the community to gift a house. We build for each other." Pirate looked at the shocked man, curious for a moment, then turned to leave.
"Why…why did he do this?" La Pierre saw the stocky man stop and his shoulders slumped slightly. "He has forgiven you and he said 'It's what Elizabeth would have done.'" Pirate knew the king's generosity himself. "I'll check in on you," he said as he left.
LaPierre watched him go then walked toward his house. He turned to look back over the small garden again and used the frame of the door to steady himself as he began to cry.
Sheppard looked at Beckett. "Are you sure this is it?"
Beckett nodded. "Aye. I am sure."
Sheppard nodded. "Are you ready for a road trip?"
Beckett visibly swallowed but nodded his head. "I suppose. Are you sure Todd can be trusted?"
Sheppard shrugged. "As sure as I can be. But he is about survival and wants an end to this as much as we do. Lorne has set up a meet and greet. Don't worry Tristan and Etienne will be along."
"It has been a very long time Sheppard. You look different somehow." Todd eyed him closely from across the table.
"Oh yeah?" Sheppard drawled, "Well you look different as well."
Todd continued to study him and smelled deeply as he turned his head side to side. For a second his eyes widened then quickly narrowed. There was something very different about his "friend." "I have heard rumors about a chosen one…an heir to an Ancient from long ago."
Sheppard smiled and shrugged his shoulders. "I have heard the same."
Todd sat back. "Many hives have been disappearing." The Wraith casually examined the two dark clad men behind Sheppard. They had a superior air about them. The tall one looked at Todd fiercely.
"Heard that too." Todd realized he would not get much from Sheppard at least not now.
"Why have you wanted to meet with me Sheppard?"
Sheppard took a moment to scan the room while looking at Todd. He had learned to scan their minds without them knowing. Todd was curious and he trusted Sheppard. The others were suspicious but trusted Todd and in some way trusted Sheppard.
"We have found a permanent retrovirus and I am offering it to any Wraith who wants it."
Todd growled and bared his teeth in annoyance. "This is why you called me here Sheppard? To make me human!"
Sheppard stared at Todd nonplussed. Dismiss your minions and we can talk, he thought to Todd. The Wraith's eyes widened. He noticed Sheppard's people leave the room. Todd turned to his attendants and hissed as he shook his head toward the door. "Leave us!"
They obeyed and once the doors were shut Todd leaned in toward Sheppard. "What is this Sheppard. You can speak to me with your mind alone? I believed that was only reserved for our kind."
Sheppard stood and walked over toward Todd and sat closer to him. "Funny you should say that but no not just the Wraith had that skill."
Sheppard was different. He was not tense or nervous as he sometimes was around the Wraith. He had a confidence and a power behind his gaze Todd had not seen before. His eyes narrowed. "You smell like the Ancients as before, yet…" There was something in Sheppard's blood now that was familiar, powerful and dark. He had a quick glimpse of Sheppard defeating the Wraith and wearing a crown.
Sheppard crooked his head, waiting for Todd to put the pieces together. Suddenly Todd stood up knocking his chair back. "You!" he said as he backed away. "Youare the heir that has been spoken of! The legend is true?"
"Sit down Todd. I promise I won't kill you and don't think of trying to send a warning to anyone either because I won't let you."
Todd stood still a moment then chuckled deep in his throat. "Why are you able to read and block our thoughts and speak to us in our minds? Ancients could not do that."
Sheppard shrugged. "Well actually some could. You just didn't meet any of them, but to answer your question…well…you, a bug and some stones helped me do that."
Todd looked confused a moment then nodded. "I do not know about stones but I assume my healing you and an encounter with an iratus along with your genetic make-up facilitated this."
"Yeah, that is close enough. Look, let me sum it up for you. Details can come later. I have a lot of really cool powers that I inherited. I can do a lot more with my mind and my body then you would think possible. Yes, I am the heir that you heard rumors of and I have been picking off hives one by one all leading towards a showdown with that Queen of Queens of yours. I have a strategy but only a few know parts of it. I will kill every single Wraith in this galaxy. Like I said I have a lot more details but they are not important right now."
Todd raised his eyebrows and chuckled again. "Well you certainly provided a great deal of very little detail. I am curious about how you came to be what you are now and how you feel that you can kill the highest Queen. None except her closest have even seen her. But your ability to kill all Wraith is of deep personal concern to me."
Sheppard smiled. "Yeah I thought it might be. Look. All I can tell you is that I have a way to kill all the Wraith in the galaxy."
Todd noticed Sheppard hesitated a moment. The human broke eye contact with him and stood with his back to him a moment. He turned slowly and looked down at the Wraith. "But," Todd prompted.
"But I am not a mass murderer. I am a soldier and I don't mind sneak attacks and full out battles, but…"
Todd stood and walked toward Sheppard. "You do not have to say it. You have a way to destroy the Wraith even if you are outnumbered."
Sheppard nodded. "Some of you enjoy killing and have little regard for life. You have sick son of a bitches just like us. And I also know that you have…nutritional needs because of your biology."
Todd nodded. "So you are offering us a way to change our nutritional needs…permanently."
"Yes. I know it's a hard choice. We would suppress the genetics of the iratus. You would essentially become human."
"What of who we are? We will not remember ourselves." He had heard of these experiments.
If Todd became one of them he would have to put him on his intelligence crew. Somehow the Wraith had heard about everything. The galaxy wasn't that small. "I can't promise you will remember. Actually, I can promise you that you will remember. I can do that for you and a few of yours specifically, but for the others, we have minimized the memory effects from earlier versions."
"You are asking me to no longer be Wraith!" Todd growled.
"You can still be you Todd. The truth is the Wraith won't be around much longer."
Todd sat down. "Why are you doing this…other than the obvious I mean?"
Sheppard sat next to him again. "You and I…well we have…we share…something. We have come to trust each other in a way. You helped me see that not all Wraith are the same, and that we want the same thing…to live in peace if possible."
"You like me," Todd said jokingly.
Sheppard shrugged. "I think you are the only Wraith I can honestly say that I like and trust. Look. I don't want to kill those I don't have to. My scientists led by Dr. Beckett have worked very hard to get this right."
"I have no choice do I?" Todd said.
Sheppard looked at him apologetically. "You do. You can choose to live as a human or die as a Wraith."
Todd turned toward the door. "I never underestimated you Sheppard, not after our time together, yet this has surpassed my expectations."
"Yeah I know. I tend to do that. Look. I want you as part of my team. You can keep your hair long and wear the same clothes if you like."
Todd smirked. He knew Sheppard was trying to lighten the mood…it was his way of showing he understood the difficult choice. He also knew that Sheppard was not bluffing.
"I will speak to my crew Sheppard. I assume you have a plan?"
"We have medical personnel standing by who will be entrusted to your care. We have chosen the location where those accepting the terms will rendezvous with you and will be given the treatment. They will remain there until it's over and they can be relocated to sustainable planets."
"And me and my crew?"
"You, my friend, and your most trusted can join me and my team as soon as it is feasible. I would like you to train the transition team there to prepare the former Wraith. This world is hidden and the gate for now goes only one direction. I have a lot to show you and I need partners to help pave the future. You can be the first to take the leap."
Todd stared at Sheppard a moment. "You have indeed changed."
The human looked at him with a wink. "If only you knew how much. Give me a holler when you figure out what you want. We will be waiting nearby. I know I don't have to say it but I will. Don't try sending out a message. I chose this location for a reason."
Todd nodded then left through the door. He had figured as much.
Sheppard joined his team in the adjoining room. He smiled at Beckett. "I think we will be adding to the Pegasus human population."
"You think he will do it?" the doctor asked.
"Oh yeah. He knows it's the only way to survive. Besides he knows there is more to this story and he is curious."
"Are you sure he can be trusted Your Majesty?" Etienne asked with nod toward the door and Todd's direction.
"I trust him enough as a Wraith, and I will trust him more as a human. Besides he gave me my life back and in part made me what I am now. I at least owe him a chance to live."
That ended the discussion. "I hope he doesn't take long," Sheppard finally said after they sat in silence for several minutes, "I'm starving."
Tristan rolled his eyes his and chuckled inwardly. He sensed the Wraith approaching and stood protectively next to Sheppard.
The doors opened. Todd looked down at Sheppard who remained seated surrounded by his bodyguard. That was curious, Todd thought. He had not thought of that before. Sheppard's regular team was not here but rather some well armored warriors who were not from Atlantis.
"My crew and I have decided to take the retrovirus. We believe it would be best to wait until we have gathered the others. We must face them as Wraith."
Sheppard stood. "We will send you the rendezvous coordinates. I know I don't have to tell you to be discrete. The world is hidden but the rendezvous, though isolated, is not. We will give you two weeks to get the first group then we can figure it out after that; but we have no more than six weeks to get it all done."
"I understand Sheppard," Todd said quietly. When I go through the transformation, I would like you to be there.
Sheppard smiled. I will bring you to my place, I promise.
"We will stand by for your coordinates and see your team in one week. Until then."
"Until then," Sheppard answered then turned and left with his entourage behind him.
Todd turned to his closest confidants. "We have a lot of work to do, but if we are successful we will have a rightful place in a galaxy at peace."