Hello my dear friends. I do say friends because if you actually opened this up to read after waiting so long then what else can I call you? Only a friend is so patient and forgiving. I honestly don't know why I am having so much trouble getting this done except the reality of RL (I have traveled to 10 places in the last 12 months and three times out of country). It has been hard, but I am amazed that it has taken me this long when the others came so quickly. I don't know if I should pause this until I get it finished so you don't have to keep waiting or maybe I will try shorter chapters. I will finish it because no story should go unfinished, but I will just struggle through. It's also hard now that Stargate Atlantis has been off the air far to long and too soon I might add. I hope this chapter does not disappoint but I had to build a bridge toward the next phase of the story. I have to also tell you that my story is un-betaed. I did not want to put my dear beat highonscifi under any time constraint to post this as soon as possible, so any mistakes are all mine own doing. I have so many other stories in my mind to include Star Wars and X-Men. But I don't want to write/post those until done with this one.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the SGA or other mentioned characters except my own creations. If I owned Sheppard et al., we would still be seeing SGA adventures, but I am grateful for their creation. Don't make any money from this, that is why I have been traveling so much!
Chapter 9-So It Begins
The fisherman watched the king. He had seen the young heir many times. Often Armentarius would stop and talk with him briefly. The fisherman considered it a secret pleasure that the king took every now and then—to sneak away with no guards or entourage to be alone and speak to his people. It was obvious to day that the king was troubled. The fisherman had heard a story that something had happened recently. Preparations were being made for a private funeral. The black beast was very still as the king sat atop of him with his head bowed. The fisherman was transfixed with the utter stillness of the Equinari and the king. Suddenly they turned and began to walk slowly back toward the castle. The fisherman watched them for the longest time. Armentarius kept his hood on and his head bowed until the old man could no longer see them as they walked beyond the hill.
Everyone kept their distance from Sheppard the last few days, and it was quieter in the palace than McKay could remember. He sat next to Ronan and Teyla as they quietly waited for the service to begin. Titus had worked with Samsus to make all the arrangements. McKay thought it odd for one of the Pegasi to do this at first but then realized despite being warriors they all had unique rolls. Titus apparently was the diplomat but also the fixer of the group. He was blond, smaller than most of the other Pegasi but had a commanding presence as well as a calming one. Tristan was obviously the leader with Etienne his second. They had a doc, a weapons expert and maker, even someone who managed their finances on Earth. McKay looked over at the gathering Pegasi in their uniforms. No armor but still all black with unique silver embroidery around the neck and down the side of the pant leg. They did not wear the usual riding boots this time but rather shoes that were shined probably for hours. They spoke quietly amongst themselves and waited near the entrance to the sanctuary until without any warning they immediately organized themselves into two columns with space between them. A door opened quietly and Sheppard strode through followed by Tristan and Etienne.
The ranks closed behind the king and they walked quietly behind him as he made his way to Elizabeth's casket. She was actually cryo-preserved and looked like she was sleeping. Somehow McKay found relief in that. He looked down as he felt warmth around his hand. Teyla smiled at him though her cheeks were stained with tears. He patted her hand gently and smiled back. They had already said their good-byes last night. McKay was not sure if Sheppard would say anything because he had hardly said a word at all since returning back, but Sheppard who had increasingly become eloquent in his speech, did speak. He did not say much but what he said had described Elizabeth perfectly. McKay could see something behind Sheppard's eyes. It was guilt perhaps. McKay had been there…seen everything and heard Sheppard cry out until his voice was nearly hoarse. After Sheppard was done, they each took turns saying something. Teyla had sung a beautiful song. Today was just the blessing and then they would put her body with Sheppard's first teacher Sophistides.
Samsus and the Guardians were dressed in white robes and it was Samsus who had led them in prayers. McKay sat quietly as images of Elizabeth flashed through his head, her smiling, getting angry at him, worrying about all of them like a protective sister. Sheppard moved over to Elizabeth's casket and placed his hand on it and whispered something quietly.
The king then turned to Samsus and nodded slightly. The Guardians moved in as Sheppard stepped back to rejoin the Pegasi who had begun to chant a solemn sounding vesper of sorts. McKay sighed as the tomb was closed and the Guardians silently moved away. When the Pegasi were done, Sheppard walked over to the tomb and placed his hand on it. McKay heard Teyla gasp slightly as a symbol embedded in the stone rose with Elizabeth's name in Ancient text and an intricate symbol glowing blue. Sheppard kept his hand there for a few seconds then took it off. The text and symbol remained illuminated for a few seconds before they started to fade. Sheppard led the procession out, followed by the Guardians. Ronan stood to help Lorne who was sitting very quietly next to the Satedan. Lorne walked slowly with Ronan's help followed by Teyla, McKay, O'Neill and Caldwell then the royal family representatives and a contingent of some personnel from Atlantis.
They processed into one of the ballrooms where a luncheon had been set up.
Teyla entered the ballroom. Sheppard's table was as always elevated above others but otherwise there was no order. The royal family members interspersed with members of the Pegasi and Atlantis representatives. Those at Sheppard's table often remained the same at events like this. Tristan, Etienne, Ronan, herself, at least one of the Guardians, O'Neill and sometimes Caldwell though today the Colonel was with his wife and some personnel from Atlantis. She felt Sheppard calling her quietly in her mind. She turned toward him and smiled as she made her way to her seat next to him. She was upset with their last conversation but they needed each other right now and any problems could be worked out. He looked at her and with a very slight smile, pulled the chair for her as she sat. They ate quietly with only hushed polite conversations going on around them. He needed her presence there, but she knew he would not speak. She wanted to ask him how he was doing…wanted him to ask her how she was doing, but he said nothing as if speaking would break the dam that held back his emotions. He was not ready but she also knew he needed her.
When he was ready, he would speak, if he ever were ready. In the meantime she watched him pick at his food. They had celebrated Elizabeth's life earlier, with funny stories, and memorable events, but Sheppard was in his own world right now and the only one he actually seemed comfortable speaking to was Lorne and O'Neill at least at the moment.
He will be fine my lady, a gentle voice whispered in her mind. She smiled as she turned to Tristan. He blames himself.
He always does.
Most great leaders do, but he will recover and we shall see to it.
Teyla knew this was probably true and she could only wait until that day.
Ronon could not remember the last time they weren't busy doing anything. Now, he had plenty of time to workout with Teyla, the Marines and even some of the Pegasi who were quite formidable. It had been a week and they had not seen very much of Sheppard. McKay was busy with Dr. Daniel Jackson who had returned from Atlantis to attend the funeral and remained to work together on hunting down the legendary Wraith Queen Tristan had mentioned to Sheppard. No one knew when Sheppard would make his move but they could only wait and prepare. Ronan made his way to the training ground to work with the Pegasi. Etienne was leading the training today, so if nothing else, Ronan knew he would be exhausted tonight if not battered and bruised….just how he liked it. His sadness would fuel his anger, which today would make him formidable, even against a living Ancient. He smiled when he saw Teyla waiting to join in the practice. It would be a good workout to be sure.
He had learned to be almost invisible. His palaces communicated with him much the way Atlantis had. Each had their own voice so to speak and even personality. They weren't exactly sentient so to speak but they certainly had character almost like pets. His palace on Arcadia had a mischievous bent if he were to characterize it ,and that is why Sheppard liked it the best.
He watched Ronon and Teyla practicing below. He knew that is how they dealt with things. He should be down there like he use to be, but he just wasn't the same anymore. He had fought for so long against being King Sheppard, almost lost himself when he threw away John Sheppard after his fight with Erebus, and now here he was. He was King Armentarius, but what did that mean now? Maybe he just felt tired, but he knew the truth. It was the same feeling when he lost his mother and his friends. It was grief and he hated that feeling. This time though, he felt impotent. This time he was within reach, and he failed. He looked once more toward his friends then turned and walked toward his chambers feeling even more alone. He smiled weakly at the guard at his door. It seemed unnecessary to have one given his abilities, but tradition was tradition as the Guardians liked to say.
He sat in the library that was off to the side and laid his head back against the soft leather chair. He was tired because he had not slept well since after losing Elizabeth. He watched the sunset then closed his eyes and listened to the water in the distance.
He had not stopped dreaming or rather having nightmares about the night they lost Elizabeth and it was hard for him to talk to anyone. He had eaten lunch on his own and only quiet dinners occasionally with Teyla, Ronon or McKay. Things were still tense with Teyla, but she was supportive of him and frankly he needed her. He wanted to blame Tristan even though he knew it was not the Pegasi's fault…it was his.
"No John. It is not your fault." Sheppard's eyes snapped open and he jumped to his feet. He squinted at the shadow. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest. He should have thought to reach out his mind, to get a sense of who was in front of him or to send out an alarm, but he had forgotten that at the moment as he stared at the familiar silhouette. "You always blame yourself, but it's not you John."
"Wha?" he started to ask, until the shadow moved into the light. His mind raced and this time he could hear his heart pumping. He stepped backwards a few steps as she moved toward him until he felt the edges of the leather chair against his knees. He sunk in the chair slowly as she continued to move toward him. He must be losing his mind or hallucinating, which was possibly the same thing. He looked at her with tears threatening to fall down his cheeks when he felt her warm hand.
"I am here John," she said softly. He looked up at her and the tears did fall, but she was gone. "Elizabeth."
The shadow was gone as well but he could sense her she had been here, but she was not alive. He was not sure how this was possible because her remains had been cryo-preserved.
"Because she is dead and it is your fault," he heard the voice echo in his mind. It was a good thing he did not have to worry about flying status anymore because he would have been DNIF'd by now. He had defeated the darkness and it had not control over him but Erebus could still harass him from time to time. Sheppard stood up and looked out toward the distant ocean again. Erebus was right and he could feel his anger building almost like it had when he wanted to kill LaPierre. Energy coursed in his mind, and he felt it go down to his finger-tips. He needed to do something but there was nowhere for that energy to go, nowhere to unleash his wrath. He closed his eyes and saw the energy swirl within him and let it course through him, then he imagined it shrink and settle in his heart. It would stay there until he accomplished his mission.
It was time for him to take action against the Wraith, but there was a ceremony to be taken care of first.
Lorne stood in front of Sheppard, who was dressed in his black Pegasi armor and was sitting on his throne with the long black robe wrapped around covering his boots. Behind him stood all of the Pegasi. Sheppard looked at Lorne seriously and the major felt the intensity behind the king's eyes. He was more sullen and serious since Elizabeth's death, but it had only been just over a week and most of them were not themselves. Sophistides in particular had been the hardest hit because he had worked so closely with her.
Lorne was able to walk without assistance but he was not completely healed and it would be some time before he could join his team. But things were different. Lorne had more dreams about Exeter, his Ancient ancestor he had learned about some time ago but knew very little about. But there was also someone else…someone that looked a lot like Titus except with dark hair.
Lorne was going to get down on his knees when Sheppard held up a hand. "No Evan, you don't have to kneel. I am glad you are able to walk on your own."
Lorne smiled as he raised his head after bowing. "Thank you Your Royal Highness."
"Do you know why you are here?"
Lorne looked around. He had a guess but was not exactly sure why he had been summoned or why he had been ordered to wear the simple white silk shirt, black pants and boots. No one had ever told him how to dress since he had been here, until now.
"Not exactly but something must be up."
Sheppard actually laughed softly. "You have known that you descend from an Ancient called Exeter."
Lorne nodded. "Yes."
Sheppard stood. "Exeter gave his life saving Evander and Capys from Erebus during one of the last battles before they left for Earth. He had no family that remained here but he had a child whom he had sent ahead with his wife, Calista. That child Dominicus had two children…Titus and Tiberius."
Lorne's mind was reeling as images of these people came to him. He had a great-grandfather named Tiberius, but he had died when he was 4. He barely remembered him.
Sheppard continued. "The Pegasi Tiberius fought along side the Pegasi and had his own line of which you and yes your great-grandfather Tiberius descended…He was killed nearly 30 years ago by Gareth. I did not know this until I touched Gareth's mind."
Lorne almost felt dizzy with the news and he remembered one incident when he was six…one that left him alone and without any family. Sheppard was watching him and Lorne did not notice the king approach him followed by Titus. He looked up when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
"Tiberius came back…and saved you." Tiberius was the one with the black hair, like his own.
"The gunman," Lorne started to say as he searched his memories, but he was only six and he only remembered shadowy images.
"Why would he do that?"
Sheppard looked away for a moment then back at Lorne with sadness. "Gareth's whole purpose was to hunt down and destroy any Pegasi or their children."
Lorne looked up in realization. "To prevent all of this…from us coming to Pegasus. To prevent you from coming."
Sheppard nodded. "The Pegasi protected their children the best they could, hunting down Gareth and who ever else was working for him for a while. The Pegasi thought he had died when Tiberius saved you, but he obviously didn't."
"Tiberius was punished for helping you." Titus stepped forward. "After ascension he was prevented from ever returning or ever seeing me or even you again." Titus looked at Lorne with the same mirror blue eyes. "It has been hard for us. I did not have children of my own, and no longer having Tiberius has been difficult if it were not for my brothers of the Order. When I saw you, I saw Tiberius in you. Though we were twins we were not identical, but I was not sure until the King saved you."
Lorne did not know what to say. He was more connected to Sheppard than ever before- his own genes enhanced with whatever Sheppard did to save him, but here he was standing in front of his uncle.
"Kneel Lorne, son of Tiberius," he heard Sheppard say. Lorne began to comply slowly. Sheppard frowned. "Sorry Evan it was part of the script I have memorized," he whispered as both he and Titus helped Lorne to his knees. The rest of the Pegasi moved around them in a circle.
"Evan Lorne, son of Tiberius, by your ancestry and more importantly because of your proven bravery and loyalty, will you accept admittance to the Order of the Pegasi?"
Lorne looked up. No longer part of the Earth Imperial Guard but rather the original one. He nodded then cleared his throat. "Yes. Of course."
"Do you accept the oath to give your life to protect Evander's Heir, his lands, his people and your brother knights?"
"I do accept it." Lorne said. Titus was smiling and moved to gently help Lorne up. Tristan handed Titus a breastplate and the Pegasi placed it over Lorne's head and tide it on either side with Etienne's help. Seamus moved forward with a belt and handed it to Titus so that he could tie it around Lorne's waist. One by one members of the Order handed Titus or helped him put on the armor of the Pegasi. Once he was completely dressed, they stepped back and Sheppard moved forward and stood in front of Lorne. In the flats of his palms he held a knife.
"You wear the armor of your ancestor, and now it belongs to you Evan. Accept also now the blade of Tiberius and your place among the Order of the Pegasi."
Lorne looked down at the blade. It was glowing in Sheppard's hands. He looked at his king's eyes briefly then down at the blade. He reached out his hand and took it by the hilt and watched how Tiberius' name appeared when he held it alongside that of Dominicus and Exeter. Sheppard smiled. "And soon your name too. Welcome to the club."
Lorne smiled back. He had a family again. He felt Titus put an arm around him. "We have a great deal of catching up to do."
Sheppard enjoyed the moment. He had learned to live that way a long time ago, but more so now than ever. His family had grown as well and he would do anything to protect it.
It wasn't a very large Hive and the Queen was young, but Sheppard would not take anything for granted. They had taken over five weeks to plan and practice the attack and the Scabuer was more crowded than usual with their attack force. Another similar ship flanked them followed by Ronon and a contingent of Atlantean forces that had been training with the Pegasi for a long time. Even McKay was along for the ride to provide his technical expertise though the Pegasi had their own geek named Alexander. Sheppard had figured McKay would be jealous but the scientist was proud to be an equal in mind amongst some of the Ancients and Alexander, though a warrior like the rest of the Pegasi, seemed to enjoy someone who was not bored discussing theories, and astrophysics or whatever else crossed their minds.
Sheppard sighed as he silently plotted their course. O'Neill sat next to him agreeing to co-pilot and provide back-up support. The General could not stay out of the fight no matter how much he complained his knees hurt. To be honest, even with Tristan and the rest of the Pegasi here, Sheppard was glad O'Neill was nearby. The older warrior and he had been through a lot the last few years and no one really understood what he had been through than him. Ronon was thriving as he now lead a team of his own though Ronon always made it a point to have dinner with Sheppard and the rest of his old team. Lorne was missing as he was still recovering, but Teyla was not here either. She did not say anything to him about not being able to go off-world or on missions, but the space between them had returned. She was polite and supportive. They were still mourning the loss of Elizabeth and so they had not argued about Teyla going on missions or even leaving Sheppard's worlds, but it would be something they would have to work through. It was just Sheppard, Tristan and O'Neill in the cockpit and each seemed lost in their own thoughts. Sheppard suppressed a sigh but he cleared his head and pushed all other thoughts not related to the mission aside. It was time to get to business.
"How much more time do we have General?" Sheppard asked as he turned to O'Neill.
"Fifteen minutes. " O'Neill replied looking down at his instruments. "No sign that they have seen us."
"Good," Sheppard answered looking up from the instruments. "We should lay the charges at the center of the hive."
He thought for a moment that it should bother him, sneaking into a hive and killing everyone or at least hopefully every Wraith. This warfare was even different than the type of warfare he had fought before coming to the Stargate program. He had already tangled with this and come to terms with it. The Wraith would not quit and would continue to destroy humanity and feed off of them like cattle. He had his scientists working on a way to change the Wraith…so they could be given a choice to live with new dietary habits. He would still have to find the one Tristan spoke of…the one above all the Wraith or at least feared by all. He heard Tristan informing the strike team to begin their preparations.
They were cloaked so he was not worried about being seen. This hive was nestled deep in a crater on the uninhabited planet.
"We should meet little resistance since our scouts reported they are hibernating except for the main drones."
"Yeah, it almost doesn't seem fair."
O'Neill turned to Sheppard. "We can't play fair. They outnumber us and even with your new Jedi skills, we need to hit them as fast and as hard as we can. We are lucky that you have the roadmap of where they create new Wraith in your noggin. If we can hit the reproducing queens first then they may even the playing field."
"Maybe but we need to find Wraith number One, or we can never rest."
"Do you know where to go?"
Sheppard nodded. "Yeah sort of but we need to clear the chess board first or we have no chance for checkmate." He wasn't exactly sure, just a general sense he could point Jackson in to reduce the scope of the hunt.
Tristan looked up from his instruments. "I recommend a landing spot about here," he said pointing to the HUD. Sheppard nodded and silently piloted the Scabeur to the designated landing zone. This target was selected because it was isolated, and it was good initiation for the Pegasi and some of his Army leaders to get their feet wet. It was a training exercise of sorts because all of the men on this team, including Ronan would be leading future teams to do exactly the same thing on their own. It was the only way they could make ground because Sheppard could not be everywhere.
He gently settled the cloaked ship a mile from the entrance to the hive. He reached out his mind and took a mental count of the beings he sensed. It took him a while because he wanted to be sure. O'Neill watched him patiently. The general could feel Tristan's mind gently touch his and he turned to face the Pegasi. Tristan looked to Sheppard then back to O'Neill.
You and I will be on his flanks.
O'Neill understood perfectly and nodded. Like always. Covering his ass.
He could feel Tristan chuckle in his head and wondered if that made him a Jedi too. He could feel his own abilities growing slowly as they used them more and more. He found himself in conversations when around the Pegasi or even Sheppard and would realize no one was speaking out loud.
Not yet…Padawan. Then the chuckle again.
Smart ass. Tristan only smiled at this. O'Neill was a great warrior already, but he was still learning to use the abilities passed on to him by the blood of Capys. Tristan worked with him when he could as well as Lorne.
"Would you two stopping playing around," Sheppard said trying to look annoyed. Tristan bowed his head respectfully.
"Yes of course my lord," Tristan said with a slight smile at O'Neill and was reward with a glare and a muttered oh brother.
It wasn't a fair fight. Sheppard stood over the queen, and if she hadn't tried to overpower his mind and kill Tristan, he might have almost felt sorry for her. He didn't feel sorry for her. He felt nothing as he ordered her to die and she obeyed with venom and hatred directed at him.
Tristan had been watched Sheppard as he extinguished the life of the Wraith Queen. It had been so long since he had seen a Wraith, the possibility of encountering them exhilarated him. He could feel it from all of the Pegasi and the Armentarian strike team lea by Ronan. They were fulfilling their duty finally. Tristan had managed to take out one of the male leaders guarding the Queen but it required so very little effort. He was pleased that all of their training, as they waited for Evander's heir, had paid off. It had gone better than he expected.
He could sense no feelings from Sheppard…no anger, no exhilaration no fear…nothing. Sheppard's ability to use his mind to kill the Queen was astonishing, and Tristan had not expected that, but perhaps he should given what he had witnessed and heard. However, to see it first hand was simply astonishing and frightening. Tristan did not have this power. Sheppard stared at the Queen with slight curiosity then looked up and noticed Tristan staring at him.
"Well done, Your Highness. You have become quite formidable in your skills."
Sheppard half shrugged as he turned to see O'Neill checking in with the others. "Yeah. I guess I have. It wasn't easy though with all the damn stones…the pain, etc. etc. Still…I wonder if I should feel bad or something. I don't feel anything at all."
Tristan put his hand on Sheppard's shoulder as they turned to leave the throne room. O'Neill indicated the charges had been set, and Tristan nodded his understanding. He led Sheppard toward the exit.
"We do not relish killing my Lord, nor do we feel ashamed when it is necessary. You have saved thousands today and millions in the future. The Wraith must die or they must be changed."
Sheppard thought on that a moment. "I hope we can figure out the formula to change them. I have a feeling they will want an option soon."
Tristan nodded in agreement as they made their way back into the Scabeur. "Agreed. Dr. Beckett and Milinus are very close. Interestingly it is something that Milinus has worked on while on Earth. We knew that destruction of the Wraith was necessary unless we could change them in some way. We doubted they could be persuaded out of good will since their dietary needs are quite set."
Sheppard did the final checks and signaled to the others the lift off. He turned to Tristan. "They are. But we might be able to persuade them if we get the right one."
Tristan eyed Sheppard carefully. "You know someone," he said finally.
"Yeah I think I do," Sheppard said quietly. Tristan sensed the conflicted feelings of Sheppard but said nothing. He would wait for the young king to discuss it further when he was ready.
Tristan heard O'Neill confirm that the other teams were safely aboard their ship "We are ready Your Royal Highness."
Sheppard nodded. "Light it up, General, and let's get the hell out of here."
O'Neill gave an order and the Scabuer shuddered slightly as they lifted away from the exploding Hive Ship.
They spoke very little. There was no exhilaration and no regret, only a silent acknowledgment that life had been taken and it was necessary for their survival.
The war had finally begun.