The Traveler ship came out of hyperspace in high orbit around the third planet in yet another uncharted system within the Pegasus galaxy. The Alterrans had originally charted 14 planets in the system, but only 7 had survived to present day. The Captain of the Ilssa casually brought up the orbital charts, mentally did the math and saw that the remaining planets were showing diminishing orbits and concluded that the other 7 had previously fallen into the star's gravity well and been destroyed. Additional mass at system center would have then added to the pull on the outer planets, which would explain their slow inward trek toward the star, but according to the original data, admittedly millions of years old, 12 of the 14 planets had been on slightly escalating orbits. What had caused the shift inward was a mystery that would have to be left for the ages. Captain Morinn wasn't here for a sightseeing tour…he was hunting Wraith.
Another Traveler ship had attached a locator beacon to a Wraith cruiser that had disappeared in this section of the galaxy. Apparently the suckers had managed to locate and deactivate the beacon, but the Travelers still had some idea of where to look and had assigned the Ilssa and Captain Morinn 37 systems to scout while an additional 6 Traveler ships took the remainder of the long list. In total, the galaxy-wide survey was only 6% complete, so wherever they suspected they would find Wraith, they diverted to those locations immediately.
The third planet in the system was the largest…a blue/white gas giant. Around it circled 26 moons. The Ilssa's crew began scanning and cataloging planetoid data as soon as they exited hyperspace and it took them only 13 minutes to hit paydirt.
"Captain!" one of the three bridge officers said with an eager voice. "We have surface structures on one of the moons…"
"Make that two of the moons," a female navigator said while checking a side console. "No, now make that three."
"What kind of structures?" Morinn asked, his eyes narrowing.
The first officer checked over the shoulder of the navigator and confirmed her findings, then he looked up at the Captain. "Wraith, boss."
"Any sign of ships in the area?" Morinn asked.
"None yet," the navigator reported.
The Captain chewed on his lip. "Continue scans. Let's see what we've got before we call it in."
"Now four moons…" the navigator updated.
"What's down there?" Morinn demanded.
"Not sure…too far away for a clean scan," the navigator reported. "But they're everywhere. All four moons are covered with them."
"With what exactly?" Morinn asked, his voice a mixture of curiosity and worry. "Wraith don't make a habit of building homes, they live on their ships. Are we looking at some sort of shipyard?"
"I…don't think so. They're not reading like ships," the other bridge officer said. "I'm pretty sure they're surface structures, but we'll have to make a closer pass to get more detail."
"No..." Morinn decided quickly. "We don't know what we're dealing with here, and we could easily be getting in over our head. We've confirmed a substantial Wraith presence, and that's enough. Take us on a lazy lap around the system, I want to confirm the number of planetoids with Wraith on them before we call this in. After that, we're out of here."
"Ah…" the navigator complained. "We're not gonna stick around for the fireworks this time?"
"Let's not push our luck," the Captain said cautiously. "Last time we almost lost the starboard engine to that suicide dart."
The navigator looked down at the burn marks on her left hand from the damage control effort. "Right…snoop and scoot it is. Plotting course now."
The Traveler ship took the next four hours scanning each planet and their constituent moons before jumping back into hyperspace. They relayed the senor data and locations of 19 Wraith occupied planetoids back to Atlantis...then moved on to the next system on their survey list.
"Oh, dude, you have got to see this!"
Luke Simpson made a noise beneath the blanket that covered his head, but no other response was forthcoming.
"No man, I'm serious!" his college roommate said with obvious enthusiasm. He was totally psyched. "The state of the union address. I watched it an hour ago in the lobby. I've got it on youtube right now. Get your ass out of bed and take a look at this. It's crazy shit!"
Luke pulled the blanket off his head and looked at his roommate with obvious malice. He'd been out late with Jessica and it was only 7:15 am. "I hate history."
"Haha…good choice of words. This is history in the making. Come on, get up. You're not going to believe me if I just tell you."
Luke frowned sarcastically. "Let's have a go at it anyway," he said, unmoving.
"Ah you're hopeless, you know that? The government just disclosed the fact that there are aliens everywhere, and we're fighting a fucking war up there right now! I swear I'm not making up this shit!"
Luke's eyes unglazed. "Come again?"
"Just look," his roommate said, grabbing his laptop and dumping it in Luke's lap.
Luke grumbled and sat up, then clicked on the youtube video…which he noticed already had over 50 million views. That was way too high…
He watched, bored but mildly curious what this was about as the President began his droll speech, then Luke's eyes unglazed when he heard the name "Aschen." When a female military officer beamed into the congress he swung his feet out of bed and squared the laptop on his lap.
"See, what did I tell you?" his roommate yelled victoriously. "This is crazy good!"
"Hush…" Luke told him as Carter went on to explain the situation. He watched silently until Carter beamed out, then cut off the rest of the President's speech and handed the laptop back to his roommate while he looked around for his jeans from last night. He found them in a wad behind his Xbox 360 and fished around for his cell phone.
He dialed a preset contact, completely ignoring the fact that his roommate was there.
"Who are you calling?" his roommate asked. He'd never seen Luke act like this before. He was suddenly ramrod straight and serious…usually he was laid back, droll, and mostly uninterested with anything in the world aside from girls, beer, and cartoons.
"Put me through to your commanding officer now!" Luke said in an altogether unfamiliar voice. "I don't care how busy he is, this is urgent. No, I will not wait. Put me through to him now, Lieutenant. That's an order."
"Dude, what's up?" his roommate asked.
Luke held up a wait finger.
"I don't care if my rank is technically invalid, you put me through now or I'll make my way to Cheyenne Mountain on my own. That's right, I know where it is and how to get in, remember? And no, I'm not talking about the front door either. No, I'm not taking any more of that bureaucratic bull. Carter is going to need all the help she can get, and from the sound of things we're already losing. So you put me through to your commanding officer right now. If I have to go the long way, I'm reassigning you to the arctic circle the moment my bird is back on my shoulder…do I make myself clear, Lieutenant?"
There was a brief pause in the conversation, then Luke nodded once with satisfaction.
His roommate walked in front of him and raised his shoulders and hands in question.
"Long story," Luke said just before the senior officer took the phone. "Yea, Karlson. I want in, now…and don't give me any of that clone crap. If the planet's in danger I'm not just going to sit on my fat ass and watch."
To his surprise, he didn't get any argument.
"Good," Luke said, closing his phone and holding it in his hand as he frantically started searching for a fresh towel. They were sending a car over for him in two hours. He needed to be cleaned up and packed before then. He looked around his room and decided to pack his gym bag with a few essentials. The PX would have everything else he needed when he got to the SGC.
"Luke, what the fuck is going on?"
"Sorry Brad, I gotta leave. Tell Jessica…it's been swell," he said as he grabbed the towel and a bar of soap and headed for the community showers in the center of the dorm. He walked out the door and disappeared, leaving his roommate thoroughly confused.
Luke's head popped back in the door. "Oh, and the name's not Luke. It's Jack. Jack O'Neill." He held up two fingers and animatedly added, "with two L's!"
Then he left for the showers.