Author's Note (Last for 'New Beginnings'):
I had been kicking around the idea for a sequel to 'New Beginnings' that took place in the Stargate - Atlantis universe. Life-priorities/hobbies/interests change, and I don't intend to pursue that project (though I'm never one to say never), but I did write a bit of a teaser/prologue for it. I thought I'd include it as a bit of a coda to 'New Beginnings', just to let you know that Victoria and Liara's adventures aren't quite done (since, lets be honest, can anyone really picture Shepard in retirement?) - though hopefully there will be less horror and more blue babies...
Doctor Meredith Rodney McKay, Head Scientist of the Atlantis Expedition, smoothed his jacket for the sixth time.
"Jeeze, Rodney," chided Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard, Commanding Officer of the Atlantis Expedition's Military Detachment, "will you stop," he paused, seeming to look for the right word, "preening? You're acting like a damned peacock!"
McKay looked at Sheppard with a scowl. Despite his Mensa-level intelligence, John seemed to like cultivating an outwardly simple air, often resorting to low humor and name calling; much to Rodney's chagrin. Still, his chastisement seemed to have had its effect. McKay straightened his uniform jacket one last time, a full-on 'Picard Maneuver', and stilled his hands.
"Just wanted to make myself presentable for our newest crew members," he replied, chin held high in haughty defiance. Then he turned and made a showy display of looking Colonel Sheppard up and down, "Something you might want to consider doing."
He looked down at his uniform. "Excuse me?"
"And would it hurt to shave once in a while?"
John ran his hand across the stubble on his face and shot Rodney a look. "You know, I don't see why you need to be here to greet them."
"Well," he puffed his chest out a bit, "I was the one who re-programmed the Pegasus gates so that they would ignore the dark energy interaction, granting them freedom of movement through this entire galaxy. I figured they'd want to meet me.
"And why are you here? You think they're a security threat? Or if they were, you could stop them? Those two Valkyries could slaughter all of us if the mission reports are to be believed."
"Jeeze Rodney, I'm here to greet our new guests; maybe even do a little recruiting." He turned to Rodney and winked. "Besides, I had the graphics guy make up patches for them; I wanted to give them as a welcoming present." He held up a few patches. A graceful sweeping pattern, The Asari Republics, for Liara; a Systems Alliance and SPECTRE Wings for Shepard's shoulders, and the coveted, at least the Shepard, N7, for her breast. They'd fit right in with the multi-national crew who each wore the same uniform save for their respective national flags on their shoulders.
"After all they've been through, you think they're going to want to wear those; or uniforms at all?" Rodney chided. "You're just here to ogle, and they'll know it. Me on the other hand, I liberated them!"
John shook his head. "You didn't spring them from jail; and don't forget, the Nox gave them the code to do it, Rodney," John countered, rapidly trying to change the subject. "They all but handed it to you when they showed up on Midway. You just installed it. You're like the 'Geek Squad' for the Pegasus Galaxy." Rodney deflated somewhat. Jesus, we're like an old married couple, thought the Colonel; especially if McKay was probably right about his ploy with the patches. "Though, I think your stock with Bill Lee and Pete Kavanagh might have gone way up. I can't imagine what the last week has been like for them, cooped up with those two on Midway while you got that code installed and checked out."
Rodney laughed, "Wasn't that video hilarious! I could watch that over and over again."
"I have a copy saved on my computer."
"Great! I love the bit where she drops his laptop on his crotch. Oh!" McKay paused, "do you know half the SGC still calls Kavanagh 'beef with broccoli'?"
Sheppard smirked. "Nice. But seriously, I'm not buying it, why are you here?"
"Well, if the Doctor is going to be on my staff."
"She's not going anywhere near your staff, Rodney. She's married."
The two men whirled on their heels to face Doctor Elizabeth Weir. "Doctor Weir," Colonel Sheppard nodded.
As if on cue, and saving both men from a potentially embarrassing conversation, the Stargate activated. The IDC from Midway was confirmed and the iris shield deactivated; the gate-room security detachment relaxed somewhat. A few seconds passed with no activity. Then a large plastic crate, enveloped in an ethereal Cherenkov-like blue glow, floated through the event horizon. John took a close look at it. The edges were encrusted with dirt. Atop sat an olive drab green duffle bag adorned with a rather large and colorful floral wreath. The crate floated several yards into the gate room and settled onto the floor.
Several seconds passed and they appeared. Their arms were linked. One's arms were pale white with freckles; the other's sky-blue with near-iridescent spots. One of the arrivals had flame red hair reaching half way down her back, the other had a sweeping blue crest which reminded John of the tentacles of a cuttlefish. They wore open toed sandals and ankle-length sundresses. They were, simply put, beautiful.
John's eyes narrowed briefly. Something wasn't right. Then he realized it. Shepard's scars, nearly legendary amongst the members of the SGC, were missing. They're gone! Neat trick, he thought.
The new arrivals looked around at their new home as the Stargate disengaged behind them. The blue beauty was obviously thrilled at the scientific prospects. John had read her file. She was an archeologist by training and undoubtedly looking forward to puzzling over the City of the Ancients. The human woman regarded her new surroundings with a much more critical, and weary eye. John immediately recognized the look. This was a hunter, a killer, she was sizing up threats, looking at sight-lines, looking for cover; the new arrival had seen and done things that she wouldn't soon forget, if ever.
A kindred spirit. John's heart actually went out to her.
Doctor Weir stepped forward to begin the introductions.
The Stargate transit from Midway Station to Atlantis was decidedly longer than any other Stargate trip they had ever taken before. No wonder too, they were going half way between two galaxies! The priceless look on Bill Lee and Peter Kavanagh's faces when they had suddenly appeared in Midway's gate room a week ago had almost made their layover bearable, almost; but she was definitely done with that.
Her time with the Nox had been therapeutic. They were so peaceful. They were so understanding. They were so caring. They wanted to help her and Liara so badly, even if she didn't feel like she deserved it. She had done such horrible things in her lives, how could she be so deserving of such a wonderful wife and new friends who cared for her so? In the end, however, all parties involved agreed it was time to leave. Shepard wanted nothing less than to put war behind her, but the pastoral life was not for her. It wasn't for Liara either, when you got down to it.
When it became obvious that they were ready to leave, their hosts had told them they could alter the gates to ignore the dark energy interaction. They did not need to worry about the goa'uld, nor anyone else for that matter, tracking their movements. They could return to Earth if they desired it. Though, they had a better idea, if she and Liara were interested. Liara had made her first career out of studying a long-dead race that had, seemingly, left its legacy of technology behind for the peoples of the galaxy to pick up and utilize. The Nox offered her the opportunity to study this place's equivalent, their former colleagues the Ancients.
So, after allowing one of Atlantis' scientists time to modify the Nox's computer code for this galaxy's gate network, here they were; tens of thousands of light years from Earth, in another galaxy, in a floating city eerily reminiscent of the Citadel, built by a long-dead race. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.
"Doctor T'soni, Commander Shepard, welcome to Atlantis, I'm Doctor Elizabeth Weir, Atlantis Expedition Commander."
Liara shook the offered hand, "A pleasure to meet you Doctor Weir."
Weir shifted her attention to Shepard, "Commander."
"Please, just Victoria," Shepard replied in as friendly a voice as she could manage to a stranger, "I'm retired now."
"Of course," Weir said with what appeared to be a genuinely warm smile. "Please, let me introduce you to Colonel John Sheppard who commands our military detachment, and Doctor Rodney McKay who leads our science team."
"Sheppard," Shepard said with a nod. Victoria paused and narrowed her eyes in thought. Then she cocked an eyebrow and looked off into space as if trying to dredge her memory for something.
"Something wrong, Shepard?" asked Liara.
Victoria's face screwed up in thought. "Um."
"Shepard?" asked Colonel Sheppard.
"Sheppard," Victoria said with more conviction. Then she shook her head again, clearing her thoughts. "That felt," she paused, "very, familiar."
It has been my distinct privilege to share this story with you. I hope you enjoyed it. I think I'll be taking a break from writing for a while, but I won't rule out an eventual return; perhaps even to another fandom. In the meantime, as I mentioned in my previous chapter, I have several more stories featuring Victoria Shepard and Liara in a separate continuity beginning with 'Transitions'. Give them a look, I hope you enjoy them too.
Until we meet again.