With the Attero Device destroyed and the bulk of the Alterran fleet pinned defending their garrison worlds, the Wraith leapt forth from their inner core worlds en mass, sending hundreds of hive ships out to individual planets across the galaxy, some of which wouldn't arrive at their destinations for more than a year. They went alone, leaving behind all warships to keep the Alterra at bay while they returned to the stars, too many for their enemy to track down and kill, meaning at minimum some would be lost in the chaos and free to plant new roots where the Alterra wouldn't find them.
With them they took their cloned Humans, with the ability to make many more. When the first of the hive ships arrived they grounded at their new hideaways and began to dig into the surface of their new worlds, burrowing caverns and growing buildings deep underground where it would be difficult for the Alterra to get at them. There they established their Human farms, slowly growing their numbers while feeding the skeleton crews assigned to the exodus.
From there they waited, patient as their species was, and grew their power while the war raged on. In a number of years the Wraith would have enough resources to begin producing more warships at their outposts, as well as growing new hive ships that would expand further, completely undercutting the Alterra's containment efforts. The Wraith queens knew that they couldn't challenge the formidable technology of the Alterra's massive warships…they would win this war with numbers. Insane numbers.
The Lanteans would buy them the time they needed to grow while the Wraith inner core worlds made the sacrifice of transformation to ensure that the war raged on, giving the illusion that they were pushing the offensive when in truth it was all a ruse. Guile was their choice of tactic, and one that Remus understood well. Together they would hit the Alterra where they were weak, distract and disrupt their own growth, all the while the Wraith secretly grew into the hammer that would smash Atlantis and its creators once and for all…after that, they'd deal with Remus and his ilk, or what was left of them.
Several weeks earlier…
The iktal on the bridge of warship 4702 sat in their command chairs, silently monitoring ship functions as Alba Longa rose up from the waterworld to join the fleet, then they received automated orders instructing them to follow the Lantean city into hyperspace. The helmsman and other bridge crew interfaced with the manual controls as well as operating as a hive mind via their cybernetic implants, bringing the ship's hyperdrive online while staggering their entry point so that they didn't collide with any of the other ships in the fleet.
They watched the gigantic flying city disappear, with dozens of hyperspace windows opening in its wake as the Lantean warships transitioned into the alternate dimension, fleeing the planet before the Alterra arrived en mass. The iktal helmsman input the command sequence to initiate a computer-synced jump but the hyperspace window did not form, nor did the engines accelerate the ship forward. The bridge crew immediately began running diagnostics, not uttering a word, as the rest of the fleet left without them…then as one all the iktal relaxed and resumed normal operations as new commands were issued to them via the shipboard broadcasting network.
A few minutes later a Lantean appeared at the back of the bridge and one of the now reprogrammed iktal moved out of the captain's chair as he approached, but Romulus chose to stand, placing his hands on top of the shoulder rest from behind as he breathed a sigh of relief looking out on the now empty planet below.
"Open broadcast frequency," he ordered, pausing a moment for the iktal to carry out the command. "Jina, you're clear to come aboard. Use the main bay. Something is going on and I get the feeling this system is no longer safe, so hurry."
"On my way," the other surviving Alba Longan said from her navicula porta still submerged within the planet's ocean.
Romulus walked up next to one of the iktal and reached down to his station. The brute pulled back his arms to give the Lantean space as he accessed the ship's comm systems and made sure they were locked down as far as the inter-ship control signals were concerned. The overrides he'd made were local only and he didn't want Remus retaking control of the ship's crew remotely. Whether or not he'd notice the ship missing during transit was uncertain, but upon arrival either he or one of his treasonous minions would note the omission…and then Remus would know that Romulus was back in play.
He probably had thought he'd stranded his former friend on the planet, and had done a good job of making his and Jina's life difficult with only a pair of jumpers between them. They'd managed to remain undetected, staying away from the city and raiding the mining installations on the ocean floor for supplies. Remus had anticipated that tactic and had armed iktal guarding the installations, but Romulus had been cagy enough to infiltrate one of them, creating a blind spot in their surveillance…literally. Within the support areas the iktal had been reprogramed not to recognize his profile and subsequently ignore his existence, not transmitting his location or even walking around him when he passed by them in the halls.
Had Romulus applied that program to the entire station Remus might have become aware, but by keeping it imbedded in the low priority areas he gave himself safe zones to move about within, and from there he made strategic raids further into the installation for equipment that he used to upgrade the jumpers with what the Lanteans needed to survive, including a makeshift synthesizer and several power cells so they could make other items the station didn't have…like food.
Romulus had undone his blind spot and retreated back to the jumpers where he and Jina hid out until he got bold enough to try and board one of the warships in orbit, knowing that they were the only way they were going to get out of the system. Getting aboard had taken him a week, requiring him to park his jumper just over the hull and hack into the ship's systems remotely by using a weak signal that the rest of the fleet and Alba Longa couldn't detect.
He also had to keep from being noticed by the system safeguards, meaning a very delicate hack of the systems that he had helped to create, which was the only reason he was able to get in. Unknown to Remus, he had left multiple hidden codes within every piece of software and hardware that he had written, allowing him a private inroad to prevent anyone from ever locking him out. While he had shared virtually everything with Remus freely, the thought of the Wraith finding a way to take control of the iktal had always bothered him, which made it logical to have a backup method of reasserting control…one that didn't show up in any database, and therefore one that the Wraith, or any other adversary, wouldn't know about.
Secrecy meant he had to keep such things from Remus too, though he had never imagined that the man would turn on him like this. They'd even shared primary security codes, making their dual command literally one individual, so far as the computer systems were concerned. Even the biometrics registered each of them as the same command signature, with only an ID tag for record keeping purposes as to who had issued what order.
That all had changed when Remus took control. He'd locked out Romulus from the system, and since the iktal were more computer than lifeform they responded in sync, meaning the army he'd been diligently building over millennia cut all ties with him on a single command.
Unfortunately there was more than the iktal in play, and Remus couldn't take control of the other Lanteans the same way. Save for Jina all of the Alba Longans, Romulus's closest and loyalest followers, had been killed and who knew how many more out across their other facilities. He guessed Remus couldn't have killed everyone, for he needed them to effectively command and manage the iktal, but he was sure various supporters had been eliminated with the rest of those on the fence being bullied into submission.
Once Romulus had gained an inroad into the warship's computer systems the first thing he did was cover his tracks, writing new programs to keep his access hidden and double up command lines, allowing normal operations while giving him the ability to override them at a moment's notice. Eventually he had the ability to access their information network and every ship system remotely from the cloaked jumper, where he learned that news of his death had been broadcast out through the Lantean information network, citing that a rebellious faction of Alba Longa had sided with the Alterra and killed him with Remus subsequently exacting revenge, leaving him in sole command.
Romulus had to give him credit. As skilled as he was with computer systems his former friend was just as savvy with regards to problem solving. This way there would be no counter-rebellion from the Lanteans. Remus was already their co-leader, so following him wouldn't be an issue…save for his decision to assist the Wraith. How he was going to play that off he didn't know, and there wasn't anything in the information networks about that yet, but ultimately he'd get his way, given the wholesale slaughter he'd committed here. A few more select assassinations would just be additional drops in the blood bucket.
But would the remaining Lanteans outwardly rebel over siding with the Wraith? He wanted to say yes, but he knew otherwise. They trusted both him and Remus implicitly, and with Romulus gone Remus was the only unifying factor they had left. They would submit to his alliance with the Wraith, unwillingly at first, but they wouldn't openly fight him over it, and the few dissenters among them would disappear in quick order.
Romulus knew he had to get to them before Remus could, but he hadn't had an opportunity to do so until now. When the city began to lift off he knew he'd been given his chance and acted quickly to disable the warship's hyperdrive, then after the last of the other ships left he simply ordered the bay doors open and flew aboard.
Jina's jumper made its way up to orbit in good order and slipped aboard the ship, eager to escape their exile. Romulus immediately ordered their departure from the system, disabling their tracking device so neither Remus nor any other Lantean could track their movements. By the time Sheppard and his fleet of Columnars arrived Romulus was long gone.
Jina joined him on the bridge, bumping out one of the iktal from its station with the cyborg cycling over to another position on the bridge while two extras stood guard, for both security and to replace any that might become incapacitated or needed elsewhere.
"Where are we heading?" she asked him, her mood sullen and dark, much as it had been since the slaughter.
"Remus will know I'm alive soon, if not already. He will assume I'm headed to another city to spread the word of my survival and his betrayal, but that's not the endgame I desire."
"You mean a civil war."
"If we pit ourselves against each other we'll destroy the army we've built to kill the Wraith. I won't let that happen. We've come too far to throw it away now."
"What if he's on his way to kill more of us?"
"Then he will succeed," Romulus said, swiveling around in his chair to face her. "We can't stop him from that, but we can save some…starting with those on the shipyards."
Jina's eyes widened. "You want to manually retask the iktal, one section at a time."
"I can try to counter him remotely, but I can't guarantee success. He's had time to plan this takeover and weeks to consolidate his holdings. I can override his programming locally, unless he's replaced all the hardware in every computer system on every facility…and I know for a fact that he hasn't on this warship and the mining station, so I'm fairly sure he's unaware of my access. If I try to assert control over all the iktal simultaneously he might be able to backtrack the access, and that's a chance I can't take."
"He'll notice when groups start going offline."
"I know, which is why I need your help setting up a new tracking and control network."
Jina closed her eyes, steadying her emotions. "We'll need local controllers, unless you want to replace hardware."
"There's no time for hardware transfers. We have to move fast, before Remus has a chance to counterpunch."
Romulus glanced at the navigation board in front of one of the nearby iktal. "Twenty three minutes."