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Episode 2: Return to Pegasus, Part II

Read the first part in Episode 1: Return to Pegasus, Part I

 

“Home?” McKay yelped, his voice rising in pitch with every word, “Yeah, there’s no place like it!”

The city shuddered again under another volley of Wraith weapons fire, forcing everyone to grab hold of something to maintain their balance.

“McKay!” John barked. “You went over the city with a fine tooth comb before we left, and you said everything was fine!”

“It was fine!” Rodney shot back. “Look, this is only the second time we’ve ever used the wormhole drive, and the Ancients never fully implemented it at all!”

“Well, I guess now we know why,” John drawled.

Woolsey shook his head. “We can figure out the hows and whys later. Right now, we need to get out of here before we’re pulverized. Can you get the wormhole drive back online?”

Zelenka and McKay sported similarly glum looks. “Not until we can lock down the reason why we can’t get power to the chair and fix it,” McKay reported.

“Which also means we can’t just switch to the hyperdrive or the sub-lights, because we still need the chair to run them.” John finished the train of thought.

“Correct,” Zelenka confirmed, as the city shuddered under additional weapons fire. “All three propulsion systems share a few key components, including the control chair, so whatever affects one will affect the others. Our forward momentum coming out of hyperspace is keeping us moving, but there is nothing we can do to affect speed or alter course to get us out of range of the Wraith.”

Another round of fire from the Wraith ships shook the city, lighting the shields afire, and Sheppard looked out the windows toward the Wraith ships. “They’re getting closer. We need to do something to draw their fire away from the city.”

“How?” Ronon asked. “There’s nothing else around to distract them with.”

John toggled his radio on. “Lorne, this is Sheppard.”

Major Lorne’s voice was a little tinny over the radio, but his response was immediate. “Go ahead, sir.”

“Scramble Alpha and Beta Flights. We’re going out to meet the welcoming committee.”

“Yes, sir!” The channel closed, and John ran for the stairs leading up to the main jumper bay.

“Are you insane? You’re not actually going to take a jumper out there, are you?” McKay looked up from the computer console where he and Zelenka were frantically trying to bring the stardrive online.

John didn’t look back as he yelled, “You got a better idea? Now’s the time!” He took the steps two at a time, leaping into the jumper bay and running straight for Jumper One.

The moment he set foot aboard the little ship, it automatically began powering up internal lights and various systems in preparation for flight. As he possessed the strongest natural ATA gene among all the gene carriers assigned to the city, John didn’t even need to touch the rear hatch control as many others did; the hatch’s control system simply raised and sealed the hatch at a mere thought. The same went for the hatch in the middle of the jumper, separating the cockpit from the rear compartment, as he sat in the front portside seat at the main flight controls.

The audible hum of the Ancient-created electronics was softly echoed by the there-but-not-there hum that had become a subtle but constant presence in his mind over the past six years since he had first set foot in Atlantis. In a way, each piece of Ancient technology was like an instrument playing in a symphony in his mind, each with its own unique timbre, coming together in a complex harmony that no human-created music could ever duplicate. Still, he liked to think that Johnny Cash could’ve given it a run for its money.

 He activated the heads-up display on the windshield and linked it to the city’s own sensors to provide a real-time tactical display of the hive ships as they approached. While he continued to ready the jumper for takeoff, Major Lorne and the pilots assigned to Alpha and Beta Flights poured into the jumper bay, their faces nervous but determined at the prospect of battle with the Wraith as they boarded their assigned jumpers and quickly ran through the preflight checklist.

 A couple of them, Davis in Jumper Seven and Addams in Jumper Nine, were wearing flight suits as they had been on standby to perform a flyover of Atlantis and its landing site once the city had reached the target planet and safely landed. The rest, including Sheppard and Lorne, were wearing the new black field uniforms that Homeworld Command had started issuing to all military personnel in the Stargate program, beginning with the teams at the doomed Icarus Base. Sheppard, however, had eschewed the fitted jacket in favor of the same kind of loose-fitting uniform shirt with rolled up sleeves that he had favored for the past couple of years. While he definitely approved of General O’Neill’s efforts to get all Atlantis military and civilian personnel back into standardized uniforms after the haphazard uniform allotments they’d gotten from the IOA, Sheppard did still have a reputation to maintain as a rebel against authority.

 That train of thought was interrupted as Lorne’s voice came over the radio a moment later. “Colonel, preflight is complete; we’re ready to launch.”

 “Acknowledged.” John cleared his throat as he transmitted the real-time tac display to the other jumpers to illustrate the layout of the attack plan. “All right everyone, here’s the plan: We’ll be engaging the hive ships under cloak. At three thousand meters out, we split into assigned pairs and proceed to the hive ships. Flight leader and wingman will target engines, and element leader and wingman target weapons arrays. Second pass, we all target life support and anything else that looks like the Wraith can’t live without it. If we need to buy McKay some more time... well, we’ll figure out something.”

 A chorus of “Aye, sir’s!” chimed in from the other jumpers, and he then paged the control room while activating the retractable roof at the top of the egress shaft overhead. “Control room, this is Sheppard. Alpha and Beta Flights are ready to launch. We’ll be maintaining radio silence until we engage the hive ships.”

“Understood, Colonel,” Woolsey’s voice answered. “Godspeed.”

Sheppard chuckled. “I know I was talking about knocking the rust off our flight skills as soon as we got to Pegasus, but this is ridiculous.” He activated the cloak and maneuvered Jumper One off its landing pad, up into the egress shaft, and out into space. The rest of Alpha Flight, then Lorne and Beta Flight, swiftly followed behind him with practiced ease. Within moments, the small group of jumpers silently slipped outside the city shield and toward the three hive ships bearing down on Atlantis.

 

>>> To be continued in Return to Pegasus, Part II, CH I

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