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Return to Pegasus, Part II, CH IV

<<< Back to Return to Pegasus, Part II, CH III


With the last supplies from Earth off-loaded and the final plans made, it was time to go. Teyla, Kanaan and Ronon had left a little while ago to continue looking for the survivors of the culling on New Athos. All John could do was wish them luck and hope that their search today would go better than the last couple of days. As the Asgard transporter on the Daedalus swept him and Mayel from the gateroom floor, he put his worry for his teammates aside and focused on what he was about to do.

It was a couple of hours from Atlantis to the staging area where the ships of the Coalition’s fleet were assembling. Just enough time for the initial eagerness for another opportunity to stick it to the Wraith to fade and cold reality to start setting in. They were going into battle against a massive fleet of Wraith ships, bigger than anything that those from Atlantis and Earth had faced before. True, the number of actual hive ships was probably about equal or a little less than the number of ships that the Coalition was sending, but there were still the smaller escort ships, cruisers, and of course, the hordes of darts to take into account.

Mayel had managed to sound very convincing when she spoke about the fleet and all of the Coalition’s preparations. No one was really expecting that they would actually destroy the entire Wraith armada. The best they could hope for was to cause as much damage to the Wraith as they could before escaping with their lives. However, John knew that this battle was going to be very, very ugly, and there was a good chance that they wouldn’t even be able do as much damage as they hoped.

John also knew that Caldwell wouldn’t needlessly risk the Daedalus and its crew. They would stay in the battle and fight to the best of their ability for as long as possible, but once the threshold of unacceptable risk had been reached, he would pull the ship out, no matter how much Mayel or the Coalition would demand otherwise. That wasn’t just prudence, it was simply good strategy. Run and live to fight another day.

The first hour of the flight to the rendezvous point was spent in a briefing with the Daedalus’s F-302 squadron. Rather than joining the F-302s as he had done in the past, John instead would be directing them in battle via radio. Still, he surmised it might become necessary to join them out there before the battle was over. The rest of the time he spent on the bridge, discussing strategy with Caldwell and keeping an eye on Mayel, who really didn’t need to be monitored all that closely. She seemed far too distracted by her scrutiny of the Daedalus; she hadn’t exactly been in a position to appreciate the ship the last time she’d been on board. At the moment, they were on the bridge, where the comm officer had just finished giving Mayel some quick lessons in the communications system, as she would be helping to coordinate messages and orders throughout the fleet, just as he would be with the fighters.

“Colonel Caldwell,” Major Marks called from the helm, “we’re approaching the rendezvous point.”

“Excellent. Take us out of hyperspace.”

The Daedalus jumped from hyperspace to normal space with barely a shudder to mark the transition. The system that the Coalition had chosen as their staging area had only a red giant star, circled in wide orbits by a couple of barren, rocky planets. There was no danger of inadvertently running into any Wraith patrols since there was nothing there of any value to the Wraith. The Coalition had chosen the red giant as the place to assemble so that the fleet could use the massive star as a shield to hide their movements from the Wraith until the last possible moment.

Ahead of the Daedalus, floated the Coalition fleet. There were twenty ships in all, of various sizes from small cruisers that were perhaps three times the size of a puddle jumper, to larger ships like Larrin’s.

John stood at the forward windows at the front of the bridge, with Mayel standing beside him. Caldwell finished speaking to another crewmember, then walked up to them.

“We’ve just sent a subspace message to Atlantis that we’ve arrived at the staging area.” Caldwell looked out at the assembled fleet. “Larrin sure wasn’t kidding about her people making a bigger turnout this time.”

“Yeah,” John said. “Everyone’s put all their chips on the table. Let’s just hope it’s enough.”

“It must be,” Mayel said. Both men turned to look at her, and John could see a grim determination in her eyes. “We have come too far to crawl back into our homes and wait in fear for the next culling. This must end, now.”

“Colonel Caldwell, we’re receiving a transmission from the fleet,” the comm officer reported.

Caldwell headed back to the command chair to take his seat. “Let’s hear it.”

Larrin’s voice rang out from the speaker. “Daedalus, this is Larrin of the Travelers. Glad you could make it.”

“Captain Larrin, this is Colonel Caldwell aboard the Daedalus. Good to hear from you again.”

“And you, Colonel. Though I think we would both wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Don’t we all?”

There was a brief chuckle, then Larrin continued, “I’m assuming Sheppard’s there with you?”

“You think I’d miss this now, after everything else we’ve been through?” John shot back.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Larrin said airily. “I guess you strike me as the kind of man who gets bored easily.”

He smirked. “Well, then you still haven’t figured me out.”

“You sure you don’t want to come over here to fly the ship into battle? Just for old times’ sake?”

“Been there, done that, didn’t buy the t-shirt ‘cause it looked cheap.”

Out of the corner of his eye, John noticed Caldwell’s lips twitching, as though he was trying not to laugh.

“Captain Larrin, this is Commander Serrana of the Genii. Is the fleet ready?”

“The last of the remaining ships arrived just before you did and have finished their final status checks, and we’re waiting for the scout ship to return from checking up on the Wraith armada. Other than that, we’re as ready as we’re going to be.”

“Very well.” Before Mayel could say anything more, a hyperspace window opened up a short distance away. A single ship with the hodgepodge of design elements typical to the Travelers shot through the fold in the fabric of space and headed toward the fleet.

“Right on time,” Larrin said. There was a brief silence, then Larrin’s voice returned. “The scouts are reporting the Wraith armada is still in place and showing no sign that they know we’re here. We’ve got ‘em.”

Mayel turned to Caldwell. “I’d like to address the fleet, if I may.” Caldwell nodded, as did John.

“By all means,” Larrin replied.

The comm officer nodded to Mayel to indicate that the fleet-wide channel was open. When Mayel spoke her voice wavered a little in nervousness at first, but it grew in strength and calm as she continued. John found himself hanging on every word.

“This is Commander Mayel Serrana of the Genii, to the Coalition fleet. Never before in the history of all our peoples have we risen together in such strength against the scourge of the Wraith. While none of us yet knows the outcome of the battle before us, the story of what we do here today will be remembered and told to our children and our children’s children, for generations to come. Your courage, your dignity, and your tireless dedication over the past weeks and months have made this day possible. Know that the gratitude and prayers of all those in whose names we fight are with you. Good luck to you and to us all.” She nodded back to the comm officer, who closed the channel, then she turned to Caldwell. “Colonel, let us proceed.”

He gave her a determined smile, then turned to Major Marks at the helm. “Major Marks, set coordinates to intercept the Wraith armada, and prepare to jump to hyperspace.”

As Marks entered the information into the navigational computers and powered up the hyperdrive in preparation to jump, John looked over at Mayel and found himself once again surprised by her, without a clear explanation as to why. Courage, dignity, and dedication described her just as well as it did for all those manning the ships of the fleet, but there was some other element about her too, that gave her a charisma that made people stand up and take notice. She was definitely the kind of person who could be a great leader. If they all managed to survive the next hour or so, of course.

“Coordinates are set, sir,” Marks said. “Hyperdrive standing by.”

“Very good. Jump to hyperspace,” Caldwell commanded.

Marks keyed in the command on his console. A brilliant white and blue light flashed as a hyperspace window opened in front of the Daedalus. All around the Daedalus, similar flashes lit up the blackness of space as the Traveler ships also began their jumps. The Daedalus shot through its window, into hyperspace and beyond that, to a battle that might very well determine the fate of the Pegasus Galaxy for generations to come.




From the staging area, it only took a few minutes to reach the Wraith armada, though to Steven’s mind, it seemed far longer than the trip to the rendezvous with the Coalition fleet. That odd way the mind seemed to compress the passage of time appeared to be a universal occurrence when it came to going into any battle. Steven had lead the Daedalus into battle against the Wraith a handful of times already, and it was a handful too many. In many ways, the Wraith were more dangerous than any other foe that Earth faced, whether it was an Earth-based threat or one from among the stars. They were not to be underestimated.

Action stations made their final reports of readiness as the Daedalus and the other ships approached their target. The time had come.

“Colonel, we’ve reached the intercept point,” Major Marks said.

“Drop us out of hyperspace.”

In an instant, multiple hyperspace windows opened, surrounding the Wraith armada from all directions in what amounted to a loose cage. The Coalition didn’t have nearly the number of ships that the Wraith did, so their strategy had to remain simple. Come in fast, hit the Wraith as hard as they could as fast as they could, and get out. In the opening salvo, the element of surprise was everything. All of the ships opened up their forward batteries, hitting the Wraith with rail guns and energy weapons.

“Weapons officer, fire at will,” Steven ordered. The Daedalus sprayed into the Wraith ships with its Asgard plasma beam weapon, ripping into the nearest two hive ships. One seemed to immediately fall away from the rest, trailing a large plume of fiery debris behind it, while the other ship hung there for a moment, then exploded. A few feral grins flashed on the faces of his crew as the plasma beams continued to fire at the adjacent ships.

“All right,” Caldwell said with a glance at Sheppard, who nodded. “Let’s move in. Marks, take us into the heart of the fleet, maneuvering speed.”

“Aye, sir, maneuvering speed.”

“Transport room, begin beaming warheads.”

“Aye, sir!” Came the response over the intra-ship radio.

The Daedalus surged forward as it continued to fire, its ZPM-enhanced shields shrugging off the Wraith’s return fire as though it was coming from only a child’s water gun. A trio of the Traveler ships that had been outfitted with the Genii atomic warheads followed in the Daedalus’s wake as the Earth ship carved a path right through the middle of the Wraith armada. The Traveler ships began firing the Genii warheads at the Wraith hive ships as they passed by, striking several of them and blowing great, burning gashes into their hulls. A second volley of the warheads was sent out, and a second hive ship exploded, taking several of the smaller Wraith escort ships with it before they could escape the blast.

Caldwell half turned, catching Mayel Serrana’s eye and nodded with a smile. “Well, I’d say the Genii know how to make a pretty mean atomic weapon.”

She smiled back, clearly pleased with what she was seeing. “Yes, Colonel, it would seem that way.”

The Daedalus continued to plow through the Wraith armada. Here and there, blossoms of light unfurled as the ship’s Asgard transport beaming system dropped warheads on short-timed fuses right next to the hive ships that were further away from the Daedalus’s path and out of range of its plasma beam weapon. Another hive ship and more smaller ships were destroyed. After another minute, the Daedalus finally emerged from the other side with the three Traveler ships it was escorting, having taken a few hits but all still in good fighting form and ready to go back in for more.

“How are the shields holding up?”

“Shields are holding. ZPM output down to three percent,” Marks replied.

“All right, set up another run through the top this time. Commander Serrana—“

“The second wave is ready to link up with us, Colonel,” Mayel said.

“Let’s get going while we still have the momentum.”

“Aye, sir!” Once again, Marks quickly altered the ship’s course, swinging the Daedalus up towards the top of the armada, ‘top’ being relative considering the three-dimensional nature of the battlefield. The other four Traveler ships that carried the new Genii warheads fell in behind the Daedalus as she climbed, arcing over the center of the armada and then plunging down to repeat the maneuver and divide the armada again.

This time, the wedge of ships had not even made it halfway through the armada when Wraith darts began shooting out of the hives like a swarm of bees. The darts began peppering the Daedalus and the ships it was escorting with their short range energy bolt weapons; a few even tried to make suicide runs at the wedge, though they were only partly successful, driving one of the Traveler ships out of the wedge.

“Damn,” Steven muttered as he watched the tactical display. “Launch the F-302s,” he ordered.

“Yes, sir,” Sheppard said, and quietly spoke his commands into his earpiece. Within moments, the outer doors to the fighter bays opened up and the Daedalus’s full complement of F-302 fighters had zoomed out of their mothership. They began moving to engage the enemy and draw them away from the wedge of Coalition ships. The stricken Traveler ship rejoined the wedge; it was clearly having trouble keeping up, and Mayel dispatched orders to the other ships in the wedge to flank the damaged ship in order to shield it from further attack.

As the Daedalus reached the midway point through the armada and shot through the space it had cleared in its first pass, there was another large explosion off to the starboard side. A Wraith hive ship had exploded, taking a sizeable chunk of a second hive ship in the process. The Daedalus continued on its path to the other side of the armada, continuing to hit any hive ship within reach of the plasma beam, while the Traveler ships kept firing warheads. However, more and more of the warheads failed to reach their targets as the Wraith darts moved to intercept them, as they had in their previous encounters with Earth ships.

At last, the Daedalus and the four Traveler ships came out of the armada. While the Daedalus had made its firing runs, the rest of the Traveler ships had continued to circle the periphery, firing their own weapons and inflicting as much damage as they could while trying to avoid taking hits from the Wraith. Now the Daedalus joined them again, slowing down a little to make it easier for the transport beam to lock onto target zones.

“Shields?” Caldwell asked.

Marks never took his eyes from the readouts. “Still holding, sir. ZPM down to two percent.”

Steven looked out at the armada. They had done considerable damage, but there were still so many ships that they’d only barely touched.

“How many warheads do we have left?”

“Sixteen, sir.”

“Colonel, can we beam two warheads at once?” Sheppard asked. “One along each side of the ship, then detonate them together?”

Steven raised an eyebrow. “I don’t see why not. Transport room, did you read that?”

“Yes, sir. We can do that.”

“Then do it.”

The beep signaling a beam-out was heard, then there was a flash on one side of a hive ship. Seconds later, there was another flash on the other side of the same ship, and when the light faded, the hive ship had been cut in two. Sheppard gave a low whistle.

Steven was impressed, to say the least. “Well, that’s gonna leave a mark.” He glanced over to Sheppard. “Good idea.” Sheppard grinned, and Steven hit the comm switch on his chair arm. “Airman Stokes, keep doing that.”

“Yes, sir!”




Once again, Richard Woolsey found himself inhabiting the body of a junior airman assigned to Homeworld Command on Earth, so that Richard could report on the current situation in Atlantis to General O’Neill. O’Neill was just wrapping up another meeting, so Richard had been escorted to an anteroom near O’Neill’s office to wait. Located on an interior corridor, there were no windows, but the walls were decorated with framed photos of military vehicles in action. There was a seating area with several chairs and a couch around a low table that held a few magazine back issues, but Richard chose to stand, too nervous about what was happening back in Pegasus to do anything but pace.

A familiar voice rang gently behind him. “Excuse me, can I help you?”

He turned to find Nancy Sheppard standing in the doorway, tablet in hand.

“Director Sheppard. It’s nice to see you again.”

She looked perplexed. “Have we met?”

“Huh? Oh, I’m sorry.” He chuckled nervously. “I know I don’t look it, but I’m Richard Woolsey. I, uh, used the Ancient communication stones to come here and report to General O’Neill. I’m waiting for him now.”

An understanding smile quickly spread across her face at the explanation. “Ah! Right.” She stepped into the room. “I had heard that the Daedalus was going to be joining a fleet of Coalition ships to attack the Wraith armada. Has that happened yet?”

“Actually, it’s happening right now. The last report we got from the fleet before I came here was that they had taken out three hive ships and several escort ships.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “That sounds good. Very good, actually.” She paused for a moment. “I suppose John is out there with them.”

“Yes, he is. But, I’m sure he’ll be fine,” he quickly added at the look of concern on her face.

Her full lips quirked in a grin. “He does have that talent for getting himself into and out of trouble, doesn’t he? Especially with the Wraith.”

“Oh yes,” he chuckled. “Though I imagine he’s probably having trouble just dealing with Larrin.”

She frowned. “Larrin. She’s that ship captain from the Travelers. The one who kidnapped John?”

“That’s the one.”

“Oh, dear.”

“That’s one way of looking at it.” They both laughed. It felt good to laugh, and Richard hoped there would be more reasons to laugh in the future, rather than reasons to worry.

“I was wondering if you could tell me how Teyla is doing,” Nancy asked. “Has she located her people yet?”

Richard sighed. “Unfortunately, no. It seems that none of our allies knows where the Athosians went after the Coalition resettled them. We’ve all been hoping that they’ve just gone to ground somewhere to wait this out, but so far, we haven’t found any solid leads.”

Nancy’s face fell a little, clearly disappointed. “That must be so discouraging for her. I know she had a very difficult time on Earth, being away from her people for so long. I’d ask if there was anything I could do to help, but, well, there isn’t anything more I can do from here.”

“I will let her know that you’re thinking about her,” Richard assured Nancy. “Sometimes, just knowing that people are pulling for you can be a help.” He rocked back on his heels a little. “Speaking of situations in a holding pattern, I imagine there’s no change on the Langaran negotiations.”

Nancy huffed. “It’s the same as always. They say they’re still going over Eli Wallace’s equations and are not prepared to let us attempt to use their gate to reach Destiny.”

“Did you ever get a chance to meet anyone from the Destiny?” She shook her head, and he continued, “I only met Colonel Young and Lieutenant Scott briefly when Doctor McKay and I were assisting Colonel Telford with the Langarans.” He couldn’t quite keep the edge out of his voice at the word ‘assisting,’ which Nancy seemed to notice though she made no comment on it other than a silently raised eyebrow.

“They’ve got good people out there,” she said.

“Yes, they do. Doctor McKay actually had a chance to go out there himself. He said later that he rather liked that Wallace fellow.” His thoughts grew more serious. “In some ways, I think they’re better off than we are now. They may be in contact with us, but they’re still isolated from the worst of the chaos and politicking. In the meantime, we’re back here trying to make sure that they’ve got a home to come back to. If we ever can find a way to get them back.” He shook his head. “Oh, listen to me! I think I’ve been hanging out with Doctor McKay too long. His eternal pessimism must be rubbing off on me.”

Nancy grinned, which somehow made Richard feel better at once. “We found the key to Destiny when we found the nine-symbol address in the Atlantis database. Atlantis is a beacon of hope, not just for the Pegasus Galaxy or Earth, but also for those on Destiny. You and your people may very well be the lighthouse that will guide Destiny home, as well as defeating the Wraith. If there’s anything I learned from my time on Atlantis, it’s that you people don’t give up without one hell of a fight.”




After everything else that had happened over the past few days, to say nothing of the past few years, Kanaan did not think there was anything else in two galaxies that could truly shock him. However, Jinto’s announcement had proved him wrong. Teyla, an outcast? The very idea was unthinkable, yet it seemed that Jinto and the others were truly serious in contemplating such a move. He looked around the cavern in sadness. Including himself and Teyla, there were as many Athosians left as there were years in a generation, just enough to be counted on four hands. How had it all come to this?

“Outcast?” Teyla exclaimed. “Jinto, what madness is this?”

“What you call madness, we call justice. All of our sorrows began when the Lanteans came to Athos. We should have parted ways with them then, but you chose to stay behind when the rest of us wished to leave. You kept us tied to them, and the Wraith came after us because of that tie,” Jinto spat.

Kanaan flinched at that reminder of the schism in their people, so soon after they had relocated to Atlantis. Ancestors forgive him, but he himself had doubted Teyla then as well. He had since come to understand why those thoughts were misguided, but it seemed that Jinto was too blinded by grief to learn that lesson for himself.

Teyla shook her head. “You cannot know that—“

“We do know it!” Nevir cried. “First Michael took us and used us as his slaves in revenge against you and the Lanteans. Then the rest of the Wraith came for those who remained after you, and the Lanteans left us on New Athos to fend for ourselves! All of us here were lucky to be out hunting away from the camp, or else we would have been taken as well!” There were cries of agreement from the crowd.

“They took my father,” Jinto snarled. “They took Wex and his mother, and all the others. It would’ve been a greater mercy if the Wraith had simply killed us all where we stood, as they did with the Hoffans.” His hands clenched at his sides. “My father and Wex’s mother were talking of joining their hands before the Ancestors. Did you know of it?” Teyla shook her head, but Jinto went on bitterly, “Of course you did not know of it. You were never here! A leader should know the joys as well as the sorrows of her people. But you were never here. You no longer walked among us as you did on Athos.”

“I had responsibilities—“

“Do you think the Lanteans are more important than we are?” Onna asked, which drew even more approving cheers.

“I am our people’s voice to the Lanteans! I have never stopped thinking of our people and how Atlantis can help all of us—“ Several voices jeered, and out of the corner of his eye, Kanaan noticed Ronon shift slightly, growing uncomfortable as the mood seemed to turn darker.

“Atlantis, Atlantis, it is always about Atlantis!” shouted Rivat, another of the young hunters.

ENOUGH!” Kanaan roared, and a silence quickly fell, as many stared in shock at the uncharacteristic outburst. Kanaan was normally a quiet man, and asserting himself in this manner had certainly gotten everyone’s attention. Teyla’s eyes were wide in surprise, and Ronon had raised his eyebrows in question, though neither said anything. Kanaan slowly blinked, trying to invoke calm in his heart. When he opened his eyes and focused them on the group before them, his face was a smooth mask, though his heart still burned.

“You all speak of what happened to our people when Atlantis left this galaxy as reason to cast Teyla out,” he began in a quieter voice. “Yet you insist on making a judgment when you do not know of what happened to those of us who left. That is not our people’s way. Will you listen to the story of what happened when you were not there?”

“I will hear it,” Soren said after a moment, and there were a few other nods and murmurs of agreement.

Jinto frowned, but he too seemed to recognize the need for a fair hearing, and he nodded. “Very well.”

Teyla, along with Kanaan, took turns in explaining what had happened over the past year: the Lanteans’ desperate race to stop the rogue Wraith superhive from culling Earth, the months of pleas to the Lanteans’ leaders on Earth to allow Atlantis to return, the surprise appearance of Mayel Serrana with the Coalition’s appeal to Earth, and the even more surprising attack by one of Earth’s enemies that finally forced the hand of the IOA to let Atlantis leave Earth. All in all, it was a dizzying tale by any description, and some of those who now stood in judgment over them seemed to be taking their words into account.

Ronon made an occasional comment as well, when asked. Kanaan suspected that Ronon, though a friend to him and Teyla and to the Athosians in general, did not wish to appear as though he were meddling in what was clearly an internal affair. Given what many of the survivors seemed to feel about the ‘meddling’ of the Lanteans leading to their current predicament, that was probably a prudent decision. However, he was not certain that Teyla realized this, considering the dark looks she occasionally shot at Ronon.

“Look at me,” Kanaan finally said, spreading his arms, the action drawing every eye to him as he spoke. “You all know what happened to me because the Wraith were wakened early. Michael focused his attention on me specifically because of my connection to Teyla. By your words, do I not have even more reason to run? Yet you do not see me shrinking away from Teyla’s side, or from Atlantis. I believe in Atlantis, and in the Lanteans of Earth, who have reclaimed their heritage as children of the Ancestors.”

“And what have they done with that heritage, Kanaan?” Jinto sneered. “They woke the Wraith! They created Michael! They brought the wrath of the Ancestors upon us!” There were nods and mutters of agreement from among the crowd.

“It is true, the Wraith were woken early by the Lanteans, but that was an accident, as we all know well,” Teyla explained, her voice shaking with deep emotion. “Just as we all know that the Wraith would have eventually woken even without the Lanteans’ presence. And it is also true that had it not been for the Lanteans searching for a way to curb the dependence of the Wraith to feed on humans, Michael would not have been created. Yet if he had not been created, who is to say that another Wraith might not have risen and done what Michael did to us? It is because of the Lanteans’ own investigation that we know how our people came to possess the gift that allows some of us to sense the approach of the Wraith. If one Wraith generations ago can turn rogue against his own kind to do experiments on humans, another could do so just as easily now.” The mutters among the spectators grew again, this time seeming to agree with Teyla’s words.

“As for the wrath of the Ancestors,” Kanaan continued with a sigh, “We cannot know what the Ancestors might have hoped for the future aside from the clues they left in Atlantis, and each of those clues points to the hope that they, or their descendants, would one day return. Six years ago, those descendants finally did return. Then the Ancestors themselves returned. I do not think I need to remind you of how much the crew of the Tria did not... meet our expectations.” There was another brief burst of muttering among the small group of Athosians. The memory of the disdain with which the crew of the Tria had dismissed the contributions of the Athosians to the survival of the city and their role in the Pegasus Galaxy had left a bitter taste in many mouths.

“No, the Lanteans are not perfect, but neither were the Ancestors. If they had been, surely they would have defeated the Wraith ten thousand years ago and never left Atlantis at all. And,” Kanaan added with an ironic grin, “we would not be having this debate now.”

Jinto was shaking his head, but many of the others were nodding, and there were even a few chuckles at Kanaan’s last statement.

Kanaan shook his head. “Mayel Serrana was right about one thing. We must come together, for we are at our strongest when we are united. All of us, Athosians, the peoples of the Coalition and the rest of this galaxy, and the Lanteans. We have no hope of truly defeating the Wraith once and for all without such a union. When our numbers are so few, how will diminishing ourselves further help matters?”

Those gathered around the trio looked at them and at each other. Whispers broke out between some. Others remained silent, but held expressions of regret and perhaps of willingness to reconsider their placement of blame.

“What the three of you have told us is.. unsettling,” Solen admitted.

“It is the truth,” Teyla replied. “We wished to return sooner. We tried to convince the Lanteans’ IOA to at least let us return ourselves even if Atlantis did not return with us, but our voices were too few to make a difference until they were joined by others. I understand all too well what it is to be alone, with no one else to sing our songs and tell our stories.”

That sad reminder that Teyla had truly been alone for nearly a year, while Michael had held the rest of them as his prisoners, seemed to mollify them further.

“We will consider what you have said, and then we will make a judgment,” Jinto told them, then looked around at the rest. “Are we agreed?” There were nods of assent, and quietly the others withdrew to an adjacent cave to confer.

When the three were the only ones left in the chamber, Ronon nodded at Kanaan. “Good speech.”

Kanaan sighed. “I just hope it was enough.”

Teyla gave a watery smile and laid her hand on his arm encouragingly. “I told you once that you were a stronger leader than you thought you were. I am glad I was here to see that proven true.” He smiled back and laid his hand on hers.

“I could not have done it without you, beloved. You are my strength.”

Teyla’s smile faltered as tears sprang to her eyes. She withdrew her hand and clasped her arms as if hugging herself, then lowered her head and turned away. Kanaan and Ronon exchanged a worried look, and then Kanaan stepped forward to enfold Teyla in his arms. She stiffened, then slowly lowered her head further, touching her forehead to his chest as her shoulders shook in silent sobs. Kanaan closed his eyes, trying to will his own tears away as he held her all the tighter.




The battle was going as well as they could hope, but the old adage about the best laid plans not surviving the first engagement was holding true. While the 302s had been able to draw some of the darts away, others had kept up with trying to shield the hive ships from the Genii atomic warheads as they were launched. A few more warheads did hit their targets and scored some impressive hits. The Daedalus continued to have better luck with its one-two combination of beaming its own tactical missiles right up close to the hive ships and then detonating them, as well as taking shots at the Wraith ships with the Asgard plasma beam weapons.

So far, seven hive ships had been totally destroyed while another four were heavily damaged and left to drift, dead in space. Quite a few of the support ships had also been destroyed when they were unable to get away from the exploding hive ships fast enough. Unfortunately, there were still over three dozen hives and too many more support ships to count that remained in the fight.

The Coalition’s losses were far more serious. Eight of their own ships were gone. One of those ships, several of its decks ablaze from critical hits, had heroically charged forward to ram a hive ship and destroy it, the ensuing explosion also knocking out one of the four hive ships that was now adrift. The Daedalus was still hanging on, its ZPM-enhanced shields and advanced weapons providing a rallying point for the fleet, but the Wraith had started to catch on to that fact and were ratcheting up the bombardment of the mighty Earth ship. As John had known it would, this battle was turning ugly.

“Colonel, ZPM strength has just dipped under one percent,” Marks announced.

“Damn,” Caldwell muttered. He glanced over at John, then turned his chair to face Mayel. “Commander Serrana, I hate to say this, but we need to start thinking about getting out of here.”

“Three ships still have not deployed all of their warheads yet,” she said, looking from Caldwell to John and back again. “We have to give them more time.”

“That ZPM won’t last much longer, and once it goes, it’ll only take a few minutes for our shields to be knocked down if this heavy fire continues.”

“And it will,” John finished. “The Wraith are focusing more of their attention on us because we haven’t taken as much damage as the rest of the fleet. They want to bring us down.”

Mayel took a breath as if she were about to reply, then an alarm briefly sounded, followed by the ship suddenly shaking more violently under the Wraith fire than it had before.

“ZPM is fully drained, sir. We’re on main power,” Marks confirmed.

Mayel half turned to the comm console, one hand touching the headset she’d been given. “Colonel, the Danzir and the Revan are reporting that they’ve managed to isolate another two hives while the bulk of the Wraith have been distracted with us. They’re launching their warheads now.”

John and everyone else looked through the forward windows, trying to see the outcome of the engagement, but the Daedalus was positioned a little too far to their right to have a good view from the bridge.

“I’ve got them on sensors,” the officer sitting next to Marks said. “The Revan has scored a direct hit! Starboard side of the hive ship is completely blown off and it’s starting to list away; looks like they lost their guidance and propulsion systems.” John noticed Mayel clenching her fist in victory and flashed her a quick smile.

“The Danzir’s two warheads have hit amidships,” the sensor officer continued. “Engines appear to be out...” He paused, studying the readout, then quickly added, “They’re firing back! The Danzir’s hit, they’re—“

There was suddenly a bright explosion off to the Daedalus’s port side. The Danzir was gone. Then the Daedalus rocked again from another volley of weapons fire from the surviving hive ships. Then the ship that the Danzir had been targeting opened fire on them. Without engines, it could only sit there and fire at anything that came in range, but it was enough.

“Shields are down to seventy-two percent!” Marks reported.

“That’s it,” Caldwell grimly announced. “Recall the 302s, let’s get them back in the barn while we still can.”

“Understood.” John snuck a glance over at Mayel’s disappointed expression as he gave the recall order. Within moments, the 302s broke off from hunting down darts and started zooming toward the Daedalus as fast as they could.

The Daedalus shuddered under a double wave of fire from the Wraith as they all timed their weapons to hit at the same time, and there was a tremendous burst of sparks from a conduit overhead. John lunged forward, catching Mayel in his arms as he pushed her out of the way. A sharp pain ignited on the left side of his head and down his shoulder as they crashed to the deck. He looked up, and as she squirmed around in his arms to see what had happened, he looked back to where Mayel had been standing. The conduit had detached from the ceiling, falling to the deck and dragging the bundle of sparking electrical wires with it. A pair of airmen assigned to damage control were already spraying the conduit and wires with fire extinguishers.

He looked back at Mayel, who was looking past him to the wreckage and whose mouth was open in a little ‘o’ of surprise.

“Now that is chivalry,” he told her.

She blinked and looked back at him. Immediately, her expression changed as her eyes widened. “You’re hurt!” She reached up and brushed her fingers along his left temple, and he winced. Her fingers came away with drops of blood at the tips, and he realized the conduit must have hit him on its way down.

He sat up, helping her to a sitting position, then let go of her. “I’ve been hit in the head before. I’ll live.” She snorted noncommittally at his smirk and took the first aid kit that another crewmember offered her. She opened it up and rifled through it, her expression becoming more and more frustrated. He dug his own hands into the bag, taking a guess that she didn’t recognize most of the Earth-made medical items. He pulled out a couple of packages of antiseptic wipes and gauze, some medical tape, and one of those disposable cold packs. The moment he ripped open the first package of wipes, she pulled it out of his hand and started daubing at the cut on his forehead. She wasn’t that gentle, but she was thorough. Carson and Jennifer would no doubt have approved and said that it served him right for being stupid and getting hurt in the first place, he thought morosely. Still, at least Mayel was in one piece to be able to doctor his wounds.

It took him a moment to realize that her fingers had grown more gentle as she pressed a piece of gauze over the cut and started taping it in place. Her movements nonetheless remained quite deliberate, if slower. Finally, he swatted her hands away with a gentle shooing motion, then picked up the ice pack, squeezed and shook it to activate it, then pressed it to his forehead over the bandage. He absently thought that Carson and Jennifer would be so proud he was actually taking care of himself rather than trying to tough it out. Doctors. Go figure.

He looked up at her, blinking in the hazy light, and once again, he was uncertain of how to interpret the expression on her face. Or rather, he could think of one interpretation, but he wasn’t sure it was the correct one.

“You, uh, had better get back to the comm,” he reminded her. His voice was huskier than usual. Probably the smoke in the air.

“Right.” She rose to her feet in one graceful action and helped him to stand before heading back to the communications console. She turned back to him. “I think I understand now.” He blinked at her, and she must have recognized his confusion, so she clarified her statement. “Chivalry.”

“Ah.” He flashed an unsure but game smile at her, and she smiled back before turning to the comm to check in with the other ships. He did notice that she kept glancing over at him every so often, as if to make sure that he hadn’t fallen over and would have to be swept up with the rest of the debris.

He carefully walked over to the command chair. Caldwell glanced at him critically.

“You all right, Sheppard?”

“Never better,” he drawled.

“All of the fighters are in, Colonel,” Mayel told them.

The Daedalus lurched suddenly as the Wraith attempted a second try at hitting the Earth ship from all sides at once, and those who were on their feet, John and Mayel included, found themselves grabbing whatever they could to keep from being knocked to the deck.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”


>>> To be concluded in Return to Pegasus, Part II, CH V

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