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Primum Movens, Part I, Ch I

<<< Primum Movens, Part I, Prologue

The sun was shining across the city, casting a bright, colorful beam through the great glass window that stood above the great staircase of the Gateroom.  The multitude of colors danced upon the floor, skipping across the shoulders of the personnel, working their way up to the control room, and creating a halo of color throughout.  It was a sight of great loveliness, and coupled with the calm demeanor of the Expedition members, who had no reason for alarm at the moment, the effect was quite peaceful. 

“Teyla?” 

The soft lilt of Kate Heightmeyer turned Teyla’s attention away from the scene before her.  The psychologist’s forehead knitted in concern, to which Teyla offered a reassuring smile.  “I apologize.  I was caught up in the beauty of the morning.”

Kate’s gaze travelled to the stained glass window and she smiled knowingly.  Teyla studied her friend’s bright blue eyes and red hair with pleasure.  She would not—in truth, could not—reveal the circumstances by which Kate had been returned to them.  Only she was aware of them, and they were moments she would bear with her until the end of her days.  But it did not stop her from appreciating the very real loss she alone had suffered for two years or the sincere pleasure of knowing that such a loss would not have to be felt by anyone else, as it had once before. 

“Have you spoken with Colonel Sheppard since last we spoke, about…” Kate’s voice trailed off, her attention returning to Teyla, as they headed down the gateroom steps.  

“I have not,” Teyla said, her smile fading.  Part of the reason she had asked to speak with Kate this morning concerned John.  “I was hoping you might have spoken with him.” 

“If I had, you know that I could not reveal…” 

“Of course I would never inquire about what is spoken in confidentiality,” Teyla reassured her.  “I was merely concerned that he had spoken to no one of what occurred with the Coalition—and with…”

“Commander Serrana?”  Kate fixed her attention on Teyla’s face, drawing her hands together.  

“Well, yes, though I was actually referring to Elizabeth and the replicators.   What happened with Mayel should be none of my concern,” Teyla returned quickly.  “It is his personal business.  But…” 

“As a friend and team member you are worried,” Kate said with a soft smile.  

“It is just…John has never been good about expressing his feelings, and he has suffered a great many losses through the last few years.  We are concerned for his well-being, I suppose.” 

“We?” 

“Ronon has expressed concern.  And Rodney is very worried, though he acts as though he does not care.  Colonel Sheppard has kept very much to himself these last few weeks.” 

Kate smiled sympathetically.  “I certainly understand your concern.  And there is more than just cause for Colonel Sheppard to feel this way.  None of what happened has to be easy for him.  But until he feels like speaking, I cannot really force him to speak with me.” 

“Is that not what he did for me?  The first years of the expedition, he talked to you about approaching me regarding my gift.” 

“He was your superior, concerned about a subordinate.  And he had the approval of Doctor Weir.” 

“Mr. Woolsey has already given consent to my speaking with you about this.  I may not be John’s superior in terms of rank, but I can assure you as both a leader—former leader—and a friend I feel very much that this is the proper course of action.” 

Kate studied her intently, pursing her lips, before nodding.  “Very well.  I’ll need to get direct approval from Richard, but I see no reason why I cannot approach him to speak with him.” 

“Speak with who about what?” 

Teyla turned in surprise as John neared them, appearing from beneath the staircase, a curious look on his careworn face.  “Teyla.  Doc.” 

“Hello, John.  We were speaking of Kanaan,” Teyla said quickly, answering his question as Kate looked at her in alarm.  “I have approached Doctor Heightmeyer about counseling him with regards to his new role representing the Athosians in the Coalition.  He is feeling a little overwhelmed by the responsibilities that have been pressed upon him.  And as he lives on Atlantis, there may be some—how do you put it?  ‘red tape?’ to cut through.”   

If John suspected her story, he did not show it.  A frown crossed his face, but not one of suspicion.  “I thought he was handling everything just fine.” 

“In general he is doing well, but the requirements of his position have been burdensome.  He could benefit from speaking with someone about his concerns.” 

“As soon as I speak with Mr. Woolsey, I’ll make sure to approach him about it.”  Kate smiled, a little mischievously.  “Colonel.  Teyla.” 

“Thank you, Kate.”  Teyla watched her walk through the gateroom, red curls bouncing and smiled gratefully. 

When she turned back, John was staring at her with a blank look.  

She smiled at him.  “What?” 

He shook his head.  “Uh, nothing.  You’ve been hanging out a lot with Heightmeyer these days.  Everything okay?” 

“Everything is fine.  I am merely enjoying her presence as a close friend.” 

He raised his chin and nodded, turning up the steps.  She followed him, more as a course of habit than for any particular reason. 

“So, Kanaan having a rough time with the politicians?”  John asked this question more as a measure of polite conversation, she suspected, than genuine interest.  His lack of expression seemed to indicate as much to her eyes.  But in the last few months, that was very much the manner and demeanor he bore.  Though she could not speak much to his personal life.  He had not shared so much as a friendly lunch with her or Kanaan in a few months. 

“He is not accustomed to quite so much subterfuge in his daily life.  There is some delicacy of concern as well, where the…” she trailed off, but John looked at her squarely, his expression unchanging.  “With the Coalition in its current position.” 

“You mean with it flaunting its copy of the Irati retrovirus and declaring its supremacy to Atlantis and anything else associated with Earth because of it?” 

“Their acquisition of the drug has strengthened their acclaim in the eyes of many of the Pegasus galaxy people.  Along with the fact of the Wraith responding to those threats by ceasing their attacks.  Even my people do not wish to be without a position in the Pegasus Coalition, though they continue to place their trust in Atlantis.  Which is why Mr. Woolsey thought Kanaan might serve them well in such a placement.  He is just unskilled in the nuances of politics.  But I believe he will be up to the task, once Mr. Woolsey has taught him the finer points of negotiating.” 

“I don’t envy him,” John returned, his eyes narrowing, “‘S why I prefer doing my negotiating with a P-90.  Especially where the Coalition is concerned.” 

“Mr. Woolsey!”  Amelia Banks called out loudly enough to startle the rest of the control room, which began buzzing with activity.  John glanced at Teyla, and they both increased their pace, reaching the tech as the monitor at her station buzzed into staticky life. 

“We’ve got a transmission of some kind feeding through one of our old frequencies,” Amelia said, as Richard Woolsey emerged from his office, coming to stand beside them. 

“Who is it?” 

“I’m not sure, sir.” 

“It seems to be a digital video feed, sir,” said another of the techs behind them.  “No source identification.” 

“Is it clean?” 

“Yes, sir.  There is no additional data attached.” 

“Can we be traced from it?” 

Amelia shook her head.  “Not likely.” 

Woolsey turned towards one of the monitors standing in the far ends of the control room.  “Go ahead.” 

The feed shook at first, a white blur surrounded by black, pixilating in front of them. 

“Hello?” called out a vaguely familiar voice.  Teyla craned her head a little towards the sound.  The voice was quite familiar. 

“Can we have your identification code, please?” 

“Hello?  Atlantis?  Richard?” 

John’s hands dropped from his hips, a startled expression flashing across his face.  The words echoed in Teyla’s mind, and she was certain that she had heard that voice before. 

“Are you there?  John?” 

It was the way the cadence ran over his name that brought the recognition, sending a chill through her bones.  

It cannot be. 

That voice was gone.  Dead.  

The pixilation slowly ceased, the picture coming into focus, and as the figure upon it materialized, she found she could not draw breath.  Beside her, John watched the screen in shock, as Richard moved a little closer.  

This cannot be. 

The face resolved into clarity, and the bright, clear eyes of Elizabeth Weir—or rather, the version of Elizabeth Weir who had inhabited the body of the replicator Rodney had created—took them in.  “Hello?” 

“Hello,” replied Richard.   “With whom am I speaking?” 

“I presume you can see me,” she said softly.  “Richard, it’s Elizabeth.  Elizabeth Weir.  I’d give you my IDC, but it’s not valid anymore.” 

The control room remained silent for a second, even the technicians uncertain of what to do.  The shock was palpable.  Every one of them was familiar with the story of Elizabeth Weir, and most of them familiar with Elizabeth herself. 

“The last time we saw you, you were walking through a gate into space,” Woolsey replied stoically.  “When we checked back at that location a few weeks ago, all of the replicators with you were unbonded.  We presumed that you…” 

Her face grew pained.  “They told me they did that.  I alone was spared.” 

“Spared.” John said. 

“John?  You are there.”  The smile on Elizabeth’s face grew for a moment. 

“Who saved you?” he barked again, the tone of his voice startling Teyla with its bitterness.  “What in the hell is going on?” 

Elizabeth’s smile faded in surprise.  “The Wraith took me.” 

Woolsey glanced back at them.  “Wraith?” 

The Elizabeth on-screen glanced swiftly to the side, then turned back to them.  “I don’t have much time.  Please.”  Her hands clasped together, fingers twisting.  “I need your help.” 

John shot a look at Teyla, who knew his thoughts, as she herself was experiencing them.  Doubt, suspicion, fear. 

And maybe, in the corner of his mind somewhere, a little bit of relief.  

--/--

“What Wraith?”  John moved closer to the screen.  Rodney was apparently ‘on his way’, though nobody knew how long that would take. 

Elizabeth had also approached the camera, her voice dropping.  “I’m not really sure.  The last thing I remember was space.  Drifting in space, until everything went black.  Then, I woke up here.” 

The memory of her walking through the gate flashed through his mind and he clenched his jaw.  

God, he’d thought this was over.  It had almost been a relief, when they’d found what they found a few months ago.  No more wondering, no more hope.  Just the guilt.  And that he could deal with.   He had more than enough of it to go around at this point. 

But now… 

Now, he didn’t know whether to feel cautious or questioning or just royally pissed she was still alive and talking to them now.   Again. 

“And they just let you wander around their ship?” Woolsey was asking.  “Because I find it hard to believe they gave you access to their communications console.” 

“I had to take…extreme…measures with my Wraith guard,” she replied, her forehead crinkling in concern.  “It was not something I would typically do.” 

John didn’t bother to ask any more about that.  It would probably be better for all of them if he didn’t.  “So what…” 

“Oh my God!”  Rodney scrambled into the control room, his eyes upon the screen they were all gathered around.  “Elizabeth?  We thought you were, you know, nanite…dust…” 

Elizabeth smiled.  “Hello, Rodney.” 

“So, where are you?  How did you survive?  What happened?  What…” 

John tossed him a look, and Rodney frowned.  “What?” 

“I was wondering that myself,” Woolsey said, with a cool glance at John.  

“I’m not entirely sure.”  Elizabeth tilted her head a little.  “The Wraith haven’t exactly been talkative.  They’re obviously not thrilled with the idea of having…me…aboard, but I think that it might have something to do with…”           

 “With what?” 

She stared at the camera intently.  “With the fact that I’m in a replicator body.” 

John sighed heavily in irritation.  Teyla cast a sympathetic glance his way, thinking the same thing, he was sure, he was.  

Here we go again. 

“What do you propose we do?”  Woolsey asked, still betraying no emotion.  “It isn’t as though we can approach them and negotiate your release.” 

“No, of course.”  She twisted her hands a little more violently, a gesture John remembered only too vividly as a sign of extreme agitation.  “I just…I don’t know what they’re planning.  If it has something to do with endangering Atlantis…” she shook her head, glancing down at the floor.  “In any case, I’ve overheard a few things that I thought you should know about.  They’ve mentioned they’re split apart from the main Wraith fleet—I’m not quite sure why.  And, they’re actively in pursuit of something called ‘the Primus’.  I haven’t a clue what that means, but I figured if they want it, it’s something you should know about.” 

“And that’s it?”  Woolsey said.  “That’s all?” 

“This Primus is important to them,” she returned.  “I think it has something to do with the replicators.” 

“Why do you surmise that?” 

“Because everything they’ve done to me only has to do with that,” she said.  “It’s like it’s why they found me.” 

“And how did they know where to find you?” asked John.  “I’ve been told on somewhat decent authority that pinpointing your location would be next to impossible.” 

Behind him, Rodney snorted. 

“And,” John continued, ignoring him, “it’s not like we shared that information with anyone.   Especially not the Wraith.” 

“It was possible with one Wraith,” Woolsey said, glancing towards him but not quite meeting his gaze. 

John almost sighed, but shook his head instead.  “So this Wraith group’s a part of Todd’s fleet.” 

“Todd?”  Elizabeth said.  “Who’s Todd?” 

“Todd, you know, Todd the Wraith?” Rodney replied, almost automatically.  “The one who tortured Colonel Sheppard at Kolya’s command three, four years ago?” 

John slowly turned back to Rodney, narrowing his eyes.  Catching his gaze, Rodney swallowed and quite astutely decided to not go any further. 

“You named him Todd?”  The Elizabeth replicator blinked once, looking at John.  “Why…” 

“It’s a long story,” Richard interrupted with a wave of his hand.  “The point is we’ve had multiple contacts with him, and he’s now considered a rebel Wraith with his own agenda.” 

“Do you recall seeing him where you are now?” asked Teyla. 

“No…I mean, I suppose it’s possible, but it’s not as though I truly remember him.”  Elizabeth said softly.  “I only saw him a few times in those video feeds.  And he’s not exactly the one I was focused on.” 

The room went dead silent at that, and John felt something unnerving clench in his chest.  He swallowed, took a breath, re-focused on the reality of what they were dealing with now.  Ignoring the past. 

“The point is, if he found you, he more than likely knows who you are and what you know about Atlantis.”  His voice sounded thick and guttural.  He lowered it a little, stepping closer to the monitor.  “And that means you’ve just become a significant security threat to everyone here.”  

Elizabeth pressed her lips together tightly and she looked down towards the floor.  When she returned her gaze to the monitor, her eyes had taken on a fiery look.  “My point in contacting you was to warn you of a potential threat, not to compromise the safety of Atlantis.  If that’s what you feel this was, then I’m sorry.  But whatever this Primus is, it’s dangerous, and I thought you should know about it.” 

“And we thank you for that,” Woolsey said, throwing a warning glance sideways and stepping in before John could reply.  “We know you only have the best interests of the City at heart.  About this Primus—do you think it’s connected to the replicators?” 

Elizabeth’s expression softened a little bit as she turned to Woolsey.  “No.  All that I know about it is that it does seems familiar.  Perhaps something I read about in the Ancient database.”  Her eyes flickered to the right, and she grimaced.  “They’re coming.   I just wanted to warn you about it, in case they can use it against you.  It took me a while to lock on to the old Atlantis frequencies.  I’ve got to scrub them out of the system so they don’t know what I was doing.” 

Her eyes met John’s through the monitor, the expression hardening once more.  “Good luck.” 

There were sounds off to the left as she clicked off, the screen before them going black. 

It was a few seconds before anyone said a word, or even seemed to breathe.  Richard lifted his chin a little and looked over at John.  

“Conference room,” he said stiffly.  “Right now.” 

--/-- 

Ronon leaned back a little further in his chair, glancing between Woolsey and Sheppard, who were now locked in a staring contest of, as Earth slang would say, ‘epic proportions’.  

McKay, situated between them, was so intensely focused on his computer his nose was nearly touching the screen. 

Teyla looked over at Ronon and shook her head.  They’d been going at this for almost a half an hour and were still basically in the same place. 

Woolsey’s argument was to try and trace the signal through which the apparently still-alive replicator version of Weir had broadcast, in order to attempt a rescue mission.  His reasoning was that Elizabeth was too important to allow to be compromised, especially if the Wraith figured out who she was and how to access her programming, as they had done with the replicators they’d captured a few years back. 

That thought had brought up some relatively unpleasant memories for Ronon, but he pushed them aside to keep his focus on the matter at hand.  

Sheppard’s point of view was that she’d already been compromised, and no rescue mission was worth the danger to his teams or Atlantis. 

Truthfully, it was a little bit backwards from what he was accustomed to hearing from the head of his team.  Teyla thought so too, if her small frown each time Sheppard argued vehemently against the move was any indication.  If it had been Weir instead of Woolsey, she would have had Sheppard’s position, cautioning against danger, while Sheppard would have argued that anybody from Atlantis should at least be given a chance, if he had a chance.           

 Now… 

Ronon could certainly see Sheppard’s point, given the trouble the replicators had caused them.  But there was a bitterness in Sheppard lately, a stubbornness that refused to let anything slide by, that hadn’t been there before.  And that was unusual.  Not that Ronon had any reason to question where it had come from. 

“I believe,” Teyla interjected, bringing Ronon back around to the conversation, “that the true question here is the danger leaving Elizabeth with the Wraith may afford Atlantis.” 

“She doesn’t know our location,” Sheppard replied immediately.  “The frequency should be untraceable.  So no reason to think she’d lead them here.” 

“And our technologies?” Rodney asked.  “Her programming possesses code, information—elements of our developments…” 

“And whose fault is that?” John snapped. 

“Whose fault it is is not at issue here,” Richard defused coolly.  “Can they glean information about Atlantis from her nanites, Doctor McKay?” 

“More than likely not,” Rodney said.  

“More than likely?” 

“Not likely.  Unless, of course…” 

“Unless what?” said John, his eyes flashing. 

“Todd helped me recode the database, remember?  He’s pretty good with programming.” 

Woolsey’s eyes widened in alarm.  “So if it is Todd, he could use her to…” 

“No, no, nononono,” Rodney said quickly.  “THAT Elizabeth was not here when we relocated after the return from Earth, remember?  She doesn’t have knowledge of it.  My point is that he may be a capable enough programmer to break into my code programming the nanites and recode it and use her in…other…ways.” 

“And how do we know he hasn’t already done that?  What if this is a ruse?” 

“Because he has a much better chance of being able to narrow down where we are?”  Rodney snipped in return.  “He was here, she wasn't, remember?  What would be the point?” 

“Do we have any idea of what this Primus she mentioned is?  What it might do?”  Keller, who’d kept her mouth wisely shut during the bulk of the argument, glanced seriously from Woolsey to Sheppard.  “If we presume that Elizabeth’s purpose was to warn us, and if the Wraith wanted her to find it, I would imagine that is what we should focus on.” 

“Nothing in the database,” Rodney replied.  “Nothing on a Primus, Prime, anything.  It means first…” 

“I’m pretty sure we all know what it means,” Sheppard remarked snidely.  

“But it could be a First of anything,” Rodney continued, with a dirty look in the Colonel’s direction.  “First database, first weapon…” 

“First replicator?” Ronon offered. 

“Great,” John said, as Rodney didn’t bother with a response.  “Pandora’s Box in the Pegasus.” 

“We already opened that one,” Rodney said.  “I think the more appropriate analogy would be Attack of the Clones.” 

Woolsey rolled his eyes.  

“The point is, whatever it is, we’re not going to know more unless we go after Elizabeth.” 

“Elizabeth was unaware of this Primus,” said Teyla.  “She explained that she did not know of its origins or what purpose it served.  What could rescuing her add that she has not already told us?” 

“We wouldn’t be asking her,” Ronon answered her.  He looked at Sheppard as he spoke, who kept his own gaze locked on the table, then glanced at McKay.  “Whatever the Wraith are doing to her will answer that.” 

“We could probably dig into her code of what they were searching for.  Everything they, uh, did to her.” 

“So this would not be a rescue,” Teyla stated.  Her gaze turned to Woolsey.  “It would be the recovery of an Atlantis asset.”  Ronon had to smile at that.  Apparently Kanaan wasn’t the only one learning the more subtle nature of Earth politicking. 

“Asset,” John muttered. 

“If this ‘Primus’ is a weapon, isn’t that worth the risk?” Keller asked.  “If the Wraith get their hands on something Oberoth and his kind created, wouldn’t that give them an advantage we don’t have?” 

“Only if they managed to find it.” Woolsey replied. 

“Which, considering the replicator Elizabeth just warned us about it,” Sheppard countered, “we have to consider is a real possibility.” 

“So I take it you’re not as opposed if the mission is less rescue and more search?” Rodney said.  

John looked around the room quickly, observing the faces, only a few of whom might have any kind of objection to the mission.  His shoulders slumped a little.  “I’ll get with Banks…see if we can pinpoint where the signal was coming from.   We can gameplan from there.” 

As the remainder of the group rose, Sheppard looked over at Woolsey.  His voice was inaudible, but Ronon could just make out what they were saying. 

“No promises.  If she compromises anything…” 

“You have my permission, Colonel, to eliminate the threat.” 

Ronon watched Sheppard’s eyes trail down to the pen he was tapping on the table, his expression nearly unreadable.  There was only a barely discernible twist of his mouth and a slight narrowing of his lowered eyebrows, that indicated what he might really be feeling. 

John looked up, straight at him, and a sensation unfelt by Ronon for many, many years crept along his spine.  One he never thought he’d feel again, certainly not on Atlantis. 

It was the urge to run.

To be continued...

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