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Primum Movens, Part I, CH II

<< Back to Primum Movens, Part I, Ch I

John stared through the Puddle Jumper’s windshield at the Hive ship floating just ahead of them, feeling an unusual amount of anxiety.  He didn’t normally get this worked up about missions, even the ones involving a Hive, and the sensation was disconcerting.

He couldn’t put his finger on what the problem was.  He’d felt anxious since the Replicator had first contacted them, and he’d not been able to shake it.  It was more than anxiety, almost like foreboding, or futility.  He knew the others sensed it too, and were doing their best to work around his reticence and keep the flow of energy positive and focused. 

He was gonna have to buck up and get back to doing what it took to keep his team alive and well.  That was the most important thing, no matter what his personal feelings were. 

Teyla tilted her head slightly, studying the ship as well.  “It does not appear to have sensed us.  It is strange, though.” 

“Well, we’re on cloak, so…what’s strange?” 

“I do not sense a very strong Wraith presence here.  It is there, but very faint.” 

Rodney, from his position behind John, punched up some readings on the HUD and started talking before John could respond, which seemed to be his MO lately—pretending John wasn’t there.  Annoying as hell. 

“No shield.  Looks like we can go in through there.”  McKay gestured to a landing bay, located towards the back of the ship.  “If the schematics follow the others, the prison area would be accessible just a few hallways over.” 

“How do we know she’s in the prison bay?” Ronon asked. 

“Because I see her,” Rodney replied.  He lifted his laptop, flipping it around so they could observe.  Various heat signatures read on it, and in the middle of the ship, one that glowed blue.  “She’s mine, remember?  I studied how her heat signal would register…” 

“It’s not ‘yours,’” John snapped, before he could stop himself.  “It’s a Replicator.  Freethinking and free acting.  The sooner you remember that, the sooner we’ll all be in a lot less danger.” 

From beside him, Teyla turned towards Rodney and shook her head, apparently to shut up whatever snotty remark McKay was going to make in return.  

Ronon’s gun whined as he switched it over to kill and kicked his feet off the back of the passenger’s chair.   “How much longer?” 

“McKay?” 

“As far as I can tell, we’re clear,” Rodney said.  

“Then let’s go get ourselves a Replicator,” John replied, trying to defuse the suddenly morose mood.  From the expression on Teyla’s face and McKay’s lack of response, he wasn’t very successful. 

 --/-- 

Teyla peered around the corner, feeling the familiar chill of the aura of a Hive.  It was much less than any she had sensed before.  Not quite the same as the non-Wraith—the Vespidae as Jennifer called them—but a different sensation nonetheless.  She was uncertain if the lack of connection was good or bad. 

John moved alongside her, nodding to indicate the path before them was clear.  They advanced a few steps, ears attuned to the sounds of the Hive and made their way closer to the supposed prison block.  

They had encountered no Wraith so far, which was rather strange, though if this Hive was similar to the one upon which they had placed Todd, perhaps a sight to be expected more frequently in the Pegasus.  And may have accounted for the lesser Wraith connection. 

“Around the corner.  Ten steps down, take a right, you’re there,” Rodney said through the com.  

She did a quick scan of the hall and slid back around the corner as a Wraith drone appeared within view.  She glanced at Ronon, who nodded, and swifter almost than she could sense, darted around the corner and fired a few blasts, knocking out the drone. 

He slipped back between them as John kept his eyes on their six, and Teyla allowed the air to clear.  They waited a few minutes, as Rodney questioned what was occurring.  

No other Wraith seemed provoked by the attack. 

They proceeded forward again, coming to the hall which Rodney had mentioned would be the prison area.  Two more Wraith drones stood watch, but their quick demise at Ronon’s hands cleared the location of any other potential threats, and as with the Wraith guard before, attracted no more unnecessary attention.  

“Right in front of you,” Rodney said.  

Teyla observed the door in front of them, a simple door, with no lock.  She opened it, scanning the room quickly as John covered her position. 

She suddenly understood why there were so few Wraith guard.  The hallway was not a prison ward, but rather, a science wing, and the room they were entering, a lab. 

Suspended above the table in a stasis shield was the unconscious form of the Replicator Elizabeth.  Monitors nearby denoted the activity of her body and possibly her nanites.  

“Looks like the other one,” Ronon mentioned, referring, presumably, to the Wraith lab set up to study the other Replicators they’d encountered through their involvement with the Satedan Wraith worshippers.  Ronon showed no sign of being affected by the connection. 

John’s reaction was notably more negative as he observed the suspended Replicator with a sour expression.  He sighed, glanced around the lab, then nodded to the console.  “Can we un-suspend her?” 

“Do you wish to?” Teyla asked.  

His eyes answered more truthfully than his response, which came across flat and unenthusiastic.  “If we’re trusting her enough to risk our necks on a Hive, we’re trusting enough that she’s what she says she is and won’t attack.” 

Ronon wandered over to the console, scanning the readings.  “Looks like it’s controlled here.”  Before John could say any more, he punched a button on the console, and the shield flickered for a moment before fading away.  The Replicator Elizabeth remained hovering for a split second, before dropping hard to the ground. 

“Nice,” John murmured, walking over to her.  

“Sorry,” Ronon replied.  

Teyla peered out of the doorway.  Nothing appeared disturbed by their presence.  

It was unusual. 

Elizabeth made a soft sound, and her eyes fluttered open.  Her gaze fell upon John, standing over her. 

“Hello,” she said with a small smile. 

The Colonel’s expression didn’t change, though he did tighten his grip on his P-90.   Ronon switched his gun setting from kill to stun, which echoed through the cavern of a lab enough to make Teyla peer anxiously out into the hall of the Hive once more. 

“I didn’t think you’d come for me,” Elizabeth said, pulling to her feet.  John took a few precautionary steps backwards.  “I told you not to.” 

“Woolsey figured it was worth the risk,” he replied, without conviction.  Elizabeth’s smile faded. 

“I see.” 

“We should hurry,” Teyla said.  Elizabeth turned towards her and smiled once more.  “Teyla.” 

“Hello, Elizabeth.  It is good to see you well.”  Teyla flashed a smile at her, briefly, before turning to John.  “The hallway is clear.” 

“McKay?” 

“I’m not sensing any activity in that area,” Rodney said.  “Heat signatures remain in the forward area, near the bridge.”  

“Then let’s blow this Popsicle stand,” John said.  Ronon walked past Elizabeth without saying anything and moved into the hallway ahead of Teyla, his long coat clipping the doorframe.  John gestured for Elizabeth to take her place between Teyla and himself.  She moved forward without a word, keeping a careful distance between herself and the other two.  John’s reticence had apparently rubbed off on her.  

Ronon signaled the clear ahead of them, and Teyla swiftly and quietly followed in his footsteps.  He turned one corner, then two, and their distance to the Jumper in the hangar bay was almost halfway covered. 

“Uh, guys…” buzzed Rodney over the headset.  

“How many?” John whispered, already knowing, presumably, what Rodney’s news would be.   Elizabeth turned to him, then to Teyla, questioning. 

“Um, half a dozen, give or take a signature here or there?” said Rodney.  “Heading your way.  You must have tripped something when you released her.  You might be able to beat them back here.” 

“Great.”  John nodded at Ronon, who broke into a run ahead of them.  Teyla followed suit, with Elizabeth at her heels, and John carefully keeping pace behind them. 

Ronon took out two guards who appeared in front of them but managed to make it to the hangar bay without any other incident.  

So they believed. 

Teyla nearly barreled into Ronon as he stopped in the doorway leading to the bay, his gun pointed defensively in front of him.  Teyla peered around him.  

Between them and the cloaked Jumper stood at least eight drones, led by one superior of the Wraith.  She had not been able to sense them from a distance, which surprised her.  Even this close, their Wraith presence was not as strong. 

“We were expecting you,” the Wraith commander said, clearing any doubts of their Wraith origin with a cool smile.  

--/-- 

John’s gaze flickered around the open bay.  The Wraith hadn’t picked up on the Jumper yet, or they would have been all over it, and he could still hear McKay’s anxious breathing through his headset.  But they had to figure that it was somewhere nearby, considering they’d opted to use the bay to cut off their escape. 

“Sorry we dropped in uninvited,” John said, stepping out from behind Ronon.  The big guy had his gun raised, which had somewhere in the haul back from the labs been reset to kill.  “We’re just not fans of welcome wagons.” 

“You were not welcome, human,” the Wraith replied.  “But we will see to it that you are given the greeting you most appropriately deserve.” 

“No thanks,” John replied.  “We’re fine as we are.” 

The Wraith grinned.  “I highly doubt that.”  He stepped aside, and the drones raised their stunners. 

John and the others had just a few moments to fire off the first round of shots before the bay filled with the sound of stunner fire.  Ronon dove to the ground, Teyla following suit, while John yanked the Replicator Elizabeth with him behind some barrels of something-he-was-sure-he-didn’t-want-to-know what.  

He rose to his feet, letting off a few more rounds and managing to take out one drone and nick the commander.  He slid back, checking the clip, as the Replicator Elizabeth drew closer to him. 

“What are you doing?” she said. 

“What am I doing?  Trying to save our asses, is what I’m doing,” he hissed back, turning forwards and preparing to stand.  How in the world could she not see that? 

He rose and released a few more rounds at the Wraith.  They hit a few of the drones but didn’t take any down.  Nearby, Teyla and Ronon were trying the same, and another of the drones went down. 

“We’re gonna need a new plan,” he murmured and tapped his headset.  “McKay?” 

“Sheppard?  Where are you?” 

“Corner by the door.  Listen, McKay—I need you to fire a few drones at those Wraith.” 

“Drones?  Are you crazy?  I could take out half the hangar bay if I do that!” 

“Drones?”  Elizabeth stared at him, wide-eyed.  “Are you crazy?” 

John frowned at her, but spoke his instructions to McKay.  “We’re not going to have enough fire power to get through those guys, and if we get too close, you’ll lose your chance.  You need to—” 

“And if I hit you?  What are you going to—” 

“It’s a risk we’re going to have to take.  No arguments.” 

“You, Teyla and Ronon get back to the Jumper,” Elizabeth said suddenly. 

John ignored Rodney’s ranting in his headset for a moment.  “What?” 

“Get to the Jumper.  You won’t have much time.”  She rose from behind the barrels, then looked back at him.  “Do what I say, John.” 

She took off at a heavy clip towards the group. 

“Hey!”  John rose, watching in surprise as Elizabeth increased her pace.  Stunners fired at his head, forcing him to drop back down behind the barrier, but giving Elizabeth the chance to reach the first drone before any of the rest had time to react.  She snatched the stunner from his hand, using it as a fighting stick to take him out, before whirling around and activating the stunner end to take out two more. 

The drones immediately turned on her, firing their weapons.  Despite her proximity to the stunners, the beams only stopped her for a moment, and she narrowed her eyes and fired once more. 

One of the drones managed to wrestle the stunner from her hands, but as he stripped it, she whirled and delivered a fierce punch straight to his face, shattering the mask that covered it.  The drone staggered backwards, arms reaching for his now lost headgear and tumbled to the ground. 

John cast a glance over at Teyla and Ronon, who were watching the scene in surprise.  He cleared his throat.  Teyla turned, mouth half open, and nodded in response to his gesture to make for the Jumper.  She tapped Ronon, who could barely tear his eyes from the fight in front of him.  

They pulled to their feet and stole quietly past the scene, which had all the drones completely preoccupied with the Replicator Elizabeth. 

John raced to the open Jumper ramp, letting Teyla and Ronon dodge past him.  McKay was chatting up a storm about what was going on, something about replicator strength being better than Wraith strength and other completely useless observations. 

He paused at the head of the ramp and yelled back towards the melee.  “Hey!” 

“She doesn’t have a radio!” McKay yelled at him from the cabin.  “She can’t hear you.” 

Ronon returned to the ramp, his blaster letting out its customary setting-shift whine and a few laser blasts lit up the room around Elizabeth’s head.  She whirled around, and John felt his breath catch.  Her green eyes blazed with an intensity he’d only seen once before, when he’d been attacked by her Replicator follower Koracen and she’d retaliated, quickly and violently.  

It took a moment for her to process the setting.  In the background, the doors to the bay opened, through which pored another dozen or so drones. 

“Hey!” John yelled, gesturing.  “We gotta go.  Now!” 

As she turned, the Wraith commander suddenly appeared, coming up behind her, his white hand raised, claws out. 

“ELIZABETH!” John shouted in warning. 

The Wraith slammed his hand onto her chest, grinning.  

It was a grin that didn’t last long. 

As he realized what had gone wrong, Elizabeth smiled; a cold, chilly smile that seemed to darken the atmosphere of the entire room.  The Wraith pulled himself free, pain and terror on his face, and the Replicator caught him by the throat swiftly, lifting him from his feet and high above her head.  She took a few steps back, then snapped her wrist, stopping the commander’s struggling with a single twitch of her hands.  

She turned, flinging the body towards the oncoming Wraith with such force it knocked the majority of the drones off their feet like bowling pins.  Then she was racing towards the Jumper, her black hair flying behind her, so quick that not one Wraith managed a single shot before she was safely inside the Jumper.  

Rodney had taken control of the Jumper so that as soon as the hatch closed, the ship was flying out of the Hive and back in the direction of the space Gate, safely cloaked by the time the first dart launched.  

John moved to the pilot’s chair, which McKay gladly relinquished as Teyla and Ronon dropped into their customary seats, though John noticed that Ronon’s blaster had not yet been holstered and was pointed, casually, in the Replicator’s direction. 

The Replicator Elizabeth stood for a minute in the cabin, surveying the interior with a smile, then dropped into the back seat primly.  

“Well, that was…interesting,” she murmured, surveying them all with a slight tilt of her head.  “It’s good to see you, Rodney.” 

“Good to see—you—too,” said Rodney, trying his best with a friendly smile and failing miserably at it.  

 

--/--

 

Richard paused at the door of the upper observation room, straightening the papers in his hand.  

Colonel Sheppard stood at the far end, leaning casually against the corner of the window, arms crossed and eyes cast downward at the Elizabeth who now occupied the isolation room.  He barely moved as Richard walked in, his gaze flickering toward whoever had made an entrance, well trained enough to be almost imperceptible at it. 

Rodney was at the other end, studying monitors, though for what reason Richard was unsure.  They’d already pretty much confirmed this Elizabeth was the one in the replicator body Rodney had created and the one they’d thought lost.  Nothing more was going to change beyond that. 

McKay beckoned for him to come over.  Richard cast another look at Sheppard and moved over to the monitors. 

“Everything okay?”  He asked. 

McKay nodded.  “She’s completely stable—and from what I can tell, nothing has been altered from when she first inhabited FRAN.” 

“You’re sure?” 

“Yes I’m sure.  She’s my model!” 

Richard raised an eyebrow, and McKay frowned.  “Nothing.”  He called up strings of code on the monitor.  “See?  I’ve been checking parts of her code.  Just the same.” 

Richard glanced at the programming, which translated mostly into gobbledygook for him, and considering the amount of language that was there, he had no choice but to take McKay’s word for it.  “Any word on what exactly it was the Wraith wanted from her?” 

“Other than that Primus thing?  No.” 

“What’s she said on the Primus?” 

“Nothing, so far.  We haven’t asked her.” 

“What do you think about it?  Do you think it was Replicator related?” 

“My first guess?  They’d want a Replicator to find something Replicator related, so yes.” 

“I agree,” Woolsey said.  “But considering this model is the very last replicator in the galaxy, I’m rather surprised at their lack of security.  Based on the mission reports, they housed her in a non-Queen Hive with minimal security and no guards.” 

“There were guards!” McKay said.  “There were…” 

“He’s right,” said Sheppard, not moving from his position.  “It wasn’t enough security.  Not for the Wraith.  Not to mention that little stunt the main guy pulled.” 

“Stunt?” asked Richard. 

“He tried to feed on her.”  John’s eyes were trained on Elizabeth. 

“He tried to feed on a replicator?” 

John casually turned his way.  “Seems sorta stupid, even for the Wraith.” 

“Maybe he didn’t realize she was a replicator,” McKay said. 

“The only thing worth anything on that ship, as far as we could tell, was her,” Sheppard replied, crossing his arms.  “How does any Wraith commander on it not know what she looked like?” 

“Because in my experience sometimes the brute squad doesn’t care about who or what they’re guarding.  It’s not that important to them.” 

Richard sighed as Sheppard uncrossed his arms angrily.  

“Something that can take out an entire squad of drones with her bare hands and you don’t think each and every one of them wouldn’t have studied what she at least looked like?” 

“Not if they thought she was contained!” 

“Doctor McKay,” Richard interrupted, before Sheppard could continue.  “The question better asked is why was she on such a lightly guarded Hive to begin with.  As the presumed last Replicator in the galaxy, she should have been worth more of a retinue if she was that important.”  

“I don’t think they thought her that important.  In fact, I think she may have been a last ditch effort to find this Primus,” McKay replied, as Sheppard moved back to the observation window.  “Franibeth wouldn’t know anything about Oberoth’s plans, so at the end of the day she truthfully wasn’t going to give them anything.  She was their last shot.” 

Sheppard lifted his head, turning towards them in surprise.  “Franibeth?” 

McKay’s eyes widened, his hands moving back and forth in explanation.  “You know…FRAN…Elizabeth…Franibeth…” 

“Don’t get cute.  Either she’s Elizabeth and you afford her that respect, or she’s your replicator copy and you don’t name her at all.” 

Rodney’s expression went from appeasing to shocked.  Richard didn’t blame him.  The look on the colonel’s face was completely serious, which made him appear a lot less Sheppard-ish and a lot more intimidating than normal.  

“You ready to go talk to her?”  The Colonel asked.  Richard nodded and swiped up his papers. 

“Let’s go talk to Elizabeth,” Richard said, with emphasis on the final word.  

--/-- 

John ushered Woolsey into the isolation room, making sure the Replicator Elizabeth was clear of the door before allowing it to close. 

He had no worries there.  She was seated primly in the chair in the center of the room, her hands resting patiently on her lap, her appearance perfectly perfect—not an inorganic hair out of place.  

Franibeth. 

He was gonna kill McKay.  That name was going to stick with him, whether he wanted it to or not, just because it fit, exactly as McKay knew it would. 

“Richard.”  She rose, a smile gracing her lovely face, and reached out to shake his hand.  Woolsey was trepidatious for just a few seconds, before taking the leap and clasping her hand with his. 

“Hello.  Doctor Weir.” 

“I can’t thank you enough for finding me.  Honestly, I didn’t think you would try.” 

“You were captive aboard a Wraith vessel.” 

“Yes, but considering the risk to the City…” Her forehead crinkled and she cast a quick glance at John, before refocusing on Woolsey.  “I just thought it might be too much trouble.  And not really worth the reward.” 

“We have you back, safe and sound.  I think that’s a decent enough reward.” 

She smiled.  “Thank you.” 

“I’m sorry to get into business right away, but considering the circumstances—you mentioned when we spoke about something called the Primus.  Do you know what it was, exactly?  Or at least an idea?” 

“No.”  She turned in her seat to better face Woolsey and John.  “I should say not exactly.  The name is familiar.  I presume it has something to do with the replicators, because they kept asking me about it, like I should inherently know.” 

“But they gave no clue as to what purpose it might serve or what it might be used for?” 

“No.”  Her forehead crinkled again.  “But given the name, I would guess it was perhaps an original programming element—maybe something involved with the creation of the Replicators.  I had originally thought it might be a way to turn off the kill switch, but honestly that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?  Considering the Replicators are basically no more.” 

“Present company excluded,” John noted. 

Elizabeth looked up at him with a small smile.  “Present company excluded.”  She refocused on Woolsey.  “Whatever it was, I got the definite sense it was important.  That they were quite desperate to find it.  But how, I don’t know.  Once they figured out that I wasn’t going to be able to help them, I was put in stasis and basically forgotten.  I’m not sure what exactly they wanted from me, but apparently they wanted something.” 

“Maybe to use you to enact whatever this Primus might be—if it’s a weapon, or another kill program, even.  They would need a replicator if it’s replicator based.” 

“Perhaps.  I suppose that would make sense.” 

“Well, hopefully you won’t have to worry about it for too much longer.” 

“Why not?” 

“Because I’m in talks with the IOA—we’re going to try and get clearance to give you that lab you wanted a few months ago—the one for producing an organic version of yourself.” 

“Really?  The IOA will allow it?” 

“As you’re the only Replicator left, I don’t see why they wouldn’t.  And considering who you are, it’s an easy argument to make.” 

Her smile wavered a little bit, though her cool green eyes seemed unmoved.  “That’s wonderful, Richard.” 

Woolsey reached over and patted her hand.  “It’s the least we can do.  I’ll update you when we’ve gotten the go ahead.” 

“Thank you,” she said.  Her gaze lifted to John’s.  “Thank you both.” 

John met her eyes, but he didn’t feel like saying much.  He felt nothing, as a matter of fact.  

“Let’s go,” he murmured.  Woolsey rose, and Elizabeth dropped her gaze to the floor. 

“You shouldn’t have said that,” he said to Woolsey, as they walked out of the door.  

“What?” 

“About the organic stuff.  We don’t know if the IOA is going to clear that initiative.” 

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t.  It’s just one replicator, and the sooner we can make her a harmless replicator, the better.” 

“It’s not worth the hope,” John replied.  “And if the IOA doesn’t approve it, you know what the alternative will be.” 

“Yes, I do.”  Woolsey stopped, and looked at him frankly.  “And considering you do as well, Colonel, I’m honestly surprised.” 

John frowned.  “Surprised at what?” 

“Surprised that the alternative is the solution you act like you prefer.  A year and a half ago, you were the one asking me about finding a way to let her stay.”  

Richard walked off.  John followed him, but there was nothing more to say.  

Because, in a way, what he said was true. 

 

--/-- 

 

Rodney tapped down on the keypad, running through the catalogues of the Ancient Database that dealt with the limited information about Asuras.  The Ancients, damn them, had scrubbed most of the pertinent information, but here and there he could pick up a few things that made sense and could be tied to the creation of their most powerful weapons. 

Nothing mentioning a Primus, though.  Or anything having to do with an origin program. 

“Perhaps it is a number,” Zelenka said, from across the room.  “Prime number.  A specific code.” 

“For what?” Rodney asked, setting his chin in his hand.  “One prime number isn’t going to do much.”  

“Maybe coordinates, then?  For the location?” 

“That’s kind of stupid.  Naming coordinates the Primus.  And trying to keep them Prime.” 

“Yes.” 

“Yes.” 

They were silent for a minute, though Rodney’s mind was racing through Zelenka’s observations.  Prime.  Primus.  Code.  Coordinates. 

Coordinates… 

“Hold it.”  He lifted one finger.  “There’s one database we haven’t checked.” 

“Database?  What database?  This, and our own records, are the only databases we have.” 

“Not true.  There’s one more.”  He rose from his chair, wiggling his fingers.  “But how to do this convincingly…” 

“Do?  Do what?” 

Rodney looked over at him.  “Hook-up a potentially dangerous component to the Atlantis system.” 

“Component.”  Radek thought for a moment, his eyes widening behind his semi-crooked glasses.  “You cannot be thinking…” 

“We mentioned it before.  Whatever the Wraith were doing, her nanites would have a record of it.” 

“Colonel Sheppard will not agree to do it.” 

“At the end of the day, he’s not going to have a choice,” Rodney said. 

--/-- 

“No.  No, no, and again, no.”  

Rodney frowned from his chair in front of Richard’s desk, not even bothering to turn in Sheppard’s direction.  “If you want to know what this Primus is, it’s the only way.” 

“It’s too big a risk.” 

“Colonel,” said Richard patiently.  Sheppard sighed and assumed a casual stance next to the desk.  

“Doctor McKay, as much as we’d like to know what the Primus could or might be, I agree with Colonel Sheppard.  Hooking up a replicator—even Elizabeth Weir’s version—to the Atlantis computers is far too risky a move.  It’s not worth the end result.” 

“Especially since you’re just guessing,” added Sheppard. 

Rodney kept his gaze on Richard.  “The Wraith went through all the trouble of finding those replicators for a reason.  Isn’t it logical to assume that they used it as just what it is—a computer?” 

“And apparently they found nothing, according to your theory.  And even if they did, hooking up a replicator to the Atlantis mainframe could be a recipe for disaster.” 

“This is my…” His eyes darted to Sheppard, and he cleared his throat.  “FRAN is a replicator whose code I am extremely familiar with.  I’d have complete control—” 

“No, you wouldn’t.  Even if you were completely careful with FRAN, this is not FRAN anymore.  Elizabeth changed things when she inhabited that body, not to mention the fact she’s been in the Wraith’s hands.  There’s no telling how much of that programming has been altered, or even what she could be capable of now.” 

“Are you serious?”  Rodney asked the question without any typical McKay attitude.  “Have you gotten that jaded?  Weren’t you the one who was questioning me on respect?  And now you’re really asking whether or not Elizabeth, of all people, is capable of betraying us to that great an extent?” 

“It’s not that simple.” 

“Yes, it is!  Either you believe, or you don’t believe, that the person we have downstairs is Elizabeth Weir.  If you believe it’s Elizabeth, you don’t ask those questions.  If you don’t—” 

Sheppard raised a finger towards Rodney.  “The ‘Elizabeth’ downstairs, the last time, in case you forgot, did take over control of our systems.  That ‘Elizabeth’ created a replicator body for herself against our wishes, and that ‘Elizabeth’ vouched for her own Replicator team and in doing so compromised the safety of the people on Atlantis!” 

“She was trying to help a group of beings who couldn’t help themselves.  Textbook Elizabeth!” 

“Oh, please!” Sheppard made a face.  “Don’t start playing this game again!” 

“What game?” 

“The ‘I know Elizabeth better than you do’ game.  This time is not the same thing as last time and you damn well know it!” 

“How are you so sure it’s not?  You can’t know that for a fact.  Or is it that you’re still miffed that she managed to survive, when it would have been so much more ‘convenient’ for you if she’d just stayed dead!” 

“Doctor McKay…” Richard interjected, as the Colonel took a few menacing steps forward. 

“This Weir had no choice!”  Rodney jabbed his finger at the floor, eyes wide.  “She was abandoned and alone and without a body for who knows how long.  Of course she wasn’t going to be the same.  The point is—” 

“The point is, no matter what you go through, there are a few fundamental things that don’t change,” hissed Sheppard, through gritted teeth.  “Elizabeth Weir would never place her own safety, or the safety of a group of Replicators, over the safety of the people of Atlantis.  Our Elizabeth would not do that.  That is what I know, no matter what you might think.” 

“That ‘Elizabeth’ also chose to send herself out into deep space, to protect all of us, once she realized what she’d done wrong,” Rodney replied.  “People make mistakes, John.  Even the good ones.”  

“And even the good ones are capable of doing bad things, Rodney,” John replied. 

“Well, pardon my faith in her,” Rodney shot back, his tone tinged with bitterness. “And honestly, I don’t really know if you’re the best person at the moment to be waxing philosophical on the trustworthiness of our female allies.” 

“That’s enough.”  Richard was up on his feet and dodging in front of Sheppard before the Colonel had the opportunity to move.  “Doctor McKay, you’ve made your point.  Let me discuss this further with the Colonel, and I’ll let you know what we decide.” 

Rodney moved to speak but Richard cut him off.  “Whatever you want to believe about the person in the isolation room, the truth is, we don’t know all the details of what she’s gone through from the time Oberoth took her until now.  That includes everything she’s been through and what the Wraith might even have tried a few days ago.  There is simply no way to trust, whatever her intentions might honestly be, that she is what she says.” 

He moved a little closer, lowering his voice.  “We all want Elizabeth back.  But Colonel Sheppard’s right in this instance—the woman you and I know would not place the safety or security of Atlantis at risk.  Not for her, or any one person.  Not unless she thought it was completely worth it.  She’d want us to do the same.” 

Rodney stared at him, then glanced at Sheppard, who’d turned away from them both.  “Fine.” 

“I’ll let you know what we decide,” Richard said, as the scientist stomped off across the bridge. 

Richard watched him leave, then looked back at Sheppard, who craned his head in Richard’s direction. 

“It’s a bad move.”  The Colonel’s voice came out guttural, and he cleared his throat quickly.  

“If this thing is as dangerous a weapon as the Wraith seem to think, it might very well be worth the risk,” Richard said, returning to his desk and pretending not to notice.  John moved past him, tapped the top of the chair for a moment, then threw himself into it with probably more force than necessary.  His expression had smoothed into nonchalance, though a hint of anger remained in his hazel eyes. 

Richard afforded him a few moment’s silence, which he deserved, considering Rodney’s well-below-the-belt remark.  John spent the time flexing and straightening an apparent stiffness in his right hand, lost in thought, his focus on nothing in particular. 

“Do you think she’s trustworthy?”  He asked finally.  

Richard folded his hands on the desktop.  “I think she’s a Replicator, Colonel.  Until she’s not, nothing Doctor McKay says will convince me otherwise.” 

John nodded and glanced away. 

“My question would be whether this Primus, whatever it is, is truly worth running the risk.  If the Wraith were looking for it and they tracked down the last remaining Replicators in the galaxy to do it, it seems to indicate it is somewhat worth it, even if they didn’t find what they were looking for.” 

“Or if they weren’t looking in the right spot,” John said.  He kicked himself out of the chair.  “My experience with the Wraith is that they don’t mess around with guesswork.  If they’re going after it, it’s bad news.  I just don’t know if the danger of them finding it is worth the risk of us trying to track it down first.” 

“And what if McKay could find a safe way to obtain that information?  One that didn’t threaten the database—would you accept that?  Because you know as well as I do that’s what he’s going to try next.” 

Sheppard studied him for a moment.  “If Rodney can find a way to access it without threatening the City, then, providing he allows security to be there, I’m okay with it.” 

“Are you sure?” 

John headed towards the door, not bothering to glance backwards.  “I may not trust her, but I do trust him.  Most of the time.” 

“Thank you, Colonel.  And for the record, I don’t see any trust issues here any different from the position you’ve always taken where the Replicators and Elizabeth Weir are concerned. ” 

John paused for a moment at the doorframe, just for a moment, before continuing on across the bridge.  There was a subtle nod of his head in acknowledgment to Richard’s statement, but nothing more.  And Richard wouldn’t have expected it. 

 

--/--

 

Teyla extended her arms towards Elizabeth, holding out a small clay pot made of the earth of her original Athos.  Just touching it, though the jar had not been hers, made her feel both safe and sad. 

Elizabeth grasped it carefully, her smile increasing a little.  “Where did you get this?” 

“I packed your things last year.  This was among them.  We sent almost everything back to your Mother, but as this was considered a material of the Pegasus galaxy, it was kept in Atlantis storage.  I do not believe anyone wished to see it locked in the dark.” 

 “So you kept it?”  Elizabeth asked genially. 

“I hope you do not mind.” 

“I would imagine it holds some good memories for you as well, considering its origins.” 

“Some.  Not all good.” 

“I can sympathize.”  She looked at the jar once more, then handed it back to Teyla.  “You keep it.  Until I have a desk to set it on, I’m afraid I won’t be able to take care of it.”  

Teyla received it back with a nod, then drew out a picture from a pile she had brought.  “And this is Torren.” 

Elizabeth took the photo.  “How handsome he’s become!  How old is he now?” 

“He is not far from his First Years Ceremony.” 

“First Years Ceremony?  I am familiar with that, I think, but remind me once more?” 

“All children born to the Athosians go through a ceremony around what you would consider the age of two, not only to recognize their identity, but to recognize their first years of life.  It is a way to celebrate their survival and also to bind them formally as an Athosian to the tribe.  It is a very important celebration.” 

“Of course.  Each new life is worthy of celebration to your people.  I remember now.” 

“Yes.”  She had tried to remain positive, for Elizabeth’s sake, but she could not help the shadow which crossed her face.  

Elizabeth’s forehead knit in concern.  “What’s wrong?” 

“It is nothing to trouble yourself about.” 

“Teyla.” 

“I promise, Elizabeth.  I am fine.” 

The visage that was Elizabeth now studied her, her green eyes piercing.  “Okay.  I won’t ask any more questions.  Except one, completely unrelated: has Rodney said anything more about the search for the Primus?”  

“I believe Colonel Sheppard and Mr. Woolsey are deciding what to do about it.  I am not sure what conclusions they have reached.  Are you concerned?” 

“Not so much concerned as…worried.  I do not want anything that might hurt Atlantis in the hands of the Wraith, especially if it was something I could have prevented happening.” 

“I am certain the Colonel and Richard will weigh all the options and decide what is best.” 

“Of course they will.”  Elizabeth leaned back, smiling primly.  “I would never doubt that.” 

 

--/-- 

 

Jennifer smiled as Rodney walked into the infirmary, looking disgruntled and a little disheveled, but handsome nonetheless.  Carson raised a hand in greeting from his lab table before returning to his study of a microbe he’d run across in his last Pegasus visit. 

“Hey stranger,” she said, as he walked over to her.  “Long time no see.” 

“I saw you yesterday,” he said flatly.  She pursed her lips a moment, then let the statement slide.  He’d been under an enormous amount of stress lately and some kickback on her was going to happen. 

He leaned forward on the table, chin in hands.  “I hate bureaucrats.” 

“Any bureaucrats or particular bureaucrats?” 

“Two bureaucrats at the moment.  The ones in charge.” 

Carson looked up from his microscope.  “You’re considering Colonel Sheppard a bureaucrat now?” 

“What brought THAT on?” she asked in surprise.  Of all the people, in all the galaxy, the last one she’d consider a bureaucrat was John Sheppard. 

“He’s acting like it.” 

“Why?  Because he denied you the ability to connect the replicator of Elizabeth to the database?” 

Rodney looked at her in surprise, and she shook her head at him.  “It was kinda obvious that was never gonna happen.” 

“He and Woolsey both are being overly cautious.” 

Carson walked over.  “Why?  They’re trying to prevent any harm to the City’s database, which, given the damage the replicators have caused in the past, I think is wise.” 

“Not you too?” 

“Not me too what?” 

“You…not trusting Elizabeth.  Thinking she’s out to harm us.” 

“I’m sorry Rodney.  But I think the Colonel’s right on this one.  Much as I’d love to believe that’s Elizabeth, there has been too much time she’s not been with us to be sure.” 

“That same argument could be made with you, you know,” Rodney said, almost nastily. 

Jennifer crossed her arms.  “What is it about this that has you so riled up?  Why is it so important to you to that everyone believe she’s trustworthy?”  

Rodney’s eyes widened.  “It’s not!  It’s just that I’m the only one who seems to remember who Elizabeth Weir was.” 

“I remember who Elizabeth Weir was,” Jennifer replied.  “I remember a woman who was a good leader and inspiration to hundreds of people.  I also remember a woman who was broken and battered, who I helped bring back to life.” 

She leaned forward, narrowing her eyes.  “And most of all I remember the look on her face when we told her what it was we’d done.  I won’t ever forget that look, Rodney, because it was the first time in my life I’ve ever doubted a choice I made.” 

Rodney looked at her seriously.  “You never told me that.” 

“I didn’t want you to know about it.”  She straightened.  “Elizabeth did not want what we gave her.  And for a long time, I thought she was wrong.  In many ways, I still think she was wrong.  But at the same time, I understand what it was she was afraid of.  Seeing everything that’s happened since, and living this weird déjà vu now, I understand it.  I don’t envy the decision Colonel Sheppard and Mr. Woolsey have to make.” 

“The sooner you start thinking that way, Rodney, the safer we’ll all be,” Carson added.  “I didn’t ask you to trust me, either, and I certainly wouldn’t have blamed you if you didn’t.” 

“But we did.” 

“Well, Carson was an organic model, for one,” Jennifer said.  “And that didn’t stop them from putting him in stasis.” 

“That was for protecting…” Rodney suddenly blinked, and slapped his hand to his forehead.  “Oh my god!” 

He took a few steps towards the door, then rushed back and kissed Jennifer on the cheek.  “Sorry.  Thanks.” 

“Rodney?” 

“I, I’ve got some…” He turned as he exited.  “I get it, I really do, I just think I might have a solution.  Thanks!” 

Jennifer looked at Carson, who shrugged.  “Just another day in the life of Rodney McKay.”

 

>>> To be advanced in Primum Movens, Part I, CH III

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