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Primum Movens, Part I, CH III

<<< Back to Primum Movens, Part I, CH II

 “Stasis.”  Rodney held up his thumb and forefinger for emphasis.  “We put her in stasis.” 

John, standing behind Richard’s desk, tilted his head.  “Stasis?  How would that help?” 

“She’ll be completely asleep—and completely harmless.  No way she can jump across the connections.” 

“Would she be hooked up to the database?” asked Richard.  

“That would be ideal—” 

“But not necessary,” interrupted Zelenka, from the chair next to Rodney.  Richard guessed the Czech scientist, from the look on Richard and Colonel Sheppard’s faces, had already deduced what would be prohibited as far as any replicators were concerned.  “We can use a standalone console, without wireless connectivity, to probe the information within her.” 

“Though we would get—” 

“How would you hook her up?” Interrupted Sheppard.  Rodney threw him a dirty look, but didn’t bother to try and complete his argument, which was probably a good move on his part.  

“We would put her in one of the stasis pods we put Beckett in, then wire the console to them and run the programs via LAN.  It would probably take a little longer to hook-up—” 

“Negligible amount of time, truthfully,” said Zelenka.

“And we’d have to have monitoring equipment—” 

“Which we’d need anyway,” replied Radek, glancing at Rodney and shaking his head. 

McKay’s voice ratcheted up a level. “—which would make things more complicated and take more time!” 

“Which, considering the alternative, we have plenty of,” Richard said.  “If you can do this without threatening any of the Atlantis systems, and if Weir agrees to it, then I believe you have a go on our parts.” 

Rodney’s eyes flickered to Sheppard, who was lost in thought, face set in a grim frown.  He looked up at McKay, then nodded once. 

“Okay,” Rodney said, pulling to his feet.  Zelenka followed suit, pausing at the doorway to glance back at them. 

“We’ll make sure it’s completely secure, Colonel,” Radek said.  “I promise.” 

“Thanks,” John replied.  “Can you guarantee the same of McKay?” 

“If not, there is always a second stasis pod,” the Czech said, a small grin on his face. 

For the first time in what seemed like weeks, the Colonel’s mouth curled upward into a smile.  “Thanks.” 

“Of course.”  

Sheppard’s smile faded as the scientists disappeared through the control room. 

“Think she’ll agree?” Richard asked. 

“She doesn’t have a choice,” John replied.   

 

--/-- 

 

Ronon paced in front of the blue stasis pods, looking them over as McKay and Zelenka tapped commands into the massive console computer they had between them.  The pod at the end had been the one Rodney had chosen, presumably because it was the furthest from the door, but there was no telling with McKay.  

Beckett was nearby, checking on some of the stasis monitoring equipment and throwing perturbed glances up at Rodney every once in a while. 

The door behind him opened, presenting Teyla, who led Weir and a team of Marines into the chamber.  The replicator Weir eyed the chamber in wonder. 

“I don’t remember it looking like this,” she said softly.  Teyla glanced her way, her features soft and kind.  She seemed to trust this Weir, at least enough to believe her the reincarnation of their old friend. 

“It was discovered after you were gone.  This is not the same as some of the labs with pods in them.” 

“Right.”  Elizabeth’s eyes, a startling green that stood out more thanks to the dark hair that framed her face, fell on him.  “Ronon.” 

He grunted in response.  He’d never get used to her appearance, this now-wisp of a woman who looked nothing like the tall, strong leader he’d first come to know.   Not just being unable to trust what was before his eyes, but there were particulars that just couldn’t be replaced with a new body.  It didn’t feel right.  

What he missed most were the facial expressions.  Weir had had a very expressive face, something he’d not been used to seeing in leaders.   Most he’d known tried to keep themselves impartial and emotionless.  Weir had rarely taken that path.  At first he thought it a sign of weakness, but in knowing her better, he realized that that very expressiveness had been something of a strategic tactic—it allowed people to underestimate her, until such a point when she would, just as expressively, turn the tables on them, as Sheppard might say.  With her, a smile had been a smile the majority of the time, but it could also be something menacing.   

But generally there had been no subterfuge and no pretense with her.  She very often told the truth and rarely hid emotions that she felt.  A very different kind of leader from those Ronon had always known.  But he’d liked her.  And he’d respected her, which, to Ronon, was much more important. 

Her face now maintained a sort of placid and prim demeanor and didn’t express much at all.  Nothing of the Weir he’d known shone through this cold and lovely form.  She spoke like Weir and her gestures, in particular what she did with her hands, were the same, but the emotions rarely played through her face.  He didn’t know why; perhaps she had been through a lot, as McKay argued—he’d seen it happen to the greatest of men—but it was almost as though her new form had forgotten itself, if she truly was who she said was.  

She walked over to the scientists, candidly observing the pod and equipment.  “How’s it coming?” 

McKay jumped and scuttled two steps closer to Radek.  “Whoa, some kind of warning, please.” 

“Sorry, Rodney.” 

“Um, it’s coming fine.  We should be able to put you in within a minute or two.  Carson.”  He snapped his fingers at Beckett twice. 

“I’m not a dog, Rodney,” the doctor grumbled, and went over to Elizabeth.  “Over here, love.” 

She nodded, then glanced back at her Marine escort.  “Where’s John?” 

“He should be here momentarily,” Teyla answered.  “He was with Mr. Woolsey.” 

If Weir doubted Teyla’s reasoning or sensed Teyla’s momentary hesitation in explaining Sheppard’s absence, she didn’t show it.    

The machine beeped, and Rodney turned his attention back to it.  A few more minutes prep, and he gestured to Elizabeth.  “I think it’s ready.” 

“You think?”  She smiled coolly at him.  

McKay grinned.  “It’s ready.” 

Elizabeth stepped in the stasis pod, turning in it to face them.  “What do I do?” 

“Just…stay there.”  Rodney looked back over the console and tapped in a few commands.  “And…here we go.” 

The material within the pod started to form just as the door to the chamber slid open, revealing Woolsey, trailed by Sheppard.  Elizabeth looked over at them, her eyes finding Sheppard, who quickly glanced away. 

Her gaze was still turned in that direction as the last of the stasis program took effect, leaving her standing there, eyes open.  

Rodney grunted but ignored the misstep and turned his attention to the computer.  Zelenka had already begun rapidly typing in commands, and various elements of computer code were scrolling across the screen. 

Beckett glanced at the machines monitoring the stasis.  “She seems completely shut down, Rodney.  Nothing vital functioning at this time, and her activity—what I guess you’ d call her brain pattern—is at the level of a human’s in a coma.” 

“Good.”  Rodney lifted a finger to his chin, watching the console, then looked at Zelenka.  “Where do we begin?” 

The Czech scientist shook his head.  “I suppose with the location software.” 

“As good a place to start as any.”  Rodney shrugged, cracked his knuckles, and set to work. 

 

--/-- 

 

John slumped back against some extra large console in the stasis chamber, rubbing his eyes with his fingers and glancing once more in McKay’s direction.  Looking at Rodney still sent a flame of irritation through him, but it was getting better.  At least he didn’t still have the urge to knock the scientist halfway across the city with the blunt end of a P-90. 

Rodney was defending his friend, and John got that.  He also got that for some reason, where Elizabeth or this replicator Elizabeth was concerned, Rodney got his pants in a huge wad with very little logic or rationale behind the choices he made.  And John, for the life of him, couldn’t figure out why.  It was almost as though Rodney took it personally that she’d ended up here and was determined to fix it whatever way he could, and those he put in harm’s way be damned. 

It was very un-McKay-like.    

He looked over at the Elizabeth in the stasis pod, her eyes open and turned to the door.  There was a hint of a downturn in her mouth, as though the stasis has frozen her in reaction to his response when she looked his way.  

He didn’t want to look at her.  Every time he caught her staring at him with those huge eyes, it forced him into the memory of the way she’d looked when they discovered that she’d lied to them about Koracen.  How she’d lied after he’d stepped up to bat for her.  

After he’d allowed himself to trust her.  Just like Mayel. 

“AHA!”  Rodney leaned in closer to the monitor as the rest of the group—barring the Marines, who were completely on alert—nearly jumped out of their skin.  

“You have found something?” asked Teyla.  Rodney waved her away with his hand, still focused on the screen.  His finger rose and started following lines of code, until the discovered something that made him stop. 

“Radek.” 

“I see it.”  

“What is it?” asked Ronon, coming up behind them as though he could understand the code on the screen.  Hey, maybe he could.  He spent a lot of time with Banks, or at least he had been. 

“It appears to be a listing of Ancient names,” said Radek.  “What caught our attention was the mention of the Attero Device.” 

“There are a whole host of them, with the locations from Ancient planets,” continued Rodney.  “No descriptions as to what they are—had we not known the name Attero we probably would have considered it a planet.  But after digging around here, this is the one we’re interested in.”  He indicated a part of code.  “It’s called ‘Primus’.” 

“If this is your replicator, how did you miss this the first time?” asked John, coming over to the group.  “I thought you knew her code.” 

Rodney rolled his eyes.  “There are millions—billions of lines of code here.  I copied quite a bit from what we knew of the human form replicators before—you know, the basic stuff like physiology, appearance, functionality.  Stuff that wasn’t harmful and that she’d need to think and understand things.” 

“So basically, you were lying.” 

“No! Look, things like understanding, you know, gravity, how to walk forward—all of that is completely innocuous coding that didn’t really need to be reviewed.  Knowledge of our galaxy and everything—that was just built in reference material.  I scanned it but I didn’t memorize it.  This information was in a portion of the code that built on her history.” 

“So why didn’t she remember it?” 

“Do you remember everything you’ve ever encountered or learned?” Rodney asked. 

John frowned.  “I’m not a robot.” 

“If all the capabilities of her code were enabled, she’d act like she was completely mad.  Putting portions of the code to sleep acts like the subconscious—keeps her functioning.” 

“This is all really fascinating,” said Richard.  “But truthfully, I’m more concerned about what this Primus thing is.  Can you figure it out from that sleeping code?” 

Rodney made a face but turned back to the console.  “There are some backwards coordinates.  I’m guessing that by doing a little digging in our database, we can figure out what they’re referring to.” 

“Or where they’re referring,” said Radek. 

“Is that all?” asked John.  

“All?”  Rodney glanced over at him. 

“Are you sure that’s the device she was referring to?  So we don’t have to go through this rigmarole again?” 

“Considering the proximity to other devices, I would imagine so,” said Radek, in a supplicating tone.  “However, I will continue scanning, and if Rodney wishes…” 

“I’ll go track down this thing,” said Rodney.  “And see.” 

John stepped back to allow him passage, watching as the scientist, without a backwards glance, left the lab. 

“Let us hope he has found what we need,” Teyla said, as Radek returned to the console. 

“Let’s hope he’s found something we can easily destroy,” John corrected.  

“That as well,” Teyla remarked, glancing back at him.  “Then perhaps this will finally be over.” 

John followed her eye line back towards the replicator Elizabeth, frozen in action not far from them.  “Yeah, let’s hope.”  

 

--/-- 

 

“The planet used in reference is here,” Rodney gestured to a large, blue tinted planet.  He smiled at the group of department heads, along with Carson Beckett, gathered in the conference room.   “And the location of the Primus device is on one of the three moons.  It’s almost a small planet on its own.  According to our satellite scans, the Wraith haven’t found it yet, though it is in a Wraith-heavy area of the Galaxy.”  

“And you’re sure that’s where this ‘Primus’ is?”  Colonel Sheppard looked unconvinced, but Rodney’s stubborn attitude had Teyla believing he was more than certain. 

“Yes.”  It was a simple answer, much simpler than Rodney generally gave.  Whatever had occurred between him and John weeks ago, Teyla guessed, had not yet been resolved. 

“And Doctor Zelenka’s scans?” asked Mr. Woolsey. 

“He’s almost done but hasn’t come close to anything like this,” said Rodney.  “I would venture this is what the Wraith were trying to track down.” 

“There isn’t a gate nearby,” said Woolsey, looking at John.  “What are your options?” 

“I think the Daedalus is half a day’s distance from here,” answered Rodney.  

John shot the scientist what would be described as a ‘dirty look’.  “I’ve already contacted Caldwell and asked him to come in, just in case.  They’re a couple of hours out.” 

“So you want to go ahead with this?” 

“Do I have a choice?” 

Teyla glanced over at Ronon in surprise at John’s response.  Even Rodney seemed startled by such words coming from Colonel Sheppard.  

“Yes,” replied Woolsey tersely.  “You’re the head of military operations on Atlantis and our tactical advisor.  You always have a choice.” 

“I wasn’t sure how many people remembered that.”  That remark was directed pointedly at Rodney, who looked away, his expression dark. 

The room went silent, with even Woolsey uncertain of what to say.  No one moved; it felt to Teyla as though no one dared to draw breath. 

“If I may,” said Carson quietly, “it seems as though we’ve reached a bit of an impasse.  In which case, I hope no one will mind if I ask a very impertinent question.” 

“What’s that, Doctor Beckett?” asked Richard. 

“No offense, Mr. Woolsey, but as it concerns her, allow me to, well—what would Elizabeth do?” 

John’s pen rolled from his desk, dropping with a loud slap on the floor.  Teyla felt her expression tighten into surprise and quickly tried to relax.  Rodney shifted uncomfortably in his chair. 

“It’s not a hard question,” Beckett continued.  “And I’m not asking you to make any kind of decision on our guest downstairs in stasis.  I’m asking what would our friend and colleague as we all knew her, Elizabeth Weir, want in this situation?” 

Rather than appearing bothered by Carson’s implication, Richard seemed intrigued.  He sat back in his seat, his gaze shifting from Colonel Sheppard to her and Ronon, and finally Rodney. 

Teyla thought back to her friend, the kind of woman she had been, before the attack on Atlantis that had nearly killed her—or had killed her.  On what she valued and what she would have thought about all of them, not just at this moment, but the journey they had travelled to get here.  It was a different feeling from what Teyla had experienced in her interactions with the replicator version downstairs.  It was memories of the Elizabeth she knew best. 

“I believe she would ask what kind of threat is posed if anyone else discovers this information,” Teyla said.  “And she would wish to know the likelihood of the Wraith finding this device.” 

“Not likely,” answered Richard.  “The fact the programming was buried deep within the millions of lines of basic code of the replicator, and that they were already treating her as a cast off, suggests they weren’t successful in their research.  As to the danger, that is something we can’t ascertain until we know what it is we’re looking for.” 

“She’d also ask how dangerous it was for us to go after it,” added Ronon. 

“At the moment, it is somewhat of a risk, considering the planet is located in an area crawling with Wraith,” answered Woolsey.  “But with the Wraith not apparently aware of the location, if we could perform the search quickly, it wouldn’t be as high-risk a mission as recovering her from a Hive ship was.” 

“She’d probably check the histories of devices that had been brought up in this way,” Carson added.  “See what the probability was that it was something which might pose a significant threat.” 

“Attero, the Asurans, Pandora—I think it’s safe to say anything the Ancients created and then spirited away somewhere ‘safe’ is of significant risk, should it fall into the wrong hands.” 

“That being the case—“ Teyla stopped mid-sentence, unable to continue. 

“—she’d ask Sheppard whether or not it was worth it,” Rodney finished, knowing where her thoughts had gone.  “And it would be his decision.” 

The eyes in the room turned to John, who was staring at the table, his recovered pen being twirled casually in his fingertips.  It seemed as though minutes passed by before he glanced up at the group.  “She’d think it was.”  He rose.  “And I’d agree with her.  Suit up.  We head out as soon as Caldwell can get the Daedalus ready to go.” 

 

--/-- 

“So what exactly is this ‘Primus’ device again?” 

Richard straightened, drawing back from the rail of the inner balcony.  Colonel Stephen Caldwell stood near him, watching as supply crews moved to the center of the Gateroom with cargo boxes, disappearing in a burst of yellow light—the Asgard beam directed from the Daedalus—at regular intervals. 

Given the rapidity with which Colonel Sheppard had decided to embark on the mission, it had been decided that the Daedalus would not berth on the East pier but would simply beam whatever supplies it needed to restock—which weren’t many—from the Gateroom area.  Sheppard was to meet the ship in space aboard a Jumper, which they would use to explore the small moon next to the unnamed planet where the Primus would supposedly be located.  He’d have back up in the form of Major Lorne’s team, who would follow in a second Jumper. 

“We don’t know, exactly,” said Richard.  “The details on it weren’t exactly clear.” 

“And the replicator doesn’t know any more?”  

Richard frowned slightly; apparently Caldwell was on the ‘not Elizabeth’ side of things.  “No.  She was the one who warned us of it, but she was unclear as to the origin of it or what it was used for.  Only that the Wraith were searching for it.  And that they needed to use her programming to find it.” 

“Ancient.”  Caldwell frowned and leaned down on the railing.  “Never a good thing.” 

“No argument from me,” said Woolsey.  

“Still—is Sheppard certain he’s not walking into a trap?  I mean, how much can that thing be trusted?” 

“I think if it was up to Colonel Sheppard, we wouldn’t trust ‘that thing’ at all.  He’s not particularly advocating this mission.” 

Caldwell looked genuinely surprised.  “Really?” 

“It’s more McKay’s idea than his.  I think the Colonel’s going along with it because he believes the potential reward—and by that I mean the Wraith not getting their hands on it—is worth it.” 

Caldwell’s eyebrows rose for a moment, and he nodded his head.  “Interesting.” 

“Why is that interesting?” 

“Well, maybe I’m mistaken, but I pretty much believed Colonel Sheppard had an undying loyalty to Elizabeth Weir.  He certainly showed it when she was still, you know, her.  I figured if anyone, he’d be the one advocating her position.” 

“I don’t think you’re wrong,” Richard replied.  “The question is whether or not Colonel Sheppard truly believes the person downstairs IS Elizabeth Weir.  And these days, Colonel, I don’t think Colonel Sheppard knows exactly who or what to trust anymore.” 

Caldwell said nothing, then lifted himself off the railing.  “Looks like the supplies are almost loaded.  Let the Colonel know we’ll be ready in about an hour.” 

“I will.  Thank you, Colonel Caldwell.” 

“Good luck, Mr. Woolsey,” said the Colonel cordially.  “I hope whatever this thing is, it has a more positive track record than some of the other Ancient devices we’ve run across.” 

“So do I, Colonel.  So do I.” 

 

 --/--

 

John hesitated outside the door to the isolation room, then turned and paced a few steps away.  He’d done that circuit three times already—the Marine standing guard probably thought he’d lost it. 

He returned back to the door, and the Marine watched him, then moved aside slightly.  It was enough prompting for John to take the final few steps to the door and walk in. 

Franibeth was seating primly in the chair in the center of the room, her legs crossed, and eyes on the wall.  She turned casually as he entered, then rose when she saw who it was. 

“John.”  The syllable came out so familiar. 

He managed a nod and gestured toward the chairs.  She returned to hers with a sort of unnatural grace, crossing her legs once more, a pleasant smile on her face.  It was a bit farcical, like some kind of scripted out scenario from a dramatic film.  She was too prim, too perfect. 

He leaned on the back of the chair across from her.  He couldn’t quite meet her eyes, but she didn’t seem to mind, she just waited patiently for him to start talking. 

“We’ve decided—how do you do that?” 

Her expression melted into confusion.  “What?  Do what?” 

“Just…sit there.  Staring at the wall.  The Elizabeth I knew—I mean, when you were, you know, you, you’d go crazy with nothing to do.” 

She tilted her head, her dark hair spilling across a thin shoulder.  “Are you concerned about my mental health?” 

“No.”  He straightened.  “Just…curious.” 

Her smile tightened, and she rose, turning her back to him for a moment.  “I don’t want to upset you.” 

He pursed his lips, looking at her confusedly. 

She turned back towards him, her hands splayed out.  “I don’t want you to feel guilty, or anything of that nature, do you understand?  I know how you think, John.  So I’m not telling you this because I’m trying to make you feel as though there was something you could have done.” 

He tried to imagine what she was about to say that could possibly make him feel guiltier than the moment when all of this had begun.  Or any of the subsequent moments where she was concerned. 

“I was awake.” 

He met her eyes.  “Awake?” 

“In space.” 

His chest tightened, and by reflex his hand clenched down on the chair back.  It still wasn’t fully healed from the beating it had taken a few weeks ago and he winced.  “W—“ 

“After the space gate.  Replicators don’t sleep—they don’t need it.  We go into a kind of stasis, but it’s not an unconscious one.  I was awake.” 

He shoved himself away from the chair and turned towards the door, pacing a few steps.  When he looked back at her she’d dropped her gaze to the floor, twisting her fingers softly.   His voice came out a lot louder than he’d intended.  “You were awake the entire time?  You told McKay all of you would be completely unconscious.” 

She smiled again.  “I lied.  I had to,” she added as he started pacing again.  “Otherwise you all would not have let me go and that would have placed the City in danger.  I couldn’t run that risk.” 

“Did McKay know?” 

She shook her head.  “He never said anything to me.  If I had to guess I’d say he probably suspected it but he didn’t want to go against my wishes, so…” 

“That explains it, then,” John said angrily.  

“Explains what?” 

“Nothing.  Never mind.”  

They were in silence for a few moments before she spoke again.  “It wasn’t as bad as you might imagine.  It was slow…drifting, like being in a dream.  Peaceful and quiet.  It taught me patience—the kind that would keep me calm and capable of, well, not ‘going crazy with nothing to do.’  I imagine it’s probably not terribly different from ascension.”  

“Ascension does not trap you, frozen, in space with nowhere to go and no one to help you,” he snapped.  

“I told you.”  She drew near him.  “This was not your fault.  It was my choice.  There was nothing you could have done, just like there was nothing you could have done to stop Niam and nothing you could have done to prevent what happened on Asuras.  You have to stop blaming yourself.  I made my own choices, John.  They were mine, and I wouldn’t change one of them, mistakes and all.  Because by virtue of them, all of this, and all of you are still here.”  She placed a hand on his arm and squeezed a bit. 

He made a face, staring down at the fingers pressing on forearm and drew away from her.  “We’re going after the Primus.” 

Surprise flitted across her face.  “You are?” 

“Decided it was worth the risk.”  He started towards the door, then turned.  “I thought you should know.” 

“Thank you.”  

He nodded once, then turned and left the room.  The last glimpse of her he had was standing in the center of the room, a small smile on her face, watching as he left her. 

 

--/-- 

 

Ronon looked over Teyla’s shoulder at the small moon that was just now visible through the windshield of the Jumper.  Sheppard, at the helm of the ship, was checking the readout of the planet’s atmosphere and composition, while McKay was running a scan of the moon’s terrain and potential life forms. 

From Ronon’s viewpoint it didn’t appear much different from some of the worlds he’d gated to when he was a Runner; this one was overgrown with a jungle, which mean the atmosphere was probably hotter and more humid than most.  Considering the sun around which the big planet, composed of nothing but gas, orbited, it wasn’t surprising. 

There was something of a purple hue to the planet’s surface, which he’d seen once or twice.  It made for some interesting and colorful creatures. 

“Looks like the atmosphere is breathable,” said Sheppard.  Rodney, still not looking away from his scans, confirmed that with a nod of his head.  

“Not much in the way of life forms,” said Rodney.  “Small things, but nothing approaching a human in size.” 

“There aren’t any soul sucking nightmare crystals on this one, are there?”  Sheppard suddenly questioned. 

Teyla looked back at Ronon in surprise.  That was as close to humor as he’d managed in about a month.  

McKay, too, seemed surprised.  “Um, not that I can tell?” 

“Good.  I hate those things.” 

“Colonel?”  Lorne spoke up through the radio.  “Colonel, looks like all is clear from the dark side of the planet.” 

“Good, we’re heading down.  McKay, you got anything on where this Primus thing might be located?” 

“Nothing directly, but…” Rodney tapped on a key and sent up a schematic to the HUD.  “This area here looks like it’s got a naturally impossible structure in the middle of it.” 

“Naturally impossible?” 

“Something nature wouldn’t create on its own?” McKay snapped, in his know-it-all manner.  

“You mean something man-made,” Sheppard snarked back.  Rodney rolled his eyes. 

“Man-made, naturally impossible—same difference.  And how do you know it was a human?  It could have been an alien.” 

Ronon caught a flit of a smile on Teyla’s face.  He agreed with her; there was something like the old feel of the team in the current banter--before the events of the last few months had changed things. 

“Whatever.  Down we go,” Sheppard said, ending the grousing.  He turned the little ship towards the planetary surface, and down they went. 

 

--/--

 

Stephen watched as the Jumper careened towards the small moon, taking a glance through the Daedalus windshield at the planetary system before them.  There had been nothing in this quiet, relatively small system to cause anyone worry so far, though the long range had picked up a number of Wraith ships in an area not too far from them.  They’d have to be quick. 

Daedalus, this is Sheppard.” 

“Go ahead, Colonel,” Stephen called out.  The murmurings on the bridge went quiet. 

“We’re heading towards a small, apparently man-made…” 

Something interrupted Sheppard, a garbled background conversation in which Stephen could just make out something with the word ‘impossible’. 

“Colonel?” 

“Sorry.”  Sheppard’s voice was tinged with irritation.  “We’re heading towards a MAN-MADE structure on the planet’s surface.  ETA five minutes.” 

“Copy that.  All’s quiet up here.  We’ll update you if that status changes.” 

“Copy.  If we don’t make radio contact in ten minutes, send in the Brute squad.” 

“Will do.  Good luck, Colonel.”  Stephen settled back in his chair, his mind racing through the protective protocols.  Right now, it might be for nothing.  But he hoped Sheppard would find this thing in a hurry nonetheless. 

 

--/--

 

John stepped out of the hatch of the Jumper, his eyes scanning the strange purple tinged vegetation of the moon-planet they had landed upon.  “Interesting.  Okay, let’s get this show on the road.” 

“Outta be about a kilometer ahead of us,” said McKay.

Teyla looked towards the north.  “I believe we can see it.” 

She was correct; ahead of them, something solid rose just above the treetops in the near distance.  Ronon began the trudge towards it, taking them into a jungle lush with vegetation and growth. 

It wasn’t as crowded as a rainforest; they were able to carve a path without much difficulty, though it took a little longer than clear terrain.  What was most unusual was the lack of animal sounds.  Normally, insects or other creatures would be buzzing around them, but there was very little here in the way of life.  Perhaps due to the thinner atmosphere of the moon; it was difficult to draw in a good breath, though the air was breathable enough to sustain some life forms.  

 “There,” huffed Rodney, pointing ahead of them. 

John emerged from the trees alongside Teyla, in the area where McKay was gesturing.  Ahead of them, a temple-like structure was visible, though it wasn’t anywhere near as architecturally complicated as Ancient buildings John had encountered.    It looked more like something a caveman would build, obviously man-made but rough and merely serviceable—not aesthetically pleasing at all. 

Rodney ran a scan as they waited outside; after a moment, he got a reading that the air was clear and free of potential living threats, though they entered the large hole that served as a doorway with caution, lest the Ancients they were following had decided on some nasty booby traps. 

The air inside the cave was musty; John figured there hadn’t been anyone inside for quite a while.  

McKay studied the surroundings as they entered.  “Anyone else getting the vibe that this wasn’t exactly an Ancient lab?” 

“It feels very much backwards,” Teyla murmured, surveying the cave’s stony, rough walls. 

“Maybe,” Ronon remarked.  “Or maybe it’s not something the Ancients designed.  Maybe it’s something they found.” 

“Or stole.  You getting any readings on where’s this ‘Primus’ or ‘Prime’ or whatever the hell it is might be located?”  John asked. 

“According to the readings…there’s a significant energy source about forty feet ahead.”  Rodney gestured to a narrow hallway that disappeared into blackness.  “That way.” 

“Into the dark we go,” John murmured, raising his P-90 and flicking on the light.  He moved slowly forward, scanning the surroundings, but the only signs of life were the team and the slow circulation of air that fluttered moss hanging from the ceiling. 

He paused as the hallway opened into a cavernous room, lit by nothing but a few strange looking sconces.  At the far end, a large, rectangular object rose up before them, hooked up to various archaic machines, which appeared, at first glance, to be off.  John edged closer, directing his gun light onto the rectangle, and froze.           

“What is it?”  Rodney moved up next to him, and as the lights from his and Teyla’s P-90’s illuminated the mass more clearly, he sighed.  “Great.” 

Ronon frowned  “Is that—“ 

“It appears to be a stasis pod,” Teyla finished, tilting her head. 

“Yeah.  An old one.”  Rodney moved up to it, studying the outside.  “Look at the design.  It’s absolutely ancient, compared to the ones on Atlantis.  No pun intended,” he added as an afterthought. 

“Why can’t we see inside?”  Ronon gestured to box with his blaster.  “Like the ones on Atlantis?”  

“It may be an original model,” Rodney replied.  “The versions the first SG teams discovered in the Milky Way were more like sarcophagi than the ones we’ve found here.” 

“Sarcophowhat?” asked the Satedan. 

“Sarcophagi, you know, ancient Egyptian coffins…don’t you ever read the SG-1 reports?” 

“Not what they name their stasis pods,” Ronon replied.  “A stasis pod is a stasis pod.” 

Rodney rolled his eyes.  “Never mind.  They were just older.  Or it may be a modified one.” 

“More to the point, what the hell is it doing here?  And where is the Primus?” John remarked, studying the equipment around it. 

“Perhaps the Primus is the pod?” suggested Teyla.  “It merely appears to be a stasis pod?” 

“Or maybe the Primus is what’s inside,” Ronon said.  “Any chance there could be a replicator in there?  They were looking for a replicator to lead them to it.” 

“It would make sense,” said Teyla.  She glanced at John in trepidation.  “It may also explain the thick covering.” 

“And why that thing is called the ‘Primus’,” John said with a wary glance at Rodney.  “The First.” 

“The First Replicator?” Teyla said. 

Rodney, who’d been listening to their conversation with a sort of glazed looked, snapped back to attention with a frown.  “If it was a replicator, why would it need a stasis pod?” 

“You’re sure it’s a stasis pod?  What if it’s a containment unit, like Teyla suggested?” 

“Based on the readings, yes, I’m sure it’s a stasis pod,” Rodney sniped, flinging his hand towards the machines.  “All of those monitoring devices are indicating there’s something alive in there. “  

He moved towards the machines, laying his fingers on the first console, which did appear to be Ancient in design.  It lit up in response to his touch, awaking all the machines around the pod and lighting up the pod itself. 

John glanced at him in consternation, but Rodney was too busy reading the data on the monitors to care much.  

“Considering the pains the Ancients took to get rid of the Asurans, I highly doubt they would have forgotten the primary model was stored in an un-Ancient-y lab on the moon in the middle of nowhere.  They would have gotten rid of it, too.  There has to be more to it,” he explained, his eyes on the data now scrolling across the screens.  

“How much more?” 

“Well, give me a chance to go study it and I’ll let you know!” 

“And have you release replicator Armageddon on this part of the galaxy?  I don’t think so.  That thing needs to be contained with a full science team.” 

“You really want to take the time to deploy a full science team out here?  What if the Wraith get here first?  We’ve got to figure out what the heck this thing is and make sure they can’t use it to do whatever it is they hope to make it do.” 

At John’s completely unconvinced look, Rodney assumed a placating tone.  “Look, I won’t open it, I’ll just get readings off it.  Whatever is in there, there’s a ton of information here.  Could be useful.” 

John frowned, contemplating.  On the one hand, McKay was right—whatever the Wraith wanted with this thing, it was important enough for the replicator Elizabeth to risk her own safety to tell them about it.  On the other hand, he still wasn’t sure what the hell to think about her.  There was still something about her in his gut that told him he needed to be cautious.  

And yet… 

“Go ahead.  I’m going to radio Caldwell about the find.  Don’t let him open it!” 

“Course not,” Rodney sounded more excited than he had in a while.  Leave it to McKay to get excited about something dangerous without even realizing he was doing it.

 

--/--

 

“Sir, we’ve got an incoming transmission,” said the communications tech.  Stephen nodded at him to open the channel. 

Daedalus, this is Sheppard.” 

“Go ahead, Colonel.” 

“We’ve found what appears to be the Primus.” 

“What is it, Colonel?  Any idea?” 

“None.  It is encased in what looks like a sarcophagus.” 

“As in Goa’uld sarcophagus?” 

“As in yes.  That, or a really old stasis pod.” 

“Okay.  What’s your next move?” 

“McKay’s going through some data at the moment, trying to ascertain the contents.” 

“You think that’s wise?” 

“Is it ever wise to let Rodney McKay loose on the universe with a datapad and a potentially dangerous weapon?” 

Stephen rolled his eyes.  “Then why is he doing it again?” 

“Because he brought up a good point.  We don’t know what’s in it, and we better find out before the Wraith do.  Don’t worry, we won’t let him open it.” 

“You mean until he argues it’s absolutely necessary.” 

Sheppard was silent for a moment.  “He’s going to have to make a hell of an argument.” 

Despite himself, Stephen cracked a smile.  “Copy that.” 

“Don’t worry,” Sheppard replied, his tone a great deal lighter.  “I’ve got Ronon set to stun him should he even think of pushing the wrong button.” 

That sent snickers around the Daedalus, which quickly ceased as Stephen cleared his throat.  “Thanks for the reassurance, Colonel.  Check back in fifteen.” 

“Yes, Sir.  Sheppard out.” 

Stephen sat back, his fingertips tapping the armrest.  Despite his faith in Sheppard’s leadership, the idea of Rodney McKay toying with a large, unknown Ancient device was rather unsettling.  Stephen would almost prefer a Wraith Hive. 

 

--/-- 

 

John sighed, resting his elbow on his knee, and glanced over at McKay for about the fortieth time.  Teyla rolled her head from side to side, and Ronon paced on the far end of the room, twirling his gun around his finger and practicing switching the settings. 

“Rodney,” John asked.  Again. 

“Huh?” 

“How much longer?  I told you we’re on limited time here.” 

“Oh, just a few more minutes.” 

“That’s what you said a few minutes ago,” Ronon grumbled. 

“Well, now I mean it.  This thing is really working; it’s still got new data processing even as I register this stuff.  If I could have just a few minutes…”  The datapad in his hand beeped and his supercilious expression faded into one of excitement.  “Bingo.” 

John rose, drawing near him as Teyla did the same.  “What?” 

“Readings.  Let’s see…primary data indicates that there is something alive in there.” 

The other three threw him disbelieving glances.  He studied them, frowning at their expressions.  “What?  

“We figured that the very first time you said it—half an hour ago!” 

“Yes, but,” he waved a finger, his beady little eyes sparkling.  “Now I know by how much.” 

“By how much?”  Teyla turned her head slightly.  “It is not completely alive?” 

“Ah…”  He looked over at John, realizing the corner he was backing himself into.  “It’s mostly alive.  97.1249 percent organic, actually.” 

“And what about the other 2.8751 percent?”  John asked, narrowing his eyes. 

“Ah…I can’t be sure.  But given the facts that Ronon brought up earlier…” 

Ronon watched him with a stoic expression.  “It’s Replicator, isn’t it?” 

“Well, nothing conclusive…” Taking in the expressions on their faces, he finally relented with a sigh.  “But yes, I’d say it’s a likely probability.” 

“Great.”  John tapped his headset.  “Daedalus, this is Sheppard.  This thing we’ve located appears to have replicator origins.” 

“Replicator?”  Caldwell sounded less than pleased.  “Fantastic.  Colonel, I suggest you and your team pull back, head back to the Daedalus.  We’ll contact Atlantis and see what our next move is.” 

“Hold on a minute.”  Rodney looked over at him.  “Just because its replicator doesn’t mean this information isn’t valuable.  I still need more time to figure out what it’s doing in there.” 

John cocked his head, making a face.  “How much more time?” 

“I’m not sure?  Ten, fifteen minutes?” 

John threw him a deprecating look, and he shrugged.  “Twenty, at the most.” 

“You have five.”  John turned his back and took a few steps.  “Colonel, we’re going to let McKay grab some more data off this thing and we’ll be off.” 

“Copy that.  Be careful, Colonel.” 

 

--/-- 

 

Lorne eyed the beautiful vista of the gas giant spread out before him, admiring the trifecta of moons that orbited around the huge sphere.  It was gorgeous, the kind of thing an artist would kill to capture on a canvas.  Which made him often wish he could at least take photos for aesthetic purposes on missions like these. 

A flash in the distance, followed by a blip on his HUD turned his attention away from the scenery.  “What is that?” 

His Marine in the co-pilot’s chair began to study the data.  “Looks like something jumped into the system, Sir.” 

Lorne peered through the windshield, blinked, and stared a second time.  “Is that what I think it is?” 

Impossible. 

“Sir?” 

“Put us in cloak and pull us away to the dark side of the moon.”  Lorne slapped down on the communications button.  “Daedalus come in.” 

“Major?” 

“We have a ship sighting.  I can’t be a hundred percent certain, but it looks like a Hive.” 

Caldwell’s tone immediately turned brusque.  “What?” 

“It just appeared on the other side of the second moon.” 

There was a slight pause.  “Do you have a visual?”  Caldwell asked. 

“Yes sir.  It jumped in pretty close…”  Lorne trailed off as the Hive moved slowly towards the first moon then snapped himself back to attention.  “It doesn’t look like it’s spotted anything yet.” 

“We’re picking it up now,” Caldwell answered.  “I would suggest you get your Jumper over towards the Primus moon in case the Colonel and his team need support.  We’ll contact them, let him know what’s heading his way.” 

“Yes, sir.  Should we…” 

The Hive suddenly shot forward, at least as much as a Hive could, and zoomed in towards the Primus moon.  

Lorne swallowed.  “Colonel…” 

“We see it, Major.  We’re moving in to intercept.  Head to the Colonel’s location.” 

“Copy that, sir.” 

With a burst of life, the Hive fired towards the Moon.  

“I’d tell the Colonel to hurry,” said the Marine next to Lorne, watching as the Hive keened slowly towards the moon’s surface.  Lorne arced the Jumper that way, the beauty of the vista left behind him all but forgotten. 

 

--/-- 

 

John checked his watch once more, counting down the seconds to the next time he could hassle Rodney about going over the time limit.  McKay, as usual, was paying no attention whatsoever to the amount of time he was taking. 

Twenty minutes my ass. 

A booming sound suddenly echoed in the distance.  Lights began flickering around them. 

John turned, looking over at Rodney.  “What did you do?” 

The scientist stood frozen in the middle of the room, his eyes wide.  “I…uh…nothing!  Nothing, I touched nothing!” 

“Colonel Sheppard?”  Caldwell’s tone, though the same, steady bass it always was, bore a hint of urgency.  “A Wraith Hive’s just jumped into the system.  We’re moving to intercept, but I would suggest you get the hell out of there, pronto.” 

Overhead, the walls began to rumble.  Teyla glanced up as debris started floating down on them.  “We must hurry.” 

Another boom echoed in the distance.  John looked over at her with a sarcastic expression.  “You think?” 

“No!”  Rodney’s eyes were wide.  “I mean, if we leave, we’ll never figure out what’s in here.  We need to open it.” 

Ronon, Teyla and John all turned to Rodney with surprised expressions. 

“No.”  John replied angrily.  “What we need to do is get out of here.  We’ve got a Wraith Hive headed our way, McKay.  There’s no guarantee the Daedalus will be able to hold it off long enough to deal with whatever the hell is in that thing.”  

“And if it’s destroyed?”  Rodney splayed his hands, juggling his data pad.  “We don’t know who could be contained in here—” 

“There’s a replicator in there,” John snapped.  

“It’s not ‘a’ replicator.  At least not fully.  At most, two percent.” 

“Two percent is two percent too much.” 

“But not enough to hurt us!” 

As the group eyed him skeptically, Rodney took a step back.  “I mean, not immediately.  Whatever is in there is primarily organic, which means your guns will have full effect.  There’s no danger…or not a lot of danger.  At least, not as much danger as there could be.” 

John glanced between Teyla and Ronon.  “This was not a part of the original deal.” 

“We don’t have a choice!” 

“What is it with you?  Why are you so gung-ho on this now?  You, of anyone, know what these things are capable of!” 

“Because it might answer all the questions,” Rodney replied tersely.  “Why the Wraith wanted it.  Why Elizabeth had it in her code.  Not to mention that this thing’s nanites may have unimaginable data stored in them.  It could be an entire Ancient library in one accessible form!” 

“We already have one of those,” John replied.  “It’s called the Ancient Database.” 

“Yes, but this thing, this…” Rodney waved frantically at the stasis pod, “this was something the Ancients obviously thought to protect even over Atlantis.  There was no reference to it in the database.  It’s still generating information now.  The potential of what it contains might be unlimited.” 

“The potential is dangerous,” John said.  “The answer is no.” 

“Then what about the future?  What about how we might use—” 

“Future?”  John stepped forward, flinging his hand out.  “What future?  We are done with the replicators.  There is no future—not now, not ever.” 

“Those nanites fixed Elizabeth—” 

“They cursed Elizabeth!” John shouted back.  “Messing with the replicators has brought nothing but trouble to anyone who has ever had anything to do with them!” 

“Which is perhaps why we should consider Rodney’s point,” Teyla interrupted loudly.  John and Rodney both turned to her as she observed them with a displeased expression.  “If whatever being might be in this stasis pod is of value to the Wraith, then it will be to our great disadvantage to leave without knowing what it is we might potentially face.  Allowing it to be destroyed without understanding it fully may not eliminate it, as we have seen with replicators in the past.  We must open it, to at least be aware of what it is lies inside.  And how to most effectively prevent the Wraith from obtaining it.  If it does pose a threat we can destroy it.” 

John looked at Ronon, who shrugged completely unhelpfully.  He turned back to Teyla, who wore that darn stubborn expression when she was absolutely certain she was right, and to her credit, he couldn’t really think of a counterargument. 

Rodney was nodding in agreement, thankfully, for his own good, keeping the superiority complex to a minimum. 

“Okay.  Then we have the Daedalus beam it up.” 

Rodney shook his head.  “We don’t have time for that!  They’d have to calibrate, and we don’t even know if the beam would reach down in here, plus, big Wraith Hive attacking them means they wouldn’t have time for all the synchronization, and…” 

A large chunk of the wall towards the back of the cavern crumbled, startling them.  Ronon and Teyla both turned to him.  Rodney gestured to the wall with a know-it-all expression on his face.  

“Fine.  Open it.”  John took a few steps back, raising his P-90.  Teyla mirrored him and Ronon clicked his gun to ‘kill’ mode. 

Rodney tapped a few commands on his datapad, pausing for a brief second of apparently uncertainty before executing. 

The stasis pod’s stone cover slid back slowly with a grating sound.  Mist, which John presumed was an early form of stasis preservation, poured out, fogging up the air with a murky smoke and shadowing the figure standing within. 

As the air began to clear, another boom sounded overhead, much closer than the previous one.  It was quickly echoed by another.  Rodney glanced up in surprise, looking over at John and the others as they turned towards the entrance.  

Daedalus,” John murmured. 

“The Hive must be very close,” Teyla said. 

“Why can’t things ever be easy?” Rodney cried. 

Caldwell was suddenly in their headsets.  “Colonel, we’re only going to be able to hold the Hive off for a few minutes more before it gets within direct firing range.  What’s taking so long?” 

“We ran into an issue.” 

“What kind of issue?” 

“Sheppard.” 

It was Ronon who had spoken.  He was standing in front of the stasis pod, and when he turned to look at them, it was with such an expression that John felt his pulse quicken in alarm.  The Satedan moved to the side, visibly paler, and lowered his weapon momentarily to allow them a clear view inside the chamber. 

John took a step closer, trying to grasp exactly what he was seeing.  Beside him, Teyla gasped audibly, and Rodney’s datapad slipped from his hand, the tablet shattering into pieces on the rocky floor. 

The room rattled again with the space battle overhead, a hail of dirt and moss fluttering down around them, and it was amidst this debris, floating around them like a macabre nature scene, that he finally registered the reality. 

They were staring at Elizabeth Weir. 

Elizabeth Weir, sleeping peacefully.  Elizabeth Weir, in her original form, as though not a moment had passed since the day they’d left her on Asuras. 

Elizabeth Weir, the Primus.

 

>>> Advanced in Primum Movens, Part I, CH IV

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