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Primum Movens, Part II, CH II

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

 

John leaned back in his chair, surveying the collection of people in the conference room.  Beyond the doors, which remained open, a host of technicians, courtesy of the Daedalus and Earth, were working on repairs to the Atlantis control room. 

It was only a few weeks after the attack, but Earth had stepped up admirably.  Workers from many facets of the Stargate program were spread throughout the City, taking care of what could be taken care of as quickly as they could.  The progress was definitely noticeable, though there would still be some rough patches for some time to come. 

General Landry was present, having considered it his personal duty to assess the damage done and reassure the Atlantis expedition that the SGC was fully behind them in this ‘time of trouble.’  He came conveying the same sentiments from General O’Neill. 

Colonel Caldwell was to Landry’s left, his gaze every once in a while turning to the control room outside the doors, as though he couldn’t quite believe what he was seeing, even now.  His shell shock over what had happened, considering how veteran a military man he was, kicked up John’s respect for him.  He obviously cared a great deal more about Atlantis than he let on.  Next to him was Colonel Ellis, who had been called in as soon as the news had been shared with the SGC.  His face at the moment, though he was wholly sympathetic with their situation, was not bringing up very good memories.  

Rodney, Keller, Ronon, Teyla and himself rounded out the Atlantis personnel attending this particular meeting.  Woolsey had not been well enough to attend, though he’d regained consciousness, and Keller believed him out of the woods. 

And Elizabeth—she’d not been invited, not surprisingly.  On an almost unanimous vote she’d been returned unceremoniously to the isolation room to await the decision of the SGC on what exactly to do with her. 

Which would be topic two of their current conference.  Topic one consisted of figuring out what the hell they were supposed to do about the replicator who called himself Altus.  

The answer seemed pretty obvious.  He was based off an Asuran Replicator, and the last time those guys had been let loose on the Pegasus Galaxy, they’d had one singular focus—follow their attack protocol to destroy the Wraith.  There was no evidence that protocol had changed in Altus. 

“We know that the Replicators built an attack fleet to use against the Wraith—is that same scenario possible with these new replicators, Doctor McKay?” General Landry was asking. 

“It’s possible,” answered Rodney.  He looked weary and run down, but he was rallying his energy admirably, with almost no complaining.  Almost.  “But considering both of them have difficulty replicating in the first place, I don’t see how that might be an immediate threat.” 

“Unless what Doctor Weir theorized was right, and they stole programming from here that could have helped them out,” Caldwell said.  He leaned forward a little in his chair.  “Would her nanites have been able to provide them that information?” 

“No,” Rodney answered firmly.  John made a face, which Rodney observed and narrowed his eyes.  “She’s not a Replicator.  She can’t ‘replicate’ like they can and the little bit her nanites could do was to save her life.” 

“But she is still a threat,” said Ellis.  “You’ve had her under constant guard ever since her nanites were activated.” 

Rodney sighed.  “Yes.  Her nanites can still pose a danger because they’re nanites.  But she’s not a pure Asuran, just like Altus and Frani—the other one aren’t pure Asuran anymore.  With the safeguards built into all three of them, none of them could technically ‘replicate’.” 

“But couldn’t that have changed when Elizabeth was taken?” Jennifer argued.  Rodney looked at her in surprise.  She sat up a little straighter.  “We don’t know what Oberoth did to Elizabeth after we reactivated her nanites.  What’s to say her code wasn’t rewritten?” 

“Because when I did the preliminary examination here, it didn’t appear anything had changed,” Rodney replied sharply.  “In fact, it looked like Oberoth hadn’t added anything else to what I’d done.” 

“And what about to parts of the code you didn’t alter?  Did you get the chance to go through all of it?” asked Ellis. 

“There’s over three billions lines of—” 

“So that would be a no,” said Caldwell.  

Rodney’s answering stare was enough to send up a series of quiet groans throughout the room.    

“So what’s the next move?” asked Ellis. 

“I’d say the first thing is to locate Altus,” said John. 

“Well, since we basically have no idea the direction he took, it pretty much seems like looking for a needle in an interstellar haystack,” Landry remarked. 

“Not necessarily,” Rodney said, in a more subdued tone.  The group turned to him, and he typed in a few commands on his datapad.  An image of Asuras appeared on a monitor nearby.  “If he did want to replicate—and I’m not suggesting there is the remotest possibility he can—but if he did somehow manage to find a workaround, there is one thing he’s going to need lots and lots of.” 

As the military men looked at one another confusedly, Rodney resumed a little of his pompous attitude.  “Neutronium,” he replied, rolling his eyes.  “That’s what the nanites are composed of.  If they’re going to rebuild anything, they’re going to need quite a lot of it.” 

“So they will need planets that are partly composed of this material, such as Asuras was?” said Teyla. 

“Exactly.  And that should make it a lot easier to narrow down.” 

Ellis eyed him skeptically.  “Do we have a running list of neutronium rich planets?  Or would we have to scan their cores?” 

Once again, Rodney didn’t answer.  Caldwell sat back in his chair and sighed heavily. 

“Overlooking some of the logistics,” said General Landry, “what’s the course of action should we managed to narrow down where they’ve gone?” 

“Colonel Carter was tinkering with some changes to the Planetary Wide Anti-Replicator Weapon, just as a safeguard,” Colonel Ellis said.  “I’m sure she could be convinced to pick up the matter again, given these circumstances.” 

“Changes?”  Rodney raised an eyebrow.  “What changes?  I didn’t hear of any changes.  Why wasn’t I informed?” 

Landry sat forward, folding his hands on the table.  “Considering you were supposed to have eliminated all replicators in your galaxy, Doctor McKay, we didn’t think you would consider it a top priority at the time.  As that wasn’t the case, you are more than welcome to look over her adjustments and see if they can be effective against your Replicators.  Providing you can, and that we can find the bastards, we’ll decide where we go from there.” 

Rodney made a face, but didn’t respond. 

“Now,” Landry said, satisfied with McKay’s answer and turning his attention towards John.  “We have another problem to discuss.” 

“You mean beyond the blown control room, half powered up City and semi-out of commission head of the expedition?” 

“Oh, it has to do with a head of the expedition.  Just not the current one.” 

John swallowed.  Neither Teyla nor Ronon looked too pleased to have moved on to topic number two. As if mirroring their mood, the doors to the conference room swung shut, settling with an ominous clang.

Landry lowered his voice a little, his thick eyebrows narrowing.  “What the hell are we going to do with Elizabeth Weir?” 

 

--/--

 

 

The Atlantis meeting room doors hissed open, allowing the Earth military leaders to walk through.  Ronon waited for them to pass, most acknowledging him with a business-like nod, which he returned cordially. 

Teyla, following them, was less expressive.  Listening to the options afforded to Weir had been difficult, making the last part of their conference more exhausting than a mission debriefing.  She passed by him and barely managed a friendly, tired smile.  

Ronon knew better than most about what could happen if one trusted too easily, and this was the position the Atlantis and Earth military found themselves in now.  While he was uncertain about Colonel Ellis, he sensed both General Landry and Colonel Caldwell had a great deal of respect for Weir, and they would not take sacrificing her lightly.  But the fact of the matter was there had been nothing to prove that Doctor Weir would not betray them if given the chance, and the leaders of Earth’s SGC had to be cautious, both for the City’s sake and for the sake of their people. 

Still, from a personal standpoint, Ronon felt, as Teyla seemed to, that what they had was enough.  Having seen what Weir had done for Atlantis, knowing the type of person she was, he found he had a sort of instinctive faith in her ability not to pose them as great a threat as the military seemed to think she was.  

Whatever he felt, Ronon wasn’t going to be the one who could convince any of them otherwise.  There was only one person he believed capable of doing that. 

Sheppard was standing over his chair, his head down and his hands in his pockets.  Everyone else had cleared the room before he moved to leave.  He, too, looked tired or defeated. Or maybe they were one and the same. 

As Sheppard exited, he noticed Ronon’s presence and a little of the customary glint of lightheartedness lit his eyes.  Just for a moment, before it faded at the sight of the ruined Gateroom over Ronon’s shoulder.  “Tough crowd tonight, huh?” 

“Expected it.” 

“Yeah.  Guess I’m a little surprised we don’t all agree with them.” 

Ronon shrugged.  “They’re being cautious.” 

Sheppard nodded and started down the steps at a slow clop.  “Do you?” he asked casually. 

“Do I what?” 

“Agree with them?” 

“I don’t know.  I was gonna ask you the same question.” 

They reached the landing, which looked strange without the colorful glass window overhead.  John grinned humoredly.  “Are you checking up on me now?” 

“Just curious.” 

“We have an expedition psychologist for that, you know.” 

“I know.  You haven’t answered my question.” 

Sheppard glanced around him, across the Gateroom.  “If you asked me a few weeks ago, I’d have said a hundred percent.  Today…” He trailed off, his gaze falling on the empty window frame next to them.  “I don’t know.  It’s not the same anymore, you know?” 

“You trust her then?” 

When John looked back at him, it was with a carefully guarded expression.  “Let’s just say I’m open for discussion.” 

Ronon eyed him and crossed his arms. 

John’s gaze flickered away, towards the Gate, and he continued down the steps.  They walked in silence to the Gateroom floor before he spoke up again, his tone muted.  “You let her go into the control room during the attack.  Why?” 

Ronon shrugged again.  “I dunno.  It felt right at the time.” 

Sheppard observed him studiously, like he was trying to find a break in Ronon’s stoic expression.  “She’s the same thing she was when we took her to Asuras.  You didn’t really trust her there.” 

“Until she saved us there,” Ronon replied. 

Silence again, though neither of them moved.  

John shoved his hands deeper into his pockets.  “She’s been gone a long time, Ronon.” 

“I know.” 

“You of all people have perfectly good reasons not to trust anyone these days, given what happened with your people.  Why her?” 

Ronon shrugged.  “I don’t know.  But people betray your trust for different reasons.  Tyre and the others had a choice and they chose to turn.  Weir never did that, even when she could have.   She didn’t pretend to be something other than what she was, before or after what happened.” 

“That doesn’t mean anything.  She could turn, just like the rest of them.” 

“I don’t think so.  She’s fought off that temptation before.  And she has an incentive others didn’t have.” 

Sheppard frowned.  “What’s that?” 

“Her home.  Her people.”  Ronon glanced around.  “As far as the others were concerned, Sateda was gone.  Atlantis isn’t.  This is what she wants to protect.”  

They’d passed the Gate; John stopped, his hands on his hips. 

Ronon kept walking, but there was something else to be said, something he didn’t want to say, but that in a way was necessary.  He paused and turned.  Sheppard noticed his action and looked over at him. 

“Serrana was the same way,” he said. 

Sheppard’s expression flipped from nonchalant to fiery in a flash.  “What—”  

“Loyalty motivates people to do incredible things.  Where that loyalty lies is what’s important.  Weir’s loyalty, like the Geniis’, lies with her people.  Which in her case is a good thing, even if it wasn’t for Serrana.” 

John narrowed his eyes, his fist clenched.  “Elizabeth is not Mayel.” 

“Never said she was,” Ronon returned.  “You should remember that, too.” 

He left Sheppard standing in front of the Gate. 

 

--/--

 

           

Torren was crying and rarely had Teyla been so thankful to hear the sound.  He was tired and remained a little shaken by the attack on Atlantis, but he was alive, and well. 

The area that comprised the quarters she and Kanaan shared had received little damage beyond what would be considered minor instability.  Analysis had found little to fear as far as the strength of the walls; apparently, as Rodney had so eloquently put it, a city constructed to serve as a flying battle fortress was built to withstand structural attacks, much like a ‘skyscraper in an earthquake’.  It was direct, persistent damage that posed the greatest danger and where Atlantis was most fragile.   

Repairs were already being completed on the Western pier and within the Tower; the Gateroom, which had received the most damage, was slowly being put back together.  Already Mr. Woolsey’s office was intact and ready to receive him when he had healed, and the bridge that had connected the control room was under repair.  Thankfully, the composition of Atlantis, based upon materials found on Earth and amongst the stars of the Milky Way, was relatively easy to mimic, and most of the new repair work would not differ much from the City’s former appearance. 

Except for the stained glass window, which John had insisted be redesigned completely, pointing to the fact that it had twice been destroyed, which must be ‘a sign’. 

Torren scrunched up his face and began a new bout of crying.  Kanaan appeared from the hallway, bearing a bottle.  The baby was growing old enough to be drinking from cups, but Kanaan still indulged him a little, though he had not used many bottles when he was very small. 

“He is still upset?” Kanaan asked, holding his arms out for the boy.  Teyla held to him for a moment, glancing between him and Kanaan, before handing him to his father. 

“It will not be easy to calm him,” she replied, with a smile.  Kanaan studied her with a humored expression, though he leaned forward after a moment and placed a kiss upon her forehead.  

“We were worried, too,” he said, bouncing Torren a little.  Torren ceased his crying and reached his free hand towards her face, twining fingers in her hair.  She kissed his hand, clasping it, and wrapped her other around Kanaan’s shoulder, pulling them both to her, so thankful fate had been kind this time.

 

--/--

 

John stormed down the hallway of the Tower, dodging two guys with ladders, and trying not to get upset with the number of people he was having to avoid.  They were doing their jobs—good jobs, considering the damage—and he had no right to be irritated with their meandering and general crowding of his hallways. 

He shook his head and made an inadvertent turn down another corridor.  The truth was that he wasn’t upset over the people, or the noise, or the crowding.  Ronon’s last statement was still rolling around his mind, and he was still angry about it.  It had been an unnecessary and unexpected comment in a situation that hadn’t warranted it.  Mayel Serrana they were done with.  She had no bearing on today, yesterday, or the future, as far as he was concerned.  And especially not where Elizabeth Weir was concerned.  

He paused in his pacing, putting his hands on his hips and taking a look around at where his feet had taken him.  To his surprise, he was outside the isolation room, which currently housed Elizabeth, back under careful guard and being monitored for any malfeasance the Replicator might have engaged in.   

Not bothering to try and analyze why his subconscious had driven him straight to the last place he’d thought to be, he nodded at the Marine standing guard instead and went inside. 

As he entered, Elizabeth looked up from where she was seated at the table, a datapad in her hands.  

“Updates?” he asked automatically. 

She quirked an eyebrow at him.  “Um, considering the current state of things, getting my hands on extremely classified documents is a little bit difficult at the moment, even for me.” 

And…he could have kicked himself.  “Right.  So, uh—?” 

“Catching up.  Did you know they made a fourth Indiana Jones movie?”  She flipped the datapad around to show a screenshot from the flick.  “I’m still debating on whether or not that was a good thing.” 

“Oh, it gets better than that.  Wait until you hit the glittery vampire business.” 

“And I’m not even going to ask.”  She smiled confusedly and set the datapad aside.  “So what’s going on?  Made any progress on where the Replicators might have gone?  Or does the rule about not sharing classified information extend to you as well?” 

“Did it ever?”  He found a place against the wall a comfortable distance from her and leaned against it.  “McKay’s narrowed down that we should be looking for a neutronium heavy planets.” 

“Neutronium—that’s what the nanites are composed of, right?”

“Mostly.”

“But that means they’d have to be able to replicate again.  I thought Rodney was certain they couldn’t.  Unless—”  She looked up at him, her eyes widening.  “That’s the programming he thinks they stole from my nanites?” 

“Not him so much, but until he has the opportunity to go through it and prove his safeguards are still in place, he can’t argue otherwise.”  John shrugged.  “General Landry figures we’d better treat it as though it was what they wanted rather than gamble that it’s not.”  

“I agree.”  She leaned a little across the table.  “And if they replicate again—what then?  Recreate Asuras?” 

“It seems more likely they’d continue what they were doing before we destroyed Asuras.  Altus was a part of the Collective.  Despite Rodney’s tinkering with his code at the Wraith lab, he left a blood trail a mile wide, which seems to indicate his attack protocol was still well intact.  We have to assume he is going to do exactly what he was programmed to do.” 

“Destroy the Wraith.”  

“Which, in their skewed and ‘completely logical’ methodology, means taking out the Wraith’s food supply.” 

“Humans.”  Her eyes flicked down to her hands.  “God, I wish now we’d thought about things logically before we reactivated that protocol.” 

“For more than one reason,” he murmured. 

Elizabeth looked up at him with soft eyes, then glanced down at the floor.  

He cleared his throat and lifted himself from the wall, shoving his hands in his pockets.  “Believe me, we were made to answer for it.  Trial wasn’t pretty.” 

“Trial?”  She looked at him quizzically.  “Who put you on trial?” 

“The Pegasus Coalition.”  He said.  “That was fun times.  Like a modern Inquisition.” 

“Pegasus Coalition?  That’s the new faction of allied planets, right?”  Her eyebrow arched as she studied him.  “Why would they put you on trial?  I thought Atlantis helped found it.” 

“Technically, not really.” 

“Not really.” 

“Nope.”  He shook his head and gestured with his finger.  “In fact, that was more because of us than actually due to us that they united.” 

Elizabeth pursed her lips in confusion.  “Because of you.  What did you do?” 

“What didn’t we do, according to them?”  He snatched a chair from nearby and straddled it.  “There was the whole ‘waking of the Wraith’ thing, then there was the problem with the Hoffan drug—you remember them, trying to destroy the Wraith by making themselves immune to feeding?” 

“Yes—” 

“Let’s just say what they created didn’t exactly remain on Hoff.” 

“That drug killed dozens of Hoffans when it was administered,” she said, with a horrified look. 

“One third of a population, to be precise,” he said.   “So you can imagine what happened when it got loose in the galaxy.” 

Her eyes widened.  “Oh my god.” 

“That, combined with a couple of our other snafus here and there—Michael, the whole Replicator war— 

“Snafus?”  She tilted her head in consternation. 

“Well, let’s just say we weren’t exactly on the Pegasus’s most popular list.” 

“So what you’re saying is they formed this Coalition against Atlantis?” 

He bobbed his head around.  “More or less.” 

“John.”   She shook her head.  “Most of those ‘snafus’ you mentioned?  Those were some of the worst decisions I ever made.” 

“We all made,” he said seriously.  

“Helping the Hoffans was my choice.  Going ahead with the experiment on Michael was my choice.  The consequences of those choices were my responsibility.  And I wasn’t even here to answer for them.” 

“I think you answered for it well enough,” John retorted.  She looked at him in surprise and he pulled himself out of the chair.  “They were our responsibility, Elizabeth, and we’ve all paid the price in one way or another.  And we didn’t stop just because—after what happened on Asuras.  When Colonel Carter came in we did the same thing.  And after she left, same with Woolsey.  There were always choices that we had to make and sometimes they led to pretty rotten consequences.” 

“But they still held us responsible,” she replied softly.  “This Pegasus Coalition.  They tried to make you pay for them?” 

“Sort of.  Woolsey put on his old lawyer hat and made a pretty good argument for how the good outweighed the bad.” 

She was silent for a moment, staring at her hands, then looked up at him thoughtfully.  “So what’s your relationship with them now?” 

“You know how it goes with guys like these.  One day they hate us, the next day they’re begging us to help them.  Cozying up to us, then stabbing us in the back.” 

He tried to be nonchalant about it, but she knew him too well not to notice the edge in his tone.  “I take it that, at the moment, we’re not so allied.” 

“At the moment they’re playing big man on campus,” John replied.  “They’ve threatened the Wraith with a retrovirus they stole from us, though we don’t have any intel that they’ve actually used it.  According to Keller and the Doc, how it was distributed was going to be an issue.” 

“Jennifer mentioned the retrovirus.  So they haven’t actually used it, as far as we know?” 

“Not yet.  They appear to be relying on the Wraith’s fear of the Hoffan plague, and a few other things, to build the fear factor more than actual evidence it works.” 

“But the Wraith have responded to it?” 

“So far as we can tell, yes.  They’re turning buggy tail from every Coalition vessel they come across.” 

“Hmm.”  She looked over at the wall, almost like she was lost in thought.  “Seems like this Coalition has some real power behind it.” 

“It’s got Ladon Radim behind it,” John said, the edge creeping back into his voice.  “Which explains quite a lot if you think about it.” 

“Ladon?  Well, he’s really stepped up, hasn’t he?”  Elizabeth leaned back, grasping her stylus from the table and tapping it idly, her expression becoming almost humored.   “Who would have thought he, of all the Genii, would have ended up one of the most powerful leaders in the Pegasus Galaxy?” 

“You chose to trust him,” John replied, with a sideways glance at her. 

“I chose to make an alliance with him,” Elizabeth returned seriously.  “There’s a significant difference, especially with the Genii.  I wouldn’t call any one of them trustworthy, even on their very best behavior.” 

“No,” John replied.  “They’re not.” 

The conversation he’d had with Ronon arose in his mind, irritating him again.  Instead of pacing, he rubbed a hand through his hair, taking a few seconds to compose himself.  When he looked up, Elizabeth’s eyes were on her stylus, her expression carefully neutral, waiting for him to continue. 

“So,” she said, when it became obvious he wasn’t going to elaborate.  “You’ve mentioned Ladon and the Genii.  Who else comprises this Coalition?” 

He cleared his throat and walked back over to the chair, turning it around so he could take a proper seat.  “A tribe of people known as the Santho.  Hoffans.  Athosians are a part too—Kanaan deals with that.” 

“Kanaan?”  She smiled genuinely this time.  “A Coalition representative?” 

“Pretty damn good at it too,” John said.  “You haven’t really gotten to meet him, have you?” 

“A few times.  I remember him from among the Athosians.  He seemed like a good man.  Of course, his relevance to Atlantis has completely changed since the last time I met with him.” 

“You’re not kidding,” John replied.  

She smiled at his sarcasm, but didn’t press it.  “Who else?” 

He studied her for a moment.  “Why does the Coalition interest you so much?” 

She shrugged, a half-smile playing across her face.  “Oh, I don’t know.  I suppose I find it fascinating that the Pegasus Galaxy people had the wherewithal to gather together and pool their assets.  It’s not an easy thing to form an alliance, and considering how few of them are truly advanced enough to combat the Wraith, I think it’s amazing they managed it.” 

“You mean, amazing they managed it without our help.” 

“Maybe that too.” The half-smile broadened into a full grin. 

“Well, as far as advancement goes, I’m pretty sure the Travelers joining up gave them a pretty good shove into the current century.” 

 “Travelers.”  She looked at him curiously.  “What are Travelers?” 

“It really has been that long?”  He observed her in surprise.  “Let’s see.  Guess I’ll start with Larrin.  She’s enough of a drama in herself.” 

She listened to him composedly as he began to fill her in.

 

--/--

 

There was a silence in the infirmary that Richard very much appreciated at the moment.  He took in a soft breath, trying hard not to move his aching head, and slowly opened his eyes.  Despite a positive diagnosis from Doctor Keller and the hope he'd be out of here rather quickly, it didn’t stop him from feeling like he’d been hit by an Aurora class ship or at least one of those big elephant-giraffe like things Lorne had run across a few months ago. 

A sound to his left drew his attention, and he turned, surprised to find General Hank Landry seated by his bedside, reading a book.  The General noted his movement and glanced over, laying his book down on his knee and withdrawing his glasses.  

“General,” he rasped. 

“Stay still, Richard.” 

“What are you doing here?” 

“I’m not allowed to visit an old friend from time to time?” 

“It’s not—” Richard coughed, wincing as the vibration exploded his headache to ten times as painful.  “Sorry.  I appreciate the concern, but what about the City?  How long has it--” 

“Two weeks.  Repairs are going well, we’ve had no threats from the Replicators, and the search continues for them.  Everything so far is fine.”  He lifted his book.  “It’s quiet here—nice place to keep to one’s self for a little while and check on one’s counterparts at the same time.” 

Richard smiled.  “I appreciate your attentiveness, General.” 

Hank grinned.  “The damage wasn’t as extensive as we first thought.  Many of your pretty bells and whistles were damaged, but the infrastructure itself wasn’t very much affected.  You were lucky.” 

“Personnel?” 

Landry’s soft smile faded.  “I’m afraid there, not so good.  Ten souls lost.” 

Richard felt a lump in his throat.  “Doctor Keller told me as much.  Mostly scientists on the West Pier?” 

“Few soldiers caught in the crossfire, too.  Everyone in the Tower made it through, though, and that was the most significantly damaged.” 

Richard thought through what little he could remember of the attack.  The Elizabeth-version Replicator—Franibeth, McKay had called her—attacking Chuck.  The shield failing. 

He leaned a little on his pillow as Landry studied him.  “Did we contain the Primus Elizabeth?” 

“You mean Doctor Weir?” 

“The one who looked like the original Elizabeth.  Yes, her.” 

“She didn’t just look like Elizabeth, Richard.  She is Elizabeth.” 

“What?”  Richard furrowed his brow, which he quickly softened as another wave of pain pulsed through his head.  

“The Replicators who attacked confirmed it.  She was part of their plan—apparently they needed to probe her nanites, we think to grab some of her nanites’ code.  In doing so, they affirmed that this ‘Primus’ you found was the real Weir, the one lost on Asuras.” 

“You’re sure?” 

“Given the analysis done by Doctor McKay, coupled with the fact that they did, in fact, attack her for that programming, makes it about as damn close to sure as we could possibly be without seeing what actually happened to her.  What’s more, she’s mostly organic, which seems to defeat the point of placing her in Atlantis as a trap.” 

There was something in Landry’s tone that raised Richard’s suspicions.  “But you still don’t trust her.” 

“With Replicators running loose across the galaxy, there’s no way to trust her.  Even if she is one-hundred percent Elizabeth, she’s still capable of being manipulated by them, should they be able to connect to her through that subspace connection.  She may be Elizabeth, but she’s still dangerous.  She herself thinks so.” 

“That sounds like Elizabeth,” he murmured.  “What have you discussed?”  

Landry smiled, apparently either amused or impressed by Richard’s business-like take on the matter.  “We have three options we’re considering.  McKay’s suggestion was to put her in stasis, like she was as the Primus.” 

“In stasis.” 

“At least that would give us time to try and find a way to control her nanites.  The second option, proposed by General O’Neill, was to upload her virtually to the same computer system as Ava—you’re familiar with the human-form replicator created on Earth?” 

“Yes, vaguely.  But that would destroy her body?” 

“Essentially, yes.” 

“I’m betting McKay and Sheppard weren’t too game for that.” 

“It was better than Doctor Strom’s suggestion.” 

“Let me guess.  Deactivation.” 

“Immediate and uncompromised.  He wanted every nanite destroyed.” 

Richard sighed and lifted a hand to his pounding head.  “What was decided?” 

“Nothing.  Right now she’s in isolation.  For one thing, we haven’t had time to really consider—humanely, at least—all the options.  For a second, as Doctor McKay brought up, with the Replicators still out there, she may be needed.  The one point we could glean from the attack is that, for some reason, the Replicators are still scared of her.  We think that may have been the point of the entire attack, to make sure she was destroyed with the rest of the City.” 

 “So until we find the Replicators she’s to remain confined?” 

“Providing she doesn’t do anything compromising, that’s the plan.” 

For some reason, Richard felt relieved.  “So now we’ve just got to figure out where the Replicators are.” 

“You let us handle that.  Right now, you need to rest.”  Landry picked his book from his knee and replaced his glasses.  “Get some sleep, Richard.” 

For once, Richard didn’t feel like arguing. 

 

--/--

 

The halls of the West Pier were filled with workers, many of whom threw Rodney a friendly wave, to his surprise, as they finished up the work on the damage done by the Replicators.  And finishing up pretty quickly, all things considered. 

Still, the scaffolding, paint and materials lying around everywhere reminded him only too clearly of his failings and what those failings had cost.  Sure, there were some things he couldn’t have foreseen—like Franibeth’s tampering with the Zed PM conduits—but there were other things, like a back-up for the shield generators, which he should have taken into account years ago when they had the Zed PMs for it.  It would also have justified them keeping additional Zed PMs, which he could never seem to argue for effectively.  

But Rodney was a responsible human being, and he knew when he was to blame.  Even if it was mostly the Ancient’s fault that they’d made those conduits so weak that a series of trigger devices found in their own arsenal and no more powerful than flash-bangs would mess up the entire system. 

Sometimes he didn’t know what the Ancients were thinking with some of their technology. 

He rounded the bend to a small lab that had been unscathed during the attack and went inside.  Radek Zelenka looked up from his lab table, where he had laid out the pieces of an ARG side by side.  At the moment he was staring aimlessly at them, as though uncertain as to what to do next. 

When Rodney walked in, the Czech scientist snapped out of his reverie, his hands ghosting over the parts but settling back down as soon as Rodney neared the table. 

“Any luck?” 

Radek shook his head.  “To be truthful, I am not sure where even to begin.” 

“Well, based on the schematics here…” Rodney unfolded the paperwork he’d gotten off his call to the SGC, courtesy of the designs of Sam Carter.  “It looks like most of the modifications she made in the PWARW were here.” 

Zelenka looked over the schematics.  “That’s wonderful for a very large planetary wide weapon.  But these types of modifications on a handheld ARG?  They would be difficult to do.” 

“But not impossible.”  Rodney nudged Zelenka from his place and picked up a few pieces of the gun.  “We’ve got the basics, we just need to tweak a few things.” 

“Tweak.  Yes.”  Zelenka looked skeptical.  

“What else have we got to lose?”  Rodney asked quietly. 

Zelenka noted his expression, and with a sigh, grabbed the schematics.  “Nothing.”

 

--/--

 

 

Amelia waved a quick goodbye to Nils Albertsmann, who returned the gesture with an affectionate air kiss.  

Much of the rewiring work had been difficult, but it was rewarding seeing the City finally come together.  Atlantis was as much her home now as any other place she’d lived on Earth, and the damage done to it had felt a lot more personal than she’d believed it could be.  

She’d had the added benefit of being the technician in charge of much of the rewiring work after Rodney had declared her patchwork comm system ‘vaguely impressive’.  Coming from McKay, that statement held as much weight as a commendation from a Nobel prize winner.  It had earned her respect amongst not only her peers but those on the Earth ships as well. 

Nils was a chief technician on the Apollo, one who was smart enough to have taken point anywhere, but who respectfully gave her the opportunity to take the lead.  And she’d done so, successfully, for the last week or so. 

It also helped that Nils had no personal hang-ups to worry about.  She didn’t fit within his ‘criteria,’ as he’d explained the first day they met.  It had made him a fun, easygoing person to hang out with. 

She was still smiling as she turned the corner down towards her quarters, feeling tired but accomplished. 

Until she looked up and saw Ronon leaning against her doorjamb. 

She sighed and considered turning on her heel but decided against being childish.  She lived on the same city as he did, and being a respected member of Atlantis, it did her no good to play games. 

He turned as she walked towards him.  

“Ronon,” she said, moving around him.  He was conveniently blocking the door crystal, for which she threw him a chagrined glance.   He arched up slowly, allowing her to slide her hand across the crystal and followed her inside as though he had a perfect right to do so. 

When the door had slid fully shut she flung her jacket on the bed and turned to him.  “What?” 

“I came to see how you’re doing,” he said, as nonchalantly as though there hadn’t been weeks of tension between them.  

“How nice,” she retorted.   “I’m fine.” 

“What do you want me to say?” 

“At the moment, nothing.”  She crossed her arms.  “You’re quite good at that, actually.” 

The stoic expression slid off his face, and he sighed, looking somewhat closer to human than she’d ever seen him.  “Amelia…” 

“Don’t start with me,” she snapped, raising a finger in his direction.  “You’ve had plenty of opportunity in the last few weeks to say something.  You had plenty of chances before then to say anything at all.  You did neither.  What makes you think you can come up now, ask me how I’m doing, and everything will be fine?” 

His nostrils flared and he stared at her face, contemplating, apparently.  

“Fine,” he said finally, in a biting tone.  “Have it your way.”  

He turned on his heel and took a couple of quick strides towards the door.  As he flung his hand over the door crystal he looked back at her, the shadows falling across his face making his eyes seem to burn with intensity. 

“You wanted me to change?  You should remember it works both ways.  Some things are always going to be a part of who I am.  Melena, at least, understood that.” 

Then he was gone, leaving her standing in the middle of the room, stunned.     

 

--/--

 

The Gateroom seemed to sparkle, at least in Richard's view, as he walked through it.  Of course, it could be the fuzziness and starbursts still clouding his vision from time to time, but as he made his way across the reconstructed bridge to his office and grabbed hold of the rails, they felt just the same as they had three weeks ago, before the attack.  Everything was in pristine condition; the walls of his office shining and new, overlooking a freshly repainted Gateroom.  

Crowded into the small space stood General Landry, Colonel Caldwell and Colonel Sheppard, and Doctors Keller and McKay.  Teyla and Ronon had also made an appearance, the Athosian smiling brightly as he walked slowly into the room.  

His head still felt like it weighed a ton, but the most severe of the injuries had healed, and his overall demeanor was certainly assisted by the appearance of the control room, which was nearly perfect in its rebuilding.  

He made his way to his desk, running a hand over the top, before taking a seat in his chair.  As he spread his folder of papers across the surface, a burst of applause nearly set his ears ringing.  The people in his office, accompanied by the technicians in the control area, were on their feet and clapping. 

He smiled, let them continue for a moment, then held up his hand.  The applause died away, with the majority of the crew returning to their stations.  General Landry took a seat, though the rest of the group in his office remained standing.  

“Thank you,” he said.  “I’m not sure which of you arranged that, but thank you.” 

“It was a joint effort,” said Sheppard.  “With mutual consensus.” 

“Well, I appreciate it.”  He let that sentiment linger for a few seconds, before glancing down at the reports on his desk.  “Where are we with the Asurans?” 

“Nowhere,” said Colonel Caldwell.  “The Daedalus just returned from a scouting mission, and the Apollo remains searching, but there’s no good way to narrow down the entire galaxy, even with the refined search parameters Doctor McKay came up with.” 

Rodney made a face at that but said nothing. 

“Have we spoken with the Coalition about it?” 

It was Sheppard’s turn to glare, though Landry answered for him.  “I, with Kanaan’s help, have reached out to the representatives of the Coalition.  Obviously they were displeased with the revelation that the Replicators have returned, but they agree with our assessment that they must be stopped before significant damage is done.  They’re conducting scouting missions of their own and have volunteered to assist us with the strike on the planet.” 

“Provided we get there in time,” John said quietly. 

“You were unable to trace Franibeth?”  Richard said. 

Rodney shook his head.  “Too much time for her to gate from planet to planet.  There’s no telling where she ended up before she was picked up by Altus.” 

Richard scanned the reports, his eyes falling on one paper in particular.   “And what about Elizabeth?” 

“What about Elizabeth?”  It was Sheppard who answered that, almost curtly.  “She’s currently in isolation and guarded around the clock.” 

“Have we reached a resolution as to her fate?” 

“Not yet,” said Landry, with a glance in Sheppard’s direction. “The IOA has agreed not to broach that subject until we have discovered what the Replicators are up to.  Whatever they stole from her, she may in turn be the key.  They don’t want to risk a trump card.” 

“Trump card?” asked Rodney, his voice rising in pitch.  “So she’s the IOA’s ‘trump card’ now?  She’s a living, breathing person!” 

Jennifer’s hand rose automatically to his shoulder.  

Landry, though not bothering to look at him, said, “No one disputes that, Doctor McKay.” 

“No one here needs to have Elizabeth’s importance to both Atlantis and to her people reiterated,” said Richard.  “Or even, on a personal level, what she means to everyone.  I just want to be prepared in case that outcome isn’t favorable.” 

“You shouldn’t even be considering alternative outcomes at all,” Rodney retorted.  “She’s on Atlantis.  The decision as to what to do with her should be ours.” 

“She’s not a stray dog, Rodney,” John said.  He turned to Richard, his hazel eyes glittering.  “If there is anything to be determined about what happens to Elizabeth, I think Elizabeth herself should have a say in it.” 

“You know what she’s going to say,” Rodney snipped back, though it was more a statement than a complaint.  “And frankly, I’m kinda tired of my friends pulling the self-sacrifice card as a first move instead of a last resort.” 

John looked at him sharply, a troubled expression on his face. 

“It’s the truth,” Rodney replied.  “Nobody gets to throw their life away anymore unless we have no other choice.” 

“I would rather us not have any other choice,” Richard replied wearily.  “But I don’t have the luxury of not considering the alternatives, Doctor McKay, because the decision doesn’t rest solely with me.  We have to accept that the outcome may be different from what we expect—or what we may want—and prepare for it.” 

“I don’t think Doctor Weir would disagree with that,” said Colonel Caldwell, with a sideways glance at Rodney. 

With no one else adding anything, Richard returned to his papers.  “In that case, then, our biggest priority right now is to continue searching—and hope we find them before it’s too late to do anything about them.” 

Landry rose.  “Until that time, Richard, with the repairs almost complete, the SGC staff will be taking its leave.  I am glad to see the damage done isn’t as grave as we first thought.” 

Richard rose and reached forward to shake his hand.  “Thank you, General, for all your help.” 

“It is my pleasure.  This old girl’s been around for millions of years,” he said, wistfully, and looked back over the Gateroom.  “’S going to take a hell of a lot more that a few Replicators to bring her down.”  

“You’re absolutely right,” Richard said.   Landry nodded at them, and then took his leave, followed by Caldwell, who seemed to appreciate the need for Richard to have a few minutes alone with his own people. 

Once the military had made their way down the steps, Sheppard moved over to Landry’s vacated chair and plopped himself down.  The others seemed to relax a bit more, though Ronon’s gaze drifted between them and the control area. 

“So what are we really going to do with Elizabeth?” Rodney asked, leaning forward.  Richard looked up at him curiously.  

“Really going to do?  I thought we already answered that.” 

“Yeah, but we’re not really going to—“  He jerked a thumb at the area where the military had gone.  “I mean, it’s Elizabeth.” 

Richard set down his pen and sighed.  “I seem to recall us having a similar conversation last year when she first appeared as the FRAN replicator.  I don’t see how anything has changed from back then, do you, Doctor McKay?” 

“Other than the fact that she is really the REAL Elizabeth and not a copy, duplicate, or anything—“ 

“We thought that about the FRAN version of Elizabeth that betrayed us and caused all of this chaos in the first place.” 

“She admitted she wasn’t Weir,” said Ronon.  

“She was reprogrammed, and in being so is no different from how Niam was when we first tried to save him from Oberoth,” added Teyla.  “The Elizabeth who first contacted us and established herself in the body of Rodney’s replicator was a true copy of Elizabeth until she was overwritten.  But the one currently imprisoned is the original Elizabeth and in her case, the considerations should be different.” 

“But they aren’t.  Original or not, she spent time as a captive of the Replicators.  She herself possesses nanites.  And the one thing we know for certain about them is it only takes one to wreak havoc,” said Richard.  “No matter how well intentioned Elizabeth may be, if her nanites have been programmed to somehow sabotage us, she may not be able to stop them from taking her over and doing the same thing her copy did.  We simply don’t know what could happen.” 

“But we could find out.  I can go through her nanites, scan them for any additional programming.  Using algorithms, I could do it relatively quickly—” 

“Why don’t we ask Elizabeth what she would want?”  Sheppard had remained conspicuously silent during this discussion, but now cut McKay off with his eyes on the floor.  When he lifted his gaze, his fingers toying with the armrest of the chair, it was with an expression Richard hadn’t seen in quite a while.  “I think we all know what the answer would be.”  

Rodney frowned at that, which seemed to echo what Richard’s gut instinct—that Elizabeth would not be a fan of that idea or any idea that might compromise Atlantis. 

Rodney began to speak, but Richard cut him off with a wave of his hand.  “Ask Elizabeth.  Whether we agree with her decision or not, we should at least know what it would be in this case.”  Richard looked firmly at the scientist, holding up a pen.  “If we’re going to try and make an argument that she’s human, we need to start treating her that way.” 

Sheppard’s expression was unreadable, but he remained staring at Richard for a second longer than anyone else.  His face didn’t change as he rose and followed the group out of the door, across the brand new bridge, and through the control area. 

Richard glanced down at the papers on his desk, the first stack addressing the Elizabeth situation.  He gathered them up quickly, straightened them and stuffed them into a new folder, which he shoved aside, then reached for the more comforting reports on the rebuilding of Atlantis.

 

--/--

 

 

Elizabeth swiped a finger across the interactive screen of her tablet, filled with a small bit of wonderment at the efficiency of the touchscreen.  Apparently in the last few years, computer tablets had become the rage for the common man, and now everyone could possess one.  In the first years of the expedition, she had thought her teams special for getting tablet-like computers.  Now, their versions were completely outdated. 

Phones had gotten smaller, so had earbuds.  Radios had gotten more efficient, and medical discoveries had grown by leaps and bounds.  It was overwhelming and yet something to be proud of at the same time.  Human beings were so resilient and amazing, whether they were exploring galaxies or simply living a traditional existence back on Earth. 

The isolation room doors slid open, and John entered followed by Rodney, both of whom wore grave expressions. 

Despite being prepared for something like this, Elizabeth felt her heart leap.  She knew the repairs on Atlantis were nearly finished, which meant a decision about her status was close to being made.  She was pretty sure she knew what the answer was—but she also found that she’d enjoyed these last few weeks, even if they had only consisted of living in isolation and seeing her friends when they were allowed to visit. 

“Are the repairs finished?” she asked, saving either of them the trouble of having to formulate a greeting.  Neither took a seat, though John moved over to the wall and leaned one shoulder against it, arms crossed. 

“Almost,” answered Rodney.  “They made pretty good progress in the last few weeks.” 

“Glad to hear it.  How’s Richard?” 

“Back to being Woolsey,” said John.  “Eggheadedness and all.” 

“Good.”  She smiled genuinely.  “Two expedition heads taken out by Replicator attack would have been too much, even in Pegasus.” 

The expressions on both men’s faces changed; Rodney looked like someone had slapped him, while John’s eyes softened and he pressed his lips together, his gaze drifting to the floor. 

She sat back, sighing.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t…” 

Rodney shook his head by way of dismissing her apology.  “It’s what we came to talk to you about, actually.”  He moved to one of the chairs across from where she was sitting.  “There’s a chance I can figure out whether anything was done to your nanites since you were taken.” 

Elizabeth frowned.  “How would you do that?” 

“When you were injured the last time, I made a copy of your nanites’ programming in order to reactivate them to repair you.  What I did was more a patch job than anything else, but the programming itself was completely copied.  All I’d have to do is hook you up to a database, formulate a series of algorithms for specific items and compare.” 

She glanced down at her fingers, then back at Rodney.  “What’s the catch?” 

“Catch?”  Rodney tried his best to be nonchalant, but his eyes widened, just a touch.  “No…” 

She smiled softly, then looked over at John.  “What’s the catch?” 

John moistened his lips, then tilted his head a little in her direction.  “It’d have to be the Atlantis computer system.” 

“No.”  She sat back.  “Absolutely not.” 

“It wouldn’t be dangerous.  It’s the only system large enough to process that much code at the same time.  It—” 

“NO.”  She clasped her hands in front of her and shook her head.  “No, Rodney.  That would compromise the entire City.  Why would you even consider something like that?” 

“Because—” he sighed.  “I’m going to run around in circles with this, aren’t I?” 

“Yes,” said she and John at the same time.  Rodney glanced between them, shook his head, and threw up his hands. 

“Fine.  Fine.  I’ll find another way.”  He rose and walked away a few paces, before turning back to her.  “I will find another way, just so you know, you’re not getting off that easy.” 

“I’d never expect it,” she said with as broad a smile as she could manage.  A flash of one crossed his face, before he turned and left the room. 

John watched him go and lazily turned back to her.  As he did, she assumed a serious expression. 

“What’s the real catch?” 

He tried his best to look as nonchalant as possible, but she knew him too well, and he knew it.  After a moment he uncrossed his arms and moved to Rodney’s abandoned position, taking a seat. 

“It might not matter whether he figures it out or not.” 

She leaned in towards him.  “The IOA wants to deactivate the nanites, is that it?” 

His head bobbed around.  “Pretty much.  But General O’Neill’s not in agreement with that.” 

“What is General O’Neill in agreement with?”  

To her surprise, his expression changed, his eyes narrowing.  “He’s in favor of a system we employed back on Earth.” 

“On Earth?”  She racked her brain, but as far as she was aware all the block form and human form generated replicators in the Milky Way had been destroyed far from Earth.  “And what’s that?” 

He breathed out slowly, then met her gaze.  “You remember the Aurora?  What the Captain did there?” 

Her eyes widened.  “Virtual Reality?” 

“We saved a human-form replicator consciousness in a programmed world.” 

For some reason, the idea of it gave Elizabeth a nauseated feeling.  “Living virtually.”  She shook her head.  “Any other alternatives?” 

“Stasis, until we can figure out how to get rid of them.” 

“Well.”  She rose, pacing slowly around the room, then crossed her arms.  “So I can either die, or be as good as dead.  Nice options.” 

“There aren’t many that would satisfy everyone.” 

“I know.”  She returned to the chair, plopping down ungracefully.  John didn’t move. 

“How did we get here?” she asked softly.   “I never thought—” 

She couldn’t help the emotion that welled up, and she turned her head, trying to gather her composure. 

John hesitated for a moment, then reached a hand out to pat the desk close to her clasped ones.  “We’ll figure it out.  Gotta have a little faith.  You heard what Rodney said.” 

She tried an awkward smile in return.  “Yeah.” 

“’Besides, you don’t think we’re really going to let a bunch of machines get the upper hand, do you?  We kicked the Collective’s ass once.  We’ll do it again.”  He grinned, his tone growing lighthearted.  “And we’ve got the Primus, right?  Whatever—“   

It was the mention of Primus that set something off in her head.  She felt it like a wave, or a shiver, coursing through her mind with such speed she could barely comprehend what was happening.  But John’s face began to blur, and she could hear speaking, the sound of a variety of voices.  John’s was among them, calling her name, but all she could see was black, all she could feel the sensation of falling deeper and deeper into darkness.

 

>>> Continued in Primum Movens, Part II, CH III

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