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Primum Movens, Part II, Epilogue

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

 

Richard walked towards the infirmary, humming softly to himself.  The conversations he had with the SGC would normally have worn him down too much for a cheerful stroll, but today he felt invigorated. 

The results of the combined self-destruct, PWARW and nuclear attacks were generally positive; no trace of Asuras II, Oberoth, FRAN or any other nanites existed on the remains of the planet the Replicators had chosen.  Overall, the operation had been a massive success.  There was only one small point of contention, the reason he was now making his way to the infirmary.

The isolation room there was heavily guarded; two Marines posted at all times, no exceptions.  On the monitors above him, Elizabeth Weir lay on the hospital bed, her body in a stasis of sorts.  It had been a precaution, one that had been necessary to allow her to remain on Atlantis. 

Had been.

Keller was in the infirmary, tending to a few of the Marines who’d returned from a slightly rough scouting mission.  She looked up as Woolsey walked in, a smile lighting her face.  “Good afternoon.” 

“Good afternoon, Doctor.  Have you seen Doctor McKay?” 

“One of the labs, I think.”  Her forehead creased in confusion at his not knowing.  “Is something the matter?”

“No.  The opposite, actually.”  He tapped his headset.  “Doctor McKay, please report to the infirmary.” 

Jennifer observed him amusedly as he stood there, still humming to himself, waiting.  She went back to her patients, glancing every so often in his general direction. 

Rodney arrived none too quickly; chances were he already suspected what Richard wanted to discuss, considering how long the conference had gone on. 

“Word from the SGC?  About my suggestion?” he asked, expression excitable; typical McKay. 

“I just got off the line with General O’Neill.  So to speak.”  Richard smiled as Rodney seemed to lean more forward on his toes, waving his arms as though they could help speed up the answer.  “It was accepted.” 

A grin broke across Rodney’s face, and he rubbed his hands together.  “Finally, those pinheads are being rational for once.” 

“Those ‘pinheads’ were the ones who allowed your suggestions to be heard at all, let’s not forget that, Doctor McKay,” Woolsey reprimanded, but there was no bite to his words.  Truthfully, he felt exactly the same as Rodney.  “But yes—this time they came to the right conclusion.” 

“When can I test it out?” 

“Right now, if you like.  General O’Neill gave me the go ahead.” 

“And…Sheppard?”  McKay now wore a sheepish expression; apparently he’d learned a thing or two about going around the Colonel in situations like these. 

“This was technically my decision, Doctor.  Colonel Sheppard will have a say in the security issues surrounding this, but let’s see if it’s even necessary, first.” 

Rodney grinned, and pulled something out of his pocket.  “I thought you might say that!” 

Jennifer had meandered back over, her eyes questioning.  He nodded.  “We’ve been given full approval.” 

She nearly jumped off the floor with a clap, grinning, then stopped abruptly.  “Colonel Sheppard?” 

Richard sighed.  “How about we pull a Sheppard in this case and let him make the decision after the decision’s been made?  Something tells me he won’t mind—much—this one time.” 

She looked at him doubtfully, but turned and hurried towards the door to the isolation room.  Rodney followed, and Richard walked slowly behind them, watching carefully on the observation screens.  Jennifer moved towards some of the equipment maintaining Elizabeth, as Rodney, laptop in hand, slipped something on her wrist and tightened it.  

Gambles and risks—that was the course of life in Atlantis, and something Richard had to deal with everyday.  He didn’t much like adding to that commonality if he could avoid it.  The IOA had tried to argue that by making this decision, that was exactly what he was doing.  Perhaps he was.  But for some reason, it didn’t feel that way. 

Elizabeth’s eyes fluttered open, and she directed her gaze towards Rodney, concern flashing across her face.  He smiled reassuringly at her, patted her wrist and began talking.  As he explained, her expression was still worried, but in her eyes, for just a moment, Richard thought he could perceive a glimmer of hope. 

No, it didn’t feel like a risk at all. 

 

--/--

 

Somewhere on the planet, not too far from them, a storm had come up.

John could see the waves, higher than usual, crashing with a violent force against Atlantis.  The city didn’t feel it, thanks to the sheer size and stabilizers, but it didn’t stop the surf from pounding over the edges of the piers.  

The storm itself wasn’t fully visible yet, but whenever it hit, it would be a doozy. 

The darkness made the ocean in the distance barely discernable.  It disappeared into the horizon of the night, lit only occasionally by the whitecaps cresting on the large waves.  The ocean near Atlantis was tinted green, illuminated by the lights of the city, but overcast with murk and haze. 

His memory flashed to Mayel, to the green of her uniform, how she’d pushed the sleeves up a little to free her wrists.  It had been tantalizing, just the little bit of skin she showed when dressed out, especially once…  

He shook his head, anger and disgust bubbling up in his chest, overpowering the desire.  He’d been over what had happened a thousand times and past it a thousand more.  He wanted to focus on the victory of the last few weeks—that was one of the few good things he felt he could hold on to nowadays. 

You must hold on to the good. 

Her voice broke through, unwelcome and inadvertent, but unpreventable.  He could remember her saying that to him, at some point, when they’d barely known each other.  That had been her advice, on this balcony, staring over this ocean. 

Some philosophy.  He’d been stupid to trust so blindly in someone like that.  Nothing was going to correct that mistake except to make sure it never happened again.  Trust was a luxury he could not afford.  

The balcony doors slid open with their customary hiss.  Against his own better judgment, his heartbeat quickened, and he swallowed. 

“Storm’s coming,” he said quietly.  “Big one.” 

“Well, at least we have a shield this time.” 

The voice wasn’t one he was expecting, and he turned in surprise as Elizabeth worked her way to the railing, gazing out across the sea.  She observed the water with interest, though her gaze flickered to him tentatively, trying to gauge his reaction.  

He opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out.  Mixed thoughts ran through his mind, asking whys and hows, but mainly wondering why he hadn’t been called down to the infirmary to see her wake up.  And why she was out wandering about now without him knowing about it. 

“This,” she said, almost as though she read his mind, and held up her wrist.  She wore a watch—same old Elizabeth, the face was upside down.  “It’s an ARW—something Rodney designed.  Only it’s not meant to unbind them, it’ll just render them inert.  Maybe not enough to kill me, but…” she shrugged, and there was something, inexplicably, like amusement in her voice, “Rodney didn’t really get the chance to run a test on me, for obvious reasons.  Worked in sims, though.” 

“Sims.” 

She nodded.  “So if you’re wondering why I don’t have an escort, it was because the okay came down from General O’Neill, who said I didn’t need it given this ‘anti-bonding contraption’ really worked.” 

A wave of irritation bristled through him.  “Really.” 

“To which I told Richard that you’re the head of military operations, which is why I immediately came to find you.  If you object to any of this—I just wanted to let you know I’m fine with it.  Considering what could have happened on Asuras, any outcome for me these days I count as a win." 

He looked over at her covertly as she returned her gaze to the ocean, her expression steady and firm, and crossed his arms.  “I’ll need more details from Rodney.” 

“Of course.” 

“I also need to better understand how that thing works—might require a few Marines here and there, during unguarded hours, until I do.” 

“I think that’s more than reasonable.” 

“And apparently I’ve got to have a nice long talk with some people about who’s in charge of security on Atlantis.  Again.” 

Lightning flashed, this time so close it lit up the sky like a spotlight.  

“How’s your head?” she asked seriously. 

“Still attached,” he murmured.  “Keller gave me the all-good a couple of days ago.  I’m cleared for flying, reading, running…surfing.  You name it.” 

“Surfing?” 

“Killer waves on this planet.  Ronon and I’ve had a couple good runs.” 

“I’m sure.”  Her seriousness melted into an expression of humor.  It piqued his curiosity. 

“What?” 

She leaned forward on the rail.  “Do you remember when Rodney and Zelenka figured out how to power the shield generator the first year, during that storm?  From the lightning?  They came up and reported it to me doing this Abbott and Costello routine.  I was thinking while they were speaking that whatever crazy idea they had, it was going to work, because they were so in sync with one another.  Like there was power in their force to get things done.”  

“There typically was.”  He leaned down next to her.  “Though I don’t really remember anything particularly funny about that storm.” 

Her smile faded, and she glanced down at her hands.  “No, I don’t suppose you would.  Though you did manage to joke about it after.” 

“Did I?” 

She turned to him, raising an eyebrow.  “You asked for vacation twenty years in advance.” 

Had he?  That had been so long ago.  There was a vague memory of it.  He grinned. 

The storm was drawing closer, making for a nice electrical show.  The contrast of the light and dark cast shadows across her face and the blue of her shirt, which he suddenly noticed.  Expedition style, a plain uniform shirt and gray pants.  

“Blue?  What, are you a scientist now?” 

She turned and shrugged.  “I don’t really know.  The blue was Woolsey’s idea, since I’m an Ancient ‘scholar,’ apparently.  Though honestly I think his motivation was partly to do with everything I can get my hands on conflicting with his wardrobe.” 

“Well, there really should be only one red shirt on Atlantis anyway.  It's safer.” 

She smiled coyly at him, then leaned over the railing a little, trying to see the waves crashing up against the piers.  Given he still wasn’t certain of the stability of the rebuilt balcony, he had an itchy sort of urge to grasp the back of that nice new blue shirt and yank her back.  

“Do you mind?” he muttered. 

“What?” 

He gestured with his hand, waving her off the rail.  She raised an eyebrow once more, crossing her arms the way she always had, one hand wrapped around her elbow.  “What, you’re suddenly afraid of heights now?  You?” 

“No,” he shot back.  “I would just rather not be hanging over a metal railing trying to pull your a…you…up with a rather powerful lightning storm on the way.” 

Her eyebrow arched up further. 

“Can we just not run any unnecessary risks, you know, for the moment?  For the next ten minutes or so?” 

She pursed her lips together.  “I think I need to speak to Rodney.” 

“Rodney?  Why Rodney?” 

“Because the day you lecture me about taking unnecessary risks is the day I start to question reality again.”  She took a step away from him.  

“Very funny.” 

“What?  I’m being serious.”  There was humor in her eyes as she spoke, but it faded when she realized he was only half-joking.  

And that really was a shift in things.  He found he didn’t like it much. 

Impulsively, he reached out and jabbed her shoulder, hard. 

“Ow.  What was that for?!”  

“See?  No simulations.  One hundred percent reality.  And now, raining.”  

“Great.”  She backed up towards the door, and he followed her as the rain started coming down in sheets.  Before they entered she paused, pulling something out of her pocket and slipping it into his hand.  It was small; the metallic surface slightly cool.  

“What’s this?” 

“The kill switch.” 

Thunder shattered the silence behind her, the sky a blaze of brilliant light before returning to darkness again.  He was glad for the lack of light; it hid his expression.  He took a jagged breath, trying to keep the anger out of his voice.  “Elizabeth—” 

Standing in the dim glow of Atlantis, Elizabeth was watching him carefully.  “I’m not giving you this because I want you to end it.  I want you to make the decision because you’ll be the best to consider whether it should be done.  Because you’d know what I’d want, but you’d also know what’s best for Atlantis, and Asuras taught me that you know how to choose between the two.  Hopefully, it’ll never come down to that, but if it does, I feel safe with my life in your hands.  As I always have.” 

Some of the tightness in his throat cleared a little, and he met her eyes. 

“I’m not giving up without a fight,” she said sincerely.  “In a way I made a promise and I intend to keep it.” 

The words weren’t a guarantee, but he found them reassuring, at least enough to nod slightly and pocket the device.  It seemed to satisfy her as an answer and she turned, moving into the warm and inviting shelter of the Gateroom. 

She paused as they entered, looking over it all, before heading down the staircase. 

“So what’s the game plan?” he asked, following. 

“Game plan?”  

“You just gonna be our Ancient scholar all the time or what?” 

“I’m not sure.  All I got from Woolsey was something about Earth assessments and maybe bringing Jeannie Miller here to talk with Rodney about the nanites, so I’m guessing somewhere along the line she started studying them on Earth?” 

“Something like that,” John replied. 

She shrugged.  “Well, until then, I guess I belong to Atlantis and whatever there is for me to do.  Whatever someone with my clearance level can do, that is.” 

He planted his hands on his hips as they reached the bottom.  “I’m sure we can figure out something.  In fact, I happen to know there's an opening in laundry detail.” 

She narrowed her eyes, assuming a faux frown.  “I did not earn a double doctorate, become leader of two Stargate programs and develop an advanced understanding of the Ancient language to end up washing the expedition’s socks.  You’re going to have to tap another former leader for that.” 

“Colonel Carter’s busy.”  He shrugged casually.  “No laundry, fine.  Jumpers need washing.  Keller mentioned just the other day the infirmary waste bins are getting full.” 

Elizabeth shut her eyes, shook her head, and started to walk off. 

“Ronon needs a sparring partner.  Torren could use a babysitter when Kanaan’s doing his Coalition-type thing.”  He raised his voice a little.  “Zelenka’s found these weird cat-things on the mainland that need tending.  Four-inch claws, wicked teeth.” 

She whirled around suddenly, her hair flying around her as she turned to look back at him, though she didn’t stop moving.  “Did I forget to mention how nice it is to be back?” 

“Wasn’t the same without you,” he said sincerely.  Her grin grew, and she turned again, heading past the Gate. 

He watched her go, his smile fading.  It wasn’t perfect.  And they still had a lot to deal with.  But for a moment, just for this moment, it finally felt a little like it used to. 

It felt like home.

 

--FINIS PRIMUM MOVENS--

 

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