|auburnnothenna (auburnnothenna) wrote,|
@ 2017-11-03 00:03:00
|Current music:||Freakshow - The Tiger Lillies|
The group stood on the bridge deck: Sam, Vala, Jehan, and Mer, together with the crew of engineers, scientists, and mechanics who had restored the ship to fighting fitness. It was time for the Hippaforalkus to lift from Atlantis' pier and return to space. It was time for her to have a new captain. Sam knew who she wanted, but she had a sinking feeling she wouldn't be getting him. He wasn't interested, either in command or in anything that smacked too much of the Ancients.
She sighed and reminded herself again to start calling them the Alterans. It wasn't just a sop to the Pegasans who now had to deal with realizing the 'Ancestors' weren't their ancestors. Everyone who had come from Earth held the 'Ancients' in too much awe as well. It was just smarter to call their predecessors in Atlantis by the name they'd used for themselves.
One person who never called them Ancients or Ancestors was Jehan. Alteran tech might love Jehan but Jehan did not love it, for reasons Sam did not quite understand.
"She's as spaceworthy as the day she was commissioned," Mer declared. He patted the nav console.
"Yeah, well, how worthy was that, anyway?" Jehan replied with a smirk that promised to set off one of Mer's rants.
"Guys," Sam said before they could start up. When they weren't under the gun, she found that Mer and Jehan spent most of their time teasing each other. They could completely loose track if not steered back to the subject. The smug, arrogant, obnoxious asshole that she'd divorced hadn't changed that much, but everything that had driven her to fury just amused and endeared Mer to Jehan.
They looked her way with specious innocence.
"So, what's next?" Vala asked. "Who gets to fly the ship?"
Sam sucked in a deep breath, because if she succeeded, Vala was going to be peeved. "I was hoping Jehan would take command with Ro – Mer as his second."
Mer looked interested. She'd thought he would be. He had taken point on restoring the Hippaforalkus after the Taranians contacted them about the mothballed Ancient warship on their world and the supervolcano getting ready blow its top.
Vala glared at Sam.
Sam was more interested in Jehan's reactions, though, which were hard to read. He only trusted two people: Vala and Mer. Trust in anyone else was qualified, though Teyla came closest and he clearly liked Ronon, Novak, Miko and Zelenka.
Jehan glanced around the bridge, the smooth pale metal, the graceful curves and angles, and his expression closed off, then shrugged. "No, thanks."
She gritted her teeth and went for some persuasion. "It would be your own ship – "
"It's your ship," he disagreed. "Not interested in joining anyone's military."
Again, she heard in the beat of silence that followed. As far as Jehan was concerned Earth and its military had betrayed him into slavery. He wasn't interested in offering up his service or his loyalty to any organization. Vala had it, because she'd rescued him, and Meredith had it because he loved him, but at the same time Jehan was still free. Neither of them would dream of commanding any sort of oath or obedience from him beyond what he offered of his own free will.
Mer and Vala were watching them both with sharp eyes. They were the ones Jehan would listen to. She should have corralled Mer somewhere and got him on her side first. Vala wouldn't be persuaded; she wanted to keep her best pilot and second-in-command.
"We've barely enough crew to handle the Aurora. Your gene is strong enough that you could handle command, especially if Meredith was with you. No one else has anything close to your ATA expression," Sam said. "I know I can't persuade you to stay on Atlantis, but this would be completely your own ship. Not our navy, though I would hope we could remain allies." It irked her to offer the Hip like that, but they couldn't have salvaged her from Taranis without the Revenge. Jehan could do more with it than any of their people.
He was already shaking his head. So much for persuasive. "Your ship. Atlantis' ship. Your people crewing it."
Sam had hoped that he'd had enough time with Atlantis and the expedition members to include them in his circle of trust, but it had been a long shot. Jehan had been broken and put together again, and the result might be stronger and beautiful for the breakage, but some pieces were just gone. The irony of the man with the strongest ATA expression disliking using it hit her again.
Well, fuck, she thought to herself. They'd have to start figuring out how to rebuild the Hip and any new ships to do without the ATA security and mental interface. Because they just did not have enough people, never mind trained people, to crew more. There probably weren't enough ATA positive people in the entire Pegasus Galaxy to make up full crews for both the Aurora and the Hip. The Alterans hadn't mixed much with the humans in Pegasus and the Wraith had culled for anyone with the gene, Ancient or human, for the last ten thousand years. Damn it. There had to be another way –
Beckett had theorized about a gene therapy to give to people who had an unexpressed, latent ATA gene; a therapy that would boost its expression to usable levels. But Beckett, damn him, was still screwing about on Hoff. Sam didn't know if his Hoffan wife, Perna, had married him for to keep his genes and genetic knowledge on Hoff without holding him prisoner, or because she had fallen for him. As far as the Atlantis expedition was concerned, it had the same result: they didn't have the brilliant geneticist they'd brought to Pegasus. Instead, he was stupidly going along with a lunatic plan that, even if it worked, was going to blow up in everyone's face.
It was another thing Sam could not do a damn thing about it. She wasn't stupid enough to think forcing Beckett to leave Hoff wouldget them anything beyond making the Hoffans their enemy. Besides, stupid or not, Beckett had a right to make his own choices.
So did Jehan, annoying as that was too.
She grimaced and waved her hand. "Fine. I had to offer and ask. I can take no for an answer." She'd have to. She couldn't force Jehan to do anything without turning into Kolya. She turned back to Vala and held up her hand. "I know I just pissed you off, but it was the best option. I had to try."
Vala narrowed her eyes, but didn't start yelling, so Sam continued. "For the same reason you want to keep them, I had to try to get Meredith and Jehan for Atlantis. Since I can't – " she grimaced, " – I'm hoping you're still willing to work with us. Because, even with – especially with the ships, we will need power and people."
"Potentia," Meredith agreed. "We really need more. The ships could use them as well. The Revenge could use one."
Sam sighed. "At this point, I'd be damned grateful for half a dozen naquadah generators."
Vala loosened her shoulders with a shrug. "Well, where might we get those?"
Sam felt weak with relief that hit her when Vala said we. She'd been dreading the day Vala decided that sticking with Atlantis to fight the Wraith was not profitable. The pirates had done more than their share taking Atlantis back from the Genii and then repairing the defense satellite and standing to fight against the hives. Without the Revenge, Atlantis would have been lost.
"Earth," Meredith said. "Earth has naquadah generators. Supplies. Materials for manufacturing critical parts. Computers. People who don't believe technology is 'god magic'. People with the ATA gene."
"It also has ships, right?" Vala asked and Sam's mouth fell open. Was Vala suggesting they raid Earth?
"It does," Sam agreed. She wasn't positive Earth's ships could stand against the Revenge as it was now certainly not against the Revenge and one of the Alteran warships, and the rest of Earth's defenses would be hard pressed. For all they knew, the Antarctica base might even have a Friend or Foe recognition program that would keep it from firing on an Alteran ship.
"Bad idea," Jehan added. He still had his arms crossed, but looked thoughtful. "Remember the people there won't be cowed the way ignorant villagers and slaves are."
"They would fight, even if it meant losing big," Meredith confirmed.
Vala let loose a put-upon sigh. "I suppose they're like the rest of you."
"And there are more of them than you can imagine. Earth has a population of billions," Sam said.
"Plus, we've already made nice with O'Neill, which means the SGC knows about us." Meredith looked as intrigued by the problem as Jehan did, though.
"Trade, though?" Vala asked. She made it sound a bit scandalous. Sam caught Mer and Jehan's quickly-hidden, quirky smiles. Honest business, how shocking.
"There's two, maybe three things, they always want," Sam admitted. What did the Tau'ri offer the rest of their galaxy except guns and war and a condescending refusal to even allow anyone in while they scrambled for every piece of technology or weapon they could scavenge? A few medicines here and there in exchange for priceless artifacts.
They could not give Earth control of Atlantis. She knew what the Expedition had been meant to do, she'd known before she stepped through the Stargate, but that was before she came to Pegasus. Sam wouldn't let Earth pillage what should belong to the people here.
"Naquadah," Mer said. "Just like everyone else in the Stella Via."
"Naquadah," Sam confirmed. "Technology and weapons."
"There isn't much naquadah, even as raw ore, in Pegasus," Jehan said.
The Alterans had moved beyond naquadah to zero-point energy. Only they hadn't left enough charged modules behind or instructions how to make or charge them. Damn them, there had to be some method of recharging them on Atlantis, but until they discovered it, naquadah generators could power the critical systems. It made no sense for a starship like the city to not be able fuel itself when it could travel beyond any supply lines.
Of course, Atlantis wasn't an exploration or a military vehicle. Even aircraft carriers and nuclear subs had to return to port for fuel. Maybe the Alterans hadn't foreseen that they would ever move it beyond reach of their support network. They certainly did plenty of things that seemed flat out stupid to Sam and made Mer and Radek froth at the mouth.
Atlantis' database was proving to be incredibly frustrating. It followed no logic anyone could discern. Either Alterans thought radically differently, despite the obvious physical resemblance to humans, or they had deliberately scrambled and hidden part of the database before sinking the city.
"I'm sure the Lucian Alliance has plenty of naquadah," Vala said casually. Excitement brightened her eyes.
Jehan grinned and bumped his shoulder against Mer. "It's not like they can want us dead more than they already do."
"They can offer a bigger bounty!"
Vala's wolfish smile made Sam stand up straighter. Jehan and Mer both snapped their gazes to her as well.
"Then we take the bounty." Vala looked at Sam. "The Lucian Alliance is no friend to the Tau'ri. We'll steal their naquadah and trade some to the Tau'ri for generators, materials, and recruits."
Sam pressed her lips together. Any recruits acquired through the SGC would be vetted by the IOA and instructed to do whatever they could to take Atlantis back for Earth. She knew the drill. She'd once been part of it, after all. The SGC and IOA didn't give a damn about the people of Pegasus. She'd seen too many less powerful allies screwed over during her time on SG-1. It couldn't even be blamed on the Trust, though they were the most egregious example. It was symptomatic of Earth and the SGC was part of the system.
It wasn't everyone on Earth, or even everyone in the military or the Program, but some people were so blindly Earth-first that they abandoned all ethics in regard to anyone else. Those would be the people who the IOA would send to Atlantis: the blindly loyal, the fanatics that the IOA could be certain wouldn't defect to Atlantis.
There might be a way around that. A Vala sort of way, she admitted, but all was fair and this was definitely war.
Sam wasn't ready to commit to such a plan yet, though.
The Atlantis gate activation alarm sounded nothing like the one at Stargate Command. The gate itself lit up but made no noise, no bone rattling, heavy kerthunk as each chevron locked in place, just a lot of pretty lights. It still shivered through the city though. No matter where someone was, they could feel when the gate opened and closed, ATA gene or not.
Eugene Bates was trying to sleep when it activated this time.
Eugene spent most of his time preparing for the worst. He included sleeping in that preparation: a well-rested Marine was a better fighter than a dog-tired one. That didn't mean he slept a lot. Dog-tired was about as good as it got since they'd come to Pegasus. Shit just kept piling on and they just kept running on empty. Losing Sumner could have broken them. To give credit where credit was due: Carter had kept them together, kept her eyes open and figured out the Genii were a major threat while baby-faced Lieutenant Ford hadn't had a clue. Not that Ford was a bad Marine or a bad officer, he just didn't have the years of experience, seeing plans go tits-up.
Fuck the brass for sending them a butterbar. The kid might have been on a gate team before, but he hadn't commanded one. Well, the shine had worn off by now, though the lieutenant was still too nice for Eugene's taste. Officers.
Fuck gate alarms too. Eugene was up and jamming his feet into his fatigue pants and boots before he consciously registered the cause; radio headset hooked to his ear next. Unscheduled gate activation. Like there were ever any scheduled ones. Atlantis ran from crisis to crisis. For the first months in the city, he'd slept with his fatigues on. He'd only recently quit. Shine was off that too.
He pulled on his uniform blouse, buckled his belt and slung his personal weapon over his shoulder. It was still dark outside, but time of day meant jack on the Stargate networks, when every world was at a different point in its day. Morning was midnight was lazy afternoon and you could step from a burning desert to a whiteout blizzard.
"Sergeant Bates to the gate room," the radio in his ear commanded, Chuck's voice unruffled. Eugene didn't even know what branch of science the man had covered for the expedition. He'd taken over coordinating all communications since they re-occupied the city, handling command and control with an aplomb Eugene admired. He admired all the scientists who had made it this far. He had expected the marines to stand up, and they had, but the eggheads had surprised him.
Eugene tapped his mike. "Bates. On my way," he said as he reached the transporter. He'd shaved before he hit his rack, so he'd look decently put together, though he knew his old DIs would be unimpressed. None of them had faced off with the shit Bates' marines had, though. He stepped in, tapped his destination and closed his eyes. If you timed it right the white flash wouldn't leave you blinking. Eugene had made his marines and the auxiliaries run drills without activating the transporters until they had the timing down to reflex.
He opened his eyes and stepped forward as the transporter door opened.
Carter was on the command level, standing behind Chuck at the main console. Ford would be down at the building they'd taken over as marine barracks – they didn't let both commanders stay in the same room when they had the time to separate them these days. As soon as Carter arrived at the control room Ford would have booked it.
Carter would have been sleeping, but she looked at least as awake as Eugene.
Two marines were stationed on the upper level, not even trying to be unobtrusive. Eugene scanned the rest of the gate room. He had a squad divided, with a fire team guarding the two ingress/exits from the gate room floor and the third in the control room.
He jogged up the stairs to join the command staff – such as it was.
"Sergeant," Carter greeted him. She was always polite when she could be; the Chair Force had taught her well. Her frame had filled in a little since they settled in the city, but nothing would erase the lines of exhaustion or the perpetual bruised look that came with worry and lack of sleep. No real bruises though, since they took Atlantis back from the Genii.
Hadn't that been a giant goatfuck. Eugene had been forced to revise his estimate of McKay. The man was an asshole all right, but also tough as nails in a pinch. Eugene was a big enough man to acknowledge that.
The pirates had come through, to his surprise, and then stuck around to help when the Wraith came. They weren't marines, but they had balls. So did the Pegasans making up his auxiliaries. He'd rather have them at his back than almost anyone else.
"Ma'am," he said as he came to a halt beside her. The final chevron had lit up on the stargate and the billow of energy had settled back into a rippling mirror. Nothing had come through yet.
"Shield," Carter ordered. Chuck danced his fingers over the console and the shimmering wall of energy closed over the open gate. Eugene braced himself for the sizzle-thunk that punctuated someone trying to come through the wormhole and hitting the shield.
Quiet held in the gateroom.
"I'm getting a radio signal, ma'am," Chuck announced. He glanced up.
Not the Genii. They tried the gate once or twice a week. Eugene didn't think they were sending men through, either. Bombs more like. Last time the shield had shivered under the force of whatever they sent, so they'd probably put together another nuke. Eugene didn't understand wormhole physics, but he hoped the bomb blast had backwashed on them. Everything had been quiet since then
Carter kept her cool. "Put it on speaker."
Scratchy static and a half audible mumble ramped up to something coherent – Chuck had set the speakers to minimum then brought the audio up to avoid deafening them.
"This is Carson Beckett. To anyone on Atlantis. This is Carson Beckett. Hoff is under Wraith attack. To anyone on Atlantis. This is Carson Beckett."
Carter glanced him, eyebrows rising. She looked unhappy in the same way Eugene felt unhappy: the Hoffans weren't their responsibility but as decent human beings they still wanted to get out there and stop the Wraith. They had nowhere near the numbers they'd need to make a difference, though. She leaned forward, placing her hand on Chuck's shoulder. "Put me through."
Chuck said, "Dr. Beckett, Atlantis is receiving."
"This is Carter, Dr. Beckett. What's the situation?"
"The Wraith are culling Hoff, but now they're – they're – it's devastating. They aren't culling anymore, they're killing everyone, even down to the babes and children." Beckett choked, an ugly sound, half sob and half gasp for breath. "The cure, they're determined to stop it before any other planet can try it."
"I'm not surprised," Carter said flatly. Eugene wasn't either. The Hoffans were obsessed and psychological traumatized to the point they couldn't see beyond stopping the Wraith feeding on them, but Beckett was criminally naïve. Anyone looking at the situation from the outside could have predicted how the Wraith would react.
Eugene knew Carter by now. Even if Atlantis didn't need people, she'd give sanctuary to people under attack. He turned away to quietly call for security to the gate room, another squad to handle moving people out of it, and a runner to alert the mess hall and medics. They'd need to open a big enough area to house the incoming refugees too. Some of them would be military, so they'd have to stay on top of that. He knew Carter as a commander now and could anticipate what she'd want.
"I'm begging you for these people – let them come through the gate."
"Open the shield," Carter told Chuck. The energy over the gate flickered out. She raised her voice. "Start sending people through, Beckett – you first, I want you to consult on dealing with the Hoffans once they're here."
"Thank you, lass, thank you."
"We've still got the cots the expedition brought through," Chuck suggested. "Get Kanaan on setting up cots or at least blankets for them to sleep. One of the big empty rooms in sector three, maybe." The cots had been left behind along with most of the large of equipment when they had to leave Atlantis as soon as they arrived. They were still stored away. Eugene glanced at Carter, who nodded. Chuck went on, "That red building we cleared three weeks ago has enough plumbing to handle large numbers and limited exits if we disable the transporters inside. We can put a security patrol on it, keep everyone contained if necessary."
Eugene nodded in satisfaction. Chuck's plan made good sense.
"Do it," Carter murmured.
Chuck rolled his chair down to a second console and started talking, probably to Lt. Ford.
"I want a squad on security in case any wraith come through the gate with the refugees. Use zats, though."
Eugene grimaced. He understood Carter's choice. A zat wouldn't wound any panicking civilians who got in the way. But it took two shots to put down a wraith, as they had discovered. He was grateful to have the Goa'uld weapons courtesy of their pirate allies, though. And Carter was smart, realizing they might get individual wraith. That had slipped him. He'd been thinking about crowd control options.
"On it," he promised. He opened the marine command frequency and started giving orders.
Hoffans surged through the gate, some running, some carrying others or children. They had packs and carts, Eugene noticed immediately and determined they'd have to searched, but the contents looked like mostly books. Beckett and a pale blond woman rushed up the steps to the control balcony and then Eugene was caught up in the midst of it, directing the rushing tide of panicked people to the door where more marines and auxiliaries would direct them to the holding building until they could be sorted. The all-city speakers echoed past the gateroom announcing the influx of refugees and directing everyone to remain calm and do their jobs; they were not under direct attack. The announcment was repeated it in Tarani, Olesian, Athosian, Trade Speak and the debased Alteran everyone was picking up from dealing with Atlantis' systems.
Thirty some minutes later the gate closed. Eugene looked up and took a breath. They'd been taking more families and strings of children the last ten minutes. So far, no visible military in uniform except one man who had joined Beckett and the woman with Carter and the LT. He hoped that meant the Hoffan military were holding the gate, trying to do whatever they could save whoever possible and not that they'd panicked and run or were already all dead.
In his earpiece he caught snatches of the quick and dirty debrief going on upstairs, filtered through the command channel Carter had left open. The gateroom floor was a sea of near chaos, a cacophony of shouting and wailing echoing off the windows, boiling with terror. He saw one of the refugees knock into a marine and wrest his zat away from him. Eugene plunged through the crowd, trying to find a clear line of sight to zat the panicked Hoffan.
One of the auxilaries got their first. Ares tackled the Hoffan and had the hefty man face down the floor in a flurry of movement. He tossed the zat back to Private Ericson and pulled the man back to his feet, sending him forward with a hard shove.
"Good job," Eugene told him as he arrived at the trouble spot.
Ares nodded and moved back to his post. The gateroom had gone from packed to move to just over- crowded in the pause after the gate closed.
Eugene turned to Ericson. "Next time, use the god damn zat, that's why you have it. Don't you ever lose your weapon to a possible hostile again."
At least the kid hadn't called him sir.
The gate activated again and Eugene held his breath. Would it be more Hoffans or had the Wraith taken it? How long did it take a Hive, if it was just one, to wipe out the human inhabitants of an entire planet if they weren't culling them? Culling had to be slower. Destruction was always faster and easier.
The first fire team tasked with gate security raised their weapons and aimed, waiting. Second team urged the refugees out of the gateroom faster. No one needed to tell them to get the civvies out of the line of fire. Eugene felt a jolt of pride in them all. He held his breath and only released it when more Hoffans poured through the gate.
These people looked battered, like they'd been out in it, but seemed less panicked. A few were wounded military helping each other or more civilians along. Some civilians carried scavenged or improvised weapons. No one carried books and personal things. These people had had to run for the gate. It made Eugene think of all the people on Hoff too far from the stargate to have any chance at evacuation.
Most of the Hoffan population, he realized, would never make it to the stargate.
This wasn't like the kids from Ares' homeworld that they'd immediately brought in after re-taking Atlantis from the Genii. There had been less than a thousand of them even before the Genii stole their ZPM and left them vulnerable to the Wraith.
Stargates weren't made for mass movement or volume. That would be why the Alterans had given the city a stardrive and kept building warships. A stargate made a perfect chokepoint. The gateroom was overwhelmed already and they had only the tiniest fraction of the Hoffan capitol city population.
Between five and eight Hoffans were coming through the gate per second by Eugene's estimate. At first, they were pressed shoulder to shoulder, jumping through at the edge of the circular rim, throwing themselves through at a run, pushed by the numbers behind them, trampling each other. But the numbers were already dropping. The stargates had thirty-eight minute windows, but during the first gate activation, they had lost time before Carter dropped the shield. Eugene suspected they would get a full thirty-eight minutes this time. When the first wraith came through they'd have to raise the shield. The numbers already through were overwhelming enough he couldn't let himself think about them. Thousands of people, but they were just a fraction.
His voice was hoarse from shouting to directions. Exhaustion weighed down on him. Why the fuck hadn't he gone back to Earth with General O'Neill? At the moment, he thought he must have been crazy, but he knew there would never be anything like Atlantis, like Pegasus, for him again. Nothing would ever matter as much and no one, not even in the SGC, would ever know what it was like.
Going back, Earth would have been just another alien planet.
Eugene steadied an older woman who had a basket full of roots strapped to her back, a baby at her hip and another child clinging to her leg. Utter despair had wiped any hint of expression from her features. "Straight ahead, through those doors and follow everyone else," he told her. "Just keep moving, the worst part's past."
He lied and knew it, but it got her moving, clearing space, as the Stargate coughed up a gout of Hoffan military backing out of the event horizon, still firing their weapons, and a bolt from a Wraith weapon sizzled through the Gateroom and hit the back wall. The refugees screamed and scrambled for any escape. A child flew through, wailing in terror, thrown from the other side and a woman carrying a man over her shoulders crawled through, yelling, "They're coming, they're coming!"
Ericson darted forward and dragged them away from the gate.
The first Wraith drone was halfway out of the event horizon when the shield shimmered back into place. It sliced off the back of the drone's skull, part of one leg and shoulder. The drone staggered and the fire team assigned to the gate zatted it one, two, three. The shield flared again and again and Eugene learned something he would rather never have known: the Atlantis gate shield sounded the same as the iris on SGC's gate when a body hit it.
The Revenge dropped out of hyperspace beyond Wraith sensor range. Her speed had been calculated and achieved before they made the jump, so the momentum of her sublight engines remained as they re-entered real space. The ship fell into the Hoffan system's gravity well while powered down to nearly nothing. Vala and Mer and Jehan were good at this, running the ship dark and cold and silent; nothing but minimal life support and a cloak operating as they waited in ambush. They knew how to hunt and how to slip a hunt. Unless the Wraith had sensors scanning exactly where the hyperspace window opened, they would never know the Revenge was there.
It was a dangerous gambit though.
With their shields off, Jehan sat at the pilot's console on constant alert for anything they had to dodge. They were using strictly passive sensors, which limited how far ahead they could navigate. The Hoffan system didn't have an asteroid belt, but most star systems had random debris.
As the hours passed, the ship cooled steadily, and the crew bundled into cold weather gear and CO2 masks. There was no real reason to run silent, since noise didn't transmit through vacuum, but voices were muffled and any loud sound made everyone wince, hardwired primal hunting instincts on alert even in the high-tech expanse.
Hoff's star reeled the Revenge in closer and closer, the dim dot of light growing brighter and bigger in the monitor displays, heating the hull where the light touched while frost rimed the ship's shadows inside.
Mer and Lindsay stayed in the engine room, watching the sensors, monitoring the temperature drop and fussing over anything freezing up too hard to restart. Throughout the ship, metal ticked and groaned, contracting from the cold, testing the atmospheric seals near their limits. Jehan wondered if the Alteran ships like the Hip did the same – Goa'uld ships knocked and squealed if they lost power and temperature control.
Vala alternately paced and checked the weapons console set up every time she sat down, flexing her fingers and ghosting them over the sequence that would bring the ship's defenses alive. The dim red emergency lights gave a bloody shine to her dark hair. The flicker of the green-lit monitors, dialed to their lowest settings, reflected in her pale eyes. Her painted fingernails looked black.
Comms were shut down to avoid any intercepts and the Revenge only had hard lines to weapons and the engine rooms. Teyla prowled through the ship checking for anything going wrong, going too fast or too slow, anyone having trouble with the cold or the wait, coming back to report everything was okay. Melena was in sick bay doing a totally unneeded inventory on surgical kits and Ronon had been exiled to the corridors, where he was doing calisthenics. Anyone else not actively on duty was huddled together in the rec room for warmth. Their tight little crew barely impacted the empty expanses of the ship. They really needed more people to crew the Revenge, instead of ceding some of them to the Aurora and the Hip.
Jehan watched his boards and not the display monitor. Anything on the display was already too close to react to in time. He noted a chunk of rock the size of Ceres and hit one maneuvering thruster to angle the ship for more clearance. Long minutes later, they watched through the bridge ports as they sliced past the rogue asteroid, close enough for human eyes to see its brown-gray surface veined with ice heaves, lava splattered and pocked with impact craters. Every shadow was razor-edged sans atmosphere and without any shields between them.
"Fuck me that's close," Stackhouse whispered.
"Too close," Vala said, her face tipped up to watch. "It's new, isn't it?"
Jehan plotted the asteroid's course backward. It didn't have an orbit yet, was still moving out, away from Hoff's star. Away from Hoff's orbit. Away from where Hoff should have been. He found more debris blowing out from the same point. "Yes," he said and began firing thrusters to contort their path through them.
"Power up, engines to full now, all shields!" Vala commanded, her hands pressing on her console's boards like she could make them respond faster by pushing harder. "Route back-up power from the cloak to shields. Now, now, now!"
"Shields up, sublights ready," Mer shouted over the intercom. "You've got full power in six, five, four, three, two, now!"
Revenge leaped under Jehan's hands, energy rushing through the ship once more, the deep thrum of the sublights, making the hairs stand up on his arms. The hum of the shields, the hiss of the environmental systems balancing the atmosphere inside once more came together. Thereturned heat from the decks and the air vents caressed his bare face and fingers and made his toes sting in his boots.
"Hard ping," Vala said.
Stackhouse had the comm console and long-range sensors on his board. He initiated a sectored active sweep. The collision alarms blared before the sensors caught up with the lag at their farthest reach, shunting adrenaline through his veins.
Jehan lit up the sublights and the maneuvering thrusters, using both to shift the Revenge three dimensionally through space increasingly clogged with thicker debris than most asteroid belts. The shields flared white with impacts from dust, gravel, boulders, and bigger chunks moving at cometary speeds right at them. The biggest pieces filled the monitors like walls as they streaked by.
Jehan cursed under his breath in a mixture of Goa'uld, English and Alteran. On the intercom, Mer was cursing too, shouting that the shields were taking more power than they had. "What the fuck are you doing to my ship, you submoronic spicacephalic shit monkey!? Are we under fire? Are we at battle stations?" Mer demanded. "I'm not a worm-loving god damned magician!" More power fed the collision shields, though. "Tell me what's going on!"
"Trying to save us from taking the kinetic impact of a planetoid, here!" Jehan yelled back. He either had to use the sublights to outrun the expanding sphere of planetary debris or make a hyperspace jump. He flicked his gaze to the range scans and made the call.
"Going to hyper," he announced and hit the engage control. Revenge micro-jumped, shuddering into and out of the false blue of hyperspace, and exited on the far side of the Hoffan system, a calculation he'd been running for an emergency exit through the entire approach to the planet.
Jehan always ran a similar mental calculation, but he had never needed except under Goa'uld fire.
"I'm going to pluck you naked, spit roast your dead body over my overheating engines and feed you to the giant fucking space whales, you ass-eating lunatic!"
"Very fucking nice, Mer," Jehan sniped back. "The Wraith pulled an Alderaan on Hoff."
The intercom went silent, then hissed, before Lindsay's voice came over it. "The engines are stable and at 99%. Meredith is on his way to the bridge."
"Thank you, Lindsay," Vala told her.
"Fuck, fuck, fuck," Stackhouse muttered under his breath. Teyla, Til, and Vala didn't get Jehan's reference, but they didn't need to: the sensor display showed the data still coming in, telling the story of Hoff's destruction. "Shields back to 99.7%. Chemical thrusters at 43%. No damage."
"Environmental at 67% and rising," Teyla reported. "All readings good." With Teyla, that meant within normal operating parameters.
The bridge doors only opened half way before Mer bulled through. He still had on a heavy parka, the fur collar framing his jaw, and he was flushed with either with fury or exertion. He yelled, "No way do the Hives have enough power to destroy a planet, Jehan!"
"We don't know what weapons the Wraith have," Vala pointed out. "They wouldn't have any reason to deploy planet killers when they want to maintain their food sources on them. But Hoff – the cure made Hoff poison. They had to wipe it out so it didn't spread to other worlds."
Mer had stopped at the center of the bridge and was reading through the information scrolling on the screens to each side of the main display. His eyes widened before he looked back up. "Shit," he said in a small, horrified voice. "They blew the Stargate."
He looked at Jehan. His mouth worked before he could speak again.
"They overloaded the Stargate, but... even a Stargate won't destroy a planet." He scanned the sensor numbers again. "There must have been naquadah or naquadria deposits on Hoff. It's the only explanation."
Vala shifted restlessly. "Take some time, get all the data you can, but I want to jump out of here as soon as possible."
Mer nodded, "Yeah, yeah, Sam and Radek will want as much information as we can gather. No one's ever seen the aftermath of a blown Stargate before… "</div>