The members of the earth expedition settle into the city of Atlantis.
High pitched sqealing, buffeting wind that was not a wind, intense light, colours, sickness, cold, then black, then nothing... Cassie tumbled onto the cold marble floor into an enormous room that was lit with soft pink lighting. The members of the team who had already arrived through the stargate were gathering themselves and their possessions and keeping a wary eye on the ring of people that stood around the room, human at first glance and dressed in clothing that suggested a less advanced culture. Cassie, experiencing an intense rush of sickness to her stomach, leaned over and began dry retching, taking deep breathes as she felt a hand rest gently on her back.
“Easy now... the first time is the worse. Just take a minute before you get up..” John's hand left her back as he rose to face the people standing around the room. Elizabeth had walked toward the humans who at first glance appeared non threatening, although every military weapon from the earth division was trained upon them. A stunning dark haired woman with glossy caramel coloured skin stepped forward with a welcoming smile upon her face.
“Welcome people from the T'auri, to Atlantis, home of your ancestors and ours. My name is Teyla Emmagan and I am the leader of the Athosian people. It was foretold that we would meet here, at this ring, at this time, in this city of our ancestors. It was foretold that explorers of the T'auri would have the technology to operate the city and help us rid the galaxy of the Wraith.”
Elizabeth calmly gestured for the military personnel to lower their weapons and walked toward Teyla, holding out a hand to shake as a gesture of friendship and goodwill. Teyla firmly grasped Elizabeth's hand and pulled her forward to lay her forehead against hers in her own form of welcome.
John, after making sure that Cassie was able to stand unaided, made his way toward the gathering of Athosian people. Teyla shifted her welcome to include John, smiling as she noticed his tense, wary posture. “It was also foretold, that a great military leader would be the one to help defeat the Wraith.” Her voice was soft and melodic, her eyes calm and reassuring and John felt himself relaxing but was unable to stop the barrage of questions that flooded into his mind, from voicing themselves.
“Ok, we appreciate the welcome and all, but just how in the hell did you know we were coming? It's a little creepy to say the least, stepping through the gate and finding a welcoming party that are more or less expecting us. And who the hell are the 'wraith'?” John kept a firm grip on his weapon and his eyes, while appearing outwardly calm, continued their restless assessment of the tableau that was set out in front of him.
“John, please – it is not necessary to attack these people with questions in such a manner.” Elizabeth gave him a rather censurous look, unfortunately the Colonel was a man of action and had not much purpose for words unless they told him exactly what he needed to know. Teyla however, smiled serenely at them, and addressing both John and Elizabeth, she also attempted to include the other members of the earth expedition.
“Our storytelling ritual, passed down for many generations has long since foretold your arrival to Atlantis. Some ten thousand years ago, the Wraith went to war with the Ancients over control of the galaxy. The Ancients were a passive people by nature, and lacked the familiarity with aggression and strategic thinking to successfully destroy the Wraith and allowed the Wraith to lure Ancient warships into unprotected areas of space where they were ambushed and captured, along with their power supplies, which the Wraith used to power cloning facilities that increased the size of their army a hundredfold. Vastly outnumbered, the Ancients sent a delegation protected by their most powerful warships to sue for peace, but they were wiped out.The Wraith steadily pushed back the Ancients until only Atlantis remained. The war with the Ancients lasted for more than 100 years, until the Ancients decided to submerge the city and return to Earth. With the Wraith victorious, they have became the dominant power in this galaxy.”
Teyla paused, taking in the shocked looks on the faces of the earth people and smiled slightly, giving them time to take in and understand what she was telling them.
“The Wraith quickly learned that their wartime population was too great to sustain and unable to leave this galaxy, the Wraith have been forced to hibernate for long periods of time, often centuries, while the human population of Pegasus regenerated. A small selection of Wraith were tasked with remaining active during this time to maintain watch on the galaxy to prevent human reprisals. The Wraith allow our kind to grow in numbers, and when that number reaches a certain point they return to cull their human herd. Sometimes a few hundred years will pass before they awaken again. We've visited many, many worlds -- I know of none untouched by the Wraith.”
John held out his hand as though to quiet her for a moment, a perplexed look on his face. “So you're telling us essentially, that these monsters, feed on humans in this galaxy and the humans are like giant herd animals that are farmed for their supply? I can't understand why nothing has been done to stop them?”
Teyla nodded to him acknowledging his question. “While our numbers are indeed greater than the Wraith, we do not possess sufficient weapons or ships to mount any sort of successful attack against them. We have been waiting for the arrival of those who possess the gene of the Ancients, those who can operate the city and will one day come to the required solution to effect a defeat of this enemy.
Five cycles ago, our stargate on Athos came to life and we had been foretold of this date and that we would have to leave to escape the next culling. The Wraith have sensed your impending presence and now wish to feed. We arrived here, in Atlantis and the city started coming to life, basic systems became operational to us and the most wondrous thing of all. We discovered that the city had indeed been submerged and upon our arrival, it rose triumphant to begin again. We had technological advancement once, many times ago, but through the need to survive the Wraith it was necessary to revert back to a less advanced lifestyle and as such,many of the systems here in Atlantis are inoperable to us. We believe that the city waits for your arrival. That is meant to be.”
John's mouth had opened and closed several times at this point and even Elizabeth and Rodney whose verbal expertise were legendary, seemed unable to contibute to the conversation. It was a lot of information for the team to take in, having arrived on Atlantis with limited knowledge, only what had been gleaned from ancient data banks found in repositories on earth. It was however Rodney, who stepped forward with an excited gleam in his eye, rubbing his hands together in obvious glee.
“Well it looks like it might be my turn to save the day.. hmmm?” He turned in a semi circle, noting the equipment that stood upon a platform in the gate room, not so dissimilar to the control room in Cheyenne Mountain and the base in Antarctica. “And I think I may just start over there... why don't you and Colonel Sheppard get people settled into quarters and start looking over the rest of the city. I seem to have the fate of earth resting on my shoulders yet again...” His voice trailed off as he started heading towards the indicated equipment and Elizabeth, with raised brows at Rodney's blatent arrogance turned back to John to give him the nod of approval at Rodney's suggestion. “Oh? And someone get me some food... it's been three hours since my last snack. I don't work on fresh air... that is, if we even have fresh air...?” Muttering to himself and now totally oblivious to both the Athosians and his own people, Rodney began running his hands over the equipment, smiling to himself as lights began to flicker and the city started coming to life.
Teyla's quiet, satisfied smile indicated that this was as it was meant to be.
John spoke out loudly to include all members of the expedition. “Ok folks, time to get settled and start finding our way through this city. If these good people here would place themselves amongst the groups from Earth, I think a little guided tour might be in order. Lorne, you're with me. Marine's section one and two, take a group of civilians and one of the.. Athosians?... and take the left quadrant.” Picking up the backpack he had quickly disgarded on his arrival through the gate, he continued giving orders, dividing up the military personnel and pairing them up with civilians and Athosians, noting that Elizabeth and Teyla waited patiently to join his group. Cassie stood uncertainly near the back of the room, unsure of where to go and John, noting that her colour seemed to have returned after the upset of first time gate travel, beckoned her over.
“Cassie, I want you to either stay in sight of either me, or Lorne here at all times. I gave General O'Neill my word that you would be protected and while I question the sense in sending you here, he is my superior officer and his orders were clear. BUT, if you in any way, through stupidity, create unnecessary problems with your presence here, orders or no orders, I will PERSONALLY find a way to send you back to Earth. Are we clear?”
Cassie pushed away the tears that threatened, drew herself up to full height and gave him a cool stare. “Perfectly Colonel.”
During the days that followed, humans both from Earth and Athos found common ground – a need to survive, a need to trade and both contingents began to develop an understanding of how the city worked. Living quarters had been designed for use by general population and as such were not military in nature, but comfortable and would provide the needs of many. A hologram room was discovered, allowing access to the Ancient database in the form of holograms allowing much information on the history of both the Pegasus Galaxy and the Lantians. The most exciting discovery of all for the Earth team, a landing bay containing small ships capable of space flight which they ascertained could only be activated, as could much of the equipment, by someone who had the Ancient gene.
During much of this time, Cassie chose to ignore John's directive and instead found herself in one of the many laboratories with Rodney who was surprised to find that she had in fact completed a college degree in geophysics from a reputable university prior to her incredible success in the world of music. Rodney McKay's social skills had never been of a particularly high level and he did not suffer fools gladly, he did however, find Cassandra Devon a breath of fresh air. Witty, smart, spectacular to look at and when she looked at him, she really looked at him, as though he had something interesting to say. He found her free from artifice and within a few days had her working alongside him in the laboratory, presenting her with small tasks enabling himself to be freer to complete the larger tasks.
After avoiding John for the good part of a week, she was not surprised when he burst into the laboratory where Rodney, a scientist called Zelenka, and herself were hovering over a machine that showed a display of light bars.
“Just what part of “stay in sight” did you not understand? I have been looking all over for you! Can you not manage to follow one simple order?” He stood tall and somewhat imposing in the doorway of the laboratory and scowled at her when she raised her head and lifted a negligent eyebrow in query at his irritated voice.
Cassie lightly touched her ear comm, a piece of equipment that all personnel had been required to wear to make communication easier, then turned back to the machine that Rodney and Zelenka were still fingering. “I was right here Colonel, as I have been for the past couple of days. Working. Trying to make myself useful. Trying even harder to stay out of your way. If you were looking for me, I am wearing one of these communication devices, therefore I really don't consider that I was exceptionally hard to find...!”
“Dammit! Rodney and Zelenka have enough to do without babysitting you! And I DID try to call you on the comm, several times in the past hour.” He stalked into the room and reaching her his hand went toward the comm earpiece to check that the device was actually turned on and abruptly stilled as he encountered the soft strands of blonde hair. Pulling his hand back as though burnt he glared at her, standing too close and feeling the frustration coming off her in waves. Angrily, Cassie stepped away from him, backed up to the centre of the room and huffed out a frustrated breath.
“I am sick of your attitude Colonel! I know you don't want me here. You have made that perfectly clear and in deference to your position here and your obvious feelings, I have done my best to stay out of your way this week and try to make myself useful around here. Rodney, who I might add, has managed to treat me both with a measure of respect and as someone who may be able to add some value to this expeditition, while... you... chauvinistic... egotistical...oohhhh...” Throwing an apologetic glance at Rodney and Zelenka, who by the look on their faces, wished that they were anywhere but there, she turned and went to storm out, long blond hair snapping in a fury behind her.
John reached the door before she did and grabbed for her arm to halt her. Gripping hard and ignoring the pain that crossed her face, he marched her back into the room, backed her up to one of the chairs and forcibly pushed her into the seat, releasing the tight grip on her wrist and slapping one hand on either side of the desk behind her, leaving him in a threatening position above her.
“Now just wait a minute Colonel Sheppard... see here... you're not being completely fair. And manhandling a woman? Doesn't seem like your style? Why don't we calm down and discuss this like adults instead of engaging in a school yard shouting match...hmmm?” Rodney closed in the duo and slapped a censurous hand on John's back, concerned at the suddenly frightened expression in Cassie's eyes.
Absently rubbing the bruised wrist, feeling memories surge up at the defencelessness she had felt at the hands of the man who had been stalked her and held her captive in her own apartment, Cassie's eyes became bright with tears. To hide these from John, she dropped her eyes and with little conscious thought, brought her booted foot back to make a strong connection with John's ankle. He jumped back, knocking Rodney, giving Cassie the room she needed to make her escape and she quickly fled the room knowing that she had likely incensed him further but needing to put space between him and the flood of feelings that had suddenly washed over her.
“Seriously Colonel? Do you have any idea what that lunatic did to her in her apartment before she got away from him? He used his size advantage to terrorise her, to bully her and eventually torture her and though I won't bore you with all the details, she managed to escape but something like that will never be forgotten and I doubt having some big brute like you standing over her is going to do her fragile emotional state any good!”
Something flashed in John's eyes and his hand shot automatically to his head to cause further carnage to his perpetually unruly hair.
“And FYI? Cass has been amazing in this laboratory these last couple of days, her work is thorough, careful and her opinions sound. If you had bothered to look into her background, you would have found that she holds a geophysics degree and has been assisting Zelenka and some of the other scientists in determining the properties of rock and soil samples that we have taken from the mainland.”
John took a step back at the anger in Rodney's voice.
“Colonel, you need to get your head out of your ass! Go fly a jumper if you have the desire to spread around some of that male testosterone that you obviously have in abundance, but LEAVE her alone!”
At the end of his tirade, Rodney appeared to deflate somewhat as if sensing that he had perhaps pushed john too far. But ego won out and he drew himself back up, gave John a “look” and went back to his work.
“Dammit!” John swore, then visciously kicked the side of the desk next to the chair where he had imprisoned Cassie and with a face like thunder he stormed out of the room, knowing he had to find her and make a start at mending some fences, feeling exceptionally cruel that he had judged her for the way she looked, assuming she would be a liability rather than an asset.
Several hours later, near the end of his patience and after constant attempts to unsuccessfully make contact with her via the ear comm, he heard soft music coming from one of the recreational rooms that had been designated for gym work and combat training. The door was open and caution made him pause before entering and what he saw from the doorway made him catch his breath.
She had created a musical prism around herself. Dressed in shorts over what he assumed was a leotard, wearing scuffed pink dance slippers on her feet, his breath hitched in his chest as she rose gracefully to her toes, balancing en pointe, arms drawn up and softly over her head, neck long and beautifully arched as her body made an exquisite picture perfectly in sync with the music. Entranced, he followed the lines and shapes her body made as a story unfolded to the lilting sad music. Her expression was turned inward and she did not notice his presence in the doorway, nor notice the disturbance in the prism of the music she had created around herself. Drawn toward her through no force that John recognised, he entered the room, and in that heartstopping moment, that secret prism of music was broken and she came down heavily off pointe, awkwardly dropping to the floor.
Concerned, John rushed forward only to draw to an awkward stop in front of her. Leaning down, he reached for her hand to draw her up to her feet then stopped at her look of fear, his eyes drawn to the bruising on her wrist that was already beginning to show. He pulled his hand back then crouched in front of her to bring himself to eye level. Softly he touched her bruised wrist.
“God Cassie, I'm so sorry. For everything. Negativity, doubting you, putting you down... I don't know where all this crap came from. I have no excuse for this!” he ground, indicating her bruised wrist. “You have a free pass – hit me. Payback time, as hard as you like!”
He angled his chin out, tapping it with one hand indicating where she should hit, the other hand still playing softly over her wrist.
As a smile came unwillingly to her face, John reached his other hand up to clasp her unbruised one and rising to his feet, pulled her up so that she stood in front of him. Still with her hand in his, he rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand in a soothing gesture, unaware that he was doing it.
Fascinated in spite of herself, Cassie allowed this to continue for a short while then reluctantly pulled her hand away. “I know you don't want me here Colonel, but we need to find a way to get past this and get along...I'm trying, I really am, to fit in here and not cause any problems, but it seems to me that you are the one determined to cause the problems. I'm not a bad person Colonel,at least I don't think I am, please stop treating me as though I am.”
A hand reached out of it's own accord to run softly down the long strands of her hair and his eyes followed the trail, disliking this need to touch her, but drawn through compulsion to do so. He dragged his mind back to what she had just said.
“Well... for starters, you can call me John and secondly, Elizabeth has requested you be put into my team to start off world exploration, and it looks like we go with the “artistic ambassador” title until someone comes up with something better! Too much naming going on in this city at the moment... To ensure your safety, we need to get you mission ready – which means weapon proficiency and arm to arm combat and I'm assigning Major Lorne to assist you with this.”
This earned a small smile from her. “I thought you might enjoy the arm to arm combat training Colonel... John. Give you a chance to throw a few punches my way...”
“Ouch. Guess I deserved that! I'm thinking a little distance between us could be a good thing, until we begin to fuse a little more agreeably...” and he felt that tingle from her nearness and knew that he had so said the wrong thing.
Cassie just smiled knowingly and placed her hand on John's arm for balance, reaching down to untie her pointe shoe ribbons. He spared a glance at both the tiny hand on his arm and the bent head and took a breath. Oh yeah, distance would be a good thing, but there was something he needed to get off his chest.
“And Cassie? Your dancing.. that stuff you were doing in there...brought... goosebumps. Kinda blew me away. Just had to get that out there...” Darkened brown eyes looked into surprised green ones and Cassie stepped quickly away, choosing not to respond and instead chose to inject some levity into the conversation.
“So... weapons training John? Would that involve actual guns?”
In spite of the inner turmoil John has able to laugh. “And here I was thinking that I was doing Major Lorne a favour letting him train Atlantis' own rock star, seems to me he might not be getting the better end of the deal...” His laugh caught Cassie unawares and she paused to look up at him with a slight frown.
“ So John, not so scary after all eh? You should try that more often.” At his lifted eyebrow she gave a beautiful smile of her own and quantified. “Smile...you're really kinda cute when you smile...”