The Aurora Class warship was right where she said it would be...waiting for Lantiens to bring it home.
Cassie was settled quickly into the infirmary, sending up a silent prayer that she had managed to get through the whole day before the evitable had happened. Carson had flashed understanding at her when she arrived but commented “We're doing it now lass, I let you put it off before, but we need those steroids and contraction inhibitor started... in case things progress further.”
John, feeling a little sick, sat at the end of her bed and reached up to loosen his top button. “Put what off exactly – Carson, Cassie? Perhaps you can fill me in on whatever pertinent information I seem to have missed out on this time!” A note of anger had entered his voice and he tossed the offending bow tie onto the floor, launching himself off the bed to stare down at the Doctor.
“Back off Colonel. We brought a little time to get through the day. She's been having mild but regular contractions and while it is a little early, I thought they were likely to be Braxton Hicks. They still could be, and that is the more likely scenario, but I'm not taking any chances that this wee baby is trying to get into the world too early. We're going to give her a drug to try and stop the contractions and if that does not work, the steroids will assist in developing his lungs sufficiently to give him a fighting chance.” Carson took a deep breath, feeling a stab of sympathy for the Colonel. It was a lot to take in.
John's hand clenched. “Are you trying to tell me that he could be born soon?”
“There's a slight chance John, very slight and we want to be ready if it is. This is precautionary only which is why she convinced me not to make a big deal out of it earlier.”
“That's crap Cassie! You can't leave me out of these things. I need to be able to trust you, trust that you'll come to me – always!”
“Now Colonel, she needs to relax, not get wound up...”
Cassie sat up abruptly. “Trust? Come on John. This is not about trust! This is about control and questioning every decision I make. If I have thought for a moment, it was more serious than it was, I would have said something in a heartbeat! I just wanted one day, one damn day – without issues, without problems, without death and fighting. Damn it John, it's Christmas... I just wanted one damn day. Just give me that... no fighting. Don't throw the word 'trust' around as an excuse for any of this. You know without any doubts, that you can 'trust' me with your life. I think I have proven that!”
John felt the beginnings of an explosive headache and anger coursed through him. Carson, vitally aware of John's demeanor came up behind him and said very quietly “best if you leave now son, let her rest and let your emotions settle. We can help to keep the baby inside her a while longer, but not if she gets upset and agitated and you're causing both right now.”
John hung his head slightly knowing that Carson spoke the truth and taking a deep breath, turned to leave.
With a deep sigh, Cassie lay back against the pillows, a little pale and feeling suddenly very fragile. She twisted the new ring on her finger. “Did I do the right thing Carson, saying yes? Do I want to live the rest of my life like that, always having him second guess every decision, every thought and constantly seeing the bad in me?”
Carson rubbed one of her shoulders in sympathy. “Oh Cassie love, he won't be an easy man to make a life with, he carries too many demons of his own for that, but somehow I don't think easy is your style and you wouldn't want anything less than the man he is offering you. He loves you Cass, more than anything, any fool can see that, it shows in every touch, every look, there is nothing he wouldn't do for you. And yes love, he does see the worst, but he brings out the best. Your love won't be smooth because you both have rough edges, but over time those edges will smoothen.”
Cassie was crying and laughing now. “Oh Carson, you are such a good human being and an amazing friend, to both of us. Why didn't I fall in love with you?”
Carson almost shuddered. “God forbid Cassie, I love you dearly, but you would drive me absolutely mad inside of a week!” Cassie laughed long and hard at that, until another pain gripped her. She sat back.
“Ok Carson, calm it had best be...”
Teyla, Ronan, Rodney and John walked into the infirmary the next morning, preceded by a huge bouquet of the purple flowers from the mainland that Cassie loved so much. John had popped in and out throughout the night unbeknown to Cassie and Carson had told him towards morning, that the contractions had slowed and showed signs of stopping. She was to be kept on bed rest for the next two days as a precaution and John knew that was not going to go down too well.
“Hey guys... come to bust me out of here?” Feeling rested and a sense of relief that the threat of impending birth had been put off for now, Cassie was anxious to get going. “It's Christmas Day! Merry Christmas everyone.” Cassie then noticed that the team were wearing tactical vests. “So... where are we going?”
“There's no 'we' this time Cass – you are confined to bed, Doc's orders.” John sat down on the side of the bed, holding the armful of flowers and Cassie idly played with one of the petals. He mentally prepared himself for the impending explosion, all manner of argument ready in his head and was more than a little surprised when it did not come.
“Zelenka has just received confirmation from our deep space sensors that the Aurora is floating 'dead in the water' so the speak, in the exact location that was given on your crystal. It'll take more than twelve hours to get to the location and for obvious reasons...” he placed a proprietory hand on her stomach as he said this “... soon I won't be able to be away for longer missions, so I want to get the Aurora up and running and back to Atlantis as soon as possible. We're taking two jumpers, four pilots and a team of scientists and engineerings. We don't know whether she has sustained any damage, but we want to try and bring her home.”
“So unfair! You guys are going on the coolest mission WITHOUT me? Please let me come... I'll rest the whole journey, take a pillow, a blanket, chill out – I promise I won't argue, I'll listen to EVERTHING you say... please don't leave me here...”
John put out a hand to rub the pad of his thumb across her cheek and was about to reply but she continued with her plea.
“Anyway, with the inertial dampeners, space travel is nice and smooth and calm, no bumps, and I can be one of your pilots, you know I'm one of the best fliers you have... come on guys... John?... you gotta take me... I'll go crazy here!”
“Uh, no Cass. Your flying is NOT calm and I can distinctly recall plenty of bumps, inertial dampeners or not! Sorry sweetheart, we have to play this one by the book. Carson has given me the hard word.”
Teyla, Rodney and Ronan decided that a graceful exit about now, was the politic thing to do to avoid her getting upset and after a slightly subdued goodbye, they told John they would meet him in the jumper bay.
“Seriously John? You get to go rescue a class A warship, one that, by the way, I DISCOVERED... just saying... and you leave me HERE, in a hard hospital bed, with soggy toast...” she indicated the uneated breakfast tray beside her bed, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by John. “...and no coffee!”
She pouted slightly, and reached for the flowers “... but these ARE gorgeous, thank you, and I'm sorry for being such a grump...” His heart did a little flip flop, her tiny face half hidden behind the huge bunch of flowers looking so dejected and he leaned forward to place his mouth close to her ear and whisper “I love you Cass... more than anything... you know that?” His mouth whispered across her jaw and connected with her mouth, but remembering Carson's warnings about 'calm' he chastely kissed her and stepped back.
“That's it? Seriously? You're going to leave me for two days, and that's it, a nice brotherly kiss... just because we're engaged now..” she didn't get to finish, his mouth was bruising hers and she had trouble getting a breath.
“Ok then...” shaking hands settled onto bruised lips. “That's better... flyboy...” He gave her a cocky grin, an even cockier salute and left.
Six hours into the journey, a journey which John had begun by enjoying the darkness of space interspersed by solitary planets, and he was ready to either throttle Rodney or jettison him into space. His incessant talking and constant moaning about hunger in the confined space of the jumper had become just about more than he could bear.
“Rodney! Will you please just... shut the hell up!” Rotating his neck in an effort to ease both sore muscles and an impending headache, he turned and glared at Rodney, who, with an aggrieved air, was stuffing a protein bar into his mouth. “...Or, I'll be forced to shove that bar where the sun don't shine...”
Sergeant Harriman, the backup pilot, snickered beside John causing Rodney to grunt in disgust and move to the rear of the jumper. “Want me to take over for a while sir? Seems like you could use a break!” Giving his neck another stretch, John grimaced. “Might be a good idea Harriman. I'll grab something to eat and sack out for a while. Wake me if you need me for anything.” Casting Rodney a sour look as he passed him in the rear of the jumper, John grabbed a sandwich and arranged a temporary bed for himself on one of the bench seats. There was little room to spare as each of the jumpers had been filled with two scientists, two engineers, the two pilots and equipment.
He awoke two hours later feeling a little refreshed and taking back his seat at the controls he surveyed the dark plateau that blossomed out in front of the jumper, thinking of how far from home they now were. The rest of the trip passed uneventfully and Rodney grew tired and slept, much to John's relief. As much as he respected Rodney, he found it extremely difficult being locked in a small space with him for long periods.
Out of the dark of space she beckoned, a battleship of huge proportions, sleek lines and a magical sense of pure balance as she hung as if suspended, in that huge vacuum that was the dead of space.
She was twice the size of a wraith hive ship, one side completely covered in turret guns and John felt the blossoming tingle of excitement and an eagerness to board her and bend her to his command. His mistress... mentally he laughed at himself thinking that Cassie would have a field day with that one!
He drew the jumper smoothly towards her and as if sensing the approach of a Lantian vessel, the hangar door doors slid open for them, showing a lit interior indicating that the ship was powered and probably had been, sitting empty and silent in in space, for 10,000 years.
“My God, she is amazing.” Major Lorne spoke with awe as he stepped out of the back of the second jumper and into the hangar bay. “How the hell can she still be functional after 10,000 years. How is it possible?”
Rodney was busy with the screens on his hand held computer, pulling up data from the ancient data base. “She is powered by an energy far superior to anything we know or even understand. Just sitting here as she has been, she is in effect considered inactive and using minimal power supply such as basic life support and cloaking.”
“But cloaking turned off automatically when we arrived?” John began “and why is everyone calling the ship a 'she'?”
Major Lorne laughed. “Ever known a machine to be named after a male?”
After a brief moment of consideration, John shrugged. Rodney had pulled up more information. “Cloaking would have been deactivated by some sort of inbuilt signal in the jumper and indicators show that life support is fully functional and the air has not been compromised.”
John readied himself to leave the hangar bay to view the rest of the ship. “Not sure how I feel about breathing 10,000 year old air Rodney, but those Lantian's sure knew how to build some pretty sweet machines, huh?”
“Not quite how I would have phrased it Colonel,” Rodney replied, “but yes, they certainly did.”
The bridge was situated in the middle of the upper side of the ship with the front side being a large window that gazed relentlessly out at the eerie chasm of space. The bridge consisted of panels and displays similar to those in the Atlantis control room but John was quick to note that one of the central features of the bridge was a control chair which he learnt through Rodney, was for navigation, allowing a person with the ATA gene to control most, if not all functions of the ship.
John sat in the chair and placed his hand on the activator panel and lights immediately sprung to life along with a melodic humming from the bowels of the ship, indicating that he had activated primary engines. Rodney dispensed the engineers to various parts of the ship to get accurate readings and check for any possible malfunction. As he ran his hand over the control panel as if mentally attempting to memorise the various functions, a life sized hologram in perfect detail, sprang to life in front of him.
“Cass?” In surprise he rose out of the control chair, staring the woman who stood in 4D imagery in front of him, a woman who looked eerily like the one he had left resting in an infirmary bed on Atlantis. The woman looked straight at John as though she knew him, and although he knew on one level that she was only acknowledging the presence of someone in the chair, he felt as though she was looking into his soul.
“My name is Callandra. You see me now because the crystal has been returned to Atlantis, and my guardianship was successful. It also means that Atlantis has risen again. We once controlled an entire fleet of battleships used in our war against the wraith, however most of the ships were destroyed. We managed to save the Aurora and send her to deep space as we knew she would be needed again one day in the future, as the means for another generation to fight the wraith.”
The woman named Callandra paused and turned to look behind her, as though someone was coming.
“I don't have much time. The city is about to be submerged and I must retrieve the crystal and leave through the stargate to earth. If you are seeing this, you will need all the help you can get to fight the wraith and we will ensure that you have the advantage that we did not.
The Aurora is armed with drone weapons and the ship is protected by energy shields and it has been equipped with sublight engines that can accelerate the ship up to 99.9% of the speed of light. You will by now, know that the ship can only be operated by someone with the ATA gene. If, as we suspect, this gene becomes diluted over the millenia, our people, our future generations, may no longer possess the power to operate our technology.”
Again she paused, and this time it was to hold her stomach protectively. “I have taken precautions to ensure that the integrity of the gene will be maintained. I carry the child who will have the genetic memory of all that we are, all that we were and this will be passed through her generation to eventually mate with the offspring of another who also carries the same genetic memory.”
John glanced sharply at Rodney, who was no longer flipping through screens on his hand held computer,but was now looking open mouthed at Callandra. “Cassie. Rodney – she's talking about Cassie! She carries the genetic memory!”
“...and the child of that mating will hold the complete power for all future Lantians with one additional gene. Wraith DNA that will allow him to defeat the wraith completely. I wish you luck and hope that you will be successful in what we were not.”
The hologram abruptly shut down and John sunk slowly into the control chair. “Wraith DNA Rodney? Will my son be born with wraith DNA.. how the hell am I going to tell Cassie that?” He scrubbed his hands over his face, feeling overwhelmed by what he had just leant.
“Did she just say wraith DNA Colonel? Jesus... wraith DNA?”
“Ok Rodney, if you say it more, it doesn't sound any the less worse... crap, and I thought today was going to be a good one!”
John's radio crackled and one of the engineers spoke sharply. “Colonel Sheppard. We have just picked up two wraith cruisers coming in at starboard side, closing distance around 10 minutes. When the cloaking device turned off, a distress signal started beaming out and was picked up immediately by wraith cruisers.”
“No...” said John dejectedly. “... not a good day at all...” He centred himself in the control chair and ran his eye over the controls, nodding when he located the one he was looking for. “Ok Rodney, get that shield up and on line.”
“No, concentrate the power on the shield. I am going to try out the weapons platform. Lorne?”
“Yes Colonel?” Lorne took the second seat. “I need you to operate the energy weapon. I have activated all the controls and they are online so you can access the weapon. It is unguided, you will need to concentrate fire power from all turrets which will give us cover from both sides. Rodney? Is that shield up yet?”
“Almost there Colonel...” Rodney made an adjustment on one of the controls.
“I need it now Rodney, I'm activating the drones and the cruisers will retaliate immediately. Give me the power!”
“I'm going as fast as I can Colonel. This is new technology... I just need a minute.”
“We don't have a damn minute Rodney. Those ships are here!” John was focused on the bridge window where he could see the two cruisers coming toward them, one heading to their starboard and one to port. “Lorne, start firing the energy weapon now!”
“Yes Sir!” Lorne activated the weapon and all turrets began firing at once, bouncing off the cruiser, doing minimal damage. “Rodney!”
“Online now Colonel, shields are up!”
John concentrated on the weapons platform and dozens of drones burst from the battleship heading straight for the cruisers. Their firepower was enormous and the blossom of explosion soon covered each of the cruisers as they started to break up under the onslaught. One of the cruisers suddenly disappeared and John's radio activated.
“Colonel, one of the cruisers just opened a hyperspace window and is leaving.”
The second cruiser did not have time to follow suit, it had sustained too much damage from the drones and broke apart in fiery pieces. Rodney was jubilant and John allowed himself a small smile. “Well Rodney, looks like we have ourselves a working battleship. Shall we take her home to Atlantis?”
Rodney began playing with the screens in front of him. “Opening a hyperdrive window Colonel, you are go for sublight engines.”
John's smile lifted a little. Now this was real flying. They dropped into hyperspace and they were suddenly travelling faster than any human from earth had flown before, in a battleship so technologically advanced as to be inconceivable to the human race in a galaxy further from home than any human had ever been before. John grinned now. Life WAS good.