Woolsey smiled as he heard AR-1 check in. Beside him, Keller returned the smile.
"---rebuilding nicely from the Ori occupation," John was saying. "They seem very interested in rebuilding an alliance with Earth."
"Wonderful news," Landry said into the microphone. "Tell them that Earth looks forward to ---"
Suddenly, gunfire and screams erupted into the Gateroom. John swore and yelled, "Fall back, now!"
Woolsey leaned over to speak into the microphone. "John, what's happening?"
Landry raised an eyebrow at the unusual informality from Richard Woolsey.
"Ori loyalists!" John bellowed. "We're comin' in hot!"
"Open the iris!" Landry commanded. A moment later, he called, "You're clear, AR-1!"
Bolts of energy came through the wormhole, dissipating harmlessly against the Gateroom's metal walls. Teyla and Ronon came through backwards, turning and bolting down the ramp to give the others room.
A moment later, John and Rodney came backing through, step by measured step, still firing their P-90s in almost-perfect unison.
"They're clear!" Walter announced. "Shutting it down!"
The wormhole winked out, and only then did John and Rodney lower their weapons.
Woolsey and Keller bolted into the Gateroom. "Everyone all right?" Woolsey asked.
John looked around as he and Rodney came down the ramp. When he got three nods, he said, "Yes, sir. No damage done."
"What did you do?" Keller demanded.
Rodney blinked at her. "Me? What do you mean?"
"You must have done something to piss off the locals. Again."
Rodney's eyes narrowed, but she plowed on, "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you're unhurt. But you really need to rein it in, okay?" She kissed him lightly. "Come find me after you're cleared --- we've still a wedding to plan!"
With that, she turned to go --- completely missing the glare of betrayal Rodney had turned on her.
Woolsey cleared his throat. "Colonel, while they're getting checked out, I need to speak with you."
John nodded and his team moved on ahead while he fell in step with Woolsey.
They walked a few metres, then Woolsey said softly, "More supplies are heading toward Atlantis as we speak."
"Good --- this one's medical, right?"
"And some personal. Which leads me to my question --- care to explain what the gigantic box with the oversized prescription mattress is doing going to your quarters?"
John chuckled. "There's a disassembled piano under it. It's a birthday present for someone after we.....complete our mission."
Woolsey was smiling. "Understood. Carry on, then, Colonel."
"Sir." And John jogged to the SGC's Infirmary to join his team.
John stepped off the Jumper and froze, his nose wrinkling at a familiar odour. "Radek?"
"Yes, Colonel?" Radek asked as he walked over.
"Why does the Jumper Bay smell like an Italian restaurant?"
And the scientific 2IC chuckled. "A bottle of olive oil shattered on the floor as they were offloading the cargo."
John winced. "Anybody hurt?"
"No, just surprised." His nose wrinkled as he pushed up his glasses. "Carstairs was green for a few moments after, but he is better now."
"I can imagine. If it's this potent now, I'd hate to have smelled it fresh! When will the air be cleared?"
"By tomorrow. We are awaiting three more shipments of foodstuffs, two of plants and herbs for the new hydroponic gardens, and one of raw parts for ammunition and other things. That is all for today."
John nodded. "I'll be glad when this is over."
Radek nodded. "I shall miss Earth -- but it is no longer home."
"Agreed," John grinned. "I'd say the entire expedition agrees. All those that will be returning. Oh -- about what we discussed about Martya--"
A sad headshake was the answer. "She has divorced me."
"Aw, hell, Radek. I'm sorry."
He shrugged. "I worry more about Rodney. He had just reconnected with Jeannie and his family, and now---"
"Don't you worry about that," John smiled. "I have a feeling that's all going to work out just fine -- if I know Rodney."
John found Rodney staring at the computer screen with a dazed expression. "What's up? Cadman catch you in the balls again?"
Rodney shot him an expression of pure venom. "Tell me again why I put up with your juvenile attempts at banter?"
"Because you're a juvenile delinquent at heart."
John chuckled, then sobered. "Seriously, are you okay? You've got that 'dropped down a mine shaft' look."
"Jeannie wrote. Madison has the ancient gene."
John blinked, visibly startled. "But I thought your family---"
"Not from Jeannie. From Kaleb."
"That reminds me, we need to talk abut Jeannie."
"I know. did you know she and Kaleb both have minors in elementary education? That was how they met."
John frowned, visibly thrown. "I'm not following you."
"We'll have kids in Atlantis if this works --- Torren is just the first." Rodney grinned. "They'll need teachers, wouldn't you say?"
Catching up to him, John began to return his grin.
John scowled as he navigated the nondescript blue car through the Colorado traffic. "I'd rather be driving a Jumper," he grumbled.
"Handles like a tank?" Rodney asked, finishing entering lines of code on his laptop.
"More like a monster truck," John groused, and was rewarded with a quick smile from Rodney. "What are you working on?"
"Hang on." There was a series of beeps, then Rodney nodded and closed the laptop. "Okay, car's clean."
"'Car's clean'?" John repeated. "What do you mean, 'car's clean'?"
"No listening devices. I wouldn't put it past the IOA."
John nodded. "Me either. They're really paranoid lately."
"Well, with a mutiny brewing on their doorstep, do you really blame them?"
John chuckled. "Ah, but they don't know about the mutiny. We're good little drones, fish that dance on their strings..."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "Any more sea-based metaphors, surfer boy?"
It was John's turn to roll his eyes, but his reply was in the bored-sounding throaty drawl of a surfer. "Like, whoa, gnarly, dude...."
Before he could get another word out, laughter had stolen his voice, and Rodney's rose to join it.
A comfortable silence followed, until Rodney broke it. "We're viable."
John's eyes widened. "Seriously?"
"Seriously. We're past the 'tipping point'. Supplemented with Pegasus's known resources, Atlantis is now a fully-functional, self-contained colony."
John was silent as he pointed the car onto the Interstate, heading back toward Cheyenne Mountain. Then he asked, with all the solemnity the occasion required, "When's departure?"
"Day after tomorrow," Rodney said with equal solemnity. "The last of us will be aboard the city tomorrow. And they know it's more than likely now a one-way journey." His lips twitched in an expression that showed just how much time he'd spent with John. "By choice, this time."
"Wait, hold on," John gasped. "We just dropped Jennifer off at the airport--"
"--to spend a week with her father in Minnesota," Rodney finished.
"And Atlantis departs in two days?"
"Yup." Rodney finished the word with an audible "pop".
John turned on the Hazard lights, pulled the car to the side of the road, and turned to goggle at Rodney. "You mean to tell me that we're going to leave her on Earth?"
Rodney met his eyes and a feral smile curled his lips upward. "Nobody treats me like shit and gets away with it. Not once I realise they are treating me like shit for no reason. Besides, Carson's back. It's not like we need the Barbie doctor."
"I thought you loved her."
"Yeah, I thought so, too. Turns out she didn't love me, she just loved the robot she was trying to turn me into."
John squeezed his shoulder. "I'm sorry, buddy."
"I'm not. Let's go – I'm itching to get home."
John grinned and pulled back onto the Interstate. The sooner they got Atlantis back to Pegasus, the better off everyone would be.
John opened his door in answer to the beep, and smiled at his visitor. "This is a surprise."
Jeannie Miller smiled at him as she walked into his quarters. "I came to say hello --- since it seems we're going to be in close quarters for some time."
"So it would seem. Maddy and Kaleb---?"
"Madison and Kaleb are staring wide-eyed at everything, still. I don't think they'll get over it for awhile. We---"
"John!" John re-opened the closing door just as Rodney bombed in. "We're needed in the Control Room!"
"What's going on?" John asked, even as he and Jeannie fell into a jog beside him and Rodney passed him the holstered gun he'd grabbed off the back of John's desk chair.
"That avalanche of supplies we had coming in caught the IOA's attention. They're contacting us."
"Crap!" Jeannie swore, and Rodney noticed her for the first time.
"Stay out of sight!" he ordered, and she opened her mouth, but remembered she wasn't supposed to even be there and nodded, nervously toying with her necklace as she melted into the crowd in the Control Room.
John and Rodney jogged up to Woolsey's office, where he was already on the line with Coolidge.
"---highly irregular influx of supplies to Atlantis," Coolidge was saying. "All types of seasoning, raw materials, blankets---"
"Please," Woolsey said with a very convincing roll of his eyes. "We haven't been to earth en masse in years. Surely you understand our people wanting a bit of home. Granted, some went a bit far, and they will be dealt with --- but I will not begrudge our people some of the comforts of Earth that they've been deprived of in Pegasus."
Coolidge scowled. "Most of this can indeed be covered by your explanation, Richard --- but several naquadah generators?"
"Uh, that was me," Rodney said, stepping forward. "Hi. We needed those upgrades for several experiments we're running that can't be taken off of Atlantis. Security reasons, you understand."
Woolsey was familiar with Rodney's acting ability, having had it turned on him once, but he had never seen it turned on someone else before. He mustered up his own and turned a glare onto Rodney. "Doctor McKay, we have discussed this...."
"I know, I know --- I should have told you, blah blah blah --- I'm sorry, okay? I didn't know you'd get in trouble over it!" Rodney rolled his eyes.
Woolsey hissed where the microphone could still pick him up, "We'll discuss this later, McKay." He turned back to Coolidge. "Is that all, sir?"
"I need to speak to my superiors," Coolidge ground out. "I'm not sure their constituents will appreciate all this."
"Yes, sir," Woolsey nodded.
The channel was cut. They stood there for a moment, then Woolsey gritted, "That was too close."
"Agreed," John ground out.
A few moments of deliberating later, the three went out into the Control Room. Woolsey's eyes swept over everyone assembled, and he took a deep breath. "Colonel Sheppard," he ordered in their hearing. "Doctor McKay. Make her space-ready. Now."
He reached up and keyed his radio. His voice rang out city-wide.
"Ladies and gentlemen --- citizens of Atlantis --- this is Richard Woolsey. We are returning our Lady home."
"We are returning our Lady home."
Radek sighed and moved to a computer bank. "He orders, and we begin the simulations," Radek grumped. It had happened way too much lately. "As computer reifies, we work on preparation for..."
He broke off, blinking as the words sank into his tired mind. Then he breathed an awed curse in Czech. "This is no tableau," he gasped in realisation.
He snapped off the program and whirled to everyone in the labs. "Wait for Rodney's order! We are leaving now!"
Jeannie came racing into her new quarters. "We're leaving!" she yelled. "Where's Madison?"
"Here," she gasped, running out of the bathroom. "We're taking off?" At her mother's nod, she ran to her trunk and pulled out a child-sized hard hat, getting into a "brace" position.
Chuckling, Kaleb and Jeannie flanked her and stayed in a tight little knot in preparation for departure.
Rodney sat down at his console --- and froze, blinking. "Okay," he burst out, "when are you going to get rid of that mustache? You look like some demented sheik!"
Kanaan grinned at him. "Teyla prefers it."
Rodney rolled his eyes. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
"We are going home," Kanaan said as he sat down with Teyla and Ronon and took a dozing Torren into his arms. "This is where we should be."
And that made Rodney smile quickly before he turned back to his board and activated his radio. "Radek, all ready?"
"All ready down here!" Radek called.
"Ready, John?" Rodney asked next.
Down in the Chair Room, John leaned back and the chair reclined, activating. "Chair online!"
"Shield up!" Rodney ordered.
And the city shimmered into view in the Pacific as the shield bloomed into existence over it.
"Engines on!" John called and the city trembled as the massive star-drives came to life.
Rodney turned his chair around. "We're ready --- just waiting for your mark."
Woolsey stepped forward. He looked around the room, and then he took a deep breath.
"Colonel," he ordered. "Doctor. Take our Lady home."
With a rumbling roar and a surge of power hitting water and making great waves for miles --- Atlantis rose majestically from its berth in the Pacific until it was once more among the stars.
Atlantis had just made it past the edge of the solar system when the hail came.
Bracing himself, Woolsey nodded at Chuck. A moment later, Sam Carter's cheerful voice came over the radio. This is the General Hammond to Atlantis. Didn't expect to see you out here! Can we offer assistance with your mission?
John replied from the Chair before Woolsey could. "No mission, Colonel. We're going home."
She drew in a sharp breath. The IOA let you go?
"Oh, please," Rodney shot over the channel. "This isn't Mesopotamia and the IOA isn't Hammurabi. They don't control us --- they just think they do."
"The IOA is basically trying to solidify control over what amounts to a sovereign city-state," Woolsey put in. "We decided not to permit it. Atlantis will not be treated like vassals." He heard Rodney mutter something about "more like treated like toe cheese", and gave him a pinch on the arm, ignoring the resultant blue-eyed glare.
Carter was silent for a long moment. Then she said, Good luck and Godspeed, Atlantis. General Hammond out.
Another transmission arrived five minutes later. This time it was a furious Coolidge. Atlantis, what the hell are you playing at?
"We're not playing at anything, David," Woolsey replied. Then, to his surprise, he and Rodney and John spoke in perfect unison.
"We're going home."
I'll have your career for this! Coolidge roared. All your careers! I'll run the military up on court-martials!
"Be careful, Coolidge," John said with a grin. "Those could be construed as hostile overtures toward a sovereign nation."
Coolidge spluttered. Richard --- you were so loyal! What happened?
"Pegasus happened," Woolsey said calmly.
This isn't over, Atlantis! Coolidge spat.
"Yes, Mister Coolidge," Woolsey said, each word dripping icicles. "It is." A motion, and Chuck cut the channel. "Colonel?"
"On it." And John guided Atlantis into hyperspace.
One of the two men chuckled at the other as they walked up the drive. "Not a fan of country charm?"
"I'd rather dig my eyes out with a spork than have to see one more placidly chewing cow."
"Welcome to the Midwest," his companion laughed. "Bovine Chic at its worst."
"Shut it, we're here." He rang the doorbell.
The petite blonde woman with the large eyes answered. "May I help you?"
"Atlantis is gone," the first man said without preamble.
She reeled as if she'd been slapped. "What? Gone? But --- but I ---"
"---have failed in your mission, Agent Keller."
"No!" she gasped. "They can't --- I was so close, McKay was listening to me ----"
"They're gone. Back to Pegasus."
And she sat right down where they stood, shaking all over. "I.... Th-they left me behind...."
"Clearly, they figured out you worked for us."
"I...." She put her head in her hands and just trembled, painfully aware of the deep amount of trouble she was now in.
Atlantis set down on a crystal green-blue ocean on a world with three moons and two large continents. They'd found it shortly before they had left for Earth, and knew that it had no other human inhabitants.
John shut down the engines and exited the Chair Room to join the others on one of the lower balconies. They stood under the glow of a yellow star in an aquamarine sky.
No words were necessary. Everyone's expression showed they were all thinking the exact same thing.
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