Disclaimer: Don't own anything.

A/N: My humble apologies for the incredible lateness of this chapter. And please pay attention to the times/locations or the chapter will make no sense.

Chapter 23: Diplomatic Breakdown

January 15th, 1:45AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

The city groaned and shook as the shields absorbed another volley of fire. Fiery orange yellow explosions were intermixed with bursts of emerald green fire from the directed plasma beams dotted the domed shield protecting Atlantis.

Major Lorne asked from his position in one the chairs of the control room. "What's the status of the shields?"

Zalenka looked over the displays with numbers quickly spiraling up the screen. "Shields are still holding the ZPMs are only showing a minor power loss."

The city rumbled and protested setting off alarms in the control room as Jason sent it spiraling through space to avoid the next volley of fire. At the same time, the majestic city rotated bringing its own weapons to bear.

Brilliant emerald beams of supercharged plasma lanced across the void of space and impacted against underside of the enemy vessel, a city ship virtually identical to Atlantis. Ripples shot across the glowing shield from the points of impact. Earlier Zalenka had noticed that the energy emissions from the star drive seemed to weaken the shields in that area so he recommended that Jason focus his attacks there when possible

In the chair room, Jason was sweating from exertion. The battle was beginning to take its toll on him. Desperate to bring down the enemy's shields, he added the point defense weapons' fire to the mix. Though much weaker, the smaller plasma bolts began to pepper the dome of energy blocking the enemy city from sight with waves of glowing green energy as he swung the city over the enemy making sure to keep Atlantis' star drive out of the line of fire.

"Damn it!" Jason swore. He broke of the attack and sent the city into another corkscrew maneuver.

The massive snowflake shaped city rolled over swooping underneath the other city narrowly avoiding the energy weapons and a swarm of drones.

In the control room the alarms continued to blare and screens were flashing with increasingly dire messages.

"Zalenka what's going on?"

The Czech scientist never looked up from his console. "Major the shields are holding but the city wasn't designed to be flown like this. The inertial dampeners are nearing maximum output and we have already suffered some structural damage to the outer piers."

'Fuck!' though Lorne. He knew Sheppard's brother was doing everything he could but the other city had the same weapons and defenses plus they apparently had no shortage of drones. "What about the jumpers? Can we use their drones?"

"I don't think so. Even if we could transfer them to the city's launch silos in time there are simply not enough of them to make a difference."

"So you're saying it is up to 18yr old to save our lives?" Lorne asked incredulously. Sure Jason was doing a good job of controlling the city but it just didn't sit right with him to put all the responsibility on the kid's shoulders.

Zalenka looked up with a long expression. "I'm sorry major but unless we can find some other way to bring their shields down…"

January 14th, 9:45AM Planet M7R227, Pegasus Galaxy

"And why are you here again?" Asked John curiously. After all, it wasn't exactly normal for Elizabeth to come with them on away missions, especially to planets that they had never visited before.

"Ancients or not, they are clearly an advanced race and I want to open diplomatic relations with them immediately."

Nothing else was said before everyone stepped through the Stargate.

"Did something go wrong? We are back in the gate room." John asked after stepping through the Stargate, his voice carrying a slight tone of confusion even as he surveyed the room for threats.

Elizabeth turned around to look back at the Stargate after it had shut down. That was when she realized the difference. "Oh my god!"

John and the others turned around as well with their weapons at the ready. "Ok, so maybe we aren't in Atlantis."

Spreading out behind the Stargate was a long, broad corridor that stretched on farther than he could see. In Atlantis, the only thing behind the gate was the outer wall of the tower.

There was something else that was different.

People were starting to emerge from side corridors or rooms. Their clothing was all soft browns or off whites.

"Do you think?" Elizabeth muttered softly. By all appearances these people looked exactly like Ancients. Some of them could even be seen holding scanners or other devices familiar from Atlantis

Clearing her throat, Elizabeth addressed the inhabitants of the city. "Hello. We are the people that sent the device through the Stargate. We come in friendship."

A man stepped forward, he was rather average looking with dirty blond hair. His eyes were a light blue and he stood roughly the same height as John. He smiled at Elizabeth's simple greeting. "Greetings, my name is Niamh. Welcome to Asuras."

January 14th, 10:15AM Planet M7R227, Pegasus Galaxy

Elizabeth, John, and the others were led by Niamh down the corridor opening behind the Stargate. The passage was lined with windows and afforded the travelers with an incredible view that served to further strengthen their hope that the Asurans were Ancients.

Through the windows, the party could see a massive city which sprawled as far as the eye could see. The architecture was very similar to Atlantis with tall metallic buildings accompanied by squat square shaped compounds and round soaring tower like structures.

"How many people live here?" Ronon asked when everyone stopped to look out on the city.

Niamh turned his attention to the large man and replied honestly. "Millions make this city home."

"Power…power…ZPMs, they must have at least three ZPMs." Rodney whispered softly to John. Atlantis had two ZPMs and could get more but it would be extremely useful to have another supply available.

"How many ZPMs are you using to power this city?" Rodney asked only to have to explain what a ZPM was when Niamh looked at him with a confused expression.

It was only after Rodney explained that a ZPM was device that tapped vacuum energy contained in a pocket universe that Niamh understood and answered. "Oh, we have many such devices, more than enough to suit our needs."

Rodney's face lit up.

"Rodney, we already have two ZPMs and we know how to make more. What's the big deal?"

"Don't you want something to fall back on if we can't find the element necessary to make our own?"

John nodded in agreement but there was something about this place and Niamh in particular that was making the hair on the back of his neck standup.

"I wouldn't hold your breath Rodney."

Up front, Elizabeth was talking to Niamh, attempting to get information about his people but he was being very closed mouthed other than the vague details that he'd provided already.

Ronon and Markham were standing to either side keeping an eye on things despite the fact that these people were apparently peaceful, so far anyway.

"Come, the high council will be eager to meet with you." Niamh exclaimed bringing everyone's attention back to him.

January 14th, 10:15AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Jason groaned and swung his legs over the side of the medical bed he'd by lying on. School sucked was all he could think at the moment. Everything had finally been setup when the Daedelus had delivered the equipment during its last visit a few days ago and now here he was in another galaxy, living in a city that was millions of years old and oh yeah it was a spaceship too.

All those things aside, what did Jason have to look forward to? Some might have said adventure or mysteries, or excitement after all being in another galaxy had to be pretty cool. But no, Jason was stuck in the infirmary for 7 hours a day wired up to a virtual reality machine so that he could continue his education.

It had been bad enough going to high school and listening to teachers drone on about some insignificant fact or theory before. Now he didn't even have his friends to joke with and help pass the time.

A quick glance at his watch and Jason groaned again but this time there was a much whinier tone to it. He just couldn't believe it. Two hours, that's all it had been. He still had another 5 hours to go before he was done for the day.

"Ahh I see that you finished your first lesson, any problems?" The friendly face of Carson Beckett appeared before him. Yes the man was kind and generous but right now Jason wanted someone he could complain to not someone who would make him feel bad for complaining.

"Yeah, it was thrilling. I can't wait to get back for more."

Carson ignored the obvious sarcasm and quickly began to run a few tests to make sure there were no adverse affects from using the device for such an extended length of time. The SGC regularly used them for training but Jason's physiology was not the same as a normal human anymore so there was always the possibility that something could go wrong.

"Come on now, I loved high school. I'm sure it isn't as bad as you make it out." Carson replied reasonably while noting down the test results in the computer. "Only two hours more and then you can take a break for lunch."

"This is so unfair." Yet Jason knew he had no choice but to lie back down and let Carson connect him up to the evil machine again.

January 14th, 11:15AM Planet M7R227, Pegasus Galaxy

"Well that went well." John said sarcastically from his position near the window.

Elizabeth agreed with him. The meeting with the high council had been a disaster.

Oberoth, a rather portly but imposing man that appeared to be in his early to mid 60s had been the primary spokesman for the Asurans. He explained that the Asurans had broken away from the other Ancients over a difference in opinion which stemmed from the others arrogance. Since that time the Asurans had worked to develop a plan that would destroy the Wraith but this plan would only be implemented at a time of the Asurans choosing.

Things had degenerated quickly from there. It quickly became evident when Elizabeth explained their situation and status as explorers from a far off location that Oberoth viewed them as nothing more than annoyances.

After spending another 20 minutes in fruitless discussions, they were led to a room where they could wait while Elizabeth spoke to Oberoth one on one. From Elizabeth, Oberoth learned that Atlantis had survived the Wraith siege and was serving as their home base. Despite all this, Oberoth refused to lend any aid or even to allow the Asuran city to be used to house refugees.

Disgruntled and disappointed, Elizabeth returned to the others.

"I don't think they are Ancients." She said in response to John. "Something seems off about them."

Ronon added his two cents. "There is no plan to attack the Wraith."

Rodney looked up from his laptop. "Why would they lie?"

"I don't know but Oberoth seemed very interested to hear that Atlantis had survived."

John straightened. He didn't like Oberoth's interest in Atlantis. He didn't trust the man or really any of the Asurans. "Maybe we should get out of here. They're not going to be any help and I doubt they would be willing to give up any neutronium so we can manufacture more drones."

No one disagreed and they quickly gathered their equipment and headed for the gate room. Before they get more than halfway to the Gate, Asurans surrounded them with their weapons drawn. Left with no other options they surrendered their weapons.

Oberoth ordered the guards to "Take them to a holding cell. We will question them shortly."

January 14th, 12:30PM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

"Awww did you have a rough morning?" Catherine asked sweetly.

Jason grumbled but refused to give her any more ammunition to use against him. As it was she was teasing him mercilessly about having to go back to school.

"Laugh it up. I'm surprised you want to be seen dating someone still in high school. Of course, I on the other hand get to score with an older woman." Jason had learned long ago from John that the best way to avoid embarrassment was to turn it back on the other person.

Just as he hoped, Catherine blushed brightly at his comment but he wasn't sure whether it was because of the older woman or the scoring with her portion of the comment.

Catherine was no stranger to verbal sparring and it was one of the reasons why she liked spending time with Jason. They both knew that there was nothing serious going on but it was nice to be able to act somewhat close to her own age and just relax. Around the other members of the expedition she always felt that she had to prove herself.

"But you forget, I've seen you naked." It was something that had bothered Jason a lot when they first started seeing each other. Of course it was a moot point now but it still opened up possibilities. "You definitely have certain assets that outweigh any potential embarrassment from your lack of education."

It was Jason's turn to blush.

"Ah, my two favorite workers, do you mind if I join you?"

Jason waved a hand towards one of the empty chairs at the table. "Of course Carson."

Catherine smiled at Jason, well aware of the reason he was so willing for Carson to join them. Mentally she chalked a victory up in her favor. "So Carson, any word on Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard?"

Jason jerked his head around to look at Carson. This was the first he heard of any mission.

"What mission? Why did Elizabeth…I mean Dr. Weir go?"

Catherine's smile grew a little and she leaned forward over her tray of food so that she was closer to Jason and Carson. "Elizabeth is it, do I have competition? I didn't realize that she liked younger men."

Carson spluttered, taken completely by surprise.

Jason shuddered. "That's just wrong on so many levels; I don't even know where to begin."

Carson patted Jason on the shoulder in commiseration. "Aye lad, maybe I need to have a few tests down on the young doctor here. Clearly her stay in Atlantis is affecting her judgment."

"I'm not sure if I should be insulted or not." Replied Jason blandly.

Carson was silent for a few seconds as he thought about what he'd said and how it could be interpreted. Rather than clarify he simply said "I stand by what I said."

Once again, Catherine's light bubbly laugh burst out. "Oh, I think we've both been insulted Jason. Now perhaps if the old man is done teasing, he can tell us how the mission is going?"

"Aye your brother and Elizabeth have gone to meet with a group of people that by all appearances are Ancients."

"Really? We found living…well non-ascended Ancients?" Jason supposed even those that ascended to a high state of being were still technically alive after all.

"It looks that way. Elizabeth was hoping to open diplomatic relations with them immediately."

"So I might not be alone then." Jason muttered softly.

Carson heard Jason though and filed the information away. It was only natural for Jason to feel that way but his brother needed to know about it. He had every confidence that John would be able to help Jason and make sure that he knew he would always have a family here at Atlantis and at home.

The three spent the next 20 minutes in friendly conversation. When Carson finally finished his lunch he told Jason that it was time to go back to school.

January 14th, 2:00PM Planet M7R227, Pegasus Galaxy

John wasn't going to waste the opportunity that had just walked into their holding cell.

Niamh had walked in wheeling a cart filled with food. A quick glance shared with Ronon was enough to set things in motion. The large man moved forward to distract Niamh while at the same time John moved close enough to one of the guards escorting Niamh to snatch his weapon.

Ronon acted at the same time, slamming his fist into Niamh's jaw sending the man crashing to the floor dazed.

John shot both guards before they could react. Both men collapsed to the floor unconscious.

"Let's get out of here." John ordered leaving the cell.

The others quickly fell in place behind him. As they made their way through the corridors John avoided the gate room instead heading to the Puddle Jumper bay.

"Why do we need a Puddle Jumper?" Rodney whined when the hatch to the spacecraft closed.

"Because Rodney, we can dial the gate from here before they can react. Unless you want to fight off the guards until we can dial out that is." John explained in a patronizing tone.

Teyla dialed the address to Atlantis and John lowered the Puddle Jumper into the gate room and through the Stargate before the Asurans could shut the gate down.

Once they were back in Atlantis, John was talking to Elizabeth in her office.

"I wonder how many other splinter groups of Ancients are out there." Elizabeth mused from her seat behind her desk. Everyone was disappointed that the meeting had been such an utter failure.

John just snorted in disgust. "If they are anything like the Asurans we'd be better off leaving them alone. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing them taken down a peg or two. Our brothers were arrogant…"

"Yes, Oberoth was more than a little pompous. I wanted to…"

"Colonel Sheppard, Dr. Weir please report to the control room."

John and Elizabeth looked at each other in surprise before leaving her office.

John asked "What's the problem?" As soon as they were in the control room.

Zalenka tapped a few keys putting the display from his laptop onto the main screen. "Wraith, seven hive ships just dropped out of hyperspace. I've already sent Jason to the chair room."

Neither John nor Elizabeth had time to react. The Wraith hive ships had already begun bombarding the city. Blue bolts of energy slammed into the ocean and the outer piers. Atlantis shuddered as explosions tore away pieces of the city.

"Jason, raise the shield!"

"I'm trying but there's damage to the shield generators. John, there are fighters incoming!" Jason called back over the radio.

"More hyperspace windows are opening." Zalenka announced.

John grabbed the back of a chair to steady himself as another explosion rocked the city. "How many?"

Zalenka paled. "15, 15 Hive ships just emerged."

"We have to evacuate the…"

"Colonel sensors are picking up Wraith all over the city."

"Order the evacuation. Elizabeth we need to set the self-destruct."

The evacuation alarm started to blare. Zalenka dialed Earth at the same time that Elizabeth was setting her code in for the self-destruct.

"Jason get up here. There's nothing more to do!"

"John, I can't get…" John just froze when he heard Jason scream in agony. His world dropped away when the scream faded to a low gurgle before dropping off entirely.

"John your code, you need to enter it."

John knew what he had to do. "Go through the gate, I'll set the self-destruct and follow you through."


"Go!" John had no intention of following. He watched with dead eyes as Elizabeth ran down the stairs and paused at the event horizon to the wormhole. She looked back at John and nodded, knowing full well what he intended to do.

John waited until Elizabeth stepped through the gate before entering in his code. He sat down in a chair and closed his eyes while he waited for the countdown to finish.

Instead of dying John's eyes snapped open and his face contorted in pain. Standing over him was Oberoth and the man had his hand buried in John's skull. The agonizing pain continued to shoot through his body until Oberoth removed his hand and turned away to leave the cell.

John collapsed to the floor groaning. He rolled onto his stomach and looked up with hate filled eyes. "Who are you people?"

Rodney and the others had been held back while Oberoth had 'probed' John's mind. They had no idea what he'd gone through but from his expression it wasn't pleasant.

Rodney answered fearfully. "They're not people, they're replicators!"

Just after Rodney's announcement, the city began to shake and hum with power.

January 14th, 2:00PM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

Evan Lorne was sitting in his CO's office staring at a large pile of paperwork placed neatly on the desk. 'This sucks!' he thought briefly when he reached for another report to review. He'd always thought that being in charge was what he wanted but with both Weir and Sheppard on missions, that left him in charge of Atlantis and the only one to review the mission reports in their absence.

Of course being a part of the SGC, Evan was used to submitting regular reports on his team's missions but he'd never really given much thought to the time it took his superiors to go through those reports. Now, he was quickly gaining a new measure of respect for Colonel Sheppard, assuming that is that the man hadn't found some way to fob the duty on to Dr. Weir.

But even joking to himself, Evan couldn't really give that idea any credence. Dr. Weir would never let her military commander get away with that. Yes they had a relaxed relationship but Dr. Weir was not someone who let herself be manipulated or even cajoled into doing something she didn't want to.

No, somehow, Colonel Sheppard found the time to review all the reports. To make the matter worse, he made the job look effortless. The man could often be found spending time with the scientists, the other soldiers, or even his brother. That last soured Evan's disposition.

It wasn't that he did it consciously but there was still some resentment towards the young man for breaking his leg. At the time, he'd accepted Jason's apology but as time passed and he was stuck on base for weeks, Evan grew more frustrated with the situation and the fact that he hadn't been informed of Jason's abilities ahead of time. As the XO he should have been made aware but it had been overlooked with the rush to return to Atlantis and prepare for another attack from the Wraith.

And, if he was going to be completely honest with himself, there was a certain amount of distrust of Jason there as well. During his time in the SGC, he had never encountered someone with powers like Jason's that didn't have an ulterior motive. So fair or not, Evan took everything about Jason with a grain of salt.

Sighing softly, Evan opened up the next report and began to read.

"Major Lorne, please come to the control room." The unmistakable voice of Dr. Radek Zalenka came over the loudspeaker.

Evan had never been so happy to be interrupted. After tapping his ear mic he said. "This is Lorne, I'm on my way."

A short walk and Evan found himself in the control room. "Doc what did you need?" Evan just hoped that whatever it was it would keep him busy enough to avoid going through more reports until Colonel Sheppard and Dr. Weir returned.

Zalenka was standing staring at one of the large displays dominating the control room.

Evan moved to stand next to the Czech scientist. On the screen was the silhouette of ship that looked familiar but it wouldn't make sense if he was right.

"What are we looking at?" Evan asked after a minute of staring.

Zalenka didn't turn towards him; he just continued studying the screen. "It is the Daedelus. Our long range sensors report that she is returning to Atlantis."

"What? Why? She just departed; she isn't due back for weeks." It wasn't even possible for the Daedelus to have made it to Earth yet, it had to have turned around mid-flight for some reason.

Zalenka crossed his arms over his chest and moved to sit back down at one of the computer stations dotted around the control room.

"I do not know. We have not received any communications. I can only surmise that they encountered some kind of mechanical problem that made the return trip to Earth too dangerous."

'Shit, why did this have to happen when both Sheppard and Weir were off-world?' "Ok when will the Daedelus arrive?"

Zalenka typed something on his computer and ran a quick calculation. "Based on their current speed, the Daedelus should arrive in approximately 12 hours."

"Ok, when we have our check in with Dr. Weir and Colonel Sheppard they will need to be notified of the situation."

January 14th, 4:00PM Planet M7R227, Pegasus Galaxy

John was silent following his experience. He now knew that everything he experienced had been a lie but it didn't change the fact that he thought he'd listened to his brother die. There were few things in the universe that John could say he truly hated or loathed the very existence of. The Wraith were on that list, clowns of course, and now the Asurans had just earned the #1 spot.

Only Ronon had recognized the look in John's eyes and that was because he saw it every day when he looked in the mirror. He knew that Sheppard then and there had vowed to himself to do everything in his power to make the Asurans suffer for what they'd done.

McKay had explained what the Asurans were doing to John and Ronon knew there was only one thing that could get such a reaction. If he'd been in John's place, he probably would've felt the same way. He owed John a lot. He wasn't on the run anymore, he had a home again for the first time in years, and he had a way to fight back against the Wraith. So Ronon made his own vow, if John needed his help 'explaining' things to the Asurans, he would be there for every step.

John barely even noticed that Ronon had moved closer to him. The large man didn't say anything but simply stood sentry over his friend doing what he could to provide strength and security.

Niamh had returned while John was still recovering. Despite Rodney's and Markham's misgivings, she let Niamh show her the history of the Asurans.

It had started as an experiment. The Ancients built nanites as a weapon to fight the Wraith. But over time, the nanites evolved and took more complex forms until they finally assumed the shapes of their creators. But the Ancients were disturbed by their creations; the aggression that had been programmed into them was terrifying and virtually impossible to control. In the end, the Ancients decided that the experiment was a failure and attempted to wipe the nanites from existence. Some nanites survived and over the years replicated and rebuilt until the city was as it was found by the expedition.

It turned out that Niamh wanted their help. He and many others wanted to ascend and they felt that the only way that they could do that would be to permanently remove the aggression that had been programmed into their very being. In return for their help, he would convince Oberoth not to destroy Atlantis.

There was some hurried discussion amongst the team but in the end Elizabeth agreed. She felt that it was the only way to try and save Atlantis. Plus she hoped that Rodney would be able to figure something out if he had access to the replicators' base code.

January 14th, 4:00PM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

A simulated classroom of 20 high students was interesting for all of 5 minutes. After that Jason was stuck listening to the teacher drone on and on in a monotone voice. It was like his worst nightmare come to life. Here he was stuck in school or a simulation of it anyway and there was no one to distract him. He couldn't even do magic to entertain himself, not that anyone had said anything but who knew how it would react to the virtual environment. The last thing he needed was some homicidal computer program coming after him like what had happened to Teal'c when they first started developing the system.

Without realizing it, Jason's thoughts began to echo Evan's from earlier in the day. Wishing, wishing that something would come to take him away from the hell that was a computer generated high school.

Sometime later, long after Jason had resorted to watching the second had on the clock slowly tick away something did happen.

The teacher's form blurred and flickered for a few seconds pulling Jason's attention back to him from watching the clock. As he watched the teacher oscillated between his normal appearance and a woman wearing a soft white dress. Eventually after flipping back and forth only the woman remained.

Jason looked and saw that all the students were frozen as well. Well, who knew that an Ancient could visit him in a virtual reality? Somehow though he wasn't totally surprised by his visitor, ever since learning that John and Elizabeth had left to visit a planet inhabited people that may be Ancients, the hair on the back of his neck had been standing up.

Trying to put on a brave front Jason greeted the woman. "Hello Delus, I didn't think I would ever see you again. Figured you'd been punished."

Delus grimaced and moved to stand closer to Jason. "No I was not punished but I am under closer observation than ever. This environment has afforded me an opportunity that I could not pass up. The others will not think to look for me here."

Jason was really starting to get a sinking feeling now and wanted to bang his head on the desk. Why did all this crap happen to him? "I'm assuming you aren't stopping by just to see how I'm doing then."

"No, I wish that I was. I came to deliver a warning."

As much as he now wished otherwise, Jason paid close attention to what Delus was saying. He knew she wouldn't have come here on a whim so something important must be happening. "What? Is it the Wraith? Have they found us?"

Delus shook her head and began to pace slowly back and forth in front of Jason. If he didn't know better, he'd say she looked ashamed or possibly embarrassed.

"You must ready the city for battle. You will need to face them in space; it is your only hope."

"Face who? Space? What are you talking about?" Jason's voice rose as the questions poured out. John wasn't here; could he do this without John?

Still Delus continued to pace and she never looked directly at Jason which only reinforced his feeling that she was ashamed or embarrassed about something.

"If you don't, you will not be able to defend the city when they come for you. Without drones, you would be virtually defenseless."

"What about…"

"No, their might is a match for Atlantis. By confronting them in space, you will be able to use the city's beam weapons. Please Jason you must trust me on this. If Atlantis falls, you will be condemning the humans of this galaxy to a lifetime of pain and suffering at the hands of the Wraith."

"So no pressure then." Jason said to himself. "Ok, I believe you but who is going to attack?"

"I fear you brother and Dr. Weir have drawn the attention of…" Delus trailed off. Even now after millennia, Delus was ashamed of the role she had played. She had been one of the lead scientists and it had been her idea to end the experiment.

"Delus, please I need to know what we are facing and if my brother is in danger." Jason pleaded with the woman. He'd gotten up from his desk and stopped her pacing with a hand to her shoulder.

"They are…were…an experiment, a weapon to fight the Wraith. Now they are another mistake, one of so many we have made. Only now it is you and the others what will pay the price of our arrogance."


"You must hurry or all will be lost. Even now, they are on their way."

Before Jason could ask any more questions, Delus disappeared and the program resumed.

"Crap, I need to get out here and warn someone!" Jason tapped his wrist three times which was the emergency shutdown signal.

As soon as he opened his eyes, Jason began disconnecting himself from the machine and called out. "Carson!"

January 14th, 6:00PM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

It had taken some time for Jason to convince Carson that he'd really spoken to an Ascended Ancient as opposed to experiencing a delusion or having a stroke caused by the device. Jason's nerves had been sorely tested when Carson insisted on putting him through a whole battery of tests before contacting Major Lorne.

Jason had to shake his head when he saw Major Lorne walk into the conference room followed by Dr. Zalenka. It had to be the one soldier that he'd injured. The universe must be laughing at him or simply enjoying how difficult it made his life sometime.

"What's the situation?" Lorne began the meeting. It was obvious to the other three people in the room that he didn't put much stock in Jason's warning. Instead he was looking to Carson and Zalenka for answers.

Jason imagined he was lucky to even be in the room. He probably wouldn't have been if Carson hadn't pushed for it. Unlike Lorne, Carson believed Jason and had seen other experiences with the Ascended before. In fact he knew that was how Colonel Sheppard attained the address to one of the worlds that held an Ancient research laboratory.

Zalenka spoke first after trading a glance with Carson. His experience with the Ancients wasn't as direct as Carson's had been but he still he felt that it was too risky to ignore the warning.

"I have examined the system and there was an energy surge that coincides with the timing of when Jason said he was in communication with the Ancient."

Lorne was trying to put his distrust aside but he couldn't just let Jason launch the city into space without some form of corroboration. Yes they now knew how to create ZPMs if they could find the materials, but until then, they still needed to be careful with the two that they had.

"Do we know what the cause was? Is it possible that the surge caused some sort of problem with the program?"

The questions were reasonable but unfortunately no one had any answers.

Zalenka shook his head. "No, it is possible that something corrupted the program, but that seems unlikely."

"You mean an Ancient appearing in a simulated high school classroom to talk to a kid is more likely?" Lorne asked sarcastically.

"Hey! She's spoken to me before. Besides what's the big deal? We launch the city and if there is no attack, great but if something does happen…" Jason left it hanging there. Everyone in the room could fill in the blanks.

"This isn't like taking your dad's car out for a joy ride."

"You don't think I know that! I was the one who flew the city last time if you remember. Or maybe you don't…" Jason let his snide comment trail. The scowl on Lorne's face was enough to tell him that he'd scored a hit. Probably not the best move he admitted to himself.

"Ahem…" Zalenka cleared his throat to get their attention. "I can try and retrieve a recording of the session. It should be stored in the active memory but it may take some time to compile, there is a massive amount of information generated to support the environment."

Lorne nodded. "Is there anything showing up on our sensors?"

"No but if the warning is to be believed the threat must be a similar technological level to the Ancients. It is possible that they have a means for hiding from our sensors, like the Puddle Jumpers' cloak."

"Ok then we wait. Zalenka let me know when you have something." Lorne said before leaving the conference room.

Jason was left with a cold pit in his gut that he found very hard to ignore.

January 15th, 12:00AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

The lights were dark in his room. Jason had given up on reading hours ago after reading the same page 5 times. His mind kept going back to Delus' warning. If they didn't act soon, it could be too late. Whatever the threat was, she'd said they were already on their way to Atlantis.

Groaning in frustration, he rolled over and buried his head in his pillow. Still sleep refused to come, his mind raced with possibilities and what-if scenarios. Each one ended worse than the one before.

Another debate was racing in his mind, what would be the repercussions if he simply went to the chair room and made the decision for Lorne. If there was really an enemy on the way to attack Atlantis than it would probably be overlooked but if nothing happened than the shit would definitely hit the fan.

Not for the first time, Jason found himself wishing that John were around. He would have made the decision for Jason. 'Fuck!' he thought, what would John do if he were here? In the past, John had gone against direct orders of his superiors and even Elizabeth when he thought they were making a bad decision.

Jason wondered if he had the right to do that here. He didn't have any of John's training but Delus had chosen him and he was the only one that could keep the city safe if there was an attack. Doesn't that mean that he needed to do what he felt was right?

Lorne wasn't going to believe him or trust him enough to give him the benefit of the doubt. Carson would and probably even Zalenka but not Lorne. True, he'd broken the man's leg but how long was he going to hold that over Jason's head?

There was really no option. Jason knew what he had to do but he was more than a little reluctant to do it. Swearing to himself again, he got up and dressed quickly.

The hallways of Atlantis were quiet which made it much easier for Jason to make his way to the chair room undetected. It's always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission that was a lesson he'd learned when he was a kid. Yes John would probably punish him but if it meant that the city survived, Jason could live with that.

The transporter flared briefly and then Jason stepped out at his destination. The control chair was in the base of the tower. He walked by the open entrance of the room to see if anyone was in there, trying to make it seem like he was casually walking by.

Fortunately, no one was in there because his presence alone would have raised questions.

Jason paused for a moment in front of the chair. This was it; he was going to do this. His doubts pushed aside for the time being Jason sat down in the control chair and smiled in contentment as he connected to the city.

Up in the control room technicians monitoring the power systems noticed the slight drop in power when Jason shunted it to the star drive and the shields.

One of the technicians stood up from his station and went to the balcony to look outside unwilling to believe his monitor. Sure enough, the shimmering silver defense shield had been raised over the city.

"Do you know what's going on?" He asked the other technician.

She shook her head and tapped her radio. "Major Lorne, Dr. Zalenka please report to the control room. I repeat Major Lorne and Dr. Zalenka please report to the…"

Whatever she was going to say was cutoff when the city began to rumble as the great engines powered up. The ocean around the city began to churn as torrents of energy were cast off from the star drive providing the lift necessary to take the city into orbit.

"What the hell is going on?"

Dr. Zalenka came running into the control room and pushed the male technician out of the way so he could access his computer. "What is Jason doing?"

Moments later, Lorne came in going as fast as the cast on his leg would allow. "Why are we taking off?" Lorne had actually stopped to look out a window when the city started to shake. He'd expected an attack of some sort not to see the city rising into the air.

"I do not know. There is only one person who could be responsible."

Lorne growled in annoyance and frustration. "Jason, shut down the engines. I have not given you authorization to take the city anywhere!"

There was a brief hiss of static before it was replaced by Jason's voice. "I'm sorry but we'll be in orbit shortly. This was the only way. If I waited any longer it might have been too late."

Lorne switched his ear mic to the military only frequency. "Jenkins, Miller I need you to…"

Zalenka cut him off. "Major, our proximity sensors are picking up an inbound spacecraft."

"The Daedelus?"

"No it is too large. The configuration…" Zalenka typed in a command and transferred the display to the main screen. "It's an Ancient city ship. At current speeds it will be here within the hour."

"If it's an Ancient ship wouldn't that mean that they have the same weapons?"

"It is quite likely. Which means…"

"Which means they will have drones too." Lorne finished. "I hope Jason is wrong about the danger but for now I don't see the harm in staying in space."

January 15th, 1:50AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

The control room was inundated with light when another salvo slammed into the shield near the tower.

Lorne was thrown to floor when the city rocked sharply as explosions rippled across the shield.

"Doc! How much longer can we keep this up?" The city was groaning and shaking around them. Flashes of green weapons fire were visible through the stained glass windows around the control room.

Before Zalenka could answer both men were thrown to the floor again.

At the same time, Jason was in the control chair concentrating on the battle. It took all his concentration to fly the city and counter as much of the enemy fire as possible. He wished he remembered how he had destroyed the Wraith Cruiser because it would come in handy about now.

"Fuck!" He swore softly when he felt another salvo of drones impact the shield and rattle the city.

"Jason, listen to me."

If he hadn't heard that voice before and the familiar presence he would have been shocked but as it was, he was just thankful. Perhaps the voice meant help was on the way.

"Jason you must concentrate on the shield. You need to…"

Her voice faded and Jason received an image in his mind of what he needed to do. The shields would not be as effective in stopping the drones but it may give them the edge they need to take out the other ship.

"Isn't there anything else you can do? Can't you just…" He didn't even bother finishing his question because the familiar presence had faded already.

The system that Zalenka was using to monitor the condition of the city began to flash in warning. Startled, he began to swear in Czech drawing Lorne's attention.

"What's going on?"

"Jason is modifying the shield frequency." Zalenka replied almost distractedly while typing furiously on the keyboard. He couldn't understand what Jason was doing. The difference in frequency was going to…

"No no no no, what is he doing?"

"Doc?" Lorne half asked and half growled. He was standing directly behind the Czech scientist looking over his shoulder but he didn't understand anything he was seeing.

Again, before Zalenka could answer an explosion rocked the tower. Lorne looked around in confusion he didn't need Zalenka to tell him something was wrong. Somehow, something had managed to penetrate the shield; fires were spreading out near the base of the tower.

"What just hit us?!"

The other soldiers and scientists in the room were scurrying around the different control stations assessing the damage and initiating repair procedures.

"It is the shield. Whatever Jason has done has weakened the shield? It will not be able to stop the incoming drones in this configuration." Zalenka continued typing away trying to make sense of the changes. He did not doubt that Jason had a reason for doing it but he was unable to figure out the reason.

Lorne turned towards two of the soldiers still in the control room. "Get down to the chair room. I want Jason Sheppard out of that chair!"

Lorne thought about what he'd just ordered as the soldiers saluted and left the control room. Yes Jason was Colonel Sheppard's brother but he was not comfortable with having an 18 year old responsible for the safety of the Atlantis. Now, it looked like Jason was risking Atlantis by weakening the shields, it was possible that he was even compromised in some way. If necessary, he would remove him by force.

"…Don't think that is wise." Zalenka commented.

Lorne pulled himself back from his thoughts and only caught the tail end of what the scientist was saying.

"What was that? What isn't wise?"

"I don't think it is possible to remove Jason from the control chair. He is the only one that can control the city. We will be defenseless."

Lorne gritted his teeth, he needed an alternative. "Find me another way then. He's leaving us open to attack. You have until those men get down to the chair room to figure out an alternative."

January 15th, 1:52AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

The city shield protecting Atlantis was crackling with energy. Emerald green plasma was arcing over the shield. With every incoming shot, the shield grew more and more unstable and the plasma arcing over the shield grew more intense. Incoming drones were being destroyed before they came near the shield when plasma would arc from the shield like lightning.

"Doc what the hell is going on?" Lorne called out. He had moved away from the consoles and was looking out the open door to the balcony. Looking up at the shield he felt like he was in the middle of some bizarre thunderstorm.

"The shield stability has been compromised. The energy is not being dispersed as it normally would be instead whatever Jason has done has caused a sort of feedback loop. I don't know how much longer the shield can hold before there is a catastrophic failure. When that happens we will be exposed to space."

That got Lorne's attention. The balcony door closed as he stepped back into the control room.

"Can the tower be sealed?"

"Just a little more, I'm almost there." Jason muttered to himself. He was completely unaware of his surroundings; his full attention was on the shields and the changes he was making to them. Delus had shown him a way to modify the shield frequency that would amplify the city's beam weapons as they passed through, but it was extremely difficult, especially when he had to keep the city from being destroyed before he finished.

January 15th, 1:55AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

The chair room was filled with the soft blue light radiating out from the base of the control chair. No other lights were needed because Jason was the only one in the room. His own eyes were closed as he concentrated on the shield modifications while at the same time directing the city's defenses. It was not easy work and the sweat covering his body was ample evidence.

When finished, the shield modifications given to him by Delus would route the power of the incoming energy weapons to the city's defenses increasing their power dramatically. But there was no way to know how long the weapons would last before they burned out. The only other option was to run and other than the Milky Way galaxy, Jason wasn't sure where they could go that would be safe.

"Almost there…just a few more adjustments."

It was at that moment that the two marines that Lorne had sent arrived at the entrance to the chair room. Both men moved inside and prepared to remove Jason from the chair, by force if necessary.

"Sir, you need to step away from the control chair." Sergeant Bateman ordered. It felt weird calling the kid sir but nothing else was really appropriate either.

Jason opened his eyes in surprise. "No I need a little more time, I'm just about done."

The other marine radioed Lorne. "Sir he's refusing to move. What do you want us to do?"

There was only a momentarily pause before Lorne answered "Stun him."

Both men hear the order and while they were a little reluctant to stun their CO's younger brother, they couldn't ignore a direct order either.

"We are so screwed." Bateman said softly as both men fired their Wraith stunners.

Jason gasped before collapsing back into the chair. The room was blanketed in darkness as the chair deactivated at virtually the same time.

Across the city, the weapons ceased firing and the wild maneuvering came to halt. Atlantis hung dead in space.

In the control room, Lorne ordered "Do what you can to get control of the city. We won't last long like this."

Zalenka muttered to himself about short-sighted military. The shields were fluctuating wildly and the energy feedback was growing in intensity with each shot absorbed.

"Sir we have a hyperspace window opening."

"What? Who is it?"

"It's the Daedelus sir."

January 15th, 1:57AM Asuran City, Pegasus Galaxy

John and the others had scouted out the route to the jumper bay in the hours that Rodney had been working on the base-code for the Asuran replicators. It went unspoken that there would only be one chance at this. No one counted on Oberoth being so generous as to leave them alive a second time around.

In the intervening hours, the city had finished the journey to Atlantis. But when they arrived, the Asurans had been stunned to find the city waiting for them in orbit. Not bothering to respond to the communication hails coming from Atlantis, Oberoth ordered the city to attack immediately.

John didn't know why Atlantis was in space but he was thankful. It meant that they had a chance. It also meant that the Asurans were occupied with the battle rather than focusing on anything Rodney was doing. With luck, they may just be able to get out of the city in one piece and swing the battle in Atlantis' favor at the same time.

Unknown to anyone but Rodney, John had asked him to work on sabotaging the city. After what had happened to him, he didn't trust Niamh any more than the other Asurans. Unfortunately, Rodney quickly found out that it would be impossible to sabotage the power systems without the proper access

codes but for some bizarre reasons the shield systems weren't as protected. Rodney could only theorize that because the Asurans were machines and could download their consciousness over vast distances they were less concerned about the defense.

It wasn't until almost a full 30 minutes into the battle that Rodney finally signaled John that he was ready to go. By making minor changes in the base code, Rodney would be able to trigger a temporary shutdown that would paralyze the Asurans but he wasn't able to predict how long it would take before they were able to overcome the shutdown command.

As much as it pained him to do, John waited. It took Rodney another twenty minutes to collect everything and meet up with John and the others. He'd downloaded the commands into his tablet and jury rigged it to an Asuran communicator so he would be able to send the commands remotely.

Now, with Rodney once again with the main group, John just needed to get everyone to a Puddle Jumper without anyone stopping them. Of course he also had to somehow get into Atlantis with the shields up and a foreign Puddle Jumper but he quickly decided to cross that particular bridge later. If his plan went as he hoped Jason would be able to destroy the Asurans, everything else should be a cakewalk.

Rodney was able to hold off on issuing the shutdown command until they were in the Puddle Jumper and opening the ceiling access port for lift-off.

Throughout the city, Replicator froze. Weapons continued to fire at preset targets even if there was a halt to the drones. Even Niamh, who had been accompanying them in the hopes of learning the secrets to Ascension, was frozen. John had no difficulty or crisis of conscience when he pushed the frozen replicator out of the Puddle Jumper and took off, leaving him behind to face the others.

"Rodney, get ready with that second command. But wait till I give the order." John snapped.

Rodney had everything set on his tablet. All he needed to do was finishing keying in the final sequence and the Asurans shields would collapse.

January 15th, 1:58AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

"Report!" Stephen Caldwell was having a bad week.

First he'd been forced to turn around and return to Atlantis after a Wraith virus nearly killed everyone on board. In the process of eradicating the virus they'd been forced to destroy their own communications array after it had started to transmit a distress signal to the Wraith. Things went downhill after that until they tried rebooting the systems to erase the virus. It worked but only after the virus had damaged life support systems. In their current state, they never would have completed the voyage back to Earth so they had turned around but without communications they couldn't get in touch with Atlantis.

When the Daedelus had emerged from hyperspace it took them a few seconds to realize what they were looking at. Atlantis and another city ship were blasting away at each. Only it was impossible to tell which was which until one of the ships launched another salvo of drones. Caldwell knew then which one was the enemy. Atlantis would not have had time to find or construct drones in the short amount of time they had been gone.

"Sir both ships have suffered minor damage. The enemy ship's shields appear to weakening. Wait, sir the Atlantis star drive and weapons systems seem to be powering down. Oh my god, Atlantis' shields are unstable, they are nearing overload!"

"Target the enemy city with all missiles and prepare to fire. We need to draw fire away from Atlantis." Caldwell waited for the missile safety protocols to be set before he launched. He didn't know if they would do much against those shields but it was certain that the rail guns wouldn't do any appreciable damage.

"Sir missiles are ready." The tactical officer announced from his station.

At virtually the same time the navigator officer reported "I'm picking up a Puddle Jumper leaving the enemy city. Reading 5 people on board including Colonel Sheppard and Doctor Weir."

"Beam them aboard and then fire."

There was a flash of light on the bridge. When it faded, John, Elizabeth, Rodney, Ronon, and Markham looked around in surprise.

"Stephen what are you doing here?" Asked Elizabeth.

"Now's not the time Dr. Weir. Launch all missiles." Stephen repeated the order.

"Belay that order." Interrupted John.

John knew his relationship with Caldwell was shaky at best so he didn't want to waste any time in explaining why he would countermand his superior's order.

"Sir, McKay can shut down their shields. Just give him a minute before firing."

Caldwell nodded. It would give them a better chance of destroying the ship. "Do it Dr. McKay."

Rodney pulled out his tablet and typed furiously for a few seconds entering in the final commands. "And…got it! Sending the shut down command."

"Sir Atlantis' shields are overloading!"

January 15th, 2:03AM Atlantis, Pegasus Galaxy

"Shields are critical! Without the weapons to bleed off energy…they are going to overload. I can't stop it."

All noise in the control room was drowned out by the crackle of energy followed by an ear-splitting detonation. The room filled with iridescent green light as the shield overloaded.

Outside the city, plasma arced over the surface of the shield and then the entire shield expanded outward in all directions. The energy from the drones and plasma weapons that had been absorbed was all released in a massive burst.

Being closest, the Daedelus was hit first. The shields were able to deflect the energy but still the great ship was tossed end over end rolling away in space. Inside systems shorted and circuit breakers blew filling the bridge with smoke. The crew just held on trying to ride out the worst of it.

The wave hit the Asuran city next just as its shields fell. The energy washed over the city. With no shields to blunt the impact or deflect the energy from the wave, the city was torn apart. The piers at the leading edge of the wave disintegrated severing power conduits and initiating a feedback into the city's trio of ZPMs. The resulting explosion left nothing behind.

The Daedelus stabilized itself and cruised back towards Atlantis.

Looking out the central viewport, John was the first to notice that only the central spire was encased in a shield.

"I hope they evacuated everyone to the tower." He said.

Stephen, Elizabeth and the others all joined him. Atlantis hung there in space unmoving and apparently unaffected by the violent overload of the city's shields.

"Is there any word from Atlantis? Do we know they survived?" Asked Elizabeth.

"Communications are down ma'am but I am picking up life signs from within the city."

After some discussion, John took an F-302 space fighter and launched. He was doing a survey of the city and using the fighter's radio to try and make contact with the city.

For an agonizing minute, he heard nothing in response to his calls. Just when he began to think that everyone was unconscious or worse, he heard Lorne's voice come back over the radio.

"It's good to hear your voice sir. I take it the negotiations didn't go so well."