Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Surprise, surprise.
Credit goes to Phoenix Catcher for letting me borrow some of the ideas behind his story, "Cast Between Worlds," found on this site.
An * means a footnote, usually for explaining or elaborating on military jargon.
I'm sorry this took so long - I got distracted by writing other stories. And coursework. And exams. And training. I'd much rather be writing, but nobody else seems to agree with me.
Warning for a traumatic tale from Harry at the end of the chapter.
Chapter 9 - Eternal Memory
"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
A week after Chapter 8 - Countdown ...
August 7th, 2004 – University of Cambridge (Classics Faculty), United Kingdom, Earth.
Hermione was mildly annoyed when someone sat down in the chair across the table from her. Sure, it wasn't actually 'her' table, which made her irritation rather selfish, but her research notes were spread all across the entire surface, so it should have been obvious it was unavailable.
Her first thought was that it was yet another classically-educated, posh-sounding, air-headed Etonian berk who thought he was God's gift to women attempting to hit on her. Or possibly one of the shyer, more introverted actual scholars that also populated Cambridge, but often got edged aside by the loudmouths. If that was the case, she'd at least be polite, but a lack of self-confidence wasn't exactly attractive either. Anyway, she was doing fine single right now.
Either way, she still slid her wand out from the forearm holster and held it on the visitor under the table as she looked up; he was neither.
He was considerably older than she expected, obviously, being at least fifty, with a round face, blunt features and receding blonde hair, dressed in a sharp black suit and overcoat with a disconcertingly vibrant red tie. In fact, he looked like a much older, more battered version of Neville Longbottom; if Neville ever became a government bureaucrat, which this guy clearly was.
"Miss Hermione Granger?"
"That very much depends on who's asking."
The man raised an eyebrow. "And if I were someone you didn't want to talk to?"
Hermione relaxed, slightly. If he wanted to hurt her he wouldn't be humouring her like that. Besides, the only people who were still out for her blood were the remnants of the pureblood supremacist movement, and most of them were on the Continent these days. The final battle - specifically, that hammer of God artillery strike the Army had brought down - had proven to be something of a Darwinian event for British Wizarding politics, as the majority of the right-wing body politic had been eliminated permanently.
Unconsciously, she rubbed her right shoulder. Her round-collar T-shirt hid the messy patch of scar tissue that even magical healing had been unable to remove. Antonin Dolohov's last spell had nearly blown her arm off; the same psycho who had nearly sliced her in two in the Department of Mysteries.
"In that case," Hermione answered, "I think you'll find Miss Granger is in the Abyssinian Art and Culture section, one story up and at the other end of the building." Her visitor smirked as she continued. "And don't be surprised if I've packed up and moved to the Starbucks across the road by the time you get back."
"I see. Well, Miss Granger, I'm Harold Pearce, with the Security Service." He flicked out an ID wallet for her to see.
Didn't Harry mention that name at some point? And Kingsley?
As she scrutinized his ID card - naming him 'Sir Harold Pearce, KCB' - he placed a small silver metal cylinder on the table with his other hand, flicking a simple switch on the top. "Magical battery. Powers a small, portable set of privacy and silencing wards," he explained to her, then dryly added, "the latest thing from Q branch."
"By which you mean …"
"Those very creative fellows down in the Ministry basement. Level 9, I believe."
Department of Mysteries. I hadn't figured them for the progressive types. Maybe they were somewhat suppressed under the old administration. Wouldn't surprise me.
"As for what I'm doing here, well …" Pearce continued, "delivery boy, more than anything else. Very humbling." He didn't sound all that put out about it though, as he withdrew an envelope from his coat and pushed it across the table at her; it was a 'bluey,' a British Forces Post Office aerogram letter. Only one person she knew used them.
Hermione Granger, Pinehurst Street, Cambridge, UK, CB7 5QS, the envelope read in the blocky, highly legible writing Harry had been forced to learn after going to military school. Apparently chicken-scratch quill-style scribblings hadn't been acceptable, for which she was supremely grateful. Figuring out Harry's homework and notes had always given her a headache.
Knowing Harry, the letter inside would probably give her one too.
It was, like most missives he sent, short and to the point.
From: F-Lt. Potter, H. J., (RAF), BFPO Credenhill Barracks, Hereford, HR7 7DD.
Posted From: Cheyenne Mountain AFS, 101 Norad Road, CO 80906, United States; Forwarded through the British Consulate, Denver, CO.
By the time you get this letter, I will probably have dropped out of contact a few weeks ago. Nothing to worry about; you know what I do.
The man who gave this has a job offer for you. He won't be able to fully explain what it is; it's classified. However, you SHOULD take it. You will never regret it if you do.
You're probably doubting my sanity right now, since I know you hate not having any information to go on. This isn't something you can research, Hermione. You're going to have to trust me on this. Have a little faith.
Take the job offer. It's out of this world.
P.S. If 'Old Harry' is delivering this in person - which he should be, because I asked him to - tell him I owe him one.
"He owes you one," was all Hermione was going to reveal about the letter. It's out of this world? Have a little faith? What the hell does he mean by that? And where is Cheyenne Mountain? I need to look up American postal codes … CO … not California … definitely a headache coming on now. Damn you Harry.
"A few more than just one," was the response. Hermione looked up.
"You're the guy who Kingsley rather obliquely mentioned when he became minister, aren't you."
"I'm not sure, what did he say?" Hermione wasn't buying it. He probably knew exactly what she meant.
"I believe it was in a speech to the Wizengamot, and I'm paraphrasing here, but he was calling for a vote of thanks to ... 'Harry and the spooks,' I think." Most of the old fuddy-duddies had probably thought he meant Harry Potter, and the soldiers he'd brought, who had packed up and disappeared immediately after annihilating the Death Eaters before anyone could thank them, or ask them anything.
"Ah yes, that. Kingsley has a very repressed sense of humor, but it's there. I asked he keep my name out of it, even if my department was going to be publicly acknowledged as working with the Aurors. After thirty years in this business, a little paranoia isn't just healthy, it's plain common sense."
"Well, Alastor Moody may be … mostly insane, but he's right about that. Reasonable paranoia is a survival trait."
"How's he doing?" An innocent question, but also a test.
The reply was immediate. "Back in the job, with a new cutting-edge prosthetic from us, and an upgraded eye from the Unspeakables. Chief Instructor at the revamped and improved Auror Academy, and loving every second of it." Pearce raised an eyebrow. "Have you sufficiently tested that I am not an impostor? You probably should have done it earlier; granted, you don't know me from Adam, so you probably hadn't figured out what to ask."
Yeah, he's probably the genuine article. Or the best actor since Laurence Olivier.
"What's the job?"
"Can't say. What I can say, is that it's in Colorado, they want to meet you in a couple of days if you can get away, and the paycheck's apparently rather good." He handed over a folder. "Plane tickets are in there, if you need to change them call the number on the card stapled to them."
"Anything else? That wasn't much." She flicked through the folder. "The US Air Force?"
"Her Majesty's Government fully endorses the project." Well that is so very helpful.
"What do they want me for? I can't imagine they want an ancient cultures anthropologist, so, what, for magic?"
"Both. Mostly the ancient cultures stuff, because although your boss and a few others are aware of magic, most people on the base won't be. You'll still be under the Statute of Secrecy, for as long as it lasts anyway."
"What on Earth could interest the American military about ancient history?"
Pearce just looked back at her, the slightest hint of a smirk breaking through his professional mien. "What on Earth, indeed?"
A week later ...
August 142004, Sparring Room, East Pier, City of Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus Galaxy
"You're slipping, Harry. Your defeat will be soon be upon you, I am sure."
The sparring room was filled with a rhythmic 'clack-clack-clack' as Harry answered that with a quick combination of strikes before replying as they circled.
"Words are just words, sadiiqi. Match them to actions, and then we shall see."
Sparring nearly every other day for several weeks, usually for several bouts meant Harry was quickly running out of tricks. He might be bantering back at Teyla just like usual, but he knew she was right, but not because he was slipping. Teyla was a quick study, rarely falling for his little tricks twice and using some of them right back on him. Soon his only advantage would be just the physical side - reach, strength, actual combat experience. Teyla had flexibility and had quickly been able to match the blinding speed that allowed him to dominate most fights, forcing him to slow down and be more cautious and defensive.
Harry won this one too - a quick set of overpowered strikes on the right side put Teyla too off balance to get out of the way of a lightning quick leg sweep that wouldn't normally have knocked her down; however, this was their third go-round this morning, and they were both showing the strain of nearly an hour and a quarter of hand-to-hand practice.
Harry stood above Teyla's prone form and stretched out, looking up at the ceiling. A mistake, as it turned out.
"You know Teyla, I'm beginning to think you like all this practice you're getting at falling over."
Looking upwards, he missed Teyla's smirk, just before she kicked his own legs out from under him. Harry crashed to the mats beside her in a very ungainly fashion, completely winded.
"So do you apparently," the Athosian leader laughed.
"Was that necessary?" Harry gasped out.
"No, but it was amusing." Teyla abruptly rolled over and sat astride his stomach. Given that he was winded, her weight wasn't helping … which was probably why she did it. Teyla could be a very underhanded fighter when she put her mind to it. There probably weren't any sexual overtones to it in her mind, as the Athosians were a very physical people, with various hugs, embraces, and so on occurring often in their social interaction, apparently without any particular restriction to, say, family members, friends or any other such structures. For Harry, however … it was just slightly awkward, even though he'd become accustomed to the Athosians' friendship gestures. To her, the impulsive use of him as a comfy seat was just how she'd mess around with any close friend she sparred against.
It didn't help that Teyla was quite possibly the most humble, unassuming person he'd ever met, and was completely unaware of her beauty. Actually, Harry amended, that wasn't quite true. She knew others considered her beautiful, and could use it when required, but for the most part she just didn't much care what anyone thought of her looks.
"I think this counts as a defeat, Captain," she mused mock-thoughtfully, tapping her lips, and apparently completely unaware of his train of thought. "After all, one should be mindful of the enemy at all times, even if you think they are out of the fight. Perhaps especially then, yes?"
"Your Yoda impression needs some work." Harry groaned, not bothering to shift her off.
"Yoda?" Teyla looked down at him blankly.
"I thought Shep showed you the old Star Wars films last week? Little green alien, dispenser of sage, often cryptic advice?"
Dobby's great-something-grandfather, quite possibly … I wish.
"Oh! Yes, I remember. Do or do not, there is no try. Aiden and John took great satisfaction in quoting most of the characters before they spoke. Rodney spent most of the movie complaining about inaccurate science, like there not actually being any sound in vacuum, which he had to explain for quite a bit to me."
Harry laughed. "Yep. That sounds about right."
"Stop distracting me," Teyla chided. "Are you going to give it up?"
"Not a chance! That doesn't count and you know it." Harry finally heaved her off to one side, and sat up. "Besides, I'm running out of ideas. You'll have me knocked down this time next week, probably."
"I'll make a special effort," Teyla promised with a grin. "What next?"
"Breakfast. It's too late to start anything new. Tomorrow, I'll break out the karambits and we can start on those."
"But I already know knife-fighting?"
"Not with karambits. They're a bit more specialised but way more effective than a straight blade when close in, and they'll suit your style. Also, Santorini's finished the known distance and pop-up target ranges here on the East Pier, so we can start training on proper marksmanship rather than the indoor short range primer you've had up until now." Harry grinned, struck by a thought. "Who knows, maybe I'll turn you into a sniper yet."
"Would that be difficult?"
"Hmmm … well, to be a truly gifted shooter there's just a feeling, an x-factor, something that just jumps long-range shooting from mathematics to intuition; there's a guy I know in the SBS who I swear can just will the rounds to the target. But just about anyone can learn to shoot well out to the thousand-yard range. That's just ballistics, it's mostly predictable. Wind can be a pain in the ass, but again, it's not impossible."
Of course, it's easier if you can actually control the wind yourself. If you ain't cheatin', you ain't trying.
"I take it you are a good sniper?"
"Pretty good, yeah." Harry heaved himself up, reached down to assist Teyla, and began his cool-down stretches. "Come on, all this jumping around's made me hungry."
The command breakfast had been shifted a few weeks before to seven-thirty rather than six as that had been deemed 'unnecessarily early.'
Read: the Major needs his beauty sleep, mused Harry as he entered the mess hall, which was about half-full. Setting his tray down opposite Sheppard, he regarded the CO for a second before sitting down.
"You don't look so hot, sir."
Sheppard didn't even look up from stirring a large amount of sugar into his coffee, growling - actually growling, "Your opinion is noted, Captain." Oooh, burn. I should probably stop ribbing him so much before he's had a chance to re-caffeinate.
Weir didn't look up from the tablet she was working on next to him, but her smirk said it all, mirroring Harry's thought. Definitely not a morning person. Teyla came in a few minutes later, and then McKay shortly after.
"You're late, Doctor."
"So was she!" McKay protested, pointing at Teyla.
"Well, we spent the last hour and a half knocking each other to the floor, Doctor. Well," Harry smirked at her, "I did, anyway." Teyla just gave him a half-amused, half-exasperated look.
"Still haven't beaten him?" Weir asked her.
"Not yet. But I will." Teyla replied, smiling sweetly at Harry, who shuddered theatrically.
Sheppard grinned slightly at his smartass tone. "Oh, you're building yourself up for a fall there, Exec."
"I know, I know, I just can't seem to help myself."
"All right, who wants to go first?" Weir asked, sitting back.
"I got it." Sheppard said, sitting up. "The three-missions-per-day timetable which was originally planned seems to work fine, with each team going out every four days. AR-Two, Five and Seven are heading out today, with Four and Twelve still offworld having left yesterday. Nine was supposed to be still offworld, but the planet was uninhabited and pretty uninteresting as far as they could tell. I'm sure the fact the gate was in the planet's equivalent of the Sahara had nothing at all to do with that rapid assessment. It's been scheduled for a Jumper survey run in a couple of days. Oh, and we lost another MALP to a spacegate yesterday too."
"How many are left?"
"Hmmm … If we lose any more, could we pick them up by sending a Jumper straight through after them?" Weir looked at Harry, as the best pilot - something that irritated Sheppard immensely.
"Possibly, but not recommended. The MALP's would barely fit into the cargo bay of the Jumper, and it'd be tumbling like crazy in zero-G." Harry shook his head. "If the Jumpers had some kind of Star Wars tractor beam, maybe, but they don't."
"Okay. Let's be more careful in future, surely there's some sort of notation in the address database as to whether or not it a gate is in fact a spacegate?"
"Probably," McKay volunteered, "but we still don't have decent translations for a lot of the more technical terms in Ancient, and the database is still being … uncooperative. I'll check the entries for the one above the Wraith homeworld and that other one and see if there's any similar symbols."
"Mostly thanks to the transporters, we've got base infrastructure and training facilities set up. Master Gunnery Sergeant Santorini finished putting together the ranges on the East Pier yesterday, and says he'll be done with the kill-house by lunch."
"Uh …" The three civilians looked somewhat perturbed at that. "What, exactly, is a 'kill house'?" asked Weir carefully.
"Training building for room-to-room fighting. Santorini's picked out a six-story block on the outer edge of the West Pier that doesn't have any labs in it, just empty apartments that were mildly damaged by flooding. Normally a kill house'd be a live-fire training area, but given our ammunition limitations we're restricting non-operations use to a relative minimum, just basic training for offworld team members and preventing skill-fade for the rest of the Marines. Everything else will have to be dry-run, although there is some allocated for running the Athosian volunteers though longer-range shooting."
"How is our ammo state?" Sheppard asked.
"Still ninety-seven percent on five-point-seven millimeter. Ninety-eight on five-five-six, and a hundred on everything else. As I said, I'm being very cautious about using it for training, and there hasn't been much offworld action."
"How much, exactly, did we bring?" McKay asked, only slightly nervously. "Because, you know, I'd rather not run out of bullets any time soon?"
"Let's see … we've got ten pallets of five-point-seven for the P-90s, 700,000 total, and five pallets each of nine mil, five-five-six, seven-six-two, forty-five and fifty cal. And that's not including link for the MG's, or forty mil grenades, or the missiles, or the mortar rounds, all of which are counted separately." Harry shrugged at McKay's slightly reassured expression - on the one hand, they had a lot of ammo. On the other, they had a lot of ammo and it really wasn't very far away if something went wrong.
"We had the gate open for nearly the entire thirty-eight minutes to ship stuff through from Earth after all," Harry continued. "We've got plenty of dakka, Doctor McKay, don't worry about it. Somehow, I don't think we're quite reduced to throwing rocks yet." Harry gave him a piercing glance. "Although from what I hear, that may be more effective in your case."
"Er … why's that?" Sheppard inquired cautiously, eyeing the now wilting McKay.
"Staff Stackhouse might have mentioned something about the multiple PhD here managing to eject the magazine when trying to pull the trigger. This was with an M9, by the way, so …"
Sheppard rounded on McKay, rather concerned he'd been in combat with the guy already. "Rodney! How the hell … that's pretty much the safest handgun around!"
"It's got so many things on it, decocking levers, like a bazillion other catches …" Rodney trailed off at Sheppard's glare.
"You're a genius, figure it out. Help me out here, Harry."
"Way ahead of you there, boss. Remedial lessons, Doctor McKay. After breakfast, every day for a fortnight, starting today. Stackhouse is expecting you."
"But I've got things to …" McKay trailed off again under the combined death glares of the two officers. Given Harry's … unique facial features, his was rather more intimidating than Sheppard's. "Uh … okay. Got it."
Weir had just been watching the byplay, amused. When they'd finished, she turned to the Athosian at the table. "Teyla?"
"My people are fine, although some have suggested moving on." Teyla shrugged. "We are not city people, we are farmers, and wanderers, not really soldiers, and definitely not scientists. This city, while mythical, amazing, and many other words to us, is not exactly our natural habitat, you might say. I believe some feel … underutilized here, or at the very least restless, and would prefer something more familiar."
"Any ideas on that?" Harry asked quietly. "Aside from moving out, that is? Other volunteers for offworld trips?"
"If there was land on this planet, it might make a secure new home. Maybe a few more volunteers will come forward. Aside from that?" Teyla shrugged. "No, I have not been able to think of anything."
"That's something we've got time to think about though, thank God," Weir observed. "Rodney?"
"We've found the, or perhaps 'a' control chair. Top floor of tower number seventeen, east side of the inner city."
"That's your day planned out, Captain." Weir pointed at Harry. "Figure out what you can do with it."
"Got it." Harry looked at Sheppard. "Take my place running the first exercise in the killing house later?"
"Could you please not call it that?" Weir asked with a pained look, over the top of Sheppard's affirmative. "It doesn't exactly inspire … confidence. Or feelings of safety."
"And political correctness follows us to other galaxies, apparently." Harry muttered. A little too loudly, but fortunately Weir merely raised an eyebrow. "Yes, ma'am." The mild look became a short glower. She really hates that, doesn't she? "The MOUT house, then."
"Which is …?" Teyla asked, resignedly. Harry could just see her thought: More acronyms.
"Military Operations in Urban Terrain. I believe that's what you Yanks call it, Major."
"Yep." Sheppard nodded. "I suppose you Limey's call it something else?"
"Fish and Chips."
"That … was dinner a few days ago." Teyla said, mildly confused.
"Acronyms, again. FISH and CHIPS*." Harry explained with a perfectly serious expression. "Meaning 'Fighting In Somebody's House' and 'Causing Havoc In People's Streets."
"Riiight." Sheppard rolled his eyes. "British humor."
"British military humor." Harry corrected. "Best in the world. And the Milky Way. And Pegasus too, since the Wraith seem like a pretty humorless bunch. Although I hear Jaffa jokes are too funny for words."
"Enough." Weir interjected, trying to get remotely back on track. "Anything else?"
"Nope." "Not from me." "No ma'am." Teyla just shook her head.
"Well then, from me. I've got … let's see … complaint from Kavanagh."
"What is it this time?"
"Same as last time. In fact," Weir pulled up another email on her tablet, "it's exactly the same message. He changed the date at the top."
"Junk it." Harry snorted. "Moving on from everybody's least favorite scientist."
"Next … Rodney, how are the sensors coming?"
"Working on it, with some success. A lot of the piers' internal volume has flood damage, that seems to have knocked out quite a lot of the city grid, but Grodin got access to the short range sensor array yesterday evening, which is located on the top and sides of the control tower and was behind the shield. We can see 'upwards' so to speak a few light-minutes using what we think are a combination of gravitic and subspace sensors, and horizontally across most of this hemisphere of the planet using more traditional, just vastly upgraded radar and lidar*."
"Might be a landmass just out of effective range on the far side; the sensors are hyper-advanced, but they still can't see the planet's other hemisphere clearly without satellite coverage, none of which seems to have survived. The database is, as you know, being difficult and we can't find anything on the planet. In orbit, we've caught glimpses of what looks like a massive orbital platform at one of the system's Lagrange Points; again, database isn't helpful on that topic."
"But we could reach it by Jumper?"
"We could. Speaking of which, the Jumper bay has a hatch for exiting into the atmosphere, we just haven't figured out which sub-routine opens it yet. Might need the Captain for that one."
Harry sighed. "It's so nice to be needed."
The Ancient control chair was located on the uppermost floor of a medium-tall skyscraper on the East side of Atlantis' inner city. The large windowless circular room was veritably bustling with personnel from Zelenka's engineering department, as well as McKay and several other physicists who had experience with the Antarctic outpost. They had been working all night to jury rig an interface between the Earth computers and the chair, in order to monitor and record the interactions of any users for later analysis.
"Morning Radek." Harry removed his tac vest and jacket as he entered, leaving them by the door. "You look tired."
Zelenka did indeed look exhausted, but was still reasonably alert, buoyed up by excitement. "I am, it's been a long night. But if your deeper interfacing with the Jumper, the medical equipment and the door are anything to go by, then it is likely that this chair will be even more important. We believe it is capable of controlling the entire city, or at the very least the weapons and spaceflight systems."
"What about the database and secondary systems?"
The Ancient database had stubbornly refused to cooperate, despite the best efforts of the very dedicated expedition staff. While there was some more 'organized' so-called 'patches' of data, they appeared to only contain basic information concerning the Wraith, gate addresses, the city and suchlike, but offered tantalizing glimpses of deeper knowledge.
Much like an encyclopedia would refer readers to other points of interest, the basic Ancient files they could access referred to other entries, usually by a complex serial number which also worked like a hyperlink. However, the original theory - that the Ancient's had 'scrambled' the database before they left - seemed to have been borne out; trying to search the database for the aforementioned file numbers turned up incorrect, unrelated, usually completely useless information and occasionally even the same entry, as if the software was actively routing them away from what they wanted to find.
Manually 'unscrambling' the encryption and cyber-defense algorithms designed by the bloody Gate-builders would probably be very, very hard even for the Asgard; doing it with Earth's present level of technology? Flat impossible. The expedition only had tablets, laptops and a couple of larger mainframes, not multi-billion-dollar supercomputers - which still wouldn't be enough. Their only hope was reversing it - that was when Zelenka, already thinking about the possibilities presented by Harry's ability with Ancient hardware, wondered out loud in a meeting with Weir whether or not he could do something with the database; anything, really. Exactly what that would be, no one was sure.
Thus, yet another duty for the executive officer. Joy.
"That would indeed be a excellent side effect, but I'll take what we can get."
Harry eyed the chair dubiously. Zelenka saw his look and added not-helpfully, "It's a chair, Captain. You sit in it."
Harry glared. "Thank you ever so much."
"My pleasure." Zelenka smiled. He was one of the few scientists not scared by Harry's scars and general demeanour. "Now sit."
Harry approached the chair cautiously. Although his interactions with Ancient technology up until this point had been benign, he was well aware of what happened when Carson sat in the one back on Earth, and he really didn't want to start randomly firing Ancient drone weapons at senior officers. Still, he waited as the techs attached some electrodes to his temples to monitor brain activity, and then sat without any further arguments.
To the observers in the room, the expected reactions occurred. The floor and chair lit up, the backrest tilted over. All normal.
Not for the operator, however. Major Sheppard had mentioned that sitting in the control chair in Antarctica made him feel connected, peripherally, to something, but to get anything at all to happen he had to concentrate extremely hard on whatever that was for several seconds before any response.
"Captain?" McKay tried.
"Yes, Doc?" Harry's voice was slightly strained, and he had his eyes shut.
"You all right?"
"Yep. Just … assimilating."
"Are the Borg coming?" asked Radek dryly.
"What? Oh … no. But the space vampires might be."
"Heh. What's it like?" The ATA gene treatment hadn't taken with Zelenka, and Harry knew he was intensely curious about any Ancient technology - more so than most of the expedition, as he was the second-most expert on it after Rodney McKay. Fortunately he was also smart enough to be cautious with the things.
"Remember how I described the other Ancient systems?"
When asked about his previous interactions with Ancient tech, Harry had tried to find analogies from Earth. The door, being essentially single-function, had been like an old-fashioned and simplistic MS-DOS Command Prompt function from Microsoft Windows in his mind. The medical bed had been similar, but only because it had been mostly shut down - there had been a feeling of more complex capabilities beyond the surface. The Jumper, well, that was of course fully active, but had a different feel, as it was mostly automated. Like an avionics system from Earth, its' programming was by necessity far too complex and high-speed to comprehend all at once, and so while Harry had operated it, it had also only really been surface contact - and he hadn't much deeper for fear of messing up something.
"This is so much more."
"Can you find another analogy? Those were rather helpful for us mere mortals."
"Maybe. I'm trying to think of … what is it … oh, yeah. Tron."
"Tron?" Zelenka asked somewhat incredulously. "The film? 1982?"
"Yeah. Watched it years ago, back in school. Try to imagine actually, physically appearing to be inside the computer system, right? But I can also feel the chair I'm sitting in, so I'm still here, but I'm also there."
"So I take it you can, uh, 'see' the chair's systems?"
"Not just the chair, Radek. The whole bloody city."
To Harry, it was like standing in a shadowy Atlantis, with nearly all of the lights turned out - representing, he thought, that most of the systems were dark and non-functional, although he could still 'see' them. Certain areas glowed - the central tower, particularly Stargate Operations, for obvious reasons, and a few other buildings that the expedition had teams in today. Power conduits that ran throughout the city shone weakly, the naquadah generators providing barely more than a trickle compared to the output of three parallel Zero Point Modules. Information networks flickered slightly here and there, a web of lines linking larger nodes of data, but when he 'looked' closer, they seemed twisted, warped …
Must be the database. Scrambled deliberately, or damaged?
Then 'behind' him - inside the system - a voice. A female voice.
WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT!
Harry spun around.
In front of him was a - what, a hologram? Construct? - of a black-haired woman with blue eyes in a white-silver-gold robe or gown, with bulky epaulette-styled padded shoulders over an armoured-looking gold breastplate. It looked ceremonial, rather than functional, and was impressive if a little gaudy.
So what is she? It? AI, or some sort of electronic entity like the SGC had a few years back?
No harm in asking.
The image was just standing there patiently, apparently waiting for him to get over the shock.
"Um. Hi." Wow. Eloquent, Harry. Really intelligent-sounding.
"I've been waiting for someone to sit in that chair since you arrived," the 'woman' replied, apparently exasperated but not actually angry.
"So … who are you, exactly? Or what?"
"I am Tyche, the net-mind of Atlantus*." The 'command system' frowned slightly, which was mildly disconcerting. "You would call me, let's see, an Artificial Intelligence. Of Atlantis, apparently the name has changed in the last ten thousand years."
"Okay," Harry said cautiously. "How are you speaking English?"
"Technically we're not speaking at all, since this is in your mind." 'Tyche' pointed out. "But to answer your question, the chair you are sitting in is what you would call a 'neural synthesis chair,' a system that allows a computer to access your knowledge, including language, in order to learn, and also in this case to communicate with you. The chair itself is a command interface, allowing City officers to interact in tandem with me to control the city with far finer delicacy and precision than even a fully trained command crew could up in the control room."
"So I really am seeing the city all around us."
"Yes, and diagrams of the various system networks, primary, secondary and non-critical. The three-dimensional representation of the city overlaid with diagrams of those systems was determined as the most efficient manner of information transfer regarding city control for operators."
"I see. How much of the city can operate without you?"
"All of it, as it is right now. Except the weapons and stardrives, which I would only have control over with a command member in the loop, or if the lockouts were overriden by the High Council."
Aware he was talking to an apparently fully intelligent entity that would probably be fully capable of kicking them out of the city if he answered wrong, Harry carefully asked, "What is your exact function?"
"My function is managing and maintenance of Atlantis; I can however take control of any system if the user needs to focus on one particular area, such as using offensive weapons, or in the event the user is incapacitated. There are several other AIs too with less capability but who specialize in particular duties, for example Panacea, the Medical AI*. However, I normally control secondary systems that are essentially too minor for control staff to continually oversee, and monitor the rest in order to aid users in interpreting and prioritising the vast quantity of data at their fingertips - literally, as the neural synthesis takes place through the gel contact pads on the armrests of the chair you are presently using."
"From your greeting, I assume you know about the Expedition, but you just said the city was operating without you … why haven't you come forward before?"
"The Stargate's activation triggered an automatic attempt to bring me out of standby, but there was insufficient power. Had I brought my processing core fully online, the remaining 0.003% power remaining would have been drained in minutes. I judged the shield more important given how little power remained, and assessed it as likely that you had a Zero Point Module with which to power the city, since you'd managed to generate an inter-galactic wormhole, which usually requires one. That judgement made, I returned to standby status to give you more time to find and install that ZPM." Tyche shrugged apologetically. "Since you haven't yet, 'I' am still in standby mode. This representation you are speaking to is not really 'me' as such, but a rote-response programme written to anticipate any questions you might have."
"In the three point five eight seconds I spent activated after the incoming wormhole opened."
"You … wrote a conversation program that could cover anything I might ask in three seconds when not fully, uh, awake?"
"Technically I did it in one point five eight once I decided I would have to return to standby, but who's counting?"
"I am. Impressive." Harry paused to think about what he'd been told just now.
"Can you help us with the Database?"
"Maintenance of the knowledge archives is part of my core programming."
"Can you ... fix it?"
"I can remove the active cyber-protections. I do, however, have to be fully activated to do so."
Harry groaned. "Let me guess, that's going to require a Zero Point Module."
"Yes, or an equivalent power source. And I have prepared a list of several gate addresses where outposts with Zero Point Modules were deployed." Five lines of gate symbols appeared hovering in mid-air beside Tyche as the AI continued.
"There was also a mobile geothermal power station positioned on the sea floor somewhere below the city, but I am presently unsure of both its exact location and integrity."
"Hang on again … if you're shut down and this is an automatic programme, how are you learning our terminology?"
"I am not. The chair is its own system, capable of semi-autonomous operation, like the Gateships. As such it is translating from the Lantean I originally wrote the program in, into English, and using your knowledge to both translate and fill in the terminology."
"Could we use our naquadah generators to power your processors or whatever directly?"
"No, I do not believe so. Based on Lantean research into the output of power sources based on naquadah, you would need a generator with a naquadah core twice the diameter of the Stargate. If the devices are Stargate-portable, somehow I doubt you have one that powerful. If you want to try, my processor core is located there."
An area of the city flashed, in the 'basement' as they'd called it, of the inner city; underneath the base of one of the towers on the West side, that had been designated W-7.
"One final question before I go back to …" Harry looked around, "the real world."
"Do all control chairs have AIs as a part of them? Because there's one in an outpost on Earth, and as far as I'm aware none of the researchers found an AI there."
"No. While this program does not include information on that outpost, here the chair and myself are separate systems; the chair however was the only piece of technology capable of translating your language and therefore making this conversation happen, so I chose to upload this program here and wait for you to find the chair. Bear in mind my initial assessment included a number of mistakes; that you would have a ZPM, for example. This was a contingency plan at best."
"Only the chair? The jumpers could translate."
"The Gateships are locked out unless I or the Central Control duty officers initiate contact to download data from them. The Wraith tried infiltrating Atlantis several times during the war with computer viruses that were inserted and lay dormant within the Jumper systems when they were out scouting, and became active when they returned to the city."
"You weren't kidding when you said you covered every eventuality in the conversation, were you?"
Tyche smirked smugly - actually smirked. Harry was having difficulty believing this wasn't the AI or even a person instead of a pre-written program. "No, I wasn't; I am a Class Five AI, not only one the most capable ever built by the Lanteans, but one of the oldest and thus most experienced. My program covered ten thousand possible questions, including that one, and the program is also capable of extrapolating new answers from the already-written ones in response to unanticipated queries."
"Alright. Thank you, that's enough for now."
Harry opened his eyes and sat up, trailing electrode wires. Looking around, it seemed the entire tech crew in the room was staring at him.
"Um … you just sat there for about fifteen seconds then sat up again," Radek volunteered. "Shouldn't we be asking that?"
"You didn't hear any of that?"
'Technically we're not speaking at all, since this is your mind.'
"Oh." Harry said, intelligently. "Where to begin … Radek, remember that conversation we had in the Jumper when AR-One got stuck in the wormhole?"
"Yes, about AIs …" Radek trailed off, eyes widening. Rodney jumped in incredulously.
"An honest-to-god AI?"
"Yeah. Called Tyche. Dormant at the moment, shut down."
"So … how were you talking to it?"
"Um … she called it a rote response programme." Harry rubbed his head, aware that a punishing headache was building. "Could you get Weir and Shep up here, so I only have to say this once? And some bloody asprin, please?"
"The city has an AI. Several, in fact. They're currently dormant, but are obviously extremely capable and apparently friendly. The main one, Tyche, has provided us with a list of possible ZPM locations and this geothermal plant." Weir paused in her summary of Harry's report and looked down at the list of gate addresses Harry had transcribed. "I'm at a bit of a loss as for what to say actually. I really wasn't expecting anything like this."
"A diplomat, lost for words?" Harry snarked from where Beckett was examining him. He held a canteen, washing down even more asprin. "Will the wonders ever cease?"
"Can it, Harry," Sheppard warned, but he was smirking too.
"Can it, both of you." Weir rolled her eyes, muttering "I'm surrounded by children!"
"Hey!" Rodney protested. Weir gave him a look that clearly said, You're the worst of the lot.
"Well, Major, make these addresses a priority." Weir handed the list to Sheppard. "How's the captain, Carson?"
"He's fine, as far as I can tell," the CMO replied. "He might be starting to go through something similar to when Colonel O'Neill downloaded the Ancient Database, from what you reported, Captain."
"I don't think so …" The Czech engineer mused.
"Well, first, the database in the city itself is mostly either locked out or cyber-walled or whatever. Second, the AI, this Tyche said that, if she was operational, she would handle most city systems while you concentrated on the main ones, taking the load off as it were."
"You think my brain was under stress trying to control the city without AI support, thus causing this migraine? I was only in it for ten seconds."
"Essentially, yes. Your brain activity shot up considerably for those ten seconds."
"But most of the city appeared shut down," Harry reminded him, "I wasn't controlling anything."
"True. But the chair might have been trying to open links to the inoperable systems, which would still put your mind under stress, maybe …" Radek trailed off, shrugging. "This is so far beyond our technology, we're basically speculating. Getting that AI online will answer a lot of questions I'm sure."
"Hmmm … Major, you want to test drive?" Harry pointed to it. "While we all know I have a funky connection to Ancient systems, perhaps it will still respond to the baseline level of ATA strength?"
"Or overload them," Beckett put in.
"True." Sheppard looked at the chair warily. "I'll pass for now, thanks, until we can power up the city properly. But at least we now have a line on some ZPMs."
"That are also ten thousand years and possibly drained as well," McKay pointed out.
"Always with the glass-half-empty negativity, aren't you Rodney?"
A week later …
August 21 2004, Known Distance (KD) Range, East Pier, City of Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus Galaxy
Teyla's final shot punched through the paper outline of a Wraith some wit had printed out to replace the regular 'Figure 11' targets, slightly low and left of the small white square taped on the centre of mass.
The previous week had been relatively normal, for Atlantis, anyway. They located the AI Core, but the naquadah generators weren't enough to power it. Further exploration of the 'basement' had revealed some more prosaic aspects of city technology; extensive hydroponic beds for growing crops under the west pier, for example.
In fact, although they'd checked over half the buildings on the upper side of the city by now, it was clear they'd barely even scratched the surface of the city as a whole. The 'base' of the city was an enormous labyrinth of infrastructure systems, power conduits, engineering access corridors and so on; it was going to take them years to even check it all, let alone study it.
Tyche's conversation programme had responded to Sheppard, who'd decided to take his chances with the chair, but he'd only managed a few sentences with it before falling unconscious, suffering from the mental 'pressure' of the chair interface far worse than Harry; he had, at least, confirmed Harry wasn't insane or delusional to the rest of them. He'd recovered quickly once out of it, with the same headache, and Beckett's scans showed they were both fine, with brain activity returned to normal and no sign of the 'O'Neill Curse.'
Harry waited for the rest of the Athosian shooters - they'd picked up several more volunteers in the last few weeks - to finish their magazines. Today he was teaching longer range combat marksmanship, from one, two and three hundred meters. Due to the stiff breeze that had been blowing from the South today, that had included compensating for wind at different ranges - no change in aim at 100m, offset half a target at 200m in a light breeze, a full target in a strong one, etcetera. At the moment, the breeze had 'conveniently' died down, so the group could fire measured groupings from 300 meters as a final test - there wasn't much point measuring groupings when the breeze was forcing them to aim several meters off-centre, after all.
They were doing pretty well at the three hundred mark, Harry judged. They were certainly well motivated; even the gentle giant Halling had an intense hatred of the Wraith, but they listened very carefully and put a lot of effort in; it helped that they were all already in decent physical condition from farming and hunting.
When they went forward to the targets - and damn if he wasn't missing the electronic range systems from back home - Harry went down the line measuring the groupings and suggesting areas of improvement for their shooting technique. When he reached Teyla he got … 46 mil. Her previous scores had been 57 and 51 at two and one hundred meters respectively. Considering a minimum 'pass' in British regs for 300 meters was one hundred fifty, and one hundred for infantrymen, that was both well above average and clearly not a fluke.
"Nice. Consistent. Although …" Harry pointed at the grouping, "see how they're all low and left? Since we zeroed properly at the beginning, and there's no breeze, the most likely cause of that is that you're anticipating the recoil, pushing into the weapon with your shoulder as you pull the trigger. You're not used to the 5.56 calibre M4s yet, so that's normal." There wasn't much point shooting P-90s outdoors at anything over 200 meters, so they were using the bigger assault rifles for this.
"How do I correct that?" Teyla frowned.
"Familiarity with the weapons, mostly." Harry shrugged. "That's why the Marines keep practicing. Regardless, it's a minor issue really. The grouping's good, well above even the Marine's average, actually."
"So you'll teach me to snipe?"
Harry laughed at her enthusiasm. "To be a sniper, sure. You certainly seem to have the talent for it."
Teyla's broad smile was truly infectious, Harry realized as he returned it. And, he realized, had more of an effect on him than he'd thought. Which might not necessarily be a good thing.
The next evening, Teyla was on fire. Not literally, of course.
Their usual sparring sessions alternated each day between training with Weir and Sheppard, normally sometime in the mid-afternoon, and just the two of them, usually before breakfast but sometimes, like today, at other times if either had duties in the way.
Normally, their 'private' matches were actually about three bouts. Harry had, thus far, won every single one by virtue of knowing more dirty tricks, but had always explained whatever little manoeuvre he'd pulled off, and Teyla usually turned them back on him very quickly.
This time, he hadn't won yet - and they'd been going for the equivalent of two and a bit rounds without a conclusive winner.
It didn't help that the room was awash in golden light filtering through the large stained glass windows. Harry was very good at suppressing his reactions to most things, but dammit, he still had a pulse. Teyla was beautiful by any measure at any time, but when they sparred, which she always did with unbound auburn hair flying and a frankly bloody sexy traditional Athosian outfit, she was magnificent. Illuminated by the glowing light of the sunset … he had no words for her.
Definitely very distracting.
That was no excuse, however, for when he found himself face planted into the mat with Teyla's knee digging into his back and a rattan across the back of his neck.
Harry chuckled at Teyla's exuberant exclamation even as she relaxed her hold and rolled off to lie beside him. She had quite the competitive streak even if she didn't act like it.
"Yeah." Harry propped himself on his elbows and looked at her.
Teyla caught the look. "I haven't forgotten, just so you know," she teased, before becoming more serious. "But only if you want to."
"No, I promised." Harry pushed himself up and moved a few meters slide down against the wall. Teyla sat next to him. "I don't mind. Its ties into a longer story I was going to have to tell you at some point anyway, one I was reminded of today. It's ... not a good one."
He took a deep breath. "Afghanistan, last year. Less than a year ago. I got the phoenix tattoo done a few years ago, but added the text late last year. It's in Latin, so it's similar to Athosian actually. Odd coincidence, that."
"Indeed." Teyla squeezed his hand, still holding one of the sticks. "Harry, you don't have to -"
"Yes. I should." Harry interrupted quietly, turning his hand over to hold hers. "God knows I've kept it in long enough. And I trust you, Teyla. More than anyone else I could talk to right now. Or ever."
Teyla just nodded, resting a hand on his shoulder to support him, then waiting for him to start at his own pace and kept her thoughts to herself until he was done.
"I went to school with a girl named Henrietta Kirkland. Hetty for short. She was there for me during a … a rough patch of my life, shall we say, when I first moved to that school. I was depressed, generally broody and not at all fun to be around, and she cut through all the self-pitying crap I was drowning myself in, mostly by being relentlessly cheerful, friendly … and a shameless flirt, which shocked me out of my funk when I was still a very ... innocent fifteen year old, let's say.
"She was my best friend for what I now think of as the best two years of my childhood. She taught me how to meditate, and her father taught me Eskrima. She got under my skin, then into my heart, although I'm not entirely sure when. We were close, almost inseparable by the end of school, and she was, as I said, very open about just about everything. We didn't bother with labels - girlfriend, boyfriend, friends-with-benefits, whatever. We just were. We ... clicked. We both always knew what to say or do to help the other out in anything."
Friends are the family you choose. The only type of family Harry has. And me.
"She joined the Army, the Royal Artillery, while I went into the RAF but we stayed in contact, even though I was training bloody hard to get through Special Forces selection I always took time out to write or call her back. We didn't get much time together by that point, and the military is hell on relationships, so we came to an amicable agreement at some point. Late 2001, I think, just after 9/11, right before the War on Terror kicked off."
"Agreement?" Teyla prompted after he fell silent for a few seconds. She knew about 9/11 and the War; Harry had mentioned it more than once, and explained the background to her weeks before.
"Yeah. We agreed that if we had leave time at the same time, we spent it together, and if neither of us had found someone they liked even more - which we both thought was unlikely - by the time we were thirty, we'd get more serious about our relationship."
Very pragmatic. An Athosian could understand that kind of decision. With the Wraith culling their population every few decades, the tribes weren't picky about who bonded to who, just that any children were well cared for.
"I spent most of my time fighting in Afghanistan and other places, and Hetty was back in the UK but eventually her unit got deployed to Afghan late last year. She was in Helmand Province, the British zone of responsibility, the enemy's heartland, and I was hopping around all over the place, sometimes Helmand, sometimes other provinces, chasing Taliban leaders and other targets. She was artillery, not a combat soldier but support. The artillery and logistics guys get a lot of stick because everyone thinks they're safe behind the lines - they aren't, there are no 'lines' in Afghanistan, not really. Hetty was reasonably safe, as such things go, spending most of her time in the firebases but she had plenty of patrolling duties too like every other soldier out there."
"October 27th. I got a message saying a soldier was missing, believed captured, and that I should keep my eyes open because intel suggested she would be moved through my area. They weren't giving out the name at that point, not until they'd confirmed she was captured and where she was, just that the soldier was female, an officer and had auburn hair."
I have a very bad feeling about this. "It … was Henrietta, wasn't it?"
Harry swallowed thickly. "Yeah. Grabbed her in a convoy ambush. But the worst part was that she wasn't the actual target - I was. Some bastard in the American HQ in Kandahar betrayed me, called Colonel Sahar. He was already compromised long before then, supplying them with info for months by that point, and purely through luck he noticed I was friendly with Hetty when saw us off-duty together on the base. He already knew I was someone the Taliban wanted dead; I'd put such a dent in their operations they had a nickname for me. He had high enough clearance to know that person was me, even if he didn't know my name, but he could also get my general location when I was in the field because he was a senior watch commander in the Joint Special Forces Operations Room. God knows how he got through security screening, but he did."
Given how thorough they are about security here in Atlantis, I'm surprised he did.
"Sahar passed all that to an ambitious mid-level local Taliban commander called Saleem Ulman. Ulman wanted to make a splash, make his name, so he targeted Hetty then had his mole feed tips to Coalition HQ that she was in my general area. When I eventually got confirmation it was her, I lost my focus. Badly. I was a mess, couldn't stop thinking about her, and when I moved in to recce a possible target I got jumped. Some guy slammed a rifle butt into my head, and the next thing I knew I was tied up in a cave a hundred miles away with Ulman kicking me, laughing. He was going to execute me, as a propaganda coup, but first he wanted any intel he could get out of me before an ISAF special forces team crashed his party."
Harry traced the scar that ran over his right eye. "I already had the lightning bolt shaped one at the top; had that one since I was a kid. Ulman pulled a knife and started from the bottom of it. Said something like 'that's an interesting scar, shall we make it bigger?' or some such other immature bullshit. It hurt like hell, but I'd already been shot twice back in 2002 so I'd had worse. I thought he was going to cut my eye out, but he said he was 'saving that for later.'
"Anyway," Harry's grip on her hand was painfully hard now. "Long story short. He dragged Hetty in and threatened her. I refused to tell him anything, and he beat on her in front of me, had ... had one of his men rape her, right there in front of me. I still wouldn't talk. One of his goons shot her in the thigh, cut her up with a knife. I still wasn't breaking, not to that bastard; and Hetty would have killed me herself if I'd given up something that would have gotten other soldiers hurt. Then, fortunately, he got a call, and left abruptly, telling his men to kill us both, film it and email it to him. He's still in the wind, hadn't even been seen again by the time we left Earth."
If we ever go back there to find him, I'll help you kill him.
"Fortunately again, his men were idiots. They left me alone when they went to get the camera, and I got free, slipped the zipties off my wrists. There was a knife on a table in there, so I picked it up and went hunting.
"There were only four of them, so it didn't take long. I found my gear and swords, stashed in the cave like fucking trophies or something. Grabbed a medpack, did what I could to stop Hetty's bleeding then my own, then carried her out of there.
"Outside the cave, I got radio contact with Kandahar. The bastard who betrayed me was the on-duty officer, and he vetoed the rescue mission. A certain Major John Sheppard was flying it, in case you're interested."
"Small universe, as I've heard him say." Teyla said with a small, sad smile.
"So it is. Anyway, that traitor couldn't call off fire support for me, not right then anyway, without looking suspicious. Only an hour later though, an American gunship got shot down flying in to give me cover, and that gave some more senior commander enough reason to pull the gunships back too, said it was too hot. Guy was some bureaucrat REMF who had no place in the chain of command at all; he sure as hell didn't understand how much we were in the shit at that point. Sheppard's friend, a Captain Holland, was the pilot of that gunship; Sheppard disobeyed orders, flew in to get him and got shot down himself but survived.
"I made my way as quickly as I could to the crash site, made contact with Sheppard and we kept moving. The American commander still refused to extract us, and because I'd been on a mission in the American zone at the time, I didn't have radio contact with any British commanders who could help, they were all in Helmand, too far away.
"Shep and I made our way South-West all day towards the edge of the local Taliban tribes' area of influence. I gave up shouting at the American HQ down the radio, and we climbed a pretty goddam huge mountain to try to reach a British base, fighting our way through a few Taliban patrols as we went. I eventually got scratchy contact with 3 Rifles Battle-group through FOB Gibraltar, and they relayed to our Higher Command about our situation.
"British HQ in Bastion screamed for the Americans to get us out right fucking now, and that jackass I mentioned earlier continued to say no. Self-centered idiot was more concerned about what his resume would look like if he lost a few expensive helicopters instead of a few soldiers, and he was senior enough to get away with it for a few more hours until the British commander, who was a higher rank than him, phoned the ISAF Command in Kabul and had him arrested and put up for court martial, which was where I found out some of this stuff. I do hope he's enjoying his prison time for dereliction of duty because he thoroughly deserved it."
"We had to wait several hours for some helicopters to come get us, but eventually an RAF MERT bird got to us and picked us up. Hetty had passed out long before, but she was still alive. I was so goddam relieved we'd been rescued, I let my guard down. I thought it was done, that she'd be fine … she'd been drifting in and out all day, keeping my spirits up when she was lucid, cracking god-awful jokes."
Harry choked, head bowed, tears beginning to slide down his cheeks. Teyla had been trying to hold them in herself for a while; now she couldn't, but she stayed silent, let him finish.
"The MERT, that's a helicopter with a specialist medical team on board to treat serious casualties in flight. They're good, really good, and the hospital at Bastion's actually better than most at home. The MERT guys kept Hetty alive all the way home. As I said, I relaxed. Thought it was all over. Thought I'd saved her. I let my walls down."
He stopped again, for a long few seconds. Teyla was suddenly aware she'd put an arm around him without even noticing, holding him tight as Harry let it all out.
As his heart breaks all over again.
"Hetty died ... between the helicopter and the operating room. She just ... slipped away. Too much bloodloss, too much trauma. She'd been severely beaten before they even threatened her in front of me ... broken bones, internal bleeding."
"And the writing?" Teyla asked softly as her Warrior, the disciplined, iron-hard soldier she was now certain she'd started to fall for, broke down in the circle of her arms. He hasn't grieved; he doesn't know how, not for someone this close to him ... someone he truly loved. He just boxed it up and carried on with the mission, just like he always does. He didn't know how else to go on.
"Memoria bene acta vita aeterna." Harry whispered.
Teyla had a moment's difficulty with the syntax, but it was close enough.
The memory of a well-spent life is eternal.
Sorry to disappoint some readers who wanted Hetty to come to Atlantis - no joy. She was the love of his life, so to speak - companion, confidant, best friend, lover - and Harry's still reeling from her death as it was only nine months ago, story-time-wise. The story was intended to be both detailed enough to be horrifying and vague enough that you can fill in the gaps for yourselves.
In this chapter we start becoming more AU. No AI's were introduced in the show, obviously, and Tyche and her cohorts will have a significant support role to play when the Expedition finally get some ZPMs. Which might be a while, just like in the show … don't want to make it too easy, do I?
Tyche will get more development, frankly she'll hopefully end up as much a character as Major Lorne or one of the other secondaries. I'm firmly of the opinion that near-human A.I.s are almost always fantastic characters. Rommie, of Andromeda? EDI, from Mass Effect? Cortana, from Halo? All awesome, and Tyche will blend all three.
There's a reasonably subtle Mass Effect 2 shout out in the first sparring scene - meta-cookies to those who can spot it.
Just to be clear, I'm erring on the large side of the fan-estimated size of Atlantis. "Size of Manhattan" was what the writers said was their rule of thumb, and McKay says it's "Like searching every room in Manhattan," but that isn't especially helpful. I'm going with Atlantis as being a full 20km or so in diameter, which gives me room to play with the AU Ancient technology I want to bring in later. It's the Ancient equivalent of the Colossus of Rhodes or the Hanging Gardens; it's the freaking capital of the most advanced race in the known Stargate Universe (pun intended), I think it's going to be a bit more than 300m across as some folks have suggested. I mean come on, that's not even the length of a decent rifle range, let alone a city.
Credit for the rote-response conversation program idea goes to John Ringo's 'Troy Rising' series of military sci-fi novels, specifically 'The Hot Gate.'
I've got some other stories in the works fans of Per Ardua might be interested in. 'Khaveyrim' is a story of 'my' Flight Lieutenant Harry Potter and Officer Ziva David from NCIS'; it's basically a parallel universe story where Harry didn't go to Atlantis, doesn't know about the SG Programme (or it doesn't exist), and thus stays on Earth and is friends/comrades with Ziva. He's got the same 'backstory,' same early (pre-2004) career events.
Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum is a slow-burning Harry Potter-Stargate SG-1 story with a HP/Sam Carter core. It's a broader-scope sort of story to Per Ardua, the whole galaxy's at stake and Harry, trained in science, strategy etc by Thor and the Asgard High Council, is handed some technology, carte blanche for independent action and tasked to get rid of the Goa'uld. Slow burning because I'm still researching everything I can get on the SG-1 Universe's bad guys, the Goa'uld, their underlings, their planets, technologies, etc to make it as detailed and as satisfying for myself and other fans as I can.
Also in the works - planned, but not yet written - are a series of one-shots that will cover Harry's career events from a first-person, present-tense viewpoint. By career events I mean things like Op Barras that was mentioned, the fictional Yemen nuclear incident that was alluded to, Hetty's death, that kind of thing.
FISH and CHIPS are indeed the British Army's slang for urban ops, officially called OBUA (Operations in Built Up Areas) and FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas); OBUA being more strategic (macro-management of the battlespace as a whole), and FIBUA being individual/squad/platoon level tactics. American terms are, respectively, UO (Urban Operations) andCQB (Close Quarter Battle); both terms are used by the British Army as well, but in different contexts.
LIDAR - laser radar, detecting something by bouncing laser light off it and measuring the return.
Citywide/General AI - Tyche - Pronounced Tie-ki, I believe, meaning 'Luck'. A Greek tutelary deity (like a protecting spirit or guardian angel) that governed the fortune, prosperity of a city - and its destiny. Later identified as fickle and untrustworthy, but we'll ignore that bit.
Medical AI - Panacea - Pan-ah-see-a. Greek goddess of Universal remedy, daughter of Asclepius the god of healing; you can probably guess which bit of ancient equipment in the city she's in control of.
Transliterated Arabic dictionary
Pronunciation varies between national/regional dialects; capital letters for pronunciation stress/emphasis as I think it is; advice welcome.
shokran – Thank you (SHO-kran)
afwan – You're welcome (AF-wan)
ma'salaama – goodbye (mah-sal-AA-ma)
ela al'lekaa – I'll see you soon (eh-la al-LEH-ka)
maasa el'khair – good morning (mAA-sa el-Kair)
al'zeyma – leader, (feminine) (al-ZEY-ma)
aasifa – apology, (feminine) (ah-HASi-fa)
sadiiqi – friend, (feminine) (sa-DEE-kee)
sahiibi – friend, (masculine) (sah-HEE-bee)
muharib – warrior, (masculine) (mu-HAR-ib)