Fandom: Stargate: Atlantis
Pairing(s): None stated, but implied polyamory.
Summary: Leave no man behind was forgotten by the IOA.
Tags: s2e05 "Condemned" AU.
The first ZPM slid into place effortlessly and both Rodney and John let out a sigh of relief: there, at the back of their minds, Atlantis was whispering to them both, welcoming them back... welcoming them home.
“I didn't realize how much I missed it,” John whispered, but Rodney didn't reply.
Instead, he set the second ZPM into place, their hardest won, and finally relaxed as the hum of the city filled him. Only then did he comment, “I missed this,” with his hand over the lit control panel, HUD flickering in his eyes.
(They'd come back to a dark Atlantis, quiet and still and empty, and where they once would have run the corridors looking for hope, they knew better: to hope was to be weak and to be weak meant death. That was a lesson they'd learned that well over the intervening years; they'd lost too many to the bane that was hope.
But survival was an instinct not easy killed and John glanced behind him at the others. Then, with his eyes turned to Rodney, he said, “Time to wake her up.”)
The damage the city had sustained over the years wasn't tremendous, but it certainly was not nothing. Abandoned on the surface this time, she'd been exposed to the elements and to passing attacks by others; the lack of power, food, and the gene seemed to have saved her from invasion. Still, it was going to be back-breaking work.
But neither asked about where they should start—they'd get to the repairs soon enough—rather, they each asked Atlantis the same question: When did they leave? When did they decide to leave us behind?
The answer burned.
Elizabeth fought to bring them home and when the officers at the penal colony refused to listen, she went to fight face to face.
“That,” Chuck tells me, “was the beginning of the end. Dr. Weir was the reason we'd even gotten the expedition permitted in the first place.”
I start to say, “There are some who say that if the expedition team had permitted the replacement...” but Radek cuts me off. “They sent Richard Woolsey who was scared of his own shadow and was nearly eaten by Wraith three times. Had they sent someone—Samantha Carter (Former member of SG-1 and current head of the Stargate Program) or Daniel Jackson (Former member of SG-1 and current head of Area 51's research division)—who had experience, it might have helped.”
“But if you'd all held out longer, you might have been able to retain control of the city.”
“There was no control left. It was a battle ground between us and them,” Laura answers, “and once the SGC recalled [Lt. Col. Evan] Lorne, the little bit of peace he'd managed to cultivate went to hell.”
Radek, hands tight around the coffee mug as if he is using it to keep himself calm, adds, “And rather than try to fix the situation, the SGC gave up.”
All three look away, then Chuck whispers, “On everyone.”
—Excerpt from “On the Anniversary of the Recall, Atlantis Members Remember.”
New York Times, 14 April 2017
The statue was in her office, stowed in a cubby on a shelving unit that someone had installed after her capture. She couldn't help the laugh that rose from her when she saw it, remembering a conversation she'd had with Richard and Henry long ago.
She picked it up after she'd faded from laughter to smiling, and ran her thumb over the base.
“That thing's still here?”
Before, she might have startled at the sudden intrusion, but she knew the noise of Ronon's footsteps and had heard him as he'd approached; Elizabeth told him, “Apparently,” as she set it down on the desk.
Her desk. Again.
“I...” she started, trailing off, but Ronon clearly understood what was written across her face and he told her, “Me too.”
“I keep expecting Chuck to walk in.” She shook her head, a mixture of sadness and fondness.
He admitted, “Wish he would,” and flopped down into an old, abused chair. With little stuffing, it couldn't have been comfortable, but then none of them were used to it anymore and Elizabeth refrained from saying anything. Instead, she settled into the other, slightly better chair, and looked around.
They'd been trudging toward Atlantis for so long, she'd almost set the city up in her mind as paradise: she'd become their storyteller, a bard, selling the stories of Atlantis and the Expedition for food, drink, shelter, or money, and she'd embellished them as the years went on.
(It'd made for some trouble now and then, when they came across a people who'd been an ally—that was how she and the others had come to hear about the withdrawal—but they were inevitably won over either by the stories of her little band's adventures or by John and Ronon and Rodney beating the hell out of each other while calling it sparring.)
In reality, though, for all the beauty she'd spoken of and all the grandeur, Atlantis was in quite a state with broken windows and damaged structures. The corridors she'd seen during a cursory walk with Teyla and the children down to the Mess were littered with debris; in Medical where she'd left Carson, beds were overturned and the little supplies left behind strewn about the supply room. Even up in Command with Ronon, there were papers and broken Wraith communicators in corners and caught under chairs.
“We'll fix her,” he said.
And Ronon leaned close, kissing her cheek.
“Ma'am, with all due respect, this is not a good idea. These people cannot be trusted.”
“I'm not thrilled either, Major, but this is our only option.”
“We could send in the Daedalus.”
“A last resort. If I can't get them to turn over the team peacefully.”
“We'll have 4 hour check ins.”
“Good luck, ma'am.”
The first night in the colony, Elizabeth didn't sleep.
COOPER: At what point did the SGC shut down the rescue mission?
LORNE: Actually, it was the IOA who made the determination. The SGC's unofficial policy is no one left behind, so they were pushing to have the Daedalus sent with a special ops retrieval team. But the order came down approximately four months after Elizabeth went to the colony. I was recalled to help with the appeal two weeks after that.
COOPER: What was their reasoning?
LORNE: We hadn't had direct communication with any member of AR-1 in almost nine months and we hadn't heard from the diplomatic team since they left. Their assumption was that everyone was dead, or, if there were some survivors, there was too high a risk to go in and retrieve them.
COOPER: You didn't agree.
LORNE: No, I didn't. This colony was run by humans. We later found out that they were in an alliance with the Wraith to give over prisoners to be fed on instead of the world being culled, but the colony itself was run and maintained by humans. It was completely reasonable to believe that if we went in under stealth, we could get our people out.
COOPER: Some people believe that your anger over the order and the failed appeals made it likely that you're the source of the leak.
LORNE: I wish I was. The source of the leak, that is.
COOPER: But you know who it was.
LORNE: I know who I've been told it was, but I've never confirmed it with the person. I do know that whomever it was did it for the rest of the Expedition, so we could have the chance to fight for our teammates. Unfortunately the IOA... elected to respond to the reveal of the program and problems taking place in the city by shutting down Atlantis.
COOPER: Leaving Dr. Weir, Dr. Beckett, and the AR-1 team behind.
LORNE: I know they're still alive.
—Transcript of Anderson Cooper 360° interview with Evan Lorne
Retrieved 20 July 2008
They slept in the mess that night. Some dozed like Rodney who was drunk on relief and John who was giddy, Teyla who was overwhelmed, and Elizabeth who felt pulled in seven different directions at once, and the rest actually went to bed without a fuss and stayed there until dawn.
For those not in the latter category, plans were made—
“First priority, we need to clear quarters.”
“Yes, yes, we've slept on pallets a long time, blah blah blah, but there are down mattresses here and I fully intend for the kids to know what those are.”
“Ah, hedonism, thy name is Rodney.”
“There are worse things to be in life.”
“Yep, and we've lived most of them.” John smirked, injecting some levity into the conversation. “We need to fix the flooding in the lower levels before we do anything else.”
Rodney sighed and conceded. “Right, the flooding. Then quarters.”
—that would determine how their days were spent for the next few weeks. A fair number of the repairs could be fielded by Atlantis herself now that she once again had enough power, like the broken windows and walls that could regrow and the clog in the water filtration system that would be resolved now that the scrubbers could be sent out.
The flooding, the system errors, the failure of the 'jumper bay doors to open, that was all on them. The kids, under Teyla's or Carson's watchful eyes, would be left to sort and dispose of the garbage in the Gateroom and safe corridors.
“The twins are just going to love being relegated to cleaning duty.”
Teyla cocked her head to the side and told John, “Avaline and Aramia understand that there are some places in Atlantis they are not yet allowed for their safety. They have volunteered to familiarize themselves with the kitchen and cook for us, and to watch the littlest ones.”
“That is wonderful of them, but I think it's still best if Jessa is watched by someone older,” Elizabeth said, “The girls are good, but she's a handful on a good day.”
Rodney snorted at the remark about his daughter and announced, “Carson gets Jessa.”
John decided this was a perfect moment to tease his partner, sounding indignant as he muttered, “Carson? What about me?”
“Please, you're going to be waist deep in standing seawater soon. How would you watch a two year old?”
“I'd wear her.”
“Because that won't end with her soaking wet and sick.”
“We've got wetgear now.”
From his pallet, Carson growled, “I'm watchin' her. Settled. No bloody arguments,” and threw an arm over the aforementioned girl. He was back to sleep in seconds.
“Fourteen years and he's yet to teach us how he does that.”
“Medical training,” Rodney replied. “There's a class for it in med school.”
“No, not really, you twit.”
“You know, if you're not careful, I might mistake the mocking for foreplay.”
Elizabeth peaked an eyebrow at them and they had the sense to look contrite; she gave them a minute before guiding them back to the their earlier conversation with a softly spoken, “We need to try to contact Earth.”
It took far longer than any of them liked to escape the colony and without a GDO, they would have been blots of light on the Atlantis 'gate shield.
So they did the only thing they could: they stole through the Stargate to a safe world and hoped that the people there would be able to get word to the expedition. But culling had left the village there barren, the next two as well, and they all realized it was going to be a long journey home.
From world to world, they went, picking up stragglers and old friends. It didn't take long before children were handed to them as payment or in the belief that the Atlanteans offered salvation for a select few. Nor was it long before Teyla, before Elizabeth, before Sora, was pregnant.
They'd found a 'jumper on a world John refused to ever speak of again. Inside of the rear hatch was a carefully written growth chart, marked in grease pencil and kohl; some of the names repeated—Avaline, Aramia, Peter, Torren, Lira, Gregory, Jessa—and some appeared a handful of times and then no more—Joshua, Rose, Phee, Kate, Ethan.
Ronon saw to it that each line and name was painstakingly drawn over whenever they began to fade, planet symbols written beside each of the lost.
Some were blood, most were found, all were fiercely loved, and time wasn't permitted to erase any of them.
(John flirted with Atlantis.
Even sopping wet, he flirted with her and stroked the walls; like a besotted boyfriend, he promised to do whatever she needed, which only made Rodney roll his eyes.
Like Atlantis had to be reassured of their devotion. They'd only crossed a galaxy to find her again and were now working themselves to the bone to fix all the problems she'd accrued in their absence.
But as much as it annoyed Rodney, he could feel the resistance Atlantis had built up from the minute Earth was mentioned begin to ebb. John, no doubt, was soothing her fears, reminding her that home was here, not there, and she wouldn't be left all over again.)
“Unscheduled off-world activation!”
(He whispered to her in Ancient.)
“It's... it's Atlantis, ma'am.”
(He promised her that this was the last time they'd ever make contact.)
“Security on alert. Open the iris.”
A note slid through.
The wormhole blinked out.
(And she listened.)