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[personal profile] so_jang
Title: Vermicular Confusion part VII
Previously: part I || part II || part III || part IV || part V || part VI
Author: me!
Rating: PG-13, blood and guts
Pairings:Sheppard/Weir, Crusher/Picard, Riker/Troi
Universes:Season 3 STTNG, Season 2 SGA
Notes: Okay, this ran off and decided to go epic. Oh well. I enjoy it.

“Keep your distance from the planet,” Picard ordered from his seat in the center of the battle bridge. The space was more spartan than the comfortable main bridge, but John almost felt more at ease in the smaller, darker space. At the helm, he felt more at home than he had since the crossover had dumped him in this universe.

“Atlantis isn’t defenseless, the city has a shield and the drones I mentioned,” McKay reiterated as he hovered behind the tactical station. “The number we have are extremely limited. Atlantis’ power levels are low, they’d have to run two generators just to launch a few drones. That puts a strain on their shield--”

Picard’s hand shot up to cut him off. “We understand Doctor McKay, thank you. Colonel, I trust you can get us a clear shot.”

“Aye sir,” John said. Throwing the Enterprise into a dive on Picard’s command, he felt like he had been handed one of the best toys in two galaxies and allowed to take it out for a spin. Brilliant orange phaser beams sliced into the Wraith’s shields. The Enterprise shook under fire from the hive ship, shuddering hard to the right, but their shields held and John rolled her smoothly out of the way. Diving into another evasive pattern, he watched on the viewscreen as the bright red lights Picard called ‘torpedoes’ slammed into the hive’s shields. As the explosions faded, he could see the dark scars of damage on skin of the hive ship.

The darts were a more significant problem. The Enterprise wasn’t prepared to fight ships that size. Their powerful phaser beams lashed out like fire hoses being used to swat mosquitoes. John danced his fingers over the controls and swung the Enterprise up, pointing the forward weapons into the underbelly of the Wraith hive.

Hives weren't designed to move and fight, which was the advantage Daedalus had when fighting them. The Enterprise shared that advantage, and even though torpedoes weren’t as good as drones, apparently they were good enough to make a dent. As far as John knew, torpedoes could be replicated as well, which made them a hell of a lot more expendable.

Watching the android’s hands move with ridiculous speed over the console to his right, John felt the Enterprise dance in space to avoid the weapons on the Wraith ship. Wondering how they could combat the darts without smaller, more nimble, fighter craft, John tried to keep them out of the way while keeping the hive in Worf’s sights. Jolting hard to the right, the Enterprise shuddered again.

“Shields at fifty percent,” Worf reported. “The forward shields on the hive ship are failing. The hive is moving, taking up position closer to the atmosphere. They appear to be preparing for planetary bombardment.”

Rodney had to raise his voice to be heard over the din of battle from one of the rear consoles, “Atlantis has no ZPM, they can’t take that kind of fire.”

“Colonel,” Picard’s crisp tone cut through the alarms. “Bring us between them and the city. Mister Worf, all power to the forward shields, prepare to bring us in firing.”

Turing the Enterprise on her side, John took advantage of her superior stabilizing controls, they were much more responsive than an X-304, and let her fall into the atmosphere like a knife. Pivoting around to put the stronger forward shields in the line of fire, he felt the controls start to slow as the atmospheric friction caught them like a race car slipping into the mud.

The stream coming from the hive was a death rain of yellow fire and John dragged the Enterprise through the atmosphere directly into it. The viewscreen temporarily whited out from the energy before the computer adjusted. Every part of the Enterprise shook from the bombardment, as if the entire ship was shivering, and John had to brace his feet against the base of the console just to stay in his seat.

Something whined behind him, he didn’t know what it was, but the keening sound only lasted for a moment until it exploded in a hail of white hot metal. John heard the blast and then the following thud as the heavy body of Lieutenant Worf flew over the tactical station. Unable to stand still, Rodney took over at the smoking tactical station. John couldn’t tell if the Klingon was alive, but he had faith, from personal experience, in Picard’s medical personnel.

“The hive ship’s main weapon bank is a weak spot,” Rodney shouted his suggestion over to the captain. “Targeting all your phasers and torpedoes there should overload their power systems. I know this panel, I can fire.”

Picard had left his seat to check Worf’s vitals. With his hand on the Klingon's neck, he made the order from the floor, “Do it.”

The incredible power of the Enterprise lashed out in a barrage of orange and red that turned the Wraith hive into a glowing ball of energy. Atmosphere from inside of the hive and energy leaked into space. Some of the air burned before it froze and John could see the tears in the hull bleed gas into space.

“Looks good Rodney,” John called as he readied another set of evasive maneuvers.

Data elaborated with robotic calm, “The shields on the hive ship have failed. Their primary weapons array has also been destroyed. The ship is beginning to suffer from a cascading power failure.”

John turned his head to flash her a grin as the Wraith ship finally went up in a ball of white fury. Shards of hull fragments and secondary explosions rent the sky of Lantea.

“Wraith fighters are running low over Atlantis,” Data continued, focusing on the readings on his console. “Their energy signatures are fluctuating.”

“They’re landing troops in the city,” Rodney explained to the captain. “They have transporters, primitive compared to yours, but they’re effective at short range.

“Prepare to drop shields and beam down our assault battalion,” Picard ordered as he started to dust himself off. “Doctor McKay, signal the transporter rooms-”

Wraith on Atlantis was enough to take the taste of victory away from everyone on the bridge.

“-The darts are turning toward the Enterprise,” Rodney interrupted reported from the tactical station in the back of the bridge. Panic was buried in his voice, John knew only he could hear it. “They’re increasing speed--”

“They go kamikaze,” John blurted out over the rest of Rodney’s thought. “Getting the hell out of the way.”

“At your discretion, Colonel,” Picard agreed belatedly.

John rolled the ship again and then dropped it towards the planet like a stone. Lantea’s gravity wrapped around the Enterprise and added speed to the impulse engines. Holding it until the last moment, John flipped the ship back up. Listening to the whine of the systems, he felt the maneuver finally outstrip the dampeners enough to let him feel his stomach sliding into his boots.

Wraith darts began to strike the Enterprise, pounding on her like cannon fire striking a ship of old. Each impact thrust them further into the atmosphere and his controls grew less and less responsive. John’s panel began to smoke underneath his hands, the glasslike membrane grew so hot it hurt to touch. If he could just pull them up, get them out of the way, the darts would stop hitting them. Smelling burnt flesh add to the acrid smoke filling the bridge, John kept trying. Alternating fingers was cutting down on some of the damage, but his hands were going to be shot.

When the helm exploded, only Data’s lightning reflexes kept him alive. The android's strong arms wrapped around his shoulders and tore him out of the way as the helm exploded in a hail of hot sparks and metal shards.

“Shields have failed. All Wraith darts have been destroyed.” Rodney reported and now John heard anger with mixed with his panic. “The starboard engine-nacelle,” he corrected himself. “The nacelle’s setting off some kind of alarm. Captain--”

Picard circled the bridge and read over Rodney’s hands. “We’re losing plasma containment in the nacelle,” he explained for Rodney. “Mister La Forge, report,” he called towards the comm system.

Geordi’s disembodied voice echoed from the ceiling. “I’m trying to shut it down,” he explained over the din. “One of those darts hit us right in the auxiliary manifold. I don’t think they knew, I think it’s just dumb luck but we’re loosing the nacelle.”

“The containment field?” Picard asked and John realized how much he admired the captain’s calm. The bridge was full of smoke, alarms were going off all over the ship, and Picard was steel.

John dragged himself to his feet and watched as Data flew the ship from the operations panel. Keeping himself from touching anything, he held his burned palms facing upward. John let himself take one look at the charred flesh, blackened patches on his skin surrounded by white flesh that was starting to blister in huge white bumps, and quickly looked away.

The engineer’s tone darkened further. “Containment’s holding at forty-two percent, but it’s shaky. We made need to detach the starboard nacelle.”

“Detach?” Rodney asked as he looked nervously at Picard. “I don’t suppose you just hit a button and--”

“Unfortunately not,” Picard replied quickly before he turned his speech back to La Forge. “Commander, can we take the time to beam down our ground forces?”

“I’ll initiate transport from here, sir,” La Forge said. “Captain, I’ll keep trying to come up with something down here, but if the containment drops below thirty-five, we’ll need to lose the nacelle or we’re all dead.”

“Understood,” Picard nodded and surveyed the mess that was his bridge.

The turbolift opened in the back of the bridge and a woman in blue, the Vulcan called Selar who had treated them before, emerged and bent over Worf. Her hands were quick and Worf was moving his head shortly. John stood by the destroyed panel, watching the last pieces of the Wraith ship fade into the blackness of space. He couldn’t even feel his hands. Without a word, Picard broke his momentary shock and gently dragged him over the Selar.

John had forgotten about the Trekverse’s medical technology. Instead of the bandages he’d expected for weeks, Selar began to run a blue light over his hands and the damage to his skin began to fade away. It didn’t even itch and John shook his head slowly in wonder. When his hands worked again, he turned to Picard.

“How long before we hear from the assault team?” John asked as he flexed his fingers gratefully.

Ronon was hunting Wraith and his blood pounded with the intensity of it. He’d been offered one of the phaser rifles, but preferred his own weapon. Teyla had accepted one, and had a bat’leth strapped to her back as they searched the dark corridors together. Atlantis had taken nearly as much damage as the Enterprise and the familiar corridors of home reeked of smoke and death. They’d already passed the corpses of two marines and Ronon could hear the howling of Klingons in te distance.

The Enterprise device in Teyla’s hand, something grey called a tricorder that required no gene to activate, flashed once. Teyla had turned off the sounds to allow them better cover, and she silently caught his eye. Moving her hands quickly and silently she signaled that three Wraith were clustered around a small group of humans in the mess hall.

Ronon nodded and replied with a flick of his hand that he would take point. He lifted his weapon, stared down the sight and flew down the corridor, Teyla jut behind him like a shadow of fury.

The mess hall was full of bodies on pallets on the floor. Elizabeth had obviously turned it into a triage facility. Carson and a woman, Ronon didn’t recognize her, had been treating the worst of the injured. Their guards, three marines, had already been slaughtered and lay in a heap near the doorway. The room stank of dust and decay, the only smell left by the Wraith. Carson was down, his rifle beneath the foot of one of the Wraith. That Wraith was starting to bend down over him.

The woman’s arms were pinned behind her and one of the Wraith was moving his hand towards her chest. The woman wore black clothing, standard to the rest of the humans in Atlantis. She had red hair and there was a silver badge from Enterprise on her chest. The Wraith’s long grey fingers were about to slam into her chest to the left of the badge when Ronon fired. He kept firing until the Wraith dropped to the floor, smoking and dead.

Teyla’s shot was more graceful and she took out the Wraith above Carson with a single, sustained shot to the head. The last Wraith knew his time had come, but he continued to hold onto the woman with the red hair. Ronon pulled the bat’leth, his time with the Klingons had given him a deep appreciation for the weapon, from his back and met the woman’s surprisingly brave eyes for a moment.

He grunted the only warning he could give her, “Down!”

The woman’s legs folded and she ducked her head as much as she could. The Wraith had to bend to catch up. Ronon’s bat’leth sliced through the air and sank into the throat of the Wraith with a satisfying sucking sound. Black blood was in the woman’s hair, Ronon had to reach down to help detach her from the Wraith, but she was all right. Her blue eyes were cold and terrified but none of her fear was betrayed in her body. He nodded to her, impressed with her courage.

Carson just beamed at them. “Thank you,” he murmured. “It is very good to see you both.”

Teyla’s small smile was grim. She used the tricorder device again and looked up with a nod. “I am not detecting any more Wraith in this area. Carson, you will be safe.”

Ronon nodded and swung the bat’leth back up. “Save lives,” he offered gruffly as he headed for the door. Teyla fell into step next to him and they moved as one down the corridor in search of more Wraith.

With the tricorder, the new weapons and the might of the Klingon battalion on their side, Ronon was free to enjoy the fight. Adrenaline pumped through his veins and was sweetened by triumph. With his disruptor and the incredibly sharp Klingon blade, he could blast and carve Wraith back into the void they’d came from.

The Wraith were making their way to the control room, so he and Teyla moved that way. They collected others, first two Klingons roaring with the joy of battle, then marines. Scientists trickled in, finding safety in the pack like wolves. Finally, as a mass of bodies, they arrived in the ‘gate room.

Elizabeth, Chuck and the others were pinned down around the control panels. One of the Wraith had used an explosive device and the columns near control were warped, part of the metallic railings scorched and bent. The computer consoles appeared dark and unresponsive. More explosives had stained the floor and walls; one of the stained glass windows in the back of the stairs had even shattered. Multi-colored shards of glass covered the stairs and added splashes of light to the dark debris.

Wraith ringed the control area but they were no longer throwing explosives. They were too close to their prey to risk damaging them. Ronon knew they preferred to take humans with as much life in them as possible. Today, he would stop them. The black blood running down the metal of his sword reminded him how much he would enjoy standing over the corpses of these Wraith.

One of the Klingons, Vehyrek, a tall female with a mass of dark hair that rivaled his dreadlocks, nodded to him. He would lead the charge. It reminded him of home and the awesome power of the Satedan commandos he had once led. Before they’d been betrayed, they had honor and they had been proud to fight Wraith. Ronon would take that back. He would make the Wraith rue the day they exterminated his people, even if he had to hunt the beasts one at a time for eternity.

The Wraith seeped in through the corridors like filthy vermin to be exterminated. There were five that he could see, all advancing on the humans in the control alcove. Ronon waited, knowing they had not yet been spotted by the enemy. One of the Wraith broke formation and started up the grand staircase. This was the moment to strike.

Ronon threw back his head, howled the Satedan promise of death, and charged. The sharp, continuous rapport of gunfire was soon drowned out in the rapid pulse of disruptor fire. Steel met with slimy grey flesh and the Wraith who resisted the energy weapons were hacked to death with gusto, cheers and cries of death.

Covered with blood, soot and the sweat of the hunt, Ronon bounded up the steps to the circle of computers and stooped to raise Doctor Weir from the ground. There was blood on her shoulder, and a more running red from a cut on her face. The explosion had injured her, but her eyes were bright with relief.

“Ronon, Teyla” she cried and looked past him to Teyla. The Athosian was also damp with blood, some of it red and Klingon, but most black. She smiled and ran up to them.

Teyla closed the distance to Elizabeth and enveloped the other woman in an embrace. Pulling Elizabeth’s forehead down to hers, she touched the other woman's reverently. “John and Rodney are safe,” she promised. “They are still aboard the Enterprise. They will arrive soon.”

Elizabeth’s expression moved between shock, gratitude and wonder. Nodding at Teyla’s good news, she seemed to only now notice what must have looked like demons standing with her people. The Klingons were full of the fire of battle. They were clustering around their dead, holding open the eyes of two of the most seriously injured and howling as they watched them die. When their ritual was completed, some of them began to sing with the joy of victory. Most of the marines looked startled, but some were smiling.

Ronon’s eyes fell on Vehyrek and he longed to stand with her. In the short time he’d known her, he’d found fire again in his heart, instead of only the cool certainty of revenge. He was still not leaving this galaxy until every Wraith was dead, that much was sacred to him, but not he knew what he would do when he was done. He would sing songs and drink bloodwine in the halls of the Klingons. They would raise the armor of dead Wraith as trophies, he would see his dead Satedan friends and family honored and he would be with Vehyrek.

“They are friends,” Teyla explained as she led Elizabeth over to Vehyrek, Ronon and the battalion commander, a tall, grizzled Klingon called Geruth. “They are Klingons, allies of the Enterprise, allies of Ronon and allies of Atlantis. They have traveled far to win honor by slaughtering the Wraith.”

Hearing Teyla’s words set up another round of song, and she smiled at Elizabeth. “Their ways will be foreign to you, but they are good fighters, and good friends.”

“I am Geruth, son of TimtKah,” the leader announced. “I have come to join Atlantis and win glory for the empire.”

Watching Elizabeth and wondering how she would respond, Ronon felt Vehyrek’s strong arm wrap around his shoulders and her nails dig into his skin like dagger points. She growled low in her throat and Ronon realized she shared the fire in his blood.

“I am Elizabeth Weir,” Doctor Weir replied as she copied the two fisted salute and bowed. “Daughter of Marianne and leader of Atlantis. Welcome to our city. Your presence honors us.”

Teyla seemed pleased that Elizabeth had caught the meaning in her words and mimicked the Klingon salute.

Ronon felt Vehyrek pull him towards the crowd breaking into song and holstered his weapon. There was a time when he would have gone to the far reaches of the city and ran until his legs would no longer move. Now he could drink, sing and burn off the fire of his blood with Vehyrek. He could already feel the points of her teeth against his neck. Grabbed her waist through her leather armor, he returned her growl.

Nodding to Elizabeth, he excused himself. “It is good to be home,” he offered simply before he headed down the stairs to join in song. He had a Satedan war chant he needed to teach his new friends.

The warp core, the blue beating heart of his ship, was stalled and comatose. Feeling almost as if he was watching his own heart lay still on the table before, Jean-Luc Picard couldn’t bear to think of the Enterprise being dark permanently. They’d saved their people and those on Atlantis, but the Enterprise seemed like too high of a cost.

“Mister La Forge, tell me you’re going to be able to bring her back?” he asked as he watched his chief engineer fold his arms across his filthy uniform. He imagined his own appeared was marginally better. With the warp core off-line, turbolifts were down to save energy and the trip from the battle bridge to main engineering had taken him through an endless series of dirty Jefferies tubes.

“Captain,” Geordi’s report began with a sigh as he wiped dirt and sweat from his forehead. “This is going to take a while. Starboard nacelle is shot, we’re going to have to rebuild that half of the drive manifold from scratch, shields, sensors, communications--” he stopped halfway through his list. “We’re running sickbay, transporters and life support of the fusion reactors. I suggest we evacuate almost everyone to Atlantis, if they’ll have us. Replicators, sonic showers, all the good stuff’s going to be pretty far down the list of what we repair.”

“I have every confidence in your abilities to work with what you have available, Mister La Forge,” Jean-Luc assured. What Geordi was facing would require nothing less than a miracle of engineering skill, especially with no spacedock to count on for spare parts and labor.

“We’ll keep at it,” Geordi promised as he surveyed the room again. “You beaming down, sir?

Wiping dirty hands on his uniform, Jean-luc nodded. “Colonel Sheppard would like me to meet the leader of the city,” he explained. “Carry on here. Keep me upraised and Geordi? Good work back there.”

“Thank you, sir,” Geordi replied. His smile was tired, though genuine. “She won’t let us down.”

The soft chime of the computers went ignored. Doctor Zelenka was scrambling to repair the computers in the control room and parts for the large computer consoles had to be dragged up from the depths of the western pier. Even with the Klingons assisting, it was slow going. The computers chimed a third time and Elizabeth Weir had time to spend a few seconds wondering what it exactly the sound was. She was hoping desperately it wasn’t an alarm she hadn't heard yet when the ‘gate room filled with another sound she’d never heard before.

A shower of blue lights glimmered in the center of the room, like glitter caught in a gentle storm. The sound was almost musical and deepened in pitch as the glitter started to become the shapes of bodies. All the motion of the repair teams ceased as her people stared in awe. The glitter began to fade and the bodies started to have color.

The sound resonated through the room as it faded away. The group was led by a bald man in a red and black uniform. A semicircle of people clad in gold and blue versions of his uniform stood behind him, but Elizabeth’s eyes couldn’t leave the familiar men at his sides.

Grinning sheepishly in the center of the ‘gate room, John’s eyes ran around it before they found her office and remained. Even ten meters away, she could see the concern on his face. One of the large glass panels of her office had been damaged in the attack, and Elizabeth’s feet crunched shards of glass as she ran across the catwalk. Running all the way to the stairs, she stopped at the head of them.

John looked just as he had when he’d left. The Enterprise crew had kept him in his black BDUs and he could have been gone for an hour, instead of the days he’d been missing. He nodded to her as she halted on the stairs and held up a hand. “Elizabeth,” he began easily. “I want you to meet some friends.”

Grabbing him and hugging him as if she’d never let him go was inappropriate, but a part of her didn’t care. She’d nearly had to declare him dead, again and her heart still stung from that. John stiffened when her arms locked around his shoulders. Like a kid being hugged by his mother in front of his new best friends, John accepted it but seemed almost relieved when she let go.

Beaming at him. Elizabeth realized she didn’t care he was uncomfortable. Jogging down the last few steps, she hugged Rodney as well.

The scientist took the time to hug her back before he started to lament the state of things. “Some kind of grenades?” he asked sadly. “You didn’t use grenades in command, did you?”

“Of course not, Rodney. The Wraith did all the damage here,” Elizabeth clarified mechanically. The man in the red uniform was watching her with quiet dignity and she realized how rude she was being. Brushing her hand across the dirty black fabric of her trousers did little to clean it, but the gesture was important to her.

“My hand isn’t that clean either,” he acknowledged as he extended it towards her. When she really looked at him, Elizabeth saw the smudges of smoke on his face and the dirt on his uniform. His handshake was firm and warm; combined with the gentle calm in his eyes, he put her at ease.

“Doctor Weir, I presume,” he offered. His voice was deep and dry but he carried himself with the kind of decorum that befit a head of state. Elizabeth felt herself straighten up and fall back into her familiar diplomatic training. “I’m Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise.”

“Doctor Elizabeth Weir,” she replied and wondered if she should mention the IOA or Earth. He had to know Earth, he was human after all, though human from another universe. Another place in time, where they’d built great ships and transporter technically as advanced as the Asgard. It was disturbingly akin to looking into her own future.

“I hear I have you to thank for taking care of my people,” Picard continued and his grey eyes lit with a trace of a smile. “I appreciate your generosity.”

Elizabeth smiled wryly at him and released his hand. Crossing her arms over her chest, she watched the way his people kept their eyes on him. “You came across universes to save my city and you’re trying to thank me?” she asked.

“Seemed only polite,” he replied as he glanced around the city. “It would be a loss to this universe if somewhere as beautiful as this had been destroyed. These are my engineers and my medical staff, perhaps they can be of assistance?”

Rodney tossed a broken piece of metal to the floor and shook his head. “I’m going to kill Radek,” he announced as he looked around the room. “I’m gone for six days and just look at this place.”

“Your Doctor Crusher has already been working with my medical staff,” Elizabeth informed the captain as she shook her head at Rodney. “One of the marines can take your medical staff to our infirmary. I’m sure Doctor McKay would be more than happy to direct your engineers.” She watched as Picard dispatched his people with a nod. It appeared that military hierarchy came with the uniform.

Looking around the mess of the ‘gate room she sighed heavily. “It usually looks a lot better than this, but considering the circumstances, would you like to see the city?”

“Please lead the way, doctor,” Picard agreed genially. “I hope my crew has been helpful to you.”

“Deanna has an ability to interface with our city that is invaluable,” Elizabeth explained as she started down the hallway towards the chair room. “Your doctor refused not to be allowed to help.”

Picard’s smile was amused and Elizabeth remembered the conversations she’d had with the doctor. Beverly cared deeply enough for someone that she’d understood how Elizabeth felt for John. Trying to picture the two of them, Beverly and this elegant captain, was entirely inappropriate but it drained the tension from her mind. She was only human and it was almost odd that so were her rescuers. In some universe far away, humans had the technology to roam a very different galaxy.

“Doctor McKay tells me this city is fifty thousand years old?” Picard asked as they walked through one of the undamaged corridors. His eyes took everything in and Elizabeth wondered how long he’d been an explorer.

“We don’t know for certain when it was constructed but we know it was abandoned ten thousand years ago,” Elizabeth answered. Trying to decide where to start, she drummed her fingers on her arm. “In our universe, the Ancients seeded human life. They were much like us in appearance and abilities at first but they ascended, became a higher form of life, and left the galaxy for humans. We’re a second evolution, a repeat of the human form.”

Picard’s grey eyes were wide with astonishment but he absorbed the information well. “From what I understand,” he replied. “We’re not even in the Milky Way, these Ancients made a home in Pegasus as well.”

Nodding as she waved open a door and led him deeper into the city, Elizabeth continued. “The Milky Way and Pegasus galaxies are filled with human life. In the Milky Way, a race of parasitic life forms called the Goa’uld rose to power by taking human hosts and enslaving billions. Here in Pegasus, the Wraith evolved and treat humans like cattle.”

Picard’s expression stiffened. “I’ve seen what the Wraith can do,” he said. “Colonel Sheppard’s demonstration was graphic but rather effective.”

“Your galaxy is not like mine, is it?”

The man smiled gently and Elizabeth felt the granite composure with which he conducted himself shift slightly. “We’ve explored much but not all of our galaxy. Two hundred years ago, humans began to encounter other races. In many ways we were lucky and made allies. The Vulcans, the Andorians, the Tellar and humans founded an organization called the United Federation of Planets. We’ve fought wars, one even against the Klingons, but now we are allies. In many ways the Federation is a dream that spread through the stars and became a reality.”

“A galactic United Nations?” she asked with an awed smile.

It took Picard a moment to find the reference in his memory but he inclined his head and returned her smile. “Similar,” he said. “In my universe, humans are just a small part of a spectrum of varied species and customs that seem to be as numerous as the stars we study. Starfleet,” he indicated the insignia on his chest. “Is the exploratory and military branch of the Federation and our mission is to explore the unknown. Much like yours.”

He ran his eyes over the city with the same respect and wonder she’d had when she’d first stepped aboard. “This city is unique,” he mused. “I am almost glad we’ll have enough time to study it. Few things of this age and beauty are so intact.”

They rounded a corner and passed another long line of windows out over the ocean. “I haven’t asked about your ship,” Elizabeth said. “If there’s assistance we can provide, the city is at your disposal.”

Picard’s hand tugged at his collar and Elizabeth realized he was rarely in the position of asking for assistance. “The Enterprise will require weeks to repair,” he replied with a sigh. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to impose ourselves on your city. Teyla assured me that we were welcome with her people if your leaders did not find it appropriate.”

“There are certain advantages to having one’s leaders be an entire galaxy away,” Elizabeth joked. The IOA was going to go into crisis mode for a few days before they became greedy. The Enterprise and her crew represented humans with incredible power and simply finding a way to negotiate was going to be a challenge. “I’ll have the quartermaster work out room assignments.”

“Have him coordinate with Commander Riker,” Picard said. “Hopefully it will only be a temporary situation.”

“We’re a nice place to visit,” Elizabeth teased as they rounded the last corner towards the chair room. “But you’re not ready to build a vacation home?”

Picard graciously let her open the door for him and nodded. “Well said, doctor.”

“It’s called a television show,” Will explained as he waited in line for popcorn with Deanna. His hand was warm on her shoulder and his presence in her mind had the same pleasure in it. “Think of it as an early form of a holonovel. It was wildly popular in the twenty and twenty-first centuries on Earth. Some shows developed groups of followers that congregated on the global information system of this time period called the internet.”

Lieutenant Barclay nodded enthusiastically as he hovered behind Deanna. She’d been pleased to see he’d volunteered. A mission to nowhere was an adventure and though no one expected Reg to be the adventurous type, he was remarkably sanguine with this kind of being stranded. “They had campaigns, rallies, things called conventions,” he added as the line shuffled forward. “They were very dedicated to their fictional characters and the universes they resided in.”

“And we’re in this show, this ‘Star Trek’?” Deanna asked. Her arms were wrapped tightly around Will’s arm and he leaned down to kiss her forehead.

“Yes!” Will answered gleefully. His eyes twinkled as he pretended to leer at Deanna. His intention was simply to be funny, but beneath she felt the heat of his attraction. It tingled like a hand running up her spine. “You’re apparently known for your chocolate addiction and a certain blue dress. The captain is played by a very famous Shakespearean actor and an actor actually got painted white every week to play Data.”

Deanna tilted her head in confusion as she accepted a plastic bowl of popcorn from of the Lantean servers. “Somehow our universes are connected?” The interconnectedness of the universe as a whole was something she believed without putting real energy into the thought.

“Each of us has a fictional parody of the other,” Will elaborated, taking mugs of hot chocolate and leading them towards seats in the long rows of chairs. “There’s apparently a popular series of holonovels concerning the adventures of characters from ‘Wormhole Xtreme’.”

“It’s not unlike this city,” Barclay added quickly, tripping over his words as he continued. “At least, the second part, the first part is all about Earth and a team that explores other planets. The sequel, or spin-off, Pegasus Xtreme, is about a floating city in the Pegasus galaxy-but-uh-the uniforms are a little different.”

Deanna furrowed her eyebrows towards both men. “Different like my blue dress?”

Will grinned and offered her a chair. “We’ll see,” he said. “Looks like we’re going to be here long enough to watch both. Sheppard suggested we start with something called ‘TNG’, so we’d be familiar with the setting.”

“I have been studying the phenomenon of Star Trek as extensively I could, given the limited resources available. According to the members of Atlantis I have spoken to on the subject, Deep Space Nine is regarded critically as a superior program,” Data piped up from Barclay’s left. “It is apparently set three years from our present in the Bajoran star system.”

“Bajor?” Will asked as he stole a handful of popcorn. Deanna elbowed him and he offered to feed her in response.

“I wouldn’t watch it,” Deanna suggested as she snuggled closer to Will’s shoulder. “Even androids shouldn’t know their future.”

“I have contemplated that scenario,” Data answered as he tilted his head in thought. “I am currently trying to decide if watching the fictional program will provide insight into our own future and if that knowledge is inappropriate. Major Lorne was able to furnish me with a large number of written works, as well as illustrated stories, called comic books, concerning the fictitious adventures of not only our Enterprise, but also the Enterprise NCC-1701, Captain Kirk’s ship. It appears the missions of Starfleet vessels are a popular method of escapist entertainment in many forms.”

Will leaned back and rested his leg on his knee. “We’re going to have plenty of time,” he offered with the forced cheerful tone he used when he needed to be optimistic. Deanna could feel his worry beneath the surface and tightened her hands around his wrist in response. “Six weeks to get warp drive back online and the method you used to get here won’t work to get home. No stargates on that side to piggyback.”

“I think this is the moment where you should indulge in escapist entertainment, sir,” Data suggested thoughtfully as he indicated the screen. “You have ‘nothing better to do’ and require emotional fortification. Your character’s reputation as a female’s man-”

Deanna lowered her head to his shoulder and felt his concerns fade back into the background as embarrassed amusement overtook them. “Ladies man,” she corrected. “Well,” she continued primly, “I think this form of escapism should be very enlightening.”

“You have to drink root beer,” John admonished Elizabeth as he pressed it into her hands. “if you’re going to keep talking about the Federation--”

“The United Federation of Planets is a representative democracy that spans worlds,” Elizabeth interrupted him as she held the metal mug of root beer and stared at it quizzically. She didn’t understand the significance and it would have taken too long to explain it to her. John just smiled at her and let her keep talking. “It unites species together. They maintain diplomatic ties with language barriers that make Mandarin and Arabic seem simple. They have energy beings, aquatic life forms, and creatures that defy what I thought were possible configurations of life, working together in a grand alliance of cultures. They explore the galaxy in starships, conduct elections where billions of life forms vote across light years of space.”

Rodney’s eyes widened in surprise and he moved Elizabeth along the line of snacks with a protective hand on her shoulder. “Everyone knows that,” he said. “At least they should, what about IDIC? Live long and prosper? Red shirts always get killed first? I’m a doctor not a bricklayer?”

“IDIC?” Elizabeth asked sheepishly. Rodney just shook his head and clucked his tongue in disbelief. John wanted to shared his surprise, but he’d suspected Elizabeth had always taken little time for entertainment.

“Infinite diversity in infinite combinations,” John explained patiently as Rodney just shook his head. “The guiding principle of a race called Vulcans. Pointy ears, green blood.”

“I’ve just met two Vulcans,” Elizabeth chirped as she sipped her root beer. “Selar and Teketh, she’s a doctor and he’s a xenobiologist. We don’t even have xenobiologists. Captain Picard had to explain the term to me, at least, he thought he did.”

“You both speak Latin and French," Rodney informed her. "Then you explained that you also know Mandarin, Arabic, Russian and the smattering of Lantean you understand. You can geek out linguistics later and discuss if his accent is genuinely from the northeast art of France.” Rodney explained for her. He sighed and John watched his impatience fade into sympathy. "I read the Star Trek: Encyclopedia. I read fast, I remember things. It's easy for me. Captain Picard's background is in there."

“We have chairs over here,” John reminded her as he steered her over towards the nearly filled group. “They live in an entirely different universe. No Ancients, no Atlantis, no Wraith, no Goa’uld. Gives them more time to have xenobiologists, stellar sciences, warp cores and holodecks. It’s a kinder, gentler universe but you should see the kind of paperwork Starfleet generates.” Shaking his head, he grinned. “Worse than the IOA.”

“And matter-antimatter reactors,” Rodney chimed in. “Commander Data and I have started going over the specs. If we could get our hands on dilithium crystals we could enhance one of our naquadria generators with antimatter capacity we’d be able to run a lot more of the city. If we made one as complex as the warp core they use to run the Enterprise, it would be nearly as good as a ZPM. The power conduits would have to be redesigned--”

Elizabeth waved him quiet as the lights in the mess hall dimmed. “The Enterprise’s computer core is being used to translate the Ancient database. She glanced at her watch and lowered her voice to a whisper as the voices around them started to hush. “Forty-six more hours of translation and we might be able to build our own ZPM.”

“Yes, yes,” Rodney waved her off and John realized he’d managed to put the possibility into his realm of the not-worth-worrying about. “Provided we don’t need an incredibly advanced system or an insane amount of energy to power it. Acknowledging even the possibility of building one seems insane. Why don’t we stick with ‘we will know how to build one--”

The project popped on behind their heads, sending a beam of light out across to the blank wall of the mess hall used on movie nights.

“Shh,” Elizabeth hushed him. “I’m watching Star Trek.”

“TNG,” John corrected her as he stole her popcorn. “You’re watching TNG. Star Trek has the green alien girls, Scotty and Spock.”

Rodney snorted and started to mutter how she had no idea who Kirk and Spock were, she’d wasted valuable time on other things and that she’d completely missed a cultural phenomenon that had changed science fiction and integrated into the fabric of society. John nodded to her and tried not to smile too much. His sympathies were with Rodney. Elizabeth should have made the time.

When the white of the projector faded to black and then finally became a star scape. Into that computer generated field of black sailed a model of the Enterprise. The familiar shape brought him back to long nights watching reruns as he dragged himself through his classes that weren’t related to mathematics. The math was the easy part.

Patrick Stewart’s voice began the opening voice-over and John watched Elizabeth’s face set into her observer’s look. She would give it a chance, he knew that much about her. He wasn’t sure if he could explain why a twenty year old television show was important. He didn’t even know if he could share how important it had been at the time. He’d been young, frustrated, and disconnected from his life. Somehow, watching Picard reason things out on Friday nights made him feel better.

Usually he didn't care if his friends understood the things he liked. Elizabeth was hopeless at sports and he'd forgiven her for that. He thought this was something she could wrap her complicated, diplomat's brain around. He wanted to share this with her. John watched her smile at the odd hairstyles and the old special effects. She'd understand that it was as much a commentary on their own society at the time. No woman would have been in charge of a international joint military scientific expedition in the eighties but, here they were, watching a fictional representation of their impossible reality. Elizabeth turned to him, smiling through the credits and he felt himself lazily smile back. He'd missed her. The Trekverse was nothing short of amazing and he'd missed her. He'd missed Atlantis, real beer and his guitar; more than those, he'd noticed Elizabeth's absence.

and onto part two
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May 2009

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