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Chapter Data

Posted February 17, 2007

Fan Fiction: Uncle John

9: Inconvenient Timing

Elizabeth often thought it was a pity that Colonel Caldwell had so clearly taken offense at John's promotion and continuing assignment as military leader of Atlantis; when he let down his guard and treated her as an equal and an ally, rather than a representative of the opposition, she saw glimpses of a man she would very much have liked to get to know.

This wasn't one of those moments, however. She took a deep breath as she walked beside him down the corridors of the Daedalus, and strove to find the words to convince him to agree with her plan to investigate the Ancient warship that had been so recently revealed by the city's reawakening systems. "Please don't force me to remind you that I do have discretionary power to utilize the Daedalus..."

He cut her off as they threaded their way through a crowd of ship's personnel, busily pursuing their duties. "I'm well aware of the extent of your powers, Dr. Weir," he said in a faintly derisive tone of voice, "they end at the hatch of this ship."

The fact that he hadn't even looked her in the eye as he said that grated on her nerves. Why did the man have to be so obstructive? She let loose a frustrated sigh. "Colonel, do we have to..."

The colonel did turn toward her at that, though his expression didn't change as he proceeded through the corridor. "Relax, doctor, I happen to agree," he said, the faint up-lilt of disbelief in his tone at the end of the sentence echoing her feelings at his words. "The value of an Ancient warship in our hands instead of the Wraiths' is more than enough incentive for me," he continued, as they proceeded toward the ship's bridge.

"Good," Elizabeth began to reply, relieved. "Colonel Sheppard's team..."

"Is unfortunately going to have to wait until we get back," Caldwell said, shaking his head.

Of course, that had been too easy, she thought, gritting her teeth. "With all due respect to your crew," she said, "my team has far more experience with Ancient technology."

He glanced at her again, his mouth curving in an expression half-irritated and half-amused. "You know my people will only get that kind of experience by going on this kind of mission," he said, "but that's not what I was trying to say. The fact is, the Daedalus has been recalled by Stargate Command for a priority mission; they've decided to send a group of VIPs out here to join the expedition."

And of course, there was no way for passengers to reach Atlantis from Earth other than via the Daedalus, any more than the Atlantis team had any other options for reaching the drifting Aurora. "Why now?" she objected, frustrated. "Why not on your next scheduled trip? You'll be gone for weeks!"

"There seems to be some hurry in getting the VIPs in question away from the reach of certain terrestrial organizations," Caldwell said, dryly. "The general didn't provide much in the way of details in the databurst, but we need to pick them up as soon as possible. Besides," he continued reasonably, "The ship has been there for ten thousand years. I think it can wait until we get back."

Elizabeth took a deep breath and let it out, trying not to feel stifled and patronized by his attitude. Not to mention the fact that Caldwell had heard about these VIPs before she did. "Very well then," she said. "Did he say who these VIPs are, and what they intend to do when they arrive? If there are going to be any significant changes to the city's organization, we'll need the time to prepare."

They emerged onto the bridge as she spoke; Elizabeth felt a twinge as she saw AR-1 already present, lounging around waiting as though the outcome of her conversation with Colonel Caldwell was assured. Perhaps it had been a mistake to advise them to join her up here before she actually had the colonel's agreement; she saw Caldwell's expression stiffen a little as he noticed them, and there was a slightly vicious glint in his eyes as he turned back to reply.

"Why, Dr. Weir," he said, in an innocent tone of voice. "I was given to understand that you already knew all about the VIPs. Both of them are Colonel Sheppard's nieces, after all, and General O'Neill stated quite clearly that both the Misses Summers have been corresponding with at least two members of your team. As a matter of fact, it was that correspondence which prompted the necessity of this visit."

Elizabeth stared at him blankly for a moment, then glanced at John. "Is this true?" she demanded of him.

John lowered the energy bar he'd been nibbling on and stared back at her, the pale, serious expression on his face reflecting the sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. "What?" he replied, voice and body language taking on a distinctly defensive tone as he spoke. "That I've been corresponding with my nieces? Of course it's true; I just found out they existed when we were back on Earth for the debriefing, and we've had a lot to catch up on."

"So why is it that I'm just now hearing about them?" she asked, furious with both Caldwell for prompting this little confrontation, and John for making it necessary.

"Because it's, I don't know, personal?" Rodney butted in, with a half-guilty glance at Sheppard, telling Elizabeth exactly who the other member of the team involved with the correspondence had been. "Just because Carson talks about his mother all the time, doesn't mean the rest of us are required to share every detail of our private lives. Have I ever mentioned my niece to you? No? Didn't think so."

Elizabeth ignored his outburst, glancing at Ronon and Teyla. The two Pegasus galaxy natives didn't seem surprised at the topic of conversation; if they hadn't been involved, they'd at least been aware, and that stung even more. Had John's new family just never come up in conversation around her? Why? She'd have liked to think they were all closer than that. Regardless, Rodney's point was only valid just so far; there were other considerations involved.

Considerations she was not going to air on the bridge of Colonel Caldwell's ship; he already had ammunition enough against them. She squared her shoulders and turned away from her team to face Caldwell, her lips drawn into a stern line. "Well, then. Good luck on your trip, Colonel. We'll see you when you get back."

The others, thankfully, took their cue from that and signaled Hermiod for transport back to the city, disappearing in flashes of brilliant light. The grim lines around John's eyes lingered in her mind's eye even after he vanished, and she closed her eyes for a moment before deciding she'd better take the long way back, exiting physically through the Daedalus onto the pier where it was parked. The rest of the conversation they needed to have would go more smoothly without reactionary emotions clogging the issue.

The walk to her office did, thankfully, clear her head a little; the coffee she picked up in the cafeteria on the way helped, as well. By the time she reached the conference room and the four people already grouped around the table, she was feeling much better. She sat down at the head of the table, and addressed them as a group, the point she intended to make already clear in her mind.

"The personal nature of the connection these visitors have to Colonel Sheppard is not at issue here," she said firmly. "All of us have family and friends-- elsewhere, as distant as those connections may be in some cases," she continued, nodding solemnly to Ronon. "The fact remains, however, that none of them are here. The majority of the expedition's connections are back on Earth, and they lack the qualifications, the security clearance, and the motivation to even so much as know about the SGC, much less this city or our mission here. The fact that General O'Neill is willing to divert the Daedalus to retrieve these particular people says a lot about how significant they must be to the program, and that is why I object to the secrecy. The threats to our existence out here are significant enough without adding more complications from Earth that I wasn't made aware of."

John fidgeted a little, then sighed and spoke. "Look. General O'Neill was there when I found out about my nieces, and he showed me their files. I have no idea what their involvement with the government is, and I didnít want to know; there are more blacked-out passages in Buffy's file than there are in mine, and she and Dawn are both very wary of the military due to some kind of past encounter with the NID. General O'Neill wanted me to arrange for them to be tested for the A.T.A. gene, and I told him to hold off until I'd got to know them a little better; I didn't want to drag them into all of this until we'd cultivated some trust."

"I... suppose I can understand that," Elizabeth admitted, mentally adding General O'Neill's name to the list of those at fault for this snarl of a situation. "But what did Colonel Caldwell mean about your correspondence with them prompting this visit? That would seem to contradict what you've just told me."

John glanced sideways at Rodney, and Rodney's face fell. "Uh, that would be my fault," the scientist admitted. "She knew Colonel Sheppard had a friend who was a physicist, and several weeks back she passed along some questions from a friend of hers about a supposedly theoretical wormhole problem. I answered them, via Sheppard-- and then I got to thinking about why she would have asked them in the first place. I sent an email to her myself--"

"--and she stopped writing altogether," John continued, a worried frown tugging at the corners of his mouth. "It was pretty obvious that something was going on; I finally got an email back from my other niece, Dawn, mentioning that Buffy was talking with an old friend 'stationed out in Colorado now on some top secret project or other'. It was clear that she was talking about the SGC; I sent a couple of emails back, and another to General O'Neill, but I haven't heard back from any of them yet. This visit is just as much a surprise to me as it is to you, but it has to be connected; something must have happened."

Rodney nodded at that. "And the timing is terrible. It's true that the Aurora has been out there for thousands of years, but it was dormant the entire time. The signal from Atlantis woke it up, which means it may be visible to the Wraith as well as us. I just hope they don't get to it first."

Elizabeth sighed and rested her elbows on the table, rubbing her temples. "Unfortunately, it sounds like there's nothing we can do now but wait. I'll send a query to General O'Neill about this visit; I suggest you do the same, John. In the meantime, I suppose it'll have to be business as usual."

As much as business ever was usual in Atlantis, she thought wearily.

 

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