Dahlia had always considered herself a patriot.
Love and service were important in her family; 'the foundation of a good life' her mother had called them. Work was a way to show honor to the ancestors, to the old ways, while still moving forward with the plans that would free their people. When she'd begun to show signs of the sickness, Dahlia had feared that she'd lost the ability to help her people; once the first signs emerged, it was never more than a year before death followed.
Then her brother had come to her, because she was his sister and he trusted her above all others. He had offered her a way to serve again, a way to help her people one more time instead of dying as one of the nameless on the cold cots of the medical halls. Once you had the shakes, you were no longer counted among the living - you were not strong enough to work, so you were a waste of resources. There had not been a choice.
Ladon had told her what he planned, but he had never told her that he would return for her. That those in the city of the ancestors could heal her.
There had been so much that he hadn't planned.
Now, she served her people again. This time, she served them with her life. She was among the first of her people to take up residence in the city of the ancestors, living proof of her brother's loyalty. Her people's loyalty to the new alliance against the Wraith.
A week after the move, on the day that the Earth ship departed, her presence in the city ceased to be a service, and instead became a joy.
On the way to the infirmary for her weekly treatment, Dahlia got lost. She found herself in a region of the city she'd yet to visit, and while trying to find her way back she stumbled on a room filled with color. Living color. Everywhere she looked, there were reds, yellows, purples, and greens. Many of the plants were familiar, more from her mother's bedtime stories than her own experience, but many more were completely unknown. She was startled by the sound of a door behind her, and turned to find the Earth doctor.
"You missed your appointment."
"Oh. I, uh, I'm sorry. I must have been distracted. I apologize." She paused, and frowned. "You didn't have to come for me yourself."
He smiled sheepishly. "It was no trouble, lass. We're a bit past it now, anyway; I was just on my way to dinner and thought I'd collect you on the way." He peered around, taking in the flora. "I can see how you would be distracted; it's beautiful down here." He slipped his hands into the pockets of his lab coat and stepped up to stand beside her. "So, dinner?"
She cocked her head to the side, and allowed a small smile. "Just dinner?"
"Well. Dinner, followed by a quick exam. I can't have you dying on my watch, after all." He laughed, and placed a careful hand at the small of her back to guide her to the door. Much to her surprise, the touch was as comforting as it was foreign. She had grown unused to touches outside of the clinical when she had first been afflicted with the sickness. Upon her recovery, there had been the fear of a relapse, and she had avoided growing used to what she might again lose. He sensed her hesitation, and paused as the door opened. "Don't worry, love. It'll still be here tomorrow."
For the first time since being diagnosed with the sickness, there was a tomorrow.
Six weeks and three days after her relocation to Earth, the Air Force showed up on Kate's doorstep. Before she could ask what was going on, she was in a car and on her way to Cheyenne Mountain. When she arrived, she was escorted to a conference room, and left to count the rust spots on the ceiling.
Forty-five minutes later, the door opened and Major Wilson, the SGC's chief psychiatrist, entered. The major closed the door and tossed a manila folder onto the table in front of her. "You filed an incomplete report."
She opened the folder to see who was the source of the problem, and was surprised to find a listing of the command staff formerly assigned to Atlantis. She looked up, puzzled. "I provided complete profiles on all of those listed here. I don't see what the problem is."
"You. Screwed. Up." Kate flinched at the violence contained in the voice, and wondered how a man like Wilson had ended up running the psych team at the SGC.
She took a deep breath, and made an effort to keep her voice level. "Maybe if you give me some idea of what's wrong, I could be more helpful."
"Beckett. McKay. Sheppard. Weir. All four of them are gone. They took off two days ago in the 'puddle jumper' that was being tested in Doctor Lee's lab. Now, they've apparently decided to declare independence from Earth, just for kicks."
She blinked; that was unexpected. "What?"
"You heard me. Now, what I want to know, is why there wasn't some indication in their files that they might do this. That they were too unstable to have around reminders of Atlantis. That they would react in this manner to a consultation about mounting a tactical assault on the city. Barring that, I want to know what they're going to do now."
"That's all I can tell you at the moment, Doctor. You don't have clearance."
Now Kate was mad. If they wanted her input, they could damn well tell her what was going on. "Well how the hell am I supposed to tell you what they're going to do, if you won't tell me what's going on?"
She was pleased to see him pause at that response. After a moment, he turned and stormed out. Kate sighed, alone again.
Two hours later, Wilson returned with General Landry. Kate raised an eyebrow, but didn't bother to get up. This was getting ridiculous. Landry didn't seem to notice, and simply slid into the chair across from her. "Congratulations, you are now cleared to know that as of 0400 Drs Beckett, McKay, and Weir, along with Colonel Sheppard, declared Atlantis a free state under the control of some kind of alliance."
Kate sighed, exasperated. "I understand that, General. What concerns me is the nature of the tactical assault that was planned on the city. Therein, I believe, is the source of the command staff's actions. As I told Major Wilson, all four individuals were functioning within acceptable norms at the time of their last exams."
Landry looked uncomfortable. "As per General O'Neill's standing orders, if the ancients were unable to retake the city from the replicators the Daedalus was to execute a nuclear strike upon the city."
"Nuclear - you were going to blow up the city??"
"It was the best way of protecting Earth from further threat."
She tried desperately not to choke on the bile that was creeping up her throat. "No wonder Sheppard went nuts. You really don't get it, do you? I mean, I'd heard things from some of the marines, but I hadn't realized just how bad it was. Atlantis is not Iraq. It is not Korea. It is not Afghanistan. It's not even Antarctica. When we went on that original expedition, it was one way. Earth was a memory, and people coped accordingly. We chose people for the expedition with that in mind - terminal loners, people with little to no family and no close ties. These were people with as few ties to Earth as you could find in people born here. They moved out there, they settled in and, surprise surprise, they found other people just like them. You yank them out of that environment with no warning, and you expect them not to want it back?"
"Now wait just a-" Wilson looked like he was getting royally pissed, but she wasn't done. She'd just screwed over her chances of continuing on at the SGC, but there were universities that would take her. She'd find something else.
"And then, you wave a red flag in front of the bull. You take Doctor Weir and Colonel Sheppard, two people who have been noted repeatedly to have an overriding desire to protect their own, and tell them you're going to blow up a city they just spent three years fighting tooth and nail for. For Sheppard, that's all it must have taken to send him right over the edge. For Weir, she's not in this for the city itself - she's in this for the people that city can help. To answer the question you haven't bothered to ask: No, I don't think you're going to be able to talk them into relinquishing control of the city to Earth. No, I don't think they're going to trust you anytime soon. And no, I can't say that I blame them."
She stood, closed the file, and left.
She didn't look back; not when she reached the daylight, not when she reached the interstate, and not even when she reached California. She didn't look back until she reached the seashore, where she knelt and buried her fingers in the sand, and wished like hell she was elsewhere. Somewhere that the sea didn't smell quite so salty, and where the stars matched the constellations in her mind. Somewhere like home.
The word "spontaneous" had never been associated with Lindsey Novak.
She was an engineer through-and-through; that's what her father had always said. Of course, he'd been an English teacher who had patted her on the head and made faces behind her back when she said she wanted to major in electrical engineering. He'd never really grasped the concept that "electrical engineer" was different than "electrician's apprentice" (not that electricians made bad money - she'd dated one while she was in grad school - the work just wasn't interesting enough for her), or that she had actually finished the second degree in mechanical engineering, for that matter.
Regardless of childhood jokes, the general sentiment was true; Lindsey planned things. She couldn't help herself; it was just a personality quirk. She also tended to talk about her plans, once they were made. She didn't gossip, per se, more she always had a friend or two that were on the receiving end of her need to talk things through once she'd thought them through. Therefore, it came as a great surprise to everyone when Lindsey joined the ranks of 'vanishing' personnel from the Daedalus.
The 'missing', as they'd taken to calling them, were a running joke in the Daedalus mess by the second day they'd been parked on the South pier. At first she'd assumed it was some kind of bizarre urban legend to scare the new guys - don't go into Atlantis, you might not come back. By the third day, however, she'd realized what was really going on. One by one, the veterans from Atlantis (there were a lot of them, far more than a standard crew compliment for the Daedalus, since their objective had been retaking the city. Anyone with useful expertise, military or civilian, had been drafted into service for the mission) were disappearing into the bowels of the city (and their subcutaneous transmitters were being recoded by some good samaritan).
When Lindsey's invitation came, it was a surprise. It was over lunch in the Atlantis mess with Major Lorne, an event so familiar that she almost forgot that things had changed so drastically. Reality hit with a harsh sting as she was poking at the remnants of her mashed something-or-other. It was unspoken, but she knew that he would be staying behind along with the others. She bit her lip, and stared at the purple mess. "We're leaving in the morning, you know."
His voice was oddly hushed in the noisy mess. "I know."
She looked up, and found him watching her intently. She turned her gaze back to her tray. "It's stupid, I don't even know your name; I shouldn't miss you as much as I do. I'm not even gone yet."
"Stay, and I'll tell you."
She blinked, and raised her head to stare at him dumbly. "What?"
"You heard me." It was his turn to stare at his tray.
"I..." She paused, but realized that for the first time in a while, there was no voice screaming in the back of her mind that this was wrong, wrong, wrong. So much for her common sense. "All right."
"You're sure? I mean-"
"I'm sure. I just need to talk to Hermiod. Where and when?" Now that she was decided, there was no going back. She might as well jump in head first and with eyes wide open.
"Um, the chair room. 1930."
"Right." She stood, and glanced at her tray to make sure that everything was in order. Her mind was already light years ahead, trying to figure out everything she had to get done in the next five hours before her life officially ended. As she moved to bus the tray, he placed a hand on her arm, stopping her. She looked down, curious.
"It's Evan." She raised an eyebrow, and he made a face. "There's a reason I normally go by Lorne."
She smiled despite herself. "I don't know; I think it kind of suits you." His grip tightened, and she laughed. "Kidding, kidding."
"Lindsey, I." He cleared his throat nervously. "I'm glad you're, you know. I'd miss you, too." He released her, and busied himself with his own tray. "Give my best to Hermiod. Or, eh - whatever."
She smiled all the way back to the Daedalus, where she was faced with the daunting prospect of writing her parents a Dear John letter. She'd miss them, but she thought she might just miss this more - the easy friendship and understanding that Atlantis seemed to foster in its inhabitants. She wasn't sure that she could justify working for the SGC anymore, either - they'd written Atlantis off without any apparent thought, and she'd heard Landry's updated orders herself. They'd written off Sheppard and his team as acceptable losses, and that was something she would never be able to condone.
She knew in her heart that she'd see her family again; Earth wouldn't be able to resist the lure of Ancient technology forever. But if she left now, she might well lose a part of herself that she'd never be able to reclaim. It was a risk she couldn't take; you could lie to others, but you could never lie to your conscience.
The first time Marta entered the city of the ancestors, she was cold and terrified and had just lost her brother to the Wraith. She spent close to six weeks within the sacred city before her people moved to the 'mainland' and life returned to something approaching normal. She assisted with the planting, and turned her attention once again to the constant upkeep that the tents required.
Thirty two days later, she entered the city of the ancestors for the second time following a storm that destroyed all of the hard work her people had done in the previous month. This time, she spent less than a week in the city before moving back to the mainland.
Nine months later, she entered the city for the third time. The Wraith had besieged it, but they had been held back. This time, she walked the halls of the city with a weapon, and did her share in the cleansing that followed. She saw others fall, and killed her first Wraith.
Seven months later, she entered the city for the death of her mother, and left with a heavy heart.
Three years and six months after Marta first set foot in Atlantis, she entered for the last time as a visitor. The ancestors were dead, and their claim on the city had passed with them. Now the city would triumph or fail based upon the actions of her people, and their allies. The alliance would triumph where legends had failed.
Three years, six months, and one day after arriving in Atlantis, Marta Charigan became a citizen.
The One Who Couldn't Stay
Up until the day Miko accepted a position on the Atlantis Expedition, she had always been a good daughter. She passed her exams; she got into the right schools; she made the right friends. Before joining the expedition, Miko had done everything she could to be the perfect child; her only failing was her gender.
Then she ran off across the universe and managed to beat her mother's note saying "I've found the perfect matchmaker" by a week in the process. Her mother had been less than thrilled; grandchildren were expected by a certain age, and suddenly that prospect was looking decidedly less certain from Miko's corner. Oh, there was her brother Kenji, but he was still enjoying his years of 'self-exploration' and had a while before he could be expected to settle (never mind that he was gay. He hadn't quite broken that news to the family, last she'd heard).
Luckily, being stationed permanently to 'Antarctica' had staved off that line of pressure for a bit, even once contact had been reestablished. Upon reassignment to Earth, however, her mother had started again in earnest. "You are thirty-five. If you don't marry soon, I will have no grandchildren. It is your duty to the family to carry on the line! Don't force me to bring your father into this discussion; he's a hard working man, and doesn't deserve this kind of stress." had become a familiar refrain on her brand new answering machine in her brand new apartment in Tokyo. Miko was firmly of the opinion that if her father had wanted less stress, he would have married a calmer woman, but before going to Atlantis she'd never have even considered voicing the sentiment.
Perhaps Rodney had rubbed off on her, just a bit.
Within two weeks back on Earth, she found herself missing Atlantis desperately. Tokyo was too noisy, the air too foul, and the skyscrapers were all the wrong shape or size. The subways were the worst - so many people. She estimated that there were more people in the train that she rode home from the airport than there had been in Atlantis; it was a sobering thought. After three weeks, she couldn't take it and requested a position on the Daedalus if any opened up. Her father was diagnosed with cancer the same day that her approval came through; while he gave her his blessing to depart, he also asked that she visit regularly.
That was how she found herself back in Atlantis, facing a decision that was certain to break her heart. Rodney McKay, a man whose attention she had tried to catch for three years, to varying degrees of success, had asked her to stay. To remain in Atlantis and help in the fight against the Wraith and the Asurans and whatever else was out there. It was an honor, and a calling far stronger than any she had been faced with before the expedition.
And she had to say no. Because her place was with her family, and she'd been gone too long as it was.
For the man that he was, Rodney was incredibly understanding. Of course, he'd then proceeded to ask her to help him recode the subcutaneous transmitters for everyone remaining behind; Rodney was sympathetic, not observant. She'd agreed, because she never could say no when he asked her to do something (asked being the operative word; she'd gotten rather good at saying no when he demanded), and spent much of the week the Daedalus was docked recoding transmitters and saying her goodbyes.
Because she was the good daughter, Miko left with the Daedalus and returned to Earth and her family. She took with her memories, a braided case for her glasses that had been a gift from the Athosians, and a small Ancient device that projected images onto her wall - views from different balconies around the city, the mainland, and images of friends she would never see again.
But late at night, alone in her new apartment in Kamakura and listening to the distant sound of the waves, she wondered why doing the right thing had to hurt so much.