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"Dammit!" John muttered, anxiously thumping the jumper's controls as they sparked again; he'd known that this thing was going to have some trouble coping with these speeds, but he didn't think it was going to be this bad. He supposed that it was his own fault for not going with the ZPM-powered option, but it wasn't like he'd had much choice; without the ability to manufacture more of those things, he wasn't going to waste one of the relative few he'd managed to collect to power something that could function fairly well on its own.

He just wished that he had a better plan for what he was going to do whenever he managed to catch up with the Hive. Based on the transmission he'd intercepted from the Daedalus as he departed Atlantis- he'd reverted back to normal space after leaving Atlantis's immediate sensor range to keep an ear out for anything from Daedalus and had lucked out by intercepting the subsequent transmission-, he should only have to worry about a couple of Hives, but even that was a fairly significant amount to worry about considering the relatively limited resources he had available to him right now and their own exceptional size.

He might not be able to destroy either ship with his current supply drone weapons, but if he could just find the right area to shoot at, it might still be possible for him to disable the ships long enough to increase the possibility that Atlantis would be able to send back-up before the Hives reached the danger zone...

Whatever the case, he had to at least try and fight them; he'd become the Phantom to protect Earth from this kind of threat, and he wouldn't give up just because it was going to be more difficult to pull this off than it would be for him to try this kind of thing normally.


As she sat in Atlantis's control room, staring at the screen that was currently relaying her image to Earth while allowing General Landry to respond in kind, Elizabeth couldn't help but feel a slight thrill at the thought of the long-distance call they were making.

It might be a slight drain on the ZPM to even do this much- the ZPM that had been connected to Atlantis when they arrived was on its metaphorical last legs, although the fresh one SG-1 had recovered in Egypt still had a significant amount of power left in it despite that-, but the idea that they had reached a point where they could stay in touch with people on the other side of the galaxy in a matter of moments was one of the many miracles that they'd uncovered since coming to this city; the sheer range of possibilities this city could provide them with still amazed her...

"In approximately one hour, the Wraith will drop out of hyperspace... here," she explained, pushing a button to bring up a star map on the side of the screen even as she continued to address General Landry (She might have privately preferred General O'Neill as a commander for the SGC given his superior understanding of the galactic situation from out in the field rather than Landry's report-based knowledge, but she had to admit that the other general wasn't a bad alternative) and Sergeant Harriman on the screen. "It's just outside of the Pegasus galaxy. There, they will pause for fifteen hours. If Daedalus and Orionbreak orbit on our current schedule, they should be able to reach those coordinates in around thirteen or fourteen hours, best possible speed."

"A narrow window," Landry noted grimly.

"It's the only window, sir," Elizabeth replied, deciding not to mention that it was a window that was partly possible thanks to the Phantom's work with the Taranians; if he hadn't assisted them in carrying out at least some of the repairs on the Orion, then it was unlikely that the Atlantis expedition would have managed to get the hyperdrive or the weapons up to working order in the time available to them.

"Understood," Landry replied. "Now, the International Oversight Advisory want you to brief them on this matter."

"When would you like me to dial in again?" Elizabeth asked, already planning the report she'd have to write; if she focused, she could probably get the job done in a couple of hours...

"You misunderstand me," Landry said, looking at her with an earnest honesty that made it clear he wasn't joking. "I mean in person, and I mean right now. The President himself assigned-"

"I can't just leave," Elizabeth interjected, shaking her head; with John, Sumner, McKay and Ronon absent, Atlantis was already short far too many of its senior personnel for her taste (Not that she'd ever admit to the fact that she thought of John as a senior member of the expedition; the last thing she wanted was to give anyone that kind of potential ammunition against her). "Not now."

"I'm afraid that's not up to you," Landry said, shrugging slightly.

"There is far too much going on here-" Elizabeth began, trying to convey the current urgency of the situation to the general.

"Doctor," Landry interrupted, before his voice softened as he continued to speak. "You've done all you're going to do for now. I need you to step through that Gate. They're waiting for you in my Briefing Room."

Elizabeth couldn't believe it; after all the effort she'd put into trying to arrange a defence against the Wraith- to say nothing of everything that she was putting at risk to try and stop them completing their mission- the IOA were still more focused on pointing fingers than acknowledging that she was trying to correct the 'mistake' that she'd made with the full support of them and her staff...

"Doctor Weir?" Landry said, breaking her train of thought as he looked curiously at her.

"I see," Elizabeth said at last, grateful when Landry at least smiled sympathetically at her. Nodding back at him in response, she turned and picked up a laptop computer from a nearby console before she stood up and turned to Teyla.

"Teyla," she said, trying to focus on the immediate issues that the Athosian would have to deal with in her absence, "we are awaiting several teams to return from their missions. Once that happens, I'd like to suspend all Gate travel until this whole thing is over."

"Of course," the Athosian woman said; Sumner might occasionally express doubts about Teyla's abilities in this area, but Elizabeth was confident that her friend could handle what she was up against.

Turning to look at the screen showing General Landry for a moment, Elizabeth looked around the control room, hoping that this wouldn't be the last time she had a chance to look at it, before turning back to Teyla.

"And I'll need you to dial in once the Daedalus is ready," she added, indicating Atlantis's DHD.

"I know what to do, Elizabeth," Teyla said, smiling in reassuring understanding at her.

"Of course you do," Elizabeth replied, smiling awkwardly.

"I will see you when you return," Teyla said, the Athosian's simple confidence in that outcome helping to improve Elizabeth's mood despite the current personnel shortage.

"Thank you," Elizabeth said, exchanging smiles with Teyla before she walked away, leaving Teyla to sit down at a console as Elizabeth walked down to the gateroom (She'd worry about getting her things sent to her later; from what Landry had said, there wasn't going to be any time to pack if she wanted to avoid getting in even more trouble with the IOA) and through the Stargate...


Emerging from the Stargate into the SGC- she wondered if it was just her time with John that had left her feeling that a trip like that should feel more dramatic rather than simply feeling longer-, Elizabeth barely had time to take in her surroundings before she noticed the general standing at the end of the ramp.

"Welcome back to Earth," Landry said, smiling at her.

"Thank you, General," Elizabeth replied, not even bothering to fully restrain her sarcasm as the Stargate shut down behind her; it might be one of John's more troublesome personality traits, but if she'd learned anything from him it was that she shouldn't allow other people to see how afraid she was. "It's wonderful to be here."

"I can see that!" Landry said, his own good mood alleviating her bleaker one slightly as they turned to walk out of the Gateroom while the security teams dispersed around her.

"You know I considered disobeying your order?" Elizabeth said, briefly reflecting on how far she'd come since her original days in the city when she would have tried to be more polite when arguing about decisions she didn't fully agree with. "There wouldn't have been too much you could do about it."

"You made the right decision in coming," Landry replied, ignoring the implied threat.

"We're in the middle of a crisis, General," Elizabeth countered. "This is absolutely-"

"Don't bite myhead off, Elizabeth!" Landry interjected, looking pointedly back at her. "The recall order didn't come from me."

"Who it came from doesn't matter," Elizabeth said.

"What if I told you it came from the President?" Landry responded.

"I wouldn't believe you," Elizabeth replied, considering and discarding that possibility immediately; whatever other problems she might face at this time, she was fairly sure that Hayes and General O'Neill still supported her current position.

"And you'd be right," Landry said, as Elizabeth walked over to study the monitors displaying the location where they'd calculated the Wraith hives would pause to 'recharge'. "But in a couple of weeks, there could be aliens on our doorstep determined to feed on the human race. The President had no choice but to accede to the I.O.A.'s demand that you be brought back to explain yourself."

If there was anything that Elizabeth regretted about getting back in touch with Earth, it was the reminder that she was no longer the top of the proverbial food chain when it came to making decisions that might affect Atlantis.

It wasn't that she was arrogant enough to think that she'd always make the best choice if she was the only person she had to answer to; she just wished that she could be judged for her actions by people who knew what it was like out in Pegasus, rather than people who were always looking to secure their own position even if it came at the cost of someone else's.

"So what do they really want?" she asked, glancing up at the briefing room at the top of the stairs at the back of the control room.

"To point fingers, and cover their asses," Landry said, confirming Elizabeth's lowest expectations of the reason for her presence here.

"I am honestly not sure how I will respond to that, sir," Elizabeth replied, her voice low with the same slightly threatening edge that she'd picked up from John during his talk with Kolya.

"They're bureaucrats, Elizabeth," Landry replied, a smile back on his face as he spoke. "You'll have 'em for breakfast!"

Elizabeth wondered if she should feel encouraged at that compliment or simply feel frustrated at the apparently pointless reasons for the IOA to call her back in the first place; the world was facing destruction, and while Sumner, Caldwell and John were trying to save it, the IOA were focused on making sure that she took the blame for something that she'd only done because they had allowed her to go that far.

This was definitely one of those occasions where she could see the merit in John's usual approach to dealing with his enemies; it might be brutal, but at least you didn't have to worry about them constantly bothering you...

God, she hoped he was still alive.


As John came out of hyperspace on the outskirts of Pegasus, he allowed himself a relieved smile at the sight in front of him; the two Hive-ships, resting on the edge of their home galaxy, out of hyperspace and preparing for the next jump.

Actually, given that the ships themselves were living organisms, he was put in mind of the idea that they were simply hesitant about leaving their natural environment for unfamiliar territory; it might not be a completely accurate description of the situation, but he felt that he was entitled to consider things in an overly melodramatic manner considering the stakes that he was up against.

Two whole hives and all he had was a few drone weapons; even if he tried to mount a kamikaze assault by using the jumper as a weapon after he'd used his drones on one hive, there was no guarantee he'd take out both of them without getting blown up himself...

Still, he reflected to himself, smiling slightly as he reached up to activate his mask's recently-installed radio, since I might have back-up on board, best to establish its presence as soon as possible...

"Doctor McKay, Specialist Dex, are you there?" he asked; this gambit might be risky, but if Dex and McKay were on board, their combat and technical expertise might just make them two of the best people qualified to help him in this current mess. "I know that this is a long shot, but if you can hear me, please respond; I need to know if anyone's alive on one of those things I need to worry about saving..."

"Phantom," an initially unfamiliar voice said over the radio, a slightly apprehensive tone to its voice. "Is that you?"

"Who's this?" John asked; he thought he recognised the voice, but it couldn't be that guy.

"You know me as Michael," the voice replied.

John couldn't help but sit in silent surprise for a few moments; whatever he'd been expecting to hear, a reunion with Michael- even one that just took place over the radio- was not something he'd been planning for...

"And what do you want?" he asked, not bothering to try and avoid the current topic; they'd already started talking, so he was pretty much committed to his current course of action now.

"Among other things, you may appreciate knowing that Ronon Dex and Doctor McKay are still alive," Michael responded.

"What are you going to do with them?" John asked, forcing down the brief shred of hope he felt as this implication that Michael wasn't your average Wraith; he'd given the guy one chance and he'd basically gotten kicked in the teeth for even offering it...

"If you want them to live, listen to me," Michael replied grimly. "I don't know how you got aboard, but if your would-be allies from Atlantis are in pursuit, you need to disable these ships in order for them to reach us."

"If you're trying to help us, why don't you do that?" John countered, resisting the temptation to clarify that he wasn't part of Atlantis's command structure; this was far from the time or place to have debates about the specific nature of his role in the expedition.

"They would know," Michael replied grimly.

"What happened to you being one of 'them'?" John asked, even if he already knew that he wasn't sure what answer he wanted to receive in response to that question.

"Please believe me when I say I was as deceived as you were," Michael said, his tone becoming increasingly urgent, lending some weight to the idea that he was worried about being discovered even if John remained unconvinced.

"I always had my slight suspicions- it's why the download was cut short before it could be completely finished-, but why are they acting against you?" John asked, refusing to get his hopes up; the stakes were too high for Michael to trick him...

"It seems, Phantom," Michael replied, "that because of what your allies did to me, the Wraith no longer see me as one of their own."

"Ah," John said, forcing down the slight disappointment he felt at the news that Michael's 'defection' was motivated by necessity rather than choice. "So you want to help me just because you don't feel welcome there any more."

"We don't have time to discuss this," Michael said rapidly. "Where are you?"

"Just off to the side and coming in from a distance under cloak," John replied; it was vague enough to avoid giving anyone any way to track him if this was all a trick of some kind, while at the same time being potentially useful if Michael was genuinely trying to help him. "Why do you ask?"

"If you target the ventral hyperdrive generators, you will cause the most effective amount of damage," Michael replied, confirming John's initial plan while also confirming that alternatives might not do any good.

"You're sure this isn't some screwy trap?" John asked, trying to focus on the main issues.

"I doubt I'll be allowed to live much longer, and yet I very much want to continue living," Michael said, his tone still grim as he spoke. "If you want to survive as I do, then I suggest you go along with my suggestion."

John didn't bother replying to that suggestion as he turned off the radio and focused his attention on the relevant problem of getting into the right position for his next attack.

If he opened fire too early, there was still a good chance that he'd damage the wrong part and trigger a chain reaction that would end up destroying the ship with Ronon and McKay still on board; all he really wanted right now was something to damage the engines without having too great a knock-on effect on the Hive's other systems...

Great, he reflected grimly, even as he moved the jumper into position. My first major op in two years, and I've got to rescue the hostages while relying on a guy who has no reason not to stab me in the back.

Wanting to believe Michael didn't mean that he could believe him; even if this plan resulted in the generators being disabled long enough to give Atlantis or Earth time to send other ships here, he still had to get past such issues as how he was going to get on board to rescue McKay and Ronon before everything went to Hell...


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