She might have been one of them back when she'd started in the program to an extent- the idea that her younger self still thought that it had been a good idea to negotiate with the Goa'uld could still shock her at times-, but at least she'd had enough intelligence to recognise when she should delegate to the wisdom of Colonel O'Neill and the rest of SG-1 rather than ask them to follow her or Kinsey's orders just because they were SG-1's official superiors.
"The leader of the Hive presented a scenario which made it seem we were under a time constraint," she explained, putting her thoughts to the side as she looked between Woolsey, Shen, and the British ambassador whose name she hadn't registered. "To speed up the problem-solving, we distributed the file-"
"And played right into their hands," Shen said, with a cold, smug voice that suggested that she would have seen through such a deception (If it wasn't for the fact that she'd probably destroy something before she learned her lesson, Elizabeth would like to see how Shen handled being the one having to make the decisions that she faced on a regular basis for a change).
"...Yes," Elizabeth admitted after a moment's pause, unable to find a better way to reply to that statement without saying something she'd professionally regret.
"In fairness," Woolsey added, leaning forward slightly as he looked at Shen, "Doctor Weir kept us informed of every action they took along the way."
"And we supported her recommendations, I know," Shen said, briefly looking at Woolsey before turning back to face Elizabeth. "But clearly we were not in possession of all the facts."
"Obviously, neither were we, Ambassador," Elizabeth retorted, resenting the implication that she might have kept something back. She might be regularly 'bending the truth' when it came to her interactions with John- as far as the rest of the Stargate program was concerned, he showed up now and again and vanished until the next crisis that required his assistance took place-, but that was the only thing she was lying about on an even semi-regular basis.
"So what measures have you taken to prevent the Wraith from reaching Earth?" Woolsey asked, as Shen sat back slightly in her chair.
"I was coordinating a strike against the hive ships when you recalled me," Elizabeth retorted, already making up her mind to avoid mentioning the Phantom unless she had to; she didn't know what John was precisely going to do when he reached his destination, and she doubted that the IOA would have that much patience for her apparent reliance on a 'vigilante' no matter how reliable he'd proven himself to be so far.
"With what?" the English ambassador asked uncertainly.
"With everything we've got," Elizabeth replied, hoping that the cold resolution in her tone would stop any further questions being asked.
"Is that wise?" Shen asked.
"General Landry has informed me that in light of fleet resources committed to fighting the Ori, the weapons platform in Antarctica, powered by a pair of Mark Two generators, would be Earth's only defence," Elizabeth countered, staring between the three people before her as she spoke. "Now, I believe it would be far better to stop them while they're still within reach of Atlantis."
"Wouldn't it have been more prudent to send the ZPM back to Earth on the Daedalus, ensuring successful operation of the Antarctic weapons platform when the Wraith arrive?" Woolsey asked, instantly ruining the slight hope Elizabeth had formed that she had an ally in him after his earlier defence.
"The Daedalus suffered severe damage during the first battle," Elizabeth replied, already knowing that this new information wouldn't go down well. "A long journey at full power was out of the question... and there is no way of knowing how much faster the Wraith ships have become."
"You would risk the lives of everyone aboard those ships in order to undo your mistake?" Shen asked; only Woolsey's obvious discomfort at that allegation prevented Elizabeth from taking a page out of John's book and punching the other woman (He might be a violent influence, but there was definitely something satisfying about his method of solving problems).
"I would ask them to risk their lives to protect Earth from a threat that we have all accidentally unleashed on Earth due to our desperation to defeat the Wraith blinding us to the fact that we were all deceived," Elizabeth retorted; she had spent too much time witnessing John in action or thinking about him not to have picked up some idea of how he coped when under this kind of pressure, and one thing John always was in a crisis was direct. "Daedalus is currently undergoing emergency repairs over Atlantis and will be prepared to break orbit in the next hour; if you want to call back and order them to take the ZPM back to Earth instead, you can feel free to do so, but you need to do it immediately."
"Then, if you'll excuse us, we need time to discuss our options," the English ambassador said, his uncertain tone as he looked at the other two confirming Elizabeth's lowest expectations for the current meeting; as always, nobody here would do anything for fear of being blamed if it went wrong.
"I have instructed Atlantis to contact the SGC when both Daedalus and Orion are ready to leave," Elizabeth said, standing up as she looked confidently between the IOA representatives in front of her, resolute in the knowledge that none of them would be able to effectively defy her without getting into the very position they wanted to avoid. "If you would like to overturn my standing orders at that time, go right ahead, but you will have to fire me first."
She might not agree with the political games that she had to play right now, but she at least knew enough about the way these peoples' minds worked to know that she'd just given them the perfect ultimatum; she'd put them in a position where their only option was to go along with her current plan or they'd have to actually take personal responsibility for something.
All she had to do now was wait for Atlantis to get back in touch with her, and hope that John had a plan to delay the Wraith long enough for Daedalus and Orion to get to the Hives in time to take them out; Orion might be powerful and in relatively good condition, but it was still relatively untested in combat.
Their current plan might just consist of getting to the Wraith ships- and that counted on them making various suppositions that might not even be accurate- and hitting them with everything that Daedalus and Orion had to offer, but she had to hope that John had something else up his sleeve...
As he sat silently in his hyperspace jumper, grimly going over the various details of his current 'plan'- he knew that he had taken his time to prepare, but the closer the Wraith were to returning to hyperspace the more damage he'd do; if they had to start repair work all over again, so much the better-, John just hoped that he wasn't making too many assumptions right now; this situation might be unprecedented, but he really didn't want to find out the hard way that he'd made any faulty guesses.
One slip-up if this plan went wrong or he targeted the wrong area, and there was a good chance that he'd kill McKay and Ronon before any help that Atlantis was going to send could reach them, and he'd have definitely killed himself (Michael was more of an ambivalent ally at the moment, so John wasn't that bothered about what would happen to him in that scenario; he might be helping John right now, but even the most optimistic part of John couldn't shake the warning that Michael was only doing this to save his own neck)...
"You're sure that McKay and Ronon are nowhere near the area I'm meant to attack?" he asked, as he prepared himself for what he was about to attempt; blowing up Hives was one thing, but he'd never been in a position where he was trying to damage a Hive without destroying it.
God, things had been simpler when he didn't have to worry about other individuals...
"I'm certain," Michael replied, only a slight edge of apprehension in his voice to indicate the sincerity of his words. "Good luck."
"On the topic of location," John said, deciding that he might as well make sure that his current plan was as resolved as he could accomplish right now, "get to an area near the dart bay on your hive-ship; I'm taking out those ventral hyperdrive generators, and then I'm coming in."
"You are... what?" Michael asked, clearly unable to believe what he'd just heard.
"Coming in," John repeated grimly. "Look, I'm not going to blow up those ships completely while McKay, Ronon and you are on board, and right now you're the only person I'm in contact with, so I need you to get whatever equipment was taken from them earlier and move to somewhere near the dart bay so that I can pick you up and then try and find them before things get ugly."
He paused for a moment before he continued speaking. "Just to confirm, firing at the ventral generators won't destroy these Hives, right?"
"They will cause damage, but the Hives themselves shall remain intact; unless you possess any weapons of sufficient size to cause the necessary damage, I would recommend you restrict your ambitions for the moment," Michael said, a slightly grim tone to his voice as he spoke.
"My 'ambitions' right now just focus on keeping these ships busy long enough for me to rescue you and for the big guns to get here; as I said, I'm not going to blow those ships up while you're still on board," John said, glaring for a moment despite the relatively useless nature of the gesture over a radio communication before he continued. "Now, get into position and let me do my damn job."
"Understood," Michael said after a brief pause, sounding slightly confused about what John was actually planning to do even if he recognised that choices were limited. "I will be near the 'dart' bay soon; I will send you a signal when I see you arrive."
"Good," John said, tightening his grip on the jumper controls. "You might want to hang on to something; when I start firing, this is going to be bumpy."
As he terminated the radio link, John swung the ship around and moved into position behind the Hive ships, quickly targeting his ship's six available drone weapons on to the relevant targets; it might not be quite enough to do the kind of damage he'd prefer to achieve right now, but with the ship's armament what it was he'd just have to make do with what he had. Aligning the targeting system as he took up position underneath the Hives, John aimed the drones at the ventral generators- fortunately the two ships were pretty much side-by-side and close together; given how quickly the drones moved he didn't really need that much time to move into position, but given how fast Wraith darts could be the less time the Wraith had to intercept the better-, decloaked, and fired his weapons, watching in satisfaction as the generators on the lower left side of both hives exploded with a force that would have annihilated at least a few blocks back on Earth
"Target is destroyed," he said, turning the ship around to face the now-opening dart bays. "I'm initiating radio silence; see you inside."
With that, he terminated the radio connection- if Michael wasn't going to get into position now then he wasn't going to do anything- and turned his attention back to the space in front of him, the Darts already departing from the bays to search for the source of their recent attack.
Giving them a few seconds to observe his presence, John activated the cloak and began to quickly head towards the bay of the ship that Michael's signal had originated from, swiftly weaving his way through the approaching darts before he slipped into the dart-bay entrance. The narrow tunnel made it difficult to avoid the darts, but John had practised enough at piloting the jumpers to neatly avoid the darts without giving away any other indications of his presence.
After a few moments, he found himself in the main bay, now virtually deserted after the other darts had left to look for him, leaving him free to deactivate the cloak and wait a few moments for the ship's sensors to detect the signal that Michael had transmitted. Turning to follow the signal, John quickly took the ship down to the necessary passage, landing and opening the rear door to allow Michael into the ship.
"Efficient work," Michael said, nodding briefly at him as he sat down in the co-pilot's seat alongside him.
"I'm good at what I do," John said, ignoring Michael's observations of the jumper around him- it was a totally new ship to the guy; it was only natural that he'd be curious, so long as he confined himself to looking rather than touching- as he turned his attention back to the jumper, turning it around and bringing up a map of the hive ship's internal layout on the HUD before he spoke to Michael again. "Now, if I wanted to find Ronon and McKay, where would they be?"
"What?" Michael said, looking sharply at the masked man. "Are you-?"
"What I'm planning isn't important to you right now; what's relevant is if you can tell me what I need to know to pull it off," John said, glaring over at Michael. "I don't like repeating myself when we're in a crisis like this; where are they?"
"They were kept around... here..." Michael said at last, indicating a particular part of the hive.
"Right," John said, tapping a few additional controls as he re-tuned the ship's sensors to track McKay and Ronon's subcutaneous transmitters- he knew that he wasn't meant to have that kind of information, but it wasn't like the signals weren't available in Atlantis's databanks if you knew where to look-, quickly finding them a short distance away from the location that Michael had identified, a few levels down and a few hundred metres along from their current position.
"What-?" Michael began.
"Hang on," John said, retracting the jumper's drive pods and shifting control to its more basic thrusters- it sacrificed a significant amount of speed, but considering the cramped conditions he was about to try and manoeuvre through and the fact that the ship was still fairly fast without them he thought the trade-off was worth it- as he shifted what power he could to the ship's shields. "This is going to get a bit rough."
What he was about to do was probably certifiably insane, but it wasn't like he had much alternatives available to him right now; with Daedalus and Orion almost certainly preparing to follow them, he couldn't afford to waste time running through the hive ship on his own to find McKay and Ronon, so he'd have to take the quickest mode of transport available to him and hope for the best.
"Oh no..." Michael said, his voice low and incredulous as John set the jumper in motion and began to fly down the corridor into the heart of the hive-ship, the jumper's exterior scraping the walls on occasion even as he continued his relentless charge through the ship. "You cannot be serious..."
"Shut up and let me focus, will you; I somehow doubt you want me to crash this thing into a wall because I wasn't paying attention!" John yelled, putting the jumper into a tight spin as he spoke, simultaneously lowering the inertial dampers just enough for Michael to feel a slight jolt as he did so in order to ensure that the other guy understood the danger of what he was trying to do.
To Michael's credit, he remained silent for the rest of their 'flight' as John charged through the ship, scratching the walls on occasion until he reached a wider area that Michael barely had time to recognise as the Queen's throneroom before the ship had risen upwards and turned its nose to hurtle down towards the floor. The Hive's exterior might be capable of withstanding drone weapons, but evidently nobody had ever anticipated someone doing this kind of thing inside the ship; tearing through the floor like it was paper, John diverted all available power to the gateship's shields as he focused his attention back to the map that he'd pulled up earlier.
Noting that he'd reached the floor where McKay and Ronon were located- fortunately they hadn't moved from the original floor; now that he thought about it, he'd never really seen much in the way of stairs in this ship-, he halted his descent and sent the gateship flying through the nearest corridor, weaving through another series of tunnels until he finally hit the jumper's breaks as he reached the corridor where the scanners indicated that McKay and Ronon currently were (They must have broken out of their original containment cells, although he wouldn't care to guess how long that had taken; he still didn't really know what Ronon was capable of, after all).
"What the HELL-!" McKay's voice said, audible even through the jumper's viewscreen as he and Ronon stared at the ship only a short distance away from them, the Canadian scientist's eyes wide with shock.
"Good to see you too," John said, casually activating the jumper's radio system to address the two men as he lowered the rear window. "Now, could you get inside, please? I don't know how much longer we've got before the Wraith realise what I've done, and it's possible that your allies are coming after this lot, in which case I'd like to leave before they start to open fire on these ships."
Exchanging brief glances with each other, McKay and Ronon hurried around to the back of the jumper and clambered in, only to halt
"What the Hell-?" McKay began to say once again, as Ronon dived for his gun as it lay on one of the benches in the rear and aimed it at Michael.
"He gave me directions; it's a long story," John said, turning around in his chair to glare resolutely at McKay and Ronon, his hand hovering under his cloak to draw his own weapon in case he needed it as he fixed his gaze on the Satedean. "You don't have to trust him completely; all you have to do is accept that he's here and we don't have time to argue about it. Now, can you both just sit back down so that I can do what I came here to do and get you both out of here?"
Not giving them time to argue, John turned his attention back to the map showing the Hive's internal layout, quickly turning the engines up to full power and charging along the corridor, only briefly noting that McKay and Ronon were now in their seats- Ronon was still holding on to his blaster, but at least he wasn't aiming it anywhere he shouldn't right now- as he continued to hurtle along the corridors towards the chosen target.
"What are you-?" McKay tried to ask.
"Regrettably, there aren't any windows in these things, and I don't fancy trying to break out of this ship through the dart bay again, so we're just going to have to make a hole in the ship the old-fashioned way," John said, his eyes narrowing as he continued towards his chosen destination, a small area a short distance away from the ventral generators where his earlier attack had weakened the Hive's hull. "Hang on tight..."
His passengers barely had time to register his words before they'd crashed through the brittle hull in front of them, John rapidly shifting the jumper's power from the shield to the cloak before any darts could get a clear shot at them. After spending a few moments hurtling onwards through space, John drew to a halt, turning the ship around to study the damaged Hive with a grim smile as the darts flew around the ship, clearly confused about what had just happened now that the source of the damage had vanished so abruptly.
"OK, you do know you're certifiably insane, right?" McKay said, his tone hurried as he looked shakily at the Phantom. "I mean, driving this thing through a Hive ship? What were you thinking?"
"That I didn't want to waste time or take the risk that someone would find you or the ju- the gateship before I could get you out if I just tried landing in the dart bay and searching for you on foot," John replied, turning back to look coldly at McKay, focusing the intense stare that he'd mastered from years of confrontations with hungry Wraith on the scientist. "Besides, given that it paid off, I hardly think you're in a position to criticise me for taking a risk."
"So what now?" Ronon asked, his eyes flicking briefly in Michael's direction in a manner that John didn't like (He might not feel entirely comfortable with that guy, but that didn't mean he wanted the guy dead right now).
"Well, I suppose we-" John began, before the sight of a hyperdrive window opening up behind the Hive ships caught his attention, the four men momentarily tensing in preparation for another Hive to appear before Daedalus and Orion emerged from the white hole in space.
He'd known that Earth's Asgard-based hyperdrives were more efficient than the Wraith's- smaller ships took less power to get into hyperspace in the first place, so they were able to push greater speed into the actual journey-, and the Ancients had naturally been the best at pretty much everything they put their minds to, but to see them arriving this quickly...
Damn, Earth was good.
As he watched, Daedalus unleashed a barrage of missiles at one of the hives, while the Orion- the gloriously functional Orion, back to the wonder she had been when she had first been activated, all the repair work he and the Taranians and Atlantis had put into getting her ready paying off at long last- sent a wave of drone weapons at the second, the drones neatly evading all the darts around the hive-ship to strike it directly, shattering it to pieces in a matter of moments.
The second hive fared better, its darts intercepting most of the missiles fired by Daedalus so that they exploded away from the ship, but the hull damage it had just sustained from John's impromptu escape was obviously made more serious by the resulting explosion when one of the nuclear missiles made it through the 'dart defences' (As John liked to think of the Wraith habit of using darts to intercept weapons fire in the place of shields). As the four men watched from their jumper, the hole that they had just emerged from began to splinter and crack, the damage rapidly spreading around the hive like something was rapidly drying out, before Orion launched a smaller wave of drones at the second Hive, its shields having easily withstood the attempted counter-attack long enough to take out its next target.
"Just the darts left, and I don't think anyone needs us for those after I already depleted my weapons," John said, glancing briefly at McKay before he turned his attention back to the ship's control panel, tapping a few controls quickly and smiling as McKay and Ronon vanished in a brief glare of Agard beaming technology.
"What-?" Michael asked.
"Lowered the shields in their area while strengthening them around ours; as far as the crews of those ships are concerned, they detected McKay and Ronon in the area, took the shields down long enough to beam them to safety, and took them on board before finishing the job on the Hives," John aid, before he turned back to the control panel, activating the ship's hyperdrive and setting off back into hyperspace. "Well, that's our part played in this fight; time to go home, huh?"
Despite the fact that he still had a long way to go before he got back to Atlantis, John couldn't help but smile.
They'd just defeated two Wraith hive-ships in a matter of minutes, and saved Earth into the bargain; all they had to do now was get back to Atlantis-
Something struck him on the back of the head, and John's last thoughts were to curse himself for letting his guard down before he fell into unconsciousness.
AN 2: Well, hope that met with everyone's satisfaction- and yes, I did take some inspiration from that bit in Star Trek: Nemesis if anyone wants to know-; next up, we look at just what Michael's going to do with John now that he has the Phantom and a hyperdrive-capable puddle jumper in his possession (As well as Elizabeth facing the usual IOA 'interrogation', of course)