"It's perfect!" the Canadian scientist grinned. "With all three ZedPMs still at a comfortable power level, all we need to do is get off the ocean, out of the atmosphere, and then get the hyperdrive working before that satellite has a chance to… plant a tracker on us or something!"
"And the reason we didn't think of this earlier is?" John noted.
"Well… moving the city for one attack seemed a bit much until every other option to deal with the satellite had been used up…" McKay said, shrugging awkwardly before his gaze hardened again. "But we can do this; the Ancients repaired several key systems when they took control of the city, and I reiterate the three ZedPMs we've got not! I just need a couple of hours to make sure everything's fully charged and ready to go before we launch, and then we can use a couple of drones to knock that satellite off-target long enough to enter hyperspace."
"That is important?" Teyla asked.
"Do you want to try and fly away while that thing's still able to shoot at us?"
"Good point," Satterfield acknowledged.
"And we have enough power for this?"
"If we were still on just one ZedPM, I'd say we need a boost, but with all three acting together, we're pretty much sorted," McKay confirmed. "Admittedly, it's a shame that we'll have to leave that drilling platform behind before we got a good look at it, but we can send a team back here once we've convinced the Replicators we've abandoned the place and find a Stargate that can be spared by another planet."
"Too bad we can't just call in Orion for back-up," Ronon noted.
"Good idea, but unfortunately even the Orion would take too long to penetrate that shield, and that's assuming that it got back here on its own in time."
"I thought Lieutenant Satterfield and Doctor Zelenka were working on a means of establishing long-range communication with the Orion?" Teyla asked.
"We've made some progress in that area, but it won't work when the shield's up like this," Satterfield put in. "Regular functions can continue unimpaired, but the city's devoting too much power to the shield to transmit a signal that far."
"And it wouldn't work, anyway; the Orion's nice, but it can't do anything that we couldn't try here," McKay put in.
"We appreciate that various alternatives have been considered and disregarded for good reasons at this point; this isn't the time to start second-guessing ourselves now that we have a clear plan," Elizabeth cut in, looking firmly around at her senior staff. "The question that matters most right now is simple; now that we have a plan, can we carry it out?"
"With the shield at full power and a couple of drones ready to fire at just the right moment to throw that beam off-target?" McKay nodded. "We can do this."
"Then get to work," Elizabeth said firmly.
As the scientist left for his lab while Elizabeth moved to make a broadcast to the city, John mused that at least he could be fairly sure that he didn't have anything to do for a while; it would give him time to run a couple more tests for his own little idea…
Sitting in her office as they prepared for their next step, Elizabeth had to admit that she was feeling good about their chances. She'd issued orders to the rest of the city to prepare for the activation of the city's stardrive, and everyone was moving anything that could be spared into the central tower to minimise the strain on their energy reserves while in-flight; McKay was confident that they would have sufficient power, but Elizabeth felt that it didn't hurt to be prepared. She'd even had a fairly civil conversation with Colonel Ellis before he'd returned to the Apollo with other non-essential personnel, during which he'd actually apologised on his own accord about his earlier attitude towards her, claiming that he was just used to being the one calling the shots.
She wasn't sure if she completely accepted that, but at least it seemed like nobody here was secretly planning to kick her out of Atlantis any more. She might have some doubts about her role, but if John had been watching her for three years by now, she liked to think that he would have established if she was doing a good job or not, given his own experience with Pegasus.
Glancing at her watch, she noted that John should be settling into position in the control chair to start the flight right now, which meant that it was time for her to return to the control room rather than just go over the papers in her office. Walking into the control room, she noted her staff doing over various pre-flight checks as they finalised the coding commands necessary to start Atlantis's stardrive. According to McKay, approximately thirty percent of their total power requirements for this flight would be needed just to get them off the ocean, but even with the satellite beam striking their shields, three ZPMs should be enough to get them out of the atmosphere, at which point John would knock the satellite off-target long enough for them to trigger the hyperdrive and get away.
It was the most complex bit of flying anyone had ever done in Earth's current history, but it was the best plan they had right now, and she had faith that John could pull it off.
"Are we ready?" she looked over at McKay as he stood over one of the primary consoles.
"Well…" McKay began before he trailed off and shrugged helplessly. "Here goes nothing."
It wasn't the most encouraging thing he could have said, but Elizabeth could see his train of thought well enough; this plan still had its risks, but they didn't have anything better they could try.
His mind fixed on the current goal, McKay activated some controls, and Elizabeth heard the sound from their first day in the city, as the failsafe mechanism activated and released the city to float back to the surface. She wondered if John was aware of the finer details of the city from his position in the control chair, or if he just knew that they were moving, but the question became academic as they breached the surface and the red beam illuminated the shield directly once again.
"We're on the surface," McKay called into his radio. "Fire up the stardrive!"
As soon as the command was issued, the city shook, and Elizabeth thought she saw water boiling at the edges of the pier out of the nearest window before it ascended up from the sea, accompanied by the same strange jolt in her stomach Elizabeth always felt when the plane she was in took off.
"That's it!" McKay grinned, his eyes wide as he looked up from the console with a broad grin. "We're flying!"
Even the red glow of the city shield couldn't mar this moment for Elizabeth, as she walked over to take in the nearest window with a satisfied smile.
This wasn't something she'd ever planned to do with her life, but the thought of commanding a flying city was still a concept that appealed to a childish part of her; the fact that they were about to evade a dangerous enemy just gave it a more practical reason…
"We're leaving the atmosphere!" she called out, activating her radio as she spoke to let John know what was happening.
"On it!" John replied, before she saw two drones leave the city and head towards the source of the beam that was still striking the shield. As the drones struck, the beam temporarily shifted position to aim away from the city, but Elizabeth could see it already turning back around towards them…
Then there was a sudden jolting sensation as the stars around them accelerated away, and the city was in the blue 'tunnel' of hyperspace, flying away from the planet that had been Atlantis's home for the last few thousand years towards its next destination.
We did it, Elizabeth thought, grinning at the sound of cheers behind her. We beat the Replicators… we're safe…
"Elizabeth?" John's voice cut in over the radio.
"Yes?" Elizabeth asked, quickly tapping her radio in response.
"The hyperdrive can pretty much run on automatic at this point, so can we get everyone together right now?" her military leader asked. "I have something I'd like to run by you all."
"OK," Lorne looked curiously at the man once known as the Phantom as the Atlantis senior staff gathered in the conference room once again, "we're on our way, so what's this meeting about?"
"Quite frankly," John said firmly, "now that we're en route, I have another idea I'd like to run by you."
"Pardon?" McKay looked sharply at John. "You had another idea-?"
"For dealing with the Replicators, but it would only work once we'd dealt with the satellite issue, and that was still a big 'maybe'," John clarified. "You know that hyperspace-capable jumper I used to intercept those Wraith hives during our last meeting with Michael?"
"Yeah… how did you make something like that anyway?"
"I found an old lab somewhere in the city that had been working on the project and used the notes put it together in my spare time," John explained. "It's not capable of intergalactic travel on its own- I had to latch onto the signature of the hives' engines and follow that to get the right boost this time around- but if we're in hyperspace along the route we planned, if we just drop out at a certain point, the jumper should be enough to get me to Asuras-"
"Asuras?" McKay and Elizabeth yelled simultaneously.
"You want to go to Asuras?" McKay said, looking at John as though he'd gone insane. "In a jumper? What are you going to do, try a kamikaze assault with a nuke?"
"I was thinking that it might be possible to access the Asuran mainframe and reactivate their original programming to eliminate the Wraith," John corrected the scientist, enjoying the brief stunned looks he received at that statement before he continued. "I didn't see any point in suggesting it as a solution when we were still under attack as the Asurans would probably prefer to finish the old job before getting on with the new one, but now that they don't know where we are, wouldn't the Asurans go for the easier target rather than waste time finding us?"
"That…" McKay began, before he paused and nodded thoughtfully. "Actually, that might work; if we can access the central data core and reactivate the command code to attack the Wraith, they would probably revert to their default programming…"
"I thought you were against attacking the Asurans?" Elizabeth asked.
"I was against attacking them when we couldn't wipe them out completely with one stroke," John clarified. "What I'm proposing is a surgical strike that should allow us to turn our newer adversary against our more long-term threat until we can finish the anti-Replicator weapons."
"That's… it could actually work," Satterfield noted. "I mean, it wouldn't work against the old Replicators because we never had access to their central node, but if the Asgard could use Reese to lure in the other Replicators back in the day, we could probably do something similar here."
"I could hide the attack code with a bunch of spam data and they might just think I was attempting to disrupt them with a virus," McKay nodded thoughtfully. "Ask them to find the final digit of pi, prove that P equals NP, things like that…"
He paused for a moment, lost in thought, before he shook his head. "No, it wouldn't work; if we're going to get in and out without being detected, we'll need access to the Replicators' nanite network in the first place."
"Ah," John said awkwardly. "Just cloaking the ship and getting in close isn't an option, then?"
"It would get us into the city, don't get me wrong, but as soon as we do anything to disrupt their systems, they'd know about it and intercept us, unless we had some way of diverting their attention away from us that we can access apart from via the central core."
"And we don't have that…" John groaned, lowering his head in frustration. "Damnit, I really thought I had something there…"
"And you do," McKay said, suddenly looking awkwardly at John. "We do have a means of accessing the nanite network…"
"We do?" John asked in surprise. "What is it?"
"Excuse me?" John said, his tone shifting from hopeful to cold as he glared at the Canadian scientist.
"She still has the deactivated nanites that Niam tried to infect her with before we shut them down," McKay clarified, indicating the city's leader. "They're dormant right now, but if I can work out a program to reactivate them in a semi-dormant state so that they don't try and rewrite her body into one of them, we should be able to use her to distract the Replicators long enough for us to find where the central core is and reactivate the attack code-"
"Hey, this was your idea-"
"And I will repeat myself; no," John said firmly. "I am not taking Elizabeth into the heart of Replicator territory-"
"You don't have to; I'm going."
"Excuse me?" John looked sharply at her. "Elizabeth, this isn't some diplomatic mission-"
"And it's not like I've never been in danger before, John," Elizabeth noted grimly. "I was here when the Wraith attacked us at the end of the first year and when the Asurans tried to take over the city a few months ago; it's not my regular role, but I can do it."
"All I need you to do is basically provide an access port to the mainframe so that I can keep track of where the other Asurans are, and I can add a kill-switch that would allow me to shut them back down if any of them try to take control of you in return," McKay smiled. "We get in, get the code, and get back out; maybe we can even get a new ZedPM or two if the opportunity arises."
"I have my reserves-"
"And we can't always rely on those; it can't hurt to have one or two available if we need a boost on short notice," McKay added. "Look, I get that this probably isn't the way you wanted to put this plan into action, but it's the best way we've got right now, so can we just get to the Asurans and take it from there?"
Staring at the Canadian scientist in frustration for a moment, John finally sighed and glanced over at Elizabeth.
"If you're sure?" he said.
"I'm sure," Elizabeth nodded.
"Right," John said, standing up from the table. "Let's go before I change my mind."