God... she couldn't even call John here for security because of the risk that he'd provoke the Wraith into an attack given their past 'relationship' with him; John had made it clear that he barely accepted Michael's presence when he'd been human, and she didn't even want to imagine what he could do if he thought things weren't going their way...
The strange thing was, when she thought about it, what Elizabeth wanted the most right now wasn't for John to be present because of the additional security that it would provide her with; she just wanted John present for him.
She was engaged in diplomatic negotiations that could end or at least seriously curtail the Wraith's expansion in this galaxy, and she wanted a masked vigilante with little apparent restrictions against killing to be there for moral support...
Then the Wraith delegation walked into the control room, including a short-haired Wraith with slightly greenish skin that could only be Michael, a more conventional Wraith, and a Wraith female with long dark hair dressed in white, and Elizabeth's wishes had to be put aside to focus on the task at hand.
She and Sumner had already prepared a list of 'rules' for the Wraith to follow that hopefully wouldn't be too restrictive for them; she might want to make this potential alliance work, but she didn't need to have John there to remind her that trusting any Wraith for longer than was absolutely necessary probably wouldn't be the smartest thing she'd ever done.
"I'm Doctor Elizabeth Weir," she said at last, hoping that she looked more confident than she felt; for all the preparations that they had made and were about to make, this kind of situation was definitely one for the record books, and the problem with setting precedents like that was that it was hard to know what would trigger a mistake. "Welcome to Atlantis."
As he kept a relatively constant eye on various members of the Wraith 'delegation'- Michael remained his top priority, although some of the Wraith scientists attracted his interest as well-while crawling through the tunnels, John wondered if he should feel guilty at the lack of trust he was showing them when so far they'd done nothing while he was watching them to show that he had any reason to be suspicious of them.
They'd agreed to Elizabeth's terms and restrictions relatively easily in exchange for the chance to work on the retrovirus, Zelenka and Beckett's discussions with the Wraith scientist about dissemination appeared to be going well- even if they were still having trouble working out how they were going to effectively disseminate the retrovirus in a gaseous form throughout a hive-ship-, and McKay's analysis of the Wraith data that they had received earlier seemed to be going well based on the reports he'd heard (Even if Hermiod- he wished he'd had a bit of time to talk with that Asgard guy about stuff, but sometimes you had to ignore what you wanted and focus on what was practical- apparently wasn't that enthusiastic about it, given his race's own level of technological advancement compared to the Wraith).
Right now, however, the Wraith that was currently occupying his attention was Michael, who was currently simply waiting around in the same isolation room where he had been kept after he had originally been brought to Atlantis all those weeks ago, examining the bed where he had been kept with an almost affectionate manner as two marine guards stood on either side of the room.
Looking at him now, John had to wonder how much of the retrovirus-induced memory-loss remained; Beckett had calculated that repeated reinforcement of his 'new' identity would have eventually resulted in Michael forming new memories to supplant his old ones and support what he was being told about his past, but the scientist had never gone into much detail about what he'd recall if he started to return to his original biology...
"Hello, Michael," a voice said; glancing over at the door from his silent 'observation post' behind the maintenance hatch, John wondered if he should feel relieved or worried that it was Teyla and Ronon standing there.
On the one hand, they could definitely handle Michael better than most if things turned ugly, but on the other hand, they'd acquired the ability to handle him so well by living in a galaxy where they constantly had to fight the Wraith; instinct was a tricky thing to overcome in this kind of situation (Not that he thought he'd be better-equipped at suppressing his hatred than they were; he just felt that he'd be able to focus more on his dedication to Elizabeth and her goal than that, while they didn't really have anything to focus on to the same extent).
"It seemed right to come back here, and to see you," Michael said, his tone almost wistful as he looked over at Teyla. "Thank you for coming."
As he paused to lean forward slightly on the bed, Michael nodded at where Ronon stood slightly off to the side behind Teyla, the Satedean's posture seemingly relaxed but still obviously ready for a fight. "You didn't have to bring him."
"I insisted," Ronon said simply.
"The last time I saw you," Michael said, addressing Teyla without responding to Ronon, his tone matter-of-fact at first with a slight hesitancy about it as he continued, "I really was going to feed on you, but it was not a matter of choice. It was... instinct."
Judging by Teyla's neutral expression, she didn't accept that as an explanation any more than he did; instinct could be overridden, particularly since Michael hadn't really possessed much in the way of conscious memory of what he'd once done to survive at the time.
"That is what you have come here to say?" she asked, a pointed tone in her voice as she spoke.
"You have given me... a very rare perspective among the Wraith," Michael said, sighing contemplatively, still sounding almost disturbingly wistful about the current topic. "Few of us have ever come to know the humans we are going to feed on as anything more than a means to survive... and still, I would do what I had to do. But what you did to me-"
"We did the same- to survive," Teyla interjected.
"I thought you were trying to help me," Michael countered, an obviously hostile tone to his voice.
"What's your point?" Ronon asked bitterly.
"We're not as different as you think," Michael said.
"We are nothing like you," Teyla said simply, glaring at the former 'lieutenant' even as he laughed briefly at her response (Not that John could blame her for her anger; what had been done to Michael might not have been totally acceptable, but it wasn't like they'd grabbed someone who couldn't defend themselves and who'd done nothing to them beforehand just for their own benefit).
"You are a lot more like us than you allow yourselves to believe," Michael responded, after he had stopped laughing at Teyla's last comment.
"I will not argue with you, Michael," Teyla said resolutely. "It is pointless."
"If we are to make this alliance work, we must both overcome the instincts that define us," Michael said, only to be met with nothing but stares from Ronon and Teyla at his comment. "We will not meet again."
"Goodbye," Teyla said, Michael simply inclining his head at her as he repeated her farewell. For a moment, as Teyla turned to leave the room, John thought that things were going to work out, but then Ronon pulled out his gun and held it to Michael's head, snarling in obvious rage, as soon as Teyla had left the room, and even Michael's nonchalance wasn't enough to make him feel better about it.
"You're proving my point right now," Michael said, his face apparently neutral as he looked back at Ronon. "Oh, every fibre in your body wants to kill me-"
"But he's not," John said, stepping out of his tunnel- it was fortunately at the end of the bed hidden behind a few pieces of equipment, so the marines at either end couldn't see exactly where it was even if they quickly raised their weapons slightly as he appeared- and glaring at the Wraith that had once been a man. "And that's what makes the difference between him and you."
"Phantom..." Michael said, his eyes flicking over to look at him with a slight smile even as he continued to face Ronon. "Are you here to kill me?"
"No," John replied, shaking his head as he folded his arms and stared at the other man. "I'm here to point out to you why you're wrong; Ronon is a victim of his instincts, but unlike you, he doesn't let them define who he is."
He smiled slightly as he glanced over at the Satedean, even if Ronon's gun was still pointing at Michael, before he turned his attention back to the former Wraith. "And that's why what we are is something you couldn't be; even when you didn't know what you were, you tried to go back to that, but Ronon is at least trying to be more than just some guy who kills Wraith."
Ronon didn't respond verbally to John's comment, but the brief nod he gave him before he turned and walked out was enough for him.
"You have a lot of faith in these people," Michael said, looking at John in a slightly quizzical manner.
"They wanted to find a way to end this without having to kill people," John replied with a slight shrug, ignoring the marines around him (He noted that they were at least still more obviously apprehensive around Michael rather than him; at least his past record counted for something). "Just because I've destroyed hive-ships in the past doesn't mean I want to make a habit of it; if they can stop the Wraith without us having to kill them, I'm all for that."
"Even if it means working with me?" Michael asked, raising an eyebrow slightly as he looked at John. "You have already made your feelings towards me clear..."
"I never said that I automatically hate all Wraith, Michael; I just meant that I'm a lot less inclined to sympathise with a Wraith than I would be with a human," John clarified, continuing to glare at the hybrid as he spoke. "You're not trying to kill anyone, and your plan seems genuine enough; just know that, if I get so much as a hint that you're up to something, I will be down on you like the metaphorical ton of bricks, understood?"
"Bricks?" Michael repeated with a slightly uncertain smile, as though he had stumbled across something interesting when he wasn't sure what it meant.
"The point," John said, his eyes narrowing as he glared at Michael, "is that I will take you out if I think that you're going to betray us; is that clear?"
"Perfectly," Michael said, nodding at John with a slight smile that John didn't like the look of.
He knew that he was probably being overly paranoid, but he couldn't help it; when dealing with a Wraith like Michael- even if he wasn't a full Wraith any more- who clearly demonstrated an ability to think about a bit more than where his next meal was coming from, he felt that he was allowed to show some concern about what the guy could realise if he was given too much information...
"What will happen once you disseminate the weapon?" Elizabeth asked, looking at the Wraith Queen as she sat on the other side of Elizabeth's desk, Sumner currently standing just behind the Queen along with the two marine guards.
It might have been a somewhat dangerous position to be in- guards or no guards, Wraith were fast-, but Elizabeth had wanted to have a chance to question the Queen without any other Wraith around, and the long-term consequences of their current plan were something that Elizabeth didn't feel comfortable ignoring.
"We shall continue on to the next hive," the Wraith Queen replied casually.
"And then what?" Sumner asked, as he walked around from behind the Queen to stand alongside her.
"We will continue until we have conquered all of our enemies," she said in the same casual tone.
"And you think our retrovirus can do all that?" Elizabeth asked, leaning forward to look pointedly at the Queen.
"Yes," the other woman- Elizabeth couldn't think of her as something 'other' in an environment like this, even as she acknowledged that the figure before her wasn't human- said, with a slightly wicked smile that reminded Elizabeth uncomfortably of the stereotypical image of a vampire.
"And once we've handed it over to you, how can we know that you'll leave it at that?" Sumner asked.
"I see," the Queen said, her expression neutral as she looked at Sumner before returning her stare to Elizabeth. "Your people will... not be harmed. Such will be the nature of our agreement."
"And what about all the other humans on the other worlds?" Elizabeth asked. "Any chance you'll stop feeding on them?"
"Your retrovirus will allow us to feed off enemy Wraith," the Queen pointed out. "There will come a time, however, when our enemy will be vanquished."
"At which point you will resume feeding on the human population of this galaxy," Sumner said, his tone grim as he looked at the Queen.
"That will take far longer than your short lifetime," the Queen interjected.
"Let's just assume that I'd prefer to ensure my successors don't have to clean up my mess after I retire," Sumner replied.
"The technology of this city- this city that you now control- is far more powerful than that of the Wraith," the Queen said, initially looking at Elizabeth before she turned her gaze to Sumner, "yet we brought the Lanteans to their knees. Why?"
"Weight of numbers, based on what we've found in the database," Sumner said.
"Numbers that will be diminished by your retrovirus," the Queen said with a slight shrug. "Balance will be restored. I believe that is as much as either of us can ask for, don't you?"
Elizabeth hated the thought that the best they could do was restore a sense of balance, but in one sense the Queen had a point; right now, keeping the Wraith focused on each other so that the human population of Pegasus had a chance to grow stronger was the best that she could hope for.
If only their original plan for the virus was still possible; eliminating the Wraith need to feed was something she would have been a lot more comfortable with...
As he and the rest of the city waited for news about how their latest research project had turned out, John had to admit that things seemed to be going fairly well. With Beckett and the Wraith scientist having effectively devised a means of dispersing the virus as a gas rather than the injections they'd used earlier, the subsequent test had apparently been a fairly effective success- even if John really didn't like how the Queen had just killed her now-human crewman so abruptly; even the Wraith should show some concern about their fellows in his book-, and he was currently waiting, along with the rest of Atlantis, for news on the planned attack on another hive-ship in their immediate vicinity.
He might not be comfortable with the plan, but if they could even get one more hive-ship off the table in this whole conflict, that would be something; it wasn't like those things could reach their peak that easily, after all...
"Carson," Elizabeth's voice said, drawing John's train of thought back to his current location; with a few Wraith still in Atlantis, and knowing that this was the best location to wait in to be up-to-date with the city's current activities, he had chosen to wait in the tunnels near Elizabeth's office to keep updated on what was happening.
"Elizabeth," Beckett said, John looking out from his tunnel in the wall behind Elizabeth's just in time to see the Scottish doctor put his hands on the desk and lean over, prompting Elizabeth to cease her earlier typing and look back at him. "When I developed this retrovirus for the Wraith, it was to free them from what I perceived to be an unnatural state. Now, at the very moment they take human form, they'll face a horribly painful death. No matter how we rationalise this, we're still lettin' the Wraith kill humans."
"Well, I guess it depends on how you define 'human'," Elizabeth replied, even if the uncomfortable tone in her voice made it clear to John that she wasn't happy about that questionable assessment any more than Beckett was.
"We can't judge an entire race based on the fact that Michael's experiment didn't work," the doctor replied; John wondered if he should approve or simply be frustrated at the other man's dedication to the Hippocratic oath.
"If you're asking me whether or not I'm losing sleep over this..." Elizabeth began, before the expression on Beckett's face made her pause and look down before continuing. "Well, I am taking those sedatives you prescribed."
Somehow, the simplicity of that statement broke John's heart where Beckett's saddened expression had done nothing.
The woman he'd vowed to protect was in a position where she felt it necessary to drug herself in order to get a good night's sleep...
Damnit, he was supposed to be the one to make the hard choices like this so that she wouldn't have to; was it asking too much for the universe to spare her from that kind of crap?
She was meant to be leading this expedition in a journey of discovery and exploration of the secrets of a whole new galaxy; she was not meant to be doing... this!
John didn't bother sticking around; turning around, he began to crawl back towards the nearest tunnel intersection so that he could find somewhere large enough to get slightly more comfortable, and then settle down to mourn his failure.
No matter how much he tried to do so, he couldn't escape the fact that Elizabeth had been forced to do things she should never have had to do since she became the commander of Atlantis...
When the news came in that the planned attempt to disperse the retrovirus gas throughout the hive had failed, Elizabeth wasn't sure if she should even bother being surprised; it seemed to practically be a rule that any attempts to activate a superweapon would be difficult at first, no matter how much you wanted things to go smoothly (Even if that rule at least meant that they couldn't be wiped out by their enemies on the first attempt as well).
"Our delegation was searched," the Wraith Queen explained over the video feed, Sumner and McKay standing with Elizabeth as they stared grimly at the screen. "They were killed immediately when your canisters were discovered. Our transport ship tried to escape but it was destroyed. You must devise a better delivery method."
"Or what?" Elizabeth asked; she was fairly certain she knew, but she preferred confirmation.
"Or we will disclose your location to the other Wraith," the Queen said, her face presenting that same frustrating smirk that reminded Elizabeth of the teenage beauty queens who'd always mocked her dedication to her studies.
"We kept our part of the bargain," Elizabeth said (She was actually slightly grateful she'd spent so much time with John by now; he could deliver a hard stare that it was very useful to imitate at times like this). "We gave you the retrovirus."
"And it is useless without an effective delivery system," the Queen retorted angrily.
"Alliances are normally more 'give and take' than this; do you seriously expect us to do all the work to get this virus working properly?" Sumner put in from alongside her, only for the Queen's subsequent glare at them to leave Elizabeth forced to turn her attention over to McKay out of a lack of any idea what she could say to the Queen's admittedly logical point.
"OK, OK," McKay said, sagging and sighing in resignation. "I will figure something out..."
As soon as he'd spoken, McKay seemed to collect himself as he re-focused his attention on the Queen, an arm outstretched as he pointed at the screen. "But no more holding back. I want to know everything there is to know about hive ships; schematics, power distribution, life support configurations, everything you've got."
"Then you shall have it," the Queen said, in such a simple tone of voice that even Elizabeth was surprised to hear.
"For real?" McKay said, evidently just as stunned as she was at the casual acceptance of that demand.
Without answering verbally, the Queen turned her head and apparently nodded at someone off-camera, followed swiftly by a console beeping behind Elizabeth.
"Receiving transmission," Chuck said.
"Make sure it's secure," Elizabeth said as she glanced over at McKay.
"Yeah-yeah-yeah, we're completely firewalled; let me see that," McKay said, running over to Chuck's station and shoving him out of the way, ignoring the chair rolling away from the console as he stared at the screen in amazement for a few moments before he looked eagerly back at Elizabeth and Sumner. "She actually did it! I mean, this is the motherload!"
"What is, exactly?" Elizabeth asked, looking at McKay even as Sumner kept his gaze on the screen.
"Only everything you've ever wanted to know about Wraith technology but were afraid to ask," McKay replied, grinning broadly as he turned back to study the screen, leaving Elizabeth and Sumner to return their attention to the Wraith Queen
"Why are you doing this?" Elizabeth asked, her eyes narrowing slightly as she analysed her 'counterpart' in the current alliance.
"We have suffered extensive damage," the Queen replied.
For a moment, Elizabeth exchanged glances with Sumner, but even the warning in his eyes wasn't enough to discourage her from her next decision; if they were going to maintain their alliance with this hive, she had to give something back after the edge they'd just received.
"We could render assistance," she said, shrugging in a meant-to-be-dismissive manner as she addressed the screen once again.
"You would do this?" the Queen asked.
"We're supposed to have an alliance, aren't we?" Elizabeth replied. "Sending information on Wraith technology was a remarkable act of good faith on your part."
"Your assistance would be... acceptable," the Queen said, a brief smile on her face before she assumed her previously-established cool stare.
"All right then," Elizabeth said. "We have a deal."
Even if she still wasn't entirely comfortable with what they were planning to do here, she had to admit that the possibility of getting this kind of information about Wraith technology helped her feel significantly more optimistic about the future; maybe they could use what they found here to work out another way of immobilising the Wraith ships without needing to actually kill anyone else by turning them into a new food supply.