"We're preparing a MALP to check the planet's condition, but I'm inclined to believe the guy," John nodded, even as he felt his face itching under the reapplied make-up; he appreciated that Elizabeth had accepted his true appearance, but he didn't want to draw attention from the rest of the city by displaying the mess of his face to the general populace. "After all, something like this is a pretty big lie when he has to know we've got the power to take his ship out if we wanted to."
"We have the address where we made contact with him; I open the windows, send a few drones through the 'gate, and bang," John shrugged.
"Seriously?" McKay looked at John incredulously. "The amount of control you'd need-"
"I spent a long time practising with this city," John observed as he looked over at McKay. "I may have never actually done that, but I tested everything involved in the process that I could to make sure it would work."
"Right," Elizabeth looked firmly between the two men. "Once we've established the… credentials of our new source, we can plan accordingly."
"But we should start planning as though he's telling the truth."
"Which means?" McKay looked sharply at the city's military leader.
"Which means," Elizabeth clarified, "you should at least start putting together everything you have about the new program you introduced to the Replicators' base code so that you're ready to give it to our Wraith associate if we decide to go along with his request."
"…Fair enough," McKay conceded, solemnly shaking his head as he walked out of the office.
"Are you sure you're OK?" Elizabeth turned to look at John.
"This guy's not a mindless animal dedicated to his own hunger-"
"I can accept that you're willing to work with him, and that's your decision, but I just mean… after what he did to you…" Elizabeth said, her expression tentative as she wanted to avoid unpleasant memories.
"I'll be fine," John nodded, a new tension around his mouth and in his eyes as he looked at her. "It's… not a pleasant memory, but I can work with this."
"Right," Elizabeth nodded at him, a tentative smile on her face. "You… you're doing well, you know?"
"I'm just working with the situation in front of me-"
"When working with someone who tortured you," Elizabeth noted. "I can appreciate that he didn't want to do it, and the other party were the more serious threat, but it still says a great deal about you as a person if you can put that aside."
"… Thanks," John smiled, Elizabeth's simple approval more reassuring to him than anything he'd received from the IOA to date. "What's up with Davos?"
"Doctor Keller confirmed that he's suffering from cancer," Elizabeth replied, her mood becoming even more solemn as she relayed the news. "She's requested that he be allowed to come here so that we can examine him more closely, in case there's something we can do for him, but unless there's something you haven't told us…?"
"Not really," John shook his head. "I never really explored Atlantis's medical wing beyond what you've already found, and keep in mind that the Ancients were already exploring their own natural healing abilities by the time they came here; they didn't really get sick at that point, and they mostly healed themselves if they were injured."
"And anything serious enough that they couldn't heal themselves would probably have killed them immediately," Elizabeth mused, shaking her head in frustration. "That's the problem when dealing with this kind of advanced technology; they don't always give us the chance to explore the intervening stages to work out how they got from… well, from 'us' to 'them'."
"We deal," John said with a smile before his mood became solemn once again. "We'd better get to McKay; if the Asurans are going after humans now, he's going to start blaming himself for it."
"Why is it," John stated as he walked into Atlantis's designed 'visitor's quarters' with a firm glare directed at Richard Woolsey, "that people always prefer passing the buck rather than just getting on with it?"
"Mr Sheppard-" Woolsey began.
"And keep in mind that I'm officially Atlantis's military leader, so treat me as such and don't act like I'm some civilian poking my nose in for no good reason."
"Mr Sheppard," Woolsey repeated firmly, "considering past precedent set by former attempts to ally with the Wraith, I hardly feel that we are unjustified in expressing concern about how we should respond to this particular threat-"
"What is the problem?" John protested. "We're not talking about trying to convince a feral bear not to eat us in the woods; the Wraith kill to eat, not because they sadistically want us dead!"
"Which means that they are a threat, which means that the idea of giving them access to an advanced weapon that could be turned against us-"
"Is not the issue here," John countered. "Look, I'm the one who came up with the original idea to turn the Asurans on the Wraith, so if you think I'm not kicking myself about this already you're making a big mistake, but if the IOA sincerely believe that we can cope with the Asurans on our own then you can tell them from me that they need to get their heads examined!"
"Need I remind you that your position in Atlantis is purely-"
"Oh, I know what I am right now, but if you're going to suggest anything, keep in mind that I have the approval of General O'Neill and the entirety of SG-1 as to my credibility as a military advisor," John cut the other man off.
"I hardly need to remind you that our last collaboration with the Wraith ended up with two hive-ships discovering the coordinates of Earth-"
"When we were taking their word for the reason they were approaching us for help and nothing else," John pointed out. "This time around we've got independently-verified, unfakeable evidence that the Asurans are acting as the Wraith described, and the only way we're going to get past the changes they've made to their base-code since the Wraith used the original virus is to work together to analyse what we've got from new perspectives."
"The circumstances might be different, but do you seriously think this is a good idea?"
"'Good' might be an exaggeration, but I am certain that this could be the only chance we've got to stop the Asurans while we still have potential allies against them," John explained. "The Asurans have already killed over a hundred and fifty thousand people to start their campaign to starve the Wraith out; if we don't act soon, humanity in Pegasus could be extinct in the next few years."
"…Quite," Woolsey said, looking at John in a thoughtful manner for a moment. "You are aware, I presume, that you make Doctor Weir's position here difficult?"
"Only if you're a pedantic S.O.B. who doesn't recognise that you can't do things by the book in another galaxy," John countered. "I get that rules are there for reasons, but right now we're trying to treat a man who can see the future in an alien city/spaceship that inspired one of the most enduring myths in human history while a race of alien vampires are fighting a race that can best be described as the T-1000s; rules stopped being relevant a while ago."
"You gained access to the Terminator movies?" Woolsey looked at John in surprise.
"I had to unwind somehow while I was back on Earth," John shrugged, before he sighed and shook his head. "Look, for what it's worth, I'm sorry for unloading this at you; it's just… well, I appreciate that I can get more done as part of Atlantis's official command structure, but sometimes I feel like everyone back home doesn't appreciate how important this is."
"Things can be… challenging… to explain to the inexperienced," Woolsey smiled slightly at John. "For what it's worth, the IOA are more accepting of that then they might have been when initially assembled; being nearly killed by the Ori's plague of insects has a way of making you rethink things."
"Oh yeah, I read that file…" John nodded, before he looked at Woolsey in a more solemn manner. "Getting back to the point, I can appreciate that past precedent doesn't set a good example for the idea that an alliance with the Wraith can work, but make it clear that this time around they've given us clear reasons why they have to work with us, and we're dealing with a guy who's already kept his word to me when he had no reason to believe he needed to."
"He couldn't have known anyone else was coming to save me when he gave me back my life after taking out those Genii; has to earn him points, right?"
"True," Woolsey conceded, looking at John for a moment before he spoke again. "You have no issue with my interest in Davos's physiology?"
"Hey, he has no problem with it and anything that gives us insight into our potential biological future's not to be sneezed at," John shrugged. "Like I said, I understand the need, but you need to make sure that the IOA back on Earth understand that this isn't the kind of situation where we can mutter and complain about stuff until the problem's destroyed itself."
"I would obviously not phrase it quite like that…" Woolsey mused.
"I'm the military leader; there's a reason Eliz- Doctor Weir handles the diplomatic stuff."
"John?" Elizabeth's voice suddenly broke in over his radio.
"Yes?" John replied, raising the radio to his mouth.
"I need you in my office," Elizabeth replied. "Davos has… he shared his latest vision with me."
One look at Woolsey was enough for John to confirm he wasn't going to get out of the other man insisting that he accompany John to this particular meeting.