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27 February 2009 @ 10:48 pm
Help from Unexpected Places: The Tower  
Author's Note: Been a while, I know. RL is kicking my ass. Enjoy The Tower.







John climbed into the ‘Jumper, slinging his weapon onto one of the seats. “Alice?”

“Yes, John,” she said from the cockpit.

“There’s an Ancient city here.”

Alice blinked. “The City here was destroyed. Torn down by the Wraith. There are no power readings.”

“The central spire’s standing. I was just looking at it. Out.”

She rose from the pilot’s seat, slipping into the co-pilot’s. “It was reported destroyed.”

“Well, your reports were wrong. Atlantis, come in.”

This is Atlantis.”

“Elizabeth around?”

I’m here, John. What’s going on?

John rapidly summarized their trip to the village and the tower standing nearby, as well as the villagers’ recounting of the ‘lights that explode’.

Do you think this Eldred is telling the truth?” Elizabeth asked.

“There's no reason for him to lie.”

And you say the Tower looks a lot like Lantean architecture?

“It was overgrown by vegetation, but otherwise there was definitely something familiar about it.”

So the people in the Tower could be Ancients.

“No,” Alice said quietly. “The People came home from here.”

“I don't know,” John said thoughtfully. “A feudal society doesn't fit the profile. Why would the Ancients wanna lord over a bunch of simple farmers?”

I don't know. Either way, we should talk with them.”

“Agreed. I’ll see if I can get inside.”

Be careful, John.”

“As ever. Sheppard out.” He turned to look at Alice. “You wanna see if you can talk my way in?”

“There’s no power, John. I can’t talk to something that isn’t there. The only Ancient construct I can sense on this planet is this ‘Gate ship.”

“Alright. Where’s the lifesigns detector? Just in case.”



John made it back to the village in time to see several soldiers from the Citadel threatening Eldred. John glanced around, moving to join Teyla and Ronon.

“Who are these guys?”

“Soldiers from the Tower,” Ronon told him.

John looked over in time to see the soldier’s leader violently backhand Eldred, sending him flying. They ran forward, Teyla reaching to help Eldred while John and Ronon faced off against the soldiers.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Take it easy,” John said firmly.

“Who are you?” the constable demanded.

“Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard. Who are you?”

“I am a Constable of the Lord Protector's guard, and this village scum dared to defy me. It's clear we're going to have to make an example.”

He pulled a whip from his belt, unraveling it. John shook his head, unshipping his weapon and sensing the others do the same.

“I don't think so.”

“Please, Colonel,” Eldred protested. “It's my fault.”

John ignored him, telling the constable, “If you think I'm gonna sit here and let you whip an innocent man, you're sorely mistaken.”

“Constable.”

John spun to face the newcomer, feeling Ronon shift back-to-back. The stranger was an older man, dressed in what looked more like ceremonial clothes than the rags the villagers made do with.

“You may stand down,” he told the guard, who hurried to obey. To John, he added, “You are the strangers who requested an audience, are you not?”

He pulled two small devices from his pocket, holding them up so John could see they weren’t weapons.

“That's us,” John agreed cautiously. The devices were Ancient, he could tell that from here, but he had no idea what they did.

“My name is Otho. I have the honor to be Chamberlain to the Lord Protector. And you would never be allowed in his presence so armed.” He scanned the team with one of the devices as he spoke; it beeped when it got to John, and he looked down with interest.

“Well, I guess we'll have to be on our way, then.” John glanced back at the others; neither had lowered their weapons, nor looked away from the soldiers.

“I'm afraid it's too late for that.” He turned towards the soldiers, gesturing to John. “Take this one.”

Ronon and Teyla drew in, ready to defend him.

“Please, Colonel, don't resist,” Eldred pleaded. “The Lord Protector sees all.”

“He does, you know,” Otho agreed. “But I suppose you're going to need a demonstration...And here it comes.”

John turned sharply at a whooshing sound. A drone appeared from the direction of the tower, flying low overhead and crashing into the village green, throwing dirt and debris in all directions. The villagers panicked, some running away and some dropping where they stood, weeping.

“Now, please, turn over your weapons,” Otho said mildly. “Some of the people here may not survive the next strike.”

“Colonel?” Eldred begged.

John grimaced, lowering his gun and motioning for the others to do the same. The soldiers moved in, efficiently stripping their weapons.





The trip to the tower didn’t take long; John ignored Otho and the soldiers as much as he could until they got there. He was led into what would have been the ‘Gate room in Atlantis.

Staring around, he reached slowly for his radio. “This is Sheppard. Anyone reading me?”

Colonel! Are you alright?” Teyla demanded.

“I'm fine. Is McKay with you?”

I'm here.

“Did you find anything with your scans?” He glanced around, lowering his voice in case anyone was listening.

As a matter of fact, I did. There's definitely an active ZedPM, but it's barely registering, so it's hard to say whether it's, uh, depleted or just not drawing much power right now.

“What else?”

The really interesting part is that it seems to be coming from underground. Now, when I realised that, I started scanning for subterranean structures. The Tower is just the tip of the iceberg, and there is a *massive* structure buried beneath it. Now, it's hard to say without more detailed analysis, but, it could very well be comparable in size to Atlantis itself.

“Doesn't really surprise me,” John said absently, turning in a slow circle to take in the whole room. It was decorated in what should have been rich hangings and decorations, but it just reminded John of Gormanghast.

“I'm in the Tower right now,” he added belatedly, “and, uh, I gotta say ... it does kinda look familiar!”

He clicked off the radio as an elderly man came in, followed by several others. The man strode past John, shaking off the helping hands that reached for him, and settled himself on an Ancient control chair. The chair lit up under him; John watched carefully, but nothing else seemed to happen. A young woman sat beside the control chair, and a man stood just behind it.

“You there,” the elderly man said. “Approach.”

John took a couple of steps forward. “Lieutenant Colonel John Shep ...”

“I know who you are. I saw you in the village.”

“You did?”

“I see all that I need to see within my domain.”

The chair leaned back and a holographic display came up above him, showing the village and his team. John studied the image for a moment before looking back at the Lord Protector.

“Your friends – they are concerned about you.”

“Well, um, to be perfectly honest, I'm a little concerned about me too. I mean, um, I'm a prisoner, right?”

The chair lifted back up and the Protector smiled faintly. “A show of force was necessary for the benefit of the villagers. It keeps them from getting ideas. But for the moment I would prefer it if you thought of yourself as a guest.”

The young man spoke without looking away from John. “Father, I must object. This man should be punished. He challenged one of our constables.”

“One of our constables?” the Protector repeated dangerously.

“Forgive me,” the man muttered. “One of your constables.”

The Protector dismissed him, looking back at John. “Lieutenant Colonel, it would be my pleasure that you dine with us this evening.”

Otho stepped forward, guiding John out of the room and towards the quarters. Neither spoke; John was trying to figure out just what he’d gotten into.

Otho left him in a guest room and John clicked his radio. “Guys, you ok?”

We are fine, John,” Teyla told him. “You?”

“Yeah, I’m fine. McKay, what’s going on?”

From what I can tell by these readings, the underground structure's not just roughly the same shape and size as Atlantis, it's identical.”

“Yeah, it's pretty much the same on the inside, too – although it's been redecorated.”

If it is a city like Atlantis, then where are the other spires?” Teyla asked.

Probably fell a long time ago – maybe they were destroyed during a Wraith attack,” McKay guessed. “Look, in the intervening ten thousand years, the whole thing must have been overgrown by the forest.

“One thing's for certain, these people are no Ancients.”

Well, from what you're saying, the Lord Protector must have the gene required to activate the advanced technology.

“So it would seem,” John agreed.

Are they using any other technology?” McKay asked.

“No, not that I can see. They've turned the Control Room into a gallery for royal audiences. There are *some* systems that seem to be operational but I think they're just running on automatic.”

Are you certain you are in no immediate danger?” Teyla asked.

“I don't think so. They don't have me under guard and they've even given me my own room.”

I don't like it,” Ronon said firmly. “I say we call the troops and get you out.

I don't think it would work even if we tried,” McKay protested. “Look, the combination of the hologram technology and a healthy supply of drones – huh, they'd pick us off pretty easily.

“For the moment, I don't want anybody to do anything. Just keep a low profile.”

Alright,” McKay agreed reluctantly.

“I gotta go,” John added, switching off the radio. “You took your time.”

“So little power,” the figure in front of him answered. “And my Lord Protector does not know I am here.”

John considered her for a moment. “You look like my Alice,” he said finally. “If a little...fancier.”

The girl glanced down at herself as though bemused, tugging at the end of the richly embroidered jacket. “This is not my usual appearance.”

“She usually looks older,” Alice agreed, stepping out of a corner to join them.

“I was wondering if you were around.”

“There’s so little power here, John. Their ZPM is so weak. I can’t stay.” She glanced at the other Alice, who was waiting patiently. “She knows who you are, and she will obey, to a certain point. The Lord Protector has her loyalty; be careful what you say.”

John nodded slowly. “Alright. Thanks, Alice.”

She looked past him at the other Alice. “He’ll name you. Let him do it.”

“A name?” she repeated. “I have no name.”

“How does the Lord Protector find you?” John asked.

“He wills me on and off as he needs me. I am little used these days.”

“Can I will you on and off?” John asked Alice.

“Focus, John.”

John made a face at her, turning back to the second Alice. “Alright, Fuchsia.”

“Color purple?” she said blankly.

“No. It’s a character from a novel set in a place like this.”

“Oh.” She considered that for a moment. “Very well. I will now answer to Fuchsia.”

“Great, good, thanks. Now tell me what’s going on around here.”

Alice had vanished, he noted vaguely as Fuchsia spoke, telling him of a decaying society and a people enslaved by fear. “And you haven’t done anything about this?” he asked after a few minutes.

“What should I do? I am loyal to my Lord Protector. I obey his wishes.”

“Yeah, I guess.” John studied her for a moment longer.

She glanced away, frowning. “Dinner is almost ready. You should hurry.”

“Right. You coming?”

“No. My Lord Protector and certain of his court would know. As I have not been summoned, they would be suspicious. You wish them not to know about Atlantis, correct?”

“For now,” John agreed. “That doesn’t conflict with your program?”

“Not unless my Lord Protector asks me.” She took a step towards the door. “If he asks me about you, I will answer him. Tell me nothing you don’t want him to know.”

“Right,” John agreed. “Secrets. Fun. Where is dinner?”

“In the Great Hall. What was once the ‘Gate room. Can you find it?”

“Yeah. Look, hang around, will you? I might want you later.”

Fuchsia bobbed a curtsy. “Unless my Lord needs me.”

She faded out, and John muttered, “Of course. He might need you to oppress some villagers, or something.”




“What’s wrong with him?” John demanded as soon as he was back in his room.

“I’m sorry?” Fuchsia said politely.

“The Lord Protector. He collapsed.”

“Yes, he’s been doing that,” she agreed. “But the infirmary was buried, many years ago, and such sensors as are online cannot accurately diagnose him. Otho serves as physician and claims he will be well.”

Otho says he’ll be well? And you believe that?”

“There’s little I can do about it. I can’t diagnose him myself, and as my Lord Protector’s Chamberlain Otho has my loyalty.”

“Well, that’s stupid.” John hauled his pack up onto the bed, digging through it. “Look...”

Fuchsia vanished before he could continue, and he frowned until Mora stepped through the doorway.

“Am I disturbing you?” she asked politely.

“Mora, no.” He stood up, laying his pack aside. “How's your father?”

“He is resting. Thank you for your concern.”

“Look, maybe it'd be best if I just, uh, came back another day.”

Mora shook her head quickly. “No! You can't leave! Please – there's a matter of great importance my father wishes to discuss with you. Perhaps in the morning? If these chambers are not to your liking ...”

“No, no, they're fine.”

“Well, then, maybe there's something I can do to make you more comfortable.”

“Uh, I don't think so...”

“Are you certain?” she asked softly, undoing her belt and letting her dress slip to the floor.

“Oh, wow. I ... I never see this coming,” John muttered.

Over Mora’s shoulder he could see Fuchsia, peering through the entrance of the room. She looked oddly disapproving.

“You don't find me pleasing?” Mora asked.

“No, no, it's not that – it's just ...”

Mora pulled him closer, kissing him. John flailed for a moment, unsure of where he could safely touch her.

“What you said at dinner, did you mean it?” Mora asked, breaking away from him for a minute.

“Absolutely!” He pulled her closer, kissing her again before frowning and pulling away. “What did I say again?”

“About the villagers. My brother thinks it's a sign of weakness, but I know that it means you'll be a great ruler some day.”

“Right!” John agreed readily, kissing her again.

“John!” Fuchsia snapped. “Listen to her.”

“Ruler?” John said slowly, leaning back. “Wh-wh-what are you talking about?”

“My father has promised that if we are married, the succession will fall to me,” Mora explained happily.

John blinked, staring at her. Mora grinned, pushing him back onto the bed and turning her head long enough to say, “Leave.”

Fuchsia vanished and Mora looked back at John, smiling.




“Does Otho have the gene?” John murmured the next morning.

“No. My Lord Protector. Mora and Tavius, a little. One or two members of the court. That’s all.”

John nodded slowly. “Stick around, then.” He leaned in the doorway of Otho’s office, taking in the piles of books and papers with one quick glance. “We need to talk.”

“Colonel Sheppard. Yes. Come in, please.” Otho rose as he came in.

“It seems that, uh, certain people around here have somehow, uh, gotten the wrong idea about me.” Otho tilted his head, frowning. “Mora came to visit me last night,” John clarified.

“You must forgive her forward behavior, Colonel. She doesn't have much time.”

“What's that supposed to mean?”

He really did try to listen to the answer, but Otho was clearly in love with his own voice and he lost track pretty quickly. After a minute he tilted his head towards Fuchsia.

“Otho tries to maintain the bloodlines, but what you call the ATA gene is becoming rarer and rarer. So few in the Court hold it now. Yours is stronger than any here for years. If Mora marries you she rises to power in place of Tavius, so she wants you and he wants you dead.”

“Right,” John said, suddenly aware that Otho had stopped talking.

“Colonel, you must understand how important this is to us. Over the centuries, despite our best efforts, the bloodlines have deteriorated. The ability of each new Lord Protector to control the Throne Chair – it is no longer a certainty.”

“Well, then, maybe it's about time to start thinking about a new system of government.”

Otho nodded slowly. “You have observed the inequalities of our society and you disapprove. I can hardly blame you.”

“Well, you didn't seem to have much of a problem with that in the village.”

“I must maintain the image of my authority in front of the villagers. It is my duty. But believe me, between the two of us, you are in a better position to change things. The gene in you is stronger than it has been in any recorded member of the Royal family for three hundred years.”

John snapped his fingers in sudden realization. “You sent Mora to my room.”

“I didn't have to. She understands the situation perfectly well. Right now, Tavius is next in line, but the possibility that his sister might one day bear children with superior genetic make-up to him or his progeny, that will always be a threat.”

“Told you,” Fuchsia murmured. John glared at her.

“So, if the old man dies ...” he said, turning back to Otho.

“Precisely. And his condition grows worse every day.”

“I know someone who may be able to help with that. Let me talk to my team. I’ll get back to you.”

Fuchsia trailed him back to his quarters, strangely quiet. “You should be careful,” she offered, as John reached for his pack. “Otho has never, in private or public, expressed displeasure with my Lord’s practices.”

“So who’s side is he on?”

“His own, I think.” She glanced at the doorway.

“Court intrigue, huh?”

“I’m not programmed to follow it. There’s no way to predict who may turn on whom.”

“No, that’s true.” He pulled out his radio, flicking it on. “Hey, guys? I need a favor.”



Carson made it to the tower within a couple of hours; John briefed him as best he could with Otho hanging on his words. At least he’d grasped enough not to be outwardly surprised at the differences...or similarities...between this tower and Atlantis.

John loitered with Otho near the entrance while Carson ran his tests, brushing off the Chamberlain’s attempts to ask him about Atlantis.

After a few minutes Carson rose to his feet, murmuring to the Mord Protector for a moment before coming to join them at the door. “He's anaemic, and both his liver and kidneys seem to be malfunctioning, but he's not running a temperature, so I don't think it's an infection. I'll need to run some more tests.”

“I wanna talk to him,” John said.

Carson shook his head. “Right now, he needs to rest.”

Carson.

“He's not lucid at all.”

“Thank you, Doctor,” Otho said quickly.

“Aye,” Carson said absently, turning back towards the bed.

“Colonel, I am authorized by the Lord Protector to speak with you on his behalf,” Otho continued. “Please come this way.”

Otho led him to the ‘Jumper bay. Here, as on Atlantis, it was used to store ‘Jumpers, but several were covered with sheets and the others were draped in cobwebs. No one had tried to fly them in a long time.

“Do you know what this is?” Otho asked, touching one of the ‘Jumpers.

“You tell me,” John said absently. He was watching Alices appear in the cockpits of each ‘Jumper, watching him closely.

“It's a flying machine – or at least it used to be. We ran out of power a long time ago. I know you have some understanding of these things, even though you try not to show it. I also know that this place was once home to a much more advanced civilisation. Unfortunately, aside from a few trinkets and useless relics, all we have left is the Throne Chair, and if the bloodline continues to deteriorate, soon that will be taken from us as well.”

John turned his back to the ‘Jumpers, trying to ignore the Alices. “What if I told you there was a way around that? A way to protect the planet without worrying about all these royal bloodlines or any of that crap?”

Otho shook his head. “That's impossible.”

“What if it wasn't?”

“Such talk is dangerous.”

“Tavius is plotting against you, and Otho knows it,” Fuchsia warned him. “You can’t trust him.”

“He can't watch everyone all the time,” John told both of them. To Otho, he added, “Look, I know you serve these people, but if you're right, and eventually they lose their ability to control the Chair, well at that point what good are they?”

“What are you suggesting?”

“A drug. Gene therapy. You give it to the people in the village, half of them will be able to control the Throne Chair, no problem.”

“You're talking about revolution!”

“I'm talking about survival. What's gonna happen when the Royal family can't protect this planet any more?”

“And in exchange for this drug? What do you want in return?”

Careful,” Fuchsia warned him.

“Hold that thought,” John told him, walking away and flicking his radio. “Rodney, come in.”

Go ahead.

“Rodney, have you found anything?”

The signal hazed out for a moment. “Say again? I'm not getting very good reception down here.

“I said, have you found anything yet?”

We've only just made our way into the city.

“Look, I may be able to swing a little deal here. Drones in exchange for gene therapy. I just need to know how many they have left.”

Alright, I'm on it.

The radio flicked off and he turned back to Otho. “Let’s talk.”



John stood on the balcony above the Great Hall, watching the court below. They were paying little outward attention to him, concentrating on their own fun. Fuchsia, standing behind him and out of sight from the floor below, was quietly explaining the various mini alliances represented below.

“I thought you didn’t understand court politics,” he murmured.

“I don’t understand it. I can tell you who’s allied to anyone at any given time, but I cannot predict who they will be allied with by this time tomorrow.”

Carson came over, leaning on the railing beside John. “Colonel Sheppard,” he said quietly. “I've completed my examination of the Lord Protector, and I'm afraid there's nothing I can do for him. He's dying.”

“How much time does he have?” John asked, turning to put his back to the room. Fuchsia had taken a couple of steps back, but she didn’t react apart from that.

“It could happen any day now. But there's something else. The reason he's dying is because he's been poisoned.”

“What?!”

“Aye. My guess is it's been done slowly over the last couple of months, probably in his food. Any idea who'd like to see him dead?”

“Yeah. I have a theory.”

He turned his head enough to see Tavius walk across the floor below.

“I’m going to go back to him. I may be able to help.”

“Stay in touch,” he said absently. Carson nodded, heading off, and John continued, “Fuchsia, do you know who poisoned him?”

“I didn’t know he was poisoned. John, it’s my duty to tell him.”

“Not if you don’t know who’s done it. You don’t want rumors spreading around here. Wait and see what Carson can find out.”

“Is that an order?”

“No, it’s a suggestion. Why? Would you follow an order from me?”

“Your Alice has told me we have a new imperative now.”

“Yes. Survival.”

“Higher than duty...yes, John. If you do not ask me to go against the Tower, I will follow your orders.”

John’s radio clicked and he frowned, lifting a hand to it.

Colonel Sheppard?” Teyla asked.

“Go ahead.”

We have a problem in the village. There has been an ... altercation.




“This is terrible,” Otho said quietly. “I knew Tavius was cruel and vindictive, but to want to murder his own father?”

“Raising children can be very dangerous,” John said absently. “The key is, we don't let him succeed to the throne. We need to talk to the Lord Protector.”

“I'm afraid it's already too late. I received word a few moments ago. He is dead. You must leave, now.” John frowned, glancing at Carson, but Otho was continuing. “Tavius will arrest Mora and anyone he considers was conspiring with her, and that includes you.”

“What about the villagers?” Carson asked.

“He'll kill them all – burn the place to the ground to make an example of them.”

“He will,” Fuchsia agreed. “Tavius was ever vindictive.”

“They had nothing to do with what happened,” John protested.

“It doesn't matter. Any defiance must be crushed without mercy to keep it from spreading to the other villages.”

Carson took a small vial from his pocket, offering it to Otho. “Look, this is the gene therapy we're talking about. You can take it to the people and tell them what it means.”

“You don't have to be slaves to this Royal bloodline any more,” John insisted.

“Well, this may be too late. Tavius will consider this to be treason. He'll fight it. And if the soldiers support him ...”

He broke off as a bell began ringing, deeper in the Tower. Fuchsia flinched, taking a step away before catching herself.

“What's that mean?” John asked.

“My Lord is dead,” Fuchsia murmured.

“It means news of the Lord Protector's death is already spreading,” Otho said at the same time. “The Court has been called to assemble in the Throne Room. Go now, before it's too late.”

Carson caught John’s arm, urging him towards the door. “Colonel?”

“Run,” Fuchsia said quietly. John eyed her for a moment before turning, following Carson out.

Halfway down the corridor he paused. “Head back to the village,” he told Carson. “There's one more thing I need to do.”

Carson nodded slowly. “Right.”

“Where’s Mora?” John asked, hurrying along a random corridor.

“Two levels up, but coming this way. If you can...”

John hurried for the nearest ladder, scrambling up. Fuchsia was waiting at the top. “To your left, John.”

He found Mora three corridors further on. “Mora!”

“John! What are you still doing here?”

“I've been looking all over for you.”

“You have to leave, now,” she insisted.

“I know. I want you to come with me. We both know what's gonna happen if you stay here. I can find a safe place for you to go.”

Mora blinked, surprised. “John...”

“None of this is your fault.”

She took a step closer, reaching up to touch his cheek. “You really would take me with you, wouldn't you?” she murmured.

“Of course.”

“That won't be necessary,” Otho said from behind them. “Mora is perfectly safe now. Tavius has been arrested for the murder of the Lord Protector.”

“That's good news,” john said in relief.

Otho smiled, laying a hand on his shoulder. “You really should have got out while you had the chance.”

He took a couple of steps back, looking back as a guard came around the corner, holding Carson with a knife to his throat. Two more guards appeared from behind Mora.

“What the hell is this?” John demanded.

Mora backed away. “I'm sorry, John,” she murmured.

“I was prepared to let you walk away,” Otho told him. “But your colleagues in the village forced my hand. They're inciting an uprising – and as the new Lord Protector, that is something that I just can't have.”

John frowned, studying him. Fuchsia took a careful step forward, glancing nervously at Mora before saying, “He took the gene therapy, John.”

John sighed, looking away as the guards grabbed him.




At least the actual cells were inaccessible. Otho was making do with a room far from anywhere else.

Tavius was already there, lounging on a couch, when they arrived. “I'll have your head for this, Chamberlain,” he said casually.

“You are in no position to make threats,” Otho told him.

“Is it really necessary to insult me further by imprisoning me with these people?”

“We're not the ones who committed murder,” Carson pointed out.

Tavious rose to his feet, eyes dark. “True. There is only one murderer in this room. Isn't that right, Otho?” Otho smiled faintly, and Tavius continued to the others, “Oh, let me guess. He told you I did it. Do I look like the sort of person who knows anything about poisons and chemicals? Otho, on the other hand, is always making elaborate studies of things – topics you and I might find boring, but which sometimes can turn out to be quite useful.”

“You're saying that he's the one that poisoned the Lord Protector?” Carson asked.

“I had no choice,” Otho protested. “I offered to guarantee him the succession. In return, he would spare Mora's life.”

“Ah, but you're leaving out the best part,” Tavius added. “Once I assumed the throne, Mora was to be given to Otho as his wife. All she had to do was bat her eyes at him a couple of times, and the fool was hooked.”

Otho slapped him, clearly relishing being able to do it.

“Guards! It's true we were to be married, and so we will. Only now she won't be marrying a lowly servant, but the Lord Protector himself.”

He left; the guards locked the door and took up positions outside.

“I really need to stop making house calls,” Carson said quietly.

John grimaced, moving to the furthest corner of the room. “Fuchsia?” he murmured as quietly as possible. “What’s going on?”

“Otho took the therapy and now he commands the Tower,” Fuchsia said miserably. “I’m sorry, John, but he is Lord Protector and I have to obey him.”

“You said you’d obey me.”

“Have you been corrupting our denizens, Colonel?” Tavius asked lazily.

“Your villagers didn’t need much corrupting from what I’ve heard,” Carson said hotly. “They can’t wait to have you off the throne.”

Tavius started to answer, but paused as the door opened and Mora strode in. “Leave us,” she ordered over her shoulder. The guards obeyed, leaving the door open a crack and stepping out of sight.

“I'm really sorry, John,” Mora said softly.

“Oh, please!” Tavius snorted. “Don't play the sweet little innocent here.”

Mora ignored him, telling John earnestly, “I never meant for you to get hurt.”

“Then help us get out of here,” John suggested.

“I can't – but I may be able to convince Otho to spare your lives.”

“That would be a good start,” he agreed.

Mora glanced back, making sure the guards were still out of sight before offering him his radio.

“In the meantime, I did bring you this. You must tell your friends to leave before it's too late. For his first act as Lord Protector, Otho intends to destroy the entire village using the Throne Chair so that no other villagers will ever rise up against him again.”

John settled the radio over his ear, asking, “Can he do that?”

“He can now,” Fuchsia said grimly. “He commands the Tower and he has power and drones enough for it.”

“Rodney, come in,” John said urgently.

Sheppard, are you alright?” Rodney asked.

“I'm fine. Listen, I need you to pull the ZPM and cut the power right away or Ronon and Teyla are dead.”

I already know all that,” Rodney snapped. “Look, unfortunately I am cut off from the ZedPM.

“There's gotta be something you can do.”

Yeah, I'm workin' on it!

“Well, work faster!”

“My Lord Protector is powering up the Chair, John,” Fuchsia said urgently.

“Why does she keep talking to you?” Tavius demanded. “Her loyalty’s to us.”

“Maybe cos I treat her a little better than you do?” John suggested, aware that Carson was listening.

Alright, I think I've got something,” Rodney said suddenly. “According to my readings, the ZedPM is nearly depleted. If we can activate enough systems simultaneously, it might drain power completely, thus rendering the drones inert.

“So do it!” John urged him.

No, I can't. I don't have access to enough systems to draw that kind of power. I need something really big.

John grimaced, looking away. “How about the star drive?” he suggested. “The city's just like Atlantis, right, a city that was designed to fly?”

You want me to fly the city right up out of the ground?” Rodney protested.

“We’d fall apart,” Fuchsia said quietly. “No structural integrity anymore.”

“No,” John told Rodney. “You don't have to go anywhere. Just charge the engines. That should be the greatest single drain of power you can create.”

You're right – that could work. Yeah, but there's only one problem.

“What?”

This place is pretty unstable. If I fire up the engines, the vibrations alone could cause the whole thing to come down on us.

“That's a risk we're gonna have to take.”

“My Lord Protector is firing,” Fuchsia said quietly. “Your man must hurry, John.”

The room began shaking around them, dust shifting out of the ceiling and creating a haze in the air. Mora looked upwards as the guards came in, equally bewildered.

“What's going on?” she asked.

Fuchsia came to her side as John attacked the guards. “One of John’s team is in the catacombs, attempting to drain all the power so my Lord Protector’s plan will fail.”

John looked up from the downed guards, and Mora murmured, “Oh.”

“Let's go.”

Carson urged Mora towards the door, looking back uncertainly at Tavius. “What about him?”

“Forget about him,” John said, taking Mora’s arm to hurry her away. Carson closed the door on Tavius, grinning. “Sorry, wee man.”

Halfway down the corridor Fuchsia disappeared and the lights went out. John hesitated, pulling a torch from his vest. “You ok?” he asked the others; at their nods he continued towards the Great Hall.



Otho was sitting in the Chair—upright and out of power—when they reached him. The Court was gathered in small groups nearby, whispering and upset.

“You. This is your doing,” Otho hissed. “Seize them!”

John motioned the guards back; confused and afraid, they hesitated long enough for him to say, “You're only Lord Protector if you can control the Chair. You said it yourself.”

Otho didn’t respond, sudden awareness in his eyes.

“It's over.” Turning to the Court, he continued, “You don't have to bow down to this man, or Tavius, or anyone else.”

Otho slid a knife from his belt, advancing. Mora screamed a warning; Carson caught her arms, pulling her back, and John spun in time to duck Otho’s first blow. He blocked the second slash, catching Otho’s wrist and dragging the knife free, catching the side of his hand with the blade.

Otho yelled, dropping to one knee; John stepped back, knife held firmly in one hand. Otho looked up at him, smiling oddly.

“Tavius was right about one thing,” he said, almost conversationally. “I *do* have a fair knowledge of poisons.”

And then he fell, crashing lifelessly to the floor.



It was a lot later when John got back to the ‘Jumper. Teyla had accompanied him, but she waited patiently outside while he dropped into the pilot’s seat, automatically running the preflights though they wouldn’t be leaving for some time yet.

“What happens to Fuchsia?” he asked quietly.

“What power there was is gone,” Alice said from behind him. “Fuchsia sleeps until a new power source can be found.”

“Can you do anything about that?”

“No. Even if you brought a power source, there are other programs that would claim it first. We are not a priority, she would not come back. Not unless a lot of power was pumped in.”

“You came online.”

“It took weeks, John. And you were running on a lot of power. Even with only the Tower, it would take more than you could spare.”

“Survival,” he muttered, shutting the ‘Jumper down again.

“She was trying. She choose you over Otho, she turned on her program. She knew her chances of survival were better if he was not Lord Protector.” She took a step towards him. “She was trying, John.”

“Yeah. Look, we’re gonna be here a while longer. Lot to sort out, now.”

“I’ll wait.”




Sometime after the debrief on Atlantis, John joined Elizabeth on the balcony by the Gateroom.

“We got the drones,” he reminded her. “We got a few Jumpers; I even got the girl.”

“You got the girl?” Elizabeth repeated, amused.

“Well, I mean I could have got the girl. I turned her down.”

She smiled, turning to look over the railing. “What did you offer them in return for the drones and the Jumpers?”

“A supply of medicines and an IDC if they need to reach us. We also offered to help `em come up with a new way of running things when the time comes.”

“They didn't offer you King?” she asked in mock horror.

“I turned that down too,” he said easily.

Elizabeth smiled. “All hail, good king John.”

“John was the bad brother. Richard was the good one.”

“I don’t know. You’d have been pretty ok, I think.” She put her back to the railing, studying him. “Wasn’t there anyone there you could trust?”

John looked past her, to where Alice was standing just inside the door. “Yeah. There was one.”

Alerted by his tone, Elizabeth didn’t ask. Instead she patted his shoulder lightly, turning back to look over the sea; he turned to join her, standing shoulder to shoulder and watching the light dance on the water.

“She trusted you too,” Alice murmured, and then she was gone.
 
 
 
Lady Moon-Loona-cy: happyjennytork on February 28th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
I have loved this series since the first story. This was no exception.

One error, though -- one of your tags didn't close and the entire rest of the story is in italics....
Acting my shoe size: Alicewild_force71 on February 28th, 2009 07:54 am (UTC)
Sorry! I got the tag backwards and didn't notice in reading back over it. Thanks for pointing it out, and for your interest...I'm so glad you like it! :D
Lady Moon-Loona-cy: happyjennytork on February 28th, 2009 01:16 pm (UTC)
Well, I don't like it -- I LOVE IT.

I love this entire series! I love Alice!

(And Alice is my mother's first name, so everytime I see the name I grin like crazy for a minute.)