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Stargate Atlantis: Reliquary

Reliquary Cover Fandemonium Press, March 2006.

While exploring the unused sections of the Ancient city of Atlantis, Major John Sheppard and Dr. Rodney McKay stumble on a recording device that contains a new stargate address. The address leads them to a world with a mysterious ruined city that may be part of an Ancient repository, or it may just be yet another trap for the unwary.

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John Sheppard pivoted, eyes narrowed critically as he examined the large round chamber. "I don't know, Ford. I don't think we could mount a backboard on these walls." They were a pearly white ceramic, ornamented with three wide silver bands that had a faint hint of sea greens and blues woven into their metal. The sunlight that fell through the cathedral-like stained glass panels high in the peaked roof made the whole room opalescent. The floor also had translucent white-on-white patterns, long lines that were abstract and floral, sort of Art Nouveau. It was a subtle and beautiful space, but for Atlantis, that was hardly unusual.

"Major," Lieutenant Ford said regretfully, shaking his head. "You are obsessing on the basketball. I'm thinking this would be a great place to play handball. Or racquetball. We're in another galaxy here. You have to think outside the hoop."

John lifted his brows, considering it. "Racquetball, huh? You may be on to something." He doubted anybody had brought a set of rackets along as a personal item, but they could probably make them. He might even be able to talk one of the Athosians on the mainland into carving a set out of wood, which would bypass the whole 'using limited materials for recreation' issue. "McKay, what do you think?"

Rodney McKay and Radek Zelenka were both deep in the innards of the pillar device at the center of the room, occasionally muttering inaudible comments to each other. John thought of it as a pillar device because at the moment they didn't have a clue what it did except look like a pillar. It was silver and waist-high with the typical crystalline touchpad controls on the flat top. So far, poking at it and pressing the touchpads had done nothing, but that wasn't atypical for Atlantis, either.

McKay's voice answered from inside the device's guts, "I think you should stop exchanging facetious random babble with Ford and try to use your obviously overrated gene to make this damn thing work."

John obligingly leaned an elbow on the unresponsive pillar. Most of the Ancients' technology had to be either operated or initialized by someone who had the Ancient gene, which was rare even on Earth, where the Ancients had spent a lot of their time when they weren't traveling between galaxies. There was a mental component to it too, which was sort of cool when you could turn lights on with your mind, and lifesaving when the puddlejumpers responded to your urgent need to make a course change or fire a drone before you could physically reach the controls. "I don't think that's the problem. If it won't work for me or your half-assed gene, then it's probably a lost cause."

McKay had the gene artificially through the gene therapy retrovirus Carson Beckett had developed. It worked for much of the Ancient tech, but some things just needed the natural gene to initialize. "Oh please, nothing is a lost cause. It's just a matter of- Are you thinking at it?"

"I'm thinking it's broken," John admitted. It was kind of hard to turn something on with your mind when you had no idea what it was supposed to do.

"That's not helping!"

"So if it is broken, can we use this room for recreation?" Ford put in hopefully.

McKay extracted himself from the pillar's guts, twisting sideways to avoid elbowing Zelenka in the head. Annoyed and sweating from working in the close confines of the device, he said, "So not listening to you, Lieutenant." He picked up a tool, nudged the grumbling Zelenka over, and plunged back into the pillar again.

"Hey, recreation is important," John said, just to keep the argument going. Standing around cradling a P-90 while watching other people work on something he couldn't help with bored the crap out of him, but moving on to another room while the others were occupied was out of the question. This wing wasn't part of the secure area patrolled by the Marine detail and hadn't even been thoroughly explored yet. It was distant enough from the center section that the only sound was the constant wash of the sea against the floating city's substructure far below their feet. Nobody was supposed to be here without a military escort, and two scientists, deeply distracted by recalcitrant Ancient machinery and oblivious to the world, definitely needed somebody to watch their backs. Or their butts, which was about the only part of them visible most of the time.

But John really didn't mind. It wasn't that it beat being up in the operations tower, debating the different ways to replenish their dwindling stores of ammo and toilet paper; exploring Atlantis was one of the coolest things he had ever done in his life, and he didn't expect that to change anytime soon, no matter what wonders they found traveling through the 'gate.

"Yeah, recreation is important. For team-building, and exercise. And for morale," Ford agreed earnestly. Or at least he was doing a good imitation of earnest.

"Morale, that's a good one." John gave Ford an approving nod. "We'll use that when we talk to Elizabeth." John and Ford had both been hoping to find an area that could convert to outdoor space closer to the center section of the city. They had found several big rooms that could have been meant for theaters, lecture halls, or even ballrooms, and the others had searched for controls while John had stared hopefully up at the ceilings, thinking retract, please. But nothing had happened.

Since Atlantis had been built for underwater use, space travel, and harsh land conditions like the Antarctic, John could see why the inhabitants hadn't gone for an open football field. But there were balconies, so it seemed like they might have wanted a larger outdoor area occasionally.

And, with the city's shields inoperable, any large space able to open to the air could function as a landing field for an intruder. John wanted to know about that, too. At low power, with so many of its Ancient defenses useless, Atlantis was nearly helpless against Wraith attack.

McKay grunted and emerged from the pillar again, wiping sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. "Nevertheless, you're out of luck. This is some kind of projector, and it must use the walls to display images. Throwing a ball around in here could damage the surface. And, to be absolutely clear, it's a stupid idea."

"You're a spoilsport. Literally," John told him. Rodney McKay did not work and play well with others. Even the science and technical teams of the expedition, the people who had spent their whole professional lives dealing with brilliant and creative personalities, had trouble with him. Some of that probably stemmed from the fact that Rodney was right so much of the damn time, and that just had to chafe.

But the fact remained that a tense situation just made McKay think faster. You could probably phrase it as an equation, where the increasing awfulness of whatever tight spot they were in was directly proportional to the speed of McKay's ability to think a way out of it. He was so reliable on this point that John had stopped counting the number of times McKay's brain had saved their asses.

Some people were intimidated by that, and it made for a lot of yelling on occasion. John wasn't intimidated, and neither was their other teammate, Teyla. Ford, twenty-five years old and barely out of kidhood, was learning not to be. And John had realized early on that he and Rodney had eerily compatible senses of humor. That probably wasn't a good thing, but it made for interesting conversations.

McKay was steadily getting better on the fieldwork aspect as well. It helped that nobody ever had to tell him to be careful; he knew better than anyone just how dangerous any kind of alien technology could be and just how many things there were out there besides Wraith that wanted to kill you.

"And if this is just a big projector room, it's not new. We've already found plenty of projectors," John added, just to mess with Rodney a little more. A lot of the living quarters had small theater rooms; the science team had already been able to use parts from a damaged laptop to convert one to play the DVDs people had brought along in their personal items.

Still sitting on the floor, McKay gave him a withering look. "This is a holographic projector," he corrected pointedly as Zelenka struggled out of the pillar.

"We found one of those already, too."

"Oh, hey." Ford looked intrigued. "Maybe this is a holographic game projector, for virtual reality games. That would be cool."

"You watched too much Star Trek," Rodney told him.

Ford snorted. "Oh, like you didn't."

Before John could add that a virtual reality game room would be awesome, Zelenka said, "I don't think this is for entertainment." He sat back on his heels, looking thoughtful and adjusting his glasses. Zelenka was Czech, short, with a fuzzy halo of brown hair, and probably the most brilliant person in Atlantis next to Rodney. He had had the Ancient gene therapy, but he was one of the forty-eight percent of the population that it didn't affect. "There is no place to insert media. It will only play what's contained in the memory core." He eyed the pillar without satisfaction, then shrugged philosophically. "Perhaps it's meant to be a museum display."

"Whatever. Let's try it again." McKay shoved to his feet, wiped his hands on his pants, and slapped a touchpad.

The walls started to glow with a mild white light. Then it suddenly flashed and dissolved in a bright flare of fuzzy three-dimensional static. The pillar made a constipated burping noise that just couldn't be good. "You broke it," John told Rodney. The gray static stood out about a foot from the walls, and the shimmery three-dimensional quality of it was already giving him a headache.

"Oh, I did not." McKay rolled his eyes, still poking touchpads.

"I don't think you should have substituted those crystals from the-" Zelenka began.

The pillar burped again, and the walls flashed, but this time John happened to be looking in the right spot and saw it had displayed an actual image, just for a second, before dissolving into static again.

"Whoa, did you see that?" Ford asked, flinching away from the brightness.

"What was it?" McKay demanded, pivoting to stare around the room.

"Those were symbols for a 'gate address." Intrigued now, John stepped up to the pillar, hoping the thing was stuck in some kind of memory loop. Just as the pillar burped again he hit the biggest touch pad.

The walls blurred into motion, blazing with light and color. For an instant John got an impression of dark stone walls and towers, a storm-gray sky overhead. Then it all flashed into the bright liquid static again and vanished. John winced and rubbed his eyes; his retinas felt as if they had just gotten a tan.

"Ouch," Ford commented, grimacing. "That wasn't good. I think it's wrecked."

"Okay, all kidding aside, now you really broke it." Irritated, Rodney flung his hands in the air.

John threw him an annoyed look. "I did not. It was already broken when you were screwing with it."

Zelenka waved his hands, glaring up at them from his seat on the floor. "Hush, enough! I'm tired of watching the Major play Bugs Bunny to McKay's Daffy Duck."

McKay frowned down at him. "Hey, why is he Bugs Bunny?"

"It's the teeth." Ford nodded seriously.

John turned to him, saying earnestly, "What did you say, Ford? You want to go to the mainland and dig irrigation ditches for Halling? Why, yes, that can be arranged!"

Swearing, Zelenka dived into the pillar console again, his voice muffled. "Recriminations later. Let me try..."

This time there was a muted flash and an image froze, stretched across three-quarters of the wall area. It was the seven symbols of a Stargate address, displayed in three-dimensional blue figures a couple of feet high.

"Huh. What do you know about that?" McKay frowned thoughtfully at the pillar. "What's so special about this address that it gets its own kiosk and a holographic display?"

Zelenka growled from inside the device. "If I could just get past this damaged section of power input, I might be able to- Though perhaps the memory core itself is damaged, maybe when crystals were drained." He pulled his head out to look at the address, brow furrowed. "We need to figure out a way to make it play the whole thing. It must explain itself."

"Or," John put in, studying the address thoughtfully, "There is a quicker way to find out."


The address wasn't one that Teyla recognized, which meant it wasn't a planet that the Athosians had ever visited on their trading trips. Peter Grodin was trying to find it in the Ancient database, but that could take forever. John pushed for his quick solution, and Elizabeth Weir, the expedition's leader, agreed.

Standing on the control center gallery level of the 'gate room, John impatiently watched the techs get the MALP ready. The self-contained probe would tell them if this was an orbital 'gate or a planetary one, check for radiation and other hazards, and the video telemetry would let them know if there was a bunch of Wraith waiting around for lunch to show up. The address had already been dialed into the 'gate, and the event horizon was a lucent pool of liquid blue glittering invitingly inside the ring.

The 'gate room was large and light and airy, designed with practicality and aesthetics in mind, like most of Atlantis. The soft copper-colored walls were inset with the elaborate geometrical patterns of stained glass that decorated all the living areas, and the 'gate itself was in the lower level of the room, with a wide sweep of stairs leading down from the gallery level to the embarkation floor. Unlike the 'gate room at Stargate Command on Earth, there was no protected area that could be sealed off if a hostile force came through; Atlantis' 'gate room had been built at a time when the city expected only friendly visitors. The only defensive measure was a force shield over the 'gate itself that, like the trinium iris on Earth's Stargate, prevented unwanted arrivals. The puddlejumper bay was directly above the 'gate room, with a floor and ceiling that could retract, allowing the little ships to drop into a launch position for the 'gate or lift up to leave the city.

Teyla, Zelenka, and McKay had gathered to watch, and Elizabeth Weir was standing beside John, arms folded. John thought everybody was acting like it was Christmas and Santa was about to arrive through the 'gate. Elizabeth must have thought so too, because her mouth quirked, and she glanced at him, saying, "So what are you hoping for?"

John shrugged, pretending he wasn't just as intrigued as everybody else. What they were all hoping for, of course, was a place that might have a Zero Point Module. ZPMs were the only thing that could fulfill Atlantis' huge demand for power, and the last of the city's resources had been nearly used up bringing it to the surface. Now the expedition was using the naquadah generators they had brought from Earth to keep the city partially powered. This mostly worked, but it wasn't enough to raise the city's shields or power the Stargate for a wormhole back to Earth, so they couldn't get supplies or new personnel, report that they were in a hell of a lot of trouble, or retreat. John just said, "Oh, I don't know. A puddlejumper dealership and repair outlet?"

Below, the techs cleared the floor and the blocky shape of the MALP trundled through the wormhole's event horizon. Peter Grodin, one of the British scientists, was seated at the console that acted as the dialing device and monitor for the Stargate. "And there we go. Yes. We have a safe arrival." He shifted over to the laptop that would receive and interpret the MALP's telemetry, glancing up over his shoulder at Elizabeth. "It's a viable destination, at least."

Teyla, standing to the side, said with a smile, "I would hope it leads to another lost city of the Ancestors, with many ruins to explore." Teyla was the leader of the Athosians, the first group of humans native to the Pegasus galaxy that the expedition had met. The Wraith had arrived on Athos not long after that first meeting, and Teyla's people had had to flee and were now living on Atlantica's mainland. She was a beautiful woman, with red-brown hair and a lovely smile, and she could kick John's ass in Athosian stick combat, which was one of the reasons he had wanted her on his Stargate team.

"We haven't even fully explored this lost city of the Ancients yet," Zelenka pointed out with a mock frown.

McKay said a little wistfully, "A planet with coffee plantations would be nice."

And no Wraith, John added mentally. No one had said it, but it was there, hanging over all of them like a headsman's ax. He could see from Grodin's console that the MALP was running through its initial program, transmitting streams of data. Then the screen lit up with static as the MALP's camera switched on. John nudged Rodney with an elbow. "Maybe it'll be a ZPM factory next to a coffee plantation."

Rodney threw him an annoyed look. "Don't tease."

The static resolved into a grainy black-and-white view of an ocean as the camera panned across a rocky coastal landscape. Attracted by the movement, it zoomed in on waves rolling up a beach. Then it panned across an open plain and stopped abruptly as it found a structure in the distance.

John heard a collective indrawn breath from everybody watching. It was a huge structure. As the MALP focused on it, he could make out a high wall, curving away to make a round bastion, and above it three towers, each resembling a flattened version of the onion domes you saw on old Russian palaces. "Cool," he muttered. The pillar's address hadn't been a bust, at least; there really was something interesting there.

"Oh my God," Elizabeth said suddenly. She grabbed Grodin's shoulder, leaning in beside him to study the image. "That looks like- Am I imagining the resemblance-"

"You're not." McKay shouldered forward, unceremoniously shoving Zelenka aside and stepping on John's feet. "It's very similar. Grodin, can you-"

"Pull up the description so we can compare it, yes." Grodin had already turned away to another nearby laptop, typing quickly. Even he looked quietly excited.

"What?" John demanded. "What is it?"

Watching intently, Zelenka explained, "It is like the description we have of Heliopolis, the repository found in the first year of the Stargate program."

"Seriously?" John's brows lifted, and he whistled softly. "Hot damn." He hadn't been in the SGC before Atlantis, but he remembered the story from the Stargate Command mission reports that were available to all expedition members.

"Heliopolis?" Teyla echoed, leaning in to listen. "What place is this?"

Zelenka told her, "It was one of the first indications we had that the Goa'uld did not build the Stargate network, that they were parasites using the remains of an earlier civilization. It was later concluded that Heliopolis was a meeting place where the Ancients shared information with the other great races of the time, the Asgard, the Furlings, and the Nox. There was a database designed for interspecies communication, that if we could have studied it-" He waved his hands helplessly.

"They lost it when a big storm came up and the building collapsed into the ocean," John finished the story for Teyla. "They barely got out in time, then when they tried to redial to see if the 'gate was still there, they got nothing."

Teyla nodded understanding, her expression intrigued. "Then this could be a wonderful discovery."

"The resemblance isn't exact," McKay was saying, "but the shape of those towers, the height of the walls, even the fact that it seems to be near a sea, it's all very suggestive. We have to check this out."

Elizabeth nodded slowly, but a smile tugged at her mouth. "If it is another Heliopolis-"

McKay's grin was smug. "Then maybe we did find a ZPM factory."


They geared up for the trip in record time, with McKay actually changing into his field uniform in the puddlejumper bay while John was running the preflight check. But it was late in the day on the destination planet, and the jumper shot out of the Stargate into a cloud-streaked sky already reddening with sunset. John dropped velocity, guiding the little ship up to give them a sweeping view of the area. He thought about sensors and the jumper obligingly popped up holographic life sign and energy detector screens.

In the near distance he could see the building that they hoped was a repository, the dark stone standing out against the lighter grays of the sky, the storm-colored sea, and the rocky shore. It was about a mile from the Stargate, maybe a little more, standing in the center of a scattered complex of dark stone ruins on a flat rocky plain. The sea curved around it, bordered by a wide gravel beach. Inland, past the edge of the ruins, grew a sparse forest, the trees with light green leaves and tall slender trunks. Nothing stirred, except a small flock of gray and white birds, startled into flight by the jumper's arrival. The screens confirmed it, showing only the little flickers that meant local fauna.

In the shotgun seat, Ford said, "See that? Somebody's bombed the crap out of it."

"Hell, yes," John agreed, sparing a look out the view port. "That's not encouraging."

This close, the damage was more evident than it had been on the MALP's camera. John could see big bomb craters in the surrounding ruins, and the spires in the onion dome towers had cracks or holes, the exposed girders bearing a distinct resemblance to skeletal remains. He grimaced, but it wasn't a surprise; the Wraith didn't like their food source to get uppity and fight back, and the Ancients had fought back until they had been nearly exterminated.

"The Wraith must have attacked here, perhaps after the Ancestors left," Teyla commented from the other jump seat, her tone regretful. "But still, you can see what a beautiful place it must have been."

McKay was less impressed. "No energy readings. And it's far more damaged than we thought, but the MALP's image was so pixelized, it could have been sitting in the middle of Miami Beach. This is probably a waste of time." He sounded bitterly disappointed.

"Oh, stop it." Splitting his attention between the port and the HUD, John banked the jumper back around toward the Stargate. It sat on a large elevated stone platform, about twenty meters high. At one time a stairway had led up to it, but now it was just a pile of rubble. The MALP had trundled itself off to the side, out of the path of the wormhole's blowback, its camera still pointed toward the ruins. John told McKay, "You're just still mad because you're not the one who made the new holo-thingy work."

"The new holo-thingy is broken, Major," McKay reminded him pointedly. "If it weren't, we might know exactly who attacked this place. And if this repository had anything like Atlantis' full defensive capacity, it had to be one hell of an attack."

"Grodin was right, there's no DHD," Ford pointed out, studying the area around the 'gate. "The Wraith must have blown it up. Funny, we've never found a damaged 'gate like that before."

"My people never encountered damage like that either." Teyla added wryly, "Fortunately, since we would not have been able to return through the 'gate."

The jumpers came equipped with their own Dial Home Devices for the Stargates, right between the pilot's and copilot's seats, so the MALP's inability to locate the DHD hadn't been an impediment to coming here. "That's weird," John said, as the corollary occurred to him. "Why would anybody bother to blow up the DHD when the Ancients probably did most of their 'gate traveling in the jumpers?"

"Major, down there," Ford said suddenly. "They must have taken a direct hit."

John craned his neck, hearing Teyla make a startled exclamation. As the jumper came around the far side of the big complex, they could see that the outer wall of one wing was partly missing, revealing a mass of arched girders and partial stone walls. But it all looked a little too neat to be bomb damage. "No, I don't see any rubble. I don't think that section was finished."

Rodney snorted derisively. "That doesn't bode well for us finding a cache of ZPMs or another Ancient database."

"Cache, schmache," John said, though he thought McKay was probably right. "I'll be happy with one ZPM. So will you."

"That's true," Rodney admitted grudgingly.


John put the jumper down on a flat and relatively clear stretch of paving near the base of the repository's wall, in a section with terraces and a big doorway that seemed to be the main entrance. He lowered the ramp, and Teyla bailed out of the back first, walking out onto the cracked pavement of the plaza and pivoting for a look around, cradling her P-90. John joined her a moment later with Ford and McKay.

The air felt damp, smelled of sea salt, and was warm enough that the cool breeze off the beach was welcome. There was also a faint foul odor underneath, like rotten fish. The building itself stood on a slight rise, so they had a good view of the field of scattered stone ruins where it followed the shallow curve of the beach.

It had been a large city at some point. Many of the buildings still had slab roofs that were mostly intact, though any other features had been stripped away by time and the violence of the long-ago bombing. Some were just roofless stone boxes, some only the outlines of foundations, but John could see where the streets had been laid out, where there were open squares that might have been anything from outdoor meeting areas to shopping malls.

Teyla was studying the ruins, her brow furrowed. "It is very... I want to say empty, but that is rather obvious."

Ford was surveying the area with his binoculars. "The word you're looking for is 'spooky.'"

"Or 'creepy,'" John added, frowning. The dark oblongs of the empty doorways and windows looked too much like eyes that were staring at you. He turned toward the building, and glass, broken and ground nearly to powder, crunched under his boots; it gave him a weird feeling for a moment, that somebody-walking-over-your-grave sensation. He shrugged it off, glancing over at the others. McKay was studying the handheld Atlantean life sign detector, his hard mouth twisted into a grimace. John stepped in to look over his shoulder. "Anything?"

"No. Go away." McKay, who hated people reading over his shoulder, elbowed him.

"I am not sensing the presence of any Wraith," Teyla said, sounding thoughtful. She had the hereditary ability of some Athosians to know when the Wraith were nearby; it gave you just enough time to bolt for cover or the nearest Stargate and was a valued survival trait.

It wasn't an ability that the expedition had any scientific explanation for so far, but it was definitely real, and it had led to some initial suspicion of Teyla, at least on the part of Sergeant Bates, whom Elizabeth had appointed head of city security. John preferred some level of paranoia in the person who held that job, but Bates had never trusted the Athosians in general and Teyla in particular, and it had gotten in the way. Even before Bates had accused Teyla of betraying them to the Wraith, Bates had made a snide comment about John wanting his new friend on his 'gate team. Unsure at the moment whether Bates meant Teyla or Rodney, John had pretended to think that Bates meant Ford, and told him not to talk that way about the lieutenant or he would put Bates on report, and things had gone downhill from there. Now Bates' paranoia just made John paranoid, mainly about Bates.

"No Wraith, that's always encouraging to hear," McKay muttered, still studying the detector. It wouldn't identify the presence of hibernating Wraith, just conscious ones. They had found that out the hard way.

"We're not going to have much time to look around before dark." John went to the end of the plaza and up a short set of steps to the big double doorway. Through it he could see a hall, littered with blown sand and powdered glass, quiet, dusty, and dead. No bodies, but then this was old destruction. Any remains would have long ago rotted away. Still, it just looked like a place where John would have expected to see bodies.

The two doors had both been blasted off and lay on the paving. One had tumbled down so the outer side lay face up; it was unadorned except for some embossed circles, which didn't necessarily mean anything. The Ancients hadn't been big on brand names, or even just labeling stuff. He started inside, the others following.

Inside the big foyer, McKay paused to take some more readings on the detector, and John stopped beside him, frowning, trying to get a feel for the place.

At the far end a giant spiral stairway curved up into a large shaft. It was made of cracked slabs of stone and charred metal, still mostly intact, but John wouldn't have wanted to chance it, not without climbing gear. Still, he would rather trust stairs than the transporter/elevators, if there were any and if there was anything left to power them. Behind the stairway was a big triangular archway, opening into a passage toward the center of the repository. It had all been grand and lofty once, but the dark gray stone of the walls and floor was scarred where broken pieces of the stairway's elaborately curled metal balustrade had shattered and slammed into it.

"I thought I had something for a second," Rodney muttered, glaring at the detector. "An energy signature."

John frowned at it too. "From where?"

"Couldn't tell, it wasn't there long enough for the detector to get a direction." Rodney grimaced. "Let's try that way." He nodded toward the triangular passage and gave a mock-shudder at the stairway. "Better than climbing that deathtrap."

"If we search this whole place, we're going to have to tackle the deathtrap levels sooner or later," John pointed out. He caught Ford's eye and, with a jerk of his head, told him to watch their six.

"We?" McKay's brow furrowed, his attention still on the detector. "We who, kemosabe?"

John led the way through the foyer and the big arch, Teyla coming up to walk beside him. Ahead he could see the corridor opened into another large space, streaked with light and shadow. John flicked on the light attached to his P-90.

They reached the triangular arch at the end of the corridor and saw what lay beyond. John said softly, "Wow. I guess they didn't get any time to pack."

The eight-sided chamber was huge and shadowy, bigger than Atlantis' gate room, with three levels of open gallery above it, all intact. At the highest level, the walls curved up, meeting in a point overhead. Long diagonal open spaces had once held skylights, the glass long shattered by the bombing, allowing in dimming light from the overcast sky. Directly across from the archway, a bunch of giant silvery tubes like the top of an immense pipe organ stretched up and away, vanishing into the ceiling high above. The place was littered with debris: broken consoles that had been ripped off their platforms, smashed crystals, twisted metal, bits and pieces of Ancient technology, scattered and smashed like a trash heap. On this level alone, a dozen archways led off in all directions, into dark rooms that seemed to be filled with odd-shaped equipment.

McKay looked up from the detector and his jaw dropped. "Oh, oh yes, this is going to take a while."

end chapter 1

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