Spoilers: For the first couple of eps.
Summary: “…the Atlantis expedition never found a way to contact Earth. A year after the expedition’s departure, the Daedalus reached the Pegasus galaxy to find Atlantis deserted, although the team’s equipment, food and personal belongings remained. No evidence of foul play was discovered, and no trace of the expedition members was ever found. Due to the violent nature of the indigenous species known as ‘the Wraith,’ the Pegasus galaxy was deemed too dangerous, and Earth’s governments refused further requests for exploration. Like the ‘Lost Colony’ of Roanoke, the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the Atlantis expedition has captivated the imagination of generations, and there has been much speculation about the fate of the expedition…”
Essie Malcolm – seven years old and the youngest of four siblings – ran valiantly after her siblings. “I wanna be Elizabeth!” she demanded shrilly. “I wanna!”
“You’re too little to be Elizabeth,” said Alec, the eldest. “She was old and ugly.”
“She was pretty!” insisted Essie. “I seen her in the movie.”
“That’s just Amy Greenland,” retorted Nicky. “She’s an actor.”
“She’s hot,” said Alec. “Everyone knows Elizabeth was really old, in real life.”
Essie set her face mutinously. “Elizabeth was pretty,” she said, crossing her arms.
Alec sighed. “Fine. Whatever. You be Elizabeth, and we’ll be the Wraith and we’re gonna EAT YOU!” He roared and waved his arms, his brothers followed suit, and Essie squealed and ran in the opposite direction, blonde hair streaming out behind her.
Essie Malcolm – twelve years old and four inches taller than anyone else in the sixth grade – walked slowly to the front of the class, a data sheet clutched nervously in her hand.
“My book report is on Lost in Space, by Helen Myers. It’s about the Atlantis expedition to the Pegasus galaxy, which was lost and no-one knows what happened to them. This is a f-fictionalised story about the people on the expedition, led by Dr Weir, and how they meet people from another planet and go to live with them.”
Essie Malcolm – sixteen years old and a little bit high – leant back on her friend Sophie’s couch, and waved a hand dramatically.
“It’s just so… so… mysterious. Like, we have no idea what happened to them.”
“What happened to who?” asked some guy, sprawled out on the floor.
“The Atlantis expedition. They went through a stargate to what they thought was Atlantis – you know about the Stargate Programme, right? – and nothing more was heard from them. After, like, a year or so, the people on Earth figured out how to get a spaceship out there, but when they found Atlantis – and it’s, like, so cool that there even was an Atlantis – there was no sign of the expedition. They’d just vanished.”
“Yeah, cuz they all died,” said Sophie. “I mean, it’s obvious, right?”
“Duh,” said Essie. “No bodies. And all their stuff was still there – all the equipment, all the food, everything.”
“Everyone knows they got, like, eaten by the Wraith or whatever.”
“I dunno,” said Essie dubiously. “The ship that went, the Daedalus – they said there weren’t any signs of violence. But the Wraith were everywhere – the Daedalus didn’t stay very long. They left everything there in case they – the Atlantis people, I mean – came back.”
“Did they ever?” asked Sophie.
Essie shrugged. “No-one knows. Nobody’s been to the Pegasus galaxy since then. I guess the Wraith were total scaries.”
The boy on the floor propped himself up on his elbows. “Totally. You never seen Wraith Wars? Or Tomb of Atlantis?”
Sophie looked sceptical. “C’mon, Todd. That’s just fiction, right, Ess?”
“No-one knows,” said Essie. “Seriously. No-one really knows now what the Wraith were like.” She looked wistfully into her glass. “Wish I could go. Wish I could see it. Wish we could find out what happened to them.”
Essie Malcolm – twenty years old and a student at Harvard – came racing into the dorm room she shared with a fellow Historian.
“I got on it!” she shrieked, flinging her arms round Kate. “The Stargate course – I got in!”
“That’s ace, Ess!” replied Kate, hugging her back. “Professor Hamilton liked your essay, then?”
“Guess so.” Essie crossed to her desk, and her monitor flashed into life. “The Prof said he’d send me the reading list straight away.” The comms centre obediently began flashing through messages, then stalled as Essie turned away, disappointed. “Nothing yet.”
“I thought you’d read everything ever written on the subject,” said Kate, returning to her own work.
Essie checked her messages again. “Well, most of what’s available. I mean, all the secondary work, and the Jackson diaries, that sort of thing. There’s a load of government and military stuff that’s not easy to get hold of, though. That’s part of why I wanted to do this course: we get total access to it.”
“Did he mention Atlantis?”
Essie looked shifty, and toyed with a couple of old-fashioned books on the edge of her desk. “No. Why would he?”
Kate laughed, and cast her room mate a disbelieving look. “Ess, come on! It’s me. Y’know, the girl who sat through the Atlantis film fest in London for you? The Lost Colony and Tomb of Atlantis and that one with Amy whatshername…”
“Amy Greenland. Elizabeth the Warrior.”
Kate pulled a face. “Yeah, that one was shit. And that gorefest with Colonel Sumner killing about three thousand Wraith, and that freaky snuff film with McKay and the Wraith Queen and…”
“Fine! I get it! I might have a tiny…”
“Absolutely minuscule, hardly worth mentioning…”
“…obsession with Atlantis. There’s nothing wrong with a health academic interest in a subject.”
Kate grinned. “Definitely not. So, did he mention it? Atlantis?”
Essie flapped a hand. “Shh. I’ve got the list.” She leaned over her desk, watching the message scroll down. “Ancient history and its connection to the stargates, the first Abydos mission, the Goa’uld, the SGC… blah blah blah… Asgards, Ancients… blah blah blah… yes! Yes, yes, yes! Atlantis!” She looked up, face glowing. “This,” she said, “is going to be brilliant!”
Essie Malcolm – twenty-seven years old and a post-grad student writing her doctoral thesis on the lost Atlantis expedition – rapped sharply on the apartment door, a data sheet tucked in her back pocket. Eventually the door opened and a tousled head appeared.
“Have you heard the news?” asked Essie briskly, pushing her way inside.
“Wha?” said the man again. Essie rolled her eyes.
“Steve! Wake up! The news about Atlantis!” She brandished the data sheet. Steve rubbed a hand over his eyes, and ambled towards the kitchen.
“What news about Atlantis? Don’t tell me Gerry’s unearthed some salacious sexual scandal and he’s urging everyone to recreate it for historical verisimilitude?”
“No,” Essie said, then cocked her head. “But given how much you drank last night, I’m quite impressed you managed to even think ‘verisimilitude’, let alone say it.”
Steve bowed, winced, and demanded coffee from the utility.
“If not Gerry, then what?” he asked, once coffee had appeared.
Essie beamed. “They’ve approved it.”
“Approved what?” asked Steve blankly.
“Steve! The expedition!”
The coffee slipped from Steve’s fingers, and he swore. “You’re fracking kidding me. Seriously? They seriously approved it?”
Essie nodded. “Uh-huh. The potential value of Atlantis is apparently, like, major in military terms, and now everything’s finally pretty chilled out in our galaxy, apparently the powers that be are more open to it.” She shifted closer, enthusiasm evident. “This has been going on for ages, Steve! Gerry says that they’ve been sending probes through the stargate for months! Last month, they sent a military team.” She grabbed Steve’s arm. “People on Atlantis, Steve! I mean… God, the possibilities… I don’t even…”
“It’s not just military, though, right?” demanded Steve. “Tell me it’s not just military!”
Essie looked up at him, expression beatific. “Not just military. They’re sending an academic team. Scientists, and compubods, and us, Steve.”
She bounced up and down. “Uh-huh. Yep. They asked Gerry, and he said yes, and he said could he bring his grad students, and they said yes. They said yes, Steve! We’re going to Atlantis!”
“I hate Atlantis,” said Steve.
Essie propped her chin on one hand, and gazed absently at her monitor, scrolling almost automatically though the familiar pictures. “Huh?”
“Fracking freezing,” grumbled the man sitting opposite her. “Are you going to actually do anything, Ess, or just daydream?”
“Thermostats are all haywire,” she replied. “Don’t wank, Steve; put on a sweater.”
“Who would’ve thought when we got to Atlantis it would be this fracking cold?” said Steve, reaching over to grab his sweater.
Essie looked around, taking in bold stained glass and earthy-coloured walls. “Who would’ve thought we’d ever get to Atlantis?” she said softly.
Steve rolled his eyes. “Stop getting so romantic over it all,” he said. “What this entire expedition amounts to is rattling round an arctic alien outpost that’s been deserted for centuries. Thank God for Aldous Johnson and the invention of the preservable meal, is all I can say. This would have been about fifty thousand times worse if we had to live on those… what did they call them?”
“MREs,” supplied Essie.
“Yeah, those. Sounded rank.”
“Actually,” said Essie, leaning forward, “according to the Jackson diaries, they…” She broke off, a martial glint in her eye as Steve covered his ears and started singing.
“Essie and Jackson, sitting in a…”
She threw the remains of a bread roll at him. “Daniel Jackson’s diaries provide the fullest coverage of the Stargate Programme,” she said superciliously. “Mickey all you like, doesn’t change that.”
“It’s not even a case of mickeying,” objected Steve. “The Jackson diaries are pretty comprehensive, but you can’t deny they’re subjective. I mean, he talks about the politics of the Programme, but only from his point of view, so it’s hard to see what was going on, and given that the government documentation is so limited…”
“…which is entirely in keeping with the destruction of other official records,” interrupted Essie.
“… we can only learn so much. And simply in terms of what we’re doing here, Ess, you can’t deny that the diaries are less than helpful.”
Essie shrugged. “Just because he can’t give us chapter and verse on…”
“On anything! Admit it, Ess. He was excited about the possibility of Atlantis, but he didn’t know a lot of the people going, and other than speculation about the possibility of finding the Ancients…”
“Which seems unlikely given the state of the place,” said Essie, waving a hand around the barren, echoing halls of Atlantis.”
“…and disappointment at the expedition being lost, he’s not exactly a font of information.”
“Well, there was that little matter of the war against the Ori,” said Essie snippily.
Steve groaned. “Christ, Essie, I’m not criticising your hero, OK? Yes, he’s a good source on the Stargate Programme. Yes, he’s one of the best sources on the Atlantis expedition, chiefly because he’s pretty much the only one. But, firstly, he is only one source, and a partial one at that, and secondly, he ain’t that much of a source.”
“Fine; you know you’re right,” said Essie. She scrubbed her hands over her face. “We’ve been here weeks and we haven’t learnt anything new, though.” As she spoke, a shudder rushed through Atlantis, and she grabbed at the desk.
“Pier 12 just went,” announced a clear voice in her ear. Steve stared across at her.
“Structural integrity’s still holding,” said another voice. “Recommend we restrict everyone to the central core for the time being.”
There was a pause, then another voice, older and gruffer, spoke. “Fine. Hear that, everyone? Central core only. This is a research project, not some kamikaze death run.”
There was a ragged chorus of acquiescence, and the comms fell quiet. Essie and Steve stared at their monitors.
“If it was like this,” said Steve after a moment, “they probably had to leave.”
“They could have fixed it. McKay…”
“Not necessarily. Cho’s already proved that Atlantis was underwater when the expedition arrived; they must have raised it. But there was a lot of damage. There is a lot of damage, and us arriving has made it worse.”
“If they left,” argued Essie, “why didn’t they take everything with them? Equipment, food, clothes: it’s all still here!”
“We don’t know that! We don’t know what they…”
“We know they only brought what they could carry. Or, whatever, push on a trolley. Jackson says, ‘I stood and watched them go through, one after the other, into the event horizon. The equipment in cases, and every possession they would have on their backs.’ We know how many came through, and we’ve inventoried what’s here. There’s not much room for manoeuvre. If they did take stuff with them, it wasn’t much. And don’t forget, we’ve found a lot of cases, and enough backpacks for almost everyone who was on the expedition. If they left, why didn’t they take them?”
“Jackson’s open to interpretation! And if they left, we don’t know that everyone left. What the compubods’ve gleaned from Atlantis’ systems so far shows parts of the city were disintegrating after the stargate opened and they raised the city from the sea. It’s pretty likely that people died. We don’t know how many would have been alive to leave.”
“Steve, Steve, Steve,” a mocking voice came from the doorway, and a man wandered in. “What sort of man argues with our fair Esme?”
Essie flushed and scowled. “Fuck off, Gerry,” she said. “I’m not your fair anything.”
Gerry – tall, tanned, and heading rapidly towards the 50 year mark – clasped an anguished hand to his chest. “She wounds!” he exclaimed. “My darling, so cruel!”
“Pack it in,” said Steve shortly. “What do you want?”
“My dear young Munroe,” said Gerry, “what sort of way is that to speak to your esteemed professor? The very man who got you this spectacularly plum job?”
The answer came there none – Steve maintained the chilly gaze on his esteemed professor, though it seemed to have very little impact.
“What is it, Gerry?” asked Essie.
“I just wanted to know if you’d finished inventorying the food,” asked Gerry.
“Just now,” said Essie. She handed over a slim data sheet, and Gerry started flicking through it, pulling out a similar data sheet when he got to the end. He gave them both to Essie.
“Check it off against this.”
“What is it?” asked Steve, curious.
Gerry grinned. “Something we pulled out of that office at the top, by the control room. A complete food inventory for the expedition.”
Steve raised an eyebrow. “Wow. That could help.”
“You sound amazed, my darling boy. Most of us have done this a time or two.”
“Investigated a mysteriously abandoned lost city on a different galaxy?” Steve’s voice was sceptical, and Gerry laughed.
“A fair comment. Maybe not that.”
“It’s almost identical,” said Essie, cutting into their conversation. “They didn’t eat much – or take much. There’s barely a week’s food missing.”
“What was used?” demanded Gerry, and Essie handed over the original inventory.
“I’ve highlighted the missing food.”
He scanned it quickly. “I don’t think they took anything with them. This food would have fed the whole expedition, give or take, for about five days. We know from Atlantis’ records that they were here at least two days. If they took food with them, why only three days’ worth, at most?”
“But if a lot of people died,” suggested Steve, “the food could have lasted longer. If they took it to survive, I mean.”
“But there’s stuff like pineapple on there,” said Essie. “I mean, come on. If you’re taking food to survive, if you’re evacuating, you’re not going to take pineapple with you. If you were taking weeks’ worth, maybe, but not for a few days’ worth. You’d take the basics. Whatever would last longest and provide most nutrition.”
Gerry pointed at her. “And the darling girl’s got a good eye.”
“Maybe they just took what they could grab,” argued Steve.
“Well? What do you say to that?” said Gerry, returning to Essie.
“It doesn’t work. Most of the cases were still packed, and what was taken went from a load of different cases. If they’d grabbed what they could find in a hurry, it’d be all chilli, or all tuna or whatever. Plus,” she added, warming to her theme, “there’s no indication that they did leave in a hurry. Nothing was out of place when we got here. No signs of violence, or struggle, or things left unfinished.”
Steve nodded reluctantly. “Yeah. I s’pose. Even if they’d been, I dunno, beamed up, there would’ve been signs that they’d left unprepared.”
“So,” said Gerry with a cheery smile, “as well as ruling out alien abduction, it’s unlikely they underwent an emergency evacuation.” He tapped the data sheet. “We should share this with our dear colleagues.” He wandered out of the store room, and after they’d gathered together their belongings, Essie and Steve followed suit.
“It’s amazing,” said Essie, trailing one hand along the corridor wall. “Can you imagine what it must have been like? When people lived here, when it was light and busy and…and had a purpose?” She spun in a circle, arms outstretched. “When the rooms were filled, and the sun came streaming through the windows and…”
“You watched that Titanic film before we left, didn’t you?” demanded Steve. “You know it’s about two hundred years old and almost entirely fictional, right?”
Essie glared. “Fuck off. Just because I’ve got an imagination.”
“Whatever. Ugh. I feel like we were stuck in that cupboard for about a week,” Steve complained, trying to stretch the kinks out of his back.
“Let’s go on one of the balconies,” said Essie, nodding to a door, which accordingly jerked open gradually as she waved a hand in front of the control panel. Outside the sun shone brightly, reflecting off the sea that surrounded Atlantis. Steve shielded his eyes.
“You forget how bright it is out,” he said. “It’s like a fracking morgue in there.”
Essie pointed at the algae smeared over the windows. “It’s all like that. There must be a way of cleaning it after it had been under water, but whatever it was, it didn’t wo…” She stopped, stooped. “Hey! Look!” At the edge of balcony, in the space between the floor of the balcony and the bottom of the barrier, something was wedged. She peered closer. “It’s…”
“It’s a body,” said Steve flatly. He leaned out over the balcony. “Look.”
Essie stood, and looked over. A skeletal body dangled down the side of Atlantis, its still-booted foot caught in the balcony. Rags of black and grey remained, but not much else.
“God,” said Essie.
“Guess this accounts for at least one of the expedition,” said Steve.
to be continued…