Title: We Lived

Author: linda.ljc

Summary: The team are on route to find out why Atlantis kept getting updates about a star system.

Main Characters: Major John Sheppard, Dr. Rodney McKay, Teyla Emmagan, Ronon Dex, Elizabeth Weir.

Category: Angst, Drama

Rating: Gen; Teen

Disclaimer: The characters and settings of Stargate SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis belongs to Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Film Corporation. All other publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of Stargate: SG-1 and Stargate: Atlantis or any other media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

This story was written by linda.ljc with the love of the show in mind.

..........

The instant of the Big Bang was the beginning of a process that would make us what we are. All creatures, great and small, were set on a path, but any kind of destiny takes time. Some came and went before other creatures emerged from their ocean; and some were long gone while others were still in the trees of their worlds; and some soared through their atmosphere in joy and then passed without further notice.

Convoluted destinies had been set in motion, and the chances for life were uncountable. There were opportunities for intelligence both where it's destiny proved beneficent and where it seemed almost impossible.

And no one knew how long their future would last.

..........

John leaned as far back in his seat as he possibly could. He slid sideways and slouched in a manner that looked painful. Then he tilted his head to the side until he could finally see Ronon slumped over in his seat behind McKay. John was bored and frustrated, and now he was becoming irritated. He didn't know what he expected when he finally caught sight of Ronon, because the snores were easily recognizable.

Teyla caught his nearly upside-down look and sighed. “I do not know how he manages to actually sleep through his own noise. At least when we are on missions and he can sleep flat it is not that bad. But I cannot imagine why, in seven years, the Wraith did not find him while he slept.”

Sheppard muttered, “well, he probably didn't sleep much.”

Teyla didn't sound appeased. “Well, he must have slept sometime.”

Rodney didn't bother to look up. “I have earplugs in and I can still hear him. And of course I can still hear both of you, unfortunately.” He didn't even stop tapping quickly on his laptop.

John swung his head up and twisted his seat around to the rest of his team. “Have you found any more information about this planet?”

Rodney slowly shook his head. He then turned to his team mates and pulled the plugs out of his ears. “I was just checking to see if the energy emissions had changed. They're getting stronger the closer we get, but they don't correlate to anything I've ever seen before. I'm beginning to think that they're natural and are emanating from their star. And if you remember, I told you it was going nova.” He grinned like a kid as he added, “This is going to be an interesting mission.”

John's eyebrows rose. “Haven't I told you not to say stuff like that? You have to push it every time. Just once I wish you wouldn't jinx the mission.”

Rodney scrunched his face and waved a hand. “Not going to happen. Besides that's just superstition. Right Teyla?”

Teyla sighed deeply and turned back to her own laptop. “I would have to disagree. It is a very old superstition, even among the Athosians.”

John crossed his arms and slouched even further down in his seat.

Ronon could be heard stirring behind Rodney. “Hey, Sheppard. How long?”

John smirked, “How long did you snore, you mean? Let me count the hours.”

Ronon reached out a leg and kicked the base of John's seat. It rocked gently. “You know what I mean.”

Rodney grimaced, “Well, yes. You really should have said are we there yet? That's what children always say when they're bored.”

“How do you know what children say?”

Rodney's shoulders slumped. “I was stupid enough to agree to a day trip with Jeannie and Madison.”

“Well, you look like you lived through it.”

Rodney glared at Ronon. “Kaleb had to work, the weasel.”

“You'd grumble louder if he went with you.” Ronon grinned as he stretched out his other foot and jounced Rodney's seat even harder than he had Sheppard's. “Are we?”

Rodney scowled. “What... there yet? No. But close. We're at least close to the right solar system now.”

“Good. Wake me when we get there.”

…

All the team was awake when they arrived in the outer solar system, but they observed an uneasy silence when confronted by the angry red burn of the giant star. It loomed closer and closer until there was nothing else in the forward screen except for the tiny, in comparison, planet outlined in red.

Rodney checked his scanner and anything the HUD could provide before he finally muttered, “We're really going to have to hurry. That star looks like it could go nova any time.”

John asked, “Should we turn around right now?”

Rodney ran the numbers again and everyone waited for the answer Rodney was willing to bet their lives on.

“Well, it shouldn't blow today. I'd guess it might even take as long as a week, but I'd feel better if we had a sensor or two set closer to the sun. Even an extra minute of warning would make me feel better.”

John sighed heavily. “Well, you're the astrophysicist, and we can spare the time for that I guess.” He took one more lingering glance at the view. “I think we'd all feel better about it actually.” It took less than an hour and they were back. This time they didn't stop in orbit. Rodney had already chosen a likely spot for landing.

The planet hadn't aged well over the centuries during which the star had bloated and reddened. The oceans must have been vast in its better years, but now they'd boiled completely away. The mountain and sea ranges were worn but still visible. The planet itself still existed because of its great distance from the star it still circled.

It looked a lot like Mars, but no one on the team had ever been to Mars which was a little crazy since they were now in a different galaxy than Sol System. The surface looked like bare rock from orbit but still was obscured by an atmosphere denser than Earth's smaller, colder brother. There was nothing at all like the Great Rift Valley or Olympus Mons which were both over sized for such a small world like Mars. Sheppard had been hoping to see sights like that after spending considerable time just getting there. From orbit it seemed like it was scoured clean, which made sense since even Mars had sandstorms. Of course there was nothing green anywhere, just lots of rust colored sand.

When Colonel Sheppard tried to land he discovered a problem no one had foreseen. He set the Jumper to hover to keep from crushing the thousands, or millions, of tiny artifacts on the ground. Finding a flat spot was not going to be easy. For all the lack of definition from space, when they were close to the surface there were definite anomalies... everywhere. There wasn't a bare spot to be seen.

All around them, for as far as they could see, were small, conical obelisks. They were so closely packed together that even walking between them would be difficult.

“Rodney? What's all that?”

Dr. Rodney McKay could only lean forward in his chair. His silence said a lot. “Sheppard, I don't know. Right now I couldn't tell you if they were naturally occurring mineral formations or built. Huh, for all I know they grew like that.”

Ronon Dex asked practically, “Sheppard, do you see a place to land?”

“Well, I can hover just about indefinitely. I was thinking we'd take a slow circle around and see if there are any gaps to be found. Maybe something that looks like a city square

Rodney snorted. “A little anthropomorphic, but a good idea. I took lots of video from orbit. I'll set the computer to see if it can locate any abnormalities that might be a city square. Of course, on that scale, it might be the size of a postage stamp.”

Teyla Emmagan leaned forward, too. “John, while we wait for Rodney's analysis perhaps we could circle like you suggested. You said there were seas long ago. If these were built, there could be areas unused in the lower sea beds. It would be likely that they were built or grown there last of all... unless these originated in the sea, of course.”

“Okay, Rodney. Which way is toward the sea?”

“Working on it.” Then Rodney gestured his answer with one hand while he continued to type with the other. “Teyla, that was a good idea. The structures seem more crowded as they near the ancient sea beds, then thin out and just stop. Let's see if we can find a clear spot big enough to set this Jumper down.”

...

They did finally land in one of the ancient sea beds.

“McKay. Is it safe out there?”

“Well, oddly enough, the radiation level is acceptable for now. But the air quality leaves a lot to be desired, and the air pressure is a little low. We'll need oxygen tanks. This planet has had most of it's air blasted away, so the air pressure millennia ago must have been like being in the Marianas Trench.”

Ronon leaned forward to look out the front of the puddlejumper. “Is that a lot?”

Rodney snorted inelegantly. “Only 18,000 lbs/ in²

“That's a lot?”

Rodney couldn't help it, “Yes. It's a lot.” His disdain was lost on Ronon, though.

Sheppard grinned. “Ronon, it's so much you wouldn't have to worry about it. It's not a great place to go for a swim. You'd be dead before you know it.”

“Hm. That's all I needed to know.”

Teyla stood and stretched. “Why do you think the Atlantis computer kept track of this planet? There was no mention of these small structures in the briefing.”

Rodney shrugged a shoulder, and he just sounded frustrated when he answered. “All I had to go on was a basic information stream that went back millions of years. I didn't actually have time to read it all, you know. When we learned the star was close to it's next phase it was decided we should come and check it out before it becomes a supernova.

“I did ask the computer some questions, but the answers didn't mean much. It had a record of an Alteran Science Council report that said the planet was once considered for seeding but the extreme pressure made it unusable. It also kept track of the entire star system, maybe because the star was unstable even then. We can only extrapolate about what the system was like that long ago until we have time to go over the data bit by bit. There are a lot of things that could have made it interesting to the Alterans. It's just surprising that they didn't leave a better record.”

Sheppard stood and went back to the equipment lockers. While he readied the oxygen tanks he wondered out loud. “If it was so interesting there should be a better record. But then again, it's been thousands of millennia. Things get lost. Or maybe they lost interest because whatever it was became less significant, or less urgent. But I'd like to know why it came to their attention in the first place. And if it was that interesting scientifically why didn't they put in a space Gate?”

Rodney seemed to agree. “Atlantis was still receiving reports from a sensor in the outer system. The computer did note the loss of the inner sensors, that's what caught our attention. You all know from the briefing that the state of the sun was recorded in the latest information. I sampled the data available, but I still wonder what caught their interest.”

“Maybe we'll be able to find that interesting reason.”

“I fail to see anything interesting yet.”

“You don't think it could be those obelisk things? They're the only anomaly we can see right now... besides that giant red sun, of course. We need to take a closer look at them. The equipment's ready. Let's get out there and try to figure out why this was so interesting.”

“Well, put on some heavy clothing. It's cold out there.”

“Like, Mars cold?”

“Not quite but close enough.”

“Wonderful. I'll break out the cold-suits. Remember to leave your radios switched on.”

“Yeah. Teyla can you help me get the recorders set up? We'll need body-cams on the suits. I've already set the Jumper cameras to send it's ship-drones for an aerial survey of this valley while it's grounded. Maybe they'll tell us enough to get some definitive answers, even if we have to take it back for study.”

…

They stepped out on the dry surface and looked around. The dust of ages was under foot but nothing more interesting than that was in sight.

Rodney squinted at his scanner through the face-plate of the cold-suit. He gestured forward. “Those obelisk things begin appearing just ahead of us in that direction.”

“Let's go then.” And Sheppard led them up an incline of ledge. It didn't take long to reach the tiny subjects of their search, which was good because he didn't want to get too far from the Jumper.

As they reached the top of the incline they stopped short.

Teyla asked hesitantly, “Do these look built to you, Rodney?”

Rodney shuffled forward and knelt to look closer. “Huh. Well, they don't look like they were plant growth. They look too regular. And usually plant growth isn't orderly, and they tend to crowd each other. And since they stopped before they reached the sea, they're not sea creatures like clams and such, that grow their own shell. But I would guess that land creatures might evolve to do that, too. Maybe it helped protect them from their dense atmosphere.”

Sheppard leaned down to one near him. “I'd swear there's writing on them, although I suppose they could grow like that.” He glanced around to several others. “The markings aren't the same on each of them. But if the whole planet is covered with them... well they could be like fingerprints. Or snowflakes. You know, no two alike.”

Ronon observed, “They look like they're pretty worn down.”

“Yes. My guess would be that the wind and dust have scoured them for thousands if not millions of years,” agreed Rodney thoughtfully. He reached out to tap one of the shells. “I wonder if these are some type of ceramic. I need to take a sample. If they've lasted as long as I think, they must be incredibly tough.”

Sheppard kept alert as he waited for the others to search the artifacts. “We need to investigate other areas if we have time. Maybe we can get a better idea of the age of these compared to others. Teyla may be right that the newer ones grew or were built as the waters receded.”

“Yeah. Sheppard, I'll want to leave recorders here while we check out other areas. I want to get records of all sides of them.” Rodney stood and opened an equipment case. He unpacked a half dozen small drones and set them on a grid search for the markings.

Ronon turned to one side and then the other.

“What are you thinking?” asked Sheppard.

“Maybe nothing.”

“But...”

“Maybe they stopped because the sea was still here. But why didn't they grow out there?”

Rodney looked back and forth. “That is strange. There aren't any beyond this line,” and he gestured to the demarcation that was oddly straight and orderly.

“They didn't go past this point even though there's ground that would have been above the water line.” They could see him gesture to what would have been the dry peninsula that Ronon had noticed.

Teyla said, “Perhaps in their time it would have been an island. It might have been too distant from their neighbors.

“McKay, the ones I see farther down the coast seem to have the same amount of damage as these.”

Rodney added, “ Yeah, they look smaller than the ones we flew over farther inland, too.”

“Maybe they were grown. Those could have lived a long time, and these near the sea would be younger.”

“Possibly, but it's a lot of assumptions without any data to back it up.”

Sheppard grinned, “And that's why you get paid the big bucks, McKay. The anthropologists are going to be clamoring for information. You'll be the expert on the Obelisk People. They might make you an honorary anthropologist. I could put in a good word for you.”

Rodney started to sputter. “That's not an honor, that's a joke

Ronon stood straight and gazed to the horizon. He then stepped up close and kicked the tops off several obelisks.

McKay yelled, “Hey! What are you doing?”

Ronon squinted as he squatted down near the debris. “Well, they're not still alive. Right? And even if they are, they won't be for much longer. We don't know if they're like outer shells for animals or if they're little homes that were built by whoever. I figured we had to do this sooner or later.”

Sheppard shrugged. “We don't have much time. And there doesn't seem to be any reason not to, McKay.”

“Well... make sure you record everything you see.”

“Kind of have to. We're wearing cameras, McKay.” Ronon followed that with a grunt as he carefully brushed the dust and debris away from the obelisks.

Teyla leaned down to brush the loose dust off the shards that were the only things left of one tiny shape. As she brushed at one of the larger pieces a faint glow showed through with iridescent tones being uncovered over the whole piece. “Rodney...”

“What? Teyla?”

“Look at this.” She continued with erasing the dust that clouded the surface of the shard.

Rodney quickly grabbed his scanner and took readings. They could all hear him sigh. “Well, good news. Not harmful radiation. Closer to bio-luminescence.”

Ronon asked, “They made their homes all colorful and shiny?”

Teyla asked McKay, “Is it safe to bring this back with us?”

“I'll just run any samples through the decontamination procedures when we bring our suits back into the Jumper. If there's something dangerous the computer will let us know.”

Teyla eventually tucked away a bag full of shell pieces to take back, then turned to watch as Ronon finished excavating the tiny building. His hand dug around a sharply conical yet hard shape. “Ronon, what is it?”

“Don't know.” He leaned toward another of the buildings and found another sharply pointed cone. Then again in another of the buildings.“There seems to be one in each of the buildings. Hey, McKay. Is this a little alien skull?”

“What?” Rodney's attention swiftly focused on the lower part of the tiny obelisk at Ronon's feet. He bent to peer closer and finally reached to try to pull it free. It wouldn't budge. “Ronon, see if you can work it free. Take a whole obelisk, too, if you can. We should take as many samples as we can of what lived in them, too.”

Then he looked around at all the tiny buildings lined up as far as the eye could see.

“McKay?”

“I'm just trying to imagine these little structures over the whole planet. It's a little unnerving.”

Sheppard sighed. “Well, it is a dead planet.”

McKay sounded subdued. “Yeah. I expected an unpopulated planet, but this is not that. This is a dead planet. If these obelisks were built... and each building had one inhabitant... That's a lot of animals. Creatures. Beings. And possibly with some level of sentience.

“It must have taken all the resources the planet had to support them. Maybe the seas didn't dry up because of the star's change. It might have happened before. They might even have caused it themselves.”

Suddenly the sensor alarm sounded. Rodney switched it off and checked the readings on his scanner. He grimaced as he looked up. “I don't want to worry anyone but the solar activity has ramped up, and it'll only get more unpredictable the longer we wait.”

He looked out at what he now thought of as tiny homes, built, and lived in by tiny creatures. And he wondered about the markings on those shells. Were they sentient? He knew that some animals created intricate patterns for no known reason but he didn't have enough information yet to have a half decent theory. He hoped that they'd be able to discover something about them from the recordings. Those would have to suffice though because it was time to leave.

“Time to head back, McKay. Do you want to order the drones back?”

“I'll call all but one back. I'll leave it to record till the end.”

As they walked, a wind kicked up and rose until it raised a storm of dust. There was a faint howl that could be heard by the team even in their insulated suits.

“Let's double time it. I really don't want to end up as the last sentient lifeforms to die on this planet.”

Rodney slowed and turned to stare behind him.

“McKay.” Sheppard sounded frustrated.

Rodney asked, “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what, the wind?” But Sheppard stopped to listen, too. If McKay wasn't in that much of a hurry then Sheppard figured he had time to stop.

Teyla took a few more steps then slowly turned. “Yes. I hear something also.”

“McKay? What is it?” Ronon was sounding impatient.

“Whatever it is it's eerie. Almost...”

Sheppard grinned. “...ghostly?”

“Go ahead. Laugh. Whatever.” Rodney did listen for a moment more. Then the wind swirled around them once more, tugging harder at their suits and causing whistling sounds to form through the obelisk's landscape. “We don't have time for this. The recordings will hopefully reveal what's going on. Come on everyone. If the weather's affected then we have to move. It will only get worse. Novas wait for no man.”

….......

One kind of creature rose out of the muck of their very wet world. They weren't very mobile even when youngsters. They didn't stray from their moist pond, or marsh, or ocean but they did build. They rose to great intellectual heights in their tiny sheltering homes. Each of them would build a tower, an obelisk, to shelter in during their long lives. They wrote their history, their discoveries, and their achievements on their tower. They learned as they watched the stars, and their math and science grew as convoluted as any that would ever be produced elsewhere.

Their towers wore colors and designs. And they sang their knowledge just for the beauty of it. They sang in their valleys and their swamps and upwards from the highest point in the world they were able to reach. Harmonies and dissonances, everything was beautiful, and all of it was treasured.

There came a time, still very early in the universe, when they came to wonder if there were others. They turned what passed for their eyes to the heavens. Their math and science gave them great insight to the movements of the lights above them. That was a wondrous time of star birth when they began their search.

As epochs of time passed, and some of those very stars began to die, a great sadness came over them. They had learned so much. They had created great beauty. But they had no one to teach, no one to share this great universe with. They grew to believe that they were alone, truly alone, and perhaps for all time there would never be others like them.

Slowly they turned inward. They sang their grief. They had nothing more to add to their own histories of achievements. Their world was slowly aging around them, but they still continued their search for others, and they failed. Slowly they withdrew even more as their oceans dried up.

A thought came to them that they might fashion a way to leave their world. They had the math and science and when their plan was complete they could find a way to build with the resources around them. But where would they go? What would they find in the star nurseries still glowing with future star births in their future?

There were no more mysteries to entice them. Their science and math explained their universe. Music, art, and poetry ran to epic lengths. But there was no one to share this with, no other life. So they put away their plans, and they built their homes into the sea beds as the water receded.

It seemed certain that their searching would never be fulfilled. They could see their long lives ahead of them and those years felt forever barren. But for as long as they lived, they continued to search. Finally they faced others of their kind across the last little ocean that was left. They saw the end. That they would live no more... except...

….......

Elizabeth looked pale in the light of the conference room. She finally lifted her eyes to find the others still lost in their thoughts. The information was a lot to take in. She lifted a glass of water to take a small sip, because she hesitated to break this silence. The depth of the grief she felt surprised her. The race was so long dead she had no hope of understanding the years between them.

She knew herself well enough that she wouldn't allow herself to dwell on it for long. She would accept the knowledge and put it behind her. She knew that humans were resilient. The Builders would fade into bleak history. Their existence would be noted, and people would move on.

But these Builders of the Obelisks had lived. Could she say truthfully that it wasn't in vain? But in the end, they were remembered. She would remember.

Ronon finally caught her attention. He gave a short nod to the door and Elizabeth nodded back, and Ronon got up and left.

He wandered through the city's halls and finally made it to his room. He took off his gear and left again, and he started to run. If the Wraith had taught him anything, it was to keep moving. And so he ran. He ran for one hour. Two. Three. Then Sheppard joined him and the company energized him. And then, finally, he had to stop. He was getting too old for this. His body was too cramped. Spasms made the muscles in his legs twist into knots, and he sat down hard.

“Ronon. Lean back. Let me help.” Sheppard was near breathless himself but bent to the task of easing the knots and spasms.

“They were alone, Sheppard.”

“Yeah.”

Ronon grimaced in pain and clenched his hands as Sheppard continued to work. “When the last of them died, they were just... gone.”

“Yeah.”

Ronon snorted. “That all you can say? Yeah?”

Sheppard shrugged with his eyebrows because he was otherwise occupied. “Well, I'm a bit busy. But I was never good with words anyway.”

“Yeah. I know. Me, too.”

“Yeah. I know.” Sheppard tried not to grin.

“I felt like that, after Sateda was lost. Like I was the last. But I kept on to honor them. There's no honor in giving up and dying.”

“Is that what you think they did?”

“Maybe. Different reason. Their whole world was dying. All of them. At least for me, there were still humans left that the Wraith hadn't killed yet. The Builders lived long enough to see stars born and die. That's a long time to hang on.”

“I guess everyone has their breaking point.”

“Yeah.”

“Come on. Stand up. It's a long way back.”

“Yeah.” Ronon slowly stood and twisted gently back and forth to make sure nothing else would lock up on him. Then he set out walking with Sheppard beside him. He could see that Sheppard was thinking about something, too. “What's bothering you?”

“Well, it's just about the Ancients. I always wondered why - Ascension

“What about Ascension?”

“Was their fear of being alone what made them embrace Ascension? The Asgard are dying, the Nox have withdrawn from association with anyone, and the Furlings can't be found. Maybe we'll find their home world someday and it'll be empty, too.

“I keep thinking that maybe Ascension was their reason to keep on going, their goal; something to live for that the Builders of the Obelisks didn't have at the end. They lived in isolation their whole lives in their little shells but they were searching for contact all that time.”

“Yeah. And in the end, they were still alone.”

….......

Their last attempt was a signal.

It was only ever answered once.

One race came to see, but the Alterans were thousands of years too late. They saw the obelisks. They could still see the writings, and they heard the music that was left behind.

The music brought them to tears as every obelisk's shape could still create the music they were built to make: music from the wind, from the flow of precipitation, and even from the dust borne in the air. Even after so long a time, that beauty could be heard by the Alterans.

From orbit the obelisk's colors could still be seen to run like auroras around the world. The light spiraled up, and up to the highest peaks and down again with the rising and setting of the sun, and glowed in the darkest hours that were never truly dark. Even after so long a time, that beauty could be seen by the Alterans.

The Alterans knew grief then because they looked around and found themselves alone like the Builders of the Obelisks. Was their effort to seed life and create life where there was none an attempt to ensure that someone would carry on their name, as they remembered these beings?

But then the Alteran's efforts turned inward and there were those that became obsessed with evolving to what they believed was their next evolutionary step: Ascension. They feared the final blow that had defeated the Builders of the Obelisks.

In time they allowed those memories of the Builders to fade away after they'd found and allied with the other races. Their Alliance had flourished for a time, and now the Alterans are gone. Some had ascended while the others went to their final rest. The Furlings couldn't be found. The Asgard were dying out even with their advanced cloning procedures. And the Nox... were the Nox. They withdrew to their sheltered city and did not really participate with their allies except when they must.

Of course, there were still the Go'auld, the Ori, and the Wraith. Sentients all, that preyed on other sentients. But in the case of the Ascended Alterans, they too withdrew, and they just ignored the plight of others instead of preying on them. What did that say about the future of intelligence? These beings provided excellent reasons to allow a race to whither and die out and leave room for what came next.

….......

Rodney didn't wait at the door to Dr. Weir's office. He strode right in, like he would be welcome, and he was. He clutched his laptop tightly as he stopped at her desk. He fidgeted a moment until she looked up. He looked like he wanted to pace but sat down instead. “Elizabeth, how are the translations coming? Anything new?”

She sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Well, Rodney, with the help of the information left by the Alterans we may have discovered a little. But translating their translations of the Builders messages is giving me a headache.”

“Well? It doesn't look like you found good news.”

“Not bad news, just sad. You were able to get the clearest records from the row of obelisks near where your team landed. These were some of the last of the Builders to live on their world. And the records were complete because you made recordings of all sides.”

Rodney shrugged. “If you need help why don't you send them to me and I'll take a look.”

“Oh, I'm making progress, but without the Alteran records you found when you returned I'd still be looking for the Rosetta Stone to unlock the Builder's language. I've been able to translate the later writings easily enough. They're actually very clear near the top anyway. They had a common theme. The rest of the translation will be much more difficult.” With a few clicks she put some of the records and their translations in Alteran and English on the large screen opposite her desk. “You see these markings, and those on the back.”

Rodney could understand most of the Alteran versions, and he'd been studying some of the findings from the Builders records that the linguists had released. He hazarded a guess. “Does that translate to the first one

“No. More like the only one

Rodney asked quietly, “You don't think he was the last one alive, do you?”

Elizabeth shrugged. “You can check out the writings yourself, but each little tower carries its own history, and they added to it as they aged and their towers grew. But all of them say pretty much the same thing at the very top. I think they were still hoping someone would read them and understand, because they each have some variation of remember us, and we lived.” She gestured to the last writings. “The longest was on this tower. It was the smallest, and all I could find was this, and nothing else: there is no one to remember us, we are the only one, and we are no more.”

Rodney was quiet for a few moments. Then he gently cleared his throat. “I finally figured out that the energy emissions weren't from the star.”

Elizabeth looked surprised. “Then what was causing it? And how did you discover it?”

“Well, it seems to be... it was a signal.”

“Rodney, what signal? Are you saying it was from the Builders?”

“Uh, yeah. But it's stopped now.”

“Why after all this time?”

“Uh, that's really the reason I came to see you... well, I just came to tell you that two hours ago the star went nova.”

End