Chapter 1: Random Dispatcher
A/N: You may or may not be familiar with the story "Harry Potter: Last of the Ancients" by BabyBoy349. Whatever the case, you're about to get a crash course.
After reading that story and liking the concept, I contacted the author and asked permission to pick up where he left off. He agreed, and I even ran this first chapter by him before I posted it.
I fully intend to keep working on my other stories, but needs must, you understand.
Here's a summary of HP:LOA story if you haven't read it or did it a long time ago and forgot the core stuff:
The premise is that Janus and Ganos La from the Stargate show managed to perfect dimensional technology ages ago and looked through the multiverse until they found a dimension where the Ori didn't exist (and the Alteran race in general didn't exist, really). The two led a number of their Alteran brethren to that dimension. Stuff happened, Ganos La became known as Morgan la Fey somehow (and she may or may not have later returned to her original dimension) while Janus became known as Merlin in myths (Moros may or may not have proceeded to become Merlin in the Stargate dimension as usual while this was happening).
One of Janus' Alteran powers was precognition (Like Jonas Quinn had for a while due to Nirrti using that DNA sequencing device). He foresaw that, thousands of years after he ascended, a child would be born from both his and Ganos La's lines and he would somehow have full Alteran DNA.
Obviously, Harry turned out to be said child.
In this universe, he left on the Horcrux Hunt on his own in the night and, after a while of wandering, ended up visiting Gringotts, where the (you guessed it) inheritance test revealed his status and prompted the helpful goblins to take him to a ring platform in the bowels of the bank. Long story short Harry meets a Janus hologram, downloads an entire Alteran repository in his head and decides to use the Dimensional Drive to visit other realities in the hopes that he'd find civilizations that advanced along different lines than the Alterans, thus getting an edge against the Ori who would have evolved similarly.
The D-drive having the power to double as a time travel device meant he could appear at the exact moment of departure whenever he decided to return and deal with Voldemort.
The journey went like this:
Harry goes to the Babylon 5 universe just as the war with the Shadows is about to start. Stuff happens and he leaves that dimension with plans for the new Minbari-Vorlon ships and the bio-robotic self-adaptive armor. He also sends a bunch of missiles through hyperspace to the Shadow homeworld to bomb them into the stone age. Make of that what you will.
Harry next goes to the Star Wars dimension just as Luke destroys the Death Star. He runs into Yoda, later meets Luke and trains as a Jedi even though his powers are different. When Luke gets the vision, he takes Camelot (his City Ship which is basically Atlantis on Steroids) into the extra-galactic void and takes it back in time 3 years to give them both enough time to train and become Jedi knights. In the end he goes to Bespin with his ship and helps Luke fight Vader for a while, then uses Telepathy to break through Darth Sidious' mind control (apparently, Darth Vader's real self was caged in his own mind) and free him with some psychic help from Luke, Leia and Padme's force ghost.
Later, Harry departs that dimension and leaves Luke and Anakin Skywalker (with a perfectly new, cloned body) in charge of a space station and Darth Vader's captured fleet.
The story "ends" after Harry returns to his home dimension (accompanied by a rejuvenated Yoda) and deals with Voldemort and his goons. And that's where I'm picking it up.
Harry Potter: Last of the Ancients
Chapter 1: Random Dispatcher
The main research lab in the City Ship Camelot was the place where many an experiment had been conducted. Or at least that's what the owner would be able to claim in a few years. As it was, even with the three years that passed in a certain galaxy far far away (a whole dimensional barrier away, as it turned out), the area wasn't as cluttered with projects or the remains of projects as it could have been. Not different ones in any case.
A situation that was rapidly changing. Not because of there suddenly being a swell in simultaneous research endeavors (which hadn't happened, strangely enough, despite the owner no longer being all alone up there), but because of the sheer quantity of failed versions of the same damn thing.
Harry James Potter tossed away the rod he was working on and tried not to let his disgust show. He really did his best to hold it in, but it was a futile effort in the end. He barely registered the foot-long, two-inch-thick metal stick landing on the tabletop and rolling until it fell to the floor and away. That was the fortieth prototype. The fortieth attempt that yielded absolutely no results whatsoever.
In hindsight, it figured that the thrice-damned spell matrix generator would be the thing that finally drove him up the wall. Besides the biggest projects like the failed Arcturus reactor, the most innocuous things often became the biggest sources of apoplectic rage. History should have taught him that.
One would think that, out of everything he had going on, the whole business with installing a new regime in Magical Britain would be the biggest source of frustration for him, but no! With his Voldemort homunculus summarily eliminating the so-called dark side's entire manpower (by way of Dark Mark summoning into an ambush site covered with stunning wave dischargers), the new government of Magical Britain was already stabilizing after just a month of peace and quiet. The ICW, meanwhile, was nodding their heads while going about their own business as usual.
Originally, the plan was to use the Voldemort homunculus to control the bad side of the conflict while coaxing the greater part of Magical Britain to fight back over the course of a protracted conflict. But subsequent talks with Master Yoda and a simulation created by his city's AI showed that it wouldn't really help that much since it would still fall to the younger generations to change the overall mindset in the end. With that coming to light, it was agreed after a meeting with Kingsley that expediting the end of the conflict would be more beneficial, provided that the new "school for the gifted" gained a following quickly enough among the people who hadn't had enough time to become bigots.
It did mean he had to build the prison on the bottom of the Atlantic sooner than expected, but that was straightforward enough thanks to replicators.
As far as his space infrastructure went, Harry had had it all planned out even before he came back to clean up the mess in Britain, so he didn't have anything left to prepare for his soon-to-be-resumed multiversal trek. So no stress from that direction either. The logic of "third time's the charm" would normally come into play here, given his luck, and make some problem or other crop up from the direction of Camelot's new denizens. But lo and behold! That didn't happen either. The few friends that had agreed to accompany him on his further adventures were too busy assimilating the basic knowledge kit that Silima had managed to compile for them. They'd had to spend a week or two integrating the knowledge by skimming relevant texts and "remembering" the information, since their brains weren't as advanced as his. Whatever else interested them would have to be picked up the old fashioned way from then on.
For the goblins it went even slower as even less data was possible to just download into their minds, since their physiology and brain chemistry was even less compatible with the technology. Harry and Camelot's AI had done their best, but there were limitations to how much the technology could be adapted. Mostly because the brain itself had to do half the job. Having to compensate for the lack of advanced mind processes and psychic abilities naturally came with pitfalls.
Harry let his head hang back as far as he could, even leaning back in his chair enough to teeter dangerously. Silima hadn't been very appeased when he insisted on keeping the earth-standard rotating office chair on wheels instead of something more up to date (and less likely to tip over and crash). But in the end he was the boss so he got his way. He had almost made a quip about liking to live "on the edge" but decided against it. As accommodating as his city's AI had decided to be, Harry didn't want to test and see if she was as fickle as living and breathing women were.
Now he almost wished for an outlet to snarl a few invectives at. Even after abandoning the palm crystal shape in favor of something more wand-like, the spell matrix generator still refused to work. Hours upon hours of scanning "spell lights" were turning out to have been a monumental waste of time.
He honestly didn't understand what the problem was. The project originally started as a whim of his but it proved more of a challenge than anything else to date, and even after three weeks of single-minded focus (and minimum sleep, which Master Yoda was going to grill him for later, again) he was still stumped. By all accounts the technology built the energy matrixes to be perfectly identical to the ones that defined a successful spell, but they dissipated the instant they were formed.
Well, unless the SMGs were held by him or one of his wizard or witch friends. Then they performed like wands. Exactly like wands. Weaker than the actual ones they owned, but wands nonetheless. It made no sense!
It didn't help that when, right at the start, he personally got excellent results with the original SMG design it had made him think he'd successfully created a device that could cast any spell by using zero point energy. So much for that pipe dream.
With something between a shriek of exasperation and a sigh of resignation, Harry Potter pulled himself to his feet and tossed one final glare at the pile of useless garbage that his SMGs had turned out to be, then he made for the door. He'd long since ordered Silima and all other AI "helpers" to turn themselves mute to the goings on in the design lab or off while he was there. Of course, that only meant she had more time to decide the most thorough approach to delivering her "observations" once he finally came out for air.
It was the reason why he hadn't yet beamed himself to the now slightly more used dining room in the central spire: every second spent walking from his workbench to the door was another second away from her blatantly disapproving critique.
If only his main travel companions had his back during those sessions of not-scolding. But no, Hermione and Padma agreed with Silima every time, Luna never said anything immediately helpful (for him), Neville didn't think it was his place to speak, and Anthony, Dean and Dennis stayed out of it because they didn't want to have the girls go after them next. Their snickering at his expense was never subtle either, the bastards.
Maybe it was a good thing Malfoy had changed his mind about coming. Seeing him and the others agree on anything would have been too surreal for words.
Putting his game face on, Harry finally took the final step over the nonexistent threshold and waited.
Frowning at the distinct lack of the "try to pace yourself better and delegate tasks more" speech from his city's AI, Harry reached out with his mind and connected with Camelot's mainframe. His eyebrows shot up when he didn't find the AI in the system, so he immediately beamed himself to the command deck in the city's central spire. Once there, he was quite surprised to find Hermione manning one of the consoles and scrolling through a holoscreen. The main control chair would remain his alone to access for the foreseeable future, but other, nonessential systems had been made accessible to the others.
"What's going on?" He asked as he walked up to her.
To his surprise, Hermione turned to him with a rueful expression that spoke of something he'd done wrong instead of something on her end. "Today is when Silima undergoes total code review. You might remember it from, you know, having scheduled it yourself."
Harry winced openly at that.
For all their advancements, the Alterans still had their difficulties developing their best technologies for a time. More relevantly, it took a thousand years to eliminate or offset every little imperfection or limitation in their AI coding. Long-term integrity of AIs was one area that posed problem for a long time, with glitches sometimes cropping up. King Arthur, the AI he'd left back on the space station in the Jedi dimension, wasn't a fully self-aware entity, only a really smart program, and it was set to basically scrub itself and reset to its initial state every twelve years. The prime directives were stored on a separate data crystal within the mainframe, but the AI's whole code would be reset periodically.
Harry couldn't remember a case of an AI going rampant during the later centuries of the Lantean age, but by then the protocol of periodic purging was a standard safety measure that didn't take that much time and came with no risks, so all of the ships and facilities large enough to use or need such a complex AI often went with it. During the last century in the Pegasus Galaxy, the issue almost became moot because of ships' tendency to not live long enough for the matter to come up.
Silima was something new he'd created. A truly complex virtual entity that had grown from only some initial guidelines he'd provided the city's main data core. It had taken over three years for the awareness to mature, but it had been a success. A way for him to always have a companion in case his plans fell through and he really did end up traveling the rest of the multiverse all by himself, like he'd started. Due to the existence of (he assumed) true self-awareness, Harry was sure rampancy wouldn't be an issue, but it seemed Silima wanted to conduct checks on herself just to be sure.
Harry wondered if it was because of the stuff that had happened while he did travel alone, and which Silima had thoroughly reviewed and analyzed in the time since her onlining. Though the thought his city would take precautions because it/she didn't trust Harry to be careful enough himself didn't really sit well with him.
Maybe he was overthinking it.
Then again, he had just allowed this matter to slip his mind after being the one to schedule it, even if it had been at Silima's own suggestion.
"Right," Harry coughed in his fist. "So, how are the readings?"
Hermione was rueful for an entirely different reason this time. "So long as I don't start seeing code written in bright pink with green and yellow polka dots we're clear." She shook her head. "Honestly, Harry, I'm really just holding the fort here. The starting data pack you had the ship shove into our heads was amazing, but the programming primer there didn't have anything nearly as advanced as what I'm looking at here. I've thought of looking up some more materials, but I forgot to ask Silima to bring up a VI tutor before she shut down for the code analysis. And whatever thoughts I had about searching for one myself kind of fell to the wayside when everything in here refused to do anything else than what you're seeing."
Harry blinked at the long stream of words that had barely taken two breaths. "And where are the others?" He didn't bring up the fact that most of the databases and (of course) the main data core was still inaccessible to anyone but him and would stay that way.
"Eating. Since, you know, it's dinner time. I finished early."
Harry sighed and rubbed a hand over his face. Even he'd been going for a bit too long without food by this point. "Right. I think I'll rename the Jedi Spire to Spire of Learning just so no one has to ask again where they should go when wanting to learn stuff. Come on, I'll take you to a holographic classroom and you can pull up whatever learning materials you want. I know your mnemonics are great, but I think a brain booster shot will still help with the data absorption rate and retention if nothing else."
Brain Booster Drug, or BBD, was the name he'd whimsically chosen for a (watered-down when applied to non-Alterans) version of a drug that would temporarily optimize brain operation. It could overwork synapses to the point of irreparable neuron damage if taken too much or often, but it was a viable complementary measure to the infodump that had proven insufficient. The drug had actually been used by many of his people to achieve ascension, sometimes beyond what safety guidelines suggested, when getting that last percent of brain activity was needed to finally go over the 93% threshold required.
When you were dying from an incurable plague already, little things like possible brain damage didn't really register as concerns anymore.
Once he commanded the transporter system to beam them to the corridor just outside their intended destination, Harry went through the motions of directing Hermione's knowledge-devouring tendencies in a productive fashion. All the while, he pondered the current situation. There seemed to be no way to adapt the data repository technology for better use than it already had been. You could either use enough of your brain to receive the information or you couldn't. Unless you forced the issue and doomed yourself to a slow death by mental degeneration and eventual failure.
His friends were witches and wizards though, and they seemed to have a special part of the brain dedicated to storing the muscle memory and mental process behind every spell successfully learned, so the data transfer of all the effect matrixes that Harry had compiled had been transferred successfully to all his human friends. They couldn't do them wandlessly like he could, but it still put them above most wizards in terms of sheer spell knowledge at least.
Everybody would still have to invest time into learning their specialties it seemed.
The idea of structured learning in a classroom had been scrapped early on. The seven people that were going to come with him on his adventure still had things to sort out on the planet and were coming and going all the time, and their areas of interest were too far apart. Neville was all about hydroponics and bringing some plant and animal life to the city beyond the grass and trees that his ancestors had included in the (admittedly expansive) parks. That hadn't been a surprise. What had been was finding out that he also seemed interested in the Alteran history, particularly the military side. Although given his parents and what he'd been preparing to do at Hogwarts in Harry's absence…
The others hadn't really decided what their areas of focus should be. Sure, with the equivalent of Alteran general education now in their minds they were starting to show inclinations. Well, some of them were. Dennis Creevy was still not over his wide-eyed fascination with everything, Padma Patil was more focused on spending the days with her twin sister in the time she had left than figuring out where she would fit in the expedition. Anthony Goldstein seemed pretty fascinated with ships, but that seemed to extend to everything Alterans built that was bigger than he was, so it was pretty inconclusive.
Okay, so maybe his friends weren't actually showing special propensities that much. Other than Hermione who was studious and eager to learn as ever, and seemed to be quite dead set on figuring out how an AI worked and, thus, had basically dedicated herself to learning everything there was to know about Alteran software programming.
Once he left Hermione to her holodesk, Harry backed out of the otherwise empty classroom and released a deep breath. It seemed that his traveling companions would be just that: traveling companions and nothing else. For a good long while.
Well, he'd already decided that companionship was a must, and that Master Yoda wouldn't be enough all by himself. Even if his tendency to forget about the passage of time while he worked on his projects did seem to suggest otherwise.
On a related note, Alteran brain interfacing technology couldn't mentally interact with Yoda's species at all. Tests on a cloned piece of his brain showed the brain cells reacting rather… badly to any incoming attempt. Yes, somehow cloning and healing worked, but affecting what was on the brain cells did not. It might have been an extension of him being almost impossible to mindread through the Force. Harry's own telepathy mostly couldn't get through either. Fortunately, Master Yoda never had any plans to have any info dumped right inside his head to begin with, and he seemed fine with learning magic the normal way too. And since the city AI could run all systems with minimal input, he could fill in for Harry during a space battle if ever the time came when he'd have to be on the ground, like on Cloud City, even without using the Control Chair.
At least there was one reliable person up there with him.
Harry had himself beamed to the dining room in the central spire and offered a tired smile to the other occupants before sitting down to have something himself. Maybe a full stomach would help him figure out what to do next.
He wasn't going to the Alteran home dimension with his companions so scatter-brained and unprepared, that was for sure. He'd honestly expected… well, at this point he wasn't sure what he expected. Maybe using a program loaded into the orb he used to "judge" the "worthiness" of the prospective crew members hadn't been such a good idea. If he'd actually sat down to talk with everyone, telepathy or no, he might have known what to expect instead of being blindsided by the situation he was in now.
It soon became apparent that the SMG wasn't going to be the only source of frustration. The second source was related. It happened while he was planet-side for a meeting with the new magical government. While he was there, the goblin delegation – which had moved to Camelot as dictated by the alliance with Gringotts – set about warding the building (well, more like building underworks) that had been assigned as their embassy/headquarters. They went about things in the usual manner which had worked just fine for generations. Unfortunately, despite the rune stones being set up properly, and the casting happening without issue, the attempt failed. Instead of the whole structure being blanketed in the usual security measures, they got bubbles around each ward stone of about four feet in width from the stone surface, but nothing else.
Everyone had been confused and worried by the outcome, and Harry offered to be nearby and make some on-site scans while they tried again, only for the procedure to work perfectly, save for two particular wards whose underlying workings Harry wasn't familiar with. This led to general bafflement, especially once the results of the scans came in and informed everyone that whatever the cause was, it was something that none of Camelot's extensive sensors could pick up.
Considering that those were the same sensors that could detect the Force, that was a shock to the system. At least it somewhat appeased his annoyance over not getting the SMGs to work, not that he shared that feeling with anyone.
They duplicated the experiment with Harry off Camelot, and they again got the odd failure. Then they tested the attempt while another witch or wizard was nearby, with Harry still absent. The simpler wards seemed to engage successfully, but the complex ones didn't, though Hermione and, oddly enough, Luna seemed to allow for more success if they were in the immediate area.
On a hunch, Harry got Ragnok to approve of the Goblins and the human curse breakers in their employ teaching him all they knew about warding over the course of a month. Thanks to how Ward Master Grimgit literally fawned over Silima and Alteran technology in general (and Harry in particular) after Camelot's scans helped reveal some sites warded in ways that had been lost to time, the agreement came without any of the usual grumbling. Once Harry knew all they had to share, he had the Goblins tear down everything they'd set in place and start over.
The warding procedure finally worked as intended. Further tests established that as long as Harry was anywhere on Camelot's surface, distance wasn't an issue so he could be doing whatever he wanted and the Goblins could do their own jobs as well, so long as he understood exactly what they were doing and had the ability to do the same thing himself, even if he wasn't present for or aware of their activities at the time.
It was pretty ironic that a direct tie between wizardkind and magical phenomena was finally revealed. The implications were rather frightening for the Goblins, though Harry was impressed by how they never allowed it to show on their faces.
The dangers to house-elves were even greater.
Bonded house elves couldn't hear their master's call from space, or from the planet if they were brought to Camelot via shuttle. Worse, if the elf's actual master and Harry both left the city at the same time, and the elf wasn't near a wizard, a witch or VERY close to a goblin, they lost their power and (fortunately not immediately) their lives as well. If Silima hadn't been keeping some sensors on everyone in the city and performed an emergency transport of Nevile's poor elf to the medical level of the Spire of Learning, she'd have died right then. It was lucky that Padma was already there.
The event definitely killed all immediate plans of creating a magical creature habitat.
Harry decided to hold off on drawing a conclusion after so many of his initial ones had been proven incorrect during his relatively short trip through creation. While he did have some pretty likely assumptions, he needed more information and long-term observation.
In the meantime, he had a third annoyance to fume over. One that was completely unexpected.
Up till then the Vorlon organic-metallic ship armor had lived up to its reputation at being capable to "learn from experience." While it did seem to have a limit as to how much punishment it could take once it adapted to a certain type of damage (especially if it was a thin sheet), it had definitely delivered on Ambassador Delenn's promises. Harry had already treated the test piece with every energy weapon he had, and the eventual result was a couple inches-thick sheet with an area of two square feet that could only be overcome by prolonged exposure to two simultaneous Alteran energy lasers. Sure, full-scale, live firing tests would probably not yield the same results, but it was still impressive since it meant that any ship coated with the mastered compound would be able to shrug off a fair bit of unfocused fire by dissipating it across the outer hull.
He'd carried a sample of the armor around with him in Hogwarts for a few days, assuming that exposure to a magically-charged environment would teach it to resist magic. That didn't work, since the energy field didn't register as damage in the first place, so Harry eventually had to go ahead and start firing spells at the poor thing.
The results were bizarre.
Oh, a stream of (normal) fire may as well not have been there and absolute-zero blizzards had no effect (not that the last one was a surprise, with the vacuum of space being so cold itself). Lightning was also fully dissipated. But even the weakest reductors always blew a hole or crumbled the armor to pieces, cutting curses worked fine even after repeated strikes, cutting charms worked, and transfiguration didn't seem to get any harder over time either. Moreover, every Bombarda, Bombarda Maxima or other bludgeoning spell invariably turned the armor sheet into a battered and crumpled shadow of its former self.
Maybe it wasn't fair to the poor technological wonder. Harry's power level was huge after all. And similar spells from the others didn't work nearly as well, or sometimes at all. Nevertheless, the lack of improvement on the armor's part was frustrating to the extreme.
The bouts of incredulity didn't help, but Harry couldn't resist that reaction when the armor that had become all but invulnerable to a sustained superlaser blast actually experienced a rise in temperature when subjected to a mere cooking charm. It was mindboggling.
The test had actually been a joke, a way for him to blow off some steam after the unbelievable results, but it ended up inflicting upon him a mild form of shock instead. After a while he recovered and continued to experiment.
The sheet of armor split in two. Again. Like every other of the 133 times he tried it.
The cut immediately vanished and the two halves were whole again.
Harry slowly breathed in and out through his nose and reminded himself that he had perfect control of his powers and the ability to put more of it into a single spell matrix than all his friends put together, and then some. A normal witch or wizard wouldn't be able to do more than leave a large gash that didn't fully penetrate, and even that would take effort.
Unfortunately, it didn't work. "Confringo!" he snarled, even though he didn't need to vocalize any of his acts anymore. The silver-blue ball of energy as large as his palm smashed into the armor 10 feet away hard enough to wrench it from its support scaffold and scatter it into several warped chunks. "Reparo." And there it was again. Scowling, Harry levitated it back into place as he paced. Yet again he'd felt no difference in the power needed to do that. The armor wasn't adapting at all.
That did it. Fuming, he put all his annoyance into one heating charm and waved his hand at the armor.
Between the brute force of the spell and the fact that a heating charm possessed the parameter of duration, the action had the most interesting result yet. Especially since Harry had deliberately not included an upper temperature limit.
A minute later, the normally hard, tough metal with the ability to dissipate all kinds of energy and even blunt trauma began to warp. Two more minutes and it started to melt, then outright boil and drip off the support until it was a smattering of smoking sludge on the lab floor.
Having already been brought as close to apoplectic rage as his Jedi-like mentality allowed, this final test pushed Harry the rest of the cycle, leaving nothing behind but stunned amazement. "Unbe-freaking-lievable." That particular piece of armor had withstood fiendfyre for two minutes before heating up enough to start losing structural integrity, but a heating charm could do it faster... A ludicrously overpowered one, sure, but still nowhere near what fiendfyre was…
It made no sense!
It was enough to make him think that Magic had deliberately gained sentience just so it could mess with him.
He'd assumed from being able to detect wards on Camelot's scanners (and even bypass them with the beaming transport system eventually) that there was nothing really "magical" about magic. But either he'd been wrong or even the Alterans hadn't advanced technology to the point where it could understand and replicate or counter the abilities that their descendants on his Earth had come up with over time.
Initially he was determined to be the first to crack the mystery, but it had been a month since his experiments began and there had been NO progress.
The worst part was that he felt like he was missing something obvious.
"Careful Harry, or the wrakspurts will burrow so far into your ears that your brain will be fuzzy for days."
Harry turned to the now open door, where the bland comment had come from. "Is that your way of telling me to take some time off, Luna?"
As always, even after having adopted the white tunic and pants of Alteran casual garb, she kept that straggly, waist-length dirty blonde hair free. Coupled with her very pale eyebrows and protuberant eyes, it gave her a permanently surprised look. "Time off? Off what? Off the city? I can't imagine you'd want to spend any more time down on the planet than you had to. I imagine the goblins would be put off if they didn't get advanced notice as well."
Even after four months of his friends and… guests… coming and going to and from the city, he still couldn't tell when Luna was being serious or not. The fact that she still wore her radish earrings and butterbeer cork necklace didn't help lessen the impact of her presence either.
Everything about her did make every conversation between her and Master Yoda an exercise in hilarity though. "I assume you're the one that got stuck with the job of reminding me to look at the time and emerge back into the light?"
Luna's half-vacant stare turned to him. She had been staring at the wall before that. The only wall in the lab that happened to be completely bare. Yeah, best not think about it too much. "I'm not sure I understand. This place is better lit than the corridor I came through."
Harry dropped his head with a sigh. Why even bother?
Then again, if Luna was deliberately acting so dense, she was doing a great job of distracting him from the cause of his aggressive urges. She was giving him a more benign type of weirdness to focus on in preparation of a lead-in to more happy thoughts. Because thinking positive thoughts was the only way to cure one's self of a wrackspurt infestation which, by extension, would make it harder for him to become afflicted with Loser's Lurgy-
Harry James Potter forced his own thoughts to a screeching halt so suddenly that he literally visualized the train wreck as it played out on his mind. Forget being worried that he could actually recognize her tactic. If he had reached the point where he automatically thought in Luna's terms then it was time to get the hell out of the lab for a while.
"Luna, what's for lunch?" They actually hadn't only been using the food dispensers because Mrs. Weasley had been sending care packages up there by way of Luna or Hermione every other day or so.
Luna fell into step with him as he passed by her. Or, well, skipped along. "Lunch? Lunch was four hours ago Harry. It's dinner now."
Great, so he'd lost track of time even worse than he had the previous day. Which in turn had been worse than the day before that and so on and so forth.
After a bit of procrastination, he mentally connected to the city and winced. Silima was giving him the silent treatment again today. She never did approve of him holing up in there, especially after he'd lamented the solitude as he traveled through dimensions on his trip. Pulling his mind away, he decided not to beam straight to his destination yet and eyed his traveling companion. "Have the others finished?"
"No, Harry. They decided to wait for you this time, no matter how long it took to drag you out of that junk yard you call lab. Dean's words, not mine." Harry frowned a bit at the implied comparison, but he supposed he had allowed a lot of stuff and shrapnel to pile up. And spare parts. And rejected prototypes. And okay, two different tool sets were scattered all over the place, but it wasn't like he had trouble watching his step. And there were just four cut up engines there, and only five new sensor systems mockups, plus the pile of SMGs which might still be made to work in the future – ANYWAY! He knew exactly where everything was!
And now he was internally justifying himself. Actively.
Not a good sign.
Finally entering the transport booth, Harry mentally inputted the destination code, trying to remember the last time he'd actually spent a whole day with other people. Or at least all three meals.
It seemed his connection to the system was being observed, because his ship's AI provided the answer he was looking for as pop-up text that only he could see. Harry blinked at the date. That had been two weeks ago. Had so much time really gone by?
He resembled Janus more than he thought, and he wasn't totally convinced it was a good thing.
In the end, eleven months after the end of the Second Wizarding War and one month after the opening of the Potter Campus school, he decided it was time to leave. He'd given up the SMG project as a bad job and put the magic-proofing of the Vorlon armor on the backburner until further notice. This, unfortunately, brought with it a new problem: where to jump next? There was a synch point already stored for the original dimension of the Alterans, and he'd added the ones for the Babylon 5 and the Force dimensions, but for any other universes they were mostly flying blind. There seemed to be a method to the Dimensional Drive's way of choosing the moment in time and area of space where Camelot would materialize in a dimension other than the ones stored in memory, but they were still mostly flying blind.
What could be determined was whether or not space travel was being done in the proximity of the arrival point by taking readings of the way matter behaved on a subatomic level, as well as hyperspace phenomena and whatever subspace and EM signals were being broadcasted, if any.
In the end, it was Luna that actually broke the ice and said that they should just randomize the destination frequency (while leaving the standard suite of failsafes in place of course) and head off instead of trying to look for anything specific. Even if there was no space travel or communication being done, in the forms they knew of. This was probably going to be the only jump prior to their arrival in the original dimension, so they may as well make it an adventure.
Based on his experiences in the other universes, he was confident that nothing could really threaten them, so he called everyone relevant to what would normally be the Alteran Council meeting room and put it to a vote. With his seven friends, Yoda, the goblin Wriptoc (liaison) and the other relevant goblin Grimgit (ward master), there were ten people in total besides him.
Predictably, everyone was eager to go, even though the goblins were worried of how magic would hold up away from Earth. They did agree that going ahead and seeing what would happen would be the only way forward though. Since permanent area magic that wouldn't take unless Harry was present seemed to hold up just fine afterwards (even if he beamed off Camelot), he was pretty certain wards and expanded rooms or trunks wouldn't suddenly fail.
Decision made, everyone beamed to the main control tower chamber and spread around to cover whatever systems they were most comfortable with. Harry himself took the control chair but instead of starting every system himself or letting Silima pick up the slack, he waited to see what the others would do.
With how advanced Alteran ships were, and how much could be done mentally, many of the old crew posts had merged, but only on the smaller craft. On small attack/scout hybrid vessels like the Marauder it was manageable for a single person to work, but anything bigger than that 100-meters craft and it became problematic due to how the inner systems and redundancies were set up. Control chair or no, the captain could hardly fight a battle alone. The information coming in from every one of the thousands of sensor suites on the outer hull, the many weapons that could be engaged at any one time, and the damage reports or regions where the shield was taxed or hull breached, would lead to an information influx too high for even an Alteran mind to process. And that's ignoring the fact that the captain also had to actually use the space vessel to fight the battle. It was taxing enough on an Aurora-class starship of 1 by 3.5 kilometers that optimal efficiency was impossible without at least 350 crew members. There was a reason the standard complement was of 500 strong. Needless to say, a City Ship like Atlantis and Camelot itself had even more data to sort.
Having a true AI like Silima there made up for the lack of sector operation and maintenance crews, but it wasn't a perfect solution, and the expectation that the shield couldn't be breached by anything so long as there was power mitigated most issues, since the readings coming in from the systems throughout most of the city could be ignored in a pinch. Well, barring those from transportation drives, power cores and inertial dampeners.
Harry had deliberately not explained which suite would normally belong to each primary crew member of the ship. He'd also removed that information from the data repository everyone had downloaded into their brains at the very start, and issued a standing order to the AI to refrain from divulging that information. Instead, he allowed his friends simulated access to the secondary consoles during the months while Camelot orbited Earth on the other side of the moon. That way they could find where they fit best without any feelings of inadequacy or self-importance (if any) getting in the way.
Harry had expected Hermione to immediately head for the Executive Officer post, but Neville did that instead, he noted with well concealed amazement. He wondered if his friend would have been so eager to become the one responsible for the safety and security of the entire ship and crew if Camelot actually had anything resembling an actual population.
Hermione settled at the console showing the general day-to-day operations of the ship as well as cargo management. That was the job of the Operations Officer, which essentially put her as the third in command. Harry thought it fit in well with her ability to organize the living lights out of any predicament she encountered. He was just glad she'd given up her scrolls and notebooks in favor of holopads.
Anthony was probably interested in having as much access as he could to the view outside and sensor readings of everything out in space when he commandeered the console responsible for navigation, guidance, FTL jumps, piloting, course corrections, atmospheric entries and flight planning. Whether he'd make a competent third mate / flight officer remained to be seen. Then again, if Harry remembered correctly that did align with Anthony's childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.
Dennis was a bit hesitant in approaching what he didn't know was the flight overseer's post, but if any of his brother Colin's propensity for finding the best angles and light (when he took photos) carried over and translated into a good grasp of astrography and spatial positioning, Dennis would be a competent enough Navigator in time. He'd have to collaborate with Dean, who'd taken over the Sensors Calibration & Flight Command Systems (meaning that he'd manage the sensors and do most of the avionics work) but Harry wasn't going to accept anything less than full cooperation from everyone on board anyway.
He noticed that Padma had sat at the First Helmsman's post, who would be the lead pilot and leader of the flight department, but she wasn't looking at the console at all. Instead, she was staring out the window, excited to see hyperspace for the first time. And Earth from Orbit, that too. Harry already knew she'd been spending more time in the medical and biological research level than up there, so she was probably going to become the physician of their little expedition, and there wasn't a post on the main deck for someone like that. Not on any Alteran ship except science and relief vessels anyway.
That left Luna, who actually took over the Data Collection & Management Technician position and was soon scrolling through the readings shown on the holoscreen in front of her. Watching her, Harry's eyebrows went higher the more seconds passed. Unless he was mistaken, she was carrying out the mandatory database integrity check and active memory and program diagnostic required before the start and after the end of every mission.
Somehow, the owner of the Alteran City Ship Camelot had the feeling that she'd oversee data gathering systems and databases just fine. Maybe he'd also hand her control of the computer systems and cyberwarfare suites and see what happened.
Harry had a moment when he imagined an electronic war with an Ori ship on one end and Luna in an Aurora-class vessel on the other. He lacked the information and disposition to lay the scenario out in his mind, but he felt a chill go down his spine anyway.
Right. Best they just be off.
Oh, what the hell. With a mental command, he slaved the computer system and cyberwarfare ops to the database console. Luna didn't even bat an eyelash when the extra UI literally pushed its way into her holoscreen.
Well it was high time something surprised him positively.
"Right," Harry leaned back in his chair. "Systems check report."
"Main data core green, integrity at 98%," Luna said immediately. She ignored the surprised looks that the others threw her. "It could use a capacity upgrade though." Harry was at the center of the room, but her station faced that direction so she only had to look up in order to address him directly. "I'd normally suggest that you archive the older research data, since it would free up 35% of the main core. But when you created Silima you specifically intended for her to have real-time access to every byte stored on Camelot. Archiving anything at this point would just be detrimental to her performance."
Well, so much for thinking Hermione was the one with the biggest affinity for all things software. "How much free space is there right now?" He could just mentally ask the chair. Actually he already knew, but the others needed some training, and since they'd all declined entering a virtual reality via stasis pods he had to do it the old fashioned way. At least he'd managed to involve them in a few drills.
"18.002%." So she knew well enough not to skip the decimals. With .001% being the equivalent of a zettabyte, that meant… "There's still sufficient space for our needs, but since you're planning a long-term deployment you might want to do an upgrade sooner rather than later."
Harry wondered if the others were surprised at her apparent skill or the fact that she didn't sound as dreamy or distant as usual. "Acknowledged." He'd do it just before leaving the dimension. He then turned to Dean. "Avionics?"
Dean blinked, startled to have been singled out. "Erm, good? I mean systems green." He frowned at the text in front of him. "Active scans by our cloaked probe and Internet hacks seem to have caused enough web traffic that Earth's big data carriers expect some pretty hefty losses and share value drop though." A mental nudge switched it to passive and made Dean blink at the status change as it showed on his holoscreen. "Right. I don't suppose we'll be paying compensation?"
"Like they could ever find out who did it," Hermione piped in, displaying a prodigious privation of proper procedure propensity.
"If they do, they deserve our money," Anthony chimed in. "Given the past though…"
"Stay on topic people," Harry said.
"Right," Anthony nodded. "Why are we doing this again? You can do everything from the control chair, and AIs and replicators have been doing everything else just fine so far. You seem to prefer them to human help anyway."
Harry internally winced at the innocent comment about him preferring AI to human contact. "Because it won't always be Camelot. It might be a ship, it might be that we'll be on separate vessels. It might be that I'll be incapacitated or killed and you'll have to do without me. And it might be that we'll be swarmed by space flobberworms. In such a situation, the Captain's role will be purely proactive. In other words, I'll dish out the damage and you make sure we stay alive long enough to win or retreat." It was actually a lot more complicated than that, since the Captain could also make snap decisions like divert power from one system to the other or activate a local self-destruct or isolation protocol. But for that to be possible and done quick enough to matter, the Captain's mind had to be as clear and unburdened as possible.
"Such pleasant thoughts," Dean muttered.
"Well, I do fully expect to go to war eventually," Harry shrugged. "Anyway. Navigator!" Dennis jumped in his seat. "Set a course at sublight speeds to the edge of the Sol System."
Dennis took a deep breath and pasted a sickly expression on his face. Maybe it finally dawned on him what that chair he'd sat on meant.
It took around ten minutes and a fair number of direct interventions on Harry's part before Dennis finally managed to complete his first order as navigator. Maybe eventually his post would be made official. A long time down the line. As it was, Harry's on-screen remote assistance tutorial had done most of the work, though it might just have been the first-time stress.
It was a good thing that actual piloting and mid-battle spatial positioning and maneuvering was the First Helmman's job though. The Navigator was a sort of co-pilot during those times. Of course, since the Chief Pilot's post was unoccupied, it fell to Harry to fill in for it, like he did for the rest of the dozen posts still left open. "Course set and acknowledged. Activating sublight engines."
"Sublight engines…" Dennis waited until the rune on the screen changed, "…activated. No issues. Adjusting for acceleration… the ETA is 5.7 hours."
The next five minutes were spent gazing at the splendid form of the Earth and how it soon got smaller and smaller once Camelot begun its interplanetary trip. Harry had his chair tip backwards and called up a hologram in the large space above him reserved for just that function.
"This is going to be a hell of a wait," Anthony grouched, slouching in his seat. The nonexistent ship captain inside Harry winced at the utter lack of discipline shown by his "crew," such as it was. Cream of the crop they definitely were not. "I know we're going slow just so we can get back fast in case any of the magical stuff and goblins on board fail or die, but-"
"I am honored by your concern," Wriptoc sarcastically growled from where he stood with Grimgit on top of the otherwise unmanned engineering console. "But I fear whatever dreams you have of seeing our demise with your own eyes will go unfulfilled."
"Why?" Anthony asked suspiciously. "I mean, goblin lifespan is shorter than that of witches and wizards. And you already expressed your disdain for all forms of divination, so you couldn't have foreseen that." He narrowed his eyes. "You aren't planning to overthrow us and take Camelot for yourselves are you? Either that or you intend to have my eyes gouged out the moment you fall over, just so I don't get to witness it happ -"
Dean coughed into his fist.
Harry reached up and grabbed the bridge of his nose. Anthony had this problem of his paranoid imagination going out of control at the strangest times.
Then again, this was one of his less rampant theories.
"Don't be silly, Anthony." Luna said dreamily. "They won't gouge them out. Their standard retribution for enemies who've deliberately insulted them is to pour acid down their eye sockets while applying healing magic and strengthening potions in order to prevent damage being done to the rest of them and shortening the retribution by allowing the mercy of death." Dead silence. "That was the ancient tradition anyway, though I may be wrong." Was she trying to do damage control? Luna? "It could be that they only claim it's now ancient tradition, to appear more harmless on the surface, when in fact the custom is still practiced to this very day." What had he been thinking, of course she wasn't.
"You won't start a bloodbath right now, will you?" a female voice asked cautiously. "Not to step on anyone's toes, but I like this uniform."
And now Padma was being openly vain. Harry tried to exchange a long-suffering look with Dennis but he and Dean refused to look at anything other than their consoles for "some" reason. That left Hermione, and she only had amusement to convey.
Harry slouched farther in his Control Chair. It was going to be a long trip indeed.
Now he knew why Master Yoda had said he'd only join them once the hyperspace part came.
After they were beyond the edge of the Sol System with no evidence that magic was going to fail any time soon (and the Goblins showing no health issues), Master Yoda finally beamed over to the bridge and Anthony got to do his job of initiating hyperspace travel. Or do his best anyway. Yet again Harry had to mentally assist him remotely by showing tutorial pop-ups and guidelines here and there, especially when it came to double-checking the calculations.
It could have taken as little as a few hours to get to the spot where Harry had set up his mining facilities, construction bay and Trans-Dimensional Stargate (TDS), but he decided to take things slow so that his friends could enjoy the view and use some of the holodisplays to zoom in on some planets. They even took a detour so that Camelot could pass through the system where an amphibious society had managed to evolve to a level of technology just one tier behind spaceflight. Hermione had insisted.
He didn't really need to use the TDS (at 40 feet in diameter it was too small for most ships anyway, let alone a City Ship like Camelot), but he wanted to show everyone what he'd been up to, just in case. The TDS was there if Kingsley had to contact him with his special communication device at any point.
They were all appropriately impressed, especially the goblins, even though they did seem to be wrestling against a mild form of agoraphobia. Goblins always would prefer underground or otherwise enclosed spaces it seemed.
Once they were all ready to go on the next step of their journey, he initiated the jump. Since he didn't intend to ever let anyone have access to the dimensional drive technology, he handled it all by himself as usual. Although with Silima there to handle the underlying processes, everything seemed to go more smoothly than usual.
Camelot disappeared in a flash of blue light that only the stars could see, had they eyes.
Unfortunately, the efficiency of Alteran technology blocked everything but the briefest flash, so those within the ships's dome shield didn't get to see the outside spectacle.
"… That was it?" Dean asked. He was actually disappointed.
Harry managed not to roll his eyes only because Master Yoda was there.
Speaking of whom. "Anxious you should not be to experience excitement." The Jedi master had his eyes closed, as he usually did while trying to feel beyond. "A sign of fortune, turbulence is not."
"So…" Padma said after a while of looking at the darkness of space visible beyond the city's skyline, "Where are we?"
"Deep-space telemetry coming in now," Harry said for their benefit before Anthony had a chance to. "Looks like we're in what seems to be this Dimension's Milky Way Galaxy." Not that the D-Drive could easily end up anywhere else when moving between two dimensions that split off from the same original one at some point in the past. "Just outside the Perseus Arm actually." Now what could that mean? Different stellar drift? Different time point? Both? They'd been on the edge of the Orion Arm before they jumped. "Enabling full power to hyperspace, subspace and EM sensor grid. Let's see how active this version of the Galaxy is, technology-wise."
The first day, Harry plotted a course that would take Camelot on a periodically interrupted hyperspace trip to the point outside the Orion Arm where he'd set up his operations in his home dimension. Or former home dimension, since he didn't plan to go back there any time soon, at least not in any permanent basis. From there, they'd head on towards Earth. The dating systems studying cosmic matter estimated that this dimension had about the same age as the one they'd just left. So there was no time difference to account for the spatial disparity between the departure and arrival points. Maybe randomizing the destination synch point had something to do with it.
Harry had reached the conclusion that he'd gone a bit overboard when he spammed hyperspace-capable satellites in the previous two dimensions. The asteroid operation he'd started in his home galaxy and the materials gathered before he left the Force dimension hadn't restored even half the naquadah, trinum and neutronium stores he'd wasted on what could ultimately have been achieved just fine even by restricting his so-called Spynet to his immediate galactic surroundings, in Alteran terms.
This time, he only prepared normal sublight speed-capable satellites with cloaks, which he released one by one every time Camelot came out of hyperspace in a system judged likely to be hosting intelligent life or relevant resources. All of them cloaked of course.
The one exception was a full-featured satellite, the best he could build, which was more along the lines of an unmanned exploration vehicle. It led the way for Camelot according to the same plotted hyperspace/sublight alternating course, always staying one hyperspace jump ahead of the City Ship. It meant that Harry had to go a lot slower than the city's maximum speed, but it wasn't like he was in any hurry. He wasn't even sure he'd get involved with whatever version of humanity existed here, if any. He'd just decided to go there first before doing anything else, for lack of better ideas.
It took about four days of going in a relatively straight line to finally reach the unofficial galactic sector that contained the Sol System. To his pleasant surprise, his friends spent much of that time fervently brushing up on what they'd need to know to better man their consoles. When they weren't studying or training in hand-to-hand or weapons (not lightsabers though) with Master Yoda, they would plug into virtual realities where various scenarios were simulated. For his part, Harry reviewer ancient wartime reports and went through some simulated courses of his own, having realized that he needed to get a better grip on how to train a crew, never mind lead it on a mission.
He knew real world experience would ultimately be the turning point though.
During the hyperspace trip, Camelot kept getting information from all the satellites he left behind. Harry found plenty of common and not so common resources, but no forms of civilizations at all. That didn't have to mean anything though, he told himself. The path he'd cut across the galactic arm was a tiny speck compared to the vastness of the Milky Way, not to mention the whole universe. Since he didn't have anyone to show off to, and he wasn't in any hurry, he stuck to intra-galactic speeds instead of going with the overkill intergalactic hyperdrive engine.
It was a bit hard to ignore the total lack of interstellar travel though. Even if they didn't travel all that fast in astronomical terms, every hole punched through subspace or hyperspace from real space caused ripples that eventually stretched across many light years. Camelot could detect even the weakest of such eddies, as well as subspace communications, which was why it could deduce if there were advanced enough space-faring civilizations that might have anything to offer him.
By the fourth day, he was sure that the Terra he was headed for would have nothing special in store for him, and he assumed that the rest of the immediate galaxy was in pre-spaceflight stage as well. On the bright side, Camelot had finally started to pick up some very faint and garbled radio transmissions, so it was deduced that this version of Earth would have started their space program, or at least a space radio project of some sort, a few decades back, when the first space-aimed radio dishes were deployed. Meaning that it was probably on the same level as his own Earth, more or less. He'd come to the point where he'd already planned out their stay: they'd take a few days to see how history differed, if at all. See some sights and check if there were any movies, books, comics or musical pieces unique to this version of Earth and go on their way.
Then the avant-garde satellite leading their path lost contact. And a minute later, Camelot received notice that it had been destroyed while passing Saturn.
The alert blared in his mind so suddenly that it made him forget all about the cruiser schematic he was examining. The shock that there even was anything that could detect his technology, never mind destroy it, made him use the necklace he wore to enhance his mind link to the Camelot control center and force an unplanned exit from hyperspace before Silima could compensate for one little oversight on his part.
Had he been sitting in the control chair at the time, he'd have been tied into every system and would not have forgotten to adjust the inertial dampeners in preparation. Unfortunately, he was not in the control chair, so he did not adjust the inertial dampeners in preparation.
Camelot rocked in its entirety as it fell into normal space several parsecs away from the Sol System. Harry managed not to fall off his workshop chair, but what he wouldn't be made aware of until sometime later was that Neville and Dean face-planted rather painfully right where they were sparring hand-to-hand in one of the many training rooms of the Spire of Learning. Forcing past the brief moment of shock, Harry had himself beamed to the central tower immediately, right in the control chair.
The other members of their makeshift council beamed in not long after, but by then he was already half-way done reviewing what had happened. The hologram above him was showing the 360-degree recording and sensor/scan readings of the events leading to the contact cutoff as Harry ordered them replayed. He was distantly aware of Silima explaining the situation to everyone else, but he paid it no heed. He was busy bringing up the recording that the black box of the satellite had just managed to beam via subspace after detaching from the satellite. A moment later, he cursed openly when he received notice that it had self-destructed as well.
Apparently, the satellite had exited hyperspace just outside the orbit of the tenth "planet" that Earth may or may not have discovered by now. Then it had detected the locations of the planets in regards to the sun and each other, information it used to plot a meandering path that would allow it to pass close enough to each of them to conduct scans as per protocol.
Things went fine for "planet" X, Pluto, Neptune and Uranus, but while passing by Saturn the satellite detected an anomaly on Mimas, one of the gas giant's moons that also possessed a mostly spherical shape. The satellite focused its scanners in that direction, reaching the conclusion that the anomaly was located on the far side of that particular moon. Given the orbital positioning at the time, that side happened to be away from the sun. So, in accordance with its programming, the satellite made a detour intending to circle around and take a closer look.
It made it a third of the way before some sort of alien jet came out of nowhere less than three miles behind it. Harry could only assume it had circled around the moon, and maybe rode its gravitational pull, along with that of the planet it was orbiting, to quickly close in on the space probe.
The completely invisible space probe.
More worrying was that it had somehow stayed undetected by every passive sensor he had except the cameras that captured the visible light spectrum. He assumed (okay, hoped) that the fact it had come from behind meant that the jet would have been detected by the active scans. That the jet or whoever was driving it seemed to know how to work around that issue spoke of experience in space warfare though.
The satellite was going to open a hyperspace window to get away, but it didn't have the time. The jet released some type of silver-colored wide-coverage energy blast that… eliminated the cloak and blew all the scans out of whack, even though the shields of the satellite hadn't been disrupted. That meant that, somehow, that wave had done something to the area of space itself, essentially blindfolding the probe on all frequencies, subspace included. It effectively rendered it incapable of plotting a jump to begin with, or getting in contact with Camelot or any other ship with subspace comm support.
Harry watched the recording, dumbfounded, as the jet continued to close in without firing anything else, no doubt seeking to capture the probe. At that point, the satellite ejected the black box in the direction farthest from the bogie and at the same time overloaded its hyperdrive engine to self-destruct and propel it away faster. The recording ended there.
Silence reigned in the Camelot command center.
"… That was one mean jet." Dean eventually said.
Harry closed his eyes. From the looks of it, it was pure luck that the black box made it out of the blind zone before it detonated its integrated explosive charge. Otherwise it wouldn't have been able to send the reconnaissance data at all. The jet had probably attacked as soon as he was within range, and the disruption wave didn't reach very far on his sat's other side.
"Okay," Neville said eventually, when he saw that Harry wasn't going to say anything any time soon. "Everyone, sitrep. What does this recording tell us."
"That… was one mean jet?" Dean tried again.
Neville rolled his eyes. "There is an advanced space-faring society either stationed in or maintaining a presence in the Sol System. This society may or may not be this version's humanity, or whatever other race evolved on Terra. This society also has the ability to affect the fabric of space-time in ways Alterans did not bother pursuing but whose applications in space combat cannot be questioned after what we've just seen."
After a pause, Hermione cautiously added her opinion. "Whoever these people are, they might not be humanity. What we could see of the brief on-screen time of that jet didn't strike me as something humans would design, though I know we can't speak for other dimensions. If this is the case, though, it begs the question of what their relationship with Earth is. They sent no first-contact package for what it's worth, although then again we didn't set anything like that up either."
The unasked question, of course, was whether they were watching over other planets' development, or if that was just the outpost set up by an enemy of Earth.
Assuming they hadn't taken over the planet already. "Master Yoda." Harry spoke up. "Anything you can tell us?"
The short green man shook his head as he kept his eyes closed and his mind reaching out. "Bright, The Force in this dimension is, very bright and calm and warm. Not even a hint of the dark side have I sensed since our arrival." He opened his eyes and frowned. "Meditating I have been, yet not even a hint of another race did I sense." He frowned. "Blind I have become, I fear, since leaving my dimension." He looked up at Harry with a wry expression. "Not as useful will I be to you as I hoped."
"Fatalism aside," Padma intervened before Harry could. "Why don't we have a first-contact protocol?"
Harry slumped in his chair and groaned. "Because I never even considered the possibility of anyone other than the Ori detecting technology with that level of stealth."
"Advanced, this technology is, true. Hard to tell, the difference is, between confidence in it and arrogance."
Harry honestly couldn't tell if Master Yoda was trying to reassure or lecture him with that one.
Then again, since the Ori had probably advanced along the same paths as Alterans, that meant that Harry had just implied that he didn't think anyone else's technology was worth jack.
Maybe he was growing arrogant. Granted, he'd met two so-called ancient precursor races whose technology didn't even begin to compare to his own, but on the other hand he'd only been exploring the multiverse for just a few years. Had he really been getting a big head without realizing it?
Then again, being able to detect a satellite didn't mean that the ones possessing that skill were as advanced in every other aspect that made up a space-faring civilization.
There was one way to start figuring out the answer to that question. "Right. Here's what we'll do."
Two hours later, Camelot was parked in orbit around the Sun at about the same distance from it as Mercury. It was also right on the opposite side of where Saturn was at the moment, and out of direct line of sight from Earth as well. Not that it mattered, since the City Ship was also completely cloaked and had only short-range passive scanners active.
Since first contact had been all but botched and he wasn't going to send their makeshift package without knowing where Earth stood in regards to whatever that faction was, Harry was going to try a more hands-on type of reconnaissance.
He had released one of the overkill satellites from storage. It was equipped with both sublight engines and (though it would likely be useless for this particular scenario, save for a quick getaway if they were lucky) hyperdrive. The probe also possessed one of the abilities that the Alterans had managed to achieve through technological means just before they ascended: phase shifting. For all intents and purposes, the satellite could become both invisible and intangible while losing none of its ability to gather data. Harry thought of stuffing an energy plasma beam weapon into the mix somehow, but Master Yoda cautioned against it since there was still a chance these weren't the bad guys, though he used other words to relay the message.
Harry would err on the side of caution and not do any hyperspace jumps just in case the race, whoever they were, could detect it. Unfortunately, this meant that it would take several hours just to reach Earth. Caution or no, he wasn't going to spend all his time staring through the eyes of the satellite while it did nothing but travel through dead space.
Eventually, though, the time came for some hands-on action. "Okay," he got comfortable in his control chair as the others stood or sat around him. "Let's do this." The first and most secure subspace transmission Camelot had even initiated locked with the satellite at last. The area above Harry erupted in a full-quality hologram of the sat's travel and readings in real time just as it reached Earth.
Ten minutes later, everyone expressed relief in their own way. Earth was okay. Also, it was the year 2009 here instead of 1999 according to the Internet. "The world wide web seems to have come far in just ten years." Harry mused, then checked the active surface scans seeking certain energy fields. "No evidence of anything magical. No evidence of the Magical World's absence having affected history either." He didn't know how to feel about that. If there had been a positive or negative effect on history, he could have had something to praise or complain about. But these findings basically suggested that his people had ultimately been irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. "Well, best be off I suppose."
After another few hours, the satellite was finally nearing Saturn. Harry took direct control again and guided it along a path completely different from the one that the previous satellite had followed. Not that it did much good. That jet was patrolling the space above where the anomaly was located. Harry drove the cloaked, shielded and phase-shifted satellite within optimum distance. It was hard to find a nice spot without actually activating the sensors for guidance. He was basically flying in blind based on the telemetry recorded by the previous satellite, wanting to see if the subspace transmission between Camelot and the probe could be detected, or if it was just the scans. His visual cameras allowed him to find a spot below the height where the strange alien jet was patrolling. Those were some really random patterns.
Once he was in place, he took a deep breath and used every mind-clearing technique he knew to offset the pressure and anticipation radiating from everyone else. "Well, this is it. The moment of truth." The instant he said that, he activated the scanners on the lowest setting.
Immediately, the patrolling jet diverged from its flight path and started to comb the space around it in a frenzy, throwing scans of its own every which way. Harry dialed the scans to the fullest setting since the cat was out of the bag, aiming to gather as much data as quickly as possible, even though there was no way anything could detect his probe while it was shifted to another dimension.
Data was coming in fast and he wanted to see it immediately, but the jet was about to pass really close from where the satellite was. Harry had the mental command for full self-destruct ready to fire at a moment's notice-
The jet streaked past at impressive speed (comparable to Alteran speed, Harry noted in disbelief) and the scan passed right through the space where the satellite was. The jet didn't stop.
Harry allowed himself to exhale in relief.
Then, a mile away from the satellite the jet suddenly came to a halt and crumbled to pieces. Harry gaped in shock at the unexpected development, then in horrified fascination as the vehicle's parts quickly shifted into a bipedal form that had some kind of rifle aimed right at the spot where the satellite was.
The white laser shot came faster than Harry could think past the sheer surprise of seeing a shapeshifting robot. It struck his space probe dead-center and took out the forcefield, even though it was as out of phase as everything else.
Harry sent the subspace self-destruct command just before a second beam of light passed through the space where the intangible satellite was.
Nothing could be heard despite there being eleven people present.
Harry didn't bother trying to reassure himself with platitudes. To tell himself that the power source of exploration satellites wasn't even close to a ZPM and he shouldn't have expected it to hold out against direct assault by an attacker that was even half-way competent. Especially since it was a very small model meant for stealth. The simple fact was that the best Alteran stealth had been foiled. Intangibility had been somehow foiled by whatever those things were.
Shapeshifting robots. What the hell kind of reality had he ended up in? And what was the relation between those things and Earth?
Gritting his teeth, he called up the information that his scanners had been able to record and send out before the uplink's termination. Under his ministrations, the sensor readings and visual recordings consolidated into two images displayed side by side.
On the left was the sight of some sort of spaceship, shaped like a gigantic shark with auxiliary decks and cannons sticking out like talons. It seemed to have crash-landed and Harry could only hope it wasn't space-worthy given its size. It measured (Harry's mouth fell slightly ajar at the number) 4,000 meters long, 2,800 meters wide and 2,000 meters tall. Unable to believe his eyes, Harry displayed next to those figures the basic specs of an Aurora-class battleship, the largest space vessel ever made by Alterans. It topped at 3,500 by 1,000 by 300 meters.
That alone would have been enough to make Harry wary, but there was the other half of the hologram to consider too. On the right was a close-up of the alien robot. A large thing of just under 40 feet in height, holding some sort of sniper rifle and staring forward with two, menacing red eyes.
This… this was a problem.