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Sator (1/2)

Title: Sator (1/2)
Rating: R (for safety)
Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka
Warnings: #36 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; everything thru "Reunion," and considers everything thru The Ark of Truth in SG-1 to have happened (i.e., everything but Continuum, which I consider to be post-SGA S4).
Summary: You made all things by your word, and by your wisdom fashioned humankind.
Notes: I really did intend for this installment to be one chappie. But when I got to 4k words and realized that I'd a way to go yet, I decided I wanted feedback more than I wanted to wait.

1) Sator means Creator, in the sower, founder, planter, originator sense of the term. It's seen a lot in the Vulgate, referring to god. There is a reason for this. I've not gotten there yet.
2) I spent more time than is really advisable on creating an elaborate head!canon for the new Lantean homeworld, which defers somewhat from the one we see in S4 and S5 of the series. I may share them in a long, rambling post one day.
3) I didn't mean to make this one end on a cliffhanger. It was incidental to where I hit 4k and realized I wanted to post.
4) Some of the folks who appeared towards the end have appeared previously, in "Ascensiones." I've only detailed biographical information for one of them, but more are on the way. For one or two of them.



Sator

An Ancient!John Story


{?} – The Higher Planes

If he'd been a little more awake, Iohannes would have been surprised to find himself alive. As it is, the cold is so encompassing that it leaves little room for other concerns, numbing his senses and ladening his limbs. A great veil of exhaustion such as he has never known covers his thoughts. Even the task of curling in on himself, on the precious little heat still available to him, is nothing short of herculean.

Somehow, Iohannes manages it.

Somehow, he lives.

Somehow, he sleeps.


It occurs to him that he should be dead when he next wakes, but Iohannes does not trouble himself overmuch with it. He has often found himself alive when he expected to be dead and it has happened enough times the shock gives way to ponderous resignation before it has enough time to even set in. He has the vague sense that it would have been better for him to have died this time, but cannot put his finger on as to why.

Iohannes doesn't trouble himself overmuch with this either. He's still too tired, too cold, and uses what scraps of power remain at his disposal to create a heavy blanket from the nothingness around him.

He sleeps for a long time after that.


Time, however, is complicated. The best explanation that Iohannes has ever found for it is directly taken from Terran science fiction and goes something like this:

Anything that happens, happens.

Anything that, in happening, causes something else to happen, causes something else to happen.

Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen again, happens again.

It doesn't necessarily do it in chronological order, though.

The others prefer something a tad bit more complicated, but then again, they always did. Either way, the end result is pretty much the same. Which is this: a long time in The Higher Plains isn't always a long time in The Lower, nor does it always move in the same direction – if, in fact, it moves at all.


29 June, 2007 – Atlantis, {?}, Pegasus

"C'mon, Pops," Lorne says placing a hand on his shoulder. "Let's get you out of here."

Rodney blinks prodigiously, some instinct putting his feet underneath him when all he wants to do is stay where he is, staring sightlessly at the Chair and it's environs as he tries to come to terms with the fact that John, who he thought would outlive him by millennia, spent his life-force to bring Atlantis and everyone yet within her to safety. It doesn't matter what he believed in the end, he still gave his life to save them. Again.

Maybe John had been telling the truth. Maybe, underneath it all, beneath the religious rhetoric and the delusions of grandeur, he'd not really changed. Maybe he'd still been John.

His voice sounding incredibly distant and hollow to his ears, he asks, "Where are we going?"

The hand on his shoulder is already guiding him, gently but deliberately, from the Chair Room. "If it was up to me, I'd be taking you to the infirmary, but as it is those of us still in the city are all gathering in the Conference Room. We've got to figure out where we are and what we're going to do."

"Oh." A pause. "It is up to you, you know." Lorne had been John's adopted son, his heres. The action had largely been political, but Evan had been one of John's closest friends outside of Rodney himself, the one person he'd had on Atlantis during the Second Exodus who saw him as something other than a monster. He'd even been John's best man at their wedding, a strange mix of son and heir and nephew and executive officer all rolled into one.

And now he is imperator.

"I wish I could give you the time you need, Doctor," he says, sidestepping the issue, "but we're going to need you if we're going to come through this in a few pieces as possible."

"He's really gone this time, isn't he?"

"I'm not counting him out yet, but… probably, yeah."

"That's what I thought," Rodney says weakly, looking down at his hands. They're still coated in dust. In time, that dust will wash way. In time, the cells of his body will wear thin and be replaced by other, newer versions of themselves, until there is no part of him left that John once touched. In time, he will forget John's laugh and his smile and the look on his face when he went off to die.

Rodney thinks he should go sit down again.

He goes to take sensor readings to figure out where the hell they've landed instead.


{?} – The Higher Planes

Eventually, Iohannes wakes, feeling almost as weak and numb and exhausted as he had before. But he must get up. He knows he cannot stay here, although he does not know why. He knows they will come for him, but he does not know whom. He must go, where he cannot say.

It's a struggle, but somehow Iohannes manages to get his feet underneath him. The hallway dances around him, the sensation only growing worse when he closes his eyes. Resigned, he heads down the hall, taking slow, faltering steps, with his eyes wide open.


As Iohannes walks, he remembers.

He remembers Loegria, that glittering blue world so full of water and wonder and life. He remembers how his people destroyed it because of religion and water and politics, because they didn't know how to listen to others, and feels ashamed.

He remembers Icarus Eosphorus, who was so good and kind and caring, the best Alteran their species had ever produced. He remembers how he walked with eyes wide open into his Haeresis, trying to save the one he most loved, and how he ended up becoming the worst of them all precisely because he cared too much.

He remembers his father, who was not particularly good or kind, or even a middling-to-average father, but who represented the pinnacle of Alteran science and technology. He remembers what he used to say: The hardest thing in life is doing what is right rather than what you wish to be right.

Father.

Iohannes stumbles at this thought. He is someone's son.

He's someone's brother, to a half-Terran boy born in the northern teaches of what is now Scotland long after Iohannes himself had gone into stasis. Davidus Constantin was his name. He counts all of Terra among his descendants, including Rodney and 'Helianus.

Descendants.

There are a billion in this galaxy alone. There are another billion in the home galaxy and seven billion, plus or minus, in Avalon. And in the other galaxies, the ones seeded by the satores and never visited by his people? Another three or four billion combined. At least half of these consider his race their gods. At least one-sixth of those had considered him to be their personal god before the end.

He had believed that once. (Once, he laughs at himself. Once had been scarcely hours before.) But it is so easy to see now jut how wrong he was, without the press of faith or howl of prayers in his ears. He had been no god.

No, that is wrong. Iohannes is a god by every definition, but it is the definitions themselves that are wrong, tangled up in so much lore that he may be the only one who can recall any part of the truth.

But if he's not a god, what is he now?


3 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

M35-117. That's their new home. It takes them five days and nearly all the coffee remaining in the city to manage it, but they do.

The planet itself is slightly larger than Lantea is – or Earth, for that matter – with a diameter of thirteen thousand three hundred kilometres, but the mass is slightly lower. It's also slightly further away from its sun, clocking in at one point twenty-six astronomical units, the combined result of which gives the planet a somewhat disconcerting twenty-one hour and sixteen minute day. A survey of the planet in orbit has shown it lacks a distinct mainland, but rather has a series of archipelagos with main islands ranging in size from Bali to Madagascar, all of which are confined to what appears to be a region of tectonic activity in the southern hemisphere.

'Lantis insists on calling it Nova Loegria, claiming that John had designated it as such inflight. Mostly lacking the will to fight the city, he and Evan have mostly gone along with it because getting 'Lantis to do anything now that John's gone is verging on the impossible.

Rodney still can't believe John's gone either. It seems… surreal. He can scarcely remember what his life was like before he found him bleeding out in the Control Chair so long ago, having risked his life to bring the city to the surface rather than allow the strangers who had entered his city to suffocate when the power failed. To this day, Rodney doesn't know why John did that, why he gave them that chance. He can only imagine how much it must be worse for 'Lantis, who'd known John his whole life.

He knows – knew, he corrects himself belatedly, knew – so little about John. He knows he was a tribunus in the Lantean Guard, that he joined up when he was seventeen but had been playing some part in the Wraith War ever since he been made pastor at age five. Most of what he knows about John's childhood comes from Janus' notebooks, from lines like, Licinus completed the calculations for the new railgun this morning, and, the experiment was interrupted when Ganos arrived to complain about Licinus' sporadic attention to his lessons, which tell the story of a child much louder and much lonelier than the man he married. Hell, he never even knew John's mother's name until they stumbled upon her ship and her stasis-preserved body last year.

And now he is gone, taking with him not only everything that made John who he was – all the things Rodney hoped to one day learn about his husband, – but all that remained of the Ancients. So much knowledge, senselessly lost, all because he'd been unable to see just how far down the rabbit hole John was falling.

"Nobody knew," Radek tells him, sitting down beside him on the couch in his living room, as easily as if this were Radek's city, Radek's suite.

Someone's taken to being with him at all hours since their arrival on Nova Loegria. They don't call it babysitting; they call it wanting to compare figures or hear what he's learned or being unable to sleep in the oppressive silence of the nearly empty city. Rodney would thank them for it if he didn't hate that they thought it was necessary – which, admittedly, it probably is, but he doesn't want to have to admit that to himself, let alone anyone else.

But still, "You knew," he accuses, because that is easy and familiar and all his higher thought processes are busy dealing with the more important problem of what the hell he's going to do now that John is gone.

"Only because Evan heard you both arguing after you figured it out."

"Which you neglected to remind me of after John erased it from my memory."

"I thought it for best. You only would have confronted the Colonel again, which would have had all our memories wiped."

Rodney snorts, but it lacks any real heat and ends up sounding like a particularly nasal sigh. "Yes, and that worked out so well for all of us."

"It might have, if Replicators had not retaliated."

"No, it wouldn't, because no matter how much John loves – loved," he corrects, throat catching on the word, he still can't say it, though it's been five days, "me, there are still a billion people out there who think he's a god, and that obviously has – had – some effect on him we couldn't anticipate. We know the Ori got their power from their worshipers. Who's not to say that it doesn't have some kind of narcotic effect, so that even if they didn't start out all that bad, they became addicted to it by the end and couldn't stop on their own?"

"Power is always addiction."

"I'm talking about literally. Something with actual, measurable, opiate effects."

It's Radek's turn to sigh. "What do you want me to say, Rodney? Mistakes were made. I am sorry for that. I would have liked to save the Colonel, but you were my friend first. If it had to come down to your wellbeing over his, I chose you every time."

"Oh," he says faintly, because oh. He can barely conceive of a universe where John chose to be with him of all people. The idea that he might have friends, less omnipotent but more cognisant of his flaws, who feel similarly is just baffling, particularly from Radek, who really has seen him at his worst.

"Yes, yes," Radek says with extreme dismissiveness, paying more attention to his laptop than to Rodney, "people like you and want to do nice things for you. Stop being so surprised. Now, come, Evan wants us to upgrade all the security systems before he gets back with Victoria and Thetis – and Apollo, if they are still at rendezvous."

"We shouldn't let them back. It never would have gotten so bad if they hadn't kept on pushing him." Maybe.

Maybe everything still would have gone wrong.

Maybe things never would have escalated if Rodney hadn't stuck those original devices into his brain in a vain effort to relieve the physical pain absence from the city had caused him during the Second Exodus, which later caused him to near Ascension, which seems to have been some sort of tipping point for John.

Maybe if they'd never constructed the Intergalactic Gate Bridge, which had caused them to stumble upon John's cousin Helia and the Tria-

Maybe if Elizabeth had never died-

Maybe if the others-

Maybe-

"Ano, but in the end they were right and we cannot run city with out them, so what choice do we have?"

They have plenty of choices, Rodney thinks, but none of them would work in the long run. The Confederation is built upon the peoples of Pegasus rallying around their god, but with their god gone and the Wraith still very much around, there's no guarantee that they'll say rallied around his adopted son without the advanced weaponry Earth can provided. The very thought of working with the SGC again when they all but pushed John to the brink, constantly doubting and undermining him, makes him feel sick.

If-

No. Now is not the time for if. John is dead. What's done is done. No amount of ifs or maybes or perhaps can bring him back.

Rodney reaches for his tablet. Work won't entirely distract him, but it is better than chasing his thoughts around in an endless loop, drowning in the question of where everything went wrong.


{?} – The Higher Planes

The first steps are hard. Iohannes must struggle to put one foot in front of the other, leaning heavily against the rough-hewn walls to stay upright. His fingers catch on cracked plaster, scraping the pads and leaving thin lines of blood in the most jagged places. The floor is little better than the wall, covered with debris of varying levels of sharpness – a problem where bare feet and balance issues are concerned.

Iohannes tugs the blanket tighter around him and trudges on.

He grows stronger as he walks.

Eventually he reaches the great sandstone amphitheatre where the very few of his kind remaining dwell beneath the light of distant galaxies. And it is there that Josua Lal Tribunus finds him.


"We were wondering when you would show your face," Josua informs him, trying for causal and getting caustic instead. It is difficult to remember that once upon a time they'd been close friends, by the Alteran definition of the word. In life, he'd been upstanding, but Ascension has turned him cruel, stripping him of his humanity and turning him into one of the unfeeling marble statutes locked in this ivory tower.

But that's what Ascension does, doesn't it? It twists people, turning them into perverted reflections of themselves. Iohannes would know.

God, Iohannes knows.

He slumps onto one of the carved, crumbling steps. "Josua, I have had the worst day you could possibly imagine. I, quite literally, died today and that's not even the worst of it." No, that had been the way Rodney had looked completely, utterly broken at the thought he'd become what the others claimed, as if it was a personal betrayal on such a deep, fundamental level that he'd never before even considered the potentiality of being possible.

"You must be brought to trial for your crimes."

"Really? You really want to do this again?"

Josua doesn't answer. He just places a hand on his shoulder. A moment later they are standing in the centre of the vast amphitheatre, considerably fewer people in attendance than the last time he went through this. Fifty-one, not counting himself, are all that remain of their kind. They barely fill a space designed for several million.

"I guess so," Iohannes says, climbing to his feet. He's steadier, but not as steady as he'd like and certainly not sturdy enough to hold his own against the others. "You guys do realize we've had double jeopardy laws on the books since before the Third Loegrian War, right? You've already tried and punished me for the crime I just now got around to committing. I could use some time to stew in my own juices about that before you start making me defend every action I've taken since the womb."

"Sins of your calliper are so great that the law knows no bounds in curtailing it."

"That doesn't sound legal."

Athanasia Aquilidea, who had spoken earlier, responds again now, her voice oddly flat and emotionless, as if in Ascension she'd managed to shed what few emotions she'd learned in her ridiculously short life. "The legality of your sentence is not in question, your most recent crime is."

"Aren't they one in the same?" he asks, glancing around for a chair. Naturally there's not one, and the desire not to make this any worse that it has to be is weighing strongly against his desire to sit down. "Look, I know I messed up. I messed up big time. But I'll find some way to make it right. I don't know how yet, but I'll find a way-"

"That is not the crime we are concerning ourselves with at the moment."

"No? What us it then? My fashion sense? I've been told it's a crime against nature, but I didn't think they were serious."

"Cease your theatrics. You are here to stand trial for the murder of Chaya Sar Schismatica, nothing more, nothing less."

"You've got to be kidding me."

"We are not."

Iohannes turns his gaze on the man siting at Athanasia's right. He Ascended eighty years before Iohannes was born, but he knows Nicomedes Lahir Peritus. He's known men like Nicomedes his whole life: worshipping the past and neglecting the future, clinging tightly to the dictums of their ancestors and ignoring the fact that the Descendants have progressed far beyond the primitive things they were before Atlantis left Avalon. In his sharpest tone, he tells the man, old and greying even in Ascension, "It was an accident."

"That is immaterial."

"Please. Any if you would have done the same if you knew how."

"That too is immaterial."

"No. No, it's not. You can't just, just treat people one way and behave another. You've got to treat everyone the same or everything falls apart. Doing otherwise is how beings like the Wraith and the Asurans and Chaya come into existence in the first place. Hell, I wouldn't be here now if people had just treated me as I asked instead of praying to me."

"You chose your heresies." This comes from the man on Athanasia's left, Creon Syagrius Valens Praetor, who succeeds in being more irritating than Nicomedes only by virtue of having once been praetor of Tirianus and should thusly, in Iohannes' opinion, have known better. He glares particularly hard at Valens and is pleased when he manages to stand steady enough to really make it intimidating.

Slowly but surely, his power is returning.

He's so weak now compared to what he was, but what he was had the force of one billion faithful behind him. Even now, weak as he is, he is still stronger than any one of the others. Before long, he'll be stronger than them all combined – if only he can keep them talking long enough. Which, really, shouldn't be hard.

"After you forced it on me. I didn't want to ascend. You made me. You cursed me. You gave me no choice. And maybe I took those choices, but I never would have done so if you hadn't taken away all the others. If I'm at fault, so are you."

"That is immaterial," Nicomedes repeats. He's beginning to think that it's the only thing the bastard knows how to say.

"It's as material a it gets."

"Do not," Athanasia says coldly, the most emotion he's ever seen from her slipping through in her clipped vowels, "blame your Haeresis upon us."

"I wouldn't be in this position if you hadn't Ascended me."

"You made your choices."

"You Ascended me," I didn't choose that – and, oh, he can feel his blood warm as the anger sets in, driving out the cold and making him feel stronger than he has since he woke up on this plane, dazed and confused and uncertain of everything.

"You interfered."

"And you didn't?"

"That is-"

"If you say immaterial one more time, I will kill you."

"You," says Valens, rising to his feet as if his full height might somehow prove more intimidating to Iohannes, who has never known a moment of peace in his whole life and now never will because he is dead. He is dead and this is just an interlude before the end comes because it doesn't matter how much power is coursing through his veins, how strong and mighty he feels at this instant, any moment now he's going to lose control and then they'll see if he can repeat the crime he's on trial for our not. Either way, he'll not be making it back to the Lower Planes alive, "are a disgrace to the Alteran race."

"You watched the Haeretici enslave the home galaxy. You allowed the goa'uld do the same to Avalon. You let the Wraith harvest our Descendants in Pegasus for five hundred generations and me kill the last mortal members of our species without lifting a finger. Your approval is the last thing I want."

Josua surprises him – and Athanasia's tribunal - by stepping to the fore, intervening for him the way he always did when they were so much younger and mortal still. "You were a good man once, Icarus. You have bettered the Pegasus galaxy and everyone in it. But you cannot deny what you have become. We have done our best to save you, to bring you back from your Haeresis, but you have denied us at every turn. Look at yourself now. You cannot deny you have become everything you swore you would never be. So, please, if there is any decency left in you, let us do what must be done."

"And what must be done?" he asks, his anger now like a fire within him. Gone are his frozen limbs. They have been replaced by fists that shake, barely kept by his sides, and the roar of blood rushing through his ears.

"You have already confessed your crime," Athanasia informs him. "For this we shall return you to your mortal state. From there, we shall take your component molecules and spread them across the galaxy so that you will never again be a threat to us or the Lower Planes."

  • 20 comments
they are beyond reason. Just smite them all John and be done with it! Presumably then there is nothing to stop him descending properly? Problem solved.
You are on a very good track with that idea. But you've got to admit, they ARE trying to help now - they see John as a danger and they're doing something about it, unlike in the past. They are trying. It's just not enough.
Ughhh. I am so angry and frustrated with the Ancients and their double standards, and how they just can't see how their own actions set John on the path he went down. Not that John is completely blameless, but it's ridiculous that they are so completely removing themselves from responsibilities. Your fic really makes me hate the Ancients, bb. I have no idea how John is going to get out of this one, and shall sit here biting my nails until your next installment!

I really love Lorne gently guiding Rodney away from the room, and Radek confessing he'd choose to save Rodney over John (and Rodney's surprise that people care for him made my heart ache). I also both like and hate that they're making sure Rodney is never alone; I like it, because it shows they care, and I love when people care about Rodney and worry for him. But I hate that it's necessary :(

Such an amazing update!
If you didn't hate the Ancients by the end of SGA, they're something wrong with you bb. I just... illuminated some of their less reported hypocrisies.

John will get out of it. It really does start getting less dark from here.

Radek and Lorne are my BABIES. It's awful, but as much as I love the boys, I feel like I've nurture and cared for and developed Radek and Lorne so much more. And they are just... such good friends and practically family and Rodney is just...

SO MANY FEELS, BB. Should I have these kinds of feels for my own characters?
If you're doing it right, you should totally have those kinds of feels for your own characters!
THEY ARE MY BABIES AND I LOVE THEM. Seriously, it's embarrassing. I've like this whole arc planned out for them. It's.., well, embarrassing. But I feel justified in saying so, because we have more to work with canonically for John and Rodney and less so for Evan and Radek.
With some much freedom to develop the characters and the relationship, it's natural you'd become attached :)
i hope so. God, I feel attached to characters who haven't even been on screen either - John's mom, and her grandmother, and a couple others. I HAVE ATTACHMENT ISSUES BB.
I DON'T THINK SO, BB. NOT REALLY. I mean, they're your OC's, you created them completely. Of course you will be attached; it's like being surprised JK Rowling is attached to Harry :P And, to be fair, John's mom and such are fantastic characters!
Considering they've never been on screen, though, it's an odd choice.

Also, a reader on AO3 just told me they managed to read the entire series in 3 days. It's at 326,326 words now (which is so cool, actually). That's like reading the first two books of LotR in three days. Or the first three HPs.
I admire the dedication. I am, however, somewhat saddened my word count hasn't reached all of LotR or HP yet.
lol bb you still have 2 seasons to go. And possible anything after s5 you want to explore.

I'm not even sure of the total word count for HP.
The arrogance of the Ancients!!! Make a mess of the galaxy and take none of the responsibility.

They are as much an enemy as the Wraith, Gaould and Ori.

Well written lovey
(whew) I really did slave over this one, trying to make it right.

But yes, that's what I've always thought: The Ancients were actual enemies. Maybe not as outright as the Wraith or the goa'uld, but they were truly enemies, alien enough that there was no middle ground between us and them. I'm glad that came through enough for you to see.
:D Thanks bb. Your tears water the gardens of my creativity. Or something. I can be eloquent, I promise. No, really.

But as I find myself having to reassure people constantly, S3 was always intended to be the darkest. After the last half of this installment, things should be getting progressively less dark. In fact, I'm almost worried S5 will be nothing but fluff. Almost.
  • 20 comments