Words: 2,002 (of 16,683)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Ronon, Teyla, Thor; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 4 of #14 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3). General spoilers for "Aurora"
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: In which Iohannes' mother makes an appearance of sorts.
Notes: I think I'm enjoying posting all these small, short, cliffie chapters. That, and I'm feeling in desperate need of affirmation of my writing, as that past few days have been trying.
Delicia means sweetheart. Tethys was a Titon of the ocean; Tethys-class lintres were top-of-the-line Alteran vessels built before the Plague (ie, in Avalon) with control chairs aboard. Futue in obliquum is as close as I can get to fuck me sideways in Latin.
Upon editing, I discovered an unintentional Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy shout-out. Cookies for you if you can find it.
An Ancient!John Story
"Oh, delicia," he whispers when the Aurora finally comes into view, "you've been through the wars, haven't you?" It's a quite ridiculous thing to say – of course she'd been in battle. Nothing in the Pegasus galaxy hadn't been at war with the Wraith at some point and she dates back to the most intense fighting – but it's the only thing Iohannes can think to say when she appears on the view-screen.
Her hull is a beastly thing. Rather than a smooth, apparently single piece of titanium-yttrium alloy, her skin is a chimera of repair jobs. Patches overlap patches and if there's a section that hasn't been replaced at one time or another, Iohannes can't find it.
Even underneath all this, though, the Aurora has none of Atlantis' flowing lines or sharp beauty. She was built for a singular purpose, as were all Pallantis-class lintres, by a people so unused to fighting that actually doing so had pushed their resources to the breaking. It's not that she's an unattractive vessel, only that what beauty she has is rough, almost primitive even, more akin to his people's earliest attempts at interplanetary travel than the Tethys-class vessels Iohannes piloted in his earliest days in the Guard.
And that's before the damage she'd taken in her last battle.
A fair portion of her forward and port compartments are open to space, the metal around them blackened and twisted into ghastly shapes visible from even this distance. Great, jagged scars score most the rest of those sides and, while her aft and starboard appear mostly untouched, he knows well that looks can be deceiving.
"Is that it?"
"What do you mean is that it?" Rodney snaps at Ronon. "That is, quite possibly, the most advanced spaceship in the universe. It can afford to look frumpy."
"What Rodney means to say," Iohannes says, turning away from the view-screen to look at Thor, who's blinking in that slow, Asgard way from his bank of consoles, "is thanks again for the ride. You've really no idea how annoying it is not to have a linter around when you need one."
"Yes, yes, I'm sure the Muspelheim is a wonderful ship," he waves his hands as if to say et cetera, et cetera here, "but you can't tell me it stacks up all that well against an Ancient warship, even one that looks a bit like Swiss cheese at the moment."
Thor blinks again, even more slowly than before. "There is great potential in humanity," he says in his native language, "but, regardless of his intellect, I find this one most trying."
"Ah, he's not so bad once you get to know him."
"Indeed," the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet sighs, sounding exceptionally put upon, even for an Asgard. Then, "My sensors show no active life support system."
"We expected that would be the case. What do you think, Rodney?" Iohannes asks, frowning at the crumbling image on the screen. "Will she fall apart if we try to pull her into a hyperspace window?"
"Hard to tell from this distance. I mean, the damage has to be more than superficial, otherwise the Aurora would've made it back to Atlantis a long time ago but, by the looks of it, the engines themselves haven't been damaged too badly, which is good now but bad for long term, because it probably means something complicated like life support or navigation got hit instead, but..." He does something on his tablet, which he has interfaced with the Muspelheim's sensors. "It should hold together. Ancient battleships are made out of sterner stuff than you'd think; it'd take a lot more damage to sink a ship like this."
"Cool. Thor, if you'd do the honours?"
There's a minute or two that Thor and Rodney spend debating over where the best place to latch onto the Aurora might be but he honestly doesn't pay that much attention to it. He just wants to grab the linter and get back to Atlantis, which is ridiculous because it's been ages since he's been off-world, but something about this whole situation is rubbing him the wrong way.
It's not that she's Mother's ship. For all intents and purposes she was just a woman he happened to get half his DNA from, without almost any of the emotional attachment the Terrans seem to place on the word.
It's not even the stasis pods that may remain active aboard. As troubling as Iohannes finds being the last Alteran in existence, he's not overly torn about the idea of letting those who may remain die. Stasis, after all, does not entirely suspend animation and any who may be hale enough to survive the reanimation process would not be well – or young – enough to survive for very long outside it. It wouldn't even count as murder and, even if it did, well, he's a soldier. He kills things for a living.
No, it's the fact that Aurora exists at all. He was told she was destroyed and destroyed she should've been. She'd been sent to the Eloran system after all, which had been a hotbed of Wraith activity for at least a decade after Elorus' fall. To find her less than a light-year from the system, damaged but not cannibalized, able to send a signal through subspace back to Atlantis...
He leaves the bridge without telling the others and heads for the lockers where they've stored the enviro suits.
"It must be difficult for you."
"Not really," he says, looking up from where he's knelt to remove his combat boots just long enough to grin at Teyla, who's standing just inside the door. "My people were awfully fond of laces."
"May I ask when you were going to inform the rest of us of your intentions to beam over to the Aurora?"
Iohannes places his shoes on a nearby bench, next to his TAC vest and uniform jacket and pulls one of the orange pressure suits off a hanger. "Eventually."
"And did you not think that we would perhaps like to come with you?"
"I figured I'd bored you enough dragging you out here when we're just turning around and flying straight back."
"We did not come on this mission expecting excitement, John. We came because we are your friends and one should not be alone at moments like this."
"I didn't know Mother well enough to break down at the sight of her grave, Teyla."
"Perhaps not," she says conciliatorily, tilting her head as she watches him jam his feet into the bulky mag-lock boots that come with the suit. It's difficult, mostly because there are at least a thousand snaps that have to be done to secure one to the other and the first time he tries it he ends up missing one and having to undo half of them to try to correct the problem. After a moment, she takes pity on him and kneels down to help. "But I have seen those who have long left their original villages return there after a culling. No matter how many years have passed, it is always an intense experience for all involved."
"The Aurora wasn't my village. Her crew wasn't culled."
Teyla switches to the left boot, buttoning up all the snaps with an ease and dexterity that shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it is. "No, but she was in battle with the Wraith and obviously you feel some need to board her now, rather than wait until we have returned to Atlantis to do so."
"Look, Teyla, I know you're trying to help but I've come to terms with the fact that I'm the last Alteran in the universe-"
"Have you?" she asks, rising gracefully to her feet and raising her eyebrow in a dubious way Iohannes is fairly certain he taught her. "Ronon has known he is the last of his people for seven years but I sincerely doubt he has, as you say, completely come to terms with it. You have had far less than that."
He tsks at her as he zips the front of the pressure suit. "Now you're starting to sound like 'Lantis."
"She is the City of the Ancestors," she says with a look he knows he taught her. "She is very wise."
"She's very meddlesome. There's a difference. Now, would you hand me the gloves over there?"
Teyla sighs as she hands the gloves over. "Must you be so difficult to those who are only trying to help you?"
The gloves are easier. They sort of latch on, then are held in place by a metal ring that one twists to tighten. "I'm not being difficult and I don't need help."
"John, you are one of the most capable people I have ever met but that does not mean you don't need help."
"Mental help, you mean."
"Amongst my people, life is considered too short to hide our emotions away as you do."
"Pot, kettle," Iohannes snorts as he checks the O2 flow on his suit.
"There is a difference between moderating one's emotions and failing to acknowledge them at all."
"So there is," he says lightly. Then, gesturing with the ungainly, bubble-shaped helmet in his hands, "Now, if you don't mind getting the back?" He places it on his head and fumbles for a minute with the seals on the front which, for some illogical Terran reason, appear not to have been made for use with the gloves he's now wearing, but after a moment, there's a pair of satisfying clicks, followed by two more as Teyla gets those he cannot reach.
And then there is nothing but the faint hiss of O2 and the sound of his own breathing.
He can see Teyla trying to speak to him when she steps back around but cannot hear her. He raises a hand to the side of his helmet and taps it, trying to tell her to use her earwig if she wants to talk to him but she just shakes her head and, with an apparent sigh, leaves the room.
Iohannes doesn't know what to make of that and, rather than trying to unravel yet another mystery, decides to stick with the one he has a chance at solving and heads for the bridge.
It takes surprisingly little to get Thor to beam him over to Aurora – quite simply, he asks and the Asgard answers, "It may take several moments to find a secure beaming location."
Rodney, however, is not so easy to convince. Luckily he only gets so far as, "What the hell do you think you're doing? We've no idea at all what-" before Thor beams him into the Aurora's largely damage-free engine room.
His amator probably continues but Iohannes doesn't hear a word of it, despite their open comm channel. He's too busy listening to the sudden influx of sound assailing him from all corners.
No, not sound. Music.
"Futue in obliquum," he breathes, his voice barely audible over his O2. "She's alive."
"What!" Rodney squawks over the comm, so loud Iohannes can just make it out over the deep, primal percussion and higher pitched, almost shrill whistling that threatens to subsume him. "What's going on? Who's alive? John? John! Who's alive?"
The lights flicker to life as he falls to his knees. The whistling falls in pitch as he runs his still-gloved fingers across the floor. "Aurora," he whispers as a thin, frightened, almost childlike presence brushes against the edge of his mind. "She's become sentient. She's alive."