Words: 2,409 (of 16,683)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Carson, Zelenka, Teyla; sentient!Aurora, sentient!Atlantis; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 6 of #14 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). General spoilers for "Aurora" and 2001
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: Aurora gets back to Atlantis
Notes: Yes, yes, sorry about the delay. But this is probably the 42nd version of this chappie to exist, and I'm actually very happy with how it turned out. Particularly with the number of 2001 references I was able to work in.
Gubernator is pilot. Nauta is navigator. Orbis is disc - and, yes, I've taken liberties with the Ancient rank insignia, as we're not exactly given any to go on.
There will probably be 1 or 2 more parts to this.
An Ancient!John Story
"Are you telling me," Elizabeta says slowly, the corners of her eyes furrowing as she stares him down from the head of the Conference Room table, "that you knew there were people aboard in stasis before you left here and you intentionally decided not to mention it?"
Iohannes crosses his arms as he slumps further into down into his chair. All in all, he's finding the debriefing for their Aurora mission to be rather more unpleasant than usual and not only because the nanoids in his head are protesting the strain of dealing with two intellegentiae artificiales at once.
"Well, I suspected..." he drawls-
-before wincing a moment later as she says, "John," with more indignation than he feels the situation really calls for. In fact, there's no situation he can think of deserving of that tone, save for the kicking of small canines, but that's Elizabeta. She always seems to think these things are much worse than they are.
Actually, now that he thinks about it, the Terrans are all very worst-case scenario people. They don't see how any scenario with Atlantis above water and the Wraith not overhead is a victory in its own right. Being alive itself is a victory, no less spectacular than anything his people did build. But such black truths come out of blacker times and he's glad for their sakes that they've never had to learn those lessons.
Even if it would probably keep him from having to sit through more of these uncomfortable debriefs.
Times being what they are, however, he just raises an eyebrow and asks, already knowing the answer, "Would it have made a difference if I had?"
"The Aurora was your mother's ship. If I'd known there was a chance she was in one of those pods, I wouldn't have sent you on this mission."
Yep. That's what he'd thought. Iohannes allows his eyebrow to fall back into place and does his best to ignore the pointed looks that follow.
"She is," Elizabeta continues, "isn't she?"
"Rory says she and the navarchus," he informs her with amazing restraint, "made it into the pods before the life support cut out."
Rodney, luckily, answers Teyla for him. "It's what he's calling the ship."
"I see," she says delicately. "And this ship, it is alive?"
"Alive? Yes. Particularly stable? No."
"How not particularly stable are we talking about here?"
"Well, I don't think she's going to start singing 'Daisy Bell' any time soon, but I wouldn't try sending her off-world without the Colonel either. But that's just based off the half of the conversation I heard. For all I know she really is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs and we should all be reaching for our space helmets while still can."
Zelenka, who's sitting on Rodney's other side, makes a noise somewhere between a laugh and a choking cough. Even the corners of Elizabeta's mouth turn upwards at this, despite the lingering sense of disappointment in her eyes. Iohannes, however, just exchanges an exasperated look with Teyla.
"It's a reference to 2001," Carson says, apparently taking pity on them.
"Why? What happened in 2001?"
Carson's mouth opens, then closes, then opens again before Elizabeta takes pity on him. "It's a movie. Classic science-fiction. I'm surprised that Rodney's not included it in your movie nights."
"Are you kidding?" Rodney snorts. "We live in a city with an AI of its own. Even I know that's a bad combination."
"Huh. Now I'm curious."
Rodney gives Elizabeta a see what you've done sort of look before turning back to Iohannes. "Fine. We'll watch it next movie night but don't say I didn't warn you. Now, if you don't mind, could we get back on the subject of the Ancients in the pods?"
"First things first, we've gotta get them out. The Ancients, of the pods, I mean. We can argue over whose fault it is later."
"And I've tried to tell you, Rodney, we can't do that. They've been in stasis for over ten thousand years. Sure, the pods slow your ageing considerably but reviving them is more likely to kill them than wake them up."
"You were in stasis for almost as long and you were out and about and blowing things up before the end of the day."
"That's because I'm such a piss-poor Alteran that apparently even my metabolism is an outlier. So I'm going to make things simple for you: the Aurora went missing ten thousand, two hundred and thirty-five years ago. The best stasis pod'll slow down your metabolic rate to zero point five percent of normal. The folks in the pods'll have aged fifty-one point one seven five years at best. That puts the average age of the crew somewhere around a hundred years old. At least."
The Terrans (and Teyla) appear to think about this.
"Colonel," Carson says slowly after a moment, "are you saying that the average age of the crew before they went into stasis was fifty years?"
"I think that is what he is saying," Zelenka agrees, his own accent thickening as does. "Which, of course, begs the question: how old are you, Colonel?"
"No. Without time in stasis."
"Oh." Iohannes actually has to think about this, which is regrettable, as it's one of the great many things he actively tries not to think about but, as it's either this or the issue of the pods again, it's the lesser evil.
/Thirty-five years, one hundred ninety-seven days, twenty-six hours and nine minutes, plus or minus ninety-eight days,/ Atlantis offers more or less helpfully before going back to her conversation with the Aurora – which, while generally pleasant, is also very... enthusiastic.
Maybe after this meeting is over, he'll at least be able to convince his nephew that his Alteran metabolism can handle the half-a-bottle of ibuprofen it's going to take to stop the pounding in his head.
/Sub-stance a-buse is nev-er the an-swer, pas-tor,/ Rory chimes in before going back to ignoring him as well.
Iohannes sighs and rubs his hand over his face. It doesn't help but it gets the point across to everyone involved. "Thirty-five."
"I see. And before you went into stasis, Colonel?"
"Thirty-four, but only just."
Even the Terrans (and Teyla) can do that math. "Are you saying that you dinnae age at all while you were in the Control Chair, lad?"
"Forget that," Rodney, happily, interrupts. (Well, Iohannes is happy for the interruption. Rodney, however, has sounded happier when trucking through the mud or through the muggy innards of a hive ship.) "If fifty was the average crew age, what's the average Ancient lifespan?"
"A hundred fifty or so."
"Well, I don't see what the problem is then."
"Okay, I see it now," Rodney says twenty minutes later, when they're all standing outside of what remains of Aurora's bridge. A ceiling-high bank of forty stasis pods stands to one side of the doors, containing approximately half of the linter's surviving crew. The rest are scattered throughout the ship, in smaller banks of pods but, even so, half are empty.
Somehow that's more depressing than the cargo they carry, which are so aged that for perhaps the first time Iohannes can see why the Terrans call his people Ancients.
"Told you," he reminds them without much feeling.
"I'll have you know smugness is not an attractive quality."
Zelenka, who's examining the pod next to them, snorts.
Iohannes, however, doesn't even bother rolling his eyes. He just sinks down onto the floor, in the space between the pods containing a moribund gubernator and her equally decrepit nauta and starts rubbing his temples again.
"Perhaps you'd like to go lie down..." Elizabeta ventures, her voice taking on the same delicate tone he'd been using not all that long ago on Aurora.
He tries to take offence to this – he wants to take offence to this - but it hardly seems worth the effort, as it is with so many things in dealing with the Terrans. Better to save his energy for the things which really matter than to waste it all on little things.
"I'd love to but I promised Rory I'd stay here tonight and since there's no way I'm going to be able to sleep with these," he gestures at the pods and their papery-skinned, white-haired contents, "aboard, it's best just to deal with the problem now."
"Colonel, you cannae sleep here," Carson immediately protests, turning away from the tablet Rodney is currently trying to connect to one of the pod's systems. "Nae to be rude to the lass but the last of your race – including your own dear mother – died here. That's nae place for anyone to sleep."
"Yeah, well, they all died on her, so she's feeling a little insecure about that."
It's Teyla's turn to fix him with a look of concern. "Doctor Beckett is right. It is not healthy to spend so much time in the places of the dead, particularly not alone. If you must stay here, let us all join you."
The Athosian turns and gives Carson, who voiced this complaint, a quelling glance before kneeling down to Iohannes' level. "Perhaps not all of us, but at least a few. That way you may keep Aurora company and we may keep yours."
"That's really not necessary."
"I believe otherwise."
Iohannes leans his head back and closes his eyes. "It's really just going to be me talking Rory all night, and I doubt hearing half that conversation is going to be fun for anyone."
"Oh, I dunno," Elizabeta says, examining one of the pods further down the hall. "It could be fun. We hardly spend any time together as a group when there's not an emergency of some sort to be dealt with. You could tell us about the Aurora or we could all just hang out, maybe watch a movie..."
"Yes," Teyla says. "We could all watch this 2001 movie of which Rodney spoke."
"Rodney may have a point about that not being the best movie to watch on a ship like this, but I'm sure we can find something we'd all enjoy watching... Hey, John? This one's uniform is different from the others. Could it be the captain?"
"I dunno," John sighs." Rory said he made it into a pod. Is there an orbis on his collar?"
"A small silver disc on his collar," he explains with yet another sigh, climbing back up onto his feet, "kinda like an ensign's insignia in The Next Generation, only flatter and with a design on it."
"I'm not sure. His beard's in the way. He's the oldest I've seen so far, if that counts for anything."
He looks. "Yeah, it's the navarchus."
"How can you tell?"
"Now," he says lightly, brushing dust off the domed glass, "might be a good time to mention that Antonious Alder Navarchus is my avunculus magnus – Mother's father's older brother, to be specific."
"John," Elizabeta admonishes, sounding this time not so much indignant as weary.
"Hey, you never asked, so I never told. I'm told that's supposed to be a big thing with Americans."
Elizabeta covers her eyes with one of her hands.
"That's only the American military, John," Rodney points out, frowning at his tablet. "And they'd only get tetchy about our relationship, not the ones you have with your extended family. Which, I might add, you full well know and has never mattered to you before."
"I'd like to add I was three years old when this linter disappeared. I have more of a relationship with Rory now than I ever did with any of her crew, Mother and her uncle included."
"Colonel, you still should-"
"Yeah, well, should has never exactly worked too well for me. Don't see any reason to pick up the habit now. Though," he adds, tapping the glass now, "we really should do something about these folks. It's almost 1700 and it's the rainy season, so we've got just over four hours to get them to the morgue before nightfall."
Carson lets out a long sigh. "I hate to say it but the Colonel's right."
"Even if the reanimation process wasnae likely to kill them, I've nae seen anyone who looks like they'd live more than a few hours, at best."
"I dunno." Rodney says, now outright scowling at his tablet as he waves it over yet another pod. "If they were vegetables, yeah, sure, maybe, but I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable essentially killing people with these levels of cortical signs."
"Yes, yes, I know, moral crisis, I'm just as surprised about it as you are-"
"No, I mean the cortical signs. What about them?"
"Well, the pods are equipped with neural interfaces and they're all indicating definite brain activity, as though they were all perfectly conscious. I'd assumed it was normal. I take it it's not?" Iohannes shakes his head while Rodney starts tapping his tablet at a furious pace. "All the pods appear to be interconnected too, with a level of data-exchange going on between them that would put all the ISPs on the eastern seaboard to shame."
Zelenka pulls out his own tablet and does much the same. "You don't think...?"
"Well, it's the only thing that makes sense."
"Yes, but would not Aurora have told us?"
"Not if the systems running the stasis units are separate from those for the rest of the ship – which they probably are, if they were only going to ever use them if there were problems with the rest of the ship."
"Gentlemen?" Elizabeth asks. "If you'd kindly explain what you're going on about?"
"It's a neural network. These Ancients? They're not just alive. They're talking to each other. And my guess is, if we can find an empty pod, so can we."