Words: 3,203 (of 16,683)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Carson, Zelenka, Lorne; sentient!Aurora, sentient!Atlantis; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 7 of #14 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). 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: Neural Networks are not fun for anyone.
Notes: This will be an 8 part story. I was going to try to make it only 7, but this started getting long, so... Yeah.
Laudate providentiam medicorium is roughly thank goodness for the paranoia of doctors. Very roughly.
This is nowhere along the lines of what I'd planned for originally, way back when I was writing "Patres et Filii," but I think I like this better. I think.
An Ancient!John Story
The Terrans believe him when he says the infirmary will have the nearest empty pods which, while not strictly true – there are seven on the upper-most levels of this bank - does offer the closest easily accessible pods. And easily accessible is a phrase that's always good to have in the event something, for whatever reason, goes wrong with their plan to connect themselves into the neural network to talk to Aurora's remaining crew. Iohannes personally believes more is likely to go wrong with the conversation itself than with the method of having it but he's not about to try telling the Terrans that. Not with this kind of headache.
"What are the odds that anyone without the Ancient gene will be able to connect to the network?" Elizabeta asks as they enter the infirmary.
"None, I am afraid," Zelenka answers, heading for the nearest pod and doing something complicated with his tablet next to it. "Should the need ever arise, the pod would certainly hold anyone with humanoid physiology in suspended animation but the neural interfaces will most definitely require the gene. In fact, it is possible that no one but the Colonel, being an Ancient, will be able to connect."
"What do you think, John?"
"That I'm the last person to ask." He's happily surprised by the amount of damage this area seems to have incurred – which is to say, very little – and starts opening cabinet doors. The devices inside appear intact and that gives him hope for the rest. "But I don't see any reason why it shouldn't work."
"So I guess it's just the three of us then."
"Oh no," Carson says when he hears this, practically dropping the various bits and bobs he's picked up off the floor, presumably to examine for their medical value. "You're nae putting me into one of those things."
"Don't be stupid. If these things will only work for gene users then it's you, me and Colonel Ancient himself at the moment."
"Be that as it may, I'm more good to you out here than I am in the pods in case something goes wrong."
"Eh," Iohannes says as he opens another cabinet, fully aware of the manic grin that lights onto his face when he sees all the – intact – ampoules inside. "Worst that happens is some freezer burn but if you really don't want to go, we can always call up Lorne for a third, if you think we need one. His gene's the next strongest on base."
"You can tell that?"
"'Lantis can tell. Actually, I'm surprised she hasn't made him a custodia yet."
"One day you're really going to have to explain to us how this whole custodia thing works, Colonel."
He shrugs as he sorts through the bottles. "She likes anyone who likes her back. If you like her enough and have the right genes, you get to hear her song. You go the extra mile and have the nanoids put in your nervous system, she talks to you. She's a bit of a meretrix that way. Oh," Iohannes breathes, finding the one he's been hoping for, "Laudate providentiam medicorium."
"Pardon?" Teyla asks.
"It's not important," he explains, opening the bottle and dry-swallowing two of the pills inside before the Terrans (or Teyla) realize what's going on and try to stop him.
He surrenders the bottle to Carson when he takes it from his hand, and watches as he surrenders it in turn to Elizabeta, who's by far the best among them at reading written Alteran.
"Relax. It's just a painkiller."
"A ten thousand year old painkiller, Colonel," Elizabeta admonishes.
"Like those things ever go bad. So, are we calling in Lorne or not?"
"I dunno, John. If you're feeling bad enough that you need to risk ten thousand year old pills..."
"I'll be fine. Rory's just a little overexcited to be back and it's giving me a headache. Not such an unusual occurrence. So, Lorne, yes or no?"
Elizabeta raises a hand to her eyes. "Yes, please." She sighs. "Thank you for at least maintaining the illusion that I'm in charge here."
"You are in charge here," Iohannes reminds her before radioing Lorne. "It just doesn't take the nightmare that is the Terran bureaucratic system to deal with a headache. No offence."
She doesn't answer, and he goes to peer over Rodney's shoulder while they wait for the Major to arrive.
"How's your head?" Rodney asks him quietly once the others have all stepped out into the corridor, presumably to discuss how the return of Mother's linter has sent him into some sort of psychotic death-spiral, or whatever the dressed-up Terran term is for whatever they think he must be feeling.
"Better. Surprising as it is, 'Lantis is proving to be something of a calming influence on Rory. Though," his nose wrinkle with distaste, "she does insist on calling her Mother." Well, Matre, but same difference.
"More than that."
"You think of a stronger word than that, let me know, 'cause guess what that makes me in her little fantasy land?"
Rodney shudders. "And just when you think things in the Pegasus galaxy can't get any weirder..."
"Tell me about it," he snorts. "But, seriously, I'm more worried about you."
"Me?" his amator asks as if it's the most ridiculous question ever. "You're the one who just took drugs of questionable expiry date."
"Yeah, but I've been dealing with this," he gestures vaguely at the overhead, "pretty much my whole life. I'm used to it. You, however, are not."
"Yes, well, my eardrums are miraculously intact, so I think I'll survive. Plus, if this is your way of trying to keep me from going in with you, it's not going to work. You met Jeannie and turnabout is fair play and all of that."
Iohannes sighs. "You're in for a disappointing time then; Mother and I share a few genes, nothing more."
"Oh, please. Even if she wasn't your mother, I'd want to meet her, engineer to engineer and all that. And don't get me wrong, I love you to frankly embarrassing pieces, but it'd be nice to talk to an actual Ancient who has a clue about how any of the tech we find works."
Chuckling softly, "I sometimes have clue. Usually not much of one, but still a clue."
Rodney smiles indulgently at him, which should be more insulting than it is except hey, it's Rodney and, as if picking up on his thought, Rodney turns away from his tablet just long enough to raise a hand to the back of his neck and pull Iohannes in for a quick kiss-
-which is wonderful, because, for all they try to keep them and work separate, an awful lot of stuff lately has danced back and forth across that thin, invisible line through no fault of their own, and stellis in universum, if this isn't one of them-
-but also apparently not quick enough because Lorne chooses that exact moment to walk into the infirmary. "Whoa. Not to be rude or anything, sir, but don't you guys have like rooms or something you could do that in?"
"We had one," Rodney retorts, stepping away with only the faintest tinge of red colouring his cheeks. "You're the one who didn't knock."
Lorne shrugs. "You're the one's who called me."
"So we were, Major. Elizabeta tell you what we wanted to do?"
"Yes, sir. Something about hooking ourselves into these stasis units and hoping we can talk to some mostly-dead Ancients without frying our brains."
"Yeah, that's about it. So what d'ya say we plug ourselves in and get this thing over with?"
Rodney rolls his eyes, but gestures at the pod in front of him with a flourish. "After you, Colonel."
Iohannes climbs into the pod and grins up at him as the lid closes.
The next thing he knows is that he's in the infirmary. Not Aurora's infirmary, but Atlantis'. It's easy to tell, even with his eyes still squeezed shut; it smells like antiseptic which his people had no need for. There's a weight in the crook of his arm that can only be an IV. And, of course, there's the faint beeping in the background that, as far as he's been able to discover, is wholly unique to the Terran practice of medicine.
The next thing Iohannes notices after that is the pain; the overwhelming, blinding, white-hot pain radiating from the top of his head down, like someone's started to take an axe to it and stopped halfway through. It's as if Rory and 'Lantis and a thousand other intellegentiae artificiales are screaming wordlessly in his mind, only not, and that's all the explanation he has because that's about as far as he can think at the moment.
He tries reaching out for Atlantis, wanting to get her to just shut up for five minutes, when the pain suddenly flares. After which come more voices, loud and panicked, assaulting him from every direction.
Then there is blackness.
When Iohannes wakes again it's with the stupor of one who's both been drugged and asleep far too long, but it's also without the pain from before so he's going to call it a victory.
"What the fuck just happened?" he asks the room at large, rubbing a hand over his eyes. He doesn't really expect an answer and so is surprised when Elizabeta replies-
"You had a seizure, Colonel. Probably because of those pills you took."
"Actually," Carson interrupts, "the medication was exactly what John said it was – an analgesic similar to paracetamol, albeit in a dosage I wouldnae recommend for a normal human. As far as I've been able to determine, the neural network operates at a similar frequency to the one the nanoids in your brain use to communicate with the city. Attempting to connect to the network created a positive feedback loop, which resulted in a grand mal seizure."
Iohannes pushes himself into a sitting position, ignoring the way the lights overhead flicker concernedly. "Never had one of those before. How long was I out?"
"A little over seven hours."
"And the mission?"
"Doctor McKay and Major Lorne were able to connect to the neural network and communicate with the surviving crewmembers," Elizabeta tells him, the disappointment momentarily disappearing from her eyes. "Once they were able to convince the captain that what they were saying was true, they agreed to share what knowledge they could."
"So they're still plugged in then?" Iohannes really doesn't know how he feels about that.
"Rodney is. Major Lorne's dealing with another situation which arose while you were out."
"Don't tell me Sergeant Anderson and Doctor Losev got into it again."
"No. A ship appeared in orbit."
Iohannes has the needle out of his arm and his feet over the side of the biobed before the word is even fully formed on his lips. "Wraith?"
"Colonel, you should really-" Carson begins.
Neither he nor Elizabeta heed him. "No," she says. "Asgard."
That gives him pause. "One of Thor's friends?"
"Considering he shot them out of the sky, I sincerely doubt it."
"He say why?"
"No," she says in the most embittered tone Iohannes has ever heard from her, "All I know is that he'll only talk to you about it."
"Don't take it personally. The Asgard have never been known for their manners."
"Well, manners or not John, you're Atlantis' military commander."
Iohannes frowns. "It's not like I planned on having – what was it again?"
"A grand mal seizure," Carson offers. "Two, actually."
"Yeah, one of those. I'd no idea a feedback loop was even possible with my nanoids, let alone that the neural network would cause one."
"That's not the point John."
His frown deepens, though this is more because he can't seem to find his shoes than anything to do with Elizabeta. She never seems to think he sees the point in her arguments, which, while usually true, is also irritating. Either she needs to start speaking more clearly or accept that there are just some barriers that all the effort in the world can't overcome, belonging to different species being one of them. "What is then?"
"That you're the military commander of Atlantis, not the head of this Expedition. You can't just go doing things like this."
"Like conducting negotiations with the Asgard completely behind my back."
Slowly, "It's not behind your back. Thor told you himself he wanted to talk to me."
"That's still not the point, Colonel."
"Huh." He thinks. "Is it about the negotiation part then? 'Cause I don't like it any more than you do, but, for all the Asgard like you Terrans, they still think you're a young race. They're not going to do anything that they think might end up with you guys destroying yourselves."
"No. This is about you two making decisions for the all rest of us – decisions that are rightfully mine to make – based off the ridiculous assumption that we're too primitive to make informed choices."
Iohannes holds up his hands. "Whoa. Hang on a second. Don't shoot the messenger and all that. I'm not the one you should be arguing with. Goodness knows why, but I like Terrans.. Terra not so much, but I've got no problem with most Terrans. Unless they're anthropologists, but that's more of a on principle sort of matter. I'd hate Alteran anthropologists too if there were any around."
It's a sign of something that she doesn't even smirk at this last. "That doesn't change the fact that you're going along with it."
"Well, it's not like he's given me much of a choice."
"You're not exactly giving me much of one either."
"What would you have me do, Elizabeta?" He sighs. "It's hard to convince them that you're an advanced race when you're still surprised every time it gets pointed out to you just how imperfect and ungodlike my people were. They don't interfere in any culture that still believes them – or their allies – to be gods, even if you don't worship them."
Elizabeta's arguments grind to a stuttering halt at this. She appears stricken by an emotion for which no Descendant language has a word but which might best be described as the realization that that which she believes in is not worthy of her worship.
After a moment, she manages, "That's not what we think, John," but it's a poor argument and, by her tone, even she knows it.
Iohannes just shrugs. "Maybe, maybe not, but why else would you be so upset I managed to land myself in here again 'cause of something none of us could have predicted?" He turns to Carson, who's watching the proceedings with an air of one who really doesn't want to get dragged into them, and asks, "Wha'cha do with my boots?"
"They're in the cabinet, same as always," the doctor says after a moment, "but you really should still be in bed. Ancient or not, a seizure is still a seizure and you could have-"
"No time for that, Doc."
/The medicus is right, pastor,/ the city says softly, speaking more gently than he's heard her since they first pulled him out of the cathedra. /You are injured. You should remain in the infirmary. The Asgarthi are allies. They will understand the delay./
/You must get bet-ter,/ Aurora whispers, her voice quieter still. /We do not wish you to die like the oth-ers, Pa-ter./
"I'm not going to die."
"Well, no-" Carson begins, but Iohannes quickly cuts him off, pointing upwards as he says-
"See, Rory? Not dying. You've got nothing to worry about."
/But you are the last, Pa-ter. You must keep your-self safe or else all is lost./
/Eve-ry-thing is lost if you die./
His eyebrows rise of their own accord and Iohannes pauses halfway through tying his boots to answer. "I don't believe that. What does it matter-?" Iohannes looks briefly between Carson and Elizabeta before biting his tongue and opening his mind. /What does it matter if I die, if doing so will prevent a thousand more deaths?/ Not that he has any plans about dying because of something as stupid as a positive feedback loop. And besides, he feels perfectly fine now. A little achy but he's dealt with worse.
The light directly overhead dims perceptibly, then brightens dramatically, as if in a sigh. /Aurora is right, pastor: you are the most important thing in the universe./
Iohannes snorts with as much derision as he's managed to pick up from his amator and finishes tying his boots. "The universe is vast and we are small. To believe otherwise is to open the door to Haeresis."
/You saved Ma-ter. You saved us."/
"You're prejudiced. Now please, can you tell Thor I'm ready to talk to him before Elizabeta has an aneurysm and Carson has to scan somebody else's brain today?"
Both Carson and Elizabeta start to talk over each other again but this time it is the doctor who wins out. "I really must insist, Colonel. You're not well enough-" is as far as he gets before a white light fills the room and Iohannes finds himself transported up to the Muspelheim in orbit.