Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Lorne, Carson, Elizabeth, Teyla, Cadman; John/Rodney, Laura/Carson
Warnings/Spoliers: part 2 of #15 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1). General spoilers for "Michael," warnings for mentions of xenocide
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 there is a lot of talking, but very little is actually said.
Notes: This is not where I wanted the chappie to end. But then I realized I'd gotten past the 4k mark again and that, no, the part that I'm working on now really didn't need to be attached to this chappie... and, well, I figured you lot were deserving of something. Particuarly as this next bit is giving me a bit of trouble. More than I expected anyway.
Also, I've bumped up the rating on this one, largely because, well, the subject matter required it.
1) I wanted to call the retrovirus the Bellerophon drug or Operation Bellerophon, as that hero in greek mythology not only concured Pegasus, but the Chimera, which is a term often used for mutated viruses in medicine. But it didn't fit, so if you see it later, that's what it is. 2) Caecique surdi alii is roughly blind and deaf others, which is another Ancient swear that probably works best if you don't question it too much. 3) The entirety of Lorne's speech is a modified version of the AF officer promition one, as I couldn't find one for Marines online. From what I know, I think it's right anyway. 4) Yeah. I'm wordy. Sorry.
An Ancient!John Story
It starts like this:
Carson, fairly out of the blue at the senior staff meeting they've had every seventh day at 0900 since arriving on Atlantis (circumstances providing), says that he's done all the work on the Wraith retrovirus he can do without a live test subject.
"Are you certain that your research is really at that point?" Elizabeth asks, lips piercing with distaste, as they always do whenever the time comes for the grey-area dilemmas she never seems entirely comfortable with making – as if talking a subject to death will suddenly push the choices into clearly definable black and white boxes. Don't get him wrong, Rodney would much rather have civilian oversight than military, but things seem to take so much longer to decide here as compared to when he was working for the Air Force. And time is very much of the essence in the Pegasus galaxy.
"It's possible we could make some minimal progress with fresh Wraith cell cultures..."
"But to do that," John finishes, "we'd need to capture a Wraith anyway, so why not just go whole hog?"
"That was my thought as well, Colonel," Carson agrees, looking relieved beyond measure that they've not simply dismissed his idea outright. "A few days with a live test subject could be worth months of theoretical work."
John leans back further in his chair. Both his feet are already propped up on the conference table and his hands, which had been tucked behind his head, gesticulate vaguely in Elizabeth's direction as he says, "It shouldn't be too much of a problem to capture one if we can lay the right ambush."
"And you don't have any problem using prisoners for scientific experiments?"
"They're Wraith, Elizabeta."
"There are rules to warfare, John," she insists.
"On Terra, yeah," John says, taking his feet off the table and allowing the front legs of his chair to hit the floor with a thud. "But we're not on Terra. And even if we were, those rules don't do a lot of good if both sides don't follow them. And I think we can all safely say by this point that the Wraith would never follow any sort of Geneva Convention, even if Pegasus had one."
"Are you saying that the Ancients didn't have laws regarding the treatment of prisoners of war?"
"I'm saying that it doesn't matter what laws exist, the Wraith won't follow them, so there's no reason we should bother with them either."
"We can't just toss the rules out the door every time they make things difficult for us, John."
"Rules don't do anyone any good if there's no one left alive at the end of the day to follow them."
"It doesn't matter," Elizabeth insists, her tone caught between indignation and incredulity. "We'd be no better than the Wraith-"
"They have a point," Rodney breaks in before their argument can further inflame the tensions between the pair. It seems like John and Elizabeth have only just gotten over their last argument, whatever it might've actually been about, and last thing they need is for the head of the Expedition and the commander of its military contingent to be at loggerheads. Again.
Elizabeth turns her suspicious eye on him now. "Don't tell me you're actually thinking of going along with this."
"We are only talking about one Wraith here, not about creating our own version of Auschwitz."
"Yes, today we're talking about only one. But what about later, when it's ten Wraith, or twenty, or a hundred that we need to test your retrovirus on?"
"I'm sorry," John interrupts, "but when did we start having genuine concern for the Wraith?"
"Just because they're the enemy doesn't mean we have the right-"
"Caecique surdi alii, Elizabeta! They are not just our enemy. They are our predators. They will not stop until they have culled every man, woman, and child in this galaxy – and, if you've no care for the Descendants of this galaxy-"
"I respect all life, regardless of where it originates, John. You of all people should know that."
John ducks his head a little, conceding the point, but the heat is still in his voice when he says, "They're not going to stop. Even if they never make it to Avalon, they're going to continue to cull this galaxy to the brink of extinction again and again. And I won't let that happen, not if there's anything I can do to stop it. Carson's retrovirus presents us with an opportunity to get rid of the Wraith once and for all with minimal risk to ourselves. Even if it goes against everything you believe in, you have to know it's the right thing to do."
Elizabeth hangs her head for a moment before, "Alright. You have a go. But," she stresses, "only if we can pull this off without bringing another armada down on our heads."
"Piece of cake."
"How?" Rodney can't help but ask, because nothing – nothing – involving the Wraith is ever simple. Or easy.
"We still have the tracker we pulled out of Ronon a while back, right?"
Ah. "You want to reactivate it on an uninhabited planet and hope they only send a couple Wraith to check it out."
"Caught us Steve, didn't it?"
"That could actually work."
Smiling beatifically at him, "Your faith in me is astounding, Rodney," John says before pushing himself out of his chair. "Radio me when you get it working again. I'll be checking the database for a good planet to lay the ambush."
But that was fifteen days ago and, honestly, beyond the initial capture, Rodney really hadn't much reason to be involved with Michael after that, so he honestly thinks he can be forgiven for more or less forgetting about it while he worked on other, more important projects.
But back to the ceremony.
"At ease guys," John says when he takes the podium someone had found somewhere in the city and dragged to the front of the mess for this occasion.
He's grinning at the assorted ranks of airmen, sailors and Marines like the cat that caught the canary – which he pretty much is, as he and Major Lorne had gone to extraordinary lengths to make sure that no one outside of the senior staff knew what the exact purpose of the ceremony was beforehand.
(Rodney's not exactly sure why they chose to do so, though he likes to think it has something to do with the excesses Cadman had taken while in his body. But, again, he's not really sure. For all he knows, it's actually part of some bizarre military ritual that will end with them all jumping off one of the piers into the ocean or something equally as idiotic.)
"Sorry for all the secrecy," John continues, "but it's kinda impossible to keep a secret in this city, and we really wanted it to be a surprise...
"But first things first: For those of you with stakes in Doctor Zelenka's pool, I feel I should let you know that this isn't a military review; neither General O'Neill nor General Landry are visiting, nor is anyone from the IOA; no one's in trouble – and," John's grin, if possible, actually manages to get wider, "as for the four of you had me and Doctor McKay getting married, let me just say that I know exactly how much each of you put down and, if and when that should happen, I expect very nice wedding presents."
Rodney winces at this. It's not so much because of the snickers that fill the room as Teyla's subtle I told you so elbow to his ribs.
Okay, maybe she had, and maybe it's nice to have confirmation that he's not completely ruined things by asking John to move in with him. But still, this is John they're talking about. Just because he's joking about their relationship in public doesn't mean that they're ever going to talk about it in private. And maybe it's just the scientist in him, but Rodney would really, really like to know why John was so violently opposed to the idea that he just walked out on the conversation, if only so he can avoid making the mistake again in the future.
He deserves that much at least. Doesn't he?
The laughter dies down and John starts speaking again. "Seriously, though. We're not here for anything like that. We're here because of you. Because each and everyone one of you volunteered for the most dangerous posting your world has ever known. Because you've each gone so far above and beyond your duties in protecting this city that there are honestly no words that could do justice to the courage and the commitment you've shown. You are men and women such as the universe has never seen, and it is my honour to be your commanding officer.
"My only regret," he says, John's voice that kind of serious he only gets when someone's threatening the safety and security of his team, "is that, Terran bureaucracy being what it is, it's proving harder to get you all the medals and awards I think you deserve. I had hoped to make this a big joint ceremony but... Lieutenant Cadman? Mind joining us up here?"
John steps back as Cadman comes forward, gesturing to Lorne as he does so.
The Major takes his place at the podium with a manic grin of his own, which sobers only a little when he starts reading from a cue card. "Attention to orders."
The entire military contingent snaps to attention as one. Even Rodney, who's been working for the Air Force since '91 and so over their pomp and circumstance that it's not funny, can't help but be impressed.
"The President of the United States," Lorne continues when Cadman reaches the podium, "acting upon the recommendation of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, has placed special trust and confidence in the patriotism, integrity, and abilities of First Lieutenant Laura Cadman. In view of these special qualities, and her demonstrated potential to serve in the higher grade, First Lieutenant Cadman is promoted to the grade of captain, United States Marine Corps, effective the twenty-first day of March, two thousand and six, by order of the Commandant of the Marine Corps."
While Lorne recites this, John removes Cadman's old rank insignia and replaces it with the double bars of a captain. He appears to be saying something to her as he does so, something that causes her to blink several times, as if fighting back tears (which is ridiculous, because she is Cadman and therefore the devil incarnate, without emotion or feeling, save for the pleasure she derives in making Rodney's life as uncomfortable as possible). It's hard to tell for sure, though, 'cause immediately after John pulls her into one of those forehead touching things that seem to be all the rage in the Pegasus galaxy. When she steps back and gives him a proper Earth salute, there's no trace of it left on her face.
"Thank you sir."
"Want to say something?"
"And follow an act like that? No way. I say we go ahead and start the party." Cadman starts off the stage, pausing only when she appears to realize that John and Lorne aren't following. "There is a party, isn't there?"
John snorts. "Permission to party given."
A cheer rises from the military contingent as they break ranks, some to go congratulate Cadman, others to drag the tables back into their proper places.
Carson snorts too as he rises to his feet. "She's a pistol, isnae she?" he says in that sickeningly adoring way he gets at the slightest mention of his girlfriend.
Rodney just sakes his head and goes in search of cake. Carson may be one of his best friends, but very, very little in the universe could convince Rodney to stick around while the good doctor waxes lyrical about Captain Cadman. So cake it is. If he's particularly lucky, he'll be able to corner John for a few minutes, if only to gauge how long it might be before things return to normal between them.
No one knows Atlantis like John does, which is half the reason that John manages to successfully avoid him for five days after Cadman's promotion ceremony. Not that Rodney makes himself hard to find – or to avoid – as he spends those five days almost entirely inside the clean room, working on the ZedPM recharger. But still, five days is five days. He gets that having Michael on Atlantis is stressful and that John's not on speaking terms with his feelings on the best of days, he really does, but five days is a bit excessive, even where John's concerned.
The part that's really galling though is that, when they do finally run into each other, it's not because John's finally decided to man up and talk to him. Oh no. It's 'cause Michael is having dreams and Elizabeth wants to talk about it. He gets that their work has to come first, he really does, but it's kind of staggering to see just how far down John's list of priorities he really is.
At least he has the grace to look sheepish when he enters the room and sees Rodney's already there.
"Hey," John says a couple moments later as he leans against the nearby balcony railing.
"Hello," Rodney replies stiffly. Because, God, John can't just do stuff like this and expect he'll come running at the end of it and-
-and okay, yeah. He'd pretty much do whatever John asked if it meant staying with him, but that's a personal flaw, not an excuse for John to be a crappy boyfriend.
Not that John actually is a crappy boyfriend. His few flaws just tend toward the extreme, like latent suicidal tendencies and emotional retardation, rather than wet towels left on the floor, which Rodney really thinks he could live with if it meant cutting out the unnecessary drama in their lives.
John, to his credit, looks even more shamefaced at this. "Hey," he says, just loud enough for only Rodney to hear. "Don't be like that."
"What, honestly, did you expect me to be like after ignoring me for five days?" he hisses back.
John's eyes dart to the room's other occupants and Elizabeth, who's just now walking through the door. "Can we talk about it after the meeting?"
"You promise you won't run off?" he sighs, not really wanting to having this talk with an audience either but not quite willing to drop it either, for fear it would be ten days this time before John deigns to speak with him again.
Naturally, Doctor Weir decides to start the meeting before John can do anything more than frown in response:
"Teyla says that Michael's been having dreams about being a Wraith."
"One dream," Teyla corrects, "I have told him that it is a common occurrence given the way the Wraith feed upon us, but he does not appear to believe me. He thinks that the Wraith did something to him during his capture." She appears genuinely displeased that her concern has generated this level of response, as if she'd expected whatever she'd initially told Elizabeth to remain in confidence. As if she is actually coming to like and care for Michael.
The things he misses when he goes on lab benders, honestly. (And, just to be perfectly clear: what the fuck is up with that? Last Rodney checked, the Wraith might be the only people in the universe that Teyla actively dislikes. Slapping a new coat of paint on one isn't likely to change that – or so he would've thought.)
"I don't like it. This could mean he's starting to revert," John says definitively, crossing his arms as he turns to face the others.
"Or it could merely be psychological. Doctor Heightmeyer should be able to help him through it if it is."
"And if it's not? I don't think I need to remind you just how bad things could get if we end up with a full-fledged Wraith running around Atlantis. I say we throw him back in isolation until we're a hundred percent sure your drug is working, Doc."
"You already have him under guard, John. I don't think locking him away is going to help his psychological state any."
"Ceve his psychological state, Elizabeta. He's a Wraith. You might be able to make him look Terran, talk Terran, but underneath it all he will always be a Wraith, and nothing Heightmeyer can do is ever going to change that."
"If that's how you feel," Doctor Weir asks sharply, "why did you push so hard for this project?"
John just shrugs. "To be honest? I thought that, if we can figure out how to deploy this as a biological weapon, it's possible we can hit entire hive ships and turn them into humans. Even if the effects aren't long-term, they should last long enough for us to be able to take them out."
Elizabeth looks aghast at this, but Teyla's quicker with her denouncement. "Once transformed by Doctor Beckett's retrovirus, the Wraith will be human, with no memories of what they once were. To kill them then would be as morally reprehensible as killing a defenceless child."
"Defenceless children who will grow up to be ruthless killers bent on sucking the life out of every living being in two galaxies," Rodney snorts, earning him a sharp look from both women.
John, however, gives him a thorny smile that seems to say thank you! and I'm glad somebody gets it and can you believe these people? and maybe even I'm sorry for being such an ass all at once. (Rodney used to think this was a uniquely John thing, this ability to be able to say so much without saying anything at all, and then he'd met Alianora Cado Trebal Legata in Aurora's neural network. Despite the fact John claims little to no memory of his mother, he'd most certainly inherited this ability from her, as none of the other members of the ship's crew had come anywhere close. Not even her uncle, the captain.) Still, the smile only goes so far in making up for the last five days, particularly when it quickly fades into the grim, "Look, I get that you've got qualms with killing folks. It's a good qualm to have. But this is a military situation and military situations require military solutions – in this case, killing as many Wraith as possible before they kill us, regardless of what they happen to look like at the time."
"Yes, yes, John, we get it," Elizabeth snaps. "The Wraith killed the Ancients and so you want to kill them. But we just can't do that."
"Because it's just not right."
"Oh," John says cuttingly, rocking back on his heels in a way that suggests he's physically forcing himself not to take a step forward, "well, if it's not right why didn't you just say so in the first place? Stellis in universum, Elizabeta. I get how much you want to find a peaceful solution to this, but it's just not going to happen."
"If Carson can perfect a long-term solution that could suppress the Wraith elements for a lifetime..."
"They'll still be Wraith."
"And that's reason enough to kill them? When they're human and defenceless and have no memory of their past actions?"
"I've lived through one genocide. Forgive me for not wanting to go through a second."
"By committing one of your own?"
He shrugs. "If that's what it takes."
"Let's hope it doesn't come to that point," Elizabeth states resolutely.
An uncomfortable pause follows. It goes on long enough that Rodney fills compelled to say, "Well..." just to fill it somehow. "Even if we don't end up using the retrovirus as a weapon, we've got to do something about Michael. Increase his dose or put him under better guard or something."
Teyla shakes her head, her earlier anger slowly easing back toward mere discontent. "The guards are already a source of contention for him. More guards will only increase the stress and, likely, increase the frequency of his dreams."
"And," Carson adds, "I'm hesitant to increase his dosage at this time. I've specifically calibrated his regimen according to his current physical condition. Any alteration could adversely affect his recovery. I say we remain patient and see if Doctor Heightmeyer cannae resolve this issue."
"I agree. Teyla?"
"As do I."
"Short of stopping this experiment now," he frowns, "I don't see what other choice we have."
John frowns for a pull eight seconds before reluctantly agreeing, "Alright." He uncrosses his arms and shoves them, somewhat too carelessly, into his front pockets. "But I reserve the right to say I told you so when this all goes to pot."
The corner of Elizabeth's mouth twitches at this. "I think we can do that. If things end badly, which I don't think they will."
"Let's hope you're right."
Continue to Pars Tria