Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Elizabeth, Ronon, Teyla, Lorne, Zelenka, sentien!Aurora; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 4 of #15 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2, 3). General spoilers for "Michael," and some taken from "The Long Goodbye" and "First Contact" as well; much discussion of violence
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: In which Michael learns he is a Wraith.
Notes: I swear up and down that I'd intended this to be the last part of "Fradator," then it got long and, well, 5 will be a short one. I promise. Also, you're going to hate me for this one. You just are. And: 1) Conseuius is one of Janus' lovers. 2) vitricus malus is evil stepfather. 3) I've two episodes of SGA left in my rewatch, so that's what I'm going to go do now. But reviews will help part 5 come faster.
An Ancient!John Story
"This whole thing was a bad idea," Ronon snarls, pacing the conference room in a way that suggests that they better come up with a solution to this whole Michael knows he's a Wraith problem soon or heads are going to roll. In the literal sense.
He'd told John it was a bad idea to let Ronon get that sword.
"No, it wasn't," John says, pushing away from his spot against the wall to block Ronon's path. "The retrovirus works, that much is clear. Just think, if we can make it work as a biological weapon...?" He lets the implications lie.
"No, it's just a bad idea. Your fancy science has done nothing to help fight the Wraith the entire time I've been on Atlantis. It's just been a bunch of failures, first with that weapon on Arcturus and now with this stupid retrovirus. You of all people should know, Sheppard, that the only way to beat the Wraith is with force, not with fancy tricks and stupid dreams." And then he turns heel and resumes pacing back the way he'd come.
John, wisely, moves out of the way before the Runner can make it back to where they'd been standing, and slides into the empty seat next to Rodney at the conference table.
Elizabeth, less wisely, tries, "I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't particularly thrilled by this idea either when it was first presented to me, but you've got to understand how the idea of winning this war without risking any more lives is very attractive to us."
"You know, you may be able to make him look like a human, talk like a human, but he'll still be a Wraith. Nothing you do will ever change that."
"Maybe, maybe not, but if we can find a way to make take away their need to feed on humans-"
"They'd still be Wraith and, instead of culling humans to feed on, they'd take us to use as slaves like those goa'uld did back in your galaxy."
"If," John pipes in, leg bouncing agitatedly under the table, "they don't just kill us all out of spite. Which is a genuine possibility and precisely why we need to end this experiment now. We've learned all we can safely know. Maybe one day, after Carson's done some more research, we can come back to it if we like. But right now we have a viable way of weakening the Wraith and a threat to the security of this base, so I say we cut our losses and end this thing."
"I'm with Sheppard on this one," Ronon says immediately.
Rodney frowns and closes the lid of his laptop, which he'd been using to keep an eye on the simulations he's running on the ZedPM recharger back in the clean room. "As much as I hate to say it, so am I. We can't keep him locked in his quarters indefinitely and he knows far too much about Atlantis for us to just let him go. Killing him may be the only humane thing to do."
"We are the ones who have done this to him," Teyla says, somehow managing to come across as both reasonable and unyielding at the same time, "and in doing so we have made him our responsibility. The fact that our experiment did not go as planned does not change the fact that Michael is human now. Killing him now would not be an act of self-defence, but of murder. Granted," she concedes, inclining her head towards Ronon, who has by this point retreated to a corner of the Conference Room to cross his arms and look menacing, "a part of him may still be Wraith, but with time and compassion, perhaps we will be able to make him see that what was done to him was done for the better."
"And what exactly do you propose to do with him until then, hmm?" Rodney asks, one hand resting on the conference table and the other sliding beneath it in an attempt to get John to sit still. "'Cause I'm sure keeping him locked in his quarters is bound to go over real well."
"We could allow him to move about as before," she suggests. "If he can see that we mean him no harm, he will be more willing to see our side."
"Out of the question," John says, somehow managing to sound bored by the proceedings despite the fact that his leg is still bouncing irritatingly under the table, where no one can see. "It was bad enough idea giving him access to the city in the first place. Who knows what kind of damage he could do if we let him wander around when he knows he's our prisoner?"
Elizabeth speaks up then. "We would, of course, increase his guard and further restrict him from all but the most public of areas."
Hand still on John's knee, Rodney can feel the other man tense. "I'm sorry, what?"
"Doctor Beckett said it himself: having a cooperative test subject would allow his research to go far more quickly. We've been presented with an amazing opportunity. Taking this small risk now could potentially pay off a hundredfold in the future, particularly if we can get Michael to convince the other Wraith to voluntarily undergo this treatment."
"We're talking about one hell of a risk, Elizabeta."
"No bigger than the one we've already taken. We'll give it a few more days," she says with an air of finality. "If Michael shows no signs of being willing to cooperate, we'll put an end to this experiment then. But until such a time, we'll continue on as before. With any luck, Carson will find a solution soon and the problem will solve itself."
"Hey, Rodney. How are the simulations going?" John asks, sauntering into the clean room hours later.
It's been long enough for status bar on the most annoying of the simulations' status screens to creep from eleven to thirty-six percent but Rodney's apprehensions regarding Elizabeth's decisions about Michael still remains. He knows that Elizabeth knows what she's doing and that she's not made the choice to continue with what John's calling Operation Bellerophon lightly, but the fear that something terrible is about to happen remains.
It's a feeling that Rodney's become very familiar with since arriving in the Pegasus galaxy.
It's also a feeling that's been proven correct more times than not, and that's the most worrying part of all.
"Slowly," he says without looking up from his bank of computers, "but I've encountered no major issues so far, so it looks like we might be recharging ZedPMs as early as the day after tomorrow."
"Good? It's wonderful. Magnificent. Stupendous, even. In the course of less than four months, I've managed to reconstruct the Ancients' method for manipulating miniature white holes connecting the subspace of an untold number of disparate universes from nothing but three equations scribbled in a forgotten notebook – one of which, I might add, wasn't even all that helpful. I'd even go so far as to call it a miracle. A minor one, as I've pulled off far more desperate feats of genius in far shorter time frames, but a miracle nonetheless."
"Hey, I found you those three equations, y'know," John points out, his voice coming from much closer now.
"Your contribution will be noted in my Nobel acceptance speech."
Mildly indignant, "And I helped you with the math."
"Only 'cause you have more experience with base-eight math than I do. I can hardly be faulted for the fact that my ancestors chose to use a different system of numeration than yours did."
"Well..." John drawls in a manner that suggests he's more than willing to do just that.
"Think of it this way: if I take all the credit, it's fewer of those annoying interviews by mail for you to have to deal with. How are those coming along by the way?"
The last data-burst from Earth had included questions from a dozen different publications, all of which were looking to get an interview with the man who'd solved one of the Millennium Prize Problems – not that the Clay Mathematics Institute has yet conceded that John's proof is the definitive solution to the Riemann Hypothesis, but that's only a matter of time. The SGC's PR department has been doing a minor miracle of their own, making it seem like John is unable to meet the journalists in person because he's in a particularly civilian-unfriendly zone of Afghanistan rather than an alien city in a different galaxy altogether, but the fact still remains that there are questions that they can't answer for him. Thus the interviews by email which no one is particularly happy about. Particularly John.
He glances up in briefly, just long enough to catch the John makes a face at the reminder. "Don't you get started on that too. I've still got half-a-dozen of those things left and Elizabeta's been nagging at me to have them ready for the next dial-in."
"Ah, the price of fame."
"I don't want fame."
"Well too bad, bucko. I've seen your notebooks," the real, spiral-bound paper ones that sit on the floor next to John's bed, filled with careful columns of Ancient equations and shaky lines of base-ten maths; the ones he's only seen seen John work on a handful of times, when he's particularly bored or anxious or when his nightmares get so bad that not even wandering Atlantis' halls will help. "I know what's in them. It's revolutionary stuff, right up there with Newton, Riemann, and Euclid. And, as messed up as Earth's priorities can be sometimes, people are bound to take notice when you start publishing."
"I don't see why. They're just a few proofs."
"Face it John: between your proofs and that hair, you're destined to be the closest thing to a rock star the world of mathematics has ever seen."
"Gee, just what I've always wanted."
Rodney snorts. "While we're on the subject though, is there something you want? 'Cause it's still two-and-a-half hours until dinner and if you'd wanted sex you'd have just come out and said asked. So...?"
"Yeah, actually. I ran into Lorne and Zelenka in the infirmary-"
"What were you doing in the infirmary?" he asks suspiciously, jumping out of his chair and walking around the desk to better examine his amator. John doesn't have any obvious outward signs of injury, but with John that usually meant very little.
John just smiles indulgently and let's Rodney poke at him, trying to find whatever injury was serious enough to merit his visit to the infirmary. "I'm fine. Ronon and I just overdid it a little with the sparing and, well, my arm was easy enough to fix after Carson set the break." He wiggles the fingers on one hand as if to show just how easy.
"Ronon broke your arm!"
"Like I said, it was an accident. No harm, no foul. Worst that's going to happen is that it's going to be stiff for a while."
Narrowing his eyes, Rodney stalks back to his computers. "Fine, but don't expect me to come visit you in the infirmary when you wind up with the kind of sparring injury your magic Ancient powers can't heal so easily. I've got stuff on the go, you know: important, vital projects for the betterment of the human race."
John follows after, clearly amused. "You say that like I'm supposed to be surprised."
"Yes, well, you were saying something about Lorne and Zelenka?"
"Yeah. They were in the infirmary 'cause it's Lorne's turn to play light-switch for Rory's repair crewsandwhen he tried to activate the navigation controls, the whole panel started sparking. Luckily he got off with only a couple of burns on his hands. Nothing serious, but enough so that he's not going to be holding a gun for a couple days."
"You didn't...?" he waggles his fingers as John had done before.
"Of course I did, but I've never actually been all that good at healing, 'specially when trying it on other people."
"Let me guess: getting better requires meditation and all the rest of that Ascension crap you could care less about."
"Pretty much. But like I was saying, I ran into them while I was in the infirmary and told them about how Elizabeta's being overly optimistic with the safety of the city and Zelenka said he had an idea."
"What sort of idea?"
"I'm not sure. He didn't want to talk about it in the infirmary. We're meeting him and Lorne on Aurora to talk about it twenty minutes."
"-conducting important, vital projects for the betterment of Descendants everywhere?" John finishes, leaning over his shoulder. "Looks like you're just doing the digital version of watching paint dry to me."
"I'm not just sitting here, watching the status bar tick along you know." Rodney gestures testily at a different monitor, upon which a block of Ancient text and it's loose translation is currently displayed. "I'm also trying to break through some of the encryptions your dad used on his notes so we can get a better idea of what he was working on in those secret labs of his. You know, in case there's something else potentially galaxy-ending hidden away in them."
"I wouldn't put it past him."
"As seriously disturbing as I find that thought, it doesn't change the fact that he's got enough layers of security on this stuff to put even the most paranoid NSA agent to shame. I mean we're talking about hundreds of math cyphers and Ancient knowledge puzzles each with completely unique cryptovariables-"
"Conseuius," John says.
The Colonel taps the knowledge puzzle on the monitor. "The answer to this one. It's Conseuius."
"You're the Ancient," Rodney says, humouring him. A moment later decrypted files begin popping up across the screen. "Hey, you're right!"
"But what was the question?" He's been able to determine it's something along the lines of who and/or what was the best something-or-other, but the database has been spectacularly unhelpful as to what that something-or-other might actually mean. Rodney had been assuming it was a cryptogram of it's own or else something only Janus would know about, as that's just the kind of paranoid narcissistic bastard John's dad seems to have been.
"I'll show you later," John promises, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Right now we've got to go meet up with Lorne and Zelenka."
"Wait, show me? What do you mean by show?"
John just grabs a fistful of jacket and tugs. "It'll take too long to explain," he says, hauling him bodily towards the door with a grin. "You'll probably enjoy it though."
"Enjoy it? Enjoy what?"
Aurora is a large ship, so Rodney's not really surprised when John leads them all to a room he's never seen before to have their discussion, particularly when it turns out to be somewhere in the ship's berthing area. Repairing the living quarters isn't exactly high on their list of priorities at the moment, not when the navigation system is still screwed and the hull is a patchwork quilt of issues.
He's not even surprised when John declines the invitation to sit next to him on the the bed that occupies one corner of the room, as John just doesn't use furniture like other people do, as if the thought of actually sitting in a chair has never actually crossed his mind.
What does surprise him is that, instead of sprawling on the floor or leaning against the wall or something else equally as absurd and John-like, he chooses instead to tap an innocuous wall-panel. A panel which proceeds to retract, revealing what appears to be the Ancient equivalent of a wall closet, contents intact.
What he suspects even less is for John to pull out of the garments – something that looks vaguely like a cross between a cassock and a great coat – and hold it up to him body, as if trying to determine it's fit.
"John, what are you doing?" he asks after a moment, when no explanation seems to be forthcoming.
"Shopping," is his answer.
Carefully, "I thought we were here to listen to Zelenka's idea about how to Elizabeth to change her mind about this whole Michael business."
"Two birds, one stone," John shrugs, tossing the coat – Ancient hanger and all – towards Rodney.
Lorne, who's taken up a spot in the centre of the floor, just grins at them. "You changing the dress code on us Sir? 'Cause I got to tell you, from what I saw when I was plugged into the ship, those uniforms didn't look very practical."
"They're not, but one of these days the people of this galaxy are going to find out I'm one of their Ancestors. I figure it's probably better if I'm able to look the part when they do." John continues rummaging through the closet. "But you said you had an idea about Michael, Doctor Z?"
From his perch on the edge of the bed, "Well, yes. But I do not think you are going to like it."
"I kinda got that much when you didn't want to talk about it in front of Carson. What is it?"
"I believe we must eliminate Michael. Soon, and in a manner that will not arouse Doctor Weir's suspicions."
John pauses at this. "You're talking about assassination."
"No, no," Zelenka says, pushing his glasses up his nose nervously. "Nothing so dramatic. I am merely saying that it would be best for all of us if Doctor Beckett's experiment were to be ended before the situation reaches the point where we can no longer control it."
For a moment, no one says anything. Then, "Wow, Doc," Lorne whistles. "I didn't know you had it in you."
"I do not, but that does not stop me from acknowledging that it must be done."
"I don't like Elizabeta's decision much either, but going behind her back like that? That could start us down a path I don't think any of us want to go down."
"Perhaps not," Zelenka concedes, "but it is the only course of action left to us. Doctor Weir means well, but she is blinded by optimism, and while in an ideal universe that would not be problem, we are dealing with a decidedly non-ideal universe. Everything we have learned of Wraith tells us that they cannot be trusted; the fact that he stole Doctor Beckett's research notes in first place proves that part of his nature remains untouched underneath his human exterior. I do not see that we have any other choice."
Rodney hums. "I don't think any of us are arguing that it doesn't need to be done. Unless Lorne...?"
"No," the man in question says. "I'm good."
"See. We're all in agreement. It's just, well, this isn't like last year. We've got the Daedalus and can dial Earth whenever we want. If things don't go according to plan – and I mean exactly according to plan – we could be talking about getting all our asses shipped back to Earth, to be locked in some forgotten cell at Area 51 for the rest of our lives."
"We've gone against orders before, Rodney."
He looks over at John, who's still riffling through the closet, albeit with far less enthusiasm than before. "Not like this we haven't. The IOA is pushing hard for Carson's retrovirus. It's like one of the only things they all agree on. If they even think we intentionally screwed with their plans, they're going to have one of their puppets over here faster than we can blink."
"Then I guess we've got to make sure nobody has any reason to suspect it's anything but an accident."
"John, I'm serious."
"I know you are," John says, finally turning away from the closet. "If the IOA is pushing Elizabeta as hard as you claim, nothing we say is going to change her mind. But this is the safety of Atlantis we're talking about. Who knows what could happen if Michael were to get loose? We've got no other choice." He bites his lip. "You have a plan to pull this off, Doc, or were you just thinking we wait until Michael tries to escape and shoot him a few more times than is strictly necessary?"
"Actually, Evan does."
Evan? he mouths at John. When had that happened?
John just raises an eyebrow at them both, crossing his arms and leaning against the wall by the closet as if it doesn't matter that their seconds are apparently on a first-name basis. "Let's hear it."
"The fire suppression systems," Evan grins, holding up his bandaged hands.
Rodney's snapping his fingers almost before he finishes the sentence. "That just might work."
"What might work?"
"The fire suppression systems are filled with halon gas, a substance which is deadly to humans after a relatively short exposure and should be even more lethal to someone whose health has been compromised say by, oh, recently being de-Wraithed."
"My thoughts exactly," Zelenka agrees. "The only problem would be making sure that only Michael and not his guards are exposed. But I figure we can avoid that if-"
"-if," Rodney continues for him, "we can make the city go into lockdown at the same time." Atlantis, after all, is nothing more than an exceptionally large spaceship. What few doors exist that aren't airtight have bulkheads automatically lowered around them in the event of a lockdown. Everyone in the effected area would be sealed in and, as Michael's guards were stationed outside his quarters and said quarters were intentionally separate from those of the rest of the Expedition, only Michael would be effected if they were to, say, activate the fire suppression systems in all the rooms on that particular tower. "The question is how we do it without anyone suspecting it was us. 'Cause you know people are going to be suspicious when Michael suddenly drops dead after we've said how much we'd wish he'd do just that."
"We could rewrite the logs-"
Rodney waves off the suggestion immediately. "As much as I hate to say it, the idiots that work for us are actually smart enough to notice something like that. Or, at least, they should be. If not, I'm going to be having serious discussions with their thesis committees next time I'm on Earth out of principle. Because, seriously, PhDs are not participation awards; there should be standards. No, we're going to need something subtler., like a real fire."
John's eyes widen comically – or, at least, in a way that would be comical if it wasn't accompanied by a sudden agitato shift in Aurora's song, one that drowned out whatever the city's own thoughts on the matter might've been. "You want to set fire to part of Atlantis? Wouldn't it just be easier to wait for him to escape and shoot him then? 'Cause y'know he's going to try to escape sooner or later."
"It's your call, Sir," Lorne reminds him. "But there's a chance that if we wait for him to escape he'll succeed, taking who knows how many lives and what information in the process."
"Plus," Rodney adds, rubbing at his ears, "considering your love affair with the city, no one will ever suspect us of doing something that might damage 'Lantis, no matter how minor the damage might actually be. Now tell Aurora that we've no intentions of actually harming Atlantis before my eardrums burst."
John pats the wall, which seems to calm the ship down. A little. "Just so you know, she's calling you her vitricus malus now."
"What is this, Snow White?"
The Ancient stares blankly at him.
"Nevermind, not important. It's a bad idea anyway. It'd be next to impossible to start a fire without, A, getting caught by the Halon gas ourselves or, B, found out, so we'll need a different plan anyway."
John stops fondling the ship and walks into the centre of the room. Stopping a few feet from Lorne and Zelenka, he asks, "You're sure this is the best option?"
"Short of waiting for him to try to escape...? Yes."
"Then I have an idea about how we can start that fire," he sighs. "Doctor Z? How long do you think it will take for you to get Rory's weapon's systems ready for a live-fire test?"
"A day? Maybe two? We've been concentrating mostly on her navigation systems and structural integrity. But if you're planning on firing a drone into his tower-"
"Leave that part to me," John says, giving Zelenka a half-hearted grin at best. "You just get the weapons system operational."
"Ano, that I can do."
"Good." He offers Zelenka a hand up. "Remind me not to get on your guys' bad sides."
"No worries, Colonel. Revolutions are a time-consuming pastime and I am very busy trying to make your ship operational again. You and McKay's jobs are safe."
"Besides," Lorne adds, climbing to his own feet, "you're like my five hundredth great-uncle or something and I make it a point not to overthrow family."
"Y'know, Major, that's the sort of thinking that puts you on the short-list for the second-favourite nephew slot," John practically beams. His smile drops, though, the moment the door snaps shut behind their XOs. "I don't know if I like where this road is going to take us, Rodney."
"And I do?"
"I know. Just..." he sighs and starts gathering up his ill-gotten clothing gains.
"I hear you," Rodney agrees because, well, as much as they all agree the retrovirus experiment has gone too far, they're still sneaking around behind Elizabeth's back.
Somewhere out there, someone must walking over his grave, because the feeling that something is going to go terribly, terribly wrong returns full-force.
John spends the night in his quarters – the first time since their mutually uncomfortable talk about their relationship five days before.
It probably says something that they use the opportunity to have eight hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep rather than the hot monkey sex the situation probably deserves.
It's only because they sleep so late that Rodney happens to be in the transporter with John when the call comes in over the radio.
He doesn't hear the other side of the conversation. All he knows is one moment they're transporting to the mess for a late, hurried breakfast and the next John is snapping, "I'll be right there, Captain," into his headset.
"What's wrong?" Rodney asks, feeling vaguely sick as the transporter suddenly changes destinations, his partially-reconstructed cells being yanked back into the buffers and reconstituted elsewhere with more force than is really necessary.
"It's Michael. Apparently he's resisting-" John begins before going absolutely white and taking off running before the transporter doors are even all the way open.
Rodney follows after, but he's still around the corner from Michael's quarters when the screaming starts-
-followed by the sound of gunfire; one, two, three shots in quick succession, then-
That's when he rounds the corner.
That's when he sees the bodies.
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