Words: 3,128 (of 6,000)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Carson Elizabeth; John/Rodney, implied Lorne/Zelenka
Warnings/Spoliers: part 3 of #17 (see part 1, 2) in the Ancient!John 'verse; post-"Inferno," with some heavy borrowing from SG1's Ancient-related episodes. Read: "Ascension," "Avalon," "The Fourth Horseman," "Ethon," "Camelot," and "The Pegasus Project." Mostly.
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: The truth cannot stay hidden forever.
Notes: So... the first half of this just flowed, like 2k in one sitting, and then the last bit was just.... murder. Stupid people who wanted to tour the house in the middle of my writing streak. Anyway, for those of you who care, this takes place on 9-13 May according to my timeline. Which brings us concurent with "Ethon" in SG1, which is like 1/4th a season off, but I had to adjust the timelines to fit based off of everything in "Somniati."
Anyway, translations include: satitio, or outpost, and exsul, or exile. Velona is the planet Orlin came from. Monemute is the Latin version of Monmuth, which is a shout out to Geoffrey of Monmuth, who wrote most of the source material for Arthurian legend. And Pryderi is a Welsh hero who was the son of Rhiannon. Feel free to call me out on anything else I missed.
An Ancient!John Story
"You look like you're giving serious thought to dying where you sit," Carson says with the cruel, hateful cheeriness of the well-rested, sliding his tray into the spot directly across from Iohannes at the table.
Iohannes hunches further over his tea, not so much drinking it (he doesn't think his stomach would be able to take even that much at the moment) as inhaling its vapors. "You mean I don't look like I've already died?" he groans, rubbing his temples. "I must be getting better than."
"I hate to break it to you, but things like that are nae supposed to be considered improvements."
"Welcome to my life."
"How much did you have to drink last night, lad?"
Iohannes opens one bleary eye and stares unsteadily across the table at his nephew. "Would you believe me if I said one?"
"Only if by one you mean a fifth of some really cheap tequila."
"It would take a lot more than a fifth of anything to get me drunk," Iohannes says, stealing himself and taking a mouthful of tea. It's lukewarm at best and more overbrewed than even he usually drinks it, but he's not getting up to get a fresh cup, he's just not. "And it was half-a-bottle of that weak stuff the Marines keep in their ready room that they think I don't know about."
Carson shakes his head like he's disappointed for some reason, though whether at him or the Marines, Iohannes can't say. "I know our Earth medicine must seem hopelessly primitive to you, but you don't exactly need a medical degree to tell you've got a hangover the size of Yorkshire."
He sets his mug back on the table and wraps both his hands around the base and concentrates, adding idly,"I take it that's big."
"We really need to work on your world history, Colonel. There's more to Earth than just Canada and the United States."
"Eh," Iohannes says indifferently, focus mostly on his tea. After a moment more, it starts to boil, prompting Carson to say-
"That's a nice party trick."
"That is the result of nine hours of meditation - which is, by the way, the reason I needed that half-a-drink." He shudders at the memory. "I should've just raided Doctor Z's distillery, but 'Lantis said that he and Lorne spent the night there, and I didn't want to walk in on anything that would cause me to have to scour my eyes out of their sockets."
Carson chokes on his coffee. "You mean Evan and Radek..." he makes a vague hand motion that Iohannes takes to mean-
"Are having sex? I dunno, but watching them dance around each other is enough to give me a headache, and I really, really don't need to give the one I have now any more fuel." He takes another sip of tea, which is now utterly scalding and almost unpalatably bitter, and goes back to rubbing his temples.
"I was under the impression that meditation was supposed to be relaxing. Help one get in tune with one's inner self and all that."
Frowning, "I've always found it a trying experience."
"Then why'd you do it?"
He scowls into a his tea and almost misses Rodney slide his own tray into the empty spot next to him, saying, "'Lantis made him."
Iohannes practically hears Carson blink. "The city made him meditate?"
"Yeah," Rodney says. "She seems to think that the others are less likely to punish John if he starts behaving more like a proper Ancient. At least," he adds after unsuccessfully trying to steal Iohannes' tea and replace it with a plate of something far too solid and greasy for him to even think about eating, "that's the gist I got from the side of the argument I could hear."
"She's a sadistic, overprotective futatrix," Iohannes says, patting the table absentmindedly. When she brightens the lights immediately overhead, he adds, "Well, you are."
/Forgive us for not wanting you be forcibly Ascended, or sent to some backwater planet with all your memories erased, or-/
"Yes, yes," he agrees. "But you made Rory cry, and that's not something I can forgive all that easily."
"Yes, thank you for mentioning that, I've only spent the past few hours trying to block that memory."
"Lucky you." Iohannes thinks he's never going to be able to scrub that memory from his brain. Particularly not when her sobs had been interspersed with the occasional, choked, /But you can't go a-way, Pa-ter./
The overhead lighting penitently returns to normal levels.
Carson gets that worried look that normally proceeds several uncomfortable and unnecessarily invasive medical tests, "I'm confused. How does Atlantis wanting you to meditate lead to you looking like a sailor after shore leave?"
"'Cause," Iohannes says, gesturing with his mug, "it's never just meditation. It's always other things too."
The Valuanii were a young race, younger than the Morderati, younger than even the Gaheres, and the Altera vowed that this time they would not allow their pride and vainglory to destroy another blue world which had managed to create life, no matter how young that life was. They would watch, they vowed, but they would not interfere. They would not even let the Valuanii know they watched. They would let the blue world and the life on it develop as they would, without their dangerous influence.
But not all the Altera could do this. They saw the Valuanii making the same mistakes they had made and could not sit idly by, watching. And so they came to the Valuanii in secret and guided them down better, less destructive paths. And the Valuanii, being young and knowing no better, called these secret guardians gods.
"I think you should send the fifth ZPM to Terra."
"What?" Elizabeta asks, looking up at him with an utterly bewildered expression. Between Atlantis and Terra, they've been able to scrounge together five ZPMs - which now, thanks to the ATLAS device, are fully charged - which adds up to two apiece for Atlantis and the SGC, with the last being demanded with equal furor by both parties:
'Lantis needs it because she needs three ZPMS, runs best on three working in concert. It's simple fact.
The Terrans want it because they're greedy and young and think that because they've accomplished so much in nine years they can take on the universe. Which means they want one for their porta, to dial Pegasus; one for the statio beneath their southern pole, to defend their planet from the myriad enemies they've made themselves in that short time; and one for Odyssey, to take the fight to the Haeretici.
"No, I heard that much. I just don't understand it. You've been arguing since the beginning that we be allowed to keep the fifth ZPM. Why the sudden change of heart?"
Iohannes sinks into one of the chairs across from her desk and adopts as casual a posture as possible. He's not entirely sure he succeeds, but he knows his voice is utterly nonchalant when he says, "They need it more than we do."
"That's not what you were saying last week."
"Well, last week we didn't know what the Wraith were going to do with Michael's intel, if anything. Now we know that all they're going to do is sent one hive ship our way to check things out, and we don't need three ZPMs to take care of a single hive."
"As admirable as your trust in the city's defenses is, John, we both know that the fifth ZPM would be wasted at the SGC, so what's this really about?"
"What makes you think it's about anything other than wanting my nieces and nephews not to be killed by the Haeretici?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.
Elizabeta gives him a look that lets him know, quite clearly and distinctly, that she's not buying it. "Maybe because you've been in a strop ever since the Taranins found out about your being an Ancient?"
"Is now really the time to be arguing semantics?"
"There's always time to argue semantics."
"And as happy as I'd be to do so with you at any other time, that doesn't change the fact that you've been acting strange for the past two days, or that you look like you went ten rounds with a bottle of vodka and lost."
"What, this?" Iohannes gives her a tired smile. "This is nothing."
"If you've had hangovers worse than this, I genuinely worry about the state of your liver."
"Y'know, I find it odd that I keep having to explain this, but I'm not actually hungover."
"Well, you certainly look like it."
There are eighty things he could say to that off the top of his head. The one he goes with is, "Look, I appreciate the concern and all, but I'm fine. I really am. This is just the aftereffects of a fight with Atlantis, followed by some deeply unsettling meditation. Give me a couple hours and some tea and I'll be as right as rain."
"Is that supposed to make me feel better?"
They sit in silence for what feels like ages, but can't even be two minutes. At the end of it, he slouches down low in his chair and leans his head back far enough to rest on the seat-back. "I had a vision," he tells the ceiling tonelessly, though 'Lantis, of course, already knows all about it. And done a rousing round of I told you sos before breakfast that had done absolutely nothing for his headache.
"A vision," Elizabeta repeats.
"While I was meditating. I don't think it's mine - my talents never leaned in that direction when I was still foolish enough to be actively working towards Ascension, but anything's possible."
It's almost beyond imagination to think that enough of the others actually came to the realization that the Haeretici are an actual threat - his people may be a cowardly race, but they are also a proud one. And not just a threat to their Descendants, but to their own existence. But even they have to realize that, when the war is over and every person left alive in Avalon is praying to the Haeretici, feeding their need to be worshiped, their long lost cousins would finally be strong enough to destroy them.
Even they have to see helping the Terrans is a matter of survival, pure and simple.
Then again, it's almost beyond imagination to think he could be sitting here in the future, the last of his kind, with nothing to commend him to the position he now occupies rather than luck and a desire not to see Atlantis fall.
"The Haeretici are making an Abomination."
"Abomination," Iohannes says, lifting his head just enough to give her a bitter smile. "Melodramatic, I know." He lets his head fall back. "It's a cultural flaw, the whole Alteran flair for the dramatic."
Dryly, "Really? I hadn't noticed."
"That's just plain hurtful."
"You're the one that brought it up."
"I'm not the one being melodramatic here. That's the actual term, Abomination. Basically it means an Ascended being who's retaken human form but kept all of the knowledge they gained. Kinda like the Velonan exsul the SGC had to deal with a couple months back, the one with with the crush on Colonel Carter."
"Yeah, that one. And probably Moros Lal too - the guy your lot call Merlin, though how he managed to get from law abiding citizen of the millennia to someone like, well, me, is a story I'd love to hear sometime. Y'know, provided it's not during a dressing down on a higher plane of existence by some some glowing balls of white light before they decide how best to punish me. Unless," he says, sitting up a little and cocking his head to the side, trying to recall those lost three minutes, "they've already done that. In which case I'd like to remember it the next time."
Elizabeta looks vaguely contemplative. "I don't think you give the others enough credit."
"And you give them too much."
"Maybe," she admits, looking down briefly and fiddling with her pen. "But your people built Atlantis and the Stargates, and seeded human life in at least two galaxies. They may not be gods, but I've gotta trust they know what they're doing."
"You do that. And, while you're at it, send the ZPMs to Terra. Three of them."
"What about us, Colonel? You've said yourself that the city works best with three ZPMs and there's a hive ship on the way right now. It'll be here in sixteen days. God alone knows how many are preparing to follow in it's wake. Two ZPMs, Daedalus, and a pair of barely operational Ancient warships might get us pretty far, but your people had a lot better and a lot more and still lost the war. If this comes down to a fight, I want us to have the best chance possible - and not throw our chances away because of your hangups with the Ori."
"How many people d'you think it'd take to take me down if I ever took up Haeresis?"
"What?" Elizabeta asked, clearly puzzled by the non sequitur but still very much vexed by the whole conversation. Her lips are pursed and her eyes narrowed in the most unflattering way, but she's willing, at least, to hear him out.
"If I ever decided to go down that route," Iohannes repeats, straitening in his chair, "how many people d'you think it would take to bring me down? A couple SG teams? All the military personnel on this city? At the SGC's disposal? 'Cause whatever you think, I promise you, it won't be enough.
"Once the Taranin's are resettled on their new homeworld, word about me being one of their Ancestors is going to spread through the galaxy like wildfire. Within six months, every Descendant in Pegasus is going to know what I am and, with that kind of faith at my disposal, I doubt I'd have any problems making a nice lodgment in Avalon, starting with Terra. If I somehow managed to delude myself into thinking I'm a god. And that's just me, as I am, like seventy-eight percent of the way to Ascension. Think about what a Haeretici returned to human form with all the knowledge and power of an Ascended being at her disposal could do, to say nothing of the armies and lintres that she'd certainly bring with her.
"Even without an Abomination leading them, the Haeretici are still Alterans and, even if they've not managed to make a single technological advancement since my people broke off from theirs, for all intents and purposes, trying to fight them once they reach your galaxy would be like trying to wage war on actual gods. The only way to beat them is to prevent them from getting a foothold in Avalon in the first place, and your lot can't do that as you are now. Giving the SGC the fifth ZPM opens up possibilities for them that might just save your galaxy."
Elizabeta shakes her head once, sharply, reflexively. "And what about us, John? What about the Wraith?"
"The Wraith are terrifying," he says honestly. "They might very well be the worst thing my people ever created. But I'd rather spend another ten thousand years fighting them than let the Haeretici get anywhere near Terra."
She leans back in her chair, as if hit with a moment of sudden clarity. "Because Earth is the gateway to Atlantis."
Iohannes nods slightly. "That's one of the reasons."
"You know, John, you really take this whole uncle thing a little too seriously."
"You're family," he says, standing. "And even if you weren't, the Haeretici still ought to be stopped."
But the Altera were not gods, and so were tempted by the things that tempt all people as prideful and vainglorious as they. So it it was that when the Valuanii's secret guardians learned that their charges worshiped them as they might the Altera's own long forgotten gods, they allowed the practice to continue. And when these false gods discovered that each soul converted to their self-serving religion gave them strength to rival even the most powerful amongst them, they added avarice and envy to their great list of sins and sought to convert more.
The faith of one planet, however, could never give them enough power, not once their appetites for it had been whetted. And so the Valuanii's secret guardians, the believers of the great Haeresis that men could be gods, devised a plan. The Altera's science had come far since the destruction of their blue world and their ceaseless journey across their lifeless sea of stars had become wearisome for even those many generations born to it. And so the Haeretici plotted in whisper and rumor that the Altera should create life of their own to fill the many lifeless worlds of the many lifeless stars in the endless sea that surrounded them, and that they should create this life in their own image, to study how they themselves evolved and changed.
And this is how the first Descendants came to be.
The Taranins are completely resettled onto their new homeworld three days later. Their new home known as M6T-811 in the Terran's bizarre system of planetary nomenclature and the fourth planet of the Monemute system in his people's database, but the Taranins rename it Pryderi. Chancellor Lycus tells them it is the name of the great hero from their oldest tales, the kind that was never written down until recently, and that according to tradition he was the such of such-and-such god and-
-and, well, frankly, Iohannes stops listening after that point, because he's fairly certain it's supposed to be an allusion to him, and it's a lot easier to pretend the whole conversation simply isn't happening than it is to restrain the urge to shoot something. Or someone.
The next day they dial Terra, to tell the folks at the SGC about the linter they recovered from Taranis and the lone hive that would reach Lantean space in twelve days, to say nothing of continuing the discussion about how best to divvy up the ZPMs. Elizabeta's still prepared to fight for the fifth, regardless of anything Iohannes might have to say on the matter, right up until the moment they tell her about Prometheus and how it was destroyed above Tegalus by a Haeretici weapon four days ago.
After that, well, even Rodney's protests as to why Atlantis should keep the fifth are half-hearted at best.