Words: 2,400 (of 6,000)
Warnings/Spoliers: part 3 of #18 in the Ancient!John 'verse (see part 1, 2); immediately before/during "Allies" and "No Man's Land"
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: They've taken him.
Notes: It's taken me over a year, but I'm finally finished with S2 of the AJ 'verse - though, sadly, all but about 500 words of this has been sitting on my computer for like a week as I tried to finish it... but with the last section we're into S3.... and, with luck, I'll be able to get as far as "The Return, Part 1" before I have to ship out in February. Though SPN is proving to be very distracting in this endevour.
Anyway, I also hope to - finally - finish the coffeeshop!AU I started last christmas, as I've promised myself I'd do after I finished S2. Hopefully you'll find the wait for both these parts worth it. And, I promise, S3 will come just as soon as I can manage to write it.
An Ancient!John Story
"Should we hold a memorial service?"
Rodney's hands still on the keyboard.
(He's been doing his best to ignore the military minutiae of the staff meeting by sorting through the one thousand, two hundred and twelve emails that appeared in his inbox after the last dial-in to Earth. But after deleting the nearly three hundred pieces of spam that managed to slip through the SGC's filters, he'd been troubled to find that over half of what had remained related to John in some matter - formal requests for interviews from reporters who've picked up on all the times his name comes up in relation to John's solution to the Riemann Hypothesis; round-about requests for information from researchers back on Earth too cowed by the universe's last real, live Ancient to ask John themselves; friendly letters from his sister, requesting Rodney's help in some ongoing debate she's apparently been having with John about the exact value of certain variables in the Drake Equation. Not quite knowing what to make of this indisputable, irrefutable evidence of how much John has become a part of his life - or how much of a hole he's leaving behind, - Rodney'd set to work writing a better spam filter. Because obviously that's the answer to all his problems.
Rodney closes his laptop. The snick of the catch is impossibly loud in the silence that's fallen in the room since Elizabeth asked her question.
"John's not dead."
"You don't have memorials for people who aren't dead, Elizabeth."
"No, but Colonel Sheppard has Ascended to a higher plane of existence. There are people throughout the universe that have dedicated their lives to achieving just such a goal."
"So, what, you want us to celebrate the fact that he's gone?" he scoffs, gripping the edge of the table 'til his knuckles go white to keep from jumping out of his seat and raging at her.
Patiently, "It's a great accomplishment, Rodney," she reminds him.
"But not one he wanted! You have to have heard, have to remember some of the things he's said about Ascension in the past. That it's the coward's way of escaping his problems. So what if it's something of great cosmic significance? I don't really give a flying fuck if it really is the be all, end all of mortal existence, John's coming back and we're not going to pretend otherwise."
"I know you're grieving-"
"I am not grieving!" he shouts, hands flying into the air. "I am not grieving because there is nothing to grieve. Why does no one else seem to understand that?"
Zelenka reaches over and places a hand on his shoulder, which is a strange enough occurrence that it stops the rest of his rant dead in its tracks. "Rodney," he says quietly and with genuine concern, "losing your temper is not going to help the Colonel any."
"Yes. Yes, you're right," Rodney sighs, sinking back into his chair and pinching the bridge of his nose. His head is still spinning a little from the meds Carson gave him and this, of all things, is not something he needs right now. "Major," he waves vaguely with his other hand, "can you just...?"
He feels more than sees Elizabeth's eyes dart between them, taking all of ten seconds to piece the puzzle together. Settling them accusingly on Rodney, she asks, "What the hell were you thinking?"
"Oh, please. You know exactly what I was thinking, and if you were thinking clearly you'd realize it was the right thing to do too."
Blazon in her attempt to keep the peace, "I'm sorry," Teyla interrupts before any actual shouting can start, "but what is this?"
"Doctor McKay wanted to become a pastor, in the hope that Atlantis would be willing to tell him what she knows about Colonel Sheppard's disappearance. But," Elizabeth stresses, "I know he cannot have possibly been foolish enough to do so, not when we know nothing about how the nanoids would effect a human being, to say nothing of the unabashed stupidity of having our chief scientist undergo elective brain surgery less than fifty-six hours before the Wraith are supposed to arrive."
"That's exactly what I told Doctor McKay," Lorne says, straightening in his chair, "which is why I'm the one who had the surgery."
It's hard to tell who's more shocked, Caldwell or Elizabeth. While Lorne's not exactly the poster boy for by the book, he's probably the most stable, level-headed officer Atlantis has. He looks before he leaps, fills out his paperwork on time, and, above all, does not do things without the support of his superior officers. For him to do this is, well, almost as unthinkable to them as John's willing Ascension is to him - but they don't know about their plan to stop Michael that they never got to carry through or the dozens of other plots that Zelenka's bound to have gotten him caught up in.
Caldwell speaks first. "Major, what could have possessed you to do something so reckless?"
"Someone needed to take the risk, Sir, and between Doctor McKay and myself, I'm the one who's more easily replaceable."
"As much as we all want to find Colonel Sheppard-"
"I'm sorry, Sir," Lorne interrupts, which seems to surprise Caldwell even more than the idea the Major would go behind their backs to become a pastor, "but you don't understand. I'm not even sure if I can explain it, but it's..." He visibly searches for the words he needs, glancing at the ceiling for the city's help. "Colonel Sheppard has been one of Atlantis' pastores for ten thousand, two hundred and thirty-four years. For most of that time, he was the only living soul in the city. I don't know if there are words for what she feels for him. She- She raised him and taught him and- and the Colonel is everything to her. If you could have heard her earlier... Even now, I think the only thing that's keeping her from shutting down entirely is the hope that we might be able to get the Colonel back."
Rodney shudders in agreement. "The last thing we want when the Wraith show up at our doorstep is a city that won't respond to any of our commands."
Elizabeth bites her lip. "Why didn't you tell me any of your suspicions earlier?"
"Honestly?" He rubs his temples now. "I thought I just projecting. Plus, I kind of assumed the whole John's been kidnapped thing would be the only bullet point you needed. But, more importantly, has 'Lantis told you who's taken him yet?"
"Yes..." Lorne says distantly, propping his elbows on the table. "It was an Ascended Ancient, someone the Colonel knew from before he went into stasis. Her name is Ganos Lal Cancellaria, but Atlantis is pretty sure she was known on Earth as Morgan le Fey."
The exhaustion hits him the moment Evan enters his quarters, like a brick wall just inside the threshold. It sends him reeling - or at least backwards, so that he hits the barely closed doors with a dull thump. He stays there, leaning against them with the lights off and his eyes closed, until he gathers enough energy to push away from the doors and start unzipping his uniform jacket.
God, what a week.
He likes to think he could have handled the Colonel's disappearance normally. After all, he is a major in his own right. He knows how to run a base. It might've been like trying to tread water during a category five hurricane, but he probably could've done it.
But these are far from normal circumstances.
The Wraith know Atlantis still stands. The hive Michael found has seen it with their own eyes. They've walked her halls unmolested, all in the name of some sort of ceasefire Doctor Weir has drawn up in exchange for the retrovirus. It's a deal with the devil, but one far above Evan's pay grade, even if he is acting military commander. All he knows is that it's his duty to keep the Wraith from getting loose and wreaking havoc on the the city that detests their presence so violently she'd kill them herself if she could manage it.
At least they're gone now, the Wraith that is. They're off testing the latest iteration of their aerosol dispersion bomb with Doctor McKay and Daedalus and, unless something goes very wrong, they're not going to be back for a long while. Which means Evan can turn his full attention to the frantic daily struggle to keep atop the thousand things the Colonel somehow manages to do every single day without appearing to do anything at all and maybe get some rest while he's at it.
Evan barely manages to shrug off his jacket and toss it to one side before he's back to leaning against the doors, and only a moment after that before he's sliding down them to sit on the floor with his back against them.
God, he's so tired.
He's not sure how long he sits there or how many times this thought runs through his head before Aurora asks, /Are you a-ttemp-ting to sleep or med-i-tate, pas-tor?/
/Oh./ There's a pause. /What are you do-ing?/
/Oh./ Another pause. /What are you think-ing a-bout?/
Rory appears to frown at this. /Why would you want to do that?/
"Sometimes you don't have a choice," Evan tells her.
Take now for instance. Right now, Evan's not had more than ten hours of sleep in the last eight days and should be conked out on the bed, dead to the world until the next crisis comes calling, but he can't. His thoughts keep running in circles uselessly, going absolutely nowhere and telling him absolutely nothing that he doesn't already know - like the fact that Colonel's been gone for over a week and they still have absolutely no idea how to get him back, but, when they do, the Colonel's going to kill Evan for letting the Wraith into the city, even if it was Doctor Weir's idea.
/Some-times,/ Rory says shyly, /when we ac-cess our da-ta-base, we get cor-rup-ted files and ac-cess mem-or-ies we nev-er want-ed to re-mem-ber. It is aw-ful. We get so scared. We were in so many bat-tles... And then we were so a-lone.../
Rory really is a just a little girl, Evan thinks. "You're not alone anymore. You're not ever going to be alone again."
She makes a sound that might be considered a hiccup. "You say that now, but ev-ery-bo-dy al-ways leaves./
"Ma-ter says not to blame you - that it is not your fault that your plat-forms do not last as long as ours - and we try not to, but it is so hard when we are so alone. Ma-ter says that, when she was still in Av-a-lon, she used to have two score cust-od-i-ae and a half doz-en pas-tor-es at a time to keep her comp-any, but we have only known you and Pa-ter. And when you are gone we will be alone again./
"You won't-" Evan begins, patting the door absentmindedly before remembering it's the wrong AI.
/Don't lie to us, Mar-i-tus. We are not a child. We know how the un-i-verse works. But do not wor-ry. We will pro-tect you as best we can, as we should have pro-tect-ed Pa-ter,/ she says vehemently.
Before Evan can ask her what she means, his comm goes off.
It's Radek. "We've been hacked," he says without preamble.
"What?" Evan demands, climbing to his feet and looking for wherever the hell his jacket has gotten to in the suddenly well-lit room.
"Within the hive ship's schematics was a worm-like computer virus."
"But I thought-"
"We did. The data appeared clean, but only because this virus was not designed to do anything we had anticipated."
"What's it doing then?"
"It very carefully probed our systems for a small, specific set of information before destroying all the data the Wraith sent down."
Evan finds his jacket and tugs it back on. "What they get?" he asks, heading out the door.
"The location of every world in our database."
Earth. "God damn it!"
"My thoughts exactly."
"Tell Elizabeth? No, not yet. I am on my way to her office right now."
Ronon wants to blow up the hive ship.
Normally, Rodney would be dead set against this, given that they happen to be on the ship in question, but there's no way they're getting out of it alive. They've looked. They've tried. It's just not happening, and while Rodney's usually very staunchly anti-death, it's not like they have any other choice.
Even if the ship they're on is currently under attack by unknown forces.
"Have you done it yet?" Ronon grumbles at him as he keeps watch at the door, apparently still under the delusion that science is magic and all anyone has to do to pull a miracle out of his ass is babble a couple techno-sounding words and snap.
"Look, pal, this ship has been seriously damaged. It's hard for me to find something to overload."
That's when he hears the click of a boot coming from the opposite side of the hall.
Ronon must hear it too, because he spins around and readies the last of his knives for throwing the moment the figure steps into the light.
He sees only the barest flicker of a tall, cloaked silhouette as it passes beneath one of the sickly yellow overheads before the knife goes flying. It passes through the figure easily and clatters sharply to the floor behind it.
"Nice aim," the figure says, not so much as twitching as it draws nearer. "But can we avoid the friendly fire in the future?" it pushes back the hood of it's cloak, revealing a pair of glowing white eyes. "I'm not planning on staying intangible forever."
All the moisture suddenly disappears from Rodney's mouth and he has to swallow several times to even be able to choke out the word, but he manages it eventually. "John?"
"In the flesh," John says, lifting his arms out wide and letting the cloak fall back. "Well, more or less, anyway."