Title: Defensor (1/1)
Warnings/Spoliers: #19 in the Ancient!John 'verse; set during "No Man's Land"
Disclaimer: Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine.
Summary: "I didn't have much choice, Rodney," he hisses, eyes hard and cutting - or maybe just seeming so as they continue to glow with a light that casts no shadows. "You think I wanted to leave? To have this," he makes an abrupt gesture Rodney can't see, "done to me?"
Notes: Here it is. The first part of S3 of the AJ 'verse. And for once this installment is only 1 chappie, so yay, even if it is shorter than you'd expect from something that's taken this long to write.
Let's see... Defensor means Defender, both in the defendant and one who defends sense. This story also takes place, according to my bizzarely detailed timeline, on 31 May, 2006, for any who may be interested (it and more extranious details can be found by following the link to the entire 'verse above).
An Ancient!John Story
"C'mon," John says tiredly, tugging the hood of his cloak back over his head, hiding his glowing white eyes from view. "We've gotta get to Daedalus."
"The Daedalus? The Daedalus is here?"
"It's a long story, but yeah, Daedalus and Orion are here - though, to be honest, it's the hives that are doing most of the damage to each other. Wraith politics," he grins and starts back the way he came, "always good for evening out a fight." John pauses at the knife Ronon had thrown his way and toes it almost hopefully. His boot passes straight through it. "You'll wanna get that," he adds cheerlessly. "Most the Wraith that were aboard are flying the darts now, but there's still gonna be enough wandering the halls to make it difficult to get to a transport."
John strides off down the passageway, his cloak billowing along behind him.
Rodney looks at Ronon, who shrugs and collects his knife. "Sounds good to me."
"Am I the only one," Rodney asks, loudly, as he hurries after, "who thinks there's something wrong with this situation?"
John pauses at the next junction just long enough for them to catch up. "Mind catching me up here? The situation is that I'm saving your sorry asses. What, exactly, is so wrong about it?"
"Oh, I don't know. How about the part where you've been missing for almost two weeks?"
"I'm back now," he drawls insouciantly. "Still failing to see the problem here, Rodney."
"Elizabeth wanted to hold a funeral!"
This gets him a frown, or, at least, what Rodney suspects is a frown somewhere underneath the heavy shadows John's cloak casts upon his face. "I wasn't dead."
"Well, I knew that. But that doesn't change the fact that you were gone, God only knows where, for two weeks without so much as a by your leave."
"Wasn't like I'd much warning myself."
"Where were you? How did you get here? Better yet, how did you even know we'd be here?"
"I read a lot of newspapers."
"You read a lot of-!" Rodney exclaims. "What the hell does that even mean?"
"It means," John grits through what he can only assume is clenched teeth, "that it's a long story. One that should probably wait until we're not in the middle of a Wraith hive ship."
Throwing his hands up in the air, "Forgive me for being curious. It's not like I spent two weeks wondering what the hell had happened to you."
"First off, it was only eleven Lantean days, not two weeks-"
"Yes! That just makes things that much better."
He loses the full force of John's glare to the hood of his stupid cloak. The cloak itself isn't perfectly white, like most Ancient clothes, but the colour of old bones, and with the small part of his mind that isn't absolutely furious at John for leaving him like this and treating it like it's nothing, Rodney wonders what the difference could possibly mean. "I came back as soon as I could."
"That doesn't change the fact youshouldn't have left in the first place!"
John spins on his heel. Faster than Rodney's eyes can make out, John is right in his face. There can't be more than two inches between them, but he can't feel any heat coming off John's body or breath against his cheek. Hell, he can't even feel the brush of John's cloak where it certainly must be hitting him. "I didn't have much choice, Rodney," he hisses, eyes hard and cutting - or maybe just seeming so as they continue to glow with a light that casts no shadows. "You think I wanted to leave? To have this," he makes an abrupt gesture Rodney can't see, "done to me?"
"What did they do to you?" Rodney asks, surprised by the gentleness in his voice.
John pulls away. "We should hurry. Orion's losing shield strength and Daedalus was never designed to go up against an enemy like the Wraith."
"John?" he repeats with soft deliberation. "What did they do?"
"They paroled me."
Rodney doesn't get anymore information than that until they're on the bridge of the Daedalus. Or, rather, he and Ronon are on the bridge of the Daedalus. John himself is nowhere in sight, despite the fact that he'd been piloting the transport they'd been beamed off of seconds before. He looks around, as if he'd somehow managed to miss the guy in the white cloak that surely has to be around here somewhere, but doesn't see him.
Had he hallucinated their whole escape?
Blinking furiously, he is only vaguely aware of Colonel Caldwell ordering the rail guns to target the hives' dart bays. The ship rocks and quakes around him. There's a shower of sparks from an overblown fuse and the sharp hiss of chemical fire suppressant being released. It all seems real enough, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything. Not in this galaxy.
"Sir," the officer of the deck says, cutting into Rodney's train of thought, "I've got a contact that's not showing up on our sensors."
Despite the fact that Captain Kleinman's clearly addressing Caldwell, it's Ronon who answers. "If it's not showing up, how do you know it's there?"
Kleinman, oddly enough, points towards the viewscreen. There's a burst of white light that might be some kind of Wraith energy weapon they've never seen before rapidly approaching from the direction of the closest cruiser. Bursts of blue light they're familiar with, yes, but not white. Not when it comes to the Wraith. "It's not showing up on any of my instruments. I'm also showing the Orion changing course."
Rodney has no idea why this might be important, let alone interesting. They're in the middle of a battle. Of course their sister ship is changing course. It's an important thing that ships in battle do to keep from being blown up.
"I thought we beamed everyone off the Orion."
Oh. Well. That is strange then.
"We did. But it's altering it's heading for a collision course with the nearest hive ship. I'm also reading a dangerous increase in it's power output levels."
"Prepare-" Caldwell begins, only to stop when the white light passes straight through their shields - not destroying them or weakening them in any manner, just going straight through them, as if they aren't even there. Seconds later, goes the same with the viewscreen - again, as if the hull poses no barrier whatsoever - and wobbles a bit in the space in front of the captain's chair before coalescing into the form of a man.
A very familiar man.
A very familiar man wearing a bone-white cloak with the hood thrown over his head whose method of entry can only mean one thing.
"Well, that's gonna get old fast," John announces, throwing back his hood. His eyes are no longer glowing, which is a small mercy, but there's still something preternaturally bright about them. Something that's neither human nor Ancient. If John notices the change, he gives no indication of it, and continues with his usual nonchalance, "Also, it'd probably be a good idea to get outta here."
The situation is such that John's unusual arrival is given little of the scrutiny it deserves, and as such Caldwell and Rodney are really the only ones to pay him much attention. The former, in a tone that brokers little argument, offers "No, we need to eliminate those cruisers. They're on their way to Earth and we can't-"
Only to be cut off by John saying, "I know. Which is why I set the auto-destruct on Orion. It'll take care of both hives and most the darts, but we need to get clear." He's stands maddeningly still in the centre of the chaos around them, seemingly unaffected by the lag in the inertial dampeners as Daedalus goes from manoeuvring thrusters to military thrust faster than they can completely compensate.
They manage to get pretty far in the twenty or so seconds they have before the Orion's atuto-destruct goes off, but the shockwave resulting from the exploding hyperdrives is still strong when it hits, making the ship rock and quake some more. Again, John gives no indication that he feels the blast at all, though Rodney thinks can see him wince when it does. Orion might not have been alive, like Aurora, but it was still Ancient. It was still meant to be his when repairs were completed.
"Status of the hive ships?"
"Destroyed, Sir, along with most the darts and the Orion."
Caldwell nods grimly. "I want status reports and casualty lists ready in ten minutes," he tells the officer of the deck. Then, pushing himself out of his chair, he levels John with a stare and orders, "Now does somebody want to tell me what the hell is going on here?"
Rodney snorts. He can't help it. "Isn't it obvious?" he hears himself say, more hysteria than he'd really wanted to share dripping from his voice. "John's Ascended."
"I gathered that much for myself, Doctor. What I want to know is what an Ascended being is doing in the middle of my active combat zone, particularly when I've been told they're not allowed to interfere in our affairs."
It's John's turn to snort. "Not so active now. You're welcome, by the way."
"Understand, Colonel, it's not that I'm ungrateful for your assistance, however surprising it may be. I merely have little desire to see my ship caught up in whatever retribution the other Ascended decide to mete out."
"If it's any consolation, they're not big on the whole physical violence thing. At most they'll just tack on another three or four thousand years to my sentence."
"Yeah," John frowns, struggling with something at the neck of his cloak. It must be the closure because, after a moment, it falls forgotten to the deck. After a moment more, it flickers out of existence as if it never was. "Turns out the others aren't all that happy with all the help I've been giving you guys - big surprise, I know." He makes a disgusted face as he works the buttons of the robe underneath. (It too is bone white, of a style that's a cross between a Catholic priest's cassock and a Lord of the Rings roleplayer's costume, and with rather more embroidery along the cuffs and collar than Rodney thinks is strictly necessary for a guy.) "They were willing to overlook it, though, because pointing out that they were paying attention to what was going on the lower planes would've gotten them in more trouble than it would've me.
"But then," John says, causally continuing to unbutton his robe, "this whole business with the Taranins happened. Interference is one thing, but Haeresis? Even when I'm going around telling everybody and their uncle that I'm not a god and don't want to be treated as one? Apparently that's grounds enough for punishment in their book."
"They forcibly Ascended you," Rodney says dubiously, his last shred of control wavering worrisomely in the face of his impending panic. The only thing keeping him from going to pieces then and there is the knowledge that the Ancients don't forcibly Ascend people. They're all about free will and self-determination and letting people make their own mistakes. They don't want anyone to Ascend who can't do so for themselves. Any Ascending that was done had to have been voluntary on John's part, however much under duress.
"They forcibly Ascended me," John agrees easily and finishes with the last button. He lets his robe fall to the floor, where it hangs about for a moment or two before flickering out of existence as well. He now wears familiar clothing - or, at least, clothes Rodney has seen before, on Aurora's crewmen when he had been hooked into her neural network.
The uniform is shades of beige: A short-sleeved shirt underneath a sturdy-looking vest he's heard John call a brigandine. Heavy vambraces of the same materiel go from wrist to elbow on both his arms, in place of the smaller black bracer John usually favours. A silver disc - the orbis that is the mark of a Lantean legatus - is pinned to his collar. Five silver stars - two on one shoulder, three on the other - sit where Earth-based militaries would place rank insignia. The pants tuck in to boots that rise to just above the knee and look to be made of deerskin or rawhide. A belt of the same material hangs low on his hips, holstering some sort of Ancient energy weapon.
John, appearing content with his current state of dress, stops fiddling with his clothing and starts scouting the bridge for a spot to lean against while he continues his tale.
Rodney tries to meet his eyes, just waiting for that opening so he can ask what the hell is going on and what the fuck happened and why are you still Ascended and why won't you give us a straight answer, dammit.
But John won't meet his eyes. Every time they glance his way they stall out somewhere near his left shoulder then move away quickly, as if burned.
Rodney's not going to pretend that doesn't hurt.
"It's a bit more complicated than that, of course," John continues, choosing to slouch against the pilot's terminal. He sounds tired, tired and impossibly old. "The others were going to wait until I actively did something heretical, but Ganos thought-"
Rodney finds his voice again. "Ganos? You mean Ganos Lal, better known as Morgon le Fey?"
John frowns. "Yeah, that's the one. You know about her? I didn't think I'd mentioned her before."
John's frown deepens, but doesn't question further. "Ganos was on the Council before the Exodus - she was even High Councillor for a while before her brother took over, but that was all politics. She was a real hard-ass for the rules too. They all were, the others." He gives them a tired smile that hints at something Rodney hasn't the slightest idea how to begin to name. "As if interfering is the worst that you could do to somebody.
"But I guess that whole deal with her brother changed her mind. After all, if Moros could come around to the idea that we should take responsibility for our own messes, why not Ganos? They were cut from the same cloth, after all. So anyway, she yanked me to the higher planes, filled me in on the situation, and took me to my trial."
"Your trial," Caldwell says blandly.
John starts to pick at the laces on his vambraces. "Yeah. Thus the court clothes."
Ronon snorts. "You're dressed like something out of the old stories, the ones my grandmother would tell about the Ancestors."
"I am an Ancestor," John reminds them, as if it isn't painfully obvious, "and an exiled one at that. The others tried me for my perceived heresies and found me guilty. And as such they've sentenced me to thirty thousand, seven hundred and seventeen years of Ascension. I get to be the god they think I want to be until I've learned my lesson."
There's silence on the bridge for a long while. The only sound Rodney can hear is the thrumming of blood in his ears.
"But that's not the kicker," John continues. "The kicker is that they'll let me mess around with my so-called Haeresis, but if I use any of my new-found powers I sacrifice not only myself, but all the homeworlds of those who believe in me."
"But that would mean..." someone - Rodney thinks it might be himself - breathes.
"The deaths of millions."