Rating: R. Most definately R.
Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney, Evan Lorne, Aurora, OMC
Warnings: part two of #28 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1); "The Return, Part 1," thru SG1 s10e9 "Company of Thieves" for safety).
Summary: The crew of Tria is on Atlantis. So are John and Evan. No one's very happy about the situation.
Notes: I am so sorry this took forever, but this is the first full story I've written since getting out of SEPS, so it took me a while to get back into the swing of things. Plus, this one was a b*tch to write, and most of it didn't exist until yesterday, when I had a major break in the writer's block. (Thanks to rhia_starsong, who unintentionally gave me what I needed to make this work.)
Look here if you're curious about why they call Lorne 'Argathelianus', here or here if you're curious about the Icarus thing, and here if you're still trying to sort out who all the non-Iohannes Ancients are.
BTW, this part actually takes place on 4 December, 2006, about 5 days before pars una. Sorry about that.
An Ancient!John Story
4 December, 2006 / 31 Days After The Second Exodus -- Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
Evan takes to spending his time aboard 'Aurora' following what Sheppard has taken to calling The Second Exodus. Technically he's been granted commission in the Lantean Guard as a 'navarchus' - the rough equivalent of an O-5 or O-6, - which keeps him amongst the highest ranking officers on Atlantis, but Captain Helia, the city's new military commander, seems to have little use for him.
No, it's better by far just to stay with Rory, teaching himself how to operate all of her secondary systems and letting her practice her 'elocution' by reading aloud to him from Ancient books she finds in 'Lantis' database. Sure, she can sometimes get petulant and insist he read to her instead - to which Evan has finally relented, though he feels somewhat more ridiculous than usual when he reads aloud to an empty room. And, yes, she's a bit of a brat when it comes to certain things - she insists, like the rest of the Ancients, on calling him Argathelianus for one, and she also derives a certain pleasure from randomly giving him minor electric shocks. But it's a lot better than having to deal with the Ancients, who give arrogance a whole new meaning.
Don't get Evan wrong: he loves Atlantis and Colonel Sheppard is the best commanding officer he's ever had, even if he's made the somewhat unusual lateral move into adoptive fatherhood. But the other Ancients... They're 'alien' in a way the Colonel never was. They're cold and callous and even a little bit cruel, so wrapped up in their technological and evolutionary superiority that other species barely ding on their radar as sentient at all. It becomes more and more obvious the more time he spends around them that this people - the Terrans, the Tau'ri, whatever one wants to call them - have never been anything more than science experiments to them-
-and he has absolutely no idea why Sheppard ever treated them any differently. Long before he ever Ascended, he was a god among men. Had the Colonel wanted, he could have reached out his hand and taken control of Pegasus long before Ladon Radim came to him with the idea of the Confederation. Yet he hadn't and even now he's little more than a figurehead, serving to unite people with nothing in common but their worship of the Ancestors and their fear of the Wraith. Despite his newly realized divinity, Sheppard expends a tremendous amount of effort to appear human. And Evan has 'absolutely no idea why'.
Just as he has no idea why the Colonel fought so hard to keep him here.
Just as he has no idea why the Colonel didn't fight harder to keep Doctor McKay on Atlantis.
Just as he has no idea why the Colonel let Captain Helia name herself 'praetor', or allow her to go about as if 'she' and not Colonel Sheppard is in charge of Atlantis.
All Evan knows for sure is that life on Atlantis following The Second Exodus is confusing and emotionally draining. Which is why he spends as much time aboard 'Aurora' as he can get away with, which is surprisingly a lot.
Which is also why, when everything finally comes to a head, it finds him on 'Aurora's' Bridge, bare feet dangling over one of the arms of the Captain's Chair, reading aloud from Robert A. Heinlein's 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress."
"'...like a machine with proper negative feedback,'" he reads. "'A good line marriage is immortal; expect mine to outlast me at least a thousand years - and is why shan't mind dying when time comes; best part of me will go on living.'"
He pauses to turn the page and is surprised when Rory, who'd been listening with rapt attention to the story, suddenly makes a sharp, high-pitched noise that almost has Evan falling out of his chair. "What the hell, Rory?"
/Some-one just came a-board./
"The Colonel?" it isn't unusual for Sheppard to stop by, but usually he comes later in the day, not to mention that Rory usually sounds far more pleased about it.
/No, not 'Pa-ter'. Some-one else. They had to use an over-ride code to en-ter./
One of the Ancients then. "Do you know who?"
There is a pause. /'Ma-ter' says he is To-mas Nor-ens Nau-ta./
"And which one is that again?"
Rory spares the time to give him a long, exasperated sigh in the middle of her freak-out. /He's the bor-ing one./
"Yeah, that doesn't help me much, 'delicia'," Evan snorts, the Ancient word falling easily from his tongue after so many weeks of being forced to use the language if he needs to speak with most of the city's new population.
/He's the 'real-ly' bor-ing one. The one who marr-ied 'Pa-ter's' old 'a-ma-tor', Nic-ol-a-a de Lu-er-a Pas-tor, af-ter they broke up be-cause 'Pa-ter' did-n't want to have a ba-by./ She seems to bite her metaphorical lip as Evan's eyes widen at this new piece of information. /We don't think we were sup-pos-ed to tell you that part./
"I'll keep that in mind," he says delicately, closing the book and looking for what he did with his shoes. He has the vague idea that he might not have bothered putting them on at all this morning, having not planned to leave the ship at all today, but Evan hopes he's just remembered wrong. He doesn't fancy the idea of dealing with Sheppard's ex's widower barefoot, especially if the guy is who he thinks he is. He has his sidearm, at least - a proper Beretta, not the useless stunners the Ancients use; - that makes him feel at least mildly prepared to deal with the situation.
/'Pa-ter' does-n't like talking a-bout Be-fore./
"I've noticed that."
Evan pauses his search, as fruitless as it likely is, and glances at the overhead. "I dunno. That's something you'll have to ask him."
/We 'have',/ she wails, her tantrum turning from fear to frustration. /We have asked 'Ma-ter' and 'Pa-ter' and you, but no one will tell us 'any-thing'. E-ver. We don't know why the Ter-rans left and we don't know why our sis-ter was left be-hind and no one will tell us any-thing. We know peo-ple al-ways leave, but no one will tell us 'why'."
"It's complicated," he sighs.
/We are not a child any-more, Ar-gat-hel-i-an-us! We think we would be a-ble to un-der-stand, if only ev-er-y-one would let us./
Evan resists the urge to bang his head against the bulkhead, if only because Rory would probably take that the wrong way. And because Tomas Norens Nauta is bound to show up any second. Giving up on his search for shoes, he suggests, "How about I try to explain it later? After we deal with whatever Tomas wants."
The ship twitters in agreement for one happy instant before the worry returns, her song dancing about like a violinist trying to find the right key. /What do you think he wants?/
"Probably to tell us how much he doesn't like Colonel Sheppard again."
/That's sil-ly,/ she tells him, as if the very idea is riddiculous. /'Pa-ter' is the kind-est, best man in the whole wide un-i-verse. On-ly bad peo-ple don't like him and 'Pa-ter' would nev-er let bad peo-ple near 'Ma-ter'./
Five years old, Evan decides. He's pseudo-married to a sentient spaceship with all the maturity of a five-year-old, who may or may not also be considered his adopted sister in certain jurisdictions. "When did my life get so weird?" he wonders aloud.
/You're not weird, Ar-gat-hel-i-an-us,/ Rory assures him, still using her 'you're being silly' voice.
A smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. "Whatever you say, 'delicia.'
Which is, of course, when company arrives.
"I will never understand," Tomas says derisively, walking through the open doorway without further greeting, as if 'he' owns the place, "why 'pastores' feel the need to speak aloud to their charges. I have been made to understand that it is possible to converse with the 'intelligentiae artificiales' mentally. Certainly it would be much less disruptive for all involved if you conversed that way?"
Evan gives him a tight smile. It seems like he's remembered the right Ancient after all. "I think we do it because it seems less like schizophrenia this way."
Tomas' voice drips with disdain. "Personally, I believe that anyone who goes to the extreme of technologically augmenting themselves for the sole purpose of communicating with an 'intelligentia artificialis' is mentally unbalanced to begin with." His eyes sweep the room, searching it for faults, and finally land upon Evan's bare feet.
Evan stiffens and reminds himself that he's got to spend the rest of his life with these people. It's better to be polite now than start a fight now that will only make things worse with Tomas and the others. Still, "Wasn't your wife a 'pastor'?" he asks, more than a hint of snideness to his tone.
"Icarus pressured her into it, I am sure."
"Naturally," he snorts, having not heard anything quite so ludicrous in his life. This Nicolaa person, whoever she was, had to have loved Atlantis to become a 'custodia' in the first place and probably had a good idea what she was getting into before she had the surgery to become a 'pastor'. The idea that anybody could be talked into it is absurd. Almost as absurd as the idea of Sheppard ever dating anyone who might be talked into anything. "Was there something you needed?"
"Did Icarus not tell you?" the Ancient says, walking into the center of the Bridge and running a hand along the top of the Captain's Chair. Tomas is not 'custodia' and so cannot hear the loud noise of protest Rory makes at this, but Evan can, as he can the even louder, indignant squawk she makes when he takes a seat there.
"Helia," Tomas continues, "has decided that are resources are too limited to allow one of our last 'pastores' to place his life at risk captaining a 'linter'." You are to be reassigned to the city's defense cadre, where your particular... skill set... will be of greater use to the community in the advent of an attack by the Wraith. You will be allowed to retain your rank but-"
-but by this point Evan's long stopped listening. Rory is screaming in protest, her words unintelligible through the roar of blood in his ears and the volume of her own frantic song, but he can guess their meaning easily enough.
He can guess the meaning of all of this easily enough. Helia can't get rid of him, but she can shuffle him out of the way. Somehow his lazing about 'Aurora' hasn't marginalized him enough - or maybe she just wants him somewhere where she can keep a better eye on him, trying to keep ahead of whatever conspiracies she thinks he and Sheppard are weaving to oust her from her stolen throne.
"Icarus," Evan says carefully, mindful to call the Colonel by a name Tomas would acknowledge, "has been 'pastor Atlantis' for thousands of years. Surely he's the best candidate for the job, especially since he doesn't need to eat or sleep anymore."
Tomas' nose wrinkles, as if he's left three-day-old roadkill under the Captain's Chair. "Your precious father is an Abomination. I do not know which is the bigger crime: that Icarus was made 'pastor' as young as he was, or that Ianus was never punished for preforming the surgery. Either way, it has allowed Atlantis' 'intelligentia artificialis' to have undo influence over him all his life. The fact that he remained while the rest of the survivors sought refuge on Terra is proof enough of this. Undoubtably it will cause complications again in the future."
His jaw's clenched so tightly it's a miracle that his words, "My people would call what he did brave," is intelligible at all.
"Yes, well, that is one of the many reasons why your species is not yet evolved enough to take a proper place amongst the stars. It is thinking like that and people like him that destroys civilizations."
"If you ask me," Evan says, his fists clutched as tightly as his jaw at his sides, "the only people 'destroying civilizations' are you and your Captain. You've been here a full month and done absolutely 'nothing' to fight the Wraith that 'your' kind unleashed on this galaxy in the first place."
"Just because we chose not to share our plans with you, Argathelianus, does not mean that we have not made them. Your reassignment is but the first step towards this goal," Tomas informs him, seemingly unbothered by Evan's obvious displeasure. Or anything at all. He's as still as a statue as he sits in the Captain's Chair - or would be, if there was anything about him worth sculpting. It's almost impossible to take him seriously, if only because it's almost impossible to pay him any real attention at all under normal circumstances.
But these are not normal circumstances.
"And who does Helia intend to replace me?" he asks, his voice calm despite himself, despite the truly epic outburst Rory is carrying on in Evan's head. He's surprised it's not brought the Colonel running yet - unless he's busy battling other intrigues elsewhere, in which case both they and their plans, such as they are, for the Expedition's eventual return are in serious trouble.
Tomas raises a single eyebrow. "Myself, of course."
Rory doesn't like this. Rory doesn't like this at all. She immediately makes her displeasure known, increasing the intensity of the overhead lighting and messing with the air filters so that they sound like Marley's ghost in a drama school production of 'A Christmas Carol', complete with the howls of the damned - though those might be more slasher movie than holiday special.
/No,/ she sobs over and over again until her words start to blur together into one long, desperate plea for Evan not to leave her. /Ar-gat-hel-i-an-us, you can-not leave us! You are our 'mar-i-tus'. We need you. 'Ma-ter' al-read-y has 'Pa-ter'. You are ours, not hers. Ours, ours, ours!/
Evan's going to have burst eardrums by the end of this, but he doesn't care. Instead, ignoring the light show going on around them, he contends, "I don't think Rory's going to go for that."
"That," Tomas asserts, "is irrelevant." He looks around the Bridge (at the too bright lights, at the sparks flying from the consoles forced to deal with too strong a power surge, at the copy of 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress' on the deck by the Captain's Chair; at Evan's own bare feet) with disfavour, as if it's Evan's 'unseemly Terran influences' that are causing Rory to act this way and not her own loathing of some unknown Ancient (someone who claims to have piloted her sister-ship, Tria, but not spoken out when they abandoned her in the void between galaxies; someone who hates her makeshift family for reasons that, to her, must seem absurd) trying to make her give up something she doesn't want to lose. "'Aurora' is a 'linter'. It will do as we command."
"She's a sentient being!"
"It is a tool. A tool to be used like any other."
His Beretta is in his hand before he even makes the conscious decision to draw it. "Get off this ship."
"Stop being such a child," Tomas rebukes.
Rory, obviously thinking this comment is directed towards her, sends another surge of electricity to the already over-bright lights. The effect is like a small bomb going off and has Evan instinctively bringing his hands up to cover his eyes, the clatter of his gun falling to the deck unheard over the shattering of glass and hissing of fire suppressant systems activating.
When he finally lowers his hands, half the consoles on the Bridge are on fire. The rest are shattered and broken, their displays flickering in and out in time with the damaged wiring. His eyes sweep across the room, taking in the damage, and falter when they reach the centre of the Captain's Chair.
Evan knew that Rory was capable of sending electric shocks through her circuits, but he had no idea she was capable of sending the kind of voltage needed to do 'that' to a person. If Tomas - or, rather, what's left of him - can still be called a person:
His skin is black and charred with eschar. His hair has been burned clear away. Parts of his clothes are still smouldering, seemingly unaffected by the chemical suppressants. In the places where his bare skin touched the Chair, the burns extend all the way to the bone.
The smell is horrendous.
/You are our 'nav-arch-us',/ she announces happily as Evan's busy emptying his stomach of everything he's ever eaten. /We will have no oth-er./
The Colonel shows up half-an-hour later, after most the fires have gone out and the smell's dissipated enough for Evan's stomach to start to settle provided he keeps not looking at the corpse in the Captain's Chair.
"I never thought I'd hear myself say this," he says lightly, surveying the damage, "but I think this qualifies as overkill, 'delicia'."
Rory bristles defensively. /He was go-ing to take Ar-gat-hel-i-an-us a-way from us./
"I know, 'delicia'. I know. Just," Sheppard sighs tiredly, "maybe try to tone it down a little next time?"
"You could've hurt Lorne too."
/We would 'nev-er' hurt him./
"Not intentionally, maybe, but it still could've happened. That's why you've got to be careful."
Contrite, /Yes 'Pa-ter',/ she promises.
"That's all I ask." Then, turning his attention towards Evan, "You 'are' okay, right, Major?"
Evan nods. It's all he trusts himself to do at the moment. (He may be an Air Force officer, but he's still 'human'. There are some things nobody can see without being affected - that's his story and he's sticking to it.)
Sheppard crouches down beside him, looking genuinely concerned. (He knew that the Colonel would take this whole adoptive parenthood thing way too seriously.) "Y'sure, Evan? 'Cause you're looking kinda pale."
"I'll be alright," he manages. (Evan's not sure how. His stomach is still insisting that it will find something to empty itself of if he gets any fancy ideas about moving to fast or breathing too deeply.)
"That's what I like to hear. Y'think you'll be able to pilot her - after I clean this mess up, of course - 'cause this? This is 'not' going to make Danelia happy and she's got a tendency to act rashly when she's unhappy. No, you're going to have to disappear for a while..."
"New Athos?" he suggests.
"I was thinking more along the lines of Terra," the Colonel says with a wicked grin. "I'll be a little ahead of schedule, but I think Rodney'll enjoy the surprise."