Characters: Jennifer Keller, David Telford, Anne Teldy, Daniel Jackson, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Ancient!John/Rodney McKay
Warnings: #31 in the Ancient!John 'Verse; "The Return, Parts 1 & 2," thru SG1 s10e9 "Company of Thieves" for safety), SGU s1e01 "Air"; mentions of genocide.
Summary: In which the Second Expedition arrives.
Notes: So this one took time, largely because the scene I so desperately wanted to write just didn't want to happen. I finally realized it would never work, so this is a bit shorter than I'd planned, but hopefully you all like it anyway.
1) I don't know when the IMC has it's Fields Medal presentation, but it was in Madrid in 2006, and I've put it in December, just because. (Also, one of the awards winners didn't accept his prize that year, so this totally works). 2) Ardrey's quote is one of my favourites. 3) I imagine this and this is what the fancier Pegasus clothing would look like. On average. 4) Don't kill me. 5) popkin16 knows what she did.
An Ancient!John Story
4 January, 2007 / 34 Mar. a.f.c. I – Stargate Command, Terra, Avalon
"Doctor? Doctor Keller? Can I speak with you for a second?"
Jennifer turns away from the gurney, upon which she's currently going through her rucksack for the third time in as many hours, trying in vain to assure herself that, yes, she's packed everything she's going to need and, yes, if by some tragic oversight she has managed to forget something, it can easily be sent to her via one of the Daedalus' bimonthly supply runs or through one of the irregularly-scheduled dial-ins. Despite this perfectly sensible and reasonable knowledge, however, her mind keeps circling back to what she's heard of the first year of the Expedition from Doctor Kavanagh about how resources were so scarce that everyday luxuries she took for granted, even in Côte d'Ivoire, became precious commodities, horded for months, or else sold at high price on the not-so-black market. Her medical equipment has been inventoried down to the last roll of gauze by a team of, frankly, terrifying nurses that are somehow hers to command and she trusts their judgment, but her personal effects are different. She doesn't know what she'll miss until she needs it – a book, a picture, a locket she hasn't worn in years. "Er, sure," she says nervously, and follows him out into the hall.
"Thanks. Normally I wouldn't ask something like this, but things have been so tense lately between us and Atlantis that I felt it was best to go through channels the military wouldn't think to watch."
Doctor Jackson shuffles nervously for a second, eyes darting to either side as if to reassure himself that the empty corridor they're standing in is, in fact, still empty, before pulling out a small package about the size and shape of a necklace gift box. "Because of everything that's happened lately, John wasn't able to Gate to Earth for the ceremony. Rodney's sister accepted the award on his behalf – her speech was quite touching, actually – and she sent it to Sam, who was able to get it past security because, well, she's the XO. And, anyway," he says quickly, apparently realizing he's veered rather off topic, "it's John's Fields Medal. I'm pretty sure it will mean nothing to him, but it's his, so he should have it, and the powers that be would never allow something like this to leave the planet given the state of things at the moment, so… I need you to take it to Atlantis in your things."
"I'm sorry, what?" Jennifer asks, blinking.
"John Sheppard, the guy who solved the Riemann Problem that's been all over the news lately, and the Emperor of Pegasus are one in the same."
"But the Emperor is an Ancient – an alien."
"John's an Ancient. His name is actually Iohannes Ianideus Licinus Pastor. Well, Iohannes Ianideus Icarus Imperator now – apparently the Ancients had this habit of adopting new names and identifiers with changes in status or position, so technically while the John is still correct, the Sheppard really isn't any longer. Not that it was ever correct, that's more sort of a direct translation of his rank or title. A better translation would have been John Janusson, but I think the folks involved with transliterating his name were a little literal with the last name thing."
Jennifer has never been much of a magazine reader, but even she been unable to miss the whirlwind of cover stories that have been done about the US Air Force officer who managed to solve the unsolvable problem from his tent in the middle of some incredibly dangerous part of Afghanistan – she can never remember where. Some pundits hold him up as an example of the modern military, full of the educated elite who would give their heart and soul for their nation, trying to turn the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan into some sort of anti-Vietnam by filling it with noble patriots instead of lower-class draftees. Others had used him as an example of the war's waste, sending so many of their best off to somewhere they could only die, or be gravely injured, or come back with mental scaring that would haunt them for life. Both sides had taken his absence from the ceremony in Madrid that was supposed to honor the award winners as further proof of their beliefs, particularly given his RSVP. Video clips of the acceptance speech a family friend – this sister of Rodney's – had given on his behalf have been circling the news cycle for days.
The quotation she'd taken from Robert Ardrey's African Genesis – the part of the speech all the video clips include, - "The miracle of man is not how far he has sunk but how magnificently he has risen. We are known among the stars by our poems, not our corpses," now seems different in the light of the knowledge that the award was being accepted on behalf of an alien. An Ancient. The last Ancient – last because he'd murdered his fellows in cold blood to place a crown upon his head.
"Oh," she says faintly.
Jackson gives her a smile Jennifer cannot quite describe. It's tired and care-worn but, like the anthropologist himself, is far from resigned. She doesn't know his story (she doesn't think she'll ever know all the stories there are to know in a place like this, where secrets are a way of life and everything of importance is better left unsaid), but she's heard enough to know that he has no reason to still believe that there is good in the universe. He should be bitter and broken, but he's so unwaveringly kind that, even in the week or so she's been at the SGC Jennifer's not been able to help but noticing it. It's a smile that's filled with hope but reluctant acknowledgement of the reality of the situation as well.
"Don't believe everything Telford's said about John," he says, "or Rodney, or any of the others who defected, for that matter. They're not bad people. Their intentions are admirable. They just maybe went about things in the wrong way."
"Colonel Telford thinks the Emperor's going to be the next 'big bad'."
Jackson's smile tightens then. "I don't know. John's a genuinely good man, but the fact remains that the others have their rules about godhood and non-interference for a reason. I hope Telford's wrong. I think he is. But I don't think pre-Ascension John would have had it in him to kill the last of his people, to say nothing of all demands he made to let the Expedition back."
"Oh, nothing like you're probably thinking. Some medical supplies that are impossible to get ahold of in Pegasus, some industrial supplies as well – copper wire, transistors, that sort of thing. Nothing terribly dangerous or interesting except for what he might do with them." He looks at his watch. "You should get going. The staging for the first group is scheduled to start in forty-five minutes, which means Telford's probably starting now, so you should probably be going."
She can feel the medal burning a hole in her rucksack pocket. It's burning through her three changes of uniform, her twelve pairs of socks, and the stuffed bear her parents had gotten her when she was seven months old and had long outgrown except for the moments when she hadn't. It's terrible and terrifying and Jennifer has this feeling that, by agreeing to currier this for Doctor Jackson, she's put herself at the beck and call of another faction of Stargate Command's fractional internal politics. Maybe not as overtly as she had with Colonel Telford, but the fact remains that the organizations involved disagree about how to handle The Atlantis Situation and she's stuck in the middle of it, not even knowing half of what she needs to.
"Are you alright?"
"Whoa," Major Teldy says wryly. "No need to be so jumpy. We haven't even started dialing the Gate yet."
"I- I'm sorry. I'm just nervous, I guess."
"Don't be. Gate travel is the safest form of transportation there is. Safer than planes. Probably safer than your own two feet. What you need to worry about isn't the journey, but what's on the other side."
"Well that's reassuring."
The Major snorts. "I'm not paid to be reassuring. The Pegasus galaxy is filled with dangers. Compared to our own, it's the Wild West. There are Wraith and Replicators and ten-thousand-year-old Ancient who may or may not be the salvation of the universe but is more likely it's ruination.
"If you wanted safe, you should have stayed at home and been a small town doctor, gone to work everyday and taken care of babies with diaper rash and old folks with bum knees. You'd die at ripe old age in your bed with a life like that.
"But safe's not for folks like us, is it?
"Like us?" Jennifer repeats, confused to be included in the statement. All she's ever wanted to do is die exactly like that, at a ripe old age in her bed. She wants a husband and kids and a white picket fence and a dog. She wants to be able to go to Dad's every Thanksgiving and Christmas and Fourth of July. She wants to join PTAs and go to soccer practices and piano recitals. She wants to care for kids through colic and watch them grow up and struggle with acne and get married and have kids of their own and get bad backs and bum knees. She wants that sense of family.
But on the other hand, she doesn't. There's a reason she spent three years in Côte d'Ivorie. There's a reason she wasn't content to stay at Sacred Heart or find a better paying job at a different hospital. She doesn't want to help people who already have it all. She wants to help people who need her help, people who would have died slow, painful, forgotten deaths otherwise. That's the kind of medicine she wants to practice.
They're two contrary sides of herself, two sides she's never been able to reconcile. Maybe Atlantis will be able to provide the proper balance between old-fashioned small town doctor and third-world humanitarian. Maybe.
If the politics don't tear her apart.
"We know that nothing worth doing is safe or easy or nine to five. There are people in Pegasus that honestly need help, help we're uniquely qualified to give, and they don't care if we're male or female, Christian or Muslim or Jew, American or African or European, or any of it. All that matters to them is if we do what we say we'll do."
"So you've been to Pegasus before then?"
Teldy shakes her head. "Nah. But I've read all the mission reports. You get a feel for a place, reading those."
"But how can you be so sure?"
A noise like a train pulling into station begins, the clanking of metal and pistons (or something) that comes with the inner ring of the Stargate beginning to dial.
"'Cause it's the only choice I have," she says, clapping a hand on Jennifer's shoulder. Then, beginning to move to the front of the group, she adds, "See you on the other side," before leaving her completely.
4 January, 2007 / 34 Mar. a.f.c. I – Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
She steps out into a beautiful, two-story atrium. A balcony surrounds three sides of the upper level, with a glass-walled office on the right of this. A series of terminals sits just to the left of that, with hallways going off to either side both above and below. Lighted glyphs cover the crownings; more litter the baseboards and stretch across the stairs that make up the focal point of the room – as much as anything besides the open Gate behind her can be a focal point.
But the true highlight of the room is the stained class windows. They are beyond intricate, awash with bright, warm colors and intricate geometric patterns. They bathe the room in buttery light, so warm and inviting after a Colorado winter. And it's all Jennifer can do to turn and stare.
It's only on her third rotation that she notices all the people. Not everyone who's Gated through with her – the Second Expedition is transporting over in three groups, hers containing the senior staff and the better part of the military contingent – but those on the upper level. A good ten or fifteen of them, all dressed in clothing she associates with Jeanne d'Arc and the War of the Roses, but in far more muted colors-
-except for one, who's wearing deep shade of blue with extensive embroidery along the collar and down the full, flared sleeves, which catches in the light as he waves his hands wildly as he talks to two others – a man with glasses in a similar costume, whose clothes are a dim, dusky dolphin purple, and another in a more conservative outfit of dove grey with buttons down the front and heavy bracers on his arms. He seems irritated and over-caffeinated and generally unhappy with the Expedition's presence.
The man in grey smiles before turning to scan the crowd. His eyes alight on Telford – conspicuous in his starched and pressed dress blues amid the sea of black-on-grey Expedition uniforms that crowd the lower level – and his smile dims somewhat. He says something to the other two that appears poorly received before heading down the stairs.
"Colonel Telford," he says casually, easily, as if he's a veteran of a hundred such meetings. "Sheppard wanted me to tell you how sorry is he can't be here in person to meet you, but he's running a bit behind schedule today. I'm-"
"I know you who you are."
"I don't think you do. I am Evan Lorne, though I'll also answer to Davidus Iohanideus Argathelianus Pastor if you're feeling particularly Ancient-y. I am a legatus in the Reformed Lantean Guard and navarchus of the battleship Aurora. Sheppard has seen fit to name me praetor of Atlantis as well, which means you, Colonel, will be reporting to me for the duration of your stay in this galaxy."
Scoffing, "That is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."
"And yet, that's what Sheppard's going with," Lorne informs him with a wide smile and hands on his hips – not all that close to the gun strapped to his thigh, which should be incongruent with the rest of his clothing but appears to be of the same metal as the small silver lozenge on his collar and the buttons down his coat, but close enough to draw quickly if need be.
Is this what aliens are like? Medieval warriors with laser guns on their hips?
But this man isn't an alien. He's not even one of the Émigrés – the fifteen men and eight women from the First Expedition who wanted to return to Atlantis so badly they forsooktheir homeworld to follow a man half the universe thinks is a god and the other the devil in the making. He's the one who fancies himself the devil's son.
"Where is Sheppard?"
"He's in a meeting with the Cacique of Corcyra regarding joining the Confederation. But, as I said, it's running a rather late. But you can take it up with Doctor McKay if you like."
"Yes? What?" the man in blue snaps, turning away from his – quite heated – conversation, which has continued without faltering the entire time. "Can't you tell I'm busy?"
Lorne snorts. "Give it up, Pops. You're not going to win this argument. So why don't you come down here and say hi to the newbies?"
"Not true. I will win eventually, when you realize the depth of the sheer insanity you're subscribing to and start to scramble for the surface," he continues a he heads down the stairs, the man in purple following a few steps behind and, by the looks of things, muttering something dark under his breath. "And meeting them depends entirely on the whether or not there's anyone interesting in the bunch."
"By your definition of interesting? Not very. They got the guy who used to be in charge of the F-302 fighter group at the Alpha Base to be the new military commander, though."
"That's uninspiring. How about the Head of the Expedition? Better yet, who's the new me? None of the manifests the SGC sent ever said."
"That would be me," Doctor Kavanagh says.