Sator (2/2)

Title: Sator (2/2)
Rating: R (for safety)
Characters: Ancient!John/Rodney McKay, Evan Lorne/Radek Zelenka, Sam Carter/Jack O'Neill, Daniel Jackson
Warnings: #36 in the Ancient!John 'Verse (see part 1); everything thru "Reunion," and considers everything thru The Ark of Truth in SG-1 to have happened (i.e., everything but Continuum, which I consider to be post-SGA S4).
Summary: You made all things by your word, and by your wisdom fashioned humankind.
Notes: Er.... I think I officially went crazy on this one. You'll see.

1) Radek's Czech is "You don't get paid at all."
2) M-Theory, Big Bang, AJ 'verse Timeline, all of which might be helpful. Though I imagine it's a little unclear, for all I've tried to clear things up here. Feel free to ask me any WTF's you may have on reading this.


An Ancient!John Story

{?} – The Higher Planes

"Y'know," he says casually, fingers flexing at his sides for the gun he's not wearing, "that's the second death threat I've gotten today. This keeps up, I'm going to start taking these things personally."

Athanasia doesn't so much as blink – although, in truth, Iohannes isn't sure he's ever seen her blink. Most of the others don't bother. They've all forgotten – quite eagerly, it would seem – what it's like to be mortal. They keep up the pretence of humanoid bodies out of habit alone. Beyond that, their forms mean nothing to them, and if they so much remember the feel of sun or taste of water or the touch of the person they loved, they do not show it.

"You are a danger to every sentient being in the universe," she tells him, her voice neither as calm nor even as it had been ten minutes before. Her face, however, remains as if marble; the dark ringlets that frame it like whorls of onyx. If the Higher Planes had wind, it would not dare to touch her. If she had actual blood in her veins, a sentient being wouldn't either – not even to punch her, as Iohannes more and more finds himself wanting to do, at least until such time as he can acquire a gun and shoot her repeatedly, the gun being rather more to his liking. "Your path, while appearing to offer them salvation, can only lead to their untimely destruction."

"I don't see yours being much better."

"Our way allows for freedom of will."

"Your way gets people killed, you mean."

"Death is just one possibility. A meaningful life, full of observation, experimentation, and spiritual growth, is another."

"Fuck that," Iohannes says, leaning back on his heels. "Suffering is suffering. If you can stop it and don't, you're not worth the air you breathe."


"Yeah, how about you stow whatever high-handed, hypocritical bullshit you're going to try to feed me and listen for once in your goddamn miserable excuses for lives? 'Cause you may be right: I may be a monster. But, let's be real here: you guys are just the other side of the same spectrum. And, once you get to our level, that slider starts to look a lot less like a line and more like a Möbius strip. So if I'm the devil in pretty white robes, so are you."

"Your lies-"

"Sounds to me like you're protesting just a little too much here, Athanasia."


"Yes, me," Iohannes snaps, truly frustrated now.

He has, in no particular order: seen his plans to destroy the Asurans once and for all fail spectacularly, died, betrayed and been betrayed by the only family that has ever mattered to him, been placed on trial, died, declared himself a god, walked across half of creation, and, oh yes, died. Anger, which normally builds in him like a cold furry, seeping into his veins and spreading slowly throughout his limbs before finally taking shape in a terse word or a drawn weapon, burns within him. He is dead, he is dying, and no matter how powerful he's feeling now, he's not going to be strong enough to survive this.

This thought makes him even angrier. Hasn't he given enough? Hasn't he lost enough? Yes, he's made his share of mistakes – more than his share, really – but does he really have to pay for them with his life? Doesn't he get a chance to redeem himself? Doesn't he at least deserve a chance to go down on his knees and beg forgiveness from those he hurt so thoughtlessly?

Ten thousand years. It sounds so long, but even such a life is all too short. He'd spent so much of it waist-deep in blood and death and suffering, intimately familiar with the horrors of war. All Iohannes wants is a chance to do some good for once in his miserable, god-forsaken life. Good that doesn't end with his empire crumbling apart because he fell prey to pride he never knew he had or with the one good thing he ever had in his life looking at him and suddenly seeing a monster.

But that's not going to happen. Not now. So he might as well go out bloody and screaming, taking as many of his enemies with him as possible, true to himself to the very end.

"And I," he continues, feeding off the firestorm inside him, "am sick and tired of your arrogance and your excuses and your inability to comprehend how royally you've screwed over this whole universe. The Wraith, the Haeretici, me – if you follow the trail far enough, it all comes back to you. Somebody should make you pay for what you've done."


"My name is Iohannes," he corrects coolly. Then he stretches out his hands and the world is engulfed in flames.

9 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

"Nice planet you've got here."

Rodney turns to Radek, who's hovering at his elbow like the mother hen he not so secretly is, and says, "I don't get paid enough to put up with this."

"Nemusíte dostat zaplaceno vůbec," he mutters, elbowing him sharply in the gut before stepping forward to greet their guests. "General O'Neill, Colonel Carter, Doctor Jackson, how wonderful to see you again. If you'll come with me, we are set up in Conference Room."

"Colonel Sheppard's come to his senses then?" O'Neill asks, not unkindly. Still, it makes Rodney wince. They've not told the SGC. They've not told most people a lot of things.

Radek, the bastard, doesn't even flinch. "Something like that."

But Rodney can't handle the charade. It's hard enough to trail along behind the group and try not to look like he's still picking up the pieces of his broken life. Having to listen to people talk to John like he's alive and well when he's never coming back is just too much. Dully, he says, "John's dead."

This brings the Terran delegation up short, even as Radek sends a, "Do prdele," heavenward, to which 'Lantis flickers the lights sympathetically despite his not being a pastor or even custodia. Traitor.

"What do you mean," Jackson questions slowly, as if they might just be misunderstanding the situation, "John's dead? He was Ascended. Ascended beings can't die."

"He gave his life to save us."

Rodney doesn't miss the eye roll this earns him. "Ascension," Radek explains, continuing up the Gate Room stairs, "is like highly-controlled, completely efficient nuclear detonation. All available mass is changed into electromagnetic energy, no different than what powers your cell phone or this city. It is obscene amount of energy, but still finite."

Sam spares a moment from the sympathetic look she's giving him to nod thoughtfully. Her husband is politic, glancing around the empty Gate Room in a way probably is far less casual than it looks as he says, "Yeah, I imagine a city this size gets, what? Six? Eight miles to the galleon?"

"The Ancients did not build for fuel economy, is true."

"So John is really dead." This is a statement more than a question and seems to shake Jackson as much as it continues to shake Rodney. "The Ancients are really gone now."

An irritated noise builds in his throat. "He wasn't-" Rodney finds himself saying. "He was more than just his species. John was better than them. He helped us and they punished him for it and-" It destroyed him.


"No, you don't get to Rodney me. I'm tired of being handled like I'm, I'm-" but he loses steam halfway through. "Fine. You know what? You just keep on doing what you're doing. Since you're not going to listen to me or any of extremely rational advice anyway, I'm just going to go back to the lab-"

Radek literally grabs the back of his collar and tugs him in the direction of the Conference Room. "No. You are coming to this meeting and you are staying."

"Out of curiosity," Sam asks, possibly to keep herself from laughing, "who are we meeting with?"

"Evan is imperator now."

"Major Lorne?"

"Well," Daniel muses, "John did adopt him."

"Yeah, but I thought that was all for show."

Evan catches the tail end of this conversation as they take their seats around the conference table, Radek making sure to manoeuvre it so that he's seated between Evan and himself, as if that will somehow ensure his good behaviour. Or, more likely, ensure his compliance with whatever ridiculous terms they agree with to bring the Expedition back. "I've come to the realization that everything Icarus did was for show, until it wasn't."

"How Zen."

"Philosophy major," Evan shrugs.

"I'm sorry," O'Neill says earnestly, taking off his hat and setting it on the table. "So, what will it take to allow our people to come back?"

{?} – The Higher Planes

Time unravels as creation burns around him.

He sees the universe collapse in on itself. He watches stars unravel and species spring, full-grown, from cataclysms before shrinking back to the first tenacious cell. Atoms split apart. Protons dissolve. Leptons flood the shrinking space. The fundamental forces join together, one by one, until supersymmetry is restored and the only thing that can be said to exist in this inconceivably hot, dense, chaotic wasteland is him.

God he may or not be, the darkness is terrifying. The silence is maddening, tick tick ticking slowly backwards, every second dragging out like a lifetime as the moments fly their way back to the moment beyond which there will be no more moments. But worst of all is the solitude. It's crippling in a way ten thousand years alone in Atlantis' own darkness and silence had somehow managed not to prepare him for.

For an interminable eternity, he rages his way into oblivion, striking out with everything he has, trying anything to be free of this torture. But nothing he does has any effect on the darkness. Creation only grows darker and he grows weaker.

He is so alone.

He is so alone, but he can see it all so clearly now – all the things that were, that weren't; that never could be. There's no creator, no purpose, no origin. The universe only exists because it could not stand its own silence. It filled itself with noise and light and laughter and love, love, love, and Iohannes lost everything that mattered because he forgot knowledge is not wisdom, strength is not power, and ability is not right. He set out to save the universe, and has ended up destroying it instead.

He's wasted all his chances, throwing them away one after another for fleeting ideas and momentary snatches of power. But what he wouldn't give for one last chance, one last attempt to make it right.

9 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

Evan leans forward in his chair, putting his elbows on the table. The sleeves of his robe – not one of John's, but in the same black-on-black style, only different in it's simplistic, almost perfunctory silver embroidery – fall back, revealing the cuts and scrapes he's received over the last few days in the repair efforts are taking place across the city. There are a lot of jagged edges and a lot of shattered glass. None of them, not even their new imperator, have been able to escape unscathed.

"The same as before: medicines for IHC and ammunition for our weapons."

"You're not exactly in a position to be making those kinds of demands, Major-"

"Imperator," Evan corrects, surprising the General. The Terrans always seem to forget that Evan's not the by the book solider they seem to think he is. He'd never played by the book – or, at least, not a book that the SGC would recognise. He's just better at pretending he is. "The Air Force stripped me of my rank when they dropped me from the rolls, remember? I was heres while Icarus was alive, legally recognized as his chosen son and heir by the people of the two hundred and twenty-seven planets that make up the Confederation. Now I am imperator."

"Question still stands, though," Jackson says, taking up the thrust of the conversation. "This Confederation is only held together by virtue of the fact that the people of those two hundred and twenty-seven planets thought John was their living god. With him gone, all of that falls apart."

Radek shakes his head. "I will admit that may have been the case once, but in the eight months he was imperator, he managed to build foundations of an empire that could far outlive him. Atlantis has become interplanetary trading hub – an economic and cultural centre, in addition to governmental seat. While planets could easily leave the Confederation now that their impetus to join is gone, the fact remains that there is more incentive to stay than leave."

"And," Evan adds, leaning back in his chair now, "we still have spaceships, as well as an army that can actually go up against the Wraith."

It's Sam's turn to shake her head. "I thought you were the one looking to prevent a war."

"All I'm looking to do is protect my people. I won't come after Earth – but you've got to promise me you won't try to take Atlantis. If you try, if you succeed, you'll doom this galaxy. We have a duty here. If we abandon them, the Wraith will kill them all before moving on to your galaxy and doing to you what they've done to us for the last ten thousand years."

"Earth is your home, Major," the General says, ignoring Evan's earlier injunction. "You were born there, remember?"

To his own surprise, Rodney finds himself interjecting, "But it's not home," before Evan can form a reply. "You're the one's that don't understand. You want to come here and, and mine this city for science and technology and anything it takes to keep you at the top heap now that the Ori and the Asgard and goa'uld are gone. But Atlantis isn't just a city, something you can just strip for parts and abandon, she's our home. She's sentient and alive and her secrets are hers to share, not for you to steal. That's why John spent ten thousand years in the Control Chair. It's why he gave his life to bring her here."

{?} – The Higher Planes

Then something wonderful happens.

Iohannes could not say what, for even with the unconstrained knowledge of the Alteran race at his fingertips, his understanding of the more complex concepts still leaves much to be desired – another way he should have known he is not a god, he reminds himself, tucking the thought away until such a time as enough carbon exists for there to be coals to rake himself over. All he knows is, one second the universe is collapsing in on itself, undoing thirteen point seven nine eight billion years of history as the whole of creation hurtles headlong back to the start, the next the Big Bang is (for lack of a better word) banging.

Gravity breaks away from the other fundamental forces. It is quickly followed by the strong nuclear force, and suddenly things have mass and charge and flavour and colour. Matter, in all its forms, springs into being, and soon there are stars and quasars, galaxies and superclusters – and planets, so many planets.

He watches life arise on Loegria, the first life ever to come into existence anywhere in the universe, and watches it evolve and change through the ages until it gives rise to the Alteran race. They are bumbling fools at first, worse than even the Terrans, but they are young still and the most complex organism the universe has yet to see.

They are the universe experiencing itself for the very first time.

Under Iohannes' watchful eye, his ancestors evolve from hunter-gatherers, learn language, tell stories; invent gods in the wind and the water and the stars above. He looks on as Cambria and Cornubia (the two great nation-states that would come to so define – and destroy – that beautiful blue world) carve themselves out of land that until then borne no name, and he finds himself not quite so lonely anymore.

He is there with all the great thinkers, at their sides as they build upon the knowledge that will one day take them to the stars. He is beside all the great kings, standing with them as they build the empires that will all but destroy their race. He is invoked by every priest, the thousand names of their hundred gods meant for him alone, and is strengthened by the prayers of all the faithful, even as they rape and pillage and burn in his differing names.

He swears he has learned his lesson this time. He swears he won't intervene.

So he watches massacres and wars. So he watches young men be torn apart by dogs. So he watches children shut in the dark and the cold, crying out to their gods to protect them. So he watches the raping and pillaging and the burning done in his name – and it takes all he has, but Iohannes does nothing.

It's not his place, no matter how loudly they cry out for their sweet, merciful god to save them.

It's not.

It's not.

It's not.

9 July, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

No one's particularly pleased when General O'Neill says he wants Colonel Telford to come back as the Head of the new Expedition – not just remain the military commander, but the Head – but Radek kicks him under the table before Rodney can make too much of a protest. For one thing, there are other things that are worth their protesting – the medicine, for one, and the various bits and bobs they'll need to keep the Argosy running now that John's not around to pull raw minerals out of the ground with the force of his mind. For another, Radek kicks hard.

Still, they're distracted by the conversation, so none of them notice the figure that suddenly appears in the doorway until he says, "No," with a firmness that is entirely belayed by the way he staggers forward, clutching at the table for support before slumping into the nearest chair like his legs have turned to jelly. "Anyone but Telford."

"John," Rodney breathes, sure that he's hallucinating.

"Hey Rodney," he says quietly, not quite daring to look at him. "Long time, no see."

This, of course, is the wrong thing to say, because it's been, "Two weeks. You've been gone two weeks and that's all you've got to say?" He doesn't hear the scraping of his chair as he jumps to his feet nor feels Radek's hand on his arm as he tries to hold him back. "I thought you were dead. Again, I might add, because it's a habit with you. I don't know why I continue to be surprised by it, but I am, and it takes ten years off my life each time and all you can say after all that is long time, no see?"

"Sorry," John says, sounding more genuinely sincere than he ever has in his life. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I don't have a lot of time and I wanted you to know that before I-"

"What the hell do you mean you don't have a lot of time? I just got you back. The others will have to wait-"

"The others are gone," he coughs, voice ragged and rough, like a truck full of sandpaper has driven through his throat. "This form's not stable. I spent most of my energy fixing everything. I don't have enough – didn't have enough – to come back. But I wanted to fix it. I couldn't just – I couldn't just watch."

"What do you mean this form's not stable?" Rodney demands at the same time Jackson asks-

"The others are gone?"

- and Radek presses-

"Fix what?"

John coughs again. "I destroyed the Higher Planes. They," he makes a strange, scrunching motion with his hands. One of them – the one he had used to cover his mouth – is slick and red with blood, "collapsed in on themselves. Kick started the universe. But it wasn't right. I had," a longer coughing fit this time, and he can hear Radek on the comm with Carson, telling the idiot to get down here yesterday if they wanted to save John, "to fix some things... Things weren't happening like they were supposed to…"

"You're not making any sense, John." Sam says, because she knows just as well as Rodney does that, if what John is saying is true, he essentially created the universe, because the spontaneous "curling up" of the seven higher dimensions M-theory requires to work is one of the theories for how the Big Bang got started, which is beyond ridiculous, if not outright impossible, for any number of reasons.

"I did what I could. I made sure enough of my people got off Loegria to keep the Alteran race alive... I kept the Haeretici from following the Caravan to Avalon… Made sure there was a fissure in the ice so that the rescue teams wouldn't have to dig to find you in Antarctica… Couldn't stop myself though, no matter how much I wanted to. Nothing I tried worked..."

Rodney kneels down in front of him, taking his blood-slick hands. He's still angry with John for taking his memories – there aren't words to describe how angry he is – but he still loves John. He still can't bear to watch him die again on his watch. "John-" he begins, but John's not having any of it. He always has to have the last word.

This time it's a whispered, "Please understand," that barely precedes a flood of forgotten thoughts flowing haphazardly up his arm.

Instinctively Rodney breaks away, but it's too late: the thoughts are there, piecing themselves piece by undeniable piece until it's all there. Everything that John took from him – every discovery of his betrayal, every acknowledgement of the depth of his fall – is back along with faint, disjointed memories that were never his to begin with.

His head spins. It's more than he can take, even with the new, upgraded Devices in his brain. Images of burning planets and sobbing children and whispers on the wind fill his mind and dissipate as quickly as they came. And when he can finally open his eyes again-

"There's massive internal bleeding," Carson says. "We've got to get him into surgery fast or we're going to lose him." He spares only a second to ask, "How did this happen? I thought he was bloody Ascended?"


My god, you are so good at writing. You certainly know how to get an emotional reaction! I love that despite Rodney's anger, he still doesn't want to watch John die, he still worries for him.
It'll be a bit of a journey for them to get back to what they had, that's true, but John kinda did it all out of love for Rodney so... give it time.

BUT YES. JOHN CREATED THE UNIVERSE. HE IS GOD (in a demiurgical and occasionally intervening sense) AND HE'S COME BACK AND HE'S KINDA MORTAL AGAIN! Not too weird?
Whew! I wonder where you're going with this!

Are you interested in some typos? Don't want to point them out if you aren't.
Re: Sator
You can go ahead and point them out - i don't have a beta and go over everything myself, but sometimes I'm not as through as I should be.

I'm glad you like there. I'm not going much further with this. Most of it is just reveling in the irony that John is, for all intents and purposes, the god everyone's told him he wasn't, but only after he stopped trying to be.