Rising: The Dawn of an Empire I (The Oyster Drabble)

The Ancient!John 'verse: Rising: The Dawn of an Empire I (The Oyster Drabble)
Summary: An excerpt from the definitive history of Atlantis' first five years.
Series: A post series drabble the Ancient!John'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: Because I have now written a drabble about oysters. Mostly because of this.

Rising: The Dawn of an Empire
"... and he divided the fishes into parts..."

The Expedition’s food situation quickly became, if not critical, than at least a critical concern. As the Athosian Jinto Sirelle would note:

We discovered the oysters early on. I remember being at a conference between my father, Lady Teyla, Lady Elizabeth, and Lord Iohannes about three weeks after our arrival in The City of the Ancestors. I remember them saying that while the Earth-folk had brought along supplies, they would not have enough to feed us all until crops could be grown on the mainland. Our village had been destroyed. We had nothing to contribute and little to trade. Even with rationing, it appeared likely that many would starve.
Then Lord Iohannes stood up and asked us to come with him. We borrowed some baskets from Ruiha and took the stairs all the way down to the city’s lowest level. Then we walked down halls that grew more narrow as we passed and smelled more deeply of mould and brackish water. Finally we arrived a doorway.
Despite his great power, Lord Iohannes could not open the door. He and my father both had to take sides to pry the doors apart. When they did, I could see a great, dark room that extended for half a kilometre in any direction. Inside was a great, rough grey mass not unlike the rock formations I had seen on some worlds. I did not know how rocks could feed us as said as much to Lord Iohannes.
Lord Iohannes laughed and tousled my hair – I think sometimes that may have been the first time he voluntarily touched another being since waking in the cathedra. Then he took the KA-BAR from his belt and pried a piece of the rock away from the rest. He then stuck the tip of his blade into the rock and twisted, splitting it in two – it was no rock! It was an oyster! The whole room was a filled with hundreds upon thousands of oysters!
“Can you eat these?” he said and Lady Elizabeth laughed and Lady Teyla said, “These would feed many villages several times over,” and my father said, “We could never repay your generosity, Ancestor.” Lord Iohannes grew quiet at that – he was often quiet in those days; I never saw him smile unless he was with Doctor McKay, not for many months anyway – before saying, “You don’t need to repay me. We’ll all die unless we can get in more supplies. I’m just doing what I can. It’s what any decent person would do.”
We all thanked him and then began the hard work of filling our baskets. It took us almost an hour and, when we’d finished, we’d barely cleared the doorway. Lady Teyla was wrong: those oysters could feed many worlds several times over.

Doctor John Parish, a botanist with the First Expedition who would later become one of its Émigrés, picks up the narrative.

Our botany department was all of three people that first year. There was Brandon Nelson, a mycologist; Zachary Richards, an ecologist; and myself, a morphologist. After the party the second night, Doctor Weir came up to me and said, “We were eighty-eight people with supplies for six months [with rationing]. We now have two hundred guests to feed until they get back on their feet. We need to find a way to extend our food supply.”
Sheppard pointed us in the direction of the city’s greenhouses and McKay loaned us Miko [Doctor Kununsagi], who could both read Ancient and who’d experience with civil engineering in London, and McMurdo and trusted us to solve the problem.
After about three weeks, all we had to show for ourselves were some potato seedlings, potatoes being about the only crop we’d brought with us that could grow in the city’s greenhouses – low ceilings. Even that would have only been enough for about half a baked potato each four months later.
We’d planned to rely on trade for most of our food – which we’d start about six months after we arrived, once we established allies in Pegasus. We had medical supplies that would buy a solar system in Pegasus even today. We’d even brought along some olive seedlings, because empires were built in the boughs of olive trees and we had no idea how long we’d be on our own.
So we’re sitting in the mess hall – it was the only communal area we had at the time, – staring at our tablets, trying to figure out how to turn a hundred potato seedlings into something that could feed a colony tomorrow when Jinto comes running in, staggering under the weight of a basket he’s got balanced on his head. He rushes over to Maile and her sisters, who volunteered to cook for all of us – using a battalion of pots set up over a fire pit they’d built in the middle of the mess hall and fed with ten thousand year old dead plant limbs, I might add.
Teyla, Halling, Doctor Weir, Sheppard – they’d all followed Jinto in with baskets of their own, but none of us noticed. All our attention was on Jinto and the basket he was presenting to Maile. “Look, Cousin!” he announced. “Oysters! Lord Iohannes has given us oysters! Enough to feed our village for a lifetime!”
The whole room cheered. We feasted on oyster stew that night.

As Doctor Parish noted, it would take months to set up agriculture on the mainland. Homesteads would have to be built. Farmland would have to be eked out from forest. More importantly, they would have to trade for seed crops.
While the Athosian presence expedited the cultivation of trade partners, the Expedition was still limited by what they could trade. Few planets would believe in the efficacy of their medicines right away and their weapons – despite Sheppard’s best attempts – were not up for trade.
They were able to supplement their diet with game animals from the mainland and what plant matter that they were able to forage in the planet’s winter season, but for the most part it was, “Oysters!” Doctor Zelenka would later remember.
It would be an MRE for breakfast than oysters, oysters, oysters. Some days you wouldn’t even get the MRE. It would just be oysters, all day, every day. Baked oysters, fried oysters, scalloped oysters. Oyster stew and oyster soup and roast oyster with oyster sauce. Sometimes there would be raw oysters, which were something of a treat due to sheer novelty, but the botanists didn’t like letting us do that too often because the oysters were part of the water filtration system and nobody really knew what had passed through in the last ten thousand years. But mostly it was just oysters, cooked on hot stones at first then in the ovens once we finally got the kitchens working. Four months later we were finally able to get some wheat and some tava beans. I think we all were teary-eyed when that shipment came.
Today few Lanteans eat oysters anymore. They're mostly a trade good sent back to the Milky Way at a net profit of $55,000 a year - Atlantis' sole agricultural export, and the only one not dependent upon Ancient technology. But the former military commander sees to it that the population has oyster stew once a year, less in remembrance of lean times than need to keep the oyster population down. "We usually make sure we do it on his birthday, the bastard," McKay says fondly before inviting the reader to remember that Ancients were culturally vegetarians and that Sheppard himself returned to this practice after his Ascension.

--Excerpt from Lt Col Ángel Perez’s historie of Atlantis Rising: The Dawn of an Empire (Picador, 2025).
I laughed out loud when I read the bit where Rodney confesses they make sure to hold Oyster Stew Day on his birthday, haha. I love this expedition and the funny things they choose to do :P The shipper side of me also really likes that John never really smiled unless he was with Rodney in the beginning. It's so interesting to read things from an outside POV, so this fic was especially interesting to me.
I did have fun writing it. Woke up in the middle of the night just to do so. Outside POV does wonders sometimes.

But of course they would have Oyster Stew Night on John's birthday. It was probably Rodney's idea too. Of course, oyster stew requires cream and butter so I kinda glossed over where all that came from, but...