Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Radek Zelenka, Evan Lorne
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Radek Zelenka/Evan Lorne
Summary: History’s like gravity, always pulling people back in.
Series: part 1 of #40 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This was supposed to be a one-shot. Then it grew long. And I decided, why not post?
1) They recovered six lintres in the Palamede: Mnemosyne, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Hermione, Lethe and Menoetius. The first is a Tethys-class linter, like the one Iohannes used to pilot. Lethe is a corvette, which we don't see in the show, but I figure there has to be something between Rory and the jumpers in size. 2) 2 weeks have passed. Iohannes is not miraculously better, but he is much better than when we last saw him. Recovery takes a long time. 3) About half-a-dozen drabbles are referenced in this fic. 4) This really grew into something more than I'd planned, but I hope you enjoy. 4) Oh, and the translation later is Die in a fire. 5) The title of this arc means "Teacher."
1 September, 2007 – Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus
"Icarus, can I ask you a question?"
"I'd say you've more than earned that right," Iohannes says lightly, leaning across the tray table that separates them to capture one of 'Helianus' knights, "wouldn't you?"
This earns him a bright flash of boyish smile, the weight of the last few months falling away from his shoulders. "There is that." His smile falls as he contemplates his next move. "If there hadn't been the Wraith – if there hadn't been the war – what would you have wanted to do?"
"Other than a Guardsman, you mean?"
"Fly. You have no idea what it's like, growing up unable to see the sky. I was ten before I saw it. It was the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I was supposed to be painting targets for the drones and I couldn't keep my eyes off the viewscreen.
He doesn't ask what a ten-year-old boy was doing directing artillery strikes, though Iohannes can tell there's a part of him that wants to. Instead, finally moving his last remaining bishop, 'Helianus reminds him, "But you can't fly all the time."
"Yes, I can. We could just take 'Lantis into orbit and wander the stars, like my ancestors used to. Travel from one end of the universe to the other, just exploring. Seventy million years and there's still so much we haven't seen." He knocks the bishop off its square with an under-promoted pawn. "Check."
"So," 'Helianus says, scowling at his rather pitiful position on the board, "you'd want to be an explorer then? More Captain Archer than Captain Kirk?"
Iohannes leans back against his raised hospital bed. "Don't let Rodney hear you talking that way. He'll make all of us sit down and work our way through the series chronologically and, as much as I love the Stark Treks, I'm still trying to catch up on Wormhole X-treme." Still, he considers the question, never haven given much thought to what he would do, since it had seemed likely the war would never end. "Maths," he says at great length. "I think I would have wanted to do something with maths."
"Research or teaching?"
"A little of both, probably. My people had a bit of a hard-on for knowledge. Most of our most honoured figures were teachers at some point or another."
"I wasn't aware you cared about what your people thought about you, Icarus," his adopted son says, kindly leaving off the obvious addition – that there's no one left of his species to care either way.
He shrugs. It's not about how he's remembered – Iohannes knows exactly how he'll be recorded in history and honoured teacher won't make it into his obituary, not even if he drops everything from this point on and devotes the rest of his life to the cause. It's about all the things that only he remembers – all the things that will be lost when he finally dies – and his recent brushes with mortality have driven home that fact in a way that nothing had before.
"Still," 'Helianus continues, tipping his king over in capitulation, "I think you'd be good at it. You're good with people. You care about them, not the result. Plus," he adds wryly, sliding off the end of the hospital bed, "you wrote all those textbooks, so you must have some idea how to go about it."
Iohannes pushes the tray table to the side and grabs his boots, lacing them tightly before going anywhere near the cold hospital tiles. "I might if I remembered writing them."
'Helianus claps his shoulder reassuringly. "It'll come back to you." Then, pulling him into a one-armed sort of hug, drags him toward the exit. "C'mon. I figure they've got to be ready for us by now."
Rodney can't remember the last time he was this tired.
It's his own fault. There are, surprisingly, no life-or-death crises for him to contend with:
The addition of the Ancient ships recovered from the Palamede has bolstered their fleet to ten, ranging in size from the diminutive Lethe (which, at seven hundred feet, is only slightly smaller than the Daedalus) to the Tethys-class colossus that is Mnemosyne (who, at twice the size of either Vindicta or Victoria, requires a separate hangar all her own). Damage from the orbiting debris of other wrecked vessels means that it will be some time before their new additions are ready for battle, but the size of their Argosy and the limits of their training facilities mean it will be even longer before they have crews.
They have time.
Although nominally at war with both the Wraith and the Replicators, neither has made incursions into Confederation space in over a year – barring June's retaliatory strike, of course. The Wraith seem mostly content to cull from the undeclared sections of the galaxy for the moment and the Replicators content to attack them in those areas of space. For the moment at least, it does the galaxy more good for them to build up their strength than take the battle to their foes.
They have time.
Atlantis is in good repair. The greenhouses are churning out more than enough rice, pulses, and root vegetables to feed the city's year-round population. They can get meat, sugar, and fresh fruit from off-world trade, and the botanists promise they'll have a solution to the coffee problem any day now. They have their work and they have all the books, music, and movies they could ever want thanks to 'Lantis' habit of hacking into the SGC's servers and downloading anything that catches her eye during dial-ins.
Carson has enough medical supplies to keep him happy for half-a-decade yet. Doctor Ahavah's pregnancy is going well, despite her rather severe case of morning sickness. Three Émigré couples in the last two weeks have announced their engagements and everyone (according to Radek) says that Doctor Watson plans to ask one of the Athosian women to marry him as soon as he gets a clear answer from Teyla about just what that involves on Athos.
They have time.
It should be the start of their Golden Age.
It would be, except for John.
He doesn't blame John for needing help, he really doesn't, but Rodney can't help being a little angry about the fact that John needed help and hadn't said anything. He just stopped taking his medication and fell further and further into the hole he had dug for himself until he could no longer tell past from present. If Miko didn't have the gene and at least a novice's idea of how to pilot an Ancient spaceship…
Rodney's nerves can't take it anymore. He loves John, but he can't be around him right now. Not until the urge to scream, or punch his fist into the wall, or just find his way into the bottom of a bottle lets up, anyway.
So he's stayed away while the medical staff does their thing. There's plenty for him to do on Mnemosyne, even if none of it's urgent. (And if he can't sleep, well, who would have guessed it could take so long to relearn how to sleep alone?)
It also has the added bonus of being off the beaten track, well away from most of the other areas they've opened up to habitation. Which is probably why he almost jumps out of his skin when a voice from behind him says, "As far as hiding places go, this one is fairly obvious."
"Still took you two weeks to find me," Rodney counters, turning away from the panel he'd been in the middle of rewiring to direct his darkest look at the interloper.
Radek seems distinctly unimpressed by his glare, if not mildly bored. "It took me two hours to find you. It waited the rest to see if you would come out on your own."
"You say that like I've been holed up in here the whole time. I saw you in the Control Room just last night."
"After which you came straight back here, I'm sure." He crouches down, putting himself at eye level with the door controls Rodney's been working on hotwiring for the better part of an hour now, to his disgust. "What have you been working on?"
Rodney frowns at his tablet and inserts a second Ancient-adaptor into the crystal tray underneath the usual door controls before answering. "Doesn't it strike you as odd we've not found any bodies?"
"Bodies. Corpses. The vacuum-preserved remains of the Nebrian fleet's Ancient crew."
"It seemed strange," Radek admits, craning his neck trying to read code over his shoulder. "I assumed that they are in parts of the ships we have been unable to reach or had been blown out into space during an earlier impact."
"On some of the larger ones, alright, yes, maybe, but it's been two weeks. If we were going to find someone, we'd have found them already."
"Maybe not. We've been working on repairing the damages to Terpsichore's hull first. You appear to be the only one who's done any serious exploring of the interiors."
Rodney makes a face. "Yes, well, aren't we all glad that I did, because look what I found in the databanks." He tabs through a few screens before finding the one he wants and passing the tablet over. Radek takes it, careful not to jostle any of the wires running out of it. "You'd miss it on a quick pass-through, but anyone who spent thirty-seconds actually looking at the logs would see that three-hundred seventy-nine stasis pods aboard Mnemosyne were activated in early 8273 BCE, or what amounts to it in the Ancient calendar, before everything but the cryonics system was shut down. Read a little bit further on, however, and you see," he taps the screen on the relevant entry, "that all three-hundred seventy-nine pods were deactivated one at a time over a course of eleven hours some five thousand years later."
"Someone woke them up?"
"That's what I thought at first. Then I ran a diagnostic on one of the stasis pods. The crew wasn't woken up. Someone terminated the life support and made sure everyone was good and dead before tossing the bodies out the airlock. It's the same story with the rest of them. Someone wanted these crews gone before we got here."
"Not the Wraith. The Wraith would have taken the crews alive."
"Your guess is as good as mine, for once. It's not like there an awful lot of races in Pegasus with spaceflight capabilities."
"Replicators would have taken the ships," Radek muses. "There were the Vanir, but they wouldn't have cared about the crew and probably still would have taken the ships."
"And the Wraith, as you said, would've taken the crew alive, before stripping the ships bare for tech," Rodney finishes quickly. "So either we've discovered yet another super-powerful enemy that likes playing with Ancient corpses for reasons that I don't even want to begin to contemplate, or else one of the Ancients woke up, went psychotic, murdered the others, and dumped their bodies before spacing himself. Personally I'm hoping for psychopathic killer, if only because Carson refuses to write me a prescription for Valium."
"What does any of that have to do with this door?"
"Tethys-class warships have Control Chairs. Mnemosyne," he says, excitement creeping back into his voice, "is Tethys-class warship and through there, if I'm reading the schematics at all correctly, should be the Chair Room. With any luck, I'll be able to use it to access the logs of background systems to put together some sort of picture of what happened back in 3117 BCE, whether it was Wraith or psycho killers or something else entirely."
Radek sighs in his most put-upon manner and tabs the tablet back to the command-line interface. "I will help you with this only because I am now curious. Then we will go to Doctor Jackson's meeting."
"I am fully capable of getting this door open by myself, thank you very much, so you can just leave and-"
"Ne. This meeting is about the Colonel. I have let you hide under rock for last two weeks, but now is time to come out and start acting like mature adult, even if is only act."
Rodney pulls out his harshest glare again on the off chance it will work better the second time around. "I don't like you happy. Your snark factor just goes through the roof when you're happy. Why can't you go back to being abrasive and miserable like the rest of us?"
Radek doesn't bother to respond. He just corrects a handful of errors in his code – proving, perhaps, that Rodney really should get some sleep sometime in the next twenty-one-and-a-half hours – and executes the program.
The doors slide open with a hiss of stale atmosphere.
The bastard actually laughs at him.
"No, really," Rodney protests, hastily collecting his gear, "you were scared of me once. What happened to that?"
"Uhořet," Radek says idly, shoving the rest of the gear into his hands before strolling into Mnemosyne's Chair Room. He stops almost immediately, faltering on his last step before swearing viciously under his breath.
Following the other man into the room, he asks, "What?"
"I think we may have found the Colonel's next puzzle piece."
Rodney walks around him slowly, the overheads brightening in instinctual recognition of a pastor – one with the proper nanoids in his bloodstream at last, despite his lingering mistrust of things he can't remove in his brain. The room is smaller than he'd expected, claustrophobic even, and at some point the panelling had been given over to rust and corrosion, but other than that it appears remarkably like Atlantis' Chair Room.
A holographic projector rests squarely on the dais in front of the Control Chair. In front of it, atop a sheet of thick parchment, is a black USB drive whose marking – a raised infinity symbol – is not clearly visible until he picks it up to investigate the writing underneath.
The symbol repeats on the paper, embossed in silver below the fold. Written in English on the inside are three words: