Magister (2/2)

The Ancient!John 'verse: Magister (2/2)
Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Radek Zelenka, Evan Lorne, Daniel Jackson, Sam Carter, Anne Teldy, Alison Porter
Pairings: John Sheppard/Rodney McKay, Radek Zelenka/Evan Lorne
Summary: History’s like gravity, always pulling people back in.
Series: part 2 of #40 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: So, er, this is kinda a lot of exposition.

1) Anne Teldy. I have IDEAS about her character. They are mostly summed up here. So if any of you are WTF about her AJ background, that's where it all is. 2) Sunrise is an actual SG-1 spin-off novel. Dr. Jacobs is the Wormhole X-treme version of Daniel Jackson. 3) I've Woolsey feelings too, but that's for next time. 4) Like 90% of what Jackson says is real myth. The rest of it is just... AJ. 5) "Razor," the BSG quote used, techinally wouldn't be released for another 2 months, but similiar enough is said throughout the rest of the series I thought I could get away with it. 6) The end feels weak to me, but... 7) And, ugh, formating.

1 September, 2007 Atlantis, Nova Loegria, Pegasus

“I thought I might find you in here.”
Anne glances over the top of her book, less surprised to be found than to have been missed in the first place. As overwhelmingly busy as Atlantis can be, it’s distressingly easy for a cog like herself to get lost in the clockwork. It’s not a complaint – if anything, Anne prefers it this way – but it does make her wonder why anyone, particularly Alison Porter, would seek her out. “Oh, really?”
“You have a habit of being on the outskirts of the action, ready to step up if needed but staying out of the way if not. This is the closest quiet corner to the Control Room I could think of.”
Anne blinks at the younger woman, otherwise managing to keep her shock off her face. The idea that Doctor Porter might be watching her, might have studied her enough to know her habits, stirs up a wild maelstrom of feelings in Anne’s stomach. On one hand, it’s never a good idea to attract attention from the base psychologist. On the other…
As if catching Anne’s concern, Doctor Porter grins at her – a wide, easy smile that brightens her entire face. “Sorry, that wasn’t supposed to be so creepy stalker. I just meant, I wanted to talk to you and I thought this is where you might be.”
“You don’t need to sound so surprised!” she laughs, “I like you, Anne. You’re one of the few who don’t treat me like I’m going to Section 8 anyone who so much as looks at me funny. And you’re… steady, which is a relief after dealing with other peoples’ problems all day. Not that I don’t love my job – I’m thrilled to be here, I am – but Colonel Sheppard is exhausting on the best days, I imagine, let alone right now.”
“Alright,” Anne closes her book, the corners of her lips twitching upward of their own accord. “What did you want to talk about?”
“What are you reading today?”
“You tracked me down to ask about my book?”
“Well, you’re always reading something new every time I see you. It’s impressive. I can hardly remember the last time I had time to crack a book just for fun. There’s always another patient to see, or paperwork, or some research to catch up on…”
“I have trouble imagining you sitting still long enough to read any book all the way through.”
“Well, yes,” Alison admits, a touch of red on her cheeks, “but there are audiobooks now. And, anyway, that doesn’t answer the question of what you, who can actually sit still long enough to read, are currently reading.”
Anne slides the paperback down the length of the table.
It doesn’t quite make it to where Doctor Porter is still standing near the door, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Rounding the table, Alison glances at the badly Photoshopped cover and tucks a strand of dark hair behind her ear before turning to the description on the back. “On the abandoned outpost of Acarsaid Dorch, Doctor Peter Jacobs makes a startling discovery – a discovery that leads Gate Team Alpha to a world on the brink of destruction… This is one of those Wormhole X-treme spin-off books.”
“One of the better ones, thankfully.”
“You’re a fan?”
“Not really, though a lot of folks in the Program are. The show’s a hell of a lot funnier if you’ve spent some time around the actual SG-1. ”
Alison laughs again at that, handing back the book before taking the seat to Anne’s immediate left. “So, if you’re not a fan, why are you reading it? Did you run out of stuff of your own?”
“Miranda sends them to me.”
Even after so many years, Anne still feels a spike of adrenaline whenever someone asks her about her daughter. She can work past it, work around it, but she still fears that one day someone well be able to look into her eyes and see the lie she’s been telling for so long she almost believes it – or would, if the truth wasn’t so terrible. And if anyone could figure out the truth, it would be Doctor Porter, who after two months already knows too much about her if she can find her not quite hiding places and cares enough to want to learn more.
Even so, Anne’s voice is calm and not a little proud as she explains, “Miranda’s the baby of the family. My parents kicked her out six, seven years ago. I’ve been taking care of her ever since.”
“That’s terrible. How old is she now?”
“So a lot younger.”
“Big family,” Anne shrugs, as if it were no big deal, as if she hadn’t come to in the barn to find Ray on top of her, holding her down; as if she hadn’t had to endure her own mother calling her whore and tramp and worthless when she found out Anne was pregnant. “There are four boys and two other girls between us. I had just turned seventeen when she was born.” She takes a deep breath. “But she’s a senior at Vanderbilt now. She’s going to be an elementary school teacher when she graduates.”
Alison’s lips turn up at that for some reason – but maybe the reason is more obvious to someone who isn’t trying not to have a panic attack in front of the goddamn base psychologist – and there’s something wistful in her expression when she says, “But that doesn’t explain why she’s sending you what must amount to crates of Wormhole X-treme spin-off novels when you don’t even like the show.”
That’s a safe topic. “She likes the show. She asked me once about how realistic the military side of things was and I may have gone on long enough to give her the impression that I watch it as well. So now she sends me the books as part of her care packages.”
“That’s adorable.”
“That’s one word for it.”
“Shut up,” Alison says fondly, reaching out to punch Anne’s shoulder lightly. “You don’t have to read them, but you do and don’t hide it, and that makes it adorable. Not like some of these Marines who read Harry Potter by flashlight because they don’t want their buddies to see – not that I’m saying anyone here does that, but you know what I mean. You must really love her.”
“Yeah. I do.”
For a moment, Doctor Porter looks as if she wants to ask more, but doesn’t, if only because they can both hear the Gate activate on the other side of the Conference Room doors.
“That must be Doctor Jackson,” Anne says, hair falling in front of her eyes as she glances at her watch. “Looks like we’re finally getting this over with. You staying for the meeting?”
“Yeah. The higher ups figure that I’ve spent so much time babysitting him that I can tell if the Colonel’s sane just as well as you can.”
“I don’t think it’s a matter of sanity or insanity. I think it’s a matter of whether he’s given up or not – but that’s what we’re here to talk about.”

It takes Daniel several seconds to bink the golden light from his eyes. By then the brilliance has already faded, passing through saffron and marigold into a tender sort of apricot rarely seen in Earth sunrises. He thinks to take a picture, to document the wonder that is this new world Atlantis has settled on, but by the time he drops his duffle bag to the floor, going for the camera the team had given him for his last birthday, the light’s changed again, settling into a crisp, clear dawn.
“Don’t worry,” Sam says, grinning at him from the foot of the stairs despite having been ignored for the last several minutes. “You’ll get at least one other chance while you’re here. The days are ten percent shorter here, and the people doing the calculations are fairly certain we’re heading into summer. There might even be some days left in their guess-the-solstice pool, if you want in.”
Daniel sets down his briefcase and pulls her into a hug. “It’s good to see you, Sam.”
“Good to see you too, Daniel,” she says earnestly, squeezing him tightly for a moment before letting go. “Glad you could spare the time to come visit.”
“I hear you’ve had an interesting couple of months.”
“No more than usual.” Her eyes flickers to his travelling companion.  “Mister Woolsey, I wasn’t aware that you were coming.
“Last minute addition, I’m afraid,” Woolsey tells her with a touch of wry humour. “I was just finishing up at the SGC as Doctor Jackson was preparing to leave for Midway. I thought I might tag along and see how things are going here.”
Daniel shrugs when Sam casts a querying gaze in his direction. “It’s mostly true.”
“We’d better get upstairs then. Everyone’s gathering in the Conference Room.”

“It’s called a lemniscate,” he says, standing in the negative space formed by the curve of the joined conference tables and wishing for something to do with his hands. “It appears throughout recorded history, most notably on Earth as the mathematical symbol for potential infinity, but in certain traditions it also represents the concept of self-reciprocity or cyclicality, most likely owing to its similarity to what the Greeks called ouroboros. The ouroboros, known to the Norse as Jörmungandr, in Sanskrit as Shrivatsa, and Kajura by the Lardil of northern Australia, is, like the phoenix, a symbol of the eternal return – basically, the idea that the universe recurs and will continue to recur in a self-similar manner for all of time. Or, to quote pop culture, that all this has happened before, and it will happen again, and again, and again.”
Lorne raises an eyebrow and leans back in his chair, looking remarkably alien in his black Guardsmen’s uniform. “That’s all very nice, Doctor, “but that doesn’t explain how it ended up branded on Icarus’ arm, or why.”
Daniel frowns. “I’m getting there.”
“Can you get there a little faster?”
“Let him talk, ‘Helianus,” Sheppard says, managing to sound oddly parental despite – or, perhaps, because of – the way he doesn’t look up from the spiral bound notebook that’s held his attention since the moment he sat down. “It’s what you asked him here to do.”
“That’s easy for you to say, you’re not even listening.”
Sheppard snorts, glancing up briefly as he turns his notebook to a fresh page. He looks tired. No, not just tired, but worn, as if the effort of sitting in this room is a physical burden to him. For the first time since they met two years ago, Daniel finds himself thinking John looks old. “I forgot this for a reason. I’m not going to temp fate and see what happens when I remember it.”
“I don’t think that’s how it words, Sir,” Major Teldy offers from the opposite side of the Conference table, paying only nominally more attention to the proceedings than Sheppard has been.
“I’m not taking any chances. I’d like to get out of isolation for something other than Terran bureaucracy at work before all of my hair goes grey.” He gestures vaguely at Daniel. “Continue.”
Trying not to roll his eyes, he does: “The ouroboros first appears on Earth in Ancient Egypt as a symbol of Atem, the god of creation. Curiously, he is one of the few deities the Tok’ra have no record of any goa’uld impersonating, despite his popularity in Predynastic Egypt.
“Atem was the first god, having created himself before giving rise to the god Shu and goddess Tefnut. His tears were said to have given shape to the first human beings. In addition to being the primary demiurgical figure in Egyptian tradition, Atem was also called the finisher of the world as it was believed he would one day undo his work and sink back into the sea, thereby bringing about armageddon.
“From Ancient Egypt, the ouroboros appears again in Judaic tradition as the snake that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden before heading north to Scandinavia. There it takes on the shape of Jörmungandr, the World Serpent, who will hold up the Earth until Ragnarök, when he will rise from the ocean to poison the sky. He will be defeated by Thor, who will then walk nine paces before falling dead from the serpent’s poison.”
This time it’s Sam who taps her pen pointedly on the table, signalling him to hurry up before Lorne can interrupt again.
“What’s interesting, though,” he continues hurriedly, “is the World Serpent myth appears in almost identical form over thirty thousand years earlier on the Asgard homeworld of Othala. A few minor details are different – for instance, the serpent is called Miðgarðsormr in the Othalan version – but other than that the myths are incredibly similar.”
“Wouldn’t they be, though?” Sam asks somewhat apologetically, although what apology there is appears directed rather more at Lorne than Daniel himself. “The Asgard pretended to be the Ancient Norse gods for centuries. Surely some of their myths got mixed in with ours.”
Daniel nods. “In almost every other situation, you’d be right. But the earliest surviving record of the human version of the myth predates the Asgard presence on Earth, presuming their computer core wasn’t sanitized for our consumption, by almost five hundred years.”
“So they arose independently?”
“Yes. In fact, almost identical versions of both myths exist throughout our corner of the universe, all of them predating each culture’s interaction with any other civilization.”
Doctor Porter leans forward, quiet until now in her chair beside Major Teldy. “I’m sorry,” she says, half-raising her hand in a oddly youthful manner, “but isn’t this sort of thing incredibly unusual?”
“Then why has no one noticed it before? I mean, if this symbol is appearing throughout the universe alongside a common creation myth, shouldn’t someone have noticed it before now?”
“You’d normally be right, if not for two things. First: archaeologists tend to specialize, so even if they come across the same symbol once or twice, they might not realize its significance unless they’re looking for it, like I was. Second: I don’t think it was there for us to notice until two months ago.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean: the symbols haven’t always been there. When Sam asked me to look for uses of the lemniscate throughout history, I went back through my notes looking for any mention I might have made of it. The only instance I could remember was from my studies of Atem as part of the Heliopolitan creation myth, but when I went back I found dozens of entries. The most recent was in my notes from Ortus Mallum on Celestis just this past May. There’s almost an entire section devoted to I’ve found it again and what it might mean for the same symbol to appear in every part of the universe we’ve ever explored. And I have no memory of writing it.”
Sam’s the first to realize what this must mean. “Somebody rewrote history.”
Everyone’s eyes flicker towards Sheppard.
Sheppard, if he notices at all, continues to ignore them, head bobbing slightly to music only he – and perhaps Lorne – can hear.
“That was my conclusion,” Daniel finds himself saying at length. “John said he spent his energy fixing everything,” he adds quietly. “When he Descended, that is. He couldn’t just watch; he wanted to fix what he could as well."
Doctor Porter mutters something that sounds a lot like, “Hot damn.”
“It’s like the butterfly effect,” Lorne muses, as if amused by it all. “Icarus tries to stop the bombs from dropping on the first Loegria and suddenly this symbol starts appearing in recorded history.”
“We can only guess, but I imagine so. It’s like when that team in Egypt dug up the ZPM we used to send Colonel Everett here two years ago – we were going to change the time line, only to discover an alternate version of ourselves already had.”
“But that doesn’t explain the brand.”
“A reminder, perhaps?” Daniel shrugs. “Or maybe a talisman? Or it could be the next clue, a sign that if we follow the historical threads long enough we’ll find whatever the next piece of this puzzle his Ascended self left for us is.”
Without warning, the doors to the room open, every single panel spinning outwards to allow Rodney to storm into the room in high dudgeon. They whirl closed behind him, shutting with a louder snick than Daniel would have believed possible. Almost in afterthought, the centre-most panel darts reopens just wide enough for Doctor Zelenka to enter carrying a small pyramidal device before bounding shut once more.
In the moment this last takes, Rodney stomps across the room. He stops directly across from Sheppard, who no more notices this action than he’s had anything else all morning, and slaps a sheet of thick parchment on top of his notebook.
“You,” Rodney declares, “are the most exhausting, insufferable, emotionally-repressed idiot in the history of idiots everywhere.”
Sheppard lifts his head, grinning lazily when he realizes who it is. “Hey Rodney. Where’s the fire?”
“You should know, considering you set it.”
“Ah,” he says delicately, capping his pen and closing his notebook, crumpling the parchment he leaves inside. “I take it you found another puzzle piece then?”
Utterly scandalized, “You knew?”
“I suspected. What is it?”
“It’s lots of things. But the one I think that we’re meant to follow is the GPS coordinates for your dad’s grave on Earth.”

I am amused how laid back John is in the face of Rodney's ire. Though at the same time I am sort of bothered (worried) by his disconnect toward what's going on around him. I am also amused by Daniel's long spiel and how basically everyone is trying to hurry him along :P They know him so well. I do find it fascinating that the symbol cropped up independently among separated cultures, and of course John rewrote history. Oh, John *fond*
John's disconnect will be addressed soon. Remember, for all he's gotten better, there are still some underlying issues to be addressed that, perhaps, can't be addressed without Rodney's involvement.

Daniel is the king of long spiels. He was actually being diplomatic. Read the wikipedia article about how he created the world and you'll see why.

John rewrote history - but just a little! He changed some things, but overall his effort added up to a hill of beans. Loegria was still burned. The Nox still died. et cetera et cetera. But his efforts made a little change. And that lone made some galaxy-wide changes.