Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Elizabeth Weir, Aiden Ford, Carson Beckett, Marshall Sumner, sentient!Atlantis
Summary: The Atlantis Expedition never knew Major Shepperd. When they arrive in the Pegasus Galaxy, however, they discover a single Ancient remained behind to protect the city...
Series: part 1 of #1 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
An Ancient!John Story
7 July 2004 - Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
The first thing Rodney does after Atlantis rises from the deep is interface his computer into the city systems and try to figure out what the hell just happened because even Ancient cities don't just do things like that for no reason, even – no – especially when they're so low on power breathing could've breached the shields.
The city tells him straight away but, despite the fact he's been working with Ancient tech for the better part of a year now, it takes him a couple minutes to translate what it's saying into English – not that it helps much because:
the Custodian raised Us
really didn't really make any sense, unless Atlantis is talking about some really bizarre janitorial code. So he asks the city, via a quick line of code they'd discovered at the Antarctic outpost that was essentially the Ancient version of a F1 button, what the custodian was and why it might care if the human occupants of the city lived or died.
it says, which is a weird enough thing for a computer to say, even if it hadn't been followed by the even more bizarre statements:
Go to the Cathedra Bring a Physic
Rodney blinks a couple of times at this and rechecks his translation. Cathedra was the Ancient name for a control chair, like the one they'd found in Antarctica. But why would the city want him to bring a doctor to-?
Tapping his headset violently, "Carson, drop whatever you're doing and meet me in the Chair Room like five minutes ago," Rodney grabs his laptop and starts purposefully towards the nearest door, only to realize that he's no idea where the Chair Room in this place is. Before he could stumble to a halt however, his laptop beeps at him and, upon glaring angrily at it, he discovers that a map had been uploaded onto it. A map which is currently blinking directions to what is, hopefully, the Chair Room or cathedra or whatever the hell the Ancients called it.
"Rodney," Carson sounds annoyed, even over the headsets, "I'm trying to set up an infirmary here. I dinnae have time to be your guinea pig-"
"I don't need your gene right at this moment," he huffs, finding the staircase right where the map on his laptop said it should be and taking the stairs three at a time, "I need your rain-man voodoo."
The Doc goes from indignant to worried in less time than it takes Rodney to open the door to what his laptop is telling him is the proper room. "What happened?"
"I'm not entirely certain," he says faintly, 'cause he's still not sure he's not hallucinating the figure sprawled over the arm of the Control Chair, "but I'm pretty sure I've found a real, live Ancient, only I'm not sure how much longer he's going be 'live' if you don't get up here soon..."
The first thing Iohannes notices is the pain. Every inch of him aches and he can feel all the old injuries – the ones the cathedra had held in stasis while he was plugged into the city – clambering to make their presence known.
The second thing he notices is the noise. Atlantis had never been quiet, not even when she'd been empty, but this was more than just the quiet, sleepy song of a slumbering city; it was voices. People, speaking in a language he doesn't know, who'd come through the astria porta. People who, according to the city, had come in a pons astris from Avalon, but weren't Alteran.
/Descendants,/ Atlantis suggests when she catches this thought running in circles 'round his head, /from Terra./
Iohannes doesn't remember Terra. He knows his great-grandmother, Ilaria, flew the city from that galaxy to this and that his father and everyone else left alive at the end of the war had gone back through the porta while he'd remained behind. He knew, in theory, that his people had seeded humanoid life in Avalon just as they had here and in the home galaxy, but he'd always thought... He'd always thought that the others would return with a way to defeat the Wraith within a few decades; absolutely no longer than a few centuries. But if descendants from Terra had found their way through the porta, then it must have been...
/How long..?/ he asks the city.
/Ten thousand two hundred and three years, nineteen days, seven hours, and twenty-two minutes,/ Atlantis answers, an air of concern in her tones. She worries he will be angry for hiding this from him and it shows as much in the sudden clatter of the air recyclers as it does in her mental tone. She knows how much he wanted to see his people again, how much he'd hoped Melia's plan had worked. /We grieve with you,/ and, for a moment she dims her lights, sharing his pain.
The flickering lights cause the Terrans to quiet, no doubt scared the city will still fail despite the fact he'd lifted her to the surface as soon as he'd realized how much their arrival was draining her remaining power. For some reason this thought amuses him. Atlantis had, after all, withstood three generations of Wraith siege and several thousand years under his own tender ministrations and it's unlikely a few descendants, wherever they might be from, would be her undoing.
He quickly opens his eyes, intending to reassure them. When he finds himself not in the cathedra chamber but rather what appears to be a makeshift infirmary, he looks heavenward instead and says, "Meretrix," because what else could Atlantis be if she's already betrayed him this way to these people?
Atlantis momentarily brightens the lights overhead (which is about as close, he's discovered, as a city can get to sticking her tongue out at him, though she's been known to play with the temperature of showers and small, windowless rooms as well) but makes no effort to refute him. Whatever names he calls her, she knows she will always be his best girl and, sometimes, that really stinks.
Iohannes glares at the ceiling for moment before sighing resignedly and turning towards the probable Terran descendants cluttered around his bed. Of the four of them, three are men: one with the hard, harsh lines he'd seen in eminentia of famous generals from the old wars, from back when his people still fought wars amongst themselves; another wore an expression of deep concern he immediately associated with bad tidings; and the third seemed to quiver with barely contained energy and, even in silence, seemed to being asking who and what and why why why. All three, however, seemed to defer, by varying degrees, to the woman among them – a pretty, dark-haired woman in red who looked torn between amusement and worry.
She says something to him in that strange, guttural language and frowns when he shakes his head.
"Atlantis is still working on the translation matrix," he tells her in Lantean, smirking a little because... well, he's just found out he's spent the last ten thousand years hooked up to the cathedra and he's never going to see the others again unless he Ascends, but even that might not work and it's not like he ever wanted to go that route anyway, and it's either plastering on a fake smile or freaking out so fake smile it is. "It'll take a little while. She's not had to do anything more difficult than power regulation for a while."
The woman nods slowly and says something to one of the men, who begins to babble in a way Iohannes suspects might be incoherent to even those who speak his language, and starts fiddling with a device he's carrying. After a moment he hands it over to the woman, who fiddles with it herself for a moment before reading, "Do you understand me now?" awkwardly from it. Her accent is strange and her wording formal, but it's passable Alteran.
"Yes," he says slowly, giving them time to enter his words into their own translation program. "How do you know Alteran? Did," he swallows uneasily here and feels his smile faltering as he hopes against hope that maybe, just possibly, Atlantis was wrong, or that some of his people have survived on Terra all these years, "did someone teach you, or..."
Iohannes cannot say the or, but the woman seems to understand. "I'm sorry, but this language is known as Latin on our home world and while it is basis for many languages on our planet there have been no native speakers in many thousands of years."
He looks away at that. It's not the loss that hurts: it's the sudden confirmation that he's alone in the universe. He'd always been solitary, even by Lantean standards, but this was something else, worse than the strings of false notes that had pervaded Atlantis' song since the Exodus...
"My name is Elizabeth Weir," she says when he finally looks back, "and I'm the head of this expedition. Might I ask your name?"
/Elizabeta is a Lantean name,/ the city whispered in his mind, so happy to have people within her walls again that she's already forgotten his pain. /They are descendants. We can be alive again./
He feels sucker punched at that, more so than he had when he's learned his people were long dead. After all, wasn't he her pastor? Hadn't he been keeping her alive all this time? It's easier to hide this pain, however. Iohannes knows Atlantis is grateful to him and she, like a small child, is merely caught up in the excitement of a new toy. She wouldn't even understand if he tried to explain why it hurt. So instead he asks, /Is the translation matrix finished?/ his smile never faltering even as the woman – Elizabeth – seems confused by his lack of response.
/Yes. Now that I know they are descendants, it is easy. Their language is about thirty percent Lantean, mixed with one of the native tongues catalogued back when we were on Terra, once several hundred generations of drift are taken into account... Uploading now./
He closes his eyes as he feels the neural nodes in his brain flair with sudden life. Nothing seems to happen for a moment, then there's that click and he suddenly understands the voices all around him. "My name," he tells them, his grin completely real as their eyes widen at his use of their own language, "is Iohannes Ianideus Licinus Pastor." He waits at beat, during which Elizabeta and the others don't even blink, before continuing, "It's a bit pretentious, I know, but that's my father for you. Most everyone just calls- called me Iohannes."
Rodney is the first one to regain his voice after the Ancient starts speaking English. "Iohannes?" he asks, "Isn't that the Latin version of John?" The Ancient, of course, has no idea what he's talking about, but Elizabeth does and that's all he needs before continuing, "And Latin was based off the language of the Ancients. See, I told you: real, live Ancient."
"Yes, Rodney, but-"
"But nothing. The city told me that the 'Custodian' raised it and told me to go to the command chair to find him and, voilà, there he is. Just think of all the things he could tell us about-"
"You do realize," the Ancient – John – says, somewhat amusedly, "that I can understand everything you're saying, right?"
Elizabeth smiles at him. "Yes, though I'm curious as to how."
"Translation matrix. Atlantis figured out your language and piped it into my head so we could talk to each other. It's still a little fiddly, but..." he shrugs as if to say what can you do? then grimaces, looking down, seeming entranced by the bandages covering, well, pretty much all of him. He looks odd, this Ancient, in white hospital scrubs. He looks too normal, too human, and a human in pretty bad shape at that. Well, excellent shape if you consider he's probably been around for a couple thousand years.
"You have three broken ribs," Carson tells him, finally giving in to his need to practice his voodoo and moving closer, poking and prodding at the bandages in a way that certainly couldn't be standard medical procedure, "and a broken leg, as well as a mild case of hypothermia, which isn't at all surprising given how cold it was when we first arrived. And I'm still not certain I've managed to get all of the glass out of your cuts. What happened to you, lad?"
Rolling his eyes, John offered, "I was in the auxiliary control room on the north pier when it was hit," as if that explained everything which, considering the number of windows in this place, it might. "If I'd gone for medical attention, they'd have made me evacuate with everyone else. So I told the city to mask my life signs and high-tailed it to the cathedra to cover their exit. Figured that I wouldn't bleed out before they were able to come back, but... You are a medicus?"
Carson blinks. "I'm a medical doctor, yes, if that's what you're asking. Name's Carson Beckett. I take it then you were a solider, Io- Ionn-"
The Ancient winces. "Iohannes. And, yes, I am- was a soldier, of a sort..."
He can almost feel himself deflate. "A soldier," he hears himself saying forlornly. What they need is a scientist, someone who knows where the ZedPMs are, or how to recharge the ones they have. The last thing they need is another grunt with a gun running around this place unsupervised, even if he was an Ancient grunt.
"A tribunus, actually," John says with a jutted chin, and it would almost remind him of Jeannie at her most stubborn if not for the subtle hint of power behind his words, as if, even confined to a hospital bed, he is a forced to be reckoned with.
Colonel Sumner picks up on it too and his hand flashes to his weapon. John's eyes narrow at the movement, but so do Elizabeth's, and she tells Sumner to back off. Sumner really doesn't like that but before their argument can go very far John's eyes roll up into the back of his head as the city rocks beneath their feet.
When Iohannes comes to again, Atlantis is babbling worriedly in his ear, telling him not to die, that he can't die, that he's hers and she's his and that she needs her pastor, even if their Descendants are running about her halls, because none of them can hear her at all and they almost destroyed one of the buildings near the Old Sea Port trying to interface a fusion reactor with a damaged power conduit and luckily the loud one who seemed disappointed he was a soldier seemed to have a clue what he was doing because he found out what the others had done and stopped them and yelled at them most hilariously for a bit and could he pass along her list of things-that-needed-to-be-fixed because she thinks that that one might be able to help?
He groans at the onslaught. /Calm down,/ he tells the city, but her enthusiasm is contagious and none of the Terrans seem to be watching him at the moment, so he starts unhooking himself from their medical equipment. It's all rather frightfully primitive but they did pick the glass out of all his wounds which was all he really needed to be able to heal himself properly.
He finds his uniform at the foot of the bed and changes into it quickly, glad he has enough energy left over to mend the worst of the damage the attack on the north pier did to it. It's a bit conspicuous but less so than the all-white outfit they'd stuck him in at the infirmary, and he needs to get to the porta in a bad way, because it is engaged and the cataracta was down and he hadn't had a chance to warn them about the Wraith or the Asurans or anything. Granted, they are probably able to take care of themselves but he's been taking care of Atlantis for far too long to check it out.
It's madness around the porta when he steps out of the vectura. There are people in strange uniforms trying to interface their devices into the consoles on the upper level while the lower level is crowded with people and crates of goods. The only one he recognizes from before is Elizabeta and she's having a heated discussion with a young soldier on the stairs and, since most everyone is watching them with interest, no one seems to notice him until he slouches up behind them.
"What did you do?" he asks, using the tone he'd perfected after he'd been transferred to Triarius, where the praetor had not taken kindly to his city's pastor being a member of the Lantean Guard and his displeasure flowed freely down the ranks.
"Nothing, sir. It's just-" the soldier begins automatically before seeming to realize that Iohannes isn't a superior officer or, in fact, anyone he recognizes at all.
Apparently, though, he was wrong about Elizabeta being the only one from earlier in the room because at that moment the blue-eyed one Atlantis likes so much comes rushing over towards them, hands all movement, "This is Iohannes, Lieutenant, our resident Ancient. You can call him John. It's what I do."
"You do?" Iohannes hadn't noticed this but, then again, he'd been unconscious most of the time since he'd been taken from the cathedra.
"Yes," he said dismissively. "It's easier."
Iohannes shrugged at that. It wasn't like he'd ever been that attached to his name to begin with. "It's also easier to do introductions both ways, but, seeing as how everyone seems to be in a hurry, I guess we can skip that part and get to the part where you explain about all the shouting and then I – we – do something about it?" He's better with actions then with people. Or talking. Or having free time to think about the fact that it's not Ganos Lal overseeing porta operations from her office on high, and that it will never be Ganos Lal or Melia or Moros or any other Lantean in that office ever again.
"Well, yes, you're right. I'm Doctor Rodney McKay, you already know Elizabeth, and this is Lieutenant..."
"Ford," Lieutenant Ford offers.
"Lieutenant Ford, yes. Now that we've taken care of that, what's this about Colonel Sumner being gone? I mean, sure, the guy was a complete and total ass, but I've been reliably informed that you don't make it to colonel without having some clue what you're doing, even in the American military, so..."
Iohannes is about to ask a question, about what colonel and lieutenant and American meant, when a young boy separates from the group in front of the porta and announces, "They were taken by the Wraith, Ancestor."
Wraith is a term he understands. Ancestor is another. They appear to be two of the few things that haven't suddenly changed since he plugged himself into the cathedra and, together, fill him with an ice-cold dread.
The first is a curse, a reminder that his people were just as fallible as those whose lives they'd seeded throughout multiple galaxies.
The second, though, was worse. It was a reminder of all the laws he'd rallied against – do not interfere, do not intercede, do not show undo interest, do not intervene, - laws that said, despite the hand his people had played in creating the Wraith, he was not allowed to do anything to stop them from terrorizing their descendants in this galaxy. It probably would have gone on like that forever if the Wraith hadn't started attacking Lantean outposts and by then, of course, it was too late for any effective offence.
Despite their ridiculous lack of foresight, the Council had been right about some things and one of those was that they weren't gods to be worshipped because their technology was superior. These new descendants, however, didn't seem to have gotten the message because they looked about one step away from prostrating themselves before him. It would be so easy to just let them, too. If playing the part of a god is what it took to stop the Wraith, to keep untold thousands from dying...
He swallows hard and walks down the stairs to the boy, who's looking up at him with wide, reverential eyes. The city's mostly dark, running on the barest of minimum power but the inscriptions on the steps still glows to life as he walks down them. When he reaches the boy, he kneels down until they are at eye level and offers the only words he can, words he'd heard Father say on his first trip through the porta: "I am a Lantean, not a god. Our science may be magic to you, but it is only science. I do not want your prayers or your praise, only your friendship. Do you understand?" The boy nodded. Iohannes smiled. Maybe this would work out after all. "Now, what is your name and what can you tell me about the Wraith who visited your world today? Then we shall see what we can do to get your people back."