Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Steve the Wraith, sentient!Atlantis
Summary: Iohannes and Steve have a lunch date.
Series: part 1 of #4 in the Ancient!John 'verse. Part of Locality.
Notes: This was supposed to be part of my "Underground"/"The Storm"/"The Eye" rewrite, but didn't fit with the rest so, once again, it became it's own story, though this is more ficlet-ish. Real Life has interviened, cutting severely into my writing time, but I am still working on the next in the series, and have ideas for several more beyond. Consider this a drabble set between "Patres et Filii" and "Tribuni," which will be finished, one day.
An Ancient!John Story
17 August, 2004 - Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
"Hello, Major Sheppard," the Wraith says when Iohannes enters the detention wing, seemingly unperturbed by the two weeks he's spent as their prisoner. He's not showing any obvious signs of hunger but that's only a matter of time. The Wraith are the universe's ultimate waiting game. His kind had learned that long before Iohannes had been born. "Come to visit me again? Your kind is persistent. I would have thought you'd have given up by now."
"Me? I've got all the time in the world. Now you, on the other hand... How much longer do you think you'll be able to last? A week? A month? A year? Because it's no trouble at all for me to keep you here. Gives my men a chance to get to know their enemy, to see how pathetic they really are."
"You hide your fear poorly, Major."
Iohannes looks at him through the bars, just looks, pouring every ounce of contempt he has for it and its entire race.
He knows he's successful when the Wraith hisses at him, spinning round in the first show of genuine anger he's had since they first locked him up. "Why do you keep me here?" Steve roars. "Even if I told you what you want to know, it would change nothing. You think you've won a victory by my capture? By bringing me here, you've only hastened your own doom."
"Now, now, Steve. No need to get yourself all worked up. Just tell me what I need to know and then, maybe, we can talk about... alleviating... your hunger."
Steve's reply is haughty but far from certain. It's probable he's young, as far as Wraith tribuni are concerned, born well after the Siege had ended. It's more than likely that the only knowledge he has of those he would feed upon are tales told by other, more senior Wraith and his own limited experience dragging them from the holding cells on their ships. "You would never sacrifice one of your own kind." But few people, however noble they might otherwise be, would willingly sacrifice themselves to save another, even for a moment, from the worst fate that's ever been imagined and Steve can't be sure he's not bluffing. That and the fact he can't tell Iohannes is Alteran is just another point towards this; to any Wraith that had lived through the War, the subtle characteristics that distinguish Alterans from their descendants would have been obvious. Something to do with hormones, or so Forcul had told him once, so many years ago.
Iohannes continues to look at him in response, tapping his earwig and telling Sergeant Bates to go ahead and bring it in. Only when they're gone does he sit down at the table they've placed near the containment cell, making sure Steve has a good view of his lunch tray.
"You think this is some sort of torture, human?" Steve snorts as Iohannes picks up the silverware. "Your food is of no interest to me."
For one brief second he closes his eyes. /Now/, he tells Atlantis and, though she disapproves, he can feel her uploading the new translation matrix into his neural nodes. There's a moment where nothing happens, when he'd be hard pressed even open his eyes, his nervous system's experiencing such shock and then there's that click and it's all he can do not to smile at his prisoner.
"Hunger," he says, taking infinite pleasure in the way Steve's eyes widen at his use of the Wraith language, "is so... distasteful, don't you think?"
"How do you know this tongue?"
"What can I say? Just trying to get to know you better, Steve." Iohannes helps himself to the not-rice, bean mixture that's been making up the vast majority of their meals these days. "You know, bridging the gap between our two cultures. And if it has a secondary purpose of gaining military intelligence and helping us find a way to keep your kind from sucking the life out millions of innocent people? Well, let's not say I'm ideologically opposed to that either.
"You know the drill, Steve. How many of those big hive ships have you got and where are they?"
Steve snarls, "I will tell you nothing."
"Nothing, huh? How about your queen then? What's her name?"
"Is it?" he says lightly. It might've been ten thousand years but the Wraith had hibernated through most of that time, same as him, and some things just didn't change. "You're what? A member of the Alura Confederacy?" A spark of recognition but no dice. "No. You're part of the Rdehi Alliance."
The Wraith roars at this, charging impotently at the walls of his cage. Atlantis rages too, thundering, /The Rdehi destroyed Nebirus and Elorus. They killed our sisters,/ in his mind while the water in ballasts throughout the city suddenly finds itself at a rolling boil.
It's all Iohannes can do to keep up his mask of indifference. Nebirus had been lost long before he was born and he'd never set foot on Elorus but they were urbes-naves all the same. They'd been alive, just as much (if not more so) than their inhabitants. The survivors could (and had, the scarce few hundred of them) evacuate. But the cities had given their lives for their people and nothing of them now remained but memories and rubble.
/I know, carissima,/ he tries to soothe her. /I know./ But this one wasn't around back then. Probably.
/Irrelevant,/ she decides, sending him images of all the possible things that could be done to their prisoner for the crimes of his people. There's no love lost between Iohannes and the Wraith but it's still enough to put him off his lunch, which he pushes to the side before trying a different tactic.
/You're going to scare the Terrans if you keep this up, 'Lantis. You don't want to do that, do you?/ He gets uncomfortable when the Terrans are scared. It's different than he's used to, too loud and brash and brazen, and filled with enough defiance of their circumstances that a puddle jumper could float unassisted in the sea of emotion. Alteran fright was different, couched in soft words and sharp-edged silences, in which a firm voice telling them to stop talking about the problem and DO something about it was as anathema as a serious monograph on the Haeresis, Origin.
/They're funny when they're excited,/ she accedes ruefully, letting the ballast tanks cool. /Loud./
/Very loud,/ he agrees.
/I miss children, pastor./
He can only sigh at this and whisper, /I know, carissima. I know,/ before turning his attention back to Steve, who's finally calming down enough that he might be interested in what Iohannes has to say. The Marine by the door should be happy about that – Private Woodall had started growing twitchy the moment he'd updated his translation matrix and had only grown more and more concerned as the interrogation had progressed.
"You know, it's cute you still think you can escape. That you alone can tear down bars that have held dozens more dangerous than you. That you can dismantle a shield built by those who mastered such things back before your ancestors – anthropoid and humanoid – were anything more than motes in a geneticist's eye. That, even if you could escape, you'd not even make it out of this room before you were shot full of so much lead that it would be easier to smelt you down than burn your corpse after we were done."
"Your words-" Steve begins.
"-are of no consequence, yadda yadda yadda," Iohannes finishes, taking another look at his lunch before deciding, no, it just wasn't worth it. "I've heard it all before. But tell me this, Steve: say you're right. Say that the others of your kind do find us. You think it'll be to rescue you? No, they'll see you here, alive, and they'll think you've betrayed them to stay alive for this long, won't they Steve?
"And even if they aren't completely sure, the Rdehi Alliance is quite large, isn't it Steve? Your queen is just one among many – and probably a junior one at that, if they're making her send her tribuni, even one as junior as you, out on recon missions. Do you think they've even noticed your absence, Steve? After all, times are tight and you are just another... hand... to feed."
The Wraith's attempt at bluster would be less pathetic if it didn't mean he probably knows less than nothing about anything of strategic importance. If it wasn't for the fact all his knowledge on the Wraith was ten thousand years old, Iohannes would have just shot him now and spared himself the trouble. As it is all he gets is a thundered, "Ironfeather would never-" before Steve catches his slip and lets loose another impotent roar.
Iohannes waits a moment, then, "They'll probably just kill you, you know, just to be on the safe side, to send a message to other, more important, potential traitors in their midsts." Another pause, another beat, "Maybe if we're really lucky, the Primary will have Ironfeather killed for allowing one such as you to live for as long as you have."
Steve's a lot more forthcoming after that.