Characters: Ancient!John Sheppard, Rodney McKay, Elizabeth Weir, Teyla Emmagen, Aiden Ford, Carson Beckett
Summary: Atlantis has seen many wars, but none have asked for a price such as this.
Series: part 1 of #7 in the Ancient!John 'verse. [End of Season One] Part of Locality.
Notes: Oh, where to begin? First, heros is the singular of the English words hero and demigod - make of that for this installment what you will. This is, also, possibly the 10th version of this to exist, but the only one to make it more than 1000 words - and it was almost entirely written in the last 24 hours. What else? Obviously, a lot of this isn't exactly canon, but it's my own idea of how certain things happened... and this is also the end (mostly) of S1. But do not fear, I will return shortly with S2, as I'm feeling 80% recovered from my surgery and have all week off work...
An Ancient!John Story
12 July, 2005 - Atlantis, Lantea, Pegasus
"Well, we knew they were coming. At least now we know when."
"That's something," John agrees, nodding vaguely as he pokes about on the laptop they've set up for him. Under any other circumstances it would be hilarious how a being from such an advanced species could barely peck out a sentence on something as simple as a laptop computer but right now it kind of says everything about their current situation. Even John's usual complaint of this thing barely counts as a computer had failed to bring a smile to Rodney's face.
As it is, Rodney knows he sounds vaguely shrill when he repeats, "That's something!"
"It means there's still time, Rodney," John sighs, sounding very tired, as if he's sat through a hundred of these meetings before. Which, thinking about it, he probably has, given what they know of his position in the Ancients' military before the others Ascended or left for Earth. "There's no reason to panic. Yet."
"Where there is time, there is hope," Teyla adds sagely and Rodney has to fight the urge to roll his eyes at her. Right now they need aphorisms like they need, well, the Wraith. He knows the Athosian means well, he honestly does, there's just something about her that makes Rodney want to tear the hair from his head every time he talks to her. At least she's given up on her Ancestor-worship since she started beating John up with sticks, which is some sort of progress he supposes.
"Agreed," Elizabeth says. "Recommendations?"
"Other than panic?"
"Other than panic, yes."
"I realize this might not be cool," Ford suggests cautiously, "but we should consider M7G-677."
"As a possible evacuation site?"
"No, ma'am. I'm suggesting we take their ZPM."
Elizabeth looks aghast and only grows more so when she turns to John, who looks vaguely contemplative. So, slightly shrill herself, she asks, "You want us to take the only means of protection from a planet populated mostly by children?"
"He raises a valid point," Rodney interrupts before her voice can go any higher and they discover if Lantea has any native species of aquatic dogs. "We've already established that their ZedPM is nearly depleted but it could be of some limited use to us."
"You asked for suggestions."
"It is a matter of survival," John says grim-faced, looking in the Lieutenant's general direction but clearly not seeing him. He blinks, then more soberly turns towards Rodney. "But you've said it yourself; their potentia is nearly depleted. If I remember the numbers correctly you said it would hardly run the shields for an hour, less so when we're actually under barrage. Besides, 'Lantis tells me that there are only forty-seven fuci in the tubes-"
John gestures at Rodney who will apparently forever be known as his personal Ancient-to-Terran translation device. So he answers, "He means the drones, like the ones we found at the Antarctic Outpost."
"How much damage will forty-seven do?"
"If we're lucky? They'll take out one or two hive ships."
"I like the sound of that," Ford all but whistles. Hell, even Carson, who looks like they're five minutes from the second coming, perks up at that.
"The darts will most likely try to intercept any drones we can launch before they can hit the hive ships, though," John explains, waving off their concern with the air of one who's fought this battle more times than he cares to count, "and each hive carries hundreds of darts. To take down even a small force of two or three hives we'll need thousands of fuci."
Elizabeth's, "And those are a bit harder to steal," comes out a little harsher than she probably intended but she appears to hate the ideal of stealing even more than she hates the idea of losing Atlantis, which is a moral quandary none of the rest of them – save Teyla – seem to be overly concerned with. Thank God.
"Exactly," John agrees, trying valiantly for amicability. "But Atlantis tells me that the machinery to build them is still intact. It's an automated system and, provided we can find a po- a ZPM with most of its charge, we can make a couple hundred of them in no time at all and still have power left over to raise the shields, giving us a chance to actually defeat our enemy."
It's a good plan. Rodney likes it – except for one fatal flaw which he cannot help but point out. "That still leaves us with the whole find a charged ZedPM problem though."
"But we already know someone with a fully charged ZPM."
"The Sudarian Quindosim."
There's silence in the conference room as the others take a moment to translate John-speak into normal English. Rodney uses it to stare at John like he's an idiot, like he might well be. "You mean Allina and her group?" he says at last, when the beat has gone on for so long he thinks the others must be lost. "She wouldn't give us their ZedPM last time we were on Dagan because she didn't think we were her gods. Somehow, I don't think us showing up again with guns is going to help us any, especially when she said they were going to hide their ZedPM on another world."
"They worship 'The Ancestors,'" John says, wrinkling his nose in a way that other people save for the idea of a fair and balanced discussion of Hitler's Final Solution at the dinner table, "and I'm an 'Ancestor.' So we've just got to convince them that I'm one of their gods and then all our problems should be solved."
"I hate to break it to you, lad," Carson says after a moment, "but you're the least god-like person I've ever had the privilege of meeting."
The Ancient in question's, "Thanks," appears genuinely warm and heartfelt, if problematic.
"Well. I see." Elizabeth interrupts, "It's an interesting idea, Major, but I don't think we're quite there yet."
"As much as I hate dabbling this close to haeresis it's not exactly like we have much of a choice, Elizabeta."
The others look at him for a translation but John's never exactly bothered explaining what haeresis is to him and the database holds no answers on the subject either, so Rodney just shrugs.
John continues on like they know exactly what he's talking about. "It's not like they're using it either. It's just some religious icon to them. And it's not exactly like we'd be lying to them, is it? They worship the 'Ancestors' and I'm one of them. By their own testament they're keeping it safe for whenever my race chooses to retur, and, since I'm the only one left, I think I've a pretty strong claim to it."
"I don't like playing on people's religious beliefs to get what we want."
"And I don't like playing god either but we do what we've got to do. 'Cause Atlantis is going to be destroyed and you right along with it unless you can think of a better plan and if you think I spent the last ten thousand years in the cathedra to see that happen, you're sorely mistaken, Elizabeta."
Elizabeth's mouth goes thin, the way it does when she's trying not to yell and the tension in the room ratchets up another couple of notches. Before she can say anything though, Teyla interrupts –
"I agree, Doctor Weir. If this is to be our end it is best we face it with dignitary and honour."
- which seems to placate Elizabeth somewhat. And, though Rodney's fairly certain he's the only one that can hear John's muttered, "Screw dignity," from the seat next to him, he decides to interject with his own idea before John can say something he'll truly regret.
The thing is though, normally John and Elizabeth get along fairly well, but ever since the issue with the nanovirius and John's blatant disregard of Elizabeth's orders, Doctor Weir has been getting anxious. Oh, everyone knows that John's desire for command of the Expedition is just about nil but no one can deny that Atlantis is John's and, if he so wished, he could take it from them with barely a thought. It's not a real threat but it's there just enough to put Elizabeth – a woman always painfully aware of just how tenuous her position is – on edge.
Add in this god talk and, well, they were at loggerheads.
"Let's hear it."
Rodney swallows nervously, "Well, it's really a long shot but I think it's, uh, most likely worth the effort. Of course, it would mostly be my effort-"
"Rodney," John says, drawing his name out in a way only he's ever managed, so it has more syllables than it ought.
"I think we can send a message back to Earth through the Stargate."
Everyone but John looks at him aghast, almost as aghast as they'd been when John was suggesting he play god. John just gets that contemplative look again, the one where it's rather painfully clear that he's running through equations and if-then statements in his head that haven't quite been invented on Earth yet to get whatever answer he's arriving at.
The others continue to gawk at him, asking not quite so stupid questions about where they're going to get the power.
"No to send a person, no," he tells them. "We'd never be able to maintain the wormhole long enough. But I think if we were able to tie together all of our power-generating capabilities, we might – and I emphasize might – be able to establish a wormhole long enough to send a message."
"High compression data-burst," John muses aloud, stealing his thunder and proving, as he rarely chooses to do, that he is a member of a highly-evolved race after all. "But they'd need a way to decode it on the other side or else it'd be fairly useless."
Rodney resists the urge to stick his tongue out at him. That would help no one, even if it would make him feel powers of ten better. "I helped the US Air Force refine their data encoding a few years back. Besides, Colonel Carter at the SGC's familiar enough with my work that she should be able to figure it out. Eventually."
John's expression shifts to the one he gets whenever Rodney mentions Sam. "You're just suggesting this now?"
"There is an eighty-three percent chance that it would overload our naquadah generators in the process."
"We can't take that risk, Rodney. Not even to warn Terra. No power, we don't have any sort of chance. At least with these fission reactors of yours we have some chance of defending ourselves."
"There are three Wraith hive ships on the way, Major. Desperate times call for desperate measures."
"Yes, and what do we do when they arrive and we have no way of stopping them?"
"Oh, and what do you propose we do now? Stand on the balconies and shoot at them with our P90s until we run out of ammo?"
It's Elizabeth's turn to interrupt before it turns into an all-out shouting match, green-lighting the project before they have a chance to say anything unforgivable to each other.
As he's heading out the door though, he hears John sidling up to Elizabeth and saying, "You do realize that if your Stargate Command was able to send help, they would have by now." They all know that. It's the truth none of them dare admit, but-
"I know," she says. "But we have a responsibility to report what we've learned here."
He can hear the scoffing in John's voice when he asks, "Even if it's the last thing you do?"
"Especially if it's the last thing we do," Elizabeth replies and if either of them says anything more, well, Rodney's too far away after that to hear anything more.
Rodney doesn't know how she does it, but Elizabeth manages to convince John to send a message back to Earth. He's not there for the taping but Ford brings all the videos to him for editing and compressing so he sees it anyway.
This is what he says:
"I, um, I'm not entirely sure what to say here but Doctor Weir thinks it's important that I send some record back to Terra, because the knowledge of my people should not be forgotten. I'm probably the last person you'd want doing this, if that's the case, but I'm the only one that remains, so...
"My name is Iohannes Ianidedus Licinus Pastor and, before the Exodus, I was a tribunus in the Lantean Guard. Rather than leave Atlantis I hooked myself up to the control chair and ended up being held in stasis for the last ten thousand years. After Colonel Sumner's death, Elizabeta put me in charge of the military contingent of your Expedition... The Terrans call me John Sheppard and have made me a major in your air force, since I was primarily a pilot, but feel free to do with that as you will. I understand what it's like to have outsiders thrust into your military...
"Doctor McKay is, er, including all our mission reports in this transmission, so you can learn all about the Wraith that way but, um, there is a saying amongst my people that's awfully similar to one you have on Terra: those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it, and, well, I hear that the Asgard think you might one day be The Fifth Race of our old Alliance so maybe its best that I pass along some of our highlights, so you don't make the same mistakes as we did..."
John looks away from the screen for a long moment at this and Rodney has to cut out about a minute of silence before he continues, "Er, about seventy million years ago, in a galaxy clear on the other side of the universe, the Alteran people – the people you call Ancients – were at about the same level of scientific advancement you are now. Most of our population lived on our homeworld, Loegria, but a significant percentage of our people lived on colonies in the same system or else in nearby systems.
"We didn't have FTLs back then and certainly didn't have Stargates, so we didn't learn of the war that was brewing on Loegria until after it happened. From what we were able to piece together, the two main factions on the planet annihilated each other with their stockpile of nuclear weapons, leaving behind very few survivors... We probably shouldn't have been as surprised as we were. The factions had been fighting over land and water and interpretations of their holy book since the idea of war first arose. Looking back I'm rather surprised we managed to survive as a species long enough to achieve spaceflight...
"Anyway, those that survived were a very space-going people. There were a few colonies but mostly we built ever more complex ships to live in, until we eventually created urbes-naves like Atlantis, though she didn't come until right before the Schisma. During the next five million years we developed FTL, dabbled in genetic resequencing and some of us had even begun to Ascend... But you see, we were so much more advanced than any other race we came across that, for the most part, they regarded us as gods no matter how much we tried to convince them otherwise.
"We considered this haeresis for, though we'd stopped being religious about the same time as Loegria was destroyed, we still held to the belief that we were men, not gods and should not be regarded as such. However, as the Alteran people grew more advanced both genetically and scientifically, the harder it became to convince other races – and even ourselves – that that was true. Particularly when Ascension seemed so much like the mysticism of old...
"Eventually those who believed as we did were in the minority and the haeretici waged war against us...
"We lost, of course," John says indifferently, as if it were no surprise. Which, knowing the non-interference ideals of the Ancients they were familiar with practised, isn't that much of a surprise, "but during the fighting several of our urbes-naves, including Atlantis, were able to escape. We fled to a different galaxy and, using our newly developed Stargate system, ran as far as we could.
"After a few thousand years we arrived at Avalon – your Milky Way – and decided we had run far enough. Using our knowledge, we seeded life in our image there and sent out ships to populate other nearby galaxies... Eventually we met the Asgard, Nox, and Furlings and formed a great Alliance that we thought could withstand any danger.
"But then, about twelve thousand years ago, a great plague came to our people. We thought that the haeretici had finally found us and sent it to destroy us, because we felt that even our allies were not so advanced as to harm us that way. But we could not be sure so the five urbes-naves that remained fled to Pegasus.
"We soon found, though, that Pegasus was not as peaceful as we had hoped. Our descendants here had discovered our Stargate system and several worshipped the creators of that system as gods, much as we had been worshipped in our home galaxy. Those of us that remained after the plague decided that rather than run to a different galaxy or try to convince our descendants that we were not gods, which seemed futile, we would speed up our efforts at Ascension... One of those experiments led to the Wraith."
John is silent for a long moment here and hasn't been looking at the camera for ages. But, when he resumes with, "We chose not to fight, at first," he looks directly at the camera, as if he can see his viewers, "but the Wraith eventually turned on us as well and we had no choice. Nebrius and Tarquinus were destroyed in the early days of the fighting and Elorus fell not long after I was born. Triarius..." John swallows here. "Triarius was shot down not long before the Exodus, after which only Atlantis remained.
"Eventually we were too few to fight and those that remained chose to go back to Terra to live out the remainder of their days, my father among them..."
There is nothing for a long time; so long in fact that Rodney thinks Ford just forgot to turn off the tape. But after several minutes John speaks up again, still looking directly at the camera. "I don't know exactly why I'm telling you this. I've tried to keep it from the Expedition for the last few months... But I suppose there's no point in hiding it any longer.
"Maybe the moral of the story is not to mess about with genetic resequencing or not to nuke your homeworld. Maybe it's to not ever let yourself be thought of as gods. I dunno. But somebody should know, in case..."
The film cuts out there.
21 July, 2005
All of this, though, means nothing until Grodin's died on the Lagrange point satellite and Rodney's back in the Control Room, watching the two hive ships on the monitor start to creep closer and closer.
"If they get here in two hours or two days," Elizabeth says, looking pale, "it doesn't change the fact that we're out of options. We can't hope to fight them, so unless either of you have any more ideas..."
There's silence for a moment amid the flurry of activity and then John speaks up:
He looks genuinely like he's about to be sick, as if watching another evacuation of Atlantis is going to be enough to push him over the edge to the point where he's going to lose all of what little will he has to continue living. Atlantis might be able to exist without her pastores but a large part of Rodney thinks John won't be able to manage without Atlantis.
Oh, John might love him, but Atlantis is something else altogether. (He'd once jokingly called the city John's wife and himself his mistress and John hadn't bothered trying to convince him otherwise.) She's too firmly entrenched in his mind. That might just be the case with all pastores, but he somehow doubts it. Janus' words to him from months before echo in his own mind: Ten thousand years in a cathedra, in constant communication with an urbs-navis with more sensors and scanners and systems most of our descendants can't dare imagine might one day exist? Even if Licinus doesn't consciously realise it, he's bound to remember every moment of it, in excruciating detail."
No, John isn't a normal pastor and Atlantis has taken advantage of it. She's taken over his mind, he can see it now in the way, despite himself, he opens his mouth and forces out the words, "I've an idea."
Elizabeth looks relieved, almost smiling when she says, "Let's hear it."
"I could Ascend."
The others stare at him like they don't know what to make of his words.
Rodney just tries to get his mouth working and can't. This has to be Atlantis' idea because there's just no way John could ever come up with an idea like that, even if he is crazy and self-destructive and suicidal. It's-
Actually, it's a perfect John-idea now that he thinks of it. It puts all of the burden and all of the risk on him, leaving the rest of them free to escape unscathed should they choose to do so.
"I'm not that far from it, actually," he continues surprisingly. "I just never wanted to. But if I do that, I should have the power to stop the Wraith attack. It won't stop others from trying again but it'll buy you some time to find a charged ZPM."
Rodney thinks he's going to be sick.
Elizabeth looks like she might join him. "But aren't there rules about...? When Doctor Jackson interfered when he was Ascended, the others..." The others punished him and you rather got the impression that returning him to corporal form was about the least-punishing of things they could have done to him.
"Yeah, there are rules. The others will probably punish me. If I'm lucky they'll just chain me to Lantea, rather like they did with Chaya... If I'm not," he shrugs, trying (and somehow succeeding) for nonchalance, "well, at least Atlantis will be safe. And that's all that matters."
"You can't," Rodney hears himself saying faintly and John's eyes latch onto him. They look like they want to say so much, much like they had during the storm when John had grabbed hold of him like he never, ever wanted to let go, only more so.
They've only been together two months, give or take. But he'll be damned if he's going to give it up just so John can get himself Ascended. Screw Atlantis he wants to say, but can't because, well, it's Atlantis. If it was anything – anyone – else, Rodney thinks he could but he can't ask John not to try. To do so would be to deny everything about the man he's fallen (dare he think it?) in love with and he can't do that. Not to John.
That doesn't mean he has to like it though and he's about to say so when John steps closer, looking like he knows exactly what's going through Rodney's mind, and kisses him right there in the Control Room in front of the others.
It's a perfect kiss, as if John's going for something he's going to be able to look back at for the rest of eternity and think in this moment, I was happy, and when he pulls back Rodney can already feel him growing more insubstantial, a bright white light pouring from his body...