Title: Dei et Viri (2/3)
Words: 3,137 (of 9,671)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Sentient!Atlantis, Radek Zelenka, Elizabeth Weir, Colonel Caldwell, Carson Beckett; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part two of #12 (part 1) in the Ancient!John 'verse; takes place during "Trinity"
Disclaimer: All characters, situations, quotes et al are properties of their respective owners and I am merely using them under Title 17 of the US Code, § 107, aka the Fair Use Doctrine, without intents to infringe upon or defame anyone's legal rights.
Summary: Some things should stay lost. Others are ment to be found.
Notes: A combination of RL, perfectionism, and too few hours in the day conspired to make this installment take as long as it did. That, and The Big Bang Theory. If anyone can think of an actress who could play Elizabeth in Pegasus X-treme, her spot's still open. And, because I got off work at 2:30 this morning, I'm now going to bed. (Glossary is here.)
Dei et Viri
An Ancient!John Story
"It was called Project Arcturus," he repeats when they're in Elizabeta's office, sitting on her couch and decidedly not looking at anyone in the room. He's flipping the last pendant over and over in his fingers with somewhat embarrassing dedication but, for the life of him, Iohannes can't make himself stop. To do so would allow him to see the name inscribed there and that's not something he can dwell on at the moment. "Don't ask me for the details, I don't know them."
"According to what we've been able to translate so far, its ultimate goal was to render ZedPMs obsolete." Despite the way he's hovering next to Iohannes, clearly concerned, Rodney manages to sound excited about this.
Colonel Caldwell asks about the project. He's scheduled to leave the day after tomorrow but he's been fishing for reasons to stick around longer and this information just might do it. (Iohannes doesn't mind, not really, but for all he appreciates the man's skills there's something gruff about the man that puts him on edge. He wants to like Caldwell, rather desperately in fact, yet there's just something off about the man that he can't put his finger on. Perhaps it's that he's Terran and he's expecting Alteran things of the closest thing he has to a superior officer in this galaxy.)
"Well," Rodney tries to explain, "a Zero Point Module is an artificial region of subspace – a miniature universe in a bottle, if you will. It extracts vacuum energy from this region of subspace until it reaches maximum entropy. Our research shows that the Ancients may have had some way of recharging them but for the most part found it easier to simply make new ones. Rather like alkaline batteries, actually."
Zelenka takes up the thread from there, "Project Arcturus' goal was to extract vacuum energy from our own space-time, making it potentially as powerful as the scope of the universe itself."
"It strikes me as something the Ancients would have tried first, even before ZPMs."
"We did," Iohannes says, prying his eyes away from the pendant. He's staring a hole in the floor now but it's better than staring at the name emblazoned on the silver disk and all it represents, though he'd thought he'd long since come to terms with Forcul's death, "Potentiae were easier."
"Yes, well, extracting zero point energy from our own universe is definitely trickier."
"And by trickier he means it's hard to find a way to do it without making the universe uninhabitable. Hey," he adds, mildly affronted when they all turn and look at him, complete and utter surprise present on all of their faces (well, except Rodney, who just looks smug), "I am Alteran. I do in fact know what I'm talking about."
At their continued looks he clarifies: "Sometimes. And besides, Project Arcturus was Father's biggest argument with the Council before the Exodus. His letters for a while were full of nothing but complaints about it – thought it was just a pipe dream and that Forcul and the Council should be focused on other ways of ending the war."
Silence greets this and, when he looks up again, the confusion has spread to Rodney as well. "And of course that means nothing to you." He sighs and holds up the pendant in his hands. "Forcul was Andeo Mael Forcul Magister. He was the head of Project Arcturus – which, as you can see, was a total failure."
Rodney frowns at this, like he wants to ask more, but still says, "Failure, yes. Total, no. It could've turned the tide of war had it worked."
"Yes. And it didn't."
"The Dorandans still managed to inflict massive damage on the attacking Wraith fleet before they were destroyed."
"I'm not saying that they didn't put up a hell of a fight but the war was like that: We'd destroy ten, twenty hives at a time and more would keep on coming. Our technology was superior in every way; we just didn't have the manpower they did."
"So what went wrong?" Elizabeta asks.
Iohannes shrugs. He'd never asked Father for the details. There was a large part of him that suspected that no one ever knew – that someone had piloted a jumper to Doranda, seen the wreckage, and assumed the worst without searching for clues. Certainly if any Alteran had landed at the outpost after the accident, he or she would have taken the bodies away. His people hadn't been religious for longer than Atlantis had been around but they still respected their dead, particularly when so few in those last years left corpses behind for others to bury.
Zelenka answers for him, "The logs indicate there was a major malfunction, forcing the Ancients in the bunker to shut everything down, including the weapon. And then, as Colonel Sheppard said, the Wraith sent more ships and the planet was completely decimated in the attack."
"So, if the malfunction hadn't occurred, the Ancients could have saved the planet?"
"Possibly," Iohannes corrects. "Don't sugar-coat this, Rodney. We tried a lot of things," Father's Attero Device, for one, and bringing Tirianus to Lantea for another. They'd had a thousand other insane plans but one by one they all failed, until the Council saw no alternative but to run back to Avalon, tails between their legs, and consign Atlantis to the deepest depths, alone and forgotten like a thousand other devices that had outlived their need. "You'll notice that none of them actually worked."
"This Forcul of yours was obviously rushed into testing before his team had perfected a means of effectively controlling the power output. If they'd had more time it's quite likely history would have played out differently on that planet – possibly in this galaxy. But, as John said, they were desperate and losing a war they'd already been fighting for a hundred years." (Ninety-seven, he doesn't correct. It'd been ninety-seven at that point and the Exodus wouldn't occur for another nine years.) "More importantly, they were like... this close."
"And you believe you can finish their work?"
"We do," Zelenka insists.
"What about you, John?" Elizabeta asks when he doesn't offer ready agreement. "What do you think?"
"I-" he starts, his eyes going back to the pendant in his hand. Quickly he closes his fingers around the pendant, the smooth edges of the disk digging into his skin, and ducks his head further, so he doesn't have to look at anyone, doesn't have to see them seeing how deeply this news, ten millennia and ten years old, is affecting him.
Swallowing, he tries again, this time managing to get out, "If it can be done, they're the ones who can do it," before quickly standing and leaving Elizabeta's office as fast as he can without making it look like he's running away any more than he already is.
He can't take this today, he really can't. He's been back on Atlantis for almost two months now but the memory of Terra, with all of its descendants, lingers, reminding Iohannes of the thoughts he had when he was flying his nuke-filled jumper into the side of a hive ship. It's one thing to realize that the Terrans are shaping the face of the universe when he thinks he's about to die; it's another entirely to live through that realization and know that there's no place for him left in the universe.
/That's not true,/ Atlantis tells him as he's stepping into the vectura and letting it take him to as far a corner of the city as possible, away from all the people and the noise and the whispers that follow him wherever he goes. /Your place is with me, pastor, and with Moreducus./
/Then maybe neither of us has a place left,/ he answers her after a moment, ignoring the last bit entirely.
The city's taken him to the north pier, one which the Terrans have largely ignored in favour of the west, which holds the larger labs, and the south-east, from which they've eked out most their living space. He's not near the auxiliary control room at all but Iohannes' feet start taking him there before he even realizes what he's doing.
Atlantis realizes soon enough and begins blocking access to the paths he needs to take. Just because our reasons for being may change doesn't change the fact that we still are. He knows all the secret passages though and she can't block them all.
/What if they don't? I've been fighting the Wraith since before I was born, it seems. Until the Terrans arrived, everyone I ever knew had spent their whole lives fighting the Wraith. What if that's the only reason I've managed to stick around as long as I have? To fight the Wraith – and watch the Terrans make the same mistakes we did, again and again?/
/You know that's not true./
/Isn't it?/ Iohannes glares at the door in front of him, which refuses to open. /Open this door, 'Lantis./
She knows as well as he where that door will take him, to the auxiliary control room that had begun his journey ten thousand years into the future, and, knowing this, redoubles her efforts to keep him from entering. /What good will it do?/
/None at all, probably, but I need to see if they're still there./ He'd assumed the servola had taken care of the bodies, before the others had taken the servola offline, – he knows Nicolaa died there that last day and probably many of the others as well when their tower was hit – but now can't be sure. He can't ask Atlantis either because the city would only tell him what he wants to hear, for his own mental health, and he can't very well leave them to rot. It wouldn't be right.
Iohannes bangs his fist against the still-closed doors. He could bypass the locking mechanism with ease but that's not how his relationship with the city works. To do so would violate something between them. He'd tried to explain it to Rodney once, saying that it was the difference between sex and rape and thought maybe he'd understood, but none of the other Expedition members could. Not without knowing Atlantis like he does. Not without hearing her ever-changing song.
He raises his hands to the doors again and finds his fists have unclenched all on their own. Iohannes settles his palms against the door instead, pleading, /Because./ It's the only argument he has – because he needs to know how many he left behind that day. Because Nicolaa was the only friend he ever truly had before Rodney and Teyla and Elizabeta and Carson. Because 'Lantis deserved better than to have mouldering bodies inside her walls.
/You shouldn't be alone right now,/ she tells him after a long pause.
Iohannes turns around, pressing his back against the door instead. /I'm not alone. I've got you, or so you keep telling me./
/There are some things, pastor, that you need organic companionship for./
He snorts, thinking of Rodney's earlier comment, but it turns into a groan of its own accord and Iohannes finds himself sliding down the length of the door, until he's half-sitting, half-sprawled on the floor in front of it. /Rodney's busy./
/Moreducus isn't the only one who cares for you, pastor./
/Don't tell him that,/ Iohannes says, allowing a false note of cheer to colour his words. He's still hearing about Chaya and all he ever did was smile at her before he realized she was a schismatica.
/You're being deliberately dense. /
He's fairly certain she'd never used that phrase before she heard Rodney say it and the thought forces him to stifle another groan. /I just want to be alone for a while, 'Lantis./
/I love you, carissima, I really do but please, not now./
'Lantis pouts at this but lowers the lights in the hall, which Iohannes takes for grudging agreement.
He doesn't know how long he's sat there in the semi-dark when Carson arrives, looking somewhat bewildered and carrying one of his bags of emergency medical supplies. "What's this then?" the doctor asks when he's close enough, going onto his knees beside him and checking Iohannes over quickly for injuries.
"I'm fine," he protests, drawing his legs in. After a moment he folds his arms atop his knees and rests his chin upon them.
"You don't look it, lad."
"I'm older than you. You're my nephew. I should be calling you lad."
"Ah," Carson says knowingly, snapping his bag closed and leaning back so he can sit on the floor properly. "It's one of those moods."
"I don't have moods," he says testily.
Carson laughs, small and sad like this comment should really be a lot funnier than it is. "That you do, lad. They're just a lot quieter than most other people's. My dear mother, why, you wouldn't
want to be within five miles when she's in a strop, and my sisters are worse."
"I've five of them, you know," Carson continues, as if he's just appeared in the middle of this otherwise deserted hall to talk to Iohannes about it, "and two brothers. I was never really close with my brothers – they took after my Da, who was a warrant officer in the British Army. Ben – he was the oldest – got himself killed in the Bosnian War when I was still in med school. Pete died about three years ago, in Afghanistan. He was the youngest of us lot, so you can imagine how my mother felt when I told her I was going to work for the United States military. She thought, being a doctor, I'd never end up somewhere where there was a distinct possibility I'd be getting shot at on a regular basis..."
They just sit there for a long time, Carson talking casually about his sisters and their children and how, now that his mother could email him on a fairly regular basis, she'd started bothering him about why he didn't hadn't settled down yet. By the time he gets to, "...so I'm tempted to tell her about Laura, just so she eases up on that front for awhile," Iohannes is feels rather less miserable, thank you very much, and is able to ask-
"So how are things with Lieutenant Cadman?"
-which causes the doctor to blush, if only a little. "Good, I think. Not quite to the point of writing home about yet, but good."
"Good for you."
He means it too. He'll never admit it out lout but he likes seeing these Terrans doing normal things like starting relationships. It makes Atlantis seem more like a bustling city than a besieged garrison, even if it does have her pestering him about when the Terrans will start having children. Atlantis misses children more deeply than is probably decent for someone who was built rather than born.
"What about you and Rodney? How's that working out – or can't I ask about that?"
Iohannes shrugs. Things between him and Rodney just are and he's yet to find any words to describe what or why or how.
"Ah. So the email I got from the city wasn't because you two are fighting then?"
Bewildered, "Of course not. Well, I think he's peeved I dragged him away from the outpost so soon but nothing serious." And then, as the full force of Carson's words hits him, "And what do you mean the city emailed you? 'Lantis," he looks upward, at the still-darkened ceiling, "what did you do?"
/We told you,/ she responds, /you shouldn't be alone right now./
She offers no further explanation except to flash the lights at his unnecessary vulgarity.
"I'll show you unnecessary vulgarity," he mutters under his breath. He loves Atlantis, he really does, but her insistence on minding his mental health is going to be the death of one of them and, when playing the waiting game, the odds are on the one of them that isn't organic, even if he's managed to spend ten thousand odd years in stasis while hardly ageing a day.
"Do I want to know?" Carson asks, clearly concerned – though, Iohannes must say, it seems more about the city than his mental health which is what seems to worry most people when he talks aloud to Atlantis. It's why Carson's his favourite nephew.
Still, "She thinks I'm being unreasonable," comes out as a barely audible accusation, directed more at the floor than the person sitting beside him.
Iohannes sighs and plucks at the laces of his vambrace. "The usual." When Carson doesn't fill the silence that follows with more comfortable chatter about his family back in Scotland he continues, forcing casualness into his voice, "I used to work in the room behind me." Every day for seven years he'd reported here and helped to plan the city's defensive strategy, until a lucky hit by a downed Wraith dart as the others were leaving put an end to that. "It's where I was right before the Exodus."
"Where you got cut up by all that glass," Carson reasons, remembering how they'd found him, semi-lucid and bleeding to death in the cathedra.
"I just want to know how many died there."
"Oh, John. No one should ever have to find their friends' bodies. Especially not alone."
"The universe doesn't work by shoulds."
"Aye, that's true. But I'm here now."
That's true too and so they get wordlessly to their feet, preparing to plead with Atlantis again to let them inside.
They're still dusting the debris from their knees when the door to the auxiliary control room opens of its own accord.
Iohannes isn't even facing the right way and can't see the chaos that is surely inside but he can hear the hissof an airtight seal being broken as the door opens, feel the small gust sucking oxygen into the room behind and that's all he really needs to know there are bodies inside. Bodies kept preserved in vacuum for over ten thousand years. Bodies of people he once knew so very well.
He closes his eyes and sinks back to the floor, only distantly able to hear Carson radioing for a medical team to report with body-bags to their location.