Words: 5,054 (of 9,671)
Pairing/Charecter(s): Ancient!John, Rodney, Sentient!Atlantis, Radek Zelenka, Elizabeth Weir, Colonel Caldwell, Carson Beckett, Teyla, Ronan; John/Rodney
Warnings/Spoliers: part 3 of #12 (part 1, 2) 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: “I think you should stick to what you're good at leave the naming of things to other people.”
Notes: This was hard to write, with the world's most massive writer's block affecting me until Thursday or so, and further delayed by the insane work hours caused my the approaching Thanksgiving madness. But it does mean the delivery dates have been changed so I can go to a concert on Wends night, so... that's worth something. Anyway, I wrote half of this while rewatching the original Star Wars trio, and created a timeline for the 'verse that probably shows just how crazy I am. Oh, and I really have to write my SGA Secret Santa fic after this, so... there will be some delay before the next story in this 'verse.
Dei et Viri
An Ancient!John Story
They're at breakfast the morning after they discover the Arcturus Project – Iohannes and his team, Elizabeta and Carson – when Elizabeta asks, "When are you planning on holding the funerals?"
Iohannes blinks at her uncomprehendingly for a moment, his spoon wavering halfway to his mouth before it clicks and he can say, "Oh, I did that last night. Why?"
There is the sound of silverware hitting multiple trays around him – well, not Rodney's, because Rodney knew this full well and, while mildly concerned about his mental health afterwards, had seen no reason to delay either; and not Ronan's because, by all the deities the descendants had ever created, that man could eat, and not Teyla's either, because she just didn't do that kind of thing – but Elizabeta and Carson's definitely clattered to the table. "Why did you do that?"
Confused, he sets down his own spoon and asks, "Why not?"
"Because," she says patiently, "these things shouldn't be rushed,and you've twelve of them. Two of which are for people very dear to you."
He's not told the praefecta about Nicolaa or Forcul. Oh, he might've mentioned their names in passing but the only one he's admitted the deeper connections to has been Rodney, whom Iohannes turns to glare at after she says this.
Teyla doesn't seem to realize his unhappiness with this current line of questioning and asks, "What is this?" in a way that can't be ignored. As much as he's found it easier to try to keep things separate – everything that happened before the Exodus being Before and everything that has occurred since the Expedition arrived as Now, and never shall the two meet, - one simply doesn't ignore Teyla Emmagan. At least not if one wants to remain capable of walking unassisted after one's next sparring session.
"The head researcher for the Arcturus Project was John's stepfather, more or less, and the red-head from the North Pier was like the Ancient version of you or something," Rodney tries to explain for him-
-which turns Iohannes' annoyed glare into a slap upside the head before he corrects, rather against his will, "Father and Forcul never married. Never stayed together for more than a few months at a time, but never stayed apart for much longer than that either. And even when they weren't together romantically they still worked together, albeit with slightly more shouting." They brought out the worst in each other, Father and Forcul. Which was a shame because, truly, they were probably the only people who ever stood a chance of making each other happy. "I'd call him less of a stepfather and more of an, oh, I dunno, honorary uncle."
"And the other one? This Nicolaa?" Teyla prompts.
"Nicolaa de Luera Pastor. She was..." he stirs what remains of his cereal intently, trying to find the words. "If I'd loved her any less, I probably would have married her."
There's a long silence following this during which Iohannes stares resolutely at his bowl until Elizabeta finally breaks the quiet, saying, "Which is exactly why I thought you'd want to take some time off to handle the arrangements."
"Alteran funerals are simple," he says, coming across rather more harshly than he intends, unable to take the pity in her eyes. He can handle having everyone he ever knew dead or as good as, he really can, just so long as they stop asking him about how it makes him feel. "Someone dies, you take their body to the crematorium and then you meditate for a bit. The end."
"Did you meditate?"
"Fuck no. I gave that sort of thing up years ago."
"Maybe you should."
Snorting, "That stopped working when I was five."
"You're still five," Rodney mutters darkly, still rubbing the back of his head.
"What's that say about you then?"
Rodney rolls his eyes.
Elizabeta pierces her lips. "Gentlemen, if you would?"
"Yes, yes," Rodney says impatiently, "You're going to dial the SGC and inform them of Project Arcturus, Carson's going to work on his de-Wraith-ing drug, Teyla's going to the mainland, Ronan's going to do whatever it is he does when we're not off on missions, and we're on call if the galaxy needs saving at some point during the day. We got it."
"Rodney!" she says, vaguely scandalized by his flippancy and Iohannes doesn't know if it was his plan all along or it was just Rodney being Rodney, but it does allow him to slip away from the table unnoticed so he decides to give him the benefit of the doubt on it.
He's supposed to be doing all sorts of things today – finishing up paperwork for those Expedition members heading back on the Daedalus, doing some mission planning with Lorne, going on rounds – but Iohannes can't bring himself to concentrate. He just stares at the computer they've given him, the words he needs to write there but not making their way to the page because he unfortunately has no mental up-link with the Terran technology, and eventually gives it up as lost.
/It's supposed to get easier/, he whinges to a sympathetic Atlantis at one point, when he's wandering her halls because it's either that or do math proofs and he really doesn't feel up to another think of the Fields Medals debacle so soon after the last. It's been a year-and-a-half since he woke up to discover he was the last Alteran in existence. It's not suppose to hurt this much this long after, not when he'd disliked the others so much. In his own personal timeline Forcul had been dead for over ten years and he'd known Nicolaa had died in the auxiliary control room the moment the dust had settled there. He should be over it. He's supposed to be over it by now.
/The universe, for all your science, rarely works the way it's supposed to./
/What?/ he asks, his feet taking him by their own accord towards the room he and Rodney use for their movie nights, which only they (and possibly Carson) know about. It's quiet, comfortable, and far away from anyone who might want to ask him about last night's mass funeral. Though apparently not far enough away from those wanting to make him take up meditation. /You're saying spirituality is the answer?/
The distaste is more than evident when the city answers, /No. We're saying that, for all the achievements of the Alteran people, there are still things we don't understand./
/And you think meditation is the solution? You know how I feel about Ascension./
/Who said anything about Ascension? You're a last-generation product of almost seventy million years of a race which considered meditation almost as important as breathing. Perhaps it's evolved into some sort of biological imperative, one that was never discovered because you're one of the few in all that time which refused to do so./
Iohannes can feel himself pouting at this and considers saying something along the lines of I prefer it when you act like a hyperactive child but doesn't, 'cause 'Lantis wouldn't understand and accuses instead, /You've been emailing Carson again, haven't you?/
/He,/ she says defensively, /emailed us./
"It's a conspiracy," he says mostly to himself, but folds himself into position in the far corner anyway and, willing to try anything at this point, tries to meditate.
His meditation is... uncomfortable. It's filled with the same dark, impenetrable silence from his dreams, interspersed with bits of knowledge coming to the surface he cannot possibly know including:
Now that the Replicator threat is gone, the Asgard are concentrating their efforts on solving the problem they're having with genetic degradation from their millennia of cloning. They're doing their best to keep it secret from their allies, the Terrans, but a few of their most-cloned members are starting to fall victim to spontaneous exemplioffensio. Unless they can find a solution soon, their estimates predict the entire Asgard race will be dead in thirteen point seven Terran years.
A handful of Genii, disgruntled by his aggressive policies, are planning a revolt against Cowen. Their leader is Ladon Radim who had taken part in their brief occupation of Atlantis, but other than that he seems a decent man. He's a moderate, and one of those rare folks driven into politics out of desire to serve his people rather than see them serve him. Should his coup succeed, the Expedition might find itself with a new ally. Or at least with one less enemy at their gates.
An Ascended Alteran calling herself Oma Desala is waging eternal battle against a partially-Ascended Goa'uld called Anubis. It's caused quite a stir amongst the Others, who are torn between condemning her for this (and potentially returning her to mortal form) and concern for what Anubis might attempt to do in retribution if they did. Their combined strength far outweighed a single Goa'uld's but they were also far more reluctant to use it. And the universe knew no wrath like a scorned Goa'uld.
All and all it's quite disturbing, especially the part where it's rather like him remembering things he'd never known in the first place rather than learning them for the first time and, as soon as the meditation has gone on long enough for Iohannes to be able to claim he's made a valiant attempt and he'll never do it again, thank you very much, he stops and goes looking for Rodney.
His amator isn't hard to find. He's in the largest of the shared labs with about half of the Expedition's scientists, engineers, and computer programmers. "Hey," he says when he's close enough to be heard in the din.
"What's up?" Rodney asks, uncapping a magic marker and, balancing a tablet in his other hand, beginning to transcribe equations onto the nearest whiteboard. It's a practised motion but still somewhat awkward, so Iohannes rescues the poor tablet before it has a chance to tumble to the floor and holds it for him.
"You think," he asks, shifting as he leans against the whiteboard so the metal tray isn't digging so badly into his hip, "it will go over badly if I shoot the next person who tells me I should meditate?"
One of the new scientists, who's working at a computer nearby, makes a choking noise at this. They both ignore it, Rodney asking over the tail end, "Weren't you the one that said murder was an overrated problem solving technique?"
"I didn't say I'd be shooting to kill."
"It'd be less paperwork."
"Killing. You've never had to file a health insurance claim before. Yet another reason why you should've chosen Canada over the States."
It's only because Rodney's fond of expounding upon the superiority of all things Canadian that Iohannes even has the slightest idea of what he's on about now. "Yeah, but their uniforms weren't as cool," he quips back, and turns the tablet around briefly to glance ahead at the equation's Rodney's transcribing. He thinks it has something to do with some sort of containment field.
Glancing down at his own uniform, "Yeah, 'cause that really matters here."
"You never know."
"So, why are you considering this shooting spree anyway?"
"Well, it does."
With a frown, "No, I've been remembering things again."
Rodney caps his magic marker and turns towards him, his maths momentarily forgotten. "Ascended remembering?"
"What kind of things?"
Iohannes tells him. The big stuff, at least. The tiny things he leaves out because no one really needs to know about Elizabeta's (now ex-)fiancé cheating on her or, well, that's the only one he can really think of, but still. No one needs to know that. Not even Elizabeta.
"That's... oddly specific."
"It's annoying, that's what. I was only Ascended for three minutes," (Rodney winces at this and something inside Iohannes clenches as well. He'd prefer to forget that little fact about himself if at all possible).
"Why would the others should kick you back down and let you keep memories like that? It seems an awful lot like interference. Don't get me wrong, I'm more than glad you came back in one piece, but this extra bit? It's not normal."
"Thanks," he says dryly.
"Not you-normal," Rodney corrects, giving him his best you can't possibly be this stupid look, and turns back to the whiteboard. "So, you think this means the others are trying to help us fight the Wraith?"
With a snort, "Hardly. Non-interference was the closest thing those that chose to Ascend ever had to a religion."
"Well, there have to be some who felt otherwise – after all," he says with a trace of bitterness, "you managed to Ascend and you've been doing an awful lot of interfering."
"Maybe." He doubts it though. Stubbornness, he liked to think, had been encoded into the Alteran genome right along with the ability to use their technology. It certainly would explain Carson and General O'Neill. (It could explain Rodney too, since Doctor Beckett's gene therapy activates latent genes in the subject rather, or so he's been told, than introduce entirely new ones. But Iohannes prefers not to think about that and only allows himself to consider those who come by their gene naturally to be related to him.)
"They've had ten thousand years worth of front row access to everything that the Wraith have done. I'm willing to bet that's had to make some of them change their minds."
"Probably not, though."
"Well, how else do you explain it?"
"I don't. And I don't want to."
"That's unusually narrow-minded of you," he accuses.
"You don't know the others like I do," Iohannes says, setting down the tablet he's been holding. "Nothing they ever do comes without a price. Believe me, if it is someone or someones trying to help us to stop the Wraith then they're going to want something from us. Something difficult. Something that they can't do in their present state, not without being sent back." Selfish bastards. Like this plane of existence is so bad.
"We're going to need to come up with a name for that, it's starting to happen so often. You, Doctor Jackson..." Rodney muses, "How do you feel about Descension?"
Wrinkling his nose in disgust, "I think you should stick to what you're good at and leave the naming of things to other people." Iohannes picks up the tablet again and glances more thoroughly at the equations on the screen. "You better get working on this. Forcul and his team spent almost three years working on Arcturus before the acciden, and we're not going to have anywhere near that amount of time before the Wraith realize we're still here."
"Then stop distracting me and help."
It takes four weeks to go through all the coding, find the problems and correct them. They're fairly innocuous, the mistakes – a positive integer when there should've been a negative, a misplaced decimal or two – but altogether it's enough to have caused the catastrophic failure that cost Forcul, his team and (eventually) the Dorandans their lives. It's a sign of how overworked, how desperate they'd been back then and Project Arcturus had been at a time when Tirianus still stood and they'd a good twenty lintres between them.
They test the weapon on the first of the Terran month December, which roughly coincides with the start of the wet season on Lantea. It's not quite raining when their jumpers leave Atlantis, just a grey sort of drizzly haze that reminds Sergeant Major Stevens, who's from a place on Terra called the Pacific Northwest, of home.
It is raining properly, however, when they return, once more with body bags. Well, only one this time, but that's still one too many.
"There was a massive power surge that caused the containment field to expand asymmetrically towards the access tube where Collins was working. That's all we really know at the moment," Rodney explains once the senior staff is gathered around the conference table some hours later. Carson's spent most the time examining Doctor Collins' body. The results are similar to what he found with the bodies of Forcul and his team – acute radiation poisoning of a type even Iohannes doesn't have a name for.
"It will," Zelenka continues, "take time to analyse all the data from the accident. But off-hand it does not look promising."
Elizabeta's sitting at the head of the table, sombre and stone-faced, and hasn't said anything for several minutes before she asks, "How so?"
"I don't know," Rodney says with a difficulty that would be more amusing if the situation weren't so grim. In terms of physics it shouldn't have happened. And, if that's the case, we can analyse the data all we like but we'll never know for sure until we go back to Doranda and try again."
Iohannes, too, has been silent for most the meeting but at this he can't keep quiet. "You can't be serious."
"You've said it yourself, Colonel; the Wraith are going to see through our ruse sooner rather than later and Project Arcturus represents the only chance we have at the moment of stopping them forever."
"But at what cost? Collins is dead-"
"And I am responsible for his death, yes. I am painfully aware of that. But we have a responsibility to understand what happened and learn from it."
"What we've learned," Iohannes says sharply, "is that the best minds of two different races couldn't get this thing to work."
"We've only been working on this a month-"
"Yes, and my people worked on it for three years."
"And it took us four years to develop the A-bomb and sixty-six to figure out how the Stargates work."
"We just don't have that kind of time." Privately, Iohannes gives it another twelve months – on the outside – before the Wraith discover Atlantis still stands. In all actuality, it's probably closer to half that and that is if they are really, truly, extraordinarily careful.
"Contrary to popular belief," the scientist says testily, "I can't just conjure up major scientific developments out of thin air, no matter how hard you try to goad me."
"What time we do have, Rodney, should be put to use trying to make operational the weapons we know work." Which means finding more ZPMs to power the city's defences, which means more missions. And why, of all the things he could have remembered from his brief time Ascended, he couldn't remember that, Iohannes doesn't know.
"You really think the military's gonna let this go that easily?"
"You saw what the Wraith did to the Dorandans. If we can't get the weapon operational quickly, odds are that the Wraith will simply repeat the process with us before we finish it. And frankly, I didn't spend ten thousand years in stasis to die that way."
"I agree," Elizabeta says at last, looking between them with concern evident on her face. "You can run all the simulations you want but until I have definitive proof that it'll work, I'm not letting anyone back there."
"That's what I'm trying to say," Rodney tries one last time. "Everything we had said that this trial should have worked. There's absolutely no reason why it shouldn't have."
It doesn't work. "Then you better hope there's an explanation in your data because that's my final answer."
It takes almost a fortnight for Rodney to find an answer, banging on his door late at night two days after the Daedalus returns from Terra with the news that the SGC is very interested in getting the weapon operational. Not primarily to fight the Wraith, as one might think, but the Ori.
The Ori, who are the haeretici his ancestors had travelled to Avalon to escape sixty-five million years ago.
And they, not the Wraith, are why he agrees to convince Elizabeta to let them try again.
"Rodney says the problem's in the automatic containment field. He thinks we can solve the problem if we adjust the field strength manually.
Elizabeta frowns and leans forward, propping an elbow on her desk. "I'm sensing a but here."
"But the field changes so rapidly the only thing that can keep up with it is a computer."
"So how does he propose to solve the problem?" Caldwell asks.
"We impregnate the computers at the Dorandan outpost with my nanoids. It should give us the best of both worlds when we're running the test."
Colonel Caldwell has always been more sceptical of his abilities than anyone on Atlantis but he and the SGC really want the weapon, so he asks, "And this will work?"
"I don't see why not. Rodney'll have to give me a crash-course in the containment of subatomic particles, but this sort of thing is what it means to be a pastor." He frowns at their disbelieving expressions. "Look, what exactly do you think happens when I sit in the cathedra? Atlantis tracks the targets, fires the weapons, but I'm the one who chooses the targets, who does the manoeuvres. Organic and machine in perfect harmony. Well," he muses, glancing upward, "maybe not perfect, but at least the outpost isn't likely to have Atlantis' personality issues."
"Personality issues?" Caldwell repeats as Elizabeta asks-
"And you can guarantee the same problem won't happen again?"
"No one can do that. But Rodney's confident it won't."
"Confidence is not something that Doctor McKay lacks."
At which point Caldwell jumps surprisingly to his defence, "With good reason! If anyone can do this..."
"The Ancients could not do this. And that's what it keeps coming back to for me."
"Isn't it possible that you've placed the Ancients on such a high pedestal that you can't even consider the possibility that they may be wrong?"
"The Colonel has a point," Iohannes agrees. "We weren't perfect, Elizabeta. Far from it. You know what we did after Project Arcturus failed? We tried to bring Tirianus half-way across the galaxy to combine our strength. It was a massive battle to which we committed all our forces. We even got what descendants with space-faring capabilities remained to commit all their forces as well – and used them as cannon fodder." The Council had fought this plan every step of the way but, when they finally gave into it, they did so fully intending to sacrifice their descendants if it meant saving themselves. Iohannes hadn't learned as much until later but it destroyed whatever faith he'd still had in his people at that point.
Elizabeta is pale after this. It pains him to do this to her but there's something unbearably naive about her and the way she views the world that needs to be rectified. It's one thing to believe there's good in everyone – she might even be right about that, however little Iohannes might believe it – but it's another entirely to blindly believe his people were the be-all and end-all of the universe. That's practically haeresis.
"And after that?" he continues, "Father built an endgame machine that could've ended the Wraith War – genuinely, truly ended it. He called it the Attero Device and it disrupted the subspace frequencies that the Wrath hives use, so that when they tried to enter a hyperspace window their ships would be torn to pieces. What lintres remained would be able to pick off the stragglers one by one... The only problem with it was that it caused the portae to explode. But that was no problem for us – we could compensate – and the Council wanted to use it, never mind how many descendants it would destroy. Luckily Father, at least, had a conscious, because he took the device offline and dismantled it before too many had died.
"I'm not saying that most of us didn't genuinely like our descendants. But we were always a cowardly race," he says, distaste bleeding through. "We ran from what problems we could not see an easy solution to, whether by crossing half the universe to escape our enemies or by Ascending to a plane of existence where they no longer mattered. For most of us our descendants were little better than animals and, if given the choice between sacrificing them or sacrificing ourselves, would have chosen them every time.
And those are the kind of people you think are so infallible."
Elizabeta's still pale when she starts speaking but her cheeks go red as she goes on, "I get your point, Colonel! You think I don't know everything Arcturus could mean for us? For Earth? And if it worked as advertised it would be wonderful, but you know Rodney. There are times when he has to be protected from himself."
There are no words to describe the look Iohannes gives her. It's part tell me something I don't know and a little bit of when I said Father had a conscious, I meant me and a good deal of no guts, no glory, but it's also frustration and resignation and a touch of righteous indignation for his amator, because Rodney would not be asking for this if he isn't a hundred percent sure or, at least, as sure as it was possible to be in a situation like this. He knows she has every right to be leery but this isn't like Attero. The only risk to anyone is themselves.
"I can do that. Just give us the chance."
They go to Doranda once more and inject some nanoids they've taken from Iohannes' blood into the computers there. It takes a while for them colonize the systems entirely so they go back up to the jumper to wait, partly because it's more comfortable there, but mostly because the outpost still feels like a crypt.
"Oh, I've been meaning to tell you," Iohannes tells him, lying on the floor of the jumper's back compartment. He can feel the nanoids in the outpost activating,and it's giving him a headache, all the disconnected pieces of information revealing themselves one by one. They have the lights out too, though there's some spilling from Rodney's tablet where he's monitoring the situation as best he can from his spot on one of the benches. "Your sister emailed me the other day. She wants to know how much she can spend on a Christmas present for Madison."
Rodney almost jumps in surprise. "What? Why would she be asking us that?"
"'Cause we can't exactly send her something from Pegasus, now can we?" He frowns at the ceiling. He doesn't care for the religious connotations of the Terran holiday but he's not going to take that out on Madison. If the Terran thing to do is to give her presents, well, who is he to deny her? He'd give her the moon, any moon she wanted, if only she told him which one.
"Er, no, I guess not. So why did Jeannie email you about this?"
"We've been emailing." Sporadically, of course, as the data packets that came through the pons astris from Terra allowed. It's interesting, hearing about all the normal, average Terran things Jeannie and Madison and Kaleb get up to. And seeing Madison grow up through pictures? It's almost enough to satisfy Atlantis' desire to have children running through her halls again.
"'Cause she's your sister and goodness knows you won't."
"Why should I?"
Wincing a little as several nanoids activate at once, "'Cause she's your sister," he repeats.
"It's what families do."
"So you consider my sister family?"
If Iohannes could sit up, he'd do so, but he can't and settles for frowning more deeply at the jumper's ceiling. "Shouldn't I?"
"I didn't say that. I'm just surprised, that's all. Don't know why. You consider anyone with an active ATA gene family."
Iohannes tries to shrug, only to discover the movement doesn't quite work so well while sprawled out on the floor. "Anyway, it's a Terran thing, so I figured you'd know."
"What do I know about three-year-old girls?"
"She's almost four."
"So I should ask Carson." Carson has nieces. Four of them. He'd know what constitutes a proper Christmas gift for an almost four-year-old Terran girl, or so Iohannes hopes. The next data-burst to Terra is the day after tomorrow, for the benefit of those on the Expedition who value this curious Terran holiday, and time is running out.
"Probably a good idea. The connection up and running yet?"
"Almost. You should probably start getting everything set up."
"I can do it from here if you want. Right now you don't look like you could walk ten feet, let alone make it down that ladder."
He'd argue the point but it's kinda true.
Rodney takes his time setting up the computers and getting the trial ready, letting Iohannes' connection with the outpost stabilize. It's a strange feeling – like trying to make conversation with a particularly intelligent pet rather than an actual person. Or intellegentia artificialis. Still, the connection's there and there's no reason why it shouldn't work.
But it doesn't. He knows the moment the weapon starts to overload and none of his increasingly desperate orders to abort can be carried out by the computer.
It's the last thing Iohannes knows for a long time.
Continue on to the next installment.