Title: Untold Burden
Fandom: Stargate Atlantis
Genre: Action Adventure, Episode Related, First Time, Het, Pre-Relationship
Relationship(s): John Sheppard/Teer, Pre-Relation McShep
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, possession by an alien force, descriptions of lack of control due to the coercion. Temporary Character Death by Ascension.
Word Count: 54,665
Summary: John had a chance, a glorious chance to fix his mistake of waking the Wraith. He just had to avoid the ascended, his grandfather, alien princesses and the overbearing Wraith. The plan hinges on him carrying his untold burden alone, so will he avoid detection.
Chapter 1: Unwinnable Fights
John thought he understood boredom. He’d learnt that sometimes in life you just had to wait for whatever reason.
He had spent a long time in desert locations just waiting to get given the go-ahead.
He’d spent sniper training in perches for a day or two.
He’d cooled his heels in Antarctica for his efforts to save comrades.
He’d stayed quiet and hidden, waiting for the optimal time to take on the Genii.
But that was nothing.
No, nothing like the patience needed to suffer through eight days of meditation with no sparing to break up his day.
The locals called it a sanctuary, but to John, it was like purgatory in High Definition Surround Sound – Too much inaction while the villagers try to find inner enlightenment. They were all so focused on their goal of ascension that they’d stopped living all together. It was perhaps the greatest tragedy considering they appeared to be free of the Wraith threat that plagued most of the galaxy.
If he ever got away from this place, he would ignore Rodney the next time he encouraged him to go into one more place to get a ZPM. He was refusing any request without accurate intel on the area involved. It wasn’t so much coming here that he objected to – it was the ‘never being allowed to leave part’ that was the problem. The longer he stayed here – the more he doubted he would get out of here alive, or at least walking out.
The Sanctuary village he’d stumbled upon was like an idyllic village, but it wasn’t without its faults. He was betting the invisible beast that attacked the villagers whenever they strolled too far from the village wasn’t in the brochures.
John was getting ahead of himself, and he should start at the beginning.
The portal had sucked him in, and he’d let it as the video feed had been sound, and the energy readings were off the chart. If there was one thing there recent battles with the Wraith had highlighted, it was they needed the city at full power.
He’d only been alarmed by his situation when he couldn’t get back through the portal. He wasn’t exactly in a well-lit place, more like a dingy cave dwelling. He dug into his pack, picked out the ground roll and pulled out his fire-starting kit. John did not understand how cold it would get, and he balanced the danger of being seen with the potential of freezing to death. He had weapons for predators but nothing else apart from fire to fight the cold. The food rations would ensure John wouldn’t starve, and his training meant he could make a shelter with the items he had. He stayed awake and patrolled the edges of the cage and only when he was satisfied that it would be safe – he slept, but only with his handgun and knife in easy reach of himself. He wasn’t the type to need a teddy bear to sleep, but a weapon could do wonders.
John awoke with the sounds of animals scratching against the rocks. He was still in the dark cave with a small amount of light from the fire he’d lit for warmth yesterday evening. An hour of being bored later, and he was still no wiser to what was going on – He saw the camera tripod send through a bag of more rations, but this alarmed John as it meant he was running on a different time frame. He’d seen the camera time stamp, and by his initial estimates, the timestamp on the camera as it came through the portal was about two days before.
This was disturbing.
Still, he had to have patience and hope Rodney could pull a proverbial rabbit out of his hat. His friend was good at that. The only trouble was the day turned to night and still no sign of his team.
John couldn’t stay in his cave room any longer – he had to at the very least scout out the caverns, and potentially source food, especially if this rescue might take a while. He knew there was a time-dilation effect in play, which privately worried him too. His exploration showed him that the cave was, in reality, a mountain cave on the side of a steep cliff-face. It was unlikely that he would find any food up here in the inhospitable climate, in fact, he was sure he would have to go down to the lush green fields he saw below to have any chance.
Still, he saw no choice but to trudge back to the safety of his little cavern as it had served him well the last few nights. He really hoped that he escaped this wannabe Lord of the Ring’s planet soon as it had definitely lost its appeal.
It was a bitter pill to swallow, but his team hadn’t been able to rescue him before his supplies ran out. He knew he should stay by the portal, but if he didn’t move soon – starvation would become a severe problem. He tore off a page from his notebook to leave a message for Rodney and the others when they figured out how to rescue his ass.
John had just made it to the edge of the green fields when he heard an almighty scream. It sounded like something out of Jurassic World. He saw the figure of a man cowering in the field and some sort of energy displacement hovering around it. He guessed that thing was the source of the noise he’d just heard.
The villager didn’t look the type to believe that violence was the answer to anything. His idea of surviving seemed to be crouching into as small a ball as possible and hope the creature got bored. Too bad the alien attacking him mistook that for open season. John shot at, hoping to at least scare the thing off, but his bullets did nothing.
Correction, nothing useful. John sighed, “Damn, I just pissed it off.”
It was advancing too quickly, making a gun useless. John pulled his knife and went after it. Although, it was futile and all his attacks seemed to do was hit air. It didn’t seem to matter about his own fighting skill because none of his blows seemed to land or do any harm to the creature.
All the creature’s blows landed on John – hard. It felt like cheating.
He felt the skin across his back and hip rip open, and his last conscious thought was, I should have stayed by the portal.
John gasped as he woke up from a vivid nightmare. He winced, clutching his side as pain raced up from his hip. He was guessing it wasn’t a nightmare. He had been stupid enough to attack an energy creature and lost badly.
“Do not move so much. You are lucky to be alive.”
John’s memories were reordering themselves as he tried to fill in the blanks. He was sure this was the guy who’d been cowering on the ground from the creature. “Where am I?” And damn, even speaking hurt right now.
“This is the Sanctuary, young traveller, and my name is Avrid. I am in your debt.”
John felt like shrugging might use too many muscles in one go. And despite what Rodney thought, he wasn’t a masochist. “Think nothing of it. My name is Colonel John Sheppard. How am I still alive, not that I am not grateful?”
A woman smacked Avrid’s shoulder. “Honestly brother. You should let him rest, not talk his ear off.”
John’s smile grew, seeing the cute brunette standing next to her brother. He tried to cover for his new friend. “He hasn’t kept me talking.”
She rolled her eyes, not impressed with John’s attempt to smooth talk her. “There is no point in covering for him. I know my brother’s character all too well.”
John kept his smile innocent. “Thank you for caring for me …”
“I am Teer, and it is our younger sister, Hedda, who you should thank as she is the one who healed you.”
John soon adjusted his opinion of her being a sweet and pretty, timid young woman. She was fierce in her duties as a caregiver. He wasn’t allowed to move or do anything much that could disturb his healing side. She even fed him during the day as he wasn’t supposed to move his arms while the muscles finished knitting together in his shoulder.
He found in all honesty, even if he wanted to get up and move about, he had no energy to try and move. It was obvious just how close a call he’d had with the creature. He really needed to stop tempting fate.
The morning came once more, and a young girl who was obviously Teer’s sister given familiar bone structures’ was peering at him. She seemed vexed. “I should have healed it better.”
She reached over, and John could see her glowing hands. Wow, his brain soon caught up. Some villagers were on their way to ascension if they were displaying gifts associated with the Ancients. He tried gently to reassure her, “Hey, Hedda. I am good. You can let my body do the rest of the work. I know how much healing will take out of you.”
She scowled, “But you nearly died looking after stupid Avrid.”
John chuckled because that was a sibling’s response if ever there was one. He was familiar considering his own sibling issues with Dave when they were younger. “Hey, I am a warrior amongst my people. It is my job to fight so that I can protect people.”
She huffed. “And my job is to heal, and you’re not letting me.”
John chuckled and patted the side of the bed. “You know I can see that and you’re pretty great at it, but I can see how tired it makes you. I can handle a wound, but I would love to have an explanation of how everything works around here.”
She clambered up on the bed with a massive grin. She was clearly pleased with the idea of sharing her knowledge. “In that case, you need to learn how things work around here.”
John was now finally back on his feet, and there couldn’t have been a sweeter feeling. He was so happy to be walking around that he could have danced. Okay, so maybe not danced as he wasn’t that type, but he was ecstatic to be standing on his own two feet without aid.
As he walked around, most of the locals greeted him with a smile. A few did not, and he learned they were the pacifists who disagreed with his choice to fight the monster. He looked to see what he could do to help, but all he got as a reply was chores and meditation. He didn’t get it, but if all they were going to do was meditate, then it was going to get real boring real quick.
He refused to think this would be his life until he died. He may have no escape from this place, but it would just give him the impetus to solve the problems regarding the portal. He shouldn’t just wait for Rodney, he should think about what he might do on this side of the portal to rescue himself.
In the beginning, he had hope, and John made a choice to do some chores to support the village. Once he had done his part of the day’s duties, he would then go back to his room, and try to repair his equipment and fix up his radio to make contact with his team. He had hoped that Atlantis would figure out a way to rescue him. It wasn’t a vain hope because they’d all pulled off miracles all the time; it was just now it was for him.
The first week in the village was easy for him, but as he ended his second conscious week in the village. He was finding faith a little harder to come by as the days wore on. He knew there was a time dilation between inside and outside the portal. However, as he’d spent a month here, it was wearing on him mentally. He knew the team would be working on the problem, but if the time dilation was extreme, then a week to them on the outside could be a year to him on the inside. He was thinking about chores and should he maybe meditate with the others. It was a worrying sign, and John had to resist thinking like this. He would keep faith by doing the mental calculations and his own version of science. He had to keep his mind on living rather than the slow decay that the others were engaging in. He had a wry smile thinking about Rodney’s face if he saw the Math he was completing right now. Rodney might be proud or start shouting about fluffy-haired idiots who chose to hide their brain.
Teer waltzed up to where he was sitting at the edge of the sanctuary. There were a great many things that frustrated John about this place, but he appreciated how gorgeous the land around the village was. It was just too bad that the beast made it impossible to go too far. He still had a few scars on his back to prove why it was a bad idea. He wasn’t in a hurry to repeat the experience unless he could figure out a way to take out the bastard thing.
“I have brought you some food.” She announced sweetly and slightly unsure of her welcome. John winced because he was guessing he must have been a bit of a bastard in the last week.
He’d done the math concerning the time dilation field first, and it hadn’t been what he wanted. He’d checked twice and was struggling to accept that he probably would not see Atlantis again. If his maths was right, inside the portal was running at about one day outside to six months inside here. So if it took Rodney a week to figure out the solution, then he would have spent nearly four years here. The thought of not returning to the city, which was the first place he felt truly at home, weighed heavily on him. He hadn’t quite let on to Rodney or Elizabeth just how connected he was to the city. The city had been speaking to him since the first moment he’d set foot upon the city. John just hoped she wouldn’t be too upset by him not returning to the city after this mission.
Still, whatever his feelings may be at the moment, Teer didn’t deserve to put up with his bad mood. He hadn’t been rude per se, but he hadn’t been the best at communicating in the last week. He managed a small smile for the sweet woman. “Thank you.” He ran the day’s itinerary through his head and wasn’t sure if he’d missed something. “Did I miss a chore?”
She shook her head. “No, just an argument.”
John snorted because he knew what the argument was about – him. His reluctance to go with the status quo in the village was a hot issue amongst the leaders. They all acknowledged his bravery and the injuries he’d suffered through saving one of their own, but now he was healed and unable to leave. John had tried his best to fit in, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t undergo a personality transplant. He didn’t bother to hide his annoyance with Teer. “Let me guess Avrid thinks I should meditate like I plan to join you all on your path to ascension.”
She sat down beside him. She rested her head on her knees, and looked at him beseechingly, “Would it be such a bad thing?”
John winced because there was no good answer here. He didn’t see the Ancients as something to aspire to, like the rest of the sanctuary’s occupants. He hated their non-interference policy that they seem to have enacted because it seemed like the biggest cop-out in the world to him.
It would have been like him waking the Wraith, and then escaping through the gate back to Earth, and letting this galaxy deal with it. He had no intention of leaving this galaxy until he’d eradicated the Wraith. It might be a burden that he planned to wipe out a race, but he wouldn’t be able to look at himself in a mirror if he didn’t try. It was not like he could negotiate with the Wraith when they considered humans to be food. It was one of the reasons he had to escape the sanctuary because he had a war to finish.
The idea of ascending, and just giving up wasn’t his style. “Not a bad thing, but it’s not my style, and I have too much to do in the land of the living before I can roll around up there.” He said, pointing at the sky.
“It is much more than that! You get to have spiritual enlightenment.” Teer said with a cheer. She hoped if she could help John believe in their goals that he would fit in better and help the whole village achieve its goal. She couldn’t explain it, but both Hedda and she felt that John was the key to their own ascension. The problem was how he would help eluded them as they were not prone to visions like Ganna.
John would have to agree to disagree, but he knew better than to try to reason with them. He realised he was the only one not drinking the crazy kool-aid. He’d done enough covert ops to know that continuing to stand out in the crowd would have lasting repercussions.
It might be stupid, and he needed to ignore the part of him that was screaming he was giving up. John stood up and offered his hand to help her up. “Okay, how about you show me the ropes this afternoon?”
She wrinkled her nose in confusion at the phrase. “There are no ropes in meditation.”
John bit back an innuendo knowing how pure Teer was and smiled softly. The one thing he liked about being stuck on this side of the portal was how innocent everyone was – it made him feel jaded. “It’s a saying, and it means you will have to show me meditation. We don’t do really meditate where I’m from.”
He walked around the mats where people just sat, letting the day whirl by without making an imprint. John found a vacant spot, placed his mat down and sat cross-legged to try it. He kept chanting in his mind that this was the best thing possible for parties involved, even if he hated the very idea.
An hour later, and John’s opinion hadn’t changed – Meditating sucked ass. He hated being so still. It was a level of boredom that usually led to mischief. He was a lieutenant colonel, and he could sit still for an hour, but this sucked. He figured he would use the chance to mull over so many problems racing through his mind.
Okay, he thought about all the things on Atlantis that he adored. He knew some people suspected, but no one had confirmation that his connection with Atlantis was a lot deeper than he had confessed to anyone. John wasn’t naïve, but he couldn’t tell anyone as he risked losing his place with the expedition. He had too many people who wanted him removed and been under the influence of an alien power would be a perfect excuse.
The thinking time was good for something, as John could ponder his situation. He knew the portal was ancient tech, and he could manipulate ancient technology, so maybe, just maybe, there was some more lying around the village. He could see if he could sense some around the village and unlike whatever the portal was that sucked him in – This one might spit him back out. It was worth a try. John was desperate for any lead at this point. Ancient tech usually pinged in the back of his head, but he just did his best to ignore it. The other reason was quite simply he had no desire to end up as a lab rat – he got the feeling that Beckett was sad he’d recovered from nearly turning into a bug. John had always got the impression Beckett would have preferred to test his conversion once he’d gone full-on Kafka. The man could be a little too mad scientist for his tastes, and now one else seemed to think so around him.
John forgot all about those concerns as he stretched that part of himself outward. He subconsciously went further into meditation than he realised. He could feel a tenuous link to something, and he pulled on the thread. It was so thin it was like cotton, and he didn’t want it to break through impatience. He knew It might be his only slim chance of getting out of here.
He had no idea he was glowing.
The villagers felt the change in the air; it was almost tangible and looked at their visitor. It was a miracle. It was like the texts described, and maybe he was sent there to help them achieve their goal. The village elder who had been harassing Avrid, Teer and Hedda into making John accept his stay changed his tune.
It was ironic that even though everyone was silent, John still picked up on the tension. It must be years of experience. He peeked one eye open. “How did I do?”
Teer was staring at him agog. She managed a faint, “Very well for someone who professes not to know how to meditate you seem to be quite advanced.” Her tone was somewhere between vexed and in awe with him.
It was too much for John, and he stood up quickly. He didn’t like how easy it had been to slip into that zone, and that scared him. It may have been a month, but he expected Atlantis to come for him. “Yeah, that was a head trip for sure.”
Teer needed to learn some of his odd patterns of speech as the communicator may help with knowing each other’s languages, but they were still world-specific phrases that needed clarifying.
John swung the axe, which was as close to fun as he would get in this place. He’d managed to gather some wood at the edge of the village. He reckoned he probably had about another thirty yards before he would trigger a visit by the energy monster. It wasn’t natural, it was like the creature wanted to keep the villagers inside this place, and that just felt damn sinister to him. He’d suspect the Wraith, but they came nowhere near this planet.
“You know, John. You have become such an integral part of the village.” It didn’t help his thoughts about the alien’s controlling behaviour to suffer a visit by the Village Elder. He walked around all day doing his best chancellor Palpatine impression.
John put the axe down and let no stray thoughts pass through his surface memory. He’d seen too many cases of even the friendliest faces being the one who could ultimately kill you. He was building up a mental inventory of who had what extra gifts thanks to their meditation. He accepted the compliment and gave nothing away. “Thank you, Elder. I just don’t know how long I will be here. I know my people are working to help me.”
The man patted his shoulder. “You may not have come here in the way this sanctuary was intended by those who came before us, but you’ve caused a renewed zeal to achieve our goal.”
John smiled and had to bite down on his tongue, not to give in to a Rodney style rant. He may have started to meditate, but he still felt ascension was the refuge of people who’d given up on living. His weak smile wasn’t his most impressive effort, but he didn’t care. “Happy to help.”
It shook him to realise he hadn’t touched or even looked at the radio during the day. He’d woken up, eaten with Avrid and his family, and then took his axe to chop wood. It hadn’t even occurred to him to take his radio. Was he giving up?
Teer, and little Hedda, were standing to the side waiting for him as the Elder walked away. John would have loved to know what that whole little interaction was truly about, but now he had a few other thoughts. His dark thoughts were interrupted by Hedda saying.
“We were wondering if you would like to join us for our midday meal.”
John wanted to go back to his room and look at the radio and fiddle with it as a matter of principle, but he was starving. That, and the fact he didn’t much feel like disappointing two young women with the best case of puppy dog eyes. He so needed to work on that. “Sure let’s go.”
John got a few looks as they entered the communal eating area with Hedda on one arm and Teer on the other. He saw the way Candar, one of the other men, kept glaring at him. No earthly desires my ass. If looks could kill, he would be six feet under right now.
Candar still needed to work on his intimidation tactics as he had nothing on Steve the Wraith. So John being John, he threw a smirk behind him as he sat down.
John was out in the square running through his PT exercises, wanting to keep his muscles supple when Hedda had found him. She was a young one, but John liked her calm nature and blunt questions. It was like talking to Rodney without three PHDs to mould her thinking. It didn’t matter whether a child was nearing ascension or not. You had to love their ability to shock you with a question every time they spoke.
She stood primly waiting for him to finish his exercises. John knew to be on guard, but she waited until he towelled himself dry before asking what she’d been dying to ask. “Do you like Teer?”
John had wondered how many times he could be asked such a question. She wasn’t the only one to ask from brothers to jealous unrequited potential lovers and creepy chancellor-like ambassadors. Hedda had one thing in her favour, unlike all the other people with their own agendas he adored her. She was still so young and full of life, plus, he couldn’t forget that she was the one who healed him from the alien attack. He found himself giving her an honest answer rather than his usual sarcasm. “Your sister is a good woman, Hedda. There is nothing to dislike, that is for sure.”
“Good she likes you,” she replied like it was that simple.
He kind of wished it was still that simple. John chuckled, trying to explain it so she could accept. “That is because I saved your brother.”
Hedda smirked at him and shook her head like she knew more than he did on the matter. “She wouldn’t still bring you food for that. Trust me.”
“I do,” John said as the young girl was wise beyond words.
Hedda said something that gave him a little context. “She feels bad that you didn’t mean to stay here. She is worried about you.”
John shrugged as in the beginning; he’d not been shy about the fact he didn’t plan on staying. “She shouldn’t. It wasn’t her fault I got sucked into the portal. I explore new worlds, and that is a risk you take.”
“Do you regret exploring?”
John should have expected the next question, but it caught him off guard. A part of him wondered if he should have ever said yes to the expedition, but he couldn’t envisage doing anything else now he was here. It was part of his blood, and Atlantis felt like home. He hadn’t felt like anything like it, anywhere else in the entirety of the universe. He didn’t want to limit himself to galaxies considering they were in a separate one in Atlantis from Earth. “No, princess, I don’t. You have to make choices every day, and the important thing is to learn from the good and the bad.”
She thought she understood the point he was trying to make. “Like when I healed you, but it made you upset because it hurt me.”
John couldn’t help but hug her. It was a new thing, just like letting people touch him. He had figured that he’d cut that part of himself off in special ops. “Yeah, kiddo. I know you think it is weird, but I explained how adults view children on Terra.”
“But I am okay.” In her mind, she had the gifts to heal, so she did. It was a simple transaction, and just one way she could help support the sanctuary. She thought John’s people were silly and had said as much to him previously.
“Well, I know that, but at the same time, I can’t change how I feel.” John offered as an explanation.
“I see, thank you.” She skipped away, ready to play. John didn’t know if he’d just been played or not. It was hard not to like the people here, but it wasn’t his life.
Teer slid over to John’s side. She’d seen her sister in conversation with John and hadn’t wanted to disturb it as Hedda so rarely spoke with anyone except herself. She was a little worried that something might be wrong with her sister. “Is Hedda okay?”
“She was asking my opinion on life choices I think,” John replied, at least that was what he thought the conversation was about, but he wasn’t too sure. He replayed the conversation in his head, and he still wasn’t sure.
Teer just smiled knowingly. “Don’t worry. I also would often like to know what the conversation with Hedda was really about.”
He relaxed, “Oh good, so not just me.”
“No, John, not just you.” She smiled, “You know meditation starts soon. I thought you would appreciate the reminder.”
John watched her walk away and if he thought about other things – he was a man and these chiffon dresses left nothing to the imagination, even if they covered everything. He tried to figure out what he could do in the afternoon to balance the boredom of meditation, but also take his mind of sashaying hips. He also wanted to know why his inner voice sounded like Rodney suddenly.
The day was going so well, which with John’s luck should have put him more on guard. He was repairing the shaft of the water well when a terrifying scream split the air, and his blood ran cold. He didn’t even think about it. His knife was in his hand even as he was running towards the danger. John didn’t care to wait because he knew the scream, and it was Hedda’s. She had woken up last week screaming from a vision, but she claimed it was unclear. John could guess it just got a whole lot clearer. She was so young and this stupid beast, or whatever the hell it was, could go to hell. He couldn’t let the creature treat Hedda like its favourite chew toy as it had with John.
Hedda was trapped on the other side of the meeting hall, but John soon ran the distance, his morning PT coming in handy. He didn’t understand how the villagers could just be standing there. “Help her!”
“The creature will simply attack more of us.” The creepy chancellor intoned. John could see why they were standing as the whole village hung off the words spoken by the village elder. Still, he had to smile at Teer because his girl was refusing just to stand there. She kept yelling and making as much noise as possible. It was a vain hope, but she was hoping to distract it long enough for Hedda to get to the safety of the meeting place.
If there was one thing everyone agreed on was the cloister was safety. John had wondered just why the creature was intent on keeping them inside the village. However, that was a thought for another time as right now, he just wanted to see Hedda get to safety.
John pointed his knife up into an attack position. He was keeping his eyes on the air displacement, in a vain attempt to track the movements of the creature. “Hedda. When I charge you run to Teer. Do you hear me.”
John smiled at her softly. “Me too kiddo, but you’ve got my back, and I’ve got yours. Just don’t look after you start running.”
He took a deep breath and centred himself and charged. “RUN!”
He might not kill it, but hey, this time he might find its weak spot because it was still too damn translucent to get a proper attack mounted. “Hey, why don’t you pick on someone your own size?”
The creature let loose another ungodly screech, and he actually felt his clothes move backwards from the blast of air. John did wonder if he should work on his sarcasm. It might be his refuge to stay sane, but it would probably see him dead. It took a swipe at him, and he barely managed to avoid it. He knew he couldn’t keep up a fight of evasion as he would lose badly. Taking a wild swing with his knife failed, and he hissed as it caught the outside of his arm. “I really should stop bringing a knife to a gunfight, huh?”
Still, he was committed to his action. He would fight the beast as he didn’t want Teer or Hedda to be hurt through inaction. He could never just sit and watch like the other villagers. As far as he was concerned, this whole non-violence principle was going to get real old, real quick.
He valiantly thought he could get somewhere, and the creature looked more corporeal this time. His knife did nothing though, he was trying to jab different areas hoping to find its Achilles heel, but it was not affected. Once more, he felt his skin tear open as its claws sunk into his stomach. He didn’t go down, his adrenaline doing its job. He needed to make sure the creature focussed on him until he could hear Hedda and Teer make it to actual safety. Teer had run closer to grab her little sister. It wasn’t helping as he landed in a heap after it smacked him across the rocky ground.
The fight didn’t go in his favour and his last thoughts before he gave into his many injuries. At least the girls are safe.
John woke up with a start and took in his surroundings. Huh. He was so sure that he would not wake up after his second battle with the creature. Still, the pain he felt showed he was very much alive and shouldn’t have exerted his stomach muscles. “Ow.”
He needed to come up with a better plan of attack if he was going to face the infernal creature once more. He wished to see if it would survive Ronan’s gun, but knowing their luck, it would probably strengthen it.
“You’re awake,” Teer said, pleased and sounding out of breath like she’d dashed to his side. She kissed him softly, which was nice, if unexpected. He was sure they didn’t believe in romantic entanglements as attachments would confuse their path to ascension.
“Hey,” John tried to sit up and reassure her that he was okay. It was a bad idea, and he groaned in pain, “Won’t do that again.”
Teer gasped, blushing at how forward she’d been. She bit her lip, hoping he wouldn’t hold her behaviour against her. She should have been more careful, but she had been so worried about John. She fussed with his blankets but quickly checked his bandages. “Don’t move the damage was too much for Hedda to heal in one go.”
He looked down at his shoulder as Teer gently removed the bandage. John could see there was still a wound there bloodying up the white shirt. He shook his head because he didn’t rescue little Hedda, so she could exhaust herself fixing him up. “It’s okay. It will heal. No need to hurt yourself, little princess.”
“You will be in pain for a while,” Teer replied, obviously upset at the idea of him being in pain when it could be fixed.
John shook his head. He didn’t want Hedda to feel any pain when he could heal naturally. It was telling that he only had a small puncture wound instead of looking like a horror film extra. “It’s okay. I will be fine, and it’s not like I’ve not got time.”
She smirked at him, now more used to his teasing. “I think you just want me to bring you food in bed.”
John’s smile went lazy and flirty to match. “Well, you can’t blame me for seeking your company, and your food is the best.” He loved that she was still trying to live in the here and now. He also loved the way that none of the others, had managed to squash her personality.
She chuckled. “You’re a good man, John Sheppard.” She bent down and kissed his cheek. “I am glad to have met you.”
John could hear Rodney in his head, asking what was it with him and alien women. He didn’t know what was happening, but it had been over four months since he’d arrived. He’d kept a prisoner scorecard to track the days as best as he could, wanting to know when he should give hope. If he was honest, it had happened on day 90, knowing after three months, he would struggle to justify the expense of maintaining a rescue mission.
This second attack by the alien creature had put things in perspective for him, but he needed to accustom himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be leaving the sanctuary walking on two feet. Over the last month, he’d still been resisting the fact. He’d accepted Atlantis wouldn’t rescue him, but he’d been scouring the village hoping to find some useful tech to help him. The introspection and time meditating had been enlightening, not that he would ever admit that to Teyla.
Firstly, the only thing holding back the villagers from ascension – was themselves. If he were a betting man, he would guess their doubts and fears. The extended time meditating had also helped him figure out how to ascend. He hadn’t shared that fact as he imagined the creepy-chancellor, and at this point, John didn’t even care to learn the village leader’s name. He knew that if they all knew, then he would be in a whole lot of trouble as he wouldn’t leave him alone if he did. After the first few times, he’d learned to turn off the glowing thing. He just had to concentrate on keeping quiet. So even though he could ascend when he pleased – he had no intention of doing so until he had no other option.
John joined everyone for breakfast, knowing people had been whispering about how close he and Teer were since the last attack. It seemed from what Avrid had said, the village’s opinion about how he dealt with the attack incident. The creepy-chancellor was saying he shouldn’t use violence and his injuries were a ‘just’ punishment. However, the younger contingent was fond of Teer and Hedda, and all agreed that John was brave and had done what needed to happen even at considerable risk to himself.
John didn’t care about their opinions, but he knew Teer did. He just hoped there were no more run-ins with the bastard creature as it didn’t fight fair.
As he sat down with Teer, Avrid and Hedda, a shadow blocked their light.
“You are back once more.”
John got the impression the Elder didn’t like him much, probably because he wasn’t sharing his glowy skills. It could also be the whole difference of opinion kind of thing. He saw ascension as necessary, whereas John thought if he was to shed his earthly burdens – they should live first. John may have adapted better to village life in the last two months knowing outright resistance would have probably seen him lynched, but that didn’t mean he had given up his own opinions.
John didn’t care about their opinions regarding ascension, but it would be nice to get back up against the creature. It couldn’t have escaped everyone’s notice that the perimeter around the village was getting smaller and smaller before the beast appeared. John knew in his heart that it would come to a pass where the villagers would have to make a stand.
John was getting a little tired of the lone soldier routine. He knew they were not trained to fight like he was, and he did get that. From a few conversations, John got the impression that a few villagers seemed to think they should lie down and die. He didn’t get that attitude as it was so foreign to him.
John offered the Elder a polite smile. “You know my Grandpa always said that I was too stubborn for my own good.”
It didn’t seem like he’d said what he was looking for as the Elder walked off in a huff, muttering under his breath about things John didn’t care to hear.
Teer giggled at John’s disgruntled look. “I don’t think he likes you.”
John looked at his companion and smirked, showing he didn’t care. He kept trying to play nice for Teer and Hedda’s sake, but the guy freaked him out on a cellular level. “Funny, I am a great guy, so I don’t know what his problem is.”
“They will see it,” Hedda assured him. John had been too unconscious to see what she had. She had seen the shame on their faces about leaving him to face the beast on his own. The embarrassment that once more, John was protecting one of their own.
John knew that most of the villagers had some sort of extra power – due to their meditation. He knew Hedda was a healer, but he got the feeling there was something more to her statement. He shook it off as there was nothing he could do about it now.
Perhaps he should devote his meditation time to a new goal. It would come in handy if he unlocked some gifts like the others in the village. He hadn’t bothered to try, knowing he could ascend and instead used the time to search the space for technology that would help him get out of here. It could be that the key to the beast’s defeat lay in using the extra gifts. At this point, he was willing to try anything, not wanting to risk his luck on a third go with the creature.
John growled in frustration as he stormed back to his room. He shouldn’t have spoken with the village elder, but he needed to say something. It was more than evident that the space considered safe around the village needed to be reduced. The Elder made a smug comment about him being one of them, and it pissed him off. In truth, he’d figured out that even if the team wanted to keep working on his escape, they would have been ordered to cease operation. It was on top of yet another unsuccessful meditation session, so his frustration levels were sky-high.
Teer looked at him, and she couldn’t hide her worried look, and he felt like a douche. She was too sweet to put up with his moods and even though he was trying his best. He still seemed unable to communicate with women even when he liked them.
“Don’t growl. Talk to me.” She insisted firmly, wanting to support John with his troubles. After all, he had done so much for them, and she hated to see his brow so furrowed.
John chuckled at the irony of it all. “I can’t access it, but I can feel it.”
“What are you trying to access?”
“The powers you all have, I know that if I could do it … I could probably stab that stupid bastard alien right in its eyes which is no less than the thing deserves.”
John replied as he collapsed onto the bedroll, feeling so exhausted from the effort he’d put in. It was like there was a lock on it, which was ridiculous because he could ascend.
She lay by his side, feeling brave enough to do this now, and she didn’t care if Avrid walked in as John needed the comfort. “You are brave and determined …It will come in time. I know it will.”
John kissed her forehead, “I just worry it won’t be in time.”
John’s worst fears were confirmed as once more he heard the ominous groan the energy monster made. He didn’t need to think about it – he raced out of the cloister hall and pushed past the frozen villagers. His anger at their inability to take action was infuriating. The beast was attacking one of their own, and their fears were stopping them from helping.
Once more, poor little Hedda was cowering behind a rock as the creature closed in. She wasn’t even past the boundary-line that the villagers considered the safety zone. All because the Elder had refused to listen to John’s advice to reduce it.
“John!” Hedda screamed as she felt the jaw of the thing snap at her feet.
John assessed the situation for a second, “Stay there, Hedda. Run when I say.”
“Colonel Sheppard!” Teyla shouted. Her voice still instantly recognisable despite not having heard it in six months.
John would have loved to react positively to hearing Teyla’s voice, but this was a FUBAR situation. If he was honest, reunions didn’t matter because there was a little girl who needed rescuing. He smiled at Teyla. “Watch out. I need to get Hedda. The creature attacks indiscriminately.”
He said nothing but ran straight for the rock and threw himself in the gap between Hedda and the beast. His back took a beating, but the young girl was safe beneath him, and he heard Ronan’s weapon discharge above him.
He stroked her face and whispered. “Stay down.” He was valiantly trying to hide his pain.
“He is hurting you!” She cried out, tears running down her face.
“But not you,” John replied simply, and to John, it was that simple.
He heard the bullets, and Ronan growls above him. He couldn’t help the fight physically the creature had seen to it. He could only protect Hedda with the only thing he had left – his body. He wouldn’t be able to do anything else. The one swipe had caught his spine. In some ways, it was a good thing – he was numb, so he felt no pain.
He could barely move his head, but he could hear the villagers surround them. Teer was leading them. Finally, she was always the more spirited one of the village. She was a far better person to listen to than the creepy-chancellor. She sounded so sure and steadfast as she declared. “We banish you. We fear you no longer.”
It was true that the monster represented all their fears and burdens personified. John could hear the beast howls as it was banished from this reality. He groaned as that had taken them way too long to figure out and now once more he was looking like swiss cheese. He doubted even little Hedda would be able to fix this injury.
He heard Rodney but couldn’t see him. “What happened!?!”
“Help me out here.” John was conscious of the fact little Hedda was still under him, and she needed to be able to leave with her family.
Teyla and Ronan gently pushed John over onto his back. He groaned in pain, but he couldn’t help but be sarcastic. “You took your sweet time!”
He shouldn’t have done as it started a coughing fit and he knew it was terrible. His Atlantis team were finally standing around him looking stricken. He would have made a witty comment, but he needed to concentrate on breathing. He could see the other villagers around them start ascending into the air. Oh, the irony, he’d resisted ascending, and now he knew it would be the only way to save himself.
Hedda scrambled to his side. Her hands were glowing, but John shook his head. “No Kiddo, this is too much for you to save even once you ascend.”
Teer knelt beside Hedda, having pushed past his shocked team. She touched his cheek, and he couldn’t even feel it. She had tears in her eyes, not knowing what John would choose, considering his views in the past. “This will kill you if you stay.”
“I know,” John gasped out. “And we had a good thing going, right?”
“John.” Teyla’s voice was so full of compassion, and she knelt on the other side to Teer. They all stood around him, but he couldn’t move if he tried.
“Hey,” he was choking and smiled in pain. “My luck finally ran out.”
Teyla was pitying, and as per usual, her eyes spoke volumes. She seemed to be the only one who could speak. “Don’t stay here in pain. Go and explore the galaxy in a new way.”
“I still have so much to do.” John gasped out in sheer stubbornness.
She tilted her head towards Teer and Hedda. “And you still have the opportunity with them. Go in peace John Sheppard.” She rested her head against his in the traditional Athosian way.
Weir and McKay were standing there looking grief stricken. It was a reminder to John that they were academics. They had seen death as part of the expedition and suffered, but it still wasn’t something they could handle too easily. John tried to reassure them, knowing they would blame themselves for not getting to him sooner. It was funny, but his despair had worn away, and there was no anger at being stuck here. As he shed that last bit of emotion, he felt his own transformation start to take hold. “Hey, we had a good run, and this is not the end.”
“You’re going to be a glowing jellyfish?” Rodney asked, “You and Ancient women, seriously Sheppard.”
John was now standing, but he still was holding Teer’s hand, but they were both resisting the final aspect to see his team safe. He smiled at Rodney’s snark. “It’s that or death, and besides I might go pick a few arguments with the Ancients.”
“If anyone can, it is you.” Ronan offered. He’d seen it happen in battle, and he didn’t blame Sheppard if he’d chosen either route.
John smiled, and all could see his energy start to form around him as he shed his mortal body. “Look after them, big guy.”
“I will,” Ronan promised.
His goodbyes said, and he let the full energy transformation take hold. It was fantastic, and he could feel himself regain all the strength he’d felt sapped from him only minutes ago. He might be able to leave, but his Atlantean friends would struggle without his help. The only part of him still corporeal was his head to give a final message. “Go, Rodney. The portal is open, but it will not stay that way.”
“Oh, come on, Colonel.”
Teer, using the same floating head trick, was forceful in her response. “This planet is a sanctuary from the Wraith. If you are not seeking enlightenment, you will leave it for those who will.”
Rodney pouted but knew he could hardly argue with newly Ancient people. “Don’t be a stranger and feel free to give me some hints about ZPM’s!”
John smirked, and the last image the Atlantean crew saw was him disappearing into the sky, but at least he was not in pain.
He hoped this would be fun – and not as dull as meditation.
Chapter 2: Untold Burden
John wondered what ascension would be like because the reports from Dr Jackson were sketchy at best, but this was so not what he’d expected.
John expected ascension to be a lot of floating and looking at the stars close up. He knew he could be a floating ball of energy, after all, he’d proved that when leaving the sanctuary.
So he was a bit bemused to be standing around in Alterran clothes in what his little geeky heart thought was a holodeck. He went for the door but bounced off it. Jesus Christ, there was no way out. He couldn’t have broken the rules already, could he?
He wasn’t left to contemplate all his life choices for long. A man walked through the door, and John knew those cheekbones because he saw them every time he looked in the mirror, same eyes too, which made no sense. John tilted his head in confusion, “What is going on?”
“Hello, grandson,” was the returned cordial greeting.
It was like the man had just popped in for Sunday dinner and not was introducing him into the ways of Alteran life. The man had so much explaining to do it was unfunny.
“How are you here? Nana said you died in War!”
The man looked sheepish, “Not quite. I needed to return to my time, and I couldn’t explain to my superiors that I had fallen in love with your grandmother.”
John was about to ask what would have happened, but he knew the answer himself. “Wow, so you fell in love with my grandma, got her pregnant and then did a runner.”
“You make it sound sordid,” The man scowled.
John rolled his eyes, “Not at all. She married her best friend, so she didn’t end up a pregnant widow with no options.”
The man rolled his eyes at the attitude John displayed like he was an angry teenager. “I can hear your judgement, Johnathon. You don’t understand the implications.”
“Oh no, Grandpa. You don’t get to play that tone with me, and you damn well know it.”
John took a deep breath because he was standing opposite his namesake, and realising there may have been more than one reason for the honour. It was uncanny, but at least John could say that he was going to age well.
His mind was racing at a mile a minute trying to comprehend everything he now knew instinctively. This whole changing form was for kicks when they had to interact with lower planes. “I know you from more than the photo albums with Nana. Why? And I am guessing that your name isn’t John, so what should my parents have called me?”
The man smiled, pleased to be at least partly recognised. He knew John was angry with him, and only factual information would be well-received. “You know of me, I believe. The Terrans, you were with, they called me Janus. It is our people’s version of the name John, so your name still is true.”
John had to throw his head back, and laugh because of course they were related. He wasn’t kidding about time-travel. “You rock the whole time travel thing. Thanks for ensuring we didn’t all drown on landing.”
John might be pissed, but Janus’ actions made more sense with the old Elizabeth they’d found with this new perspective. The Old Elizabeth had informed them that Janus was bereft on seeing the dead John, but wouldn’t explain why. John could say he had a good idea now about the answer to that riddle.
“Did you really break time to make sure Atlantis survived after you guys chose to abandon it?”
Janus shrugged because there was little point in denying it. He was the creator of the city and had put a lot of time and toil into the city, and didn’t want to see his greatest creation destroyed. He’d done so much in his life that was aimed at the destruction of their enemies. He’d wanted his legacy to be positive and to withstand the test of time. “Well, time is just energy, and we can manipulate it. You should be glad considering you wouldn’t have been born if I couldn’t manipulate time, or had a chance to ascend.”
John was more than aware of that fact but didn’t know how to handle it. His life was already in a significant upheaval considering he’d effectively swapped species just an hour ago. He wasn’t sure if he could adjust to the fact his grandfather was an alien at this moment. He would get to it – soon. He wasn’t sure if he was ready to know if he was a planned and contrived birth, or how his father and brother play into this whole scenario.
“Why am I here?” John asked. He hoped to change the subject at least for the moment. His new-found knowledge told him that here was on their homeworld, where Atlantis first resided. “And where is Teer?”
Janus smirked at his grandson’s priorities and was pleased to see that despite his mindset – he could still care for people. There was no judgement, he’d known many brave soldiers but defending the peace of society came at a cost for the individual. “Your lady is fine, but first we need to talk to you about your destiny.”
John had a sense of dread because, in his experience, those were big words. He didn’t think he had a big destiny, and not now as he had ascended. It hadn’t been his first choice to give up on life, but it seems if you take on metaphysical beasts that can rip your insides up you have to accept the consequences. “What destiny?” He asked, not bothering to hide the wariness from his voice.
Janus spoke so earnestly. “To erase the mistakes of your forefathers.”
John groaned in disbelief at the hypocrisy because he knew what his grandfather was trying to say without using the words that would make him scream. “You want me to destroy the Wraith, don’t you?”
His grandfather didn’t say it, but the silence spoke volumes. The silence was as tense as an old Mexican stand-off in an old western movie. His grandfather broke first, “Come we have much to discuss.” Janus opened the door, and John got to do his first part of real exploring since leaving the sanctuary planet. He took in every aspect, not knowing if or when it might be useful. “Your goddamn right we do.”
John didn’t know you could have a headache without a body, but he was getting one.
His grandfather may have hoped that distracting him with exploration might work, but he was not so easy. You don’t just tell someone they needed to fix a millennium-old problem, and not expect at the very least some follow up questions.
“You want me to fix the Wraith screw up? How?”
It didn’t make any sense to John to tell him this now, “I am now ascended just like you. If there is one thing I have learnt, is you hate when we interfere in the mortal plane.”
“We do have rules regarding that issue, but they apply in specific situations.” His grandfather replied, trying to split hairs.
“Did you deliberately get with my grandmother?” John asked voice taut with emotion.
“Your father needed to be born, one of the seers said it would be a grandson of mine who would be able to bridge the gap between us, and our offspring, and right the wrongs.” Janus did give him a hint, and it made sense. He’d known people in the village who had been able to see small snippets of the future.
This whole thing was all just too crazy, and his mind was reeling from just the small implication his grandfather hinted at in his reply. How was he supposed to react to being told he was the Luke Skywalker of the Ancients? He had to consider yet that he didn’t know the nuances of exactly how he was supposed to get rid of the Wraith.
And yet, there was a small part of him that couldn’t help but hope he would get the chance to fix his mistake. He’d been on the Wraith ship aiming to retrieve his Military Commander and the Athosiasns. The SGC had never seen a creature like the Wraith and watching it literally suck the life out of Summers while interrogating him had been one of the uglier things he’d witnessed in his life. It hurt him to do it, but he’d taken the honourable shot and killed Colonel Summers to end the man’s misery.
As a result, he had awoken the scourge of the galaxy by killing the Caretaker queen in revenge. It had been his biggest regret in choosing to ascend. He knew he still had work against the Wraith to do, but his wounds were too severe. It was ascension or death.
If he was honest, he figured that it was one of the silver linings to ascending – peace. He had fought hard, but each time there was death, or, an incident like the Hoff planet. He’d taken it to heart knowing he was the catalyst and it would wear at even the hardiest soul.
He knew with his ascension that he essentially had all the galaxy at his fingertips. He had plans, carefully constructed mental plans on learning all the rules governing Ancients, and then he was going to figure out how he could give his former teammates significant clues to help them. It hadn’t been a perfect plan, but it was all he could do. He’d hoped briefly that he might be able to figure out a loophole just like Daniel Jackson had – only without ending up buckass naked. He needed to get it right because he refused to be chained to the city as much as he adored her. He would need to invest in shares of Tylenol if that was the case – The city was excitable and chatted to John a lot having been left alone for ten thousand years.
John figured he should lay out all the problems he might encounter in one go. He just thought it was better to get all the shocks and anger out of his system. He saw no reason in being coy and went straight for the jugular. “So why exactly did you need to be my paternal grandfather? And you better have left my father and Dave out of this little scheme.”
Janus was surprised by the intensity of that demand considering the family dynamics. It was quite sad really in that John was resigned to his fate, but he felt that his estranged father and brother should be spared this task. “Your father and brother would be of no use.”
John frowned because Janus was talking about his son quite coldly. He was reminding himself not to judge him by Earth standards. He found himself defending his brother and father in an odd twist of fate. “They are good men just focussed on family legacy much like you.” He finished in a pointed tone because he might not want to be part of the business, but they were still his family.
“I know that John but you can help me to protect Atlantis and our people from their naivete.” Janus pleaded with him. In his mind, it was vital because he’d seen the potential downfall of his people. It would not be through a disaster but rather their unwillingness to act against both the Wraith and the Ori.
“So what is your plan? Do you want me to break the rules for you and face the consequences?” John was trying to understand just how far his grandfather envisioned this little rebellion going.
“You know the answer to that, John.”
John snorted at that response. “No, I don’t. You see, while I might be Patrick Sheppard’s son. I’m told that I take after my mother in temperament.”
So what John wanted more than anything was an honest answer. He’d always taken after his mother in that respect. It was one of the reasons he’d clashed so often with his father. John reminded Patrick Sheppard of Emma when he couldn’t see past his own grief. It had soured their relationship as John was grieving too, and as a result, he had run far and hard from Patrick’s attempts to smother him with his expectations. John was beginning to wonder if there was a little more manipulation in the whole thing.
It still didn’t make sense to John because he’d seen what happened to Chaya for her attempt at breaking ranks with the others, and that wasn’t counting the after-action reports from Dr Jackson about his time amongst the ascended ancients. It was clear to him that interfering in the lower realms would end in some form of punishment. So what the hell would he get for trying to eradicate the Wraith? It didn’t mean that he still wouldn’t consider it, but despite what Rodney thought, he wasn’t suicidal.
Then again, come to think of it. “How did you hide my Dad?”
“They didn’t look too closely as I distracted them with something more dangerous. It was what had caused my recall back to my original time.”
John wasn’t buying that story. “They knew the moment Chaya reacted to the Wraith ship. Why would you leave a half-Alteran running around Earth? That has to go against your non-interference rules.”
Janus’ smirk grew, and John knew that look. It was one he’d seen often enough if he starred in the mirror. “It helps when you make the rules. Plus, your father had no idea about his unique origins, and I ensured any gifts would remain dormant in his blood.”
John snorted at the flippant comment. He could now say he knew where his habit of ignoring stupid rules came from – it was a family trait. He chose to focus on the future and the things he could change rather than the idea his birth might have been contrived. It was a little too much to think about, and that was with his enhanced memory pathways.
John instead took a deep breath that was more for show than anything else and asked what he felt was a sensible question. “Okay, so what is all this?”
Their surroundings had changed in the blink of an eye, so it was definitely a holodeck type creation like John had thought. Their new surroundings were of a leafy, warm jungle type planet that John didn’t recognise. He didn’t know of this planet, but he took a step back seeing the creatures hanging from the branches of the trees.
“What the hell?” John glared at the Iratus Bugs hanging low off the branches just like when they attacked him – those he could recognise. The damn creatures were always going to be high on his hate list as they’d nearly killed him by trying to eat his life force.
Janus looked awkwardly at the creatures even though he knew them to be projections. Although, his unease was for entirely different reasons to his grandson. After all, no one likes to be reminded of their failures so visibly. It was still a sore point for the Alterrans, but of course, he shared none of these thoughts with his young grandson. He settled on, “Yes, I can understand why you would be unfond of the creature.”
“It did try and snack on me,” John replied in what he felt was a reasonable tone all things considered. John couldn’t help but recall the rather traumatic events. It had been rather terrifying in that he’d been dying so slowly and no one could help him. Worse of all, as the gate to Atlantis had been open, he could feel Ally’s panic which had then fed his own worries.
“You are lucky, the Wraith were once part of our race,” Janus warned him so he could see he could be glad he’d just been snacked on by the bug.
John stilled in shock because he could have sworn he just said that Wraith and Ancients were related. What the hell? Then a truly horrific thought crossed his mind. He was ashen. He’d thought turning into a giant blue bug was bad enough. “Wait. Do you mean I was turning into a Wraith?” The horror at even the idea was chilling in so many ways, and perhaps the worst type of irony. He could have ended up as one of the enemies he was trying to destroy.
Janus nodded because, for many, it was a distinct possibility. “You could have except I manipulated my DNA before your father was born. It put a block on the last two elements to produce a full turn.”
“I ended up blue!” John replied indignantly. In his opinion, he had still shifted. John had hated having instincts that were beyond his control. He looked good in most things, but blue skin hadn’t been one of them – at least in his opinion.
Janus shrugged because it wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened. In truth, not that John knew, he’d monitored the situation closely and had been ready to give hints to the doctor about a cure. Janus had also been more than aware of what the humans could have potentially seen in John before his switch back to human. He hadn’t wanted any of those impetuous mortals taking fate into their own hands and harming his grandson. “Yes, but the side-effects weren’t too adverse for you. One might almost say fortuitous with the additional strength and agility.”
John rolled his eyes because he wasn’t too keen on the cost of the upgrades. “Yeah, it was a barrel of laughs, and you are deflecting Grandpa.”
Janus sighed, knowing from his grandson’s demeanour that trying to get him to talk would be a non-starter right now. “Let’s go for a ride.”
John looked for a ship but realised he was still thinking too humanly. His grandfather didn’t mean in a spaceship but rather racing through the stars in their energy form.
Janus was indeed deflecting, and he might have been called on it, but he’d discuss it when he was ready. He would enjoy a race through the stars as a distraction; plus, he knew how much John loved flying. He may as well indulge his grandson’s passion for speed before delivering the terrible news.
John grinned as Janus escaped their conversation by changing forms into what he called jellyfish mode, “This is not over,” he shouted up into the sky before he let his consciousness go wide and rolled up into the stars after his grandfather. The energy form he could now hold to John felt so massive. In this form, his ability to stretch his consciousness out was almost limitless. He could see supernova’s or think about anything that came to mind, and it was just there in front of his mind’s eye. He’d always wondered about how things were interconnected in the universe, and now he knew he could answer any question he might have previously had.
It was a good job he was in an energy form as his head might have exploded from all the new information.
John had loved going fast all his life, but now he could move at instantaneous speeds. He now understood the multiverse (eat your heart out Dr Strange), and yet Rodney was the only one who would understand that reference. It also gave John an insight into what had happened with the Alterrans, time was inconsequential, and so it was easy to become apathetic. You didn’t have to worry about time, and perhaps even worse than that – in John’s opinion, the society had stagnated. It showed in their actions and policies in the Pegasus and Milky-Way galaxies. In his experience, you couldn’t just ignore an enemy and history supported that opinion. All the Alterrans were doing is giving the Wraith a chance to win. He now also knew that there was another enemy – the Ori an opportunity to rebuild and plan attack after attack.
John having made those realisations knew it was time once more for them to talk and travelled back towards Alterran homeworld – only this time there was no holodeck. He didn’t want the distraction. Their run around the stars had done some good, but John wasn’t able to settle his troubling thoughts. He needed to think about other things for a while – he wasn’t running away from it, but he needed to get his ideas in order before he caused potential chaos.
“Where is Teer?”
Janus smiled at the question because it was clear his grandson was fond of the young lady. He just couldn’t decide how much regard John had for her, or if this was a transitory relationship. “Your lady friend is looking after Hedda and enjoying her expanded conscience just like you. She is just as attached to you, as you are her. It’s a different notion for us, especially when combined with her obvious attachment to her sister.”
Wow. John hoped he never got so old that he forgot about his emotions and connections between beings. He could tell that his grandfather was genuinely mystified which he suspected didn’t happen very often. “We only just started to explore a romantic relationship just before we ascended, and I do genuinely care for her and Hedda. I think I would have gone mad from loneliness if not for them.”
It was perhaps the best way to describe it to his grandfather, even if the guy had celebrated his ten-thousandth birthday.
“You may have an entanglement, but there will be interesting conversations to have soon.” He replied in a clinical tone.
Well, that wasn’t ominous, at all. John just hoped he wouldn’t have to give the sex talk to his grandfather and his grandfather’s friends because that was just going to be so wrong. He also didn’t like the implication that his girl wasn’t good enough, or maybe he was reading too much into his grandfather’s words. John found that he was the one now who didn’t want to talk. If they were ascended, it was hardly like time was of importance, and he needed time to process what he had already learnt from Janus. He had a simple plan – Find Teer.
A plan was one thing, but he still needed to find her. It was hardly like he could call her on his mobile. It was one of the oddest things he needed to get used to about his new existence. He may have overnight (sort of) changed species, but he still had a very human mindset. He had shared essence with Teer as they both ascended, so he knew in theory, he should be able to find her wherever she was in the galaxy.
His grandfather grew wary of his cheeky grin. John didn’t care because he’d figured out where Teer was, and he was going to chat to her and see if he could make the universe make sense. “You know what? We’ll catch up later. I am going to see my girl.”
And John returned the favour on Janus, and now he was the one to disappear up into the sky looking for his girlfriend.
John didn’t like the fact that his grandfather had monopolised his time from the moment he ascended. He wanted to see Teer and know that she was okay, plus little Hedda. For all he knew, there could be post ascension sickness. It could be a thing, or at least that was what he kept telling himself. In truth, it was more likely she was something real from before he had changed his entire existence.
John couldn’t shake Janus’ words about time not being on his side regarding Teer and how light and pure she was. It made him think about how the Wraith had impacted her entire existence. He could fix the Wraith, but what would be the cost to himself? He found her on a planet, and she was watching Hedda run through a field on what he was guessing was their homeworld before the Sanctuary Planet. It was pretty and untouched by all the industrial technology that covered Earth. “Hey.”
She stood still, but her small smile suggested she was at least happy that John was here. “Hey.”
Hedda ran around them, giggling and laughing in joy at being able to explore with no restrictions. She looked like a regular girl having fun. He was glad to see her relax and just be a young girl considering the restricted childhood she’d had before her ascension. She seemed happy to see him though and hugged him. “John, you’re here.”
Teer looked stiff beside her in comparison, and he wanted to groan. He had an ex-wife, so he knew that look all too well. He didn’t know how he could have annoyed her so badly when he’d been talking with his grandfather. She clued him in on her anger, so at least he wasn’t clueless like with Nancy, his ex-wife.
“You didn’t say you were an ancestor when you arrived at the sanctuary.”
John frowned because that sounded a little shrewish for his tastes. They were only just starting a relationship. He didn’t like feeling defensive because it wasn’t like he was deliberately hiding the fact. He hadn’t known his actual background either until his recent chat with Janus, who was also his grandfather which he’d managed to adjust too “Hey, it’s not like I knew.”
She looked contrite at his comment. In her heart, she knew this to be true. She also knew how difficult John was finding the transition and knew she should be supportive. “Sorry, it’s just I thought we shared things.”
John smirked, pulling her into a hug. “We shared our essence as we ascended, I don’t think I can share with you much more.”
Teer blushed at that comment because that had been so memorable and it was also the source of her upset as he hadn’t shared the ancestor link. “Well, you make me so exasperated and happy all at the same time.”
John wasn’t quite sure of a quick response to that comment, but Hedda saved him.
She looked very pleased with herself as she reminded him. “I told you that she liked you.”
He rolled his eyes because there was nothing more righteous than a child, saying I told you so. Still, he could be the adult and acknowledge she was correct this time. “Yes, you did, and you were right.”
John could see some rocks by what looked to be a creek but smiled seeing it was actually a bluff on a beach. He led them over to the carved stone, and Teer sat by him. It was odd to think that he was glowing essence and yet he was sitting by the sea.
Teer peered at the place in fascination. “What is this?” She had been too young when she had left the planet so never explored it in any way she would be able to remember. She had no reference for it at all.
John had forgotten that she’d never really seen much beyond the tiny sanctuary village. It was sad to realise that even if this was her homeworld, she didn’t know it. It was perhaps one of his favourite places to go when he was in America. He could show her and enjoy the relaxation even if it was just for a moment. “It’s a beach.”
“What is its purpose?” She was so curious about the tide and the moving water flow. John figured it would probably be best not to introduce the idea of paddling on this first visit. “It can’t be drinkable!”
John smiled because the question was so refreshing. “No, not for drinking. A beach is a place we visited just for leisure.”
She was aghast at the very notion. “You had time to just sit around on your planet doing nothing?”
John snorted because if that bothered her – he probably shouldn’t explain some of their other past times. He chose instead to point out the irony in her statement. “Teer, I spent the better part of my time at the sanctuary resting from battles with the beasts, or sitting around trying to ascend.”
She smacked his shoulder, clearly not appreciating his observation. “You know that it is not funny. Especially now I know that you could have ascended anytime you pleased.”
John pecked a kiss to her cheek. “I would have never ascended without you. I would have been so bored.”
“You’re just teasing me.”
John shook his head. “I’d never tease you, but I have always used humour as a defence mechanism.” He had found that for a majority of his working career that dark humour was an excellent defence mechanism and one that allowed him to retain his sanity. He saw no reason to change that even now he’d chosen to ascend.
“I don’t agree.” She replied haughtily but with a massive grin suggesting otherwise. It was great to see who she was without the burden of her village weighing her down. She kissed him chastely on the lips and pursed her lips and reminded him. “You have no reason to be defensive with me.”
John smiled leaning close, it was odd for him, but he found intimacy so much more comfortable in this form. You could share essence, on every level just by touching. “You like my humour. You can’t deny it.”
“I suppose I do.” She replied softly.
Things were getting more fun when John heard a voice in the near distance. “JOHNATHON!”
John groaned because some people had the worst timing ever. Sure enough, Janus was striding towards them, having found him. He collapsed into Teer’s shoulder grumbling about wanting five minutes of peace with his girl.
She had no sympathy and giggled at him. She was not all sweetness and light like she appeared. “It seems you’re wanted.”
“You know he was a lot less annoying before I ascended and he didn’t speak to me,” John offered. It was true, after all, he didn’t even know about Janus before his enforced ascension, and now it was like because they were related he should be at the man’s beck and call. It seemed some of his feelings must be showing on his face as Teer smirked at him. In fact, it turned into a full snort at seeing his pout.
“Family can be our greatest joy, or, annoyance depending on what is being asked of us.” She offered him a pearl of wisdom from her own experience. It was not like John hadn’t met her family – Hedda was her sister, and it was saving her brother that had led to John arriving at the sanctuary village.
“Ain’t that the truth,” John replied and stood up reluctantly. “Have fun, and I will be back soon.”
Janus seeing he had his grandson’s attention, tugged him away from the planet. It was the ascended equivalent of being pulled by the ear by a parent because you were in trouble. The whole travelling as a jellyfish thing was odd but oh so cool. Still, as he disappeared back through the stars, he managed to say goodbye to Teer at least. He was so going to be having words with grandfather for being an epic cock-block.
John realised that once more his grandfather had yanked them back to the planet of Atlantea. It seemed fitting to Janus as this was the planet where Atlantis had first resided. John felt a pang of sadness at not to see the city. She was always his favourite thing about the whole expedition, and maybe Rodney. He could be honest with himself and say that Atlantis was the first place he honestly felt like he had a home in the traditional sense. “Why are we here, Grandpa?”
“It seemed right to go to the homeworld,” Janus remarked. He looked over the azure blue seas and hated not seeing the city he had worked so hard to build. He was proud of the work he’d done for his people, but the city was in his opinion, his crowning glory. It had hurt him more than he knew it would when they’d ascended to avoid annihilation from the Wraith.
John knew they weren’t here for fishing or some other such nonsense. Well, whatever activities you’d normally do with your grandfather if they weren’t an incorporeal being of vast knowledge. If it had been simple, there would be no reason to separate him from Teer. It was apparent to John that whatever they were discussing wasn’t for general consumption. “You have something to say, so what is it?”
Janus chuckled but could appreciate the straight-talking. “When you were with the expedition, you explored Atlantis and many of my creations. One of your linguists uncovered my logs. You must know I liked to write down every key thought. You should take a look through the logs several discuss how I felt about your grandmother and father.”
John was stuck for the moment on the idea that he would be on Atlantis once more to explore the logs. Or, at least that was how he’d interpreted the last thing his grandfather had said. “Your logs showed me you liked to leave dangerous toys around. Your name always seemed to come around after some of the dangerous incidents.”
“I didn’t design toys, and they were not dangerous if treated properly.” Janus remarked, seemingly annoyed by even the suggestion that he might be have been irresponsible. He was aiming to further his society with new creations, and there was no way you could do that without taking some risks. It wasn’t like he didn’t leave detailed notes about his projects and the pitfalls he’d encountered. He had hoped that someone in the future would be able to fix the holes he’d been unable to see. He had no idea they would be naive enough to try without reading his notes first.
John just gave him a look, unamused because those experiments had severe consequences for his men – only they didn’t have his ascension get out clause. He might not have come to Atlantis intending to lead the military contingent, but he had taken on the role, and he felt the loss of each man personally. “Your instructions didn’t come with notes like if you get this wrong, you will blow a hole in the solar system.”
“Ah, you are referring to the Arctus device.”
John just gave him a look because he may not have adrenaline needs any longer, but he can still remember his heart in his mouth as he raced from that blast. He’d prayed that he could be fast enough to avoid the explosion and John refused to back down. “That was not just a simple device.”
“It was my bid to correct a mistake.” Janus tried to explain. It was a desperate machine from a desperate man.
“So are you saying that you consider the Wraith a mistake?” John asked because he’d always wrestled with their species needs. As much as it disgusted him, their species feed on their life-force and yet any bid to change their food source would ultimately change their species. In the end, John refused to let them snack on the entire galaxy because of the sanctity of human life even if he had to wipe out every last Wraith.
“Do Scientists not make mistakes?” Janus challenged him back. He didn’t like the fact his grandson couldn’t seem to accept the facts.
John thought his grandfather was attempting to grossly over-simplify the matter. Still, he was smarter than this, and he’d learnt a few things from Weir and Teyla about diplomacy. His grandfather had hinted that he’d be allowed to return and if that was the case, he could rein his mouth in even if it was hard for him to resist. “You know they do, but I felt a personal responsibility to clean up my mistake. I had no clue about killing the queen, but I can’t let the Wraith snack on the galaxy without doing something.”
Janus had a wane smile because his grandson was now showing the naivete he accused the others of having. “We all did try to fight the Wraith, and you know this.”
“You tried to fix it for a while,” John acknowledged. “And then you abandoned this galaxy and let them suffer under their tyranny.”
Janus shook his head as he could see how it might look like that from the outside. John had not been there as they had wrestled with the decision to leave. In the end, fear had been their motivating factor right or wrong. “We had to protect ourselves. We always meant to come back.”
“Only the plague came back when you were on Terra, and you ascended,” John said, feeling suddenly oh so very tired of the whole argument. To him, there seemed little point in assigning blame even if it felt like he wanted to – what he wanted more than anything was the chance to go back and fix it.
It was such a simple word. No apology. No explanation offered, just an acknowledgement of the facts, and that was it.
John forgot any attempt at being diplomatic. He didn’t know he needed the opportunity to vent until it was offered to him. He may have shed his body, but he hadn’t shed his guilt over the matter himself. He’d been the one to wake the Wraith this age. He may have done it with the best of intentions but he’d still done it. He’d watched as every planet had fallen and imagined the fate that befell the innocents. He aimed to kill as many of the Wraith as possible, but they bred too quickly. “So how are you going to fix the problem … if you won’t lift a finger to help!”
Janus smiled, but there was a hidden smirk in that grin. It was one John recognised all too well it was his own when he wanted to be sneaky. “Our policies protect the Pegasus Galaxy and us. Use the knowledge in your head. You know this to be true!”
John didn’t get it, but he was doing his best to figure it out quickly. He got the impression that this was more complicated than he first thought. He was well aware of the non-interference policy, but he didn’t agree with its creation. He wanted an understanding of the reason why it existed. “Why do you not act? You’re right, and I know the rules and doctrine, but it still makes no sense with my mindset?”
Janus chuckled at what he perceived as the folly of youth. “Your home planet had developed powerful weapons, yes? You called them nuclear weapons.”
John rolled his eyes because the ancient man knew the answer to his question. “You would have been around at the time they were created if you’re my grandfather.”
Janus nodded in confirmation at John’s insinuation. “The only reason why the whole planet wasn’t destroyed is that your governments came to understand that it wasn’t a winnable fight without also losing.”
John groaned in understanding. “So you’re saying that you are in a cold war with the Ori to avoid Mutually Assured Destruction?”
Janus nodded. “Yes. Now, do you see?”
John groaned because that was such a cop-out, but he could at the same time, see the reasoning. “So you can’t wipe the Wraith off the map as the Ori would see it as using our full powers and therefore they would be free to cause me more grief than they already do.”
“In one,” Janus confirmed, pleased that John now understood.
John would have slumped, but it seemed stupid considering his body was pure energy. “So you can’t act … but you keep looking at me like I am an answer. Why”
Janus chuckled because finally, his grandson was focussing on the right questions. “That is because you have a destiny Johnathon and this is not cheating I might add. You will have to be careful, but if you choose to embrace your destiny, then it will have its advantages.”
“I hate double-speak so just say what you mean grandpa.” John wondered what it was about ascension that seemed to have him reverting to a five-year-old. He so needed to work on that because it was hardly his most refined moment.
“The Ori have launched the first salvo if you like in a bid to gain more power.”
John nodded his head because he was aware. He’d remembered the briefing papers he’d been sent regarding the threats of the Ori. “You mean the being, Adria, don’t you?”
Janus nodded. “Her origins are similar to your own.”
John got it then because it was like he suspected he’d been born as a contingency plan. “You mean I was ace-in-the-hole. You knew the Ori would break the rules, but it wouldn’t be enough to cause a full-scale reaction from y…us.”
John didn’t know if he felt better or worse about being a cosmic backup plan. Had he been manipulated into waking up the Wraith? He was not sure which was better in his mind. If he was a backup plan, did that mean he would have the chance to interfere?
And hence we were back to his confusion. He knew the significant rules about ascending was the whole non-interference rules. He’d seen Chaya run foul of it already and was informed that she was chained to her home planet as a result.
“That’s correct but if you happened to chose to descend of your own volition. Your powers would remain unbound to the same level of any Alterran before they ascended. You would find you could access them far easier than your attempts on the planet before.”
Wow. John had so many more questions, but also so many more answers. He knew that tone from when he was trying to skirt the rules. Funnily enough, he would also find the sweetest loophole that was guaranteed to drive his bosses up the wall.
“Is this going to get us in trouble?”
Janus grinned at him. “Almost certainly, but it is the right thing to do. We need to get you trained up with your new gifts.”
Chapter 3: Training Tribulations
John had long ago accepted that learning new skills would be vital for him if he wanted to stay alive once he joined the Air-Force. He’d wanted to be a pilot, but he showed an aptitude in other areas – it was why he was considered a perfect fit for special ops. Thanks to his training, he’d learnt many new skills. They came in handy especially when stupid, greedy Genii try to evade your city.
So why was he standing on an uninhabited planet feeling like it was his first day of kindergarten? It was more frustrating than having the skills elude him in the Sanctuary Village. He was trying to hide his frustrations behind his usual mask of sarcasm but knew he was failing. It was simple. He may not be as loud as Rodney, but he hated being bad at anything.
His grandfather snickered at the pouting look on his grandson’s face. He didn’t even pretend to be sympathetic to John’s plight. “You know you could end a proto life form if you stomp any harder into that ground.”
John glared at him because despite being terrible, he was not five years old. “I am not finding this funny, and my ability level seems set to destroy, which will be no good if I am trying to hide my abilities.”
His grandfather had come up with a plan that John agreed to, and it involved Janus helping him master his new skills. He needed to learn subtly with his powers if he wanted to use some powers without ending up chained to the city. He had no intention of incurring the wrath of the high council the first time he used his skills once he descended.
Janus smirked but reminded his grandson. “You are learning new skills. You can say that you can interrupt the link between molecules and now you just need to learn finesse.”
John snorted because he needed to figure out a bit more than finesse. This was attempt number four at attempting to refine this particular skill, and the only thing he could say about improving was he was now destroying a small(ish) area.
The planet they’d found was uninhabited and on the edge of the space between the Milky Way Galaxy and the Pegasus Galaxy, so afforded them a measure of secrecy.
“So what’s the exercise today? I promised Hedda and Teer that I would show them why a supernova was awesome.”
John saw the look on his grandfather’s face when he mentioned the women, but he didn’t ask. It was none of his business whom he chose to befriend or do more with for that matter. “So?”
Janus looked over the landscape at something in the distance. “You see the silver tree in the middle of that coppice?”
“Yeah, it looks like it is two seasons from falling down,” John couldn’t help but observe.
Janus agreed, which is why it was the object of this lesson. “I want you to destroy it with your powers.”
John didn’t like that idea, “That feels a little dark-side of the force to me.”
Janus rolled his eyes at the useless morality. “Stop thinking like a human, Johnathon you are not one, no matter how you might have been raised.” It might have been harsh, but this training would be vital to see him succeed and stay alive, which was ultimately Janus’ goal. “The ability to disrupt something at the cellular level could have significant use for you.”
“Are you suggesting I can disintegrate a Wraith?” John asked with an unsure tone. He couldn’t decide if it would be a great thing to know or would end up causing more pain.
“No, I wish it would be that easy, but you could say disrupt the molecules of a weapon which might end up pointed at you, or a member of your team.”
John could see how that would be useful; he renewed his focus and chanted. “Disrupt the molecules.”
Janus whispered, “Truly look at the tree, think about how it started life. You know what makes up its elements, so if you can move the molecules even a little, you would destroy the balance of what keeps it living.”
John stood tall and did as his grandfather bid. “Okay, let’s do this.”
He raised his hand because he had watched one too many Lords of the Ring movies. He thought about what he’d been told and reached outwards, looking at all the elements of the trees and took out the roots.
He opened his eyes. “Oops. You said to destroy a tree…”
“Yes, I did,” was the faint response, “I didn’t mean the whole forest.”
Everyone was a critic and John felt bad enough. He was glad Hedda wasn’t around as she would be most upset with him.
Janus looked vexed at him as he landed on a new planet next to him.
John let the critical glare roll off his back, “Hey.”
“Where did you go?”
John smirked at him, “You really don’t want to ask me that as you will not like the answer.” Not to mention Teer might kill him if he revealed just what they’d been getting up to alone for a few hours as Hedda had wanted to bug Avrid.
Janus pinched his nose with frustration. “Right, of course, so the lesson is still the same. You need to practice subtly to with your power. The idea is that you blend in and don’t get caught by the other mortals around you as it will help you stay unnoticed.”
John wanted to sigh because saying it didn’t necessarily make it any easier. He knew the theory and could now find out how to do it thanks to his ascension. “Any tree or one in particular?”
Janus examined them. “Pick the oldest tree, one that is close to death.”
John had found it, and it was like a Fern. This time he figured not closing his eyes would work better. He couldn’t target a weapon when he was flying without guidance systems, and this was a similar principle.
The loud crack could be heard for miles if there had been anyone else on the planet. He groaned because this had not what he intended.
“That is some progress, Johnathon. Take heart you will get there with some progress.”
John looked over at the forest, this time it was only a swath of trees around the tree in question possibly a mile in all directions but not the whole forest like last time. “You asked me to take out one tree.”
“And you did, and not nearly as much surrounding damage. How did you take out a target when you were sniping?”
It wasn’t one of John’s more acknowledged skills, but it was in his military jacket. “Training and narrowing your focus to just your target. You calculate the best angle to ensure a successful objective.”
Janus was excited. “So why not apply that training?”
John figured it made as much sense as anything. He needed a break, “Fine but not now, I need to go for a race or something.”
Teer found him hovering around the sanctuary planet. She was intrigued and surprised to see him return to this place. He hadn’t experienced the best time here. She tangled her energy with John’s, and communicated the message of ‘Let’s talk.’
John knew what she meant, so he raced down planetside and took a humanoid form once more. They were on the southern hemisphere, away from the actual Sanctuary.
“We could have spoken in the sky.” John pointed out.
She offered him a simple shrug. “True, but for all of our changes, I still prefer communicating using words.”
“Try telling that to grandpa.” John groused. The man, after his last attempt, had gone to being a disapproving floating head, much like John and Teer had done when saying goodbye to his team.
“And how is that going?”
John sat down on the rock, snuggling next to Teer. “I have no idea where to begin.”
“I usually favour the beginning.” She pointed out.
John snorted because it made the most sense, but he had to tread carefully. “As you know, Janus did not reveal himself to be my grandfather until after I ascended. There were rules he’d already skirted around and didn’t want to break.”
“Skirted around?” She asked, seeking to clarify.
“It means how you choose to avoid a difficult issue and use charm to help avoid it.”
Teer looked like she understood, “Like Hedda with chores?”
John smirked. “Exactly like that.”
Teer asked him rather tactfully. “Is it a positive reunion?”
John huffed. “I have no idea. He didn’t take any interest in me when I was growing up whether or not he could have. I don’t know. I know that he expects me to be an expert with minimal training, and I hate sucking at anything.”
She chuckled at his pout because he looked so young. “It is in our nature to desire not to be bad at anything. It is therefore up to us to improve ourselves.”
“I have always agreed at the sentiment, but I am not sure how many forests can afford to be sacrificed while I learn.”
Teer shrugged because if Janus needed John to learn these skills, then she must assume they are vital. “Then you had better learn quickly.”
John thought about the advice that his grandfather had given him during his last attempt and aimed to use it. He did what he had done previously, pictured the tree in his mind’s eye. It was effective at the very least. He looked at the tree and was disheartened to see every tree on that row vanished into thin air.
“Your area of devastation is minimising with each attempt.” His grandpa offered as an attempt to say something vaguely positive.
John wasn’t in the mood for being teased. He was an expert marksman after all, but you wouldn’t know it. In his mind, he’d pictured taking out the tree in his mind’s eye. He could have smacked his head in frustration.
“What have you just figured out?”
John’s smirk grew. “It’s like you said the other day, I am still thinking like a human when I am not one. Thank you, Grandpa.”
“Let us see if you have finally learned finesse.”
“It is a bit hard when a wave of my hand can destroy everything in view,” John replied, feeling more than a little defensive. He’d always been taught that a moderated response was the key to successful intervention. “Plus if every time I get annoyed, I destroy a room … I doubt I will be able to stay under the radar for long. He tried to point out reasonably because that was supposed to be the plan.
Janus just shrugged and showing he had no natural teaching instincts said simply. “Then don’t destroy it, but do it again so we can see it is no fluke.”
The flippancy did not amuse John. He was looking for good advice, not sarcasm. He knew some of his former superiors would be laughing their asses off at him, or at least the karmic reversal. He was self-aware enough to know that he was just the same, but it wasn’t fun having the shoe on the other foot. “You know you don’t look like a green Jedi Master.”
“What is a Jedi?” His grandfather asked, showing a perplexed face that was kind of perfect. It was nice to know that he wasn’t wholly omnipotent.
John contemplated the question and came to a startling realisation. There could be a lot of parallels drawn between the Jedi and the ascended Alterrans. “Huh. I think you might not have been the only Alterran to visit Earth.” John did the timelines in his head and guessed that breach wasn’t his grandfather’s fault. “I think it was a decade or two after you visited grandma though.”
“She was a remarkable woman.”
John did not like the nostalgic smile on Janus’ smile as he said it. He rolled his eyes because he didn’t need to think about his grandfather’s love life. Or, that an Ancient may have been the influence for one of the greatest sci-fi franchises. All John wanted to do was make sure he could move through the universe without destroying it. Simple goals. He dreaded to think what the other lessons might end up being about if this was the easiest of the lessons that his grandfather had in store for him.
Janus ignored the sarcasm and clued his young grandson into why he picked the planets for the initial training sessions. What he was suggesting John should be able to master was difficult. His grandson right now had full access and knowledge of his powers. He was asking John to access only a fraction of his power when he still wasn’t used to the full force of them. “This planet is not due to hold any life-forms for centuries, so you can make as many mistakes as you like.”
John was relieved to know that, but it didn’t help. “So what you’re saying is I need to think of a trickle of water rather than a river.”
“Yes, indeed. You have gained access to a vast array of knowledge by ascending. What you need to do is search for a fraction of it rather than all of it. I can understand the impulse to go big or go home as your grandma was fond of saying, but this needs less.”
John knew he could do this – he had to. The feeling was different, and there was a startling realisation. He was no longer fighting the access he had to his new powers. He didn’t know if it was a good thing that he was starting to think like he was Alterran rather than human.
On Atlantis, Weir had processed the paperwork from SGA1’s trip to the sanctuary planet. It was a solemn trio of characters around the table with her as they completed the full debriefing so that they could learn any valuable lessons. They didn’t want to lose any more of the staff to crazy ancient portals, so now they had to debate the change in protocols they could enact.
She could tell by looking around the table that it still hadn’t sunk in. They would all need to adapt to Sheppard no longer being part of their regular day. She’d been shocked to find that ascension didn’t qualify a stargate member to generate a Killed in Action paperwork. There was a note on the file from O’Neill that he refused to file the paperwork for a period of a year. It was too awkward to keep bringing people back from the dead. They’d end up with more questions regarding the programme than already they had to field and misdirect.
She found herself telling the other team members this fact in a bid to improve their mood. It worked as they visibly sat up thinking about new possibles. If there was one thing everyone could agree around the table was Colonel Sheppard had adored the city as much as the city was captivated by him.
Teyla was the one to ask out loud the questions the others dared not voice. “Do you think he will return?”
Weir smiled softly and thought about Sheppard’s personality, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that they hadn’t seen the last of him. “I think he will struggle to sit by idly but at the same time.”
“… He is a soldier and is used to following orders.”
McKay snorted because he knew his best-friend too well. He’d take some time to explore the galaxy and if things don’t work out with the girl on the sanctuary planet – he might drop by Chaya’s world. Rodney was sure of one thing, and he felt confident enough to voice it. “Oh, he will bend the rules, but if someone threatens this city. You know he will be back with us on the lower plane quicker than you can blink regardless of the consequences.”
The others around the table found themselves nodding in agreement. It was true that no matter what Sheppard may have been like before the expedition. He loved the city and its occupants and had been rabid in protecting both of them.
Weir felt torn between wanting an emergency that would see his swift return and hoping Shepard got the rest he deserved. As much as she enjoyed working with Sheppard, it had been evident that he was not a content soul. He would be a loss to the program, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed that the glitch reports on the city had been steadily going up by the hour. “Colonel Caldwell’s ship is arriving within the week. The orders from the SGC is that Lorne is to fill in until he arrives, and then the situation is under review.”
McKay looked up at the sky, hating the idea of anyone but John in charge of the military, but he would do his best to adapt. If Daniel Jackson could take a flexible membership to ascension, then he saw no reason why John wouldn’t. It worried him a little, as he’d expected John to ascend and descend once he’d healed his injuries. So what was stopping him?
As the meeting broke up, he foolishly looked up at the sky, shouted. “You better not just be chasing Chaya’s skirt!”
John was definitely not chasing Chaya’s skirt as Teer might have something to say about it. He had more than enough of a distraction in trying to learn how to be subtle. He had finally got a handle on disintegrating items but if he was trying to blend – he was more worried about Atlantis herself giving him away.
“How do I hide the fact that I am Allteran now?”
Janus paused in setting up his next lesson. “What do you mean?”
John rolled his eyes. “The city has done nothing but talk to me since the day I arrived. I didn’t mention it to the others because I could tell she wasn’t talking to the others.”
Janus had a proud smile. “Well, she wouldn’t talk to them. Atlantis She will not respond directly to anyone unless you are of my blood.”
John smirked, he now understood the hierarchy system Janus had placed on the systems, and wow, the IOA would have a fit if they knew. “We’re going to talk later about why you felt the need to put an extra level of security on the systems.”
It hadn’t escaped John that direct interface with Ally was also taken away from other Alterrans as well as any other race.
Janus thought about it. “Do your human healers have the ability to distinguish?”
John thought about it. “They would compare my physical profile, bloodwork and DNA sequence.”
Janus smirked. “In that case, you should be fine. You will descend choosing to take your original body. Your only stumbling block would be if they did a brain scan with their technology rather than our own.”
John relaxed a little because Beckett favoured the Ancient technology on the city over the Earth-based stuff as it was more refined and could detect more nuances.
“And when the city gets excited?”
Janus just gave him a deadpan look. “Just explain that you want to go incognito, and the interface should relax.”
John wasn’t convinced. “Yeah, Grandpa that may have worked in your day, but you are not factoring in that the interface has spent ten thousand years having no one around.”
“Are you saying the AI was lonely?” Janus asked, bemused by the idea. He knew the interface was interactive as he wanted to be able to bounce ideas off the AI to help him find faster solutions to problems. The AI was great, but he’d never considered it to be alive and here was his grandson humanising her.
“Yes, she wasn’t able to fulfil her primary function for so long. Then there was the Genii attack that sent her seriously homicidal. I was lucky that she allowed me to act in her place.”
Janus frowned. “The City was going to kill? It wasn’t capable of it.”
John snorted, “That is such a simple word for what she had planned. It was a little bloodthirsty even for me. I convinced her I should take that burden on.”
The AI should not have been capable of harm. John snorted, but he would stick up for his little sister. At least that was how their dynamic had developed since his arrival in the city. “She is one of our family, and she found creative ways to skirt the edge of her programming. She prefers Ally to AI for the record should you choose to go and visit.”
Janus did take note because if the AI’s awareness had grown to the point of taking on a name and character – Then he would be wise to listen. The city was his greatest creation and thus could protect or cause destruction of the likes the galaxy had never seen. He’d designed the city to cross the universe and be their safe-haven before everything had gone so drastically wrong. “It seems she likes you better than even me.”
John resisted the urge to say that I didn’t abandon her. He was so proud of himself. “So what is the plan for today now my burning question is out of the way?”
“You’ve already shown that you are proficient in manipulating our technology and you can now disintegrate – What I would like to work with you on is seeing if you can unlock the prescience skill.”
John had flashes of psychic readers and crystal balls. “Is this something you could do?”
Janus smirked. “I could see further in time to check if my experiments would be successful. It allowed me to save time and potentially precious resources.”
John thought about it and considering his penchant for what others deemed stupid stunts – it could be useful. “Does this involve tea leaves or crystal balls because if it does … I am out of here.”
“Can you be serious?”
John smirked because his grandfather shouldn’t feed him such openings. He could and perhaps should resist, but he just didn’t want to, “I can, but maybe I don’t want to.”
“This is a serious matter!”
John lost his temper. “I am well aware, and while I am grateful for the support, the actual execution of the plan will fall to me. I am going to be the one forced to end a race, so don’t lecture me.”
“You want to do this just as much as I do,” Janus shouted back at him.
John snorted derisively. “Want, yes. You are damn right I do, but I am taking the major risks here, not you. I can’t ignore the fact, so Grandpa you need to stop thinking you can lecture me.”
Janus cooled his anger, well, he did when he considered this from his grandson’s point of view. He realised that perhaps he had not been much of a grandfather and more of a taskmaster. “I am sorry, Johnathon. It is just that I foresee a very bleak future not just for us, but the galaxy as a whole.”
John pursed his lips and sighed in resignation. “You know your pep-talks suck. You’re supposed to tell me that it will all be alright and there is no pressure on me.”
“You would prefer I lie to you?” Janus asked in confusion.
John snickered. “No Grandpa, I value the truth, but you gotta admit this is going to be a big deal.”
“Yes, but you have strong shoulders, and I may not be able to interfere visibly, but I will help you in any way I can,” Janus promised.
John knew that the lessons, while frustrating, could make all the difference in his ability to hide. He could also pick up what his grandfather also sensed. His time on the ascended plane was ending.
He would soon be returning to Atlantis, and so he decided to stretch his vision towards the city.
Rodney had no idea that his best friend was once more, keeping an eye on the city. He hoped Caldwell was going to at least learn a few things from the last time he filled in. It would be a difficult transition, considering how beloved John was around the city with all the inhabitants.
Janus and John had been spying on Atlantis because Janus had felt with his prescience that something was wrong with his beloved city. John had blushed at his grandfather’s look when his team said they doubted he could behave. John had laughed hearing the decision regarding his status and could understand O’Neill’s logic. He asked a question that had been bugging him, “Why did you let Jackson treat ascension like a gym membership?”
It was ironic for him to be asking, he was aware of this considering his plans, but it always confused the SGC too.
Janus wasn’t quite sure what John was saying but could guess by tone. “He will always be one of us, but considering his quest for knowledge and thirst to understand the universe he is still so startlingly human and he has yet to free himself of those connections truly.”
John didn’t correct him, but he was guessing it wasn’t all humans just General O’Neill and Colonel Carter, but he wasn’t going to touch that situation – ever.
“Your friends doubt your ability to follow the rules?” Janus asked, having pulled away from their observations.
John wanted to say so many things because he couldn’t believe he heard judgement in that tone, which was a little rich all things considered. “Should you be throwing stones, grandpa?” Then with a smirk. “And if I can’t… I can say that I come by those traits honestly.”
Janus had to concede that his grandson had a point. As far as he was concerned – he was old and allowed to be hypocritical. “It is the right thing to do and as I have already stated the Ori have launched the first attack.”
John didn’t disagree with the reasoning, but he’d seen first hand what happens if you go against the collective power of their people. They had their rules and seemed to enforce them with ruthless efficiency – he’d been present at such a judgement. He couldn’t help but point it out as he couldn’t shake the image from his mind. “I’m still not sure why you think I will not be punished when Chaya was when ascended?”
Truth be told, the chance to save Atlantis and protect her didn’t sound too bad. What wasn’t as appealing was the idea of being stuck doing it for eternity.
Janus smirked, guessing the source of his grandson’s disappointment. “You forget by birth, you are one of us and not someone who has stumbled on enlightenment like your girlfriend’s people. The other critical component is you will not be ascended but rather pre-ascension once more, and yet someone who can still access several of our gifts.”
John could see how that would work, but it still wasn’t without danger. If he showed he had extra ‘gifts’ once he returned, it was more than likely he could end up as a lab rat. He was aware that there were some in the IOA and NIA who believed he was too valuable to be fighting on the front lines. “Yeah, and my incentive to hide is to avoid being a lab rat.”
Janus looked suddenly wrathful. “I will not allow that to be a fate you endure. There is a saying amongst the Terrans regarding ignorance being no excuse. If they are too ignorant to accept you, they shall suffer the consequences.”
“So I have to keep my use of powers to what General O’Neill displayed or use a heavy-duty glamour on my surroundings.”
Janus nodded his head in agreement with John’s assessment as it was spot on. “You’ve had engagements with our people in the past. You know how much we could do before we ascended as it is on our genetic memories. You have access to the shared memories and should a situation need more, be careful and use what you need.”
John knew he could do this, but he would have to have his wits about him. “I need a glamour lesson or two ASAP. I feel that time is running short for my training.”
And the crux of it was – Time. His actions would either see the end of a scourge on the galaxy or see it fall into darkness. No pressure.
John blinked and knew that they were once again on the first abandoned planet. It wasn’t hard to guess – as he was standing on the remnant of the forest he’d destroyed in his first lesson.
“Do you have to remind me of my utter failure?”
Janus smirked. “Think of this as an opportunity to fix your mistake?”
John quirked an eyebrow because it wasn’t that simple. He’d taken away the roots of the trees, causing them to wither and die. It had been an effective way to destroy the trees, but not one he knew how to correct.
“You are Alterran, Johnathon no matter what you think. Convince me that the forest is still there.”
John hissed in frustration because this was not how he learned. He wished his grandfather had figured that out with the whole destroying a tree fiasco. “I destroyed it, and our lessons haven’t got around to creation.”
His grandfather shook his head. “You always focus on what you don’t know.”
“That is because I need to be taught something.” John bit back.
“Are you sure?” His grandfather countered with that annoying half-smile of his that said he knew something that John didn’t.
“You have to be the worst Jedi-Master in the history of time. Or do you delight in frustrating me?”
“You forget we have our own version of a genetic legacy all our learning is pooled in the collective memory … It is only your continued stubbornness that is stopping you accessing that pool.”
John deflated because now he felt stupid. “Okay, that was helpful.”
Janus chuckled as the forest bloomed at least in John’s memory and he was able to throw the image into the air around them. It was a convincing weave for his first time. “You will have no trouble hiding your actions in the near distance if needed.”
John was starting to feel like he could do this – what he needed to do was lose some energy because he was restless. When he was on Atlantis, he would have spared with Ronan or Teyla, but he didn’t have that option right now. It would be awesome if he could duel and try to use his powers, but he had to stop thinking of it as the force. A random thought struck him, would he be able to make a lightsaber that would be cooler than Ronan’s gun?
His grandfather snorted, reading that thought from his surface memory. “You can’t make a lightsaber, Johnathon. You do not need something so mechanical.” As he informed him of that – he threw an energy bolt. If his grandson wanted to spar, then they would do it as Alterran warriors.
John reacted to the blast of energy sent at him with a shield. The pooled knowledge came in handy. Fighting was something he was good at, and he couldn’t help but smile as he stretched into the next attack. He could spar, and the added dimension of telekinesis and using other skills made it difficult, which is what made it great.
He chose to deflect the next blast rather than shielding himself as that was tiring. Good ole Gandalf. He had no idea he said it aloud or that his grandfather would catch the pop culture reference because he got very annoyed.
“I am not a wizard, grandson.”
John snickered, even as he manipulated the environment, he could tell that glamours would be his favourite of the new skills. He was starting to build his creativity into his attacks. He could do this for days.
John was aware though that this wasn’t just for his amusement. The sparing had a two-fold purpose. If Adria chose to attack him, he could be in trouble without practice. To have access to the skills was one thing – he needed to know that he could use them to win a fight, which was another thing entirely. “Now be reasonable. You can’t blame my mind.”
“You should be concentrating on our sparring session.” Janus chided him.
John took a step back to fake a need for a breather. He needed to use his grandfather’s skills against him, “Who says I can’t do both?”
In fact, John saw the path to victory in his mind’s eye. His grandfather was reading his thoughts to predict what he was going to do next. So John stopped planning, and he relaxed, and let all the training he’d ever done come to the fore.
It was so satisfying to see his grandfather go on the defensive. The spar ended with John winning, and now he was grinning from ear to ear. “I am a soldier Grandpa, and you were a scientist. I can use my gifts now, and I will stay under the radar – I just have to remember trickle, not a river.”
Janus grinned as John had unwittingly made his point for him. “You know you have just made the point for me. Your gifts are yours, and your knowledge and skill cannot be taken from you even if you descend. All that will be limited is your capacity to use the skills by having a corporeal body. Remember, when you do go, you will genetically be 100% Alterran. You will have to remind Atlantis to obfuscate your results.”
John knew ‘Lantis would happily hide him if he asked. He just needed a chance to do it – preferably alone, so he didn’t give the game away. He worked with way too many smart people so he would have to be on his guard at all times.
The spar had been the final thing for John, and his grandfather had confirmed it. He had completed his training and knew that he would soon return to the physical world. The time with his extended family had been great, but he still had too much living to do. He knew that when he was old and ready to move on, he’d happily settle up in the stars, but he couldn’t right now.
There was only one part he was struggling over about returning to Atlantis – Teer.
He was with her right now because he’d slipped off to find her exhilarated from winning his spar. She might be with him, but he could feel it now. A gulf was developing between them and if he was honest with himself – it had been growing since he’d started training with his grandfather. He’d never been too good with women, and he had an ex-wife to prove it back on Earth. He just wished if someone were mad with him, they would explain why.
He was the one to break the silence, wanting to know where he stood. “You are distancing yourself, are you not?”
She just gave him a droll look, and it was so telling that he was a bad influence,” Yes.”
John wanted to know how he ended up being the communicative one in a relationship. It was not something he enjoyed. “Why?”
“You know why!”
He was confused, and it was ridiculous. He could understand so many things and manipulate energy at its base level, but he still did not understand women. “No, I don’t.”
“You’re going to descend, are you not?”
John winced as she uttered the words with such betrayal in her voice. It was not like he could deny the statement either. “Not fully, it seems I get to enjoy both sides of the fence for a while.”
He couldn’t deny that he was looking forward to interacting with his friends once more.
She shook her head. “You don’t get it. You can straddle both divides, but I can’t.”
John didn’t want special treatment, and at the moment, he wasn’t convinced that he would get to enact his plan. There was nothing that could be done now as it was set in motion. It was the truth. He’d known it before he’d even realised he was going to have to go back. He’d been spending more and more time watching Atlantis for potential disaster points.
There was a massive gulf between them now, and John couldn’t step back. He had a date with the Wraith, and not even Teer was going to stop him as lovely as she was. “I’m sorry.”
She had tears running down her face, but she used her energy to communicate where she wanted to go. John followed her, as this was a goodbye he could give her that much. He understood the significance of the place – She’d brought them to the beach they’d come to during their first ascended conversation. “I get why you love beaches now.”
John smiled softly. “They wash away all your troubles.”
“Yes, but I would never consider you to be trouble.” She replied, voice hitching as the reality set in.
John could feel the trouble brewing back on Atlantis. He let himself expand into tendril form and caressed her skin. “Keep shaking them all up, I will make my way up here eventually, and I think you should be ruling many by that time.”
“It will be something to distract me.” She said with a weak laugh.
John was going to miss the peace and tranquillity he had enjoyed ascended. In his heart, he knew he was cheating as he could re-ascend as he pleased. Still, his time for rest and training was over. He needed to go back to Atlantis – there was a villain that wasn’t even supposed to be on his radar currently in his city.
He refused to let a bleeding Goa’uld take over a respected Air-Force officer or cause even a scratch on his favourite city.
It was time for John to join Atlantis and send a message that no one should fuck with his city. The Genii understood his message, but it seemed it wasn’t spreading out to other races as it should.
Chapter 4: Unwanted Intruders
Caldwell was furious with everything and everyone. He wasn’t just angry. He felt betrayed, and worst of all, he was trapped in his own mind. He couldn’t wrestle enough control from the blasted creature to warn his crew. His attempts at fighting back for possession of his body had been for nought and just caused him to sink into a black fog in the recesses of his mind.
He’d been informed by the damn snake wearing his skin that should he by the merest chance manage to warn the crew it wasn’t him driving the bus so to speak – He would self-destruct the ship. There would be no coming back from an explosion in deep space, so he had to bide his time.
It was the worst timing in the world to be told that Sheppard had ascended to avoid a mortal injury. The snake was dead happy as he’d now effectively gained control of the ancient city. It was practically counting the ways it could exploit the technology it hoped to steal.
Caldwell was hoping that the Atlantean technology would spot his guest. He was aggrieved that his personality was so acerbic that his crew hadn’t spotted his possession.
You better hope not – The creature warned him.
The last thing Caldwell wanted to do was talk to his unwanted lodger, but he couldn’t help it. Why should it bother me?”
The bomb I set as a distraction will upset you, and if the Goa’uld can’t have the technology. Then no one will.
That statement set him off his fighting again and once more – he was pushed back far into his own consciousness.
The possessed Caldwell landed on the Eastern pier as he would normally. He’d already gained the permission to dock and had one final procedure before he could disembark and get on with his real mission. “Dr Weir, we’re offloading the final items, and I shall sign off with Major Marks before joining you.”
“Understood Colonel, Weir Out.”
He wasn’t an expert in human nuances, so he had no idea if she was an ally or someone to be wary of for his objectives. He’d tried to search his host’s memories, but when they came to Atlantis, they were too twisted with emotions to untangle.
He took the last crate off himself as he didn’t want anyone to examine his personal belongings. He didn’t think even the rank he’d borrowed would be able to save him if he was found with a goa’uld bomb in his possession.
Major Lorne, the second in command on Atlantis, was waiting as he disembarked. “Colonel,” and Lorne saluted him.
He was hoping to have five minutes to himself where he didn’t have to act like a Tau’ri soldier. Still, he was able to return it as he’d seen enough salutes to be able to mimic it. “Major Lorne, you have all your supplies to square away. I intend to square away my personal gear in my quarters, and then I will be making my way to our office.”
It wasn’t an unreasonable statement. Caldwell had stayed in quarters the last time he’d taken temporary control and those quarters were assigned to him permanently.
Lorne offered. “I shall ensure that the new recruits are sorted through induction and shall I meet you in the office in 1 hour?” He was careful to phrase as it as a request, not an order trying to get a feel for his new boss.
“Yes, that works for me.”
He thought he’d passed his first test, but Lorne wasn’t wholly convinced. He was sure the oddness in the exchange was because Caldwell was trying to adjust to his newest post. It was a coveted but daunting post, and Lorne suspected it had just hit his new CO about the task ahead of him. Oh well, it was his job to smooth the transition, and he would do it to the best of his ability.
John knew that Caldwell’s arrival from the Prometheus was a temporary plan. O’Neill had said he wanted Sheppard’s status to be confirmed before he chose a permanent leader. So in the interim, he was assigning Caldwell as he was the only Colonel with experience of the Pegasus Galaxy and would like to keep a Commander for more than a week. It was not unacknowledged that Sheppard had been the only military leader to thrive in the unknown space.
Now, normally Sheppard would have no problem with Caldwell taking over his post. The man was a highly decorated Colonel in the Air Force, and had so much experience in the program, and more importantly of the Pegasus Galaxy and had fought the Wraith.
It was hardly a secret that they didn’t get on, but this was different. John could not let Caldwell lead the city because he was patently unsuitable right now.
You see John objected to the permanent guest in the form of a Goa’uld snake that was currently residing in the base of Caldwell’s skull. Atlantis was positively ranting in his head about the abomination walking on her floors. John was itching to take care of the problem for his favourite city. He knew he should be looking at doing it subtly, but if he was smart, then he could build this problem into the narrative of explaining his return.
He could hear his grandfather’s voice in his head. It is time for you to show what happens to those who mess with our city.
John couldn’t agree more, and it was time for him to show his hand.
Lorne had informed Caldwell his baseline physical was scheduled straight after their meeting. It seemed to spook him, which was odd. He wished someone else was in his office as it made him think he was paranoid.
“I will go as soon as I have checked some last-minute cargo. A gift we can use to bribe the scientists, something General O’Neill promised we should use sparingly.”
Lorne’s eyes lit up with glee. “Do you mean the General approved my request for extra coffee?”
“He did, but I was ordered to hide it on the manifest.” The Goa’uld didn’t really understand the fascination with the item, but he could exploit it.
Lorne was relieved because the easiest way to soothe savage scientists was caffeine. It might not be the most ethical option, but he didn’t care. The Pegasus Galaxy had many wondrous things, but coffee trees weren’t one of them. It might be a cliche that scientists run on caffeine, but in the case of the Atlantis contingent, it was the truth.
The scientists would soon discover he was possessing Caldwell and there would be no way to avoid it. He had no choice but to activate the bomb and destroy the city to stop the Tau’ri from having an advantage over the Goa’uld.
He had to act quickly and set the bomb off without being noticed. He should be beyond suspicion considering his position in the city.
Caldwell’s face twisted in a grotesque grin pleased with his plan. The bomb had been set, and now all he had to do was set it off once he’d walked away with no comeback. It was a perfect plan. No one would be wiser, but it would keep the Goa’ulds as the dominant race in the galaxy, and that was the only acceptable outcome. His orders were to acquire any and all technology it deemed useful and if that failed to destroy the base. There was no way the Goa’uld could allow the Tau’ri to have access to such powerful weapons.
He went to leave the room where he’d set the bomb but into a forcefield blocking his way. He hissed in surprise and pressed his radio, remembering to modulate his voice back to his host’s voice. “Control, this is Caldwell there is a malfunction on the door. It is blocking me. I have no idea how I even ended up here. Is this a common fault?”
He asked it in an annoyed tone, hoping they would consider him annoyed rather than fishing for information. He needed to complete his mission without being discovered, it was the last of his orders from his god Ba’al, and there was no way he intended to defy his god.
The snake wasn’t too worried because McKay didn’t seem to know he was riding Caldwell. His tone was more matter of fact, and he replied, “Standby Colonel Caldwell, I am looking at it now. Are you in danger?”
Caldwell smirked looking at the bomb, not concerned for his safety as he had yet to arm it. In fact, he would now have to hide it and keep close attention to the situation. “Only of boredom. Hurry.”
John had watched in the ether for a few seconds, wanting to assess just what the snake’s aims were for his city. She was practically screaming her anger at such a defiler being allowed to walk her halls. John had already assured her that he would take care of it, but he needed her help to stay hidden. He was glad he hadn’t descended yet because it was far easier to exchange the information as a fast flow of information in this form. The minute he’d seen the bomb – all bets were off, and he’d chosen to take human form once more. It hadn’t taken much effort for him to activate the weapon with a flick of his fingers.
His grandfather would be so proud of him – he’d finally figured out that refinement issue. It was at the perfect time, especially considering the situation.
Snaked-Caldwell, as John was thinking of him, eyes widened seeing the bomb start to tick down of its own volition, but he kept his cool. He clicked his radio once more, “How are you doing on that malfunction, McKay?”
McKay’s annoyed voice filtered across the radio. “Not much from the seconds ago you just asked me. I’m good, but even I do need time to read the screen.”
“Work faster.” Caldwell insisted. He could hardly explain why he was demanding such swift action, but this had not been in his plan. He had no intention of being a martyr, and his god had not ordered him to be one.
John would hide no longer because of Ally’s distress levels about the thought of a bomb causing harm to them. John sent reassuring feelings towards the city. I will not allow harm to come to you, Ally. You know better than that.
He got the mental equivalent of a nod because she did trust him, but she wanted to help get rid of the interloper. John was in ready agreement because the more of his stunts he could pass off as the city – the better.
He asked the snake, masquerading as Caldwell, calmly a question, “Why exactly would McKay need to do to hurry?”
The surprised face meant the snake knew him then. Caldwell’s hand shot immediately to his radio, hoping to throw doubt on the man’s identity and he was calculating whether he could shift the blame for the bomb. “Control we have an intruder.”
There was silence, and John just smirked at the snaked-colonel. “Yeah, you see that malfunction you were complaining to McKay about is well … Me.”
John would give the snake credit he was still trying to pretend to be Caldwell. He was faking confusion and asking in an almost bewildered tone. “What are you? McKay reported that you were dead.”
John twirled around on his toes, and he could feel his heartbeat and the blood race through his veins. It was intoxicating, and a perfect way of him knowing he was fully back. He couldn’t help his sassy response. “Funny. I feel great.”
Caldwell raced at the door once more, not wanting to be stuck with this unknown foe. He slammed his fist against the bulkhead, shouting. “Let me out!”
John had a hard glint in his eyes and laughed at the demand. “You, get out? Nope, not a chance.” He didn’t see the point in pretending he didn’t know exactly who was in front of him. He made a mental note for Atlantis to scan all new arrivals for any unwanted guests even before they got to the infirmary. “Unless you choose to let the officer you are possessing go.”
The Goa’uld knew no help was on its way if the being in front of him had blocked his signals. This being might just be one of the feared Alterrans that the Goa’uld feared coming back to their galaxy. He indeed moved and dressed like one, which was odd considering he was supposed to work for the Tau’ri armed forces if their records were accurate.
“If I go up with this bomb then so does he,” Caldwell promised, seemingly to test John’s resolve. If he was hoping to find a weakness, then he was sorely disappointed. John was guessing that as he’d dropped the pretence of hiding, but he didn’t flinch at the alien voice suddenly being used.
John upped the ante because despite all his training – he’d not learned how to pull a goa’uld safely from its host. So if the snake was to go – He had to believe it was in its best interest to vacate Caldwell. “You know the man you’ve hijacked would consider himself an acceptable loss if it saved the lives of other humans. Sacrifice is something all of us accept when we swear our oaths as officers.”
It didn’t mean they were suicidal like Rodney often accused him of being – just ready to make the difficult choice.
The Goa’uld sneered. “And you say we are the bad guys. My God hasn’t asked for my death.”
John snorted at the hypocrisy the bastard was peddling. “No, I said Caldwell is ready to make the sacrifice.”
“You are not Tau’ri.” The Goa’uld decided, he just seemed to have something in his bearing that suggested that even if he’d started off as a Tau’ri – he was no longer one of them.
John straightened up his outfit because it wasn’t like he couldn’t hide the fact it was Alterran. He still didn’t answer the question on the tip of the goa’ulds tongue. On the off chance that he managed to escape – he was not going to give him useful or actionable intel that could be used against him. “What can I say? I am just one of a kind.”
The Goa’uld riding Caldwell sneered and obviously didn’t know what to make of the foe in front of him. “So you’re just going to watch and wait for us all to go up in flames?”
John tilted his head to the side. “Maybe, does that bother you?”
Huh, so he did get the answer to one of his questions – the goa’uld did sweat. He asked his next question more to bait his opponent than to gain the answer. “Do you think a sarcophagus can heal you if you’re blown up by a bomb?”
“You know it won’t.” The thing hissed at him. He was starting to prowl the forcefield, trying to find a weakness. John knew there wasn’t one because Atlantis would not allow something to harm her city if she could manage it. John loved the fact she was asking him if she could restrict the forcefield further.
He snickered mentally before adding, “In a minute.”
John shrugged off his feigned disappointment and carried on the conversation. “Oh well, C’est la vie. Guess if you want to leave here alive, you better disarm the bomb.” The last bit said with a venom that only Kolya would recognise.
“I can’t, or my Lord will kill me.” The goa’uld may not want to die, but he wasn’t stupid enough to fail in his mission. In such cases, he would beg for death but never have the mercy of a true death.
John shrugged because it wasn’t his problem. He didn’t care if the goa’uld was caught between a rock and a hard place. “Guess you’re stuck then. The city will not let the forcefield down while you’re still inside Colonel Caldwell and I won’t let the bomb destroy my favourite city.” If anything, the lights went brighter as he said it to reinforce what John was saying.
“You’re bluffing.” The Goa’uld replied. This man was not acting as he expected from his briefing. He was told the Tau’ri valued life above everything. This one didn’t seem to care about anything apart from achieving his objective, which seemed only to be to keep the city safe.
John smirked, but it was more a cold glare because even Caldwell had read of his exploits against the Genii. “I am really not. Look inside Caldwell’s memories about the Genii. You’ll see that I don’t play games.”
“You’re cunning.” The Goa’uld praised him, seeing how he was ruthless against his enemies. It was something that even his god Ba’al would recognise. The being in front of him didn’t react with pride, just a simple acknowledgement of,
“Thanks. Tick tock.”
The visible field shrunk inward a few inches restricting him and forcing him ever closer to the bomb that was still ticking down. It was a visible reminder that his time to decide was ticking away.
McKay and Zelenka had no idea why the glitch Caldwell had reported couldn’t be fixed from the tower. Personally, McKay felt like even the city was pouting that her favourite son had ascended. He wondered privately if even the city was upset that Caldwell was here to replace his best friend – it would explain why the city had chucked Caldwell into some far corner.
Zelenka huffed. “Why would the city send him here?”
Rodney shrugged. “My guess it is because he is not Sheppard.”
Zelenka chuckled because there was perhaps some truth in that statement as the city, which he privately thought of as a she was definitely more glitchy since his ascension. “We must be proactive … It will look careless if we lose another CMO so soon.”
McKay sighed, just knowing this was going to be difficult. He’d checked the systems in the tower, and there was no reason for the glitch as far as programming could tell. “Wherever Sheppard is floating around, he could come over and sweet talk Atlantis into behaving.”
Zelenka frowned because he’d seen how devastated Rodney had been upon his return from the sanctuary planet. He’d known the head scientist blamed himself for Sheppard becoming stuck behind the time dilation field in the first place. He’d also heard from the other members of SGA1 how grievously injured Sheppard had been from the energy attacks. “You do believe that the city is upset, don’t you?”
McKay snorted because he’d been the one to figure out the correlation between the glitches and the lack of Sheppard. “Maybe? The glitch reports have increased ten-fold since he floated into space.”
Zelenka shrugged because it may be accurate, but there was little he could do to change events as he didn’t have access to a time machine. He tried to reason with his old friend because he knew how close they were. “You said his injuries were mortal, so it didn’t sound like he had a choice.”
McKay didn’t shudder at the memory, but it was a close thing. He still had vivid memories of how John looked before he did a Chaya. He wondered if Chaya and the little moppet that was standing next to him were fighting over him. The idea amused him more than it should. “It was that bad, probably worse than the report but you know I am prevaricating. It is just Atlantis is pissed off that her favourite son is not here and is taking it out on us.”
Zelenka had no answer because he believed that essentially McKay was right. There would be one way to prove if McKay was right or wrong and that would be to free Colonel Caldwell. The two scientists at that moment – had no clue that the source of their frustration was the topic of conversation. He would be both the source of the glitch and the potential saviour of the city all in one unified way.
As they entered the hidden corridor, they could hear the bellowing of two voices. They froze, and McKay pulled the weapon he now wore around Atlantis. He might not be able to listen to the conversation fully, but he knew that one of those voices did not belong. He the dulcet tones of a goa’uld screaming.
McKay whispered to Zelenka, “Is that Caldwell?”
“You won’t get away with this!”
Wow. McKay was impressed as he thought he was loud when he was angry. Caldwell’s distorted voice carried when he was pissed. Still, it begged the question of who was Caldwell shouting at? And, what the hell was going on?
Rodney did figure out though why there was no glitch – He guessed the city had quarantined Caldwell recognising that he wasn’t himself.
The two scientists approached cautiously, aiming to get a greater understanding of the situation before radioing for the appropriate support. It was clear at the very least that Caldwell wasn’t going anywhere in the short term if the city didn’t want him to.
They got one answer to some of their questions when they heard an incredibly familiar if unexpected voice.
“Oh, I will as you are the snakey bastard trying to blow up my city.”
The voice was Colonel Sheppard’s and Rodney knew they must be in some potentially serious trouble. The rules for the ascended were unambiguous; the Ancients who ascended were not meant to interfere as rules bound them. At least that was how Rodney understood the rules, and it had been highlighted by their visit to that hussy Chaya-Sar’s planet.
“She isn’t your city.” The Goa’uld sneered.
John laughed at the retort as the idiot snake had definitely not done its homework. “Atlantis adores me and won’t go against my wishes you pathetic snake. You’d be walking away from your bomb if I was lying.”
The word bomb had them paying attention. Although it should be alarming, Atlantis had been in too many do or die situations now to freeze. McKay had his hand to his radio and whispered. “Tower, this is McKay. I need the area around Caldwell evacuated NOW!”
“Rodney?” Weir queried.
Rodney wasn’t sure how to explain this and shared a look with Zelenka to see if he had an idea. He got a hapless shrug in response, so he whispered. “Summer rain is here.”
Weir sighed because that was one of their codes for FUBAR situation, but the hope of repair was possible. It also told the tower to send no more personnel into the area as it was too risky. If the stunt worked, then it was a hail Mary type manoeuvre. He wasn’t the type prone to histrionics when it really mattered, and Weir knew it.
She whispered. “Understood. Update when you can.”
Rodney didn’t see the point in pretending they were not around, so they stepped out of the shadow. He greeted his best friend as casually as he could, considering his heart was racing. “Hey, Sheppard. Not sure about the new look.” In truth, he hated the outfit as it was a visual reminder of him now being one of the ascended Alterrans.
Sheppard shrugged because his clothing was low down on his priority list at the moment. “I was in a hurry what with our snaked friend here wanting to blow up ‘Lantis.” He offered in what sounded like a reasonable explanation, and it was like his recent conversations with Teer. John didn’t want to think about why his brain had chosen to make that comparison. He was still getting used to being back amongst the living without freaking out regarding romantic feelings in front of such a potentially dangerous opponent.
Rodney had gathered that the goa’uld had been up to good. “You back then, or just floating in?” He didn’t quite manage to keep the hope out of his voice much to his annoyance.
Sheppard smirked at him in that infuriating way he always managed. He gave an evasive answer that would enlighten his two friends but not their snaked acquaintance. “Turns out I am not too good with sitting on my hands.”
McKay just had to ask the question that was bugging him. “How come you managed to get cool black clothes and Jackson got dumped naked in a field?”
Zelenka rolled his eyes because it was like they had just fallen back straight into their dynamic. There were so many more important things to be concerned about – like the bomb! He did have to wonder at their timing.
“Bomb!” He exclaimed, hoping to at least refocus their attention before they got lost in their argument as they were prone to doing.
John rolled his eyes at the reminder because he was the first one to notice there was a bomb. Okay, so he may have been cheating because he happened to be ascended, but still. “I am aware of it Dr Z but ‘Lantis can suppress the damage to the room where Caldwell is currently standing. We were just negotiating the guy’s room cancellation fees.”
“How long have you been inside him?” McKay asked their captive guests. In his head, he was already writing the epic rant about protocols. He wanted to know how the hell the SGC failed to notice a possessed Colonel for so long.
“I am not telling you.” Fake Caldwell scoffed.
McKay shrugged as he’d been banking on the creature’s need to gloat. He was taking his cue from Sheppard’s actions. “Well, I suppose the mystery will die with you.”
“You’re awfully callous with your colonel’s life.” The Goa’uld spoke softly, as he was probing, trying to find an avenue of attack that he just might be able to exploit.
John smirked. “Death is the next journey and can be fun.” He knew it was cheesy, but he could tell the flippant act was scaring their guest.
Rodney groaned because seriously there was a time and a place for awful pop-culture references. He couldn’t believe Sheppard would pick now to be a ham.
It did work in one way, as their guest was getting more and more agitated. “If I vacate this body, will I live?” He was hoping that he could leverage support to stay alive and escape at a later date.
Sheppard sighed and gave a quick shrug as he didn’t have a clue and he didn’t care. He had one aim, and that was to see the city safe. “No idea. Just got back in all honesty but Weir tends to like to let people live.”
“Unless your Genii,” Rodney added.
Sheppard’s eyes glittered darkly at the mention of their name. “Well, there should always be an exception to a rule. Some people just need to get dead.” He added the last part without taking his eyes off the snakey infester, and his laser-focus paid off as the snake took the better part of valour and jumped out of Caldwell’s mouth. It caused the man to collapse like a puppet whose strings had been cut. It wasn’t a pleasant thought because that was entirely too accurate a comparison.
McKay noticed the forcefield didn’t drop but closed in with precision around the snake and the bomb itself. So there was at least some more area for them to move around now.
“Are you not going to switch off the bomb?” McKay demanded to know because he could see the countdown on the timer was getting way too low for his comfort.
John didn’t take it personally, well-versed in his friend’s personality, “Nice to see you too, Rodney.”
Rodney would have made a sarcastic comment but all he had rattling around his sizable brain that second was one word, bomb. “Yes, yes, we will get to why you’ve floated back to our mortal plane but can you end the bomb? The snake has done an Elvis so you can shut it down now.”
John wasn’t the type to live and let live despite the impression he may have given the snake. He didn’t care if he got a lecture from Janus. He was taking out this threat with or without permission. “Need to be sure it is dead.”
“Sheppard, don’t mess with me,” McKay growled. “I won’t survive a bomb blast, unlike your lucky ass.”
“You have seen the forcefield, right?” John asked him with a smirk. He wasn’t going to allow any damage to occur. It’s why he’d thrown some power into the city on the way down. She was glad for the power boost and thanks to his gift she was looking through the database for him to find some planets where there might be friendly ZPM caches.
Zelenka just rolled his eyes and started to mutter in Czech about idiocy. “Colonel, please.”
The force field shrank down even further so that the control panel was able to be accessed. John bent over the dials, and he fiddled with the controls of the weapon to turn it off. He could have done it with his telekinesis but remembered he was trying to fly under the radar. The timer fizzled out, and John declared a little unnecessarily. “Done.”
Zelenka and McKay found themselves breathing easier. McKay was the one to relay the change in status over the radio. “Tower, this is McKay send Medical personnel to my position.”
Weir’s voice cut through the hustle and bustle of the control room. “What happened Rodney?”
Rodney, for all his brains, honestly had no clue where to start with everything that they’d learned in the last ten minutes. He was looking at his best friend who had stayed quiet – so thought it would be a pleasant surprise for the others. “We will debrief you soon, but Caldwell is out for the count. He should be okay, but Heightmeyer is needed.”
John whispered. “Containment chamber for our snakey guest.”
Rodney rolled his eyes and may have flushed a little. “Have the marines bring a containment chamber.”
Weir immediately asked. “How big?”
“Small, don’t worry its neutralised for now.”
It was rather odd to see the Goa’uld out of a host and trapped in a forcefield as just a snake. The medical personnel was Beckett and his trusted nurse, Marie. “What happened?”
Rodney smirked. “Sheppard evicted his snakey friend before he bombed the city.”
Beckett blinked in surprise. “I didn’t know we had forcefields.”
“You know Atlantis loves Shepard over us all.” Rodney snarked, finding his voice now that the threat had passed once more.
Sheppard smirked. “I asked for a containment field, and it appeared. It is not my fault Atlantis likes me more.”
“I can’t believe you can flirt with a city.”
Ally chimed in his brain. “You desired consort’s jealousy is adorable.”
John didn’t react because the arrival of the marines distracted them all. He slipped back into leading even though he knew there would be questions. “You have a goa’uld to contain.”
Major Lorne, who broke out in an uncharacteristic massive grin seeing his favourite commander in front of him. “Colonel Sheppard, I’m glad you see you’re back.”
John looked at his Alterran uniform sheepishly. “Underdressed but I found I was in disagreement about letting harm come to my favourite city, so I took action by descending and fixed it myself.”
“It was about him, and the bomb wasn’t it?” McKay added astutely.
John shrugged, making it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. “Look, the snake wanted to hurt my favourite city and its occupants. I didn’t want it to happen and could intercede. So I did.”
“Your verbosity hasn’t changed one bit,” McKay observed.
John chuckled but showed he was still mindful of the protocol. “Look I need to get checked out to prove I am me. I want a proper uniform, and we need to make sure that Caldwell isn’t unduly affected by his possession.”
Rodney was pleased that he’d already thought of that. “I’ve radioed for Heightmeyer to meet Beckett in the infirmary.”
Lorne looked at the snake crawling around its confined box. “What shall I do with this?”
“Let Caldwell decide it’s fate,” Sheppard remarked.
Weir had made it to the scene, not willing to wait once she’d found Caldwell was being taken to the infirmary unconscious and froze seeing John back on Atlantis. She said rather stupidly only. “You’re back.”
John grinned boyishly. “I have a Galaxy to explore, and some things to settle. Plus, you know the Alterrans have too many rules to keep me as one of them for too long.”
John figured that was an explanation they could all believe. He didn’t know how he could precisely summarise that his birth had been a long term plan by a stupidly sneaky scientist to ensure the Wraith threat could eventually be eradicated. He would keep it simple, “Yeah, and once Beckett has proved I am me. I can tell you a few things I have picked up in the ether.”
Thanks for the planet Ally
By some small miracle, they’d managed to keep Sheppard’s return a secret for now. Although, it wouldn’t be for too long as the whole of the Atlantis senior team was in the infirmary for various reasons. The gossip right now was focusing on the fact that Caldwell had managed to fall afoul of the city. The other bit of gossip was rumours of a returned Sheppard, but no one could confirm that rumour.
John had allowed himself to be subject to a whole battery of tests used to check a person’s identity. He could see Beckett order the final examination. He was going under the Atlantis scanners, and John started to relax. John approved of the caution Beckett was displaying before making his decision. If the whole Caldwell affair had proved anything, it was that caution was healthy.
John sent a thought to the city. “Ally, please help me fool the scanners, they can’t know I am still more Alterran than not.”
He got a mental snort. I have been paying attention.
John lay back comfortably as the scanners ran over him. He had never had a medical exam where the Doctor seemed to think he was a ghost before. He was pretty sure Beckett kept uttering Gaelic prayers of protection under his breath. “So am I me, Doc?”
Becket was trawling through the scans and comparing them to something on his screen. John was guessing it was his pre-ascension DNA work that would have been on record. His whole team, Lorne and Weir were all standing around waiting with bated breath for the answer.
Becket looked up and declared with some confusion in his voice. “Your DNA is all you, but you’re perfect now.”
John’s eyes widened at that remark, and he didn’t like the glint he could see in Beckett’s eyes. He was smart enough to play it off with sarcasm. “Thanks. I like to work out, but Cadman will shoot you or me Doc if you look in my direction.”
Ronan added helpfully. “Probably you Doc, Sheppard is her commanding officer, and that’s frowned upon.”
The Doctor blushed, realising what he’d said and couldn’t help but notice the glare from McKay too. After all, it wasn’t like Laura was the only one who could build a bomb out of spare parts. He thought the head scientist wasn’t aware of his feelings for the Colonel, but that look suggested otherwise. He was quick to try and avoid any more teasing. “Not like that. I mean genetically, you have none of your previous complaints it is like your genes are almost pure Ancient now. They read like General O’Neill’s scans when he was head zapped.”
Sheppard frowned. “Not ascended pure, though right.” He figured he could drop in a little statement to help himself later on. “They said I wouldn’t have access to my gifts for as long as my rebellions and naive attachments remained.”
Weir seized upon that comment eagerly. “So you do remember your time ascended?”
John nodded and offered a small explanation. He needed to be accepted back as the Head of the Military once more, and that wouldn’t happen if his careless words saw him locked up, or some lab rat. “Yep, I got to spend time with my grandfather. He was most disappointed that I liked maths and not science. I think he would have prefered McKay to ascend, to be honest.”
Weir looked like she didn’t know if she wanted to faint or get a journal to write down everything. McKay though asked the question that everyone wanted to know but was too afraid to ask. “Who is your grandfather?”
McKay started to rant. “Of course he is, no wonder the city rolls over for you. You are practically family.”
John smirked because, in truth, he wasn’t wrong. It had been the case before he ascended and even more so upon his return. “Yep, she is like my sister McKay so is it a wise idea to upset me?”
McKay looked confused and for once spoke candidly. “Honestly, I am just hoping you won’t drift away once more. Your punishment seems awfully lax.”
John grinned crookedly and explained how he exploited the perceived loophole. “You know I didn’t use any powers. I just descended, which is why I got to keep my knowledge even if I can’t use it.”
“That sucks,” McKay remarked as he would have liked to test the limits of the Alterran skills the SGC had witnessed previously. The programme had only ever seen them in action, and never had a chance to analyse them. It was the scientist in him, and he could hardly switch it off. Still, he didn’t much care about any of that right now – he had Sheppard back.
Weir huffed at McKay’s comment. She dearly wished he would think before he spoke sometimes. “As your identity is confirmed and we seem to be down a military commander once more as Caldwell was only filing the vacancy. I am asking that you step back into the void effective immediately. The paperwork regarding coming back from ascension will need filing during the next data burst. I will ask General O’Neill to send through the confirmation of orders about you once more being CMO.”
John had to wonder sometimes about the SGC. His death was seen as an inconvenience, not a tragedy. O’Neill had already changed the rules regarding ascension, so it was classified as merely missing in action. He had expected his return to cause more issues to be honest, but emergencies had a way of smoothing such problems.
Lorne had handed him one of the military uniforms. “Glad you’re still here. I was worried I was going to have to say I had lost another Commander.”
Sheppard smirked. “Relax, you didn’t lose me, Lorne. You will no doubt be wishing I’d stayed floating up there after a week of fixing my paperwork.”
Lorne was so damn earnest. “No, I will do it with a smile until after at least the second major emergency.”
Sheppard smirked. “I am going to hold you to that.”
Teyla greeted him traditionally, and John now didn’t think twice about joining heads. “I’m so glad you’ve returned.”
“Where else would I be?” John replied with a grin. He turned to the silent member of his team. “Hey, Chewie. Miss me?”
Ronan shook his head. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist getting involved.”
Sheppard smirked. “You got me figured out.”
He looked at the sleeping man on the bed next to him. “What’s the prognosis? I think the possession wasn’t short term from our conversation.”
Weir looked guilty because none of them had noticed. She knew there would no doubt be a major review of scanning procedures at all levels after this report was submitted. “We had no idea, and we’ve made all our security protocols with the Wraith in mind.”
John sighed because he had been just as guilty in that way of thinking before his enforced vacation. “Yeah, we have to change that I think.”
She smirked. “Sounds like a job for my military commander.”
John was glad Lorne had the foresight to bring him his uniform. He needed the soldiers and members of Atlantis to see him once more as Colonel Sheppard, and that wasn’t going to happen while he visibly looked like another race. He asked the next question, somewhat hopefully. “I don’t suppose my room is still mine?”
McKay snorted because that shouldn’t even be a question. “Are you kidding me? The city sealed your room. She’s been in mourning that her favourite son had floated away. It makes more sense with what you’ve told us.”
John looked up at the city lights and stroked the walls. “Thanks, girl. You know I love you too.”
Beckett looked bemused at him. “You know the women around the city hate the fact you like the city more than any of them.”
Weir chuckled because there was a kernel of truth there, adding. “I know when I’m facing a losing battle. Plus, we should all be glad that it is a two-way love affair.”
She could tell that this whole day could have gone so badly if John hadn’t been able to intervene with the city’s direct help. She knew that in her report, and Rodney’s they would downplay anything that suggested Colonel Sheppard was too close to an Ancient.
Whatever he maybe now – he was one of expedition first, and he was choosing to stay with them, and that was good enough for her. She did not doubt in her mind that his main priority was still the protection of the city and its inhabitants.