Title: And Again
Relationship: None, maybe John/Rodney
Content Rating: Mature
Warnings: Life, Death, Reincarnation
Ioannes: Chapter One
Ioannes stared up at the stars over the city of Atlantis and wondered when his people had descended into madness.
He, like so many in his caste, still looked young, vital and full of the first blush of youth. He didn’t feel it however. He had lived for more than a thousand years on Atlantis. If nothing happened to him, he could expect to live more than nine thousand more. However, for the last one hundred of those thousand years, he and his people had been fighting the Wraith in a war that they were losing, one system at a time. Unlike most of the Lanteans living on Atlantis, he wasn’t willing to ignore the war either.
Their enemy had never truly given themselves a name, but the Lanteans who fought them did. The Wraith were a failed experiment of some minor incompetent scientist who had wanted to shortcut his way to Ascension. When his experiment had gotten away from him, the useless fool had been one of the first to die at their hands. Now the creatures were rampaging across his galaxy and the Council wasn’t letting him stop it. Ioannes thought he knew the location of the core world for the unnatural creatures, he knew their weaknesses and how to apply them. But he was being put off or ignored by the Council, his hands tied on how far they would let him go.
Like that late unlamented scientist, the Council had their eyes firmly set on Ascension, not on the brief lives of those their ancestors had Seeded throughout their new galaxy. That blindness was one of the leading causes of the losses Ioannes’s people reported to him on a daily basis. The Wraith used those brief lives as sustenance and took any chance of a greater future away from them. It was a horrific waste.
Ioannes was not one to stand around and allow those under his care to be used and abused. He and the ones under his command were well aware of the type of war they were fighting and they were grimly determined to do all they could to keep everyone safe
“You are going to your death.”
Ioannes ignored the voice behind him with the ease of long practice. He was more interested in getting one last look at the stars as they rose before he left.
“Ignoring me isn’t going to change things.”
“Janus, go away.” Ioannes growled without looking.
“I can’t. You are family. And for what it is worth, I don’t want you to die,” the younger man protested.
“I don’t want to die either, but we need to get this battle done,” Ioannes turned back to his cousin. “No matter what those fools on the Council like to say.”
“You are the darling of the Council, cousin.” Janus looked pained as he informed him of his status. “Unlike most of us, you have been on the verge of Ascension for the last five hundred years and yet you stay, tied to your physical body. And then there is this thing with the Wraith.”
Ioannes snorted. Darling of the Council indeed. Those dilettantes were useless. “I stay because I can’t see any reason to try for Ascension now. I am young, healthy and I have too many responsibilities to give up on life right now. Ascension is the end result of a life lived, not to be taken just because.”
Janus just looked at him and shrugged. “They don’t see it that way.”
“They don’t have to,” Ioannes told him. Reaching out, he pulled his cousin into a brief hug. Touching came hard for him and he let very few into his physical space. Janus was one of only two people he touched willingly. “Take care of yourself around those people.”
Ioannes let his cousin go and walked back inside his city. He had a battle to plan.
“Fuck me. How many?” Ioannes demanded of his bridge crew.
“There are at least forty mother-ships, sir. Plus an unknown number of cruisers and darts,” Roken, his science officer, reported promptly.
“Forty.” Ioannes didn’t curse again, although it took an effort. “Well, nothing for it then. Time to start killing Wraith. Patch me through to the fleet.”
“Yes, sir. You have an open channel.”
Ioannes took a deep breath and looked at the field of battle he had taken his people into. How? “To those under my command, we are about to deal the Wraith a blow I can only hope they never recover from. Remember, you are Lantean, you are mighty and I know you will succeed. Pick your targets and we shall see you on the other side.”
Reaching out, he mentally cut the channel and stared at the men and women on his bridge. They were all looking at him with hope, determination and amusement. “You are a horrible orator, sir,” his science officer told him bluntly, blue eyes sparkling in amusement.
“Never had to be better,” Ioannes admitted.
“Might want to work on that.”
“If we make it through this,” Ioannes promised before nudging the computer to put targeting circles around a series of Wraith mother-ships. The targeting circles from the other ships in his fleet showed up as shadows against their own targets. “Fire at will.”
The feel of lightening being let loose flowed across the edges of his mind as his ship fired and a fierce joy ran through him. This was why he stayed. To make sure that the enemies that threatened his people were denied the stolen form of life they ripped from everyone else.
The Wraith died. By the thousands, they died. Ioannes didn’t mourn their twisted lives at all. Once, their ancestors might have been Ancient or even something like the Seeded, but not anymore. Now, they were a plague. He was determined to burn them out.
Hour after hour, his ships slugged it out with the Wraith. Despite their advancement, the ships couldn’t maintain their cloaks while bombarding the enemy and they were paying the price for it. Deep slashes started to appear on the pristine white sides and Ioannes winced. So many lives lost in those wounds.
Reaching deep into the systems of his ship, he could feel how sluggish it was. The damage was heavy and it was starting to be a problem. Coughing at the smoke on the bridge, Ioannes settled deeper into the interface, working to patch around them ruined systems as they continued to fire.
“Sir.” His helmsman drew a wheezing breath and then coughed. “We are through the other side of the armada and our ships are reporting that they managed to destroy or cripple all of the mother-ships. Cruisers are harder to confirm, but the sensors report that we managed to take out at least sixty ourselves.”
“Good!” Ioannes barked out as he suppressed a cough as there was another explosion. Looking over at his science station he stared. The whole console had blown and was pouring smoke into the bridge. His friend was lying under the mess and Ioannes rolled off his couch before he finished processing what he had seen. Roken had a spear shaped slice of the console sticking out of his chest and Ioannes could hear the broken gurgle of his breathing from where he was.
Picking his way through the wreckage, he reached his scientist and looked at his wound. “It’s mortal.” He told him, voice broken and soft. Roken stared up at him and grimaced, gritting his teeth against the pain he was in and Ioannes ran a hand over his face. Roken nodded once and his breathing stopped before his body transformed into energy and the familiar form of an Ascendant took shape before flashing out.
“Take us back in.” Ioannes issued the command as he stood up and moved back to his duty station. He was going to ignore the blood staining his uniform and his hand. He had a job to do.
“Taking us back in,” was all he heard before he immersed himself in the battle before them.
The ebb and flow of battle was familiar and he fell into it, letting it take all his attention as he moved his fleet around to finish off the last of their foes. In the end, he pulled out of the battle systems of his ship and took stock. They had completely lost a third of their ships, and the rest were battle damaged to various degrees that would take a shipyard to make right.
Plugging back into the remaining sensors, Ioannes scanned the surrounding area and sighed. There were many energy traces that showed that at least a few of his people who had died that day had managed to Ascend. It was the only consolation that he had for what he had led them into.
Deep in the systems, he felt the familiar sensation of a Wraith ship heading his way. Opening his physical eyes, Ioannes looked up in time to see the wedge shaped tip of a Wraith dart impact at the view screen and force its way through.
As the feel of the fire and ice ripped through him, Ioannes let go of his hold on his physical life and screamed his way to Ascension, pulling his crew with him. He wasn’t going to leave anyone behind if he could help it.
Ioannes: Chapter Two
The patterns of energy that made up the universe were beautiful, Ioannes had to admit that. He did. He really did. He just hadn’t wanted to see them any time soon.
Sighing in frustration, Ioannes moved himself back to Atlantis, determined to check up on the people he had left behind. The men and women who had survived his from his taskforce had moved back into place on the city and the shipyards. They were working hard to get the ships back online and ready for another battle. He was proud of them for not giving up.
There had been much discussion among the crews when they had searched his ship and found that there was no one left. Due to the damage from the battle and then the Dart punching its way through the bridge, the ship had suffered from explosive decompression. It had been expected that the salvage crews would find everyone still aboard, dead. Only when the scans had shown a mass Ascension had they relaxed, despite the complete lack of bodies.
Ioannes chaffed against the restrictions hemming in his ability to interact with the world beyond the energy streams. His cousin had taken his spot on the Council and in his own sly way was continuing to work towards all that Ioannes had dreamed of in his life. It was going about as well for Janus as it had for him. Which was to say not all that well.
Even after his victory, the Council had been determined to ignore the Wraith for all they were worth. As long as the Wraith were quiet and not attacking a Lantean settlement, the Council wasn’t willing to stretch their necks out. Janus was trying, but he was only one voice and that was a voice that was being ignored. Ioannes wished that he could tell his cousin to gather the like minds on the Council, but the one time he had tried, the collective mass of previously Ascended had pulled him back.
Ioannes growled at that thought and felt Atlantis vibrate with him. Reaching out carefully, he did his best to soothe his city. Unlike his cousin, he hadn’t been born on the city and had only stepped foot on her when he had reported for service. The city had reacted by trying to wrap him up in her own version of care and for the rest of his life, every time he had been near her, she had reached out to him.
For his part, Ioannes had reached right back. He had fallen just as in love with the city as it had with him. It wasn’t for the Council that he had gone to war. It had been for the city, the people who lived in her, and the Seeded that he had done all that he had done. And now that he was Ascended, the care that Atlantis gave him wasn’t the same, but she tried.
Still, he was a floating, glowing squid creature who supposedly was all powerful and all knowing. In reality, he was a golden, glowing squid that had a pack of over interested, nagging culus keeping a close eye on him so he didn’t break the ‘rules’. Speaking of…
“You know, when you Ascend, you are supposed to let go of all your mortal cares. I don’t understand why you even bother coming back here too look at them. They are limited meat-sacks that haven’t reached our level of enlightenment,” a poisonously sweet voice observed over his shoulder.
He didn’t have eyes anymore, but Ioannes had the sensation that he had just closed them. “Chaya, what are you doing here?” he asked as he reached out to soothe Atlantis. The city did not like the female and made her dislike very clear every time she came near by trying to drive her off any way she could.
“You are planning on interfering again, aren’t you? Didn’t you learn your lesson last time?” She asked. Chaya was floating around behind him and Ioannes pulled his outer edges in, trying to make sure that none of the bits of his new body that sensed the environment around him were touchable. He had no idea how long she had been Ascended, but if she had still worn flesh, he would have done his best to get her away from everyone in an effort to keep people safe. She was completely mad and he was wondering if she wouldn’t feel more at home with the Ori.
“What I do is my business, Chaya. Why don’t you go away?” Ioannes asked as he soared in and out of the towers of his city. He was trying to be good and not attract attention.
“But I don’t want to go away. You are mine and I want to keep you,” she told him.
“Yeah, no,” Ioannes muttered before he flashed out, drawing the crazy thing after him. Once he was far enough away from the city, he turned and reached within himself, pulling up then energy that made up his new body into a more useable format.
“Keep your claws in, sir,” the feel of Roken was unmistakable and something in him relaxed. He had someone on his side. “She’s pushed things too far with a planet that she has been watching.”
“Pushed it how?” Ioannes asked as he relaxed and his aura and let himself touch his scientist. The feeling of comfort, of security that flashed across was breathtaking. He resolutely ignored the screeching that Chaya was doing as she was taken somewhere.
“She decided that she wanted to prove to you that she could save some of the Seeded too. And in doing so, got them to worship her,” Roken told him, disgust edging his tone. “And now she is being exiled. She will stay tied to that world for one full rotation of the galaxy. Might give her time to calm down.”
Ioannes snorted in bitter laughter. Maybe. He wasn’t going to bet on that though. Pushing her from his mind, he concentrated on his scientist, learning the new shapes that made up his friend.
“What in the hell is that?” Ioannes muttered as he watched Janus talk with a human woman.
The small ship she had arrived in had been destroyed along with the bodies of those she had traveled from the future with. The only reason he was there to see her was the watch he had placed on Janus himself. His attention had been grabbed from his recon of a Wraith world by the alarm Janus had felt about something. Whatever it had been, it had been enough to cause his normally laconic cousin to flip over into a manic mode Ioannes associated more with Roken than with anyone else.
When he had gotten back to Atlantis, the city had greeted him with an overwhelming feeling of relief and sadness. Settling into the space where the center control chair for the city was located, Ioannes extended himself and merged with the computer. In moments, he understood what was happening. The urge to do something drastic, to fully flout the powers over his life flared and he left the control room to find his cousin. He wasn’t going to let this travesty stand.
Appearing behind the last family he had on Atlantis, Ioannes took an unneeded breath and spoke aloud for the first time in over two hundred years. “Janus.”
His cousin turned around and started, hand on his chest over his heart. “Ioannes? Is that you?”
Ioannes quirked an eyebrow at his cousin and then rolled his eyes. Who else would it be? “What’s happening? What’s got you so upset?”
The normally good natured lines of his cousin’s face settled into something old and bitter in a heartbeat. “The Wraith are winning, as you said they would. They have ignored the Seeded races for the last fifty years and moved to taking out our outposts. We have lost everything but Atlantis. Our ships are either destroyed or they are hidden so they cannot be easily found. There are less than a thousand of our people left on the city and every day someone reaches Ascension and leaves. The Council has determined that we are to sink the city, shut her down and let her sleep before they run.”
Ioannes growled lightly at that. “That won’t work. She doesn’t sleep like that. If they sink her, how will they replace the potentia? And when are they planning on coming back?”
Janus took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. “They aren’t planning on coming back. Ever. We have a visitor from ten thousand years in the future here. She says that the people of our home planet in our last galaxy, Tau, reached the city. It wasn’t able to be raised off the sea floor due to how things were configured, so I changed the criteria. She is willing to stay and change out the potentia when they need it, but the city will be on one at a time. It’s the only way to make this work.”
“That won’t leave any power to bring her back to full function,” Ioannes protested. He had listened the last time Roken had gone on a rant about how the Council went about supplying the city with energy. The potentia were an awesome power supply, but only having three on the city at any one time was asking for trouble. Ioannes agreed since he could remember times when the little power supplies had gotten low, causing some scrabbling to get another in place. If the city was underwater for ten thousand years, they wouldn’t be a little low, they would be exhausted.
“I know. I’ve done what I can to give the human the information to allow her people to actually get more potentia from where the Council hid some. I also slid the full set you had stashed away into the hidden spots in the Potentia Cubiculum. That way they have something to work with in the beginning,” Janus admitted.
“Good. Are you going back with the Council?” Ioannes asked. He hadn’t bothered to check on the outpost on Tau since the last time he had visited the world when he had still been mortal, so he had no idea what was going on there.
“I think I will. At least for a while. Too much to see and do while I can,” Janus told him with a shade of his old grin.
“Take your time,” Ioannes told him dryly. “Life is a lot more fun on that side.”
“I figured,” Janus agreed. Reaching out carefully, he hovered one finger over Ioannes’s arm. Shaking his head, the Ascendant declined the gesture. He was only visible, not tangible. “Things have been very quiet without you around.”
Ioannes rolled his eyes and nodded. Looking up, he felt the tug on his attention that told him that someone was looking for him. “I have to go. Take care. I’ll do what I can to watch the city while everyone is gone.”
The smile that crossed his cousin’s face was much more open than the last and Janus quickly finished packing his case before leaving. As soon as he was out of the room Roken took the last step to be visible. “I knew the Council were a bunch of idiots, but really? Abandoning Atlantis?”
“Mmmhmmm. Yeah, it seems so. Do what you can to make sure she can make it the ten thousand years he mentioned, please? I’ll be working with the computers so when the humans arrive they can actually interface with the city instead of getting killed by it,” Ioannes asked as he released his form.
He felt his scientist’s agreement before his attention was taken up by the AI and what needed to be done to allow her to safely hibernate the years away. He would be coming back as often as he could to keep her company, but best to make fully certain. While he was in the systems, he laid down a series of commands that could mean the difference between life of death for anyone else who might show up. Ioannes was fairly certain that if the Council had cared, they would have done the same. But once again, their attitude towards anything not Lantean was showing.
She was still his city. And he was going to make sure she survived.
Ioannes: Chapter Three
Ioannes kept a watch on Janus. Well, in between carefully tweaking events on Tau and back with Atlantis and his galaxy. He even went and looked in on Chaya, making sure that she was locked up good and tight. A full galactic year was nothing to sneeze at. There was hope that after 250 million years, she might regain some shred of sanity. Or dried up and blown away like the bitter thing she was.
Either way, Ioannes as happy she was out of his hair.
His cousin was getting into massive amounts of trouble on Tau and Ioannes was rather glad that he actually didn’t have hair for him to get into. If he did, it would be white, just from the sheer gall of Janus. The population of humans on the planet had advanced to the point of interest and a number of their brethren were interacting with them in ways that made him deeply uncomfortable. They were not gods. There lay the path of the Ori.
Janus on the other hand, seemed to take particular pleasure in certain cultures on Tau, teaching them things that would allow them to advance, but not over reach themselves. He appeared so many times in so many places that Ioannes spent one memorable year just tracing his footsteps. It wasn’t until Roken came to find him that they realized that Janus had rebuilt a quaerere navigo as a time travel device. It was the only explanation for what was happening.
Mystery solved, Ioannes went back to his city. It was almost time for the human woman to wake up and rotate the potentia. Settling into the command chair of Atlantis, Ioannes gently worked his way into the system, careful not to wake the AI. The potentia was still showing 10% full and he pushed the waking off for another century. Atlantis was safe at the bottom of the sea and they could afford the risk.
Chore done, he moved to the cryo tube and frowned. It wasn’t calibrated for her species and she was aging a lot faster than any of their people would. But then again, humans lived incredibly fast. Fifty years was ancient at that point and from what he had seen of the scans taken of her, by her point in history, humans hadn’t advanced to more than a century of life. So brief. Running one tendril over the clear cryo-field, he smoothed out the dreams she was slowly experiencing.
If she was going to sacrifice her life for his city, he would do all he could to make her rest as pleasant as possible.
“You are such a sap,” Roken told him fondly as Ioannes left the city to her dreams and started his rounds of the worlds under his watch.
“Only sometimes,” Ioannes agreed. It let him feel a bit better as he had to watch a Wraith hive cull one of the planets that had hosted his people so long ago. Just a bit.
When Janus finally reached the end of his mortal lifespan and Ascended, Ioannes was there. He had known that the day was coming and had stayed nearby, waiting. From the glances and sly smiles thrown his way by his cousin, Janus had known who was waiting.
“Hello, Janus,” Ioannes wrapped his cousin in a hug and used that gesture to pass on all the knowledge he had gained in the seven millennia since his physical death. From all the ways he could use his new form to how to get around the rules, to where the best places were to actually be alone, he made sure that his cousin was well informed.
“Ioannes! I thought I felt you nearby. And is Roken around as well?” Janus asked with a bounce.
Ioannes looked at that gesture and if he could have, he would have sighed. Oh, this was going to be interesting. “He’s on watch for the Others.”
“Hmmm, yes, I can understand why.” Janus allowed as he settled in to go over the information that Ioannes had shared. “Have you been back to Atlantis?”
“I have. And she is still there. The human is switching out the potentia on timetable you drew up,” he told his cousin. “The shield is still standing and the Wraith have left it alone.”
“Good, good. So what is there to do on this side?” Janus asked.
Ioannes smiled and chuckled. Oh, he had so much to show his cousin. Flinging out a bit of himself, he reached out to Roken and pulled him in. Time to go make some mayhem.
Janus still hadn’t gotten over his urge to meddle and spent a lot of time on Tau, now called Earth, fiddling with bloodlines. Roken was making incoherent noises every time he went over to check out what Janus was doing and that was good enough for Ioannes. Whatever his cousin was doing, he wanted nothing to do with it. Beyond making things glow when someone in power glanced their way. He could play bait as needed.
His cousin wasn’t really worshiped like the Ori were in their galaxy. But he had spread the tales of himself as the ‘Builder of Roads and Doors’ far and wide. The occasional jolt as someone made the connection and offered a prayer to him disturbed him greatly. Ioannes could fully understand why. He hadn’t done what he had done so he could be worshipped, he had offered his helping hand so his pet human might have a chance to show up. That didn’t stop people from offering him prayers.
Speaking of the Ori… Ioannes watched as a scoutship from their galaxy wandered into his. If he could have put his chin in his hand, he would have. Whatever the Ori were thinking, he was quite certain that they had no idea what they were going to be getting into.
“You can’t let the Wraith try to feed off of a Prior,” Roken told him from his place behind him. They were wrapped around each other, edges melded together to make pass the sensations along.
“Why not,” Ioannes asked over his shoulder as the enemy ship settled into place in front of a Wraith hive. “Not like they don’t deserve each other.”
Roken snorted in agreement. “Maybe. But can you imagine a Wraith made into a Prior?”
“Ick. They are ugly enough now. Let alone turned into a Prior.” Ioannes shuddered carefully, trying not to dislodge his scientist. Reaching out to the engine of the invading ship, Ioannes studied it carefully before he flipped one thing. The resulting explosion took care of both menaces.
Amused at the destruction, Ioannes moved the two of them to where Janus was.
“What did you do now?” Ioannes asked as he dragged Janus away from the masses of the Others. Whatever his cousin had done, it hadn’t gone over very well.
“I went and pushed a few final things into place and I had to be a bit more obvious than I wanted to be,” Janus admitted.
“Obvious how? And what final things? Were you able to see the future when you were mortal?” Ioannes asked, voice breathless as he moved them safely through a trap set by one of the Others. Since they didn’t seem to actually go out and do anything in the universe, some of his Ascended brethren had gotten bored. And laid traps for those who tried to keep the promises they had made in their mortal lives.
“I needed to get a family together. It’ll be helpful in less than an hour.” Janus told him carefully. “And yes, I saw all sorts of things while I was living my life to the fullest.”
“That doesn’t sound good. Mauris,” Ioannes cursed. Pulling up short, he stuffed his cousin behind him and tried to look innocent.
“You have broken the rules again, Janus. And this time, you can’t get away with it. We stood by while you gallivanted about while you were mortal. But you are on our plane now, and that means that we are going to be taking care of you,” Ioannes couldn’t tell who was talking, but he had a hunch that whoever it was, had been Council. They were the only ones who actually liked the no interference rules.
“I really think you are mistaken,” Ioannes told the mass confronting them calmly. “I am the one who went in and changed things. So whatever you want to do, you do it to me.”
The mass of Ascended beings contemplated him for a long time and Ioannes stared at them right back. Whatever Janus was doing, it was important and he had told him that it was all aimed at giving Atlantis the chance to rise above the waves and live again. Ioannes was all for that goal.
“So be it.”
The feeling of the infinite edges of his being faded and he could feel himself fading, forgetting. Ioannes fought back, using all his abilities to place the things he would need in out of the way places of his mind, ready to be pulled back out at need. The feeling of compression continued and still he fought to keep everything important. Roken. Atlantis. Janus. His duty. It all got buried deep.
John: Chapter Four
“John? John! Wait for me!”
John Sheppard stood at the door to his family home and waited for his brother to catch up with him. “Hey Davy.”
“John, where are you going?” The kid looked up at him with big green eyes.
John sighed and tried not to wince. He wasn’t leaving his brother behind. He wasn’t. “I’m going to join the Air Force, Davy. Dad isn’t thrilled, but I’m still going.” John told his younger brother.
“Dad wants you to follow him in the company,” Davy said, obviously confused. “He’s been saying that for years.”
“I know he has. But that isn’t what I want, Davy. I want to fly and the only way I can do that is to join up,” John tried to explain.
“You could get your pilots license like Caleb did,” his brother protested. “He’s flying our plane.”
Damn the kid was smart, John mentally grumbled. “I know Caleb got his license, but I don’t want to fly planes like ours. I want to fly jets and helicopters. And maybe if I am very lucky, I might get to fly a space shuttle.”
Davy stared up at him and then grabbed him around the waist, hugging him for all the strength his thirteen year old frame could muster. “You better write me.”
John wrapped his own arms around his brother and held on tight. “I will.”
Taking a deep breath, John let his brother go and stood tall for a moment before slipping out the front door.
The whole mess that was boot camp was so much less fun than anything he had been through before. John was well aware that the Air Force was considered the softest of the services, but it was plenty hard to him right then. His head had been shaved, he was wearing fatigues, he was eating food that he knew his family wouldn’t serve anyone and the less said about his lack of sleep the better.
But he was keeping his eye on the prize. He was going to get to fly. Spend a few years as an enlisted man, get the college requirements out of the way and go to OTS. Once he had that down, flight school and then he was going to have his wings. There was something inside of him that agreed with his plans and it made what sleep he managed to get, sweet.
John found that the level of discipline was just enough. So long as he followed the rules, and he had clear consequences for any fuck ups, he was happy. Life made sense.
“Sheppard, you have mail!” the commander of his company called out on the twice weekly mail call.
“Here, sir.” John called out carefully. Slipping his way through the mass of men in his Flight, he reached out and took the letter from the other man’s hand.
Working his way back into the crowd, John stared down at the letter in his hands. The handwriting was as familiar to him as his own. Davy had written him. Smiling softly at the thought of his brother sitting down and writing him, he ran a finger over the carefully formed letters. He made sure that when he opened the letter he didn’t destroy them. Looking inside, he was surprised to see that there was a very thick letter in the envelope.
Pulling it out, John settled down next to his bunk to read the letter from home. Everyone seemed to be okay and the small dramas of his brother’s life were a welcome distraction from the boredom that edged his day. Pulling out his own issued stationary, John started to write his brother back. They might not be able to get together any time soon, but he wasn’t going to lose his connection to his family.
The dreams were of flying. He was energy, moving through space without a ship. There was someone beside him, exploring the cosmos with him, sharing in his adventures and getting as excited as he did at every discovery. It was an exhilarating level of freedom and John reveled in it.
He was flying around a city that had buildings that almost touched the sky. The feeling of freedom was there, but it was joined by peace. Where ever he was, this was home. If it meant that he had to leave where he was, he didn’t want to wake up.
John: Chapter Five
John was heartily sick of the sand, the heat and the missions that were a crapshoot on who was going to almost die that day. Leaning back on his bunk, he carefully wrote out a letter to Dave and tried to find things to say that didn’t sound like he was trying to bitch out anyone. Or give his brother nightmares.
Things between them had gotten rocky since his divorce from Nancy and John was man enough to admit she had been a total mistake. Dating her had been fine. The sex had been decent, but the instant the JOP had said that they were married? He had felt like something inside had shriveled and died. Getting served with divorce papers six months later had been fantastic.
Dave had liked her though. John wasn’t touching the thought that his younger brother might want to get a leg over on his ex-wife though. He wasn’t that insane. But Dave had liked talking to her and John, while he wanted nothing to do with Nancy, hoped that she hadn’t abandoned his brother just because she was pissed with him.
At any rate, he tried to get a letter a week out to him and the one for his current week just wasn’t coming. Putting the paper under his pillow, John headed out. Tipping his head to the side, he heard the excited babble from the flight line and headed their way. Might be something to break the monotony.
“Sergeant, what’s up?” John asked the first enlisted person he saw hanging around the airfield.
“One of our birds got shot down, sir. Captain Holland is on the horn requesting evac. He doesn’t sound too good.” The Sergeant reported. The woman’s eyes were grim and John blanched. Holland was one of his guys.
“Get a bird ready for me, Sarge. I’m going to talk to the Old Man to get the okay to head out.”
The less said about his conversation with his boss, John thought as he made his way back to the flight line at run, the better. Being told that he had to let his friend die because some asshole was more upset at the possible loss of a helicopter? Oh, fuck NOPE.
The look the Sergeant gave him was knowing and he shrugged before climbing into the prepped bird and taking off. He was careful to tune into the line that Holland was calling over and ignored the screaming of his CO on another. No matter what happened to him after this, John was very sure of one thing. You didn’t leave your people behind.
When he got to Holland, John winced. Fucking, fuckity, fuck. Something inside of him was amused at his eloquence, but he had no time for his inner madman. Setting his own bird down and slightly to the side of Holland’s crashed one, John got out and cautiously made his way over to the disaster area.
“What in the fuck are you doing here?” Holland coughed out from his spot in the shadow of the downed helicopter.
“Saving your dumb ass,” John told him, voice rough with emotion, before checking the rest of the site. There had been three other people on Holland’s bird with him and three corpses were still strapped in. From the looks of them, whatever had hit the bird had taken them out too. Turning back to the living, John started to triage his friend.
“Major, they are going to have your ass for this,” Holland muttered as he weakly slapped at the hands laying pressure bandages all over.
“Let them,” John snapped back before heaving the Captain up and hauling him to his ride. Strapping him in, he got him as comfortable as he could before returning to the other craft. A quick check told him that there was no way he was going to be able to get the three bodies out and he regretfully took only their tags and off one hand, a wedding band before snapping some pictures with the cell phone he had picked up right before shipping out. It was useless for making calls, but the camera still worked. Threading that through the man’s tags, he hotfooted it back to his chopper. “Still alive back there?”
“Yes, you jackass.”
“You say the sweetest things, Holland. Now hold on,” John muttered as he took off and then swung around to line the wreck up. One Hellfire to the right spot and there was a fireball appearing behind them as he flew hell for leather back to his base.
“Major Sheppard, do you have anything to say for yourself?”
John stared at the General in charge of his court-martial. He hadn’t expected to be asked his opinion on the mess he found himself in and had to take a moment before he could think of anything to say. His CO had been less than pleased when he had come back with Holland strapped into his bird, three sets of dog tags, a half dozen disturbing pictures and missing one missile. He had pushed, shoved and ranted his way into getting John in front of the General over their mission and arranged to get him in as much trouble as possible.
The only thing that John had going for him was that he had brought Holland home, with three sets of tags and only missing one Hellfire missile. The Sergeant who had prepped his bird had gotten the merest slap on the wrist and she had shrugged when he had offered his appreciation for her actions before heading in for his own time in front of the General. Since she didn’t seem too concerned, John was going to let it go. Well. He had her name memorized and if he could ever do her a good turn, he would.
John stood tall and stared the General straight in the eye before he spoke. “Yes, sir. I do have something to say. I find it disgusting that the Colonel has spent the entire time we’ve been in here before you upset that I took a helicopter out and not that he was willing to let good men die. I will admit, the HH-60G Pave Hawk is expensive, but when we let the almighty dollar determine if we are going to bother to rescue our men out there, we have just lost the war. I sure as hell do not put my life on the line because of my paycheck. I put it on the line because I know that the men and women of my squadron would do the same for me. If the Colonel thinks that a dollar will do the same for him, sir, he has another think coming. Sir.”
The noises coming from his CO were less than pleasant, but John found that he didn’t care. The asshole had put money ahead of his men time and again and it had cost a lot of good men an uncountable amount of blood and enough lives that it was ridiculous. If he had to use his own court-martial to get the man under review, he would. The General seemed to be amused by his words at least.
“At $15.8 million dollars, the Pave Hawk is worth a bit more than a dollar, son,” the General told him dryly. John tried not to roll his eyes. His trust fund could have bought the Air Force three of the damn things before getting close to empty. Big fucking deal. “But I see your point. After all, Captain Holland was still alive and at the start of his request for help, and at least one of his passengers had been as well. The Colonel refusing to send in a med-evac sure didn’t help, so I can’t in good conscious disagree with you. But you still left against orders and that has to be dealt with. So, Major here is my judgment. You are off the promotion grid for this round and I have a new duty station for you. That’s it. I expect that the next time I see you, you will be back at being the exemplary officer and pilot your jacket describes. Dismissed!”
John tried not to sag with relief. He had known that he was going to get the book thrown at him. But to have it be something as mild as a lag in his ability to get promoted? Yeah, he could take that. And whatever duty station the General wanted him to go to. Saluting smartly, he ignored his now former CO and moved out of the conference room the court-martial had been held in. Once out in the hallway, he did sag and then took a deep breath. Holy fuck.
“Major, the General would like for you to meet him back at his quarters to get your new orders,” a calm voice at his elbow said and John turned to look at the General’s aide. The Lieutenant waved his hand in a ‘follow me’ gesture and John nodded. He needed his orders anyway.
Thirty minutes after his fate had been decided, the General made his way back to his temporary office and took a seat behind his desk. John stood in front of it, at a level of attention he hadn’t practiced since boot camp. “At ease, Major. And have a seat.”
“Yes, sir,” was all that John could say before he perched on the chair behind him.
“So I have to commend you for not shooting that penny pinching asshole back there. He has a new note in his jacket, my attention and the ire of Colonel Holland, Captain Holland’s father. Who wanted me to pass on his thanks for saving his son. He might be retired, but he still has some pull,” The General told him, eyes level. “Now, I think it is going to be best if we get you out of reach of certain parties for a while. Let your name fade from their memories. So I am sending you down to McMurdo. It’s as cold as fuck, but calm and I think it will do you good.”
McMurdo? Wasn’t that in Antarctica? “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“You’re welcome son. And thank you for going to get those men. That is what I want to see in my Air Force,” the General told him with a smile. “Now, you had best get a move on. You’ll be touching down briefly in Virginia to get supplied and all. Faster you get moving on this end, the more time you have over there and I seem to have heard that you have family in that area?”
John smiled. It seemed that this superior officer was worth the respect he was given. “I do, sir. I have my gear packed and ready.”
The General snorted and nodded. “I just bet you do. Pick up your orders from Michaels out there. And Major? Good job.”
John nodded and quickly made his way out of the man’s office to find his aide. Michaels had his orders and he made sure to check them over. He had two days in Virginia. Plenty of time to see Dave. Holland had already been taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, and there was no one else in his squadron to say goodbye too. Thanking the Lieutenant, he made his way to where his gear was stored and then his flight. Time to face the next big adventure.
The thing about sleeping, John had found, was that his dreams were always vivid. Flying seemed to be a big one. The city whose towers he swooped in and out of figured in his dream a lot. But the most common thing was the sensation of companionship, of peace, love and even lust that came off of his flying partner. He couldn’t wait to meet him.
John: Chapter Six
Antarctica was white, cold and very, very calm. The parts of him that had been wound tight by the pace and sound of war relaxed sometime in the first month he was on the continent. John spent a lot of his off time tramping around the area surrounding McMurdo and trying to absorb the calm.
The stark white of the ice was soothing something in him. The color hadn’t always been a favorite before, but it was growing on him. The deep blue that hid in the hollows of the ice brought an ache to the spot under his breastbone. John knew the color meant something to him. Something important.
The General who had sent him down had seconded him to the air wing of a classified project. When he wasn’t taking the time out to tramp the ice, he was flying copter’s full of people and equipment to it. The base that was the heart of the project looked like a cross between a bug’s eye and an art deco pimple. Totally wrong for the ice, but it had his curiosity up.
Whatever was down there calmed the restlessness that was plaguing him when he got near it. John started to swap out duty rosters with some of the other pilots and flying out to the Pimple more and more. He found that he was more comfortable when he was within fifty miles of the place than when he was at McMurdo.
His dreams were getting weirder too. The presence that had comforted him for years had disappeared and he was alone as he flew through his city. It was still comforting, but now, now he was looking for that blue presence and John wasn’t happy that he hadn’t found it. The amused something that overlaid the whole experience was getting more amused by the night. If he hadn’t needed to stay sharp to be able to fly, he wouldn’t have bothered to sleep at all.
John was inspecting his helicopter when the felt someone come up behind him. Firmly reminding himself that he was in Antarctica and not Afghanistan, he took a deep breath and then turned around. The man behind him struck something in him, something that was familiar. John tilted his head slightly and took him in. About his height, burly rather than stocky with sandy brown hair, the other man was staring at him and John had no idea why.
“Can I help you?” he asked carefully. There was no indication of military rank on the other man, but he stood like every Spec Ops soldier John had ever ferried around and something told him that he was far more dangerous than most people knew. Well, so was he, but that was neither here nor there.
“I believe you are my ride out to base?” there was an accent buried in that voice. It sounded like most of the American voices John had heard, but there were hints that English wasn‘t his only language.
Not that John had any reason to care. To even get to McMurdo a person needed to have some serious connections and there was no way anyone not cleared was getting out to the Pimple. So if the orders were legit, he had a new passenger.
“Is there anyone else going with you? And do you have your gear?” he asked as he opened the side panel of his bird up to accept cargo.
“There’s one other and we have a lot of gear to take. About 600 pounds worth. Will that be a problem?” the other man asked as he pulled a sheaf of paper out of his back pocket.
John took the paperwork and quickly scanned it. It seemed that his passengers were a Dr. Beckett and a Dr. Jackson, plus their gear. Well, okay. Thankfully he was fully fueled and he had a lot of bungee cords. “It won’t be a problem at all, Doctor. Are you Beckett or Jackson?”
The other man took his glasses off and John swallowed hard. His eyes were almost the right shade of blue. But not quite. Turning back to his bird, he started getting it ready to fly out.
“I’m Jackson. Beckett is a Scotsman and sounds like it,” Jackson told him cheerfully. “I’ll let him know you are getting ready to head out and to get his bags out here.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” John called as he watched the other man walk away. Someone, the other man’s blue eyes had shaken him to the core. He wasn’t the presence that had been in his dreams, but he had much the same resonance as the amused feeling that underlay everything did. It was disconcerting.
Thirty minutes later, he was in the air and headed towards the Pimple. He was as calm as he ever was while he was in the air and he wasn’t thinking about his passengers. The weather wasn’t the greatest for this trip, but nothing said that it was going to be dangerous. As soon as they passed the fifty mile marker away from the base, the feeling of calmness and peace came back.
This was why he kept flying out to the remote location. It wasn’t to get his hours in the air, although that helped. It was because for a moment, he was surrounded by the same peace he normally felt in his dreams. That was totally worth being the airborne taxi service.
Sleep was no longer a refuge. Something was building in his dreams now. Things were moving among the towers of his city and John was restless. The city was supposed to be safe. To have them near was bad. Very, very bad. He needed to get there. Soon.
Integrare: Chapter Seven
John was on his last official day in Antarctica before flying out and was wondering how he was going to arrange to stay down at McMurdo forever. Or maybe get on with the group that was working out of the Pimple. To say that his curiosity was burning a hole in his discretion was putting it mildly. He’d heard hints and some of the people he had ferried out had occasionally slipped, but there was nothing concrete to go on. Just the feeling of peace that he got when he was within range of it.
It was maddening.
He had one final flight out to the Pimple and he’d had to do some serious swapping of shifts to get it. The General who he was flying out was known to be a hardass and very few of the guys liked flying with him. When he showed up, John could see why. He walked like most of the military men and women he had taken out to the Pimple, fully aware of where they were and what was around them. And he was paying a lot of attention to the aircraft.
“Sir, Major Sheppard. I’ll be your pilot today,” John introduced himself and he carefully loaded the General’s gear into the cargo bay.
“General O’Neill. So you know how to fly this thing?”
John tried not to bristle as he got into the pilot’s seat and started his preflights. “Yes, sir. I’ve flown just about everything that the Air Force has on the books and whatever I could get air time in with the Joint Forces commands I’ve been with. The Army and Marines have some nice aircraft.”
“Impressive. And you’re down here?” the General asked as he strapped in.
John kept an eye on his actions and relaxed as he saw that the General was handling all the straps correctly. “Yes, sir. I like it down here. Very relaxing.”
“Relaxing?” The General shook his head and put the noise-cancelling headset on. “It’s white, it’s cold and there’s nowhere to go.”
“Yes, sir, it is all that. Plus there’s no explosions, no one shooting at me and I get to fly,” John told him evenly. “Besides, they have a lot of books to read in the base library.”
“You are deeply weird, Sheppard,” the General told him before relaxing back into his chair for the flight out.
John didn’t say anything else, just got them in the air and headed towards the Pimple. The flight was as relaxing as it always was and he tried to memorize the feelings he got as he got closer. After this, he wasn’t going to be coming back and he was going to miss the sensation. Smiling slightly, he shifted his flight path by a few degrees and took a mildly longer route into the base. It wasn’t enough to cause any problems with his fuel use and it did given them a better view as they fly over the landscape.
They were roughly 45 miles out from the base when something tripped the proximity sensors and John banked the helicopter hard, trying to get away from whatever had just buzzed his aircraft. He was in Antarctica for the love of God. What could be buzzing him?
The next few minutes were full of the type of adrenaline that he hadn’t had flood his system in the whole six months he had been on the continent. Heart pumping, he set the copter down and as soon as he saw the golden streak headed his way called for the General to get out of the cockpit. If the drone actually impacted on the aircraft, having a berm of snow around him would be better protection than actually being in the craft.
Head down in the snow with his hands over the back of his neck to protect it, John waited for the hot rush of fire and dead aircraft to wash over him. When there wasn’t he looked up. The helicopter was still there, there was no fire and the General was sitting on his ass in the snow, laughing softly.
“Sir? You okay?” John asked as he rolled to his feet. Ignoring the new white pelt he was sporting, he made his way over to his passenger. Sitting on the ground in front of him was a golden squid thing. “Was that what was fired at us?”
“I’m fine Sheppard. And yeah, this is it. You never saw it and I need a locating beacon,” O’Neill told him before standing up and knocking the snow off of his person.
“I never saw anything, sir. And let me get you that beacon,” John agreed. The beacon was a quick retrieval and he made sure to knock as much snow off himself as he could. The stuff was fucking cold.
The rest of the flight was uneventful and John used it to calm down. Landing at the Pimple, he carefully started his after-flight check and started to walk around the aircraft. Unlike a combat aircraft, it wasn’t built for the stresses he had put it through and he wanted to make sure that nothing was in danger of falling off.
“Sheppard? Come on, I’m not leaving you behind,” the General called as he walked to the entry to the hanger.
“Sir? I don’t have clearance to go in there,” John told him as he hurried after the older man.
“Yeah, that’s gonna be changing. Come on,” O’Neill muttered as he made his way through the levels of security to reach an elevator cage.
John looked up at the inside of the structure he had only seen from the outside and frowned. Whatever was happening here wasn’t inside the structure, it was below it. There were masses of supplies stacked inside the dome and a large number of insulated structures that looked like two man tents, but a bit more solid. No one seemed to be paying any attention to him walking behind the General and John was very happy about that. The less they questioned his being there, the better.
The feeling of peace that he always associated with the Pimple was joined by anticipation and John wanted the elevator to go faster. The trip down the featureless tunnel took roughly ten minutes and he tried to figure out how deep into the ice they had to be for it to take so long. His best estimate was almost a mile down. When they reached the bottom, John was immediately distracted by all the people moving and working in a space that he’d had no idea existed. He recognized many of them from his taxi trips, including Dr. Jackson who was there to drag the General away.
Wandering in and out of the mass of people John followed the feeling in his gut . Whatever was going on, he was getting nearer and nearer too it. Finding the source of his panic earlier led him to the heart of the anticipation he was feeling and John worked things around so he could explore.
The panic that caused would have been funny, but most of his brain was occupied with what was going on behind his eyes.
It has been too long since a Lantean child has come to me!
John tried not to flinch at that. The voice in his head echoed what he heard in his dreams. Closing his eyes, he settled into the chair. I don’t think I’ve much time. Who’re you?
I am what is left of Atlantis. Your city, Ioannes. The words were faint, and tinted with another language. John could almost understand it, but it was just out of reach.
I will help you, Ioannes. It is so good to have you here. John gasped and tried not to writhe. Something was carefully reaching inside his head and the feel of a mental block crumbling surged through him.
Ruthlessly clamping down on the sensors built into the Chair, John, no Ioannes, made sure that nothing of what was going on with his brain or his body was getting out. He had no idea if the people who were in the facility had any idea who the Lanteans were and he didn’t want to be the one to blow that secret. Besides, in this life, he was an uninformed Major.
“I thought I told you not to touch anything?” O’Neill asked.
Damn it, busted. “I just sat down,” Ioannes told him.
“Major, think of where we are in the solar system,” a voice directed him and Ioannes responded without even thinking about it. Looking up, he smiled before tilting his head to see who had directed him. Surprise kept him still.
Blue? Blue! It was Roken.
Culus = Assholes
Mauris = Shit
Potentia = ZPM’s
Potentia Cubiculum = ZPM Berth
Quaerere Navigo =Portal Navigator
Integrare = Integrate