Story without DVD commentary: Right here!
Rot7S Commentary Part 6
So, the Daedalus crew wasn't lying about the Ancient site.
Everybody who wasn't busy with the repairs were all glued to various screens around the Genii ship's bridge, watching the video files Jackson had brought them. Itasa called out, "John, you must see this!" The fan club is so freakin' *happy*! Meanwhile, off on his lonesome,
"I'm watching it." John was slumped in a chair in the back, behind the supercargo's station, watching the tiny screen there in relative privacy. He didn't know what to think. He knew what he felt: pure envy. Poor John! He doesn't want it to be true: he wants what he has *now* to be the best choice; what he has now is in his comfort zone. If there's something better out there, he's going to have to extend himself to get it and that means exposing himself. And that's *scary*! It's like a guy who went through a half-dozen vicious divorces considering asking out his next potential wife, and she's a super model-doctor who can cook and repair a car engine, but still… *commitment* and *feelings*! Eep!
The video showed a city of stained glass and copper metal, all air and light. Atlantis, an intact Ancient city. John had to admit to himself that there was no way the Daedalus could have faked this, not without a lot of advance planning. There were multiple views inside and out, balconies, piers extending out into a limitless ocean. Jumpers, a dozen or more, stored in racks in a tall circular bay. A stargate inside a giant multi-level room that looked like an Arts and Crafts cathedral. And there were people, Earth and Jaffa, military and civilians, men and women and kids. Wait! I know this show! I watch it every Friday night! Except for the addition of the kids. Kids tend to change things; with kids, it's not just a military post, it's become a *town* where people live. Kids represent a commitment to the future. This Atlantis is that much more a "home" than the canonical Atlantis, Teyla's little family notwithstanding.
According to the video, the Earth's stargate agency was called the SGC, (I guess in this AU, Ford was just a regular marine and not really part of the SGC, or surely he'd have told John?) and right after the Ori war, it had discovered the existence of Atlantis, somewhere in the Pegasus galaxy. They had figured out that Atlantis' gate could be dialed all the way from the Milky Way. A scientific expedition had been preparing to leave to explore it when the Trust uprising had hit. I hate to be a Ms. Crabby-pants, but this is an unabashed info-dump, and it's not up to the author's usual standards of slipping the info to the readers without their even noticing it. The author mentioned in the previous chapter entry that her hands were hurting her--one possible explanation could be that she wasn't enjoying writing as much as she usually does; she was conditioned by pain to write succinctly and with as few key-strokes as possible, and it shows somewhat in places. Presenting the info in a more organic manner might well have taken a chapter or two! It's still well-written, this author can't write a bad scene, but this section is talky and doesn't quite gel for me.
Also? I want to know what "According to the video" means--is this something Daniel quickly edited together from clips grabbed from everyone's laptops to make a little film show for the pirates, and he threw some quick narration over it (or maybe made Cam or, better yet, Teal'c do the narration--he'd be a natural!) Or did Emmett Bregman, the filmmaker from SG-1's Heroes parts 1 and 2, manage to make it through to Pegasus, and he was drafted to help keep up the Atlantis settlers' morale by putting together a professional documentary that all could enjoy? Because I have to tell you, I think carrying around a short documentary just in case you have to explain to people who you are, even though it's mostly a sekrit you don't want to spread around, is a wee bit eccentric, even for Daniel.
Like Jackson had told them, the SGC had evacuated to Earth's Alpha site, with all their personnel and their families, everybody who could get to the stargate in time, including the Atlantis expedition members. Then O'Neill had stolen the Daedalus and taken it out of orbit. Apparently Sumner's group in Antarctica had been meant to follow them, but had been caught by the Trust before they could leave. Then the Trust had tried to attack the Alpha site, so all the refugees, including the Jaffa living there, had taken the chance and decamped to Atlantis. The Daedalus had made the long trip between galaxies without using the supergate, and the Trust ships hadn't been able to follow it.
Looking at the videos of the city, the fleet of jumpers, the zippy little F302 fighters the Daedalus carried, John had never felt so bitter in his life. He remembered what McKay had said about secret government space agencies, and what would have happened if the right people on Earth had known that John had the Ancient gene. But you screwed yourself, John. He could never have been a part of this; they would have looked at his record and kicked him to the curb. Nobody handed a spaceship to a guy who couldn't follow orders. The hell with that. He hadn't needed a secret government space agency to give him a spaceship. Someone's self-esteem is awfully low here.
He thought, Yeah, John, you stole all your spaceships, and shut the video off. Little does he know that, of all the people in two galaxies, there is no one who would appreciate someone else stealing a spaceship more than Jack O'Neill.
Not long later, the Daedalus crew handed something else through the hatch. It was a printed medical report of an analysis of John's Ancient gene. I must confess, I am not entirely sure why they did this. Was it a sense of fair play that it's John's own damn medical report and he deserves to see it; or is this yet another of Jack's little hooks baited for John?
Up on the bridge, John looked over it, with Teyla reading over his shoulder. I'm not sure I buy an AU Teyla would be able to read English! Some of it went into detail about genetics and biochemistry that John didn't follow, but the summary had a lot of exclamation points and the upshot of it seemed to be that John's gene was hot stuff. He said, "They could have faked this." And they would do that… why, John? ::smacks him upside the head::
Teyla lifted a brow, in the way he knew meant by the ancestors, he's stubborn. "Of course they could have. But much of what they have already told us is supported by the films."
"So?" John knew he sounded like a pissed-off twelve-year-old. That was mostly because he felt like a pissed-off twelve-year-old.
She said deliberately, "So they are your people. They may be more your people than anyone you have ever lived with, here or on Earth. It is just that you have never met them before." This AU Teyla is as perceptive as canonical Teyla! She watched him for a thoughtful moment. "I think you should talk to them."
John gritted his teeth and managed not to toss the report across the bridge. The others were watching him, and he kept his expression laconic. He had had one eye on the clock for a while and knew they were only about six hours from finishing the repairs. All he needed to do was stall until they could leave. "I don't see what it would accomplish."
Teyla folded her arms. "If we allied with them, we could break the Genii's power."
He slumped in the chair. "Yeah, I know, but they aren't going to want to ally with us, Teyla." If this was the same group Sumner's people had been part of, there was no way they would want to make a real alliance with Athosian pirates by which he means "with John" -- Sumner's rejection still burns and once again, I note that he seems to blame himself more than he ever seems to blame Sumner. He thought the most they would do was try to get John to join them. In which case he would go from being a guy with a controlling interest in a little space armada to the guy who stood around in labs and turned stuff on and that nobody trusted to do anything else because he was a crazy ex-pirate. That would be pointless. This is amusing because "light switch" was ostensibly the reason John went along with the Atlantis group in the first place, though Elizabeth immediately made him her representative, and sent him tagging along with Sumner's group.
Teyla frowned, obviously disappointed. "You do not think so?"
"No, I don't," he told her.
The next blow came only about three hours from completing the repairs. HA!!! Did I not say in earlier chapters that John is always waiting for the next blow? But this has been smart practice on Jack's part: he's like water on stone, wearing away all resistance, softening John up for the frontal assault: GROUP HUG!
Teyla took the comm call from the Daedalus, because John was down in the engine room trying to hurry things up by pacing and staring at Halling and Selana yeah, because that always works. By the time he got back up to the bridge, Teyla had signed off. She told him, "They have asked us to come aboard to talk. They say they wish to speak of an alliance."
John said, "Yeah, well, that's crap." Teyla lifted a brow. Everybody was staring at him, even Ronon. "Oh, come on! You have to be kidding me, you're not going to fall for this, are you?" John isn't wrong: they *are* being manipulated by the wiley Jack O'Neill, probably with suggestions from his merry band. Cameron Mitchell is baking cookies even as we speak. John sees that they are being manipulated and it really pisses him off, plus it frustrates the hell out of him that the others cannot see what is so plain to him.
Teyla said, pointedly, "John, the repairs are almost complete, and you and I, and Zoe and Ronon cannot help with the work that is left. I do not see how listening to what they have to say to us could hurt. We four shall go, for we are the prettiest of all the pirates and will make the best representatives."
John tried, "They could take us hostage."
Teyla was unimpressed. "Halling has repaired our weapons. And while our ships are locked together, it is impossible to raise the shields on either, so we already hold each other hostage." She pressed her lips together. "I think you will regret not taking this opportunity."
John was pretty sure that he would regret a lot of things before this was over.
There was some discussion, which John tried to willfully obstruct and delay as much as possible until finally they just stopped listening to him and ignored him completely. But it ended up with him, Teyla, Zoe, and Ronon making their way through the umbilical again to the Daedalus' hatch.
They had agreed to sidearms only, nothing heavier, and John felt naked without the P-90. He was wearing his knife inside his leather jacket, but that wasn't much consolation.
A solemn sergeant (possibly Syler… but *not* Bates, that's just asking for trouble) met them at the hatch with a couple of Marines, and led them through the wide corridors.
Crewmembers came to hatchways and corridor junctions to watch them pass. Well, yeah: John, Teyla, Ronon, and Zoe, and they're all in black leather. It's a parade of the best-looking people in two galaxies, the crew's not going to want to miss that. All the curious eyes made John jumpy, feeling very exposed. It wasn't surprising; the crew must have heard the stories about Athosian pirates and didn't want to pass up the chance to see some close up. John kept his expression under control, hiding how self-conscious he was. He was glad he had taken time earlier to clean up a little in the Genii captain's bathroom, washing the blood off from the boarding battle. He told himself the people watching didn't see an ex-Air Force major, they saw a pirate in black leather. I'm pretty sure everyone on the Daedalus is going into this well-briefed, to the point where it's practically a "sting" operation… Operation Sucker the Major.
The sergeant led them to a conference room, easily twice the size of Vengeance's galley. Jackson was waiting there with the older leader guy, Mitchell, and Teal'c, the big guy with the gold emblem on his forehead, who John now realized must be a Jaffa.
Jackson said, "Ah, hello, Major Sheppard. This is General Jack O'Neill, and I believe you've met Teal'c and Colonel Cameron Mitchell."
"Briefly," John said, not making any effort to hide the irony. Then he realized that by responding he had trapped himself into introducing the others. He said, "This is Teyla Emmagan, Zoe Washburne, and Ronon Dex."
Teal'c inclined his head politely, and Mitchell nodded. General O'Neill said, "Pleased to meet ya," as if there was nothing the least bit unusual about being introduced to Athosian pirates in another galaxy, and John thought, Oh yeah, that's the 'parlay' guy. And he's a general, great.
John had always had trouble with authority figures, but he had thought Sumner's crap about not taking John on the escape ship was just to keep him in line. Every time I think Sumner has plumbed the depths of mean-spiritedness, we get a little more of the story, and he drops lower in my estimation. If there were an AU of this AU where Sumner and the BC303s got away from the Trust and made it to Pegasus, Jack would probably have the guy keel-hauled once he found out what happened. He hadn't realized Sumner was serious until later, and it had been something of a shock that he had still considered himself as owing allegiance to people who had already written him off. "Dear Airforce: You win, I quit. No love, John Sheppard (Major, ret.)" But seriously, you do see why John's inner 12 year old is such an obnoxious little brat. He's been horrifically betrayed, was callously left behind, and cheated by the very people who should have by rights been protecting him. He is understandably resistant to considering this current crop as any different from the people who screwed him over in the past. As I said before, he is always expecting the next blow.
John just didn't know how to deal with an authority figure who was apparently taking advice in how to handle this situation from Pirates of the Caribbean. Or who didn't care if John thought he was taking advice from Pirates of the Caribbean. Whichever, John was intrigued in spite of himself. O'Neill is not your daddy's authority figure.
Hearing Zoe's name, Jackson lifted his brows in surprise. He said to her, "So you're from Earth also."
"No," Zoe answered, completely deadpan.
Jackson blinked. "Okay." Well, it's nice that *somebody* is doing something to throw off-balance members of the Daedalus contingent, considering how off-balance poor John feels.
The others seemed nonplused. "There are Washburnes in Pegasus too?" Mitchell said, tentatively. "It's just... The family that lived down the road from where I grew up was named--"
John interrupted, "It's a long story." …and seriously, a metric ton of fanfic could spring from this one story, with Zoe's story as just the beginning.
Everybody stood there for a moment. John was still mostly expecting to get stunned or gassed or something; he was having that kind of day. Then O'Neill clapped his hands together briskly and John only barely suppressed the urge to leap six feet into the air at the noise. "So, let's talk."
I think if John decides to strike up an alliance with the SGC folk, he should put in a clause that he gets to smack McKay upside the head whenever he wants to.
They took seats at the table, awkwardly on the Daedalus side and warily on the Athosian.
"What did you wish to speak of?" Teyla said, her expression giving nothing away. Teal's falling in love at this point, just from her lack of facial movement alone.
O'Neill smiled at her. "It looks to me like we've both got a problem with the Genii."
So they talked. Or at least Teyla, O'Neill, and Jackson talked, with Zoe, Teal'c and Mitchell occasionally contributing, and Ronon watching suspiciously. Watching O'Neill pretend to be startled by objects that had been on the table since they sat down, Jack really can't let a chance go by to mess around with other people's heads and I wish in this instance he'd knock it off, John thought, this guy is dangerous. It helped to know that he was probably the guy who had masterminded the massive escape from Earth, right under the Trust's nose. O'Neill made people underestimate him, forced them to operate on his terms. For God's sake, he said 'parlay' and here we are doing it, John thought, disgusted with himself. I don't even know how the hell that happened. John's been manipulated by his adversaries kind of a lot (and I don't just mean the Genii or Sumner, I mean his various COs, too), and Jack doesn't realize that what he's doing may not be striking the right note. I think he'd be more successful if he'd stop indulging in his usually hilarious screwball tactics and be more straightforward with Sheppard and his posse, just this once. I don't think anyone at the table is noticing that John's getting angrier and angrier, as he's got a pretty good poker face when he wants to.
John also didn't know how the hell it happened when, barely half an hour into the conversation, they were suddenly making tentative plans not only to team up against the Genii, the Athosians were getting offered space in Atlantis, and a landing site for their ships on the planet's mainland.
It was hitting John that he could have started with the ultimate clean slate here. It wasn't like they could look his record up. Except he had told McKay and Carter too much all ready. And he had tried to off himself in the Daedalus' sick bay, which had seemed like a great idea at the time. Poor John! I think his biggest problem with this meeting, other than his problem with watching Jack manipulate his team, is that he's actually *embarrassed*!
If the Athosians joined up with the SGC, and it didn't work for John, then he was alone again. So he might as well leave now, and skip the awkward middle part. This is so damned high-school of him!
Teyla and O'Neill were working out the last details, and Teyla said, "I do not know anything about your command structure, but I know John can explain--"
John interrupted, "I'm not included in the deal. I'll be leaving." If he did it now, it would be official, and there was no way anybody would argue with him. As noted before, John is so afraid of rejection -- of the same rejection he got from Sumner (not just "we don't want you," but "you go die now") -- that he's beating them to the rejection by pulling away from them first.
Teyla stared at him. Zoe said, incredulously, "What?"
"You heard me. I'll take the jumper." John added to O'Neill, "It's not like you need it."
Her voice flat, Teyla said, "You will not."
That hurt. Stung, John said tightly, "It's my jumper, I brought it with me when I joined up."
Teyla rolled her eyes, because Johh, the idiot, was being deliberately obtuse.. "You are not taking the jumper because you are not leaving," she clarified, looking at him like he was insane.
"Yes, I am." Okay, maybe they would argue with him.
"The hell you are." Zoe looked exasperated. "What brought this on?"
"Nothing." John wished it sounded less like he was getting a divorce from Teyla and Zoe. "I'm doing what I have to do."
Zoe slapped the table and said something in Chinese that John suspected was not complimentary to him or men in general. O'Neill shook his head, squinting at her. "Are you sure you're not from Earth? Because--"
"John, we will discuss this later," Teyla said, gritting her teeth.
The just wait till I get you home tone just made John dig his heels in. For God's sakes, his last divorce had been easier. Of course, the papers had been served when he was still in transit back from Afghanistan, and he had already been thrown out of the house by the time he had gotten home, so it wasn't like there had been any chance to argue about it. "No, we won't. I'm leaving, that's final."
"What about me?" Ronon demanded. Funniest line in the whole scene! Across the table, Daniel Jackson manfully suppresses the urge to start asking questions about Athosian marriage practices.
O'Neill cleared his throat. Everybody stared at him expectantly. He said, "Look, I don't mean to break up..." He waggled his fingers vaguely. "...anybody's thing, here, and..." He hesitated, then turned to Jackson. "Okay, I got nothing. A little help?" MITCHELL! GET THE COOKIES!
"Right." Jackson turned to John. "Ah, could we, or I, possibly speak to you alone?" I can't even begin to think what Daniel might have said to John.
"No," John said, in chorus with Teyla and Zoe.
Frowning, O'Neill tapped the table. He said, "We need Liz in on this." Awww, I bet Liz could have wrapped John around her little finger!
"Comm's still down, sir," Mitchell said.
"Yeah, I know that." O'Neill sighed and turned to John. "Can you tell us what the problem is?"
Jackson added, more devastatingly, "Do you know what the problem is?" Yeah, this is the same improperly socialized Daniel Jackson who cheerfully brought up Jack's dead kid in Continuum in an attempt to prove SG-1 knew Jack in an alternate universe. When he puts his foot in it, he *really* puts his foot in it.
Mitchell winced. "Daniel, that's not a great idea--" I always love how well-socialized and downright charming Mitchell is. He canonically bakes people macaroons when they are in the hospital! He's, like, the uber-mensch!
"There's no problem," John said, pushing to his feet. "The Athosians need this alliance, but I'm not an Athosian." He told Teyla, "You'll have access to scientists, and the Ancient gene. You don't need me."
Teal'c watched them, his brow furrowed. "Surely it is not necessary to make this decision immediately."
O'Neill added, "Yeah, let's not be hasty--"
Ignoring them, Teyla stood, telling John, "You are one of us. If you do not believe this alliance is for the best, then we will not accept it."
"That's my thought also," Zoe said.
Okay, that wasn't fair. John said, "No, you need this, your people need this--"
Teyla made an exasperated gesture. "You are one of my people, John."
"Hey, hey!" O'Neill waved at them. "You're backing each other into corners! Let's not make any decisions we'll regret!" Let's not forget, Jack went through a divorce, too; he knows all about how this works.
There was that word 'regret' again. John started to reply, when the lights flickered. The background hum of engines and power systems stuttered, and suddenly everybody was standing.
"What's that?" Ronon said, suspicious.
Mitchell shook his head, frowning. "Power fluctuations. They're working on our engines and power systems, trying to tune them so that new Genii weapon doesn't affect us." Yeah, people always try to rationalize away as innocuous something bad that's happening on Scifi shows and movies. I'm so glad that Jack's not going to go with the stereotype.
"You think? I don't." O'Neill had his head cocked, as if listening to something.
"Nor do I," Teal'c said.
"It is none of our doing," Teyla said, eyeing them.
Still distracted, O'Neill waved a hand. "Nah, I didn't think--" A distant crash echoed, as if something had hit the hull somewhere. That's not good, John thought. It might just be debris though; there should be a lot floating in this area from the destroyed Genii ship.
O'Neill winced, one hand going to his radio. "Yeah, that was no power fluctuation. We've got to check this out. Teal'c, stay with them."
O'Neill, Jackson, and Mitchell hurried out, leaving John and the others standing uncertainly. It was just them, Teal'c, and two Marine guards on the door. The unresolved argument seemed to hover in the air. Then Teal'c gave them a polite nod, crossed the room and stood in front of some data screens, as if engrossed in the information flowing across them. Yeah, I'm sure it was very convincing. I actually remember Teal'c doing this exact thing in "Between Two Fires" in Narim's apartment, and it was just as convincing then. ::is a SG-1 geek-girl::
Teyla lowered her voice and said to John, "Tell me why you do not wish to ally with these people."
John folded his arms, looking away. This hadn't gone at all the way he had expected it would; of course, he had made the decision in under a second and possibly had not exactly thought it through. "I'm not saying you shouldn't do it. You're right, you can break the Genii with them. I'm saying it'll be easier for you without me."
Teyla sighed. "John, it was obvious from the beginning that no matter how effective an alliance between our groups would be, their real interest was in you."
"What?" John snorted derisively. "Yeah, they'd like to have access to my gene, but they don't need it--" Heh. Make up your mind, John. He's kind of all over the map with this: he was upset because he thought they tested his gene and decided they didn't need it, now he's upset because they would like to have access to his gene, but he feels they don't… what? They don't need it? He's not even making any sense at this point. Fear of rejection is making him loopy.
"It has nothing to do with your gene. You are one of their people, the only other one of their people who escaped to this galaxy. Of course they want you with them."
Zoe and Ronon were watching him like this was obvious to everybody but John. He said, "You just think that because you're an Athosian."
Teyla gritted her teeth. "John--" "I WILL HIT YOU WITH A BANTOS ROD SO. VERY. HARD!"
John's radio crackled, and he heard unfamiliar voices. "Hold it." Then he heard some familiar codes, and realized he was picking up Genii radio traffic. Crap. "Are you getting this?" he whispered to the others.
Teyla nodded sharply, one hand pressed to her headset. I don't think I've mentioned before how much I love that the pirates all seem to come equipped with the ear-hooked headsets we see on Atlantis personnel on the show. Not sure how that managed to sneak over to the other side for this AU, but I do like the Athosian's connectivity. "Genii. Another ship must have entered the system."
Teal'c turned, coming back to stand near them, listening to his own radio. He looked pissed. He said, "Our shielding should prevent that. These signals must come from near by."
"How'd they get so close without anybody knowing?" Ronon demanded.
"They had that new weapon," Zoe said, frowning as she listened. "Maybe they've got a shiny new cloak too."
"We need to--" Then John recognized a voice.
Kolya was here, on the Daedalus.
John met Teyla's gaze. He didn't need to say, "It's him." He didn't need to say anything. Her eyes had gone flat and predatory. Zoe said, "I can't believe he came himself."
Ronon shook his head grimly. "He wants Sheppard." Oh, yeah; 'cos that's not at all slashy.
The door slid open and Carter strode in; she was wearing a tac vest and had a P-90 slung over her shoulder. "Teal'c, you're with me. We've been boarded. Don't use the radios, we think they're listening in to our comm."
Teyla said, "Ronon must go back to the ship and warn our crew. They may try to board us also."
"You're right." Carter nodded to the guards, and Ronon bolted out, running down the corridor. "The rest of you should stay put--"
Teyla stepped toward Carter. "We wish to help you."
Carter flicked a look over them, and whatever she saw must have convinced her. "This way." Good command decision, Carter. In addition to more anti-Genii fire power, it solidifies the Athosians as allies of our guys. They are officially working together and it will be harder for the Athosians to pull back from that level of cooperation.
Carter led them down a main corridor toward the stern of the ship. "They're hitting us from two points, up toward the bow and back here in the engine level, using what we think are shielded shuttles, something like jumpers but not as effective. General O'Neill is handling the incursion up at the bridge level and Mitchell is taking the F302s out to hit their shuttles from the outside."
They turned into a smaller compartment, filled with Marines and techs. One of them turned to Carter. "Colonel--" the guy threw a startled look at John and the others, but continued, "I've got a video feed from the shield compartment."
Carter nodded. "Put it on the screen."
The big screen flickered to life, showing a view of McKay and half a dozen other civilians, men and women in the Daedalus' science team uniforms, in a large room with lots of panels and consoles. They were facing Kolya and five Genii crewmen. One of the Genii had grabbed a civilian, a small guy with glasses and fluffy brown hair. Zelenka! The Genii had a gun jammed to his head. Carter grimaced. "Not good. We can get in through the upper deck, but we can't get a shot off without hitting some of our people."
"You've got stunners?" John asked. He figured they had the same Goa'uld weapons as the Trust.
"They are too slow," Teal'c said. "And only one of us can go through the upper deck hatch at a time. The Genii would have more time than necessary to kill their hostages or secure a more defensible position."
John had an idea. A terrible idea, but hell, Kolya. "We need to get them moving, get them chasing something. Like me."
"What?" Carter turned to look at him. "You want to use yourself as bait."
"John--" That was Teyla and Zoe, practically in chorus.
"I should do it," Ronon interrupted. "I'm faster than you."
"Yeah, but Kolya doesn't know you like he knows me," John told him. "He wants me, and I think he'll do something stupid to get me."
He could tell Teyla wanted to object, but she said, "I suspect you are right. We have long known that Kolya is obsessed with finding you. It is a great weakness in his thinking."
Zoe grimaced in agreement. "It helps that Kolya's a maniac."
Teal'c lifted a brow, giving them a nod of approval. "If the Genii were distracted, and moved away from the hostages, we would have the opportunity to force the hatch on this level."
Carter asked John, "Are you certain about this?"
John resisted the urge to say 'dead sure.' "Yes, I am."
Carter took a sharp breath. "Good. Let's do it."
"Careful," Zoe said, in an almost voiceless whisper.
John nodded and carefully eased down through the maintenance hatch.
It let him out onto a narrow gallery bridge, looking down on the shield compartment below. He eased forward, then dropped down to stay below the level of the railing, risking a look down into the bay below. The voices were clearly audible:
McKay was saying, "Look, I told you, the Athosians are dead. They tried to board this ship, there was a huge battle, and we killed them all. Well, not me personally, but in general we--"
Kolya sounded confident, amused. "You killed them all, even Sheppard? Knowing he was a valuable commodity?"
John gritted his teeth at that voice. He's not as angry at McKay as he once was: it was once McKay's voice he lunged towards with murderous intent. Jack and Daniel both soft-pedaled McKay's betrayal as mere personality disorder, hey, the guy's an idiot, whaddaya gonna do? *shrug* -- Daniel even went so far as to say that McKay meant well. If that was a plan on their parts to calm John's anger, it looks like it worked. Now, all of John's murderous intent is focused on Kolya. What McKay pulled pales in comparison.
"Yes, well, he wouldn't surrender, so that was that," McKay said briskly, folding his arms and lifting his chin. It's the patented Rodney McKay chin-lift of false bravado!
Kolya's smile was indulgent. "Then where are the bodies?"
McKay tried to bluff it out. "We threw them out the airlock. As you do." The other hostages nodded. John had to admit that it looked pretty damn unconvincing. Jeez, I bet to the casual observer it looks like some sort of Monty Python sketch.
Kolya apparently thought so too. "I'm afraid I don't believe you."
McKay tried to look unconcerned. "That's not my problem."
"Yes, it is." Kolya's smile went hard. "Because I'm going to start killing your companions if you don't tell me the truth." One of the Genii soldiers still had the short scientist with the fuzzy brown hair and glasses. The Genii shoved his gun a little harder into the smaller man's head, forcing a gasp of pain out of him. Kolya added, "Starting with him."
"No! No, look, you want an Ancient tech expert, right?" McKay sounded desperate. "You can take me." This is terrifically brave of Rodney!
"Dr. McKay, I intend to take all of you."
There's a cue if I ever heard one, John thought. He stood up. "Now I thought you said I was the only one." And *that's* not at all slashy, either!
Kolya spun around, staring. Then he smiled. "Sheppard. I knew you were alive."
John ducked behind the railing again and bolted down the walkway, through the hatch into the next compartment. The idea was to get Kolya distracted enough so the Marines could come through the hatch below and retrieve the hostages. That was their idea, anyway. John's idea was that he was going to distract Kolya by killing the bastard.
The next compartment was a maze of tall consoles and big pylons with glowing readouts. Carter had shown John a schematic so he had some idea of the layout. Behind him he heard the Genii climbing the stairs up to the catwalk and pounding down it. John went over the railing, landing on the deck, then darted into cover behind a pylon.
He heard the Genii dropping over the railing to this level, and counted the impacts. Four. Kolya had to be one of them, which meant there were only two Genii left with the hostages.
And that gave John an idea. There was another passage from this compartment back into the one with the hostages, a small maintenance slot buried back in the corner behind a bank of equipment. Carter had pointed it out on the schematic, as something the Genii were unlikely to notice. John could slip back through into the other compartment, take out the Genii there-- And Kolya might break and run back to his shuttle, knowing the tables had turned and he no longer had the upper hand. As if! Faulty reasoning on John's part, he is down-grading his own importance to Kolya and it is almost his undoing.
John hesitated, torn between the desire -- the need -- to kill Kolya, and the fact that there were Genii in that other room holding guns on civilians. And one of those civilians was McKay, who had lied his ass off and told Kolya that John was dead.
God damn it, John thought, and slipped soundlessly back through the pylons, finding the narrow passage in the back corner of the compartment.
He eased through it, having to duck to get under the tubes nearly blocking the narrow space. He paused at the doorway, sneaking a look into the compartment. Bingo, he thought. The two Genii had their backs to him. One still held the little scientist, a gun jammed into his head. McKay and the other hostages were gathered a short distance away, backed up against the bulkhead.
John whipped through the doorway, grabbed the Genii holding the hostage, getting one arm around his throat and grabbing his gunhand with the other. The hostage twisted free with a yelp, scrambling forward. The other Genii turned toward them in horrified surprise, and John squeezed down on his Genii's gunhand. The gun went off, the second Genii fell. We actually saw a variation of this slick move in Common Ground during the Todd-Sheppard Great Escape.
McKay yelled, "Behind you!"
John shoved the Genii away and turned just as somebody tackled him. He landed hard on his back, a heavy weight atop him, and lost his grip on the Genii's gun. Oh, yeah; *that's* not even a tiny bit slashy whatsoever!
It was Kolya pinning him down, and there was a gun jammed into John's ribs. The rest of the world went away, and John only dimly heard crashing and shouts, more people streaming into the room.
Through gritted teeth, John said, "Did you miss me?"
"Terribly," Kolya replied, "I've been looking for you everywhere." He lifted his head to shout at someone, "Back away, or I'll kill him! We're leaving your ship, and we're taking him with us!"
John thought, You've got that wrong. …and also, "Please feel free to look for me in hell!" He couldn't reach his holstered gun, but his hand was pinned against his chest, where his knife was still tucked into his jacket. He jerked his knee up, Kolya reeled back, and John pulled the knife out. He whipped it across Kolya's throat, and heard a gun go off.
There was a confusing moment where John was lying on the deck, watching Kolya slump over, bleeding. John tried to sit up, and realized the lower half of his body was numb. Then pain hit him in a rush, taking his breath, taking his senses, and blackness closed in.
I have to admit, on first reading, I did not like how passive this injury rendered John for the rest of the story. I remember thinking I'd like to see a remix of this scene where Rodney, with his football player shoulders, crashes into Kolya and spoils his aim in that moment just before he dies of his Sheppard-inflicted wound. So John's sitting there on the deck plates, poking a finger through the hole the bullet made in his cool leather jacket, and Rodney's yelling, "Ha! You can't kill me now! I saved you, you can't kill me! EW! Blood!"
…and for the first time, a TEYLA POV! Woo-hoo!
Teyla pushed her way into the medical compartment, desperate to see what they were doing. When she and Zoe and the Daedalus crew had forced their way through the hatch, she had not been in time to see John kill Kolya hopefully someone will have taped it and it will appear on the Atlantis version of Youtube.com soon, or the last shot that Kolya had fired, hitting John. But the aftermath and been bad enough, before the crewmen had rushed John to their sick bay.
She caught a glimpse of John on a table, his skin pale, his shirt ripped open, blood everywhere, staining the white of the table's padding. The doctors closed in again, and she saw nothing. She stepped back aware she was in the way. "Will he be all right?" she demanded.
"We'll do our best, love," a doctor said. But then he turned to O'Neill, standing on the other side of the compartment. "General, there's not much more we can do here."
Teyla's breath caught. If the Daedalus' medical equipment could not help, she knew Vengeance's would be useless, and the captured Genii ship's sick bay was even more primitive. She swallowed in a dry throat. "If we could get him to Taldis, there is a hospital there, but our hyperdrive is damaged--" They weren't listening to her. O'Neill was staring at the wall. She controlled her anger and said tightly, "If you will not help us, tell me now, so we may take him and do what we can."
But O'Neill turned to her. "You've got a jumper; is it here?"
Teyla nodded, uncertain. "Yes, aboard Vengeance." The Daedalus couldn't want it; they had so many of their own already. "John is the only one of us who can fly it."
O'Neill turned to one of the men in the doorway. "There's a gate in this system?"
"Yes, sir. On the fourth planet. The pilots are still out in the F302s, would you like me to recall--"
"Nah, I'll fly it." O'Neill waved a hand. "Tell Carter she's in command. Beckett, get ready, you're coming with us."
"Where are we going?" Teyla asked. She had belatedly realized that O'Neill hadn't been ignoring her, he had been calculating the quickest method of travel.
O'Neill said, "Atlantis." Truly a magic moment and a great place to end the scene.
Back to John's POV:
The first thing John was aware of was that he felt like crap. That came and went, at first accompanied by other people yelling, then by beeping medical equipment.
He opened his eyes at one point, and saw Teyla leaning over him. He knew they weren't on the Vengeance; he couldn't hear the engines. And Teyla looked terrible, or as terrible as a woman that beautiful could look; her brow was furrowed with worry and the skin under her eyes looked bruised, as if she had been awake for days. He knew that was bad. He said, "You should be with the ship," and his voice came out as a barely audible whisper.
She bit her lip, and tried to smile. "You should be quiet."
That was all he remembered of that conversation.
The scene that follows is what sold me on this version of the ending. It is Woobie!John at its finest, and Zoe at peace, and it's just the most beautiful scene ever.
After a time he knew he was in a bed, because it was soft and warm. There still weren't any engines, just ocean waves, somewhere distant, and the air was cool and conditioned, but fresh, as if it had been recently acquainted with the surface of a planet. John figured he was dead. It was nicer than he had been expecting.
Except his left side really hurt, right under his rib cage, sending painful twinges through his whole body whenever he took a deep breath. Breath. You're not dead.
He opened his eyes a slit. The room was big, the walls copper-colored, figured into square plates with elaborate designs, and full of hospital equipment. He heard someone move near him, and managed to turn his head. Zoe sat on a chair beside the bed, reading a book. It looked like an Earth book, an old one with a battered library binding. "Hey," John said, and his voice came out as a whisper.
Zoe looked up, startled, then smiled. "You're back."
Sort of, John thought. "How long was I gone?"
"Three days. You were hurt pretty bad."
Hurt. He remembered what had happened. "I killed Kolya." He felt pretty damn good about that, actually. They are completely unrepentant little killers, aren't they?
"You did." She gave him a firm nod. "When you get better, we're going to have a party."
"I'll hold you to that." He cleared his throat cautiously, trying not to do anything that would move any of the muscles below his collarbone. "Where are the others?"
"Teyla was with you the whole time, the rest of us got here yesterday. Vengeance and our Genii prize set down on one of the big piers over the water."
John was slowly putting two and two together. "This is Atlantis."
"It is that."
His brow furrowed. "They let us come here?"
"O'Neill flew your jumper through a gate, to get you here in time, so their doctors could fix you up."
This was all very surreal. "Why are they being so nice to me?" Awwwww!
Zoe gave him a look. "I don't know. All you did was kill Kolya and save their ship."
Yeah, but John hadn't expected them to be grateful for it. No one's ever been grateful before. "Did they ask for anything?" What's this going to cost me?
"No. Now rest."
That wasn't a bad idea. John closed his eyes, and the world faded out again for a while.
When John walked out on the balcony for the first time, barefoot and wearing medical scrubs, he saw the view of the towers and piers, opening out toward the limitless sea, and he fell in love.
He had been walking for a couple of days, carefully watched by Teyla or Zoe or Ronon or Halling or one or more of the other Athosians, but this was the first time Dr. Beckett had let him roam free the twenty feet out the door of the infirmary to the balcony. John looked at the view, felt the sea wind in his hair, and the breath caught in his throat. It was like the derelict Ancient warship, only a thousand times stronger. He wanted this place like he had never wanted anything before. And it was like it wanted him back.
The doors slid open behind him, and he glanced over his shoulder, expecting Teyla or Zoe. But it was General O'Neill.
O'Neill wandered out to lean on the railing, somehow giving the impression that he had ended up here completely by accident. Oh, Jack! You just cannot resist any chance to screw around this way. Please suppress the urge around John, he reads you like a book and it's pissing him off. John watched him suspiciously, but the first thing O'Neill said was, "This isn't where I expected to retire."
John considered that. It sounded unlikely. "You're retiring?" I actually get the feeling that nobody's going to be running back to the Milky Way galaxy any time soon to try to rescue the Earth from the Trust. That the entire Milky Way contingent has at some point decided that where they have been transplanted, they're settling for good, and that Atlantis (& Pegasus) is their home.
O'Neill shrugged. "Sure. I'm looking for some part time help first, though. Somebody who has an Ancient gene strong enough to run the weapons chair." He gave John a deeply significant eyebrow tilt.
At least he wasn't beating around the bush. John tried not to, but had to ask, "What's the weapons chair?"
"It's an interface to the city's defenses. You can raise shields, fire weapons." O'Neill squinted up at the clear blue sky. "Lift off and take her into hyperspace." Yeah, things that make other things explode and things that fly; Jack has finally figured out the right way to seduce John. ;)
John eyed him warily. "Seriously?"
"Sure. The scientists go nuts if you try it, though." O'Neill sighed. "Look, you've been in lousy situations. I've been in lousy situations, too. And we've all seen a lot of good people who have lost everything." He shrugged again. "All I'm saying is, just think about giving it a try. You might like it here."
"I'll think about it." Or, you know, flip a coin. John was startled to realize this approach was working on him. Yeah, for some reason telling the truth and not trying to manipulate him, even for his own good, seems to work. Funny, that.
O'Neill wandered off, and John stood for a while, looking out at the sea.
Then he heard someone else come out on the balcony, and this time he looked back to see McKay. McKay hesitated. "Ah, hello. It's me."
John wasn't sure if this was a good thing or not. "I know."
"I would have come sooner, but apparently there was some sort of restraining order in place." The SGC seems to have introduced lawyers to this galaxy, and the people of Pegasus may never forgive them. He cleared his throat. "I owe you an apology."
John turned, leaning back against the railing, and folded his arms. This should be interesting.
"So, I apologize." McKay lifted his chin stubbornly. "And frankly, I think you overreacted." All I can think to say is: !!!!!? Although I suppose John trying to off himself could look like a bit of an over-reaction from Rodney's perspective.
Or not so interesting. John pushed off from the railing and started for the door.
McKay grimaced. "Okay, okay, fine! I apologize for plotting your kidnapping, and planting the transmitters on your ship, and causing the Athosians to leave their camp. And, yes, all right, when you lay it all out like that in just so many words, it does sound a little insane. And while I have had assistants who threatened to commit suicide, nobody ever actually tried to shoot himself in the head because of my actions, so I feel very bad about that." He admitted, "Carter had this plan that after we managed to rejoin the others, we would contact you again, and talk about an alliance, but I'd seen how suspicious you all were, and I didn't think you'd respond..." He finished weakly, "I hate it when she's right." He waved his arms. "Oh come on, say something!"
What John wanted to say was I knew you were prying information out of me but I thought it was because you wanted to be friends (d'awwwwwww! Woobie!John!) but he was damn tired of his inner bitter twelve-year-old. And if he couldn't say that, there wasn't much else he could say. He shrugged and said, "I accept your apology."
McKay frowned. "I was hoping for something a little more than that."
John stared at him incredulously.
McKay rolled his eyes. "Okay, that didn't come out right. I meant, you know, a little more closure. Some indication that you don't think I'm--"
"Psychotic?" John asked, half seriously.
McKay glared. "Oh come on!"
John thought about it, and finally said, "That was good, when you told Kolya that you'd killed us and tossed us out the airlock. If he was less crazy, it might have worked."
"Thank you." McKay hesitated again. "If you don't mind, Zelenka -- he was the one the Genii had-- " He made a gun pointing to head gesture. I was right! "-- and Kusanagi and some of the others wanted to visit you. They're very grateful about not being shot or carried off by Kolya, and they have a gift they want to give you."
"A gift?" John frowned. "I don't need to be paid--"
McKay gave him the eye roll again. "It's a data device with our collection of media files. Movies, TV."
"Oh." That...was unbelievably tempting, and John couldn't resist. "Okay." Fished in! Fished in!
So that evening, John ended up in a lounge near the infirmary, watching Pirates of the Caribbean with Ronon, Zoe, Teyla, Halling, a dozen other fascinated Athosians, and McKay and several scientists and techs. It was weird, but John thought he could get used to it. Now that really reminds me of some conventions I've attended. In fact I think my favorite thing in the world is watching a movie or show with a group of my fellow fans and everyone commenting on it as we go along. Afterward, Dr. Beckett shooed out McKay and the scientists, and the Athosians headed back to the Vengeance, leaving John sitting around on the couches with Teyla, Zoe, Ronon, and Halling. The lounge had floor to ceiling windows facing a view of the city, and at night the lights of the Ancient towers glowed like stars.
Standing at the window, Zoe asked, "Was your Earth like this?"
"No," John said automatically, but he knew that wasn't quite fair. "Well, parts of it were beautiful." I don't know if this is on purpose, but isn't "parts of it were beautiful" what Dorothy Gale says about Oz when she wakes up from her dream/journey? It is as if John's woken up from a dream, except he's not in Kansas, he's in the Emerald City, he's home. Which is something that took Dorothy six more books to achieve.
"This place is a wonder," Teyla said, smiling. "I have seen many ruins left by the Ancestors, and they all have some traces of left of what they once were. But there was nothing that prepared me for this."
John managed a nod of agreement. He didn't think he could talk about the city's effect on him without embarrassing himself.
Halling said, a little cautiously, "We have spoken about this among ourselves, and come to the conclusion that if you are truly uncomfortable with these people, we will leave, and make our alliance one of distant acquaintances only. But there is still several days before the doctors say you will be ready to leave their care, so this is not something that must be decided immediately."
John cleared his throat. "Okay." He still had all the same concerns, nothing on that score had really changed. But Kolya was dead, and he hadn't realized until now just how much the threat of falling into Genii hands again had been weighing on him. Now that was gone, and here was this city, with all its endless possibilities.
Watching him closely, Teyla lifted her brows. "Okay, we will not decide immediately, or okay..."
John said, "Okay, let's stay and give it a shot." And it felt right. So, that makes them "privateers" instead of pirates, right?
Note: Many many thanks to Mary Crawford for invaluable help with the plotting and backstory!
Hooray for Mary; I bet it was fun helping ltlj with this story!
Commentator Final Notes: I know protagonist John's arrival at and acceptance of "home" means the tale comes to its natural end here, but as a fan, I wish more fanfic -- whether prequel, post-fic, or alternate scenes from alternate POVs -- had been written set in this fascinating AU world created by ltlj, whether by the author or by authorized fellow fan-fic writers. I love this AU so very much!
In closing, I would like to give a nod to the Talk Like A Pirate Day Official British Headquarters , Wikipedia, the Internet Movie Script Database (IMSDb), and of course the International Movie Database . But mostly, I would like to thank ltlj for giving us so many wonderful stories about these characters we love so much. It's obvious that she loves them, too, and that they are safe in her hands. Which, by the way, I hope are feeling much better!
Hope you guys enjoyed this commentary! It be a great, grand story! Smooth sailin' and smoother rum to ye all, me hearties!
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