The Descendant (Excerpt)

The hiss of the doors to the observation deck brought the blue green planet below back into focus for Theodorus. The beauty of the turning orb was stark after his contemplation of the darkness within his mind. A strong hand squeezed his shoulder lightly dragging him further into the present.

“The resupply is almost complete,” Jacobus said, with another light squeeze. “It should be sufficient for a time, until decisions are made one way or the other.”

“Decisions,” Theodorus murmured. “Atlantis has been located, then?”

“Yes, we have detected her again.” Jacobus pulled Theodorus by the shoulders to face him. “It seems that the City has finally returned.”

Jacobus’ skin was tawny from the planet’s sun, the slight creases at the edges of his eyes and mouth more pronounced than usual. Those slight grooves were the only indication of his age among their people and Jacobus’ words held sway. Theodorus’ worry eased somewhat with the Elder’s unwavering support of his command over what was left of their people. He would need that support in the time to come, a new era was finally dawning for them. One way or the other they would either live or die, and Theodorus was determined that his people would live on, perhaps in a new form, but live they would.

Blue eyes, the hue of the oceans below waited with a patience the younger among them often found trying, took in Theodorus’ own green-eyed gaze. The blunt planes of Jacobus’ face below his short cropped blond hair were relaxed while he waited for Theodorus’ decision. His slight frame was always overwhelmed by the wide strength of Jacobus’ physique, though he always found the Elder’s vitality comforting, evidence of the potential longevity of their race.

Theodorus grasped the forearms pressing on his shoulders, nodding. “Access Atlantis’ systems, call the council, and set a course for Oculis Caeruleis. We can no longer just exist in the vacuum.”

****

“You’re late,” John stated, hearing the hurried steps of Rodney’s shoes coming up behind him.

“I got waylaid by Richard… again,” he replied, plopping himself down next to John on the pier with not an ounce of grace, making John turn to hide a grin for a moment before planting a bottle of beer in Rodney’s grabby hands. “He’s upset with the time it’s taking to retrofit the new UAV’s with the environmental sensors. I guess it affects the budget.”

“Well, if they work, they’ll be better than sending a MALP through the gate first,” John replied. “More covert and we’ll be able to get an aerial view around the gate.”

“I hate to agree with Woolsey, but he’s probably right that we should get readings on the other end before we step through.” Rodney sighed, with a put upon slant to his lips.

John smirked at Rodney’s irritation with their boss. “It’ll be safer, I thought you’d like that?”

Rodney snorted. “I’ve become accustomed to a certain level of terror, John. It keeps me on my game.”

His high-pitched braying laugh burst out before he could stop it, dropping down into a low chuckle at Rodney’s returning grin. John held out his bottle and Rodney clinked them together in a silent toast. Taking a swig, John realized was happier than he’d been in months, almost a year if he was honest with himself.

His best friend, brilliant, awkward, and without a brain to mouth filter was starting to come back to himself the longer they were away from Earth and Jennifer Keller. He’d missed this, just sitting on Atlantis’ pier at night with the sea breeze caressing his face, and Rodney’s solid companionship by his side.

“What’s the name of this planet again?” John asked, admiring Rodney’s strong profile. The blue of Rodney’s eyes were almost black with his gaze on the stars above them. The line of his strong jaw was shadowed, soft with relaxed pleasure.

“I have no idea.” Rodney flapped a hand in disgust. “Some long unpronounceable Ancient name that went in one ear and out the other. The Ancients were terrible at naming things.”

“Well, we can’t call it New New Lantea, it’s bad enough we called the last one New Lantea.” John could only agree with his friend’s assessment. Rodney’s combination of semi-contempt and reverence for the Ancients and their accomplishments were always at war depending upon the day and whatever technological problem, he and the geeks were dealing with. John certainly could understand it, with the shit they had to deal with from the Ancient’s abandoned experiments over the years. John’s assessment of the Ancients leaned more toward antipathy, even though he found most of the Ancient technology really cool and loved living on Atlantis.

“Perhaps we should do a poll on the servers for name suggestions,” Rodney mused. “Then pull one out of a hat or something.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” John agreed.

Their new planet was beautiful, but John did miss the two moons from their last location. The planet was mainly ocean with two large landmasses at the poles and just a smattering of volcanic islands around the equator. The islands reminded John of Hawaii with their volcanic peaks and lush tropical forests. He done a run to re-supply the botanists that morning—who were having a field day with finding new plant species—on one of the islands. They still knew very little about their new home, the Ancient database not giving up its secrets, as usual. Rodney had his climate team—‘They’re glorified weathermen, John!’— on finding out if they’d have to deal with cyclones in the foreseeable future, but with their ZPMs the city would be safe this time around if there was a season for it.

“I’m glad we’re back in Pegasus,” Rodney murmured.

“I’m relieved,” John replied, looking up at the stars. There was no moon orbiting the planet, but the star belt above them was bright in the sky, providing soft light during the dark hours. “I hated being on the moon, it was cool at first, but got old really fast.”

“And the arguing,” Rodney said, waving a hand. “We aren’t evolved enough not to fight over the power to control the planet.”

“No, we aren’t,” John agreed. “I’m glad the City forced us to return.”

“Politicians are so stupid.”

John snorted, and couldn’t help but agree with Rodney’s perspective. The power struggles of Earth’s governments involved in the Stargate program, had forced the move to the moon after a month in San Francisco’s bay. The debate on what to do with the Ancient city-ship had raged for five months, the expedition having little say, as the IOA got close to imploding. The U.S. had been on the verge of taking over full control, despite the U.K., Canada, and the other member countries of the European Union’s objections in order to keep the Chinese and Russians from gaining additional influence over the fate of Atlantis. There was too much history of distrust between the three world powers to ever come to an agreement. John had worried that a full out world war was imminent, when the City herself had made the decision for them.

“Did you ever figure out what program launched?” John asked, breaking the quiet between them.

“Yes, the Ancients in their infinite wisdom, created the reversion program to return the City to Pegasus. I think they realized Earth might not be evolved enough to handle having that much power at its disposal.” Rodney’s hands and lips were going a mile a minute with his explanation. The fact Rodney was beautiful in his enthusiasm hit John hard in that moment, to the point he was on the verge of doing something extremely dumb, like kiss that animated lush mouth. “And only an extremely strong gene carrier could have shut down the program.”

Rodney’s words registered, pulling John from the stillness that had swamped his frame at the thought of kissing his friend, passionately. It wasn’t a new thought, but with Rodney’s relationship with Keller and serving until recently under DADT, John had buried those types of thoughts as deep as possible within his mind. “An Ancient?”

“Or someone whose genetics are almost equivalent,” Rodney returned, his blue eyes serious. “Like you.”

“Well, shit Rodney!” John’s voice got a bit high with the alarm that zinged through his chest. “Did you know that at the time?”

“I might have had an inkling.” Rodney cleared his throat, avoiding John’s gaze. “Zelenka might have had an inkling too.”

“Rodney!”

“What!” Rodney squawked. “You didn’t want the City to stay on Earth either!”

“Do you have any idea of what the IOA or Stargate Command will do to you, if they find out about this?” John was at once exasperated and gratified by his friend’s cunning.

“Only someone with your uber gene can access that program John, so there’s no reason to worry,” Rodney stated, dismissive.

Shaking his head, John took another swig of his beer. He needed to calm down, what Rodney had done was unbelievable. Though, he couldn’t fault his friend for allowing Atlantis to leave Earth. The state of the powers that be had been untenable and more of a threat to Earth’s safety than having Atlantis leave the Milky Way.

“Do you think, Teyla will be okay?” Rodney asked quietly, changing the subject with as much subtlety as the universal knowledge of Zelenka’s not-so secret still.

“She’s strong, Rodney. She’ll mourn, move on and tell Torrin stories about his dad when he’s old enough to understand them.”

Regret was still heavy upon him that she’d not had the chance to get back to Pegasus sooner. Taking Ronon and Teyla back hadn’t been a consideration for the IOA or SGC, but for John and Rodney, having them stranded on Earth had always been on their minds. No matter how much John had pressed the issue, there’d been no hope of the Apollo or Daedalus being given the green light to return them to Pegasus at the time.

John hadn’t been surprised Teyla and Ronon had stayed on the City to help combat the threat to Earth. It hadn’t even crossed his mind that if Teyla had known she wouldn’t be able to return to Kenaan and Torrin, she would have stayed in Pegasus rather than help them fight the Wraith on Earth’s doorstep. Teyla was family and she considered John and Rodney to be so as well. John had hurt with her at the unexpected distance from her son, mate, and what was left of her people.

It had been a bittersweet reunion for her. Torrin was with her now, but Kenaan had perished during a trading mission in Atlantis’ absence. The Wraith still culling populations in the hopes of finding pockets of food unspoiled by the Hoffan virus.

Rodney sighed. “I just never know what to say to people who’ve lost someone.”

“No one ever does.” John gripped Rodney’s shoulder, giving it a supportive shake. “It’s only been a month since she found out, she just needs time.”

“Did you know Kenaan was her childhood best friend?”

John gave Rodney’s shoulder another squeeze, wishing he could remove the sadness inherent in the line of Rodney’s crooked mouth and dark blue eyes. “Yeah, Ronon told me a while ago.”

“I don’t know why she doesn’t blame us for everything she’s lost, but she doesn’t,” Rodney replied with a shake of his head.

John released his grip on Rodney’s shoulder with a low hum of agreement.

For all that the Expedition had tried to do to defend themselves, Teyla and the Athosians were one of the many casualties of a war they’d been unprepared for. John wasn’t so sure he’d have been able to accept such loss as Teyla had. He knew he wasn’t that strong, inside. He’d been barely holding it together at the thought of losing Rodney to Keller and a life on Earth, as well as losing Teyla and Ronon when SGC would’ve eventually had to do some reconnaissance in Pegasus to assess the Wraith threat. At some point, he’d known Teyla and Ronon would be given the opportunity to go home. He’d been dreading that day for the whole six months they’d been on Earth.

He was so relieved it hadn’t happened that he hated himself a bit for being happy about it, but only a little bit. John had acknowledged long ago he was a selfish bastard, but they were all the family he had, and he couldn’t find it within himself to feel guilty for having gotten what he wanted. For having Rodney back without Keller’s influence on his friend. For not having to accept that Ronon and Teyla would never be seen or heard from again. For his selfishness in not having to make a choice between Atlantis, and never seeing or being with his friends, his team, as he was use to.

“You’re never going to ask, are you?” Rodney said softly, breaking the morose stoicism that had pressed down upon them.

“What?”

“About what happened between me and Jennifer.” Rodney was fiddling with the label on his beer, but he had a determined tilt to his lips even in his discomfort. We are going to go there. A fluttering skittered through John’s chest at the realization.

“I do want to know, but wasn’t sure you wanted to talk about it,” John replied slowly, avoiding Rodney’s gaze at having something else to feel guilty for. He was such a shitty friend sometimes. “We’ve been back a month and I figured you’d have said something before now.”

“You’re emotionally stunted, Sheppard,” Rodney declared rolling his eyes. “Of course I want to talk about it! That’s usually what best friends are for, you know… emotional support.”

“Sorry buddy, I’m horrible at this sort of stuff.” John rubbed the back of his head, cringing in discomfort at the topic. He really didn’t want to talk about Keller with Rodney. He’d had a difficult time keeping his dislike of her to himself, though Teyla had picked up on it on more than one occasion. Luckily, he’d dodged that conversation successfully for months, until she finally gave up on talking to him about it. Having a baby to think about was a great distraction for her.

“I know, it’s one of the things I like about you John. You’re more emotionally constipated than I am, and that’s saying something.” Rodney’s obnoxious superior smirk and raised brow, that made people want to punch him, was on John in full force.

“So, I’m stunted and constipated MacKay?” John smiled. Rodney was just ridiculous sometimes and that was one of the many things John loved about him. “Thanks, that means a lot coming from you.”

John took another sip of his beer, before biting the bullet to ask, “So, what did happen between you and Keller? I thought you were happy with her.”

“I was, happy with her,” Rodney replied, looking at his feet. “I loved her, but just not enough to give up Atlantis and my work here.”

“You couldn’t convince her to stay?”

“No, she wanted to remain on Earth and was angry that my work and my friends were more important to me than our relationship.” Rodney brought those big blue eyes back to John before saying ruefully, “Not that I blame her for that, she had a right to be mad about it. And she was really pissed at you.”

“I know,” John agreed, accepting his friend’s laser-like stare without his normal dodging of all things uncomfortable. “She really was.”

“I still don’t understand why, though.” Rodney set his bottle on the pier leaning back on his hands releasing John to turn his contemplative gaze on the stars.

Relieved, John replied, “She asked me to convince you to stay and I told her there wasn’t a chance in hell I’d do that.”

“Really?” Rodney’s eyes were wide on him, again.

“Yeah,” John said, clearing his throat exasperated being put on the spot. “I told her that your decisions were your own and it was pretty shitty of her to go behind your back, like she was. You’re a grown ass man, Rodney and she was treating you like you were a child having a temper tantrum.” John had said that to her as well, and he was sure at one point Keller was going to slap him for it. She’d come to her senses at seeing the thunderous look John knew had been written all over his face at the time.

“Huh.” Rodney’s utterances of ’huh’ were usually used in correlation to life altering destruction and John’s body automatically stiffened at attention. “Well, I guess she really did believe you had undue influence on me after all. She said that you, Ronon and Teyla could take care of yourselves and that I was being selfish for putting my friends first before everything else, including her.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Rodney murmured with a dismissive wave. “I’m happy I’m here and I wouldn’t change that for anything. Perhaps, I’m destined to be a bachelor the rest of my life and at the moment, I’m okay with that.”

“Do you miss her?” John felt like kicking himself for blurting out the question, but talking this out with Rodney finally, after a month of wondering was a relief.

Rodney shook his head, frowning. “Not as much as I thought I would. I should feel guilty about that right? If I had loved her like I should’ve, I should miss her more than I do.”

“Perhaps, but life’s too short for second guesses and guilt,” John replied. He should really start taking his own advice, he thought. “All I know is, I’m glad I’m here with you, Ronon, and Teyla and that Atlantis is back in Pegasus where she belongs.”

“I’ll drink to that, John.”

Their toast was interrupted by Chuck’s urgent voice over the comms. “Colonel Sheppard, Dr. McKay please report to the control room!”

“Oh, come on! I was just in the lab for fourteen hours!”

“Come on, Rodney,” John said getting to his feet, smiling at Rodney’s protest. “Never a dull moment.”

Richard Woolsey was standing at the top of the central staircase when they stepped into the gate room. A bad sign that the shit had hit the fan in one form or another.

“Oh, crap,” Rodney muttered. “What is it, what’s happened?”

John took the stairs two at at time hot on Rodney’s heels.

“Atlantis’s long-range sensors have detected a ship on course for the planet,” Woolsey stated. The leader of the expedition was calm and John realized how much the man had changed since he’d first met him four years ago. John’s first impressions of him had been piss poor during his evaluation of Elizabeth Weir’s leadership over the expedition. Now though, John thought he was as good a leader as Colonel Carter had been, even if he was unnaturally obsessed with administrative paperwork. He was more cautious than Elizabeth, but was often able to see the bigger picture of the consequences of the actions that took place on and off the City.

“Let me see!” Rodney shoved poor Chuck away from his workstation, vigorously. Chuck had to catch himself on the Ancient console in front of him to keep from rolling away toward the stairs in his chair. Rodney was often obtusely rude when he got excited, which John found delightful more often than not. “Oh, god.”

John sobered at Rodney’s tone, crowding close to see the screen over his shoulder. “Wraith?”

“No” Rodney straightened slowly, his worried blue eyes on John. “If these readings are correct… that’s an Ancient Battleship, ‘Aurora’ class and it’s headed straight for Atlantis.”

“How long until it arrives?” Woolsey asked.

“Sixteen days at their current speed.”

****

The members of the council were somber, as Theodorus took his seat at the hexagon table, setting his slim computer on its glowing surface. The lights within its metal and glass covering threw their faces into stark relief. The council room’s walls glowed a soft green-blue, the geometric symbols of their society were blunt offset shapes highlighting the Alteran belief in mathematics and science, the search for knowledge above all other considerations.

He could tell his cousin, Adorjan was agitated. His features similar to the birds of prey Theodorus often saw on the planets they traded with. It was perhaps fitting that their tall Watchman looked the part of a predator with his green-eyes, so much like Theodorus’s, set into a wide forehead sloping down into a narrow nose above the thin line of this mouth. Adorjan’s russet hair was curled in waves back from his face and Theodorus knew he was trying to sit still and not run his fingers through the long locks, a sign to all he was in turmoil. Theodore knew him well enough not to be fooled, and he was sure the others saw through Adorjan’s facade of calm, as well.

“The council is called to meeting,” Jacobus announced, his low voice rumbled in the silence.

“I must protest the Praefectus’ action to proceed to Atlantis without discussion,” Adorjan stated. “We do not have enough information about the Atlanteans to make contact!”

“We have discussed this course of action at length for years, Adorjan.” Theodorus knew his sigh was going to irritate Adorjan further, but he couldn’t help himself. He was often in disagreement with his cousin, and since it was a state that had been ongoing since childhood, Theodorus did not believe that would ever change. “Unless we are all willing to ascend, then we must make contact with the City.”

“We are the last of our race,” Aurea said. Her dark almond shaped eyes patient as she looked between them. She’d plated her straight black hair over her shoulder today and it made Theodorus remember the time he and Adorjan had been mischievous young boys who’d cut a length of it off when she was sleeping. Aurea had had her own revenge upon them and Theodorus could look back on the time he been quite bald for weeks with amusement now. Their antics hadn’t stopped with the hair trimming, and they’d never learned their lesson in regards to torturing their cousin throughout their childhood. “Most of us are not ready to ascend, as all of you know. If we do, our society, our culture will die unknown and unremembered, these many generations of history gone forever.”

“It is true what you say Magister,” Helena agreed, her beautiful bronze skin luminescent under the light of the table, so different from the rest of them. A testament to her ancestry of the varying genetics that has originated on Altera. They had been one people in a variety of forms at one time, so long ago. It had been rare in the last thousand years for a child to be born on the ship that displayed the remnants of the differences within their people’s physiology. Helena’s birth had been celebrated, a unique legacy from a people long dead. “I and the others are not ready to take the step to ascension. Adorjan what would you have us do? We can no longer wait, there are more threats to us and our survival now, with our few numbers, than ever before. Even with the Wraith’s population diminished, we need to find a shelter and Atlantis is our only choice. We can not continue our society on this ship as we have these ten thousand years.”

“Our civilization will not continue regardless, Commander Helena,” Adorjan replied softly. “This course of action could condemn all of us to a swift demise.”

Helena, his second and friend, longed to have children of her own. This want was spread throughout what was left of his crew, and Theodorus could not condemn them to a half life by being afraid to take action. Helena was still young enough, her time for mid-life was not yet upon her or the majority of the other women of his crew. But, if they waited much longer, the chance to continue their race would be gone. Theodorus, as a male of their species had many years yet to beget progeny, but this was not so for what was left of their female population. Even so, any potential children they did have would not be fully Alteran.

“Since this is so, we can at least continue our society in a new form,” Galina said, ignoring Adorjan’s alarm at the possibility the Atlanteans would cause them harm. Jacobus’ younger sister was as golden as he was, though her feature delicate and ethereal, her cobalt-eyes the color of a dark sea. “We can teach our history, our culture, and incorporate our society within the civilization of the Atlanteans. The potential for offspring with them is high, they are the second evolution. They are from Terra the first planet of our Ancestors who left Altera millions of years ago. They are the people our Ancestors of this galaxy returned to ten thousand years ago when the Wraith won the war. They are closer to us genetically than any population we have encountered in this galaxy.”

“Elder, they are like children stumbling in the dark,” Adorjan replied, dismissively. “Atlantis is our birthright and we should have sought her out before she could be taken over by them. They are violent and from what little we know, their actions have decimated many populations within this galaxy.”

“They are our relatives, Adorjan,” Theodorus interrupted, sharp. He was getting impatient with his cousin, a flaw of his character he acknowledge and often struggled with as the commander of their people. “They are able to use our technology, and they have a greater understanding of the scientific method, of logic than any who reside in this galaxy. I think we can learn much from them.”

“I agree, the Atlanteans are similar in the way the Altera use to be,” Jacobus said. “Full of life and able to defend themselves in a variety of ways in comparison. Yes, we can protect ourselves with this ship and our technology, but as you have experienced yourself, physically we have lost that ability and knowledge.”

Theodorus winced at the Elder’s blunt reminder of the loss of two of their people during the last planetary altercation with the Wraith. They’d been overrun so quickly that their weapons had been all but useless against their enemy. Theodorus and Adorjan had barely managed to escape back to their hidden Navis Porta. The loss of two of their own had been the final blow that had set Theodorus on this course.

“We have access to Atlantis’ systems and we have a small window of time before we arrive to learn more about the Atlanteans.” Theodorus accessed the computer in front of him. “What we do currently know is the Atlanteans have a complement of five-hundred and five individuals, three-hundred and twenty-five of them are part of their military forces. Their population is approximately sixty percent male and forty percent female.”

“So many,” Adorjan murmured, shocked.

Jacobus sat forward in his chair. “I have acquired what they call ‘mission reports’ for our perusal. All of us will start to read through them. There are many, so delegate some of the work to your staff and have them notify the council of any that are a cause for concern.”

“Their language seems to be a derivative of ours. There are many languages currently spoken on the City, though there seems to be one universal language. We must all learn it prior to arrival,” Theodorus stated. “The whole of the crew should also learn this language, as well. The more we know about them and their time in the City, the better for us to determine how our arrival will be perceived.”

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

A/N: This is a rough draft of the start of the first episode: Scion

One response to “The Descendant (Excerpt)

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