Prompt: John Sheppard
Genre: drama, fix-it, introspective
Word Count: 1957
Author’s Note: I wanted to do an Stargate story, since I’m planning on writing SG Atlantis for July’s episode challenge and I need to start getting a feel for the characters. But, I also had ‘Tony as Agent Afloat’ on the brain, so this happened.
Synopsis: Sometimes, John wondered if this is how the Ancients felt; like everything they did to fix their mistakes only made things worse. It didn’t excuse the way they abandoned the galaxy to the Wraith, but it made their obsession with Ascension and non-interference a little more understandable.
The sun was setting over Atlantis and the ocean, burning sky and sea in shades of purple, green and blue. The scientists had explained the atmospheric conditions causing the unusual colours of the sun’s setting and rising, as well as the unique yellow and orange borealis visible during the cooler months; typically, John had pretended to neither understand nor care, and read the report afterwards. He could have gone into detail about what he was seeing; he chose simply to enjoy it.
Well, he tried to.
The moon was rising; nearly twice the size of Earth’s, it dominated the darkening sky. Just visible was the outline of another planet, rings reflecting so much light that it was visible not as a star, but as a distant moon.
Lantea was beautiful; unique, imperfect and dangerous for the incautious, just like Pegasus. From the first moment — after the fear and death was over — John had felt at home. Like he belonged.
Between his gene, his comfort on Atlantis, and his many mistakes, he felt more like an Ancient every day. It wasn’t a happy thought.
“Lorne,” he acknowledged the man hovering in the doorway. The Air Force officer stepped onto the balcony that the Expedition knew was John’s personal retreat. “Problem? I figured we’d get another twelve hours before something catastrophic happens or one of our bad decisions blows up in our faces.” Because run ins with Atlantis’ resident experiment gone wrong made John reflective.
“Michael isn’t your fault, Sheppard. The IOA overruled you and did an end run around O’Neill; Weir ignored you and Ronan and everyone else who objected. Landry is a chicken hawk who wants big guns and flashy weapons as long as he can maintain plausible deniability. And Carson —”
“Was so focused on whether he could, he didn’t consider if he should,” John finished. “He thinks that if we can change the Wraith, no one has to die. He never really got over creating the Hoffan drug.”
“You don’t think the retrovirus will ever work the way they want, do you?”
“I think it doesn’t matter; I think if you make the entire Wraith population human — we’ll be fighting a war against humans. When one group of people believes that another is below them in value . . . we’ve both been soldiers too long to mistake what happens.” John leaned against the railing, wishing idly for a beer; the next supply drop was in three days. “Being the same species doesn’t people from killing each other, and the Wraith are used to being the top of the food chain.”
Absently, he pressed the heel of his hand to his chest; the feeding scar, like the wrist shattered in a helicopter crash years ago, ached occasionally. “The Ancients made the Wraith by accident, and made countless errors, like Doranda, trying to fight them. They seeded two galaxies with us, even intermixed with the population on several worlds. We woke the Wraith, and in trying to fight them, we made a plague and Michael, who is arguably worse. So, are we one more of the Ancients’ experiments gone wrong, or are we Ancients?”
“If my choice is to be comparable to the Wraith or the Ancients, sir, I’d rather be the latter.”
“So would I.” But he’d rather be neither; too bad he couldn’t stop everyone from dragging them down that path. Did that make him . . . ? “If I start answering to Janus, zat me and shove my ass through the gate, Major.”
Having thoroughly depressed himself, John turned towards his 2IC, leaned back and crossed his arms and ankles. “So, on that cheery note, what’s up?”
Lorne held out one of the sleek tablet computers they used on Atlantis; John scanned the document on screen, then began reading more thoroughly. “A proposal? For an Agent Afloat?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve been talking to Teyla and Ronon and few others. Did you know that it’s not uncommon for some societies to have a kind of judicator? Someone who enforces laws and judges grievances, and often acts as mediator? They can be the leader, like Teyla, but often aren’t, and people will seek them out to mediate disputes. It’s one of the reasons the Athosians are so respected — societies with such people are viewed as wise.”
“She mentioned it,” he said, skimming. “Why an NCIS Agent? Why not an independent investigator, or an officer from from AFOSI?”
“There are protocols for Agents Afloat, and they don’t include answering to the commander of their station.” Lorne nodded at John’s sharp glance. “An agent on an aircraft carrier doesn’t answer to the Captain, or the Navy. They answer to their chain of command.”
“A civilian, who doesn’t answer to the command structure, who is empowered to act on the law and regulations the expedition established as rule of law. Lorne, it’s almost like you think we need a neutral third party who isn’t tied up in military orders or politics.”
“Imagine that, sir,” he said dryly, flexing his hand; he’d been injured recently when one of Michael’s monstrous experiments had attacked. “I’m sure that wasn’t my primary motivation when writing a proposal for General O’Neill.”
“You know O’Neill better than I do, Evan,” John asked, dropping what little military formality he used. “Will he go for it?”
“Considering all the trouble the Trust and NID have given us over the years? He’s going to put it through so fast. SG-1 tried to get a special investigator assigned to the program years ago; Kinsey blocked it because he was an asshole, using cost and secrecy as justification. Caldwell and that Goa’uld are the perfect reason to push it now, and O’Neill can read between the lines; he knows how much trouble the IOA causes us by letting Weir do anything she wants.”
John stared out over the ocean; the sun was down and the moon and stars were vivid. There was minimal light pollution here; even Atlantis only had a few towers lit due to power concerns. The sky reminded him of the desert or Antarctica, only a lot more comfortable.
Was this what he and Rodney had been looking for? Something to tip the balance in their favour, and give them a chance to corral their problems before all the flailing and false starts got them killed before the Wraith could?
“Why this agent?” Because Lorne hadn’t just asked for an Agent Afloat — he’d asked for one in particular.
“He’s smart, adaptive, creative, and has the luck of the devil. He survives despite the odds, is fair and uncompromising in matters of ethics and morality but not rule-bound. He’ll focus on actual issues, not minor regulation violations,” or major ones like DADT went unspoken but implied, “he thinks outside the box, and he’s good with all kinds of people.”
John flicked through the personnel file; serial killers, commendations, hostage and rescue training, sniper qualified — civilian, not military, but still — a list of injuries that — “Plague? Like, the actual plague?”
Lorne sighed. “Oh, yeah.”
“We should have recruited him years ago; he has the kind of luck that fits right in the SGC.” Because the plague wasn’t turning into a blue insect or rapid aging as STD, but it was pretty close. “RIMA — didn’t you go there?”
“Yes, sir. We were roommates.”
John considered his straight-laced 2IC and the grinning photo on the tablet. He wondered what kind of trouble they’d managed to find. “I’m a little concerned about dropping someone who looks like this in a small population; the women will be lining up, and the men will hate him for the competition.”
A grin flickered over Lorne’s face and vanished. “He’ll be more trouble than you realize, sir. Tony has a type — strong, interesting women and pretty men.”
Well, enforcing DADT wouldn’t be a problem; not that anyone had ever been discharged from the SGC for that particular offense. It was beyond stupid to give people with knowledge of a classified project a very reasonable grudge against the military, not to mention the waste of talent and experience. “So — Teyla?”
“Teyla is completely his type, but so is Cadman, Miko, Ronon, Parrish, Radek — and you.”
“You know,” John smirked, “I bet you fit in that category, Lorne.” The man lifted a brow. “Don’t even; you know how pretty you are. The Athosians giggle over you at every festival. I went to a boarding school too, Evan. I know exactly what happens there.”
“You haven’t asked a question, John,” Lorne used his name deliberately; they were off the record, “and you can’t because that would be wrong.”
“Which pretty much answers the question I can’t ask, doesn’t it?”
The grin he got was wicked. John rarely saw his second relaxed, a byproduct of being the highest ranking asset on Atlantis. It wasn’t a surprise his closest friends were outside the chain of command; none of the soldiers would feel comfortable cutting loose in front of their commander, and they deserved time off duty.
Pity; Lorne had the potential to be all kinds of fun.
“Let’s just say, anything you remember from your days at school are probably true, and finish with the fact that anything that went on was casual and friendly.”
In other words, two adolescent roommates who totally experimented with each other but weren’t in a relationship.
“You have a lot of faith that we won’t get him killed out here, Lorne.” Because the people John was closest to in the world — universe — were all at risk on a daily basis, likely to die alongside him, and it was sometimes hard to let even them close for that reason. “Are you sure?”
Lorne gazed out at the moon for a moment before meeting John’s eyes. “If anyone can thrive out here, sir, it’s Tony Dinozzo. The weirder things are, the harsher the conditions, the brighter he shines. The stricter the rules, the more ways he finds around them. The twistier the politics — the tighter he grabs hold and cuts through the web of lies and manipulations.”
On Atlantis, where death came from the skies and through the gate and hid in random corridors, laying in wait after ten thousand years — all they had was faith. In each other, in themselves. It was why every manipulation cut deep, every political web strangled; games played by people who had never seen a Wraith, who seemed incapable of weighing ends and means rationally. Politics from another galaxy that seemed as much a threat as the Wraith.
Another life to protect and consider with every action. An ally, a potential friend, a possible enemy. John was a pilot, a soldier; his world was black and white. That was why the slow slide into moral ambiguity chafed. He wanted to let others make the political decisions, then give him a goal, a target. Time and again, that had proven impossible and the only way to protect his people was to be the one making choices and fighting against being dragged further into the gray.
“Make sure it goes with the data burst tomorrow. Flag it for the General. We’ll see if he can make it happen, and how quickly.”
“Thank you, sir,” Lorne said quietly, and retrieved his tablet. “I’ll see you in the morning staff meeting, sir.”
Footsteps moved away, leaving him alone with Atlantis and the night. The heavens spread before him, vast and infinite and uncaring of the fragile human life it shone down on; John wondered what else was waiting out there, and whether it would want to kill him, too.