11 October 2007 @ 09:17 pm
SGA: Callus (R), Gen.  
There is a planet that lies eight inches from Atlantis on the map.

Note: Written for lavvyan from a prompt from her. It's nothing like the prompt, but my muses are crazy like that.

There is a planet that lies eight inches from Atlantis on the map--small enough to almost go unnoticed, unoccupied, undiscovered. They have to move through distance spanning three gates and then take the puddle-jumper to find their way there, and it's far from the sun, night almost every day. Eight inches is a lot of space on a map that spans two galaxies with three feet.

The air is cold and new when they step outside, like the first frost of winter or autumn after it rains, and Rodney huddles into his parka and starts complaining the minute his first breath turns to fog.

John likes the sun as much as anyone, surfing set against it or flying straight at it like Icarus intent on escape--but he's always been fond of the cold as well. He likes the way the chill seeps into every intake of air and the way it bites at you with every step--keeping you awake, keeping you alive. He says nothing at first.

Teyla is wearing an Atlantis issue parka like Rodney's but Ronon's wearing what he always wears and doesn't look cold. John's wearing his bulletproof vest out of habit. He knows there are few weapons it stops out in this galaxy but better it than nothing at all. He knows Rodney's wearing one too.

Rodney says the ice isn't thin, but he's still not happy about standing on it. John glances around with the light of his flashlight and he finds nothing. "I like it here," John says. "It reminds me of Antarctica."

"I hate it here," Rodney snaps. "Same reason."

Teyla laughs even though she doesn't get the joke and Ronon fiddles with the setting on his gun. John remembers pointing at the map with his eyes closed, like a child at a party, Rodney reminding him not to look.

Lorne had a system for these kinds of things. He chose the prominent gate addresses in the Ancient database and scouted them all out with the MALP.

"There's nothing here," Rodney says. "Seriously. Can we go?"

John can hear it calling; there's a buzzing in his ears, white noise like on a radio. He can feel it too, thrumming beneath his feet. "Something's here," he disagrees. He wouldn't be here otherwise.

John wishes they could drag the sun closer to light their way. The world is nearly black. Rodney says it might have been a paradise once for all they knew, but it lost its orbit and caught itself at the very edge, hanging on but just barely. It wasn't always eight inches away.

He sets his flashlight on the ground and the light bounces off the ice and streams out across the ground--it circles back on itself somewhere, he knows, but the light doesn't reach a horizon and it looks endless from there.

Rodney's trying to hold onto the scanner with mitten-incased hands but says something in the air is blocking everything and John just lowers himself to his knees. He lays his bare hand on the surface of the ice and streaks it across, looking for he doesn't know what. The knees of his blue cargo pants get damp almost instantly as his body heat melts the uppermost layer of ice, and Rodney grabs his arm to pull him back to his feet.

"Do you want to get pneumonia?" Rodney asks. "And for god's sake, put your gloves on."

"I believe Rodney may be right to suggest we leave, John," Teyla says. "There does not appear to be anything here."

"I know I'm bored," Ronon says, by way of agreement.

"Yeah, okay," John says vaguely, and it hits him like a flash the moment he turns back, bringing him to a sudden stop. John flexes his fingers, and feels something move beneath the ice.

Three points of light are wavering in front of him, getting steadily further away. His flashlight is still on the ground. If he turned it off, they'd never find him in this dark.

The lights spin back around before he can finish the crazy thought and one of the beams catches him head-on. It's not like looking into the sun, but the flash nearly blinds him, goes straight to his head the way something else had a moment ago, and he nearly loses his footing.

Rodney somehow makes it to his side before the others, and forces him to meet his eyes. "John?" he says. "John? What's wrong?"

His mother used to call him Jonathan when she was mad. His father never called him anything else. And Rodney only ever calls him John when he's worried.

It hits again like a blow to the head. John stumbles and Rodney holds him up, and there it is again, the buzzing in the back of his mind, like a homing beacon tugging him somewhere away. Rodney's fingers tighten around his arm, around his hipbone, and John wonders if he hears it too.

"We're leaving," Ronon says.

They hear it first, coming from fairly far off. "What is that?" Teyla asks cautiously.

"That," Rodney says faintly, "is the sound of ice cracking."

John pulls away, eyes going almost fever-bright in this darkness, power surging up from somewhere. He reaches down and picks up his flashlight. Turns it off. Rodney shouts that this isn't funny, and John starts walking, leading it away.

It feels like home here the way Atlantis did from the very start--like there's this internal click and now he's plugged in. He always feels like he's building up power on Atlantis, like it's being fed in to him, pumping through him. Rodney always tells him he doesn't know what he's talking about when he asks if he feels it too.

This is just like that. The flashlight drops from his lax fingers and slams into the ice. Ice is breaking apart everywhere and the sound is swallowed by all the rest--even Rodney's voice, frantic now, grows faint.

He finds his way in the dark, his steps guided by something other than sight, and there is a chasm growing larger just feet away. It stops when he reaches the edge, but the ice beneath his feet still raises and lowers like the belly of some sleeping beast, and those three lights look like fireflies from this far away. They get so faint stretched that far, and they glance off him without hardly any effect at all.

John lowers himself inside.

Its cold frost covered metal instead of ice, and John drops to a crouch. Lights come on one after another starting the moment he hits the ground, illuminating the winding Ancient halls. John walks along them as if pulled, hand trailing along the wall beside him, a beating like a pulse against his fingertips.

There is no speaking voice, but John understands what it wants. It wants what everything wants, it wants to be alive.

His footsteps echo with a strange hollow thud, and his comm. sparks to life, and he can just make out Rodney's voice between the bursts of static. "the hell---now--not---ing--"

John reaches up and pulls the device from his ear. They'll see because he'll show them, and there won't be reason to worry for long.

It was so obvious now with the answer right in front of him, and he is aware, that this is not the way he does things--except that in some ways it is. John found this place with his eyes closed; they might never have seen it otherwise.

There is a chair waiting for him, in the very middle of the room. It calls with power beyond the telling, and John wonders what it would be like to be lost to that, absorbed completely. On Atlantis it's almost happened more than once.

He sits and his eyes slip shut and there's the universe, galaxies held suspended like strawberry swirls in chocolate ice cream and he thinks about where he is; the map appears and there he is, eight inches from Atlantis, twelve inches from the sun.

There is no planet, he knows. There is something else, lost and falling and strayed too far. They're protected by a forcefield with an artificial atmosphere stretched so thin it's freezing, but he knows the way home.

The ice is melting off like dead skin and John feels Rodney far away--it isn't like locating a dot on a scanner or a voice through a radio, it's just a sense of him. Rodney's a constant for John, and so he's the first one he reaches for.

There is a shift and they all tilt as the engines come to life at a stray thought, and then there they are. John feels them enter through the chasm on the surface of the ship, calling his name. He closes the door behind them like a wound.

The forcefield snaps away and it's like an exhale of breath, bringing life back to the dying. John feels a prick and then nothing but space--infinite around him.

It's so like coming home he nearly lets go completely, but then Rodney's hand is against his neck, and he feels like Dorothy waking up.

"You're bleeding," Rodney says, urgent. Teyla and Ronon look like sentries behind him, and John sees something glittering in their eyes, an understanding maybe of the power he could possess if only he'd held on, or let go, or ignored Rodney's hand on his neck.

It's strange because John feels that it should be Rodney, if anyone, that understands.

"What happened?" Rodney demands. "What is this place? John? John, where are we?"

All he has to do ask. The map snaps into place again, floating nearly invisible above their heads, galaxies so massive that planets and stars look like simple specks of glitter. John can feel it in his blood.

Rodney holds his right hand in his lap, palm up, and it is sliced across the middle and looks as though it has been painted red. John must have felt it happen but he doesn't remember thinking back.

The arm of the chair is smeared with his blood, like the last remnants of a sacrificial offering and John breathes in, wonders when it stopped being so cold.

"There's something wrong here," Rodney says, but John could have told him that.

He feels the desperation so deeply it's almost enough to choke him and it's only then he recognizes that pulse for exactly what it is--a heartbeat.

They harnessed it and then abandoned it as they inevitably abandon everything. John has always loved Atlantis so much more than the people who built it, and in some secret space, he's always felt it was more his than theirs.

"We're moving," Ronon says, arms crossed and wary.

"It is some kind of ship," Teyla agrees. "I do not believe we will be able to reach the puddle-jumper from here."

It is still eight inches to the left, John knows, he felt the tug as it was left behind.

"You really need to say something," Rodney tells him.

John looks and meets his eyes. There is a jagged edge on the chair behind him. A piece is still embedded in his hand. "We need to leave," he tells them.

"Okay," Rodney says, slowly. "We'd love to, and I'm open to suggestions."

At some point, Rodney has wrapped his hand with white gauze. A thin line of red is spreading outwards from the center and it throbs in time with the heartbeat in his head. Rodney seems to have forgotten to let go of his hand, and John removes it slowly, as though he knows a sudden move will have Rodney holding on.

"Follow me," John says.

"Hey, wait a minute," Rodney says, but John is on his feet and out the door, walking like he's asleep.

The hallways don't move in any ordinary direction, some seem more up than right, more down than left, curving sideways at the end, starting again. John hates the Ancients somewhere deep inside of him for what they've done, what they've ruined to replace with what they've built.

He wonders how long this has been forgotten.

"John, you're freaking us out," Rodney tells him. "This place is like a maze, how do you even know where you're going?"

John doesn't answer, because there isn't time and there's no way to explain. He feels an ache so deep it gets harder and harder to move. There is a beauty here that was never meant to be seen, a creation that may have been the first of everything and will almost surely be the last, with a mass of metal and wire like a callus on its back.

The control room is clear on all sides, open to all of space in front of them, and behind them there is the press of hard skin against the glass, grey and scarred and older than anything.

He's been a prisoner here since before Atlantis was built, since before anyone knew what he was.

And with a single thought, John will set him free.
( Post a new comment )
DrunkRedneckgeekKnitter: captive shepcourtberger on October 12th, 2007 - 04:43 am
This is beautiful, absolutely beautiful. Wonderful job :)

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Layton Colt: recordinglaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 02:57 am
Thank you! :-)
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Ninja Kittybeadattitude on October 12th, 2007 - 05:03 am
Oh my gracious. I desperately want to know what happens next.

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Layton Colt: angel/buffylaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 02:58 am
Thank you! :-)
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Buttercup: Dandybbuttercup on October 12th, 2007 - 05:10 am
Spooky :o)
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Layton Colt: rayk and dieflaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 02:59 am
Thank you! :-)
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scififreakscififreak on October 12th, 2007 - 05:30 am
Oh, this was some beautiful imagery and language. If felt like I was in a trance-like state with John.
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Layton Colt: recordinglaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:01 am
Thank you! :-)
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darkhavensdarkhavens on October 12th, 2007 - 07:05 am
This is beautiful and powerful and... and I can't stop thinking John's just disovered a close relation to The Great A'Tuin. *head desk*

I should really be asleep right now, but I just had to share my insanity. Thank you for sharing your story. *g*
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Layton Colt: 494laytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:03 am
Thanks, hun! :-)

and I can't stop thinking John's just disovered a close relation to The Great A'Tuin.

And now I can't stop thinking it either. Hee.
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Rat Creature: sheppardratcreature on October 12th, 2007 - 07:51 am
I liked this. It reminded me of the tie-in novel where the Ancients trapped immature Wraith in one of their machines to use them.
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Layton Colt: atlantislaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:05 am
Thank you! :-)
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Gaffsie: Shiny!gaffsie on October 12th, 2007 - 09:48 am
Oooh, intruiging.
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Layton Colt: shep barslaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:06 am
Thank you! :-)
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valokivaloki on October 12th, 2007 - 11:17 am
Amazing start, can't wait to find out what's next.
Love the descriptive way of showing us what's going on.

Cheers Valoki
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Layton Colt: recordinglaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:07 am
Thank you! This is just a one-shot though. :-)
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zing_och on October 12th, 2007 - 12:28 pm
This is amazing and creepy. I don't really know what's going on, but I really liked it.
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Layton Colt: 494laytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:09 am
Thank you! :-)
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Raiiningraiining on October 12th, 2007 - 02:59 pm

Is .. is that a good idea?

To set him free, I mean. Because I'm reminded of Lorien from B5 - the First, great power and huge possibility but definately - definately - dangerous.


This is gorgeously written, though: I think John/Atlantis was my first OTP and I love the way he finds *home* - here and everywhere. The sense you've created though, of him really hating the Ancients for everything they'll paved over, is creepily wonderful.

Excllently done.
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Layton Colt: charlie's headlaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:11 am
Thank you! :-)

You know, I never thought letting him go free would be bad when I was writing it, but looking back, I can totally see how it might be. ;-)
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khyrrakhyrra on October 12th, 2007 - 08:15 pm
Oooo. *shivers* There will be more of this, I hope?

I can't help thinking of the Borg for some reason.
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Layton Colt: fallenlaytoncolt on October 13th, 2007 - 03:12 am
Thank you!

This is just a one-shot though. :-)
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(Anonymous) on October 29th, 2007 - 04:25 pm
Oh please don't make it a one-shot :-(
I'll send chocolate colonels if you do a sequel...
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dossierdossier on November 7th, 2007 - 01:09 pm
fascinating and dreamy, John homing in on what no one else can sense. I love the fact that we have no idea if setting 'him' free is a good or bad thing--it just *is*. I love the exploration of John's un-human part, and the way you set the environment in so few words. gorgeous!
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Layton Colt: cluttered thoughtslaytoncolt on November 8th, 2007 - 03:18 am
Thanks, hun! :-)
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