1. Mais naturellement, le Français est la langue de la diplomatie.
When Jack went through the gate to Abydos that first time, the SGC had no DHD. That meant the gate couldn’t translate the speech of the Abydonians for the Tauri, nor could it translate English into Abydonian, so neither of the two groups could understand one another without lots of hand-waving and repeating things slowly and loudly. Daniel had had to build on his scant knowledge of ancient Egyptian to communicate, and he’d apparently done a pretty good job because he somehow managed to romance and win Sha'uri, the daughter of the chief and quite a catch, without even meaning to. Then Jack took his troops back through the gate using the Abydonian DHD, and the gate system keyed into his gene and updated the language translators to include standard American English, the colonel’s native tongue. Daniel was quite surprised when the blue-water effect of the wormhole bipped out and he could suddenly understand everybody and they could understand him.
When John first went through the gate to Atlantis, the gate system in the Pegasus galaxy updated the language translators to include English; but John had lived in Paris for a year when he was a teenager so he could also speak a decent amount of conversational French. That meant if somebody from another Pegasus planet heard you speak French, they could understand you, though they’d think you had a heavy accent – but that hasn’t happened yet, and nobody’s noticed Teyla understands Dr. Jules Dulong when he insults Rodney under his breath because she’s too polite to comment.
When Atlantis temporarily settles on Earth, her gate supersedes the Colorado gate, and the first time it’s activated in the Milky Way galaxy, it updates the Milky Way gates’ language protocols. Years later, when somebody finally notices that aliens can understand French, nobody will be able to figure out exactly how that happened. It will be a mystery.
2. You and Me Against the World
Kinsey is still goa’ulded, still on Earth, and very dangerous. His parasite is, in fact, one of the few Goa’ulds left in the galaxy, as the Milky Way Replicators pretty much destroyed the rest of its race. Kinsey amuses it.
It calls itself Yahwe and is biding its time.
3. There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly....
The Wraith were created by a group of Ancient geneticists who integrated the DNA of Iratus bugs with human DNA. They meant the humanized insects to act as foot soldiers against the Ori’s troops, should the Ori ever decide to invade Pegasus. As life-sucking vampires, the Wraith were meant to prey on the Ori’s followers, not only draining and killing them, but also sapping the strength of the Ori, who feed on and gain strength from their believers’ life-force.
The Wraith escaped their cages because their intelligence was underestimated by their creators, who were nothing if not arrogant. The same scientists who assumed that the Wraith could not possibly be clever enough to escape also assumed that the Wraith could not reproduce and would eventually die out. Years later, when the Wraith had begun to multiply and pose a real danger, another group of Ancient scientists created the Replicators to take out the Wraith.
Fortunately all the Ancients either died or ascended before anyone else decided to create a new race of beings to take out the Replicators.
4. And some have Greatness thrust upon them.
When John found himself unwillingly inheriting the position of military commander of Atlantis base, he didn’t want to think about it. Until the smoke monster showed up after Jinto accidentally let it out of its cage – that snapped him out of his denial right quick. Still, when Elizabeth suggested Sgt. Bates be given the responsibility for internal security, he was more than happy to agree – one less thing on his list of things to do. It wasn’t until a pock-marked lunatic shot two of his marines right in the face that he realized it was time to step up to the plate and take over as true military commander. A terrible thing – having to kill 65 Genii troops, then finding his men’s blood-soaked bodies dragged off to one side of the gate room, discarded like yesterday’s garbage.
He didn’t blame Bates. He blamed himself.
5. Kindred Spirits
John found the sheer terror of potential failure exhilarating as he went about setting up the first gate teams in Pegasus. He was lucky that he had General Hammond’s copious notes on his laptop, a veritable How To Set Up Your Very Own SGC. That was the reason he was only up to page 17 of War and Peace – every moment he could spare for reading was spent with General Hammond, not Field Marshal Kutuzov. Sometimes, in his worst moments, John almost fancied the general was speaking directly to him. Hammond’s sage advice kept John on an even keel and he hoped that someday he’d finally get to salute Hammond in person, then shake the general’s hand and thank him.
John had never felt prouder than when standing in the gateroom under the mountain in Colorado, where General Hammond acknowledged his hard work. It was better than getting a medal, to know that he had the good opinion of the one member of the brass he’d ever really respected, almost to idolization.
He should have known immediately that it could only happen in a world that wasn’t real.
6. “Guess we’ll have to come up with some new insults.”
Elizabeth is always amused when she listens to Atlantis’ airmen and marines genially insulting one another’s branches of the military. It’s right under their noses, but they don’t seem to understand that Atlantis “jarheads” aren’t marines anymore: they’re space marines, and the airmen are no mere flyboys, but space flyboys. Just as the US Air Force grew out of the Army Air Corps and the Marine Corps split off from the US Navy, the military changes to suit the passage of time, and a fifth branch of the military was created when the Air Force and Marines had come together in the SGC – the concept of that fifth branch just hasn’t been solidified by the brass and the politicians yet.
John had once told her that, if you want to fight, you join the Marines; you join the Navy if you want to get away; and you join the Army if you want a job – but you joined the Air Force if you wanted to fly. They’ll have to add “you join the Space Corps if you want to explore the universe,” assuming that’s what they eventually decide to call it.
7. John Sheppard: pretty, pretty princess or the Dorothy Gale of Atlantis?
Carter learned more about how to lead by watching Sheppard for a year than she did by watching Jack for ten. Both men have something in common: neither likes being in charge, almost as much as they hate not being in charge. The difference is that Sheppard has a talent for it and Jack… well, Jack would be the first to tell you that he really doesn’t. When she found out John’s father was Patrick Sheppard of Sheppard Industries, she wondered if that’s where John had inherited his leadership abilities – which she is not stupid enough to ever suggest to him. Or, who knows, perhaps it had something to do with class – Jack is profoundly middle class and John… well, he might not like to advertise it, but he’s obviously a member of the upper classes. She couldn’t believe she hadn’t noticed it before.
But then Sheppard flies under the radar in so many ways. Carter wonders why nobody at the SGC seems to have noticed that he almost single-handedly built a boutique SGC of his own, from scratch and under the worst conditions, and without benefit of ever having worked in one. And she was surprised when she came to Atlantis and found Rodney as changed as she had; she had certainly never seen the courage in the man that he’d found under Sheppard’s tutelage. She isn’t sure she could have helped Rodney find his courage if she’d been the one who’d been assigned as military leader of Atlantis. She wasn’t at all surprised the time John mentioned in a debriefing that the McKay-A.I. had told him Lorne would not only make General, he’d one day be given the leadership role of the SGC in a possible future – after all, Lorne is watching Sheppard, too.
When Carter finds out Richard Woolsey is taking over civilian leadership of Atlantis, she wonders what changes Sheppard will inspire in him.
8. McKay + Sheppard = Carter
Rodney firmly believes that an unexamined life is the one most worth living, but it sometimes bothers him that he couldn’t make a go of it at Stargate Command. It’s not the sting of rejection – after 20+ years spent in academia, his hide is far too tough for that to get under his skin. He gets why they shit-canned him; if one of the monkeys who work under him now exhibited the same rigid lack of understanding of the nuances of science, he’d have them on the slow-boat back to Earth so fast, their heads wouldn’t stop spinning until they hit the Milky Way’s local group. Rodney is even occasionally aware that the reason he’s so harsh in his dealings with that specific flaw is because he has seen it in himself.
The problem is, he’s not sure how or when or why he learned the delicate Art of Science, and as a scientist, that bothers him. If divine inspiration is not his talent to claim naturally, what if he should lose it? If he can’t replicate the phenomenon, it could one day be lost and never found again. He may be the Most Valuable Scientist on Atlantis now, but the minute he can’t perform science in the manner of an artist, he’ll be that same sad sack bastard again, shipped off to some frozen clime, this time probably Canada.
The one time Rodney is foolish enough to share his fear with Sheppard, Sheppard thinks it’s hilarious and mocks him. Sheppard is always mocking him when he’s afraid, or yelling at him when he’s just about to give up, or coming up with utterly stupid, out-of-the-box ideas of the sort that only an insane idiot could come up with, ideas that only a scientist of Rodney’s caliber can run with and make into real solutions.
The man’s inability to take Rodney and his very real problem seriously is infuriating.
9. “Just don’t let them Joan-of-Arc you, man.”
Teyla loves Halling, but these days, she is sometimes embarrassed by his devotion to the Ancients. She knows that occasionally he will take John by the hand and gently lead him to a small circle of their fellow Athosians, settling him down on an embroidered mat placed in the middle. He will hand John one of their relics – a book written in Ancient or an intricately carved box that has been handed down for generations from Halling’s fore-fathers, or the very old, beautiful, perpetually-sharp knife that nobody can figure out what it’s made of or how it was made – or in some notable instances, a baby. John will good-naturedly and carefully hold what he has been handed as Halling speaks words that John cannot understand, Old Athosian words that the others in the group repeat back or reply to. And when the ceremony is over, John will hand back to Halling what he had been given, and Halling will thank him, and John will say, “Nothin’ to it, buddy.”
Teyla cannot help but roll her eyes. She’s seen some of what has been perpetrated by the Ancestors, and the more she’s seen, the less she’s been impressed. She knows they were, at heart, completely ordinary people; capable of great feats of technology, and even greater folly.
Once, while watching The Omega Man, a visual entertainment deemed “so bad it’s good” by Rodney, he had made sport of the final image of the movie: an attractive and deep-chested actor named Charlton Heston posing in death, his arms thrown wide to either side of his body. “Oh, yeah; that’s not obvious at all!” Rodney had shouted at the screen, laughing. He’d explained the concept of the “Messiah figure” – other characters of this trope included Aslan, Frodo Baggins, and Harry Potter. “It’s better if it’s subtle,” Rodney had said. He gestured at the frozen image on the laptop. “That? Is not subtle.”
Teyla is the most pragmatic person she knows, and she knows John Sheppard is a completely ordinary man. The first day she met him, he killed more Wraith than all of the warriors she’d ever known had killed in their entire lives. If she thinks he will lead the people of the Pegasus galaxy out of the shadow of the Wraith and into the light of freedom, it is for completely pragmatic reasons.
10. If you forget where you came from, who are you?
Ronon knows the Marines like to tell Atlantis newbies that he’s an old friend of Sheppard’s, and that they met many years ago, surfing on some ocean called Malibu back on their home planet; that’s okay, he thinks it’s funny, too.
But sometimes it makes him worry. Ronon knows he has a perfect grasp of the Terran/Tauri/Earthing/Lantean (whatever the hell they’re calling themselves today) vernacular. He likes their food, he enjoys their movies, he always wins at their games; dammit, he gets their jokes, and that’s pretty much the acid test for really being part of a culture – finding humor in what they think is funny. He’s even saved their planet a couple of times; you’re welcome, Earth! De rien!
But he is from Sateda, possibly the last living Satedan, and it seems to him that if he doesn’t live the Satedan way of life, it will be lost forever. That may or may not be a bad thing – he’s not even sure. It doesn’t seem fair that anyone would expect him to shoulder this burden, and it’s probably useless even if he did take on that task. One day, probably really soon, he’s going to die, and then what was the point of going through all that trouble?
Teal’c was the first alien taken in by the SGC, but you can tell just by talking to him that he’s a member of the Jaffa, always aware of his respected status among his people. But then Teal’c was in his 80s or 90s and already a great leader of armies when he joined up, plus his people are still around. He can enjoy Earth culture and not be subsumed by it, then walk away when it suits him. It was actually pretty great how he used the Tauri to free his people from the creepy critters that ruled them, if you want to look at it that way.
Teyla hits a little closer to home. She can read and write “English” fluently using the Lantean’s alphabet and has her own laptop. She even gave up her leadership of the Athosian people to move into the city, but he knows she did it because she felt the Lanteans were everyone’s best hope of overthrowing their own galaxy’s creepy-critter problem. Everyone in Pegasus – and wasn’t that something, the way the Lanteans had just walked in and given a name to what it seems nobody else had thought to name before – the concept of a galaxy, and the name of Pegasus. A large animal you could ride, except that it had wings and wasn’t real, and he wasn’t sure he liked that his galaxy was named after a mythical beast, but he supposed it beat being named after a spilled drink.
After a night of tossing and turning, Ronon takes a little trip to Sateda. He gets over his natural inclination against grave-robbing and grabs something that catches his eye, hanging on a wall that hasn’t rotted or fallen apart yet, like so much of everything else on the planet... on his home world. It’s not even a good picture, but it’s a very Satedan picture, and that’s what matters most.
That night, he sits and writes a poem comparing the way it was to hunt wild boar with his grandfather when he was six and hunting boar with Sheppard, which they had done only last month. He’s pretty pleased with how the poem comes out; his love for his family, for both his grandfather and for Sheppard, is evident in every line.
And a bonus crossover fragment of teamy goodness:
It was supposed to be a simple follow-up on an Ancient building that Lorne's team had discovered – they should have known, that was nothing if not a recipe for disaster. This time around the team was up against a Pegasus replicator, one that had for some ungodly reason taken the pattern for its form from a Wraith; but it was okay, Rodney could deal.
"Lorne's team found this freaking lab, why aren't they dealing with this crap?!" he screamed over the bellow of the huge, gray creature looming over him and flailing its arms, trying to break through the Ancient forcefield he'd thrown around it.
(15 minutes later.)
"It's over, Rodney. Chill, we killed it!"
Rodney was about to protest from where he was slumped that he'd pretty much been the one who killed it, but thanks, but in that moment the pile of grayish sand, all that remained of the Wraithplicator, heaved and shuddered, the sandy slopes falling away to reveal a snake-like creature equipped with stubby flippers and dorsal fins. It twisted, snapping its evil triple-jawed mouth and lunging at the closest human: Rodney, who was propped up against the wall next to the computer bay he'd accessed to disassemble the Wraithplicator into its component bits. Rodney leapt to his feet like a marionette whose strings had been yanked, screaming, "Fuck! Fuck, fuck, FUCK!", and it was then that Ronon's big-booted foot had struck, squishing the Goa'uld flat with one stomp.
"Jeez," John said, "Bad-guy trifecta!” He brightened. “Hey, I bet SG-1 never thought of just stepping on them."
"We are not in competition with SG-1," Teyla said. She bent over Rodney, searching his face with genuine worry in her eyes. "Are you well, Dr. McKay?"
"He doesn't look too good. Better give him a protein bar," Ronon said.
"Here, Rodney; you can have one of the chocolate-chip ones," Sheppard said. He passed the bar under his nose and sniffed appreciatively. "Mmmm, c'mon Rodney; smells like victory. Or, you could have a peanut butter one."
"What does that smell like?" Ronon asked, deadpan.
Sheppard shrugged. "Peanuts."
Rodney's shell-shocked gaze went back and forth between his two tormentors. "I hate you both so very, very much."
That's what he said. As Teyla helped him to his feet, what he was thinking was, "I am so over this shit right now."
(3 hours later.)
He completed the form for his transfer to Eureka, a small, safe, government-backed scientific town located somewhere in the United States, and attached it to an email to Woolsey; then Rodney went and had a shower. Then he had another shower, one where mostly he just sat in the bottom of the tub, his head lowered and eyes closed, deep-breathing the comforting, warm, and humid air.
When he got back to his laptop he found that Woolsey had emailed him a file containing about two hundred reports on the goings-on in that small, safe, government-backed scientific town, reports that made his eyes widen and the hair on the back of his neck prickle.
He emailed, “NEVERMIND” to Woolsey, and took a teleport to the dining hall for a big bowl of boar stew, followed by Sheppard’s stealthily-pilfered chocolate pudding cup.
Better the devil you know.