Ten Tiny Tales Redux
(Gods and Monsters)
1. eggs + forcible and violent separation into pieces = omelet
Ganos Lal had been seeding Terra’s gene pool for millennia, designing each of her children to progress the human race in his or her own special, predetermined way. Of course, that meant a goodly number of them found themselves clashing with those in charge, as change can be a painful process... in more ways than one. She’d watched one of her favorites, a young girl with the heart of a lion named Jeanne, die horribly by being burnt at the stake, and had been restrained by her peers from doing anything about it. It was not the first time something similar had happened, it would not be the last.
Moros believed their battle with the Ori would be won by technology; she preferred to work in flesh.
2. A Game of Potentias
The earth-born child’s mind was as yet undeveloped and unfocused, but One saw potential there. The feeble strands of power emanating from him grew stronger as they spun out along the temporal plane, not obvious to the casual viewer, but blatant to any Ascended being who might bother to take a second, closer look. The inherent power the child possessed was the ability to destroy Ascended beings.
Of course, a great deal would have to happen before that capacity was engaged. But the possibility was there. Surely this trait could not be natural – One knew there was a reason for Ganos Lal’s interest in this particular child, though it would be difficult to prove.
One also knew there would be punishment if One were caught terminating the life of a human – that wasn’t permitted. But if suggestions were made, whispered into a tiny ear... well, that, too, would be difficult to prove. The father of the child, with a marked potential for destruction of his own, possessed several weapons. Weapons that were tucked away out of reach, but their procurement was not an impossible task for a small-but-clever child bred to think out-of-the-box, as all Ganos Lal’s toys had been over millennia.
If One moved subtly enough, nobody would ever know what had been done to tip the game in the Ori’s favor.
3. Wraith 101
One of the most effective weapons the Tau’ri had wielded in the war against the Goa’uld had been downgrading their status in the Milky Way galaxy by the simple expedient of telling everyone the truth. In ten short years, Goa’uld stock had dropped like an asteroid in a gravity well; worshipped as gods for thousands of years, they awoke one morning to find themselves demoted to ‘those annoying parasitic con artists that we should kill.’ “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, my ass,” Jack muttered as he ripped that curtain down to show everyone what hid behind it. One of Jack’s greatest regrets was that he never got a chance to call Ba’al “a cross between a tapeworm and a rat” to its (borrowed) face. It was such a great line.
When Elizabeth saw how the people of Pegasus lived in dread of the Wraith, whom they considered godlike supernatural demons, it occurred to her that demystifying the alien menace might be one of the most useful things the Atlantis contingent could do. She decided that anything they learned about the Wraith should be shared with as many in the galaxy’s general population who would listen. That way, even if Atlantis were to fall, the database her people had assembled on the enemy would not die with her, and someone else might one day exploit it.
Atlantis’ dog-and-pony show is quite a hit with the indigenous population of Pegasus. Their constantly-expanding PowerPoint presentation begins with Wraith sociology, physiology, and reproduction; then moves on to specifics of the feeding mechanism and the fact that the Wraith can give back what they’ve taken, and how to detect and treat someone who’d been turned into a Wraithworshipper. The big finish is usually Ronon’s exhibition of the Top Three Most Sure-Fire Ways to Kill A Wraith, which tends to end things on an “up” note.
Rodney always begs him not to do it, but John has this pretty enameled disk that he likes to throw to the ground and think “ON!” at; a life-size, three-dimensional Wraith in full battle armor springs up to the terrified shrieks of the children. Rodney thinks that someday this trick will all end in tears, but so far it hasn’t failed; within ten minutes, the kids are still shrieking, but it’s shrieks of laughter as they run back-and-forth through the image.
4. A little theological determinism would be nice, for once...
The patience of Ganos Lal may not have fallen into legend as a trait of her most famous historical representation, Morgan Le Fay, but it was vast and enduring. Yet here she was, on the verge of “losing it big time” in the vernacular of this current crop of Terran humans. Again and again, she had subtly maneuvered O’Neill into a position where he was given the choice between Ascension and true death, and again and again, he found a third choice. It was infuriating, and she thought herself well past that emotion. She had plans for O’Neill that he stubbornly refused to take part in. If one of her earth-born children wasn’t ready to take on the mortal Hand of the Ori when they finally got around to creating one, there might be no one to stand against it.
Then Sheppard was offered Ascension twice and turned it down, twice. Frustrated, Ganos Lal found herself on the verge of a melt-down that would take out a couple of suns if she indulged in the free reign of her emotions. He might have been her greatest ally in her fight against the creature known as Adria, if only he’d taken that leap of faith.
5. ...but sometimes theological noncognitivism is all you’ve got.
When Vala told them of her immaculate conception situation, she asked if any of them had ever heard anything like it. Teal’c had come up with ‘Darth Vader’; Mitchell had been somewhat more helpful by pointing out that King Arthur had (supposedly) been a virgin birth. Nobody mentioned the huge ecclesiastical elephant in the room.
Carter had once toyed with the idea that Christ might have been a Tokra, but recently she’d been considering that He might have been a gene-carrier, possibly one of the first of a long line of gene-carriers. She’s keeping her mouth shut because there are both generals and politicians who would not look kindly upon that kind of talk and, taking personal offense, would not care that she often had the welfare of the entire planet, if not galaxy, on her shoulders. She might find herself washing test tubes back at Area 51. Even Daniel was sensible enough, for once in his life, to keep from commenting on a thought he must have at least entertained.
She remembered hearing Jack saying to Teal’c, “I can save these people. Help me!” and it hadn’t seemed at all odd when Teal’c answered, “Many have said that. But you are the first I believe could do it.” Teal’c had given up his family and a life of rank and privilege to follow Jack, but really, she didn’t see how anyone could have resisted Jack’s call to arms, not in that particular moment in time. She’d felt the pull of it herself, soul-deep.
If what happened that day wasn’t the very definition of a biblical-level event, she didn’t know what was.
6. Got no flowers for your gun, no hippy chick.
"If you immediately know the candle light is fire, then the meal was cooked a long time ago." Oma Desala was a blithering idiot. She did not see the big picture and had quite literally caused a galaxy of problems because of her irritating good-hearted, well-meant impetuosity.
"Lightning flashes, sparks showers, in one blink of an eye, you have missed seeing." It wasn’t that Ganos Lal had hated Oma in life – mostly she’d simply not noticed her – but these days, she’d wished she’d slapped her when she’d gotten the chance.
"Judge yourself by the intentions of your actions, and by the strength with which you faced the challenges that have stood in your way." Nice words, clever; a flood of nice, clever words, but just words. Obviously she knew the shape of honor, but not the enactment of it.
The only reason Ganos Lal had never given serious thought to taking Oma Desala down was because she knew there was only one way to end the Anubis problem, and she’d be damned if she was going to clean up that mess. Better to let the one who caused it do it, and be damned herself.
7. The Short, Unhappy Life of Ishtaren
The Goa’uld lodged deep within Caldwell seethed with hatred; hatred for the Pegasus galaxy and every being that lived within it.
Ishtaren hated the Wraith, the Ancients, the Asurans, and the filthy, poverty-stricken, Godless humans of the Pegasus galaxy. It hated the Tau’ri of the Atlantis expedition, whose presence in Pegasus was the direct cause of Ishtaren’s much-hated assignment. It hated the constant low buzz that resonated through its bones, a side-effect of the device that protected it from detection. It also hated the orders Ba’al had given it, to keep a “low profile” and behave as if it were the Tau’ri colonel, Caldwell, at all times.
But at the moment, what it hated more than anything it had ever hated before was the team called SGA-1 – four hasshak who infested the flight deck of the Daedalus – his flight deck! – waiting with ill-concealed impatience for Ishtaren, whom they rightfully should have been worshipping as a God, to ferry them to an Ancient battlecruiser full of technology and secrets. An Ancient battlecruiser that Ishtaren had been barred from searching by the small, fragile female Tau’ri who had opposed it so successfully at every turn, making the carrying-out of Ba’al’s will, to search for and attain Ancient knowledge, next to impossible! Bah!
Ishtaren had been warned that the creature known as the Shepherd was hok’tar, born of Ancient stock, but had yet to see any evidence of superiority whatsoever. Quite the opposite, the Tau’ri in question smirked and lounged against a wall, stuffing his face with one of those vile “powerbars” the Tau’ri seemed to find so delectable.
From somewhere in the dark, the host laughed and said that one day soon, Sheppard would strike Ishtaren down. Ishtaren crushed the laughter out of the host and listened to him scream. Unfortunately that was the only action it could take in the short-term.
In the long term, perhaps Ishtaren could get things moving by suggesting to Ba’al that the next best course might be sinking Atlantis to the bottom of the sea in a great many pieces. Then Ishtaren would be called back to the Milky Way galaxy, and civilization.
8. Thirty-six hours
Most of the Abydonians have forgotten that they are Ascended; in fact a lot of them never quite understood the concept of what happened to them in the first place. They live as they did when they were flesh and blood – the sun rises in a cloudless blue sky and there is flour to grind, doorways to sweep, water to draw from the well; the sun sinks and the stars come out, and there are fires to light, stories to tell, lovers to draw near – too much to do to bother thinking about whether or not they are alive or dead, or something in-between. They never notice that none of the elderly ever pass away, that children never grow older, or that new babies are never born. They don’t notice that they are living the same day over and over and over.
Sometimes, when his thoughts turn to memories of his lost sister and his sad-eyed brother-in-law, Skaara has a vague awareness that all is not right, but then his bride calls to him, and he smiles and goes to her, and the memory is gone.
9. Second to the right, and straight on till morning.
Once, when General O’Neill had come to Atlantis for what he termed “a little visit; ya know, just to shake the dust off”, SGA-1 had escorted him through the gate to a planet with herds of large, sharp-beaked creatures swarming its plains, with huge feathered wings supported by a deep, muscular chest, and hooves. They couldn’t remain air-born for long, but they could definitely fly, launching themselves into the air with a joyous violence and coming down surprisingly gracefully for such a bulky animal.
Ronon called them kalladria, Teyla called them biskelldrian, the Ancient database called them hippadraecallen, and the biologists and anthropologists got together and agreed on neo-hippogriffs, patting themselves on the back for coming up with such an awesome name. That didn’t stop John from trying to get everyone to call them pegasuses... or pegasii, he wasn’t picky about the plural, just as long as the singular was “pegasus.” It seemed correct and proper to him that there be pegasuses in the Pegasus galaxy and he didn’t think anyone would be discovering actual equine-like animals with wings any time soon. He was pretty sure these guys were the closest they were gonna get.
John was staring at the herd hungrily, imagining what it would be like to tame one for a ride, when O’Neill’s snide tones startled him out of his reverie, “Sheppard, you can’t fly one of those things!”
Without thinking, he blurted out, “But sir, I can fly anything!” When everyone laughed, he made believe it was a joke, that he’d purposely misunderstood the general. O’Neill stared at him with amusement in his eyes and a quirk on his lips; he wasn’t fooled for a moment.
The thing is, John is a pilot at heart and that’s all he ever wanted to be; it’s power and glory enough for him to push a vehicle through the air faster than the speed of sound. And he wasn’t wrong; he can, demonstrably, fly anything – helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, Wraith darts, the odd alien moon. When he meets someone and the inevitable small-talk “So what do you do for a living?” question is asked, the first thing that pops into his head is, “I’m a pilot.” His rank, his branch of the service comes swiftly on its heels, but “I’m a pilot” is automatic.
It’s only back in his office, surrounded by paperwork, that he remembers his main job title. "In fact, it does say ‘Military Commander of Atlantis’ on my stationery," John had growled at Lorne once, paraphrasing the faux O'Neill character on Wormhole X-Treme! "Of course, that’s a military super-secret and I'd have to kill anybody I sent a letter to, or at least make them sign a nondisclosure form, so my stationery is somewhat useless." Lorne had chuckled knowingly; his job title was a military super-secret, too.
John didn’t think he'd use the stationery even if his job title wasn't a secret; whoever designed it had put a fairytale city-of-spires floating on a pastel sea against a pastel sunset to the right, with a stylized flying horse (also in pastels) opposite. The only difference he could see between his stationery and a twelve-year-old girl's was that the twelve-year-old girl would probably prefer a unicorn to a Pegasus. He’d found the stationery, boxes of it, stacked against the wall in his office when he’d returned from Earth that first time, a newly-minted Lt. Colonel. He still wasn’t sure who sent it or if it had been meant as a joke.
"Made good airplanes that time you taught the Athosian kids about aeronautics," Ronon said. It was true, they'd used up half a box that way, a pastel-colored, folded-paper fleet taking to the sky from the balcony in Atlantis’ version of a town square, her gate room, gliding down to the smiling scientists and marines below.
10. Beyond Infinity, my friend.
Ganos Lal had always assumed she’d survive the apocalypse. What she’d been fighting for all along had been her very life, but survival is looking less and less likely with every catastrophe. Many have given their lives in battle over the millennia, and it looks as if she will soon follow suit, the final soldier to fall in this war. She will drag the abomination, Adria, down with her, just as Oma Desala had done to Anubis before her.
So be it. She will willingly follow her dearest companion Moros into the impenetrable darkness into which even Ascended beings cannot see; perhaps the greatest adventure anyone had ever known or would ever know, Ascended and human alike.
Once the universe is cleansed of its Ori taint, it will hum a new tune, and an infinity of possibility will open up for its sentient inhabitants. Humanity will soon find itself living in a godless universe. Which is as it should be.