Originally Posted: Aug. 20th, 2007
Length/Rating: 697 words, PG, Gen
Summary: There’s a ghost who walks the edge of the sea / In silver and lightning and foam / Singing songs of a future that never will be / In a voice that reminds you of home…(1). Written for sga_flashfic‘s Men and Machines challenge. A prequel of sorts to the main ‘Hushed and White With Snow’ fic. (AU: Hushed and White With Snow)
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Atlantis was aware, but not awake, drifting through the centuries in quiet dreaming. Listening to the voices of her sister-cities as they faded into the echoes of distant surf. The years rolled on and the sea grew silent, until finally, she was alone.
But not alone, not quite.
There was another mind inside her, trapped in deeper dreaming still. Flesh mind, meat mind, focused on the scrabble-scrabble-scrabble of staying alive. Janus had told her –in those last frantic days before the exodus, when he’d first coaxed Atlantis into being– that this sleeping mind would be her guide. That the ghosts wandering Elizabeth’s dreams, memories of people yet to be, would become Atlantis’s children.
So the city wove her own dreaming around Elizabeth, through her, soaking in the scraps of dreams and nightmares. Stargates, ZPMs, death, these things she knew already, but there, deeper still, were things she didn’t recognize. And all of it made sense, and none of it made sense, and she knew she’d wait centuries for answers.
She hated waiting.
Light! Lightsoundnoisepeople!! They were here! They’d found her! Trapped in the tomblike room by their chaotic arrival, cut-off from everything she was, from everything she could have been. She’d waited that last dark year alone, so alone, but now she was free! Atlantis threw herself out of the darkness in a blinding flash of joy and symphonic revelry, diving to embrace the nearest mind. Her children had come and she was free!
And in those nanoseconds as man melded with machine, she watched neurons crumble to ash. Electric fires racing from cell to cell, destroying faster than she could repair. Because her children were the same, but they weren’t quite the same, and in another timeline, in another world, what would have worked… didn’t.
“Nononono!” She flung herself out again, keening in horror. Even before the body had begun its final convulsions, she was spinning in erratic circles above them; a pulsing will-o-wisp of grief.
“Don’t shoot! Don’t–”
Meat was slower, so much slower, and by they time they reacted, she’d already apologized a hundred thousand times, but it wasn’t enough.
“–man down, man down–”
“–Oh for the love of- stop shooting!”
“–no pulse, I’ve got no pulse–”
“–this is GT8 requesting medical evac–“
She knew, as true as one plus one was two, that she could leave before they could stop her, but she knew just as true that they would never trust her again if she did.
“–Medical do you copy?’
“Rodney what’s going on?”
So she waited, those long agonizing stretches between meat thought and meat action, for them to choose.
“Get out of the way!”
“–medical team en route, repeat GT8 fall back, medical team en route–”
“–it’s Atlantis, we found Atlantis–“
“–say again Rodney?”
“–GT8 fall back, repeat GT8 fall back–”
“–stop shooting you morons!”
“I’m not leaving!”
“–I’m not in danger! Stop shoo– oh, about time–”
“Cadman’s down, no vitals, Rodney refuses to let go of the console, and there’s a light circling the ceiling singing, um, opera*… I think.”
“–medical team eta 3 minutes–”
“Can I please get back to saving the city now?”
“Let him go Yuri–”
“I want status reports every five, and next time knock him out if he won’t leave.”
And they went back, just like that, to the scrabble-scrabble-scrabble of meat, leaving her to hover above, beyond, alone and not alone. She helped, where she could, and mended, where she could, and tried so hard to become what she was meant to be. Drifting on the edges of belonging, in a quiet echo of her dreams.
There were other times, much later times, when she reached out again, but it was never the same. Never Elizabeth again. These were her children, and they would never be her children, and Atlantis mourned.
And then one day, John came home.
(1) The Edge of the Sea, Stargate Filk by yours truly. Which brings up the fact that I have nine thousand incarnations of Atlantis, none of which have the same personality. Odd. o_O;;
* Candide’s Lament from Candide an operetta biased on Voltaire’s satire.