[Challenge 1: Beginning] And So
Later, John will think back on his mother’s stories and wonder what exactly she’d been thinking when she told them to him.
“Once,” John’s mother says, languid in the summer sun, “in the days almost before there was sun or moon, the elves looked up at the stars and dreamed. Discontented with their houses of wood and stone and dirt, they set themselves to build a city of nothing but air and solid light, with a few polished bones to give her shape.
“They built her out on the deep ocean, that she might not be bound to the sullen earth, and when they finished, she flew.”
“Did she really?” asks John.
“Yes, really,” says his mother. “And they called her Atlantis.”
[Challenge 2: Key] Perfect Fit
A boy and his city.
He should’ve been more freaked out about being (basically) nothing more than a walking key for the expedition—should’ve been, but at the time he was mostly trying to pretend this didn’t suddenly mean his mom was a alien.
And now, when he’s alone in the city (his city) and no one can hear, he tells Atlantis she’s the loveliest lock ever (because she is) and he’s happy to slot into her any day of the week and other things that sound only more ridiculous when said to a very old city instead of another person.
(He means every word, though.)
[Challenge 3: Armor ] I Am Bulletproof
Get shot at enough, eventually you’re going to get hit.
If asked, Rodney will admit that the Nomex survival-suit makes sense (and the memory cloth is a brilliant excuse for having a cape). It makes sense and looks pretty cool, and Rodney’s maybe just a little bit in love with Lucius Fox (not that he’d ever admit that to anyone, ever, John), and Batman’s all about being smart and thinking twelve steps ahead, but—
But the whole point of Batman, some part of him wants to protest, is that he’s only human, so very fragile, and yet he runs around in spandex anyway and dares the odds to touch him.
[Challenge 4: Leaf ] Leaf and Twig
Eventually, home means something different to her, although she cannot say why.
At one time, perhaps, long and long ago, Atlantis held plants in addition to people and machinery. If so, little of that now remains except in empty containers and (according to Rodney) an extensive (and unreliable) plumbing system.
Teyla cannot deny the city’s beauty, but it rings hollow and empty and dead in comparison to the forests of the mainland and Athos and the dimly-remembered fields of her childhood. She will never, she thinks, be able to call such a place home; home means green things, growing things, people both old and new, and the solid ground beneath her feet.
[Challenge 5: Brother] There Is No “Try”
He’s all that’s left of Sateda. These people don’t seem to understand what that means.
Ronon misses what the Marines have: the camaraderie, the utter trust, the dirty jokes. . . . (A home and a purpose beyond “kill as many Wraith as possible”.) Sometimes watching them is like watching himself and his squad, before the end came, when they’d thought winning was still a possibility.
The difference, the one that matters, between his squad then and the Marines now, is that the Marines know they can beat the Wraith.
“Though it might take a while,” Sergeant Goodman says, wry and beautiful and terrifying in his certainty.
Ronon knows they’ll lose, but he’ll gladly die fighting beside them.
[Challenge 6: Scratch] Scratch
Just how does the ATA gene sequence work, anyway?
He tries to ignore it at first—does ignore it at first: too many disasters, no time to sit down and figure out if the niggle at the back of his brain actually exists, or if he’s simply gone nuts. (Or both; he spends his nights talking to blank walls, half-expecting them to talk back, and reciting antique love poetry to an antique city.)
But then Helia and her crew try to claim Atlantis as theirs, and John—
John smiles like a shark and flexes mental fingers and finally does something about that itch he’s pretended for so long isn’t there.
[Challenge 7: Empty] The Long Goodbye
She was a city, once.
The Alterans leave Atlantis in dribs and drabs, a corridor here and a tower there, until a scant handful remains. After a few months it seems almost normal; if they stay inside, they can pretend everyone else is still there, and they do for a while, until it’s no longer a joke.
(She knows better, though: their few life signatures fill her vastness like a handful of coals in the ashy hollow of a burnt-out bonfire.)
Slowly, system by system, they shut her down, until all that’s left is a sleeping shell buried beneath the ocean, dreaming of the sky.
[Challenge 8: Precious] Paying the Utility Bill
No scheduled blackouts yet, but give it time.
On Earth, power hadn’t been an issue, not really. Even in Antarctica, more generators could always be requisitioned, and the ZPM was there as a (very) last resort.
Now, though, on Atlantis, Rodney finds himself keeping a running tally of how much used, how much available and how much more needed—the gap between those last two growing ever greater. Some days it’s like trying to traverse the Sahara on foot, with a single canteen of water and absolutely no protection from the sun, not a camel in sight.
So he goes off-world with Sheppard and hopes to find an oasis.
[Challenge 9: Time] Waltz
Was and is and might not have been.
The Athosians speak of the past as though it only might have happened; cause, they believe, works in both directions. This is occurring now, and so that must have been, although a moment ago it might not.
Or something like that. Halling tries to explain it to John after one of the early harvests, when everyone is more than a little drunk on exhaustion and relief and the first bitter wine. John nods in all the apparently correct places and doesn’t understand a single sentence.
(But that could be because everyone else is trying to square dance and failing spectacularly.)
[Challenge 10: Accident] The Daily Grind
At least they have a whole city-worth of spare parts.
The day begins with an explosion. A small one, mostly contained, minimal damage to the surrounding area, but enough to require hours spent cannibalizing unused consoles—unusable ones, in some cases, thanks to millennia of neglect and the odd bit of water-damage.
Lunch is a welcome break, although Rodney’s sandwich is soggy and there’s no more fake pudding. Then it’s back to repairs and a growing worry that the ceiling might come down if someone sneezes in the wrong spot.
He sleeps well that night, though. Has to: tomorrow will be more of the same, and there’s no end in sight.
[Challenge 13: Google] Did You Mean: sdfjkl
Your search did not match any documents. Please select different search terms/fields and try again.
Time spent translating carvings on stone arch encountered on PX-3042: 178 minutes
Time spent isolating search terms: 36 minutes
Time spent navigating unnecessarily complicated search screens: 14.5 minutes
Time spent waiting for search to run: 92 minutes
Discovering that there are only two results and one of them is a sentence fragment:
“You’d think the Ancients would’ve figured out a better way to do this. I mean, really: Stargates but no Google—not to mention their complete inability to keep proper records. It’s no wonder they’re all dead!”
Watching Rodney attempt spontaneous combustion from sheer irritation: well worth the hassle.
[Challenge 14: Nepenthe] Tempt Me Not
There are worse things than remembering.
“Why don’t you meditate?” Teer asks one morning, gently incurious.
“I do,” John says (lies), twiddling a grass-stem.
“You sleep,” she corrects, her expression sweet but humorless. (Nobody ever really smiles here.)
“I don’t want to ascend,” he says; don’t want to leave them behind, he doesn’t, but she hears anyway.
“Why not? They’ve left you.” She presses her hand against his heart. “You hurt—I can feel it. Why do you choose to remember such pain and the people who caused it?”
“There’s more than one way to abandon someone,” he tells her (break, heart; I prithee—) and walks away.
[Challenge 16: Timeless] Elizabeth in Amber
What if time stopped: how would you know?
She begins by giving herself half a day awake for every eternity spent dreaming, to explore the city, sift through the uncharted territories of the databases. All she lacks is paper, to leave messages for her future self.
But the city never ages, even as she does, and gradually she longs for some proof that she’s not living in an endlessly-repeating bubble of now.
Eventually she lives in brief snatches, waking just long enough to rotate the ZPMs, letting the centuries slide away unnoticed like smoke through fingers, waiting for the day she’ll close her eyes for the last time.
[Challege 18: Master/Slave] Scratch II
He’s a soldier, not a prince, but she doesn’t care.
He crooks a mental finger at her, and she obeys without hesitation, even as he half-knew she would.
Helia stands there, expression that of someone who’s been smacked in the face with a fish, and John has one fleeting moment of sympathy for her: Atlantis was hers, longer ago than can be reckoned, to bend and use as she saw fit. But John has spent three years wooing his lady, asking for favors when he could have commanded, telling her stories in the dark. Helia buried her: John woke her, and Sleeping Beauty has no intention of being enchanted again.
[Challenge 19: Tousled ] Vroom Vroom
Me, um, I like, uh, Ferris Wheels and, uh, college football, and anything that goes more than two hundred miles per hour.
“I like things that go more than 200 miles an hour,” John says when Teyla first meets him: seeming nonsense, though she ignores that because she likes his smile, which pretends to be false but isn’t. Later he explains (with distracting hand motions and whooshing sounds) what he meant, but she can’t understand the why of it. Puddlejumpers are fast, but mostly tiresome.
Now, though, in a car with no roof, wind blowing her hair into snarls that will take long hours to tease out, she begins to understand. Even though they’re still solidly on the ground, this is flying.
[Challenge 20: Prejudice] An Old Joke
A prejudice is a preconceived belief, opinion or judgment especially toward a group of people characterized by their race, social class, gender, ethnicity…
To be Satedan is to be taller, faster, stronger. Smarter. Braver. Satedans stand toe to toe with Wraith, stare them in the eye and laugh.
(A Satedan and a Wraith walk into a bar. The Satedan walks out. Alone. Wearing a new coat.)
These things are true. Therefore, these other things must also be true: anyone not from Sateda is shorter, slower, weaker. Dumber. More afraid. No one else—not even the Hoffans with their science and sacrifice, or the Genii with their spies and paranoia—can go up against the Wraith and win.
(Neither could the Satedans, as it turns out.)
[Challenge 24: Treachery] Scratched
Atlantis won’t obey. Atlantis won’t obey.
In shocked disbelief, Helia runs the command again to lock access to Alterans only, and again nothing happens.
It’s not possible.
She begins the sequence a third time, but now a message appears: “Insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting a different result.” With that, her shock turns to anger, even fury, because Atlantis can’t not obey—there’s nothing in the programming to allow that to happen—which means the humans must have done something, for all their hasty assurances that they haven’t.
When she looks up, just one of them meets her accusing stare, and his eyes hold only challenge.
[Challenge 25: Comfort Zone] Where No Storms Come
Not all exiles are unwelcomed.
Antarctica’s white. And cold. And absolutely desolate, which seems only fitting: John feels a little like he’s been frozen, locked away behind ice, able only to watch as people died.
Flight is one redeeming thing about the place, even if it isn’t the untamed soaring he’d known in the desert. Here he flies between two points, bounded, hemmed in—alone. But he doesn’t mind that: it means there isn’t anyone left for him to fail.
Sometimes he misses the smell of sand, but there are still winds and empty spaces, and he’s beginning to feel like he isn’t about to break.