Recipient: hoktauri (Pinch hitter #2)
Warnings: no AO3 warnings apply.
Disclaimer: Not my characters, and not my galaxy.
Author's Notes: Set after 'The Ark' but before 'Sunday'. John returns to Proculus again, alone, and then vanishes for several months. Hi there Pinch Hitter #2 - this won't really be anything like Johnny Mnemonic, but it's an SGA take on that trope that's a little like what you requested.
Summary: John takes one last, desperate step to defeat the Wraith.
He takes the deal even though it means losing himself. McKay would have said that was his M.O., anyway, John thinks. It's the last, brief time he still has to think anything, then the upload starts and everything he once was fades to black.
After, there's only the mission. They find him, naked and confused, at the alpha site. He's been missing four months.
They say they were still searching, although the searches had been scaled down. They say they knew they'd find him, but he can see in their eyes that most of them had lost hope. He gathers there's a lot that can kill a man here. He wouldn't know.
They say they know him, but he doesn't recognize them. Three of them stay with him most of the time, and a dark-haired woman who wears red and gray visits him a lot. The doctor has a strange accent—apparently it's Scottish. Apparently that's a country on a planet called Earth.
Apparently he's not on Earth now.
The three who stay with him are very different. The woman's restful; she doesn't ask him questions. Sometimes she sings softly, and he likes that. Sometimes she rests her forehead against his, and he lets her. It seems to calm her.
The guy who talks with his hands isn't restful, but he's entertaining. He thinks they've all been told not to ask him questions, but this guy often forgets, then gets flustered and apologises, changing topics to rant about incompetents and annoyances. He wouldn't have been able to answer any questions, so he's glad the guy doesn't persist. He can't follow most of the rants, but he finds them oddly soothing.
The big guy doesn't talk at all, just sits, or paces beside the bed. Sometimes there's a knife and he thinks maybe he should be afraid, but he doesn't feel afraid. The big guy fingers the knife menacingly, but he doesn't feel threatened. He doesn't think he's the one the big guy wants to kill.
There are blood tests and scans; he lets them do whatever they need—it's the mission. He tries to tell them about the mission, but that's all he knows: there is one, and he needs the key. He asks them for the key, but they don't have it.
The dark-haired woman tells him she took a team back to a place called Proculus. Apparently he'd been there, before he disappeared for four months. He guesses that must be where the mission started. The dark-haired woman talks about someone called Chaya but it means nothing to him.
He can't hold on to what they tell him. Names slip away from him overnight; things they tell him are gone the next day. He vaguely recognises the three who stay with him, the dark-haired woman and the doctor, as he sees them most often. It's all dream-like, intangible. He doesn't think it's because he's empty. He thinks it's because he's full.
They argue about him behind the bed curtains, as though he can't hear them. 'Compromised', 'a risk', 'post-ascension amnesia', he hears. 'Should have started remembering by now', the doctor says. They talk about someone called 'Jackson'. He doesn't know who that is.
After a while they move him to a room with a balcony overlooking an ocean. There's a city out the window—tall silver towers, and piers jutting out into the sea. He still has concepts, can name things like towers, like piers. He can't name the city. They tell him, but it slips away.
The noisy guy wheels in a whiteboard and writes his name, the woman's name and the big guy's name on it with colored pens. They have to remind him which name belongs to each of them, every day. They write the name of the city on it: Atlantis. They have to remind him about that every day, as well.
They write his name on the whiteboard, too—or they assure him it's his name. Every day they remind him which of the words on the whiteboard is him. It looks meaningless, like the rest.
A stranger is brought to see him—they say it's a new doctor who's also from the planet, Earth. They say the stranger specialises in brain injury. The new doctor asks difficult questions that he can't answer. After a while he stops trying and rolls over, burying his face in the pillow.
The noisy guy barges in and shouts at the doctors, which is good; it means they leave him alone. The big guy pushes the doctors out the door and the woman sits with him and holds his hand.
The doctors and the dark-haired woman start talking about sending him back to Earth. He doesn't see how he can go back to somewhere he's never been. He doesn't want to leave the city on the ocean; it's beautiful. He thinks this Earth they talk of can't be as beautiful as the city. He tells them he wants to stay, but they say he's a soldier, that it's out of their hands. He's unhappy about that; it contradicts the mission.
He keeps asking them for the key, but they still say they don't have it. The noisy guy gives him a datapad, secretly, one night when the doctors and the dark-haired woman aren't there. He isn't supposed to have datapads, as they say he's 'compromised'. He's not sure what that means.
The noisy guy says he should use the keyboard, that he must have the key inside him somewhere. It doesn't work—the letters and numbers still look meaningless—but at least the noisy guy believes that there is a key.
They tell him they're waiting for something called the Daedalus to arrive, then they'll send him to Earth. It's arriving in two weeks, they say, but he doesn't know how long that is.
He tries to get out of the room that night, and some soldiers find him wandering the hallways, lost. They guard him after that, make him stay in the room.
The three who stay with him most argue a lot among themselves, quietly but fiercely, when the nurses and the guards can't hear them. They ask for permission to take him around the city, and it's granted, but a squad of guards follows them everywhere, hands on their guns.
The city's even more beautiful, the more of it he sees, but none of it's familiar until a door slides open and he sees a big metal chair. He puts out a hand to it, but the guards pull him away. 'Off limits', they say, 'security risk'. 'Compromised'. He looks back at the closed door as they lead him away.
They tell him the Daedalus has arrived and he'll soon be sent to Earth. He asks them again for the key, but they don't have it. He feels the mission slipping away from him, but he doesn't know what to do.
The three who stay with him wake him up when it's dark, that night. He sees the guard lying on the floor by the wall, and the big guy holsters a strange-looking gun. 'Just stunned', he says. The guards outside the door are on the floor as well, and the big guy and the noisy man drag them inside and prop them all on their sides. He watches all this, unsure what it means. The woman talks to him quietly.
They lead him out and through darkened hallways. They meet another patroling guard and the big guy stuns him as well, leaving him lying on his side, like the others. They don't meet anyone else.
It's the room with the metal chair again, and the noisy guy leads him over to it and plugs in his datapad. He works for a while, then nods to the woman. 'Okay', he says, 'ready'. She helps him get into the chair and lie back.
It's like lightning ripping through him, blue and electric. His back arches as he's caught in the interface, suddenly aware that he's filled up with data. He feels the city's overwhelming storage banks, it's intricate processes and systems, but just out of reach. It's blocked. He's blocked. He can't connect without the key.
He's dimly aware of the three of them staring at him, shocked, then the big guy and the woman take hold of him, try to stop him hurting himself. They're shouting at the noisy guy, and it's bright blue chaos but he hears 'killing him' and 'seizing' and 'got to get him down'. He wants to say 'no, no' to them but he can't speak. Then the noisy guy, whose fingers have been flying over his datapad all the while, shouts 'I'm in!' and it's the key, numbers and letters shimmering in the interface, etched in blue fire.
He gives the city everything and slides into darkness.
He's back with the doctors again when he regains consciousness. He's confused for a moment, so he keeps his eyes shut, listening to the three of them and the dark-haired woman at the foot of his bed, arguing quietly.
"It was using all his storage" the noisy guy's saying. "It blocked his memories, stopped him laying down any new ones." He examines his memory—the past several months are a blank.
"You think Chaya did this?" the dark-haired woman asks.
"I don't know—her, or another Ancient not afraid to interfere. It's everything we need, Elizabeth," the noisy guy says urgently, "specifications on building ZPMs and drones, the address of an Ancient armada in dry dock, and weapons caches. Carson says the genetic data looks like a far superior retrovirus to change the Wraith fundamentally. Not so's they're human, but so they're not predators—they could stop feeding on humans."
"Might not," says the big guy.
"Well, yes, whether they would stop or not is quite another question," the dark-haired woman agrees, "but I guess that's what the weapons and the ships are for."
"What of John?" asks the woman who sang to him. "Now the data is not harming him, will he recover? Will he regain his memories?"
"I don't know," says the noisy guy, sounding worried. "Carson can't tell."
John opens his eyes then, because the mission's over.
"Rodney," he says. "Teyla, Ronon, Elizabeth. I'm a little hazy on the last few months—care to fill me in?"