Prompt: Sheppard, "When I ruled the world"
Summary: There are some advantages to having the ATA gene in the Pegasus Galaxy, particularly when dealing with people whose knowledge of history is a bit confused.
Notes: A more cheerful variant on the same prompt used in "And My Kingdom Bounded by Stones"--the other side of the ATA gene coin, if you will. Or one of the other sides. Originally written for the lostcityfound 2008 Fic Battle for the prompt "When I ruled the world."
"When I ruled the world," said John, gesturing expansively, "we had buildings that touched the sky. Markets that offered the best goods from six galaxies. Transporters that could take you anywhere just by thinking about it." John stole a mid-spiel glance at the high chancellor, who looked somewhat less impressed than John had hoped, though that may have been because he was focusing most of his attention on trying to breathe as he struggled to keep up with John's wide stride. Sweat had soaked through the rich, red robes, which were now nearly matched in colour by the high chancellor's previously pale face. John walked a little faster.
"It was actually several worlds, you know," continued John. "We ruled two galaxies, so we had to run a few planets each. It was a busy time."
"It sounds..." panted the High Chancellor Wali, "magnificent. But Holy One...we must ask...why did you leave?"
"Oh, you know," said John vaguely. "Ascension and all that. If you think it's time consuming ruling several planets, you should try living on the higher planes."
The chancellor, busy picking himself up after stumbling over a root, didn't reply. Ahead of them, flashes of bright blue could be glimpsed through the trees. John increased his speed a little more, urgency set in as he neared his goal. He took a deep breath, reassuring himself that according to Teyla, nothing was going to happen for another three days. The Rofi were strict that way, she said. Everything in its time.
He stopped abruptly as they entered the clearing and looked up. Behind him, the high chancellor narrowly avoided falling over while trying not to crash into him.
"So this is the temple. It's bigger than I remembered," John said musingly. Privately, he thought the building resembled nothing so much as an escapee from a Dr. Seuss book. Or maybe a Dali nightmare. Every shade of blue imaginable--from azure to ultramarine--running together on a building that rose and pointed and drooped at the strangest of angles. He wasn't sure whether this was intentional, or simply reflected the Rofi's complete lack of engineering skills. He was fairly certain the Ancients hadn't built it, whatever the Rofi might believe.
"We have maintained it in its original condition for the day of your return," said the chancellor. He doubled over, hands on his thighs, trying to catch his breath. John nodded dutifully.
A door opened in the building, and a short, white-clad figure emerged and headed toward them.
"Holy One," said the chancellor, straightening up, "this is the High Priest Hosk. Hosk, this is the Holy One who has returned."
The high priest regarded him skeptically. John contemplated asking whether their fondness for the title "high" was compensation for their tendency toward shortness.
"We had not expected the Holy Ones to return for another thousand years," said the priest at last. He looked accusingly at the high chancellor, who waved his hands helplessly.
"He passed the all the tests," said the chancellor. "He drank from the chalice and survived. The ruska did not attack him, but greeted him like an old friend. And the rucite ring lit up when he placed it on his finger."
John held out his hand to emphasize the last point. The red-jeweled ring glowed faintly. With a twisted smile, he willed it into blinding brightness, and then dimmed it again. Both the chancellor and the priest blinked hard, eyes watering.
"Very well," said the high priest, sniffing disdainfully, "you may take the final test to see if you are truly a Holy One Returned."
"Great," said John. "I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my people."
The priest led them inside, past the elaborate--and surprisingly advanced, if McKay's scans were to be believed--defenses. Around them, gray-robed acolytes scurried out of the way, whispering amongst themselves. John ignored them and focused on memorizing the twists and turns of their path, making sure he could find his way out again.
At last they came to a familiar-feeling room that bore no resemblance at all to Dr. Seuss-land. John nodded in satisfaction at the sight of the control chair--McKay's readings had been right.
"Holy One," said the chancellor with a sweeping bow, "your throne."
The priest frowned as John stepped forward, but didn't try to stop him. John sat down carefully, and the room lit up. The chancellor gasped and fell to the ground. The priest cast a look of disgust at the prostrate man, then slowly lowered himself to his knees. John thought he could detect a hint of fear around his eyes, but the priest's voice was steady as he spoke.
"Holy One, how can we serve you?"
"I'm sorry about that, sir," said Lorne as they walked toward the gate. "We didn't know they'd take such offense to someone touching the statue."
"Teyla says these people take their religion very seriously," said John.
"Yes, sir," said Lorne. "We just didn't realize they had so many holy objects."
"They are kind of enthusiastic that way," agreed John, remembering his brief tour of the town. They were enthusiastic in other ways, too. He'd barely been able to convince them that he didn't need the piles of jewels and precious metals they'd tried to weigh him down with. Happily, they hadn't had time to demonstrate their enthusiasm for torture on Lorne's team before John had demanded that all people guilty of desecration be produced on the grounds that he didn't really care whether anyone touched a statue. Or any other sacred object, particularly the ones outside the temple. He wasn't quite sure what effect this revelation would have on the Rofi religion, but he was rather hoping it would be a profound one.
"Colonel?" asked Moreno. "Do they really think you're a god?"
"They're pretty well convinced that anyone with the ATA gene is a god," said John.
"Does that mean future trading relations can be preserved?" asked Parrish. "They had some remarkable vegetables...."
"I don’t know," said John. "It might be better if they don’t get the chance to observe that their gods up close for too long. Clay feet and all that. We’ll see what Carter says."
Parrish nodded reluctantly as Moreno dialed the Gate.
"Sure you won’t miss being a god?" asked Lorne quietly, tossing him a brief grin.
John shook his head. "Nah, too many expectations." He kept his tone light, but a cold ball of nausea roiled in his stomach at the memory of what had been waiting for him outside the temple: a half-dozen men and women in a neat and patient line, each one cradling a sick or injured child, all of them begging him to work a miracle.
Feeling Lorne's eyes on him, he shoved the image into his mental lock box and turned to his XO with a careful smirk.
"I think I’d rather be a king."