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Title: The First Year
By Atri/ Chiara Crawford



CATEGORY: Introspective

ARCHIVES: ff.net, Command Dynamics

SPOILERS: Season One: Childhood’s End

SUMMARY: The mission to Keras’ planet has an unforeseen impact on Aiden Ford.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate: Atlantis.
I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).

/I am twenty-five years old./

Perhaps for the first time ever, the magnitude of what he is doing here finally penetrates his thoughts. He is in another galaxy, millions of light-years from his home, with no way back. He is fighting life-sucking blue aliens and living in the lost city of Atlantis. Despite his age, he is a veteran in the Stargate Program. He still remembers the days when the Goa’uld reigned supreme and surviving against incredible odds was nothing unusual. In many ways, that is still true. But the Milky Way is now safer than it ever was, the System Lords’ power broken. Maybe that is the reason why he went on this crazy expedition. Pegasus is now the new frontier and, in the wilds of this strange galaxy, there is no back-up from Earth, no re-supply, no help.

He picks up the French fry – made from some white alien potato they found on their last foray into Pegasus – and dips it into the hot, green sauce. It tastes surprisingly good and he mentally complements the guys on KP duty.

This is his life now, he knows, and it seems kind of normal. Around him, the mess hall is buzzing with different Earth languages. At the table behind him, a scientist – German from the sound of it – is talking about some new ruins AR-4 found on their last mission. He sounds excited and those around him share his enthusiasm, sometimes interrupting his retelling with new theories or ideas.

This is the reason, he reminds himself, why he is part of the Stargate Program, part of the Atlantis Expedition. He sees things most others will never see in their whole lives; new things, wondrous things.

He can’t explain why this last mission has him so out of balance. He has always known that being part of Earth’s first line of defense against alien threats could cost him his life, that the price for seeing such awe-inspiring wonders, travelling from world to world, meeting allies and enemies alike could mean either death or something much, much worse. He has no illusion of immortality, not like others his age might have, should have. And perhaps…perhaps that is the problem.

Being on Keras’ world, seeing children – children, who should be innocent, who should be playing with dolls, experiencing the love of a parent, having a childhood – going willingly, even eagerly to their deaths in what amounts to a suicide ritual…it makes him shiver.

He is twenty-five years old.

This is one of two thoughts that keep repeating in his mind. The other is:

/On Keras’ planet I would already be dead./

Somehow, this certainty, this inevitable evidence of mortality, the notion that he is in a galaxy where the individual life of a person doesn’t truly matter, hits home hard. He was always taught that, even if he had to sacrifice his life in order to protect others, it would be the last resort. After years of being part of the SGC, the motto of `leave no man behind` has integrated itself so deeply into his being that these senseless deaths make him angry. But beside the anger is also a deep-rooted fear. This is a cruel galaxy, one that takes lives and feeds on the blood of the innocent. He is afraid that he, too, will be forced to change in order to survive in this place, that he will have to sacrifice his morals, his beliefs, like Keras’ people had sacrificed themselves just to survive.

He looks up and sees his two leaders walking in, Sheppard smiling cheerfully at Weir and he has the urge to stand up and scream.

/How can you be so happy?! People are dying! Children are dying! Don’t you care?!/

But he knows it’s irrational and he knows that Sheppard cares. In some ways, his new commander reminds him of Jack O’Neill. He has worked with the later a lot of times. Sheppard, he muses, has the same darkness in him that the SG-1 team leader had. There are rumors that both men had once upon a time been black ops and though the darkness he has glimpsed in Sheppard has been only present in tiny, fleeting flashes, he doesn’t doubt that it’s there and that the man is more dangerous than his relaxed exterior alludes to. He has his suspicions as to what happened with Sumner and none of his theories are happy ones.

/I don’t want to end up like Sheppard./

And he truly doesn’t. He doesn’t want the same black darkness to exist in him, to make decisions, which could cost him parts of his soul.

Taking another sip of water, he looks at the table at the end of the mess hall. She is beautiful. Her red hair glitters in the sun, her blue eyes are sparkling with laughter. He knows that she is part of the biology department, a doctor of cytology, he believes. He stands up and goes over to her.

“Hi…”, he smiles sheepishly, “do you mind if I sit here? I’m Aiden, Aiden Ford.”

Her smile is bright, brilliant in its intensity.

“Of course.” She motions to the seat beside her. “I’m Helena.”

And perhaps, he thinks, he doesn’t have to end up looking down into the abyss, waiting for it to look into him and cover him in darkness.

/I’m twenty-five years old./

This time, the thought doesn’t bring with it the anger or the fear or the despair. This time, it is different. Perhaps he won’t have to sacrifice his principles, sacrifice his soul and his very being for survival. Perhaps it will be enough to just be Aiden Ford and perhaps, only perhaps, survival will not be the single most important thing in this galaxy.

/I’m twenty-five years old. My name is Aiden Ford and I will have a reason to live beyond survival./

Perhaps Pegasus will once more show him beautiful things, wonderful things, things that are not only worth dying for, but also worth living for.

/I’m twenty-five years old and I will be happy./

Perhaps that will be enough.

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