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Aberrant: Stargate Universe - Beauty or Truth [Complete]

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“Hello,” a friendly male voice said and Olivia glanced up from the cartouche she was examining. The man in the doorway was attractive and tall, with sandy blond hair. “Dr. Jackson’s office was closed, but I was told that you might be able to help me.”

“Yes, I’m sure I can,” Olivia said, pushing away from the desk and stretching her back subtly. She’d been bent over that cartouche way too long.

“You should do a back bend to work out that kink,” the man said, stepping forward and setting his bag on the table. “I can brace you if it’d help.”

“Pardon?” Olivia asked, startled.

“I can brace you,” he said, brushing his longish hair back behind his ears. “Let you bend backwards over my arm, if it would help.”

Olivia wondered if he was coming onto her, but his expression was completely guileless. “I’m good, thank you,” she said, fighting back discomfort. “Who are you?”

“Oh, sorry,” he said, still smiling. “Jonas Quinn.” He offered her a hand.

“Oh. Oh! Yes, I’ve heard of you,” Olivia said, taking his hand and shaking it eagerly. He does smile a lot. "I'm Olivia Jenings-Izumi."

“And I’ve heard of you,” Jonas replied. “Daniel mentions you quite a bit.”

“He’s just envious of my brain,” Olivia laughed, brushing off the compliment.

“He was envious of my brain, too,” Jonas told her, his eyes sparkling with good humor. “We should get along well.” He turned to his bag and pulled out a box, setting it on the table. “Speaking of brains, I was going to run this by Daniel, but since you’re here and he’s not, he doesn’t get to play with this.

Olivia leaned forward as he opened the box, curious. “Ooo,” she cooed as he pulled out some metallic rings. They were about as wide around as a coffee mug, and Olivia leaned close. “Hmm. Are they Naquadah?”

“Yes, good catch,” he said, smiling. “They’re a bit paler in color then traditional Naquadah, so we think they might be an alloy.”

“I can’t help you test that,” Olivia said, “though my teammate Dr. Jones probably could.”

“Before they’re tested, I want to have something else done with them,” he said. He twisted a desk lamp around and held one of the rings in the beam of light. Despite there being no screen or filter or anything on the inside of the ring, colors collected inside the ring. On the wall, the light’s beam began to project moving images. Olivia gasped in delight as she realized that it was some kind of movie device, though she had no idea how it worked. “I wanted Daniel to tape the entire content of the rings on some of Earth’s recordable media so that we can study the rings without fear of permanently destroying the images.”

“You’re in luck,” Olivia said, smiling. “I was a journalist student and know my way around a camera. I can help you.”

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“So what are we looking at?” Olivia asked, her arms crossed as she watched the images play over the projection screen. “Besides something beautiful?”

Sheer red cliffs rose in the background as a thriving city lay before it. The buildings were cut of the same stone as the cliffs, given them a natural, organic feel. Small dots that were certainly people moved around the city, indicating that this was a heavily populated area. Even from the distance that shots had been taken at, the varied sponsorship of the arts and culture could be seen.

“These were the first inhabitants of Langara,” Jonas said softly, his voice reverent. “Or so our archaeologists believe.”

“Wow,” Olivia agreed. She tore her eyes away from the “movie” on the projector screen to glance at the setup to make sure they were still filming. The ring was clamped into a brace, holding it completely still while a powerful light was aimed through the ring. Her best camera stood on a tripod, pointed at the moving images. A cord ran from it to her laptop, which was recording images. She and Jonas were in the next room so that they could watch and talk without their voices interfering. After a glance to be sure everything was working, she turned back to the image.

“Is that-?” Jonas leaned forward, peering at the images.

“Yeah,” Olivia said, getting excited. “That was a close-up. They’re humanoid, but not human. Not with those strange features.” Slowly, the details of the aliens were revealed through various shots. The first Langarans had been six fingered with faces that looked half melted. They weren’t attractive, but they had made beautiful things.

“This is astounding,” Jonas said suddenly. “This is changing how we saw our planet. We’d seen the ruins, and we found their bones, but they were very fragile, and we don’t have a complete skeleton. This is… invaluable.”

“It is,” Olivia said, thinking that this would be like finding a video camera with several hours of footage of a Phoenician city on it.

“Thank you for your help.”

“We’re just getting started,” Olivia said. “We have to convert this to a format that your people can play. While this runs, tell me what you guys use for visual media, and we’ll figure out how to get this to your people. This is a treasure that all of you should enjoy."

Jonas smiled. "You have a beautiful outlook on information," he told her.

"It's there to be shared," Olivia told him firmly. "I have to hide enough working here. At least your planet can benefit from the lack of secrecy."


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  • 1 month later...

"Do you like working here?" Jonas asked, his fork maneuvering his food around his plate. They’d gotten food from the cafeteria for lunch, and were eating while keeping an eye on the equipment.

"Yes, most of the time," Olivia said, grinning a little. "It's mostly good, but sometimes it gets really scary."

"I remember," Jonas replied with a nod. His warm expression was full of the shared understanding that only came with shared experience. "Have you met your first goa'uld yet?"

"Not yet," Olivia replied, crunching a bit of carrot. "I'm hoping I don't for a while to come. I was... Oh, wait. I did meet one once, a few years ago. It's classified, though - I can't really talk about it.”

“Sounds like you don’t want to talk about it either,” Jonas said. There was something about him that calmed her and encouraged her to share.

“He almost got me.” Olivia glanced down at her food, then back up. “He had his head in my neck when my aunt cut him in half. I was… scary.”

Jonas’s expression was sympathetic. “That loss of identity can be terrifying,” he said, nodding. “It was always in the back of my mind when I faced any of them.”

Her computer tinged, thankfully cutting off the conversation. Olivia excused herself and hurried over to check it. She smiled despite herself when she saw it was from Vinny, but the message itself faded her smile a bit. Still, there was a bit of a grin on her face as she typed a response.

“And who was that?” Jonas asked, grinning charmingly at her. With his face propped up on his hand, he looked like one of her friends from college.

“Captain Wright,” Olivia admitted, and felt the flush run up her cheeks and the stupid grin.

“Would this be formerly Lieutenant Vinny Wright?” Jonas inquired, his grin widening.

“It would,” Olivia said, trying to be casual and failing miserably.

“Good for him, and you,” Jonas said sincerely. “Vinny’s a good man.”

Olivia cocked her head at him, her smile fading. She wrestled with what she was thinking for a moment, then pressed forward. “You mean that, don’t you?”

“People don’t?” he asked.

“I just have never had anyone say that to me,” Olivia said. “Vinny’s not got a great reputation around here.”

“You like him though,” Jonas said easily. “I assume you see something in him that’s good.”

“Of course I do,” Olivia said, her eyes meeting his sharply. “He’s kind. He’s strong. We have a bit of history too, and… the last time we were together, was the last time I was happy.” After a startled moment, Olivia said, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to go on like that. You didn’t need to know that.”

“You spoke from the heart,” Jonas said. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

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  • 4 months later...

“Some people are bothered when you speak from the heart,” Olivia said suddenly, looking at Jonas.

Though they’d finished eating and hadn’t spoken of it for a while, Jonas picked up the thread of conversation without hesitation. “I know,” he said. “That’s much more common on your world than mine. My people aren’t more open, but they do acknowledge that some things have to be said.”

“We just don’t know each other very well, and we don’t share… like that, much,” Olivia said, watching the light show continue. They were watching something about a sickness, or a plague. Both of them sensed that This Might Be It for the natives of Langara, and they fell silent for a moment.

“Maybe you should,” Jonas said softly.

Olivia was quiet for a moment, then with a hint of a smile, she rejoined, “Maybe we shouldn’t.”

“Why not?” Jonas asked. She glanced at him and saw that he was being sincere, not judgmental. He was curious about why she’d said that.

“It’s too close and personal,” Olivia said after a moment. “My father’s culture is even more private than the one I was raised in. If someone’s too personal, it feels like they’re pushing themselves onto you. And if you reveal too much, you leave yourself open to be hurt by someone.”

“So it’s a protection.” He watched the natives of Langara die before asking, “How could the fact that Vinny makes you happy be a weapon used against you?”

Olivia was silent. He made it sound dumb, but she wanted to cling to what she knew. There was one thing that was on the tip of her tongue, but in a short time, Jonas had earned her trust. “You might take him away.”

Jonas didn’t laugh at her, though he could have. “You’re afraid someone will kill Vinny? The man has as many lives as a mongoose.”

“A mon- Do you mean a cat?” Olivia asked, frowning.

“Oh, yeah. I always get those two mixed up,” Jonas said. “My point is that you shouldn’t worry about losing him. You should worry about living him.”

“I know,” Olivia said, softly. “But I’m waiting for him to leave again…”

“Again?” Jonas asked, his eyes gentle. Olivia swallowed and considered, then began the story that had changed her life. She watched Langara die and the lights go black before she was done. There were tears drying on her cheeks, and she scrubbed at them, embarrassed.

All Jonas said was, “You have a second chance. Most people never get that.” He stared into the dark room where the camera was still taping the blackness of the room. “Vinny is a good person, regardless of his more abrasive tendencies.”

They were quiet as they gathered up the camera and rings. “You really mean that,” Olivia said suddenly. “You really see that in him? Most don’t.”

“Most people believe you can speak beauty or you can speak truth,” Jonas said. “There’s no reason you can’t speak both.”

“How philosophical,” Olivia said, to blunt the uneasy feeling of cognitive dissonance roiling through her.

“I’ve had to think a lot more lately in my new job,” Jonas told her with a grin.

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  • 1 month later...

They'd packed the rings away, with Olivia promising to take them to Gwyn for him for further analysis. Little more was said; Olivia was thinking about what she'd been told today. "You have a second chance." She'd already felt that, but she'd been treating it like a last chance rather than a second. She'd been waiting for it to end, for him to break her heart again. Could she move past what had passed and just delight in what was?

She was quiet as she got her dinner and went to the cafeteria. Her teammates weren't there, so she found a table with other civilians she knew in passing. It was a group of women from the various labs; they were friendly enough, even if Olivia sometimes felt that they were in awe of her. She tried not to let it bother her.

Interestingly, the conversation at the table was similar to the one she'd just finished with Jonas. Dr. Chloe Angstrom was being supported by a bevy of mostly sympathetic women. The 'mostly' was because no one really understood her attachment to Dr. Jay Felger, but they were trying to give her a supportive shoulder.

"He's just... so clueless," Chloe sighed, pushing around her Salisbury steak with a fork. She hadn't eaten any of it; she was too upset over having to watch Jay make moon eyes at Carter again.

"I'm not sure he's worth your time," a co-worder from Astronomy said softly. "I mean, you're smart and cute... find someone else."

"I know," Chloe sighed. "He's just... I know that people don't get him. He's not like people think."

Olivia smiled a little. "I think he's smart, if easily distracted," she offered, much in the same way Jonas had offered something beautiful and truthful to her.

Chloe gave her a grateful smile and nodded. "Yeah," she said softly. "That's it. That's it exactly."

Beauty and truth. Both were possible, if one spent the time to find them.

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