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Trust, CH II

<<< Return to Trust, CH I

 

The early morning hours found most of the City still slumbering; Teyla had left Torren in Kanaan’s care, making her way down towards the lower portions of the City beyond the watchful eye of the Marine guards.

She was so preoccupied with her task at hand she nearly barreled into Ronon, managing to stop only a few inches from his large form. The Satedan raised an eyebrow, his hair slightly damp from whatever form of exercise he had engaged in during the pre-dawn hours.

“Teyla.”

“Good morning, Ronon,” she remarked, attempting to step around him. He took a side step and blocked her way.

She raised her gaze to his slowly, trying to conceal her frustration at his actions. She had not seen him in a few days, but she did not fully understand his being difficult now.

“Where are you going?”

It took her a moment to think up a viable excuse. “For a walk.”

“Walk.” The eyebrow shot up higher. “Can I join you?”

“I would prefer to be alone, thank you.” She managed to squeeze past him.

“Teyla.”

His voice stopped her in her tracks. She had no right to treat him in this manner. He had done nothing to deserve it.

She turned, sighing. His expression hadn’t changed, though his eyes bore concern. “You alright? I haven’t seen you since…”

“I am fine, Ronon. You do not need to worry. I promise, I am well.” She continued forward, leaving him standing alone in the hall.

 

--/--

 

The Marines stationed outside the door to Todd’s cell were a difficult challenge; it took most of her assurances that Colonel Sheppard had given her clearance—and some sweet convincing not to radio him to check—to allow her inside.

The Wraith was seated on the floor, his appearance almost purely white and thin, the result of his lack of a food source. Teyla had not been privy to the methods used to sustain him back on Earth, but it appeared he had not received nourishment in some time.

When she entered he rose, wrapping his arms behind his back. “I see you have been contemplating my proposal.”

“How do you know such a ruse will work? What assurance have you that once we board this Hive they will accept me as their Queen?”

“They will challenge your authority at first; however, you are a proven leader of another Hive and as such may take command of another. It will take some convincing of those in charge but certainly no more than was required before.”

“And what will your role be?”

“I will accept command of the Hive in your name. Once I take charge, I can begin to assemble those who once owed me loyalty.”

“How can you be certain they will accept your leadership? It has been a long time since you were last in alliance with them.”

“Not as long as it might seem to a human,” Todd replied. “The nature of Wraith alliances is…complicated.”

Teyla crossed her arms. “And so you will just go in search of them. You believe Colonel Sheppard will let you do this?”

Todd’s eyes grew dark. “That will be for Sheppard to decide. But if he wishes for this plan to work, it must be part of the agreement.”

“And what will you do after, providing you are successful?”

Todd looked at her curiously. “After?”

“The Wraith are no longer engaged in a civil war. You are no longer an asset to Atlantis. If you are freed, you will simply be our enemy, no more.”

“Sheppard may wish to see it that way. But I am not convinced that the Wraith are as powerful as they appear. And I understand Doctor Keller intends to continue her research into the Hoffan drug as well as the retrovirus.”

Teyla drew in a breath. She had to wonder how he was privy to so much information. Save for the fact that he had periodically been working with Rodney on some of Atlantis’s new data encryption. Which would quite honestly explain a great deal.

“You would risk experimenting with her research again? You lost a great many of your Hive due to that experiment. Why would you take such a risk?”

“I still believe in the benefit such a measure can afford. And I am not unaware that steps may be taken to use the drug whether I object to the use of such a weapon or not. I would prefer to be on the side of those who control such a device.” He walked closer to the bars of the cage. “There remains much to be gained by an alliance between us.”

“Much to be gained by you, perhaps.”

“Perhaps. That is a question to be answered only by the securing of my freedom.” He drew closer to the bars. “Yet you have much more to lose than I, do you not? If I am freed, even if my freedom leads to a betrayal, it is a small price to pay for the release of those of your tribe who yet live. It is their lives that you must weigh against mine, Teyla. Not the beliefs of the people of Atlantis.”

She paused, her eyes meeting his, the familiar coldness of the Wraith Gift eating away at her chest. He did not smile, though there was a sense of possession, of control, to his air.

“I make you no promises,” she said, moving closer to the bars. “I will do what I can, for my people’s sake. But if I sense you as a threat, if I believe you are not to be trusted, then I promise you that you will be the first to understand exactly what your life is worth to me. And if I discover they are dead? So, too, will you be. No matter what the people of Atlantis desire. Is that clear?”

The corners of his mouth upturned into a smile, but his eyes bore no humor. “Then I believe we have an understanding.”

She narrowed her gaze, meeting his for a moment. “We have an understanding.”

 

--/--

 

John gazed across the wide span of ocean that surrounded him, enjoying the slightly cool breeze that drifted up from below. The sea smelled salty, with a touch of something new that tickled his senses.

So far, M2K-701 was nice.

The door slid open behind him and he tossed a glance back, returning his gaze to the ocean, though he couldn’t help the grin that grew as Mayel Serrana made her way onto the balcony. There was something about her presence that made him feel comfortable, though he couldn’t quite put his finger on why.

“Good morning, Colonel Sheppard,” she said, looking across the vista. “It appears to be a lovely day.”

“So far.” He straightened, pulling one hand to his hip. “What brings you out here so early?”

“I am always up before the dawn. To do otherwise is to waste the hours of the day. We’ve learned over the course of time that we do not have hours to waste.” She didn’t look at him as she said that, instead peered over the railing that edged the balcony. “I cannot get used to this height.”

“You’re not scared, are you?”

She looked at him sideways. “I would not enjoy the fall.”

“Far as I know, no one has ever fallen off the balcony. Well,” he qualified, a sudden stab of regret in his chest, “at least not in reality.”

Her face scrunched into a confused expression. He shook his head. “Long and complicated story.”

“Very well. I’m growing used to your cryptic nature.” She wrapped her arms around herself.

“Cryptic? I’m not cryptic. I’m an open book.” Her answering stare made him frown. “What?”

“What is the news of the Hive Ship? Does it still impede our ability to return?”

“It was hanging around this morning, though it’s a little further off, now. Rodney thinks it’ll be beyond short range distance within a day.”

She sighed.

“Don’t like it here, huh?”

“Oh? No! I…Your people are very hospitable. But Ladon will be wondering what has become of us. I haven’t been able to report in.” She turned to him, the breeze flipping her hair around her shoulders. “He has lost so many soldiers in recent months. So many remain missing. I don’t wish him to worry when he doesn’t have cause.”

“I’m sure he knows you’re fine,” John said, his tone a bit biting. The thought of Ladon Radim still set him a little on edge.

To his surprise, her expression softened. “You know what I owe Ladon. All I wish is to reassure him. You’d wish the same for any soldier that served in your command, I believe.”

He met her gaze, uncertain of what to say.

“Colonel Sheppard?”  One of the Marines was calling through his radio.

John sighed as Mayel studied him, and tapped his earbud. “Go ahead.”

“Sir, we have an…issue.”

“Issue.”

“Yes sir—with Todd.”

John immediately stiffened. “What happened?”

“Nothing is wrong with the Wraith, sir. It’s just that…he had an unusual visitor this morning. We believed you would want to know about it.”

“A visitor? Who?”

 

--/--

 

Richard folded his hands across the top of his desk, gaze jumping from Teyla, who was sitting primly in one of his overstuffed chairs, to Sheppard, who was leaning against the doorway, looking grim.

Sheppard’s eyes flipped from Teyla to Richard, the look in them indicating it would probably be better if Richard were to start up the conversation. He elected not to do that immediately; instead, he punched a button on his laptop and flipped the computer around, towards the Athosian.

Security footage of her, this morning, standing precariously close to Todd’s cage, obviously engaged in conversation with him. She watched for a moment then turned her head away.

“Would you care to explain this, Teyla?” Richard asked.

Teyla breathed deeply, and though her head tilted toward Sheppard, she knew better than to glance in his direction. After a moment, her gaze fixed on Richard. “Yes. I spoke with Todd this morning.”

“And why, exactly, did you speak with Todd this morning?”

“He contacted me last night.”

“How…” Richard looked up at Sheppard, who’d taken a step inside the doorway, his eyes on fire.

“You used the Wraith link?”

Teyla’s stare was flat and emotionless as she turned to look at him. “There was no danger to the City.”

“How the hell could you have possibly known that? That thing connects whole groups—whole HIVES—one of which we happen to have floating over our heads at the moment. And that’s not even mentioning you’re doing it with a Wraith who’s had no problem betraying us before!”

“If he was of such a great risk then why has he not been destroyed?”

John’s fist clenched reflexively.

“I believe you know the answer to that,” said Richard. She turned back towards him, the stony demeanor fading a little.

“I would not put the City in danger,” she said, leaning in towards the desk.

“Then why did you go and speak with him, Teyla? Why take the risk? What could you possibly hope to learn from him?”

“He…” She cast her gaze down, her lips trembling a little. After a moment she raised her head, her tone strong though her eyes were touched with tears. “He provided me an opportunity to find out whether my people were alive.”

Richard glanced over at Sheppard, whose expression had shifted from angry to concerned.

“Teyla, your people…”

“I know what the implication is.” Shecut him off sharply. “Believe me, John, I am well aware of what everyone believes. But Todd believes…he feels there is a distinct possibility that they have been spared because of the experiments performed on them by Michael.”

“And, of course, Todd knows best,” snarked Sheppard.

Teyla disregarded him. “If what he says is true, then there is a potential that the Athosians who were captured were not killed. If this is the case, I must try and discover where the Wraith might have hidden them.”

“Teyla, I understand your need to hold out hope,” Richard replied softly. “But you know as well as I do that Todd has deceived us before. It isn’t a coincidence that he’s created this ‘theory’ with a Hive ship floating nearby. It may be his last chance for escape.”

“He has not been deceptive about this. He has made no pretense that he would not like to be released from Atlantis.”

“And this didn’t bother you at all?” remarked Sheppard, eyes still narrowed.

“I am aware of the problems he has caused for Atlantis in the past,” she said, still focused on Richard. “But I also know that he has aided us where it has been to his advantage to do so. In that regard he has not betrayed us.”

“The operative words in that sentence being ‘his advantage’,” Sheppard said. “He’s also been willing to sacrifice us when it has been to ‘his advantage.’”

Teyla took another breath, her eyes narrowing slightly. She contemplated for a moment, then turned to face John. “Was it not Todd who helped perpetuate the Wraith Civil War as an instigator?”

“Not that simple.”

“But there is no question that it was through his intervention and continued efforts that the rift between the Wraith Hives was deepened.”

Sheppard shifted on his feet, the frown on his face growing. He had no answer for her, which Teyla knew he would not. She turned back to Richard.

“I fail to see how keeping him here is necessarily to our greatest advantage. If released, it is possible he may begin what was started when last we were in this galaxy.”

“It’s also possible that he might reveal our location and rain the Wraith apocalypse down on our heads!” shouted Sheppard. “Think, Teyla!”

At her darkened expression, he calmed, breathing slowly before speaking again. “I know you’re worried about your people. And I know you hope they’re alive—I hope they’re alive, we all do—but you have to understand how much danger this could place everyone else in. If we want to have any kind of a chance at defeating the Wraith, we can’t gamble away our advantage without being completely certain of our position.”

“When will that be? When half of this galaxy has died at the hands of the Wraith?” She turned back to Richard. “Todd has offered up an opportunity that will allow us both to ascertain the whereabouts of my people, should they still be alive, and gives us an opportunity to strike at the heart of the Wraith. Without revealing the location of Atlantis,” she added on, her glance sideways towards Sheppard.

John shook his head, but Richard flicked his fingers towards him, and focused his attention on Teyla. “What, exactly, has he proposed?”

“The Hive ship that hovers nearby is not a true Hive. Not in the sense of the Wraith as I have known them.”

“Why?”

“Because it has no Queen,” Teyla replied.

“How is that possible?” asked Richard. “I thought all Hives had Queens.”

“Todd mentioned something to that effect before,” John said slowly. “About there being some kind of Queen shortage.”

“Apparently this is true,” said Teyla. “Todd believes this Hive may be able to be taken by a Queen if she appears on board.”

“A Queen like yours?” said Sheppard, expression clouded. Richard frowned, suddenly grasping what Teyla had subtly been implying all along.

He raised a hand to his glasses, adjusting them. “I thought we agreed we weren’t going to go down that road again.”

“It is not my preferred method of choice, but if it means discovering the whereabouts of my people…” She looked towards Richard. “I would not take such a risk if I did not fully believe in the potential for success. But by my becoming Queen and challenging the authority of this Hive, it would be possible not only to discover the location of the Athosians, should they be alive, but also whatever data may be available on this Hive—locations to other Wraith Hives, information on their alliance, and their potential plans for the future.” She glanced over at John. “Todd is aware that you would not approve of this plan. But I believe that he is correct in asserting that the risk is well worth the reward. What we could learn from this opportunity may be invaluable for the future.”

“How would we know the Hive would even entertain a challenge from you?” Richard asked. “As far as we know they may have discovered our first attempt was a ruse. We don’t know the status of those who were allied with him. The others may have discovered over the course of it all that his ‘Queen’ didn’t exist.”

“He wouldn’t risk his own neck with such a proposal if he thought that,” said John. “There is something to be gained by him here—we just need to make sure we understand what that is.”

“You’re actually entertaining this idea?”

Sheppard looked long and hard at Teyla, before glancing over at Richard. “If Teyla’s willing to go through all of that again, then she believes it. And Todd’s not a fool, even if he is a Wraith. He knows what we’ll do if he steps out of line. If they’re both willing to risk this…” He crossed his arms. “We should at least check it out—see if it’s feasible. If so, like Teyla says, the reward might be worth the risk.”

Teyla’s face lit up with a smile. Richard sighed. “Alright. We’ll see if what he’s proposing isn’t completely crazy.”

 

--/--

 

“Are you completely crazy?” said Rodney. “The idea is ridiculous—complete and total suicide!”

John sat back in his chair, rolling his eyes. McKay, at least, had responded predictably.

Teyla simply tilted her head at him, drawing in a breath. “We have been successful once with such a venture. It is possible we may succeed again.”

“Once, when the Wraith didn’t know we were coming and may I remind you that we weren’t all ‘successful’ during that little trial? I believe some of us ended up in the wrong end of a Wraith cell.”

“And some of us were on the right end of the Wraith superstructure,” said John, nodding towards Teyla. “The plan worked, Rodney, even if there were a few blips along the way.”

“A few blips?” McKay threw him a flat look. “Blips.”

“What I don’t understand is how a Hive is able to function without a Queen,” Carson said, bringing a much needed change of subject. “I thought all Hives needed them?”

“It is possible.”

The group glanced towards Mayel Serrana, who’d been invited to participate in the discussion of the plan—at John’s invitation—on behalf of the Pegasus Coalition. She was now staring thoughtfully at Teyla and didn’t seem to be at all fazed by the idea of the Athosian transforming into a Wraith Queen. “We have heard tell of a shortage of Queens. As I mentioned earlier to Colonel Sheppard, many of these new Hives have been raised for the purpose of storage and scouting and are under control of nearby Hives, but do not retain a Queen for themselves. As a result, those Hives do not have nearly the number of darts or escort ships as a true Hive.”

“And Todd is proof, too, or at least his little Hive was, that functioning Queens aren’t necessarily needed,” John added, “by the fact that Teyla is his Queen.”

“Still—patrol Hives? Isn’t that a bit of an oxymoron? Why would they waste the power supply for a Hive ship to patrol when they could do the same with Wraith Cruisers?” asked McKay.

“Because Wraith Cruisers do not have the storage capabilities of a Hive nor the defensive capabilities,” replied Mayel, her expression grave. “And the Wraith have been culling in much greater numbers than before. It is an easy way to accomplish two goals with one means.”

The room grew quiet.

“So why the shortage of Queens now?” asked Keller. “It didn’t appear to be a problem for them from the start. And considering the number of Queens we’ve run into…”

“You mean killed?” John asked pointedly.

“Therein perhaps lies the problem?” asked Carson. “Not only us, but I believe that was part of the reason the civil war was so lethal for them. And from all the evidence we have, the birth of a Queen is not the same as the birth of other Wraith. They are almost…”

“Human,” John finished.

Serrana snapped her head towards him. “How do you know this?”

“We’ve seen one,” he replied.

“We met a juvenile Queen on a planet about four years ago,” said Carson, his expression shadowed. “We learned a great deal about Wraith genetics from that experience.”

John frowned. “A little too much if you ask me.”

“Didn’t help the one we ran into was hopped up on genetic enhancers,” Rodney replied. “Even her scratch…”

“Ah!” John held up a finger. “What did we agree on as far as talking about any of that?”

“Wish I’d gotten to see her,” said Keller. “I bet she was something else. The first-hand observation alone would have been worth the risk.”

“Yes, she was, and no, it wasn’t,” Rodney replied. “Believe me, she is not someone you’d ever want to meet.”

Jennifer threw him a flat look.

Carson ignored them, continuing. “We know they eat normal food—like humans—until they reach their adolescence, which can take almost as long as a normal human girl. One new Queen may not be capable of reproducing for a Hive for twelve or thirteen years. That’s if they started controlling Hives right when they hit adolescence, and not later.”

Richard nodded. “Which would explain the shortage. If it takes a particular kind of reproductive cycle to produce a Queen, then even if they’d attempted to start creating new Queens when Atlantis first arrived, they have another five or six years to go before they’d have enough to create a Queen for every ship.”

“So they’re building new Hives but drawing from the same pool of leaders. Doesn’t sound very smart,” John said. “Sounds like something that could start a war all over again.”

“Unless the understanding between the existing Wraith Hives recognizes how these new ships are governed. If you think about it, they’d be a perfect way for the Wraith to scout systems which might have been exposed to the Hoffan plague, for example,” said Carson.

“Whatever the purpose of these Hives,” Teyla said, a little impatiently, “the fact is that the one that remains close to the City is capable of being seized. I believe this is our best opportunity to discover the true strength of the Wraith in this galaxy and to discover much needed information about them, and this is what I believe we need to focus on discussing.”

John glanced over at her, but she refused to meet his eye.

“And this whole idea was proposed by Todd?” Ronon was also looking at Teyla, something like a pouty expression on his face. John had never really known Ronon to pout, but by his body language it appeared that not all was well between their Pegasus natives. “Sounds risky to me.”

Teyla deigned to turn to him. “No more so than any other mission upon which we would have to encounter the Wraith.”

“I would not think that landing aboard a Wraith Hive and pretending to be a Wraith Queen would be comparable to simply confronting them in combat,” Mayel said, a little incredulously. At Teyla’s narrowed eyes she leaned forward, arms crossed. “You seem to be thinking more with your heart than with your head, Teyla Emmagan. You will do your lost people no favors by rushing such a risky plan.”

Teyla’s eyes widened, her voice tight. “You have no right to presume anything about me or my actions. I…”

“I have every right to do both,” Mayel interrupted. “You forget that you are not the only person to have lost many members of their people to the Wraith. And while yours are of significance to you, they do not necessarily bear such importance for the whole of this ‘galaxy’ and the considerations that must be made as far as Atlantis’s resources are concerned. You and your people can no longer be the sole concern of this organization. Many lives were sacrificed to call the City of the Ancestors home. If no one else of this group will speak to the needs of everyone in this galaxy, then I must do so. And the life or death of the Athosian people cannot necessarily be a first priority in the war with the Wraith.”

Rodney, Woolsey and Ronon stared, shell-shocked, at the Genii, and John was pretty damn sure his expression matched theirs. Teyla was silent, eyes wide in anger and dismay.

“That’s not entirely true,” said Carson quietly. Everyone turned to look at him, and he splayed his hands towards Serrana. “If I understood Teyla’s explanation correctly, then Todd believes the Athosians are alive because of the experiments performed on them by a man—a hybrid Wraith, actually—named Michael. Those experiments blended human DNA with Wraith DNA to create a new kind of species. But Michael alsoexperimented with the Hoffan drug that began the plague in the systems here. It is entirely possible that Michael was working with those he experimented on to create a hybrid that was immune to the drug. If what Todd surmises is true—if the Athosians do indeed have an immunity to the Hoffan drug because of this genetic alteration—then their lives are invaluable to us.”

Mayel sat back, her lips pursed. Seemed she had still not gotten over her objection to the use of the Hoffan drug.

“The Wraith became disoriented and frightened at the first outbreak of the virus,” Carson continued, either not acknowledging Mayel’s reticence or ignoring it. “Now they believe they can control it. But it remains, to this day, the single most powerful weapon we have against them, but one that must be wielded carefully, because it is a double-edged sword. If we can find a way to find immunity to the plague, then we can develop strains that would prevent the death of humans in this galaxy and still cause problems for the Wraith.”

“Not to mention there’s the possibility of studying more about the retrovirus that we were developing last year,” Keller added.

“And you cannot do this with the Athosians that remain?” asked the Genii, a little skeptically.

“Perhaps,” Carson said, with a kindly glance at Teyla. “But the more subjects we have, the better. And if the Wraith are indeed studying them, they may have made invaluable discoveries as well. Truthfully, this is exactly the kind of risk that needs to be taken to ensure the highest survival rate for all people of this galaxy. If we can find what we need in Teyla’s people, we may be able to save many, many more.”

Woolsey lifted a pencil, clearing his throat. “Well, we’ve heard both sides of this argument. What we need now, I believe, is a game plan. The last time we tried this it worked, but only through some quick thinking on Teyla’s part—and some unexpected manipulation on Todd’s. We can’t run the risk like we did the last time, especially with the Wraith looking for us. We need to find out Todd’s agenda—and how we can use that to our advantage.”

“Then I think,” John said, “that it’s time I had a nice long talk with our resident guest.”

 

--/--

 

John set his chin as the doors to Todd’s containment area slid open, trying to block from his mind the image of Teyla entering just hours before. He never thought, after the nice, peaceful morning he’d had, that he’d be trying to figure out a way to pull a coup d’état on a Wraith Hive.

Then again, he never thought he’d have a Wraith for an ally either.

The Wraith was apparently waiting for him; he was standing patiently in the middle of his cell. It hadn’t escaped John’s notice that Todd looked a bit more peaky than normal—more peaky, that is, than a Wraith could look. Of course, maintaining a Wraith—even on Earth with their ‘expendables’—was not an easy task. A long ago conversation about the Wraith and Geneva Conventions came to mind, but he shoved it away.

“You have spoken with Teyla Emmagan,” Todd said cordially, before the door had even fully shut.

“Not before you did, apparently,” John shot back. “Who the hell gave you permission to contact my team members—physically, psychically or whatever?”

“She has been troubled and unstable for a while. Had I not reached out to her, it might have been possible for the others to sense her here.”

John narrowed his eyes, but said nothing. The problem with Todd was, he could be completely telling the truth or completely lying and John would have absolutely no idea which was which.

He decided to avoid the issue. “What do you want with this little game you’re playing?”

“This is no game, though what I want should be obvious, Sheppard. My freedom.”

“To do what, exactly? Because as far as I can tell, the only way you can gain any kind of place back into the Wraith hierarchy is if you offer them something which might stop them from killing you on sight. Which, call me stupid, but I would guess would be the location of the one enemy they still have left who can deal them a few blows, as they just recently found out.”

Todd moved closer to the cell. “Not all is as you believe it to be. This alliance among the Wraith is not as stable as it appears.”

“And you know that because, what, your spidey sense tells you? You haven’t had contact with a Wraith of any kind for almost a year.“

“Because I have been a Wraith for much longer than you could possibly imagine. And as has been in the past, the world will not remain as it is. It is the way of life.”

John studied him. “And we’re supposed to just believe that. ‘Trust me, I’m an ancient Wraith, I know what I’m doing’.”

“If you wish to discover the information that Hive ship can provide—and discover the whereabouts of Teyla Emmagan’s people—then, yes.”

“Sorry, not good enough.” He turned on his heel, towards the door.

“You can place a tracker.”

He stopped a few feet shy of the door. “Tried that already. Didn’t work. Or did you forget?”

“Then what do you wish? Any measure. Within reason.”

John paused, turning slowly. Todd remained impassive in his cage, unmoved from where he’d been. “What about another test of the retrovirus?”

The expression on the Wraith’s face changed. “It was unsuccessful in its first attempt.”

“Keller can modify the formula.”

“That experiment cost me the lives of my crew and my ship.”

“That’s why we have to try it again.”

Todd’s face grew dark. “If I believed you were working towards an agreeable end, I would consider it. But I do not believe I can trust you any longer.”

“You are not in a position to demand trust. You’ll have to take your chances with what we have to offer—if you want your freedom.”

“Then you will sacrifice the lives of the Athosians. You will not get a second opportunity of this nature, Sheppard.”

“I might be okay with that.” John walked forward, drawing his hands to his hips and smiled coldly. “Though, there might be an alternative.”

“What alternative?”

“Let’s just say it’s based on ‘trust’.”

 

--/--

 

“You want me to make a viral bomb?” Keller looked over at John incredulously as she shuffled slides around her table, lifting some of the viewing equipment to put back in the nearby cases. “Seriously?”

“Well, not a ‘bomb-bomb’, but something we could trigger at a moment’s notice. Just in case our friend Todd decides to play dirty.”

Keller paused. “You want us to turn the retrovirus into a bioweapon.”

John narrowed his eyes in consternation. “I wouldn’t go that far.”

“Besides, we tried that already,” Carson remarked, from his position on another lab stool. “And failed at it..”

“Exactly,” Jennifer shut the cabinet, crossing her arms. “Whatever you want me to make, there’s no guarantee it’ll work. Or did you forget the crazy, flesh-eating monsters that attacked us?”

“Look, I’m not looking for anything fancy. Just something that’ll keep Todd on his toes in case he steps outta line.”

“The last time he recovered from the virus by healing himself with an Iratus bug Queen. Even if he does get infected, how do you plan to stop him from doing that again? It’d be pointless.”

“You’re the xeno-bio-whizzes here. Figure it out.”

Jennifer narrowed her eyes. “Oh, right, because genetic mutation and DNA reconstruction are just like baking cookies. Whip up a few things together, set on 350 and in twelve minutes you’re done.”

“Well, perhaps we can work with something we’ve already developed,” Carson murmured.

Keller was studying Carson in surprise. “Uh, you’re actually going along with this idea? What about the whole ‘do no harm’ concept we sort of promised to uphold?”

John frowned. “You really think the Wraith falls into that?”

Jennifer’s expression turned steely. “Anything living falls into that.”

Sheppard shifted uncomfortably. “Look, I don’t want to kill him, I just want to give him, well, call it an ‘incentive’ to not kill us.”

“What if this version of the virus didn’t exactly attack the Wraith?”

Jennifer and John both turned, the former wrinkling her nose in confusion. “How would the virus not attack the Wraith?”

“Well, there’s the experiments we did on the version that attacked the ship.”

“The ship?” John looked skeptical.

“We know their ships are organic and connected with them through stasis. The one Todd was on basically died because it became infected by the Wraith connected to it. Todd survived the encounter. The ship didn’t.”

John glanced over at Jennifer, who was studying Carson with an intrigued and slightly guilty expression.

“While we were on Earth, Doctor Keller and I sort of toyed around with versions of the virus that could be used to directly damage Hive Ships. We thought it might be effective in case we ever ran into another super Hive like the one that tried to attack Earth.”

As John raised an eyebrow at her, Jennifer shrugged sheepishly. “It wasn’t technically working on the Wraith retrovirus,” she murmured. “And they’re not exactly ‘alive’ per se.”

He lifted his chin, but said nothing more. “How would it work?”

Jennifer was still looking at Carson. “Todd would be more like a carrier than a victim. He may suffer some direct effects once infected, but they would be small. Once it jumped to the ships, though…”

“In simple terms, mutation,” Carson said. “Once it crosses to another hostit adapts to their organic structure and in this case, becomes more lethal as it goes. Any ship he tried to connect with would be at risk.”

“He’d be dangerous to any and every Hive out there,” Keller said. “Like a plague carrier. Anywhere he goes, he’ll be a threat to the Wraith he comes in contact with.“

“Can you do it?” John asked. “Quickly?”

“The version we were working on was well into secondary testing stages. All the data we saved from Jennifer’s experience helped,” Carson said. “Plenty of valuable information to work with.”

“Thanks,” she said, resuming her packing away of materials from her lab table. “Stuff I love remembering.”

“It’s completely relevant,” John said with a smirk. “Think of how much good you’ll be doing for the ‘cause’.”

“Well, the Colonel’s own experience with how he almost became a Wraith has been very relevant as well,” Carson added. “After all, the basis for the retrovirus came from the strain he was infected with.”

“For the cause,” Jennifer added, smiling at John’s disgruntled expression.

“How long?” John asked.

“Remember the cookies, Colonel?” Jennifer said with a disbelieving expression. She looked towards Carson. “Couple of weeks?”

Weeks?!”

“Maybe sooner, depending on how our tests go.”

“Just get it to work, Doc…Docs,” John said, turning towards the door.

 

--/--

 

Teyla pushed at the salad upon her tray, scanning the cafeteria once more for any sign of the familiar figure of Ronon. She had been in the dining area for over half an hour, at the time he usually attended, but she had not seen him. She had not seen him, in fact, since the conference in which she revealed her true motives for earlier sidestepping him.

He was displeased with her, a feeling that was unsettling. She had not realized how much she depended upon Ronon for strength and support, particularly in these times, when his experiences could help her face the trials she now endured with her own people. But more, she missed his easy, uncomplicated personality, the simple understanding of life in this galaxy and how very much it differed from the way of life on Atlantis.

A third scan of the cafeteria brought sight of a Pegasus native, but not the one she wished to see. Mayel Serrana stood at the doorway, searching the tables until she found Teyla seated alone and proceeded to make her way across the room.

Considering what Mayel had said during the conference, Teyla did not feel at the moment disposed to speak with her, but she could not very well ignore her. The Genii reached her, gesturing with a hand at the empty chair across from her. “May I sit down?”

“Please,” Teyla replied, though she could not restrain the unwelcoming tone that entered her voice.

Mayel did not overlook this either. She clasped her hands upon the table. “You are angry with me—I’m sorry if I offended you earlier.”

Teyla had not been expecting the conversation to begin in this way. “I…”

“Please understand. I speak on behalf of my people, but also for those who are in the Pegasus Coalition. As a representative of them, I cannot overlook the fact that one race of people—even those threatened with extinction—can hold more importance over another if the one resource we all need, Atlantis, will be threatened.”

Teyla shifted. “I do not wish to threaten Atlantis, even to save my people. Kanaan and I would not ask that of them.”

“No, but they will do so anyway because they are loyal to you, Teyla, and will help the Athosians in any way possible. My role, then, is to make sure they at least understand the risks that they may be taking if they go to such great lengths, as they have done before.

“If I could save my people with their aid, I would do so—don’t think I don’t understand your need. But know that, though I respect you, I cannot support everything you propose, especially if it is of a great risk and may threaten the future of all of us. You may not like me for it or you may resent me for it, and this I accept. But please, understand why I must speak out. I do not wish my actions to interfere with the role you or the Athosians will play in the future of the Coalition.”

Teyla studied her. She was well trained as a Genii; if there was any misdirection or deception in her statements, it was not perceptible on the surface. “Thank you for your candor. I do understand, though I do not fully agree. But it will not affect how either Kanaan or I regard the Coalition.”

A soft smile flitted across Mayel’s face, and she rose. “I am glad. I respect you, Teyla, and I wish you to be a part of this.”

As she turned to leave, Teyla tilted her head. “Colonel Sheppard understands your position as well, better than I. He may agree with it, actually.”

Mayel turned back, her face empty of emotion. “Why should what John Sheppard believes matter? He does not represent Atlantis in the Coalition.”

“What Colonel Sheppard believes matters very much, as his voice is one of great importance in this city,” Teyla said. “Having his support and understanding makes a great many things much…easier.”

The Genii blinked at her. “I…thank you. For your insight. Goodbye, Teyla.”

“Goodbye, Mayel.” The woman strode back through the mess, her hair bouncing upon her shoulders. Despite her feelings at the moment—and the failure of Ronon to yet appear—Teyla found herself smiling.

 

--/--

 

Rodney appreciated nighttime on Atlantis; it brought him, generally, the one thing he craved more than anything else—peace and quiet.

Though he respected, for the most part, his science team members, their constant chatter and failure to dedicate themselves completely to what they were working on bothered him. Though he could admit, quite readily, it was not as annoying as it had been in his younger days—he had his own social interactions now, after all—but dedication to the science was still his top priority and only a select few, like Zelenka, truly understood how that balance worked out.

Night meant the retiring of most of the team members, an end to the gabbing and snipping and flirtations. It meant time to think and work, even if it meant lack of sleep. An unfair balance, but an almost necessary one, despite how Rodney disliked it.

He hadn’t expected anyone else to be in the labs at this hour, but Zelenka was working a few tables down, studying a piece of Genii weaponry brought to Atlantis by the Genii liaison-girl. Not exactly relevant, given their somewhat backwards technologies, but worth studying, he supposed.

“This is quite fascinating,” Radek said, almost on cue. “You can see how it relates to the weapons used during the Great Wars. The design is nearly fifty years old by our standards. Almost archaic.”

“Yeah, I saw some of that when we were trying to help them with their bombs. Archaic and dangerous.”

“It is almost like reliving history.”

“If you consider Hiroshima or Nagasaki the history you want to re-live.”

“Hopefully, with our help they can skip those stages.”

“Yeah, well…given the Genii I wouldn’t hold out hope.” Rodney turned as the door to the lab slid open and Jennifer walked in, clad in scrubs, her hair messily piled atop her head and circles under her eyes. She looked beautiful.

“Hey.”

A tired smile flashed across her face. “Hey. Got a sec?”

“Sure.” He glanced over at Zelenka, who had returned to his work and, annoyingly, had not taken any sort of hint to leave. “What’s up?”

“I need your help.”

“For what? Computer fixing, light bulb changing, late night mess hall raid? I’m your guy.”

“I need you to build me a bomb delivery system.”

A loud crash across the room startled Rodney off his stool. Both he and Jennifer turned to Radek, who was blinking at them in surprise.

Come to think of it, that was a surprise.

“Did you…did you just say a bomb delivery system?”

She held up her hands, obviously tired enough to believe direct was the appropriate route. “Not an exploding bomb. I mean, not one meant to…it’s a viral bomb, Rodney. Something that can disperse a virus into a Wraith if triggered in various ways.”

“I guess so? I think we did that before, once?” he glanced at Radek, who nodded. “We probably have those schematics on file.”

“But not like that one. I don’t want to infect the Wraith on the ship, I want to infect an actual Wraith.”

“Uh, what?”

“We know the ships are at least partially alive since we know how they’re…created.” Her expression changed for a moment and Rodney frowned. “We know they’re capable of being infected through a contaminated Wraith. But we need a system that will allow us to determine when the virus can be released inside the Wraith host.”

“Is that all?” Rodney said with a little bit of disbelief in his voice.

“Basically,” Jennifer said, resting her arms and chin on his shoulder. “You can do it. I believe in you.”

“Thanks.”

“Come on. Compared to rerouting power to an entire city and encrypting security measures, this should be a piece of cake.” She planted a soft kiss on his cheek, then headed towards the door.

“That’s all? I haven’t seen you in, like, two days.”

“Later,” she said sweetly. “Carson and I need to double check the strain against a few more Hive tissue samples. And the Colonel wanted this ASAP, before that ship moved out of range.”

“Of course. Sheppard.”

“G’bye, Rodney. Radek.” She tossed a smile towards Zelenka before exiting. The Czech flipped a hand at her in response, adjusting his glasses.

“So much for power redistribution,” Rodney sighed, shoving his naquadah Mark III generator aside. “Where to begin?”

“Ancient database?” suggested Radek, setting down his own experiment.

“Ancient database.” Rodney flipped open his laptop, pulled up the database application, and set to work.

 

--/--

 

Jennifer Keller held up a small phial in her hand. “Signed, sealed, delivered.”

Richard studied the tiny canister. “That’s the virus meant to infect the Hive?”

“Well, technically, it’s meant to infect Todd.” Jennifer settled back against the desks, eyeing Richard, then Sheppard and Teyla. “But generally, yes.”

“And who better than Todd,” said John. “He’s already kind of a walking plague.”

Keller’s tired smile was only partially amused. “Rodney designed the canister to self-destruct if any attempt is made to remove it surgically.”

“What about if he chooses to betray us?” asked Woolsey.

“Then we can transmit a signal that will activate a remote trigger.”

“Anywhere in the galaxy?” Sheppard looked skeptical.

“Well, obviously there are limits.” McKay frowned at him. “But if we can track him, we can track the canister. I’d suggest letting him know that if he goes out of range.”

“Which he will, first chance he gets.”

“Then, we’ll, you know…”

“Not take any chances,” Sheppard finished.

“You sure this is foolproof?” asked Richard. “This is going to work?”

McKay shot him an annoyed look. “Has anything around here ever been foolproof?”

“It’s the best we can do,” Jennifer replied, much more civilly.

The group drew silent.

“And Todd will agree to this?” Teyla asked finally.

Sheppard looked at her sideways. “He’ll have to. Or there’ll be no going. Can’t say it’s going to be easy. He was not happy about what happened to his Hive last time.”

“Allow me to speak with him.” The group turned towards Teyla as she rose. “I will convince him.”

“You think you can handle that?”

She smiled, though it wasn’t completely friendly. “I am his Queen, after all, am I not?”

 

--/--

 

Todd rose as Teyla walked into the containment area, obviously expecting a visit of this nature. He stared for a moment in surprise as she entered the room.

“I had not expected…”

“I told them I would speak with you.” Her eyes flickered towards the cameras. “It would seem they do not trust you to agree to our proposal. I told them I believed otherwise.”

“Sheppard did not mention the exact details,” he said, drawing closer to the bars.

“We agree to your plan to board the Hive,” she said, pulling out the small phial from her pocket. “If you agree to have this surgically implanted.”

He eyed the canister. “This is the retrovirus? I told Sheppard I would not agree to this measure.”

“It is not meant to infect you,” she said. “It is meant to infect your ship.”

“Ship?”

“Through your bond with the Hive. If you attempt to betray us, this device will be remotely triggered and the virus will enter your bloodstream. The strain is not developed to affect you, but it will affect your ship as it did the last time. Your Hive will die.”

Todd eyed the glass container, seemingly surprised. “A disease that infects only the Hive itself?”

“As far as we can tell.” Teyla drew closer to the containment unit, until she could meet his gaze. “If you attempt to remove or deactivate it in any way, you will be contaminated. A plague to any ship you attempt to board.”

“The connection between the Wraith and the Hive is of a sensitive and delicate nature. They have no proof this shall work.”

“You have seen enough of their abilities to understand their capabilities,” Teyla said. “Doctor Keller engineered this. I believe it would be better not to take the risk.”

Todd stepped back from her. “Such a measure could be detrimental to any attempt I make to undermine the Wraith. If I am unable to communicate with others, I will be unable to assist Atlantis.”

“I believe we both know what your intentions are with regards to Atlantis,” Teyla said coldly. “But that does not concern me. All I care about are my people. Whether you choose to sacrifice yourself, or if you should betray our trust, it is of no consequence to me.”

“Very bold, Teyla Emmagan.”

“You know the penalty for betrayal of a Queen,” she said, her eyes narrowed.

“You are not a Queen!” Todd said, his face, for the first time she’d ever noticed, seemingly filled with emotion. “You are not Wraith. This is a game. A contrivance.”

The statement brought a sense of pleasure to Teyla in a way she could not fully explain.

“Contrivance or not, in the eyes of the Wraith, I am your Queen. And, whether I am Wraith or not, the consequences will be the same. If you betray me, and my people suffer the consequences, the penalty will be death. Through this.” She held up the phial once more, “Or whatever measure is necessary.”

Todd had settled a bit, though his demeanor was changed in a subtle way. “You have been trained well,” he said finally.

“I had a good teacher,” she returned.

She turned to leave, but he spoke up after her. “Tell Sheppard I will agree to your conditions.”

“A wise decision.”

“It seems the only one I have,” he murmured.

 

>>> To be continued in Trust, CH III

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