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Trust, CH III

<<< Back to Trust, CH II

 

“The access points are here and here,” John said, motioning towards two of the portals on the Hive ship schematics he’d gathered. “We can dock in either of these two places.”

“Dock with what, exactly?” asked Richard, suddenly realizing a problem with Sheppard’s plan.

Of course, Sheppard never seemed to have a problem with any of his plans. Leave it to him to be two steps ahead of everyone else. “Taken care of. Our friend here,” he said, motioning towards Todd, who was seated in the conference room, hands bound, “has an old Cruiser we can borrow for transport.”

“A working one?” said McKay skeptically.

“Providing it has been untouched, it will be in pristine condition,” said the Wraith.

“It’s been located and swept already,” said Sheppard impatiently. “We enter here. After that, it’s one of two options.”

He motioned towards Todd, who looked at him for a moment before speaking. “We will either be confronted and attacked, or we will be allowed to pass to the control area.”

“Which determines which?” asked Rodney.

“Quite a lot will depend on the measures taken since their alliance began. If they believe we will be challenging the authority of the other Hives, we will most certainly be attacked.”

Rodney made a face. “We’re boarding a scouting Hive without any prior notice and in the lead of a Wraith who’s been missing for over a year. What do you think they’re going to think?”

“Which is why I believe we should be prepared with a defensive force,” said Todd.

“How exactly are we going to do that and still convince them that this isn’t a ruse? I mean, we can’t exactly show up with armed Marines and convince them we’re true Wraith.”

“We’re not true Wraith,” said Carson.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” replied Rodney, not missing a beat. “But how are we going to prove otherwise?”

“He has a suggestion for that, too,” said Sheppard.

Todd seemed to grin a little. “We have seen that Doctor Keller’s operation to mimic a Wraith is quite effective. I would suggest using a similar operation on a few of your warriors, to create the appearance of a Wraith escort. Only a few would be required, if the remainder of your army can remain in the shadows.”

“You want us to turn our people into Wraith?” asked Richard, looking at Sheppard in disbelief.

The Colonel returned his gaze with a flat look.

“I thought Teyla could only do that because she had some Wraith DNA…how would someone without it be able to undergo the operation?”

“Certain traits would only be mimicked, not functioning,” said Todd. “But the Wraith would not be able to detect the alterations immediately.”

“It will be easier with those who have Wraith DNA within them,” said Keller. Richard turned towards her; it was obvious she’d already been involved in discussions with Todd about this plan. He was curious as to how everyone but the Head of the expedition seemed to know about a plan that had to be approved by the Head of the expedition.

Keller continued, unaffected by Richard’s querying gaze, “Such as the Athosians, or Colonel Sheppard.”

Immediately the look on Sheppard’s face went from impassive to surprised. “I wasn’t almost a Wraith.”

“For our purposes, you were, Colonel,” said Keller with something like a smile. “Your DNA had been altered to adapt some of the physiology of the Iratus creatures, we have the data on how it occurred…”

“And I thought we we’d all agreed there’s no need to discuss that any further,” he replied. “Besides, I need to be in human…mode…to oversee the main points of the operation.”

Jennifer raised an eyebrow, but Richard cut off whatever her reply would be.

“He’s right. Do we have any other candidates besides the Colonel?”

“We have discussed asking some of the remaining Athosians, those with the gift,” said Jennifer, glancing at Teyla, whose expression grew forlorn. “We don’t know if they’ll agree, but if they do, they would be the easiest to alter.”

“How about someone who’s been fed on by the Wraith?” said Ronon. Teyla glanced over at him in surprise, but he did not look at her.

“I don’t know,” said Keller. “It’s true the enzyme enters the system, but it generally breaks down after a certain period of time.”

“The enzyme for feeding,” said Carson, “but perhaps someone restored by the Wraith gift—that might provide an opportunity. The reverse-feeding does restore physical health, though it has addictive elements. We could go back over our records when Ronon suffered the effects of it.”

“Are you volunteering?” asked Sheppard, looking at Ronon.

Ronon shrugged, though his eyes darted towards Teyla, who smiled gratefully. He didn’t return the smile, just shifted his gaze back towards the scientists. Teyla’s smile faded and Richard glanced between them, confused.

“Do they have to be physically altered?” asked Radek. All eyes on the room turned towards him in surprise. “Well, I was just thinking—we have mimic devices still stored at the SGC. If all we are needing is the appearance of an army of drones…”

Sheppard glanced over at Todd, who eyed Radek with interest. “Holograms?”

“Very advanced holograms,” Rodney said slowly. “They can mimic appearance and voice—rather convincingly, actually.”

“It would not convince the Wraith if they were fed on.”

“If we’re being fed on I’d say the last thing we’d have to worry about is whether the Wraith see through our disguises,” Sheppard returned. “Is there anything…ESPish that we need to take into consideration?”

Todd thought for a moment. “If the warriors equipped with these devices possessed the same abilities as Teyla Emmagan, I would think their psychic link would be sufficient to fool a Hive—especially one without a Queen. Though it may be prudent to introduce a few of the enhancements given her during her transformation as Queen.”

“I can synthesize the enzyme used to heighten their abilities,” Keller said. “It would give them more Wraith-like characteristics. Speed and strength.”

“And mental psychosis,” Rodney muttered. As Jennifer looked at him he shrugged his shoulders. “What? I was hooked on that stuff for days, I remember what it felt like!”

“We still need people with the gift to make this as convincing as possible. Jinto and his followers need to cooperate—do you think they can be convinced of that?” Sheppard asked Teyla.

“I do not know,” she said, her face darkening. “But I shall try.”

“Perhaps,” said Richard, putting a sympathetic tone into his voice, “it would be better if Kanaan were to ask them?”

“You do have to prepare,” Carson added at Teyla’s troubled expression, after a few moments of tense silence.

“I will ask him,” she replied finally.

“I’ll go with him if he agrees,” said John. “In the meanwhile, see what we can do about getting the Cruiser completely functional. You gonna get on those mimic devices?”

“Providing the SGC will send them over,” Rodney replied, as the remainder of the group rose.

“And check the Hive’s location, see if we can dial out yet.” Sheppard laid a hand on Teyla’s shoulder as he passed her. “This is gonna work.” She smiled at him before turning her gaze towards Ronon, who passed by without acknowledgement.

“What’s eating him?” Sheppard asked.

“I am not sure,” Teyla replied unconvincingly. The colonel frowned, but asked nothing further, throwing one last hardened stare in Todd’s direction before he left.

The Wraith watched Sheppard exit. As everyone else rose to leave, Richard neared him.

“You understand our conditions for this mission. There will be no leniency shown should you defy us.”

“As Colonel Sheppard and Teyla have made more than abundantly clear,” Todd replied, with a glance at Teyla’s retreating form. “I understand the cost of betrayal, though I can assure you, I have no need of such measures, so long as my freedom is guaranteed.”

“It is guaranteed—as long as our people’s survival is.”

Todd rose, his Marine guard moving to close in around him. “I will provide the way, Mr. Woolsey. How they survive will depend upon their actions.”

“I’d like to keep it that way,” Richard replied.

Todd smiled slightly and moved forward, the escort hustling to keep up.

Richard felt a sort of sinking in his chest. Playing games with Todd worked to no one’s advantage but the Wraith’s, and yet, he was completely certain that both Teyla and Colonel Sheppard would keep their promises, should he turn on them.

He did not know which thought chilled him more.

 

--/--

 

Ronon walked towards his quarters swiftly, alert for the sound of footsteps. He knew Teyla was disturbed at this point with his behavior towards her, but at the moment, he didn’t feel like explaining himself, to her or anyone else.

He had not truthfully wished to speak with Teyla, not since learning of her discussion with Todd and how she’d sidestepped him the morning it had occurred. He had known her a long time, had trusted her before he trusted anyone else on this expedition, and had never known her to be untruthful with him. It was something he relied upon, when everything else about his position here seemed uncertain. She was his ally and his friend.

Then again, over the course of his life many of his friends had betrayed him and it had been a painful lesson learned each time. He had never thought to doubt Teyla, but he had never thought to doubt his fellow Satedans either. Ronon did not pretend to be better than any other person, but he at least knew the faces he showed were true to who he was. The idea of putting on false feelings or playacting against the truth angered him. He had thought that most humans believed this as well, but he had found his values, at times, were unique.

He had thought Teyla his ally in that. She had never acted differently than what she was. He had never believed he’d be confronted with a time in which he could not trust her. Until now.

Perhaps he had not yet learned how best to judge the human heart.

He turned the corner and nearly ran headlong into Amelia, who appeared to have been coming from his room.

“Hello,” she said stoutly. “I was just looking for you.”

“You found me.”

Her eyebrow arched. “So I see.”

He couldn’t help but cock his head towards the empty hall behind him. No footsteps so far. “What’s up?”

“That’s what I was going to ask you. Rumor has it there’s a new mission being prepped. You going?”

“Why?”

Her eyebrow arched higher and she crossed her arms. “Oh, I don’t know. I want to make sure I can find a new sparring partner just in case you don’t come back. I like to be prepared.”

He stared at her confusedly for a moment, before he realized she was joking. “Ah.”

“Because I care, you big lummox. I want to know if you need anything.”

There was a bit of brutal honesty to Amelia. He liked that, even if he wasn't sure what a lummox was. “Nothing. Thanks, though.”

She smiled, her form loosening up a little.

“Ronon?”

His attention had been so distracted he hadn’t heard the footsteps come up behind him. Teyla was there and she paused as she rounded the corner and caught him talking with Amelia, to whom he moved closer on her approach. “Forgive my interruption. I wished to speak with you, but it is…unimportant at the moment.”

He said nothing as she drew away. He turned to Amelia again, who was looking up at him now that he was standing next to her. It sent something of a thrill through him, until he caught the expression on her face, which was a mix of curiosity tinged with irritation. “What happened?”

“Nothing,” he replied automatically. She didn’t look convinced. “You wanna get something to eat? I can tell you about the mission.”

She sighed a little, probably out of frustration. But if he didn’t feel like confronting Teyla, he certainly didn’t feel like burdening anyone else with his troubles either. “All right. Come on, let’s go.”

 

--/--

 

John shifted his P-90 a bit, readjusting to the feel of the weapon. He’d already done this routinely a couple of times, but it still felt unusual after so many months of being stagnant on Earth.

Kanaan entered the gateroom from one of the lower passageways, a handmade sack slung across his shoulder, and offered John a small smile. He reminded John a lot of ways of a young Marine, taking on immeasurable responsibility for the first time—all the parts and pieces were there but the machine hadn’t quite come together yet.

Plus, when you had a significant other like Teyla, there was a little less jumping-straight-into-the-fire to worry about.

The gate before them burst into life, and John turned expectantly towards the staircase, where the Pegasus Coalition was descending the steps, Woolsey in tow. With clearance given by Rodney to safely dial out again, of course they would be the first to leave. Caris and Shiana had made no pretense about being more than happy to get the hell out of the City, but Santho and Mayel had seemed to enjoy their few extra days here, taking time to learn more of the history of Atlantis and the research and information that had been gathered by the people here.

Mayel caught sight of him as they reached the Gateroom floor, a smile spreading across her face.

Woolsey asked her something, which required Santho to tap her shoulder to regain her attention. She colored slightly, and John couldn’t help but smile, though he quickly covered it up as Kanaan approached him.

“You ready?” he asked, trying to keep his attention away from the Coalition group.

“I believe so, though I do not look forward to this.”

“I don’t blame you, given the reception you’ve had.”

“Yes, though I understand Jinto’s anger. He has been kinder to me as of late, trying to make accommodations for Torren, but his ire for Teyla remains. I just do not know how to ask more of him and the rest of our people than they have already suffered.”

“If they want to find the remainder of the Athosians, I think they’ll at least be willing to listen.”

“I do not think they shall be so quick to believe, as Teyla did, that the Athosians have been kept alive. Especially as it is solely her assertion. They blame us for so much of what has happened.”

The Coalition members were moving towards the gate now. John’s eyes followed the party, who apparently had decided to leave through the same gateway. Mayel hung behind for a moment, raising a hand in silent goodbye, before stepping into the wormhole.

He raised a hand in response, lowering it only when he caught Kanaan looking at him in poorly concealed interest.

“I know what you mean,” he said. Kanaan continued to stare at him with a smile as the wormhole dissolved. He returned it insincerely. The chevrons lit up around the ring and for once in his life John felt they were moving a little too slowly.

As the final one locked, he smiled again, glad to see the wormhole whoosh into life.

“Ready?”

Kanaan nodded, smile growing a little.

“Right. Well, then, let’s go recruit some Athosians.”

Only at the mention of his people did the smile drop from Kanaan’s face, and he drew in a breath, his face focused, and marched towards the gate.

 

--/--

 

Rodney leaned over the newly arrived shipment of mimic devices and studied the small discs with trepidation. “Crazy to think these little things have caused so many problems. I’m surprised the SGC let them go, considering what a security breach they were in the past.”

“In my experience the little things generally cause the most problems,” Zelenka returned, shoving his glasses up his nose. He already had his hands on one and was attempting to adjust the settings. “Perhaps that was why they were willing to let them go.”

“True. Hand them over to the people in Pegasus and let them deal with the trouble they cause.” Rodney ignored the box and turned towards the giant scanning mechanism the SGC had sent over. “We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”

“You do not think the devices will work?”

“Oh, I think the devices will work. Problem is, we can’t sneak a hologram of General O’Neill on board a Wraith Hive. And as we don’t have a group of drones and Wraiths at our disposal to scan, we’re going to have to find a way to modify them to create new holograms.”

Zelenka looked up at him and placed the device on his chest. The image of Daniel Jackson appeared across his body. “Is it working?” echoed Daniel’s voice.

Rodney made a face. “Too well. Shut it off. I’ve already had enough of personalities-I-don’t-really-care-to-look-at for one day, thanks.”

Pseudo-Daniel shrugged and Zelenka returned a few moments later. “Well, at least that’s something.”

“It is indeed something,” Rodney sighed.

 

--/--

 

“Why should we trust you?”

Jinto looked between John and Kanaan, his expression neither angry nor petulant—just inquiring, and somewhat disbelieving.

He was so different, this stony-faced teenager, than the boy John had known during his first years on Atlantis. It was almost heartbreaking.

“We’re not asking you to feel obligated to go through this, Jinto. All we’re asking is that you consider, for a moment, what the end result could be if you help us.”

“Do you see how many of us are left, Colonel Sheppard? Already I break our rules by agreeing to speak with you—with anyone from Atlantis. I grant you this meeting because you helped me and my father once, and I am grateful for that. But I will know all I must consider before I expose my people to more death and destruction. What remains of them.”

“We know you’d be risking a lot to even consider this. But I think in the end it would be worth it.”

“Based on what? Conversations Teyla has had with a Wraith even you do not completely trust?” Jinto laughed bitterly. “I know Teyla wishes to believe she has the best interest of us at heart. But even you must question whether this is truly reliable information. Would she risk more lives to meet her own ends? While I do not wish to think her so selfish, I believe that desperation may overcome her better judgment.”

“Hers, perhaps, but not mine,” said Kanaan quietly. He’d been silent for most of this; content to allow John to do the talking.

Jinto stared at him in consternation for a second. When he spoke, his voice was sympathizing. “You love Teyla. Of course you would believe her. I cannot be so quick to…”

“Do not mistake my feelings for my better judgment, Jinto,” replied Kanaan firmly. “It is not just my relationship with Teyla that brings me here. I wish to see my people kept safe. But I also understand the risks that have been taken—risks that we have all agreed to in the past. If there is a possibility that more of our people are still alive, then I believe, for the sake of all Athosians, that the greatest efforts must be made for their recovery.”

“Not to mention the sake of the galaxy,” John added.

The young Athosian’s forehead wrinkled in confusion. “What does the ‘galaxy’ have to do with the recovery of our people?”

“It’s the reason we think they’re still being kept alive,” replied John.

“Our gift—the one granted us by our ancestors and manipulated by the one called Michael—that gift has yet to be understood by the Wraith. They are fearful of the power it gives our people.”

John shifted his P-90 across his lap. “They think it may contain some kind of ability to withstand the disease that’s running through the systems. They don’t want to kill you guys if it means finding out what makes you immune. In Wraith-talk, it’s a way of protecting their food source. Apparently, they haven’t figured it out yet, which is why our source believes the Athosians may still be alive.”

“And for this reason they would capture us and yet not kill us?”

“For guys who rely on only one thing for survival, I’d say making sure that one thing is kept protected is number one on their priority list. They’re not going to harm a hair on your heads if you’re the answer to the Hoffan plague.”

Jinto studied him shrewdly. “Do you have a guarantee that they remain safe? That the Wraith have not yet discovered the source of this immunity? Not all of us have the gift.”

John cast a glance sideways at Kanaan. “No. We don’t have any intel as far as what is going on now.”

“But,” Kanaan interjected, stopping Jinto’s next question, “if they had discovered the immunity, I do not believe they would be as inactive as they remain. In terms of their efforts, they continue to avoid the areas of the galaxy where this ‘plague’ runs rampant, and they are unprotected from it. Once they have a way of protecting the people, I believe they would descend upon these areas and use what they have learned to secure them.”

“He’s right,” John said quickly. “They’re still acting like they’re afraid of the infected populations.”

The young Athosian sighed, stoking the fire between them with a piece of kindling. “I will need to speak with my fellows on this matter. I understand your needs for this mission, Colonel Sheppard, but so few of my people remain.” He tossed the stick into the fire, his eyes rising to meet John’s. The look in them was intent, focused—and far too old for a face as youthful as his. “We cannot afford to spare people unless it is absolutely certain their lives would be worth the risk. And many of us do not wish to have anything more to do with Atlantis, even if there is hope that more Athosians remain. Most simply do not trust you any longer.”

“That is understandable,” said Kanaan. “But for my part, Jinto, I believe the risk will be worth it. Not because I work with Colonel Sheppard and not because I believe in Teyla’s purpose, but because I believe in the strength of our people to overcome hardship and to survive. We have done so for generations. We did not allow control by the Wraith to halt our way of life before Atlantis came. You were young, then, but you certainly remember the shadows we walked through. It is no different now. The danger is there, as is the threat—but the hope is much greater. Even you, for all you have suffered, must see that.”

“I see a handful of people that represent a once great tribe,” Jinto replied. “I see a struggle to find food and constant fear of the Wraith, who now pursue us for sport rather than for culling. That is what I see, Kanaan.”

John sighed. There wasn’t much to say to the kid; in a way, John understood him much better than he could ever let him know.

“But I also remember that Atlantis has brought our people back when we have thought them lost,” the boy continued. “And for all that we have suffered through our ties with you, one thing I cannot forget is that you have worked hard to keep us safe. For this, I will give your plan consideration. I will speak with my councilmen, and then I will let you know what is decided.”

John nodded, glancing at Kanaan, then rose. “Okay. Well, then, I guess we’re going to be enjoying some tea.”

“We no longer have access to tea,” Jinto said, as he moved towards the tent flap. “You are welcome to remain here by the fire, however.”

As the boy exited, John tilted his head towards Kanaan. “I was never much of a tea drinker anyways.”

The Athosian didn’t respond; just shook his head and returned to his seat by the fire. Despite his attempt at levity, John had to admit he felt about the same.

 

--/--

 

There was a pungent aroma of alcohol and chemicals nearby. Teyla could smell them clearly, though, as she opened her eyes, she discovered they were quite a distance away.

It was a result of the injections given her—the enhanced senses, made more potent by the Wraith enzymes now flowing through her system. She had disliked the sensation when Aiden had forced them upon her and when she had gone through this transformation the first time; now they seemed a necessary evil in order to complete the ruse of being Queen.

“Good afternoon,” Jennifer murmured, her voice sounding far away and fuzzy, though not unclear enough for Teyla to fail to note the sound of apprehension that danced through her words. “How do you feel?”

As she drew into more awareness, Teyla could feel the power of her muscles and a sense of irritation at the sedateness of her current position. There was a need to move, to be about and not at rest.

“I am experiencing the same agitation and awareness as before,” she answered, her voice sounding high pitched to her ears. “My senses are quite heightened.”

“That’s good.” Jennifer lifted her eyelid, shining a penlight into her pupil. With the burst of light a flare of pain rose in the back of Teyla’s head and she flinched. “Reactions are definitely heightened—any unusual sensations?”

“I am afraid that is not an easy question to answer,” Teyla replied sharply. She tapped her fingers on the infirmary bed. “The enzyme changes many things. Answering useless questions will not fully determine the extent of its effectiveness.”

Jennifer’s eyes widened in consternation. “Ooo…kay. Well, seems to be doing its job for the most part. I’ll just go…see how Rodney’s doing with those devices.”

Teyla watched her go, but remained on the infirmary bed for only a few moments more. Her head ached and her body felt light, as though she could fly through the halls of Atlantis. Perhaps Doctor Keller did not wish her to leave until the enzyme had further penetrated her system, but she was unable to sit still.

She turned the corner to exit the infirmary and nearly ran headlong into Ronon.

He studied her for a moment, perhaps attempting to determine her state of mind, then crossed his arms, allowing her to pass.

Her emotions were already overpowering thanks to the enzyme; she knew she needed to be careful with her words. But the expression on his face made her anger more potent; he had not yet given her a chance to explain her actions, and he was treating her as though she were no better than a Wraith worshipper. Considering all she had done to support him—his killing on Belka came to mind—he had no right to treat her in such a manner.

She decided to give him an opportunity to explain himself. “Ronon, I know you are angry with me. I am sorry for avoiding you earlier.”

The expression on his face did not change. His arms remained crossed, and he shrugged slightly. “Okay.”

He moved to step past her, but she blocked his way, as he had done the day she avoided him. “It is not okay if you are still angry. What can I do to make it up to you—to make you understand that I could not speak of what I wished to do?”

He stared back down at her, as though contemplating what to say. But anger did not appear in his face; instead, he was keeping his emotion in check, which she was finding difficulty with.

“You lied to me, Teyla,” he said finally.

She straightened indignantly. “I did not lie. I did not inform you of everything that was going on, but I…”

“You met with a Wraith and made a deal with him. In a way that could have put yourself and the people here in danger. You didn’t think I, or anyone else, would have a problem with that?”

She frowned. “It was necessary.”

“It was dangerous.”

“I had no choice.”

“Yes you did.” His arms finally dropped and there was heat in his voice. “You could have chosen to tell us first. But instead you chose to hide what you were doing. There’s only one reason for doing that.” He shook his head for a moment. “You told me once not to abuse your friendship or manipulate it to meet my own ends. I’ve respected that. And I trusted you to do the same. Now you’re working in ways that almost put the Wraith to shame.”

His words felt like a slap to her face. He tried to push past her, but she grasped his arm, her heightened strength staggering him as she pulled him back towards her. “That is not true!”

He glanced in surprise at the hand on his arm, which had already left a red welt. The anger within her dissipated, and she suddenly felt scared, and frightened. “I am doing what I must. For my people.”

Ronon yanked his arm free. “For your people? Or for yourself?”

She had never imagined Ronon could accuse her of something so horrible. “You have no right to say such a thing.”

“Your people may dislike you, Teyla, and blame you, maybe, but making deals with a Wraith is not going to re-earn their trust.” He turned back to her, meeting her gaze. “And considering you still have a tribe and a home to go back to, no matter what they think of you—I think I can say what I like.”

She watched as he went on into the infirmary, her heart heavy. She trusted Ronon beyond almost anyone on Atlantis, and he was a great strength to her. But she knew, perhaps better than most, that within his heart lay a much more vulnerable person, one that was often misunderstood. Now she had injured him. And there was not much more she believed could be said to repair the damage that had been done.

 

--/--

 

John glanced overhead at the dull, gray sky, his nose taking in the common smells of camp and tribe. Despite the circumstances it was rather pleasant, reminding him a bit of childhood and being outside in the winter.

He and Kanaan had spent the better part of the last few hours trying to entertain themselves as Jinto and his people discussed their situation. John had finally gotten tired of the tent and had opted to take a stroll outside. A very limited stroll, considering he was considered an ‘outsider’ now, and he didn’t favor causing more trouble with the Athosians.

Crunching foliage signaled Jinto’s return. Four Athosians trailed him. “These have volunteered,” he said, wasting no time with pleasantries. Not that anything here had been pleasant to begin with.

“That’s…good. Thanks.”

The four warriors stared at him in expectation. Kanaan exited the tent. “Getan?”

One of the four, about Kanaan’s age, nodded. “Hello, Kanaan. Naran, Ilon and Kew join your cause.”

“They all have the ‘gift?’” John asked.

“Yes.”

“And the rest of you are okay with this?” John directed that specifically to Jinto.

The young man’s expression was placid. “They are not outcast, if that is what you are asking. We accept their decision and we wish them safely home.”

“Got it,” John replied. “Okay, then. Well, thanks for the…hospitality.”

“You do not have to pretend to be pleasant with me, Colonel Sheppard,” Jinto said. “I am not a child anymore.”

John studied him long and hard, then took a step forward, removing his sunglasses. “You never were. You were Jinto, remember?”

The boy stared at him for a moment; if John wasn’t mistaken, that shell of forced aging and hardship he’d wrapped around himself cracked a little. Some of the youthful expression he’d known in that little boy so long ago rose to the surface, his eyes becoming wondering and soft.

Getan started down the hill, and the moment passed. He was back to Jinto, the too-young leader and responsible warrior of the new Athosians, the ones who’d lost so much—too much—to ever go back to innocence again.

“Goodbye, Colonel Sheppard,” the boy said, before turning and retreating back to the main camp.

 

--/--

 

“Okay, so…basically…” Rodney held up a small blue, metal disc, waving it in the air before the group of Marines and Athosians. “All you have to do is place this on your form, like this…” he tagged the disc to his jacket “and voila.”

His image formed into that of a Drone. John frowned, impressed. The image before him was really very lifelike. He’d have been fooled and was more than a little creeped out.

The Drone continued to wave his hands, looking back and forth at the group. It paused, then raised hands to his hips, tilting his helmet covered head and tapping his foot in consternation, like someone’s scary, oversized, pale-skinned Mom.

“Rodney…Rodney,” Zelenka interrupted. “You do not have the voice activated.”

The drone flipped up a hand and turned to the laptops on the lab table, tapping a few keys on the keyboard. A few moments later McKay’s voice roared through. “OKAY!”

John nearly jumped out of his skin. “Fine! Volume?”

“DON’T THEY TYPICALLY ROAR?” McKay intoned in a deep and screaming Wraith voice.

“Yes, but I think our guys here can handle that!”

“RIGHT!”

A few more adjustments on the laptop and the Drone faced him with a much more normal voice—at least as far as volume was concerned. “Any questions?”

“None,” John said. “Now what about Teyla and Ronon?”

The two Pegasus natives were on opposite sides of the room, Teyla looking cowed but determined, Ronon his normal impassive self. But John could sense the distance between them—it couldn’t have been colder than if they were back in the Antarctic Ocean.

“Ronon, we did not have a problem with,” Zelenka said, walking towards the Satedan with a mimic device. “We were able to craft a look for him based on some of the last scans we did of some of our Wraith prisoners and lay them compositely on a full scan of Todd.”

Ronon tagged the device to his shirt and a Wraith took his place. John swallowed. The mimic device had laid over an image that was truly frightening, given Ronon’s already frightening dimensions. There were shades of Todd there, but John recognized a few elements of some of their other Wraith prisoners, victims and even a few that Zelenka or Rodney had seen in their travels. That wonky eye, at least, looked familiar but not distinctly so.

“Good?” Ronon questioned. His voice was lower and eerie.

“Yeah,” John returned, inadvertently keeping his distance.

“Teyla was more difficult.” Zelenka continued. “Her Queen had to be precise, and though we were able to work around the need for true life forms with most, we had to work quite hard to create a version that looked as close to her original Queen. Thankfully, Doctor Keller took many scans in the 3-D scanner during her original surgery. But I do not believe she will look quite as realistic as the real thing.”

Teyla clipped on the mimic device she was handed. Before his eyes, reappeared the Queen who’d boarded the Hive last year. He walked over to her, narrowing his eyes. Radek was right in one or two respects; there was just a little off from what he remembered and something almost artificial about her appearance, sort of like CG renderings of not-quite-humans in a movie. But neither would be noticeable enough to a Wraith who’d never heard of such things.

“Can you speak?” Radek asked.

“Is the appearance similar enough?” she questioned. Her voice also matched what John remembered. Radek, at least, nodded in approval.

“Impressive, guys,” he said, as Teyla returned to her normal, lovely Athosian visage. How long will these things last?”

“They’re fully charged,” growled Drone-Rodney. “But past experience shows they may not have a long battery life. I’d not be on the ship for more than half a day, at most.”

“Take that thing off, Rodney,” John said.

“What? Oh, right.” Rodney fumbled for the device and pulled it off his shirt, after which a much more normal looking McKay appeared. “You really can’t tell you’re a hologram. It’s completely undetectable on this end. Anyways, no need to turn this into a day long excursion, if you know what I mean.”

“We’ll try and be quick, taking over a hostile Hive and all that.” John nodded at the Marines, who trooped off after receiving their devices from McKay. The Athosians, too, wasted no time getting their devices and heading for the temporary quarters assigned them. There was no shock and awe to them now, which John noted with a slight sense of despair. Just another way the Athosians had been marked, not for the better, from their experiences.

Ronon, too, had ducked out, though John hoped he remembered to take that device off before trouncing through the halls of Atlantis. He approached Teyla as Radek and McKay exited. She was studying her device disinterestedly.

“What’s up with you two?” he asked. “I mean, Ronon’s never Chatty Kathy but this is quiet even for him.”

She glanced up at him, as though contemplating whether to affirm his suspicions or not. Not that it would have done any good; Teyla was an open book about certain things, even when she was agitated. “He is displeased with me.”

“For what?”

Her return look, a mix of despairing and agitated, sort of answered the question.

“Deal with Todd?”

She sighed. “Ronon is angry not about the deal, but about the fact that I did not inform him beforehand. He believes he is entitled to know my decisions, apparently, before I make them.”

The last few lines came out sort of snappy and cutting, so unlike normally reserved Teyla that he looked at her in surprise. She must have sensed the concern—or it was plainly written on his face, one of the two.

“I apologize. Doctor Keller began her treatments with the Wraith enzyme and they are affecting me.”

“Ahhhhh. Well, maybe this will blow over. I’ve never known Ronon to hold a grudge—except for those who betrayed him. And, you know, the Wraith.”

Her answering look, again in silence, explained a little more.

“You think he thinks you’ve betrayed him.”

“Not exactly. But it is not much different. He said in quite plain terms how he felt about my actions.”

“None of us approved of your actions, Teyla. You made a deal with a Wraith before you cleared it with me or Woolsey, in a way that might have put us all in danger. And you tried to conceal it from us.”

He head hung forlornly. “I had…”

“No choice. Yeah, I know, I got that too.” He stepped closer to her, raising his hands to his hips. “We all know why you did it. We understand that. Ronon does, too; it might just take him longer to come around. You know what’s happened to him…Tyre and the others…”

“I would not go that far!” she snapped, lifting her head.

John studied her. “Making plans with Todd behind our backs is going pretty far. Sorry to tell you this, but that’s not really the Teyla we all know. Tyre wasn’t the Tyre Ronon knew either. Maybe he’s just afraid he’s seeing the first steps of the same thing happening with you.”

“That will not be the case.”

“You don’t know that for certain. What happens if you find out your people are still alive, but it’s not easy to find them? What sacrifices are you willing to make to get them back? Who are you willing to exchange in their place?”

When she looked up at him again her eyes were wide.

“Think about it. Not just for Ronon’s sake, but for your own. The Wraith aren’t gonna make this easy. Those choices are ones you may have to make, and soon. Maybe it’s time to consider why it is that Ronon and the rest of us trust you. And find out what that trust is worth to you.”

He turned to leave. He’d nearly reached the door when she spoke once more, her voice near a whisper.

“Do you trust me, John?”

He smiled uncomfortably as he turned back to her. “Never had a reason not to, Teyla. Don’t have one yet.”

She smiled gratefully.

“Come on. Let’s get this show on the road.”

 

To be continued in Trust, CH IV

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