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Trust, CH IV

<<< Back to Trust, CH III

 

The Hive ship was close. Teyla could sense the Wraith within the walls, the subtle network that linked them all, the same connection that had graced her with the ‘gift’. Thankfully, the proximity to this network seemed to calm the agitation caused by the Wraith enzyme.

The sensation was the same as the one she’d sensed at first—there was a component missing, as though the energy that ran through everything was lighter, less potent. The lack of the Queen on this Hive was much more evident now.

Todd, at the controls of the Cruiser, seemed content to pilot this restored ship in silence. Beneath his armor, she knew, lay the capsule that held the Hive virus. He’d not protested as Keller injected it; in fact, he bore its placement with the same nonchalance through which he suffered most of Atlantis’s ‘considerations’ towards him.

To her left, Ronon stood, arms crossed, watching over the actions of the remainder of their scant ‘Wraith crew’: four Marines and the four Athosians, all cloaked in the same manner as she and Ronon, using the mimicking devices.

Todd had been impressed with their appearances. He said he could detect no measurable distinction in them, save for her own appearance, up close. But then, he had overseen her surgery as a Queen before and would know the details that were missing.

And with Todd, one could not be certain what details exactly were required for his plans. All this seemed too convenient, too simple. Yet she could not discern any ulterior motives for his assistance.

Her fellow Athosians, disguised in the same drone manner as the Marines, had endured the Wraith enzyme injections to heighten their abilities as well. To see them transformed in such a way chilled her heart, but no more than did their lack of concern for her. Though they were respectful, their loyalty was to those Athosians they were to save and not to her leadership. She could sense their doubt, their mixed emotions, through the bond they now all shared.

She granted them their space. She did not wish to upset them any further—and she needed their silence if this plan was to work.

A beeping ran through the control room, and Todd turned to her. He did not need to speak; she knew this was the Hive contacting them.

A male Wraith’s face appeared on the viewscreen a few moments later. “You are unknown to us. Cease your progression or you will be fired upon.”

Todd opened his mouth to speak, but Teyla stepped forward. “You dare speak to a Queen in such a manner?!”

The Wraith gaped at her for a moment, eyes darting to the side. He took a moment before speaking again. “My apologies. We had no notification of your arrival.”

She met his gaze defiantly, then turned to Todd, gesturing him to continue. He returned her look with a flat stare. He had not been pleased with her intervention, but then, by his teachings she would not be a true Queen if she did not behave in such a manner.

“The Hive of my Queen was damaged in a recent battle,” Todd began. “We were able to survive only by boarding one of our smaller ships. What you see before you is all that is left of our Hive.”

The Wraith scanned the scant party. “Which battle were you engaged in? We received no word of any organized fighting in this quadrant. Just what had…”

“It was not organized,” Todd replied. “It was…”

“Atlantis,” Teyla cut in harshly. At her words the Wraith facing them stiffened. “Their ship appeared from nowhere and launched an attack on our Hive.”

She could sense Todd’s anger in the back of her mind; once again he did not appreciate her intervention.

The Wraith did not appear surprised. “We lost many ships in the battle engineered by this nuisance of a human Coalition. The rumors are true, then; the City has returned to assist them.”

“Apparently,” Todd replied. “Their appearance was unexpected, as was their departure. It is possible we stumbled upon a meeting place of theirs.”

“This is interesting news.” The Wraith tapped a few controls. “I have granted you clearance.”

 

--/--

 

John watched as the Wraith coordinates flashed across the HUD; a neat little trick of Rodney’s that allowed them to find out what data was being transmitted between Wraith vessels.

“They’ve been given permission to board,” McKay said.

“Well, yay,” John replied. “Party on the Wraith Hive.”

“Just so long as it’s not first come, first served,” McKay replied.

“Or BYOB,” John shot back.

“Technically that would be BYOLF, wouldn’t it?” The scientist didn’t even bother to look up at him. “Bring your own Life Force?”

John mockingly grinned.

“Here we go.” As the Cruiser approached the Hive, McKay looked up, nodding towards the docking bay Todd had piloted the Cruiser towards. “We should be able to sneak right in before they extend the bridge.”

“Sneak. Right.” John turned the Jumper towards the bay, which itself was crafted in such a way that a Cruiser could just somehow fit alongside, with very little room for ‘sneaking’. They’d run through this a couple of times, but simulations never quite equaled the real thing.

He tapped on the controls delicately, allowing the Jumper to sense his movements, though even the most psychic of ships would have had trouble working their way around the massive Cruiser as it steadied itself against the side of the Hive. He managed to make it between it and the Hive just before the docking bridge initiated, though a slight list from the Cruiser knocked the jumper a bit on the bottom.

The HUD beeped and Rodney turned to him. “You call that sneaking?”

“Nobody picked us up,” he returned.

McKay eyed him, then turned back to his datapad.

The docking bridge latched to the side of the Hive as John watched. A few moments later, a group of Wraith approached from the Hive, awaiting, presumably, the arrival of this foreign Queen and her contingent.

He tapped his fingers on the console, hoping Lorne had somehow gotten Jumper Two in alongside him—communications was on complete silence—and watched the Cruiser doors part. This part of the plan always made him nervous. Not that he didn’t trust in Teyla and Ronon’s abilities, but there were too many ways for things to go wrong and no true backup plan.

Not to mention they were completely relying on Todd, which was a whole other issue within itself.

Teyla marched forward, looking very much like a Wraith Queen, including carriage and demeanor. Todd followed, as did Wraith-Ronon. Keller’s enzyme had made him scarier than usual, with his abilities heightened, though he seemed to control the emotions better than when he’d been hopped up on the stuff provided by Ford. Keller thought it might be attributed to his experience with reverse feeding.

A few more of the group exited—just a small party of eight and they paused as they met with the Wraith Hive crew. Words were exchanged of some kind and John’s spidey sense began to tingle. Something wasn’t quite right.

The door across from them parted, and a host of Wraith drones entered the bay, a few of them, in their efforts to surround the Cruiser party, coming within inches of the cloaked jumper. McKay watched the events wide-eyed as John’s hands hovered over the console, ready to launch drones in a split second.

The Cruiser crew raised hands, all save Teyla, who continued to play the part like a champ. Whatever was said among the group, it somehow ended with their group being escorted like prisoners into the Hive.

“What are you…are you just letting them…what…” Rodney babbled. “Why didn’t you fire?”

“And blow the whole thing? We couldn’t have saved them even if I’d taken out every Wraith in the dock. We’d have been stuck in here and most definitely dead. I’d rather not be dead, thank you.”

“You’re just going to let them take Ronon and Teyla like that? But what about…”

“They treated Teyla like a Queen,” John said. “Literally. They didn’t even touch her. Likely this is a Hive on Hive issue and not a ‘we think you’re really humans impersonating Hive hierarchy’ issue. Trust Teyla. She’s done this before.” He tried to sound confident. It wasn’t that easy.

“And Todd?”

John couldn’t come up with anything for that. Other than, “He’s still carrying the plague…and you’ve got your finger on the button. He’s not going to try anything stupid.”

“What about us?”

John slapped the control for the Jumper’s exit hatch. The two Marines with them immediately rose. Nearby, he could see Lorne’s Jumper Two lower its ramp from seemingly nothing. They had made it in. “What about us?”

“Never mind,” McKay muttered. “I’m sorry I asked.”

 

--/--

 

Teyla kept her head up and her mind clear as the Wraith Commander escorted her and the scant members of their crew down the long corridors of the Hive. So far, the actions of the Commander were little different from the hierarchy she had encountered before with the Primary; he had not disrespected her place as a Queen, and yet he had not taken any chances with her intentions either.

Colonel Sheppard and Major Lorne’s Jumpers had presumably gotten on board the ship, though they had done well to keep their presence hidden. She had feared for one moment that John might open fire to defend them, but he was either aware that their capture had not been due to their being suspected or he could not risk a battle breaking out so early into the mission. This, or navigating the Jumpers into so small a space proved too risky.

In any case, she and her party would have to rely upon their own fortitude to succeed. As they had done so many times before.

The four Athosians with her now seemed resolute, determined to play their roles with dignity. Whether it was to prove themselves to her or to prove they did not need her leadership she did not know, but they did not seem to be afraid. Perhaps it was a testament to how much her people had suffered and survived that she no longer sensed apprehension among them.

Ronon, too, was resolute. His Wraith link was nowhere near as potent as the Athosians, but she could sense a faint trace of anger within him, perhaps due to the enhancements of the enzyme—or his previous experiences with the Wraith.

The Wraith Commander turned another corridor, and they paused, Teyla turning in surprise towards Todd. He, too, seemed taken aback by where their escort had taken them. They were not in the control room, as she had believed, or even in one of the throne area where a Queen would typically be established.

They had arrived, instead, at the cells.

The Wraith Commander barely nodded to the drones, and Teyla felt herself seized, her heart beating as she sensed the potential for their ruse to be overthrown. As it happened, however, the Wraith either did not notice or were not focused on whether she felt any different than a true Queen, for she was thrown into a nearby cell with little dignity and decorum, but no other alarm. The remainder of her party was thrown into a larger cell next to hers.

“What is the meaning of this!?” she questioned, rising to her feet. “How dare you treat me in such a manner!”

“Why should an arbiter of deception be surprised by deception?” the Wraith Commander asked, his voice filled with contempt.

“Deception? You question my motives?”

“We have heard tell of your actions. You and your second.” He gestured towards Todd. “Word of the death of the last Primary has been told to all. Her execution at the hands of a Queen whose further actions caused the death of a Hive.”

“The Hive of which you speak was destroyed by a mutation of the Plague,” Todd interjected. “My Queen’s actions had nothing to do with their demise. We were lucky she was not aboard at the time.”

“And where was she, then, as you took charge of a Hive in her name? You have been missing for an extraordinary amount of time. In that period, much discussion was raised among the reconciled Hives of your actions, including those who once claimed an alliance with you. It was discovered that you have been involved in a number of incidents in which many Wraith became casualties.”

“Has it?” Todd’s voice became smooth. “And which of the Wraith Hives were the first to assert these claims?”

“Do you deny them?” The commander asked.

Todd did not speak, though he met the commander’s gaze with a level stare.

“And what of that alliance now? You claim to have lost your Hive to a battle, and yet we have no record of the Hive with which you may have travelled. Hives that once claimed allegiance with you have seen that alliance dissolved for quite a while. Now, you travel with a Cruiser and a scant crew, at best.” He looked over the drones in the cell. “Weak ones. Two strong seconds and yet you appear bedraggled.”

He neared Teyla’s cell. “You look uncertain. What is your explanation?”

She lifted her head, trying to calm her rapidly beating heart. She could not sense the personal feelings of this Wraith before her, and yet she knew he was absorbing her somehow, instinctively aware of her fear, of her uncertainty. He would be able to read her body language and all, including her chance to find her people, would be lost.

“I have none,” she said, raising her gaze to his eyes. “Not to you. I will speak with the Queen that claims dominion over this Hive, and no other.”

“You are not in a position to make demands.”

“And you are in no position to refuse me,” Teyla responded, smiling coldly. “Not if you wish to live.”

The Wraith narrowed his eyes, studying her.

She drew on her anger, the frustration of the last few days. Channeled all the power of those feelings—the pain of her people’s rejection, the hurt of losing them, of Ronon’s anger, of Atlantis’s inability to assist—into the core of her being, allowing it to flow through her, to overcome her doubt and the suspicion raised about her intentions. She focused on building the connection between them and allowed that hatred to flood her mind, to pierce into his mind.

The Wraith before her watched, his expression fading from contempt into something like doubt.

“Take me to meet with your Queen,” she hissed. Todd, too, watched in surprise as she edged up to the bars, sensing perhaps, the darkness within her.

The Wraith’s gaze flickered away. After a few seconds he motioned for two of the drones to open the door to the cell. They shouldered her in, but despite their orders, she was treated with a respectful demeanor.

Teyla held on to the darkness, allowing it to bubble in her chest, until everything around her mirrored her mood perfectly.

 

--/--

 

 

John leaned his head against the Hive wall, which was a bit disgusting, actually. He needed to stop doing that.

He flipped back towards Rodney, who was checking out schematics on his datapad, as he’d been doing for the last five minutes. Just beyond the scientist, Lorne was giving John his raised eyebrows expression, which either meant he was curious or ready to kick Rodney in the seat of his pants.

McKay looked up, catching the gaze between them, and made a face. John gestured at him to keep typing, at least until he had something viable to go on.

The datapad flipped over, and Rodney pointed to something that looked like a flashing blip. “This thing’s eating a ton of power. Has to be a console,” he attempted to whisper, in which he failed miserably.

“Are you sure?”

“I don’t know…but what else could it be?”

“I don’t know. The garbage disposal? We’re not going to have too many shots at this, McKay. I need you to be accurate.”

That was answered with a doubtful look from Rodney, Lorne and the remainder of the Marines behind them.

“Well, as accurate as possible.”

“Big, power-sucking machine. My best guess? Ninety-five percent chance it’s a big, database-housing computer console. Or maybe a power generator. Either way it’s win-win for us, right?”

“Right.” John rolled his eyes. “Move out. Follow my lead.” He glanced once more at the direction on Rodney’s datapad, took a second look down the corridor of the Hive, that lovely skin caressing his cheek once more, and headed down in the direction of McKay’s big, power-sucking machine.

 

--/--

 

Teyla stood before a console in the control room, her hands uncomfortably bound, and stared into the face of the Hive’s controlling Queen. Tall and languid, as many of the Queens were, this one bore yellow hair, which nearly blended with the milky white of her thin skin.

She was staring at Teyla with contempt, her face twisted into a disagreeable frown. “I owe you no conference. Explain to me why I should not have you destroyed at this very moment.”

“Because if you do, you will condemn this Hive—and yourself—to death.”

The Queen laughed skeptically. “Is this so? And you are the one positioned to cause such…devastation?”

“You seem to forget who you are speaking with. Did not your commander recall my face? Why I am known to him?”

The Wraith Queen cocked her head, staring into the console. “You refer to the slaying of the former Primary?”

“She doubted my intentions as well.” A subtle smile rose across Teyla’s lips.

“You used her position to gain allies from among the Wraith. Yet you made no move to assert your dominance among the majority of Hives.”

“I did not seek leadership of the Hives. That was never my aim.”

“And you have been missing for a very long time. Why now do you emerge with claims upon this useless Hive? What purpose does it serve?” The Queen narrowed her eyes. “You play games with the Wraith and I grow tired of them.”

“Better I test my weapon upon a defenseless Hive rather than one attended by a Queen, do you not think?”

The contemptuous expression on the Queen’s face disappeared. “Weapon?”

Teyla drew once more upon her anger, allowing it to tinge her words. “Upon my travels my Hive came upon the research of the one who released the plague. A former of our numbers who had been captured and manipulated by Atlantis.” Teyla replied. “An abomination.”

“We are aware of his research,” the other Queen cut back scathingly. “A plague to us all.”

“Really? I found his work…interesting.”

“Interesting? You speak of a curse that brings about the destruction of the Wraith!”

“Only those weak enough not to appreciate the power of such work. We cannot always remain as we have been, can we? We must change, if we are to survive.”

“And what changes would you suggest? Already you are considered a traitor to the Wraith with your actions.”

“Traitor? By eliminating a weak leader? I think I uphold the truest principles of the Wraith. Weakness among us cannot be tolerated. Nor can complacency. We must act, as we have always acted.” She drew closer to the console. “As I have done now."

“Ah, yes. The weapon you speak of. And what is the nature of this weapon, exactly?”

“This curse upon us does more than contaminate our food source. It will turn Hives against one another, as we begin to contest our right to those unaffected.”

The Queen raised her chin. “We ally to prevent such infighting from occurring. Already measures are being taken to find ways to end this plague and prevent such…problems…from occurring.”

“You speak of the research being done on humans.”

The Queen met her gaze with no emotion to her face.

“Yes, I am aware of it. And yet it has not worked, has it?” Teyla smiled contemptuously. “Our supply continues to grow short. And yet you have such faith in your alliances? I am surprised.”

“I grow tired of your talking,” the other Queen spat. “Kill her.”

“You condemn this Hive, and others, if you do so.”

The Queen sighed in frustration. Teyla wasted no time. “During our…research…we discovered a way to ensure that Hives transporting cursed humans could be ‘eliminated’ to prevent further spread of the disease. The weapon we have developed destroys the Hive and any who remain aboard. To ensure that the contamination is thoroughly purged.”

“You would sacrifice an entire Hive in such a manner?”

Teyla tilted her head. “Better a ship than to allow such contamination to spread among the Wraith themselves. An agreeable measure that would preserve resources among the Hives.

“Of course,” Teyla drew herself a little taller, “we were not unaware that such a weapon could be used to do more than prevent the spread of the plague. Should a Hive be…uncooperative…it would be a simple matter of releasing the disease into the ship. It would be a distinct advantage to the Hive which possesses such a weapon, would it not?”

The Queen studied her for a moment in silence. It seemed a long time before she spoke again. “And where would you keep such a weapon? You had nothing with you when you boarded this Hive. I do not believe you possess such a thing.”

“That is the genius of this particular measure,” Teyla said. “You may wish to examine once more my commander. He IS the weapon.”

Again, the Queen was silent.

“Check him, if you wish. You will find I do not lie.”

“To discover such a weapon may require his sacrifice. You do this willingly?”

“Willingly. As a show of allegiance between us.”

 

--/--

 

Rodney stared at the console in front of him in consternation. Sheppard was absolutely not going to like this.

As if on cue, John popped his head around the corner of the little alcove he and the rest of his Marines were guarding. “McKay?”

Rodney sighed. “Good news and bad news.”

Sheppard’s face dropped into the flat, aggravated stare Rodney knew all too well. “What.”

“Good news or bad news first?”

“What? What diffe…bad news.”

“This isn’t the console that tells us where the Athosians are.”

“Well, isn’t that just great! What’s the good news?”

“It tells us where we might find one that can?”

Sheppard’s face scrunched into a confused frown. “Might?”

“What, you think this is just showing up, plugging in and BAM! information? We’re running on fifty-fifty odds here.”

“Where is it?”

“On the other side of the bay we docked in.”

There was that stare again. “That’s not good news, bad news. That’s more like good news, bad news, bad news.”

“Yeah, but I did figure out another way around that’s basically a straight shot. Look.” He pointed out a schematic he’d pulled up. “It’s two corridors down and over.”

“What’s the big room it’s in?”

Rodney made a face. “I think it might be a hibernation chamber.”

“You want to hack into a console located in the middle of a bunch of hibernating Wraith?”

“Not particularly, no!”

He moved a bit closer, studying the schematic. “There’s not another one you can find?”

“The next closest one is on the bridge,” Rodney snipped. “Between the two I’ll take my chances with the Wraith that are sleeping rather than the ones we know are awake.”

John gave an acknowledging shrug, his eyes poring over the map layout. “Where are the prison chambers on this thing?”

It was uncanny, sometimes, how well he and Sheppard synced. Rodney had been scouring for their location only seconds before.

He flipped a hand to the northern corner of the ship. “Best I can tell they’re being held in the ones here. More power is being funneled to chambers in that portion of the ship.”

“Okay, that’s not far.” John drew back towards the alcove opening and gestured to Lorne. “You take McKay and see if you can get him into where that database unit is. I’m going to see if I can find Teyla and Ronon.”

“You’re going to try and cross the ship unnoticed.” Rodney frowned in disbelief. “That’s suicide. And what’s worse, you might get the rest of us killed! I thought you said you trusted Teyla to handle it.”

“I do…I just don’t trust the Wraith they’re with,” Sheppard shot back. “You worry about finding the Athosians. Let me handle the rescuing.” He turned his gaze from Rodney to Lorne. “Any sign of trouble, you get him to the jumper and get the hell out. That’s an order.”

“Yes, sir,” Lorne said. John nodded once, then disappeared around the corner. Rodney couldn’t even detect the sound of him and his team slipping away.

 

--/--

 

Ronon flexed a fist, his mind reflexively counting the steps it took to pace one end of the cell to the other. He’d been able to maintain count easily, which was a considerable feat considering his mind was focused on five other things as well; the smell of the ship’s organic walls, the sense of the Athosians, frightened and yet determined, the sound of Todd’s tapping the walls nearby, the subtle hum of the ship’s inner workings.

The breathing of the ship’s life.

He remembered the intensity of the enzyme that had heightened his senses when Ford took him captive, but it was this sensitivity coupled with something akin to the Wraith link which was running unstoppable through his head, drowning him in sensation and yet keeping all around him clear.

There was a sense of power similar to what he’d experienced when the Wraith had turned him into a worshipper—a sense of being one with something much greater than just himself and capable of overcoming anything that stood beneath him.

It was exhilarating. And terrifying.

He focused once more on the steps, trying to stop his mind from spinning, and turned his attentions towards the Athosians.

“I find you interesting, Runner.”

Ronon paused, glancing over to where Todd stood, watching him.

“You have a mind very similar to our own. I would have thought you more…unintelligent. But your determination and self-control are admirable.”

“Shut up.”

“Why do you fight such a gift? With proper training, you could become a very formidable foe.”

Ronon paused in his pacing to face the Wraith. “Haven’t heard any complaints from the Wraith I’ve killed so far.”

The doors to the holding area slid open, and the Wraith commander brought in Teyla, hands bound, who did not struggle with him. Instead, she nodded toward Todd’s cell.

The door was swung open and Todd hustled out by two drones, who held his arms tightly.

“It is in his left shoulder,” Teyla intoned. “I would exercise caution or you will detonate the device.”

Todd’s eyes widened slightly as the drones grasped his arms. “My Queen?”

“You have served your Queen well,” she said, her eyes darting away from his. “Now you will continue to build our alliances as you have done so well before.”

Confusion, anger, and doubt raced through the bond. Ronon couldn’t distinguish who felt what, but Teyla entered her cell with little appearance of remorse.

Todd continued to stare at her, until his face took on a reserved look. “I would expect no less,” he replied, almost pleasantly. “I serve my Queen with honor.”

The Wraith commander led the drones out of the cell area, dragging Todd between them.

 

--/--

 

Rodney peered over Lorne’s shoulder, thankful it was Lorne and not Sheppard, whose additional height would have made peering next to impossible.

The Major looked back at him with an irritated expression, apparently bothered by the lack of personal space. Rodney didn’t have time to deal with his issues; they had too much to do and little time to do it in. “What do you see? Is it clear?”

They were standing in front of the large chamber, which looked very similar to other chambers Rodney knew far too well. It was a Wraith storage unit, one that housed victims of their cullings. It was a testament to how much he’d been through that it no longer creeped him out as much as it used to. At least, he didn’t feel as nauseated.

By much.

This chamber was a little different; as the group pushed forward into it, he noted the size was on a much larger scale than the ones he’d learned about and, well, visited. Most of those had been small—looking more like corridors than chambers. This one ran rows and rows deep, and if he had to guess, may even have housed victims upwards along the walls and in the ceiling. As though they’d expanded it solely for this.

It was true, then, what the Coalition people and Todd had said about the Hives. They were culling more frequently and storing them—just like refrigerated snacks.

Rodney shook his head and turned his attention as best he could towards the far end of the room, which was where the computer console, if you could call it that, was supposed to be located. He spotted it at the far end of the chamber, a large base unit much bigger than the other he’d used to find it.

It figured the only way he could find out information about Wraith victims was to do so in sight of other Wraith victims.

He motioned to Lorne, who nodded and gave the order to move out. The Marines carefully kept to the cells, on the lookout for drones, though none were about at present—probably preoccupied with the new guests and making sure nothing happened to the whoever was in charge here.

They reached the console within a matter of minutes, Lorne and his team surrounding Rodney as he ripped the datapad from his tac vest and plugged in. Hopefully, none of them would have to wait too much longer.

 

--/--

 

John made his way cautiously down the corridor, ears pricked to the sounds of anything potentially moving their way. They’d already been missed by two different patrols, but honestly the Hive was much less active than others he’d been on.

Considering what happened whenever one of these things was attacked in battle, he’d never understood where all the Wraith went to, because every time he boarded he expected them to be swarming with them, but they never were. Zelenka had theorized once that keeping so many Wraith awake may have taxed their food stores, and that maybe they kept most of them in hibernation until they needed them.

Made sense. Sort of.

One of the Marines behind him stiffened, and they pulled close to the wall, blending into the thankfully dark shadows easily. Two drones passed by an opposing corridor, unaware of the group’s presence.

Their footsteps died away, and John withdrew cautiously from the wall, nodding at the group to continue forward. They did so quietly, alertly, attention fully focused on the task at hand. John was damn glad to have them with him.

They approached another corridor, the lead Marine pausing to scan both ways. Turning right down this path would lead them towards the northern part of the ship, which McKay had said seemed the most likely place to house cells.

The sound of pacing sent them all back against the walls once more; a little harder to hide in the slightly larger corridor, but they weren’t noticed.

This group strode past, dragging a slightly familiar figure between them. John’s eyes narrowed as he caught sight of a familiar head of white hair and the flash of a star shape above one eye.

Todd.

They’d come from the cell areas.

John hesitated only for a second. He motioned to the Marine nearest him, a good-sized lieutenant with a solid head on his shoulders, and gestured. Three down towards the cells. One with him—they were following Todd.

The Marines nodded in acquiescence, and split accordingly.

 

--/--

 

Teyla paced the small length of her cell, trying to think of some way to free herself, Ronon and the rest of their party. Though she trusted in Colonel Sheppard to find a way to free them, there was no telling whether or not he could find them in the span of time it would take the Wraith to discover Todd’s device. They needed to escape—quickly.

“What did you tell them?” Ronon asked, interrupting her pacing. He watched her with a disinterested look, arms crossed.

“The truth,” she returned.

“About the device?”

“I had no choice,” she murmured. “It was the only contrivance I could think of.”

“Good contrivance.”

She paused long enough to glance up at him.

He shifted. “We need to get out of here. Once they find that thing we’re not going to have much time.”

“I agree. But how?”

He met her gaze. “Do you trust me?”

 

--/--

 

John paused, keeping an eye on the group in front of him, who were dragging Todd through a narrow doorway. He gave them a couple of minutes’ breath, staying to the walls as light flashed through the open doorway, then darted forward, keeping low.

He peered around what seemed to be a doorjamb. The room just around the edge was open, bathed in a greenish light and shallower than it was long. In the center, Wraith monitors stood alone, surrounding a surgical table. He’d seen one like it before—a Wraith lab.

Todd was strapped to the table, arms bound. The Wraith overseeing him watched with an emotionless expression as he twisted in agony, grunting, before collapsing back to the table. This Wraith interrogating Todd—John had seen him; he’d been one of the escort of Teyla when she was taken—neared the table, hands behind his back. A voice, female, suddenly spoke and a flash of fear shot through John, knowing the timbre of this particular voice—a Wraith Queen.

It wasn’t coming from nearby. He pressed against the doorway, realizing that it was coming across via console monitor.

“This device within you is not of our design. Where did you get it? Who fashioned it for you?”

Todd opened his eyes, focusing them on the ceiling above him, but said nothing.

“What have you to lose by revealing this? You shall die regardless. Your Queen has consented.”

Todd laughed softly. “My Queen has consented because she knows my death brings death to your entire Hive. She would see us all destroyed, as she has seen before. You would be foolish to trust her.”

“She has given us information of this weapon and what it does—information you do not deny. To prevent the spread of this plague, all that need be done is to condemn you to death beyond the walls of this ship. Why should I believe your word over that of a Queen?”

“Because you do not know what she really is. What her true motives are—she, and those she allies with.”

And that, thought John, is the end of that.

 

--/--

 

“TRAITOR!”

Teyla struggled in Ronon’s grip, feeling his tight grasp crushing the soft portion of her throat. His fingers tightened even further and he lifted her from the floor, pulling her towards him, against the cell wall.

“RELEASE ME!” She choked out.

A handful of drones entered the cell area, alerted by the sound of her scream.

Ronon turned towards them and roared. Her fingers clasped at his, trying to break his grip, her feet kicking uselessly. The grip was too tight. Her vision was starting to blur, and it was becoming extremely difficult to breathe.

He stared at her with wild eyes, swinging her a little beneath his grasp, refusing to let go.

She gasped.

There was a rush; the sound of stunners and suddenly she was falling, collapsing to the floor of the cell. Her throat ached, and she strained to draw in a breath; to open her eyes and fight through the blackness. Ronon lay stunned in the cell next to her, unconscious.

The drones moved into the cells, bending down to grab Ronon. As they reached for him, his image flickered, the dull white skin and white dreadlocks dissolving into Ronon’s true form.

The drones near him let loose with a deafening roar.

Quickly, the Marines were on their feet, engaging the drones in combat. A few of the Wraith got off shots, knocking one or two down, but they were soon overpowered, pushed back out of the cell by the Marines and the Athosian warriors.

One of her drones unlocked her cell, and she emerged quickly, managing to disarm one of the warriors, grabbing his stun rod and firing upon the others as they neared her.

The rest of the drones drew a hasty retreat, and Teyla rushed to Ronon’s side, shaking him. He groaned, rolling to one side, as she helped him sit up. The device he wore flickered on once more.

He glanced at her. “You okay?”

“I am fine. Can you stand?”

He pulled to his feet. “Sorry about that…”

“I did not doubt you, Ronon,” she replied. “I trust you with my life.”

The Marines and Athosians gathered near them and she turned. “We must find Todd. He knows too much to be left alive upon this Hive.”

There was a stomping coming from the hallway. Teyla listened, her eyes widening.

“Think we got bigger problems to worry about,” Ronon murmured.

 

--/--

 

Dammit.

John clenched his jaw, then motioned to the Marine with him.

“Follow my lead,” he whispered, stepping towards the lab door.

Time for a change of plans.

The Marine followed him, walking swiftly into the room. Todd glanced over in surprise as they opened fire on the room, the first volley into the console equipment to keep the Queen guessing as to what happened, then the Wraith Commander and his two guard drones.

“Sheppard?” The Wraith looked at him suspiciously, his eyes darting to the P-90 in John’s hands. John gave him a few moments anxiety before moving towards the table and releasing the bonds that held his hands.

“Come on. We’re getting the hell out of here.”

 

--/--

 

Teyla pulled back into one corner of the room as the drones tromped in, a group of at least twelve, armed with stun rods and guns. There were five stun rods among their group, and Ronon’s blaster, which he’d managed to extricate from beneath his Wraith armor.

“We fight with honor,” whispered Getan. The sound of his voice was reassuring to her.

Bullets erupted from somewhere behind the group of drones, and the Wraith formation broke in surprise. Teyla’s small band wasted no time, raising their stunners and firing upon the Wraith.

“Remove your devices!” Teyla shouted. There were too many Wraith warriors within the small area. Immediately the Marines and Athosians complied, their appearances sending the true drones into a frenzy.

The three Marines who’d come to their aid now pushed further into the room, tossing sidearms to their unarmed comrades. The drones trapped between them lashed out in all directions, striking out at anything that threatened them. Slowly, they began to drop.

Ronon was firing his stunner at the group, his forgotten device flickering between Wraith and human. Teyla saw the Marine to her right whirl, and faced with a fighting, roaring Wraith, whose contorted face was unrecognizable, raise his sidearm.

“NO!” she shouted, catching Ronon’s attention long enough for him to stop. Her arms reached out to him and he regarded her in surprise even as the Marine released a few rounds into the air.

Pain exploded across her shoulder, throwing her forward into Ronon and sending them both tumbling to the ground.

“Teyla?” Ronon’s voice sounded frantic. “Teyla!”

 

--/--

 

John craned his head more towards the doorway, surveying the empty corridor, when Lorne’s voice broke through on his radio.

Colonel Sheppard.”

“Where are you?” he whispered quietly, as the Marine with him kept an eye on the area before them.

“We’re heading back to the Jumpers. Doctor McKay’s got the data.”

“Lorne, are those stunners I hear?”

“Just another day on the job, sir.”

“You heard from Teyla?”

“No, sir."

John exchanged a wary look with the Marine by his side. “We’re near the cell areas. We’ll go and check it out. Rendezvous at the dock—if we’re not back in ten, contact the Daedalus—they should have arrived by now—and get the hell out of here.”

“Copy that.”

Todd motioned to him. “This way.”

 

--/--

 

Teyla winced, her arm throbbing. Ronon stared at her in surprise. “Teyla…”

“I…I am…fine.”

Ronon’s eyes suddenly widened, and she gasped as a burning, shooting pain drove once more through her upper body. A drone had seized her and was dragging her to her feet. Ronon’s blaster had fallen from his grasp, but he roared to his feet, slamming into the drone with such force the Wraith staggered backwards, releasing Teyla.

With an effort his hands closed around the drone’s throat, and he pummeled the Wraith backwards. Getan drew near, bending to her as Ronon slammed the drone into a group of two more, who turned and fired a multitude of stunner blasts towards him. He screamed in pain but did not release his hold on the Wraith, who slammed his fist in the Satedan’s face. Ronon jerked back, blood spurting from his nose, but grinned in excitement.

More stunner blasts and Ronon’s legs weakened, the drone finally managing to gain an upper hand, driving Ronon backwards into the organic webbing of cells, smashing him into the materials that composed the bars. They cracked under the force of the movement, and Ronon’s eyes widened in pain, his grasp slipping. The drone raised his feeding hand to Ronon’s chest.

Getan held to Teyla as she tried to move, heart pounding. “Ronon!”

A gun fired, and then another, and suddenly the battle was over; the drone which held Ronon dropping both of them to the floor. Getan held her as the Marines still on their feet surveyed the damage.

Two Marines and one Athosian lay stunned on the floor, though they seemed to be coming around. Ronon, too, was unconscious and hurt. One of the Marines came over to Teyla, removing her mimetic device long enough to survey her wounded arm.

“Clipped you,” she said, reaching into her pack for a cloth. “Looks like it’s just a flesh wound but we need to get you back to the ship, get you looked at.”

“No,” Teyla murmured, wincing. “First we must contact Colonel Sheppard. We need to warn him about Todd.”

 

--/--

 

John hadn’t managed to get very far when Teyla’s voice broke through on his radio.

Colonel Sheppard.”

“Where are you?” he whispered quietly, as the Marine with him kept an eye on the area before them.

“We are about to head back to the Jumpers. Has Rodney discovered the location of my people?”

“Seems so. Lorne’s team’s headed back with him. What’s your status?”

“Ronon is badly injured, and two of our men are still stunned,” Teyla interrupted. “The rest are helping them.“

“How bad’s Ronon?”

“I am not sure.” There was an edge to Teyla’s voice. “He fought quite intensely.”

“Yeah, when does he not?” John whispered back. “Get your men back to the Jumpers, let me know when they’re there.”

“Colonel, the Wraith have Todd—they will attempt to interrogate him, I believe. If we do not have him…”

“Todd’s with me. Got him out just in time,” John murmured with a glance at the Wraith. “Meet us in the docking bay.”

As the radio clicked off, he motioned to his small group. “Change of plans. Time to make our exit.”

 

--/--

 

Teyla watched concernedly, her injured arm wrapped and clasped to her side, as two Marines hustled Ronon into the back of Jumper One, his head lolling within their grasp. She could see Rodney seated in the forward compartment, studying data on his tablet, and prayed he had the information they were seeking.

A soft hand landed upon her good shoulder, and the familiar face of Getan greeted hers with a smile. “You did well, Teyla.”

She smiled, though her appearance still bore that of the Wraith Queen. There was one more thing left to do. “Thank you, Getan. Thank you for all your help.”

He nodded, then moved towards the Jumpers.

There was the sound of footsteps, and Lorne’s group of Marines tightened into defensive position, awaiting those who approached. John, Todd and another raced into the bay area.

“We got everyone?” John asked, his eyes dancing across his men. When he came to Teyla, his expression grew concerned. “What happened?”

“I am fine. It is a minor wound.”

“Yeah, well…”

Todd turned from a console mounted upon the wall. “You do not have much time. There are three parties of drones headed towards this docking bay.”

We don’t have much time? What are you gonna do when they get here?” John asked.

“You are concerned for my safety, John Sheppard? How touching.”

“I’m just wondering why it makes a difference that you’re here and not us when they arrive, if their objective is the same.”

Todd studied him shrewdly. “They can be controlled by a Wraith. A Wraith flanked by humans is not quite as convincing.”

“And that’s just it, they’re just going to bow to your command when we leave and everything is going to be hunky-dory? I don’t buy it.”

Todd’s eyes narrowed. “Are you renegotiating your part of the deal? That would not be unexpected.”

“I do not believe is it a question of renegotiation. More like a question of…sacrifice,” Teyla said, her eyes flickering towards John.

Todd met her gaze with dismay. “You have already exercised such a measure once today. I would have thought my compliance would have proven my trustworthiness.”

“Was that before or after you almost sold us out?” John asked. “Because as I recall, if we hadn’t come in and saved your ass, you would have spilled the entire plan.”

Todd’s eyes widened, either out of surprise at the accusation, or at the discovery of almost being caught. John was pretty sure it was latter.

“Just to show what a nice guy I am, though,” John murmured, “we’re actually going to uphold our end of the bargain. Just like we promised.” He nodded at Lorne.

Todd glanced from Sheppard’s serious face to the Major’s, who raised a stun rod and fired, full blast, straight at the Wraith.

 

--/--

 

John leaned back against the navigation panel of the Cruiser, tapping his fingers on the console.

At his feet, Todd groaned, rolling over on his side. At the sight of John’s standard footwear he grimaced. “Was that necessary, Sheppard?”

“Haven’t we already been over this?” John returned.

Todd pulled to his feet, slowly glancing around the room. “We are back on the Cruiser.”

“Yeah, well, we ended up having a little problem with the Hive.”

The Wraith frowned at him, and tapped a button on one of the panels before him. A projection of empty space appeared.

Todd turned to him angrily. “Where is it?”

“Gone,” John said. “Blown up.”

“You destroyed it?”

“Nope. These guys did.”

He reached for a tablet he’d placed beside him and rewound footage taken from one of their Jumpers. A Hive ship suddenly appeared out of hyperspace, pausing for just one moment before opening fire on the Hive they’d just escaped from. It took only a few moments and the Hive was torn to pieces.

“We had to get the hell out of Dodge. You’re lucky we brought you along. Of course, considering what you’ve done, I don’t know whether or not it’ll make much of a difference.”

Todd’s expression snapped into confusion. “I?”

“Yeah…you. You’re rather unpopular right now.”

John tapped the tablet once more, this time displaying footage of a camera hidden aboard the Cruiser. Teyla appeared in her guise as Todd’s Queen, tapping a few console buttons and glancing back behind her, as if in a panic.

A monitor bearing the visage of a yellow haired Queen flashed up.

“Please,” Teyla said desperately. “He has taken it!”

“Taken it? What has been taken?”

“The Hive!” Teyla’s voice ticked up a notch, narrowing her eyes. “My commander—your weaklings allowed him to escape. He has seized control!”

The Queen studied her unconcernedly. “What does it matter? One lost Hive is of no concern to us. Even if he should release this weapon upon it, it will only affect the Hive he is upon.”

“You do not understand,” Teyla breathed. “It is not just this Hive. He has developed a host of these weapons. We developed them. But he believes that now I have betrayed him, I no longer deserve his allegiance.”

“He cannot defy you.”

“He already has. Even now he seeks to kill me.” She leaned in towards the image on the monitor. “If he is allowed to escape, he will contact those still in alliance with him. Those who were loyal to him once—and there are many loyal to him still. Many whose allegiance we had earned behind the backs of the allied Wraith. Many just waiting for when the time is right, to strike back and seize control of the Wraith with a weapon that will guarantee them success. You do not know who you may trust, anymore.”

The sounds of screaming echoed through the halls behind her, and Teyla glanced back once, then turned back to the monitor. “He has become a rebel to our ways—a traitor to our race. He seizes control of a Hive in my place! I cannot allow him to live in this defiance of me. He must die. You must destroy him!”

A drone flew through the doorway of the control room. Teyla glanced back, eyes wide, as Todd strode in. “My Queen.”

He was at her in a flash, his feeding hand bared, and drove her down to the floor. She writhed in pain, clutching at his hand. Her screams finally stopped, her body limp and useless on the floor, the life drained from her.

The Queen on the monitor stared in horror as Todd rose, her image quickly disappearing from the monitor console. The last image on the video pad was of Todd roaring at the darkened screen.

“I think I deserve an Oscar for that performance,” John said, as Todd stared at the now blank tablet in surprise. “Though the bait-and-switch with that Wraith-victim-programmed mimic device helped a little, too.”

He pulled a small disc from his pocket and clipped it to his shirt. A second Todd materialized in the room where John was standing.

The Wraith snarled. “You...what have you done!”

“Hey,” Pseudo-Todd snarled back. “You have your freedom. You just didn’t say on what conditions it needed to be set. I am simply doing for you what you would have done for us.”

John removed the device. “Consider yourself lucky you’re not dead, and go from there. Just remember that if you cause any trouble, you can kiss this ship goodbye, too, since you’ll be really living up to the reputation that now precedes you.”

The Wraith looked at him murderously. “Next we meet, John Sheppard…”

“I got it.” John frowned. “We’re at war, remember? Exceptions to the rule no longer apply.” He tapped the headpiece in his ear. “Go.”

The last thing he saw before the Daedalus beamed him aboard was Todd’s murderous expression fade into something like weariness.

 

--/--

 

“And there’s no chance he learned the coordinates of this planet?” Richard asked, looking at Sheppard across his desk.

Sheppard, perched comfortably in his chair, shook his head. “He never learned where we landed. Teyla managed to pilot the Cruiser a good number of systems over before her strength gave out, and even if he could try and figure it out based on the distance, considering he’s still got that tracker and Keller’s little viral bomb on him I think he’s going to want to lay low for a while.”

“But we should still be on the lookout?”

“It’s Todd,” Rodney said placidly. “We should always be on the lookout.”

“Do you think the Wraith fell for the ruse?”

“The nice thing about the Wraith is that they don’t seem to trust each other further than they can throw each other. It’s all about their individual hierarchy. Even if he got an ‘in’ to plead his case, he’d have a lot of explaining to do.”

“Not to mention half of it would involve explaining around his involvement with us,” Rodney said.

Richard sighed, not feeling entirely convinced. But then, that was the risk they’d taken, right, in agreeing to this plan in the first place?

“How’s Ronon?” he asked, feeling a change of subject in order.

“He’ll live,” Sheppard returned, though worry creased his forehead.

“And what about the Athosians?”

“From all we could gather, they were a part of a group being experimented on. We got the coordinates of a few planets, one in particular that looks promising. Zelenka’s cross referencing it now,” Rodney replied.

“How’s Teyla handling it?”

“She wants to go and storm the castle, as soon as we have a castle to storm, wounded shoulder or not,” John remarked. “Wouldn’t you?”

Richard couldn’t disagree.

 

>>> To be concluded in

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