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Trust, CH V

<<< Back to Trust, CH IV

 

 

The time it took for Teyla to recover gave John just enough opportunity to research P25-139, a small, unobtrusive planet that would have caught no one’s attention unless they were really looking.

Once they were, they would have noticed the two large Wraith Hives hovering in the shadow of the three moons, keeping careful watch over the planet and, most importantly, a well-guarded Wraith facility. They’d not even allowed a gate on the surface. Whether one had existed before or not, only a space gate allowed for coming and going of objects, items and things beyond the Hives themselves.It had taken some pretty shifty recon work to get even a basic sweep of the facility and what might possibly be inside.Obviously, something of value was on the surface and based on the scans they’d gotten, it was human in nature.

Problem was, apparently those humans weren’t valuable enough.

The first answer Atlantis got from the Coalition—who had been oh-so-cooperative in the beginning—did not, just as Mayel Serrana had predicted, consider the Athosians important enough to sacrifice more ships.  Not only were they still licking their wounds from the prior space battle, but where that scrimmage was apparently justified because it was a ‘general strike,’ this one, being on behalf of a particular race of people, was ‘too personal.’

“Too personal my ass,” John remarked to Woolsey in the Expedition head’s office, as they sat with Colonel Caldwell. “They just don’t like it because it wasn’t their idea.”

The other two seemed to agree, though there wasn’t much more to be said.

“The Daedalus can’t go up against two Hives without some kind of backup,” Caldwell said. “She’s still being repaired from the last battle.”

“And there’s a snowball’s chance in Hell of us getting one of the other Daedalus classes out here for the Athosians,” Woolsey remarked rather candidly. “The IOA is still smarting over Nancy’s clearing us to leave; they certainly aren’t going to extend a hand to help Teyla’s people.”

“Is it their call to make?” John inquired. “What do SGC and Homeworld Command have to say?”

Woolsey shook his head. “Not much. Until we have solid proof Teyla’s people really do have the key to the Hoffan plague immunity, strategically it’s not worth it to them.”

John frowned. “None of that makes sense. They’re willing to send us backup when we’ve got almost nothing left, but then they don’t want to give us the ammunition when it’s to our advantage?”

Woolsey shrugged. “That’s the way it’s always been.”

“Whatever the case, if we wish to rescue Teyla’s people, we’re going to have to come up with a more effective game plan than point and shoot,” said Caldwell.He looked frustrated, which mirrored exactly how John felt. This was becoming a dilemma, and as much as he liked Teyla and wanted to help the Athosians—felt obligated to—it seemed like perhaps, in a small way, both the IOA and the Pegasus Coalition were right.

Chuck announced an incoming wormhole and Woolsey rose, interested. They’d had no scheduled off-world activations for today. John and Caldwell followed him into the control room.

“Genii IDC,” Chuck said. “The one given to Commander Serrana.”

Woolsey glanced at John, who shrugged. Mayel hadn’t had any scheduled visits with them in the next few days.

“Lower the shield.”

A few moments later Mayel waltzed through the wormhole, looking confident and calm, as usual. In her wake trailed five Genii in full uniform.

She glanced up at the control area, her eyes searching. When she finally caught sight of him, she smiled.

John smiled casually back, crossing his arms as he walked down the steps towards them, Woolsey and Caldwell in his wake.

“General Radim sends his compliments…and his aid, to Teyla Emmagan and her people,” Mayel said, when he’d drawn close enough. “It is time for this mutually beneficial alliance to be re-established.”

“Well, isn’t that nice of him,” John remarked. Mayel’s smile faded a little. “Hate to point it out to General Radim but six Genii, skilled though they may be, isn’t really going to be much use against two Wraith Hive ships.”

To his surprise, Mayel’s grin ticked up once more. “Perhaps they do not have to be.”

 

--/--

 

“This is suicide,” Rodney mumbled, for the third time. At least this time around he got a good response; Zelenka rolled his eyes.

The Daedalus was in orbit around M2K-701, prepping for launch into hyperspace. Everything seemed to be in proper working order, despite the patches Rodney’d had to cobble together for the not-yet-repaired damage done by the last battle.

That didn’t do much to settle Rodney’s nerves. The entire operation hinged on the need for the Daedalus to remain in proper working order, and executing all portions of Sheppard’s plan—or was it the Genii’s?—under the watching eye of two massive Hives would make that extremely difficult.

As if on cue, Sheppard’s voice broke through the radio. “We’re ready.”

“Of course you are,” Rodney mumbled. Zelenka moved from his position near the console and once again checked the readings for the Asgard beaming technology.

“You ready?”

Rodney frowned.“As ready as we’ll ever be for a suicide mission.”

“We’re ready, Colonel,” said Colonel Caldwell, ignoring him.

“Lorne?”

“We’re ready, Colonel Sheppard.”

“Good.  Keep to your positions. We only get one shot at this.  Atlantis?”

“We are commencing dialing sequence,” Woolsey replied.A few seconds passed.“Gate is dialed.  Colonel, you have a go.”

“Bravo team, you have a go,” Sheppard said.

Rodney glanced over at Zelenka, the entirety of the Daedalus seeming to go silent.  He could barely hear the zip of a Dart, procured courtesy of the Pegasus Coalition, as it shot through the gate from Atlantis and into the space surrounding P25-139.

A short burst of garbled transmission—coded—indicated the Dart had entered the space surrounding the planet unnoticed.

“Jumpers One and Two—go,” said Woolsey.

“Copy that,” Sheppard replied.  Another tense thirty seconds and his voice came smoothly over the com.  “We’re cloaked and apparently unnoticed.  Heading towards the planet now.”

“Make it quick,” Rodney replied.“You only have thirty-six—thirty-five minutes before we lose the wormhole and they…”

“I know, Rodney,” Sheppard said casually.“Keep your ears sharp.  Colonel, we’ll call you when we need you.”

“Copy that,” Caldwell said.“We’re ready to enter hyperspace on your mark.”

“We’ll be awaiting your signal as well, Colonel—Colonels,” said Woolsey.“And good luck—all of you.”

“We’re gonna need it,” Rodney muttered.

 

--/--

 

John watched their decoy Dart spiral towards the planet, slowing as it reached the surface. He piloted behind, taking care with entry, and skived off to the left from their position, to a bluff overlooking the Wraith facility.

On the other side of a broad clearing, one chosen for its proximity to the warehouse, the Dart’s beam reconstituted a team of six figures, led by Lorne, all disguised as Wraith drones by the mimic devices.It was a ploy of Zelenka’s, based on the idea that the Wraith would be more confused by intruders of their own species than a bunch of Marines. The brightness of the beam as it cut through the dark night was enough to attract a few of the guards that stood watch around the facility’s entrance, and they moved towards the clearing swiftly.The Dart itself zoomed off, keeping low and out of sight.

At their movement, John eased the Jumper down, then tossed a glance back into the rear compartment, where Mayel, her Genii team and Teyla stood among a detail of Marines.

“You ready?”

Teyla took a breath, looking towards him.  She still seemed weak, but her eyes burned brightly.“I believe we are ready.”

“You get in, find them, get out.  No last minute saving the day or unnecessary risks, okay?”

“In other words, do not do what you would do?” she asked innocently.

“Right,” he smirked.  From behind her, Mayel studied him as well, her head cocked to the side.

“Why does this remark not surprise me?” she murmured to Teyla, who smiled.

“Very funny.  Look…”

“I understand, Colonel,” Teyla said as the rest disembarked.“We will go by the plan.”

“Well, good.”  He watched as they disappeared into the night, somehow feeling not so reassured.

 

--/--

 

Teyla took a deep breath, willing it to grant her strength. Though she had been given a few days to heal, her arm remained sore and she was still weak from losing blood.  Every so often, one of the swiftly moving Genii would pause and wait for her to catch up, allowing her the benefit of keeping the rest in sight.

This time it was Mayel Serrana who awaited her over the next rise, her face tolerant and yet determined, the combination of a good warrior and patient ally.

The Wraith facility was just a short distance in front of them. Teyla’s heart beat anxiously, energy coursing through her legs, powered by her determination to reach her people as swiftly as she could. She could almost feel them, sense their presence.

Mayel did not wait for her fully; as soon as she cleared the rise the Genii was moving once more, darting swiftly down the hill and making a path through the craggy rocks. The remainder of the Genii was before them, hidden in the shadows of some boulders, looking upon the short, dirt-covered mound that led up to the buildings being used by the Wraith.

To their left, the gates of the facility were being guarded by a handful of Wraith, those who had been left to their positions after their fellow drones had been called away by the disturbance created by the Dart.

On cue, the landscape to their left suddenly lit up, the silence shattered by Wraith stunners. A few more of the Wraith guard left to examine the disturbance.

Commander Serrana’s team had already left the shelter of the rocks and was using the cover of the sparse trees to scale along the left side of the facility, out of sight of the remaining Wraith. A few of the Genii reached the facility’s edge, and with a combined effort overtook one of the drones long enough to procure his stunner. A few swift shots were all it took to take out the remainder of the sentries.

Teyla stared in surprise as she caught up with Mayel, whose eyes were intently focused upon the facility, listening to see if anyone within had been alerted to their presence. Another of her Genii was working on the door, attempting to override whatever locking mechanism was used here.

She finally grew satisfied enough to glance back at Teyla, a small smile rising at Teyla’s bewildered expression.Apparently, this type of activity was not new to Mayel or her team.

The Genii at the gate grew frustrated, shaking his head. Whatever was happening in the battle near the clearing, the sounds of fighting were dying away. They did not have much longer.

Teyla edged closer, observing the gateway. It was not unfamiliar to her. She motioned to the Genii to clear a path and edged in, running her hand across the wall. As she touched a certain part, she could suddenly feel a coolness, as though a door had been opened.

“Go,” she mouthed, extending her hand. The wall before them appeared as a hologram.

Mayel nodded and her people moved swiftly into the corridor. Teyla followed, keeping to the shadows as the Genii pushed forward.

The facility was long and narrow, the walls composed of the same organic material of which Hives were constructed. The Genii passed through as though this was of little matter to them, pausing only to check on the position of guards who patrolled the corridors. They preferred stealth and cover to direct assault, in a manner the likes of which Teyla had not expected. She had been made aware of their covertness by what had happened with Sora; yet she believed even Atlantis had underestimated their abilities, despite their distrust of them.

They reached a sheltered area and here Teyla removed her datapad, calling up previously acquired schematics with data that seemed to pinpoint the location of humans within the facility. The first group was not far from their present location. Teyla nodded the direction, and the Genii moved swiftly, their footsteps barely heard against the soft organic floor.

The corridor opened to a wide area, off which branched many halls. Taking the first turn to the right led them to a bay like area, filled with a number of cells.

There were a few patrol drones here; out of necessity the Genii took them out with the stunners first, then eliminated them. The noise echoed through the cavernous structure, muffled a bit by the tissue-like nature of the walls but still loud enough to send Teyla’s heart racing.

The noise alerted those in the cages, and a few pressed forward to see what caused such commotion. As Teyla moved into the half-lit area, a number of the prisoners murmured and one called out.

She smiled, drawing closer to an elder of her tribe. “Atlan.”

“Teyla!” He grasped her hand, almost desperately. “Is it you?”

“Atlan, it is I. Quickly. Are all those among you here Athosian?”

“Most,” he replied.

“Halling?”

“We have not seen him. But they keep us separated. I know there are others.”

“Yes.” She gestured to Mayel, who joined her.

“All are yours?”

“Does it make a difference?” Teyla murmured. “They all deserve freedom.”

The Genii acquiesced, though she looked skeptical in the way that John often did when something worked into a plan that he had not been prepared for. Swiftly the Genii moved from cage to cage, unlocking them and drawing the prisoners out to the center.

They had gathered in a group, about thirty total.Teyla handed Atlan a small device and a radio.“You must keep this with you.Keep our people gathered together, closely.When you hear the signal, touch this button to affirm all are ready.”

The elderly man studied the radio with confusion.“What is to happen, Teyla?”

“You will be rescued—but it will only work if everyone is close enough together for the people of Atlantis to track you.”She raised her voice.“Listen to me—you must trust me.You must stay together and when you receive the signal via radio, you must hold onto one another.All must do this—you cannot be separated.Stay hidden and quiet.”

“And if the Wraith come?” asked Atlan.

She met his gaze resolutely.“Do what you must to defend yourselves and escape.But I will not abandon you, Atlan.I will find you and I will see you safely home.”

“Teyla…”

“Trust me.  I promise, all will be well.”

Mayel leaned in to Teyla. “We cannot linger.”

She handed Atlan one of the recovered stunners.  A few more of her people had been similarly equipped.  “Remember, when you hear the signal, gather all together.  I must go—I must find the others.”

She turned, joining the Genii at the door. The older Athosian set his chin, nodding at her, looking wary, but determined.  She could only hope that they would be safe long enough for the plan to work.

 

--/--

 

John eyed the HUD, monitoring the facility below them. Lorne’s group was still engaged in a guerilla fight with the patrol drones, though both had sought shelter on opposite ends of the clearing and were now attempting patient combat.

In the facility itself all appeared quiet. He couldn’t see through the thick black exterior walls, and radio silence had been mandated unless something went wrong. So far, nothing, which meant everything was apparently going well.

He still felt a little edgy about this plan, though Mayel had insisted the Genii could handle it. Covertly sneaking about, at least at this level, wasn’t his favorite MO; though he had to admit the Genii could do it better than just about anybody. But they’d placed a lot of faith—or rather, Teyla had placed a lot of faith—in the Genii’s abilities. He believed Mayel when she said was a veteran at breaking into Wraith facilities, but he still didn’t quite trust what that all meant.

Guess he’d have to go with the philosophy of ‘no news was good news.’

He’d always sort of hated that philosophy.

 

--/--

 

They’d been successful finding the second group of Athosians.  Mayel noted that these appeared to be much more beleaguered than the first; those who recognized Teyla Emmagan had little to say to her. The Wraith had obviously been carrying out experiments on them, and they were suffering under the effects.

Teyla conducted herself in a very efficient manner, despite her weakened state and the toll such revelations must have taken on her as a leader of her people. Mayel was impressed with her fortitude.

The agreement for the Genii to assist in the recovery of the Athosians had been suggested by Mayel to Ladon; she believed that, despite the risk, such a measure would bring the Genii a much closer alliance with Atlantis. Ladon had agreed, tentatively, and it had taken all Mayel’s persuasive powers to allow her to be the leader of the strike force. He had been afraid for the voice of the Coalition; he knew Woolsey relied upon her. But as she had argued with him, her first role, the one for which she had been trained, was as a warrior and operative, not a diplomat. Others, such as he, were better suited for that.

There was also something satisfying in seeing John Sheppard’s surprise at the Genii volunteering to assist him. He had a poor opinion of the Genii; that had been obvious from the very beginning, and something within her intended to convert this view.  What her people had done in the face of the Wraith, with technologies so much less advanced than those possessed by Atlantis, made them worthy of credit and at the very least, his respect. She understood enough of him to know that he was a man of honor, and for some reason, his respect was important to her.

Teyla had finished explaining their duties to the second group; as a precaution Mayel commanded Laris to remain behind, given the state of the Athosians.Teyla motioned to her to begin the move towards the third group. According to the data pad held in the Athosian’s hand, there were three more pods of prisoners.

They reached the third pod a few moments later and dispersed with the drones, though the fight was indeed longer because of missing one of her men. The scuffle would have been louder than the previous ones.

The Athosians here were much more alert than the previous, and Teyla spoke with them quickly, explaining the plan. One of them knew the location of this Halling whom Teyla had mentioned as leader of their group—he was not far away.

There were significantly more people with them this time, and Teyla seemed wary of the number that needed to be transmitted.

Her Genii were already headed towards the fourth pod, battling the drones in the corridor, though the length of time it took to dispatch with these sent Mayel’s heart racing. Even as she and Teyla joined them, the fight was intense and the effort took the Athosian’s breath away, causing her to lean against the facility wall for recovery.

“We must hurry,” Mayel said, using her hand to nudge the Athosian to her feet. Teyla nodded, pulling herself upright with an effort and trudging ahead.

 

--/--

 

The firing in the clearing had nearly ceased; Lorne was observant but cautious. It was clear they had not struck down all the drones that had appeared initially, but the fact that it appeared to be Wraith attacking Wraith had thrown them off.

Strahan, who had fallen near the center of the clearing, was starting to stir. He appeared to be a drone, which had thankfully left him untouched and only stunned. But they had no ability to recover him, which meant he was at the mercy of the Wraith should they draw closer to him.

Lorne moved from the tree he was at to one a little closer to the clearing. His movement rustled some underbrush, which sent two or three stun beams flying his way, one of which he barely avoided.

Strahan sat up, looking a little disoriented, and rolled to his stomach. A stunner cut close to his helmet, and he scrabbled quickly to his feet, his eyes on the nearest form of cover he could find.

It wasn’t quick enough; another stunner nailed him in the back, throwing him back to the ground. Only this time, the beam must have disrupted something in the mimic device, for rather than an unconscious Wraith drone, a human Marine was laying before them all.

The Wraith on the far side of the clearing let loose with a cry of alert; apparently renegade Wraith were one thing, but disguised humans clearly another.

A wave of stunners shot through the trees. Lorne backed up against his shelter, tapping on his radio. “Colonel, our cover’s been blown.”

“Crap,” was the only—and fitting—response.

 

--/--

 

The Genii continued to move swiftly and efficiently, despite the number of Wraith they had engaged.As Teyla and Mayel watched the warriors ahead of them subdue another group of drones, Teyla leaned over. “You seem to have done this before.”

“Too many times,” Mayel replied. But she turned to Teyla a moment later, with something like a smile. “It is something we have learned out of necessity, but is now one of the Genii’s greatest skills.”

“I am grateful for it,” Teyla murmured.

Mayel’s response was to follow her Genii group back through the corridor, heading towards the fourth pod.They reached the prisoners quickly, and Teyla scanned the group, who appeared sickly, but there was no sign of Halling.

“Teyla…Teyla,” said one of the women, stretching her hand through the bars. Teyla smiled kindly at her and clasped her hands. “We are here, Inna.You are to be freed.”

“I knew you would find us. That you had not abandoned us,” the woman croaked. Teyla released her hand just long enough to allow the Genii to open the door and then embraced her.

“Teyla,” Mayel spoke. “You must…”

Before she had completed her words, sounds in the facility suddenly increased, and they stared at each other in consternation. A low beeping echoed through the halls.

“I know this sound,” Teyla replied. “It is an alarm.”

“We will be discovered,” Mayel said.  She nodded at the four of her party who remained, who moved ahead of them, rushing to the fifth pod.“You must contact Colonel Sheppard.”

Inna watched in surprise as Teyla tapped her radio.  “Colonel Sheppard…”

“I know, I know,” he shot back in response.“Lorne’s group was found out.  Darts are sweeping them up now and heading for the gate.  Daedalus is en route.”

“How long do we have before they arrive?”

“Not long, Colonel,” said the smooth voice of Colonel Caldwell.  “We’ve established orbit.  Doctor McKay is working on gathering the coordinates of the first group now.”

 

--/--

 

Rodney darted towards a second console, tapping furiously.The readings of the facility below were coming up in a rush, and it was difficult to sort everything clearly.

He could read the heat signatures of the groups of people the Genii had apparently already gathered, though there was no clear way to tell if any of them were Wraith.Problem was, they kept moving around, throwing off his readings.

“Would you tell them to stand still?!” he barked.Teyla’s voice came through the headset, apparently addressing the first of the groups’ leader, telling them to gather together and make sure they were connected.

“Doctor McKay,” said Caldwell.“ETA of the first group?”

“As soon as they stop moving.  We don’t want half a group of Athosians, and when I say a half a group I mean a half a group,” he muttered back.

“Rodney,” Zelenka said quietly.  “We…”

“I know!”

“But the Hives…”

Rodney glanced at another monitor, where the two Hive ships in orbit of the planet were slowly moving beyond the shadows of their moon.“Oh, great!  Did I mention this was both a suicidal and ridiculous plan?”

The readings finally came up clear.  “Beaming…now!”

The first gathered group of heat signatures equipped with a tracker disappeared completely from the infrared scan of the facility.

“We have confirmation of receipt,” said a Marine, from one of the holds.“All present, no injuries we can see, sir.”

“Good news, Lieutenant,” said Caldwell.  “Doctor McKay…”

“On it,” Rodney said, waving his hand.  He’d already moved to group two.

“Hurry,” the Colonel said, his eyes locked on the Hives, which were now drawing closer.

 

--/--

 

John tapped his fingers on the console of the Jumper, listening as Rodney went through the mechanics of preparing to beam up the second group.  Radio silence was shot; what mattered now was getting everyone out quickly and safely.

This had been the part of the plan none of them had looked forward to. McKay was a genius, though John would never tell him that, but even John knew that the Asgard beaming technology required a little more of him than just a ‘beam me up Scottie’ in order to get this plan to work.

“Rodney,” Teyla said. “The fourth group is prepared.”

“Well, that’s nice!  Can I get the third group up, first?” Rodney shot back.

“The Hive Ships are drawing within firing range,” Colonel Caldwell informed them.

“You don’t say?  Apparently word travels quickly once it’s been discovered you’re storming a Wraith facility!”

“I need you to hurry this up, Doctor McKay,” Colonel Caldwell said.

“One massive rescue at a time,” Rodney snipped. “Group Three—welcome aboard.  Teyla…”

“They are ready to be beamed up,” Teyla replied.“The Genii have moved on already to the fifth location. I am following them now. Hurry, we will be unable to take on a whole defensive force if they find us.”

“Darts reversed the wormhole and are through the gate.  Atlantis has the shield up but you’ve only got a few more minutes, Teyla,” John updated them. “Be careful.  All of you.”

“And you as well.”

 

--/--

 

Colonel Caldwell continued to watch the approaching Hive ships, his face filled with apprehension, though to Rodney it always looked that way. He kept restrained, however, fingers tapping on the armrest of the Captain’s Chair.

“Doctor McKay,” he spoke suddenly, causing Rodney to jump, “how quickly can we convert to shields following the beaming?”

“Matter of seconds,” Rodney replied.

“Be ready,” the Colonel responded.

“Major Lorne and his team have been returned to Atlantis,” Zelenka said via radio. “They appear to be fine.”

“Let’s hope that’s the story of the day,” Rodney said.

 

--/--

 

They’d reached the fifth pod. Teyla scanned through the people quickly, but she saw no sign of Halling.

The nearest Athosian to her was a boy named Taron.  Mayel opened the door, and she caught him as he staggered forward. The Genii caught her eye and shook her head. These, all of them, appeared to be suffering from the Hoffan plague.

“Teyla,” he whispered. “Help us.”

She felt tears pricking her eyes. “I am here. I am sorry, Taron.”

The sound of footsteps echoed through the facility.Taron’s grip on Mayel tightened.

“They are coming,” Teyla said, as the Genii passed the boy to her.

The Genii nodded, her remaining strike team releasing the last of the prisoners from their cells. Despite the urgency with which the Genii ushered them out, they moved slowly, almost painfully.

Halling was still not among them.

“Taron, where is Halling?” she asked the boy, whose grip was around her waist. She pulled gently free of him. Her heartbeat increased as he raised his weary eyes to her.

“They took him, down there,” he pointed, to a long corridor off the pod. “He and a few of the others who were very sick.”

She glanced up at Mayel, who watched her with an almost pleading look.

The drones were approaching. The remaining Genii took out the first few as Teyla and Mayel rounded up the sickly group to the center of the pod.  Many had to lean against one another for support.

“Hanna,” Mayel called to one of the Genii. The girl, her blond curls flying, gathered in among the Athosians.

“RODNEY,” Teyla cried. She took a few steps back and the beam swallowed Hanna’s group, taking Taron and the rest to the safety of the Daedalus.

Mayel lifted Hanna’s stunner from the ground, joining her remaining Genii near the front of the pod and assisting them against the drones as they moved back towards the pod’s center. Teyla’s eyes travelled down the corridor where Taron had pointed.

The Genii needed no persuading. “Go. We shall cover you.”

She tore off down the corridor, as fast as her aching and burning body would let her.

 

--/--

 

“Got them!”

Rodney grinned. The Wraith facility was nearly empty.

“Clear?” Sheppard inquired.

“Colonel Sheppard.” A female Marine’s soft voice came through on the com. “We don’t have Teyla.”

“What do you mean?”

“With the fifth group. We’re missing the Genii and Teyla.”

“What?” snapped Sheppard. “Teyla, come in!”

Rodney glanced down at his sensors.There was apparently a handful of humans left. “She must have gone after the rest.There are a few heat signatures remaining.”

“Colonel?” Teyla’s voice came breathlessly. “We are travelling down one of the corridors of the facility. There are still Athosians left.”

“Teyla, I know you want to get everyone out, but you’ve been compromised. I’m sorry, but…”

“John, Halling is with them.”

Rodney felt his heart sink. “Damn.”

There was silence on the other end of the com for a moment. “I’m sorry, Teyla,” John murmured. “We don’t have time.”

“John, please. It is Halling!”

“Rodney, lock onto their trackers and beam them out,” Sheppard said, his voice cold and level. “Now.”

Rodney threw a glance at Caldwell, who met it with consternation. Nobody was arguing, though, and the Hives hadn’t made a move, yet.

He set the sensors to lock onto the tracking devices.

The Hive ship nearest him launched a barrage of fire, straight at them.

“SHIELDS!” Caldwell shouted.  Zelenka had beaten him to the punch, and the Daedalus shield took the impact of the first wave, though the force of the attack was still felt.

“Incoming fire!” Yelled one of the Daedalus techs.  Rodney scrambled to the console, bracing himself, as another wave of fire slammed into the ship.

“Shields at fifty percent!”

“They’re launching Darts, sir!”

Rodney glanced up at Zelenka and the Czech returned his worried look.There was no way they could lower the shields long enough to beam up Teyla and the rest of her group without sacrificing the Daedalus.

 

--/--

 

Teyla only heard half of the conversation on the Daedalus. Her breath filled her ears, her body screamed for a break, but they’d reached the room at the end of the corridor, after checking a few more offshoots. They entered into a Wraith laboratory, and the sight that greeted them was ghastly.

Three bodies were strapped to tables, dead, two of them Athosians. She bit back a cry, and her eyes travelled the rest of the room, scanning a console, a few tanks filled with organic matter, and a small cage of four people, lying on the floor.

Halling was the first she saw.

“Halling!” She moved towards him, her hands playing with the Wraith lock. In desperation she removed her handgun and fired at it; perhaps less graceful than the Genii method, but effective.

He raised his head weakly, a smile, despite everything, growing upon his face. “Teyla.”

“Halling.” She sank to her knees next to him, drawing her forehead to his, unable to hold back the tears.

“I had faith in you,” he said. “I knew you would return.”

“I am sorry I abandoned you.”

“Teyla,” said a soft voice above them. Mayel was at the door. “Contact your people. We have a few spare moments, but not many.”

Teyla nodded, tapping on her radio. “Rodney, we have found Halling. Can you prepare to beam us out?”

“Ahhhhh…that might be a problem!”There was an explosion behind him, along with the sound of alarms.“The Hives are attacking.  If I lower the shields…”

Her heart sank. “No.”

“If we can just…” There was another explosion in the background and the transmission became somewhat garbled.“…stand by…”

“I understand, Rodney.We will find another way.” She rose. “Halling, can you walk?”

“I can try,” he said, lifting himself up. He did so weakly, and the remainder behind him did the same.

Mayel was by the console, messing with it. She turned as Teyla drew near. Her Genii kept watch at the entrance to the labs.

“The Daedalus is under attack,” Teyla said. “It does not appear they can get to us.”

The Genii stopped with her fidgeting.“They cannot take us from here?”

“I am sorry.”

Mayel grinned sardonically.They had been warned of this possibility. “Sorry is for when you are dead. Aran.”

One of the Genii at the door turned, his eyes scanning up and down the corridor.“We are clear so far.”

“Where in the facility are we?” asked Mayel, grasping at Teyla’s tablet. The laboratory appeared to be on the far eastern corner of the facility. Her eyes travelled from the pad to the walls. “This laboratory is but another corridor from the outer walls.”

“We would have to go through the large chamber again,” Teyla said. “We would not make it through the reinforcements.”

“No, we would not.” Mayel travelled to the far portion of the lab, her hands feeling the walls. She settled on a deep-set part and reached in her pockets, shoving something into the organic material.

Her pace quickened as she retreated, and the remaining Athosians crowded around Teyla as a small, flickering red light began to flash. Mayel drew them to the ground as the hand grenade exploded, carving a hole into the wall. Through it another corridor could be seen.

Halling and the others needed no instruction; they began to make their way slowly towards the hole. Teyla followed as Mayel once again moved to the console, tapping furiously upon it and withdrawing a small, black device.

Teyla stared at her as she held up a rather familiar looking object—a Wraith data drive, very similar to the one reacquired by Sora during the siege of the Storm so many years ago.

“Recognize this?” Mayel asked.

“Commander Serrana!” cried Aran, right before a host of Wraith beams sounded through the corridor they had originally taken. He and the remaining two Genii fired half a dozen shots before he was hit with a stun beam. A few seconds later, a Wraith commander made his way around the corner near the door, pausing in anger at the sight of Mayel, Teyla and their escaping prisoners heading towards the hole.

A drone had already grabbed Aran, and Mayel’s face crunched into despair, but she ordered her remaining soldiers to retreat and shoved Teyla unceremoniously towards the makeshift doorway. Wraith beams fired after them.

The corridor they entered ended in a wide chamber, square, with nothing but equipment filling it. The Athosians had already made their way to the far end and were looking around them, discouraged at the lack of an exit. Teyla halted as well, trying to catch her breath and huffing in pain.

“Teyla,” Mayel said softly, coming towards her, also out of breath.

The Wraith who had first found them now entered the chamber, a smile crossing his face as they paused, trapped.

“And now we shall test your true will to survive,” he growled.

 

--/--

 

John willed the Jumper forward, hands on the controls. There were only five of his people left in that facility, but, of course, one of them had to be Teyla and the other four the Genii. And that woman had probably been completely fine going along with Teyla’s plan.

“Last I could get they were in the eastern part of the facility, but they were deep inside,” Rodney said. He was sounding edgy; not surprising, since both Hive ships was apparently nearly on top of the Daedalus by now.

John circled the Jumper towards the Western part of the building. Wraith darts were peppering the sky, probably trying to figure out exactly what was going on at the facility below.

There was an explosion at one corner of the building, and John’s heart leapt into his throat. “Rodney?”

“What the…” Rodney’s voice disappeared for a minute.

“Rodney!”

“There was an explosion on the ground,” Rodney said. “Heat signature flared up….Hang on!”

John pulled up the schematics Rodney was transmitting, the sound of explosions ringing through the radio as another wave of fire hit the Daedalus.

“McKay?”

Daedalus shields are at 20 percent.I don’t know how much longer we’re going to hold out.”

“I’m going to check out the site of that explosion.”

“What?”

“Last I checked, Wraith don’t like to chargrill their food.  It has to be Teyla.  Blast hit near an outlying room.  Maybe they’re trying to get out.”

“You can’t know that!”

“Only one way to find out.”

“Colonel Sheppard.” Caldwell’s smooth voice spoke over the radio.“We’re taking massive fire and shields are down to 10 percent.  We’re not going to be able to cover you against those darts.”

“Acknowledged.  Get your ship out of here, Colonel—we’ll make our way out by Gate.”

“Good luck, Colonel.”

“You too.  Sheppard out.”He pressed the Jumper near to where the explosion had occurred, on the outer edge of the building, where the last of the heat signatures were. Based on the coordinates, the hole had been blown inside the building but was located near the outer edge of another wall.

He’d have to line this up perfectly.

 

--/--

 

Teyla glanced up from her shelter behind some of the equipment in the warehouse. The Wraith were waiting patiently, knowing that at some point they would have to emerge and well aware that their numbers would eventually overpower them.

Mayel stood aggressively before her, in a position between her people and the Wraith, her stunner raised. She and the other two Genii had already managed to take down two of the Wraith drones, which had precipitated this waiting game. Teyla had eliminated a third with her P-90, though her ammunition was now running low.  She had not heard from either Colonel Sheppard or Doctor McKay in the last minute.

An explosion crashed into the walls of the facility unexpectedly, throwing her, Mayel, the prisoners and half the Wraith off their feet. Bright streams of moonlight poured into the chamber courtesy of the makeshift hole created by the explosion, though she could barely see it with her ears ringing and vision fuzzy. 

Mayel pulled herself to a sitting position, blinking.

“Need a lift?” came the query through the radio. 

John.

A familiar Marine detail trudged down the back end of the Jumper, startling the Wraith with a wave of P-90 fire. 

Teyla drew to her feet painfully, urging her people on. Halling and the small group with him managed to clamber, half standing, half crawling, towards the lowered Jumper ramp. Mayel backed away from her post, her stunner fire blending with the ammunition of the Marines.

The Wraith drones released a wave of stunner beams. Halling had managed to get into the Jumper, and Teyla felt a huge burden rise from her shoulders, giving her added energy.

One of the beams darted past her face and she backpedaled swiftly. Only Mayel remained, and her feet were quick dodging debris to get to the Jumper.

And a beam slammed into her chest.

She tumbled backwards, the stunner flying from her hands, her hair floating upwards into a tangled cloud. Teyla instinctively darted forward, but she was held back by the arms of one of the Genii, as another grasped their leader and dragged her backwards into the Jumper.

“Go!” shouted the Marine second in command, and John shot the Jumper forward, quickly cloaking.

Teyla moved into the cabin as John propelled the Jumper skyward.

John turned to her as space started slowly to emerge in front of them. “Don’t ever do anything like that again.”

She smiled.“I found Halling.”

John took a moment to reply. “That’s good.”

“We lost one of the Genii.”

Surprisingly, concern flashed across John’s face. “Really? Which one?”

“The one named Aran. Mayel Serrana was stunned, but I believe she will be all right.”

John swallowed, keeping his focus to the forward windshield as more stars started to blink into existence. “That’s good. How is Halling?”

The memory of Halling’s appearance flashed through her mind. “The Wraith have not been kind,” she replied. “I am not…”

“We are better now,” said a hoarse voice. Halling had made his way into the cabin, looking extremely thin and sickly.

John’s nostrils flared, but he kept whatever emotions he felt under control. “Hey buddy.”

“Colonel Sheppard.”

Space was now their domain. John frowned as they approached the Space Gate. “This look familiar?”

Wraith Darts blocked the entrance to the Gate, as she remembered them having done once before. To reach Atlantis, one dialing pass would be necessary for the IDC, then another to actually enter the gate.

John punched up the dialing sequence. The gate flared into life before them as the second Jumper de-cloaked and unleashed a host of drones on the Dart guard. A few were direct hits. The remainder flew out of formation.

“Atlantis, this is Sheppard,” said John, after transmitting his IDC.“We’re making a pass at the gate. Two of us.” He shut off communications, waiting for Woolsey to reply. “I knew we should have cleared that damn Alpha site.”

“Copy, Colonel,” replied Woolsey’s assured voice. “We’re ready for you.”

The darts were coming back; John dropped their cloak and unleashed more drones at them. “Jumper Two, cover us.”

“Yes, sir.”

John focused his attention on the gate as the Darts drew closer, pressing the Jumper forward. It shot into the wormhole with ease, and suddenly the glistening walls of Atlantis were before Teyla’s eyes, rising before her as John maneuvered Jumper One out of the way to make room for Jumper Two.

Shouting was heard over the com, but within seconds Jumper Two had emerged below them, and the shield was raised over the gate, a few flares the only thing that indicated the Darts that had attempted to follow them in.

“Jumper Two, clear,” said the pilot.

John sank into his chair, and Teyla relaxed against the back of it. Halling settled to the floor of the Jumper beside her.

Daedalus made it into hyperspace—only minimal damage, though I’m sure Doctor McKay will disagree in general,” reported Woolsey, for their benefit. John relaxed his head against the chair, then twisted back. “How’s our stun victim?”

One of the Marines from the back leaned forward. “Looks fine. I’ll wait for the doc to give a full assessment, but she’s not in distress.”

“Good.” John twisted back to her. “How were they?” His eyes flickered down towards Halling. She bent down to her old friend, placing a hand behind his head, and took a painful breath, though her spirit felt much stronger than it had in a while. “They are alive,” she replied, looking into Halling’s eyes. “They are alive.”

 

--/--

 

A few hours later John strolled through the gateroom, hands shoved in pockets. He almost felt like whistling.

Keller’s initial report on the Athosians was mostly positive. Though a handful had been infected by the plague to disastrous consequences, the majority would get through everything with flying colors.

He’d been afraid, just looking at Halling, that their longtime friend and ally would be one of those who wouldn’t make it. But surprisingly, despite his condition, he’d been a lucky survivor. And more than that—according to Keller, some of the experiments done on him might lead to advancements in understanding a potential cure.

In addition to the Athosians, there had been a handful of other ‘immune’ races who’d also been pulled out, given Teyla’s insistence in saving them all. That had earned them brownie points with some of the Coalition members.

Thinking of the Coalition, he’d also been glad to see Mayel Serrana up and about.

According to Teyla, she’d been extremely resourceful during the rescue of the Athosians, and he was sort of selfishly glad they’d decided to trust her, because she appeared to be living up to expectations. The gaps she was managing to bridge between them and the Coalition reminded him a little of the initial goals of the Expedition, the reason they’d come. In a way, she was helping them establish a feasible way to attain the goals Nancy had charged them with.

The memory of his ex-wife flooding his current thoughts about Mayel Serrana felt a little weird. He shook his head and took a glance up at the control room.

Rodney was up there, studying one of the monitors, and he casually made his way up the steps, jogging the final few to land next to his friend.

“Interesting,” Rodney said, not even bothering with hello. “This data drive given to us by that Genii has tons of information on it—the experiments done on the Athosians and the others, the Wraith facility…”

“She has a name, you know.”

“Huh, what? Oh, yeah…Ser…Sera?”

“Mayel…SerRANA.”

Rodney gazed at him impassively for a moment and he shook his head. “What else did you find?”

“A list of planets. But I can’t figure out what possible importance they could have. Most of them are incredibly remote—some don’t even have gates on them.”

“More Wraith testing centers?”

“That’s what I thought, but a couple of them appear to never have been inhabited. Look.” He pulled up a corresponding set of planet names, and reports. “P25-613—its gate was one of the ones we harvested when we were building the gate bridge. We did an extremely thorough sweep of that place and though we found the remnants of a society, we didn’t see anything that indicated there was life there now. I can’t imagine the Wraith could have built up an entire testing facility within two years.”

John shrugged. “Maybe we could send teams out there, scout again.”

“Yeah.” Rodney shoved his hands in his pockets. “Good news about Teyla’s people, right?”

“Mostly,” John said, straightening.

“What other complaint could they have? If it hadn’t been for her, they’d never have been rescued.”

“That’s not the issue,” John replied.

“Then what?”

“Most of them think that if it hadn’t been for her, they’d never have gotten captured in the first place.”

Rodney made a face. “There’s no way they could prove that! If it hadn’t been for Teyla, they’d still be hunter-gathering in…in…”

“Athos? I think that’s sort of their point, Rodney. For some people, being agrarian is much better than being captured and experimented on by various Wraith over and over.”

“Yeah, well…”

“It’s their lives, Rodney. Their decision. May not be fair to Teyla, but Teyla’s, well…”

“One of us?”

“And that might be exactly the problem.”

 

--/--

 

Teyla stood before the highest-ranking members of her tribe, who were seated around a makeshift fire pit. No decisions had been made regarding the location of the Athosians, now that most had returned, and nothing had been decided regarding their future with Atlantis. Their future remained unclear.

Though there was one thing that was clear. When those decisions were made, Teyla would not be a part of them. Of that, she was certain. What remained for her, was, she hoped, simply the most important part of her world, her ability to remain with her people for whatever little time she could. To provide Torren with the future she had pleaded with Nancy Sheppard to allow him to have.

Halling was at the center, looking pale and weak, his son beside him. Jinto’s demeanor was more reserved now that the mission had been, for the most part, successful, but his feelings towards her were mostly unchanged. His father, and those who suffered, would not have suffered as greatly had it not been for her.

“Teyla Emmagan,” Halling said softly. “You come before us to petition a return to our tribe. You have been outcast by those who would punish you for your actions against us.”He gaze flickered towards Jinto. “Though not all were in agreement on this course, we must support the decisions of our leaders in times of trouble. But all should be given a fair right to be heard by all their representatives, if possible. For this reason, our council has reconvened in order to ask the question again, of whether you may remain leader, and a part of the tribe of Athos.

“You are a child of the Athosians. Your father, Torren, and your mother, Tagan, a wise and strong leader, both gave their lives for the benefit of this tribe. And you have been raised among its people to respect their ways and their beliefs and have done all in your power to protect those beliefs. This is not lost among your people.”

Jinto’s face scrunched into a small frown as Halling continued. “Few people can respect all you have gone through to try and ensure the safety of our people. Though not all decisions have been to our complete benefit, your intentions were always true. You have an Athosian heart. You are welcomed back into our tribe.”

Teyla smiled. “Thank you.”

“However,” Halling’s smile faded, as Teyla’s did. “By virtue of your actions, you have also demonstrated that, for the moment, your loyalty is split between our people and those you serve on Atlantis. While many do not fault you for this, in some regards, those who criticize you for it are not incorrect. Time and again our people have found themselves at the mercy of those who you inadvertently bring to us by virtue of your connections with the Lanteans. While this is not your intention, it cannot be denied that much of what has befallen us has occurred because of these ties.

“We would not ask you to abandon your position on Atlantis. We know that much can be learned by allying with them. But for our people, we must be able to trust our leader to always speak for our best interests above all others. So long as you remain a part of Atlantis, you cannot do this. Governance must belong to another and so it shall be. A vote of the council has placed their trust in Jinto, son of Halling, as the next leader of the Athosians.”

Jinto rose, the rest of the council following suit. He bowed his head towards the council members, then turned towards Teyla. “I will endeavor to serve our people with honor, as those that have gone before me. I know I will need much guidance in this quest.”

He studied her for a moment, then moved towards her until they were close enough to touch and bent his head towards her.

“I hope you will assist me in learning, Teyla Emmagan. I have much to learn.”

She closed her eyes, her chest tight, but met his forehead with her own. “I will do my best for my people and their new leader. As I have always done.”

 

--/--

 

John exited to the balcony, not truly surprised to see Mayel standing there, overlooking the sea. It had become a favorite place for her. Apparently, they didn’t have many places to see the sky in the refugee planets they used for home bases. Or they didn’t have the opportunity to do so.

She turned at the sound of the doors opening, her expression unchanging as she noticed him. That meant she was becoming comfortable with his presence.

Or bored.  He didn’t know if he much liked that idea.

“Back to one hundred percent?” he asked casually.

“I am feeling very well, thank you,” she replied with a smile.

“You heading out soon?”

“Your technician is dialing up the contact addresses for me to be able to rejoin the Genii.”

“You didn’t head out with your party earlier.”

“They were returning to our homeworld. I am joining Ladon in order to report the destruction of the Wraith facility to the Coalition.”

“Ah. I thought you hung around just to say goodbye to me.”

To his surprise she stiffened, looking just a bit uncomfortable. “No…”

“I was kidding.”

“Ah. Of course. You and your odd sense of humor.”

“Seems we’re one of the few races in Pegasus that actually have one.”

She frowned. “I have a sense of humor.”

He’d walked into that one. “I’m not saying you don’t. I didn’t include the Genii.”

“Then who were you referring to?”

He made a mock thinking face, leaning forward against the rails. “For starters? The Wraith. They never appreciate any of my jokes. And they’re just a waste at get-togethers.”

That brought a smile to her face. Her gaze turned up, towards the sky, which was bright and full of sunlight. “What will become of the Wraith you let loose?”

“Todd?” John shrugged. “Who knows? Seems like he’s got his hands full, but one thing I know about Todd, he has an uncanny ability to survive. We may see him again.”

“Does this worry you?”

“Everything about the Wraith worries me,” he replied, trying to be nonchalant. In the back of his mind, he did have the doubt she was referring to, the notion that maybe they’d let a ticking time bomb back out into the galaxy, one that would detonate right under their noses if they didn’t watch their backs.

Then again, they’d gotten this far. Maybe taking the gamble was a part of playing the game. “But he doesn’t appear to be a problem for us today.”

She glanced over at him for a second, and then returned her gaze to the sunny sky. “No, I do not think so. Not today.”

He followed her stare out over the ocean. “Not today.”

 

--/--

 

Amelia Banks stood beside Ronon’s bed, watching him as he slept.He had nearly recovered from the wounds he received in the last battle, but Doctor Keller had insisted he remain in the infirmary a few more days.To both their surprises, he’d complied.

“Everything okay?” he murmured drowsily, startling her.

She smiled, after a moment.“Everything’s fine.”

His expression softened a little. “You don’t have to hang around here for me.”

“I know,” she said. “I felt like it. It’s becoming sort of like a second home.”

He tilted his head at her, trying to smile through the grogginess. She knew he appreciated the lightheartedness, especially now, with all the intensity of their return to Pegasus.“Speaking of which, if you don’t want to keep on visiting, you could cut back on the running around, guns blazing, thing, you know. You’re not Atlantis’s self appointed Mr.-Fix-It.”

His face crumpled into confusion. Earth-to-alien colloquialisms. She’d never be able to balance which they knew and didn’t. “I mean you don’t have to go around saving everyone on Atlantis all the time. You can just sit back and, you know, battle on the back lines or something.”

He smiled a little. “Not my style.”

“I know. But this is what it costs. One of these days, Ronon...” She sighed. “I know you did it for Teyla and her people and that is noble. But you also need to take yourself into consideration here. Nobody wants to lose you, either.”

He made a small face, either affected by the direct spelling out of what he was doing or the show of emotion she’d made at the end of her statement, then folded back into that resilient Ronon stare. “This isn’t about me.”

“It never is,” she said quietly.

Maybe he sensed her tentativeness, for he met her eyes once more. “I’m not doing this because I don’t care about myself, Amelia.”

That was unusually candid. She studied him questioningly. “Then what?”

He sighed loudly, settling back into the pillows. “Teyla’s people are important to her. She’s sacrificed a lot to see that they’ve been kept safe, and they keep being tested.But they still fight, still struggle to survive, and somehow, they do. It is a spirit that deserves to be honored.”

He closed his eyes.“My people fought like that.They were destroyed for that reason. But they weren’t as lucky as the Athosians. They didn’t have a leader like Teyla fighting for them.Even if they feel like some of her choices led to their troubles, in general because of them, they’ve survived.

“Had someone done that for my people,” he continued, his face, though the expression had not truly changed, suddenly looked sad, “we might have had a home to return to as well. I will make sure Teyla has a place to go home to always, no matter what the cost.”

Amelia felt tears blur her vision, and she nodded in response. She cast her eyes towards the monitors reflexively, observing without really doing so, and turned.

Teyla stood behind her, her eyes on Ronon and her jaw set tight.

“Teyla.”

“Amelia.” The Athosian nodded at her.

Suddenly, she felt a little out of place.“Ronon, I need to get back—get some rest.”

Ronon had opened his eyes at the sound of Teyla’s voice.  He nodded at Amelia, squeezing her hand, as the Athosian walked over towards him.

She turned from them, her chest suddenly feeling uncomfortably tight.

 

--/--

 

Teyla watched Amelia Banks go, offering her a small smile, and clasped Ronon’s hand.“How are you feeling, old friend?”

“I’m not old,” he returned, a bit chidingly.

She smiled. “That you are not.”

“How are you?” he asked with concern. “You…”

“I am fine.”

“And your people?”

“They are alive,” she replied.

“But you’re no longer their leader, are you?” he said, studying her face. Ronon had always been able to read her well.

Her smile grew a little, in sadness. “I am not. But I am no longer outcast and that is what is most important.”

“Is that how you really feel?”

“Long ago I made a choice,” she said, looking at him. “I chose to trust Colonel Sheppard, Elizabeth and their people with the safety of my own. In exchange I granted Atlantis my allegiance—and my service.Though in many ways that decision helped the Athosians, it also meant that they were at times without a true leader.  I do not blame them for wishing this to change, now, after so much has occurred.  What matters to me is that they still believe in me—in my devotion to them.  I wish only they trust in my heart.”

He smiled.“I’m sure they do.”

“Ronon…” she cast her eyes away from his face. “I wish you to believe this also.  Please know…I would never try to hurt you.”

He squeezed her hand, his voice become softer. “I know.”

“I am sorry I deceived you.”

The grip on her hand tightened, causing her to turn her face down towards him. “Teyla, I’m still here.  I’ll always be here for you. You can trust in that.”

“I feel the same, my friend.” She squeezed his hand in return.  “I will be here for you as well. Always.”

A smile flashed across his face. “Wouldn’t be the same without you.  Besides, I need someone around who is actually a challenge to spar with.”

“And in that I will always gladly comply. You may trust in that.”

 

-- FINIS TRUST --

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