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Evolution, CH IV

>>> Back to Evolution, CH III

 

John shoved his sunglasses up on the bridge of his nose, squinting a little in the brighter light of the afternoon. 

Tactical assessment of the area had determined the most likely location of the rebel Hive, nearly twenty klicks to the east. The easiest method of travel to Keller's captors was on foot. The thickness of the forest made travelling by Jumper nearly impossible, particularly if the Hive occupied by the rebels was as overgrown as the one of their hosts. It'd be difficult to spot and even more difficult to sneak up on. 

He'd have a couple cloaked and patrolling overhead to signal by radio if absolutely necessary, but for the most part they were on their own. 

For the trek he'd called out the best of the ground support; the Queen really hadn't been able to give them a good assessment of exactly how many rebels there were. Though the initial group that had defected had been small, since then a number of the Queen's workers—and many of her already sparse male population—had either fled to the rebels quietly or been kidnapped, as the group taken with Keller had been. She was pretty certain the abductees were being drugged and turned, but there was no way to tell which of them had survived and which hadn't. 

Marching in on foot into a potential pseudo-Wraith Hive didn't really sit well with him, but neither did the notion of Keller, alone and at the mercy of these pretenders. He just prayed that they hadn't been overzealous in their devotion to the old Wraith cause. 

Rodney trudged up behind him, fully decked out in tactical gear, a P-90 in his hand. John eyed him for a moment; his friend looked worn and completely unrested, and his hair was standing up even more than usual. 

"Maybe you wanna sit this one out?" John murmured, pretty much knowing what the response would be. 

Surprisingly, Rodney didn't jump all over him as he was expecting. The scientist turned to face him, an eerie sort of calm on his face. "Why?" 

"Well…" John glanced at the ground. "It's gonna be a long hike, y'know, we're gonna be running the whole time…" 

Rodney watched him with a flat expression. "Yeah…" 

"Concussion…bruised ribs…" 

"Yeah…" 

"Plus, we don't know how many Wraith we're going to run into over there…could be…dozens…" 

That was the wrong thing to say. McKay's eyes widened, an expression of panic flashing across his face. 

"Maybe not dozens," John said. "And they're not really Wraith, so…" 

"Look, I get it," Rodney replied softly. "You think this is too personal, that because this is Jennifer I'm going to go rushing in without a thought, guns blazing, playing the superhero…" 

"I don't know if I'd quite put it like that, but, something along those general lines." 

"Well, I'm not." McKay shifted the P-90. "I'm not Ronon, I get that. But this is Jennifer and she's in danger and if you think that I'm just going to sit around panicking and whining, well, you don't know me very well." 

John arched an eyebrow. "Guess I don't." 

"Did you sit back and wait when it was Teyla? When Ronon was captured? Carson?" 

"That's different. They're members of my team." 

"Please. They mean more than that to you. This is the same." 

"No, it isn't." 

"Why…because I love her?" 

John shifted uncomfortably as Rodney studied him. "I didn't say that." 

"That's what you meant! And it shouldn't make a difference. In fact, it should give me even more reason to want to do this!" 

"Feelings get involved, things start to get muddled, Rodney. You don't think straight. You can blow an entire operation because you get the inclination that you're going to be superman, rescue the…" 

"You think I'm doing this because I want to be the one to save her? That this is some kind of vainglorious attempt to make myself look good?" Rodney stepped up towards him, narrowing his eyes. "She's been kidnapped. She's in danger. I might never…I will do anything I can to find a way to get her back. I don't care who does it or how, but I just want her back. Whatever it takes." 

John swallowed, not quite sure what to say. They stood in awkward, uncomfortable silence for a moment. 

Rodney lowered his head, casting his eyes to the side. "I'm gonna go double check the data the Jumpers collected. You know…just to be safe." 

"Sure." John watched him walk off. There wasn't really much he could say; he couldn't stop Rodney's going, at least not in principle, and heaven knew he wasn't exactly the poster child for exercising rational caution when one of his team was in danger. 

Teyla walked up, her eyes on Rodney. "Is Rodney all right?" 

"About as all right as anyone could be after his significant other was kidnapped by almost-Wraith." 

"Jennifer is strong and intelligent. If there is any way to survive, she will find the means." 

"Yeah it's the 'if there's any way' part that bothers me." 

"We must not lose hope," she said. "I said as much to Rodney earlier. Though I suspect it is difficult for him. He has never invested so much in a person before." 

"It's not like this is the first time someone he cares about has been in harm's way." 

"No…but perhaps as one's feelings grow so do the consequences of such things. Each time it becomes more difficult to find the person you love is in danger." 

"I'd think it would be about the same. You, you know…care…about someone, you lose them—it's not easy no matter which way you look at it." He shifted awkwardly on his feet, looking towards the area where Rodney had disappeared. "In any case, it's not going to help Keller at all if Rodney's not thinking clearly." 

Teyla smiled softly. "You may be correct. But love is different for everyone, is it not? What might seem a liability for one may be an asset to another." 

"You think McKay's better off coming along?" 

"I think Rodney works best under extreme pressure. Even you must see that." 

"This is different from us being attacked at the eleventh hour or with all the power gone from a Jumper sinking to the bottom of an ocean. This is personal." 

"And he has done everything in his power to see to it that those he cares about are kept safe no matter the circumstances. You must have a little faith in him, John. Do not believe that all people think as you." 

He shifted his gaze sharply to her face. "What's that supposed to mean?" 

"That love is…" She paused, frowning. 

"What?" 

"Sacrifice." 

He studied her for a moment, feeling vaguely like he'd just been slapped. "I don't think that." 

Teyla's eyebrow arched. 

"I don't. Love is…great." 

Her eyebrow danced higher. 

"I mean it. I've got nothing against love," he murmured uncomfortably, suddenly wanting this conversation to be very over. "Or Rodney and Keller or relationships." 

"I did not say that." 

"I know what it's like to be in love. I was married, remember?" 

"I know," she replied calmly. "But time and circumstance change how people think of things. Perhaps Rodney thinks differently than you. Perhaps…" 

He narrowed his eyes. "Perhaps what?" 

"Perhaps it is a feeling that you have yet to truly understand." 

Ronon walked up, pistol strapped to his hip. "Where's McKay?" Noting the silence between John and Teyla, he made a small face. "He coming?" 

"Yeah," John said, still looking at the Athosian. "I'll go round up our guys." 

He broke away from them, feeling a little irritated and a great deal more unsettled than he had before the gigantic plan to storm the unknown Wraith complex had been born. 

 

--/--

 

The young Queen wouldn't stop pacing, and is was starting to become disconcerting.  It didn't help that Jennifer now sat huddled on the floor of the Queen's chamber, being studied a bit like a lab rat. 

She wished…not that she'd ever had a death wish, but she wished that whatever the Queen and her party were planning, they'd just get it over and done with. At least then she wouldn't have to endure the waiting. 

The Queen moved over to a strange looking ceiling decoration, something that almost looked like a wind chime—only this one seemed made of bones—and fingered it lightly. 

"You were taken from the Hive?" She asked suddenly, her voice light, almost humanlike. "The other one, I mean?" 

Jennifer swallowed, breathing heavily, trying not to cry. It was difficult, when the creature more than likely going to kill her was trying to speak to her like a normal human. 

For the first time, the Queen seemed to notice the state of her emotions, and she tripped over towards her, bending down so the train of her garment trailed the floor. "Are you frightened?" 

Jennifer edged away from her, jerking back sharply as the Queen's long fingers reached towards her cheek. 

The soft expression on the girl's face faded and she rose, whirling so quickly her gossamer skirts flew out about her. 

Midway through the room, she turned. Her eyes were wide and a serene look graced her young face. "You do not have to be frightened; I will not harm you." 

Jennifer shut her eyes slowly. 

"You believe me, do you not?" 

When she opened her eyes, the Queen was nearer to her. "I do not believe in harming people. It is not my philosophy." 

"B-but you're Wraith," Jennifer whispered. 

The girl's eyebrows rose. "We are not Wraith." 

Jennifer looked at her in puzzlement, forgetting, for a moment, to be frightened. "You're not Wraith?" 

"Of course not. Wraith have not existed on this world for many thousands of seasons." 

"Then what are you?" 

"We are my Mother's children." 

"You're…you're from the Queen's Hive?" 

"She is my Mother. She is all our mother, of course, but I am…I was to be her successor." The girl glanced down at her hands, trying to appear disinterested. "You have met my Mother. Does she…is she well?" 

"Y-yes." 

"Good." The girl rose, glancing about her chamber. 

"I…I don't understand." Jennifer ventured to sit up a bit more. "If you're the Queen's daughter, why are you here, with…them?" 

The girl glanced up, her expression subdued. "I was...not what was needed." 

"Needed?" 

"I am different." 

Jennifer studied her cautiously. "Different how?" 

"I am like them." 

"Them?" Jennifer felt vaguely like a sounding board.

"Our ancestors. The Wraith." The girl flipped up her hand, displaying the palm. As with the Wraith that had captured her, there was a slit across the palm, not as visible as those of the Wraith, but unmistakable nonetheless. 

Jennifer shied back a few inches, trying to maintain some of her calm, as the girl resumed her pacing across the floor. "Then…then you're not…you're not really Wraith?" 

The girl's shoulders slumped a little. "We are not Wraith. We are the ones of our Hive who were cursed with their gifts. Not capable of being like my Mother's people. Not pure. Tainted. As a result, we were ostracized from her Hive." 

"The Queen banished you?" 

"Those who are tainted are incapable of keeping the peace of the Hive. We are a danger to ourselves and our fellow people. We needed to leave." 

"But if you were the ones ostracized, then why did you attack them?" 

"Attack them? We would not attack them." 

"But you did. Why do you think…?" she held up her hands, gesturing to the ropes. 

The Queen blinked at her. "You must have provoked them somehow. Given them a reason to take you." 

"No, I didn't," Jennifer replied. "They threatened me with being fed on. Then they kidnapped me. And blew up a part of the Queen's Hive. A part…" 

The image of Rodney, standing just below the hole in the Hive as the bomb went off, flashed through her mind, and her breath caught in her throat, choking her words. 

"You're monsters," she said. Her cheeks were moist. "Just like them." 

There was a flash of something white, and suddenly Jennifer found herself face to face with the gleaming teeth of the young creature, whose eyes were narrowed dangerously. She skittered backwards with a sharp gasp of breath, scuttling into the shadows of the room's corner, as the girl paced towards her, a twisted, hateful expression on her face. 

"You offend me," she hissed. 

"I'm sorry," Jennifer whimpered. "I didn't mean…" 

She held up her hands protectively and shut her eyes, shedding the remainder of her tears. A long moment seemed to pass, until cool fingers touched the marks cut into her wrists by the rough way she'd been tied up, and she felt the bindings loosen. 

Jennifer glanced over once more, surprised to find the creature again with her human-like face staring concernedly at her. The blue eyes looked across her dirty features, mussed hair, and the torn fabric of her pants. 

"You are no warrior," the girl stated matter-of-factly. "Your hands are too soft." 

"No," Jennifer managed in a raspy whisper. "I'm a d-doctor." 

"A what?" 

"Healer. S-scientist." 

"I don't understand. They told me you were dangerous. They would never take one who was not." The girl turned, the troubled expression still on her face. 

"Are those the same guys who k-kidnapped me? Who kidnapped your Mom's people?" 

The girl eyed her suspiciously. "Sometimes we have need of my Mother's people, but not all are cooperative. There is force involved on occasion." 

Jennifer stared at her. 

"We do not hurt them," the girl said, her voice growing smaller. "But they will not help us if we simply ask. They are afraid of us, of becoming like us. But we have need of the medicine." 

"Medicine?" 

"To curb the desire. The hunger." The Queen settled lightly on the floor. "Without their treatments, we would all be driven to feed upon one another. We need their treatments to keep us like them." 

"So, then, you don't…feed?" Jennifer nodded towards the girl's hands. 

The Queen followed her gaze, staring down at the palms of her hands for a moment, then clenched them shut. "I don't 'feed' on anything. I do not wish to." 

"Then why do your followers threaten it?" Jennifer asked, suddenly feeling a great deal more relieved. "That Wraith that brought me in, he could." 

"He's not a Wraith. And you were a threat. Our capabilities are protection against those who would threaten us. We use them only if we need to defend ourselves." 

"Look at me. Do I look like a threat to you?" 

The girl glanced back up. "It is difficult to identify who is a threat and who is not. We must defend ourselves." 

"Defending yourselves is one thing. But when you use your abilities to attack, that's something else." 

"Again you accuse my people of attacking. Why do you lie so?" 

"Look, whatever your men have been telling you, those are the lies. They were the ones who attacked your Mother's Hive and kidnapped your Mother's people, not the other way around. They hurt people." 

The girl hissed slowly. "This is the second time you have offended me. Do not do so again." 

"Well, at the moment, I…I don't really care," Jennifer replied, Rodney's face flashing through her mind again. Colonel Sheppard would probably call what she was doing a bluff, but she certainly would have loved his confidence at the moment. 

"Perhaps you should," the girl said, rising. "If you are perceived a threat, there is nothing you could do to stop my men from treating you as such." 

"And then you really would be Wraith." 

The Queen's face curled into a cruel sneer, her eyes drawing into slits, her fingers curving, talon-like above her exposed palm. 

"Go ahead," Jennifer murmured. "Your people have already destroyed an important part of my life. Why should I care if you take the rest? It's an honor among the Wraith to be killed by a Queen, I hear." 

Slowly, very slowly, the Queen's lips uncurled from their sneer, a soft brightness returning to her eyes. 

"I don't understand this," she murmured, her eyes dropping to her own hands. "I don't understand why they would lie to me. We're supposed to be fighting our instincts, so we can become more like them." 

"Maybe you are," Jennifer said softly. "Just not the 'them' you're thinking of." 

 

--/--

 

The Marines traditionally went at a fast clip that Rodney would find nearly impossible to keep up with, but this time he pressed forward, doing his best to keep pace despite the thick brush and rolling floor of the forest. 

Sheppard had kept them going, which he was half grateful for, for Jennifer's sake, even if it would more than likely give him shin splints and made his chest ache like he was a living fireball. 

But what she was probably going through was worse, much worse, than any aches and pains he might get. He could deal with them. He could deal with pretty much anything at this point, so long as she was okay. 

Ronon was waiting at the edge of a rise, keeping an eagle's eye out for anything out of the ordinary, though how he knew what was out of the ordinary on an alien planet was beyond Rodney. Still, he was looking, and that was good to know. 

He waited for Rodney to pass him then meandered down, keeping a slow pace, though he could have outstripped any of those Marines in a few seconds flat. Instead, his jog put him right next to Rodney's lumbering. 

"You okay?" He said a few moments later, in typical Ronon fashion. 

"Fine," Rodney huffed in reply, trying to find a comfortable place to keep his P-90 from bouncing around like a paddleball. 

"Need help?" 

"No." 

"I can carry some of that stuff…" 

"Talking not helping," Rodney managed, gasping relief as the Marines suddenly drew to a halt. He looked up at the Satedan, who'd crossed his arms, eyes on the Marines and whatever Sheppard was going to say when he appeared, though Rodney knew he was still attuned to Rodney's present state. 

"Ronon, I'm fine. Just…get your stunner ready, or something." 

Ronon turned, making a face. 

"For Jennifer's sake." 

"It's not going to help her if you're worn out when we get there." 

"Yes, I'm aware of that, thank you. And it doesn't matter. I don't know why everyone is concerned about my well-being at the moment. I'm not the one bound and gagged by a bunch of Wraith groupies." 

Ronon didn't have a chance to respond—or not respond, as was the case with him half the time—as Sheppard worked his way back towards them. 

"Just up ahead," he said, his focus on Ronon. "It's well hidden but not unrecognizable. Doesn't seem to be many guards." 

"What do you want us to do?" 

Sheppard frowned as he directed his attention to Rodney, almost like he'd forgotten he was there. "Be patient." 

"Patient? How am I supposed to be patient? Jennifer's in there!" 

"We need a few minutes, Rodney. We can't just go running in and demand a Hive of fifty Wraith wannabes give back your girlfriend." 

"Of course not. Though I'm sure if it was that Genii girl, it'd be a different story." 

John's eyebrows narrowed dangerously. "I understand you're concerned, McKay, so I'm going to pretend I didn't hear you say anything. But Keller's one of my people too, and don't you ever forget that." 

His tone brooked no argument. Rodney exchanged a frustrated glance with Ronon, or at least he assumed Ronon was frustrated, because the Satedan merely looked at him then looked back to Sheppard with a placid expression. "What's your plan?" 

 

--/--

 

Teyla paused beside the trunk of one wide tree, embracing the accelerated beat of her heart. Fear could not be contained, but it could be controlled, a lesson she had learned with some difficulty through the course of her life. 

Ronon was a few paces ahead of her, peering around another tree, trying to discern more of the entrance of the massive Hive that was before them. 

It was unlike any Hive Teyla had encountered before, not composed of the organic materials they were all accustomed to seeing, but rather bound together the life of the planet itself—the trees, the vines and weeds, the moss. There were portions that were Hive-like in nature, perhaps stolen from the original Hive, or engendered during the short time of this Hive's existence, but the majority of this location was composed almost completely of natural elements. 

It was understandable because of the lack of human hosts in which to engender another Hive, if Teyla understood the Wraith processes at all. She also ventured to believe these rebels against the Queen had little understanding of the true nature of the Wraith world, despite their attempts to be like their ancestors. 

She and Ronon had managed to scout, unseen, around a large portion of the Hive, and it appeared the same all around, with no entrances now beyond the one they were now observing, an opening that appeared to lead into a clearing. 

Ronon gestured her towards him, and she moved swiftly and quietly to his position. He indicated with his head towards an opening in the tangles, where two guards stood just within the shadow of the maw. They were quite obviously alert and on the look out for intruders. 

Ronon moved away using the cover of the trees, keeping silent until they were more than halfway back to where Colonel Sheppard had halted their team. 

"They're expecting us," he said, finally. 

She nodded in response, her pace quick to keep up with his long strides. "Yes. They are aware we are coming." 

"Probably not used to guns like these." He gestured to the P-90 she carried and his own weapon. 

"From what the Queen said, I very much doubt they are accustomed to firepower at all." 

"They knew enough to build an explosive device." 

"True." 

"Wherever they're keeping Keller hostage, it's not gonna be easy to find her in that place." 

She noticed he did not mention the word 'if'. 

They reached the campsite a few moments later, where John stood amidst a group of his Marines. At their arrival he turned eagerly to greet them, trailed by Major Lorne and Rodney. 

"Did you see her?" Rodney asked, before John had the opportunity to speak. 

"She's not going to be in plain sight," Ronon said, though his tone was not as chastising as it could be. 

"All we managed to see was the entrance," Teyla said, directing the answer towards Rodney. "It does not appear the Hive has a second entrance, at least not one easily accessible." 

"They're waiting for us," Ronon added. "They know we're coming." 

"Considering they kidnapped one of our own, I'd assume they'd figured we'd be coming after her," John said. He thought for a moment, gaze indiscernible behind his sunglasses, but mouth quirking slightly. 

"Any ideas?" he said after a moment. "Everything I've got involves going straight through the front door. Not that that's bad, but I don't think it's the best idea for preserving Keller's health." 

Teyla dropped her eyes to the ground, musing. Everything they had seen so far seemed to place them at a significant disadvantage. It was as though there was no way in which they could approach the situation without risking lives. Everything posed a threat, as it so often did with the Wraith. 

Something clicked in her mind at that moment; a realization she shamefully admitted she should have been aware of some time ago. 

These were not Wraith. 

"I may have an idea," she said, looking up towards John. He pursed his lips again, shifting his stance. 

"Okay. Shoot." 

 

--/--

 

"MORE like the Wraith?" The young Queen gazed at Jennifer incredulously, her legs crossed on the floor and chin resting in her hand. "You believe that is what my men are stealing? Medicines that make them more like our ancestors?" 

"It was what those scientists were working on." 

"That is ridiculous," the girl said, unfolding her legs and rising. "The entire reason I am here is because my Mother determined me a threat—because I was too much like the Wraith to begin with!" 

"Did she tell you that herself?" 

The girl looked up, meeting her gaze. "No. After the first incident, she banished me from the Hive." 

"Incident?" 

"I…lashed out at someone. I attacked them. I almost…" Her small hand clenched into a fist over her feeding slit. 

"And she banished you for that?" 

"My Commander told me…he told me as he took me. That she no longer wished to see me." 

"But you didn't hear that from the Queen? You never spoke to your Mom through all of that?" 

"No." The girl lowered her head. "She was so displeased with me. Ashamed." 

"But this is based on what your Commander told you, right?" 

"Yes. But he has no reason…" 

"When I first arrived here, he was ordering the Wraith, I mean, um, guy, who took me, on what to do. Is he your second in command?" 

"He is my advisor." 

"Did he happen to be one of the ones who first appeared cursed?" 

The Queen glanced at her sharply. "He was the first." 

"How long ago was that?" 

"Quite long ago. Before I was born." 

"This Hive's been around that long?" 

"Yes, but not like this. It did not have our numbers until the last generation of our people was born. It was then that the curse grew strong." 

"Around the time that you were born?" 

She stared at Jennifer suspiciously. "Yes." 

Jennifer glanced at the floor, trying to piece it together. 

"Why would that make a difference?" the girl asked. 

"Because," Jennifer said, "every Hive needs a Queen." 

"What?" 

"It's just the way the Wraith work. All Hives need a Queen, or at least need to appear as though they are led by a Queen. You were needed here." 

"But they have my Mother. The true Queen!" 

"Yeah, but your Mom's certainly not going to do it their way. She doesn't want to be like the Wraith." 

"But neither do I." 

"I don't think you have a choice," Jennifer replied. Her thoughts flashed to the vials the Commander was so eager to get his hands on. "Have you been taking that drug daily? The one that's supposed to curb your appetite?" 

"Yes." 

"And are you sure that's what it's for?" 

"Of course. It was given after I started to feel the cravings." 

"You didn't always have them?" 

The girl studied her for a moment. "No. In my Mother's Hive, I was like them. Until just a short time ago." 

Jennifer made a face. "And you don't think it's possible that they started giving you that stuff prior to your being 'cast out?' What if it's what caused your cravings in the first place?" 

"What? That is a foolish assumption." 

"If you're taking that drug your Mom's people told me about, it's not curbing your appetite—it's feeding it. They're trying to turn you into a Wraith Queen," Jennifer said. "And it's only a matter of time before that craving—it becomes so great that you'll give in to them and be just like the Wraith. That's what they're waiting for." 

"No!" The girl snapped. "You ask me to question the motives of those who have raised me with great care and devotion. For what reason? I have known you only a short while, you are a human—and apparently an untrustworthy one at that." 

"If that's the case, why are you still listening?" Jennifer shot back. "If I'm just a miserable human whose going to lie to you, while am I still alive?" 

"I don't know," the girl retorted coldly. "I suppose I have mercy for you." 

"No, you have an instinct—one that you know is more correct than what these guys have told you. You know the drug to supposedly curb your appetite isn't working. You know I'm right. You're just too darn stubborn to admit it." 

"I am not!" 

The way the girl was standing, with her arms crossed, and one foot stamping emphasis on her last words, suddenly reminded Jennifer of the days back home, arguing with her best friend. Just two girls, being stubborn. Only in this case, it was one Wraith Queen and one human. 

She laughed. 

"What is so funny?" asked the girl petulantly. "You are laughing at me?" 

"No. I'm laughing at…at this. This whole situation is just…ridiculous." 

"Ridiculous?" 

"I should be dead by now." Jennifer rose, pausing as her muscles ached in rebellion at the action. "You're a Wraith. I'm a human. I shouldn't be arguing with you like you're my…my…" 

"Your what?" 

"My friend," Jennifer replied softly. "Or my sister, one of the two." 

The girl stared at her for a moment, face wrinkled into a frown. Slowly, the lines smoothed and she gazed at Jennifer's face, a small smile growing. "Mother said humans were stubborn and different from what I would be used to. You are very much both." 

"Well, that's just our human nature, I guess," Jennifer said. 

"Indeed. If…" 

The door to the chambers slid open and the Commander who'd greeted Jennifer's captors hurried in. "My lady, we have a situation." 

"What type of situation?" 

"A dangerous one. We must get you to a safer place." 

The girl frowned. "What kind of situation?" 

"My lady…" 

"Answer me!" The tone brooked no argument, and the commander could seem to do nothing save what he was commanded. 

"They have come for the human," he responded, bowing low before her. The Queen glanced back at Jennifer. 

"Who has?" 

"The other humans. They come brandishing weapons, and we believe they will fight to rescue her." 

Something seemed to flash across the girl's face, and she looked him over severely. "Why would they have need to rescue one who attacked you?" 

The question caught the commander off guard, and he balked for a moment. "She attacked us, your majesty, but we did take her…" 

"Against her will. Where are these humans who assault us?" 

"They are approaching the Hive, my lady."

"Then we shall greet them." The girl started towards the door, though the Commander seized her arm. 

"You cannot do that." 

"Release me." 

Again, the Commander seemed to be unable to resist her orders. "My lady…" 

"UNHAND ME." 

His grip slipped from her arm. 

"Please wait here," she instructed Jennifer, then turned back to her second. "Take me to the throne room. And show our guests in. We must do our Queen justice." 

 

--/--

 

As far as plans went, this was not one of John's favorites. 

Despite Teyla's assertions that this Hive was not really composed of Wraith, but rather a host of reasonable, if aggravated, creatures, the idea of walking in to approach them diplomatically was not his first choice of solutions. 

But Teyla had been insistent, and the Hive scouts with them seemed to support her theory—if they wanted to reach these guys through the veil of Wraith-wannabe-ism, they needed to take the rational approach. 

He'd only agree to half that logic. Lorne's team was in the dark, sneaking in behind them, while they served as a distraction, and the two cloaked Jumpers were overhead, ready to fire if necessary. 

They'd made their way into the front portion of the Hive, when the first of the rebels assaulted them. Weapons, gear—it had all been stripped, though the assailants looked more like a bunch of wide-eyed newbies, not quite certain about what they were doing, despite their menacing appearance. They also received an escort, but the group with them seemed like they might drop their stunners and run at the first sign of 'boo.' 

Overall, the whole thing seemed very amateur, and he was starting to get a sense of what it was Teyla had been getting at. Though he'd prefer to be safe than sorry, which was why he was glad their escort hadn't been terribly thorough in their pat-downs. 

The strange, hybrid hallway opened into a large room, constructed in Hive manner but not of Hive materials. A throne stood in the middle, upon which was seated a small, blond figure, not much larger than a child. 

Teyla cocked her head, studying the girl with interest. "This must be the daughter of the Queen." 

"You think?" 

She tossed him an irritated look, to which he shrugged. Alongside the princess stood a rather imposing male Wraith-like…thing…who'd have been a perfect match for Todd, had John not known the history of the group. He certainly put on a good Wraith face. 

"Hello," John said coyly, as they paused before the princess. 

"Hello," she replied back, her tone cool, though she surveyed them with interest. "More humans?" 

"Well, at least you refer to us as humans and not snacks," John quipped back. The girl raised an eyebrow, looking a little irritated. "Sorry, comes with the turf." 

"We are not your 'turf'," she returned. "Why are you here?" 

"What?" snapped Rodney. John turned to him, doing his best 'shut up and stand over there' expression, but the scientist was completely ignoring him. "You stole one of our people and you're wondering why we're here?" 

At his mention of Keller, the princess straightened, looking interested. "You are here for your healer?" 

"No, we thought we'd just take a stroll across the planet to sightsee," Rodney shot back. "Where is she?" 

The princess made a face. "She is well." 

"Rodney," John snapped, eyes narrowed. 

McKay looked over at him for the first time, absorbing his expression but seeming a little unfazed, until Ronon hulked up next to him, crossing his arms. 

"Look, we don't want to disturb whatever…lifestyle…you've got set up here, not really. All we want is Doctor Keller back, and we'll leave you in peace." 

"Likely," said the Commander. 

"We don't have a reason to attack you…yet," John said. "Don't give us one now. Whatever your grudge with the Queen and her Hive isn't on us, and as far as I'm concerned, you can continue bombing her place to your heart's content. I just want my person back." 

"Bombing?" The princess looked up at her Commander. "You attacked the Hive?" 

"We defended ourselves," the Commander replied. "When these humans started firing." 

"Are you kidding?" Rodney actually took about three steps towards the Wraith before Ronon grabbed one of his arms. "You stole her. Her and half the Queen's science lab! You…" 

"He's right," John interrupted, as Rodney continued to struggle in Ronon's grasp. "You were the ones who provoked this by attacking the Queen's Hive and stealing her drugs and people. And considering how much like the Wraith you want to be, I can't say I'm surprised, but doesn't mean we're going to sit back and take it like she would." 

"We are not the ones approaching you with weapons," the Commander replied. 

"Like the Wraith?" The girl kept her gaze forward, though her hands gripped the chair arms tightly. "What does he refer to?" 

For the first time, the supercilious smile the Commander had been wearing faded. "He says such things to insult us, my lady." 

"So, you're not running around stealing Wraith drugs from the Queen." 

"That is medicine which we need," the girl said. "He told me so." 

"He told you so? The same guy who attacked the Hive and kidnapped Doctor Keller? Told you they were stealing medicines?" 

"We have no choice but to steal," the girl replied. "We have been ostracized. Banished from the Hive." 

Teyla's forehead crinkled. "Your mother did not banish you. You were taken from her." 

The girl's eyes narrowed. "She did not wish to see me. She cast me aside." 

"No mother, no matter how…" 

"Wraithlike?" John offered. 

"Concerned," Teyla finished. "No mother would ever wish to be completely separated from their child, even if there was a reason for distance between them. Your Mother wishes you back with her." 

"She rejected her," the Commander snapped, his eyes narrowing. "She did not want her." 

"That is a lie. The Queen very much wishes her daughter's safe return." 

"She does not. She…" 

The girl's hand flipped up, cutting him off, her eyes locked on John's. "What did my Mother say?" 

The Commander bent towards her. "My lady…" 

"What did she say?" 

"She told us that you'd been taken," John said. "Taken from her by these guys. She also said you were a good ki…er, daughter." 

"And that you would have made a very great Queen," Teyla added. "One very much like her." 

"Even though I was like the Wraith?" 

"That was not your fault," Teyla said. "You had no choice against what they were giving you." 

Something in the girl's eyes seemed to flare to life. "Then it is true." Her gaze shifted to the Wraith standing above her and she rose. "You have been trying to turn me into a monster!" 

The Commander's eyes darted from her to the group before him. It was in that split second that John could read, plainly, what was about to happen. 

"Take them," the Commander snarled, as Ronon reached into his heavy hair, withdrawing the knife he kept stashed there. He whirled around, Rodney still in tow, and slung the dagger into the face of the nearest Wraith guard. The female crumpled to the ground, dropping her stunner along the way. 

It was enough distraction for both Teyla and John to make moves on their captors, immobilizing them with hand-to-hand and grabbing their stunners. Stunner fire broke out from the remaining Hive guardians, but was met with a few choice shots from the humans. 

The Queen was out of her chair, two paces towards them as the Commander seized her, yanking her from her feet. 

"RELEASE ME!" 

"I am sorry, my lady," the Commander huffed. "You will understand with time." 

The stunner fire increased as another contingent of Wraith-like creatures entered from a far door, surrounding the group. 

"Still think this was a good idea?" John quipped to Teyla, who frowned at him as she closed in nearby. 

"Good so far," Ronon grinned. 

 

--/--

 

Jennifer uncrossed her legs, rubbing her wrists, and glanced up at the door. 

More than once she'd thought to just cross to it and leave, but she wasn't sure what would meet her out there. The Queen seemed her best bet as far as staying alive in this place. At least she was willing to listen. 

The sound of stunner fire suddenly echoed through the hallways, followed by a loud shout. 

Whatever negotiations they'd tried to enact, they obviously hadn't worked. 

She rose to her feet, darting to the door, and flicked the open switch. Running out into a Hive full of Wraith was one thing, but running out there while Colonel Sheppard was there—that was another. 

She only hoped she could get there in one piece. 

 

--/--

 

John slid his back up against Ronon's, the Satedan grunting in concentration as he took out another of the Wraith guards. "Can't keep this up much longer. We may have to pull back. Lorne?" 

"Almost there, sir." 

"Well, double time it! It's getting hot in here." 

"Getting hot?" Rodney snapped from the center of the circle. "And I'm not leaving Jennifer." 

"Let's focus on one problem at a time," John said, though he couldn't say, with almost ten stunner-armed pseudo-Wraith approaching and probably a host more on the way, he thought it was a good idea to stick around. 

"We will find her," Teyla reassured him in that ever-so-optimistic-and-not-always-rational way of hers. 

The Commander was still struggling with the Queen, apparently loathe to have to stun his sorta-leader, but doing his best to get her out of the room. 

He'd just managed to reach the doorway on the far side of the Hive when it slid open, and a sweaty, pale-faced Jennifer Keller met him from the other side. 

She took in his struggle with the Queen, her eyes widening, and promptly shoved herself at the pair, sending all three sprawling to the Hive floor. 

"JENNIFER!" Rodney broke from the circle, looking at his girlfriend and not the fifteen new enemies that had emerged from the hallway at the other end. 

"RODNEY!" 

The sound of P-90 fire from the front of the cavern was a welcome sound to John, as the remainder of the Marines, led by Lorne, broke into the Throne room. 

Jennifer pushed herself up, pain on her face as she caught sight of McKay rushing towards her. He slid to his knees, wrapping his arms around her, as her expression crumpled into a mixture of sorrow and relief. Despite the craziness going on around him, John felt a strange sort of pang in his chest. 

Ten more of the aggressors had been put down. He turned away from McKay and Keller and nodded at Ronon, who moved towards one of the guards who'd searched them earlier, knife at his throat, demanding their weapons. 

Teyla approached him as Rodney dragged Jennifer to her feet. "What of the scientists?" 

John shook his head. "We don't have time. We meet up with more of these guys and there's no guarantee we'll get out of here in one piece. If the Queen wants to deal with these guys and their drug stealing, she's going to have to figure out how to do it on her own." 

The sound of a low, angry growl forced him around to where McKay and Jennifer were standing. The Commander had drawn to his feet, a murderous expression in his eyes, his hand clenched in that ever-so-familiar pre-feeding posture. 

A whine echoed through the cavern as a stunner blast took him out, sending him crumpling to the ground. John shot a glance at Ronon, who shrugged. 

"Didn't have time to change the setting." 

"Let's go." 

"Colonel?" Teyla was staring at the young Queen, who was unconscious, sprawled near the body of the Commander. John looked at her, making a face, until Keller moved forward. 

"She didn't know, Colonel. They've been tricking her. I honestly don't think she's like them." 

"Yeah." 

"She deserves to be with her Mother, Colonel," Teyla said softly. 

He frowned down at the body, but then glanced at Ronon. 

The Satedan made a face, but walked towards the girl, picking her up. "They're not gonna like we're stealing their Queen." 

"Yeah, well, the other Queen'll have to deal with that, too." He gestured towards the door. "Now let's get the hell out of here." 

 

>>> To be concluded in  Evolution, CH V

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