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Evolution, CH V

<<< Back to Evolution, CH IV

 

"I didn't realize that when you asked for approval to go after Doctor Keller, you'd taken that as a blanket invitation to rescue whomever of the Hive's captives you felt like rescuing." 

John looked up at Woolsey from the floor of the jumper as he unhitched his TAC vest, throwing the expedition head, who'd so nicely come to greet them following the mission, a coy smile. "Wasn't exactly planned." 

"You do realize you've now given license to these rebels to attack the Queen's Hive directly?" 

"Because they weren't doing that before?" 

"What they've been doing up to now were strategic strikes for supplies. You've basically just given them a reason to declare war." 

John actually stopped unhitching, fixing Woolsey with an incredulous look. "Hold on a minute. For one thing, if these guys had had the means to declare war on this Hive, I guarantee you they would have done it already. And two, I think the Queen of this Hive sort of forfeited the privilege of amnesty when she allowed the rebels to start stealing things from her in the first place." 

"That was not for you to decide, Colonel. Go in, get our person, get out. That was the mission." 

"Which is exactly what we did. Except for one little alteration." 

"You kidnapped their Head of State!" 

"No, we rescued the future Queen of this race. A kid who'd been stolen from her mother and was being drugged against her will. From what I can tell, we actually did the Queen a favor." 

"I'll be sure to pass that sentiment along to her as she prepares her people for assault by the Wraith." 

"Not by the Wraith," John snapped. "Those guys—they're wannabes, but they're not Wraith. Not even close. The leader—he might have had a little evil commander in him, but the rest? They're greener than grass." 

"And that's the problem, isn't it?" Woolsey crossed his arms. "So are these Hive members. This Queen, this Hive—they are not prepared to fight. It doesn't matter how inexperienced their foe is, Colonel Sheppard. They are not equipped to handle a full-out assault. The only thing that prevented the rebels from figuring that out was they never had a reason to try. Now, we've just given them a reason." 

John frowned as Woolsey exited the jumper and glanced through the windshield at the Hive rising before him. Strange, that he would feel pity for a Queen and her people. 

But he did. 

 

--/--

 

Jennifer fingered the delicate string of tubing that connected the Hive monitor to the arm of the young Queen, marveling at the intricacy. 

Having nearly become a Hive herself, she had a vague recollection of how such things were made, and they were a marvel of engineering—even if they were completely creepy. 

The girl stirred in her bed, blinking a few times, before opening her eyes. She didn't look quite as Wraith-like in the brighter lights of the Hive infirmary. There were definite signs of the evolution of her people in her features, and her long blond hair framed her face as prettily as a doll's. 

"Where am I?" she asked. 

"You're in the Hive infirmary," Jennifer replied. "We brought you here." 

"I'm in my Mother's Hive?" The girl sat up quickly, glancing around at the walls. 

"Yep…and no rumor of your being tossed out due to certain Wraith-like traits," Jennifer said with a smile. "Your mother was more than happy to have you back." 

"Where is she?" 

"I think she's meeting with some of her counselors. They have to discuss a few things." 

The girl looked slowly over at the machines, drawing in a deep breath. "He's going to come for me. The Commander." 

"Probably. At least, that's what your Mother thinks." 

"He lied to me." She glanced down at her hand, curling and uncurling her fingers. "He tainted me." 

"Yes, well," Jennifer rose, moving over to a small table where a tablet lay. "That is going to change." 

"What do you mean?" 

"As I suspected, that medicine you've been taking—the one that's supposed to curb your, um, appetite? It wasn't medicine to suppress—it was a drug to enhance it. Not too different from something I've worked with before. They were giving it to you in small doses, to prevent its being too noticeable, but your system was full of it. We're weaning you off it now. It's going to be unpleasant for a while—you'll probably feel pretty sick—but when it's all gone, so will all your 'taintedness'." 

"Even…even this?" She flashed her palm at Jennifer. 

"That, I don't know. That's a physical capability that was awakened by the enzyme. I'm not sure if the slit will ever fully disappear." 

She leaned in towards the girl. "But your desire to use it? That really will disappear, so long as you want it to." 

The girl glanced down at her hand, then back up at Jennifer with a small smile. "That is good." 

"That is very good." 

 

--/--

 

"We have no choice. We must defend ourselves." The young male who'd first escorted John and his team around the Hive pounded a fist upon the table. John cast a glance at Teyla and Ronon, who met his with interest. They, along with Woolsey and Rodney, had been invited to the meeting as a courtesy, but had been informed by the expedition head that none of them were to participate unless asked. 

One of the females who'd also been a part of the earlier group shook her head. "If we do so, then we are no better than they. If we wish to preserve our integrity…" 

"Integrity? If we do not defend ourselves against them, they will overtake us. How much of your integrity do you believe they will preserve once they have you in their power? What of your sisters who have been taken?" Has their integrity been preserved?" 

"They have no more of the drug. They cannot turn us into them." 

"They can force us to make more. We will be at their mercy, whatever course they take, if we do not fight back." 

"That is…" 

"Enough." The Queen lifted her head from her hand, calling the room to order with a single gesture. "There is no point to fighting amongst ourselves." 

"What are we supposed to do?" Asked the male. "We cannot just sit here and wait for them to come." 

"That may be our only option," said another female. 

"Surely, you do not agree with this?" The male turned to John, holding up a hand. "You must believe that we must fight." 

"The opinions of the humans do not matter," said the female bitterly. "It is because of them that we are faced with this predicament in the first place." 

John rose from the table he was leaning against, but the Queen cut him off. "That is not true. Had it not been for our inability to defend against our rebel brothers in the first place, Colonel Sheppard and his men would not have been forced to chase after one of their own. We are indebted to them in rescuing our future Queen." 

"Though they did not seem to find the time to search for any of the others who'd been taken," said the female. 

The Queen rose, her eyes narrowed, and leaned in towards her council. "That was not their responsibility. If we had wished to save the ones who'd been taken, we should have taken up that responsibility on our own. We elected to remain passive and for that, what we lose is our burden to bear. I will not have members of my Hive making excuses for their own mistakes!" 

John glanced at Woolsey, who met his gaze with consternation. That was about as much of a Wraith Queen persona as John wanted to see from this female. Any more anger and he might consider telling Ronon to arm himself. 

"My Queen," the female said meekly. 

The Queen settled back into her throne, her expression stern but her eyes worried. She glanced at Woolsey a couple of times as though considering whether to ask him a question, but her judgment, probably taking into consideration the members of her population who felt as her female commander did, opted not to inquire. 

The doors of the throne area opened and a petite figure walked through. The Queen straightened as the young princess came in, wrapped in a blanket and looking very peaked, if you could say that of an already pale looking creature. She was trailed by Jennifer Keller, who beelined it for Rodney as soon as the girl made it to the center of the room. 

The members of the council rose as the Queen did, all standing at some form of attention in the presence of the young Queen. Even Teyla seemed to feel a change in their manner, her eyes widening slightly as she turned to John with a surprised expression. 

"My Queen," the girl bowed low, wobbling a little, before the throne. 

The Queen smiled softly, her expression and features much more human than just a few minutes before, and bent down to gently raise the girl to her feet. "We welcome you back to our Hive and are glad you are not harmed." 

As the girl glanced over at the counsel table, the Wraith immediately bowed their heads in acquiescence, and she nodded in response. "Thank you." 

As the council resumed their seats, she turned to the Queen. "The Commander will be coming for me." 

"We are aware of this," said the Queen. "We are determining what to do." 

"Do you know how many he may bring?" John asked. 

The girl turned to him. "There are over one-hundred and fifty in my Hive now. Those I could sense. I did not see them all." 

"Were they all converted?" asked John. "Like you?" 

"Many were taking the medicine as I was." She lowered her head, looking to the ground. "I do not know how many believed lies or how many lied to me." 

"You could not have known," said the Queen. 

"I was supposed to be learning to lead," the girl replied. "I was not their Queen, but should I not have sensed their treachery?" 

"Not if you did not know to look for it. That was my failing," her mother replied. 

"My Queen?" 

The Queen placed one hand on her daughter's thin shoulder. "I was so fearful of our people reverting into the Wraith that I failed to protect us against the very desires which fuel them. Had I taken a stand earlier, we may not have lost as many as we did, and they would not have gained the advantage. Now, I place my people in a much greater danger than they have ever had to face. 

"The alternative, however, is the complete loss of all we have built." She glanced at her female commander. "If we do not face this now, we will not only lose the integrity in which we pride ourselves, but any hope of continuing to evolve peacefully. We will not become like them, we will become them, or we will be killed. Nothing of us will remain." 

The Queen strode to the head of her council table. "We must be prepared to defend ourselves." 

The room was silent for a moment. From the corner of his eye, John saw Woolsey straighten, lifting his chin. 

"Your Majesty," the expedition head said, speaking for the first time since the conference began, "I think we may be able to help you with that."

 

--/--

 

"I don't like this," said Ronon. 

"Yeah, well deal," Rodney returned, studying the HUD display as the last of the Jumpers positioned themselves. "These guys need help…" 

"These guys are Wraith." 

"Descendants of Wraith," Teyla said, with the same grousing expression as Rodney. At least, he thought that's what her expression was. "You must learn to accept that these people, whatever they may be, are not true Wraith." 

"Once a Wraith…" 

"Yeah, yeah, always a Wraith yada yada. Don't you ever get tired of saying that?" Asked Rodney. 

Ronon looked back at him with a stoic expression. 

"Guess not," Rodney murmured, shifting a little to alleviate the pain in his ribs. "Well, in this case you're going to have to. Seems to me pretty clear that these guys are not the Wraith you want them to be. If they were, we wouldn't be stuck in this mess of having to now defend their Hive. You have anger issues, then take it out on the ones that are coming to attack who want to be Wraith." 

"I plan to," Ronon said, flipping the setting on his gun until the butt glowed bright red. 

"That's…nice. And not at all like you," Rodney shot back. 

"McKay, we good?" asked Sheppard, as he entered the Jumper. 

"Everything's set up according to plan. Tell me, why are we helping these guys again?" Rodney caught Ronon looking at him, and he didn't bother to look back. 

"Other than the fact that we sort of single-handedly rained the Apocalypse down on their heads?" 

"Those guys were going to come for them eventually." 

"Yeah, well maybe they would have been better prepared for it at that point. This time they weren't." 

"Not really our place," said Ronon. 

"Really? Are you saying that because you really honestly believe we shouldn't interfere," John paused in his prep to glance back at the Satedan, "or because they look like a bunch of life-sucking aliens we all happen to dislike?" 

Ronon made a face. 

"If this were Teyla's people, or another race of 'couldn't help themselves' who were poorly armed and mostly pacifistic, would you think we shouldn't interfere then?" 

"We're not exactly in the best standing with Teyla's people at the moment," said Rodney, unthinkingly. 

"Perhaps not," Teyla said sharply, which nearly made Rodney drop his datapad, "but even so, I would always encourage the aid of those who may preserve my peoples' lives. I believe the Queen here feels the same." 

Neither Ronon nor Rodney had an answer for her. 

"Anyways, given the status of the 'rebels', this ought to be fairly easy," John remarked, powering up the Jumper. "No major weapons, no darts—just point and shoot. So long as they don't make it into the Hive, no problem." 

"Sure," Rodney said, shifting again and wincing. "Because our missions are always no problem." 

 

--/--

 

Jennifer watched the healers struggle with the princess, who lay upon one of the Hive infirmary beds, squirming beneath the sheets. 

"She does not get better," said the Queen, moving to her side. 

"It will take time," Jennifer replied. "Withdrawal from such a powerful drug is difficult—it has taken some of our people many days to fully recover, and she's been exposed for a very long time. You must have patience." 

"I wish this had not happened." 

"Well, it did." 

The Queen glanced over at her, slightly amused. "You are quite bold. You are not as tentative with us as your friends?" 

"Having seen the other guys, no offense, but you're not even close to what you appear to be. Besides, I'm a geneticist and a scientist along with being a healer—my job is to pay attention to the differences and respect them." 

"I wish all your people would think that way." 

"Well, I'm not usually out on the front lines, either, watching the Wraith kill our men the way they do. I mean, I've seen it happen but not like Colonel Sheppard or Rodney. I think it's easier for me." 

"Perhaps. Or perhaps the discovery of people like us gives you hope for what you envision for the future. If you are a healer as the ones of this Hive have been." 

Jennifer smiled. "Well, it certainly gives me somewhere to start." 

"Coming…" hissed the girl from the bed, as the Queen and Jennifer turned towards her. 

"What?" 

"They're…coming," she huffed. "They're coming!" 

"Do you sense anything?" Jennifer asked. 

"There is something—but she would be much more attuned to them, if they were treating her as Queen. I do not doubt her link to them." The Queen looked beyond her, at the walls of the Hive, towards where the forest would be. "It has begun." 

 

--/--

 

"Jumper Two…whadda ya got?" 

Teyla peered out of the windshield to the ground below, trying to see through the thick trees for signs of movement. It was difficult, with as much ground cover as surrounded the Hive. 

"Nothing, sir." 

John sighed, then flipped up the HUD, using the various sensors to keep an eye on movement. The foliage interfered with many instruments. "Jumper Three." 

"No, sir." 

"Jumper Four." 

"No…wait." 

Teyla looked over at the colonel as he listened in. "What is it, Lieutenant?" 

"We're getting movement. Something on the infrared." 

"From the direction of the other Hive?" 

"Yes, sir. East of the Hive, about two klicks. We're definitely picking up heat signatures." 

"How many?" 

"I'm not sure, sir—the signals are faint, and we're getting interference with the cover." 

"Wraith aren't easy to pick up to begin with; I'd assume these guys are the same. Ballpark?" 

"Dozens, sir, if what we're able to see is any indication." 

"Can you confirm?" 

"I do not believe they have to," Teyla murmured. John turned to her, following her gaze as she stared down past the HUD at the ground below. Slowly, from beneath their position, dozens of small figures were emerging from the trees into the more open area near the Hive. 

"Time to move," John said. "Jumpers Two and Three, keep your eyes open. We need to know how many directions they're coming from." He shut off his open comm and glanced back at Rodney. "We ready to go from cloak to shield?" 

"Ready as we've ever been," Rodney said in reply. 

 

--/--

 

It was always that first few moments before everything started that unnerved John the most. In the battle, trained reflexes kicked in. During prep time, it was all about the planning. 

Now, it was just waiting, and that seemed to take the longest of anything. 

"Sir, we've got a visual," said Jumper Three. "They're moving in from the South." 

"Little buggers are trying to cover all the escape routes," John said, not thoroughly impressed. The move was fairly predictable. 

"They are closing in quickly," said Teyla. She was right; the rebels were hightailing it towards the Hive. 

"Jumpers, you have a go," John said. He threw a backwards glance at Rodney, who was waiting to flip them to shield as soon as the first wave of drones was released. 

The drones shot forth from all four Jumpers, peppering the ground around the Hive with bright bursts of light. The rebels who'd been swiftly making their way across the clearing scattered, sort of like the armies in one of those battle strategy video games. 

The shield grew around the Jumper as a few ground-to-air missiles launched from somewhere beneath the cover of the trees. Given all the rebels had stolen in terms of intel, John had figured they'd probably gotten some info on larger strike weapons, especially considering the power of their explosive devices, which was why he'd told all Jumpers to be prepared with shields. 

The missiles bounced harmlessly off the shields and John made a face. If this was the strength of the rebel army, this was almost not worth the effort. If he were a Wraith, he'd be embarrassed to be related to them. 

"Get ready next round of drones," he murmured over the comm. "Let's take care of…" 

A huge, billowing pool of smoke suddenly unfurled beneath them, shrouding the area below in a hazy mess of gray cloud, which seemed to flicker a little bit. When he pulled up the HUD again, the sensors were completely disrupted. 

"What the hell is that?" asked Rodney. 

"I believe it is called a smokescreen," said Teyla matter-of-factly. 

"I can see that," Rodney sniped. "But it's not just smoke. Whatever is in it is completely messing with the readings. Even our advanced sensors can't see through it." 

"Seems like we need a change of plans," Ronon said. "We're not going to be able to target them from up here." 

"Especially if they draw any closer to the Hive." Teyla nodded towards the ground, where four identical pools of smoke were rising through the trees, floating on the nearly windless atmosphere towards the Hive. 

John made a face, and sighed. Nothing was ever easy. "Crap."

 

--/--

 

Jennifer grasped for the closest solid object as an explosion rocked the side of the Hive, looking towards the Queen. 

The Queen listened to the sounds of the explosion then withdrew from the room, followed by an entourage of commanders, both male and female, and leaving Jennifer with only the healers and the young Queen. 

She moved towards the bed, where the girl was sleeping lightly, coated in sweat and tossing a little. Her withdrawal was going to take longer than anyone would have liked. 

Jennifer lay a hand on her forehead, and the girl's eyes shot open, her mouth baring her teeth. A hand shot out towards Jennifer's arm, and she felt a sharp nick. 

"Ow," she cried, trying to pull her arm free. At the sound of her voice, the girl's pupils dilated and she released her grasp, her feeding hole folding back into her palm, but not before having left Jennifer with a nicely shaped cut. 

"Wonderful," she said. 

The girl blinked a few times. "S-sorry," she murmured. 

Another explosion rocked the Hive and she grasped the girl's bedside. "Hold on," she said, more for her own benefit than the young Queen's, "they're going to keep you safe." 

 

--/--

 

Richard glanced around the large atrium, as dust, Hive particles and structure fell in soft clouds around them, the dust and weaker elements disturbed by the concussions that had struck the Hive. Nothing looked weak or unstable, but he moved towards one of the door frames in any case. 

The Queen strode through the Southern doorway, surrounded by her advising commanders. The group of them spread out, pausing for a moment, before leaving through various exits. 

The Queen herself stood almost perfectly still in the center, her eyes closed. She remained that way for a few moments. As she finally came back to reality, her gaze fell upon Richard. 

"The first of the rebels have reached your men," she said softly. "The ones near our research laboratories." 

"Are they holding them off?" 

"None have entered the Hive. There is another group making their way towards the main entrance. My people report that there is a dark cloud that shrouds their movements. They cannot see the sky." 

Richard made a face. "That will impede the Jumper attacks." 

"Two of your Gateships have landed," she replied. "Their men are on the ground." 

"The Colonel has a gameplan—he'll be able to…" 

"Wait." Her forehead scrunched in confusion. "Something is happening." 

"What?" 

"It is—something I have not sensed before. Something is coming." 

"What something?" 

"I…I do not know." Her eyes widened, and she met his stare with a startled one of her own. "So…cold." 

Richard swallowed. "I hope that's not what I think it is."

 

--/--

 

"Lorne? Status?" 

John slid down against a tree root, just barely dodging another round of stunner fire. The rebels had exhausted all their missiles, but they still had the numerical advantage, and John had to be tactically skillful to avoid losing any more men. The rebels hadn't figured out more than explosive devices, so the Marines who had fallen were stunned, which had been something of a blessing until a couple of the rebels decided to try out their feeding ability. 

The results hadn't been disastrous; they were such newbies they barely managed to get a good clinch before the effects made them sick with effort or with what they were suddenly drawing in. But it had cost him at least one Marine and a few more were wounded. 

Now, as he was pinned down, he needed to know the status of the guys inside the Hive and how they were fending off the approaches from the left and right. Jumper Two's pilot, Lieutenant Adelman, had already reported that their group had broken away and were slinking towards the front of the Hive, presumably to join up with the group John had engaged. 

Lorne's group had been guarding the Northern entrance to the Hive. The radio crackled at first, probably disrupted by whatever was in the smokescreen around them, but eventually Lorne's self-assured voice broke through. "We're pushing them back, Colonel. They haven't breached the Hive." 

"Colonel," interrupted Major Spears, from Jumper Three, "the group to the East is on the move. Looks like they're headed to your position." 

"Ours are pulling back as well, sir," Lorne said. 

"How much you wanna bet they're making a last ditch effort for a full frontal assault? Lorne, keep a few of the Hive members on that entrance and get your men to the front of the Hive. Spears, how's the air looking?" 

"Starting to become clearer, sir. Our instruments are still affected, but we can almost see the ground. Two groups headed your way." 

"Chances are we only need to hold them off for a few minutes before we can employ the drones again. Adelman, get your team back to Jumper Two." 

"Yes, sir." 

"Colonel?" 

That was Woolsey's voice. 

"Now's not really the time," John said, turning over in his position and locking onto a rebel that was attacking a Hive member. 

"You need to make time, Colonel. The Queen is sensing something." 

"Sensing something? Sensing what? 

Adelman broke in again. "Uh, sir? We're picking up something incoming towards your position?" 

"What?" Asked John and Woolsey in unison. 

"We haven't got a visual yet, but they're moving fast, from the direction of the Gate. Three of them." 

John waited for a moment, eyes on the melee in front of him. Ronon was taking out rebels two at a time—and seemed to be enjoying it. Teyla was more adept, moving from shelter to shelter and bringing down the pseudo-Wraith slowly, but effectively. 

After she took out another, she suddenly stopped, and glanced around her, her eyes widening. 

He knew that look. And it was not a good omens look. 

"Sir, we have a visual." 

He felt his pulse rise as Adelman took a second's pause. "What are you seeing, Lieutenant?" 

The young man's voice was notably higher pitched, his breath rapid, in reply. "Darts, sir. Three of them." 

 

--/--

 

The familiar whine of approaching darts should not have sounded strange in Teyla's ears, but her short time with the evolved Wraith had made her apparently comfortable with their distinctions. It had even taken her a moment longer to recognize her Wraith sense when it came upon her. 

The incoming ships zoomed overhead, startling both groups of fighters. She immediately turned towards Colonel Sheppard, who was on the far side of the field, beckoning his men to the safety of the trees. 

An explosion lit up the sky to their right, through what remained of the haze of the smoke bomb. One of the Jumpers had taken out one of the darts. The other two zoomed away from the Hive, but by the sound, circled back, apparently interested in the action below. 

One of them flew overhead and she edged back into the shelter of a nearby tree. A beam shot out of the nose, and a dozen drones appeared less than ten feet from her, amidst a group of rebels. 

They turned, marching towards the rebel group, who eyed them in surprise. The females, especially, drew the interest of the drones, which seemed almost to be studying them. 

One of the rebels stepped out from the group, a smile upon her face. "Brothers! You are welcome to our…" 

The lead drone reached out and grabbed her, slapping a hand upon her chest and lifting her from the ground. The rebel shrieked in surprise, her features withering beneath the powerful grasp.

The remainder of the rebel group watched in horror as the drone finished feeding. He tossed the skeletal body aside, roared to the air, and reached for a second rebel. 

The group shrieked and scattered. The drones rushed toward the doorway of the Hive, a clearing covered with rebels and the Hive members trying to defend against them. 

Teyla waited until the drones were out of hearing range to tap her radio. "Colonel." 

"Teyla, you alright?" 

"I am fine. The Wraith have landed." 

"I can see that. Jumper Three says they're getting a visual on two more darts headed this way. Apparently, the three that were already here alerted their buddies." 

A second explosion above them lit up the sky. A second dart had been eliminated. 

"Get back to Jumper One," John instructed. "It's time the rebels went the way of their ancestors, literally."

 

--/--

 

The Queen listened in amazement at the dart that zoomed overhead. "Wraith?" 

"According to the Colonel, there were five darts. We've taken out two, but they've managed to get forces on the ground." 

She looked to him. "If they support the rebels…" 

"They've fed on both the rebels and your Hive members. I don't think the Wraith are interested in alliances at this point, though they may be very interested in your Hive." 

"How did they find us?" 

"Jumper Four is reporting they came through the Gate—there aren't any Cruisers or Hives near the planet. Apparently, they're a scouting party." 

"Scouting what?" 

"That, I'm afraid I don't know." 

"My Queen!" One of the young commanders entered from the large doorway. "The rebels are breaching the entrance." 

"Where are your men?" the Queen asked. 

Richard shook his head. "They may be preoccupied with other portions of the Hive." 

She frowned, hugging her arms to her body, and looked towards the scant group of Hive members holding stunners. "Then we must do the best we can."

 

--/--

 

Jennifer wiped the brow of the young Queen, who shuddered beneath the sheets. 

"I sense them…they're here." 

"You're fine," Jennifer soothed. "You're perfectly safe." 

"No!" The girl's eyes flew open, and she clutched Jennifer's arm. "They're here, they're here! I can sense them…sense…him." 

"Your commander hasn't made it into the Hive yet. They would have told me." Jennifer tapped her headset. 

"Not…not my commander. HIM." 

"Him? Him who?" 

The girl shivered. "Wraith…" 

 

--/--

 

"Rodney!" 

John crawled on his stomach to where Rodney lay crouched between two large roots, tapping on his datapad, and whispered loudly. "Rodney!" 

McKay glanced up. "What?" 

"You forgot to turn your headset on or what?" 

"No, I'm trying to get a read on the different body signatures of the Wraith! If we can get the infrared to lock on those…" 

"No time. We need to get back to the Jumper. The smokescreen is clearing, but we're going to have to do this the old-fashioned way if we want to protect the Queen's people." 

Rodney eyed him skeptically for a minute, then clambered to his feet, wincing as he kept to a low crouch. "Ow." 

John edged to the left, keeping to the treeline, watching as the rebels, Hive members and the Wraith intermixed fought one another. Jumper One was cloaked on the far side. Teyla and Ronon were nearly there, making their way on the other side of the clearing. 

Stunner fire sounded to their left, and a group of rebels emerged nearby, chasing a group of Hive members. They effectively blocked the hidden route back to the Jumper. 

They would have no choice—they'd have to go out in the open. 

John looked at Rodney, who read his eyes, then shook his head. John flipped two fingers up and pointed through the clearing as McKay pouted and pointed to his ribs. 

He took a step forward, until he was nose to nose with the scientist, and jerked his head to the Jumper. Rodney made a face, but nodded, and the two took a quick look around them before darting out into the middle of the battle. 

They made it about halfway before another dart zoomed overhead. John jumped backwards, knocking into Rodney, as the beam materialized more than a dozen figures before them. 

As John looked up, a Wraith commander stood mere feet from him, surveying the scene, before glancing down at them and grinning. 

"Interesting," he said.

 

--/--

 

Stunner fire could be heard in the tunnel as more Hive members were pushed back into the atrium. The Queen stood alongside her people, refusing to move, even as the rebels pushed forward. 

Stunner beams shot into the atrium. Richard took a step back, anticipating a retreat. 

Footsteps sounded from a tunnel to the North, and Lorne and a group of Marines entered, racing towards the entrance. They barely paused as they moved between the retreating Hive members. 

P-90 fire erupted once they'd gone into the tunnel. It took only a few moments before the rebels were pushed back, the Hive members following.

 

--/--

 

John scooted back a bit, his gun next to his hand. The Wraith stepped forward, placing his foot upon the weapon and kicking it away. "Humans." 

"Good eyes," John replied. 

"Why are you here? I recall nothing of humans in the reports on this world." 

"We're looking for Pegasus vacation sites. We really liked the Hive-backdrop-ambience of this one." 

"They are our prisoners," said a voice behind them. John peered around the Wraith Commander to see the other…sorta…Wraith Commander, the one who'd stolen the young Queen. 

"We are securing our Hive," said the rebel. "They have taken our Queen." 

The Wraith looked up, tilting his head, and grinned. "I can sense her. She is quite powerful, though—unusual. And there is another. One I can barely sense---older." 

"We are glad you are here, brother. We could use your help in securing them both." 

John glanced at Rodney as McKay glared at him in that 'I think you just got us into certain death' kinda way. 

"Brother?" The Wraith turned to the other commander, running a slow glance up and down his form. "How, exactly, are we brothers?" 

The commander of the rebels looked confused for a moment, gesturing between himself and the Wraith, showing his palm and the feeding slit. "We are one." 

The Wraith took a step towards him, an eerie smile on his face. He leaned his head in to the face of the other. "I can sense nothing Wraith about you, creature. You are an abomination. You believe by mocking our ways you can become Wraith? You are nothing." His head whipped towards the entourage he brought. "Kill him." 

The rebel glanced wide-eyed at the group of drones moving towards him, pulling out a long-bladed knife and slashing at the one closest. 

The rebels who had come with him turned from their assault on the Hive and moved in to support their commander, using their stunners to launch an attack on the drones. 

In the chaos the rebel commander managed to break free of the drone group and ran screaming towards the Wraith, blade raised. The Wraith didn't flinch, just caught the rebel by the throat and lifted him from the ground, his feet kicking uselessly. 

"If you wish to be Wraith, you should have the honor to die like one." His feeding hand flashed out, grasping the rebel by the chest. 

It was enough distraction and time for Rodney to get to his feet and John to reach his gun. A round of P-90 fire hit the back of the Wraith, who dropped his victim to the ground and attempted to whirl around and stop the attack upon him. It wasn't enough time—after a moment's pause—and another fifteen or so rounds in his chest—he dropped to the ground. 

John scrambled to his feet, leaving the gasping rebel commander bowed on one knee, his face gaunt, though the Wraith hadn't taken too much of his life force. The expression in his eyes was torn between horror and anger. 

"Get to the Jumper," John snapped to Rodney, pointing. As they took off across the clearing, the rebel commander pulled to his feet and released a roar, launching himself towards the nearest drone.

 

--/--

 

The activity in the clearing quickly turned from infighting to fighting off the drones. John and Rodney managed to reach the Jumper, Teyla closing the Jumper door before John had reached the pilot's chair. 

"How many darts?" John asked over the comm, as he powered the Jumper into the air. 

"Two," said Adelman. "One is flying patrol circles over the Hive. The other just took off." 

"Intercept that Dart, Lieutenant," John ordered. "We can't have it getting back to the Gate." 

"Yes, sir." 

"What's it matter?" Ronon asked. "It's not a threat to them." 

"It will not be unless it reports back about the status of this planet," Teyla said. "If the Queen has any chance of keeping her people safe, the Wraith need not be aware there is any activity here." 

"They're still gonna come." 

"Less a chance it'll be of interest to them if they just lost a few darts and everything appears normal. They may not even be keeping records of what Wraith are going where," said John. He piloted the Jumper forward, towards the remaining dart, which was circling above the Hive. "The less intel they have the better." 

He locked onto the Dart, setting the Jumper into a deep dive. Teyla grasped her chair arm inadvertently, still unable to have complete faith in the inertial dampeners when her eyes told her differently. 

"Gotcha," John murmured, as the HUD came up. 

A wave of drones burst from the Jumper as the cloak fell, slamming into the Dart and exploding it into tiny pieces. John wasted no time admiring the shooting; he tapped the comm and signaled to Lieutenant Adelman, who reported they'd managed to catch up to the Dart and destroy it before it took off for the Gate. 

"That should be all of them. Lorne, report." 

"The rebels did not breach the Hive, sir," came the report a few moments later. "We've pushed them back beyond the entrance." 

"Further than that, it would seem," said Teyla, glancing below them. A number of the rebels were pulling back towards the trees. An even greater number of bodies decorated the ground in front of the Hive and the surrounding areas. "It would appear they are retreating." 

"Good for them," said Rodney. 

"Better for us," replied John. 

 

--/--

 

Richard breathed in deeply, trying to clear the confined atmosphere of the Hive from his lungs. Outside, the air was filled with smoke and the smell of bloodshed, but it was no longer stifling. 

The Queen surveyed the front of the Hive before her, her expression sad. A number of her Hive members had lost their lives in the struggle, but even more rebels lay strewn amidst the foliage and open areas, victims of their rebellion, or worse, the Wraith. The bulk of the bodies were female, a sight to which it was still taking Richard time to get accustomed. 

Every Wraith drone had been destroyed, but it had been at a high cost, particularly for the rebel army. For the Queen, this was a benefit, but he doubted very many on this planet would see it as such, considering the carnage before them. 

"They are monsters, are they not?" asked the Queen softly, surveying the remains of a rebel that had been fully fed upon. 

"In our experience, yes." 

Sheppard was with his men, taking a final count of the lost lives of the Lanteans. Beyond a few who had met up with a Wraith—or an overzealous rebel—Atlantis had suffered few casualties. They had been lucky, though Sheppard would see each loss as a personal failure, Woolsey was sure. 

"They will return." 

"More than likely." 

"Then we will have to take measures to prepare," she said softly. "If they find us, I believe they will kill us." 

They passed another rebel body, this one shriveled and wasted as well. "The Wraith believe that only the strong survive," said Richard. "I think they'd see all your people as a lesser version of themselves—even the rebels who stand against you. What has occurred because of your evolution has made you weak in their eyes. Weak and maybe even dangerous." 

"Dangerous? We could do no harm to them." 

"It's not about inflicting harm. It's about what you have become that would scare them." He met her gaze, her pretty, almost human eyes looking patiently upon him. "You are one type of future for the Wraith. And it is not a future to which they would look forward, I'm certain." 

She pulled herself straighter, looking across at her people and towards her Hive. "Then we must do what we can to preserve what we have. So that we can build that future for those who would want it." 

"And maybe even for those who wouldn't," Richard said, with a smile. 

 

--/--

 

Jennifer shouldered her backpack, taking one last look up the magnificent atrium of the Hive. It was almost a shame to leave, considering how much information she could glean just by studying this race of people. 

The majority of their party had made their way back through the gate; only Colonel Sheppard and his team, and she, remained behind, though Rodney had attempted to convince her more than once to leave. But considering the information the Hive members had on their evolution, she wanted to at least partly continue what she'd started learning. It was why she'd been brought here in the first place. 

Along with the data, the Hive members had given her a number of samples of the formula they'd been working on, along with some fresher samples of tissue from the rebel faction that had attacked them—what had been left of them. Both would prove invaluable for her research, she was certain. 

Rodney came up to her, looking a little uncomfortable, but no more worse for wear. The sight of him made her feel warm inside; just knowing he was there to smile, or even to gripe, was all that she needed at this particular moment. 

"You ready?" he asked. She nodded, closing the gap between them and giving him a hug. He looked surprised for a moment, then closed his arms around her and pulled her close. "Let's go home." 

As she pulled away, she caught sight of Colonel Sheppard studying them with a petulant expression. She frowned, and as he realized she was looking towards him, quickly looked away. 

"What is it?" 

"Nothing," she replied slowly, as John studied the atrium with extremely keen interest. 

"Lanteans," said the voice of the Queen, who appeared in the atrium followed by her daughter. "I cannot thank you enough for your help." 

"We're glad we could help," said Woolsey. "Though I hope the situation does not become worse for your people because of all of this." 

"We would have been found by the Wraith eventually. Knowing what we know now, we can better prepare for them." 

"What about that rebel group?" 

The Queen's arm slid automatically around her daughter's shoulder. "They are still in need of a Queen. And despite the casualties they suffered, I do not believe they will give up easily. But their numbers have been reduced, and many of our people who were taken, now that they are not dominated, are returning to our Hive. It will be a long time before they may do us more harm." 

"If they ever again can," said the girl. "If they wish to become more like the creatures who destroyed so many of their numbers, they will have to do so on their own. We will not aid them, and we will not stand idly by and allow them to take what does not belong to them." 

The Queen smiled at the girl, who looked much better after a few days rest. "We may not wish to fight, but my people have proven they can defend themselves. We must not forget what we were descended from completely." 

"Well, there are certain things you can forget," said John. 

"You do not have to worry about that, Colonel Sheppard. I can promise there are very few things we would like to have in common with the Wraith. Especially now, considering what we have seen, even if it was only a glance at what they truly are." 

"Then please, consider us allies," said Richard, extending his hand towards her. "And perhaps friends." 

The Queen looked him over for a moment, then caught her hand in his, and shook it lightly. "Thank you. We will."

 

--/--

 

John stepped out onto the balcony, drawing in a deep breath of cool air before the doors had shut behind him. 

Two hours of debriefs on the situation from planet 'Peaceable not-Wraith'. The appearance of the Wraith had thrown a wrench into what was an already unique situation, and he was pretty sure they weren't even close to halfway done. 

The doors opened behind him, and he turned slightly, catching a glimpse of auburn hair and a slender form. He tried to keep his head down, but it was difficult to conceal the smile that inadvertently grew. 

Damn. 

Mayel Serrana moved up next to him, looking across the balcony with a smile as a breeze came and blew back her hair. "I saw you come out here. Difficult mission?" 

"More like difficult mission reports, actually." 

"Ah. Bureaucracy, I believe, is what Ladon likes to call it? Not my favorite part, either. We are waiting to speak with Mr. Woolsey on something similar." 

He didn't respond, just enjoying the feel of the breeze on his face and knowing she was there, beside him. 

"I understand there was a little difficulty with Doctor Keller?" 

John glanced at her, surprised. She smirked a little. "Doctor McKay was mentioning it." 

"Ah." He paused for a moment, then sighed. "She was sort of taken hostage for a little while." 

"That much I gathered." 

"We got her back." 

"I gathered that much, too." 

John smiled sheepishly. "McKay's all bent out of shape because it happened. Everything's a drama with him." 

"I do not think the kidnapping of someone you care that strongly about is drama. It does him justice, to see him care so much." 

"Yeah, yeah, love's great, I'm happy for them both." 

She straightened, making a face as she stared at him. "You are very cynical." 

"No, I'm not." He straightened as well, frowning. "I'm not." 

"Then why do you speak so? 'Yeah, yeah, love's great'." Her attempts at mocking his lower tone made her sound a little like a truck driver. 

"Why all this harping on love from every corner of the universe all of a sudden?" 

Mayel crossed her arms. "What?" 

"Look, I don't have anything against McKay and Keller or 'McKeller' or their relationship, and I don't know why people keep insinuating I do." 

"Maybe because…well, if I did not know you better, I would believe you are jealous." 

"Jealous? Of McKay?" 

"Of what Doctor McKay has. He is in love, with a very nice person, and they are happy." 

"I'm not jealous of them." He turned back to the vista, heat flushing the back of his neck. "If anything, I'm glad for them. Someone deserves to be happy in this place." 

He could feel her eyes on him. "This worries you somehow, is that it?" 

He turned back to her as she leaned against the rail next to him, drawing her eyes away from his after a long moment and looking out across the ocean. 

"Life in this 'place' is uncertain," she said softly. "You never know when something might happen to destroy happiness. You are worried about this for your friends, are you not?" 

He presumed his failing to respond answered her question. 

"It is understandable that you would worry about becoming invested in someone, only to have them torn away from you unexpectedly. Especially here. Nothing is safe here. 

"But," she leaned in closer to him, her expression serious, "we will all be lost eventually, in one way or another. If you never risk your heart, then what of life will you truly know? You may be sacrificing some peace of mind, but in the end all love is a sacrifice, is it not?" 

John felt his breath catch as she straightened once more, turning to give him a backwards glance. "I should see if Mr. Woolsey is ready to meet with us or if we have to be patiently awaiting the rest of your 'bureaucracy'." 

His hand caught her wrist as she moved past, tugging her back towards him a bit. Her eyes sparkled playfully, a smile rising on her face. "Yes?" 

There was a pause between them as he searched her face; her smile fading as she noted the serious expression in his. "Colonel?" 

He drew her to him, and kissed her. 

She stiffened in surprise, her hand rising from his grasp, but it was only for a moment. His arms encircled her, one hand twining through her hair as she drew closer to him. 

Something in the back of his mind echoed a small warning, about the past, and the present, but he enjoyed being wrapped up in her too much to really give it heed. 

She sighed and broke away, leaning her forehead against his as she drew in a breath and moistened her lips. "John…" 

He shook his head slowly. "Don't." 

Mayel's face crumpled into a slightly pained expression. "John…" 

His hand found her cheek, cupping it lightly, forcing her to meet his eyes. "Taking a risk, remember?" Her head sank into his hand and she closed her eyes. "I'm willing to take that chance." 

She sighed, but when she opened her eyes, a smile graced her face. She had no answer for him, other than leaning forward and pressing her lips against his, her arms pulling him tightly into her. 

 

--/--

 

Rodney tapped idly at the keyboard, watching as numerical calculations for the next planet on the device list scrolled across the monitor.

Everyone had quickly tired of the adventures of planet Not-Wraith, and Jennifer, who should have been celebrating surviving her near death experience, had locked herself in the labs, working on something with Carson that she had deemed 'more important than anything'. 

Carson. He wasn't even her boyfriend. Hadn't he, Rodney, been the one to go racing headfirst into an almost Wraith-Hive to save her? Where was the grateful heroine when you needed her? 

The gate notification sounded, and it took Chuck only a few minutes to verify Teyla's IDC. She emerged through the gate a few moments later, trailed by Ronon, looking less-than-pleased. Teyla, that was. Ronon always looked that way. 

As she walked slowly up the steps, he rose from the console. "Things not go so well on Athos?" 

Teyla didn't answer, so Ronon, arms crossed, obliged her. "Jinto's setting up a few new customs for the tribe." 

"They go completely against the traditions of our people," Teyla said harshly, to no one in particular. "He defies the history of the Athosians with such measures." 

"Times are changing, Teyla," Ronon said. "You can't always stick with tradition." 

The look she gave him was very un-Teyla-like. "Changing times is exactly when it is most important to remember tradition and history. Worlds—people—can be lost without such remembrances. What will happen to the Athosians if we no longer live by the history of our ancestors?" 

"You will always be Athosians, no matter what differs from your ancestors." 

The balcony doors opened, and Sheppard marched through, followed by Mayel, both looking like cats who'd swallowed canaries, or however that saying went. Rodney did happen to note a subtle dropping of hands as they came through in sight of the group. 

"What's up?" Sheppard asked, far too casually. Ronon smirked. Teyla's expression grew even more irritated. 

They were spared from responding by the appearance of Jennifer in the gate room, rushing across the landing and up the steps like she'd just discovered a portal to another dimension. Carson trailed behind her, huffing a bit. 

She paused long enough to squeeze his hand. "Where's Woolsey?" 

"Woolsey?" John nodded towards the conference room. "Probably in there, with Lorne's team, debriefing." 

"Damn." She was smiling as she said it. 

"What is it?" 

"Well…I think we might have something." 

"Something?" 

"Something big," said Carson. "Something very, very big." 

"Big as in…" John asked, eyebrows lifted. 

"Big as in gene therapy. As in Wraith gene therapy." 

"Well, what is it?" 

"Uh, shouldn't we wait for Woolsey?" asked Rodney, glancing at Mayel. 

"I can leave," she offered, moving towards the landing. Sheppard caught her hand. 

"No reason for that." He turned back to Rodney, his expression stern. "It's nothing the Coalition won't end up knowing about anyway, right?" 

Jennifer watched them for a moment, but apparently too excited to let caution get in the way of her revelation. "We've been studying the Irati DNA…" 

"Irati?" Ronon asked. 

"Yeah, the, um, the rebel Vespidae." 

"Vespidae?" 

"Jennifer's idea," Carson explained. "They needed names, so it's Vespidae for the…" 

"Vegetarians," finished Jennifer. 

"They're not technically vegetarians," John said. 

"Fine. Non-human-eaters," Jennifer retorted. "Vespidae." 

"The Irati for the ones that do both," Carson said. 

"That one was Carson's idea," Jennifer said proudly. 

"Iratus, Irati…I thought it was appropriate." 

Teyla sighed loudly. 

"Anyhow, we were studying the Irati DNA sequence, and we found something rather exciting." 

Sheppard made a face at that 'being exciting', but it didn't deter either scientist. 

"The mutation that occurred with Todd's crew when we first experimented with the gene therapy was presumably because we just don't know enough about Wraith physiology to effectively alter their DNA sequences like we want. What we were developing was a shot in the dark. We were doing everything simulations allowed us, but without being able to run full trials, we were never going to be able to predict what would occur." 

"What's more—what we were trying to accomplish was a very complicated mutation," Carson said. "We were trying to change their DNA to a very great extent, altering potentially thousands of years of gradual evolution in one sitting." 

"Isn't that kind of what you did with the Ancient gene therapy?" Said John. 

"Not really. The Ancient gene therapy was only a small mutation. There wasn't much involved. Certainly not the extent involved in what we tried to do with the Wraith gene therapy developed by Doctor Keller." 

"We were jumping evolution," Jennifer said. "The Vespidae, on the other hand, accomplished some of what we were trying for, but on a reasonable timetable. That's what makes them so fascinating. They've become the starting point to what we've been trying to achieve, but through a much slower process. Their advances have allowed us to see what the stabilized gene sequences look like after certain alterations have occurred." 

"So now we have the full timeline of what it would look like for a Wraith to start becoming a 'not-Wraith," said Carson. 

"And what do the 'Irati' have to do with all this?" Rodney asked. 

"Because they're the next step," Jennifer said, all smiles. "At least as far as our gene therapy is concerned." 

Teyla frowned. "I do not understand. They are closer to the Wraith than the Queen's people." 

"True—and that's the beauty of it," Carson said. "The 'drug' they were taking? It wasn't just a drug. It was a combination of both a drug developed from the Wraith enzymes and a gene therapy, not dissimilar from the one developed by the Vespidae scientists to help them evolve away from the Wraith." 

"What it did was reverse part of the evolution," continued Jennifer. "Even the Vespidae, for all their evolution, are not the end result of what we want to accomplish. Evolution and gene therapy have phased out what they no longer needed, such as their feeding hand, but it hasn't gotten rid of them all together. The Irati's experiments with the drugs and gene therapy re-awakened those portions of their genetic structure." 

"But, they could not undo what ten millennia of evolution has done. They still have their human-like digestive systems intact, and their strength and Wraith sensory functions—not to mention their psychic sense—were also significantly lessened. Even with the enzyme, they were no where near as strong or capable as the Wraith." 

"The result, to put it simply, is half-not-Wraith, half-Wraith. A happy medium. And one that is not too difficult genetically to map." 

"So what are you saying?" asked John. "That you can mimic that? Make the Wraith…" 

Jennifer smiled, holding up a small vial. "Irati." 

Rodney glanced over at John in amazement as the Colonel stared at the serum. "That'll turn the Wraith into the non-Wraith?" 

"Into creatures similar to the Irati," Carson said. 

"Why not make them into Ves…vesp…whatever?" asked Rodney. "Get rid of the feeding hand all together?" 

"The Vespidae weren't evolved far enough to truly accomplish that," said Jennifer. "We saw that by how easily the Irati re-awakened their feeding hands. If we try to go further than they evolved, we're back to the problem we had with the first gene therapy—not enough data and a potential for unpredictable mutation." 

"The Irati gene therapy is one we've already seen work, in a sense. Which means, hopefully, a much greater probability of succeeding. We know at the very least it will weaken them physically and mentally, and, if the Vespidae and Irati are any examples, make their natures less aggressive. Most importantly, it will re-awaken their digestive systems, making them capable of eating the old-fashioned way, without needing to feed on humans." 

"You are presuming given a choice they would elect to stop feeding," said Teyla. "But you have no guarantee they will make such a choice as the Vespidae and abandon what makes them Wraith." 

"No guarantee they won't, either," said John. "In any case, it doesn't matter. If it makes them more human, it makes them easier to kill—and maybe easier to turn against each other, if the reaction of our little Wraith friend to the 'Irati' was any indication. You sure this is gonna work?" 

"We still have a lot of work to do. This is just a starting point, a very basic formula that will only affect some of what we need it to do. And when it's complete, it will need to be tested, to make sure we don't run into problems like we did with Todd and his crew. But given all the data the Vespidae shared with us, and the samples we have from some of the Irati…" Jennifer smiled broadly. "Let's just say we're cautiously optimistic." 

Rodney smiled at her, stretching out to grab her free hand. "That's fantastic." 

She wrinkled her nose at him. 

"It is more than fantastic," said Mayel. The group glanced at her as she studied the vial, her eyes drifting from the glass to meet Jennifer's. "It is hope." 

Rodney squeezed Jennifer's hand as the group stood in silence, all eyes drawn towards the tiny glass container, none of them capable of adding more than what had been said so very well by the Genii. 

"Indeed, my dear, it is," replied Carson after a minute. "Perhaps we have finally been given a chance." 

"Now that is hopeful," Sheppard said, but with a smile. 

The doors to the conference room swung open, breaking up the mood of the small group. Rodney squeezed Jennifer's hand again before releasing it, as she and Carson walked towards Woolsey, followed by Mayel and John. 

Teyla watched them as well, her expression not nearly as pleasant. "I wonder if we should have allowed Commander Serrana to hear of Jennifer and Carson's news." 

"Why?" 

"I am not certain she is to be trusted. Her primary interest is not Atlantis." 

"You sure about that? She seems pretty interested in Sheppard," Ronon observed dryly. 

"Perhaps. But loyalty to one person does not always mean you are willing to defy who and what you are." 

"And what exactly is she?" 

Rodney frowned, knowing exactly to what Teyla was referring. "She's Genii." 

The Satedan glanced at them both, his casual expression fading as he watched Mayel glance once more at the vial in Jennifer's hand. "I hope you're wrong." 

"I hope we are as well," Teyla said. 

 

*** END EVOLUTION ***

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