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Adoremus, CH II

<<< Back to Adoremus, Chapter I

John lingered near the Gate, watching as Evan Lorne assembled his men.  One more group was waiting in a Jumper, ready to float down through the overhead bay doors once the Stargate was activated. 

Carson came striding in a few minutes later, looking completely at ease with the large medical pack and off-world uniform he was sporting.  It was amusing to think of him as the same guy who complained about rope burns and extra work his first year on the Expedition. 

But he sort of wasn’t the same guy, honestly. 

John quirked his lips and pushed that thought out of his mind; there was no reason to dwell on semantics as far as some things were concerned.  Carson was Carson, and there were no two ways about that. 

“Colonel,” Beckett said, pausing with a smile. 

“Heya, Doc.  What’s up with the pack?” 

“Well, I have to look convincing, right?”  He shifted it a little to the left.  “This is what I’d need to treat a culture I’ve never encountered before.  Especially if they’re more rustic and less technologically advanced.” 

“Well they are rustic, I’ll verify that.”  John gave a nod to Woolsey, who instructed Chuck to dial the gate.  “We’re only missing Banks, right?” 

“She was right behind me—had a moment with Ronon.” 

“Oh.”  

 As if on cue, Amelia Banks came striding in from one of the lower hallways, her face twisted into an expression of discontent, which didn’t speak well for the aforementioned conversation with Ronon.   

“Colonel,” she said, coming to pause alongside Carson. 

“You ready, Banks?” John asked, looking for any additional signs of distress beyond the pout that quickly disappeared as soon as she caught him studying her.  Jumbled-up emotions did not provide the best mindset for a subversive mission. 

“Ready, able and more than willing,” she said, with no more obvious outward appearances of angst.   

The chevrons were lighting up the gate behind them; the last locked into place and the wormhole opened up, silhouetting the doctor and technician with its eerie blue-tinged light once it had settled.  “Keep it simple—no need to get down and dirty,” John said to both, but within Lorne’s hearing.  As the Major moved over to him, he nodded acknowledgement.  “First sign of anything suspicious…” 

“Get the hell out of Dodge,” Lorne finished automatically.  “Got it, sir.” 

“Shouldn’t be an issue.  Hopefully they’re doing no more than running a very well organized, rustic sort of daycare.  But just in case, keep your eyes open.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Good luck.” 

The crew turned, Amelia and Carson flashing him smiles, and strode through the wormhole.  The bay doors cranked open and the Jumper followed a few minutes later, the Gate shutting off as soon as it was fully through.   

John looked around the Gateroom for no particular reason, catching sight of a half-hidden Ronon leaning against one of the doorframes to a hall.  The Satedan’s eyes were also on the now dark Gate, no expression on his face, but if John had to fathom a guess, worry in his eyes. 

His gaze flickered across to John; when he saw he’d been noticed, the worry disappeared and he hefted himself from his position, turning around and walking away without so much as an acknowledgement. 

 

--/--

 

 Jennifer Keller studied the readings on her datapad, one leg propped up casually on a nearby stool, with test tubes of the newest variations of the Irati gene therapy placed before her. 

The results were very promising in all the simulations they had done.  The structure of the therapy was very stable and seemed to produce the exact effect she and Carson had been hoping for.  Though she would have preferred one that mutated the Wraith closer to the non-Wraith—the Vespidae—they’d encountered, considering the results the last time they’d tried something so bold, this was a better-than-expected solution. 

Perhaps, with live testing, they could figure out the steps to stop the feeding on humans completely.  But an option that activated human-like digestive and absorption processes, reduced craving and strength, and made life-force feeding unnecessary—well, it was better than nothing. 

Footsteps approached from outside and the door slid open a second later, revealing the presence of Mayel Serrana.  The Genii peeped her head in, and at catching sight of Jennifer, smiled. 

“Commander Serrana,” Jennifer said, taking the opportunity to stretch and take a break from the readings.  “How are you?” 

“Very well, thank you.”  Mayel strode in, observing the lab with interest.  “I was looking for Doctor Beckett—I understand he is making a medical call upon the planet we most lately visited?” 

“I think it’s more like smoothing the waters,” Jennifer replied.  “I don’t know all the details, only that they wanted him to go along with our communications technician and check out the village for signs of illness or health problems.  As a gesture of good will.” 

Mayel frowned.  “Do they need it?  They were quiet when we arrived, but I did not expect them to be difficult.” 

“Apparently they weren’t into the whole ‘united Pegasus’ thing,” Jennifer replied. 

“It’s not uncommon after a first meeting, though usually complaints are directed to the original scouting party.  I suppose I’m surprised that they are now being uncooperative after being conciliatory to the Genii.”  She glanced back at Jennifer.  “Do you think they will cooperate?” 

“It didn’t sound like they weren’t cooperating, but truthfully that’s a Colonel Sheppard question,” Jennifer said, as nonchalantly as possible and trying to keep a smile in check as the Genii colored all the way to her hairline.  “I think if you ask him he’d be able to tell you more than me.” 

“I’ll ask him, then,” Mayel stammered in response.  Her gaze fell to the vials in front of Jennifer.  “How goes your research into the ‘gene therapy’?” 

“Very well, actually.”  Jennifer couldn’t help the pride that crept into her voice.  “Carson and I have worked out what we believe were the major problems.  Well, in theory, anyway.  What you see here,” she said, waving a hand at the test tubes, “is the nearly completed formula.  We just need to test it on a live subject—which, as you know, is easier said than done.” 

The Genii’s eyes lit up in wonder.  “And then we could release it on them?  Eliminate the Wraith?  So soon?” 

“I wouldn’t go so far as all that,” Jennifer said.  “We still need many rounds of tests.  And the gene therapy isn’t a way to eliminate the Wraith.  It only retroacts their feeding system and some of their strengths.  Essentially, they would be rendered nearly as helpless as humans, and they would be able to eat like us, instead of only through their feeding hand. 

“But,” she qualified, “the option to feed would still be there.  They wouldn’t be completely changed and those who desired to continue feeding could do so.  They just wouldn’t be as physically strong as they are now.  So in truth, it’s only a start.” 

“It seems to be a good start.” 

“I think so,” Jennifer replied.  “But like I said, we have many more tests to do, just to make sure it works as it’s supposed to.  We don’t want any nasty surprises cropping up because of it.” 

“Such as the Hoffan Plague?”  Mayel’s expression darkened.  It wasn’t hard to remember how much she’d blamed Atlantis for the release of it on the peoples of Pegasus. 

“This is a drug meant for the Wraith,” Jennifer explained in an appeasing tone.  “I’m ninety-nine percent sure we won’t encounter crossover to humans.  The physiologies are too different.  What I’m more worried about is the effect it could have on the Wraith themselves.  The prior gene therapy we tried led to stronger Wraith, not weaker ones.” 

Mayel raised an eyebrow, to which Jennifer shook her head.  “I don’t think it’ll be the case here.  Back then we were attempting to mutate the gene therapy on our own.  With the Irati—the evolved Wraith we discovered a little while ago—we have a control group to look at.” 

“It seems you’re being extremely cautious.”  Mayel remarked. 

“Perhaps.  We’ve seen what happens when people are not.”  Jennifer smiled, and leaned in a little conspiratorially.  “Truthfully, I think if we found a test subject tomorrow, this version, as is, would work.”  She straightened.  “But as a scientist, I can’t bet everything on chance, no matter how well the numbers work out.   We need the tests.  I think I can say, though, that I’m much more confident in this version than in any of the past.” 

“Well, that’s good.”  Mayel smiled.  “I’ll go find John, um, Colonel Sheppard and see if I can find a way in which the Genii or the Coalition may help with this situation.  Perhaps acquiring ‘test subjects’?” 

“That’ll be an interesting discussion with Woolsey.”  Jennifer reached for her data pad.  “Good luck.” 

“See…you,” Mayel replied, her hair swinging around her shoulders as she exited the lab.  Jennifer studied where she’d been, smiling at her awkward attempt at Earth slang, and returned to her work. 

 

--/--

  

Amelia glanced around the village, eyeing the small collection of mud daub huts and what appeared to be community bonfires.  The village was rustic and very quiet.   

And Colonel Sheppard’s team had been right—there were no children in plain sight. 

“Pardon,” said an older woman, approaching her and Carson.  Lorne and his team had opted to hang back near the village borders, scanning the surrounding perimeter.  “Are you the one who is to provide us with this means of communication?” 

“Yes,” Amelia said with a bright smile.  “I’m here to install the technology—it will only take a few minutes.  We already have our team overhead placing the alternative device in the planet’s orbit.” 

“Very well,” replied the woman, who must have been the Elder described in the initial report.  It seemed she didn’t quite understand what everything that was being said meant.  “And this gentleman is here to help you?” 

“Oh, no,” said Beckett.  “I’m a doctor—healer.  It’s my job to check over places we travel for sick or injured people and treat them if I can.  I came along as a courtesy to the Coalition, to see if you had any of your people who might need tending to.” 

Smooth. 

“We are well taken care of by our own healers,” said the Elder.  “Though I appreciate the thoughtfulness of your people.” 

“Well,” Carson qualified cheerfully, “I’m only a volunteer.  I can help Amelia here, too, if my services aren’t needed.  We just like to go in and check on our friends, especially the children and such, to make sure everyone has what they need.” 

Amelia studied the woman closely.  At the mention of children, she pursed her lips for a moment, then smiled.   

“I understand.  Perhaps as your friend works you might be persuaded to take a look at our children and make sure they are in good health.” 

Carson smiled at Amelia.  “That would be lovely.  Thank you.” 

 

--/--

 

Evan Lorne picked at the leaf of a small tree, observing the color and shape with interest.  It was a type of green he’d never seen before, with bluish veins running through and red tips.   

It would make a wonderful still-life subject.   

Coors radioed in from the Jumper overhead.  “Major, the satellite is in place.” 

“Good.  Maintain your position.  We’ll radio you when it’s time for testing.” 

“Copy that.” 

Rinson moved over towards him, her eyes on the tree line surrounding the village.  “Any word from Banks?” 

“Other than what we reported to Atlantis a few minutes ago, about Beckett’s examining the children, no.” 

“Seems nothing’s amiss, sir, does it?” 

He shook his head, glancing back towards the town.  “Seems not.” 

Davidson’s voice came across the Com.  “Sir, we’ve got Gate activation.” 

“Anyone else scheduled to come through?” asked Rinson. 

“Not from Atlantis,” replied Lorne.  “Davidson, fall back.  Banks?” 

“Yes, Major?” Amelia said after a moment. 

“We’ve got an incoming wormhole.  Standby.” 

He could hear her swallow over the Com.  “Copy that.  I’ll go find Beckett.” 

There were a few moments of tense silence before Davidson returned, his voice a low whisper. 

“Five humans just came through.  They’re decked out in what appears to be rudimentary camouflage.  Two of them have stunners.” 

“They heading to the village?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Stay by the Gate.  Coors?” 

“Sir?” 

“Cloak and hover down here over the East side of the village.  Don’t fire until I give a signal.” 

“Yessir.” 

He motioned with his hand for Rinson and their third party member, Alous, to take up position in cover near the edge of the outermost huts.

 On my mark, he mouthed. 

They nodded, and retreating for respective positions, took up waiting. 

“Banks,” he said softly.  Amelia’s voice responded a moment later. 

“Wraith?” 

“No, but you’ve got incoming, apparently hostile.  Get Carson and get ready.  Let the Elder know.” 

“How many?” 

“Initial count is five.  Dressed in white, top to bottom.  They appear rustic but they have stunners.” 

“Thanks.  Good luck, Major.” 

“You, too.”  He crouched down next to the tree he’d been studying earlier, his eyes flickering away from the approaching targets only a moment to note how the wind flittered the leaves’ thicker structure to reveal creamy white underbellies.   

And then the notice of their beauty was gone, as five white-clad figures broke into his line of sight, and he only hoped the tree could provide him with ideal cover, nothing more. 

 

--/--

 

 John was heading down to the dining hall, pausing by one of the Transporters.  As the door slid open it revealed Mayel Serrana, on her way up from who-knows-where. 

He pushed her gently back into the small space, drawing her close to him.  The Transporter doors had already begun to open up by the time he’d even begun to kiss her. 

Damn Transporters.  He missed the days of elevator rides, sometimes. 

She smiled at him as he pulled away, and they stepped out of the device.  “I was just going to find you, though I don’t believe I could have managed so nice a greeting in the company of the Gateroom.” 

“’S lucky you found me in the transporter, then.” 

“Apparently so.” 

She was walking so close to him he could feel the warmth of her body through her Genii uniform.  It had been a long time since a women’s figure in such proximity to his own had driven him more than a little crazy, but she was doing it now.   

Her hand twisted behind her back and caught his with a squeeze, though he was quick to release it as they entered the dining hall.   

Nobody paid them much mind, but he knew the people who mattered were watching.  Like Teyla, lunching with Heightmeyer on a table located outside, her brown eyes catching sight of them almost immediately.  The doctor turned, and, observing them, smiled slightly. 

He took a pace away from Mayel. 

She observed his separation and quirked her mouth a little, her eyes following his gaze and landing on Teyla, who quickly directed her attention back to Heightmeyer.  The Genii smiled at him and closed the gap between them again. 

“She is simply cautious,” Mayel said in a whisper.  “She does not completely trust me and that’s understandable.  Though you should tell them the truth.” 

John made a face.  “It’s none of their business.” 

“Did you feel the same about Teyla and Kanaan?  Would you have accepted it if she hadn’t informed you?” 

“Actually, she didn’t inform me.” 

“And how did you feel about that?” she asked playfully. 

“I wasn’t exactly amused.  But it wasn’t because I felt like Teyla needed to let me in on her personal life—” 

“You were just trying to keep her safe.” 

“Exactly.”  

“Well, perhaps she is just trying to keep you safe,” Mayel said, placing a finger on his chest. 

He sighed heavily.  “It’s not the same thing.” 

“When it comes to your safety and the safety of Atlantis, I believe it is.”  She grasped a tray from the bar and handed it to him.  “I don’t blame her for her reticence but I do blame you for your…” her hand flittered at him, “uncommunicativeness.” 

“Uncommunicativeness?” 

“They’re your closest friends, aren’t they?” 

He made a face at her.  “And do your closest friends know?” 

“I don’t have closest friends.” 

Somehow, he could sort of see that.  “So none of the Genii know.” 

“Just Ladon,” she remarked casually, pulling a tray out for herself. 

John suddenly felt like he’d been punched in the gut.  “Ladon?” 

“Yes.”  She turned to him with a puzzled look.  “Anything that might compromise my position with the Genii, I would inform him of.  A relationship with a person on Atlantis would certainly count.” 

“You told Ladon.” 

All traces of amusement disappeared from her face as she took in his expression and tone.  She moved back to him, pulling him out of the line and lowering her voice.  “I told my commanding officer.” 

“Who happens to be Ladon Radim.” 

“Yes,” she said bluntly. 

He handed the tray back to her, unable to keep the bite out of his whisper.   “Well, I’m sure he enjoyed all the intimate details.  I know how much he likes to be kept informed.” 

Her expression switched from concern to shock.  “John.” 

He didn’t give her the chance to speak, but turned on his heel and left the dining hall, fully conscious of the stares of Teyla and the rest and feeling stupider by the minute. 

 

--/--

 

 Amelia wandered towards the western edge of the village, trying to figure out where the Elder had taken Carson.  She could find no sign of him or the older woman anywhere. 

“Have you finished your work?” 

A middle-aged man stood behind her, his hands calmly twisted behind his back, smiling. 

She returned his smile curtly.  “Yes.  But I’m afraid your people are in danger.  We have reports from my…the people who came with me to help with the installation that a group has come through the Stargate carrying weapons.” 

The man’s brow furrowed.  “Stargate?” 

“Sacred Ring?” 

“Oh, yes.”  He thought for a moment.  “You said this group had weapons—do you know what kinds?” 

“Wraith stunners.  They’re dressed in white.” 

His smile faded and he grasped her elbow, leading her southward.  “Come with me.  The Elder will be with the children.”

Children? 

They hurried down a small path, where sparse trees gave way to a hidden ravine.  They skidded down the gravelly trail until they’d reached the bottom, the man moving incredibly swiftly for his age. 

A wall curved around one side of the ravine, which Amelia was surprised to find was almost a perfectly sheer drop of around fifteen feet or so.  It was completely concealed by the land above, the lip rising just enough to conceal the opposing bank from view and making it appear to be nothing more than a small rise in the landscape.  If she hadn’t known the trail was there and continued walking westward beyond the outer edge of the village, she might have fallen straight down.  Only the small path they’d just come down made it approachable in a safe way.   

A jagged doorway concealed very well the entrance to a cave, and the older man wasted no time walking into it, Amelia following.  She turned an artificial corner, made of what appeared to be stone, and walked deeper inside. 

 What she saw astonished her, and that was saying quite a bit, considering what she’d already seen in Pegasus. 

In front of them, spread out across an enormous distance, was a huge cavern sporting a ceiling bedecked with stars.  Or at least one could fancifully describe it that way.  Whatever mineral or creature provided the artificial light was so bright it made the inside of the cave almost as luminescent as twilight. 

A small village was set in the center of the cave, with water flowing through the center from a waterfall to the north.   Figures milled about the center of this miniature underground village, running, shouting and playing. 

The children. 

Her guide had left her at the edge of this Wonderland scene, and had found the Elder, who was seated in the center with a group of children and Doctor Beckett.  The man greeted everyone swiftly then grasped his leader’s arm, whispering in her ear. 

Amelia walked over to where Carson stood as he straightened, smiling, and clapped a little girl on the back.  “You are free to go.  Play.” 

The girl leaped up, and grasping the hands of a few playfellows, went back to their business.  Carson turned to her as she came to rest at his elbow.  “Fantastic, isn’t it?” 

“And a bit creepy.” 

He bobbed his head back and forth.  “I suppose.  But if you’re trying to keep children safe from the Wraith, there’s really no better place than someplace like this, is there?  They keep them well fed, they’re allowed outside when the danger is minimal, but spend a great portion of their day here playing.  Barring some nutritional deficiencies from the lack of light and sun exposure, it's an almost perfect solution.” 

“Is the village above just a cover?” 

“Not really.  From what I understand, the villagers split their time here.  They don’t want to endanger the hiding place, so they don’t keep everyone down here, just their most precious—their children, and some of their elders.” 

“So I’m guessing they have had attacks from the Wraith before, despite what they told Colonel Sheppard?” 

“Apparently so.  Though I doubt they’d be trusting enough to tell us.”  He nodded towards the Elder.  “She keeps a pretty tight cinch on things.  She’s a shrewd one.  Wasn’t half pleased that I had to be shown down here, but I suppose that’s understandable.  She knew that we were aware of the lack of children.  So it was either let us in peacefully or suffer us poking about a bit more.” 

“Maybe,” Amelia said.  “Of she could have gambled on Woolsey’s position.” 

“Glad she didn’t know about it,” Carson chuckled.  “We must look like a bunch of nosy buggers.” 

“We are,” replied Amelia with a smile.  “And we have a reputation to maintain.” 

“Doctor Beckett,” said the Elder, interrupting.  “I am terribly sorry to have to cut your visit short, but it appears your friend has brought news.” 

“Right.”  Amelia glanced at the Elder.  “A few of my assistants caught sight of a group coming towards your village.  Apparently, they may be hostile.” 

The Elder frowned.  “What did they look like?”   

“I didn’t see them, but by the description, they were clad in white and carried Wraith stunners.” 

The Elder began walking towards the entrance to the cave.  Amelia’s escort remained behind and gestured to a few other adults standing around.  Carson shrugged, and followed behind the leader, as did Amelia. 

When they’d reached the entrance, a grinding sound stopped her in her tracks. 

Behind her, the makeshift wall that had allowed passage into the cave had shifted, covering the hole and now looking like nothing more than a deep cut into the wall.   

As the Elder continued up the steep path, Amelia moved around Carson and came to her shoulder.  “Do you know who they are?” 

“I believe they are Wraith Worshippers.” 

There was a shuffling sound and Carson’s footing slipped, sliding him down almost to the bottom of the path.  He paused there, staring up at them.  “Wraith Worshippers?” 

“We do not see the Wraith.  But we must deal with their followers quite regularly.  They attack our poor village a few times almost every year, mostly to steal our children.” 

“Children?”  Amelia glanced back down at the ravine.  “That’s why you hide them?” 

“It is the only way to keep them completely safe.  The followers of the Wraith demand children as sacrifices to their masters.” 

Carson’s face scrunched up into a frown, and he scrambled back up the trail.  “That’s terrible.” 

They paused for him to catch them at the top of the hill, and worked their way back towards the village. 

Amelia’s radio had been silent up to this point, when Lorne’s voice suddenly broke through. 

“Two flanking the South.  Three more straight in.” 

“Copy that,” said the female on his team.  “We’re heading to intercept.” 

Amelia tapped her radio softly, uncertain of whether to disturb the military maneuver.  But she felt like the information the Elder had provided was essential. 

“Major—the people you’re tracking, according to the village Elder, are Wraith Worshippers.” 

“Copy that,” Lorne replied directly, apparently unfazed by this new bit of intel.   

They’d reached the center of the village, and Amelia was surprised to find the Elder gesturing towards a few of her people, who quickly ducked into huts and tents and re-emerged with weapons of their own—a few stunners, a few clubs and some stone tools.  The Elder pointed towards the South, and some of the villagers crept towards the southern border of the village, keeping in the shelter of the hut walls, hung blankets and tarps.   

The Elder gestured to Amelia and Carson to back towards the larger gathering hut, and they obeyed silently, falling into crouches as they reached the doorway. 

The two of the group who’d been approaching from the south suddenly appeared, their white, almost ghostly forms making them unmistakable.  Amelia wondered where Lorne’s team that was tracking them had gone. 

It hardly mattered. 

As soon as the two moved a few more paces, the villagers broke from their hiding places, firing stunners at them before they even had a chance to react.  They were on the ground and being assaulted within a matter of seconds. 

The noise from the attacking villagers seemed to kick off noise to their right, as P-90 fire and Wraith stunners suddenly echoed through the woods.  Carson was watching the massacre to their south with stunned eyes, but Amelia rose, her interest in Lorne’s team, and moved to the East. 

A screech startled her as a lone Worshipper broke through the sparse trees, eyes wide and frightened, his chalky white exterior spattered with blood.  He stretched out hands towards her, moving far too quickly for her to react. 

A stunner—Ronon’s stunner’s—sounded behind her and the Worshipper dropped to the ground.  The beams had been red, the setting not on stun, not that time. 

She whirled around behind her.  The village Elder stood in the center of the camp, a gun identical to Ronon’s in her left hand.  She studied the dead figure on the ground with contempt. 

More noise from the woods and Lorne emerged, following by three Marines.  Two more came up from the South. 

“We took out two—they started attacking with their stunners as soon as they heard the noise in the village,” Lorne said.  “You two alright?” 

“We’re fine,” murmured Carson, behind down to study the body the Elder had shot.    He rolled the head of the man sideways, which left a chalky film on his fingertips. “The villagers seem to have a good handle on things.” 

“And where did you get that?” Lorne asked the Elder good-naturedly, nodding towards her gun.   

She smiled, though it wasn’t very friendly.  “When the Worshippers come, they often leave behind things.  I can only presume the Wraith give it to them.” 

“Well that little doohickey is quite popular with one of our crew members,” said Carson.  “Though you might want to consider setting that thing to stun—it would prevent nasty accidents.” 

“These were not accidents,” the woman said, baring her teeth a little.  “When someone enters our village to harm our children, no action we take is accidental.  They deserve their fate.” 

No one had much to say to that.   

More of the villagers returned to the center of the huts, a few moving to dispose of the bodies of the Wraith Worshippers.   

“Well,” Lorne said after another few moments of uncomfortable silence.  “We need to report in to Atlantis—let them know we’re done here.” 

“You are quite finished?” asked the Elder, her expression returned to the same placid, quiet manner.  She seemed to be directing her question to Carson more than anyone. 

“There were still a few little ones I didn’t quite see,” said Carson.  “But it shouldn’t take much longer.  Soon as we report in to Atlantis, I’ll finish up the last few.” 

The Elder seemed displeased, but she nodded once.  “Very well.” 

They turned and marched out of the village, the Elder watching them go.  They nodded at a few of the residents, who were clearing the third body from the eastern side of the village.   Everyone was tense, but no one seemed bothered by the grisly task. 

“I don’t think I’d want to be a Pegasus native,” Amelia said.  “I can’t imagine what it must be like, to face this kind of thing when you don’t expect it.” 

“Yes,” Carson said, distantly.  “I can’t imagine either.” 

 

--/--

 

 John crossed then uncrossed his arms, trying to lean nonchalantly upon the dialing console, but it wasn’t cooperating today.  Nothing seemed to be.  “Wraith Worshippers?” 

“Yes, sir,” said Lorne over the com.  The Stargate rippled a little, open to allow the communication and casting blue refractions of light around the Gateroom.  “Five attacked the village.” 

“For what reason?” asked Woolsey. 

“Apparently they were trying to steal the villagers’ children,” said Banks.  “This isn’t something that happens often, but often enough.” 

“Something like that, once is often enough,” said John, a little tersely.  For the first time in a long time, Teyla nodded in agreement with him. 

“You get the coordinates off the dialing crystal?” asked McKay.   

“Yes doctor, I sent a databurst with the first transmission,” Banks replied.  Rodney raised an eyebrow and tapped on a nearby console. 

“Oh.  Yeah, here it is.  Well, thanks.” 

“They weren’t any Pegasus natives I’ve seen, sir,” said Lorne.  “They were completely white-skinned—almost albino.  Clothed in white garments.” 

“The skin coloring was artificial,” said Carson.  “They created the paleness by using a chalky substance.” 

Teyla and Ronon both shook their heads at John’s questioning glance.  “Seems like a new group to me,” he said after a minute.   “The villagers all okay?” 

Lorne’s voice transmitted across the com, this time amused.  “More than alright sir.  I think they can pretty well handle themselves.” 

“Meaning?” 

“They were equipped with stunners and rustic weapons and pretty much took these guys by surprise.  The Worshippers were flattened before they even knew what hit them.  One of them—the Elder—she’s got a gun identical to Ronon’s.” 

Ronon’s eyes widened as John glanced at him.  “I’ve seen those weapons before, Ronon’s isn’t unique.  But a weapon with that much power…” 

“Apparently they pick them up from attackers,” Banks said.  “And she sure knows how to use it.  She might have put Ronon’s firing skills to shame.” 

“I doubt that,” Ronon huffed. 

“I don’t know,” Lorne joined in.  “She apparently is not a fan of the stun setting.” 

“Neither is Ronon.  He uses it because he’s nice.” 

Ronon made a face. 

“Well, the Elder is being nice, but only tolerably so,” Banks said.  “She’s letting Carson do his thing, and maybe we earned some points giving them heads up on the Wraith Worshippers, but I still think she’s pretty much ready to see us gone.” 

“I don’t blame her.  Fish and visitors,” John remarked. 

“Did the communication devices get installed?” asked Woolsey. 

“Yes, sir,” Banks said.  “I’m still waiting on a full report from the Jumper about the satellite device, but I’ll pull readings and test it when we get back to Atlantis.  According to the pilots, everything placement-wise was fine.  I want to go back and double check to make sure everything with the communication device on the ground is working properly.” 

“Fine.  Have the Jumper report back here once it’s sent the data.  Lorne, you escort Ms. Banks and Doctor Beckett back to the village until he’s done with his job, then bring them home.  Report back if you get delayed for any reason.” 

“Yes, sir.” 

The gate shut down and John turned to face the head of the expedition, whose expression was grave.   

“I know,” John said.  “If those people really were Worshippers…” 

“We can’t let this continue,” Woolsey remarked.  “We need to find out more about their operations.” 

“Should this not be something we discuss with the Coalition?” asked Teyla, with a little bit of faux sweetness.  “I would imagine if we wish a more ‘universal’ role for all the united planets, it would be on the handling of such things as Wraith Worshippers.  Perhaps Commander Serrana…” 

“Not this time,” John cut back, his tone sharp, even more so than he intended. “At this point, I think we need to figure out what the hell is going on before we start making reports to the Coalition.” 

Teyla’s eyebrow rose, but Woolsey saved him the trouble of justifying his response, though he did throw him a sideways glance.  “I agree with Colonel Sheppard.  I think in this case, scouting does no harm.  We’ll notify the Coalition if we plan anything further, but at this point I think we need to find out what we’re dealing with first.  Colonel?” 

“We’ll be ready to go in two,” John said.  Teyla and Ronon nodded silent assent and left to gather their things; Rodney did so with more of a whine and a frown, but even he knew better than to argue with John at this point. 

“Colonel,” Woolsey said as John moved to leave.  He stopped, waiting the expedition head’s orders expectantly.  “If you find they’ve captured any children…don’t hold back on my account.  Or the Coalitions’.”

John stared at him for a moment, then nodded.  “Understood.”

 

Continue On to Chapter III >>

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