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Adoremus, CH III

<<< Back to Adoremus, Chapter II

 The first thing Rodney noticed about this planet of Wraith Worshippers was that they certainly hadn’t used their connections to improve their quality of life. 

The Stargate had opened up into swampy plain filled with tall, white-gold grasses.  The MALP they’d sent had gotten stuck just a few feet from the gate, and beyond assuring them no Wraith Worshippers were waiting in ambush, had really provided very little other information, though the stuck part should have warned them of the morass of water and mud that they were now trudging through. 

“Whose brilliant idea was it not to do this from a Jumper?” he snapped in a whisper.   

“Wraith Worshippers are not traditionally hostile upon first greeting,” Teyla whispered back.  “They practice deception and false trust.  If we approach them in a way that frightens them, we may never discover the truth of their practices.” 

“Because these,” Rodney lifted his P-90 a little, “are completely not scary.” 

“Not if you don’t use it,” John shot back from the head of the line.  “Now shut it and keep your eyes open.” 

They worked through the sludge slowly, with nothing seeming amiss beyond the few waterfowl and animals they scared out of hiding.  Though the area was open, Rodney was sure he saw a few serpents slither within striking range. 

Sheppard was the first to hit solid Earth, a thousand or so feet from the Gate.  It was not much of an improvement, the ground being soft and soggy, but they were no longer in water up to their knees. 

They trudged along a little further, the Gate growing to a small circle behind them, when they came atop a rise which suddenly and inadvertently sloped swiftly downward, to a circle of grass-built huts.  Around them, the high white-gold grass waved breezily until it met with the edge of the village.   

Sheppard crouched down a little, pointing two fingers forward.  Ronon took point and Teyla worked her way behind Rodney.  They progressed carefully down the plain, within the shelter of the grasses, trying not to look obvious but obviously very obvious. 

They’d come within a few hundred yards of the village when something shifted in the grasses to their left.  Sheppard’s response was instantaneous; he fell into a crouch, P-90 raised.  Ronon whirled towards the sound, gun raised. 

A thin figure moved through the brush, almost invisible, arms raised.  The character studied them as he moved into the light, a boy, maybe twelve or thirteen, almost completely pale white save for the dark circles beneath his light blue eyes.  His smile revealed what Rodney already knew the moment he saw him. 

Trap. 

The sound of stunner fire was the last thing he heard.

 

--/--

 

Richard slowly lowered the mission report he was reading, eyes flickering towards the figure who’d been standing in the doorway for the last thirty-seconds, watching him.   

Mayel Serrana  eyes wide and questioning, was before him, her arms tucked behind her back.  He smiled politely, which she took as a cue to enter. 

“May I ask you a question?” she said, an awkward expression on her face. 

He smiled.  “Of course.  Please, have a seat.” 

She remained standing.  “Is there a reason why Joh…Colonel Sheppard dislikes Commander Radim so much?” 

Richard sat back.  He’d heard a rumor that there’d been an argument in the dining hall, and Sheppard’s earlier behavior had seemed to indicate as much.  But he hadn’t expected her to confirm it quite this directly.  “That’s a bit of a loaded question, Commander Serrana.” 

“Loaded?  What does that mean?” 

He sat back in his chair, removing his glasses.  “It means it’s…complicated.  To start, I wouldn’t say he hates him, exactly, but he certainly doesn’t trust him.” 

“Why?” 

“Well, truthfully, that is something I’m not terribly familiar with.  I have the information on Colonel Sheppard’s involvement with Commander Radim, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you if their feelings towards one another are personal or relating to some of the decisions made regarding the Genii and Atlantis.  Most of the dealings with Commander Radim occurred with my predecessor.” 

“Colonel Carter?” 

“No.  Doctor Elizabeth Weir.” 

There was a flash of recognition in Serrana’s eyes.   

“You knew Doctor Weir, I take it?” 

“No, not directly,” she murmured, finally sitting.  “But the man under whom I served a few years ago—he was quite…interested…in Elizabeth Weir.” 

“And who was that?” 

She looked up at him.  “Acastus Kolya.” 

“Ah.”  The name of Kolya wasn’t unfamiliar at all to Richard; he knew most of the exploits by the former Genii.  But on a personal level, Kolya was no different for him than any of the other faceless adversaries the Atlantis Expedition had encountered early in its mission.  He’d never met Kolya and didn’t think he’d have wanted to, but he also had no more information on him than what had been written in the mission reports. 

“I can tell you some of what I know regarding Ladon’s rise to power, but I’m sure you’re aware of the coup he initiated and Atlantis’s involvement in that,” he said.  At her nod in response, he continued, “but on a personal level I have very little information on Ladon Radim other than what I know of him now.  I’m not sure why there is animosity between them.  Truthfully, the best person to ask that question of is, of course, Colonel Sheppard.” 

Her face flushed.  “O-of course.  I’ll see if I can find him.” 

Richard frowned.  “You won’t—he’s gone off-world.” 

“Off-world?”  Mayel looked surprised.  “He didn’t say anything to me about that.  Of course, if it is not my concern…” 

“It may be.  They went to investigate a potential threat to our newest allies.” 

“Threat?”  She bit on her bottom lip.  “I had not realized there was danger involved with them.” 

“We don’t know all the details yet.  I felt it might be premeditated to fully involve the Coalition until we knew more.” 

“Perhaps.  But I believe if we hope to build our alliance, the Coalition should be kept informed of all dealings with our allies—even if Atlantis has not traditionally shared such information in the past.” 

He pursed his lips, then smiled.  “Perhaps you’re right.” 

She rose with a small smile.  “Please let me know when they return.” 

“I will.  And don’t worry…Colonel Sheppard and his team can take care of themselves.” 

Her face colored.  “Thank you, Mr. Woolsey.” 

As she turned to leave, he took up his pen, and raised it in her direction, feeling a little bit of pity for her.  “You may want to speak with Doctor Zelenka.  He would be the best person to ask.  He was present during many of the early encounters with Commander Radim.  Doctor Beckett may also be able to tell you more, but he’s off-world at present.” 

“Thank you, again,” she said, turning to leave.  Her head popped back through the doorway a moment later.  “Doctor Weir—she was killed, wasn’t she?” 

“In a manner of speaking,” he said softly.  “Yes.”   

Her mouth quirked at his cryptic response, but she asked no more questions.  He clicked the light on his desk lamp and went back to his report. 

--/--

 

John blinked twice, his head swimming.  His body had the same uncomfortable numbness he always got when hit with a Wraith stunner, only there was a much more pleasant breeze brushing across his face than he normally felt in Hive ships. 

I’m not on a Hive ship. 

The world around him flew into focus and he found himself bound on a dirt floor, with a straw roof above his head.  Nearby, the other members of his team were squirming a little, returning to consciousness. 

Footsteps sounded close to him and he rolled over, blinking once more, and followed the pair of white-mudstreaked legs now near his head upwards, until he caught sight of a muddy, white-tinted face staring down at him.   

“Hello,” he coughed.   

“Are you here to attack us?” asked the figure, whose voice and manner were both surprisingly subdued.  Or maybe surprisingly was the wrong word—his last encounter with Wraith Worshippers had proven they were nothing like they appeared, so sounding subdued may be par for the course. 

“Do we look like we want to attack you?” asked John.  The man made a face, and pointed towards the pile of Atlantis weapons now stacked against a far wall. 

“Those are for defense,” John replied in answer to his silent inquiry.  He struggled to sit up, still having to crane his neck to see his interrogator’s face.  “Our defense.  Which is something very helpful.  Sometimes.” 

“If you come peaceably, you should not have snuck up on our village,” said the man.  “Who are you?”   

“We are explorers, from the City of Atlantis,” Teyla said, rolling over on her side.  “We did not come to harm you.” 

“Atlantis?  The City of the Ancestors?” 

“Yes.” 

The man frowned.  “We had heard the City of the Ancestors was a peaceful place.  Why do you carry such weapons?” 

“As Colonel Sheppard mentioned, they are our protection against the Wraith.  We acted no differently here than we act on other worlds upon which we first arrive,” said Teyla.  She was sitting up now, looking earnest.  “For our own safety and protection we are very cautious as to how we approach new worlds.” 

Very convincing. 

“Let them go, Tugh,” said a voice from behind them.  An older man entered the hut, scanning the group with interest.  “They pose no threat to us.” 

“We do not know this, Lyo,” said Tugh.  “They could be involved.” 

“Obviously they are not, or they would not regard our people with such interest.”  He nodded towards McKay, who was blinking and staring some of the observers up and down in unmitigated fascination.   “Had they been aware of us, they would not find our attire unique.” 

They were definitely unique, John gave them that.  What had appeared as white figures were actually figures painted from head to toe in mud—the same white mud in the swamp surrounding the Stargate, which John found himself coated in from the knees down.  Everything, from faces to hair to clothing, was painted white. 

“Who are you?” John asked. 

The man named Lyo continued to smile his pleasant smile.  “We are the Artho.” 

“The Artho?” Ronon said in surprise.  “I heard your people were destroyed.” 

“Our original homeworld was destroyed by the Wraith, but we found this one as a suitable alternative.  I am certain a Satedan can understand.” 

John studied Ronon, who was looking over the group with respect, and nodded his head in the big guy’s direction.  “The Artho?” 

Teyla, who was staring at them with almost as much fascination on her face as Rodney, answered him.  “We called them the Tribe of Shadows.  They had the ability to evade almost any enemy.  They were as legendary as they were elusive.” 

“Not anymore, I am afraid.”  The one named Tugh threw Lyo a sharp look, but the elder continued on, apparently unperturbed by Tugh’s silent criticism.  “When we were attacked, many of our number were lost.  Those trained in the arts of concealment were mostly destroyed.  These disguises you see before you, based upon the habitat of this planet, was the best we were able to mirror of our old traits.  Now, the Artho are no different than any other race trying to survive in these troubled times.” 

“We have said enough,” said Tugh, stepping in front of his elder.   “Just because they say they are one thing does not mean they speak the truth.  We were fooled as easily last time.” 

“Last time we welcomed a race with whom none of us were familiar,” Lyo replied.  “In this instance, we meet with an Athosian and a Satedan, who have both placed their trust in the two from Atlantis.   Our own scouts have heard of the marvels of the City.  What makes you believe they know anything about the Wraith Worshippers?” 

John flicked a glance back at Rodney, who was staring wide-eyed between him and the other members of the team.  Tugh caught sight of the scientist’s face and immediately gestured to a couple of guards in the shadows, who held stunners. 

“Because they know of what we speak,” he said, moving forward menacingly.  “They know about the children.” 

--/--

 

Carson tapped his patient on the shoulder, urging him to go join his friends, then yawned and stretched.  The examinations were almost all done, and he would be glad to be heading back to Atlantis. 

The number of children protected in the cave shelter was rather large; not surprising, perhaps, for a race that spent this much trouble preserving their youth in such a way. 

The Elder had been a little hesitant to allow examination of every child, but as soon as she saw a few of them go through the relatively painless procedure, she had relented and even seemed to appreciate the gesture, now.  Almost all the children were in relatively good health and having a ball in their underground wonderland.  

He had three more left to see, two little girls and a boy, about seven, who was trembling in anticipation at the edge of the circle.  Carson gestured to him kindly, and he trudged forward, rubbing one arm with his hand.   

Carson turned him around, speaking soothingly, and placed his stethoscope to the boy’s chest.  His heart was beating quickly, though that wasn’t perhaps unusual before something as scary as an exam. 

He turned the boy around, asking him a few questions, when the noticed the edge of the boy’s fringes had a hard, cakey material on them, tinged white.  He pulled at it and it came off on his fingers, crumbling as he rubbed them together. 

“Been playing in the mud?” he asked genially.  The boy shook his head.   

“Don’t worry—it’ll come off with another good rinse.  Now I’m going to touch your neck for a moment, just to make sure you’re well and healthy.  Nothing scary, just a bit of a touch here—” 

He paused, glancing down at the nape of the boy’s neck as he did the exam.  A small, dark tattoo stained the skin.  It was a distinctive mark, one Carson had seen before.  Recently.  He dropped his hands, and tilted the young man’s head a little further to the right. 

The boy’s eyes widened and he twisted away, frightened.   Carson tried to smile a comforting smile, but it felt a bit fake.  

It was a bit fake.  The mark was one Carson had seen on the neck of the attackers to the village—the Wraith worshippers.  Men who had been covered in mud.  Just the color of the kind the boy wore in his hair. 

He grasped the boy’s wrist softly, smiled, and continued with the exam, his eyes searching the cave area inadvertently. 

The Elder was near the doorway, a pleasant smile on her face.  But her eyes were fixed on Carson, and the look in them wasn’t nearly so pleasant. 

 

--/--

 

Mayel Serrana peered into one of the labs on Atlantis, searching for the small, blond scientist she knew as Radek Zelenka. 

Her instincts had told her to leave the matter regarding John and Ladon alone, to allow John time to regain composure.  He had always had an antipathy towards Ladon, so his reaction was not wholly unexpected, though his actions were somewhat extreme. 

Perhaps it was the closeness in which they now found themselves entwined which had heightened his anger to such an extent.  But it was disconcerting to her that he still could not distinguish between her loyalty to Ladon and her personal feelings.  She felt she needed to know more about John’s relationship with her Genii commander, to better understand how to handle them both.  Neither would openly acknowledge to her the nature of their past encounters. 

Doctor Zelenka was not in the first few labs she checked, but she managed to find him in a fourth, working with a large device attached to an Ancient control panel.  He warded her off walking in front of the device, and she made her way to him around the back.  As was customary with the Atlantis scientists, he did not stop what he was doing to speak with her, so she began to speak as soon as she reached him. 

“Doctor, Mr. Woolsey tells me you have been on Atlantis from the beginning?” 

“Yes,” he said distractedly.  “I came through the original wormhole with Doctor McKay and his first science team.” 

“So you have witnessed everything that has happened to the Atlanteans from the beginning?” 

“Yes.” 

“Including with the Genii?” 

“Yes.” 

“Then…you know about the history between Commander Radim and Colonel Sheppard?  Because I am curious.” 

He turned to her, now intrigued.  “Between Colonel Sheppard and your…Radim?  Your leader?" 

“Yes.” 

“Well, ah…” His hand flew to his glasses.  “What are you wanting to know, exactly?” 

“Why does Colonel Sheppard dislike Ladon?” 

“Ooo.”  The small man’s cheeks puffed out for a moment.  “This is quite, um, a loaded question.” 

There was that word being used wrongly again.  The same way Mr. Woolsey had used it. 

“I believe there are a number of reasons,” Zelenka continued, “but it starts perhaps with Ladon being a part of the strike team during the siege of the storm.” 

“I was aware of that.  But Ladon didn’t kill anyone during that raid.” 

“No, but his contributions led to the deaths of a few of Colonel Sheppard’s men, and to assaults on Doctor McKay and Doctor Weir—our expedition head at the time.” 

“Yes, I am familiar with Doctor Weir and what happened.” 

“Of course.”  Zelenka turned back to his machine, though his attention was not upon the device.  “In any case, Colonel Sheppard did not particularly like any Genii to start, but I believe it became more complicated when Ladon set him up to be part of a trap for your former Commander Cowen.” 

“During the transfer of power.” 

“Yes.  Commander Radim, during his takeover of the Genii, led Colonel Sheppard into a trap, so to speak.  He spared them only because Doctor Weir managed to find a way to save Ladon’s sister.” 

“Dahlia.”  Mayel studied the man thoughtfully.  “So J—Colonel Sheppard has animosity towards him because Ladon betrayed him?” 

“Betrayed him, attempted to blow him up, was not truthful with him—I believe any of those would have given Colonel Sheppard reason to dislike him.” 

She pursed her lips. 

“But,” the little man said suddenly.  “Truthfully, I believe Ladon Radim may be a special case because he is Genii.” 

She stiffened.  “Genii?” 

“The Genii have done nothing to earn his trust.  It has been the story of them all.”    

Mayel raised an eyebrow.  Zelenka noted her silence and glanced over, his eyes widening.  “Present company excluded, of course.” 

She didn't acknowledge the last remark.  “So the extent of their animosity lies with politics.” 

“There was nothing ever…direct…that happened between Colonel Sheppard and Radim personally, that I am aware of.  Quite a lot has transpired because of their relationships, however.  It is possible Colonel Sheppard feels Ladon is not fully trustworthy because he has shown his loyalty lies only with the Genii, not with anyone else.” 

“But isn’t this true for all races—even Atlantis?  Isn’t Colonel Sheppard’s priority Atlantis before all others?” 

“Yes, I think that is the correct way to describe him.”  Zelenka looked over the rim of his glasses at her.  “And this is something that one should remember, I think, because Colonel Sheppard will not change.” 

She stared at him, noting the serious expression in his eyes.  “What do you mean by that?”   

The speaker woven throughout Atlantis’s walls boomed loudly with the sound of Chuck’s voice, the Atlantis communications technician.  “Commander Serrana, please report to the Gateroom.” 

Zelenka was still peering at her over his glasses.  She smiled a small smile at him, then turned and hurried from the room. 

 

--/--

 

Rodney arched back as much as he could away from the Wraith stunners now pointed at his head.  Didn’t they know the potential ramifications of a stun shot to the head?  Couldn’t they consider lowering the things?   

Sheppard interrupted his train of thought with a nonchalant shrug.  “Kids?” 

The group stared at him, and he sighed.  “Kids.  Children.  You were saying something about them?” 

“Yes.”  The one named Two or Tuh frowned down at him.  “Someone has stolen them.  Someone whom you apparently are working with.” 

The nonchalance dropped from John’s expression.  “Stolen your kids?” 

The nicer guy, Lyo, had lost his previously pleasant expression.  “You know of the stolen children?” 

John’s eyes flickered towards the team.  He was weighing how to respond.  Teyla nodded once at him, and he nodded back. 

“We were told you were the ones doing the stealing.” 

Lyo’s expression morphed from doubtful to shocked.  “Us?” 

“We encountered your group on a planet which we previously explored,” Teyla said.  “They were attacking the villagers of that planet.” 

“And they were discovered?” 

“Yes,” Teyla replied softly.  She did not elaborate. 

“They were acting hostile.  The villagers took action,” John replied.   

Lyo glanced sadly at the Too guy, whose expression was dark.  The older one put a hand on the younger’s arm.  That was a good sign. 

“Three nights ago, our children were stolen,” said Lyo.  “Those who took them concealed their faces, but they spared no one.  Every child of the Artho was taken, save those too young to be taken from their mother’s breast.” 

“It has taken us three days to discover their location.  But we did so and sent a scout party to their world, to see if we could identify what happened to our children.  And now you tell us they have been discovered and killed.  This is a sad day for our people.” 

Teyla frowned.  “It is unlike the Artho to be as bold as they were.  They appeared in the open, with no camouflage.  Why did your people not scout this world before they approached?” 

“It has been three days!”  Big Guy said angrily.  “Our children have been stolen.  We do not have time to waste!” 

Lyo watched him disapprovingly but didn’t try to argue with him.  Instead, he turned and held out his hands.  “As I mentioned before, the old ways of the Artho are passing on.  We needed resolution.” 

“Your resolution got your people killed,” Ronon murmured.  Big Guy looked about to order a round of stun beams at that one, but Lyo raised his hand again and Teyla offered an apology. 

“Look, obviously somebody’s got their wires crossed here, so let me ask you something,” said Sheppard.  “Did you happen to get a good look at the weapons they used?” 

“Somewhat,” Lyo said, now confused.  Rodney didn’t blame him, he wasn’t sure where Sheppard was going with this. 

“Did one of them use a gun like that?”  He nodded towards the pile, where Ronon’s stunner lay on top of everything else. 

The Artho turned to look at the weapon, with the Big Guy turning back angrily.  “A red killing beam.  Yes.” 

“Hold on a second,” Sheppard said as the stunners pressed in closer, “do you really think we’d ask you if you recognized the weapons we used to take your kids if we took your kids?” 

“Tugh,” said Lyo.  Rodney was suddenly extremely thankful that villagers typically had elders. 

“Why do you bring this comparison up?” Lyo continued. 

“Because the leader of that other village had a gun just like it,” John replied, glancing back at the team.   

Rodney frowned, the comparison suddenly dawning on him.  “Oh my god!  You think…” 

“They are the Worshippers,” Teyla said quietly.  “In which case…” 

“Amelia and the doc could be in big trouble,” John finished.   

“I suggest you let us go,” Ronon said, his attention towards Big Guy and the Artho.  There was something menacing in his voice Rodney hadn’t ever heard before, and that was saying something, for Ronon.  “If you want your children back.” 

“How do we know that you are not…”  

“We’re not,” the Satedan cut him off.  “You don’t want to trust us, that’s your business.  But if you want your kids back, you need to release us.  Now.  I can guarantee we’ll make sure the worshippers pay in the process.”   

There was a look in his eye that made it very clear he spoke the truth.  Lyo studied him for a moment, then nodded, and the Big Guy did not offer any argument to the contrary.  The Artho put down their stunners, and released them from their bindings. 

Sheppard stood, rubbing his wrists.  “We gotta get a message to Atlantis.  Now.”

  

--/--

 

Mayel stared at the shimmering pool of the Stargate, glancing over at the young man who worked the dialing switch on the console.  He seemed to be paying no particular interest to her conversation with Commander Radim, though with those on Atlantis she was never quite certain how attentive they were being. 

“Mayel?  Are you still there?” she heard Ladon ask, somewhat wearily.  She did not blame him for his frustration; she had been less than focused in the last few weeks. 

“I apologize, Commander.  As I said before, we know nothing more than what Mr. Woolsey informed me of regarding the new contacts—there was a possible threat, in some form, to our alliance with them.” 

“I see.  I presume the expedition led by Colonel Sheppard will clarify this information?” 

“Presumably,” she said flatly.  A tiny grin flashed across the technician’s face.  He was indeed paying attention.  She turned her face towards him and he immediately turned his attention back to the dialer, his smile fading. 

Ladon was silent for a moment, apparently trying to figure what to say next.  She could picture the expression upon his face; the pensive look he got when trying to sort through an issue. 

“What about developments on the Wraith drug?” He asked a few moments later. 

Mayel shook her head.  “Nothing to report that would interest the Genii or the Coalition.” 

“I see,” he drew out slowly.  “Well, I do have some information for you regarding a new potential alliance member.  Can you return for a few hours for a debriefing and assessment?  I promise you may return to Atlantis to follow up with Colonel Sheppard’s progress.” 

She cleared her throat, feeling her face grow hot.  “Of course.” 

“Then we are ready to receive you; you may pass through the gate at any time.” 

“Thank you.”  She turned to Chuck.  “Will you please inform Mr. Woolsey that I have gone to the Genii homeworld for a few hours?  I will return when I can.” 

He nodded.  “Sure.” 

“Thank you.” 

She headed briskly down the stairs, throwing one last smile up at Chuck, who acknowledged her with a bow of his head.  It did not appear that he had caught the coded conversation between her and Ladon. 

Something that would not seem to interest the Genii was something that always interested the Genii.

 

--/--

 

Amelia was checking the connections on the receiver when Carson came up to her, smiling broadly, though there was concern in his usually bright blue eyes. 

She straightened, her hands moving to the receiver at the top of the console.  “You ready to go, Doc?  I’m almost finished here.” 

“Not quite.  Tell me, do things around here seem a wee bit odd to you?” 

She raised an eyebrow.  “Besides Neverlands hidden in caves, assaults by albinos and villager women toting mega-laser pistols?” 

He grinned nervously.  “Aye.  Well, it’s just that…” 

“Just what?” 

“One of the little ones I was just attending—he looked to have mud in his hair.” 

“He’s a kid—isn’t that sort of the norm?” 

“Well, perhaps, but it was the kind of dirt that those intruders—the Wraith Worshippers—had on their clothes.” 

She paused in what she was doing.  “You think they got to the kids?” 

“Not exactly.”  He moved closer to her, lowering his voice.  “He also had a tattoo on his neck.  Right around here.”  His hand floated towards the bottom of his hairline, just below the ear.  As a villager passed by he made like he was brushing the nape of his neck and coughed. 

“And that’s important because…?” 

“That fellow I studied, the one killed by the elder, had the exact same kind of tattoo at the base of his neck.  Exactly the same mark.” 

Amelia stopped what she was doing.  “You think the kid and the Wraith Worshipper are connected somehow?  Is that how they found this place?” 

“I don’t think so.  That child was frightened, and even more so when he found out I’d seen the mark.” 

Her eyes searched Carson’s, and it dawned on her what he was trying to imply.  “You don’t think his being here is a coincidence.” 

“When I finished up with the portion of children I’d been allotted to see, I took a glance around.  Do you have any idea how many different genetic traits there are among those children?” 

Her brow furrowed in confusion.  “Genetic traits?” 

“Features.  Facial structure, noses, hair color, eye color, lip shape, skin color, height—” 

“I get it.” 

“They’re diverse.  Incredibly diverse.  They have almost as many different genetic qualities as the people on Atlantis—which of course makes sense because…” 

“We’re gathered from a bunch of different cultures and ethnicities,” she murmured.   

“Exactly.  Atlantis isn’t a bred society—it’s an integrated one.  The most diverse societies in the world only come from that type of environment.  Tribal cultures, on the other hand—well, there should be only a few pointed genetic distinctions at the most in an isolated society such as this one.  Especially one that claims not to interact at all with other cultures.” 

“So where did those traits come from?”  She asked in response. 

He shook his head slowly, leaning in to her more closely.  “I can’t be certain, but it’s not from being born here, I can tell you that.  And the people who were killed—the fact that they had cultural similarities to that child—” 

“Maybe they weren’t the ones doing the hunting,” Amelia whispered back. 

“It was odd they took no prisoners, was it not?”  He murmured.  “No one had a chance to speak.  Even though she could have given him that chance with that pistol like Ronon’s, if she’d set it to stun.” 

Amelia swallowed, her eyes darting up.  The villagers seemed to be going about their business, and the elder was nowhere in sight.  “This is something Woolsey needs to know about.  We should find Major Lorne.” 

“Agreed.”  Carson tapped on his headset.  “Major, this is Doctor Beckett.  Where are you?” 

The only answer he got was a hiss of static.  

Amelia glanced at Carson.   

“Major?”  Beckett tapped the headset again.  “Major Lorne?” 

He met her gaze with alarm, his eyes flickering to the machine before her.  “Is it possible…” 

“No,” she said quietly.  “The receiver wouldn’t interfere with the radio.  I think we need to get to the Gate.  Now.” 

“But the Major…” 

“Can take care of himself, and if he can’t, it’s not something we can do anything about.  Atlantis needs to send reinforcements.  We need to go.” 

He paused for a moment.  “Aye.  I just need my…” 

“Nothing.  Whatever it is, we can get it later.  Go, now.”  She glanced around.  “Seems clear.” 

Carson swallowed.  “Right.  I suppose they can always use the supplies…” 

The sound of stunner fire cut him off and Amelia watched, surprised, as he dropped to the ground in front of her.   “Carson?” 

She barely had time to bend down to him—or to register what just happened, when something slammed into her and everything went dark. 

 

--/--

 

Lorne yawned, peering around at the buzz of activity behind him.  Banks was near the transmitter, talking intently with Doctor Beckett, who’d just returned from the ravine where the cave was located. 

It was a little weird, the cavern of children.  Given how much his nephew and niece enjoyed the sunshine, he found it hard to believe the kids really preferred it in the darkness, despite the simulated natural light.  There was nothing that compared with fresh air and sunshine. 

Rinson shifted from one knee to the other, her P-90 hanging from her TAC vest, and rolled her neck.  The woman hardly ever relaxed, which he was grateful for, most of the time.   

“Sir.”  Alous, who’d been standing over to the left with Davidson, nodded towards the village. 

Banks and Beckett seemed oblivious, but the rest of the camp was moving swiftly away from the center, scurrying, almost like a pack of rats, towards the ravine path.   

Lorne tossed a curious glance over at Rinson, who shrugged, lifting her P-90 into her hands.  He’d risen to his feet when two stunner blasts suddenly engulfed Banks and the Doc. 

“Attack—” Davidson hardly had time to get the words out, before more stunners were turned their way.  As the leader of the village walked towards them, her gun raised, only one thought ran through his mind. 

I never thought it wouldn’t be the Wraith. 

 

--/--

  

John had already had a pretty bad day, and it was getting worse by the minute.  Not only did his body have that weird, post stunning numbness to get over, but when they’d gotten back to the Gate Atlantis was apparently having so much activity they had to wait almost fifteen minutes before they could make contact via wormhole.  For once, he almost agreed with Rodney’s griping of ‘what if they’d been in mortal peril?’ 

Then, he’d returned to find the Gateroom in a state of chaos brought on by an influx of refugees from an apparently recently Wraith-attacked planet, which had occupied Woolsey almost to the point of losing what remaining hairs he had left on his head as they tried to figure out what to do.  Add to that the multitude of fingers pointed at John as soon as he stepped through the wormhole for failing, apparently, to train properly the green Major who had opted to bring the refugees in without going through Atlantis protocols.   

On top of that, he didn’t see Mayel anywhere.  He couldn’t tell if she’d just opted not to show up to greet him this time or she was actually gone from Atlantis.  Not that he’d done anything to encourage her to stay behind, given their last encounter.  And not that she was the most important thing on the roster.  But for some reason her absence lent to the overall feelings of irritation and floundering he currently found himself harboring as he stared over the mass of peasant bodies, screaming Marines and harried control staff.   

Teyla was pressed into him and she frowned angrily.  “We must…” 

One of the plants hanging from a wall nearby suddenly burst in a mess of smoke, singed leaves and flying dirt.  Two more followed suit around the Gateroom. 

 John turned slowly around, looking up with a mixture of consternation and fascination at Ronon, who was standing on the staircase landing, his gun raised and a rather nasty look upon his face. 

The entire Gateroom suddenly became a fixed, silent mass of people.   

“Where are all these people supposed to go?” Ronon asked Woolsey. 

From somewhere within the mass of people on the floor, Woolsey materialized.  “We were in the process of setting up a makeshift shelter in the dining hall before we got overrun.  I figured that would probably be best for now, until we can determine if the Alpha Site is safe.”   

John stared at Ronon for a moment, blinking, before turning to a competent female lieutenant.  “Take them there in groups of ten.  One marine per group.” 

“Get into groups—ten people, including children,” Ronon barked.  He waved his gun towards the peasants to get them moving.  Amazingly, most of them obeyed, grabbing the nine nearest people they could find.   

John nodded at one of the security units on the floor, which broke into escorts of one or two Marines per group.  “And make sure there are people there to help.” 

“Keller’s already there setting things up,” Woolsey said.  

“Send Rivers and his team to the Alpha site,” John instructed, as the green Major who’d caused all of this swallowed.  “Make sure nothing’s changed in twenty-four hours.” 

“Any reason why you felt the need to take a page out of John Wayne’s book?” Woolsey directed at Ronon, as soon as he reached them.  The groups had begun to file off, slowly. 

“Amelia—and Beckett—are in danger,” Ronon replied.  Woolsey’s curious expression faded and he turned to John.  “What happened?” 

“Seems we’ve been duped again,” John said.  “We need to get Banks and the Doc off that planet as soon as possible.” 

“You’re certain?” 

“We’re wasting time talking about it,” snapped Ronon.  “What difference does it make if it’s true or not?  The safest thing is just to get them out.” 

John eyed him slowly before turning back to Woolsey.  “Let’s just say we have really good evidence that those people are not what they seem.” 

“Is your team ready to go if they don’t answer?”  Woolsey glanced up at Ronon.  “We have to be prepared in case they can’t get out.” 

Rodney let out an audible sigh, but John glanced over the rest.  “Yep.  I’d rather have back-up, though, to be safe.  Probably should contact the Daedalus, too, see if they can get out there.  If the kids are on that world, a massive group of them isn’t going to be easy to shuttle into jumpers.” 

“Radio them,” Woolsey said.  He looked up at Chuck.  “Dial up P15-741.  See if you can reach Major Lorne.” 

As the Gate started to activate, Woolsey turned back to John.  “You mean to say that the original planet were the Worshippers?  The ones who hid their children for safety?” 

“They weren’t hiding the children for ‘safety’—at least not their children,” John replied. 

“It would seem this group is using the children for some other purpose,” Teyla said, in answer to Woolsey’s questioning look.  “Children who are not their own.” 

It took him a moment, but recognition dawned on Richard.  “They’re kidnapping the children?  For what?” 

“Good question,” John replied. 

“Let’s hope we don’t have to find out the answer,” added Rodney.


>>> Continue to Adoremus, Chapter IV

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