Title: The Enemy
Author: Keira Marcos
Series title: The Sentinels of Atlantis
Series Order: 5
Fandom: Sentinel/Stargate Fusion
Pairings: McKay/Sheppard, Lorne/Keller (many secondary pairings)
Warnings: Explicit sex, adult language, violence
Summary: On a routine mission, they encounter the Wraith for the first time with potentially devastating results.
- – - -
John was pretty sure he was tired of stepping out of the gate to a face full of Ronon’s gun. He raised an eyebrow at his fellow Sentinel and the much larger man just shrugged and holstered his weapon. He glanced towards Teyla and found her dressed similarly to her Sentinel—complete with a pulse pistol he refused to envy on general principal. Though he had whined, in private, to his own Guide extensively about his lack of a truly sci-fi kind of weapon. It was hard to be an intergalactic explorer without some kind of energy gun, John was absolutely positive on this subject.
“The people on this planet are pre-industrial and their science is nothing like you mentioned wanting but they have some ruins left by the Ancestors.” Ronon reached out and touched his Guide, drawing her forward slightly. “Teyla’s people have traded with them for many years.”
John inclined his head at Teyla but focused on Ronon. “In our society there are rules that govern how another Sentinel can interact with a bonded Guide. We haven’t discussed such protocols and Dr. Weir handled our last meeting entirely. We should probably get that out of the way.”
Ronon nodded. “Yeah, okay. Don’t touch her unless she’s in danger and needs your help.”
John smirked and several of the Marines laughed a just a little. “Given. Anything else?”
“My people didn’t keep Consorts as slaves if that is what you are referring to,” Ronon grimaced in distaste. “At least not during my time but in the distant past the relationship wasn’t always equal.”
“But she is your equal.”
“Yes,” Ronon said firmly. “Is that not the case with your own Guide?”
“It is.” John cleared his throat. “The word Consort means ‘wife or spouse’ among our people. You said you had a Consort and a wife on Sateda.”
“My first Consort was male,” Ronon murmured. “Guardians were required to marry and procreate for the good of our people. I took a wife as required but Jonar was my mate and Consort.” Teyla leaned into him suddenly. “Just as Teyla is my mate now. I won’t take another wife.”
John nodded. “Very well then. We have a few rules about Sentinel-Guide interaction. The first one is no-touching out side of emergency situations, one we share. Guides tend to touch each other a lot—communication, support or whatever so that’s no problem. The second is when we are in the field the safety of our Guides goes before everything else.”
Ronon’s gaze narrowed. “In what way?”
“I need to know if I fall that you’ll do everything you can get my Guide home, keep him safe because he’ll be absolutely useless if I go down.”
“You’d agree to the same?” Ronon questioned. “You’d protect, give your life for my Guide if I should fall?”
“Yes.” No hesitation, no doubt. The dead certainty in John’s voice must have startled Ronon because he said nothing for nearly thirty seconds.
“Such pacts among my people are rare, and maybe that is why it was so easy for the Wraith to take us out.” Ronon pulled a knife that had every Marine in John’s command flipping off their safeties. He raised an eyebrow at them and then with little ceremony sliced open his own left hand.
John accepted the knife when it was offered, and ignored the hissing protest of his own Guide as he cut the palm of his left hand. “Sentinel Dex.”
“Alpha Sheppard,” Ronon acknowledged as he offered his hand. “My Guide and are in your service.”
John took the hand and blood slicked between them. “I accept and honor your service on behalf of the Sentinel Pride of Atlantis.”
“That’s disgusting,” Rodney protested. “Keller get up here and disinfect their wounds before their hands fall off from some kind of weird alien infection.”
Ronon looked at Rodney and then grinned. “I can see why you chose to keep him.”
“Fat lot you know,” Rodney snapped. “I kept him.”
- – - -
“The Daltorians have very healthy crops and pride themselves on their work ethic,” Teyla motioned to a field to their left as they walked. “Tava beans are their main crop and it can be used for many things. It will be one of the staple crops you’ll wish to trade for because it is a very good trade product to have on hand for other worlds. Not all climates are conducive to its growth.”
“How many people in the settlement?” Jennifer asked as she took a drink from her canteen. “Basic health?”
“They eat well and have not been culled for nearly four generations. Their population is nearly three thousand people strong—which is less than other more advanced peoples but good considering how many times in the past the Wraith have nearly wiped out their entire society.”
“Dr. Weir will need a full report before we can return to trade,” John said as he pulled his Guide back onto the path with a hard look. Rodney had opened his scanner as they’d left the gate and hadn’t looked up from it since. “So, I’d like this meeting to be just something of a meet and greet. An introduction.”
Teyla nodded and glanced back at him briefly over her shoulder. “Yes, of course, Alpha.”
“Colonel,” John offered gently in correction. “Colonel John Sheppard.”
She shared a glance with her Sentinel and then inclined her head in acceptance. “Colonel. Do you wish to keep your status as a Guardian a secret?”
“Are these people aware of your Guardian?” Rodney asked his gaze narrow, his tone pointed.
Teyla stopped and turned. “No. It is my duty to guide and protect the last of the Satedan Guardians. As far as anyone knows, he was born to an Athosian woman but raised on Sateda by his father until its fall and then he returned to his mother’s people. There are those that would be… eager for his attention in ways that I find unacceptable.”
“How?” Jennifer asked, her eyes darkening.
Teyla flushed. “Breeding. They would call upon us as allies to request that my bond-mate breed with women of their village in an effort to spread the legacy of the Guardians beyond Sateda. Something the people of Sateda never allowed before their fall. My parents’ bonding was a political arrangement. Had I exhibited traits of a Guardian they would have demanded I be raised as a Satedan.”
Jennifer looked at Rodney who was frowning. “Then, yes, we would prefer that our Sentinels remain a secret. It would be rude of me but I would protest the use of my Sentinel in such circumstances with my gun.”
“Or a bomb,” Rodney muttered. “A big bomb.”
Teyla nodded. “Then we are in agreement.”
John watched three of them continue the walk up the path behind Ronon, amused. He shot a glance towards one of the Marines that walked to his left and found the man smiling. “Corporal?”
“Just imaging Dr. McKay’s reaction if some alien princess decided you should breed with her, sir.”
He laughed. It would not be pretty but he did hope that his Guide knew that he’d never agree to anything like that. The distant sound of the Stargate activating had him stopping and raising his fist for silence. The men behind him immediately stopped and Ronon turned his eyes dark and focused.
The forest itself seemed to still around him and then he felt something so vicious and horrible rush over his mind that he reached out blindly for his Guide. McKay was there, silent, his hands strong and grounding, his scanner abandoned on the ground where he’d stood seconds before.
“Wraith!” Teyla hissed.
It was the most fucked up thing John had ever felt in his life. Gnawing, never to be satisfied hunger stretched out over a complex and diseased alien mind. In the months leading up the Atlantis mission, John had made it his business to interact with practically every alien mind he could. Jack O’Neill had set up meetings with the Tok’ra, the Asgard, and the Nox—giving John as much stimulus as he could on that front. Nothing he’d felt in his home galaxy prepared him for the mind of a Wraith.
“Scouting party,” Ronon murmured as he came to a stop beside Sheppard. “Six drones and three soldiers.”
“Drones?” John asked as they moved off the path and into the deep forest they’d avoided since their arrival on the planet.
“Drones—ground troops but not much for planning or making decisions in action. They are the easiest to kill.” Teyla put her back to a tree. “Soldiers are their leaders in the field; they direct the culling and often coordinate air strikes from the ships.”
“You think they have a ship in orbit?” John’s gaze flicked to the scanner that Rodney had scooped as they ran for cover. “McKay?”
“No, nothing in orbit that I can find. I’m picking up nine life signs, humanoid but different heading this way. The energy signatures on their weapons aren’t like anything I’ve ever seen before but I won’t have a hard time tracking it. If their ships have something similar…” Rodney pressed close to his Sentinel as John made the mistake of inhaling too deeply. “Bad?”
“Dead,” John muttered as he fought back the urge to gag. “They smell old and dead.” He leaned forward a little and met Ronon’s gaze. “If we do nothing?”
“They’ll recon the village and signal for culling. If the Hive isn’t already heading for this system, it will come—within the day. The population is healthy and strong here—it’ll be the perfect target.”
“If we kill them?” John asked.
“The people can hide or evacuate through the gate. The Hive will send more to investigate the disappearance of their advance team and maybe a few darts for culling.”
“Aircraft, they have beams that allow them to harvest the population for later feeding. They can store many in a single Dart for transport back to the Hive.” Teyla pressed her lips together to keep from saying more.
“If you were alone?” John asked Ronon, his tone completely neutral.
“I’d do my best to kill every single one of them,” Ronon answered, his big body tense with the desire to move, to hunt, and to kill.
John nodded. “Stackhouse, scout up ahead and set up for ambush. We’ll do our best to push them in your direction. We don’t want any of them escaping to the gate and requesting air support or more ground troops.”
“Yes, sir.” Stackhouse signaled to his Marines and whispered instructions as they all started to move.
John watched the Marines push ahead and then he focused on Ronon. “We aren’t what you’re used to but I assure you, we aren’t a liability.”
Evan Lorne pushed his Guide up against a tree, his hand curling in her TAC vest. “Take out your weapon.”
Jennifer pulled the 9mm from her thigh holster with a steady hand and met her Sentinel’s gaze without flinching. “I’ll be right here when you get back.”
“You’re goddamned right you will,” Evan’s hand tightened. “Right here, Guide. And you kill anything that comes your way. The life you’ll be saving is mine.”
Jennifer nodded. “Hunt well and try to leave me enough of a body to examine later.”
Evan kissed her hard on the mouth and released her.
Jennifer took a deep breath and looked toward Teyla. “Our weapons are loud, prepare your Sentinel. Has he ever dealt with projectile weapons in the field before?”
Teyla nodded. “But it has been a while, thank you for the reminder.”
Rodney shrugged out of his field pack and dropped it on the ground next to Jennifer’s. He handled his P-90 with familiarity borne out of years of going through the Stargate. He’d killed Jaffa and Ori troops with it in the past—he was fairly confident he could handle the Wraith. Then he made the mistake of peeking around his tree and getting a good look at what was coming up the path. McKay blinked and then turned to look at his Sentinel in disbelief.
“I know,” John muttered. “And we thought the Goa’uld like to dress up and put on airs.”
“I knew Marilyn Manson was an alien,” Rodney returned. “O’Neill didn’t believe me.”
Evan Lorne snorted and tilted his head. “Stackhouse is in position, three hundred yards up the path, sir.”
John sent him a look and Lorne flushed. “I know.”
“Sorry, I’m just…” He sighed. “Ya know.”
“Yeah,” John nodded. He was used to being the only Sentinel on the team so he totally understood where Lorne was coming from. “On your six, Ronon.”
Ronon paused as he turned the phrase over in his head and the nodded. “I’ve marked your men by scent and sound—I won’t hit one by accident.”
Three minutes later, John was positive he wanted a gun like Ronon’s and the Wraith were nothing like anything he’d ever fought in his life. They moved so quickly that even with his stupidly honed reflexes he often found himself firing at thin air. The six Marines he’d pushed ahead on the path were fit full on with Wraith weapons and they fell where they were positioned—like it was nothing. It took precious seconds for John to find their heart beats and recognize that they were just stunned.
Rodney tossed aside his empty 9mm and backed away from the Wraith advancing on him as he searched the pockets of his TAC vest frantically.
“Dux Ducis.” The Wraith hissed, shock filtering over its entirely alien features.
Rodney blinked in surprise. It had been years since he’d heard anyone use the Latin title for Guide and to hear it come out of an aliens mouth in another galaxy was beyond weird. He found the shield and the Wraith launched himself at him. They both hit the ground and he heard his Sentinel shout but it was distant, almost as if he were dreaming. Something cold pushed against his chest and then the shield activated. The Wraith screamed and then it was kicked abruptly away from him.
John’s hands on him was such a relief that Rodney all but climbed his Sentinel. “Fuck, Rodney, what did you do it?”
“The shield activated the moment he touched me.” Rodney buried his face against John’s chest.
John looked at the Wraith a few feet away. He was on his back, the only one of the entire party to be alive, encased in the light blue shield that had held his Guide hostage for nearly two days more than a week before. It hadn’t moved from the place where it had landed when John kicked him off his Guide. He pulled McKay to him tighter. “Lorne, get Keller and check on our people. Teyla, run ahead to the village and tell them we’ve killed a Wraith scouting party—they need to do what they do to prepare for a culling.”
Ronon squatted down beside the Wraith with a frown. “This is technology of the ancestors?”
“Yeah.” John nodded and rubbed a circle against the back of Rodney’s neck. “McKay?”
“It activated on its own—when the Wraith tried to feed on me. The shield—it turned itself on but I had it in my hand and it adhered to him instead of me.” Rodney nuzzled against John’s neck and took a deep breath. Then he lifted his head and looked toward Ronon. “He knew what I was. He knew I was a Guide.”
Ronon frowned. “Turn this thing off so I can kill it. We can’t let it communicate with its kind. They have…” He paused. “Mind communication?”
“Telepathy?” Rodney frowned. “Great. Just great.”
“Yeah, but the distance is short. Maybe within the same system but no further. We can’t risk that if they have a ship coming for a culling.” Ronon nudged the Wraith with his gun and it hissed at him. “Can you turn it off?”
“No, not here.” Rodney shook his head. “We think it’s used for transporting prisoners.” He stood with John’s help and walked to stand where Ronon was. “Do you know what I am?”
The Wraith hissed. “Dux Ducis.”
John frowned. “That’s a really old school title for Guides, right?”
“Latin which we are pretty sure was born out of the Ancient’s language. The similarities between them are telling.” Rodney focused on the Wraith; let his mind spread out to touch the creature but before he could make contact Teyla was there, in his space.
“No, Rodney, no.” She grabbed him, completely ignoring John. “Never touch the mind of a Wraith—they’ll hurt you.”
Rodney covered one of her hands with his. “He can’t, not through this shield. It’s designed to keep his body and mind prisoner. I know because I spent nearly two days in the shield by accident.” He frowned and looked at his Sentinel. “You couldn’t reach out for me mentally, could you?”
“No, but the shield isn’t keyed to my mind either.” John’s fingers curled around his weapon. “It’s your personal Wraith prison, Rodney, it makes sense you’d be able to penetrate it mentally.”
Rodney reached out again, ignoring how Jennifer and Teyla both moved closer to him—as if they could shield him from whatever the Wraith might try to do. He appreciated the thought, but neither of them were even close to a level six empath much less what Rodney was and had become thanks to bonding with John. Over the last seven months he’d come to realize the strength and shielding that came with bonding far outstripped the shields he could build on his own.
The Wraith screeched suddenly and Ronon engaged his weapon.
“Firing on the shield will just increase its strength,” John told him. “It’ll make it stronger.”
Ronon frowned and then fired off six shots in quick succession. “Good. The stronger it is the less we have to worry about.”
John looked at Teyla. “Did you warn the villagers?”
“Yes, I met two on the path to the gate just over the rise and they are going back to the village to prepare for the Hive’s arrival. They’re confident they can hide successfully—they’ve had many years to plan.” Teyla glanced towards the Wraith and then focused on McKay. “You should not let him do this. It is too much a risk.”
“He is my equal,” John murmured. “I cannot tell him not to do something I would do myself if I could get past the shield.”
Teyla looked at him, clearly startled. “You have… Guide gifts?”
“Yes. Advanced empathy, limited telepathy, and the voice if necessary.” John glanced towards Lorne and didn’t find surprise on the younger Sentinel’s face. They hadn’t really discussed what John was capable of but he knew there were a lot of rumors floating around their communities at home.
Slick. It was the only word that really fit what Rodney was feeling from the Wraith. The creature’s mind was wet with hunger and avarice. In his own mind, he’d been comparing them to predators on Earth but it wasn’t true. A lion on the savannah hunted for food—the Wraith they hunted for the thrill and the power of it as well. They enjoyed the suffering of their prey; they fed on the fear as much as they did the life force they apparently sucked from the bodies of their victims. Their strength came from the fear they elicited from the peoples of thousands of worlds, of an entire galaxy.
Rodney squatted down beside him. “I do not fear you.”
“You will,” the Wraith hissed.
“And I know why you fear me,” he murmured. “I know why your kind had to kill everyone on Sateda—how you didn’t dare risk leaving a single soul alive. It wasn’t the Guardians, as formidable as they were, you feared. It was what they were designed to guard—what they were born to protect.” Rodney paused. “Dux Ducis.”
“We will find where you come from and kill you all,” the Wraith warrior promised, its teeth gleaming in the mid-afternoon sun. “Then nothing will stop us from reaching our new hunting grounds.”
“Die,” Rodney whispered. “Just die.”
The Wraith’s eyes widened and then rolled in horror before it slumped against the ground. The shield broke free of the body and rolled to the ground at Rodney’s feet. McKay picked it up and stood away from the body. “John, we need to contact Atlantis for a Jumper. I think Jennifer wanted a Wraith body or two dissect. We need to find out what I did to this one to make sure I’m right.”
John stared at the Wraith for a few seconds and then looked at Rodney. “Did you just will that thing to die?”
“No. Not will exactly. More like I turned it off—like a computer,” McKay answered, softly—his voice subdued and tinged with horror.
“Will you teach me?” Teyla questioned, her voice like steel. “Will you teach me to turn off the Wraith?”
- – - -
John followed his Guide all the way back to their quarters—ignoring the worried looks from most of the people on the city as they moved. They would know soon enough what Rodney had done and he would deal with their questions then. As soon as McKay cleared the door of the quarters he darted into the bathroom and threw up everything he’d eaten for what John assumed was the last year. He wet a cloth and knelt as his side; waiting for Rodney to turn to him for support, for comfort.
Rodney accepted the cloth, but his gaze was on the wall in front of them. “How can you look at me?”
“You’re my Guide.”
“I murdered that Wraith. I killed a subdued prisoner. That’s… a war crime.”
“No. You conducted a successful field experiment on a captured enemy combatant in a difficult situation. We couldn’t let him go and there is no way I would have risked bringing him back to the city. If we’d found a way to release the shield—Ronon would have killed him anyway.” John pulled McKay into his arms and settled him back against the wall as the Ancient toilet flushed itself and ran through a cleaning cycle. “Once that shield went on him, Rodney, he was dead and that shield wouldn’t have gone on him if he hadn’t tried to feed from you.”
“I took a life, John.”
“You took two lives today, Rodney. One with your gun—I watched you do it.”
“Yeah, well, he was fighting back and I didn’t do that with my mind.” Rodney shuddered. “You know I used to joke with people that I was so smart that I could kill people with my brain.”
John laughed a little and then rubbed Rodney’s back gently. “You put down an animal. An animal that would have fed on human beings—that’s how I see it and nothing you say is going to change that. The Wraith aren’t people—I felt the same shit you felt when you were darting around in his mind—no matter how much you filtered it for my consumption. They feed to hunt and hunt to feed. Those things will never, ever be satisfied and if we don’t find a way to stop them—Earth will be their menu soon.”
“I need to see a Hive,” Rodney murmured. “I have to know what they are capable of when it comes to space travel.”
“We’ll find you a Hive,” John promised and then closed his eyes. “You did good today.”
Rodney trembled in response.
- – - -
Ronon watched his mate prowl around the small lodge they called home with dark, worried eyes. “Teyla.”
“McKay will teach me how to kill the Wraith,” Teyla murmured as she crossed her arms over her chest. “He will teach me and then we will find others like me—there must be others we can find. Guardians were kept on Sateda but those with my gifts were often allowed to leave and mate with off-worlders.”
“I know. I went to many of them hoping to find one who would bond with me,” Ronon offered gently. “We’ll gather them together if you wish and we will teach them what you learn from McKay.”
“I’m not as strong as he is but I can learn. I will be taught to do it. I will.” Teyla fingers trembled. “Did you see? Did you see what he did? Did they really cull your world to kill off the Consorts?”
“If all those capable of a mate-bond with a Guardian can do what he did—then yes I think the Wraith destroyed my people to protect themselves.” Ronon watched her digest that. “We can’t be certain you can do it, Teyla. McKay isn’t like you, not really. There is something more to him than…”
“Yes, of course, there would have to be for him to bond with such a strong Sentinel as Colonel Sheppard.” Teyla lifted her chin. “But what I saw him do—what I felt from him—I know I can do it, Ronon. I know it.”
“He killed that Wraith in a controlled setting when it was immobilized by a shield.”
Teyla nodded. “We must prove ourselves to them, Ronon; earn their trust and a place at their side so we can fight the Wraith with them.”
“And your people?” Ronon asked. “We can’t just leave them unprotected.”
“We’ll find some way to do both,” Teyla whispered. “We must. Don’t you understand?”
“I do,” Ronon admitted. He’d lived under the threat of the Wraith as long as he could remember—even when most of them had been asleep there had been heavy culling and fighting on Sateda and now he had a pretty good idea as to why. His thoughts drifted to his first Consort, and his chest tightened in guilt, hurt. “Traditionally when a Guardian loses their Consort they resolve themselves to what is basically ritual suicide.”
“I’m aware of that tradition,” Teyla murmured.
“It’s because no Consort should have to bear the guilt and the agony that a Guardian carries over the loss. I torture you every day, Teyla, I don’t know…” His voice trailed off. “I don’t know why you didn’t just kill me the moment I stepped through the gate. I would have accepted that fate from your hand.”
Teyla went to him then, her eyes dark and serious. “Do you remember when we met as children?”
“Yes.” He accepted her small body in his lap gratefully and pressed his face against her sweet smelling hair. “I remember.”
“I told my mother that your elders were wrong—that they were denying me my Guardian because I had been raised Athosian. I always believed, deep in my heart, that you were my Guardian. I mean no disrespect to Jonar and I honor his life and sacrifice everyday but I should have been by your side—since we were children it should have been me.”
Ronon curled his hands against her back. “I’m glad you were here on Athos safe when the Wraith finally came for us.” He took a deep breath. “The bond between you and I is stronger than anything I had with Jonar. I feel as if I must have failed him in that regard.”
“He never knew,” Teyla assured. “And you did not fail him—you honor him every day with your life and our fight against the Wraith.”
“I’ve given us over to Sheppard’s service. Hopefully it will be enough to gain the place you want among them.” Ronon took a deep breath. “I have to little to offer you, I know that. I’ll do all I can…”
“You offer me everything,” Teyla whispered. “I do not wish for more than what I have with you, right now. What I want from the Lanteans—the place I want for us is for our people.”
- – - -
Evan Lorne probably fell in love with his Guide the very moment he met her. He certainly can’t remember a moment since they met that wasn’t filled with the touch of her mind and soul. He gloried in the softness of her skin, the sweet smell of her body, the hot, wet places she gave him to press into with his tongue, his fingers, and most importantly, his cock. He would have told anyone that there wasn’t a thing about her that didn’t turn him on. He couldn’t have been more wrong.
She shot him a look as she donned her safety glasses and picked up the bone saw for the third time in an hour. “Turn down your hearing to zero.”
He grimaced but nodded his consent. His sense of smell had been at zero since his Guide and Dr. Warren from exobiology had started working on the Wraith corpse. Scientists had come in and out of the lab all afternoon equal parts horrified and excited. He watched in morbid fascination as she cut off the top of the Wraith’s skull. His hair had been shaved and collected meticulously for study by one of the other biologists. His clothes, skin scrapings, nail samples, etc had all been fodder for one scientist or another since they’d begun. Sheppard had only allowed her to bring back one body; the one Rodney had killed with his brain. The scientists and his Guide were making the absolute most of their specimen.
She motioned that he could turn his hearing back up. The sucking, wet sound of the piece of skull being pulled away from grey matter greeted him and he regretted following her instructions so quickly. He rested against the wall and crossed his arms. “I love you. You know that, right?”
She looked up and grinned as one of other scientists giggled. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, more than my own life but this is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen you do. Ever. And it’s really unfair. Sheppard and McKay are in their quarters sex bonding and I have to watch a…” He paused and frowned. “The dissection of a space vampire.”
Jennifer pursed her lips and considered this. “Are you implying that I’m neglecting you?”
“No, sweetheart, you go right ahead and cut that big ugly thing into itty bitty pieces. I’ve got all day.” He crossed his legs at the ankle and huffed out a breath.
- – - -
Elizabeth Weir took a deep breath and looked at her husband with concern. A part of her had wondered if she would be able to leave Earth, to leave him behind and she was very glad that Sheppard had taken over the mission because he’d taken that decision away from her by including Dr. Simon Wallace when Sumner had refused. They’d gotten married in a small civil ceremony three days before they’d stepped through the gate.
“How is Radek?”
Simon dropped down on the couch in Elizabeth’s office and sighed. “Better than I could have hoped under the circumstances. It was a beautiful piece of fate that put David Parrish on this mission and in the right place to be his Guide. I honestly don’t know that Radek would have survived without a Guide. Many Sentinels are capable of never bonding but often they come online as children—nature protects them. Radek had nothing really to protect him.”
Elizabeth nodded and carefully closed her laptop. “The stress levels for the expedition are a little higher than I’d hoped.”
“The civilians are still trying to find their feet under Sheppard’s leadership. They know what to expect from McKay and probably understood what to expect from Sumner but John Sheppard is a Sentinel—an Alpha Sentinel if we’re going to be technical about things. Probably one of the strongest born on Earth in our human history.” Simon glanced towards his wife’s coffee pot and just grinned when she gamely got up to fill her cup and get him one. “Come sit with me.”
“Do you think we have reason to worry about Sheppard?”
“God, no, not in the least. He’s the perfect choice to lead this mission—his protective instincts have already extended to include every single member of the expedition. He created a tribe out of us and he’ll protect us zealously. The other Sentinels underneath him are already interacting as a pride and we haven’t seen that in public about fifteen years in the US. Not since we asked the US Sentinel-Guide Council to centralize and do away with the pride hierarchies in each city.” Simon frowned. “I always felt that was a mistake but there were many who worried about the control the prides yielded politically and financially.”
“But they really didn’t go away,” Elizabeth murmured. “They just went underground—became secret societies which I think is far more dangerous than being a public entity.”
Simon grinned. “I see you’ve finished your reading list.”
“Just about,” Elizabeth acknowledged. “Dr. Sandburg’s book on pride dynamics in the US was fascinating. I’d love to meet him someday but I understand that is pretty much impossible.”
“No, mundanes are rarely allowed to see the Alpha Guide of North America without there being some kind of emergency. Ellison is zealous in the protection of his Guide.” Simon set aside his partially empty cup and took a deep breath. “So tell me what has you so concerned.”
“I’m preparing a report on the Wraith and the war they fought with the Ancients before the Ancients left Atlantis and returned to Earth. It’s not… pleasant at all and the ramifications are quite horrifying. I really don’t want to even tell anyone what I’ve learned because it’s just going to make our circumstances out here all the worse.” Elizabeth cuddled up next to her husband and pressed her face against his chest. “But we can’t leave Earth unprepared and I won’t let John Sheppard fight a war without all the information he needs to succeed.”
Simon rubbed her back carefully. “That bad?”
“Worse.” Elizabeth closed her eyes. “So much worse.”
- – - -
“Shortly after you returned through the Stargate yesterday morning with the body of the Wraith the Ancient database released a little over a terabyte in information on the Wraith and the war that was fought between them and the Ancients.”
John blinked and glanced at his Guide. “A war I can assume they loss.”
“Yes, but not because of technology or anything like that.” Elizabeth took a deep breath. “The Ancients out matched the Wraith in nearly every way except for numbers. By the time the war reached Atlantis they were outnumbered five thousand to one because they’d started focusing all of their attention on Ascension and very little else, including procreation mattered. Only about one thousand Ancients actually evacuated through the gate to Earth—the rest were killed in the war or Ascended.”
“Five thousand to one,” Rodney repeated. “Estimated Wraith population now?”
“At the time the Ancients finally abandoned the Pegasus galaxy they estimated there were between fifty and one hundred thousand Wraith feeding in the galaxy.” Elizabeth glanced towards Jennifer. “I can’t even begin to estimate…”
“I can.” Jennifer cleared her throat. “I’ve reviewed what Atlantis sent me and I’m still working through the reports coming out of the labs but what it boils down to is this—the Wraith don’t age and they don’t die naturally. They breed like insects, with a Queen secreting genetic material to be fertilized and cared for by the males in her Hive. The Wraith we brought back with us could have easily been ten to fifteen thousand years old. With no natural enemies, and nothing in this galaxy of equal power to keep their numbers down—I would say the Wraith population is as it was before the Ancients left or larger. They are capable of hibernating for thousands of years and the bulk of them could have been hibernating since the Ancients left.”
“Only to be woken up when the outpost on Earth sent out a distress call,” Rodney murmured. “You think they are waking up so they can finish fighting the war the Ancients ran from?” He turned to Elizabeth for an answer. “Does that make sense?”
“It horrible way, yes. If the majority of them have been hibernating since the Ancients left and they believe that the message the outpost sent is evidence that there is a population of Ancients on Earth… then yes I believe they have been preparing to invade our galaxy for nearly two years,” Elizabeth admitted softly.
“They aren’t wrong,” John murmured. “Earth and most of the human populated worlds in the Milky Way have the descendants of the Ancients. Did the Ancient database tell you anything about Sateda?”
“It was a protected Ancient colony. The original population came from Atlantis roughly three thousand years before the Wraith war started. As far as the database is concerned, the Wraith knew nothing of Sateda during the original war and the existence of the colony was as closely guarded as the location of Earth.” Elizabeth took a deep breath.
“So, yes, the people on Sateda were the most closely related to us in this entire galaxy—direct descendents from the Ancients just as the humans on Earth are. As far as I can tell, the Ancients did not intermarry or breed with any of the peoples in this galaxy. There may be a few isolated populations were Ancients were forced to settle and hide after the war was lost but nothing on the scale of Earth or Sateda.” Elizabeth settled back in her chair. “If Sateda was a colony of the Ancients, it stands to reason there might be Ancient technology on the planet that wasn’t discovered by their descendants there.”
“We don’t know how advanced Ronon’s people were.”
“Except for the really awesome gun,” Lorne put in. “We should talk to him about it.”
“About the gun? Definitely,” John agreed and then glared at Rodney when he snorted. “You can’t tell me you don’t want one.”
“Of course I want one. I’ve wanted one since I saw Han Solo whip one out in Star Wars.” Rodney look toward Elizabeth pointedly. “Any information on perhaps an Ancient outpost or lab on Sateda?”
“If there was one—perhaps we’d find it like we found ours,” Cameron said as he looked up from the report he’d been reviewing. “We could take a Jumper or two and do a planet survey if Ronon agrees.”
“We need his agreement?” Elizabeth asked her tone neutral. “It’s an abandoned world.”
“It’s his home,” John returned evenly. “And we’ll respect the sanctity of that otherwise we’d be no better than scavengers.”
- – - -
Radek fiddled with his glasses, one of ten pairs he’d brought with him to a new galaxy, and frowned. He’d worn them since he’d been a very small child and now for the first time in his life did not need them. Disgruntled, he tossed the wire framed glasses aside and took a deep breath. It was just one more reminder of the ‘normal’ he no longer had. He’d spent his life a certain way—brilliant but rather unremarkable in all other ways and he’d been comfortable with that.
“If she could take it back…” David paused and waited until Radek looked at him. “Would you want to go back to the way you were before?”
Radek shook his head. He couldn’t imagine returning to any state that left him without his Guide. David Parrish had always been a dear friend but in the three weeks since the Ancient control chair had woke the Sentinel in him… he’d become so much more. The soul mate he’d searched for his whole life without even knowing it. “I’d wish nothing that would take you away from me.”
“You’re frustrated,” David murmured.
“I liked my glasses,” Radek admitted and then blushed when David laughed. “I like to take them off and clean them when I think. I like to touch them when I talk and that is a very silly thing to miss in the scope of things, no?”
“Well,” David bit down on his bottom lip. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Radek sighed. “These are our circumstances.”
“You’re restless,” David said as he sat aside his book and left the bed that Radek had only abandoned ten minutes before. He strode naked to his Sentinel and smirked when Radek’s gaze drifted downward a few seconds before resettling on his face. “We could shower and go to the gym. We need to start learning the katas anyway. Well, you need to start learning them. It’ll be good for your mind and body—I’m honestly surprised that Colonel Sheppard hasn’t put his foot down about them already.”
“They think you coddle me,” Radek murmured as he ran one hand down David’s slim hip and then urged his Guide into his lap. Physically, they were well matched—slender to the point of thin but with an easy strength that came from physical work rather than machines in a gym.
David chuckled and slid astride his lap. “Do they?”
“Yes.” Radek pressed a open mouthed kiss against David’s sternum and sighed. “Perhaps it is so.”
David ran his fingers through his Sentinel’s hair as he settled on Radek’s thighs. “Hmm, we should cut your hair. I’m surprised you can stand it on your neck like this.”
“It irritates,” Radek admitted. “I just… wasn’t really ready to part with it, yet.”
“One more thing to let go?” Radek asked, gently.
Radek nodded. “Did you know that in my former country Sentinels are considered government property? Had I been born with these gifts, I would have never had any chance at an education beyond the mechanics of war or security. I was conscripted at fifteen to serve in the army but if I’d been a Sentinel, I would have been taken from my parents the very day they discovered it.” He took a deep breath. “When I was in primary school, there was a boy in my classes. We went to school for several years together and then one day he disappeared. A man from the government came and stood before all of the children in the school. He told us that Leos had hidden that he was Sentinel. His parents had hidden him from the government for many years.”
“That was a crime?”
“Oh, yes, a very bad one.” Radek took a deep breath. “The man told us that if there were others hiding; they should come forward—it would keep their parents safe because they’d executed Leos parents for treason.”
“Oh God.” David leaned in and pressed a kiss against Radek’s forehead. “Did any come forward?”
“Two. They killed their parents anyway,” Radek admitted. “Fifteen years later when the civil unrest started and the Sentinels refused to protect the government—I understood why. How could they expect those men and women to be loyal to them after they were treated like nothing? After they butchered their parents and any other family that protested their being taken away?”
“If they found out you are a Sentinel?”
“I’ve no family left in my former country. In fact, it was the death of my father that made me escape.” Radek took a deep breath. “He was a man of deep convictions, my father, he believed in the rights of everyone and never hesitated to say so.”
“He was killed?”
“Yes, they said it was a random act of violence in the street but I never believed that. I’d been working for my government for eight years at that point—I knew, very well, what they were really saying. I waited nearly a year and then one night I came home from work, packed a bag, and left. It took me three weeks to cross the border into Poland. I knew they would be looking for me—so I made sure to stay off the roads and not use public transportation. I was considered an important government asset. They’d invested a lot in my education.” Radek took a deep breath. “Once I entered Poland, I called a man I’d been communicating with for many years on various ideas about physics.”
“Yes. He was working for the US Military. I knew he could help me.”
“And he did?”
“General O’Neill came for me personally,” Radek admitted. “Within forty-eight hours, I was being briefed on the Stargate program and being shown quarters in the SGC.”
“They were lucky to get you.”
“Rodney rarely uses it but he is a powerful man—he moved mountains for me.” Radek cleared his throat. “That is why even when he being a giant asshole I forgive him.”
David started to laugh and then leaned into his Sentinel. “Then I will learn to forgive him as well.” He pressed a soft kiss against Radek’s mouth. “Shower?”
“Sex,” Radek said decisively and grinned when David laughed again. “It is our honeymoon, yes?”
“Yes,” David murmured his agreement.
- – - -
Rodney had decided at the tender age of eight that he did not have a ch’i and was not interested in finding it—no matter what his teachers at the Guide School told him. They not only hadn’t been amused; they’d told him he was wrong. Nearly twenty-four years later, it still got on his last fucking nerve that they were right and he had been very wrong. Oddly enough, it was at times like this and not during sex that he felt the closest with his Sentinel. They moved together in perfect union, working through the kata as if they’d been paired all of their lives. They breathed as one; he knew their heart beats where in unison, that even their biorhythms were syncing as they fell into the meditative state that deeply bonded Sentinel-Guide pairs could attain.
They shouldn’t have been able to do this with a new bond, sometimes pairs were together for decades before they attained the level of synergy they had been demonstrating within weeks of their bonding. Everything faded away, anxiety that burned in his gut—the fear that surrounded him from everyone else in the expedition bled away leaving him surrounded in the bright, luminescent silver light that represented the bond he shared with his Sentinel in his mind. Before he’d bonded, that light had been golden and often he’d used that visualization to build his mental shields to protect himself. Now, he had John and in his Sentinel he’d found the one person that would always be at his side—his partner in love, life and war. He let himself go, content in his Sentinel’s care.
John felt Rodney relax completely; felt him release the last of his resistance to the process with relief. It wasn’t a state they’d achieved often as McKay was so focused on protecting and shielding him that he ignored his own needs. The twenty-six Marines that been working out in the gym had stilled around them; watching with an uneasy fascination. He could feel their curiosity brushing against his mental shields but it wasn’t uncomfortable.
These were men who had trained with him for nearly six months before they’d stepped through the gate to Atlantis. He knew them—their strengths, their weaknesses, their fears. He trusted them as much as he could trust anyone outside of his own Guide which wasn’t necessarily a lot but far more than he’d ever trusted anyone else in the past. John blamed that mostly on Rodney. McKay had an inherent trust of the military men who had protected him in the field for years and it bled all over John no matter how he tried to push it back.
A fine sheen of sweat covered them both before they started to slow down. They relaxed into the lotus position at the same time and opened their eyes. Sitting face to face, John was pleased to see that the no pain lingered his Guide’s eyes.
Rodney glanced him over. “It’s stupid how hot you are.”
John laughed and leaned back on both of his hands as he stretched his back. “Feel better?”
“Yeah,” Rodney admitted. “Much. You?”
“I could run a few miles,” John said and cut his eyes around the room. Half the men groaned and a few offered willing grins. He rolled to his feet. “Volunteers?”
Stackhouse tossed aside the towel he’d been using to wipe his face. “I’m game.”
“Yeah, I’ll go a few rounds.” Markham rolled to his feet from the mat where he’d been stretching. “Bates has been marking a few running paths—there is one that is six miles and takes in three of the piers.”
Rodney made a face and stood. “That sounds wretched. Happy running, idiots.”
John laughed, reached out and grabbed a handful of his Guides shirt. He jerked McKay close and rested his forehead against his briefly. “Stay out of trouble, Guide.”
“I’ll do my best, Sentinel.” He closed his eyes briefly when John pressed a firm kiss against his mouth. “You, too.”
“Stackhouse doesn’t let me do stupid things when he’s around.”
“Stackhouse should follow you around all the time,” Rodney muttered as they left the room at a trot. He walked to the bag that he’d brought to the gym and dug out a towel. He frowned when he noticed one of the Marines left behind had moved closer. “Problem, Corporal Davies?”
“No. I was just wondering…” He took a deep breath. “Did you teach the Colonel to do that stuff?”
“No.” Rodney pulled off his t-shirt and started to dry himself briskly. “We learned it separately in training. I went to Guide school as a child. I understand that he went through training when he was in college. But, I do know Jujutsu. Unfortunately, I can’t teach you.”
Rodney laughed. “It would require touching, Corporal.” He watched the soldier blush and take a few steps back. “As laid back as my Sentinel appears to be, he would not allow that. You’re interested in martial arts?”
“Yeah, I mean we’ve had some basic training in it but nothing on a serious level. Knife fighting, a smattering of judo moves, and the like.” He frowned and shrugged.
“You should ask Major Lorne. He has a black belt in karate and is an accomplished champion kick boxer. I realize that it might hurt your little Marine feelings to approach an Air Force man for training…”
“No.” Jake Davies shook his head. “That’s good—we didn’t know that. He only ever trains with the other Sentinels so we weren’t aware that he… do you think he would?”
“Can’t hurt to ask,” Rodney rubbed his head with the towel. “Get Cadman to ask for you. She is the baby sister they never had and the rest of the Sentinels tend to indulge her little whims with a lot of good will. Mitchell has a background in Jujutsu as well. Most Sentinels and Guides are encouraged to pick up a martial art for… ” He waved his hand. “Mental balance. I’m sure most of them would be willing to pass on those skills to the rest of you. It would be stupid not to and they may be uncivilized on occasion but they aren’t stupid.”
One of the other men cleared his throat. “On that note, we all read the Sentinel-Guide field manual and took a few courses at the Air Force academy that General O’Neill set up to work with Sentinels but…” he glanced around. “They never discussed what to do with a feral Sentinel.”
Rodney blinked and sat down on the bench. “Huh. That’s both a little horrifying and unsurprising. I suppose a Sentinel taught the class?”
“Yeah, he had a Guide with him but she never spoke to us directly. So, what do we do?”
“Well, Sergeant, the best thing you can do is get the fuck out of their way.” Rodney grinned when several of them laughed. “I’m not even really kidding. I guess it depends. There are a few different states when it comes to a feral Sentinel. There is the battle drive—which I’m sure some of you will see eventually in any one of the Sentinels we have on the city. They’ll be focused, target oriented, and not so far gone that they won’t recognize friend from foe.”
“I watched Sam Carter go into a battle drive once,” one of the Marines offered as he sat down on the floor a few feet away from Rodney. “She kicked so much ass and took down one of those super soldiers that Anubis built because Dr. Jackson got himself captured. Even O’Neill couldn’t calm her down.”
“And he really shouldn’t have tried,” Rodney admitted. “The stupidest thing you can do is to put yourself between a Sentinel and Guide during a battle situation. He was lucky to survive it.”
“There are other kinds of feral episodes.”
“Yes,” Rodney nodded. “There are.” He took a deep breath. “How about we gather everyone in mess hall for the afternoon meal and have a Q and A? I’ll keep the Sentinels out so you can ask your questions without having to look them in the eye.”
Davies flushed. “But they’ll still hear us.”
Rodney grinned then. “You think my Sentinel isn’t listening to this conversation? Seriously?”
- – - -
She caused him harm. Not that she meant to, she never did. Her maker had warned long ago not to offer anything that was not directly asked for. For all of her vast knowledge and experience, she was still something of a child and found herself tempted time and time again to help, to offer all she had up for the taking. But this one, she hurt with the gift she gave and can’t take back. She watches him move through her halls with his companion always at his side. They had been separate when they arrived but now they were mated, bonded in the most ancient of ways.
He’d touched her and she’d touched him in return. And as if often was in the past, her touch did not comfort. She desperately wanted to make amends; to heal the trust she broke with the gentle little man who seemed content to learn about and repair her systems. She would wait and when he asked – she would see that his will was done. It was what she owed him.
Radek rubbed the back of his neck as he lingered in the doorway of his Guide’s lab. The room was slowly filling with plants. But the teams going out and had managed to bring back quite a few specimens for the botany department. They’d retrieved quite a few plants from Athos.
“Something wrong?” David asked.
Radek shook his head. “Just… I think my senses are a little off.”
“What do you mean?” David frowned and walked towards his Sentinel. “Your shields seem flexible and you’ve not had a sensory spike in three days.”
“I feel as if I’m being watched,” Radek admitted with a blush. “Which is very silly.”
David grinned and nudged his Sentinel. “I watch you all the time.”
“Yes, very own stalker.” Radek leaned in and kissed him gently. “I go to my lab. Do not get lost in the plants.”
David lingered in the doorway, watching his Sentinel with a small frown until Radek slipped into a transporter. He leaned against the doorway and then took a deep breath. He’d have to ask McKay if Sheppard had reported feeling anything like Radek had said. It was odd. Very odd.
Go to Episode Six: The Culling