Disclaimer: Stargate Atlantis, its universe, its characters and everything except the story itself, some secondary characters and the main villain are property of MGM. This is an unofficial fanfiction that is not endorsed in any way by MGM. It was written solely for enjoyment and I make no money with it.
If you wish to discuss this fiction or to contribute, I invite you on the original thread on GateWorld.
It had been months since their wraith former ally, Todd, had last signalled to them. What could he want this time? The replicators were gone for good, Michael's army had been defeated, and the wraith had been so busy fighting each other that the Pegasus human worlds were flourishing more than ever. As far as Atlantis knew, no other threat had to be feared than the wraith themselves. Of course, the possibility of a trap could never be dismissed: Although Todd had proved somewhat trustworthy in the past, he could have decided that time had come to turn against Atlantis. On the other hand, they couldn't afford to just ignore him and miss potentially crucial information.
So here they went, John, Rodney and Ronon — Teyla staying at Atlantis to take care of her currently ill child. Their puddle jumper left the orbiting stargate and flied to the nearby uninhabited planet. Only one life sign showed on the screen; obviously, Todd was waiting for them alone. Unfortunately, as the abundant vegetation prevented them to land nearby, they had to walk a bit, to McKay's highest displeasure.
"He could at least have chosen an even land." he moaned as they were cutting a path towards their contact's position. "I'm going to break a limb!"
He stumbled on a root at the very moment a wraith blaster shot passed above his head.
Without the slightest hesitation, Ronon grabbed McKay and pulled him deeper into the forest while firing back, John at their side. They could get glimpses of wraith guards and heard a faint voice shout in the distance — but they didn't wait to greet their old traitor of a friend.
"I can't believe he betrayed us!" Rodney whined between two heavy breaths, dodging stunner blasts as well as he could.
"He's a wraith." Ronon replied angrily, still firing at the woods behind them. "What did you think?"
John launched a blast of machine gun to a wraith who approached them by the left.
"Discuss later; for now we must reach the jumper, quick! They are trying to corner us!"
When the team entered a clearing, they half realised in how much trouble they were. Only when they heard a too familiar shrill sound in the sky did the realisation reach its full extent.
Last thing they knew, the dart's beam was reaching them.
They woke up trapped in a wraith cell — it was beginning to become quite an habit. Slowly, Rodney tried and sat down with a groan.
"Owww... Have we just been stunned BESIDES being beamed into a dart?"
"You wouldn't have listened to me if I hadn't disarmed you."
The three of them turned like a single man to the source of the eerie yet familiar voice. Todd. The wraith approached to face them from a safe distance. Immediately, Ronon threw himself at the cell's door with a roar of pure hatred.
"I'm gonna kill you, I swear I'm gonna kill you!"
John advanced too, albeit more slowly.
"So much for trust. What is it now you want? You could have asked politely if you wanted so badly to take us for a cruise."
"Perhaps I merely intended to invite you for a dinner?"
The wraith smirked at the team's shocked faces but his amusement quickly faded away as he went on:
"I'm not the one who lured you on this planet. I'm not the one who activated the subspace transmitter."
"Hey hey, wait a minute, I know it was you." Rodney protested. "It was the same signal!"
"Actually, I had no word to say in the device activation. I barely managed to escape alive. I knew you would most probably fall into the trap and that's why I came back to pick you up."
"Well, thanks for rescuing us," John shrugged with as little gratitude as always, "but now we would be extremely happy if you would just deposit us at the nearest stargate so that we can go home."
"I won't be able to eliminate the culprit without your help."
John shrugged again.
"Too bad, but it's not exactly our problem now, is it? Why are we supposed to help you this time?" He looked around at the cell. "Apart from the fact that you are holding us prisoners, that is."
The wraith locked his eyes at Sheppard's.
"Because, John Sheppard, he intends to seize Atlantis. And because his ultimate aim is not Atlantis — but your home world."
"Earth." Rodney murmured, shivering.
"As you see, it would be better for both parties to work together once again."
John crossed his arms, unafraid.
"There is something I don't understand. You wraith are weaker than ever, so why now? Doesn't it sound a bit like... suicide?"
"Been there, done that." Ronon approved. "We'll take care of him like we did of all others before."
"Don't be too sure. There exist more cloning facilities than the one you destroyed."
"But I thought it needed three ZPMs to power it." Rodney noted. "Where did you get them this time?"
Todd hesitated for a second.
"We are... manufacturing them."
"You are WHAT?!"
All three stared at each other, then back at the wraith.
"Are you kidding? You can't possibly be making ZPMs!"
"I assure you we are."
"Lie!" shouted Ronon. "Why are we even listening to him?"
"Have I ever lied to you?"
"You mean, other than by omission?" Rodney replied ironically. "Hey, you even hacked my computer and stole information from us!"
Which one of the two points most attracted the scientist's resentment was unclear.
"I had to leave myself a way out." Todd protested. "I needed to ensure you wouldn't turn against me."
"Yeah, it's called... blackmail, you know."
The wraith ignored the accusation.
"We have taken over an Ancient ZPM manufacturing unit. The production process is long and of the utmost danger but we have already successfully made two. If you don't help me stopping him before it is too late and regaining my position among the wraith, you will undergo the same fate the Lanteans did ten thousand years ago."
John sighed loud.
"All right. I guess we don't have much choice, do we? Now would you please let us out or do you intend to leave us just rot here?"
"Do we have an agreement?"
Todd nodded and opened the cell door. Rodney gladly came out — and Ronon even managed to repress the furious urge to break the wraith's skull with his bare hands.
"So tell me, how does it work?" Rodney asked Todd excitedly as they walked through the organic gangways.
The wraith returned a silent interrogative look.
"ZPM manufacturing! Were you able to reverse-engineer it or are you merely using the existing device as an opaque factory?"
"I can't pretend we have a complete understanding of the underlying physics, let alone sufficient knowledge to build our own facility, but we definitely made a giant step. You certainly know ZPMs are extracting vacuum energy from an artificial region of subspace time?"
"Yeah, and I know two or three equations that describe the way they work."
"They most probably don't suffice to grasp the complete picture. The Lanteans were using mathematics we still don't totally master. It's a whole new approach at quotient derivation that allows to..."
While the two scientists were immersed in their conversation, Ronon slowed his pace to whisper in John's ear:
"I suggest we kill him while McKey keeps his attention busy. I still have a few hidden knives on me; our combined forces can easily overcome him."
"Negative." Sheppard replied in the same low tone. "If he says the truth, we can't risk losing our only source of information about the remaining cloning farms and the ZPM manufacturing unit."
"And what if he lies? What if he came up with the whole story to allay our suspicion?"
"Then I'll be glad to cut him open myself." John shrugged. "Look, I don't say we trust him, I just say we wait to learn as much as possible before we take any irreversible decision. So far, every time he has come to us with a proposal, the threat was very real. You can't dismiss the possibility just because you're pissed he abducted and stunned us."
"As you wish." Ronon answered reluctantly — but he kept shooting a dark look at the wraith's back.
After the group reached the control room, Todd returned them their weapons. The Satedan aggressively grasped his gun and examined it before putting it away in its pocket.
"And now?" John asked.
"We require to seize the ZPMs quickly in order to power Atlantis. Being able to use one of your ships would be of great help. Once our mission is accomplished, you will have to fly the city to another planet before our enemy decides to launch an attack against you. Then I request your authorisation to join you with this battle cruiser."
The human looked suspiciously at him:
"How many of your people are in?"
"You don't need to worry, there is no wraith on board but me. As you already know, we don't have the technology to cloak our ships; I would greatly appreciate Dr McKay's help to adapt a cloaking device to my cruiser."
"I hate to disappoint but I doubt we will ever agree to do that."
"Then let's save the topic for further discussion. For now, we must go to Atlantis and prepare the retrieval of the ZPMs."
After several seconds of hesitation, Sheppard nodded.
"All right. But don't even imagine we'll let you roam the city at will. If you come with us, you remain under constant guard and when we don't need your presence, you stay in your cell."
Todd sighed slightly.
"Fair enough. I'm not in a position where I can impose my terms. Now follow me to the stargate; we must waste no time."
"Unscheduled off-world activation." Chuck announced in Atlantis control room. "It's Colonel Sheppard's IDC."
"Lower the shield." Samantha ordered. Raising her hand to her earphone, she asked: "So, John, how did the meeting with Todd go? It lasted longer than what I was expecting."
"Yeah, we got a pretty insisting welcoming committee down there. We lost a jumper and won a guest. Is the Daedalus still there?"
"They were just about to leave to Earth."
"Call them back. Secure the control room and prepare a squad of marines. We are going hunting ZPMs."
"Should we bring restraints for the wraith?"
"Nah, it's probably unnecessary, four marines and Ronon will be enough. Summon Caldwell and Lorne for an urgent reunion."
A few moments later, John, Rodney, Todd and Ronon walked through the wormhole into Atlantis.
John smiled as they sat in the reunion room, running his eye over the audience and stopping slightly on their wraith guest.
"Why do I have a sense of déjà vu? Too bad Larrin isn't here this time."
Samantha turned to Todd:
"So, you are telling that the wraith managed to reactivate an Ancient ZPM manufacturing facility on the planet we call M4L-637, and you suggest we send a team to take the two existing ZPMs and disable the facility."
He inclined his head to confirm, and she continued:
"Won't they be on their guard there? Especially since you and Colonel Sheppard's team escaped."
"Of course they will. But it is your only chance both to stop them and to preserve Atlantis."
"You said they won't get the third ZPM before weeks. With your directions, the Daedalus could destroy their ships and THEN, once they have been weakened, attack the facility."
The wraith opened his mouth to reply but before he could say a word, Zelenka brusquely hurried into the room.
"Sir, five hives have changed course in the last few minutes. If I interpolate their path correctly, they are all heading towards Atlantis!"
At these words, Todd snorted with a satisfied smile; instantly, Ronon aimed his gun at his head while the marines held theirs more tightly.
"I knew it was a trap." the Satedan grunted. "I request your authorisation to blow his darn wraith head NOW!"
"Good idea." John nodded.
Next to him, Rodney was staring wide-eyed, and Sam was shooting a not so friendly look at the wraith. Yet, she stopped Ronon with a sign of her hand, waiting for Todd to speak.
"You don't understand." he explained hastily, but not as afraid as one might have expected in such a situation. "It means they aren't sending reinforcements to the ZPM manufacturing facility. I expected that their first move would be to attack Atlantis, but with two completely full ZPMs, you will be able to flee before their arrival."
"How long before they are here?" Sam asked Zelenka.
"About 16 hours for the closest hive, 18 for the second. The other three will arrive within 24 hours."
She turned to Caldwell:
"And how far is M4L-637 away?"
"Almost 12 hours with the Daedalus."
With a frown, she faced the wraith:
"We won't have enough time."
"Unless your ship deposits us at the nearest stargate once we have the ZPMs."
"But if you are late, we won't even have the Daedalus to defend ourselves."
"Even with your beam weapons, you couldn't resist five hives at the same time anyway."
"Is there a stargate on the planet?"
"Yes, but it is monitored — they would know instantly that we are coming. I repeat: Our only chance is to approach with your ship and land in cloaked jumpers, then sneak unnoticed into the facility."
Reluctantly, Samantha nodded.
A few hours later, John, Rodney and Ronon were sitting at a table in the Daedalus' canteen, the last two of them eating hungrily.
"How can you eat while we don't even know if Atlantis will still be there when we are back?!" Sheppard asked them with a disgusted grimace.
"It keeps me busy." the Satedan answered without stopping to eat. "I hate waiting and even more running into a certain trap. I can't understand why you listened to a wraith."
"If you don't believe him, why did you come?" Rodney asked.
"To protect your sorry ass." Ronon replied angrily.
"By the way, where is Todd?"
Rodney waved a hand absent-mindedly, more concerned by his plate.
"He's working. He asked for a computer to prepare a virus that will wreak havoc with the ZPM manufacturing routines."
As John sent him an furious look, he added precipitately:
"Oh please, give me a break; he can't hack it."
"He did it once."
"I reinforced the security and erased any sensitive data whatsoever on the hard drive anyway."
"Yes." the scientist replied in a definite voice.
With a grunt, he planted his fork into his food and lifted it to his lips.
"This was not the plan, Caldwell!" John protested with irritation. "Todd insisted we remain out of range from the sensors and land in cloaked jumpers!"
"Do I have to remind you AGAIN who is in charge aboard this ship, Colonel?" He spat the rank with disdain. "We beam you right into the complex, you get the ZPMs, we beam you out, and we don't lose any more second. Don't you see that wraith is only trying to slow us down?"
John pursed his lips.
"I don't think so. He might have a very good reason for wanting the Daedalus to wait far away from the planet."
"Don't tell me you trust a wraith."
"Of course not, not totally. But he always fulfilled his engagements honestly in the past... more or less. Anyway, he never directly threatened Atlantis — nor Earth, for that matter."
"There is a first time for everything. At any rate, this is my decision to make, Colonel, and don't you dare criticise it in front of my crew. Now get prepared, we are arriving. Discussion is over."
A few moments later, they were all standing in the flight deck — John, Rodney, Ronon, Todd, Lorne and a handful of marines — ready for teleportation. Two of the marines were aiming stunners at the wraith, and the Satedan, although bare-handed, didn't take his eyes off him.
"Beam them into the facility at the pinpointed location." Caldwell ordered.
Todd turned to John, suddenly realising what had been decided against his advice, but before he could protest, Caldwell spoke again:
"Well then, what are you waiting for? Beam them down."
"Something blocks beaming into the building." Lindsey Novak answered. "The system is very similar to what prevents beaming into hive ships."
Todd snarled as Sheppard.
"What have you done! I told you not to approach the planet with this ship!"
John returned an uneasy grimace, as if saying "hey, it's not my fault", then shoot a dark look at Caldwell. He was about to speak when a sudden and violent shock interrupted the argument. Sparks flew out from damaged systems and a clamour burst forth from the gangways.
"What was that?" Caldwell asked.
Todd looked down on him, lips curled up on his teeth, and cut the technician short:
"The Lantean defence system of the base. Your shield won't hold the fire for long."
A second explosion shook the bridge.
"Shield below 70%!" a technician shouted.
"There might still be a solution." Ignoring the marines who were still aiming their stunners at him but didn't really know how they were supposed to react, Todd approached the screen to point at a spot on the facility map: "Here is another entrance we could use to sneak into the facility, if Dr McKay is able to repair the power lines in the area. You can send us just outside the door."
"Sure I can." Rodney replied. "What's the problem there?"
The wraith tilted his head and stared at him.
"There is a short-circuit. Energy jolts burn to ashes any live being who enters the corridors. That's why this passage has been locked up."
"Oh. Er... Well, I'll do my best."
Just after a third explosion triggered an alarm, John spoke again:
"Okay, no time to waste. Beam us down to the second entrance, enter hyperspace, wait for us behind one of the moons. And, oh, don't forget to send us a cloaked jumper so we can come back as soon as we're done."
"All right." Caldwell nodded with clenched teeth.
Seconds later, light enveloped the team who disappeared from the bridge. Just after a jumper had flown out and cloaked, the Daedalus raced into hyperspace, barely avoiding another blast.
The team reappeared in a chaotic landscape of ruins and trees. Most of the smallest constructs were half covered by the vegetation, but a few of them had obviously been cleaned, leading a path to an imposing door, definitely ancient in design. Everybody — including the two marines who were supposed to keep watch over their wraith guest — examined the surroundings before anything else, but nothing was to be seen or heard except a gentle wind in the leaves and a few birds. Rodney examined his handheld detector and shook his head.
"No life signs." he murmured.
"Don't rely on your detector once inside the building." Todd warned in a hushed voice, and everyone jumped, having forgotten they had a free wraith around. "Most of it is shielded."
"Thanks for the advice," John replied wryly, "but couldn't you have told it before, such as... during the briefing maybe?"
As often, Todd avoided the point.
"The other wraith haven't noticed my presence yet. They are concentrating their defences around the main entrance."
"Good to know. How accurately can you check what they are doing?"
"Not much, if I don't want to attract their attention. I had better keep a low profile as long as they ignore our presence."
John sighed and turned to McKay:
"All right Rodney, open that blasted door and make us a safe path to the ZPMs. The sooner we get back to Atlantis, the better."
Moments of relentless work on the controls later, the scientist puffed heavily as a dark corridor opened before them.
"Done. I rerouted the energy to prevent us for being toasted in place, but it also means it'll be pitch black in there and we'll have to open doors manually." He added in a lower voice: "Just hope the wraith won't notice the change in the power distribution."
They carefully entered the place. Except Ronon, handling his own blaster, and the two marines aiming stunners at Todd, all humans were lighting the path with their P-90s. Dark patches and burnt animal remains could be seen on the walls and floor, and their footsteps were resounding disturbingly in the silence. As they were advancing further into the facility, they noticed cracks and fallen blocks.
"Seems there were more than power leaks in this area." John observed. "Hopefully we'll not hit a wa..."
Before he could finish his sentence, the floor collapsed, engulfing him, their wraith guide, his two guards and Rodney.
"Sheppard!" Ronon shouted. "McKay!"
"I'm here." John's voice replied painfully from below. "Help me come back up."
The Satedan crouched down and held out his hand to pull up a grazed but otherwise healthy Sheppard. As soon as the Colonel was on his feet again, they tried to light the gaping hole, but nothing could be seen.
"McKay, Flinch, Moran, are you all right?" John said urgently in his radio.
As only the silence replied, he asked again:
"McKay, Flinch, Moran, if you hear me, please respond."
Still no answer.
"Rodney, do you hear me? ... Rodney? ... RODNEY!"
He looked helplessly at Ronon as a cold realisation crept over him.
Back in Atlantis, the tension was palpable in the air.
"What is the position of the hives?" Samantha asked.
"The nearest one will arrive in less than three hours." Radek replied.
"Still no news from Cl Sheppard?"
The Czech sighed.
"No, nothing so far."
"Has all non-essential staff evacuated to the alpha site?"
"Yes, madam, I think so."
"So. I guess there's nothing much we can do but wait."
She turned to the screen and murmured:
"Hurry up, John, we will need you very soon here..."
Suddenly, the most unexpected voice echoed in John's ear.
"Sheppard? Dr McKay is unconscious but I believe his wounds are only superficial." Todd was saying into the radio.
John sighed with relief.
"Oh thank God..." he whispered.
"The two soldiers who fell with us, however, were not so lucky. Both are dead."
John clenched his lips, but it was no time to mourn the dead.
"How do we reach you? Can you carry McKay and climb back?"
"It is most unlikely. Even if the rubble could support our combined weight, my own wounds left me weak. Go to the control room; I'll try and clear an exit to rejoin you with Dr McKay."
"What," Rodney's dizzy but high-pitch voice shrieked, "you mean we're stuck in here?!"
"Rodney! Are you all right?"
"All right, you kidding? I'm trapped in a 15 cubic meters space where I can't see my own feet! In a 15 cubic meters space with a wraith. Oh God," he added in a whisper as he fully realised what he was saying, "I'm gonna have a heart attack."
John couldn't help but smile.
"I take it you're all right. Get Moran and Flinch's dog tags if you can and hurry to the control room with your personal bodyguard."
Rodney grumbled at these words.
"Very funny, John. You'll laugh less if I end up as a dessicated mummy because he decided to take a snack!"
Todd groaned as if offended, but didn't speak.
"Take heart, Rodney, I doubt you'd prefer getting lost alone in a building full of hostile wraith. See you again in the control room. Sheppard out."
After John hanged up the communication, Ronon protested:
"You're not gonna leave him with the wraith, are you?"
"Do you have a better idea?"
"Yes: I climb down and join them."
"And break a limb if not your neck? No thanks. Rodney will be safe with Todd. As safe as we are, at least."
"You are talking about a wraith, Sheppard."
"I know! But if he had wanted to deceive us, he would have had plenty of time to do it by now, so I'm going to assume he genuinely needs our help. And if he needs our help, he's not going to hurt McKay. The guy's not stupid; he knows he has to play nice with us, for his own good."
Two floors below, Rodney was helping Todd clearing a path in the dark when he let out two successive cries of pain.
A sudden silence and an attentive pair of glowing eyes notified him that Todd was wondering what had just happened.
"I just cut my hand on I don't know what rusty metal chunk, and I banged my head. Let's hope I don't catch tetanus; I'll have to ask Keller for a serum as soon as we're back." He paused and added, speaking faster and faster: "That is, if we can make it in time. We'll never be able to get out, are we? We are going to die here and Atlantis will be lost and..."
"Enough, Dr McKay." The wraith interrupted impatiently, yet wearily. "Gather your gear while I open an exit."
"As if I could even find it! You want me to cut my hands again and bleed to death or what?"
An irritated snort, noises of rustling fabric, then the collapse of debris could be heard, after what a small white light dazzled him.
"Ow, my eyes!"
The light turned away, lighting the background, and Rodney felt a P-90 being put in his hands by the tall black figure of his wraith companion.
"Uh... Thanks? How did you find it?"
"It was just over there. The shock must have switched off the light but it seems otherwise functional. You might need it later anyway."
"Wait, don't tell me you can actually SEE in the dark?"
"Yes, I can, like any of my fellow wraith."
"Oh, now THAT's creepy." Rodney muttered.
With a last anxious gaze at Todd's back, he let the wraith return to his work and began looking for his lost gear.
Todd's efforts paid eventually and both he and Rodney were able to crawl out of their rubble prison. The corridor they entered was lit, to the human's greatest relief.
"At least we'll be able to walk without fearing to fall on some junk." He shoot an accusative — or maybe jealous? — look at the wraith. "Well, *I* will."
Todd, who was more interested in examining the surroundings than listening, ignored the remark:
"I believe I know where we are. Follow me."
He started to trot along in a direction, seemingly weaker than usual, but still fast enough for McKay to have to run to catch him up.
"How are we going to stop them?" the human scientist asked. "My computer is completely beyond repair, and we won't have time to rewrite your virus."
"You do not need to worry."
"Oh yes I do! Atlantis is about to be attacked by five hives, we wasted God knows how long already, we lost our only hope to prevent a bunch of evil life-sucking aliens to send an army against us, and I'm here in a facility controlled by said evil life-sucking aliens, alone with..." he waved a hand at his companion with a frown "... you."
The wraith grinned, showing his pointy teeth, earning a grimace from Rodney — who apparently didn't find the situation a single bit funny. But something else caught McKay's attention: He realised that Todd was handling a stunner, ready to fire at any upcoming foe.
"Hey, wait a minute, you were not supposed to be armed."
"We might need weapons more than your two dead friends, don't you agree, Dr McKay?"
"Huh, right. I suppose I'll be glad you can help if we bump into a patrol. You could kill me with your little finger, so I guess it doesn't make much of a difference anyway."
He sighed, shaking his head, and went on running.
In the Daedalus command deck, unspoken frustration born from the helpless wait was filling the air when a technician spoke:
"Colonel, the sensors detect two ships approaching our position."
"No, they are smaller. It must be battle cruisers."
"Ready the Asgard weapon."
Seconds passed in frozen expectation, then suddenly the technician exclaimed:
"The cruisers stopped right on the other side of the moon. They are emitting a swarm of smaller ships — hundreds of darts! The plasma beams can't destroy them all, we will be unable to cope!"
Caldwell's eyes widened and he swore loudly.
"Damn! Launch 302s and switch to conventional weapon!"
F-302s raced out of the Daedalus hangar as countless darts were heading towards their position. Then space sank into the chaos of battle.
Unknowing of the attack their ship was undergoing, Rodney and Todd had run in silence for barely a few minutes when the human scientist took a power bar from his pocket and chewed a mouthful.
"It is no time to eat again, Dr McKay. You are slowing us down." Todd berated him.
"Excuse me but I'm hungry!"
"As am I..."
McKay gulped with difficulty under the wraith's sudden and undesirable interest.
"Oh. Er, you don't have hypoglycemia, do you; you can, er, you know, restrain yourself?"
Todd just looked at him without a word and Rodney explained even faster than he usually spoke:
"It's a sickness. If... if I don't eat often enough, I could faint from the lack of sugar in my blood. And even die!" He looked at his barely started power bar and put it back in his pocket. "But right now I don't feel so hungry any more."
Without a warning, the wraith halted, snarling, eyelids folded, gaze lost straight ahead, suddenly ignoring his human ally.
"What?" Rodney asked in alarm. "What is it?"
He looked around them but saw nothing of interest. Todd turned his head towards him.
"They have detected our presence." he whispered. "They are searching for us."
"Oh no, things could not be worse." He activated his ear radio. "Sheppard, be extra careful, they know we're here."
"Acknowledged." John's voice answered.
"Come." Todd ordered McKay, and they both hurried away.
The two scientists arrived at a control room, familiarly ancient-looking but disturbingly interconnected with a lot of wraith technology. Todd cut short Rodney's observation of the surroundings and showed a console.
"Can you operate Lantean technology without your computer?"
"Peace of cake."
"Good. Help your friends join us while I upload my virus."
Rodney turned to him:
"Do I have to remind you that my computer... Oh." He stared blankly at the wraith data storage device in Todd's palm. "Where the hell does that come from?"
"I brought it with me. I made a copy of the virus on your ship."
"And the marines allowed you to connect it to the computer?"
"You had ordered them to let me work." Todd grinned mockingly.
The human threw him a suspicious look for a few more seconds, then dropped the topic and activated his radio.
"Sheppard, this is McKay, we've reached a control room. Where are you?"
Crouched behind a wall, Ronon just at his side, John replied in a hushed voice:
"I'm not sure, we had to make a detour. But you're at a control room and this place has sensors, right? So you tell me: Where are we?"
"Okay, okay." Rodney's voice said. "Just wait a minute..." Sheppard smiled when he heard the reproach to Todd that followed immediately: "You guys HAD to mess up with the system, heh? Don't you know what a fully functional operating system is?!" A few more seconds passed in silence before an anguished exclamation: "Oh crap."
"I don't like when you say that, Rodney." John urged.
"I calibrated the sensors in order to distinguish your life signs from the wraith's, but they must access them too because now they're heading straight for you."
"Block them from accessing the data, then!"
"I can't! And it's too late already, they know your position."
Sheppard pointlessly shook his hand with anger:
"Just... I don't know, DO something, Rodney!"
John looked at the corridors, meeting Ronon's interrogative eyes. Behind them, Lorne and the marine were waiting expectantly for his orders.
"Activate the energy barriers."
"And then what?" Rodney snapped. "Trap you wherever you are?"
John gathered all patience he had left to reply as calmly as he could:
"No, then you trace us a path so that we can reach you with the least encounters. We can handle a few wraith, just not all at once."
"Yes, yes..." The scientist said thoughtfully over the radio. "Yes, that could work."
Almost instantly, energy fields activated around the team except in one direction. Sheppard rose to his feet and pointed at the open corridor.
They hurried in the corridors, following the labyrinthine path their friend had traced for them, taking down the wraith they encountered and sneering at those who were stuck behind energy fields — who in turn hissed with a futile rage.
Behind the moon, the Daedalus was harassed by countless darts. Despite the hits from the rail-guns and F-302s, the humans were obviously overpowered.
"We must leave, Colonel." the Daedalus pilot pleaded. "We can't hold them off for long, there are just too many of them!"
"No." Caldwell replied, a grim glow in his eyes. "We will not leave until they're back."
"But sir, we have no idea how long it will take, or even if they're not already captured or dead!"
The Colonel thumped his fist on his armrest.
"We. Are. Not. Leaving. Without. Them." he asserted, each word well separated from the other.
"Sir, with all due respect, we can't wait. The shields are slowly weakening and we lost several 302s already!"
A technician intervened:
"The surface of the moon beneath us is riddled with cavities and appears unstable."
"Are you suggesting that we should hide in one if the holes?" Caldwell asked. "They would follow us."
"Actually," the tech replied, "it would be the best scenario for us."
"Sheppard and the others will soon be here." Rodney explained Todd, but his eyes suddenly widened as he looked at the screen. "Oh no! No no no no no! Sheppard, we've got a problem!" he shouted into his radio. "They've regained control on the system!" He typed frenetically on the controls. "They've locked me out!"
"I can see that!" was John's angry reply, along with the noise of firing P-90s.
Next thing Rodney knew, his gun was snatched from his side and a violent blow threw him against the opposite wall. The aggressor — a wraith with the usual long white hair and black coat — then turned to Todd, who hadn't had time to aim his stunner when his foe grabbed the armed wrist. Through his dizziness, the human saw both wraith fighting fiercely, snarling at each other. The enemy was shorter than Todd but distinctly stronger. He struck violently the armed hand against a console and Todd dropped his weapon, which slid on the ground.
Grimacing in pain, Rodney crawled to the stunner and grabbed it. He tried to aim but the two wraith were moving fast, so fast he couldn't adjust to his target. Eventually, his mouth distorted with anxiety, he fired at the fighters, just as they were spinning...
... And the ray hit Todd, who collapsed loudly on the ground. Rodney's eyes widened in terror as the other wraith turned to him with a toothy and most unpleasant smile.
"Oh crap crap CRAP! That's totally NOT what I had in mind!"
He shot the stunner again but the wraith dodged the blast and threw himself on his prey. With a groan of satisfaction, he prepared to feed on a terrified McKay.
"Any progress, McKay?" John asked Rodney in his ear radio. "McKay? McKay, do you read?" As no response came, he swore and turned to the others. "Damn! That's not good. We'd better hurry!"
They fired at incoming wraith warriors and rushed forward.
"Tell the 302 to head for the cruisers," Caldwell commanded, "and take us to the smallest possible cave," he turned to his assistant "without ceasing fire." With clenched teeth, he looked at the control screen to follow the operations.
Ignored by most darts, the Terran fighters flew away while the Daedalus slowly entered one of the moon's holes. The rear shield was continuously glowing under the attack, but was holding out.
"Almost all darts are within range, sir!"
"Spread out the shields and launch the nukes," the Colonel cried out. "now!"
"Wah, wait, you can't kill me right now!" Rodney pleaded.
The wraith looked condescendingly at him, but halted his feeding hand half-way to the human's chest.
"Oh really? Why shouldn't I?" he grinned.
"Because if you kill me, everyone in the lab is going to die any minute now! I was inputting a command to overload the power generators when you interrupted me and I hadn't a chance to calibrate the delay. You must let me stop it immediately, or it will happen soon, very soon!"
The wraith snarled.
"You are bluffing. I know enough about you, Dr McKay: You wouldn't hesitate to sacrifice yourself to destroy this place. You are only trying to buy time."
"If you knew me that well, bright one, you would also know that I wouldn't want to sacrifice my friends! I can't kill them," he added in a softer tone, "I can't. The price would be too high."
The wraith remained thoughtfully silent for a while; then, eventually, he lowered his feeding hand. He forced Rodney up and pushed him towards the console.
"Hrrrm. Make this quick if you do not want me to lose my patience."
"What's the situation?" Samantha asked Zelenka.
"The first hive has arrived, but they stopped at the verge of our solar system. It seems they are waiting for the second one."
"So the good news is that we have gained two hours. The bad news is that we will have to face two hives at a time, and we still haven't heard from our team."
"May I suggest an idea?" the scientist ventured.
"In the event that... that Colonel Sheppard and the others don't make it, the shields will last much longer if we sink the city than under heavy attack."
"But we won't be able to inflict any damage to the hives from the ocean's floor. And if they don't come back at all and the wraith manage to exhaust our shields, Atlantis will be lost no matter what."
"Honestly madam, I prefer drowning over being caught by the wraith."
Sam considered it silently for long seconds.
"All right." She activated the city inner communications. "Your attention please. Note to all staff: Prepare for Atlantis immersion. I repeat: Prepare for Atlantis immersion."
"I can't access anything!" Rodney snivelled. "You must disable the protections that prevent me from accessing the system."
His captor looked him up and down and turned to the wraith console Todd had been using before.
"I will do it. Guide me."
Rodney grimaced, hopelessly glancing at the room.
"I... I can't."
"Oh? Why not?" Sarcasm was dripping from the wraith voice.
"It's very complicated, you know, and I doubt you could unders..."
The wraith interrupted him with a vicious hiss.
"Silence, human! I'm beginning to think you are actually playing for time." He came up to McKay and whispered: "Perhaps you'll more cooperative if you contemplate your own doom."
As he was raising his feeding hand, a combination of energy blast and bullets hit him with extreme prejudice, terrifying Rodney at the same time. Once the silence filled the room again, the scientist straightened up and smiled at his friends in relief.
"Not a minute too soon! I've never been so happy to see you again."
John cautiously turned the dead wraith's body over with his foot, then examined the unconscious Todd:
"Is he dead?"
"I'm fine, thanks for asking." Rodney retorted, then looked at Todd: "No, he's not dead. I just... inadvertently stunned him."
Sheppard silently raised an eyebrow.
"It was an accident!" McKay defended himself. "I was trying to hit the other wraith."
"All right, bring him round."
"Well, you're the one who stunned him, aren't you?"
"That's exactly the point! What if he holds it against me?"
"Just give him your most charming smile."
"Very funny." Rodney moaned.
He touched reluctantly the unconscious wraith's shoulder once, then twice. Suddenly Todd sat down with a furious snarl. McKay shrieked and leaped backward, but the wraith calmed down rapidly as he recognised the humans.
"Errr... You were stunned?"
Todd stood and looked around, seeing only a dead wraith and his human allies.
"A second attacker? Did he manage to flee?"
"Err, well, it's not exactly how it went." Rodney answered while rubbing his hands in uneasiness. "I... err, I did it."
Todd looked at him with an obvious incomprehension.
"Look, I didn't do it on purpose, OK? I was trying to help and, err... I missed my target. Hey, don't look at me like that, it almost got me killed, you know!"
The wraith grumbled in dismay before turning to John.
"My virus will activate in four hours. I designed it to release deadly radiations besides erasing all data."
"Also I disabled the automated cannons and the jamming codes."
"And as I've cancelled the shielding," Rodney added, "the Daedalus will be able to beam us out."
"Great." John approved. "Let's find the ZPMs and get out of here."
Todd took his data storage device back and grabbed the stunner, attracting a frown from Sheppard. Ronon sent his friend an interrogative look, smiling unpleasantly, but John merely shook his head and shrugged.
"This way." The wraith said as he led them through the corridors.
Dazzling flashes of light erupted around the Daedalus, which rocked in the shock wave; a maelstrom of sharp rocks sprang out from all directions to smash to pieces the frail darts; damaged engine hurled some of them against the moon's surface, leading to more explosions and even more deadly meteors.
Caldwell watched the screens with a stony face while his crew was trying to contain fires that appeared here and there. Then, gradually, calm came back outside.
"Sir, I think all darts have been destroyed." the second-in-command said with a flat voice. "But the sensors are blind and we have lost contact with the 302s."
"What's the shield status?"
"Not good, I'm afraid. Just under 16%."
The Colonel nodded slowly.
"Divert maximum power to the shields. We must destroy the cruisers as soon as possible."
Todd was leading the way, Ronon hot on his heels, John and Rodney a few meters behind them, and Lorne and his men bringing up the rear.
"They're about to intercept us!" Sheppard put out while watching his life signs detector.
Todd slowed for one instant, then turned off towards a door. He raced into a small closet — obviously a transporter similar to those in Atlantis, — paused just long enough to show the humans where he was going to, and, still followed by his chaperon, he touched the screen. The doors closed on the two of them.
John was opening the doors to follow them when a blue energy blast hit him from behind. Rodney shrieked and turned around, just in time to be hit too. P-90 fire resonated in the air but it was of no use: One after the other, Lorne and the marines collapsed in turn. Wraith approached with a sneer of satisfaction.
"They should already be there." Ronon groaned. "Something has happened to them." He activated his radio. "Sheppard." He waited in vain. "Sheppard! Damn!"
He was just about to go back into the transporter but Todd stopped him with a snarl.
"No! They must have been captured."
"All the more reason for me to go to rescue them!"
"I fail to see how sharing their fate will help." the wraith snapped back. "We must go now, before our enemies find us."
A mask of pure hate distorted the Satedan's face as he aimed his blaster right at Todd's head. He spoke slowly, clearly separating each word.
"I am not leaving my friends behind. The only reason I haven't killed you yet is that Sheppard wants you alive, but if you try and stop me from going to them, I blow your head right away, understood?"
"As you please."
He turned heels under the fiery gaze of the human, who eventually stepped into the transporter. Ronon emerged face to face with several wraith, mostly masked warriors; in no time, he raised his gun and shot at them; one of them roared in pain and fell on the ground but the others fired back at their foe. Blue patches of light crept over him and he fell into unconsciousness...
He surfaced in a room with many consoles and screens, deeply interconnected with wraith technology like the auxiliary control room they saw before. The whole team was there, trapped under a glittering force field. Several wraith were apparently busy and mostly ignoring them.
"Hi, Ronon, we missed you for the party to be complete." John smirked wryly. "We were wondering if you'd ever wake up."
The Satedan grunted.
"Where's Todd?" his friend continued.
"Dunno. The bastard ran away."
An approaching wraith interrupted their discussion. He examined them all with an obvious satisfaction.
"Haaaah... Our commander will be most pleased with our catch when he comes back from the crushing of Atlantis. Where is the one who helped you?"
John smirked to dispel his worry.
"We have absolutely no idea. It seems he got tired of our company so he decided to wander on his own."
"Search for him!" the wraith ordered the warriors; then he turned back to Sheppard: "Do not worry, he won't be able to escape us for long."
A flicker in the force fields distracted him.
"What happens?" he barked at a technician.
"I detect anomalous variations in the force fields. I... I lost control over the main system!"
His superior hissed at the humans but they all looked confused — but one. A broad smile lit Rodney's face as he snapped his fingers.
"It's Todd! He must have activated his virus!"
"Does it mean we are all going to die from the radiations, Rodney?" John asked suspiciously. "It doesn't cheer me up a lot, you know!"
The scientist gulped, suddenly losing his enthusiasm.
"Er, yes. Most probably. The virus will drop all protective force fields, including the one we're currently held in."
They all looked at each other with a helpless anguish.
"Stop this immediately!" the commanding wraith yelled at one of his technicians.
"I'm trying!" After a few unsuccessful attempts during which the tension thickened both in and outside the improvised cell, the technician shouted: "Power is rising beyond safe levels!" He paused, slowly raising his eyes towards his superior. "The main force field is diverted to the humans' hold. They might resist the blast."
Their captor roared at them in anger. Half a second later, a dazzling shock wave invaded in the room but for the protected zone where the humans were held prisoners. All wraith collapsed to the ground, moaning in pain, and soon laid still. Slowly, the disruptive energy faded, as did the remaining force field. The room darkened significantly.
The team members looked at each other in shock.
"All right," John said eventually after a relieved sigh, "let's find Todd and the ZPMs and get the hell out of there."
They took their equipment back while Rodney was trying to activate the ancients consoles.
"Everything's dead." He complained.
"Here." Sheppard replied while holding out the handheld detector to him. "We don't need the facility's systems. Just lead the way."
The scientist looked at the small screen.
"I'm picking up a faint energy reading and a life sign... this way." he said, pointing at a direction.
"How am I supposed to know? I suppose so. But it's very weak, I don't know why. Either it's partially shielded or there's something wrong with him."
"Well, we'll see when we are there." He nodded towards the door. "Let's go."
"Daedalus, do you read?" A voice asked urgently in the ship's communication system.
"This is Colonel Caldwell of the Daedalus. Go ahead."
"Oh, thank God! I was beginning to think..." The owner of the voice, a pilot from the surviving 302s fleet that was coming back from the other side of the moon, didn't finish his sentence. "One of the cruisers escaped into hyperspace but we disabled the other's hyperdrive and main weapons. Apparently they don't have any dart left. The plasma beam should take care of them."
"Copy that." Caldwell replied. "Return to the ship."
The Daedalus emerged from the moon cavity, rapidly rejoined by several 302s, then headed for the wraith cruiser. To the humans' surprise, the enemy ship raced towards them.
"Back away!" The Colonel ordered. "They're trying to impact us!"
Down in the ancient facility, the team was running along dark corridors, seeing burnt dead wraith here and there. One of them, though, alone and half hidden in a doorway, looked wizened instead. Ronon eyed the corpse.
"Looks like this one's been fed on."
"Todd?" Rodney asked with a grimace.
"Most probably." John shrugged. "Let's continue and find him."
"Am I the only one who finds utterly disturbing to work with a guy that makes a habit of sucking out people's life force?" McKay stressed.
Sheppard pondered the question for a few seconds.
"Well, as long as he feeds on his cronies, I suppose I don't mind that much. At least we won't have to worry about it for a while."
They resumed their run.
A few moments later, Rodney raised his hand.
"The life sign and energy reading are coming just from the other side of this door." He indicated the way with a glance.
John opened the door carefully and went in, his P-90 ready to fire. Ronon followed suit, then all others.
They all froze in place, staring at something on the ground.
"Oh my God..." McKay breathed with bulging eyes.
The wraith cruiser closely followed the Daedalus, but the latter succeeded in slowly gaining more distance.
"Just a few more seconds and we'll be at a safe distance to destroy them without being caught in their explosion, sir." The pilot announced.
Caldwell simply nodded. Then, after frozen instants, his subordinate exclaimed:
"Open fire!" The Colonel ordered.
A plasma ray ran from the Daedalus to the enemy cruiser, rapidly followed by a second one. Within a heartbeat, the wraith ship exploded and soon nothing was left but fragments.
Caldwell let his breath out.
"Good job, everyone." He said; then he muttered to nobody in particular: "Now, Sheppard'd better come back soon before the other cruiser brings reinforcements."
Slumped in a pool of blood, Todd laid pierced with several large sharp-looking fragments. His hair and face at least were partially burnt.
"He looks bad." Ronon observed with detachment.
"Is he sill alive?" Lorne asked, somewhat more sympathetically.
"According to this," Rodney waved the handheld detector, "barely."
"What happened to him?" John wondered. "Do you think the energy blast did that?"
His scientist friend looked around.
"No, at least not directly. Seems they were experimenting on interfacing their own tech with an ancient shield of sorts, but apparently, it didn't work that well and the device exploded."
Meanwhile, Lorne had begun searching the room. He found an organic-looking case; when he opened it, he discovered two carefully packed ZPMs and an empty slot.
"Colonel, I have the ZPMs."
Ronon grinned and looked at Todd:
"Then we can just leave this place quickly."
"We can't abandon him!" Rodney protested.
"What, you would miss him?"
"No, of course not. ... Well, yes, I would! I mean, he's studied ZPMs manufacturing for months. Even I would benefit his knowledge, if we want to ever understand the process."
"We need him anyway to lead us through all these freaking wraith hideouts, remember?" He pointed at something that looked like a table on wheels. "Clear that and put him on it."
The Satedan swallowed his disagreement and with the help of the marines, the wounded wraith was soon relatively carefully laid on the flat surface. Except for an indistinct moan, Todd could have as well been already dead.
Their exit run was quick despite the makeshift gurney, as they only met some more dead wraith. On their way out, Sheppard tipped his ear radio:
"This is Sheppard to the jumper, do you read?"
"Lieutenant Bergens here. We were beginning to worry, Colonel." A disembodied voice replied.
"Meet us at the main entrance. And tell the Daedalus we'll gate to Atlantis to save time. They can leave now."
"Copy that, sir. We're on our way!"
Just as the Daedalus was gaining speed, several hyperspace windows opened nearby. The incoming ships, five cruisers and a hive, fired at their foe straight away, piercing the already weakened shield and causing explosions on the hull.
The Daedalus didn't stop. In an instant, it accelerated and vanished into hyperspace.
The wraith were alone in the sky.
Once in the jumper, Sheppard ran to the pilot and pushed him away.
The little ship raced above the surface. Approaching the gate, John launched drones at the wraith guarding it, yelled at Atlantis to ready a medical team, and dived into the puddle.
The jumper came to a halt in the control room. Samantha climbed down the stairs and asked worriedly:
Her eyes widened when John answered "Todd", but she nodded to Jennifer to cheer her on. Rodney almost hit the young doctor when he exited the jumper like a bullet with the two ZPMs, and he soon disappeared away; straight afterwards, Sheppard paused just long enough to add with a large smile:
"Ready for a flight? Won't the wraith be surprised!"
Moment later, the city of Atlantis escaped gravity and dashed into hyperspace, leaving only a helpless hive behind.
Aboard his ship, a wraith hissed at the wall screen — a tall, sleek, proud wraith commander, sporting a large S-shaped tattoo curved around his left eye and cheek. His voice wrapped the deaf screen in silky icy anger:
"You believe you escaped me, humans, but you merely delayed your impending doom. We fought the Lanteans and we won. You cannot escape me forever. Sooner or later, I shall find you..." He grinned nastily. "... and when that day comes, nothing will prevent me to claim your world."
The main bad guy is supposed to look and sound somewhat similar to Steve: Delicate and dangerous at the same time. He has a plait in his hair like the second hunter in Sateda, but his hair are smooth. His beard is one long tuft, and is plaited too (think the new bald commander from The Queen).
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Last update: August 20, 2008.