They have found Earth, the treasure-trove, the legendary feeding ground. The Wraith gathers itself after being beamed down, but this world is ripe and almost unprotected – surface dwellings abound and no warriors are in evidence. For lone scouts like itself, the pickings will be easy. It senses human cattle in structures near to the road onto which it was beamed. The artificial construction all around smells foul. Metal machines loom, immobile - darkness is near and they are all powered down. The Wraith misses the living resonance of the Hive, but no matter. It is hungry.
It turns toward the nearest building and sees a young human with long, pale hair. She is rich enough in life-years to be well worth draining. The young human drops into a fighting stance, and the Wraith grins in anticipation, lips curling back from its vestigial double ring of teeth in derision. Excellent: spirited food tastes better. It reaches to slam its feeding hand to the human's chest and then finds itself flying through the air, smacking down onto the hard road surface, startled but undamaged. It snarls up at the food which has shown unexpected strength and fighting skill, to find its own stunner pointed unwaveringly down.
"Huh, you're different," the food says thoughtfully. "What are you?"
"We are Wraith, and we will suck your planet dry," it snarls, all the while calculating the angles so as to leap up, disarm the human, and feed.
Another human leans over the Wraith as it tenses for the perfect moment. This food is older, taller, probably male in human terms, and wearing magnifying lenses. The Wraith controls itself with difficulty but it is hungry and the presence of another life-force has increased its appetite intolerably.
The young human's eyes narrow, but surely she cannot sense–
The stunner fires. It does not harm the Wraith of course, but paralyses it for a few brief seconds. Casually, the young human reaches down and rips off its head. Residual Hive-mind connectivity grants the Wraith a last few seconds of startled consciousness, and it sends an urgent message to the Hive.
"Telepaths?" asks the young warrior, a look of concentration on her face.
The tall one nods. "Hive-mind, I think. Feeds on life-force – see the hand?"
"Oh, that's just great," snaps the young one, annoyed. The Wraith's awareness is fading fast, but it faintly hears, "I'm supposed to be studying for a math test this weekend."
"Might have to save the planet first," the male says.
The Wraith pivots, looking for young female humans with long pale hair. A brief transmission from a fallen male warned them such creatures were unusually dangerous. It is night here, though, and no humans are about.
The Wraith can smell life-forces in a few large buildings near its beam-down point. Its exceptional senses allow it to hear a solitary man in a nearby structure talking to an empty room filled with electronic equipment. It marks him for a snack later and adjusts its eyes for night vision.
There are characters written on a sign nearby. The Wraith has been trained for this mission to Earth, and knows some human language so as to detect concentrations of food. It can read basic words and phrases including school, hospital, movie, park – all promising feasting-places. The sign reads: DOG PARK – NO ENTRY TO DOGS OR PEOPLE. IN FACT, NO DOG PARK. GO AWAY. The Wraith is puzzled, but such nonsense is irrelevant to its need to feed. Dogs are inedible but the Wraith knows humans sometimes congregate in parks and it senses hooded figures in the depths of the park.
It vaults an electrified fence and enters the place marked DOG PARK.
It does not come out again.
The Wraith surfaces briefly from a chemical coma, growling and straining against four metal restraints on its wrists and ankles. There is an artificial tube inserted in its arm and its skin has healed closed around the entry-point. It wants to claw out the intrusion, thrashing and snarling defiance at a human male lying just too far to reach. The male cringes away and the Wraith sees that he also has a tube in his arm. Humans jerk back as the Wraith bucks in its restraints.
"Jesus fucking Christ, Yusuf, give it some more somnacin!" the male lying just out of reach yells.
"It's had a mega-dose of my special cocktail already, Eames," says a sweating, dark-skinned human, fiddling with some equipment. He smells frightened, like the best food. "We can't afford to kill it. Not until you've extracted as much information as possible."
A wave of drowsiness sweeps over the Wraith and it falls gratefully into the group-mind, home at last. Oddly, the male it could not reach due to the restraints is standing right beside it now. The Wraith grins in anticipation and flexes its feeding hand.
But no – there is no man here, but a glorious Queen. Her beauty blinds the Wraith: lilac skin and long silky hair the color of snow. Her facial slits flutter and he inhales the heady cloud of pheromones she emits: she is fertile and ready to mate, long body lush under a robe the color of human blood. Her scent has forced the Wraith into mating-readiness, fully male.
The Wraith cannot think, his senses overcome by the Queen's power. She is in his mind, soothing and inflaming, and he drops to his knees in awe and adoration. She takes everything.
Later, when she has used him up, she rests a delicate hand on his chest, smiling, teeth glistening. He is filled with joy as she feeds, the pain an offering as he is sucked dry.
Distantly, as he fades, he hears a jumble of human voices, chittering like bugs. He pays them no mind.
"It's heart's stopped - kick Eames out, now! Eames! Eames? Thank the gods, he's okay, he's coming round."
Strange times in the city since the Stargate programme declassified and everyone learned about aliens and stargates, and horrors like the Goa'uld, the Ori, and the Wraith. Neal wonders why the FBI's still bothering to hunt white collar criminals – it seems pointless now, but that's bureaucracy for you.
Neal knows the importance of well-regulated truth though, the craft of lying. He thinks the IOA and the governments involved in the conspiracy would never have declassified if there hadn't been a spectacular low-atmosphere battle with a Wraith Hive. Hard to cover that one up, or the culling of Boston. They trashed the Hive, but a few Wraith escaped and have gone to ground. Rumor has it there's one living in New York, down in the subways, feeding on drunks and the homeless. Neal thinks it's most likely an urban myth, but he can't use the subway anyway – his tracker anklet restricts him, and it's kind of a relief.
A clawed hand flashes out as he passes close by an alley-mouth near his apartment, and drags him into the dark. Neal's heart's racing and he's terrified: it smells foul and he realizes it's the Wraith.
It's horribly strong, dragging him back toward a pile of fetid garbage, and whoa, oh hell, no, not on this suit – he'll never get the stains out of mohair. He twists in its grip and smashes the bottle of Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru he'd been carrying over its head, then grabs its space-gun and pulls the trigger. Disappointingly, it doesn't die, but it does stop moving.
The stupid stun-gun's a bust, and Neal doesn't carry – it's against the rules but mostly he dislikes the crudity of guns or knives; he has other deadly weapons. He has to think fast – it'll probably come round soon if it's only stunned.
He kneels and rapidly unlocks his anklet, wincing. He's going to have to admit to Peter that he cracked its system months ago and could have slipped it off any time. He didn't, but will they believe him? Yeah, right. He re-locks the tracker around the Wraith's ankle. Its skin feels cold and clammy, very alien.
Neal scrambles back out of the alley, and runs for Peter and Elizabeth's. He stashes the stunner in his jacket – a useful thing, and less crude than a pistol. He had nothing with which to kill the Wraith, and he hopes it won't find anyone else to feed on, but even though Peter's going to be pissed with him for lock-picking the tracker, he's belled the cat so they ought to be able to find it and deal with it.
Neal's done his part. As he knocks furiously on Peter's door, he wonders if he can parlay this coup into a slightly bigger tracker area.
The Wraith beams down near a likely cluster of life signs. The area's wooded so it should be able to drink its fill without setting off general alarms just yet. It's a scout – the main culling and invasion depends on initial reports from scouts.
The human cattle are engaged in some sort of activity near a structure in the woods, striking a round projectile with a long wooden stave as they run about and cry out excitedly. The Wraith recognises a game, and sneers. Games of the mind are preferred by Wraith, not these simplistic physical rituals the cattle enjoy.
It stalks out of the woods and grabs a slender human, peering at it – male, probably. It flings the human to the ground and slaps its feeding hand to his chest. Soon it will be fully replenished and near-invulnerable.
The other humans have not run away, which is unusual. Perhaps they will try to hit it with the stave. It sneers a warning, unconcerned. Oddly, the feeding process has not commenced. The Wraith stares at the food's chest, bare where it tore the thin cloth away. The pale skin is glowing, and the human has his eyes shut, a frown of concentration between heavy brows.
One of the humans is near, now. "Stiles?" It's a larger male, dark-haired. "You warded?"
The frustrating human under his hand nods. "Vampire, of sorts," it says. "Alien, I think. Get samples."
The Wraith is furious. This human is defective and unsuitable for feeding. No matter, there are plenty more. It goes to stand and claim another prey, but finds it cannot pull its hand away. Below, the pale human smiles faintly, and murmurs, "Gotcha."
"Now?" asks the dark-haired one. The pale human nods. "Okay, let's do this," says the larger male and then shifts. Four of the others shift as well, and now there are five huge hairy beasts snarling at the Wraith. It snarls back and tries to kick the human who has trapped its hand, but its boot meets an unseen barrier. The animals circle, lips pulled back to show long, wickedly sharp teeth. They crouch to spring.
As they rend the Wraith's flesh, the pale human releases its hand so they can drag it away and dismember it. The human's skin shimmers and the Wraith's dark blood spatters across it, but slides off.
Before it is torn apart, the Wraith sends a transmission to the Hive. Monsters, not food. Do not land, do not attempt planetary culling. The Wraith's head is severed, rolling near to where the defective young human is sitting.
The largest monster morphs back into the dark-haired male, spitting into the grass and making a face. "Yecch, that tastes foul." He holds out his hand and pulls the young male to his feet. "So much for a quiet Sunday baseball game, huh?"
"C'mon," says the pale one, as the Wraith's last sense fails. "Magic's thirsty work – I want a soda."
- the end -