Ronon's skin crawls as he and Teyla make their way through an open-air marketplace, which he was told was rare in this part of the planet though not this city. Apparently, people on Earth like to shop indoors. He's never seen a place with this many people in this small a space, and there's no room to fight if he needs to. Teyla's on edge, too—not obvious to anyone who doesn't know her, but he can see it in the angle of her head, in the way she holds herself stiller and smaller than usual to avoid bumping into people. It's not easy. He's been on inhabited planets with fewer people than this marketplace even without being culled.
Ronon takes a casual glance around, eyes flitting over the stalls and the merchants and those who come to buy, looking for exits and threats. The exits have too many people between him and them, and he doesn't know enough about this place to know what the threats look like. He almost—almost—wishes there were Wraith to fight, because that at least he knows. His eyes turn in the direction he knows Atlantis is, but there are too many buildings and people in the way to see it, even if it weren't cloaked. He can't even see the harbor it's sitting in. His ear itches where his radio normally sits, and the place where his gun should go feels naked. Ronon brushes his hand against the pocket with the cell phone in it, checking that it's there without being obvious. But it's complicated to use, and he's not familiar with it despite both McKay and Sheppard showing him how to use it, and if there's trouble it'd be a poor replacement for his radio.
He lengthens his stride to catch up to Teyla.
"What do you think?" she asks, holding up a beaded necklace.
The beads are small, and bright, and even in size and color, and that alone would make it highly prized back in their own galaxy. Here on Earth, though—Ronon checks the tag, thinks for a second about the lecture they'd been given about value and money and price before being allowed out, and realizes it's just a cheap trinket. "Pretty," he says.
"Yes," says Teyla. "But I do not believe I would wear it."
Ronon doesn't know much about women's clothing, but he does know the necklace looks fragile and probably wouldn't stand up to the kind of life they lead.
Teyla places it back on the table and moves on, Ronon at her side. "You did not say Earth was so … crowded, when you came with John."
"Wasn't," Ronon says. "His family home's got a lot of land around it, not many people. The Replicator hid out in an industrial area. Looked a bit like Sateda. Pretty deserted there, too. Didn't see much besides that." This place doesn't look anything like Sateda. Too much glass everywhere, too many people. If there was a culling…. There's no place for them to run and hide, and too many people. No wonder the Wraith want to get here so badly.
"I see," Teyla says. They walk in silence for a few minutes, the noise of the crowd washing over them. "I had not understood," Teyla says at last. "What a world could be like that did not face culling."
"Yeah," Ronon says, watching a group of fat youth wander by. On Sateda, there was not enough food for anyone to become that fat, and youth were hard at work in the fields or factories or military. Somehow, looking at their hands and their clothes and their size, he doesn't think they've ever had to work at anything.
"It is my greatest dream to one day free my people, and all of our galaxy, from the Wraith," Teyla says. "I hope for a day when we may prosper without threat. And yet…." Her voice trails off, as if she can't quite finish the thought.
Ronon looks around at the market that feels more alien than a Hive ship, and knows what she means.