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On Wings Azure

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Rodney hurried along one of the hallways of Atlantis, pulling his TAC vest on as he went. He was due in the 'Gate Room to go on a mission, and undoubtedly the rest of his team were waiting for him there. Unfortunately, Rodney had gotten held up by Doctor Nazaryan, an Armenian hydrologist who wanted his approval on an experiment she wanted to do. Given the fact that it would've required involving at least two-thirds of the entire Natural Science department, he was more than a little hesitant in okaying it. Rodney had finally told Nazaryan to go ask Radek before hightailing it out of the labs, grabbing his off-world gear on the way to the 'Gate Room.

“Finally, McKay,” Ronon said as Rodney bustled into the 'Gate Room, zipping up his TAC vest as he went. “We were wondering if you'd gotten lost.”

“No, Ronon, I wasn't lost,” Rodney replied, coming to a halt next to the tall Satedan. “Just held up.”

“Dial it up, Chuck!” John called up to the technician on the balcony above them. Chuck nodded and started the dialing sequence for M5T-390, one of the planets listed in the Ancient Database as a point of interest. As the chevrons lit up one by one, Rodney sighed and readjusted the fit of his vest, wondering whether or not they'd find anything of use on the planet. The Database often had vague descriptions of what the planets it listed were like, and the one for M5T-390- or "Talva", as the Database called it, wasn't any different. There was a mention of good trading relations, but other than that, not much. After the last chevron lit up and the 'Gate sprang to life, Rodney followed his teammates into the sapphire-blue event horizon, feeling vaguely optimistic about what they would find on the other side.

-/-

“This is so not good,” Rodney said as they were herded towards a large area of flat ground. Normally this wouldn't have caused much comment, but there was a definite edge to the ground that suggested a very sharp drop-off awaited whoever was foolish enough to believe that the land continued on to the horizon.

“No, really? I thought we were just going for a nice walk in the park,” John said, rolling his eyes. “I thought the database said that the Ancients had good trade relations with the people here.”

“That was ten thousand years ago, Colonel. It seems as though the Talvanians have forgotten about their forefathers' relationship with the Ancestors,” Teyla mused as the Talvanian guards stopped them about five feet away from the lip of the cliff. The High Magistrate of Talva was waiting there with members of his Council, as well as a young woman none of the Atlantis team recognized. Her hands were bound tightly, and her feet were hobbled just enough so that she could walk but not run. She wore a white tunic-like dress that reached down to her ankles, the hem brushing the tops of her bare feet.

“You claim to be from the City of the Ancestors,” the Magistrate began, the unctuous tones of his voice rolling out across the dusty plains. “It is fabled that among them were Guardians who protected life at all costs. Our soothsayers have foreseen that one of those Guardians who abandoned us along with the Ancestors has returned to this planet, and that they would come from the Ancestral City. You four are the first to claim to have come from there, so we have devised a test to determine who that Guardian is, and take the appropriate action.”

“Teyla, have you heard of these Guardians?” John muttered as the Magistrate continued on.

“Only as legend,” Teyla replied, keeping her voice low. “They were said to be peacekeepers on certain planets, but they left with the Ancestors when the war with the Wraith came to an end. There are no records of what they looked like, though.”

“Now is the time of the trial!” the Magistrate announced, and they returned their attention to him. “Begin!”

The two guards holding onto the young woman picked her up and dragged her towards the cliff edge. She screamed and struggled against her captors, but was unable to break free. They stopped at the edge of the cliff, holding her briefly before, to the horror of the Atlantis team, pushing her off. With a sharp scream of terror she fell, rapidly disappearing from sight.

“What the hell!” John snapped, but was drowned out by Ronon's sharp bellow of “Stop, McKay!”

John turned just in time to see Rodney's TAC vest thud to the ground before the physicist dove off the cliff, his body arcing gracefully before vanishing from view. Teyla, Ronon, and John scrambled to the edge, trying to see what had happened to Rodney, hoping against hope that he had somehow survived. Dense mist obscured their vision, blocking them from seeing what had happened.

“What the hell did you go and do that for?” Ronon growled at the Magistrate, pulling out a wickedly sharp knife. “Now two people are dead and it's your fault.”The Magistrate didn't seem to be bothered by Ronon's threatening gestures, and merely shrugged.

“Wait for a while longer, honored-” the Magistrate began, but was cut off by John and Teyla's cries of surprise. Ronon spun around to see banners of fog being thrown up from the depths of the canyon, obscuring the sun briefly before being driven away by great bursts of wind. The wind was being created by a pair of broad, leathery wings that slowly rose up out of the canyon. The wings were a deep azure blue, with the webbing between the stout ribs as translucent as fine parchment. With a few more powerful beats of the wings, the creature supported by them rose into view. John's mouth dropped open as the giant beast soared effortlessly over their heads, cradling the young woman carefully in the crook of one of its arm-like front limbs.

The dragon made a three-point landing and then gently set its burden down on the ground as it folded its wings tightly against its body. The woman looked shaky, but sat stock still as the dragon carefully severed her bonds with a claw that retracted like a cat's once it was finished. After a brief examination of the woman's wrists and ankles, the dragon turned its attention to the astonished onlookers, focusing mainly on the Magistrate. John idly noted in his terror that the hide of the dragon was the exact same shade as Rodney's eyes, and then shook his head at the inanity of the thought.

“What the hell is your problem?” the dragon snapped, its almond-shaped eyes narrowing in anger. “She was innocent, you idiotic excuse for a bureaucrat!”

“Welcome, Guardian,” the Magistrate said, bowing deeply. “We of Talva are honored to-”

“Shut. Up,” the dragon- and John's adrenaline-dazed brain finally realized that it was Rodney- growled, advancing on the small group. “Why you ever got to power, I don't know. No, wait, it was probably passed onto you by your father or something. Tell me, how many people have died because of your stupidity?”

“None, Guardian. You are the first to come through the Ancestral Ring since the Ancestors left us,” the Magistrate hastened to explain, holding his hands up in a conciliatory gesture. “Please, we meant nothing by the test; it was merely the quickest way to-”

“Again, I don't care. We're leaving, and we're probably not going to be coming back for a while, unless you can prove that you're not homicidal maniacs who will believe anything told to them by self-proclaimed prophets.”

Rodney turned and started walking off, head held high in indignation. His team members stood stock still for a moment, and then John broke into a run, followed close behind by Teyla and Ronon. As soon as they were out of sight of the Talvanian contingent, Rodney slowed down, coming to a stop behind a copse of trees. When the others reached him, he had changed back to the human form that they all associated with the acerbic Canadian. John slowed to a walk, deliberately acting as if seeing someone go from human to dragon and back again was an everyday occurrence.

“So, Rodney, how long have you had wings?” John asked, winning the McKay Award for the Most Blindingly Stupid Question of the Year. Rodney just glared irritably at him and finished readjusting his clothes before taking his TAC vest from Teyla and putting that on as well.

“I'd rather not talk about it at the moment. Let's just get back to Atlantis,” he finally said, an annoyed tone to his voice. “I promise I'll talk to you then, but I want to do it somewhere safe, if you don't mind.”

“As long as we get that talk, sure,” John agreed, figuring that it was better to let Rodney set the terms at the moment than to bug him into silence. “One question, though: does anyone else know what you can do?”

“Carson,” was Rodney's eloquent reply. “He's a… friend of the family, I suppose you could say. Any more questions are going to have to wait.”

They set off towards the 'Gate, silence falling over them as they walked. John was bursting with questions but kept his mouth shut, speaking only once before they went through the 'Gate.

“Hey, Rodney, do you think we could go flying some time?”