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When Things go South

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Simply a trade mission

The team stepped through the Stargate and started down the road that lead to the nearest town. It was midday and they strolled at a relaxed pace, Sheppard in the front with Teyla, Rodney in the middle with Dean and Ronon was bringing up the rear. The planet was full of trees, and the settlement was close enough that they didn't need a jumper for the trip.

"So this is, what, your sixth mission with us?"

"Yep," replied Dean cheerfully. "No, wait… Are you counting the lousy rescue mission on that jungle planet, too, Sheppard? Because that doesn't count."

Sheppard grinned at him. "Sure it does! We saved your ass, and we were all there, so that counts as a mission together."

"It was Doctor Parrish's fault," Dean groused. "He should have stayed away from that man-eating plant. It was bigger and a lot harder to cut than any plant on Earth. Hell! I couldn't even scratch it with a machete!"

"Is that why we found all of you wrapped in four little cocoons, Winchester?" Rodney mocked with a smirk on his face.

"Like I said, Spock, we were trying to rescue Doctor Parrish—"

"Ah yes, the good old routine of the idiots: act first and think later. Good work, Captain Archer."

Teyla smiled. Rodney and Dean kept bickering like two children; however, during these last few months they had been less... hostile in their quarrels. It was evident to Teyla they were becoming good friends.

From time to time McKay and Dean kept calling each other by strange nicknames, especially after a mission together when they had encountered a strictly female society.

Dean had compared the leader of the clan to a certain alien woman, T'Pol, and claimed that in their own way they were both hot. Since then, McKay had started to call him first Trip, then Archer–claiming he could in no way be a chief of an engineering department.

The reference had, of course, been utterly lost on Teyla. When she had asked the colonel who this "Captain Archer" was, Sheppard had just dismissed it, saying he was a guy like Kirk. Sometimes, the way those Earthlings talked confused her.

She turned to their newest teammate. "I'm glad that you are with us today, Dean."

"Thanks, Teyla." Dean grunted. "So what exactly are we doing here today?"

"It's a trade mission with some people that claim to have found a Wraith device in one of their collections, and want to trade it with someone who can do something with it. We should be back in Atlantis by evening."

Ronon arched an eyebrow. "How many men?"

"My friend told me there are two of them. They came from another world and set this planet as neutral ground for trading. They seemed very wary; we have to meet them at the tavern."

Sheppard brought them to a halt just outside the village. "Okay, listen up, kids," he announced. "Teyla and I will handle the negotiations and see what they're asking for in exchange for this device. Rodney, you need to do a quick scan to see if what we're buying is good."

McKay snorted. "With our luck, it's probably junk mail from hive ships, or a scam of some sort and a waste of our time."

"You're a real ray of sunshine, McKay," Dean rebuked.

"Ronon, watch our six." Sheppard continued. "Dean, I think you should just enjoy the morning market and stay out of sight, but keep an eye out… just in case. We don't need to scare them with our numbers."

"Are you expecting trouble, Sheppard?" asked Ronon.

The colonel scratched the back of his neck, as thought something bothered him that he couldn't place it.

"Naaa… it's just to play it safe."

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They arrived at the settlement and took a minute to observe the flow of people in the plaza.
Most of them were wearing leather clothes and long tunics; a lot were in the middle of the street trading. The town itself wasn't very advanced, technologically: some houses were built of woods, others of stones; overall it had a very medieval air.

Dean had convinced Sheppard to let him go on the missions with a tact vest, his worn-out jacket, and his weapons rather than the P90 that the colonel and Teyla had brought. Yes, the P90 had more firepower, but it was also more difficult to hide; even his jacket seemed a bit out of place here. Teyla and Ronon probably wouldn't draw too much attention, but with their gear and uniforms Dean, Sheppard and McKay would immediately stand out. "Don't you think we're a bit obvious in these clothes?"

Sheppard and Ronon looked at him. "So?" prompted Sheppard.

"I'm just saying, when you encounter other people isn't it better to…I dunno, lay low, before you tell them you're from another planet? You know, the uniform kind of screams that we're not from around here."

McKay scoffed. "We're not anthropologists, we don't need to dress up. Besides, the uniforms are comfortable. These clothes seem rather itchy. You know I have allergies…"

"We know," Sheppard cut him off. To Dean, he said "This isn't a cover op, kiddo. We're out here to make friends. Being suspicious all the time won't help us find new allies against the Wraith."

"Besides," Teyla added "people in the Pegasus Galaxy often travel using the Stargate, they know there are people from other worlds with different cultures. Our clothes reveal to them that we are travelers as well."

Dean nodded. "I get it. There's no Prime Directive out here," earning puzzled looks from Teyla and Ronon, a grin from Sheppard, and a snarky comment from McKay.

"Okay, kids, recreational time is over. Let's move!" Sheppard ordered "Check back in an hour."

Sheppard and Teyla moved toward the tavern along with Ronon and McKay. Dean took off near a stand in an alley and, after some sweet talk with a female merchant, vanished into the crowd.

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The meeting was proceeding quite well; Teyla really had a gift for negotiation and easily overcame her contacts' wariness. They set at a table a little removed from the other customers in the rear of the tavern.

Malik and Irniq represented the people of a small planet, Thetasis, in a system near the edge of the Pegasus Galaxy. Given the fact they were so distant from the common feeding ground of the Wraith, they were able to live in peace for many generations and their society had grown more advanced than others. But a mixed group of archaeologists and soldiers, the Archivists, collected as much information as they could on the old threat, because they foresaw that the peace of their world couldn't last forever.

Thanks to that group, the people of Thetasis had discovered that a great amount of Wraith had been awakened from their sleep. The leader of the Archivists had sent a couple of teams around the galaxy to find out what had happened, and, in their travelers, they had collected a lot of information.

They had learned that an expedition of human, who possessed the gene of the Ancestors, had found Atlantis and awakened the mortal enemy. Even if they were responsible for that, rumors about their help in the fight against the Wraith had spread all over the galaxy. Given the fact that Thetasis was no longer safe from the deadly threat, they had chosen to seek out Atlantis's people in order to give the information they had and help in their own way.

However, nothing was without cost. Despite their noble purpose, their people weren't healthy, and they wanted a fair trade for their information.

Along the journey, Malik explained, they had encountered a group of people who claimed to come from Atlantis. They wore anonymous clothes and held Wraith stunners, things that were becoming common among the people in the Pegasus Galaxy. The Archivists were suspicious and asked them to take a test; when they didn't pass it, the imposters started to shoot in order to take their belongings.

Malik and Irniq were the only survivors of a team of six people sent out to seek Atlantis's team.

These people had every reason to be wary.

"What kind of test?" McKay grunted.

McKay's ears caught only that part while Sheppard took note of every detail in their story. He didn't like what he heard. Someone was impersonating members of the Atlantis expedition; John wondered why.
Was Malik's data really that valuable?

"It's nothing to worry about. If you are, as you said, a child of the Ancestors, this device will show it." Irniq, the shorter of the two men, held up a device of Lantean design, and Sheppard relaxed a bit after seeing it.

It didn't seem like a dangerous test.

If they wanted him to light up some Ancient object, there was no problem. The thing looked similar to their sensor scanner, but bigger like one of their tablets from Earth. Before McKay could lay his fingers on the device, John touched it and the screen lit up quickly. He was able to see some string of Ancient and Wraith languages before they took it away from him.

Malik and Irniq looked like children at Christmas, watching the screen while McKay fumed at him. Rodney obviously wanted to take a peek at the content of the ancient data-pad too, but thanks to Sheppard, his chance was gone. The Archivists held the precious device tight to them, claiming that it wasn't the device they wanted to trade.

Sheppard felt a little tricked: that wasn't just a test, they wanted to gain access to the information on that thing. However, before he could point that out, Teyla was able to cut a deal for the Wraith device in exchange for medical supplies and the activation of the Ancient device. After some additional bargaining they agreed to another of Colonel Sheppard's requests: the opportunity to visit their planet. He had seen the look in Rodney's eyes if the Archivists had more Ancient devices, McKay wouldn't stop bitching about the importance of analyzing them.

An invitation to their planet was the best option to soothe the pouting scientist, and it was also a good way to start a diplomatic relationship with a possible new ally. He was sure Elizabeth would approve his cunning move, too.

Malik started to hand over the Wraith device—and that was when all hell broke loose.

Without warning, the four customers nearest their table drew Wraith stunners and opened fire. Caught completely off-guard, Ronon was hit three times, Teyla once, and the poor guys from Thetasis were too surprised to scream or do anything at all.

McKay and Sheppard were hit before either of them could get a shot off in return.

Sheppard was only able to curse to himself as unconsciousness took him.

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Dean saw movement in the tavern and some too-familiar blue light from the window.

Three customers left the tavern in a hurry and with wary eyes.

That wasn't a good sign.

He checked his radio, but when no one responded he headed toward the rear of the tavern. Hiding behind the wall, he saw several men binding and loading the unconsciousness bodies of the colonel, Ronon, and the rest of the team with two other guys onto two worn wagons.

"Son of bitch." He growled in surprise.

Two of the men took off their upper clothes and covered the rear of the carts and their prisoners. Underneath those disguised coats, they wore what seemed to be uniforms of some kind, green with brown stripes. Dean didn't recognize them.

They were six of them, too many to take them all at once by himself. If he started shooting, he would likely be taken out as well, or he could accidentally hurt those on the wagons. Too risky. The uniform and the way these men carried themselves meant they were most likely trained soldiers. Dean couldn't underestimate them, not with so much at stake.

So he quietly followed the group to a warehouse a mile from the town, hidden in the forest.

He took a swift check of the perimeter to assess the situation, and by the time he finished it was almost evening. They were almost due to their scheduled check-in with Atlantis. Once they missed it, they would have to wait a couple of hours or more before Doctor Weir would send Major Lorne and his team to check on them.

He knew Sheppard would probably want him to get back to the Stargate, dial in and ask for help, but what would happen if they were moved before the rescue team arrived? He couldn't risk letting them out of his sight.

He was on his own.

Like every respectable warehouse, it had two entrance—and just because things couldn't be simple for him, four soldiers were watching the surroundings at each side of the building. The only good news was that the woods were thick and there was a fair distance between each sentinel. The best way to save the team would be to take them out one by one without alerting the others.

Dived and conquer.

He slowly approached the soldier nearest his cover and he took him silently from behind, closing his hand on his mouth and putting him in a choke hold. The guy tried to free himself and scream for help but Dean was able to hold him firm. A minute later, he was out of commission.

Dean didn't kill him; he was a human and despite the ambush on his team, he didn't want to kill anyone if it wasn't strictly necessary. Wraith, wendigos, ghosts—sure not a problem. Humans, however, were another thing.

Searching the soldier, he found a small Wraith stunner, and just to be on the safe side he shot the guard, tied him up with a rope, and hid him near a bush.

One down, three to go, besides the other two in the warehouse.

Sheppard owed him big this time.

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Teyla was the first to awaken.

They were in some sort of warehouse full of crates and corn. As the confusion brought on by the stunner slowly dissipated, she focused on her surroundings and found her friends on the floor as well, bound with their hands behind them. She heard a noise at her right and relief washed over her when she turned around: the colonel was awakening too.

"Are you alright, Colonel Sheppard?"

"Teyla…Am I tied up in a barn? " She could hear the tension rising in his voice.

"…Yes, Colonel."

"Then no, I'm not all right."

Another groan, and she heard McKay waking up as well as Ronon, from her left, who grunted at his own predicament. The two Archivists were still out of commission.

Movements from one end of the barn caught their attention. A soldier appeared in front of them with a small Wraith stunner in his hand. He had black short hair, cut in a military style, and piercing blue ice.

They knew his uniform all too well.

Another groan escaped McKay's lips.

"Colonel John Sheppard, Teyla Emmagan, Doctor Rodney McKay and Ronon Dex. It's a pleasure to meet all of you."

"Yeah… I can't say the same," Sheppard snarled back.

The soldier merely raised an eyebrow and continued, "My name is Andrei Dalca."

"You're a Genii. We have a treaty with them…your people… why have you kidnapped us?" spluttered McKay.

Dalca smiled, and took out from one of his pockets the Wraith device stolen from Malik. Teyla, Ronon and Sheppard watched his every move while they tried to free their hands from the ropes, but it wasn't working. "For a brilliant scientist like you, Doctor, I'm surprised you didn't guess already."

"McKay, he isn't working for Ladon." Said Sheppard "He's probably one of the Cowen's guys."

The soldier went stiff. "Ladon Radim isn't worthy to guide our people. The Genii need a stronger leader. We are, gentlemen, at war. He is a mere scientist."

"Then what? Do you plan to be their new leader? Are you trying to use us as hostages?" Teyla couldn't fathom what this man was doing. They were wasting valuable resource that could be better used in the war with the Wraith than in a plot to depose their current leader. It was nonsense. And Doctor Weir would never help with another coup d'état, nor would she give him anything that could harm innocents from the Genii world. Using them as hostages was a flawed plan.

"No, you are what I call… a bonus. My mission was to retrieve the Wraith data. It's just happened that I took the opportunity to capture you as well. You know, all of you are quite famous."

Teyla exchanged a glance with Sheppard. He had noticed as well as she that the Genii hadn't actually answered their questions. Was he just a puppet or the puppeteer?

Dalca glanced at each one of his prisoners, assessing them one by one, before stopping on McKay. "…And you, Doctor McKay, are well known for your knowledge. You'll be useful for the decoding of this device."

Rodney blanched for a moment before spilling everything he had on his mind. "You're insane if you think I'll help someone like you. I've been on that road with your stupid buddy Kolya, and I will not do it again! You can kis—"

The Genii soldier was suddenly right up in his personal space, his clear glacial eyes at the same height as Rodney's, and with the stunner pointed right at his heart, the metallic muzzle touching his chest. The scientist stopped in mid-sentence, too scared to even breath. At that distance, Teyla didn't know if the charge could stop his heart, but she was sure he wasn't eager to find out.

"I'm sure we can find a way," Dalca purred. "I can be very… persuasive."

Sheppard tried to move to protect Rodney, but the Genii stepped back after his threat, circling them.

"You'll be transported off-world, where we have a more… comfortable location for you." He was again in front of them, he had a serious face. "My men have the orders to shoot you if any of you decides to try anything. You can walk on your own, or I can stun you here and now. Your choice."

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Another soldier came from behind them and had his stunner out, pointed at them. Sheppard assessed their situation while the second soldier was waking up the other two hostages.

Stalling would get them only so far, and he didn't know if Winchester had called for backup or not. If they wanted to secure them off-world that meant the Genii soldiers were probably guarding the 'Gate too. For now, it was in their best interest to just try to stay alive and be ready for a chance to escape. He signaled with a nod to Teyla and Ronon, who understood the situation right away.

"What? Are we going with them?" McKay squawked.

Sheppard sighed. "Yes, Rodney. We don't have much choice."

"Oh God…I should have stayed in bed this morning."

Sheppard was thinking the same thing, but he didn't let him know. This trade mission had nagged him from the beginning; he should have trusted his "Spidey sense" all along and taken another team with them.

A blue shot wrapped the second soldier and Dalca turned around to face the unexpected enemy, only to be punched right in the stomach and then shot with a Wraith stunner. Sheppard and Ronon took the best defensive stance they could while tied up.

"Who's there?" Sheppard yelled.

From the shadows behind Dalca's body, Dean walked in with a smile on his face. "I'm Batman."

Teyla and Ronon shot at him a curious looks while McKay just scoffed. Malik and Irniq were confused and looked at him as if he was another threat.

Watching the faces around the room he dropped his smile, Sheppard, however, was glad Dean was there. "Nice timing, kiddo."

Dean took that as a thanks, and with his knife he cut the ropes that bound Ronon's and Sheppard's hands. They in turn released the others. The colonel and Ronon retrieved their weapons while McKay took the Wraith device from Dalca. Dean and Teyla secured the two unconscious soldiers on the floor.

"Where is Lorne and the rescue team?" demanded Rodney.

"There wasn't time for that, and by the way, you're welcome."

"Come on kids, we need to go," said Sheppard. "Now."

They ran off toward the other entrance after Dean explained to them that he had already taken care of the four guards around the perimeter. Nevertheless, Sheppard didn't want to stick around one minute longer.

"Who are those guys, anyway?" Dean panted as they ran.

"Genii, or at least a faction of them," Sheppard replied. "We need to find a way to the Stargate and back to Atlantis."

Sheppard held up his gun and Ronon took the lead into the forest. At one point along the run, the two Archivists stopped and chose to depart from them. They'd had enough adventures for a day, and preferred to take their chances in the village rather than go anywhere near the Stargate and other enemies. The Genii weren't interested in them but in the Wraith device, so they agreed to leave it in McKay's hands.
Sheppard gave them the coordinates of a planet where they could meet once the situation was under control, and Malik and Irniq disappeared into the thick foliage, heading back to the village.

After a long walk through the woods, the team finally arrived near the Stargate.

Sheppard cursed. As expected, there were five soldiers near it, and it was possible there were more crawling around the forest. He knew after the first shot they wouldn't have much time before the enemy's reinforcements would be upon them. Ronon had his gun already trained on one of the soldiers.

"Ronon take the two near the DHD," Sheppard ordered "McKay once we cleared a path, dial Atlantis and send the IDC. Teyla, Dean, flank t'em, and I'll take the guy in the middle."

They placed themselves in position, ready for Sheppard's order. McKay was between Ronon and Dean, prepared to bolt toward the DHD.

When John gave the signal, Ronon opened fire. He took one target down without effort, while the other ducked and started shooting back.

"Don't you dare hit the DHD or we're all dead!" McKay shouted like a mad man. Sheppard took his target while Dean and Teyla were having some troubles due to the fact that the soldiers had a better cover.

Ronon ran toward the DHD, followed by McKay. The Satedan shot the guy behind it, while he was preparing to fire again. Rodney was dialing Atlantis's coordinates, when more shots came from the forest behind them.

"Take cover!" Sheppard wanted to groan in frustration—there were at least other two groups of genii soldiers. Teyla was able to subdue her foe and approached the Stargate with Sheppard, and Dean took out his enemy too, and ran toward McKay. Yet the Genii kept advancing near their position, closing them in a pinch.

Some of them shot with Wraith stunners while others were aiming with real guns at non-vital areas.
Dalca had probably given orders to take them alive.

"Ronon!" Teyla's shout pierced the air.

Ronon was shot twice by a Wraith stunner and crashed to the ground, Teyla went to assist him and dragged him toward the Gate. Sheppard laid down cover fire to protect both of them, while Dean, was near Rodney, shot at the group of soldiers approaching from the edge of the woods. The Stargate activated with the familiar "whoosh" and McKay sent his IDC with rapid clicks.

"The shield is down, go!" shouted McKay from the DHD.

"Atlantis! This is Sheppard, we're coming in hot!" Teyla was struggling to carry Ronon toward the Stargate, and Sheppard helped her while aiming at the incoming Genii on their sides. He called out the rest of the time "Rodney, Dean, let's go!"

But that couldn't be that easy, of course. As they were making their retreat, one of the Genii tossed some sort of shock grenade right between Sheppard and McKay. The explosion was sudden, and the shock wave so powerful that it threw Sheppard, Teyla and Ronon over the event horizon, while Dean and Rodney fell back, several meters away from the Stargate.

Some Genii soldiers quickly approached the DHD and secured it, other pointed their guns at the enemies on the ground.

The pain, the deafening silence, and the faces of the soldiers ready to stun them told the scientist and the hunter only one thing: they were so screwed.