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Chapter 1 – Lastlight

There's a hunger burning inside of him. He trembles, weakness deep in his bones, underneath his bonds. Opening his eyes his an ordeal, but ultimately futile – he can't see. Only vague shapes and flurries of movement.
Every nerve is ablaze, but his mind is in shambles.

Where is he? Who is he? Why is this happening to him?
There's people talking but he can't make any sense of their words, they blur together into one, a monotonous hum of noise

His consciousness fades quickly, retreating into the dark, away from the pain and confusion, too weak to struggle for too long.

He has no idea how long he's been asleep when the light returns to him.
His eyes flutter open more easily now, and he sees a dark, reddish-brown ceiling, sparsely lit by a gas lantern beside him, the warm glow giving him some form of comfort.

Still tied down, he strains against the bonds and feels a sharp sting in his right arm. Looking down, he sees a needle in his vein, pumping him full of a clear substance.
Glancing down makes him dizzy, and he shifts his gaze up to the ceiling again.

“I am so, so sorry.”

Those words make sense to him. The voice is familiar, too. He turns his head to the side and sees a small man, his dark hair messy and unwashed, dark shadows under his weary eyes.
He remembers that face, but won't recall who it belongs to.

“Who....” he manages to utter, his voice raspy from long silence, his tongue heavy from sedation.
“You don't-... I should have known you wouldn't remember.” The man struggles with words for a moment. “Do you remember anything at all?”

“No...” The prospect of answers loosens his tongue. “No, I know nothing, not who I am, not what this place is. Can you tell me, please?”
Something flickers in his eyes, and the man quickly reaches up to wipe his eyes.

“Your name is Lastlight.” he says, slowly and carefully. “You're a Wraith, and you were captured - … I don't know how. I was captured, too. I'm a Doctor, a medical professional. They made me-...”

A pause. The man shakes his head, and takes a deep breath.
“They made me run experiments on you.” he admits. “They wanted to develop a biological weapon, a-... It's called a retrovirus. It reverses the... transformation, the genetic one that your species went through over thousands of years, by-.... Well, it made you human.”

Yes. That name feels right.
He clenches his eyes shut.
“Made me human?” he parrots.

“I'm sorry. I'm so sorry.” the man assures him. “I was with you before the treatment started, and you told me who you are, because I warned you. That the retrovirus is likely to wipe your memory, or at least repress it, that is.”

Lastlight inhales sharply, and lifts his right hand as far as his bonds allow it.
This makes sense to him. Vague pictures dance through his mind; blood on his hands, spaceships and Queens, hunger and feeding.

But his palm is empty.
“Will it... reverse?” he asks. He feels numb, as if the weight of the man's words doesn't quite reach his core yet. There's underlying panic, rage, fear, disgust. But it doesn't surface.

“I-... Yes. It requires regular re-injections to keep you stable. I... don't know if it'll leave permanent damage, though.” the man informs him, nervously kneading his hands.
Lastlight nods toward the infusion bottle strung up next to the bed he's tied to.
“This?” he asks and the man nods.
“If I... tamper with it, they'll kill me. Then you're helpless.” he argues and Lastlight closes his eyes again.

“I don't want this.” he says.
“I know.” the man responds soulfully. “I know you don't.”

“It's been weeks.” Spark discloses. “I don't know if our friend will ever contact me again.”
Her voice is slightly distorted through the subspace connection, and the sparse, cool lighting on her Hive gives her skin a blue tint.
She looks older and tired.

“I'm honestly surprised he got off that planet in the first place.” John Sheppard admits. “Where was it that you met him?”
“Very far from any Wraith territory, on a planet we have marked as too thinly populated to even consider for the alliance.” Spark responds. “We were tracking his signal, that's how we found him. And he was waiting for us. He knew very well what he was doing.”

“Reason to suspect that he found something on that planet he didn't care to share with the class yet?” John muses, and Spark shrugs, an oddly human gesture for a Wraith.

“We scanned the planet for energy spikes that could indicate civilization beyond the few tent villages we found, and there was nothing.” she says. “Had there been anything noteworthy, I'd have told you already.”

Teyla, at John's flank, takes a step forward.
“The Genii hide their operations underground. You have not managed to find out about that before we told you, not could you track your mother's signal until she was above ground.” she reminds Spark. “There could very well be something hidden on this planet.”

John gives her a look, raises a brow, them turns back to Spark.”
“You got an address for us?”

A moment of hesitation, then Spark nods.
“I have it saved, yes. But I want to talk to my mother before I give it to you.”

“Why the hell?” John protests, but Spark doesn't let that aggravate her.
“Because the life of one of your people is at risk, and knowing you, you'll sprint off on your own.” she explains herself. “And we want to send backup in this case.”

“You're damn right, one of my people is in danger, so of course I'll act as soon as I can! We don't have-...”

“It's been five weeks, Colonel Sheppard.” Spark interrupts him. “A few hours more of less will not decide over life and death at this point. However, if you rush in there without us, it might doom you instead. So please. Let me do this.”

Teyla lightly touches his arm, and gives him one of her intense stares, unrelenting, until John sighs.
“Fine. Do what you have to do, but do it quick. Okay?”

For a moment, a smile flickers over Spark's face, a glimmer of youthful hope underneath her serious masque.
“Okay.” she responds, and the connection cuts.

Delilah smells Seeker before she feels his hand on her shoulder, the faint scent of freshly oiled leathers, and the odd, alien fragrance that all Wraith males seem to use.
She's come to associate that combination with comfort.

“There is news.” he says, when she turns around to him. “Queen Spark has contacted us. Apparently, Sheppard wishes to hunt for the Genii on the planet the male lured us to.”
“What? But... hasn't the planet been scanned?”

Seeker nods.
“It has, but our sensors can only pick up energy spikes on the surface. Spark believes that this is where Carson Beckett is being held.”
He pauses briefly, as if to gather his thoughts.

“I have requested to be put on the mission squad.” he then adds, and Delilah reaches out to tuck a stray strand of hair behind his ear.
“Despite having to work with Sheppard, of all people?” she asks, but there's no mock in her tone, concern, rather.

“I may not like him, but I can respect him as a fellow soldier.” Seeker states. “That was the root of my conflict with him. We were soldiers, with orders to fight one another. Now that these orders are void, I can stop opposing him.”

“If he stops antagonizing you.” Delilah reminds him.
“I am... patient.” he says. “More than you give me credit for. I will be fine.”

“I know, but...” Delilah sighs. “Kolya wanted you. I doubt that it's the only reason for this game he played, but he's wanted you ever since we first clashed with him. He wants Wraith prisoners for whatever reason and he has a personal grudge against you.”

“You worry for me.” Not a question, no. Almost an accusation. Delilah frowns at him like a bratty child.

“And I have a darn good reason to be worried!” she proclaims, then looks back to her desk. “The vaccine and its deployment will work without me for a while. How high are the chances that Horizon lets me go with you?”

“Is this out of concern for my safety, or to soothe your own guilt?” Seeker probes. “You have not spoken of your delusion that you may be responsible for all of this due to not killing Kolya back then. It's been left to fester, without an outlet.”

Delilah scoffs at him, while it stings in her chest – he's right, and he knows her better than she'd like him to.
“Both.” she admits.
“You are no soldier. If you worry for me, then I shall be permitted to worry for you even more.” Seeker argues.

“No. Because I will be right next to you. No one has to worry.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 2 - Names

Seeker's eyes narrow when the beam rematerializes him in bright daylight. The Dart that had carried him flies a loop in the skies, then returns through the Stargate.

“Steve. Why'd I know that you'd be here?” Colonel John Sheppard scoffs at him in place of a greeting, and he bites back a snarl.
Delilah's hand seeks out his, and he gives her a brief, blank glance.
They're accompanied by Arch and Crow, Spark's contribution to this mission. Four from Atlantis, four from the Wraith. Seeker feels warmth in his chest when he catches himself counting Delilah as a member of his people, rather than the Atlantis expedition.

“I volunteered.” he responds, without bothering to show aggravation for the humiliating nickname Sheppard insists on referring to him with. “Carson Beckett is someone I hold in high regards.”
“Huh.” is Sheppard's only comment, but Teyla, the only woman on his team, steps forth to cut any further conversation short.

“I have talked to the locals while we waited for you. There are numerous cases of radiation sickness, which confirms our suspicions. There is likely a Genii base near the settlement.” she tells them. “We just need to find the access point.”
“Would it be close to the settlement, or within?” Arch inquires, not bothering with pleasantries.

“Most Genii tend to keep their facade villages close to entry points, so they can quickly ascend and descend in case of emergency.” Teyla responds. “We are looking for a concealed hatch, or a trap door. Maybe a well.”
“Once we do, we go back to the Gate and radio for reinforcements. This is a scouting mission. Clear?” The sharp, commanding tone in Sheppard's voice irks Seeker, but he keeps quiet.

There's a breeze sweeping over the group, carrying the scent of pine trees to Seeker's sensory pits. He closes his eyes for a moment, then nods. This will be easy, easier than any of the challenges he's been faced with in the past months and weeks.
He is a hunter, a tracker, it's in his blood.

“Radioactive radiation?” he asks, and sees Teyla nod. Then, he produces a small, handheld device from his coat pockets, and tunes it.
An energy detector, attuneable to several different sources of power. Life signs, electricity, magnetism, radioactivity. In close range, it should help him gauge the size of the Genii base underneath, find the spot where the barrier of earth and structure is thinnest.

“Distract them. Trade with them. Make them think you do not know about their lie.” he then tells the four Lantheans. “My group will search the surroundings for an entry point. Delilah will find you when we have.”

Hours of walking, tracking, in complete silence.
Arch and Crow are speaking among each other, Seeker can tell, but their minds remain sealed for him. It displeases him – not only are their Hives allied, their Queen is his Queen's progeny. Trust should be a given between them, and yet, they hide from him.

They're young, he tells himself. Brothers, companions. They trust each other more than him.

But the silence tugs at his nerves, theirs and Delilah's, who follows him, tense and uneasy. She's still half mad from worry, he can smell that fear on her, no matter how well she hides it.

The woods surrounding the settlement are thick and hard to navigate. Crow keeps slashing down foliage with his longblade. Noisy, Seeker thinks, leaving too many traces to hint at their presence. They're getting closer to their target, and with each step taken, the risk of encountering Genii on their way to or from the access point increases.

Delilah jumps at every noise, every twig snapping in the distance. She has her P90 drawn, gripped so tightly that her knuckles turn white. It takes a lot of self control to prevent her anxiety from bleeding into his mind.

His detector beeps quietly, and he stops, looking at the ground. Foliage, moss and roots. He sweeps the green aside with his boot, scraping over metal and wood.
As Teyla had said – it's a trap door, set in concrete, right here on the forest floor, only secured with a padlock.

Delilah pushes him aside and opens fire on the rusty metal chain. Bullets ricochet off the metal, but she seems entirely unbothered. Crow emits a sharp hiss, and steps back, pulls Arch with him by his sleeve. Seeker cannot blame them. Even he fears these weapons and their rapid fire, faster than his regenerative powers, fast enough to tear him apart.

She bends down and pulls the trap door open, the wood slamming on the forest floor with a dull thud.
“Tell Sheppard to send reinforcements.” she demands, sheathes her weapon on her vest, and begins descending.

“We are not supposed to enter just yet.” Arch tries to protest, but Seeker already knows that it's futile.
“Go.” he says. “I will go with her.”
Delilah's temper and determination is not something that can be talked over. The only thing he can do for her is to follow, and guard. He waits for her to finish descending, before jumping down the shaft himself, landing springily on his feet.

“You didn't try to talk me out of it.” Delilah notes, sounding actually grateful for that.
“Would you have listened?” he asks her, and she smiles, shaking her head.
“Carson is my friend.” she defends her actions.
“He saved both our lives.” Seeker agrees. “I understand your eagerness, but let us be careful.”

He glances down the empty hall, the many doors that offer themselves to their path.

“We are beyond outnumbered.” he adds.
“Can you somehow tell where guards are going to be?” Delilah asks, severely overestimating his sensory skills. Seeker nods however, and attunes his detector to human life signs.

“Two in the corridor parallel to us.” he says. “Seven in the room at the end of this one. One on the far end opposite to it. This base is not very well staffed.”
“It's a research facility.” Delilah says, and takes a few steps toward the singular life sign. Seeker silently agrees with her idea of investigating the smallest threat first, and follows along.

They make it two thirds of the way, before a soft beep indicated movement.
“The two in the other corridor are on the move.” Seeker tells her, cursing her inability to communicate telepathically. “Toward our target.”
“Can we take them, if we get the drop on them?” Delilah sounds dead serious, gravitating toward violence, as if that would make up for her mistake.
“Stay behind me.” he responds, switching his stunner into his off hand, and approaches the door.

It's unlocked, and he thrusts it open, warily aware of his surroundings: It's a cell block, three cells on either side of the room, and a door on the other side of it. The two guards he'd been seeing on his detector stop dead in their tracks, eyes wide in shock, at stare.
Then, the battle breaks loose.

Machine gun fire whips past him from behind, and hits one of the guards in the knees, causing him to sink to the ground with a cry of pain, while his colleague takes two well-placed stun blasts to collapse.
“Take cover!” Seeker shouts, seeing the wounded one ready his handgun to aim at Delilah, and lunges at him.

He forces the man's arm down, feeling a bone shatter under his grip, and as his stunner clatters to the ground, he pulls back his feeding hand, ready to slam it on the guard's chest, and-...


Seeker freezes, and looks over his shoulder. It's not Delilah who cried for him to stop, but the occupant of the cell behind him.

Carson Beckett has his hands raised in a “Stop!”-gesture, and tries to maintain eye contact with him. Seeker's heart is racing, adrenaline coursing through his veins. He's not injured, nor hungry. He shouldn't be doing this.
The guard, quiet despite his wounds, stares up at him, fear in his eyes, lower lip trembling. Horror. Panic.

He gets up, steps back, picks up his discarded stunner, and shoots the man directly in the chest. There's a beat of silence, as he turns to the cell and Delilah steps into the room.
“You didn't kill him.” she whispers, perfectly audible to him.
“No. I did not.” he confirms.

“It's not this lad's fault.” Carson defends the guard. “He's just doing his job. I know him. He's always the one who escorts me to the lab. He's always been respectful, you know, he doesn't deserve...”
“No need to convince me.” Seeker consoles him. “Does he carry a key?”
“He always takes it from his left pocket.” Carson sheepishly responds, and Seeker goes to take the key off the unconscious guard.

“Are you injured, Carson? Did they hurt you?” Delilah asks, while Seeker unlocks the cell door.
“No. I'm fine. But...” Carson steps out of his cell. “There's this Wraith they've had me experiment on. He's not fine at all.”
“Do you know where he's kept?” Seeker asks, successfully banishing the fear from his voice.
“The lab these were going to take me to. Follow me.” Carson says, and hurriedly jogs to the door.

Lastlight has made it a habit to stare at the fluorescent light on the ceiling until it hurts his eyes, counting the seconds it takes him to recover from the strain with closed eyes.
It's about time Carson Beckett returns to him.

Despite the things the Genii are having the human do to him, Lastlight looks forward to him arriving, him being his only company. The only one who speaks to him, the only one who regards him as a person, not a thing.
He hears three sets of footfalls. Carson Beckett and the two guards that always escort him. Without making a single noise, Lastlight lets his head roll to the side, looking at the door in expectation.

It swings open, and instead of his usual, careful gait, Carson runs into the room, followed by two... unfamiliar people. A human woman and... a Wraith. Lastlight feels a wave of euphoria in his heart, recognizing the familiar uniform the Wraith wears, the weaponry he carries.
He tries to reach out, but his mind is dull, sluggish. It doesn't reach him.

The Wraith's face contorts into a masque of disgust when he sees Lastlight, that and absolute horror.
“Is this... permanent?” he asks, and Lastlight can hear him struggling to keep his voice steady.
“No, it's maintained by this IV.” Carson responds. “He'll recover. In time.”

Without an ounce of hesitation, Carson begins undoing Lastlight's bonds, plucking the needle from his arm. The sedatives still wreak havoc on his constitution, and Lastlight weakly tries to lift an arm, then sits up.
The room spins, and his vision blurs. He feels a touch on his shoulders, keeping him steady.
“Easy. Your circulation is completely out of comission.” Carson says, and puts his right arm over his shoulders, then carefully eases him to his feet, keeping him upright. “You two defend me. I know how to handle a patient.”

It's taken several hours of debriefung and an avalanche of complaints from the lanthean team, for straying from the plan before Seeker is on his own, walking freely on the Atlantis base again.
Delilah is still arguing with Sheppard, as it was her decision to go off alone, so he's idle, her being his only social connection to humans.

Well... not strictly.

It's late already, the sunset bathes the halls of Atlantis in a warm, orange glow as Seeker strides through the city. It doesn't surprise him that the infirmary is almost deserted, save for Doctor Beckett, who, despite the traumatic imprisonment and exploitation he's endured, already works again.
Lastlight, the disfigured test subject, has been transferred to Spark's Hive, to recover, and Beckett has no patients as of now, but Seeker can't blame him for wanting to keep his mind busy.

He enters, and clears his throat to draw the man's attention.

“Oh-... I'm sorry, I didn't hear you enter.” Carson says, and turns to him “Can I... help you?”
“No.” Seeker says. “I am not here for medical assistance.”

He takes a few steps toward him and clasps his hands behind his back.
“I never had the opportunity to properly thank you for what you did for me and Delilah back then.” he opens. “Seeing how our species work together now, I felt it appropriate to do that now. Had you not saved both of us, none of this would have been possible.”

The man smiles warmly.
“No need to thank me. I believed in Delilah's project from the moment I heard about it, and even though I was completely terrified of you when I first met you-...” He pauses to giggle nervously. “...- I think you're a good person. You could have killed that guard, but...”

“I should not have.” Seeker interrupts him. “I no longer need to kill to survive. Doing it anyways would be an insult to the work the alliance has done so far.”
“I wouldn't call it that, but-... well, it sort of is.” Carson admits.

Seeker raises his chin.
“Additionally, I came here because I want to give you something I have only given one human so far.” he announces. “I am certain you understand the significance of names among my kind at this point, yes?”

Carson seems stunned, and nods, keeping quiet as to not deter him from this decision. Seeker smirks for a split second. As kind and honorable as Carson Beckett is, he is awfully easy to read.

“I am Seeker, seventh son of Queen Vermillion, serving as a Blade in Queen Horizon's court.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 3 – Flare

Lastlight feels wrong.

Even though Carson Beckett's prediction was correct, even though he reverted back to being mostly Wraith, his entire body feels alien to him.
His memories are in shambles. He recalls things out of context and order, trying to make sense of it seems to confuse him even more.

Atlantis lies behind him. Homesick for a place of which he isn't sure that it still exists, he left them, and had himself collected by the next best Hive during a Culling. But even here, he feels unsafe.
The Queen tolerates him at best, and her officers avoid him, as if he carried some sort of disease. The blaring silence in his mind is made worse by the knowledge that he's deliberate being shut out of the telepathic network.

He runs his hand over his head.
His hair is still growing back, only a few centimeters long, it stands off in all directions. Lastlight often catches himself comparing his physical features to those of other males. His discolored yellowish-green complexion, his chipped, short nails. The muddy grey color of his much too short hair.

The shattered pieces of his memory.

He's not like them, not anymore. Regardless of his genetic makeup, he knows he will never be like them again. Scarred, marked. Defiled.

His quarters are small and poorly furnished, as he doesn't own any personal things to fill it with, so his only entertainment is the window into open space.
Boredom makes everythng worse. The Queen won't let him work, won't give him access to any consoles, confines him in these empty rooms for most of his time.

He's free, but at what cost? Lastlight leans his forehead against the cool glass. Part of him wishes he'd never got rescued. Dying in that facility seems like a merciful fate as opposed to isolation and constant scrutiny.
Hastily pushing that train of thought from his mind, Lastlight flexes his feeding hand. No, he wants to live. But not like this, not here.
There's nowhere for him to go; the Wraith are repulsed by him, and humans will certainly not accept him as one of their own. What is left for him?

The Hive is drifting idly, caught in the gravitational pull of a sun, due to maintenance work on their Hyperdrive. His glance has remained fixed on the star for a solid minute now, following a storm erupting from a sunspot.
The solar flare reaches far into the void, Lastlight watches it send its sparks off past the ship.

Flames. Heat.
Life itself, he thinks. Hope.

The light feels burnt into his retinas, and Lastlight steps away, seeing his faint reflection on the window, with the solar storm rushing over his form.

“Spark,” he whispers.

Delilah's work in Delar has confronted her with many interesting personalities to date. From Wraith, over villagers, to freed runners, she has met her share of difficulties, steeling her nerves for just about anything.

But when she enters the guest room on Spark's landed Hive, a dosage of the Vaccine in a small coffer by her hip, she still feels the familiar sting of anxiety.
There he is, standing in the middle of the room, as if he belonged there.

He looks at lot better than the first time she's seen him, on the grainy video transmission from Genii, dressed in clean leathers, his hair no longer matted and filthy, and the thin, frail look of starvation absent from his face.
In this moment, he seems to radiate authority, and most importantly, pride.

Delilah realizes that she's been staring at him blankly for a few seconds upon entering.

“Doctor Abbot, I presume?” he breaks the silence. It's the first time Delilah actually hears him speak, and she's surprisingly taken aback by the way his voice sounds. Somehow, despite her better knowledge, she expected his spoken voice to resemble the throaty growls and snarls from Kolya's blackmails more.

“Yes. Yes, that's me.” She clears her throat and raises the coffer briefly. “I've been told that you've agreed to take the Vaccine?”
“It seemed to be in my best interest, yes.” he responds and takes a step back, so she can enter properly, without having to move closer to him.
Delilah picks up on that, and follows him.

“There's a few hours of incubation, but it's entirely painless.” she explains, a bit more confident, now that she speaks of her area of expertise. “To ensure proper spreading through your system, I'd like to inject the serum directly into your pulse point.”
She motions to her own neck.

“Very well.” he says, and Delilah smiles nervously.
“Ah, could you... sit down somewhere? You're very tall.” she requests.
“Would you like a box to stand on?” he counters, so utterly straight faced that Delilah ends up glaring at him in disbelief for a few seconds, before he diffuses the situation with a smile, and retreats to sit down on the bench in the back of the room.

“Right.” she mutters to herself, unsure of whether or not she should laugh, then decides against it. She sets the coffer down on the bench next to him, and opens it. Inside is a flask with the serum, and a syringe to administer it, padded securely in styrofoam.
He watches her prepare the injection in complete silence, then helpfully tilts his head away when she's done.

It's really odd to her, just how hesitant she finds herself being. Delilah finds herself genuinely needing to brace herself to approach and touch this Wraith, despite the many hundred she's worked with so far, one of which she literally sleeps with.
There's something about him that makes her uneasy, feeling like he's the only one in control of the situation, moving her around like a chess piece.

He doesn't flinch when the needle pierces his skin, and Delilah pushes the liquid into his vein. A droplet of dark blood seeps out of the wound, and Delilah has the presence of mind to put her finger on it.
“Why aren't you healing?” she asks, sounding more startled than she intended to.

The Wraith's gaze flickers to the side, meeting hers.
“Do you really believe Queen Spark would have approved of me killing a villager?” he responds. “I have not fed since my escape from the Genii.”

For the first time in her career, Delilah finds herself wishing she'd brought bandaids to an encounter with the Wraith.
“It'll scab.” she assures him and steps back. “Keep pressing against the incision until it does.”
He obediently raises his hand and puts his index finger on the tiny wound. Delilah catches a glimpse of his feeding slit when he moves, and her unease grows.
She's seen him half mad from hunger before, and until the Vaccine begins working, his willpower is the only thing keeping him from killing.

“You were the last human I expected to sense fear from.” he comments, and Delilah feels heat in her cheeks.
“Call it respect.” she attempts to save herself, only provoking a sharp snort of laughter.

“If you insist.” he says and removes his finger fro the wound. It's not longer bleeding, but there's an ugly smear of blood on his neck.

“We have been able to tap into certain radio lines on the planet.” Crow reports, standing alone in front of an audience of Lantheans and Wraith alike, behind him a screen displaying a map of the galaxy.
His hands shake uncontrollably, and Seeker finds himself smirking.
Foolish, young soul. Had he not volunteered to work on this project, he would not have ended up in this uncomfortable situation.

Still blocking him out, Crow clasps his hands behind his back, probably to stop them from shaking.
“According to the intel we managed to gather from a 24-hour-surveillance over several weeks, the experiment Lastlight fell prey to is not the only project these humans work on.” he continues. “Queen Horizon was not merely taken as a hostage, her capture was part of a larger operation, to develop biological weapons against our kind.”

Seeker leans back in his seat and crosses his arms. He figured that much. No one captures a Queen just for such menial purposes.

“They are seeking out new subjects whereever they can, and it seems as though they require a Queen to further their research.” Crow steps aside, revealing the map on the screen, and swipes at it, causing it to zoom to one planet. “According to my predictions, they aspire to find what they need on this world.”

“That is not a Wraith planet, is it?” Teyla asks. “As far as I am informed, this is a human world.”

“Correct.” Crow responds, after his pupils finished dilating back to normal, having widened in surprise when the woman spoke. “I do not know why they are convinced to find a Queen on this planet, but they will be there. I suggest... seizing this opportunity to thin out their numbers, and perhaps, acquire further data.”

“Genii are secretive little bastards.” Sheppard says. “If we know that they'll be outta their little bunkers for a change, I'd be up for some payback.”
Seeker side-eyes him.
“There is a chance of recapture, Sheppard.” he warns, and the man pulls a face.
“I wasn't expecting them the first time around. This time, they won't be expecting us.” he argues.”Look, Kolya had something personal against you too, why don't you count your losses and help?”

Tilting his head, Seeker addresses Crow again.
“Do we have a timeframe for this ambush?”

“One week for preparations.” the young Blade responds.
“Notify your Queen.” Horizon speaks up. “Her and I will pick out our contribution for this mission.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 4 – Home

Spark stubbornly leads the group through the heavily wooded area, flanked by Arch on one side, Venah on the other. No one on her Hive and her mother's had been entirely happy about her decision to join the mission personally, but she's never been one to heed unsolicited advice.

Crow follows a few steps behind his brother, with Seeker, and the lanthean Team. They'd arrived by jumper, and set up a forward camp at the landing site, guarded by a handful of Drones and delarian hunters, under Venah's orders.

She's been thoroughly informed on the situation by Crow – a small human settlement, nothing more, no sign of Wraith activity in the last decade. The Genii are on the wrong track, she's been told, but she disagrees. There is absolutely something out of the ordinary here.

Spark senses a presence so small and meek, she imagines it to be a child, untrained and unwilling to use their telepathic abilities, subconsciously giving off this faint signal to her, likely too weak for a male to pick up on. She elects to tell no one about it, and just lead the group toward it.
It moves around, and a small distance to them, leading Spark to conclude that it's watching their approach.

'Seeker, be on your guard.' she asks the male behind her, and feels wordless acknowledgement from him. He's Horizon's best tracker, his senses are the sharpest in this group.

He speeds up, to catch up to her position in the group, stunner ready in his hand.
'Ahead of us. Hiding in the trees.' he informs her, and she looks up, catching a glimpse of light brown linen.
'I see it. Don't shoot.' she responds, and returns her glance to the ground, as to not alert the presence to the fact that she's spotted it.

“I need a break.” she says aloud, catching the rest of her company completely off guard.
“What?” McKay asks. “Not even I'm tired yet!”
“I sprained my ankle.” Spark argues, trying to make her tone hint that she's making it up.
“But don't you heal?” McKay counters, utterly confused.
“Haven't fed lately.” Spark sighs, and rolls her eyes at the man.
“Rodney.” says Teyla, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“Wha-..? Oh. Oooh. Okay. Fine then.”

John leans against the next best tree in Spark's peripheral vision, and Venah moved to her side.
“What's wrong?” she whispers to her, and Spark shakes her head.
“You'll see.” she responds, well aware that her target is listening, and unwilling to give her plan away.

I know where you are, she thinks, and sits down on the forest floor, cross-legged, hands on her knees. Imitating the pose she's seen Teyla in before.
She's done this before in her teens, played hide and seek with her father, locking his mind and forcing him to give up his hiding spot, to train her mental prowess. Her mind reaches out, and like fog, it encapsulates the small presence. Spark feels a rush of panic radiate from the entity, and she grasps it, careful not to crush it, and paralyzes it.

A body goes limp up in the trees, and falls from the branches like a dead bird.
Spark's eyes snap open, and she sees the linen again. A small figure, smaller than her, dressed in simple cloth, curling up on the ground before her.

She releases it quickly, and scrambles to her feet.
“Don't shoot!” she calls out, hearing guns click behind her, and hurries to the trembling form's side.

“Please...” a small, shaky voice pleads, and Spark touches the person by their shoulder, forcing it to sit upright, revealing their identity.

It's a Wraith, and more importantly, a female.
She's younger than her, Spark concludes, her short, dark hair frames a face with an expression of pure terror.
“Please, I just want to go home.” she begs again, lower lip trembling, eyes welling up with tears. Spark feels a sting of guilt in her stomach area.

“We aren't going to hurt you.” she assures the girl. “Actually, we're here to help.”
Footfalls behind her tell Spark that Seeker is coming closer, and the girl quickly scrambles away, eyes wide in fear.
“It's okay!” Spark calls out. “He's not going to do anything, I promise. Please, just hear me out.”

Having backed off against a tree, chest rising and falling rapidly, the girl stares back at her, no, past her, to the stunner still in Seeker's hand.
He quickly puts in away, and retreats to the lanthean team. Spark gets closer to the girl again, and crouches down before her, relieved that she isn't flinching from her.

“My name is Spark.” she introduces herself. “These people are my friends. We came here because we learned that very bad people may be coming here soon. At first, we didn't know why, but now that you're here, …”
“Bad people?” the girl parrots sheepishly.
“Yes. They're called the Genii.” Spark elaborates. “They take people like you and I and hurt them. They took someone very dear to me before. And now they're coming for you. We want to prevent that.”

The girls sobs wetly, and curls up again.
“Listen, you'll be okay. We're here now, and we're going to take you somewhere safe, where no one is ever going to hurt you again.” Spark hurries to keep speaking.
“I can't leave! My father-....” the girl protests. “He's-... I can't leave him.”

“Your father?” Teyla asks carefully, and steps closer.
“Yes! He takes care of me-... I can't leave!” the girl repeats.
“Another Wraith?” Teyla inquires, and the girl shakes her head.
“No, he's human. He found me when I was little, and saved me.” she corrects. “If I leave, he'll be all alone...”

“That's okay! You can take him with you.” Spark promises, but the girl shakes her head vigorously.

“No! I don't want to-... you hurt people.” Her voice trails off as she finishes her statement, as if she was afraid to say it aloud.
“No, you misunderstand, we-...” Spark struggles to explain, but Teyla takes over.
“We would not work with the Wraith if that was the case.” she says, her voice low and calm. “There is a serum, a vaccine that makes it so that they do not have to kill anymore. These Wraith work together with humans.”

There's a shimmer in the girl's eyes when she looks up to Teyla as she speaks.
“And it works?” she whispers. Spark nods with a gentle smile.
“I've never killed before.” she lets her know. “And if you don't want to kill, we can give you the same treatment. It will all be okay.”

“Why don't you introduce us to your father?” Teyla gently suggests.
The girl seems hesitant for a moment, her glance trails off to the heavily armed soldiers and Wraith.
“They'll stay here.” Spark quickly reacts. “Just her and me.”

'Tell Sheppard to request a second Jumper. I don't think this girl will want to travel in ours.' Spark asks of Seeker, who sighs audibly, and turns to address Sheppard.
The girl, blissfully unaware of the quick telepathic exchange, gets up and dusts her clothes off.

“Alright.” she says. “Alright.”
Teyla gives her a kind smile.
“Lead the way.” she asks, and the girl nods, turning around after one last worried glance to the group, and moves away.

She leads Teyla and Spark to a cave entrance, which she confidently ventures into, through a short tunnel, that ends with a wooden door in the stone. Warm light shimmers through the gaps between the planks, and she moves to open it.

“Ellia?” someone asks from inside, as the door swings open, and the girl enters.
“I brought guests, father.” the girl announces. “I met them out in the woods. They say, they're friends.”
She walks in, followed by Spark, and the elderly man inside immediately moves between her and his adopted daughter, staring wide-eyed at Spark, who immediately raises her hands defensively.

“It's fine. I mean no harm.” she says. “My name is Spark. I'm Queen of one of the first Hives that don't kill. We live in peaceful symbiosis with a human settlement on the planet of Delar.”
“She speaks the truth. Please.” Teyla adds, to calm the man's fear.

“We're tracking communication of a human people called the Genii. They're running experiments on Wraith, and seek to disrupt our work.” Spark continues. “They've led us here. At first we didn't know why this planet would be of interest to them, but with your daughter – Ellia, was it? ...They're likely aware of her, and want to capture her.”

“You-... You said you live in peace with humans?” the man asks.
“Yes, we do. We use a genetic treatment that makes the feeding process non-lethal and nearly painless.” Spark explains.
“I've been working on a way for Ellia to-...” The man puts his arm around her shoulders. “She doesn't want to hurt people, but she gets so hungry. My serum isn't working yet. I had to... help her. If what you say is true, I would like to request a dosage of-...”

“No, you need to come with us. The Genii will be here very soon. We came here to ambush them, because we know that they're on the way.” Spark interrupts him. “Ellia can live with us, on the planet my Hive is landed on. It's a thriving community, she'll be safe and happy there. And you can come too.”

“You no longer need to hide.” Teyla adds. “I have been to that planet. Wraith and humans pass each other on the street without a second glance. They form bonds and friendships, even. Please, take this offer.”

The man looks down to Ellia, still in his arms.
“Do you want to do this?” he softly asks her, and she looks past his shoulder, to Spark and Teyla.

“I think so.” she says.
“We have a ship waiting for you. You have time to pack your things, but please hurry. The Genii will be here soon.” Spark says. “The less contact you have to them, the happier you will be. Believe me, they will not hesitate to kill your father, and take you prisoner.”

“Does your ship have enough room for my laboratory equipment? I would like to continue my work on this planet.” the man requests.
“It should.” Teyla responds. “But please. Hurry.”

A few hours later, Spark sits in the first jumper, on its way to Delar, from their space Gate, flown by Sheppard. Ellia and her father are in the second Jumper, accompanied by Teyla who insisted on staying with her.

Seeker's mind touches hers, and she makes eye contact with him.
'Your mother will be very happy with how you handled this situation.' he tells her. “Not only did you prevent the Genii from getting what they want, you also recruited a potential new Queen.'

'I don't think Ellia is quite ready for that.' Spark counters.
'Of course not. But she is like you – compassionate and good-natured.' Seeker responds. 'She will want to help, once she gets to know us and our project. Unlike any other Queen, she will not need to be convinced of the Vaccine.'

Spark chews on her lower lip.
That's a thing that's been in the back of her head for quite some time now. The Alliance, the Primary. Other Queens who may not see things the way Horizon and herself do.

'Do you think we can keep this up long-term? What happens when you outlive Delilah?' she asks, and feels Seeker cringe away from the contact briefly.
'I can keep her alive indefinitely. I will not outlive her, as long as I live, so will she.' he declares. 'And as long as you and Horizon live, the idea of peace will live.'

'But the Primary... If she disapproves, our efforts will be-... She can destroy us, Seeker.'

Seeker raises his chin.
'She is no fool. If she sees the value in this, she will not stop us.' he argues.
'There's a reason you left her, isn't there? She's rash. Violent. My mother told me about her. She said-... She told me she wanted to do better than her, when she had me.' Spark says, feeling hesitation from Seeker.

'Vermillion is no bad Queen.' he admits. 'But she is a bad mother.'

Chapter Text

Chapter 5 – Love

“How is she?”
Spark is sitting by the team around John Sheppard in the mess hall of Atlantis, glancing past them to Ellia, who is with Zaddick, her foster father, at a table near the large windows.
Even though the Alliance has been in place for several months now, city residents still keep their distance, creating a big strip of empty tables around Spark.

“She has not spoken much.” Teyla responds. “I believe that all of this is quite overwhelming to her.”
“She's lived in a cave all her life.” John adds, and takes a bite from his sandwich. “Of course she's overwhelmed.”
“She has been given a dose of the vaccine, but she has refused to feed on those that offered themselves.” Teyla continues. “And she shys away from everyone. I have never witnessed a Wraith acting this way.”

“Ellia was brought up in hiding.” Spark tries to justify it. “She'd be acting very different had she been raised among her kin. This isn't normal for a Wraith her age.”
“How old is she, approximately?” Rodney McKay asks. “As old as you?”
“Probably, give or take a year.” Spark says. “I initially thought she was much younger than me, because her telepathic skills are much weaker than mine. But she already needs to feed, and I've started not too long ago. I would even say that she's a bit older than me.”

“You're sure you wanna stay in Atlantis until she's allowed to leave for Delar? We can fly her there too, you know.” John asks, and Spark shrugs half-heartedly.
“As long as she and Zaddick are quarantined for infectious diseases, yes.” she says. “I want her to know that I'm on her side. Staying here and being with her, even if it's from a distance, might help her trust me. Or get used to me, at the very least.”

“Little sister you never had?” Rodney quips, but Spark responds to that with a sly grin.
“I do have younger sisters.” she says. “You just weren't allowed to see them.”
“Wait-... really?”

“Of course, Dr. Mckay. Female Wraith are rare and very important for our species' survival. If course one single Queen would have more than one daughter.” Spark explains. “I just happen to be Horizon's eldest daughter, so I'm all out and about by myself.”

“I never expected a Queen to be this protective of her young.” Teyla admits. “It is... reminiscent of how human women care for their children.”
“All Queens are mothers. Love and care for our offspring is deeply ingrained into who we are.” Spark tells her. “We're kinder and sweeter among ourselves than you give us credit for.”
“Well. Up until recently, we've been food.” John remarks.
“But not anymore.” Spark immediately counters. “And never again.”

She catches a glimpse of Teyla smiling at her. A genuine smile, genuine affection. Spark feels warmth in the pit of her stomach.

It's getting late over the City of the Ancients when Spark eventually makes her way back to the guest quarters she's been given.
Her days in Atlantis consist of being sent from one laboratory to the next, through military stations and forward camps on the mainland, to, as Weir phrases it, normalize her people's presence in human lives.

Venah is busy on New-Athos, trading goods and workforce between the Athosians and Delarians, but she usually returns to their shared quarters earlier than Spark, as she returns to Atlantis by nightfall.
The shower is running when Spark steps into the room, and the bathroom door is open, the golden light falling into the starlit living area.

Spark kicks off her boots and lets herself fall onto the bed, her aching muscles relaxing after an day of being chased around town. A soft noise joins the sounds of running water, as Venah hums in the shower, causing a smile to appear on the young Queen's lips.

It takes her a couple more minutes, then the water shuts off, and Venah steps out of the bathroom, her short her dripping wet. She's wearing a fluffy, white bathrobe, and looks rather surprised upon seeing Spark.
“I didn't even hear you enter. The water was so loud, I'm not used to it.”
“No worries.” Spark says, without sitting up. “Had a long day. You?”
“Productive. But I was covered in dirt, so I figured I'd clean myself up before you get back.” Venah says, and sits down next to her.
Spark's sensory pits pick up the scent of lavender from her.

A brief pause, and a shift of weight on the matress tells Spark that Venah moved, having brought herself into a cross-legged position.
“You look exhausted.” she comments. “Do you need to-.... you know.” She offhandedly gestures to her collar area.
“I'm fine.” Spark assures her, truthfully, as she doesnt feel the pangs of hunger within herself yet. “Just mentally exhausted. I've been talking to so many people today.”
“This is different from home. The people are more suspicious of the Wraith.” Venah says and Spark sits up.
“Of course. They don't live with us, like your people do.” she justifies. “But you don't have to worry. No one's been cruel to me.”

Venah hums in agreement, and looks down for a moment.
“Spark, I-...” She exhales sharply and hesitates for a second. “We haven't had much time to talk recently, and I wasn't sure-... You know. What happened in the throne room, back home, before the thing with your mother happened.”
“Things have been turbulent, yes.” Spark responds, feeling a mixture of excitement and fear rise up in her. “I'm sorry if I made you feel like it didn't mean anything, because I never brought it up again, I just... haven't had occasion.”

“So... what does it mean, then?” Venah asks, and Spark takes her hand into hers, trailing her fingers along her palm, where her feeding slit would be, were she a Wraith.
“Ive been meaning to say this, but it carries a lot of weight, so I haven't yet, but...” She smiles briefly. “I wanted to ask you if you'd be my consort.”

“Your consort?” Venah parrots. “What would that entail?”
“Well... You'd have authority on my ship, and within the alliance. But you inofficially already do, so not much would change.” Spark explains. “I think the closest thing to compare it to would be marriage? Of course, there'd be some things we'd need to work around, since I can't have offspring with you, but... I just want to be with you, and I want everyone to know that we're together.”

While she was speaking, Venah's expression has become brighter and brighter. Her face almost seems to give off a light glow, from the joy that can't even be expressed with her features alone.
“You really mean it?” she asks, her voice cracking slightly and Spark grins.
“Of course I mean it, silly.” Spark teases, and inches closer to poke her nose with her own, playful in nature, but Venah has other plans.

She pulls her hand from Spark's, and uses both of hers to frame her face, pulling her closer, until her soft, warm lips press against hers. Spark makes a surprised noise, but leans against her, draping her arms around Venah's waist.
Their kiss deepens quickly, Spark tastes mint on Venah's tongue, and feels her giving way. Not having expected that, Spark tumbles over, suddenly straddling Venah's hips, with the human girl on her back underneath her, smirking up at her.
Spark feels the heat of a flush on her face, and breaks out into a gigglefit, Venah joining her shortly after.

“I never thought I'd call a Wraith adorable.” she admits, causing Spark to make a high-pitched sound, somewhere between a laugh and a chirp. Venah reaches out, and puts a stray strand of crimson red hair behind Spark's ear.
She sinks down and lightly nibbles on Venah's lower lip, while she cards her fingers through her hair.

“I also never thought I'd say this to a Wraith, or anyone really, but...” Venah continues, her voice low and hushed. “Spark, I love you.”
The words seem to travel down her spine, through her nerves, into every corner of her body.
“I'm so happy.” Spark whispers. “You make me so happy, Venah.”

Soft. Warm. Spark's sensory pits are able to pick up on a human's mood through smell; fear, joy and anger being the easiest to distinguish. Venah is a mess right now. The scent she gives off is strong, and makes Spark all giddy.

“I love you.” she repeats. “It feels good to say this, I love you. I love you!”
Spark smiles against the nape of her neck. Yes, she understands this. Too long has Venah kept her true self hidden, too long has she felt alienated among her own kind. That tension, that feeling they'd both experienced when she first fed on her, it pales in comparison to this.
She feels like a simple “I love you too” would not do her feelings justice, so she shifts and kisses her instead.

“Spark, I...” Venah says, once the kiss breaks, sounding a bit out of breath. “I want to-... I don't know. I've fantasized about... well, touching you, but it never really goes further than this, because I don't really... know what I'd do next. I want to, but I just don't... know.”

“How two women would be intimate?” Spark asks, genuinely surprised. “Don't they teach you that?”
“No? I mean... it's not normal on Delar why would they? I thought something was wrong with me most of my life...” Venah looks to the side, embarrassed.
“It's not. Really.” Spark counter, and taps her chin, enticing her to look back at her. “I wouldn't call it normal that you want to have sex with a Wraith, but it's also not normal for me to want a human.”

Venah coughs.
“You're... direct.” she comments.
“Why wouldn't I be? It's not a bad thing, why would I dance around saying what it is?” Spark responds, and Venah smiles weakly.
“I'm nervous, I'll admit, but... I do trust you. I mean, you've held my life in your hand before.” Venah takes a deep breath. “If you want to do this with me, I'll... just let you lead.”
Spark giggles briefly.
“Okay. But please keep in mind that I know theory, not practice. This is new for both of us.” she states.
Venah nods, her smile still lingering on her lips.

“Now. Just follow yout gut. What do you want to do, right now I mean?” Spark begins, trying her very best to sound alluring, but failing spectaculary, as evidenced by Venah's bursting into laughter. She grins and shuts her up with a peck on the lips.
Venah clears her throat and gets serious again.

“I want to see you. And I want to touch you.”she admits, and looks like she might explode, a deep flush darkening her cheeks.
Spark nods and unbuttons the light blouse she's wearing, then lets it fall off her shoulders. She wears nothing underneath, and the moonlight puts a silvery shine on her skin. Venah stares up at her, as if it's the first time she's seen a pair of breasts..
“Oh dear.” she whispers.
“Don't be shy.” Spark encourages her, completely endeared by her reaction. Venah sits up a little, and runs her hands down Spark's sides, her higher body temperature making the touch feel a lot more intense than it is. She actively stops herself from shivering, trying not to discourage Venah, as her hands trail back up over her ribs, shyly ghosting over her breasts.
They're small, fitting snugly into one hand, and Spark giggles a little, when Venah runs her thumb over one nipple.

The sensation has her flinching a little.
“Spark?” Venah asks, alarm in her voice, but Spark just shakes her head.
“I'm fine. Please, just... continue.”

Venah shifts, moves her hands to Spark's back, and traces the bone portrusions along her spine, exploring carefully, as if she fears hurting her.
“You're really pretty.” she mumbles, her lips pressed against her neck. Her breath tickles Spark a little. She discreetly shifts her hands between their bodies, and undoes the knot keeping Venah's bathrobe closed.
She backs off, and wiggles out of the fabric, Spark's glance gaining a hint of hunger, as Venah reveals her bare form underneath.
She looks softer than her, and rounder, the peaks on her breasts pink, as opposed to the darker green Spark's own nipples have. It feels nice, having one poke into her feeding slit when she lightly cups them.
Brief eye contact gives Spark wordless permission, and she flares the organ open. Having an foreign object inside the sensitive opening feels odd, but not unpleasant. Spark seals, and sucks lightly.

“Oh, goodness.” Venah whispers, and she grins.
“I know.” she hums, and adds a tiny “Oh!” when she feels Venah toying with her belt. Only fair, she presumes, since Venah is only dressed in a bathrobe, loosely draped around her hips.

“Is it okay if I touch you here?” Spark lightly taps against Venah's loins, and a brief tremble runs through her body.
“Do you want to?” Venah asks, now all sheepish again.
“Of course.” Spark responds gently. “I told you, I want you, didn't I?”

Venah nods slowly, moving further away from Spark, so she can fully rid herself of the robe, While Spark herself undoes her belt, and kicks the pants off her legs. Now, clad in only simple cloth panties, she sits in waiting.
There's dark hair in the triangle between Venah's legs, and she lies back down, anxiously looking past her knees, at Spark.
Holding eye contact, Spark trails her index finger up Venah's shin, pleased that her legs fall more apart, the further she goes. Once past her knee, a tiny mewl escapes Venah, and she presses her hands to her mouth, a smile shining in her eyes.
Spark giggles, while continuing her little journey upwards, on her inner thigh.

Past the dark her, Spark feels warmth, and moisture, slick tissue under the pads of her fingers, and she parts it. Venah is biting down on her lower lip, looking down at her.
“You okay?” she asks, and she nods vigorously, trying and failing to keep herself from bucking her hips against Spark's touch.
Spark exhales. Looks like she's actually doing this right. She inches a bit closer and angles her hand, while Venah's legs fall open for her.
The scent she picks up from her is very strong now, and Spark realizes that what she's been smelling the entire time was arousal.
Her index finger finds that little nub she's been searching for, and lightly rubs it.

Venah whimpers, and inches away a little.
“Sorry, I-... that hurt a bit.” she confessed and Spark nods dutifully.
“Okay. That's okay. I know how to fix that.” she assures her and gets up. “Stay where you are – I'll be right back.”

In a light jog, Spark hurries into the bathroom, losing her panties on the way, and snatches a bottle of body wash from the shower. Lavender-scented, she reads and snickers. Of course.

Venah follows her with her gaze when she returns.
“This'll feel a bit cold, but it'll feel good when I touch you, instead of hurting.” Spark announces, and pours a little of the soap on her fingertips. “May I?”
Spreading her legs again, Venah nods.

She flinches, as expected, when the cold gel hits her in that very sensitive area, but it quickly warms up on her body heat. This time, as Spark resumes the light, circling motion with her index- and middle finger, Venah doesn't whimper in pain.
Instead, she falls back into the pillows, and sucks in air sharply.

“Do you like that?” Spark asks, and only gets an appreciative. “Hnn.” from her lover.
In a stroke of genius, Spark hooks her arms around Venah's hips, and supports her weight, angling her upward. Then, she closes in, kissing her way up her inner thighs, deeply satisfied with the rapid pulse she feels under her skin.

Finally, she reaches her vulva, pressing a kiss onto her clitoris, then darting her tongue out to-...

“Ack! Ew! Pfflt!”
Spark sits up, vigorously wiping her tongue, while Venah curls up in laughter.

“Spark! The soap!” she calls out, sits up and wraps her arms around Spark's shoulders, who, in between spitting and retching, falls into her laughter.
“Look, I never said I was good at this!” she defends herself, already grinning again, and Venah kisses her temple.

“Oh Spark, what a mess we are.” she hums. “I love you.”
Despite the bitter taste on her tongue, Spark wouldn't change a thing about this situation, pulling venah closer, and sinking back into the sheets with her.
Her kisses quickly distract her from her taste, and their bare bodies pressing against each other takes away any embarrassment from her faux-pas.
Soon enough, each of the girls has her thigh between the other's legs, grinding lightly, humming an softly moaning against the other's lips.

Spark runs her hand through Venah's hair. This is going to be a very long night.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6 - Homecoming

Lastlight's control of the Dart feels entirely natural and effortless, as if the small ship was an extension of his body, his mind tightly woven into the interface.
At least there's that, he thinks, as he leans back in the pilot's seat comfortably, letting the Dart speed ahead.

He's in approach of a Spacegate, orbiting the second planet in the solar system the Hive is idling in. They've let him go, well aware that he stole a Dart and made it off the ship alone. There'd been a small fleet following him at a reasonable pace, but once he'd left the bay, they were nowhere to be seen.
A half-hearted attempt in stopping him. Just so they can claim they tried.

The Queen doesn't want him among her flock. Him leaving only saved her the trouble of disposing of him personally.
It should wound him, how easily he was disregarded, but he feels relief instead.

There is a place for him, but it wasn't there.

“Hey.” Spark uses the sweetest tone her voice is capable of, when she approaches Ellia, who is sitting by herself on a bench, outside by the pier. “I wanted to see how you were doing.”

Ellia's hands are clasped in her lap, and she looks down to her knees.
“They are scared of me, aren't they?” she counters with her own question, and Spark comes closer to sit down by her side.
“Probably. But that's okay. They're scared of me too.” she tells her, and makes Ellia look up to her for once.
“But... you seem happy.” she argues, and Spark gives her a little shrug.
“I know that it's not my fault.” she explains herself. “And they it's not personal. These humans have seen our people do horrible things, it's just normal that they'd be a little scared. But I know that if they knew me, as a person, it would be different.”

Ellia nods, and shifts her glance back down, remaining silent to that.
“Look,” Spark adds, feeling like it's her responsibility to cheer her up right now. “In three days, the quarantine will be over, and then you'll come to Delar with me. The people there have been living with us for months now. They're different, they're more used to us. Trust me, you'll feel a lot better there.”

“This girl you're with. She's from that planet, isn't she?” Ellia asks with genuine interest.
“Her name is Venah.” Spark responds. “She was the first human I made contact with on Delar.”
“She's always with you. Is she watching you?” she continues asking, probably equating Venah to the guards that shadow her.

Spark laughs.
“What? No. Venah and I are lovers.” she says, and watches Ellia's eyes go wide.
“She loves you?” she asks with awe in her voice, and Spark smiles at her.
“She's delarian.” she responds. “Courageous and powerful. Maybe you'll find someone too. Someone who sees past the slit on your hand.”

There's a glint in Ellia's eyes, and she inhales to speak, but is cut off by a Marine jogging onto the pier.

“Miss Spark?” he addresses her, and Spark cringes a little. “You're needed in the control room.”
“An emergency?” she asks, getting up from the bench, cursing that her and Ellia are currently the only Wraith on the base, making it impossible to get information by reaching out telepathically.

“I don't know, Miss, I was just told to come get you.” the Marine responds.
“Right.” Spark hums. “Oh, before I go? Drop the Miss. Just call me Spark.”

There's a small crowd in the control room, when Spark arrives.
“Finally.” Rodney greets her. “Look, we've picked up on an unidentified Wrath ship near the planet, so we initially got worried, but it's just a tiny Dart. It's been broadcasting a signal in an infinite loop to us, and after decoding it, it's... just your name.”

He motions her to the console he watches over, and shows her the text flowing over the display.
A tightness forms in Spark's stomach when she sees it, alternating between Ancient and Wraith script:


Her name, repeated endlessly.
“When did this reach you?” she asks, and Rodney shrugs.
“The signal is very weak, it took us a while to pick up on it.” he says. “Also, I don't know if it's because of the distance, but I'm not picking up any energy readings aside from the signal. It's as if the ship was on stand-by.”

“I have attempted to contact the pilot, but I received no response.” Teyla chimes in. “I cannot even say if this ship is controlled by anyone.”
“Dart's have a built-in lifepod function, that can put the pilot into a state similar to hibernation, should he find himself stranded.” Spark explains. “It's probably been sending for a while. Colonel Sheppard, I would really like to give it a look up close. If you wouldn't mind taking me there, that is.”

“Mh, the ship's in the gravitational pull of one of our moons.” Sheppard says. “Should be easy enough to get close and take some readings. Or... throw a tow line and drag it down on the planet.”
“Puddle jumpers can do that?”
“No. No they-... forget it.”

“Spark, how soon do you think one of the allied Hives can be here?” Elizabeth asks. “In case this is a scout, or as a rescue operation?”
“Hm.” Spark taps her lower lip with her index finger. “Your safest bet would be dialing Delar, and requesting one of the Cruisers in orbit to come here. That'd take them about a day in hyperspace.”

“I will do that, then. You can go with Col. Sheppard, to investigate.” Elizabeth says.
“I'll leave you Venah here.” Spark says, already on her way to follow Sheppard into the Jumper bay. “If there's any problems, refer to her.”

“Alright, buckle up, then.” John announces, with a faint sigh in his voice, side-eyeing Spark in the co-pilot's seat next to him. “Just... so I know, what do you plan on doing when we get there?”

Spark crosses her arms.
“Well, Teyla may have impressive telepathic skills, she's still human. If I get close enough, I might be able to pull the pilot into a state of awake again.” she explains. “Which will be a lot less taxing in closer range.”

“So, you wanna wake this guy? I mean, even if he's not out for blood, he's still gotta have a good reason to have went into hibernation, right?” he counters.
“Granted, yes. But I suspect that he only did that to make sure he can survive until his signal is picked up. Maybe he got injured, lost a lot of energy.”
“Or he's infected with some funky space disease, or covered in Iratus bugs, or both, and will die the moment you wake him?”

Spark snorts.
“I doubt that. Especially in combination.”
“Hey, I've seen some shit!” John justifies himself, as the Jumper lifts from the city.
“Well he did ask for me.” Spark argues.
“Yeah, in some creepy madness mantra. I'd be worried if I were you.”
“Aren't you glad you're not me, then?”

John shakes his head, and prepares to exit the atmosphere. Watching him operate the ship's controls for a while, Spark remains silent. For a few minutes, at least.

“Can I ask you something?” she then opens, and John raises his brows.

“When you weren't sure if your cellmate from Kolya's prison had survived giving you the chance to escape, did you feel bad about it?” Spark drops the bomb, and sees John tense noticably.
“Why'd you ask me that?” he mutters.
“Well, I wanted to know.” she says. “He did risk his life for you, after hurting you so much. You probably held a grudge, I was wondering if that changed anything.”

John wets his lips with his tongue, before he responds.
“Look, I know that this guy didn't want to hurt me out of spite, and I don't blame him for doing what he did, but that doesn't mean I wanna be best friends with him now. That whole thing was kinda traumatic, you know.”
“I wasn't asking if you wanted to be his friend now, I was asking if you felt guilty for having potentially left him to die.”

That came out a lot harsher than Spark had intended it to, but John doesn't seem too offended by it.
“Let's just say, I'd rather have him alive than dead.” he settles, and points at the screen. “We're almost there.”

Spark straightens her posture and looks at the ship coming into view, drifting lifelessly in the moon's orbit.
“No life signs. But that doesn't mean much with you guys, does it?” John reports.
“No, it doesn't. Can you keep the distance steady?” Spark asks.
“Will do, just... you take your time.”

She closes her eyes, and focuses on the presence she now clearly senses from the Dart. As expected, it's dormant, and feels weak under her grasp. She lets herself become completely numb to her surroundings, and feels for anomalies.

There's a lack of power in this Wraith's mind, and deep, grotesque scars, a jumble of memories, and images, blaring light, the heat of a solar storm flying past a large window.


She exhales sharply, and delves deeper.
There's images of faces she recognizes, Dr. Beckett, Seeker and Delilah, the sensation of sedatives, and terror of depersonalization. There's anger, outrage at the unfairness of his fate, there's the face of a Queen, looking down on him as if he was vermin.
Aside her own, another name repeated over and over, clinging to it desperately, the remainder of an identity, a life that's now in shambles.


Chapter Text

Chapter 7 - Queen

Spark's eyes snap open, and she finds John leaning forward, to get a look at her face.
“You alright?” he asks her, mildly concerned.

Spark nods, eyes locked on the Dart drifting idly in the moon's gravitational pull.
“It's Lastlight.” she reveals. “He came here alone, having fled his Hive, jumped through countless Gates to reach us. He knew Atlantis' coordinates, but not its address. He took the closest Gate, and flew the rest of the distance manually.”

John nods along.
“Okay. So far, so good. Why is he here?” he asks.
“He's here for me.” Spark answers, taking a deep breath to ease the feeling of dread in her chest. “This was the only way he could think of contacting me. The journey took him so long, was so taxing... he's starving to death. His signal was a distress call, surrendering himself to our mercy. He's completely helpless.”

“Well, shit.” John comments. “We can't get him to Atlantis without your cruiser. Do you think he'll last another day?”
“He's hibernating, so that does buy us some time.” Spark says. “Though, another option would be waking him, and getting him to land in the city himself. I could help him, once he does.”
“Spark, don't you think he'd have flown that distance in the first place instead of hanging around the moon, if he still had it in himself to control that ship?” John argues. “If you wake him, he might just die.”

She sighs, and sinks into her seat.
“You're right.” she admits through clenched teeth. “I just... really want to do something for him now.”

There's something sympathetic in John's eyes, when he looks at her.
“Y'know, sometimes I forget that you're a lot younger than me, relatively speaking.” he states. “Sitting here waiting sucks. But it's the best option for this poor guy. I know you wanna help, but... just sit tight, okay?”
“Then we came all the way out here for nothing.” Spark says, sounding a little like a stubborn child.
“Not true.” John counters. “We found out what his deal is. That's why you asked me to bring you here, didn't you?”
“I hoped I could do more than that, but...” She closes her eyes for a moment. “Let's just go back and report in.”

“Atta girl.” John teases, and has the jumper turn, and head back to Atlantis.

“...So basically, we have our hands tied until my fleet gets here.” Spark closes her report, frustration still very present in her voice.
“We did contact them immediately. They should be here by tomorrow.” Elizabeth responds. “I've also had Dr. Beckett prepare a room in the infirmary, for Lastlight to recover in. He's likely been through a lot, judging from what you told us.”

“He has.” Spark confirms. “Did you tell Delilah, when you contacted the planet?”
“She considered coming home through the Gate immediately, but I talked her out of it.” Elizabeth says. “She's still very much needed on Delar.”

Teyla gives her a lingering look, and Spark nods quickly, then gets up from her seat.
“Until tomorrow, we can do nothing but wait. Please keep an eye on the Dart, in case it moves.” she requests, and leaves the conference room, followed by Teyla.
Without saying a word, the two women step out onto the balcony; Teyla closes the door behind herself.

“What is it?” Spark asks, with her back to the rails. Teyla crosses her arms, and raises her chin.
“Lastlight did not take the Vaccine before he left us, did he?” she opens. “Tell me, what is your plan when he is recovered? You said he was on the brink of starvation.”

A cold shiver runs down Spark's spine when she pieces together what Teyla is covertly accusing her of.
“I won't let him hurt anyone, of course.”she quickly assures her. “If you must know, I plan to … feed him personally, before he gets the Vaccine. The incubation period would probably be his death sentence if I didn't.”

“Feed him?” Teyla parrots.
“You've... my mother gave you the Gift before, hasn't she? It works on Wraith too. We use it on those who are sick, or too weak to feed on their own. And Lastlight qualifies, doesn't he?”

The woman steps back, taken by surprise. For a split second, Spark swears she sees Teyla's neutral facade break, and an expression of guilt dominate her features.
“You surely understand my concern.” she then says, regaining composure. “I have experienced... being fed on. It is not pleasant.”

“Teyla, I am the child of this alliance. I am its heart.” Spark says, weighing each word carefully. “It wounds me that you would even consider the possibility of me allowing a human to come to harm.”

There's a beat of silence, in which Spark has to restrain herself from touching Teyla's mind. How she would have loved to peer into the depths of her consciousness, to comprehend her, but her respect holds her back.

“Can I trust you? Can I trust Horizon?” Teyla eventually speaks, her questions sounding more rethorical than anything else. “I welcome this development, I do, and I do try to support the peace movement. But I will be honest – my fear of the Wraith will never fade. I spent my life cowering under your shadow. How could I let that go?”

“My mother could have killed you, but she didn't.” Spark argues, feeling a crack in Teyla's emotional walls, something she intends to utilize. “She's mentored you, has she not? She wants to help you.”

“She claims, she does it out of a sense of responsibility.” Teyla adds. “It makes sense. That is not the problem. I have seen you and others of your kind perform great favors for this City, and my people. Rationally, I know that we are no longer enemies, but-...”

“Old wounds heal hard. Right?” Spark interrupts her. “Every Wraith except for me has killed people. And you lost people to us before, haven't you? I understand your predicament.”
“I can face you. I can speak with you, work with you.” Teyla says. “But I cannot trust you. What do you suggest I do? To avoid my personal feeling endangering this truce?”

Spark takes a step toward her, hands idly by her sides.
“I know that my mother already told you, you have every right to be angry and spiteful.” she tells her. “You are doing well, not letting this complicate our cooperation.”

“That is not why I brought this up.” Teyla says, not flinching one bit when Spark closes in. “I ask myself if I am... wronging you.”

This time, Spark causes a long break in the conversation, staring into Teyla's eyes. She swallows hard, and shakes her head.
“Teyla, I thank you for having this honest conversation with me.” she finally says. “But I don't think I have an answer for you.”

“I see.” Teyla responds, lingering for a moment, and then turning to return inside, leaving Spark alone with her thoughts.

Spark has watched the Cruiser fall out of Hyperspace, approach Lastlight's Dart with open hangar doors, scooping him up with ease. Now, the Cruiser is about to land near the City, and herself in a Puddle Jumper, next to John Sheppard, about to board the ship.

John still seems concerned with her, something she attributes to his previous statement of seeing her like a child. But this time, she spends the flight in silence, a mixture of fear and anticipation speeding up her pulse.

Only the sound of an incoming broadcast breaks the silence.
“This is Arch.” the transmission begins. “We have secured the Dart, but will avoid opening it until you arrive. We await you in the bay.”
“Copy that.” John responds briskly, and prepares to enter the ship.

The dark interior rushes past Spark's line of sight as the Jumper makes its way through the Cruiser's airlock, and approaches the small platform, on which a group of Wraith is gathered around the Dart.
Without much issue, John lands the vessel, and unseals the door.

“Are you not coming with me?” Spark asks, by the door.
“Right behind you.” John responds cheerily, overplaying his hesitation to step out into a Wraith ship without backup. Spark doesn't miss that.

They step out together, and Spark is immediately warmly greeted through the mental network, her young crew incredibly relieved to have their beloved Queen back. She returns the gestures half-heartedly, and steps up to the sealed Dart.

“Open it up.” she commands Arch, who now flanks her. John is leaning against the Jumper, deliberately keeping a healthy distance from the Wraith.

The Dart's inner workings are exposed, a plate of thick carapace lifted off the vessel, and Arch reaches into the open wound, tugging on a strand of cables.
The canopy over the cockpit dissolves abruptly, as Arch cuts power to the area. Simultaneously, the program responsible for hibernation shuts down.

Lastlight inhales sharply, like a drowning man breaking through the water surface, flails helplessly, and takes hold of cockpit's edges, disoriented and terrified.
He looks awful.
His cheeks are sunken, and his skin has a grey tint, starvation and mental strain having taken its toll on him. When his bloodshot eyes focus Spark, his expression lights up.

“I made it.” he croaks, making a feeble attempt in sitting up, just to sink back into the seat.
“Don't move. You're dying.” Spark tells him, and climbs up to him, sits down on the edge of the cockpit.

His lips tremble, face to face with her.
“You reached out to me as a last-ditch effort.” Spark says. “Do you trust me with you life, Lastlight?”
“What choice do I have?” he responds with a weak smile, desperation mixing with his sharp sense of humor.

Spark raises her feeding hand, and flares the organ open for him to see.
“Open your coat.” she asks of him, and he obeys, after having his gaze transfixed on her hand for a heartbeat's worth of time.
“You would do this...?” he whispers, his hands too shaky to undo the zipper on his chest. Spark pushes his hands away, and does it for him.

Then, she gingerly places her hand onto his exposed skin, and drives her stinger into it. Lastlight's eyes widen, when she connects to him, feeling the last remains of life within him straining against her grip.
Not his fault, she knows. It's raw instinct, the drive for self-preservation.
This poor man is so close to death, closer than Kolya's prisoner.

'She didn't let you feed, did she?' Spark asks him silently, while catching his life in her palm, melding it with her own, then feeding it back into him.

Lastlight's hands jolt up, locking around her wrist and layering over her hand, pressing it harder against him, as Spark lets her power fill his cells.
His eyes snap shut, and he arches, while Spark feels his heart beat with more strength now, every breath underlining his hunger for life, his will to continue on, to be alive.

Finally, she feels his mind respond to her touch, as powerful as an adult male's mind should be, no longer limited by hunger and fear. No more shame, no more isolation.

What she sees before her, writhing under her hand, is not just her effort to save a life. No, it's rebirth, Lastlight, breaking from the chains of what had been done to him, Lastlight, returning to who he truly is.
Wraith, under a Queens protection, cherished with the unconditional love that could only exist between her and her crew.

As Spark lets the flow of life diminish, Lastlight, like a child, speaks his first true words to her:

'My Queen.'

Chapter Text

Chapter 8 – Sateda

The air feels heavy with soot and ashes. Every step Ronon takes through this ruined city he once called home is heavy and labored.
A painful mixture of grief and rage burns in his chest, as his gaze travels over the broken buildings, the remains of a great civilization, silent witnesses to the horrors this planet has seen.

He's alone again, but this time, there is no escape.

Shortly after he'd left Delar, he'd run right into their trap. A village, hellbent on delivering him to the Wraith again, and there was nothing he could have done. Now he's here, a subspace transmitter implanted into his body, left to fend for himself on a destroyed planet, to be hunted for sport once again.
The Stargate is unusable. He has no way of leaving Sateda again.

Not that he'd want to.
As Ronon walks the empty streets of his home, he feels a grim determination forming within his mind. If he is to die, he will die here, where he was born. And he will die fighting. Take as many Wraith with him as he possibly can.

He kicks the door to one of the many weapon stashes open. A supply depot, during the siege on Sateda. As he arms himself with anything he can find, he feels like the last defender of this dead world. The last satedan warrior.

There's a breastplate, roughly his size, a shotgun, a few utility knives. He takes as many medical supplies as he finds; he will need them if he wants to outlast the Wraith for a significant portion of time.

A noise behind him catches his attention. Footsteps.
Ronon grits his teeth. The hunt is on.

The first hunter is down, his head blown clean off by a point-blank shot with one of those horrible guns. The human has a splatter of blood across his face, and grim satisfaction in his expression.
Porcelain steps away from the screen, feeling nauseous.

'Worry not. He will not get away again.' says her father, barely looking away from the feed. He's sitting on the very edge of the throne, tense with excitement.
'If you want to kill him, just do it already.' she responds bitterly. 'This is a waste of time, lives and resources.'

His eyes narrow.
'He deserves to suffer.' he says. 'Remember, I am doing this for you.'
'Are you? I never asked for this.' Porcelain doesn't fear her father's wrath, like the rest of the Hive does. She is the one person he would never harm.

Her glance focuses on the screen again, watching the human ascending the stairs of a tall building, to gain the high ground.
'He never hurt me.' she attempts to reason, but her father's mind feels like a stone wall.
'He would, if he had the chance.' he counters. 'Sit down and watch. This is your revenge.'
'I do not want this.' she states again, and walks right through the holographic image, distorting it.

Her father growls behind her, as she leaves the throne room.

The Hive's halls are concerningsly empty. How many Blades is her father going to send after this man? Has this crew not suffered enough?
Porcelain is young, but old enough to assume her throne. Yet, she was never allowed to, her father, the Blade by the name of Force taking the throne after her mother had died, leading her people as a 'Hive King', as absurd as this concept may be.

Vengeance is his only objective. Not expansion, not survival. Just bloodshed for something he believes to be righteous.
This has gone on for far too long.

Porcelain turns and enters her room, switching on the same holographic feed as in the throne room. She wishes to observe, but not with her father's commentary.
As the man duels another Blade, she takes out her tablet, and opens communications on it.

The screen flickers, and a familiar face appears on it.
“Porcelain.” greets her fellow Queen, a friendly glint in her eyes.
“Spark.” she greets back. “I need your help. The time has come to end Force's reign of terror.”

Spark's face shows an expression of surprise.
“He took the Runner you saved.” Porcelain elaborates, and turns the tablet so that Spark can see the holographic surveillance feed.
“Ronon.” Spark states, her voice taking a glum tone. “Is this happening at your coordinates?”
“Yes. We are orbiting the planet. How soon can you reach me?” Porcelain inquires.

There's a brief pause.
“Try to keep him alive for as long as you can. I will send help.”
Spark cuts the connection, leaving Porcelain to stare blankly at the empty screen.

Hours pass, and the hunt gains speed. More and more of them at a time, and Ronon finds himself running out of supplies.
Just as he sees another squad entering the building below, he realizes that he's out of ammunition, having reached into the ammo box he brought, and finding it empty.

Knives, then. Up close and personal.
Ronon has no fear. The idea of facing them like this actually excites him. He spins the blade in his hand, and gets up.
He steps over some rubble, and descends into the stairwell, jogging down the stairs, only pausing when he starts hearing the Wraith come up from below.

There's five of them, he counted them when they first entered. He can take them. He's fought in worse conditions before
Ronon speeds up, catching the group off guard.
There's no time for hesitation; he jams his knife into the first one's face, hitting him in the eye. Massive trauma to the brain, an instant kill. He's learned this – Wraith can recover from many wounds, but blows to the head are more difficult.

A stun blast whisks past his ear, and his next hit is parried with a claw. Ronon lashes out with his other blade, slashing his opponent across the face. He growls, as the long cut mends, but Ronon did manage to take out his eye. It reforms in its socket, but a lot slower than the skin.

Taking advantage of the Wraith's temporary lack of depth perception, Ronon rips his knife from his hand, and jolts forward, cleanly slitting his throat, then giving him a kick to the chest.
The Wraith stumbles backward blood gushing from his neck, causing his companions behind him to lose balance too.
They can only fight him one at a time, the stairwell is too narrow for them to pass each other.
Ronon exploits the brief chaos to assault the next in line, leveling his knife into his eye socket, then grabbing the following one by the collar, slamming him into the railings.

There's an ugly cracking noise, as his neck snaps.

The next thing Ronon feels is a hard blow to the chest, stinging pain searing through his body, then claws on his neck.
The last survivor has him by the throat, lifting him off his feet, feeding hand pulled back, ready to attack.
Ronon gags, and kicks the Wraith in the knees, causing them both to fall down the stairs. They struggle during the fall, and then they finally reach level ground, Ronon has the upper hand, driving his second knife into the Wraith's neck.

He crawls away from the body and leans against the wall, breathing heavily. Reaching under his breastplate, he applies pressure to the pain's epicenter, deducing that he must have a few broken ribs. The metallic taste in his mouth heralds nothing good; one of the ribs likely perforated his lungs.

Just as he begins to wonder how he could patch himself up, another set of footsteps alerts him. Faster and lighter than the hunters.
He grits his teeth. The only thing he has to defend himself is a knife, barely out of reach, and slippery with blood.

What eventually turns the corner to face him isn't exactly what he expects.

It's a girl, shorter than him, and much smaller in stature. But Ronon's brief struggle with Spark taught him not to judge a Wraith by their physical form, as she had a similar body type, and matched him in raw strength.
She looks out of breath, like she ran for a long time.

“You're wounded.” she states. “But you survived this.”
He glares at her, his entire body tense, ready to defend himself with what strength he has left.
“Please. I am here to help.” she continues. “Queen Spark is on her way here. I asked her for aid, but when I saw you fight, I could not sit idly any longer. If another group finds you, you will die.”

“You know Spark.” he rasps, and the Wraith nods.
“My father did this to you. Spark and I are looking to overthrow his reign.” she explains, and Ronon finds himself conflicted.
Spark is somewhat trustworthy. He's seen her work, and genuinely believes her intent to be good. If this one works with her...

“Your father.” he parrots her.
“Yes. Many years ago, I was taken prisoner by a satedan man. My father was in control of my Hive at this point, because I was too young to take my throne. So, he... did all of this.” She gestures to the ruined building they reside in. “You're the last survivor. If you die, his vengeance will be done.”

She takes a few cautious steps toward him.
“I have already tolerated too much. I won't let him finish this.”

Ronon feels spent. He should probably care that his people hurt a child, even if it was a Wraith child, but he's exhausted, in pain and still furious at them as a whole. So he just nods slowly.
“If you allow me, I will heal your wounds.” she offers, splaying her feeding hand open. A rush of adrenaline shakes Ronon awake to reality.

“No!” he protests, but quickly calms down when he sees the startled expression on her face. “I've got supplies upstairs. Just bring them to me.”
She hesitates, but eventually obliges, hurrying up the stairs.

Ronon exhales shakily, trying not to strain his injured lungs too much. The idea that he may get out of this alive is threatening his resolve to die.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9 – Retribution

Ronon doesn't allow the girl to touch him, crudely ripping the supplies she brought from her hands. It aches badly when he sits up to bandage himself.
No doubt, he has broken several ribs. Breathing hurts and takes a lot more effort than usual. He stuffs some of the fabric between the breastplate he looted from the armories, to cushion himself from possible sharp blows to the torso.
Porcelain watches him as he gets to his feet again, and starts collecting his scattered weapons.

“You said you're here to help.” he addresses her, sheathing a dagger in his belt.
“You refused my Gift of Life-...” she begins sheepishly, but Ronon interrupts her.
“Is there anything else you can do?” he barks at her, surprised to see her shrink away.
“The troops won't heed my command...” Her voice trails off, then her eyes light up. “I may have an idea!”
“What?” he inquires, warily watching her hurry to one of the two windows.

“When did you shoot down the last surveillance drone that followed you?” she asks him and he shrugs.
“Couple of hours ago. Why?” he responds.
Porcelain turns toward him again.
“We'll let the the next one that finds us carry a message.” she states. “We'll need some rope...”
Ronon follows her, as she begins ascending the staircase, leading to his previous vantage point.
“Here's what you do: You'll tie me up with whatever we have around, and once the surveillance drone comes around...” She looks over her shoulder. “My father is fiercely protective of me. If you threaten to kill me, he will come down personally to face you. The difficult part is just to make him come alone.”

There's a very obvious tremble in Porcelain's voice, but she stands tall. Ronon opens his mouth to speak, but she is faster.
“You best tie me up right away. Once the drone arrives, you won't have much time.” she says, and crosses her arms behind her back. “Like this.”
Ronon nods slowly and collects whatever he can find – zipties, hempen rope, bandages. He sees Porcelain tense up when he approaches to prepare her.
Her skin feels cool and smooth. Ronon catches himself leaving the bonds loose by default, to avoid hurting her. For some ungodly reason.
“Sit down.” he commands and she sinks to the ground, a little wobbly now that she doesn't have her hands to stabilize.
Ronon straps her ankles together with the zipties, then steps away.

“Now what?” he asks, looking down on the functionally helpless Wraith.
“Now we wait for the surveillance drone to pick up your tracking signal.” Porcelain says. “And then, you put one of those knives to my throat and spew some profane threats. I'm sure you can do that.”
Ronon huffs in response, turns away, and leans on the windowsill.

His ribcage still hurts, a dull throb through his entire upper body, but he's confident enough that he'll be able to fight. At least when rage-induced adrenaline kicks in.
It's silent and he feels like this silence heralds a storm. Now that he's no longer in direct mortal danger, he begins wondering about Porcelain's true intentions.
He can see her in his peripheral vision, sitting there all tied up and vulnerable.

“You want your Hive back.” he eventually speaks. His accusing tone produces a defensive reaction from her.
“Of course I want my Hive back. My father has done nothing but cause chaos and destruction during his reign!” she responds, the sharpness of her voice undermined by her helpless position.
“What're you gonna do when you're in control again?” Ronon asks. “Go back to normal?”
“I don't want to be the way Wraith normally are, if that is what you mean.” she replies. “I heard my father speak of Spark's efforts. He descibes it as a child's foolish ambition. I saw more than that.”
“You wanna join her, then?” That, Ronon can support. Spark feels more human to him than any Wraith he's ever encountered and since she has something to back her words, Porcelain's proclamation carries weight for him.
“I do. I cannot imagine that no one is in direct opposition to her.” Porcelain says. “Soon enough, she will need any support she can get.”
“The Wraith are gonna attack her?” he concludes from that, and Porcelain nods.
“We're surprisingly eager to unite against a mutual enemy, you know. And someone who threatens the status quo is an enemy.” Porcelain pauses. “If anything, I have learned that humans can be just like us. Full of cruelty and intrigue. There are many things I overheard during my captivity on this planet. Curious how that makes me want to help you.”

There's a pause. Ronon has no idea how to respond to that, so he just resorts to searching the skies for a drone again.

“Once my father falls, the crew will bow to me.” Porcelain breaks the brief silence. “They obey him because they fear him. I will be the only option to succeed his reign. And my conspiracy to kill him will determine me worthy of the throne.”
“Hm.” he huffs in response.
“I understand that you will want to exact vengeance personally?” she asks him, her head cocked to the side.
“Yeah. I do.” Ronon replies.
“I will interfere if you appear to be losing the battle.” Porcelain assures him. “But vengenace will ultimately be yours to carry out. I will not take that from you.”
“You better not.” Ronon grunts, but there's a sense of understanding between them for this moment.

Whether or not Porcelain was going to reply remains a mystery, as a small object whirs past Ronon into the room, circling him in observation. He recognizes it as the drone they are waiting for, having shot down countless of them during his years as a runner.
He walks toward it, pulling his dagger, and crouches down next to Porcelain.

“Know who this is?” he snarls at the drone, seeing it lower to give its master a better look at the situation. Ronon grabs a fistful of Porcelain's hair, and pulls her her back, then presses the blade against her exposed throat. “Want her to die for what you did to my people?”
Porcelain whimpers convincingly, and Ronon yanks on her hair.
“I wanna see blood for Sateda. You know that. Question is just...” He pauses dramatically and drags the dull, flat side of the dagger along Porcelain's cheek. “...yours or hers? Get down here and face me. Keep hiding on your ship, and the girl dies.”
He notices Porcelain keeping her gaze locked on the drone's camera lens as he talks. Her lips form the word “Please”.

“You got an hour.” Ronon says and stands up, shoving Porcelain aside crudely. He grabs the drone, slams it on the ground and stomps on it.

Porcelains rids herself of her loose ties and rips the ziptie off her legs.
“That was very convincing.” she praises him. “I almost believed you were genuinely going to kill me.”
Ronon snorts humorlessly.
“Doesn't take much. I hate Wraith.” he says and puts his weapon away. “You think he bought it?”
“He probably already stopped thinking rationally when he saw me.” Porcelain admits. “We should go outside and wait there. He won't be long.” A brief pause, in which she gives him a stern, inquisitive look. “Can you fight?”

“I'm fine.” Ronon lies, stubbornly ignoring the pain. “Fine enough to rip your father apart.”
“If you underestimate him, you will lose.” Porcelain warns, as she follows him downstairs. “He has just as much passion for this fight as you do.”
He chooses not to respond to that.

They step out of the building, into the golden shine of Sateda's sun setting behind the ruins of the city. Ronon inhales fresh air, pulls his blade and spins it in his hand.
For a second, he forgets the young Queen at his side and her plot to rise back to power. Today, he will spill the blood of the Wraith that ended his world and his life as he knew it.
One final confrontation with his enemy, the ultimate evil, honest and real, man against man.

Victory or death.
This fight will set him free, regardless of its outcome.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10 – Victory or Death

Ronon sees the Dart approaching the city in a smooth curve, sweeping over him and Porcelain. It shines a dematerization beam down on the ground and takes off again, without even slowing down.
There's a jolt of adrenaline when Ronon lays eyes upon the hulking silhouette of his adversary as the whirring sounds of the ship fade.

He has his upper lip pulled back, baring teeth in a never-fading snarl. His leathers are tattered and filthy, pieces of metal plating on his upper body disrupting the unity of how outfit. Finding himself comparing the Wraith to those he's seen on Delar, Ronon begins understanding Porcelain's motives.
Not only did her father usurp her, he also subverts everything a male Wraith is supposed to be. An outlier to their culture.
The Wraith raises his chin and curls his fingers into claws.
“Stay behind me.” says Ronon and steps away from Porcelain, toward her father who keeps his glance focused on him, like a predator stalking its prey.

There's a surge of anger in Ronon's heart when he looks upon this Wraith standing within the ruins of his home without a hint of regret or shame for what he has done. Ignoring the flash of pain, Ronon slams his fist against the left side of his chest, a battle cry echoing through the empty streets as he charges at his adversary.
He's stopped by a fist to the abdomen, an ugly cracking noise telling him that this likely didn't improve his physical condition, while the Wraith grabs him by the collar and lifts him up.
Ronon manages to reach for his dagger and jam it into his enemy's side. The blade slips between the armor plates and Ronon can feel it finding purchase between two ribs.

The Wraith cries out in pain, drops Ronon and plucks the dagger from his side. Ronon uses that time to get back on his feet and assume a proper combat stance. When the Wraith comes for him again, he's ready.
He claws at his neck, but Ronon is quick enough to deflect the blow by slamming the back of his arm against his wrist. The Wraith is thrown off balance briefly, and Ronon manages to land a hit in his face. Bone breaks under the force of his blow and the faint herald of pain shoots up Ronon's arm.
There's no time to falter.
Ronon pulls back and punches the Wraith again, making use of every second he has before his adversary regains composure. When he finally does, he retaliates with an uppercut to sharp, it sends Ronon flying.

He scrambles to his feet and looks up. The Wraith has multiple slowly fading bruises on his face, with dark blood trickling down his chin from his flaring nostrils.
There are also red smears on his face, and a quick glance to his own hands reveals that Ronon's knuckles are bloody and open.
His gaze flickers to the discarded dagger on the ground. If he's quick, he might make it there...

Ronon's attempt to retrieve it is cut short by the Wraith bullrushing him into the next best wall. The impact has Ronon gasping and the metallic taste in his mouth is back. Before he can gather himself, the Wraith locks his hand around Ronon's throat, claws digging into his skin.
There's an expression of raw anger on his features when his feeding hand pulls back, while the edges of Ronon's vision blur.

The expected pain never comes.

The Wraith freezes, as something hits him in the back. He snarls, and looks over his shoulder, loosening the grip around Ronon's neck just enough for him to punch him in the throat. Ronon gives the staggering Wraith a kick to gain distance to him, and attempts to keep himself upright in spite of his injuries.
Now that he's further away, he can tell what diverted the Wraith's attention.
Porcelain has moved, now standing in the middle of their battlefield with a grim look of determination on her face. Ronon's dagger is embedded into her father's back.
There's a moment of eye contact between the two, while Ronon's knees give out under his weight. The noise of him hitting the ground has the Wraith turning around to him.
He closes in, feeding hand flexing, very much ready to end this already, Ronon sees Porcelain hurry to catch up.
She yanks her father back by his shoulder, and slams her feeding hand on his chest.

The inhuman cry of pain triggers a sense of nausea on Ronon and he watches the Wraith sink to his knees under the lock of Porcelain's hand robbing him of life. She bends down with him, reaching over his shoulder and pulling the dagger from his back with her off hand.
The entire time, there's intense eye contact between the two Wraith, the scream having died down to a weak rattling of breath.

Porcelain lowers her dying father to the ground, supporting his head like one would do with a baby, and lets go of him.
She straightens her back, then turns to Ronon, dagger in hand. Without a word, she crouches beside him and helps him up, placing the weapon in his hand.
Ronon stares straight ahead as she helps him over to the dying Wraith, gritting his teeth when Porcelain lets him sink down to the ground again.

The Wraith looks at him, a mixture of fear and sadness in his eyes, aware of his daughter's betrayal and his impeding death. For a few seconds, Ronon relishes that expression.
Then, he winds up and levels the dagger into the Wraith's right eye socket.
A stir goes through his body, then he falls entirely limp, defeated in the dirt next to Ronon, at his daughter's feet.

“You kept your word.” Ronon croaks, when he finds it in himself to speak again.
Porcelain, who had been looking up at the sky for the past few minutes, shifts her attention to him again and simply nods.
Her jaw looks clenched and her bloodied feeding hand is shaking with tension, dark blood dripping from in between her fingers.

“Will you let me heal you now?” Porcelain asks him, sounding hollow and Ronon looks down on himself.
Several broken ribs, made worse by the fight, bruises, claw marks, probably internal bleeding.
“Fine.” he says. “Fine.”
Porcelain steps over her father's body and kneels down by his side, pushing obstructing fabric away and placing her palm on Ronon's chest.
The urge to swipe her hand away is strong in him, but he resists it. Her hand is still wet with blood, and Ronon excuses himself with the fact that it'll be the Wraith's life she'll be filling him with.

The lock of her enzyme has him freezing, holding his breath, before the slow trickle of life enters his system.
Initially, it feels like a numb limb slowly regaining feeling, followed by a wave of heat and coldness alternating. His head spins as the euphoria hits but he doesn't get to savour it much.
There's a pressure on his chest, the rhythm of hot and cold blurring, until his vision goes blank.

When Ronon regains consciousness, he's no longer on the planet.
His body feels whole, painless and clean. He doesn't need to look around much to realize that he's on a Hiveship.
For a split second, his fight-or-flight instincts flare up, but are quickly calmed by a familiar voice.

“You're awake.” states Porcelain at his side.
“What the fuck happened?” he crudely asks, but the swear word doesn't seem to bother her.
“You passed out when I healed you.” she says. “While you were out cold, I arranged for everything with the crew. They're under my control now, and we're headed straight for Spark's coordinates.”
The sense of impeding doom lessens somewhat and Ronon sits up.

He's in a large room with several items of surprisingly human looking furniture. There's a writing desk, chairs, mirrors, gaming tables. He himself is resting in a pile of pillows and blankets, arranged in the northmost corner of the room, beside a large window into hyperspace.
Porcelain's voice draws his attention again.

“I do hope that my... interference did not take the glory from your revenge.” she says.
Ronon returns her glance, briefly recalling the final expression of terror on her father's face, then shakes his head.
“You didn't wanna do it. I saw it on your face.” he accuses her.
“He was my father.” she responds, her voice sounding distant. “I loved him. But I understand that he needed to die.”

She turns away from him and looks out the window.
“Now we're both free of him.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 11 – Reunions

Moon's attention is drawn by a signal on the Hive's long range sensors. His eyes narrow briefly, as he focuses his screen on it, to investigate.
The young Blade has only recently been appointed as Queen Spark's Hivemaster, the official second in command after Quickwit. Tensions among the crew are still high, as the male Wraith compete for Spark's attention.
But Moon considers himself her peer more than anything, and at least gives himself credit in understanding how she thinks. Competence, reliability. Qualities he's shown during the crisis, when the Queen's mother had been taken prisoner.

Still, this fills him with a surge on anxiety. The signal he's picked up on is another Hive, right on its course to the planet.
Three cruisers in orbit and a handful of darts on patrol, plus a landed Hive that may be able to fight, but maneuvering it into orbit would take time and effort.
Moon grits his teeth. He doesn't want to cause a false alarm and reveal the planet's condition to possible enemies. His presence hovers near Spark's, feeling her reach out to him. He keeps himself vague, not willing to unnecessarily distress his Queen.
Another signal catches his eye, a communication prompt, which Moon immediately accepts.

The image of a young Queen fills the holographic screen, frail but with an air of authority around her. She raises her chin when she sees Moon, and snarls.
“Where is your Queen?” she demands, and Moon feels himself shrinking away from the screen involuntarily.
Forcing himself to stand tall, he returns her cold glance.
“Who asks this?” he fires back. “I will not disturb my Queen without reason. You understand, I hope.”
“There is a matter to be discussed only Queen to Queen.” she reveals, not letting Moon see a single crack in her demeanor. “I am Queen Porcelain of the Noxious. Your Queen will know my name.”

“Just tell Spark to come.” That's a different voice. Moon's unspoken question is answered as soon as another figure steps into the frame, casually pushing the Queen aside to make room for himself.
It's a human, rugged and covered in half-healed wounds. Moon recognizes him.
“You!” he snaps. “You left the planet-... How-...?”
“Long story. Go get Spark, and I'll tell you.” the man cuts him off.

A matter of minutes later, Spark comes running onto the bridge on Moon's telepathic cue, followed by her human consort, Venah.
“Porcelain!” she calls out, her cheery nature completely taking the edge of the situation. “I suppose I can tell my mother to call her troops back, then?”
Porcelain lowers her head.
“Your friend Ronon and I dealt with the situation ourselves.” she says. “But I appreciate your willingness to help. May we land?”
Ronon pulls a face upon being referred to as Spark's friend, but Spark doesn't pay that much heed.
“Please do. I will send a dart escort to assist you in the landing process.” Spark says, and Moon feels her coordinate said escort as she speaks. “My consort Venah welcome you to my Hive, once you land. I would like to meet you in person at last.” Spark pauses, smiles and continues: “Besides, I believe Ronon and I have some things to discuss.”
“Very well.” says Porcelain and the connection cuts.

Moon shoots the two women a concerned glance.
“My Queen?” he asks sheepishly.
“Worry not, Moon. I knew about this. We are in no danger.” Spark touches his sleeve as she speaks, and the brief skin contact floods Moon's mind with reassurance.
She turns and leaves, but her consort remains. Venah gives him a weak smile.
“Want to come with me to escort them?” she offers, obviously a bonding attempt. Moon had noticed her trying harder to interact with the crew since Spark named her consort.
“If you'll have me.” Moon responds, meeting her with exactly as much respect as he would address any Queen's consort with.

They leave the Hive together, and once Venah steps out of the gloomy halls of the ship into the delarian night, she speaks up again.
“I wanted to talk to you, and now that I have the opportunity to, I will.” She sounds sympathetic enough, Moon concludes and elects not to panic just yet.
“Yes?” he asks, and Venah stops in her tracks.
“Look, I've spoken to the Commander.” she reveals. “I know that you were hoping for Spark's... affections before I became part of the equation.”
Moon swallows hard. She's right.
Even though it'd normally be the Commander of a Hive who is named consort, Moon had gotten his hopes up, since Quickwit is much too old to even be considered by the young Queen. He had courted her for the brief period between her becoming his Queen, and Venah taking the spot as consort.
He takes a good minute to weigh his words.

“My Queen will always have my love.” he finally begins. “That is how our society functions. Through devotion and love. But I would not be worthy of being Queen Spark's Blade if I did not respect her choices. I would have accepted a Wraith consort. It would go against the nature of our alliance if I did not accept a human one.”
Venah bats her eyes and smiles.
“That's a relief.” she says. “I know that I have responsibilites with this new position Spark's given to me. I wouldn't want any bad blood between us.”
“You are my superior now.” Moon states, then allows his tone to soften. “Besides, our love for the Queen is something we have in common. I see no reason for 'bad blood' over that.”
“I guess I have much to learn about Wraith.” Venah says, and begins walking again. “Among humans, this would have lead to a lot of conflict.”
“I am not human.” Moon simply responds, eliciting a chuckle from Venah.
“I get that. Let's go get our new friends, shall we?” she suggests, and Moon catches up with her.

John honestly doesn't know what to expect when he rings the doorbell, or rather, swipes his hand over the faintly glowing sensor embedded into the Hive's wall.
A brief silence follows, then the doors open to an expression of genuine surprise on the Wraith's face.
“Sheppard.” he greets. “I admit, I did not expect to see you again.”
John exhales sharply.
“Felt right to come see you. Can I come in?” he asks, and the Wraith steps aside, making an inviting gesture toward him.
John follows the invitation and moves past him into the room.
It's rather empty, only a few pieces of furniture and a large window into the woods Spark's Hive is landed in. He spots something akin to a dice game on the table fixed to the windowsill.

“Pretty bleak.” he comments.
“I have lost most of my personal belongings during my time as Kolya's prisoner.” the Wraith excuses his lack of personalized space
“Huh. Guess that makes sense.” John takes a few aimless steps into the room, and turns around to face the Wraith, who is still by the door. “Look, I wanted to thank you. For, y'know. Risking your life so I could get away.”
“Hm.” the Wraith huffs, in wordless acknowledgement.
“And like, y'know... for working with me. And the intel you gave to Spark. In general, just, thanks for all of that.” John clears his throat, and looks at the wall. The lack of response from the Wraith is making this a lot more awkward than it should be.
“So, like...” he continues. “The whole thing's made me reconsider my stance on a few things. The Alliance and everything. Originally, even though I'm in ful support of the Vaccine, I never wanted myself or any of my team to take it. Because of that whole 'Humans are food' thing that's been prevalent in this Galaxy. The Wraith killed lots of good people ever since we got here. Maybe I hold a grudge. I dunno.”

The Wraith angles his head as he listens.
“And your perceptions of my kind shifted because of your experience with me?” he finally speaks.
“Well, not from the whole torture part. That was awful.” John insists. “But,... I dunno. When we talked in the cells, you never seemed to talk from above, you know? You weren't an apex predator talking to prey. You were a prisoner talking to another prisoner. I didn't expect that.”
John pauses, and dares to give the Wraith a look. There's a deeply pensive expression on his face, and John shifts uncomfortably.
“I guess it put things into perspective? I don't wanna admit that I, uh, generalized your kind, but even without influence from someone like Spark or Horizon, you spoke to me as an equal. And then, you almost died for me. So that was a thing that happened.” John fears falling into rambling, but he pushes through that. “So yeah. Thanks.”

“I am relieved my actions could change your preconceived notions somewhat.” the Wraith responds.
“They did. Also.” He pauses again, seeking eye contact. “I took the Vaccine. And like. I'm not sure how to phrase this, but... When you fed on me, I felt like I was going to die. And according to the delari people, that's not how it's supposed to be like. I mean, you could say we got off to a bad start. I can't believe I'm saying that, but, uh...”

“You feel like allowing me to feed on you now would overwrite this 'bad start', as you so phrase it?” The directness of the statement throws John off his game. He laughs nervously and nods.
“Is that weird? I feel like it might be weird.”

“Not necessarily. You see, my people's social structure is rooted in the feeding process. That, the Gift of Life, and everything connected to it bears a lot of weight. Close friends, lovers, a Queen and her Blades would allow one another to feed. For survival, yes, but also as a show of trust.” the Wraith explains. “Now that your kin are no longer livestock, a human letting a Wraith feed bears a different kind of connotation. It's trust and affection, just like it would be from a Wraith to another. Reconciling this way... is not an outlandish idea.”

John feels his pulse throb in his throat.
“Well, guess I wasn't too far off with my idea.” he says, trying to overplay his anxiety with feigned indifference.
“We don't have to do this now.” the Wraith adds, having John choke on his own breath. “I can tell that you are deeply uneasy. Unsurprisingly so. You associate me with a traumatic experience.”
“I mean, it wasn't particularly nice...” John tries to jest.
“I will remain here.” he says. “Sort your thoughts out, Sheppard, and come back.”

When John leaves the Wraith's quarters, he feels lightheaded. For some reason, he felt a hint of excitement in his mix of terror or anxiety.
Maybe he really does need to sort himself out before he does this.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12 – Strike

The gunfire against the sealed door deafens Burn's ears. He's barely made it inside himself, blood pouring from the various shot wounds on his upper body. Too much for his regenerative abilities to handle. Hunger burns in his body, almost numbing the pain from his wounds.
His breath rattling in his throat, Burn makes it across the room to the console at its center, collapsing against it. The blood loss makes it hard to focus his vision, but he pushes through.

His clawed fingers move slowly, sluggish as he types his message into the console and sends it. The facility still has enough power to get a subspace message through.
Burn hacks, and a splatter of blood lands on the console, a sickening taste of metal in his mouth.
As soon as his message is sent, Burn sinks to the ground, the piercing pain of his injuries punctuating every movement.

His pulse is slow, his breathing labored. He can feel his heart struggling to pump blood through his veins, every beat an effort.
Burn knows that he's going to die here. No amount of willpower could help him go against this number of heavily armed humans alone. The only thing that matters is that word of this atrocity reaches the Primary.
Oh, Vermillion. How he's failed her, betrayed the trust she put in him. The honor she graced him with.
Burn draws a sharp breath and feels tears fill the corners of his eyes. Vermillion, his Queen. Horizon, his daughter, his beloved offspring.
Now, with his message sent, Burn has little regrets when the darkness falls on him. He has fought until the end for his Queen, his Hive, his Alliance.
No regrets, no. But Burn does not die without fear.

The horrific things this laboratory has discovered, now in the hands of these disturbingly capable humans. And all he could do was warn his Queen.
Burn's tears fall when his eyes finally close, when his body stops fighting the inevitable.

Queen Vermillion lords over her court, the many Blades assembled in her throne room, effortlessly controlling the entire structure of the gathering. Her deep red hair cascades down her form untamed, without any embellishments, braids or elegant twists. The pattern of a flower is painted on her skin, a thin vine around her neck and the blossom framing her face.
She glances down on the messenger that had just entered her court, with him still frozen in a deep bow.

'Rise and speak.' she orders him, a shiver going through the male's form when her telepathic presence touches his.
'I apologize for having to bring such grave news to you, my Queen.' he says as he straightens his back and meets her gaze.
He's a Cleverman, young and promising, having risen quickly to Master of Biological Sciences on Vermillion's flagship. She recalls his name – Ambition.
'Our research beta site has suffered a devastating attack.' Ambition reports.
'By whom?' Vermillion asks, immediately seeing Ambition shrink away.
'I do not know, Lady, I am deeply sorry.' he responds quickly. 'When we got word of it, it was already too late. It appears that the entirety of its personnel fell in its defense. Commander Burn used his last seconds to warn us. He writes, they stole a vast amount of data from our base before destroying it.'

Vermillion feels her consort's hand on her sleeve before she sees it.
'Vermillion. We must respond to this.' he tells her, their connection mind to mind and cut off from the rest. 'Your support of Horizon's efforts have allowed her alliance with Atlantis to grow significantly, but if beta site's discoveries are to end up in possession of our enemies...'
He doesn't have to finish that sentence.

'Ambition. Have a message complied with essential information, and send it to Horizon.' Vermillion commands and rises from her throne. 'We will set a course upon Atlantis immediately. I must address this personally.'
'My Queen, I highly recommend rallying the remainder of the Alliance fleet.' her consort suggests.
'Then do that, Stream.' she tells him, and strides out of her throne room, followed by her entourage of Blades.

Horizon gingerly steps over another bullet-riddled corpse in the hallways.
Upon receiving her mother's message, she elected to see the laboratory for herself, to gauge the degree of danger in person.
Along with Dusk and her Blades are Carson Beckett and Delilah Abbot, who had been on her Hive when the intel had reached them.

The site is a mess.
Many doors have been detonated open, consoles destroyed by gunfire, the walls charred, filling the halls of this locale with the smell of burnt flesh. Delilah keeps quiet as she follows Horizon, feeling the tense mood of this woman she's grown so accustomed to over time.
So many bodies.
Not even Drones, Horizon recognizes many of them by name – Clevermen and a handful of Blades, stationed there for their protection. They'd already passed the core of the facility, an unsalvagable mess, delicate technology torn apart with brute force.

“Horizon?” Her name draws Horizon's attention, and she stops, turns and follows Delilah's voice.
Her and Carson are kneeling over yet another body, yet this one belongs to one of the human assaulters, a minor casualty in their relentless assault. He's drained dry, the skeletal face frozen in a silent scream.
Delilah tugs on his jacket.
“Genii.” she states. “It wouldn't surprise me if Kolya was behind this.”
“This is the first human corpse we find.” Horizon responds. “They did not expect an attack, but the Genii knew the layout of the facility far too well.”
“You mean, they had an informant?” Carson asks.
“Not necessarily. Lastlight has confirmed our previous suspicion that Kolya has made it a habit to keep Wraith prisoners. Perhaps he was able to coax this intel out of one of them.” Horizon sounds so glum that Dusk apparently feels the need to silently comfort her, his presence spanning over hers like a canopy.
“Regardless,...” Horizon turns away. “the fact that this was carried out by the Genii worries me. Kolya is dangerous. I learned that first hand.”
“Well, we need to alarm Atlantis and Delar!” Carson urges. “If the Genii are plotting against us again, we should respond quickly!”

Horizon is about to agree with the man when the mental voice of one of her Blades draws her focus away from the two humans at her side.

'My Queen! I have found him.'
The words make Horizon feel cold, and she leaves the two without another word, hurrying to her Blade's position.
It leads her past a door, heavily damaged by gunfire, into the facility's communications relay. Dried blood on the ground has her slow her gait as she enters.
Her Blade is crouching behind the central console and gestures her closer when he sees her.

The sight feels like a punch in her gut.
There he sits, head leaned against the console, by himself in a puddle of blood. Countless bullet holes riddle his chestpiece, a trickle of blood runs down his chin, from the corner of his mouth.
A violent scene, but the expression on Burn's face suggests nothing but peace.
He died with his dignity intact.

Horizon kneels down at her dead father's side.
When Vermillion had mentioned her father's name in her message, Horizon'd harbored the faint hope to find him alive, against all logic. Even when the Hive had scanned the area for life signs, irrationality had let the Queen hope for a miracle.
But now that she kneels before his lifeless husk, there is no denying reality anymore.
Her feeding hand comes to rest on the corpse's chest, just to convince herself of this harsh truth, and it works. There's no life in him anymore, no beating heart under her palm. Just gaping emptiness and death.

'My Queen, I am deeply sorry.' the Blade dares to speak to her. 'I tried to reanimate him when I found him, but he has been dead for several days.'
'You do not carry responsibility for this.' she responds, rises to her feet and dusts off her dress. 'Collect the bodies. We will bury them in space.'

'Horizon...' It's Dusk's voice in her mind, and Horizon allows herself to cling to her consort's calming presence.

Chapter Text

Chapter 13 - Negotiations

The air feels heavy in the conference room, when Vermillion enters. She has her head held high, critically assessing every person present before she takes her seat, flanked by Stream, her Consort. Her Hive casts a shadow upon the city, giving the entire scene a sense of dread.

Horizon and Dusk take the seats directly next to the Primary, Spark and Venah follow them quickly. Queens and Consorts, yet Spark is the odd one out. Young, with a human woman at her side. The glance Vermillion regards her with weighs heavier on Spark than it ever could on Venah. With it comes an iron hold around her mind, disapproval and mild amusement in Vermillion's contact. Spark's cheeks burn with humiliation.
When she feels Venah's hold on her shaking hand, she averts her gaze, stubbornly training it forward.
Next to Venah, the second youngest, second most controversial Queen sits: Porcelain, all by herself, her Consort's spot remaining open. Her expression is as hardened as her mind; she does not even allow Spark to touch it.

The human part of this delegation has taken their seats on the opposite end of the table. John Sheppard, the Doctors McKay, Beckett and Abbot, Teyla Emmagan, Sina, as the free Runners' representative, and Elizabeth Weir.
There is no armed military in the room, no guards at the doors. Spark stiffens in her seat. She knows, this meeting is happening on Vermillion's terms, a show of power over the Ancients' heirs.

When everyone is settled at the table, Weir speaks up.
“Thank you for finding the time to discuss this matter with us.” she addresses Vermillion, who barely reacts to the gesture. She merely narrows her eyes a little.
“I still believe it would have been productive to have a hoffan scientist with us.” Delilah adds, her casual tone contrasting Weir's sharp, official tone.
“It was them who developed this weapon. I will not negotiate with them.” Vermillion states, her voice clear and neutral, but firm enough not to leave any room for discussion. “We have the necessary data. Their input is not needed here.”
“Fine.” Delilah says, and crosses her arms. “Then let's get to business. How does this drug work? How does it kill?”

Vermillion's gaze lingers on her, and Spark sees her brows furrow, not comprehending the lack of fear, or even caution Delilah is presenting. The way she's speaking to her as an equal.
“Once an infected human is fed on, the drug in their blood reacts with our feeding enzyme, resulting in a toxic shock which immediately kills us.” Vermillion explains, cold and factual. “However, according to our predictions, the drugs initial introduction causes high fevers in its subjects. These fevers kill the majority of humans treated with it.”
Carson and Delilah exchange an alarmed look, and the former leans forward.
“If I may ask – can we have access to the core formula?” he requests.
“For what purpose?” Vermillion quickly responds, her voice sharper than before.
“To create a possible cure, antidote, or vaccine to prevent the drug from taking hold of the system in the first place.” Carson bravely presses on. “Dr. Abbot and I were the ones who made the Vaccine-... the serum that allows us to coexist peacefully. We might be able to do something.”

Stream displays a toothy fake smile.
“That would imply that we would trust you with such a potent weapon.” he says.
“We do.” Horizon adds, glance fixed to her mother, awaiting her retort.
“You may. That decision is yours to make, on an individual scale.” Vermillion says. “But as Primary of this Alliance, I will prioritize our own survival over... making a political statement.”
“With all due respect,” Elizabeth speaks up again. “Have we not proven ourselves trustworthy? Your ship hasn't taken the Vaccine if my intel is correct, so it should be us mistrusting you, not vice versa.”
“Not murdering people is kind of a prerequisite to bargaining with us, you know.” John supports her argument. “So, us letting you into this city is a show of goodwill. I'd expect a bit more gratitude.”

“I am still not convinced of the long-term viability of your 'Vaccine'. Hence, I will not become part of this arrangement.” Vermillion counters. “You may be able to convince the younger Queens to yield to your perversions of our culture, but I will not.”
“We have discussed this, Vermillion.” Horizon stops her. “Continuing the hunt of humans is not sustainable in the long run. You said so yourself.”
“Neither is landing our Hives and consorting with them the way your offspring does.” she fires back. “Keeping them alive for more than one feeding is viable. This is not.”

All attention shifts to Spark when she shoots up from her seat, knocking the chair over.
“I am Queen.” she hisses. “And you will respect my decisions as you would Horizon's.”
“How long have you ruled, fruit-fed child?” Vermillion counters, slowly rising from her chair as well. “A year? Perhaps two? What do you know about long-term survival, with your idealistic, naive worldview?”
“I know where our previous lifestyle has led us!” Spark is now nearly shouting at Vermillion, her clenched fists shaking by her side.
“It has led us to becoming the dominant species in this galaxy.” Vermillion counters. “But do go ahead and continue playing with your human toy. This idea will fade as you fall. And believe me, child. You will fall.”

“Ladies, please.” John calls, his tone casual, but his tension is obvious. “We all came here to have a nice, civilized discussion about a problem that concerns us all. Can we please sit back down, take a deep breath, and focus on the task at hand?”
Spark doesn't pay him any heed, still furiously staring at the Primary, whose tranquility only seems to enrage her further.
“Sit down, Vermillion.” Porcelain says, without even doing as much as looking at her. “You're the only one who supports your standpoint.”
For a heartbeat, Vermillion's calm facade shatters, revealing a terrifying fury in her eyes, but she doesn't act on it.
“You are Flamedancer's, are you not?” she asks, and turns to face Porcelain. “I would have expected your father to have a better influence on you.”
“Oh, absolutely. Force would have been on your side here, had he attended this meeting..” Porcelain responds. “Unfortunately, he is indisposed. I killed him.”
She glances up at Vermillion from the corner of her eye and her lips curl into a smile.
“Now. Sit down.”
There's a brief beat of silence, Vermillion's icy stare into Porcelain's eyes, but eventually, she relents.
“Very well. Let us focus on the problem at hand.” she says, perfectly calm again, and sits down. Spark picks up her chair and follows suit.

“I have seen Dr. Abbot work, and I have personally analyzed her and Dr. Beckett's work.” Dusk speaks up once the Queens have settled back down. “Allowing them to work with the original formula can only be beneficial.”
“We just want to help. Why would we use this against you, if it kills us too?” Delilah argues, and Vermillion's eyes briefly flicker up to her.
“You will be under permanent surveillance by my Clevermen.” she says, a statement, not a request. “And you will work on board of my Hive.”
“Absolutely not!” Elizabeth speaks up, ignoring Teyla's warning glance.
“Do you want the formula or not?” Stream coldly asks. “If you wish to work with us, you will do so on our terms.”
“Very well. But my Blades will guard them at all times.” Horizon adds. “These humans are under my protection. Call them my property, if that makes it easier to accept.”
“Things might get a little crowded in the lab.” Delilah sighs. “Is that really necessary?”
“Make it one Blade, then.” Horizon backpedals. “A Blade in constant contact to me. Should the Doctors Abbot and Beckett be harmed, I will immediately open fire.”
“You would attack me?” Vermillion asks, sounding rather unimpressed.

“Unlike you, I strive beyond maintaining the status quo, mother. If you cannot accept this, then you are an obstacle.” Horizon declares. Vermillion holds eye contact with her for a moment, not showing whether or not these words wound her or not.
Then, she straightens her back.
“You will leave with my shuttle. Horizon – have your Blade ready to board in one hour. I will not wait for you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 14 - Contamination

Delilah has gotten so used to working on Horizon's and Spark's Hives, the shift to Vermillion's domain feels sharp and cold. She's been on edge ever since she stepped out of the shuttle. Carson is walking closer to her than usual as they are led through the halls of the unfamiliar Hive, flanked left and right by Drones.
When they eventually stop by a double-winged door, it slides open for them without any input from their escorts.
They're greeted with a Wraith's stoic, expressionless face. He nods briefly, and steps aside to let them in.

The room is larger than expected, several workstations affixed to its walls, connected to a central one, large enough to touch the ceiling.
“I am the Master of Sciences Biological on this Hive.” the Wraith introduces himself from the door. “My subordinates and I will supervise your work here.”
“Right.” Delilah responds. He's obviously not going to give out his name.

Carson's voice draws her attention.
“Seeker?!” he exclaims,and Delilah looks in his direction.
There he is, Seeker, leaning against the wall with crossed arms and a very displeased look on his face.
“Why so surprised? Did you not expect me to immediately volunteer for this mission?” he asks flatly.
Delilah stops herself from smiling gleefully, clears her throat, and turns back to the Cleverman, who is still silently standing by.
“Where may we work?” she asks him, and he gestures toward one of the workstations by the wall.
“All data necessary is on this console.” he tells her and Carson. “Should you require more, request it. I will transfer it to you.”

Delilah nods, and confidently walks over to the console, Carson in tow.
Show no fear, she tells herself, in spite of the pressing dread in her chest.

“They are on board, along with my Blade.” Horizon's voice tears Teyla from her thoughts.”If fate favors us, we may be able to resolve this crisis quickly.”
Teyla takes a moment to brace herself for this interaction.

“Even if we do resolve it without any issue, Vermillion's stance on the Vaccine is a problem.” Teyla says, and turns around to her.
Vermillion is wearing leather travel attire over her usual silken dress, Teyla makes notice of her right hand still being adorned with a glove.
The hallways is empty, and Teyla realizes that this is her first private conversation with Horizon, since they were both imprisoned by Kolya.

“I know.” she says. “Vermillion is a traditionalist. She does not do well with change.”
“She suggested keeping vaccinated people prisoner and feeding on them over and over again.” Teyla reminds her. “That is no political issue.”
“It goes against everything that we have built together, believe me, I know this.” Horizon responds, and takes a step toward her. “But she is in control of the fleet. Until we convince the majority of Hives to our way of living, there is nothing we can do to stop her.”
Teyla exhales deeply, trying to remain calm.
“People will suffer. You know that I cannot stand for that.”
“Are you suggesting that we, with our four Hives, wage war on the Alliance?” Horizon shakes her head. “Teyla, I understand your stance and I am on your side. But Vermillion is... formidable. If we fight her, many more people will suffer and die.”

“Your fear her.” Teyla states, her words causing a few seconds of stunned silence.
Horizon has to gather herself before she can react to this.

“Perhaps I do.” she admits. “She is superior to me in every way. Call it fear, I call it reason.”
“I doubt your daughter shares that sentiment.” Teyla adds and Horizon sighs.
“Spark is a tempestuous firebrand. Young and full of ambition, rage, confidence.” she explains. “She does not know Vermillion the way I do.”
“How do you know her, then?” Teyla pries.
“She raised me.” Horizon flatly reveals.

Teyla pauses, swallows heavily, and then nods without furtherly commenting on the subject.
“Keep me posted on Carson and Delilah.” she requests, and turns to leave, but Horizon holds her back by her sleeve.
“Teyla.” she says, and a split second later, her mind touches hers.

'Please understand that my inability to directly assault Vermillion is no betrayal to our cause. Nor is it a betrayal to you. I value you as a person, and I heed your advice.'
The sheer amount of sincerity in Horizon's mental voice nearly makes Teyla tear up.
'I do not doubt that.' Teyla truthfully declares. Horizon has gained a lot more sympathy from her since their escape. 'But you must understand that I cannot stand by idly as Vermillion does these things. If she harms someone, I will retaliate.'

Horizon's hand slowly retreats from hers.
“I understand.” she says aloud.

The village is in utter chaos.
Commerce has died down to a minimum, unclaimed bodies litter the filthy streets, doors and windows are nailed shut. The stench of decay lingers in the air, so strong that Venah can taste it.
She pulls her scarf over nose and mouth, as she follows the village elder through the ruined settlement.

“It started suddenly.” he explains to her. “We had these strange guests who asked to survey our water distribution system, claiming they wanted to trade workforce to deploy a similar system in their world. Once they left, people stopped coming to work.”
“What ailments did they complain of?” Venah inquires, muffled through her scarf.
“Fevers, headaches at first. Then they started going delirious, seeing things and speaking nonsense. It only took a day for the first deaths.” he responds. “We stopped using our wells, and a few of us remained healthy. But people are still dying. You said you knew what plague this is? Did the strangers contract it?”

Venah looks at the man.
He's a good head shorter than her, thinning dark hair framing his tired face.
“Calion, this is not a plague.” she says. “It's poison. Steer clear of your wells, it's probably in the water. Delar will supply you with food, if you watered your crops from the contaminated wells.”
“Delar is...” Calion stops himself. “Do your masters expect,... uhm, payment?”

Venah cringes. So, word has spread after all.
“The Wraith aren't our masters.” she declares. “But no. They will not ask anything in return, especially since agriculture is our field of expertise, not theirs. This tribute comes from the Delari people, not the Wraith.”
Calion nods slowly.
“That's a relief. We hadn't heard anything but the rumors from your world, Venah. I was growing concerned, that...”
“I'll make arrangements for the food transports.” she cuts him off. “Take care.”
Without letting Calion say another thing, she hurries down the main road in a light jog, trying to focus only on her path, not the misery that surrounds her.

So many dead. Spark had urged to be careful on her visits to the afflicted worlds, but the more suffering she sees, the more determined she becomes.
If the Genii are truly responsible for this, spreading this deadly drug just to kill a few Wraith, she will find them.
What a childish reaction, like a little boy smashing his sandcastle because he doesn't like what his sibling did to their own half.
Petty. Short-sighted.
Venah can not understand how a commanding officer can give an order that kills so many innocent people, and still perceive themselves as a good person.

She reaches the Stargate and dials home.

There no longer is a dichotomy of good and evil in her world. At least no easy formula anymore.
There are good Wraith. There are evil Humans.

When Venah looks over her shoulder before stepping into the event horizon, to the dying village, she feels sick.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15 – Bad Harvest

As if the zarian people hadn't suffered enough yet.

Calion steps out of his cover, eyes trained on the burning buildings ahead.
Warning fire. Comply or die.
Like giant wasps, the Darts sweep over the lands, stealing away stragglers who try to make it into the old barn Calion has gathered the remains of his people into.
There's still too many outside, running for their lives, disoriented and in panic. Calion clenches his teeth, trying to plan his route to a group of frightened young men. They've dodged two Darts so far, and Calion knows it's only a matter of time until they make that one fatal mistake.

“Calion!” one of the delarian helpers trapped on the planet with him and his people calls out, then makes a mad dash toward the men.
One of them is wounded, limping helplessly toward salvation.
Calion doesn't allow himself to stall any longer, and rushes out of the protective shelter.
Instead of relief and gratitude, the young men's faces show terror, and one points at a point behind Calion.

He slows his sprint to glance over his shoulder, just in time to see the blinding white light and he is dematerialized, spirited away by the Wraith like so many before him.

Calion awakes to the horrifying realization that he cannot move. His limbs are restrained tightly, his body held aloft by fleshy tendrils and thick membranes of skin. He tenses every muscle, and the substance gives way, but not enough to make any difference. If anything, he tangles himself up even worse.
He's in a dark corridor, neatly lined with pods like his own. Some contain humans, asleep or unconscious, others only hold dried up remains.
Terror sits deep in Calion's core, but it gets much worse when he hears footsteps.

Wraith. Two of them.
One is a good head taller than the other, walking ahead of him. He raises his chin and his nostrils flare, trying to catch a scent.
Calion lets himself sink deeper into his cocoon, but it's not enough to shield him from the Wraith's attention.
He snarls and steps closer; Calion freezes up when their eyes meet. He wants to plead, beg for his life, but his throat won't allow a sound to form. So he just stares at the raised hand, the flaring slit in its palm, coming down upon him.
The Wraith's claws tear the membranes around Calion's body with little effort, and his hand slams down on his chest, hard enough to bruise. There's a stinging pain, but the agonizing feeling of having one's very life taken away never comes.

Instead, Calion sees the Wraith retreating abruptly, as if he's burned his hand on him. His feeding hand shakes violently and he stares at it, then up to Calion, an expression of utter confusion on his face, but only for a few heartbeats.
Then, his face is warped by pain. He convulses, retches and sinks down to his knees, trembling heavily. His companion rushes to his side, touching his shoulder, and Calion reads genuine concern on the Wraith's face, turning to shock when the larger one loses balance and fully collapses on the ground, curling up into fetal position, hissing with torment.
He draws one last rattling breath, and his tensed muscles relax, lifeless.

Calion's relief to have lives quickly turns to renewed horror when the other Wraith grabs him by the neck and slams him into the wall of his pod.
“What have you done?” he growls. “Speak!”
Calion gags, struggling weakly against the chokehold. Luckily, the Wraith seems to understand that he cannot speak like this, and loosens his grip a little.
“I-I don't know, I swear!” Calion croaks. “I thought I would die here, I do not know what happened!”
His voice is shrill with fear, and he's almost certain he'll pass out from stress while the Wraith holds eye contact for what feels like minutes, until letting go.
He reaches into his coat, pulls out a vial with a sharp blade affixed to its opening, then spins it in his hand. Without a word of warning, he jams the contraption into Calion's arm, making him wince in surprise.
Blood dribbles into the vial, and Calion realizes that he's taking a sample from him.

Before he can ask a question, the Wraith tears him out of the cocoon, grabs him by the neck and effortlessly drags him along.
They turn a corner, and without another word, the Wraith throws Calion into a holding cell, turns around and leaves while the cell shuts.

“Calion! You're alive!”
A familiar voice.
It's one of the delarian helpers, a middle-aged woman, her calloused skin broken up by various scars. Calion recalls her name, Soria.
“Yes, they... I don't know.” He leans against the wall and allows himself to sink down to the ground. “One tried to feed on me, but he couldn't. I think he died. This one... Maybe he's keeping me to run tests on me.”
Soria smiles weakly and sits down beside him.
“I cut myself out of my cocoon. Got a few of 'em before they stunned me.” she tells him. “I suppose this is where they put troublemakers.”

Calion eyes her, with her careless expression, contrasting his pale, sweaty visage, his shaking hands and shallows breaths. She seems to notice that.
“They're just Wraith.” Soria says. “They get scared, angry and sad just like us. They bleed and they die. I'm no more afraid of them as I am of humans.”

He shakes his head.
“They'll kill us.” he whispers, his anxiety making way for despair, a much slower, colder feeling.
“Maybe.” Soria responds. “Maybe we'll kill them.”
“We're on their ship, how-...”
“Listen, Calion. I know what's wrong with you.” Soria whispers. “It's the poison. It makes it so that Wraith die when they feed in you. Once they learn that, they won't feed on any of us, in case we're contaminated. And with every minute that passes, the chances that the other Wraith come for us rise.”
“Your Wraith? They'd come save us?” Calion asks.
“Spark won't let us die. Especially not like this.” Soria grins. “She'll come, even if she has to personally pry us out of those cocoons.”

Spark paces restlessly.
She's speaking before the assembled leaders of Atlantis, Delar and the Wraith fleet.
“There has been a Culling.” she opens. “On Zarius, one of Delar's allied planets. Zarius is afflicted with the Hoffan Drug, and Venah has sent people to help deal with the crisis. Since we haven't gotten any reports back from them, I must assume that they were taken too.”
“Any idea where they are now?” Sheppard asks, already eager to act.
Spark nods.
“Zarius borders on an unaffiliated Hive's territory. They likely decided to claim the planet as theirs.”
“Cool. Let's go, then? I've taken on Hive Ships before, just get me on board and-...”
“No, Colonel.” Spark cuts him off. “I'll handle this. Delar is my responsibility, and you are needed here, as well as the rest of your team.”

“What about me?” Ronon draws Spark's attention. He's at Porcelain's side, arms crossed, brows furrowed defiantly. “I don't belong to Atlantis. They don't need me here.”
She gives him a look.
“Jumping at any chance to kill Wraith?” she asks.
“They aren't like you, are they? They kill people. Don't tell me they wouldn't deserve it.”

Spark exchanges a glance with Porcelain.
'Let him. If things escalate, he'll be a great help.' she tells her. 'I've seen him fight. Trust me.'
'I was going to resolve this peacefully, you know.'
'Sometimes, peace isn't an option, Spark. They took your people. Are you just going to ask nicely?'

Spark raises her chin.
“Fine. You can come with me. I'll talk to them, and if things go awry, we can do it your way.”
“Good. Where's Venah, anyway?” Ronon asks, stepping forth, toward Spark. His voice carries a subtle hint of mistrust still.
“Caring for the survivors on Zarius.” Spark responds. “They've got two cataclysmic events to recover from now.”

“Spark, I would like to send a few cloaked jumpers with you.” Elizabeth adds. “Just in case. Your mother didn't seem very confident in your ship's combat prowess.”
“We're undercrewed. That's why.” Spark quickly defends herself. “But, thank you. I want the Jumpers to be in radio contact with my bridge, though.”
“Sure. Means I get to go, doesn't it?” Sheppard says. “My team in a Jumper, Lorne's in another. Hope you don't mind if we hitch a ride in Hyperspace.”

“Fair. Go through the Gate and ascend into orbit. My Hive will be waiting with open bay doors.” Spark declares. “Porcelain, if I could ask you to stand by on Delar, in case we're attacked in my absence?”
“I will do what I can.” Porcelain stiffly responds. “Don't take too long.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 16 – A Diplomatic Approach

The doors to the bridge slide open and in storms Ellia, followed by her father, Zaddick.
“Why are we moving?” she demands to know, her voice shaky with anxiety.
“We're taking off.” Moon responds, well aware of Ellia's preference for verbal communication, in addition to not wanting to alienate Zaddick and Venah, who flanks him. “There is a situation the Queen must address in person.”
“What situation? Where is she?” Ellia asks, Moon's calm response easing her anxiety somewhat.
“In her quarters, preparing.” Venah answers in Moon's stead. “There's been a culling on Zarius. She wants to convince them to let our people go.”
“A culling?” Ellia parrots, alarmed once again, and Zaddick places his hand on her shoulder reassuringly. “But-... When? How long ago? I mean...”
Moon nods.
“The zarian prisoners are protected through the Hoffan Drug. The Delari, however...” He leaves the sentence unfinished and clears his throat. “You may understand the urgency in this matter.”

“What about the planet? I was told that you have enemies who would take out their ire on Delar.” Zaddick says.
“Queen Porcelain will take our place as the planet's protector.” Moon answers dutifully and adjusts his grip on the controls. “Entering Hyperspace.”
“Good. Keep the course steady.” Venah commands.
When she passes Ellia on her way out of the room, Ellia notices her clenched fists.

“Is she-...?” she begins, but Moon cuts her off before she can finish her question.
“She is uneasy. Skittish. Her people's lives are on the line.” he tells her. “I know that she is torn between accompanying us and staying with the others on the planet.”
“Moon, how old is Miss Venah, exactly?” inquires Zaddick, a hint of concern in his voice.
“She will have lived her twenty-fifth year this summer.” Moon responds and Zaddick nods slowly.
“Sad. So young, and such big things to worry about.”

Ellia notices his hand tensing on her shoulder when she says this.

The bridge is clear, save for Spark and her inner court, excluding Venah. She stands before Moon on the controls and Quickwit by her side.
'We are in communications range, My Queen.' Moon reports. 'Shall I drop out of Hyperspace?'
'Yes. Hail them as soon as you do.' Spark orders, feeling Quickwit's gaze upon her. There is an unspoken gesture of encouragement between them, the much older's Wraith's presence brushing up against hers.
Spark straightens her posture.

'They are opening a channel, My Queen.' Moon tells her, as the signal produces a video feed on the screen before them.
It's a Queen, sharp features framed by dark hair and an even sharper gaze from her eyes, reflecting light from her own control panel.
“You wish to speak?” she opens and Spark nods to Moon, prompting him to open their own channel to respond.
“You have something that is mine. I want it back.” Spark boldly demands, causing the Queen on the other side of the line to raise her chin.
“Elaborate.” she requests and Spark takes a step toward her.
“You culled a planet under my claim. Your human cargo is mine. Unless you want to battle for them, I suggest you transfer them to my Hive.” she warns, well aware that this Queen does not want to fight, not any more than she does.
“I know nothing of a claim on this planet. It has been untouched for a century.” she defends herself and Spark feels a mixture of relief and confidence. She's put her in a situation to respond to her accusations.
“In case you were this badly informed about your intended feeding ground, it is stricken with disease and has been for a long time.” Spark expands upon her bluff. “The population is too thin to cull. You nearly brought them to extinction.”

The Queen's gaze flickers to a point behind the screen.
“I am Sound, daughter of Riddle. Tell me your name, Sister.” she asks.
Spark mimics her previous gesture, raising her chin.
“Spark, daughter of Horizon.” she replies.
“Come to my ship, Spark. This is a delicate matter, I would prefer to discuss it in person. Queen to Queen.” Sound suggests.
There is a moment of silence, Spark weighs her options. She would be in closer range to actually, physically aid the captives. Her strong entry to the negotiation with this show of trust would help sway Sound to her side. Then again, a conversation from mind to mind makes lying a lot harder.

“You will remain within weapons range of my ship.” she finally says. “Should my crew have any reason to suspect foulplay, they will immediately open fire.”
“Very well.” replies Sound, unwilling to engage in further threats. “I will send Darts to escort your shuttle.”
The connection cuts and Spark exhales with a hiss, like a deflating balloon.

'Spark, is that wise? You are putting yourself at her mercy.' Quickwit carefully asks.
'Did you see how quickly she yields to my terms?' she fires back. 'She's young, probably not much older than me. I don't doubt that this will be difficult, but if we're in weapons range, we are in telepathic range as well.'
Quickwit's eyes light up briefly, the hint of a smile ghosting over his face.
'You truly are your mother's daughter.' he praises. 'Although I cannot be certain that your consort and our temporary guest will be happy about this.'
'Let them be unhappy. I need to resolve this.' Spark brushes him off.

Against her expectations, Spark is not met with a delegation of Blades when the airlock opens. Instead a single, scrawny Cleverman stands before her, out of breath as if he'd run for a long time.
'There is not much time before the Queen's Blades arrive to greet you.' he opens to her befuddlement. 'I must speak with you alone.'
'Who do you think you are? I came here to bargain with your Queen!' Spark feigns indignation.
'I know, I do. But this is of utmost importance. I apologize for my breach of protocol, but I have discovered a threat to our kind. Please!' he urges her and Spark's guts twinge with anxiety.
'Show me.' she relents and the Cleverman nods gratefully, then leads her down the corridor, his hand holding hers.

He speaks to her quietly, only audible by the two of them through this skin contact.
'I accompanied my commanding Blade to feed on our cargo, that which you claim is yours. He fed before I did, and immediately perished, while the human remained unharmed.' he explains, peppering his words with images of the occurrence. 'I took samples from the human in question, analyzed them, and then compared them to other human's samples. There is something in their blood, something that kills us, Queen Spark. If these humans are yours, you deserve to know.'

Spark allows her cold facade to crumble.
'I know. That is the disease I spoke of.' she reveals. 'And the reason why I must take them from you.'
'You are here to save us..?' the Cleverman asks, a hopeful glint in his eyes.
'I must make sure that this disease doesn't spread.' Spark pauses and stops her walk through the corridors, causing the Cleverman to let go of her hand. 'Where are the humans you tested? I must speak to them.'

He visibly hesitates, looks over his shoulder, then whispers to her.
“I put them in a holding cell.” He beckons to her, and takes a sharp turn.

When they reach the cells, Spark immediately recognizes a familiar face.
“Spark!” It's Soria, rushing to the bars. “See? I told you she'd come for us!”
So much for her bluff, Spark thinks to herself and steps toward the cell.
“Soria, it's good to see you. Do you know of the others?” she asks.
“I only have the Zarian here with me, but I've seen a few when I first escaped. They're probably still alive, see, most of them are infected and-...”
“I know. I know, Soria.” Spark interrupts her. “Listen, I'm going to negotiate with the Queen and take you back home, okay? Don't try anything dangerous, just sit tight and wait.”

'They... speak to you as though you were their equal.' the Cleverman notes. 'What is this?'
'I promise, I will explain everything when this is through-...' Spark begins, but an overbearing presence chokes her words out.
It's a group of Blades, rushing into the cell block with weapons drawn.
'Folly, you filthy traitor!' their leader hisses at the Cleverman. 'You would aid this traitorous Queen? You would let her steal our resources?'

'No, I am not-... Listen to me! You are all in terrible danger!' Spark tries to reason, while the two humans in the cell retreat into the shadows of their confines.
'Yes. And I will remove this danger promptly.' the Blade sneers and points his stunner at her. 'You are coming with us. The Queen will decide your fates. Move!'

Folly, the Cleverman, shoots Spark a terrified glance, before complying.

Chapter Text

Chapter 17 – A Better Way

Folly and Spark are escorted into the Queen's Throne Room. Folly is dragged by two Drones, but no one dares to lay a hand on Spark. Stunners are pointed at her, but she walks freely.
Not that it means anything in the long run. Only a Queen may punish another Queen.

The doors slide shut behind the group, and the accused are taken to the center of the room, before Sound's throne. She has her legs crossed, her hands rest on her knee as she looks down upon them. Spark notices Folly trembling violently, jaw tensed and hands clenched shut, doing his best to keep his composure.

“You claim to want to bargain with me.” Sound speaks aloud. “And once you set foot on my ship, you make one of my own to conspire against me like this? You steal from me?”
Spark draws breath to defend herself, but Sound interrupts her.
“I invited you here as a show of goodwill. How dare you violate my trust like this?” she continues. “I had respect for you, I had faith in your honesty. But, as you proved to me, I was wrong.”
“You weren't. I am here to help you!” Spark catches her chance to speak. “These humans are infected with a deadly disease, they-...”
“Spare me with your lies, Spark!” Sound hisses and rises from her throne. “You see, I shall learn from my mistake. You will be taken into custody until your Hive pays me reparations.” She takes a few steps toward the accused, and flexes her feeding hand. “But you, Folly... Your betrayal, I cannot forgive.”

Folly's eyes widen; he remains frozen in place, staring at his Queen in terror, as she approaches him, past Spark, and raises her hand.
As panic grips Spark, time seems to slow down. She sees Sound's off hand open Folly's coat while her feeding hand winds back; the Cleverman falls to his knees, forced down by the mind of a Queen, to await his execution.
A primal cry of protest heralds Spark's interference. She lunges at the Queen, forces her to the ground with her full weight, pinning her down with a hand around her neck.
Her own feeding hand comes down on Sound's chest, skin breaks and Spark digs her stinger into her skin.

“Drop them!” she cries at the Drones and Blades, pointing weapons at her and Folly, who is still kneeling, staring at her in disbelief. “Drop them or I swear I will kill your Queen!”
Sound's upper lip is pulled back in a snarl, but Spark's control over her system prevents her from struggling.
“Do as she says!” she croaks, anger and fear painting a grotesque grimace on her face.
Spark's heart races and her claws press into Sound's skin.
One by one, the Blades surrender their weapons, clattering noises echo through the room as they let them fall to the ground.
“Now leave and seal this room!” Spark commands. “So long as you comply, I will not harm her. Try to assault me, and she dies. Do not test me!”
Backing away to the door, her court retreats, but even when the door is sealed, Spark remains in position, her hand on Sound's chest.

'Folly. Take one of the stunners and shoot her.' Spark demands of her accomplice, who still seems to be trying to convince himself that he's still alive. 'Folly. Listen to me. We can get out of this alive.'
His gaze flickers to her, then down to his pinned Queen and he nods slowly.
There's a tremble in his arm, when he finally points the weapon at Sound, his aim unsteady, but he hits her regardless.

Spark exhales sharply, retracts her stinger, but leaves her hand on Sound's chest.
'Will you kill her? Take this ship as your own?'
Folly's mental presence is as thin and shaky as Spark expected.
'No.' she denies. 'No one has to die today. Now lock us in from the inside. I have a plan.'

Her scream feels like a kick to the gut.
Moon stiffens so suddenly, he knocks over the game of dice he'd been playing with Venah.
'My Queen!' he responds, screaming as well, the distance making it difficult to take hold of her mind.
'I took Sound hostage. I need backup. March in and take the ship. Have the prisoners transferred to our Hive. We're taking her too.' Spark's report of happenings feels rushed, hectic. Distressed.

'My Queen. You have to kill her. She will never stop fighting, and her crew will never stop defying you. She has to die.'
'No.' is Spark's simple response.
'Spark. Please.' Moon pleads, switching to first name base. 'This is the way a power struggle is supposed to conclude. The only way for this to end well for you.'

There's a brief moment of silence, before Spark's voice returns, louder and stronger than before.
'I know that this is the way our people operate. But I will show them a better way.'
She retreats from his mind, and Moon's focus shifts to the situation in front of him.

Venah is staring at him, eyes wide with worry. She knows what it means when a Wraith spaces out like this from one second to another. She doesn't have to ask him what's wrong.
“The Queen needs us.” he simply states. “Come.”

The two hurry through the corridors, side by side, with the same fear dominating their every thought.
At the crossroads near the bridge, Venah stops.
“I'll get Ronon.” she lets him know and turns a corner, while Moon moves on ahead.

'Hail them.' he commands as soon as he enters the bridge and positions himself by the screen.
It doesn't take long before their call is taken.
The enemy Hive's Commander doesn't waste time with pleasantries.
“Give me one reason why I shouldn't wipe your ship from existence!” he snarls, but Moon feigns indifference.
“Once you open fire, my Queen will kill yours. Are you willing to make that sacrifice?” he responds, and the Commander snarls at him, frustration and fear preventing him from keeping a neutral facade.
Moon's eyes follow him as he paces on his own bridge.
“I want our property back.” he says. “My Queen and yours will be given safe passage to my ship.”
“Unacceptable.” the Commander immediately snaps.
“You really expect me to give up our only leverage point? No. She's coming with us. If you prove yourself trustworthy, you may have her back.” Moon argues. He knows, as soon as Sound is no longer in mortal danger, Spark will die. “Your alternative is becoming our secondary flagship, and losing your Queen for good. Your choice.”

The Commander stops pacing.
“You will take the filthy traitor too. I will not dirty my hands on him.”
“Very well.” Moon agrees. “You have an hour to organize transport. For every minute over that limit, your Queen loses a year of her life.”
That is a blatant bluff, just to raise the pressure, but Moon if positive that the Commander will not dare to go over that deadline.
Without gracing him with an answer, the Commander cuts the connection.

'They will comply.' Moon relays to Spark. 'But, they demand we take a traitor in as well.'
'Good. I was going to make that part of my terms either way. I'm in the Throne Room. Sound is unconscious. Hurry.'

Moon's attention is drawn by Venah and Ronon that step onto the bridge, now that the negotiations are done. They're followed by Ellia and her father.
“Spark is adamant about resolving this without bloodshed.” Moon says. “I am sorry, Ronon. I would do this your way as well, but I am bound to her word.”
“She knows what she does.” Venah counters. “I trust her.”
“As long as we get the people to safety, I'm satisfied.” Ronon comments. He seems gloomy, unhappy with the general situation. Moon can't blame him.

“I will lead the escort. Venah?” Moon asks and she nods.
“I'll keep the ship from exploding. Go get her back.” she says and Moon allows himself to smile briefly.

When Moon and his men step out of the airlock, they are greeted with the Commander. He's flanked by two other Blades, all of which are unarmed.
“The transport just left. Your Queen is in the Throne Room.” he informs him.
“Lock yourself into the bridge and keep your bay doors open.” Moon nonchalantly commands. “One wrong move, and your Queen dies. We will notify you when you can come back out.”

There's a moment of stubborn defiance, a silent snarl, but the Commander eventually turns and leaves.
Victory, for now, Moon thinks.

Chapter Text

Chapter 18 – Perspective

As soon as Spark sets foot back on her own ship, Venah already has her locked in an embrace. Hours of tension dissolve into nothingness in her Consort's arms, and Spark exhales deeply.
“Never do that again.” Venah whispers in her ear, then lets her go.
Folly steps out of the shuttle, observing the situation critically. Venah shrugs at him.

“Is he new?” she asks and Spark nods.
“Sound was going to kill him. I'm keeping him to save his life.” she responds, and turns to Folly. “Folly, this is Venah, my Consort.”
Confusion is apparent on his face, but he just nods, unwilling to question another Queen's decisions.
“Hi. I'm your new boss.” Venah adds, then redirects her attention back to Spark. “Are the people safe?”
“Quickwit is about to rematerialize them all.” Spark responds. “You can take Folly on a tour if you want to. I have... places to be.”

“You heard her. Come follow me. I'll find you a place to sleep.” Venah dresses Folly, beckoning him to come along. He complies, hesitantly, still looking at Spark for support, but she has already turned and hurried down the halls.
His gaze shifts back to Venah.
“You are her Consort?” he dares to ask, now that Spark is out of hearing range.
“Yes. With all the duties and privileges.” Venah responds, and begins leisurely walking down the corridors that lead away from the bay. “I think you and I have a lot to talk about. Well, let me start from the beginning...”

The Throne Room is filled with people. Delarians tending to those wounded in the Culling, Zarians huddling together like a flock of scared chickens.
When Spark enters, a mild state of panic fills the room, people hold on to each other and shrink away from her, trying to find shelter in the darkness in the back area of the large room.

Aside from the delari people, who are used to interacting with Wraith, another person remains in the front, straightening his posture, and trying not to shake.
Spark approaches him.
“You must be Calion.” she says. “The one Venah bargained with when negotiating the alliance between your planets?”
“Yes.” Calion says. “Yes, that is me.”
“My name is Spark. I'm sure you know who I am.” she says and Calion nods. “Good. First off, I want to apologize for the hardships my kinsmen have put you and your people through. I reacted at soon as I heard of the Culling.”
Calion nods slowly, still warily regarding Spark, like a mouse would watch a snake.
“I want you to know that you're safe here.” she continues. “It's bad enough that I let you come to harm when you were under my protection once, I will not let that happen again.”
“Can we go home?” Calion asks and Spark is stumped briefly.
“Well-... Your planet has this disease on it.” she says. “I was going to offer you refuge on Delar until we can be sure that the poison is completely gone from your water reservoirs.”
“On Delar.” Calion parrots and nods. The idea seems to please him more than the prospect of living on a Hive.

Spark pauses and glances over Calion's shoulder, to the Zarians that still cower in fear before her. It stings in her gut to see this, but she knows that there is nothing she can say right now to change that. Trust is earned, not given.

“It'll take is just a few hours in Hyperspace to reach Delar. I'll send a message to the planet, so they can prepare emergency shelter for your people.” she lets Calion know and he nods again.
Spark was already leaving, when Calion clearing his throat has her stop.

“Um,” he hesitates, then scrapes together his courage. “Thank you. For coming to save us, I mean. Soria said you would.”
“She was right.” Spark replies, and smiles at him, then leaves the room.

'Right on time, My Queen.' Quickwit greets Spark, when she returns to the bridge, waving her to his console. 'Take a look at this. Vermillion's Hive just sent it.'
Spark braces herself for bad news, but is pleasantly surprised when she sees Delilah's name on the transmission.
She hurriedly pushes her Commander aside and opens the message.
Immediately, it downloads several files onto the console and opens text that converts into Wraith script before presenting itself to her.

“Hello Spark!” the letter says.
“Carson and I finally finished analyzing the drug and this is huge – it uses a similar structure to my Vaccine! I encoded this message, so no one but you and your crew can read it, so keep this to yourself, yes?
I administered the drug to myself and watched the progress, because of a theory I had. I was right! The drug doesn't work on me at all, no alteration of any kind! Seeker even fed on me to confirm it and it's been like, a week. He's alive and so am I. Do you understand what this means? Our Vaccine IMMUNIZES people!
I'm sending my data along as proof, but think about this! Delar is immune, and not only that, we can push our agenda even more in the wake of this crisis! I don't think we can cure the effects of the drug, but hey, it's better than nothing, isn't it?

Vermillion says we can go home soon. She also wants to talk to you and Horizon. Seemed a lot less confrontational than during the conference. I'm dying to leave, really. Seeker is awfully antsy and skittish.
Hope to see you soon!


'Did you read along?' Spark asks Quickwit and he nods.
'I did. And she is correct. This is an incredibly good thing for us.' he says. 'Shall I assume that she already informed Atlantis?'
Spark actually snorts sarcastically.
'As if Vermillion would let her send a message to Atlantis from her own Hive! Forward it to Doctor Weir with my warmest regards. Also, let my mother know.'
'Are you in a hurry?' Quickwit asks, picking up on Spark's mood.
'I have an uncomfortable conversation ahead.' she reveals and turns to leave.

She reaches the holding cells quickly.
Her cell block is nearly empty, as Spark's Hive does not keep prisoners, and never has.
Only one cell is occupied, and a pair of eyes glares at her from between the bars.

Spark steps closer.
'I didn't want things to end this way.' she reaches out to Sound.
'You shouldn't have betrayed me, attacked me and kidnapped me, then.' she fires back, not very impressed with Spark's apologetic tone.
'You don't understand, and you didn't leave me any choice, not opportunity to explain.' Spark counters, now perfectly calm, as she's in control of the situation.
'I have time, and very little to distract me.' Sound offers, bitterness still giving her mental voice sharpness.

Spark leans against the cell door with her back.
'We have human enemies, and those enemies began spreading the disease I mentioned before you decided to murder Folly.' she explains. 'We call it the hoffan drug, because its core formula was developed on the planet Hoff. Once in the human bloodstream, is causes deadly fevers. But those that survive are a hazard to every Wraith that tries to feed on them. The drug causes a toxic reaction with feeding enzyme, instantly killing the Wraith in the process. The people you took are all infected. I came to your ship to save you. Folly learned of this, and approached me for help when I stepped on board.'

'So you mean to tell me that this is all a big misunderstanding?' Sound huffs.
'Exactly what I am telling you.' Spark looks over her shoulder, to her. 'Look, I get the situation you're in. You're young and terrified of people trying to take advantage of your youth. I know what it's like. But rash decisions just get more people killed. You nearly condemned your entire ship to a very painful demise.'
'What would you have done in my situation?!'
'I would have listened and confirmed the claims.' Spark sighs. 'I don't want to hurt you. You were never in any danger, the reason I took you hostage is because I didn't want to spill any blood. But I can't let you go until I'm certain that you understand.'

Again, the crowd of Zarius' survivors retreats in fear.
The door has opened again, but this time, Calion feels the urge to flee as well. It's not the Queen who promised him safety.
It's the Wraith who watched his companion die to him.
His expression is unreadable when he approaches Calion, who finds himself frozen with fear again. The Wraith stops about an arm's length away from him.

“I confirmed your claim.” he opens. “And nearly died trying to prevent catastrophe.”
Calion doesn't know what to respond, so he just waits for him to continue talking.
“Additionally,...” he pauses briefly, then raises his chin. “I was given a unique perspective on this ship. I understand that what you were subjected to was traumatic, and, from your point of view, very cruel. I want you to understand that nothing that was done happened out of bad intent.”
“What do you mean?” Calion managed to enunciate.
“All that we do-... all that I do, is surviving.” the Wraith explains himself. “I blamed you for my Blade's death, which is, as I am now aware, untrue and unjustified. For that, I apologize.”
Calion recalls Soria's words, recalls his own grief when his wife died, many years ago. He takes a deep breath.

“I understand your reaction.” he says, his courage even surprising himself. “You lost someone dear to you. Looking for someone to blame is-...”
“Human?” the Wraith completes his sentence.
“-... normal.” Calion corrects. “You're right. What happened on your ship was traumatic. I think, we should both step away from this and heal.”
This seems to satisfy the Wraith. He inclines his head downward, and walks away.

Once the source of stress is removed, Calion feels like curling up and crying. But he doesn't. He keeps his head up high.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19 – The Commander

“A true Queen knows when to relent, for her own survival.”
Guide's words draw the captive Queen's attention. Her eyeshine glows angrily in the darkness of her cell.
“How would you know anything about true queenhood?” Sound huffs. She hasn't been harmed, thus fear is substituted by stubborn rage. She rises from the bench in the back end of the cell and approaches her visitor.
No respect. She doesn't even seem to take Guide seriously, a Wraith who is several thousand years her senior.
“You have the necessary pride, yes.” he continues. “But pride is useless without anything to back it with.”
“What do you want?” she asks, exasperated like a scolded child.
Guide inclines his head downward for a brief moment.
“I am here to make you an offer.” he reveals and Sound rolls her eyes.
“What? Surrender my Hive and go free as an outcast? No, I think I will decline.” She crosses her arms. “Does Spark not even bother to speak Queen to Queen? Does she send her Blades to bargain with me? What disrespect.”

“Spark does not know that I am speaking to you.” Guide disarms her nonchalantly. “You know, she will never let you go home, unless you take the Vaccine and fall in line.”
“Under her command.” Sound snarls.
“Yes. And I know that you wish to maintain your independence. You never joined an alliance for that very reason.” he continues. “Your reign is shaky and you are aware of that. You do not want to become anyone's pawn.”
“What do you know of my reign? I have never seen you before!”

Guide smiles.
“I have a contact on your ship.” he reveals. “Your father and I go way back. I know of your mother's untimely demise. How early you took your throne, how unwilling your father was to be your Commander.”
“You know him?” Sound's defiance crumbles. “You are his ally? Then you must help me!”
“That is precisely why I am here.” Guide's smile lingers as he speaks. “Spark's constellation of young, inexperienced idealists works because she has her mother's support. It would have been similar for you, had Riddle still been alive. You need a competent advisor.”
“And you imply that you can fill that role?” Sound concludes and he nods.
“Spark trusts me. I can convince her to let you go, if you take me as Commander.” he suggests.
“You intend to betray her?” Sound's undertone is not very trusting.
“Only if you insist on seeing it that way.” Guide says. “I am still working in her interest. The only unexpected aspect of this is that my action also benefit you.”
“And yourself.” Sound adds.
“Does it matter?”

Sound draws breath sharply, air hissing between her teeth.
“Fine. If you can convince her, I will name you Commander.” she decides. “But if you are tricking me,...”
“I die. I know.” Guide completes her sentence and turns to leave.

The door to Spark's Throne Room opens with a quiet hiss. Three pairs of eyes flicker up to focus him, and Guide bows.
Quickwit and Venah, Commander and Consort both flank the Queen, previously hunched over a tablet with data. Spark smiles and beckons him closer.

“What can I do for you?” she asks him, establishing that verbal speech is appropriate, for Venah's sake. Guide's earlier conversation with Sound had been verbal for the sake of avoiding telepathic eavesdropping.
“I may have a solution for your problem with your prisoner.” he opens and sees Spark's expression light up.
“Did she agree to work with us?” she asks, and Quickwit's hand touches hers, an obvious telepathic attempt to cool her excitement before she can get disappointed.
“In a manner of speaking.” Guide confirms. “She is willing to make me her Commander, which, in turn, gives you influence on her.”
“What about her current Commander? Will he just step aside for you?” Venah inquires, and Guide nods.
“He is her father, and only took the position to support her.” he explains. “He knew me for a long time before I was captured. He trusts me, and more than that, he does not want this position.”

“That is great news!” Spark rejoices and leans forward on her seat. “Maybe my idea to resolve this nonviolently can work after all! Quickwit, I wat you to hail Sound's Hive and explain our terms. Guide – you can tell Sound that I agree to this.”

Guide bows and hurries to leave, before Quickwit can say anything to overcomplicate things. His expression is enough to deduce that he is very much not in support of this.
However, his mind reaches Guide, even when his voice cannot.
'Did she also agree to take the Vaccine and forsake her previous ways?'
There's a lot of disbelief in Quickwit's presence, so Guide doesn't even attempt to lie.
'No. I doubt that it will be easy to take that step. It will be a process but with my influence, we will get there.'

A brief beat of silence, then Quickwit returns with a lot moe contempt than before.
'You didn't mention that to Spark. She would never have agreed to your plan if you had.'
'Spark is kind. Perhaps too kind to act.' Guide answers. 'You know that this goal cannot be achieved without bloodshed. Either Spark kills Sound, or Sound kills a number of humans before agreeing to take the Vaccine. Which can you endorse?'
'She would never directly harm Sound. The only other option I see is assassination.' Quickwit responds. 'And I know that she will never forgive me if I do that.'
'Then I suggest you keep this particular detail to yourself, unless you wish to float idly next to this Hive for another week.'
'Do not test my patience, Guide. I will be watching you.'

He elects not to respond to this threat.

A back and forth of threats later, Guide finds himself in the pilot's seat of a shuttle, with Sound by his side.
'I will be honest.' she says, after a moment of silence. 'I did not expect you to keep your word.'
'You best learn to trust me, my Queen.' Guide cheerily replies. 'After all, I am your closest advisor now.'
'Trust is earned, not given. But, you did take a big step toward earning my trust today.'

His attention is briefly diverted by a message from Spark's Hive flashing up on his screens.
“Thank you.” the script reads and Guide smiles. It's not a betrayal, he tells himself. Spark would have been willing to outwait Sound, to keep her until she relents, while her tiny empire crumbles in her absence.

The fact that he is now Commander to a young and impressionable Queen is merely a pleasant side effect.
'What is this Hive's name, my Queen?' he eventually addresses her again, and Sound raises her chin proudly.
'Just Fortune.' she responds. 'She grew under my instructions. You best treat her well.'
'Naturally.' he responds and looks upon the ship drawing near, it's hulking mass filling his screen.

Just Fortune.
What a fitting name.

Chapter Text

Chapter 20 – Just Fortune

The ship hums idly under Guide's fingertips as he assesses its condition.
A notable shift had gone through the crew when Sound had stepped back on board, and Spark's Hive fell back into Hyperspace, the looming threat finally gone, the crisis resolved.
Most of them still lock him out of their minds, wary of his sudden appearance, with the exception of Silk, Sound's father.

He stands a few feet away from Guide, hands clasped behind his back.
'I will repay you for what you did today.' he states. 'And so will the Queen. You saved her life.'
'Sound's life was never in any danger.' Guide coyly replies. 'Has she readjusted yet?'
'She is reeling still. We should give her time.' Silk says, lowering his head a little.
'We may not have the opportunity to let her recover.' Guide adds. 'The crew is uneasy. They need her.'
'I will make certain that no one opposes you, of course-...'
'That is not enough.' Guide interrupts him. 'I do not need tolerance. I need trust.'

The conversation is cut short when the doors slide open and Sound's current Second-In-Command walks in, past the two, to his workstation. There is nothing but silence from his mind, but the glance that he shoots Guide is ice-cold.

'I will see to the Queen.' Silk excuses himself and politely exits the room, leaving behind a tense quiet.
Minutes pass without a word, but eventually, the Hivemaster speaks up, his mental voice sharp and uninviting.

'I do not know how you swayed my Queen to your side.' he opens, and Guide closes his eyes for a few seconds, commenting on the Hivemaster's words with an exasperated sigh. 'But I am not so quick to believe your lies. You came from her Hive. Whatever your intent may be, I will not make this easy for you.'
Guide turns to him, to see him furiously glaring at him.
'I'm afraid I don't know what you mean.' he responds innocently, seeing the anger flare in the other's eyes.
'You served Queen Riddle before, have you not? It must be awful, losing a Queen you swore your allegiance to.' he continues. 'I understand your concern.'
'You took advantage of Silk's grief and Sound's youth. Just know that I do not have a weak spot like they do. I will be watching you.' the Hivemaster says, electing not to respond to Guide's thinly veiled taunt.

When he turns back to his workstation, Guide lets his toothy smile fade.

'May I enter?'
Guide stands before Sound's quarters, which she hasn't left in days, silently reaching out to her through the walls.
In lieu of a response, the doors slide open before him, revealing Sound sitting on the edge of her windowsill, staring out into space. She does not turn to him when he enters.
The sweet stench of decay assaults Guide's sensory organs, and he glances down, to a drained human corpse on the ground, sprawled out in the middle of the room.

Without acknowledging it too much, he steps over the body, toward the young Queen.
'Your crew worries for you.' he lets her know, eliciting a sarcastic huff from her.
'They should have destroyed Spark's Hive and killed her if they really worried for my wellbeing.' she says, still not turning to face him.
'Your sentiment toward her has not changed much then, has it?' he asks, stepping closer again.
'Why would it? She tried to kill me and kept me prisoner.' Sound says. 'She is a rival Queen. My mother taught me to be wary of them.'
'Spark does not operate under the same ruleset as we do.' Guide argues. 'You have experienced her. She took you prisoner because she didn't want to kill you.'

Sound doesn't respond, likely because she can't think of a smart rebuttal of that.

'I am not defending her.' Guide clarifies. 'Nor am I defending your crew. But you need them as much as they need you.'
'I know.' Sound responds. 'Silk said, you had things under control.'
'And I do. But they grow restless without you. Not even I can console them.' Guide says, trying not to breathe through his mouth too much. The scent of decomposition seems to get worse with every minute he spends in Sound's quarters.
'Additionally,...' he adds, moving to sit down by Sound's side. '...our supplies are running out. Many are starving already. The contaminated humans we surrendered to Spark nearly emptied our holds.'
Sound's gaze flickers to the corpse on the ground and Guide reads a hint of guilt on her face.
'We have no official territory, and if Zarius is contaminated...' She lets the sentence trail off unfinished.
'We have a problem. I doubt you feel ready to encroach on another Hive's territory so soon after your release.' Sound's glum expression proves Guide right immediately.
'What do I do?' she asks him, helpless like the child she is.
'First of all, you need to step back into the light.' he tells her. 'Then, we can work on a solution.'

It takes Sound barely an hour to take her throne again. Her clothes are clean, her hair combed and braided when she steps before her Court, flanked by Guide and her Hivemaster. Her gaze trails over the faces of her crewmen, frail and pale.

'We have taken a severe blow.' she begins. 'But we will recover. As many of you already know, I have appointed the Blade that helpedme return to you as Commander.' She pauses to gesture toward Guide, who responds with a respectful nod. 'With his knowledge and experience, we will rise again.'

'We need to feed, my Queen.' the Hivemaster chimes in. 'And we are too far from any unclaimed planet.'
'I know this.' Sound confirms. 'I will find a solution.'
'Our time is running out. I suggest we retaliate against Spark and cull her planet. It is within reasonable travel distance, and it would only be her we'd have to overcome.'
'She has defeated Sound before.' Guide warns and the Hivermaster bares his teeth.
'Could it be, Commander, that your loyalty to her prevents you from endorsing this?' he snarls, and actual, guttural sound of aggression leaving his throat with his telepathic words.
'No, it is my knowledge of Spark's defenses.' Guide counters. 'And my strategic skill, something you clearly lack.'
'It's one Hive on a poorly developed human world. Our hunger will inspire us to fight harder than we ever have. We need to attack.'
'What a wonderful circumstance it is, that this is not your decision.' Guide fires back.
'Silence, both of you! I will not have infighting among my ranks!' Sound cuts the confrontation short. 'I said I would find a solution, and as your Queen, I deserve your trust. Dismissed.'

Guide is by himself on the bridge, watching data streams ebb and flow on his displays, the heartbeat of the ship, when the icy touch of the Hivemaster's mind finds him again.
'She did not defend your stance, as well as mine.' he scoffs as he enters the bridge. 'She has known me all her life. You know this – sooner or later, she will recall who her true allies are.'

He steps up to Guide, teeth bared, and adds verbally: “And then, she will dispose of you.”
Guide hums disinterestedly.
“Is that all?” he asks, not even bothering to look up from his work.
“You are an intruder, and I swore to Riddle that I would protect her daughter.” he hisses. “Give me one reason not to kill you where you stand!”
“Oh, how would you explain this to your Queen? Remember, I am your Commander.”

The Hivemaster raises his chin.
“She would understand. Sound is no fool. She knows that you have your own best interests in mind, not hers.” His voice shakes his anger, and Guide looks up, observing the Hivemaster critically.
He looks bad. Starved. And yet, his biggest concern is still his Queen.
On a certain level, Guide can admire his devotion. But most importantly, he calculates how much of a threat this Wraith poses to him. To his agenda.

He would never accept Spark as an ally, much less her terms of alliance. Sound can be influenced, molded. He is much older than her, much more stubborn.
The Hivemaster's furious stare is argument enough.

Guide removes his hands from the console and turns to face him. Their eyes lock and for a split second, there is fear in the Hivermaster's face.
The sudden pressure of another's mind, a mind much older than his own, the paralysis that strikes him both make him realize that his meddling in Guide's affairs was his death sentence.
There is nothing but a silent, panicked scream, the futile attempt at reaching out for help when Guide's hands almost gently come to rest on his jaw.
Then, with a swift, forceful jerk, a sickening crack of bone, it's all over.

Guide lowers the body to the ground and calls out for Sound, sending a series of fabricated images of an assault her way.

“We've got a transmission from Delar.” Elizabeth Weir's voice sounds from the intercom. “She's asked to see you.”
There's a wave of relief washing over Horizon's mind, but her voice remains neutral when she pushes the button to respond.
“I am on my way.” she says and steps out of her guest quarters.
There are no armed guards by her door anymore, just Teyla turning the corner into the corridor.
“Doctor Weir already notified me.” she tells her and Teyla nods.
“I know. I wanted to escort you personally.” she says and Horizon angles her head curiously. Teyla should know that she is able to navigate the city by herself. Still, Horizon remains quiet, giving Teyla the option to open the conversation by herself.

“I wanted to speak with you.” she explains her behaviour. “About the future of the Alliance.”
“So speak with me, then.” Horizon encourages.
“Vermillion is a threat. You know this. She will sabotage our future endeavors.” Teyla's tone is surprisingly soft when she addresses this and Horizon nods.
“Yes, she very likely will.” she admits.
“What can we do?”

Horizon pauses, remaining in the middle of the hallway, causing Teyla to stop as well, and turn around to her.
“Could you kill your own mother, Teyla?” she asks, half expecting an angry retort, but Teyla slowly shakes her head in response.
“No. I could not.” she admits. Horizon nods and continues walking.
The remainder of the way is spent in mutual silence.

Her dark thoughts are broken up by nigh-euphoria when she sees Spark's face on the screen.
“Mother!” Spark greets her, her voice a gleeful chirp. “I have good news!”
“Do tell.” Horizon says.
“Well, I went to aid the zarians when the planet was culled, yes? I managed to get all prisoners back unharmed, and even more than that, I planted Guide on their Hive.” Spark reports.
“You... planted him there?” John asks, an eyebrow raised.
“There was a little bit of a, uh... situation between me and the Queen. I took her prisoner, and in return to being released, she took him as her new Commander.” Spark explains. “His idea, by the way. The issue was resolved without bloodshed thanks to him.”

“He asked you to let an enemy Queen back, and turned over to her side?” Horizon asks, speaking slowly, as if she had issues comprehending it herself.
“No, he didn't turn over to her side. He's like a spy! He'll introduce the Vaccine to her Hive and she'll join us!”
“Did he say that?” Horizon asks.
“Well, no, but I assumed-...”
“You assumed?”
“We saved him, didn't we? Why would be betray me?”

“I do not know Guide well enough to pass judgement, but you should be careful.” Teyla adds. “That is way too much unsupervised power for someone you cannot be certain will be loyal to you.”
“My mother told you a little bit too much about how Wraith politics work, didn't she?” Spark huffs. “I'll keep your warning in mind, alright. Talk soon.”

The connection cuts and Horizon exchanged a glance with Teyla.
“Hoo boy.” John says.