The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end. Attributing it to the chill of the winter wind, she drew the deer hide more tightly around her shoulders and added a few more logs to the fire. She knew she ran a risk burning it this brightly, but the night was too cold not to. Against the Wraith, she at least stood a fighting chance; against hypothermia, she would lose every time.
Trusting the shelter of the cave would both conceal the light of the flames and weaken the strength of the signal in her tracker, she returned to skinning one of the rabbits she had caught earlier in the day.
"Sorry, Thumper," she whispered to it as she used her dagger to cut off its feet and finally its head. "Had to do the same to Bambi here, too," she said, patting the hide draped over her back. "Now your skunk buddy," she continued as she made a rough cut through the rabbit's underbelly, "he won't have to worry. I want nothin' to do with his stinky ass." She stuck her fingers into the rabbit's gaping abdominal cavity, pulled out its intestines, and tossed them onto the crackling fire. "Wraith wouldn't even need the tracker in my back to find me if I ran into him; they'd just follow the smell," she laughed to herself.
A twig snapped just outside the entrance of her cave.
She shut her mouth and stifled her laugh as soon as she had opened it. The back of her neck was tingling again and this time, she knew she couldn't blame it on the cold. She set the rabbit down, sheathed her dagger, and slung her bow and quiver over her back. Quietly reaching for the shotgun she had found in the abandoned weapons depot, she checked the chamber to see how many bullets she had left. Still only two. She didn't know what else she had expected.
The hearty scent of meat seasoned the crisp air while the guts popped and hissed as they burned. Her stomach growled and she swallowed hard, pushing down her hunger. Game was scarce now that it was suddenly winter and she desperately needed to eat. But dinner would have to wait.
Shotgun in hand, she tentatively emerged from her stone shelter. Her breath billowed out like puffs of smoke from her mouth as she took cover behind a nearby bush and listened. The wind was strong that night. With the dead leaves rustling in the trees and blowing across the snow-dusted earth, she couldn't isolate the sounds of nature from those of approaching Wraith.
A faint beeping several yards away caught her attention – the sound of a scanner, pinpointing her location. It knew where she was. To stoop in the bushes like a scared animal was useless. Standing to her full height, which she had to admit was neither impressive nor intimidating, she arose from her hiding spot. She pressed the butt of her gun firmly against her shoulder while her finger hovered readily over the trigger.
Reacting to the crunch of leaves from a few feet behind her, she ducked quickly, narrowly avoiding the blast of a Wraith stunner. Springing back up and spinning around, she took aim and fired one of her rounds directly into the Wraith's forehead. It fell to the ground with a thud, dark blood oozing from its facial wound.
"Thirty-seven," she whispered to herself as she cautiously made her way to the corpse. She first confirmed it was dead by giving it a hard kick in the stomach, then grabbed it by its arms and began the long and familiar process of dragging it to the nearby river to dispose of it.
Halfway to the river, drenched in cold sweat, arms aching, and lightheaded, she heard the whine of a Wraith dart overhead. Abandoning the corpse, she sought refuge behind the trunk of a large tree and watched as a beam of bright light appeared from the belly of the dart to materialize yet another Wraith hunter and a company of drones onto the forest floor only a few yards from her position.
Her pulse quickened.
They never sent drones. Only hunters. And never more than one at a time.
From the moment the hunter, scanner in hand, turned to face her position, she knew it was over. They had stopped pulling punches. She was no longer worth the sport. The time had come to eliminate her.
If she survived this, she'd have to remember to be flattered.
She cocked her shotgun, peered out from behind the tree and fired her last shot straight at the hunter.
She ditched her firearm, fumbled for her bow, and let out a curse. Gripping the bow as tightly as she could to steady her shaking hand, she pulled an arrow from her quiver. She loosed her first shot, but it bounced futilely off the drone's armor, like hail on a tin roof. She drew another and this time aimed for one of the only parts of the drone's body not protected by hard metal: its arm. The arrow pierced the drone's flesh, but it might as well have been stung by an insect; it snapped the wooden shaft, cast it to the side, and continued unperturbed in the group's advance toward her.
"Shit," she muttered, dropping her bow to the ground and unsheathing her longest dagger.
With her heart pounding against her ribcage, she left the safety the tree provided and charged at the squadron of Wraith sent to assassinate her, knife raised high into the air. Stunner blasts came at her from every direction as she snaked her way toward the drone closest to her, the static of near misses raising the hair on her head.
She kicked the stunner from the drone's hands, then tucked and rolled away as it tried to reach for her neck. The drone released its own dagger from its scabbard and barreled toward her.
"Block, thigh, strip, cut, duck, cut, finish," she recited over and over in her head. She planted her feet into the ground, blocked the Wraith's initial jab, and forced its hand down so that it stabbed itself in the thigh. With a balled-up fist, she knocked the blade out of its hand, sliced it across the forearm, sunk her dagger once into the flesh of its neck, ducked as it reached to grab her, and swiftly drew her blade across its throat.
"Thirty-eight," she thought.
As soon as the first drone fell, the next one was already on her from behind, its arms tight around her neck. She hadn't dodged fast enough. Struggling to free herself from the Wraith, she stabbed it repeatedly, hacking away at the meat of its leg, trying to get it to release its hold on her. Instead, its grip constricted like a vise around her throat. She thrashed her body against it but every move she made required precious oxygen she did not have.
It was her limbs that went limp first. Then a veil of static whiteness. Then a loud, persistent buzzing in her ears.
Just as her vision began to darken, the frigid air rushed back to her lungs and the world around her was restored. She fell first to the forest floor and the drone soon followed, killed by very a familiar red energy blast.
Sounds of automatic weapons fire filled the air and her heart soared, replenishing itself with both breath and hope alike. She pressed her body to the damp soil and stayed low on her stomach to avoid getting shot in the melee as the troop of Wraith surrounding her dropped one by one until every last drone was dead.
After taking a quick cautionary glance around her, she got to her feet and ran toward the group that had just saved her life.
"You found me!" she exclaimed, tears coming to her eyes. "Took you long enough!"
They raised their guns at her.
"Drop your weapon!" Colonel Sheppard ordered.
She stopped in her tracks and put her hands up in surrender, dropping her blood-soaked dagger into the white snow. "What's going on?"
Five confused and wary faces stared back at her.
"I'm sorry. Do we know you?" Dr. McKay asked.
"Yes! It's me! I've known all of you my whole li—" She stopped short, turning her head to the right and listening.
"Chewie?" Sheppard asked.
She glanced quickly over to Ronon and noticed that, he too, had heard what she had.
Sheppard's eyes shifted from Ronon over to her, then to the direction they were both staring. "What is it?"
"The hunter," she whispered.
They had eliminated all the drones but in the confusion of the skirmish and her excitement to see everyone, no one realized the hunter had escaped. Without another word, she bolted after it with the team chasing behind her.
The wind whipped at her face as she ran, stinging her chapped lips and flaying her lungs raw. She should have been winded, but the near promise of rescue had untapped some wellspring of energy from deep within her.
Once she caught up with the Wraith, it was standing on the side of a sheer cliff face, looking up into the starlit sky undoubtedly in search of a dart to come retrieve it. Without a moment's hesitation, she ran up to it and tried to push it over the edge, but it was like trying to move a solid wall. The Wraith curled its hand into a fist, hooked her first in the jaw, then landed an uppercut at the base of her ribs. She doubled over in pain, head bowed, what little air she had completely knocked out of her chest. Slowly, it advanced until she could see her own reflection in the shine of its boots.
It clenched its feeding hand with anticipation. "You have served your purpose," it sneered.
Mustering the last bit of strength and breath she possessed, she rose quickly from her kneeling position and headbutted the Wraith in the stomach. It fell to its knees. Capitalizing on the temporary height advantage, she launched herself into the air, and concentrated all of her force into a downward blow aimed straight at the hunter's face. She grabbed it by its long white hair, and in one swift motion drew another dagger from her thigh sheath and slit its throat. Dark black blood splattered from its neck all across her front.
Teetering a bit from hunger and exhaustion, she turned around to see the team staring at her once more, disbelief etched across their faces.
"Right…now did that uh…move seem a wee bit familiar to anyone else?" Dr. Beckett asked the others.
Sheppard nodded and stepped cautiously toward her. "Ronon, do you know this girl?"
He pointed his blaster right at her head. "Who the hell are you?"
"What do you mean?" she started. "It's me," she wheezed, still trying to recover her breath, "Eva."
"Eva?" He furrowed his brow and the muzzle of his gun dropped a fraction of an inch.
"Yes! Why are y'all being so weird?" she asked with irritation, wiping her nose with the back of her hand, mixing the metallic taste of Wraith blood with her own. "I know it's been a while but –"
"Are you saying we've met you before?" Sheppard asked.
"Yes!" she shouted. "You all know me!"
"I do not believe that we have ever met," Teyla said as calmly as she could, though her tone was somehow not entirely convincing when paired with the loaded P-90 in her grasp.
Eva pressed the heels of her hands to her eyes and shook her head with exasperation.
"Hang on, kid. You said your name is Eva, right?" McKay confirmed. "Eva what?"
She thrust her arms down to her sides. "Eva Dex!" she declared, perplexed as to why they would be asking her this.
The whole team turned toward Ronon.
"That was my mother's name," he said lowly. The gun fell loose in his hand.
"Yeah," Eva spat, staring up at him. "You named me after her."
The team exchanged confused looks but Ronon's gaze was centered on her.
She blinked slowly, took a deep breath, and tried to maintain her composure. "Look, I am hungry, tired, covered in Wraith blood, and I think my rib is cracked. Can we please just go home?" she begged, tears clouding her vision.
"Home?" Sheppard repeated.
"Yes! Home! Atlantis!" she shouted as she took a step toward the team.
They aimed their weapons at her once more and she raised her open palms again.
"What do you know about Atlantis?" Sheppard demanded.
"Dad, what's going on?!" she cried, looking pleadingly into her father's eyes.
Sheppard angled his head toward Ronon. "Whoa now. Did she just say 'dad?'"
"Who are you?" Ronon barked, his voice thick with frustration.
"I told you!" she yelled as loudly as her lungs would permit. "I'm Eva! Your daughter! What the hell is wrong with all of you?"