Chapter 1: Runner
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?"
Chapter 2: The Specialist's Daughter
Tensions come to a head as Ronon and his daughter Eva spar. Eva leaves to blow off some steam and gets herself into a predicament.
Hope you enjoy this chapter! I'll add a small little content warning for two things. 1) A very brief mention of inappropriate behavior from an adult male toward a female child, 2) a short, but icky description of a cut on the hand.
Two Months Earlier
Eva roared with fury as she failed once more to land a hit and instead fell hard onto the sparring mat. Neck muscles tense and breathing heavy, she lay flat on her back with Ronon's bantos rod pressed across her throat.
"You need to maintain eye contact," he chastised as he extended a hand to help her up.
Bright hazel eyes identical to his own glared back at him with such ferocity, it caught him off guard. He wondered if that was the way he looked whenever he was angry. No wonder people avoided him.
"I was," she snarled, refusing his assistance and getting up on her own. She turned her back to him and crossed the gym to grab a bottle of water.
"Then we'll keep practicing."
"No." She made her way back toward him. "You need to change the way you teach me," she spat as she shoved the bantos rod to his chest.
"Eva – " he started.
"No! Your techniques and your strategies are all predicated upon principles of brute force and superior size!"
He raised his eyebrows. The times Eva used polysyllabic words were generally few and far between; he supposed she was more like her mother than he thought.
"You think you're such an expert. You think you know what you're doing because you fight Wraith and you've trained marines and—and airmen, and entire task forces but you know what?" she shouted. "I'm not some 6-foot tall man! I don't weigh 210 pounds of pure muscle!" Quick and shallow breaths pulsed in her chest. "I'm small. In a battle of size and strength, I will always lose."
It pained him to admit it, but she had a point. His daughter took after him in so many ways, but in terms of physical build, they were polar opposites. At sixteen she hardly reached the height of his shoulders and though her frame was lean and sturdy, it was slight like her mother's. In all honesty, he had never consistently trained someone as small as her.
"I'm sick of losing!" she yelled, holding back tears of rage. "So you either need to start teaching me to turn my size into an advantage, or I won't spar with you anymore!" She stormed out of the room. If the pneumatic door hadn't closed automatically behind her, she surely would have slammed it.
He flung both sets of bantos rods to the floor and exhaled forcefully, wiping his damp brow with the back of his hand. This whole teenage thing was getting old: the lying, the mood swings, the defiance. It all made him miss the little girl she used to be; the one who would climb onto his lap and fall asleep during long puddle jumper rides, who begged him for a pet rabbit until he finally gave in, who sat still for six hours straight while he twisted her hair into dreadlocks only to find her on the floor of the bathroom cutting them out with his straight-edge razor three weeks later. This teenage girl bullshit even made him miss her toddler tantrums – and as a hot-blooded half-Satedan, could she throw a tantrum.
But she wasn't that little girl anymore. And that was precisely what worried him.
From the moment he met his wife, he noticed the way men looked at her. Truth be told, the jealousy that festered in the pit of his chest whenever he caught some airman, marine, or scientist's eyes lingering too long on her was what made him initially realize he was falling for her. Years later, despite their marriage and the child they had raised together, those unwanted looks never stopped. He was never able to accept it, but he eventually learned to ignore it. His wife was a grown woman, after all, and he trusted her.
What he could never ignore, though, was when those lustful eyes turned their gaze toward his daughter. He noticed it for the first time when she was twelve.
How he hadn't murdered anyone yet was beyond him.
He and Eva had always sparred together. As soon as she could stand on two legs, he brought her to the gym with him; he figured any individual born in a galaxy still threatened by the Wraith needed to know how to adequately defend him- or herself. But the first time he caught a man's eyes feasting on her childish frame as she walked past, he knew that no amount of regular training would be enough for her. From that day forward, he knew that going easy on her would do her no favors.
He couldn't afford to have her stop sparring with him.
Just once. Just once she wished she could get the upper hand and show him what it felt like to be tossed around like a ragdoll. But no. He wanted her to fail. He wanted her to fail so that he could feel secure in his status as the macho specialist in all things combat. No, sir. He couldn't have a little girl like her whoop his ass. Definitely not. He couldn't even give her that small victory. And Ancestors forbid he actually listen to her and take some criticism. He treated her like a child in every other aspect of her life. Why should the sparring room be any different? It made no sense.
She wanted desperately to hit something – or preferably someone – but with her father likely still loitering in the gym, that left both sparring and boxing out of the question. Shooting something would have to do.
She paced through the city's corridors, still fuming as sweat continued to bead across her brow and down her back from getting her ass handed to her. Before long, she was at the entrance of the firing range.
"Daddy, look!" the familiar and excited voice of a young girl beckoned from inside.
What was it, Take Your Child to the Firing Range Day?
She debated whether it was even worth it. It was summer; she had already taken her final exams, which meant no one could force her to interact one-room schoolhouse-style with any children on base for the next two months. Maybe she should just bottle up the anger, store it for her next sparring session with her father, and find a private balcony where she could gaze morosely at the ocean for the next two hours like a normal teenager.
Or she could shoot something.
With a sigh of resignation, she braced herself for the social interaction, and walked in. The second she entered, a young Airforce recruit stood to block her path.
"Whoa. You can't be in here," he said.
She shook her head. "I come in here all the time," she argued.
"Yeah. With your father. Minors under 18 must be accompanied at all times by an adult in the firing range." He gestured over to where Colonel Lorne was demonstrating how to fire an Ancient stunner weapon to two of his older daughters, as if that were proof. Well they needed supervision, sure. They were the go to the mainland and pick flowers, learn every Athosian ritual chant by heart, show off all the pretty clothes they got from Earth kind of girls. They wouldn't know the difference between a P90 and a Beretta pistol if one shot 'em in the leg.
Before she yelled at the sergeant and hit him with a "Do you know who you're talking to?" something her mother always said echoed in her mind. You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
So she gave him a shrug of the shoulder and flipped her long ponytail to the side. "You're an adult, aren't you airman?" she asked, looking up at him from under thick, dark lashes.
He squinted down at her.
Lowering her voice, she took a step toward him, close enough that she could smell the tobacco on his breath. "You could stand behind me, show me where to put my hands…" she tilted her head and lightly touched his wrist, "how to cock the gun…"
He crossed his arms and pursed his lips. "Nice try."
She let out a primal growl. Vinegar it was.
"Fine," she shrugged. "Then I guess I'll have to tell my dad who I got that pack of cigarettes from last week."
"The ones hiding under my bed," she revealed. "You smoke, don't you, airman?"
He glared at her.
"If my parents were to…somehow find those…" she looked up to the ceiling and innocently scratched the back of her head, "I'd have to tell them who I got them from…and how." She brought her eyes back to his and let him have a moment with his imagination.
"Miss Dex –"
"And you know my father," she continued. "He's more of an act first ask questions later kind of guy."
He stared at her for a long moment. "Full protective gear," he finally conceded. "You make one tiny error, one minor lapse in firearm safety and I will call security to get you out of here faster than you can say Smith and Wesson. No machine guns. Handguns only."
She licked her lips, then winked. "Deal." She headed to the back of the range and grabbed a pair of plastic goggles, some earplugs, and a set of noise-cancelling earmuffs.
"Good job, Liv," Lorne said, complimenting his eldest daughter with a pat on the back.
Eva looked over her shoulder and saw, from the still smoldering singe marks on the bottom corner of the paper, that Olivia had managed to just barely graze the target with a stun blast. She scoffed but had the decency to quickly disguise it as a cough.
Olivia glanced back at the sound and locked eyes with Eva. "Not really," she shrugged. "I barely made it onto the target. I'm not as good as Eva. I bet she could shoot it like right in the head."
Lorne and his younger daughter, Charlotte, turned to face her, as well.
"Eva," he greeted with a smile. "I was just showing the girls some self-defense." He then realized she was alone and narrowed his eyes with suspicion. "Where's your dad?"
"He's on his way," Eva lied with a smile.
"Here, you're really good at shooting," Olivia said, extending the handle of the stunner within Eva's reach. "Why don't you give it a go and show us how to do it?"
Eva gritted her teeth. "You know I don't have the gene to use those, Olivia," she replied, trying to keep her tone anywhere north of murderous.
"Oh crap, that's right. I completely forgot. I'm so sorry," she apologized with would-be innocence.
"Liv, can I try now?" Charlotte requested.
Olivia handed the stunner to her younger sister. "Be careful."
Lorne crouched a bit to get closer to Charlotte's level and Eva turned back to the wall of firearms to pick her weapon of choice.
"Now all you have to do is aim where you want the blast to go," Lorne explained. "Concentrate hard. This doesn't have a trigger so when you're ready, think 'shoot.'"
One of the new MP7s caught her eye. She wished she could try it out, but the guard had stipulated "handguns only." The Heckler and Koch 9mm would have to do for the day.
The sound of a stun blast whirred behind her.
"Look!" Charlotte exclaimed. "I did it! I shot it! Liv, did you see? I did it!"
Eva rolled her eyes and stuffed the orange foam plugs into her ears. Sweet silence. Honestly, the reprieve the earplugs offered from the chattering of the other girls was almost worth more to her than any protection against potential hearing damage.
Mindful to employ every piece of firearm safety she knew, she put on her glasses, and checked the gun to make sure it was unloaded. She then grabbed some ammunition and found a spot on the range. After verifying that no one was behind the paper target, she carefully loaded her gun, took her stance, aimed, and fired a round straight into the center of the target. She fired another. Then another. They all landed dead center – bullseye.
She continued shooting, unloading, and reloading for several minutes, every shot as accurate as the last, every minor frustration exploding with each discharged shell.
Movement from the corner of her eye caught her attention. She lowered her gun and pointed it downrange, then glanced over to see Olivia and Charlotte jumping up and down with enthusiasm, hive fiving each other. Eva rolled her eyes again and brought her finger over the trigger. Suddenly, pain seared through her hand and her bullet subsequently missed its target.
"Son of a –" she hissed, nearly dropping the gun to the floor. After setting it down, she examined her hand to discover the webbing between her thumb and index finger had been torn apart by the slide of the gun. Thick blood gushed from the open laceration. She peered back into the slide of the pistol, her stomach lurching once she saw the piece of ragged skin lodged inside it. "Airman," she called.
Within a second, the officer was at her side.
She pulled the earmuffs off her head with her uninjured left hand. "I got a slide cut," she admitted, voice firm. She looked just over his shoulder to avoid his disapproving gaze. "My hand is too slippery from the blood; I can't unload or clean the gun safely," she informed him.
"Dammit," he snapped. "This is exactly why –"
"I know," she retorted, holding her hand up high to reduce the flow of blood. "It was a mistake."
The airman didn't bother to utter another word. He merely pointed to the door and glared at her.
She curled her lip, pulled her safety glasses off, and yanked out her earplugs, throwing them to the floor. "I'm gone."
Chapter 3: Brave Little Patient
Eva seeks medical attention and discovers an opportunity. Keller finds some discrepancies in the infirmary's inventory and discusses her suspicions with Ronon.
CW for a bloody hand injury and needles/stitches.
Also, there's a little scene between Ronon and Keller in this chapter and I know a lot of people love that ship (hell, I like it too!), but my fic will not be shipping them. Sorry! Hope you still enjoy.
She tried to staunch the flow of blood from her hand as she made her way to the medical wing, but found that her spandex workout clothes didn't offer much in the way of liquid absorption. By the time she arrived at the infirmary, with her shirt and right forearm smeared in red, her left hand precautionarily cupped under her elbow to catch any drops that might trickle down and fall to the floor, she was a rather ghastly sight to behold.
At midday, the infirmary was bustling with staff, but relatively low on patients. Plenty of nurses or doctors could have helped her, but of course it was Dr. Keller who noticed her first. Eva performed an about face and hoped she hadn't been spotted.
It wasn't that Eva didn't like Dr. Keller. In fact, she had always preferred the Chief Medical Officer over all the other doctors on Atlantis, and not just for her expertise. Dr. Keller was the only doctor she had known her entire life; according to her parents, she had actually been the one – in the middle of a Wraith siege, no less – who delivered her. But today of all days, she wished for any other medic to tend to her. Though hers wasn't a gunshot wound, it probably still qualified as a firearm-related injury, which according to base protocol meant that a formal incident report would need to be filed. Since there was no bullet actually involved, another less-experienced or less-dedicated medical professional would maybe (intentionally or not) skip that step, but not Keller. You don't become CMO of a largescale expedition by leavings your Ts uncrossed, after all.
"Eva?" Dr. Keller asked with surprise from behind her. "What are you doing here?"
Eva turned around and laid eyes on the doctor. "I…uh…I cut my hand," she was forced to answer.
Keller's gaze jumped to the wound, then followed the rivulets of blood dripping down Eva's arm. "Oh geez," she breathed as she set down the box of medical supplies she had been carrying. "Okay. Well, let's take a look at it, then. Hop up here," she indicated, patting the edge of the nearest bed, next to the medical freezer.
Eva hoisted herself up and held her hand out for the doctor to examine.
"How did this happen?" she inquired as she took the girl's hand into her own to inspect it.
"I was sharpening my knife and my hand slipped," she supplied.
Keller narrowed her eyes, sighed, and straightened her back. "Sharpening a knife?"
"All right. We'll clean this up and then see if you need stitches." She reached for a bottle of saline solution and began to rinse the jagged laceration. The initial sting made Eva hiss in pain and she involuntarily jerked her arm away. "Sorry," Keller said with a wince as she took Eva's wrist again to continue washing out the cut. "At least you won't fight me on numbing you up a little before I start your sutures like your dad always does." She grabbed the anesthetic. "Where is he?" she asked, sneaking a quick glimpse up at Eva's face. "I usually prefer to treat my pediatric patients with a parent present."
The doctor raised two chiding eyebrows at her.
"I haven't told him," she finally admitted. "We sparred this morning and then we got in a fight so I left. I guess I was just a little angry and not really paying attention while I was sharpening the blade."
"Sparring," Keller sighed. "I see… You at least get a few good licks in?" she asked with a smirk.
Eva tried to hide her smile. "A few," she grinned in spite of herself.
"Well if you ask me, I think your dad needs to start easing up on you a little. You've been in here quite a bit recently."
Her head fell and she looked away from Dr. Keller, down at her knees.
Keller picked up a hooked needle and thread and began to sew the damaged skin back together. "Okay…good news is, it's only gonna take about three stitches."
"And what about your mom? She couldn't come here with you?"
"She's been on Earth for the past week," Eva revealed. "My cousin is graduating from her PhD program."
She nodded again. "Allie."
"Why didn't you go?" Keller asked, tying up her first stitch.
Keller nodded in understanding. "And how old is your cousin?"
"Wow," Keller breathed. "That's pretty young to already have a doctorate."
"Yeah." Eva bit the inside of her cheek. "She's like a genius or something."
"What's her degree in?"
"Linguistics," Eva answered, then made eye contact with the doctor. "Just like my mom."
Keller stared back at her for a moment, but thereafter remained suspiciously quiet until she finished suturing the wound. "I'm gonna go grab a bandage and some antibiotic ointment for you, and then I'll be right back," Keller finally said. "Should I grab a lollipop, too, for being such a brave patient?" she joked.
"Very funny," Eva called to her as she walked away.
She glanced aimlessly about the room as she waited for Keller to return. She didn't much like to wait. She peeked inside the box of medical supplies the doctor had set down earlier. Inside there were a few bags of saline, some latex gloves, and several packages of syringes. Then, a nurse passed by and deposited a blue container into the freezer to the left of Eva's bed. Another, tablet in hand, started sifting through a shelf of supplies and making notes.
Keller returned after a few moments with the bandage, ointment, and a red lollipop. She evidently remembered the red ones had always been Eva's favorite when she was younger.
Eva glanced down at the sucker and raised her eyebrows. "Seriously?"
Keller shrugged. "I'll just leave it right here," she said with feigned innocence as she set it on the silver tray next to the bed. "Maybe someone will take it, maybe they won't."
Eva smiled, rolled her eyes, and shook her head.
"Dr. Keller!" a panicked voice from the opposite end of the infirmary summoned. "We've got a patient coming in with an electrical burn!"
By the time the nurse had finished her sentence, Keller was already halfway across the room. "You know the deal!" she shouted back to Eva. "Keep it clean. Stitches will dissolve on their own."
Eva put the bandage on herself, gathered her things, and stood up to leave, but the blue container from behind the frosted glass of the infirmary freezer caught her eye once more. She looked over her shoulder to observe the minor chaos on the other side, then got closer so she could read the label.
ATA Gene Therapy Batch No. 463
"What's up, doc?" Ronon asked, the stench of burnt flesh and antiseptic assailing his nostrils as he ducked through the infirmary doors.
Standing near the bedside of a heavily-bandaged and unconscious patient, Dr. Keller looked up from her tablet. "Shouldn't you be munching on a carrot while you say that?" she quipped.
He wrinkled his brow. "What?"
"Never mind," she muttered with a dismissive shake of her head. "Thanks for making it down here so quickly."
"Yeah. You wanted to talk?" he asked as he leaned against an unoccupied gurney.
"Yep." Keller took a deep breath. "Eva was in here earlier. About three hours ago."
He squinted and gestured to his nose. "Is one of those damn piercings infected again? I told her not to –"
"It was a cut on the hand," Keller interrupted. "A pretty nasty one, actually."
"A cut on the hand?" he repeated. "She didn't mention anything to me."
Keller glanced to the side, momentarily avoiding his gaze.
Ronon narrowed his eyes. Keller had her break difficult news to a patient look on her face. "What?" he prodded.
"She told me she got it from sharpening a knife, but…" She pursed her lips, hesitating.
"It was on her right hand." Keller mimicked the action of sharpening a knife. "If she's righthanded –"
"Then the cut should be on her left hand," Ronon finished for her. He inhaled deeply and tugged at the edges of his hair, then exhaled slowly. "She lied."
Keller tilted her head. "Ronon, she smelled like gunpowder."
He stared at her, eyes wide with surprise.
"It's an injury I see a lot with younger recruits or with scientists first learning how to use their newly-issued sidearms. I think she was firing a gun and her hand got caught in it."
He shook his head. "Eva knows better than that." He had trained her better than that. Slide cuts happened from improper grip; Eva's form was usually flawless, even with firearms that most would deem too large or heavy for a girl as petite as her.
"Maybe she got distracted," she shrugged, "lost her focus."
Ronon emitted a low groan and brought a hand to his face.
"Now, I haven't seen any gunshot wounds today and Eva seemed pretty calm, so I don't think she hurt anyone else. My best guess is that this somehow happened in the firing range." She paused. "That said, it was still technically a firearm-related injury and for safety reasons, I should report it."
Ronon studied her expression, reading into the pause in their conversation. He crossed his arms. "But?"
"But… there's actually a bigger issue I need to let you know about."
A wave of intense heat rolled through his entire body and his stomach somersaulted while his mind jumped to conclusions and worst-case scenarios. What urgent medical matter would the father of a rebellious teenage girl need to know?
"Is my daughter pregnant?" he finally dared to ask.
Keller's eyes widened and she gave her head a rough jerk. "No! No no no," she quickly reassured him.
He let his head fall back with relief. "You're killin' me, doc!" he growled.
"Sorry," she winced. "No, it's not anything like that."
Heart still pounding from the adrenaline rush, he lifted his head back up and refocused on the doctor.
"Eva came in while we were doing inventory today," Keller explained, "and when we went over our stock numbers about half an hour ago, everything seemed to be in order except for two things."
Ronon raised an eyebrow.
"We're missing a package of newly-delivered syringes, which in and of itself is not a huge concern, except… one of the vials of the ATA therapy is also unaccounted for," she revealed.
"The Ancient gene?" he clarified.
She nodded. "So, either we counted wrong, it's lost, or…"
"Or someone stole it."
Chapter 4: When an Unstoppable Force Meets an Immovable Object
Ronon confronts Eva about the missing vial of the Ancient Gene Therapy and a long-held family secret is revealed.
Hi again! So this is one of the few chapters that relies on something from my previous fics, which are not here but on FFN. Therefore, I suppose it has a spoiler that may ruin a pretty big surprise from those fics (kind of weird to warn about a spoiler from your own work...).
This will be the only big piece of information from those stories that, if you haven't read them, may feel a little out-of-the-blue or out of left field.
Let me know what you think! Thank you to those of you who have left kudos. You're too kind. :)
Ronon barged through the automatic doors of their quarters to find Eva spread out and lounging on the couch, lazily eating a bag of chips. He strode right up to her and produced a small engraved stone from his pocket. "Touch this," he ordered.
"Why?" she replied, brows raised. She then crumpled the bag into a ball and forcefully threw it toward the kitchen trashcan. It missed and landed in a mess of crumbs.
"Because the infirmary is missing a vial of the Ancient gene therapy and I think I know where it went."
She sat up straight. "You think I stole it?" she hissed.
"Touch the damn device." He urged it forward.
She crossed her arms across her chest in defiance. "No."
"Fine. You don't touch it, then you admit you're guilty."
"Or maybe I'm afraid of naturally already having the gene and being blamed for a crime I didn't commit."
"You don't have the gene."
"How do you know?" she snapped.
"We all know! When you were eight years old, Sheppard let you play with the controls on a puddle jumper and they didn't respond to your touch. You then sat in my lap in the back of that jumper and cried for two hours straight until we landed." He paused. "You don't have the gene," he deliberately enunciated.
"Maybe it's one of those genes that gets switched on later in life," she argued. "It's called gene activation. Epigenetics. Look it up."
"Says the girl who got a D in biology last year," Ronon retorted.
"Only because my tutor didn't like me – "
"—not because I didn't know my stuff."
"You don't have the gene," he insisted. "I don't have it and your mother doesn't have it. They gave your mom the injection twenty years ago when she first got here and it didn't take."
"Then what's the point of having me touch it? Let's say I did steal it," she held up her index finger, "which I didn't – if the gene therapy didn't work for Mom then it probably wouldn't work for me either. So even if I touch that thing, it won't activate."
"Then you've got nothing to be afraid of," he smirked.
"And you wouldn't have your answer." She raised an eyebrow and re-crossed her arms over her chest.
They glared at each other for a spell, daughter equally as stubborn as her father, caught in a silent standoff.
"Fine," he growled, turning his back to her as he made his way to leave. "And don't think we're not gonna talk about how you got that cut on your hand later tonight." Just as the doors opened in front of him and he feigned his departure, he pivoted quickly and tossed the device directly at Eva's head.
Her subconscious reflexes kicked in and she caught the device to block it from hitting her in the face. As soon as the smooth stone touched the skin of her palm, it glowed bright blue.
"Dammit, Eva!" he shouted, closing the gap between them once more. "The hell were you thinking?"
"Who… cares?!" she yelled as she hurled the device back at him. "They can make more. I wasn't hurting anyone. It's not like anyone misses it."
"We don't steal in this family!" he bellowed.
"Whatever," she mumbled. "I don't see why you think it's such a big deal."
"No daughter of mine is going to be a thief." He didn't know where they had gone wrong, didn't understand how in just a few years, she had gone from being his little shadow to...this.
"Look, no one beyond us needs to find out," she bartered, raising her eyebrows.
"General Carter's gonna find out," he threatened.
"Why? You gonna snitch?"
"No. You're gonna confess."
"No way! Why would I confess? I'll just get in trouble! She'll take away my security clearance!"
"You'll confess because it's the honorable thing to do."
"Honorable? Or stupid?" she asked. "You gonna make me? You gonna sling me over your shoulder like you did when I was a kid and –"
"You are a kid," he interrupted between gritted teeth.
"You told me that on Sateda sixteen is when you come of age!" She clutched to the silver pendant of the necklace she wore every day. "On Sateda if you're sixteen, you're considered an adult."
"You wanna be treated like an adult? You wanna be treated like a Satedan?" he snarled, advancing on her. "Then start acting like one. True Satedans aren't thieves. And no. I'm not gonna drag you to Carter's office. You're gonna go there on your own, admit what you did, and apologize to her. And then, you're gonna go to the infirmary and apologize to Dr. Keller…like an adult."
"No, I'm not!" she protested.
"You're old enough that I shouldn't have to explain to you why stealing is wrong."
Eva leaned back and put her hands on her hips. "So let me get this straight," she said, "stealing is wrong, but it's okay to lie?"
Ronon's eyebrows pinched together at the abrupt change in topic. "The hell are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about Allie, you hypocrite!"
He took a step back and a chill ran through him, as though someone had dropped a bucket of ice water over his head. Did she know?
"I'm talking about how you and Mom have lied to me my entire life! How I grew up believing that Allie was my cousin, when she's really my sister!" she screamed.
Ronon swallowed uncomfortably and stared at her, tacitly wishing his wife were by his side to help explain.
"I've grown up my whole life on this base alone!"
"Eva, you're not –"
"Imagine how I felt when I found out I'm not actually an only child. That I have a sister I could have grown up with!" By this point, she was shaking with rage.
His heart beat quickly. "How long have you known?" he asked her, his voice lowered to just above a whisper.
"Two years," she spat. "I overheard you and Mom talking about it one night."
He shook his head and looked at the ground, lost for words. "Eva…pup..."
"Why did you keep this from me?" Tears had begun to form in her eyes. "Why did you lie to me?"
"Eva, your cousin –"
"My sister!" She clenched her jaw. "Stop…fucking…lying."
"Half-sister," he corrected.
Eva swallowed back tears and rolled her eyes.
"Allie doesn't know, which is why you didn't know."
"She's a 25-year-old genius who looks exactly like Mom. There's no way she hasn't figured it out."
"We're done discussing this," Ronon declared. "I get it. You're upset –"
"No! Just because you don't wanna talk about it anymore doesn't mean we're done!"
"This is something we should talk about when your mother gets –"
"No!" he shouted over her, gripping her tightly by the arms. "You listen to me! We are done talking about this. You're trying to change the subject –"
"Great!" she sniffed. "If we're done, then I'm leaving." Eva pushed past him with a growl and stormed out of their quarters.
"You better be going to Carter's office!" he called to her as she marched out into the hallway.
"I'm going wherever the fuck I want!" she shrieked back.
Chapter 5: Code Orange
Ronon's wife, Dr. Emma Rogers, comes back to Atlantis after spending some time with her family back on Earth. Ronon describes his earlier fight with their daughter and reveals that Eva now knows Emma's deepest secret.
Once again, this chapter mentions some information from my previous fics. No need to read them (on FFN) if you're not feeling it. All you need to know is that Allie is Emma's daughter from a previous (and bad) relationship and that Allie was raised by Emma's older sister, believing that Emma was her aunt and that Eva was her cousin. Allie is about 8/9 years older than Eva.
Hope you're enjoying this fic so far! Let me know what you think. :)
"Well… it doesn't look like y'all burned the place down."
At the sound of her voice, Southern twang thickened by the week she had just spent with her family, Ronon smiled. He stepped inside from the rain-soaked balcony and into the main living area to lay eyes on his wife who stood at the threshold of the door, suitcases in both of her hands. Her gaze shifted from a critical surveillance of their quarters for visible signs of damage or neglect over to him. She dropped her suitcases and within the length of a breath, was in his arms. They kissed briefly, held each other close and for the first time in a week, he felt whole again.
Eyes closed, he rested his forehead against hers. "Emma," he groaned, "never...leave...again."
She laughed quietly, the warmth of her breath wafting across his chest. "Why? What happened?" she asked with gentle amusement. They pulled apart and she stroked the birthmarks that dotted his cheekbone with her thumb.
Ronon gave a dismissive shake of the head.
"What?" Emma persisted. "What's wrong?"
"It's Eva," he revealed.
Her hand froze against his cheek and worry suddenly traced the lines of her face. "Is she okay?"
He nodded, blinking slowly. "You might wanna sit down for this one."
"Ronon, what happened?" She ignored his suggestion and remained standing.
He scratched uncomfortably at the base of one of his dreads and decided to go straight to the point. "She stole a vial of the Ancient gene from the infirmary and injected herself with it," he took a deep breath, "and it took."
Emma's jaw dropped.
"I confronted her about it and somehow that turned into a fight about Allie."
"About Allie?" she repeated, raising her eyebrows.
He nodded and looked into his wife's eyes. "She knows, Emma."
She dug her hand into her forehead and looked fixedly at the floor.
"She's pissed. She feels betrayed, lied to…"
Emma glanced back up at him. "Where is she now?"
Ronon shrugged. "Probably blowing off steam somewhere."
Emma furrowed her brow in concern as she looked down at her watch. "Did she say when she would be back?" she asked.
"Yeah," he replied with sarcasm. "She told me she'd be back around 10:30 in between the 'fuck off' and the 'I hate you.'"
"It's just…it's nearly her curfew," Emma observed.
"She'll be back," Ronon assured her as he ran his hand up and down the side of her torso, savoring the curve between her waist and hip.
She lightly traced the pattern of triangles along his left forearm with her fingernails. "I'm sorry you had to deal with that alone," she whispered as she stared intently at the tattoo.
He shrugged a shoulder and shook his head.
"I'll talk to her tonight."
"Wait till tomorrow. The yelling will keep up the neighbors," he smirked.
Emma peered up at him and allowed herself a reluctant smile.
"How was the graduation?" he asked in an effort to change the subject to something more light-hearted.
"It was nice," she answered. "She graduated with honors…top of her class."
"She must take after her mother."
"My sister must have raised her right," she countered.
He gave her a rueful smile. "You're too modest. You know she gets that from you."
"It's not modesty," she insisted and shook her head forcefully. "If I start to see myself in Allie, then I also start to see her father in her. And I don't want to see that." Her eyes were wide, lips pressed together in a tight line.
He sighed; the change in conversation hadn't quite gone where he intended. He started to brush a thick, errant lock of dark red hair from her face but as it caught the light, he took it between his thumb and index finger, narrowed his eyes and inspected it closely. "What did you do?" he murmured.
She pulled the strand from his grasp, then nervously tucked it back into her braid. "I didn't like the gray that was starting to come in," she quietly admitted. "So…I may have had my hair dyed while I was back in Texas."
"I thought we were supposed to grow old together," he teased.
Her expression finally lifted. "We both know you were always gonna get there first," she smirked. "And I plan on holding onto the five years between us for as long as possible. Now help me with my bags, old man. Unless you're afraid you'll break a hip." She smacked him swiftly on the backside, her green eyes glittering with mischief, before she headed toward their bedroom.
He picked up her luggage and followed, and though he was only a few paces behind her, Emma was already sitting on the edge of their bed, releasing her hair from its neat side plait by the time he stepped into their room.
She raked her fingers through the long tresses, shaking out the kinks. "You sure we shouldn't go looking for Eva?" she asked.
"She's fine. She just needs some space." He took her hand in his, pulled her up to her feet and into a tight embrace and spoke quietly into her ear. "You get some rest and I'll wait up –"
The city-wide intercom crackled overhead. "General Carter, Doctor Keller, and Ronon Dex to the jumper bay. Carter, Keller, and Ronon Dex to the jumper bay. We have a situation."
Emma leaned back and raised her eyebrows at him. "And that's what? Coincidence?"
"Can we locate her by tracking her subcutaneous implant?" General Carter asked.
Dr. Keller was crouched down and tending to a slumped over scientist on the floor of the jumper bay. "I don't see why not," she answered, pulling her penlight from her pocket and shining it into the scientist's pupils.
"What happened in here?" Emma asked with alarm as she and Ronon arrived.
In addition to the scientist huddled in a heap next to Keller, another man stood silent in the corner with an ice pack pressed to his forehead. There were signs of a struggle and glass from a shattered tablet littered the ground.
Carter turned around to address them. "We're still putting some of the pieces together," she started, "but it looks like Eva got the drop on Finnegan and Kapur here, and stole one of the puddle jumpers."
"She what?" Emma hissed in disbelief.
"Are you tracking it?" Ronon urgently asked.
"That's what we're trying to figure out right now," Carter answered.
"Guess that answers our gene therapy inventory problem," Keller muttered as she wrapped a blood pressure cuff around the scientist's upper arm.
"Look, I'll go after her," Ronon offered. "Just get me a pilot."
Carter nodded in agreement but her radio activated with an incoming message before she could get her request out.
"General Carter," a panicked voice said.
"I'm dealing with a bit of situation right now," she spoke into her earpiece. "Can this wait?"
"Ma'am, we've just detected a Wraith cruiser in orbit around one of our moons," the voice informed her.
As far as they knew, the location of Atlantis was a secret to the Wraith. Ronon's pulse began to rush and his stomach hardened to stone. If the Wraith could find the city, they could easily find his daughter out there, completely alone in an aircraft she had no idea how to operate.
"Cloak the city," Carter ordered.
"Already done, ma'am."
"Good. I'll be there in a minute," she said. "Get Sheppard in the chair. Ready the jumper defense teams and send them to the bay. Prepare the Hammond for launch. Everyone else to defense stations." She turned to Ronon and Emma. "I'm sorry, but I can only spare one team for you."
"That's all I need," Ronon nodded.
"If we do send the Hammond into orbit, I'll have them scan for Eva's implant and beam her aboard. Until then, and unless you hear otherwise from me, assume that you need to continue looking for her." Carter left in a sprint toward the direction of the control tower.
"Code orange. Jumper defense teams to primary jumper bay," the intercom overhead boomed. "Regular personnel to defense stations. Hammond personnel, prepare for launch. Repeat, code orange."
Emma turned to Ronon. "I'm going with you," she declared.
"Emma – "
"No," she interrupted. "I will not wait here worrying myself to death while you go out looking for her."
"If something happens to you…"
"Have I ever been a liability on a mission with you?" She stared up at him, her eyes alight with persistence.
"No," he admitted.
Emma was a quick thinker and a decent markswoman; she had watched his back and saved his life several times on expeditions when they were younger and he made sure to always return the favor. But that was in the past. Since Eva's birth, with the fear of loss always lingering in the back of their minds, they purposefully limited their joint missions. Ronon refused to let Eva be orphaned like he had been.
"I'm going with you," Emma repeated in a hushed voice, bringing her hand to his cheek.
He nodded. "Head to the armory and get ready. Meet me back here."
Chapter 6: Mud on Her Knees and Flowers in Her Hair
Eva tries to fly a stolen Puddle Jumper to the mainland, but is hindered by both inexperience and adverse weather conditions. While Ronon and a small team go looking for her, he can't help but think of her as his little girl.
There is a such a special place in my heart for the flashback in this chapter. It's one of the first bits I wrote for this fic and the primary inspiration for the whole Eva/Ronon dynamic. I wanted to show how close they once were and how special of a bond they once had with each other. I hope you all like it as much as I do.
CW for a description of a finger dislocation.
What do you think so far? Hope you've been enjoying!
The ocean surrounding her was vast and black and the lights of the jumper reflected like little pinpoints against the murky waves as it flew past.
"Breathe," she whispered to herself. "Breathe. Don't think about crashing. You just have to make it to the mainland."
She wasn't sure why she did it. One minute she was arguing with her father, wishing she could be anywhere but cooped up in the city, and the next she was stunning the two scientists in the jumper bay. One of them had hit his head pretty hard on the way down…she did feel badly about that.
Taking off had been easy enough; it was just a matter of touching the controls and thinking "fly." But now that she had to navigate through the night - the dark, cold depth and sheer immensity of the ocean finally starting to register - she was beginning to question her rash decision making.
As the thought of the mainland popped into her mind, a map of the planet appeared on her heads-up display. Small red dots appeared across the screen, tracing the path from her jumper to the nearest section of the continent.
"100 kilometers," she read. "That's nothing. We'll be there in no time." She wasn't entirely certain what she would do once she reached the mainland, but she would cross that bridge when she came to it. Instead, she focused on the little red dots and continued on her trajectory toward land. "Just like Pacman," she whispered. "I assume…"
With the HUD masking the majority of the front window, she heard the raindrops before she saw them. At first, they sounded like little pebbles hitting the roof and sides of the jumper, but soon the rain picked up and those little drops quickly evolved into sheets of water that assailed the hull of the ship. She glanced down below and saw that the seas beneath her had become rough and choppy. Multiple strikes of lightning flashed in the distance and an instantaneous clap of thunder rumbled deep, as though it had emanated from her own chest.
"Shield," she immediately thought. The HUD displayed an image of a forcefield forming around the craft. Feeling safer, she let out a quiet breath of relief. "30 kilometers."
Though the rain no longer pelted the exterior of the jumper due to the protection of the shield, she could still view the lightning strikes and hear the thunder roll across the sea. The storm around her was worsening.
There was a beeping on the HUD and a small, red target blinked about 5 kilometers west of her position. Minimizing the display, she glanced out the window to see a tower of clouds, like smoke from an erupting volcano, illuminated by pure white light, blinding against the navy sky. Jellyfish tendrils of lightning erupted incessantly from the inside.
It was an electric storm.
She pulled the HUD back up. Only 15 kilometers to go. She stayed her course, urging the jumper along the route outlined on the map. As the distance remaining dropped to single digits, she squinted and tried to make out the coast of the mainland.
"Search lights," she thought. The jumper's high beams activated and pierced through the darkness. "It should be straight ahead," she murmured, comparing the HUD's map to the great ocean in front of her. She craned her head, looked to the east, and caught a glimpse of what she thought was a sandy beach. Unless she was reading the map incorrectly, if she followed its path, she would just end up in the middle of the ocean.
"Mainland," she thought harder, closing her eyes tightly. "Take me to the mainland." She opened her eyes, but the map in front of her remained unchanged. "Fine," she sighed, and the HUD disappeared. Ignoring its directions, she veered the aircraft to the east in search of the beach she thought she had seen. For several minutes, she flew without the assistance of the navigational system, but encountered nothing. The mainland continued to prove elusive.
Her chest tightened and her palms began to perspire as panicked thoughts raced through her mind. The mainland was nowhere to be found. Maybe the map was right the whole time and she had been wrong. It was dark, after all. For all she knew, she was now flying in the total opposite direction.
A crack of lightning flashed in her vicinity. She jumped in her seat and yelped. This was foolish.
"Atlantis," she thought. The HUD made itself visible, but no destination appeared on the map. "Atlantis," she said out loud and with force, but there was nothing. "Home." Still nothing. "City of the Ancestors." Nothing again. "Shit," she hissed.
Her body heat rose and her back was sweating. She was lost. Desperately lost in the dark in the middle of a storm with no landmarks as far as the eye could see. Tears clouded her vision and her throat swelled. Just as she started to lose a grip on her composure, she saw it: large waves breaking against tall rocks planted deep into the sand. The coast of the mainland. Relief coursed through her veins as she lowered the ship's altitude.
It appeared that this particular portion of the landmass was primarily forest. She flew the jumper along the coast, searching for a clearing wide enough, smooth enough, and far enough away from the tempestuous waves for her to land.
"This'll have to do," she said as she discovered a small, pebbly clearing. She passed it once, then doubled back in a loop to attempt a landing. She had always heard that landing was much more difficult than taking off, but she hoped that in the puddle jumper, all she would have to do would be to think "land," and so she did. She chanted the word "land" over and over again in her head and visualized the jumper gliding smoothly to a stop against the bed of tiny pebbles. She tried to think back to the way Colonel Sheppard looked whenever he landed a jumper; he always made it seem so effortless. As the beach got closer, she realized that her mental chant of "land, land, land" had become verbal.
The ground approached with sudden rapidity and the HUD made itself visible once again, this time with flares of red blinking around its border and alarms blaring. The jumper made hard contact with the ground and slid, maintaining its momentum past sand, past boulders, past grass, until it crashed headfirst into the forest. Eva's skull slammed against the control panel in front of her and everything changed from red alerts and loud alarms to silent darkness.
"You my pilot?" Ronon asked the young captain who approached him.
"Yes, sir," she answered. "Captain Melanie Schmitz."
"And who are you?" he asked the man who had arrived with her.
"I'm um…I'm one of the new techs, sir," he replied. "I'll be tracking your daughter's subcutaneous transmitter," he explained. "I also have the Ancient gene in case I need to fly the other jumper back."
"Good," Ronon nodded, turning his back to his new team. "Let's go," he ordered.
"Is your wife on her way?" the captain asked as they boarded the ship together.
"She's not coming," he grunted as he took a seat. He knew she wanted to, he knew she wouldn't slow them down, but he couldn't risk losing his wife and, more significantly, he couldn't risk Eva losing her mother.
The captain closed the rear hatch, cloaked the jumper, and ascended through the jumper bay doors.
"Hm," the captain mused, squinting at the control panel and then through the windshield.
"What?" Ronon asked.
She shook her head. "The sensors are off," she informed him. "We're currently facing the West Pier head on," she motioned the direction with her hand, "but the compass on the HUD is saying that we're facing southwest."
"Why is it doing that?" Ronon asked.
"Nichols, are you having any trouble locating her transmitter?" the captain asked the scientist.
"No. It's sending out a clear signal. Looks like she's probably on the mainland," he answered.
"Then I'd say it's the storm, sir," the captain finally answered in an effort to address Ronon's earlier question. "The electrical current is messing with the ship's electromagnetic compass. Gimme a second." She turned the jumper around and they hovered midair, facing the North Pier while she fiddled with a few of the knobs and dials on the control panel.
"We're wasting time," Ronon growled.
"Just gimme another second."
"Every second we waste is one more second my daughter is prey to the Wraith."
"Look, I understand," the captain interrupted. "I'm a daddy's girl, myself. But we will end up wasting more time in the long run if I don't take the time now to manually recalibrate our sensors. If we intend on finding her as efficiently as possible, then I need to sort this out."
"Fine," he grunted. "Just…hurry up."
"Already done," she smiled as she flipped the ship around and they sped in the direction toward the mainland.
Inside the cabin no one spoke so it should have been silent, but the hail bombarding the outsides of the ship was deafening. The technician's tracking device emitted steady, high-pitched beeps that seemed to tick away every second they had left to find Eva before the Wraith did. Ronon restlessly spun his gun in his hand, staring at the map of the mainland on the HUD.
"Eva," Ronon called. "Come here."
She turned her head over her shoulder to look over at him, picked one more flower from the tree and added it to the others in her hair. She skipped over to where he was and crouched to the ground just like him.
He placed one hand on her small back and pointed to the earth with the other. "You see these prints?" Her peered sideways into her face as she studied them.
"What kind of tracks are they?"
"Rabbit?" The sunlight filtering through the canopy of leaves overhead cast a shadow on the little lines between her brows that betrayed her uncertainty.
"You asking or you telling?" he said harshly.
"Rabbit," she repeated with more confidence.
"Good," he smiled. "How many?"
She scrunched her lips together and knelt so close to the ground that her nose almost touched the dirt. "Just one," she declared, having learned her lesson from earlier. She examined their surroundings. "Tree cover…bushes…" she thought out loud. "It's a momma rabbit."
He tried to hide his pride in her. "How do you know?"
"Because this," she started, standing up and walking to a large bush, "is her nest." She bent down again to grab a nearby stick, then lightly pushed up the grassy covering to reveal a litter of small furry kits. "Awwww," she cooed. "Can I have one, Dad?"
"Nope." He stood abruptly and took her by the hand to lead her away.
"Please," she begged as she found a way to break free of his grasp and run back to the nest.
He sighed and caught up to her again, this time gripping her harder by the wrist, and yanked her up. "Let's go," he prodded.
"Can I at least hold one?" she asked with frustration as she leaned her entire weight against his arm to prevent him from heading in the opposite direction of the rabbits.
"Nope," he repeated.
"Why not?" She continued to try to squirm out of his grasp.
"If you touch the kits, then the doe will think there's something wrong with them and will abandon the nest."
"Oh." She stopped in her tracks and stared down at the ground. "And they'll die?" she asked, looking up at Ronon.
He nodded. "Whenever you're out here, you have to make sure you make the smallest impact possible."
"So that things don't die?"
He nodded. "So that things don't die," he echoed as he finally released his grip on her wrist.
"But we kill things when we hunt…"
"There's a difference between accidentally killing something out of disregard and intentionally hunting something for food."
"So…it's okay to kill things on purpose but not on accident?" she wondered, furrowing her brow.
Ronon got onto his knees so that their eyes were level; he placed both of his hands on her shoulders. "It is wrong to kill something for fun or for sport or for a selfish reason."
"Like wanting to hold a baby rabbit," she whispered to the ground in shame.
He took her chin between his thumb and index finger and tilted her face upward so that she was looking into his eyes again. "But sometimes we need to kill things to survive," he explained. "That's how life works."
"And then it's not wrong?"
It was Ronon's turn to look away. "That's a tough question, pup," he sighed. He glanced back at her, smiled, and secured one of her flowers into her braids.
Just as he began to think how perfect she looked amidst the foliage, flowers, and little animals, there was a rustling in the nearby bushes. Ronon got to his feet and drew his blaster from its holster and pointed it toward the sound. Eva pulled out her small knife, hid behind her father like they had practiced before, and clutched to the back of his shirt.
More rustling and Ronon's finger tightened on the trigger until an antlered head popped up from behind the hedge and bounded away. He exhaled and lowered his gun. "Just a deer."
Eva sheathed her knife and peeked out from behind him.
"You wanna follow it?" he asked with a raised eyebrow.
Without a word, she sprinted noiselessly in its direction and Ronon followed. They dodged through trees and boulders, pursuing the white tail as it flashed through a blur of dirt, bark and leaves. Eva was practically flying, nearly as agile and light on her feet as the deer itself, until her ankle made hard contact with a raised tree root and she hit the forest floor with grunt of pain. Ronon skidded to a halt and ran back to her.
Kneeling by her side, he picked her up and gingerly set her on a nearby boulder. "Are you hurt?" he asked as he hastily examined her.
"My hand," she whimpered, holding it up between them.
Ronon grimaced as soon as he saw it. "Your finger's dislocated." He took her injured hand in his own and Eva's eyes widened as she beheld her disfigured finger, bent perpendicular to the rest. "Don't look at it," Ronon ordered. "Look at me."
She brought her eyes to his and they were shining with tears, but she tried her best to keep them from falling.
"I'm going to pop it back into place," he told her, his voice level. "It's gonna hurt, but I need you to keep looking at me," he demanded. "Got it?"
She nodded, lip trembling.
"One, two," he popped her finger back into place and Eva let out a yelp, but didn't break eye contact, "three. That's it. We're done. All fixed," he said, rubbing her hand.
"Can I look now?" she asked hesitantly.
She looked down at her hand and flexed her fingers to test them all.
"Anything else hurt? Your wrists? Ankles?"
She shook her head. "I'm okay," she whispered.
Ronon stood and helped Eva, whose head was hanging low, to her feet. "What's wrong?" he asked.
"We lost the deer," she lamented.
Ronon laughed quietly. "We'll find another one," he reassured her, placing his arm around her shoulders and pulling her close to him.
As the sun set and their ride returned, Ronon and a very muddy Eva boarded the puddle jumper and claimed two seats in the rear compartment. The ship took flight and once it reached cruising altitude, Eva yawned.
"You tired?" Ronon asked her.
She nodded as she rubbed her eyes with a dusty hand.
Ronon shifted her into his lap and wrapped his arms around her. "Take a nap," he ordered, placing a hand on the side of her head and bringing it against his chest.
She settled in against him and closed her eyes. "Daddy?" she said softly.
"Hm?" he grunted.
"I love you."
"I love you, too, pup," he replied as he planted a kiss on the top of her head.
When the jumper landed back in Atlantis, he carried her limp, sleeping form back to their quarters and laid her, flowers in her hair and mud on her knees, in her bed.
A wave of nausea suddenly consumed him. When they found her – if they found her – would he need to carry her back home once more? Would he be the one to lay her to rest, this time for good?
"Does that thing tell you anything about her health?" he blurted out, nodding his chin toward the tracking device.
"I'm afraid not," Nichols replied. "This type of tracker doesn't reveal anything about life signs. It will broadcast regardless of whether the person is alive, dead, unconscious…"
Ronon's stomach lurched again. "Can't you do anything about the turbulence?" he snapped at the captain.
"I'm doing the best I can with these winds," she answered with a shrug. "There's Dramamine in the first aid kit if you need it, sir."
He leapt out of his chair, headed to the rear, and paced back and forth, still spinning his gun in his hand.
"Halfway there," the captain quietly announced.
Chapter 7: Swept Away
Ronon and the the team find Eva, but the Wraith Cruiser has detected their location.
Thank you to everyone who has left kudos! You rock. Hope you enjoy this next one. What do you think so far? How are we liking Dad-Ronon?
It was the smell of smoke – the kind of metallic, alkaline fumes indicative of an electrical fire – that eventually roused her. Eva tried to lift her head but the pain was too severe; it felt like it had been split in half and her neck was too stiff to move. Finally managing to crack open one eyelid, she took in the blurry, blue and yellow glow of the cockpit of a puddle jumper.
Why the hell was she in a puddle jumper? And in the driver's seat, no less?
Using every bit of strength she possessed, she worked to raise herself off the control panel. The smoke filled her lungs and she coughed, rattling the already jostled contents of her skull. She groaned in pain and brought a hand to her forehead.
Glancing around her, she located the source of the smoke: the crystal housing in the rear compartment was black and scorched.
"Rear hatch," she muttered, trying to recall which control released the back door. She stared blankly, the control panel swimming in front of her, but had no idea which button or lever to push. Eventually she gave up trying to remember and started pressing buttons at random.
First button and the drive pods engaged with a defective groan.
Second button and the HUD crackled overhead.
Third button and nothing happened.
After trying several more levers, the rear hatch finally opened.
Grateful for the clean, fresh air – even though it was pouring rain – Eva stumbled out of the jumper and collapsed against the trunk of a nearby tree.
"Eva?!" a familiar voice cried out from the distance. "Eva!"
She squinted through swollen eyelids to see a large figure running toward her. Too heavy to keep open, her lids fell again. With a squish of wet leaves, the man knelt in front of her and brought his warm hand to her cheek.
"You're freezing," he said as he grabbed both of her hands and pulled her to her feet. "Give me your jacket!" he called to someone else with him.
A warm coat was draped over her shoulders and he held her to his chest as she shivered.
"The hell were you thinking?" he hissed, vigorously rubbing her back in an attempt to heat her up.
"Where am I?" she spoke into the fabric of his shirt.
There was a pause. "What?"
She looked up into the face of the person holding her. "Dad?"
"Yeah, pup. It's me." His voice softened slightly.
She looked at her surroundings from the safety of her father's embrace. "Where are we?"
"She must have hit her head," a female voice nearby said.
"We're on the mainland," Ronon explained to her. "But we're gonna get you home now."
"How did I get here?" she whispered. "Did you take me here?"
"Eva, you stole a puddle jumper and flew out here on your own," her father replied, some of the harshness returning to his voice.
"We gotta get going," the female voice urged.
Ronon held her by the forearms and looked her up and down so he could appraise her physical state. "Can you walk?"
"Yeah," she whimpered.
He braced her back and she took his arm as they walked together to another jumper.
"Thank you," Eva said.
Ronon looked down at her, eyes wide. "What?" He shook his head. "For what?"
"Thank you for getting me," she breathed.
He placed a gentle kiss on the top of her head. "Any time," he replied.
Captain Schmitz and Doctor Nichols took their spots in the front compartment of the puddle jumper, while Ronon directed Eva to a seat in the rear. He found the medical supply kit and quickly wrapped her in the silver thermal blanket. Kneeling at her feet, he took out the saline solution, cleaned out a gash on her forehead, and carefully scrubbed the dried blood off from under and around her swollen nose.
"I think you broke your nose," he muttered to her.
She closed her eyes and shrugged.
He reached into the medical kit once more to grab some butterfly closures and gingerly applied them to her forehead cut.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"How can you be sorry?" he grunted, breaking a cold pack and handing it to her. "You don't even remember what you did, Eva."
She took the pack from him and brought it, surprisingly not to her nose, but to her head.
He rested his hands on her knees, let out a deep sigh, and stared into her face.
"You're worried," she observed as she looked down at him, "and I'm sorry."
He nodded, got to his feet, and took the seat next to her. He draped an arm over her shoulder and she leaned against him, head drooping forward.
"Hey, you gotta stay awake," he ordered. "You've hit your head real hard. No sleep until we get you checked out."
Her eyes were already closed. "But I'm so tired," she protested.
"Too bad, Eva," he barked, shaking her. "You gotta stay awake."
"Jumper 7, this is control, do you read?" the voice over the jumper's radio called.
"This is Jumper 7, we copy and we've completed our mission. Eva Dex is safe with us, though a little beat up. Looks like her jumper crash landed."
"The cruiser left lunar orbit and made a run for the city. They got a few shots in before we could get the shield up. For whatever reason, it looks like our cloak is ineffective, though the shield did hold. They've changed course and are on their way to the mainland. We recommend dropping your cloak in exchange for shields. Chances are they already know where you are."
"Copy that," Captain Schmitz replied. "Switching to shields."
"My wife?" Ronon asked.
The captain nodded. "Ronon would like to know if his wife is okay."
"I'm fine, Ronon," her voice spoke sharply into the radio. "But don't expect me to greet you with a smile and open arms when you return."
Ronon nodded, reluctantly accepting her reaction. She had every right to be mad at him for lying to her and for leaving her on base, but at least she was safe. He'd take angry and alive over the alternative.
"The Wraith are here?" Eva asked.
"Yes," Ronon answered.
"Max speed, heading back to Atlantis," the captain stated. "ETA 15 minutes."
"Copy that. The Hammond is finalizing the launch process. If worse comes to worst, they should be able to beam you aboard."
"Buckle in everybody. This isn't going to be a pleasant ride."
Ronon and Eva headed to the front of the jumper to take the two empty and more secure seats. The captain flew the jumper as quickly as she could through the storm swirling over the ocean. Crates in the rear compartment slid, shifted, and fell from overhead as the ship was whipped around like a windsock. With the benefit of the shield, though, the interior of the jumper was eerily quiet.
"Jumper 7, our sensors are indicating that the cruiser is advancing on your location."
"Copy that. Don't see it yet, but we'll keep our eyes – holy shit," she breathed. "Strike that. We've got eyes on the cruiser. You're sure our cloak is useless?"
"The city's cloak was completely useless. The same technology powers the jumpers' cloaks so we can only assume that they're useless, too."
"How many hits from the cruiser can our shield take?" she asked.
"Unclear," command replied.
"Awesome," Captain Schmitz sighed. "What's the status of the other jumpers?"
"They were on the cruiser's six but it launched its darts. They're all tied up in a dogfight."
"Copy that." She turned to the technician. "Nichols, you're on drones. Best defense is a good offense."
"B-but I've never fired one outside of simulations." His eyes had gone wide and his face blanched at the request.
"You wanna switch?" she asked, eyes blazing with sparks. "You fly and make evasive maneuvers while I fire the drones?"
"I've got the drones," Nichols conceded.
"Here we go," she whispered. "We're gonna want to be under the ship. That's where the hull is thinnest and where they can't reach us with their own weapons." With surprisingly little resistance from the Wraith cruiser, she flew the jumper below it.
"Why didn't they shoot at us?" Ronon asked.
"No clue," Schmitz replied. "But I'm not gonna return the favor. Fire," she ordered.
Nichols released a barrage of drones into the belly of the ship.
She reached across the gap in the seats and slapped him on the arm. "Nice shot!" she complimented.
The technician blushed.
In an instantaneous counter strike, the cruiser released a beam of bright white light from underneath that just narrowly missed their jumper.
"What the hell?" the captain shouted, banking hard to the right and flying away from the Wraith ship. "Since when do cruisers have beaming technology? I thought only darts had that!"
"Cruisers don't have beaming technology," Ronon confirmed.
"Apparently this one does," she retorted. "Shit!"
"Can they pick up our whole ship?" Nichols asked to no one in particular.
"I don't wanna wait around to find out," Schmitz replied. "Nichols, I'm gonna make another pass on the port side of the cruiser. Fire as many drones as you can. Aim low again. If we can't take down the whole ship, maybe we can at least take out their beaming capabilities."
"Got it," he nodded resolutely.
"Hang on tight." She swooped the jumper past the side of the cruiser. "Now!" she yelled.
Nichols released more drones and all but one made their mark.
"Damn!" Schmitz exclaimed. "If you ever decide to change careers, Nichols, I would gladly take you as my first mate."
His face and neck flushed once more. "Thanks, Captain."
"Look, you scared 'em away," she grinned, pointing to the retreating cruiser.
The cruiser had ascended higher into the atmosphere and positioned itself directly over them.
"It's not retreating," Ronon warned.
Before Ronon had even finished his sentence, Schmitz dodged another beam from the middle of the ship.
"Fire at will," she ordered, concentrating hard on avoiding the barrage of beams as they effected their own retreat. She pulled up the HUD and tried to locate the other defense jumpers. "Jumper 5, this is Jumper 7," she spoke into the radio. "We're coming in hot toward your location and need back up. This cruiser has beaming technology and is trying to pick us up!"
"Jumper 7, this is Jumper 5. We copy. We've cleaned up most of the darts and are heading your way."
"Jumper 7, this is Dr. McKay from control. What's the status of your shield?"
"100 percent," Schmitz answered.
"Then you should be okay. Your shield protects everyone inside from being beamed up."
"Doctor, I think they're trying to beam the whole jumper aboard," Nichols responded upon realizing that Captain Schmitz was too focused on avoiding the Wraith beams to reply.
"Not possible. The Wraith beaming technology does not pick up anything non-organic," McKay informed them. "Our puddle jumpers are very clearly made from non-organic matter."
"Then why the hell are they trying?!" the captain shouted back at him.
McKay uttered a response over the radio, but it was drowned out by blinding light, silence, and then finally…oblivion.
Chapter 8: The Meat of an Old Steer
Ronon and Eva wake up inside cocoons on the Wraith Cruiser.
Before he opened his eyes, Ronon knew where he was. He had been held captive in enough Wraith cocoons to recognize the warm, sticky web encasing his body. Craning his neck as far forward as it would reach, he looked to both sides of him. There was no one to his left, but Eva – eyes closed and unconscious – was in her own cocoon on his right.
"Eva!" he hissed. "Eva!"
Her eyes fluttered open and, once they focused, widened in fear.
"Dad?" she whispered.
"I'm here, pup," he reassured her.
"Where are we?" she asked, her voice breaking.
He started to wiggle his fingers in an attempt to reach the knife concealed in his wrist guard. "We're in cocoons on the cruiser."
"The cruiser?" he heard her breathe.
"We need to get outta here."
"Schmitz and Nichols?"
"They're not here. I don't know where they are," he answered as he struggled against the tendrils of the cocoon. "Can you reach a knife?"
"I'm trying," she replied.
Her voice was higher than usual and the weakness it portrayed broke something inside him. His little girl was scared and there was nothing he could do about it. He thrashed himself against his restraints but no matter how he fought against his prison, he couldn't comfort her, he couldn't protect her.
"If you cut yourself out before I do, don't stop to release me," he ordered. "Just go. Find a way out on your own."
"Dad," she whimpered.
"You leave me here and find a way home to your mother. Do you understand me?"
"No," she stubbornly declared. "I stand a better chance at survival if you're with me. We get separated – I'm dead."
"Dammit, Eva. Will you please for once in your life just listen to me?"
"No!" she shouted. "You would never leave me so I'm not leaving you."
"Quiet," he barked at the sound of approaching armored footsteps.
A Wraith commander and two drones appeared from around the dark corner and halted before their cocoons. The commander surveyed both of them from top to bottom, Ronon all the while hating how long its ravenous reptilian eyes lingered on his daughter.
"I did not realize we had picked up two more. A Lantean gate ship and four humans?" the Wraith commented with an unsettling leer. "What a pleasant surprise." It walked up to Eva's cocoon and smiled. "And this one is young." It stroked the side of her cheek with the back of the finger of its feeding hand and she recoiled into the womb-like pod to get away.
"Don't touch her," Ronon snarled.
It looked back and forth from Eva's amber eyes to Ronon's. "Fascinating how certain traits are passed down from the human sire to its offspring," it mused. "Useful too, once you learn how to control it...how to breed for it."
"Take me," Ronon growled, interrupting it. "Take me and let her go."
The Wraith raised its brow and turned its attention to him. "She is important enough to you that you would sacrifice your own life for hers?" it asked more rhetorically than to Ronon himself. "Interesting…" It pulled a small device from its coat pocket and pressed a button, as though making notes. "I have frequently observed the females protecting their young, but this is the first time I have seen it with a male." The Wraith shrugged and put the device back in its place. "Unfortunately, you are hardly in a position to bargain. Whatever would make you think that I would let either one of you go?"
"I'm bigger. I'm stronger. I'll better satisfy your hunger," he argued.
"You humans consume bovine flesh, do you not?" it asked, yellow eyes peering into his own.
He glared back, breathing heavily, still trying to reach his knife. When he got free, he would start by cutting those eyes out of their sockets.
"Would you settle for the meat of an old steer," it returned its gaze to Ronon's daughter, "when you could have veal instead? I think not," it whispered.
Ronon slammed his entire weight against the cocoon, trying to break himself free. "Don't touch her!"
"I much prefer the taste of the females, anyway." It ignored Ronon and stepped even closer to Eva. "I will leave the ox for my underlings."
"Dad," she called out to him. He could hear the tears thickening in the back of her throat.
The Wraith lowered Eva's cocoon, but she was ready. She forced her way out of it, grabbed her knife and sliced the Wraith across its cheek, making it hiss with pain.
"Eva, run!" Ronon shouted to her.
As she turned to look at him, the two Wraith guards caught her by the elbows, disarmed her, and forced her to the floor. The commander wiped the dark blood from its face and cackled.
"Let her go!" Ronon yelled. "Take me!"
The Wraith advanced upon her, knelt to the floor and plunged his hand to her chest, preparing and strengthening her body for the feeding process. It clearly wanted this to last as long as possible. She shrieked in pain, tears falling from her eyes.
Her pain became his pain and the ground swayed violently beneath him. Had he not been imprisoned in the cocoon, he surely would have dropped to his knees. "Take me!" he roared as he watched, unable to look away.
The Wraith stopped and for the shortest of moments, Ronon thought he had convinced it. But that flicker of hope soon extinguished when he realized he recognized the look in the Wraith's eyes as it stared down at Eva. A Wraith had once given him that same look more than twenty-five years earlier.
The beast turned its head and made eye contact with Ronon, still fighting his flesh-like manacles. "She's strong," it sneered. "You should be very proud."
"I'm stronger," he growled.
"Take her to the laboratory," the Wraith commanded.
"And him?" one of the drones asked, nodding toward Ronon.
"You will take your fill once I have finished with her," it answered. "And see to it that she's restrained."
"No," Eva breathed as she struggled against the two guards. "No! Dad!" she screamed, looking back at him over her shoulder. With Eva flailing wildly in their grip, kicking, biting, and headbutting but to no gain, they disappeared around a corner. "Daddy!" he heard her cry.
Ronon strained so hard against the cocoon that his vision began to darken. A piece of sinew near his neck was suffocating him, he felt the capillaries bursting in the whites of his eyes, but he refused to relent.
They couldn't take his child. His only child.
Chapter 9: Without a Trace
Eva is taken and implanted with a tracking device.
CW for a medical procedure performed without anesthesia.
Her head was pounding and the metallic taste of blood – that of Wraith mixed with her own – poisoned her tongue. She fought against her two captors, lunging, dragging her feet, and even biting to make them loosen their tight hold on her. If she could get just one of them to release her, she stood a chance…but neither one yielded. Immune to her resistance, they hauled her down several dark and foggy corridors until they arrived at the entrance of the laboratory. A string of clear slime hung suspended from between the automatic doors like a foul and tenuous tightrope as they opened. She was unceremoniously shoved through it and into the room, the sensation of the cold ooze against her skin making her stomach turn.
"What's this?" a definitively human voice curiously asked from inside. "A prisoner?"
The first drone released her wrist but before she could take advantage of the change in position and strike, the drone had already clasped both of her arms behind her back. With the first Wraith kneeling at her feet in order to bind them, she kicked hard, her boot made contact, and there was a loud crack. The drone's helmet split in half. It rose to its feet and the face that met Eva's made her wish she had aimed her kick in a different spot. It had slits like a snake's in place of nostrils, blank unseeing eyes, and a gaping mouth like that of a screaming corpse. Irate and unhinged, it closed its fingers around her throat and brought its other hand to her chest to feed.
"If our master asked you to bring her here, then I imagine he will be extremely disappointed to find her already fed upon," the man in the room calmly stated as he tinkered with a device in his hands.
The drone released her and she wheezed, the throbbing in her head keeping time with the pounding of her heart. Before she could deliver another kick, the unmasked drone seized her by the ankles and, with the help of the other, flung her onto a cold metal examination table. Her vertebrae crashed into steel, sending a twinge of nerves up the length of her spine. With the slap of leather and the clinking of buckles, they tightened restraints first around her wrists and ankles and finally around her neck.
The drones then stood sentry at the threshold of the laboratory until the man spoke once more.
"You may leave," he said without taking his eyes from his work. "She can't do any harm while strapped to the table. Do us all a favor and go fetch yourself another mask, perhaps."
The two drones regarded each other for a brief moment, until they eventually left.
"Please – you have to let me go," Eva said as soon as the drones were gone, turning to look at the man.
He stood up from his seat. A tall, thin man with blue eyes, dark brown hair and small, almost beady features, he walked slowly and deliberately, carrying himself with a certain poise. Once he reached the examination table, he graced her with a smile, its intent – whether friendly or sinister – hidden by the shadows.
"I cannot do that," he answered.
"Please," she insisted. "My father is still out there and it's my fault –"
"Hold still," the man instructed, ignoring her pleas. He produced a handheld Ancient medical scanner from the folds of his robes and ran it down the length of her body.
"You have the gene?" she asked in astonishment.
He looked into her eyes. "The gene?" he repeated with a raised eyebrow.
"To operate Ancient technology."
He looked back down at the scanner. "Yes. I suppose I do," he mused.
"Why won't you let me go?" she asked again. "Do you work for these Wraith?"
"You have a moderate concussion and your nose is broken," he informed her, ignoring her question.
"Yeah, I know that," she spat. "But in the grand scheme of things, those are kind of the least of my worries."
The man returned to what Eva assumed was his work area, grabbed another device and returned to her side.
"This may cause you some discomfort," he warned her.
"Why? What are you going to do to me?" She squirmed away from him as much as she could from within her restraints.
"Fear not. This will not harm you."
He placed the new device securely in the palm of his hand and held it over Eva's forehead. He closed his eyes and it emitted a bright green light. The ache in Eva's head intensified until the green light shut off, at which point her pain ceased entirely. He repeated the process over her nose, blood still trickling down her face. The discomfort increased until, once again, it stopped. The man reached for a cloth and dabbed at Eva's nose to wipe up the blood.
"Better," he simply stated.
Before Eva could decide whether to thank him or not, the laboratory doors opened and the Wraith commander as well as three drones entered the room.
"We successfully retrieved a Lantean gateship," it informed the man. "You shall begin work on it soon. But first," it approached Eva, "we have a matter to address."
Once more, Eva writhed from within her bonds, but they were too tight.
"You have heard of runners, little one?" it asked.
She stared at the ceiling, refusing to answer.
The Wraith ran the back of its index finger along the side of her cheek and, for whatever reason, she felt suddenly compelled to answer.
"My father was a runner," she confessed. She shook her head in an effort to rid herself of its influence on her mind.
The Wraith took in a dramatic gasp of air that chilled her tender spine. "How poetic." It turned to the drones. "Turn her over," it instructed, its voice low and sharp with ruthlessness.
The drones approached her and stationed themselves, one at each of her arms and one at her feet. In a simultaneous and rehearsed maneuver, they released the leather straps that bound her, then – despite her thrashing – flipped her over like a pig on a spit. They restrained her again.
Eva's pulse accelerated as panic began to take over. Being face down on the table was somehow infinitely worse, infinitely more vulnerable, than being on her back. Her view was blocked; there was no way for her to see what was happening around her.
"Locate her transmitter," the Wraith ordered.
The man who had healed her earlier ran his scanner once more over her body and found her Atlantis-issued subcutaneous implant near her left shoulder.
"There," he pointed.
The Wraith, scalpel in hand, made a deep incision in her arm. There was no anesthetic, no numbing agent. Eva bit her lip to suppress a scream and closed her eyes. It took a pair of forceps and dug around in her arm until it found her implant. It dropped it, stained with her blood, into the man's palm. "Disable it."
The man went back to his work station. "Disabled," he confirmed after just a few short seconds. "It will no longer broadcast her location."
Eva glanced at her arm. Dark blood seeped slowly from the cut and puddled onto the floor.
"Good. Let's do a trade, shall we?" it sneered. It pushed Eva's hair off her neck and back. Her blood ran cold. It gripped the collar of her shirt at the top of her spine and ripped. The fabric gave way and the skin of her back erupted into goosebumps.
Don't cry, she thought. Don't cry.
The man scanned her back, then touched her with his index finger, drawing a short, vertical line to the right of her spine. "There."
With no hesitation and no time to prepare herself, the Wraith cut into Eva's back with its scalpel. Unable to contain her anguish, she released a scream of pain. She couldn't help but cry, sobs racking her body.
The Wraith slammed a hand on her shoulder blade and forced her to the table. "Hold still," it growled. "The new tracking device," it began, directing its attention to the man, "is it complete?"
"Yes," he replied, "though it has not been tested."
"Bring it here."
The man approached, there was a clanking of metal, and Eva felt something small and cold enter the open, bleeding wound on her back.
"Close her up."
The man took the device he had used earlier to heal Eva's head and nose and brought it first to the cut on her back, and then to the incision on her arm. Like before, she no longer felt any pain; it was as though the injuries had never existed.
The laboratory's doors opened once more, and another Wraith entered. "The humans have launched their battleship. It will be within weapons range –"
Before it finished its sentence, there was a loud boom and the whole ship shook.
"You say the tracking device is still untested?" the commander asked the man.
It smirked down at Eva. "Then let us see how well it works. Make the next scheduled jump," it ordered to the other Wraith. "And take her to the fighter bay," it nodded to the drones.
Her restraints were removed, and she was escorted out of the laboratory.
"If you can track me, so can my family!" she shouted.
The commander stopped and turned around to look upon her. "You are going somewhere where they will never, ever find you, little one," it leered, taking a strand of her hair and running it through its fingers.
With that, it turned its back to her once more.
The ship groaned and shuddered, preparing for what Eva assumed was a jump into hyperspace. But as the groan grew in volume and intensity, her skin began to feel like it was stretched too tightly across her shoulders. Her bones tingled and blistering heat seared from the tracker in her back. She didn't know what was happening, but she had traveled through hyperspace before…and this wasn't what it felt like.
One more inch. Just one more inch and he could reach his knife. One more inch and every Wraith on this ship would take its last breath. One more inch and he could save his daughter.
His fingers closed around the ivory handle. Bit by bit he sawed through the web enveloping him. First, his right hand was free. Then his left arm. He ripped, sliced, and strained until he finally emerged from the cocoon. The coolness of the air, shocking to his skin, made him shiver.
They had taken her to a laboratory. From what little he knew of the design of Wraith ships, they tended to keep their labs near the stern of the aircraft. He followed the last corridor he had seen them take her down, his blaster set to kill, but all the corridors looked the same – walls of organic matter shrouded in heavy mist. He stopped for a moment, concealed in the shadows, to find his bearings. He hadn't sensed a jump to hyperspace yet, so he still had time. Unless they had made the jump while he was unconscious…
The impact of a collision shook the walls around him. It had to be Atlantis. The Hammond must have made it into orbit.
Heart pounding, he glanced around at his surroundings; he was sure he was near the stern of the cruiser. She couldn't be far. There was still a chance.
The hiss of an automatic door drew his attention. He swung the muzzle of his weapon toward the sound and the Wraith commander emerged. For the second time that day, just as he established lethal aim, bright light surrounded his body, and he found himself on the deck of the Hammond.
Colonel Lorne was shouting commands mid-deck from the captain's chair.
Doctor Nichols collapsed against a wall, hands pressed tightly to both sides of his head, tears coming to his eyes.
To his right, the shriveled corpse of a female lay splayed out on the floor. The silver of the chain around her neck gleamed in the light.
Silver – just like Eva's necklace.
"We need a medical team with a body bag to the deck immediately!"
Ronon pushed his way to the corpse and fell to his knees. Terrified, he took the chain into his hand and ran his fingers over a set of silver dog tags.
SCHMITZ, MELANIE L.
First relief, and then guilt for that relief, flowed deep through his core. Gently releasing the tags, he raised himself to stand and searched around him once again.
"Eva? Where's Eva?!" he shouted. "Where's my daughter?!"
"We only detected three subcutaneous transmitters, sir," the first mate responded.
"She was with us!" Ronon yelled. "Check again! Scan again! She was onboard with us!"
The first mate looked to Colonel Lorne for permission. He nodded to her. "Do it."
She scanned the cruiser again while Ronon checked the screen from over her shoulder. She was right. Nothing was transmitting.
"Send me back there," Ronon ordered. "Send me back and I'll go find her. I know where she is."
"Ronon, I can't send you back by yourself," Lorne replied.
Ronon snatched Lorne's collar and lifted him from his seat. "She is a sixteen-year-old girl! She is my only child! We can't leave her on that ship!"
"I agree," Lorne said and Ronon released him. "But I can't send you in alone." He turned to the first mate. "Get Malcolm, Knox, Kim and –"
"Sir, I'm detecting a strange energy signal from the Cruiser," a scientist called from his station.
"What kind of signal?"
"Unsure it's like—"
Ronon looked out the deck window at the Cruiser. It had stopped firing at them. For a moment it remained still and then, in the blink of an eye, it disappeared.
"Did they just jump to hyperspace?" Lorne asked.
"No, sir," the scientist replied. "No hyperspace window was detected."
"Then where the hell did they go?" he shouted.
The cruiser was gone.
Eva was gone.
The breath had left his lungs. He tried to inhale, but he took in no air. Tears started to blur his vision.
The entire deck was silent.
"Beam me down to the city," he said in a voice only just above a whisper.
"Ronon…" Lorne started.
"What if that was one of your girls? Beam me down to my wife so I can tell her what happened to our child," he persisted.
With a nod of comprehension from Lorne, he was transported to the middle of the gate room. He lifted his gaze to the control deck and his eyes met hers. He tracked the emotions as they crossed her face. First joy that he had returned safely. Then panic, because he was alone.
Emma ran out of the control room and down the stairs, and planted herself in front of him. She looked up into his face, at the tears now freely falling down his cheeks.
"Where's Eva?" she whispered.
His eyes met hers, but his mouth, like his lungs, refused to function.
"Where is she?" she asked, her voice trembling.
He was lightheaded. All he could do was stare down at her.
"Dammit, Ronon!" she shouted and pounded her fist against his chest. "Where is my baby girl?" she shrieked.
"They took her," he breathed. "The ship disappeared and they took her."
Emma took a step back as a soft whimper escaped her lips. She wrapped her arms tightly around her body. "Is she alive?" she asked, trying to keep her own tears at bay.
Ronon shook his head and closed his eyes. He couldn't face her. He couldn't witness the pain he was about to cause her as he delivered the news. "I don't know, Emma. I don't know."
"How can you not know?!" she shouted at him.
"She was alive last I saw her," he answered. "They took her to one of their labs."
"To a lab? Why?"
"To…" he fixed his gaze to the floor, "to turn her into a Runner."
Chapter 10: Point of Origin
Now a Runner, Eva must find her way off a desolate desert planet.
CW for some sort of graphic violence toward the end.
I tried my best with the point of origin business. Hope it's mostly accurate.
I got the names of the symbols/constellations from The Cheyenne Project on Twitter. Thought their ideas and names were cool, so here's the link: https://twitter.com/cheyenneproject/status/574674228064219137
The address I used for Sateda, I believe, appears in the episode Sateda.
It had all happened so fast.
The cruiser was taking heavy fire from the Hammond, shaking the hull, threatening to tear a hole in its side that would expose them all – Wraith and human prisoners alike – to the harsh vacuum of outer space. The newly-implanted device in her back burned through her skin, through her muscles, up her neck and into the base of her skull. As the glowing heat intensified and her grip on reality in turn attenuated, there was a lurch in motion and all was quiet. Assault fire from the Hammond had ceased. The last thing she remembered was her knees collapsing beneath her and being dragged across the floor of the Cruiser as she lost consciousness.
She had awakened with sand in her eyes and up her nose, drenched in sweat, face down in the middle of a desert. Coughing up the tiny grains she had breathed in while passed out, she gingerly lifted her head and realized the burning in her back had stopped. She sat up quickly and felt for it, her stomach plummeting as her fingers grazed over the small, hard knot just at the base of her cervical spine.
So she was a runner now.
She looked around to take in her bleak surroundings and, much to her disbelief, beyond barren desert and dry air visibly waving with heat, laid eyes on a Stargate in the distance. She clambered to her feet, ran toward it and hoped with all of her being that it wasn't a mirage. It was farther away than it appeared, and her boots soon filled with sand, weighing her down, as she waded through the crests and vales of the desert. As she got closer, the gate grew in size until she stood below it, wheezing from her laborious sprint and dizzy from the sweltering heat. She approached it slowly, afraid that it would disappear the second she tried to touch it, reached out a tentative hand, and exhaled a sigh of relief when the skin of her fingers met solid, hot metal. It was really there. But that was only half a problem solved.
She glanced wildly about her in search of the dial home device. At first, she found nothing but sand. Her heart sank and her pulse began to race until, out of the corner of her eye, she captured a flash of sunlight reflecting off a blue gem, hidden beneath a modest dune. She rushed toward it and dug away the scorching sand with her bare hands until the entire interface of a Pegasus Galaxy DHD was exposed.
She pushed her hair out of her face, itchy grains of sand lodging uncomfortably into her scalp as she did, and quickly dialed. She punched in the first six symbols of the gate address for Atlantis but when she reached the last symbol, she hesitated. To complete the address, she needed a point of origin…and she had no idea where she was.
Theoretically, the point of origin should be the only symbol unique to this particular DHD. But in order to find the difference, she had to know what the standard was. And, much to her own frustration, she had never actually dialed a gate. The few times she had ever been off-world, either her father had dialed or Sheppard, from the jumper pilot's seat had. She studied the DHD, reciting the names of every constellation she knew. Out of 36 symbols, she could only name 20, which left 16 symbols unidentified. 16 symbols that could be the potential point of origin. Why hadn't she paid more attention when her father had tried to get her to memorize them?
She looked to the sky and was immediately blinded by the light of twin suns. Shielding her eyes with her hand, she squinted up into the cloudless blue expanse but the midday heavens revealed no information about her place within the galaxy. She looked back down at the six lighted symbols on the DHD, glowing impatiently as they waited for their sequence to be finished. Soon the chevrons, along with her hope, dimmed until they were finally extinguished.
She had no water, no food, no shelter, no protection from the heat or the sun… Her life's priorities swam through her head as she tried to triage them but all she could latch onto was that she was forsaken, alone, and running from the Wraith. She was their prey and she didn't know when they would send their first hunter.
Her hands tingled until they were finally numb, her chest tightened like a clamshell, and she started to sweat precious water that she could not afford to lose. The arid expanse spun around her and she leaned against the DHD for support.
A staggering realization came to her as she tried to steady her breathing. Even with the point of origin, she couldn't simply dial the gate and waltz into the gate room back home. Atlantis had its shield. Meanwhile, she had no radio, no IDC transmitter, no way to let the people on the other side of the gate know that it was her. Even with her missing, they would never lower the shield for a wormhole from an unknown planet immediately following a Wraith attack on the city. They all knew better than that.
Same with the Alpha Site. It, too, had a shield on its gate.
Sure, Atlantis had allies all over the Pegasus Galaxy, but she couldn't risk bringing a whole Wraith Cruiser down on their settlements. Morality aside, she didn't know any of their gate addresses, anyway.
Maybe she could dial addresses at random until a connection was established, but that was risky. It could take her to some other uninhabited planet…or it could spit her out onto a rock with an unbreathable atmosphere, or underwater, or into space. She remembered Dr. McKay once saying something like only three percent of planets in the galaxy were hospitable to humans. She didn't like those odds.
They were all bad options, and none of them viable until she could figure out the point of origin. And to extrapolate the point of origin using her location within space, she needed to wait for nightfall. How was she to know how long the days were on this planet, though? Perhaps the suns would set in just a few hours, or maybe it would take the equivalent of days. All she knew was that the longer she waited, the more she risked a Wraith being sent to hunt her and if she was certain of one thing, it was that they would do that before she could make any real attempt at escape.
If she was going to survive an encounter with a hunter, there was one thing she needed more than anything in the moment: weapons. Everything else – even water – could wait. She knew she had lost one knife on the Cruiser, but as she patted at her vest, she was relieved to discover she still had two others concealed on her. If there were a forest or any sort of trees nearby, she could fashion herself some bantos rods or whittle some spears, but there was nothing. Not even a cactus in sight. How could she rely on just two small knives to defend herself?
As all-encompassing dread threatened to drown her, something the Wraith commander had said to her father echoed in the recesses of her mind.
"She's strong. You should be very proud."
The deranged laugh that escaped her mouth surprised her. How could she find the words of the beast that had put her into this situation inspiring? How had he been the one, and not her father, who truly recognized her strength…her potential?
But he had. She had been made a runner for a reason and if the Wraith on that Cruiser had wanted her dead, she would be dead. Why waste time, effort, and a perfectly good tracking device just to kill her several hours to a day later? Why would they have left her armed? And why would they have dropped her within eyesight of the gate?
Because they wanted a game.
They would start slow – send a single Wraith the first time and one most likely with less experience than others. Though Eva had never successfully taken her father down in a fight, she knew she was still a force to be reckoned with; she had brought down full-grown marines, unarmed, in hand-to-hand combat many times before. But this time she had a knife…two of them, to be exact. Eva plus two knives, and nothing else to lose against a young and inexperienced Wraith? Those odds, she would take.
And so, she tracked the path of the suns as they set, and waited for the advent of the stars.
The first sun set and the second followed not too long after. It had been many hours, some of which Eva had spent exploring her nearby surroundings to seek out water, but most of which she had spent resting in the shade of a particularly tall sand dune in an effort to conserve her energy should the need to defend herself against a Wraith arise. Her search for water was short, and though she had found a few large rocks that she could potentially use as weapons, it had ultimately proved unsuccessful. Her mouth was sticky with dehydration and her lips had begun to crack, but as the first evening stars twinkled across the purple and orange sky, teasing the promise of her return home, she hoped that wouldn't matter.
The sky grew darker and darker until myriad constellations dappled the heavens. She climbed to the top of the dune to get a better look. "Okay," she inhaled deeply, thinking back to the nights she had spent as a little girl stargazing on the mainland with her father, "the point of origin will be a constellation that is visible in both hemispheres. Constellations visible in both hemispheres are located along the celestial equator. Find the celestial equator," she whispered to herself. "Celestial equator always crosses the horizon at exactly East-West," she balled her hand into a fist, then extended her thumb and her pinky to trace the path of the suns with her hand, "like this." She then rotated ninety degrees so that she faced North-South, flipped her hand, and brought it down until it crossed with the horizon. She squinted hard.
There had to be millions of stars packed along the equator alone, but eventually one constellation whose stars were bigger, brighter, and closer drew her attention.
It had to be the point of origin.
To her it looked like an animal, but then again, she had started learning the gate constellations when she was six years old, and at that age, everything looked like animals. She always thought Subido looked like a scorpion; Avoniv an octopus; and Gilltin was very clearly a pack of birds in flight.
However, the constellation shining above her looked like a rabbit…or was it a mouse? She squinted hard and tilted her head, trying to figure out which one it was. Depending on the angle, it morphed from one to the other. She stared at the constellation, deep in thought, until a dart zoomed across the ecliptic, released a conical beam of white light and brought her back down to earth.
"Shit," she hissed, sliding down the crest in a spray of sand before bolting toward the gate. She would have to decide which one to bet on once she reached the DHD.
Wraith stunner blasts whirred past her ears. She ran as fast as she could, but the sand was slowing her pace too much.
"You're prey," she thought, "so act like it."
It would take her longer to reach the gate if she didn't run in a straight line, but she was less likely to get stunned if she made her movements unpredictable, erratic.
After a winding chase, she reached the DHD but quickly realized she didn't know which address to dial. She stood there weighing her options, hands shaking, glancing over her shoulder, adrenaline pumping. Another stun blast narrowly missed her head. Spinning around to locate the source of it, her necklace sprung out from underneath her shirt, jostled by her momentum. Her heartbeat increasing, she took the silver pendant in between her thumb and her index finger and studied it. Small dots, all connected by thin lines, hand engraved by her father shortly after she was born.
Arami, Alura, Ecrumig, Salma, Roehi, Gilltin.
He had her memorize the six constellations from the time she was a child. He made her draw them on paper, in dirt, in sand; point them out on the ring of the ancestors until she knew them by heart.
If she could gate to Sateda, she could dial Atlantis from there. An anonymous dial from Sateda would be much more significant than one from some random backwater planet. They would be curious enough to send a MALP or the Hammond and then she could be rescued. Her heart leapt to her chest and her hands steadied as she turned back to the dialing device.
A stun blast hit her foot and her leg gave out from under her. She hoisted herself back up, using the DHD for support.
She glanced over her shoulder. The Wraith was getting too close.
She turned and hurled one of her rocks at the Wraith. Though it was not heavy enough to do any serious damage, it still hit the hunter square in the head and momentarily distracted it.
Salma. Roehi. Gilltin.
The Wraith closed the distance between them and aimed its stunner directly at her. She ducked as it shot and charged at it with her larger knife drawn. She sliced it across the stomach and it fell to its knees.
She raced back to the DHD, looking frantically down at the display, then up at the sky. The 16 unknown symbols swam in front of her like some sort of connect-the-dot menagerie. Most of them, she was able to eliminate quickly enough. The one near the top looked too much like a hippo, that one too much like a rooster, the one near the bottom too much like a monkey. Strange where the mind went under great duress.
The Wraith ripped Eva's knife from its bleeding gut, threw it aside, and advanced upon her.
Though she had eliminated most of symbols, there were still two left that looked so similar to one another. One like a mouse and one like a rabbit. Fifty-fifty shot.
The Wraith was no more than a few yards away.
With no more time to think, she punched the one that looked more like a rabbit and less like a mouse.
The gate came to life as the event horizon stabilized. The Wraith grabbed her shoulder from behind, slammed her back against the DHD, and brought its hand over her chest to feed. Eva reached for her last knife and brought it to the Wraith's face. It had anticipated her move and closed its feeding hand around her wrist, squeezing, its nails digging into her flesh, drawing blood until she could hold the blade no longer. It fell to the sand without a sound.
Arms pinned, Eva curled her only working leg up and thrust it into the Wraith's wounded abdomen. It stumbled backward, giving her just enough time to duck, grab another rock, and swipe. Stone met skull and there was a crack. The Wraith swayed in front of her, frozen in motion. She drew her arm back once more and swung with all of her strength. The Wraith fell to the ground and she followed, pinning it down and striking its face again…and again…and again, stopping only once the rock no longer encountered solid resistance.
She stood slowly and dropped her weapon. She wiped her hands on her pants, mixing together blood, sand, and brain matter alike. Trembling, heart hammering through her chest, Eva recovered both of her knives, took a deep breath and limped through the gate.
Chapter 11: All Work and No Play
Over lunch, Ronon, John, and Rodney share their opinions about the woman who serves as Atlantis' head of linguistics. Meanwhile, a signal is detected across the galaxy.
Two Months Later
"Just admit it," Sheppard said, mouth full of a bite of ham sandwich, "you wouldn't have been able to figure the damn thing out without her."
"Look, ten more minutes on my own and –"
"Rodney, you got the words for 'empty" and 'cow' mixed up," Sheppard interrupted.
"All right, fine. Her knowledge of Ancient may have come in handy…sure," McKay admitted.
"Yeah, we knew we needed to call someone when you told us the 'power source was cow,'" Ronon muttered under his breath as he picked a piece of meat from between his molars with his pinky finger.
"Oh, now I'm supposed to be an expert in Ancient as well as astrophysics?" McKay barked.
"How do you even make that mistake? They're not even the same part of speech." Ronon always derived a certain pleasure out of egging McKay on.
"I'm sorry. Have we dropped into a parallel universe? Because I could have sworn that Conan the Barbarian here was just lecturing me on the difference between nouns and adjectives."
Ronon took a drink from his water and lifted his shoulder in a dismissive shrug.
"I don't recall you offering a better translation," McKay spat. "How's your Ancient, eh?"
Ronon leaned forward and smiled calmly as McKay got increasingly worked up. "I never pretended to know any Anci—"
"You think she's single?" Sheppard ruminated, bringing an unexpected end to their squabble.
The two bickering men glanced at their friend, looks of confusion etched across their faces.
"What?" McKay asked.
"Rogers," Sheppard supplied with a nod of his chin. "You think she's single?" He tilted his head to the side and stared across the commissary while he evidently weighed the possibility.
Ronon followed his gaze until he, too, saw her. The young linguist was standing near the end of the buffet line, holding a tray full of food and engaged in conversation with one of the young marines. Based on the movement of their mouths, he was doing the lion's share of the talking; to her credit, she seemed to be enjoying herself, smiling and laughing in return, but Ronon couldn't help but notice her eyes periodically dart away from the marine, seeking out the few empty lunch tables still available in the mess hall.
"She acts like she's single," Sheppard decided aloud, his voice pulling Ronon from his observations.
He fixed his eyes on his plate and picked up a chicken bone to gnaw. "That's 'cause she's a tease."
Sheppard raised his eyebrows. "And you know this…how?"
"Just things I've heard," Ronon shrugged as he inspected the bone for any pieces of meat he had missed.
"Corrigan tried to ask her to dinner," McKay said. "Said she turned him down."
"Stevens, too," Ronon added.
"And Gutierrez. Honestly, the line of men who want to get with her is about as long as the line of people who want to get their hands on Ronon's particle magnum."
Both Ronon and Sheppard stared at him with wide eyes.
"We've gotta work on how you phrase things, Rodney," Sheppard grimaced. "I dunno," he continued, balling up a napkin and tossing it onto his tray. "Just because she turned down those yahoos doesn't mean she's not single."
"Single or not," Ronon smirked, "she's too young for you."
"But not for you?" Sheppard challenged.
Ronon furrowed his brow. "What? I didn't say that."
Sheppard squinted his eyes and shifted his head from side to side. "No…but it was the way you said it."
"It did kind of sound like that," McKay agreed.
"I'm not interested." Ronon leaned back in his chair, crossed his arms, and rested his feet on the chair in front of him.
Sheppard sat up straight - military officer straight - in his chair. "Speak of the devil," he murmured as the red-headed woman ended her conversation with the marine and began to search for a place to sit and eat. "Rogers!" he called out.
She jumped a bit at the sound of her name but put on another smile and made her way toward their table.
Sheppard kicked the side of Ronon's propped legs with his own. "But I just – "
"The lady's gotta sit somewhere," Sheppard hissed.
"Fine," Ronon grunted. He reluctantly obliged, brought his feet back to the floor, and sat up straight. "You watch," he muttered to Sheppard as she approached, "she's gonna flirt with you, then turn you down so hard your head'll spin."
"No, she won't," he argued in a similarly low voice.
Dr. Rogers reached the edge of their table and an unnatural, awkward silence fell over their table.
"Have a seat, Doctor," Sheppard smiled, choosing to ignore Ronon's admonitions. "We were actually just talking about you."
She sat in the now unoccupied chair next to McKay, across from Sheppard and Ronon. "I thought my ears were burning," she said as she gathered all of her long hair to one side. "Good things, I hope?"
"Always," Sheppard replied with a toothy smile.
McKay rolled his eyes and Ronon scratched his scalp.
The young woman smiled back at Sheppard, then lowered her eyes and licked her lips as she unrolled the silverware from its napkin.
"So, Rogers, how long have you been here now?" Sheppard asked.
She chewed on a bite of salad as she thought.
Ronon stirred uncomfortably in his seat; the doctor was the only one eating at their table, meanwhile the three of them just stared at her, waiting for her to finish chewing so she could humor Sheppard and answer his questions as he put the moves on her.
She spoke only once she had swallowed. "About six months."
"You like it here?" he asked.
"I love it," she answered with a sly smile. "It's quite a bit different than home but…in a good way." She took another bite of her meal.
"Home," Sheppard repeated. "Where's that for you again?"
"Texas." Ronon decided to answer for her in an effort to spare them all from the awkward pause they'd have to endure while she chewed on her greens.
She raised her eyebrows and her smile momentarily faltered. "Yeah," she choked, surprised, her eyes lingering on Ronon before finally looking back at Sheppard. "Outside of San Antonio originally."
Sheppard stuck a potato chip in his mouth and crunched on it. "You uh…you got anyone in particular back there?"
A bold glimmer appeared in her eyes. "You're certainly not asking if I have a boyfriend back home, are you, Colonel?" she asked coquettishly.
He shrugged. "Pretty girl like you..."
"Because if you were, I'd think that such information wouldn't be any of your business." She narrowed her green eyes which, along with her copper hair and slender features, gave Ronon the distinct impression of a fox playing with its prey. "And I think that Stevens, Corrigan, Gutierrez and a few other flyboys could attest to the fact that I'm not looking for one either. I came here to work," she stated, leaning toward Sheppard, "not to play."
"I've always heard that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," Sheppard argued, mindful to keep his tone congenial and flirtatious.
"You know, people throw that phrase at me all the time," she shook her head with feigned ignorance, "and they're always shocked when I admit that I've never even seen that movie."
Ronon had been hunting enough times in his life, seen predator interacting with prey, to have an idea of what was going to happen next. He shifted around in his seat to get a better look at Sheppard.
"Oh, come on now. You've never seen The Shining?" Sheppard asked in disbelief.
He had fallen into her trap.
"Everybody's seen that movie!"
"Not me," she breathed, settling back in her chair while a devilish smile played on her lips. "You see, it was a little before my time… sir."
Ronon tried to turn his laugh into a cough as Sheppard shot daggers at him.
"It's actually not originally from the movie," McKay corrected them, though no one really listened. "It's a traditional English proverb that was only popularized by Kubrick…"
McKay continued to prattle on and Ronon meant to only glance back at Dr. Rogers as she unscrewed the cap from her water bottle to take a quick sip from it, but he couldn't seem to tear his gaze away from her as her lips brushed over the neck of the bottle. She must have sensed she was being watched, as her eyes quickly flickered to his, then down and away before setting the water bottle back down. She crossed her legs under the table, accidentally brushing one of Ronon's shins with her foot as she did so. He sat bolt upright, jerked his knee back, and rattled the table with the rapid motion.
"Sorry!" she squeaked, temporarily losing her well-curated composure.
Sheppard and McKay looked over at Ronon, wide eyed with curiosity until they were interrupted by a nervous-looking technician who had approached their table.
"Um, sir?" he spoke up as he visually addressed everyone around the table except – Ronon noticed – Dr. Rogers.
"What is it, Gutierrez?" Sheppard replied, the tips of his ears still a bit red.
"Uh…not you, sir. Mr. Dex."
Ronon turned to look at him. "Yeah?" he asked with a frown.
"There's something you might want to see. Our long-range scanners have detected a tracking signal, very similar to the one from the device that was implanted into you a few years ago."
"A Runner?" He gave an apathetic shrug. "There are Runners all throughout the galaxy."
Gutierrez took a deep breath. "This signal is coming from P34-534."
"P34-534?" McKay repeated. "That's…"
Ronon finished his sentence for him. "Sateda."
Chapter 12: Rescue
Ronon and the team try to figure out who this Satedan Runner is and how she knows so much about them.
"I told you!" the girl yelled. "I'm Eva! Your daughter! What the hell is wrong with all of you?!"
It was surreal how fast the team had made the trip through the gate to Sateda. Not two hours ago, they had been finishing lunch in the sunny afternoon light of the commissary and now they were back in his long-abandoned home, speeding through the trees of the Veneran Forest as though it were any other forest in the Pegasus Galaxy, and not the woods where his grandfather had first taught him to hunt and track. And to see this girl, like some ghost of a civilization long decimated, stirred an unsettling sensation in his gut.
Ronon regarded the young woman in front of him with both curiosity and suspicion. She wore a pair of black combat boots similar to the ones Sheppard always sported, laced halfway up her shins and caked in mud. Tucked into those boots, she was dressed in pants with rips at both knees that must have once fit her tightly, but now pooled and bagged around her hips and ankles. With the light of the moon as their only light source, he couldn't be certain, but they looked just like what his friends from Earth called "jeans." Odd, he thought, for someone who was so clearly not from Earth. She had zipped her khaki jacket, adorned with a blaze of black, yellow, and red stripes along the sleeves – symbol of the long defunct Satedan military – all the way to her chin to ward off the cold; it utterly dwarfed her already small frame, further diminished by malnutrition. She looked so little, so tired, so frail; had he not seen her bring down the Wraith with his own eyes, he would have never believed it possible. He angled his head to get a better look at the side of her neck, but saw no trace of any tattoo that might reveal something about who she was or what rank she potentially held. His eyes traveled upward as the winter wind blew stray pieces of brown hair from her two long and messy braids across her dark and heavy brow. He then took in the shape of her face – pretty, slender, feminine, but somehow also familiar – and wondered why he had the nagging feeling he perhaps did know her. But his daughter? Impossible. By Satedan standards, the girl would already be considered an adult. Months of running had clearly made her insane. And yet, there was something about her hooded hazel eyes that made him uneasy…
"At this moment, who she is does not matter," Teyla announced. "We have a much larger problem to solve. More Wraith will be upon us soon. We need to remove her tracker so we can take her back with us."
"Take her back?" McKay repeated with incredulity. "Like back back?"
"She already knows of Atlantis. If we took her anywhere else, she would pose a significant security risk," she reasoned.
"Teyla's right," Sheppard agreed. "We're bringing her home with us. Fall back to the jumper."
The team walked in silence, all on high alert, on their way to the ship. Eva was relegated to the middle of the pack where she would not only be safe from the Wraith, but where the whole team could keep a wary eye on her. When they arrived at a clearing in the forest, McKay pulled a small device out of his TAC vest pocket, hit a button, and the jumper materialized. Dr. Beckett boarded first and Eva made moves to follow.
"Whoa there, warrior princess." Sheppard stepped in front of her and blocked her path to the jumper. "There is no way in hell we are letting you on this ship armed."
"Fine," she said, dropping her large knife to the ground before advancing once more toward the ship.
"Not so fast," Sheppard warned as he pointed his gun at her again. "Teyla, pat her down."
Teyla walked up to the girl and began feeling for concealed weapons. She lifted the back of the girl's jacket, withdrew a knife tucked into her waistband, and showed it to the group.
"We good?" the girl asked with a raised eyebrow.
Satisfied, Sheppard began to lower his gun, but Ronon interrupted. Whoever she was, she was clad in the garb of the Satedan military and if she was Satedan, then she needed to be more thoroughly searched.
"Right boot," Ronon ordered.
She sneered, bent down and removed a knife from her boot.
"Left boot," he continued.
She repeated the gesture and threw the knife to the ground.
She produced a dagger from her leather wrist guard.
"Hair," he said, pointing his chin up to her head.
She pulled two small daggers from her long braids, extended her arms wide, and released both of them at the same time from each hand.
"This is weird," Sheppard whispered to McKay, who nodded in response.
Placing her hands on her hips with an air of finality, she raised her eyebrows expectantly at Ronon.
He smirked. "Right boot again," he demanded.
She glared at him, maintaining intense eye contact as she extracted one last knife from her right boot and flung it in Ronon's direction so that it landed at his feet. She sighed, rolled her eyes, and crossed her arms across her chest.
"We're good," he affirmed.
Eva, along with the rest of the team, packed themselves into the bright glow of the jumper and not a moment too soon. With a high-pitched hum, three darts emerged from the thick, low-hanging clouds and headed their way.
"Time to go!" Sheppard declared.
Dr. Beckett was already preparing his surgical implements in the rear compartment, Sheppard made his way to the pilot's seat, and McKay took shotgun. Eva collapsed into one of the seats in the back, rested her head against the wall, and let out a sigh of relief. They took off without hesitation and Ronon knelt at her feet to peer into her face.
"All right," he began, "who are you really?"
She shook her head, eyes still closed. "I already told you," she snapped, "I'm your –" She opened her eyes, looked down at him, and immediately recoiled. "Whoa! What the hell?!"
Prompted by her rapid, erratic motion, Ronon drew his gun and aimed it at her head.
"What's wrong with your face?!"
Ronon raised his eyebrows.
Ignoring the lethal weapon hovering just inches from her head, she reached out and roughly patted his features – chin, cheeks, nose, eyelids, forehead. Though she had practically lunged at him, he didn't shoot, a fact that surprised him as much as everyone else watching their bizarre exchange. He caught her wrist with his hand and removed it from his face. She was obviously deranged. "What do you think you're –"
"Why do you look like that?"
Ronon glanced over at Teyla who shook her head. Eva followed his sightline and her eyes widened as she took in Teyla's countenance. She directed her eyes to the floor of the aircraft and brought her hand to the top of her back. "Oh my God," she breathed.
She had clearly come to some realization. What realization that was, Ronon didn't know.
"All right, Miss Eva," Dr. Beckett began, Ancient scanner in hand, "let's take a look at this tracker."
She lifted her head, gave Ronon another dubious glance, then stood up in the bumpy craft and turned around. She gripped to the cargo hold straps above her, knuckles white, and stood, legs planted shoulder-width apart, with her back to the doctor. He switched the scanner on and ran it along the top of her spine. The scanner beeped quietly, but Beckett said nothing. Ronon knew the doctor's silence was a bad sign. Beckett turned off the scanner and returned it to his pocket.
"Well?" Eva prodded, glancing over her shoulder. "Can you get it out?"
Beckett shared a quick glance with Ronon who found his own stomach twisting into a knot. "Not easily…I'm afraid," he admitted. "I'm sorry, but it looks like the device is attached to your brainstem."
"So?" she retorted.
Beckett was taken aback. "So? So I can't perform surgery to remove it in the back of a flying jumper with a fleet of Darts and a bloody Wraith Cruiser on our tail! It would be foolhardy."
She spun around and faced him. "So fry it!"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Like Dr. Keller did with that other runner…"
"Dr. Keller?" Beckett echoed.
"That—that Kiryk guy or whatever his name was. Hit me with the paddles and fry the circuits!"
"But that would stop your heart," he protested.
"I don't give a fuck! I need this thing out of me, even if it kills me!" She looked to Ronon. "Dad, you understand. You have to explain to him –" She stopped herself short and clutched her back with her hand. "No," she breathed. "No, no, no."
"What?" Ronon asked.
"It's burning," she whispered. Her chest heaved with rapid breaths. "It's heating up. You have to fry it!" she yelled at Beckett.
"Yes! It's heating up! It's activating!" She released an inhuman scream of agony and dropped to her knees. "Hit me with the paddles!" she roared.
"I will do no such –"
"Fry it! Fry it or I disappear! Everything will change and you will be gone and I'll disappear!"
"Disappear?" Beckett whispered.
"God dammit!" She looked up at Ronon and the doctor from the floor of the jumper, eyes bloodshot and wide with terror.
Something in Ronon's heart softened. "Do it," he growled. "Do it before it's too late."
Relief washed over her face and for the briefest of moments, Ronon glimpsed not the warrior, but the young girl she actually was. She swiftly removed her jacket and cast it to the side. Then, with no shyness or embarrassment that should otherwise be typical for her age and circumstance, she pulled her grubby shirt off and added it to the pile with her military jacket. The state of her bruised and scarred body sent a wave of nausea through Ronon's gut; her skin, paper thin, stretched tautly across her collarbone and hips, and her ribs protruded so far he could easily count every single one. Starvation had taken a brutal toll on her; if they hadn't found her when they did, she probably wouldn't have lasted much longer. She grasped at a silver chain around her neck, drew it over her head, and dropped it to the floor.
In the meantime, the doctor prepared the defibrillator, charged it full of electricity and rubbed the paddles together. "Lie back," he ordered.
The girl did as she was told. "Hurry," she winced.
Beckett pushed the straps of her bra to the side, then tentatively brought the paddles to her chest. "Clear," he announced.
Ronon stepped back.
The shock of the defibrillator brought a deafening silence to the cabin. Beckett felt for a pulse in her neck, then flipped her body onto its side. He scanned her with the Ancient device and nodded. "It's been disabled."
"It's disabled?" Sheppard confirmed from the cockpit.
"Aye. I'm not getting a signal. It shouldn't broadcast her location anymore."
"Roger that. Switching shields for cloak."
The doctor settled Eva onto her back, felt again for a pulse, and began CPR. He leaned over her body, straightened his arms, and pressed the heel of his hand so hard into her chest, Ronon feared one of her fragile ribs would crack beneath the pressure. Her body rocked with the force of his compressions, head banging roughly against the metal floor with each one. Teyla rushed over to help, knelt down, and cradled the girl's head in her hands. The familiar frustration of uselessness crept through Ronon's neck and shoulders as he stood and watched, meanwhile debating whether he should move to the forward compartment where he would perhaps be of more assistance. He found it difficult to tear himself away from the scene in front of him. Though he didn't know the girl, they both shared a mutual trauma, and for that reason alone he wanted her to make it. She deserved to be able to experience her freedom.
"Holy shit!" Sheppard exclaimed as the jumper lurched to the left. "That was way too close!"
Ronon headed to the front. It was best not to get too invested in the kid's fate. "What's going on?"
"Doc, you sure that thing isn't transmitting?"
"The scanner indicated it wasn't," Beckett replied through gritted teeth as he continued compressions.
"Well they can definitely still see us!"
"I did wha' I could." His Scottish brogue thickened, a sure sign he was in distress. Apparently, the girl wasn't reviving as quickly as he hoped. "Now if ye'd leave me be, I'm tryin' to save the lass's life."
The jumper swerved again as another Dart-fired missile nearly struck them.
"Okay. That's enough of that. I'm turning our shield back on," the colonel declared.
"Teyla, go into my kit and find the epinephrine," Beckett said.
She nodded, searched for the medicine in question, and handed it to the doctor. He briefly stopped his compressions and, with a quiet hiss, injected the drug into Eva's neck.
"Rodney, dial the farthest planet from here you can think of," Sheppard ordered as he dipped the jumper to evade another projectile.
"What do you mean 'farthest?'"
"What do you mean what do I mean? One that's really far away!"
"Any other requirements?"
"Hospitable, preferably." The sarcasm in Sheppard's voice was outmatched only by his frustration with McKay's inopportune questions. "And not crawling with Wraith."
"Well that could be any dozen –"
"Move," Ronon grunted, pushing his way to the cockpit and punching a seven-symbol address into the DHD interface.
"I'm gonna try and lose as many of 'em as I can in the cloud cover, then we'll drop low and go through the gate," Sheppard explained. "If a few Darts follow us through, no big deal – we can take 'em. We just need to put some distance between us and the Cruiser. Even if they can still track her, the Cruiser will have no choice but to travel by hyper speed. By the time they catch up with us, you'll already have that tracker removed, right Doc?"
Ronon glanced over his shoulder at Beckett who had fallen backward onto his heels and was wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. Teyla was helping Eva, dazed but alive, to sit up. "Aye," Beckett sighed. "Get me some more personnel and supplies once we're there, and I think I can manage that."
Sheppard lowered the jumper from the relative safety of the clouds and navigated them through the rubble of the city Ronon once called home, past derelict apartments, past the library, past the bank, past the street corner where Melena had first kissed him, until the shimmering blue waves of the Ring of the Ancestors engulfed them completely.
Chapter 13: A Familiar Sight
Eva is taken back to Atlantis where she sees some new faces and some very familiar ones.
She had exchanged one form of imprisonment for another.
Perhaps that was a bit dramatic. She would take being kept under lock and key within the safety of the City of the Ancestors over being hunted day and night by life-sucking predators. They had rescued her, after all, and following a long and demanding surgery, they had successfully removed her tracker. They had even offered her a hot meal; or rather, some of their leftover MREs. She should be grateful. But somehow, none of that managed to take the sting from the cold metal clapped around her wrists.
They had wrapped someone's bandana over her eyes while they dialed their home address – as if she didn't already know it by heart anyway – and shoved her, blind and cuffed, through the event horizon. After the instantaneous shock of cold, the hum of an active Stargate, the beeping of machines, and the quiet, characteristic chatter of Atlantis gate room technicians met her ears. Before she could even crack a smile at the welcome familiarity, the cloth was removed from her eyes. Colonel Sheppard and Ronon flanked either side of her, each gripping tightly to one of her arms. After two months of total solitude, struggling for survival, she expected to finally feel safe and protected with her father at her side, but now his presence lacked its usual reassurance.
The rest of their team, as well as the extra medical personnel sent to assist Dr. Beckett for her surgery, were already finding their way back to the armory and the infirmary. Her pupils adjusted to the brightness of the room to behold a middle-aged bald man with big ears and thin-rimmed glasses standing directly in front of her.
"This is the Runner?" he asked Colonel Sheppard.
"This is her," he confirmed. "Where do you want her?"
He returned his spectacled eyes back to her and looked her up and down. "Interrogation Room 1."
"Interrogation?" she repeated.
He gave a nod to Sheppard and her father who rotated her body toward the stairs.
She planted her feet as best as she could against the slippery floor. "But I live here. This is my home!" She looked about the gate room. "I was raised here!"
"And yet none of us seem to recognize you," he replied with a simple shake of the head. "Care to explain that, young lady?"
"Not to you," she retorted as she stared directly at the man. "I don't even know you. Who are you, anyway? Where's Carter?"
He raised his eyebrows. "Samantha Carter?"
"No. Jimmy Carter." She rolled her eyes. "Yes, Samantha Carter!"
The man noiselessly mouthed the word Jimmy, blinked a few times, then shifted his gaze back to Sheppard. "You said you found this girl on Sateda?"
Sheppard tilted his head to the side. "I told you she knows things."
"Apparently so…" he murmured before straightening his back. "Very well. All the more reason to interrogate her. We need to figure out what she knows. Take her away."
The two men pushed her forward, down the stairs, and out of the gate room.
"Let go of me. This isn't fair!" she hollered as they disappeared behind a corner and down a long hallway. "Young lady, my ass," she muttered, craning her neck over her shoulder to make eye contact with Sheppard. "So no one believes me?"
"We just need to confirm your story," Sheppard explained.
"And until then you're gonna lock me up? You've gotta be kidding me."
"We're just going to put you under observation." Sheppard's voice strained with the effort to remain calm as she struggled against him.
"Dad!" She turned and looked pleadingly toward Ronon. "You can't let them do this!"
He refused to meet her gaze. "Look, I don't know who you are," he replied with a dismissive shake of the head. "And don't call me that."
She roared loudly, grappling with her restraints and would-be rescuers turned captors.
"Easy. Calm down or we'll have to sedate you again," Sheppard warned. "You're gonna tear those stitches on your back."
"Like I give a –" She released a grunt and donkey kicked Sheppard in the shin.
"Ow!" he exclaimed, hopping onto one foot.
She felt the barrel of the gun against her temple before she heard the beep marking the switch from kill to stun.
The snarl of her father's voice met her ears. "I wouldn't do that again."
Turning her head so the muzzle pointed directly between her eyes, she peered up at him. "You and I both know that's set to stun."
"And you're a tiny, weak, starving little girl. You might not survive a stun blast."
"I am not weak! And you would nev -"
"You wanna put it to the test?" He bared his teeth and shoved the gun into the skin of her forehead.
"Look, kid," Sheppard intervened, "you come willingly and we'll get you anything you want to eat…provided we have it here."
She angled her face down and away from the blaster and listened with baited breath to the Colonel behind her, mouth watering and her stomach growling; she hoped they hadn't heard it, too.
"But if you struggle, we're gonna have to either stun you or sedate you and you know what they say: you should always wait at least thirty minutes between eating and being stunned."
Head bowed, she weighed her options. After a few seconds, she lifted her face with the intent to cooperate but instead laid eyes on a young woman with dark red hair about thirty feet away from them. Side-by-side with a man who also had blue stripes on his uniform, both were bent over a tablet and deep in discussion as they walked briskly toward an intersecting corridor.
Forgetting the gun still aimed at her head, forgetting the offer Sheppard had made her, she lunged forward, only to be yanked back by sheer military muscle.
Her heart jumped in her chest at the familiar sight. "Mom!" she called out.
The woman continued to walk away.
She tried to wriggle away from her escorts. "Mom!" she yelled louder.
Still no response.
She growled. "Emma!"
The woman finally glanced up from the tablet and knitted her brows upon locating the source of her name. She bade farewell to her colleague, changed direction, and headed their way.
"Mom?" Sheppard asked with astonishment, looking down at Eva, then back up to Emma.
Emma wasted no time on greetings or pleasantries. "Who is this?" She regarded Eva with a confused expression on her face. "How do you know my name?"
It would seem that teenage girls weren't a common sight in this Lantean city, and were an even rarer prisoner.
"This is the Runner we found on Sateda," Ronon answered hastily.
"And she's claiming to be Ronon's daughter," Sheppard elaborated.
Emma's eyes widened, then traveled from Eva's face to the particle magnum still pressed to her temple. "I see…" she breathed, gaze lingering on the weapon.
"Well…Ronon's and yours apparently," Sheppard added.
"What?" Emma hissed. Her eyebrows shot straight up and her eyes flickered over to Ronon's.
The glance they shared was fleeting, but the awkwardness of it was missed by no one.
Eva narrowed her eyes. "Hang on," she started, "you two aren't even together?" She looked from her father and then over to her mother and back. "Oh, this is so fucked up."
Chapter 14: The Interrogation
Eva is interrogated and reveals some surprising information.
Mr. Woolsey, Colonel Sheppard, Dr. Rogers and Ronon congregated in the observation deck overlooking the interrogation room, their own reflections staring back at them through the thick glass window. Eva sat down below, her legs tied to the chair and her wrists held together in a pair of long-chained handcuffs that afforded her a bit more movement than the standard ziptie. Hunched over the table, her head rested on her crossed forearms, face hidden from view.
"This is ridiculous," Dr. Rogers muttered under her breath. She turned her back to the window and leaned against it as if to rid her mind of the pathetic scene below.
Sheppard stepped closer to her. "We need to figure out who she is."
"And that can wait," she argued. "She's clearly exhausted, emaciated, recovering from major surgery and most likely delirious. I'm sorry, but what we need is for her to eat a big meal and get some rest." She waved a dismissive hand. "Interrogate her later."
Ronon scoffed and she glared back at him in return. The linguist had apparently believed this girl's delusional load of crap and was now determined to play mommy.
"I assure you Dr. Beckett has cleared her for questioning, Dr. Rogers," Mr. Woolsey replied.
Rogers folded her arms and shifted her stern glance from Ronon over to Woolsey. "But are the restraints really necessary? She's just a kid."
"A dangerous kid." Sheppard gingerly shifted his weight from one leg to the other. "You should take a look at the bruise on my shin."
She crinkled her nose. "I think I'll have to pass."
"You didn't see her fight, Rogers." Sheppard's tone quickly lost its usual good-natured humor. "She took down a Wraith soldier, single-handed, armed with nothing but a knife. And I doubt it was the first time she had to do that."
"Fine. She's dangerous." She lifted her shoulders in concession. "That aside, we can't even get a bed in there for her? She's been on the run for months and now we're making her sleep on some hard, plastic chair with a cold metal table for a pillow?"
Ronon had heard enough. "As long as she's safe, she won't mind one more night without a bed."
"And how do you know?" she said, rounding on him.
He straightened to his full stature and turned to face her. "Believe me," he peered straight down into her face, "I know."
Rogers seemed to shrink away from him and, taking a step backward, Ronon felt a trace of regret for using his size and presence to intimidate her. Upon recognizing he spoke from experience, though, her eyes softened and she took a calming breath.
"We could at least have the decency to roll an infirmary bed in there for her. Strap her to it if you need to, but the poor girl needs sleep."
"Doctor, I would remind you, due to the…unusual circumstances of this situation, you have been specially invited to watch this interrogation," Woolsey said. "You'll notice the other half of Colonel Sheppard's team isn't even here. Now, if you can't control your emotions, then I'm afraid that I'll have to ask you to leave."
Her fair skin blushed pink. "Sorry, sir," she said, turning around again to look through the observation window.
Ronon stared at Dr. Rogers whose own eyes fixated on Eva below. The opposite nature of their jobs meant they didn't interact much with each other, but in the time he had known her, he had never seen her lose her cool like that before. By this point, her cheeks and neck glowed bright red. He roused himself from his thoughts as he found himself wondering what else might make her flush like that.
Movement in the corner of the interrogation room caught his eye as Major Lorne and two armed guards entered. The guards found their place at the door, whereas Lorne took the empty seat across from the girl.
She lifted her face toward him, chin on her forearms. "Hi, Colonel Lorne."
His eyes narrowed. "It's Major Lorne, actually," he corrected.
She shrugged and closed her eyes. "If you say so."
"I'm here to ask you a few questions."
"I'd rather sleep." With her cheek pressed firmly against her arm, her words came out muffled.
Rogers clicked her tongue as if to say "I told you so."
"I'll try to be quick, then," Lorne replied.
The girl quietly snorted. "I bet women love it when you say that to them," she quipped, eyes still shut.
Lorne looked up to the crowd in the observation room, outstretched his arms in disbelief, and shook his head. "She's clearly still drugged up," he called.
Ronon scratched uncomfortably at one of his dreads while Rogers stared fixedly at the floor, trying to hide the bemused expression on her face.
"Beckett did have to sedate her again," Sheppard explained. "She was making one hell of a racket and we were afraid she was gonna tear her stitches or hurt herself even more."
"Proceed anyway, Major," Woolsey spoke into the microphone.
Lorne sighed and nodded. "All right. Here we go. Please state your full name."
"What's with Bert and Ernie?" she asked, tilting her head in the direction of the guards stationed at the door.
"Just a precaution," Lorne assured her. "Now, your name, Miss."
"Eva…Michelle…Dex," she replied slowly.
Ronon heard Rogers take in a quick breath of air. "My sister's name is Michelle," she said to no one in particular.
He looked curiously over to her, then back into the interrogation room. Coincidence. It had to be.
"Michelle?" Lorne asked. "Sounds like an Earth name."
"That's because it's my aunt's name," Eva explained, slurring her words. "And she's from Earth."
"Oh my God," Rogers breathed.
Ronon's stomach did a flip. No. There was no possible way.
"And you said your parents are…?"
"Weapons Specialist Ronon Dex of Sateda and Doctor Emma Jane Rogers, linguist…of Texas. That's on Earth," she said in a disparaging stage whisper.
Lorne inhaled deeply in an attempt to maintain the tenuous grip he still had on his patience. "I know where Texas is, thank you."
Sheppard took a sidelong glance at Ronon and the linguist. "Now you two are sure you never…?" He gestured suggestively back and forth between them.
Ronon raised just one eyebrow and shook his head.
Rogers's reaction was a bit more emphatic. "No!" she exclaimed. Had she been wearing a strand of pearls around her neck, she would have clutched at them.
Sheppard waved both of his hands in front of him in apology. "Sorry. Didn't mean to insult your Southern sensibilities… ma'am," he tacked on. "Just trying to get the whole picture here."
"Well, I'd sure appreciate it if you'd stop picturin' it." She crossed her arms self-consciously across her chest.
"How old are you?" Lorne continued, ignorant to the conversation taking place on the deck up above.
"Date of birth?"
Eva finally opened her eyes, lifted her head, and regarded Lorne with surprising lucidity. "Like according to Earth time or Standard Pegasus Log Time?"
"Why don't you give us both?"
"I was born in Atlantis on Day 3725 SLPT…STLP…S…" she took a deep breath, "Standard Pegasus Log Time, or May 12, 2013 according to the Earth calendar."
A rush of blood flooded Ronon's head and thundered in his ears. 2013 was five years into the future. That would certainly explain a lot. Stranger things had happened to them.
"2013?" Lorne repeated, brows pinched together with confusion. "What year do you think it is?"
"I honestly have no clue." Eva shook her head. "All of you look so young. So y'all either got lots of beauty sleep while I was away, or it's not the year I think it is."
"Okay," Lorne pressed on, "let me rephrase the question. What year was it when you were captured by the Wraith?"
She sighed. "It was 2029."
Lorne's eyes widened and he leaned back. "It's not 2029."
Eva forced a breath of air through her nose in an attempt at laughter. "No shit."
"It's 2008, Eva."
Eva brought a hand to her temple, closed her eyes and shook her head. "What the hell is going on?" she whispered.
"Tell us about your capture."
She opened her eyes and crossed her arms across her chest.
A chill traveled up Ronon's spine as he glimpsed Dr. Rogers's reflection in the glass, her body language the perfect mirror of the girl's below.
"Why?" Eva asked with suspicion.
"Maybe we know who did this to you."
She sighed. "Did you know that I have the Ancient gene just like you and Sheppard?"
Lorne shook his head.
"I do," she nodded, her eyes slightly crossed. "Because I stole it. I stole a vial of it from the infirmary and injected myself with it."
"I don't see what this has to do with your capture by the Wraith."
"I'm getting there!" she whined with frustration. "What happened was, I stole the gene and my dad found out and he was pissed. We got into a huge fight and so I ran off, stole some supplies from the armory, knocked out the jumper bay guards, took one of the Puddle Jumpers for a joyride, and crashed said Jumper on the mainland.
"Do you now perhaps understand the necessity of the restraints?" Woolsey asked Rogers.
She sighed and reluctantly nodded. "Yeah," she admitted.
"Then my dad found me but there were Wraith on the mainland and we got picked up and I got turned into a Runner and well…here I am. Can I go to bed now?"
"Ugh, you're the worst!" she groaned, her head falling back onto her forearms.
Sheppard coughed quietly into his fist. "Beckett did say the sedative might cause mood swings," he muttered.
"A common side effect of being a teenage girl, as well, I'm afraid," Woolsey added.
"Tell us more about the Wraith ship that picked you up," Lorne said.
"It was a Cruiser." Her voice echoed against the steel of the table. "It was a souped up Cruiser that could see through our cloaks and had special beaming technology."
"Explains why they could still see our Jumper even when it was cloaked," Sheppard said. "Guess we didn't need to take out her tracker, after all."
"It beamed up the entire Jumper. They…they put us into cocoons." Her voice caught in her throat. "The Wraith commander chose me first. He started to feed on me but decided I was more value to him as a Runner. They took me to the lab and there was a man there." She peeked up at Lorne.
"A man?" Lorne clarified. "Another prisoner?"
She shook her head. "No. He called the Wraith his master. He…he had the Ancient gene, too. He had a bunch of Ancient technology, some of it I'd never seen before. He's the one who created the tracker they put in me," she explained, tears starting to well in her eyes. "I don't…I don't think it was a normal tracker."
"What do you mean it's not a normal tracker?" Lorned asked.
Eva, absorbed in the memory, ignored his question. "They put the tracker in me," she recalled, "and they sent me to some desert planet and I knew I needed to find my way to Sateda so my dad could find me but he never did," she cried. "He never came for me! I waited and I waited but he never came!" Even from the deck, Ronon could see the tears falling down her cheeks. She covered her face with her hand and released a sob.
"That's enough," Rogers whispered.
He glanced over to her and saw that she, too, had a sheen of tears forming along her lower lashes.
"Stop the interrogation," she demanded. "She's had enough for now."
Woolsey nodded almost imperceptibly and spoke into the microphone. "Thank you, Major Lorne. We'll continue with this later."
Lorne reached across the table to place his hand on top of the girl's, but she yanked her hand from his reach. He splayed his fingers across the table instead. "You're safe now, Eva," he assured her.
Rogers sniffed, swallowing her emotion, and mustered every ounce of authority she possessed as she turned to face Woolsey. "What about that bed?"
"There will be no need," he told her.
She opened her mouth to argue but he spoke over her.
"I'll make sure we transfer her to guest quarters and post a guard at her door."
She blinked in surprise, but eventually nodded. "Thank you." She turned on her heel and hurried out of the room.
Woolsey and Sheppard discussed the logistics of finding Eva an empty room as well as a security detail until they, too, departed. A moment later in the interrogation room below, undoubtedly beckoned by the city's commander and the Colonel, Lorne got up from his seat and exited through the pneumatic door.
Apart from the two silent guards who seemed to fade into the walls like fixtures of the room, Eva was left alone. Ronon watched her bony shoulder blades shake while she wept and he was once again struck by how little she was. Time travel and tall tales aside, her small stature alone made it nearly impossible to believe that she could be in any way related to him. But if it was true…if what she said to Lorne was true, then he only had five years. Five short years and he would be a father – a father to a baby girl.
He shook his head, turned his back on her, and started on the path to the sparring room. There had to be another explanation.