There's a lot of time to daydream when you're stuck in the Chair for hours on end, piloting the city through hyperspace. John can't help thinking about the leave he plans to take with Cam, once they're back in Pegasus and all settled in. He'll have earned some R&R, after this trip.
It's got to be M2G339 – Hral, Teyla calls it. They were there on a trading mission last year – the huge seed-heads that grow wild everywhere hold rima nuts the size of a baby's fist that taste like cashews and are packed full of protein. The Hrallen were grateful after John took a jumper to rescue one of the giant urlen birds and the chief's son. Bird and rider had crashed in the highlands in a summer storm last year when the team were there arranging a trade shipment. The kid was badly bruised and his urlen had a broken wing which the bird-handlers back at the village said would mend well enough. They gave John a turn on one of the chief's birds, and told him he was a natural, slapping him on the back while the bird nibbled at his collar with its huge beak, whistling in his ear as he groomed it. Come back any time, they said, and called him Bird-friend, which Teyla said was a great honor.
Hral's a planet-sized moon, one of several orbiting a gas giant. John'll get Rodney to run a long-range scan and make sure the sector's free of Wraith – the Hrallen don't allow fliers to carry any weapons except the traditional kurtz knife to cut yourself free from the harness if you crash. John's not worried – it's pretty safe as long as you stay clear of the tentacle plants which have some sort of toxin and feed on small animals. The weird vegetation's what makes the place special. It’s by far the most alien world John's ever seen – even Ronon was impressed. The botanists think it's because Hral's got a space-gate so it's been isolated, except for trade with the Travelers. And now, Atlantis.
John reckons Cam will love it - unlike Teyla and Ronon who're firmly land-based, or Rodney who'd gone pale and said John was crazy to go "joyriding on a monstrous flying predator". Cam's different - he's a flier to his bones and John thinks he'll get the knack of handling an urlen in no time - he's good with his hands. He thinks about flying over Hral's surreal landscape with the gas giant's rings filling the sky and shifts in the Chair, remembering the flex of feather and muscle between his knees, the wind in his hair, the freedom as his bird found a thermal and soared higher. Eyes closed, he smiles. It's going to be the best vacation ever.
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