They find the Runner on the planet with the deadly sun. He’s thin and dirty, and not particularly interested in talking.
For some reason, he thinks the squad is after him. More likely, the guards left at the Ring are in his way. The sun might have fried his thinking or maybe he hasn’t been around people in so long he’s forgotten how to speak. Either way, he makes a really dumb decision and tries to take them on.
He has a big gun, with ammunition that cracks in the ears and splinters the trees. It’ll break a body just as easily, but the Runner is almost tentative in his aim. He doesn’t go for the kill. Conserving ammo or conserving life. It’s hard to tell. All the same, he manages to take Ara and Rakai hostage. Morons. They were probably too busy kissing to be alert.
It doesn’t last long. Ronon easily sneaks up behind him, unseen, and knocks him unconscious with a single blow to the head. Rakai says to kill him, maybe so Ara will forget he was stupid enough to let the man capture them in the first place.
But Ronon outranks him and won’t kill the guy solely for Rakai’s ego. He gives them back their weapons, sends them to reunite with the rest of the unit hunting Wraith-mad Tyre.
In the meantime, as he’s binding the man’s arms behind him, Ronon finds the scar tissue on the back of his neck. He knows the story before the Runner wakes and starts screaming to be released.
It comes out of his mouth before he’s even fully awake. “The Wraith are coming for me,” he spits, twisting in his bonds. “You have to let me go! They’ll kill everyone here.”
He’s not visibly afraid of Ronon, sitting across from him in the cavern. Mostly, he looks mad that Ronon’s got his weapon rested on his knees.
“Give me my gun back,” the Runner orders, as if he’s not the one tied up.
Ronon has figured out the firing mechanism, and he smoothly racks it just to prove that. The Runner kind of flinches in place, maybe surprised.
“Who are you?” Ronon asks.
“Lieutenant Colonel John Sheppard,” the Runner says, eyes still glued to his gun.
“Military?” asks Ronon. The title sounds like it, but it’s also unfamiliar.
“I was,” Sheppard says, without elaboration. “You have to let me go. Give me that back and let me off this planet.”
“Because the Wraith are chasing you?” Ronon asks.
Sheppard looks a little surprised that he doesn’t have to tell the story. “Yeah,” he says, and jerks again in his bonds.
“I called one of our doctors,” Ronon tells him. “They can cut it out.”
For a second, Sheppard just stares. “Who are you?” he asks.
“Specialist Ronon Dex.”
“It’s in my spine,” Sheppard says, as if that’s not the right answer.
Ronon nods. It usually is. Lots of Runners die because they get dumbass shamans and healers messing around in there. Other Runners die because they don’t run – they stay with people and bring the Wraith. Those should be killed. It doesn’t look like Sheppard is one of those.
Melena comes with the medical team, to assist the surgeon. Ronon sticks around until Sheppard is on his belly on their portable table, doped into sleeping. Then he backs off a few meters, because that much blood is gross and Melena makes fun of him when he turns green.
The Doc takes the tracker out with no problem, and Ronon crushes it under his boot. It’s probably too late – the Wraith are on their way. They’ll be coming after Sheppard, and there was a reason Tyre chose this planet.
For this reason, the med team hurriedly packs up and takes Sheppard back to Sateda with them. Ronon stays behind until the darts start whistling overhead. They don’t catch Tyre. Ronon sees him and gives chase, but the lunatic runs into a culling beam.
Back on Sateda, Kell puts Ronon in charge of looking after the captured Runner. He gets the idea it’s not a reward. For being so scrawny, Sheppard’s doing a really good job of menacing the hospital staff. Melena thinks he’s cute, in a sad way like an abandoned puppy. Ronon still has his gun, won’t give it back ‘til the guy has some place else to go.
But Sheppard doesn’t want to tell them where he came from. He won’t even say the name, let alone give them the Ring address so they can send him home.
Ronon asks him how long he was Running.
“Seven months,” Sheppard says. “I think.” He looks kind of upset that he doesn’t know for sure.
“Wraith attack your world?” Ronon asks.
Sheppard’s jaw clenches. “Yeah.”
“Wraith have known where it is that long,” Ronon says. “Think we’re any more danger?”
Sheppard gives in shortly after that. He writes down the glyphs for the Ring, but warns that there are security measures in place to prevent just anyone from going through.
But when the Ring is dialed, no one answers the transmission sent from Sateda. Kell won’t send a squad, but he does allow imaging equipment to check it out. Ronon sees the video before Sheppard does. There’s nothing he can say, really, so he just takes a disc to the man’s hospital room and lets the images speak for themselves.
The Ring is intact, but that’s all. The robotic camera couldn’t get far from it, rubble and debris blocking its metal wheels. Ronon sees large spires lying crushed, water washing over half the screen. Sheppard’s city is empty: his people are gone.
“I’m sorry,” Ronon says.
Sheppard uses the remote control to turn off the video. He says nothing. His body is frozen, but his eyes are an ocean.
~please feed the author~