Chapter 1

Dragonlots AKA Dana Bell

"How'd I'd let myself get talked into this," Mal muttered as he tried to keep his hands off the controls of the jumper and appear as helpless and adrift as his 'distress' call made him sound. Through the view port he watched as the hive ship drew closer. "Come on," he urged.

"What's going on?" John's voice sounded in his ear.

"They don't seem to be takin' the bait."

"Give them a couple more minutes, then high tail it out of there."

Mal grinned. He was beginning to like John Sheppard even if Simon kept complaining about the fact the soldier was dating River.

The hive ship launched something and he didn't need the ship telling him what it was. "I'm leavin'," he informed Sheppard as he spun the ship around and ran for the Stargate. An explosion shook the small craft and he was sure they'd fire again.

"Damn," John exclaimed.

Reynolds temporarily lost contact as he traversed the wormhole and popped back into the main control room of Atlantis.

"You know where to park it," John said.

Yeah, he did. With ease he put the jumper back in the bay, turned off the systems and exited. John stood at the bottom of the ramp waiting for him.

"Guess they're wise to our bug bombs now," the colonel commented.

The two fell into step and headed for Dr. Weir's office.

"Still think it's the best way to deal with 'em?" Mal wasn't sure if their tactics were sound or not.

"Was in the beginning. Still surprised they haven't tried a massive raid on us."

"Maybe they're afraid of the Deadalus now," Jack commented joining them.

John shook his head. "With all due respect, sir,"

"Loose the sir."

"Okay…Jack. They know they can defeat it."

"Maybe word got out about Earth." It was the only possible thing Mal could think of.

"Yeah, but we're here." The three stopped at Elizabeth's door

"Gotta be a reason." Jack strolled in and claimed a chair.

"But what reason?" John sat down.

Dr. Weir put aside the report she'd been reading. She glanced at the three men. "I never like it when I come into the middle of a conversation."

"Just tryin' to figure out why the Wraith ain't attacked us yet," Mal informed her.

"Other than the fact they know our shield is back up?" She smiled at Mal. "I still owe Kaylee for that."

"Got a knack for machines. Book called it a rare gift."

"I'd like to hear about Book one day."

Mal glanced down. He was still working on that loss.

"When you're ready, of course." She settled back. "I take it they didn't fall for our trap?"

"Nope." John got up and walked to the door leaning back on the jam.

"Well, at least we know they don't like Kaylee's bug bomb." Jack grinned as if he thought it was funny for some reason.

"One of the few defenses we have," Elizabeth agreed.

"Think they know the truth about Earth?" Mal knew it was the important question they had to answer.

"We could try to get close," John suggested. "Maybe River could 'read' one of the them."

"Doubt Simon will let you take her on one of your missions." Mal didn't need to remind John of the fact, but he did anyway.

"And I don't like putting her in danger." He shifted uneasily. "But she's one edge we have."

"Never easy to put someone you care about at risk," Jack agreed. "Speaking of which, how soon before McKay's team returns?"

Weir glanced at something on her desk. "Should be in about two hours."

"Good. Always hate it when Sam's on a mission."

"She asked to go. Besides," she sat forward resting her folded hands on the desk. "It was only a scientific recon."

"I know." He got up and paced around the office. "Sometimes they prove to be the most dangerous."

Experience talking? Mal wondered. Plus Jack's restlessness reminded him of Jayne when the mercenary was cooped up on Serenity too long. At the thought of his ship he also rose. He was trying to come to terms with that loss, too.

Jack stopped and asked another question. "How soon before Hammond's back?"

"Sometime tomorrow." Elizabeth moved her pen around. "His offer to accompany Teyla and Ronan on their trading expedition was appreciated." She smiled slightly. "He gets as antsy as you do with nothing to do."

"Didn't say I was bored."

"You don't have to."

John found River outside on the deck. She stood with her hands resting on the rail, her long hair blowing in the breeze. He liked the dark brown dress she wore. The light gauzy fabric showed off her figure.

"Hi," he greeted as he joined her.

She spared him a glance before returning her attention to the vast ocean. "You want me to read a Wraith."

"Wasn't my first thought."

She blushed and peeked at him impishly. "Simon wouldn't approve."

"Simon's married." He turned around resting his back against the cool metal. The girl relaxed him like no other woman he'd been around. "Got his mind on other things."

"So do you."

He shrugged. "Maybe."

"They're afraid."

"Who?" He was still trying to get used to her odd jumps in conversations.

"The Wraith." She traced a pattern on the metal. "Afraid of starving."

"Do they know about Earth?"

She raised her head pushing a loose strand behind her ear. "Are you hungry?" she asked him.

Seemed that was all she was going to say. "Could use a bite." He smiled at her. "What would be your pleasure for dinner?"

She giggled suddenly sounding like a little girl. How in the world could he have fallen in love with someone so young?

"I'm not so young." She stamped her foot as if to prove her point, glaring at him with both hands on her hips.

"You're pretty when you're mad."

"That's an old line."

"Doesn't mean it's not true."

"Should have left you in that machine longer."

He didn't want to be reminded of how close he'd come to death. River's face changed as if she'd read his thought.

"I'm sorry, John." She stepped forward and touched his cheek.

He kissed her palm. "Most people don't like to think about their own mortality."

"I shouldn't have said that."

"It's okay." He drew her into his arms resting his chin on her brown hair. She felt good there, even if his feelings toward her still made him feel uneasy. "I think Teyla's people brought some food over today." He gazed down into her face. "Want to go see what they brought?"

Her smile was his answer and he took her hand as they headed for the cafeteria.

"Inara?" Dr. Weir knocked on the companion's door.

A soft voiced answered. "Qing jin."

"I take it that means enter?" Elizabeth thought it sounded Chinese.

"Sorry." Inara smiled graciously. "It does. Please," she motioned to a couch as she sat on another.

"Like your quarters." Weir didn't mean to openly stare but it was beautiful. Fabric was draped artfully about and fluttered slightly in the breeze drifting in from the open window. In fact, the whole room seemed to have a distinct oriental feel to it.

"Thank you." The other women turned to a small table. "Would you like some tea?"

"That would be lovely." She took a small delicate cup wondering how Inara had managed to find it.

"There's a reason for your visit." A statement not a question.

"Yes." Elizabeth sipped the tea. It was quite good. She'd have to learn what the secret was. "I'm not sure exactly sure how to approach this." She felt somewhat out of her element here. Give her a difficult diplomatic situation and she could negotiate a resolution with ease, but this.

"You're not certain what to make of my profession."

"Yes." Simple enough.

"I take it you have nothing similar in your culture."

"Well, I've heard of geisha's." She put the cup down. "But their 'art' is not practiced in our country. In ours they're called hookers."

"Or whores."

"Not exactly the same thing." They weren't depending on the circumstances. Or were they?

"Your culture sounds as complicated as ours."

"What was your time like?" She wondered why she had never thought to ask any of the group that question.

Inara gracefully walked to the open window. "Much the same. Human nature doesn't change."

"And here we keep hoping to advance and improve."

"I think Shepherd Book would have had a good answer for that."

"You're the second person today to mention him."

"He was dear to all of us."

"There's no mistake?" Zoë asked Dr. Beckett.

"No," he assured her. "Our medicine may be a bit backward in comparison, but this something we do know how to do." He smiled warmly at her. "Dr. Tam made some adjustments to aid in the success. He's quite brilliant."

"Yeah, he is," she agreed knowing how many wounds, bullet holes and such he'd patched up on Serenity. "How soon before you can transplant?" She touched her soon to be inhabited womb.

"I'd like to give it a couple more days to make sure the embryo is viable." Lightly he touched her arm. "You're a lucky woman."

She knew that. But then, she'd told Wash they'd make a beautiful baby together. It was just too bad he hadn't lived to see their child. She hadn't yet figured out how she was going to thank Simon for having the forethought of taking a genetic sample from her dead husband and storing it. Though, it did seem rather strange he'd brought it with him.

"You'll let me know if anything changes." She had to know, just in case.

"Not to worry. I'm sure everything will be fine."

Zoë hoped so. She so wanted this baby.

"I'm not sure I can approve your – profession." Elizabeth didn't want to sound harsh. She knew several couples slept together who weren't married, yet she there wasn't anyone 'selling' sex.

"That isn't all I do." Inara sat back down on the couch. "I help men to see a clearer path to their full potential."

"Hmmm," that made her pause and think. Maybe there was a way to redirect the woman. "Have you thought about working with our base psychologist?"

"She suggested it." The companion didn't look very thrilled. "I'm not sure I would be any good at it."

"You listen well." That Weir had noticed. "You're also compassionate."

"Don't try to play a player."

"Alright then, I'll put all my cards on the table. You have to find something else to do or else leave Atlantis." There she'd said it.

"I see." Something fluttered across the younger woman's face. Elizabeth wasn't sure what it was.

"But you don't have to make the decision tomorrow." She wanted to make that perfectly clear. Inara had time to think about what she wanted to do.

"Thank you for your honesty."

"Your welcome. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment." She glanced back as she reached the door. The companion sat silent and almost stone-faced. Elizabeth wished briefly she had the gift River had and could read minds.

"She didn't say that!" Kaylee objected when Inara told her what Weir had said.

"Yes, she did." The companion looked at her friend with a stricken expression. "I trained all my life to do this. I don't know anything else."

"But you could learn couldn't ya?" Her roundish face held a pleading look. "Inara, you just gotta stay."

"I want to." And she did. The crew of Serenity were her family. She didn't want to leave them. She never had. Even when Mal's actions had forced her to. She'd come back when he rescued her. And stayed.

"Maybe you should go talk to Doctor….oh, what is her name?"

Inara shook her head. "It isn't important, Kaylee." She reached out and touched the other woman's slightly rounded belly. "How is baby today?"

"She's fine." Kaylee gave her a wide grin.

"You're sure it's a girl?"

"Well," she shrugged. "Simon says we could find out fer sure but I'd kind of like it to be a surprise."

"Have you picked out names?"

"Sort of. We're still talkin' it over so we'll see." Kaylee's face grew a little sad. "Kind of wish Book were still here so's he could bless my baby."

"We all miss him." She put her arm around Kaylee's shoulder and held her close.

"Miss Serenity, too."

"I always loved that ship." True, she had. She still did.

"Think she'll be okay?"

Leave it to Kaylee to worry about the ship. "I'm sure Serenity is just fine."

Daniel glanced up from his cluttered desk as Mal wandered in. The archeologist had brought as much of his research material with him as he could when he'd been forced to flee Earth.

"Hello, Mal," he greeted the other man.

"Hi." Reynolds seemed distracted. He lifted a book. "What's this?"

"A book on ancient Earth mythology. Egyptian to be exact."

"Humpf." He put the volume back down. "Books aren't much use."

"All depends on what you're looking for."

"What are you lookin' for?"

"Nothin' that will currently help us." He pushed aside what he'd been reading. "Can I help you with something?"

Mal opened the book and glanced at a few pages. He frowned. "Gods?"

"Yeah. At least that's how the gou'ald seemed to primitive peoples."


"Yes. Snake like creatures that took over a host and then enslaved millions to serve them."

"Don't say nothin' about that in this here book."

"It wouldn't. Until recently we thought the mythical gods were just stories. It wasn't until we figured out how to use the stargate and started traveling to other worlds that we found out differently."

"How'd the rest of the world take the news?" He closed the book.

"They didn't know."

"How come?"

"Because our government thought it was a bad idea for the general public to know. Thought it would cause mass panic and pretty much destroy our society."

"You agree with that?"

Dr. Jackson took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. He'd been up for hours and needed some rest. Why in the world was Captain Reynolds asking so many questions? "Unfortunately yes."

"I see."

"Is there a point to all your questions?" He wanted to get back to his research, though why, he wasn't quite certain.

"Yeah." Mal met his questioning gaze. "Tryin' to understand why the Alliance didn't tell us about the Stargate and what they found out about the Earth."

"If there anything like ours, they didn't want to upset the population."

"Too late for that."

He'd heard the crew talk about Miranda and what they'd done after the awful truth had been discovered. He hadn't meant to ease drop, but then, they hadn't really seemed to care he was listening. "I know."

"Figured you'd heard us talkin'."

"It could be they didn't know the truth to begin with. Historical events can get lost if no one records them. For instance," he shuffled around for an article he'd seen recently and pushed it toward Reynolds. "We know from the geological evidence that this isn't the first time a super volcano went off and killed plants, animals, and nearly destroyed the human race."

Mal took the magazine and gazed at the pages. All the evidence was laid out in clear and concise prose and diagrams.

"Just because we don't have a written record of it doesn't mean it didn't happen."

"So you think that maybe there was no record."

"I honestly don't know. It could be. Maybe the human race when they started to rebuild didn't want to remember and forgot."

"Our history says that Earth became overpopulated and had to send colonists out into the stars."

"That could be true. It would be hard for me to deduce as I don't have any way to research what you're saying."

"Guess not." He pushed the magazine back at Daniel. "Wish they'd told us."

"You're assuming they made it through the Stargate and found the SGC."

"We did."

"Yes, but you traveled to the past. You don't have any way of knowing if the SGC is even intact in your time."

"Hadn't considered that."

"You know, Sam might be a better one to talk to about this."

"More comfortable with you."

"Thanks." He hoped it was a compliment. One could never tell.