John rolled his eyes. "You know the rule, Ronon. Last to the gateroom has to answer the question. McKay, unbelievably, was first so he gets to ask." He kept his P-90 at ready as he stepped off the stargate dais.
Rodney was insulted. "What do you mean 'unbelievably'?" Pulling the scanner from his pocket, he took a few readings to orient himself. "I've been on time for every mission in the past month."
"Just last to the gateroom," Teyla supplied.
"Yes, and I've answered every inane question you three have asked. Today is my turn." He grinned at Ronon. "So?"
The Satedan pointedly ignored him, addressing Sheppard even as his eyes roved the countryside. "My radio is missing. I had to get another one."
McKay snorted. "What's your point?"
Dex's back stiffened, and he growled, "Did you take it?"
"Your radio? In all my spare time, you think I broke into your quarters undetected and took your radio?"
"Hmph. Guess not."
Risking a sideways glance at Teyla, Rodney caught her almost imperceptible wink. Not another muscle in her face moved. He reminded himself again to not ever get on her bad side.
"I am sure the radio will reappear in a most unexpected place," she offered. "Now, answer Dr. McKay's question."
"What was the question?"
"You know very well- I'm getting a faint energy reading this way." Rodney pointed to their ten o'clock. "-what the question was. Most embarrassing moment."
The team headed in the direction McKay had indicated. The planet's climate was mild, with a gentle breeze and a clear mid-day sky. Mountains rose majestically to their right, and the field housing the stargate was bordered with large, squatty trees with blue leaves. Upon closer inspection, a rarely used trail led from the gate toward the energy reading.
Ronon sighed loudly. "Fine. On Sateda, a boy has to endure a rite of passage to be considered a man. Once the rite has been successfully completed, the family hosts a large ceremony to mark his entry into manhood and his availability to fight as a warrior. It is a source of great pride, and the entire community attends. I was the youngest of three brothers and as such I was responsible for carrying the jar of mrolgot during the service. Mrolgot is a Satedan beverage used for blessings. The ceremony for my eldest brother, Parel, went smoothly, but I had a growth spurt in the months leading to Jalek's. I tripped on the way up the stairs and spilled the mrolgot all over Jalek, my parents, and Lusar, the ceremonial leader."
"That's it?" McKay asked incredulously. "You tripped and spilt some wine?"
Red spots staining his cheeks, Dex turned to Rodney. "I ruined the ceremony and humiliated my family. Jalek didn't speak to me for a month."
Teyla regarded Ronon curiously. "How old were you?"
Sheppard winced in sympathy. "Ouch."
"'Ouch'? Are you kidding me? What fourteen year old guy hasn't tripped over his feet? Seriously, that's it?"
"Rodney…." John warned even as he struggled to hide a smile.
A glint of amusement lit Teyla's eyes. "And what did your brothers do during your ceremony?"
The spots on the Satedan's cheeks became flames. "Don't know what you mean."
"Oh, that's not fair. You were supposed to tell-"
McKay had been so distracted he hadn't noticed the teenage boy approach. The colonel put on his best 'we want to be friends' face and stepped forward.
"Hi there. I'm Lt. Col. John Sheppard. This is Ronon Dex, Dr. Rodney McKay and Teyla Emmagan. We are travelers."
"I can see that. Have you come to trade?"
Teyla smiled gently. "Yes, we have. Is there someone we may speak with?"
"This way." The boy was tall and thin with closely cropped brown hair and curious gray eyes. Dressed in a simple tunic and pants, he picked up an animal skin pack and led them to his village.
The small community looked like almost every other one they had visited in Pegasus – small and undeveloped which classified it as primitive on the McKay scale. He checked the scanner, surprised to find two energy signatures now, one of which was in this village. The people seemed friendly enough, not at all intimidated by the four heavily armed strangers. The boy introduced them to Praloz, the head of the governing body of Kaloa, who extended a cordial greeting and invited them into the council chambers.
Rodney sat through three hours of mind-numbing diplomacy, occasionally checking the scanner. He had made several adjustments but hadn't been able to get a lock on the second signature. He suspected some kind of shielding was interfering with his readings which only increased his need to escape. He privately admired Teyla's ability to sit there and look engrossed as they discussed hunting arrangements and medical assistance.
"We have an agreement." Teyla smiled and gave a slight bow to Praloz.
"Oh, thank God," Rodney mumbled, earning a sharp look from the Athosian and a kick under the table from Sheppard.
The Kaloan leader beamed with pleasure. "Indeed. After a short signing ritual, we will host a feast laden with our choicest harvest in your honor."
"Feast?" McKay queried. "We'd love to."
"We can't insult them, Colonel."
"Of course not." The pilot wore the look of the long-suffering.
The Kaloans shifted a few tables in preparation of the signing. A young woman who introduced herself as Mibrel showed them where to stand and what to say. "To finish the ceremony we will touch each shoulder with the Loscrand Rishkel."
Teyla frowned. "And what is that?"
"A long staff."
McKay kept turning the words over in his mind, the cadence familiar but just out of his grasp. "Does it do anything? Light up, give electric shocks, cause people to trade bodies?"
Mibrel looked confused and maybe a bit concerned for his sanity. "I have never seen it do anything."
The team traded glances. Sheppard inclined his head slightly, and Teyla gave a bright smile. "Very well."
Everyone stood in the assigned spots, and the ritual began. It was short, as promised, and Mibrel stepped forward with a long metal rod that had seen better days. She began with the Kaloan delegation, bowing and placing the staff on each shoulder. When she finished, she turned to the Lantians, first Teyla then Ronon.
She smiled at Rodney and bowed, touching him with the rod. He could see the blue glow faintly as it met his shoulder. Loscrand Rishkel. Mibrel froze in confusion, looking from the staff to him and back again. She hesitated and touched his other shoulder, her frown deepening as the object glowed again. Losrandas Riskrealitus.
The realization hit him just as she touched John with it. The staff lit up like the Vegas strip, and the room erupted in chaos. McKay heard Ronon's roar amidst the shouts of "Wraithmakers!" just before a massive stunner blast sent him tumbling into unconsciousness.