The Queen

By Kashkow

Author's note: Here we go off on another tangent. This is set during early season 2, shortly after Ronon is found and comes to Atlantis. This is mainly a Sheppard and Ronon story, but not THAT kind of story if, if you know what I mean. (Wink wink nudge nudge.) The authors of the series do not to my satisfaction explain why Ronon has such a devotion to Sheppard. If he was just grateful for the rescue, Beckett did just as much. This is a try at explaining the reasons, told from Ronon's point of view. Anyway, there is angst and whump, and generally treating them bad, but as always, doesn't mean I don't lust after Joe F. As always, any good grammar or spelling is due to my spell checker and most especially my beta, my profound thanks to her.

Chapter 1-

Ronon Dex watched as the military, they liked to be called Marines here; though there were others called Air Force for some reason, worked out. It seemed to be some form of exercise. A series of jumping and bending and turning which he assumed was supposed to keep them in shape, though he didn't see how jumping and flailing your arms was going to help you against a Wraith. They were in what the Earth people called the gym, and he was sitting near one of the windows watching. He had been doing a lot of that in the last two derna, 10 of the Lantean days. He had come here because Sheppard had asked him to. He had stayed because he didn't have anywhere else to go. The Marines were ignoring him for the most part, though he saw glances being shot his way.

When he slept, which he hadn't been doing much of, he could still see the burnt out remains of Sateda that had been revealed by the Lantean camera. Where once towers to rival those of Atlantis had stood had been only ruins and ashes; ashes that seemed to have taken up residence in his mouth. None of the food, and what food it was, that the Lanteans had could wash that taste from his mouth. None of their medicines could take the picture from his mind as they had removed the Wraith tracker. He had been given his life back with one hand, and had it taken away with the other. He had ran for seven years, always moving, always surviving, because he had been determined to make it back to Sateda, to fight at the side of his fellow warriors, to defeat the Wraith who had cost him so much. He hadn't known just how much the creatures owed him.

Another reason he had stayed here was because these people spoke of fighting the Wraith. Almost everyone else, on almost every planet he had ever visited in his years of running, spoke of surviving the Wraith, not fighting them. There was no resistance; there was only acceptance of fate. His people had never bowed before the Wraith, which was why Sateda had been destroyed instead of simply culled. It was the Wraith's way of keeping the defiance to a minimum. If a people feared being wiped out completely instead of simply having a portion of each generation culled, they didn't fight back. They hid, they ran, they fought on an individual basis, but they did not organize themselves into armies to fight back. The Lanteans, as Teyla called these newly arrived people, were different.

Their weaponry was not up to Satedan standards, his pulse pistol was a hundred times more efficient than their projectile weapons, but they made up for the difference in their willingness to fight. He had gone on what was supposedly a simple trip to a planet to look for some sort of device they wanted. The Wraith had attacked, and he had seen Sheppard take on a Wraith with nothing but the quick firing gun they called a P90, and the man had not given up until the Wraith fell, standing firm between it and the scientists who had been its prey.

He didn't really understand why there were so many noncombatants here in Atlantis. He understood that when they had first come that they did not know about the Wraith, and so there had been more scientists than military, but they knew now, and yet the scientists were allowed to stay, and even allowed to go into the field. To the Lanteans' credit they made sure that the scientists were able to fire their weapons efficiently, and that there were always military along on any off world mission, but still, this devotion to science, it was strange.

Of course he really wasn't sure about these 'missions' that they went on anyway. He was not sure that they understood just how cowed the people of what they called the Pegasus Galaxy were. Those willing to fight the Wraith were few, and there were many dangers. They had food and weapons, why didn't they just stay on Lantea and fight from here? Sheppard said that they didn't leave people behind, and evidently that included people that they didn't even know. For some reason, these Lanteans seemed determined to make up for the Ancients, as they called the Ancestors, leaving the people of the Pegasus Galaxy behind when they fled the Wraith.

That was another revelation that had rocked the foundations beneath Ronon's feet. The Ancestors had been distant yet revered figures to him, though not the all-knowing, worship-worthy beings that most of Teyla's people, and many of his own, believed them to be. To find out that they were as self-serving and cowardly as the next person had been something of a shock. That they had not only probably created the Wraith, Ronon didn't understand all of that, but also had, after failing to control their creation, fled and left the humans to their fate, was a revelation that had Ronon wishing there were still some Ancestors left for him to kill.

He noticed that while he had been thinking, the Marines had moved on to sparring with each other. He was not impressed. They were okay as compared to your average farmer or merchant, but they were not up to Satedan standards. The weakest man in his unit could have taken on the strongest of these, and emerged triumphant in no time at all. Hell, the weakest woman could have. He snorted to himself, even Teyla, a woman who didn't even reach his shoulder could take down one of these men. Of course she was very skilled. He had not seen anyone as proficient with the Bantos sticks since his own weapons master on Sateda. Even he would have had a hard time with Teyla, Ronon thought.

He watched absently as the man known as Lorne, Sheppard's second, had the men work through some throws and defenses. Ronon could see that the men needed a lot of work. If he were in charge of their training there would be none of this pulling blows. You learned by being hit. He was thinking about going to the mess hall for more food, the very idea of being able to eat whenever he wanted to and however much he wanted to was incredibly appealing, when he saw Sheppard come into the room. He was dressed in his workout clothes, and obviously meant to join the sparring. Ronon settled back down, wanting to see how Sheppard handled himself. He was something of a puzzle to the Satedan.

The Lt Colonel had asked Ronon to be on his gate team, to join them on missions to other worlds as they searched for allies, Ancient devices and new trading partners. Ronon didn't believe in the reasons for the missions, but he was thinking about going anyway. He couldn't just stay here doing nothing; it was boring. He could only eat so often, and he could only run around the edges of the city so many times a day before that was as boring as everything else. He didn't read the Lantean's language so he could not read any of their books, not that he had ever been much of a scholar. He did like their movies, but even that was not something he could do all day long. He was not used to being without purpose. He could leave at any time he knew. Sheppard had made it clear that he was not a prisoner here. But if he left, where would he go? He wanted to know if any of his people had survived, but simply going out and randomly searching for them was not the way to find them. If he joined the Lanteans and went out with Sheppard's gate team, he could have a purpose, even if not his own, and he could ask about his people. Maybe in time, he would understand these new allies he had found.

But before he allied himself so closely to this man, to these people, he wanted to know more about him, and as he was a warrior first, the most important thing to him was what kind of warrior Sheppard was. He had seen the man in action back on the too bright planet where they had met, and while he didn't understand all of what was going on with the man Sheppard had been pursuing, Ford, he did understand that Sheppard had been torn between loyalty to the man and loyalty to the city. He had seen that Sheppard was willing to do what was necessary to stop a threat to Atlantis, but he had hesitated to kill the other man. Ronon would have simply killed the other man, but he knew why Sheppard had not. Eventually the Lanteans would learn that personal loyalties sometimes had to be abandoned in the face of a threat like the Wraith. But even knowing that lesson, Ronon could respect Sheppard's choice. Now he would have a chance to see Sheppard interact with his men and see him fight, even if it was this 'sparring'.

Much to his amusement he had happened on to a sparring session between Sheppard and Teyla several days before. She had been very soundly kicking the man's ass. Since Ronon wasn't too sure that he could take her himself, he didn't hold that against the colonel, in fact it was to his credit that he continued trying even in the face of such abject failure. It took a man assured of his own skills to allow another, especially a smaller and supposedly weaker opponent, to teach. Sheppard seemed to have no trouble with allowing Teyla to beat the crap out of him on an almost daily basis. Ronon would have suspected that there was more to it, that there was some romantic entanglement there, but he had swiftly discarded that idea. While the two did obviously care for one another, it was more on the lines of 'battle family'. His unit had been the same way. When you fought with someone day in and day out, saved their lives and had yours saved by them, they came to mean as much to you as brothers or sisters of your own blood. He sensed it was this connection that bound the two. But that sparring was a different thing from this. These were Sheppard's men, he their leader. How would he act here? What would he reveal to the careful watcher?

It was easy to see from the response of the men that they liked their commander. This was not something that Ronon was sure about. His superiors on Sateda didn't care if you liked them or not, as long as you obeyed their orders. Sheppard however, seemed to put himself out to be liked by his men. It did seem to engender a loyalty to the man among the troops, but was it something that would carry over to the battlefield? A commander could not get too close to his troops, or he would fail to utilize them as needed in an effort to protect them. That was the sign of a bad commander. A good man maybe, a compassionate man, but a bad commander.

As Ronon watched, Sheppard warmed up for several minutes as the Marines broke up into groups of two. There was one man left out of the sparring as there were an odd number of people, and he was leaning casually against the wall. Ronon noted that while he pretended to be watching the others spar, he was really watching the colonel warm up. There was something about his stance that made Ronon's eyes narrow as he considered the man, something predatory, something…Wraithlike.

That last thought had Ronon straightening from his slouch against the wall and moving slowly along it until he was nearer the area where Sheppard was just finishing his warm up exercises. A curtain and the angle of the sun now in one of the small windowed alcoves hid him in the shadows. He liked it that way, not many would know he was there if they didn't look hard. The waiting Marine didn't seem to notice him, though he knew that Sheppard had tracked his movement along the wall, and knew that he was there. He had noticed that the man had an enhanced sense of his surroundings. He wasn't sure why since the man was supposedly a pilot, but it was a good thing to have here. He leaned in one corner of the alcove where he could see the area where Sheppard was standing clearly.

The Marine straightened away from the wall when he saw that Sheppard had finished his warm up and sauntered across to stand in front of the colonel. He probably outweighed his commander by at least fifty pounds; all of it muscle, and stood almost four inches taller. Ronon estimated that his reach was about the same as his own, which would make it several inches beyond Sheppard's. Ronon noted that the man was standing a little closer to the colonel then most of the people here stood to one another. There was a very definite personal space taboo here, and this man was violating it. The ex-runner suspected he was attempting to use his size difference to intimidate Sheppard. It didn't seem to be working.

"Spar…sir?" the Marine asked. Ronon didn't have to be in their military to know that the hesitation between the two words was a calculated disrespect. Maybe everyone wasn't fond of the man. Evidently Sheppard was not going to do anything about it however, since he nodded with a small private smirk as if amused at something and moved to stand closer to the center of the mat they were on.

"What are you working on this week, Sergeant?" the colonel asked, bouncing slightly on his toes. Ronon had noticed right off that for a man as slim as Sheppard was he was deceptively strong and moved very quickly. He had a controlled feeling about his movements, as though he had been well trained in certain things, things that only warriors needed to know. One could under-estimate the danger of such a man, and would pay a price. Ronon was wondering if the sergeant, a rank similar to the taskmasters of the Satedan military, had noticed. He suspected not, which did not say much for the man, or for the system that had made him a sergeant. He turned his head slightly as he heard a conversation from his left. He could not see the speakers, but his extra fine hearing made eavesdropping very easy.

"Baker's gonna get his ass handed to him, you just watch and see. He's got a jones about the Colonel being a zoomie." There was a grunt as a blow landed, and a sudden splat as something large hit the mat, followed by a groan.

"Ah the Colonel ain't gonna hurt him none…much" another voice answered. "You saw what he did to Tao last week. You'd think that the Sergeant would have at least paid attention to the talk in the barracks. The big money is on the Colonel having gone through SF training for some kind of secret missions behind the lines. One of those kind of things where he can kill you twelve ways with a paper clip." There was another grunt, and something hit against the wall near Ronon's alcove.

"Well I wouldn't say he didn't hurt Tao none. He was walking mighty funny for most of the week. He said his back felt like it had been twisted like a pretzel. I sure hadn't seen any moves like that in basic."

"Yeah well you slept through most of basic. Probably why you passed. Everyone knows you're smarter asleep than awake." There was another splat and another grunt. "Besides, the Sergeant is new. You know there's at least one in each group that's gotta make a run on the Colonel, just because he's a zoomie. The Sarge'll learn. 'Course he ain't exactly in the Colonel's good books anyway, what with how he was dressing down Saunders the other day when the Colonel walked up behind him. You know I guess he was…" The sparring seemed to carry the two speakers away from Ronon's place, and he turned his attention back to Sheppard and the sergeant. The two men were now circling each other warily, watching each other for openings. There had been a few feints, but no actual contact yet.

Sheppard seemed to be amused about something, Ronon could see what he had come to recognize as Sheppard's odd sense of humor peeking out from the changeable eyes. As he moved around his opponent, his eyes met Ronon's for a moment, and the ex-runner could see a smile there, as if he were sharing a joke with Ronon. The sergeant, obviously seeing Sheppard's attention shift made his move and Sheppard dodged aside with one of his lighting quick moves that left the other man stumbling through the space where the pilot had been. Sheppard danced away, a small smile on his lips.

"I thought we were doing takedowns, sergeant. Was I mistaken that you were going to be the aggressor? I can do it if you want. I believe you were lecturing Saunders about being aggressive the other day. I had expected you to be an expert on the subject." It was a perfectly polite question, in a perfectly polite tone, but the dancing eyes made it a taunt. The sergeant muttered something that might have been profanity, and began circling again. Sheppard was moving in that casual almost-slouch that Ronon had come to recognize was not anywhere near as lazy as it looked. It was more like a coiled spring waiting to be released, and it could go anywhere once it was let go. Cats sometimes had the same boneless look, but could spring into action when necessary, with deadly force.

The sergeant tried again, and again, but he was not able to grapple his opponent and use his superior weight and height against him. Every time Sheppard managed to slip away from the rush, or avoid the grip, and once he even dodged a roundhouse hit that would probably have laid him out on the mat had it landed. He shook a finger at the sergeant at that one, reminding him in that oh so polite voice that they were just sparring. Ronon was pretty sure that he could see steam starting to come from the sergeant's ears. The other pairs had pretty much stopped sparring now and were watching the colonel and the sergeant. The two combatants didn't seem to notice however, focusing on each other. After another failed attempt to grab Sheppard the sergeant growled at him.

"Will you just stop f dancing around and hold still." Sheppard raised an eyebrow.

"Are you under the impression that any enemy you encounter is going to simply throw himself or itself into your arms like some movie heroine, Sergeant? If you can't figure out how to grapple your opponent when he has superior speed, then you need more practice. Maybe Major Lorne can schedule you some additional PT time." The colonel turned to indicate the major who had been sparring to one side. When he turned, the sergeant charged, obviously planning on taking out the colonel when he was not looking.

Sheppard, who had obviously seen the charge out of the corner of his eye could not move completely out of the way, but he did manage to move enough so that he was facing the sergeant. Instead of waiting for the impact, he crumpled in front of the charging man like a piece of grass pushed down by the wind. Instead of the sergeant ending up on top of Sheppard as he intended, Sheppard ducked down and wrapped one arm around one of Baker's legs and then he stood up part of the way, shoving his shoulder into Baker's stomach and then fell backwards. Baker flipped over Sheppard's shoulder and slammed back first into the mat with Sheppard on top of him. The whole room heard his breath gust out of him and the wheeze as he tried to get air into his constricted lungs. Sheppard, evidently recognizing the distressed sound for what it was, instantly rolled off of the man and turned to start massaging his diaphragm, trying to get his breathing working right again. Ronon had had the wind knocked out of him several times and it was never pleasant, but he knew that the massage would help. His taskmaster had done the same for him during training when it had happened. Baker was just starting to turn slightly blue when he finally managed to take a deep breath. Sheppard stopped the massage and patted Baker on the chest before he stood up and looked at Lorne.

"I think that's enough for today, Major. I gotta meet with Dr Weir in thirty minutes for a briefing and I need to clean up first." He looked down at Baker. "Thanks for the sparring Sergeant. Maybe we can do it again some time." He started for the door. He was almost there when a voice that Ronon recognized as one of the two that had been speaking earlier asked a question.

"Is that a special forces move, Colonel?" Sheppard stopped and looked at the man with a smile.

"That? Hell no. That's a 'Mountain Bomb' invented by Hiroyosi Tenzan. Won the IWGP tag team title 5 years in a row with that move and three G-1 titles to boot." With that he spun and left the room. There was silence for a long time, and then someone spoke.

"Did the Colonel just use a Professional Wrestling move to take out a Marine?" There was quite a buzz building though Ronon didn't understand what about. The move was somewhat showy, and it wouldn't really hurt your opponent, but it was effective enough, and it had got the job done. What did it matter where it had come from? Obviously it did to the men though. They were all laughing now and slapping each other's backs. Even Baker, who had managed to sit up and was running a hand over his face, was laughing a little. Somehow, and again Ronon did not understand how, Sheppard had managed to make his men like him all the more, simply by taking one of them down. Interesting, the man might be worth following, even if only to find out about this Professional Wrestling. That might prove to be some interesting training he could use against the Wraith.

A day later the first opportunity to go through the gate with Sheppard came up. It wasn't the regular gate team however. Teyla was on the mainland, taking care of something among her people and McKay was holed up in his lair, Sheppard's words, doing something that he claimed could not be interrupted. Since the mission was mainly for recon on a landed or crashed Wraith ship, it was a military mission anyway so the two missing members were not a problem. Sheppard was going, along with Lorne and five Marines, one of whom was Baker. Sheppard had suggested that Ronon might want to come along to see how they did things in the field on this kind of operation. Dr Weir had been reluctant to agree, shooting glances at Ronon as he stood at Sheppard's side when they had gone to her office to seek her permission as the head of the expedition.

Ronon didn't really understand why there was a civilian in charge of what should obviously be a military base, but since Sheppard seemed to be all right with it, he didn't say anything about it. He had known that she hadn't been all that pleased when Sheppard had brought him back here, for reasons that Ronon fully understood. The security of the base depended on a limited number of people knowing where the city was. Sheppard had argued for him then, and he argued for him now. Dr Weir had agreed in the end and Ronon, curious, had found himself assigned to the mission.

The Lanteans had gotten geared up in their usual outfits. Lorne had tried to get Ronon into a uniform and a vest, but the Satedan had refused, preferring his usual clothing to the unfamiliar gear. If he had to fight, he wanted to be ready, not wondering where everything was. Sheppard had told Lorne to leave him alone, and that had been that. Ronon had seen the Marines giving him sideways glances as he had shown up in his long coat and regular clothes. Dr Weir had also been somewhat taken aback, mentioning it to Sheppard but the man had simply shrugged and pointed out that Ronon had survived seven years with little more than he stood there in, so why mess with success. At Dr Weir's nod they had gone through the gate to a planet on the edge of dawn.

Ronon nodded to himself as they emerged from the ring, the Stargate, and the Marines spread out. It was a good time. The Wraith favored the night and early evening when attacking planets. If they were simply after supplies in the form of livestock they would attack at any time, but when they really wanted to destroy they came with the sun's setting, letting the darkness add to the terror of their prey. The mind shadows, the hallucinatory ghosts that the Wraith could project were more effective in the darkness. Dawn would be a less active time for any of the creatures, though as far as he had ever been able to tell they did not sleep like humans did. Once they awoke from their hibernation they seemed to be constantly awake, searching out and devouring food, or amusing themselves with runners. It was insult to injury that he had been like a plaything, used to stave off the boredom of continued wakefulness.

Sheppard conferred with Lorne, and they left two Marines at the gate and then moved out toward the area where supposedly a small Wraith ship, probably a cruiser or scout, had been seen by an Athosian who had been here collecting mushrooms. They moved too slowly for Ronon, but he said nothing, merely watching as the men moved through the woods. They reached the clearing where supposedly it had been, and they cautiously peered out of the foliage. There was a ship there all right, a cruiser. Sheppard and Lorne conferred again. Lorne took two of the Marines and went off in one direction, leaving Sheppard, Ronon, and Baker to go the other. Sheppard wanted to know why the ship was here. Since Ronon had not known the smaller ships to land before, usually the darts were used for culling, he thought it might have crashed. Sheppard had nodded at his opinion.

The three of them worked their way around, finding the main door. Sheppard radioed Lorne who reported that they were seeing signs of some activity on the other side of the ship. It appeared that some form of mining was going on, about fifteen humans were moving between the ship and the mine, carrying baskets of some type of ore. There were no Wraith in evidence. As Lorne's team watched, the men stopped their activity and retreated inside the ship. When it appeared that they would not be re-emerging right away, Sheppard ordered Lorne to take some samples to find out what the Wraith had been mining for, and told them to meet back at the gate in thirty minutes. Lorne acknowledged, and the three men stayed in place waiting for the major to let them know that they had gotten the sample and were headed back to the gate. Ronon was disappointed that there did not seem to be any opportunity to kill any Wraith in the near future, but he had understood this was a recon mission. Sheppard seemed to be considering something, digging out the small device with which Ronon knew he could detect life signs. Sheppard took another look around, and then spoke quietly to Ronon and Baker.

"I want to get an idea of how many are on board. If this is some kind of maintenance port or something there may just be a small repair crew, and we might be able to take the ship. Rodney would give Zelenka's right arm for a chance to look at one of these. I'll have to get close to the hull before this will pick up anything, and hope that any Wraith aren't hibernating, since it won't pick them up. Baker you stay here and cover us. Ronon you're with me."

He slithered quietly out of the brush and Ronon followed, watching both their path and Sheppard's technique. He was okay at moving. Not as quiet as he could be, but Ronon thought that he could work with him on that. If Sheppard was willing to be taught, and he seemed to be so, Ronon could teach him how to be better. They were soon at the side of the ship, slipping along the hull until they were outside the closed door. Sheppard lifted the detector and turned it toward the ship. A group of dots appeared. Looking over Sheppard's shoulder Ronon could see about twenty-five dots. He expected Sheppard to turn off the device and head back toward the bushes but the Lantean was frowning at the device.

"What's wrong?" he asked, keeping his voice low. The Wraith seemed to be all inside the ship, but there was no need to tempt fate by speaking aloud. Sheppard turned his frown from the device to the ship.

"This thing must be messing up. This reading can't be right." He punctuated his answer by slamming his free hand against the device. Nothing changed on the readout.

"Why? Twenty-five seems about right. We can take them." Ronon said. Sheppard was shaking his head.

"It isn't the number of dots, its what they show." He tilted the device so Ronon could see it. "See those two dots there." He pointed to two that were a different color from the rest. "Those are Wraith." He pointed to the others. "Those are human." As they watched the two different colored dots mixed with the other dots. Obviously both the Wraith and the humans were moving around the ship in what appeared to be a free manner.

"Wraith worshippers." Ronon could not keep the contempt out of his voice as he suggested it. Sheppard shot him a disbelieving look.

"You gotta be kidding me." he said in amazement. Ronon shook his head. He had met many in his years running. Some did it out of fear, thinking that their masters would spare them the feeding. Others did it out of actual worship, seeing the powerful creatures as Gods. More still saw it as a way to obtain power for themselves. The last were the worst in Ronon's opinion. Not that he could forgive any of them. Wraith were for killing, nothing else. With a shake of his head, Sheppard obviously decided to drop the subject for now, and stood up, ready to head back. They had gone about halfway back to where Baker had been stationed when two men pushed the Marine out of the bushes. One held a knife to Baker's throat and the other a Wraith stunner pointed at Sheppard and Ronon.

Ronon's hand flashed toward his weapon and he saw Sheppard bringing up his P90, but even as he did it, he knew it was too late. Neither got to complete the movement as a blue flash surrounded them and Ronon fell into darkness.

He didn't know how long he had been unconscious when he next came to himself. The pins and needles of a Wraith stunner were tingling all over his body, a sensation that he was far too familiar with. He was not able to move yet, but his keen hearing picked up the sound of someone breathing on his left, probably about a foot or so away. Something about the sound told him that it was a human, not a Wraith. At least he wasn't in a cocoon, that at least made this day marginally better. Not that there was much to appreciate. He had failed on his first mission, unofficial as his presence had been. Sheppard had included him for his knowledge of the Wraith, for his military knowledge, for his muscle, and it had all failed the Lt Colonel. He had failed him. They had been captured, and would probably die at the hands of the Wraith. Ronon could handle the dying; he had been prepared for that for the last seven years. He wasn't sure he could handle the failure. To die without honor, not something he had ever planned for.

After several minutes, which passed by slowly, Ronon was able to turn his head toward the left and he was rewarded with the sight of Sheppard, eyes closed, but as he watched the Lantean moved his head slightly toward him, and the hazel eyes opened to study him blearily.

"Don't take this wrong," Sheppard said hoarsely, "but why aren't we dead?"

"Don't know." Ronon answered, he swung his head around the other way and saw that they were in a cage made of some kind of wood held together with vines. It didn't look too strong, but then since he couldn't even move a hand, it didn't really matter. They were outside the ship still, but he could see it over Sheppard's form. They were not on the same side of the ship, he could tell that, but little else. A cool breeze was blowing over his body, and he knew that his coat was missing, and he was pretty sure at least some of his knives were gone as well. It remained to be seen if all of them were missing, there were few people who could find them all. He heard a groan from Sheppard and turned his head again to see the Lantean turning onto his side with a grunt. Evidently Sheppard was able to throw off the effects of the stunner quicker then Ronon. The Satedan could see Sheppard's eyes roaming around, obviously taking in the lay of the land.

"Cage is about five by seven, one small door, too small to walk out of upright. We're about thirty feet from the ship, looks like we're in the quarry that Lorne found. So far I don't see anyone else around. Don't see Baker either. Was kinda hoping he was on your other side. Hang on." The Lantean flopped back onto his back and then laboriously turned onto his other side. "Oh that's so much better, not. All I got over here is the side of the quarry. Need to be able to sit up to see anything else, and that doesn't seem to be in the cards for a while." He flopped back down and turned his head toward Ronon. "Don't suppose you can move?" Ronon shook his head. "Great"

The Satedan appreciated that Sheppard had shared what he could see with him, even if it didn't do any good. His own eyes were studying the bars and vines that made up the cage. He was sure that if he had at least one knife left that they could cut through in no time, and be out of here. If there were no guards they could make their way back to the gate. Speaking of the gate…

"What about the others?" he said, not wanting to give away anything by mentioning names or locations. Sheppard evidently read his intent.

"SOP is return to base and recon with additional personnel and support when a portion of the team is overdue by more than a reasonable amount of time." he said shortly. Ronon took that to mean that Lorne would return to Atlantis, get more men when it became evident that Sheppard, Ronon, and Baker were not going to make it to the gate.

"May not be so easy, now." he suggested. The Wraith and the humans with them would be waiting for any rescue attempts. They had to know there were others. They might have already even killed or captured the others, leaving it to the people still in Atlantis to act when it became evident that something was wrong. "How long till they try to come back if they made it?"

"Just guessing, but I would say any time now." Obviously Sheppard didn't know how long they had been out either. The sun, which had risen a quarter of the way through the sky was not a reliable source of information since they did not know how long the days were on this planet. Ronon was guessing they had been unconscious for only an hour or so. That was standard with a Wraith stun. Sheppard tried to sit up, but only succeeded in raising his head slightly. He dropped it back with a grunt. "Nope, still not going anywhere."

Ronon felt some of the feeling coming back into his shoulders and arms. That was how it usually worked, from the head down. You got each section of your body back in sequence, the legs and feet usually the last to work. He forced his elbows down and lifted his shoulders until he was leaning up on his elbows, and was able to look around. He couldn't see much more than before, but he could see men working on the other side of the quarry. They seemed to be gathering some dull grey rocks into baskets and were carrying them into the ship. He had little more time to see much else before his elbows slid from beneath him and he thudded back to the ground. He managed to lift a fist and pounded it into the ground in frustration.

It was another thirty minutes before the two men were sitting up, leaning against one side of the cage, watching the men fill and carry the baskets. It was slow work, but the men seemed to not mind it. In fact, as they watched the men move back and forth they came to notice that the workers seemed to be moving like zombies, a reference that Sheppard had to explain at length, their faces blank, eyes always fixed straight ahead, movements stiff. They never looked at the men in the cage as they passed. There was no talk among them. They didn't seem to notice one another any more than to avoid bumping into each other. It was definitely odd.

Ronon noted that most of the men were wearing clothing that was just different enough from one another to tell him that they were not from the same planets. Sheppard had looked closer at the men, and had said he didn't see all that much difference, but Ronon assured him that there was one, and that it should have meant trouble at least in the case of two of the men.

"Why?" the Lantean asked, stretching his legs and working his feet back ad forth. His recovery had slowed so that he and Ronon were at about the same point now, both able to sit and move around a little, but unable to stand without support. They were leaning against the cage not only for support however. Ronon was using one of the knives that the searchers had missed, hidden in the hem of his pants, to saw at the vine holding one of the bars. The vine was proving to be a lot tougher than it looked, but he was making slow headway on it, the attempt being hidden by his body. Ronon pointed to one man who was filling a basket and another who was doing the same nearby.

"Therilian and Resnarian. They hate each other's guts as a rule. Would rather fight each other than eat or sleep. I have never seen one within fifty feet of the other without violence breaking out. Those two have been working almost side by side as if they didn't even notice each other. That's not right."

"Not going to buy a sudden and unprecedented outbreak of peace, huh? Sheppard said. "Drugged maybe? Might want to avoid any water or food they offer. Don't want to ruin my manicure." Ronon wasn't sure what that meant, but he understood the warning, not that he would take anything from the Wraith anyway. He stopped sawing at the vine as he noticed a group heading toward the cage from the ship, a group with a leader that walked with purpose, and with eyes that definitely saw them. The other three men seemed to have that same zombie look as the others did. He nudged Sheppard with an elbow and jerked his chin at the man. Sheppard followed his line of sight and struggled to stand up. He had managed to make it to his feet, swaying slightly, when the group stopped outside the small door. The man in the lead was tall, possibly taller than Ronon, and thick with muscle. His head was shaved bald, and highly polished. He stared at them with cold dark eyes that gave nothing away, then motioned to Ronon.

"On your feet, Satedan." he growled. "You're next for processing." Sheppard's eyes narrowed.

"When you say 'next', that means someone else went before. Where's my other man, and what do you mean by processing?" he demanded, stepping slightly to the side so that he was between Ronon and the other man. The Satedan felt a surge of something inside him as he realized that Sheppard was defending him, at least as much as he could, and that he

had said his 'other' man. That meant Sheppard already considered him one of his own. It was a strangely comforting feeling, even here in a cage with the future uncertain. It had been a long time since he had belonged to anyone. He hadn't realized how much he had missed it. The big man sneered at Sheppard, looking down at him with contempt.

"You sit down and shut up, pretty boy. Your turn will come, though I don't know what good you're gonna do. At least the other two are full grown, not some skinny worthless piece of nothing." Sheppard ignored the insult and stayed where he was.

"I want to know what happened to Baker, my other man. I also want to talk to whoever is in charge here. You've made a mistake."

"Ain't been no mistake, scrawny. Now get your skinny ass out of the way or I'll move it myself. Satedan, you got a minute to crawl to the door, after that I stun the noisy one and then have my men drag you out of there. What's it gonna be?'

"If you think you can drag me anywhere you are welcome to try." Ronon said and surged to his feet. He had to steady himself on the bars for a moment, but adrenaline was starting to pump through his veins, negating the stun effects. Sheppard threw him a quelling glance before turning to the other man again.

"Look, Mr. Clean, do you mind if I call you Mr. Clean, because you got a real thing going on there? All you need is the muscle shirt and you're the spittin' image of him. You seem to be a reasonable enough guy-" He broke off as he was forced to dodge suddenly to the side as the man dragged out a stun pistol and aimed it at Sheppard. The beam missed, and the big man growled and started to reaim. Ronon stepped forward between Sheppard and the weapon.

"I'll go. Leave him alone."

"Damn it, Ronon!" He heard Sheppard hiss at him, but he did not look back at the Lantean as he dropped to his knees and crawled out the door that one of the 'zombies' opened. He got to his feet and turned to look at Sheppard. The Lantean was looking unhappy but at least he hadn't been stunned again. Ronon nodded at him.

"See ya." he said. He had heard the farewell on Atlantis, and had liked the brevity of it. Sheppard did not seem to appreciate it though, as he continued to yell after the group as they marched Ronon toward the ship. He was demanding to be taken instead. Yelling for whoever was in charge. Using several words that Ronon didn't recognize, but that he was sure were curse words. He made a mental note of them. If he was going to be hanging out with the Lanteans he needed to speak the language. Not that that seemed likely at this time.

He was taken into the ship, and he had to suppress a shudder as he was marched down the corridors to a small room that he knew was a lab. There was a table with metal restraints on it in the center of the room, with a machine sitting on a smaller table nearby. He did not like the looks of it at all. He liked the looks of the Wraith that stood near the table even less.

It was a male, thin and pale, with long white hair pulled back on the sides. He looked up as the group entered and set down some type of pad he had been marking in and came to stand in front of Ronon. He leaned in and sniffed at the Satedan as the Wraith often did, though Ronon wasn't sure exactly what they scented. He then circled around the ex-runner nodding to himself. Ronon held himself still only with the utmost difficulty, wanting to spring at the Wraith's throat. He had several knives; he should be able to do some serious damage. But he held back. It wasn't just the Wraith; it was the four men waiting in the doorway. He might be able to take the 'zombie' men, but the one Sheppard called Mr. Clean would be not be so easy, and neither would the Wraith. So he persevered. His time would come. The Wraith moved away.

"Remove its shirt and put it on the table." he ordered the men. Ronon glared at the leader as he stepped forward and pulled off the shirt by himself, throwing it into the corner. He strode to the table and with a sneer at the Wraith, seated himself on the edge. He was ready to leap off if the opportunity presented. Let the four other men leave, the Wraith would then pay for his over confidence. But they did not leave and the Wraith stepped back toward the table, standing behind Ronon. He felt one of its hands on his back and he had to suppress a shudder.

"A Runner." it hissed, and then it made a puzzled sound. Ronon looked over his shoulder and saw that creature was running a device above his back where the mostly healed scar was. It looked similar to the ones the Lanteans used, but had an essential Wraithness to it that the Ancient machines lacked. The Wraith looked up from the device. "Your implant had been removed, Runner, and yet you live. There are few who have the skills to remove the beacon beyond my brethren, who would not have done it. Who did this?" Ronon shrugged a shoulder.

"Woke up and it was gone." he said. Technically it was true. He had passed out from the pain, and the homing beacon had been gone when he had come to. Not that he wouldn't lie to the Wraith if the occasion called for it, but why put out effort if the truth could be annoying. He had learned that particular skill from Sheppard in the short time he had known him, watching him harass McKay. The Wraith hissed in annoyance, obviously not used to defiance. Sheppard was right. It was fun.

"This one will be of no use to me. The scan confirms it. He was chosen as a runner for a reason. He will not accept the conditioning. Take him to the holding cell. A decision will be made regarding him later. Bring the other." Ronon had to stop himself from asking the Wraith what it was that made him different. Why he had been chosen as a runner when the rest of his unit had died, when the rest of his planet had died. He had never known just why he had been singled out.

"It is a scrawny thing, Master. Not worth your time. It would collapse under the weight of the baskets. He will be of no value to the hive." 'Mr. Clean' said with a sneer. Ronon found himself wanting to wipe that sneer off the man's face. He didn't like that he was making light of Sheppard. It had been a long time since he cared about anything outside himself. It felt curiously good.

"That is not your decision to make." the Wraith snapped. The leader's eyes widened, and he stepped back, bowing his head in a deferential manner.

"Forgive me, Master. I meant no disrespect. I think only of the good of the hive."

"You presume too much, Gerek. You know nothing. Do only as you are told, or you will be processed…for the 'good of the hive'." There was no mistaking the threat in the words, and Ronon wondered exactly what this 'process' was, and worried about Sheppard, who was obviously next in line for it. He needed information. Gerek motioned him to move off the table and he did so, moving slowly. He went and picked up his shirt, taking a close look around the room. He saw something he hadn't noticed before, as it had been hidden behind the Wraith. The device on the smaller table was something that might have been in Atlantis. It looked nothing like the Wraith scanner, and Ronon suspected it was not a Wraith machine. Did that mean it was from the Ancestors?

Sheppard had a weird way with the machines of the Ancestors, for reasons Ronon did not fully understand. It had something to do with what Beckett called genes, and which he understood meant the building blocks of what made a person who they were. From what he had seen it could be both a curse and a blessing. Some machines could be dangerous, others beneficial, and evidently they had no way of knowing which was which until it was turned on. Ronon had a feeling that whatever that machine was, it was not one of the beneficial ones.

He allowed himself to be led to the holding cells a deck below where they had been. He kept a close eye out as they went, noting the turns and doors. When the time came he would be ready. The four men stopped outside the cell, and the bars slid into place. The three 'zombie' men turned to leave at a word from Gerek, and the leader was going as well when Ronon spoke.

"How come you're not like them?" he asked. It never hurt to simply ask for what you wanted to know. The worst that could happen was you didn't get an answer. Sometimes you did.

"I am honored to be the overseer of the drones. I serve the Mistress."

"Those aren't drones. Drones are Wraith. There are only two Wraith on this ship, and one isn't a drone. Who is the other?"

"How do you know this?" Gerek said, stepping closer. His eyes were narrowed. Ronon decided to dig a little. All he needed was the right lever…

"There was some talking in the quarry. We could hear them. They mentioned two."

"The processed can not talk without the permission of the Mistress. You lie!" Gerek was glaring.

"And yet I know that there are only two Wraith and twenty three or so of you humans. How else would I know? Maybe your 'process' doesn't work as well as you thought it did." Gerek glared at him, but he could see that the doubt had found its mark. The man stalked away down the corridor. Good, maybe they could use that doubt later. First though he had to figure out a way to keep Sheppard from being 'processed'. Especially if it meant he might end up like the 'zombies'. And where the hell was Baker? He was supposed to have been watching their backs, and had failed. Ronon would like to talk to him about that.

He listened carefully, but he could hear nothing in the corridor. He looked at the activation pad for the cell door. It was about twenty feet away. Well within his striking distance, but the problem was finding just the right place. He had only five of his usual complement of knives. That was not going to give him much of an opportunity to find the sweet spot. He went and sat down against the wall. He needed to think about this before he made any moves.

He was still pondering his choices almost an hour later when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from the direction of the lab. As far as he could tell there were several people, and they seemed to be dragging something. He surged to his feet and was by the cell door in an instant, ready to take advantage of any opportunity that might present itself. He frowned as the group came into sight. It was Gerek and his three henchmen, and they were dragging Sheppard.

The colonel hung between two of the men who had his arms draped over their shoulders. His head hung down and his feet dragged against the deck. Ronon could see that the Lantean was attempting to get his feet under him, but the men were moving too fast for him to coordinate himself, so he kept losing his footing and ended up being dragged some more. Ronon could not see his face yet.

The group neared, and Gerek waved his stunner at Ronon, indicating he should move back. The Satedan did so at his leisure, earning himself a scowl that he answered with a smirk. As he moved back the door slid open, and the two men dragging Sheppard threw him into the cell. As they did so Ronon got a good look at the two. They were bruised on their faces, and their clothes were torn. A quick look at Gerek showed the man's nose was swelling, it might even be broken. Ronon's smirk grew larger causing Gerek to growl at him. The Lantean landed with a grunt and rolled to a stop on his side, facing the door. His back was to Ronon so he could not see the extent of the damage, but the slurred voice that called after the retreating men was enough to tell him it was not inconsiderable.

"Yeah and I gotta tell you, bald is not a good look on you. You might want to consider hair transplants or something!" With that confusing parting shot, the new arrival rolled onto his back with a groan and lay there, staring at the ceiling. Ronon could now see what had caused the slurring.

Sheppard's lower lip was swollen and split on one side. There was a small trickle of blood still seeping from it, which Sheppard swept away with his hand, wincing as he did so. A spot on his cheekbone on the same side as the lip was just starting to color and would no doubt form a very colorful bruise in a few hours. The eye on the same side was almost closed and was already blacking. As the Lantean moved, evidently seeking a more comfortable position, the black t shirt he was wearing rode up, and Ronon could see bruises starting to color on his flank, the bruise appeared to be in the shape of a boot. He suspected it was not the only one. He moved closer to the Lantean, and Sheppard turned his head to look at him with his good eye.

"Hey, Ronon!" he greeted with an attempt at a smile. "Me and the boys were out having a little fun and things got outta hand. Luckily we had a designated driver and as you can see I got home safe." His voice was cheerful, though slurred by the lip. Looking into the good eye, Ronon thought that it seemed a little glazed. He squatted down next to Sheppard.

"You all right?" he asked. It was a stupid question, but it needed to be asked. Even if Sheppard wasn't 'all right' there wasn't much he could do about it. The colonel was nodding his head however.

"Oh yeah, I'm great. That thing is the best thing since 180 proof rum. That stuff will knock you on your ass and you won't even know it. It was just like the last time I went to one of those places that serves you drinks in a coconut shell. You know, with the umbrellas and things. I woke up nude on the beach with my commanding officer's wife trying to give me a blowjob. It was great!" He was grinning like an idiot, and Ronon realized that the glazed look wasn't from the beating, though he was sure some of it was, but instead was because Sheppard was drugged. He put out one hand and grabbed Sheppard's chin and forced him to look at him.

"Did they try to process you?" he asked, making eye contact so that he knew that the man was paying attention.

"Yesss!" Sheppard declared as if Ronon had guessed the answer to some very difficult question. "That's what they did." He snickered and rolled to his side facing Ronon. His one good eye blinked lazily. "Didn't work though, that's what pissed 'em off. Well that and the fact I called the Wraith, Dr. Frankenstein. I mean the guy isn't reanimating people, but he is messin' with them, so I think that counts. They didn't have to get all pissy." He said the last with a pout that evidently hurt his lip as he raised his hand to it again. "Ow."

"Why didn't it work on you like on the others? It makes them into drones. That's all these 'zombie' guys we've been seeing." Ronon wasn't sure he was going to get anything useful out of the man, but he didn't have the patience, and they might not have the time, to wait until Sheppard sobered up. Sheppard blinked at him, and struggled to sit up. Ronon reached out and grabbed an arm and pulled him upright. The sudden change of position evidently was not to the other man's liking as his face turned a strange shade of green. Ronon barely managed to dodge as Sheppard emptied his stomach onto the floor.

Once the retching was done, Sheppard fell back down away from the mess and curled into a ball, or at least as much as he could with the injuries he had been given.

"Crap." he groaned. "That freaking hurt." Ronon skirted the mess and went to crouch down in front of the Lantean. That complaint had sounded almost lucid.

"Do you know why the process didn't work on you?" he asked again. Sheppard opened his good eye a slit and looked at him blearily. He stuck out an arm, and Ronon took that to mean he wanted to try sitting up again. Warily watching for signs of another spewing, the Satedan lifted him up again. Sheppard swayed for a moment, then blinked a few times and ran a hand through his already messy hair.

"It didn't work because I have the gene, and it is an Ancient device of some kind, though what the hell they meant it to be I don't have a clue. I'm fairly sure they never meant it to become a zombie maker for Frankenstein and his buddies."

"I thought the Wraith couldn't use the Ancestor's machines."

"They can't, but someone else with the gene can, and they have that someone. Mr. Clean does it, though I don't think he knows that." Sheppard closed his good eye for a moment and breathed in. Ronon noted that he didn't breath very deeply, and he seemed to be favoring his left side, the one with the boot print on it. Evidently the kicking had included some ribs. After a moment Sheppard opened his eyes again and looked at Ronon.

"The Wraith was very careful about it, but I noticed that he had Mr. Clean stand right next to the machine when he supposedly turned it on. It lit up as soon as he got close to it, and the Wraith pretended that it was his doing. Once the machine was initialized, anyone, even a Wraith, could control it. Call it bad planning on the part of the Ancients. Mr. Clean turned it on and the Wraith turned it up, and tried to fry my brains."

"So what happened?"

"I turned it off." Sheppard said with a smirk. He seemed very satisfied. Ronon frowned at him. That didn't seem like such a big deal. Sheppard looked at him and shook his head. "I have one of the most powerful incidences of the gene that anyone has seen since the Ancients themselves, at least according to Beckett. That means that mine overrides anyone else's gene. If I tell it to turn off, it is going to stay off until I or someone with a more powerful gene tells it to turn on again. Their days as a zombie factory are over." He gave a satisfied smile. The smile faded as the pain reminded Sheppard of his lip, and the rest of the bruises.

"Of course they weren't particularly happy about that. The Wraith knew right away what I had done, and he tried to get his bullyboys to make me fix it. I told him what he could do with it. That made him even pissier."

Ronon matched Sheppard's smile at the thought of annoying the Wraith and was about to reply when he heard footsteps approaching again. He signaled to Sheppard who nodded his understanding. Ronon got to his feet, and when Sheppard tugged at his pants leg, reached down and pulled the smaller man up as well, and held him steady as he swayed. By the time Gerek and his men stopped outside the bars, Sheppard had stepped away from Ronon and was looking steady, even if he was pale and his eye was still slightly glazed. Gerek seemed to be surprised to see Sheppard on his feet

"She requires your presence." he said. Sheppard bit his lip and stood a little straighter, grunting slightly with the effort.

"Is that she in the sense of a benevolent, fairy godmother-like being from the North that is going to help us find our way home, or she in the sense of a b movie villainess who looks like Ursula Andress and who lives a long time because of a weird comet thingie?" he asked. Both Ronon and Gerek stared at him, and Sheppard shrugged, not bothering to explain. Gerek opened the cell door and motioned them out with his stunner. Sheppard cast a look over his shoulder at Ronon as they started to move.

"You be John Richardson and I'll be Peter Cushing. They both survived the film, though I don't think they did in the book. I'll get back to you on that." he said as they went down the corridor. Ronon could see that despite the nonsense he was spouting, and the slight stagger in his step, that Sheppard was watching closely where they were going, noting the turns and craning his head to study things as they moved by them. Ronon was doing much the same thing. If the opportunity presented itself he was ready, and he sensed that Sheppard was as well. However with four guards and with Sheppard still being partly affected by the machine, now was not the time.

Ronon recognized right away where they were being taken. It was a large room near the control room. All the cruisers had them. They were used as a form of conference room by the male Wraith. They were pushed into the room, and Ronon spun and growled at one of the guards who had pushed him. The man didn't so much as twitch. That just wasn't right. The three drones left the room, though they could see that they were waiting outside the door as it closed behind them. Gerek moved to stand in the center of the shadowed room and simply stood. Ronon and Sheppard looked at each other and then around the room. The edges of the room were in darkness while the center was brightly lit, a common practice on Wraith ships it seemed.

"Okay…this wasn't exactly on my schedule for today. Any idea what might be going on?" Sheppard asked. His eyes were probing the shadows. Ronon shook his head, doing the same. The Wraith liked to make an entrance.

"This isn't like anything that I've ever seen. Or heard about." The door opened behind them and both men looked around. The male Wraith entered the room. He was not looking at them however; instead he was looking over their shoulders. They turned together, and there, standing before them, was a female Wraith, smiling at them.

Gerek had dropped to his knees, and was staring down at the deck as the female approached him. She ran a hand over his bald head, almost caressing it, and the man leaned into the hand like a dog being petted. Sheppard grimaced and made a small 'ack' sound. Ronon just stared at the queen.

She was tall and thin as were all her kind. Pale as death with dark blue hair that hung almost to her knees. She pushed Gerek away from her and stalked toward the two men. They stood unmoving as she circled them, then stopped before them. The male Wraith came and took up a position to her left, booting Gerek aside with a disdainful look. The overseer scrambled to the door, and huddled there on his knees, his eyes never left the deck. The queen stepped forward to move close to Ronon and sniffed at him.

"Runner" she hissed, and lifted a hand, not the one with the feeding mouth, toward his chest. He stepped back before she could make contact, and she hissed in anger. The male Wraith stepped forward and was about to grab Ronon when Sheppard stepped between them. He addressed himself to the queen.

"Uh…look. I know you must have some wildly improbably reason for taking us captive and keeping us alive and all, and in a weird way I, at least, am grateful for that, but could we just skip past the sniffing and feeling up phase and get to the threats and interrogation. I have an appointment with a masseuse at three and I don't want to miss it. And by the way, I had another man with me when we came in, you wouldn't happen to know where he is would you? I kinda miss him."

The queen glared for a moment more at Ronon who stared stonily back at her and then switched her gaze to Sheppard, who met it head on with nary a flinch. Ronon had seen few men who could do that, and his estimation of Sheppard went up. If they got out of this alive, he might just be able to follow this man. He was not surprised that the colonel had managed to ask about Baker in his rambling. He suspected it had been the real question on the colonel's mind. The queen raised her hand again and swept a finger down Sheppard's cheek. He flinched slightly at the touch, but did not move from his position between the queen and Ronon. The queen raised the finger she had used to her mouth and licked it. Sheppard grimaced again.

"Kinda unsanitary don't you think? You don't know where I've been. Don't you guys worry about germs? I imagine you've got one heck of an immune system."

"MMMM, you have the blood of the Lanteans in you human. They left this place many of your years ago, defeated by the might of our kind. How is it that you are here?" she hissed, moving closer to Sheppard. He backed up a step, but still stayed in front of Ronon. "Tell me." Even though the question was not aimed at him, Ronon could feel the compulsion in that voice. Sheppard's head twisted and his teeth clenched as he fought it. His voice was strained when he spoke, but he was still trying to be flip.

"Well you know how it is. You take one of the all-inclusive vacations without reading the small print and you end up in some seedy joint in some backwater galaxy somewhere. I was really hoping for Mazatlan or Cabo San Lucus but I ended up here instead. I don't even see a pool." The queen frowned at him.

"Your words make no sense, human, nor do your thoughts. The processing, though it failed, has affected your mind too much." She waved his nonsense aside, and stepped closer. When he would have stepped away she reached out swiftly and grabbed his arm, dragging him closer. Ronon, having had enough, started towards her meaning to do as much damage as he could before they brought him down, but the male Wraith was there, grabbing him. They fought for dominance for a moment, but the Wraith was too strong and Ronon found himself on the floor with the Wraith kneeling on his back, one arm twisted behind him. He managed to turn his head so he could see Sheppard, and found him being held against the wall by the queen. She had one hand wrapped around his throat, and she was using it to hold him three inches above the floor. Sheppard's face was turning blue as the hand that held him cut off the air. The queen looked at Ronon with contempt.

"Foolish human. Did you think to overpower us? Have you learned nothing as a runner? We are stronger than you. We always will be. One more such attempt and I will feed on this one." She raised her other hand and ran it down Sheppard's face again, but this time she let it trail down his neck and across his chest and abdomen. Sheppard, even though he was choking tried to writhe away from her touch. She released him suddenly, stepping back as he fell in a heap on the deck. She studied him thoughtfully then reached down and dragged him to his knees as he was still gasping to fill his air-starved lungs. He glared at her but she ignored it.

"Yesss" she hissed. "You were right about this one, Gerek. He is pretty…for a human, but smaller than our drones. He will be of no use to us in the mine, but he will be entertaining for a time…as long as he survives. And there is the matter of the machine." Her dark eyes turned to Ronon. "The runner will be of no use to us. Though it might be amusing to return his homing beacon to him and put him back to running." She flipped a hand at the male Wraith and he stood, dragging Ronon up with him as if he weighed nothing. It was humiliating even knowing that he could do little, he struggled. He was surprised, and thought the queen was too when Sheppard spoke, his voice cracked and hoarse.

"Hey, we're a package deal. Buy one get one free. You want something from me you gotta keep him alive." he croaked, struggling to his feet. One hand was massaging his neck where vivid bruises could be seen already. The queen studied him thoughtfully again.

"If I spare the Satedan, you will cooperate?" she asked slyly. Ronon caught Sheppard's eyes and shook his head. The Lantean did not acknowledge him, instead looking at the queen.

"Well let's not say cooperate, but maybe I could be a bit less uncooperative." he hedged. She stalked around him, looking at him in much the same way that Ronon had seen farmers looking at livestock. She ran a finger down his face again. Sheppard didn't flinch away this time, but instead stood his ground and met her eyes.

"Sheppard-" Ronon started, but the queen overrode him.

"If it speaks again, stun it." she addressed the male Wraith who nodded and took out his weapon. Sheppard was glaring at Ronon over her shoulder; making a cutting move across his throat that Ronon took to mean shut up. He stopped as the queen turned back to him.

"I will take what I want from your mind, human. The effects of the processing machine will pass. You may resist, but eventually you will reveal everything. There is no cooperation needed on your part. You have nothing to bargain with, and your defiance only makes the taking sweeter."

"That didn't seem to be the case before. You wanted entertainment. Ripping my brain out can't be all that much fun for you. I can be damn entertaining; all those women I dated can't be wrong you know. Give it a shot why don't you?" he said in a cajoling voice. "But if he dies, or you stick that transmitter back in him, suddenly I'm like the State of the Union Address. Serious dullsville." Her gaze narrowed at him, obviously puzzled at his words, but she seemed intrigued. Ronon wasn't sure if that was good or bad for them, but it was different. She nodded and turned to look at the male.

"Take the runner back to the cell. This one will stay here. We will see if his entertainment value is sufficient for the runner's life. Have Gerek bring the other one. I think that will be amusing."

The male Wraith bowed slightly and waved the gun at the door, indicating to Ronon that he was to move. Gerek rose to his feet and followed, as did the other three men outside the door. Ronon was not pleased. With all these men around and the Wraith there was no chance to break free. He didn't like that he and Sheppard had been separated again. He also didn't like what Sheppard might be doing, might be sacrificing, to keep him alive. He didn't know why the queen wanted him, but nothing that benefited the Wraith was good for a human. Ronon was put back in the same cell. The Wraith left immediately, as did the three drones. Gerek however went to the next cell down the corridor and opened the bars. Gerek stepped into the doorway and looked inside.

"She summons you. You will come with me." he said. He stepped out and started down the hall. Moments later a figure stepped through the doorway of the cell and followed. Ronon cursed under his breath as Baker, his eyes vacant, passed by his cell without so much as a blink of recognition. He had been processed. The Satedan watched as the two men disappeared down the corridor toward the audience chamber where the queen and Sheppard waited. The colonel was not going to be happy about this. Ronon took out his first knife and looked closely at the touchpad for the door, trying to recall exactly where Gerek had touched it.

He was up to his third knife before he hit the right spot. It sunk into the gel-like touch pad and the bars slid open. He checked the corridor and went to retrieve his knives, slipping them back into their hiding places. Once he had rearmed himself he started toward the audience room. He was forced to hide twice when groups of drones moved by. He did that by stepping into various rooms. It was a chancy thing, since he had no way of knowing if the room was empty, but he had to take the chance.

The third time he did it, he hit the jackpot. The room he was in was evidently being used as an armory. There were racks of Wraith stunners, both the hand models and the longer ones, and, in one corner, were two P90s, two pistols, and Ronon's pulse pistol. He grabbed it and slid it into his holster with satisfaction after checking the charge. It had been fired, probably several times, and was recharging, but there was enough to kill a Wraith or two. This had been the longest he had been parted from it since he had gotten it and he had felt naked without it. He smashed one of the P90s, knowing he could not carry it, but not wanting to leave it for the enemy either. The other he slung over his shoulder. He pushed the two pistols into his belt, checking the safeties first.

He was back in the corridor when the alarm went off. Evidently his escape had been discovered. He was sure that one of the first things they would do would be to protect the queen. That meant that he couldn't just barge in as he had planned and start blasting. Though there was a certain appeal to the idea despite the odds. Instead his eyes fell on a grating. He had once escaped from a Wraith cruiser by hiding in the maintenance tunnels that ran between the decks, then had made his way out when the cruiser landed to pick up a load of humans. There was limited access, he was lucky that he was near one of the panels, but they ran throughout the ship, and he doubted if anyone would think to search them. Even if they did, he was probably more familiar with them than any of the humans on board, and the two Wraith were certainly not going to be in there searching for him.

He popped the access panel open with one of his knives and climbed in. He had to leave the P90 just inside as the tunnels were too tight for him to move quickly with it on his back. He had just pulled the panel back into place when he heard the sound of a group of people approaching. He watched through a small hole in the panel as four drones marched by. They were all armed.

Ronon waited until the men had passed so that if he made any noise moving away from the panel he would not be heard and then moved down the tunnel. He was still heading for the audience chamber. He supposed that the queen could have retreated to a smaller, more easily defended place, but he was counting on the Wraiths' natural arrogance to keep her in the audience chamber. He suspected that she would view moving as being afraid of what she saw as food. She would not go.

After about ten minutes he was in position near the top of the audience chamber. Through the grill he could look down and see most of the room from one angle or another. He started scanning the room. There were three guards near the door but the group that Ronon was interested in was near a throne-like chair that was situated against the opposite wall. He swore quietly.

The queen was sitting in the chair, leaning indolently back as if the continuing alarms meant nothing to her. The other Wraith was at her side, and Sheppard…Sheppard was on his knees on the floor in front of the chair. His black t-shirt was in rags, barely held on by threads of material attached to the collar. His back and sides were crosshatched by livid welts, some of them bleeding, the source of which Ronon had no trouble finding.

Standing behind Sheppard was Baker, one hand clutching a multi-lashed whip, dripping now with Sheppard's blood as the Marine stood there with blank eyes turned to the queen. There was no expression on his face. No sign that he felt anything about the fact that he had just finished whipping his commanding officer could been seen on his face. As for Sheppard, he seemed to be more or less determined to piss off the queen as much as possible. As Ronon watched Sheppard pushed himself up as straight as he could, though he stayed on his knees, and glared at the queen.

"Now look, I know I said I would be a little more cooperative if you kept Ronon alive, but I gotta tell you I think you are taking advantage of the deal here. What exactly did you do to Baker? He didn't like me much before, but this is a bit much for inter-services rivalry." he drawled. The only sign that he was in any pain was the paleness of his face and the way he bit his lip when he finished talking. Ronon nodded in approval. The queen however was not so amused.

"It is not for you to question me, human. You are alive because it amuses me. When you cease to amuse me you will become food. But first you will answer all my questions." she said, sitting forward. Sheppard swayed slightly, but stayed on his knees, glaring back at her.

"Yeah well your boyfriend, Frankenstein, there kinda messed that up for you for a while didn't he? So while we're waiting why don't we pass the time with a little game of 20 questions? I'll start. Why are you here?" he asked. The queen continued to stare at him for several minutes, then leaned back. This time she did seem to be amused.

"You are bold, human. None of those upon whom I have fed have been so bold before. Your energy will fill me as none before."

"Great; something for me to look forward to. If you aren't going to answer the first question how about this? Why are you using humans as drones instead of those really creepy Wraith ones? And for that matter why don't you have a hive ship, instead of a punky little cruiser. Couldn't afford the luxury model? Bad credit score?" The queen was looking less amused, and the male Wraith stalked forward and grabbed Sheppard by the throat, lifting him to his feet. Sheppard stared at him defiantly as the creature hissed in his face. Ronon got one of his knives out and started prying open the panel. If the Wraith started to feed on Sheppard he would have to attack, despite the odds. He could at least get the Wraith before he went down.

As it was he had hurried for nothing as the queen called off the male who stalked back to his position by her chair after tossing Sheppard down onto the floor. It took several minutes before the colonel could struggle back to his knees and then to his feet. The Wraith seemed to enjoy his struggle. The queen smiled at him.

"I may not be able to get answers from you, yet, little human. But do not try my patience. The Runner will be recaptured, and while he cannot be processed, especially since you have managed to incapacitate the machine, he will have the information we need in his mind, and it can be removed, painfully, before he dies. If you want him to live, I suggest you address me with respect." She glanced around, waving Baker, who had stood silently through the whole thing, away. The Marine went to join the three men by the door. The queen turned back to Sheppard.

"But…until the incompetent idiots that allowed him to escape recapture your friend. Do you know much of us, little human?" she asked. Sheppard shook his head.

"No, I think I was out sick that day in school. Can't say I missed it much, and it's Lt Colonel Sheppard to you. The 'little human' thing is getting on my nerves a bit." The queen smiled at him again.

"Each generation of my kind has a certain number of queens born to it. As there have been plentiful hunting grounds since those of your blood fled this galaxy, there has been the maximum number of queens. Only when one queen dies is another allowed to be born. It is known that we are a queen from the beginning. The embryo is kept separate, isolated. But I was one of two from the same egg. It is a rare occurrence. Only once before had one egg yielded two queens. That was in the time of the siege of the city of your ancestors. There were limited resources. The embryos were allowed to develop and the first to emerge was given her rightful place. The other was destroyed. Had the herd been thin at my birth, I would have been the one destroyed. As it was, I was allowed to live, but I was not given my rightful place, that went to my sister." The last word was a hiss of anger and hate.

"Okay, so I'm getting that you were the younger twin, and mom and dad liked your older sister best, and you were treated bad. Sounds like the movie of the week on the WB, teen angst and all that. Kinda like 'I Was a Teenage Vampire' or something. So what'd you do, steal the keys to the family cruiser and take off with the boy friend?" Sheppard asked with a gesture around the room and to the male Wraith. The queen hissed at him and stood, moving quickly to stand in front of Sheppard.

"Do not mock me, little human. I am as much a queen as my sister and you will bow before me like all of your kind were born to do." Sheppard remained stubbornly standing. "Kneel!" the word was laced with the full push of the Wraith persuasiveness. The four men at the door dropped to their knees immediately. Sheppard resisted for a moment, but then as if he was crumbling, his knees bent and dumped him onto the floor at her feet. She grabbed a handful of his hair and yanked his head back, leaning over to look into his eyes.

"I was denied a hive of my own. They would give me no males and no drones. I was allowed only to exist in the shadow of my sister, doing as she bade me and living off her leavings. It was intolerable. She was too strong to supplant. My only option was to leave and establish my own hive, and then return to take over the one that was rightfully mine. I took this ship and the one male who saw me for the power that I am and I left the hive. But with only the two of us it was difficult to maneuver the ship. I needed drones, and servants. There are among you humans a section that understands that we are the power in this galaxy. I found some of them, and they became my servants. Not long after that we…found the machine that makes the processing possible. My army, my hive, began to grow. Now that you are here my plan will come to its full fruition." She released his head suddenly, and it fell forward for a moment before he dragged it up. Ronon could tell that Sheppard was moving only through sheer force of will now. But at least he was moving.

"You know you really should see someone about that complex of yours, sibling rivalry can get so ugly." Sheppard sniped. He tried to push himself back up to his feet, but it took three tries before he could get there. He cast a look at Baker. "So this process of yours, with the machine you…'found'" Sheppard waved two fingers from each hand in the air, and Ronon wondered if it was some sort of Lantean profane gesture. "Can it be reversed?" The queen looked at him with the distant amusement again.

"Why would I care about that, little human? When they are no longer any use to me they will be used as food. The process does not need to be reversed."

"We'll just have to agree to disagree about that." Sheppard said. He seemed to be trying to find a way to stand that didn't hurt, but not succeeding. He finally ended up in something that resembled his usual slump. "What is it that you think you can get from me? I don't seem to be quite up to your size standards for a drone, so evidently you don't just want me for my body." That got a laugh from the queen.

"You think that because I have been…separated from the hives that I don't know who you are?" She sneered at him. "Your infamy has spread throughout the hives. Sheppard, the queen killer. Sheppard the hive killer. Sheppard the second coming of the Atlanteans. Your fame has proceeded you."

"Great."

"It is suspected by several of the queens that Atlantis has not been destroyed. The one that takes the city will be the strongest of all. I will be that queen. You will give me the key. Once I have taken the city they will no longer refuse me my right. I will control the access to this 'Earth'. I will rule this galaxy and yours."

"I can see how that would work out real well for you, but I'm not really seeing any benefit for me or mine. That being the case and since you can't hold Ronon over my head anymore I'm just going to take back my agreement regarding being less uncooperative." Sheppard drawled. The amusement left the queen's face.

"Your cooperation was never in doubt, little human. It is not an option. When the effects of the process are past, you will tell me everything I want to know."

"By this time my people know I've been captured. Every code I have has been changed. There's nothing I can tell you that will help you get anywhere near Atlantis."

"You can tell me where on the planet the city is located. They cannot change that. You have information about the shields and the cloak. You know what weapons they have. You are a fount of knowledge little human, and you will share it all with me." Sheppard suddenly was no longer slumping.

"No. No I will not. You might as well kill me now." he declared, eyes flashing defiance at the creature before him. She laughed and gestured to the male who smiled and started toward Sheppard.

Ronon could see Sheppard bracing himself, and got ready to fire. It was not the best situation. The four drones were at the other end of the room. Ronon would not be able to shift his aim fast enough to get any of them after he took out the male Wraith, or at least it seemed unlikely. Sheppard would be left with the queen, who would no doubt go on the offensive as soon as the male fell, and the four men. Ronon might not be able to help him much if the men were not at the right angle. He would only get a few shots from this place before they would figure it out, and return his fire. He would have to move then. He would either have to retreat into the tunnels leaving Sheppard to his fate, or he would have to drop down into the room and take his chances along with the Lantean.

The Wraith loomed over Sheppard, leaning toward him and smiling. He seemed about to lift his hand, but then he suddenly turned and stalked across the room to Baker. With no hesitation the Wraith ripped the shirt from Baker's chest and then plunged his hand over the humans exposed heart. It seem the process did not keep the drone from feeling pain as Baker started to scream. Sheppard sprang across the room, moving deceptively fast for someone who had appeared so badly off moments before, and flung himself onto the Wraith's back. He looped one arm around it's throat, and tried to pull the feeding hand away with the other, all the while screaming at Baker to fight back.

Ronon saw his chance. The queen had moved across the room to enjoy the feeding, and was standing near the drones. They were all together, and the drones would not be able to fire on Sheppard without hitting the Wraith. He thumbed the controls of his pistol to full power and sighted on the first of the drones. He had to count on Sheppard distracting the Wraith for a while longer. He fired.

The first drone dropped where he stood, and before the others could even look around Ronon fired again. A second drone dropped. The queen was hissing and spun around looking for the source of the energy beams. Ronon sighted on her, and had just started to pull the trigger when the last drone stepped in front of the queen, taking the shot that would have hit her. She screamed, and ran toward the door, taking her out of his shooting angle, and the gun was signaling that the charge was too low for another shot without recharging. The full power shots had drained it quickly. He could still stun, but that would probably not even tickle a recently fed Wraith. He had to move.

He dropped through the grate, landing in a crouch, and moving to stand just as the Wraith abandoned Baker's now desiccated corpse and reached over his head to grab Sheppard. The colonel was flipped over the Wraith's head and landed with a jarring thud on the floor. He didn't move. Ronon roared and threw himself on the Wraith, pulling his longest knife as he did so. The Wraith, turning to meet the new threat, had no time to brace himself and they tumbled to the deck together.

The stench of the Wraith was all around him as Ronon fought to twist his body around to land on top of the creature. They fought, only the panting of their breath and small grunts as short blows found their marks breaking the silence. Ronon brought up the knife and almost had it plunged into the Wraith's neck when the other managed to grasp his wrist and twist it aside. They fought over the knife, the blade moving back and forth between them for what seemed like hours, but was only moments. Finally the Wraith managed to roll them in such a way that Ronon's elbow hit the floor, causing the nerve to spasm and he dropped the knife.

Before the Wraith could grab the blade Ronon rolled them away and the fight continued. The Satedan was well aware the time was running out. The queen would be returning with more drones, and he could not allow Sheppard to be recaptured. Ronon knew that Sheppard would prefer death to betraying his friends, to betraying Atlantis and perhaps his whole galaxy into the hands of the Wraith. If it came to a choice between capture and that, Ronon would do what was necessary before they killed him.

The Wraith was somehow able to brace a foot against one wall, and used the leverage to gain the top position in their fight. Ronon was pinned to the floor, looking up at the now smiling face of the Wraith as it pulled back it's feeding hand in preparation of striking the fatal blow. He met its eye defiantly; the Wraith would know his contempt for them with his death. The hand started to lower, and out of no where a knife plunged into the Wraith's neck, only to be pulled out and plunged in again. Black blood splattered everywhere as the Wraith arched in agony. The knife once more was removed and plunged again into the Wraith, this time its chest. The blade must have found the Wraith's heart as it stopped moving, and fell away. Ronon turned his eyes to the man swaying over him, the knife still clutched in his hand, dripping black blood.

Sheppard was almost as pale as the Wraith, and his face and chest were splattered with the black blood of his victim. As the Wraith fell, Sheppard stumbled back, almost falling, saving himself by finding the wall and leaning hard against it. The knife dropped from his hand. Ronon rolled to his feet, and reached down to retrieve the knife. He cleaned it on the Wraith's pants and tucked it away. He found his pulse pistol lying on the ground several feet away and slid it into its holster. He then went and grabbed Sheppard by the arm.

He hid a wince as he saw the Lantean's back. Landing on it had caused the welts from the whip to reopen, and blood was flowing from several of the lashes, soaking into the Lantean's pants. Ronon knew he could not stop to do anything about it now. He started dragging the colonel toward the door. Sheppard resisted and tried to go toward Baker. Ronon exerted more force and continued toward the door.

"Baker." Sheppard mumbled. Ronon shook his head.

"He's dead." He had seen too many Wraith feedings. Even if some small spark of life remained in the desiccated thing that had been Baker, it would soon fade. No one survived a Wraith feeding of that intensity. He heard Sheppard give what almost sounded like a sob, and then the colonel was pulling away and walking on his own, or was at least trying to. It was more of a controlled stumble forward, aided by the wall.

"I hope you know the way out of here." he gasped. Ronon noticed that he threw one last look over his shoulder at Baker before they turned the corner.

"Door to the outside is just ahead. Then there's two miles to the ring. She's got twenty more drones to send after us. It's going to be tricky, even without carrying dead weight. You up to running?" the Satedan asked. He wanted to be sure that Sheppard knew that they could not take the body.

"Not really, but then I don't seem to have much choice. I'd rather die trying to get away rather than play footsies with the teen angst queen back there." The alarms, which had quieted for a while, started to sound again as the hatch opened, and Ronon could hear running footsteps approaching. When the hatch closed behind them he fired a shot into the control panel.

"That should slow them for a few minutes. We have to get out of here, now." He handed Sheppard both of the pistols from his belt, they had somehow managed to remain there through the fight. Sheppard tucked one in his waistband, and thumbed the safety off of the other. They started into the woods.

They had covered perhaps a thousands yards when Ronon heard sounds of pursuit behind them. They had gotten the hatch open, used the smaller aft hatch, or they had redirected whatever search parties might have been out looking for him before. Didn't really matter, whoever it was, they were the enemy. Ronon was running at Sheppard's pace, which was only just over a walk, barely even a jog. The Lantean was breathing heavily, and having to lean on any convenient tree they passed. They were not going to make it like this.

"You keep going toward the ring." Ronon said, pointing toward where the Stargate stood. "I'll draw them off." He started to step away when Sheppard grabbed his arm. The colonel was shaking his head.

"No. I'm not going to get there anytime soon on my own, if at all, and according to Queen Brittany back there, they have a couple of guards on it who have been randomly dialing it for the last couple hours. We need to find a place I can defend, and you go to the Stargate and get reinforcements." he said. His eyes were scanning the forest.

"Look Sheppard-" Ronon began only to have the colonel cut him off as he turned suddenly and got up into Ronon's face.

"No, you look. I've already lost one man. I will not lose another to the psycho queen. If you're going to stay with us that means you do things our way, my way, and that means what I say goes. Now find me a place I can hold them off and get your ass to the gate." The colonel's dark eyes were burning into his own and Ronon felt the training he had received start to reassert itself. You obeyed your commanding officers, even if you had different opinions about what should be done. He nodded and grabbed Sheppard by the arm. Using that to support the flagging man he started forward, looking for a defensible place.

They found it five minutes later. A small cave, little more than a dugout in the side of a cliff with some good size rocks in front of it, offered the best chance Sheppard would have. Ronon led the Lantean into it and sat him down against the side of the cave near one of the rocks, leaning him on one shoulder against the rock wall. From here the Lantean could see anyone approaching, and no one could see him from above. As long as he was conscious and had ammunition he should be safe. The colonel closed his eyes briefly, seeming to draw on the energy that he kept hidden within him. When he opened his eyes they were determined and assured.

"All right. I have thirty shots. There's only twenty or so of them, and they won't all be here. I should be good. Be careful yourself, especially at the gate. You have your transmitter?" Ronon had picked up the small device in the armory when he had found the guns. He pulled it from the pouch on his belt and showed it to Sheppard who smiled at him. "You're all ready to go. Don't let me keep you." Ronon nodded, understanding that there was nothing more to say that would not be maudlin. He started away but stopped as Sheppard called his name.

"Remember, the drones are not doing this willingly. They can't help it. If you can, just stun them. Maybe Beckett can help them somehow." Ronon didn't agree with Sheppard's sympathy, but he nodded anyway and started forward again, pausing to look back just before he stepped into the woods. Sheppard was looking back the way they had come, one pistol held up on the rock in front of him. As Ronon watched the man bite his lip and shifted to a new position, trying to ease the pain of his back, eyes never leaving their back trail. With a nod to himself Ronon turned and ran.

His instincts told him to hunt out those hunting him, to kill them, hurt them, make them stop chasing him. It didn't matter that they were being controlled, that they had no choice. But another instinct was warring with that one, an older instinct. This was one that had been honed by his taskmasters. The spirit of the unit, it had been called. To put aside the desires of the one for the good of the whole. He had lived only for himself these last seven years. Had only what his wits had given him, and his skill could keep. Now these people, these Lanteans, offered him more. Sheppard had argued for him to his commander. Had put his honor on the line. Had put his life on the line. The Lantean had been willing to sacrifice for him. Had been willing to stay with the queen, to face her mind probes, for his life. Then when he had been hurt, had been bleeding, he had risked his life again to save Ronon's by plunging the knife into the Wraith. That was the act of a battle brother, one of the unit. You did not let one such as that down. So Ronon ran not toward his enemy but away, toward the ring of the Ancestors.

He reached it in ten minutes, and knew that the colonel had been right. He would have not made it in time to the gate, and there were two guards standing near the dialing device. Five minutes before he had heard the sound of distant gunshots, and knew that the drones had located Sheppard. He hoped that Sheppard would not let his sympathy for the unwilling drones get him killed. Ronon glanced at the power indicator on his weapon. Plenty of power for two stun charges, but he would have to be quick. He moved around until he was behind the drones. Using the ring itself as cover he moved up until he was only ten yards behind them and then fired. They fell before his blasts. He smiled in satisfaction. He moved to the dialing device and punched in the address for Atlantis.

As he pushed the last of the symbols he realized something. The queen had been right when she said that she could get the information from Ronon as easily as from Sheppard, at least about some things. As much as he knew he was strong in mind and body, he knew he would not have been able to resist the Wraith's mind probe for long, and he would have given up the information on what he knew about Atlantis, including its address and what he knew of its defenses and position. Sheppard had known that he knew it, and still had let him go, trusting him with the information. Trusting him with more than his own life. He had trusted him with the most important thing, Atlantis. Ronon felt something swell in his chest with that realization. He pushed the activator button and watched as the event horizon settled into being. He punched in his IDC and waited for the small light that showed the shield had been dropped to turn on. He did not have his radio, so he would have to trust that small indicator. When it flashed, he stepped through with one last look toward where Sheppard waited.

The passage through the ring was as strange as it ever was, a twirling and swirling of his consciousness, followed by the almost stunning return to the regular world as he stepped out the other side. He found himself standing in the control room of Atlantis, with five Marines facing him with weapons pointed at his head. Good, Sheppard had his men trained well.

He kept his hands away from his gun and looked for Dr. Weir. It was against his instinct to trust a civilian in something like this, he would much rather be talking to Lorne, or even Teyla, but Sheppard had made it clear that he worked for Weir, and so the chain of command must be upheld. She was coming down the stairs, motioning the Marines to stand down. Ronon noticed that while they might have backed off, they had not lowered their weapons. Evidently they didn't much like that he had returned without Sheppard. He saw one of them reaching for his radio, he bet Lorne should be here soon.

"Ronon, where are Colonel Sheppard and Sergeant Baker?" Weir asked. Ronon looked at her, though part of his attention stayed on the Marines. He wouldn't do Sheppard any good if he were dead.

"Baker is dead, the Wraith killed him. Sheppard is hurt. The drones were chasing us and he wasn't going to make it. I couldn't carry him and fight them off, so we found him a stand and I came for help. I heard shots as I stepped through the ring. We have to hurry. He only has two pistols." He heard one of the Marines mutter something derogatory that he mentally marked down for later. Now, his only concern was getting back to Sheppard. He turned his head as movement caught his eye. Lorne was coming through the door, followed closely by a red faced and panting Rodney McKay.

"Where's Sheppard?" Predictably it was McKay that spoke first, looking around the gate room as if the colonel was hiding from him. Dr. Weir answered both McKay's question and Lorne's questioning look.

"Ronon says that John is hurt and is holding off some drones." She looked at Ronon, with a question.

"There's at least twenty of them. I stunned the two at the gate, they'll be out for another half hour or so. The rest will be looking for me or trying to get at Sheppard. A few will probably be at the ship with the queen."

"Queen?" McKay squeaked. "As in Wraith queen? I thought this was only a cruiser, not a hive ship." He looked accusingly at Lorne.

"It is a cruiser." Ronon said. "But there's still a queen. Can we get on with this? Sheppard only has so much ammunition and he's hurt pretty bad." He could see the concern in Weir's face and McKay swore under his breath. Lorne's face got more serious.

"Baker is evidently dead, killed by the Wraith. Do you have a team ready?" Weir addressed the last to Lorne. The major, who was already wearing a tac vest and his sidearm, was already motioning to one of the gate guards for his P90. He pointed to four of the men and nodded to the one who had given up his weapon to call more men to cover the gate room. Lorne looked at Weir as the Marines formed up behind him.

"We're ready now, ma'am." he looked at Ronon. "Can you show us where he is?" Ronon gave him a nod and moved to stand at Lorne's side, waiting for the ring to be dialed. Weir nodded to the man at the dialing device and they started the sequence. McKay was vibrating around, muttering under his breath. On one of his passes, Weir grabbed him and held him still by her side. He looked at her with worried eyes.

"He doesn't do well with Wraith queens. He tends to irritate them until they try to kill him, and then things get worse from there." He reminded her as if she might have forgotten Sheppard's previous experiences with the Wraith.

"I know, Rodney. You just have to have faith in John. He'll be fine. We do need to get Carson up here though, for when they return. He'll appreciate some warning."

"Yeah that will be new for him." McKay said as the wormhole stabilized. With a nod from Dr Weir, Lorne led the way through the event horizon, P90 raised. Ronon brought up the rear, pulse pistol in his hand. It had recharged enough for another stun or two.

They stepped through to pretty much exactly what he had left. The two drones were still laying unconscious at the DHD, and the Marines spread out as Lorne went to kick each one in the ribs. He wasn't gentle. He looked shocked as he realized that the drones were human. He was turning to speak with Ronon when a crowd of drones broke from the tree line and started firing at them. One of the Marines fell, hit by a stunner beam, as the rest started returning fire. The drones kept coming as if they didn't even notice the bullets. One after the other they fell, and soon there were seven bodies on the ground. Lorne spun around and glared at Ronon.

"I thought you said there were Wraith? You didn't say anything about the humans." he growled. Ronon looked calmly back.

"These are the drones. It's a long story. They were the enemy, does it matter who they were?" Ronon said. "Can we go get Sheppard now?" Lorne studied him for a moment, evidently not sure if he believed Ronon or not. The sound of a distant shot evidently made up his mind for him as he quickly detailed one man to stay with the stunned Marine and secure the gate and prisoners. The rest of them headed out double time, stepping up to a full run when another shot echoed through the woods. Ronon didn't slow down for them.

Five minutes later he slowed to a stop. Only one of the Marines had managed to stay with him, and he was breathing heavily. Ronon shot him a glance, and evidently the Marine got the message about making too much noise as he instantly stopped with the gasping. Ronon peered through the brush at the edge of the clearing where the small cave was. There were five bodies on the ground in front of the cave. Evidently the drones had no more self-preservation here than at the gate. But obviously something had changed as now there appeared to be three drones behind a log firing stunners at the cave entrance as another man made his way slowly through the undergrowth moving closer and closer to the cave. Sheppard was being forced to stay down and could not fire on the approaching man.

Ronon caught a glimpse of the man crawling toward the cave and recognized Gerek. The overseer was probably the brains behind the current plan. Lorne and the rest of the Marines straggled up, all breathing heavily. Lorne was red faced, and could hardly speak, but his eyes were locked on the scene before him, taking in the positions. Ronon pointed to Gerek and then himself. He then pointed at Lorne and the Marines and the three drones. Lorne nodded. Ronan moved off through the brush, moving silently.

He was soon almost on top of Gerek, standing only five feet away. He intentionally showed himself to Lorne and the Marines on the other side of the clearing, and he saw Lorne nod. The Marines started firing on the three drones. Gerek jerked up and started to turn to fire on the Marines' position just as Ronon hit him from behind.

The force of Ronon's hit drove the two big men into the clearing, and Ronon felt a Wraith stunner beam pass close by him. He was well familiar with the feeling. He didn't have time to consider it now, as Gerek squirmed out of his hold. The overseer had evidently decided that running was the best chance as he tried to make a break for it. Ronon leapt on his back, and dragged him down again. Gerek slung an elbow back in his ribs and Ronon grunted in pain. He struggled to get a grip on the man who instead of fighting back was still trying to get away. Ronon finally got Gerek in a headlock and bent the overseer back. Gerek had both hands on Ronon's arm, trying to get some air, and it was only a matter of a few minutes more before he would be dead. Ronon bent him back a little more with his knee in the middle of his back, noticing that the scrabbling hands were getting weaker. He was about to bear down, cutting off the last of the air when another hand, smaller and weaker even than the failing Wraith worshipper's, grabbed his wrist and tried to tug his arm away.

He widened his focus, which had been on Gerek, and became aware of another combatant who had joined the fray. Sheppard was kneeling at their side, both hands hauling at Ronon's arm. His face was pale but his eyes were grimly determined. Using both hands he managed to pull Ronon's arm slightly away, enough for Gerek to haul in a panicked breath. Ronon bared his teeth at Sheppard in a feral growl, and the colonel doubled his efforts to pull the arm away. The heat of battle was running high in Ronon's blood, but something was whispering to him, something that hadn't been a concern for so long, for too long. He could toss Sheppard aside like a feather, and break Gerek's neck before the Lantean could get back to them, but in doing so he would hurt the colonel even more then he already was. The roaring in his ears receded and he could suddenly hear Sheppard yelling at him.

"…damn it Ronon, let him go. He's not worth it! Ronon!" The Satedan raised his eyes and met Sheppard's. The colonel looked relieved, but kept tugging on the locked arm. "Let him go. Now." he ordered. There was no hesitation or weakness in his voice, and he expected to be obeyed. It was probably that which caused Ronon to do so. He unbent his arm, careful not to unbalance Sheppard when he did so, letting Gerek fall face down in the dirt. As Ronon stood, pulling Sheppard up with him he noticed that Lorne and the two Marines had dealt with the drones, and had moved to stand in a semicircle behind him. Their weapons were raised, pointing at not only Gerek but him as well.

He eyed them warily, moving to stand with his side to them, his right hand falling to his pistol. He wasn't sure what might have happened if Sheppard hadn't suddenly pushed in front of him, his arms held out in a shielding gesture.

"Ronon is not the threat here." he said firmly. "Put your weapons down and secure the prisoners." There was only a slight hesitation before the weapons dropped and one of the Marines stepped forward with the plastic ties that the Lanteans used to secure prisoners. Lorne stepped forward and looked worriedly at Sheppard.

"Forgive me for saying it, sir, but you don't look too good. Another one of those missions, huh?" Sheppard grimaced, and swayed slightly. Ronon put out a hand and grabbed the colonel by one arm, careful to avoid any whip marks. He felt strangely honored when Sheppard allowed him to take some of his weight.

"Now, now, major," Sheppard drawled, trying hard to not look like he was about to fall over. "Let's not give Ronon the wrong impression. He'll think that all our missions end like this." Lorne gave him a half shrug and smile. Sheppard sighed, and let Ronon take a little more of his weight. "Well okay, but not all of them." he almost whined. He looked around as if just now realizing that there were other men.

"Is this all you brought, major?" he asked in surprise.

"I have two more men at the gate, sir. Yves was stunned when we engaged there. More are standing by back in Atlantis. We have been trying to come back since shortly after we went through, but the gate's been busy. Until Ronon came through we didn't know what was going on." Lorne reported. He gave Sheppard a quick count of the wounded, dead and prisoners.

"Yeah, the drama queen said something about having the guards dialing to make sure no one else came through before they had the ship repaired. Especially after I turned off their little toy." At Lorne's puzzled look he waved a hand, almost causing himself to fall over. Ronon decided to at least make the man sit down, and tugged Sheppard in the direction of the log where the drones had hidden. He heard an indrawn breath from behind him, and figured that Lorne had gotten a look at Sheppard's back, at the whip marks and the bruises. As he helped the unresisting colonel to sit, Ronon met the major's eyes. Lorne's eyes went from him to Gerek and then back, and Ronon thought he saw an understanding in the Lantean's eyes.

"We should get you back to Beckett. You really do not look good. I'll have some more men sent through, and we'll take care of the cruiser. They shouldn't have too many men left if what Ronon has told us is true."

"Thanks for the ego boost, major." Sheppard said, one hand rubbing his face. He winced as the hand brushed the bruise on his cheekbone a little too hard. He drew in a breath and straightened, though everyone could see it hurt him to do so. "How much C-4 do you have?" he asked. Lorne stared at him for a minute and glanced at Ronon, who kept his face expressionless. If this was going where he thought it was, he approved.

"All of my men have the standard issue amount, sir." he said finally. Sheppard nodded and rubbed his face some more. After a moment he looked at Ronon.

"You know where to put a large amount of explosive on that ship where it will do the most good?" he asked. Ronon smiled at him. "Of course you do." Sheppard started to push himself to his feet but stopped as the action obviously stretched the wounds on his back. He hissed in pain, and bent over, rocking slightly. Ronon and Lorne exchanged glances again.

"Sir, it's going to take a few minutes for us to get the C-4 together. Why don't you wait here while I send Hoffman back to get the stuff from the two at the gate, and then we'll see about moving?" Lorne suggested. Ronon nodded his appreciation of the suggestion, sensing that the man had some experience at handling difficult commanding officers. Sheppard nodded without straightening up, though he did stop rocking. Lorne sent of the fastest of the Marines on his mission, and set the other to keep watch for any other drones. He then knelt down so that he was on the same level as Sheppard.

"Don't think there's much we can do for you with our med kits here, Colonel, but how about some Tylenol. Might help take the edge off." Sheppard nodded reluctantly, and Lorne dug out a small packet of pills and got his canteen out. He handed both to his CO. Sheppard straightened with infinite care, and downed the pills. If anything he looked paler. Ronon knew that even with the pain medication the colonel was not going to be able to go with them to the ship. The question was, did Sheppard know that?

"You'll slow us down." Ronon said baldly. Might as well get it out in the open. Sheppard cast him a look. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Lorne and the Marine staring at him.

"Don't beat around the bush, Ronon. Say what you really think, I can take it." Sheppard said with a serious face. He tried to stand, but he sank back down on the log, biting his lip. He looked up at Ronon and then at Lorne who was keeping his face as neutral as possible. He sighed again.

"Damn it." he swore under his breath, but then he nodded. "Fine. I'd slow you down. I'll go back to the gate and stand guard there, and then you can take whoever is there with you. Let's go back there now. Let Hoffman know we'll meet him there." He shifted slightly. "I'm uh…gonna need a hand getting up here I think." he added reluctantly. Ronon obligingly reached out and pulled him to his feet. Sheppard stifled a yell and leaned his head against Ronon's shoulder. "Little warning next time big guy." he finally said when he got his breath back.

"Thought it would be easier if we just got it done." Ronon said.

"You tear Band-Aids off all at once don't you?" Sheppard asked with a scowl, but waved aside Ronon's puzzled look. "Never mind. You'll find out when Beckett gets a hold of you." He cast a glance at the many small cuts, scrapes and bruises that dotted Ronon's body. "Couldn't you at least look like something hurts? Maybe you broke a nail or something?" Ronon grinned at him.

"Mind over matter, Sheppard." Ronon said, repeating something he had heard one of the sergeants telling the Marines. Sheppard nodded and started hobbling toward the gate.

"Yeah, yeah. If you don't mind, it don't matter. I didn't believe that when I was in boot camp, why start now."

Ten minutes later, after he reluctantly accepted help from both Ronon and Lorne, they managed to get Sheppard to the gate. Hoffman was there with Jeffers, the Marine left as guard, and the partially awake Yves, who could only blink in answer to questions. Ronon lowered Sheppard to a sitting position near the paralyzed Marine, so that he could lean against the DHD with one shoulder. Lorne had given him his spare ammo, and Sheppard happily took Yves' P90. The raiding party took a moment to put together two charges, using all of the C-4 explosive from their vests. Ronon let them know that there were two places that he knew of that would cause a chain reaction if the explosives were placed there.

One was the small dart bay in the aft section of the ship. A bomb placed on one of the darts should ignite the fuel, and take out not only the rest of the darts, but also a good portion of the aft section. A second explosive placed in the fuel stores, which was amidships, should take care of the rest nicely, especially since the Wraith had been so kind as to refill the stores recently with new fuel. The ore wouldn't be as unstable as the refined fuel, but it would be sufficient when ignited with the C-4. Plan set, they got ready to go. Lorne looked at Sheppard who was leaning even more heavily against the DHD.

"You going to be all right, sir? We could just send the two of you through to Atlantis and get some additional men sent through." he asked. Sheppard shook his head.

"Then we'd have to make explanations, and the whole thing would be delayed. I don't want that cruiser taking off, Major. We'll be here when you get back." It was an unmistakable dismissal, and Lorne nodded. He started to turn. "Major…" He turned back.

"The drones aren't helping by choice. They've been brainwashed by an Ancient machine into doing what the queen wants. If you can leave them alive without endangering yourself or your team, do it." Sheppard's eyes moved to Ronon. "You too." Lorne nodded his understanding. Ronon met Sheppard's eyes for a moment then reluctantly nodded. He doubted if the issue would arise. They would be avoiding the drones, what there were left of them, and once the ship blew, there probably wouldn't be any left except for the prisoners already taken. Lorne was looking from Ronon to Sheppard, evidently sensing the tension, but at Ronon's nod he relaxed a little.

The whole thing seemed to go pretty smoothly from there, Ronon thought. They got to the ship relatively quickly, though he found himself having to slow down for the others again, except for Hoffman. Lorne shot him a disgruntled look as they crouched in the brush near the cruiser.

"You ever just walk anywhere?" he asked as he tried to catch his breath.

"Not if I'm in a hurry." Ronon replied simply. He found these people to be mildly amusing in a way that few things had been over the last seven years. They were fun to mess with. He waited until the others were all breathing normally again, and then led the way inside. They met no resistance as they made their way to the dart bay, and Ronon showed Lorne where to place the charge so that the fuel would be ignited immediately.

They left the bay and headed toward the fuel storage room. They were almost there when three drones popped out from around a corner and started firing on them with stunners. One of the Marines almost went down, but the combined firepower of the remaining men took out the three drones quickly. Ronon didn't think that the marines were concerning themselves with shooting to wound and he approved. Sheppard had said that only if there was no danger to the team…

They continued to the fuel storage and placed the second charge. Ronon stood guard in the corridor as he waited for them to finish. He was waiting for the queen. She had to know what was going on. He had dealt with many queens in the course of his running, and they had always known everything that was going on in their hive. If a queen could keep track of a full crew of a hive ship, one shouldn't have any problem keeping track of the few remaining people on this ship. Surely she must know that they had to have some reason for being here, that they were trying to destroy her ship. She could not ignore the threat.

Lorne and the Marines finished and they started out of the ship. Ronon kept a constant look out for the queen, knowing how they seemed to appear out of nowhere sometimes. But there was no sign of her by the time they reached the hatch. They moved away from the ship, and took shelter behind some large trees almost 500 yards away from the ship. Lorne took out a small box, and flipped some buttons.

"Fire in the hole." he said, and before Ronon could ask what that meant the major pressed another button. There was a muffled thump, and then a roar. A hot wind rolled past them, and the big trees they were hiding behind shuddered as the ground moved. Ronon poked his head around the tree and watched as a large chunk of the ship landed about a hundred yards away. Obviously the charges had done their job. The Marines were smiling and slapping each other's backs, and generally seemed happy with the outcome. Ronon turned around and leaned back against the tree, mind working frantically.

There was something wrong about all this. It should not have been so easy. They had met no drones in the woods on their way to the ship. They had met only token resistance in the corridor, and nothing further after they had dealt with the three drones. No attempt had evidently been made to get rid of the bombs. Something was just not right. He blinked and realized that Lorne and the Marines were staring at him. He looked back at them. Lorne stepped forward.

"You don't seem to happy about blowing up a Wraith cruiser. Would have thought that would be a high point for you." he said. Ronon had no problem hearing the question that was really being asked. He shook his head and stood away from the tree.

"There's something wrong. It was too easy. There should have been more resistance. The queen should have been there." he said. He was staring in the direction of the gate. Something was trying to get his attention, some thought.

"Don't know about you, but I was just as happy not to see her, and easy isn't bad every now and then, just for a change. Maybe with her drones almost gone she was afraid to come out."

"Queens are too arrogant to be afraid." Ronon said. "They always think they are smarter than everyone else, that they are one step ahead of anyone who might oppose them…" he stopped. The queen had been in a tight spot. Her only Wraith follower was dead. Her overseer was captured. Her drones were ill equipped to deal with anything more than the simplest tasks with out constant supervision, and the machine she had used to create those drones was now useless. Her ship was almost out of fuel, and now, without Gerek, she had no-one to refine the ore. She would have been trapped here, if she stayed with the ship. It was that 'if' that was niggling at Ronon's mind. If he were the queen, what would he have done?

The answer came to him in a flash. He took off running toward the gate. He heard Lorne's surprised yell behind him, but had no time to stop and explain, even if he had felt inclined to do so. The trees flashed by, and he could hear someone running not far behind him. That would be Hoffman. He could hear others further back, which was all right, but most of his attention was focused ahead. He pushed it up another notch, running harder, faster. He was soon nearing the gate, and he pulled his pistol. A quick glance at the power indicator showed him that he had enough power to shoot to kill again. He thumbed the power gain up. There would be no holding back now. He was almost to the clearing where the gate stood when he heard a single shot. He dived off to the side behind some bushes, landing on his belly. He spared a thought for those following, and hoped that they would have heard the shot and would be cautious in their approach. He moved himself forward on his elbows, slithering between the trunks of the bushes. Finally he had made his way to the edge of the clearing and could see the source of the shot.

As he had suspected it had been Sheppard who had fired the shot, and as Ronon looked at the scenario that was taking place in front of the ring he could see why. Sheppard was still sitting by the DHD with the stunned Marine, who was now able to hold himself up on his elbows, though it looked shaky, lying at his side. Shepard was leaning against the pillar of the DHD with his pistol in one hand and the P90 he had borrowed from the stunned Marine in the other. The P90 was aimed at the Wraith queen and the three drones that were standing behind her in an arc. The pistol was aimed inside the back panel of the DHD at the delicate crystals that Ronon knew it housed.

The queen was livid, her face set in a snarl. She was hissing at an unimpressed Sheppard who, as Ronon watched, pushed the pistol further into the panel. The colonel was glaring back at the queen with complete disregard for the power that the Wraith held here in this galaxy. Ronon felt his estimation of the man, already high, go even higher. Here was a man to fight the Wraith with. Sheppard knew what fear was, but it did not stop him. The colonel waggled the gun, and raised an eyebrow at the queen.

"So, what's it gonna be, Brittany? We call the whole thing off and we all go home and leave you to your nice little planet and your twisted little drones, or do I fire a few rounds into the DHD and we all start playing a game I like to call Lord of the Flies Meets Shaun of the Dead? We've got lots of ammo, and we have people who know where we are. They'll be sending back up soon, heavily armed and pissed back up. Who you got in your corner? Think the sister has even missed you yet?" he taunted. The queen took a step forward but stopped as Sheppard cocked the pistol.

"One more step and I start shooting, with both hands. You may get Yves and me here, but you won't be going anywhere, and you can bet my friends will be here soon and will kick your ass. And even if they miss you, you'll still be stuck here. I'm sure you heard that little bang, and know what it was. So back off." The last order was snarled. The Lantean was talking a good game, but Ronon could see the paleness of the colonel's face and see the sweat on his forehead from the effort of holding the two weapons steady. The queen could see it too and stepped back, hands raised in an appeasing fashion. She was obviously playing for time. She thought she could wait the colonel out, counting on the others being far enough away that she could get the information she wanted from Sheppard's or the Marine's mind before they could interfere.

"You are being foolish little human. I can offer you many things. I have need of a new overseer. There are benefits that you cannot even imagine to being a servant of the Wraith. I can heal your wounds, make you healthy again, in moments." She waived a hand at Yves. "That one will give me the energy I need, let me feed on him, and I will give you a…preview of what you may look forward to, if you agree to serve me."

"Ah, let me think about that for a moment…not just no, but hell no." Sheppard replied. The queen grew angrier, her eyes narrowing.

"Do not defy me now little human. You have some use, but it is rapidly becoming nullified by your relentless refusal to bow to the inevitable. Give me the address to Atlantis, or you both will die, as will the rest of your group. I will hunt them down one by one like animals and kill them slowly so that it hurts all the more. I will save the runner for last. He will make good sport at least. But in the end, he will die, just like all of the rest of you, and I will still have Atlantis." As she spoke Ronon's eyes were drawn to movement on the other side of the ring, behind Sheppard. One of the drones was creeping toward the ring, stunner in hand, getting into position to fire on Sheppard. The colonel couldn't see him, and there was no way that Yves, as shaky as he was would be able to do anything about him, even if he saw him in time.

Ronon thumbed the power gain back down on his pistol and prepared himself. This was going to be tricky, and he had to count on Sheppard reacting in a certain way. If the colonel had been a Satedan there would be no question. They were trained to act as a group. Each one knew how the others would react, and could tailor their own actions to complement that. But Sheppard was different, not even from this galaxy different, Ronon should have no feeling for how the man would react, but…he did. Somehow, in the short time he had been in Atlantis, he had come to know Sheppard, had come to count him as a battle brother. He knew what Sheppard would do, and he knew that together they could defeat this Wraith. He pulled his legs up underneath himself, his eyes locked on the man sneaking up behind Sheppard. The queen was still trying to pursued the Lantean to cooperate, carefully keeping the soldiers attention on her. It was time.

Ronon burst out of the bushes in a giant leap. He landed in a crouch, weapon pointed at the drone that had just raised himself up to take a shot at Sheppard and Yves. As Ronon fired at him, he heard the P90 fire, and knew that he had guessed right about Sheppard. Rather than be startled into inaction by Ronon's appearance Sheppard had instead took action, firing at the queen and the drones. As Ronon threw himself into a twisting dive that brought him around to face the queen and her drones, he thumbed the power gain on the pistol back to high, and sought his next target even before he stopped rolling.

Two of the drones were down. The third was leaping toward the two wounded men, and Sheppard picked him off with the last of the bullets from the P90. The queen hissed in joyful anticipation and made ready to leap upon the two, when Ronon's full powered shot took her in the chest. She screamed and staggered away, turning her baleful stare at Ronon.

"Runner…" she spat in disgust and took a staggering step toward him, feeding hand reaching. He triggered another shot, knowing it was the last of the charge, and it caught her full in the chest again. This time she flew backward and fell to the ground. She almost seemed ready to climb back to her feet again, but then she gave a last shudder and lay unmoving in the grass. Ronon kept a wary eye on her as he rose to his feet. Wraith were known for their recuperative powers, and she had obviously fed not long before, probably on the rest of the drones, to have shaken off his first blast so easily. He heard a magazine slamming into place on his right and turned to see Sheppard offering him the reloaded P90. Ronon took the unfamiliar weapon, frowning at the strange feel of it. However he had dealt with enough weapons, and had seen these in action enough, to know what to do. He moved to stand over the queen, and fired the weapon into her until there were no more bullets. She was not going to recuperate from that. He walked back over to the DHD and handed the weapon back to Sheppard who took it, but let it fall to his lap as he slumped against the device.

"Can't say I was sorry to see you." he drawled. His face was still very pale, and the sweat was still evident. Ronon could see that the movement had broken open several of the lash wounds again and there was blood running down the Lantean's back.

"Happy to help out." Ronon said. He could hear the other Marines finally getting here out in the woods, and he moved to sit on the steps of the ring next to where Sheppard was. There was no reason to stay here any longer. They had captured all the remaining drones and Gerek. The two Wraith were dead, and the ship was destroyed. All in all a successful mission. There had been a few times when Ronon had thought that perhaps his luck had run out. That maybe seven years of running had finally come to an end only for him to meet his death in the company of strangers on a planet with no name. Instead he had destroyed two of his enemy and their helpers and had found…well, what exactly he had found with the Lanteans, with Sheppard, he wasn't quite sure.

Here was a man that had saved his life at the cost of his own pain. Who had defied the Wraith, and who intended to go on defying them to save not only his own people, but also the people of the Pegasus Galaxy as a whole. Here was a leader that any soldier could be proud to follow. Ronon guessed the question was; was he still a soldier? Could he follow after so many years of being on his own? He wasn't sure, but he knew that he wanted to see more Wraith die, and the Lanteans were the only ones who seemed to have a chance to make that so in any numbers of significance.

He stood as Lorne and the others came into the clearing with guns ready, only to lower them as they saw the dead lying on the ground. Ronon gave them a grim smile as they looked from him to the queen with the blaster hole in her chest. He looked down at Sheppard who was looking back up at him.

"Your missions always like this?" he asked. He could see something flash across Sheppard's eyes, perhaps an urge for denial, but it was quickly gone. The Lantean gave him a small smirk and reached up a hand to get some help getting to his feet. Ronon obliged and held one arm as the man swayed once he was up. Sheppard was standing one step up and so his eyes were on the same level as Ronon's as he answered the question.

"More or less, yeah. Sometimes things get kind of tense." he said, and Ronon could see the honesty in the hazel eyes. There was a snort from not just one, but all of the other men, and Sheppard glared at them. " But we occasionally have a nice quiet mission where nothing happens." he added, with a stern look at the rest as if to make sure no one said anything. Ronon nodded thoughtfully then smiled at Sheppard.

"Do I have to go on those, or can I just go on the ones that are going to get tense?" he asked. He got a huge grin of pleasure from Sheppard who reached out and slugged him in the shoulder in what Ronon assumed was some sort of bonding ritual from Earth. Sheppard turned his grin on Lorne who was watching the whole thing with a puzzled smile.

"You heard the man, Major. You and your boys are back on the bench. SGA1 is back to full strength and back in business." he crowed. He had turned a little too quickly however, and Ronon had to catch him as he staggered or else he would have fallen off the step. He wasn't able to keep from grabbing a section of Sheppard's arm that had whip welts across it, and he heard the colonel suck in his breath from the pain. Lorne stepped forward and took Sheppard's other arm carefully, nodding to one of his men to start dialing.

"You might be back to full strength, sir, but I think Dr. Beckett is going to have a few things to say about being back in business. Might be the boys and I will get to play a few more downs." he said as he helped Ronon steer the rapidly fading man toward the gate. The event horizon formed and settled.

"You know if Rodney were here he'd complain about the sports metaphors, but that was cool." Sheppard observed to Lorne as they started forward. He looked at Ronon. "I can't wait to introduce you to football big guy. I think you might like it. You see there are these two teams of ten guys each…" He went on talking as they stepped toward the event horizon, and Ronon found himself looking forward to stepping into it for the first time in too many years. This time he had somewhere to go and someone who wanted him there. It was a good feeling.

The End.